Exhibition Takes on Photography

From the Campus Lantern: January 30, 2014

On January 23, 2014, the Akus Gallery in Shafer Hall hosted a reception party, showcasing Ellen’s Carey’s artwork titled “Let There Be Light: The Black Swans of Ellen Carey”. Students from art classes, faculty, and others attend the event to admire and discuss how she explores the idea of a darkroom contradictory to how photographers use it.

Carey is currently an associate professor at the University of Hartford specializing in photography. A booklet, handed out during the reception, discusses how her field translates into an artwork all its own. Carey writes about the questions people usually ask about her work dealing with the process and the picture itself.

“In my work, the process becomes the subject,” Carey explains in the preface. “The second question addresses the conundrum of a photographic image without a picture or sign to read.”

Essentially, Carey asks: What is a photograph?

Several works showcased explored that question through various series of artworks. Four of those pieces looked at photography through photogenic drawings since, according to their description, photography derives from two Greek words. One of those words, graphein, translates as “to write”, reinforcing how Carey questions what photography really is.

A press release, issued by the Akus Gallery, discusses how Carey’s work expands and questions photography through her discovery of the “Pull” technique. This method, creating a parabola, creates a foundation for Carey’s “Black Swans” meaning how her works define photography as pictures of light.

According to the press release, “By not using traditional photographic tools such as a camera or a darkroom, Carey often eliminates the image as ‘picture sign’ found in portrait, landscape or still life photographs. In Carey’s world, there is no document of a person, place or thing — only records of light. Her artistic intention is to capture light’s first traces.”

The reception for Ellen Carey’s showcase allowed for students, faculty, and guests alike to look at photography anew. Her work will remain on display in the Akus Gallery until February 20, 2014.

Dancers Take to the Stage in Repertory Dance Troupe Showcase

From the Campus Lantern: December 5, 2013 (Photo by Solinda Keth Design)

On Saturday, November 23, the Repertory Dance Troupe held their Fall Showcase in Shafer Auditorium at Eastern Connecticut State University. Attendees came en masse, from Eastern students to family and friends who came to support their dancers.

At two in the afternoon, the lights went down and the RDT dancers introduced the first number, a choreographed performance to “When I Grow Up”. The crowd cheered and whooped as the dancers marched around the stage, swinging their hands, and interpreting the exuberant, jovial anticipation of a fantasy adult world.

Beyond the opening act, the first act contained numbers that amazed the audience, not just in the pirouettes, flips, and jumps. Their choreography sent social and personal messages to the audience like in the third piece, performed solely by the RDT’s e-board. It juxtaposed Britney Spear’s “Wonmanizer” with Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, to make the audience aware about rape culture. The choreography synchronized with this juxtaposition, asking the audience to deter from this sort of sexist objectification that creates and reinforces rape culture.

On the personal side, Rebecca Sanderson went onstage for a solo choreographed to “The Age of Worry.” Under the spotlight, she twirled and jumped around the stage, using her enthusiastic movements to lead the audience to a worry-free life. In the second act, Jessica Ristow’s solo piece, “Keep Your Head Up”, reminded the audience to remain positive. Ristow’s danced with confidence across the stage, reinforcing the theme from Sanderson’s piece, guiding the audience to a carefree, determined state of mind.

The second act continued where the first act left off with the energetic and creative performances including the twelfth and sixteenth numbers. The former, choreographed to the “Hip Hop Police”, combined costuming with tap dancing to create a fun romp with the conflict between authority and the hip-hop artists. The latter, concluding the showcase, includes the RDT’s seventy-two dancers as they danced on and offstage, through the aisles, concluding with a series of hands reaching out from stage-left and right.

It was not just RDT that performed on stage; they shared it with Eastern’s other dance groups. From Fusion’s rhythmic performance, the Modern Movement’s interpretation of Lindsey Striling’s Crystalize, to the Dance Team’s entry for the Spring 2013 Nationals, it was a showcase of both competitive spirit and passion for the arts. Jessica Ristow, the president of RDT, talks about how she and the Troupe e-board gathered all these dance groups together.

“We were able to make contact with the E-boards of each group and they all quickly replied with a ‘Yes!’” Jessica Ristow said.

What makes the RDT showcase an emotionally, well-executed performance goes beyond the countless hours of practice. Carlie Bermani-McCann, a dancer for RDT, talks about the bonds between the entire Troupe, allowing the performances to shine.

“Our team members are our sisters and everyone supports one another through thick and thin, in dance and outside of dance. My RDT sisters are my best friends and my biggest supporters,” Carlie Bermani-McCann said.

The Troupe’s close, familial bonds show through the choreographed performances that drew the audiences into the world of interpretive dance. Jessica Ristow talks about the showcase’s successful turnout and the efforts by both the e-board and the Troupe.

“This was one of our most successful shows in Troupe history! There was a full house and a really excited audience. This season was one our shortest ever and the girls exceeded expectations in learning seven big group numbers, several combinations, and a few solos,” Ristow said.

With the sold-out performance, the Repertory Dance Troupe leaves the audience looking forward to their Spring Showcase.

Fine Arts Instructional Facility Approved for Construction

From the Campus Lantern: May 2, 2013

On the week of April 8th, 2013, the Fine Arts Department at Eastern Connecticut State University acquired the funding to build the new Fine Arts Instructional Facility. Construction will begin during the Summer of 2013 with the ground breaking of the student center parking lot.

According to Music at Eastern’s monthly newsletter, in their first issue for the 2013-2014 year, the new facility features up-to-date facilities including a recital hall, soundproof practice rooms, teaching studios, and other public facilities for students, performing arts and music majors, and faculty. The fifth issue, released in early April, confirms the building’s approval for construction, providing a projected finished date.

“The Department of Performing Arts (Music and Theater) as well as the Department of Visual Arts will move into their new home in the center of campus in time for the start of the Fall 2015 semester,” Reads the newsletter’s fifth issue opener.

Sketches of the new building, from the Music at Eastern Facebook page show that the finished product houses two major entrances; one on High Street, and the other next to the Student Center. By replacing the Student Center parking lot, the building centralizes the performing arts onto the main campus to increase their presence on campus.

Later sketches, added to the Music at Eastern Facebook on April 12th show further what the building looks. While the previous sketches, showed what the entrances looked like, the latest batch focuses on the entrance from High Street, highlighting the lobby and a portion of the auditorium.

Students and faculty look forward to the new Fine Arts Instructional Facility for the new opportunities it offers.

Renae St. John, a student at Eastern Connecticut State University, explains that the new performing arts center is a necessity to move forward alongside the trends in drama and music.

“Shafer is outdated and in order for the Performing Arts department to truly grow it needs up to date equipment: sophisticated light and sound systems as well as musical instruments, actual soundproof practice rooms, and other technologies that were once unavailable to students,” Renae St. John said.

Dr. Jeff Calissi, Chair of the Performing Arts Department’s music program, eagerly anticipates the construction of the building.

“The building will house expanded room size in a state of the art facility, which will have a profound effect on the instruction and creation of music. We anxiously await the time when we are able to capitalize on such limitless possibilities,” Dr. Calissi said.

Whether for the further recognition of the arts on campus or for the expanded opportunities for students and faculty alike, the new Fine Arts Instructional Facility will place the arts “center stage” on the main campus.

Doctor Who Returns with “Bells of St. John”

From the Campus Lantern: April 4, 2013

Saturday, March 30th marked the return of Doctor Who on BBC America for the second half of Season 7. Opening with “The Bells of St. John”, by Head Writer, Steven Moffatt, it continues with the Doctor’s (Matt Smith) search for the mysterious Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Lousie-Coleman). With how Moffatt and the producers, split the season up into two with the Christmas Special running through halfway, it feels like a new season altogether. This makes sense, considering we lost Amy Pond and Rory Williams (Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill) in the first half, I wondered whether or not the beginning arc of Clara would remain consistent with the season’s theme from the first, half, with none of the Doctor’s villains remembering who he is.

I also wondered if her mysterious background, appearing in both “Asylum of the Daleks” (aired September 1, 2012), as a computer genius, and “The Snowmen” (aired December 25, 2012), as a Victorian governess, would completely transfer into “Bells of Saint John”. By this, I am asking if the Clara Oswald of the new episode remembers the Doctor in full. Just minutes into the episode before the main plot forces itself into the episode, I got the impression that this Clara was the same as the ones from before. After all, the Doctor never uses the phone on his spaceship, the TARDIS which looks like an ordinary phone-booth painted dark blue.

However, I was quite pleased that this was the only thing that put this question into speculation since, after the Doctor lands at the 2013 Clara’s house, she has no clue about the extraterrestrial and seldom has any ideas about advanced technology. It makes her official debut as his third companion fresh regardless of how many times the Doctor saw her before. In this case, with the large gap between “Asylum of the Daleks” and “The Snowmen” leading into April, splitting the season into two halves was a good move. This makes Clara’s third appearance along with her existing character traits less redundant.

In regards to the main plot, where selecting a certain Wifi hotspot uploads the user to a large database, the intrigue into who is behind in fades nearly thirty minutes in when the culprits are revealed. While the direction by Colm McCarthy kept me hooked on the episode, especially when the Doctor and Clara ride across London on a motorcycle, I felt that Moffat rushed out the antagonists too quickly. The Spoonhead robots they send out for the uploads are not the Silence of Season 6 nor the Weeping Angels that gave an eerie ambiance to ordinary places. The viewer already knows before the titles that clicking on a certain hotspot ensures a character’s “up-load”, unlike the “Don’t Blink” in Season 3’s “Blink” where Moffat only hints about the Weeping Angels until the second half.

While the main plot seems rushed, the character development between the Doctor and Clara makes up for the episodes shortcomings. It may not be Moffat’s best work, but I am still looking forward to figuring out the mysteries of Clara Oswald as she travels with the Doctor.

Latest SimCity Plagued by DRM and Server Issues

From the Campus Lantern: March 21, 2013

March 4, 2013 marked the release of the latest installment in the SimCity series. Simply titled, SimCity, the game would allow players to further customize their city using the GlassBox graphic engine, giving the game an added sense of realism with city developments impacting even the individual sims residing in the residential zones. It would also be the first SimCity to allow for multiplayer competition online, allowing players to see who has the better city and compete for resources in order to improve a city’s economy.

With all these features, SimCity should have been the best edition in the series so far. Unfortunately with the various one-star reviews on Amazon for the Standard Edition and an average user score of 1.7 on Metacritic, it seems that the SimCity magic of the past faded. However, it is not the added realism to the city simulator that is causing fans to complain about the new release.

The problem deals with two things: Digital Rights Management (DRM) and server trouble. Both of them go hand-in-hand.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for user rights such as internet freedom, explains that SimCity’s DRM requires that the user connects to the internet to play, even in single-player mode. Yet, the server trouble occurring from the game’s release onward makes it difficult for players to actually play the game.

“Even if you connected, the double helping of fail continued: all cities are saved to the cloud, and if the servers bug out, hours of work can go up in smoke faster than Godzilla can decimate a metropolis. No more local saves, lest you manage to defeat the DRM,” EFF blogger, Parker Higgins said, regarding the game’s use of DRM.
Since players cannot save their cities onto their own computers, let alone play offline in single-player mode, the magic of SimCity ends abruptly leaving players with inoperative software.

Now, server troubles are not so much the case since Maxis’s General Manager, Lucy Bradshaw, explains what lengths the development team took in order to get the servers running.

“A combination of optimizing our server architecture and response times, deploying these enhancements on both a series of new and the original servers and issuing a few critical client updates has achieved getting virtually everyone into the game and, once in, having a great time building cities and sharing regions,” Lucy Bradshaw said.

Now with the game up and running online, the features of the new SimCity should change the initial reaction to the game.

But what about the ability to play offline? On March 12, Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo took advantage of the fluctuating WiFi in his house to see how long he could play offline.

“About 18 minutes in, my factories were full. My exports weren’t going out. Because of the lack of an online connection? Or due to my mining facilities working overtime? I’m not sure, because, 19 minutes in, I got the alert you can see atop this story. The game had decided enough was enough. I had to quit to the main menu,” Stephen Totilo said.

While unsure, Totilo suggests that the inability to trade out his exports makes the internet connection vital to gameplay. The multiplayer component seems integral to the game as a whole.

But is that the reason why SimCity is only playable online? In interviewing a SimCity developer, wishing to remain anonymous, Rock Paper Shotgun’s John Walker reveals while internet connectivity provides cities with trade for additional income and resources, it also serves another purpose.

“So what are the servers doing? Well, alongside the obvious, of being involved in allowing players to share the same maps for their cities, and processing imports and exports between them, they’re really there to check that players aren’t cheating or hacking,” John Walker said.

In a game that has the ability to operate offline, SimCity utilizes DRM to make sure players stray from hacking the game, justified if the player does multiplayer. Players who would rather play single-player do not have the luxury of playing offline, and if so can only play for 20 minutes. Time will tell whether fans embrace SimCity or disregard it as a DRM disaster.

Coffeehouse Attracts Writers and Musicians to Perform Onstage

From the Campus Lantern: March 7, 2013

On Wednesday, February 27, 2013, the Eastern Writers Guild held their second coffeehouse of the semester in the Student Center Café. Students who attended the event were encourage to perform, reading their poetry and prose, and playing some music. When not performing, they joined audience in watching the other acts play out, sometimes drinking the coffee the group provides from Cafémantic.

This coffeehouse saw a variety of writers take the stage to read poetry inspired by exploring the personal unknown and societal stereotypes, prose going back into the days of high school sometimes breaching into the early years of university. Musicians went onstage, guitars in hand, to perform acoustic numbers either written personally or a tribute to a favorite songwriter.

Out of the writers reciting poetry, Zack LaSala, a student at Eastern Connecticut State University, took the opening act of the evening with his poem, “Ashes of a Burning Man”. The poem reflects an annual festival of its namesake, the Burning Man. LaSala says that he wasn’t familiar with the festival until last year, when he was going thorough YouTube videos and found one titled, “Oh the Places You’ll Go at Burning Man”.

He was amazed by the festival, specifically those attending, saying, “All the people were so cool, different, bizarre.”

Zack LaSala says that because of how the Burning Man Festival makes itself unique, containing many things out of the ordinary such as boats on wheels, he was inspired to write his poem.

The act the directly followed his was a musical number by student Jeremey MacDonough, an acoustic thoroughfare through three songs. According to MacDonough, these numbers were a result of what he calls ‘free-play’, where he creates a song without any advance planning.

“The songs were already written. It all comes to putting them down,” Jeremey MacDonough said.

Several reading and music acts passed by afterward, from an well-executed opera number by student Ben Friedman, titled “Nesumdorma”, to a creative nonfiction piece by Angela DiLella, a humorous take on an aspect of college relationship dilemmas with a moral message embedded throughout.

The audience enjoyed the acts throughout the evening. Many found it difficult to select a particular favorite as students Ty Colige and Nick Cecere discovered. Colige, a newcomer to the coffeehouse, was especially impressed by the whole thing saying, “There are quite a few good ones.”

For students, like Adam Phelps who wants to turn his series of poems into an anthology, the encouragement from the audience is a positive influence on their career. While I asked Matt Prifty, President of the Eastern Writers Guild to comment on the success of the coffeehouse, he declined to comment.

The next coffeehouse will be on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 in the Student Center Café, from 7pm to 10pm.

Fandoms: The New In-Crowd or Just Enthusiasts?

From the Campus Lantern: February 21, 2013

Trekkies, Whovians, Potterheads, Bronies; what do these names have in common?

They are separate fandoms, a group of people who share a common interest in a subject. Here, it refers to the obsession over media icons outside of mainstream pop culture, like Star Trek. The passionate drive over these non-existent entities even earned fandoms a spot on Al Jazeera’s program, The Stream, where the enthusiasts and journalists discussed the positive impact fandoms have.

Francesca Coppa, a Professor of TV studies at the University of Pennsylvania, sees fandoms as highly inspirational. On The Stream episode, titled “The Power of Pop Culture”, Coppa says that the obsession fandoms possess inspires creativity, debate, and even causes.

“Fandom is extremely social,” Francesca Coppa said.

While fandoms can inspire writers, filmmakers, and other occupations, what does the fandom do for everyday life?

Angela DiLella, a student at Eastern Connecticut State University, sees fandoms as a nuisance. While she is a fan of various icons, she does not find their obsession noteworthy. Instead she finds fandoms to be socially counter-productive.

“I don’t want to sit with a group of people and discuss this one thing,” Angela DiLella said.

Unlike the interviewees on The Stream, fandoms still have little impact on society. They are just another group of enthusiasts, bordering on the eccentric.

Even here, there is more to these fandoms than what many think. Sean Richmond, another student at Eastern, says that the inner-workings of fandom allow for the non-binary discussion of icons like Kirk or Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation. When he says non-binary, he means that it goes beyond the stereotypes like race and gender, alluding to a universal appeal.

“You like it and that’s all that matters,” Sean Richmond said.

So while everyday fandoms seem obsessive and annoying, they allow fans to discuss what they love without the pressures of society. In the case of Doctor Who, Neil Perryman, a interviewee on The Stream who manages the Wife in Space blog, explains that the fans not only influenced the BBC to bring back the show in 2005, but many of them went on to write and work on the show.

“The people now making the show are those same fans,” Neil Perryman said.

Fandoms, while being peculiar, can do so much for the object of their fixation and for themselves. So how have fandoms impacted my personal life?

Even if I am a Whovian, a Doctor Who fan, I find that fandoms have seldom influenced my life. I got into the show because of Douglas Adams, who wrote “The Pirate Planet” (1978) and “The City of Death” (1979) and find the writing more interesting than the heroic acts of the Doctor; played by Tom Baker in the mentioned episodes. I could find one of these fandoms and argue that Adams’s writing greatly influenced the modern Doctor Who, but is it worth it? Is it better to let these aspects of a media icon to inspire a person rather than debate about the minor aspects, like what character is the best?

As fandoms become more mainstream, only time will tell whether they still remain eccentric in the public’s eye, or become an advocate for positive, progressive change.

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