Thoughts ---> Words
Saturday, April 24, 2004
  Group Presentations

Among all the group presentations, I was most impressed with the one on identity theft and privacy. I felt that the topic was not only well chosen, but also well researched. Identity theft is a major problem in the US because of the use of social security number. Places like insurance, doctor's visit, banks and credit card companies, almost all of them require a social security number. Even cellular phone companies require a social security number which leads to the question, how do we avoid identity theft due to social security numbers being stolen? The answer is given by Georgia Tech through the use of GTid numbers. A similar system could not only reduce identity theft, but also provide as an effective form of identification. Another important point which was made was invasion of privacy due to the internet. The most surprising and at the same time frightening thing was when our professor's address, phone number, photograph and such private information was obtained just by using his name! If such is the power of the internet, then it makes me wonder whether I should really be using it or not. Today, almost all major companies, school and colleges have their own website. Even course materials and assignments are made online and thus, it is impossible to stop using the internet. The only way to make the web experience safer and enjoyable is to have strict penalties for violators of privacy such as the Gator corporation, which I am told installs spyware on the computer so that it can keep track of all the websites one visits and it can also keep track of sensitive information like passwords and credit card information.
The whole presentation was very well done because the topic was very relevant to students and at the same time it was well researched, well presented and informative. I hope to see more such presentations in future.
Friday, April 23, 2004
  Imovie making experience

This year at Georgia Tech, we had the chance to make an iMovie and participate in the Delta iMovie fest. The idea of making a movie never struck me until one of my friends came up to me to ask if I would be a part of his team. The whole idea of being creative and expressing one's thought was exciting enough for me to agree. The first problem we ran into was the storyline. During spring break, all of us had gone for a vacation together but did not give much serious thought to the movie. On returning, we realized that we had only a week left to make the movie. The theme for the iMovie fest was moving the world and so we thought of a storyline about a typical Georgia Tech student (male) who had no girlfriends. In search for a girl, he finds failure everywhere until finally he realizes that a girl isn't everything. However, we soon ran into trouble with this script because we could not find a girl who agreed to take part in our movie. It was as if the movie was a film version of our own lives! Next we thought about making a movie about a gay person who wonders whether he is really gay or not. The problem with this script was that none of us could act "gay" and we always ended up laughing. So finally, we tried to move the world with laughter. A homeless guy who by chance was also a "hi tech" thief lures a student into following a girl (by sending him an instant message to "follow the girl in the red dress") and then beats him up and robs him. He later encounters his old nemesis, "Mr. Smith" (veiled reference to The Matrix). After defeating them all, he emerges victorious and later goes on to become a professional rapper. The student changes majors to graduate with a degree in hobology and reminds himself never to be taken in by random people's instant messages. Although we did not win, we had a really good time making the movie and adding bits and pieces to make it funny. If I get I chance, I would definitely do this again next year. 
Thursday, April 22, 2004
  Research paper - 3rd entry

The issue of owning guns (even mass-killing guns such as M-16 assault rifles) was encouraged by several people that Michael Morre interviewed in his documentary, Bowling for Columbine. It is a chock to know that one can purchase such devastating weapons legally. If such kind of weapons get into the wrong hands, there's no telling what untold destruction they might unleash on others, and it is precisely such laws that cause people to fear their own neighbors. There was a particular incident where a member of the viper militia (ordinary citizen who bears arms to defend the people if need be) killed a police officer. To avenge his death, another member built pipe bombs, made napalm, greenades and practised guerilla warfare. Luckily he was arrested before he could do any real damage. Such kind of incidents emphasize the need for more control over the ownership of guns and similar objects of destruction. Moore uses humor, sarcasm and facts to point prove his point, that the number of guns is not the problem, (Canada has almost the same number of guns circulating within the public as the US) but it is the way we use them, the things we believe, the things we are made to see and the things on which our concern lies. He tries to contrast the beliefs of the average American with the average Canadian. Canadians believe that the issues which need to be addressed are health, education and medical facilities for all, whereas Americans are more concerned about safety. Moore illustrates how safe Canadians feel by going up to a random persons house and entering it (the front door was unlocked). Moore blames the media and people like Charlton Heston (president of the National Rifle Association) for reinforcing the need to feel secure and use arms to defend oneself. Moore feels that the violence in the visual media as well as the daily news of X number of people shot and killed has raised serious questions about safety in the minds of the public, so much so that they need to rely on themselves for their own as well as for the safety of their loved ones.
Such is the analysis of Moore. However, he ends the film with a very interesting question, which is where do we go from here. In his opinion, guns shuold be banned. However, considering the vast majority of guns in circulation, it would be an almost impossible task to retrieve all of them. Thus in my opinion, the best way to go would be to license each guns sold and the banning of assault weapons and similar mass killing guns. Alongwith this, there is the important task of making people have faith in the system and to allay their fears about safety. THis is only possible if initiatives are taken from both sides, from the publis as well as the government. MOst people are for some kind of gun control or the other. So why not take this thought a bit further an implement it? 
  Research paper - 2nd entry

In his movie Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore interviews certain people and from their response, tries to show why is there an atmosphere of fear and feeling of lack of security among Americans. Although his movie will not appeal to the gun lover it contains an important message, that Americans and America's gun laws are the reason behind this growing culture of fear. Fear and guns are interdependant. The need for guns is because people are afraid, they fear for their safety and those of their loved ones. That is the reason they need a gun to protect themselves. With so many guns sold on the market, that too legally, people panic and fear that if someoone with a gun cracks up or loses his/her mind, that person might go on a shooting rampage. Even today, it is not determined who or what caused the boys at Columbine to go and shoot their classmates and teachers. THey used semi-automatic weapons, pistols, bombs and napalm to cause havoc in an otherwise peaceful neighborhood. Moore's movie focuses on the Columbine shooting and alongwith that, tries to answer the bigger question about guns. He tries to make a connection between government policies ("the president bombed another country whose name we couldn't pronounce") and the mindset of the people. He also interviews one of the people convicted of being in league with the Oklahoma city bombers. In the movie, this person is shown to be almost a mad man or a psycho (he cocks a loaded gun and points it to his head saying "no one can tell me what to do with my gun"). This person talks about the "tyrannical government" and how people would "revolt with anger" if they knew they were being ripped of by it. He says that the 2nd amendmendment allows Americans to own weapons and that all guns should be made available to the public, almost to the point that nuclear weapons should also be included as "arms". Such things make a person wonder whether this man is out of his mind or has he had too much to drink. 
  Research paper - 1st entry

My research paper was on gun control and the culture of fear. Gun's are weapons that could cause a lot of grief, pain and loss of life if they fell into the wrong hands. The issue of gun control has always been avoided by most politicians unless there is an incident (like the shootings at Columbine) which require attention. One of the reasons for this is because most American citizens love guns. They use guns for hunting, sport and pleasure. The second reason and probably the more important reason is the National Rifle Association better known as the NRA. The NRA is an organization for gun lovers and has quite a huge following; so much so that they are enough to turn the elction in favor of one candidate. However, the issue of guns still needs addressing. Every year about ten thousand people are killed in the United States due to guns. This number is much lower in Japan ( about 300) and Canada, which has almost the same number of guns as the US has only a hundred and fifty deaths every year due to guns. The main text around which my paper revolved was the movie Bowling for Columbine by Michael Moore. Moore focuses on aforementioned fact and tries to find out that why is the average American so fearful of guns and why there are so many gunn deaths every year in the US. 
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
  Blog on a movie - Panic Room

The movie I saw last is Panic Room. Although it came out in 2002, I had the opportunity of watching it only recently. Starring Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker and Jared Leto, the starcast isn't very big. However, the movie had some good acting by Foster. The storyline is different from most movies and the whole idea of a panic room either makes one panic or excited. In my case, it was the latter. Having a panic room in the house is like a dream and more than the safety, it is the features in the room that make it so interesting. Although the panic room in the movie isn't exactly a safe room (its more like a mouse hole with no exit), yet one of the purposes of having it is for safety. The movie is a bit of a drag at 1 hour and 51 minutes and evertime when one feels that there is going to be an outcome (either escape or capture) there is a new twist. This gives a kind of hopeless feeling about the whole situation, but in the end the conflict is resolved with no innocent casualties. There are moments within the film that the audience wonders how stupid a person can get. One example of this is when Meg Altman's (played by Jodie Foster) husband, Stephen, enters the house without any police officers assisting him, despite getting a call from his wife that they need his help. Later in the movie the police appear because they had been tipped off by Stephen. At this time too, Jodie Foster does not tell the police about the theives in her house even when she could safely do it. Another apparent blooper in the movie is that one of the theives is hit on the head with a sledge hammer, falls down 2 floors and yet has the energy to come up, not get shot when the gun was about 4 feet away from him and still have the energy to overpower his victims, despite having his left hand crushed by a solid steel door. The whole idea of the panic room is interesting and yet the movie did not follow up well on it. 
Monday, April 05, 2004
  Final entry on White Noise

Don DeLillo's White Noise is novel which has a recurring theme of death. Although it is a collection of commonplace events and incidents, the underlying theme of death and the struggle for power and individuality are always visible. Jack, being the head of the department for Hitler studies is a power figure in his own right; yet when he visits the grocery store, without his robe he looks weak and powerless. Hitler, who himself was a power figure has aims to conquer the globe and thus is in a power struggle with the leaders of the world; in White Noise, Jack is in a power struggle with his friend and associate Murray when they debate over Hitler and Elvis. The image of death is also visible when Jack talks about how Hitler was so powerful that he did not need a crowd to protect himself from death and that Hitler's voice appealed to the masses because he spoke of death and honoring the dead. Jack talks of death with Babette and the mention of the word causes silence to fall upon them. The idea of losing one's individuality, one's power has a profound impact on Jack. When one of the faculty member's met Jack at the grocery store telling Jack that he looked 'powerless' without his robe, it drove Jack into a kind of buying frenzy. It was as if he was trying to buy things that would make him look powerful and imposing. However, towards the end of the novel, when Jack finds out he is about to die, a sudden change comes over him and he begins discarding things, as if he was preparing to lose all his power and meet the all powerful death. It seemed like he was submitting to death. Even at such a time though, Jack wanted to protect his individuality and did not want to lose or rather disclose his power to anyone. This is the time when he is in the hospital and does not want his body and mind to be probed by the X-rays and the probes attached to his mind and body. He wants to forget that he is going to die and so when the doctor asks him questions, he answers them in a roundabout way, trying to avoid them.
This is a class blog for my English class. Feel free to read through and comment. But no SPAM please.

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