Monday, April 30, 2007

Brain games

Video gaming has really made a number of impressive leaps over the years. First, of course, was Pong, with it's amazingly realistic graphics and awesome soundtrack. After all, every time we've ever played table tennis, the ball was a bit more square-shaped, and it always made that cute little "plunk" noise when it hit the paddle. Of course, eventually people got bored with seeing that, and a new wave was started, with 8-bit graphics. Finally we all got to see Mario's mustache in it's slightly-less-blocky glory. Graphics continued to improve (we're not positive, but we think we might be able to see the individual hairs that make up Mario's face broom now), and, while the picture was getting more distinctive, a new debate popped up, ever whether or not gamers would be willing to try the new-fangled CD-ROM concept in their video game console. After all, it may have worked in stereos, but this is for gaming, people.

Well, when the dust settled on the format debate, and the current generation of video game consoles hit the market, a new debate was started. This time, Microsoft and Sony took their positions towards the old-fashioned (albeit many-buttoned) controllers, adding a wireless element, but still relying on a more sedentary gamer. Nintendo, with the Wii, decided that they wanted to try the wacky concept of getting gamers to move their own bodies to get their onscreen avatars to move. Before the Wii hit the shelves, people were skeptical, and many remained so. But the proof was in the playing, as the Wii was able to bring people over to its side through a fun gaming experience, and people got excited about being active again.

Of course, now that gamers are starting to become comfortable moving while playing games other than just Dance Dance Revolution, a new technology on the horizon could lead to another split. This time, developers are looking to incorporate biofeedback and brain waves into the gaming experience, causing gamers to exercise their minds, as well as their bodies. Imagine playing a game of golf, and not only moving your arms to make the shot (obviously, only with the Wii at present), but also needing to maintain a calm and focused mind to help ensure greater accuracy. That's exactly the type of technology that's being talked about.

Now, we'll admit, we were skeptical of the Wii at first. And, in some ways, we still are. Sure, there's some technique to the games, and the exercise gotten by playing them is definitely a benefit, especially to a demographic better known for resting on their backsides instead of standing up and moving. But even the Wii has it's own form of "button mashing", as exhibited by the "random flail" technique that works in some games. But overall, it's a fun system, and it expands on something that many gamers did previously (after all, the notion of turning the controller during a racing game is a common image). And where there's fun, you can find some CSM support.

That being said, we're a bit concerned about biofeedback and things like that in relation to video games. Developers are claiming that incorporating the new technology into gaming will make the games more realistic, and enhance the experience. But isn't part of the point of playing video games to step outside of reality? To be able to do something that doesn't touch on the real world, and doesn't need extreme mental accuity to do? At least, here at the CSM, we definitely enjoy our mindless gaming time. If we wanted to use our brains more while gaming, we'd play things like chess. Or, shock of shocks, we'd read.

So yes, the concept of incoporating devices that translate brain waves into the video game world is an interesting concept. It could be spectacular to be able to play through an entire game without once touching a controller, but simply being able to use your mind to control the characters. But what will we do to deaden out our brains when we just need some time to relax, decompress, and relieve tension? How will we, as a society, cope with playing a game to relieve stress, needing to keep mental focus, losing the mental focus and losing part of the game, only to develop more mental stress because you can't move forward, thereby causing an endless loop?

Oh, that's right. If we need to turn our brains off, we can always read "Garfield". That'll solve all of our problems.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Coffee-Soaked Awards - Week of April 23, 2007

Welcome back to another week ending round-up of news stories that piqued our interests. This week we've seen a few stories on text messaging, and we experienced the first presidential debate of the season (just think, only 18 months to go). We also, like just about every single member of the MSM, heard about the horse in the ATM booth. And, really, that's about all the mention we think that story needs. So let's get rolling with this week's awards, shall we?

We Parody, You Decide Award
We give this award to FOXNews, for a recent story they did concerning an incident concerning a prank played on Muslim middle school students. The prank did actually happen, but, unfortunately for FNC, the report that they used to fuel the "FOX & Friends" segments came from a parody news source, much like The Onion. FOX has followed this segment by creating a new program, "Other Stories We Didn't Research", hosted by Neil Cavuto and Bill O'Reilly.

Let's Agree to Agree Award
If anything obvious came out of the Democratic Party debate last night, it's this. The candidates don't like GDub, and are hoping to hold him accountable for the ongoing war in Iraq. They also aren't big fans of VPCheney, and agree that Harry Potter is something of an international phenomenon. Expect the next debate to highlight ways that they would each individually end the war, and mentions of how oxygen is an important part of the air we breathe.

There She Is, Miss Catch a Perv Award
We give this award to Miss America, Lauren Nelson, for helping Long Island police (and America's Most Wanted) nab internet predators, supplying both the commentary, and pictures of herself as a 14-year-old. When arrested, the men all claimed that they could've sworn that the person on the other end of the chat connection was a 63-year-old man. Had they known it was a 20-year-old beauty queen, they never would have said half of the things they said. Nelson, reportedly, didn't find it "skeevy" that men would be attracted to her as a 14-year-old, saying, "Well, I am Miss America."

A Change of View Award
This award is given in honor of the news that Rosie O'Donnell, she of the ridiculous fued with Donald Trump, will be leaving "The View", after failing to renegotiate a contract. Her cohost, Barbara Walters is quoted as saying, "We awe sad that Wosie is weaving." Without O'Donnell on the show, reasons to watch "The View" once again returned to, um... uh... um.....

Do I Still Get the Beer Award
Just as a side note, when you've stolen a cell phone, and someone calls to let you know that you've won free beer, maybe you don't really want to give out your address. Just a thought. In the meantime, we'll be over here, drinking some purchased beer.

It's Like Watching Che- Oh, Nevermind Award
Okay, we admit that television programming has really gone done in quality as of late, but is there really any excuse for the over 1 million people worldwide who are watching cheese age? That's right. Webcam footage of maturing cheddar cheese has drawn viewers from 119 countries since premiering in February. Meanwhile, CBS is in development for an all new reality series, "Watching Paint Dry", featuring contestants vying with each other for the right to paint a wall, and then stare at it until it can get a second coat.

So Much for the China Shop Award
When Mabel Washburn tried to pull into her garage, she was surprised to find a large bull inside. After Washburn called the police, and tried blaring her horn at the animal, the bull eventually wandered into a nearby swamp. When asked about the incident, Washburn said, "I just wish I'd brought my red blanket. I could've lured him out no problem. Oh, and I thought it was Tom from next door at first, because he's really let himself go."

Self-Loathing Defeats Other-Loathing Award
Sure, it's not surprising to know that 38% of Americans have a negative view of the French. It may come as a bit more of a shock that 44% of the French think the same way. But hey, at least France finally has something that they didn't just throw the towel in on.

Well, that wraps up our awards for this week. With the warming weather (and the impending political storm), we can only look ahead to next week with a sense of both relief and dread. Either way, we're fairly confident that the news will not disappoint us. Besides, next week closes out April, and we can finally move beyond the "showers" part of that old hackneyed rhyme. Stay safe out there.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

It's about time

Some people seem to think that April of the year immediately following a mid-term election is a little too early to be worrying about holding presidential debates. Of course, by some people, we mean the majority of the American public. But don't tell that to the media, or any of those interested in holding the highest office in the land (a statement that has taken on a bit of a double-meaning over the last seven years). That's right, folks. Earlier than ever before, it's time to launch the official campaign season, with the Democratic hopefuls meeting tonight in South Carolina for a debate. Not to be left in the dust, the Republican hopefuls are holding their own debate next week.

Apparently April showers bring political flowers. Nevermind that we can practically guarantee that new candidates will announce their intentions after these debates have passed (after all, what better way to gauge your chances than to hear your opponents fight over which one has the better transportation plan). And nevermind that, by the time we even think about the nomination process (which begins in January of next year) half of the existing candidates will most likely have been replaced by other, more likeable, more photogenic candidates. And definitely nevermind about the notion that a few of the candidates just got themselves off of the campaign trail last November.

This is the big one. Or, at least, the first big one.

The candidates themselves are, naturally, downplaying the importance of this debate, but stress that they want to perform well at it. After all, it may be 18 months before half the country decides not to vote for President (except in Florida, where they'll vote not to vote), but the candidates need to keep themselves from uttering embarrassing statements in this first of many televised contests. Nobody wants to hear Dennis Kucinich talk about the time he lost his toe chopping firewood for his palatial lake home. Very few are interested in hearing John McCain launch into another song. And only a small portion of the public are concerned about how Hillary Clinton ties her beliefs as an animal lover into her desire to share breakfast with VPCheney.

We need substance. We need something to give us hope that a brighter day is ahead of us. We need political buzzwords.

And this is where this early debate will prosper. We will be met with buzzwords (and buzzphrases) that we will be able to attach to the candidates, and force them to carry long after the election is over next November. After all, who can forget the classic jab at John Kerry, calling him a "flip-flopper"? Or how about when John Kennedy referred to Richard Nixon as, "old pasty faced-opponent guy"? And the ultimate Ronald Reagan line, later repeated by opponent Walter Mondale, "Where are my shoes?".

This is what we have been waiting for. Tomorrow will bring with it, not only the sun, but also entirely new ways to classify the candidates. Not in their own words, but in the words of their opponents. We can just smell the attack ads on the horizon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The phone is mightier than the pen

An education commission out of Ireland has come to a conclusion that we've had for a while. That conclusion? The popularity of text messaging is causing harm to more traditional writing. Reasons for this are many, but some of those cited include the reliance on phonetic spelling, and the insistence on using at least one number in every third word. Nevermind the shortened phrases and lack of overall punctuation generally featured in text messages.

The commission came to their conclusions after reviewing the written exams of 15-year-olds in Ireland, and comparing them to numbers from just a few years ago. The quality of the writing has, apparently, dropped off significantly. As the report states, many of the essayists seemed to be "unduly reliant on short sentences, simple tenses and a limited vocabulary." Unfortunately, many of those to which the report applies were confused by words such as "unduly", "tenses", and "on". Again, largely because no numbers appeared in place of letters.

Of course, this is all coming shortly after the National Texting Championship that we mentioned earlier in the week. So hey, there's apparently a cloud to that silver lining. Sure, being quick with your text messages could earn you a great deal of money. But it also could lead to sloppy writing, poor grammar, and, overall, looking like you stuck a little too closely to the Ernest Hemmingway School of Prose.

Naturally, if you would conduct a similar study of students worldwide at the age of 25, you would quite probably find a similar drop-off in quality. Our own hypothesis behind the reasoning for this would be the "unduly reliant on short sentences, simple tenses and a limited vocabulary", this time caused by excessive drinking, instead of text messaging. Besides, we still haven't figured out how to verbalize a number into, "I love you, man", always a calling card of the drinking set.

Ultimately, we know that species adapt, and, with the advent of text messaging, we expect that another adaptation is coming before too long. We expect that, in future generations, you will be able to see humans with sharper eyes (for reading tiny cell-phone screens), and with tiny, dextrous, and calloused thumbs. The species will lose the ability to speak, and we'll only be able to communicate with each other through a series of grunts and elaborate, multi-numbered text messages.

It'll be kind of like watching televised baseball, except less depressing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Just not feeling it

Oh, Florida. You and your electoral comedy. Back in 2000, you gave the country the punchline of the "Hanging Chad", and it led to a slew of jokes, largely told on late-night talk shows by hosts with chins larger than their brains. Sure, you vacated your throne for the 2004 election, allowing Ohio its moment in the sun, but it looks like you're gearing up to take back your rightful place.

And how is Florida planning on doing this, you may ask? Well, they're considering adding onto the ballots an option for "I Choose Not to Vote". Meanwhile, most of the rest of the country exercises that very same option by simply not leaving the house, even though they really want one of those cool stickers.

The proposal was set forward to provide the uninformed, or unthrilled, voters with a way of abstaining on certain parts of the elections, and send their message to election officials. Because, again, in Florida, the concept of low voter turn-out in no way indicates to officials any sort of lack of desire to cast their ballots.

Of course, as we read the article, one piece leaps out at us as being possibly the most ridiculous thing we've seen. For those playing at home, and keeping your own tally, take note that "that option could not win a race". Well, thank heavens for that. We'd certainly hate to think of all candidates losing out to the "I Choose Not to Vote" option, thereby leaving Tallahassee without a sanitation commissioner.

This could all actually be very clever for the state of Florida, and could prove to be a groundbreaking way to drive more people to the polls on election day. After all, every Floridian can now go to vote, confident that they can cast a ballot that simply won't matter, because they feel strongly enough to vote against voting.

Kind of like when all those people voted for Nader.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Teh r0x0r

Alright. We admit it. We honestly had to take time to look up how to properly spell the title for this particular posting. This is largely due to the fact that, while plenty of our existence revolves around the online world, we have tried to avoid getting into places where people communicate via l33t speak. Our avoidance of this bastardization of the language sometimes makes it more difficult to communicate with people online, but we trust that, by simply using the correct (and complete) words, we'll eventualy be understood.

Naturally, as l33t speak grew out of online gaming and messaging, it should be no surprise that the format has passed along to cellphones, and the concept of the text message. And, while we never thought we'd be thankful when a day like this came to pass, we have to tip our hats to LG, who hosted the first ever "National Texting Championship" this weekend, crowning a 13-year-old girl as the eventual winner. This ended a month where LG scoured the country for the fastest text messagers that they could find.

But it wasn't just speed that they were looking for. After all, anyone can key in their messages quickly (this is, supposedly, one of the benefits of using l33t, even though plenty of words require the same number of keystrokes). The real trick to the competition was using your speed coupled with accuracy of spelling to get your point across. No predictive text here (although, for those that have ever used it, they know that predictive text uses a logic unfound anywhere else on the planet). Morgan Pozgar eventually won the competition by texting the first 151 characters to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocios!" in 46 seconds, without missing a single letter. True, she was copying the message off of a projection, but still. Give credit where it's due, and acknowledge the fact that competition didn't feature people stringing together letters and numbers into a nonsensical series, under the guise of making communication.

Sadly, while Pozgar was winning her competition, high school students around the country were busy taking part in their own texting challenges. Many of their text messages looked like excerpts from Prince lyrics. And the winners, without fail, responded to the losers by saying that they had been pwned.

And people wonder why American spelling is so atrocious.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Coffee-Soaked Awards - Week of April 16, 2007

Wow, how a year has gone. For those that have been following, we're turning one year old tomorrow. Of course, tomorrow being Saturday, with our regular schedule, we're not posting. But you never know... something could always pop out of the ether. If not, well, rest assured that we'll be celebrating as only a one-year old can.

There have been changes and modifications over the past year, of course, but that's what comes from starting something new in this blogosphere. Thanks to those that have been reading, and here's looking ahead to the next year. Our goal? Just to continue providing the news in the fashion you've come to expect from us. Oh, and a Bloggie would be nice *end shameless plug here*.

Anyway, we've delayed long enough. Let's get the ball rolling on our awards for this week.

Sometimes, It IS What You Say Award
There are times where you simply have to love GDub. Maybe not when he's flagrantly expanding the powers of the presidency. Or not when he's blindly ignoring the advice of everyone but Rove and VPCheney. No, you have to love him when he goes completely off-script, like in a recent stop in Ohio. Like when he made the clear point that, "Death is terrible." Or when he said, "Putting up with me requires a lot of patience." We can only hope that he follows these statements by saying things like, "Math is hard," or "Cheney isn't quite as old as Washington, D.C., thanks to his steady kitten diet."

But Can You Dance to It Award
John McCain, at a recent campaign stop, decided to sing a Beach Boys number. However, instead of the actual lyrics, he made some changes, and ended up singing, "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb... anyway, ah..." after refering to the song as "Bomb Iran". In response to critiques about the altered lyrics, McCain was quoted as saying, "Lighten up and get a life." This fall, McCain expects to release a full studio album, including his toe-tapping single, along with other Beach Boys covers, "Nuking I-R-A-N", "Little Deuce Tank", and "In My Bunker".

Another Daiquiri Please Award
Thanks to a study conducted by U.S. and Thai researchers, we now have science to back up our drinking at Mexican restaurants. As it turns out, adding alcohol to most fruits can actually serve to make the fruit even healthier, by boosting antioxidant levels. So the next time your waiter tries to tell you that you've had too much to drink, just remind him that you're fighting cancer in your own way. And make it a double.

Using Teeth Award
We understand that there are times when things get a little passionate in a relationship, and sometimes it's hard to control yourself. Even so, we're frankly pretty amazed, and frightened, by the Israeli woman who accidentally bit off part of her boyfriend's tongue during a kiss. Her boyfriend was quoted as saying, "Aaah... teeth... aah", while she can no longer look at pictures of the band KISS without salivating.

Guilty... of Winning the Lawsuit Award
In 2004, Daniel Baines was tackled while in the process of shoplifting C$106 worth of razor blades. In 2007, Baines was awarded C$12,000 in a lawsuit over the injuries he received. Obviously, Baines had originally stolen the razor blades to sell to dejected NHL players after they were shuffled out of the playoffs, but realized an even bigger score when injured. Meanwhile, little Timmy from down the street is contemplating suing over a paper cut he received opening a shoplifted pack of Topps baseball cards.

It's No Equus Award
Plans are underway to possibly sedate 300 horses stabled near an upcoming Rolling Stones concert in Belgrade. The horses will most likely be drugged if they start experiencing distress and panic during the concert, which they will be mere meters from. This, of course, will put the horses on par with many in the audience, but still leaves Keith Richards with a large lead over all of the rest. Combined.

Like a Drunken Businessman Award
The world, as we know it, may either be coming to an end or righting itself back on course. Sanjaya Malakar, of questionable talent, and even more questionable hairstyles, has been voted off of American Idol. This will, in the eyes of many, restore credibility to the show. Now they can go back to determining who's the best karaoke performer, and give that person a "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" chance to release an album. Which will be ignored, even by those who watch American Idol.

Limbo Lower Now Award
We give this to Pope Benedict XVI, for his recent declaration that unbaptized babies can still hope for heaven, as opposed to the previous belief that they were trapped in limbo. This was after a study conducted by the International Theological Commission, on the nature of limbo itself. When asked for comment, residents of limbo could simply say, "Meh, we're happy. But what's this heaven you speak of?"

Well, that wraps up our awards for this week. We'll be back on Monday (pending a surprise drop-in tomorrow) an older, wiser Coffee-Soaked Mind. By which, we of course mean that things aren't going to be all that much different than they were today. Stay safe out there.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sometimes you feel like an A, sometimes a D

We're not talking about grades, here. We're, naturally, talking about breasts. To be specific, the artificial kind. Breast implants have been around for awhile, lending confidence to previously small-breasted women, helping out those who have dealt with breast cancer, and, with little doubt, extended (or possibly caused) the careers of pornographic stars. Some days, it seems like there is very little that these devices cannot do.

Except change size.

But wait. They actually have been able to do that for a short time now. Of course, the ability to slim down the bust to a modest B-cup while running or wearing a sweatshirt, only to enhance it up to a D or better for that low-cut evening gown still doesn't exist. But relatively new adjustable implants do allow for less second-guessing by both the patient and the doctor. In fact, after the implantation procedure, the new breasts can actually be adjusted over a period of several weeks, until they reach the desired effect.

Just think what this could mean in the long run. By being able to, for all intents and purposes, customize implants to the patient, this should cut down on the need for future surgeries. The chances of another Tara Reid just got slimmer, although they aren't completely eliminated. And the usage of adjustable implants will increase the likelihood of patients being happy with their "after" look, helping grant them the confidence that they were seeking.

Of course, here at the CSM, we're looking into the future, and we can only imagine a time where the implant recipients no longer need to visit a doctor to adjust their size, or wait over a period of weeks until their body can handle the exact proportions intended. No, we see a day where women can adjust their own breasts, according to clothing preferences, activities planned, and amount of attention being sought. Want to turn heads in a fancy dinner party? Just plump up the girls and put them on display. Looking to get some exercise in? Flatten them down a bit, so you can still achieve that feminine shape, without the potential for pain. Annoyed by that guy at the end of the bar who just can't stop staring? Heck, make them concave, and see him run for the hills.

Of course, this really only applies to women that get such implants. Without taking that route, you're pretty much left with whatever genetics gave you. On the plus side, you'll never have to explain a freak suffocation accident.

And yes, we are picturing the old Reebok "Pump" for this.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Maybe that wasn't such a good idea

Our regular readers may recall one of our awards from April 2. Within that award, we decided that the practice in the Phillipines of submitting oneself to crucifixion in honor of Christ's own sacrifice just maybe wasn't the best idea. Then we wrapped it up with something pithy about Chuck Norris.

If only Chuck Norris could have been the last word. A good swift roundhouse kick would've taken care of this whole mess before people could've started saying things like, "We're going to nail you to a cross after you whip yourself bloody. What could possibly go wrong?"

Because, well, now we know what could possibly go wrong. And what could possibly go wrong is that one of the men could die from rabies, thereby possibly exposing all the rest to the disease. See, before they got hammered to some wood, and before they even flogged themselves with bamboo, they shared a knife to start the bleeding and the ripping of skin.

Since the announcement, over 100 people have received anti-rabies vaccines, in an attempt to keep them from actually coming down with the disease. Of course, with the amount of time rabies can remain dormant, the scare may not be over for another couple of years.

See, this is exactly why we here at the CSM prefer to use things like make-up and special effects when recreating the passion play, or anything else even half-way as bloody and painful. We're not big fans of pain, least of all pain inflicted on ourselves. Sure, we all like a little snark now and then, but physical pain is one of those lines that we just can't bring ourselves to cross. So when we first heard about people recreating the crucifixion, it boggled our minds a little.

Of course, even with the rabies scare, there's little indication that next year won't feature the same passion play, or some variant thereof. After all, the steps that they take to showcase their faith involve a certain level of fanaticism. And there's nothing fanatics like better than having an even higher risk for more pain and suffering.

Why couldn't they have just been a quiet group that drink their Kool-Aid, had some pudding, and went to sleep chasing after an improbable dream? Kind of like Don Quixote, with more barbituates.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Breaking up made easy

We all know that there are a myriad of different ways to end a relationship with someone. There's the (seemingly) obvious route of telling the other person that it simply isn't working out, or that you've fallen for someone else, or that you just can't handle their choice in patio furniture any longer. There's the harsher routes of handling the break-up over a phone call, an email, or, and we shudder to think of it, a text message. And of course, there's the always classy method of leaving a message for someone on their answering machine, to completely extricate yourself from the possible confrontation.

Well, an entrepreneur in Berlin has taken a new route to allow people to end their relationships with even less chance of having pottery thrown at them. For a price of 50 euros, he'll make a visit to inform the dumpee that they're newly single. In the past year, Bernd Dressler has, by his own account, ended around 200 relationships.

And Dressler really gives each and every break-up that personal touch, with Dressler saying that delivering the message generally takes about three minutes total. "Most of the time they're totally surprised," he was quoted as saying. Can't imagine why they'd be surprised when a complete stranger shows up on their door to tell them that the man or woman of their dreams has decided it just isn't working.

Dressler doesn't only help out those unwilling to suffer the wrath themselves. In fact, he offers counseling to those looking to actually handle their own break-ups, and to others who are thinking that there's a chance they might be able to save their own relationships with some assistance. So the guy isn't all callousness and a severe lack of flowers.

The most shocking thing to us may be that this service is available in Berlin, but isn't yet available elsewhere. After all, with cellphone companies offering the ability to pre-record a "rescue" call in case a date goes badly, and people getting daytime talk shows because of books like "He's Just Not That Into You", it really seems like Dressler's service is poised for the global market. In fact, if only we would've had a business like that here in America only a few months ago, we might've been spared the footage of K-Fed learning about his break-up through his Blackberry.

But, then again, we also would've been spared the footage of K-Fed proving to America that he actually can read. Guess there really is a silver lining to every cloud.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Giving them something to talk about

There are certain words in the English language that carry strong messages behind them. These words have the power to hurt or heal, scar or solidify. Sometimes, the same word can do both, entirely dependant upon the usage of the word. More often than not, the words themselves only carry one level of meaning. Naturally, the most logical thing to do with words such as these is to allow their usage to go unabated, or to make an attempt to outright remove the words from the language. It would be ridiculous to think that, perhaps, the best course of action would be to talk about the words, why they are used, and use that conversation as a forum to possibly sway the opinions of others.

And yet, that's exactly what some high school students at Benson High School in Nebraska tried to do with their report, "The N-Word". The report, for the school paper, featured interviews with students to ask why they use the word in question, along with other similar terms, and even went so far as to include a question-and-answer transcript from an ethics class.

Shameful, obviously. That's exactly why the principal of the school was put onto administrative leave (she has been reinstated already). The last thing that we want to do is to actually communicate why such words are used, and what they mean to the populations that use them. After all, gathering knowledge can only serve the purpose of helping people make better informed decisions. And, well, in America, we don't like well-informed decisions.

Let's look at it this way. We understand that there are words that were made harmful by the majority because of the connotations of their use. We understand that there are times when those words need to be "taken back" by those who were harmed by their usage. What we don't quite get is how the word can continue to be used freely when it's use is still harmful, even by those who repurposed it to cause less pain.

Of course, the sheer continued existence of these words leads to outbursts the likes of what we saw from Michael Richards a few months back. And while Richards definitely was leading with anger, where is the difference when rap stars use the word (in the same context) to talk about their rivals on other recording labels? Isn't that usage of the word, being supported by anger and hate, just as bad when it's coming from a black man as it is coming from a white one?

And what about the recent controversy over Don Imus, and his usage of the term "nappy-headed hos"? We, by no means, support Imus, and we certainly don't argue with him losing his job, but aren't there others who continually make money by using that term over and over again? Sometimes towards similar targets?

The principal of Benson High School was put on leave due to people who were offended by the content of the story, and because the Omaha School District felt that the story did not "appropriately guide and educate our students." We're still not sure exactly how opening up a dialogue about the usage of words doesn't help to educate students, or others.

George Carlin once said, "There are no bad words. Bad thoughts, bad intentions, and words." He was trying to showcase that it is the mindset behind the usage of the word that gives it either a positive or negative value. We can't help but feel that the way these students went about using the word in their report was with the best of intentions.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Coffee-Soaked Awards - Week of April 9, 2007

Welcome to the second week in April, a time where we start getting our Stanley Cup groove on, and where we watch friends and loved ones, along with enemies and the people we feel relatively impartial to, scramble to complete their tax forms in time. But hey, this year they aren't due until the 17th, so there's a little breathing room.

Anyway, it's Friday, and that means it's time for us to meander our way through the news once again with our weekly awards. And don't worry, unlike some people out there, we'll be sure to keep each and every email you send to us. Just in case we also want to fire some people. So let's get this ball rolling, shall we?

Slipping the Bone Award
There are a multitude of uses for bone marrow. It can help out cancer patients, be an important piece of stem cell research, and feed encroaching zombie populations. Well now, scientists in Germany have found a way to develop immature sperm cells from marrow, marking the first time that such cells have been created artificially. Finally, when the living dead rise up to attack, we'll have one more reason to keep the skeletons on our side, other than simply to bolster our forces.

Howl at the Moon Award
Major thanks go out to Robin W. for passing this article along to us. Shaun Ellis, the founder of a wolf sanctuary in England, was recently interviewed by 20/20. During the interview, Ellis talked about his experience emulating wolves to help raise a pack of pups. He would not only act the part of an alpha wolf through noises and movements, but he even went so far as to claim his food from carcasses (his was, naturally precooked and wrapped before being placed back into the dead beast). The upside? The wolf pups were raised with a surrogate parent that helped them learn how to survive. The downside? Ellis will never be able to look at Red Riding Hood the same way again.

Killer Chickens Award
For years, scientists (and film-makers) have speculated that dinosaurs and birds were somehow linked, largely due to bone structure. Well, the recent discovery of proteins from a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton shows that the two species have more in common than just bone structure. This new finding suggests that perhaps the Cadbury company should change the commercials for their eggs from the standard clucking bunny to something a little closer in the evolutionary chain. Might we suggest a clucking stegosaurus?

Keeping Us Safe Award
This award has to go to the United States government, especially in light of their recent grades regarding cybersecurity. Overall, the government received a C minus, but the real allstars here at Homeland Security (D), and the departments of Defense and State (F's, both). When asked how they plan to improve their defenses against cyberterrorism and other related attacks, the government responded by saying, "We deleted all those emails that were bad for us personally. What more do you want?" But hey, look on the bright side. In a lot of schools, a C- is still a passing grade...

East, West, What's the Difference? Award
We hand this award to the Segbroek police station in The Hague, Netherlands, for mistakenly placing west-facing arrows in their cells. The arrows were intended to point towards Mecca, but were actually facing away, causing praying Muslims to worship in the wrong direction. Suspicion abounds that small Dutch fairies in wooden shoes actually turned around the stones on which the arrows were placed. The misdirected prayers will eventually reach Mecca, but first they'll have a layover in Taiwan.

It Was the Best of Rides, It Was the Worst of Rides Award
Quick, name an author that deserves their own theme park. No, really, it's alright, we'll wait. Ok... got one? Now name the author who's theme park is about to open near Chatham, England. That's right, Charles Dickens is getting his own theme park, named Dickens World, opening on April 20. Story-themed rides and Dickensian characters will abound at the theme park, which, according to organizers, is not "Disneyfying Dickens". Expect a follow-up next year, as Maine debuts "Six Flags over Stephen King".

Putting the "No" in Paranormal Award
Oh, Malaysia. How we all aspire to take the stand that your Islamic scholars did, and call for a stop to all shows involving genies, ghosts, and other supernatural things. The reason behind this? It could "undermine the faith of devout Muslims". Of course, this means that the "Haunted Mansion Travelling Road Show" will have to skip Kuala Lumpur yet again.

Bringing UnSexy Back Award
Thank heavens there are people like The Phoenix, who took the time to assemble a list that the world probably didn't need, but can now look on with a sort of perverse glee. That list? The 100 Unsexiest Men of 2007 list. We do find it interesting that people such as Don Imus, Karl Rove and Flavor Flav ranked as being less appealing than a cartoon character meant to be purposely revolting. Oddly enough, that guy we keep running into at the bar with all the gold chains and the extremely greasy hair didn't make the list. Then again, we can never argue with the inclusion of Ann Coulter (number 80, for those wondering).

Well, that wraps up our awards for another week. If this weekend is anything like the last couple, then we're only a couple of days away from another freakish April snowstorm. In the meantime, huddle up with you 1040s, and get those taxes prepared. Then cuddle up to your fifths, and drink away the misery of having to pay in again, when you know the IRS is just using the money to buy new shoes. Stay safe out there.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it's not an afternoon delight, eh?

If there's one thing we know about Nova Scotia, it's, um... lemme see... um... it's tiny compared to the rest of Canada. And, given that it's part of Canada, we're pretty sure that they like their hockey there. Naturally, one thing you don't want to do is anger a bunch of Nova Scotians about their favorite sport.

So naturally, when the NHL decided to schedule a Pittsburgh-Ottawa playoff game for Saturday afternoon on NBC, instead of throwing it to CBC and Hockey Night in Canada, what was left for the small Canadian province to do? Well, this wouldn't be our current world if there wasn't legislation being endorsed by Nova Scotia that will chastise the NHL for their programming decision. After all, the Penguins happen to feature Sidney Crosby, who is a Nova Scotia native, and darned if you can upset those tiny Canadians from their dinner hour to watch a native son.

And yes, we're being serious about this. A sport that is well-known for violence, and has specific penalties assessed for fighting (that's a five-minute major, for those that aren't playing at home), is about to have it's league chastised for a programming decision. Well, Nova Scotia, we certainly hope that you're proud of yourselves, and that Ontario doesn't look down on you too much. You know, for fear of also being chastised.

This is hockey we're talking about. If you have an issue with the way a decision was handled by the league, well, lace up your skates, get a stick in your hands, and challenge some of the higher-ups to a pick-up game. Take your best spectators and pit them against the commissioner and his croneys. And then, midway through the second period of your pond game, drop the gloves and teach them what it's like to mess with Nova Scotia.

Of course, there are others who would rather the game be played at night, with a justifiable fear that the afternoon timeslot (when Americans watch their sports) could cost the league up to a million viewers. But getting your politicians to chastise the NHL for their decision? Especially with big NBC dollars backing up their choice? That's worse than letting Todd Bertuzzi play another game. It's worse than creating a team due to an alright Emilio Estevez movie.

Heck, it's worse than making Slapshot 2.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Free the Lizard (King)

Well, here at the CSM, we're pretty unabashed hockey fans. And while we could take time out of today's post to mention that the Stanley Cup playoffs begin tonight, or we could join the throngs bemoaning the NHL's draft lottery and the bad luck that befell the Philadelphia Flyers, we choose to keep ourselves a bit separate from that particular world. Mind you, we don't promise anything of the same once we get to the conference championships, but that's up to us and our whims at the time.

So instead of going with stories about a sport sometimes referred to as "boxing on ice", we're going to focus on a little something we discovered about a musician. Specifically, a dead musician, well-known for the songs that he crafted, as a new story flies about a part of his life. No, we're not talking about the sad news that Johnny Cash's house burnt down (besides, enough other people have already mocked the story by saying that the house was in a "ring of fire"). Instead, we're talking about Mr. Mojo Rising himself.

For those that aren't aware, Jim Morrison, the Lizard King, had a bit of a penchant for pushing envelopes. After all, he certainly played fast and loose with both drugs and alcohol until his eventual death in 1971, officially from heart failure. Well, during a concert in Florida in 1969, Morrison reportedly decided that it was time to let little Mr. Mojo rise as well, as he dropped his pants and simulated masturbation. This led to a six-month jail sentence and a $500 fine, both of which were dropped pending an appeal. The appeal never happened, as Morrison died before he was scheduled to appear, and the charges remain on his record.

But that could all be a thing of the past, as Kerry Humpherys and David Diamond, both Doors fans, have petitioned the current Florida governor to issue a pardon for the crimes. After all, as Humpherys says, "It was all trumped up and he shouldn't have this hanging over him."

Maybe we're missing something here, or maybe there are people firmly believing that Morrison and Elvis are living their retirement years alongside the aliens from Roswell, NM, but we're pretty certain that the Lizard King doesn't have anything hanging over him anymore. In fact, he probably wasn't all that disturbed by the charges in the first place, as many musicians feel that a criminal record adds to their credibility (just ask R. Kelly). The thought of people getting together to petition to posthumously remove some misdemeanors from a rock star's record seems like little more than a waste of time.

Of course, the biggest waste of time will truly come should Charlie Crist, the Florida governor, decide to go along with the entire scheme, and pardon Morrison for his crimes of 40 years ago. While we're still not entirely clear on the role of a governor (not surprising, given that we live in a state where we've previously had a professional wrestler in the job), we're fairly certain that pardoning long-dead rock stars isn't quite what the voters were hoping to see when they look through his accomplishments.

But if Crist goes along with this, maybe it could lead to a flurry of musicians being pardoned. There's always a chance that, if Morrison gets off, we could see Kid Rock excused for his 2005 assault charges, and W. Axl Rose given a pass for the interminable wait (and shameless hype) for an album of bad music. But why stop there? Let's even go so far as to pardon the stars BEFORE they commit a crime. We can give My Chemical Romance a free pass on any potential drug charges they may face. And, don't rule out the possibility of allowing Britney Spears at least one free indecent exposure per month (after all, someone's gotta catch up to Paris Hilton in that arena).

As for you, Sanjaya Malakar, if you bring down American Idol, you gain automatic diplomatic immunity for life. If not, well, we'd hate to think about what the detractors might do.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fair, balanced, and avoided

There are a lot of things that FOXNews is, that's for certain. The television home of Bill O'Reilly and Neil Cavuto, for example. A regular venue for Ann Coulter to appear. A news channel willing, possibly even devoted, to covering every angle of a missing person's story with Greta Van Susteren. Claimants of the slogan "Fair & Balanced". And there is definitely more that FOXNews is.

One thing that FOXNews isn't, at least for the 2008 election, is home to debates for the Democrats. John Edwards led the way, but now Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have joined with Edwards in choosing not to appear on a FOXNews sponsored debate. Instead, the candidates will be debating on CNN, a "more appropriate venue", according to some within the Obama camp.

Now why could this possibly be? After all, FNC has made it very clear that they are fair and balanced in their coverage. They do remind us every chance that they get about their fairness. And they've had Democrats on the programs before (although in the FNC world, they are almost always referred to as "liberals", and the word is spoken as though it were far-worse than calling someone by a racial slur). Heck, even one of their hosts, Alan Colmes, pretends to be a Democrat more often than not. So why would Obama, Clinton, and Edwards decide to avoid appearing on the cable news network?

Could it possibly be because the powers that be at FOXNews have made a point of unabashedly embracing GDub and his policies, even going out of their way to ignore the fallacies containted therein? Is there a chance that proceeding to report on "news" that has been proven incorrect may have slightly damaged the credibility of the network? Could it be that the candidates have chosen not to give any extra viewers to a network that makes their political party and its policies into a sacrificial lamb, all in the sake of ratings?

It's also possible that the candidates aren't seeing the potential positives behind having their debate on FNC. For example, this could give Obama the chance once and for all to prove to FOXNews viewers that he's not Osama bin Laden, no matter what the network says (and, in FOX's defense, CNN made the gaffe, too). It could allow John Edwards to unite people under his banner, and showcase that even he thought John Kerry did a little too much waffling in 2004. And it could present Hillary Clinton with the chance to prove that she's just as feminine as Ann Coulter.

Besides, this is the supposed Democratic Party, and their presidential debates. How can they truly justify choosing not to appear for a debate on a television news network proven to side with the Republicans time and time again? How can they explain the sheer avoidance of any network that will take any of the footage from said debate and turn it into hour-long diatribes as to why they "hate America"?

Actually, the more we think about it, the more we think that there's a chance that the election of 2008 will be a new direction for politics. After all, choosing to avoid the school bully can be seen as intelligent, and that's something that's certainly been lacking from American politics as of late.

Monday, April 09, 2007

R U the 1?

Well, folks, we've returned from Easter weekend, where, instead of going to church and learning about the newly risen, we instead took in an onslaught of zombies. But we're not a movie review site (for that, we rely on Pajiba), so we're not going to even pretend to give critiques of this past weekend's foray into the darkened space we like to call the movie house. Instead, we're going to focus on what we actually do, and leave the reviews to the critics out there.

That being said, we may have been slightly influenced by our movie viewing, as we had a few dreams revolving around zombies and/or muscle cars. There also were women with different weapons for legs, but we've been having those particular dreams for awhile. Still, we've never quite had a dream like David Brown, who's subconscious mind offered him a telephone number.

Now, when most people find that they've been given numbers in their sleep, their first instinct is to play the lottery. Brown decided that he needed to send a text message to the number he dreamt about, and was rewarded, over time, with a new wife. Talk about the woman of your dreams, eh?

Yeah, we're sorry we made that bad pun. But seriously, when you get a random text message from someone who claims, whether truthfully or not, that they got your phone number in a dream, how do you respond? Thanks to this news story, we all know how Michelle Kitson responded (she's the bride, just in case you skimmed over the story), but how would the rest of us respond? Would we really think it was a good idea to continue the conversation?

Let's put this into a slightly different set-up. Instead of a random text message, let's pretend it's a random chat message over the internet. Still thinking it's okay for the person to respond and start planning a relationship because of the serendipity of the whole situation? Now move it to a bar, where he's wearing a few too many necklaces over an unbuttoned shirt. Starting to catch our drift?

Before people accuse us of being cold-hearted, we admit that there's something very cute and movie-esque about this whole meeting. After all, the concept was mined for a John Cusack movie, albeit with a glove instead of a dream message. We also definitely hope for the best for these two crazy kids. If anyone can make it in this world, why not a couple of Britons who started chatting each other up because one dreamt the other one's number? Besides, we're fairly certain that this story will be turned into a movie of its own, quite possibly starring Ryan Reynolds and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and will feature Christopher Walken as the crazy dream guru who interprets the message of Reynolds's subconscious into an easily discernable phone number.

Although it does make us wonder if Verizon sponsored the wedding.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Coffee-Soaked Awards - Week of April 2, 2007

Welcome back for another round of the Coffee-Soaked Awards. This past Sunday, of course, was April Fool's Day, and we almost wanted to believe that some of the ridiculous news we found over the course of the week were simply people trying to get into the spirit of things. Sadly, most of the articles we read were legitimate, but that provided us with plenty of fodder.

It has been pointed out to us that there's a slightly different tone to the CSM as of late. Let us know what you think of the direction we're going. Oh, and we're toying with the idea of maybe adding some more authors. If you're interested in trying your hand at what we do, drop us an email.

Without further ado, let's get to this week's awards.

Tastes Great, Less Filling Award
We hand this award out to Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera, for engaging in a shouting match during a recent broadcast. The topic of contention was regarding a drunk driver who had killed a couple of girls in an accident. The catch? The driver was also an illegal immigrant. While Rivera pointed out that drunk driving crosses all levels of citizenship (and lack thereof), O'Reilly proceeded to harp heavily on the notion of the man as an illegal, going so far as to attack those that let the man stay. Because obviously, if we had just deported the man, he never would've been able to get his hands on the alcohol in the first place. Just ask Germany, Ireland, France, Mexico, etc.

Happily Ever After Award
The Walt Disney Co. has undergone a change of heart. No, not a transplant, but a softening. The company has decided to allow same-sex couples to participate in their Fairy Tale Wedding program, which they were previously barred from. The Big Mouse had previously allowed gay couples to book their own weddings, or participate in vow renewals, but they had previously been forced to secure marriage licenses from California or Florida, neither of which allows gay marriage. Of course, this will all culminate in Disney's newest cartoon, "The Fairy Tale", featuring Nathan Lane and Neil Patrick Harris as two pixies, expressing their undying love for each other to the music of Elton John.

iFlak Award
We have to give this to Apple, and their iPod for a recent story about the little mp3 player that could... stop a bullet. Well, not stop all the way, but definitely slow it down enough to keep it from penetrating a soldier's body armor in Iraq. This news item has already led the Pentagon to begin research into purchasing iPods at the low cost of $2500 per player.

She Was an Elderly Detective Award
This one goes out to a German woman, 95-years-old, who decided that there had been enough thefts from the retirement home she was living in. She set out bait, retired to the bathroom, and watched as a 36-year-old cleaner fell into the trap. The elderly woman then hit the alarm button in her bathroom, summoning others on the staff. And we had been wondering what happened to Angela Lansbury. The cleaner was quoted as saying, "I would've gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for you sniveling elderly."

Getting Hammered Award
It's Easter weekend, and while some people will be celebrating with colored eggs and chocolate bunnies, men in the Phillipines will be getting hammered. To crosses. The crucifixion, coupled with self-flagellation, is used to honor promises the men made to God, or to perform penance, in the highly Roman Catholic nation. Um, maybe we missed part of Sunday school, but wasn't part of the point of Christ dying on the cross that he did it so the rest of the world wouldn't have to? Chuck Norris would, of course, never be able to do this, as nails just bend against his skin, and he would be incapable of not destroying the crosses with a roundhouse kick.

Caffeinated Savior Award
We give this award to Coca Cola Co., for suing producers of the Italian film Seven Kilometers from Jerusalem, for a scene in which Jesus, in present-day Israel, is shown drinking Coke. The cola company has declared that they "are not interested in this kind of product placement." It's alright. We hear that the real Messiah prefers Pepsi, anyway.

Hunters with Frickin' Laser Beams Award
Leave it to Texas to decide that the fine sport of hunting shouldn't be relegated to only those who are sighted. A proposed bill would allow the legally blind to use not only the sight of a fellow hunter, but laser sights to paint exactly where the bullet should land. No word yet as to why VPCheney's closest friends suddenly have red dots on their faces. It should also be noted that this bill will, for the first time, actually put some restrictions on the blind hunting in Texas. No restriction yet on the blind watching the Dallas Stars, however.

Diplomacy, or That Other Thing Award
Last week, we hit on the plight of the British sailors. Well, we're glad to know that they've been returned safely home. Of course, plenty of papers are discussing whether or not the peaceful release could lead to a need to attack Iran anyway, simply to save the British reputation. Meanwhile, GDub is working on his best, "We had to spread the peace to Iran by sending in troops" speech, to be delivered in front of a "Mission Starting to Receive Planning" banner, aboard the deck of a roller coaster.

Well, that wraps up our awards for this week. Come back next week, when we learn whether or not any of the Filipinos participating in the crucifixion ritual returned three days later to move a giant rock from in front of their door. We'll also be full of chocolate bunny goodness. Stay safe out there.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Might explain the teeth

The British have a long history of being made fun of for a certain distinguishing characteristic. No, not the crisp accent. Not their stiff-upper-lip detachment from the world. Not the fact that they still revere a royal family with no practical power. No, the British have constantly been mocked for their teeth. In fact, rumor has it that you can trace back through history to find that one of the unnamed reasons behind the Revolutionary War was that the colonies wanted better dental care.

Because of the mocking done about their teeth, it's also commonly joked that one of the most lucrative of professions would be that of the British dentist. And yet one dentist has decided to take it upon himself to be a bit more money-oriented when it comes to his own personal habits. He not only saves money by cleaning his fingernails with dental equipment, but he can even find a way to pack more customers in by eliminating those oh-so-annoying restroom breaks. He does this by simply urinating in his surgery sink.

Um, ok... this certainly explains why people are so afraid of the dentist. Not only do they possess a positively medieval array of tools for working on a patients mouth, but now there's a risk that said dentist may just have to take a little number one while you're trying to rinse. As far as the dentist in question, who was caught by his nurse, he apparently also was not in the habit of wearing gloves, or washing his hands. Heck, at this point, there's a chance that he scratched himself with his dental pick, just to get those really irritating itches taken care of.

Of course, this is still Britain, and, well, we talked about their teeth earlier. Consequently, even though this particular dentist has been found guilty of these vile acts (it's kind of like a surgeon making a point of using his clamps as part of impromptu jumper cables, so far as we're concerned), there will be a later hearing to determine if he's still allowed to practice dentistry.

Because the one thing we think that a country constantly mocked for its overbites needs is a dentist who hasn't figured out the difference between a surgical sink and a urinal. It certainly does explain the pink disc we saw last time we went to get a crown done.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Vacation is for closers

It seems like only a year ago where we had a Congress that spent so little time in Washington, D.C., that they were dubbed the "Do-Nothing Congress". Thankfully, since that time, our elected officials have been held to a higher standard, including, but not limited to, a five-day work week.

Wait... it was just last year? And that much flaunted five-day work week hasn't really panned out as of yet? Hmm... it's almost as though people will say whatever they want to get themselves elected, even if it means claiming that they will change from the way things were done in the past, all while merely intending on holding the status quo.

Thankfully, we have a President who is willing to take these lackadaisical legislators to task. With GDub, he isn't afraid to tell them that, "They need to come off their vacation, get a bill to my desk, and if it's got strings and mandates and withdrawals and pork I'll veto it." After all, nothing will bring people back from time out of the office by letting them know that anything they attempt to push through will simply be destroyed.

What's that? This is coming from a President who has spent more time away from the business of running the country than any previous President? These are the words being spoken by the man who took an extended vacation (that he simply couldn't pry himself away from) during the disaster of Hurricane Katrina? Well, sure, but that was the old GDub. The new Decider isn't going to let a little thing like vacation stand in the way of his getting the funding he feels the troops need.

Huh? You don't say. He's going on a vacation of his own, for an extended Easter break? So even if Congress would report back to work immediately as he requested, there's little chance of anything being done for at least another week? Well that's just odd. We were fairly certain that when GDub reversed his course from his first six years during the most recent State of the Union, we were about to see a more dedicated Bush. One that would listen to the people, and not make demands when he himself was not willing to follow through on them. And sure, there were more reversals of words during later speeches, but this can't be the same GDub who ran on a platform partially hinged on the notion of John Kerry as a "flip-flopper". After all, look at the way he decried Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her trip to visit Syria.

Come again? There were Republicans who had visited Syria not too long ago, and it's only a big deal now because it's the donkeys and not the elephants? More specifically, it's a big deal because it's a trip being conducted by people who don't blindly support the President and his actions? Well, now, that just makes us feel as though the new political climate is no different than the old one that we supposedly left behind through the election of 2006.

Ah well, at this rate, we only have to wait until 2008. After all, with candidates like Romney, McCain, Giuliani, Clinton, Edwards, and Biden, we can hold hope that there will be a new political dawn. After all, these are all part of the fresh face of the American legislator, and, with track records like they have, we can certainly expect changes.

At least until May of 2009.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Passion of the Obama

Ever since Barack Obama arrived on the national political scene at the Democratic National Convention a few years back, Democrats have declared him their personal savior. They have placed him on a pedestal (albeit one that had previously been erected for Hilary Clinton) and stated their belief that not only would he save their party from another crushing Presidential defeat, but that he could single-handedly save American politics. While he seems, to a large extent, to be playing politics as usual (admittedly, with a bit more charisma than most candidates possess), the declarations of Obama as a political Messiah still ring out.

So it should come as no real surprise that an artists out of Chicago has taken the words of the pundits and made them into something of a reality, with his sculpture picturing Obama in the robes of Jesus, complete with a neon halo. This, of course, somes just a short time after the OTHER recent Jesus sculpture, the one made out of chocolate. And, naturally, people are getting angry about the work of art.

The artist, David Cordero, is trying to take the high road, pointing out that the sculpture was in response to the buzz surrounding the candidate. He also says, "In a lot of ways it's about caution in assigning all these inflated expectations on one individual, and expecting them to change something that many hands have shaped." Of course, this is America, and the last thing we want to express towards anyone we see as being charismatic and popular is any sort of caution. After all, look at all the rest of the idol worship that we do, sometimes even towards people who were NOT involved with American Idol.

Cordero has latched onto a piece of the zeitgeist, and this may be the exact thing that is causing such an uproar. People have been proclaiming Obama as a political savior, and to have the image thrust into their faces may actually cause them to question their stance. There's also the notion that people will either feel that the sculpture is bastardizing either the image of the Senator or the Messiah, and both are (at least currently) considered to be fairly untouchable of subjects.

But we have to wonder exactly where the problem lies. It's not like Cordero is claiming that Obama was the child of a virgin birth, found in a manger by the three wise spokesmen. He didn't craft an entire series, with Joseph Lieberman as Judas, Hilary as Pilate, and the rest of the Democrats as the apostles. And he certainly didn't try and draw comparisons between GDub and King Herod (who, from what we remember of Jesus Christ Superstar, was rather buffoonish). He simply took the image foisted upon us all from day one and made it into a reality.

Perhaps that's the problem. Maybe Cordero didn't take his message quite far enough. Maybe we need to see John Kerry the Baptist. Or Pelosi the Magdalene. And how about the thought of Romney as Caiaphas. Or maybe we should just let this little outburst die down. After all, we're fairly certain that the big news for the next two days will once again be Sanjaya Malakar, and whatever he does to his hair.

After all, if we don't have reality television or bizarre "controversies" to worry ourselves over, we might actually have to take a look at the real issues.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Don't know much about history

We understand that certain issues are fairly difficult to talk about. These issues are, naturally, even more difficult to talk about when you're dealing with children, in a classroom environment. Still, when teachers start deciding that certain events from history should no longer be covered, under the guise of trying not to offend, we can't help but raise an eyebrow.

We do more than that when those events are decades, if not centuries, old. But that's exactly what some teachers are doing, as they have chosen to avoid covering the Crusades or the Holocaust during history lessons, not wanting to upset students of specific races or religions.

Let's just pause here for a moment. We can grasp the idea of teachers maybe not wanting to touch on the recent strife in the Middle East. We wouldn't be surprised if most history classes reach their end without much talk of the original Gulf War. Given the previous generation's involvement with it, we didn't hear a lot about Vietnam during our own time in school. But to think of events such as the Holocaust and the Crusades being eliminated because it may offend some students seems a bit insane to us.

Look, nobody likes the messy parts of history. People would rather see the events that showcased the triumph of the human spirit, without having to get themselves embroiled in learning about the times where humanity was shown to be petty, warlike, and destructive. But that doesn't mean that those petty times shouldn't be discussed. After all, they have a saying for those that don't learn history.

But let's, for a moment, assume that the teachers are completely correct in avoiding these topics. Let's think that, by never learning about the events of the Crusades or the Holocaust, we may be actually raising kids who are better adjusted, and less likely to try and attack their neighbor over a perceived slight. True, we would be left with a void in the performing arts, as stories revolving around one or the other event would stop being produced. Luckily for us all, there are plenty of ways to reinterpret the Bible, and you can never have too many "fish out of water" movies. But let's not stop with just these particular ugly moments from history. Let's keep going, and eliminate anything that could leave a bad taste in people's mouths. The Revolutionary War? Could be upsetting to British children. Slavery? Still a hot-button issue. Any season of The Simple Life? Offensive to anyone with a brain.

So really, the choices are clear. Either way sanitize history down, removing any potentially offensive references, thereby being able to plow through all of human history in about two months of class time, or accept that students need to learn sometimes even the messy stuff. Otherwise they'll be doomed to repeat history, and they'll bring the rest of us along for the ride.