Sunday, March 25, 2012

Winter Webby Winner: Young Adult: Reflecting the Darkness of Contemporary American Society

Perhaps, no film has been as polarizing as 2011’s Young Adult, which was just released on DVD this Tuesday.

Just take a look at the film’s Rotten Tomatoes page. While 84 percent of top critics gave Young Adult a positive review (with many publications like Time Magazine and The New York Times even choosing to rank it among the year’s best), only 58 percent of the site’s users rated the film favorably, with the majority deeming it “rotten.” The same trend can be seen on Redbox, where users have given the film an average rating of 2.0 stars out of 5. This is particularly slighting given that Redbox users, wanting to feel good about their rental decisions, often tend to be lenient with their grades, which has led to an overall inflation of ratings on the site. For instance, even Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill, which has been widely panned as the worst movie of 2011, has a 2.5 average rating

So how can a film that is praised as “brilliant, brave and breathtakingly cynical” by The New York Times also be widely panned by the general public? First, let's see why Redbox users disliked the film by looking at a sample of their reviews:

What’s important to note is that none of these users mention any the film’s aesthetic features in their critiques, instead choosing to attack the emotional reaction the film provoked. Two words kept on returning in these reviews, “dark” and “depressing.” This is somewhat surprising given the premise of the film: teen fiction writer Marvis Garvey (played by Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) decides to make a visit back to her home in small-town Minnesota in hopes of winning back her high school flame Buddy (Patrick Wilson) even though he is happily married and with child. This plotline would seem to be the source of great comedy, and harkens back to earlier films like Doc Hollywood and even Cars, where an urban hotshot has to be humbled by the charms of a small town community in order to find fulfillment. Except Garvey is never humbled. At the end of this film, Garvey decides to go back to her apartment city and ends up exactly in the same position she began. Literally and symbolically. She gains no epiphany, receives no enlightenment, and exhibits no change of character. She never escapes being the "psychotic prom queen bitch," as one character puts it.

That is what audience members seem to have taken issue with: the fact that screenwriter Diablo Cody (2007’s Juno) has unapologetically refused to give us a normal Hollywood ending. Viewers believe that since Garvey does not atone for her sins by the end of the movie, her character has no arc, and the film is an incomplete work. There are many threads on IMDb slamming Young Adult for exactly this reason:

And perhaps my personal favorite...

Just because a character begins and ends at the same place does not mean that nothing has happened in between.Young Adult (while filled with many laugh-out-loud moments and witty lines) is, when it really comes down to it, a tragedy. It’s the tragedy of a woman who desperately needs to change, but finds herself unable to. The filmmakers ironically wink to this idea by choosing to have Diana Ross’ “When We Grow Up” (below) play over the closing credits, which prominently includes the line, “We don't have to change at all.” The audience can’t help but laugh because we, as objective observers, know that Garvey positively has to. She can’t continue her heavy drinking, or her obsession with her physical appearance, or her blatant disregard for others' well-being. She has emotional problems that must be dealt with.

The ending, however, implicates contemporary society for enabling Garvey to continue avoiding her deep-rooted problems, which include alcoholism, depression, and possibly even autism. Toward the end of the film, Garvey learns the true reason why Buddy has been hanging out with her throughout the entire film: it was not because he had feelings for her, but because his wife, who is a special ed teacher, believed that she may have a mental sickness and did not want her to be alone. Absolutely humiliated in a public setting, Garvey can no longer ignore her problems, and comes to the realization the following morning that she "need[s] to change.” She is prevented from making such change, however, when one of her high school classmates, Sandra, badmouths Buddy’s wife with her and convinces her that she is perfect the way she is in order to appease Garvey.

SANDRA: Everyone here is fat and dumb.

MAVIS: Don’t say that….Do you really think so?

SANDRA Yes. Everyone wishes they could be like you. You know, living in the city, famous, and beautiful and all that.

MAVIS: I’m not famous.

SANDRA: Well, you know, special... or whatever. Some days, during a slow shift, I’ll just think about you living in your cool apartment... Going out and stuff... it seems really nice.

It is hard to ignore the suggestion that we, the American public, are Sandra. After all, who has not similarly accidentally said something negative toward an acquaintance or contrary to our beliefs, in order to seek approval from someone else? The filmmakers are arguing that people like Garvey get power not from their own doing, but simply because we have given it to them. A larger social commentary seems to be made as well. Throughout the film, Garvey is shown watching shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Kendra. In this way, Garvey almost becomes our surrogate for them, opening up new interpretations of the film. Do we treat our reality TV stars the same way Sandra does to Garvey? The American public often finds reality stars' behavior repulsive, but then, we continue tuning into their shows, buying their products, and dreaming that we had their lifestyle. Does our concept of fame prevent individuals from changing even when they know they must?

This is probably why viewers have called the film “dark” and “depressing.” Young Adult is not merely an indictment of one individual, Garvey, but instead of everyone watching. And that’s why the film’s genius. It reflects the darkness of contemporary American culture, and asks not only Garvey, but us to change as well.

- By Kurt C.

Winter Webby Runner-up: Reinventing Historic Memories

The image is alive, come make your own!! That is what the New York Public Library (NYPL) is trying to communicate in its latest efforts of gauging audience interest through a revived form of imaging called stereoscopy. Before discussing this latest trend, what exactly is stereoscopy? To abstain from the complex physics behind this phenomenon, stereoscopy or 3D imaging is simply a technique for making images come to life by creating an illusion of depth. This is accomplished by stacking two offset images on top of each other using imaging software. With the advent of technology, making and viewing these images has become widespread.

Stereoscopy is not a novel undertaking; it has been around since the photograph first originated in the 19th century. In fact, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were the first to receive a stereoscopic viewer at the Crystal Palace in 1851, making stereoscopy popular. This popularity allowed photographers a chance to take part in early 20th century media markets. Everything from local history events to landscapes and war scenes became popular subjects of stereoscopy. This mass form of communication faced its demise almost 100 years after it originated with the release of technologies like radio and television. Stereo images span years of historic photographic memory and have the potential to reveal long-vanished physical and contextual reality. Today the NYPL invites us to create our own historic photographic panoramas.

With the launch of “Stereogranimator,” one can leaf through images from the past and find everything from the Brooklyn Bridge to New York’s 5th Avenue. Through the web interface, one can alter the position and change options until a desired 3D effect is obtained. NYPL’s purpose is to draw younger audiences toward untouched material and motivate users to use the information creatively. Stereographs create further use and study by bringing mass communication back to life in an imaginative form. With this new initiative, the possibilities of creating an infinite library of stereo images and attracting new “stereocreators” are unlimited. The library’s experimentation through this enterprise is impressive.

An generic example NYPL offers:


The attractive form stereoscopy inspired me to take a step forward. Unexpectedly, I was able to catch a few shots of Stanford’s campus and discover ways of creating my own stereo photographs (see below).



Through the invention of new technologies, perhaps this eye-catching form of communication can be revived in other mediums like online textbooks or newspapers. The future of this resurrected technology can be viewed in, uhh, many perspectives.

Cesar Ambriz

Winter Webby Runner-Up: My Own Attempt at a Crossword Review

The following post is brought to you by Nick Yannacone. Just, you know, FYI.

Since my presentation was centered around the online crossword community, I thought I'd try my hand at participating in that community (for a change). Here follow s m y first attempt at a crossword review, a little like those provided every day by the voracious bloggers Rex and Amy.


F riday, 3/16/12, NYT Crossword, by Joel Fagliano

Let me start off by acknowledging that Mr. Fagliano is, if not quite my favorite, at least one of my favorite crossword creators out there today. Partially, this is due partially to his excellent choices for the crossword's answers -- "fill" in crossworld's lingo. I liked opening up my newspaper a few months ago to see "GOD'S GIFT TO WOMEN" and "STICK IT TO THE MAN" in big, bold letters on the crossword page. Good stuff.

And, partially, I think, it's due to a twinge of jealousy: Joel's younger than I am, and he's probably already entertained the world more than I will in my entire life. (... Jerk.) But, hey, I digress. Let's get back to the puzzle on hand.

Did I mention I like Joel's fill? Yeah? I do. I still do. This puzzle does not disappoint, with marquee answers like "SPACE JAM" (best movie of the 90s? probably) and UCSC's "BANANA SLUG"s filling the grid. I can't hate anything that involves both Michael Jordan and banana slugs, and this puzzle is no exception.

Continuing the list of "things I enjoyed seeing, would like to see more of, and might sell considerable amounts of my soul in order to achieve that aim" are the following:

  • "ALPHABET," clued as "It breaks the 'I before E' rule"
  • Hilariously-named author "DAVE EGGERS"
  • "GANDALF," including a reference to the (in?)famous Balrog scene
  • Jason Bourne's "CIA AGENT"S
  • A "GAG GIFT"

All good stuff, indeed.

Now, there were a few rough spots in the puzzle in order to facilitate the vast volumes of sweetness... I'm looking at you, "ECOL." You may stand for an important field of science, but you are not a word! How dare you appear in my cross-WORD puzzle! You should be ashamed of yourself.

Sorry you all had to hear that.

I'm also not totally a fan of "IONA," abbreviation "ADM.," and partial phrase "A LIE." But, hey, I got the cool stuff I came for.

The real advantage of this puzzle, though, is that it has a decidedly Stanford bent. Just look at that beautiful "TECHY," spread out right across the center of the puzzle! (There are no FUZZIES in sight, which is... sadly typical for much of my techy life. Sigh....) More significantly, right down in the southeast section of the puzzle is our very own President "HENNESSY!" Of course, the clue tries to be all "oh, there are other people who do crosswords, too" about it and references, I dunno, some kind of Brandy, but we all know what it's REALLY talking about, right?

Anyway, this was a pretty great puzzle from a pretty great puzzle creator. As I've said before, I can't hate anything with slugs AND MJ in it, and, with President Hennessy to boot? No complaints, no complaints at all. This was a pretty nice way to start the weekend, and I hope Mr. Fagliano sees fit to bestow his lexical gifts on the world again sometime soon.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'll Take Care of You

Racing against myself but I’m a couple steps behind. That’s why I got to ask, ‘Is anything I’m doing brand new? Is everything I’m doing too late?”

Contrary to Drake’s concerns in his hit “Brand New”, he is a one of a kind rapper producing innovative and fresh music. This Canadian Jewish rapper first made his appearance on Degrassi as wheel-chair Jimmy, but escaped this role by proving himself musically. His 2010 album Thank Me Later went platinum and instantly Drake developed into a household name. He has since become known worldwide for his performance technique and somewhat arrogant behavior.

The development from his simple confessionals in Thank Me Later to his profound and soulful hits in Take Care marks a significant growth in Drake as a performer. This album involves current day superstars like Lil Wayne, Nikki Minaj, and Andre 3000 and collaborations with legends like Stevie Wonder. Drake utilizes different sounds and instruments to craft a story for his listeners. We get a glimpse of his performance life or some of his prolific inner thoughts. He comments, "We live in a generation of not being in love" over Stevie Wonder's harmonica on "Doing It Wrong." His insight on the instability of relationships nowadays made “Doing It Wrong” a relatable song for listeners.

Some argue the quality of the songs in the sophomore album Take Care was not anywhere close to his original Thank Me Later. In my opinion the issues Drake addresses in his album are relatable and are much more lyrically compelling than the songs of most rappers nowadays. I congratulate his efforts on this album and cannot wait for the junior.

-Eden Mesfin

Wiz Khalifa

Rapper Wiz Khalifa rose to fame in a rather unconventional manner. After releasing 5 independent and free mixtapes online, the Pittsburgh lyricist began winning the respect of hip-hop fans all over the globe. His sixth release, entitled "Kush and Orange Juice," became an instant classic, and today it is still one the most highly searched mixtapes.
After this initial success, Wiz took the step of going "mainstream" with his music. After linking up with record label Rostrum Records, Wiz released his first studio album; fortunately, many of his fans were disappointed. The album received mediocre reviews on various blog sites, and even though Wiz captured the number one spot on Billboard with his hit single "Black and Yellow," may felt like he did not live up to his potential.
The cause of this disappointment was Wiz's deviation from his "expected" subject matter and tone. For his first mainstream release, Wiz seemed to be under the influence of the record companies when deciding the directions of the records. At times, the album seemed to be one composed of pop-hop, a semi-genre most rappers hate to be categorized in. This should be a warning to all artists out there; although the labels may have ideas that lead to commercial "success," only you can decide what music you are truly passionate about making. It is a trade-off that everyone must evaluate for themselves, but the fans would appreciate you staying true.

-Michael Walker


For lack of something better to blog about, although it's not necessarily a mass medium, I think it should be. Or at least it takes up more of my time nowadays than most other forms of mass media, and yes, more than even Facebook at the moment. Yes, this is a blog, about a blog. Possibly the best blog ever. #whatshouldwecallme. In case you haven't seen this, here's one of my favorites:

It's sort of like a meme, except animated. And other than the fact that this is good, clean humor that can entertain anyone looking to procrastinate for hours, it is also an interesting form of mass media re-using mass media. The clips are usually 2-3 seconds of a tv show or popular youtube clip, edited and then paired with a funny phrase. It sounds kind of silly, but believe me, I haven't laughed quite this hard in a while. If you scroll down to the bottom of each post, you can see who has reblogged about the post, and it's a very twitter-like form of sharing. You can view everyone sharing a stupid little video clip with an out-of-text comic, just to brighten someone's day or to poke fun at something sensitive, like eating too much, being embarrassed to work out at the gym, or not understanding what your professor is saying. I think it's a beautiful form of humor, that has no real point except to lighten up any subject, and it's becoming quite the networking trend.

Not convinced? Lighten up your stress a little and check it out for yourself.

--Althea Wallop

Each year, mid-March as the hype of college football season and the magic of the Super Bowl slips from the memory of sports fans, one major sporting event rises to dominate all others- March Madness. In the months leading up to tournament tip-off, a dim buzz of sportscaster analysis and expert predictions grows to a roar of hype. This single event, in which 64 teams go head to head dominates sports news media. Millions of Americans fill out brackets and, guided by the input of hundreds of ‘experienced’ bracketologists, attempt to guess that magical combination of teams that will win their neighborhood, class, family, or dorm bracket pools. Months of scrutiny however, cannot save even the most avid sports fans from one thing: upsets. What basketball fan can forget George Mason’s Cinderella-esque run to the final four in 2006- a fury of a win streak no one could have predicted.

Since its creation in 1939, not a single person has predicted a bracket with 100% accuracy. This year, it may all change. AT&T has begun a campaign marketed through Facebook called “Brackets by Six-Year-Olds”. This Facebook application features video clips of a man dressed as a professional sports analyst asking six-year-olds for their game-by-game predictions. These children are neither statistics prodigies nor avid fans and as such, explain their choices based upon their favorite uniform colors or mascots. This brute force decision making style seems ridiculous and ineffective but is it? As we stand now, 15th seed Lehigh has beat the 2 seed Duke and 15th seed Norfolk State has beat the 2 seed Missouri. It is a reasonably safe idea to assume that not a single sports fan in the country has picked both of these upsets. But who knows? There very well may be a six year old that preferred Lehigh’s mascot- a hawk to that of Duke- a devil. This same six year old may have preferred Norfolk State’s green uniform to the white and black of Missouri. AT&T’s Brackets by Six-Year-Olds is an effective (and adorable) marketing scheme, but it also hits at an expose of the high level of over-analysis that plagues the sports industry today. Of course, AT&T marketing employees do not believe that six-year-olds’ impulse decision is in any way indicative of the quality of teams. However, targeting the ever present viewers’ remorse over refusing to choose that team ‘they had a special feeling about’ makes their marketing approach relatable, creative, and boldly effective.

- Winston Joe

Star Wars Saga: past, present, future

Giant spaceships invade the big screen, bringing with them new species, cultures, planets, and even something very close to a religion. Viewers of the very first Star Wars movie had this experience—the galaxy far far away felt intimate: viewers were given a universe, in many ways as complex as our own, to explore. Such an explosive release of content was quite a unique event in the world of science fiction. Nevertheless, most successful sci-fi classics share this commonality of enormous, complex worlds: from Star Trek to Tron, this trait has often allowed viewers to imagine the many facets that such invented worlds might have. This grandiosity, however, has been lost in the latest installments of the Star Wars saga. In addition to the tremendous amount of negative feedback received by the prequel trilogy, the most recent attempts at games and cartoon series have been widely unsuccessful at appealing to the Star Wars fan base.

Personally, I have enjoyed the most of the recent Star Wars releases, but I have never been able to shrug off the feeling that there was something missing. The spaceships were all there, as well as the characters, the lightsabers, and, most importantly, C3-PO. However, the grandiosity from the sequel trilogy was not present. The universe of smugglers, exotic worlds and Jedi mind tricks was replaced by… well, by politics! While Luke Skywalker followed his gut and traveled to the Cloud City in order to help his friends, Obi-Wan sought refuge in Senator Palatine in the safety of Coruscant. In this process, the Star Wars saga not only lost sight of its more action-filled moments, but it brought the saga closer to reality. This is perhaps the worse decision one can make when dealing with science fiction: viewer imagination is limited by this new take on a universe that was once full of life. Instead, a political universe was created, controlled by means similar to the ones that would be used in an average country on Earth. The freedom of exploration, which is what the series is really about, was lost in the process.

All science fiction represents a door into a new world, which we would not have access too otherwise—Star Wars was able to do this better than any of its predecessors. The novelty, however, only lasted for so long, and was quickly taken away when the saga was made more mundane with the prequel movies. Thankfully, however, a few of the more recent attempts at reviving the Star Wars saga—such as the old republic series of books and comics—seem to have been successful at returning to the roots of freedom and exploration that were once so prevalent in the series, so that a whole new generation might enjoy the thrill of Star Wars, one last time.

-Andre Menck

The Power of An Ad: Mad Men Controversy

On March 25th, the critically acclaimed TV show Mad Men, finally comes back for its 5th season after a one year hiatus. As an avid Mad Men fan, I could not be more excited to finally have this show and all its slightly dysfunctional characters back in my life. Unfortunately, the show has been getting a lot of attention recently for a different reason than its programming--an ad. In this day and age, it feels as if print ads have the potential to be the least controversial, as they involve the smallest amount of time and only appeal to the eyes of the viewer, yet this minimalistic ad drew a lot of criticism, specifically in New York.

Arguably the most defining aspect about the ad was that it did not even include the words Mad Men, but instead relied on the preexisting knowledge of the viewer to recognize the font and image. What was shown was the black silhouette of a man falling from a skyscraper in the opening credits of the program, with the words MARCH 25, written on the bottom in he standard Mad Men fount-- all over a plain white backdrop. This likely wouldn't have caused much controversy, yet the minimalist aesthetic it created forced the ad to interact with its environment more. As a result, when New Yorkers looked at the ad, instead of that blank space, they saw buildings reflected in the image. And as a whole, this added dimension of the ad was too much more many New Yorkers, as it resembled the photographs of desperate human beings jumping from the Twin Towers during 9/11. Consequentially, this raises the question of whether or not ad companies should censor themselves based on their target audience and location.

In my opinion, there are certain topics that can be incredibly delicate for a community, and therefore ad companies only do harm to themselves by creating very controversial content. 9/11 is clearly still a sensitive topic to New Yorkers, especially given that the
10th reunion of the attacks happened this past September. It's incredibly difficult for a city to brush off such an attack lightly, and it takes years to completely heal the wound created. Therefore ad companies ought to be aware that these sensitivities exist, and that they should be avoided in cases where they would upset a large group of people. It is completely possible that the creators of the ad completely overlooked this association, yet I still get the feeling that they were trying to be controversial while maintaining the identity and images present in their show. At the same time, it should be within the freedom of expression for an ad company to show such an image to market its show, as there is no blatantly offensive material being shown, such a nudity or curse words. Yet in this circumstance, it comes across as Mad Men trying to be controversial for the sake of being controversial and creating conversation, rather than actually trying to express themselves. As a result, I believe that the designers behind the print Mad Men ad should have been more sensitive to their audience and the location of the posters, and thereby adapted them so that they wouldn't be so upsetting to so many.

-Ashleigh Wais

Finding Happiness Through Games

I love playing games with my friends and family. Board games, card games, strategy games- you name it. Every year, on top of my Christmas list, alongside books, are board games. Typically, my family gathers on Christmas morning to open presents, and when the ribbons and wrappers have settled, my brother Terence and I are usually found engaged in a new game. Most of all, I enjoy the complex strategy behind the games. I enjoy formulating strategies and searching for tactics to out-maneuver my opponents. Win or lose, however, I like to just relax and have fun playing the game.

One game in particular that I like is Magic, which I’ve played since first grade. Magic is a strategy card game in which the players build their own decks, so the options and the amount of strategy involved are limitless. The cards also have ‘flavor text’- a sentence or two that solely assists the storyline. Terence and I have memorized the funniest of these quotes and often recount them to each other randomly, just for fun. We’ll both crack up and begin reciting others, laughing uncontrollably.

I like to always approach life with a strong sense of humor. As with the Magic cards, Terence and I quote comics; our favorites are The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes. Often, when one of us begins a quote, the other will complete the punchline, and we’ll laugh at how we can recite perfect quotes. We also enjoy telling jokes, from clever puns to so-called ‘groaners.’ We’ll occasionally invent our own jokes and recite them gleefully to the groans of the other. This positive attitude helps me in everyday situations; when I find myself on the losing end of a situation, I smile and look for opportunities to improve the situation. I focus on how to make the most of what I have and remain positive.

--Patrick Rabuzzi

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fanfarlo - Not Just For Fans

Fanfarlo's second album, titled Rooms Filled with Light was released on February 28. To give a little perspective, Fanfarlo is an indie folk band hailing from London. They released Reservoir, their debut album, approximately two and a half years ago. Reservoir immediately gained much critical acclaim - at least within the indie world. Now, I was a big fan of Reservoir. It employed a nice mix of instruments that I was continually growing to enjoy due to my immersion in indie folk music- trumpets, violins, clarinets, and more could be distinguished behind main singer Simon Balthazar's unique vocals. Thus, when I discovered that their second album was going to be released in early March, I expected a lot; it did not let down.

Rooms Filled with Light opens up with "Replicate," which feels as if it belongs on a soundtrack to Alice in Wonderland, Alice tiptoeing through the wilderness. One is fully immersed in the song midway through, when the violins make an appearance, setting up the rest of the journey that is Rooms Filled with Light. Next in line is "Deconstruction," which starts off as if it is a song playing backwards, turning upbeat really quickly. "Lenslife" is happy throughout, with trumpets blaring in the background. "Shiny Things," though, takes the listener completely by surprise. In a sharp contrast to the previous two songs, it begins in a solemn and pensive manner, with only the synthesizer playing. The drums enter around minute one, and the rest of the song displays a slightly improved and happier mood, but the calm and sorrow from the beginning is still apparent. "Tunguska" is a mesh of noise that works somehow. There are trumpets playing, what seems to be a metal washboard being scraped, random wilderness and water sounds interspersed throughout, and a woman singing who mirrors the main vocals. "Everything Turns" has intense piano riffs throughout, but it is still somewhat calming due to the consistent melody of the xylophone, and the guitar chords near the end. It's a nice instrumental that prepares the user for the second half of the CD.

The second half of the CD opens up with "Tightrope," which has a catchy beat throughout. Next is "Feathers." The start of it makes one feel as if they are in a mystery movie; this quickly transitions into an 80's feel. The repetitive chorus at the end leaves the listener feeling energized. "Bones" is another calm song amidst craziness. Upon listening to the lyrics, the listener feels more complete, since the song is about looking for clarity and searching for your own answers, ultimately declaring that the answers are already known; they're in your bones. "Dig" is upbeat and engaging, with a fun little violin riff in the middle. "A Flood" is soothing throughout, and is one song sure to make people's "sleepy playlist." Lastly, there is "Everything Resolves," which starts of soft, but gets progressively more powerful in its short 40 seconds, sure to leave the listener on a positive note.

Overall, I would give Rooms Filled with Light an 8/10, sure to satisfy anyone's taste. If you're expecting something completely similar to Reservoir, though, you're sure to be let down. Rooms Filled with Light stands on its own, and it should be appreciated as such. Happy Listening!

Josh Diaz

How and Why Linsanity Became an Event

For a few weeks in February, New York City and the NBA were swept up by the phenomenon known as Linsanity. Jeremy Lin, an Asian American basketball player originally from Palo Alto, California was all anybody talked about in the media and on social networking sites. ESPN coverage reported his story and his stat lines for hours on end. He has been featured on not 1, but 2 Sports Illustrated covers this year. In no time at all, he went from a bench warmer to a starter that everybody in the sports world could recognize. No matter where you looked over this span of time, you would find Jeremy Lin.

Why was Jeremy Lin such an incredible story that seemed worthy of our undivided attention?

First of all, he played absolutely brilliant basketball. In his first month of play, he was averaging 20.9 points and 8.4 assists, a stat line that rivaled any elite point guard in the NBA. Also, there was a certain understated confidence to his game. He never lauded his own achievements in post-game victories, but when the game was on the line during their win streak, the ball was in his hands. However, excellent play in the NBA for short periods of time often goes unnoticed. There are several other explanations for why his play began to come under the microscope of ESPN and basketball enthusiasts everywhere.

One answer is that sports enthusiasts always appreciate the underdog. Lin was not always an underdog as he was an outstanding high school basketball player, but powerhouse D1 schools all passed on his talent until he arrived at Harvard. Despite posting very solid numbers in college ball, Lin still went undrafted. He was finally signed by the Warriors, but did not particularly impress his coaches or the fans even when given playing time. He was even sent to the NBA D-League three separate times. After the season, he was released where he eventually made his way to the Knicks. Therefore, his immediate success as a starter was unexpected. He had always been overlooked when recruited and even when given playing time in his rookie year, he did not exceed expectations. People were utterly surprised by this unknown player’s amazing show of skill during these weeks in February and thus his meteoric rise was even more lauded.

In addition, fans of the NBA and sports in general frequently root for players that they can relate to through shared experiences. Lin played at a superstar level, but did not have a ridiculous contract. For this reason he did not seems too elevated above the common fan, which made him relatable. In fact, he was living on his brother’s couch during his first week as an NBA starter. There didn’t seem to be a barrier between him and the everyday fan. Even casual NBA viewers appreciated his success.

Linsanity has died down in recent weeks, but Jeremy Lin’s story provided the NBA with a great boost in popularity among casual fans and also provided many with the opportunity to cheer for somebody who seemed relatable. The 2011-2012 season of the NBA will be remembered by some for Jeremy Lin’s rise to success and the insane media coverage that followed.

-Pierce Huchton

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

American Idol: Who Is Really Even Watching Anymore?

American Idol.

Not long ago, this show was the supreme ruler of television. Year after year, it drew in massive amounts of viewers, and year after year, it remained unbothered as the #1 show in the nation with literally everyone watching it. And I mean EVERYONE. My dad, my mom, my little brother, my uncle, my aunt, my first cousins, my second cousins, my great uncle, my great aunt, my grandpa, my grandma, my neighbors, my friends, the popular kids, the nerdy kids, even my teachers. It was one of those special shows that just brought people together in front of a TV screen to watch a regular person perform on a live stage week after week for the coveted crown. And what made it even more interesting was the interactive nature of the show, which allowed viewers to vote for their favorites to move on in the competition.

So yeah, we have had winners like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks, and David Cook all achieving great successful careers around music. Even some non-winners were able to achieve success, such as Daughtry, David Archuleta, and Adam Lambert. The show was just so exciting that it captivated a huge portion of America on a weekly basis. Everything culminated in season 5, which had about 37 million viewers watching on average, marking the show's peak performance. But from then on, people became less interested. Some did not tune in on a regular basis. Some were too busy with the everyday trials of life. Some did not like the inconsistencies of the voting basis. Some just found new shows to watch. Then from out of the blue, the mastermind behind the success of Idol, Simon Cowell, decided to leave the show at the end of season 9. And then people just stopped watching the show altogether. Nobody talked about it anymore. It lost that initial powerful spark. And then the show was gone.

But wait. Is the show really gone? NO! It is in its 11th season with new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler sitting along side with veteran Randy Jackson. But why has it disappeared off the map? Where's the buzz? I mean, although the numbers have dropped drastically, it is still being watched by 18 million viewers per episode! But no one talks about it anymore. Why is that?

I don't have a complete answer, but I do know that the public is becoming increasingly bored of American Idol. Nowadays, the market is saturated with many talent shows, including The Voice, X-Factor, and America's Got Talent. People are just overloaded with the amount of new faces presented to them. This sensory overload just puts too much stress upon their minds, causing them to slowly leave the Idol audience. And sadly, American Idol's reign as the #1 TV show for the past decade is about to come to an end. Especially noticeable this season, its ratings have dropped so low that it is almost comparable to The Voice. And as The Voice picks up steam and anticipation, American Idol might not last much longer. But we will see how long Fox can keep Idol above the surface before it finally drowns and becomes lost from sight... forever.

Until then, we can still count on American Idol to produce stars with selling potential. Last year's winner on The Voice, Javier Colon, had a past and unsuccessful history in the music industry. After winning The Voice, he sold less albums than his previous effort! How embarrassing for him! What a waste! Surviving week after week of elimination only to get nowhere in your career. On the other hand, last year's winner of American Idol, Scotty McCreery, became a country superstar. His album, Clear As Day, hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with sales of 200,000 copies sold in a single week. To date, his album has sold over a million copies and has been certified platinum by RIAA. 2 of his songs have gone gold with sales of 500,000+. So yes, although American Idol ratings are plummeting, superstars continue to emerge and have successful careers.

Let's see Idol's trajectory this year. Although The Voice represents stiff competition, Idol can still make memorable superstars. Maybe it will be Jessica Sanchez, whose version of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" has been hailed by Interscope executive record producer Jimmy Iovine as the best performance ever done on the Idol stage. Not sure of her possible talents and future success? Maybe you should check her out for yourself:

Although it seems like American Idol has long been forgotten in the dust, it still maintains and produces stars with massive selling potentials despite a fall in ratings. The future for Idol is unclear. But one advice. If Idol wants to keep people interested, then tell Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler to actually give real critiques to the contestants because not every performance is "beautiful". If edge goes back into the show, the show might save itself from total imminent destruction. Until then, I hope for the best.

-Brandon Vu :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Please Don't Trick Me.

Swedish House Mafia has over 2.5 million fans on facebook. That’s 2.5 million people who took the time to search for the electronic trio and press the like button. Swedish House Mafia (SHM) fans are some of the most dedicated music fans around. Back in December 2011, SHM sold out New York’s Madison Square Garden, a venue with capacity of 20,000 people, in NINE MINUTES. That’s 540 seconds. That’s a minute short of our pwr presentations. That’s crazy. And that’s how dedicated SHM’s fans are.

Most of SHM’s music videos have over 1 million views, with “Save the World Tonight,” one of its most recent singles, reaching just over 41 million. On March 12, 2013, SHM released their music video for their newest single “Greyhound.” It is rather safe to say that it will surely reach over 1 million views. I myself have already seen it twice.

Here went my thought process as I watched it:

Oooh. Futuristic race car with girls dressed up in cool/weird costumes, haven’t decided which one. Both?

I wish I had a snazzy butler bringing me drinks in the middle of a desert in a bunny mask. Oh, it’s absolut vodka. Interesting how the camera lingered for long enough for me to notice. Hmmm.

Cool costumes. Definitely.

YEAH. Music is starting.

Music starts building as the race begins. I can dig it.

This is pretty cool. Gonna post it to my facebook.

Wait, did I just watch a 3 minute commercial?

The music video finishes with a still of a bottle of Absolut Vodka, a fancy drink, and delicious looking grapefruit. That lasts about 4 seconds, long enough for the image to register but not quite long enough to seem like a full blown out commercial. All of SHM’s fans that watch this music video will also be left with this image. Unknowningly, they have all been primed by Absolut Vodka, myself included. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this. What I do know is that I did not appreciate being tricked into watching this 3 minute commercial. At least at the beginning of YouTube videos when there are advertisements they are clearly labeled so by the word, "Advertisement." Is this the future of advertising? Catching the consumer by surprise? I hope not.

-Marielisa Argueta

Can't Get Enough of Jersey Shore?

Sadly, Jersey Shore is coming to the end of its 5th season, but for those of you who love to watch trashy, orange guidos party hard and make fools of themselves, you're in luck!! There is not only one, but two spin-offs of Jersey Shore that will be making appearances on most likely millions of people's TV screens.

The first spin-off is called the Pauly D Project which is scheduled to premier March 29 @ 10:30 PM. Pauly D fans and girls obsessed with his ridiculous hair, charming looks, and of course tan bod will now get the opportunity to watch a show ONLY about his life and how he became a world famous DJ. From the transition of a typical GTL (gym, tan, laundry), fist-pumping guido to a world-class DJ who opens for Britney Spears (lucky him?) on her international tour. Viewers will get to see his life outside the crazy and wild life of Seaside Heights. Will he continue to bring home grenades night after night who are DTF? Or will he actually grow up and act like a normal 31-year-old man? (Let's be real, that won't happen).

The second spin-off show is still titleless, but will be following none other than Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi,the most famous of them all and Jenny "JWOW" Farley who has had the most plastic surgery of them all. The television series will be like a modern -day Laverne & Shirley they say, but without the working aspect of course because clearly they will not subject themselves to any type of work that will ruin their fake nails or that they cannot do completely drunk. Not only is the name of the show still up in the air, but so is the location in which it will be filmed. The mayor of Hoboken, N.J. denied request for MTV to film the series there. Hmm I wonder why? So get ready for these two spin-offs because reality TV without Jersey Shore casts is now unheard of. The trashy, drunken, tan, buff, fake guido/guidettes will be back. Dont you worry!

Monique Atkinson

Zelda Concert Not So Legendary

Not to be terribly repetitive, but our class discussion on the venue and audience expectations during a classical musical concert left me thinking about the example I had brought up.

A brief refresher: Indelibly dorky though it may be, a few months ago I attended a classical concert in San Francisco that covered none other than the most famous compositions of Nintendo’s “The Legend of Zelda” video game franchise. While I certainly did not dress formally for the occasion, (as I did not expect the other nerd-fueled concertgoers to) I did expect a certain degree of respect towards the orchestra. Instead what I found was a constant smattering of applause, deep throated cheers, and cries of outrage during each piece of a medley, effectively ruining both the otherwise deep acoustics and general enjoyment of the concert. The compositions alone, when reviewed in tandem and without the vocal audience’s opinion, were at times superior to the original tracks. However, this review stems away from the music itself, for the voluminous surroundings were hardly conducive to hearing the true intricacies of the tracks and dominated the hall as a whole.

Though I could recognize that perhaps not all Zelda fans were attuned to the general mannerisms of a classical concert, I could hardly excuse them, for this had been my first time as well. Afterward, I had hoped that other fans across the globe were a bit less crass during the act, and so I took to Youtube to find the pieces that I had hoped to enjoy live. What I found instead was:

and while looking for an alternate version, the discourse on the comments of

seems to reflect my disdain for the uncultured freaks who hashed out twenty-five dollars to ruin my experience.

Regardless, when looking at the group for whom the concert was marketed, I could hardly find this surprising. Given that the general players of “The Legend of Zelda” video games are young men my age and a few years above, I’d say that we share in a minimal level of experience in concert couth. Instead, I don’t think it too farfetched to pin more of the fault on the symphony themselves for not expressing the standards expected for those sitting in the velvet chairs before them. Perhaps then I would have been spared the nerdgasmic shrieks of the balding forty-something in front of me. I’d say that my self-respect took a bit of a hit that night.

Fortunately, in a marketing ploy to sell the newest in a series of Zelda games, Nintendo chose to bundle a selection of songs from the symphony onto a music CD to be included with all initial releases of “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.” Devoid of the howling and yelps of the crazed pack of Zelda devouts, I was able to listen to the incredibly enjoyable playlist uninterrupted. (Unfortunately, it didn’t contain the “boss medley” track, which I had searched so diligently for.) Given my experience with the symphony, I don’t think I’ll be signing on to attend the encore tour.

But I digress about my somewhat feigned disgust (but clearly somewhat genuine passion) and concede that the concert was, at least, composed with the best intentions.

-Robert Mata

[ Proof that the concert is, indeed, a real thing: ]