Idol Chatter

In the age of user-generated videos distributed to your computer via,, and, employers might want to consider adding “forgiveness” to their list of hiring pre-requisites. Melanie Martinez is the perfect example of what the future will look like if they don’t.

Martinez, the former host of the PBS Sprouts network’s “Good Night” program, was let go after she let executives know about one of two shorts she starred in entitled “Technical Virgin.” The film is 30 seconds long and features Martinez comically explaining the things that a girl can do to technically remain a virgin. (She remains fully clothed throughout–the video is more sophomoric than risque, and actually kind of funny.)

By no means am I condoning the message conveyed in the film, but I am a firm believer in forgiveness. Martinez made the film seven years before PBS even knew she existed. I assume that her motive for making it was pure entertainment of the Saturday Night Live variety. This 30-second clip shouldn’t be used to judge the content of her character.

It would be one thing if she was moonlighting as a pamphlet distributor on the streets of New York encouraging teenage girls to fornicate, but she isn’t. It takes seven years for debts to be cleared on credit reports, so why not let seven be the magic number of years for forgiveness? Why not forgive her for her trespasses?

We live in the age of user-generated content that can be created as easily as we receive it. We also live in a country where we are supposed to be protected by the first amendment’s promise of freedom of speech. Are you telling me that the millions of people putting content on the web (some less appropriate than others) can one day expect to get a pink slip from their job because of a “for entertainment purposes only” video. I am not sure whether to abide or revolt. It’s comparable to the ridiculousness of using someone’s MySpace page as a character reference for a job application.

Verily, verily I say unto you, this revolution will be televised!

When the fragrance company Coty asked Russell Simmons, the hip hop zillionaire and yoga junkie, to create an alluring perfume for women, God was the furthest thing from their minds. This week’s New York magazine reports that Coty expected something sultry and sexy, along the lines of Simmons’ ex-wife Kimora Lee’s fragrances. Imagine their surprise when Simmons made a potion of “spiritual” oils and called it Atman, Sanskrit for “divine self” or “God.”

Coty freaked. “We had quite a standoff,” Simmons told New York. “They told me God doesn’t sell, God isn’t sexy. I think God is sexy.” But Coty relented when they saw that testers actually liked the stuff. A Coty exec told New York: “God wasn’t something that we thought was mainstream, but Russell was so passionate about it… and now it makes perfect sense.”

It seems like the Coty execs just don’t get what’s happening with the mainstreaming of Eastern-tinged spirituality. Every bottle of perfume sells more than a scent–or we’d all just put on some nice-smelling baby powder and be done with it; it’s selling a promise. And up till now that’s been the promise of alluring pheromones, sophistication or naughtiness, class, and wealth. But now serenity, balance, and radiant inner beauty are what’s hot–and Russell is a genius to put those in a fancy bottle and sell it at Macy’s.

You can get your own God-in-a-bottle in September; Simmons will donate his proceeds to charity.

Most fans of “The Colbert Report” know by now that its hilariously truthy host Stephen Colbert moonlights as a good Catholic family man. Last night his Catholic leanings were put to the test by his guest, William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who made quite an impression.

My curiosity was piqued when Colbert announced the name and affiliation of last night’s guest at the beginning of his show. I wanted to see how the Catholic Colbert would fare sparring with an arch Catholic conservative such as Donohue, known for his media savvy and controversial public statements. Though the Catholic League’s mission is to further “Catholic civil rights” and fighting anti-Catholicism in America, somehow that often translates to a lot of efforts against gay-rights initiatives such as same-sex marriage. And last night, Donohue’s rhetoric didn’t disappoint, as he went on and on about how the one thing that unites conservative Catholics, evangelical Christians, and Orthodox Jews is the evil, secular left. His commentary was sure to offend just about any group that might be watching, aside from religious conservatives like himself (including liberal women and Jews, gays, and people who are not in support of Bush right now). I searched for the clip on YouTube but so far, no one has posted it (though you can see Donohue go on about the “Jews and Hollywood” if you wish).

The biggest question I was left with following the show: What exactly did Mr. Colbert think of this fellow Catholic? He was rather silent last night and not nearly as hard-hitting with his guest as one might expect. Was he simply overwhelmed by Donohue’s sharply stated views or was he somehow agreeing with what Donohue stands for? I certainly hope not. Listening to Donohue reminded me of the perennial question I am always asking myself: Whether there’s any place for someone like me in a Church with powerful men who offend me like Donohue does. Public figures like Colbert generally give me hope that indeed there is room. But after last night, a girl has to wonder.

What Irish monks did for the ancient classical texts, a dedicated group of evangelical missionaries may be doing for the world’s disappearing languages. Since 1939, the Global Recordings Network has been spreading the gospel to remote parts of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and to migrant farm workers in California, people they call “tailenders” because they are the last to be reached by progress. The GRN missionaries believe nothing builds trust like the language of the hearth, so they distribute recordings of Bible stories and Christian teachings in their prospective converts’ own tongues, building hand-cranked cassette players and phonographs to play in . As a happy side effect, GRN, the subject of a documentary showing on PBS’s series “P.O.V.” tonight, has been building what may be the largest archive of dying languages in the world.

Less happy, in the view of the filmmakers, is what evangelism does to the people it reaches. Even the missionaries say that Christianity makes locals more willing to compromise with corporations who come to despoil their lands, and their converts say they were drawn by Western prosperity–cars and town living–as much as Christianity. GRN’s volunteers, after all, are concerned with the fate of souls, not rainforests. The filmmakers are so anxious to signal their disapproval that they begin to burden the film with simplistic critiques, portraying GSN’s efforts—indeed, American Protestantism itself–as “a syncretism of Christianity and technology.” Eventually their overt hostility bogs down a film whose images alone do more to expose the wariness, awe, and desire of the tailenders than any voice-over lecture.