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April 19, 2004 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-04-19

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Monday
April 19, 2004
arts.michigandaily.com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

ARTS

9A'

HASHING OUT THE TRUTH
SCHLOSSER EXPOSES UNDERGROUND MARKET

By Bernie Nguyen
For the Daily
Upon initial observation, "Reefer Madness" seems
diminutive in comparison to the topic it tackles -
the American black market's giant sex, marijuana
and labor industries. Then again, it is an almost per-
fect analogy for the market itself. On the surface it's
hidden, unacknowledged or underestimated, but in
reality, it is enormously significant.
Eric Schlosser, in what he called "old-fashioned
investigative journalism," deals with one of the ris-
ing concerns of the domestic
economy in his new book. He
concentratessonethree huge Reefer
industries in this underground Madness
world: marijuana, migrant By Eric Schlosser
labor and pornography.By Houghton
focusing individually on each,
he calls attention to the expansion of the cumulative
market itself, one that he described as a symptom of
"a society that's fundamentally unhealthy." The
book demands recognition and forces acknowledg-
ment of the illegal, illogical and often dangerous
world that is right beneath our noses. Schlosser
spoke about these themes and his new book in
Angell Hall last Thursday.
In the marijuana section, the author clearly pres-
ents the facts and figures of the marijuana industry,
estimating its annual monetary intake to be in the
hundreds of millions of dollars. Scientific studies
show it to be non addictive, with fewer harmful side
effects than tobacco or alcohol and with potentially
useful medicinal qualities. Yet, he argues, the drug
retains a powerful social stigma and is associated
with a destructive, rebellious subculture. The legal
penalties for marijuana offenses, even involving
miniscule amounts, are sometimes extremely harsh.
Marijuana offenders can face life sentences without
parole alongside murderers and rapists.
Schlosser presents a particularly disturbing exam-
ple of a paraplegic who smoked marijuana in order
to relieve the phantom pains in his missing limbs and
was prosecuted and sent to prison for the tiny
amount hidden in his wheelchair. 54 percent of col-
lege-age students, he says, may legally be considered
criminals for marijuana usage. "If you have over half
of young people technically criminals that's a bad
law," Schlosser commented. "You could decriminal-
ize marijuana next week and no harm would result. A
lot of money that is. being wasted ... could be put to
better use."

Those hoes forgot to install my eight-track player.

Cedric and Harvey
can't sustain 'Vacation.

By Zach Mabee
Daily Film Editor

Schlosser signs autographs at Angell Hall on Thursday night.

Schlosser's voice is most poignant when he speaks
of the plight of migrant farm workers. He uses Cali-
fornia's strawberry industry, which is almost com-
pletely dependent on illegal labor, as a case study.
During his appearance at Angell Hall on Thursday,
Schlosser vividly outlined the need for better labor
laws to help the illegal Mexican laborers who are
underpaid, overworked and living in conditions well
below the poverty level. He sketches a disturbing
picture of the labor process behind America's low-
priced produce. Schlosser succeeds admirably in jar-
ring complacency and provoking thought about one
of the most dangerous and overlooked issues in
today's economy.
The last section of the book chronicles the pornog-
raphy industry through the story of Reuben Sturman
- one of porn's revolutionary pioneers and one-time
corporate giant. Schlosser analyzes the changing
face of America's obscenity laws and the enormous
revenue drawn from the industry of secret desires,
pleasures and shames. America's obscenity laws have
done next to nothing to check the growth of the bur-
geoning sex industry, a fact Schlosser sees as
extremely unsettling. He descibed it, saying "We
have a very complicated culture when it comes to
sexuality. The obscenity laws we have now are based

on all kinds of religious notions of sin and blasphe-
my. Eventually, hopefully, we will have a more
grown-up attitude towards sex, but right now it's
pretty crazy."
Schlosser's attempt to get at the truth stems from a
personal sense of necessity. He said "I just thought
that there's a need for this kind of inVestigative jour-
nalism." His book is well-written, well researched
and matter-of-fact, with an undertone of sympathy.
When asked what, in his opinion, was the most criti-
cal issue, Schlosser didn't hesitate: "If there's one
thing that unites them," he said, "it's a culture that
firstly is in denial of what's really happening and sec-
ondly is one that for all kinds of reasons has lost a
sense of compassion."
"Reefer Madness" is a fascinating, probing inves-
tigation of contemporary American society. Com-
menting on his intended audience, Schlosser smiled
a little and quietly suggested that those who should
read his book are "people who care about what's
happening in this country right now." Schlosser
knows that nothing will happen tomorrow or next
week to change America for the better, but he's opti-
mistic about the impact of his book on readers. "At
least if I've made them think ... if I've raised these
issues - that's the goal."

Why Cedric the Entertainer and
Steve Harvey continue to make
movies - in spite of apparent criti-
cal distaste - is perplexing. Why
they attempted to remake a seminal
piece of cinematic comedy - name-
ly, "National Lampoon's Family
Vacation" - is utterly inexplicable.
Remaking the Chevy Chase classic,
though, is what
the two Kings of
Comedy have Johnson
done in "Johnson Family
Family Vacation." Vacation
Nate Johnson At Quality 16
(Cedric the and Showcase
Entertainer) has Fox Searchlight
long awaited his
family's upcoming reunion. Sure,
he'll have an opportunity to see his
distanced relatives; more important-
ly, though, he'll be able to compete
against his older brother, Mack
(Steve Harvey) for the highly covet-
ed Family-of-the-Year crown.
After earning a job promotion,
Nate purchases a new Lincoln Navi-
gator, gathers his wife (Vanessa
Williams), from whom he's legally
separated, and two children (played
by Bow Wow and Selange Knowles)
and departs hastily from California
to reach Missouri as quickly as he
can. From the trip's commencement,
plans go awry, and the Johnsons'

journey to a family outing becomes
a complete debacle.
The comedy style of Cedric and
Harvey (although Harvey is used
very sparingly) simply cannot sus-
tain a film of this nature. Both men
are adept stand-up comedians, but
their tired jokes about hip-hop cul-
ture and race relations are not
enough to support a plot that is driv-
en primarily by dialogue in a
cramped car between four family
members.
Cedric's other three family mem-
bers and the rest of the supporting
cast also provide him with little sup-
port. As his dissatisfied, prudish wife,
Williams is little more than a nui-
sance; and Bow Wow's and Knowles's
characters are, as is to be expected,
empty. Shannon Elizabeth fails as a
sexy, covertly demonic hitchhiker,
and Christopher B. Duncan (TVs
"The District") exhausts even more
his recurring role of exceedingly
sophisticated, cultured nerd.
"Vacation" is, in its essence, .a
reckless amalgamation of generally
tired material. Cedric and Harvey had
innovative ideas in their.earlier days,
but most of their material is now sim-
ply pedestrian - it's the stuff that
floods 'ET's airwaves nightly on
ComicView. Moreover, the broad
story behind "Vacation" is one that is
duly familiar to any fan of comedies.
To adapt it some 15 years after its
release is simply foolish. Hopefully in
the future Ced and Steve will plan
their outings more carefully.

Toots finds True Love with friends

DAILY ARTS.
DAIRY OPINION'S
ANTI-DRUG-

By Rachel Krer
Daily Arts Writer

erful duet on the title track, while Ryan
Adams timidly carries the lyrical bur-
den on "Time Tuff." Accustomed to a
piercing whine, Adams lacks Toots's
deep-rooted soul. Bootsy Collins and
the Roots have the most fun with their
remake of "Funky Kingston;" but it
lacks the sweat-inducing energy of the
original.

Although Toots does not need his
musical counterparts, they add fresh
elements to his classics and, most
importantly, bring his music to a wider
audience. Whether it gains them legions
of new fans or not, Toots and the May-
tals prove that their guest stars are the
lucky ones to be granted the opportuni-
ty to play alongside the reggae great.

Toots and the Maytals enlisted the
help of some friends for their new
album True Love. Keith Richards, Ben
Harper and Jack Johnson are only a few
of the performers lending their talents
to the legendary reggae act. However,
the all-star lineup is unnecessary as
Toots really does not need their help.

11 ..... ..... * .............. ....... - "' ' m .- . , .. , , -m l l .., - .. I ll

With the excep-
tion of the opening
song, "Still is Still
Moving with Me;'
written and per-
formed with Willie
Nelson, all of the

the £oo04

Toots and
the Maytals
True Love
V2

songs on True Love have already been
elevated to classic status. Not much has
. changed since their unveiling 40 years
ago. Toots still consistently delivers
lethargic tempos that flow with the ease
of a needle puncturing velvet.
The best collaborations on the album
derive from the musicians that under-
stand Toots. Eric Clapton demonstrates
that he is still a guitar virtuoso on "Pres-
sure Drop." No Doubt contributes to
"Monkey Man," but only a mere shad-
ow of Gwen Stefani's voice pierces
through Toot's vibrant baritone.
On other parts, Toots downplays his
efforts, allowing his guest stars to shine.
Bonnie Raitt holds her own in the pow-
SCOREEPERS
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Textbooks
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,Uatc
zra ciatc
T fooc
Rcls

Kasdan Scholarship in Creative Writing
Arthur Miller Award
Chamberlain Award for Creative Writing
The Dennis McIntyre Prize
Helen S. and John Wagner Prize
Andrea Beauchainp Prize
Robert F Haugh Prize
Meader Family Award
Naomi Saferstein i.iterary Award
Leonard and Eileen Newman Writing Prizes
Paul and Sonia Handleman Poetry Award
Geoffrey James Gosling Prize
Theodore Roethke Prize
John Wagner Prize
Will be announced
Tuesday, April 20
3:30 p.m.
Rackham Auditorium
(main floor of the Rackham Bldg.)
Lecture by
MARY GORDON

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