Lifestyle

Admin, Co-op Spar Over Construction

The Student Center expansion promises to offer future space for new resources and services. Currently, however, the infrastructural mess of machinery and metal offers little more than frustration to many of the center’s stores. For Food Co-op employees, is not merely an inconvenience, but also a purported blow to sales and revenue that has allegedly been overlooked by university administrators. Will Parson/Guardian John Muir College senior Adam Calo, an employee of the Food Co-op, stands amid construction areas outside the business. According to Co-op employees, construction has severely impacted revenues and caused intermittent obstructions in water supply. Employees from the Food Co-op, a student-run organization offering healthy meal alternatives to corporate food chains, have reported that the collective has experienced extensive problems, both financial and logistical, due to the surrounding construction. These difficulties include a significant reduction in space, blocked kitchen access, decreased foot traffic outside the store and, most notably, intermittent lack of basic utilities such as water. Consequently, Food Co-op employees said their business has seen a significant drop in already minimal profits. “”The construction is the toughest thing facing the co-op right now,”” Food Co-op accountant and Earl Warren College senior Matt Salerno said. “”Our net profits are 60 percent of what they were last year at this time.”” Will Parson/Guardian Customers wait in line to make purchases at the Food Co-op. Construction around Student Center has led to reduced foot traffic to the area’s businesses. The employees had expected construction to be finished by Feb. 22 – as promised by administrators – but no longer anticipate its completion in the near future. According to interim University Centers Director Paul Terzino, the construction was delayed due to unexpected plumbing conditions and underground electrical wiring. He estimated that construction will be finished sometime in late April. “”It’s not even close to being finished,”” Salerno said. “”Right now the date of completion is up in the air and it’s doing more harm than good.”” The absence of a kitchen has impacted the co-op’s ability to produce prepared foods. As a result, its temporary sale of exclusively vendor-provided food has made employees especially resentful of the construction. “”We don’t have the means of producing the amount of food that we used to, so the food doesn’t look as good and it’s not as appealing to people,”” Food Co-op employee and Sixth College junior Rikki Cunningham said. “”Of course, we have a loss of revenue because we normally generate more money from the food that we make than from [that] of our vendors.”” The construction has also resulted in a sporadic interruption of water supply to the Food Co-op, forcing it to utilize the water source from its satellite location in Price Center. “”We have to do dishes in our other location, so oftentimes we can’t offer dishes to our customers,”” Food Co-op employee and Thurgood Marshall College senior Ian Morrison said. “”Instead, we offer them disposable products that cost more money and produce more waste.”” Workers at the Food Co-op say the profit loss caused by affected water supply necessitates contractually mandated compensation from the university, but they have been unable to reach a compromise with administrators. “”[UCSD administrators] try to work with us a little bit, but they look at us as a student organization,”” Cunningham said. “”They don’t look at us like we know what we’re doing. We do – we’ve read the space agreement and we have a lawyer.”” Section 7 of the Retail Cooperative Space Agreement requires rent relief if “”interruption in utility services”” occurs due to renovation. Terzino said the university provided 30 days notice of these interruptions, as mandated by the RCSA. Furthermore, despite the inability to access food production areas, Terzino maintained that the Food Co-op’s sales floor and offices have remained operational during renovation. “”A rent reduction of 50 percent has been given to the Food Co-op while the production area is closed for renovation,”” Terzino said in an e-mail. Salerno disputed the rent reduction, and said that the offer, which was made approximately a month after construction began, has not yet been accepted by the Food Co-op. “”We talked to them about a variety of different offers concerning rent, and we, as a group, have not decided on the one that we will pursue,”” Salerno said. Regardless of whether these offers are accepted by the Food Co-op, Terzino said that Section 7 of the RCSA only pertains to rent relief when utility interruption forces a store to close. “”The intent of Section 7 of the space agreement concerning utility interruption is if utility interruption forces a co-op to close,”” Terzino said. “”The partial utility interruption at the Food Co-op did not force them to close.”” However, the text of Section 7 does not explicitly dictate that the university will provide rent relief only when a store is forced to close. It states that if utility interruption takes place over a period of four hours, the “”monthly rent … shall be reduced by one-thirtieth,”” and one additional thirtieth for each day the interruption persists. Despite difficulties caused by lack of essential utilities, crucial details – specifically, those concerning the number of days that the Food Co-op has operated without utilities – have not yet been presented to the administration, Terzino said. Although employees are upset by difficulties they associate with construction, their negotiations with administrators have not become truculent. “”At the end of the day, the administration has been helpful and responsible in working with us,”” Morrison said. “”We’re not trying to be antagonistic with the university, but our goals and their goals in the way we operate sometimes conflict. We like to solve these conflicts as peacefully as possible.”” While the construction is potentially responsible for a significant impact on Food Co-op earnings, the slumping sales have also been affected by the recent opening of the store’s offshoot Price Center location. Apart from raising the prices of sold goods to offset lost revenue, workers reported forfeiting personal gains in an attempt to alleviate the store’s mounting debt. “”We’re careful in writing down our hours – sometimes I’d rather volunteer the shift I’m supposed to be working than pay myself for the shift because we’re barely scraping by,”” Cunningham said. “”The co-op is our main priority at this point.”” Food Co-op employees described their organization as one of many that have been negatively affected by construction. “”Every student organization in the old Student Center is experiencing these conflicts,”” Cunningham said. “”The General Store Co-op is losing money because of loss of foot traffic. The Bike Shop got moved.”” However, workers from other Student Center businesses have not reported the same extent of losses due to renovation. “”There hasn’t been a big dip in terms of customers, although the outdoor seating area has less people because of the noise,”” Grove Caffe employee and John Muir College senior Jason Grishkoff said. “”We have the same customer base. Not many new people come along because not many people have heard about the Grove in the first place.”” While other stores may face impending losses, they have not described the same degree of fiscal decline as those suffered by the Food Co-op. Additionally, the student-run General Store Co-op is more hesitant in linking profit loss solely to construction difficulties. “”I don’t think we are [losing profit] as of yet,”” General Store Co-op employee and Muir junior Lindsey Tan said. “”We wouldn’t be sure whether we were losing revenue because of the construction, because we just hired new people or because minimum wage just increased.”” Construction problems aside, student-run organizations agree that their overarching problem stems from a general lack of campus awareness. The Food Co-op asserted that, because construction physically complicates entrance to their store, the lack of interest or knowledge regarding student-run organizations within the student body is intensified. “”One of the struggles is getting students involved – we exist to offer alternatives to students,”” Morrison said. “”[Collectives] foster interaction between people beyond buying and selling, beyond teacher and student – it’s an interaction gained when people are cooperating for a common cause.”” ...

From MVP to MGM: Fantasy Draft Equates Pastimes

I’ve never been a sports fanatic like my roommates. They can rattle off any sports stat, from baseball to tennis, citing almost any game in history while monitoring every minute detail of the players, coaches and commentators. Needless to say, when they got into the fantasy sports drafts, it was far out of my league. I, on the other hand, am a film nut – while they can spout home runs and touchdowns, I speak in purely filmic language: directors and writers, camera angles, artistic design, musical scores, etc. – it’s an addiction. So, naturally, it was a shock to hear from IMDB that a new draft site had opened up: www.fantasymoguls.com, where they ask the billion-dollar question: Can you choose successful films better than the studios can? I wouldn’t be “”drafting”” based on free throws or assists; I could draft for my own studio based on the credibility of talent behind each film and the essential ability to discover a great project. There are two ways of playing Fantasy Moguls: a basic version, where you draft films based on how much cash you expect them to earn or, my personal favorite, the advanced version, which factors in bankability, critical reviews and the amount of people in each theater. The latter proves a true challenge, forcing you to branch out beyond the blockbusters and look at the indies, which are often the big winners among advanced players (during the last draft it was the small foreign flick “”Volver”” which gave some drafters the silver bullet). And the unpredictability of the session adds to the aura of the game – films that appear to be big winners may turn out to be box office duds (that happened to me three times last draft) or vice versa. The Web site has expanded considerably since it launched last fall, now covering the winter movie season, and is about to head into the long spring/summer haul from March to September. I’ll be playing – realizing now that there’s no difference between knowing sports or cinema in-depth, or for that matter music, history or architecture. Knowledge is knowledge, only with everyone’s personal touch. ...

UCSD Elected to Host West Regionals

The UCSD women’s basketball players have already had a stellar season this year: They are the university’s first-ever California Collegiate Athletic Association champions in women’s basketball, they have a perfect road record, their head coach Janell Jones was recently named CCAA Coach of the Year and they have the two-time CCAA Most Valuable Player in 5 foot, 10 inch star senior guard Leora Juster. Will Parson/Guardian Sophomore forward Michelle Osier earned CCAA First Team honors, along with two other teammates, for her second straight year with an average of 11.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Now, the Tritons are looking to continue their assault on the UCSD athletic record books by traveling deeper into the postseason, which will begin when No. 1 seed UCSD hosts No. 8 seed Western Washington University on March 9 at 8 p.m. in RIMAC Arena at the Division II West Regional Tournament. The two teams have not met since earlier this season. In that game on Dec. 20, the Tritons took advantage of a 34-point night from Juster to beat Western Washington University 83-64. “”It does help that we’ve seen them already this season because not only can we watch tape of them playing other teams, we can point out our weaknesses and strengths in our game against them,”” sophomore forward Michelle Osier said. Jones also believes that the Tritons have an advantage in this game, although for different reasons. “”The biggest advantage for us is that we will hopefully be playing in front of a big home crowd,”” she said. UCSD will host the regional tournament after going 23-4 in the regular season and winning the CCAA championship with the best record in the division. Considering their perfect 12-0 away record, playing at home is more of an honor than a necessity for the Tritons. “”Honestly, it doesn’t matter where we play because we can win wherever we go,”” Osier said. “”But it is an honor since [UCSD] has never won CCAA and has never been ranked first in the region.”” Western Washington University currently holds an 18-9 record but has only won four out of its 10 away games. Leading the Vikings in points and assists per game is senior guard Mollie Shelmack, with 15.9 points and 3.4 assists. The Tritons are less concerned about what the Vikings are going to bring to the game and more concerned with their own play. “”This is the time of the year that you go to your strengths,”” Jones said. This UCSD team has a lot of strengths and contributions from a variety of players. Although MVP Juster and First Team selections Osier and senior forward Hillary Hansen provide most of the points for the Tritons, other players have been key to the success of the team so far. Junior center Jillian Ricks leads the Tritons with 20 blocks and junior forward Meaghan Noud has been an invaluable sixth-woman, averaging 9.2 points per game off the bench. It also can’t hurt that the Tritons have this year’s CCAA coach of the year in Jones. “”She runs very intensive practices and that really prepares us for games,”” Osier said. “”At important points in the game, she knows what to do. She really knows how to coach.”” With a lot of the players from last year’s squad still on the team, experience will undoubtedly be useful this year as last year’s team was the No. 4 seed and suffered a first-round loss to Seattle Pacific University in the postseason. “”It makes a big difference that we are older this year,”” Osier said. “”The experience from last year’s playoffs will definitely help. Last year, we were scared and we were drained from the anticipation of playing a playoff game. Now, we know what to expect, and we can prepare.”” ...

Recordings: Air – Pocket Symphony

Ever wish somebody would have slipped Mozart some acid? With their fourth official project, French duo Air attempt to reconcile modern electronica with symphony-hall sheet music, achieving a delicately novel antiquity by looping their already sparse, arpeggioed beats into an acoustic guitar-and-piano orchestra. Pocket Symphony is a departure from 2004’s acclaimed Talkie Walkie, spotlighting nude instrumentals over poppy synthesizer and sound-board pump. The album’s milder aesthetics are still classic Air – a melodic dream-trip with a computer-generated soundtrack – but at a slower, more methodical pace. The pair further simplify their lives by skimping on the vocals (a third of the songs are purely instrumental), a haunting godsend to tracks like “”Mayfair Song”” but an elevator-music ultimatum for others – “”Space Maker”” requires an attentively active listen to avoid completely fading into the background. The most engaging moments occur during the voice-sprinkled “”Mur du Japon”” and “”Napalm Love,”” jolting the listener awake after the meandering tinker of the majority of the album. But the overall sleep-inducing ambience is not necessarily a drawback – because sometimes a pleasant musical haze is the only answer to a rainy day. ...

Tennis Outshines 'Nova Squad

The No. 16 UCSD women’s tennis team earned a huge win against Villanova University, a nonconference Division I school, by a score of 5-4, improving its overall season record to 5-3. Will Parson/Guardian Sophomore Ina Dan won her doubles match alongside senior captain Marsha Malinow, and in the No. 2 singles spot, Dan picked up an easy 6-1, 6-3 victory to lead UCSD to their 5-4 win over Villanova. The team managed to take a 2-1 lead after some determined play in the doubles matches. No. 3 doubles senior Allison Legakis and sophomore Yekaterina Milvidskaia managed to win their match with a close score of 9-7. However, No. 2 doubles junior Justine Ang Fonte and senior Christy Knudsen fell 4-8. With the match tied at one-all, No. 1 doubles seniors Marsha Malinow, the senior captain, and Ina Dan were able to put the Tritons on top as they eked out a 9-8 victory following a tiebreaker. The singles matches were equally tough and exciting. No. 2 Dan and No. 3 Fonte both had very easy matches, with Dan winning 6-1, 6-3, and Fonte completely dominating her opponent, 6-0, 6-0. Fonte was thrilled with her individual victory, as well as the team’s performance. “”I had a cream cheese,”” she said, referring to the win she had without giving up a set. “”We expected them to not be very strong and sort of paid for it in doubles. But the girls stepped it up a lot and pulled through and Tessa [Tran] closed it out for us.”” No. 5 singles sophomore Tran clinched the victory for the team, winning 6-4, 6-3. While the team did win, there were still disappointments, as the other singles players fell in straight sets. On the opposite side of the spectrum from Fonte was Malinow, who has been plagued by an abdominal strain and lost in the No. 1 spot, 3-6, 1-6. Malinow’s match disappointed her, but she was still excited about the team’s victory. “”My performance was less than what I expected, just because I could not serve at all,”” Malinow said. “”I was serving underhanded and the girl was ripping them. I was really impressed by everyone’s performance and I thought Ina and Justine were working their matches very well.”” The remaining singles losses were from No. 6 singles Legakis, who fell 5-7, 0-6, and No. 4 singles freshman Pooja Desai lost 1-6, 6-7. Head coach Liz LaPlante was very satisfied with the result. “”We had some tough doubles matches,”” she said. “”We played them two years ago, but they were much weaker. The girls they had this time were deep. It was a good match to get ready for the Sonoma State-UC Davis trip.”” The Tritons will be going up north to face conference foe Sonoma State, an opponent they already defeated 7-2 previously this season and a strong Division I team in UC Davis. For Fonte, the match against UC Davis is personal. “”I was actually offered a full ride by the coach at UC Davis but I decided to come to SD,”” she said. “”For me, it’s a test to prove that I am as good as the girls they have up there.”” Malinow seemed both anxious and excited for the trip. “”We have a deep team so there isn’t too much pressure on me,”” she said. “”It mostly comes from my mental weakness and I know that if it wasn’t for [the injury], I would be a lot more consistent right now. I’ve never played against UC Davis’ No. 1 so I really don’t know what to expect.”” ...

Recordings: Wisemen – Wisemen Approaching

As “”dead”” as the Wu-Tang legacy is declared to be, the hip-hop collective’s growing swarms of underground worker-bee offspring don’t seem to be getting the message. Latest case in point: RZA’s prodigious new “”Wu-Element”” (producer) Bronze Nazareth, who – as if the family tree hasn’t sprouted enough branches – has picked up three hitchhiking twigs off the streets of Detroit to form a fresh-faced mini-clan of his own, self-assuredly titled the Wisemen. Their mission is an admirable one, if overambitious: revive the raw, beats-rhymes-life purity of hip-hop’s golden era at the dawn of the ’90s. Yeah, right. But Nazareth is one of the most promising hands behind the new age of always-stellar Wu beats, and his most recent – in a royal march of sawing strings, chirp-cut soul samples and jumping heartbeats – are no exception. However, if these wide-eyed hopefuls want to come anywhere near the minimalist genius of the golden-age greats they so admire, they’re going to need a far better tutor – Nazareth, for all his musical prowess, goes bland and sloppy behind the mic, clumsily recycling the spiritual/militant flow and lyrical fodder of his forefathers. A student can’t surpass his master; likewise, Nazareth – whose 2006 solo debut The Great Migration showed some promise – is dragged down by amateurs, a second-grader in a first-grade classroom. Even top-notch guest listers Killah Priest, Vast Aire and GZA (crammed into the beginning of “”Associated,”” tripping over a messenger-trumpeting sonic gallop) offer no more than sloppy seconds. In this noble fight, the Wisemen may actually be digging the Wu grave that much deeper. 2 1/2 Stars ...

Triton Women Take Second at All-Cal

With many events on their schedule that include only Division I opponents, the UCSD track and field teams are often underrated and taken lightly. This past weekend, however, the Tritons enhanced UCSD’s reputation and quieted their D-I critics with a very impressive performance at the All-Cal Championships. Hosted by UC Irvine, the competition also included UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside and UC Davis. Courtesy of Tony Solerno Junior Whitney Johnson earned two first-place finishes at the All-Cal Championships, hosted by UC Irvine on March 3, in the long jump and triple jump events with impressive distances of 19 feet, 1.5 inches and 40 feet, 4.75 inches, respectively to help her team earn second place overall. The Tritons proved their worth, with the women’s team placing second overall and the men’s finishing in third. Senior hurdler Dan Noel was extremely pleased with how his team fared against the top-division schools. “”As a team, we deserve the same level of respect, regardless of division,”” Noel said. “”Sometimes people get lost in the fallacy of Division I domination and forget that what matters is who is better prepared to compete on any given day.”” The women not only showed that they could compete with the D-I schools, but that they have the potential to beat them. All day long the women vied for the meet championship, but unfortunately came up just four points short, losing to UC Santa Barbara. Courtesy of Tony Solerno Sophomore sprinter Connor McCabe had a third-place finish with his time of 11.45 seconds in the 100-meter dash at the All-Cal Championships. The runner-up finish was no reflection on just how well the team did. The Triton women earned six first-place finishes at the meet, highlighted by two each from junior hurdler Laiah Blue and junior jumper Whitney Johnson. Blue dominated the 100- and 400-meter hurdles with times of 14.05 and 61.47 seconds, respectively. Johnson set the all-time UCSD record with her distances in both the long jump, 19 feet, 1.5 inches, and the triple jump, 40 feet, 4.75 inches. Becoming the school record holder was a thrill for Johnson, but it also came with its fair share of anxiety. “”It felt great to set those [distances],”” Johnson said. “”But it also makes me a little nervous for the rest of the season. I really want to be able to continue hitting those marks later in the season and be able to have even better marks at conference championships and nationals.”” Also receiving first-place finishes were freshman sprinter Christine Merrill in the 200 dash and senior thrower Samantha Belvini in the javelin throw. Even though all these victories were not enough to grab the meet championship, the team’s efforts will carry into the rest of its season, where more first-place finishes are expected. “”Once our team, which is a really young team, starts getting into [its] zone, we’ll start to win championships,”” Johnson said. Even though the men didn’t place as high as the women, they were able to leave the All-Cal meet with some serious hardware of their own. Junior hurdler Khalil Hooper got himself a top finish in the 110 hurdles by posting a time of 15.25 seconds. Similarly, freshman jumper Chris Yu’s distance of 21 feet, 11.75 inches in the long jump was more than enough for him to grab first place. Sophomore sprinter Connor McCabe rounded out the Tritons’ top finishes by breaking the tape in the 100 dash in 11.45 seconds, a time good enough to earn him third place. After playing in front of away crowds for the first two meets of the year, the Tritons finally get to race at home this weekend when they play host to the San Diego City Championships on March 10. At the meet, UCSD will square off against San Diego State, Point Loma Nazarene University and Cal State San Marcos. No matter how the Tritons fare at the meet, they will be guaranteed to improve their standing from last year’s city championships. The 2006 championship was held on an incredibly rainy day, which greatly affected the times of all players involved. The coaches decided not to cancel the meet, but did not announce the winner due to the altered times. With nothing but beautiful San Diego sun forecasted for March 10, the Tritons are in a great position to capture their first team championship, and will pride themselves with parading that championship in front of their home fans for the first time all season. Noel is eager for the first home meet of the season and has high expectations for his team. “”I am excited to have our first home competition,”” Noel said. “”Hopefully, the comfort of our home track will bring some big performances by both the men’s and women’s side.”” ...

Recordings: Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

From the onset of Neon Bible, with the apocalyptic guitar and stealthy drums of “”Black Mirror,”” the Arcade Fire make their new territory clear – a bleak and dogged universe where the mere act of waking up requires some bravery. The human/machine dynamic of the band’s debut was a headphone junkie’s surround-sound paradise, stacked with catchy hooks aplenty and enough lyrical depth to get at least a few midnight conversations going. In this album, we see a shift: Rather than focusing on the ties that bind, the Arcade Fire branch into a global adventure void of hope. Neon Bible takes the band’s already soaring arrangements, adding everything but bagpipes and kazoos to reach more regal heights, including a full orchestra and even a spontaneous organ solo. But the album’s problem is that it’s too epic. What made Funeral one of the best albums of 2004 was that it balanced sound: There were peaks and troughs and plateaus, all in paced subtlety. Here, nearly every song hits a point where the band feels it must prove its conviction by playing as loud as every other song, making for a worn effort in which the few songs that do tone it down – notably the title track – are all the more relieving. That’s not to say there aren’t some killer, heart-racing tracks: “”(Antichrist Television Blues)”” finds the band channeling the husky Bruce Springsteen machismo of the late 1970s while “”Keep the Car Running”” is an anthem for anyone who’s ever had to skip town. Neon Bible neither takes the Arcade Fire back into familiar doldrums, nor does it propel them into a new level of epiphany – rather, theirs is a flawed search for identity after success. 3 1/2 Stars ...

Druthers: Hiatus Picks the Week’s Best Bets

“Belle De Jour” – March 8, 7 p.m. – MCASD, $5 A few weeks ago, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego offered us Bunuel’s “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” — and today it big-screens another of his classics: “Belle De Jour.” The film follows Severine (Catherine Deneuve), a bored housewife who indulges in secret desires and becomes a prostitute. Balancing her erotic fantasies with a lack of intimacy at home proves no easy task, especially when different men begin to enter her life. Bunuel balances the true struggles of sexuality with the surreal elements of the mind’s eye, never becoming condescending, but rather stepping back and letting the characters act naturally — a great film on all accounts. (CM) Eileen Myles & Ali Liebegott – March 9, 7 p.m. – D.G.Wills, La Jolla, FREE If you’ve never experienced the exuberance of UCSD’s writing series on campus, then you can get a taste on Friday when two prominent writer/professors, Eileen Myles and Ali Liebegott, will read from their newly-published books. Myles, the patron saint of razor-edge, feminist punk poetry, will be reading from “Sorry, Tree,” her new collection of poems on love and politics. Liebegott, a poet and fiction writer, will read from her critically acclaimed debut novel “The IHOP Papers,” which is filled with her signature philosophical compassion and innocent maturity set amongst all-too-real situations. Each approaches her work with curious honesty and a search for unexplored truth. (CM) ...

Contention on the Ancient Warfront

If you have a stomach for brazen sex and violence – and this movie will put many to the test – then “”300″” is a visual feast more satisfying to the warmonger inside of you than anything before or after it for many years. Never has a movie utilized so much of the screen. Every inch of every frame is such a stunning masterpiece that we can safely give cinematographer Larry Fong next year’s Oscar right now, without question. It’s that impressive. The Spartans are huge – absurdly huge. These burly goliaths, clad in Speedos and red capes, put Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, even in his prime, to miserable shame. Each of the 300 men have a six pack that could grind a tank to dust – that’s 1,800 packs of skull-crushing abs. The Persians just don’t stand a chance. Hundreds of thousands are slaughtered on the tips of Spartan spears before a single Greco he-man dies. Half a dozen slow-motion rampages of blood-spraying carnage help the movie play out like a graceful ballet of gruesome maiming and horrible death. After the first few waves of Persian soldiers, the Spartans busy themselves by making a wall of corpses 20 feet tall, and the unlucky enemies keep on coming. But there’s no reason to pity these lemming hordes: As in all good action flicks where untold scores of baddies must give up the Persians’ ghosts to progress the plot, their faces are covered with long scarves, scary masks or full helmets. The story is as simple as it gets: the bad guys are coming, and we’re going to stop them, no matter the odds. There is a historical basis for the story: the Persian king Xerxes’ failed campaign to conquer Greece, and the Greek play “”The Persians,”” by Aeschylus, about the cause of that defeat. But Frank Miller’s “”300″” stands alone. Many characters are entirely fictional, and even the real ones take on comic-book proportions, from a Spartan traitor who looks like Quasimodo on steroids to a godlike Xerxes, who towers several feet over the tallest Spartan. The Greek template for the story was political for its time, exemplifying a pivotal Greek victory as a showpiece for the consequences of hubris. “”300″” is no different, lacing every line of the movie’s dialogue with political bias a la the current Iraq war. When not extolling the supreme value of freedom every chance they get, Director Zack Snyder’s characters like reminding themselves of the cost of freedom with the repeated line “”freedom isn’t free,”” and parallels with the Marine invasion of Iraq are palpable when the Persian campaign of terror arrives at the Spartan doorsteps and the Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) decides to lead an elite troop of hoplites to defend their country’s freedom. But his fellow leaders disapprove of his brash actions. Sound familiar? There is even a climactic plea by the Spartan queen before an assembly of senators, begging them to send more troops. Despite the unnecessary politics, the movie doesn’t suffer because it remains true to its ultimate goal of providing its audience with an endless stream of kick-ass fight scenes and compulsory nudity. Unlike “”Gladiator,”” in which the plot drives the violence, the violence in “”300″” clearly drives the plot, and audiences seeking a serious look at war, or Greek history for that matter, should simply look elsewhere. “”300″” is really just about violence for the sake of violence, and nudity for the sake of nudity. If that’s what you’re after, then you can sit back and gorge on this visceral masterpiece. No one involved in the movie has a very exciting resume. Snyder’s only significant claim to fame was the absurd romp in zombie land that was 2004’s “”Dawn of the Dead,”” and his co-writer Kurt Johnstad has nothing but forgotten independent films under his belt. Fong’s only experience has been in television shows. But they came together to breathe amazing life into Miller’s comic. The “”300″” comic book upon which this movie-theater powerhouse is based never received much acclaim, but it’s going to leave a dent in box-office sales like few before it, and movie stills are going to litter laptop wallpapers across chemistry classes for years to come. ...