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F unny how many of this week's articles are about Christmas without being about Christmas. This piece on credit card debt, for instance, fits in perfectly with the shopping season -- but never mentions it. Instead, the story gets inside the psychology of somebody who started off as a conscientious, discriminant credit card user, but then, after years of being spoiled by convenience and making numerous concessions to reality, established quite a debt. Luckily, by the time the debt reached the "I can only afford to pay for the interest" stage, a deus ex machina allowed the writer to finish off the debt once and for all. Others are not so lucky....

If that story doesn't scare you away from extravagant holiday spending, here's one that will -- even if you don't live in Memphis. "We Do Bankruptcy Right" dissects the reasons the city leads the nation in personal bankruptcies (four percent of the population, to be exact). Just a hunch, but I'll bet there are a lot of credit cards in Memphis.

Continuing the trend of covert Christmas themes is this article about the rise of the "megachurch." A megachurch, not to be confused with a superchurch or an ultrachurch, brings sports-arena spectacle to spiritual worship. Thanks to "mega" holiday performances, even the unreligious may find themselves overwhelmed by a megachurch during this holiday season. (Confucius say: If you fart in one of these churches, you really can sit in your own pew.)

In the non-covert-theme department, we've got a whole lotta holiday essays this week. Quite a surprise, I know. This one's about setting a Christmas example all year 'round; this one's a general rumination on the holiday; these two are odes to romantic gifts and cheap gifts, respectively; and this one (my favorite) is about the weird kinds of form letters people send out during the holidays.

Enjoy, and remember: leave your credit cards at home.

Columns
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A Modest Cop Bonus Plan
Angry young man or cranky old fart? You decide! [12]
Cap'n O

Odds & Ends
Timed-release news capsules from the flipside. [13]
Devin D. O'Leary

Mr. Smarty Pants
Our resident know-it-all unearths the latest trivia. [14]
R.U. Steinberg

Volume I, Issue 29
December 22 - December 29, 1997

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A Fool & Her Plastic
Beware the credit waters -- sharks are lurking. [2]
Kim Mellen

What's Your Fate In '98?
There are so many new and interesting ways to die out there. We thought we'd outline a few of the terrifying health threats looming in our future. Oh, and have a Merry Christmas! [3]
Karen Brandel

Megachurch Miracle
For some Austin churches, bigger -- much bigger -- is better. [4]
Kayte VanScoy

We Do Bankruptcy Right
How it's done in Memphis, the bankruptcy capital of the nation. [5]
Jacqueline Marino

Harbinger of Hate
The militia movement and Holocaust deniers have a Chicago-born godfather. [6]
Sam Jemielity


Opinion
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The Other 11 Months
How about charity after Christmas? [7]
David Owen

Information Glut
John Bridges gets a Christmas newsletter from a castrated dog. [8]
John Bridges

Boughs of Garbage
Christmas shopping doesn't have to mean massive debt -- just give loads of crap. [9]
Jay Hardwig

The Receiving End
Margaret Renkl divulges the Christmas gifts a woman really wants. [10]
Margaret Renkl

Merry Christmas!
Even redneck curmudgeons like Christmas. [11]
Jeff Smith


Now What?
Can't get enough news? You're in luck -- more news is created every day. Our Now What? page offers a plethora of recommended links to help keep you living in the present. [15]


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