Monthly Archives: March 2014

Blogosphere

In his Why I Blog article, Andrew Sullivan defines the art of blogging. He also denotes the difference between blogging and professional journalism. I agree when he says blogging is a “spontaneous expression of instant thought.” There are many platforms in which bloggers of all ages and upbringings can express their thoughts including Tumblr, WordPress, Facebook and Blogger. I had my first blogging experience during my sophomore year of high school when a friend suggested I make my own Tumblr account. At first, I used it to read her blog as well as look at pictures of animals, food and destination travel spots. It soon became an addiction and I began posting my own pictures and posts. I’ve never had the problem that Sullivan had with replies to these posts, replies that may often times be brutal and unforgiving. Reasons being, I never posted about anything controversial and all of my readers were friends. The freedom of letting go while blogging is liberating. You’re not thinking about anything but what it is you’re currently writing or “writing out loud,” as Sullivan puts it. Blogging is it’s own community. It’s a sharing of ideas between people of different backgrounds. Although they may not always be in agreement, there is a communal acceptance that there are different perspectives to the topic at hand. I enjoyed the musical analogies Sullivan uses such as the one in which he compares a blogger to a dj, “mixing samples of tunes and generating new melodies through mashups.”tumblr-logo-rectangle-white-on-blue-839x385px

 

The aforementioned freedom is not only present in blogging, but also in other outlets including music, theater, Youtube, and television. Satire’s Brew mentions a couple of shows – Saturday Night Live and Key & Peele – in which the creators reflect their opinions on current events. It may not be as instant or direct as it is in the blogosphere, but what the two fields have in common are the reactions of their audience. Feedback may not always be positive, but the creators are open to whatever their viewers have to say.Key & Peele - S2

Sullivan brings up the idea of the online presence or authority you attain when you are linked to by other blogs. With that said, it was hard finding an article where Sullivan puts solely his opinion because most of his articles are links or quotes from other sources. Alas, I came across a post entitled Marijuana and Moralism, in which Sullivan states his opinion on legalizing the green. He says, “keeping marijuana illegal profoundly constrains the potential for medical research on it, sustains a growing and increasingly lucrative criminal industry, and does nothing to keep it from the sole cohort for whom it could do harm: teenagers” to which I agree. With the growing research on both the positive and negative effects of marijuana, it seems as though the positive outshine the latter. The use of marijuana can “unleash creative potential” in an individual or artist. People I know that engage in its recreational use do so to relax or to have a good time. If the same was said with alcohol, there is a chance that the effects may cause the drinker to engage in harmful situations. I don’t think legalizing marijuana would necessarily increase the percentage rate of usage significantly.cannabisplant

Advertisements

South Park

In South Park’s Emmy award winning Raising the Bar episode, the obesity epidemic is present throughout the show. The special assistance that the obese people receive is discouraging to those who do not receive the same treatment. Makes one wonder why do they get priority seating for overindulging while others who are healthy do not. As we see from the tip assist, no matter how hard you fall you can get right back up with government assistance if you complain enough. Instead of manufacturing new inventions to fix preventable mishaps, government funds should be used for something more practical like educational programs specialized in health and nutrition, for example. Unfortunately, as South Park points out, America’s very own The Learning Channel network glorifies obese America with their hit show, Honey Boo Boo. At the same time shows like The Biggest Loser, Extreme Weight Loss as well as the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign serve as inspiration for people to be healthy and stay fit. Recently, we have been desensitized to the idea that being overweight is normal, but at the same time we know that there is room for improvement.

Director James Cameron’s random appearance is not that random as the episode’s title is a play on his film, Raising the Titanic. Also, when thinking of Cameron I think of Avatar. In this 2009 blockbuster movie, the deforestation of Pandora parallels to the deforestation happening on our very own planet. Just as Cameron points out the harmful effects of erosion on land, Parker and Stone’s Raising the Bar episode shows the adverse effects of obesity.

            In Crack Baby Athletic Association, Cartman makes a business off of fighting crack babies. This could be in reference to a real show a group of teenagers made in which they make homeless people fight each other. In both cases, the synopsis of the show is inhumane and disgusting, for lack of a better term. This continues on the idea from the previous episode that money can be made off of anything, even something so grotesque.

We see a different side of Kyle when he joins forces with Cartman to start Crack Baby Basketball, proof that greed can be contagious. Rather than sharing the money with the babies, they use it for outlandish things like KFC gravy in a hot tub. Earlier in the episode, we see them at Denny’s enjoying bacon in all of their food. The obesity epidemic we saw in Raising the Bar is continued in these two acts.

The episode takes a stab at the way the NCAA treats their players, or slaves as Cartman puts it. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, only 33% of poll takers support paying college athletes. Cartman is making a lot of money yet he refuses to give any to the people who brought that money in, which is the same issue with the Northwestern University football team mentioned in the Washington Post article. When I saw the original air date of CBAA, I was surprised to discover it aired nearly three years ago. This predicament of not giving players a peace of the pie has been an ongoing debate. I do think that student athletes should receive some of the college’s earnings because they are bringing a lot of publicity and money to the universities. Although they receive a scholarship, a stipend should also be provided to cover other costs including health insurance, books and brand new Jordans.

Margaritaville presents economy as a religion. South Park has hit a recession due to the ongoing unnecessary purchases that people are making. In order to live a normal life again, the people of South Park need a miracle. Kyle, a Jew, serves that purpose by paying everyone’s debts just as Jesus, also a Jew, paid for everyone’s sins, according to the Holy Bible.

Throughout the episode, Cartman tries to return an expensive Margaritaville mixer. This mixer symbolizes the credit that so many people owe, Randy included. So much credit is built up that in the end, Cartman breaks the mixer. This can be viewed as a person cutting up their credit card to avoid the temptation of swiping it with no money to back it up. It’s very clever how they were able to cross the timeless Biblical story of Jesus with the current economic crisis of today.

In all three episodes – Raising the Bar, Crack Baby Athletic Association, and Margaritaville – Trey Parker and Matt Stone expose an array of issues including an obese America, poor economy, greedy business owners and an unorganized U.S. Treasury running around like chickens with their heads cut off. As Dunphy has mentioned in Satire’s Brew, the way that many news outlets share their coverage do so in a left or right matter. The sides of the issue at hand can either be this or that, right or wrong, good or bad. What the South Park creators offer that these news stations do not is a ‘history repeats itself’ mentality. They are able to compare the issues of today with stories of the past. They are also able to foreshadow the future, as in the CBAA episode where the college athlete stipend debate still stands today. The aforementioned issues not only stay in their respective episodes but cross over to other South Park stories.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/large-majority-opposes-paying-ncaa-athletes-washington-post-abc-news-poll-finds/2014/03/22/c411a32e-b130-11e3-95e8-39bef8e9a48b_story.html

Music

As a former high school student of Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, aka the Fame school, I have been exposed to all types of music including classical, hip-hop, world, folk and polka to name a few. It was such a great experience attending an arts school as an instrumental major because you are surrounded by so many music enthusiasts like yourself.

Each semester we were required to attend two concerts – one at the school, the other outside at a professional level – and write a report on it. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to attend too many concerts during my undergraduate years due to time and cost. On the off chance that I do attend live shows, I usually see a friend perform at gigs or benefit concerts. The Lower East Side is a great place to roam around if you’re looking for a place to listen to local bands. Now, most of my music enjoyment comes from the internet via sites like YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and Songza. I usually like to listen to a genre at a time. For example, I wouldn’t listen to Allen Stone’s “Unaware” right after jamming out to Art Blakey’s “Moanin’.” I also listen to different genres for different moods – Motown for cooking, pop for getting ready in the morning and classical for tea time.

I find myself going deep into the lyrics and background story for hip hop and rap songs, only reason being I don’t know where or what the references are from. This is when Rap Genius comes in handy. A few years ago, I came across a live Nicki Minaj performance on BBC’s Graham Norton Show and she was singing/rapping her hit songBeez in a Trap.” I had no idea what this meant and knew it couldn’t possibly be referring to bees getting trapped in their own honey or a bee trap. According to rapgenius.com, “the ‘trap’ is the drug dealing spot or any place where you get money. The originally Southern term has become so common as to have spawned its own genre.” Despite the meaning of the song and the numerous cuss words, I still enjoy listening to it and singing along to it in the privacy of my own room.

I always get stumped whenever someone asks me what my favorite song is or who my favorite artist is because there are too many to choose from. Off the top of my head, I would have to say “Sway” is my favorite song and Beyonce is my favorite artist. If you were to ask me the same question ten seconds later, I would answer “Poetic Justice” and Lester Young. All Disney songs are my guilty pleasure. I’d be embarrassed if “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo!” from the Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic album popped up on my iPod at a BBQ.

In order to like a song, my head must be bobbing to the beat at some point if not for the whole duration. Dr. Alison Pawley and Dr. Daniel Mullensiefen of the University of London delved into what makes a song ‘catchy.’ According to their research, the song must have longer and detailed musical phrases, higher number of pitched in the chorus hook, male vocalists and higher male voices with noticeable vocal effort. A few artists that come in mind after reading these traits are Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars, Adam Levine and Justin Timberlake, all of whom have multiple catchy songs.

Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Atoms for Peace also fits into this category of catchy artists. When I listened to York’s, “The Daily Mail” the first three notes reminded me of those from the graduation song, Pomp and Circumstance. The minor key automatically sets the mood for this song to something deep and heavy. It was a bit difficult figuring out what the artist was saying. After looking up the lyrics, I knew that the song was definitely related to politics with key words and phrases like paid off, President, lost command and the Daily Mail, which is a British tabloid that exposes all types of news stories.

After looking at the comments on songmeanings.com, one person said, “the song is about the eventual accountability of the insane egotistic sociopaths with power (“lord of all”), like those responsible for the financial crisis, who will justify (“to keep your prices down”) any egregious acts (“no regard for human life”).” This explanation isn’t too far off from my assumption that the song was delved in politics. Ultimately, this song is about revolution, political and economic change. This song is saying that “the fish in the sea” (we the people) are being lied to by political officials who have “no regard for human life.” With all this mind, it definitely changed my perspective of the song listening to it a second time. It felt heavier and sadder.

Beez in a Trap http://rapgenius.com/Nicki-minaj-beez-in-the-trap-lyrics

Catchy songs http://www.zmescience.com/research/studies/what-makes-a-song-catchy-science-explains/

Daily Mail http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858875121/ 

Gattaca

The opening credits to the movie had an eerie feel to it with minor chords, fading credits and odd movements going on. This and the amount of well-known actors shown in the credits immediately grabbed my attention. Then the word GATTACA comes up. At first, I had no idea what this meant. I thought maybe it was the name of some extraterrestrial source or something futuristic. After researching, I find out it’s the name of Vincent’s workplace where people are trained to go to outer space. It is also a reference to a DNA nucleotide sequence – guanine, adenine, thymine and cytosine. The theme of identity remains constant throughout the movie.

At the beginning of film, we find out that Vincent is going to live a short life and is going to have a lot of health issues to live with. Growing up, he refused to live with the thought of having an inferior life compared to his younger, stronger brother and leaves. This idea of escape is evident throughout the movie, especially through the four classical elements of earth, water, air and fire.

When they were younger, Vincent and Anton would have races in the ocean whenever their parents weren’t looking, an escape from adult supervision. All the people that travel in space escape the element of earth and air. Both Vincent and Eugene use the fire element to escape. Vincent uses it to rid the scrapings of his identity as means to prove that he is a valid while Eugene uses it to completely erase himself from the world. One thing that all of these  characters have in common is the want to escape uniformity and perfection.

There is an obsession with perfection present from the beginning of the film. Vincent’s parents opted for a perfect son with their second child and Vincent’s workplace is constantly being cleaned by the many janitors with a zero tolerance for any unwanted substances. Vincent and Eugene go against this idea of everyone being the same by switching identities.

In a few of the scenes, a yellow filter was present. One of the things associated with the color yellow is the Sun. In the movie we find out that Vincent wants to travel to outer space (where the Sun is), which is something that the yellow filter foreshadows. The filter also appears in scenes of nostalgia such as the moments when Vincent and Anton would race and the scene where Vincent was born.

Towards the end of the film, I really tried to contain my tears since I was sitting in the front of the entire classroom. Once Jerome got in that incinerator, I knew what was going to happen. Eugene was my favorite character in the movie mostly because he was the comic relief in the film. My favorite parts come from him – his drinking, the scene where he told Shrader off and that scene where he asked Irene for a kiss. I got a little offended when my fellow classmates laughed at him when he was trying to get up the DNA helix inspired stairs to answer the doorbell (what was so funny?). 

Gattaca gives an inspirational message that although there may be a few setbacks, you shouldn’t let that discourage you from reaching your goals. Vincent was told that he was an invalid from the moment he was born, yet that didn’t stop him from living his dream of going to space. He even fell in love with a fellow invalid, Irene. Goes to show that if you don’t put any effort in what you want to do, that opportunity may be blown away by the wind. Great movie selection Prof D!