Why do we care so much about Taylor Swift?

You have probably heard the devastating news by now via E! News, Buzzfeed, colleagues, friends, family or that guy from work who you kinda know (but not really): Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston have broken up.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

If this is new information, then you probably do not have a Twitter account, or a phone, or any Internet access whatsoever. From the moment this ground-breaking, earth-shattering story was leaked earlier today, #Hiddleswift has been trending on Twitter, sitting comfortably at number seven, right behind #BadWaysToBreakUp.

As always, the Swift superfans have begun to step up to their platform, expressing broken hearts after spending three months overly-invested in a relationship that has no bearing on their lives. The majority, however, are using this opportunity to share their anticipation for Taylor’s next album. @KodiGaddis posted, “Taylor is definitely going to win album of the year for 2018 at this rate,” most likely referring to the quick buffer time between Calvin Harris and Hiddleston. This tweet is just one of 10,000 about Hiddleswift circulating around the Twittersphere. And when I saw that number it finally hit me: Why do we care so much about Taylor Swift?

We have been keeping tabs on Taylor ever since her music career took off and she started dating Joe Jonas all the way back in 2007. Following closely behind were Taylor Lautner, John Mayer and probably a few more who I can’t even remember at the moment. Fast forward and we have Harry Styles, Calvin Harris, and more recently, the late Tom Hiddleston. Swift is known for always having some arm candy, and whenever the public finally feels it is going to last, we are let down.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

But is it actually a let down, or are we just doing this to ourselves? We know how these flings go. It happens the same way over and over again, so why are we expecting anything different? Buzzfeed put an article up about the split with the headline, “News That Will Shock Just About Everyone: Taylor And Tom Reportedly Split.” Is it a shock, Buzzfeed? Is it really?

This is my theory: I think that because Taylor’s music has a habit of being about relationships and breakups, people invest more time keeping up with her romances, anticipating the inevitable end, so they can look forward to the next hot single that will hit us by storm. Just as @KodiGaddis inferred, Taylor’s next album already has some pretty high standards.

It is a selfish act, really. We want her relationships to end just so we can have a few more catchy songs on our iTunes playlists that will get us through our own breakups. Maybe Taylor dates a lot because she knows she will have some bomb ideas when it is over. Maybe we should let her have some privacy and date whomever she wants without being criticized. Or maybe we should stop wanting her relationships to end horribly — but what do I know?

I think the only thing we can all agree on is that Taylor should be dropping some life-changing music within the next year.

Simple DIY projects for your dorm room

Dorm rooms can seem uninviting and dull, but by following these easy DIY projects your room will look better than ever!

Jewelry Organizer

This wall jewelry organizer will take away the frustration and irritability of tangled necklaces once and for all. Pick up an old frame and some cup hooks from any basic hardware store to create this simple display. Line the hooks up about an inch apart along the top section of the frame and screw them into place. Hang the frame up on your wall and add your favorite necklaces to complete this easy and chic DIY.

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(Photo courtesy of scissorsandthread.tumblr.com)

Wall Photo Display

Taking inspiration from Urban Outfitter’s decor, this photo display is sure to give your room a trendy vibe. Take a walk outside to the Battery or Waterfront Park and find a medium size branch. Purchase some twine and print out your favorite photos to begin assembling the display. Cut your twine into five pieces making them as long or as short as you desire. Hole punch the top and bottom of the images you selected and tie a knot to secure them along the twine. Make sure you leave space at the top of the string to tie it onto the branch. Mount your branch on the walls using command strips and enjoy your hanging photo display!

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(Photo courtesy of prettydesigns.com)

Vision Board

This DIY is one of my favorites because you can make it your own and personalize your board tailoring it to what inspires you! All you need is a simple cork board, some push pins and images that grab your attention. Choosing pictures or quotes that represent goals you wish to accomplish this school year is a great way to stay motivated throughout the semester. This board can constantly change along with the dreams and ideas that spark your interest.

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(Photo courtesy of blog.closetomyheart.com)

Succulent Plant 

Adding plants into your room instantly livens up your space and adds a nice pop of greenery. Succulent plants are awesome because they are low maintenance and only have to be watered once every few days. Grab any size mason jar and pick out your favorite succulent. Fill up the bottom portion of the jar with pebbles and then layer soil on top of them to give it a contemporary look. Plant your succulent on top of the soil and place it on your desk to bring your room to life!

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(Photo courtesy of townlifestyleanddesign.com)

Book Holder

This DIY is the perfect way to store your books in a small space where you do not necessarily have room for shelving. Use an empty cereal box and cut the top flaps off with a pair of scissors. Draw a line on both sides of the box starting at the top and stopping about 4 inches above where the box ends and cut accordingly. Cover your box in either contact paper or wrapping paper that will match the color scheme of the rest of your room. Add your books into it and place it on your desk to create this stylish and convenient spin on storage.

 

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(Photo courtesy of ehow.com)

 

The duality of Frank Ocean

I still remember the first time I heard it. The cool and confident voice singing about an ex-lover and his admission of feelings not yet gone. The rawness and vulnerability of that voice asking his ex if they ever wonder what it would be like to be together forever layered over a spacey emotional beat. “Thinking About You” is not only Frank Ocean’s most successful song to date, but also his breakthrough into the mainstream. From there, it has only been up for the 28 year old singer/songwriter.

After going on a four-year hiatus from music since the release of his critically acclaimed debut album, “Channel Orange,” Ocean released a visual album, “Endless,” seemingly out of nowhere. The video first premiered as a live stream on Ocean’s website and shows Ocean building a staircase while new music plays in the background. The songs on “Endless” are more reminiscent of tracks that might be heard on a mixtape, with unfinished cuts and demos. However, less than a week after dropping “Endless,” the “Nostalgia” singer returned to the forefront of mainstream attention with the release of his sophomore album, “Blonde.”

Frank Ocean gained his notability and hype from his debut album, “Channel Orange.” The project won Ocean a Grammy and is one of my personal top 10 albums of the past five years. So naturally, this follow-up release was met with high expectations. After many delays of his album release, Frank Ocean dropped his long-awaited album,Boys Don’t” – err, I mean, “Blonde.” This came as a surprise even for his supporters despite the fact that he had been teasing the album release since 2012. For many fans, dates and teasers meant nothing due to the numerous push backs. However, my goal is not to review “Blonde.” I do recommend Pitchfork’s album review as I feel it is the best analysis of the album without becoming boring or monotonous.

What I want to address is the duality of Frank Ocean in regards to his sexuality. He has talked about this in the past with songs such as “Forrest Gump” and “Bad Religion.” With the release of his new album, Ocean touches his bisexuality in songs as well as through symbolic choices. One example of this is the actual name of the album. On the actual album cover it is spelled as “Blond,” the masculine version of the word, while the physical name of the album, “Blonde,” is the feminine version. (To be clear, Frank has not directly said that he is bisexual. He has told the public that he has been with a man through his infamous 2012 Tumblr letter and we know he has been with women – but he has not physically stated that he is bisexual.)

Ocean alludes to his sexuality in many tracks on “Blonde,” but they are purposefully subtle and hidden in his lyrics. For example, on the song “Solo,” Ocean not only addresses his depression and drug use, but also his contrasting sexual feelings by using a metaphor of heaven and hell. Ocean makes mention of his bisexuality again on the album on the outro of “Futura Free,” which is a skit between Ocean and a heterosexual man talking about how they aren’t into “bitches” anymore because they broke their hearts. Even though Ocean is simply not into them, he has to pretend to agree with his friend because he does not know how to tell him about his sexuality. Ocean is confronted with the difficulty of addressing his sexuality even with his status as an international celebrity.

“Blonde” is an album full of reminiscing and longing: a retrospection on past lovers and experiences with the most nostalgic of views. Throughout the album, Ocean refers to past lovers and feelings left over, such as on the song “Self Control,” where featured guest Austin Feinstein sings, “Keep a place for me, for me.” Ocean never actually identifies genders in “Blonde” — with the exception of the song “Good Guy” — but the beauty is that he does not need to. His commentary about gender neutral lovers speaks volumes in itself. Ocean is saying indirectly that love is universal, whether between two men, two women or between man and woman. Love is real and love is genderless. Ocean even uses metaphors of cars to display his love for his significant other, especially seen on the song “White Ferrari.” This is not the first time he has done this, either, as automotive comparisons can be heard on “Acura Integral,” “Futura Free” and “Swim Good.” The cover of his debut project “Nostalgia, Ultra” is a picture of a car.

The discussion of bisexuality in the mainstream is one that would never have happened as recent as 20 years ago. And what Frank Ocean is doing, whether on purpose or not, is allowing a mainstream audience to experience (albeit secondhand) the love he has had over the years in his life for others – male or female. An interesting point is that Ocean seems to be religious, but also struggles with Bible scriptures (specifically passages such as Leviticus 20:13) that support the murder of those who lay with the same sex. He sings about this on his debut album in the song “Bad Religion,” of course, but more recently on “Skyline To” – singing, “Making sweet love, takin’ time ‘til God strikes us.” On “Futura Free,” Ocean sings, “I don’t know which heaven would have me momma,” referring to the fact that most religions find homosexuality immoral and condemn those who partake in homosexual activities. This is a major reason why society today, specifically in the U.S., is not able to fully support the gay rights movement. According to ABC News, 83% of Americans identify themselves as Christian, and being a homosexual and/or bisexual flies right in the face of that religion and many others. I have sympathy for those who are against same sex relationships. They simply believe in their religion fully and take its teaching to heart. Those who are followers of Christianity (or many other religions), yet support same sex relationships are admitting that their religion is wrong, and that is something that is difficult to do. 

One interesting aspect of Frank Ocean is his refusal to be the poster boy for the LGBTQ community. He has stated that “I could say that I’m happy / they let me and my boyfriend become married / I could say that I’m happy / but cross my heart I didn’t notice,” in his poem “Boyfriend.” Even on his song, “Seigfried,” he contemplates settling down with a wife and kids, but again says he would rather live outside. On that same song, Ocean also discusses his struggle with a superficial society and his inability to represent the LGBTQ community as society often expects him to. Ocean rarely comments on gay rights (with the exception of his Tumblr post after the Orlando Massacre) and yet he is the living embodiment of the evolution of human rights. Maybe the fact that he does not feel the need to be so direct with his sexuality is why people that would not usually support the LGBTQ movement, are more open towards him. Ocean is no stranger to opposition, so he likely is not fazed by it. Ocean is the way he is and does not need approval. Ironically, he seems to be receiving just that more and more by fans, the press and critics alike.

The beauty of Frank Ocean, is not his music (although it’s pretty damn good), or his sexual orientation, but his influence and how he uses his influence to promote love. Ocean’s music reaches everyone; his emotion stretches to all sexual orientations without discrimination. People can relate to Ocean because they can relate to his love.  Love that is unconditional, unrequited, flowing, sexually charged, brotherly, real and most of all, universal. If Frank Ocean can not convince people to love and accept each other, I don’t know who can.

But shit, maybe Frank’s just got me in my feelings.

 

Shout out to Genius and Pitchfork for the help in analyzing Ocean’s dense ass lyrics.

Support Ocean by purchasingChannel Orangeand/orBlonde” or stream them here.

The most wonderful time of the semester: Restaurant Week

Twice a year, restaurants downtown participate in a food lover’s dream: Restaurant Week. With events beginning Sept. 7 and running through the 18th, Restaurant Week is devoted to giving all Charlestonians the chance to eat at their frequent favorites or to try a new eatery — all at a fixed price. Here are five places that are worth the hype:

  1. If you are looking to try a new spot that does not serve traditional southern cuisine, you should check out Basil, located downtown at 460 King Street. This authentic Thai restaurant offers a wide variety of items with unique flavors and a great selection of vegetarian and gluten free options. Their fresh basil rolls and Pad Thai are a must-have when dining here. During restaurant week, they will serve a 3 course meal for a steal at $22. 
    basil
    (Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)
  2. Converted from a traditional Charleston townhouse into a top rated restaurant, Poogan’s Porch is a popular destination for food connoisseurs. Located downtown at 72 Queen Street, stop in and enjoy some southern classic dishes that will definitely leave you wanting more. Over restaurant week, they will offer a 3 course lunch menu at $30 and a 3 course dinner special at $35.
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    (Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)
  3. O-Ku is one of the leading restaurants downtown to enjoy a little taste of Japanese culture. Located at 463 King Street, you will be mesmerized by the sophisticated and modern interior while devouring the vast assortment of award winning sushi rolls. At $30 for 3 courses, you can experience their modern take on delicious plates.
    o-ku
    (Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)
  4. Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) is located downtown at 192 East Bay Street and serves some of the finest lowcountry cuisine in Charleston. Enjoy the inviting atmosphere along with their famous shrimp and grits that are sure to be some of the best to ever hit your tastebuds. Offering a 3 course dinner for $40 throughout the week, this spot is a necessity as you eat your way through the Holy City.
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    (Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)
  5. Craving a dinner that includes southern classics alongside a French ambiance? Look no further than Eli’s Table located at 129 Meeting Street in the French quarter of downtown Charleston. Their unique menu features a contemporary spin on basic plates such as the duck and waffles. Dine outdoors in their courtyard area and enjoy your 3 course dinner for $40 throughout the week.
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    (Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

     

For Pete’s sake, let’s make the Olympics interesting

Working as a bartender this summer, I found the Olympics paradoxical. While being one of my major selling points, the games were also the bane of my existence. As the slow hours of August’s oppressive heat dragged on, my bar often sat empty, filled only by the sounds of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Pandora radio and the images of Turkey’s National Women’s Rifle team aiming decked out rifles at seemingly imaginary targets simulated on the bottom right of the TV screens. I’m still not sure the rifles actually shot anything at all. I’m even less sure of why I was watching the random competitions in the first place. But while the heaps of mind numbing games may have bored me to near death, they always provided the one thing that any successful bartender needs: conversation.

My patrons and I were able to come to a consensus about the Olympics: it is a collection of irrelevant sports.

In no way were we trying to demean the accomplishments of the athletes. We all understand how hard it is to be an Olympic competitor. Its just that most of the Olympic sports feel arbitrary. If sports are supposed to entertain us, and the Olympics is the epitome of sports, why is most of it so freaking boring?

Consider the following:

Upon watching a couple minutes of a Judo match, one of my favorite regulars said, “It must be hard for these guys. They look like they want to punch the other one in the face, but all they can do is hug and try to trip each other.”

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(Photo courtesy of Robert Scales on Flickr Creative Commons)

At one point the regional manager for a local desert shop and I watched part of a fencing match. Neither of us had any clue how any of it worked, but an American was competing so we pretended to be engaged. Finally, after about seven or so minutes, the guy blurted out, “Both of them fist pump in celebration after every point like they won! If they can’t even tell who won the point, how are we supposed to have any clue what the heck is going on?”

The Olympics seem to make even the sports that most people find interesting dull. Basketball, both on the Men’s and Women’s side, is completely dominated by the United States. The other teams are playing for second, a certainty which undermines the intensity of any competition. That being said, a sport that could flourish, like soccer, is impeded by ridiculous age limits, forcing all competitors to be under 23 years of age with the exception of three players per nation. Thankfully, the women aren’t stunted by this rule. It is ludicrous and backward that the most competitive sport in the world, soccer, is hurt by arbitrary Olympic age restrictions, while basketball, a sport in which there will always be one clear winner, has no restrictions whatsoever.

While not all the sports are unbearable to watch (there absolutely should be professional volleyball and both swimming and track are exhilarating), it would not take much to spice up the boring ones a bit. So, throughout the course of the games, my patrons and I came up with just a couple of modifications that would make the Olympics every bit worth watching:

President Barack Obama, center, poses for a photo with members of the Olympic Team USA women's basketball team in Washington, Monday, July 16, 2012. The president was scheduled to attend the Olympic men's Team USA exhibition game against Brazil. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(Photo courtesy of Azziem Underwood on Flickr Creative Commons)

The first modification applies to basketball (men’s and women’s). The rule should be this this: the U.S. will send the teams that win the NCAA Championship in the year of the Olympics to compete for their country. This idea has absolutely zero downside. It works on every level. It would make the Olympic basketball tournaments so much more competitive and interesting. Imagine the Men’s Villanova basketball team competing for gold as hard as they competed for the national championship. Imagine Kris Jenkins hitting a three at the buzzer in the championship game all over again, but this time to win gold. Imagine coaches fighting to get the chance to extend their dreams on such a prestigious level. They would have a chance in the Olympics, but they would be underdogs, and nothing is more interesting in the U.S. than an underdog story. Also, other countries would get interested in basketball because they would have a chance to actually win gold! (Note: UConn’s Women’s team would probably still destroy everyone though.)

And not only would this make the Olympic basketball tournament more interesting, but every four years March Madness would be even more crazy! It would be like the Triwizard Tournament of college basketball. Players would stay in college longer to get the chance to play in the tournament during the Olympic year. The stakes would be higher. College basketball is already the most intense sport in America. This would make it even more intense, which might expedite Gregg Marshall’s impending heart attack, but surely he can take one for the team (USA!).

June 11, 2011 - Aziz Ansari introduces The Black Keys live at The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, TN. Photo: Joe Gall joegallphotography.com
(Photo courtesy of Joe Gall on Flickr Creative Commons)

The other modification is a bit more abstract, but has the chance to provide even more entertainment. For the really boring sports, I’m talking the ones where we sit and watch someone take aim for a minute and a half and then let go of a string, a little bit of story telling would go a long way. The suggestion is this: let the television networks that air the competitions also hire comedians or professional story tellers to create narratives for the lives of the athletes leading up to the moment that they release their projectile. Imagine Aziz telling the story of the Indian archer posed to take gold if she can hit one last bullseye. We would finally become invested in the outcome! Imagine Dave Chappelle narrating the life events of the distance runner in position to win the marathon. Shoot, imagine Manny Fresh hyping the Danish rifle-shooter shooting at a tiny target 10m away. We already watch stuff like this anyway, think of the Ozzy Man Reviews commentating on Youtube. Why not make this real life television? Pretend you would not watch more of the Olympics if this was the case.

These suggestions are just a humble group of people’s proposed modifications. I firmly believe that if we could implement them as new rules, the Olympics would have the chance to become the cultural event that it deserves to be.

(That being said, I know they are long shots. So in the meantime, how about just replaying the last five seconds of a fencing point in slow motion so we can see what the hell is going on and how they actually win the point?)

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#CYRTakesMoonrise: 5 Most Anticipated Acts

EDM has gotten bigger and bigger and the festival circuit is evidence of its rising popularity. For this year’s Moonrise festival, we here at CYR always pride ourselves on being in the know. That is why we scouted our new flagship DJ, JP DeGross, to talk about his five most anticipated sets for Moonrise 2016!

Photo courtesy of Run The Trap
Photo courtesy of Run The Trap

First and foremost I have to give it up to a pioneer in live performance EDM, GRiZ. This man has made a staple on every set he’s played, making future funk with his friends, Big Gigantic and Gramatik, a reality. Funk itself has roots in the south, but when GRiZ plays his sets he has elements of dubstep, future bass, motown, and soul. He blends all these genres and more into beautiful head banging future funk sets with the magic of his tenor saxophone. The only thing that tops his music is his VJ’s, who make the lights flow seamlessly with his sets. The anticipation for him to go up on the Lunar stage and start off the night with his Sax is out of this world. Gramatik will also be present at this set, so I almost guarantee he will show up on GRiZ’s stage at some point.

GRiZ will be blazing up the Lunar Stage Saturday at 5:30 PM.

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Photo courtesy of EDMChicago

Bass music and hip hop are the two of the most popular genres in the DMV. Nobody combines these better than the next 3 artists I’m going to list here, first I’m going to start with Jauz. He has been a pioneer in pushing bass, house, and hip hop to new heights. In the last year, he has travelled the world on the sound he gives whenever he makes a drop I like to call decaying wubz. 

 

 

I expect to have bass in my face the whole set and rage out to his bangers and you can too at the Solar stage 8:45PM on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Twitter
Photo courtesy of Twitter

Next up with future bass, hip hop, and trap is a new player to the game, named Marshmello. There have been many rumors about his appearance on the scene, as being around for less than a year, he’s already made appearances at festivals as big as Ultra and far away as Asia. As a masked musician people have said he’s Dotcom, as they both have the same tattoo’s in the same places, but who knows? His style focuses on more melodic trap, and lighter, happier sounding music. His light shows are second to none and his mixing exemplifies anything sounding like the future.

Catch Marshmello on at 9:05PM on Saturday closing out the Solar stage!

Photo courtesy of Genius
Photo courtesy of Genius

If you love Marshmello, you’ll definitely like these two more old school acts–not new to the game and still making bangers like madmen. Yellow Claw, along with Major Lazer brought ragga and dancehall back to the dance scene, but they have a wide range of genres they encompass, producing everything from electro sounding , “Love Me ‘Till It Hurts”, and ragga sounding “Dancehall Soldier”. These guys don’t disappoint whenever they go on stage, and make ghetto sounding bass tracks.

Head over to the Stellar stage Sunday at 7 PM to catch these guys!

I saved the best for last, everyone in the dance scene knows them, the owners of record label Hi Def Youth, Flosstradamus. HDYnation brought trap from detroit out of the shadows and into the limelight. Their songs lighters up, pillz, and prison riot, as well as their sole purpose to make a mosh pit at every single concert has made them famous.

These boys will be hitting the Lunar stage at 8:00 PM on Saturday, you don’t want to miss them!

Photo courtesy of PaperMag
Photo courtesy of PaperMag

Moonrise 2016 takes place from August 6-7 in Baltimore, MD. Find more information and tickets online at http://www.moonrisefestiveal.com/, and be sure to follow CisternYard Radio on Twitter and Instagram (@cy_radio) to stay updated on our Snapchat (@cy_radio) for live coverage from the event.

You can also find our DJ, JP, at livefireproductions.com for more of his blogs and social media!

#CYRTakesMoonrise: A Welcome to the Festival

Summertime means summer festivals, and the recent surge in popularity of electronic music has led to more rave festivals around the world. The mid-atlantic is no stranger to festivals, hosting all sorts of artists  at different venues, but the crown jewel event of the Mid-Atlantic is Moonrise by far. Moonrise has brought out electronic artists  all over the map from Tchami to Tiesto and Bear Grillz to Griz.

With less than a week to showtime the anticipation is building. But where did the festival come from and why is it so big? There’s a very simple answer: it all comes down to the city of Baltimore. A festival conceived of in 1999 called Starscape was the precursor to Moonrise, with a surge of popularity in raves and electronic music, a festival once hosting less than 1,000 hosted 14,000 in 2012. After the city refused to give another permit to the 14 year old festival, it died an untimely death. Nobody knows for sure the exact reason as to why the festival was denied permits, but ecstasy was present at this event, as well as elevated temperatures surrounding the festival. For 12 hours EMS was on call to and from the festival, and had it not been for Baltimore’s finest, many would have died. Two club entrepreneurs from DC  behind Club Glow Antonis Karagounis and Pete Kalamoutsos’, in an attempt to fill the void left by Starscape created an inaugural moonrise festival in 2014. Over 5,000 people showed up and the festival has been a hit every since.

This years festival is set to be at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course for a second year but the main event is always the lunar stage where we all go to see the moonrise and catch the amazing light shows. Artists playing this mainstage always pack a punch, including Griz, Tyler the Creator, Flosstradamus, and Bassnectar on Saturday, and Gramatik and Excision on Sunday. There are 3 other stages to choose from, including Stellar, Solar, and Celestial stages. On the Stellar stage you can see European and American future house going straight to your face from the likes of Oliver Heldens, and Tiesto. On the Solar Stage, we have bass messing up the place coming from Masrshmello, Jauz, and NGHTMRE. Then back to the Celestial Stage where new up and comers, and more underground artists are playing like the esteemed Louis Futon. Moonrise is a festival showcasing the Mid-atlantic’s identity as one of the powerhouses of the genre, from old to new, underground, to half naked and almost famous.

JP DeGross

Moonrise 2016 takes place from August 6-7 in Baltimore, MD. Find more information and tickets online at http://www.moonrisefestiveal.com/, and be sure to follow CisternYard Radio on Twitter and Instagram (@cy_radio) to stay updated on our live coverage from the event.

You can also find our DJ, JP, at livefireproductions.com for more of his blogs and social media!

#CYRTakesHangout: An Interview with The Revivalists’ Michael Girardot

We are beyond excited to hit the road for the Hangout Beach, Music and Arts Festival this weekend. Between the killer line up of artists and the entrancingly beautiful backdrop of the beaches in Gulf Shores, AL, our three days of coverage will prove to be worthy of envy for anyone missing this festival. Among the impressive line up is The Revivalists, whose New Orleans-influenced sound will accompany the first sunset of the festival on Friday, May 20 from 6:15 – 7:30 p.m.

CisternYard Radio General Manager, Meredith Wohl, sat down with The Revivalists’ trumpeter and keyboardist, Michael Girardot, to discuss the band’s creative process, their experiences at Hangout, and his top recommendations from the line up for fellow festival attendees.

Follow CisternYard Radio on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at @cy_radio for LIVE coverage of the Hangout Music Festival from May 20-22.

If you are attending the festival, be sure to check out The Revivalists from 6:15 – 7:30 p.m. on the BMI Stage Friday!

#CYRTakesMoogfest: A Lesson in Moogfest History

The annual Moogfest (rhymes with “rogue-fest”) celebrates this synthesizer’s storied tradition not only in the mainstream of synth-driven pop music through the years, but in also pushing the boundaries of how we define music. The event features experimental musicians from all areas of the synth-pop genre, including synthesizer driven pop powerhouses like Grimes and Miike Snow alongside experimental orchestral arrangements, glitchy world music compositions, grinding drone metal and all other manners of boundary pushing artists. In anticipation for Moogfest 2016, this article takes a look back at the festival’s roots in experimental music, culture and science.

The first Moogfest took place in New York City in 2004 as a celebration of the Moog company’s 50th anniversary and the musical advances spawned by the instrument. This “festival” featured only two events – an incredibly cheerful clinic and lecture regarding the use of a Moog synthesizer featuring Moog Music’s founder, Dr. Bob Moog, alongside renowned keyboardist Keith Emerson, and a musical gala held at the B.B. King Blues Club.

A promotional flyer for the first-ever Moogfest’s Moog instrumental clinic. (Photo coutesey of aural-innovations.com).
A promotional flyer for the first-ever Moogfest’s Moog instrumental clinic. (Photo coutesey of aural-innovations.com).

2004’s gala-style event was popular enough to warrant its annual return for the next three years, following the same one-night-only format at the B.B. King Blues Club. Notable artists performing at these ensuing festivals include Edgar Winter, Adam Holzman and Keith Emerson. Emerson, alongside fellow Moog player and composer Pat Hammer, was awarded the newly created Bob Moog Legacy Award in 2006, following Moog’s death the year prior.

Following a poor turnout in 2008 and a hiatus in the festival in 2009, Moogfest returned in 2010 to take place in Asheville, NC. This event featured artists such as MGMT, Sleigh Bells and El-P, and was Moogfest’s first iteration in a multi-day and multi-venue festival format. The event continued as purely a music festival for the next two years, bringing the likes of Brian Eno, the Magnetic Fields and the Flaming Lips to Asheville.

2013 marked another break for the Moogfest festival, as the event, unrelated to the Moog brand or curation, was replaced by the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit. This hiatus led to a reimagining of Moogfest, which returned in 2014 with its modern format: technology and futurology convention by day, experimental music festival by night.

Moogfest 2016 marks the largest iteration of the festival to date, as well as the festival’s first appearance in Durham, NC. The event’s organizers attribute this change in venue to Durham’s reputation as a center of technology, education, higher-level research and –  most importantly – music. This year’s educational events center around themes including “Afrofuturism,” “Technoshamanism” and “Transhumanism,” while the evenings feature the cutting edge of experimental music. Veteran Moogfest artists such as Explosions in the Sky, GZA and Oneohtrix Point Never headline the event, while newcomers including Blood Orange, Made of Oak and Reggie Watts promise their own unique brands of “Future Sound.”

Moogfest 2016 takes place from May 19-22 in Durham, NC. Find more information and tickets online at http://www.moogfest.com/, and be sure to follow CisternYard Radio and Beside the Point on social media (@cy_radio) to stay updated on our live coverage from the event.

Must you continuously steal my expressions?: A discussion on cultural appropriation

Cultural appropriation: a term that can have several definitions. According to Urban Dictionary, cultural appropriation is “the ridiculous notion that being of a different culture or race (especially white) means that you are not allowed to adopt things from other cultures.” Another describes the term as “the act of contaminating white culture with outside influences.” It is apparent that depending on where you fall on the race-spectrum, cultural appropriation is a fluid term – changing its meaning, relevancy depending on circumstances.

In an age where social media rules all, or a 45 second video can spark heated debates – cultural appropriation may not be at the forefront of these mediated massages, but is definitely the foundation. What is hip, cool, fresh and trendy, just may be someone else’s stamp of heritage. An innocent Instagram post, just may call into question how strong your ties are to a community that, in reality, you don’t belong to.

To discuss this controversial and heavy topic, it is important to look at both ends of issue.

Chelsea Anderson: I think we should start off by saying what are our own definitions of cultural appropriation. So to me, cultural appropriation is when the White community takes something – it doesn’t really matter what it is – and claim it as their own. So they will take something that is – say trendy – and they stay that they started it. Or they try to make it popular, when it really wasn’t theirs in the first place.

Alli Whitt: I don’t think the White community, just does it, ethnicities do it as well. But yeah, just taking something that is innately part of a different culture than yours? Just acting like it’s some new idea. You like took it from someone else.

CA: Right its been there longer, really, than what people may think. I know I always think of Miley Cyrus and the whole twerking trend. When she had the video “We Can’t Stop” and people were like ‘Oh my gosh Miley is twerking!’ As if she invented twerking. And then twerking became so mainstream. But people fail to realize, it was really a dance that started in the Black community – and was so heavy and popular in the Black community for years and years. And I think that’s just one simple instance of cultural appropriation and how the Black community felt extremely offended. Seeing how people could just so easily take a piece of culture – something that is precious to us [Blacks] and just take it and make it as their own.

AW: Yeah I definitely feel like Miley definitely made people more aware of this happening. Because she did it often.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

CA: Let’s talk a little bit out style and how we see that being appropriated. For me, more than anything, I see hair and different hairstyles being adopted by different people today. For instance, the controversy of boxer braids and cornrows. Particularity, the Kardashians have gone to the limits with the braiding trend. People are praising them and glorifying them for making this hairstyle popular. But its important that people understand, the Kardashians did not invent this hairstyle, or invent what you may consider boxer braids. This hairstyle – cornrows have been in the Black community and Black culture since day one! [laughs] Yet, now that White girls have picked up on it, its super trendy now! You can see it at fashion shows and on the cover of Vogue!

AW: Yes, I agree.

CA: Kylie Jenner recently claimed that she made wigs popular. I think this is completely outrageous! I think she said that she started them actually! That is cultural appropriation at its best. Wigs, while I know are worn by Blacks and Whites, are pretty special to Black women. Black women may not be the only ones who wear wigs today, but they are definitive ingrained in the culture. Wigs and weaves are extremely popular in the Black community. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry thanks to Black women and the money they invest in hair. It’s laughable and almost ignorant of Kylie to say she started something that for years has been a staple in the Black community. But that’s cultural appropriation for you.

AW: Yeah, celebrities have always worn wigs.

CA: And recently, Justin Bieber has been called out for cultural appropriation when he debuted his latest hairstyle. He has been rocking dreads lately! And for me – I will admit that I am a fan of Justin. I like his music, I like his style. I do indeed see where he just borrows some of his style and demeanor from Black culture, but never did I think he abused this culture and ever misrepresented the culture. He may be an appropriator, but at the same time, I respects and appreciates the culture. But him having dreads, I’m really on the line. He should be careful, because in the Black community, having dreads is more than just a fashion statement or a hairstyle. It is truly a lifestyle choice. So, for me, Justin should take into consideration what his style choices are saying about him as a person. He needs to think of the message his style choice is putting out there.

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(Photo courtesy of Filckr Creative Commons)

AW: I think that through almost all of his career, with his style and music, he has been displaying characteristics of black culture, and for a long time, his mentor was Usher. Justin changes his hair pretty frequently, so I don’t know, for me, it’s not really that big of a deal. Maybe when the media gets all hyped about it as a ‘new trend,’ that pisses me off. I don’t think the dreads will last that long, he has a history of what I would call cultural appreciation, and if it is a big deal, I would hope Usher would call him out on it, as his friend and mentor.

CA: We can even discuss the whole issue with Zendaya that happened a while back. She chose to wear locks on the red carpet and was highly criticized for it. People and reporters were saying pretty rude things about her. I think it’s interesting because, say if someone like Jennifer Lawrence were to wear dreadlocks and go and the red carpet, she would probably break the internet. She would be praised for being edgy, a fashion risk taker. I would bet money that she would never get the same criticism a Black girl – like Zendaya – would receive. As Amandla Stenberg once discussed,  America loves Black culture and often try to take it, but when it comes to loving and accepting Black people – it’s an entirely different story.

AW: Yeah, what Giuliana Rancic said about her on Fashion Police was completely uncalled for and inappropriate. She was basically attacking Zendaya and black people as a whole. It was appalling, but Zendaya, who, I’m pretty sure wasn’t even 18 at the time, responded maturely. She did it with grace but also with a meaningful message. And like you said, if it had been a white female, or even Jared Leto, they would have been praised for ‘fashion-forward’ statement.

CA: For someone who wears weaves a lot, I do not think that when a Black girl wears weave, that it is a form of cultural appropriation. I think that wearing weaves is so ingrained in Black culture that it truly is our own. We may try to imitate different hair textures than our own, but this – to me is still not appropriation. For the Black female community, a big part of wearing wigs and weaves is to protect our natural hair. Wearing weaves is a form of protective styling in which our natural hair has time to grow, or gain strength while the weave is in.

AW: Honestly, I hadn’t even thought of that as appropriation before. White women have extensions, so for me, there’s really no difference.

CA: From style we can go on to physical features…

AW: Okay, like a couple weeks ago, for example, on Black Girls Rock, the awards show on BET, when one of the speakers mentioned how generally Black female features are being sold. Especially with the Kardashians, where everyone loves them and wants to look like them, but they definitely  – I would say stolen – Black female features. And its being a commodity…

CA: Exactly a commodity!

AW: Like selling! Like doesn’t Kylie have a lip kit?

CA: Yeah, well, she got lip injections too. Which she says they are just fillers that will eventually go down. But I haven’t see any shrinkage!

AW: Right, right! So she’s probably just keeping it up.

CA: Yeah she’s definitely keeping it up.

AW: They umm…they sell pads to put in your pants…

CA: They do sell but pads!

AW: I don’t know how many people buy those.

CA: Umm, looks of people actually buy them. I feel like even lots of Black women even buy them. I just feel like this thing of having a big butt nowadays is being so glorified. You know?

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

AW: And I first saw it in rap culture. Like Nicki Minaj, if you see pictures of her when she was younger, you can tell that she would not naturally have as large of a butt as she does – naturally.

CA: Well it’s the same with Khloe Kardashian.

AW: Oh right!

CA: Of any of the Kardashians – I feel like Khloe by far has taken on this idea of ‘I want the Black girl features.’ She’s gotten lip injections…She says that she hasn’t-

AW: She wears cornrows a lot!

CA: Yeah she does! She says she- I’m not sure if she’s had any black implants or not – but yeah something is definitely going on. You can tell something is not natural.

AW: Right, right. Especially because when she – like before she lost a bunch of weight, her butt was not that big…

CA: Yeah like her physique was not like that

AW: And like no matter how many squats you do, it’s not going to get like that!

CA: Yeah and you know the family [Kardashians] they are so into the whole waist training thing. Like the thin waist, thick bottom…

AW: Which I recently read an article about people trying to follow that trend and the health risks with that. People have stomach problems, bruised ribs. Like Iggy Azalea obviously…her butt is big. And she’s owned up to a nose job and a boob job, but she hasn’t said anything about her butt.

CA: Yeah and with Iggy Azalea..I don’t know [laughs]. I could go on and on for days about her. She is definitely – I feel – like a major appropriator. Especially with her rapping style and whatnot. She definitely has adopted some things that are not natural to her.

AW: Okay so my question to you – I don’t know if you’ve thought about his or have an opinion about this…But people have been talking about…they tend to marry and date Black men. So what is your opinion if they are maybe trying to fit what they think is the ideal of the men they are pursuing and if that is a factor at all.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

CA: I think that is a definite factor. Going back to Kylie Jenner. Pre-dating Tyga and post-dating Tyga you can see two dramatically different Kylie Jenners. Like Kylie before she started dating Tyga – I would say she almost had like the punk rock, almost Emo type style.

AW: Definitely, yeah! Like edgy.

CA: Exactly! And then post-dating Tyga, she’s all into wigs, lip injections, waist training, she wears leggings that make her butt look big and lifted. So I think she is trying to fit in with the culture. If you follow her on Snapchat – which ashamedly, I do – you see most of her friends are Black. You know, she does hang out with a certain group of people who are ethnic.

AW: Yeah I think she’s friends with like Jaden Smith…

CA: Yeah, she was friends with that whole group. We are who hang around. And she has changed herself to “keep up with the Jones’”, keep up with the crowd that she’s around. Same with Iggy Azalea…

AW: Yeah, isn’t she engaged to…

CA: She’s engaged to Nick Young. And I feel as though she may be with him because she’s in the rap culture. She in a field dominated by African american people. So it’s kind of like she has to prove herself in the industry. She has a Black fiance, she has a big butt, she has a “blaccent,” she’s trying to be in the crowd. So I definitely think that that has some factors – whoever you are dating does. And just going back to when you brought up Black Girls Rock – I loved when they brought up the idea of everything being praised when it’s on a white girl, but it’s instantly judged when its on a Black person. I love that and couldn’t agree more. And we can go back to like lip injections. For years and years, going back even to the era of Minstrel shows, Black people were often criticized and mocked and ridiculed for having bigger lips. Yet today having bigger lips is so in! Like with the Kylie Jenner lip challenge, people were literally hurting themselves to try to get these bigger lips. It’s just really interesting to see how a feature that’s on one person can be deemed as bad or ugly, but once it’s on someone else, its instantly a hot commodity.

AW: Ok…fashion… We’re both into fashion, obviously, but within the fashion industry, especially high fashion, there is a lot of cultural appropriation, and it’s definitely not appreciation. They’re not giving credit where credit’s due, and especially with so many designers using mostly white models. There was a period of time in the 90’s where they used more black models, like Tyra…

CA: …Naomi Campbell…

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

AW: And then for a decade, they just stopped. But people have tried to make them more aware…and they do have more culturally- ethnically- diverse models, but it’s definitely not up to what it should be. So, with runway shows…I…there was a designer at Charleston Fashion Week. I didn’t see his whole collection, but part of it was, umm…it definitely was supposed to be–it was Asian-themed, like geisha makeup, and he used white models. But, like at the show-I worked backstage…there were multiple, like, Asian and Asian-American models he could have used, but…umm…he used a white woman for ‘Asian’ fashion, and he used makeup to try to make her look like…like a geisha.

I know we’ve talked specifically about…umm. It was- it was like a two or four page spread that Gigi Hadid was in, in Vogue, a few months ago, where…I believe it was Chanel? I’m not exactly sure the designer that it was, but she [Gigi] was wearing different colored Afro wigs and it was just her in the ad, like doing jumps or whatever models do for photos. So, like, appropriating Afro wigs…and, I guess they were trying to put a spin on it by using different colors, like they were pastel colors, but that’s an issue.

Recently there was a lawsuit against Urban Outfitters, where, um…because, I mean, off and on for the past few years, there’s like ‘aztec’ print. Um, Aztec print has been popular in clothing, but as far as I know the issue had been that Urban Outfitters had clothing designed that was from a specific tribe [of Native Americans], so there was a lot of upset about that.

CA: Speaking of Native American culture, how do you feel about Coachella and stuff like that?

AW: Umm, yeah, so [laughs], everyone…they don’t take me seriously when I say this, but both of my dad’s grandmothers were Cherokee. Umm…they had…they were from North Carolina, I think? And they had married white [or partially Cherokee] men in Virginia. But…so I’m 1/16 [laughs] Native American, which, a lot of people are like ‘that doesn’t count,’ but anyway…I take Native American culture and stuff like that personally.

CA: Yeah. I think for me, since I’m not really tied to the Native American culture in any way, it doesn’t strike up as much as a fire in me, as some people, but I can definitely see where the culture can be appropriated. You know, when people wear the headdresses and stuff, and girls think, Oh, it’s trendy!

AW: –Even like Lana Del Rey with the chief headdresses, um, and it just being like, oh, a fashion statement! But in that culture it was and is very rare and like a thing of respect. There aren’t that many chiefs left in tribes, because it’s an older tradition, and…most of them…are dying. Because with reservations, and things, and the Native American population is dwindling

CA: Yeah, so like, just to wrap up this conversation and put a shiny, little bow on top of it, I feel that cultural appropriation will never, ever stop. People will keep borrowing cultures and ideas, and saying that they’re their own, you know. In a perfect world, though, how would you say we could make this stop? You know, would you say appreciation is the key? Rather than appropriation?

AW: I feel like sometimes it can be a grey area. Like, white people…say, like a hippie or surf lifestyle…dreadlocks being attacked or…like that’s like the culture of those things. Which as far as I know, dreadlocks were also in India, centuries ago, and then [in the U.S.] in the 60’s and 70’s…with, like the hippies…they would not be, like regularly showering [for various reasons], so it was easier for them to have dreads. So, I think it’s just about awareness, because like so many people are ignorant [on this issue], and like white people are just stubborn about it. And i would say that sometimes it’s two-sided.

CA: Yeah, um, I think it definitely is two-sided, and like you said-awareness- like lots of people are appropriating and they don’t understand or they don’t understand the magnitude of the issue. You know, it goes further than music and style and culture, you know, like these are things that are near and dear to some people and stuff like that. So, doing something like braiding your hair, you should really think about like what are the cultural repercussions of something simple [like that].

AW: –It’s mindset and consideration and being respectful and all of that, yeah…

Which TV character would win in a fight?

The week before finals never fails to deliver some type of existential dread and self reflection. I have been in this state for a few days now, but for some brief moments my mind has been able to wander from the pile of tasks on which I have to focus. During one of those episodes, it decided to take a step back and look at the broader picture, and I found myself contemplating Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. But rather than the normal one, my thoughts landed on his hierarchy of needs for college students.

Maslow's Hierarchy of the College Student's Needs

This pyramid works in a similar manner as the original hierarchy of needs: whatever is on the bottom is the most necessary, and whatever is on the top is the end goal. However, in order to make it to the top, you have to build up a strong base, step by step, consisting of all the necessary things. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of the College Students’ Needs we see that before any student can make the good grades they ultimately desire, they must first make friends, then go out and party a bunch with those friends, and then perfect their procrastination game, and finally they will be able to prepare properly and get those A’s and B’s.

Luckily for me, I currently find myself in the third tier of the hierarchy, and my procrastination game is looking hot. I have discovered the best means of putting off work in a manner that lets you completely forget about it, and it is glorious. “What is your method?” you ask. My answer: television.

This weekend I started the Hulu Original “The Path” with Aaron Paul, restarted “Master of None” with Aziz, and am planning on soon embarking on the journey that many call the greatest television series ever, “The Wire.” In the few moments between episodes, when my mind is allowed to slowly slip out of the diegetic absorption, instead of thinking about responsibilities, I began to scour the recesses of my memory for my old favorite shows to possibly cycle back through. This memory exercise eventually developed into a weird train of thought that concluded in me posing the question: which of my favorite television characters could win in a fight between each other? And thus, this article was born. Behold half of the bracket to end all brackets:

Bracket side A pt 1

(Photo courtesy of matthewgallacher on Flickr Creative Commons)
Rust Cohle (Photo courtesy of matthewgallacher on Flickr Creative Commons)

Let’s start with the play-in fight on Side A of the bracket: Luke from “Gilmore Girls” vs. Rust Cohle (“True Detective” Season 1). Luke has the super power of being able to always come to the rescue of the whole town of Stars Hollow. Plus, he wears enough flannel and baseball caps to look like he knows how to throw a right hook. But even with all that working for him, Rust has to take this one home. I mean, he went in as an undercover cop in a Texas biker gang, which is pretty much the most dangerous thing you can do. Rust lives to see the first round.

 

This means Rust moves on to face Jessica Jones, from the Netflix Original Series based off of the Marvel character. Rust and Jessica are both similar in that they have jaded pasts and pent up guilt that can only be suppressed through alcohol. But the one thing Jessica does have that Rust does not is super strength, so the winner here is clear. In the post-game interviews, Rust was quoted saying, “I decided to throw in the towel and walk hand in hand with my demons into extinction.” Jessica Jones moves on.

In the next matchup we have Jessica Day from “New Girl” up against Agent Dale Cooper from “Twin Peaks.” Jess is just the type Agent Cooper always finds himself trying to save, so he might be a little confused in fighting her. Plus, last I heard,  Coop is still in the Black Lodge. And the coffee in the Black Lodge sucks. No way he makes it out on top here. Winner goes to Jess Day!

Now we have the one we’ve all been waiting for: Walter White vs. Jon Snow. But honestly, how good of a fight could this be? Jon Snow is literally the biggest little b*tch in all of TV. It baffles me that he even made it to Season 5. If we are being really real, and the whole Wildling community was real life, they would have murked his little a*s the first night he was out there with no questions asked. Walter White wins.

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The bottom of Side A of the bracket pits A$AP Rocky as a Bodega Cat in the HBO Series “Animals,” vs. Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother.” Did you guys even know that A$AP Rocky had a guest spot in an animated show as a cat that hangs out in a grocery store? As there are no women around, Barney has no power here. He helplessly succumbs as the Rocky Cat hits him with the final line, “Ask me what my favorite dish is? It’s either p*ssy or the fishes.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cusEAXbk3Po

Now get excited, we are moving on to the other half of the bracket:

Bracket side B pt. 1

There are two play-in fights on this side, the first of which is Lorne Malvo from “Fargo” Season one vs. Sookie Steakhouse from “True Blood.” Lorne Malvo has to be the scariest freaking character in all of television ever. All he does is kill people, both for money and for fun. He even tortures some of his victims a little before hand, like by filling their water tank up with pig blood so when they shower they look like the girl from “Gone Girl” at the end. And what can Sookie Steakhouse even do? Do we ever find out? Is “True Blood” still on? As far as I know, her only super power is that vampires like to suck her blood and get really protective over her. I’ll pick someone who fills your shower with blood over someone who’s blood attracts vampires any day. Lorne, you scary moth*rf*cker, you win.

(Photo courtesy of Walls Field on Flickr Creative Commons)
(Photo courtesy of Walls Field on Flickr Creative Commons)

The second play-in fight is Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones” vs. Captain Malcolm Reynolds from “Firefly.” While Captain Mal may be one of my favorite TV characters of all time, all he wants to do is get his crew and cargo safety from point A to point B. And sometimes do a little of that world-saving stuff. That means he ain’t got no time for no damn dragons. He gracefully bows out and lets the Mother of Dragons be on her way. Khaleesi wins.

Now that we are through the play-ins, the first round brings us the matchup between Lorne Malvo vs. Monica Geller from “Friends,” if you didn’t already know. While Lorne is one BA dude, Monica might be the second scariest person on television of all time. I mean, could you imagine trying to spring clean with her? I would rather the pig blood stuff happen to me. Monica wins.

Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation” vs. Xena from “Xena: Princess Warrior” may seem like a straightforward matchup. I mean Xena is literally a princess warrior. She’s one of the most qualified fighters in the tournament. My family is getting a new dog this summer, and we are naming her Xena. That being said, I told Leslie if she wins, a huge donation will be given to one Department of Parks and Rec. in Pawnee, India. Leslie Knope takes the first round.

(Photo courtesy of Truus, Bob, and Jan too! on Flickr Creative Commons)
(Photo courtesy of Truus, Bob, and Jan too! on Flickr Creative Commons)

OH MY GOD THE NEXT FIGHT IS DAENERYS VS. BUFFY (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). Ladies, why not make love instead of war? Can this fight last forever? Is it taking place in real life? This is going to be bigger than Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo” album release party at Madison Square Garden. I could literally watch this forever. How is this not the final? But regardless, there has to be a winner. Khaleesi can sit in fire, sure, but Buffy is one of the few characters in this scenario that has come back from the dead. Buffy has got to be the winner.

Finally, in the last fight of the first round, we have Goku from “Dragon Ball Z” vs. the Powder Puff girls from the cartoon of the same name. This fight is actually personal for me. In second grade, there was a year long argument between all the boys of the class and all the girls of the class about which was better, “Dragon Ball Z” or “The Powderpuff Girls.” I wrote and illustrated a short story about the “Dragon Ball Z” characters beating up the “Powderpuff Girls” characters and my mom was called into meet with the teacher. I didn’t understand why I was in trouble back then, but I understand now. I also understand how incredible and powerful women are and how a lot of the times they do, in fact, beat the boys. The Powderpuff Girls win.

We’ve finally made it past the first round. From here, things only get more interesting. Back to Side A of the bracket:

Bracket side A pt 2

(Photo courtesy of megomal24 on Flickr Creative Commons)
(Photo courtesy of megomal24 on Flickr Creative Commons)

Jessica Jones vs. Jessica Day, has a ring to it doesn’t it? Jessica Jones might have a little trouble with Jess Day, because Jones’ weakness is that her mind can sometimes be controlled, and Jess Day is really great at getting people to do what she wants, but Jessica Jones wins this. She has proven that she can just put on earphones and block out the manipulative people in her life and beat them up. Jessica Jones all day.

Walter White vs. A$AP Rocky as Bodega Cat. Honestly, the fact that a cat made it into the second round of this on shear style and presence is impressive. But Walter White is ruthless, and if a cat gets in his way, then look away. Poor kitty. Heisenberg wins.

Time for Side B, round two!

Bracket side B pt. 2

(Photo courtesy of Scorpions and Centaurs on Flickr Creative Commons)
(Photo courtesy of Scorpions and Centaurs on Flickr Creative Commons)

Monica Geller vs. Leslie Knope. This is predicted to outlast the Isner vs. Mahut match at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, which went on for three days. Neither one will ever, ever give up. Monica will try and cook poisoned food and get Leslie to serve it at Parks and Rec. events. Leslie will be knocking on Monica’s door at 3 a.m. every night for a month. And this is actually what will cause Monica to fold. Somewhere in between running a restaurant and marrying Candler, Monica realizes she doesn’t have time for Leslie’s games. But Leslie is a spring of infinite drive and energy. Leslie wins.

Buffy Summers vs. the Powderpuff Girls. Yeah, the Powderpuff girls are a team, but Buffy has Xander and Spike on her side. Buffy wins.

Are you guys ready for the semifinals?!

Bracket side A pt 3

Jessica Jones vs. Walter White is the toughest matchup so far. Both are full of determination and grit. I think it comes down to their weaknesses: their friends. Jesse Pinkman gets himself in trouble a lot and is a little helpless. This brings out the best in big Heisenberg, though. Once, to save his friend, W.W. sets up a remote controlled machine gun in his trunk. But, without spoilers, this is also his downfall. Jessica, on the other hand, is best friends with Trish Walker, who knows how to do Krav Maga, and Luke Cage, whom I believe is enough of a super hero to get an upcoming show for himself. Walter White was always doomed for downfall, anyway. Congrats, Jessica Jones, you have made it to the final.

The Semifinal on Side B:

Bracket side B pt. 3

Leslie Knope vs. Buffy Summers. You guys realize Leslie made it to the semi’s and isn’t even a TV fighter? Valiant effort, Knope, valiant effort. However, Buffy lives on what is called Earth’s “Hellmouth.” And it is literally her job to stop all the demons from coming out. Y’all remember that time a group of ghouls came to Sunnydale and took everyones voices and were f*ckin’ sh*t up because no one could call for help? Y’all remember how Buffy beat them? She screamed. That’s right, she screamed and sent them boys back to hell. Buffy through to the finals. Also, Joss Whedon is a genius but was on some David Lynch type stuff for a couple of those episodes (and it was awesomely weird).

Bracket side A pt 4Bracket side B pt. 4

The final: Jessica Jones vs. Buffy Summers. Two young, angsty women who could definitely kick our asses. The thing is, I knew from the onset of this article who was going to win: Buffy. Buffy, if you are reading this, this is my public proclamation of my love for you. You are the first woman I ever loved. Your strength and beauty has graced my dreams, especially in season 4 when you and Riley were dating, and in season 6 when the tension between you and Spike finally broke. You will always be my first love, you will always have a place in my heart, I will never forget you and you will always win any made up competition I think of on these eves of procrastination.

For anyone still reading this, you and I, we, have made it to our peak procrastination points together. We have transcended the third tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of the College Students’ Needs. Let us now shed the weight on our shoulders and walk into the last days before finals with our heads held high. We have made it.

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(Photo courtesy of meriandlauren on Flickr Creative Commons)

 

Tearing down the “Empire”

What happens when you combine a Shakespearean play with a soap opera, and sprinkle in a few musical numbers that would even put the cast of “Glee” to shame?: “Empire.” While the Fox drama is only on its second season, the show has become an instant hit in the past couple of years, with viewers setting record numbers and social media blazing every Wednesday night. With its outlandish plot twists, surprisingly catchy music, and a cast led by Hollywood notables – Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard – the show has not only become part of a larger, ongoing conversation about diversity on TV, but provides significant meaning in the realm of popular culture.

empire family power
(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Considering producer, Lee Daniels, and his former works such as “The Butler” and “Precious,” there is no surprise that the statements and messages surrounding the TV series would strike a chord with the Black community – whether it is positive or negative. For many, “Empire” presents an accurate representation of reality, replicating the Black experience in a mediated fashion. But others would say that the show causes more damage to the Black community, in that it simply exploits Black stereotypes for the sake of entertainment. While there is no denying that “Empire” does indeed load its episodes with stereotypes, making its characters represent cultural archetypes that can stretch back to the era of Minstrelsies – “Empire” is much more than its collection of conventions and “coonery.” Since its airing, “Empire” has continuously broken down Black stereotypes, and in doing so, presents itself as a cultural statement for the Black community. And well, this is why every I can proudly say that “Empire” is one of the best shows of this decade!

For those who don’t tune in, the show follows Lucious Lyon, who went from hustling as a gangster rapper, to becoming CEO of a successful music empire, Lyon Dynasty. After being diagnosed terminally with ALS, Lucious realizes that one of his three sons must take over the company when he pasts. Among his options are his business-savvy oldest, his talented singer-songwriter in the middle, and the young promising rap star. As expected, drama and complications arise as Lucious must decide who is best to take the reins and continue his legacy.

From this basis, audiences are given a particular image of Lucious. Embodying a common idea that circulates in the Black community, this character emphasis that music – more specifically hip-hop – can be some sort of a savior. If you are down on your luck or struggling with life, a great way out of this struggle is to simply make it big in the music industry. As time has proven, whether it is for personal or even political reasons, hip-hop holds great meaning to the Black community. As seen as early in the ’70s and ’80s, hip-hop was used as a tool to communicate the woes and sufferings of individuals, and at times even capitalized on injustices persisting in communities. For instance, the rap group NWA and their classic “F*** Tha Police” was not only poignant for its entertaining beats and flow, but the song carried a message and meaning that represented the tumultuous relationship between Blacks and authority figures during the 90s. Hip-hop told the narratives and stories of the Black experience. Hip-hop served as a voice for Blacks when words and protest weren’t enough. We often see this significant power that hip-hop holds working in the lives of rappers today. Take for instace Jay Z. Said to be the inspiration behind the character of Lucious, Jay Z’s life has taken him from being a drug dealer in the ghettos of New York, to being CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records. Plus, he made a family with Beyonce – proving even more that dedicating your life to the hip-hop game can be substantially lucrative.

But contrastingly, while Empire does present Lucious as someone who has been at the bottom, finding a way to the top – the view at the top of Lucious’ world is not that pretty. Coming up the ladder in the hip-hop industry and the effort it takes to remain there has cost Lucious a lot. Money has been lost, friends have been shady, and even family has had to be “dealt with” in order to keep the empire afloat. Making a life in the music industry is no easy task, and at times, you must make tough, dire and unethical decisions. Rather than being the all-around good guy audiences root for, as a protagonist, Lucious radiates complete ruthlessness, and at times – pure evil. But it is essentially through this character that the show has taken the common stereotype and idea that hip-hop is the only ideal way for Blacks to be successful or become something in life, and has given audiences a darker reality to this fairy tale. The average glorified and thrilling story of pimps, whores, drug dealers and gangsters is not as easy and casual as it may seem. And while the fame and glory may seem beneficial and worth the risk, Lucious shows audiences, even for a Black man, the music industry is no straight-forward, glamorous walk in the park.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Next, much backlash has centered on the lead female character of the show, Cookie Lyon. Portrayed as an in-your-face matriarch, Cookie has spent 17 years in prison – taking the blame for a drug deal gone bad so that her then husband, Luscious, could build his career and provide for their struggling family. When audiences meet Cookie for the first time, she is just released from prison and goes to Lucious, aggressively pleading for her shared of the company that she essentially helped to establish.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

While an undeniable favorite among fans, for some, Cookie is the embodiment of all Black stereotypes women face on TV today. Dressed flamboyantly in skin-tight clothing, floor-length furs, and rainbow colored nails, Cookie is quick tempered, loud, and prepared to get physical at a moment’s notice. She beats her youngest son with a broom when he disrespects her and unapologetically uses the derogatory three-letter F-word when referring to her homosexual son.

But even with her antics, this twisted motherly love is what helps keep Cookie from simply being a stereotypical angry Black woman. Cookie may make rash decisions or say seemingly inappropriate things, but her heart is always in the right place. Family means to a lot to her and she will do just about anything to ensure their well-being. Subsequently, Cookie’s character presents an ethical dilemma on the show. While she may do unlawful things and come across as rude, ethically, her actions are justified because she does these things to benefit of her family.

Fleshing out another character that was destined to be merely a stereotype, after some episodes, Empire has proved that Cookie and Lucious’ oldest son, is not quite what he may seem. Ivy league-educated Andre Lyon, is the picture of a clean-cut businessman, with a White wife and very few connections to Black culture. In terms of archetypes, he would be considered the Uncle Tom-type character, seeking approval and showing more dedication to Whites than Blacks. But as the show progresses, episodes display Andre struggling with bipolar disorder, moving him from being the out of touch, villain-esque character, to something more complex. Viewers see that his wife has stuck by him through past mental issues, deflating misconceptions about the emptiness of interracial marriage. Andre promotes the discussion of mental health within the Black community. Often considered an issue only familiar to White individuals, Andre’s character dives into the  taboo of mental health pertaining to Blacks. Audiences see how the issue not only effects Andre personally, but his family, and eventually their company as a whole. Essentially, Andre is not your typical flat character – easy to discern and predict. But he is an ever-developing, multi-dimensional character that provokes new and insightful though – especially for the Black community.

empire group
(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

One more character worth mentioning would have to be Jamal Lyon. While LGBT story lines and characters may be nothing new to television, on a show like Empire – where a majority of the cast is Black and so is the audience – this is almost groundbreaking. Ask anyone who watches the show, and they will forever remember the moving scene where Jamal is place in garbage can by his father Lucious. This twisted act was meant to be a punishment for a young Jamal after he was caught prancing in his mother’s accessories. And as painful or harsh as the scene may seem, it is completely necessary.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

In the Black community, while there has been a slow progressive acceptance for LGBT rights and issues, homosexuality is still unwelcome in that there is a great fear it diminishes masculinity. But the way in which  this fear is presented not only in a Black television series, but a series centered around the hip-hop industry is a complete game changer. Homophobia runs rampant in the hip-hop industry. Hip-hop is an alpha-male world and for an openly gay man to strive for success in this field – there are consequences and backlash sure to follow. Remember the Frank Ocean hoopla?! But rather than your typical comedic relief or cheeky sidekick, “Empire” gives us a homosexual character who can quite hold his own. From  rap battles to nearly throwing mobsters off the top of buildings – Jamal has proven that while he may be unapologetically gay, he is quite the masculine manly-man, prepared to lay down the law at moment’s notice. And to have this all happen on series targeted towards a Black audience is without a doubt, revolutionary.

Despite the fact that “Empire” does depends on stereotypes and recognizable archetypes to get viewers’ attention, it simultaneously tears them down – proving that in the world of “Empire,” music, family, and power and much more than they may seem. “Empire” uses old narratives to introduce to audiences to something new. And that essentially is

Summer 2016 in Music Festivals

 

Everyone has seen or heard of Coachella, the spring music festival that invades social media for a week every year. Photos of celebrities dressed to the nines, crazy light shows, giant sculptures, and the biggest artists performing makes music festivals seem fairly unrealistic. In reality, music festivals are actually much more feasible than they appear, and can make for fantastic road trips or weekend getaways during the summer. Whatever your music taste is, here’s a preview of some of the best ones coming up this summer.

 

Hangout Music Festival 2016: May 20-22 Gulf Shores, Alabama

Hangout is one of the only large scale music festivals in North America located on a beach. Beach activities such as slip and slides and a craft beer bar make for some alternative activities, but the main attraction is obviously the music. All day and into the night there are rave-style performances on the beach; you can experience it inside the venue or enjoy listening from the sand. 

  • Top Performers: The Weeknd, Calvin Harris, Florence and the Machine, The Chainsmokers, Mike Snow, Fetty Wap, Alabama Shakes
  • No camping, but beach houses and hotels are available to rent and parking is available

Preview Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3hFv4hMruI

 

Boston Calling 2016: May 27-29 Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Calling takes place in City Hall Plaza in the middle of Boston and is one of the most well known festivals in the Northeast. It occurs twice a year, once in the Fall and one in the Spring with the Spring bring the more popular of the two. Alongside the surrounding city of Boston, it is not as true to the festival vibe as the others, but it has a fantastic lineup, so it’s worth the trip.

  • Top Performers: Odesza, Sia, City and Colour, Disclosure, Mike Snow
  • No camping, but plenty of hotels in the boston area. Parking available

Preview Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xENv6fB4UHw

 

Bonnaroo 2016: June 9-12 Manchester, Tennessee

Beginning with the infamous rainbow arch, Bonnaroo is one of the most unique music festivals in the country. It is on 700+ acres of forest and is filled with art, dancing, yoga, music, workshops, disco, wellness practices, theatre, short films and more. Not only is it a music festival but it is a place to go to learn, with workshops in art, theatre, percussion, break dancing, instrument building and gardening. You can go to this festival to enjoy the music but also leave with skills and memories that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

  • Top Performers: LCD Soundsystem, Macklemore and Ryan Lewi, Churches, Tyler the Creator, Post Malone, The Oh Hellos
  • Camping and parking available

Preview Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZVYbQXhoCY

 

Firefly 2016– June 16-19 Dover, Delaware

Firefly is the quintessential festival experience, set in a wooded area with large fields, big venues, hammocks, dancing and free hippy vibes. With a mixture of well known headliners and up and coming artists, Firefly is a festival that gives you the full music experience while also providing alternative fun attractions.

  • Top Performers: Grouplove, Mumford and Sons, Earth Wind and Fire, Jai Wolf, The 1975, Two Door Cinema Club
  • Camping and parking available

Preview Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvAJWYWTsTI

 

Electric Forest 2016– June 23-26 Rothbury, Missouri

If you’re looking for an out of this world experience, Electric Forest is the festival to attend. Set in a magical forest, this music festival is nothing less than extraordinary. The stages are creatively inspired by nature but given a twist by the trippy, colorful paint and design, and the artists being showcased are rave/techno style. There are hundreds of activities going on all day, everyday; the people and the vibe of the whole event is open, free, music loving fun. Out of all of the festivals, this is the one not to miss.

  • Top Performers: Bassnectar, Bonobo, Greensky Bluegrass, Porter Robinson
  • Camping and parking available

Preview Videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgxz8H0Gaak

 

Lollapalooza Chicago 2016- July 28-31 Chicago, Illinois

Similar to Boston Calling, Lollapalooza is an unconventional music festival. Set in Chicago, with some of the most well known musicians, it has a huge following. You may not be getting the hippy vibe, and there aren’t as many alternative activities to participate in, but you aren’t missing the most important part, the music.

  • Top Performers: Bastile, Big Gigantic, Disclosure, Future, Red Hot Chili Peppers, G-Eazy, J Cole
  • No camping. Parking available

Preview Video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSO5sKdY2Ok

YADDA MAN.

With a rapper name that good, it has to stand alone as the title. “Who is Yadda Man?” you may ask, feeling a bit skeptical. I don’t blame the hint of doubt in your voice, I am just as selective when it comes to finding rappers I like. But despite my discernment, I always give a chance to rappers who go out of their way to get me to listen to their music.

In the middle of the night on St. Patrick’s Day, on the corner of Calhoun and King, Yadda Man was out hustling his mixtape with a smile. He didn’t even know I was a writer when he offered me his CD in return for a donation. But when he approached me, I was more than happy to strike a deal. I even bought two – the other one for my wasted friend.

Getting in my car to go home, I popped in the mixtape. I didn’t expect to make it through the first couple of songs, because that’s how it usually goes.

But then it started playing.

“These off brand n*ggas ain’t really the future, Ms. Cleo,” the Wiz Khalifa sample from “The Statement” looped back and then repeated two more times with Yadda Man defiantly laughing over the track in the background. Never before had the line sounded so cool. Then the beat started and Yadda crooned the hook as if in direct response to Wiz, “F*ck what they say, f*ck what they say, why they always f*ckin’ with me?” It sounded as if I had been listening to Yadda Man my whole life.

“UNTIL THE EP…22” isn’t Yadda Man’s introduction to the world, it is his assertion that, although you may not have heard of him, you will. It’s his assertion that he is here to stay. It’s his confrontation of everything that makes him who he is. It’s the thesis of his style, position and image. And when I listen to rap, those are the things that I listen for.

The songs range from “Higher than Everybody,” in which he offers a hit to his principal and explores his playful side, to “Understand.” “Understand” employs an incredible sample of his voicemail that illustrates his unavailability to his loved ones, a reality that he struggles with in the goose-bump inspiring hook sung in baritone, “Damn Yadda, where you been at?” The song is a message to his cousin behind bars and his mother. He talks about how he loves them, how hard he is working and how he hopes they understand that he may be absent, but he has not forgotten them.

Earlier in the mixtape, Yadda Man also confronted his absent father in “Think.” He describes the thoughts that haunt him, the thoughts that give him insomnia. He opens up about how he struggles with being a father because he never had a father, about the stages of depression and about how this all culminates into him letting down his loved ones.

What makes his songs like “Think” and “Understand” incredible is how they are juxtaposed against songs like “We Run It” and “Right Now,” which are hype enough to make anyone jump up and bounce, and how the mixtape has an overall hopeful and positive sound with good vibes.

Yadda Man can be just as fun as he is deep. And while those two qualities are often considered exclusive, he is able to combine them in “Let Go.” In this song he explains his problems with love, lust and past relationships. While being real, Yadda talks about the things in those relationships that made him love the girls he was with, like how they would pass notes instead of texting in between classes. He even expertly samples a Lauryn Hill interview. But in the same song he jokingly sings the hook in reference to those girls that played him, “I dodged a bullet from your stinky a**.” And though the hook is silly, it shows another level of realness that Yadda Man offers us. It shows us how he uses humor to cope and deal with things. It’s his smiling personality, and his personality bleeds all over the album, making us smile as well.

His personality and image blend flawlessly. He outlines his style in “In God We Trust,” “Expensive boxer briefs, official Jordan kicks, off-brand tee.” The emphasis on “off-brand tee” ties in the Wiz sample from the beginning of the record and we learn that he and his posse are called “Off Brand.” The name, a little rebellious and a little disengaged from societal standards, sticks out as one of the coolest squad names since A$AP. One of the things that makes it so cool is that it is inclusive by nature. Anyone can be OB, all you need to do is quit worrying about what Instagram thinks is cool and find your own style.

Yadda Man and I have a lot in common. He’s trying to make it in rapping and I’m trying to make it in writing. “I dropped a single just to see if the world was ready or not, got the results back, I guess I wasn’t ready to pop,” he admits on the finale “O.V.A.” But while he faces this, he never doubts himself. In the next line, he responds with, “This is Uncle Grandpa JoJo (a recurring character on his Youtube Chanel) checkin’ in, and I just wanted to let y’all know, y’all done f*cked up with Yadda Man. Turn down for what.” Yadda Man’s belief in himself has me believig in myself as well, it has me hype to do what I love to do just by doing what he does. If that isn’t dope, I don’t know what is.

As the last song ends, a muffled version of the sample that the album started with replays, “These off brand n*ggas ain’t really the future, Ms. Cleo…” The CD jumps back to the first song and picks up where the last song left off, flawlessly transitioning the end to the beginning, and I can’t help but listen again. Like I said, it’s like I have been listening to Yadda Man my whole life.

OB!

P.S. Listen to “UNTIL THE EP…22” all the way through here (trust me, it is better that way). Also, Yadda just dropped this. I’m halfway through and it is super dope –  and already – he’s gotten even better.

Backpacking San Francisco

The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square. Many people recognize these houses from the show "Full House". Photo courtesy of Dustin Hacker
The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square. Many people recognize these houses from the show “Full House.” (Photo by Dustin Hacker)

For spring break, some people go home and relax on the couch while others will do a short study abroad trip. Some people choose to go to the beach with a group of friends and well, let’s say, have a good time. And then there are a few people like me, who decide to pack up and travel somewhere alone. This spring break, I headed out west to San Francisco.

San Francisco is a city that I have been to many times because I have family in the Bay Area. Typically, my dad plans the trip and the rest of my family, including myself, is along for the ride. On this trip, however, I was going alone. Ahead of me lied an exciting yet daunting task to plan my entire five day trip to San Francisco.

In an effort to pack lightly and make the trip seem more like an adventure, I decided to pack everything I needed for my trip into a single backpack. The backpack idea ended up working out very well and it made me feel more independent. I felt less like a tourist and more like a traveler. Despite feeling less like a tourist, I went to many of the famous spots throughout San Francisco.

When I landed at the airport, my adventure began. I took the train into the city and got off in the Mission district, a historically hispanic and less touristy area of the city. I went into a small burrito shop and noticed I was the only person who was not a local inside. However, I did not feel out of place and they did not know that I was not a local. I ordered in Spanish, ate the delicious and authentic burrito quickly and left the restaurant to take on the city.

Throughout the rest of the day, I made it to some popular spots, like Dolores Park, Union Square and the Ferry Building, and by the time I got to where I was staying the night, via a metro train, I was exhausted. I had flown 6 hours, seen so much and was ready to relax.

One aspect of the trip that would have been less relevant on basically any other week of the year was rain. California has been in an extreme drought for the last 5 years and rain is the last thing anyone expects to get when traveling to California these days. However while I was there, the sun peaked out a few times but most of the time it was drizzling and there were even a few moments when there was Charleston-like rain – heavy rain. This made traveling with only a backpack a little more difficult, but my umbrella, which conveniently fit in one of my backpack water bottle holders, was a big help.

The rain problem was unexpected but I was able to adjust to it. But there was another “problem” with traveling to San Francisco and carrying my backpack/life everywhere I went. For anyone who knows San Francisco, the city is built on hills, and I had to conquer these with my backpack. It made for a personal challenge and instead of staying away from the hills, I decided to hike them. I climbed up Russian Hill to get to Nob Hill. Then I walked down many hills through Chinatown to get to Telegraph Hill, which I also climbed. You get the point. I was doing city hikes every day.

I saw different parts of the city each day. I walked from Haight-Ashbury, the hippie neighborhood made famous from the Summer of Love in 1967 all the way to the Embarcadero.  Walking through Haight-Ashbury was an experience that brought me back in time because Haight-Ashbury was the neighborhood in San Francisco that much of the music world descended on in 1967. It became the home of the hippies and concerts were played in the streets every night. Seeing parts of the neighborhood that are preserved or representative of that important cultural moment in American history was very unique experience.

On the way to the Embarcadero, I passed by the Painted Ladies houses (made famous to some by the show “Full House”), City Hall, and all the way through the Market Street area. I knew the Painted Ladies were famous, but when my friends gave me a hard time for not making a “Full House” reference in my Instagram caption, I realized how universally recognized these beautiful Victorian San Francisco houses really were.

Despite having been to San Francisco before, I had never spent much time around Market Street which is a very busy part of the city. The coolest part of my experience of Market Street was seeing and riding the Market Street car. They are historic streetcars (different than cable cars) that run through downtown. Riding on one immediately took me back to what I imagined public transit to be like in the 1940s.

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun peaked through the clouds. Photo courtesy of Dustin Hacker
A view of the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun peeked through the clouds. (Photo by Dustin Hacker)

Because I had been to San Francisco before, I had seen most of the touristy sights. Everyone loves the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street (the zigzag street) and Ghirardelli Square among many other things. I saw all of those on my trip but because I was alone and not constrained by anyone else’s schedule, I was able to appreciate my surroundings a lot more. I walked through so many different neighborhoods, like Chinatown, North Beach (historically Little Italy), Pacific Heights, the Sunset District, Nob Hill … the list goes on. I got to experience the West Coast melting pot of cultures first hand and was able to interact with people on the street and in restaurants. Seeing pictures of a beautiful city is one thing but experiencing it first hand and immersing yourself in it is how you get the true traveler’s experience.

Like Charleston, San Francisco is a city rich with history and architectural beauty. With Victorian style houses everywhere you look, the city is a place where you don’t have to take a tour or go into a single building and can still be in awe with what is in front of you. The city has character and the people have character. And when you are a traveler who is hiking the city with just your backpack, you will feel like you want to join the culture and character by which you are surrounded.

Nourish International’s Catwalk for a Cause: Modeling and Champagne for the Greater Good

Where can you watch models, drink champagne and help to solve world poverty at the same time? Nourish International’s Catwalk for a Causethat is where. Nourish International, the College’s student-run organization that fights poverty, is putting on its first fashion show. The show is sponsored by Belk and presented by Tabbuli Grill. Student models will be fashionably clad in the only and onlyLily Pulitzer.

Catwalk for a Cause is Thursday, April 7 at 9 p.m. Admission is free; donations are encouraged. All proceeds will go toward Nourish’s summer food security project in Nicaragua.

“We really hope people come out,” said sophomore Nourish Transition Leader Ellen Claire Newell. “We’ve put a lot of work into it…months of work. I mean, how can you say no champagne and Tabbuli? It’s a perfect combination. And it’s all for such a great cause.”

All models are students from various organizations on campus. Organizations represented include greek life, CisternYard Media, Charleston Forty, Charleston Hope and more. Models walk at 10 p.m., but make sure to get there earlier for some food and fun.

Representing CisternYard Media is Alexis Armour, also known as Gossip Goddess. Alexis is ready to show off her bubbly personality walking the runway at Catwalk for a Cause. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Armour).
Representing CisternYard Media is Alexis Armour, also known as Gossip Goddess. Alexis is ready to show off her bubbly personality walking the runway at Catwalk for a Cause. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Armour).
Representing Kappa Delta sorority is Courtney Moody. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Moody).
Representing Kappa Delta sorority is Courtney Moody. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Moody).
Representing Charleston Hope, is Emily Hoisington. (Photo courtesy of Emily Hoisington).
Representing Charleston Hope is Emily Hoisington. (Photo courtesy of Emily Hoisington).

Tabbuli, located at the north end of Market St., has an open courtyard with seating and a stage. You can also purchase a $5 vip ticket for a special table and bottle service. VIP tickets are on sale in Cougar Mall from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, April 7. The first 20 VIP tickets sold will also come with three raffle tickets. Nourish is raffling off items such as a record player, canvases, gifts cards, College of Charleston attire and more.

 

Charleston Fashion Week 2016 Street Style

During Charleston Fashion Week, my friend and CisternYard News Photographer, Katie, and I decided to try our hands at street style photography. I was impressed by Katie’s photographs in the last issue of The Yard, and I have been mildly obsessed with online street style photo galleries from fashion weeks and seasons for at least four years: New York, London, Paris, and Milan. I love seeing the different types of styles, in lively cities, with unique and modern clothes and accessories, as people attending (or just in that city) dress more elaborately than in daily life. Street style photos can inspire confidence–in fashion and self-esteem: for the photographers, those photographed, and the viewers of the photos.

Photo Credits: Katie Carter; Director of Photography: Alli Whitt

Waka Flocka at the Music Farm: A Show Review

Tickets sold out, venue packed, Waka Flocka made his appearance at Music Farm around three hours after the concert began. Running on stage sporting a completely purple outfit while “Trap Queen” played in the background, he was clearly excited to be there. It was evident from the start that the concert was more about having fun than Waka’s actual music. This was confirmed when he jumped into the crowd, performing from the pit of sweaty attendees for thirty minutes of his two hour set.

Before Waka made his big debut, he had three rather bizarre opening acts to begin the night. It began with a one man act who failed to announce his name, performing only one song before resigning to the corner of the stage for the rest of the night. This act was followed by a duo called Styles & Complete, who bounced around stage singing various hip-hop songs. Their performance was brief, lasting only three songs. The last opening act was by far the strangest of the three, Ben G, a rap artist who doubles as a DJ. Ben G took the stage for over an hour, performing some of his original songs, which were definitely unrecognized by the crowd. However, he did get the crowd’s attention when he decided to play what seemed to be the top ten most recent hits, which he accompanied with some dance moves. All three opening acts made it clear that the main purpose of the concert was to party. 

When Waka took to the stage, the audience was visibly pleased, but seemed to be more taken by his presence than his songs. One of the most crowd-pleasing moments occurred when Waka took a joint from an audience member. He also caught a fan’s bra and wore it around his head as he performed “Hard in da Paint.” 

The audience was there to watch Waka do the unexpected, not for his great music. His performance was almost always supported by his pre-recorded tracks. His stage was filled with random dancing people, some Waka seemed to know and others, lucky audience members (mostly girls) invited to experience the concert from the stage.

Although the opening acts were a bit strange, and Waka failed to exactly perform, it was clear he knew how to have fun and how to make the concert one big party for his fans.

An Interview with SUSTO at Savannah Stopover

On Wednesday, March 9, I had the pleasure of talking with Justin Osbourne, the front man of Susto, as part of Beside the Point’s coverage of Savannah Stopover. Justin was fighting off a sinus infection at the time, so I am greatly appreciative of his willingness and cooperation throughout the interview. Justin stuck with me even as Susto’s tour van was almost pulled over. Our conversation showcases a portion of Susto’s playful personality not always evident when listening to their music alone. Geoffrey Gill and I saw Susto perform their final show of their 2016 tour on the main stage of Savannah Stopover on Saturday, March 12. Per usual, they delivered an energetic show, and played some new songs that may debut on Susto’s upcoming EP, which Justin Osbourne mentioned. Beside the Point extends a very sincere thank you to Justin Osbourne and Susto for taking time out of their tour schedule to talk to me.

Phillip Greene: Firstly, talk about the definition of ‘susto’ and why it became the name of your band.

Justin Osbourne: [Susto] is a folk-illness in Latin America. It is also a colloquialism in Spanish speaking countries that means “to take a fright”. The phrase is like, if someone scares you, you’d say “Ahhh I’ve taken susto!” We came up with the name because it literally means when your soul becomes separated from your body… [It is] induced by a stressful atmosphere or situation in your life. That theme seemed to fit all of the songs on the record (the album is self-titled), and some of the things I was going through and the people around me were going through when the record was made.

 PG: That’s surprising to me, because it seems like the album has an underlying sense of hope.

JO: Yeah, I think there is an underlying sense of panic, and there’s also an underlying sense of hope. It is a theme that will play out more as the records come out. Everything is tied together. It’s one big story. The first record is about not knowing what to do with your life, and not knowing how to handle the situation, but having hope for the future.

PG: So what can we expect next in Susto’s discography, and how might it differ from the first album?

JO: We do have new music coming out this year. We have an EP coming out this spring, with four or five songs on it. Then, we have a full length album coming out towards the end of the year. It is different, but it’s the same band, just a progression of the sound. Some more electronic and rock ‘n roll type influences. We are trying to be creative when we make a record, and to have fun and push [our] boundaries. It’s something we hinted at on the first record, and there is more to come.

PG: I have seen a lot of Susto merchandise and promotional materials, like hashtags on social media, which read “Acid Boys.” Can you explain Acid Boys?

 JO: Well we have a song called “Acid Boys,” and the title comes from a lyric in the song that refers to “…Runnin’ with the acid boys.” Ya know, me and some of the other people in the band and people around us were experimenting with LSD, so it’s kind of a reference to that. We looked for a new meaning and found ourselves in psychedelics.

PG: I understand that you have “Acid Boys” tattooed across your knuckles. Which came first, the song or the tattoo?

 JO: The song (“Acid Boys”) came first. Whenever the song came out, I started referring to us as the Acid Boys. We started using the term on social media and then we started printing merchandise with [Acid Boys] on it. Then when the record came out, I decided that I wanted to do something to symbolize to myself that I was going all in and that I was going to do music full time, so that’s when I got the knuckle tattoos.

PG: I most recently saw Susto play at the Music Farm in Charleston with the Heartless Bastards in February. Before the show got started, I noticed that you had to find Johnny Delaware before the set started because he was in the crowd socializing. Then, when he finally got on stage, he had to get assistance from the tech crew at the Music Farm because he got his sunglasses stuck in his hair and could not remove them on his own. What is it like being on the road with someone like Johnny Delaware?

JO: He is sitting right next to me! I think it is a lot of fun. He keeps everybody laughing. He loves touring, he loves traveling and you could say he is quite the lady’s man, too… Johnny?

Johnny Delaware and the other members of Susto proceeded to shout expletives at one another and Johnny, followed by a group laugh, in a barely audible manner. You have to love these guys.

JO: He is a great personality to have….

At this point in the interview, Justin Osbourne told me he would have to call me back, because they were getting pulled over for speeding. The band yelled back and forth between themselves, and concluded that they were indeed not being pulled over, but just being visually reprimanded by a highway patrolman.

PG: You guys have been on the road for a few months now. Are there any interesting stories from the road that you would be willing to share?

JO: Yeah man…Every day is kind of crazy to be honest with you. We have this old ’98 Dodge that I am surprised is even still running. I hope it makes it back to Charleston. We just finished our tour, besides Savannah Stopover. The first night of tour we got caught in a blizzard in Arkansas….That was great. We had to push our van through five miles of snow. Later in the tour, we all had a psychedelic experience together in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. We all dove into that world. I won’t really get into that… We have been all over the country, we’ve been everywhere. It’s been a beautiful ride. We have seen the band grow on Spotify and social media just because we have been in front of a new crowd almost every night. People have been receptive. Every day runs together, it is kind of like a time warp out here. We’ve gotten better as a band, and closer as a band too.

PG: Relatively speaking, you guys have not been around for very long – only about two years. Yet you can go to any given Susto concert and see fans singing along to every word. Why has Susto seen such remarkable short-term success?

JO: I think it is a testament to how great of a city that Charleston is, and how people support local art. People are into the local scene – art and music. People like to find new bands, and I think if you are good, people really latch onto you and they want to support that. They want to go to your shows. Charleston is a pretty tight-knit city. At first, our shows had crowds because we have such a tight-knit, large friend group. Having that draw in Charleston has connected us with people in Athens, Atlanta, etc., and it helped us grow our market outside of town. Which is crucial. Also our songs are about experiences that people have in Charleston, so people can relate to it. I am very appreciative of the whole city getting behind us.

PG: I am going to wrap up the interview in classic CYR style, with a round of Yum or Yuck.

JO: Alright, let’s do it!

PG: Kudu Coffee Shop?

JO: Yum.

 PG: Neutral Milk Hotel?

JO: Yum!

PG: Breakfast for Dinner?

 JO: Yum.

PG: Bernie Sanders?

JO: Yumyumyumyum

PG: Side Projects (shoutout to Beside the Point)?

JO: Yum.

PG: Savannah Stopover?

JO: Definitely a big ole’ fat yum.

Listen to Phillip’s show, Beside the Point, from 7-8 p.m. every Monday only on CisternYard Radio.

Can one man change the entire music industry?

Kanye West says a lot of things:

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If you pay enough attention to him, it’s easy to become exasperated. His twitter feed is a constant bombardment of fragmented ideas and declarations. Most of them, seemingly incoherent, float away lost in the vast expanse of the web. But every now and then he will say something that incites, encourages, or is otherwise meaningful enough to stick with you. When these tweets hit you, you begin to realize that maybe there is something more to his ramblings than meets the eye. And if you pay even more attention, you’ll stumble upon something that could quite possibly change the world, or at least a big part of our world:

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“The Life of Pablo is a living, breathing, changing creative expression.” What a monumental statement. This isn’t the first time music has been crafted in a way intended to be ephemeral. Many live acts, from The Velvet Underground to Parquet Courts, have quit the script onstage and explored sounds in a way that made their music more fluid and alive. But never before has an artist referred to an album, or any other recorded piece of art, in that way. When a musician releases an album, when an author publishes a novel or when an artist sells a painting, there’s a kind of finality that sets that piece of art in stone. It will never change. It is complete. There is nothing left to be done to it.

So what does it mean that Kanye called this album living and breathing? He could take this thing any direction his mercurial whims desire. He might update “Wolves” and be done with it. He might add a song later down the line. He’s already changed some lyrics for “Famous.” What if he slowly transforms the music, line by line, sound by sound as his life progresses, creating an ever-changing platform to express himself? If that is the case, where does this album end and the next one begin? The artistic possibilities are endless, and we may never really know what he plans on doing with it.

Where the immediate, concrete effects of “The Life of Pablo” come into play are on the industry side. Specifically: how we consume music. He has been dropping hints as to how he could change the whole game, the whole industry, since the unofficial drop of “Pablo.” Within the copious amounts of baffling tweets, it seems that maybe Kanye has had a carefully strategized plan all along, and I’m going to try to pick out the meaning:

Important tweets 1 and 2:

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After delaying the release of the album, it finally appeared on Tidal, shortly followed by the first tweet above. The tweet seemed like a desperate grab at trying to help out the business endeavor of his mentor Jay Z, but then he bombshelled us with the second tweet. Never for sell? Only on Tidal? Are you willing to go all out like this, just to help out your friend’s ridiculously expensive streaming site? The idea seemed overtly absurd to me. Surely he was only saying that to get people to subscribe, and that he would eventually, in fact, release the album. It honestly made no sense to me for him to make a move like that. What in the world could he gain from making “The Life of Pablo” a Tidal exclusive?

And then important tweet 3 happened:

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Notice these tweets aren’t in chronological order. Never expect chronological order with Kanye. You can only begin to understand him when you go back and look at all the pieces, slowly puzzling them into the big picture.

When I saw this tweet, I thought I had it figured out. Of course, Kanye has some kind of deal with Tidal where he makes his music exclusive to the site, and they fund his ideas. It could be that simple, but it probably isn’t.

Important tweets 4 and 5:

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Kanye expanding on his definition of art and his place in the world. More meaningless bullshit? Maybe not. He is reaffirming his dedication to the things he makes, and this is his way of letting us know his only goal is to create art. But if his only goal is to create art, why is it such a big deal to never release a finalized, concrete album?

Important tweet 6:

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If anything, his commitment to keeping the album exclusively on Tidal emphasizes his dedication to his art. He’s not selling CDs? Why wouldn’t he sell CDs? He could make a killing off of selling CDs! Hell, I was going to buy the record on vinyl just to hang it on my wall. Maybe he’s being real. Maybe all he really cares about is his art, and money is an easy secondary to that goal.

Important tweet 7:

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Kanye admitted that he was $53 million in debt. He publicly asked Mark Zuckerberg for funding. Anyone else doing this would have been making a fool of themselves. But Kanye? He could explain himself in the most simple way and it all starts to make sense. He doesn’t care about money. He doesn’t care about business. He doesn’t care about the tediums of life. He cares about his art. He is willing to basically ignore all practicalities to make what he feels he owes to the world. Is doing so rash, reckless and poor planning? Yeah, definitely. But it also proves that he is striving to produce art in its purest form, which gives us, as fans, the most ascendent experience possible.

All of this brings us to the tweet that I mentioned earlier, the tweet that brings it all together:

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This tweet is so important because it outlines his artistic goal: to make an album that is effectively alive. Scouring through his statements we found that:

  1. The Life of Pablo will only be on Tidal. Ever.
  2. Kanye West is a, if not the most, sincere artist.
    1. Proof 1: He went $53 million in personal debt to create his art.
    2. Proof 2: He is willing to miss out on physical sales to be able to let his album grow and change.
  3. The album will, in fact, grow and change.

His artistic vision alone is something that will bring us an experience like we’ve never had. It’s an overwhelming and awe inspiring vision. But what does that mean for the fans? We’ve never experienced a living album before, one that can change and grow and evolve, so how will it be possible to consume one?

This is where the seemingly lacking planning genius of Kanye West comes in. He knew all along what he wanted to do with “The Life of Pablo.” He wanted to effectively destroy the album cycle. But how do you go about distributing, and then sell, an album if you want to destroy the concept all together? First and foremost, you abandon all concern for making money. Second, you see into the future of what streaming sites can provide artistically.

Music streaming has been around almost a decade. Before, when musicians wanted to sell their work, they could only do so by releasing physical copies. Later, iTunes happened, and then you could still buy physical copies, but it became much easier to deal with music digitally. However, buying digital copies of music never really distinguished itself much from the physical side, besides the fact that it is easier to deal with music on our computers and devices. Things changed with the introduction of music streaming.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Spotify, the leading music streaming site, offers subscribers libraries of music as vast as that of iTunes, but for free (as long as you can put up with advertisements). That means, when an artist drops an album, if they want people to hear their music, they will put it on Spotify. This greatly decreases album sales, because listeners can access their music as easy as it is to find internet connection. Who in their right mind would pay for music when you can just as easily get it for free?

However, very few artists are happy with the way Spotify compensates them for the streams they get. According to TIME, artists make between $.006 and $.0084 per stream. Over a year ago, Taylor Swift took all of her music off of the site, stating that her work is worth more than the compensation that she receives from Spotify. Vince Staples, at a recent Spotify event at SXSW, as reported by Pitchfork, slammed the streaming site saying, “Shoutout to Spotify. Thank you for giving me this check to make up for what you’ve done to me and all my musical friends.” And then to the crowd, “Listen to your favorite album 1,000, 2,000 times so everybody can get an album sale.” I did the math. If you take the median compensation for a stream of a song, $.0072, then it would take 1,389 listens for the artist to earn $10, about the price of an album sale. So Vince’s math was right, which highlights the ridiculous situation.

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(Photo courtesy of Got Somethin on Flickr Creative Commons)

So how have artists combatted this new reality? Well, Jay Z created his own streaming site, which features CD quality streams for an ungodly $19.99 a month, or lower quality streams for $9.99 a month, a price which matches Spotify’s Premium (ad free) membership. Many other sites have developed streaming services as well, including Apple, marking a huge shift from their iTunes focus. But still, unless you’re rolling in the dough, who in their right mind would pay $10, or even $20 a month for something they can get for free? Upon the launching of Tidal, Grantland published an article where their contributors listed things for which they would rather spend $20 a month. The whole thing seemed doomed from the start, including a failed attempt to grab subscribers with a lackluster Lil Wayne Tidal exclusive.

(Photo courtesy of Got Somethin on Flckr Creative Commons)
(Photo courtesy of Got Somethin on Flickr Creative Commons)

But then “The Life of Pablo” happened. Everything Kanye has done with “The Life of Pablo” coerces fans into buying a subscription. His plan, picked out from all of the madness, is genius. When he released the album on Tidal, it was easy to find a torrent. According to Torrent Freak, it is the most pirated album ever. But then he updated “Famous.” And then a few weeks later, he updated “Wolves.” Now it seems it could be just as easy to find torrents of these new songs, but having to pick out individual songs within torrent sites is more tedious than you think, plus you’re never really sure if you’ve downloaded the right version until you can listen to it. In other words, it takes a lot of effort. Plus, the fact that Kanye called the album “living, breathing” means there could be a lot more changes in the future. At some point, it will only make sense to subscribe to Tidal if you want to hear the album. And any fan of music will want to hear the album, not to mention the fascinating process of it evolving over time.

And that’s the artistic revolution streaming sties can provide: the ability to constantly update, change, remix and remaster music. This is obviously impossible with physical copies, and if this happened on iTunes we would have to buy the music again (which we wouldn’t). So Kanye, the first one to see this possibility, makes sure that he chooses a streaming site that artists are OK with, and thus begins the revolution of the music industry. I know that eventually I’m going to have to buy a Tidal subscription. I want to hear The Life of Pablo as it changes. And I predict that, five years from now, even if musicians aren’t creating breathing albums in the future, a Tidal subscription will be what Spotify is today just because of Kanye’s vision now.

There it is, I called it. So hit me up and tell me you think I’m stupid. In half a decade, we will see.

(Photo courtesy of mario millions on Flckr Creative Commons)
(Photo courtesy of mario millions on Flickr Creative Commons)

Charleston Fashion Week Continues: Wrap-Up

Day 3: Friday

When I arrived in the evening, I was immediately assigned to an emerging designer, Jon Milner. After working with Ricky Lindsey, two nights earlier, I was surprised to find that Jon (I will refer to him by his first name, since I addressed him this way while working with him), did not bring any assistants with him. Jon even carried in his boxes and rolled in his garment rack by himself, with a relaxed and efficient manner. If anyone is interested in what he was wearing (like me), he looked similar to someone you would see on any street: classic, casual and “under the radar.” These details may seem insignificant, but as someone who studies the components of ensembles on Man Repeller, I wrote (typed on my “Notes” app) the specifics of what he was wearing, intrigued by the supposed ease of his personal style. Here it is, broken down for you guys:

  • black baseball cap
  • black t-shirt and jeans
  • Adidas soccer (tennis?) shoes
  • green and blue plaid button-up (all buttons undone, of course)

He showed his collection to his friend and fellow competitor, Emily Seifert (who had a whimsical and spring-inspired line up). The only person who came with him was one of his college friends: a friendly, peppy, easygoing girl in a dress, who was there for support but also to take in the sights (male models). During the lulls, she and I struck up several conversations. She told me how she and Jon went to NC State together, both with a major in fashion marketing. Jon graduated from NC State in 2015, and the friend said she and Jon would have been in the same graduating class, but she had to do an extra year, smiling while she explained their story and friendship. She went on to explain that Jon had only begun designing clothes a few months ago. I was so impressed, especially because of the simplicity, unity, and beauty of his collection. Jon’s collection did not have many pieces, but it made sense. His pieces were coherent yet varied, so for only a few months’ work and a first time designer, I was inspired. Here are the components of his collection for the competition and show:

  • black and/or tan heels with matching sheer, nylon, ankle-length footies
  • thick fabric “vest dresses” in a beige, seashell color
  • black and white pin stripe suits with a twist (i.e. gaucho-style pants with slits to the knees)
  • burgundy/dark red pleather “jacket dresses”
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(Photo by Michael Wiser)

Overall, I enjoyed working for Jon Milner, gossiping with his friend, and helping to fix the models’ hair and shoe problems before they glided toward the runway.

 

 

The Disney College Program: A different kind of study abroad

Part I

Everyone has heard of The Walt Disney Company in some capacity; it owns ESPN, ABC, Pixar, and Star Wars. Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, which now includes the highest grossing film of all time. Not only did the most recent film surpass expectations, the company announced its plans to add on a Star Wars Land onto two of its six theme parks. (Shanghai is opening this year, so I’m including it in the count.) It is safe to say you have heard of it.

Disney is one of the most expansive and diverse companies in the world. Now imagine having that company on your resume.

With opportunities ranging from custodial to concierge, there are so many roles to choose from, each having their distinct pros and cons.

Just in my tiny apartment of four girls, our roles include Attractions, Hospitality, Merchandise and Food and Beverage, and our homes expand across the US – Massachusetts/New York, South Carolina, Ohio and Indiana. We have two bedrooms and a large living room. In our kitchen cabinet, we have a pest control schedule from 1993… I wouldn’t say I live in the Taj Mahal, but compared to most of Charleston housing, it is incredibly affordable and much more spacious than anything you may find downtown. Picture a large McAlister apartment with a layout that actually makes sense, and you’ve got Vista Way Apartments: my apartment for five months

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(Photo by Lauren Findlay)

I was lucky enough to work in attractions, in the most visited park on a very popular ride: Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom. Although working in a western-themed area named Frontierland did not initially make me jump for joy, I now call the mountain home. My co-workers have been wonderful and the leadership team comprises of the best bosses I will ever have. Working until the wee hours of the morning with the same people four to seven days a week creates a very strong bond based on caffeine and exhaustion. Some weeks are better than others in terms of hours. College Program Participants (CPs) are not quite the bottom of the totem poll in terms of the amount of hours, but we are at the bottom in terms of time of shifts. The scheduling manager is contractually obligated to give us at least 30 hours a week, but those hours may be any time from 6:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m. I have worked a few 12+ hour shifts until the middle of the night.

And those shifts can also be very challenging. Guests really can’t seem to grasp the concept that Splash Mountain is a water ride that will get them wet, despite the “You May Get Wet” signs located around the queue area, and the ride’s name: Splash Mountain. Other times, parents get angry because their child isn’t 40 inches tall and we can’t let them ride for safety reasons, or guests can’t seem to keep their hands in the log after repeated warnings from the seemingly non-diegetic voice of a cast member watching the ride from behind screens. Those days can be difficult, but the days that are truly terrible are far and few between.

Most days are filled with guest interaction that will put a smile on your face for days. If you have stepped foot in the Magic Kingdom, you quickly realize every guest is royalty. There are queens, kings, little princesses and princes – and to recognize royalty can be the ultimate magical touch. One day I worked the stand-by line which consisted of checking heights and answering questions, and a little princess wore one of those shirts with her name and “Disney Vacation 2016,” with a giant Mickey or castle on the front. I simply told Princess Jane to have a magical day and a wonderful ride. She shyly smiled and waved while clutching to her mom – like her mom could shield her from all the world’s woes. As she walked away, she looked at her mom with these big eyes and whispers, “Mommy, she knows I’m a princess.” It was a simple thing that made their vacation that much more special and seeing those moments makes you understand why Disney exists and why you are there. You are able to make a guest feel special and wanted. Cast Members are able to create happiness for the guests. Who else gets to say they create happiness for a living?

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Earning my ears. (Photo by Lauren Findlay)

Being a part of the College Program, especially working in Magic Kingdom, I am able to create the magic that I have experienced so many times. I am a part of the company that created my childhood.

Having my checks signed by Mickey Mouse was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Savannah Stopover Superlatives

The sixth annual Savannah Stopover Music Festival took place in Savannah, Ga. on March 10-12, 2016.

With Savannah Stopover wrapped up and festival season now well underway, it is time to start considering what acts from catch on tour this season. Here are a few superlative artists from another spectacular year at Stopover to make sure you not toiss in the upcoming months.

Most Creative Act

Photo courtesy of Culture Vulture.
The Savannah, Georgia based prog-rock group, Culture Vulture, from a 2015 press photo shoot. (Photo courtesy of the artist’s Facebook page).

With live instrumentation including guitar, drums and trombone, Culture Vulture was without a doubt the most unique live act I saw at Savannah Stopover. The duo of guitar and drums suggested a shred or metal style, with heavy distortion, chunky chords and raging flurries of melody played on a guitar clearly built with metal in mind. The addition of a trombonist to this combo rather than the bassist or vocalist one would expect, however, took the music into a creative space far from what the other instrumentalists would suggest.

The Savannah, Ga.-based group, self-declared as “math/prog rock,” combines melodic styling bordering on flamenco or jazz with a heavy, prog-rock background to create an energetic and well-balanced live act. Trombonist Nick Gilbert carries the melodies, for the most part, alternating between soaring brass highs and technical riffs in between. Along with band members Matt Pelton (drums) and James Webber (guitar), the trio performs its technical and creative progressive style to a T, and their local crowd in Savannah certainly responded to their musical energy and ability.

 

Most Fun Live Show

Philadephia, Pa. based Joy Again, from a 2016 interview with NME (Photo courtesey of NME).
Philadephia, Pa. based Joy Again, from a 2016 interview with NME (Photo courtesey of NME).

Philadelphia-based indie darlings Joy Again brought their brand of quirky indie rock to Savannah Stopover, and he group’s style is somewhere in the surf rock or lo-fi genres, featuring bouncy and jangling melodies and strong harmonies from the group’s various vocalists. While their music is engaging in itself, the band’s stage presence and energy truly brings an air of pure, genuine fun to their live show.

An extremely young band, with several members still under the age of 18, Joy Again is a group of guys simply looking to have a good time. On stage, the group can be seen dancing around, trading off instruments, cheesin’ it up for photos, telling the stories of their tour adventures and generally getting along in an infectiously fun and easygoing manner. Go to their shows. Have a good time. Dance around. Feel some joy, again (and maybe buy some merch if you really like them. They didn’t have money for gas in Savannah).

 

Fan Favorite

Boone, NC based pop rock group, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, playing at Trinity Methodist Church on March 11, 2016 (Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Gill).
Boone, NC based pop rock group, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, playing at Trinity Methodist Church on March 11, 2016 (Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Gill).

It takes a special kind of fan base to travel to a different state to support their favorite band at a festival performance, and it takes an even more special kind of band to earn a following of that sort. Rainbow Kitten Surprise, hailing from Boone, NC, is that kind of band.

The group’s supporters turned out en masse in Savannah, complementing and feeding off of the band’s oftentimes manic energy. Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s fun and rowdy live show, along with this strong support, made them into absolute rock stars at their Stopover appearance and turned their venue of Trinity Methodist Church into a dance floor more than a chapel. Sam Melo, the group’s frontman, led the charge, throwing himself around the stage in a whirlwind of raw energy. The band looked somewhat surprised by their cult following at the festival, but quickly fell into their own dance-inducing, high energy groove. Savannah Stopover may not typically be a venue for every trapping of rock and roll stardom- a venue packed with fan girls and listeners belting along with every word- but for a driving hour of Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s set, it certainly became one.

 

Most Ambitious Act

The globally-sourced Dosti Music Project performing one of their ten U.S. tour dates as an ensemble. Taken at Trinity Methodist Church on March 12, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Gill).
The globally-sourced Dosti Music Project performing one of their ten U.S. tour dates as an ensemble. Taken at Trinity Methodist Church on March 12, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Gill).

Dosti Music, a 13-piece instrumental world music outfit, met only three weeks prior to their performance at Savannah Stopover, which speaks volumes for the group’s musical abilities. Part of an organization called Found Sound Nation, in partnership with the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida, the Dosti Music Project is a yearly endeavor, bringing together musicians from India, Pakistan and the United States for a month long residency and tour in the United States. The group, which features new members each year, plays a body of work composed entirely of improvised compositions, performed using a technique known as “sound painting.”

The project’s work tells a tale of conflicting yet deeply intertwined nations facing some of the most tumultuous political, cultural and particularly environmental conditions seen in the 21st century. Many of the musicians cannot even verbally communicate with one another, being fluent in different languages or widely diverse dialects, yet the artists come together to create simultaneously haunting and energetic compositions. The richness and vibrancy of the music often seems at odds with the disparate cultures it covers, featuring Middle Eastern and Asian instrumentation along with segments of American bluegrass and folk or influences of Ethiopian traditional music, but the musicians work together to flawlessly execute their ambitions and all-encompassing style. While Dosti’s tour in the U.S. has unfortunately already wrapped up at the time of this article’s publication, their live music is incredible and you can keep your ears out for another iteration of the project next year.

 

Overall Best Live Performance

Christopher Paul Stelling playing at the Jinx in Savannah, Ga. on March 11, 2016 (Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Gill).
Christopher Paul Stelling playing at the Jinx in Savannah, Ga. on March 11, 2016 (Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Gill).

As a brief disclaimer, I by no means got a chance to see every act performing at Savannah Stopover. The festival this year featured a stacked lineup of national acts and local favorites alike, and as any festival attendee could tell you, there are tough trade-offs to be made every day when crafting a perfect festival schedule. That being said…

Christopher Paul Stelling absolutely blew me away with his Stopover performance. His intense and highly political body of work could be called a breath of fresh air for today’s oftentimes predictable folk music scene, but I would define it more as a blast of icy wind. Bringing to the stage a wild-eyed energy to accompany his relentless fingerstyle guitar playing, his powerful vocals and his rich lyrical style, Stelling captivates and easily fills the stage, even as solo artist. It was easy to tell from as early as his technical and classical-tinged sound check that this show was going to be something special.

Stelling’s live show perfectly captures the essence of his recorded works, making his driving tracks- “Revenge” or “Death of Influence”- absolutely relentless and massive in sound. At the same time, his subtler songs- “Scarecrow,” most notably- shine for their lyrical depth and tug at the heartstrings as much as Stelling does on his own guitar strings. He was also not afraid to politicize his work, much to the enjoyment of the audience. Between dedicating “Scarecrow” to the displaced persons and refugees of the world and growling profanities at a particular American businessman currently on the campaign trail, Stelling’s self-declared similarities to protest singers such as Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie were on full display.

Make sure to listen to CisternYard Radio’s exclusive interview with Christopher Paul Stelling on our YouTube page, and make sure to not miss his compelling and powerful shows at any of his hundreds of upcoming tour dates.

Listen to Geoffrey and Phillip’s show Beside the Point every Monday from 7-8 p.m., only on CisternYard Radio.

Charleston Fashion Week continues: Day 2 Backstage

Back again, for my second evening, March 17! Thursday night was not as eventful, mainly because of thelack of emerging designers and the presence of Belk (a well-known, dominating force). My first night working backstage, each designer had one tent, but last night, comparatively, Belk had three tents. As soon as I arrived two women in charge of the Belk show made me watch the tents (while no one was there) for over two hours. However, 30 minutes in, they stopped back for a few moments, told me to grab a chair to rest while on watch – since it was, in their words, “the calm before the storm.”  It was very slow, especially during the first hour, unlike the night before, and I was freezing my butt off because fans were on.

During my time of guarding the tents (ha), I may have done some people watching. There was no work to do; I did not want to be seen looking at my phone too often and appearing unprofessional. There were several people I recognized from last year as being “high up” on the CFW leadership ladder, making the rounds backstage. There were definitely some trends going on between the models backstage, since they too had little to do but sit around and wait. Those trends? Models were trying to keep busy yet comfortable, so several would walk through backstage, go outside, and walk back in, over and over again–all while carrying iced Starbucks drinks and wearing sunglasses indoors. A male model I recognized from the night before took out a huge bag of trash, apparently because he was just that bored… or for the sake of altruism. Also, a hair and make up guy wore a go pro type camera on his hat the entire time. Now, I would like to see that footage.

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(Photo by Michael Wiser)

The most exciting part of the night for me was seeing Andrea Serrano, who runs Charleston Shop Curator. I followed her on Instagram for about a year, so, I of course was “fangirling” inside. She looked so chic and put together! Her hair was in a perfect low bun, and she was wearing sunglasses with lightly-shaded lenses. She hugged the people backstage that she knew and was kind to the people she was introduced to. Her subtle elegance and genuine friendless made her one of my role models to an even further extent.

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(Photo by Michael Wiser)

That is it for my Thursday night backstage at Charleston Fashion Week. Have a great weekend!

 

Backstage at Charleston Fashion Week

Wednesday, March 15, was my first day working at Charleston Fashion Week this year. Fashion, whether subconsciously or not, has always been an important part of my life. Growing up in a small town in West Virginia, there was an unspoken “dress code,” which I often broke (rarely on purpose), but it did the trick. I also had to wear a school uniform for 13 years. I wanted more: to go places, to see new sights, to escape the Appalachians and freely be myself. I loved the outfits I would put together, planning every detail, anytime I had a chance to go anywhere besides home or school. I was stubborn about what I wore, much to my mother’s chagrin, especially when we would get ready for Baptist church on Sunday morning. She groaned every time I insisted on wearing my black Chuck Taylors with a dress.

I was and am a shy person. I felt invisible, yet vulnerable. In middle school, I began to dress with a more specific purpose – to express myself and be seen. I was teased for what I wore, but somehow I did not care and did not let it stop me. If I could not speak my mind to the people who harassed me and put me down, I would show them the real me, however uncomfortable that was for them in their bubble of running shoes, light-wash jeans and John Deere t-shirts.

In my sophomore year of high school, I developed disordered eating, one extreme to the next. Because of this, my relationship with clothes and fashion changed. Getting dressed everyday was no longer a fun experience of deciding who I would be that day, instead it was a painful chore that choked out my life force, spirit and creativity. I had no outlet for my creative side, darkening my days. However, the summer before my junior year, we moved to Hilton Head Island, a place where I could wear what I wanted without fear of demeaning looks and remarks. I actually received compliments on my style! And they were genuine! Also, before that time, I had not even realized that I had a “style.” Also that year, my mom suggested I think about majoring in fashion, something that never occurred to me. There were three different schools that I could have attended to pursue that major (but out-of-state tuition, man). Obviously, I settled on the College. For South Carolina, the city of Charleston seems to have the most culture and the largest “art” scene, so I decided to take that path. All of this to say, I really don’t put much thought into what I wear anymore, so I get nervous when someone compliments what I am wearing, fearing their potential insincerity. What you wear tells people who you are, who you want to be. With clothes, fashion, etc., you can be whatever and whomever you choose!

Okay, now let’s talk about the real stuff: Charleston Fashion Week. It is the 10th anniversary of an event that has grown quite quickly, an event that creates so many opportunities for the city, the students and the people of the Lowcountry. It is my second season working at CFW, and I love every minute of it. This year, I was chosen to work backstage, behind the runway, with models and designers. I have three more nights to go, and from past experience, I know it can only get better from here! Yes, it can be stressful at times, but for someone who subscribes to multiple fashion emails and magazines, every night is a dream come true. I soak up the good and the bad, working hard and taking in everything. As I am writing this now, it is well past midnight, but not yet 1:00 a.m., so I’ll refer to Wednesday night, even though it is technically now Thursday.

At the beginning of my shift, I (and two other girls) were assigned to the emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey. He had a kind face and dyed-grey hair. We helped him bring in his pieces, and from there, we basically just held curtains open when need be, and the three of us became friends (another aspect I love). Unlike some of the other emerging designers, Lindsey had brought three or four assistants with him, so we just did our own thing and helped out when we could. We got to know each other and may have gossiped about his collection, keeping other designers behind schedule (you did not hear it from me, folks). His collection was a women’s line, with loads of tulle, flowers, and tiaras.

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Emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey debuts latest collection at Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo by Michael Wiser)
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Emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey debuts latest collection at Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo by Michael Wiser)
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Emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey debuts latest collection at Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo by Michael Wiser)
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Emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey debuts latest collection at Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo by Michael Wiser)
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Emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey debuts latest collection at Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo by Michael Wiser)

Beside our “room” (walls of linen curtains), was the emerging designer Kelsey Kawamoto, whose designs featured a young girls’ collection, made up of 1960’s-style dresses and coats in pastels and with a dash of whimsy. To the other side of us was the emerging designer Ike Behar, who had a men’s line. His collection was made up of colorful suits. All his the models were wearing either rubber flip flops or velour penny loafers, both brightly colored, in reds and purples. Side note here, our own student at the College, Thomas Robertson, was a model for Behar’s line up.

That’s it for today, folks. Make sure to check back in for a Thursday night recap! Happy fashion week and happy St. Patrick’s Day!

10 Years and Many Trends Later

Three words: Charleston Fashion Week. Five nights of epic, authentic, avant-garde fashion in the city of Charleston. Since it was founded in 2007, CFW has grown into an astonishing event. And in the past 10 years, CFW has broadened its horizons and developed into a complex, exciting extravaganza that keeps Charlestonians gawking, and even intrigues people around the country. Featuring 40 runway shows, emerging designers, spring bridal shows and a Rock the Runway Model competition, Charleston Fashion week is always guaranteed to be interesting and different. This year will make history as CFW  shocks us with monumental runway shows featuring luxurious brands and designers. Running March 15 -19 this spring, the anticipation is eating at us, as we wait to see what is in store for the 10th anniversary.         

Jacqueline Lawrence, the Charleston Fashion Week Production Director, was kind enough to share some secrets regarding the event. The anticipation is over in some regards for you fashionistas, you are about to be informed on aspects of Charleston Fashion Week that others will have to eagerly wait until March to find out.

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(Photo courtesy of charlestonfashionweek.com)

        What exciting things are in store for the 10th anniversary?’

“For the first time ever we are offering a Style Lounge ticket.  This is the perfect option for the budget-conscious fashionista.  The Style Lounge+ ticket allows guests to get an inside look at this year’s Fashion Week looks and mingle with other fans of fashion, while enjoying bites & cocktails and shopping at our jewelry, clothing and accessory boutique booths.  Admission includes bigscreen, live-streamed viewing of the runway shows featuring all the latest fashions, visit to the exclusive Belk Tent and one complimentary drink.” (Does not include Runway Tent access.)

        How has CFW grown and changed over the years?’

“What started as a showcase for Charleston retailers and “makers” has grown into something so much bigger.  We’re now considered a launching pad for talent from around the East Coast. CFW attracts the top level fashion elite including Fern Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week, and international model scout and consultant Karen Lee Grybowski seeking design and modeling talent, and we deliver. We’ve had numerous designers go on to appear on Project Runway and as featured designers at New York Fashion Week.  To date we’ve had 65 CFW models sign with major modeling agencies including Elite, Factor Atlanta, Fusion, IMG, Major Model Management, Red Model Management and Wilhelmina….walking in fashion weeks over the world including Barcelona, Hamburg, London, Milan, New York, Paris and Tokyo.”

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(Photo courtesy of charlestonfashionweek.com)

        How has CFW influenced the City of Charleston and the importance of fashion around the city?’

“We’ve had a big impact on the local economy, spinning off more than $3.5 million last year through all the spending fashion week fans do when they come to town. But more importantly, professionals have told us we changed the conversation about style in Charleston. While we’ve always been known as a stylish, put-together place, CFW has made people take us more seriously as a place where fashion forward thinking is welcome and celebrated.”

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(Photo courtesy of charlestonfashionweek.com)

        Have students’ involvement from the College of Charleston had an impact on Charleston Fashion Week? If so, how great has this impact been, and what do you think the students have been able to take away from this special experience?’  

“Absolutely! Each year we work with a variety of students backstage, in the style lounge, as greeters and seaters and many other areas. They are always attentive and eager to work. Some of the best people who have come through have gone on to work with international modeling agencies, well-known marketing companies and media outlets, famous fashion firms and more. At Charleston Fashion Week, students get to apply everything they’re taught in the classroom or, for example, The Fashion Club, to real life experience. That experience is key after graduation for a student to land a job. The best way to get involved is to sign on as a volunteer and we’ve also priced Style Lounge tickets starting at $20, to afford students an opportunity to participate.”

        What should we be most excited about when looking to Charleston Fashion Week 2016?’

“This is by far our best lineup to date. We have an amazing roster of featured designers this year.  And we’re very excited for our expanded Style Lounge tent including the Brothers & Craft Clubhouse (think like The Today Show feeling) which includes nightly interviews with our designers & guests, discussing the latest in fashion trends and other timely topics.”

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(Photo courtesy of charlestonfashionweek.com)

So now the question is, who isn’t pumped for Charleston Fashion Week 2016? The 10th anniversary has so many surprises in store, and after getting a sneak peak, all you can do is make sure to get your tickets before it is too late!

 

 

Yeah Leo won, but other things happened at the Oscars too

It happened. We finally woke up from what Wesley Morris called our “national nightmare.” The leading cause of anxiety for entire generations has been quelled at last. Never again will we have to go to bed wondering if fulfillment and assurance will one day come.  No, I’m not saying someone is going to pay off our collective student debt while handing us that elusive certificate of job security (whatever that is). A problem much grander and much more troubling has been alleviated. That’s right folks, Leo finally won his Oscar.

And he sure as hell deserved it this year, at least by comparison. “The Revenant” lacked in emotional and diegetic grip, but the shear brutality of what Leo went through pulled the movie along. And though Damon did the same thing for “The Martian,” it was clearly not on the same scale. Leo won his Academy Award hands down and we all can breath. He even showed his class and selflessness by offering his stage of celebration to the important conversation of climate change, which was very nice. But we also all expected this to happen, so what made the Oscars exciting are the other things that went on.

(Photo courtesy of Mark Williams on Flickr Creative Commons)
(Photo courtesy of Mark Williams on Flickr Creative Commons)

Chris Rock hosted, and I was super excited. I mean, two years ago he wrote, directed and starred in a movie that revolves around top five rapper conversations. This guy gets it. What we were all waiting on was how he would address the fact that out of 20 nominated actors, all were White. It’s a touchy subject, and one that is often handled with either too much care or too extremely. Chris Rock came out with his opening monologue and delved straight into what we all were nervous about. He made some incredible points too:

“Is Hollywood racist? Is it burning-cross racist? No. Is it fetch-me-some-lemonade racist? No. No, no, no. It’s a different type of racist… Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’ That’s how Hollywood is.”

Chris Rock used his stage to dispel the myth: “Well, there’s no more slavery, there are no more Jim Crow laws, so what are they mad about?” Racism doesn’t exist solely in laws and human rights. It’s a mindset. And the fact that Chris Rock was able to distinguish a form of new racism from the traditional sense is super important. He got to the root of the problem, and anytime someone gets to the root of the problem on such a public stage, is a step in the right direction.

Do I think Chris Rock could have hit it home a little harder? Of course. At times he almost seemed apologetic. At one point, when comparing the ’50s and ’60s to today, he said, “We had real things to protest at the time.” And while his point that back then the Black community experienced atrocities in a much more public and frequent manner is obvious, that’s not to say what is protested today isn’t “real.” It’s just as real. Racism is still ridiculously prominent in the mindset of society. And though protests of lynchings are much more urgent, protests of an oppressive and destructive mindset are just as important.

Nonetheless, Chris Rock handled the issue swiftly, efficiently and effectively, which allowed us to focus on the works of art being honored at the celebration. The biggest surprise of which: “Spotlight.”

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(Photo courtesy of ekstra filmizle on Flickr Creative Commons)

“The Revenant” didn’t win best picture. It is an incredible cinematic achievement. It was the biggest spectacle by far. And yet, though it is a film whose technique will be studied for the next century, “The Revenant” is a movie that lacks something. It leaves you empty, emotionally underwhelmed and intellectually unstimulated.

That being said, I don’t think anyone has ever worked as hard on a film as “The Revenant” team. And that’s why Iñárritu won his second “Best Achievement in Directing” award and Emmanuel Lubezki won his second “Best Achievement in Cinematography” in a row.

That’s why I’m surprised it didn’t win. 2015 wasn’t that strong of a year for films. I mean, I loved “The Martian” and I saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” in theaters twice (and was super happy it won six Oscars in the technical categories). They were both extremely fun and definitely entertaining, but neither made me think and feel like “Boyhood,” “Whiplash,” “Wild” or “Birdman” from the year before. The clear choice for me was the grandest cinematic spectacle… But the Academy, in the biggest surprise of the night, gave “Best Picture” to “Spotlight!”

Though the “Spotlight” actors didn’t have to swim down freezing rivers or eat real bison liver, they delivered some poignant messages about a very serious and relevant issue. Watching the movie, I was blown away. The portrayal of journalism and humanity (or lack thereof) in general is serious stuff. When it was over, I immediately said it would win “Best Screenplay” and that Mark Ruffalo would win “Best Supporting Actor.” I was right about the “Best Screenplay” (although I hadn’t see “Anomalisa” yet, which was seriously snubbed in that category because watching Anomalisa is like reading an ascendant novel). Also, though I didn’t see Mark Rylance’s performance in “Bridge of Spies,” but I firmly believe Mark Ruffalo still deserved “Best Supporting Actor.”

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(Photo courtesy of Celebs Social on Flickr Creative Commons)

All that being said, the Oscar’s delivered a very entertaining show. Brie Larson was super charming, and I really want to see “Room.” The Weeknd performed, Lady Gaga blew everyone away, Ali G made an appearance and, of course, Kevin Hart gave his two cents. It proved very accessible to the public, and being less pretentious than ever, made for a show that anyone could enjoy regardless of interest in high cinema.

Alas, if you clicked on this article for nothing else other than to see the winners, here is the list of the important ones:

Best Picture: “Spotlight”

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Revenant”

Best Actress: Brie Larson for “Room”

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance for “Bridge of Spies”

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander for “The Danish Girl”

Best Director: Alejandro Iñárritu for “The Revenant”

Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Big Short”

Best Original Screenplay: “Spotlight”

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki for “The Revenant”

Savannah Stopover Preview: Beside the Point’s Most Anticipated Acts

Savannah Stopover, often thought of as a springboard or a pit stop for artists on their way south for spring festivals such as SXSW or Okeechobee, is revving up for another fantastic year of music. With over 100 concerts taking place within a three day span in downtown Savannah, Ga., it promises to be an impressively diverse and packed festival. With a lineup this dense, it’ll be difficult to decide which concerts to see. Here are a few suggestions of must-see acts in Savannah this March from CisternYard Radio’s own Geoffrey Gill and Phillip Greene, co-hosts of weekly radio show, Beside the Point

Geoffrey’s Top Picks

1. Lucy Dacus

 

Photo courtesy of BGBits.com.
Photo courtesy of BGBits.com.

Fresh off of her much-lauded debut full length “No Burden,” Lucy Dacus is a hometown favorite of mine. With a driving, bluesy style, Dacus is sure to give a lively show, showcasing her musicality as much as her lyrical witticism. Her career is certainly on the up-and-up, so if you’re in Savannah (or anywhere else on the tour), be sure not to miss this show.

Come to the show if you like: Courtney Barnett, Sharon Van Etten

 

2.No BS! Brass Band

 

Photo by PJ Sykes.
Photo by PJ Sykes.

Another Richmond favorite (I never said I was totally unbiased), this 11 piece brass ensemble brings one of the highest energy live shows I’ve ever seen, bringing a blend of hip-hop, blues, and jazz in tightly performed ensemble style. Their last major festival appearance, at the 2015 Eaux Claires Festival, earned them an MVP award, and you can expect nothing less from the group in Savannah.

Come to the show if you like: To dance. The music will cover all sorts of genres; just be sure to bring your dancing shoes so you can keep up with the high intensity brass arrangements. In all seriousness, though, their music is a lot like the Roots.

 

3. Your Friend

 

Photo courtesy of Consequence of Sound.
Photo courtesy of Consequence of Sound.

Taryn Blake Miller takes her spacey, guitar-driven music into dream-pop territory, with complex and shifting indie tunes. Her latest release, “Gumption,” brings to the table a focused version of her droning musical style and promises an entrancing show with rumbling synths and crooning harmonies crawling under otherwise simple songs. Your Friend’s music is enticing, mysterious, and expansive; I just wish this was one of the concerts at the festival taking place in a church.

Come to the show if you like: Sylvan Esso, Beach House

4. Christopher Paul Stelling

 

Photo courtesy of The Carousel.
Photo courtesy of The Carousel.

There are very few bands out right now that have honed their live show as much as Christopher Paul Stelling. Known for his prolific touring schedule almost as much as his precision fingerpicking on an incredibly beat-up guitar, Stelling’s latest release is a relentless folk record with plucky melodies augmenting lyrically complex and narrative vocals.

Come to the show if you like: The Tallest Man on Earth, Bob Dylan

 

5. Daniel Bachman

 

Photo courtesy of NPR.
Photo courtesy of NPR.

Self described as “psychedelic Appalachia”, Bachman brings what I think is the most original musical concept to the table out of any of the bands at the festival. Bachman puts a builds textural landscapes from acoustic bluegrass instrumentation, combining an ear for the avant-garde with classically trained bluegrass capability. The complexity of his music promises a creative and intriguing live show in Savannah.

Come to the show if you like: Punch Brothers, José González

 

Phillip’s Top Picks

1. SUSTO

 

Photo courtesy of Paradigm Agency.
Photo courtesy of Paradigm Agency.

In Latin America, the word “susto” means to “have a panic attack that stems from emotional trauma.” This may mislead you to believe that SUSTO (the band) would invoke the same reaction with their music. While Charlestonians are drawn to SUSTO for their specific anecdotes about their time in the city, their music transcends solely local appeal. These focused stories of their time in Charleston are used as a medium to openly discuss what it means to be a modern day “southerner.”

Justin Osbourne’s lead vocals are inflected with just enough southern twang to make you question if you are listening to country or indie rock, while preserving the integrity of SUSTO’s heartfelt sound. Johnny Delaware (Charleston’s favorite Avett Brothers doppleganger) supplies colorful guitar riffs and vocal harmonies which are augmented by his effervescent stage presence and fashion sense. SUSTO’s music will complement the aesthetic of Savannah. You can catch them at “Ships Of The Sea – North Garden” at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 12th.

2. PWR BTTM

 

Photo courtesy of Savannah Stopover.com.
Photo courtesy of Savannah Stopover.com.

PWR BTTM brings some polarity and potentially controversial music to Stopover. Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins are the badasses (no pun intended) that make up the self proclaimed “queer punk” duo. PWR chords and PWR-fully unapologetic lyrics about gender and sexuality will immediately captivate the audience. Bruce and Hopkins’ vocals are characterized by a quintessential “punk-rock” delivery. They trade off vocals in a way that sometimes feels colloquial, while seeming to bring up showering more than most bands do. The duo has nothing to hide. Their music is thematically and lyrically straightforward, despite the stigmatized content. PWR BTTM is a fitting name. By definition, a “power bottom” is one who seizes control of a (sexual) situation, even though they are in a submissive position. PWR BTTM does the same with their music. They will perform at Ampersand on Friday, March 10th at midnight.

3. Porches

 

Photo courtesy of Consequence of Sound.
Photo courtesy of Consequence of Sound.

Porches’ frontman Aaron Maine has broken out of his shell with the band’s most recent release, “Pool”. Prior to “Pool”, it seemed as though Maine was stuck somewhere between a moody “stomp and holler” sound and dream pop. With this new release, however, Maine has cleared up his musical vision by putting his folkier influences behind him. This has proven to be the right choice for Porches. Pitchfork Media recently awarded “Pool” with “best new music.” The album is one of only six records to make the cut so far this year, putting Porches among the likes of Kanye West and David Bowie. Maine’s emotionally driven vocals are complemented by his skillfully used falsetto, characteristic of his older releases. The difference is Maine’s masterful use of hypnotically melodious synth riffs paired with a crisper percussion sound, that echoes influences from chillwave (Washed Out immediately comes to mind). Porches will be playing at Trinity United Church, which will be a live space that will accommodate Porches’ sound- the natural reverb of a church should let the sound bloom. They will be playing on Saturday, March 11th at 10 p.m.

4. Hiss Golden Messenger

 

Photo courtesy of Billions.
Photo courtesy of Billions.

When you look at photographs of Hiss Golden Messenger, a.k.a. Michael Taylor, you can tell that he will deliver quality folk music because of his rugged countenance. It is apparent that Taylor has perfected his craft of storytelling through years of study and experience. Hiss Golden Messenger’s albums craft an intimate experience because of Taylor’s unique ability to sincerely deliver his story in a colloquial, yet musical, manner. Because of this, he has often been compared to folk legend Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Taylor relies on simplistic instrumentation to create his desired atmosphere. He delicately strums chords from his acoustic guitar, presumably giving a nod to his traditional folk influences. Taylor has the ability to captivate each individual of the audience, regardless of their walk in life, because he has the capacity to articulate his story. Hiss Golden Messenger will play at The Jinx on Friday, March 10th at 6:00 p.m.

5. Family and Friends

 

Photo courtesy of theinkwellonline.com.
Photo courtesy of theinkwellonline.com.

This seven piece folk-pop ensemble from Athens, Ga. brings infectiously positive energy to Stopover. After you have seen the group live, it is clear that their energetic performance is an effect of the camaraderie shared amongst the band, hence the name Family and Friends. This becomes obvious when you watch the drummers (yes, they have two percussionists) during a live performance. They face their drum kits towards one another and are in constant communication throughout the set, whether it be to make faces at each other, or toss drum sticks back and forth. Their positive energy and chamber-pop harmonies make them the perfect band to provide the soundtrack to usher in spring in Savannah. They will be playing at Trinity United Church at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, March 10th.

 

Listen to Geoffrey and Phillip’s show Beside the Point every Monday from 7-8 p.m., only on CisternYard Radio.

Geoffrey and Phillip will be reporting live from Savannah Stopover March 10-12! Follow CisternYard Radio on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram (@cy_radio) for live reports from the festival!

In case you missed it: Black History Month

In case you missed it, last month was February. And, once again, the year delivered a February filled with the longing for critters on Groundhog’s Day, relationship goals on Valentine’s Day, and spiritual commitments on Ash Wednesday. But lying underneath the blanket of these – and so many other – eventful holidays, one particular celebration cast a shadow over the entire month: Black History Month. Throughout the years, Black History Month has proven to be an event not solely for the 46 million of Blacks dwelling in the nation, but one that can be recognized and appreciated by many. And this year, with several highs and lows, Black History Month came under heavy criticism with the encouragement of relevant discussions on race issues still prevalent today – and even talks of suggesting that we get rid of the holiday all together (a thoughtful suggestion given by Fox commentator and “Clueless” star, Stacey Dash). This year, we saw that most thoughts, emotions and experiences typically confined within the Black community were spread out, permeating mainstream America in remarkable ways. And, while understandably, no event last month compares to the groundbreaking March on Washington or the Voting Rights Act, people are sure to be talking about Beyonce’s Superbowl performance and #MelaninMonroe for years to come. #GetWoke with some of these highlights:

#OscarsSoWhite continues

While controversy over Hollywood’s lack of diversity erupted in January, talk of the Academy Awards selective nominations stretched well into Black History Month. Feeling as though not enough people of color were recognized by the Oscars, notable actors, artists and performers such as Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee came forth, pledging to boycott the awards and urging Hollywood to open more opportunities to people of color onscreen and behind the scenes. The nomination scandal opened up conversations that not only pointed the finger at Hollywood bigwigs, but at the Black entertainment industry itself. For instance, Janet Hubert (the first Aunt Viv from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) disagreed with her fellow Black thespians, arguing that instead of caring about the Oscars and who they decide to nominate, more Blacks should appreciate and support minority-driven accolades such as the NAACP Image Awards – an event that unfortunately has seen a large decrease in Black participation over the years.

All of the uproar led the Academy to agree that a revamping is in order, planning to double the number of women and minority members by 2020.

And on the night of the extravaganza, all eyes were on Chris Rock, who relentlessly – yet comedically – addressed the uncomfortable racist elephant in room of White starlets throughout the night.

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(Gif courtesy of giphy.com)

Queen Bey gets into “Formation” and King Kendrick wins Grammy night

From telling the world that she likes her “negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils,” to admitting to carrying hot sauce in her bag, Beyonce reminded everyone that she is no one trick pony or simply an entertainer, but she just so happens to be a proud member of the Black community. But who knew that Beyonce stating the obvious (or rather, not obvious to some) would cause such an uproar?! Considering the references to police brutality, Hurricane Katrina and Black financial power in her “Formation” music video, it is said that Beyonce’s latest is also her most politically charged work to date. And naturally, the White community (not all) took offense to this new conspiracy that Beyonce produced a song that is not relatable to ALL of mankind. But, controversy was overshadowed by praise for the way she captured the essence of the Black experience, culture and life. And this praise for Queen Bey continued when she took to the field during Superbowl’s halftime show with dancers in afros and berets – an apparent nod to the Black Panther Movement from the 60s.

Formation has proven to be a hit musically, but has also hit home on several issues that swarm the Black community and capitalized on racial tensions in America today. Whether you find the lyrics to be offensive, or thought it inappropriate for Beyonce to bring the issue of race to a national stage such as the Superbowl, there is truly nothing wrong in unapologetically showcasing Black pride during a month when Black people should be most prideful of their background.

Less than a week after Beyonce’s “racial coming out,” Kendrick Lamar also reminded the world that he too was Black (wasn’t that obvious?) – or rather reminded the world of the Black experience here in America. Staging a theatrical performance at the 58th Grammy Awards,  Kendrick lit up the nationally televised event with an intense performance that evoked the chains of slavery and incarceration and condemned American injustice.

While Kendrick may have lost the biggest award of the night (Album of the Year), he did something far more important and significant by bringing forth his familiar brand of politically-based performance to one of the music industry’s most important celebrations. Kendrick’s performance made a statement, mirroring Black culture. For his fans – particularly the Black community – that is something that will stay with them forever. With artists such as Beyonce and Kendrick unapologetically displaying awareness and pride for their culture – their Blackness – they have exposed injustices, sparked responses to current events and encouraged a new sense of pride in the Black community. Who knew Black entertainers could do so much more than simply entertain?

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(Gif courtesy of giphy.com)

Jesse Owens and Nat turner biopic

Chronicling the life of Olympic gold medalist track and field star, Jesse Owens, the biopic “Race” hit theaters during Black history month. The film tells of how Owens faced racism at home, in the United States, and when abroad during his monumental career.

While many were eager to support a film on one of the world’s most greatest and historic athletes, lukewarm reviews noted that there is a certain difficulty in portraying the Black American experience of the pre-WWII era, and, because of this, the film fell short.

In similar cases, the story of the Nat Turner rebellion was also put on the big screen. “The Birth of a Nation” proved to be huge hit at the Sundance Film Festival, sparking a bidding war that ended with Fox Searchlight studio paying $17.5 million for rights to the film. It is also important to note that the film is directed, produced and written by Black actor Nate Parker. And Parker just so happens to be playing Mr. Turner himself in the film.  

With films such as these, it is a sign that Hollywood is casting a wider net, and more films about Black people will offer a broader view of American history. But the real test will come when the next season of nominations are announced. Will the Oscars be so White again?

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Twitter trends

By now, anyone logged into some form of social media should have seen the trends #blackgirlmagic, #beingablackgirlislit or #melaninonfleek. These hashtags are often accompanied with a range of photos from Black women (even celebrities) rocking natural hair, smiling Black families or simply a photo of a small child basking in the sunlight. But these trends have become more than just a hashtag on social media or captions for Instagram during Black History Month. Showing cultural appropriation who’s boss, these trends allow Blacks to pridefully deem dope, inspiring or mind-blowing about themselves. More importantly, these trends have illustrated the universal awesomeness of Black women and Black culture all together. In a time where Black women – or Black people in general – are seen as inferior in terms of beauty, intelligence or power, taking part in the hashtag movement proves that Black culture can and has reason to be celebrated.

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(Gif courtesy of giphy.com)

The Theatre and Music Departments team up for a classic: The Secret Garden

The lights illuminate spirits in blue 1900-era dresses and jackets swaying to the haunting melody of Laura Owen. She sings to the deceased Lily Craven, her conquering “oohs” setting the ghostly tone perfectly, as the living mixes with the dead in the play adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden. The play is directed by Evan Parry, with musical direction by David Templeton.

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The Secret Garden cast takes a group bow after the opening performance (Photo by Garrett Smith).

The theater and music departments combined to convey the story’s most important theme: healing.

Archibald Craven, played by Daniel Sokol, has been widowed by his beloved wife, Lily. Her singing haunts him nightly, and he limps through the halls searching for his late beloved. His niece Mary Lennox, played by Lindy Turner, also suffers losses when her parents and their staff all die unexpectedly. The two are brought together on such circumstances, and Mary moves from India to Archie’s estate in Yorkshire. In Yorkshire, Mary hears crying most nights, prompting her to roam the house. She sees spirits lingering in the halls, always watching over the living.

Mary brings light to the lonely Lennox manor in the same way young Turner lights up the stage. The fifth grader’s excellent British accent- which she even maintains while singing- mixed with her exuberance, bring the scenes to life, allowing the other actors to thrive off her energy. This is seen in Jonathan Ford, played by Dickon Sowerby. His antics in the garden while with Lennox are both upbeat and memorable.  

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Lindy Turner, the star of the show, poses for a picture after the Thursday night showing of The Secret Garden. Turner plays Mary Lennox. (Photo by Sydney Moreano)

Ben Weatherstaff, played by Chip Miller, works in the garden. Weatherstaff and Ford teach Mary how to garden, and end up letting her in on a little secret: her Aunt Lily’s old garden has been locked up for years. This prompts an adventure as Mary works to discover and fix her aunt’s former land. 

Youth seems to be the trend of the performance, as Lindy Turner is not the only adolescent stepping into a sizable role. The young Gavin Farewell plays Colin Craven, Archibald Craven’s sick and neglected son. The brightness of Turner’s character is what ultimately moves the plot along and brings Archie, Colin and all of the other characters at the estate, who truly are not letting themselves live and heal, back to life.

The actors playing the deceased sway back and forth, stand in picture frames and sing behind the live ones- representing a backdrop of those whom the living refuse to let go. This plays into the theme of healing, and the focus switches to the living relationships as the play progresses and the characters are forced to let go of their losses and heal. 

The Secret Garden is running until March 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Emmett Robinson Theater. Cost for students is $12. 

Lucy Dacus “No Burden” – An Album Review

In the first track of her debut album “No Burden,” Lucy Dacus tells the world “I don’t need to be the frontman” — however, it’s a hard role to avoid while heading up one of the most promising bands of the year. The Richmond, VA based folk rock singer-songwriter has been putting out high quality acoustic material for the past few years, but her first full length album takes her electric influences and runs with them.

“No Burden” is a driving, blues-tinged album, complete with simple, crunchy guitar riffs and mixed-down drums keeping the tempo going. This said, Dacus isn’t afraid to branch out into other styles, with the jazz chords and dreamy fade out of the track “Direct Address.” Her witty, narrative lyrical style brings up almost inevitable comparisons to fellow female songwriter Courtney Barnett, while her much more melodic vocal compositions and sweet, isolated leads elevate her music beyond Barnett’s simpler style.

The songwriting addresses the concerns of a new musician and young adult seeking to be taken seriously in her career and personal life without falling into the mournful and angsty tendencies that so often characterize other artists writing in the same vein. Dacus is able to let her lyrical prowess and musical integrity do the talking, while maintaining an upbeat, almost joking, tone at times to prevent the album from taking itself too seriously.

Proving her chops with growling blues tracks like “Troublemaker Doppelganger” as well as with the simple and pared down acoustic of “Trust,” Dacus shows her capability in a range of styles, taking her folk rock label to new heights. “Map on a Wall” is a particularly standout track, roaring to a crescendo led by pulsing guitars and Dacus’ powerful voice, before fading out with sparse vocals pleading for the music world to take her as seriously as the value of her music demands.

It is difficult to find many faults in this album, which combines stellar songwriting with diverse compositions and production value much higher than its recording over the course of a single day would suggest. The opening salvo of four consecutive fuzzy blues tracks shifts the pacing of the album towards the first half, but the production value and lyrical depth of the latter half certainly holds its own against the raw energy of the openers. “No Burden” presents a debut album with both lyrical and musical depth, and gives a stellar foundation to whatever direction her career turns from here.

Geoffrey Gill

Listen to Geoffrey’s show Beside the Point every Monday from 7-8 p.m., only on CisternYard Radio.

Geoffrey and his co-host, Phillip Greene, will be reporting live from Savannah Stopover March 10-12, where Lucy Dacus will be performing! Follow CisternYard Radio on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram (@cy_radio) for live reports from the festival!

Should you be a dance club DJ?: A conceptual flow chart

We have all been there: the kaleidoscope of lights, the music loud enough to puncture your eardrums, the drink flowing aplenty, but somehow you’re still sitting apathetically at the bar. With the scene set perfectly, how is it possible to not have fun? The answer comes down to one variable: the all-powerful DJ. They might be playing something like a country song or J. Cole and there’s not enough liquid vibe in the world to get you hype. Or worse, they might put on your favorite song and just as the first verse is ending and you are gaining momentum, they change it unexpectedly, leaving you to sulk back to the seats. Either way, I have compiled a comprehensive flow chart that tests the conceptual understanding of music to dance to that all DJs must grasp before they can give themselves the coveted title.

Dance Club DJ Flowchart
(Flow chart created by Bradley Harrison)

So, If you’re an aspiring/current Dance Club DJ, the things you should take away from this flow chart are simple:

Don’t change the song too quickly! Daft Punk teaches us to keep a consistent rhythm. We want to dance and we can’t dance if the beat keeps being switched. If you feel like people will get bored with a song before it is finished, maybe that song isn’t good enough to be played in the first place.

Daft Punk Performing (Photo courtesy of André Felipe on Flickr Creative Commons)
Daft Punk Performing (Photo courtesy of André Felipe on Flickr Creative Commons)

It’s okay to play old school classics! We all have those songs from our younger days that made us jump out of our beds and dance around the room. For me, these songs are any old school Lil Wayne, DMX or anything I mention in this article. Chances are, if we hear these songs in the club, they will have the same effect as they did when we first grew to love them. This is called nostalgic hype and is a useful tool in creating energy.

Awesome Lil Wayne Fireman Picture (Photo courtesy of iloveyou1972 on Flickr Creative Commons)
Awesome Lil Wayne Fireman Picture (Photo courtesy of iloveyou1972 on Flickr Creative Commons)

Play the super indie/niche dance music bands! The hype-est I ever got in a club was when LCD Soundsystem came on. When it happened, the friend I was with looked at me with wide eyes, awe and excitement and said, “I’ve been waiting my entire life to hear LCD Soundsystem in a bar.” Right after that the DJ played Grimes, which we had listened to in the car on the way there. It was glorious. If you play bands like these, chances are you’ll make a few people’s nights. Plus, even the people who don’t recognize it will be able to dance, because that’s why the music was made.

Grimes - Øyafestivalen 2013 (Photo courtesy of NRK P3 on Flickr Creative Commons)
Grimes – Øyafestivalen 2013 (Photo courtesy of NRK P3 on Flickr Creative Commons)

Finally, when in doubt… YEEZY (or “Hotline Bling“). Now go out there and command that club.

Kanye West - Øyafestivalen 2011 (Photo courtesy of NRK P3 on Flickr Creative Commons)
Kanye West – Øyafestivalen 2011 (Photo courtesy of NRK P3 on Flickr Creative Commons)

In case you missed it: The Grammy Awards

In case you missed it, the 58th annual Grammy Awards took place this week – and to be honest – if you did not tune in, you truly did not miss much. But, if you are lacking in your daily dose of pop culture, CisternYard has you covered. The show may have been a snooze-fest, but there were some token moments to be aware of.

Taylor Swift

It simply would not be an award show if Taylor Swift does not make the celebrations about her someway or somehow. Traditionally, Taylor filled the night with unapologetic dance moves, overreactions and warm embraces with her fellow industry “friends.” Opening the show with her latest single, “Out of the Woods,” (not to be confused with the musical), from the very first second of the Grammys, she made sure the world remembers that she is an official pop singer – complete with sparked jumpsuits and hairography. But Taylor delivered her best performance when accepting the award for album of the year. In her speech, without naming names, she smoothly took a dig at one of her former nemesis: Kanye West. Why? In his latest masterpiece, “The Life of Pablo,” Mr. West included the following lines in the song “Famous:” “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. I made that b***h famous.” Taylor chose the Grammys as her platform to respond with, “I want to say to all the young women out there, there are going to be people along the way, who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame.” She even noted that she is the first woman to win two album of the year awards. Truly, Taylor made feminists everywhere proud on Grammy night.  

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Tributes

Not a year goes by that the Grammys does not honor the greatest and most legendary artists who once took the music industry by storm. And, in doing so, the top artists of today step up and attempt to pay tribute to these greats. For Lionel Richie, who was named MusiCares person of the year at the Grammys, Luke Bryan, Demi Lovato, Tyrese Gibson, John Legend and Meghan Trainor combined their talents to perform Richie’s greatest hits. Richie even joined the star-studded ensemble in a memorable rendition of “All Night Long.” Secondly, honoring the iconic life of the late David Bowie, one of the night’s most anticipated performances was Lady Gaga. Stitching together a medley of Bowie classics, some critics argued the performance was a bit campy, but there is no denying that with the help of 3D graphics, knock-out costumes and Lady Gaga’s fearless attitude, the pop singer made the tribute worth watching.

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Adele

Adele, a vocal powerhouse who has often been compared to Amy Winehouse, Etta James and Whitney Houston, has never been criticized for a performance. But on the night of the Grammys, the singer’s runs and trills were uncharacteristically poor. Unfortunately, off-key instrumentals mixed with microphone issues flawed Adele’s performance, making her sound off-pitch and out of tune. Once the show was over, however, she took to Twitter to explain: “The piano mics fell on to the piano strings, that’s what the guitar sound was. It made it sound out of tune. Sh*t happens.” Indeed it does.

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Kendrick Lamar

Arguably the most intense moment of the night, Kendrick Lamar wowed the crowd with a fiery rendition of  “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright.” Moments before, he had lost the award for best song to Ed Sheeran, yet his performance produced more glory than a simple trophy. Challenging, honest, earnest, and more of political statement, Lamar yanked out some of the nation’s darkest history and issues and presented it on the Grammy stage. And considering that Beyonce payed homage to the Black Panther movement during the Super Bowl just a couple of weeks prior, the timing of both performances make sense. It is Black History Month, we are in the final months of Barack Obama’s presidency, and we are in the middle of a protest movement centered on Black lives. It is clear that Black artists are no longer content to keep their political views hidden.There is a new branding trend of unapologetic Black art, and we are finally entering a moment where Black artists do not necessarily have to sacrifice their careers to create and perform a meaningful statement. And despite the fact that Kendrick lost to Taylor Swift in the Album of the Year Category, everyone can attest that Kendrick certainly won the night.

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“Hamilton”

What seems like the first time in history, the Grammy for best musical theater album was televised. While viewers may have been unfamiliar with the nominations, after a mind-blowing performance, viewers understood what makes the the production of “Hamilton” so special and important. The hugely successful hip-hop musical retells 18th-century politics, and with a color-blind cast, portrays American history in a way like never before. The excited response on social media to the “Hamilton” preview was more evidence of how central Hip-hop is to musical culture, even if most top award winners do not reflect that. Want to see Hamilton for yourself? The soonest seats available are dated for 2018!

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What Kanye West really teaches us

“We on an ultralight beam. We on an ultralight beam. This is a God dream. This is everything.”

When a sensualist, in the purest sense of that word, glimpses the lights of the heavens and inhales a true salvation, we get an album like “The Life of Pablo.”

Kanye West is defined by his maximalism and sensuality, and the combination of the two hurts. Never before has the world witnessed someone with such a grand spotlight commit so many atrocities. From his assertion that Bill Cosby is innocent to his misogynist references to Taylor Swift, Kanye creates reasons to be disliked frequent enough to generate a steady flow of rage. He somehow takes everything personally while also completely disregarding everyone else. He is the most turbulent and controversial public figure ever. He’s liable to pop off at any moment and go on some baffling rant or make some strange assertion.

Just today I saw someone on Facebook saying they wish they could “spit on Kanye.” Another called him a twat.

If anyone else were to have a Kanye-scale meltdown – I’m talking a Kanye/Taylor Swift MTV Video Music Awards meltdown or a public confession of being $53 million in debt and asking Mark Zuckerberg for money meltdown – his or her career under the spotlight would quickly come to an end. So how does Kanye do it; how is he still around?

In his maximalist nature, he owns up to everything he does. In fact, he stands by his actions immutably. He is not afraid of making mistakes. In a world terrified of a tarnished past, Kanye West basks in his. However, he doesn’t bask boastfully. Instead he admits to his mistakes and understands that they define him just as much as his successes.

He uses these mistakes to make poignant, raw music. In “30 Hours,” he explains his jealousy, “It was my idea to have an open relationship. And now a n***a mad.” He talks us through his emotions, despite how imperfect they are. In “FML,” he opens up about being on Lexapro, and how he has episodes when he’s off of it. In that same song he sings, “Pour out my feelings, revealing the layers to my soul.” He acknowledges these imperfections, but also recognizes that they are only individual layers to his soul. These layers are a part of who he is, and no matter how ugly they can be, they are just as important as the pretty ones.

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(Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

But as easily as he acknowledges how important these ugly layers are to his soul, he is equally conflicted by them. On “Wolves,” he sings, “If your mama knew how you turned out, you too wild.” He shows that though he will always stand by what thinks and feels, he is also embarrassed about it. He is an extremely conflicted human. His soul is a rampage that torments him; he must assert himself, but he must also consider his late mother. When Kanye basks in this torment, it sounds like depression. But Kanye realizes that the depression is only a layer, and the last lines of that same song are, “Life is precious, we found out, we found out, we found out.”

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(Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

So what is it that leads Kanye to this conclusion that life is precious? What is it that we actually learn from him? Kanye teaches us forgiveness and acceptance. He shows us that it is ok to make mistakes. He shows us that outbursts, missteps and unruly behavior don’t negate love, they never negate love. Kanye finds forgiveness and acceptance in this love. In “Wolves,” he sings, “Cover Nori in lambs’ wool, we surrounded by the f*ckin’ wolves… Cover Saint in lambs’ wool, we surrounded by the f*ckin’ wolves.” Nori and Saint, his two children, are the embodiments of the love he has for his wife and his family. In covering them in lambs’ wool we see his repentance, and in that he finds his acceptance and redemption.

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(Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Kanye named his album “The Life of Pablo.” The album cover suggests we consider to which Pablo he is referring. Perhaps it is Picasso? That would make sense, because Kanye is as revolutionary and conflicted as the Spanish artist. Perhaps it is Escobar? That would also make sense, because Kanye is as boastful and prolific as the infamous drug lord. Perhaps it is a reference to both? After all, Kanye is an egregious mix of the two. But he’s also something more than that. He’s a pure sensualist. And though the comparisons to Picasso and Escobar would bolster his claims of being godlike, sensualists can never ignore their humanity, they can never escape their human nature. The most famous literary sensualist, Dmitri Karamazov, from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s  “The Brothers Karamazov,” exclaims,

“…I’m a Karamazov…when I fall into the abyss, I go straight into it, head down and heels up, and I’m even pleased that I’m falling in such a humiliating position, and for me I find it beautiful. And so in that very shame I suddenly begin a hymn. Let me be cursed, let me be base and vile, but let me also kiss the hem of that garment in which my God is clothed; let me be following the devil at the same time, but still I am also your son, Lord, and I love you, and I feel a joy without which the world cannot stand and be.” (Book III, Chapter 3)

This is the model for the sensualist, and this is the model that “The Life of Pablo” follows. On this album, Kanye is boastful, self indulgent and undeniably a genius. Those things liken him to Picasso and Escobar. But, more than anything else, he is human. He embodies the Karamazov sensualist, and the album stands out the most when he is “kissing the hem of that garment in which his God is clothed.” And when he worships, we find out who the true Pablo is. Pablo is a reference to Paul the apostle (which is Pablo in Spanish). Perhaps what Pablo the Apostle has to say to the church in Corinth reveals the humanity in which this album is rooted,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 14:4-8)

This is the love that Kanye finds in this album. He still falls straight into the abyss, head down and heels up, but this love gives him joy and redemption. Finally, in finding this love, Kanye is able to be free of himself, of his sensual passions, and exclaim to the world in the most weightless and joyful voice, “We on an ultralight beam. We on an ultralight beam. This is a God dream. This a God dream. This is everything. This is everything.” This ultralight beam is the “joy without which the world cannot stand and be.” This God dream is full of love, and love never fails, and this is everything.

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From the video game created by Kanye West “Only One.” (Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)
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(Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Can Barbie’s body change the world?

Growing up, one thing never too scarce in my home were Barbie dolls. Being an only child who was a little on the shy side, Barbie dolls were sisters, companions – and when my imagination ran wild –  students, patients and even clients in my make-believe beauty salon. My mother always made sure that my Barbies were equipped with all of life’s essentials: a two story mansion complete with real running water, three BMW Convertibles, a wardrobe fit for any fashionista and a stable man named Ken. Birthdays were always Barbie themed, bedroom decor dripped in pink and if anything wasn’t Barbie, then it was completely unacceptable. Yes, I considered myself a Barbie girl, simply living in a Barbie world.

But recently, my childhood staple has undergone some major changes – changes that many argue are for the better.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Even though Barbie may have been the biggest selling toy for young girls through the years, the doll always managed to be surrounded by controversy. Whether it be her unrealistic waistline or lack in career opportunities, the masses saw Barbie as an anti-feminist, teaching young girls all the wrong messages. But in their latest attempt to win the hearts of families back, Barbie’s manufacturer, Mattel, announced that a new line of inclusive dolls will soon dominate toy aisles. According to the company, #TheDollEvolves from the typical 6 foot, 100 pound blonde, and into a real woman with realistic features and proportions. But don’t panic! While Barbie will now have curvy, tall and petite figures, a variety of hair colors, eye colors and ethnicities – the standard white, thin, blonde and busty Barbie will still exist. But now, kids (and parents) have a more diverse set of options when choosing which doll to take home. For someone who has received an ample amount of criticism in her day, it indeed looks as though Barbie has finally caught up with the times and is making a change for the better.

But can a few cosmetic changes save society?

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

There is no denying that Barbie has contributed to the unrealistic “ideal body” image with which children have been brought up. However, the problem with this culture goes far beyond the doll’s body.

Generations of young children have played with, or have been exposed to, a doll that no human being could truly ever look like. But at the same time, they have been bombarded with unrealistic images of the female body through the media and through advertising, where most bodies have been adjusted through surgical manipulations or digital enhancements. We may underestimate the youth, but in reality, kids are living and breathing sponges. They mimic what they see, and they repeat what they hear. Blonde is sexier than brunette; light skin is more attractive than dark; blue eyes are more piercing than brown; skinny is more desirable than full-figured. When we pinch our stomachs, self-deprecate or even create social judgements based on skin color, we unknowingly feed children a narrative of norms, standards and ideals they consider to be true.

And you may wonder, how can a toy have this much power? Well, toys can teach and say a lot about reality.

During the past Christmas holiday, an intriguing YouTube video was brought to my attention. While it features two young girls opening Christmas gifts, it truly highlights that a toy is not simply a toy, but can hold powerful symbolic meanings in our society. And in this case, a rejected doll’s skin color may represent much larger and deeper issues that persist in the world.

I failed to mention that as a young girl, out of the hundreds of Barbies I owned, I could count on my hand the number of them that looked like myself. Granted, while there was no shortage of African American Barbie dolls, those who were on the market did not have the deep richness of my skin tone – and certainly did not rock kinky natural hair like me. Back then, I never questioned why my mother bought more White Barbies for me than Black, or why Barbie commercials always featured the flawless pale-skinned dolls. Barbies – White skin and thin – were accepted norms in my life, and I accepted this Barbie as the epitome of a beautiful woman. To me, she was beautiful, better and, as written earlier, anything else was completely unacceptable. This doll – this toy – had enough power to convince me of what beauty was and what it took to be the most popular, desirable girl in the world.

As trivial as it may seem, a toy such as Barbie can and has influenced the masses. And while I’ll be the first to congratulate Barbie on her effort to change, new introductions into the Barbie universe are not going to magically erase all the years of influence, self-loathing and obsession with bodily perfection to which Barbie and her tiny waist has contributed.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Mattel, and, more importantly, parents, must still take on the responsibility to teach children important life lessons. Barbie alone can not teach a child to be accepting of all people – no matter their physical appearance or orientation. Barbie alone can not teach a child that racism and sexism are still alive in the world. Barbie alone can not teach a child that women are not defined by their bodies. Barbie alone can not teach a child how to cultivate a healthy body image and be confident in your own skin. Barbie alone can not teach a child the importance of media literacy or being guarded against media’s manipulation attempts. Barbie alone can not teach a child that anything is possible when you set your mind to it.

To be clear, Barbie’s latest attempt is a step in the right direction when considering diversity and inclusion. Yes, the new Barbie fashionistas may expand children’s views of acceptable body images, but simply offering better doll role models for children won’t cut it. Kids need the guidance of adults to teach them the importance of true acceptance. And if that does not happen, skinny, blonde Barbie will always be the “pretty” one and this will forever remain a skin-deep society.  

 

This is what I think the best genre of music is. What about you?

As I downloaded ANTI this morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, with the first sounds of it, I was blown away. And I was blown away again and again with each following sound. And now, after three listens to the album, I’m able to come to the conclusion: Hip Hop (I’m including R&B in this definition of Hip Hop, which might make purists angry, but it makes sense to me) is probably the greatest genre of music.

It’s a bold claim, but I will stand sure-footedly by it. That’s not to say I haven’t had a rocky relationship with Hip Hop (genre puns ha). Talk to me a year ago, and “Umbrella” would have been the only Rihanna song I could name. But I’ve been through a lot to be able to get to make this claim. And, more importantly, I’ve finally collected enough personal anecdotes to write you a story about why I think this is the truth:

It all started somewhere in elementary school. I know what you’re thinking, “Damn, he’s going way back.” But bear with me. My dad was a basketball and P.E. coach at the time, and he liked to listen to upbeat music in the weight room and gym while training his teams. As fate would have it, I was around for a lot of those sessions. I remember very clearly when he bought the album And Then There Was X.”  Not only would he play that CD in the gym, but also in the car. He would always ask my brother and me, “What do y’all want to listen to?” and we would always yell, “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind!” To this day, I don’t think I’ve listened to a single song more than “Party Up.”

 

Flash forward to middle school. A guy on my basketball team knew how to burn CDs, which was all I needed. So naive me would pay him five dollars for the latest stuff that my parents didn’t know I was listening to. (Parents, here’s an amazing guide to what you should and shouldn’t let your kids listen to in regards to Hip Hop.) I distinctly remember listening to two CDs more than anything else. One was “Tha Carter,” mainly because my brother’s name is DJ and I thought he was really cool – so I thought the song “Go DJ” was also cool. I still know every word to “Go DJ.”

The other was “Urban Legend.” I mean, “Motivation” followed by “U Don’t Know Me” followed by “ASAP” might be one of the greatest one-two-three rap combos of all time. I remember being in the locker room with my dad’s varsity basketball team, watching them rap and dance along to “U Don’t Know Me” – and then going into my middle school basketball team’s locker room and emulating them. I like to think that made me pretty cool. (I still do this whenever I hear the song.) Also, “Bring Em Out” was on that CD. One of my favorite memories in life was when, my senior year of high school, before playing our biggest rival, my basketball team ran out of our locker room with “Bring Em Out” blasting alongside enormous applause. After hitting my fourth three pointer that night, not only was my shot on fire, but I was at the prime of my trash-talking game. When I hit that three, the other coach immediately called a time out and screamed at his team, “COMMUNICATE!!! YELL WHEN YOUR MAN IS SETTING A SCREEN FOR THE SHOOTER!” I looked at him and said, “Coach, it’s hard to yell when the barr-ells in ya mouth.” I said that to the other team’s coach.

Well, since I’m already talking about high school, here it is. By the time high school came around, all I listened to was Lil Wayne. And there was so much to listen to. I remember listening to “Lil Weezyana,” “Weezyaveli,” all the “Dedication” mixtapes and all the “Da Drought” mixtapes. I can probably recite everything he made in between “Tha Carter II” and “Tha Carter III.” In my mind, he was clearly the best rapper alive. I probably thought that because he always called himself that, but also because he was all I listened to. I’m not even sure why I listened to so much Lil Wayne. Maybe because he had new music come out so often that I didn’t have time to listen to anything else, or maybe because he’s all that was played in the locker room. Either way, I was content and having fun with it.

But then “Lollipop” came out. You know what I’m talking about. You remember. “Lolololololollipop,” that one. This one:

And then I became depressed. This song is so bad it depressed me. I had been waiting on “Tha Carter III” since “Tha Carter II,” and he gives us this? I was flustered. I was confused. But more than anything, I was depressed. I listened to Linkin Park’s first album way too many times, and I’m not proud of that. But it was because of Weezy. Lil Wayne let me down, and I spiraled way, way down.

I stopped listening to Hip Hop all together. I started listening to my parents’ music. It was a dark time filled with a lot of Pink Floyd and other bands you see on angsty kids’ t-shirts. I even wore some of those t-shirts. I went to a concert where the lead singer from The Who was performing – which actually is pretty awesome – but all he did was talk a whole bunch about how you shouldn’t do drugs. I just sat there and thought, “That’s not why I listen to your music?”

I think for a while I even listened to a lot of country. I’m so sorry to anyone who lived with me and had to put up with constant Eric Church for like a year. My musical high point during that time was when my roommate’s girlfriend told me I hit the high note perfectly in the song “Carolina.” That’s way less cool than quoting “Bring Em Out” to another team’s head coach after lighting them up. So help me God, right.

That stage lasted well into college, but finally, after a couple years, I was able to escape it. I guess I stopped listening to country because I got super into indie. Arctic Monkeys’ “AM” and Chvrches “The Bones of What You Believe” both slapped me in the face and woke me up. I will forever be indebted to those albums. I then started reading a lot of music websites and reviews to try and broaden my tastes.

This method got me out of that funk, after all I listen to a lot of stuff now. But at that point I was still disillusioned with Hip Hop because of what Lil Wayne turned into during/after “Tha Carter III.” I couldn’t bring myself to return to the genre after being betrayed. But, last year, something important happened. Killer Mike and El-P started getting rave reviews. I knew it was rap, but I gave it a listen, and it was electric. At that moment, I saw the door to the world of Hip Hop open once again.

The door to the world of Hip Hop opened for me, and I had a lot of catching up to do. I mean I had to rediscover Kanye and Drake. “Who is this Vince Stapes guy? Holy crap Frank Ocean is good!” I was overwhelmed with what was the most entertaining, dynamic, biting and aware music I had ever listened to. I still kept my broad tastes, but I consumed a lot of Hip Hop.

Just this week I listened to Kanye’s discography all the way through. I also listened to The Clipse’s second album “Hell Hath No Fury” and then Pusha T’s “Darkest Before Dawn.” I’m pretty sure half of the plays on “Real Friends” are from me, and at least one of the plays on the Erykah Badu remix.

And all that has led me to here and now. I’m listening to “Yamborghini High” just because I’ve already listened to “ANTI” four times today. And the culmination of it all moves me. I mean, my musical identity has changed an incredible amount. But also, it has come full circle. I’m enjoying more than ever the same kind of music upon which my youth was built. It’s the kind of music to which I’ve partied and built friendships. It has presented me with important social commentary. It has excited me, woken me up in the morning, inspired me to get things done and also inspired me to be creative. And maybe it won’t be my favorite kind of music forever, it probably won’t. But right now it gives me more than I can ever give it.

What I’m saying is, I’m glad I know what I think is the best. For me, its Hip Hop. What about you?

 

 

 

Tattoo Tuesday: The Razor and the Rose

Kids here in Charleston are itching to get inked. Sophomore Liam Hodges hit the tattoo parlor recently, scratching his itch for the ninth time.

“A lot of people say that, when you get your first tattoo, you either never get another one or go crazy and get addicted,” Hodges said. “I guess you could say I got a little addicted. I just like the physical manifestation of thought.”

His most recent tattoo is featured below.

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Located on upper left arm (Photo by Taylor Johnson)

“I thought about it, and thought about it. I’ve always found beauty in roses, and one of the most iconic American pieces is a rose. Rather than adding color, I decided to do it in black to kind of look at the immortalization of death,” Hodges said. “We look at death as something that’s feared or respected on either end of the spectrum, and I lean more toward respect. The straight razor was impulsive, but that was more a cry to American traditionalism.”

It is a simple, meaningful design, and Hodges’s only piece that includes a dash of color.

“People see, ‘Oh, it’s just a razor; it’s just a rose,’ but to me,” Hodges said, “it [means] something a little more brutal…a nice contrast between brutal artistry and simplistic elegance.”

Hodges has eight other tattoos, including a grenade on his ribs, a Celtic triskelion mandala on his chest (featured below), the words “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” adorning his shoulders and several more. All have been drawn by tattoo artists in Charleston.

A celtic triskelion mandala. (Photo by Taylor Johnson)
A celtic triskelion mandala (Photo by Taylor Johnson)

“I enjoy representing local artistry,” he said.

Students learn suffering, self-sufficiency

Do you know the struggle? Sources say it can be real. Across the United States, there is a group of people who know the interior of the struggle bus very well: college students.

Older generations like to reminisce about college as “the glory days” or “the best years” of their lives, and post-graduation life is notorious for being less fun and more responsibility than the “carefree” semesters of an undergrad. However, between working full or part-time jobs, classes, loans, homework, social lives, loans, down time, getting a few hours’ sleep, extracurricular activities and loans, today’s students find themselves under an immense amount of pressure. Some are fortunate enough to receive assistance from their parents or from scholarships – but many are not. Making ends meet can be especially difficult in hot spots like Charleston, where the average two-bedroom apartment costs up to $1435 in rent, according to trend data on RentJungle.com.

“I work a full time job, go to school and don’t live at home. My parents can’t afford to help,” EMT trainee Kayla Owens said. “My mom makes too much on paper for me to get financial aid, so it’s pay as I go out-of-pocket.”

Van Cauwenberghe's collection of used DVDs for reselling.
Van Cauwenberghe’s collection of used DVDs for reselling. (Photo courtesy of Van Cauwenberghe)

Plenty of students have monthly payments on tuition or loans, alongside rent, utilities, food and other basic necessities including clothes, gas, insurance and unexpected expenses.

“I’m working 47 hours a week to pay my bills and get through school,” Owens said. “And the thought passes through my mind every day, ‘You just can’t afford it, you need to find something else or drop to part-time schooling.’ It’s next to impossible to keep up.”

Sophomore Isaiah Glenn can relate. “I find that I have to work two jobs for every one semester that I go to school,” Glenn said. “It is true that there are scholarships out there to help people with low incomes, but I was dangerously sick the last couple months of my senior year in high school and most of my freshman in college, which hurt my grades horrifically, so a scholarship is kind of out of my reach at the moment.”

Students like Owens and Glenn show that even working overtime or getting tips does not make budgeting any easier in the current economic state of America. The Economic Policy Institute found in a recent report that “minimum wage workers make far below the average cost of living in over 600 metropolitan areas.” If students are spending 30 or 40 hours a week at work, how does that affect their academic lives, participation in campus clubs and activities, and ability to complete internships that provide experience and opportunities?

Alumni Katie Babb said, “If the minimum wage were higher, students could get away with working fewer hours and have more time to devote to internships, academics, clubs and really get the full college experience. I loved College of Charleston, but sometimes I felt like work kept me from really immersing myself in campus life, and you really only get that chance once in a lifetime.”

A couple students not covered by their parents’ health care plans express concern over affordable health insurance.

“The problem I run into the most is not having the income to qualify for most things, such as insurance, a new apartment, credit banking or even a new car,” Glenn said. “Then there is the issue, after budgeting heavily and saving for college, bills and food, [of having] nothing left to pay for healthcare.”

On the bright side, not all students have such a hard time supporting themselves. Some find creative ways around getting a regular serving or retail gig. Junior Justin Sabree co-owns Charleston Party Pros, a limo service. Sabree said he usually manages to make good grades despite time spent in his office or promoting his business.

“I started my first business from the ground up in 2011, but I currently have a limo company which I started in late December 2014,” Sabree said. “I’m very persistent. If I’m not going to school, I’m handling business transactions for the company or riding around in the limo promoting. Good thing about being a business owner is I make my own hours.”

Senior Johan Van Cauwenberghe also built his own business buying goods from consignment shops around Charleston and reselling them online: “I’ve refined my process to maximize my profit potential. That’s become profitable enough to support an entire apartment and a part-time employee.”

Sabree nonetheless notes that his fellow students do not always possess the entrepreneurial skills needed to create businesses and escape menial jobs. Van Cauwenberghe, who was born in Belgium, has some thoughts on U.S. education policies.

“I think if [the United States] spent less on things like defense and more on education,” Van Cauwenberghe said, “we’d be in better shape academically. I think we could take notes from many other countries in the world on that. A smarter population leads to better growth and better GDP.”

Indeed, in most European countries, tuition is free or subsidized, and countries such as Denmark even provide living stipends called “State Education Support” to resident students, according to the Study In Denmark website. Meanwhile, in the United States: “Yeah, If I wasn’t in the situation I’m in right now, school and work, the two would be very hard,” Sabree said. “You have to go to work to provide for any extra activities you want to do, and schoolwork is hard to do by itself. It’s very challenging. I am somewhat on that level, but not compared to other students that have to do that.”

Sophomore Matthew K. firmly believes in the benefits of the workforce, but has no comment on whether the minimum wage should be raised.

“You should learn what it means to work for yourself. It builds character,” K. said. “You have to deal with things that you don’t come across in school, real life problems [that have] no written-down solution. [You’re] talking to people, not just professors or students.”

It remains a fact that aside from loans with high interest rates, there is little assistance for the American college student. If the American dream is to bring oneself up by the bootstraps, the working poor of this country’s colleges and universities are living it out. And with a minimal to medium amount of crying to boot.

What makes “ANTI” so special?

In Shea Serrano’s book, “The Rap Year Book,” he applauds Rakim, the inventor of modern flow. “He was an orator, and he was so utterly skilled that he was able to rap in this supreme way without spreading his personality all over the track, which is what people who weren’t even talented enough to do what he was doing were unable to avoid when they came along later.” (Here he notes: Jay Z, Nas, Biggie, Wu-Tang, so on.) This is huge – an incredible observation by Serrano. What he’s saying is, one of the guys who started this whole thing did it in a way completely different than we have ever seen before or after. I mean, look at some of the names he lists that couldn’t do it like Rakim: Jay, Nas and Biggie. Those guys are the ones who created the Hip Hop star persona. But Shea is more accurate in this observation than he knows. Not only was Rakim legendary for doing what he did, but what made those other guys such super stars was the fact that they did, indeed, “spill their personalities all over the track.”

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Shea Serrano (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Flash forward to music as we know it today, and the biggest stars are the ones who “spill their personalities all over the track.” What I mean by this phrase is that when we hear the voices of these larger-than-life artists on a song, the entire way we listen changes. Usually, when we experience art, we are taking what the artist does, says or has created, and applying it to our own lives. We try to feel what was felt when the art was created, and if we are able to do so, it makes the art striking and worthwhile. The humanity in the shared experience of connecting with a piece of art is an incredibly beautiful thing, and it is why art is such a huge part of our lives as humans.

But sometimes, art is delivered by a superstar. And this is what causes the change in the way we experience it. See, we tend to know a lot about these superstars’ lives. And, more than that, they offer us their souls through their work. But most of the time, these superstars are so far away from us in every aspect of life that there is no way we could hope to connect. So why do we listen? Because they are interesting enough to make us want to listen.

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(Photo courtesy of Instagram)

Look at the two biggest superstars in music right now: (1.) Kanye, (2.) Drake. I mean, do any of us expect to ever pay a cousin $250,000 to get back a laptop they stole because we were doing explicit acts to women on it? Do any of us ever expect to be able to send a text that says, “Stay the night, valet your car, come f**k me now?” I mean, that would be hella awesome. And I definitely aspire to that, as we all should. But even if I did get to that point, and even if Drake hadn’t said that in a song, it would still be a really Drake thing to say. What I mean is, their styles are ridiculously prominent. Their personalities are all over everything they do.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

And that is what makes “ANTI” so special. In between her last album, released in 2012, and now, Rihanna has created a persona that has propelled her into this rung of superstars. I mean, when I hear, “This whiskey got me feelin’ pretty,” I know what she’s talking about. But my first impression upon hearing that line wasn’t, “Rihanna gets me.” It was, “I wonder if Rihanna is thinking about Leo in this song?” When I heard “Desperado,” my first impression was, “Rihanna must be listening to a good bit of Young Thug (he is the future).” And after that it was something like, “Damn, Rihanna has an incredible presence in this song. Tarantino needs to cast her in a muthaf*gg*n western (*Samuel L. voice*).”

Side note: I once knew a guy from Barbados (Rihanna’s homeland.) His dreadlocks were awesome. He drove a blacked out luxury sports car – which was also awesome. I went on a night out with him and some of his posse once and it was ridiculous. I bought us all a round of drinks and he looked at me with such respect. That was awesome, too. Then, when the club was getting really slow, he moved over to the window to watch the line of people waiting to get in. After conversing with one of his posse for a couple minutes, he let us know that it was time to leave. He proceeded to go up to one of the guys standing in line, convince him that the club was dead, and told him to follow us to his car. When we got to his car, he told me to be on the lookout and carried out a transaction out of his trunk. That guy definitely paid a lot of money for what he bought. From there, we left and he took me to this empty house in the middle of town. I’m still not sure if he owned the place. He said, “Wanna see something cool?” Then he took me to a closet where he pulled out some boards from the ceiling and produced an assault rifle with a bayonet. A freaking bayonet. After that, him and his friend rolled up and offered me some. I was honestly kind of terrified at that point so I declined, saying I had a drug test for a job coming up soon. He was super cool about it. (P.S. Police, if you are reading, none of that is true.)

When I listen to “Desperado” I think about this story. It was the most gangsta’ night of my life. But I still get the feel that Rihanna has been there, done that a million nights before and a million times more gangsta’. Have you seen this video?

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

And that just emphasizes her presence on the album. She can make me think back on one of the most memorable nights in my life, and then make me think it’s nothing compared to what she’s done (in a good way?). Even with the group of love songs at the end of the album, her presence is unreal. I never immediately thought of how relatable they are, which is the kind of feeling love songs usually render, but rather of how she doesn’t sing on them, she bleeds on them. “I bet she could never make you cry, ’cause the scars on your heart are still mine.” Is there a more Rihanna thing to say?

And even beyond her superstar solidifying presence, this is also a ridiculously exciting album. “Consideration” is the kind of opening song that when the album ends, and loops back to the beginning, it has such a captivating sound that you have no choice but to start the album again. Drake is on this album, too, and we barely even notice itShe has a song with Travis Scott on the hook, and all he says is “Woo, WooOoo” in falsetto … and it is captivating. Rihanna did a Tame Impala cover (a song off of my #2 album from last year, by the way), and it is one of my favorites. She even did a doo-wop reminiscent song with “Love on the Brain” and the sound has never sounded like that.

A lot of articles I’ve read about the album say that it’s an all-out affront to pop music. And that would make sense, I mean the title is “ANTI.” But that’s not even what’s important about it. When you listen to this album, you don’t think, “Man, this song is going to kill the radio.” You think, “I’m close to Rihanna,” and that’s what makes ANTI so special.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

New Year, New YOU

It seems like everyone in the world has the same New Years Resolution: to exercise more, become “thin” and eat healthier. Starting New Year’s Day, the gym is packed and every treadmill is full; but this trend seems to stop around the second week of January. An extremely important concept we tend to overlook is moderation. Instead of binge working out for two weeks and then stopping, you should make a plan that will allow you to reach your goals of becoming healthy and happy!

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(Photo courtesy of healthcoachpenny.com)

We tend to focus too much on ourselves and how skinny we are or aren’t, and in reality being skinny shouldn’t be our main focus. As students we need to be healthy and happy in order to succeed. And while body image and confidence are an important part of who we are, it is imperative to keep in mind that no one is perfect, and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.

 

I mentioned this earlier, but one of the most important concepts to grasp in life is moderation. It doesn’t do us any justice to go crazy and fail at keeping a specific regimen. Instead, ease your way into a healthier lifestyle, and allow for some “cheating” here and there. This is where my first tip comes in, make healthy choices and start your day off right with breakfast. Whether you grab a Kind Bar on your way out, or have oatmeal  – you want to start your day with protein so that you’ll have the energy to get through classes and homework. I know – it’s hard to find time to eat when it seems like you barely have enough time to complete your work. But, taking a break for a snack, or snacking while you work will only help increase your focus and will also give you an energy boost. Almonds are one of the best snacks for helping you concentrate; they have tons of protein, giving you not only a boost in energy, but they also help repair brain cells!

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(Photo courtesy of mindandtummy.com)

Being healthy has so many more benefits than helping you slim down- and wait – there’s a surprise! The healthier you are, chances are the better you will feel – especially about the way you look. Eating healthy gives us the energy we need to get through our toughest days, keeps our immune systems strong, and keeps us looking good.

As college students, we are tired, hungry and stressed all of the time, so it’s extremely important that we workout and eat well so that we can decrease these ill side effects and succeed with academics. One of the best stress relievers is working out. Whether you go for a run, walk, take a yoga class or bike, I can guarantee that you will be able to clear your mind and feel refreshed after your workout. Exercising gives you a break from schoolwork, allows you to focus on yourself, and clears your mind – all while getting fit!

Here are some local exercise classes and gyms to keep you sane, happy and healthy in 2016!

College of Charleston Fitness Center- The new gym under CCA Apartments  is free of cost, and provides so many opportunities for workout newbies. There are so many different cardio machines that allow those who hate to run to get in an enjoyable cardio workout! Not to mention you can pay $40 for a semester to have an unlimited access to various fitness classes there.

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(Photo courtesy of cofc.openoffcampus.com)

Raising the  Barre- If you like bar method or pure barre, but are on a tight budget, this is perfect for you! Right now, Raising the Barre on East Bay Street is offering 3 barre classes for $15. If you’re looking to change it up or try something new, this is the perfect opportunity!

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(Photo courtesy of groupon.com)

Charleston Power Yoga – Gives students 20% discount, provides a challenging, refreshing workout that relieves stress and sends you off into a better place mentally than when you walked in the door. Every Wednesday afternoon, CPY opens up their doors at 2:30 p.m. for a FREE yoga class!

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(Photo courtesy fitreserve.com)

Pure Barre- Located on Market Street, offers various class times per day, making it easy to fit into your schedule. Leave feeling accomplished and ready to tackle any obstacle that comes your way

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(Photo courtesy of purebarre.com)

Crossfit Discovery- Crossfit is one of the most trending workout regimens today, it is known to bring athletes to their breaking point and aids in mental and physical strength.