Idol Chatter

My wife couldn’t believe I was interested in attending a screening of “The Omen.” Perhaps being invited to a June 5 screening (as opposed to the 6-6-06 opening date) made me feel better about it. But I think I’d do just about anything to urge people to take spiritual matters more seriously in their lives and to get reliable information to guide their decision-making. For that reason alone, I’m glad for the hype and buzz that “The Omen” has created, because simply the mention and references to demons, Satan, the anti-Christ, 666, etc., have their roots in biblical truth.

But the movie itself stays in the safe zone, suggesting that just about anything can be the cause of evil, including our personal choices, our current government, societal forces, as well as the angel fallen from heaven. And that is a problem.

Either Satan is the sworn enemy of God and is currently engaged in a heavenly battle that none of us can relate to and in which the outcome is not future but present, or he/it is a myth created to explain bad things that happen in the world. The same Bible that introduces us to Christmas, Easter, and heaven is the source of information regarding Lucifer. Either it’s true or it’s not, regardless of how much we want to say our spiritual journey is personal. Satan’s present activity in the unseen realm either exists or does not exist.

The drama of determining our belief about that is far greater, deeper and longer-lasting than this latest horror flick. And more meaningful.

— Posted by Doug Howe

Boston millionaire Larry Baras, whose food services company makes, among other products, Unholey Bagels, has become the driving force behind the Israel Baseball League and is currently seeking out cities and stadiums in the Holy Land to host teams. Baras hopes to gin up enough interest for the American pastime—all but unknown in Israel—to field a team for the next World Baseball Classic in 2009.

Under Israel’s right-of-return laws, any Jewish-American can qualify for citizenship, meaning that Baras’s squad could in theory include Kevin Youkilis and Gabe Kapler of Boston, Shawn Green of the Diamondbacks, and Jason Marquis of the Cards. Former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette is helping Baras with player development, and team tryouts will be held at Duquette’s sports academy in Hinsdale, Mass,. this summer.

In a culture where quick wealth and instant fame are becoming more and more glamorized on television–think the recent hit game show “Deal or No Deal” and almost every reality show on the tube–it seems the time is right for a drama like NBC’s newest series, “Windfall.” The series, which premieres tonight and is slated for a limited summer run, follows a group of 20 people–some friends, some not–after they win $380 million in a state lottery.

Faster than you can say “Money is the root of all evil,” many of the winners respond to this sudden change in their bank accounts in self-destructive ways. First there are the two couples who immediately compromise their marriages, and then there is the former criminal who becomes romantically involved with a lawyer who may or may not be using him for her own purposes. And then there’s the teen who marries a Russian immigrant because he is too young to collect his lottery winning (she collects the money for him instead).

After screening the first two episodes sent to me by the network, I still liked the concept of the show more than I liked the episodes themselves. I wished that the series producers would have taken a subtler approach to the show’s premise. Every dramatic twist and turn in the various storylines is telegraphed to the audience well in advance of it actually happening. Every character on this show is so gorgeous and already has such a wonderful life–with a couple of exceptions–that feeling joy or empathy for them is a little difficult.

What would make for far more dramatic television, in my opinion, is if the show would take the time to examine the ways that greed and temptation creep into our lives slowly, over time, in numerous subtle ways that we are often unprepared for. But if you are looking for some harmless, soap opera-like escapist fare to watch instead of re-runs of your favorite TV shows , then I guess “Windfall” is just the ticket for you.

The New York Times Book Review created a furor in the literary world last month when it chose Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” as the best American work of fiction from the past 25 years. Though the book was chosen by a panel of 200 esteemed writers, several critics demurred–with some accusing the Times of kowtowing to political correctness in their choice.

So to avoid similar fury in the Jewish community, this year’s Koret Jewish Book Awards are leaving one award up to the readers themselves–and that means you. You can go to this site to nominate your suggestions for the best works of Jewish fiction in the past 10 years. Did you love “The Plot Against America”? Do you still reread passages of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”? Nominate them now! A panel of judges will select five finalists from among the nominations, and readers will once again vote on the winner. The official winner of the “ People’s Choice Award” will be announced in November.

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