Archive for March, 2010

350: The Most Important Number

March 31, 2010

In lieu of a final exam, Ann Page Stecker’s Visions of Nature class, of which I am a part, is bringing Colby-Sawyer and the town of New London together to raise awareness for the 350 movement during Earth Day celebrations on Scholar’s Day, April 21. This marks the second annual celebration of 350 0n campus during the spring semester.

350 translate as “350 parts per million (ppm) carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”. Any number beyond 350 and the planet is in grave danger. Earth, the planet we all claim to love so much, currently stands at 385 ppm. If we do not take action than life as we know it will cease to exist.

350 matters because it is a number that we can all grasp. Colby-Sawyer is joining in a world-wide movement where people are raising awareness for 350 and doing so in clever ways – everything from people gathering to form the number 350, to ringing church bells 350 times.  350 Bikers event rode into the center of Salt Lake City, an action that gathered the attention of the local press.

Writer Bill McKibbin has pioneered thinking on this subject through an article he wrote for Orion magazine. He believes the number is a revelation because it universally has the same meaning for everyone on the planet and blurs the lines between the English and metric systems. As he puts it, “it is, after all, global warming.” He suggests lining up 350 water melons at a farmer’s market.

 But what can you do? We can all log onto 350.org and find little ways to educate the public about 350. No matter what you do, you can make a difference. Do not let Colby-Sawyer’s “350 day” be the last we hear about the most important number of our lifetime. The Visions of Nature class is starting the conversation and it is critical you keep it going.

October 10, 2010 (10-10-10)  is 350.org’s “planetary day of action.” Iconic places around the world will be transformed to tattoo 350 into every brain in the world. The least you can do is keep the number in your head, and do whatever it takes to tell the greatest number of people about it. Update your Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter statuses with it. The more people who become educated the better.

 Do not wait around for someone else to effect change for you, effect change yourself. Every bit goes a long way in the fight to stop the global climate crisis. So log onto 350.org right now and get involved. Join the “350.org” Facebook fan site. We both know that you will be glad you did.

Rubbing elbows with Colby-Sawyer elite

March 27, 2010

The Courier Staff after dinner with President Galligan

Country’s Renegade Casanova

March 26, 2010

 When Carrie Underwood stood under the bright lights of the Kodak Theatre and heard Ryan Seacrest announce that she had proven victorious in season four of American Idol, Underwood became the Kelly Clarkson of the country world. Judge Simon Cowell even predicted, after a career defining performance of Heart’s Alone,  Underwood would be the best-selling artist in Idol history.

Those who have followed Underwood’s career since her Idol win remember Underwood’s debut album Some Hearts spawned her two biggest hits, “Jesus, Take The Wheel” and her signature  “Before He Cheats.” Both songs spent six plus weeks atop the Billboard Country chart and won Grammys for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

Since her career high in 2007, Underwood has coasted along trying to duplicate her “Before He Cheats” success through subsequent hits “Last Name” and the lead single for her third album Play On, “Cowboy Casanova.” Both songs paint the lead male as vindictive and sly; needing the woman in their life to worn others about their existence. With each release she steers futher and further away from her country music roots.

I’ve always believed Underwood oversings her ballads; adding far too much power to tender moments. She goes for the big notes the same way a narcissist  has a giant photograph of themselves on their wall — trying to show off in a flamboyant way. She hits the big notes with ease; but bombastic vocals aren’t the mark of a technical singer; knowing how best to craft the instrument at hand is the true mark.

It took until Play On, Underwood’s not-as-highly anticipated third release for her to finally move in the direction of toning down the egotistical vocals and give songs their justice. The addition of fiance Mike Fisher is mellowing Ms. Underwood but less isn’t necessarily more.

The opening track and first single, “Cowboy Casanova,” takes Underwood the furthest away from country she has ever gone. This slickly produced piece of pop/rock proves that the addition of banjo to a song is no longer a guarantee of country credentials. While sticking to her formula for portraying men as creatures that must be avoided no matter the cost, Underwood scored another radio hit and number one single. Problem is, the song created zero impact and will be forgotten long before the cheated girlfriend puts down her Louisville Slugger. All style over substance, the song has Underwood playing a character — issue is, she doesn’t play the part convincingly. Unfortunately, the embarrassing performance at the CMA Awards had people talking more about the wildly inappropriate hot pants than the vocal performance. I must have been mistaken – I always believed the CMA Awards to be a family show. Underwood must have forgotten that somewhere along the way. 

Luckily, the rest of the album steps in the right direction – less production coupled with tone downed vocals. The problem is, Underwood has created good pop; but where is the country? For someone who has been awarded multiple Female Vocalist trophies from both the CMA and ACM it seems odd that Underwood would choose to walk a path that has her competing with the likes of Beyonce and Pink over Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire. 

The closest Underwood comes to exercising her country muscle comes just moments after the closing of “Cowboy Casanova,” a song aptly titled “Quitter.” Easily the strongest track on the album, it flows with a gentle ease and proves that when Underwood sings a good song, the results are close to the kind of magic excused by the likes of McEntire or even Trisha Yearwood in their heyday. 

With the exception of “Mama’s Song,” Underwood’s beautiful ode to her mom as she embarks on married life, and the catchy but clichéd “Undo It,” Underwood’s Play On  is an unexciting and fatigued grouping of songs that wear out their welcome after multiple listenings.

Wost though is the tepid, “Songs Like This” which has drawn comparisons to the Dixie Chicks. Those comparisons are unfounded, even the Dixie Chicks are smarter than to record this mess. If “Quitter” is three steps forward for Underwood, “This” is ten steps back. Why Underwood feels the need to record yet another song painting the male gender as pigs, is a decision I will never understand.

Being male does not give me a bias here, a song is a song. This one just happens to be Underwood’s lowest recorded moment yet. The blame lays with Mark Bright, the producer of this album (and recent releases for Lonestar and Rascal Flatts), as much as with Underwood. He’s supposed guide her in the studio; leading her on the journey to a final recorded product, but the partnership is hard to be taken seriously when dribble like this marks their result. If she really feels it’s all about the song, than why not practice what she pretends to preach?

Underwood has proven in the past that with the right material, she makes magic. Recently, though, she’s been chasing the success “Before He Cheats” with sub par sequels to the Chris Tompkins/Josh Kear penned smash. Her recent hits don’t add up to anything and will be largely forgotten when history writes her legacy.  

Just because a song hits #1 on the charts isn’t an indication of quality anymore which is sad. The problems with Underwood’s Play On actually exposes a larger problem with mainstream country music — tired clichés and overused themes that make country the most unoriginal genre currently viable in the market.

Carrie Underwood – and Country Music as a whole – need a facelift now more than ever

I’m a published journalist

March 24, 2010

It may be small and a one time endeavor, but I had my first piece published in a newspaper this week…The Concord Monitor! The whole thing started as an assignment for a class (Writing for Publication) and then the professor pushed me to send it out.

The resulting publication is an edited version of the A new decade brings new change to the country, we hope since I needed to focus it more and they only take 250 word submissions. The following photo is  the published piece as it appears on their website.

 I’m also including  the link to view the editorial on The Concord Monitor’s website: http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100322/OPINION/3220315/1029/OPINION03


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