Monday, April 15, 2013


To anyone still reading, I'd like to send out my condolences to anyone involved in the bombings today. It is a horrific event, and it warms my heart to see the sheer number of people who have reached out to those in need, whether it be with information or the number of people who physically helped out around the blast sites. Remember to stay informed, as events such as this tend to cause panic and confusion. The best we can do is to offer support to those who need it at this moment, and take in the details as they come. Speculation only breeds further panic.

Major news networks are covering live on television, as well as up-to-date coverage online. At least in the Kalamazoo area, MLive is doing a wonderful job covering the event for Kalamazoo participants, and the Facebook group for check-ins can be found here.

All my love and thoughts to anyone touched by this tragedy,


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

New Things!

Hey y'all, so I'm taking another journalism class this quarter that examines the art of narrative journalism specifically. I shall be writing an additional blog for this class which can be found here. If you're interested in reading it, feel free to check it out! It should update roughly weekly. I will be doing my best to continue updating this blog as well, but it will probably be at a much slower pace until around June. Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Process Writing (Just a Short Reflection)

I guess when it comes to the writing of the pieces this quarter, I’m not really sure what to say. For the vast majority of the articles, it was really just a process of viewing the event, taking notes, reading the chapter in the book, and then sitting down and, well, writing. I can say that I especially enjoyed doing both the music event and book reviews, as I love both forms of art. I was pretty neutral on film and theater reviews, and the only one that I did not particularly enjoy was the art exhibit review. Part of it is the fact that I’m really picky about visual art, and the other part was that I quite honestly did not really know much about the technical aspects of it, and the book did not help terribly much. Other than that, it was just a matter of figuring out ordering of information and word choice as I wrote, which I more-or-less did on the fly. I think the most difficult part of writing was figuring out how I should structure the piece.

I have particularly enjoyed the final project. I think the most enjoyable aspect of that was doing the research into it. It allowed me to read a bunch of articles on the subject of sexism in video games in order to both learn new things and to gather information for the article itself. It was just fun to do. The writing itself progressed pretty smoothly, all things considered. I ended up just sort-of rattling the draft off, and once we did the in-class workshopping (which was immensely helpful), it was just a matter of changing things around and normal edits. I don’t necessarily know if I would call it challenging, but it was time consuming. However, it was fun, so it made it seem like not too much work, really. Overall, I would not call the articles difficult, but I would call some challenging, depending on the knowledge base going into it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sorry, Mario, but Your Princess is in Another Castle

At the dawn of video game design, there was no story; from Pacman to Asteroids to Pong, the burgeoning field of entertainment focused solely simplistic play and plot. However, as technology and the art form developed, the need for a plot-driven narrative arose in order to captivate audiences and to give them incentive to play through their games. The motivation to save a princess, the so-called “damsel in distress,” became a driving trope, among others such as hyper-sexualized physical depictions, behind female representation in video games, creating a lack of strongly written realistic portrayal of femininity that stretches even to today. 
No sexism here!

 Perhaps the most classic and most recognizable example would be of the Mario franchise. You have Mario, the burly (if diminutive) plumber, as he ventures through the mythical Mushroom Kingdom to save the forever imprisoned Princess Peach. This is the sole motivation that drives the player through almost every title in the franchise. The same can be said of other titles in the same era. In the Legend of Zelda franchise, the player (Link) must battle the forces of evil to save Princess Zelda. Dragon’s Lair (1983) has Dirk the Daring face off against the evil denizens of the evil wizard Mordroc’s castle and Singe the dragon in order to rescue the Princess Daphne. In Double Dragon (1987), fighters Billy and Jimmy crush hordes of generic thugs to find their mutual love interest, Marian (the epilogue actually pits the two against each other for her favor).  Unfortunately, the trend continues even to today.

Long has this trope been employed in stories, even prompting Russian scholar Vladimir Propp to categorize the “princess or prize” as one of the seven iconic character archetypes in all storytelling. However, through the turn of the 20th Century to the modern day, feminist movements to redefine female portrayal in the media have all but failed, as the trend is only just starting to be broken, especially in games.

In a 2012 study conducted by Electric Entertainment Design and Research, referred to as EEDAR, concluded that in “a sample of 669 games that had protagonists with discernable genders, only 24 had exclusively female protagonists.” This included games that gave the player options to choose gender in a character creation. That said, the woman continues to be the object of desire or weak, as opposed to an empowered protagonist in a mire of hyper-masculinized leads.
This is generally what happens.

In Resident Evil 4 (2005), the President’s daughter, Ashley (of course in sweater and miniskirt), must be saved from the parasite-ridden Ganados. She is largely absent for the first half of the game, whereas the latter portion is comprised of an extended escort mission, protecting her from the hordes of enemies as she does little but hide. The developers of the most recent Tomb Raider reboot designed the character around the idea that male players would want to protect her. If the character isn’t created as an object or to the point of  being defenseless, she is sexualized to the point of absurdity, which brings these unrealistic portrayals full circle from social to physical issues.

If the female character is not kidnapped, then she is most likely physically capable, but she may have Barbie-like proportions or at least a skimpy outfit. The most infamous example of this, in addition to the probable origin of this trope, is the development of the Lara Croft from the original Tomb Raider. In the initial creation of the character, designer Toby Gard desired to depict a more realistic female body, but accidentally increased the breast size to 150%, which the rest of the design team argued to keep. This set the standard for myriads of other female character designs.

Fighting games are quite probably the worst offenders in this type of sexist portrayal. The Mortal Kombat franchise features characters like Sonya Blade in short-shorts and a tank top, in addition to many other skimpy outfits that reveal lithe figures and large busts rather than features that might befit anyone who routinely has to fist-fight to the death. Soul Calibur is another huge offender, especially in the case of Ivy, whose breasts are so large, it is hard to think that she could comfortably walk, let alone fight. Her outfit is another issue entirely. It is difficult to even call a singlet given how much skin it shows, especially in comparison to the fully-clothed and sometimes armored men.

Who wouldn't want to fight in that?

While the depiction of women historically has been absurd in games, there has been a refreshing trend of change recently. The Mass Effect trilogy not only allows for the choice between a male and female protagonist, both are equal amounts of badass, trouncing aliens and generally being the most un-killable death machines in the galaxy regardless of gender. It should also be mentioned that the proportions of Lara Croft in the reboot have been altered back to a somewhat believable state (it seems like that entire franchise is bogged down with these issues). Many writers are calling out this entire travesty in outrage, which is thankfully holding the industry responsible and putting on the pressure for change.

Now men and women can rock the steely gaze and armor that makes sense.

 While this change is long-coming and a slow process, a start is a start. Many facets of character design are mired in this concept of sexist depiction, and so it must be an industry-wide revolution. Video games, as a medium, are still young, though, so even though it is necessary that these changes be made, the fact that is starting to occur quickly in comparison to other media is wonderful. Video game companies are finally being held accountable for their actions thanks to critics, and so, while it is only just starting to emerge, hopefully more games will provide a more realistic approach towards women in their scope. The historic record of women in video games is atrocious, but up-and-coming titles will have to fight this trend in order to give women a fighting chance in the traditionally sexist and patriarchal world of video game narratives and design.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

From Fact to Fiction: "The Submission"

In the subsequent years of post-9/11 America, it is perhaps too easy to point out that so-called “Islamophobia” that followed was rampant and fueled by a myriad of inflammatory sources. Amy Waldman’s The Submission takes this simple premise with a hypothetical scenario, and she runs with it, seamlessly blending politics, media, and, most importantly, public opinion in an attempt to illustrate the complexities of race and religious politics.

The city of New York is faced with building a memorial to the terrorist attack, and it is left to a panel of jurors to decide the winning design. However, when the final pick is revealed to be Mohammad Khan, the city is faced with its most vitriolic war of rights since the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Given the historical context, it could happen. It is in Waldman’s “show, not tell” approach that takes her first novel above self-righteous high thought, demonstrating the complexity of every issue through dynamic character interactions.

It is the characters themselves that make the novel a compelling read. Each one is uniquely written, as if Waldman brought her interviewing experience as a reporter in force; each character, however minor, is his/her own being, which pounds the premise of individuality in the novel home. Waldman also uses her powerful command of the English language in every sentence, guiding the reader smoothly through every encounter and every description.  

However, this only works up to a point. As tensions increase over the course of the novel, Waldman results to using a one-by-one public account of each potential issue of using Khan’s design. Although it was probably meant to give the illusion of depth in the fictional trial, it ended up feeling cheap and contrived. The other large hole was the character Alyssa Spier, the journalist. The media did play a large shape in public opinion, but Spier’s presence generally resulted in an article by her that plodded the plot along if things got slow. Everyone loves a little drama, but it grew tiresome astoundingly fast.

Even with the occasional stumble, Waldman pulls off a thought-provoking tale on one of the most controversial topics of the last decade. The novel flows organically in most cases, with the occasional Spier appearance to push things along at the speed of plot. Waldman’s first foray into fiction proves to be a success, even if it is slow at times.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sexist Portrayals of Women in Video Games

In the larger work that is yet to come, I shall be examining the portrayals of women in video games in the last decade or so. There has been a very outspoken protest against these portrayals within the last two-to-three years, specifically with physical depictions as well as the role that women play in these games.

Included in this will be examinations of a selection of games that have been deemed sexist (soon to come) and a selection that potentially addresses the issues that have been raised (also soon to come). Like television and film, there is a large issue with the presentation of women, but the larger concern is that in video games, developers quite literally have the control to prevent at least the objectification issues in addition to the writing of women in these games.

Sources will include the games themselves, ones that I have played in order to give a fair critique, as well as other critical essays on the topic, news articles, and any digital media that I can include online, both photo and video.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The 2013 Academy Awards

The 85th annual Academy Awards proved to be a night of laughter with more one-liners than meaningful statements. Host Seth Macfarlane casually strode the line between “somewhat offensive” and “Holy crap. He actually said that?” throughout the night, from the ode to female frontal nudity, “We Saw Your Boobs,” to his quip to 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis that it would be “16 years before [she] was too old for George Clooney.”

Minus the awards, the show itself was surreal. William Shatner (in classic Captain Kirk garb) demeaned Macfarlane from a giant television screen, Daniel Radcliffe, Macfarlane, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed a song-and-dance number of “High Hopes,” and Jennifer Lawrence fell up the stairs on the way to her award for Best Leading Actress (she handled it with much grace).

Besides the absurdity that ran amok throughout the presentations, it was a huge year for the Oscars. Life of Pi won in four out of the eleven categories it was nominated for, and in the acting categories there was stiff competition among the nominees. Daniel Day-Lewis took the Best Leading Actor award for his stellar performance in Lincoln, while Jennifer Lawrence (as I mentioned) won Best Leading Actress, edging out Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Naomi Watts (The Impossible), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), and Emmanuelle Riva (Amour).

Perhaps the most incredible contest of them all was the award for Best Film. Among those nominated were Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty. All of the films have been met with critical acclaim, and so the winner was a toss-up. However, Ben Affleck received his first win since Good Will Hunting in addition to producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney taking part in the acceptance for Best Film.

The night was also full of musical performances that were all over the map. Adele’s performance of “Skyfall” (which won Best Original Song) was poorly mixed, as she was frequently drowned out by the band. On the other hand, Barbra Streisand’s performance of “The Way We Were” for the recently deceased Marvin Hamlisch was incredibly touching.

The night also marked the 50th anniversary of the Bond films, and to celebrate that, they put together a somewhat forgettable montage of Bond clips with a soundtrack mix, and afterward Shirley Bassey gave an underwhelming and quite flat performance of “Goldfinger.”

The Oscars had its laughs, and it was certainly entertaining to watch, but there were few moments during the program that had any amount of substance.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Artist as Critic

Oscar Wilde's The Critic as Artist poses a myriad of questions about the nature of critique and the role it plays in relation to the medium which it portrays. Among his answers between the fictional Ernest and Gilbert is the fact that the primary role of the critic is to function as the interpreter of art; His aim is to "chronicle his own impressions."

The question of the critic's relation to the art has also been raised, though. Wilde argues that the critic "occupies the same relation to the work of art that he criticises as the artist does to the visible world of form and colour, or the unseen world of passion and of thought." It is in this statement that Wilde further validates his own composition of the piece.

No stranger to the art of writing, Wilde draws up his conclusions on critique as a man who has been continually exposed to the craft. Although he concludes that the critic is indeed as much of an artist as the medium which he interprets, he must also have a relation to said form, as this provides him with the means to understand it.

It is in this that the beauty of the piece comes forth: the meta-critical nature of Wilde's analysis, in which he provides his thesis through the fictional dialogue of Ernest and Gilbert, is informed and validated through Wilde's own experiences as a writer. It is his personal artistry that completes the critique on critique itself.

In relation to other forms of arts journalism, the same holds true. In order to interpret a piece of art, a level of experience and connection needs to be present. It is this same relation that informs the critic on that art, enough so to convey his feelings for it.

Just as Oscar Wilde uses his connection to prose to write about critique, the critic must be an artist in that field to translate the beauty that flows onto the page.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back to the Roots: SSX 2012

After recently picking up SSX (2012), I was brought back to a time in my youth spent on a myriad of arcade-style sports games: the Tony Hawk franchise, NFL Blitz, of course, the original SSX, and many others.

What struck me after playing the game was that the era of these games had died starting with the new millennium.

But why? While there necessarily wasn't a terrible amount of substance to these games, they were just plain old fun. No plot, no driving force to get you through the game, but it was made up for by the fact that you could just sit and play. There's just something about having free reign (over the gameplay and often the laws of physics) in your gaming experience.

It was refreshing to see these traits return in EA's first release in the series in five years. Absurdly large courses, often spanning the face of entire mountains, bring longevity and unlimited creative potential in how to approach each event. Races and trick-contests return, and with the newest release, EA mixed it up with the newest Survival mode.

This mode pits the rider against Mother Nature's "deadliest descents," facing obstacles such as cliffs, subzero temperatures, pitch-black caves, and low oxygen levels. Each descent is modeled after real-world mountains based on data taken from NASA.

Story-wise, there's not much to speak of, but of course it is an arcade-style title. It's your run-of-the-mill competition, but, hey, who's playing for the story, anyway?

The gameplay is where it truly shines, hearkening back to earlier titles in the series. Gravity-defying tricks create the sense of dominating the mountain while still maintaining lighthearted fun for all. This, accompanied by another superb soundtrack by EA, spanning electronica, rap, and dubstep, matches beats and remixes perfectly with landings, tricks, and the classic "tricky" mode thanks to their "Harmony" mixing software.

The game features 159 total drops, although many are just different modes of play, and many also converge near the bottom, creating the illusion of track diversity. That said, there are a few gems among the crowd, integrating train-wrecks, slope-side houses, mines, crashed planes, and more in order to create a unique run each time.

While it isn't perfect, SSX is a nostalgic blast-to-the-past, and it projects a promising future for the franchise.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pauline Kael: The (Wo)man Behind the Myth

Pauline Kael was a woman of many words. They were often very harsh words. However, this is what made her the loved (and often hated) critic that she was. During her many years of film critique, it was her sense of independence and style that made her into the legend that she has become.

In her interviews with Francis Davis for the book Afterglow, Kael revealed that she was often accused of writing about “everything but the movie itself.” Even though she included many personal anecdotes and tangents in her reviews, she did so with conviction. It was her lack of apologies for doing so that made her works into art as a critic.

In Oscar Wild’s The Critic as Artist, he frames the critic as interpreter; he believes that “the highest criticism […] is more creative than creation, and the primary aim of the critic is to see the object as in itself it really is not.” Here is where Kael shines. While her opinions of film were sometimes in complete contrast to popular opinion, it is her creative drive that keeps the reader coming.

From Disney’s The Little Mermaid to Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade, Kael reviewed it all. She did not shy away from any film genre, and she made it clear that she loved every minute of it. By the tone of her review, she even made it clear that she preferred Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything starring John Cusack to the aforementioned films, hailing and praising the work of the actors and screenwriting, while she only enjoyed the chemistry between Sean Connery and Harrison Ford in the traditional classic, The Last Crusade.

It is in this sometimes scathing pan that Kael finds her greatest weakness. Although she was a bastion of independent thought, it does beg the question on who the critique serves. While her sense of style, wit, and descriptions provide a pleasant and entertaining read, it is hard to judge whether or not her reviews mesh with the average moviegoer.

It is indeed laudable that Kael is able to demonstrate her idiosyncratic critique abilities, but her extreme love and passion for film creates a void between her and the reader. It may goad the reader into viewing the film, if only from her masterful use of language and storytelling, but her opinions on the films are extreme in almost all cases, and this drives a barrier between in taste. Kael is a domineering writer to be sure, but her prose may be just that: prose, instead of a critique for the everyman. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Let's Play!

In the realm of video game journalism, the trend of “Let’s Play” narratives have picked up within the last year and a half. While it is debatable that they function as true “journalism,” LP’s, as they are commonly referred to, are a generally informative means of judging the content of a game, as well as gaining insight into others’ reactions to said game.

For those who do not know what an LP is, it is basically a chronicled playing of a game. It is done in two formats: a written narrative accompanied by screenshots, or a video of the gameplay accompanied by audio commentary of the player. 

Unfortunately, due to the nature of an LP, it is certain that the plot will eventually be spoiled to the reader. However, many written LP’s refrain from giving away future events in the game, instead letting the reader find out as they go. 

Instead of functioning as a traditional arts critique, the narratives give a more raw representation of what one might expect from playing that game. Especially in the video area of presentation, where inflection and surprise reactions can be displayed, it shows the viewer firsthand what that particular player experienced.

This has its drawbacks, as it does give away plot as it progresses, but it serves another purpose that traditional video game journalism does not. While reviews give the reader a basic summary of what they would expect from buying and playing a game, LP’s provide a much more visceral and unmasked sense of going through each game. 

In addition to this, many LP’s are rife with humor, as the player interjects his own thoughts on what takes place during his/her experience. Whether this be their screaming at terrifying parts or just plain amusement at bugs or other occurrences, it is usually a pretty accurate perception of what the game experience is like.

While the plot giveaway is detrimental to traditional journalism, it can also function in a positive way to those who do not have access to the game, especially in foreign titles. Many LP-ers will translate foreign dialogue as they go along, providing viewers with the means to access content that they would not normally be able to. 

The “Let’s Play Archive” claims that the first LP came about in 2006, but it has only picked up in popularity within the last year-and-a-half, mostly due to the accessibility and ease of video commentary. Many written LP’s are truly an endeavor to read through, as they cover the entirety of the game, including dialogue, screenshots, and commentary. Depending on the speed of the reader, this can make it a much longer experience as compared to the video format, which provides information in real-time. 

Either way, it is a very interesting trend that has picked up in popularity, and while it may not function as proper journalism, it is an insightful practice that can provide those with limited access to the game a similar experience, or at the very least, an opinion of what they could expect. 

Whether or not this trend continues is hard to predict, but the sheer entertainment value alone should help it stay around for quite a while.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Local Treasures: Art of Kalamazoo

Diversity is the claim that the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts goes for in their exhibit “Local Treasures of Kalamazoo,” and they manage to have it in spades.

The showcase is centered on pieces of all shapes and sizes that are taken from 30 private art collections in the Kalamazoo area. A placard in the entrance to the exhibit “recognizes –and applauds— those who make fine works of art part of their everyday lives.”

This menagerie of fine arts ranged from lithographs to bronze sculptures, an assortment as varied as their origin. These works hail from twenty countries and span roughly two centuries of visual arts.

Surprisingly, there were works from famous artists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir (“Louis Valtat”),  René Magritte (“Untitled,” lithograph portrait), and Henri Privat-Livemont (“Absinthe Robette”). This further served to demonstrate the depth of art in the Kalamazoo community.

There was a no-photography policy in the rooms, so no pictures of the actual exhibit can be shown.
Interestingly enough, even in the presence of this policy, there were only two members of the institution to provide security, and they intermittently wandered the two exhibits on the floor, leaving many pieces unwatched.

 Arrangements of the works were mostly done by time period, and there were a few groupings by country of origin. Stylistically, it was hard to discern whether or not they were placed in an otherwise strategic manner. In addition to this, it should be pointed out that I have limited expertise in the visual arts.

However, even if there is little knowledge of the pieces themselves, the art presence in Kalamazoo is impressive enough. The variance in styles, time periods, and ethnicities of visual art further exemplifies the KIA-proclaimed point of the exhibit: to reflect upon “the range and diversity of local collections.” Even for a two-room exhibit, this display of Kalamazoo culture truly is a local treasure.

“Treasures from Kalamazoo Collections” is open until February 17, 2013 at the KIA. The institute is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00am-5:00pm, and Sundays from 12:00pm-5:00pm. Admission for adults is $5, students with ID for $2, and KIA members, youth under 12, school groups, and active military personnel gain admission for free.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure critiques

Both the Western Herald and the Kalamazoo Gazette have given mostly positive reviews to the Civic Theatre’s presentation of Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. However, the differences between the two articles are vast.

In the reviews, the authors give a nod towards the various behind-the-scenes activities of the production, including lighting, directing, casting, and props, but the article from the Herald acknowledged the depths of the production more so than the Gazette.

Interestingly enough, the vast majority of the Herald review was plot summary. Although the aim was probably to give the viewer an accurate representation of what they should expect from the play, it turned out to be rife with spoilers, essentially spelling out the entirety of the production. It was quite interesting, though, that even with this intensive summary, the article still managed to include the background information and critiques of the different aspects of the play.

On the other hand, the Gazette article managed to give an introduction to the play without spoiling it for the audience. Both argued for the casting of the various actors/actresses, in that they all were fantastic for their parts (the Gazette also acknowledged that Marin Heinritz was a theater reviewer for them, which was professional of them).

It was odd, however, that Mark Wedel of the Gazette remarked that he had an issue hearing the dialogue of the play. He did jokingly mention that he may need “one of those cheap hearing aids pitched on late night TV,” but he did advise viewers to sit close to the stage. It wasn’t an issue that I ran into in my experience of the play, but I did sit relatively close to the stage. The un-microphoned  performance may indeed not be suited for a venue like the Civic Theatre.

Both articles argue their points well, providing adequate evidence for their claims. Stylistically, I preferred the Gazette article, as the transitions and flow of the piece made it very pleasant to read. The Herald’s article, however, seemed somewhat disjointed, and it was potentially to do with the large amount of plot summary.

Otherwise, I have no real complaints about either piece. The author of the Herald article began his last paragraph with “overall,” which is a pet peeve of mine, but I believe that both gave a somewhat accurate representation of what a viewer would expect from seeing the show, even if the Gazette did it a little more eloquently.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

"And now we have what everyone was waiting for, and yet no one was aware of."

“Our guitar player is gonna teach our bass player this song. One minute interlude,” said tenor sax-playing, shuffle-dancing, aviator bespectacled front man Aaron Stinson after inviting audience member Jimmy Stone onstage.

The rest of the band started a huddle in the back of the stage while Stinson walked up to the front and started playing the Jeopardy song. Patrons of the Union Cabaret waited in silence, not sure what to expect. Stone calmly walked up to the microphone, gave the band a cue, and launched into the iconic hook of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On,” as the members of the crowd burst out into stunned laughter and applause.
It was so good that it had to have been rehearsed, but it was all spontaneous. 

This was the vibe that the All-American Funk Parade gave off during their show on February 2nd: one of pure fun(k), energy, and silliness.

Their set-list was marvelously constructed. Their first set was comprised of instrumental originals that meshed nicely with dinner, and as the night wore on, the band complemented the evening like a nice three-course meal. They launched into their covers of well-known pop songs such as Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Nelly’s “Hot in Here.”

Other gems of the night included a somewhat surprising rendition of “Hava Nagila,” to which Stinson dedicated to “all [his] Jewish friends.” About halfway through the song, however, Stinson perfectly transitioned to the Sir Mix-a-Lot classic, “Baby Got Back.” It was moments like these that made the show perfect, and the audience went increasingly wild with each seemingly spontaneous absurdity.

While the band is based out of Lansing, an amazing number of people showed up to support the band, and they did not disappoint. After performing R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” Stinson announced to the crowd, “I still have the dream of becoming a Space Jam cover band. It would take a group of extremely disciplined musicians,” to which everyone hollered. Before heading into the next piece, he added,” Which we’re not.”

It is moments like these that make the All-American Funk Parade a fantastic group to see live, and they provided the energy all throughout the night to keep the crowd going. The pure wit and musicianship that they displayed makes them a must-see band. It was a laugh-a-minute show, and they made sure it was a great time for both them and the audience.

                              Parade performing "Leave a Nickle on the Nightstand" at the Union

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hey, local people.

It may be a shameless plug, but hey, it's arts, and it's informal. 

Anyways, Asylum Lake Magazine, a local Kalamazoo publication, is going through a restructuring, and they're looking at the college crowd for submissions!

What sort of submissions, you ask? 

Well, there are all sorts of things that you could submit. It could be art, prose, poetry, music articles, and any journalism you would like to do in the arts. 

While they won’t be taking submissions for a little bit, it’s always good to have a way to get your work out there, and this is a great way to start. Currently, there are the aforementioned sections, and they are currently working out on finding a staff editor for LGBTQA writing.

If anyone is interested in writing about music, you’re more than welcome to contact me at If anyone is interested in an editor position, you can talk to Zac Clark, whose email is

It would be great to see anyone’s work featured in the magazine, and it’s another easy route to publishing.

The magazine’s contact email is if you’re interested in pursuing this any farther, or you could talk to either myself or Zac Clark in person if you’re on K’s campus.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

From Riches to Rags

          “Nothing makes me happy these days. I’ll be happy when I can find a solution to this.”

            For a documentary that chronicles the lavish lifestyle of Westgate Resort owner David Siegel and his family, Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles provides an emotionally turbulent journey through the rise and fall of the timeshare magnate.

            While it claims to be a documentation of Versailles, the largest single-family home in the United States, it reaches much deeper than that. It examines the effect of economic recession on every aspect of life, and therein lies its true success.

            The film focuses on one of the richest families in the United States; their tale touches a poignant chord that affects anyone who has had financial struggles. Family life is hit the hardest, and Greenfield’s masterpiece portrays the universality of the point hard.

            It is hard to decide whether to sympathize for or despise the Siegel family, but that is part of what makes the film so wonderful. The level of opulence the family displays is sickening, but Greenfield still manages to depict every argument and strife in a manner that everyone can relate to.

            The soundtrack, composed by Jeff Beal, is marvelous, and it covers every range of emotions from elation to futility seamlessly. His compositions blend effortlessly with the fall of Versailles, and in turn the fall of the Siegel family.

            The combination of Beal’s soundtrack with vignettes of economic despair truly represent the seemingly unattainable American Dream after the 2008 economic collapse, which is what makes this film a success.

            Unfortunately, watching the film is sometimes painful to sit through, whether it be from viewing the absurdly lush living of the family or seeing the pain felt by those around him, like from Virginia Nebab, one of their nannies.

            “I need to go home,” she says, revealing that she hasn’t returned to her native Philippines in eleven years. She left her family there, including her now fully-grown children and recently-deceased father.  The same conditions that left the Siegel family with a crumbling empire and home have left her almost destitute.

            In the end, it is hard to decide how to react to the Siegel family themselves. Greenfield portrays them in an unabashed light, and she manages to create an enthralling chronicle that nonetheless appeals to all walks of life. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Crowd-Funding Instead of Crowd-Surfing?

There comes a time when every child must split away from their parents in order to go out into the world on their own. They need to see the sights, spread their wings, and -- wait, when did that ever cost THAT much?

When the moment arrives to actually pay for things themselves, it's a huge shock.  Unfortunately, the same holds true for the recording industry, and that's where the record companies come in to cover the cost.

Source: New York Daily News

However, the progressive metalcore band Protest The Hero has decided to take things into their own hands.

Using the crowd-funding site IndieGoGo, the band aims to fund their fourth full-length album in addition to providing perks for donations above a certain dollar amount.

These perks start at ten dollars, which provides the benefactor with a digital download, and can range from a pizza party with the band to having them cover a song of your choosing.

In addition to this, they provide their budget for creating the album at the bottom of the page, plus anything they spend on the perks, so that anyone who donates gets exactly what they're spending the money on.

At the time of this post, the band has almost reached double of their requested amount, and the band has specified that the money will be used to create their best album yet. They wrote that part of their goal in this was to "prove that making a top notch record comes at a price."

This could mark a slow change in the way the music industry runs, especially with the split from a record company after a 13-year run with them. Only time will tell.

Monday, January 14, 2013

An Irrelevant Look to the Golden Globes

Welcome to the Golden Globes, where everything is made-up and the awards don't matter.

Well, maybe Quentin does.
Ha! You thought we were going to talk about the Golden Globes?
No one cares about the Golden Globes.
Onto our real article.

Ben Brantley’s theatre review of “Picnic” by William Inge oozes style and panache.

But that’s really all that he oozes. Giving the reader a five-paragraph long description of a walking, hairless torso, perfectly chiseled as if it were a mobile “marble statue” is sure to tickle jollies, though we wanted something more than just the waist up.

Mr. Brantley wrote his biography backwards, if that says anything. Oh, and he is also single.

Brantley admits that “objectification is a major theme of ‘Picnic,’” which excuses his own ogling (he also pays dues to lead actress Maggie Grace’s “exquisitely shaped pair of legs” and her “not-so-bad face” if we are to be fair), however his analysis is only skin-deep.

Though dropping to slightly more serious tone to address the sexual themes of the play in the latter half of the article, highlighting “the role of prettiness as both a burden and an aspiration” as a major undertone to the play, it seems that his own ‘but’ only addresses the chemistry of the actors in the play.

Who is just ogling now, Brantley?

Co-written by Zac Clark and Jon Husar

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Shock and Awe in a Theater Near You

Zero Dark Thirty

            A black screen with the words, “September 11, 2001” opens the film, and silence fills the theater for a few seconds. Sound bites, all of them recorded 911 calls, layer over each other as callers incredulously express that two planes have struck the Twin Towers. The frenzied noise draws to a climax as one final clip begins playing. This one is of a woman trapped in the World Trade Center. As it plays out her final moments, it leaves the stunned operator to only say, “Oh my God.”

            These last moments set the tone for the entirety of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, a spy thriller that chronicles the hunt for Osama Bin Laden from September 11, 2001 to Bin Laden’s death on May 2, 2011.

            Although the film examines the darker side of United States involvement in the Middle East, exploring issues such as CIA torture techniques and other war atrocities, it still manages to be a gripping thriller. Leading actress Jessica Chastain gives a cold-as-steel performance as CIA agent Maya, the driving force behind the investigation that culminated in the death of Bin Laden.

            It is perhaps her characterization that helps propel the film into such greatness, exploring her roles in both the interrogation room in addition to multiple attempts on her life. It is in the moments in which she does break down that truly spotlight her fantastic acting ability, transitioning from ice-cold agent to a broken human being after witnessing the deaths of multiple coworkers and friends over the course of her career.

            It is an extraordinarily well-made film, sporting wonderful cinematography, pacing, and actors. Even so, no work addressing topics such as these are without controversy. The torture scenes that take place in the first 45-or-so minutes of the film are extremely graphic and present the practice as effective and even key in the Bin Laden investigation. This has led to multiple allegations of the film taking a pro-torture stance.

            However, the gritty and gruesome scenes were necessary to tell the whole tale. Bigelow looked to tell the entire story of the chase, even if it included the CIA torture practices. The film itself was physically stressful to sit through, but it was captivating the entire way. For a film that addresses one of the most controversial manhunts in American history, Bigelow hit the mark with a film that both shocks and awes.