Pre-Thanksgiving items

posted by Mike on November 25th, 2008

First, a couple of buzzkill items. Don’t forget that Friday is Buy Nothing Day, a day to send the message that the Christmas season is not about money. (I guess it doesn’t have to be a downer: read Mark Dixon’s account of a crazy BND experiment.)

Also, casual turkey cruelty:

New York Times:

[PETA] released undercover videotapes taken at the nation’s premier poultry-breeding operation, showing turkeys being stomped to death and punched by workers.


The scenes show stomach-turning brutality. Workers are seen smashing birds into loading cages like basketballs, stomping heads and breaking necks, apparently for fun, even pretending to rape one.

It gets worse.

Now for some positive items.

Close Guantanamo Now
An interview about closing Guantanamo in which I repeatedly interrupt Mauro DePasquale and Claire Schaeffer-Duffy. Sadly, I do this to them off-camera, too.

Adam Villani beats Ben Stein’s ass, twice
Pie and Coffee contribuor Adam Villani won Ben Stein’s money, and correctly guessed that the housing market was over-valued. The score is 2-0.

How strong is the Worcester blogosphere?
Help me figure out how Worcester’s amateur news stacks up to the daily paper.

posted by Mike in Items | on November 25th, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Pre-Thanksgiving items” | No Comments »

WoMag: Aware of all Internet traditions? and other items

posted by Mike on October 23rd, 2008

Tomorrow’s 508 podcast is pre-recorded, so I’m going to vent today about a sub-head in this week’s Worcester Magazine “Worcesteria” column:


Which is neither an elegant title nor an accurate reference to ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US. Overzealous copy-editing? Zoback nods?

City Council to Vote on Taxing Military Bases & Anti-War Resolution Oct. 28
Indymedia story.
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Weird feuds and other items

posted by Mike on September 14th, 2008

The whole Dianne Williamson-Rosalie Tirella thing
I didn’t find the Dianne Williamson column that started the latest round in this feud very interesting; strange, because so many of the elements would normally appeal to me.

I re-read the column, and when I got to this phrase I found part of the problem:

. . . InCity Times, a small newspaper that purports to speak for blue-collar folks but is actually a vehicle for Ms. Tirella to practice her peculiar brand of yellow, slash-and-burn journalism . . .

This is incorrect. InCity Times is a small newspaper that speaks for blue-collar folks and a vehicle for Ms. Tirella to practice her peculiar brand of yellow, slash-and-burn journalism. And a couple of other things as well.

Williamson’s take is disappointing. Why reduce a fascinating, three-dimensional character to one?

Too often local writers do this, and it drives me crazy. They start with a complex, flavorful, spicy reality, then dilute it way down, punching it up at the last stage with cheap adulterants (in this case, personal rancor).

Also: RT’s offensive response to this article has been posted and removed from several websites, the latest being Worcester Indymedia.
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St. Peter’s ministry fair and other items

posted by Mike on September 6th, 2008

St. Peter’s ministry fair

People will be tabling about parish ministries after every mass this weekend at St. Peter’s parish in Worcester.

I’ve avoided getting involved in parish ministry in Worcester because I move so much. But I’ve lived in the Greater St. Peter’s Area continuously for the past 11 months, and plan to be here until at least January, so I think it’s time to take the plunge and investigate becoming a lector. (Thanks to TN for a short conversation which convinced me I should get more involved in this way.)

On a related note, from last week’s bulletin:

* Special Notice: The Diocese of Worcester has mandated that every person who is involved in any kind of parish ministry – whether volunteer or paid – must complete a C.O.R.I. form and must participate in a Child Abuse Awareness training program.

I hate filling out government forms as much as anybody, and I have more than enough opportunities to serve the Lord in my daily life that don’t involve paperwork. I can understand a policy like this, but boy it’s annoying.
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Bottled water and other items

posted by Mike on June 4th, 2008

St. Bernard’s against bottled water
Last week I mentioned an odd incident in downtown Worcester. A Poland Spring guy was making a delivery on the street, and the woman accepting the delivery told him that some churches were encouraging a boycott of bottled water.

He said, “I guess I’ll boycott church, how’s that.”

Turns out it wasn’t just any churches–the Telegram & Gazette ran a story that morning about Sister Rena May at St. Bernard’s:

In fact, if you attend Mass at St. Bernard’s or are a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish, she will ask you to sign a pledge card vowing to stop buying bottled water and drink from the tap. She says selling water for profit threatens the public’s access to fresh water and that safeguarding clean water for public use is integral to her calling.

“I’m a Franciscan, so I naturally go very well with the environment and trying to protect it,” Sister Gagnon said.

If you’re curious about Worcester tap water, watch this video by Dan Dick.

Darth Cheney
My fellow radical Catholic West Virginian Michael Iafrate thinks Dick Cheney’s stupid WV incest joke was part of a long pattern of “imperial” repression of Appalachia. I think it’s more from anxiety than malice; Cheney, the spawn of a demon and an evil robot, must be both fascinated and confused by human sexuality.

Good God, y’all
Whether you dislike war or love hiking, Edwin Starr has got the goods.

Making your own fun
I am really pleased with this week’s Snow Ghost Community Show, about “making your own fun” in Worcester.


posted by Mike on May 29th, 2008

Is bottled water from the devil?
Today the Poland Spring guy was making a delivery in downtown Worcester. The woman accepting the delivery told him that some churches were encouraging a boycott of bottled water.

He said, “I guess I’ll boycott church, how’s that.”

I don’t think a persuasive case has been made against bottled water in progressive circles. It’s not uncommon for someone to walk into a meeting of activists, plunk a case of bottled water on the table, and say, “Look what I brought!”, while about half the people scowl at him.

I’ve never had much interest in bottled water, but just because it seemed nuts, not for political reasons. I used to drink a lot of San Pellegrino sparkling water back in the day. My office gets bottled water delivered, though not from Poland Spring.

Utah Phillps has died
He was very connected with the Catholic Worker movement, via Ammon Hennacy. Lots of YouTubes about him.

Oprah: temporary vegan
Did you know that Oprah Winfrey has gone vegan for 21 days as part of a “cleanse?” She’s also mentioned the ethical dimension of abstaining from animals. I first went vegan for a mere 7 days, and for similarly goofy (though different) reasons. I bet that for thousands of the people joining Oprah, that first taste of veganity will be irresistable.

Worcester’s original peoples
WCCA TV13 now has a locally-produced talk show about Native American affairs, Drum of the People.

posted by Mike in Items, Worcester | on May 29th, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Items” | Comments Off on Items


posted by Mike on May 14th, 2008

WoMag jail story
It used to be hard (but not uncommon) for the weekly Worcester Magazine to scoop the daily Telegram & Gazette. Yesterday, via the power of the Internet, WoMag beat the T&G by 8 hours in their coverage of a recent federal report on problems at the county jail.

The report (PDF) makes a few dozen recommendations on improving conditions, because:

In defining the scope of inmates’ Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, the Supreme Court has held that corrections officials must take reasonable steps to guarantee inmates’ safety and provide “humane conditions” of confinement. . . . The “humane conditions” standard is satisfied when a corrections system provides for inmates’ basic needs for safety, medical care, food, clothing, and shelter. . . . As discussed below, the conditions at the Jail do not comport with these legal standards.

This part has already provoked comment:

The Jail’s grievance process is difficult for inmates to access. As an initial matter, inmates do not have direct access to grievance forms and must obtain them from the housing unit captain. Once a form is completed, inmates must “complete and forward the form in an envelope, with postage, addressed to the (‘Facility Inmate Grievance Coordinator’) by way of the outgoing facility mail.” Pursuant to the Jail’s policy, inmates must file a grievance form within ten days of the incident at issue, although the grievance officer told us that he does not enforce this rule. Inmates are subject to these same rigorous requirements if they wish to appeal the grievance officer’s decision.

The inaccessibility of this system is reflected in the low number of grievances that are filed.

Deputy Superintendent Jeff Turco:

There’s nothing in the Constitution that says a jail can’t have a cumbersome grievance process … [or] any process.

Buck Paxton:

Apparently some people think the right to petition for a redress of grievances is just part of a Seinfeld sketch.

I’d be curious to see how this report compares with the reports issued to other jails these days, or Worcester County in the past.

Meth lab at slaughterhouse
At a notorious kosher slaughterhouse, according to accounts of a recent immigration raid there. “Last November, the search warrant said, ICE agents interviewed a former Agriprocessors supervisor who said some employees were running a methamphetamine lab in the plant and were bringing weapons to work.” Erik Marcus notes: “I had no idea that crystal meth was part of a deep religious tradition.”

Interview with Louis Rodemann of KC Catholic Worker
Haven’t listened to it yet, but here it is: mp3#1, mp3#2.
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posted by Mike in Items, Worcester | on May 14th, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Items” | No Comments »


posted by Mike on April 23rd, 2008

Peace in our time
“When will the governments realize? It’s got to be funky, sexy ladies.”
Flight of the Conchords, from their “blondes not bombs” peace proposal


Dan McKanan interview about the Catholic Worker movement
Here’s an interview with Dan McKanan, author of Touching the World and The Catholic Worker After Dorothy, about the Catholic Worker movement. I think everything he says about the CW is dead on. I can’t find a page about this anywhere, but here’s the mp3: Link

Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke
Interview with Christopher Lydon about his new WWII book. I love Baker, Lydon, and anything that seriously considers that war might be bad. So I’m looking forward to reading the book and hearing the interview.

Dorothy Day, the editor of the Catholic Worker, wrote an editorial called “Our Stand.” “As in the Ethiopian war, the Spanish war, the Japanese and Chinese war, the Russian-Finnish war — so in the present war we stand unalterably opposed to the use of war as a means of saving ‘Christianity,’ ‘civilization,’ ‘democracy.’” She urged a nonviolent opposition to injustice and servitude: She called it the Folly of the Cross.

“Where’s the Business Model for News, People?”
Jay Rosen’s latest meditation on the press. Short answer: There doesn’t seem to be one.
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posted by Mike in Items, Podcasts | on April 23rd, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Items” | No Comments »


posted by Mike on April 16th, 2008

Catholic Worker to speak at National Catholic Prayer Breakfast with Bush and McCain
How surprisingly weird. If this doesn’t lead to a Colbert moment, CWs across the country are going to be disappointed. (What would a pacifist anarchist like CW co-founder Dorothy Day have said to a sitting president?)

“18 students arrested in Darfur protest at White House”
On April 13. The next Worcester-based Darfur event in DC (that I know of) is a march between the Chinese and Sudanese embassies May 20 organized by the Catholic Worker community.

Democracy Now remembers Tom Lewis
I thought this was a nice piece about late Worcester resident Tom Lewis.

“Green Pirates Claim Victory on Whaling”
New York Times: “This year’s mission was disrupted intensively by Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, who use violent means for disturbance,” said Hajime Ishikawa, chief of Japan’s whaling mission. I’ve previously mentioned that I think Sea Shepherd pirate-in-chief Paul Watson has one of the world’s funnest jobs.

Free Art Worcester
This morning I spotted Free Art Worcester’s Hexagrammum Mysticum on the way to work.


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posted by Mike in Items | on April 16th, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Items” | 1 Comment »


posted by Mike on April 3rd, 2008

LA Catholic Workers disrupt mayor’s visit to Skid Row
The LA Times has a video of the conference plus a story; the LA Catholic Worker has a story too.

Maybe Adam knows more about the background of this. The Times says the mayor was “Not easily intimidated,” but the protesters sure seem to be bothering him. How can the mayor of Los Angeles be such a lousy performer?

Pacifism and WWII
Nicholson Baker’s latest book is about WWII. NY Times:

It seems that he wishes to stir up an argument as much as settle one. In his afterword he says of the pacifists: “They failed, but they were right.” It is an aspect of the subtlety of his book that the reader is entitled to wonder if it’s true.

I have loved at least half the stuff he’s written, and am looking forward to reading this one. (I still have to read his article about Wikipedia first. “It’s like some vast aerial city with people walking briskly to and fro on catwalks, carrying picnic baskets full of nutritious snacks.”)

1958 Village Voice piece on the Catholic Worker
Caroling with Dorothy Day:

I was singing with Catholic Workers, tourist, sailors, Villagers, actors, and a drunken woman who also felt the magnetism. We sang ourselves to tears to a bunch of tough girls we would never see.

April Fools
South Bronx schoolkids pay tribute to Improv Everywhere:

posted by Mike in Items | on April 3rd, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Items” | 1 Comment »