Thursday, April 9, 2009

On the Lighter Side with Limis Ward

How to Deal with the Worrisome Veteran:  The Director's Cut


Not since the days of the late director John Huston has a film of such subtlety and power graced the American screen.  This short film, produced at taxpayer expense by Penn State University, features the challenges a young, brave teaching assistance trying her best to educate a deranged, murderous veteran of the Iraq Occupation. - LW


Mumford:  I'm privileged to make your acquaintance, sir.


Livingstone:  Likewise.  I'm never thought I'd ever get to meet one of Hollywood's top gossip gurus, Larry Mumford.


Mumford:  Thank you Mr. Livingstone.  Let's start right from the top.  How did this project get started?


Livingstone:  Well like everything we do here at the university, the first thing we did was name a culturally diverse and racially sensitive committee to confront the problem.


Mumford:  And I take it you were one this committee.


Livingstone:  Oh yeah.  I'm on a lot of these committees because I'm part Delaware Indian and part Hispanic plus I'm married to an African-American so I cover a lot of bases.  Most of the time I don't even know a whole lot about the committee's particular subject but I pick it up as we go along.


Mumford:  Maybe we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here.  For what was this particular committee you refer to formed?


Livingstone:  You mean the Working Collective to Discuss Potential Threats from Military Fascists Attending the College under the GI Bill?


Mumford:  Yep.  That sounds like the right one.


Livingstone:  At Penn State, like a lot of other institutions of higher learning, we're really on the front line in dealing with the fallout from the failed Bush adventure in Iraq.  Due to the right wing supporters of the military, returning veterans can attend this institution for free.  Their presence on this campus causes a lot of problems.


Mumford:  How so?


Livingstone:  Well, you really got to break it down, like we did on the committee for the better part of six months.  First of all, look who these people are, I mean the returning vets.  Most of them were too stupid to get a real job or go to college in the first place so they joined the military.  Then Bush and Cheney callously send them off to fight an unnecessary war without the proper equipment or training.  And since these two are so cheap, except when it comes to stealing money off the taxpayers via Halliburton, there are not enough soldiers to fight these wars so the guys that go to places like Iraq can be stuck there for years.  Then once they finally get out of that hell, they come here for an education but what they really need is re-education.


Mumford:  In what way?


Livingstone:  Well let me tell you.  I was in the military, Vietnam, so I know how they brainwash people.  And what we're finding out is that a lot of these guys come from dysfunctional homes, primarily Republican, anti-gay, anti-abortion, real Neanderthals, you know the type.  Some of these guys can get really defensive when you challenge their misguided beliefs.


Mumford:  So you're a Vietnam vet.  Is that why you were chosen to direct this film.


Livingstone:  Oh yeah, that plus I watch a lot of porn on the internet so I'm familiar with camera angles and film production.


Mumford:  I'm shocked that you're colleagues would know this about you.  Not many people would admit to such a thing.


Livingstone:  They know because I watch most of this porn at work.  A lot of people here do but I'm not a pig..  I keep the sound down.  Gotta fill up the time somehow.


Mumford:  Tell me more about the background of the project.


Livingstone:  We did a lot of research on this problem, studies, questionnaires and we were really shocked at what we found.  For example, most of these veterans have fired guns during their time in Iraq.  Some of them have even killed people over there and you know what, a lot of them are proud of it.  Can you believe that, they're proud that they killed another human being?


Mumford:  But weren't the enemy soldiers trying to kill them?


Livingstone:  I don't think so and our political science liaison backs us up on that.  Some of these guys are like an animal that's tasted blood, how do you ever take that urge away to kill again?  That's our problem.


Mumford:  Have there been instances of returning veterans threatening to kill or, God-forbid, killing somebody else on the campus?


Livingstone:  No and I think this film has played a big part in our record of success.  Getting the proper message out to our instructors is the key to confronting this difficult problem.


Mumford:  Speaking of your instructors, why don't we bring in the star of your film, Lindsay Boyer, who plays the young teaching assistant.  Lindsay, I understand you're an actual teaching assistant so you bring a certain realism to the film.


Boyer:  The only difference between my character in the film and my real life is that I'm a teaching assistance in the mathematics department while my character is in the English department.


Mumford:  So I guess there's not an opportunity to discuss politics in your math classes like you're character does in the film.


Boyer:  On no, that's not true.  I spend a lot of time condemning the failed Bush polices and proving that President Obama's policies are superior.


Mumford:  How does that fit into a class on mathematics?


Boyer:  I look at politics from a mathematical prospective.  For example, I've distilled five basic principles that characterize Republicans and from those principles I can deduce theorems to show Bush is a failure.


Mumford:  Amazing.  And what are those principles?


Boyer:  1.  Republicans are greedy, 2.  Republicans are selfish, 3.  Republicans hate freedom, 4.  Republicans seek world domination, and 5.  Republicans live for oil.   That's it.  Those five will proof that Bush is a failure as surely as Euclid.


Livingstone:  What do you think of that huh?  She's not only hot as hell but smart too.


Mumford:  Makes sense to me.  So as a teaching assistant, you're on the front lines of this issue, I mean the problem of returning veterans.


Boyer:  Without a doubt.  I've had a number of these guys in my classes, mostly the introductory classes.  I mean, come on, not many veterans can handle the higher level math.


Mumford:  And what has your experiences with them been?


Boyer:  Usually they're at the bottom of the class, just hanging on.  And they're pretty scary.  They love to come strutting up to my desk after class, in their tight T-shirts with their muscular arms and rugged hands hanging out.  Every time I see them coming I imagine them breaking some poor Iraqi woman's arm or smashing their baby's head off the wall. 


Mumford:  Have you ever been attacked by one of these guys?


Boyer:  Not yet, but I'm careful.  I never talk to these guys without my mace close by and I always check the erasers in the classroom for IED's before I start teaching.  You can't be too careful these days. 


Mumford:  Do you think this film will help deal with this crisis?


Livingstone:  Absolutely.  And that's why we put a lot of thought into the casting by finding Lindsay to play the teaching assistance and Warren to play the returning vet.


Mumford:  Speaking of Warren, let's bring Warren into this.  Tell me a little about your role in this film.


Warren:  I play the returning veteran and I put a lot of work into forming the character that these guys have.  It wasn't easy.


Mumford:  How did you go about this process?


Warren:  I thought of everything I could to form an aggressive, somewhat stupid attitude.  I read the comics every day, ate red meat, and watched a lot of John Wayne movies.  It worked but I paid a heavy price for this role.


Mumford:  How so?


Warren:  Without even realizing it, this aggressive attitude started seeping into my subconscious.  It really hit home one day when I was watching a movie on Lifetime and my partner switched the channels.  I really went off of him, calling him a little bitch and threatened to break off our relationship.  When he started to cry, it shocked me back to reality.  I've had to do a lot of work to get back to normal.  I've got a sensitivity counselor, I've spend some time hiking in the rainforests, and I've been volunteering at a homeless shelter.  Those bums are pretty disgusting but I think it's helping me get back to my normal, sensitive self.


Mumford:  I'm glad you're doing better and all three of you should be proud of your work on this soon to be classic of American cinema.  So let's role the tape, oh my, I'm showing my age there, and get your comments on the individual scenes.



Postscript:  Believe it or not, this video is an actual instruction tool that was once posted on the Penn State Division of Student Affairs website.  As of this writing, this website features four videos from the Division's Counseling & Psychological Services unit dealing with worrisome student behaviors.  When you click on the first three videos, there are two tabs labeled scenario and follow-up.  When you click on the video referred to in this post, the website will not change because the good people at Counseling & Psychological Services had the sense to remove the video from their site after the outrage over its production. 

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