Sunday, March 22, 2009

Heeb's Fauxlocaust contest ends April 1!

Image via
Frustrated by the increasing number of Holocaust memoirs penned by frauds such as as Binjamin Wilkomirski and Herman Rosenblat, Heeb Magazine is fighting back "the only way we know how—with a self-aggrandizing and somewhat offensive publicity stunt."
Enter the Fake Holocaust Memoir Competition and your totally bogus Holocaust survival story could end up published in Heeb. Simply come up with a shameless tear-jerker, write it down and send it off by April 1. Get the full details here.

Heeb says the contest is a way to make fun of the assholes who have used the tragic event for profit, but some readers have boycotted the contest, saying it perpetuates and glorifies fraud. Others say the contest is hurtful to anyone who has had family members who endured Nazi torture and internment.

What will ultimately happen when Heeb publishes the winning stories? I haven't seen the editors take back the offer, but it would be wrong for them not to address the boycott, regardless of their feelings about it.

So is Heeb's contest an effective satire, or just a cruel joke?
Heeb says the contest is a way to reclaim a phenomenon that has been hurtful to the worldwide Jewish community-- and in light of the Pope's recent snafu with a Holocaust-denying bishop in Argentina , their aim is even more timely. But with faux memoirs and Holocaust revisionsists filling headlines in just the past few weeks, these issues show that the Holocaust is still producing cultural, political and religious shock waves almost 70 years after its first victims were imprisioned.
As usual, I'm torn. I'm not Jewish, but I like the idea of throwing insincerity back in the faces of those who have tried to use it for profit. But I can't help wondering what Heeb will look for when choosing the winner: an essay that uses suffering and pain as humor? If I've been reading the right articles in that magazine, I suspect an essay that involves gay Nazis, copious pop culture references and an occasional appearance from Sarah Silverman might make the cut instead.

New B&B goodness!

Thanks for visiting my under-construction site. I'll be getting a fabulous new look soon thanks to talented designer (and totally swell boyfriend) Pete Holm!
Also, thanks to everyone who e-mailed me about commenting snags. It should be fixed now so anyone can leave a comment. My favorite part of this blog is reading ad responding to what you have to say, so please let me know what's on your mind!

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Man of God, metal god

Thanks to Pete for alerting me to Fratello Metallo, a metal band led by a Capuchin brother who lives in a friary in Italy!
Cesare Bonizzi got a lot of media attention when his band opened the Gods of Metal concert in Bologna last June (it's the biggest metal concert in Spain.) Boing Boing recently posted a rad video of him strutting his stuff.

Other than the obvious novelty of a man of God also being a metal God, I think Fratello Metallo's music is novel in the way it challenges stereotypes that metal music is categorically evil.

Sure, there are plenty of metal bands with a murderous, church-burning wrap sheet (like Mayhem and Emperor, for example), and there's no other genre so saturated with pentagrams, blood and 666 imagery. The metal genre, however, still has its share of bands whose music is chock-full of epic battles, struggles against evil or just good old cheesiness (I think Dragonforce fills all three of those categories nicely.) And metal/hardcore bands such as Zao, Underoath and As I Lay Dying are self-described Christians with a raw, powerful sound.

What it all comes down to is the way metal can express emotion in a visceral, in-your-face way. That emotion could have ties to heaven or hell. In Bonizzi's case, ''Metal is the most energetic, vital, deep and true musical language that I know'', he said in this article written before he was to perform at the Gods of Metal concert. His music is not about "religious messages, but themes of faith that have a bearing on life and which are experienced musically in a secular key''.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The good ole reading stack

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible! by Jonathan Goldstein comes out in April.

Thanks to my stellar "secret source" at Boulder Bookstore, I am the proud owner of many interesting-looking uncorrected proofs. I also have many generous friends who have recently lent me books even though they know (or now know) it will be a long time before I return them. (Please e-mail me if you can't wait for me to get to your borrowed book-- I'll totally understand.)
On top of my stack is Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible! by Jonathan Goldstein, a frequent This American Life contributor. It's a collection of cheekily re-vamped Bible stories that balance between hilarious, bittersweet and ridiculous. I like it so far, but I'm only halfway through. One thing I'd say is that Goldstein seems to be navigating a space where he's being funny, but he's also trying not to offend anyone. As a result, some of the stories could be a little flashier-- I mean, if you're going to inject some humor into the Bible, I'd go big. More updates as I read further!

In other news, here's a taste of my reading lust... I mean reading list:
No God But God by Reza Aslan
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America by William Lobdel

Book suggestions? Send 'em my way!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Unlikely sanctuaries

What makes a sanctuary, a church, a chapel, a mosque? Is it the walls and stained-glass windows or the people or something else entirely?
I had that question after reading an essay from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, a brainy, fun and complex selection of non-fiction essays by David Foster Wallace. In his title essay, Harper's pretty much pays the him to take a cruise and write about his reaction. Being both semi- neurotically describes the impeccably dressed but creepily robotic staff, the heifer-like movements of large crowds of tourists and the fluffy bathroom towels "you could marry."
My favorite snippet is when he decides to attend mass on ship one Sunday. Here's a taste:

Genuflecting at sea turns out to be a tricky business. There are about a dozen people here. The Father's backlit by a big port window, and his homily is mercifully free of nautical puns or references to life being a voyage. The communal beverage is a choice of wither or wine or Welch's -brand unsweetened grape juice. Even the Nadir's daily mass's communion wafers are unusually yummy, biscuitier than your normal host with a sweet tinge to the pulp it becomes in your teeth. (Footnote: If Pepperidge Farms made communion wafers, there would be them.)

Wallace touches on a few absurdities of a mass-at-sea. The luxury cruise ship's communion wafers, normally papery-tasting and dull, have a hint of their own luxury, and kneeling to make the sign of the cross becomes a balancing act as the ship tilts in the waves. Despite this, the Mass itself stays exactly the same as it would be on land in a normal church anywhere: the communion, homily, etc are still present.

I chose this paragraph because it really illustrates what I believe about sacred spaces-- at any level of grandeur or crumminess, they still serve the same purpose: to reflect on a higher power in an area that is special to that act. Ironically, though, a sacred space's grandeur or crumminess reflects a truly human side of a practice that is meant to reflect divinity.

Take, for example, the trucker's chapels nationwide. Truckers who spend their lives on the road can stop by an ugly, ungainly trailer for Sunday services. It's gritty and utilitarian, but it reflects a lifestyle only truckers can appreciate. With a few short hours between deliveries, truckers don't have to worry about wasting time to don their Sunday Best. It's a "come as you are" approach that focuses less on the trappings of faith and more on the act of worship. Cuz when you get down to it, praying and reflecting is the goal--not primping.
Don't get me wrong, I love the splendor of famous churches and the awe-inspiring art inside--it's all meant to honor God's divinity. But in front of God, in God's house, you're still human no matter how pretty you dress up or how good you smell. Visiting an uncommon place like a truck stop chapel or cruise ship chapel calls that fact to mind even more for me.

What are your favorite sacred spaces? Do you drive up to the mountains to reflect and recharge?Do you love the traditional worship service? Or do you find solace with groups of friends at a bar? I'd love to hear about the places-- fancy and unfancy-- you call sacred.

Image via Transport for Christ , a group that provides church services for the trucking community.