The depravity game

A French TV show has replicated a 1960s experiment that demonstrates just how sinful we really are:

Eighty people who thought they were participating in the shooting of a pilot for a French reality series were willing to deliver potentially lethal electric shocks to a contestant who had incorrectly answered knowledge questions, according to the documentary, “The Game of Death,” airing on French TV on Wednesday night.

“Zone Xtreme” seemed to have a pretty standard game-show format, complete with wildly enthusiastic studio audience, a glam well-known TV weatherwoman hostess, gaudy lighting, etc., said the French press reports.

In truth, the would-be reality series participants were part of an experiment that was turned into the documentary.

In “Zone Xtreme,” the faux contestants who gave all the wrong answers were actually actors. Each “contestant” was strapped into an electric chair. The 80 wannabe famesters were each asked to punish the contestant, when a wrong answer was given, by administering up to 460 volts of electricity. The majority of them ignored the contestant’s screams and obeyed the orders of the weather-chick hostess to ratchet up the jolt. They also obeyed the chant of “Punishment!” from the studio audience — which did not know the game show was a fake — until the contestant fell silent and appeared to have died. Only 16 contestants walked away, according to press reports.

The idea for the show came from the work of psychologist Stanley Milgram, who conducted the experiment at Yale University in the 1960s. Milgram found that most people, if pushed by an authority figure, would administer ostensibly dangerous electric shocks to another person.

via Lisa de Moraes – Reality show contestants willing to kill in French experiment –

Maddy Curtis update

Maddy Curtis, the 16-year-old from around here who became an “American Idol” contestant whom I have been blogging about was cut in the Hollywood round.  Ironically, that happened the very day her initial Boston audition was aired, so that her acclaim began at the very time as her disappointment.  Her  mom blogs about the whole experience, emphasizing how God is using all of this:

Well now you dear friends know what we were not allowed to reveal for the last month: Maddy did not make it through the Hollywood rounds.

In fact, what was ironic was that she was being cut at precisely the time the Boston auditions were airing on January 12. While I think she would have kept her composure, the cameras and interviewers have a tendency to needle you until you lose it. . . .

Maddy stopped crying in the elevator. We went up to our room and watched the Boston auditions – which we hadn’t seen – on YouTube.

Maddy was brushing her teeth when there was a knock on our door and I peeped out the peep hole and saw a camera crew. We didn’t answer. Maddy went to sleep peacefully and I stayed up all night reading emails.

Around 2 am, a paper was slipped under our door with our flight information for the next morning. No one ever came to say goodbye – even the producers who had seemed to love Maddy. It was a cold and disconnected feeling, and yet we felt connected to a larger world as in LAX people recognized Maddy and said hello.

For unbelievers, it might be hard to understand the peace with which Maddy and I traveled home. We knew God had accomplished some amazing things – some which we would find out about and some which we would never know. As they continue to be revealed, I will continue to share with you. But even that night, we felt like she had accomplished something special.

I am very grateful to American Idol for representing our daughter so well – though the way they clipped her song made no sense at all. I will be posting the song “The Nearness of You” – which Maddy sang at her Haiti Benefit – in a few days on YouTube. She executed the Ella Fitzgerald classic flawlessly – but it just wasn’t what American Idol was looking for :)

Tripp and I could not be prouder of our little girl. The big question was “Will she audition again?” The answer from Maddy is “No.” What she discovered is that she did not like the cameras and lack of spontaneity. The stage has always been her first love. And her family is grateful that God gave her the opportunity to immediately focus on helping others through the Maddy Sings for Haiti Benefit she did last weekend.

Maddy is receiving invitations to speak and perform at pro-life events and True Love Waits. Having been given a chance in the spotlight, the true purpose of Maddy’s life and her gifts has been revealed. It shouldn’t be surprising that God can use the things of the world to accomplish His purposes.

And even if nothing else happened, what happened is enough. . . .

Meat a vegetarian could eat

Have you seen Man vs. Food, a show on the Travel Channel in which a bloke named Adam Richman goes around to different cities, showcasing their signature food joints and taking on food “challenges” such as eating that gigantic steak in Amarillo or attempting to down the world’s hottest chicken wings. Anyway, he was in Miami on Superbowl weekend and he did a feature on Joe’s Stone Crabs. Here I learned something remarkable. From the restaurant’s website:

In order to assure the continued survival of the species: Only one claw may be removed so the crab can defend itself. Egg bearing females are not allowed to be declawed.The crabs are captured in baited traps. No spears or hooks are allowed. . . . The claws make up half the weight of the whole crab, they are removed by carefully grabbing from the rear and twisting. The crab is returned to water and the claw regenerates. It takes between 12 to 24 months to reach legal size again.

So these crabs are caught, but instead of being killed, only one claw is removed. Then the animal is thrown back into the wild and then grows another claw. People can thus eat crab meat–which Adam said is delicious–without requiring the death of the animal!

OK, I realize that vegans and animal rights advocates would object to twisting the claws off but this is a “sustainable” food supply that at least some vegetarians might get past their consciences.

And yet, the thought gives me the creeps. Isn’t it better that the animal dies as a sacrifice, fulfilling the principle that all life depends on the death of other life (which holds true even if someone eats only vegetables), so that sacrifice is essential for both spiritual and physical life?

Stephen Colbert’s shocking ancestry

The family secret that reduced the star of the Colbert Report to tears:

Oh, the horrors!

Uber-Catholic Stephen Colbert had an emotional upset after finding out that – wait for it – his family descends from Lutherans.

The funny guy got the oh-so-shocking news while filming an episode of PBS’s  upcoming “Faces of America,” a four-part documentary that focuses on the lineage of celebrities.

“This one was kind of unexpected, but when the big bad Catholic Stephen Colbert found out he was actually descended from Lutherans, he got extremely emotional,” the show’s host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., told us at Monday night's Lincoln Center premiere of the series.

The episode, which airs on Feb. 10, will show the entire ordeal. “We didn’t stop the cameras. Obviously we wanted to capture that moment,” Gates confirmed.

He later added: “There were tears.”

And while a rep for PBS wouldn’t comment, a network insider says Colbert was indeed shocked by his family tree.

“It was really very intense,” says the source.

“He had a very candid reaction, and it definitely made it in the final cut of the show. He was very surprised and overwhelmed.”

Perhaps that was the point. The source added that each celeb’s personal history uncovered on the show is bound to elicit emotion.

Given that Colbert is a master at faux sincerity, what about this revelation might be cry-worthy? Do you see any evidence of his Lutheran blood?

via Reality isn’t funny for Stephen Colbert; ‘Faces of America’ reveals his family history.

HT: Mary Moerbe

Church advertisement on the Super Bowl

A church might have a commercial on the Super Bowl. No, nothing like the pro-life ad from Focus on the Family. Nor a creative or moving proclamation of the Gospel. Rather, the church will be pitching Doritos:

Gabe Trevino found it funny that his grandpa wanted to be buried with beer and cigarettes.

So Trevino, who attends Pasadena’s Mosaic Church service on Sundays, had a good start when he sat down to write a commercial to be produced by Mosaic’s lead Pastor Erwin McManus.

Mosaic’s commercial is one of six finalists for the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl competition. The three entries with the most votes from Internet viewers will air Sunday during the big game.

Voting ended Jan. 31.

McManus, of Whittier, leads the church’s seven congregations in Pasadena, Whittier, downtown Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Redondo Beach, Chino and Berkeley.

The nondenominational Christian church emphasizes the arts during its services, said Kevin Willson, director of the commercial, which is titled “Casket.”

In the commercial, a man pretends to be dead so he can get his dying wish to be laid to rest in a casket full of Doritos. During his memorial service, the man eats chips and watches the Super Bowl in a television placed in the casket. But the casket tips and his ruse is discovered. After the topple, a friend attending the service stands up and declares that everyone has seen a miracle. . . .

The commercial got plenty of Internet views, and its makers think it has a good chance to be shown.

If it is rated the top overall commercial by the USA TODAY Ad Meter, the winners could get $1 million. If it makes second or third, it could garner $600,000 or $400,000.

If the commercial wins a cash prize, everyone who helped make the $3,000 film will get part of the money, Willson said.

“A big chunk of our budget was buying 70 bags of Doritos to fill the casket,” Willson said.

Although it – sort of – has somebody rising from the dead, the film didn’t have much to do with the Christian faith, Willson said.

“We didn’t really try to put in any theological implications,” Willson said. “We thought, `What’s the funniest story that will make Doritos look great.”

via Crunch time for Pasadena church that produced Doritos Super Bowl commercial – Whittier Daily News.

So is this a ministry activity or a triviality? Yes, if the church wins a million dollars, it will help its ministry, but is this worthy of a church?

What if churches or denominations put on actual commercials that communicated its actual message? What might be a good commercial that a church might run without looking stupid or demeaning itself? Or had churches better just stick to preaching, teaching, and worshipping?


I don’t watch much TV. I really don’t. But I did get hooked on Lost. This season that convoluted narrative comes to an end, and the producers say that every loose end will be tied together, every mystery solved, and every plot line resolved. So how do you think it will end? Will it be. . .

(1) The Bob Newhart ending? (It was all a dream.)

(2) The Sixth Sense ending? (They are all dead.)

(3) The Matrix ending? (They are all characters in a computer program.)

(4) The Hamlet ending? (They all get killed.)

(5) The Samsara ending? (They get caught in a time loop and have to live through the story again.)

(6) The Dante ending? (They are in a purgatorial afterlife.)

(7) The X-Files ending? (A few things are resolved, but leaving room for a movie.)

(8) The Meta ending? (They all turn out to be characters in someone’s story.)

(9) The Scooby-Doo ending? (The key villain is in disguise, and it turns out there is a rational explanation for everything.)

How else might it end?