Thursday, August 17, 2017

When the Clock Strikes Twelve

If green grass and warmer weather aren't enough to signal the season, one surefire way to tell it's spring is the return of Landmark La Jolla's Midnight Madness movie series. Just down the street from campus, our local indie theater scrounges up classic films easy to watch and laugh at, whether or not this was the filmmaker's original intention.

Lucy Zhang/Guardian

This time around, the focus is on time-travel, and the series will range from exciting and thought-provoking to goofy and comical, with at least one featured flick that desperately wants viewers to take it seriously. The monthlong event started last week with the director's cut of the coming-of-age, dimension-hopping ""Donnie Darko."" But the ride is just getting started, so grab your roommates, some overbuttered popcorn and expensive sodas, and come join the cults that keep these loony - and, in most cases, awesome - sci-fi milestones alive.

4/7 ""Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home"" (1986)

In perhaps the most mainstream camp to ever exist on both TV and film, the ""Star Trek"" franchise gave birth to a whole new brand of sci-fi geek, facing off for the past 30 years with the ""Star Wars"" nerd. In the fourth installment, William Shatner's hilariously earnest Captain Kirk leads the crew of the USS Enterprise back in time to, of all things, save the humpback whale. Why is this sea-faring mammal the key to future civilizations? To be honest, no one really knows, but it's a good excuse to watch a crew that is hopelessly out of water in 1986 San Francisco, and a filmmaker's attempt to raise environmental awareness before Al Gore made it fashionable. Plus, it gives you reason to use your Klingon without anyone being the wiser. Buy' ngop!

4/14 ""Army of Darkness"" (1981)

Before Sam Raimi got a crack at filming the famed webslinger Spider-Man, he spent his days cooking up action/gore/comic fests - the ""Evil Dead"" trilogy. Starring B-movie king Bruce Campbell as Ash, the concluding film in the series finds our chainsaw-wielding hero transported to the Middle Ages, where he has to - you guessed it - battle a dead army in order to get home. ""Darkness"" is a film made for crowds: Camp and cool meet in a way that makes you want to turn to the person next to you, friend or complete stranger, and ask, ""Did you just f****** see that?""

4/21 ""12 Monkeys"" (1995)

At the time, it would have been surprising to think that ex-""Monty Python"" member Terry Gilliam would reinvent himself in the 1980s and '90s as a director of mind-bending films such as ""Brazil,"" ""Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"" and, in possibly his greatest venture, ""12 Monkeys."" Sent from the 21st century back to the late 20th, Bruce Willis must either prevent the release of a virus that would make Earth's surface inhospitable or face an entire century in prison. Despite the creative subterranean universe in which Willis dwells most of the time - and the engrossing story that bobs and weaves with intrigue - the greatest point of interest is probably a psychotic and deranged performance by Brad Pitt, years before he would hit his mark in ""Fight Club.""

4/28 ""Back to the Future II"" (1989)

Traveling both forward and backward this time around, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) takes the DeLorean for another spin, with Christopher Lloyd's Doc in tow. Director Robert Zemeckis built his 1980s repertoire on screwball adventures like ""Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"" and the first ""Back to the Future"" - two staples of many childhoods - and this go-round doesn't come as much of a shock. The ""Back to the Future"" trilogy is a throwback to old popcorn cinema (somewhat hard to come by these days) in which plausibility or realism couldn't matter less - all we have to do is sit back and lose ourselves in the perfectly impossible good time.

5/5 ""Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure"" (1989)

Before Keanu Reeves went monotone in ""The Matrix"" (and just about every other film afterward), he was all about the surfing/stoner teen subculture as Ted Logan, one half of the very righteous Bill and Ted (the then-and-still-unknown Alex Winter was Bill). Bumming over an impending history presentation, the two are confronted by future hippie/guru Rufus (George Carlin), who gives them a time-traveling phone booth with which they proceed to visit everyone from Socrates to Napoleon to Freud. This ultimate time-travel adventure is a shining addition to the stupid-yet-great category, where logic takes a holiday and we're set adrift into a sea of absurdity.

'Zorro in Hell': One Big, Bad Political Joke

“Nothing like a well-executed piece of agit-prop theater,” Richard Montoya cried to the audience, wearing a Zorro mask, clinging to the side of the railing in the Potiker Theater. Agit-prop, defined as “an openly revolutionary and agitational form of theater, concerned with the day-to-day issues of the class struggle,” is one thing you will not be seeing at “Zorro in Hell” — no matter what the San Francisco Chronicle tells you.

Directed by Tony Taccone, Culture Clash’s “Zorro in Hell” follows a Latino writer (Montoya) who comes upon a mystical old inn run by La Dona (Sharon Lockwood) and Don Ringo (Herbert Siguenza) while trying to find inspiration for an article he has begrudgingly been assigned on the “legend of Zorro.” After two hours of old “Zorro” TV episode projections, hip drug-induced montages and pop-culture references aplenty, the play ends with what the cast dubs a “call to action” — precisely when the formulaic stage-play supposedly becomes “agit-prop.”

Montoya runs into the audience, ordering everyone to put on their paper Zorro masks (page 10 of the program) and asking them to stand up to answer said call to action. Sure, okay, but what call? What action? What the heck were we even talking about — our douchebag governor? High oil prices? Fat little white kids wishing they were Zorro? The cliche “damn the Man” rhetoric, through all its spirit, never specifies what we are fighting for.

“Zorro in Hell” functions as a series of one-line cracks behind a bunch of loosely related political pronouncements. I mean, I hate Bush just as much as the next no-war button-touting objector, but to just hear reference to homeland security in between sex jokes and a giant bear butt-raping the main character isn’t enough to make this successful agit-prop. This critic left the theater with the vague notion of having wasted two hours of valuable Saturday night watching the oversimplified edition of the “Evening News with U2” regurgitate phrases from a Berkeley peace rally. The makers of “Zorro in Hell,” if they are indeed earnest about their roles as agitators, ought to go back to the drawing room and consider the following reasons this stage play fails:

1. It’s just not funny. The punch lines aren’t sharp enough and the scenes are too slow; just because you have the freshness of mind to reference Tupac doesn’t mean we’ll be rolling in the aisles at your ingenuity.

2. It really isn’t about anything. Did they write down potential topics on a piece of paper, then at random moments in the play pull them out of their pockets and read them? It works for “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” but if you’re hoping to achieve any sort of potent social commentary on California politics, it’s just lazy.

3. It is far, far removed from its intended audience. The play is too oversimplified for real activists, but not funny enough for the blockbuster audience. That leaves the typical La Jolla Playhouse patron, who can go home after the show to reminisce on the humor of the play’s Latino jokes while they sit watching Jose cut the grass outside their $4-million mansions on La Jolla Shores.

This is perhaps all a bit unfair — not all LJP regulars live in mansions, and “Zorro in Hell” at least has an interesting premise. Occasionally, the jokes even ring true: The program’s glossary defines Che Guevara as a revolutionary icon found on coffee mugs, T-shirts and caps. But hell, we’re a generation raised on politically savvy comedic giants like Jon Stewart and Mel Brooks; we notice when the jokes are too easy and will not recognize something artless as art just because we agree with the politics. And if the jokes aren’t funny, the work neither artistic nor agitating, then it is not agitational-propaganda theater — it is just propaganda: dull, forced and mind-deadening.

“Zorro in Hell” leaves one feeling even more impotent against political struggle than before, jaded by poor craftsmanship and a lack of intelligent direction behind commentary on issues we want to do something about. Art should be brave, smart and strenuous to make, but effortless to affect — unfortunately, the three men behind Culture Clash succeed at none of the proposed effects of agit-prop theater.

Midnight movies return for Halloween

Why would any sane person want to pay $6.75 for the privilege of viewing some ancient movie in a theater? It’s certainly cheaper to rent the DVD. Tell that to the people who attend the popular Midnight Madness Movie Series. Held at Landmark Theatre La Jolla, the event is pretty self-explanatory: A series of movies are shown at midnight on Saturdays, with some madness sprinkled in for good measure.

These movies aren’t new, mind you. Don’t come to Midnight Madness expecting to watch “Flightplan” or “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.” Instead, the movies shown are what you would expect from an art-house theater: quirky, eclectic and diverse, some well-known, some not. How diverse? The current run/series of Midnight Madness began on Sept. 17 with 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” It continues Oct. 15 with 1982’s muppeterrific (not those Muppets) “The Dark Crystal,” and concludes Nov. 19 with 1978’s three-dimensional adult flick — you heard me, 3-D porn — “Disco Dolls in Hot Skin.”

If you go, maximize the experience by going all out: The Theater encourages dressing up in attire befitting the feature presentation. There are also free giveaways before the film begins. For more information, check out Midnight Madness’ Web page:

Oct. 15 – Dark Crystal (1982)

Oct. 22 – Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987)

Oct. 29 – Ghostbusters (1984)

Nov. 5 – Blue Velvet (1986)

Nov. 12 – Pulp Fiction (1994)

Nov. 19 – Disco Dolls in Hot Skin (1978)

UCOP: Prison Funding Swap Not Likely

In the week following Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Jan. 6 speech — which advocated a mandatory increase in funding for higher education — prison guards and legislators have been pointing out flaws in the governor’s midnight proposal.

If passed, the amendment would begin slowly decreasing funding for prisons by outsourcing aspects of jail maintenance to private companies. Instead, that money would be funneled into higher education, and public universities like the UC system would receive a minimum of 10 percent of the General Fund by 2014.

Schwarzenegger’s plan is a departure from the current budget, under which higher education receives 7.5 percent of total state funds and prisons receive 11 percent. Ten years ago, universities received closer to 10 percent, compared to the penitentiary system’s 3 percent.

“[Back then,] the state’s investment in a UC student was twice as much as it is today,” UC Vice President for Budget Patrick Lenz said. “In 1990, the state provided around $15,000 per student. And today, it’s about $7,500 per student.”

According to Lance Corocan, chief communications officer for the California Correctional Police Officers Association, the governor’s plan is not without flaws.

For one thing, he said, it introduces market forces and profit as motivational factors in running a prison. He added that privatization would probably increase spending in the long run.

“It’s been proven throughout the experiment of privatization that cost savings are illusory,” Corocan said. “[The Governor] is trying to present a very simple solution to a very complex problem — one that people have been trying to figure out for the last 300 to 400 years.”

According to UC Berkeley professor of public policy John Ellwood, privatizing prisons would mean contracting out to cheaper, non-unionized prison guards, in order to circumvent the pricier CCPOA guards. In addition, the policy might force the state to grant parolees more leeway in meeting with officers — reducing the number of individuals put back in jail after being released.

“In California, if you miss one appointment with your parole officer, you’re automatically sent back to prison,” Ellwood said. “In other states, you have two or three chances if you miss something. So, another way to cut costs is to take people [who have committed] less violent crimes and essentially get them on the street, assuming they won’t hurt people … If you have fewer prisoners, you’ll spend less money.”

By reducing prison costs, Schwarzenegger said he hopes to free up money for the UC and CSU systems without creating any additional taxes.

As it stands, the UC system received only 13 percent — or $2.6 billion — of its funding from the state in the 2009-10 academic year. The rest came from sources like federal research grants, private donations and student fees.

The governor’s proposed 2010-2011 budget, released on Jan. 8, would increase the amount the state gives to university by $370 million, to about $3 billion.

According to Lenz, the amendment would provide an additional $1.6 billion in annual state funding, to be shared between the UC and CSU systems.

“It depends on the growth in the General Fund budget, so it’s hard to estimate,” Lenz said. “The point that we want to hold onto is at least the recognition that more money needs to be provided for higher education.”

According to UC spokesperson Leslie Sepuka, it is too early to say whether this additional state funding would allow for a decrease in student fees.

Schwarzenegger’s amendment, while at the forefront of budgetary discussion at the moment, is not the only recent government action aimed at increasing funding for higher education. Assembly Leader Alberto Torrico (D–Freemont) recently drafted a bill that would create an excise tax on gas produced in California, then give the revenue exclusively to universities.

“If you think that higher education needs more money, there’s one of two ways to do it,” Ellwood said. “One way is to increase taxation, and the other way is to essentially get money from other parts of the budget.”

Such systems already exist in states like Texas, which uses 25 percent of the revenue accumulated by a similar excise tax on gas to fund its university system. The Torrico Initiative — also known as Bill AB 656 — passed in the state assembly on Jan. 12, and is currently under debate in the Senate.

UCOP Academic Senator Henry Powell said that even if Schwarzenegger’s amendment never reaches fruition, it is nonetheless encouraging to see educational funding being discussed as a priority by the state.

“When the state stops investing in education, it stops investing in its future,” Powell said. “In 2025, we are going to need a million more degrees than we are ready to deliver … There’s an asymmetry there, between the needs of the state and the direction things are going. It’s a huge crisis.”

Readers can contact Hayley Bisceglia-Martin at [email protected]

Athletics Director Addresses UCSD’s Future for Going D-1

UC San Diego was denied entrance to the Division-I Big West Athletics Conference earlier this month. Earl Edwards, director of the Athletics Department and Juan Gonzalez, the vice chancellor of student affairs explained in...

Solar Pioneer to Lead UCSD Energy Initiatives

UCSD appointed solar pioneer Byron Washom as director of strategic energy initiatives on Oct. 7 amid an ongoing effort to maintain its reputation as one of the nation’s greenest universities.

In 1984, Washom led his entrepreneurial firm, Advanco Corp., in setting a world record for solar electric conversion efficiency at 29.4 percent. The record remained for 24 years until Sandia National Laboratories broke it earlier this year.

Washom has served as a strategic advisor for clean energy technologies at the World Bank, International Energy Agency, U.S. Department of Energy and national laboratories. He is a four-time Rockefeller Foundation grantee and Heinz Foundation grantee, and Chancellor Marye Anne Fox awarded him the 2008 Community Leader Award for Sustainability earlier this year.

“We are delighted that Byron Washom has joined the UC San Diego leadership team to help implement a cutting-edge vision and shared aspirations for quantum advancements in sustainability,” Fox said.

UCSD’s future energy projects include the development of energy storage systems, renewable energy purchases from the grid during surplus periods and co-production of hydrogen from its fuel cell system.

“In my entire career and global travels, I have never witnessed such a combination of visionary leadership, opportunity and legacy infrastructure to build a global model of a sustainable and efficient energy infrastructure as we have here at UC San Diego,” Washom said.

Vice President of External Affairs Candidates Make Their Cases at Public Forum

Three candidates running for the office of vice president of external affairs made their cases at a public forum on Wednesday night, explaining why they believe they should be appointed the position. The winning...

List o' Fools

Warren College Res Life Staff

George W. Bush

Sierra Summit

Campus Crusade

UC Berkeley (your fucking initials are UCB -- not UC, you arrogant pricks)

Reid Monaster

Chancellor Dynes (and his posse)

Doc Khaleghi

Jim Stephens (for old times' sake)

Muir Academic Advising

Parking Wanna-be Cops

Arnel Guiang


The Aladdin Hotel Staff

Kirsten Dunst (Did you know she's a Muir student?)

The Visual Arts Department

Jack Stroman

Groundwork Bookstore (Why the hell don't you take Visa? As if we have cash -- we're students.)

Guest Commentary: U.S. Ignores Genocide for Alliance's Sake

Most would agree that America's role in the world is, of late, a bit in doubt. Our young men and women are sacrificing their lives, and we believe, or at least hope, for good reasons.

Is it just about oil prices or even to protect America from terrorism?

Not quite.

There is something more, having to do with moral standing, that is vitally important to America. Those of contrary opinion say that such thinking is of little practical value and could even be detrimental to America's foreign interests. This is in fact just the point of contention.

What is best for America's interests is not always the immediate indulgence of self-interest but rather the implications of moral standard, what some call the high moral ground. Why is this important? America today faces threats from those who choose terror. They believe they are right, and by implication, America is wrong. Their frequent argument is that America makes the wrong moral choices, that we do not stand for what is right.

Do we have examples that prove the contrary?

One clear example of such a choice involves an issue that many have tried to keep under the radar for 92 years, the Armenian genocide. At first glance, the Armenian genocide seems to be just such an issue that is not important to America's self-interest and should therefore be dismissed without further notice. However, much to the dismay of those trying to keep the issue hidden, the Armenian genocide will just not go away.


To answer this question, go back to the time of World War I. The year is 1915, and the Ottoman Turkish Empire is fighting alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary and against Britain and its allies, including the United States in the later years of the war. Taking advantage of the chaos and confusion of the war, the Ottoman government decided to settle a long-standing problem occurring within its borders known in those days throughout the world as the ""Armenian Question.""

It included human rights violations against the Armenians, a Christian minority within the Islamic majority of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The method employed to settle the problem was a mass extermination of Armenian people - an Armenian genocide. Initiated on April 24, 1915, the Armenian genocide was implemented through forced march, burning of towns, starvation, rape and outright massacre.

So brutal were the events, with estimates of 1.5 million Armenians killed, that despite the ongoing war, the world at large was horrified and demanded the perpetrators be brought to justice. At the forefront of this demand for justice was America, as personified by then-former President Theodore Roosevelt, calling what happened to the Armenians the worst crime of the war.

With such a clear acknowledgment of what happened to the Armenian people, official recognition of the Armenian genocide seems to be the right choice. However, Turkey categorically denies that a genocide ever took place, even paying high-priced U.S. lobbyists to work fervently at denying the Armenian genocide. That Turkey receives significant foreign aid from the United States and so essentially pays for such lobbying through U.S. taxpayer money is sadly ironic and perhaps not so surprising.

What is, however, surprising is the debate about recognition of the Armenian genocide that rages every year in the U.S. government. For those who oppose recognition, it's about not offending Turkey, a country of geopolitical significance.

The logic goes that the United States cannot risk offending Turkey by recognizing the Armenian genocide. Those favoring recognition counter this argument by saying that the Cold War is over, and that Turkey performed poorly as a U.S. ally during the initial stages of the current Iraq war.

While Turkey's geopolitical significance is debatable, what should not be debatable is America's position on issues of moral justice. From its beginnings, America has strived for the ideal that there is something more than just self-interest, something that makes the world a better place - the existence of a high moral ground.

Are we now to dismiss this high moral ground for reasons of short-term self-interest? This is the central question of debate within the U.S. government when it comes to recognizing the Armenian genocide. Case in point: Currently, there are resolutions making their way through both houses of Congress that would recognize the Armenian genocide.

In response, Turkey has sent some of its top government and military leaders to persuade the U.S. Congress otherwise. Their efforts seem not to be wasted as was well demonstrated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent congressional testimony. The following is an exchange of that testimony between Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rice.

SCHIFF: Is there any historic debate outside of Turkey? Is there any reputable historian you're aware of that takes issue with the fact that the murder of 1.5 million Armenians constituted genocide?

RICE: Congressman, I come out of academia, but I'm secretary of state now and I think that the best way to have this proceed is for the United States not to be in the position of making this judgment, but rather for the Turks and the Armenians to come to their own terms about this.

Rice completely dodges the very straightforward question concerning the historic reality of the Armenian genocide by asserting that the United States is not in the position to pass judgment. Put another way, the United States should not make judgments about issues of moral justice.

What are the consequences of the United States not making these kinds of judgments? In Turkey at least, the lack of a strong message from America about the Armenian genocide emboldens those who would deny its existence, to the point of passing laws that make it illegal to say there was an Armenian genocide. This has resulted in trials and, in some cases, imprisonment of leading Turkish intellectuals, including Nobel laureate writer Orhan Pamuk. Sadly this law also resulted in the rousing of a 17-year-old Turkish boy to murder Hrant Dink, a Turkish Armenian journalist dedicated to reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.

Making a judgment about moral issues like this one is rarely without cost. Throughout its history, America has had to make such choices.

These choices are not without consequence, as exemplified by the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans for just using the word ""genocide"" to describe what happened to the Armenians. This man's career was essentially ended because he made a stand to say what was right, to take the high moral ground. Without this high moral ground, can we as Americans claim that we are any different than our enemies, except that we have bigger guns?

America's very credibility is on the line. It's our choice.

California Should Take Note: Higher Education Is Worth the Cost

Higher education officials around the country are ecstatic following Tuesday's election results, and not just because President-elect Barack Obama has plans to reform student-loan programs, establish a tuition tax credit in exchange for service, offer new investments in research and expand science and technology programs.
Voters nationwide made clear their support for higher-education initiatives, including rejecting a proposal in Massachusetts that would have eliminated that state income tax and in turn dealt a crippling blow to the state's education sector, which relies heavily on income taxes for support. In New Mexico, voters approved two bonds with major implications for higher education: Bond C, which delegates $40.5 million to universities for health facilities, and Bond D, which supports a new $19-million arts facility for New Mexico State University. Voters in Arkansas and Maryland approved lottery measures whose profits will help bolster education programs, and Montana voters said yes to property-tax levies to support the University of Montana.
With the University of California, California State University and California Community College system in such dire need of assistance (student fees continue to increase year after year while state support is dropping), Californians should learn from citizens of other states and take education matters into their own hands next time the ballot comes around, conducting and bankrolling higher-education initiatives. Maybe then California colleges wouldn't be constantly pleading for funding and students and administrators could breathe a little easier.