Friday, February 27, 2009

Seasons Never Change

The band Sherwood creates beautiful pop songs, but they are backed with lyrics that often times strike a chord with me. Today, the last track on their 2007 record A Different Light really stuck with me: 

And I've been spending too much time in California
Where your feelings change but seasons never do
And in my dream last night I felt a storm was coming
But awoke to sunny skies of baby blue

NYU Protests

I recently came across an interesting article about protests at NYU and wanted to share it with my friends Andrey and Aaron. After sending this article that leads with a large NSFW picture to Aaron and my boss instead of Andrey, I learned my lesson to not be so quick to let google autocomplete my typing. Oops.

After a quick apology to my boss, I got a great response from him explaining his original "WTF?" reaction but his ultimate understanding. Then I sent it to Andrey as planned and got a classic response from him: 

"Getting naked to support islamic fundamentalist terrorists is like holding a bonfire to support Australia's wildfire victims... it makes no sense and I don't support them...P.S. I call the brunette"

I can always count on Andrey for a great response, followed by a serious conversation. This time it was about the lack of activism on UCLA's campus and the merits of Undie Run. I'd love to hear additional thoughts.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Graduation Speaker

I know this is old news, but enrolling in classes today made me think again about my impending graduation. Why is James Franco the commencement speaker?

I'm not really a fan of graduation ceremonies. They just don't do much for me. One of the only reasons I'm not greatly opposed to graduations is that sometimes there is a cool speaker. For example, last year Bill Clinton was supposed to speak. If it was my own ceremony, I would have looked forward to it (and since I went last year anyways, I was in fact looking forward to it). 
Of course, the unions destroyed graduation for everyone last year and Clinton (along with many other departmental commencement speakers) refused to cross the picket lines. Luckily I've heard Bill Clinton speak on campus before and I met Hillary Clinton when she was getting the
 Mayor's endorsement, but I still won't forgive the unions for what they did to my friends' graduation ceremony.

Getting back on track: This year I was excited to see who the commencement speaker would be. If last year they were ambitious enough to get a former President, I hoped they would be equally ambitious this year. Someone inspiring, accomplished, brilliant, and with lots of experience and insight to impart to us. When someone mentioned awhile back that James Franco was going to be our speaker, I thought it was a joke. After a little investigation, I found out that it was true.

Now, I am a fan of James Franco's work. From Freaks and Geeks to Milk, he's done some fine acting. It was cool that he returned to UCLA and that he graduated last year. But I'm still a little disappointed that the school didn't aim a little higher when it came to finding a commencement speaker. One less reason to look forward to graduation I guess. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

What a Day

Things I've Learned Today:

1. Projectile vomitting coming straight at me by a stranger is not my idea of a fun Sunday night. Oh the glamerous life of an RA. I'm glad Aubrey was there with me. She's a trooper. Now if only the front desk hadn't called me at all...

2. Instead of going to the gym in late afternoons, I need to get back to doing it first thing when I wake up. I should start off my day with some endorphins instead of fuzzy thoughts and emotions.

3. As much as I'm loving all the Pitchfork/Stereogum/Indie music I've been getting heavily into lately, sometimes an old standby album with a hint of angst is the warm blanket I need to ground myself. Say Anything...Is A Real Boy is one of the few albums that I know I will always want to have within reach. 

"I discard all my feelings. The stars still scar my ceiling.
Sun, I won't spare you. Moon, I won't spare you.
I shall grow and grow. I'll grow"

4. Unfortunately, often times when I learn something it means unlearning a whole lot of other things. I guess it is time for another long walk to reconcile this.

5. Good friends are hard to come by. I am lucky for the ones I have. Thank you to those of you out there. 

This goes out to my homie John:

Update: 6. Sometimes there is nothing better than your alarming failing to wake you up and you accidently getting 11 hours of sleep. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Trader Joe's Unofficial Commercial

I really do love this place. 
"Since Trader Joe's won't do commercial advertising, some dude with a Palm Treo did it for them. Though he broke the in-house "No Photography" policy, snapping shots of Aloe Chunk Juice and a disgruntled manager, it's a heartwarming, unauthorized look at favorite Trader Joeisms.[viDoobybrain]

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Yes Pecan!

You've seen Ben & Jerry's Obama-inspired "Yes Pecan" ice cream. Now, a viral e-mail that I came across on my professor's blog suggests that it is only fair that a Bush-inspired flavor gets introduced. Here is a partial list of suggestions floating around: 

Mission Pecanplished
Abu Grape
Cluster Fudge
Impeach Cobbler
Heckuvajob Brownie
Grape Depression
Cookie D'oh!
Credit Crunch
Death by Chocolate... and Torture
Chocolate Chip On My Shoulder
Nut'n Accomplished
Chokealot Pretzel


I've been interested about the role of Twitter in politics for a bit now. Whether it's stories about Congressmen twitting while meeting with President Obama or giving away their exact location in real time during secret trips to Iraq, I find it an exciting time to see Congressmen experiment with being hip and responsive. This latest story really gave me a chuckle:

YESTERDAY morning, Virginia politicos caught wind of a rumour that one of the Democrats in the state Senate was about to switch parties. Because the Democrats had a 21-19 majority, that shift would have flipped control over to the Republicans. Then Jeff Frederick, the chairman of the state Republicans picked up his smartphone and sent out a tweet.
Big news out of Senate: Apparently one dem is either switching or leaving the dem caucus. Negotiations for power sharing underway.

And that's how the Democrats found about about the plot. They adjourned business, cornered the rogue senator, and browbeat him out of his big plan."Be authentic on Twitter," texted Patrick Ruffini, a Republican web guru. "But still keep a frickin' secret when you need to."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Blink 182 Reunion

Well, it's official. Blink 182 is getting back together. This has been the subject of a lot of wishful thinking in the pop punk world for, well, since the band went on hiatus in 2005. For the past couple of years, every interview and action by Mark, Tom, and Travis has been carefully dissected looking for any clues about a possible reunion. Finally the band officially announced a reunion at the Grammy's yesterday. The real news, however, broke three days earlier with Angels and Airwaves guitarist David Kennedy posted in a chat room that Blink 182 was in the studio.

Now that I've had a few days to let the news sink in, I've decided that I am cautiously excited for the reunion. I've always had mixed feelings about the possibility of a Blink 182 reunion. On the one hand, Blink 182 was a very important part of my introduction to the music I love today. I was 13 when I bought my first Blink record, and it was love at first listen. I have some great memories attached to a lot of Blink songs. Hell, I even wrote a cheesy parody of "Rock Show" to a girl I was dating at the time while I was away on vacation. I can't help but get a little nostalgic and excited about the idea of them being back together again.

At the same time, reunions aren't all they are cracked up to be. Highly-publicized reunions are usually of highly influential bands that captured the zeitgeist of the time. However, rarely is the original spark recaptured and the band just can't strike the same chord with the audience. At most, fans want to be able to see the band live once again or younger fans want to see a band that they never got a chance to see in their heyday.

For quite awhile, I was content with Blink's run and didn't want to see them come back and hurt their legacy. I am not dying to see them live again, especially if the terrible rumors are true at EW about them opening for Green Day. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see them in concert, but it's not enough to convince me that a reunion is necessary. I have also been hesitant because I just can't stand Tom Delonge anymore. Every interview I read with him just makes me think he's more arrogant, selfish, delusional and maybe a little crazy. On the other hand, I've grown to respect Mark so much more over the years. I'd much rather show my support to whatever project the caring, down-to-earth, and still hilarious Mark does than give support to anything Tom is involved in.

My doubts about the reunion vanished only after I put on Blink 182's self-titled record. While Dude Ranch and Enema of the State may have made me fall in love with the band, the album I listen to the most is their last one. It's incredibly underrated and just fits my mood perfectly sometimes. I must have listened to it over a dozen times in the past two days. It's hard to choose a favorite Blink song, but for awhile it's been "All of This" (however, it's not a fair competition with "All of This" featuring guest vocals by Robert Smith of the Cure). I am excited for a Blink reunion mostly because I'm just praying they can create another record that moves me as much as their last. Blink 182 is all about synergy. Mark and Travis's post-Blink project +44 had a great single but had little lasting power with me. Tom's Angels and Airwaves project is just garbage. Take Mark's lower pitched voice and Tom's higher nasal voice, add Travis just killing it behind the kit, and you've got some real magic.

So while I still have my concerns, I'm getting excited about this reunion. I'll be crossing my fingers until the album they are currently recording is released and until I hear some details about their tour. As long as their new album is a progression of the self-titled and not some attempt to recapture the glory of their more juvenile days, I will be a happy fan.

One thing that I have no doubts about: Midtown needs to get back together and stop this Cobra Starship nonsense. Cobra was entertaining and enjoyable at first, but Gabe needs to get back to business and produce another classic like Forget What You Know.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An 8-Clap for Bike Lanes

Slate says the "stupidest" bike lane in the entire country is in Westwood. Go Bruins!

Monday, February 2, 2009

UCLA Admissions & Standards

The LA Times just ran an article about a UCLA student that touches on important issues about admissions. While I don't like the style of the article, I found Karina De La Cruz story quite interesting.

The 18-year-old De La Cruz graduated barely in the top 20% of her San Pedro High class and is competing against students with much higher GPAs and test scores.

UCLA officials acknowledge that some freshmen are admitted for reasons other than their grades and test scores, that some students come from dramatically different backgrounds than many of their peers but show academic promise.

San Diego State University was her dream school; she applied to six others, mostly UC and Cal State campuses. She never thought she'd get into UCLA, especially after San Diego State rejected her in February.

The average UCLA freshman boasted a 4.22 GPA in 10th and 11th grades, according to the most recent data posted by the school, and De La Cruz had a 3.365 at San Pedro High when she applied. She got a 21 out of a possible 36 on the ACT college admissions exam, ranking her in the 48th percentile in California. She scored 380 out of a possible 800 on an SAT subject test, putting her in the third percentile nationwide. But on March 8, De La Cruz opened an e-mail from UCLA, and a congratulatory banner popped up.

She's an illegal immigrant, so she isn't eligible for most forms of state and federal financial aid. The University of California system, by policy, does not require applicants to disclose their citizenship status: Officials say their goal is to find the best students, not to enforce immigration law. UCLA officials say they aren't even sure how many undocumented students are on their campus.

This reminds me of the difficult tradeoffs made between increasing diversity and maintaining UCLA's reputation for academic excellence.

The UC system is considering lowering admissions requirements by abolishing the SAT II requirement, getting rid of the requirement that students complete all of the a-g courses, and changing the GPA minimum. Currently, students are guaranteed admission into the UC system if they are in the top 12.5% of the state or top 4% of their school. Under the new proposal, students are guaranteed admission if they are in the top 9% of the state or top 9% of their school. One of the main purposes of these changes is to "cast a wider net" that catches more people of diverse backgrounds and increases diversity on campus.

While increasing diversity is an important goal, I am afraid that these changes are going to make my UCLA degree look less prestigious because of this lowering of standards.