Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 12:30 PM
As news of Archbishop Dolan’s precedent-shattering election as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ricochets around the Catholic blogosphere, pundits on all sides are having their say, and more comments and analyses are sure to follow.
Some of those already heard from as of this posting are Rocco Palmo, at Whispers in the Loggia; Thomas Peters, at CatholicVote.org; Patrick Craine, at LifeSiteNews.com; and Steven Ertelt, at LifeNews.com.
The editors at the National Catholic Register have put together a “Getting to Know . . .” roundup of helpful links to previous stories on Archbishop Dolan and the new USCCB vice president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville.
Also weighing in are the folks at America, the National Catholic Reporter, and Commonweal.
Catholic News Service: Incoming president of USCCB among those surprised by his election
New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan was as surprised as anyone that he was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 16.
“I’m surprised, I’m honored, I’m flattered and a tad intimidated,” Archbishop Dolan told Catholic News Service shortly after being elected in an unprecedented departure from the USCCB’s normal tradition of electing the conference vice president to the presidency.
He said he had no idea what was behind the bishops’ 128-111 third-ballot vote to make him president instead of current vice president Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010, 10:33 AM
Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia provides an interesting sidebar this morning to last night’s election returns:
Since the first Congress sat in 1789, only four American Catholics have been entrusted with the gavel as Speaker of the House.
Until now, though, they’ve all been Democrats.
You can read the rest of Palmo’s post here.
Friday, October 29, 2010, 9:00 AM
Each year, as the month of October draws to a close—and late-afternoon shadows grow longer earlier, and there’s a chill in the wind, and bright leaves swirl down into a carpet of red and gold beneath bare branches—my thoughts turn not just to Halloween, but to Halloweens long past.
My earliest Halloween memory dates to the very early 1950s, when my mother took me by the hand to walk through deepening shadows to a field near our house. There, a vast army of weirdly clad older children and teenagers cavorted around a huge bonfire. Thoroughly impressed by the strange goings on, I clung to my mother’s hand as we circled the field and then pondered what I’d seen as we walked home. Was I wearing a costume? I can’t remember, and no photo survives. But in the glow of the fire I saw life-sized Old Gold cigarette packs dancing in little white boots, just like on TV. That image, incredible and indelible, lives on.
A year or two later, when my younger brother was old enough, my mother took the two of us trick or treating for the first time. (My father stayed at home to man our candy-stocked and jack-o’-lantern-bedecked front door—and to watch my infant sister.) I was a very small witch, and my brother was a tiny devil, complete with curling moustache and pointy goatee as supplied by my mother with a few deft strokes of Maybelline.
Monday, October 25, 2010, 3:57 PM
It’s always good news when Socrates in the City opens registration for its latest “Conversation on the Examined Life.” Already this fall, SITC has presented an evening with British journalist Peter Hitchens (“The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith”) and the first-ever “Great SITC Debate,” between Dinesh D’Souza and Peter Singer, on the topic “Is God the Source of Morality?” (You can view a video excerpt from the debate here.)
The event just announced for Wednesday, November 17, looks like another winner. On that evening, at New York’s Union Club, Dr. Jean Bethke Elshtain will speak on the topic of ”Who Gets the Final Say: God, Government, or Me?” Elshtain is, as the Socrates in the City website notes, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School and holder of the Leavey Chair in the Foundations of American Freedom at Georgetown University. She is also a longtime member of First Things’ editorial and advisory board. In a message to Facebook friends of Socrates in the City, founder and host Eric Metaxas notes, “With all that is going on with the current election cycle, Jean Bethke Elshtain’s talk is more timely than ever. She’s amazing, and we are truly thrilled to have her back with us.”
As the SITC website says, “These events are meant to be both thought-provoking and entertaining, because nowhere is it written that finding answers to life’s biggest questions shouldn’t be exciting and even, perhaps, fun.” That said, early registration for SITC events is always well advised: Regulars tend to sign up early, space often fills up quickly, and the price rises for late deciders. (The lower priced early-registration deadline for the November 17 event is before November 2.) You can read more—and register—at the Socrates in the City website.
Monday, August 2, 2010, 1:47 PM
As Wesley J. Smith said this past Thursday in a post on Secondhand Smoke, the fact that the government of Catalonia has voted to ban bullfighting in that region of Spain starting in 2012 is a good thing. As Smith pointed out, bullfighting “is like dog fighting. . . . It is cruelty for sport. . . . it is the last remaining vestige of the Roman games in which humans and animals were set upon each other to satisfy the blood lust of the crowd.” Smith was careful to note, however, that this new ban is not a matter of animal rights but of animal welfare: “This measure doesn’t elevate the bulls to moral equivalence with people. It is people exercising human exceptionalism by recognizing their duty not to treat animals cruelly.”
On Friday, LifeSiteNews.com made note of the fact that this regional bullfight ban was passed into law just as Spain’s new, more liberal abortion law is coming into effect, and that “the irony has not been lost on pro-life observers.” Spain’s new abortion law, as LifeSiteNews reported in an earlier dispatch, “abolishes penalties for all abortions during the first fourteen weeks of pregnancy” and “allows minors to obtain abortions without parental permission, although they must first inform their parents of their intention to do so.”
Wednesday, July 28, 2010, 1:45 PM
According to a report in Britain’s Telegraph, Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini of the Calabrian Diocese of Locri-Gerace has written an open letter to the bosses of the ’Ndrangheta—the Calabrian Mafia—“imploring them to stop using holy shrines for their initiation ceremonies.” The bishop, says the Telegraph, decided to speak out “after more than 300 alleged mobsters—including the 80-year-old ‘Godfather’ Domenico Oppedisano—were arrested in a police blitz earlier this month.” The Telegraph article is accompanied by a screen capture from an Italian police surveillance film showing Oppedisano “being ‘sworn in’ under a statue of the Virgin Mary at Polsi near Reggio Calabria.”
In his letter the bishop states, “We have seen images of your illegal gatherings and divisions of power at the shrine to the Madonna at Polsi” and goes on to note that “We had always thought that these meetings at holy shrines were folklore but now we have had to re-think.” Interestingly, entries about the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Polsi in both the English and Italian versions of Wikipedia speak of the shrine’s longtime ’Ndrangheta associations; the English-language page even observes that as early as 1903 there were Carabinieri reports of “meetings between several criminal societies at the shrine.”
In any case, the bishop ends his letter to the Mafia bosses by reminding them that the Church is “always willing to welcome you with open arms because it is the only institution that believes in the possibility of your conversion.”
Wednesday, July 21, 2010, 1:17 PM
This week, NPR’s All Things Considered is running a series of reports on the growth of Christianity in China. The first of five episodes, “In the Land of Mao, A Rising Tide of Christianity,” ran on Monday, July 19; the second, “China’s Divided Catholics Seek Reconciliation,” ran on Tuesday. The three remaining episodes, each just over ten minutes in length, will run today, Thursday, and Friday. All are being posted on the NPR website as both audios and slightly abbreviated transcripts.
This is, of course, a story that was covered first in the pages of First Things, most notably in Francesco Sisci’s article “China’s Catholic Moment” in the June/July 2009 issue. That said, the ongoing NPR series is, so far, well worth a listen and a look. In addition to each day’s story, NPR’s website offers slideshows and other images related to the broadcasts. Also available on the website are growing threads of comments from NPR listeners and readers. Sadly, many of these are stridently anti-religion in both their content and their tone.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010, 3:22 PM
According to a story on ucanews.com, the website of the Union of Catholic Asian News, Christian leaders in Pakistan are urging their followers not to engage in discussions of Islamic doctrine with their Muslim neighbors. This warning came after the arrest of two Pakistani Christian brothers on charges of blasphemy against Islam but before the murder of the two accused brothers as they left court in the city of Faisalabad on Monday, as reported here yesterday in First Links.
As ucanews.com reports,
The Catholic Church has formed an inquiry committee of 15 lay people to investigate the facts of the case.
About 90 local religious leaders, including four Catholic priests, six Christian pastors and 80 Muslim clerics met at a local hotel on July 16 to discuss the issue.
They agreed to use their pulpits in a bid to stop further unrest by focusing Friday sermons and Sunday Masses on brotherhood and acceptance.
“Last Friday was crucial as such religious gatherings are often used to form mobs,” said Father Aftab James Paul, director of the Diocesan Commission for Interreligious Dialogue in Faisalabad.
“We are challenged by a large number of Islamic seminarians who are generally less moderate than common people. Also many self-proclaimed pastors are misguiding people, most of them illiterate.”
At Mass on Sunday, July 18, Dominican Father Pascal Paulus told parishioners at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Waris Pura, a neighborhood in Faisalabad with a sizable Christian population, “Do not talk about the religion [of the majority]. Our survival depends on this.”
Monday, July 19, 2010, 2:27 PM
This September, when strollers along New York’s Fifth Avenue reach the southeast corner of Central Park, at 60th Street, they will come across a ruined monument. The glass-reinforced concrete sculpture, brand-new and all of a piece despite its jumbled and scattered appearance, is called The Happy Prince and pays homage to Oscar Wilde’s well-loved tale of that name. The sculptor is British artist Ryan Gander; the commission came from the Public Art Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting artworks in public spaces.
Wilde’s story tells of a beautiful and much-admired statue called The Happy Prince that stands “high above the city, on a tall column” and is “gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold.” “For eyes,” says Wilde, “he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.” As the Public Art Fund’s press release reminds us, from his high position,
the Prince . . . observes the daily suffering of his city’s poor. One afternoon, he befriends a swallow, who he convinces to strip the jewels and gold from his body to distribute to the people, alleviating their misery. After helping the Prince, the swallow, who has grown increasingly cold with the onset of winter, dies at the Prince’s feet, and the Prince, who is no longer covered in riches, is toppled from his place of honor by the Town Councillors who no longer deem him a fitting and beautiful statue for their town square.
Again according to the press release,
Friday, July 16, 2010, 2:40 PM
According to a report in The Scotsman,
Catholics planning to attend open-air Mass arranged for the Pope’s visit to the UK will face a two-tier system, depending on which side of the Border they are.
Worshippers in Scotland will not have to pay to attend the Papal Mass to be held in Glasgow during the Pontiff’s visit . . . while those attending the events in England and Wales will be charged up to £25 [about $38 at today’s exchange rate].
A spokesman for the Catholic Media Office says that “Scottish pilgrims travelling to the Papal Mass at Bellahouston Park [in Glasgow] will not be expected to pay a charge to attend. Instead, parishes will be asked to contribute to the overall cost of the event, including transport costs.” Individual Catholics in England and Wales, however, will have to pay “£25 to attend the highlight of the Pope’s visit—the Mass . . . for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Crofton Park, Birmingham.” As the Scotsman article notes, there is even “a £10 charge for the prayer vigil in Hyde Park, in London.”
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England has said that members of the faithful who attend the Mass at Birmingham will receive “a pilgrim pass, . . . a journey CD, . . . a travelcard, the Magnificat (prayer book)” and other things. “The whole idea,” the spokesman says, “is that they contribute to the cost of travel.”
The news that not only English and Welsh parishioners but also their priests, including many who will be concelebrating the papal Mass, will be charged a fee to attend the Birmingham Mass has, as the article in The Scotsman points out, “led to concerns that it will penalise the less well-off.”
It’s an interesting dichotomy, and one that rather puts the lie to the old canard that it’s the Scots who are stingy.
Friday, July 9, 2010, 12:55 PM
The Department of Communications of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a set of social media guidelines for the use of church personnel, defined as “anyone—priest, deacon, religious, bishop, lay employee, or volunteer—who provides ministry or service or is employed by an entity associated with the Catholic Church.”
The bishops begin by noting that “Social media are the fastest growing form of communication in the United States, especially among youth and young adults. Our Church cannot ignore it.” At the same time, however, “we must engage social media in a manner that is safe, responsible, and civil.”
The document groups the “opportunities and challenges” offered by social media into the three primary categories. These are Visibility, a category that includes evangelization (“How will we engage? Careful consideration should be made to determine the particular strengths of each form of social media . . . and the needs of a ministry, parish, or organization. The strengths should match the needs.”); Community (“A well-considered use of social media has the ultimate goal of encouraging “true friendship” . . . and of addressing the human longing for meaningful community.”); and Accountability (“it is important that creators and site administrators . . . understand how much social media are different from mass media and the expectations of their consumers. . . . Social media’s emphasis is on the word ‘social,’ with a general blurring of the distinction between creators of content and consumers of content. Many communication experts are describing the adaption of social media as a paradigm shift in how humans communicate, a development as important as that of the printing press and the discovery of electronic communication.”).
The document lists not only the elements that church personnel should use when developing local social media guidelines, but also “recommended guidelines for the establishment of. . . . a profile or fan page on a social networking site such as Facebook, a blog, a Twitter account, etc.”
Finally, the document gives special attention to the matter of social networking with minors, reminds church personnel that their personal sites “should also reflect Catholic values,” and explains how to report on and monitor social media (“Ask church personnel to report unofficial sites that carry the diocesan or parish logo to the diocesan communication office or pastor. . . . Inform church personnel whom to contact . . . if they find misinformation on a site. This is especially important when responding to an incorrect wiki . . .”)
The guidelines are short, direct, and well worth taking the time to read.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010, 12:43 PM
On July 2, on her blog on the National Public Radio website, NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard posted a piece with the title “Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain.” In it she describes the complaints NPR received when, on June 23, the network broadcast a story about Tom Cruise that included an audio clip of the actor, in character as a fictitious movie mogul at the MTV Movie Awards, uttering the word (as the blog post spelled it) god****.
As Shepard explains, “It’s against the law to say some words on air, according to the Federal Communication Commission. But NPR’s legal team says that using the Lord’s name in vain for emphasis is not illegal.” She asks, “So even if it’s not illegal, does that make it right?” and notes that
Since the bulk of NPR’s staff is in Washington, DC, I’m guessing that many staffers wouldn’t even hear the Cruise clip as profane. But they should think about how others might hear it—including [a listener from North Carolina] and the others who called or wrote to complain.
It’s a simple thing to bleep it out.
CBS and NBC both have a policy that forbids using the word on their air. NPR should adopt such a policy and ensure that its staff all knows about it and adheres to it.
Sadly, as Shepard, goes on to relate, when she made the case to NPR’s senior vice president for news that the word in question should be banned, the executive replied, “I don’t see a compelling reason to change our practice.”
The NPR ombudsman’s bog post has attracted many comments—and many of those comments are both angry and profane. Read them at your own risk.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010, 11:47 AM
First Things assistant editor Kevin Staley-Joyce has pointed out that blogger Marcel LeJeune at Aggie Catholics has posted a list of the “Top 15 Phrases Not Found in the Bible.” Here’s a sample:
3. “The Lord (or God) works in mysterious ways”
Comes from a hymn (“God Moves in a Mysterious Way”) by William Cowper, who lived in the 18th century.
The rest of the list is well worth a look, too, as are the many comments, some offering corrections and alternate sources.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010, 4:59 PM
A headline on LifeSiteNews.com alerts us to the latest in an ongoing series of similarly troubling stories: “Stalemate after Nebraska Health Board Rejects Conscience Compromise for Christian Psychologists.” According to the report:
Defying the recommendations of Nebraska’s top public health authority, the Nebraska Mental Health Practice Board has approved rules that could force Christian psychologists to refer clients with same-sex attraction seeking relationship therapy to professionals that support homosexuality. However, the chief medical officer has said she would not approve the new rules until a compromise is reached.
While still allowing psychologists to decline to offer services, the board followed the state Board of Psychology in rejecting a rules change that would allow psychologists not to refer clients to counseling encouraging immoral behavior.
Dr. Tracy Todd, the director of professional and public affairs for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, says this: “I would argue you have the ethical obligation to find them [clients] an appropriate resource.” Fr. Christopher Kubat, the executive director of Catholic Social Services in southern Nebraska points out, however, that “It is stunning many do not understand why making a referral for a procedure or service considered immoral is itself immoral.” As Fr. Kubat’s insightful comment indicates, this is yet another small episode in the much larger battle over rights of conscience.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010, 1:50 PM
An artist died
on Thursday, July 1—a man whose name you may not know but whose work you surely will recognize. His most famous painting is probably The Prayer at Valley Forge
(1975), which hangs today at George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. And if you’ve ever leafed through a copy of The Book of Mormon
, the odds are you’ve encountered others of his works; reproductions of his paintings of scenes from that sacred book are bound into many copies. He painted Biblical scenes, nostalgic views of the American West, and great moments in the history of American college football. He was commissioned to paint equestrian portraits of England’s Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth, and his many depictions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police earned him an honorary membership in that fabled force. He also was nominated, in 1957, for an Academy Award. His name was Arnold Friberg.
In the early 1950s, impressed with Friberg’s work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, director Cecil B. DeMille hired him to work on his monumental film of The Ten Commandments. As assistant art director, Friberg’s first job was to conceptualize key scenes and people as they would appear in the film. As DeMille filmed, he followed Friberg’s sketches and paintings closely. Friberg also designed the film’s opening credits. He received on-screen credit—and his Academy Award nomination—as one of five costume designers on the film. (It was Friberg who designed Moses’ now-iconic robe of dark red striped with black and white.) Friberg’s fifteen paintings of scenes from The Ten Commandments toured the world in 1957 and 1958 and were reproduced in the film’s souvenir program.
In a tribute video from Utah television station KSL, the voice-over reporter notes that “With his stunning use of light, the vibrancy of his colors and his ability to capture the dramatic, American artist Arnold Friberg believed if a work didn’t have heart, it wouldn’t be remembered.” His work does have heart—and majesty, and its own special magic—and it should be remembered.
Thursday, June 24, 2010, 3:27 PM
The news agency Rome Reports has compiled a short video highlighting “The worst-dressed priests in the world.” The images (amusing and appalling all) are from a blog called Bad Vestments (motto: Because Christian Worship Is Not Supposed to Be About You). The first-ever Bad Vestments Worst Vestment competition is now under way, and voting ends soon. You can choose your favorite among ten finalists (the Anglican Communion is well represented) via a post in the blog’s Comments section. My vote goes here.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010, 5:35 PM
The Catholic News Agency reports that L’Osservatore Romano has reprinted some 1985 comments by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the World Cup and what its fans call “the beautiful game”:
“The fascination with soccer,” he wrote, “lies essentially in that it forces man to discipline himself, such that, through training, he acquires dominion over himself. Through dominion, he achieves superiority. And through superiority, freedom.”
Soccer, he continued, teaches the person the value of “disciplined cooperation” and demands an ordering of the individual within the group. “It unites through a common objective; the success or failure of each one is tied to the success or failure of the group.”
Cardinal Ratzinger ended his meditation on the game with these words, “If we look deeper, the phenomenon of a world excited over soccer can provide us more than mere entertainment.”
The future pope’s reflections on soccer (or football, if you prefer) first appeared in the book Suchen was droben ist (“Seek that which is above”).
Friday, June 18, 2010, 6:31 PM
With Father’s Day closing in, the question of what to get for Dad this year looms large. He’s got far too many ties, including a few (relics of Father’s Days past) that he wore once and will never, ever wear again. He’s got the original Star Wars trilogy (Widescreen Edition with Bonus Disc), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Rio Bravo, The Three Stooges Collection (Volumes 1–8), and Brideshead Revisited (25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition) on DVD. He’s got an iPod, an iPhone, and an iPad.
What he doesn’t have is The Pope’s Cologne. Described as an “aristocratic, Old World cologne with surprising freshness,” with “notes of violet and citrus,” it is (according to the perfumer’s website) “made from the private formula of Pope Pius IX . . . obtained . . . from descendants of the commander of his Papal Guard.” So, if Dad is (as, in the words of the Vatican website, Blessed Pius IX was) “benevolent towards all but firm in his principles” and combines “firmness and understanding, fidelity and openness,” a flacon of this “historic fragrance” might be just the thing. Or not. If he’s anything like my Dad, his go-to after-shave splash is probably another, equally historic fragrance: Old Spice.
In any case, this Sunday, whatever you do, give Dad a hug, a phone call, and your prayers.
Thursday, June 3, 2010, 11:29 PM
According to reports on Artinfo.com and Reuters.com, visitors to Athens this summer will be able to see something no one has seen for almost thirty years: the Parthenon, free of scaffolding. The scaffolding will return in September, however, when restoration work on the temple’s western facade resumes.
As Reuters reminds us:
Building the Parthenon took nine years from 447 BC and the sculptural decorations took another 10 years to complete. Restoration has already taken longer than it took to build.
[ . . . ]
It became a church for nearly 1,000 years and served as a mosque under the Ottomans for nearly 400 years after that.
The greatest blow to the structure though came in 1687 when a Venetian mortar ignited the Ottoman Turkish gunpowder store inside and widespread looting followed.
Unfortunately, moderns who tried to repair the structure often did additional harm:
Monday, May 24, 2010, 3:43 PM
A rambling and rather strange interview with the raunchy pop-star Lady Gaga appeared this weekend on England’s Times Online. Columnist Caitlin Moran sets the scene for her session with Gaga (“arguably the most famous woman in the world”) by describing the decor of the star’s dressing room (“it resembles a pop-Gothic seraglio, . . . scented candles burn churchishly”).
The obviously awestruck interviewer then notes that the effect of meeting the pop diva is “one of having been ushered into the presence of a very powerful fairytale queen: possibly one who has recently killed Aslan, on the Stone Table.”
At one point, Gaga tells Moran of a recent “miracle-like experience, where I feel much more connected to God.” The reporter then asks:
Friday, May 21, 2010, 12:52 PM
The Wall Street Journal reports today that several theaters in Manhattan are charging moviegoers $20 per adult ticket to see Shrek Forever After in 3-D. The jury is still out on whether 3-D is the way of film’s future or just another gimmick (Armond White has much to say on the subject in the June / July issue of First Things), but whatever it is, the price is an eye-opener as well as a pocket-book emptier.
There was a time when a ticket to Radio City Music Hall could be had for (if I recall correctly) $1.35 if it was purchased before 10:30 a.m., for admission to the first show on a weekday morning. There were no free 3-D glasses, but that price got you not only a movie but also a stage show that included live music from Radio City’s own symphony orchestra, organ selections played on the Mighty Wurlitzer, and, of course, the Rockettes. And, no, that wasn’t in 1932; it was in the mid-1960s. A particular favorite from that era was a Fourth of July show that featured a salute to the U.S. Marines. The Rockettes did a bit of close-order drill in abbreviated dress blues to the strains of the Marines’ Hymn, after which the orchestra rose to stage level from the pit and played Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” with occasional help from a couple of howitzers on the stage. Finally, after a spotlighted turn by the man at the Mighty Wurlitzer, came the movie: How to Steal a Million, starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole.
Can Shrek Forever After, even in 3-D, compare with that? I think not. Maybe I’ll stick with the Metropolitan Opera, where you can still buy a seat for five hours’ worth of Wagner for $25—and standing room for $20.
Thursday, May 20, 2010, 2:31 PM
On Monday, May 24, ten minutes into the premiere of a heavily promoted, live, interactive game show called Million Pound Drop, viewers across Great Britain (but not in Northern Ireland) will see a thirty-second commercial that features three anxious-looking women; one is shown standing at a bus stop. The ad notes that each of the women—a university student, a twentysomething, and a thirtyish mother of two—is “late.” The ad also asks, “Are you late?” and offers a help-line number.
A particular word is never uttered, but the commercial’s purpose is clear: This is Britain’s first-ever television ad for abortion services. It’s the opening shot in a multimedia campaign from Marie Stopes International, a private, nonprofit organization that receives its very own 30 million pound drop each year from Britain’s National Health Service to provide what the Marie Stopes website calls “sexual and reproductive healthcare services.” The ad will air throughout June on Channel 4 in England, Scotland, and Wales but not in Northern Ireland; it will be blocked there because abortion is still illegal in that province.
Marie Stopes has managed to evade Britain’s restrictions on broadcast abortion ads because of its status as a charity; the standards (recently relaxed) now forbid such ads only when placed by private, profit-making companies.
According to a report in the Guardian, Marie Stopes says the ad “aims to provide women with information rather than to promote abortion or any other choice.” According to the Telegraph, however, the charity’s marketing manager says, “We thought it was the right to bring abortion out into the open. It has been legal for 40 years. . . . It doesn’t help to keep it under wraps.” And, of course, as any good marketing manager knows, sometimes the buzz that surrounds an ad—especially a controversial one—is worth far more that the cost of the ad itself. The ad, unseen as of this writing except for a Marie Stopes–provided screen capture of the woman at the bus stop, is sure to show up on YouTube within minutes of its airing.
And here we are, on the other side of the Atlantic, talking about it. One wonders whether that wasn’t the primary aim all along.
Friday, May 7, 2010, 11:44 AM
“Was will das Weib?” Sigmund Freud famously asked—What does woman want? A few months ago, in this space, we pondered the significance of the eyeless, and even headless, women who have proliferated on the covers of historical novels in recent years—novels that are, in large part, marketed to women, and the covers of which are meant to attract the attention of potential buyers. This week, in the Thursday Styles section of the New York Times, fashion critic Cathy Horyn ponders the meaning and morphology of mannequins.
Like the ladies who line the bookstore shelves, these storefront sirens, dressed in the latest styles, are there to lure potential buyers:
It is said that the ideal time to view store windows is at dusk. One evening a few weeks ago a friend driving past Saks looked and said, “I wonder what mannequins tell us about who we are.”
At their best they tell us how we stand and carry our bodies; whether we want to be tall, willowy, athletic, busty, Amazonian, and if we need to pay attention to our arches. But even at their worst—headless, colorless, listless—a mannequin tells us something about ourselves.
Twenty or 30 years ago, it was relatively easy to walk down Fifth Avenue and see differences in mannequins, differences not only in color and ethnic characteristics but also attitude and even emotion, which were conveyed by the novelty of the displays and, of course, the fashion. Nowadays, though, with few exceptions, the great avenue provides a window into limited resources and eroded convictions. By using the generic-looking mannequins, stores seem to want to erase the issue of race and ethnic identity—as much as blogs now serve to highlight these distinctions.
“A lot of stores just avoid that issue by spraying everything gloss white and not putting any features on the mannequin,” said Michael Steward, the executive vice president of Rootstein, a top specialist in realistic mannequins based in New York and London. “They don’t want to make a mistake.”
Similarly, he said, a designer client will spend $50,000 a day for a model for an advertising shoot but will fret over the choice of mannequin until finally saying, “Oh, just make it headless.”
Was will das Weib?
Read more . . .
Thursday, May 6, 2010, 3:43 PM
Nassau University Medical Center president Arthur Gianelli has cancelled the punishment originally decreed for eight nurses who refused to participate in an abortion at the East Meadow, New York, hospital. The hospital also has issued an apology to several of the nurses.
On March 30, a patient who was fourteen or fifteen weeks pregnant and experiencing complications came to the hospital for surgery to prevent a miscarriage. As she was being prepared for surgery, her water broke. The next day, after being told by a doctor that she was in danger of developing a life-threatening infection if she continued to carry the baby, she decided to terminate her pregnancy. When the eight nurses declined to take part in the abortion, the patient’s doctor opted to postpone the procedure, as the patient was stable and in no danger, and a nurse willing to assist in an abortion was scheduled to come in later that day. For reasons not made clear in various newspaper reports, the abortion did not, in fact, take place until April 2.
According to Newsday, however, on March 31, “because of a miscommunication . . . the director of perinatal nursing believed the patient was in a life-threatening situation” and “informed her superiors of the nurses’ refusal to take part or to sign a form attesting to their objections.” It was at this point that the hospital instituted its disciplinary action, as the “right of refusal” form that the nurses were asked to sign states that the opt-out provisions “do not apply during a medical emergency.” This stipulation follows federal law.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 1:42 PM
Older Posts »
Every Sunday at 6 P.M., the Church of the Ascension, a Catholic parish on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, offers a Mass at which, according to the church website, “a jazz trio plays original compositions, arrangements of traditional hymns and music by composers such as Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington.”
The website also notes that “shortly after the . . . Jazz Mass started at Ascension” (about a decade ago) “a bewildered parishioner” approached the pastor “to express disapproval. . . . She didn’t think jazz was appropriate for church and . . . she felt like she ‘should have a martini in her hand.’”
And so was born the tradition of Martini Night. It is described on the Ascension website (click on the tab for “Ministries”) as “the . . . Jazz Mass’ interpretation of the traditional church coffee hour or potluck. On the first Sunday of the month, we gather after Mass for fellowship, food and all kinds of drinks and, yes, martinis.”
There’s a dedicated email address for anyone “with questions, to volunteer, or if you would like to be added to our email reminder list.” The address is (what else?) MartiniMass@aol.com.