Thursday, November 08, 2007

My Book Report on Ben Stein's Lecture at IU

I never really had much of an opinion either way about Ben Stein, but the other day I saw a little card on my table when I was eating lunch that said that Ben Stein would be speaking for free at IU. The card said "yes, the guy from Ferris Bueller" and I thought that it sounded kind of fun but I realized that it was at the same time that I had band practice, so I wouldn't be able to go. Well, I found out that band practice was canceled while enjoying the rare treat of riding as a passenger in Torlando's car, and there was like 20 minutes before the lecture was supposed to start, so I had him drop me off at the auditorium and went in to see what it was all about. As I was sitting there, I remembered that I really don't know anything about Ben Stein, except that I kind of remember him being either really boring (as in Ferris Bueller) or a condescending a-hole (like on Win Ben Stein's money, or more recently, what I consider to possibly be the worst show in TV, America's Most Smartest Model [I do watch it]). I got a program, and it said that the event was sponsored by the College Republicans. Uh-oh! What had I gotten myself into? There was a bio of Mr. Stein, and I guess there is where things started to get a little more interesting for me. I didn't know that he holds a law degree, used to be a speech writer for Nixon, worked as an analyst on Wall Street, all of these things, before getting into show business.

Aside from kind of being a kiss-ass about how beautiful IU's campus is (I mean, yes, it is, but he went a little overboard in his praises), as soon as he started talking I was kind of into it. He's not nearly as monotone as he is on TV, that was the first thing I noticed. He seemed genuinely into talking about life.

He read off a long list of good ways that a person with otherwise plenty of opportunities can screw up their life. Here are some of the ones I can remember:
Blame other people for the bad things in your life.
Don't work hard, just wait for opportunities to fall into your lap.
Spend all your money as soon as you get it. No need to save.
Get drunk and be high a lot.
Don't be grateful for what you have. Complain instead.
Get into a relationship with someone with lots of problems and think that you will be the one who can change them.
Spend your time watching TV instead of doing productive things.
Treat those who are important to you badly.
Be jealous of people who have things that you don't.

Those are the only ones I can remember. What was most memorable about what he said was that through college and Columbia and law school at Yale, he felt that the place where he learned the most about the world was at the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program. He alluded to being high throughout most of his education, and during the Q&A session when a student suggested that he run for president, he said that his history with drugs and women pretty much immediately disqualified him from serving in that capacity. He also said that being president seemed like too much work, and that he has trouble getting up before 10AM in the morning. Awesome!

Although he said that he was a republican, he talked a lot about how much he didn't like what the party had become, and said that he related more with the republican party of the past, the one that can maybe still be found in small towns. To this, I thought "why not just not be a republican if it's not what you want it to be?" Oh well.

During Q&A nobody got tazed, which was good, and this one older woman got up, and she said "Will you, you know, do it for us Ben? Will you do the thing?" You ask, what thing? Ben Stein knew what she was talking about, and obliged: "Adams.... Adamowsky... Bueller..... Bueller.... Bueller?" The crowd went nuts. I thought that was kind of weird because I always thought of that as being "my generation"'s movie, although most of the audience seemed to be undergrads, therefore about ten years younger than I am, and they were totally feelin it.

Someone also asked if the models on America's Most Smartest Model are really as dumb as they seem on TV, his reply was something like "waaaaay dumber, trust me" and he proceeded to tell a story about how one of them could not name a single country that we fought against in WWII.

All in all, it was a pretty quality lecture, although it never ceases to amaze me how incompetent people sound when they get up at the mic to ask a question at Q&A time. Not to say that I wouldn't, because I would, pretty sure. But the anxiety and blundering in people's speech just seems to be so painfully universal. It's interesting.


Kino said...

my mom just hooked me up with a birthday card that spoke that famous line from the movie.

i was recently watching some internet tv show and they kept saying HEAT, HEAT, i forget why, but then i looked over and on the hotel tv the Miami Heat were playin bball. i love these

Chris Foresman said...

Genius. This reminds me of the time I saw David Spade at UI back in 1994? 95? He was making fun of me because I was in the front row and had to move across several people right in the middle of the show. I heckled back by saying, "Sorry about your penis!" It got quite a laugh. I bet my mom would have been proud.

Greg Glendening said...

Not a word in your report about Stein's enthusiasm for the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Shame on you!