A lament for newspapers going broke

The Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Times, and other properties, has filed for bankruptcy protection. Meanwhile, the New York Times has mortgaged its building to raise much-needed cash.

Before we gloat about the end of print journalism, with its liberal bias, and hail its replacement with the internet, consider. . . . When you read news on the internet, notice that it is nearly always linked to a newspaper. What newspapers do is pay people in your town and around the world to dig up news and then write it up. The internet is free, but that means that the internet is not paying anyone to perform that service. That we can now get news free does wreck the newspapers’ business model, but until people pay for internet news–enabling a true migration from print-on-paper to online news organizations–we will not have anything to replace what newspapers, for all of their current faults, do.

We’ll have a Car Czar

As part of their bailout plan for the U.S. auto industry, Congress was going to set up a board of its members and other federal officials to tell the companies what they can and cannot do. That was bad enough. Now Congress is planning to appoint a single individual to oversee the auto industry, a so-called “car czar.” From the Washington Post:

Democratic leaders continued working on details of their proposal this morning, and they made at least one change at the administration’s request. Instead of establishing a board from among six federal agencies to oversee an auto industry restructuring, Democrats agreed to the appointment by President Bush of a single “car czar,” according to a senior Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the measure is not yet final.

Under the proposal, which Democrats hope to bring to a vote this week, the loans would go out on Dec. 15, and the car czar would then develop broad restructuring goals for the auto industry, the aide said. On Feb. 15, after the Bush appointee had been replaced by President-elect Barack Obama, the czar would assess the companies’ progress and could pull back the loans. Long-term restructuring goals would be due from the car companies by March 31.

Friends, is it right for the state to issue fiats to privately-owned companies? Is it good economic policy to run a company according to government commands rather than the private market? I know, this is the price of a government bailout. But this cannot be worth it. This is not just socialism; it’s national socialism.

Another unlikely convert

We blogged earlier about Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas becoming a Christian. Now he tells his story in a book, which Anthony Sacramone reviews. From A Strange Review: ‘Crossbearer’ by Joe Eszterhas « Strange Herring

You know Joe Eszterhas. Well you know his films — or at the very least know of them: Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge, Showgirls.

Yeah, that guy. Well after years and years of abusing his body with booze and smokes, he was found to have throat cancer — then found himself on the jagged, ragged edge himself. Know what he did? He cried out to God.

And got saved. Yep. Saved. His word. And in Crossbearer (St. Martin’s Press), he offers his confession, of a life of sex, drugs, rock n roll, crime, booze, and enough nicotine to put a neat little hole in his windpipe.

He tells of the years he and his Catholic Hungarian family spent as refugees fleeing the Nazis, about growing up in Cleveland, about his work as a journalist and some of the psychological tricks he’d play on the families of crime victims to arrange just the right photo op. How he used to roll the drunken homeless. How he used women. How he bullied his way through Hollywood and managed $3 million pay days. How he was basically just the kind of self-absorbed fundament you would expect a screenwriter of sex-and-violence melodramas to be.

And then he got saved. On a curb, in tears. Fearing for his life. Fearing he couldn’t kick his smoking and drinking addictions. Fearing his throat cancer would keep him from raising his kids. growing old with his wife, Naomi.

And then … for the first time since I was a boy … I opened my heart to God on that curb … and instead of turning His back on me, instead of saying, “Come on! Give me a break! Not you!” God entered my heart. And God saved me—from darkness. From death itself. God saved me … from me.

And so he went back to the Catholic Church, the church of his youth. He became a cross bearer, the layperson who carries the large wooden cross in procession at the opening of the liturgy — Rolling Stones T-shirt and all. . . .

Along the way the writer delivers his views on priestly celibacy, gay marriage, and various and sundry other social and political issues that put him closer to Michael Moore than Mel Gibson (although he is decidedly anti-abortion, except in the case of rape). But as far as the person of Jesus goes, his theology is catechism-worthy. He loves Christ, wants to be Christ in the world, wants to raise his four sons in Christ. He prays earnestly and frequently and received concrete answers to prayers. And he wants a chance to shout to his friends, enemies, colleagues, that Christ saved him and that Hollywood needs some serious reform.

Our unborn granddaughter at 26 weeks

I can already see that she looks like her mother! These new “4D” ultrasounds may turn the tide in the abortion debates.

She predicts the Sooners’ final ranking

At last, we academics will be in charge!

The Washington Post has a story about how Barack Obama is filling his administration with Ivy League grads and academics. From Academic Elites Fill Obama’s Roster:

Yale law professor Dan Kahan said several of his colleagues are for the first time considering leaving their perches for Washington. “You know how Obama always said, ‘This is our moment; this is our time?’ ” Kahan said. “Well, academics and smart people think, ‘Hey, when he says this is our time, he’s talking about us.’ “

No! Mr. Obama, no! Take it from me, who am one. You don’t want academics to run the country!

Foreclosed homes for the homeless

A new form of philanthropy, a new way of doing good with other people’s property! Miami activist moves people into foreclosed houses – washingtonpost.com:

[Max] Rameau is an activist who has been executing a bailout plan of his own around Miami’s empty streets: He is helping homeless people illegally move into foreclosed homes.

“We’re matching homeless people with people-less homes,” he said with a grin.

Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new “tenants” with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list.

“I think everyone deserves a home,” said Rameau, who said he takes no money from his work with the homeless. “Homeless people across the country are squatting in empty homes. The question is: Is this going to be done out of desperation or with direction?”

My rare Art Book for sale cheap

I have come into possession of some extra copies of my book Painters of Faith: The Spiritual Landscape in 19th Century America, and I thought I’d make them available to you, the members of the global Cranach community. The book was published by Regnery in a limited edition, so it’s gotten quite rare and in demand, selling at Amazon currently for $275. I’ll let you have it for list price plus postage, a total of $50. (Then you can turn around and sell it on Amazon, making $225 profit.)

The Newington-Cropsey Foundation, which is dedicated to America’s first artistic movement, the Hudson River School, commissioned me to do a study of these artists’ religious beliefs. I had always assumed they were just romantics or transcendentalists, such were their stunning depictions of awe-inspiring natural vistas, but to my surprise I found that Thomas Cole, Jasper Cropsey, and Frederic Church were, in fact, dedicated Christians who had thought long and hard about how their faith related to their seemingly secular art. My book puts them in the context of the tradition of Protestant art (most Protestants today not even realizing they have a tradition of art), explores the influence of John Ruskin’s distinctly Christian aesthetic theories, and offers close readings of some amazing paintings. The publishers designed it as a coffee-table book, with huge, gorgeous reproductions of the paintings that I discuss. If you don’t care about what I have to say about them, the pictures alone will give you great pleasure. I’ll also sign your book.

HT: my daughter Joanna Hensley, who, with her Pay-Pal account, is handling the business side. To buy, just click the button below.

Painters of Faith cover


An atheist message amidst the Christmas symbols

The state of Washington has agreed to allow an atheist group to include one of their signs along with the Christmas tree and the Menorah at the state capitol building. Here is what it says on the sign: “There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

This is not fair and equal treatment. The atheists get to display a verbal message. The religions of the world just get to display a symbol. The result is that in the whole display the atheist pronouncement reads like a caption–a commentary, a criticism, a judgement–on the whole religious display.

If the atheists have to be represented, let them offer a symbol. (What would be an appropriate symbol for atheism equivalent to the Christmas tree or the Nativity Scene? Strange Herring suggests a guillotine or one of those depressingly ugly Soviet tenements in which communists like to warehouse their citizens [and which, incidentally, is the setting of "The Decalogue"] What would be some other good symbols for atheism? I’d like some that would be acceptable to the true non-believers also, so I hope Michael the Little Boot weighs in.)

Or, let the religions also put up signs that say what they believe and make their case to the world. (What would be a good message that would do that for Christianity, short enough to fit on a sign but that would have an apologetic impact?)

“The Decalogue”

I am teaching a film class, and last night I showed my students The Decalogue by Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski. It was made in 1988, when Poland was still under Soviet Communism, a year before independence. “The Decalogue” consists of ten one-hour films, one for each of the Ten Commandments. Each film is a highly-realistic, character-driven drama showing ordinary people living ordinary lives, but running smack into the Law of God. In each episode, the same mysterious figure–the Watcher–is there somewhere in the story just watching what the characters do. The series is sophisticated European filmmaking, with no Hollywood conventions or commercialism. It’s intense, deep, difficult, and moving. I wanted to show my students that Christianity is that way too.

I also wanted to stretch their thinking about Christian filmmaking and the larger project of Christians making art in and to a non-Christian culture. Kieślowski did not just follow the dominant and officially approved style. He did not make another socialist realist film, tacking on a Christian message. Instead, he defied socialist realism–which insists that characters exemplify a social class and demonstrate the Marxist class struggle–but rather presented individualized characters with rich, if tormented, inner lives.

My plan had just been to show the First Commandment (“Thou shalt have no other Gods before me”), but my class got into it so much, they wanted me to go ahead and show the Second Commandment (“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”), a film that also deals with abortion.

Have any of you seen “Decalogue”? I wonder if film critic Martin Luther over at Strange Herring has seen it. He would at least like the numbering. (Actually, What Luther says about the First Commandment in the Large Catechism is the best gloss on film #1: Whatever you have faith in, that is your God.) Pastors, this film could be a good catechetical tool if you have catechumens who can handle it. (But watch the episodes first. Some are not for the faint of heart or mere entertainment seekers.)