Thursday, September 14, 2006

Video Games

For years video games have been blamed for so many of the troubles the youth of our nation face today, including attention deficit disorder, an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle, social anxiety disorder stemmed from a lack of real life interaction, and even a warped sense of reality. But lets face it, in a time of desperate need, video games are a steadfast and unwavering friend. Never has a Playstation, or as neigh sayers like to call it, "the ruiner of lives," been too busy to just hang out and chill. At no point has an X-box ever judged you, calling you too fat, not cool enough, or too ugly to be your friend. When you are stranded inside and alone on a gloomy day as the rain pours cats and dogs over the asphalt on which games of basketball are usually played, who is there to keep you comfort? Nintendo, that’s who, rain or shine. The truth is, a video gaming system does not have it in its circuitry to leave you high and dry, bored out of your mind with nothing to do, its job is entertainment.
So why is it that concerned parents, psychologists, and "the man" alike try to bring down our closest of comrades, Nintendo, Platstation, and X-box? The answer is as complex as it is
disheartening, they just don’t understand. They don’t understand that a friend doesn’t have to be a person. For our generation, the advancement of video gaming has been that of the advancement of a person. When we were entering grade school, we had regular Nintendo and Atari to calm our nerves and dissolve our first day of school fears. As we excelled in playground sports in the fourth grade school, so did our game play at home with Fifa Foreplay Soccer and Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball on our Sega Genesis’ and Super Nintendos. Upon entering the scary new world of middle school where we actually changed class rooms, we were blessed with the newest wave of systems, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, and Playstation. In Highschool we landed our first real girlfriends as well as our first dates with reality based gaming, the Playstation 2 and the internet capable X-box. And now just as we enter the next stage of our lives, the most complex yet, College, a new breed of gaming has emerged, the Playstation 3 and the X-box 360, available soon.
The truth is, we are as familiar with the stages of video game advancement as we are with the growing up of our best friends, maybe even more. For example, remember when your best friend broke his leg jumping his bike in the fourth grade? Kind of. Now, remember one week later when you got a Super Nintendo for your birthday? Yeah, that was the best day of your life! See, and that same Super Nintendo kept you both busy for those 6-8 weeks when you were waiting for your friend’s leg to heel. In the end, friends don’t have to be real, they just have to be there. And for this reason, I know I feel better having a Playstation that has my back.
written by: Jacob Marx

Too long have ball sports dominated the spectator entertainment arena in the US. It is not to say that I, as general sports fan, do not enjoy four pro games a day along an entrancing highlight reel, back rounded with a new Jay-Z rap song, showcasing slam dunks, home runs, and big hits on the grid iron, but I crave more. I want more excitement than the comfort of Saturday college football action or an almost guaranteed 162 games of baseball that my friends over at Yankee Stadium can offer me. I want something other than a pro football game for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Sundays– maybe just breakfast and dinner. I need salvation from the daily grind of batting orders, special teams, and hook shots. Which of the more non-traditional sports will be my messiah? Will the X-games offer me warmth in the cold of a lonely winter night? Probably not. Will hockey... well, I won’t even discuss hockey, frankly, it sucks. So where am I to turn for a fresh batch of sporting entertainment? Don’t be too riddled by my antidote, it lies in six simple letters– NASCAR. Im not exactly sure what those letters stand for, but I know what they mean– country music, fast cars, loose woman, and a little thing I like to call beer, and nothing fancy if you get my drift. A herd of country folk will usually pull trailers into the middle of the gigantic racing track and, from what I can tell, about three days of tail-gaiting will ensue. Now, in my opinion, participation in this "NASCAR world" can’t be healthy in long periods of time, but while the heart is young, I say live it up.
On the actual racing day, super fast cars make an endurance sprint for about 500 miles, looping around and around the oval of hot concrete, taking hard pressed turns to gain position, and passing opponents using the old soccer mom "im late for my kids practice, so its ok for me to cut you off" technique. NASCAR is, despite popular opinion, very entertaining, especially when 20 cars spin out and wreck all at once. Its true, people don’t mind when the cars crash, its just one of those things everyone is secretly waiting for. The world of racing is expanding and immersing American culture, from F-1 circuits to quarter mile drag challenges, and NASCAR as the front man. Im not saying on any given day I will be wearing a Hamm’s t-shirt and a Michelob Light ball cap as a crown while screaming at Jeff Gordon to pass Tony Stewart on the 182nd lap of the Banquet 500, but I might catch a few hours of racing on a Saturday afternoon for some college football relief. Change is not bad, I’m giving NASCAR a chance, besides, its not like im watching hockey.
written by Jacob Marx

Man’s Best Friend
In a recent conversation, a friend told me that a dog is not "man’s best friend," but merely a vessel of unconditional love for all who come near, carrying no real loyalties. Well I say balderdash. Now mind you, this friend is a girl and has no reference to what a "man’s" best friend really is. So let me tell you.
First off, what classifies a best friend? A best friend follows you into any adversity, any struggle, any conflict– without hesitation. Take Lassie for example, swimming out into an ice cold river to save her owner from drowning, absolutely neglecting her own safety. Lassie almost died, but if not for her instinctual canine abilities, or in this case, inabilities, little Timmy surely would have. Im not saying it takes habitual blind action to be a best friend, but a brash decision in the face of danger every once in a while would be nice. The point is, a dog cannot think about consequences the same way people can, so they will react to save your life way before any person would.
Don’t believe me? Don’t believe that dogs don’t think about consequences? Well, take your dog out to an extremely fast moving river (class five), throw a red ball into the rapids, and see what happens. Complete disregard for safety, that’s what. However, that’s precisely what a best friend is for– doing exactly what you say.
Now, I’m not advocated that a person should take advantage of an animal totally undivided in his loyalties, but that a best friend is of mutual standing and either will go to any length to help his counterpart– regardless of future reciprocation or consequence. Here is a true story, from the website for the book, Yorkie Doodle Dandie, written by William A. Wynne, about a Yorkie named Smoky who saved her best friends’ lives, simply because she was asked to.
"Early in the Luzon campaign [during WWII] Smoky pulled a string with vital phone wires attached under a taxi strip preventing the need to place 40 US fighter and recon planes in peril of destruction by enemy bombings. The three day digging task to place the wires was instead completed by this little dog in two minutes. The pipe was 70' long and 8 "in diameter with four inch high sand piles that filtered down at each four feet segment in the drainage culvert. She had never done this before. She came through the pipe because she was asked to." Now if that isn’t undaunted courage and loyalty, then I don’t know what is. Thank you to all dogs– to all of man’s best friends.
written by: Jacob Marx

The Ocean
It seems that the follies of ocean travel have become overlooked by vast majority of the citizens of the world. A false sense of security has taken control of the sea faring public and from what I can tell, this fog of delusioned safety is only growing thicker. Alarmingly, people all over the world have come to believe that we have the obedience of the ocean in a head lock and submission has been guaranteed. I’ll tell you, that’s just not the case, submission isn’t guaranteed.
Cruise ships routinely venture out over the great abysses of the ocean without a care in the world, and more than that, they even mean to party. Fishing has transformed from a means of catching food for the survival of sea dependant cultures into a multi-million dollar recreational industry where commercial boats embark daily on fun filled trips for the whole family. Fearful of the ocean, sea worthy boats were once great vessels of wood and steel, propelled by expansive sails and heavy oars. Now, Sea-doos and Malibu jet boats skip across the waves of the great blue yonder in an almost cocky manner, as to say, "I dare you," to the water beneath them.
From where has this boldness derived from? When did the fears of sharks, sea monsters, and drowning cease to reside in the minds of humanity? In the past one hundred years, the ocean has tried to regain its stature, but again and again, we are persistent in forgetting the dangers of the sea. For instance, the Titanic hit an iceberg and most of its passengers drowned– the next day, cruise ships were still setting off into the cold of the Atlantic. In the aftermath of the great storm retold in The Perfect Storm, recreational fisherman were right back out there. Even after Jaws terrorized that small town, children all over the world were still swarming beaches world wide.
Now, negating the perils of the ocean can be traced to once significant event. Ever since Columbus proved that the a ship wouldn’t fall of the end of the world if it went out to far, its been a losing battle for maintaining the ambiance of a powerful ocean. Moreover, as time has passed, humanities innovations have camouflaged the sea’s hazardousness. Examples of this include the inventions of the life preserver, the life raft, and the lighthouse. Don’t be fooled by the names, these things don’t make the ocean a safer place.
Take for instance the life preserver, it sounds like its adding a mountain of safety to your voyage, because its preserving your life, but its not. What does it really do? It makes you a sitting duck for the likes of sharks and killer whales. It says its "preserving" your life, yeah maybe preserving the freshness of an orca’s next meal.
The life raft– a device used to keep the victims of a sunken ship afloat and dry– sure seems like a great idea. But, did you ever think that the life raft is not only keeping moral people like you and I alive, its also keeping pirates alive and well to hunt on the high seas.
Lastly, the lighthouse, as one would assume, marks where the landmass starts so ships don’t accidently run into it. However, after a little investigative journalism, that’s not the purpose of a lighthouse at all. What they really do is aid in the sailing of ships along coastlines. Hence, a less educated captain could sail straight into jagged rocks, thinking he has another couple hundred or so feet before land and consequently, sink his ship.
The next time you decide to enter the depths of the sea, think about the hidden dangers and don’t be fooled by the world’s current "safe ocean" masquerade. Don’t subscribe to the idea of facing your fears and jumping in feet first, the ocean is a truly dangerous place, just ask Leo.
written by: Jacob Marx

Swimsuit Edition
If a stranger were to approach me on the street and tell me that a bunch of the most beautiful girls in the world would ruin my Friday afternoon, I would tell him he was crazy. Sadly though, this stranger wasn’t crazy, the 2006 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition did ruin my Friday afternoon.
From years of subscription, I have come to expect greatness from the parade of beaches, bums, and Brazilian cut bikinis that enrich the pages of the SI swimsuit edition every new February. They once took me from Tunisia to Greece in the 2001 edition: Goddesses of the Mediterranean and then into the heart of Latin America in the 2002 edition: Red Hot. In 2003 and 2005, SI didn’t play any games or beat around any bushes, they just gave the titles Too Much Fun and SI Gets Hotter to their issues, making it clear that they had no other goal that showing beautiful models in risque swimsuits. But now, with the release of the 2006 edition, Beach Party, SI has really dropped the ball starting with three major flaws– location, location, and location.
Now, the locations of the beach parties include: Columbia, Hollywood, Tahiti, an art Studio, Cat Island, and Las Vegas. When did Las Vegas get a beach? And when did Cat Island become a real island? The point is, the "beach party" theme doesn’t fit for one major reason– two of the swimsuit model destinations don’t even have beaches (believe me though, the day Las Vegas does get a beach, the place is going to be unrealistically cool, one could even say, better than Cat Island?). Maybe a more fitting title for this years issue would have been– Hot Girls Modeling Small Swimsuits in Random Locations, instead of the vastly misleading and ultimately deceptive, Beach Party.
Another issue I have with this year’s swimsuit issue, is that there is no hint of any kind of party, fiesta, or soirĂ©e. From cover to cover, there were no party poppers, cone shaped hats, or confetti. Never did I see a boom box, a volley ball net, or a super-soaker fight as I flipped through the pages. And where was the kiddy pool full of jungle juice? Absent, along with the pinata.
Of course, it is not to say that girls in barely-there swim wear can’t be fun, just not the sort of thing one should designate as a party (*I’m not prepared to stand by this statement). One section of the magazine, entitled Bombshell Beach, does come close to a party setting. There is a group of girls. They seem to be having fun. But these characteristics don’t necessarily mean party, they also fit common institutions such as college sororities, all-female dorms, and most Hooters restaurants.
I can tell that the models inside this issue did their best, as not to blame them for this tragedy. So who is to blame? Perhaps the deadline snuck up on the editors, forcing them to make an ill- willed decision. Maybe the different teams of photographers couldn’t converge and decide on any one topic. Maybe the government even had something to do with it. The point is, someone must be held responsible for this catastrophe. And in the end, I can only give one simple answer about these misplaced themes, mis-characterizations, and content flaws– I love swimsuit models and the all the terrific works they do around the globe.
*Note: Cat Island actually is a real island. It’s in the Bahamas!
written by: Jacob Marx

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