Basil Pennington’s suits and other Items

posted by Mike on November 16th, 2005
  • I agree with Elwood:

    “I love my president, but he doesn’t love us.”

  • Pie and Coffee contributor and cinemaster Adam Villani started a personal blog last week. The next day he was namechecked by Boing Boing. Auspicious.
  • Father Basil Pennington was a Trappist monk who died in June at St Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer. Many know of him because of his work with the centering prayer movement, revitalizing the contemplative tradition among Catholics in America.

    Tom Lewis happened to go to mass at the Abbey the morning after Fr Pennington had died, and saw him lying in state.

    Mike: So his body was there in the chapel?

    Tom: He had enormous feet.

    Dom Basil was in many ways a giant of a man. Even physically, he looked like someone who stepped out of the Old Testament with his huge frame and long beard. He was also interiorly a giant in the sense of one of those rare people who is filled with many, many, many ideas. Big ideas.
    (from a homily by Abbot Francis Michael Stiteler)

    I stopped by the monastery last week to pick up a donation of food for some shelters and soup kitchens in Worcester, and they also gave me several boxes with Fr Pennington’s clothes. It was like being handed a crate of holy relics. After sorting through it, a lot of the clothes went right to the thrift shop—there aren’t many homeless people in Worcester who are that big. His suits were size 50L.

  • As we wonder why our Bishop didn’t do a more thorough job investigating initial allegations of scandalous behavior by a local priest, Theologienne decries the lameness of the diocesan press in this country. Our Bishop has chosen to communicate about this latest scandal mostly via his column in the diocesan paper, rather than by interviews with reporters in the secular press.
  • Worcester had local elections last week, well-summarized by Worcesteria and Radioball. From Worcesteria:

    As for what went wrong with [outsted City Councilor Dennis] Irish, some wondered if the work of KNIT, a group concerned over social service siting, hurt him.

    Speaking of KNIT Worcester, they polled the candidates about social service siting issues. About half of the questions are technical, and probably only Barbara Haller, whose district includes the controversial PIP Shelter, knows enough about these things to give an informed answer. For example: “Are people currently housed at the Worcester PIP eligible to move to a ‘sober house’? Is a paper pledge of sobriety enough or must he or she go through treatment first?” My friends, there are people at the PIP who are stone cold sober and have no history of substance abuse. The question assumes otherwise. The real answer is, “Sober people should be eligible to move into sober housing.” Then we can debate definitions of sobriety. PIP residence has nothing to do with this issue.

    The answers to the non-technical questions show a troubling lack of nuance. For example, to Question 3, a general social program siting question, Hermis Yanis (I use him as an example because he did not win and so cannot use the awesome power of a city councilor to destroy me) said, in part:

    I would strongly oppose the sitting of any business in our residential neighborhoods that the residents do not feel comfortable with.

    This is what I mean about “lack of nuance.” Presumably Mr Yanis doesn’t think people should be able to keep a mosque or synagogue out of the neighborhood, or a business that caters to blacks, or a group home for the retarded. A nuanced answer would give us some idea of where he’d draw the line.

  • In a recent post about his departure from Worcester Magazine, Brian Goslow writes:

    Write them a letter, send them an email, pick up the phone and share your thoughts on how they could have won over your readership. Now, more than ever, newspapers need readers that are passionate about them.

    WoMag came out with a mild redesign this week, and the editor wrote:

    For decades, this weekly paper has been the true alternative to the dowdy mainstream media of the old Worcester.

    I’m glad that WoMag is thinking about how they want to be different from other media.

    But non-dowdiness is not the differentiator. Worcester Magazine is dowdy as hell.

    WoMag may be consistently snarkier about local politics, but Moynihan at the T&G is funnier. And of course Doug Chapel’s editorial cartoons in the WoMag blow away David Hitch’s crap in the T&G. (Hitch’s work is so uniformly ill-informed that one would be forgiven for thinking he’s actually illiterate.)

    But you see what’s happening here: WoMag and the T&G are competing in the same areas with the same sorts of features. Does WoMag publish anything that would seem out of place in the T&G?

    For its many faults, InCity Times is the alternative paper in town. Many weeks it is just a bunch of crazed rants. (Full disclosure: Some of these rants have been my own.) But the Times doesn’t have to worry about differentiating itself from the competition.

    For example, neither WoMag nor the T&G are likely to run thousands of words on the latest Mad Cow Disease news, or give a substantial plug to an upcoming anti-war rally, or feature Konnie Lukes in a swimsuit. This week, the Times ran another unpleasantly intimate look at the publisher’s personal life, and a photo of Barbara Haller sort of smiling, both pretty bizarre. The Times is not reliable, it’s often not well-written or researched, and I don’t like a lot of the articles. But it’s not dowdy.

    The reporters for the big guys have to cover a lot of stories they’re not excited about, and it often shows. (When talking to T&G reporters about our bag giveaway project, they looked so dejected at having to cover it that I wanted to hug them and say, “There, there.”)

    Nobody writes for the Times unless they’re passionate about a subject or have an axe to grind. All these publications run stupid articles from time to time; only the stupid Times articles are so stupid that they have entertainment value.

    And the Times probably provides the broadest set of views of any local publication, on both local and national issues. The big guys veer from mainstream to slightly-left; the Times goes from slightly-right to socialist and libertarian-paranoid.

    Take the city’s anti-panhandling campaign. The Times ran lots of articles and letters both for and against the campaign, some of them taking a middle position. The big guys staked out a position and stuck with it. The only interesting stuff they published on this issue was Taryn Plumb’s first-person panhandling article in the T&G.

    The only other local print publication I’ve seen that’s really “alternative” is the Catholic Radical, at twenty years of age the longest continually-published progressive journal in Worcester. But although the CR is mostly written by locals, it’s mostly on national and international issues, so it doesn’t compete with these other print publications for eyeballs. (The CR is dowdy in its way, but that’s not important because that’s not the differentiator—a radical Catholic viewpoint is.)

    I like the WoMag’s local political reporting a lot. “Worcesteria” is a great feature. “One on One” showcases the best thing about Worcester—the people.

    But there’s still huge swaths of the City that I don’t see in your paper. And it’s not just the Times-style crazies who are missing. Look at p.15 of the latest issue, the article about how much people earn. A nice article. But what’s with all the white faces? Looking at that page I’d think I was back in West Virginia, not in a vibrant, racially-diverse New England city.

    WoMag, like any publication, needs to find a need and fill it. I know you guys don’t want to promote a middle-of-the-road vision like the T&G. I know you don’t see life in Worcester as a tanning-salon-and-college-bar-filled dystopia a la Pulse. I know we’d be worse off without you.

    You’re not the “non-dowdy paper” in town. So what are you?

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4 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On November 16, 2005 at 21:52 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Hermis Yanis sounds like a moron, at least on that issue. The real answer to that question, or at least the start of the real answer to that question, is that the rights of tenants and property owners to be protected against incompatible uses needs to be balanced against the rights of tenants and property owners to conduct activity on their property. The difficult part is in setting that line of balance.

    The legal standard, at least nationally, is set pretty far in favor of the ability of local governments to restrict uses. The big difference, then, is in the local decisions on land use. Certain small municipalities put major restrictions on uses to preserve things like “rural character” and such, while Houston, Texas, actually has no zoning whatsoever. So the key, then, is in convincing local city councils and the like to get on your side.

    One thing working in your favor is the first amendment issues. There’s a higher standard for restricting religious institutions (and, on the flip side, strip clubs and other adult businesses). Unfortunately, while it’s difficult to restrict an actual place of worship, I don’t believe there’s much of a precedent set for the protection of uses that are doing the Lord’s work. Maybe this is the residue of this country’s history of Protestant domination or something.

  2. On November 16, 2005 at 21:58 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Just to elaborate on the political point, a local government could decide to pull all sorts of restrictions on land use, and that would be the law of the land. But the major obstacle to this is less the threat of legal consequences and more the threat of political consequences. If the restrictions are unpopular, the populace will vote out the lawmakers who set the restrictions. The converse works, too; if the law is too lax, people can get angry about that, too. The point here is that it’s easier to take care of things through skilful politics than through lawyers.

  3. On November 19, 2005 at 23:29 paxton said:

    This is by far the best summary of Worcester media I’ve read in some time.
    And dowdy is definitely my new favorite word.

  4. On December 12, 2006 at 22:24 Jonathan Curtis said:

    I love reading what others think of Worcester. Nicely done!

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