Archive for February, 2011

White Stripes

When the White Stripes announced their break up last week, I reacted with mixed emotions. Although I was definitely upset at first, I wasn’t necessarily surprised. The rock group last released a studio album in 2007, and since then we’ve seen singer/guitarist Jack White branch out on many solo ventures and appearances. The more that I think about the announcement, however, the more monumental the band’s end has become.

When I think back to the first time I heard the White Stripes, I envision legos. I remember watching MTV and seeing the video for “Fell In Love With a Girl” hit the TRL airwaves. Until then, my music was admittedly dominated by ‘90s boy bands and a share of Britney Spears, but with that video I was exposed to rock for the first time. Clinging onto my older sister’s teenage viewing habits, I stared at the colored legos dance across the screen, reconstructing themselves into shapes and designs to the beat of the thrashing guitar and drums and Jack White’s electrifying voice.

I’m not going to lie and say that the White Stripes was my favorite band ever or that I will lament the band’s end with a candle-lit shrine and an all-black outfit of mourning. However, each time I listen to different songs released by the White Stripes over the years, I am taken back to different stages of my life. It feels like I grew up with the band, and each time I go back and listen to their work, I appreciate things that once went through my head. While I was transfixed by their mysterious looks and unfamiliar rock music when I was younger, I revisit their tracks and find how they seamlessly embody very different styles, from blues to punk to garage rock. I find myself putting their amazing covers of Bob Dylan and Burt Bacharach/Dusty Springfield hits on repeat on my iPod. I start to wonder about their rise and their background, especially after seeing a glimpse of Jack’s life in It Might Get Loud.

I feel like I owe a lot to the White Stripes. They made me love other bands that started to emerge at the time – The Hives, The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The groups that spawned from the White Stripes – namely The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather – probably wouldn’t have been possible either without the original band’s success. When Jack and Meg White announced their band’s break up, they said they did so for many reasons, “mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band.” It’s an almost noble move – quitting while they’re still ahead, perhaps keeping their legacy in gold and making this an optimistic “end” rather than a tragic “demise.” It seems as if both members are ready to move on and the announcement merely cemented their intentions. Regardless of future endeavors, the White Stripes will always remain a part of my life. Here are some of my favorite songs – hopefully, they speak for themselves:

“Fell In Love With a Girl”

“One More Cup of Coffee (Bob Dylan cover)”

“Dead Leaves & The Dirty Ground”

-Margot Pien

Getting Organized

As I flip through the TV channels on mute and listen to the clock tick quickly, I’m struck by the chaos that I’m living in.  Clothes, books and loose papers are strewn across my unmade bed.  My backpack is stuffed with crumpled-up handouts, notes and newspapers.  Although I’ve made it to each class today, I have no idea what my assignments entail for this week.

It’s time for some (early) spring cleaning.

If a messy, disorderly room is making you equally stressed out, look no further.  There are plenty of easy ways to get yourself – and your life – organized in mere minutes.

Get a planner or Google calendar. I literally can’t imagine how I’d function without my planner.  It contains every detail of my packed schedule, from classes to meetings to cocktails.    There’s nothing worse than forgetting about a club meeting, coffee date or deadline.  Putting commitments in writing, whether they’re required or with friends, will prevent you from realizing when you have to be somewhere across campus and have only five minutes to get there.

Organize your coursework. For the past few weeks of class, I’ve been taking notes for all seven of my classes on whatever paper I’ve had on hand.  My Spanish notes are in the same notebook as those from Political Science, and who knows where my News Writing notes have gone.  This system may work for a while, but when midterms roll around, it will be nearly impossible to compile all notes, papers and old quizzes. It’s essential to have a separate notebook and/or binder for each class.  You’ll be so much happier come exam time when cramming in Davis is as simple as opening a notebook and buckling down.  Though it may not be the most appealing pastime, it sounds much more appealing than riffling through knee-high stacks of papers in desperate search of the first weeks’ notes and your (unopened?) textbook.

Keep things neat. Studies have shown that it’s easier to get work done in tidy spaces.  Messes are distracting, stressful and all-around unpleasant.  Taking a few minutes to make your bed, hang up clothes and organize your desk can make studying so much more comfortable and relaxing. This applies to your computer, too.  Clean out and organize your inbox.  It will keep you from losing track of e-mails you were supposed to respond to but forgot about.  As mind-numbing as it sounds, it will help out in the long run.

Make a schedule and stick to it. It’s so easy to put off a night’s readings to hang out with friends, watch TV or catch up on sleep.  But when this happens repeatedly, you’ll find yourself hundreds of pages behind in multiple classes with one night before a test. Set goals for each day, even if it means getting up a few minutes early to read some extra pages.  It will make life so much less stressful.  Plus, you’ll be less embarrassed when the professor asks you a question in class and you can actually answer it.

Getting organized is easier than you’d think.  I just bought notebooks and binders at Student Stores.  Tonight I’m going to print out my syllabi, write down my assignments for this week and catch up on the reading I haven’t done.

…Or maybe I’ll put that off to another night.

-Georgia Cavanaugh

“Queen of Palmyra” Book Review

I just finished reading Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin.  I highly recommend this book— the writing is honest and beautiful. Plus, Minrose Gwin is a Kenan Eminent Professor of English at UNC and Co-Editor of the Southern Literary Journal.

Book description:

*”I need you to understand how ordinary it all was. . . .”

In the turbulent southern summer of 1963, Millwood’s white population steers clear of “Shake Rag,” the black section of town. Young Florence Forrest is one of the few who crosses the line. The daughter of a burial insurance salesman with dark secrets and the town’s “cake lady,” whose backcountry bootleg runs lead further and further away from a brutal marriage, Florence attaches herself to her grandparents’ longtime maid, Zenie Johnson. Named for Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, Zenie treats the unwanted girl as just another chore, while telling her stories of the legendary queen’s courage and cunning. The more time Florence spends in Shake Rag, the more she recognizes how completely race divides her town, and her story, far from ordinary, bears witness to the truth and brutality of her times—a truth brought to a shattering conclusion when Zenie’s vibrant college-student niece, Eva Greene, arrives that fateful Mississippi summer. Minrose Gwin’s The Queen of Palmyra is an unforgettable evocation of a time and a place in America—a nuanced, gripping story of race and identity.*

The beauty of this book is Gwin’s style of writing.  She captures the innocence of Florence through her pure, naive observations. There is a soft spot in our hearts for Florence because she is the only character we meet who is untainted by the racial issues seeping in to her town.

Gwin also has a way of letting the reader see the larger problems before Florence does- because, presumably, we are less naive than she is.  For example, Gwin describes a box that Florence’s daddy has- a box that he keeps in the basement and brings out with him every night.  As Florence describes the box from a very young perspective, our faces start to bunch up because we realize what evil Florence’s dad possesses before she even knows it.  On the back of the book is written: “I need you to understand how ordinary it all was. . . .” We soon realize how important this statement is throughout the entire novel and, also, how heartbreakingly true it is.

This novel is so inspiring, I was so motivated to write my own stories while reading it. Gwin tells us this story from a fresh perspective.  She also teaches us that we don’t always have to pull out fancy words and the thesaurus when writing a novel.  Sometimes, simplicity is the best way to let a story shine.

-Sarah Diedrick


The Beauty Book

I am not a big fan of winter. I am a very cold-natured person, and my body does not take well to cold weather.

My hair — which is normally soft and shiny — gets dry and brittle and uncooperative.  My hands — my poor, soft hands — become dry and cracked and alligator-like. And my face — which is sensitive anyways — is extra dry and red. When I look in the mirror, I try to remind myself that it’s not just me suffering from winter beauty blues. But then I see girls walking around campus in the cold with their beautiful, shiny locks and “un-splotchy” faces. I become jealous.

This jealousy has led me to researching for hours about proper winter hair care. After all, these women I see can’t simply be free of winter’s destructive powers. While staying up late one night working hard on my winter skin research, I recalled a book my mother gave me before I left for college. Fast Beauty:  1000 Quick Fixes. I sprung out of my bed and began searching my bookshelf for this “Beauty Bible.” Eventually I found it nestled between The Bombshell’s Manual of Style and The Prophet. I clutched the treasure across my chest and jumped back onto my bed.

Holding the book in my hands, I felt the power rush into my body.  Before me laid a book that would unlock the answers for combatting the winter-time blues.  It was almost too much. After several minutes, I finally cracked the book open to the index.  I searched for the word “winter” and found an expanded list of “hair and scalp care,” “hand and nail” and “skin care.” My heart skipped a beat.  If I followed the guidelines in the book, people around campus would soon be jealous of my hair and skin.

I flipped to the “hair and scalp care” pages.  Then I turned to the “hand and nail” and finally “skin care.” For hours I read the book, soaking in this newly, found beauty knowledge. To combat dry hair and a splotchy face, use plain yogurt with a bit of honey.  Soak nails in warm milk to regain strength. There was so much to learn and take in, and I quickly lost track of the time.

Finally, my eyes darted to my bedside clock. 4:30 AM! I couldn’t believe I had spent three hours researching.  I had to be up in two hours.  I began to freak out when I realized the sleep deprivation would be easy to spot the next morning.   But then I realized the answer laid in my lap. I flipped to the index and began my research for combatting sleep-deprivation.

-Hillary Rose Owens

Berlin For Beginners

The word for “introduction” in German is “Vorstellung,” which, when broken down, is the combination of the preposition “vor,” meaning “in front of,” and “stellung” which means “position.” Vorstellung can also mean “imagination.” It’s actually a rather fitting word for my first post. With my dwindling number of hours on American soil, this post is one part introduction and one part ideas about what I think and hope Berlin may be.

In a nutshell, I’m taking a semester off  from UNC and instead am taking advantage of an internship opportunity in Berlin that I was offered. This internship doesn’t provide housing and is unpaid, so right now it feels like I am test-driving real adulthood for three months by attempting to set myself up in a foreign city and to survive on a meager budget.

I am absolutely terrified that I will fail miserably and hate every minute of it, but I also hope and pray that I will love living in a city. It’s this unknown that exhilarates and scares me.

I have been in love with Germany since I was 15 years old and met German exchange students at my high school. They somehow seemed so cultured to me, something that I desperately wanted to be. I believed that if I learned another language, I could also be seen as cultured. So I vowed to  become an exchange student in Germany and in 2008 I finally made it over to Mansfeld, Germany, where I went to German high school for a year.

While I can’t say that it made me any classier, my year abroad did help me become fluent in German, which makes moving to Berlin a little less crazy even though I probably wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to come here had I not learned German. Gah.

Since school let out, I have been steadily collecting business clothes and now have my emerald green suitcase packed full of crisp button-up shirts and high heels.

However, while I love the size of my suitcase now, I am going to hate it when I arrive in Berlin with no one to drive me anywhere. From prior experience, lugging all of your clothing across a city on public transportation after an eight-hour flight is not a pleasant task, so I am currently figuring out the most efficient way to drag my crap around. I also talked to a German woman today over Skype about subleasing her apartment today, and we’re supposed to meet on Saturday to figure everything out. I rather hope everything works out, as finding an apartment while trying to start a new job sounds damn near impossible.

With trying to get everything straightened out before I leave to go to Germany, I barely have time to be nervous until night, when I sit down and actually think about what I’m about to do.

I find myself always thinking back to this card my apartment renter had stuck to the wall when I think about my situation: Leap and the net will appear.

Let’s hope it’s sound advice.

-Miranda Murray

Inception: “Take a Leap of Faith”

I have watched Inception a total count of four times so far. Not only is that about seven and a half hours’ worth of oogling at Leonardo Dicaprio, but also of viewing a spectacular film dealing with the human’s subconscious. “Inception” is about a spy named Cobb (Leo) who agrees in a deal to take on a highly dangerous job of entering dreams to extract information as well as perform “inception” in order to go back home to his children in America. He constructs a highly talented team to assist him with the task, but there’s a part of Cobb’s own subconscious that just may disrupt their plan for good.

The idea of inception and extraction through the subconscious and people interacting in their dreams are all very intriguing ideas, but not unheard of. However, the fact that they were able to pull this off realistically (in an ironic sort of way) in a movie is magnificent. Being able to change things in a fake reality however you want it? Move roads and make glass shatter and build a bridge simply by will? Innovative? Heck yes. As the team of dream experts are constantly trying to go deeper and deeper into their victim’s subconscious, Cobb himself has an inner battle going on within himself. What’s so crazy and brilliant about this is that while Cobb is the master at screwing around with minds, he can’t even control his own. 

The script is one of the most important factors in understanding this movie. Not only do the characters explain to each other (and thus to the audience as well) about the dream world (Aye! Who wants to take a vaca down in Limbo?), but constant repetition of the same motifs, in script as well as images (such as the spinning dreidel), helps everything make sense in the end. You don’t know why some characters whisper certain phrases like “take a leap of faith,” but as the plot develops and mysteries begin to unfold, there’s always a sense of deja vu that comes back. The words come to haunt us as they haunt the characters.

In addition, the visual effects are excellent and the action is non-stop. Without giving away too much, “Inception” definitely brings “fast-paced” up to a whole new level. You’ll jump at the edge of your seat, and drop your jaw without even knowing it. You become so connected with the characters and with who they are and their situations that it is nerve-wrecking, even mind-blowing, to constantly see them in danger. With every risk they take, you realize all the more how important this mission is, and how every one of them is willing to do anything to make sure that the team sees it through.

-Wendy Lu

Safe Social Networking

Social media has undeniably become a crucial part of modern life.  From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, social networking sites have the power to connect friends and family around the world.

But they can also have dangerous side effects.

In this age of communication, it is more important than ever to monitor your behavior and appearance on social networking sites.  Whether it’s the incriminating pictures of drunken, late-night revelries or one too many curse words in your Tweets, you may not be putting your proverbial best foot forward online.

Your social networking profiles can shape others’ perceptions of you – including potential employers’.  Worst of all, once something is put on the Internet, the damage may be permanent.  Though it may seem trivial now, posting graphic details about college exploits could be embarrassing when you’re applying for jobs down the line (case in point:  the recent Duke PowerPoint incident).

A few essential steps must be taken to keep your online profiles appropriate:

-Keep it classy in photos.

Drinking is obviously illegal for those under the age of 21.  If you’re going to drink anyway, make sure it isn’t photographed and put online for all to see.  Even if you are of legal age, no employer wants to hire someone who has drunk-eye and/or is dancing on tables in every other photo. When friends are taking pictures, put down your drink or at least hold it out of sight of the camera.  In the event that someone snaps one too many pictures of you collapsed in a heap on the floor, detag the photos and politely beg your friend to remove the evidence ASAP.

And if that’s the case, it’s probably best to avoid drinking altogether.

-Monitor your Facebook wall.

Everyone has at least one friend with a tendency to post inappropriate comments on his or her wall.  Swear-word-ridden, substance-abuse-referencing posts may seem funny at the moment, but you may not be laughing if those quotes resurface later on.  Be careful about what you let others post on your wall.  Even more importantly, make sure that what you post on others’ walls isn’t something you’ll regret in the future.

-Watch your language.

It doesn’t look particularly professional to write Tweets or Facebook statuses involving illegal substances, sexual behavior, crude language, derogatory language, etc.  Think through what you want to say before you allow your hundreds – or thousands – of friends/followers to read it.

-Alter your privacy settings.

Protect your Tweets.  Limit what others can see on your Facebook profile, including pictures, wall posts and videos.  Be careful about who you friend on Facebook or who follows you on Twitter.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

-Georgia Cavanaugh

When I Was Little…

I want to go back to my childhood, a time when I would look up at the Carolina blue sky and wholeheartedly believe that one day I would climb a mountain or a skyscraper, or jump onto a fluffy cloud and sink into its incomparable softness as I close my eyes for a celestial nap. I can’t pinpoint the exact age when I realized that the closest I’d ever get to dozing off on a cloud would be in the mall at Brookstone, where shoppers can be found on the Tempur-Pedic mattresses in a narcoleptic state, eyes droopy and drool slightly strewing out of the corner of their mouths.

When I was little, I also believed that there existed a magical land inside of the small closet my father kept locked at all times. Maybe he stored power tools in there, or maybe it was just a space where the boiler was hidden. To this day it remains locked, and whenever I pass the hallway closet, I am transported to the past. I can clearly envision the magical place in that closet. It had grass and a swing set and a slide, and the two kids from Candy Land board game were there to meet me as soon as I found a way in. Maybe I’d been watching too much of the Alice in Wonderland program aired on Disney Channel in the mid-’90s, and maybe I longed for what I didn’t have growing up in a concrete jungle: a backyard with monkey bars that I’d inevitably fall off of, plunging safely into the brown mulch beneath me, and vibrant flowers that would greet me as I got up and shook the mulch from my shoes.

So I never had a bright pink Barbie Jeep…it’s time to move on from the past, but I still keep in touch (through my mind’s pretend Styrofoam cups attached to string) with the seven-year old-Kristen. Childhood fostered the growth of my imagination. Though I barely fit into the yellow plastic playhouse with blue shutters and the Pepto-Bismol pink door (who hired that Architect? what gaudy taste!) that we kept in my playroom in our upstairs apartment, and though I’m too big (too big in weight, I swear my leg could fit the length of the Children’s Place pajama pant if it were a bigger size, and I’m pretty darn short) to fit into the warm feety pajamas that I wore when I was six, I refuse to outgrow my young spirit, regardless of how my body changes as the years go by (Is that a shadow or dimple on my thigh?)

Physical aging happens, and you can’t truly buy youth— not the valuable kind at least, in which can only come from within. No matter how tough life gets, don’t let it get so serious that you forget to laugh and play! Cultivate your imagination the way you did when you were a kid: get dirty, lose those inhibitions and create something with your hands. We were so hands-on back then. I remember getting screamed at for rubbing Purple Jelly into my mother’s brand new white carpet. I was merely expressing myself artistically, but she didn’t view it that way. And when I was three, I ran naked from the bathtub and took all of the Aunt Jemima pancake mix and poured it all over myself and the kitchen. Fine, white powder fell everywhere, draping the kitchen appliances in a snowy landscape. I think it’s important to be silly and spontaneous. Okay, maybe you wouldn’t get out of the shower and start making snow angels in a pile of pancake mix scattered on the floor unless you were seriously inebriated, but it can be a truly liberating feeling to try something silly for no reason, to try something new and unusual.

Here’s what I’m asking you to do: step outside your comfort zone the way kids do – they have no walls up, they can’t even spell “inhibition” and the word doesn’t even exist as a concept in their brain. They just do things, they wonder and they create from their limitless imaginary power. Evoke the past and hold on to that feeling of flying on top of someone’s feet, with their legs in the air and with your stomach is on their feet and they move you back and forth while you repeatedly shout, “Super Man!”

-Kristen Cubero