Archive for November, 2010

Horror Films Make Me Laugh

Another sector of the American media that continually befuddles me is — you guessed it — horror flicks. I guess one part of it is that I’ve never really understood the point of them. To scare you? I don’t like to be scared — is that such a weird thing to admit aloud? It seems like a common sense thing to me. “That movie was so good, I had nightmares!” …Right.

But it’s a moot point. I don’t find anything to scare me in most American horror films anyways. The only horrifying thing about them is their storylines (or lack thereof). No, that’s not true; the acting may be worse.

But as a writer, I automatically have the worst possible perspective on horror films. Find me a horror film that isn’t riddled with poorly-woven plots and unrealistic characters, and I’ll find you one without a saggy romance stuffed full of cheesy dialogue. Horror films are by nature sensationalist; they play to your emotions first and answer questions later (or not at all); and I cannot condone such behavior in storytelling.

The horror genre also falls into extremely predictable ruts. I feel like a seer every time I watch a horror flick because I can tell five minutes in advance when a scary, jump-out-of-your-seat moment is coming. The eternal army of netherworldly characters — zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghosts and so on — has lost its fear factor, as far as I’m concerned. Originality is hard to come by with horror flicks, but that doesn’t stop producers from squeezing out contrived crowd-pleasers year after year.

Consider another genre: war movies. Some would say that war movies are all the same, stoic stereotypes leading their motley but brave troops into battles in which one or all of them will die. True, war movies may all have similar plot lines, but at least they have good messages (as long as that message is “war is hell”), and their subjects deserve some respect. Plus, war actually happened. Horror films, on the other hand, have no point other than immediate entertainment.

“Serial killer” horror movies have some redeeming value because at least their subjects really exist (and thus are more frightening but, wouldn’t you know it, that’s not a turn-on for me). True, not all horror films are equally awful, but I can’t lie when I say that I notice similar trends in every horror flick.

I won’t say I’ve never been afraid or jumped up during a scary movie — “The Sixth Sense” scared the living poop out of me when I was little, and yes, I will jump maybe once or twice sometimes if a horror film is any good whatsoever. But I think scary music is the one thing that really rattles me – and quick, high-pitched sounds can make anyone jump.

But as a rule, I’m done sitting there shaking helplessly during horror movies. Instead, I laugh at them. I admit, it can be pretty funny trying to predict what jump is around the next corner, or what uninspired character will die next. I just can’t take it seriously anymore.

– Tim Freer

Okay, so this year has been pretty tough on movies. We had a long series of summer flops saved only by the box-office success of “Inception,” and the fall-winter line up didn’t look to be much more impressive. I was just about to hand in the towel and give up on 2010 as a year for movies when The Social Network came along. I’ll admit it, I was more than a little skeptical that the “Facebook” movie was already here, but from all accounts, it was supposed to be a good movie.

Well, all accounts were wrong.  The Social Network isn’t a good movie; it’s a great movie, and possibly one of the most culturally relevant films to come out in the past several years. The movie follows Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, from his days at Harvard trying to get into a Final Club through the creation of Facebook, its success and ultimately his legal battles with those who helped get him there, including his best friend and co-founder, Eduardo Saverin.

The movie moves quickly and keeps audiences captivated with some of the wittiest dialogue I’ve heard in years and a solid use of flashback/flashforwards as narrative devices.  The acting was solid and the film boasts one of the most impressive scores ever. The boating crew race, set to a rock adaptation of “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” is quite possibly one of the best scenes I have ever seen and will make any film fan geek out with joy.

The movie tracks not only the path of Zuckerberg as he becomes the youngest billionaire in the world, but also follows the growing social impact of Facebook itself. Let’s face it, it’s difficult to remember a time before Facebook came around. If you’re a senior, you were a sophomore in high school when it began, freshmen were still in middle school, and it has changed the way people, especially college students, socialize.

Social Networking used to be limited to personal blogs and other sites such as MySpace; Facebook, however, took the whole game to a new level and now dominates not only the social networking scene, but the entire internet. Google recently released a list of the top 13 websites visited in 2010. Facebook was No. 1 with over 570 billion page visits, consuming more than 35 percent of all Internet use in the United States. The No. 2 website, Yahoo, received 70 billion page visits – a mere 12 percent of Facebook’s traffic.

Anyone who has a Facebook account should definitely make a point to go see this movie because whether you would like to admit it or not, this movie is in part about you and how one little website created by a Harvard computer science geek changed the way you share your lives with your friends, family and the world.

Also, buy the soundtrack. It’s amazing.

– Samantha Ryan

So, unfortunately I missed the opening act, Beach House.  I did get to hear them from afar as I approached the downtown Raleigh Amphitheatre.  They sounded really good and I was pretty sad I only got to catch the end of them. I’d never been to this venue before, but it is surprisingly and pleasantly small. It’s right in the middle of the city, so close to the streets that a passerby could enjoy a concert if he were just strolling the streets after a nice dinner. The inside of the venue is a simple layout — most of the ground is covered with seats and in the back there is a small strip of grass that is considered the “lawn.”  I had lawn tickets but I sat there for all of five minutes before my friends and I joined the mob of people that rushed toward the front.

Vampire Weekend was fashionably late, coming on stage at 9:00 p.m. instead of 8:30 as scheduled. I assumed that they would mostly plays songs from their newest album, Contra. Instead, their set list was a mix of both Contra and their self-titled 2008 debut, Vampire Weekend; they alternated pretty much every song. After the band walked on stage to a Ludacris song, they got right into the set list by playing “Holiday.”

I was a fan before I went to this concert but my appreciation for this band dramatically increased after attending this concert. They sounded even better than they do on their albums. They remixed some of their songs and added in guitar solos (which was highlighted by a light shining down on Ezra Koenig, the lead singer and guitarist). They were also more alive on stage — they were louder and had even more personality (which I didn’t think was possible). Their improvisations at this concert were a true mark of their artistic ability and just one of the reasons why I gained even more appreciation for them.

The light show really complimented the energy, keeping up with the beats and changing colors with each song. The light always illuminated the back of the stage, where a supersized version of their disk hung. When Ezra started playing a guitar solo, the light would cut out in the back of the stage and focus solely on him for a minute or so, mesmerizing the audience as he improvised.

My friends and I also managed to head to the front and we landed the perfect seats without realizing it at first. There was a big gap between our seats and the seats in front of us — this big walkway became a sort of runway. Some people danced along it as they made their way to the designated smoking area, and for some it was the drunken walk of shame. One guy had two or five too many and he drunkenly made his way down the cement path, dancing with the audience.  I was even lucky enough to get a shimmy from him. Security escorted him out, but they definitely had a fun time watching this guy.

My only problem with this show was that it was way too short. Vampire Weekend only played for about an hour and ten minutes. I was wanting more from them but I guess that is kind of hard when they only have two albums. They were so electric, vibrant, colorful and energetic. It is hard to dance to their music; you don’t know whether to bob, sway your hips or jump up and down. It didn’t matter; Vampire Weekend managed to get everybody moving in their seats or on the lawn.

As the band left the stage, Ezra announced that they might not be playing for a while in the U.S.  I got a little emotional when he said this but I am still waiting for their next album or concert. This band still has a lot to offer us. This show was just a delicious taste of what is to come from this New York-based band.

– Sarah Diedrick

Believe it. I don’t know if I’m the first person to see this or the last, but it all makes perfect sense now.

Like many of you out there (I’m sure), I have put a considerable amount of thought into opening a restaurant once I get old. I don’t know what it’s going to be yet — nothing special, probably a classy burger joint or sandwich shop or something — but, entrepreneurial instincts ablaze, the inevitable questions have been racing through my head: what’s going to make my restaurant different from the rest?  What’s going to draw a crowd and keep them coming back for more?

I could go the cliché way and say my delicious cooking. But then again, I’m not that good of a cook at the moment, and who knows if I have the will or the patience to become a five-star chef? No, I need something else, something truly revolutionary.

Along this line of thinking, I considered all the restaurants I had ever eaten at and what could be better about each experience. And as I went down the list, one theme constantly resurfaced — discomfort.

What restaurant have you ever been to that you can sit in your seat comfortably for an hour without your butt going numb, or you wanting to lie down or something? Seats are never tall enough for cushioned headrests, and in most restaurants customers have to resort to huddling in their chairs, wishing it were a recliner (or had wheels).

Choose your discomfort.

Comfortable chairs are good in theory. But I almost immediately noticed that despite how awesome cushiony recliners would be, it would put a severe economic and sanitary burden on any restaurant. Spilling food and drink on your shirt would become commonplace if you could lean back 45 degrees comfortably in your chair. Nice chairs look all that much grosser when they get ketchup and grease on them.

And quite simply, people just wouldn’t want to leave once they sat down. Customers could easily fall asleep, accidentally or otherwise, slowing the flow of business. I know eating a good meal tires me out.  Who’s going to be monitoring the customers every second to make sure they don’t faceplant in their fries? And worse, imagine trying to force a full-stomached, bleary-eyed, cranky customer from a nap-worthy chair.

Maybe a different approach is necessary. Maybe I can open a bar-hotel (not the other way around) in which people can get wasted and have someplace to crash. It would keep drunk drivers off the road. I could even make a room called the Vomitorium for those who inevitably drink too much (ladies, hold your “ew”s, I’m being serious).

Or maybe that’s an awful idea. I don’t know. It’s a process, planning all this out.  My quest to create the perfect dining experience continues.

– Tim Freer

How to Seriously Organize Your Life

My tips for ending procrastination inspired me to search for innovative electronic ways to organize my daily and weekly activities, as well as take more efficient, legible notes.

The Ultimate Notebook

While sitting in my Japanese Religion class and fidgeting in my desk, my eyes wandered to a classmate’s laptop, where I witnessed her vigorously typing notes onto Microsoft Word. What kept me interested in her seemingly ordinary task of typing notes? The page layout that appeared on her MacBook screen was a notebook!

Screen shot of Microsoft Word's Notebook Layout

How many times have I sat through lecture, typing notes on an ordinary layout, only to look at them later and feel confused by my scattered, sloppy and unorganized notes, never referencing them again for future studying because it is too painful to read such chaos?

  • Word’s notebook layout creates instant clarity and organization. I can create titles for each subject and break up my notes into sections.
  • I am actually excited to take notes in class because of Word’s notebook feature, and it will definitely be easier for me to comprehend my notes when referencing them later.
  • I showed a couple of my friends this layout and they exclaimed, “Wow! The digital Notebook would make my class notes so much more easier to read. How do you get that?” Simply click on ‘View’ and select ‘Notebook Layout’.

Turns out, my curious nature and wandering attention span is sometimes beneficial.

The Ultimate Planner

In my article on procrastination, I advised using a planner to jot down upcoming assignments, due dates, to do lists and activities; however, most of the time, I loathe having to carry more in my school bag than necessary. The less books and journals weighing you down, the better. (I even download electronic textbooks into my virtually weightless Amazon Kindle so that I can read multiple subjects on-the-go just to avoid the burden of carrying a heavy load). My schoolbag consists of a laptop, charger, Kindle and a planner. I wanted to figure out a way to eliminate the planner, but still be able to view my to do lists and appointments in an organized, concise fashion.

I Googled ‘planner widgets’ for my MacBook, and came across the Assignment Planner application! This is a must-have download for college students, which will elicit fascinated expressions from all of your intelligent friends on campus (and we can all agree, that includes most, if not all, of the student body attending UNC-CH! Go Heels!) Aside from impressing your friends, the Assignment Planner will enable you to organize your weekly assignments with ease.

To download this application, simply copy and paste the following into your browser:

Once on the site, register for the application by paying a one time $8 fee. You can justify this fee because you would pay just as much for a paper planner, which can only be used one time, and therefore must be purchased annually.

Screen Shot of the Mac Planner

The screen shot above shows the Assignment Planner.

  • You simply add an assignment and enter the Due Date, Name of Assignment and Course.
  • Then you select a priority level 1-5.
  • A convenient feature of Assignment Planner is that the assignment is colored red when past the due date, orange when close to the due date, yellow when you have some time left and black when the due date it is very far from approaching.
  • Each assignment gives you the option to write notes.
  • You have the ability to switch views from weekly to monthly, but still click on the assignment and see the information on the sidebar, while viewing a weekly or monthly calendar beside the info on the side.
  • If you click on the Courses and Textbooks button, you have the option of entering in your professors’ office hours and contact information, which may come in handy if you’re ever in need of extra clarification about a topic covered in class.

I hope that these two digital organization features make your day most productive!

– Kristen Cubero