Sunday, January 24, 2016

Gun Control by Clayton Davis

Most Americans love guns, plain and simple. This is especially true in the south. The large group of people that don't fantasize about everyone owning a gun however, often try to get stricter gun control laws passed. One such law that is widely implemented are gun free zones. As everyone knows, creating a zone where you can't carry a gun will OBVIOUSLY stop a criminal, who was planning on shooting someone (which, big shocker, is illegal), from carrying out said plan. Even the most hardened of criminals will stop and turn around when they see that people don't want them to carry a gun in a certain area. Some people are okay with killing another human, but breaking the law by bringing a weapon into a gun free zone? Heavens no.

Another idea that some anti-gun people believe will magically fix gun violence, is restricting the sale of guns to regular citizens. They believe that, even in the hands of law-abiding citizens, a citizen owning a gun is a recipe for disaster. That no matter who is in possession of it, the gun is what kills the person. There’s no way that the gun is merely a tool and you have to willfully point it at someone and pull the trigger for it to kill someone. No, people definitely don’t kill people, guns do. Also, spoons made my cousin obese.

Some people have the opposite idea when it comes to fixing gun violence within certain areas or zones. One such example commonly noted when discussing this idea, is at schools. Schools are widely known as gun free zones, so the idea of having the security guards at them armed with a handgun is slightly odd for most people. Especially for the people whose children attend said school, who most likely prefer not to think about their kids needing to be defended with firearms. Although, who knows. Maybe there are some parents who do enjoy thinking about having armed guards at their children’s school as they drink their morning coffee. The notion of having security guards with handguns, as well as signs that say “area patrolled by armed guards”, has been tossed around by some of the citizens who are less than supportive of gun control. While this may have a *slight* oppressive nature, it most certainly is an… interesting… idea.

Concealed or open carry is quite popular among pro-gun people, but many anti-gun citizens are simply horrified by the idea. An anti-gun supporter will most likely never consider the good that an openly carried handgun would be able to do. No, instead having the ability to quickly end a conflict, or even prevent it from occurring, openly carrying a handgun is absolutely begging for someone to come steal it and use it to commit a heinous crime. There’s “absolutely no way” that openly carrying a handgun, or being able to quickly draw a concealed handgun, will quickly end a crime. It’s not even possible that a criminal that intended to commit a crime, such as robbing a store, will change his mind when seeing that the establishment is full of customers armed with handguns that would potentially be able to prevent him or her from breaking the law and harming someone. There’s no way that anything like that has ever happened before. Definitely not terrorists being shot nearly immediately at a “Draw Mohammed Cartoon Contest” in Texas. Purely imaginative, absolutely no way that anything like that could or would happen. Oh wait…

I Am Offended by Your Offense by Amy Yarbrough


Over the years, freedom of speech has become kind of a foreign thing to us.  Everyone is always so worried about offending someone. And apparently, it’s better to coddle the offended instead of teaching them to deal with things. Seems logical. And while we’re at it, why not teach people that they should try to completely destroy anyone who doesn't agree with them? Yes, that sounds healthy. 

If someone disagrees with President Obama, they're racist. If someone disagrees with a homosexual, they're a homophobe. But everyone has a right to an opinion! Y’know, unless your opinion is wrong. A Christian offends a gay couple by not catering to their wedding because it goes against their beliefs. Then said caterer is put out of business by the government because the gay couple was offended by their religious beliefs. Or, the Westboro Church will try to ruin a person's funeral because they want to show the world how much they are offended by gay people. Meanwhile, no one seems too offended by the homosexuals getting murdered and thrown off of roofs in other countries? Oh yeah, they're just expressing their religion! It is easier to worry about little things than to actually fight real injustice or bring real attention to it.

Modern feminists are apparently now offended that unlike men, women can't run around in public shirtless. Never mind that typically other women don’t want to see that either. But go ahead ladies, run around without a shirt! I’m sure all the men you're trying to stick it too will absolutely HATE that. Women are being enslaved in other countries, and we feel oppressed by the lack of “strong female characters” in fiction, angry that we can't run around half dressed, and offended by constant "microaggressions," while elsewhere, woman have acid thrown in their faces for trying to get an education. It's so much easier to deal with petty insults, both real and imagined, than it is to struggle with true injustice. 

Being outrageously offended goes for both sides of  the parties. Have you ever tried telling a Donald Trump supporter that Trump's not a conservative or that you don't agree with him? Well the National Review did, and look where that got them! Other Republicans want to drive them out of business because they disagree. Sounds fair!

You know that most of the Tumblr generation have gone to college when some colleges have started having “safe rooms” filled with pillows and comfy chairs for people who have been triggered. Triggered by what? Heaven knows. What if I once had a nasty encounter with a fish, and my college professor was talking about Moby Dick? This incident “triggered” me, and I need to skip class to go and sit in a quiet room full of pillows. Is this a valid reason for me to skip class? Even if someone realizes it’s silly, who are they to tell me I don’t have fish-related PTSD? I’m not trying to compare a bad fish encounter with real violence or some other trigger-inducing incident. The point is no matter how stupid my fish triggering may seem, people are so afraid to trigger someone that they try to do anything to avoid it. Some even think that people shouldn't have to read their homework if they could be triggered by it. According to Michael Miller of the Washington Post, students at Columbia University are stressed out by Roman poetry.“Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom,” wrote the four students, who are members of Columbia’s Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board. “These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.” (Washington Post May 14, 2015).

Sometimes injustice is real. Sometimes, students have real reasons to feel "triggered." This idea that free speech, or even education, that offends anyone at all must be shut down is offensive. And this constant search for something to be offended about trivializes everything. Then concerns about real problems get overlooked because eventually, no one will be listening anymore.

Blackstar: A Dead Man's Legacy By Sydney Quanz

January 10, 2016 was a hard day for music lovers everywhere, as it marked the death of the musical legend, David Bowie. For those who lived through the 70’s and 80’s, the automatic response to the news was grief. Many knew and recognized the unique figure Bowie became. His alter ego Ziggy Stardust, the promiscuous humanoid alien rock star, brought a new flamboyancy to rock and roll. His classic hits include the 1977 "Heroes" and the 1969 "Space Oddity" (Both songs are worth checking out for those unfamiliar with them). His next album, Blackstar, really takes the "Heroes" route in terms of tone and musical influence.

For millennial’s, the news of Bowie death went more to the tune of  “David Bowie? Let me Google him… Oh yeah that guy. He’s dead? That sucks.” Some knew who he was, most knew his name, but few really identified with his legacy. I personally identify with this. I knew the name “David Bowie” and I recognized the pictures my old soul friends were plastering over the Internet. In hindsight, I realize that I vaguely remembered him being a mentor on American Idol 2 or 3 seasons ago. Upon thoroughly devouring his Wikipedia page, I learned more about the man and Icon that he was. Being the hipster that I am, I mourned the loss of an opportunity to love something weird before everyone else did, but now that Bowie is dead I can’t be a fan without knowing that I jumped on a bandwagon.

However, for those of you who want to understand the cultural phenomenon that is David Bowie, it really isn’t to late. The tragic irony that came with the rock star’s death was that he passed away only two days after the release of his final album: Blackstar.

Blackstar is particularly appealing to millenials because it doesn’t live in the past. The dark brooding vibe behind the album fits with the indie rock of today. Bowie’s vocals are filtered through an effect that is similar to the vocal sound produced by Cage the Elephant and The Neighbourhood. I think it especially takes on a similar sound as The Neighborhood, with dark ethereal tones in the intensely layered collection of music.

1.    Blackstar
The opening title song of David Bowie’s final album is a full 9 minutes and 58 seconds. The lyrics to this songs are some of the most puzzling of any of his songs as he sets the scene in a villa at an execution. His vocals are haunting, taking on a ghostly intonation reminiscent of a Charles Dickens novel, not the mention the reverb that only enhances its supernatural quality.
About four minutes in the song decomposes to almost silence as it fades into a much lighter guitar picking. His vocals shine in the uncluttered arrangement, with the almost overlapping background vocals with heavy, science fiction like effects over it.  It stays clear for a while until it falls back into the haunting hymn like verses.

2.    Lazarus
Lazarus is the most prophetic song on the album, foreshadowing Bowie’s death looming on the horizon at the time of its release. “Look up here, I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen/I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen/Everybody knows me now”.
The simple intro, with the saxophone is mournful, but easy on the mind. I am reminded of elevator music, but its elevator music I would enjoy on a quiet depressing evening. The downbeat of the first half of the song leads nicely into the bridge of the song, which feels more like the Bowie version of a bass drop. About 2 minutes in the song finally takes an uplifting twist as the bridge hits. Bowie’s vocals are heart wrenching and deeply rooted in emotion. Just as Bowie’s vocals finally broke the downbeat of the beginning, the saxophone takes a trip of its own, finishing off the song nicely. Lazarus may not be my favorite, but it definitely captures Bowie’s legacy in emotion if not music.

3.    Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)
Sue starts out with a driving guitar rhythm that carries the track through the next 4 minutes. This song is probably my favorite on the albumen, because of the guitar rift that keeps the other wise floating sounds grounded in reality. The rest of the track had what can only be described as science fiction medley. Each instrument, or sound, seems to be playing independent of the others. It’s almost as if several songs were written and then overlaid to create a slightly overcrowded mash-up that barely works. Sue most clearly manifest the jazz influence on Bowies last album, marred with temp changes and little improvisational trails of melody tied together only by the iconic voice of David Bowie.

It is by some shocking coincidence that a significant amount of Bowie’s lyrics are about death. Specifically Lazarus portrays the speaker in the song as a man talking from heaven, speaking of the freedom he has obtained. In a way, that what Blackstar is, David Bowie’s last strange, unearthly message to us all, sent to us in the voice of a dead man speaking beyond his grave.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Latest Birther Conspiracy by Caleb Wright

The bromance between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz has, sadly, ended. Not only are the two candidates no longer fundraising with each other and calling each other sweet names like "Potential Vice President" and "Staunch Conservative," they are now openly attacking each other, especially in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. To each other, I'm sure these attacks are a devastating betrayal. To the outside observer, these attacks are increasingly hilarious.
One of the most interesting of these attacks might actually have merit. To understand it, let's look at Article Two of the Constitution:
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States. 
Ted Cruz, despite his Texan constituency and Cuban roots, was born in Canada. Yes, the land of maple syrup, hockey, and communist health care. The natural born citizen clause is perhaps most interesting because it’s never been officially interpreted; no definition of “natural born citizen” was brought up in the Constitution, and the only court interpretations have been regarding citizens born in America to foreign parents.
Cruz’s situation is a bit different. At birth, he was an American citizen, thanks to his mother’s American citizenship, but was also a Canadian citizen (he has since renounced his Canadian citizenship). Based on the most common interpretation of the natural born citizen clause, he’s eligible to run, since he was a citizen “at birth.”
There have been a few, but not many, other times when the natural born citizen clause has been called into question. John McCain was born on a military base in the Panama Canal Zone to US parents, calling into question whether or not a military base counted as “in the United States,” and whether or not his citizenship from his parents would count. There’s only been one elected President where this was an actual issue. Chester A. Arthur, who became President in 1881 after James Garfield’s assassination, faced issues, according to J. Gordon Hylton of Marquette University Law School:
The controversy over Arthur’s citizenship status centers around the place of Arthur’s actual birth. By one account he was born in his family’s home in Franklin County, Vermont. If this was true, then he was clearly a natural born citizen. On the other hand, the competing account has it that he was born during his pregnant mother’s visit to her family’s home in Canada.
If the latter story is true, then Arthur was technically foreign-born, and in 1829, citizenship in such cases passed to the child only if the father was a United States citizen, and, of course, at this point Arthur’s father was still a citizen of the British Empire. 
Based on the interpretation Cruz is using, Arthur wouldn’t be eligible to run (much less become Vice President, since the same eligibility rules apply to both offices) since, at the time, citizenship couldn’t pass through the mother (thank you patriarchy). But, McCain would be eligible, and so would Barack Obama, even if he was born in Kenya, thanks to his mother’s citizenship.
But, most likely, this is a non-issue. Democrats and Republicans would much rather debate about other things that don’t matter instead of Constitutional law that doesn’t matter; back in 2008, the Senate passed a bipartisan, technically non-binding resolution declaring McCain eligible, just to get it out of the way. Citizenship will most likely not prevent Cruz from becoming President; his road to the White House has many obstacles, but the natural born citizen clause won’t be one of them.

Watch Your Watch by Mickey Forgione

So, the Apple Watch has been out for a while now, and this article will talk about the risks it and similar products pose. Everyone probably knows that there is no way to truly protect yourself from hackers, any clever computer jockey with the right programs can jaunt past a firewall or two. The Apple Watch however, just provides even more personal information about its owner. You might ask, “Well, what could it possibly have that my laptop or phone doesn't?” The answer would be a lot of medical information you might want to keep private. For example, the Apple Watch (and other similar products) track such things as your heart rate, location, how far you have moved, and can track a variety of other things like certain potentially embarrassing medical conditions. Now, you also might wonder, “How is my heart rate going to be embarrassing?” or “My phone tracks my location anyway. Who cares?” As for the heart rate, it can reveal things like cardiac arrythmia to anyone who cares to look at that data stream. This means that if a thief who has hacked your Apple Watch plans to rob you, they can find out if you have a medical condition that can trigger fainting (cardiac arrythmia) or other episodes during which you would be vulnerable. From then on, its just a matter of time. As a matter of fact, the thief wouldn't even need to know who you are or where you live. He or she only needs to be nearby your device to gain access.
Now that I have spelled out a horror tale of being robbed because of your heart rate being recorded, I will explain the main way to stop most hackers from getting in. First, however, I wish to make it clear that there always people looking to either steal personal information or use your device for other purposes. As I stated before, you cannot prevent yourself from ever being hacked, but you can prevent most attacks from happening with a simple password of at least 8 characters, preferably a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. So, password protecting your Apple Watch or other device is essential to remaining safe, but a better option is to simply not buy one.

The World's Most Exclusive Club By David Durairaj

Only five people are currently eligible to check in to this club. And one more will be added after the next Presidential election. That’s right, I’m talking about the President’s Club. Started during Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration, it was just an idea then as both Herbert Hoover and Harriet Truman were still alive. In those days, when presidents consulted former presidents, they maybe shared stories, but not more than that. There were limits to what former presidents could do. But now, with presidents living longer, they continue to have influence even after they retire.

The idea of a former president mentoring and advising the current president was barely a concept from the beginning of the institution. More often than not, a layer of distrust or even bitterness in some cases existed between the man leaving the most powerful position on earth, and the one gaining it. However, this changed with the Truman administration. Just weeks after inauguration, Truman contacted Hoover and gave him the job of convincing America and the world to send food and aid to the ravaged parts of Europe after WW2. Just to be clear, the seasoned Republican didn’t think much of the fledgling Democrat, but over the course of many interactions, they formed a lasting relationship that continued long after Truman’s term in office.  

Lets be honest: only people who have sat at the big desk know what it’s like to be president. That’s probably the reason why current presidents are now consulting current presidents more often. The morning John Kennedy was going to call quarantine on Cuba that could start a nuclear war, he called Eisenhower. Clinton called Nixon multiple times late at night to talk about Russia, China, and how to run the Oval office. The night Bin-Laden was killed, Obama placed his first two calls to George W. Bush and Clinton.

The President’s Club has its rules: stay in touch. Don’t talk about club business to the press. It also has its own feasts and rituals. It even has a clubhouse across the street from the White House. To make reservations for the clubhouse, you have to call the White House. This clubhouse/hotel may not be the best staying place in terms of service, but it does have dedicated accommodations for a full secret service detail.

In 2009, when Obama was going to become president, Bush tried to make the transition as smooth as possible for him. None of the four living former presidents were necessarily “excited” about Obama, but as Obama said, “They were all incredibly gracious.” Obama decided to invite all four former presidents to a luncheon in early January of 2009, and asked Bush the son to host it. The White House was nervous to invite Carter because he had criticized everything they had done for the past eight years. But everybody came: Bush, Carter, Clinton and Bush the elder. “We spent an hour talking about how we dealt with the White House staff and what living accommodations were and what to do about putting our kids in school in Washington…and how much of an intrusion it was on our private affairs to have security,” Carter said when interviewed.

In 2008, Obama came to Texas A&M collage station to meet with H.W. Bush. Bush went out of his way to welcome Obama, and Obama did the same. “He’s a citizen whose life has embodied that ethic… He could easily have chosen a life of comfort and privilege, and instead, time and again, when offered a chance to serve, he seized it,” said Obama.

This club will only become more important as the years go by, and it is likely that its members will continue to see a growth in their influence over the current president even as the executive branch grows stronger. And no doubt the president will increasingly rely on the former presidents for support and advice even as the United States is at a critical juncture in its history. Who knows what the 2016 presidential election will bring to the Presidents Club? Oh, and another duty that comes with being a member of the club is that when the president summons you, you go.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What the Movie Concussion Is About by Anita Durairaj

recently saw Concussion in theaters and I was intrigued by the movie's theme. Directed by Peter Landesman, the movie was released on December 25th, 2015, and addresses a very interesting topic: brain disease caused by the aggressive sport of football.

The cast includes Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Morse, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks and Luke Wilson. The movie tells the story of Nigerian doctor Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) who works as a forensic pathologist in Pittsburgh. While performing an autopsy on former NFL football player Mike Webster (David Morse), this highly accomplished doctor discovers neurological deterioration that is similar to that of Alzheimers. He names this condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and publishes his new discovery in a medical journal. When other athletes begin to suffer from the same diagnosis, Omalu sets out to raise public awareness about the dangers of football-related head trauma. He is backed only by a few friends and family, such as his wife Prema Mutiso (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), boss Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks) and former NFL Team Doctor Dr. Julian Bales (Alec Baldwin), as he takes on Roger Goodall (Luke Wilson). However, it is clear that fighting against a corporation as powerful as NFL and a sport as iconic as football is no easy ride. 

To find out more about CTE click on the following link:

One certain positive of Concussion was the acting done by Will Smith; it is definitely worthy of a Golden Globe as Best Actor for this movie. From accent to personality, Smith portrayed Doctor Omalu superbly. I also believe that David Morse acted out Webster's physical deterioration very well and that Gugu Mbatha-Raw played the role of immigrant/ devoted wife/ determined personality accurately. No doubt, this was a great movie. It kept me glued to the screen, as any good movie should. 

However, Hollywood's great acting and a captivating storyline wasn't the dominating thing in this movie; it was the facts. The main point is that the movie's plot is based on a true account, not a creative story. Dr. Omalu did actually find a disease caused by football. And NFL actually did cover it up for a while. For many people, football-related brain disease is not something they want to talk about. I mean, even if you don't follow football regularly, it's hard to imagine living in this country without it. And if you do, you probably couldn't imagine life without it! Football has become such a part of our culture, and accusing the sport of causing a deadly disease seems ridiculous.

However, the effects of CTE are portrayed vividly in this movie; seeing such football stars as Mike Webster, Dave Duerson (Adele Akinnuoye -Agbaje) and Andre Waters (Richard T. Jones) die from this disease is scary. Concussion is about the dangers of such implications. NFL knows, as the movie implies, that football-related brain disease exists and has done nothing about it. Imagine the dangers involved! Each NFL team is allowed to have 53 players on its roster (plus a five-player practice squad). As of 2011, the NFL has 32 teams, making a total of 1,696 players, many of whom will suffer multiple concussions that could perhaps result in CTE! 

Is the revenue and popularity generated by pro-football worth dying for? That is the question that Concussion poses, and the question that shows us what the movie is really about. It's also a question that both the NFL and football fans have to pay attention to. Who knows what kind of a long-term response this movie will receive? As Peter Travers of Rolling Stone Magazine put it: "Hardly mandatory pre-Super Bowl viewing for football junkies. But wait. Maybe it should be".  

Stop Romanticizing Mental Disorders by Christina Barron

Stop romanticizing mental illness. Specifically depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-harm. There is absolutely nothing beautiful or romantic about these things. Yet, today’s society of teenagers seems to think so. Mental disorders are regularly being glamorized by pop culture through movies, social media sites, music, and some books. This is wrong, and it is imperative that it stops.

Why do teens encourage each other that  allowing harm to their bodies and their mental health is considered to be the almost popular thing to do? Though it is glamorized, like most things pop culture pushes, it is far from romantic. America is experiencing a national mental health crisis, and its teenagers, its next generation of leaders and impactful citizens, are the last people who need to be using mental illness as an artistic gateway to popularity. 

However, the sad truth is, American's are under-educated on how to properly respond to teens experiencing mental illness. It is not the way to being the popular kid like social media would have you believe, nor should it be. But, if a teen does indeed have a mental disorder and they don’t skillfully cover it up with a pretty mask, he or she will be shunned. They don’t become the beautiful, popular friend with a quirky trait. They become the kid most people are afraid of and don’t know how to talk to. This isn’t pretty, it is horrible. Mental illness changes lives. It doesn’t turn life in to a super romantic teen love story. Life isn’t a John Green book. People need to see that!

Bulimia isn’t a pretty long haired girl bending over a toilet with a tragically beautiful face on. It’s a miserable face with vomit dripping from its chin and a bleeding throat.

Anorexia isn’t a slim figure shyly refusing a cupcake at a party. Its peach hair growing all over their freezing malnourished body who could drop dead of heart failure at any moment.

Depression isn’t a model with running mascara staring off into the sunset. It’s a boy staring at the ceiling at 4 o’clock in the morning with burning eyes because he can’t find the motivation to close them. 

Self-harm isn’t handsome boys kissing a shy girls scars and telling her she’s still the most beautiful girl in the world. Its scars that will be there for a very long time and showers that sting.

A panic attack isn't a gorgeous girlfriend burying her face into her lover’s chest and him telling her everything will be OK. Its feeling out of control and like all oxygen has been denied from your lungs.

Mental illnesses are real, and they are far from pretty. Please stop taking them lightly. Stop romanticizing teens being sad and harming themselves. Stop treating depression as a lovely cue for a perfect love story, there is nothing romantic about hopelessness and suffering.  Flowers won’t grow out of the scars on their wrists. A kiss won’t heal their mind. When someone is made to feel like death is their only escape, a cute celebrity isn’t going to come sweep them off their feet and save them. Mental illnesses don’t suddenly make people special or make people start to care about someone. They are monsters that destroy lives. Please stop promoting them as something wonderful to impressionable teenagers.