Saying Goodbye to Catholic Weekend

It is never easy to make this sort of announcement, but one must do one’s best.

Over the past two years it has been a great honor and privilege for me to work with some truly wonderful people over at the Star Quest Production Network (“SQPN”) on the “Catholic Weekend” show.  For those of my readers who are unfamiliar with it, Catholic Weekend is a videocast/podcast, where a group of Catholic friends get together via Google Hangout and talk about all sorts of topics: the news of the day, what is going on in their lives, etc.  Many times there are also interesting guests who join the show to discuss their own latest adventures and projects.  There is much laughter and teasing, but there is also a lot of love and good will.

However, I recently told my co-hosts and our CEO Father Roderick Vonhögen that I need to step down from co-hosting the show.  This was not an easy decision, but one which was made through careful consideration.  Much as I enjoy hanging out with these great people every week, I need to find some more free time in my own life to figure out where I am heading, on a number of fronts, and took the decision that this was the most practical way for me to do so.  Stepping down from the regular Saturday morning coffee klatch is saddening, quite frankly, but it will allow me a block of time I would not otherwise have, for matters that need my attention.

I want to thank Father Roderick, Jeff Nielsen, and Maria Johnson of SQPN in particular, for agreeing to take a chance on me as an unknown broadcast quantity.  When I joined the show I had no experience of broadcasting whatsoever, having only done public speaking as a lawyer in a courtroom, or as a lector at church.  Whatever abilities I have gained with respect to being able to speak off-the-cuff to an audience, with no prepared opening statement or reading from the Book of Sirach before me, are due in large part to their example and influence.  And the opportunity to address a large group of people at the Catholic New Media Conference in Boston a few months ago was really a privilege and eye-opening for me, not only in terms of personal experience, but also for seeing what wonderful, good people are associated with SQPN.

I must also thank my co-hosts Steve Nelson, Angela Sealana, and Sarah Vabulas for their friendship, support, and humor during my time at Catholic Weekend.  They have been more like siblings than co-workers to me, and I shall miss working with them, as one misses a sibling who moves across the country, not knowing when you will see each other next.  Thank you also to our fearless and patient producers over the past two years, initially Inge Loots and later Lyn Francisco, who were a tremendous help in getting the show going out in one piece, whatever trainwrecks may befall us along the way.  They took the time to make sure that any links I wanted to put in the show notes, in order to support people and things I care about, were accurate and there for our listeners to reference.

And finally I must thank the listeners, who stuck around over the past two years to hear what I might have to say.  A number have also become friends through social media, which means we will still be in touch, even though I am no longer on the show.  And of course, SQPN is a network which encourages the use of new media to make these kinds of connections, so there will be plenty of opportunities to both enjoy their programming and share feedback together in the future.

As to that future, I am not sure what I will do next, but then this is precisely why I need some time for reflection over at the Fortress of Solitude.  It will be odd actually *listening* to Catholic Weekend again, which is something I have not downloaded since I joined the show.  It will also be odd not to be sitting there, laughing with these folks on-air about a well-placed joke, or some silly technical snafu, a/k/a “The Betty Rubble Incident”.

Yet I wish them well, as I know from their very kind messages of support to me that they wish me well also.  As a community of believers, we are never truly separated from one another if we try to live in Christian love.  For His example of love, which guides SQPN and the efforts of those who work on Catholic Weekend, is typified by its constancy and perseverance, no matter what happens.  I have seen it, first-hand, in the people I have worked with on the Catholic Weekend show. And that love is something which I will be taking away with me as I go.  God bless you, kids.


Some Good Things for Your Friday

Just a few clippings and items of note:

– Last evening’s Christmas Poetry party at the Catholic Information Center here in the Nation’s Capital, co-sponsored by the Thomas More Society of America, was a terrific success: great turnout, great food, and a great selection of poems.  If you were not able to attend and find yourself in the Washington area next December, make sure to put this event on your calendar.  I was asked to present a poem for the evening, and read a humorous piece by an anonymous author known as “The Lawyer’s Night Before Christmas” which was well-received.  My thanks again to the CIC and the Thomas More Society for a terrific evening.

– On a related note, I would draw the reader’s attention to a new section of the CIC website, known as CIC Kids, run by my dear friend Miss Margaret Perry of Ten Thousand Places.  CIC Kids selects and reviews some of the best children’s books available today, in a wide variety of genres from picture books to tales of adventure to well-loved classics.  As an example, take a look at the picks for the Top 10 Children’s Books of 2013.  Whether you have kids yourself, work with children, or just want to give the little ones of your acquaintance good things to read, this is a terrific resource for sifting through the enormous number of choices in children’s books to find worthwhile reading material.

– Tomorrow on the Catholic Weekend show our special guests will be Father Benedict Croell, O.P., who is the Vocations Director for the Eastern Province of the Dominicans, and author Elizabeth Scalia, a.k.a. “The Anchoress”, Managing Editor of the Catholic portal at Patheos.  Among other topics we will be discussing religious orders, since many people both Catholic and non-Catholic do not understand exactly what they are, and how being a member of an order fits into the Christian life.  Join us beginning around 10am Eastern for the recording of the show over on the Catholic Weekend channel on the SQPN site, where you can not only watch us live, but participate in the chat room with other viewers of the show.  If you cannot join us for the live recording, episodes are edited usually later the same day, and then made available to download on iTunes or directly on the SQPN site.

– Finally, another reason to visit Washington albeit in the more near term arises as part of the Year of Italian Culture here in the U.S.  Now through March 16, 2014, the National Gallery of Art here in Washington has arranged with the Capitoline Museum in Rome to exhibit one of the most famous statues from antiquity, the 1st-2nd Century A.D. Roman marble sculpture known as “The Dying Gaul”.  The sculpture is thought to be a copy of a lost Greek bronze from around 230 B.C., and was rediscovered in Rome in the 1600’s.  It subsequently had a tremendous influence on both sculptors and painters, and copies of it were made for museums and private collections all over Europe.  Not content with a copy, Napoleon briefly stole it and placed it in the Louvre, but it was later returned to the Capitoline after his fall from power.  This is the first time the statue has left Italy for two centuries, so if you find yourself in D.C. in the coming months, make a point of going to see it.

Detail of "The Dying Gaul" by Unknown Sculptor (1st-2nd Century A.D.) Capitoline Museum, Rome

Detail of “The Dying Gaul” by Unknown Sculptor (1st-2nd Century A.D.)
Capitoline Museum, Rome

Thanks for All the Fish: Some Reflections on Podcasting

This Saturday we recorded our 200th episode of the Catholic Weekend show on SQPN, featuring clips of memorable moments from the show over the last four years.  You can watch the recording of the episode, or download the podcast by following this link.  We recorded the episode on a rather large Google Hangout featuring all of our regulars and our CEO Father Roderick, as well as several guests who have been on the show before; we also played audio feedback and read email feedback from a number of our listeners.  And of course, we laughed a lot.

It also gave me a chance to reflect on podcasting itself, now that I have been involved in it for nearly two years.  I won’t pretend to be an expert in journalism or broadcasting, but I hope I have learned a little bit from my experience so far.  And I think podcasting can be seen as a hearkening to the past, a radical departure from the present, and a promise for the future.

Podcasting speaks to the past, first of all, in that it reminds us of the early days of radio programming, with people setting up radio stations in their basements.  They talked about whatever interested them, played whatever music they liked, and oftentimes never knew how many people were really listening, but still kept trying to hold true to good standards of quality and content.  However podcasting can also at times remind one a bit of community access programming on cable, which still exists in a number of places, including here in D.C.  I remember during law school, I was fascinated by a local community cable show in South Bend run by a couple of teenagers, who filmed very complex adventure stories which seemed to have no point or resolution whatsoever.  It was not great art, but it was certainly different.

Podcasting is also a radical departure from the present pre-packaged, pre-determined type of media we have become so used to consuming.  For example, a news program owned by an entertainment conglomerate will just so happen to find nice things to say in their reporting about a new film being produced by that entertainment company, even if it is not very good at all.  They will also run advertisements with tie-ins to products related to some other aspect of that film or another product from that media empire, or by one of its affiliate companies or major shareholders.  And of course, most of us never really stop to think about these things, or analyze the relationships between the various content providers and advertisers.

Another, related reason as to why podcast discussions of events are often so much more interesting than what one hears or watches in today’s media environment, i.e. why there are fewer lengthy discussions and more curt sound bytes, is that those who put out the content we see on the major networks and the 24-hour-news channels have ad revenues to think about, and a short window of time in which to make their sales.  By contrast, as most podcasters will tell you, you are not going to become wealthy putting out a podcast.  In fact, in most cases you won’t even be able to make any money off of it all, whether for yourself or for anyone else.

However there is that question of promise, because today’s podcaster, doing something they love in their spare time, may find their career taking quite a new turn.  Recently a friend of mine who has been podcasting for quite awhile on a historical-business subject he loves, suddenly found himself negotiating a book deal from a major international publishing house; they had become aware of his work through his podcast.  What is particularly interesting about this step up in visibility is how it creates not only a larger audience for his work, but it also adds him to an increasing pool of new talent which more people can dip into when they are seeking information.  There are many smart, talented, and interesting people we might not otherwise have heard of, who are passionate about the subjects they follow, and who are getting their chance to become known to more and more people through podcasting.

Not everyone should be podcasting of course, any more than everyone should be blogging: some people are better writers than they are speakers, or vice versa.  Some people are not good at either activity, and are happy to be content consumers rather than content generators.  However I can say from my own experience of doing both, there is a spontaneity to podcasting that I quite enjoy for its uncertainty.  It’s a bit like putting on a play or even arguing in court, where even if you think you know what your part is and what is going to happen, you can never be completely certain that everything is going to go to script.

However much longer I am permitted to be on the Catholic Weekend show then, I want to say to both SQPN and all the listeners, to quote one of our co-hosts quoting another: thanks for all the fish!