Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sub-prime Mortgage Crisis: Dan Haar

Speaking tongue and cheek about the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, The Long Johns is a satirical British sketch comedy program which skewers news much like Jon Stewart on The Daily Show is known for, but as they sit and discuss investment bankers, the market, and the simpletons who were presumably duped by mortgage salesmen, they seem to be fairly accurate albeit entertaining.

By late October, countless news programs had gone through the notions of the subprime crisis explanation; even Internet websites like Youtube contained several homemade versions of, what they believed to be, the appropriate and most accurate depiction of the problem. As if it still hadn't been uncovered yet, National Public Radio's 'This American Life' thought many Americans were still left clueless as to what happened, so they created and dedicated two shows to the situation.

But was this enough? The media is known for taking a subject and churning out massive amounts of the same information in all sorts of directions, waiting for the public to take a bite.

In an interview conducted over the phone, Dan Haar, Business Editor and Columnist at The Hartford Courant, said he believed the media did okay with what they were given. “At it's heart, this has never been complicated and the so-called mainstream media had for the most part called it like it is, yet another investment bubble,” he said.

Defining the elements involved in this master scheme, Alex Blumberg, contributing editor of NPR's 'Planet Money', painted a mental picture for his audience in describing the world's collective subset of savings as a 'giant pool of money.' To increase the size of the pool, the bankers who oversee the 70 trillion dollars needed a low-risk, high return investment bubble: mortgage loans. In the first fifteen minutes of this special explanatory report, Blumberg and Adam Davidson had, domino by domino, knocked down the specifics; even translating Alan Greenspan's lingo into lamens terms.

Most programs explained the assembly package process of the mortgages and how they're multiplied and bundled. John Bird, portraying an investment banker, described the package of mortgages as they're moved along to Wall Street: “Suddenly this package of dodgey debts stops being called a package of dodgey debts, and starts being called a structured investment vehicle,” he said. Bird then gave a fake scenario of how an investment banker would buy and sell the 'SIV's' all over the globe. “I will ring up someone in Tokyo and say, 'I have this package, would you like to buy it?' and they, 'What's in it?' and I say, 'I haven't got the faintest idea,' and they say, 'How much do you want for it?' and I say, 'One hundred million dollars' and they say, 'Fine that's it.' The comical rendition of the situation was funny yet simplistic.

A major trend in all financial meltdowns seem to show an increase of explanations and reports after blow ups are reported as extreme; not so much beforehand as the problem intensifies. Explaining that the crisis has unfolded since 2006, Haar said, “The need to understand what happened and the levels and layers of ramifications had evolved, obviously to the point where the problem is far larger than all of the bad mortgages put together.”

Diving deeply into archives of articles regarding the topic, there is mentioning of the subprime crisis spanning back to 2003 when the United States had begun giving out mortgages at minimal conditions; it wasn't till 2006 that the real estate prices increased exponentially and the 'bubble' was created. However, the outdated articles regarding the issue are concise, brief, and bland. “It was less crucial for Americans to understand in those early months,” said Haar. “Most people didn't bother to figure it out.”
Even though the media may have faltered in expanded coverage throughout the course of the crisis in its entirety, they had explained the scenario sufficiently and effectively in the end. The real problem therein lied within Americans. “It is up to each person in society to reach toward an understanding of what's happening in public life,” Haar said. “That didn't happen because the typical person doesn't care enough to do a little bit of work to learn an abstract concept.”
Although admitting that most business writing is bad and news companies tend to abandon their responsibilities of properly covering the news, Haar didn't believe the media failed in regards to explaining the roots of the crisis.
Haar posed a bigger question on whether there is such thing as “the media.” “What is mass media and what is consumer electronics-based communication, in an age of Twitter and iPhones?” he asked. “The breakdown of that distinction, not the failure of professional journalists, is the heart of the reason why the typical person doesn't have the slightest idea what is going on in this world.”

Monday, December 8, 2008

CCSU Secretary Loves Her Job

“When my assistant director threw a toy pig out the window and made it fly, that's when I knew I was in the right place,” laughed Linda Kaupas as she sat at her desk, answering phone calls and speaking to her co-workers. In a back room of the office, voices are heard tossing around the idea of a trip to a Ron-A-Roll. “He's just a John Travolta wannabe,” says one to another.
“It's generally like this around here the majority of the time,” smiled Kaupas.
14 months ago, Linda Kaupas took on the Department Secretary position of Central Connecticut's SA/LD student activities and leadership development, located in the Student Center on the second floor. “The first couple days were stressful; it has always been a challenge,” she admitted. “There's always something different, each club has their own nuance.”
Coming in at the crack of dawn every day of the week, Kaupas unlocks the office, turns on the lights, opens the doors, and soon after, people start to trickle in. Being the secretary, she is always expected to be there: no ifs, ands, or buts.
Having grown up in the New Britain area her entire life, Kaupas has been forever familiar with Central's campus. While most of her friends attended college at Central, she opted for an alternative. “I tried to go to Briarwood College after high school but it was very elitist,” Kaupas explained, which was very unsettling to her. “They frowned upon public institutions like Tunxis, and I withdrew from Briarwood and went there instead.”
While Kaupas was more at ease at Tunxis, her hectic schedule didn't make graduating particularly easy. “I graduated a lot later than most because I had three jobs, so I could only take one or two classes a semester,” she said. “It took me about five years to get an associates degree.”
After working for Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection for a couple years, Kaupas got bored and wanted a new adventure. Tunxis had a faculty secretary position available, and is what ignited her interest in helping students.
“One time, a student was skipping classes, always using the excuse that one of his grandparents passed away,” Kaupas recalled. “In one semester, he killed off five grandparents. I told him that losing five grandparents was horrible, but that I'd need him to bring in an obituary. He said, 'I'll be in this afternoon,' and I said, 'I thought you would.'”
Switching from faculty secretary to admissions, Kaupas found her new job to be repetitive and routine. “As long as a student had a GED or a high school diploma, they are generally accepted at Tunxis,” Kaupas explained. “After a couple years of working there, it wasn't challenging anymore; who knows how many times I repeated 'pay your application fee, fill out your application, give me a copy of your GED or official transcript.'”
While trying on for size a couple other jobs, one of them took away Kaupas' social interaction with the students by establishing an Internet program called e-learning that halted students from entering her office. “The students weren't there anymore; I sat there twiddling my thumbs,” said Kaupas.
Ever since she started at Central, Kaupas admits there has never been a typical day. In between sending e-mails to students reminding them about activities and handing out paychecks to student workers and university assistants, Kaupas gets phone calls ranging from normal to unique.
“A woman called up recently asking about a yearbook, and I asked her what year she graduated,” said Kaupas. “1974. I'm still researching it.” After telling the story, her phone lights up again. Kaupas grabs it and kindly speaks to someone about campus tours.
Dealing with 112 clubs and organizations can get interesting for Kaupas; she helps with the creation of clubs, and watches some flourish while a few slowly fade. “There was a hand gliding club once,” she said. “That would scare the daylights out of me.” She was amazed that a marksmen rifle club was approved for next semester, but backed it up positively. “It won't just be about shooting, it will be informative as well.”
Kaupas' favorite part of her position is speaking with the students. When asked if she had any children, she says no, but quickly adds, “I have how many here? I have plenty here! Once I'm done with them, they go back to their parents!”
While dealing with a personal loss recently, Kaupas still came into work despite her co-workers urging her to take some time to herself. “I'd rather be here because it's the students who keep my mind off of it and keep me going.”
Once she leaves in the evening, Kaupas is completely family oriented. Having a big family and many dogs, she recently helped cook a Thanksgiving meal for 14 relatives, and is planning on baking 40-80 dozen Christmas cookies with her sister soon. “We call it the great cookie bake off,” she laughed.
Kaupas is comfortable and happy with her current job situation. “Being a secretary is what I wanted to be years ago, and still am now.” When asked about any future endeavors, she hopes to go back to school and get her Arts and Liberal Sciences master at Wesleyan. “I like to know what makes my students tick, it's a part of the Sociology major in me,” she said. “I like to take care of my students.”
“I could see myself here for another 15 years,” she added. “Or until I hit lotto.”

Monday, November 10, 2008

Election Day '08 Campus Coverage

Last Tuesday morning, I hustled to campus in hopes of not only hearing, but seeing fellow students and professors express their attitudes and moods walking to classes, sitting in classrooms, even while talking on their cellphones. I wanted to see facial expressions, bold debates with other individuals smack dab in the middle of campus grounds; to see signs, banners, and t-shirts. My first election serving as a journalist to the public, I anticipated an uprising. I hoped to run around, scribbling notes as fast as I could; trying to grab each suspense filled moment.
Writing about the election wasn't the only first for me in the course of the day; it would be my first time voting at the age of 23. Why did I decline to vote in 2004 when Bush battled Kerry for another four years in the office?
Being born and raised in Indiana and Ohio, the majority of my family and relatives are Republicans, respectively. When I was little, picking the next president was like rooting for a sports team because one or more family members were a fan: I always was swayed towards the Republican candidate because that was what they approved of.
Vaguely, but surely, I still have memories of the early elections in my lifetime. In 1992, I was in first grade, sitting in my house in West Carrollton, Ohio, listening to the television, the radio, and my father speak of George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton. Although I was not cognitively advanced enough to understand any particulars of the electoral process, I wanted Bush Sr. because my family spoke well of him.
When 1996 rolled around and Clinton was up to renew himself for another term against Bob Dole, I found myself in my fifth grade classroom arguing with my classmates, even my best friend, over which President was better. I wasn't the only one influenced by my parents: we all were.
It wasn't until 1999 that I received the biggest culture shock of my life: moving from the Midwest to the liberal East Coast.
Living in Connecticut, I learned to keep my mouth shut in regards to politics. As high school rolled around, I'd have political discussions and arguments with my father, either conceding or agreeing with what was agreeable, but not with my peers for fear of being attacked. I absorbed my new liberal surroundings while questioning them and always being skeptical. I didn't feel ready to vote in 2004 because I was unsure of which party I stood for.
As of the past couple years, I've combined the best of both ideals in each political party to make my own pseudo-party. Choosing a candidate in this election was a difficult task, but in the end, I chose Barack Obama because I believe he is someone as understanding as I am when it comes to leaping over the party barriers and listening to what every individual has to say.
While I didn't get the campus response I had initially wanted, I knew the majority of students felt the same way. Election day at Central was tasteful, rather than barbaric: people had an extra spring in their step, an “I Voted Today” sticker worn over their heart or on their face; it was a quiet, silent hope.
Going into a classroom, I queried a melange of students on whether they were voting or not, to which the majority responded positively. Most were anticipating the “historic” night, as most coined it, and gave general responses towards the election, saying that it didn't matter which candidate people voted for; it would still be monumental in terms of having an African American president or a woman vice president.
The class, Contemporary American Literature, studies writers who are deeply invested in the “American Dream” and how most American citizens are disconnected from their hopes of ever establishing one. English professor Aimee Pozorski is not the type of teacher who discusses her own views in her classroom because she understands the need for students to have the ability to make their own decisions. Outside and away from the ears of other students, she spoke of her approval of Obama.
“Obama not only looks to the future with hope, but he looks to the past with a sense of the history that the United States was founded upon: the equal voice that democracy promises, freedom, education, safety from harm, the physical necessities for day-to-day living as provided for the poor by the people with the wealth,” Pozorski said.
“I find it deeply troubling that we are one of the few democracies where the people are afraid of the government. Based on our founding documents, it should be the other way around really- the people should have the power. I believe Barack Obama will restore that power to the people.”
After taking photos of voters walking in and outside of Welte Hall, it was time to leave campus and go vote for my first time at my registered location. With no line whatsoever, the elderly ladies ushered me in with the kindest of attitudes and there I was: nestled in a plastic booth with a marker in one hand and a ballot in the other. Hours of anticipation compared to the two minute process seemed ridiculous, but I grinned as they scanned my ballot and off I went to watch the results across the country pile in.
Fast forwarding to eleven o'clock at night, sitting with two of my closest friends and calling another one screaming on the speaker phone, the wait was over. We did it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Conduit Labs New Game – Loudcrowd

Over the past five years, social networking has become the juggernaut of the information superhighway. With interfaces like the ever popularized Myspace and Facebook, users can stay connected to friends and family all over the globe with a simple click of a mouse.
But when does checking and updating lose its lackluster; is it really that fun to type wall posts and read what your friends are doing rather than being able to participate with them? Distance makes it hard for friendships to stay intact; are social networking sites doing all they can for users to maintain the bonds they treasure?
Coming in from stage left, Cambridge, Massachusetts based company Conduit Labs dances across the stage in a top hat and cane, ready for their big debut as the next possible social networking breakthrough.
Nabeel Hyatt, co-founder and CEO of Conduit Labs, noticed there was something missing from all the popular forums. “There isn't a place on-line for avid social networkers to react, to play rather than leave wall posts,” he said. “Ultimately our task is for people to get to know each other better.”
Hyatt hopes to invoke upon the Internet community the value of quantity over quality of the friendships made on-line. With users having the ability to add 'friends' without actually knowing them, Hyatt wanted to create a product that helps users focus on the friendships they already have. “There is this culture on the Internet of getting more and more friends on every social network,” Hyatt said. “ For us, to get the thousandth friend is less important than finding new and interesting ways to have fun with the friends you already have, that, and listen to some cool music.”
Conduit Lab's first creation, Loudcrowd is in private beta, currently selectively released to Facebook users, as it is still being reworked and developed for its mainstream release later this year. “It's the Internet without all the boring,” Hyatt said. “Loudcrowd is evolving into an interesting way to experience music. It's a flirty dancing game where the user gets to play with friends and meet new friends; it's like Rock Band meets Facebook.”
Auto-generated tag lines are Hyatt's favorite part of the game. When talking to another user, a person can choose an automated message coded in by the creators of the game, which are generally silly pick up lines. “I love logging into the system to see the new tag lines the guys put in there,” he laughed.
Loudcrowd will take shape over time, even giving the possibility of users having the capability to create their and construct their own play lists to dance to. Once released to the public, it will be free to play, but certain parts of the service will need a little dough. “Not until we put enough value into it will we charge for Loudcrowd,” said Hyatt.
The project has already received positive feedback from the trial version. “So far we have fifty percent of our users coming back,” he said. “It makes it easier to get up in the morning.”
Conduit Labs is a collaborative effort between artists, engineers, and business people to make a non-commercialized product that will appeal to younger audiences. Encouraging college students who are considering a career path in Internet based groups such as Conduit Labs, Hyatt simply said, “Make something.”
“Don't get a job in a big company where your creativity is going to get buried, this is the Internet. You can make anything you want. Whether it be a game, music, a blog: this is the age of making things, not studying only. So go make something,” Hyatt insisted.
Hyatt hopes that most will enjoy Loudcrowd's innovative concept and major focus on music. “We wanted to express our passion for music,” admitted Hyatt. “My favorite song is the Ting Ting's 'Shut Up and Let me Go'; it's completely drilled into my brain.”

Monday, October 20, 2008

Belding Visits Central

Babies of the eighties remember the early nineties television at its peak. From the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the Power Rangers, and every early morning cartoon in between, these technicolor heroes always had positive messages underlying every suspense filled episode.

In 1988 however, a new mentor came to early morning cartoons, but wasn't drawn onto paper. With his trademark laugh and his “Hey hey heys”, Saturday morning got its first sitcom on the air, and with that, America's favorite principal, Mr. Belding, played by Dennis Haskins.

10 years later, Haskins is still mentoring the younger adults by visiting college campuses, talking about his experience in the acting business, and giving advice about following dreams and achieving personal goals.

Last Tuesday, October 14th, Haskins visited Central Connecticut State's Welte Hall amidst a buzz of 350 students, all eager to see the most adored principal in television history, in similar ranking with Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World.

Students yelled their favorite characters, episodes and quotes all throughout the two hour experience as Haskins stood on-stage, recalling memories of high school and acting try-outs and callbacks. In an interview conducted by Central senior Prince Prescott III, Haskins answered questions about when he first caught his big break, and when he almost didn't get the spot for Mr. Belding.

Hailing from Chattanooga, Tennessee, the 58 year old actor dreamt of being an actor ever since he was in high school. In sixth grade, Haskins got a taste of his dream by starring in Pinocchio with college aged students, and eventually became a theater major in college at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

“My first shot at television involved a Louisiana outdoor drama,” said Haskins. “I played a bad-ass in a show with cars jumping up in the air and girls in daisy dukes.” Haskins was speaking of cult classic, The Dukes of Hazard. After filming the pilot episode however, he was skeptical about the career path. “I called my mom on a pay phone and told her it wasn't going to work,” he recalled.

Wanting to go to California to catch what he thought would be his big break, Haskins drove there with only $1800 in his pocket. “I slept on the floor for two years in a sleeping bag working part-time jobs,” he said. “I still have that sleeping bag.”

Saved by the Bell started off as a Disney television show entitled Good Morning, Miss Bliss, which didn't get far off of the ground. Disney halted production, but were not tearing down the set, nor throwing away the costumes and props. “The wardrobe guy told me to keep my suits,” said Haskins, as he hypothesized that if he kept in touch with the producers, they'd let him in on the next project.

Roughing it out to the final casting calls, Haskins was positive he could top his last, single opponent. The producer rejected him, and this baffled the young comedian. Haskins walked out of the building and called the producer from a pay phone while glancing up into his office window. “It's a no-no to call a producer after a rejection,” he said, but in this case, his persistence paid off. The producer accepted, and Haskins was on the path to becoming the tough talking, yet lovable, Mr. Belding.

“It was a good show with a message,” Haskins said of the new to Saturday morning Saved By The Bell. It took a while to catch onto the rest of America, but Haskins recalled the specific moment when he knew it had become famous. “The cast went on a mall tour and got their clothes ripped off,” he said. “That's when we knew it was a hit.”

“What made the show successful?” asked Prescott III, during the interview on stage. Students in the audience started yelling out answers, such as A.C Slater's mullet and simply Kelly Kapowski herself, played by Tiffani-Amber Thiessen.

Favorite episodes were then discussed, and of those mentioned, students laughed at recalling when Screech's pet salamander died, and when Jessie OD'ed on caffeine. Haskins favorite? “I have two,” he admitted. “The original graduation episode and the other is when Mr. Beldings brother Rod ruined a prospective rafting trip.” In the rafting episode, Rod promised a trip to the students and blew them off. Mr. Belding scolds his brother for breaking a promise and takes them on the trip instead; it was one of Mr. Belding's many fatherly figure moments.

After more of the episodes and favorites were mentioned and time with the audience winded down, Haskins left plenty of time to pose for photos with every Central student, smiling. Not only did he pretend to be a caring individual, he showed the audience how much he cared about young adults striving to accomplish their dreams. “Life is a series of connect the dots,” he said. “If you want it badly enough, you will have it. Find what you love to do.”

Haskins also connected the current state of the economy with being a college student. “The world sucks right now,” he said. “So stay here as long as you can.”

Man Man Dresses up to Paint Danbury Red

Photo Cred: Karyn Danforth

“There’s nothing like putting on an old woman’s bingo shirt,” remarked Ryan Kattner as he casually smoked a cigarette outside after an intense performance.

Ryan Kattner, aka Honus Honus, is the frontman of the Philadelphia based band, Man Man. The band, which has been compared to Frank Zappa and Tom Waits, is a theatrical marvel comprised of anything imaginable: face paint, costumes, plastic instruments, buckets, cans, even the simplistic jingle of keys on a keychain.

Man Man performed recently at the Heirloom Arts Theatre in Danbury, Connecticut with opening acts Tim Fite and Bottle Up and Go, and with the theatrical theme resounding in every performance; there was no room for anything that required perfection. While the openers impressed the audience with big hair, tight pants and ridiculously funny power point presentations, the final movement was yet to come.

After Bobby McFerrin’s early nineties hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” played what seemed-to-be ten times in a row during set-up, the musical circus had come to town.

Adorning matching cut-off jean shorts with white t-shirts and painted streaks on their faces, the quintet jumped right into many of their newer songs off of Rabbit Habits, which was released earlier this year.

Here’s the interesting factor in Man Man’s performance- they do not even once stop to talk to the audience. No cheesy “Hey Danbury, we’re here to rock!” exclamations. They stick to what is important: keeping the energy in the room alive and thriving from “Top Drawer” to “Big Trouble.”

When exclaimed how his costume changes were similar to a pop diva’s “two songs and a new outfit” rule, Kattner laughed, “But my costumes are ratty.” Hence the old women’s bingo shirts, that, and throw in some feathers and sparkly sequined sashes.

The audience was bedazzled by Honus Honus’ stage presence: one moment, he’d be jumping off a chair, the next, pouring water into a bowl and splashing it everywhere, or singing into a toy voice changer.

Man Man didn’t have to say anything to the audience to interact. As if the performance wasn’t enough, they’d pat drumsticks on people’s heads, throw out random objects, or stare at certain individuals dead straight in the eye.

Like every band, Man Man left and made the audience chant and pound their feet like savages until they returned for more debauchery, and what an encore it was, especially with their frightful ‘fairy tale’ “Engrish Bwudd,” with lyrical moments like “all I want to be is a bubbly gobbly gook” and “fee fi fo fum, I smell of the blood of an Englishman.”

Sitting on the side of the stage after the show, Kattner shook fans with every fan that had gathered to express their complete awe of what they’d witnessed. After a quick change of clothes, Honus Honus (a pseudonym, if one wasn’t aware) walked outside with me to fill me in on the hectic life of a band with a low budget.

“We make enough to live on,” he said. “We can only afford to take a month or two off [to tour], but then it’s back to work.”

Pulling out his Iphone, a fan jokingly mocks him for owning the expensive, hip device.

“Yeah, I have an Iphone but I don’t have a place to live,” Kattner replied.

While the art of translating energy onto audiences was discussed, Kattner was quite the jokester. After describing his hometown of South Philly as a place of “sweatpant boners,” he spoke of how he wants “to go,” so to speak.

“I want to be creamated and put into a pinata that looks like me,” he said, rather seriously.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Photo Cred: Conrad Akier

Klockner Stadium is a landmark for soccer in the United States. Home to one of the top ranked Atlantic Coast Conference teams, the University of Virginia Cavaliers, the squad boasts an amazing record of nine ACC titles and five NCAA Tournament championships.
Last Monday, September 22nd, the Central Connecticut Blue Devils embarked on a nine hour bus ride to arrive in time for a match-up against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night. With a North England Conference (NEC) title and advancement in the NCAA Tournament to the Sweet Sixteen under their belts, the Blue Devils were meeting up with a team they had not seen since 1997. In that one and only rendezvous with the Cavaliers, Virginia shut out Central 4-0.
“Virginia is a top notch team,” remarked Coach Shaun Green. Sitting on the bus, Green explained how he had studied and watched the last couple Virginia games. “They're one of the quickest teams I've seen in my college career.”
Making a short stop in Rahway, New Jersey, the Blue Devils did a meet and greet with a crowd of middle school aged soccer players practicing during the afternoon. Rahway is where Edwin Recinos lives, a former teammate of Greens. Recinos is involved with Central's squad in practically every aspect of his life, including his wife and kids, who travel and support the team whenever they can. Recino jumped aboard the bus, and the long journey ensued.
Arriving in Charlottesville, Virginia early in the morning, the team was exhausted and only looking forward to a six to seven hour slumber. The following day, getting ready for the match required plenty of breakfast, lunch, hydration, and naps.
Tuesday afternoon, the team was ferried to Klockner Stadium for a warm-up. Everyone including the coaches expressed their envy of the University's field. The turf was hug worthy as many teammates sprawled out on the field and others walked around, admiring and catching every angle of the monumental field that has hosted 27 NCAA Tournament matches and has held up to 8,000 fans.
Seven o'clock loomed around the corner, and the stadium began to fill with Virginia's faithful followers adorned in orange shirts. UVA apparently does an impressive job of interesting people to come out for games and holds an array of fan related activities all throughout the games, from one dollar hot dog, soda deals to rocketing memorabilia into the crowd with t-shirt guns.
As loud music pumped out of the sound system, the introductions began, and with the calling of each name, a video screen built into the intricate scoreboard flashed pictures and video of their well loved Cavaliers. Having watched Virginia's warm ups, there was a feeling in the air that this team was going to be something else; something that had the potential to blindside and leave other teams speechless.
Six minutes after the start of the match, Cavalier freshman Tony Tchani sank in a shot past Blue Devils goalkeeper Paul Armstrong from 15 yards away, but then something happened ten minutes later that overcast the entire game.
In what seemed to be a complete accidental collision with Central junior defender David Tyrie, Virginia's forward Chris Agorsor, recently voted one of the best freshman in the country, landed and tore his ACL and had possibly torn his PCL, which is an uncommon injury. 28:17 was frozen on the scoreboard for ten minutes as medics rushed out, the ambulance came, and Agorsor was taken away on a stretcher. Agorsor will be out for Virginia's entire season.
Once the game presumed, Tchani avenged his fallen teammate by scoring the penalty kick. With twelve minutes left in the first half, Cavaliers junior Ross LaBauex scored while Armstrong was out of the box. The 45 minutes ended with Virginia making 14 shots and Central with 1.
Only one other goal occurred in the first 15 seconds of the second half; it was made by Virginia freshman Brian Ownby from 12 yards away. For the remainder of the game, Central's squad held Virginia back as the rest of their shots on goal failed. What was remarkable though, was that each shot on goal by Virginia was an acceptable one; Armstrong and the Central squad's defense worked hard and did not falter.
After 11 years, Virginia had still managed to pull a deja vu shut out, and while Central came out a little frustrated, it was the experience that counted. Central got to mix up their line up, putting in many newcomers who needed the game play.
“These types of games are challenging but important,” said Coach Green. “It raises our visibility on a national level, and prepares us for the big games. There's no shame in getting beat and knocked down, it's getting back up and responding.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

Passion Pit: Chunk of Change

Girls love when guys give the gift of music. Generally in the form of mixes, whether on tape or CD, they are supposed to be little sentimental tidbits that solidify and speak of the relationship they cherish.
Mixing it up a bit more, what if said boyfriend was a musical mastermind, cooked up the most savory catchy batch of beats entirely of his own, and it was all for you? For a while, until he showed it to everyone else.
Michael Angelakos, the leader behind the project known as Passion Pit, took this rather peculiar path after his girlfriend probably pushed him out the door to show everyone else what a delicious six course/track meal this was. Angelakos gathered a bunch of handsome looking scruffy men in glasses to accompany him for live stage performances, and the stage was set for Passion Pit to blow up and surpass expectations.
Squeezed tightly into the sardine packed Toads Place one night last May, I gazed up to the front to watch a band that I didn't quite catch the name of, for my friend and I were eagerly awaiting Girl Talk to take the stage. Passion Pit began their elaborate array of electronic pop that could give one a mouthful of cavities. Dancing as hard as we possibly could, we realized at the end of the night that this band had reigned over the main act.
As of last Tuesday, Passion Pit's freshman EP, Chunk of Change, is available in stores and on Itunes. Not many words can be used to describe the tracks; this is an album that you just have to listen to immediately, especially the songs “Sleepyhead” and “I've Got Your Number.” You'll be hearing their name pop up a lot more often, so you might as well get on the ball and like it before others do; there's obvious gloating potential here.

Promiscous Chile

What happens in Santiago, Chile, stays in Chile. This statement doesn't hold much breadth if one was to hear about what is currently going on this this sexually conservative country: teenagers around the ages of 14 to 18 are stripping down to their skivvies in public and grinding against each other at clubs holding parties from afternoon till nighttime. Tie it into the fact that American teenagers are exploring sexual acts at younger ages, and the “what happens” phrase no longer applies.

Technology has been the driving force in Chile's youth. Using social networking sites to talk to their on-line crushes, they then go to these clubs to pursue the teens they've chatted with, but never met. In most cases, they end up making out with that person among many others by the end of the night.

In Santiago, the prepubescent bodies twist and turn to 'reggaeton beats' with lyrics inviting them to “Poncea! Poncea!” Translation: make out with as many people as you can, the New York Times reported.

The country is finding it difficult to cope with the newfound promiscuity. Last year, a video popped up on-line of a 14 year old girl excitedly performing oral sex on a teenage boy on a park bench, and the pregnancy rate among young girls is constantly rising, according to NYT.

The problem doesn't lie within the teenagers decisions. There is little to no sexual education in Chile's school systems, so what they don't learn, they'll want to go learn themselves.

While it may seem a bit haywire at the moment, this was seemingly destined to occur after the downfall of the dictatorship the country was previously in. Older generations fought hard for their children to have these freedoms, but they weren't prepared to moderate them.

Take a look at our country's teenagers: aren't studies showing that our younger ones are experimenting with sexual acts earlier in their middle school careers? What is currently being tossed around and debated by our two presidential nominees? Sexual education. The United States is in need of keeping a topic this important afloat; it seems like the no sex ed/social networking combo is a recipe for disaster. If all else fails, parents might actually have to sit down and talk with their children about the birds and the bees. That works, right?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Plow Down the Brick Walls: Randy Pausch

Murphy's law and enlightenment go hand in hand down a yellow brick path that branches off to side-roads towards acceptance, change, and fulfillment; Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch took this scary, yet enchanting walk. Along the way, he picked up millions of followers, all eagerly willing to be taught how to live life battling the walls erected when society, an individual, or a mere uneasy feeling attempts to thwart a person from chasing their dreams.

Dr. Randy Pausch, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, a leading institute in robotics technologies, recently passed away this summer from terminal pancreatic cancer. When the loving husband and father of three young children first learned of his ailment in September of 2006, he was told the unthinkable with a very positive twist.

“You probably have three to six months of good health,” said Dr. Wolff, as quoted from Pausch's bestselling novel, The Last Lecture, which is a follow-up to his highly acclaimed presentation, now featured online.

Pausch was surprised at how well attuned the medical staff was to speaking of negative outcomes in a calm, reasonable light. Instead of worrying about himself, in the book he spoke of sitting in the waiting room with his wife, Jai, thinking random thoughts such as, “Shouldn't a room like this, at a time like this, have a box of Kleenex? Wow, that's a glaring operational flaw.”

That was the kind of person Randy Pausch was; he simply couldn't drone on the fact that he would soon have to part with his loved ones and colleagues. Being a professor and having the ability to embark knowledge upon others, he was given a chance to do a 'last lecture.' He told his wife Jai, “I have a chance here to really think about what matters most to me, to cement how people will remember me, and to do whatever good I can on my way out.”

Made viewable to the public on-line by Carnegie Mellon, viewers are allowed to watch the lecture in full length.

In the video, he walked into McConomy Auditorium at Carnegie Mellon on September 18th, 2007 with the entire audience on their toes applauding loudly, Pausch, adorning a Disney Imagineer work shirt and name tag, shushed the applause with a humble, “Make me earn it.” Deep within the audience, a man shouted, “You did.”

His presentation, entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” began by Pausch introducing the 'elephant in the room'. Projected up onto a screen were the cat scans of his tumor-filled liver: ten to be exact. “If I don't seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you,” said Pausch. “I assure you, I'm not in denial.” Showing the audience how physically in shape he really was, he got down onto the floor and started doing an elaborate set of push-ups.

In the entire one hour and 16 minutes, this was the only time Pausch brought his ailment to hindsight. His discussion centered around his childhood dreams, and how he has been able to enable the dreams of others. With lessons involved, Pausch urged others how to reach their own dreams, and spoke of how we can help push others to succeed theirs as well.

Pausch's childhood dreams were captivating: being in zero gravity, playing in the NFL, authoring an article in the World Book Encyclopedia (growing up, his family had owned the entire collection), being Captain Kirk, winning the giant stuffed animals at theme parks, and becoming a Disney Imagineer. Separating him from accomplishing these however, were 'brick walls.' “The brick walls are there for a reason,” Pausch explained. “They let us prove how badly we want things.”

For Pausch, these came in all forms: his difficult yet fundamentally driven old school football coach, Disney executives refusing him in the most polite 'go to hell' letters ever written, college administrators who wouldn't let him go on sabbatical to Disney, the 'happiest place on earth,' and countless others. Pausch believed that his parents, and his wife Jai, were the reason why he was so successful; he explained how they never let him off easy, so fighting for what he wanted was the only way to make it happen. “Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted,” said Pausch in his memoir.

While he certainly checked off all of his dreams on his 'to-do' list (Pausch didn't become Captain Kirk, but he got to meet and show William Shatner the virtual reality work him and his students were creating) he gave the shiniest coins of inspiration one could ever give: really amazing quotes. Pausch admits to loving quoting others, especially his father. “When you have someone like my dad in your back pocket, you can't help yourself,” he said. “You quote him every chance you get.”

The Last Lecture, both the video and his book, has been watched and read by millions all over the globe. Pausch even had a website, where he tried to blog everyday, keeping everyone updated on his progress, and about any 'cool new things' he got to experience. “I'm not going to stop having fun because I'm dying,” he said. “I'm going to have fun everyday.” On May 18th, 2008, he gave the commencement speech to Carnegie Mellon graduates. It was as expected, another Pausch gemstone; in the end, he whisks his wife off of his feet and gives her a big kiss.

Pausch followers dreaded, yet expected the day to come where the world would be informed of the passing of the wonderful man who catapulted through life without limitations. Sadly that day arrived on July 25th, 2008, and remorse was felt by everyone who had learned of Pausch. It didn't matter that most had never met him; there are no boundaries when it comes to being touched and feeling for others. What Pausch did hope to pass on through everyone else, is how to treat others the way they should be treated, and to never give up on yourself, or others.

"You just have to decide if you're a Tigger or an Eeyore."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Earliest Recording Unearthed

Move over, Thomas Edison, it’s time for Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville to get the credit for the earliest known audio recording.

According to the New York Times, a 10-second recording of a woman singing “Au Clair De La Lune” was discovered earlier this month, and researchers are certain that it was created on April 9, 1860, 17 years before Edison’s infamous “Mary Had a Little Lamb” recording.

What was merely squiggles on paper turned out to be a phonautogram, which was a recording created on a 19th century phonautograph. The phonautograph, invented by Scott, could transcribe sound into a visual medium, but was not made to sufficiently play back any sort of audio. Scott, a Parisian inventor, was fully convinced that Edison had received recognition that was rightfully his own.

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California used a mix of optical imaging and modern technology to extract sound from patterns etched on the soot-blackened paper 150 years ago, and with that, the rag-like 9 by 25 inch rectangle gave way to the clearest, cleanest audio waves conceivably possible for such a time period.

Before this momentous occasion, scientists were only able to make phonautogram’s “squawk,” but this one was special. In the recording, a hissing, popping background gives way to a woman’s eerie rendition of the lyrics “Au clair de la lune, Pierrot répondit” in a hauntingly short and creepy fashion.

Some Central Connecticut students provided their thoughts on the recording, which were rather mixed reactions.

“It reminded me of a class I took while going to school in Chicago for two years,” said junior Nick Garofolo. “We analyzed recordings and had to figure out what they were recorded with while learning the history of recording.”

“Sounds really rough... haven’t these people ever heard of digital?” quipped junior Phillip Causey, while others, like freshman Nicole Verderame, were naturally curious. “This is really interesting, especially knowing that it was waiting in storage somewhere just to be discovered,” she said. “It makes me want to know who the person was that was recorded.”

On a broader social front, the audio clip has continued to get national recognition. Charlotte Greene, a BBC newsreader, dissolved into a fit of giggles after playing the recording over the airwaves. She attempted to continue business as usual, but could not do so after a studio member remarked that it sounded like “bees buzzing in a jar,” according to BBC News.

Discoveries such as the April 9, 1860 phonautogram ignite cravings for history that are insurmountable, and should be spoken of to children and young adults alike. It is a driving force that will propel students into a world of education that they will not want to leave, and will most likely inform and teach others of what they learn.

But seriously, in all the years of knowing what is produced from a coal oil lamp or what lines the inside of a chimney, who would have realized that by simply putting that and a piece of paper together, that a voice could be recorded? It is a marvel, and a mystery, and thanks to Scott, it will now be researched.

Staying Connected: After 31 years, four CCSU grads have remained close and reminisce about their days on campus.

“We used to keep our beer cold in the window,” laughed Pam LaCharity as she sipped a glass of wine. “Only the rich kids, like Nancy, had refrigerators,” Colleen Kubinsky said as she pointed at her friend Nancy King. Robin Gooch began to chuckle, and the women dissolved into a fit of laughter.
For 31 years, these four CCSU alumni have been meeting for an annual lunch to catch up with each others' lives, and to revisit and remember the memories. “We've all gone different roads in our lives, but we've always been together,” said LaCharity.
Nancy King and Pam LaCharity had once went to high school together, but their friendship did not solidify until they roomed in the 'once upon a time' all-girls dorm of Seth North. It was there that they had met Robin Gooch and Colleen Kubinsky; and the quartet was established.
Central was, during the 1970's, a wet campus. A pub used to reside inside the student center, and it was always packed. “A line used to snake out the doorway; as each person left, they took someone in,” recalled LaCharity. The ladies had VIP access, all thanks to a friend who had worked there. Two dollars pitchers of beer were enjoyed as movies graced the screen of the pub every Thursday night.
Campus mainstay Elmers was around back then, and doubled as a strip bar. A pizza joint called Belvedere Pizza was nearby, and the ladies would walk there to grab a few slices and have a good time. With three out of the four not having a car, anything within walking distance was a sure-fire check off of the 'things to do' list of Central happenings.
Imagining a time before cellphones, computers, and Facebook may be difficult for some, but for these women, college without these gadgets was not a disappointment. “You had to go out to socialize,” said Kubinsky, a 1976 education graduate. “We traveled in packs.”
Every dorm at Central used to have parties; they would hire a DJ, get a keg, or would make a nice big barrel of 'Purple Jesus.' “People would bring the hose in and fill a garbage can full of water, a can of Kool-aid, and a ton of grain alcohol, then turn around and sell tickets for two bucks a cup,” said LaCharity, a 1977 education graduate.
Semi-formal dances, called functions, were also held for each dorm every semester, giving everyone an excuse to dress up like the prom and dance the night away. “Some of our fondest memories include us getting ready for the functions in our rooms together; sometimes we'd just take the whole day off from classes to do so,” said Gooch, a 1977 business graduate. The invitations would not forget the most important ingredient to the night however, and would mention the most popular initialism in a college setting: BYOB.
As I sat with these four cheerful “bitties” (as Gooch referred to them as) they showed me pictures of them dressed up at functions, parties, for Halloween, and their graduation days. Each photo had a particular story, and a laugh or two to accompany it.
“Partying was a part of our life, but within reason,” said Gooch.
“It's pretty amazing that any of us graduated,” laughed Kubinsky, and the others followed suit.
CCSU in the 1970's was considerably different: technology was undergoing changes, security wasn't an issue, and students weren't the stressed out multi-taskers they are today. Students wrote their papers on typewriters, the main doors to residence halls would stay wide open until late at night, and when they were not partying, students went to class, and worked 10-15 hours a week to hold up their discretionary funds. “There was no need to drive off campus,” said Kubinsky.
Primitive methods of the yesteryears have been replaced with easy clicks of the mouse on the Internet. Picking classes, for example, used to be an ordeal. Students had to go to the student center, get in the line of the department the class is in, and get a card punched. Today, e-mail makes contact with professors a quick, impersonal act, while before computers, students had to grin and bare it by walking to offices and having face to face conversations, although meetings such as these are still welcome.
Simply put, there were no individualistic luxuries. Students typically did not own the common technological devices that today's students take for granted, whether it be a computer or television set. With one television being in the basement of an entire residence hall, or one major movie being shown in Welte Hall, these were the moments that students came together to enjoy a good flick, and some great company.
The four recalled some loopier memories, in which they spoke of the ridiculous stunts boys would pull to get attention. “Guys used to come out of their buildings and streak naked, and go flying across campus,” said Kubinsky.
“Some of the boys who lived in Vance owned tarantulas,” said LaCharity.
“Then there were the pranksters who would shove pennies in our doors, and we couldn't open them,” said Kubinsky, proving that boys will be boys, even to this day.
Certain residence halls had different reputations, as well. “Beecher were the pot heads, Vance were the jocks, Gallaudet was co-ed, Barrows were the elite girls, and above all, Seth North was home to the nicest people,” said Gooch, recalling her own residence dorm.
Dorm life was always abuzz; residents would hang outside of their rooms, using the hallway to its fullest advantage. “We'd sit in the hallways to study and support one another,” said LaCharity. A phone booth existed in each hall, and was the only means of contacting the outside world other than snail mail.
While there was no such thing of a spring weekend, spring break was the time to take a bus trip down to Florida with a bunch of friends. “We would drink beer on the bus, and then drink grain alcohol out of the hotel room tub,” recalled Gooch.
Once the four graduated, they were adamant about keeping in touch, and thus established annual get-togethers. “When we began doing these, we'd laugh and say, 'Wait till we all get married, wait till we all have children,' and now we're at the point where our children are getting married. Now we're saying, 'Wait till we're all grandparents.' Every time another milestone rolls around, we're still together,” said LaCharity.
Gooch smiled and agreed. “Us getting together is a testament to the fact that the friends you make in college can really become lifelong friends,” she said. “Now that we're older, we drive more slowly, and drink finer quality wine.”
“Enjoy it while you can,”Kubinsky said in regards to college. “It goes by way too fast.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cafe Nine’s Burlesque Bust

Photo Cred: Stephanie Bergeron

For a theatrical entertainment movement that was born in the Victorian era, the concept of burlesque is not a commonality in the 21st century. With that said, the general audience is apt to misconstrue it as raunchy, or too hot to handle.

Having a hairpin of a clue about burlesque, I decided it was best to go out of my comfort zone and attend a burlesque act. After all, I had been awkwardly dragged to the Gold Club once, so I was naturally curious to see how the two were supposedly different.

As I freed my Saturday evening to attend Cafe Nine’s burlesque act, I pumped myself up, fantasizing that it was going to be an unforgettably wild night, and not just some walk in the park.

Burlesque, in simplest terms, means “in an upside down style.” It encompasses a hodge-podge assortment of clothing fashions with parodic concepts, and is meant to be particularly witty, often at times mocking the social attitudes of the upper classes. The working class society clashed with aristocracy often, and because of these tensions, a rather lowbrow humor followed suit.

Due to a social crackdown on the burlesque scene in the 1930s, the shows began to dissipate, and with the downfall of burlesque came the birth of striptease. With help from women wishing to keep the tradition alive, neo-burlesque was formed, which is the type of shows displayed presently.

As night fell onto New Haven, I opened the door to Cafe Nine and, quite frankly, couldn’t believe my eyes. If you thought I was talking about being engulfed in a crazy party, you are sadly mistaken, for the show had yet to begin. What confused me was the fact that the place was a crawlspace, and the stage nestled in the corner was definitely not going to fit the spectacle I had in mind.

A man made his way around collecting the $10 cover charge for the event, and I noticed the small bar being swallowed up. People were packing themselves into the place like sardines; I was trying not to be claustrophobic.

Meeting one of the dancers, Leroi, I felt a little reassured that the night would go smoothly. She looked as if she had stepped right out of the 19th century with a hair wrap and a floor length faux fur coat. When one of the managers received word that I was a first timer, he exclaimed, “Oh, you’re in for a treat!”

It wasn’t a treat, it was a down right headache, and even after five vodka cranberries, I couldn’t get over the fact that I didn’t have a buzz, and that the performance was 45 minutes late. My side was then being attacked by a woman’s long, bushy hair as she danced to every single song being blasted while we waited. Then, as luck wouldn’t have it, a stocky bald man jutted his glutinous maximus into me as he danced his way to the front of the crowd. My patience was wearing thin as my personal space had disintegrated.

The presenter, who had as much face make-up as a clown, finally took the stage. While nothing particularly witty sticks out in my mind, she was, for lack of a better word, “cute.” Her rather brief segment ended, and the first dancer emerged onto the stage, having fought her way through the jam-packed crowd.

“She is hungry for lesbians!” shouted the presenter as Leroi the Girl Boi began her routine. Leroi’s costume was out of this world: a mixture of Asian and Mexican culture had seemingly taken shape on top of her head, an extravagant headdress that was beyond words. The complexity and aesthetic wonder of it left me to ponder how long it took her to build such a piece. Matched with the headdress was a long, furry yellow cape, which she used to her advantage as she stripped off underneath, leaving the audience wondering if she’d show us the end result. After a mere three minutes or less, the cape came off, the boobie tassels twirled, and that was that.

It was Maiiah the Mistress of Serpents that left me very uneasy about being in such a confined space that could have easily had the fire marshal called upon. In the middle of her act, she pulled out a huge, live snake. Her act ended, and with the snake still slithering around her shoulders, she slowly made her way through the packed audience; bumping the snake into people and freaking them out. What I wouldn’t have given at that point for someone to have fainted, but in all honesty, what if something had happened to the snake?

As I struggled to see what was going on over taller limbs, I caught mere glimpses of the three acts, which spanned out to be what, a whole ten minutes? The presenter then announced that there would be an intermission. I thought to myself, “Are you kidding me? An intermission? That was nothing!”

I couldn’t stand to wait around for the next segment, there was no way. I was miserable, and the fact that I had spent over $30 to put up with these annoyances was weighing heavily on my thoughts. Agreeing that it was time to leave, we had the most difficult time getting out of the place; the crowd was so heavy set and unresponsive that it took a whole ten minutes to walk across a few feet of floor to the exit.

If you want to go see showgirls, (which these dancers were most equivalent to) go to Las Vegas. If there is an act somewhere locally, check to see if the venue is large enough. Or, just don’t go anywhere and look up porn on the Internet you’ll be all set.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Find a Friend at the Connecticut Humane Society

Some say the bond between human and pet is everlasting. In a world piled high with financial responsibilities, animals are becoming increasingly overlooked in the grand scheme of things. Relocation, debt, or long hours at work make people question their ability to take care of their feline and canine companions.

The Connecticut Humane Society has three different adoption centers around the state in Newington, Waterford, and Westport that take in animals that are of any size, shape or form. Giving up a pet can be a difficult task, but the humane society welcomes pets with open arms.

“Owners come in telling us they can no longer care for their pet and we take them in and find them a new home,” said the Society’s Public Relations Director Alicia Wright.

For prospective new pet owners, the humane society should be the first pit-stop. With an annual adoption rate of 90 percent out of 9,500 pets, it is almost certain that upon a visit, one will inevitably fall in love with one of the sweet, adoring creatures the society houses.

These unique, one-of-a-kind animals need extra love and care for what they’ve lived through; each has a separate story, whether it be a relocation, behavior, or medical problem. After an individual walks in and picks their new friend, the staff of the CHS has an interview with them to see if they are capable of handling the pet.

“We look to make a match be- tween the owner and the pet so we can avoid the pet becoming homeless a second time,” said Wright. “One of the main things we look for is if the person understands the basic financial responsibilities and what kind of experience they have with animals.”

Wright made a strong point of calling these relocations “forever homes,” because that is the main emphasis; it would be heartbreaking for the animal to end up back at the society.

The pets at the three facilities come from all over the state of Connecticut, and some picked up from animal control. CHS has also been working with a few shelters down South, where there is a very high rate of euthanasia.

An overwhelming pet overpop- ulation problem exists in the southern states. “It is just insurmountable,” said Wright, who spoke of the lack of access to veterinary care. “It is more difficult for people to practice spay/ neuter.” Shelters are faced with growing numbers of animals trying to find homes, and in worst case scenarios, have to euthanize healthy, adoptable pets.

“We started to work with them to expand our outreach services, have more animals available for Connecticut residents, and above all, place more animals for adoption,” said Wright. The Connecticut Humane Society is also paying certain veterinarians down South full salaries to educate them on how to spay and neuter in hopes of decreasing the problem.

Endless success stories pile into the humane society and are chronicled in books available to owners upon their visits to read and be inspired from.

One of the more recent success stories involves an older woman crippled with the passing of her pet and with her own medical problems, which were causing her to become too much of a homebody.

She visited one of the locations every day in hopes of finding a new friend. “Our staff continued to work with her, and one day, it just happened,” Wright said. “She came in, the perfect pet was there, and she adopted it.”

Since then, Wright told of how the pet helped the woman become more involved in her community. “We gained an amazing friend,” said Wright. “She gained a new pet and a renewed lease on life.”

The big question on most perspective owners’ minds might be, how much are adoptions? Puppies ($110) are the most expensive, while kittens are $100, adult dogs are $80, adult cats are $70, and small animals are $30. The cost includes spay/neuter, vaccinations, and if the animal came in with health conditions, they are stabilized or cured.

Now with that said, you may be planning on bringing home a new addition to your home, whether you’re a single owner, or a young couple. Wright has advice for young adults, especially if they’re just graduating, buying a new home, or committing themselves to a new job. “Think about time management,” she said. “If you are going to be out of the house for 12 plus hours, you may want to consider an easily manageable pet rather than a dog or cat.”

She urges people to do their research on realistic costs, especially when one may be juggling student loans and rent on a new job’s salary. “Having a pet as a member of the family, it is a huge commitment. Do your research and are you’re more likely to be happy with your end result,” said Wright.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fly to New Heights Via Songbirds

There is a place for individuals who would rather shop for jewelry with more character than what can be found in overpriced department stores or fine jewelers. For tobacco enthusiasts, the avid smoker would be equally as thrilled to know that this specific shop also carries Connecticut’s largest collection of glass pipes, hookahs, vaporizers and more.

Songbirds, located at 2551 Berlin Turnpike, has an eclectic range of handcrafted goods from all over the world. “The majority of our selection comes from overseas,” said Datura Damiano, who has worked at the shop for half of its two-year existence.

Privately owned by a couple who has traveled all over the world, the establishment is an eye-opener for true cosmopolitans. As a selection of music from different countries and time periods satiate the eardrums, your sense of smell is f looded with the fruity, musky scent of incense.

Sterling silver rings, bracelets and necklaces are on display in the glass cases, each embedded with varying gemstones such as moonstone, tiger’s eye, turquoise, amber and others. Gemstones have more personality than your typical 18K white platinum diamond ring, and Songbirds’ jewelry is reasonably priced and affordable. “We have jewelry sales every weekend,” Damiano said.

“Our stock is constantly new,” she explained while pointing out some particular pieces. Wooden drawers shaped like tree stumps are displayed throughout, which would be perfect to hold one’s newly-purchased gemstone jewels. These draw- ers were specially handcrafted and shipped by an artisan from Costa Rica. Near the drawers are handcrafted wooden layered puzzles, in shapes ranging from puppies to guitars.

Local artists’ paintings adorn the walls, from oil-based to prints, and elegant yet funky bells and wind chimes hang from the ceiling. Sculptures of ethnic faces stare up at you from display tables, balanced out with treasures from all over the globe.

There are even some cute odds and ends in the store, such as bowls made out of old records, bongos, tiedye shirts, hand puppets and natural soy wax candles made in Connecticut.

Smoking objects are in a room adjacent to the main section of the store, which is off-limits to minors under 18 years of age; individuals are carded as they enter. Songbirds represents the Illadelph Glass Company, which is a manufacturer of innovative hand-blown glass water pipes, sent here all the way from Hollywood, California.

Supporting small businesses and artists is crucial, and Songbirds understands this often forgotten fact. It’s beneficial to the consumer because of the quality, not quantity, and it can open up a world of insight to adventurous souls. Heck, it might even compel you to do a little exploration of your own.

Shady Glen: Keeping it Old School

February 27, 2008

Photo Cred: Stephanie Bergeron

Sixty years ago, one man created the world's first lactic attack of a cheeseburger that has become a historical, yet delectable monument to the city of Manchester.

As of today, customers at Shady Glen, located at 840 Middle Turnpike, frequently order this well-known burger, having been aptly named after its creator, Bernice Reig.

For newcomers, coming face-to-face with this edible masterpiece of art can solicit an odd reaction; to describe it in words isn't doing it enough justice. To really tell its tale is to explain the preparation process.

With an ordinary slab of meat and three to four pieces of your everyday American cheese, both are combined to make something extraordinary. The slices of cheese are carefully placed as a mosaic on top of the meat patty as it sizzles, so that the edges untouched by the meat melt directly onto the grill. Contact with the hot surface allows the edges to turn chewy and crispy, and when dolled up with a bun, curves around the sandwich as if a clam was sticking its tongue out at someone.

A rather fun aspect of Shady Glen is the customers' experience of getting to watch everything being prepared right in the middle of the old dairy bar. That's because the booths and tables rest around the restaurant's cooking area; waitresses adorned in 1950s garb of pine-green dresses with aprons take orders, while cooks and bus boys saunter around in white button down shirts, bow ties and hats.

Shady Glen Dairy Bar is accustomed to their old-fashioned appeal, because it is what keeps customers coming back, that and their delicious burgers and homemade ice cream.

A common favorite platter amongst visitors would be the Bernice Special. For nine dollars, a decent sized platter of French fries and homemade coleslaw comes alongside your cheese-nificent burger. The waitress then sets a caddy full of ketchup, mustard, onions and relish down so that the customer can decorate his/her burger however they wish. For just a small additional cost, tomatoes and lettuce can be added as well.

Once seated, little paper cups of water are served, but what drink complements the burger the best? An old-fashioned milkshake of course, filled to the brim in a tall silver cup. The waitress gives you the entire beaker, so that you may help yourself to a couple chilly refills. Milkshakes are available in every flavor; some are rather eclectic, and range from vanilla, to grape-nuts or even chocolate Almond Joy ice cream.

For desserts, Shady Glen offers sundaes and fruit ice creams, which are crammed with fresh fruit from local and regional farms. "From the ice cream to the burgers, everything is fresh," says William Hoch, the executive manager of Shady Glen. Hoch goes to work at the crack of dawn everyday, and is very dedicated to the business. "The cleanliness, product and service are what counts, even down to the 1950s atmosphere."

Let me describe one process in hopes of making your mouth water. Some of the ice creams are topped with a rich, gooey chocolate sauce that hardens upon impact with the chilly treat, causing an explosion of rich, fudgy chunks.

Six dollars can take home your very own selection of hand-packed ice cream, and around the holidays, a half-gallon of Christmas ice cream (with red and green cherries) or some Thanksgiving pumpkin ice cream.

Amidst the shiny, stainless steel communal counters and colorful murals adorning the walls, lay booths full of amazingly satisfied customers. "It has been a great business," Hoch said as he spoke about the 60 year annivesary. The food is the same as it was in 1948, and won't be changing anytime soon.

The art of Shady Glen's cheeseburger has made this roadside restaurant a must, and even if Bernice made his signature burger mistakenly, it proves that good always comes out of the bad.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Goldfrapp: Seventh Tree

Alison Goldfrapp's voice is mesmerizing. From the moment you press play on Goldfrapp's latest album, Seventh Tree, you are charioted away to an elegant sound-world of ambient, soothing tempos that are accentuated by Alison's sensuous, drawn-out notes and perfectly played-out pitches.

Goldfrapp's newest release stands out from most of their collection; before Seventh Tree, Goldfrapp was a bit more tantalizing. Their most recognizable hit on Supernature, "Ooh La La," was featured in commercials for the scintillating FX television series "Nip/ Tuck." Most of the tracks on Supernature resonate a Kylie Minogue feel, even a hint of Gwen Stefani. As if the crazy electronic party got a little too out of hand for Goldfrapp, Seventh Tree is seen as a bit of a 'rehab' album for the band.

"Clowns," the first track on Seventh Tree, has a Joni Mitchell appeal; lest we all remember Mitchell's impressive range, where she could dip low into false baritone and bounce back immediately to sharper, high notes. Alison shows her ability to do the same and could give Mitchell a run for her money.

Recorded out in the English countryside of Somerset, most of the album reflects that serene feeling that is evident in most of the tracks, especially "Little Bird" and "Happiness." They also have that psychedelic '60s feel, with a mix of reverberating sounds and noises in the background of Alison's lyrics, which feel very Beatles- oriented.

Every single track is as aesthetically pleasing as the next; "Road to Somewhere" and "Eat Yourself" are two dazzling gems of Seventh Tree, and in "Cologne Cerrone Houdini," a beautiful string arrangement sashays its way through four minutes of bliss, whilst Alison asks, "Could we be together in another world?"

Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center

Calling all collectors and novelty enthusiasts: search no longer for that vintage Hannah Barbara lunch- box or giant Pez dispenser! In need of a bobble-head or two? Look no further, and stop digging through your parents’ old junk in the attic!

There is a living monument to the unforgettable time periods that are well-passed and long gone: an ode to the pop culture that defined us as Americans.

Driving down Newfield Street in Middletown is quite ordinary; that is, until Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Center comes into sight. It is as if you began to trip right then and there, as the explosion of colors numb your senses.

The building’s exterior is difficult to describe; it is that intense. Each side has been painted with historical figures and cartoon characters, from Jim Morrison to Superman. Janis Joplin is seen hanging out by an unmarked entrance and next to it, a sign painted with the old phrase: “Hippies use side door.”

“It’s good to have high ceilings,” said owner Wild Bill. “Makes it easier to pile a lot of crap up.”

For 25 years, Wild Bill has been living a dream, owning sacred novelties that people constantly are pining after. As an early distributor of Funko, Bill started out selling Wacky Wobblers, otherwise known as bobble-heads. Funko has also made a bobble-head of Wild Bill, which resembles him with his long locks in an Uncle Sam top hat and peace sign necklace.

Bill then increased his store’s merchandise to hold rarities, ranging from hard-to-find vinyl records to recreations of old concert f lyers, along with the millions of posters and postcards.

Wild Bill’s past is as colorful and adventurous as his store. Having worked for the Barry Goldwater campaign in 1964, he then enlisted in the Air Force in 1966 while most were avoiding the misery that was Vietnam. After coming home, he settled down, got hitched, and had three children, all of whom work at the establishment as well. “My children and grandchildren work here; it’s strictly a family business,” Bill said.

Outside the store, on his 45-acre lot sit, 28 tractor-trailers full of rare finds. The store is already filled to the brim as-is, so Wild Bill takes out handfuls of loot from the trailers when he has the time, and the space. “This is what happens when you don’t throw anything away for 60 years,” he said.

One item in his store holds a personal meaning to Wild Bill: a life-sized, electronic, animated clown built in the 1920s, straight from Coney Island. As he plugged it in and turned on the semi-disturbing laugh track, I watched the clown’s haunting movements. “This is sentimental to me because my grandfather was a Barnum & Bailey clown,” Bill explained.

Random objects hang from the ceilings, whether it’s a giant Mini-Me (Austin Powers) or a section from a kiddy carnival ride from the 1940s. “Anything goes here,” said Wild Bill. “Whatever I find, I sell.”

While scouring the inside of the store, I stopped to gander at myself in a warped mirror, attempted to talk myself into purchasing a liquor bottle lamp and eventually ended up at a $550 Coca-Cola soda machine, starting at it intently and wishing it could reside in The Recorder office.

From vintage toys to wigs, suspenders, model cars, sunglasses and more, nothing in the store can be classified as “normal.” “It’s oddball stuff, but people do buy it,” Wild Bill said. “I started the kind of place I’d like to shop in.”

Distributors from all over the U.S. and Europe know about Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Center. “They know we’re here and that we buy strange things,” he said.

Even Rob Zombie knows; he used a Wild Bill’s poster in one of his latest movies. Speaking of great publicity, A well-known television station is noticing the store’s outer beauty as well. “MTV is shooting a music video here next Sunday,” Bill noted. “It should be interesting.”

Wild Bill is planning an action-packed summer full of outdoor concerts, f lea markets, and better yet, a fun house built behind the store that will be open to the public. “I was thinking of having a hot dog stand built into the fun house,” Bill said. “You’d order your hot dog, go through the fun house, and then receive your hot dog as you walk out.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Exercise Your Inner Dude At Bowl-O-Rama

Late at night when the city of Newington sleeps, there lies a place alive and thriving with the thunderous sound of a collision so recognizable, yet so rarely seen or practiced by the youth of today.

When thinking of an exciting late night out with friends, ever consider a few rounds of some bowl-on-pin action?

Bowl-O-Rama, located on the northern end of the Berlin Turnpike, is a 24-hour family owned and operated establishment committed to “an inexpensive way of having fun,” says owner Rip Callahan.

The alley, opened in 1959, is a way of life to the three generations of Callahans who have kept it af loat throughout the turnpike’s constant f luctuation. “We’ve seen [the turnpike] at its peak, its decline, and now current upswing,” said Rip, who has been a bowling aficionado since the age of 16.

Despite the turnpike’s ins and outs, Bowl-O-Rama has always had a constant inf lux of customers. Great for family get-togethers, celebrations and birthdays, the alley is surely a cost-effective, yet elating way of having some friendly, fun competition.

“It gets very busy on the weekends,” Rip admitted.

It is a rarity to find any place open much later than 10 p.m. on most nights, especially weekdays. Having begun its 24-hour, seven-day-weeks ritual in 1960, Bowl-O-Rama caters to night owls and insomniacs alike. This works especially well for college students, who are always on the lookout for some excitement after their long, class-filled days.

There are plenty of perks to selecting a night out bowling compared to some ritualistic club or party. With a bar open till 2 a.m. on weekends, a legal bowler may sit back and sip a cold beer as they watch their partner-in-crime bowl a goose egg. What can a college ID get you? A free pair of bowling shoes. Being a mere five miles away from campus, it’s friendly on your gas tank. Need any more convincing?

Rip’s son, Fred Callahan, wants to organize leagues for colleges within a 15-mile radius for a bit of a “Best Campus Wins”-kind of competition. “It would be very flexible,” said Fred, in terms of working around class schedules. “I think it would be awesome to attempt.”

Bowl-O-Rama also offers normal leagues, which take part in winter and summer sessions. “There has been a decline in league bowling,” Rip said. “Luckily, we still have around 1,600 to 2,000 members.”

With that said, there’s no stopping you from bringing out your inner Dude (think The Big Lebowski) and creating your own team, or just taking a night out to enhance your chances of attaining a turkey (three strikes in a row). Just remember, bumper bowling will not impress your date.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Alchemy Juice Bar Cafe: Something for the Stomach and Mind

February 6, 2008

Photo Cred: Conrad Akier

Sequestered away amidst the hustle and bustle of Hartford's busy streets is a place of rejuvenation and relaxation.

The Alchemy Juice Bar Cafe livens up a rather dismal-looking section of New Britain Avenue, serving as home to an assortment of vegan and organic treats from fruit smoothies to soups and sandwiches.

For the past five years, Alchemy has opened their doors to individuals seeking a different alternative to large chains that serve anything, and leave their customers clueless as to what is in it or how it is prepared.

The Juice Bar, which has won numerous awards from the Hartford Advocate and Co-op America, has forever committed itself to only using fresh, organic, raw produce that has been locally grown.

"This is basically the way we live," says Alchemy's owner, Imani. 203 New Britain Ave is not just a restaurant, it is what she, her husband and their six home-schooled children call home. Imani, who has a Master's Degree in Early Elementary Education, raises her children with a "green" awareness, stressing the importance of an eco-friendly lifestyle.

With this knowledge, her children will go into schools to teach others about the wonders of organic food, and other elements that surround a healthy way of living.

With an oxygen bar, yoga studio and an eco-boutique included on the premises as well, it's hard to stay narrow-minded at such an eye-opening place. Herbal remedies, dried fruits and even non-toxic cleaning supplies and hemp-made journals are scattered throughout the site for purchasing; and, of course, there are freshly-made delicacies.

Speaking of smoothies, Alchemy's selection includes some interesting mixes, from the Antioxidant Acai ($6, with acai, banana, coconut and pineapple juice) to the Tantric Love ($10, with cacao, goji, strawberries, banana, coconut, dates and berry tea), and one could even select a milkshake smoothie ($6) made with dairy or vegan ice cream.

It is a definite must to get a bowl of the Soup Du Jour ($5) and, from a personal standpoint, the Veggie Miso was excellent, especially with its fresh mixture of potatoes, carrots, tofu and scallions.

What is so great about an oxygen bar? Pure oxygen "gives you energy, calms your mind, and stimulates your senses," read a handmade sign next to the machines. It is $7.50 for 15 minutes of use and should definitely be tried at least once for the sweet smells of lemon grass and cedar wood proliferating ones nostrils.

"We are committed to this neighborhood and are aiming to revitalize Hartford," said Imani eagerly. She and her husband, John Vito, are planning to create a co-op for sustainable living, aptly named The Growing Green Project.

"I would love to see more young people involved," she admitted, hoping that college students will stop by, enjoy the atmosphere and learn more about the cause. What you do spend, you gain in health, knowledge and empowerment. It's a good feeling.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Losing My Tanning Bed V-Card

What is particularly pleasing about going to a tanning bed? I’ve always pondered this question and have been strongly against ever stufing myself into one of those terribly hot, cramped quarters. So, this made me 22 years old and still a tanning bed virgin.

Why was I so against it? One summer, my mother was going to some tropical island down south and needed a “base tan,” meaning she didn’t want anyone to see how translucent she was. Going to a tanning bed a few times a week for 15-minute intervals, she claimed she then had skin problems. Her legs had seemed to become permanently chapped, and thus she had to use lotion more frequently. To me it sounded like what could develop into something more serious, and I have never wanted to risk getting skin cancer. I’m worse enough when it’s 95 degrees and sunny - I sometimes forget to wear sunscreen. I’m not completely paranoid; I just didn’t understand the point of voluntary skin cancer.

One night last month, my stepsister and I had just returned from gallivanting at the mall. Driving back, she subtly asked, “Want to go to the tanning place? The irst visit is free.” She had already paid for a month’s worth of visits to the “fryer,” and she knew I had been curious about it. The only reason I agreed is because it was free. What could honestly happen to me in one visit?

Walking inside the newly-opened establishment, I peered around and a bronze-faced, blond-haired lady noticed my puzzlement. I was a deer caught in the headlights; I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. My stepsister, having already been acquainted with the procedure, told the woman that I was new. I had to pick up two little eye gadgets so that my retinas wouldn’t be sizzled out of my sockets.

Sitting and waiting for a room to open up, I spaced out and stared down the aisle. The tanning rooms were on both sides, all full of naked bodies in mechanisms that remind me of giant clams. As I waited, the lady gave me suggestions on how long I should go for my irst time.

“Personally, I think it would be good to go for about seven minutes,” she said so matter-of-factly. “You have a very fair skin type.” I agreed, and she said if I wanted to jump out before then, all I had to do was press a button inside the bed that turns it off.

A room opened up, and after the bed had been cleaned and wiped down, I was escorted inside. Never before had I gotten naked in a public place, besides the doctors ofice. Luckily, the rooms were very private and spacious. I got undressed, applied some weird lotion that I had been given for free, implanted the eye goggles and slowly crawled into the blue illuminated machine.

I began to sweat profusely; my back was slippery against the glass bulbs, and beads were dripping down my face. It was deinitely not for the claustrophobic, but I am not; oddly I was rather relaxed. Seven minutes felt like two, and I opened the shell of the bed feeling like nothing was different.

It wasn’t till the next day that I noticed how burned I was. My face was lushed, my upper body was a bit scorched and I was quasi-darker than usual. The real “fun” didn’t occur until about a week later, when I began to peel like a snake sheds its scales.

Weirdly enough, it was a rather calming experience; in the winter especially, relaxing in a heated bed is just as good as it gets. I could never be a slave to the tanning bed; but maybe once in a blue moon I will go for seven minutes in heaven. In reality though, I enjoy the skin I’m in, and I don’t think an overly-bronzed look would suit me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

True Life: I Worked At McDonalds

The unemployment rate is on the rise everyday. As more individuals are laid off, many barely making ends meet as it is, where can they honestly turn these days? People will practically do anything to make life affordable and provide for their families. High school and college students require money for paying rent, car insurance, phone bills and tuition, among other things. Not everyone can land their dream job, especially when they don’t yet carry the credentials nor have the connections to do so. With our current economic situation, you take what you can get and suck it up.

Is it really that painful, working at a fast food restaurant such as McDonald’s? It’s rather simple, and can be a great opportunity for individuals seeking to expand their leadership and business skills. Many who work there long term end up becom- ing managers or can go on to create their personally owned enterprise of McDonald’s establishments. Is there money in that? Of course; most store owners have made decent lives for themselves and are very respected within their communities. With any major company there is always a chance to advance; that is, if you have the commitment and willpower to stay on track.

Sadly, the “stereotypical” McDonald’s worker is seen as lazy, unintelligent and incapable of advanced skills. This couldn’t be more untrue; in fact, these are the people who deal with more hardship and inconsistency in their lives then people who can completely bypass a fast food job in general.

McDonald’s can be demanding in more ways than one. Take socialization for example: since the key objective is “Fast, friendly service with a smile,” the public has a high expectation for their quick, cheap meal. With most on the run, they expect instant gratiication; if this is not met, most grow very impatient and can be rude. Once the employee puts on that uniform, they become a commoner. This doesn’t always give them the respect they deserve as a person. Employees deal with the crabby, insulting people who just don’t understand how much it can suck for them, the workers who have to grin and bare the customers’ needs and remarks. This applies to any customer service job, whether you’re a waiter, a supermarket cashier, and even a hairdresser! If someone is dissatisied, employees have to give them what they want. The customer is always right, correct?

During my short few-week stint at McDonald’s over winter break, I was subjected to the annual SOR, which is when a McDonald’s representative comes in to do an inspec- tion. Everything must be perfect because the store is graded on cleanliness, quality and performance. Prior to the visit, each of us individually had extra cleaning jobs and duties to be prepared for the visit; I even had to be ready for answers to questions such as, “What was the target rate of customers during lunch hour?” Seems ridiculous to most, but it is very important and crucial to the business. It was taken very seriously by most, as even the store owner was present, and our general manager was obviously nervous and eager to please. Hard work paid off in the end, as all of our scores were in the mid 90s. My co-workers and I were showered with praise, and then work continued in the same format it had always been in.

In retrospect, I have saved up a decent amount of cash for my next semester at college. If it will help me financially, why should I be embarrassed about having worked there? We’ve all had jobs that we’ve been embarrassed to tell our friends about, but why should we care what they think? And more importantly, if they would make fun of you, are they really worth keeping around? Even if you’re working a job that you know isn’t the greatest, it will shape you into a stronger individual that is more akin to understanding the ups and downs in life. For those who don’t experience it, well, they’ll just continue to be ignorant; but let’s be hopeful that won’t become a true statement. As the father in Calvin and Hobbes always tells young Calvin after doing jobs he despises, they just simply “build character.”