Body Worlds at OMSI: death porn for kiddies (and others)

little girl by OMSI signPortland’s Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s new feature exhibit is Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds & The Brain. According to the OMSI and Body Worlds websites, Body Worlds includes more than 200 flayed human corpses in a variety of poses.

You’ll notice there are no hyperlinks in this post. You can find the relevant sites if you want to. But I’m not giving them to you because they all have photos of the bodies, and I don’t want to be complicit in disseminating them.

Real people donated their bodies to von Hagens’ Institute for Plastination, headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany. There technicians peeled off their skin and “plastinated” them–replaced the fluids with a clear, pliable polymer that preserves the bodies in a flexible state. They then posed the bodies in life-like, active poses–riding a bicycle, working out in the gym, ice-skating. The dead body of a woman five-months pregnant reclines, all her skin and hair removed (with, oddly, the exception of her pubic hair) and her uterus peeled open to expose the dead baby inside her.

When von Hagens first began displaying his skinned corpses in Germany nearly ten years ago, he met stiff resistance. Many cities refused permission for showing on the grounds that the exhibition was immoral and a desecration of the human body. Only Frankfurt allowed an exhibition, and reviewers there called it crass, pornographic and borderline psychotic. So, in 2004, von Hagens brought Body Worlds to the United States.

Continue reading


The boys of fall

Bill Schultz-Rathbun in his letter jacket, looking into the distance across a lake

copyright 2011 Portraits by Hue, used by permission

Baseball seems to bring out most of the philosophy in sportswriters.  I don’t know why. Football players practice in the darkening fall evenings, play with the chill of coming winter in the air. Their world stands or falls on nine games. It’s enough to make a philosopher out of anyone.

When I feel that chill, smell that fresh-cut grass

I’m back in my helmet, cleats and shoulder pads

Standing in the huddle listening to the call

Fans going crazy for the boys of fall.

The Hockinson Hawks are small—the smallest 2A school in the state of Washington—and new, the first high school in a small rural community going suburban. In the first five years, their fledgling football team won two league championships.

Then came the wilderness years. Star players were kicked off the team for drug use. The seniors didn’t get along, or didn’t want to lead. In 2009, they went 2 and 7 in regular season, 1 and 8 in 2010. The student body laughed when the football team was mentioned in assemblies. Guys quit because it was so hard to keep losing.

Two years ago, during a losing game, a sophomore was sitting on the bench crying. A friend came up, smacked him on the shoulder pads. Just wait for our senior year, he said. We’ll win league. 

Continue reading


Keep it simple, stupid: dumbing down public discourse

I’m reading The Yahoo! Style Guide. The subtitle bills it as “The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World.”

Chapter One urges me to:

  1.  Keep it short.
  2. Front-load my content.
  3. Keep it simple.
Yahoo Style Guide

CCL Erik Hartberg


I’m supposed to use short words, short sentences, short paragraphs, and short pages. I’m supposed to choose “common” words over “more difficult” ones. And then there’s this tip: “Write for a lower reading-comprehension level than you expect many of your readers to have, and you’ll make all your readers happy.” (Why do I want to use a perky Kindergarten-teacher voice when I read that sentence?)

Continue reading


UN Day: Let’s defund the UNFPA

UN Day logoToday is United Nations Day. The UN was founded on October 24th, 1945, by 51 countries committed to (according to the UN’s official website) “maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.”

Funny they should mention human rights.

Continue reading


SCOTUS Top Ten List, part 2

Last week I began a Top Ten List of cases the Supreme Court will hear, or is likely to hear, this term that will probably affect your life. Here are the next two in the line-up.

Official portrait, Roberts Court, 2010

Front row: Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Back Row: Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Jr., and Elena Kagan

7. Sackett v. EPA

Background: In 2005, Mike and Chantell Sackett paid $23,000 for 2/3 of an acre in a subdivision in Priest Lake, Idaho. When they started putting down gravel, preparatory to building a house, the EPA told them that their land was classified as wetlands. The agency issued a “compliance order” requiring the Sacketts to return their property to its original state (at a cost of $27,000) or pay (are you sitting down?) $37,500.

Per. Day.

The clock started running in May, 2008. The Sacketts currently owe the EPA over $40 million. And counting.

Continue reading


Occupy Wall Street, Kalle Lasn and Culture Jamming

Want a grip on Occupy Wall Street’s ideology? Check out Kalle Lasn’s Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge—and Why We Must. Lasn is the co-founder of Adbusters, the Canadian corporation (double irony there) behind Occupy Wall Street.

A lot to like

Lasn is disturbed by the anxiety, depression, boredom and alienation that characterize our culture.  He grieves for failing families, for individuals with no sense of purpose or meaning. He’s down on TV violence. He wants to reclaim holidays from marketers and return the evening meal as a joyous ritual of family life. He yearns for more time, less stress and more balance. What’s better than being rich, he asks? Being “spontaneous, authentic, alive.”

Sometimes he sounds like an old-time evangelist:

  •  modern Western culture is based on wealth, power, fame, sex and recreation;
  • America is in need of being liberated from its own excesses and arrogances;
  • What we need is a new “great awakening.”

What’s not to like, eh?!

We-e-e-ll. . . .

Continue reading


About Cry, Beloved Country

There are a bazillion blogs out there dealing with contemporary culture. What’s up with another one?

Fair question.

I’m trying to be:

  •  Charitable

The U.S. is locked in a War of the World(view)s. It’s not the first time. (Think, e.g., 1850-1865.) But, sadly, much of what should be dialogue consists, on both sides, of little more than name-calling.

Remember Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address? It ends:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Is it possible to create a conversation without malice, without name-calling, and with the goal of achieving a just and lasting peace among ourselves? I don’t know, but I think it’s worth the effort.

So I’m trying to keep CBC a no-snark zone. For me, one of the easiest ways to do that is to assume that the person I’m disagreeing with will read what I’ve written while in a state of despair. Because our enemies are always ideas, never people.

  •  Honest

Continue reading