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Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

Don’t Be a Stupid Girl (or Guy)!

posted by doug howe

Imagine getting the family together for some nice evening TV and watching a music video showing:

• A girl pulling a string on her sweater to immediately enhance her breast size;
• A girl in a tanning booth looking gross, then begging friends for attention;
• A girl on a plastic surgery table awaiting breast augmentation;
• A girl giving a speech as the President of the United States.

Those are all part of Pink’s “Stupid Girls” video, which is not always what you’d call family fare but is nevertheless relevant and powerful. It’s part of an emerging genre of music encouraging young girls—and everyone young at heart—to resist the cultural messages we may see around us and instead pursue a true sense of individual responsibility and choice. “Stupid Girls” is about the potential in teenage girls, which can be wasted when they conform blindly to what they see around them. A lyrical highlight:

What happened to the dreams of a girl president?
She’s dancing in the video next to 50 Cent

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The video stretches the boundaries of PG-13, showing bolemic girls vomiting in the restroom and several other disturbing scenes, but the only thing scarier is the reality of the events in adolescent (and adult?) culture.

Also high on the charts is Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten,” with words and images to “reach for the distance, so close you can almost taste it, release your innovations” because “no one else can speak the words on your lips.” The wonderfully encouraging message continues with:

Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten.

Her honest assessment that “we’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes” is followed by her declaration that “I can’t live that way.” She then invites us to “feel the rain on your skin” because “no one else can feel it for you.” This is the kind of authenticity that is required for a lifelong spiritual journey and one that many young people seek.

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And finally, Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” offers a realistic connection for anyone who needs a dose of realism rather than a message that ignores how hard life can be and how discouraging tomorrow can seem. Consider:

Sometimes the system goes on the blink
And the whole thing turns out wrong
You might not make it back and you know
That you could be well oh that strong
And I’m not wrong.

The music video for this song offers a nice positive ending, but the lyrics are giving comfort to tens of thousands of people whose bad day is oh-s0-real and for whom the connection to Powter overcomes the age factor which music executives said would stifle his career.

The ultimate peer pressure message for all ages is “you must change your behavior and conform to societal norms to be loved and to feel important.” I don’t remember electing media executives to be our Values Directors and therefore I celebrate those artists whose music and message invites us—and our kids—to think, feel, search, and act for themselves.

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“Virtually” Crucified

posted by kris rasmussen

If you’ve ever wanted to witness a crucifixion with your own eyes, well, now you can, thanks to the online computer game Roma-Victor. The multiplayer game is designed to be an authentic recreation of the British Empire in Roman times, in which players live virtual lives as slaves and citizens. However, for players who attempt to abuse the game or cheat in any way (called “ganking”), Roma-Victor has decided only one punishment is brutal enough–crucifixion.

The first crucifixion of a player was held just last week. Cynewulf–who is actually some guy from Flint, Mich.–was the first player within Roma Victor to be crucified. He was hung on a cross for a full seven days through digital reconstruction at the provincial town of Corstopitum (modern day Corbridge in Northumberland, England).

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Kerry Fraser-Robinson, the CEO of the game’s publisher, said in a statement on the Roma-Victor website that while crucifixion in present-day society carries with it religious overtones, game-makers added crucifixion as a punishment simply as a way to make the game historically accurate. The game is currently in the final stages of testing and will officially launch on July 1, after which thousands of players will be able to live out their own virtual lives in ancient Britain. However, Roma-Victor has–so far, anyway –decided not to add to its arsenal of tricks either virtual penance or virtual forgiveness for virtual sins. Too bad. That might make for a truly fresh addition to the world of gaming.

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Near-Death Experience in Newark

posted by ellen leventry

The metaphysical motif of the final “Sopranos” season rolled on last night, as a comatose Tony, shot by his Uncle Junior, chose not to “walk into the light,” even as he was driven toward it by Paulie Walnuts’s yammering at his bedside.

As revealed during last week’s episode, Tony’s mind, in his coma, is replaying his life, though this version is far different than what actually happened. In his reverie, Tony, some sort of salesman, is in possession of a briefcase belonging to a Kevin Finnerty. Checking into a hotel, he is asked to present ID, and having no other ID, he uses Finnerty’s. At that point, a group of Buddhist monks accost him, demanding accountability for a bum heating system Finnerty sold their monastery.

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Forward to this week’s episode, and Tony finds himself served with papers by the Crystal Monastery. Hoping to uncover the true identity of Kevin Finnerty, he seeks out the monks, who chuckle each time he tells them that he isn’t Finnerty. If you haven’t gotten it by now, Tony’s new name is a thinly veiled reference to the concept of infinity. One of the merry monks explains that, in the end, everything is one, but for now, someone needs to be responsible–for the heating system, in this case. Tony has also been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and therefore, isn’t sure whether or not he really isn’t Finnerty, so he heads to a Finnerty family reunion in search of more answers.

Upon reaching the Inn at the Oaks, he is greeted by a man he does not recognize, played by Steve Buscemi–who played Tony’s cousin in season five, and whom Tony had to murder. Tony starts walking toward the door, but doesn’t want to relinquish his briefcase. The man tells him that he has to, that his family is waiting for him, and that there’s no business allowed inside. Tony is hesitant to let the man have the case, though he doesn’t seem to know why, until he hears a small voice–Meadow’s voice–calling him back. Tony slowly opens his eyes to see a blurry Meadow and Carmella at his side.

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Will Tony be a changed man after his near-death experience? Will he take responsibility for his actions, as the monks have asked? In his coma, did he overhear anything that he shouldn’t have?

The episode raises many questions and is full of just as many afterlife clichés–the Buddhist concepts of consciousness and existence, the idea of heading into the light (Tony keeps seeing a beacon in the distance), and the hope that we are all to be reunited with family at the end. But Tony chooses not to transcend. No matter how tempting the afterlife looks, his family still needs him.

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Forms Follow Faith

posted by burb

The editors of the design magazine I.D. have no beef with intelligent design as a concept. Their annoyance with the debate is based purely on the confusion they felt on hearing their magazine’s title so frequently out of context. Their response, however, is a thoughtful, captivating March/April issue devoted to “Design and Religion: New Forms for Faith.”

Spanning a number of faiths, stories examine material religious culture, from the architectural transformation of a Houston sports arena into Joel Osteen’s megachurch to new household technology that allows Orthodox Jews to finesse Shabbat restrictions—programmable light-switch timers are just the start of it—to art inspired by Icelandic folklore. Designers can’t resist kitsch, so Jack Chick’s evangelical shock-tracts are studied, as are Barnaby Barford’s prank Christmas ceramics. But overall the editors’ degree of seriousness and professionalism, whether they are examining a new mosque in Singapore or showcasing four architects’ mockups of their dream meditation spaces, is itself an uplifting experience.

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