Month: October 2017

Lobbyists, volunteers dedicate time to address climate issues

[Editor’s note: is story is the third part of the multi-part series “Climate Crisis” examining the causes and effects of climate change that began with Issue #1 and concludes in Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]

Activists around the world are dedicating their time to stopping climate change.

One organization, however, is working to create climate solutions.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is an organization that is working toward national policies to address the issues of climate change.

“We need to have national policies in place that are going to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are doing the climate changes,” says Steve Valk, communications director for Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “To do that, we have to generate political will to Congress to take action.”

Steve Valk Citizens Climate Lobby
Steve Valk, communications director for Citizens Climate Lobby, encourages volunteers to help with climate solutions. Photo courtesy of Steve Valk

Citizens’ Climate Lobby trains and supports volunteers from around the country to lobby their members of Congress to develop relationships with them by talking with or writing to them.

According to Valk, there are many important issues when addressing climate change. But the Citizens’ Climate Lobby believes the biggest impact that is going to address climate issues is putting a price on carbon.

“We lobby for a policy that we call Carbon Fee and Dividend,” says Valk. “You assess a fee on fossil fuels based on the C02 content in the fuel, and then increase the fee each year. So, you’re providing the incentive for a number of businesses and industries who shift to cleaner sources of energy because of the fee.”

Attaching a fee to fossil fuels leads to coal, oil and gas becoming more expensive compared to solar and wind power. The carbon fee is only one part of the policy, though. The other part is the dividend.

“Take all the revenue,” explains Valk. “Take all that money from the carbon fee, divide it up equally among households in the U.S. and give the money back to people, because we know that putting a fee on carbon will increase the cost of energy. If we give the revenue back to households, then they’ll have the additional income they need to cover.”

In 2014, Citizens’ Climate Lobby did a study for their policy and  found two things. In the past 20 years, they have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. The other discovery they found was because they’re giving back the money to households, it creates a stimulus effect that creates around 3.8 billion jobs.

“We’re focusing on getting that passed,” Valk says, “and to do that we need both Democrats and Republicans to support this legislation. We have accomplished in the last few years to get Democrats and Republicans talking to each other about climate solutions.”

According to Valk, Citizens’ Climate Lobby played a key role in the formation of the House Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group in the U.S. House of Representatives which was started in 2016 by two congressmen in Florida.

If you’re aware and alarmed with what’s happening with our climate, if you’re worried about the future of our world, then there is something you can do about it.

“Since January, the caucus has grown to 58 members, 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans,” explains Valk. “Eventually, some members from both sides will introduce the legislation. We’re not there yet, but we’re going to get there.”

Citizens’ Climate Lobby was founded in October 2007 by Marshall Saunders. However, Saunders wasn’t focusing on climate change during his career, as he operated an estate brokerage specializing in shopping center development and leasing.

“Marshall made a lot of money in real estate,” explains Valk, “and back in the early 90s, he became very interested in doing something about poverty. He learned about the approach addressing poverty using microcredit.”

Microcredit provides small loans to poor people and women, mainly used in developing countries. They can start or expand their own business to make money and pull their families out of poverty, according to Valk.

Saunders heard about microcredit through an organization called Results. Results lobbies Congress for hunger and poverty programs. Saunders went on to start his own microcredit program in Mexico based on the success of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.

“He even went over to Bangladesh and learned all about [microcredit] from Muhammad Yunus, who founded the Grameen Bank,” Valk explains. “He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work with microcredit.”

Citizens Climate Lobby
Citizens climate lobby meets at the nation’s capital. Photo courtesy of Steve Valk.

In 2006, Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” released and Saunders saw it. He ended up watching the film several times, and he was concerned about what was happening to the planet.

“He realized if something wasn’t done about climate change, the people that he was trying to help weren’t going to have a place to live,” says Valk. “He went to the Climate Change Project and was trained by Al Gore to do slideshow presentations. After doing the presentations for a year, something was missing. The presentations didn’t mention any national policies.”

One day Saunders picked up the New York Times and saw that Congress gave $18 billion in subsidies to oil and coal companies. He decided that the country needed a national policy to discourage the use of fossil fuels.

“He couldn’t find an organization that was providing the support for volunteers,” says Valk. “He said, ‘Well, I guess I’ll have to start my own.’”

In 2009, Saunders hired many staff members, and that’s when the lobby started to grow. At one time, the lobby only had a dozen chapters in the United States but now has 400 chapters. The chapters meet once a month and have national conference calls that involve climate experts.

“We provide a lot of support for the volunteers, and we educate them,” says Valk. “We train our volunteers and give them skills that they need to be effective advocates. We encourage people to check out the introductory calls and get to know a little bit about us.”

Valk explains there are many climate change-caused disasters happening around the world. He encourages people who are concerned about climate change to take action.

“If you’re aware and alarmed with what’s happening with our climate, if you’re worried about the future of our world, then there is something you can do about it,” explains Valk. “You can reclaim your democracy and get Congress to take action, and we will give you the support and training to be an active advocate to get our government to enact the solutions that are going to make a decision.”

Free press, fake news topics of discussion at Constitution Day

The pace of the news is faster than ever. Making sense of it all was at the forefront of this year’s Constitution Day discussion at South Plains College.

Every year, Constitution Day is celebrated at SPC with a public presentation or conversation on important issues facing our country, looking back at past events and forward to future possibilities.

The event, held on Sept. 29 in the Sundown Room in the Student Center, was organized by the Social Sciences Department. The focus of this year’s talk was the freedom of the press provision of the First Amendment, and discussion regarding the idea of so-called “fake news.”

Leading this year’s dialogue as moderator was Tim Holland, instructor in government, with Drew Landry, assistant professor of government, keeping time and tracking social media questions. A panel of local experts gave their thoughts on the questions brought forward.

Before the discussion started, all in attendance were encouraged to take out their smartphones and tweet questions to the Twitter account @SPCGovernment, using the hashtag #1AFakeNews, so questions could be selected for the panel.

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David Williams, Dr. Sharon Bogener, Tim Holland, and Matt Dotray formed the panel for Constitution Day on Sept. 29. MATT MOLINAR/PLAINSMAN PRESS

The subject that garnered the most discussion by far was “fake news,” both what it really is, and how journalists and consumers alike might take measures to fight it.

“You can go back as far as you want to in the history of the world and find so-called ‘fake news,’” said Dr. Sharon Bogener, professor of History at SPC.

According to her, this idea of generating false claims through the media isn’t a new development at all, even if the phrase “fake news” is. The term “yellow journalism” has been around for far longer, and the world isn’t only just now being faced with sensationalized news reporting.

So why the fervor from both sides of the political spectrum about this idea that suddenly seems so new?

“I think it’s uncomfortable to go outside of one’s bubble,” said Matt Dotray, political reporter at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “It is so easy to just feed off your own beliefs that that’s become the default.”

This can then lead to a cycle of only consuming news and ideas that fall within that set of beliefs, and everything else is mentally shifted into a place of reduced credibility.

“Generally, there’s been a decline in trust in sources,” said Holland. “I’ve pulled up a couple of opinion polls from Gallup that’s been doing a tracking poll for quite some time, and confidence in newspapers has been in the 20s.”

“Those aren’t good numbers,” Dotray replied.

But unfortunately, those statistics reflect a reality for many Americans today, even if the sentiment goes all the way back to the American Revolution.

“Not believing the media is a much older look at the media than expecting it to be true,” said Dr. Bogener.

If that’s the case, how can things such as speculation or outright lies be differentiated inside a media that is generally distrusted by the public at large? Is it the responsibility of the press or the people to make this distinction?

“You have to really consider the source of what you’re looking at,” said David Williams, news director at KCBD-TV in Lubbock. “I think there’s a very distinct difference between your local media and the national media.”

Williams added, “Somebody once told me, and I try to always remember this: people will rarely remember who had the story first, but they’ll never forget if you get it wrong.”

Some could argue that putting pundits giving opinionated commentary so close to actual fact-based news reporting is confusing the matter even more.

“I think commentary has its place in political discussions, but I don’t think it should be depended on,” said Dotray. “What’s key to that is to make it well known that it’s commentary. Because I think sometimes the line gets blurred, and that’s when it becomes an issue.”

“CNN always gets called ‘fake news,’” added Dotray. “They’ve kind of become the face of it. CNN is just bad is all. I don’t think having six people arguing around a table […] is helping anybody. Facts don’t matter in those discussions. At all.”

With all the cynicism and doubt about what is real and what isn’t in the media that has apparently been around since the dawn of media itself, why is the press the single profession that the country’s founders decided to protect in the United States Constitution?

“I think it has to do with their experiences at the time, and what they saw,” said Williams. “Maybe they had the foresight to see that information is critical to our culture and the type of country that we were trying to develop at the time.”

Holland came at the question from a more practical point of view.

“There’s certainly no greater check on the power of government or individual politicians than information,” said Holland. “Oftentimes, the media is called the fourth branch of government, or ‘the fourth estate,’ and I think that’s a very apt term.”

The consensus from the entire panel was ultimately a positive one: that regardless of how effective legitimate news organizations currently are at rebuffing the accusations of being “fake news,” if readers and viewers try to occasionally step outside their bubbles, our country may just make it through to the other side, possibly even a little bit more informed than we were before.

“I think you need to read both sides of the story,” said Dr. Bogener, “and make an educated decision, rather than just jump on the train that you like the best.”

Annual campus report shows increase in crime

The recently released crime report for South Plains College shows an increase of sexual misconduct, drug and alcohol violations and aggravated assault on campus.

Passed in 1990, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act is an annual report that by law requires all colleges and universities that receive federal funding to share information about certain crimes which occur on and around campus.

SPC recently released the report for the calendar year of 2016.

The report showed a decline in burglaries and referrals for drug abuse violations, along with an increase in rape cases, aggravated assault, cases of dating violence and stalking, and arrests for weapons, and liquor law violations.

“It is just a matter of what the population brings with them,” said Dr. Stan DeMerritt, vice president of student affairs at SPC. “I can’t control what they are doing. All we can do is take care of business as it comes up.”

According to Dr. DeMerritt, the number of referrals to the Dean’s Office given in 2016 has been the most that SPC have ever had before.

Most referrals come from SPC’s new Health and Safety inspection. Students who live on campus have weekly room checks. If a student is suspected of having drugs or alcohol, Housing will issue a health and safety inspection. For the year of 2016, SPC gave 31 referrals and 15 arrests for liquor law violations, which is an increase from 19 referrals and no arrests during the 2015 calendar year.

“What we are doing is, for those that we suspect are using drugs or alcohol, if we suspect they are using drugs, we automatically refer them to Health and Wellness for some counseling sessions on drug awareness,” said Dr. DeMerritt.
Dr. DeMerritt said he believes that staying proactive with students can help lower the number of referrals and make a change in students’ lives.

“We are trying to make a difference in their lives,” expressed Dr. DeMerritt. “To say, ‘Hey, you really need to think about the direction you are going with this.”

Along with counseling, SPC students are encouraged to attend any of the many drug and alcohol education events hosted on campus throughout the year.

According to Dr. DeMerritt, campuses with residential life tend to have higher crime stats than those without.

Dr. DeMerritt says that another reason for such a high number of referrals is due to the change in administration throughout the year of 2016.

“I don’t know whether they knew that [a dean] wasn’t here, so they could maybe get away with more,” said Dr. DeMerritt. “Now that there is a sheriff in town that is patrolling [the situation], they can’t get away with it.”

During the year of 2016, one rape case was reported at SPC, according to the report.

Rape cases are handled through Title IX regulations. As the Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. DeMerritt is the Title IX coordinator and organizes Title IX investigations for the campus.

“[When a rape case] gets reported to us, it gets reported to the police, and then we have to a full investigation,” said Dr. DeMerritt.

Currently, Title IX states that, “no person in the United States shall, on behalf of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Throughout the year, SPC’s Health and Wellness Center focuses on increasing awareness and educating about prevention and intervention. Before the 2016 academic year, residence hall directors and wing advisors attended training on how to handle reports of sexual assault, IPV, stalking and sexual harassment. At the beginning of fall 2016, students living on campus were required to attend a residence hall meeting providing information on consent, sexual misconduct, domestic violence and stalking.

“I think we all know what the right thing to do is,” said Dr. DeMerritt. “The right thing to do is to make sure we are all having access to the resources that the accused and the victim have, and that they can get what they need and that we are taking charge of what happened there and making sure we are making the best judgment on behalf of the student(s) involved and the college at the same time.”

The annual Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistic Report also mentions the fire safety systems for SPC student housing.

Due to how old some student housing buildings on the Levelland campus are, nine out of 11 do not have sprinkler systems.

“Some of [our dorms] are such old buildings that they are primary brick buildings,” Dr. DeMerritt said. “Brick walls and concrete ceilings; there’s not anything to burn.”

Dr. DeMerritt said he believes that with SPC’s housing rules and regulations, it could be hard to cause a fire. Also, the local Fire Marshall conducts inspections often.

Board of Regents discuss crime statistics, upcoming events

Campus crime statistics, a resolution, and upcoming events were among the topics of discussion during the October meeting of the South Plains College Board of Regents.

The Annual Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Report was reviewed, with several key statistics having changed from 2015 to 2016.

The report showed one reported rape and one reported assault on the Levelland campus for 2016, both up from zero the previous two years. Notably, reported disciplinary referrals for drug abuse violations on campus and in student housing facilities dropped from 18 in 2015 to only four in 2016.

Arrests and disciplinary referrals for liquor law violations both increased from the previous year, with arrests rising from zero to 15, and referrals from 19 to 31.

Reporting from the Reese and Lubbock campuses continues to show no criminal offenses reported.

Dr. Robin Satterwhite, president of SPC, told the Board about several events available to students in the coming months.

The first is the Career Expo, taking place on Oct.18 at the Civic Center in Lubbock from 8:30 a.m. to noon. It will be a place for students to interact with employers in the community and should be a great opportunity for networking within various professional fields.

The annual Halloween Carnival will be held Oct. 26 in the Sundown Room of the Student Center on the Levelland Campus. The event, which is open to the public, begins at 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Also, the annual Scholarship Banquet is set for Nov. 2 at the Mallet Event Center in Levelland. It will begin at 6:30 p.m, and scholarship recipients are encouraged to attend.

Dr. Satterwhite also read a resolution honoring Dan Hook, who has represented the college as its attorney for the past 33 years. Hook was present at this month’s meeting, and has been a valued member of the counsel during his time at SPC. He is retiring this year from his long-held position.

“Dan, thank you so much for your service,” said Dr. Satterwhite. “Even in my short time here, it has been invaluable.”

“You were here before any of us in this room,” added Mike Box, chairman of the board. “I have relied on you more than once, even to call you in the middle of the night.”

“Thank you for allowing me to represent the college,” Hook responded.

The Board gave Hook a standing ovation, and the resolution was passed unanimously.

Maker space allows students to creatively learn in unique ways

With the newest installation in the Math and Engineering Building on the Levelland campus, students can now produce ideas in a space designed to promote creativity.

Room 121 was recently converted from a regular classroom to a “maker space,” which is set to have a grand opening on Oct. 19 at 11 a.m., even though the space is currenty open for students to use.

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The new installation in the Math & Engineering building gives students access to a more creative environment. MATT MOLINAR/PLAINSMAN PRESS

According to Dr. Ramesh Krishnan, professor of engineering at SPC, a maker space is a room where students can take their ideas and apply physical elements to them, whether it’s writing down ideas on a board, or building a prototype out of pipe cleaners or Popsicle sticks.

“Students can come and ideate whatever they have and bring it to something tangible,” Dr. Krishnan told the Plainsman Press.

IMG_0366Dr. Krishnan says the idea of creating a maker space comes from Stanford University.

“We met a guy in a place called ‘the Google Garage,” Dr. Krishnan said. “He was using a 3-D printer. I asked what he was doing, and he said, ‘I don’t like my cell phone case, so I’m just making another one.’”

Currently, the SPC maker space does not have a 3-D printer. However, students have access to a variety of materials that can be used to create physical prototypes of solutions to whatever they desire to solve. According to Dr. Krishnan, the maker space will be available to anybody who has the desire to use it.

“The misconception is that the room is only to be used by engineering students,” Dr. Krishnan said. “Our vision is that anybody on campus is welcome to use the maker space. What would the non-engineering students use the maker space for? Well, you can prototype any kind of solution. For example, farmers can get together and figure out how to solve pest issues.”

Most of the surfaces in the maker space, including the tops of desks and the walls, have the ability to be written on with a dry erase marker. This allows for the room to be conducive to a creative atmosphere, according to Dr. Krishnan. The furniture of the space is movable, allowing for the room to be rearranged with ease, which he says is also important for the creative atmosphere.

IMG_0365“It’s more like a play room than anything else,” Dr. Krishnan said. “You can use anything that you want and be creative with all of the stuff. If you get five people together, you can arrange the furniture to fit your needs. We don’t want this space to look the same. Because mentally, you become dull every time you see the same space, so it should always be changing.”

According to Dr. Krishnan, conventional classrooms may not always have the ability to increase a student’s productive creativity. He says that the maker space promotes student interaction and creativity.

“I’ve talked to students who are already using the space and asked how the room has benefited them,” Dr. Krishnan said. “They love it, because they’re able to get together, talk and have fun. It is a different environment that fosters creativity.”

Deadline approaches for December graduation applications

Applications are available for South Plains College students who have met the requirements to graduate in December.

Students who are planning to graduate in December need to check with their academic advisor or an advisor at the Advising Center on campus.

“[Students] need to check with their advisors to verify the completion of this semester,” says Robin Coler, graduation clerk at SPC.

To be eligible to graduate, a student must have a 2.0 grade-point average or better and have finished all degree requirements by December. Students also need to complete the online graduation application through their MySPC account. The deadline for applying for graduation is Nov 17.

To complete the application, students must sign in to their MySPC account, click on ‘Students’ tab, then ‘Admissions and Records,’ on the left-hand side, and then click on the ‘Student Forms and Tools’ tab. There will be a blue link named ‘Application for Graduation’ in the middle of the screen.

Students can choose whether to receive their diploma in December or participate in the spring ceremony. Students will be receiving their diploma in the mail if they choose not to participate in the spring ceremony, which will be held on May 12.

“[Students] can choose if they want to walk,” says Coler, “and if they do want to walk, they just need to indicate ‘yes’ on the application.”

Received applications take around six to eight weeks after the winter break to be approved. Once approved, the applicant will be notified.

For help, students may contact their program advisor or go to the Administration Building and see an advisor at the Advising Center, or contact Coler in the Admissions and Records Office.

Benefit event raises money for Wharton County Junior College

Talented commercial music students drew a large crowd for the benefit concert that will provide financial help to Wharton County Junior College.

The idea for the Texans Helping Texans benefit concert came up when Dr. Robin Satterwhite, president of South Plains College, approached Dr. Stan DeMerritt, vice president of student affairs, about what, if anything, the college could do to help. Then they sought out the director of student life.

Since Hurricane Harvey had already passed, a lot of the relief efforts such as food, water, clothing and immediate relief projects had already been taken on. So when the faculty and students organizing the event got the project up and running, it was more about rebuilding. Helping the community in the area rebuild was the main goal of the fundraising effort, Texans Helping Texans, which was held Oct.5 in the Sundown Room of the Student Center on the Levelland campus.

When the Creative Arts Department got involved, they wanted to make sure it would help another community college and reached out to several community colleges to get an idea about who needed help. Wharton County Junior College really caught their attention, because the school is smaller than the surrounding schools. The college also had 30 faculty, staff and students who were homeless due to the hurricane.

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Bray Peevy and T.J. Gutierrez, students from the Creative Arts Department, performing with their band Misdirectory in the Sundown Room on the Levelland campus on Oct 5. THALIA GONZALEZ/PLAINSMAN PRESS

What also drew attention was the video they posted online called “#pioneerscare.” The hashtag came from their school mascot, the pioneers. After watching the video, SPC decided that was really where help was needed and decided to extend their efforts to WCJC.

Miranda English, the new director of Student Life at SPC, said the first idea was a benefit concert, and so she visited with Sonny Borba, program coordinator for Commercial Music, and he liked the idea as well.

“We were scrambling to put something together quickly, so he got with his wonderfully talented students to put something together,” English said.

The concert raised $400 for WCJC.

In the beginning, everyone who put on the show was nervous about a smaller turnout. But the event drew a large crowd.

“We are strong as a community, but Texas is also a community,” English said, “I think we really want to start bringing our communities together. We want other communities across Texas to know that we care and are here. We all share the same kind of small-town community values across the state and we really want to get our students more active in community service and civic involvement, because if we don’t do it, who will?”

Former sex slave recalls nightmare she lived

[Editors note: this article contains adult material and is a true story.]

Never in her wildest dreams would she have thought it would happen to her. Once a sex slave, Sally Richardson now uses her trauma to help others.

Human trafficking is believed to be the third largest criminal activity in the world. In January 2013, Richardson’s worst nightmare would come true.

Human trafficking is when a person is forced to engage in sex acts through force, fraud or coercion.

Some think that something like that couldn’t happen to someone they know. It happens all over the world, as women and children are forced into sex acts for money or for work.

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Sally Richardson, a survivor of human trafficking, is travelling around the United States to help other survivors and victims. Photos courtesy of Sally Richardson

Richardson’s nightmare began shortly after she met her husband, who turned out to be her trafficker. They met online and began dating. She began working for her trafficker at his regular job with no pay, and then shortly after, he started to traffic her for sex.

I ended up marrying my trafficker for a brief period, and he exploited and trafficked me between January 2013 – August 2014,” said Richardson. “I also suffered severe domestic abuse.”

e93a04_0226bd3cfac5489b8874ca62bed51ede~mv2.pngRichardson was awakened by her then husband one night and told to get up and cover up her ugliness. He then drove her to a hotel, told her a room number, slammed the car door and drove off.

“It was that moment when the car door slammed that my boyfriend became my trafficker,” said Richardson.

Anytime she would beg not to go, the more violent her trafficker would become, and the worse the abuse would get.

Richardson’s trafficker would take photos of her for the ads that he would use to “sell” her. There are guys in towns that will take pictures of girls in hotel beds to be sold, according to Richardson.

Richardson’s trafficker took her to meet guys all over the Midwest and South Dakota. Richardson said she would take pictures of billboards and signs, waiting for the right time to call for help.

Anytime she would show signs of wanting to leave or tried to leave, her trafficker would threaten to harm himself. This is how they manipulate their victims into not leaving, or seeking help, according to Richardson.

“I remember one night having to perform CPR for 47 minutes until the rescue team arrived at the “hell house” that I lived at for two years,” said Richardson.

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At the time of the abuse, her two daughters were living with them, including one who was pregnant at the time.  Richardson would spend time wondering if her and her daughters were going to live or survive. Her trafficker tried to make them get rid of the baby that her daughter was pregnant with, but they never did.

“Nothing mattered to my trafficker,” recalls Richardson. “I was nothing but a source of income for him to display at his day job. Then at night I would become his slave.”

It took Richardson seven months of going through a hellish divorce before she would be somewhat free from her trafficker. Even though she was divorced from him, it still didn’t mean that she would not suffer from PTSD, anxiety, or OCD. At times, it can be very hard for her to leave the comfort of her home.

“I never know what might trigger a PTSD episode, and knowing that I can’t control when or where it strikes,” said Richardson.

She spends most of her time with her therapist and trying to help others who have been or are going through what she has been through. It is a self-healing process to help others.

18527765_1199506826844272_5638228082999227299_n“It hasn’t been easy, this journey of mine,” said Richardson. “I often weep. I weep because I know what it is to truly lose everything that each and every one takes for granted on a daily basis. I weep for the loss of all my freedoms. I weep because of the long, lonely road I have traveled. I weep because I was lucky enough to escape from my trafficker, but there are still so many who are still trapped and suffering their silent HELL called Human Trafficking and Domestic Abuse. Mostly, I weep because I know what a treacherous journey I still have ahead of me.”

On October 3, 2016, Richardson’s attorney argued on her behalf in front of the Supreme Court in South Dakota.

With Richardson’s testimony, South Dakota passed laws in order to help end human trafficking in the state.

HB1118 eliminates the need to prove the use of force, fraud, or coercion in the human trafficking of minors, passed both the South Dakota House and Senate with unanimous approval and signed into law by Governor Dennis Daugaard on March 10, 2017.

Also, SB102 requires “that the name and telephone number of an organization fighting to end sex trafficking be given, in writing, to any woman seeking an abortion.” It passed both the South Dakota House and Senate with just one nay vote. It was signed into law by Governor Daugaard on March 10, 2017.

After she helped the two bills to be passed into law, Richardson knew she didn’t want to stop there. She needed to help as many survivors as she could. Richardson and Lynn DiSanto, a psychologist and friend, then created https://www.fightingagainsttrafficking.org.

“I know I have a long journey ahead of me and a constant battle ahead of me,” said Richardson. “But I will help as many people along the way as I can till I have to pass the torch.”

For more information, you can visit https://www.fightingagainsttrafficking.org

Professor uses experience to educate students

A lifetime of experiences has given Jay Hoes wisdom to educate his students.

Hoes was born and raised in San Angelo, and eventually moved to Lubbock. When he was younger, Hoes played football until he no longer could and took an interest in baseball. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in animal business management at Texas Tech University and a master’s degree in meat science and muscle biology.

Hoes ended up in the video production field because he had major professors decide they wanted to do a meat judging series. Fortunately, he had experience with electronics and meat judging.

Hoes began his teaching career at South Plains College 16 years ago when Billy Alonzo, associate professor of radio, television and film, at South Plains College, called one day to see if he would be interested in teaching editing classes. Hoes thought teaching would be an interesting change in his life. He said his favorite part about teaching is all of the different types of people he has met and continues to meet. He mentioned that he will probably still be teaching in five to 10 years and can’t imagine what else he would be doing instead.

“I teach a class called Introduction to Cinema,” Hoes said. “Now that class is part of the common core. I get to meet students literally from all over the campus”.

Hoes teaches classes at the Levelland campus and Reese Center. He said he hopes to teach at the Lubbock Center in the spring. He says that linear editing has totally upgraded video technology and efficiency.

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Photo courtesy of spotted-lubbock.com

Hoes recently celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife Ronda. The Hoes family consists of a son, Tristan, who currently attends Coronado High School as a junior. Hoes says his son, who plays percussion, is a better musician than he ever was. The couple also have a 10-year-old daughter, Cailyn, who attends Whiteside Elementary School. Hoes says his daughter is into theatre, acting and singing. She was in the Moonlight Musicals production, “Tom Sawyer,” during the summer and will be in the upcoming “Miracle on 34th Street” in Lubbock. He said she has a lot of credentials for her young age. Also, the Hoes family has three dogs and one cat that complete their family.

Hoes’ wife Ronda is the current Lubbock franchise owner of Painting with a Twist. At Painting with a Twist, Hoes says it is as simple as following directions. The purpose in the company name is the “twist” on the way they teach painting. Primarily women attend the classes, but on date night the number of men who go to enjoy art grows. On date night, two people share a single painting on two canvases to create one masterpiece.

During his free time, Hoes works as a freelance camera operator and replay operator for Fox Sports, NBC, and ESPN, among others. Also, for a very long time, he has been a singer and songwriter. Hoes recently released a song called “Texas Proud, Texas Strong.” He is donating the proceeds from the downloads to rebuildtx.org. He gives credit to Steve Williams, Mike Carraway and Darren Welch (all instructors at SPC), who played on the song. Dolf Guardiola did the engineering of the performance. Chip Polk sang the song, and also does the music portion of the Ragtown Gospel shows. He recorded the song with help from the Creative Arts Department at SPC.

Out of all of his original music, one of his favorite songs he wrote was “It’s About You and Me” for a United Way fundraising campaign. A music video for the song won some awards. Hoes had a lot of fun with local musician friends, who performed and sang it.

Hoes had an experience at the Super Bowl in Arlington in 2011 when he got to work as a camera operator for ESPN for a studio show before and after the game. Through the years, he has worked mostly college games, but has experience in Major League Baseball and the NBA. In Lubbock, Hoes frequently covers Texas Tech football games and most of the men’s basketball games at Texas Tech University.

Eventually, when Hoes retires, he plans to travel. But, retiring isn’t in the way of his traveling. He recently returned from a weekend trip to Kansas to work at an NCAA football game. Hoes has a trip to Hawaii planned for his son’s school band performance in June, though school band isn’t the only type of band experience Hoes has. He used to play drums, guitar and keyboard.

“I think we all have a tendency to look back and think about regrets,” Hoes said, “but I don’t know that I have any major regrets. For the most part, I’m pretty happy with where I am.”

Internship at national park brings student closer to dream

Ever since she was 10 years old, Antonieta Wescott has been pursuing her dream of becoming an interpretative park ranger.

The general studies major at South Plains College says she has a passion for researching history through anthropology.

“Anthropology is the study of homo sapiens,” she explained. “So basically I get to study different cultural societies, different subcultures, and I get to study the first humans on Earth.”

Wescott, a sophomore from Lubbock, says her interest in anthropology will play a very large role in her future career in the National Parks Service. In 10 years, Wescott plans on working in a national park as a park ranger.

Wescott says her love of national parks has been inspired by her father and grandfather since she was 7 years old.

“My dad has always been a mountain man,” Wescott said. “He has always taken me and my family out since I was a little girl. I remember my first days out at Big Bend, sitting at a campground and opening a cabbage patch doll for my birthday. It’s just in me.”

This summer, Wescott was  offered an internship at the Valles Caldera National Reserve in New Mexico, where she worked as an interpretive park ranger.

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Antonieta Wescott spent her summer as an intern for Valles Caldera National Park. Photo courtesy of Antonieta Wescott

“Interpretive park rangers are the face of the park,” she explained. “My job was to give important information to the visitors who came to our park. I would hand out maps and give directions. I also had to do my own research on different anthropological notes.”

She was offered the internship by her mentor, Marin Karraker, who has been in the parks department for 30 years.

“I actually met her at San Juan Island National Park in Washington,” Wescott recalled. “Now, she’s over here in New Mexico at the Valles Caldera. That’s how I got the opportunity. It was the second internship I have gotten to do. I got to dip into every division out there. I was very thankful for the opportunity.”

Using resources from the park’s library, Wescott educated herself on all of the information she would need to inform visitors of the park during hike tours. She says she was glad to have the opportunity to research a park that was new to her.

Wescott says she was given cliff notes of archeological discoveries from research that dates back to the 1920s.

“It was my job to research from different time stamps,” Wescott said. “I would take those notes and use them in my own speech while giving tours, from my own perspective on the resource. And that’s what this park is. It’s one big resource, and I got to choose what I wanted to talk about.”

During her time at the Valles Caldera, Wescott did her research on the indigenous people who lived there before American settlement and call it home today. She also researched park safety awareness, as well as the ecosystem of the reserve.

“It was a lot of research I had to do,” Wescott said. “I worked out there by myself for a good month, and this reserve is huge. In 89,000 acres, I got to learn a lot.”

The Valles Caldera, where Wescott spent her internship, has a large supply of obsidian, which the indigenous hunters and warriors would use to craft arrowheads and other tools. She says one thing she found interesting about the caldera is that over time, as it erupted, the shape of the caldera grew into a perfect circle.

“It’s a real big hotspot for different geologists,” Wescott said. “I witnessed a lot of big student groups from major universities out there this summer. The geology is just phenomenal out there. We had a huge obsidian valley in our backyard that had 6,000-year-old arrowheads. What’s really cool about the park is that it was a big trading point for ancient, indigenous cultures.”

During the internship, Wescott says that she was able to see the filming of the last season of “Longmeyer,” a modern western crime drama. The Valles Caldera has been the site of many film projects where actors such as Adam Sandler, Kate Blanchette and Johnny Depp have worked.

“Robert Taylor’s cabin was actually just two miles down the road from where my lodge was,” she said. “Hollywood production sets will go out there thanks to the third and last private owner, the Bond family.”

Wescott says that out of the many national parks she has visited, the Valles Caldera is one that is unique to her. Because the park was not registered as a national reserve until 2015, Wescott says that the resources in the land have gone almost untouched, giving her a new experience.

“This place is an oasis,” she said. “The view out there is one of its own. It’s so unheard of. This is a brand new national park.”

Alum utilizes skills learned to build successful radio station

[Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the South Plains College Alumni Association. The project highlights former SPC students and their achievements.]

Tania Moody has come a long way from working in sales at the local radio station as a way to earn extra money for college, to owning the very same station.

“When I decided in 2006 that I would go back to school, that’s when I got my bachelor’s degree,” Moody explained. “Well, I needed extra money to pay for college. I knew I could do sales, so I came out here to the radio station and they had a position available.”

“ I got hired and did sales for several years,” Moody continues, “and then I was moved up to sales manager. I did that for a couple of years, and then I became station manager. Then, in 2011, the previous owner decided that he wanted to acquire some other radio stations. So the guy that was the station manager for that Littlefield station actually asked him if he could purchase the station. So he came to me and said, ‘Well, Cody is going to purchase the Littlefield station, so would you be interested in purchasing that Levelland station?”

After the owner asked Moody if she wanted to buy the station, she decided to lease it in 2012 as a trial to see if she would be able to handle it. A year later, Moody made the decision to sign the papers and buy KLVT.

Moody has been able to maintain the station so well with her experience with all parts of KLVT.

“I’ve been through all the different jobs here at the station, except for I have not ever called sports and I haven’t ever really been on the news desk,” said Moody. “But I have done some news stories and that sort of thing. But mainly I’ve done sales, management and just all of the particulars that you that to do with the FCC to maintain your license.”

Moody attended SPC several times, starting in 1989.

During her college career, she went through many different degree plans, ranging from commercial music to journalism.

“I kind of didn’t finish any one degree, but I had enough hours to finish several different degrees,” said Moody. “Then eventually I went back and got my associate’s in 2007. It was an Associate of Arts degree, and then I went and got my bachelor’s from Kaplan University.”

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Tania Moody, host and owner of KLVT, sitting at her studio. AUTUMN BIPPERT/PLAINSMAN PRESS

Moody credits a lot of her success in the industry to South Plains College.

“I got a lot of really good foundational learning from South Plains College that has allowed me to transition into all this,” Moody explains. “And I would credit many of the instructors at SPC. John Sparks, in the Communication Department, he was very instrumental in some of the things I use day to day, like asking good questions and being able to listen. And the importance, especially in today’s world, of reporting facts.”

“Journalistic integrity is at an all-time low,” Moody added. “I really feel like having those mentors really kind of guided my compass. We work really hard to verify all of the news that we put out. When we do our news or our sports report, my staff knows how important it is that we do not jump the gun, and we do maintain integrity and our relationships with all of these people around the area.”

Many of Moody’s family members also have been a part of SPC. Her father, Rusty Huddleston, was a instructor in commercial music, and her mother, Schahara Huddleston, was an English professor. Her husband, Stuart Moody, is the chairperson of the Creative Arts Department and associate professor of sound technology.

Moody and her staff at KLVT are all involved in the Levelland community. Moody also serves as the president of the Levelland Independent School District Board of Education. She has served on the school board for nine years.

“I feel like that strengthens relationships and builds trust,” Moody said, “and they’ll trust us with stories where they would not with someone else that’s cold calling from a news organization. Building that trust in a small community is vital to serving the community well.”

Moody focuses on making her station a tool for the community and a support system for the region.

“I feel like a lot of times a smaller community gets slighted a little bit by the larger news organizations” Moody explains, “and so it’s really my goal and commitment to this area to just make this hometown station for these small communities.”

New season of ‘Rick and Morty’ darker than ever

The return of Adult Swim’s animated show “Rick and Morty” was long awaited by many fans.

It was an 18-month wait between seasons, since the last episode of season 2, “The Wedding Squanchers” came out Oct. 4, 2015.

The first episode of season 3, “The Rickshank Rickdemption,” streamed online on April 1, 2017.

Season 3 has been by far the darkest season fans have seen yet, with each character having a mental break in one way or another, and leaving many unanswered questions about events that occurred.

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In “The Rickshank Rickdemption,” the main character, Rick Sanchez, is in galactic prison, seemingly abandoning his family to an Earth under federation rule.

The episode opens with a happy reunion with his family in Shoney’s, though it is nothing more than a mental construct created as the Federation’s scientists attempt to mine his brain for useful scientific secrets. But Rick proves to be very difficult to get any information out of. He takes the Federation agent to McDonald’s, circa 1998, when McDonald’s was still serving the Mulan Szechuan sauce, a nugget sauce promoting the Disney movie “Mulan.” This part was honestly my favorite, because, like always, Rick was blowing off something serious for something pointless that most people had forgotten about.

Meanwhile, his grandson, Morty Smith, and his family are back on Earth, which is now being run by the Galactic Federation. Unhappy with their current way of life, Summer Smith, Rick’s other grandkid, decides to save Rick, and digs up the portal gun buried by Rick in the backyard next to his own alternate-dimension corpse.

Morty tries to prevent Summer from doing so. They end up transported to his “cronenburg-world” family, which he and Rick had abandoned previously. After they arrive and destroy Conroy, Morty explains to Summer during dinner this world is proof that Rick does not care about anyone, especially his family. Morty trying to convince his sister, Summer, that Rick doesn’t care about anyone made me upset. It seemed he had given up all faith in Rick.

In the end, Rick comes through, proving he didn’t abandon his family, and destroying the Rick Citadel, a group of Ricks from other timelines who have created their own government.

In episode 2, “Rickmancing the Stone,” the family dynamic starts to change and the dark side of  the characters starts to come out. Morty and Summer are trying to deal with the divorce of their parents. Rick takes them to a “Mad Max”-style world to work out anger while he tries to steal a green crystal from this world. In this episode, more of Summer’s involvement with Rick is more notable, probably because of all the abandonment she has seen lately. I think this is one of the worst episodes of the season. It doesn’t offer as much substance as the others.

Episode 3, “Pickle Rick,” has to be one of the best of the season, because of the comedy and a look at how far Rick will go to avoid his feelings. In this episode, Rick changes himself into a pickle to get out of family therapy with his daughter, Beth Smith, and his grandkids. They figure out what he’s doing and take the anti-pickle serum. Rick goes through an adventure in the sewer to survive and to get to Beth, who took the serum.

In episode 4, “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender,” Rick starts to get jealous when Morty idolizes these so-called heroes, the Vindicators. Rick and Morty are summoned by the Vindicators to stop Worldender but end up in a deathtrap conceived by Drunk Rick. This is one of the episodes where you can really tell how messed up Rick is. He gets drunk and plans out a crazy “Saw”-like maze for the Vindicators, just for the sake of proving how much better he is than them.

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Throughout the season, each character gets their own episode, giving the fans a view of how they’re all affected throughout the season. Episode 5 gives Jerry Smith, Rick’s son-in-law, his very own episode. After the divorce, Jerry goes into a depression, and Rick takes Jerry on a sympathy adventure to a resort where everyone is immortal when there. While there, Jerry meets some old acquaintances of Rick’s who want payback. They try to convince him to help kill Rick. I enjoyed this episode because it’s different from the normal main characters. It shows that the writers can do more than the normal dynamic.

In “Rest and Ricklaxation,” episode 6, Rick and Morty go on a break to a spa where they remove their toxins, which in turn take a form of their own. This is a wonderful episode, because it literally shows their dark sides and the absolute worst things about themselves. They have to confront these problems and realize that they need all the negative parts of themselves as well for their dynamic to truly work.

Episode 7, “The Ricklantis Mixup,”  gives a look at how the Citadel has rebuilt itself since Rick destroyed it and kill all of the leaders. I suppose some people wondered what had become of the Citadel, but I found the episode pointless. I’m not saying it wasn’t well written, but it was pointless to the story arc of the season.

“Morty’s Mind Blowers,” episode 8, was a fantastic episode. It looks back on all the memories Morty has asked Rick to get rid of for him. At some point, while going through all of these memories, both Rick and Morty lose their memories and have no idea what is happening. Their only clues are all the memories. As Morty is going through them to figure out what’s going on, he starts to get angry at Rick. That makes me wonder if this is foreshadowing and soon their dynamic is no longer going to work, tearing apart their relationship. In the end, their memories get put back to before the whole event.

Episode 9, “The ABC’s of Beth,” is by far my favorite of the season. Rick brings Beth to a world he created for her when she was younger. Beth looks for a long-lost childhood friend trapped there for years. This episode gives more context to their relationship. Beth deals with her abandonment issues with Rick, and realizes that her and Rick aren’t that much different after all. Beth is just as smart as her dad, ever since she was a kid. It also shows how dark of a child she was. During this episode, Rick gives Beth an option to leave her life and explore her potential, telling her he can make a clone and no one, not even the clone, will know she had left.

In the season finale, “The Rickchurian Mortydate,” a lot happens while still maintaining a seemingly pointless adventure. Rick gets tangled up in a confrontation with the President, after he and Morty blow off a mission he requested them for. During this episode, Beth is questioning if she’s the real Beth or not.

The confrontation escalates further and further as Rick tries to prove that nothing, not even the president, can stop him. In this process, Morty steals his portal gun and takes his family, his father included, to somewhere safe. Between Beth questioning herself and the drama of the day, Beth and Jerry get back together. This puts the whole family back to the beginning again, even saying they are “hitting the reset button, it’ll be like nothing changed.” I honestly don’t know how I feel about this ending. So much had happened, and now everyone is going right back to where they started.

Season 3 ending leaves me with a lot of questions. Some of those are what does “hitting the reset button” mean for the next season of ‘Rick and Morty’? Is Beth Smith even the real Beth, or is she a clone? Most importantly, when will Season 4 begin? Are fans going to have to wait another 18 months?

Hopefully the wait won’t last too long for fans to find what season 4 will bring for “Rick and Morty.”

‘Grand Theft Auto’ remembered for changing world of games

“Grand Theft Auto” just might be the most infamous name in video game history.

With 15 titles released on nearly every platform imaginable in the past two decades, October 2017 marks not just the 20th anniversary of the first game in the “Grand Theft Auto” series, but also the beginning of an unstoppable pop culture juggernaut’s inevitable future.

Looking back at the original game, it would be fair to call it a humble beginning. For how far the series has come in recent years in terms of graphical achievements and the sheer number of things players can take part in, the original GTA might look to some—at least by today’s standards—like something coded in a living room during a three-day weekend.

In the first game, released in October 1997 and unassumingly titled “Grand Theft Auto,” the player navigates their way through six levels in a top-down view of pixelated city streets. The game is split between three different cities, and the player earns points to progress by committing an assortment of crimes, tasked by the organized crime factions of each city.

Engaging in casual crime to earn money and advance through a story has become something of an easy framework for modern game developers. In unskilled hands, it can be a boring and unimpressive experience. But what almost nobody was doing in 1997 was relying on a simple principle that seems like a given to modern AAA open-world game audiences: freedom of choice.

There are very few restrictions put on the player in GTA for how to complete a mission, and most of the time, as long as the destination or result is correct, players can use any routes and methods they like to reach a goal. This was groundbreaking in the action game space at the time, paving the way for what most players expect now as the de-facto open-world experience.

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But even from the start, it was far from being a shining beacon of wholesome family entertainment.

The tremendous prevalence of graphic violence and sexual content in the game led many publications to critically blast the game for being gratuitous and tasteless, with a complete ban of the game issued in Brazil. This was before later games in the series introduced more realistic 3-D visuals, which amped up the bloody action even further.

Throughout the course of the 20 years the game series has been around, there have been at least a dozen lawsuits filed against the developers and retailers for creating and selling a game that—the suits claimed—incites youth into real-life violence, and teaches young children that murder and crime is a worthwhile profession.

The most recent iteration in the series, “Grand Theft Auto V,” still features crime as its main story catalyst. But it’s quite literally a whole new world. Players can play together online in a nearly life-sized city, with scores of things to do to entertain themselves. More surprisingly, a sizeable amount of them don’t even involve crime at all. Tucked away in one part of the city is a plain old golf course where players can play a few rounds.

The way it’s going, it would not be surprising, and even a little exciting, to see future GTA titles incorporate occupational alternatives to becoming a professional criminal. Maybe they could even forgo the theft of automobiles completely. But for now, even with all its legal and moral ups and downs, GTA has changed pop culture at large. And the world of video games will never be the same, for better or worse.

Life of young girl goes south in ‘Ingrid goes West’

“Ingrid Goes West” is an indie comedy-drama movie that narrates the story of a young girl following the death of her mother.

After a few self- inflicted setbacks, she decides to move to Los Angeles, California to follow and befriend her Instagram obsession, Taylor Sloane (played by Elizabeth Olsen). Ingrid Thorburn (played by Audrey Plaza) is an ill and lonely young woman who lives in Pennsylvania and is extremely obsessed with social media. She becomes obsessed with random people and wishes she could have their not-so-“perfect” life.

After her mother’s death and going through the pain and her not-so-normal behavior, she gets sent to a psychiatric hospital. Later on, she gets a letter notifying her of an inheritance. Her mom has left her $60,000.

When the movie begins, Ingrid wants to crash a wedding by pepper spraying Mace in the face for not inviting her. They weren’t even friends. It was just that Ingrid was obsessed with Mace’s Instagram feed since Ingrid felt they had a strong connection.

After Ingrid gets her inheritance, she decides to use that money to stalk her new Instagram obsession. So she moves to California and starts stalking her by following her posts and going to the same places Taylor does so that Ingrid can meet her, be best friends, impress her and be just like her.

After Ingrid moves to California, her Instagram obsession replies to her on one of her comments. Then she tries to impress Taylor and her husband Russel. Ingrid moves to the same neighborhood as Taylor. She gets an apartment with a screenwriter obsessed with Batman named Dan Pinto.

This is when all the stalking starts. Ingrid starts visiting the same café shops and restaurants as Taylor does. One day, Ingrid stole Taylor’s famous dog so that she could “return” it as a favor. They were so grateful that she returned the dog that Taylor and her husband invited her over for dinner and to get to know each other.

As the dinner goes along, the not-so-perfect parts of Taylor start showing, but Ingrid was completely blind to all the signs in front of her. After that happens, Taylor becomes charmed with her new best friend, Ingrid. They start doing the same things, going to the same restaurants, buying the same exact things. Ingrid would photograph every little thing, such as medication bottles that Taylor would take.

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Taylor’s brother Nicky comes along and creates a wedge between the two women. Later on, Nicky senses that vibe that something is going on with Ingrid and their relationship is not normal. He gets the chance to look over Ingrid’s cell phone and sees the obsession that Ingrid has with Taylor.

Nicky blackmails Ingrid to keep him from showing Taylor all the pictures and all the information she has in her phone. Ingrid would agree to pay for him to rent out her phone to Ingrid.

Ingrid and Dan plan the kidnapping of Nicky, where they abusively hit, punch, and kick him to the point where they tried to kill him.

After Nicky tells Taylor about the kidnapping and Ingrid’s obsession on the phone, Taylor breaks off her friendship with Ingrid. So Ingrid decides to buy the house next to theirs. She would break up their parties and still tried to stalked Taylor.

The Sloane family tells Ingrid many times to stop stalking them, to finally leave them alone and that she needs mental help.

Ingrid is an unstable stalker, capable of doing horrible things to get what she wants. This sadly happens nowadays in society, where people want to be like someone else.

I really like this movie. I will rate it 9.5/10.

9.5/10

Friendships, lives get ‘Super Dark’ in original movie

“Super Dark Times” takes a sharp turn from childhood innocence to complete mental and emotional chaos.

It’s an indie movie that, on the surface at least, looks like your everyday coming-of-age story. In the first act, a group of high school friends do what regular high school friends do. They ride their bikes around town. They spend most of their time goofing off in the woods and in each other’s houses. They talk about superheroes, and girls, and they make fun of nearly everything that moves.

They make stupid decisions, just like every teenager has done at one point or another. But a sudden and horrifically violent accident in the woods completely derails the course of both the film and their lives. As the psychological thriller begins in earnest, not one of these friends knows how to handle it.

It’s likely a familiar feeling for many, this idea of finally realizing that your actions have consequences, and not being able to do anything to affect the result of what has already happened.

super-dark-timesThere have been a number of stories like this one, where some unintentional mishap completely changes the lives of a group of best friends. Where “Super Dark Times” succeeds in places that others might have failed is the simple fact that nobody ever knows the right course of action.

These aren’t teenagers with unrealistically developed reasoning, or logic, or anything even remotely resembling good decision-making skills. They’re stuck, and they flounder in their personal relationships—internally because of their guilt, and externally to the world as they try to give off the air of nothing being wrong. As the movie progresses, they get even more entrenched into the whole ordeal until, to put it mildly, something just snaps.

Something surprising about the casting choice for “Super Dark Times” is the fact that almost the entire cast is unknown. While that might make a movie like this seem unattractive to a wider audience, it really works to serve the movie as a standalone effort with an incredibly powerful story. It’s not a drawback, though. With a story such as this, seeing a more recognizable actor’s face might take you out of the immersion of the film.

In this case, the audience really gets to identify with these characters as something other than celebrities. These are the genuine faces of growing up, of making bad judgements, and of finding a way to outrun, or at least survive, what happens next. The friendship between Zach and Josh—played with impressive reality by Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan, respectively—is raw and comforting. That is what makes the unease so much more impactful as it starts to unravel, at first with a friendly rivalry over a girl they both like, and later for more ominous reasons.

This film is also just genuinely funny. It’s not “funny for a thriller,” not for an indie movie; there are no qualifiers necessary. The comedy in this movie, while in short supply as the film goes on, and in stark contrast to the horrific things that unfold, brightens the story in a very real and understandable way.

For the whole package—a movie that thinks as hard as it feels, and a brilliant original story that leaves the audience purposefully shaken, uncomfortable, and genuinely touched—I give “Super Dark Times” a 9 out of 10.

9/10

‘Flatliners’ lacks structure, necessary horror elements

A near-death experience is something no one wants to encounter. But the intrigue of witnessing the after-life is something that could make the experience worthwhile.

The movie, “Flatliners,” a sequel to the 1990 film with the same name, features Ellen Page as Courtney Holmes, a medical student who wants to learn about what people experience after they die.

With the help of her friends, Jamie (James Norton) and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons), Courtney begins an experiment in the basement of a hospital where she flatlines and experiences the afterlife.

Courtney’s view of the afterlife consists of her floating around the city and witnessing familiar places while also encountering areas that she had yet to experience. Courtney also sees orbs of energy and grand displays of bright lights before she is resuscitated at the last minute by her friends, who received help from their other colleagues, Ray (Diego Luna) and Marlo (Nina Dobrev).

After flatlining, Courtney starts to experience moments of complete happiness and high energy. She is able recall information that she never learned and can perform feats that she could not do before. Because of this, other characters experience flatlining and each gain a different experience, which will soon lead to a menacing downside.

The first thing I want to acknowledge is the poor acting in this movie. Before the flatlining takes place, the movie presents each character in the hospital setting interacting with each other.

It is difficult to tell whether these characters are close friends or just competing medical students who want to be the best among their colleagues. The past relationship between Courtney and Sophia is lightly touched on at the beginning and never revisited, while the relationship between Jamie and Ray remains ambiguous as they are joking around or at each other’s throats.

Some intense scenes or character interactions are ended abruptly or diminished with an unnecessary joke. Even when each character experiences moments of sudden uncontrollable joy after flatlining, the character interactions appear to be dull and forced. This type of acting and character development continues to get worse even after the horror element of the movie is introduced.

Besides the acting and the characters, the horror and thriller element is the worst part of the movie.

After experiencing the joys of flatlining, the characters begin to hallucinate morbid images and reminders of their past sins, which leads to a mysterious force that begins to hunt the characters.

These horror elements are dull and pointless for a few reasons. The terror and panic of the morbid imagery, along with the psychological threats the characters must face, are diminished due to the jump scares. One good thing is that the jump scares are not too abundant, but they still break up the tension whenever they appear midway in a creepy hallucination or in a chase scene.

Another reason for the lack of thrill is the organization of the movie. When the characters experience moments of pure happiness or peace due to flatlining, these moments happen right after the horror scenes, which break up the tension that was present and does not allow the panic to linger.

Never having watched the predecessor of this film, I think “Flatliners” is just not thrilling. The threat in the movie is silly, as it is casually mentioned that the things the characters are hallucinating are hunting them down, even though the imagery seems to be the prime focus of the horror. It is difficult to give credit to the scare factor of this PG-13 rated movie when the original was rated R and the overall horror is sloppily put together.

“Flatliners” has an interesting concept that is not utilized well enough, which leads to identity issues of whether the focus of the movie is the science fiction appeal or the horror. The movie is disorganized, and the story does not flow well before and during the horror scenes.

I give “Flatliners,” a 3 out of 10.

3/10

Teamwork put into ‘The Addams Family’ accomplishes creative goals

Family is the first thing people are born with. Many value it above everything else.

But family can also be something you choose, and that’s been the experience of the Lubbock Community Theater in putting on their newest musical, “The Addams Family.”

The show, which ran through October 15 at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts in downtown Lubbock, is an enormous endeavor for LCT. With a cast and crew of more than 40 people, it’s easily the theater’s largest show in many years, and the community has taken notice.

The show revolves around a family that is a morbid and irreverent spoof of the traditional American household: a wealthy but close-knit group of relatives who take pleasure in things that would normally disgust or terrify others, while oblivious to their outwardly frightening nature.

“It’s been an adventure,” said Heather May, the show’s director. “But with this show, it talks so much about family and inclusion, and being there for each other no matter what. I like to put that into all my casts, but especially with this one.”

For those unfamiliar with the musical incarnation, this story is not based on the television series, the string of feature films that followed, but on the feel of the original single-panel comic strips that cartoonist Charles Addams drew for The New Yorker for nearly half a century.

 

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Photos courtesy of Charlie Schwieterman

 

It’s a big concept, and putting on a play of this scale isn’t an easy task by any account. But community theatre, as many of those involved have confirmed, has a way of bringing people together.

“This production is truly a huge example of ‘community’ theatre,” said May. “So many people were like, ‘you need this, you need this, yeah, we can help you with that.’ A small theatre like LCT would not be able to put on as big a production without that support and those relationships and connections that we have through our community.”

The teamwork is just as strong within the ensemble cast, but there are some obviously fantastic standouts. Kayla Rushing’s Wednesday walks a fine line between sullen and energetic. Michelle Tarbox as Morticia dances endlessly throughout the show, but never relinquishes her air of mysterious elegance. Whitney Garrity as Fester narrates the show with an almost childlike innocence and unshakable delight, while Frank Rendon’s irreverently charming Gomez feels like the solid, comic glue that holds the entire family together.

Charlie Schwieterman, the play’s assistant director, says that sense of teamwork is an intentional part of the “Addams Family” process, and community theatre, in general.

“Every single person in there has a talent,” Schwieterman says. “Every single person has multiple things that they bring to the table. It’s really great to see this show evolve from what it was at the beginning, like two months ago, to now.”

Community theatre is a collaborative effort that often means putting in many hours a week after school and work during several months, to accomplish creative goals and put together a complete performance.

“My main job is my side thing,” said Schwieterman. “That’s what I do to help support what I do here.”

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The musical tells a tale of growing up, as the brooding daughter Wednesday is now 18 years old and in love with a person the family just can’t accept or understand—an average, “normal” boy from Ohio. There’s singing, there’s dancing, and there’s even an adaptable set assembled a few pieces at a time by characters in the show as it progresses.

One of the hardest jobs, onstage at least, actually falls on someone audiences may not expect.

“I’m a named character that’s in the program, and I don’t say anything,” said Randy Cook, who plays Lurch, the family’s silent butler. “It’s the hardest role I’ve ever played. For me, it’s a great exercise as an actor. It’s all about listening and reacting, and absolutely not about me initiating any action on the stage.”

Overall, Cook says it’s a relatable story about a family more like the rest of us than it might first appear.

“You come at this thing from a real dark perspective with this really odd family,” said Cook. “But which one of us doesn’t have an odd family that has darkness in it? They just display theirs out in front of God and everybody.”

‘Dishonored: Death of the Outsider’ honors previous installments

“Death of the Outsider” follows Billie Lurk on a path of redemption and offers a fitting end to the current “Dishonored” story arc.

The “Dishonored” franchise is a First-Person Action/Adventure game series that takes place in the Empire of the Isles, a fictitious land in the 1800s in the midst of the industrial revolution, with folklore strongly connected to the Void and the Outsider.

The Void is an alternate dimension in the “Dishonored” universe, and the Outsider is the resident divine entity that represents it.

In the first “Dishonored,” players took up the mantle of Royal Protector, Corvo Attano, to rescue Emily Kaldwin and avenge her mother, Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, who was assassinated by Daud. Sometime before the first game, the Outsider gave Daud his “mark.”

dishonored emblemThe mark of the Outsider gives those who possess it access to a set of supernatural powers. In the first game, Corvo is given the mark. This gives him access to powers such as “Slow Time,” which gives players the ability to slow time for a short duration, and “Blink,” which gives players the ability to perform short-distance teleportation.

“Dishonored: Death of the Outsider” takes place around the same time as “Dishonored 2,” about 15 years after the events of the first game. In “Death of the Outsider,” players are cast as Billie Lurk, an assassin trained by Daud.

Billie is voiced by Rosario Dawson, who perfectly narrates players through the game. At this point, Daud is old and has been kept against his will by a cult of Overseers calling themselves the Eyeless.

Billie rescues Daud, and he basically tells her all of the treachery in the world would be gone if the Outsider was killed.

Billie sets out to find the Void blade that can kill the Outsider, when he appears and gives her back the powers she used to have access to when training under Daud. These powers consist of Foresight, Displace, Semblance, and Void Strike.

When the player uses Foresight, time pauses and you’re able to move outside of Billie’s body to scout out the area, as well as to mark enemies and valuable items.

Displace is similar to Blink, and it gives Billie the ability to teleport a short distance.

Semblance is a quite interesting power that gives Billie the ability to take someone’s face – as long as you haven’t already killed them – and walk past guards without being noticed.

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Void Strike allows you to push foes away from you or assassinate them if they’re caught by surprise.

In the “Dishonored” games, the protagonist uses powers on their left hand and a medium-length blade in the right hand. The player can use the blade to parry with guards or catch them by surprise for a sweet assassination.

Sneaking around and assassinating enemies is one my favorite ways to play “Dishonored.” You can go to the highest point around and jump down and assassinate the person below you, or you can Displace yourself over an enemy and fall on top of them and assassinate them.

Assassinations are even more rewarding when strung together with other gear or gadgets. Billie has a Voltaic Gun strapped to her wrist which shoots a range of lethal and non-lethal bolts.

There are Hyperbaric Grenades that provide a non-lethal blast of compressed air, along with Hook Mines that draw enemies to it. They can be used to hide a body or subdue an enemy.

As much fun as it is, you don’t have to play the game by sneaking around and assassinating people and hiding bodies. Fighting guards, overseers, or witches face to face is also quite fun when you get tired of sneaking, or when you get accidentally caught sneaking and have to fight your way out.

One time, I encountered a group of witches in a corridor area, and it was the perfect setting for me to counter all of their strikes and kill them. The animation that was performed on most of them severed their torso from their legs. As brutal and terrible as this is, it is in fact a game. I couldn’t help but be hysterical when I realized that I was just standing over five or six severed bodies. It was so terrible that it was hilarious.

For as much as “Dishonored: Death of the Outsider” feels like an add-on or DLC (Downloadable Content), I am surprised by how different the animations for killing people are. There are similarities to the kills from the first two games, but they are in fact different, which I appreciate quite a bit.

One of the only things I would say this game is lacking is a power similar to Slow Time from the first two games. Slow time is great for stringing kills together, although Billie still has a capable enough arsenal to enjoy the game.

“Death of the Outsider” is about as fun as “Dishonored 2,” but not near as fun or memorable as the first game. I give “Dishonored: Death of the Outsider” a 7 out of 10.

7/10

Theatre production tells paranormal activity story

Just in time for Halloween, the Fine Arts Department at South Plains College is showcasing a play called “The Haunting of Hill House.”

This play was made originally from the novel written in 1959 by American author, Shirley Jackson. There are four main characters in this production, Eleanor Vance, who will be played by Lorena Lopez, Dr. John Montague, who will be played by Spencer Pellowski, Theodora, who will be played by Chantel Davis, and Luke Sanderson, who will be played by Joshua Rodriguez.

Each character comes from a different background, and these young actors and actresses portray such intense and realistic emotions. Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 26, Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Oct. 29 in the Helen Devitt Jones Theatre for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $5.

Dan Nazworth, department chairperson assistant professor of Theatre Arts, is serving as the director of the play, which he says is focused on terror and paranormal activities. It is a ghost story, but there are no ghosts that take part in the story.

 

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South Plains College student actors prepare for “The Haunting of Hill House.”
Photo courtesy of SPC Theatre Facebook

 

One of the main characters, Dr. Montague, is an investigator of the supernatural. He tries to find proof of the existence of paranormal activities involving the house, so he seeks out assistants to help with this experiment.

Eleanor Vance and Theodora arrive and meet the current house owner’s nephew, Luke Sanderson, as well as Dr. Montague, and they all get along well. Throughout the next several days, all four of them begin to experience these strange occurrences, such as banging and echoes through the hallways. Messages appear on the walls, and doors tend to slam shut.

Eleanor experiences all of this and begins to believe that her time spent outside of the Hill House was wasted. She strengthens her relationship with the house, while her relationship with the others falls apart.

Toward the end of the story, there is a moment when Eleanor is most likely possessed while entering the library and attempting to get to the top of the spiral stairway. But Luke soon saves her. Dr. Montague feels that even if Eleanor is back to normal, it is not safe for her to remain at Hill House.

Eleanor is convinced that she has no home away from the house. But as she is driving off, she steers her car into a tree, committing suicide. Dr. Montague and the others later go their separate ways, leaving the house alone.

Dr. Nazworth says that the play isn’t quite at the point where he would like it to be right now. But with two weeks left until the first performance, he believes that it will be ready just in time. Nazworth says he chose the play specifically because it will be performed two days before Halloween, and the timing fell perfectly.

Comic Corner: Sept. 27 – Oct. 4

DC Comics

Action Comics 988Action Comics #988

At the end of “Action Comics #987” it was revealed that (SPOILER ALERT) Superman’s father, Jor-El, is in fact Dr. Oz.

In “The Oz Effect Part 2,” readers find out exactly how this is possible–sort of.

After Clark’s, or Kal-El’s, parents put him in the pod that got him to Earth, Krypton died, along with Lara-El, Superman’s mother. But something that has only been referred to as Jor-El’s controller intervened at the last minute and saved him, while he had to watch Lara die.

While reading “The Oz Effect,” I am just in a constant mindset of being mind blown. “Action Comics #988” ends with Jor tell- ing Kal that the world is doomed and it’s time to leave.

Batman The Murder MachineBatman: The Murder Machine #1

“Batman: The Murder Machine” comes from Earth -44, where Alfred is killed by several of Batman’s villains. After this, Bruce asks Victor, a.k.a. Cyborg, to help him build the Alfred Protocol, a way for Alfred to always be with Bruce.

This protocol goes rogue and kills just about everyone who Batman has ever so much as tusseled with. Then it takes over Bruce and he becomes the Murder Machine. He kills the Justice League of his world and comes to the main universe, Earth 0, when he and the other evil Batmans rip Cyborg apart, barely leaving him alive. “Batman: The Murder Machine” is one of the darkest comics I’ve read.

Suicide Squad 26Suicide Squad #26

“Gotham Resistance Pt. 3” picks up where part 2 left off and features one of the coolest scenes ever with Harley Quinn, Robin, Nightwing, Killer Croc, and Green Arrow driving a Mad Max-style school bus toward a cliff.

When they go over the cliff, they are caught by Poison Ivy. Harley is happy to see Ivy until she realizes that Ivy isn’t on her side.

This brings the ragtag group of heroes face to face with the Robin who laughs, and Mister Terrific joins in to help save the day.

Batman the DawnbreakerBatman: The Dawnbreaker #1

“Batman: The Dawnbreaker” really shows just what could’ve happened to Bruce Wayne when his parents died, if just a few things went differently. After his parents were shot, all he felt inside was a “void,” just pure blackness. Because he didn’t feel fear, a Lantern Ring was drawn to him.

The void inside of Bruce corrupted the Lantern Ring, and he began killing anyone who opposed him. Suddenly his earth, Earth -32, crumbles into the void. The Batman Who Laughs comes to the Dawnbreaker and tells him there’s a world full of light for him to purge — and that’s exactly what he does.

Green Arrow 32Green Arrow #32

In “Gotham Resistance Finale,” Nightwing gets another series of visions he’s been having. This view shows Croc and the Teen Titans strapped to this giant spider machine. The heroes come up on the machine when Barbatos, the Batman Who Laughs, comes riding in his Laughing Batmobile. Green Arrow fires an Nth Metal arrow, and it goes through Damian (Robin), who then uses it to stab the Robin Who Laughs, killing the evil Robin. Barbatos then shows the Gotham Resistance all of the evil Batmans. Moments later, a long-awaited return happens when Doctor Fate pulls the heroes into his realm.

New Order 2Nightwing: The New Order #2

“Nightwing: The New Order” takes place in 2040, after super powers and abilities went more mainstream than they already were. People could just buy them.

One day all of these superpowered people were fighting in Metropolis when Nightwing set off a device negating all powers. This led to laws being made against super powers.

In Chapter One, readers found out that Nightwing’s son had developed powers. In “Nightwing: The New Order Chapter Two” the police force storms their house, and in the commotion, Alfred is shot and killed and the Graysons are taken into custody.


Marvel Comics

Marvel Legacy #1Legacy 1

“Marvel Legacy #1” begins right after The Avengers of 1,000,000 BC finished defeating a Celestial (a cosmic giant). On this team was a young Odin — Thor’s father

— trying to tame Mjolnir the hammer, as well as the Pheonix, a Starbrand that resembles the Hulk, a Ghost Rider mourning the death of his mammoth, the All-Seeing Agamoto — then Sorcerer Supreme — a female Iron Fist, and a Black Panther.

This leads into the present and the Legacy that today’s heroes are trying to live up to. “Marvel Legacy #1” sets the stage for many of Marvel’s old and new characters and teams to move on from “Hydra Nation.”

The Avengers #672Avengers 672

Although “The Avengers #672” is subtitled “The Avengers vs. The Champions,” at this point in the story arc, they’ve only just teamed up — which is still super sweet.

A giant meteor is coming at the earth, and the Champions — Ms. Marvel, Nova, Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, Viv Vision, Amadeus Cho the Hulk, and Cyclops — must team up with the Avengers — Wasp, Lady Thor, Falcon, Vision, Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, and Hercules — to stop this extinction level event from happening.

I’m quite excited to see what’s in store for this lineup of Avengers and Champions, and I can’t wait to see what comes of these teams.

Iceman #6Iceman 6

“Iceman #6” begins shortly after Bobby Drake, a.k.a. Iceman, comes out as gay
to his parents, and kind of himself. There isn’t actually a ton of action in the comic, and most of it is about Bobby getting asked out and taking the original Champions — Hercules, Ghost Rider, Angel, and Darkstar — out to the club for his date.

When he’s about to go home with the guy, a girl trying to get a a special effects studio up and running makes Sentinals (giant mutant killing robots) start attacking Hollywood and the “Champions” burst into action.

Venomverse #4Venomverse 4

In “Venomverse #4,” there is an all-out war between the alien poisons and the symbiote possessing heroes. This fight is definitely the most entertaining fight to grace the pages of the “Venomverse” series.

The symbiotes capture the poison Gwenpool. While they’re questioning her, Deadpool kills her and pretends to still be on the side of symbiotes. He captures Carnage and delivers him to the poisons for “disect”-ing.

Venomverse #5Venomverse 5

I don’t absolutely love Deadpool as a character, but he looks cool, even more so in the “Venomverse” series. But he is unpredictable, and I do really aprreciate that.

I’ve been questioning Deadpool’s motives throughout a lot of this series. When he delivered Carnage to the poisons, I thought that was it.

But in “Venomverse #5,” he kills the poisoned Captain America almost out of nowhere.

The symbiotes begin storming the poisons HQ and win the battle. All of the remaining symbiotes are returned to their home universe, and it’s the end — for now.

Mace Windu #2Mace Windu 2

“Mace Windu: Jedi of the Republic #2” picks up with the jedi team entering a cave on Hissrich with lightsabers drawn. To my enjoyment, they don’t sheath them for almost the entire comic.

They encounter droids of different shapes and capabilities while delivering some really fun action sequences.

This makes for beautiful streaks of light across the pages of this comic as the jedi delve deeper into their mission and protect- ing the planet Hissrich.

“Mace Windu: Jedi of the Republic” is delivering an extremely satisfactory Jedi adventure.