Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Grab-bag of Tasty Nuggets of Fun and Violence

Hello everyone!

I figured I owe all both of my readers a new column since I haven't posted anything original for a couple weeks. There are a lot of things I want to talk about, but I don't want to say much about any of them, so this posting is going to be a grab-bag of sorts. Sound good? No? Well, too bad.

First, this has been a great couple weeks for me in terms of good movie watching. I saw The Corporation, Why We Fight, and Jesus Camp, three fantastic documentaries that everyone must see. I also saw the docudrama Fast Food Nation (the book was nonfiction but the movie added characters and a plot), Babel, and Stranger than Fiction, and highly recommend each of them. Six fantastic movies in two weeks. Now you know why I haven't been posting to my blog!

On the other hand, I also sat through National Lampoon's Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj. This steaming turd ended up being one of the worst movies I've ever seen, almost as bad as Be Cool. Actually, this was worse than Be Cool, but less painful to watch since my expectations were much lower going into it. The only redeeming factor was this one exchange of dialog between Pipp Everett, the Earl of Grey (The stereotypical snooty British Royalty assclown) and Taj Mahal Badalandabad (The stereotypical Indian doofus who became the stereotypical cool leader of the stereotypical loser misfits that stereotypically rise up against all odds to defeat the stereotypically arrogantly rich bourgeoisie in a stereotypical athletic and academic competition in which the winner stereotypically gets to run some stereotypical college council). Here's the exchange:
Pipp: Let's settle this like my ancestors did!
Taj: You want to exploit me economically?

There you go. However, I would've enjoyed it much more if I hadn't already seen it several times in the previews. In fact, I think that exchange was even playing in the background of the menu screen on the DVD. One clever line loaded with social commentary does not in itself make a good film.

Wow, I just ended up writing 2-3 times as much about one crappy movie than the six good ones. Hey, I'm not a "glass half empty" sort of person. I'm a "What the hell is this crap in the glass?" sort of person!

Speaking of which, I am now the Vice President of student government at Lane. Don't get all excited--it's not nearly as impressive as it sounds. First off, I'm the third VP we've had this school year. That's only because the first VP had to step down, and then later the President had to step down, so the second VP took his spot. So I'm pretty much a VP by default. Secondly, the school year is winding down, so I'm only going to be VP for six weeks or so. Third, I won't be doing anything different than before except heading up our weekly meetings and going to one or two additional meetings. Still, I guess it's something "impressive" that I can put on a resume as long as I don't explain the details.

An update on the debit card battle: I'm now part of a committee that will make a recommendation to the administration in May. My role is to meet with local banks and credit unions to see if they can facilitate a direct deposit system and if the accounts could be local in case the debit card stays. Here's the thing, though: I've asked on multiple occasions but still haven't been given any information from the administration about our current system, information I would need when I meet with the banks and credit union reps. Basically, if I were to go to them now, I would be asking, "Could you help us?" and they would reply, "Help you with what?" to which I would reply, "I don't know. Money stuff, I guess."

When we had our last meeting, the member of Lane management who was supposed to gather the information that I needed couldn't make it. How convenient!

While that's going on, some of us members of student government have been working on educating the students and trying to get them involved. We tried to enlist Lane's OSPIRG chapter to help. For those out of the loop, OSPIRG stands for Oregon State Public Interest Group. The most recent thing they did at Lane was organize a light bulb exchange in which students could bring in a regular bulb and exchange it for an energy efficient fluorescent bulb. We wanted them involved because they are great at organizing and campaigning, and because they campaigned against a similar program at Portland State. So you'd think they'd naturally want to get involved, right?



Wrong!

I wasn't given a straight answer of why they don't want to get involved, so my only guess is that it would be too difficult for them. I mean, who's going to complain about a light bulb exchange? But with the debit card issue, there's going to be some some people who disagree with them, and we can't have that, right? OSPIRG: Working for the public interest as long as we don't encounter any resistance.

I really can't blame them, though. My generation has been conditioned to just accept whatever is given and don't question it. The younger generation has been conditioned even harder. I realize it's much more difficult to think for yourself than to have someone do it for you, but the benefits are so worth it. Wait, that's not true--I'm the frustrated, cynical one with the ulcers and anxiety attacks while they confidently go through their day with their white iPod ear buds and their self-created plastic bubbles.

Sometimes that plastic bubble bursts, and occasionally, that can be disastrous. Witness the shooting at Virginia Tech. I'm still not sure what to say about it, but I do know that all this talk about gun control laws and campus security only addresses the symptoms of a much bigger problem throughout our society: we solve our problems with violence.

Don't believe me? Watch "Cops" some time. Look at how we police ourselves: violently. Watch a cop handcuff someone who had tried to escape. And why do we even have cops? To protect us from ourselves. We not only tolerate them, but we actively fund and promote a group of government sponsored uniformed people with tool belts full of items designed to violently hurt or kill our citizens. If we screw up badly enough, we could get killed by one of these guys. That's a lot of non-stop pressure to live under. Also, if a regular person kills someone, he or she would go to prison and may even get executed, but if a cop kills someone, "it's just part of the job." Is it any wonder why people tend to be suspicious of cops?

Look at our justice system. If a lawyer or group of lawyers convinces a jury of 12 people that you did something, you could be executed, which is a fancy way of saying "killed by the government." Ask yourself whether or not you know 12 people who are easily influenced. How would they fare against a professional attorney whose job it is to get a guilty verdict? I'm not saying that people on death row are innocent--I'm just saying that people on death row didn't have (couldn't afford) as good a lawyer as the prosecution.

More violence in our system: If you sign up for the military, you get to shoot and kill people all the time--in fact, you're even trained for it. Hell in Iraq, what happened at Virginia Tech happens all the time. It's also happening as a direct result of what our government has done in our name. But we don't think about that when we read the headlines.

So are we really surprised that this Virginia Tech shooting happened? Sure, the particular college may have been a surprise. The particular person who did the shooting may have been a surprise, though there were apparently warning signs. But are we really surprised that someone went bonkers? An insane world breeds insane people.

So how do we stop this from happening? Well, if we continue to act all shocked and indignant every time someone goes berserk and shoots a bunch of people but only respond with gun laws and more cops, then shooting sprees will continue to happen.

But we can stop them from happening if we reevaluate everything about our society. Think that will happen? Not until things get much worse, I'm afraid.

There may be some hope, however. I read a speech that Barack Obama gave not long after the shooting took place. Here's an excerpt:
Obviously what happened today was the act of a madman at some level, and there are gonna be a whole series of explanations or attempts to explain what happened. There is gonna be discussion about how did this person get the firearms that he used. And there are already reports that potentially the semi-automatic weapons he used would have been banned under an assault weapons ban that was allowed to lapse. There'll be discussion about security on college campuses. There will be speculation as to what caused this young man to snap. But I hope that it causes us to reflect a little bit more broadly on the degree to which we do accept violence, in various forms, all the time in our society. We glorify it, we encourage it, we ignore it, and it is heartbreaking and it has to stop.
There you go. I haven't jumped on the "Obama '08" bandwagon yet, but I do like what I keep hearing. Of course, the cynic in me tells me if he gets elected or leads in the polls for a while, or if he just starts getting a following, he'll suffer the same fate as JFK, RFK, and MLK (three other problems solved with violence). Good thing for him Obama doesn't start with a "K".

Oh well, who knows where we'll be 18 months from now. Hopefully there will continue to be more great movies at Flicks & Pics for me to rent and watch.

On that note, I think it's time come down off my soap box for today. Until next time!

Rob

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