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.”

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