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http://www.theridernews.com/2012/03/29/transfer-thoughts-death-of-teenage-martin-troubles-student%E2%80%99s-conscious/

In a society that seems to witness a constant stream of terrible news, nothing appeared to hit the American conscious quite as hard as the death of teenager Treyvon Martin at the hands of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Stanford, Fla. last month.

On Feb. 26, while walking home from a convenience store, Zimmerman confronted Martin after he assumed that Martin was up to something suspicious. A physical confrontation occurred between the two, and Martin ended up dead with a bullet to the chest. Armed with only Skittles and an iced drink, his death has outraged many and called attention not only to how the Stanford police supposedly “mishandled” the case, but also to the Florida-centric Stand Your Ground Law, which allows the use of lethal force if it can be proven that the person’s life was in danger.

What seemed like an open-and-shut case of a racially motivated attack grew far more complicated as newly released evidence suggested that not only was Zimmerman acting in self-defense, but that Martin himself was the aggressor.  According to Zimmerman, he lost track of the young boy and was going back to his car when Martin approached him, and after some words were exchanged, punched him in the face and proceeded to slam his head onto pavement, prompting Zimmerman to shoot him in the chest. Zimmerman’s testimony goes against previous evidence that suggested Martin was innocent in the encounter, including an account from Martin’s girlfriend who claimed that she was talking to Martin right before the fatal altercation occurred.

While it’s too soon to know what actually happen between the two men, the reaction towards the case has grown ugly — real ugly.  As an African-American youth myself, reading through the multiple articles on the Florida case was extremely distressing; even worse were the comments that seemed to be made up of back-and-forth accusations of racism and attempts at discrediting Martin. It’s horrifying to find people who seem to imply that because Martin wore a hooded sweatshirt and got suspended from school for weed, he deserved to be killed.

Suddenly, this case is not simply about whether or not a boy’s death was justified, it’s about how we haven’t learned a thing in terms of race relations. Racial profiling is still something that’s terrible; however, it slips under the radar because mostly everybody practices it. I wouldn’t want someone to assume things of me just as much as I don’t think someone who is Caucasian, Latino or Middle Eastern would want anyone to assume things of them based on ethnicity. At this point, I don’t believe that Zimmerman is the raving racist that some news outlets have made him out to be. In fact, I actually can buy that Zimmerman is probably a decent person. However, I think we can all agree that if Zimmerman chose to stay in his car or simply had let the police handle the situation, a young man would not have died that night.

I really do hope this matter gets settled soon, as it’s clearly trying for all of those involved. However, the death of Treyvon Martin has revealed an ugliness within us that isn’t going away any time soon.  This is clearly a problem that needs to be settled before another person is tragically killed.

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http://www.theridernews.com/2012/11/15/senior-sound-off-manic-shoppers-make-mad-dash-to-sales/

Every year I indulge myself on Black Friday and what all of the lines and in-store fighting have to offer. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s my favorite holiday. Sure, some may (wrongly) declare Christmas as superior or Thanksgiving as a more joyous occasion, but I say a pox on your Santa Claus and store-bought pumpkin pie.

Let me ask you: Can a poorly erected Christmas tree replicate the happiness of heavily discounted big-screen televisions? Is your mom’s cooking as deliriously enjoyable as walking out of a store with bags of clothes that you’re only going to wear once? Of course not. Only a fool would think so — a fool too busy being green with envy as I raid the electronics section of the local Best Buy.
One could accuse me of being facetious — I assure you, I am not. I truly do enjoy Black Friday in the same manner that little children’s hearts warm up when they see Rudolph or the Easter Bunny. There’s just something, so dare I say, American about it all — walking into the mall, armed with money that I do not have and spending cash on things I cannot afford. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? It’s like the spirit of capitalism and materialism all brought together for one day of celebration. And by celebration, I mean amassing a credit card debt so large that even the South Koreans would be quaking with jealousy.

So what do I get out of engaging in the Black Friday festivities year after year? The experience. You have not lived until you have waited in line for five straight hours in 20 degree weather, severely under dressed and freezing, all for a Harry Potter Blu-ray that’s only $13.99.

Yet when the shopping starts, that’s when the real magic begins. Wading through the filled spaces of Walmart or J. C. Penney & Co., petty things such as human compassion and empathy go right out the window while hungry shoppers duke it out and prey upon the weak as they hunt for sales. It’s a jungle out there and it’s glorious.

Some may sneer at such activities and point out how online stores such as Amazon make it easier to shop without the supposed unpleasantries — that’s the coward’s way out. Purchasing something is not worth it if you can’t pry it away from the cold, clammy hands of some granny looking for something to buy poor little Johnny for Christmas. There is no time to dwell on such sentimentality; Black Friday is war. When one deals in war, one plays to survive. Perhaps that should be the motto for such a spectacular holiday.

If I come off a bit too enthusiastic, it is only because I wish to declare my love for Black Friday. It is, after all, one of the few times when we’re allowed to go a little spend-crazy. Consequences be damned, I say — or at least dealt with after a week of bingeing on regret.

-Christopher Exantus
Senior English major

By Christopher Exantus

http://www.theridernews.com/2011/12/08/piano-professor-plays-on-despite-stroke/

At first glance, Westminster’s professor of piano, Ingrid Clarfield, does not seem like the type of person who has had to deal with hardships. That is not meant to belittle what she has been through; in fact, it serves as a testament to just how strong she is. Sporting her trademark hair (“The hair isn’t so big thanks to the rain [today],” Clarfield joked), as well as an incredibly inviting personality, it is easy to stand in awe of Clarfield who, despite her condition, has managed to achieve so much. She is quick to point out, though, that she is a human being who simply enjoys what she does.

On March 29, 2007, Clarfield suffered a life-altering stroke that caused the entire left side of her body to become paralyzed. For most, this might have put life completely on hold; yet, through both hard work and determination, Clarfield was able to overcome her disability and continue to teach her students — both in her private studio and on campus.

“I say this now because I had a stroke, but I have always considered myself the luckiest person. Everyday I do what I love to do,” she said.

Despite her playful attitude, Clarfield admitted that it was a difficult road to recovery. Shortly after her stroke, she decided to write an article about her own struggle towards normalcy titled “Excellence is Excellence,” a unique piece comparing her teaching methods to that of the process of her own recovery.

Clarfield does not wish to be made into a victim, though. Instead she hopes that others take her experience and use it as the basis for their own inspirational breakthrough. This is what she believes Take a Bow, a documentary following her life after her stroke, achieves.

“The point for me is that one person walks away and says, ‘I can do more with my life,’” she said.

She also mentioned how the film has helped others who are also dealing with a disability.

“I feel really fortunate to know that I’ve been able to inspire other people to move on,” she said.

The idea for Take a Bow originally came to Lu Leslan, the movie’s director and producer, and fellow music professor, after she heard Clarfield speak at the 2009 Washington State Conference.

Clarfield was adamant, however, that the film focused on more than just her stroke.

“The focus had to be not just about my health, but about who I am,” she said.

Even after her stroke, Clarfield continues to mentor young students. Perhaps one of her most well-known students right now is pianist Charlie Liu, an elementary school student who has been making waves across various talk show programs because of his professional-level skills on the piano.

“He’s all over the place,” she said about Liu.

Shortly after her stroke, Clarfield was given the honor to teach young Liu after his father begged her to take him on as a student. Talented individuals such as Liu set the standard for what she expects from her students — she only takes on 12 students for her private studios.

Not only is Clarfield a teacher, but also a successful author, which was not originally an intended career path. It was not until she began to receive constant encouragement from her peers that she decided on turning her lecture notes into books. Now, with fourteen books throughout her span as a teacher, Clarfield is now looking into writing another series of books.

Even teaching in a university was not something she had initially planned on doing.

“I never had an interest in teaching in college,” Clarfield said. “I was very happy teaching privately.”

I was not until Phyllis Lehrer, Westminster’s Department Head, approached her that she even considered taking the job.

However, no matter who she is teaching, Clarfield devotes herself entirely. To her it is all about bringing inspiration and an appreciation for classical music.

“To me, the idea of somehow changing someone’s life in any way inspires me,” she said about introducing people to the arts. “If you’re teaching music, you’re changing their perception towards music [and] maybe even changing their idea of classical music.”

And that is what it is really all about for her — inspiration. Clarfield finished by giving advice for anyone who is struggling, whatever the problem may be.

“You never know what you can do in a crisis until it happens — you’d be surprised.”

By Christopher Exantus

http://www.theridernews.com/2011/09/22/drive-demonstrates-that-less-is-more/

The film “Drive” is a strange beast.  Directed by Danish-born Nicolas Winding Refn (“Bronson”), the film has been getting a large mainstream push by film distributor Film District even though Refn has been mostly known for his output in the independent film market. Drive doesn’t stray too far from Refn’s artistic vision, yet is a riveting and unapologetically violent crime tale.  It just might not be up everyone’s alley.

An unnamed driver (Ryan Gosling, The Notebook) doubles as a mechanic and getaway driver in the city of Los Angeles.  Driver becomes smitten with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan, Never Let Me Go); however, her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac, Sucker Punch), has been released from jail and is forced to perform a heist for a subordinate of Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks,Finding Nemo), a Jewish mobster.  Driver offers his assistance to Standard in exchange for the safety of Irene and her son. However, the robbery goes terribly wrong, and Driver finds himself being tracked down by Bernie’s enforcers.

Despite appearing in the popular film The Notebook, Gosling has yet to appear in anything that has staying power with mainstream film-goers.  That may change with his performance as “Driver,” a character who is seemingly timid and harmless, yet capable of such monstrous acts. It is difficult for an actor to pull off different extremes of emotion within a single character, yet Gosling is able to achieve this flawlessly. Brooks, a comedic actor known primarily for his role as Marlin in Pixar’s Finding Nemo, joins the ranks of Jim Carrey and Robin Williams as a comedic actor who is successfully able to make a turn in a more serious film. Bernie is a character that is both charming as well as capable of being a threatening force.Brooks does the job well, not only selling the character, but also making him surprisingly likable.  Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) plays a broken-down middleman attempting to go straight by forming a NASCAR racing team, and does a phenomenal job with what little screen-time he has to work with. Ron Pearlman (Sons of Anarchy) plays Jewish-Italian gangster Nino, who serves as Brooke’s right-hand man.  While Pearlman is not stepping out of his comfort zone for this role, he does it so well that at this point, it does not matter if he is treading familiar ground.

The lack of a female presence, while not a primary flaw, is somewhat disconcerting. Both Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and Carrey Mulligan are not given much to do; the former appears in the movie for only mere seconds, and Mulligan spends most of her time on screen simply reacting toward events that occur.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s directing operates under the “less is more” philosophy. The film trades in explosions and fast-paced action for quiet meditation,  and slow character building; a decision that may turn off those expecting something more action-packed. Yet Refn’s minimalistic direction allows the film to convey more emotion than it ever could with needless dialogue. It is a kind of confidence that emanates throughout the entire film, something that only a talented director and cast can pull off.  While the first half of the film can be considered a slow-burner, when the action hits, it hits hard. “Driver” is violent, at times ridiculously so, as the gore presents a jarring imagery to the otherwise quiet nature of the film.  However, the violence presented never feels over-the-top, making it effective, yet never straying into “gore-porn” territory.

Drive feels like an ode to older crime-films, and the synth-laden soundtrack gives it an overwhelming nostalgic feel.  Drivemight not be what many expected, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.