Film review: “Blackout”

The beginning of the film is slightly confusing and not very coherent, as it spotlights a man waking up in his car in a parking garage after a night of intoxication with no recollection of the previous night’s events. The main character’s name isn’t identified. Without warning, a woman collides into the man’s car and speeds off into the upper levels of the parking deck. The man tries to follow the woman and a chase begins.

As the chase goes on, the music intensifies. The man follows the mysterious blonde as she speeds through the parking lot. A parking deck employee begins to appear throughout the film without an explanation.

The chase segment continues as the man begins to recall flashes of the previous night. The man follows the woman’s car and eventually runs into a little girl with a dog that has been hit. Finally, the man remembers what happened.

The climax takes place as the man walks to the back of his car and opens the trunk to find the dead body of a woman he hit. The man then wakes up (again) in his car, just has he done in the beginning, to show it has not happened yet.

Overall, the content is average, as it keeps one interested in the mystery. The beginning, middle and ending are very clearly shown in the film. This mystery, avante grade-feeling short film thrives on the open-ending plot. It shows the chain of events caused by a single decision. By choosing to drink and drive, the series of events lead to the death of another human being.

Book review: A deep dive into ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,’ by Mark Haddon

(There are several spoilers in this review. Proceed with caution if you have not read)

Curious dog

Haddon creates an unlikely hero out of 15-year-old, autistic Christoper John Francis Boone. Brilliant, observant, introverted and curious Boone finds himself in the middle of a murder case. The victim: the neighbor’s black poodle. Boone is determined to play Sherlock Holmes and uncover the killer of the poodle. But, the closer Boone comes to finding the killer the more he finds out about his mother (whom went to the hospital and never returned), his father and the many secrets that lie within the neighborhood.

Haddon does an incredible job showing the exact thoughts that go on inside the mind of Boone. The story may seem very scattered, changing thoughts instantly, but this is how the mind of the character works. The imagery is prevalent in the diction, but even more so with the small pictures Haddon includes throughout the novel that incorporate one into Boone’s adventure.

The novel is driven by the theme of fear. Despite Boone’s fear of changing routine, he finds himself leaving town to live with his mother once he discovers his father is behind the murder of the black poodle. One would think that it is the curiosity of meeting his mother that overcomes the fear, but Boone thinks logically and without personal feelings. In Boone’s simplified way of thinking, it is the fear that his father is capable of murder that outweighs the fear of breaking routine and facing the abandonment of his mother.

★★★☆☆

Book review: “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” by Trenton Lee Stewart

(There are several spoilers in this review. Proceed with caution if you have not read)

benedict.jpg

Much like that of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which several years prior in 1999, The Mysterious Benedict Society has readers cheering for gifted orphan children whose fates have fallen short of good luck.

In the book, four children — each carrying an extremely different personality — come across a newspaper ad calling upon “gifted” children to take an examination in order to become members of a secret society. We follow the first person perspective of our fearless leader Reynie Muldoon, commonly described as the most average-looking boy humanly possible (Which raises the question, what does average mean? ) and his friends — Kate Weatherwall, better known as The Great Kate Weather Machine for her outgoing and exploratory demeanor, Sticky Washington, whose talents include reading novels in minutes and utilizing a photographic memory, and Constance Contraire, a stubborn and creative youngin’ to say the least.

Flash forward to the exam setting and we’re placed into the basic testing room — No. 2 pencils, wooden desks, and a professors pacing the aisles and making the entire room anxious. A few minutes into the exam and several children are giving up, fleeing the room screaming in defeat. Our four simple heroes however, are acing the exam. But a letter grade is the least of their worries, as our protagonists are focused on answering each of the unusual questions truthfully. Questions such as “Are you brave?” are mixed with basic history questions. Strange, yes, but a well-rounded exam indeed.

Once each of our characters, Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance, pass their exams in the most diverse of ways, they are established into the Mysterious Benedict Society, led by narcolepsy-victim Mr. Benedict. At times the children push and pull on each other, common amongst siblings, as their family of oddities is the closest thing to a home they have ever had.

The book is thoughtful and riveting, challenging the audience to follow along with every twist and turn of the adventurous plot. Overall, the novel — which is the first in a series of four — maintains a balance of predictability and surprise all at once. However, the ending, which is once of pure positivity, was unsatisfying. But as a literary minded individual, maybe I just enjoy twisted and dark endings.

★★★☆☆

Film review: “Bohemian Rhapsody” presents several inaccurate facts, but Rami Malek saves the show with an over-the-top sass level and all-too-perfect portrayal of Freddie Mercury

From die hard fans to those just putting a face on the band behind “We Will Rock You,” Rami Malek stole the show in Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s clear Malek did his research beforehand— and practiced that confident stage strut in the mirror dozens of times — to capture the electrifying soulful spirit of Freddie Mercury. The Queen biopic takes the R-rated rockstar life and churns it into PG-13 for the big screen, and with decent success, at that.

Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara of Parsi descent, goes from baggage lugger at Heathrow Airport to co-founder of Queen with guitarist/astrophysics scholar Brian May (Gwilym Lee), John Deacon (bass guitar) and drummer/dental student Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) in an unexpected and far-from-perfect journey to fame. The character arc of Mercury begins as a shy and quiet Pakistani boy, misunderstood by his family for his love of music and the nightlife. When our protagonist ventures into the neighborhood pub to see the band Smile perform, the story is quickly brought to life.

The lead singer of Smile quits as Mercury approaches post show to give praise. Mercury serenades the remaining band members with an a cappella version of one of their original songs and is — obviously — accepted for his superhuman vocal range. While it’s understood that decades of Queen history must be fast-paced in order to be condensed into two hours, this suspicious coincidental timing could only be made possible in a film, making the all-too-perfect moment take away from the authenticity factor.

BOHO 3
(Courtesy of 20th Century Fox )

Joining Smile, which Mercury later dubs as Queen, sets into motion meeting Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). While Mercury falls deeply in love with Austin, the rockstar party life and growing attraction to men leave him spiraling out of control and living in constant secret. While the love between the two is genuine, as perfectly conveyed by the raw emotion Malek and Boynton pour into their roles, Mercury and Austin separate but remain close throughout the remainder of his life.

As the story progresses, Mercury is offered $4 million to go solo with CBS Records. On first mention, the idea of leaving his bandmates to go solo is infuriating. But the money seems to be calling his name — combine the echoing voice of cold hard cash with extensive pressure from manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) and Mercury caves, announcing to the band he’s going solo. The constant reinforcement throughout earlier scenes theme hold tight to the concept of the band as family, and it seemed the band breakup scene could have explored more in-depth as to why Mercury chose the solo gig, rather than coming as a surprise.

As our protagonist delves deep into writing a solo album, Prenter attempts to severe Mercury’s relationships with past friends by refusing all contact attempts — including the offer to perform at Bob Geldof’s benefit concert Live Aid at Wembley Stadium. Upon discovering that Paul withheld this news from him, an enraged Mercury cuts ties with him. In retaliation, Prenter goes public on Mercury’s sexual escapades. With the outbreak of AIDS spreading worldwide, Mercury secretly has himself medically checked and discovers that he is infected with the disease. With a short amount of time left on this Earth, he’s determined to lead a life without self-pity and do what he believes he was born to do: perform.

BOHO Rap 2
(Courtesy of 20th Century Fox )

The film reaches full stride when Mercury reunites the band and sets out to perform a 20-minute performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert in London. Not only are several Queen classics played during this short set, but whatever special effects were used to present the massive crowd were properly executed to effectively capture Queen’s ability to connect with thousands through call-and-response movements.

And while it’s never fun to sit next to someone who points out every incorrect fact of a biographical film, a small history lesson is in order to set the record straight. John Deacon was not the original bassist of Queen — in fact, there were three prior. But upon recruitment Deacon was in it for the long haul and left the greatest impact. Additionally, Mercury’s joining of the band Smile wasn’t as simple as conveniently walking up to the group post show and the lead singer spontaneously quitting. Mercury had previously been friends with Staffell and was a fan of the band, constantly badgering to join. It wasn’t until Staffell’s departure that Smile considered Mercury for the part.

Although several facts were wrong, when it comes to Bohemian Rhapsody it’s not about the full story, more so a musician’s soulful spirit and dedication it takes to reach new heights. And that, my friends, was effectively captured through the stereotype breaking and imitable performance by Malek, genuine sense of family — flaws and all — between each band member of Queen and ability to keep the audience captivated on a fast-trek through decades of musical history.

★★★☆☆

Wearing Your Culture: From a Scottish Kilt Maker’s Perspective

Timothy McDowell, 59, sifts through racks of old clothing and fabric at Goodwill. He pulls out an old, black and red-checkered pattern tablecloth, does a quick measurement of the width and length and decides this is the one. “That fast I can figure out if the material will work or not,” explained McDowell.

McDowell has been wearing and creating kilts for more than 15 years. His family line originated from Argyll, Scotland, and he feels that by creating and wearing kilts he keeps his Scottish culture alive. “Everybody likes to have some kind of tie to the past,” McDowell said. “That’s part of why I like to wear a kilt, recognizing my ancestors and it’s very comfortable, far more comfortable than pants are.”

When McDowell walks into the room, many people stare and wonder: why the kilt? This doesn’t bother McDowell, as he flourishes under the eye of the people. Confidence is key when wearing something different from traditional society. “What I have found in the years I’ve been wearing [kilts] is that people kind of automatically assume you’re carrying yourself in a more dignified way,” he said.

Wearing the cultural garment in public means facing several questions and comments. McDowell doesn’t mind. He says that one must see themselves as ambassadors of culture and be confident when wearing it. He usually reacts to questions with humor or by making it an educating moment. “If you don’t know the answer to a question, learn,” he said.

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 10.11.16 PM

 

Strength in Not Backing Down

            When McDowell first began wearing kilts on a daily basis, he first wore one to church. He figured the church, being known as very forgiving and understanding, would be the best place to test the waters of his choice to wear his culture. Rather, he felt very judged when he wore the kilt to church. McDowell says the priest at his church was the first of many to ask, “Are you wearing anything under the kilt?”

McDowell then took on his next battle: wearing the kilt to work. Originally, he worked with the United States Department of Defense. Coworkers at the DOD were not very accepting of the idea of a kilted man in the office. His supervisor told him not to wear the kilt to work the next day. “People are going to challenge you because it’s different,” McDowell said.

After work, McDowell picked up his daughter from high school and spoke of the issue he had at work. Her reply was something he would never forget. “If you don’t wear your kilt tomorrow, wouldn’t that be giving in to peer pressure?” she asked curiously. McDowell realized that by not standing up for what he believed in he would not only would he be letting himself down, but also his daughter.

He decided to wear the kilt to work again the next day. He met with the commander of the base and asked if his attire was professional enough to wear to work. The commander approved his uniform. McDowell felt a victory had been achieved, as his kilts were now approved attire for work.

Although the commander had approved his kilt, his supervisor and coworkers did not hesitate to show their disapproval of the garment. “I like the belief that I have and I hold it firmly,” McDowell said. “We can disagree but we can agree to disagree, agreeably.”

Cultural Perspective

     McDowell’s family lineage can be traced back to 1763 and is one of the seven oldest that can trace back to Scotland.

In McDowell’s personal experience he has found that there is more of a following in the United States in terms of kilt wearing than there is in Scotland. “You don’t see as many people wearing them [in Scotland] as you do here,” said McDowell. “That’s because we are looking back and embracing our ancestry.”

McDowell says there are specific plaids to represent clans, but that usually isn’t the case. Although some forms of plaid are associated with clans, one is not limited to one plaid. The only plaid that you cannot wear is one of the three that are associated with the royal family.

With a kilt, most attach a sporran, which is a small purse-like bag. McDowell explains that in the United States, people associate the word purse as with femininity. In other cultures, the word purse is what we would call a daypack or a bag. “It doesn’t have the oddness in the rest of the world as it does to us,” he said.

A Brief History

  According to Authentic Ireland, kilts have deep cultural and historical roots in the country of Scotland and are a sacred symbol of honor and patriotism for the Scotsman.

     Authentic Ireland reports that kilts originate back to the 16th century, when Highlanders of northern Scotland wore full-length garments. The wearing of the Scottish kilt became popular during the 1720s, when the British military used it as their formal uniform. The knee-length kilt that we know today did not develop until the late 17th century.

Being Comfortable In Your Own Skin

     Often, young children will question why McDowell is wearing a kilt. McDowell sees this as an exceptional educational moment. He has noticed that a large number of parents take it upon themselves to make this a teaching moment and educate their children that people of different cultures wear different articles of clothing. “Part of wearing [a kilt] is knowing that people are going to ask you questions,” he said.

McDowell says that there are times that he will overhear people making rude comments or laughing. This doesn’t bother him, as he knows that wearing something different will cause different reactions. He maintains confidence and is happy with himself and his culture.

McDowell’s confidence in himself and positive outlook on life are an inspiration to many. “What someone else thinks of you is none of your damn business and once you realize that, you realize that you are happy with me,” said McDowell.

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 10.11.47 PM

McDowell wears a copper ring and a copper bracelet that he had made. The ring, which says “Om Mani Padmi Hum,” translates to “generosity, ethics, patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom.” The bracelet, which says “Iokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,” translates to “may all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in someway to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”

 

Sources & Contacts

Timothy McDowell: 318-918-0897

“A History of Scottish Kilts.” Authentic Ireland. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 June 2017.

Club of the week: Banzai Anime Club

The Banzai Anime Club is a student organization that provides a space for anime fans to relax, socialize and discuss their common interests.

Jacob Jennings, the club’s marketing officer, manages the group’s social media accounts, as well as its OwlLife page and email system. He has held this position for more than a year.

Jennings has loved this genre of animation since he was a child. He believes there are many different storytelling techniques used in animation that cannot be done with traditional camera and film.

At each weekly meeting, the group watches a new anime series to expand the members’ horizons.

“We watch about six to 10 episodes to get people introduced to a series,” Jennings said, “things that not everyone has seen so that they can broaden their scope of what to watch.”

Those in attendance can share ideas for what to watch the following week.

“If someone has a series that they think is really good, they tell us the name of the series, and myself or one of the officers will look it up to make sure it is acceptable for viewing in the room,” Jennings said. “There are standards and rules that we have to abide by.”

Each meeting is an event in itself, as members are given the opportunity to watch an anime series that may be difficult to obtain or expensive.

Because the cost of production is so high and the profits don’t always make up for it, some anime series can be expensive to buy. According to Masamune Sakaki, a computer graphics creator in the anime industry, an average 13-episode anime season costs around $2 million. The club is fortunate enough to have anime donated by officers and members to keep the costs low.

The club holds meetings every Friday from 7 to 11 p.m. in room 215B in the Atrium, J Building, on the Marietta campus.

At the next meeting, held Friday, Feb. 24, the club will have “Random Anime Night.” This will be a grab-bag-style night, so the club will watch pilot episodes of various anime in one night rather than the usual first seven episodes of a pre-selected series.

There are no annual fees to join the club. It was originally established more than five years ago, prior to Kennesaw State’s merge with Southern Polytechnic State University. As of now, the club has nearly 20 members.

Prospective members can visit the club’s Facebook page, Banzai Anime Club, or the OwlLife page for more information.

Club of the week: VEX Robotics Competition Team

Students can show off their creativity and ingenuity by making robots in the VEX Robotics Competition Team.

The organization is challenged to design, operate and construct a robot out of specific parts with certain rules and regulations, such as not exceeding 2 feet in height. The robots must then complete tasks that are picked for competition each year.

The organization was founded four years ago. Club President Yassin Moghazy said the main goal is to express creativity as much as possible while overcoming the limitations.

“Everyone is restricted to the same parts, so it’s about who’s the most creative with what you have,” Moghazy said.

Moghazy has been building robots for four years and was captain of his high school’s robotics team.

“I find value in showing other people how to build and program,” he said.

The club welcomes students of all technological backgrounds, from beginner to advanced. Equal creative opportunity is given to students regardless of how much experience they have in the field.

“Robotics is more than just putting something together and making it work,” Moghazy said. “It’s more about your ability to critically think about a problem but also be creative enough to get around your problem.”

Kennesaw State University hosted the Kennesaw VEX Scrimmage on March 4 on the Marietta campus. KSU won first and second place.

“Next year we are hoping to host a tournament,” Moghazy said.

Teams can win different categories of robotics and a variety of awards, including Tournament Champions, Excellence Award, Design Award and many more. Awards given are not only based on simply building a robot, but also through the process of formulation. This is referred to as the “engineering notebook,” where ideas, observation and inventions are recorded.

The club holds meetings every Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. and Friday at 5 p.m. in room 118 of the Engineering Technology Center on the Marietta campus. Members have free time after meetings to work on their robots, and Moghazy said there are many late nights spent in the lab.

At this week’s meetings, members will discuss plans to attend the Worldwide VEX Robotics Competition, a tournament for qualifying teams to compete against one another for the title of “best in the world.” Held April 19 in Louisville, Kentucky, this would be the first worldwide competition for KSU if the team qualifies and attends.

The club currently has about 19 members. Students who want to join are encouraged to attend a meeting to learn more about the club and visit its OwlLife page for more information.

Paulding County Teen Wins First Place In Two Divisions of Georgia Motocross Racing

Paulding County junior wins Best in Georgia Series, making him the series champion in two divisions.

Jack Leathers, 16, has overcome many obstacles to become the series champion in Georgia. He doesn’t have what most consider the average high school lifestyle.

Breaking both of his hands at 15, he continued to focus his training on cardio and endurance. He created his own workout routine that did not include the use of his hands during the time he was recovering.

He is an inspiration for student-athletes of Paulding County, as many do not feel their name can be recognized coming from such a small place. With 15 sponsorships, he proves that anyone can have their name known if they push themselves to become the best.

PAULDING, Ga. – A 16-year-old boy wins two divisions of motocross racing in the Best in Georgia Series and will be honored on November 5th at the Best in Georgia Series Motocross banquet.

Education And A Career in Motocross Tend To Clash: Not In This Case

Jack Leathers, a junior at South Paulding High School, breaks the barrier for Paulding County athletes. Upon winning the Best in Georgia Series in two divisions of motocross racing, he has become an inspiration to many wishing to peruse a career in athletics.

“I feel that I’ve shown kids that you can still live your dreams while perusing an education,” said Leathers. “Especially in a sport like motocross where almost all top level amateurs are home-schooled from a young age in order to train as much as possible.”

He expresses the difficulty of being in high school while perusing a career in motocross, especially coming from such a small area as Paulding. Tracks tend to be several hours away and competition races often require him to stay all weekend in a hotel to be near the track.

Breaking Both Hands At A Race: How To Get Back Up

Leathers overcame many difficulties of training during his motocross career, including breaking both hands and learning the many different techniques and aspects of training to win.

Rather than letting his injury end his career, he found ways to continue his training without using his hands. He focused on keeping his cardio and endurance up to standard. He followed several workout programs that helped the athlete have a well-rounded workout.

“It [breaking his hands] set me back a while, but during that time I focused on my cardio and endurance and kept working out what I could,” said Leathers. “I came back overall in better shape and just had to get my arms back up to par with the rest of my body as soon as I could.”

Travel Expenses Take a Toll on Athletes

The majority of races are hours away from Paulding County, making travel expenses very high and taking up a lot of time.

“The kid saves every dollar he can and does his research to buy exactly what he needs and how to get the best price possible,” said supporter, Steven Bumstead.

The final race of the championship series that Leathers competed in was four hours away. Not only did he have to pay for fuel to drive to Alabama, but also had to pay for fueling up his dirt bike all weekend.

The rounds tend to last all weekend; therefore, he had to pay for a hotel the entire weekend. He also had to pay the cost of storing his bike for the weekend at night and pay fees to enter the competition. Each week, entrance fees alone cost up to $100.

Jack Leathers: Inspiration To Young Athletes

Being so successful at a young age comes with many perks including sponsorships and bragging rights, but more importantly, being a role model for those who look for inspiration in your success.

He has inspired several athletes at his high school to peruse their dreams while also working toward their high school diploma.

“I feel like many people can count on him as a role model, being that he is so young,” said sophomore Kayla Fuller. “He gives people a sense of hope for their future in motocross.”

After a long day of classes, Leathers’ day isn’t over. He jumps on his bike and practices racing techniques at his father’s farm. After practicing on the bike, he does a workout routine including running, weight lifting and strength exercises.

Weekends are filled with traveling, leaving no time for the typical high school experience.  “It’s difficult to manage school work with motocross and I often have to do homework while on the way to events,” he said. “You have to multitask in order to maintain everything.”

How to Support

To support Jack Leathers’ motocross journey one can purchase bumper stickers or make a donation. Email Jack for further information at JackLeathers55@yahoo.com.

To attend the Ultra Series Motocross banquet, one may purchase tickets here.

Club of the week: You, Every Shade

You, Every Shade is an all-inclusive, multicultural women’s organization that focuses on the empowerment of women.

Women of any race or sexuality are welcome to call You, Every Shade their new home.

President Kiarie DeGroat founded the organization this year. You, Every Shade is a multicultural women’s group that focuses on the empowerment of females with the goal of being all-inclusive.

“We openly welcome members of the LGBTQ community,” DeGroat said. “Any person that identifies as a woman is welcome to become a member of our organization.”

DeGroat said that she started You, Every Shade because she felt that most student organizations for women were either inclusive in terms of race or LGBTIQ identification, not both.

“I wanted to bring something that I always sought after in my college career to other women in hopes that they are looking for the same things,” she said.

DeGroat said the overall goals of the club include:

  • to empower women within the organization and outside of it.
  • to recognize women that are doing amazing things around campus, in the community and within the organization itself.
  • to encourage confidence in women.
  • to be positive role models and influences for young women in the community.
  • to develop professional leadership skills.

“A lot of girls that become members find that self-confidence is the biggest thing they want to work on,” DeGroat said.

Semester goals for the organization include raising awareness of the group and increasing exposure on campus.

“We want to let people know there is a strong, multicultural women presence on campus,” DeGroat said.

“Safe Sex: Pillow Talk!” is the organization’s first event. It will run from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. on March 7 in room 1220 in the recreation center on the Kennesaw campus. This will be Q&A format with interactive activities to promote safe sex and highlight resources at KSU.

“This event isn’t just for women. We want anyone and everyone to come,” DeGroat said.

The club’s next meeting, “Interpersonal Violence: Let’s Talk About It!” will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in room 3007 in the Social Sciences building. Shameka Wilson from the Women’s Resource Center will discuss interpersonal violence at this meeting.

You, Every Shade typically holds a meeting twice a month, and members discuss current events and brainstorm activities for empowering women. As of now, the club has about 20 members.

Prospective members are encouraged to visit the organization’s Twitter page @YouEveryShade, go to its page on OwlLife or email the organization directly at YouEveryShade@gmail.com.

KSU sophomore killed in car crash

A Kennesaw State University student was killed after being ejected from a car in an early-morning crash Friday, March 3, according to Cobb County police.

Four students were inside the 2003 Acura when the driver reportedly lost control around 4:30 a.m. on the I-75 northbound exit ramp to Chastain Road. Police said the vehicle rolled onto its roof and then collided with a tree.

Sophomore and 19-year-old business major Colin Ruland was ejected from the car and later pronounced dead at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Police said that Ethan Dowell, the driver, was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, along with Cole Kovarchik and Jordan Wormsby, the other two passengers.

Police are still investigating the accident. Anyone with information on the crash is asked to contact Cobb County Police at 770-499-3987.

In a statement released Friday evening, a KSU spokesman said the university was “deeply saddened” at the news. Students, faculty and staff who want to speak with a grief counselor are encouraged to contact the Counseling and Psychological Services Center.

For more information, visit AJC.com.