J500 Media and the Environment

Laugh and They’ll Laugh With You (Hopefully) by KaylaReg

I lived with the female version of Ras Trent for two years of college.

She was completely unmoved by what her brain was like on drugs or how she too could kill her younger sibling while driving under the influence.

Only one anti-drug campaign I know of ever made her stop and think, simply because it was so funny that she didn’t know what she was watching.

Like it or not, we live in a world of multiple and sometimes conflicting truths, where reality is often different for each person. In such a world, laughter can be the best tool for putting all of its complexities in perspective.

William McDougall, one of the theorists discussed in Dr. Jim Lyttle’s research on humor, claims that laughter gives us a sort of release from the stresses of living in a conflicted society. It’s why we laugh at the satiric hyperbole of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. We understand the absurdity of the movie because we see very real reflections of it every day, like Atrazine in our water and fast-food being likened to cocaine. When we can find humor in even what seems to be the most desperate of dilemmas, the situation can’t paralyze us in fear and we can still work to fix it.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure whether people are seeing much humor in things these days.

Consider this video telling us that if we don’t shape up immediately, global warming will kill our daughters and we will be responsible.

Buzzkill, right?

This is my very basic illustration of the paths of humor. Laughing at an out-group will set a norm for exclusion. Self deprecation will allow members of an out-group feel comfortable. Shared laughter creates a bond and sense of community between groups.

Such advertisements are just begging for parody from Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and John C. Reilly’s Green Team and the psychotic earth day spokesman. At least these videos make environmentalism look better than the “tree people” of this Ali G Show episode and it couldn’t hurt environmentalists to take a little ownership over such self-deprecation. It works for politicians, and few things are more political today than Mother Earth.

Since the political polarizing of environmentalism, the saviors and enemies of our planet are seen in terms of left and right, Democrat and Republican and who signed what legislation and who worked against it. Such absolutes construct artificial dividers of people based on opinions and affiliations, undermining the whole “we’re in this together” idea of the environment.

According to Lyttle, anthropomorphic and sociological studies have repeatedly shown that shared laughter creates a sense of community among diverse populations and reflects tolerance, acceptance and sympathy towards others. Remember what The Cosby Show did for defusing stereotypes and empowering the black community?

We can bash the Monsantos of the world all day and night, but it won’t get the average farmer to stop using its products. If anything, demonizing Monsanto products (that frankly help many farmers support their family) only excludes its customers from the conversation, throwing away any knowledge the group could have offered.

If environmental leaders want people to jump on the bandwagon, they might want to take a hint from the Huxtables and stop taking everything so seriously.

Green Police, a Super Bowl advertisement for a hybrid car, is a great example of how environmentalism can poke a little fun at itself and still reinforce a positive, progressive message. Jack Black’s Earth to America promotion encouraged me to be part of a movement towards progress, not a frenzy to stop a speeding train. I wanted to learn more about coal and clean air after I giggled at the Cohen Brothers’ This is Reality video.

Ultimately, laughter influences our attitudes, understanding, and brings people together better than any amount of finger-pointing or doomsday warnings ever will.

Swami Beyondananda argues that by embracing societal conflicts with humor, we’re better able to process its paradoxes and see solutions that fall outside of our normal thinking. No better example exists than America’s greatest humorist Mark Twain. By making us laugh at the often complicated and multiple truths of humanity, he completely changed American perception of slavery and racism.

So even though Ed Begley wants you to know that “there’s nothing funny about climate change,” I’m going to respectfully disagree. I’m sure we can find plenty of humor in climate change as well as everything else in life, and it’s something to be embraced.

Lighten up, principal Begley. It’s time to have some laughs.

-Kayla R.


About Me: Ranjit Arab by rarab
February 18, 2008, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

A “conversation” with Ranjit Arab and master-interviewer James Lipton:

lipton.jpg ra.jpg

LIPTON: Your upbringing is quite fascinating—one of the truly extraordinary American narratives of the last century–an Asiatic Huck Finn, if you will. Please tickle our eardrums and tease our imaginations once more with the melodious tale of your origins.

RANJIT: Huh, do you mean where am I from? I was born and raised in Wichita, did my undergrad in journalism at KU in the early 90s, spent most of the ‘90s playing, recording, and touring with some indie bands around town. When that fizzled out I got a job, which led to another job, which led to my current job publicizing books for The University Press of Kansas. Not a bad gig, really. We publish some pretty cool environmental books, among other subjects.

Anyway, I’m also back in school, slowly working toward a master’s in journalism, one that uses my documentary filmmaking as a form of advocacy journalism.

Marvelous! Bravo! Simply divine. Speaking of your documentaries… (reads blue card) You spent some time on Guantanamo Bay, is that correct?

No, that’s not correct–not at all!

But weren’t you accused of terroristic behavior.

Oh, that. You’re talking about that crazy woman I tried to interview. That’s all been well documented. I prefer not to talk about that anymore.

Understandable. I used to be a pimp, but personally I enjoy discussing that…You are an actor.

Yeah, kind of…I mean, I guess so. I acted in two independent films that are scheduled to be released any day now. I really enjoyed acting, but it all just sort of happened by coincidence…I didn’t necessarily seek it out.

Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that your performances continue to inspire audiences nowhere.

Yeah, I guess that’s safe to say.

In 2008 you enrolled in a Media and The Environment class. The world was never the same.

(Long pause) Is there a question?

What did you think you would achieve in this class?

I’m not sure. I’d like to learn how to effectively communicate our environmental problems in a way that is informative, entertaining, and ultimately influential in changing some of our current practices.

That’s it?


Splendid, Now, on to our standard questions. What is your favorite word?

I like words that sound dirty but really aren’t, you know, like Referendum or Discombobulate…say it slowly: dis..com…bob…u…late–isn’t it awesome?

Indeed. What is your least favorite word?


What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Are you hitting on me? To answer your question, I like being reminded I’m just a small part of something bigger.

What turns you off?

You are hitting on me, aren’t you? …Stubbornness. I guess that’s my turn-off.

What is your favorite curse word?

Right now I’d say it’s dipshit.

What sound or noise do you love?

Guitar feedback. Also, tablas.

What sound or noise do you hate?

Alarm clocks

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Blue Man Group alternate

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?



Back from the Future: 2050 by rarab

Okay, a brief explanation: After posting the candidates’ environmental policies, I was pretty disappointed to discover that even the ones I like had pretty tame recommendations when it came to curbing carbon emissions. The two most progressive candidates on this issue call for a reduction of 80% from 1990 levels by the year 2050. 2050?!! Are you kidding me? I’ll be, like, 80 years old… but on the positive side, by my calculations, I should be close to finishing my master’s by then.

Anyway, depressed and disappointed, I did what any normal human would do: I travelled through time. Not into that, you say? Well, it’s actually quite easy these days–all you need is an exercise bike, a flux capictor, and lots of Guinness Stout.

With that in mind, I was able to return with a newspaper article announcing the achievement of this environmental goal, so here it is:


President Announces Reduction of Carbon Emissions
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP)—President Miley Cyrus held an impromptu press conference today in the Office Max Oval Office of the Home Depot White House—Home Depot, where no project is too big or too small—to announce that These Remaining United States (TRUSA) had finally reached its goal of reducing carbon emission by 80 percent from the 1990 levels, a plan set in place by President Barack Obama just two years before The Big Catastrophe.

“Dudes, this totally rocks,” President Cyrus said. “I only wish that the good people of the eastern and western coast lines were around to celebrate this monumental accomplishment.”

To commemorate the return to 1990s levels, Cyrus unveiled plans for a national day of remembrance, where citizens would be asked to dress as their favorite characters from 1990s history, a move that is certain to boost sales of flannel shirts and berets. The president also mentioned that “I Like Big Butts” will be the official song for the national holiday.

“Personally, I’m going to dress up as some woman named Courtney Love,” Cyrus said. Then, in a throaty voice, she delivered her best impression: “Someday you will ache like I ache…”

Vice President Hannah Montana, meanwhile, did not make an appearance at the news conference, but aides assure us she will be on hand for the American Idol State of the Union concert. It has been speculated that Montana will observe “’90s Day” as either one of the Right Said Fred guys or perhaps as RuPal.

When asked by reporters why the reductions were still significant, Cyrus removed her self-contained breathing apparatus, and took in a deep breath—an action that was met with a combination of shock and awe from the reporters.

“Did you see that homies,” the president proudly proclaimed. “I can totally breathe the air now without coughing for more than two hours.” She then underwent a hysterical coughing fit and was led away by her team of physicians, who warned others not to attempt the same stunt.

In her place, Wal-Mart Secretary of Major Disasters Zach Efron said the reductions were a “dance step” in the right direction, but that more needed to be done.

“I mean, we’re still debating the legitimacy of climate change—it’s starting to get ridiculous,” Efron said. “Really, folks, if climate change wasn’t happening would I be holding this press conference in my swimming trunks? Would our nation’s capital have been moved to Emporia, Kansas? Would Air Force One have been replaced with Bicycle Rickshaw One? I don’t think so!”

Efron then broke into a song and dance routine titled, “I Remember Snowmen,” to emphasize his point, but he twisted an ankle while performing a cartwheel for the last verse and had to be hauled off on a stretcher. He did, however, give reporters a thumbs-up sign to indicate he wasn’t seriously injured this time.

Meanwhile, critics of climate change held their own press conference in response to the president’s announcement. The critics, led by Exxon Oklahoma Senator Paris Hilton, said the excitement over the reduced levels was much ado about nothing.

“You’re not allowed to say ‘It’s hot’ because I trademarked the phrase years before The Big Catastrophe,” Hilton said. “Besides, I have a pretty good idea of how hot things are and quite frankly things aren’t all that hot these days.”

When reached at his home in suburban Chicago, former President Barack Obama had only a simple statement for reporters: “I’ve run out of hope.”