0

Validation

For my final rhetoric paper, I have chosen to observe a short film called “Validation” to serve as my artifact. Directed by Kurt Kuenne, the story revolves around a shopping center’s parking garage attendant who, in spite of the unfulfilling nature of his profession, somehow awakens to find the joy in the world. It is never revealed what it is which inspires him to greet and bid farewell to each day with such a high powered, happy-go-lucky demeanor. Quite frankly, we are introduced to him as if he were just recently dropped onto the planet by an alien life force and he has not yet been introduced to the mundanity of life which slowly eats away at the rest of us. But for whatever reason he maintains his upright optimism, he wishes to share his cheer with the rest of the world. One by one, unsuspecting mall patrons visit the desk he occupies, intending for him to merely “validate” their temporary parking passes. In spite of their slumped postures or visibly exhausted expressions, he greets them, immediately showering each visitor – total strangers to him – with an endless stream of complements, ranging from their potential talents to their striking physical features. And surprisingly, from the encounters alone, the visitors are rejuvenated, ready to face whatever challenges life may throw their way. Soon our hero begins to attract the attention of residents throughout the area, eventually leading to a line of people – the size of a superhero movie’s opening weekend turnout – all waiting to see him. When he is confronted by his dumbfounded work superiors, they too succumb to his charms. He is eventually introduced to his boss’s bosses and consequently, his boss’s boss’s bosses, working his way up through a hierarchy of important people to the point that he eventually meets the U.S. President (at the time). After that, he manages to negotiate a truce between Pakistan and Israel. People all over the world start taking note of how attractive their smiles must be now that they use them more, thus causing the dental industry to profit handsomely.
So why does this make for a compelling paper? Because it sets out to mend lifelong scuffles and resolve the inner troubles we have struggled to overcome over the course of a lifetime by deploying the most simplistic of tactics. From one side, the feature observes the world from a fantasy point of view in which every other person seems to be unaccustomed to giving/being shown compassion. Much like a film such as Invention of Lying, you have a fictional scenario in which the same world as our own still exists with only one component being different. It’s almost more implausible to accept than the full blown mythical universes of J.K. Rowling and J.R. Tolkien.
On the other hand, in a world of crime and reasons to blame crime (upbringing, background, etc.), Kuenne chooses to link the root of all our problems so far back that, despite rarely being concentrated on as the reason for dismay, could actually help us find the solution to everything. Now maybe not every man, woman and child can have their worries fade away merely because their got their daily dosage of “attaboy”. Nonetheless, in a time where we continue to fight about the upcoming presidential election and how its turnout could forever change the fabric of our country’s stability, it’s important to observe the possibilities in how we’ve gotten to be how we are and what we can do to change it. Validation’s ideas are an odd approach to fixing everything we’ve come to despise…and that’s why I have to do it.

0

Product Placement

Small of a matter as many may see it, the act of inserting advertisement in movies and television has troubled me for quite some time now.

Sure, I can understand that there are brands in everything we do. There are logos on our morning cereal boxes, the cars we drive to get from A to B and the company uniforms we dawn on a daily basis. Yes, even people can be walking billboards. So in many respects, I shouldn’t be troubled by this. If reality enables a big, yellow “M” on a 50-ft stick to be at the corner of our eyes at every quarter mile, why shouldn’t the moving pictures?

One of my frustrations comes from having the plot come to a screeching halt for the sake of pushing the product in question. I may not have been the biggest fan of “Home Alone 2” in its attempts to promote the Talkboy, a once shiney-new-toy capable of recording and replaying audio. But at least the filmmakers of that time had the decency to not go down the list of each excessive feature the gizmo included. Today, they do. I recall a scene from the NBC show, “Chuck”, where actor, Zachary Levi, is forced to boast of the Toyota Sienna’s dual screens, sound system, Bluetooth, comfortable seats and automatic doors…all in one breath. This would have been tolerable if the scene involved Levi being a car salesman, pitching this information to someone actually looking to invest in an automobile. Seeing that the context actually consisted of him and another character being on a stakeout: no.

Another problem can be in appearance alone. While not embedding the product’s details in the dialogue, some names appear too much as if they have a sparkly, white “ting” coming off them. For this example I will address “Man of Steel”. A fight escalates between Superman, humanity’s last hope and several kryptonians. Pitted against each other on a small town street, they throw and tackle each other through buildings, vehicles and other reinforced structures, with rubble and debris strewn everywhere. That is unless the camera veered in front of a Sears or iHop. All of a sudden, the dust and smoke begins to subside, somehow avoiding interference with the line of vision between the viewer and the title. I might have excused this if this were set in New York City where advertisements are omnipresent, but in a fictional middle-of-nowhere location, it was clear what the filmmakers were trying to do.

The sad thing is, I actually do believe that products can be advertised in films and televisions shows without insulting the audience’s intelligence. And most of my paper will concentrate on just that. How can companies insert themselves in a pivotal scene, a moment of emotional turmoil, without coming off as too intrusive? Some products and their functions can be used for the sake of the plot, benefiting the characters in their escapades. Good advertising in scripted medium can also exist by self deprecation, or at least, openly admitting how shameless the plug is. Personally, my favorite incorporation of product placement in entertainment involved the pushing of Subway on the comedy series, “Community”. But I’ll explore that more in my paper.

Work Cited

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7fqaNNXQMk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yobTscScgM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sge5sUNJkiY&feature=youtu.be&t=2m58s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI1l17Q60as

0

Monsanto vs. The Media

Initially the subject matter required for this entry left me skeptical. Obviously the news reported by major networks is every bit as processed and deconstructed of real nourishment as Land o’Lakes yellow American cheese. All the same, there was no specific incident that came to mind when I thought of stories that related to the topic of this post. Then…I watched “The Corporation”.

“The Corporation” is a 2005 documentary, shedding light on the many shady on-goings that big business figures don’t want people like us to know about. Of the filmmakers’ list of complaints, there is Coca-Cola’s attempt to maintain profit in Germany in the wake WWII, K-Mart’s preying on the likes of impoverished countries with sweatshops, paying the average worker $0.03/per hr. and of the most relevance to this topic, Monsanto.

Having grown up under the wing of my health nut mother, I’ve already come to be aware of Monsanto’s wrongdoings for quite some time. She’s told me of their attempts to eradicate the reproductive systems of fruits and vegetables in the hopes that no one might grow their own garden anymore. I am well aware that their genetically modified products are responsible for the ever dwindling honeybee population. But the topic which they cover in the film is milk.

Years ago, Monsanto began to distribute a product called Posilac, a little something farmers could inject into their cows in the hopes of increasing the quantity of white creamy goodness. In every sense of the word, they were literally “milking it”. But problems around the side effects of the hormone resulted in the cows becoming sick, often to the point that their once perky utters began to sag to unhealthy looking conditions. Even more frightening was the fact that the milk, extracted from the cows treated with Posilac, was linked potential cancer.

When two Fox News reporters, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, attempted to broadcast their findings on Monsanto, the were contacted by the company who implied the possibility of legal action. After a series of failed bribes and threats against the reporters, both parties came to the agreement to air the story…but with a few “subtle” edits. Akre didn’t give a word for word description of each precise change Monsanto demanded that they had to make to the story, but one change that did stand out was Monsanto’s insistence on changing the word “cancer”, when used, to “human health implication”.

The sad thing is, despite their effort to do so, Monsanto didn’t have to lie in this scenario. While the term “implication” does downplay the significance of the matter, especially in comparison to “cancer”, it wasn’t technically a fallacy. We, as a civilization, have a tendency to display shock at the mere sound of blunt words, despite those very words having synonyms which we respond to with far less panic…and companies like Monsanto know it. The word “cancer” is automatically linked to ideas of “fatality”, “pain”, “disease”, whereas “implication” is associated more among the lines of “inconvenience”, “boo boo” or “hiccup”.

The same response could be elicited in the usage of “rape” rather than “sexual assault”. Both are serious offenses, but in the grand scheme of things, which one of these terms would better initiate your instinct to rescue someone screaming one of these two terms, if heard in a parking lot? Better yet, which one of these would you choose to scream while placed in the role of victim? Why is it that we allow ourselves to have the scale of a matter amplified and minimized by the likes of a few syllables?

One of the reasons we contradict ourselves in our self-censorship is the standard of what society considers inappropriate. As George Carlin observed in the video we watched in class, there’s an unofficial – though frowned upon – set of words that someone, long ago, decided couldn’t be used in formal dialogues. Since we have taught ourselves what is audacious to others, we eventually find it to be audacious to us. I could also argue that one of the reasons is that informality and straightforwardness are what gets the job done. Monsanto thrived on the idea that some “listeners” would hear this and dismiss it as jargon, gobbledygook. The reason “implication” would be of no detriment to Monsanto was because many people don’t even know what it means.

Works Cited

Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDNyIhWXsJ0

0

Patriotism and Mass Media

1.) Remember where you were when you found out that Osama bin Laden had been killed? Most likely. I, myself, had just emerged from my bedroom and it proceeded the usual “good morning” I could routinely expect. On my own terms, words such as “good riddance” and “that takes care of that problem” were the first to pop up in my own mind. But when footage from a game with the Phillies facing off against the Mets surfaced, with attendants chanting “U.S.A.” upon learning about his demise, I got a little queasy.

By no means did I consider bin Laden to be the soul that deserved to be missed, to be cried for or even be given a respectful burial so that those close to him could properly mourn. He made his choices. The guy was – for the lack of a better term – a dick. But in repeating those three little letters, I couldn’t help but think that all those who contributed to the ballpark battle cry were actually making people like bin Laden feel as though they’ve accomplished something. bin Laden believed in a world in which he could make a statement through excessive force and the misfortune of others…and now we did too.

Celebration constitutes the reward of our own achievements, not the setbacks of others. It can be argued that cheers heard over the world, including this particular one, were enthusiastic about the people he could no longer bring harm to. But we all know deep down that when it came to many and most, it was all about settling the score. Here our society was, making a synchronized trip back to Medieval times in which onlookers would “ooh” and “aah” at public executions. The funny thing is, I can’t help but envision the people of today being squeamish if such a display of persecution were implemented again.

Then there’s the “U.S.A.”. What portion of this life-changing event was celebrated for this terrorist’s removal from society and what portion was celebrated for the fact that it was “our country” that did it? This was a man who had torn families apart, made people question the point of going on without their loved ones and the first thing on people’s minds was “we got to him first” as if they were betting at the track. That’s another thing: “we”. I’ve applied it to sporting events and I’ll apply it here. There is no “we”. There is merely a small group who actually acted and those who sat idly by, then use their own race, gender or place of habitat to somehow affiliate themselves to this matter.

2.) In September, Ray Rice had the spotlight. In August, Robin Williams was all anyone talked about.  It would seem as though only one topic could garner America’s attention during an allotted period of time. Mildly interesting as these stories may have been, they would eventually consume all that which made up people’s lives. Truth be told, I do believe that there are certain stories which people should give their undivided attention to and keep themselves informed. However, those mentioned above do not represent the ideal coverage of which people should be vigilant.

Not only was the Ray Rice incident irrelevant in terms of our country’s structural integrity, but it was dated, a matter which had unfolded seven months prior and was regurgitated for the sake of having something to talk about. True, domestic abuse is nothing to overlook. But rather than using the occurrence to bring awareness to this problem for many other people, twitter users and Facebook status updaters only seemed interested in having all of the contempt come crashing down on one man. As for Robin Williams, while I understand the intention of paying tribute to a person who brought joy and laughter to so many people, there comes a time when the subject becomes overkill. Even more sickening was how much attention a run-of-the-mill McDonald’s received after an employee drew a swastika in butter on the inside of a patron’s sandwich. I’ll have you know a disgruntled customer handed the same symbol to a co-worker of mine on a manic Christmas Eve shift…and nothing came of it.

With these petty areas of interest being the center of attention for such prolonged lapses, one has to wonder how much else our fellow men aren’t aware of. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a minimum of a hundred students, here at Kutztown, who are unaware of the whereabouts regarding ISIS. It may very well sound like a joke, but a routine segment on Jay Leno’s rendition of the Tonight Show consisted of him interviewing strangers and asking seemingly basic questions concentrated on current events, with all of them delivering preposterous answers.

These small, singular events are essentially the news equivalent to an infant’s set of toy keys: simplistic, uninspiring and left with very little to develop. Call me crazy but I’m a big boy who wants to move on to the action figures.

1

Conformity

On the surface, conformity may seem like a harmless – if not minor – problem in human nature. We live in a civilization where the person next door could be involved in a Ponzi scheme, sexual assault or even murder. Yet here I am concentrating my attention on the insignificant act of merely doing something to appease the likes of others. But is it really something we shouldn’t take all that seriously?

Let’s start with small example. Over the course of the summer, Kutztown University bestowed us with a Starbucks Coffee Shop in our very own student lounge. Now I can respect that full-time students – with part-time jobs no less – are in desperate need of a pick-me-up. Starbucks’ variety of caffeine coated assortments may very well help students focus on their studies, stimulate creativity and may have even prevented some consumers from falling asleep at the wheel.

But after walking past this establishment day after day, looking at the 30-some people they inevitably attract, all at the same time, I realized something. Their product isn’t an energy booster. It’s an accessory…at least for some. I truly believe that many people who dedicate the “limited free-time” of their hectic schedules to standing in line at Starbucks – let alone any coffee chain – are trying to make a statement about themselves. Perhaps they feel as though they look incomplete, walking through campus without that dollop of whipped cream covered in chocolate drizzle.

Let’s take it up a notch, shall we? This past summer, America added the ALS ice bucket challenge to the list of inane trends American youth would jump on the bandwagon to. The simple act of pouring frigid water over one’s self, then giving friends the ultimatum to either face the same doom or donate $100 to its research, became an overnight sensation. Don’t get me wrong. Occurrences such as this have proven to show the best in mankind. People are coming together, in hopes of bringing an end to a disease which has ripped friends and families apart. At least, some are.

It would seem as though many of those who participated in this particular trend were more determined to prove a sense of “oomph” in themselves to their co-workers and classmates more so than bringing an end to a serious health condition. After all, by pouring the icy cold liquid over one’s self, they were officially exempt from making a donation. And by looking at the long list of people who did take this road, I see an equally long list of people cradling their wallets. I must admit, I myself have never made all that much of a respectable donation in my life. Then again, at least I have the decency to refer to myself as a cheapskate instead of acting as though I’ve brought us one step closer to bringing Lou Gehrig’s disease to a close. Here’s an idea: donate a respectable $10 and don’t cascade yourself something that could induce hypothermia.

But perhaps I’ve only dissected the smaller issues of conformity. So here it is…

Conformity can be the difference between a high school student having only one punk harass him throughout the day and having a hoard of bullies taking turns pummeling him/her. Conformity is what often causes people to be onlookers, witnessing devastation without intervening, always to assume someone else will swoop in instead. And worst of all, it is conformity that often acts as a crutch in wars. When Hitler rose to power, did those in the Third Reich tell respond to his philosophy with “finally, this guy gets me”? Some, I’m sure. But others may have enlisted only to follow the paths of their siblings, their friends.

I do not spite those who routinely visit a popular coffee chain. I do not hold a grudge against those who occasionally feed the popularity of an internet meme. Not every lifestyle choice must be differ from those of every person you know. However, I feel as though most people have made it their mission to enjoy films, eat foods and wear clothes, with the hopes that none of which may alienate those who surround them.

I can only hope that I’m wrong.

0

What Will Happen If I Don’t Persue This

I’ve been pushing carts, bagging groceries and processing thousands of transactions during my post-high school years. Initinally, I enjoyed this. Back in 2010, when I was a part-time student a Reading Area Community College, with no much else to do, I was actually looking forward to my next, Friday night, 6:00 pm to close shift as a concession cashier at Carmike Cinemas. I got to catch up with my co-workers, enjoy limited popcorn and drink and was able to feel a tad bit more independence than I had the previous year.

Today, I recognize that doing, what it is that I’m doing now, compiles nothing more than a hamster wheel. In doing these things, in continuing to any sort of work which requires me to wear a nametag, I feel small; washed out. That’s not to say that my intention to become a screenwriter rotates around making gobs of money and living the easy life. I feel as though I have some genuinely good ideas I can contribute to this medium.

But much unlike most people who go to college, I am not pursuing this for the finish line. I am doing this to get as far away from the starting point as I can. My greatest fear is to die, never having made an impact on the world, almost like roadkill. You ever look at a doe’s corpse on the side of road and let it ruin your day? Most likely not. But in hindsight, we do it with beings amongst our own species everyday. What does a meager Home Depot paint department associate have that’ll be missed when gone? Probably lots of things…but who would know? How could anyone know when his choice career was one in which he merely stirred and presented different colors of pretentiously titled paper to patron all day?

It doesn’t have to be this way. I hope, for my own sake, that it isn’t.

0

Problems

We’ve already discussed the struggle a screenwriter might encounter in the breakthrough process of their career. Let’s talk about what obstacles they must be ready to encounter while on the inside.

Avoiding accusations of plagiarism are difficult in this day and age. As of the day of this writing, Alfonso Cauron’s Gravity is currently in a bit of a pickle with Rizzoli & Isles writress, Terri Gerritsen. Whether of not the accusations stand to be true may never come to light but there will always be genuine, well-intentioned screenwriters, who attempted to create something new without the inspiration of someone else’s work, and still end up with other writers on their doorstep, hands out.

Another repercussion is the change of someone’s original vision without permission. Alexander Payne has been known to create authentic, grounded American dramas without the aid of alienating plot twists and unrealistic characters. That’s why it was so odd to see his name attached to “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”, a film including “who-dropped-the-soap” jokes, Rob Schneider taking on the role of an Asian with broken English and several insincere attempts to douse homophobia. The reason: Adam Sandler rewrote it, uncredited, with Payne and his writing partner, Jim Taylor inheriting the blame for its stereotypical and offensive content.

Last but not least, we have unfinished/unsatisfying end products. Critics predicted World War Z would be the flop of 2013. Surprisingly, the film managed to make its money back by Summer’s end. One of the reasons it looked so determined to fail: a processed to death script. Adapted from Max Brooks’ novel, World War Z started out with J. Michael Straczynski, was then passed over to Matthew Michael Carnahan. Is the story over? No. Filming began and stakeholders determined they were not satisfied with the intended ending. The solution? To hire Prometheus writer, Damon Lindelof, asking him to concoct a new one. Certainly it has to stop here, right? Wrong. As it turns out, Damon Lindelof was too invested in other project to tighten up all the loose ends so the draft was then passed on to Cabin in the Woods penman, Drew Goddard. In all of this and more, the film made a drastic change in its intended message, tone and overall outcome.