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no its becky: Self-Aware Celebrities

It is a common trope in the genre of science fiction: what happens when we have developed our computer technology so far that the machines become self-aware? Hopefully it will be a good number of years before we come to this point, however an equally disturbing occasion has come to pass: self-aware celebrities.

Okay, so not counting outliers like Tom Cruise, celebrities have always had a certain degree of awareness of public perception of them. However, they’ve had the decency to keep it quiet. But it was only a matter of time before they learned how to use the internet, and now they have the audacity to demonstrate this skill in real life by recognizing and poking fun at popular celebrity memes.

At first this development seems harmless, and even quite funny. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently gave an interview with NPR in which she admitted that she is not only aware of the popular Notorious RBG Tumblr meme, but that she even jokes about it with her grandchildren and keeps a large stock of Notorious t-shirts at home that she gives out as gifts to visitors.

Freaking adorable, right? This little old lady and her internet memes.

Well here’s where it starts to fuck your mind: there’s the popular Tumblr post in which someone warns of the dangers of snorting marijuana with a photo of their deceased friend, Becky. When someone pointed out Becky’s resemblance to country/pop/not-really-country star Taylor Swift, the original poster responded with a brusque, succinct, “no its becky.” Well just a few weeks ago, Taylor Swift stepped out of the house in a plain yellow t-shirt that proclaims on the front, “no its becky.” Which leads to the haunting question: who is Becky, really?

Is she really dead due to her valiant attempt to innovate new and exciting methods for intaking marijuana? Did she ever really exist? Or maybe Becky and Taylor Swift are one and the same! Is this a Vertigo/Hannah Montana situation? I don’t know the truth, but I do know that I am confused and scared and feel like Taylor Swift is taunting us with a deep dark secret to which only she holds the key.

It makes me long for the day when the internet could run rampant making jokes and memes about celebrities without the celebrities dragging them out of the interwebs and making me confront it in reality. I go to the interwebs to escape that shit.

Here is where I must advise all but the most courageous to stop reading this article, for the final tale is too grim for those of a weak constitution. Heartthrob and “Hey Girl” feminist Ryan Gosling recently went out into public in noteworthy t-shirt as well. It featured a Life magazine cover from back in the nineties of adorable child actor Macauley Culkin.

Well even though the only internet provider that can reach my house on S Street is the incompetent and endlessly frustrating Comcast, apparently Verizon or somebody is laying down XFinity cables in whatever cave deep in the heartland of Mordor that Culkin crawled into after his the star of his childhood fame imploded.

Image: Yahoo! Celebrity

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Perfume Genius at the Hamilton Live

In the September issue, the Indy suggested Perfume Genius’ third album, Too Bright. I raved about it, to be honest: I said Mike Hadreas’ has a “hauntingly sparse yet sexy atmospheric sound” and speculated about the possibility of literally living inside the metaphorical space of the album. Having seen Hadreas and his tour band at The Hamilton earlier this month, I can wholeheartedly confirm my past comments, and add one more observation: Mike Hadreas’ jumpsuit game is significantly stronger than your jumpsuit game. Seriously, you can all stop trying to make jumpsuits happen [ed. note: please never stop], because that night, Hadreas rocked the shit out of a black satin ‘80s-business-woman-tuxedo-thing that would have looked like frumpy pajamas on anyone else.

Sorry. I promise I’ll actually talk about the music. I just really liked his jumpsuit, and I wanted you to know how much I liked it.

IMG_1104bThe Hamilton is quite an intimate venue for live music. Yes, there is a stage (with some killer lights, I must say), but almost all of the seats are at tables, with table service for dinner. You can have a beer (or several) and an avocado roll (or several) all during the show. It’s not appropriate for every musician, but Perfume Genius managed to pull off cozy and seated without losing the energy of a crowd on its feet. It did, however, mean that I couldn’t take photos without looking like a massive asshole. Your loss, reader.

Watching the set was like being in a trance. A few numbers went by before Hadreas warmed up to speaking to us — he was funny, charming, and profoundly nervous when he did — and we the audience spent much of the night in rapt concentration. Sometimes, I held my breath between songs. He played a lot of Too Bright, including massive hits Queen and Grid, but the set also included more than a few heartbreaking piano tracks off of his earlier albums, like 17 and All Waters. Hadreas even played Sister Song, which will never not make me cry.

There is a sense of voyeurism in watching Perfume Genius perform. Part of that comes from the intensely personal nature of his songs, but it’s very much affirmed in his stage presence. He’s not an artist who looks at you when he sings. In fact, he looks very intently at something that is definitely not you, even if his gaze happens to fall in your general direction. Hadreas’ band includes his boyfriend Alan Wyffels, who played the keyboards and a synth during the show. (He also ran the merch table afterwards and was a shining star of positivity in the approximately 30 seconds I interacted with him.) Watching Hadreas and Wyffels watch each other on stage was very strange. They have a really intense connection — for a moment I felt like I’d wandered into their living room by mistake. The feeling of a Perfume Genius performance is one of something very private (and tortured and, yes, beautiful) going on in the middle of a crowded room. I think that’s why we were such a quiet house — no one wanted to break the spell.

I wish his set had gone on longer. Hell, I wish I was still sitting there now, still totally enraptured, several weeks later. Unfortunately, I was eventually asked to leave by the staff. Fortunately, Hadreas released another song, Thing, on Spotify, so I have that as a consolation prize.

Magic 8-Ball: Adam Burke / Flickr

Seeing the Future with College Divination

I don’t know about you, but I am terrible about living in the moment. You can ruminate on the past, or worry about the future and spend all your time focusing on things that can’t be changed. Factor in the stress and lack of sleep from midterms, that are somehow blending seamlessly with finals, and the looming pressure of being a senior; it’s becoming pretty damn impossible to focus on the present.

And to all those who share my deficiency, I am here to tell you that you don’t have to worry. Now is when we can let destiny take charge. You don’t need to plan your future. Regardless of who or what you believe has it planned out for you  – God, the universe, your parents – it’s important to recognize that your future is not actually in your hands. Accordingly, I’ve compiled a few places to turn for a glimpse into your future. And they have all been adapted to the needs and resources of the average college student.

  1.     Get crafting: it’s time to make some walnut boats. It’s fairly straightforward. Step one: Open up the walnuts. Step two: remove the meat and melt wax into the hollowed out shell. Float them in a large tub of water, and light them. This is a group destiny determining activity. Among other possibilities, the one whose candle goes out first will be alone…forever.
  2.     Perfect for those living in Henle, or any campus establishment frequented by unnaturally large rats is, myomancy, or divination by the movements of mice. And I’m sure rats are just as effective of seers.
  3.     Now, I’m a bit hesitant to share this next form about such a form of fortune telling as you must sacrifice quality cheese, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. For tyromancy, girls in the Middle Ages would write the names of prospective suitors on the cheese and wherever the mold grew first, was the ideal love match. I could only imagine that you could write other things on the cheese and then wait for the mold to tell you your destiny, and possibly create a new type of cheese in the process.
  4.     While I’m on the manner of wasting perfectly good food and drink, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention divination by spilled wine. I beg of you, did not spill perfectly good wine for this! But if you happen to end up with wine on the floor, please clean it off with a cloth and then use said wine stains to determine your future. The Romans believed oinomancy was best carried out by a priestess of Bacchus, the god of wine. So, be sure to have one at hand at all of your parties. I’ve heard she prefers Chillable Red Franzia.
  5.     For those days of midterms when you can’t afford the to lose those two hours for meals that could be spent studying, put your growling stomach to good use. Gastromancy is a way of foretelling through stomach noises. Two growls mean yes; one means no.
  6.     Not for the amateur diviner. Aromancy is divination by the shoulders of beasts. Or possibly on the shoulders of beasts. Since beasts are not easily accessible, the drunken bro can substituted.


Don’t pick up that crystal ball. You can do better.  Though a few rounds with the magic 8 ball never hurt anybody.

Young the Giant, Live in 2011

Music, Midterms, and Intergalactic Adventures

(Ed. Note: This post was written during the thick of midterm season, but given that it never really ends, we thought it fitting for any occasion!)

I am borderline delusional as I am studying for my double-dose of “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology” and “Fall of Rome to the Millenium” midterms when Young the Giant’s self-titled debut album begins playing on Spotify. Within moments, I am whisked away from the world of partible maternity and Diocletian’s reforms to the sprawling grasslands of the planet Voss. Allow me to clarify: I discovered Young the Giant my senior year of high school, when a friend in English class leaned over to me and handed a blank CD, which he told me had something I might dig. That CD was Young the Giant’s 2011 debut album.

On late summer nights after returning home from whatever pre-college adventures I had undertaken, I would unwind by listening to that album while playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. Now these two things are permanently linked in my mind; as tracks such as “I Got,” or “My Body,” begin crooning out of my laptop speakers, my mind wanders the plains of Voss trying to find my character’s target (I played as a bounty hunter because I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with Boba Fett). While listening to this album, I am able to connect with my past self’s emotional state and mental well-being, which provides me with some necessary sanity in the flurry of midterms that are now upon us all.

Associations with moments from the past is not limited to Young the Giant – everyone has a specific band or song that is able to recall specific moments from their pasts. Whether it was that Adele song you heard on the radio following your first major-breakup, that Panic! at the Disco track your friend played every time she was allowed to determine music for group hangouts, or that Kavinsky track from Drive you listened to while pretending to be Ryan Gosling the first time you drove home at 1AM when you were told to be back around midnight, so many songs have particularly intimate memories associated with them, memories that resurge with full force whenever the song begins to play.

This may seem trivial, but think about it for a second: you can regulate your mood and assist your study patterns during the upcoming week by using these songs. If you are stressed out or find yourself unable to focus, you can use music that summons specific emotional states and memories in order to “trick” your brain into a state that is more conducive to academic enhancement. As for this humble Indy writer, I will be listening to Young the Giant, remember my intergalactic adventures, and preparing myself for my midterms. As the band sings, “It won’t be long before I rise in song.”

 

In Case of Crisis

You may have noticed that Hoyas are experiencing a particularly intense mid-semester grind, or scholar vortex, this year: hordes of our classmates have gone dead behind the eyes from lack of sleep, countless Burleith and north campus residents are currently lost in the construction labyrinth, and the entire pre-med department is one broken keurig away from utter devastation. Perhaps by now you’re starting to rethink the whole concept of higher education, or maybe of modern society all together. The good news is there are alternatives if you feel you’ve made a huge mistake. Here are just a few options:

 

  1. Be a lighthouse keeper. If you’re looking to flee the stress of college life, why not do it in the most poetic way possible? The United States Lighthouse Society has options for you all over the United States, including Alaska if the tundra is your thing and Key West if it’s not. Just imagine: peace and quiet by the ocean, taking care of the light that protects all of the sailors. You can be the benevolent master of the sea! With some occasional gift shop duties.
  2. Be a fire lookout in a national park. Are you intrigued by the thought of stewarding the forests, and totally over interacting with other humans? Then perhaps you should consider spending a summer as a fire lookout. Appointments range from a few weeks to a few months of blissful mountaintop solitude, perfect for becoming one with nature or, if you’re Jack Kerouac, attaining enlightenment and writing an awesome book about it. The Forest Fire Lookout Association can help you find the remote hut that’s right for you.
  3. Join a commune. Consumerism got you down? Can you not even with all of this private property? Then live in tune with the land and your fellow humans in an Intentional Community. There’s one in Virginia only a few hours from campus called Twin Oaks Community. Contribute to this utopic society’s income by weaving hammocks or laboring in the tofu hut (I am completely serious). You’ll have plenty of time and opportunities to pursue your passions, especially if those include peace, the environment, anti-racism, and feminism.
  4. Stay at the sloth sanctuary. I shouldn’t even have to explain the appeal of this one. There are sloths. You get to hang out with them. Especially one named Buttercup, who appears to be running the sanctuary. Tragically, they closed their volunteer program last year to focus on more rigorous scientific research, but you can stay at the bed and breakfast on the sanctuary grounds. You and a friend can sleep in the Johnny Depp room (again, not joking) for $100. And you can get a tour of the grounds with (led by?) Buttercup.

 

See? No need to feel suffocated by the man — trade in your textbooks for a baby sloth (or possibly a manual on lighthouse operation) and free yourself!

 

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Why are you still sitting there? This could be you. [Image courtesy of Twin Oaks Community]

Sick Day

Sick Day Movies

Being sick over the weekend in college is probably one of the most irritating and annoying experiences one can suffer through here at Georgetown. You don’t feel well enough to go out and do something with friends, but you also are not capable of slogging through your mountains of homework for the week. Thankfully, there is one thing you can do for fun while living in the quarantine zone of your room: watch “sick day movies.” Here are five movies that would love to keep you company while you recover in isolation; they will not judge you and will not avoid you like the plague.

1) Bloodsport (1988) – This action flick stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as a US Army Captain who goes rogue in order to compete in the Kumite: an illegal full-contact martial arts tournament in Hong Kong to which the greatest fighters in the world are invited. With a great 80s soundtrack and plenty of unintentionally hilarious moments, this movie will have you laughing at the cheesiness in between your fits of coughing.

2) Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – I first saw this film while delirious and suffering from the chicken pox back in first grade, and ever since then it has been lodged in my mind as a “sick day movie.” In Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as super-spy James Bond, he must stop a media guru from instigating World War III in order to boost his network’s ratings. Yes, that sounds utterly ridiculous, but the film has a certain kind of charm you can appreciate in a sickly mental state: from James Bond driving his car in a chase via his pre-touch screen cell phone to jumping over a helicopter with a motorcycle, this movie has plenty of cool moments that will cheer you up.

3) Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) – Hear me out on this one. I know this is not a good film and is still one of the internet’s favorite collective punching bags, even 15 years after its release. But when you’re sick and just don’t give a damn, this film is rather fun. You have two fantastic sequences (the podracing sequence and the three-way lightsaber duel at the film’s climax) surrounded by engaging attempts at world-building and pseudo-racist caricatures. When you’re sick and could not care less about Jar Jar’s presence, this film has enough pretty visuals and cool music to keep you entertained when you are just feeling completely out of it.

4) Cinema Paradiso (1988) – this Italian film follows the life of a young boy named Salvatore and his involvement with his town’s local cinema, which serves as the backdrop for much of the heartache, tragedy, love, and excitement throughout his life and molds him into the adult he is by the end of the film. Famous for the “kissing scene” montage at the end of the film, Cinema Paradiso is one of the few films that can make even hardened grown Italian men cry. Tonally it various between lighthearted comedy and passionate dramatic romance. The film touches on themes of love and growing old that everyone can relate to, particularly when confronted with the evidence of their own mortality brought on by illness.

5) Madagascar (2005) – this animated comedy follows four animals from Central Park Zoo (voiced by Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, and David Schwimmer) that are shipwrecked on the island of Madagascar. This film is an animated feature that is a love letter to cinema, often referencing or paying homage to other classic films in some not-so-subtle ways. While many of the references and jokes may have gone over your head as a child, watching the film now will be an enriching experience as you pick up on things you never noticed before. Plus, the film has four penguins that act like secret agents straight out of Mission Impossible, and that is never a bad thing.

BONUS ROUND: Hugo (2011) – “Tell them your roommate says to watch Hugo. It’s a trippy film to watch while sick. The robot comes to life or something.” I never saw Hugo but my roommate demanded I put it on this list, so if you find this to be an inadequate “sick day film,” take the issue up with him.

 

Image Credit: Buzz / Flickr

Clinton @ Airport

One Second of Eye Contact, A Lifetime of Memories

I’ve just ordered an iced coffee in the Ronald Reagan National Airport, and I turn around and am assaulted by the pure energy of former Senator, First Lady, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. I am in shock. What is the reason for her just waltzing through gates 35-39 of Reagan National? Beats me. But I didn’t question it. It took a moment for my brain to connect the dots: I was in the presence of a (potential) 2016 presidential candidate, and one of my IDOLS. I could feel her energy. Her posse of security moved like a school of black-suited fish, swishing around her to and fro as she glided down the terminal. She happened to be wearing yellow that day; she was like a beacon of light. And just as suddenly as she walked into my life, out she went. I teared up. Here I was, iced coffee in hand, jaw on the floor, tears in my eyes. I had to tell someone. I had to tell everyone! I texted my roommate. I texted my parents. HELL, I EMAILED MY HIGH SCHOOL AP GOVERNMENT TEACHER.

When these things happen, my people, cherish them. Washington D.C. is a beautiful place filled with efficacious and impactful people, and you are included in that bundle. We all may not be as noticeable as the radiating Hillary Rodham Clinton, but trust me, we’ve still got a little something going on. Rock it out, Georgetown.

This coming to you from Megan Howell, who one day hopes to make people randomly cry in the airport.

 

Image Credit: ABC News

Gangnam Slam

COME ON AND SLAM IF YOU WANNA JAM – My Trip Into the World of r/comeonandslam

THE INTERNET HAS WON, FOLKS! Guess what Reddit has? They have a whole subreddit devoted entirely to popular songs remixed with Quad City DJ’s’ classic hit “Space Jam”, termed “Slams” by the artists. Fan of The Killers? Check out Mr. Brightslam. Star Wars fans will feel right at home with “Slam of the Fates”. “Slam the Casbah” with The Clash! Just about every song from a major video game has been Slammed already. The community is active enough to have put out five posts on the day of writing alone.

 

Is this real life? How can this possibly be A Thing Which Exists And Is Also Not a Joke? Space Jam, to say the least, was not aiming at iconoclasm with its release in 1996. A bizarre marketing fusion involving Looney Tunes, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and a cast of all-star basketball players, the film was strange to say the least but popular enough in its own time that 90s generations have canonized it alongside Moon Shoes and all of the other surreal phenomena of the time. Any of us who were alive during the 90s might, then, recognize the Jam when it sets upon us, but r/comeonandslam has taken things to a transcendent level.

The Slam reveals the depths of a fandom-not-as-such, a collection of semi-or-fully-ironic Slammers and Jam appreciators who have built and now fuel this absurdist fire. Most of the Slams are not “good” per se, but rather entertaining purely as a function of their very existence. Classic tracks like “My Slam Will Jam On” from the box-office smash Tijamic are not necessarily musically coherent, fun to listen to, or even appear to have taken any effort. This is a medium that hinges entirely on concept over form – the art lies in the simple, unbelievable fact that someone thought to do this thing and combine these songs and photoshop Jordan and Barkley’s faces over Leo and Kate.

We can browse r/comeonandslam with one eye cringing from the lazy, cacophonous remix and the other gleaming in a 90s-zeitgeist fever dream, repulsed by the butchering of fantastic songs and enthralled by the notion of Slamming every piece of music ever produced. There’s the catch, though: this project isn’t quite intentional and doesn’t aim at depth or complexity. Right there, in the title, is the self-referential, self-sustaining directive: Come on and Slam. The commandment handed down from Quad City DJ’s has moved many on the interwebs, and will be eternally upheld by its apostles. Everything must Slam, in the end.

Extreme Couponing is More than Just a TV Show

Guilty pleasure TV shows are what keep me sane. When my life is at the worst, and I can’t see the light at the other end of midterms, the hopeless (read: desperate) romantics on The Bachelor, convinced that they can find fairytale-style love in a contrived game, give me a sense of purpose that I can’t normally find. I can say, “At least I am not jumping off of a building with a man I just met who will go on a date with 25 other women tomorrow.”

Extreme Couponing

As the popularity of reality TV has skyrocketed, there has been an increasing demand for following the lives of people who live outside of the norm. I’m thinking specifically of shows like, Hoarders, My Strange Addiction, or Extreme Couponers. I never really thought twice about them.

And then after finding that Extreme Couponers is one of the few shows you can watch during 3 AM bouts of insomnia, I was suddenly considering why people live that way. Though not nearly as dedicated as the savings mavens of Extreme Couponers, I actually have a friend who can be found collecting coupons almost on a daily basis. It’s really her way of survival. She has a young daughter to take care of, and the combined income of her and her husband is simply not enough to sustain a basic standard of living. So, she coupons.

And damn is she good at it. I know this because she features all of her finds on her Facebook wall. Sharing with her friends unbelievable savings where a $300 shopping trip costs barely $20. Of course, you can see the pitfalls of shopping by couponing. Organic food is rarely on a two-for-one discount and you are more likely to be able to buy processed food in bulk than the fresher ingredients. But, it makes me wonder if a few hours spent coupon searching could forever change my bi-monthly Safeway visits.

As she is friends with other single mothers or people who just need to save a bit more, Alexis realizes how many people may need to rely on couponing, and that others might not have the knack for it that she does, or the time to spend learning the surprisingly intricate and complicated system. So, she offers lessons. Nothing formal, but she explains to people where to looks for deals, how to combine them, and then how to repeat your success over and over again. Her informal class actually follows a pretty effective business model for success, when success manifests in a lifetime supply of cleaning products and peanut butter. I would stress the value of the peanut butter over the cleaning supplies, she might disagree.

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March on Georgetown for Mike Brown

“This is not a moment, this is a movement” a leader addressed the hundreds-strong crowd in Foggy Bottom through a speaker system mounted on a handcart. I was surrounded on all sides by other protesters carrying signs bearing the message “STOP RACIST POLICE TERROR” or listing the names of the innocent black dead.

The National Black United Front, along with the American Muslim Alliance, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Answer Coalition, held the March to Georgetown for Mike Brown in solidarity with the people of Ferguson on Saturday night. Organized protests don’t often choose Georgetown as a site of dissent, despite the fact that John Kerry, Madeleine Albright, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and countless other major political figures all have homes in the neighborhood. The object of the group’s efforts on Saturday was less political than it was economic: until serious action is taken regarding the systematic violence against people of color in this city and this country, the NBUF and other like-minded organizations will continue to disrupt commercial centers with nonviolent protest. The Georgetown march is the latest action in a series that was sparked by the murder of Michael Brown. Other protests have taken place on U street, in Chinatown, and Adams Morgan. And they plan to continue.

I marched in solidarity with the cause, along with at least a dozen other Georgetown students, and around two to three hundred other protesters, from the Foggy Bottom metro station to M and 34th street. Wondering why there was so much traffic that night? That was us. As protesters walked, NBUF members led chants like “Justice for Michael Brown; A racist cop shot him down”; “We young, we strong, we marching all night long”; and the now-familiar “Hands Up — Don’t Shoot.”

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The group occupied key intersections like Wisconsin and M streets, to the evident exasperation of gridlocked motorists, who did not take kindly to some protesters leaving our designated lanes to wade through the traffic. Some taxi and bus drivers honked and cheered, though, and smart phones were ubiquitous. NBUF has clearly organized with an eye towards social media — chanting was interspersed with requests that the photos and videos uploaded by spectators be tagged #dcferguson.

By and large, the march was a success: both major economic arteries of Georgetown were effectively shut down, and the demands were clearly articulated at multiple points along the way. In brief, those demands are the arrest of Ofc. Wilson, the establishment of a civilian review board of the DC police with subpoena power, de-militarization of the police department, and a full review of all DC police killings since 2004. These acts of civil disobedience are highly organized and completely legal; the protest even had a police escort the whole way.

There will be more opportunities to be a part of positive change in DC: a rally and march on the White House will take place on November 1st.