- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2007

Godless truth

“There are … a vast number of films that point to important truths about human existence without necessarily tapping into something that is quintessentially Christian or Catholic.

“This can be true even of films that are bleak and godless — literally. If so many movies today are depressing and desperate, it is because they are an accurate (and hence instructive) mirror of the hell that is life bereft of grace or hope. As Pope John Paul II is reputed to have said, ‘We owe secular artists appreciation for showing us what the world without God looks like.’

“Anyone, for example, who has seen the original 1966 version of ‘Alfie’ (starring Michael Caine), with its realistic portrayal of an abortion, knows exactly what that statement means.”

Michael P. Foley, writing on “Four and a Half Kinds of Catholic Films,” in the July/August edition of Crisis magazine

Suburban victim

“Ten years ago … F. W. Woolworth announced that it was closing the last 400 of its ‘five-and-ten-cent’ stores, laying off 9,200 workers and drawing to a close 117 years as the flagship retailer of downtown America. ‘Woolworth was 100 years ago what Wal-Mart is today,’ the historian Robert Sobel pointed out to the New York Times. It had once seemed to be a store that would last forever.

Frank Woolworth opened his first dry-goods store in 1879, in Utica, N.Y. …

Woolworth, who died a very rich man in 1919, wasn’t the only entrepreneur to build a retail empire as America urbanized and gained wealth. By [the early 20th century], with work hours on the decline and real wages rising, millions of ordinary people were patronizing not only Woolworth but also department stores such as Macy’s and Filene’s, where they could find a wide variety of goods at low prices. …

“Yet even as the downtown chains spread, the groundwork was being laid for their slow but steady death. In the 1950s and 1960s America’s suburban population grew by more than 40 million. … By 2000, shortly after Woolworth boarded up its last stores, an outright majority of Americans were suburbanites. Firms like Woolworth had trouble adapting their cut-rate downtown model to the new suburban shopping centers that sprang up around the country. The company stuck to an updated version of the old five-and-ten even as postwar affluence brought a higher standard of living to many of its customers. So it couldn’t compete with new outlets designed for the shopping centers and malls, like Kmart, Target and Wal-Mart, all three of which came into being in 1962 and offered more household goods at bargain prices.”

Joshua Zeitz, writing on “Why Woolworth Had to Die,” July 17 at AmericanHeritage.com

No guarantee

“Lindsay Lohan was arrested for cocaine possession and driving under the influence [Tuesday] after failing a field sobriety test in Santa Monica. The 21-year-old actress has been in rehab twice this year; two weeks ago, she finished up a lengthy stay at the Promises Malibu Alcohol and Drug Rehab Treatment Facility. The swanky rehab center costs almost $50,000 for 30 days. Can Lindsay get a refund since the rehab didn’t work?

“Nope. Rehab centers don’t issue a money-back guarantee that they will cure you of your alcohol or drug addiction. …

“In fact, up to 80 percent of people who seek treatment for drug or alcohol abuse will eventually relapse, many of them soon after exiting treatment, like Lohan.”

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