Millennial-time religion

The L.A. Weekly gets spiritual; poo falls from the sky in Salt Lake City.

By Jenn Shreve

Published May 7, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Los Angeles Weekly, May 7 - 12

"Spirituality L.A."

Unless you're proselytizing, preaching to the choir or dismissing the subject outright, there is little room for you at the table of theological discourse these days. Though evidence of faith is everywhere -- in a yoga class, on prime-time TV or at the church around the corner -- it is topic non grata in most intelligent conversations.

So hooray for the L.A. Weekly, whose fourth special spirituality section in 10 years covers a broad spectrum of beliefs -- Gnostics to Muslims, Buddhists to Catholics -- and addresses such topics as community, race and charity. It's all done intelligently and with respect. The only disappointment is that there isn't more of it (not all 48 pages of the print version appear online); the selection, while impressive, only whets one's appetite.

The section's editor, Pamela Klein, who created the Weekly's first spirituality section with Michael Ventura when the paper had a much more New Age bent, says Tinseltown is seeking truth beyond the Hollywood bullshit. "People are hungry for something more. They see it in icons (like) Courtney Love and Madonna, and they know it's fake, and I think even the icons know it's fake. I think they too are looking for ways to fill themselves, and donning the robes is a start."

Of course, too much sincerity can be a bad thing too. It would be nice to see someone take a shot at the piety of stars like Love, Richard Gere, et al. Religion and spirituality call out for humorous jabs. Even a little mockery is appropriate -- like Peter Gilstrap's
"Jesus of the Week"
or the antics of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Perhaps L.A. Weekly can explore such topics the next issue, and I hope it will be soon in coming.

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The Long Island Voice, May 5 - 11

"Welcome Back, Amy!" by the Long Island Voice staff

OK, it's not really fair to mock Long Island. I mean, I hail from Salinas, Calif., via Lubbock, Texas, and know firsthand that some places just can't help but suck. But how can you not poke fun at a place that has so little going on that it practically declares a citywide holiday when its only star, Amy Fisher, gets out on parole? In honor of this momentous occasion, the staff of the Loser Isl -- er, Long Island Voice has compiled a humorous list of relationship and lifestyle advice for their long-absent "Lolita." I have but one bit to add: Don't move back to Long Island. There are better places to hide.

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San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 5-11

"Hell on Wheels" by Clay A. Thompson

Speaking of losers, I can't ride a bike. At 8, I became convinced that a passing car would rip my legs off. That fear has crippled all subsequent pedaling efforts. And why hold back? I'm afraid to drive, too, unless it's on great open stretches of road. So I have great respect for bike messengers, especially in San Francisco, where the hills are monsters, the streets lack bike lanes and where cyclists of all skill are killed by cars at an alarming rate. Toss in the meager pay, no benefits and a lack of status, and you have to wonder why anyone would bother with such a job. Clay A. Thompson wonders the same thing and digs up some answers in this portrait of bike messenger culture -- from the allure of the job to recent efforts at unionization.

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Feed, May 4, 1999

"The Uses of Sim Sidewalks"
by Steven Johnson

A fascinating discussion with three urbanists about how the video game SimCity does and doesn't translate into real life. This essay is part of an excellent larger issue on games.

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The Village Voice, May 5 - 11

"Sin City" by William Mersey

Although I strongly suspect there is a large sign in the editorial offices of the Village Voice that says "I hate pigs" right next to a dart board adorned with Rudy Giuliani's face, there are times when this tedious party line results in some provocative reporting. Such is the case with William Mersey's piece on police officers who offer to look the other way in exchange for sex and money from sex workers.

"Smoke and Jeers" by Jennifer Gonnerman

Jennifer Gonnerman describes a scene from last week's Million Marijuana March in New York last week: "The procession ambled down Broadway to Battery Park, where hippie chicks in tie-dyed skirts twirled to reggae beats and FUBU-clad teenage boys did a brisk business selling Phillies blunts for $1 each." Ugh. When, oh when will all these damn wannabe hippies get it? Walking down the street in dated clothing, barefoot, with a spliff stuck in your unwashed face does not improve the reputation of the noble weed among those folks who suspect that "Reefer Madness" is an incisive documentary. Go home and start proving your political and social foes wrong! Smoke with subtlety and prove with your good grooming and quick wit that a toke from the dime bag does not mean you are an idiot.

"Mommie Dearest" by Lynn Yaeger

If you haven't bought a Mothers Day card or a gift for the person responsible for your being alive, you are in trooooouuuble! This piece on the holiday's anti-woman history might make you feel slightly less guilty, but only slightly.

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The Boston Phoenix, May 6-12

"Consuming Interests" by Michelle Chihara

I realize, of course, that heavy-duty academic research doesn't find its way into mainstream, or even "alternative," publications. Most of us have time to digest only the fluff. But I'm still tempted to say that for all their blubbering about the lack of jobs in the ivory tower, academics seem to waste a whole lot of time on meaningless crap like this study on how material goods and shopping are good for us, by an assistant professor of history at Boston University named Regina Blaszczyk. Thanks to the efforts of academics like Blaszczyk and Jon Goss (can we say "corporate sponsorship of American universities"?), we can justify our rampant consumerism and out-of-control credit card debt as research and self-affirmation, while people in Indonesia suffer without footnotes.

"General Doubts" by Jason Gay

U.S. "drug czar" Gen. Barry McCaffrey is in about as much denial about pot as the paraders in New York. Jason Gay, who rebutted my recent critique of his piece on teens with an e-mail consisting of the words "Ah, fuck off," reports on the czar's unwillingness to back down in the face of studies proving medical benefits of and disproving the "leads to other drugs" theories about marijuana. Increasing evidence points to a correlation between boneheadedness and the title "czar." Perhaps "Imperial Vizier" should be substituted.

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Salt Lake City Weekly, May 6 - 12

"The Sky is Falling" by D.P. Sorensen

I don't know about you, but I find this disturbing: Poo is falling out of the sky in Salt Lake City. While efforts are being made to clean the shit up, authorities can't do more than speculate about its origins. It's a bat! It's a plane! It's Superman! This is just a hunch, but perhaps God is taking a dump on the city in retribution for its honchos' indelicate bribery of Olympics Committee officials.

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Willamette Week

"Prescription for Trouble" by Chris Lydgate

First I got an apartment, and then I got a cat. Not long after that, I started waking up with my nose full of goo and my eyes watering like Niagra Falls. Did I ditch kitty? No. I went to my doctor and got Claritin, covered in part by my health insurance. From the allergy miracle drug Claritin to Viagra and Prozac, aggressive marketing by drug companies with products that cure previously incurable ailments has led to increased demand -- and HMOs are passing the costs along to customers. In a solidly reported piece, Chris Lydgate reports on the trend.

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L.A. New Times, May 6 - 12

"Bad Teeth" by Kevin McAlester

When I was a kid, we didn't have Marilyn Manson to feed our misery and teen angst. We had the Smiths. I still get nostalgic for the glory days of high school every time I hear lyrics such as, "Heaven knows I'm miserable now" or "If a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die ..." While Pez conventioneers basked in the media limelight last week, the Smith/Morissey gathering in Los Angeles was largely overlooked. But Kevin McAlester was there, and his amusing piece chronicles the gathering of these "robotic zombies" with "gravity-defying hair" who cling to the past and their own misery.

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The Stranger, May 6 - 12

"Kids Are Mean!"

At this point, I'm pretty much ignoring all coverage of Littleton, Colo. Now that every news outlet in the world has weighed in on the topic hundreds of times, what more is there to say, really? And I would just ignore The Stranger's last-minute leap into the fray, if it weren't so damn insulting -- to the intelligence. If you want to argue that kids are mean-spirited, lousy and cruel and base all this on one extreme, recent example, then you have to have a lot more than some anecdotal evidence, random quotes from teenagers and generally sloppy journalism -- especially when you've had weeks to come up with this stuff.

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Bike messengering not your bag? As high school and college seniors face graduation and the inevitability of getting a job, I offer these stories about things to do with the rest of your life.

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Cafe wall painter Christian sells paintings by exhibiting his work on coffee-shop walls.

Chicks fight fires! Cool!

Jenn Shreve

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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