Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

The Overexposure of Under-18 Extreme Athletes

Posted in Extreme Sports, Opinion, Skateboarding by Jacob Zinn on October 1, 2011
I

n 2003, Ryan Sheckler became the youngest gold medalist in X Games history when he debuted at the age of 13 and won the Skateboard Park competition. That same year, a 16 year-old Shaun White debuted and became the first athlete to medal in both the Summer and Winter X Games. Four years prior, Travis Pastrana won the first Moto X Freestyle event in 1999 at the age of 16 and scored the highest ever run of 99.00 points.

These three athletes have a lot in common: they’re young, they’re athletic and they’re household names.

I just got lucky.

Ryan Sheckler, 13
2003 SK8 Park Gold Medalist

Extreme sports have always had a prominent connection with youth. There are still a few 30-something veterans dragging their creaky bones to the X Games, but the progression of the subculture has opened opportunities for teenage prodigies.

But those opportunities can turn skillful fan favourites into overrated gold-medal hogs in the eyes of long-time viewers. Deliberately or not, they become the face of the sport until all we see is the face, not the sport.

W

hen Travis Pastrana won the first Moto X Freestyle competition in 1999, nobody thought he would win it six more times. He has dominated freestyle and has only lost gold medal contention either due to injury or by not competing at all.

The truth is, these guys are really good at what they do. Sheckler won his first X Games gold medal the same year he turned pro, and to this day, White is one of the few–if not only–athletes to crossover between skateboarding and snowboarding.

The issue is, these young athletes get overhyped to the point that they become the frontrunner not because of their talent, but because of their name recognition.

Sheckler had a reality show on MTV called Life of Ryan. Rather than follow him around and watch him skate, the show played up the drama in his life–his parents’ divorce, reckless friends, girl troubles–ignoring the thing that made him famous: skateboarding. Suddenly, the fresh-faced teenager who out-skated everyone else in his debut was airing out his personal life on television, showing us a side of himself that really didn’t need to be shown.

This type of mind-numbing programming might be adored by the rest of Generation Y, but those of us who knew of Sheckler before he was on MTV would rather watch some of his unreal tricks on YouTube.

But, worse than an MTV reality show is when worldwide spectacles like the X Games and the Dew Tour run pre-recorded vignettes, almost endorsing these guys as their best athletes. Chaz Ortiz is a talented, 17 year-old medallist, but he hardly gets the same type of hype.

At the 2010 Winter Olympics, White’s face was all over commercials for the men’s halfpipe competition and the commentators repeated his name to emphasize his snowboarding ability. Having won gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, it came as no surprise (given the sanctimonious voiceover) that he would better his previous record with a score of 48.4 out of 50 in his final run, even though he performed all of his standard tricks.

Now, his standard tricks are not the standard of everyone else; they’re more like the highly unrealistic SSX snowboarding video game franchise. If the commentators would just call the play-by-play, perhaps more would be legitimately impressed by his tricks and not secretly wish for him to bail so someone else could take home gold.

I

t’s one thing to earn the medals and trophies. It’s another to be given useless accolades that only overexpose your name to the world. By choice or not, White has seeped into other mediums and gotten his name out to audiences beyond the scope of extreme sports:

  • He was voted “Chairman of the Board” (get it?) in 2007 and 2010 on Spike TV’s Guys’ Choice Awards.
  • He’s been on the cover of Rolling Stone–twice.
  • He was named “Most Metal Athlete” by Revolver magazine’s Golden Gods Awards. (Does he even like heavy metal?)

And year after year, he’s the all-American glory story, the Miracle on Urethane Wheels. Even with his shiny, full trophy cases, he’s made out to be USA’s underdog, but his name is said over and over so many times that, essentially, everyone else is an underdog.

He’s a two-time Winter Olympic gold medalist. He’s won three gold Dew Tour medals and six gold Winter Dew Tour medals. He’s won six of the last seven Winter X Games superpipe competitions. (And that other one, he placed second.)

Clearly, these guys are the future of their sports, but don’t tell us that. Let them show us that they are determined to progress extreme sports because, underneath all the publicity, sponsorships and medals, they truly love what they do.


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FOX in talks for Simpsons Channel

Posted in Opinion, The Simpsons, TV & Film by Jacob Zinn on September 18, 2011
I

nstead of Itchy & Scratchy, the Simpsons could soon be watching themselves on their outdated, purple rabbit-ear television.

FOX is reportedly considering launching a 24-hour Simpsons network. Non-stop, ’round-the-clock gut-busting, laugh-out-loud, yellow hilarity–but is there enough for an entire channel dedicated to Homer, Marge and the kids?

Adding Up The Simpsons


22 Seasons on FOX (and counting!)
486 Episodes spanning 178 Hours
15 Seasons on DVD
1000+ Springfieldians
337 Guest Stars as of Season 16
$400,000 Salary of Simpsons voice actors–per episode
27 Primetime Emmys
24 video games from NES to iPhone
2,151st Star on the Walk of Fame
12 7-Eleven’s turned into Kwik-E-Marts
8th -Highest Grossing Film worldwide, taking in $527,068,706
#1 TV Series of the Century as named by TIME magazine


The Simpsons is the longest-running sitcom, animated program and primetime scripted television series in America. With 486 episodes spanning 22 seasons and a full-length feature film, they have a lot to choose from.

The Simpsons is one of those shows that you’ll watch on syndication as you flip channels on a Sunday afternoon, even if you’ve seen it before and you know how the episode ends. But a channel based on reruns that have been rerun for 22 years could get tiresome, and quick.

It would be fascinating to learn the viewership for different episodes; classics from the golden era of seasons three through nine may be the most watched while newer episodes from the last several seasons might plummet in ratings.

It seems obvious that the network would run promotions during different months for holiday-themed episodes: October would run Treehouse of Horror marathons, December would air Christmas and Hanukkah episodes, and specific episodes that coincide with other occasions.

B

ut to stay fresh, the network would need to offer some original programming, like Simpsons documentaries or vignettes with writers, producers and voice actors on their favourite episodes, characters, chalkboard and couch gags, guest stars, et cetera. Off the top of my head, the network could run 30-minute to one-hour specials on:

  • Film Homages: Pulp Fiction, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Graduate, A Clockwork Orange, The Godfather and Indiana Jones (to name a few)
  • Musical Guest Stars: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, Metallica, NSYNC, Smashing Pumpkins, Ted Nugent, The White Stripes, blink-182
  • Professional Athletes: Joe Nameth, Dennis Rodman, Ken Griffy Jr., Elvis Stojko, Tom Brady, Michelle Kwan, Oscar De La Hoya, Tony Hawk
  • Perfectly Cromulent Words in Pop Culture: D’oh!, meh, embiggen, kwyjibo, cheese-eating surrender monkeys
  • überfans Worldwide: A collection of interviews with self-proclaimed biggest Simpsons fans from around the world.
  • Religion in The Simpsons: A special that explores Ned Flanders’ fundamentalist Christianity, Lisa’s soul-searching Buddhism, Apu’s faithful Hinduism, Krusty’s Jewish upbringing and other beliefs in The Simpsons.

They already have themed DVD releases for Hollywood tributes and religious beliefs, so they wouldn’t have to look very hard to compile these specials.

Groening and the rest of FOX could further break down the subcultures, sociology and psychology of Springfield, even to go so far as to analyze the use of Pavlov’s Theory or the Infinite Monkey Theorem in the show. Heck, they could run a full hour of Homer’s annoyed grunts and still get ratings.

T

he trick here is to appeal to all fans at once. A casual fan who hasn’t seen every episode might watch anything on a Simpsons channel, but someone with Comic Book Guy-level Simpsons fandom might skip newer episodes in favour of “The Lemon Tree” or “22 Short Films About Springfield.”

The Simpsons might be enough to lure viewers in, but at some point, that collection of episodes could rerun itself out. If FOX seriously intends to launch a Simpsons channel, prepare some documentary-style shows filled with interviews and history that will appeal to Frink-type nerds, Wiggum-type simpletons and the Simpson-type typical American family.


Too Long, Didn’t Beat: The Bane of Video Games

Posted in Opinion, Video Games by Jacob Zinn on August 23, 2011
WARNING: This article contains spoilers related to Red Dead Redemption. Read at your own risk.


In the last few years, I’ve found myself struggling to finish a lot of video games. I first blamed it on a lack of free time, but when I found the time to play games, I realized that I was not entirely at fault.

Last week, video game news site Kotaku confirmed my realization. They cited a report by social gaming network Raptr, finding that only 10% of gamers finish the game they are playing. What happened to beating the final boss? To saving the princess? To actually beating the game?

Turns out, people are just giving up. Why? Because current games are way too long.

The Offenders

Back before the internet went mainstream, if you wanted to find out how a game ended, you had to reach it yourself. You couldn’t trust your friends–they’d make up an ending to make you think they’d beaten the game.

Now, any frustrated teenager can go to YouTube and watch the closing cutscenes of any video game, and that’s what the 90% who don’t finish are doing.

Rockstar is notorious for making such outrageously long video games as Grand Theft Auto IV, L.A. Noire and Red Dead Redemption.

GTA IV was a pain in the ass to beat, but it is considered a landmark video game of the next generation consoles. If you own it, you have to beat it, but prepare to spend a good 30 hours getting through the main story missions.

The same high regard can’t be said for Red Dead Redemption–while it is a solid Rockstar title with strong gameplay, it had no payoff. Completing GTA IV gave me a sense of accomplishment, but Red Dead Redemption ended on a low and disappointing note.

In the course of the game, I put up with the captures of Javier Escuella and Bill Williamson being stepping stones to Dutch van der Linde. I put up with Dutch’s cliché and unfulfilling suicide. (Why couldn’t I lasso him mid-fall? Or better yet, start a duel and shoot his smug mug off of the mountain?) I put up with the underhanded government agents and needy townsfolk and monotonous farmwork missions preventing me from cutting to the chase.

I put up with all of that only for the legendary John Marston–who slayed the Old West for some 25 hours of gameplay–to be killed by an ambush by a backstabbing U.S. government.

So, for all the gamers who bought Red Dead Redemption, and for the 10% who made it all the way through, you take away the gunslinging protagonist who they’ve grown accustomed to? Just like that?

The main character can’t die! If they were to carry on with their government ambush, it should’ve ended in a high stakes shoot-out and a ride into the sunset.

To me, the ending was weak and unrewarding, but what made it more unrewarding is the fact that I invested so much time reaching it. If I could beat Red Dead Redemption in 10 hours, maybe I wouldn’t have been so let down, because I would’ve wasted 10 hours and not 25.

The Solution

There are some sandbox-style games that kept my attention all the way through. I’m a sucker for gangster flicks, and by association, games based on gangster flicks. I beat The Godfather for PS2 to 100% completion, and I spent three solid weeks doing the same for Scarface: The World is Yours.

Select Games by
Average Time to Beat

Grand Theft Auto IV
41 hours

Red Dead Redemption
27 hours

L.A. Noire
23 hours

Dragon Age: Origins
60 hours

Assassin’s Creed II
26 hours

Borderlands
34 hours

inFAMOUS 2
16 hours

Metal Gear Solid 4
18 hours

Final Fantasy XIII
68 hours

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
120 hours

Stats via HowLongToBeat

That was when I worked 20 hours a week.

Now I attend university full-time, work part-time and try to maintain a social life. That doesn’t leave much time to roam the streets of Liberty City or the deserts of New Austin to find strangers or hunt wildlife.

Developers and publishers need to make moderately lengthy games–games that aren’t 40-hour epics, but also can’t be beaten during a one-week rental. And still long enough to justify a $50 to $70 price tag.

A game can’t be overtly long for the sake of. It has to offer the gamer a reason to keep playing. Publishers seem to think couch potatoes will stay on the couch if they include a laundry list of optional achievements and trophies, or if they release premium downloadable content.

The truth is, most gamers don’t care about achievements and trophies. There are communities of gamers dedicated to earning as many achievements and trophies as possible, but most ignore the virtual pissing contest.

As for DLC, Rockstar released two expansions for GTA IVThe Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony–and RDR‘s zombie-killing spinoff, Undead Nightmare. They have already put out an extensive collection of downloadable content for L.A. Noire, which is sure to increase the overall gameplay by at least another aggravating 10 hours.

But if a game is good, it doesn’t need DLC, achievements and trophies to entice gamers. They’ll buy the content and earn the accomplishments because they like the game, not for bragging rights.

Assassin’s Creed II was worth staying up past 1:00 a.m. nightly to get one stealth-killed soldier closer to another codec.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was worth playing through four times on different difficulties just to hear the ding of the platinum trophy.

Interactive Drama’s Heavy Rain boasts a 72% completion rate because it’s a high-quality, top-notch, totally original game. It has a powerful, compelling story arc leading to four alternate endings, driven by emotionally connected characters over a solid musical score.

It’s art–the core of all video games–and it’s more important than dragging on the storyline of yet another needlessly long game.


Nintendo 3DS needed a price drop

Posted in Electronics, Opinion, Video Games by Jacob Zinn on August 2, 2011

Last Thursday, Nintendo announced that after August 12, the Nintendo 3DS portable gaming system would drop in price by 32%, from $249.99 to $169.99.

In its five months of release in North America, the 3DS hasn’t met sales expectations. Less than 900,000 units have been sold in the United States, prompting the unusual price adjustment.

This is good news for on-the-go gamers who have been holding out on Nintendo’s 3D technology. With the steep price drop, they save $80, which can be put towards 3DS titles that retail for $30 to $40 plus taxes.

Similar Price Drops

.
.
Launch Price
Current Price
Price Drop
Price Drop (%)
PlayStation Portable
(March 24, 2005)

$250
.
$130
$120
48%
Nintendo DS Lite
(June 11, 2006)

$150
.
$100
$50
33%
Nintendo DSi
(April 5, 2009)

$170
.
$150
$20
12%
Nintendo DSi XL
(March 28, 2010)

$190
.
$170
$20
11%

However, $170 is still pricey. A brand new Nintendo Wii costs $150 and comes with a Wii Motion Plus controller, Nunchuk, Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort.

But the 3DS is a powerful handheld, and it may take a steep price drop such as this for many to see that. The system itself is preloaded with a 3D camera, MP3 player, augmented reality cards and the Nintendo eShop, an online store that hosts Virtual Console and DSiWare games to buy and download.

Current 3DS owners have until 11:59 EST on August 11 to use the eShop on their 3DS to become eligible to redeem a select 20 free games. By connecting to the shop, they will automatically become “Ambassadors,” Nintendo’s term for early adopters, and get to download 10 NES and Game Boy Advance games to their systems for free.

The entire list of games hasn’t been announced, but the following Virtual Console games have been confirmed for release in the coming months:

NES Virtual Console

  • Balloon Fight (1984)
  • Donkey Kong Jr. (1982)
  • Ice Climber (1985)
  • The Legend of Zelda (1986)
  • Super Mario Bros. (1985)
3DS Game Boy Advance Virtual Console

  • Mario Kart: Super Circuit (2001)
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong (2004)
  • Metroid Fusion (2002)
  • WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ (2003)
  • Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 (2002)

So if you were debating on spending $250 on the Nintendo 3DS or the upcoming PlayStation Vita, perhaps an extra $80 in your pocket will guide your decision.


WWE needs an Attitude (Adjustment)

Posted in Opinion, Sports, Wrestling by Jacob Zinn on July 27, 2011
D

espite being a company solely based on the niche sport of professional wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment used to have some balls.

That was when Stone Cold Steve Austin was stunning Vince McMahon, D-Generation X was crotch-chopping its opponents, Mick Foley was being chokeslammed through cells and Chris Jericho was outtalking The Rock. That was the Attitude Era.

The era arguably started with the Montréal Screwjob and ended when the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF) became World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). By that time, McMahon had taken over World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Ted Turner’s rival wrestling promotion that prompted both company’s to deliver more shock value in a five-year ratings war.

Since then, the WWE’s on-screen content has gotten less racy, less provocative and less edgy to the point that it’s family-friendly. Women and children make up 40% of the WWE’s viewing audience, unlike the teenagers and young adults (mostly male) who made up the vast majority of wrestling crowds in the mid-to-late ’90s. Back then, it was unapologetically lowbrow, and we liked it that way, but with a current 12-and-under target audience, the WWE has marketed most of its superstars wrestlers as childhood heroes and upstanding role models.

Old School Attitude

I

n the last few weeks, I saw a glimpse of attitude being injected into WWE programming. CM Punk’s anti-WWE angle was a refreshing change from the PG-rated children’s program that is Monday Night RAW.

At the end of RAW on June 27, CM Punk led a brash, cross-legged, viewer-discretion-advised tirade against the WWE, criticizing Vince McMahon and his daughter, his doofus son-in-law (Triple H) and his “douchebag yes men” (name-dropping Executive Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis) for paying no mind to in-ring talent and pushing overrated, ass-kissing cashcows like John Cena, The Rock and Hulk Hogan. Backstage gripes that would normally be discussed in hushed tones were now being aired on the mic in front of everyone to hear.

With his contract up on July 18, CM Punk threatened to take the WWE Championship with him at the Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View. McMahon responded by indefinitely suspending CM Punk only to be persuaded by Cena to, for once, put on a match that the fans wanted. McMahon begrudgingly accepted the proposition, but raised the stakes: if the champion John Cena lost the title, he would be fired.

Leading up to his departure, CM Punk wasn’t performing for 10 year-olds. It was the teens and young adults who wanted this match, who wanted Cena fired, who wanted CM Punk to leave his hometown of Chicago, where the Pay-Per-View was scheduled, as the last WWE Champion.

See, there’s an online community of grown men who still watch professional wrestling. They read behind-the-scenes blogs and immerse themselves in insider’s knowledge.

They are smarks, an abbreviation of “smart marks,” meaning they understand that wrestling is “fake,” but still get enjoyment out of it. They know the outcomes are predetermined and that most of the on-screen fueds don’t have any off-screen legitimacy to them.

The beauty of this angle is it was a mix of both.

As one of the best on-the-mic talents, CM Punk got to trash the WWE for keeping him off of merchandise, for underusing such talents as Colt Cabana and Drew Hankinson, and for booking the main event of WrestleMania XXVIII a year in advance between the WWE’s poster boy, John Cena, and the wrestler-turned-movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He gave shout-outs to independent promotions Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling; mentioning any current wrestling promotion, mainstream or otherwise, is a no-no in the WWE’s book.

The main event was an exceptional near-45 minute performance and contained some of the best wrestling in recent memory. There were high spots in and out of the ring and numerous edge-of-your-seat counters, reversals and finishers. Around the 40-minute mark, McMahon and Laurinaitis came out to signal to ring the bell for a Chicago Screwjob, but Cena wouldn’t allow that to happen. When Cena got back in the ring, CM Punk hit him with the Go To Sleep and pinned him for the three-count. He took the WWE Championship and ran through the crowd, leaving the Allstate Arena with the belt.

The Show Must Go On

O

f course, that was the last of the attitude. The WWE is a business, and what sells is John Cena t-shirts, ball caps, wristbands and collector’s cups. The Next night on RAW, Cena didn’t get fired and the WWE ran an eight-man tournament to crown a new WWE Champion as though the title had simply been vacated. In a twist, Triple H was given the television role as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. The only real part to the storyline is that McMahon will no longer appear on TV as often. (Fingers crossed.)

The next week, the newly named WWE Champion Rey Mysterio lost the title to, surprise surprise, John Cena. Then, a re-signed CM Punk came out to dispute the legitimacy of that title.

Everything was back as it was. We’d been had. But for four heart-pounding weeks, we suspended our disbelief and thought, maybe CM Punk really is leaving the WWE. In reality, it was a worked shoot (a work being something setup and a shoot being something spontaneous and unplanned), a cross between the backstage politics and center stage execution. Unfortunately, following Money in the Bank, the storyline became horribly unbalanced and the disbelief returned.

But if the WWE had more kayfabe-breaking storylines like this, maybe they wouldn’t be losing the long-time fans to ROH or New Japan or TNA iMPACT!

Maybe independent wrestlers wouldn’t dismiss the WWE if it hadn’t become a heavily scripted in-ring soap opera.

Maybe then the WWE would grow a pair.

Instances of Attitude

S

ince 2001, there have been spurts of attitude in the WWE. The introduction of the ECW One Night Stand Pay-Per-View in 2005 offered an entire month of hardcore wrestling per year until McMahon created a third television brand based off the defunct promotion. This led to original ECW commentator Joey Styles delivering a fantastic worked shoot promo against the company and how far it had gone away from the traditional ECW format.

The Edge versus Matt Hardy storyline was born from a real-life situation between the two. Hardy, who wasn’t with the WWE at the time, was dating Lita, who was with the WWE. While she was on the road, she cheated on Hardy with Edge. The WWE re-signed Hardy and turned the dispute into a betrayal-fueled feud in which legitimate shots were taken by both parties. Edge established himself as a main-event heel and Hardy was more over with audiences than ever.

The return of DX, while entirely planned, brought back the anti-authority comedy with Triple H and Shawn Michaels embarrassing the McMahon family on a weekly basis.

The rest of the time, the WWE has focused itself on pandering to children, and all they want is John Cena.

In fact, Cena used to have attitude; his former gimmick as a rap artist had him perform profane lyrics (often cutting himself short of anything that would require a Parental Advisory sticker). His finisher used to be called the F-U, named after Brock Lesnar’s F-5, but was later renamed as Cena drew a younger crowd.

Now that he’s on his (disputed) ninth WWE Championship reign, maybe John Cena can drop the title to someone deserving and fued in a non-title main event leading up to his bout with The Rock next April. Or maybe, maybe, he can finally turn heel and single-handedly bring the attitude back to the WWE.

But don’t count on it.

EA charging for disc-based DLC

Posted in Opinion, Video Games by Jacob Zinn on January 31, 2010

A brand new video game often costs around $60 to $70, and in having the latest consoles connected to the internet, companies are offering additional content for download.

Electronic Arts has a number of games with supposed downloadable content available in the PlayStation Store. New characters, maps and weapons for games such as Brütal Legend, Burnout Paradise and The Godfather II are available for a fee.

But gamers end up paying $5.00 or more for a 100 KB file to retrieve extras hidden on the disc they already bought.

Essentially, they’re downloading a key to unlock these characters, maps and weapons. Depending on how much “DLC” is supported, the price of the entire gaming experience can add up past $100.

Can it still be called downloadable content if it’s on the disc?

If I’ve already paid for the game, why should I have to pay more for hidden content on the disc? How is that fair?

Admittedly, download times for files from the PlayStation Store can be rather slow and the additional content would take up considerable hard drive storage. But new PS3s hold 120 GB to 250 GB–plenty of room for DLC.

A 100 KB file makes for a near-instant update to the game rather than a lengthy download, but to unknowingly have that content already within the game feels like a rip off to gamers–if I’ve paid for the disc, I want to access everything on it right away.

It’s not right to call it downloadable content when it’s not being downloaded. At best, it’s hidden content and should be marketed as such. That way, I’ll know just how much I’m paying for the disc beyond the marked price and taxes.

Can I still say, “Merry Christmas?”

Posted in Christmas, Holidays, Observations, Opinion by Jacob Zinn on December 23, 2009

It started when they put the “X” in “Xmas” and removing “Christ” from “Christmas.”

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have tried getting Christmas practices banned from public buildings for political correctness.

There’s nothing politically correct about it.

Though the First Ammendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the Congress from establishing a national religion, but at the same time upholds the right to freedom of religion.

A 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that Christians of different denominations (Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox Church and other) made up 78.5 per cent of the United States population, compared to 16.1 per cent of atheists or agnostics. Other religions were Judaism (1.7 per cent), Buddhism (0.7 per cent), Islam (0.6 per cent), Hinduism (0.4 per cent) and other (1.2 per cent).

The other religions only want recognition for their beliefs and respect the beliefs of others. But because Christians represent more than three-quarters of the U.S. population, they’ve become the target for anti-religion.

The U.S. was founded on Christian principles– “In God We Trust” is America’s national motto. Now the ACLU want to give equal attention to all religions by removing every “Christmas” from every Christmas tree, Christmas light, Christmas break, Christmas carol and Christmas song on every Christmas album.

Acknowledging others religious and cultural practices–even Festivus–is politically correct, but banning ones public practice and not any others is not.

The context in which “Merry Christmas” is used in the Bible is not as it is used commercially in advertising, as it is most recognize; our “White Christmas” (or sometimes a “Blue Christmas”) has become a green Christmas.

If that were taken away, riots would start because no one wants to give up their gifts or turkey or shopping. Consumers just don’t want “Christ” ruining their consumer Christmas.

Christians are not forcing their religious views upon others, but it would seem that way by how some athiests and agnostics react to symbols such as crosses. In 2006, one California man set himself on fire to protest the change of “Winter Break” to “Christmas Break” by the Kern High School District in Bakersfield.

From the Christian’s side, if Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution can be taught year-round in public schools, surely a nativity scene can be displayed at the city hall over the month of December.

What’s so offensive about “Merry Christmas?” Santa says, “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” John Lennon might have written “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” with an X in the title, but he still says “Christmas” when he sings it.

If we ban, “Merry Christmas,” will we ban, “Happy Hanukkah” too? Will cultural celebrations such as Kwanzaa be restricted?

Will translations of “Merry Christmas” such as “Joyeux Noël” or “Feliz Navidad” be banned as well?

“Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings” is not the same. They need to get over it because it’s Christmas.

Don’t get swindled by the Kindle

Posted in Books, Electronics, Opinion by Jacob Zinn on August 14, 2009

The Amazon Kindle sucks.

It’s ugly, it’s bland and it fits in your pocket about as well as a portable record player.

But Amazon must have thought there was a nerdy market for this because the first Kindle sold out within five and a half hours of its release.

Before Kindle, ebooks never caught on, but after 21 months on the market, the Kindle has. Kinda.

Obviously, it comes with features that you can’t get with books. It has a web browser, reads .PDFs, and for a price, you can group your book collection with your daily newspaper.

You can adjust text size, but you can’t change the typefaces and its monochrome display can only make reading tedious.

Not to mention the iPhone–on top of all its other features–has a free ebook reader. There’s an app for that.

But the obsession to have everything we read on a screen is absurd. If I have to plug in and charge an electronic device to read something better suited to paperback, there must be something wrong with me.

There’s no sentimental value on digital books. When you have a hard cover copy of a book, you can feel the material, the texture of the pages. If you meet the author, they can sign it. You can lend it, sell it, donate it and it can be reused over and over again.

Oh yeah, and with the recent withdrawl of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from the Kindle library, you can bet other content restrictions will be put in place. (Believe it or not, Mein Kampf is available on the Kindle.)

Amazon’s Kindle hasn’t changed how we read the way Apple’s iPod has changed how we listen to music. Digital music works; digital reading doesn’t.

At least, not on that poorly-contrasted screen…

Extra Reading Material: this webcomic by Penny Arcade. Not compatible with the Kindle.

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