V for Vendetta

On the heels of The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers and Agent Smith released V for Vendetta in March 2006, an alternate reality sci-fi thriller, starring Natalie Portman and Huge Weaving (Agent Smith). V for Vendetta strives to be a politically relevant and thought-provoking film with many parallels to Orwell’s 1984. However, the infusion of a couple superfluous story lines makes what is otherwise a truly excellent film into a very good one worthy of a couple views.

The film is set in London, in the not-too-distant future. A totalitarian government has used fear to manipulate the British population into giving up all control, as a new position of “High Chancellor” is created and privacy is simply eliminated. The protagonist, V, played by Hugo Weaving is the result of the government looking for a cure to a deadly virus by human experimentation. V was one of the few survivors of an explosion at the detention center where he was held. His experiences in this prison fueled his personal vendetta against certain individuals of the government as well as everything they stand for. “What was done to me was monstrous. – V And they created a monster. – Evey”. Thus, he becomes V, a terrorist to few, a freedom fighter to many.

During V’s first attack he rescues a young woman, Evey Hammond (Portman) from the secret police. Evey is accused of being an accomplice, prompting V to bring her under his wing and empower her to live without fear. The first attack was on November 5th, the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. This was the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes, among other catholic extremists, to blow up the Parliament building. V uses this date to inspire a revolution for a very different cause.

Much of the film is dedicated to outlying threads of story-line that serve to further expose the viewer of conditions in this society. Some of these are more effective than others, but overall they provide a great background to the central conflict between V and the government. This can be best appreciated with multiple viewings, as at first these secondary conflicts distract from the core of the film.

One of the things that made this film work so well was the sound. The sound effects, as well as the selections of music were impeccable. For instance, V’s swords always made this perfect sound when moving, and the explosions sounded truly triumphant with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture behind them. Also, several songs were used within the environment of V that were effective in creating a mood of peaceful antiquity in his home.

The writing, courtesy of the Wachowski brothers, was superb. Specifically the use of completely different vocabularies by different characters. Evey spoke with the vocabulary of an average women in her early twenties, meanwhile V utilized a much larger vocabulary to get his point across. This worked very well by helping to separate V from the government in both mind and action.

Throughout the film, the backgrounds of several secondary characters are revealed in order to expose the motives behind their actions. Several secondary themes arise from the backgrounds, which can be confusing; however, they are all relevant to both the core conflict as well as the central theme; that, “ideas are bulletproof”, and thus, we must all live without fear to protect our freedoms.

At the climax of V’s work, and the culmination of the film, the viewer is thrown into The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man”, a direct parallel to V and what he stands for. Some of the ways in which the film exposes its messages will be missed by many. Especially the parallels to the use of fear by both the government in the film as well as many governments today, including our own. Much, if not all of this will be grasped by the more politically aware viewer upon the first, or sometimes second viewing. However, the Wachowski Brothers are careful to be sure that the average American can walk away with a thorough understanding of the central revolutionary plot and its themes.

– Brian Rubinton

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George Orwell, An Inspiration to All

History repeats itself; however, its key players do not. George Orwell is the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, who was born 25 June 1903 in India while it was a British colony. He is considered one of the great authors, as well as investigative journalists of the twentieth century.

Orwell is best known for two of his novels; Animal Farm and 1984. These novels are famous for their contradictions. He explained in his essay Why I Write, “Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried…to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.” Furthermore, 21-year-old Amy Eiferman explains that his work is “detailed but not tedious.”

Born a poet and author, Orwell’s life after childhood is infused with political inspiration. After failing to maintain his grades and receive a scholarship to Oxford University, Orwell joined the Indian Imperial Police, while India was still a British colony. He chose to be stationed in Burma, where his grandmother lived.

Throughout his five year career as an officer Orwell was exposed to the horrors of British colonial rule. In his essay, Shooting An Elephant, Orwell detailed some of the horrors he saw, “The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been flogged with bamboos—all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt.”

My personal exposure to Orwell’s work prior to this article was only to his novels. I had no idea that he was also an excellent journalist, known for his reactions to society’s shortcomings. The topics Orwell wrote of ranged from social habits, to prejudices, and to politics. In Books v. Cigarettes Orwell comments on the fact that the average British adult spends more on cigarettes or alcohol than on books. A simple observation trying to explain the lack of reading by the British population.

Another one of his essays, Boys’ Weeklies, describes a particularly relevant issue in today’s world; the failure of the press to inform the public of the truth.

“The stories are stories of what purports to be public-school life, and the schools (Greyfriars in the Magnet and St Jim’s in the Gem) are represented as ancient and fashionable foundations of the type of Eton or Winchester. All the leading characters are fourth-form boys aged fourteen or fifteen, older or younger boys only appearing in very minor parts. Like Sexton Blake and Nelson Lee, these boys continue week after week and year after year, never growing any older. Very occasionally a new boy arrives or a minor character drops out, but in at any rate the last twenty-five years the personnel has barely altered. All the principal characters in both papers—Bob Cherry, Tom Merry, Harry Wharton, Johnny Bull, Billy Bunter and the rest of them—were at Greyfriars or St Jim’s long before the Great War, exactly the same age as at present, having much the same kind of adventures and talking almost exactly the same dialect. And not only the characters but the whole atmosphere of both Gem and Magnet has been preserved unchanged, partly by means of very elaborate stylization. The stories in the Magnet are signed ‘Frank Richards’ and those in the Gem, ‘Martin Clifford’, but a series lasting thirty years could hardly be the work of the same person every week.”

Take a minute to compare a newspaper from the United States, such as Newsday, and one from another country, such as The Guardian. The type of stories in one are likely to vary dramatically from the stories in the other. One may contain more criticisms of the government, more negative stories, and overall be less entertaining to the reader.

Much of Orwell’s work is relevant today. “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.” He learned fairly early that by recognizing his political bias, he can utilize it to send a message to his readers. Orwell explained one of the four great motives for writing, as political purpose, which is the “desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.”

More than fifty years after Orwell’s death, the political agenda being pushed in his works cannot be applied to today word-for-word, yet they are still inspirations to millions of people. But why? In his last novel, 1984, Orwell describes a totalitarian state in which the upper class maintains complete control over its populations actions as well as thoughts. Via a language called “Newspeak,” Big Brother maintains control of thoughts by slowly eliminating certain emotions and ideas from existence. How can a person notice bias in the news, when that word has not been used in an unknown number of years and has been completely erased from all documents and records? As Orwell wrote in 1984, “If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?”

Our government today certainly does not use methods as extreme as those in 1984; however, why did our President suggest buying duct tape in case of a biological attack? Would it be effective in protecting the air in a house from this deadly toxin, or, would it scare Americans into buying duct tape and distract them from the failures of a war abroad?

Many long for someone to expose the lies being fed to people all over the world. Eiferman explained that there is “no expectation [for officials] to tell the truth.” Orwell once said, “I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention.” His story, and his work, must be known of not only to inspire the current generation, but to keep the spirit of true journalism and storytelling alive forever.

Limited Bibliography:

Essays

  • The Spike
  • A Hanging
  • Down The Mine
  • Boys’ Weeklies
  • Anti-Semitism in Britain
  • Books v. Cigarettes
  • Politics and The English Language
  • Notes on Nationalism

Novels

  • Burmese Days
  • Animal Farm
  • 1984

The George Orwell Web Source

– Brian Rubinton

How We Get Our Political Fix

We all prefer to get our news in our own unique way; however, for centuries newspapers and more recently television shows have been the only options, until now. Consumers are demanding to get only the news that interests them, in a format most convenient to them, and in doing so have found niches among television and the internet.

In just the last twenty years people have gone from relying on nightly news programs and newspapers, to having a nearly infinite source of news. The percentage of the American population that uses more traditional sources has sharply decreased in the last 15 years. According to a recent survey by The Pew Research Center For The People & The Press, the percentages of people who regularly watch local TV news, or regularly read a newspaper have decreased from 77% to 54% and 58% to 40% respectively between 1993 and 2006. During this time the percentage of people that read online news regularly has increased from less than 2% to 31%.

What makes this study especially eye-opening are the statistics between 2000 and 2006. The percentages of people regularly using each type of media have remained nearly stagnant. This includes local TV news, cable TV news, nightly network news, network morning news, radio, newspapers, the internet, etc. The masses have found their favorite sources of news and are sticking to them.

18-year-old Samantha DeVictoria explained that she reads Newsday, a New York City newspaper every morning. She goes on to say that she prefers the newspaper to television news because “I hate the commercials. You can ignore them in a newspaper.” A complaint that has pushed millions away from receiving their news from audio or video, where commercial interruptions have become more frequent.

Recently, there has been a great deal of news regarding whether those between 18 and 29 years of age are obtaining their news solely from satirical shows such as “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, and “Real Time” with Bill Maher. The Pew Research Center’s study asked this very question, and it turned out that only 11% of those ages 18 to 29 regularly watch “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. Ozzy Gezer, a 25-year-old student says that these shows are usually on “too late at night,” and that he prefers to watch a news network such as CNN to get his news before he goes to sleep.

Part of what pushes a person to one source of news instead of another is the important factor of time. Gezer explained that sometimes he does not have time in the morning to read a newspaper, so he goes to CNN.com where he can quickly grasp what is happening in the world. “I wish I had time to read the paper during the week, but it’s not always possible” said David Rubinton, a middle-aged attorney. He then said, “Sometimes I listen to the radio while commuting, or I surf the internet on my phone while I eat lunch.” Reading a newspaper is a more active, but time-consuming way to get ones news, and thus, is not always feasible.

“TV is more for when I’m lazy” said Mr. Gezer. “It doesn’t make you think”. Television news programs, to many, has become a form of entertainment instead of a source of news. Which begs the question, who is really more informed?

Many say that the Internet is the best source of news. One can get up-to-the-minute news from anywhere in the world, and from a variety of sources. Niches has formed in a recent “Web 2.0” movement, in which new technologies are allowing people to be more involved in how they get their news.

A technology called RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) allows you to aggregate news from nearly any modern website into a single, easy to use service, such as Google Reader, that notifies the user instantly when new stories arrive. Gezer’s comment on the technology is a familiar one to anybody trying to promote the benefits of RSS, “Sounds good, but I’ve never heard of it”. The very nature of RSS prevents content providers, such as The New York Times, The Associated Press, or CNN from collecting the ad revenue that would be obtained from the user visiting the website itself. This has impeded the adoption of RSS, as it simply does not make sense for The New York Times to advertise the feature; although nearly every news website does offer RSS.

Other websites, such as Digg.com and Newsvine.com are trying to provide a social aspect to news gathering. Users at these sites are responsible for which stories reach the front page through a voting system. Also, you can follow specific users’ voting if their taste in news complements your own.

Mr. Gezer brought up an interesting point during our discussion about social news gathering, “People go into a bubble”. In other words, if you aren’t interested in world news, you could just not follow it at all when using the Internet. When watching a TV show, listening to the radio, or even reading a newspaper, it is a guarantee that you will come across nearly every type of news. This is not true of those who use RSS, Digg.com, or even CNN.com. One can easily enter “into a bubble” and never again be informed about the genocide in Darfur, or global warming, or even the new celebrity sex video. Regardless of whether or not it benefits society, technology has allowed for the ultimate form of “news personalization”.

– Brian Rubinton

18-year old Great Neck resident arrested for DWI, spends night in jail.

An 18-year old was arrested Wednesday, July 9 at approximately 2 A.M. for driving while intoxicated (DWI.)  The young man, who asked to remain unnamed, was dropping a friend off on the way to his own home, when the Nassau Country police cruiser turned its sirens on.   The police ran him through a battery of tests, then arrested him and took him to the police precinct for another test and to stay the night.   The young man’s car was impounded, and his license suspended until his court date on July 30, at which time a Judge will determine the extent of the punishment.  

 

According to the young man, “I was driving under the speed limit, in a straight line the entire time.   It wasn’t until I pulled over to drop my friend off that the cops pulled me over.”  The Police Officer said that he was being arrested for “speeding and failure to maintain a straight line.”  They then ran the young man through a battery of tests, including walking a straight line, following a flash light, and blowing into a breathalyzer.   “The field sobriety tests were negative, but they asked me to blow into the breathalyzer anyway, which I then blew a .07.”  

 

“They never read me my rights, and did not give a valid reason for arresting me,” said the young man, who has been speaking to a lawyer.   He hopes to limit the length at which he will be without a driver’s license as well as have the DWI removed from his record.  

 

This arrest comes after a recent push by Nassau County Police to stop drunk driving during Memorial Day Weekend.   Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi vowed to crackdown on drunk drivers.  “If you are drinking and decide to get behind the wheel of a car, we’re going to arrest you because you have the potential to ruin lives. And we’re going to ruin your life and put you in jail,” said Suozzi.  This comes following an accident in which a Police Officer is in critical condition after his Cruiser was hit by a drunk driver.   Interestingly enough, the Officer had just pulled over a drunk driver.  In 2007, there were 3,360 DWI arrests, and more are expected for 2008 due to increased patrolling.

 

One part of the crackdown that is in effect today, is the police department’s effort to shame people into not driving drunk.  The police are releasing the photos of those charged with DWI to local newspapers, asking for them to be published.  These photos can be seen online at Newsday’s Wall of Shame.  Luckily for the young man arrested on July 9, Newsday does not publish pictures of those less than 19 years of age.  He had driven home “buzzed” before, but after being caught he admits that it was “not worth it.”  

– Brian Rubinton

America: The Land of Opportunity

Four years ago Ozzy Gezer moved to the United States from Istanbul, Turkey at the ripe age of 21. When asked what pushed him to leave behind his parents, younger brother and sister he said, “The schools are easier. Professors are more friendly.” He also pointed out that, “It’s easier to make money here.” Easy must be taken relatively. Ozzy currently supports himself and his education by way of a job at a gas station. Although that is not the most glamorous of jobs, clearly Ozzy does not need to have an ideal job to be happy. A familiar sentiment to many immigrants to this country.

A friend of Ozzy’s, also an immigrant from Turkey, currently owns several gas stations and earns a 6-figure salary. Examples like this are what allow Ozzy to dream big with an open mind. In an ideal world he would be making movies and working to move back to his friends and family in Turkey. However, he has worked hard maximize his opportunities in the future.

Currently taking his final semester of courses at Nassau Community College, Ozzy will be moving closer to Manhattan later this month. This is so he can transfer to Hunter College where he can obtain a Bachelors degree in Mass Media. Meanwhile, he has maintained an internship at Ch. 29 Telicare with the simple goal of learning whatever he can. His work at Ch. 29 ranges from being a camera man, to assisting with production to even making copies. He is thankful that he has the opportunity to learn and possibly receive a recommendation for a future job.

All of this is being supported by nothing but his job managing a gas station in Far Rockaway. Ozzy flatly noted that last week he worked 55 hours. I was floored, how can a person take two compressed summer courses as well as work 55 hours a week without going insane? “I worked 18 hours on Sunday.” he said. Ozzy clearly is not afraid of putting the time and effort required to accomplish everything he dreams of.

I was skeptical regarding why he would leave his family behind to start a career, and upon further questioned I discovered another reason behind his decision. Military service is required of all males ages 20 to 41. However, there are ways to delay the length of service as well as lessen the extent of danger one will be exposed to. By pursuing a four-year degree here in the United States, Ozzy is given until he is 29 to begin his service. Furthermore, said service is lessened in length to 12 months, from 15, and most importantly, he serves as a reserve officer instead of a private. This is the most crucial difference, due to present tensions with the Kurdish both in Turkey as well as in northern Iraq (which borders Turkey) privates can be thrust into the front lines at any time.

Ozzy Gezer moved here four years ago on a mission: to obtain a bachelors degree, and to lay the groundwork for a promising career in a field that can both make him happy and earn good money. Both of which allows him to keep himself out of harms way during his military service. Ozzy’s determination, work ethic, and optimism for the future make him living proof that the “American Dream” is still alive and well, and an inspiration to all of us.

–Brian R.