Friday, March 18, 2011

Winter PWR 2 Webby Awards

Our external judges were so impressed by this term's PWR mass media blog posts that after much debate, they could not decide on simply one, two, or even three winners. They finally settled on a first place with three runners-up. Congratulations Casey, Amanda, Ximena, and David! And great work, everyone--there were too many "honorable mentions" to even include here.

First Place: The Room: Oh hi, Tommy Wiseau!



I am in love with bad movies. When asked to review any sort of media, my mind immediately jumped to one movie – The Room, Tommy Wiseau’s masterfully terrible tale of love and betrayal in San Francisco. Before beginning the review in full, I just want to mention that this movie has absolutely no redeeming qualities. The acting is atrocious, the music sounds like it was stolen from a Renaissance fair, and the sex scenes (of which there are many) cause audiences to cringe in horror. Tommy Wiseau, the director, producer, and lead actor in the movie, cannot direct, produce, or act in any capacity. The movie is incredibly misogynistic; an affair carried out by two of the characters is entirely the girl’s fault and every other woman in the movie encourages her to be manipulative. However, all of these issues barely scratch the surface of the film’s awful-ness.

First, the characters. The main character, Johnny, is a saintly banker who would give up anything to please his family and friends. He is perfect, except for his terrifying dinosaur-like visage. But it’s not like Tommy Wiseau was trying to insert himself into the movie or anything! That’s crazy talk. Anyway, his girlfriend, Lisa, is a horrible bitch who decides to cheat on Johnny for no reason. Mark is Johnny’s best friend, and he is sure to mention that whenever he can. Denny is Johnny’s troubled and creepy adopted son who looks like a 30 year old but has the mentality of a 13 year old. Finally, we have Claudette, Lisa’s mother who helpfully drives home the moral of the story: women are all manipulative whores who are just planning to use you.

The movie opens with Johnny entering a room (The Room, perhaps?) and muttering, “Hi, babe!” It’s important to note here that Tommy Wiseau has an accent that seems to be native to nowhere. Seriously, people have absolutely no idea where this guy comes from. Wiseau himself always dodges the question. Almost every one of his lines in the movie is a jumbled mess of language that almost resembles English. Several of these lines were clearly dubbed over in post-production yet are still unintelligible. Wiseau imitates a chicken at one point by shouting “CHEEP CHEEP CHEEEEEP.” But I digress.

Shortly after this poetic greeting the audience is treated to a prolonged sex scene in which Johnny seems to hump Lisa’s belly button for several minutes. Unfortunately for Johnny, Lisa is unsatisfied with her belly button sex and seduces Johnny’s best friend Mark! Another prolonged sex scene ensues. Afterwards, Mark expresses his regret by denying all responsibility for his actions (“I can’t believe you did that to me!”) and continuing the affair. Naturally, things quickly spiral out of control. Also, everyone plays a ton of football. Football is used in the movie as… comedic relief? Maybe? Or is it something the characters are bonding over? Hell, I don’t know.

What makes this movie even more baffling is the fact that it allegedly cost 6 million dollars to make. How the hell did Tommy Wiseau manage to find all that cash? More importantly, what was it all spent on? It clearly didn’t go to hiring decent actors. Or set design. Or good music. Wiseau himself has never answered either of these questions, although he has alluded to some shady business dealings that somehow involved Korean leather jackets. I’m not making this up.

I know I’ve been tearing into The Room pretty mercilessly, but the movie is actually worth watching if you appreciate crappy films. Every aspect of the film is so poorly made that it constantly falls into the “so bad it’s good” zone. It’s incredibly quotable thanks to the awkward phrasing and awful dialogue. To be honest, I’m such a fan of this movie that I have seen it close to ten times. I can recite most of the movie from memory. The Room has earned a cult following and is truly worthy of that attention. It’s the king of bad movies, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an incredibly enjoyable watch.

--Casey Deres

Runner-up: Lemme Smang It

Described by some as “life-changing,” defined by others as “the best music video of the year,” “Lemme Smang It” is what we call an internet sensation. Since its release less than five months ago, the video has already reached almost 2.5 million views on YouTube. The song boasts truly unique lyrics, featuring such gems as:

You say that in bed your man is a lame guy.
Havin' sex with him is just like watching paint dry.

Before, of course, the chorus (and origin of the song's title):

Lemme smang it girl,
Smash it and bang.
Lemme smang it girl,
Smash it and bang.

Given that this is a PWR post, I will refrain from citing other great examples found in the song.

The accompanying video only works to supplement these clever lyrics. There is no Lady Gaga music movie. There are no Kanye epilepsy-triggering visuals. There is Yung Humma wearing a wig, doing a dance move that rivals the Stanky Leg.


So, what exactly is the secret behind this extraordinary success? Is it the monotonous voices that strike a delicate balance between apathetic and creepy? Is it the bare simplicity and rudimentary visual effects that remind us of '80s music videos (much like Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake's hit song “Dick in a Box”)? Or maybe it's the fact that all of the people featured in the video seem to take themselves so seriously.

The first time I watched this, I was convinced it was a parody – yet another “Jizz in My Pants”-like spoof on today's popular music. The dance moves, the cheesy backdrops, the … ingenious lyrics. Upon further research, however, I am no longer so sure, and I am not the only one who is confused.


As it turns out, Turquoise Jeep Records, the gang that produced this prize of a song, is an actual record label and band, consisting of Yung Humma, Whatchyamacallit, Flynt Flossy, Pretty Raheem, Slick Mahony, and Tummiscratch Beats. This talented group of individuals was the very same that brought you “Cavities,” “Stretchy Pants,” and “Fried or Fertilized,” with other such thought-provoking lyrics as “How you like your eggs: fried or fertilized?"

Though nobody really knows whether or not these guys are serious, it seems their newfound fame is enough to get a nod from some of today's most influential musicians. Just recently, Turquoise Jeep opened for Big Boi, and now has almost 9,000 fans on Facebook. But does this really come as a surprise? Let's face it: when we're forced to decide between Katy Perry feeling like a plastic bag and Drake teaching us the square root of 69 is 8-something, “Lemme Smang It” doesn't seem like such a bad choice after all.


(Amanda Lin)

Runner-up: "Imma let you finish, but this video may induce the best seizure of all time!"

Although George Bush may not care about black people, Kanye West has made it clear that he cares about...epileptic people. Soon after the release of Kanye West's new music video for "All of the Lights," British group "Epilepsy Action" publicly criticized the video after receiving various complaints from viewers who had suffered seizures as a result of watching it. The video, directed by Hype Williams, begins with misleadingly calm black and white footage of a young girl before unexpectedly transforming into a crazy spectacle of flashing lights and color.

In light (hah?) of this controversy the video was momentarily taken down from YouTube and then re-released with a (badass) disclaimer warning viewers of its potential to trigger seizures. Although Kanye's people did address the complaints in a relatively timely manner, they did of course allow time for this issue to become a hot topic on the internet, increasing interest for the video, curiosity for what would be done, and spurring ridicule through tweets like, "Imma let you finish, but this video may induce the best seizure of all time!" It seems that, especially for Kanye, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Personally, if I had epilepsy or some other form of photosensitivity, I wouldn't actively seek out to watch a video named "All of the Lights" (unless I was trying to get myself into a seizure that caused me some serious psychological damage...for which I would be unable to survive without monetary compensation from Kanye West). Fortunately (or unfortunately), I do not suffer from photosensitivity and was able to dismiss the warning and continue watching.

"All of the Lights" provides a promising beginning that suggests that it will be the type of video to extend the meaning of an already amazing song. However, the story line of the small girl (later revealed to be the daughter) who "needs her daddy," despite his violent actions against her mother, is lost. No, this story does not suffer at the hands of the flashing lights. In fact, the images and colors serve to highlight the lyrics (a la "Enter the Void") and create tension as Kanye hold his head in his hands, struggling to face all the difficulties of his life.

So who is to blame for the lost message? Rihanna's boobs. I'm not kidding. Currently the top YouTube comment for the video is: "Warning: Rihanna's titties have been identified to potentially trigger seizures. Viewer discretion is advised." Although Rihanna delivers the perfect vocals for the song, her appearance in the video, dressed in what I would describe as two Band-Aids, shifts the direction of the story
from a promising artistic undertaking to the unapologetic "sex-sells." Following Rihanna, the camera switches to a profiled shot of Kid Cudi, who only turns to look at the camera in order to smile playfully and grab at his red leather jacket.
Both artists give"want you to see everything" new meaning.

By the time the video returns to Kanye and his "daughter" the viewer has completely forgotten about the story-line and instead may possibly be frantically searching Google more pictures of whichever star is to their liking...

Runner-up: We are being assimilated into the Google Collective…but maybe it’s not so bad.


How many times have you Googled something today? I can tell you that all together, Google handled about 293.8 million requests today. Well, I guess that’s on average, I just Googled it real quick. It’s kind of scary just how much information is instantly available at our fingertips. This development is quite recent, or at least that is how it seems. I remember learning what a search engine was in sixth grade. This was back when our home computer would block the phone line to provide a foot-deep pixilated portal to the online world. I sound like I’m 110 years old, but this is no “uphill to school both ways in the snow” story. In under a decade, lightning fast internet connections are available in the palm of our hand, and behind the reigns of this wild technology steed: Google. Think of how long it would take to find what you want if you had to search for domain names on your own. Google makes it so easy, BUT AT WHAT COST?

Do you ever feel that sometimes a Google search knows more about what you want than you do? Do you even remember when the autocomplete search bar became a feature? More recently, Google Instant will display the results to what you are trying to find before you are even done thinking it. A page appears ranking what is “best” for your inquiry. Best based on what? Sheer monstrosities of data. How can 293.8 million opinions be wrong right? I am only partially kidding. It seems as if time would be better spent learning to use the many tools Google has to offer effectively rather than learning about things like math, science, and history. Think back to your last problem set. How many equations did you search for? How many facts did you verify for your RBA? Chances are you found what you are looking for, and chances are there was an even faster way to find it still. We are constantly plugging in to this large collection of common data, and independent knowledge seems obsolete compared to the ability to find information effectively.

I’ve led us along to this point making one major assumption though: that people do not retain the information they search for. Thankfully, that is just not true. This is the reason I feel we should be excited about what the power of Google can do for us rather than fearful. Google does not degrade the importance of an individuals knowledge; it instead provides the opportunity for many more to gain that knowledge. Before, maybe one in ten people could tell you the fastest route to the nearest hospital. Now, anyone can know with Google Maps. And, this sharing doesn’t even stop at borders. Google’s browser Chrome has the ability to translate entire pages into different languages. Stop and think about that. The World Wide Web can now live up to its name! These two examples are only the beginning.

Problems will only occur if we stop asking questions (that is until Google Questions becomes a feature). But seriously, it is our ability to ask questions that makes us the individual who contribute to a collection and not a entity of the collection. We can use the access to great amounts of knowledge to help us construct new answers which can then be shared with the world, prompting new questions in a cyclic process. This easy access to so much information can change what and how we know, but I don’t believe it will ever have a negative affect on who we are.

David Nelloms


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wait What about Rebecca Black: Going viral for the wrong reasons....

Going viral for the wrong reasons…..

Rebecca Black's "Friday"




As many of you now know, not everyone is fit for pop. No matter how many mini-Britneys and pseudo-Ke$has get churned out, you can beat Hollywood’s alchemists that can literally turn poop into gold. Ark Music Factory’s Rebecca Black is no exception to this, but it is extremely popular nonetheless. There’s an old saying that any PR is good PR, good being the operative word in the sentence. Black’s hit single “Friday” is blowing up the YouTube charts, and yet will go down as one of the worst song ever…literally for all eternity. Even worse than, “Chacaron”, which is mildly entertaining to say the least because it’s so ridiculous. Why choose fame when you can choose infamy? My guess is Black didn’t make that choice. The young teen probably didn’t realize that her parents were paying for her own social destruction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD2LRROpph0 for video

With lyrics like “Gotta have my cereal…Get me to the bus stop.” The hit single is pretty setting it self up for an onslaught of YouTube user hatred. Sorry Rebecca, the web is blunt. Everyone is a judge of talent now thanks to the ability to see thousands of people make cover videos of songs. A bad video, especially one accompanied by a bad song is surely going to get harangued. No one wants to hear about your day, or love for a day.

But hey, Black’s video is an example to others on what not to do and avoid going viral for the wrong reasons. Definitely don’t produce a high quality video if the content is crap, it draws attention and people love sharing a bad video for kicks. People love making fun of puberty, so if you’re going through it, you probably shouldn’t show everyone how you look. Last, if you don’t have talent and you try to act like you do, the web is going to destroy you credibility. In sum if you release a bad video, YouTubers are going to rip it apart like a pack of wolves, then send it to everyone they know so they can do the same, even let their parents and grandparents get their share of LOLs at it.

This is the brutal truth, but believe me the web is far more brutal and unsympathetic. And it really sucks when 23 million people do it to you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Music's Response to Finals: Lupe Fiasco's Lasers


When the public has been demanding an album's release for three years, everyone knows the day it finally drops is going to be a big one. Lupe Fiasco fought off the influence of his record company Atlantic Rights for the rights to publish his 3rd album, Lasers, the way he wanted. He settled on Lasers as an acronym for “Love Always Shines Everytime, Remember 2 Smile”.



With the album finally here, it’s time to see what this Muslim skater kid out of Chicago has given us and whether it keeps him at the top of the current rap/hip-hop leaders with the likes of Kid CuDi and B.o.B. Lounge back in your most comfortable seat, dim the lights and press the play button on Lasers.


Lupe didn’t try to include a single concept to the album like he did with his last release The Cool, but a sense of drained optimism shines through regardless. The album lends itself to a form of introspection and positive social critique, but one feels weighed down by a sense of disappointment with it all. Lupe touches on this himself, openly discussing his dislike of the process behind Lasers. This weight is delivered in the first four lines off the album from the song “Letting Go.”


“Seems I'm getting out of control / Feels like I'm running out of soul / You're getting heavy to hold / Think I'll be letting you go”



Later, in one of his more affecting songs “Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways),” Lupe asks his listener “If you feel like you don’t want to be alive / You feel just how I am / I’m on the dark side.” It’s easy to sense weariness with the world and perhaps the industry he has had to deal with. It comes out in the lyrics that are often at odds with the unauthentic pop sound in the background we know was put there by Atlantic Records.


Most of the initial reviews have knocked down the album because of this perceived corporate influence. Lupe did not hold back when addressing Atlantic Record’s interference and so the feud is common knowledge. The word compromise could easily be applied to the entire collection of songs. With additional electronic vibes and synthesizers meant to cater to the current pop trends, most reviewers have pointed to these additions as taking away from the activist lyrics of Lupe Fiasco. They dull his message behind repetitive chorus repetitions, a fact acknowledged by Lupe in his track “State Run Radio.” The song is highlighted by its repetition of the phrase “over again…and over again…and over again” for its chorus in a way that impressively mimics today’s most listened to pop radio.



Fortunately, even the dull pop can’t keep the naturally optimistic message Lupe is known for. His poignant critiques of society go hand in hand with a hope that we’re moving in the right direction. He admits in the song “Coming Up” that his career is “only moving forward homie, that’s that.” His resilience carries on (“Tell my enemies that they can’t injure me”) and ultimately leaves the listener with heavy shoulders but a certain confidence. The world weighs heavily, but “all the ups and downs will soon be worth it.” That’s all Lupe’s message has ever been. The industry can smudge the idea, but they can’t erase what he’s been trying to say the whole time.


"You just lift your arms higher / Raise 'em 'til your arms tired, let 'em know you here / That you struggling, surviving, that you gon' persevere / Ain't nobody leaving, nobody going home."


"Even if they turn the lights out, the show is going on."



Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Alot is Better Than You at Everything


If you are grammatically conscientious, I'm positive you have noticed the grievous misuses of the English language online, in comments on YouTube, in Facebook status updates, etc.

How many people have ever mispelled, oops - I mean misspelled "a lot" as "alot"?



For Allie, writer of the blog, "Hyperbole and a Half", deals with "alot" by imagining the creature above. According to the blog, "The Alot is an imaginary creature... made up to help me deal with my compulsive need to correct other people's grammar. "

Being somewhat of a grammar Nazi as well, reading about the Alot has been one of the highlights of my spelling/grammar policing. If someone says, "I care about this alot", this is what Allie imagines:




This post had me laughing with its spot-on humor and cleverness. The drawings are rough in a stylized way that adds to the personality of the blog.

This is the funniest page I've come across in a while. Now... I know what you're thinking:
.
But in this case it's legit.

I don't do justice to this ridiculously funny person and blog. You can find the blog in its entirety here:
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

-Eric Tran

ET

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Meiko: This Is Only The Beginning

by Sandra Rodriguez




I'm sure you're probably thinking: Who the heck is Meiko? She is a singer/songwriter from Roberta, Georgia. She moved to Los Angeles when she turned 18 to try and get her music career off the ground. She spent the first couple of years waitressing at an Indian food restaurant. Through her waitressing she was able to independently release a self-titled album. Shortly after, she was offered a waitressing job at The Hotel Café (a small venue for some of Hollywood's best). She spent another year or so waitressing there, watching other Hollywood musicians performing and being inspired by them. The owner began giving her opening slots and she slowly started gaining a following.
Things really started getting off the ground for her when Perez Hilton wrote this blog post about her. That caught the attention of agents and producers. In 2008 she sign a deal with MySpace Records and they rereleased her self-titled album. She also did a Hotel Café tour with the likes of Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles and a couple others. Since then, she has had the opportunity to tour with Eric Hutchinson, Joshua Radin and Jewel all over the country, the UK and even in Guam.
She is currently working with Styrofoam (a Belgian producer) to release her second album. She consistently plays shows in the LA area, very often at the Hotel Café. During her shows these past few years, she has been testing her new material on her audiences.
This past summer, I was lucky enough to attend one of her shows in downtown LA. It was absolutely amazing. Her voice sounded like it does on her album. She played brand new songs off her album and some new songs. One of my favorite things about her as a performer is that she tells the stories behind her songs. She seemed comfortable with her audience; she makes jokes and it all just makes her feel real and relatable.
She has a blog filled with random thoughts and images. This is part of the reason why I think she is so relatable, through her posts, the viewer is able to get to know the type of person that she is. It is a lot easier to build up her fan base this way because she is not famous enough where she doesn't have time to reply to any of her fans. Through facebook, Twitter and her blog, she has plenty of interactions with her fans, furthering their loyalty.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite songs by her (off her first album).

Pawn Stars: The Best Show on TV




I don’t watch a lot of television. I like to tell myself that my lack of proficiency in the world of television is because I was deeply moved by David Foster Wallace’s “E. Unibus Pluram” (lamenting the television culture), at a young age; however, it is actually due to my perpetual forgetfulness. That being said, I thoroughly enjoy the wonders of television, and when I have the time – or more frequently when I don’t have the time, I watch many low-budget shows. I have recently discovered a show that manages to completely captivate me for the full 23 minutes of streaming online glory: Pawn Stars on the History Channel. Pawn Stars (yes, I spelled that correctly) is a show that follows the daily dealings of a pawnshop on the Las Vegas Strip.
I, unfortunately, have never experienced the wonders of a pawnshop first hand. My only knowledge of the world of pawn was alongside the seedy underbelly of society in crime dramas. Just as I know that it doesn’t take a full team of detectives to solve a single murder in three days, it is also my understanding that there is a legitimate use for pawnshops in the United States; however, I have always seen them as a place where I will obtain illicit materials after my inevitable jailbreak. Pawn Stars challenged my preconceived notions of pawnshops because it follows the daily operations of (what appears to be) a completely legitimate business, hence syndication on the History Channel.
In the short and sweet format of the half hour program, the audience meets Richard, Rick, and Corey Harrison, who span three generations of pawn stardom. What makes this show of particular interest to me is the wide range of goods that moves through the shop. The goods are better deemed artifacts because those selected for the show have incredible histories behind them, ranging from revolutionary war guns to vintage coke machines. Experts are frequently called in to determine authenticity and to estimate value, adding depth to the simple format of the show. There are also frequent forays into interpersonal relationships, which, although incredibly kitschy, provide a humorous break from the often technical and tense negotiations in the shop.
TV Guide described the show as: “One part Antiques Roadshow, a pinch of L.A. Ink, and a dash of Cops,” making Pawn Stars one of the best shows on television.

Alex Green

Revisiting My Childhood: The Lion King

It seems like once I got to college, it was suddenly cool to reminisce about things from childhood. Shared nostalgia from our childhood comprised a huge chunk of conversation with other college students- talking about watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, being obsessive about the Pokémon phenomenon (some people still are), and bringing up how Pluto was still a planet when we were kids. Some of the biggest things that almost everyone seemed to treasure were Disney movies, you know, the iconic classics that, like, represented our entire childhood.


This was how I ended up sprawled on a friend’s bed on a Tuesday night, waiting in anticipation for The Lion King to start playing on his projector. We’d sent out an email to our dorm e-mail list, and gradually, people began trickling in. It was after the room was literally at capacity (I think we had about 15) that I thought it’d be fun to write my review on The Lion King. Sure, it’s practically ancient in age compared to the newest blockbusters, and everyone’s probably watched it hundreds of times already… but there’s a certain excitement in watching a Disney classic many years later.


Look at this picture and tell me that it doesn’t stir up some kind of nostalgia for your childhood.

Right when the movie started, you could tell that there was something special about the movie that set it apart from any other movie. Everyone joined together and sang along to all of the songs right at the onset, which is definitely a sight indeed. Just imagine a roomful of college-age students enthusiastically belting out karaoke-style to a Disney cartoon movie, completely enraptured in the music and the plot. From “Circle of Life” to “Hakuna Matata”, each single song felt like a recaptured essence of my childhood, and I was completely invested in every moment of it.

I swear that "Hakuna Matata" was an important cornerstone of my childhood development.

Starting off, there are just some things that I felt completely necessary to share about watching this movie. When you're a little kid, you simply watch a movie and move on with your life- there's no outside connection to any references or examples in real life. Watching The Lion King years later, all I can say is that there are some pretty deep themes that you just kind of gloss over when your'e watching it as a kid.

Have you ever noticed how much the plot of The Lion King resembles Shakespeare’s Hamlet? That was one thing that really blatantly stood out to me throughout the entire movie. Basic plotline: You have the prince of a kingdom. His evil uncle kills the king, the prince’s father, and assumes the throne. The prince leaves the kingdom, and eventually comes back and kills the evil uncle. Of course, The Lion King doesn’t end in a huge smattering of blood and death, but you can’t really market that type of stuff to kid and families anyways.

Evil uncle? Check. Evil kills father and takes over kingdom? Check, again.


Then, you have the Disney animators using allegorical references and imagery to compare Scar to Hitler. How many 7 year old kids would recognize such references? I have to admit, it took me a few moments to fully realize all of the connections that the movie had made. There’s an entirely different perspective on the movie when you’ve learned about the history and the literature that the movie constantly refers to, and it really was a new eye-opening experience for me to watch it again.


This whole scene completely went over my head as a kid.

On the other hand, you have the random things of lesser importance that you catch just from knowing more pop culture. Imagine my surprise when I’m listening to Mufasa lecture Simba in an opening scene, and all I can hear is Darth Vader. (Someone seems to get typecasted for these intense father roles) On another note, hearing Whoopi Goldberg as a hyena hench(wo)man definitely threw me off also. Even little things like this cause you to see and think of the movie in a completely new way.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Whoopi Goldberg.


While I definitely have a pretty biased view of The Lion King, there is definitely no question of the cinematic greatness of the movie. The themes of growing up, losing a loved one, and so many others are all folded into the movie, and it’s all presented in a way that even kids can understand on some level. I feel that the major reason that The Lion King is such a great movie is because it has been able to transcend its message and themes across generations, so the film is just as relevant to me when I was a kid or now as college kid. The fact that we, as college kids, still fully appreciate The Lion King as a relic of our childhood simply speaks of how strongly the movie and its themes were able to impact us as an audience.


-Jonathan Hsieh

Another Princess Makes the (Hair)Cut

As a Disney purist, I have believed since 3D animation became the norm of children’s movies that a 3D character could never become a true ‘Disney princess’. This phrase has been used for years to describe the collection of princesses that starred in acclaimed Disney movies such as Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. This elite group had ended in my mind, as well as in my childhood, with Mulan. In 2009, Tiana from Princess and the Frog joined the group, but once all us 90’s kids realized Disney had no true intention in returning to the 2D animation we knew and loved any time soon, the criteria for princesshood became unobtainable. Or so I thought…



At the end of 2010, Disney released their first 3D animated princess movie Tangled, and I have to admit I was blown away. Not only was this movie Disney’s second-highest grossing animated film of all time (The Lion King remains the first), but it reminded me why I wanted to be a Disney princess growing up. Disney princesses are strong, independent women who know what they want, and who get things done. Rapunzel is no exception. Instead of waiting for a man to save her, she takes charge of her own future and doesn't take no for an answer. In this new twist on the classic fairytale the evil witch needs Rapunzel’s magic hair, to keep her young, the “prince” (Flynn Ryder) is actually a thief, and Rapunzel has a pet chameleon who steals the show. Ryder runs across Rapunzel accidentally while trying to hide in her tower after robbing the castle and Rapunzel knocks him out. She takes what he stole, and agrees to give it back only if he takes her to the palace for the one celebration she’s always longed to see from outside her tower. Though their relationship initially stems from a mutual deal, the two grow to love each other more and more as they tackle each trial that confronts them and the movie ends in the typical happily ever after sap that makes Disney movies so great.

As cheesy as it sounds, I laughed, I cried, and I truly enjoyed this movie as much as any of the classics from my childhood. Tangled deserves every bit of recognition and success it attained. I am excited to add the first 3D princess to my collection, and I certainly hope Rapunzel won’t be the last.

Acabee: Visualizing the Future of Online Education

By Derek Ouyang

The following is an overview of a nonprofit project I am working on with two friends, started last October. Please check out our website: http://acabee.org/

* * * * *

The Problem


According to an article in The Economist , the U.S. education system recently slipped again in world rankings. As of 2009 the richest country in the world also sports the most disappointing education system, ranked at number 11 far behind China, South Korea, and Finland. Throwing money at the problem does not seem to be producing adequate results. I believe that part of the problem is geographical - the U.S. lacks a uniform distribution of teaching talent across its fifty states. A child in Massachusetts receives a far different educational experience than a child in Mississippi. Even within states there exists a severe difference in education standards and teaching standards between counties. Children who want most to learn and succeed are not always paired with good teachers. Consequently the U.S. faces a huge problem of wasted talent that increases yearly with the growth of our population.



The Solution

Acabee’s mission is to provide high-quality educational videos on academic subjects for students, made by students. Two of my friends and I were inspired by Khan Academy, started by Salman Khan, who has been very successful with his YouTube videos. However, we have one major difference in ideology: we believe that the process of learning happens best through the act of teaching. Many viewers believe that Khan is qualified to teach because he is intelligent. On the contrary, we think that the process of creating videos is precisely what broadened and deepened his intelligence. In other words, we think Khan Academy has it backwards; an even better system would be to give anybody the tools to make videos, add those videos to a growing community of knowledge, and allow all contributors to grow intellectually through the process. Only recently have we realized that the act of teaching is one of the most powerful ways to learn. We want to turn that idea into a social movement through this website.



Our end goal is to create a library of knowledge for students in areas of the U.S. where access to the best teachers or schools is limited. If we could create high-quality videos on every subject, then any student would have free access to the best one-way instruction possible. Using the connectivity of social media, we can ensure that geography will never again limit a child’s potential for success.

Impact

The impact our organization could have in terms of scale is potentially huge. One talented teacher in the public school system could teach maybe a maximum of 280 students per year (40 students per class, 7 classes per day). One talented teacher on Acabee can reach an unlimited number of students. Every year a total of $634.1 billion in government funding is earmarked for education. Yet, according to education director for the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “There are countries which don't get the bang for the bucks, and the U.S. is one of them.” Furthermore, $624.5 billion of that total amount is provided by local governments. It is precisely local governments in states within the Sunbelt, such as Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama , that struggle most with reaching national education standards, and with whom we believe we would find the most initial success.



Progress

On the night of founding, my roommate and I made four simple videos and realized that the model could be scaled. After two weeks of production, we had a website with sixty videos on topics ranging from high school-level algebra and physics to college-level economics and computer science. At that point, we decided it would be more efficient to focus our efforts on structured curricula, or sequences of videos on a certain concept. To do that, we organized a sophomore fellowship with the Freshman & Sophomore College at Stanford University, in which we formed a team of undergraduates from a variety of fields to meet on a weekly basis, producing small video series based on core textbooks, International Baccalaureate guidelines, Stanford courses, or simply personal interest. Meanwhile, we were contacted by high school students who had noticed our site and wanted to expand our high school educational content. Currently Arcadia High School in southern California has a team of students producing AP Physics videos and will soon explore other curriculum projects.

In five months, despite our heavy Stanford workloads and almost no publicity, Acabee has managed to produce over 200 videos from over 20 contributors, with hundreds more to come.







For more videos, please check out our website: http://acabee.org/

* * * * *

References

http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2010/12/education?page=1

http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/us_education_spending_20.html

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2003-09-16-education-comparison_x.htm

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/11/your-child-left-behind/66069/

Charlie Sheen

By Oliver Friedberg


In light of the recent social media frenzy surrounding Charlie Sheen, I decided to focus on him for this blog post. For some reason in class I said I was going to write a sonnet, and when I give my word, I keep it.




Charlie Sheen, God among Men


Supreme Gnar, gnarliest of gnarlingtons,

Show me your ways. How is it you are you?

Boom, crush, night losers: you’re hot as two Suns,

Soaring to great heights and loving the view.


King of kings, may you never cease to win.

Tiger blood in your veins, your fists breathe fire;

You’re a high priest Vatican assassin

Who nightly slays a Goddess’ desire.


Messiah of raging, rage on and again.

For breakfast this Monday, what will you choose:

Enough blow to kill two and a half men,

Seven gram rocks, or limitless booze?


Keep breaking records, beds, egos, and such,

Charlie, great warlock with the Midas touch.



Monday, March 7, 2011

"Fixin' to Die" by G. Love

Garrett Dutton, better known as "G. Love", has been wailing on his harmonica and stringing out guitar melodies behind his prototype blues voice for the better part of two decades. Best known as being a close buddy of mellow acoustic groover Jack Johnson, G. Love has paved a solid career of his own by mixing alternative hip-hop grooves with melodic soothers that have the ladies clamoring for the stage in his high intensity live performances.

While G. Love has found moderate success with this formula, after years of the same old, same old he figures to switch up the pace and get "back to his roots" with his most recent release, entitled "Fixin' to Die". The producers, Scott and Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers fame, leave their mark on G. Love's new work which is evident only seconds in to the lead off title track. The second track, "The Road", is a classic alt-country/bluegrass influenced rocker that features a banjo and bass back beat that allows G. Love to flourish when he takes lead vocals and lets his harmonica rip in between verses. One of the funnest moments comes in the fourth track, "Milk and Sugar". G. Love always has to use some sort of drink metaphor to talk about his ladies, and this time he talks about how every morning he needs his milk and sugar when "that road is long and the times are hard". A music video of the song being recorded in a church turned recording studio in Asheville, North Carolina shows G. Love and the Avetts smiling and foot-tapping to no end as they croon- "Make that coffee strong and sweet and fill my cup".

While the album flattens and nearly falters in a few ways- an attempt at Paul Simon's classic "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover", and "Just Fine", a song that would seem to fit on one of G. Love's albums from years past, it hits its mark the best when the Avett's influence comes through the most. Back to back tracks "You've Got to Die" and "Walk On" resonate the most because G. Love drops everything unneccessary for stripped-down jams that are made for keeping you company on a late night drive.

Standout Tracks: "The Road", "Milk and Sugar"
Weak Links: "Pale Blue Eyes", "Get Goin'"

Verdict: 7.5/10

-Brad Busby

Wikipedia Game

In 2001, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched the website Wikipedia, a free, collaborative encyclopedia for the internet. Since that time, Wikipedia has become the most popular online reference work and, as of this moment, ranks eighth among all websites in terms of daily traffic. Wikipedia is one of the greatest examples of our time for demonstrating the power that democracy and technology (i.e., the internet) can exercise in concert with each other.

One of Wikipedia's most amazing tools is its capability for revealing interconnectedness. This is shown no better than in the "Wikipedia Game," a challenge of sorts that has penetrated popular culture. The objective of the game is to get from a designated start page to a designated finishing page, in as few clicks as possible. For instance, I can get from the Baltic Sea to Mushroom in seven clicks (Baltic Sea --> Isostasy --> Gravitation, Newton, Leibniz, Biology, Drosphila melanogaster, Mushroom). Can you do better?

Cyberspace is a small world, after all, but in a sea of information each of is captain of his own ship. So, go get your Magellan on and explore the uncharted frontier!



2011 FANFIC AWARDS


With Oscar season finally winding down, and all but the very last “The Social Network got totally shafted” grumbles fading in the distance, it’s time for America to get excited about a brand new type of awards show: The 2011 Fanfic Awards!

Featuring standout entries from obsessive fans whose dedication to their craft is no less impressive than academy-award winning actors’ dedication to their roles—and certainly more impressive than James Franco’s dedication to not being a shitty host—the awards come in four categories:

MOST MUNDANE-SOUNDING STORY

LEAST-LIKELY TO HAVE FANFIC WRITTEN ABOUT IT(BUT DOES)

and everyone's favorite,

ABSOLUTELY CRAZIEST PREMISE

And without further ado, the nominees for most mundane-sounding story:

AVATAR- Miranda Sully, Jake's sister, arrived on Pandora during the last battle and finds a wounded Tsu'tey. What Does Eywa have plan for the Na'vi and Dream walker? Can yet another na'vi x human bonding blossom

JURASSIC PARK- What if when the storm hit Jurassic Park and the dinosaurs were are released from their enclosures, the raptors grabbed one of the workers. What will happen to her

MARIO-The third in the Super Koopa trilogy. It's been nine years since Bowser's wife returned, and peace reigns. the mushroom kinggom is at peace

HARRY POTTER-Tonks and Snape discuss Latin, debate colours and appreciate silence.

The nominees for least-likely to have fanfic written about it:

'Oedipus Rex' by Sophocles- Oedipus is reincarnate as the Boss of the leading gang of Baltimore, how does he handle the truth of his life

The Cosby Show- This is a poem about Five Li'l Cosby kids! I made when i was hyper!So don't criticize

'As I Lay Dying' by William Faulkner- Kaytee Johnson, a few words can sum up her life, superficial, arrogance, ignorant and selfish,and thinks the worlds revolves around her, but the worst thing about her is that she is unable to see what is right in front of her, the love of her life

Pong- The arena roars in anticipation of the battle of a lifetime. Two titans clash, one will fall, one will triumph. Don't miss out on this epic of bloody, thunderous proportions. You'll regret it.

Yes, there is pong fanfic.

And finally, the nominees for craziest premise:

DRACO MALFOY: GAY VAMPIRE

Draco, the Ice Prince, is now a Cauchemar Vampire, a nightmare from hell. And he's choosen the least likely person to be his mate: Harry Potter. Can the two boys make it through the year

BELLA SWAN: HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

Bella and her jewish/french family are living during WW2. What happens when Hitler invades France? How will she survive? Who will she meet in the camps? Who will she fall in love with? Never see this coming.

CHARLIE BROWN: DEAD

A killer invades the tiny town where the peanuts live, and drops people like flies

DARTH MAUL: GIRL SCOUT KILLER

Girl Scout Cookie Selling Season meets temper crazy Sith Lord. Attempting to kill a girl scout w/ a light saber

Since there are no winners in fan-fiction, we hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the nominees. Thanks for watching, and be sure to tune in to next year’s show. With 200,000 Pokemon entries alone, there’s bound to be a lot to choose from.

-Bill Driscoll

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Does All-Star Superman Live Up To Its Name?

Doomed Planet…Desperate Scientists…Last Hope…Kindly Couple…Superman…You Know the Story, or do you?

Overview:

The DC Animated Universe is one of the things that got me into comic books when I was younger and didn’t like reading. However, as I transitioned from watching superheroes to reading comics, I could never see animated adaptations the same way. One of the main problems that I've always had with the DC Animated Universe, as a comic book fan, was that although the animated television shows and movies have the freedom and time to include many of the things not present in live action movies, the writers of these shows choose to create entirely new stories loosely based on continuity. I realize that a lot of the reasoning behind this is that animated television shows have to be kid-friendly. Comic books, contrary to public opinion, have grown up and are now really inaccessible to the younger generation.

Recently, however, Warner Brothers' animation studios have made an unprecedented move. The recent collections of movies that are in the works are direct adaptations of iconic comic book stories. The first of these included Superman: Doomsday, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. The topic of this review is the recently released adaptation of Grant Morrison's modern epic, All-Star Superman. So is this adaptation a convincing translation of All-Star Superman, a great animated movie, or none of the above?

The Movie: *Spoiler Alert*

The main plot point of the movie is the age old question of “What would you do if you knew you were dying?” This is magnified by the fact that this time, it’s the invincible Superman who is dying. It opens with Superman stopping Lex Luthor from destroying a scientific mission to the sun. However, Luthor’s goal is not to sabotage some scientists, but rather to cause an overload in Superman’s sun collecting cells that give him his powers. He is dying and now he must decide what to do with his last days. This movie proceeds very differently from a traditionally DCAU film, in that instead of being a high action affair, it is much more toned down and retrospective, hence the PG rating. This is refreshing and despite the PG rating, makes All-Star Superman the most mature DCAU film to date. Superman decides that he must find closure before he dies. The body of the film can easily be split up into three parts, Superman finding closure with Lois, Superman finding closure with Lex, and then the final confrontation between Superman and Lex. The parts with Lois were interesting, but the best part is probably the interaction between Superman and Luthor that the live action films have sorely missed on. Luthor believes that he is Earth’s savior and that the only way he can lead man is by getting rid of Superman, earth’s “insurance.” This film shows Luthor in all of his objectivist evil. The final confrontation is important not for the action, but rather by having Luthor finally realize the error of his ways. Superman doesn’t convince Luthor through his fist, but rather through his words. This is the best thing about Superman, and it’s especially something that the movies and public opinion has missed. Superman is not just an invincible brute; he’s smart, interesting, and truly a force of good. This film certainly does a good job showing it.

Technical:

From an animation and artistic standpoint, the art style of this film is closer to the Frank Quitely art style found in the original comic series and not the traditional DCAU fare. This was a fantastic decision, as I think this Superman is much softer and much more approachable. The way that he was drawn in the Superman animated series and the Justice League show is out of date. So from an art perspective, I think this is a fantastic step forward for the DCAU. The animation reminds me a lot of Miyazaki and other Japanese anime. The character movements are much more fluid than they are in the usual DCAU fare, and this definitely a welcome change. The voice acting was solid all around; the exception for me would probably be Lex Luthor. His voice was way too deep was definitely more brutish than diabolical. However, the voice actor for Superman does a fantastic job to counteract this by being equal parts soft and powerful.