Category Archives: Arts and Culture

Great Expectations Fulfilled: Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” Soundtrack

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-Emily Fraysse

Director Baz Luhrmann has become infamous in the cinematic world for reworking, rejuvenating, and remixing old songs into a refreshing rendition. His latest film, The Great Gatsby, is no exception.

On May 2, the entire album was leaked to the public for listening-only. Combining an all-star collection of artists like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Florence and the Machine, Jack White, The xx, and Fergie, the album captures the fame and glory of the main character, Jay Gatsby, and the over-the-top ragers he throws at his mansion in New York City during the roaring ’20s. The book, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, states that, “the tempo of the city had changed sharply. The buildings were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper. The restlessness approached hysteria.” The soundtrack reflects this imagery.

Luhrmann’s post-modernistic style leaves the soundtrack with a juxtaposition of classic jazz and current styles of rap, pop, and hip-hop. NPR explains that by, “distilling the essence of the Jazz Age though never completely reflecting it, this soundtrack is as much an event as is the film that inspired it.”

This left many people in the NPR community and beyond disappointed because of the lack of the traditional Jazz music that was the epitome of that era. So, why did Luhrmann stray away from period music? Don’t get me wrong—there’s a bit of the ’20s sprinkled through a few of the songs. In the text, Fitzgerald makes references to jazz-influenced pop songs that capture the amplification of the parties Gatsby throws and the lusciousness of his filthy-rich lifestyle. The soundtrack portrays the period of music that we are in right now—the “hip-hop age.” The mixture of talented artists, ranging from rap to alternative, exemplify how hip-hop is deeply embedded in rock and dance music. With the juxtaposition of the roaring twenties period shown on the screen, the viewers get to feel the impact of modern-day music, just as Fitzgerald did for the readers of his novel when it was published in 1925.

The question is: will the work of a variety of artists reflect the work of this brilliant writer, or will it take away from the film? I guess we’ll have to wait and see when the film opens May 10.

Grade: A-

Image from http://last.fm.

On Trend: Style Profile-Holly Madrid

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-Rache’ll Brown

With bold patterned bottoms and a hand-painted denim jacket, sophomore Holly Madrid shines in a sea of North Face jackets and over-worn Uggs here in the Pacific Northwest. Madrid’s style can be described as anything but traditional—her daring choices, love for the ‘90s, fondness for high-waisted anything, and belief that “every girl should own at least one fur jacket” makes this girl stand out. I sat down with Madrid to talk about thrifting, Clueless, and how to own a look like a boss.

How would you describe your style?

My style is kind of all over the place! But if I had to describe it, I would say that growing up in Los Angeles largely influences it.

Do you have any style icons?

Some people I admire are musicians Azealia Banks and Grimes, model Cara Delevingne, and Dionne’s character from the movie Clueless. These women wear outfits that most people would not go near or even think to buy, and I applaud them for their originality and bravery. It’s all about pushing the limits, and constantly wearing at least one piece of clothing that makes people question your sanity.

Where are your favorite places to shop?

I love online shopping. If I am looking for something specific, I can just type it into Google and instantly find it. When I’m feeling not-so-lazy, there’s a boutique called LF at home where I frequently spend too much money. If I feel like saving at home, I go to a flea market held on Fairfax & Melrose, and here in Eugene one can’t go wrong with Buffalo Exchange.

What is the coolest item you have come across at a thrift store?

Thrifting is awesome! I love it because you can leave home with twenty dollars and come back with what seems like an infinite amount of clothing or bizarre little tchotchkes. Well, besides all the Star Wars/NASCAR shirts I’ve found, I would have to say that my most recent find was my all time best—it’s a lime green dress with a high neckline, no sleeves, and covered with cut open lemons and oranges. It’s chaotic, but totally essential to my closet.

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What makes the perfect outfit?

The first and most important part of an outfit is feeling comfortable and confident. If I’m wearing something that other people might think looks good, but I don’t feel my best in, it ruins my mojo completely. Dress in what you feel marvelous in, not in what you assume will impress others.

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The Epic Journey of an Accidental Sports Anthem: “Seven Nation Army”

-Casey Klekas

I should have been doing homework. I was watching sports on a friend’s computer, instead. F.C. Bayern Munich was playing F.C. Barcelona and after each of Bayern’s four goals played the song “Seven Nation Army.” Since its release in 2003 that song has become a global sports anthem. How did that happen?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Picture, if you can, a band of Belgians drinking beer. The year is 2003 and the sport is football (not the one with pads and pigskin and Peyton Manning). The Belgians were in hostile Italian territory to support their own F.C. Brugge against A.C. Milan. Legend has it, the Belgians were boozing up in a local pub, numbing the pain of an expected loss, when The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army came on the jukebox. If you haven’t heard the song or you ain’t got no soul, you should beware its invigorating effects, especially when played on drink-sodden ears. Soon, the Belgians were singing in the streets, beckoning the power of a Jack White guitar riff as they marched into the football stadium. F.C. Brugge pulled off a very unlikely victory, and “Seven Nation Army” followed them home as a lucky charm.

Three years later, Brugge blasted the song while hosting A.S. Roma in a UEFA Cup game. They lost to a triumphant soundtrack. However, “Seven Nation Army” made its way back to Italy where it was adopted as something of a national theme song. Italy went on to win that year’s World Cup and “Seven Nation Army” blared over the ensuing Roman riots. Asked about his song’s sports success, Jack White said, “I am honored that the Italians have adopted this song as their own. Nothing is more beautiful than when people embrace a melody and allow it to enter the pantheon of folk music. As a songwriter, it is something impossible to plan, especially in modern times. I love that most people who are chanting it have no idea where it came from. That’s folk music.”

America reclaimed the song later in 2006. Inspired by the events in Europe, the song started playing in college stadiums around the country. I always knew where “Seven Nation Army” came from. As a matter of fact, it was the first song I ever bought on iTunes. I guess I just didn’t know where it had been.

On Trend: Campus Style

-Rache’ll Brown

Spring is in full swing, and by the looks of campus, students have fully embraced the seasonal change and are starting to take advantage of the beautiful weather. The vernal equinox signifies a new beginning, and there is no better way to enjoy a spring term than by adding some unique pieces to update a winter wardrobe.

Transitioning from fall to spring, sophomore Shelby Newton adds cute white sandals and a light pastel sweater to a trendy, yet simple, black and white base.

With a bright top and capris, freshman Marisa Baptista welcomes the warm weather with a casual and comfortable look.

Junior Chrissy Hardesty adds some color into an otherwise dark and classic outfit to create a fun flare for the season ahead.

Wearing a lace crop top and shorts, sophomore Suzie Meyer celebrates the beginning of spring! By adding a blazer and keeping her fall boots, Meyer starts spring with an effortlessly chic vibe.

Freshman Tracy Mok combines a floral scarf with a letterman jacket to bring her favorite old and new seasonal trends together.

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Visually Oriented: The Alchemy of Mixology


-Emily Fraysse

Sitting on a leather and zebra-hair chair in a dark bar on the Hollywood Strip, rows of jars full of a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs are placed in front of me.

“What do you like? Raspberries? Cinnamon? Honey?”

“I like raspberries and vodka gimlets.”

“Okay, I’ll add little twist to it.”

That was the conversation between the mixologist and I at The Library Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. Perfectly blending classic and artisan cocktails, a mixologist’s skill  is expertly preparing mixed drinks. By taking common drinks and putting a twist to them, they create original, interesting concoctions. They are commonly commissioned for particular events, menus, and themes. While generally considered to be a “higher” study of mixing cocktails than the average bartender, neither bartending nor mixology is better than the other. The difference between the two lies in the skills.

A bartender needs to know how to make the common, popular cocktails, serve multiple persons at once, and be the ultimate “people person.” A mixologist focuses more on creating a unique drink by studying the classics and then concocting new, exciting combinations. Mixologists tend to have a greater knowledge of obscure and lesser known spirits and mixers. There are many fine mixing professionals who fall in both categories as well as many more who specialize in one or the other. Some dismiss the term “mixology” all together and others are the opposite.

I was lucky enough that I just happened to find a mixologist, but beware: the specialized drinks can get pricey, especially in Los Angeles. There are many courses and schools that you can enroll in to become a mixologist like the Columbia Bartending Agency and School of Mixology or through the PBSA, the Professional Bartending Schools of America.

Image by Dan4th.

"Life is But a Dream"-Beyoncé the icon, the woman

-Rache’ll Brown

I have never wanted to be Beyoncé more than I did after I watched her autobiographical documentary Life is But a Dream on HBO—and that says a lot, considering that as a child, my number one documented wish was to be the icon herself. Among other things, the documentary shows a heart-wrenching account of her relationship with her father (and ex-manager) Matthew Knowles, and the stresses she faces being in the public eye. Viewers see a side of Beyoncé that has never been seen before. She is inspiring, articulate, hard working, and outrageously fabulous. Beyoncé runs the world.

Life is But a Dream was filmed over a number of years, featuring a mix of performance footage, home videos, interviews, vlogs, and documentary style footage of her day-to-day life. Viewers see the star in a raw, personal light, and things are revealed that fans never would have guessed, like a miscarriage she had prior to her pregnancy with daughter Blue Ivy.

Through all of the emotion, my favorite part of the documentary was a detailed behind-the-scenes look at Beyoncé’s 2011 award show performances. Her act at the Billboard Music Awards featured an insane and inspiring rendition of “Run the World (Girls).” Then I got emotional all over again watching the unforgettable performance of  “Love On Top” at the MTV VMAs where she announced her pregnancy. It was interesting to see her creative process, and what she went through to bring her visions to life. The decisions she made, the way she felt—all of it was awesome. Trust me, the end results were beyond amazing, and I have more respect for Beyoncé as a performer then I ever did before.

Since I can remember, I’ve admired Beyoncé, but when I was asked why, I never really had an answer. Life Is But A Dream has given me a billion and one reasons to love this artist. The documentary will make anyone a fan of Beyoncé, whether it is for her music, her work ethic, or her personality. She truly is a strong and inspiring woman, and the amount of work and emotion she puts into her career is over the top.

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Image by martdiz.

My Relationship With The Converse Sneaker

-Marissa Tomko

I’m not one for pants. I feel like they try too hard.

I’m not running around breaking public nudity laws though, don’t worry. I would just rather pull on some leggings, or shorts if the weather calls for it. I don’t dress badly, but I’m also no Rache’ll. My style just goes where the wind blows it. For instance, right now I want to look sporty. I don’t know why, I just woke up on Monday and was like, “This will be a sporty week!” Last week though, I wanted everything I wore to match my favorite hoop earrings. So that was fun.

With all of these pant-less fashion ups and downs, there is always one thing that remains constant, one thing that if I’m not wearing, I feel empty and incomplete: my Converse sneakers. I love those guys! Their white hightop-ness just makes sense to me.

When I love something as deeply as I love Converse, I like to know its story. So I tightened my laces, and delved into the history of this iconic sneaker.

According to the Converse website, the Converse company was started by Marquis Mills Converse in 1908. Unlike other companies, Converse was able to send his shoes to Boston stores without using a middle man. In a catalog published in 1913, Converse stated: “Our company was organized in 1908 fully believing that there was an earnest demand from the retail sneaker dealer for a rubber sneaker company that would be independent enough not to follow every other company in every thing they do.” This spirit is still with the company today.

It’s common to hear Converse sneakers referred to as “Chucks.” This is due to basketball-loving man Chuck Taylor. Converse’s history writes him in around 1920, citing him for wanting to promote his favorite sport by helping it thrive through selling footwear. Basketball was Converse’s initial niche, and it’s crazy to think how much the sports shoe has evolved.

In addition to being a shoe worn on the courts, Converse became a symbol of rock and roll in the fifties. The culture of the musical movement was made for the nonconformist. Consequently, Converse sneakers became associated with the free spirits and the rebels.

In the early seventies, the sneaker branded itself with a star stamp. The shoe continued to be made for basketball players, but it also appealed to the non athletes who wanted to be different.

My favorite shoe, the All Star, came into being in 1996. Since then, Converse has continued to sell itself as not just a shoe, but a lifestyle. Converse has become a symbol of fun, excitement, and comfort, things that we could all use a little bit more of if you ask me.

On Trend: Style Profile-Calena Lawson

-Rache’ll Brown

Sporting a girly style with a relaxed vibe, sophomore Calena Lawson values the combination of comfortable pieces and stylish details to create the perfect spring ensemble. This international studies major from Sandpoint, Idaho, finds fashion inspiration in people-watching, Lauren Conrad, and “excessive online shopping.” With the seasons changing, Lawson offered some advice for students who may be struggling to come up with a new look for spring.

What is your ideal spring outfit?

My ideal spring outfit would be jeans, sandals, and a flowy top. If it’s a nice day, I will usually try to wear a casual sundress.

What is your most worn item of clothing?

My go-to is always a cardigan and my Lululemon leggings.

Are there any upcoming trends that you love or hate?

I don’t like the trend of people wearing non-prescription eyeglasses, but I love the current trends of spring colors, lace, and light fabric.

Where are you favorite places to shop?

I live in a small town, so I do most of my shopping online, usually at Nordstrom or Free People. But there are some really great local boutiques that I love.

What kind of outfits do you like for men?

I love a guy in dark wash jeans, solid colored tees, and Sperrys.

Any ideas for people who struggle to put an outfit together?

If you’re struggling to put an outfit together look for inspiration online; Pinterest is always a good place to get cute outfit ideas.

Do you have any advice for transitioning from winter to spring?

For spring, go for lighter, brighter colors, and start choosing flats or sandals over boots.

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Visually Oriented: The Lost Art of Commissioned Album Artwork

-Emily Fraysse

On November 22, 2010, hip-hop artist Kanye West released his fifth album titled, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a collection of different musical components like baroque and soul with underlying themes of excess, celebrity, ego, race, drinking, drug use, and consumer culture. What gained a lot of attention, however, was the artwork album artwork. Kanye announced on Twitter that not long before it was released, the album had been rejected by major chain stores because of the graphic artwork.

The portrait, by George Condo, shows Kanye being straddled by an armless winged female. Both are nude. Condo’s Picasso-meets-Looney-Tunes style artwork was described by the New York Times as, “tasty, erudite stuff, freaky but classy, a Mixmaster version of old master, with a big glop of Pop tossed in.”

After the album came out, Condo announced that Kanye wanted a cover image that was risky and would be banned. He eventually created eight or nine different paintings for the album including a disfigured portrait of Kanye and a painting of a crown and sword in a grassy landscape. A second cover was made featuring a ballerina, which at the last second Kanye changed it to a photograph of a ballerina instead.

On the completely opposite end of the album-artwork spectrum lies a lonely, weary traveler by the name John Mayer. After disappearing from the public eye for about two years due to the surgical removal of a granuloma near his vocal cords, he returned with a brand new album and a brand new look. The fifth album for the singer/songwriter, Born and Raised, was his shot at redemption. And, he succeeded. On May 22, 2012, he released his folk and county rock album with an exquisitely designed cover. The recording companies Sony Music and Columbia Records had commissioned David A. Smith to design the cover at the beginning of 2012. Although they never met in person, Mayer and Smith talked regularly via Skype and on phone in order to get the exact look that Mayer was looking for. Smith specializes in traditional, ornamental reverse glass signs and decorated silver and gilded mirrors.

The handcrafted piece was first drawn out separately before vectoring and finishing it in Photoshop in only twenty-eight days. Smith documented the process and success of his work on his website and later in a video.

Both of these artists, Kanye West and John Mayer, did something that not many artists do these days: commission artwork. In John Mayer’s commission, people are claiming that he revived a type of lost art that is slowly coming back into popularity. These special commissions can add a certain uniqueness, beauty, and distinction for artists today.

The Colorful World of Portland Comic Con

 
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-Photos and Words by Sarah Keartes

Thousands of comic-book lovers, pop culture fans, and curious Portlandians flocked to the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon for the first annual Wizard World Portland Comic Con February 22 through 24, 2013.

Described by Wizard World as “a place where pop culture comes to life,” the convention floor was packed with elaborate cosplay (costume play) and cult-celebrity superstars.

Illuminated by camera flashes, the superhero-studded red carpet resembled that of a Hollywood event. Among the twenty-plus celebrity guests were actors Henry Winkler (“Happy Days”), Lou Ferrigno (“The Incredible Hulk”), Norman Reedus (“The Walking Dead”), and Marvel mastermind Stan Lee, who turned ninety this year.

In between celebrity meet-and-greets and Q&A panels, convention-goers perused hundreds of vendor and artist booths displaying a wide array of “pop-fi” memorabilia, comics, graphic novels, collectibles, and original art.

For the hundreds of cosplayers who made costumes for the event, crossing the floor was no easy task.

“I must have posed for a thousand photos this morning alone,” said Spencer Ferguson (22, Eugene). Ferguson attended the convention as “Oliver Queen,” DC Comics’ “Green Arrow.” “You see kids run up to meet their favorite superheroes and villains—they are so excited, they really think we are them.”

The convention offered a variety of events for children including a “Power Hour” karate lesson with Jason David Frank, who played “Tommy” the green ranger in the original “Mighty Morphin; Power Rangers” television series.

The Emerald City, long noted for its appreciation of independent subcultures, seemed the perfect location for a new addition to the Wizard World circuit. The convention has been scheduled to converge again January 24 through 26, 2014.