Some Of My Favorite Things

Monday, May 30, 2005

Was Jesus Christ a Sith Lord?

Warning: massive plot spoilers. Do not read if you don’t want to know the plot of Revenge of the Sith.

George Lucas has a wife and three children. If the Jedi mystique accurately portrays his vision of society, you wouldn’t want to be one of them. Let me explain.

Now that we have Lucas’ complete vision, we can see the story centers not around Luke, but around Anakin. That, as they say, changes everything. If Lucas’ first three efforts were about a young man learning to find himself, the last three are about marriage and family. It isn’t pretty. Only two families are portrayed in the six-film series: Anakin and his single mother, and Anakin’s own marriage to Padme (Luke’s aunt and uncle are merely plot devices who carry less than fifteen minutes of combined film time).

The contrast is stark. Even though she is enslaved, Anakin’s single mother is relatively happy. Her fatherless child, on the other hand, enters a marriage so dysfunctional that it leads to intergalactic war, the destruction of whole planets and the deaths of untold billions.

Did Lucas mean to show fatherless boys make bad husbands? Or did he mean to show how a skewed understanding of celibacy destroys lives? By the end of Revenge, it’s hard to tell. The whole story has become rather muddled.

The Evil of the Jedi

We learn that the Sith are evil because they are selfish, while the Jedi are good because they are selfless – they always serve others. This selflessness is apparently meant to explain Jedi celibacy. Jedi are not supposed to be attached to anything, “Train yourself to let go of everything you are afraid to lose,” Yoda counsels a despondent Anakin.

If this is Jedi philosophy, the Sith are right to destroy them. Persons are defined by their relationships with other persons. For that reason, marriage and family are superlative goods. In fact, marriage and procreation are so good that celibacy can make sense only if it permits us to participate in an even greater personal relationship than father and husband, mother and wife.

The only personal relationship greater than these is a personal relationship with God Himself. The pursuit of celibacy apart from a personal relationship with God is the pursuit of self-annihilation. Argue if you would like, but remember that only two kinds of religious celibates exist: the Christian celibate, who seeks more perfect union with the three Persons of the Trinity, and the Eastern mystic, who seeks to annihilate his own ego to become one with Nirvana – Nothingness.

The Jedi are Eastern mystics. For them, God is neither Person nor personal. Thus, when the Jedi require all their members to detach themselves from personal relationships, they require suicidal selflessness. This incoherence eventually destroys the movie’s plot.

The Dark Side: Marriage

Lucas’ Jedi ethic, for instance, respects the individual as an enemy, but not as a spouse. Jedi may not kill unarmed prisoners, no matter how evil, no matter how universal the suffering they caused. But they may not marry. The good of the one is greater than the good of the many as long as that one is an enemy – if it is a spouse, then abandon her.

Instead of seeing marriage as a life-long commitment to serve one’s spouse, the Jedi see marriage as a selfish attachment, a self-indulgence. Marriage is not a commitment to serve someone else, it is a commitment to make someone else a tool towards personal happiness. Anakin essentially says this when he tells Padme, “I cannot live without you.” He suffers from a failure of vision, he cannot conceive of a greater good for himself than Padme. He must have her. Marriage is how Anakin takes care of Anakin.

This explains Anakin’s attitude towards Padme’s pregnancy. Never does he inquire as to the health of the children, never does he question whether he will be a good father, nor whether he is on the path to such a goal. Padme is equally oblivious to her own condition. She cares only about his career, he worries only about her death. Rarely has the pregnancy of a protagonist, a pregnancy critical to plot development, been so universally ignored by every character in a story.

With the revelation of the pregnancy, we can see that Anakin began his walk down the Dark Side when he got married. He is angry at the Jedi Council because he broke their law against marriage. Their law has made his failures as a Jedi manifest. He is not able to think through the source of his discontent because the Jedi code virtually prohibits thought, “Follow your feelings,” he is told again and again.

When he does, he finds he has broken their law on marriage. But how could he avoid it? A Jedi cannot say “I think we should do X,” rather, he says “I feel we should do X.” A Jedi never tells people things: that implies possession of knowledge. Rather, he shares with them, which is, perhaps, why none but the Sith seem to think much.

Deadly Dogmatism

The animus against thought is the only constant theme. When Senator Palatine warns Anakin against the Jedi because they are too dogmatic and narrow-minded, when he says the Jedi need a larger view of the world, we know Anakin sees dogmatism as a bad thing. But when Anakin quotes Jesus to Obi-Wan, “You are either for me or against me” (Matthew 12:30), we find out from Obi-Wan that Jesus was a Sith Lord – “Only the Sith deal in absolutes.” The Sith are apparently evil because they are the dogmatists. Selfishness and dogmatism are equated.

Indeed, dogmatism seems to be the only thing everyone wants to avoid. As a result, the entire story line falls apart as everyone becomes a hypocrite.

Certainly the Jedi are hypocritical dogmatists. After all, we don’t see the Jedi sitting down with the Sith Lords in order to work out their differences in common council by negotiating a middle ground. Instead, the Jedi insist democracy and republics are better than emperors and empires. They prohibit killing the unarmed. They prohibit marriage, enjoin celibacy, and insist you feel your way out of a situation instead of think your way out.

Likewise, Padme is meant to represent the good, the mother-earth principle. As Anakin becomes a dark techno-geek in the most literal sense, Padme enters a white chamber to give glorious birth. Except the birth isn’t glorious. As the two are showcased in their respective surgeries, we are supposed to see some sort of contrast between them, but ironically, we see they are both cut from the same cloth.

Anakin is quite willing to slaughter innocent children and his own friends in order to save someone he has decided he can't live without (although, as the rest of the series shows, he does manage to survive without her). Likewise, Padme is willing to orphan her children because her husband is an ass. Instead of living for love, she dies from petulance.

Nobody gives a hot damn about the children. Even the Jedi preserve their lives primarily as insurance against the Sith, so they have a way to wrest back power when the children come of age. In this story, every person is a pawn to be used, in a completely objective and disinterested way, of course.

The Sith are the only honest characters in the film, in the sense that they lie, but they know why they lie and they are consistent in their lies.

In short, the whole series is not the clear-cut clash of good against evil that attracted thousands in the 1970’s. Instead, it is transformed into a sordid mess, a series of stupid people doing stupid things for stupid reasons.

But, as Mark Twain says, everyone is good for something, even if it’s only a bad example. If anyone wonders what life looks like to a pagan, watch the Star Wars series. Its incoherence, senseless violence and skewed perceptions of reality combine to demonstrate that without Christ at the center, life truly is but sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

New Typology Course

Well, I thought I would put in a plug for the new typology course starting June 5th at the College of Athanasius. If you have ever wanted to learn how to stay awake during the Sunday Mass readings, this course is for you!

The four week course demonstrates how to read and understand the Scriptures using some of the same methods used by people like Scott Hahn, Pat Madrid, Karl Keating, and Tim Staples. They stole these ideas from the Fathers of the Church, so it is only fair that we steal them too. The course teaches you how to use the four senses of Scripture briefly described in the Catechism, #115-119.

You don't need to know Greek, Hebrew or Latin.
You don't need to study grammar or verb tenses.
If you can identify the noun and the verb in a sentence, you know all you need to know to succeed.

Because the course is built around a bulletin board system, you work according to your own schedule, not someone else's. But, because it is in a bulletin board system, you can also easily converse and collaborate with the other people taking the course. Best of all, it doesn't fill your e-mail box with lots of messages.

This four week course on Scriptural typology starts Sunday, June 5 and ends July 1.

Information on the content can be obtained at
http://www.athanasiuscollege.org/course-typology1.htm

If you want see the first (and longest) reading assignment, get the PDF document at:
http://bridegroompress.com/snippets/TRSenses.pdf

Cost is $25 for the four-week course.
The textbook is Scripture.
If you go to the course outline link above, you will be pointed to a free electronic Bible with Strong's concordance. Strictly speaking, you don't need it, but some people might find it useful and I have found that software more than adequate for my needs. I especially like having Strong's at my fingertips for free.

If this course proves successful, we will be offering at least one, possibly two, follow-ups:
Option A) Using typology in the interpretation of medieval and Renaissance art
Option B) Identifying New Testament typology in modern literature.
In both of the follow-up courses, you will use what you learned in this first course to investigate why certain cultural icons are so powerful.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

On Political Parties

America’s three-party system is mutating yet again, but it is unclear exactly how the game will play out. Hmmm….? Yes, you read that right. America’s three-party system.

America never really had a party system until roughly the middle of the 1800’s, when the Whigs and the Democratic-Republicans faced each other during and after Andrew Jackson’s presidency. The Whigs had formed to oppose Jackson’s policies, but the issue of slavery was as fractious then as the issue of abortion is today. It shattered the party into two wings, with the anti-slavery wing eventually mutating into today’s Republican party.

Unfortunately, Jackson’s presidency also shattered the Democratic-Republicans. Jackson’s party eventually mutated into today’s Democrats. By the end of the Civil War, only two major parties were left standing: the Republicans and the Democrats.

But the Civil War created a third political party. After all, the war had created the system of railroads and telegraph lines that made fast news transmission possible. With the post-war ubiquity of the telegraph, America developed the modern news media.

As Joseph Pulitzer, of Pulitzer prize fame, and William Randolph Hearst, founder of the Hearst newspaper empire, pointed out, they could manipulate public opinion at will and start wars as they saw fit. And they did. The Spanish-American War was largely an invention of Hearst’s desire to sell newspapers. Then, as now, making the sale was more important than saving lives.

These three parties, two voted into power by ballot, the third voted into power by sales, faced each other off in shifting alliances over the next century. The third party was voted into power because the American people chose it. We liked hearing one kind of news as opposed to another kind, delivered in a yellow-journalism style as opposed to a different style; we chose what kind of lies we most liked to hear and we empowered the ones who pleased us with lies to keep at it.

The industrialists of the time recognized this. They went with the flow by creating the compulsory mass school system. Invented by men like Carnegie and Rockefeller at the turn of the 1900s, the mass school system was designed to stratify society into a hierarchical social class system. The schools trained most people to be nothing more than factory workers, with concomitantly low literacy and intellectual skills. The unions that the industrialists fought so hard against were slowly destroyed by the industrialists’ new right-to-work card, the college degree.

Universities became the new apprenticeships, replacing both the agrarian small-business apprenticeship model and the union card. Whereas the earlier systems placed an apprentice into a job according to biological nepotism, the new system places people according to intellectual nepotism – only those who think the right thoughts will move into positions of power. As a result, university professors have become the gatekeepers to society. The newest political party, the university, fills the empty slots in political, judicial and media positions.

But new and interesting possibilities appear on the horizon. Hearst and Pulitzer dominated the political situation in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The mainstream media and Hollywood dominated it in the latter half of the twentieth. Even now, Microsoft is positioning itself to dominate the news distribution of the early twenty-first. Whether control of the mechanism by which information is distributed turns out to be as critical as control of the informational content itself remains to be seen. Clearly, though, the monopolies are changing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newsweek Lied, People Died

In an unexpected turn of events, Newsweek has revealed their recent story concerning false allegations that military interrogators flushed the Koran down a toilet was actually funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“I’ve always loved Andres Serrano,” said one of the Newsweek reporters who broke the story, “In fact, he personally taught me how to fill a urine cup. I had one of his autographed cups gilded. It’s on my mantelpiece today. I figure it’s worth maybe a quarter million.”

Serrano, well-known for his marvelous artistic work, “Piss Christ,” which submerged a crucifix into a jar of his own urine, applauded his student’s work. “Well, of course people died!” he replied in response to this reporter’s queries, “That’s the essence of art. That’s what I love about the Arab street - Moslems have the hearts of artists. What I’ve been teaching for years is that we need to ascend to a radically new level of performance art and now we’re beginning to get there.”

Accomplished artist Chris Ofili agreed. Ofili is well-known for his spectacular rendition of the Holy Virgin Mary, which represents her exposed breast as a ball of elephant dung, and replaces the angels that traditionally crowd around her with cut-outs of human buttocks.

“The problem with American Catholics is they don’t understand art. They look at this work of mine, they see it, and what do they do? They write letters of protest! I mean, is that it? That’s all?? I’m trying to provoke a real involvement in society, maybe a riot, maybe some arson, and all I get is letters and a couple of white folk carrying signs.”

“I was really in a funk about that for a long time.” Ofili continued, “I had just about given up on America. But then this happens! Newsweek reporters are my kind of people. The NEA drops a dime on one of my students and Newsweek was there to play this into a big happening. I wish I could have been in Afghanistan to see the blood flow!”

German anatomist and chemist Gunther von Hagens was also highly enthusiastic about the Newsweek work. Hagens, who calls himself the Plastinator, takes dead human bodies, peels away the skin, extracts all water and fat and injects them with silicone and other polymers, and then presents them, flayed for better viewing, in various states of dismemberment. This exhibit has toured art museums internationally.

“What I want to do now is get those corpses, plastinate them, and continue Newsweek’s work,” said Hagens. “The problem is, we didn’t get enough bodies. I’m working with reporters at Newsweek, Time and CBS right now to finish another grant proposal to the NEA. Flushing the Koran was a good first step, but it’s time to move on. We’re proposing one of those suicide bombers detonate himself near the Ka’aba.”

The Ka’aba is the holiest site in Islam, a meteorite which has been at the center of Arab worship since well before Mohammed.

“Take out the Ka’aba and the Moslems will go NUTS!" Hagens said, "That should get us the kind of body count that today’s art demands. In fact,” he added, “we don’t even have to take it out. We just publish an article saying that Bush has targeted it for destruction. Everybody who reads our stuff already has the vision of Bush that we want them to have. It will be easy!”

“This is what art is all about,” enthused an NEA board member, “Art builds on reality. When we first saw the Newsweek proposal to invent a story about desecrating the Koran, I have to say I was not very excited. In America, we have desecrated everything we could think of and it never got us more than a few nasty notes from some ignorant hotheads.”

“We have been striving to evoke the 60’s again, to bring back the riots, the smell of tear gas, the rubber bullets. All of this is an important part of American culture. It’s hard to believe, but many young people today have literally never run down the street with their clothes on fire from an exploding smoke grenade.”

Other NEA members agreed, “Americans are too willing to take anything we dish out. Every bit of artwork we’ve funded, from ripping apart children in the womb to paying off judges to hijack the Constitution, it doesn’t matter. Nothing works anymore. We needed to find people with backbone, people who would stand up to us so we could laugh as we crushed them. We can’t get Americans to riot anymore.”

“Oh, sure, killing Schiavo was fun,” added another, “and we don’t regret a dime of the money we spent on our best up-and-coming artists, men like George Felos and Judge Greer, but that was a one-time thing. The NEA has finally found a way to take performance art worldwide. We’re done with wrapping islands in plastic. Let’s start wrapping the Koran in dog vomit!”

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Buchanan Cuts to the Chase

If you get a chance to read Pat Buchanan's latest piece on World War II, do it.

I have noted more than once in this space that Nazi eugenics policies were made in America. Today, the policies we fought to destroy in Germany are sixty years ago are firmly ensconced here.

Buchanan points out that our military "victory" in WWII was anything but.
Sure, we killed a small man with a mustache, but all we got in exchange was a Russian with a mustache, a man who was a more skilful despot and killer.

We didn't win WWII.

We lost it, both militarily and philosophically.
But we're so stupid, it's taken us six decades to realize it.

Second-Hand Estrogen

For years, we have been warned of the dangers of second-hand smoke. We are told that second-hand smoke blackens lungs, causes cancer, offends women, injures children, creates untold medical expense and causes the clock on your VCR to blink (alright, I made the last one up). As the formerly asthmatic son of a life-long smoker, I must admit that I have no love for the smell of cigarette smoke, but I must also admit that the evidence for the wealth of claimed dangers has never been particularly strong. Still, on the basis of rather tenuous evidence, smoking has been banned on airlines, in workplaces and in public areas around the nation. Who wants to breathe air someone else has fouled?

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. At the risk of summoning hobgoblins, let us apply the standards that we hold so dear for community air to community water. Certainly the environmentalists could not be offended by the principle. Or could they?
What if we were to speak not of industrial corporations spewing waste into streams, nor of run-off from agriculture fertilizer that contaminates so many water tables, but of another source of deliberate contamination? Let us strike a little close closer to home – let us open the door on the family medicine cabinet.

Or, to be more precise, let us open the door on the American individual’s sterility cabinet, for it is the synthetic female estrogen and progesterone hormones that have allowed this country to become the great and childless nation that it is today.

But to properly savor the experience, we must first recall to mind a few facts concerning hormonal contraceptives in pill, patch, shot and now ring. When the birth control pill was first released, it was so dangerous that reports of its side effects created the Congressional committee which developed the now-ubiquitous drug package insert. The pill caused strokes, blood clots, liver problems, vitamin and metal imbalances, headaches, weight gain, hair loss and decreased libido, and those are just the highlights.
Just as the tobacco industry was forced to develop the low-tar and filter cigarettes to fend off critics of early death, so the pharmaceutical industry was forced to develop low-dose estrogen and progesterone only pills.

The problem, of course, is that the new drug formulations do not prevent ovulation. Instead, they prevent pregnancy by preventing the embryo from implanting. They cause abortions.

The pharmaceutical companies, realizing the problem, fought hard to implement a solution. They wanted to re-define when life begins. After all, this is easier than formulating a safe hormonal contraceptive.
They succeeded. Newsmakers in the medical community now insist pregnancy only begins at implantation, thus everyone can say with a straight face that hormonal contraceptives do not cause abortion.

But the problems didn’t stop there. Just as the cigarette companies had diversified their market by advertising to younger and younger audiences, the pharmaceutical companies began a similar diversification. They not only began to market to younger and younger audiences, but also to the aged. Tobacco helps us lose weight; synthetic estrogens, according to the pharmaceutical companies, were just the thing for the treatment of menopause, a biological condition which apparently is now a disease.

Unfortunately, as with the tobacco companies, science intervened. Not one but two massive national studies had to be shut down as initial data showed that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was massively lethal to older women. The mainstream news media were at pains to ignore the fact that virtually the same estrogens were used in both HRT and every hormonal contraceptive. Why such drugs would be acceptable for younger and middle-aged women while being unacceptable for older women was never commented on, much less explained.

So, why does all this matter? Well, ask the environmentalists. For years, environmental scientists have known that the synthetic hormones from birth control pills are being flushed into aquifers, rivers and streams and have been causing catastrophic feminization in fish and wildlife populations.

Between 30 and 60% of the synthetic hormones and the biologically active metabolites from the birth control pill are excreted in the urine of a drugged woman. Sewage treatment plants do not remove this drug effluent. Septic tanks do not remove it either. The patch and the estrogen ring are even more concentrated sources of synthetic hormones, containing as much as three to six month’s concentrated supply of synthetic, biologically active hormone. Rainwater seeping through garbage dumps rinse the drugs out into the water table, assuming the septic tanks and treated sewage water haven't gotten there first.

Recent studies show that these same synthetic estrogens cause prostate deformities in men and kidney disease in both sexes. Since cancer cells are notorious for the proliferation of estrogen receptors, these hormones are also actively suspected as being the fuel for many cancers. They are likewise suspected as a principle culprit in reports of falling sperm counts throughout the developed world.

So, the next time you raise a glass of drinking water to your lips, think about the millions of individual, sexually active women who flush their toilets five times a day and thereby contributed to the contents of your glass. If we ban cigarettes because of their health risk, certainly our liberal friends would want to ban hormonal contraceptives. Or is second-hand estrogen a cow too sacred to touch?

Postscript:
Many people have asked me if I can back up my absurd charge that synthetic estrogens from oral contraceptives are disrupting the environment.

Here's but a few of the hundreds of URLs that can be brought forward:

http://www.aperc.org/docs/bulletin01-16-02.htm

http://sports.espn.go.com/outdoors/bassmaster/news/story?page=b_fea_bt_0412_news_pollution_girly_bass

http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/innews/fishfert2003.htm

http://www.anapsid.org/cnd/hormones/estrogen5.html

http://www.healthfinder.gov/news/newsstory.asp?docID=522249

http://www.eurekalert.org/features/doe/2003-07/dnnl-see082703.php

http://pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/trib/regional/s_354359.html

http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/press/2003/2003-0627-KR-estrogenizedfish.htm

http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2001AM/finalprogram/abstract_25760.htm

http://www.jcaa.org/JCNL0411/MutantFish.htm

Note in the MSNBC piece that estrogens are said to be a “natural” part of sewage, but no one talks about how it gets in there.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6436617/

This is an extremely well-known problem among experts in waste management. Sadly, most of us prefer to concentrate on the evils of big manufacturing plants rather than our own contributions through the use of hormonal birth control drugs.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Power of Scripture

It must make the secular humanists grind their teeth at night. Mitch Albom wrote a recent best-seller entitled The Five People You Meet in Heaven. The protagonist dies and meets five different people in the afterlife; people who help him understand what his life was about. The success of the novel would be unremarkable, except for a couple of things. First, the book’s plot is shot through with New Testament imagery. Second, Mitch Albom is Jewish.

Why would Albom write a novel that re-tells the Gospel? Because people desperately need to hear it and they know it. Disney’s Hyperion imprint bought the manuscript, reviewers gushed over the book; Hallmark even created a made-for-TV movie adaptation, but no one seems to have realized the origins of the novel’s success. For those who haven’t read the novel and would like to, be warned that the plot is given away in the next few paragraphs. For those who want to consider what this means, keep reading.

To see how Albom did it would take a book, but we can briefly consider each of the novel’s five encounters. Some may think it a stretch to see in the Blue Man, the first encounter, a rendition of the Old Testament relationship between Yahweh and His Chosen People, but when the second encounter involves a soldier whose remains are hung in a tree, our suspicions grow. The third encounter is set at a diner, where a son tries to communicate with his father, with a mediator named Ruby, after the blood-red mineral; clearly a Last Supper resonance.

The fourth encounter with its wedding sequences reminds us of Christ the Bridegroom, especially since the wife he meets carries the French rendition of the name Daisy – the flower which has always symbolized the Christ child. The final encounter, though, puts the icing on the cake. Here he meets an innocent, a girl with the Filipino name for “star” standing on a white rock near a river. The white rock, the river, and the pure woman crowned with stars are all found in Revelation, as is the wedding feast from the preceding encounter. Supporting details make it clear these scenes were not accidental.

But his is not the only popular book to leverage the message of Scripture. While many people have attacked Dan Brown’s novel for it’s incredible historical inaccuracies, and rightly so, few have noted that he endorses three very Biblical principles: sex is holy, marriage is holy and women should be treated like an image and likeness of God (i.e., goddesses). True, these principles are dressed up in pagan garb, but their Scriptural relevance is no less weighty in the new disguise.

Once one gets used to reading the symbols, it is remarkable how much popular literature and movies simply re-hash the New Testament (the first Matrix movie, for instance, or the first edition of Blade). But this is nothing new. Consider Les Miserables, possibly the most successful novel of the mid-1800’s. A criminal, imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread (Eucharist), escapes from jail and is set free from the police during his flight by a bishop’s silver. “Jean Valjean, my brother,” whispers the bishop as he sets him free, “you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you… and I give it to God.”

From that moment on, Jean Valjean is the major Christ figure in the book (there are several), pursued relentlessly by the Old Testament law, which finds its embodiment in the son of the prostitute, the police officer Javert. Valjean will rescue the daughter of a prostitute and raise her as his own. He will even toil through the sewers of Paris, just as Christ descended into Hell, in order to assure the marriage of the virgin he saved to her promised bridegroom. Meanwhile, Javert will complete the book and the baptismal imagery by drowning himself in the Seine thereby releasing Jean Valjean forever.

The stories that move us most deeply are not the bodice-rippers or the Vagina Monologues. They are, instead, those works that answer our crying need for God. “Sophisticated” readers simply require the Gospels to be hidden a little more deeply, so that we are not frightened by His too-near presence. Thus, despite all the well-founded worries to the contrary, there is something comforting in the fact that Albom and Brown are so popular. All hope is not lost. As Christians, you would think we would know that.

This essay is based on information that can be found in “Effective Habits of the Five People You Meet in Heaven” and “Fact and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code”, both by Steve Kellmeyer.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I'm on Television

Amazing, isn't it? I am interviewed on Grizzly Adams Productions new DVD, Breaking the Da Vinci Code. Since they are going to run that show during sweeps week on PAX TV, that puts me on the little box. So, if you want to see me yammer, May 11th, 9 Eastern/Pacific, 8 Central/Pacific is the predicted event time.

The fantastic irony of the thing is that I won't see it. We not only don't have cable, we don't have a TV antennae. The only thing we watch on our television is DVDs and videos. Actually, not even the latter right now, since the VCR broke about a month ago and we haven't gotten around to getting a new one.

But the situation is worse than that. To be perfectly honest, I'm not exactly sure where the TV or DVD player is. When we REALLY want to watch something (which happens about once every three days or so), we put a DVD into the laptop. So, I'm in the peculiar position of promoting a cable TV program with me in it that I am nearly certain no one in my immediate family will actually watch.

The only reason I thought to mention it now is this: I just got off the phone with someone else who is contemplating putting me in front of the unblinking eye again for another project. When he went to check my speaking schedule on the website (Bridegroom Press), he asked why I hadn't put the program listing up on the site.

I told him the obvious reason: I'm stupid. It simply never occurred to me.

So, I have taken the trouble of putting this up in order to show that I am not as stupid as I look ("couldn't be!" comes the cry from the back) and I do, indeed, have some marketing savvy.

Or something.

Anyway, if any of this makes you interested in buying my book, Fact and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code (it is new and improved from the first printing, by the way), please feel free to click on over and buy a copy or two or three. If you want more, call me. I 'll give you a discount on volume purchases. Give it to friends, neighbors, enemies, as birthday, baptism and bar mitzvah presents. In case quantities, it makes a great doorstop and a substantial boat anchor, etc., etc., etc.

It also allows me to make my house payments and feed my growing family. Sniffle.

So, lots of reasons to watch the program, be impressed by my (semi-scripted) brilliance and buy a tome or two from the website, not necessarily in that order.

Monday, May 02, 2005

E-Bay Does the Right Thing!

Thank you for your email regarding the sale of the Holy Eucharist by one of our community members. We respect and appreciate your comments regarding this sensitive matter.

As you may know, eBay does not sell items itself. Rather, we are a global marketplace for sellers and buyers who transact directly with one another. Each day eBay’s sellers list 5 million items on the site, and those sellers decide what items they want to list. eBay did not possess, list or approve the sale of the Eucharist. The buyer and seller completed the Eucharist transaction on April 11th, before eBay even became aware of the listing.

As a marketplace, we strive to respect the diverse perspectives of our sellers. We also work hard to promote an open environment for trade. That said, eBay has policies in place to remove listings for illegal items as well as highly offensive listings that promote hate or intolerance.

We understand that the listing of the Eucharist was highly upsetting to Catholic members of
the eBay community and Catholics globally. Once this completed sale was brought to our
attention, we consulted with a number of our users, including members of the Catholic Church, concerning what course we should take in the future should a similar listing appear on our site. We also consulted with members of other religions about items that might also be highly sacred and inappropriate for sale. As a result of this dialogue, we have concluded that sales of the Eucharist, and similar highly sacred items, are not appropriate on eBay. We have, therefore, broadened our policies and will remove those types of listings should they appear on the site in the future.

As always, we welcome and appreciate the assistance of the community in upholding the rules of our site. Should you see another Eucharist listed on our site, we encourage you to notify us so we can take appropriate action. Further, we encourage you to directly communicate with the seller. Members are often unaware that a particular item is offensive to others. A respectful e-mail to the seller is often all that is needed for the seller to voluntarily remove the item. We believe this modification strikes the appropriate balance between respect for our community’s values and our goal of providing an open marketplace offering practically anything on earth.

Again, we sincerely appreciate your concern and thank you for communicating your views with us. Your input has helped us frame a policy that will enable us to better serve our diverse community of users around the world.

Regards,
Shea on behalf of Bill Cobb
Community Watch Team
eBay Trust & Safety

Send them an e-mail offering your thanks, and ask God to bless them for having made the right decision. rswebhelp@ebay.com