Movie Review: Religulous

In theory, Religulous exists as not only a cinematic necessity, but one that is long overdue – finally a film to objectively document the inconsistencies of organized religion, delivering thoughtful laughs along the way. That’s of course, in theory.

Comedian/social critic Bill Maher, known for his intelligence and accompanying arrogance, attempts to discount…err…explore the validity of the three major religions by travelling the world, visiting respective holy grounds – from Israel to Arkansas – and interviewing countless “believers.”

The premise of the film bleeds libertarianism, championing John Stuart Mill’s proclamation that in order to find truth, one must seek divergent opinions. Yet, as the movie progresses, viewers are faced with the disappointing reality that this Maher is more interested in cheap laughs and poking fun at stupidity than he is at discovering anything that he doesn’t already know – wait, is there anything he doesn’t already know?

Maher spends the first hour and 15 minutes immersed in polemics – attacking Christianity by bringing to light significant inconsistencies between documented scriptures and the dogma of Popes, preachers and the devoted.

But as an interviewer, Maher doesn’t play fair.

Sure he’s definitely quick, smart and entertaining but he interrupts, scoffs and slaps on bogus subtitles whenever he sees fit, making these one-sided encounters more depressing than fun.

And if Maher gets really annoyed, like he did in his interview with an anti-Zionist rabbi, he will end the interview abruptly, walking off the set. This interview is one of the few mocking Judaism, and questioning an anti-Zionist rabbi – not exactly the vanguard of orthodox Jews – pales in comparison to the slaughtering he lays on Christianity.

Maher’s commentary on Islam proved the most objective…imagine…and I commend Maher for fighting any religion’s logical fallacies to the death, mercilessly attacking believers’ lack of depth and the whole “Because God said so” mentality of America’s majority. But, too many exchanges end with Maher rejoining a believer’s “What if you’re wrong?” with an emphatic “What if you’re wrong?” discounting his movie’s opening song line, “They call me the Seeker.” Seeker of what? Making idiots look like even bigger idiots by being a bully?

That’s not to say the movie is all bad. It’s hard to feel sorry for the people he is bullying when you consider the vast amount of power many of them and their ideologies enact on the world.

Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a comedy?

Directed by Borat’s Larry Charles, Religulous finally strikes comedic gold when Maher comments on a preacher’s “$2,000 suit,” getting said preacher to insist that “Jesus also dressed very well!” He continues to defend himself with, “My tailor [who is a Muslim, by the way] gives me very good deals on clothes,” to which Maher retorts, “So lemme get this straight – you’re a Christian with a Muslim tailor, but you buy your clothes like a Jew?”

Maher ‘s other glowing successes are in finding a guy who claims to be the second coming of Christ and in getting Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas to admit some politicians are less than stellar intellectuals. Maher questions Pryor so aggressively, he can only respond with “you don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate.”

Laughs aside, this movie isn’t about convincing nay-sayers of the logic of doubt; it’s about making fun of those less intelligent than him. He’s too busy mocking believers to help them garner any real progress towards rational truth. Then again, maybe he’s just wise enough to know that there’s no reasoning with the unreasonable.

–Amanda Smith

Hunting for lunch? A few ideas for students

The lunch hunt is on for many hungry USF St. Petersburg students during those precious few minutes between classes.

The plans for the new Chick-fil-a Express in Coquina Club are slowing due to renovation plans and red tape. Owner David Neely said the opening is probably a few months away.

So if packing a lunch mid-way through the semester is growing old, here are a few places to try.

Coney Island Grill

The old-style restaurant cranks out consistent diner-style food every day except Sundays.

Chili dogs, BLT’s, hamburgers and milk shakes have been a main staple in the St. Petersburg shop for over 82 years. The historic experience is pleasant and the price is almost the lowest anywhere downtown.

Tavern at Bayboro

Of course, the USF St. Petersburg campus would not be the same without the Tavern.

Alexis Stillwell recently met Dan Delmonte, fellow USF St. Petersburg business student, at the Tavern to discuss a class project. With a Sangria setting next to her on the table, Stillwell said she loves the Tavern because it serves alcohol.

Delmonte said he gets the ham and swiss Tennessee Williams sandwich when eating at the Tavern. Another student, Orve Johanson, said he loves the Tavern’s Cuban sandwiches.

Ceviche’s

While a little expensive, Stillwell’s favorite lunch spot off campus is Ceviche’s Pincho y Pincho. The restaurant boasts an elegant yet simple experience with excellent service.

“People don’t know this but they’re open for lunch. It’s really good,” said Stillwell.

Moon Under Water

Just a short walk from Straub Park and Bay Walk, Moon Under Water has a British-Colonial feel and boasts cubans, burgers and salads for lunch.

“They have good beers on tab,” said Emily Waynewright, junior at USF St. Petersburg and Moon Under Water server.

Recent Upset Trend Makes Stop in Tampa

At the top of the Big East standings, a content, confident and possibly complacent Bulls team entered Thursday’s Big East opener with an undefeated 5-0 record. As a result, however, USF played with a target on its back and Pittsburgh hit the bull’s eye with a 26-21 win that is sure to drop USF severely in the AP poll.

Although the first official BCS standings don’t debut until later this month, there’s a very good chance USF’s national title hopes are over. Before Thursday’s game, Matt Grothe told The Tampa Tribune he felt the Bulls were in the same position as #1 ranked USC last week before they were upset by unranked Oregon State, and that hopefully the Pittsburgh game wouldn’t have the same outcome.

Unfortunately it did.

USF now joins Georgia, Florida, Ohio State and even USC as another one-loss team who expected to make a run at the Orange Bowl, but came up short.

In most cases, one loss will ruin a season. Both Miami in 2000 and Michigan in 2006 can attest. While it’s not impossible for one-loss teams to win it all – it’s even possible for a rare two-loss team to do it as LSU did last season – it is unlikely that USF will have the same luck.

Pittsburgh’s season-opening loss to unranked Bowling Green will haunt USF’s resume come December. Consider that any one-loss team from the Big 12 and potentially five from the SEC would jump the Bulls in the BCS because of schedule strength, their elite conferences and the number of “quality wins”, a term with a very ambiguous meaning.

The Bulls are now 0-2 on ESPN Thursday night games, with one more ESPN appearance still to come this season on October 30 at Cincinnati. USF must win out in order to receive a bid to a respectable bowl, but that includes beating West Virginia at Morgantown and UConn, who is considered to be the “sleeper” team in the Big East.

Luckily the Bulls don’t play again until October 18, giving them ample time to prepare for the tough opponents who lie ahead. Now the question shifts to whether the Bulls will even win the Big East conference, much less earn a spot in the BCS national championship game.

The Ultimate Beach Makeover

In an attempt to escape the ravages of homework, I set out to see the new Beach Walk in Clearwater.

Those familiar with Clearwater Beach know two things: It’s a major tourist attraction in desperate need of additional parking and it is laden with contruction. These two factors definitely kept me from visiting the beach in the past few years

But now, I’m in love with the place.

The new Beach Walk gives the beach a whole new appeal. It is a winding, paved walkway with a original look, as if someone placed plastic bags over the cement, lifted them up and left crinkles to give the cement a unique texture. Lined with mini light poles, sunset will give the walkway a romantic ambiance.

Beach Walk is a great place for a first date. Pick up an ice cream cone at Barefoot Beach House, walk down to Pier 60 where there is free entertainment and then watch the sunset. (Men, you can thank me later for the cheap-date pointers.)

The best part about my Beach Walk experience, other than dragging my mom with me, was looking at the enormous sun-dial in the middle of the walkway. I take that back. The best part was when a man walked up to us and asked if the sun-dial was working. Enough said there.

And the most surprising part? How fresh Clearwater Beach looks. More sea oats, sand dunes, Bird-of-Paradise and palm trees made me feel like I was in Hawaii and Miami simultaneously. There is plenty of seating, especially in the new medians that, according to my Mom, look like mini Central Parks.

Parking still seems to be an issue even with new metered spaces along the median. There is a new parking lot on the south end of Beach Walk that is still under construction.

There are showers along Beach Walk that all share an adorable eccentricity; a plush-looking sea turtle sits atop the showers. The turtle is sitting on one shower and on another he is in a dancing position.

As much as Clearwater Beach changed, the old beach aura that we all know and love still exists. Sun-baked babes continue to play volleyball, get henna tattoos at a pagoda, eat at the same beach-side restaurants and browse the artisan vendors on the boardwalk pier.

The entertainment is all around and the beach is a prime spot to people-watch. Besides New York City, it is one of the few places to see Captain Jack Sparrow and a man dressed in military garb, painted in a bronze shade and standing as a statue within 20 feet of one another.

Do not worry. Clearwater Beach maintains its classic features.

My mom said it better than I could: the beach had a major face-lift.

USF Starts to Fulfill Expectations

After three consecutive close wins, no one knew which USF Bulls team would show up against NC State on Saturday night: last year’s Bulls, who started the season 6-0 and pulled off upsets against high-ranked teams, or this year’s squad who continues to scrape by lesser opponents. USF’s 41-10 win over NC State in Raleigh better resembled last year’s team.

“I don’t think we’ve put our A game together yet,” USF center Jake Griffin, a senior, told The Tampa Tribune. “I think that’s what we need to do to prove we are a pretty good team.”

As they did in a win against Kansas two weeks ago, the Bulls earned their rank with a win over a tough ACC opponent. Hopefully the victory gave Bulls fans peace of mind for the remainder of the season, leaving little doubt which team will take the field this Thursday as Big East play kicks off.

Despite battling both the Wolfpack defense and a torrential downpour, USF scored on its first three possessions and set the tempo early while former Countryside high school standout quarterback Harrison Beck struggled to get NC State’s offense rolling.

Entering the game, the USF defense ranked fourth from the bottom in the nation in forced turnovers, causing only three all season. NC State, on the other hand, ranked sixth-best in Division I with twelve.

But Saturday defied these figures.

The Wolfpack turned the ball over twice in the second quarter, leading to two USF safeties. Even with key defensive players Brouce Mompremier and George Selvie out with injuries, the Bulls defense and special teams gave an equally impressive showing.

Looking ahead to Thursday, USF’s biggest concern is staying healthy. Carlton Williams left Saturday’s game in the third quarter with a badly bruised left hip, leaving his status against Pittsburgh uncertain, along with that of Mompremier and Selvie.

Matt Grothe continues to pick apart defenses each week, as USF dominates opponents in first-half total offense. In Saturday’s game at NC State, Grothe totaled 327 out of the team’s 502 yards of total offense by himself – let’s hope Thursday’s game at Raymond James continues the winning trend.

Students Reflect Presidential Picks

With the November election fast approaching, opinions vary on political issues both around nation and across campus.

Lauren Vicari, Finance Major at USF St. Petersburg plans to vote for Senator Barack Obama and calls herself a liberal. She said she is concerned with the economy and how it is “more unstable than it once was.”

Vicari believes Barack Obama will create more jobs and bring forth green technologies. “If he [Obama] hires a good team and cabinet, he will do fine,” said Vicari.

Brad Parker, an accounting major at USF St. Petersburg, said he is supporting John McCain.

“I am very happy with the choice of [Governor Sarah] Palin,” said Parker, who finds the vice presidential candidates humorously opposite from their selected running mates.

“Part of me is pushing more for McCain because I do not want Obama to be president,” Parker said.

Brian Mahoney, a USF St. Petersburg student is undecided on choosing a presidential candidate.

Like many college students, Mahoney said he is concerned about the economy and will likely vote for McCain. He said the Republican Party is “the default,” although he does not personally side with either party.

Andrew J. Wilson, graduate student at USF said he tried to look at the candidate’s policies that made the most sense. “After much deliberation and research, I have decided to vote for Barack,” he said.

“With John McCain, I saw automatic hypocrisy. The guy has all these lobbyists working for him,” Said Wilson.

R.J. Denton, a USF student pursing an education degree, is undecided. While originally supporting Obama, Denton reconsidered after McCain chose Palin as a running mate.

“I was more aligned with Obama’s policies,” Denton said. “I think he [Obama] emphasizes more change than McCain.”

Even though he likes Palin as McCain’s running mate, Denton, a registered republican, said if the election was held today he would vote for Obama.

“I’m going to vote for the best person who can lead the country,” Denton said