Something struck me last summer. I attended a lecture by Jello Biafra. The former leadman for punk rock innovators the Dead Kennedys turned advocate of social consciousness. He spoke to an assembled group of about 800 people that, frankly, would never matter.
From their dress and deportment it was obvious they would get nowhere in this day and age. It's not a criticism just an observation.
Biafra eloquently criticized current political landscapes as unresponsive, our leaders as corrupt, and North America as Fascist.
He also left the audience with some simple steps to make a better world. Some were clever and involved minor sabotage. But the advice that hit this newspaper man so hard was the most reasonable.
"Don't just watch the media," he said, "become the media."
He further explained that his advice was not limited to just fan-zines and websites. Actual respected media is well within your grasp.
A fairly poignant story was written by a senior writer which ran in our entertainment section. The headline played on the old Jello ads ("There's always room for B-i-a-f-r-a").
In the quest for some sort of dumbed-down sophistication everyone involved with that headline, myself at the top, failed the story.
Often in this world of decreasing intelligence we find ourselves launching volleys of unsubstantiated opinion. Jello Biafra may be a punk rocker (disdainful to some) but he knows his shit--giving a 2 hour unscripted lecture.
Which brings me, of course, to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
In a way we are all the solitary figure of Gatsby staring at the green light across the bay. Passion versus practice, eloquence versus execution, however you want to say it, rules our mindset. We'd all like to think we're destined for greatness but fail to really appreciate the water between us and our dream's realization. And for most, who subscribe to today's chic Nihilism, the 90 per cent perspiration has vanished from the quest to genius.
In this day and age, just because you can get away with claiming you're an artist doesn't actually mean you are one. The plan behind the mission, and the arduous journey confirm the title.
Hunter S. Thompson wrote that Nixon was the Gatsby of the '70s "only the light at the end of his dock was black."
It's kind of true in a way. Except that, for a time anyway, Nixon had a job. Gatsby was the rock star, but nonetheless a hard working one willing to blow it all on an ideal. Nixon was the grouchy thug, also willing to blow it all on his ideal. An idea which proved him too evil to live. The downside of these manifest passions is that not everyone works out.
But for the regular university student time marches relentlessly forward. Its scope can, at times, be overwhelming. The highs and lows of life measured against only your own expectations. Your execution hampered by the will of others and confined the clock.
Not many of us can boast the literary perfection of either Jay Gatz or Richard Millhouse Nixon. But too many of us are too willing to be the pedestrians.
The world is a cold and lonely place sometimes. And sometimes even the best pedestrians get run down. Mind you that's why Gatsby got shot... but at least he was the main character.
Collin C. Gallant
5 a.m. April 10, 2000