Archive for September, 2010


Commercials are Porridge

Before I begin, let me state publicly that I know how important advertising is to our economy. If you’re trying to attract business, you have to attract crowds — the larger the better, of course; hence, why advertisements are crammed on every open wall and website across this fair nation of ours. We’re a capitalist nation. I get that.

But does anyone else find it the least bit insulting how mind-numbing commercials are these days? Let me be the first to admit that I am not materialistic by nature; I don’t look to commercials to be told what I want.

All the same, I find it difficult to see how people can overlook the constant spew of demographic-seeking, controversy-censored porridge that all our most memorable advertisements slop in the bowl for us.  That people are actually inspired to go buy these products is often beyond me.

I’ll admit it.  The Geico commercials amused me for awhile.  The Emerald Nuts puns of yesteryear were entertaining while they lasted.  But on a different level, I acknowledge that for what it’s worth, these are little more than crafty 20-second salesmen, only as sincere as their white polished smiles.

Padma Lakshmi for Hardee's

All latent stereotypes, overused jokes, and inexplicable celebrity references aside, advertising is supposed to sell a product for what it is. I have no qualms with straightforward, boring commercials that tell consumers up front what so-and-so’s services/products are and why they are better. At least they are honest.

No, it’s the sexy, curvy stereotype holding the hamburger (think Hardee’s), the dumbed-down joke that I’ve heard in five different movies (think cheap beer), the constant correlation between any product and being cool (think pretty much anything), that really bugs me. It bugs me because these ads affect people on levels beneath what they see on their screen, makes them associate material goods with self esteem. And the worst part of it is that all these ploys work so well.

– Tim Freer

Cut Copy

Lollapalooza music festival. August 7th, 2010.  Grant Park, Chicago.  Sears tower and other skyscrapers line the outskirts of the park, but inside is a different vibe — grungy hippies, college students, older couples, and even babies equipped with earplugs.

7:30 p.m.  It’s getting dark but you can still see the congested crowd on the pavement — some sitting in a circle smoking cigarettes, some taking swigs of their vodka handles, some hyping themselves up — but all waiting for Cut Copy.

Cut Copy is from Melbourne, Australia, drawing its influence from the 80s, with most of their songs considered to be “synthpop.”  My favorite album is In Ghost Colours because there’s a good variety on the disc — upbeat, electronic-type songs that you can’t help but dance to, and some slower songs with beats still powerful enough to make you move.  The video I posted, a song called “Hearts on Fire,” is a good mixture of both.  It has some suspenseful build-ups and then eruptive beats that unleash your inner dance moves.

I couldn’t have asked for a better crowd during Cut Copy’s performance at Lollapalooza this past summer.  Everyone jumped in sync to the songs, calmed down during the build-ups, and then went crazy when the beat started again. Front man Dan Whitford, dressed in a silk button down shirt and dress pants, got the crowd going by dancing across the stage and lifting his arms up.  The lights synchronized to the beat and mirrored the crowd’s movements.  Just look at the YouTube video and you can see the excitement that spanned across the crowd standing in front of the PlayStation stage.

For a full hour, I danced and mouthed the words to Cut Copy songs as the sun set and darkness settled over Grant Park, brightening the light show that added to the performance.

Cut Copy is releasing a new album due in January that is yet to be titled.  In the past, Cut Copy has gotten inspiration for its albums from a lot of acid house era, post-rave indie music, but this new album seems to incorporate a different type of sound. In an interview with Pitchfork, Dan Whitford said that he “had this idea of getting a choir and some strings to add an extra dimension to some songs.”

Go check out the single they released from their new album called “Where I’m Going.”  It has a Beatles feel and is a lot different from other songs of theirs, such as “Saturday” and most of the tracks off of In Ghost Colours.

Lollapalooza only reinforced my love for Cut Copy and their versatile music.  When I listen to their songs I can literally just feel the beat acting as a ventriloquist for my dance moves — I can’t help but dance. Watching the crowd around me in Grant Park just solidified my belief that Cut Copy’s music does the same thing for many others.

My top 5 Cut Copy songs are “Saturday”, “Hearts on Fire”, “Lights and Music”, “Out there on the Ice”, and “Time Stands Still”.  Whether you’re walking to class, trying to get a party started, or dancing in front of the mirror, Cut Copy is the perfect remedy for those who just want to dance.

– Sarah Diedrick

Trust the process

Project 365 is a year-long blog series about being a senior at Carolina, going through the senior bucket list, job search, applying to graduate school and just life in general, told in countdown form.

Good morning, Seniors.  In the spirit of Health and Wellness, I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss the seemingly stressful journey that we have in front of us.  The next 7 ½ months are going to be some of the most exciting and simultaneously terrifying months of some of our lives. But one of my professors gave my class the best advice.  Trust the process.  Sure, we were talking about the writing process but you know what?  It seems to be pretty relevant advice.

Trust the process.

Trust the Process.

Trust the Process.

When I graduate, I might not have a job.  A lot of us won’t, and that’s okay.  It’s the reality we live in and we need to prepare ourselves that we might be the (gulp, I hate using this word) victims of the economic recession.  So what can we do? Trust the process.  Trust that things will work out eventually for the best, even if they aren’t working out now. The recession won’t last forever and eventually the job market will rebound.

Here’s the thing: we have enough to stress out about as seniors because while the job market is on the back of our minds, we still have exams, projects, papers, homework… not to mention, countless extracurricular activities.  Don’t ruin the fun with stress.

According to WebMD, stress can lead to:

  • Heart Disease
  • Headaches
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Decreased sexual performance
  • Weight gain
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Mood swings
  • Shaking

Really… who wants all that?  And it’s true, stress is a part of life and no matter what happens, there will always be something to stress about.  So what can we do to deal with stress? WebMD suggests:

  • Avoid sources of stress
  • Exercise regularly
  • Engage in problem solving
  • Take responsibility for situations
  • Lower your expectations and accept that there are some things out of your control.
  • Have supportive friends.
  • Learn relaxation techniques (I love yoga at the SRC, personally)

So let’s not stress this year.  Let’s continue on with our lives, work hard, and trust the process.  Good luck everyone!

Countdown to Graduation: 222 Days!!!

– Samantha Ryan

It’s 2 a.m. and you’re on the 6th floor of Davis Library, chugging Red Bulls and cramming for the test and presentation you have tomorrow – or is it today?

This scenario is a common one on campus.  With midterms and papers fast approaching, many students are nearing the breaking point.  At this point in the semester, it’s easy to become completely consumed by stress, which can affect your eating habits, exercise routine, sleeping patterns and mental health.  In times of stress, it’s important to stay calm, focused and optimistic. But have no fear – there are countless easy ways to relax and unwind.

Exercise

Working out is a great way to let off steam.  Do yoga in the quiet of your dorm room, go for a run around campus or participate in a group exercise class like Zumba or Cardio Pump. You’ll be able to briefly take your mind off of the things causing you stress while also doing something productive and healthy.  The endorphins exercise releases are known to improve mood, too.

Drink something

I’m not talking about alcoholic beverages.  Enjoying a warm drink on a chilly day can be a soothing treat. If possible, escape from the library for a few moments to clear your head and refuel.  Hot chocolate, lattes and green tea are just a few options.  I never feel calmer than when drinking coffee and people-watching in the Pit.

Forest Theatre

Spending time outside is a wonderful way to alleviate stress.  Fresh air and sunshine will make any bad day seem better. Whether walking through Coker Arboretum, sunbathing in Polk Place or sitting outside of the Daily Grind, stress will seem to drift away with the autumn breeze.

Sleep

Although we tend to get by on much less, it’s crucial that college students sleep for at least seven or eight hours per night.  Being well rested has been shown to improve cognitive functioning and academic performance.  Getting enough sleep is also necessary in that it helps to stabilize mood.  For example, sleep deprivation has been linked to depression.  It’s almost always better to study a little less if it means you can sleep a little more.

Take a break

If you’ve been studying for hours and think you will spontaneously combust if forced to read another sentence, it’s probably time for a study break.  Grab a healthy snack, watch a few minutes of TV or play a game. Sudoku and crossword puzzles are my personal favorites, but any other entertaining game or puzzle will suffice.  Just be careful your five-minute break doesn’t turn into an hour-long YouTube or Facebook session.

Listen to soothing music

Turn on your favorite channel on Pandora.com or go to stereomood.com, a website at which you can pick a playlist that corresponds to an emotion you’re feeling. Make a list of go-to songs in times of intense stress.  Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and tune into the sound of the music.  When I’m a bundle of nerves, I listen to “Breathe Me” by Sia in order to release tension.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by stress, but that doesn’t have to be the case.  If balancing academic pressure, extracurricular responsibilities and a social life is about to give you a mental breakdown, step back for a moment.  Do something that makes you feel calm, whether that may be walking around campus, reading a novel or listening to a favorite song. Before you know it, midterms will be over.

And then you can worry about finals.

– Georgia Cavanaugh

Chicken and Leek Soup

Senior Anne Kreuser is spending her fall semester studying abroad in London and working at a PR firm.

I’ve left my squishy queen sized bed behind.  I’ve forgotten about the way the crisp, autumn air makes Polk Place smell on a morning walk to class. I’ve turned in the familiar for an exciting semester studying and interning abroad in London.  And after being here for only a week, I’m missing all that is home in North Carolina.  A venture to the expansive Borough Market under the London Bridge brought me home with a bag full of groceries, and I ran to the one place that will always make me feel at home: the kitchen.

Here’s a recipe that reminds me of my mom’s home cooking, and is easy enough to whip up in about 30 minutes.  Make sure to have some reusable containers handy; the longer this soup sits, the better it tastes!

Chicken soup with leeks and potatoes

2 chicken breasts with bone and skin
4 leeks, cleaned and sliced
5 yukon gold potatoes, cut in half inch cubes
1 carrot, chopped
1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 quarts of chicken stock
1/4 c. of crème fraiche or heavy cream
2 T. olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Slather the chicken with  1 T. oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a 350° oven for about 25 minutes, or until the juices run clear.  When cooked, remove the meat from bones and discard skin. Chop into bite sized chunks.

Fill a pot with cold water and add potatoes.  Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, place remaining oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Saute onions and carrots for about 5 minutes, until softened.  Add garlic and leeks and season generously.  Sautee until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add chicken stock and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add chicken and potatoes.  By this point, the leaves of the thyme should have separated from the woody stems– remove them.  At this stage, you can transfer to reusable containers or right to a bowl.

Just before serving, stir in a dollop of crème fraiche or heavy cream to add richness.  Pair with a slice of crusty bread to mop up the goodness, and you’ll be transported back to home in no time!

For vegetarians: Simply nix the chicken and substitute vegetable stock.  For a more filling soup, consider adding egg noodles or cous cous.

– Anne Kreuser

Here I am, blogging again for the first time in eight months, and already it’s clear to see that it will be different this time around. Before anything else, I would like to get something off my chest: this blog will decidedly have NO direction, and I have NO idea how well I can write in this style, for this setting. Whew, okay, that was easier than I thought…

Now that the pressure is off, and I can feel comfortable with failure, I’ll share with you the reason for my uncertainty. Though I’ve done a lot of writing in my day and even had a blog once, I haven’t written like this before. I wrote for the DTH as a columnist, which is somewhat similar, and I’ve written a couple of novels, which is not at all.

The one time I blogged, I was in Europe and writing about my travels. Man, was that easy. The hardest part of writing that blog was not finding material to write about, but rather chopping a book’s worth of travel experience up into a few 400-word segments. I often had to pick and choose just the very best parts to do my trip any justice at all.

Alas, today I find myself in a different position. No longer do I have an indefinite pool of inspiration to draw from; I’ll have to rely on my wits and my instincts to find topics that readers find worthwhile. At the moment, I’m considering such categories as: philosophy, politics, world culture, environmental science, popular media, psychology, and random pet peeves. Ambitious, I know.

Admittedly, I am new at this. But before you write me off quicker than I myself can, remember well the wise words of Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”  True, I don’t know what form this wet clay of creativity lying in my hands will take; but if I have learned anything in my many years as a writer, it is to trust your instincts blindly and then learn as you go.

Don’t know what to expect from me? Honestly, neither do I. For one thing, I am weird.  I don’t expect any of you to share my views or my opinions, but I will exercise my right to express them here.  I do have a wide range of interests and I’m very curious by nature.  I am brimming with random ideas that may or may not make sense—I’ll let you be the judge. Either way, rest assured that I’ll do my best to make for an interesting and entertaining read.

Despite my uncertainties, I am very much looking forward to writing this blog, and I hope you will enjoy it as well.

– Tim Freer

Project 365 is a year-long blog series about being a senior at Carolina, going through the senior bucket list, job search, applying to graduate school and just life in general, told in countdown form.

Welcome back to Carolina, Class of 2011. I hope you all had a wonderful summer and now it’s time to take on our senior year.  Walking around campus the first Tuesday of the semester was very surreal.  Of course I had classes to go to and of course this first day of class was like any other first day of class, except I had a strange feeling because as much as I didn’t want to let myself think about it, this is the last time I’ll be doing the whole first day back after summer thing.  But along with the repressed ache at the knowledge that this is ending, I was also feeling quite bold.  Hey, I’m a senior!  I’m invincible!

However… the universe decided that for some reason, this notion of my superiority over the shenanigans this university can pull (um, hello Connect Carolina) was completely unfounded and I was submitted to a few quasi-humbling experiences.  First I nearly tripped up the stairs at the UL twice and then, despite being a senior, I was forced to use a MAP to find one of my classes. It was embarrassing.

I guess that’s what I get for thinking I’m a big shot.

As far as working on my bucket list, I haven’t made any serious progress, though later this week I’ll be hitting up Jesse’s Coffee in Carrboro.  Hope you all had a great start to the semester!!

223 Days, Class of 2011!  Get excited!

– Samantha Ryan