Sunday, March 30, 2008

On the inability to outsource depressing weekends

Last semester, one of my professors, who is very involved in tobacco litigation efforts, presented some of his findings, and drew parallels to fast food litigation efforts (in which he is also very active). The problem was, he kept saying "Big Mac" all the time, and decades of subliminal advertising brought the touched-up, false image of a delicious burger to mind ... so on my way home I stopped by McDonald's for a Big Mac. (The last time I'd had McDonald's was before Mi Hermana's wedding in SoCal -- and that was because Mi Cuñado's parents are within walking distance --which in LA means driving-- of the original McDonald's, so we went there. The museum was closed.) I couldn't eat for about a day afterwards, and felt unwell within an hour of consuming ye olde Big Mac. It was a bit like the recent Cheesecake Factory incident.

This weekend I finally watched Super Size Me. Oy. I really liked it, and thought it was clever and insightful. The guy is clearly crazy for eating an all-McDonald's diet for 30 days, though he enlisted three doctors and a nutritionalist to chart his progress. But I thought he did a good job balancing the debate on personal responsibility vs corporate responsibility in light of America's obesity problem. He was able to touch on so many issues, including the debate on the quality (and outsourcing of provision) of food in public schools, the food lobby industry, and American food portions.

Though interesting and insightful, it was just the beginning of the depressing policy-related weekend film binge.

Because my Econ group was thinking of showing clips for our upcoming presentation (and I was tasked with obtaining the DVD), I watched Jarhead. Maybe I'm a little desensitized to war movies because my parents made us watch basically every WW2 film ever made. But I really didn't see how the film, which I know was based on one soldier's memoirs, was any different from the standard war-story genre. The only two things I can think of were the fact that the soldier through whose eyes the viewer is seeing the war never actually fires his weapon, and he never sees action. Most of the movie is his unit waiting around, training for nothing, giddily anticipating killing enemies in the Gulf War. The end focused on the inherent "brotherhood" cultivated not necessarily by fighting and killing but by serving in the Marine Corps in an area where others, including civilians, are fighting and die. Perhaps this key difference was supposed to be emblematic of a new generation of soldiers, fighting in a very different kind of war. But I was underwhelmed and extremely unimpressed, and I don't believe I'm perpetuating the "Greatest Generation" stereotypical crap by saying that. At any rate, there were some good scenes of the men bonding as a unit in the face of their sergeant, an inquisitive media reporter, shared separation from their loved ones back in the States, and climate acculturation. Watching it in 2008, though (and it was made in 2005), there are a few scenes that uncomfortably evoke images of the more recent Iraq war's Abu Ghraib human rights violations.

Still, I don't understand why people rave about the movie. I don't think it was very successful in being the generational war film that it so desperately wants to be. But as part of a larger genre, it was still sad. Especially when based on memoirs.

Then, because my Econ group was also thinking of showing clips from Robert Greenwald's Iraq for Sale, I watched that too. Our upcoming presentation is on private contractors in Iraq, and our focus will be on the (lack of) economic efficiency, (lack of) information for a good cost-benefit analysis, market failure, and (scant) human rights and international law. Yes, we are Law, Policy, and Society students in an Econ class....

The documentary was short but SO depressing, especially after a documentary on greedy fast food companies and a film about an isolating war experience. Greenwald interviews half a dozen families of (civilian) contractors who were brutally murdered in war zones in Iraq, as well as many former contractors, former military personnel, former Abu Ghraib detainees, corporate watchdogs, and human rights advocates. Since I'd just finished compiling my portion of the PPT, which draw on a lot of military sources and international law arguments, it was slightly redundant information overload. But the interviews provided the personal stories that my academic and military-strategy readings lacked, and I couldn't stop watching.

Our group met this afternoon, and it turns out our PowerPoint presentation is so long and we all rant forever anyway, we don't need to show clips from the documentary to stall for time after all.

So I cancelled my plan to see Persepolis at the theatre nearby, which I'd been hoping to do since I found out it was playing there.

The sun was out today, but it was cold, so cold...

Reordering Netflix queue for the happy comedies...

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