Actual Dead People

Written by David Cox. Copyright © 2002 All Rights Reserved.

Art, science, something in between or just plain freak show? Everyone who visits Professor Gunther von Hagens' display of ingeniously-posed human corpses comes away with a different opinion. With the exhibition having moved from Europe to Asia, how - if at all - have perspectives changed?

Von Hagens' BODY WORLDS exhibition has been dogged by controversy since its inception. It's not difficult to see why: you're looking at actual dead people. The professor, an anatomist, uses a pioneering process called plastication in which volunteers' bodies are skinned and their tissues soaked and hardened in chemical agents. The result is eternal preservation.

What's the point? According to the BODY WORLDS website, it's all about research and education. For specialists in science and medicine, 'whole body plastinates are considered the best anatomical specimens'. As for the rest of us, a greater awareness of the human body supposedly leads to better-informed lifestyle choices. A follow-up survey six months after the Vienna exhibition found 33% of visitors pursuing a healthier diet and 25% engaging in more sports activities.

Sounds great. So what's the problem? As I said before: you're looking at actual dead people. German critics labeled the show, 'a gross violation not only of bodily decorum but of human dignity itself'. An incensed 50-year-old man attacked one of the London exhibits with a hammer. British anatomists protested that von Hagens's display was 'mere spectacle' and might deter families from donating bodies to medical science.

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Israel with Weariness & Fear

Written by Lionel Rolfe. Copyright © 2002 All Rights Reserved.

It is with a certain weariness and even fear that I lift my pen -- so to speak -- and put down a few thoughts about Israel. It is necessary to do so because the country to which I remain very attached is going down a road that will only lead to its demise.

I grew up getting beaten up for being a Jew. Back in the fifties in Long Beach, California, I was chased home through the back alleys from Woodrow Wilson High School by a gang of Christian thugs. Their leader was the son of a minister, and oh my God what a bigot was he!

The basic charge was that as a Jew, I was responsible for Christ getting killed. I guess I did it personally. That's what they seemed to be saying. Or something horrible coursed through my veins, and that horrible something was that I was a Jew whose antecedants had drunk the blood of Christian children.

He was, like a lot of the other former Midwestern farmers in Long Beach, a follower of Gerald L.K. Smith.

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Data Panics & Data Voids

Written by Jacques de Molay. Copyright © 2001 All Rights Reserved.

A hypochondriac complained he'd been exposed to anthrax spores on his way to hospital. The doctor doing the examination told him there was no discomfort for several days after anthrax infection. The hypochondriac insisted that these were his symptoms.

I might well be terrified if bombs were raining down around me, or I'd been woken up by the noise of the World Trade Centre being hit by two jet planes, and seen human limbs falling past my windows. Quite understandably, a lot of those who were close to the Twin Towers on 11 September, or who are currently being subjected to aerial bombardment in Afghanistan, are traumatised. But such people aren't representative of the average victim of what has been, elsewhere, a largely virtual war.

In this conflict, the symbolic has overthrown the real, and the battlefield is no longer the "collective unconscious" (sic). We long ago entered the realm of the post-modern, where everything is both pure surface and simultaneously drawn from the fourth dimension of science-fiction. The screen has usurped the stage, there is no theatre of war, only its double. More real that the real, this virtual war unfolds with the iron logic of a dream. The "Mother of Parliaments" all too readily reveals itself as "the mother of all lies".

Clare Short, engaged in a tough fight with Prime Minister Blair to come across as absolutely the most vile member of Britain's New Labour government, claims that bombing Afghanistan is the only way to save the people being butchered at her bequest from famine. The unspoken "logic" behind linking "humanitarian aid" to "military action" seems to be that the dead can't starve. Those outside certain "carefully" selected locations need not fear losing limbs as they retrieve food from minefields, or losing their children (as the leader of the Taliban Mullah Omar is reported to have done), what "Development Secretary" Short wants "us" to do is lose "our" min ds. MK Ultra and Project Artichoke were mere playground pranks compared to the current exercise in "psychic driving" aka "the tenth crusade against terrorism". Given this, it comes as no surprise that packages containing wind-up radios pre-tuned to a Holy Alliance propaganda station are being dropped alongside bombs.

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Television: Parental Guidance Suggested

Written by Tom Waltz. Copyright © 2001 All Rights Reserved.

When Elvis Presley first appeared on the "The Ed Sullivan Show" in the early nineteen fifties, censors for that program were concerned about the so-called "King of Rock-n-Roll's" habitual (and sexually provocative, some said) hip-grinding during his musical performances. Believing that the American viewing audience of the time was not yet ready to have such "explicit" behavior broadcast into their homes via their television sets, the censors took the precaution of having Mr. Presley filmed from the waist up only.Sounds like a good crime mystery? There's more. Hot on the trail, Lou reluctantly falls in love with his dead son's girlfriend and their volatile relationship threatens not only to hamper the case, but their own deadly battle for survival as well. This fast-paced crime novel has enough twists and turns, beer-guzzling wit, and sizzling romance to keep you sitting on the edge of your seat -- with your eyes glued to every page.

This type of censorship, perhaps prudent in the early days of television, tends to seem a bit excessive today. In a country rife with violence, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and overall social decay, the gyrating pelvic movements of a rock idol are the least of anyone's concerns. Yet, the conservative steps taken by the censors at that time prove an important fact: since the dawning of the television era there has been a concern as to how the images being shown on the screen can affect its viewers. In the last thirty years, that concern has focused mainly on violent programming and its effect on children.

Three decades' worth of both governmentally and privately funded studies have shown a direct link between the violence witnessed on TV and future delinquent behavior by its young viewers. Even with this proof, however, many parents who claim to be interested in the welfare of their children continue to allow these same children to spend countless hours every week in front of the television. A large number of these parents feel it is not their responsibility, but, instead, the federal government's, to ensure that only appropriate programs are being presented on the TV. And, indeed, there have been recent efforts by Attorney General Janet Reno to put pressure on the major networks to "tone down" the content of present programming. Her efforts have so far been received by the network heads in much the same way reform endeavors have been met in the past - in a presumably positive yet cautious fashion. These latest hearings on Capitol Hill, if anything, have once again drawn mass public attention in the direction of this important subject.

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