A Review and Analysis of Sufjan Stevens’ “Impossible Soul” That Literally Nobody Asked For

By: Alyssa Murphree, May 9, 2017

I’ll cut to the chase. This is a completely unwarranted review and analysis of a song that was released in 2010. You may be wondering how or why I’m going to write a review of a just one single song. But this is no ordinary tune. This is the nearly 25-minute spectacular that is Sufjan Stevens’ “Impossible Soul” and I’ve only now just garnered a mature enough attention span to listen to it in its entirety and ponder its meaning.

“Impossible Soul” is the final track on folk-rock, multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens’ 2010 album The Age of Adz. The song is a five-part musical epic chock full of deep, as well as catchy lyrics, wild guitar solos, the harmonizing of male and female vocalists, and some questionable, yet intriguing autotune usage. Much of Stevens’ music is autobiographical, and “Impossible Soul” is no exception. However, this song happens to provide a different experience for each listener, as each individual may have their own favorite part of the song and their own interpretation of its meaning. Music is, a very personal medium after all. Given the lyrical content though, the majority can agree that this song is Stevens’ way of reflecting on and coming to closure with a past relationship, a lover to whom he had bared his impossible soul to.

Each of the five parts have their own distinctive sound and are unique from each other, however leaving any one out could potentially alter the context of the song. They all carry each other and bring something beautiful of their own to the table. Based on my interpretation, these parts symbolize the five stages of grief, the grief Stevens experienced following the end of this intimate relationship. Grieving does not occur in linear progression, and the sequence in which they occur varies between each individual. In fact, some people may not experience every single stage. But here on “Impossible Soul”, we can observe the run of Stevens’ emotions through the different parts of the song

The first part is when Stevens and his partner are actually in the process of breaking up, the very beginning of this personal journey. We can gather that this was an unhealthy relationship for Stevens by the lyrical content that occurs in this section and throughout the song. The rhythm to this part is slow and cautious, as if Stevens is trying to gently tread his way out of this relationship. In the first few verses of the song, Stevens sings “oh woman, tell me what you want, and I’ll calm down without bleeding out, with a broken heart that you stabbed for an hour,” before stating “my beloved, you are the lover of my impossible soul.” It appears that Stevens is defensive and somewhat apologetic through this breakup, and that he feels the need to assure her of the love he did feel for her, despite how he was treated. But unfortunately, the damage was done and we can get a sense of denial, the first stage of Stevens’ grief in this part, as well as the next. “Don’t be distracted,” are the words that Stevens sings repeatedly throughout this second part, as he appears to be hyping himself up for the rocky road that is yet to come in the aftermath of this breakup.

In the third part, we garner the self-loathing that Stevens is experiencing at the very beginning of his newly single life. “Stupid man in the window, I couldn’t be at rest. All my delight, all that mattered, I couldn’t be at rest,” sings Stevens, although it is not entirely clear if the “stupid man” he is referring to is himself, or rather that he is angry at God, as he is a highly spiritual individual and many of his songs allude to that aspect of his life. This section displays the anger and depression he is experiencing in his grief. In the background of this part, we hear frantic, muffled, what seems to be yelling, which elevates the unrest that is felt in Stevens and that the listener can feel as well. The lyrics “oh I know it wasn’t safe, it wasn’t safe to breathe at all” add depth to the unsettling and emotional downward spiral he is experiencing before slowly calming down at the end of this part. “Hold on Suf, hold on Suf,” he sings to himself over and over before enthusiastically clattering into the next part.

With no time to spare, we move from the melodramatic lyrics and instrumentals right into my favorite part of “Impossible Soul”, the rousing and self-motivating part four. “It’s a long life, better pinch yourself! Put your face together, better get it right,” chants Stevens and the background vocalists in what is seriously a bonafide jam. It’s hard to imagine somebody’s emotions shifting into self-love, perseverance, and acceptance this quickly following the brutal breakup we just spent nearly half of the song listening to. From there, the remaining majority of this part is Stevens repeating the catchy mantra “it’s not so impossible!” to himself over and over with a trumpeting, infectious beat scattered between.

Just as quickly as the transition from part three to four occurred, we move into the slow, acoustic final part of “Impossible Soul”. Because this part has the ability to stand alone from the rest, it can sometimes be found individually with the title “Pleasure Principle”. Stevens tinkers on the strings of an acoustic guitar as he sings “I never meant to cause you pain, my burden is the weight of a feather. I never meant to lead you on, I only meant to please me however.” Stevens is coming to terms with the circumstances of the breakup and accepting that he played a role that led to it as well. He acknowledges that a significant factor of him remaining in the relationship for so long was for his own pleasure, his selfishness, stating that “girl, I want nothing less than pleasure” and even questioning his partner in believing that he would stay for so long with “and did you think I’d stay the night? And did you think I’d love you forever?” In this part, we hear Stevens finally accepting the course the relationship took, the final stage of grief. “Boy, we made such a mess together,” he admits to himself, as the 25 minute tale ends and softly fades away.

Alice Through The Looking Glass: A Movie Review

By: Rachel Lyle, April 21st, 2017

My two  favorite books have always been Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. So when I found out that Tim Burton was making Alice Through The Looking Glass I freaked out. I loved Tim Burton’s Version of Alice in Wonderland so I thought I might enjoy this one as well. When I watched this movie, I more than loved it, I was enchanted and enthralled by it. If I had to pick only one movie that I could watch for the rest of my life it would be this one

The story line was changed from the bookBecause the first movie had the storyline of Through The Looking Glass they had to come up with a whole new storyline. Instead of the journey across a giant chess board while meeting lots of strange creatures and having strange experiences, Alice has to travel through time.

The mad hatter, Tarrant, is dying because he believes that his family is being held captive somewhere in Wonderland by the Red Queen, Iracebeth, and not dead as previously thought. So Alice has to go to the Palace of Time who is personified as a man to get the Chronosphere in order to travel back into the past to save the Tarrant’s family. In the process she ends up being chased by time and also attempts to keep Iracebeth from hitting her head as a child and thus saving her from becoming the evil Red Queen. She fails in her attempt to keep this from happening to the Iracebeth because she finds out she cannot change the past but she does find and save Tarrant’s family in the present.

My favorite part about this movie wasn’t anything about the storyline. It was the costumes and the sets. I loved the costumes especially because they were all brightly colored, silly, out of this world, and extremely exaggerated. I loved the sets because all of the flowers and plants were strange and exotic and in beautiful bright colors as were the buildings. The buildings were strangely shaped with mismatching doors and windows and all in vibrant, bright, contrasting colors. Even in the darkness of the Palace of Time, all of the colors seemed to stand out because they were bold, vibrant and beautiful. The colors were bold blues and golds, bright pinks, yellows, greens, and oranges, and deep reds, and purples. I have always loved bright and bold colors and all things kooky and crazy so I loved the sets and costumes of this movie.

I enjoyed the awesome upbeat soundtrack of the movie. It was suspenseful at times and just plain silly and entertaining at others. It was all done by Danny Elfman, who in my humble opinion knows how to produce very lovely music of all kinds. All of the soundtrack was done by him except for one song which was sung by the lovely P!nk, called “Just Like Fire”, which has become one of my favorite songs since the first time I watched the movie.

I loved watching this movie and want to watch it over and over again. I think it is a perfect family movie, perfect for people of any age. I would recommend that you watch this movie if you haven’t yet because it is awesome. One thing I didn’t like about this movie was the fact that at one point, Alice comes back home from Wonderland and finds herself in a psych ward and has to go back to Wonderland. I also didn’t like the fact that, I didn’t like this in the first movie either, the hatter, Tarrant, is portrayed as being part of the High Top clan and as having an actual family. Despite these things I give it two thumbs up and five stars. 10 out of 10, I would watch it again.

The Giver: A Review

By Taylor Blasko

Lois Lowry’s young adult novel The Giver is one worth taking a look at again. Apparently, for people of my generation this was a common book that was both assigned in school or read for entertainment alike when we were all in middle school. I am actually one of the few that didn’t read it when I was younger. My first encounter with this book was with my Young Adult Literature class this semester. But I really wish I would have read it sooner. All of my friends that loved to read would always tell me it was a book I would like, I just never got around to taking their advice and cracking it open. But I’m glad this class in my last semester of undgrad forced me to read it.

For those who haven’t read it, it’s a dystopian novel where the main character, Jonas, is chosen to be the Receiver of Memory. It’s basically a very regimented society where when the kids turn 12 years of age the government decides what their occupations will be. This is obviously a problem in and of itself, but The Giver engages in so much more.

The main thing that I came away from the novel with was the question of is pain necessary? My biggest struggle with this question is that I know on a fundamental level that nobody wants to experience pain and to assert that someone else’s suffering is necessary is a very inhumane statement. If you have a friend that was abused as a child the number one thing you don’t say is, “everything happens for a reason” or “pain is part of life” or “now that you experienced that pain you can be even more happy then the rest of us!” Like no, those things are not encouraging. At. All. And so I always fall back on my sentiment that pain “in the world” is necessary I think because we need to be able to recognize bad things in order to recognize the good we have. And not that we can’t recognize good when we can’t see the bad, we just appreciate it more. But like I said before, you can’t tell someone that is suffering that pain is just a natural part of life and that they should get over it. And so I see myself as saying there should be pain “in the world” but not pain “for me” specifically. Which is selfish, I know. And I don’t know what to do with that. Because a part of me is still really uncomfortable saying that nobody needs pain. Because as we see in The Giver, a life without pain is a life lived brainwashed.

So that’s what this book grapples with. In this book the Giver, whom is the one that gives all of the memories of the world to the Receiver, Jonas, says to him, “I have great honor…so will you. But you will find that is not the same as power.” In this set up, everyone in the world is set up to live ignorant, brainwashed lives —except the Giver and Receiver. This gives them honor but no power over the system. The problem with our society is that we feel sympathy and pity for those that have suffered, but as a society I think we struggle with empathy, which is really the level of understanding we should be striving for in order to keep everyone’s humanity.

The ending of the book grapples with some of these ideas and maybe, in my opinion attempts to turn them on their head. Overall, it’s a fantastic book  and I would suggest reading it if you haven’t already.

Review: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness @ The Fillmore, Philadelphia

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 19, 2017

On Friday April 7, I had the pleasure of seeing Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness perform at The Fillmore on the Philadelphia stop of their Zombies in America tour. Having purchased my ticket in November, and writing a review of their latest album, you could say this was a highly-anticipated event for myself. I had the right to anticipate it so highly, as I can confidently say that this was undoubtedly my favorite concert I’ve attended thus far.

The night began with two opening acts, Night Riots and Atlas Genius. Night Riots, a band originating from San Luis Obispo, California, enchanted the crowd with their deep, haunting melodies, dark lyrics, and light up drumsticks. Atlas Genius, hailing from Australia, was invited on the tour, according to Andrew McMahon, because of lead singer Keith Jeffrey’s involvement in writing his song “Brooklyn, You’re Killing Me”. Based on the text conversation of the guy next to me, one may find Atlas Genius to be reminiscent of Coldplay, but to each their own. Another fun fact about Atlas Genius is that three of the band members are brothers. I found this out upon further research in order to answer my question of “why does most of this band have the exact same face?”

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is the solo project of Andrew McMahon, who is known for his previous punk bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. McMahon is the principle songwriter of this project and his touring band has been coined “The Wilderness”. This show was part of the Zombies in America tour following the February release of his latest album, Zombies on Broadway.

The collective enthusiasm for McMahon once he ran on stage was nothing like I had ever experienced. The sold-out crowd of 2,500 was comprised of fans who had been along for the ride since his 2005 Something Corporate days, to younger fans like myself, who have been fans for only a few years, but devoured his entire discography and knew every word as if we’d been there forever. The aforementioned texting guy was telling the people around him that this was the first of FOUR shows he was seeing on this tour, all within the next few days. “It’s an Andrew weekend!” he yelled across the rows to a fellow diehard. Intimidating.

McMahon immediately burst into “Fire Escape”, a single from the new album which has received frequent radio airplay. The entire set consisted of him either sitting to play at the piano or jumping around stage, crowd surfing, or running in front of the barricade. He played a variety of songs that originated from every point in his career, from old Jack’s Mannequin favorites to his newer hits.

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Andrew McMahon of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

There was never a dull moment during McMahon’s set, as he is truly the master of audience interaction. I can’t imagine that there could possibly be a better show to have a spot at the barricade for, and I consider my left-center barricade position one of my highest life achievements. This first time McMahon crowd surfed (yes there was more than one time), he set sail in an inflatable rubber duck. Duck in hand and venue security in tow, he walked over to where I was standing and discussed his game plan with us. We were the ones responsible for the launch of him and his duck on their grand voyage around The Fillmore. No pressure. How anybody can manage to crowd surf and sing perfectly in tune is a mystery to me, but McMahon managed to do it while singing one of his latest songs “Don’t Speak for Me (True)”.

Some highlights throughout the set included his stripped-down cover of Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream”, a rousing throwback to the Something Corporate song “I Woke Up in a Car”, and emotional renditions of the popular Jack’s Mannequin tracks “Dark Blue” and “Swim”. Of course, we can’t forget McMahon’s newer music, even when nostalgia gets the best of us. Some of the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness songs played included “Walking in My Sleep”, “High Dive”, “Shot Out of a Cannon”, and “Canyon Moon”.

Now, back to the audience interaction I will never stop speaking so highly about. For the song “Synesthesia”, McMahon took us back to our elementary school gym class days and brought out a gigantic rainbow parachute. The parachute, which spanned across almost half of the floor, was held up by fans who danced with McMahon as he meandered his way through the crowd who sang along with him.

Unfortunately, all amazing and fantastic things must end. McMahon goes out with a bang with one more crowd surf during his three-song encore. He tells us about his Amazon browse for obscure pool floats for this very purpose and surprises us with a golden dragon, which he takes for a spin during an instrumental reprise of the Jack’s Mannequin song “La La Lie”. At long last, the final song of the night is the highly-anticipated Billboard charting hit, “Cecilia and the Satellite”.

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Andrew McMahon and his golden dragon on their maiden voyage

To those who may be familiar with only a small fraction of McMahon’s work, I recommend you go see him. To those who might have never heard a single song by him but know that he’s coming to your city, I recommend you go see him. Two girls who were near me during the show were actually there to see Night Riots, and told a couple that they didn’t really know any Andrew McMahon songs. They ended up having as much of a ball as the rest of us. I cannot possibly speak higher of such an artist. If you want to experience the most intimate show and the biggest party at once, go see Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.

Soul Surfer, a Movie Worth the Watch

by: Alyssa Ruffolo

*WARNING: INCLUDES SPOILERS!*

The movie Soul Surfer (2011),directed by Sean McNamara, is based on a true story about a young surfer named Bethany Hamilton whose arm was completely bitten off by a shark when she was only thirteen years old. Having already began to make a name for herself in the surfing community, Bethany survives the traumatic event and eventually picks up where she left off in her surfing career. I saw this movie when it first came out in 2011 and really enjoyed it the first time I watched it. I have watched it several times since, and while it would be considered a “chick flick” by most, I would suggest it to anyone who likes a heartfelt, inspiring tale. This is a family drama that includes tropical beach imagery, religion, and action/competition.  It is similar to The Blind Side (2009) film in the way that it is based on a true story that pulls on the viewers’ heartstrings with struggles, selfless help from others along the way, and ending with the main character overcoming a life-altering obstacle. The credits in both movies include real-life photos of the people who are played by characters in the movie, which serves as a nice touch to remind the viewers that many of the events in this movie actually happened, and not even that long ago. Many people enjoy watching a film that is based on real happenings because it shows credibility and makes the audience feel closer to the characters. We like a story where the main character goes through some kind of hardship and comes out on top because it gives us inspiration that maybe we could approach our hardships in a similar way and feel the same satisfaction/success on the other side.

If you like the whole bohemian, tropical, surfer image, you will definitely enjoy the imagery in this film. From the clear blue ocean waters, to the stretching green mountains, to the tall palm trees and tan/barefoot inhabitants of the islands, this movie paints a picture of the Hawaiian paradise which Bethany calls home. The colors are bright, there is a nice breeze, and the sun is shining in most scenes. There are a few parts prior to the shark attack scene that have the viewers on edge, thinking she may be attacked at this point in the film. For example, Bethany goes night surfing with a group of friends and there is a shot where the camera is below her surfboard in the dark water, seemingly from the point-of-view of a shark swimming below her looking up. I suspect this was a decision made by the director because many viewers already knew the main plot of the movie and expected the shark attack. The director probably wanted to make it more of a surprise to the audience, so he used these tactics leading up to the scene to provide more suspense.  While her childhood is portrayed in the movie to be likely much more fantastic than it actually was, it is enjoyable to imagine this ideal life of living on a Hawaiian island and spending your life outside in the fresh air, surfing and going out to parties with your best friend. Bethany has minimal school-related worries because she is home-schooled by her own mother so that she has more time to focus on her surfing career. She is well-known in  for her athletic ability in the sport, has a good relationship with her family, has a friend group in the local community, shares a strong sense of identity with the religious community, and is seemingly very content with her life. This imagery is intended to appeal to an audience who enjoys an idealistic, romanticized story.

On the other hand, there is also a lot of action included in the movie. The surfing competitions are intense and suspenseful. An upbeat song plays as the horn sounds and Bethany and her competitors splash into the clear blue water to begin the surfing competition. A half-pipe is briefly shown, with skateboarders swiftly gliding up and down and skillfully flipping in the air. The surf competitors are shown snapping off the waves and doing several stunts as the judges call out the names and points earned by the competitors. Bethany and her biggest competitor Malinda slice into the water as they race to catch the next wave. Although some of the shots are clearly digitally edited, the actors did indeed learn to surf for various scenes in the movie and Bethany Hamilton and her personal coach had a lot of involvement on the set. This makes the action scenes more authentic and exciting to watch.

Religion plays a big part in the real Bethany Hamilton’s life. When she won the 2004 Teen Choice Award, she said she owed her strength to Jesus Christ. I admired how they kept these religious themes in the movie because it evidently plays a huge part of Bethany Hamilton and her family’s everyday life. In several interviews and blogs by the real Bethany Hamilton, she describes her religion has her meaning for life and says that her faith is what gave her the strength to make it through the near-death experience and the struggles following the loss of her arm. In one of the opening scenes of the movie we see Bethany jump out of the water, throw on a sundress, and run to join her family at an outside mass. Religious songs are sang by actress and singer Carrie Underwood, who plays Sarah, Bethany’s youth group leader. There is also a scene at Bethany’s youth group where she and some of her close friends are taught about perspective and given a bible quote by Sarah. Later after her accident, this idea of perspective is revisited when Bethany is trying to understand and deal with the new issues she is facing in the aftermath. She goes on a mission trip to Thailand shortly after a tsunami which destroys much of the land and kills many people in the area. After witnessing the lives of people who are much worse off than she is, Bethany is touched and her perspective is changed. This trip and gives her a better understanding of her true privilege and fortune despite the obstacles she faces.

At the closing of the movie, several pictures and video clips appear on the screen from Bethany’s real life. There is video of her in the hospital right after the accident playing with balloons, reflecting her light-hearted attitude even right after the event. There is also a video of her preparing fruit in her kitchen and dropping the tray, which is imitated almost identically in the movie, as well as a scene where her brother is tying her hair in a ponytail for her on the beach. Another clip shows her doing one-armed push-ups on the beach. These scenes are all recreated in the movie almost exactly how they appear on this home film, showing ethos to the audience that this really did happen and the movie stayed true to the real story in many ways. We also have video of Bethany’s actual family members, her youth group leader, and her best friend. This part is interesting because these characters are definitely more glamorized in the movie; her mother and youth group leader are both heavier in real life, while in the movie they are both portrayed as younger and more in shape. Again, this is a way of making her life seem more “picture perfect” and which takes away from the credentials that this movie is true to her real life. We also see that Bethany’s real pet dog plays itself in the movie, which adds to the pathos of the movie.

Overall, this is a very uplifting film. While it may be glamorized to be more visually appealing to the audience, there are strong themes of religion, perseverance, and positivity which appeal to an audience looking for a mood-lifting story. It is also informative because it is based on true events. Bethany Hamilton continued her pro-surfing career much after the loss of her arm. If you have an interest in surfing, religion, or are looking for inspiration, this might be worth the watch.

originally posted: 2/5

Movie Review: Get Out (*SPOILERS*)

by: Alyssa Ruffolo

Get Out was not only makes-you-jump scary, it was truly haunting and left thoughts lingering in my mind all night after I left the theatre. The incorporation of racial issues in the movie is a huge part in what moves the viewer. In the opening scenes we see the main characters Chris (a black male) and Rose (a white female) dating and having the conversation of him meeting her parents/family. It seems to make him uncomfortable that she has not yet told them that he is black. Right there, at this moment at the beginning of the film, the audience gets a look into the eyes of a black male in this situation. This scene really moved me because I cannot begin to imagine how he must be feeling about meeting her parents.

Then we see as he meets her all-white family, the subtle comments and actions as they are trying to relate to him and focusing on the fact that he is black. Rose’s dad makes sure to tell Chris that he liked Obama and would have voted for him a third term if he could. We see a few comments about how black men have a different physical makeup and are stronger/faster, again singling him out and making him seem almost like a different species than everyone else in the room. Later the dad mentions that the two property workers at their house are black and that he realizes this looks like “slavery” and looks bad, but that’s not what it is. Instead of just leaving these unnecessary comments out, he has to point out the racial differences and make things awkward for Chris. All of these satirical pieces that Jordan Peele includes makes the audience sit back and reflect on themselves. For viewers who are white, we may be thinking Wow, is that really how someone who is black might be treated? Do I act like that?. For black audience members, maybe these occurrences are very relatable and evoke an emotional reaction (whether it be humor or understood frustration/anger). As I watched these cringe-worthy parts of the movie, I felt annoyed for Chris. I don’t understand why people have to act differently toward people of other races. While seemingly trying to make him feel comfortable, the white family is clearly still treating Chris differently and making him uncomfortable.

There was some phenomenal acting, for example the part of Rose’s brother Jeremy played by Caleb Landry Jones. Jones plays the erotic brother of Rose, who sparks the audience’s understanding that something fishy is going on at the Armitage household. He begins challenging Chris to a fight at the dinner table in an inappropriate way/time. His facial expressions and mannerisms give the audience the idea that he truly is psychotic. Also, the role of the hypnotist mother played by Catherine Keener was extremely haunting and believeable. As she sits with Chris and begins to hypnotize him, her eyes began to scare me as I was watching. Her calm demeanor and strong eye contact give the audience the feeling of loss of control, which goes along with Peele’s theme of being helpless in a situation where you are an outsider. When she has Chris fall into the “sunken place”, where he no longer has control of his body because he is in a deep state of hypnosis, this idea of loss of control mirrors the racial issues that society has created and the loss of control that minorities feel in their everyday lives. Lastly, Keith Stanfield’s part as Andre Hayworth played over and over in my head as I left the theatre. Although his part was short in the movie, his skilled acting left a great impression. He plays a hypnotized prisoner of one of the white family members who attend a family reunion at the Armitage house. Although his words indicate that he is very happy and having a great time at the event, his eyes leaving a lasting impression on Chris as well as the viewers. His eyes look sad and helpless, and as Chris captures a picture of him with his flash on, Andre snaps out of his hypnotism for a few minutes only to appear frantic and in need of help (before being taken away and presumably re-hypnotized).

Although I thoroughly enjoyed this thrilling film, after leaving the theatre, I was still left with a few questions and confusions. It was never explained why the flash on Chris’s camera seemed to make the hypnotized people snap out of their trance. Also, when Chris is about to be hypnotized towards the end of the movie, we see the father Dean Armitage performing surgery to remove part of a white person’s brain which will be implanted into Chris’s brain. This confused me because it was never fully explained where this tied in with the hypnotism. Were the subjects/slaves of the mother’s hypnotism also subjects of Dean’s neurosurgery? Were the brains of the white and black people switched completely, or just parts of them? Andre Hayworth’s “owner” seemed like a perfectly normal white woman, while he seemed to be merely in a trance, but then Chris once captured was supposed to undergo surgery against his will and have part of his brain removed. This whole part of the plot confused me, but it could just be me. Also, when Chris and Rose are on their way to the Armitage house to meet her parents, a deer jumps out in front of the car, leaving a spooky illusion to later events. We are revisited by the deer when Chris is trapped in a room awaiting his brain surgery. There is a deer mounted on the wall which gives Chris flashbacks of the deer they hit on the way there. Is this the same deer? Or is this a different deer just generally symbolizing the idea that a vulnerable/weak subject has been captured and killed by the Armitage family, much like Chris’s current predicament? This was never 100% clear to me. Also, there is a scene where the maid Georgina (played by Betty Gabriel) speaks with Chris. He asks her if everything is okay and she proceeds to cry while also telling him that she is very happy serving the Armitage family and that everything is fine. Is she, too, hypnotized, but only partially? I would assume that if she was in a full trance, she would not have the impulse to cry because she would truly be convinced that she was happy as a household slave. Maybe she was subject to partial brain surgery by Dean, and a part of her brain was her true self who was crying and needed to escape, while the other part controlling her speech was saying everything was okay? This scene, while extremely spooky and hair-raising, also did not make sense to me when I reflected on the movie later. Lastly, I feel that a little more information about where the couple Chris and Rose met would have helped the audience cope with her later-revealed insanity. The whole movie I was thinking, how did they meet? How did she lore so many other black men back to her house in such a short period of time? How old was she? and questions of that nature. While mystery can be a good thing in horror films, too much mystery and too many plot holes leaves the audience with a feeling of needing closure/answers.

Overall, I think the movie was a fantastic portrayal of race issues while also adding in a creepy, horrific plot twist. I hope that it will leave the same imprint to other audience members that it did on me.

Cinderella and Ash: a book review

By: Rachel Lyle, March 24th, 2017

I have always loved the story of Cinderella and it has always been at the top of my list of favorite fairy tales. My favorite parts were always when Cinderella got to get dressed up in the beautiful gown or gowns, when she got to go to the ball or balls, and when she finally got to marry the handsome prince. I loved these parts because I love fashion and love dressing up and seeing other peoples fashion and I don’t care what other people think about the way I dress or not, so when Cinderella got to dress up and go to the ball and see everybody in their beautiful gowns and handsome suits, I always get a little jealous of her. I also loved the ending because no matter who writes the story or what version it is the stepmother and the stepsisters always, always,always get exactly what they deserve.

Because of my love for this story I am always looking for new versions of this story. I always love reading this story from different perspectives or different angles or when it’s written as “what actually happened” or making it look like it was really cinderella who was in the wrong or brought it upon herself, so when I read Ash by Malinda Lo for my young adult and adolescent literature class this semester, I loved it.

I love what Lo did with the story in the way she wrote it and how changed it in so many ways. I especially love the way she describes the clothing that people in the book wear,

There were riding breeches made of creamy leather and a tunic of dark green, embroidered at the cuffs and collar in rich gold thread that matched the pattern of leaves and vines tooled into the leather satchel. There was a brown hooded cloak made of light wool, and brown leather riding gloves, and at the bottom of the satchel there was a pair of riding boots finer than Ash had ever worn. (Pg. 166)

An ice-blue silk dress flooded out over her patchwork coverlet like a rush of cool water. The bodice was embroidered with hundreds of tiny crystal beads in a complex pattern of flowers, and in the dusky light that came through the window, the bodice shimmered like the scales of a fish. (Pg. 208)

This version of the story portrays Cinderella as a lesbian rather than a straight woman. Instead of Cinderella the main character’s name is Aisling and everyone calls her by her nickname Ash as the book title implies and her stepsisters are only cruel to her if her stepmother forces them to be.

In the story there is a lot of fairy lore and traditions in Ash’s hometown and country and the fairies look like humans only with a magical aura about them and an intimidating demeanor about them. Ash, after her mother dies, gets remarried, and then dies from sickness himself, moves with her stepmother and stepsisters to their home several towns away. Shortly after this she takes a walk in the woods on an enchanted fairy path to her mother’s grave near her old home where she meets a male fairy named Sidhean. She keeps going back to the wood to see him and starts to think she is in love with him but then she meets the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, and thinks she is beautiful and falls in love with her without realizing that she is in love with her. When she first sees the prince at a royal hunt she isn’t all impressed, she doesn’t find him all that attractive and when she is at the ball that the king hosts a masked for the prince to choose a bride she dances once with the prince without realizing he is the prince. Then when she realizes who she danced with she’s just like screw him and goes to find Kaisa, the huntress. She does eventually realize that she is in love with Kaisa and not Sidhean. I won’t say what happened in the ending of the book but I will say I loved it and it was awesome. I give this book a ten out of ten and I would read it again several times over.

 

This One Summer: A Review

By Taylor Blasko

I never thought a graphic novel that I read for Young Adult Literature class would stick with me and be so constantly relevant to my life. Every. single. day. of my life. Okay, that sounds drastic, but we read it in class a solid month ago probably and have moved on to many other books since then but I still keep thinking about it. Honestly, it was that good. Not even that it was good, it was actually bad. It was so good, so bad, however you want to look at it, that it hurt me. Hurt my soul.

For the young readers reading it, it’s valuable, for the older readers reading it, it hurts, as I pointed out. What do I mean by it hurts? Well it does this thing where it tells the story of my life while simultaneously illustrating why what I thought as a teenager was so problematic.

It’s perfect in that it’s a story of two girls that go to the beach every summer at the same place and develop a friendship. The story is as much about them and their lives as it is about the other people that they observe at the campground where they are staying. The two main characters, Rose and Windy, are close in age but differ by a few years, and are also very different people. This book basically shows that point in adolescents where you start to realize who is and isn’t your type of person. It’s that weird thing that happens when you have a friend that you’ve known forever and are forced to be friends because of family or other circumstance and then one day it clicks that you actually don’t even like this person very much. Or maybe not even that you don’t like them but maybe just that you two are very different people. This has happened to me a few times in life which is one reason that this graphic novel is so relatable.

You’re probably also wondering what I mean when I say that this book tells the story of my life. What I mean by that is that the main character, Rose, has this crush on this kid that is older than her, referred to as “the Dud” in the story. The Dud supposedly gets this girl Jenny pregnant and is a complete douche canoe along the way (if you ask me) and no matter what the Dud does, he’s invincible. At least, he’s invincible in the eyes of Rose.

And so what are we discussing here? Internalized misogyny of course. Little girls, I’m sure a lot of little girls, I know I did, grow up and maybe like these boys, and maybe they like these boys that are older than them (yes, I’m totally referencing my life). And no matter what the boy does it’s fine. No matter how clearly he’s a dick or how clearly he screws up, I mean society is just being too hard on him right? But when girls of similar age screw up, as is mentioned in the book by Rose, they automatically have to become super accountable for their actions and it’s all their faults and maybe they shouldn’t have been a whore.

And yet, we can’t even blame Rose in the story. I saw that same thing in myself when I was that age. This older guy I liked was a complete asshole to all of my friends and I just made excuse after excuse for him. And you know what? My friends understood but simultaneously couldn’t understand. It was the unspoken thing where you never talk badly about anybody’s crush but at the same time you try to paint the picture of how mean he was to you without hurting the crushee’s feelings. My friends are saints. They shouldn’t have been. They should have told me straight up whenever I mentioned him that he was an ass. That what he was doing wasn’t excusable. Same goes in Rose’s case. It’s not necessarily her fault that she makes these excuses for the Dud, but at the end of the day it is her fault. Society might push her to believe that men can do no wrong, but it’s just not true. And we need to stop teaching young girls that it is.

And so, for the young adult readers reading this graphic novel, I hope you come away with that message. For the older audience, you should already understand that message and try to live by it. But again, internalized misogyny. While I far too well understand the message I still catch myself falling back into that 14 year old self of mine. And it’s bad. And it’s terrifying. And it’s problematic. And that’s why texts like these need to exist.

Flight Rising Review

by Brandon Eckerd

All my childhood friends had, at some point in their life, a Neopets account. While it wasn’t the first of the digital pets game, undoubtedly Neopets became the most well-known of the online variants and helped cultivate the scene for online pet games. Many of the modern digital pet games follow a familiar formula; starting off is slow, encouraging players to spend real-life money to gain access to content that would otherwise take hours, days, even weeks to earn with the game’s free currency. And like most mobile games, modern digital pets use wait times as an incentive to purchase items, again with real-life currency, to speed up the process.

I cannot stand this free-to-play formula. I firmly believe that players should either have access all the content with the purchase or download of a game or that the process to earn it should be welcoming and engaging for new players. Flight Rising is just another example of a game that follows this free-to-play formula, but with a few key differences. Flight Rising featues dragons as the virtual pet, and much of the game revolves around buying, breeding, selling and fighting your dragons online. Of course, your dragons can be customized with apparel, accents and their own genetic coloration. It is a mixture of a fashion, dress-up game with the strategy of selective breeding. At the same time, it introduces a turn-based fighting game and bartering bazaar for your prized dragons and their offspring. Flight Rising basically has a lot of content to appeal to a very wide audience.

One excellent aspect of Flight Rising is that, from the start, you choose which one of eleven teams you want to be on. While this aesthetically affects your dragon’s eye color, it also immediately gives you access to forums exclusive to your team. This brilliant mechanic integrates players into a smaller community for them to learn the game before they feel ready to partake in the game’s much larger, cross-team community. The community of Flight Rising is very user friendly and many members are happy to help out new teammates by providing them with dragons and supplies.

The team aspect also creates the most important feature of Flight Rising: dominance. Throughout the week, you can exalt your dragons, essentially letting them go forever to serve whatever draconic deity your team serves under. When a dragon is exalted, points are added to an invisible tally; the higher level the dragon, the more the points. At the end of the week, the results are tallied, and during the next week the top three teams get bonuses. These bonuses range from discounts at the shop, more daily treasure (the game’s currency) and additional opportunities to gather items. Teams work hard to coordinate pushes and plan when they want to fight for dominance, which reinforces the team’s community.

The game does use currency sinks very well to control some of its inflation. Once you are a couple months into the game, it becomes much easier to earn treasure. However, it costs A LOT of treasure to build new nests for breeding and to expand your lair, allowing you to keep more dragons. This outlets, alongside taxes in the auction house, help control the game’s economy.

Flight Rising does suffer from many of the same faults of other pet games. Earning treasure as a new player is dreadfully slow, although entering the Colosseum to pit your dragons against AI-controlled monsters does accelerate the process. Content that can only be accessed with Gems, which can be purchased with real-life currency, is also infuriating. In my opinion, the game’s biggest flaw is its combat system for fighting, which grows quickly tedious and comes off very uninspired.
All that being said, Flight Rising is easy to recommend as a casual game for people who like dragons, breeding fancy monsters and a creative community. Starting up is slow and the game’s glaring flaws mean it will definitely not appeal to everyone, but, if you like virtual pets, you will be happy wasting hours browsing the auctions and forums looking for the perfect mate for your favorite dragon.

Review of Lady Gaga’s Album – Joanne

By: Johanna Marano February 26, 2017

I have been a Lady Gaga fan since the very beginning. She is highly talented and well acclaimed in the music industry. At the end of 2016 she released her fifth studio album, which I plan to take a look at right now. But before we get into her latest album, let me give you some background info on her if you aren’t as familiar with her.

Lady Gaga is her stage name; but to friends and family, she is known as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. To her fans, she is Mother Monster. She is the one who gets us to raise our paws no matter who we are because together we are one. Lady Gaga is a New York native singer, songwriter, and actress.

She first received international fame in 2008 with her debut album, The Fame, with singles that topped the music charts. In 2009, she released her follow-up EP, The Fame Monster. Again, this received similar reception with multiple successful singles. Her second full-length album, Born This Way, was released in 2011. She released her third album, Artpop, in 2013. Once again, both her second and third studio albums had chart toping singles. Her fourth album, Cheek to Cheek, was a collaborative jazz album with renowned artist Tony Bennett. They released that album in 2014. She then took a break from music and starred in the television series American Horror Story: Hotel. Then at the end of 2016 is when she graced us all with her fifth album, Joanne. Her most recent event was when she performed at the Super Bowl 51 Halftime Show, which has been noted to be the most viewed musical event in history.

Lady Gaga is known for continually experimenting with new musical ideas and images. Over the years she has received much analysis and scrutiny from the critics on her performances, as well as her fashion choices. Her songs have for a majority of the time touched on very controversial topics such as sex, love, religion, money, drugs, identity, liberation, sexuality, freedom, and individualism. This is one of the aspects of Lady Gaga that I admire and love so much. She is not afraid to push boundaries and stand up for what she believes in. However, what people cannot deny is her level of talent and skill.

So today, I am here to take a look at her most recent album, Joanne. From the moment she announced she would be releasing an album, it was highly anticipated. I know that I personally could not wait for it to be released. The last time she released a solo album was three years ago and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what to expect. I feel every album that Lady Gaga has released has been different, each having a very unique sound.

I have to say I was not disappointed when I finally heard the entire album. It is full of such raw emotion; you can’t help but get the feels by listening to it. It has a more stripped-down and soft rock feel with touches of country and folk, which is very different from her over the top dancey songs from the past. Of course there are some upbeat songs on the album that make you want to get up and dance. But overall, the album definitely has a different feel than what she has produced in the past. There are three songs in particular that I want to take a look at.

Image result for lady gaga joanne

The first is actually her first single off the album, which is “Perfect Illusion”. Despite the song speaking of how something you thought was so great that in reality it really wasn’t, it is still so upbeat. It is definitely an anthem for anyone who has been fooled when it comes to love but realized where they went wrong. Hiding behind the upbeat sound, you can still feel the power and emotion that Lady Gaga puts into it.

The second song is a “Million Reasons”, which is unquestionably more pure and stripped-down. It is not hard to hear the struggles she feels through this song. This particular song talks to how she has had countless reason as to why she should walk away from something that she loved. However, if she was given one really good reason to stay she would. When I first heard this track, I thought it was in reference to her ex-fiancé because they had recently put their engagement on hold and were going to go their separate ways. But now that I think about it, I wonder if it is really in reference to her fame. To my knowledge there have been moments when Lady Gaga has wanted to give up and walk away from it all. Living the life she does, where she is under constant criticism from the media can be unimaginably difficult. But she stays and continues to create for us, her little monsters.

The final song I want to take a look at is “Joanne”, the title song off the album. As I mentioned earlier, Joanne is actually Lady Gaga’s middle name. But the Joanne that Lady Gaga is referring to is her late aunt, her father’s sister. It is such a touching ballad about how much she needs and misses her despite never getting the chance to meet her. Her aunt passed at nineteen from lupus and was a sexual assault survivor. Lady Gaga herself has tested borderline positive for lupus but fortunately does not experience any symptoms of it. She is also a sexual assault survivor herself. By listening to this song, you can just feel the close connection she has to her aunt.

Once again, Lady Gaga gives us an album very different from anything she has done in the past. It is a reminder to the world of why we need her and just how incredible of an artist she truly is. I will always look up to Mother Monster and look forward to the music she creates in the future. My little monster paws will forever be raised to her.