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The ghost of Tom Joad


Yesterday I blogged about a video "Scraping By: Portraits of Life during the Great Recession," by filmmaker Stewart Thorndike, which documents a tent city for the homeless and unemployed on the grounds of St Jude's Catholic Church in Redmond, Wash.

"Shades of Tom Joad," commented frequent visitor to this site, Frère charles du désert OSB OBLAT (Congrégation de Subiaco) (not verified). The phrase "shades of Tom Joad" seemed familiar to me, so I googled it and was rewarded with a YouTube video of Bruce Springsteen singing: "The Ghost Of Tom Joad." (I can link to it, but unfortuantely permission to embedded it to other sites is restrecited.)

On that YouTube page is a comment by MrCopperhead1861 that is worth reading: "This was just played on a TV special for Pete Seger, granted, I'm not a fan, but when Bruce sang it, [it] was from his soul. It's scary to think this was written when I was a kindergartner and it seems more relevant now than then as our country moves toward the unknown."

Elected neediness


Our modern culture has taught us that dependency on others, the need for friendship and community, are signs of weakness. Just think of one very popular cultural icon that we all grew up with -- those characters Clint Eastwood has always played in films (either the Man with No Name or Dirty Harry). Tough, flinty-eyed, hard-jawed independent men, they would single-handedly restore order to one of our crime-afflicted communities and then ride off alone just before the closing credits, while the rest of us clutched each other in wimpy embraces.

Cut your daily water usage in half easily


Last year, UNICEF announced that humans need about five gallons of clean water a day to survive.

In the United States, we can easily use 400 gallons per household, per day — two to three times as much water as other developed nations. With landscape irrigation estimated at more than 7 billion gallons per day, the per capita numbers get even crazier. Why? Much of our waste stems from unsustainable planning and policies, and a deep sense of entitlement: We deserve it, so it must happen.

Remembering Eunice Shriver


News media every where are reporting that Eunice Kennedy Shriver, younger sister of President John F. Kennedy and founder of the Special Olympics, died this morning. She was 88.

NCR columnist Coleman McCarthy wrote about Shriver in 2007. The usually curmudgeonly McCarthy began his column: "Whenever I've been with Eunice Kennedy Shriver, I've always come away thinking, 'I must become a better person.' "

Here is McCarthy's 2007 column: Energetic champion for the disabled.

'Hollywood Animal' to do Guadalupe movie


In a news story that contained, not one, but two groan-inducing puns, the Hollywood Reporter announced last week that screenwriter and director Joe Eszterhas is planning a movie on Our Lady of Guadalupe."He may have sanded his jagged edge, but Joe Eszterhas still, apparently, has the basic instinct," the story joked, in reference to two of Eszterhas' movies, "Jagged Edge" and "Basic Instinct."

Like I said, groan.

The Hungarian-born Eszterhas abandoned the sex, drugs and greed of Hollywood for a quiet family life in Ohio and a return to his Catholic faith after a bout with throat cancer a few years ago. He describes his former life in his first memoir, Hollywood Animal, and his conversion in his second, Crossbearer.

Countering distortions, attacks over health care reform


In the visuals of the verbal muggings that some characterize as debate over health care reform, we (and I am grateful to this point) haven’t seen much of a discernibly Catholic presence. But the same vituperative, over-the-top language is out there on Catholic blogs. In the past it would have become the unchallenged “Catholic” point of view and its perpetrators the “experts” weighing in for the rest of the church.

So we might have seen the priest from pizza magnate Tom Monaghan’s Ave Maria University assert that the U.S. bishops have it wrong when they say that health care is a right -- and not hear a counter argument. Or the personal attacks on the nun who heads the Catholic Health Association might have gone unchallenged. However they are ably challenged here by John Gehring of Catholics in Alliance.

Handy guide to Vatican investigation of women religious


The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, umbrella organization for most U.S. women religious, opens their annual convocation tomorrow in New Orleans. NCR editor Tom Fox is there to give us on the ground reports. Check this web site regularly for updates.

The meeting is of special interest this year because the conference and its membership are facing two investigations by the Vatican. It's a story NCR has been reporting since it broke in January. Here's a handy guide to NCR reporting and commentary:

Tent city film shockingly 'normal'


There's a video on The New York Times web site called "Scraping By: Portraits of Life during the Great Recession," by filmmaker Stewart Thorndike.

The four minute video introduces viewers to residents of a tent city (for the homeless and unemployed) on the grounds of St Jude's Catholic Church in Redmond, Wash. What I found startling was that the video has such a "normal" tone to it. Watch it and see if I am calling this right.

You can read more background about the film project at the Seattle news web site in a story titled "Inside a Tent City near Microsoft." The story too takes a "normal" tone:

Religious take health reform to web and pulpit


President Barack Obama will be participating in a national call-in and webcast with faith leaders next Wednesday night, August 19. The call is being sponsored by a network of faith-based groups including Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Faith in Public Life, Sojourners, the National Council of Churches, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The call-in will be the centerpiece of a lobbying effort called "40 Days for Health Care Reform."


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