Category Archives: Opinion

Popcorned: Gatsby on the big screen

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-Casey Klekas

When I walked out of The Great Gatsby, feeling a little drunk from all of Leo’s deliberately lavish soirées, I was like Nick Carraway when he finally left the East, wanting “no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.” Director Baz Luhrmann did a fine job making me sympathize with the narrator in his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “great American novel” of the same name. This is a film that was surrounded by controversy well before its release on May 10. The soundtrack was filled with modern artists like Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Jack White, and I would have the choice of viewing the film in 3-D. I was not excited by these facts, but was still anxious to see the latest variation of one of the few books I actually read, let alone enjoyed, in high school.

The reviews have been mixed. Indeed, I saw the film as part of a book-savvy foursome and we were evenly split on the way back to the car. But, I was full of things to discuss with my companions whose patience would be strained in the next few hours. I wanted someone to convince me that Luhrmann’s adaptation merited more than a “meh.” Since then, I re-read the book (how cool am I?), and more and more I find myself defending the film from its critics (which I smugly find to be in an earlier stage of my own rational evolution toward appreciating Luhrmann’s Gatsby).

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film “boring, artificial and god-awful.” His criticism, if we can call it that, is superficial and empty, if that’s not a tautology. He was angry at being given an option to watch the film in 3-D and did not have much patience for the soundtrack.

All I can say is, that movie was made for 3-D. It would be lame and cartoony if it weren’t viewed that way, because let’s not forget that this is all a memory of the narrator, so things are always a little larger-than-life. The orgiastic excesses really only come at you when you’ve got those cheap glasses on.

Regarding the soundtrack, I think it would have been weird to hear scratchy ‘20s jazz in the foreground of Luhrmann’s picture. Considering how desensitized our ears have become, I found the music fitting. I still say it was gimmicky at times—like when Jay-Z’s “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” plays over Nick’s glimpse into a convertible full of dancing and champagne. I LOLed pretty GDL, right there.

This scene gets me into something that has been missing from other discussions surrounding the film. The question of Luhrmann’s faithfulness to the novel has been covered by Slate’s David Haglund where he points to missing characters such as Nick’s Finnish maid. This is what distracted me from being able to passively enjoy the movie instead of constantly thinking, “I don’t remember that in the book!”

In the book, the narrator marvels at a group of wealthy black people in a limousine, driven by a white chauffeur. He says, “I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.” His other description of the group we might consider (borderline) racist.  In the film, these lines are omitted, and Luhrmann puts Jay-Z over a scene we might describe as progressive. This makes Nick’s next line something we can admire rather than wince at: “‘Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,’ I thought; ‘anything at all…’”

Again, when we meet Gatsby’s business associate, Meyer Wolfsheim, based off Arnold Rothstein, who is beautifully played by Michael Stuhlberg on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Wolfsheim is supposedly some kind of gambler. “Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: ‘He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.’” In the novel, it is hard to read Carraway’s (or, really, Fitzgerald’s) description of Wolfsheim as anything other than mildly anti-Semitic. Was director Luhrmann to be faithful to this part of the novel? How would that add to the story? In the book we can at least read past these lines and shrug off the ignorance from an earlier time. For example, Luhrmann gave us a Wolfsheim played by Amitabh Bachchan, an Indian actor, rather than the actual ethnicity Nick describes in the novel. As Slate’s Haglund pointed out, “Faithfulness in this case probably would have meant anti-Semitism.”

Even though I crossed my arms well before entering the theater to see Gatsby, I didn’t really give it a fair chance when I saw it. But, maybe that is an inevitable problem for any director who tries to adapt a classic piece of literature for the big screen (especially for viewers who are used to 3-D and grind-worthy music). It is practically impossible to separate this film from its literary inspiration, so, for that reason, I don’t think it is possible to give this film or any other like it above a B+, no matter how I feel about it this week.

My grade: B+

Image from http://thegreatgatsby.warnerbros.com/

Popcorned: The Submarine On The Big Screen

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-Casey Klekas

Last time, I discussed a brief episode I had inside an old Soviet submarine that was docked as a tourist trap in Hamburg, Germany. While my experience taught me the meaning of the term claustrophobic, it has not quelled my thirst for submarine movies. In fact, it has given me a new love and understanding of the entire genre. These films combine all the best elements of war movies, spy movies, and apocalypse movies. As a bonus, at least one side of the match is normally the Soviets or the Nazis.

Submarine movies are choc full of mutinies. Take Crimson Tide: this time a mutiny takes place aboard a nuclear submarine. Its star-studded cast includes Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and even the film debut of Ryan Phillippe. The crew of the USS Alabama are put on high alert as a band of old Stalinist rebels have taken hold of a nuclear missile silo in Russia, as well as a few attack submarines, and then threaten a missile launch at the United States. Harvard grad and closet pacifist, First Officer (Washington) takes on old-timey captain of the boat (Hackman) in a duel that holds the fate of the world in its hands (when the order comes in authorizing the release of nuclear weapons).

We see another mutinous plot combined with the threat of apocalypse in K-19: The Widowmaker, which is inspired by the true story of the Soviet Union’s first nuclear powered submarine. In this film directed by Kathryn Bigalow (Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), fatal accidents and mechanical failures plague a hastily built boat and a worrying crew. The nuclear reactor has a malfunction, and unless the crew can fix the coolant leak, the crippled ship will become an atom bomb. This will destroy a NATO base and US destroyer nearby, which, as it’s set in 1961, would be the only light needed to send the very hot Cold War into a nuclear holocaust. The ship was never fitted with radiation suits, meaning those sent into the reactor room die horribly from radiation sickness. In fact, the entire ship is irradiated. Yet Captain Harrison Ford will not submit to First Officer Liam Neeson’s request of scuttling the ship or requesting help from the Americans. Mutiny and apocalypse! The true story of the submarine K-19, kept secret until Glasnost and the fall of the Soviet Union, records that all eight sailors sent in to fix the reactor room died of radiation poisoning within a few days. Within the next two years, fourteen more would follow. The other 117 onboard would be plagued with illness for the rest of their lives due to exposure to high levels of radiation. My only real complaint about the movie is that the actors all speak English with a Russian accent, which makes absolutely no sense.

Other great submarine movies include U-571, starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, and Harvey Keitel. This film follows the quest to turn the tide of the WWII in favor of the allies by capturing the famous Enigma typewriter, a codifying keyboard used by the Nazis to encrypt messages.

Speaking of Germans, how can we forget the 1981 classic, Das Boot. Directed by Wolfgang Peterson, Das Boot follows shows WWII from the perspective of a German periscope. The famous German U-boats, or Unterseeboot (literally “undersea boat”), dogged English and American ships in the Atlantic, and in this film (the theatrical cut is 149 minutes, but other cuts are close to five hours long) we follow one crew through the thunderous silence of avoiding detection and depth charges, the explosive barrels sent to the deep from the Allied ships above.

But, my favorite submarine movie is The Hunt For Red October, a story based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name about a new Soviet submarine that with a new, ultra quiet propulsion system could sneak into the Hudson River and destroy America with no warning or chance at retaliation—a “first strike weapon.” Sean Connery plays Captain Marko Ramius who attempts to turn the Red October, the new submarine, over to the Americans. Alec Baldwin plays Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who makes contact with the Russian captain against the efforts of his skeptical superiors. The script is a masterpiece and the acting is superb. By a wide margin, I can safely say that I have seen The Hunt for Red October more times than any other film of any genre.

Jeffrey Jones (you know him as Principal Edward Rooney) plays Skip Tyler, a retired sub captain turned shipbuilder who advises Jack Ryan on smuggled pictures of the Red October. Speaking on the nature of ballistic submarines he says, “When I was twelve, I helped my Daddy build a bomb shelter in our basement, because some damn fool parked a dozen warheads ninety miles off the coast of Florida. This thing [the Red October] could park a coupla’ hundred warheads off Washington or New York and no one would know anything about it until it was all over.” I think this is what I find so gosh darn alluring about submarines and their Hollywood imitations. Of course, a submarine movie need not be so grave (see Down Periscope), but generally their drama comes from the fact that their setting and content is so deadly serious.

I remember in seventh grade, my science teacher was telling the class about nuclear weapons and she mentioned the US submarine fleet having the capacity of destroying most of the world’s major cities. We have eighteen Ohio-class submarines and each carries twenty-four nuclear warheads (432 total, if my math and sources are correct). One of my classmates had a panic attack and her mother was called in to feed her some sedatives.

Of all the films I’ve mentioned, Crimson Tide and The Hunt for Red October should be on everyone’s Instant Queue, although only the latter is currently available on Netflix. I can’t really square my healthy obsession with these films with the fact that I couldn’t muster five minutes in even a museumed version of one of these boats. But, I recommend you try all of the above and see if you don’t sink to the hull crushing depths of my sub-mania.

The Smiley Guide to Positivity

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-Marissa Tomko

I feel like there are fifteen extra pink energizer bunny batteries in my battery case at all times! It’s just a great feeling, it really is. Even though it sends me into overdrive in the positivity area of life, I don’t care too much because I enjoy being optimistic and happy. And I enjoy it because once upon a time in my teenage years, I was a pessimist. No one believes me. But, if we’re being fair, who wasn’t a pessimist in high school? I mean, it’s high school.

But I digress. This isn’t about being an adolescent. This is about the super cool ways that I went from being annoying because I was so negative to being annoying because I’m positive. Plus, now that you’re all caffeinated up, I’m sure you’re looking for ways to turn all of that energy into a positive life change! Woo!

Don’t kid yourself

Even though I’m an outgoing person, I love to be alone. I used to think that was making me negative, so I forced myself to be social all the time. The result was not a super happy Marissa, but rather a Marissa that resented herself. I learned to listen to what made the little Jiminy Cricket inside of me happy. If I picture myself dressing up and going out, I do it. If I picture myself eating ice cream in bed and watching Netflix all day, I do that. At the end of the day, when I want to put myself out there, I am recharged and a happier person to be around. Which leads me to wonder if maybe I should start calling myself an introvert.

Journal

Writing down everything that you’re thinking is the best way to figure out what’s making you think positively, and what’s making you think negatively. I went through a phase once where I would only write down the good things that happened to me because I wanted future me to have something happy to read. But in that moment, all of the things that were stressing me out were still in my head. Being able to record all facets of my day in a place just for me helped me to recognize the good, and have an outlet for the bad.

Daydream

I constantly find myself zoning out and coming to in the middle of ridiculous daydreams of my best friend and I having adventures in foreign countries, or hanging out with the band One Direction (sue me, they’re adorable).  Every time I realize I’m daydreaming, I realize I’m also smiling. Thinking about wonderful things makes you feel wonderful.

Spread the love!

Telling the people I love that I love them until they want to punch me in the face is one of my favorite activities. Nothing makes me happier than embarrassing someone by singing them a love ballad on campus, or giving a hug that turns into a tackle. The rush you get from making someone laugh will slap a smile on your face for the rest of the day.

Image by seanbjack.

Submarines: I like the movie better

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-Casey Klekas

The few pictures I have of that dreadful boat have Facebook captions like, “ten seconds before five of the most uncomfortable minutes of my life. Don’t go in old soviet submarines if you value space, hygiene, safety or life in general.”

Some context, perhaps. I spent a solid month in Germany this summer. My last few days were spent in Hamburg—Germany’s second-largest city and the second-largest port town in Europe. On the night train from Bamberg to Hamburg, I made sure I had a few attractions circled for the next day, minor preparations for walking off a hangover I’d brew in one of the most famous red light districts in the world, the Reeperbahn. One of the sights that caught my attention was the Soviet submarine U-434.

A member of the Soviet Navy since it was launched in 1976, this Tango-class sub spends its retirement as a museum docked on the River Elbe. I was traveling with one of my closest friends, Mike. Mike and I share a love of submarine movies, so he didn’t need any convincing to walk the few miles from our hostel down to the docks.

As soon as I walked down the spiral staircase, I realized I could not turn around and go back out the one-way entrance. The only exit was on the other end of the ship. The ship is five feet short of a football field in length, although I only had to walk about half of that.

If I haven’t given it away, it was a claustrophile’s paradise. You could hardly manage a shuffle behind a family of Turkish immigrants and with Scandinavian tourists breathing down your neck. Crouching was a must.

Also, it made me doubt the party propaganda around the magnificence of Soviet workmanship. My only thought: “Tetanus!”

Jim Morrison coming out of my headphones wasn’t helping either, “Five to one, baby/ One in five/ No one here gets out alive.”

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I left Mike behind, and he surfaced out the other end ten or so minutes later to find me sucking heavily on a cigarette.

What was most shocking was the lack of space. I can hear you saying, “Well, no ship—it is, after all, a submarine.” Yes, I had acknowledged the fact that Hollywood might have made submarines look a bit roomier than the real deal, but nothing quite prepares you for being trapped like a greasy sardine. I hadn’t even left the port—the ship was DOCKED. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be out at sea, way out away from the dock, Ahoy!

And yet, I would not turn down the opportunity to revisit any fictionalization of these metal tubes filled with sweat and Spam. Why? Well, that’s for next time. As far as my own limited experience, it has taught me to only reenter a submarine if it is through a pair of Hollywood lenses.

Do Not Fail The Snail Mail

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-Marissa Tomko

“Okay, I’ll send you a letter!” said no one ever.

But really, be honest. When is the last time someone mailed you a personal letter? I bet you remember because you either a) noticed how thoughtful it was, or b) thought it was weird, or, c) some combination of the two because who doesn’t love thoughtfulness and weirdness?

In any case, I think that there is something so beautiful about a handwritten letter, and it’s sad they don’t hold as much relevance in today’s society. The combination of seeing somebody’s handwriting scrawled across the page, the postdate stamp looking all artistic, and the sheer idea of receiving mail all make me feel giddy and nostalgic.

My parents raised my brother and I as strict thank-you noters—not a single gift or birthday card goes unthanked by either of us. As a kid, I was in constant correspondence with my sister-in-law who, looking back, was such a trooper for putting up with my lengthy notes idolizing her. Waiting for her mystical, fairy-sticker-covered letters was part of my daily ritual. Even now, I find myself writing letters to friends who have found themselves around the world and lacking constant access to computers. That is precisely the reason that letters have fallen out of style: technological advances.

A study cited by the Wall Street Journal found that the average time since an adult put a pen to paper for any reason was forty-one days, and in the past two decades, the US Postal Service noted that the number of letters mailed dropped by 10 billion.

Of course, there is surely something to the modern day email and text message. They’re instantaneous, you can send them from your smartphone, and they’re so much easier to edit and send to multiple people. But what will our children have to read? Instead of leafing through Love Letters of Great Men, will they be Googling “One Hundred Ways To Say ‘Love Ya’ With Emoticons?”

There is also the matter of etiquette. If a member of a friend’s family passes, do you shoot them an email? No. You send them a letter of condolence. It’s the polite thing to do. And what if you receive an generous gift from your grandmother who still thinks Apple is just a fruit? You can’t really iMessage her sweet soul, you have to send her a nice note!

A friend recently showed me Handiemail, a website that can write out your emails or type out your letters. So crazy that it just might work? Eh, I think it’s just crazy. Half of the fun of letters is being able get to know someone through their handwriting. You might tell me I’m still hanging on to being 16-years-old, but I definitely still have cards and notes from my high school boyfriend tucked away because of how cute and horrible his handwriting was. Being able to look back on something like that with a smile is not possible if some random machine did it for you.

Even if you aren’t trying to profess your love or say you’re sorry to someone, take ten or twenty minutes sometime this week and write a nice letter. Maybe you want to thank your roommate’s family for hosting you last weekend, or maybe you have a friend at another school who you haven’t had time to call lately. Imagine their surprise if they were to receive a letter, in the mail—the real mail! I can think of few things more thoughtful.

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Obsessed Culture

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-Emily Fraysse

I play “Magic: The Gathering,” have a collection of all the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings DVDs, display a Where the Wild Things Are poster, read graphic novels such as V for Vendetta and Watchmen, and watch anime films like Spirited Away.

I believe that we are not only the “lost culture” in the ways of being glued to our cell phones and iPods, but that we are “lost” in the realm of these make-believe lands, characters, and stories. I find that today more people are open to reading graphic novels and comics, and are obsessed with pop culture, horror, sci-fi, anime, gaming, film, and fantasy in general. While the range of fantasy literature is vast, it usually involves a type of magic in an imaginary world and plays out stereotypes like clever thieves, wizards, dangerous monsters, and dark threats. The gaming industry has contributed to pop culture as well as advancing videogame technology. This has had a sociological, psychological, and cultural impact on the individuals who play, as well as the rest of civilization.

Men and women alike gather at Comic Cons around the world, dressed to the nines in homemade or store-bought costumes of sci-fi or fantasy characters. For that day, they get to look and live like their obsession or merely a favored individual.  Just as Michelangelo sculpted his iconic, muscular statue of David, many of the characters seen in these genres epitomize what the male and female bodies are supposed to look like. The men tend to look built, fit, and agile, while the women tend to look beautiful, thin, and wear revealing clothing.

Much of fantasy-themed literature and gaming emphasizes the male ideals of heroism, responsibility, and power. In the popular game Skyrim, the hero spends his or her time running around a vast world, going on daunting quests, collecting weapons, improving skills, and battling demonic animals in order to protect the relatively peaceful community that they live in. The same ideals are seen in J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of the Ring or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The lands are spectacular, imaginative works of splendid beauty like ancient forests, forgotten caves, and little villages. Usually, years of thought and grueling work goes into them, as seen in the film The Indie Game, which highlights the history of gaming, the tedious process that gaming developers go through, and the effect that it has on consumers.

“It’s not just a game,” Phil Fish, creator of the game Fez, said in the film. “I’m so closely attached to it. This is my identity.” His game sold 20,000 units the first day it debuted and a year later hit the 200,000 mark.

In a society that constantly seems to be dealing with an overwhelming amount of unsolved problems and issues, gaming allows the user an escape to become a part of a different world. Despite the ideals of grandeur that the quirky tales and characters play out, the underlying grand themes are displayed in a sort of juvenile and child-like tenor. It is almost like regular gamers should be diagnosed with the Peter Pan effect—they reach out to these games to enter another world, where making a potion or combat have no serious consequence other than having the potion go wrong or losing a leg during the battle and grudgingly having to restart the game. But it also goes deeper than that. It is a way of communication, a relation with a character. Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, said his game was “making it was about ‘let me take my deepest flaws and vulnerabilities and put them in the game.’” And that was exactly what he did.

Image by Andy Simmons.

Popcorned: "Arrested Development" Developments

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-Casey Klekas

In less than a week the new season of Arrested Development will be on the nation’s Instant Queue. In case you haven’t been re-watching every episode like me, here’s where we left off:

Michael, George Michael, and a hidden George Sr., are on their way to the model house in Cabo. Lucille was driving the Queen Mary along with Tobias, G.O.B, the captive investors, and the hot se—er, sailors. Forty-year-old Lindsay is not a Bluth (she was almost a Sitwell!). Buster is in the water with a loose seal. Maeby is meeting with executives trying to sell the family’s life story as a TV series, which is denied, “But maybe a movie!”

So, where are we headed? Well, in case you missed it, they’ve released a trailer for season four, and it has revealed a few delicious nuggets to chew on until May 26th.

George Michael goes to school at UC Irvine, hinted on a pennant during Michael’s intrusion on his son’s dorm room, where he finds George Michael and his cousin Maeby continuing their hidden affair. Recall, at the end of season three Michael told his son that he and his cousin were not indeed blood relatives, but still family. We will have to wait to see more of Les Cousins Dangereux.

It’s hot at the airport where Michael asks the cab driver if he knows of a “good place to live,” because he’s “looking for a new start.” The sign says Sky Harbor, an airport in Phoenix, Arizona, which suggests that it is cut from episode one of season four, titled The Flight of the Phoenix. Michael burns his hand on the taxi’s door handle, not unlike the Cornballer from season one. In another scene, Michael appears to be buying a new car. Later, Michael stands in front of a new housing development managed by “The Michael Bluth Company,” which is stalked by a vulture, “Not a great sign.”

Lindsay has short hair in one scene, then long hair in another, where Tobias suggests getting her to that acting class. Tobias later sees the sign he’s been waiting for: a model Hollywood Sign saying “Hooray for Tobias.”

Maeby has grown into a fine young woman. At one point in the trailer she is startled by an ostrich inside the Balboa Apartments.

Michael approaches Kitty, who still holds some grudges from when Michael threatened her, then tried to blow her up with a boat. Hopefully she has a man in her life.

We see G.O.B. with his characteristic charm trying to pick up a woman at a bar. He also has some new magic act that looks like it might have “Roman Slave” as its title.

Lucille is dragged away by the police at a seafood restaurant, possibly Senor Tadpole’s, threatening Buster with abandonment. Buster is fitted with a shiny new hook. In one scene, he reveals that he has not outgrown his love for juice.

Well, that’s all I could gather from the trailer. Again, the new season will be released all at once this Sunday, May 26th. Thank heavens it is also Memorial Day weekend, and thank heavens for the auto-play feature at the end of every Netflix episode.

Image from http://www.redcarpetnewstv.com.

Restroom Responsibilities: A Social Contract

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-Casey Klekas

The public restroom is a beautiful thing. It is a very private affair, I think, to use the restroom. Yet, we’ve come to an agreement that we can all use these rooms for that very private use—the most intimate use—so long as everybody abides by a few simple rules. It goes without saying—but I’ll just go ahead and say it—that when you walk into a restroom, there are certain responsibilities that you have just accepted.

I can only speak for myself, a magnificent young mammal of the male persuasion, but I know that when I walk into a public restroom I have just agreed to clean that toilet seat, regardless of my treatment of it. I will probably even clean the landing where the porcelain meets vinyl. Furthermore, if the toilet is clogged before my entrance, there is no way to prove that I didn’t do it myself. Unless I perform some kind of public disgust in front of the restroom door, there is a high chance that the next in line will charge me with the crime.

I’d say the guiding principle of using public restrooms is that they should be cleaner upon departure than they were on arrival. If that sounds like too much to ask, then simply leave no trace, regardless of author, that you might be embarrassed to be associated with.

This is a principle I have learned the hard way. I was not the most accurate six-year-old in my class. I also had the proclivity to mark my territory, if you know what I mean—oh, in the corner of a room, private or public, or behind the toy chest. But, in regards to the restroom, I wasn’t a flusher. I would rarely lift the seat. Once I was leaving the restroom in such a state when an older boy I knew walked in behind me. As he passed I said, “Hey, someone peed all over the seat in there. Gross, huh?”

Another time I was over at my best friend Steven’s house when his sister came charging in the room and threatened her “little brat of a brother” with a fresh beating because of what she found in the bathroom (a true Jackson Pollack). A wide-eyed Steven denied his involvement, but even his sister was embarrassed when I raised my hand and confessed. She watched me clean my chef-d’oeuvre from the seat.

When I was old enough for employment, I often had to clean the bathrooms of our establishment—bathrooms whose primary clients were ages four through ten. This is where I learned the merits of hard work and the error of my ways.

“Who did this?!” But how could I bring myself to reprimand the little communists of whose party I used to be a member. Let he who is without guilt cast the first stone, I always say.

The motto that I’ve come to adopt, stolen from somebody’s grandmother, is, “If you sprinkle while you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seaty.” I like to add, “If you hit the floor, wipe some more.”

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Is Laughter Really The Best Medicine?

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-Marissa Tomko

I’m 21 years old. I am not naïve, nor am I wise. I just have the ability to buy a bottle of wine if I want to. And while I’m no sociologist either, I think it’s fair to say that your teens and your twenties are the most dramatic times of your life. Even though I haven’t had the life experience of my parents and grandparents, I feel like I’ve been around long enough to experience most of the feelings life has to offer. I’ve cried from joy, I’ve been floored by heartbreak, I’ve lashed out in extreme anger, and I’ve made myself sick with sadness. No matter what, though, I’ve always used a single coping mechanism: laughter.

We’ve all heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine,” and if we’re being all lovey-dovey-wishy-washy, then yeah, it’s easy to agree with that. Generally speaking, I have found that people who laugh more are happier. They are the optimists who don’t take anything too seriously, and the people who move on from bad things faster than those who dwell on them. But I’ve always wondered, in addition to giving you a brighter disposition, does laughter actually provide you with health benefits? Apparently, it does.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the physical benefits of laughter stem from its general power to relieve stress in our lives. When we laugh, we take in more oxygen than when we exhibit normal breathing patterns. This stimulates our organs, bringing oxygen to our heart and other muscles, and makes us feel happy due to the rush of endorphins to our brains. A faster heart rate and higher blood pressure make us feel relaxed, which is often translated into the physical relaxation of our muscles that get tense when we are stressed out.

Over time, chronic laughers receive the benefit of a better immune system due to the release of neuropeptides, which are molecules that aid in stress relief and other bodily imbalances. Laughter can relieve pain, regulate blood sugar levels, and save us fifteen minutes on an exercise bike! Now I don’t feel so bad for choosing to have a Friends marathon instead of going for a run last weekend.

It’s possible you think I’m just some weirdo with access to the internet trying to justify ditching the gym. And I wouldn’t blame you for that—I am pretty weird, I love the internet, and fine, I avoid the gym sometimes. But I can honestly say that the times in my life when I am laughing have been the ones where I have felt my best. I have more drive to get moving, be productive, and better myself and my relationships. If you’ve been dragging due to these rainy months, it might not be a bad idea to crack a smile, tell some jokes, and see if your overall health improves!

The Big (Photo) Shop of Horrors: Drowning in Skinny Plastic Figures

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-Emily Fraysse

H&M has hired a real, human model who has a real, live, “normal” human body.

The model, Jennie Runk, happens to be a size 12.

Often scrutinized by the media for editing or creating computer-generated models, the Swedish Goliath retail store, H&M, features a “plus-size” model for their new swimwear line.

Posing in the season’s summer wear was a refreshing face and body when it comes to H&M’s past modeling disasters. The media went nuts for the “big news” and, supposedly, size 12 mannequins were being used in certain retail locations.  Brushing it off like it was no big deal, the company made no press announcement or any other hint that they were doing it. They just decided one day to stick her in there with the rest of the skinny girls.

“Our aim is not to convey a certain message or show an ideal,” H&M spokeswoman Jennifer Ward tells Quartz, “but to find a model who can illustrate this collection in an inspiring and clear way.” But, it was not necessarily the company’s intention to showcase “real women.” Initially, they rejected the idea when they were collaborating with Versace in 2011.

I needed to see what all this fuss was about, so I hopped onto the H&M website. The first photo on the main page: Beyoncé. A little lower on the page and I see the smokin’ bod of David Beckham. So, where is Jennie Runk? I go to Women’s swimwear. Nothing. At the very bottom of the left hand column is the “H+M Size 14-24.” Ah, there she is. Only one photo. Was she originally on the homepage and then got taken down due to the amount of publicity and backlash? Or was it just the ever-so fast-paced seasons that bumped her to one of the pages deeper in the site? I mean, technically summer hasn’t even hit yet, so shouldn’t she be there promoting the new swimwear line?

Well H&M, I applaud your sly move of promoting “real women” by hiding her on the site. Real, great marketing has taken hold of what is seen in the mainstream fashion. I guess we just made it out to be a bigger deal than H&M intended and, consequently, diminished the point of trying to subtly feature her in the first place. Maybe it is the public and media’s fault for making this out to be a huge deal, or maybe, with the history the company has with Photoshop, the public was astonished by the transition into the reality of the real bodies of women.