Saturday, September 29, 2007

Atheist radio needs listeners

American Heathen at has to cut down its show schedule due to a need for more listeners. RJ Evans combines atheist/rationalist comedy and First Amendment badassery with a Howard Stern/KSEX comedy sensibility; go check it out this Friday night, and promote it on your own site.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Two eulogies and an odd conflict of interest

Luciano Pavarotti is gone. I was not a fan of his music (or indeed his entire genre), but it's impossible to deny that he was likely one of the greatest musical talents of all time, and certainly one of the greatest since the creation of recorded music. And he was a foodie, an Italian foodie, from the land of pasta, Caterina De Medici's court cooks, and Slow Food. The world is the lesser for having lost him.

Paul Sullivan, former nighttime talker on Boston's WBZ, is dying -- some of his colleagues read a statement from his family tonight describing that they have given up treating his annoyingly recurrent brain cancer and put him in hospice care. Paul is one of those rarities in the 21st century commentariat -- a reasonable conservative. Unlike the loonies like Limbaugh, Hannity, and O'Reilly who rule the airwaves, Sully has never been one to tolerate corruption and stupidity for the sake of ideological purity. Unlike the cerebral (and, admittedly, sometimes irritatingly pretentious but always legendary) David Brudnoy, Paul has always been a scrapper, Howie Carr without the assholishness, a center-right Simon Cowell with a scrupulous sense of fairness but a willingness to call bullshit when necessary. (I can't say I'm unhappy about his swing to a centrist position over the course of Bush 43's second term, but a willingness to change one's mind in the face of the evidence is always a virtue, never a flaw.) I hope his remaining time, however long it is, is pleasant.

Finally, the conflict of interest. For reasons that would be rather too weird to admit, I've been looking lately at ancient Greek and Hebrew instructional materials, and I find that Zondervan, the Bible publishers, have produced a series of texts on both languages. Maybe it's just the fact that I'm an atheist with a disgust for American religion, or possibly a bit of latent anti-Protestant prejudice from my Catholic upbringing, but I can't see how this is not a bit sketchy. Am I to believe that a Christian publisher (with a well-known evangelical ax to grind) can provide a truly objective course on the Biblical language without contaminating vocabulary and translations with Christian codewords? And can I reasonably believe that a Christian perspective can provide me with a reliable education in Hebrew? (Frankly, I'd rather have an explicitly secular Greek text and a secular or Jewish-written Hebrew text.) And yet I'm sure these programs will be taken up at Bible colleges across the country. (I'm not saying, mind you, that a Christian can't be objective. I just don't think that writing a language text with an agenda is a good idea. Publishing through a house like Zondervan pretty much implies a support for that agenda, whether Zondervan and its authors intend it that way or not.)