Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Opinion: Warnings make smokers behave

              Trying to defend smoking cigarettes is the equivalent of challenging Mike Tyson to a fight. The negative health effects of smoking are well documented and accepted as absolute truths.
            The question facing Midland College is do we make the campus smoke-free or enforce the current smoking policy? I'd advocate the latter of the two options. The current policy, if enforced, addresses the issues with second-hand smoke and allows smokers to be on campus.
            I have been smoking for 13 years and tried quitting several times. Stressors from life, deaths of loved ones, divorce or financial problems have brought the habit back. Recently, the pressure of returning to college after a long absence has caused me to pick the habit back up. Taking a smoke break allows me to have an excuse to take a "breather" from homework and studying. I am worried about the health risk and have contemplated quitting.
            Smoking and second-hand smoke has been linked to most types of cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and COPD. Smoking causes about 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths in men and women. About 80 percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are caused by smoking. The risk of dying from cigarette smoking has increased over the last 50 years in men and women in the United States. The problem is that people still smoke and MC needs to decide how to handle the smoking policy.
            The current MC smoking policy only permits smoking in more than 15 designated areas around campus. These designated areas are identified on the campus map in the catalog. MC policy prohibits the use of all types of smoking products, including electronic cigarettes, outside of the designated smoking areas.
            The confusion comes from having ashtrays outside the smoke zones, and not distributing the maps. Smokers do not know where they can or cannot smoke; most students neglect to read the catalog. Many smokers have switched over to the electronic cigarettes or vapor pens because they are "supposedly" healthier. It's a common misconception that they can be used anywhere.
            Most smokers do not enjoy being addicted to cigarettes, and they do not like smelling like an ashtray. They feel guilty for having a disgusting habit, and they are aware that most people think they are crazy for smoking. Making MC a smoke-free campus not only alienates student and faculty smokers but it create unnecessary tension and stress in them as well. Enforcing the current policy is a better option.
            Handing out warnings and a map of designated smoke zones, to students and faculty in violation will go a long way to enhance the current policy. After the first warning, a ticket could be issued. Knowing about a fine would motivate smokers to learn where they can smoke and would protect non-smokers.
            I feel comfortable with this type of policy. I do not smoke in my house or my car, and not around children. I believe smokers should be respectful to those around them. I understand why some students and faculty members want a smoke-free campus, and it comes from smokers being disrespectful.
            The best option to keep MC open to everyone would be to enforce and spread awareness about the current policy.

Opinion: Men unite to Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

            Pepper-spray, rape whistles, personal alarms, stun-guns, anti-rape condoms, and most recently a nail polish that detects date rape drugs help deter sexual assaults. Women, often, see every unknown male as a potential threat. 
            A full-time student, who also works full-time as a waitress, shared a horrifying story during class. Normally she does not have the time to do her hair or makeup. One day, she found the time, and went to work made up. She felt confident, made a few more tips, and had a good night. After closing, she walked to her car and saw a note on the windshield.
            The note said: “I just wanted to let you know, I got my eye on you and your p----." She no longer felt safe; confidence and happiness were replaced with fear and violation. Another woman in the class, obviously upset, said “Just because you wore makeup.” This woman wasn’t blaming the victim and was simply frustrated because the one day she dressed up she was violated. The way it was said struck me at my core.
            This had nothing to do with her wearing makeup. It had everything to do with the person who left the note. That person either had no idea what is acceptable behavior, or actually believed that it was a flattering comment, or even worse, knew that it was wrong but did it anyway. It was easy to hate this person, but then our culture helps create this person's attitude and it is part of a larger problem.
            According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, there is an average of 237,868 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year. That is one every two minutes. Sixty percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police and 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail. Approximately two-thirds of the assaults are committed by someone known to the victim; 38 percent of rapists are a friend or an acquaintance.
            According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (2008-2012), sexual assault has fallen by more than 50 percent in recent years. Does that mean we went from one rape every minute to every two minutes?
            Why do women fear men? The answer is sadly, because we, as men, have allowed our society to become perverse and corrupted. Some might argue that rape has always existed, but should we sit idly by and just shrug?
            Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
              Awareness has spread in recent years. Frank Baird created Walk a Mile in Her Shoes in 2001. According to the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes website, "What started out as a small group of men daring to totter around a park has grown to become a world-wide movement with tens of thousands of men raising millions of dollars for local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and other sexual violence education, prevention and remediation programs."
            Men, the next time another guy says something lewd or vulgar, call them on it, regardless of whom it is. Would you allow them to say that about your mother or sister? I'm not advocating confrontation or violence, but silence is the same as outright toleration. If you want to make the world safer for your mothers, sisters and daughters, you have to be willing to speak out.

            For information or help, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or the Midland Rape Crisis and Children's Advocacy Center at 432-682-RAPE (7273). For more information go to www.RAINN.org or www.mrccac.org.

Net Neutrality protects freedom of speech

            Imagine a world where corporations control your access to information on the Internet. Net neutrality affects everyone yet the majority have no clue what is or why they should care. There are plenty of corporations that want to keep it that way.
            Net neutrality is the idea that all data on the Internet should be treated equally. Basically a YouTube video should receive the same treatment by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) as a movie from Netflix or a commercial from Verizon.
Net neutrality guarantees access to content will not be manipulate whether it comes from a non-profit or a major corporation.
            In January the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of ISPs, basically revoking net neutrality. Back in 2010, the FCC had classified broadband as an information service, leaving it up to legal interpretation, and established "Open Internet Rules," which were: 1) ISPs need to be transparent about how they manage network congestion, 2) they can't block traffic on wired networks, no matter what the source; and 3) they can't put competing services into an "Internet slow lane" to benefit their own offerings. The court's ruling removed the last two rules, and the first rule is vague enough that ISPs can avoid it altogether.
            Freed from any legal restraints, ISPs can monitor everything one does and says online, and then sell the information to the highest bidder. ISPs have direct control over your connection to the Internet and the devices one uses to connect to it. Internet users already face a minefield when it comes to online privacy. Social networks constantly change their confusing privacy controls and "free" websites and email providers routinely harvest and sell our personal information to advertisers. The old rules were created to protect Internet users. The January 2014 decision has unraveled these protections.
            Net neutrality has allowed minorities to tell their own stories and to organize for racial and social justice in the digital age. The open Internet gave marginalized voices an opportunity to be heard. But without net neutrality, ISPs can block unpopular speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. Without net neutrality, minorities will lose a vital platform to shape debates on issues that impact their communities' well-being.
             ISPs have proven that they will censor, block and manipulate information on the Internet if allowed to do so. In 2005, Telus was involved in a bitter labor dispute; the telecom blocked its Internet subscribers from accessing a website run by the union that was on strike against the organization.
In late 2007, Verizon Wireless cut off access to a text-messaging program by the pro-choice rights group NARAL that the group used to send messages to its supporters. Also in 2007, Comcast, the second largest ISP, intentionally slowed down its’ customers' Internet connections. The FCC took legal action against Comcast for abusing its’ customers rights.
During a performance by the rock group Pearl Jam in Chicago, AT&T censored words from lead singer Eddie Vedder's performance. The ISP, which was responsible for streaming the concert, shut off the sound when Vedder voiced his opinion on the current president.
            Altered online information has serious implications for education and educators.
Dennis Sever, vice president of information technology and facilities at Midland College, maintains our network and computer systems. Sever said MC is a part of The Lonestar Education and Research Network and would not be affected by net neutrality. LEARN is a large computer network covering more than 3200 miles of Texas. Mike Phillips, executive director of LEARN, said it was a "digital ecosystem" designed to support research, education and innovation. LEARN is partnered with Google, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, and others. The infrastructure and the partners is what allows LEARN to maintain net neutrality on their network.
            Both Sever and Phillips agreed that the private consumer would be affected by the reversal of net neutrality. Plenty of organizations and groups are petitioning the FCC to re-define broadband. For more information or to get involved visit www.aclu.org or http://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality.

Commentary: Cinema evolves

“Cinema is dead,” director Quentin Tarantino declared at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Tarantino went on to express a general sense of hopelessness for future generations. Tarantino’s focus was digital projection and DCPs as the root cause for cinema’s demise. Tarantino is not the first filmmaker to make this claim.
Cinema is more than 120 years old and has been declared dead numerous times throughout its lifetime. The common thread throughout all of these declarations: the film industry was in a state of change, and the established filmmakers and critics seemed jaded or perhaps jealous of the new innovations that were changing their beloved cinema.
Entertainment as a whole is in a state of change; no one is sure where it is headed but the experts agree that traditional models are no longer going to be the standard. Websites like YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix are changing how audiences watch films and even to some extent why they watch.
A group of kids in Challis, Idaho, can become internationally successful because of a video they uploaded to YouTube. Almost everyone has a phone capable of shooting video and then uploading the video to the Internet.
Perhaps directors like Tarantino, who struggled to become successful and have refined their craft over the last several decades are stunned by how easy the process has become. The challenges that filmmakers faced 20 years ago no longer exist, and the only real challenge is creating something that rises above the noise of all the other junk on the Internet.
We live in a time where anything is truly possible, thanks to crowd-funding websites like indiegogo.com and kickstarter.com. If you want to start a business where you make hats for cats, you can get funding or more specifically to film-making, a lot of indie directors are going to crowd-fund to get the money they need to make their films.
The entertainment is shifting into a new and uncertain future. I can understand why this scares the establishment, but I am excited to see what is around the corner. Perhaps traditional cinema is dead, and while it’s sad, the new form of cinema might just be as artful and profound as its predecessor.

Midland College Students test some fake blood

Netflix on a Nickel 3

Life sometimes gets heavy and thankfully we can take a break by watching movies. Here are some silly and fun movies to check out.

Dabangg 2
             Bollywood is the Hollywood of India, the primary difference is most of their films are musicals. Every genre has a musical counterpart, everything from romantic-comedies to action-flicks are made into musicals.
             Imagine Dabangg 2, as a musical mash-up of Jackie Chan’s Supercop and Rush Hour, it has the over-the-top action sequences and the great comedy cop moments. It doesn't stop there though, it also gives you amazing dance sequences with a catchy musical score.
             Dabangg 2 is the story of Chulbul Pandey, an honorable cop that fights against corruption. Salman Khan, often referred to as the Sylvester Stallone of India, stars as Chulbul Pandey and his performance is thoroughly enjoyable.
             If you want to watch a film that literally has something for everyone, check out Dabangg 2. This is especially true if you think modern action films take themselves too serious and miss the campy cheese of yesteryear.

Troll Hunter
             For the last few years, amazing films have come out of Norway and Sweden (the area in general) consistently. Films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Let the Right One In did so well internationally that Hollywood did big budget remakes. Troll Hunter is a Norwegian horror/adventure film that I thoroughly enjoyed.
             Troll Hunter is about three students, who enter the Norwegian woods to film a documentary on a bear poacher who claims that he really tracks trolls for the Norwegian government.
             I strongly dislike the self-shot movie, but there are a few exceptions. Troll Hunter is one film to make it work well. All of the trolls are computer-generated, and it is obvious from the beginning. However, the way the filmmakers incorporate practical effects makes up for sub-par CGI. When the trolls slam the ground, dirt explodes or if a giant pushes up against the trees, the actual trees move and bend.
             If you are a fan of creature movies or just love fantasy check out Troll Hunter.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
             Combining dark comedies and slasher flicks from the 70s describes Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, starring Alan Tudyk (Frozen, Serenity) and Tyler Labine (Monsters University) as the titled characters. Together the two are hilariously brilliant and make the film fun from beginning to end.
             Expecting to relax at their “vacation” cabin, Tucker and Dale’s trip turns into a nightmare when they are attacked by a group of preppy college kids. The film quickly starts referencing redneck/hillbilly slasher flicks and never loses its edge as it embraces the comedic moments.
             A great introduction to the slasher sub-genre, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is for both people who do not enjoy slasher flicks and cannot get enough.

For the next issue I will be reviewing different TV series that are on Netflix. If you have any suggestions leave a comment. In the meantime, watch more movies!

Netflix on a Nickel 2

Halloween is coming and I've got some spine-chilling, hair-raising and bloodcurdling movies for you to watch. Clear out your queue and prepare to scream, its Horror movie mayhem!

All Cheerleaders Die
            Lucky McKee is a popular name with horror fans; he is credited with creating amazing and shocking new horror films.  All Cheerleaders Die is the definition of modern horror. McKee hits all the appropriate beats while maintaining quality. The beginning of the film starts out as a self-shot teen flick; thankfully that ends quickly.
             A rebel girl signs up a group of cheerleaders to help her take down the captain of their high school football team, but a supernatural turn of events thrusts the girls into a different battle. All Cheerleaders Die is fun and fast-paced while maintaining the gore and scares. While full of superficial jokes and plot devices the film also covers gay rights, bullying, rape and domestic abuse.
             All Cheerleaders Die is a horror film that most people can enjoy but because the target audience is 18-to-21-year-olds it might fall flat for older audiences. 

            Some films ask the audience to be patient, with the promise that the film's experience will be rewarding as a whole, Contracted is exactly this kind of film. The pace is slow and the plot slowly unfolds which might bore modern audiences. Eric England, the indie director from Arkansas, wrote and directed Contracted.
            A young girl, Samantha, contracts what she thinks is a sexually-transmitted disease but it is actually something much worse. Najarra Townsend's performance as Samantha is captivating and her emotional journey is a roller-coaster of extreme ups and downs.
            The scares come in the form of the grotesque infection and Samantha's physical transformation. Personally I loved this film and enjoyed it from beginning to end. However, because of the slow pace, it is not for everyone. Fans of infection films should check it out.

Argento’s Dracula
         Dario Argento is famous for combining the grotesque and the beautiful, as he showed in Suspiria. Combining Argento with Stoker seems like a match made in horror heaven, but the reality is quite disappointing.
            Argento’s Dracula has copious amounts of nudity and gore but no plot and phoned-in acting. Thomas Kretschmann plays the infamous Count Dracula like he’s constipated with laryngitis. Van Helsing was played by the legendary Rutger Hauer. While Hauer has the best moments in the film, he seemed to need an oxygen machine or a nap based on his overall performance.
            For an enjoyable horror experience watch the original 1931 Dracula or even the 1992 remake but avoid Argento’s Dracula.

Big Trouble in Little China
            John Carpenter is the horror master, known for Halloween, The Thing, Christine, The Fog, They Live, In the Mouth of Madness, Vampires and The Ward. Few directors have the scope and the longevity that Carpenter has. Not all of his films are horror, and some, like Big Trouble in Little China, combine horror, action and fantasy with generous amounts of humor.
            Big Trouble in Little China is the story of Jack Burton, a trucker who thinks he is a living legend and a self proclaimed ladies' man, as he gets dragged into centuries-old mystical battle in Chinatown. The effects are dated and the film is definitely a product of the 80s, but it holds up.
            The film is loaded up with cheese, memorable quotes, and ridiculous over-the-top action sequences. While not a horror film, it will provide an entertaining and fun palate cleanser between horror films this Halloween.

            Have a terrifying and creeptastic Halloween. If you have any movie suggestions leave them in the comments and in the mean time, watch more movies!

(Originally written for Midland College Press a week before Halloween.)

Too busy!

Been super busy the last several months and I haven't been uploading my reviews. So the next few posts are from my Midland College Press Column.