Thursday, February 9, 2017

Blog Project 1

Topic #4: Binge-Watching "Crazyhead" 

“I’m not a hell-bitch, I work in a bowling alley!”

Demons. Vampires. Supernatural powers. Two unlikely, crass and wisecracking English girls fighting the forces of evil.

This is “Crazyhead,” a Netflix original created and written by Howard Overman. Overman is also responsible for the show “Misfits,” which runs in a similar vein; young English misfits discover they each have a unique superpower that comes with a new depth of responsibility. The young women in “Crazyhead,” Amy (Cara Theobold) and Raquel (Susan Wokoma), have the ability to see the true faces of the demons that walk among us in human form. The show is a serial horror-drama-comedy, spouting cheeky characters that celebrate and simultaneously destroy cultural tropes and stereotypes. Metaphorically delving into issues as serious as addiction, mental health, the loss of death, and estrangement from family, the show’s driving humor bounces between these themes with a light touch.

“The show came from that classic phrase, ‘battling your demons,’” said Overman, quoted in The Guardian’s review. “Throughout history, the idea of people being possessed talks to something very deep within our psyche. So here we have two girls who are battling the demons of living their lives and dealing with love and friendship … but also battling real demons.”

When I curled up in my bed to watch the first four episodes on the evening of Sunday, Feb. 4, I found myself pulled into the characters, understanding and relating to them in a way which I'd missed since the introduction of "Broad City's" Abbi and Illana.

"Broad City's" characters are a modern duo of hilarity, meant to relate with women living a little "different" from the rest of patriarchal America.

Abbi and Illana's characters in "Broad City" use humor to challenge stereotypes about women just as Amy and Raquel's characters do in "Crazyhead." 

Oh yes, and did I mention that like Abbi and Illana, Amy and Raquel are a comedic duo who break down racial cultural barriers? "Crazyhead" shows off a diverse cast, all interacting and falling in friendship/love with each other as if race just ain't no thang, because, well, it shouldn't be!

The first scene of "Crazyhead" opens to a young, pretty woman tied up and stuffed in the trunk of a car, being transported. She is obviously terrified, wearing just an oversized shirt and fuzzy pink bunny slippers. The car stops, trunk opens, and two clown-masked figures loom over her. She screams. They drag her out of the car, lashing her to the pavement. This is where the banter begins.

“Amy? I know that’s you, that’s my jacket,” says the tied-up girl.

Amy’s voice is muffled through her ridiculous creepy clown mask. Amy pulls of the mask, revealing her young face and blonde hair. The hilarity ensues.

“You wanted me to wear a belt with my pajamas and then you tried to strangle me with it,” says Amy to tied-up-girl.

Raquel pulls off her mask too, and the scene spins into the depths of awkward… like, really awkward. The two are performing an exorcism on the tied-up girl, who is Amy’s best friend and roommate, Suzanne (Riann Steele). Raquel scrolls her smartphone and tells Amy that she has to pee on her. Yes, this exorcism involves a golden showe

A simplistic plot premise, good vs. evil, the two young women have the power to see the true faces of demons possessing humans and walking among us. These demons find this power of true sight terribly threatening and, of course, attempt to kill the women. Amy and Raquel must come to terms with their powers, accept their differences and learn how to fight back together against an encroaching evil, all the while exploring issues like friendship, boys, and sex in footie pajamas.

After the golden shower scene, the episode flashes back to three days previous, before Amy has met Raquel. For most of her life Amy believes she is “crazy” and hallucinating these insane demon faces; she takes medication to suppress the hallucinations.  Fairly well-adjusted to society and working in a bowling alley, she reduces her dose of anti-psychotics with the encouragement of her therapist.

“So I’m not crazy, but I might shit myself?” she asks her psychiatrist.

“Hopefully not, but, it happens,” he responds in a matter-of-fact manner.

Amy's best friend, tied-up-girl Suzanne, has been a supportive and self-sacrificing best friend and they live a normal life together, sharing an apartment. After work they go to a club where Suzanne hooks up with a vain hipster. Amy just cringes at this, sarcastic and reserved, clearly feeling like an outsider looking in at normalcy. When she sees a demon face in the crowd of the club she becomes upset and goes outside to smoke. The demon is there, of course, having chased Raquel outside, who happened to be in the same club. This altercation introduces the two women with the same powers of sight, and Amy eventually comes to understand she isn’t crazy or alone. However, her roommate becomes possessed and tries to kill her. Amy runs to Raquel for help, and they decide to kidnap Suzanne and give her an exorcism, (we’ve returned to the pee scene) which kills the girl in the process. They bury her body in the woods, but in the last scene, after Amy goes home to mourn, she is brushing her teeth and a very dirty and sick looking Suzanne is suddenly standing behind her.

“You killed me you silly bitch,” she says. The episode ends there.

As the season continues, Raquel keeps using her smartphone to essentially google information on the demons and evil they are being pursued by. Suzanne is not actually alive, but is a “revenant” or, pretty much a vampire with an insatiable hunger for blood. While she withers away in front of their eyes, Amy, Raquel and Amy’s nerdy co-worker friend with a big fat crush on Amy feed the girl guinea pigs. It’s not enough; she’s already eaten creepy-hipster-guy and has a taste for the real thing. Meanwhile, demons are still after them, Raquel is revealed to be the daughter of a demon, and watches her father as he is stabbed in the heart with a shard of ice by a soccer-mom demon hitwoman, sending him back to the underworld. This unleashes new powers in Raquel, who acts as an apparent link or gateway to the real world from the demon realm. I shall cease from spoiling the show any further.

A review by Carly Lane on describes “Crazyhead” as: “’s what you get when you blend the Buffy aesthetic of young women kicking demon butt with the delightfully irreverent humor of Misfits.”

Lane is not alone in this train of thought. All across Twitter, new fans are dubbing “Crazyhead” as their new “Buffy,” which was a character-driven serial horror spoof that ran from 1997 to 2003, created by Joss Whedon. While not exactly like “Buffy,” “Crazyhead” does touch on some of the same subject matter, reveling in its own exploitation and exploration of stereotypes beyond their boundaries. The female friends in “Crazyhead” break the boundaries of their character types as “Buffy” broke her own stereotype as the ditsy blonde cheerleader, who also happened to be super-strong, smart, witty and kicking vampire butt; and as the nerdy, do-good best friend character of Willow breaks stereotype as she found her calling as an all-powerful lesbian witch.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
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Willow, Buffy's best friend, turns dark

Though “Crazyhead,” like "Buffy," operates within unrealistic, fantastical story material and uses stereotypes to prop up the supporting characters, the developing friendship between main characters Amy and Raquel is as real and awkward, as strong and strange as true female friendship gets. As Raquel and Amy circle each other, trying to figure out whether or not to trust each other and be friends, Raquel just pinches Amy’s nipple out of nowhere. It’s this kind of realistic, awkward humor that pulls the two out of their twenty-something stereotype and into a developing friendship.

In this video clip, Cara Theobold discusses Amy and Raquel's friendship:

However, in “Crazyhead,” male characters are often the dupes of the Hollywood trope. The demonic characters, especially the powerful leader, who moonlights, or daylights, as Raquel’s therapist, hit the trope of the evil, sadistic, and unreasonable mob-boss right on the nose. The demons operate almost like an underground crime syndicate, organizing to unleash the gates of hell. Unlike the singular-driven demon boss who only wants to end Amy and unleash hell on earth, the demon hitwoman who kills Raquel’s father presents a delightfully distinguished character from stereotypical evil.  As with the other female characters in Crazyhead, she is more fleshed out, hunting the human Seers while living life as a dedicated single mother. Confrontational scenes between her and Amy highlight her dual-desire struggle to successfully do evil while protecting her human child.

Although “Crazyhead” is comparable to “Buffy” in its use of character humor and developing, challenging female characters, it is not, by any means an exact replica, continuation or rip-off of “Buffy.” “Crazyhead” is a natural evolution, pulling from a vast creative supernatural background of shows and movies that came before it, picking and choosing, creating its own nuances and blending them into a new flavor of demon-slaying. For example, another popular show featuring two demon-hunting brothers, “Supernatural,” uses character banter and relationship development to balance the horror theme.

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Dean Winchester giving his brother Sam a hard time in "Supernatural."

“Supernatural” focuses on two overly-handsome young men battling evil in a much more melodramatic take. These characters also partake in their own comedic banter and use suspense to drive a continuing story line, just as “Crazyhead” does. In “Supernatural,” demons rush from people’s bodies in clouds of black smoke shooting out their mouths like projectile vomit; “Crazyhead” adopts this same visual when exorcising demons.

However, its depiction of demons as faces of bare flesh and bones burning up from the inside out is vastly different than “Supernatural’s,” and far more reminiscent of “Constantine’s” burning world, a comic-turned-film released in 2005 concerning a man who can communicate with half-angels and half-demons. While the audience is given something visually fresh in "Crazyhead's" burning faces it is not too new, remaining palatable, arisen from the visual ideas that came before it, left lingering in popular media. The familiar black smoke acts as an anchor that lets the audience know exactly where they are and how to interpret a new version of the story, like an X marks the spot within the map of horror media culture.

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The burning faces in "Crazyhead" are a unique twist on demon possession

There are other distinctions that make “Crazyhead” stand out in its genre; the characters in “Crazyhead” are much less model-esque and far more real-life, normal-looking young women with much dirtier mouths than the Winchester boys of “Supernatural.”

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"Crazyhead," "Supernatural," and "Buffy" all effectively use cliffhanger techniques to encourage binge-watching, or keep you waiting for the next episode release. As episodes pile up, so does the suspense and the impossibility of successful defeat of evil.

Amy and Raquel, two wildly uncouth, brazen, and bold women are anything but PC and explore the blurred lines of friendship, not shying from jokes about lesbian tendencies. However, far from offensive or homophobic, this kind of straight-girl humor embraces the spectrum of sexuality in the same matter-of-fact manner with which it addresses straight sex. It doesn't shy from anything, really; nothing in this show feels off-limits.

Throughout the episodes, the directors use images of pop-culture to accentuate the scenes. An enormous poster of Prince hangs above Raquel's bed, watching over her. The scene, shot from a low angle, covering Raquel in deep colors of purple, emphasizes her power and her vulnerability, clinging to figures and ideas larger than herself.

The show address issues such as mental illness and addiction. Raquel and Amy finding each other becomes an affirmation of sanity in each character's life, calling into question society's veritable "othering" of sufferers of mental illness. In the first episodes, Amy is standoffish, on the edges of all social interactions, though others make efforts to reach her. Suzanne's need for human blood can only be a metaphor for heroin or methamphetamine addiction. Her need is all-consuming, and though she is already "dead," we watch her wither away and die for good as her friends try in vain to find a way to save her. Covered in dirt and blood, chained to a mattress in the throes of the hunger, Suzanne decides she cannot continue to fight the addiction. She throws herself out a window to end her "afterlife." The parallels are clear; she looks just like images of drug addicts living in squats presented in the mass media, an incurable hunger slowly turns her into a different and violent person. Here, however, instead of seeing her at fault for her addiction like many addicts are presented in the media, we see her as a victim and a friend. She chooses to kill herself out of love for her friends, rather than becoming overwhelmed and attempting to eat them. This represents a more real-life glimpse of addiction and the tragic lengths some people go to escape addiction's damaging clutches on their loved ones. Despite the tragedy, the gruesome humor moves the story right along, as the sidekick dork friend steps in a pile of splattered demon and revanant, a stray ear stuck to his shoe.

The show includes a strong soundtrack of popular music that adds dynamism to each scene, keeping scenes upbeat and moving forward fast. Check out the season 1 soundtrack here; it's well worth the listen.

"Crazyhead" will inevitably draw a modern, liberal-minded audience, and hit home the best with new-wave feminist millennials. Although the horror-comedy genre and demonic possession have been well-used in the past, the genre remains the perfect format to explore real-life issues with a surrealist edge, taking the focus off the serious drama and leaving our eyes feasting on special effects and gore. "Crazyhead" successfully breaks away from overused and damaging media stereotypes in the name of raising new, realistic female heroes to the screen for an audience that demands feminine equality and power.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Media and Society Week 3

Topic 1:

Trolling my social media feeds in search of ads:

First, can I just say: Facebook, stop with the engagement ring advertisements already!!! Just because I’ve been in a seemingly hetero-normative relationship for several years does NOT mean I am your target audience or that I believe in the antiquitous institution of marriage or that I am actually a hetero-normative person at all, so just please stop! I am not buying. I am NOT your target audience. How many freakin' jewelers need to be all over my Facebook page? Can’t you at least try and sell me something interesting or something that I can afford?!

Ok, I keep scrolling FB...

Next, I notice something that strikes me a little odd; Naomi Campbell in cutoffs and a white tee, surrounded by a group of denim-clad, young, hip-looking millennials.

This pops up on my Facebook feed, and as I pause over the ad, the tiny people on my screen start moving into a short video, 16 seconds long. I turn on the sound, see Naomi strut onto the screen and hear Naomi’s voice say, “Generation Gap, take one.” Another, gravelly kinda smokey-sexy accented woman’s voice says, “It was very cool, very easy, but had this like, edge. It was all about personality.” The ad has turned black and white, and there’s this upbeat cowbell-like drumming, and images of these diverse millennials moving with the beat, cutting from person to person. The video ends on a screen proclaiming: Generation Gap. #TheArchiveReissue. It’s a 90s throwback, and everyone is in 90s style plain clothes, jeans, denim, and shirts. The whole campaign was released on 2/2, a Thursday, Gap’s ultimate “TBT” or “throw-back Thursday.” 

I click on the link to their Facebook homepage, and decide it doesn’t look like much. All their ads, or posts, on Facebook look like out-of-place Instagram shots; that’s pretty much what they are. They have over 8 million likes on their page and various posts. It’s clear that they are marketing to a variety of groups on their FB page and not just targeting one demographic. There’s photos of kids, tweens, and young adults. It’s like the <35 age-group page. They’ve just released this 90s throwback campaign, calling it a “limited release,” so I hop over to their Twitter page to check that out too. 

On Twitter, their Instagram photo ads look less out of place; it fits with the style of the short Twitter post. On Facebook, they did have some nice gifs and photos of kids that looked more professional, magazine-ad style. Their targeted demographic audience seemed more widespread on FB, but their cover photos are the same; the people bedecked in 90s denim, Naomi Campbell front-and-center. On Twitter, it’s pretty clear they are aiming straight for millennials and that crossover generation that doesn’t quite count as millennials, ages 30-38. This latest campaign is targeting anyone who remembers the 90s fondly and feels a connection to the denim-street-style they’re touting. Gap posts every 1 to 3 days, and these posts are usually featuring a photo of a single person in an attractive environment, posed in a way that they use a play on words for the ad tagline. 

For example, there’s a photo of the back of an in-shape white girl as she wears a sports bra and workout spandex, arms in the air, stretched outwards to embrace the mountaintops and lake in front of her. The tagline: Giving “peak performance” new meaning. They consistently use two hashtags, #DoYouMove, for their Gap fit line of exercise clothes, and #GapLove for everything else. Some of the ads look like selfies; they all feature attractive people with a variety of ethnicity, who, though attractive, are posed and placed in normal-seeming places, very relate-table, maybe your neighbor or classmate or you… Though relate-able, using that plain-folks pitch to sell basic clothes, the ads lack creativity and exude cliches.


These selfie-type ads are often credited to the photographers that took them with a link to the photographer’s Twitter account. This lends it a little personality; the consumer can go see who is producing these photographs directly, and because photography is an art form, these ads are trying to dip into that aspect. (Not very successfully, may I add.) Even though Gap is paying photographers and tweeting regularly, they only have 678,000 followers; not that many for a company who's been around since 1969. Their second biggest global fashion market competitor, H&M, has well over 8 million followers on Twitter. H&M is literally slaughtering the Gap when it comes to advertising on social media. The Gap’s ads are often pretty cliche; yoga at sunset, a white girl embracing the mountains… none very compelling. Their most recent campaign throwback to the 90s just feels like a desperate attempt to reminisce and get some customers back who may have been Gap brand buyers in the 90s when gap WAS cooler street style, but who now maybe have moved on to cheaper brands (Gap is spendy for the common working folk, yet that’s who they are advertising to in this campaign!) with more variety. Naomi Campbell is classic, and perfect for the clothes they are trying to sell since she starred in their 90s ads, but… somebody needs to go help their marketing department, because something is off. Don’t go backwards- get creative! Naomi definitely grabbed my attention, as did their 90s styles; I hadn’t seen it in a while, and frankly, the nostalgia edge worked. While this throwback thing might be a desperate attempt, it probably will get them quite a bit of sales from those of us who realllllly miss the days of sweaty-stiff denim, clouds of smoke, cigarettes in their pockets, wondering if their voice sounds like Kurt’s yet… But the rest of their ads are invisible crap that will be swallowed in the rest of the sea of “buy me.”

Oh, yeah, one more thing. Naomi Campbell’s butt is their last tweet.

Topic 2

Here is my favorite ad I stumbled upon while perusing the internet a few months ago.
The four-minute long video is an ad for a perfume, KENZO World.

After watching this ad, I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THAT PERFUME SMELLS LIKE. This is a very strange, very creative, effective ad.

See for yourself:

I honestly saw this ad and thought, “What? Did they take this out of my brain? Best ad ever.” Directed by Spike Jonze, and starring actress Margaret Qualley, the ad tells a mini-story and aims to make an emotional connection with its target audience, and then blow it all up into a laser-flinging, superhero-like climax.

The target audience is young, intelligent women. The actress is beautiful but not overstated. She looks very white-American, upper-class, but down-to-earth. Draped in a unique green dress, she stands out, yet looks like the girl next door. The actress shows emotion creeping through her as she escapes a fancy awards ceremony or dinner to have a moment to herself and sheds a tear. Then the chaos starts as she unleashes and the song “Mutant Brain” crescendos, leading Qualley through a guttural dance that ranges emotion from elation to a lioness’ prowess and anger to a moment or two of ballet before a swan-dive off a stage.

The ad is beautifully shot, using mirrors and setting effectively, becoming more and more surreal as it progresses. Qualley unleashes the emotion raging beneath the surface of the modern woman, her creativity, her anger, and her power. And that’s exactly who this ad is aimed at: a modern woman, tired of being quiet, ready to unleash, full of everything, more than the demure facade. The ad uses association principle to link the perfume with the raw feeling and power of a beautiful, modern woman. The audience is supposed to be enraptured and surprised by Qualley’s emotional mini-story; the ad is supposed to show a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a story women will see as their own. It’s essentially branding this perfume with the image of the girl in the green dress and her mutant brain.

Although I say "modern women" will like this ad, I mean more specifically, modern women who feel they don't quite fit in the modern world. This would be women who are perhaps educated, mid to upper class, though I'm sure it would appeal to some working-class women as well. (It did to me.)


Worst ad I've seen recently:

Annoying song. Product placement of Dunkin Donuts everywhere. Completely ineffective. Let me explain...

While the ad has a positive message, it doesn't stand out. The activities presented in the ad are of a variety of people: a little boy getting a prosthetic arm, a surfer, an old woman celebrating a birthday, a band rocking out, someone jumping off a cliff; and several other activities/people presented. This is supposed to reach a wide-range of consumers, pulling us all together with the beauty of our varied lifestyles. A catchy, pop-sugar song plays, and the ad theme cues: "Keep on being you." While the catchy song may get stuck in your head, the activities have little to do with doughnuts. You might keep humming the song lyrics, "It's a beautiful life" over and over, and your ears might perk when you hear the ad, but that doesn't mean it'll make you think of Dunkin, despite all the ad placement. Or you'll just wish you had earmuffs or something to smash your TV with. This ad is like a shotgun blast of grape jello; it shoots out everywhere, at everyone and everything, makes a mess of it and misses its actual shot at connection, goo-ing ad-watchers with its sugary pop sound.

Dunkin Donuts is supposed to represent the fuel that is driving these people and connecting them all in their different lives, however, nobody actually bites into a doughnut at any point in time. As a viewer, I don't connect these life activities to the doughnut-fuel. Also, doughnuts make me inherently hungry. Any time I see one, I want one, for days after. This commercial did not make me want doughnuts, but it did kinda make me want to try skydiving. Great job selling happy, outdoor activities, Dunkin Donuts. Bad job selling your crappy coffee.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Media and Society Week 2

Topic 1

I’ve had Twitter for about a year now, and to be honest, I don’t like it. At all. It annoys me that you can’t say much, and frankly, I’m too busy to be tweeting this or that all day. I like my thoughts to be shared in person or pretty much any way except through a tweet (and whoever came up with the name seriously needs to rethink their life). But I’ll stop ragging on Twitter enough to discuss it.

On Twitter I follow mostly news organizations, politicians, some specific journalists and a few friends and students. I follow Al Jazeera News to get a fresh perspective on global news. Since this organization is based out of Qatar, it’s a totally different perspective on developing news than what you’d find at the BBC or any American news station. It gives me some insight into the views and social movements held in parts of the world that are very different from American culture. They are also pretty on top of their game when it comes to being on top of a story and releasing incredible photos and footage. I also follow Samantha Swindler, an editor/columnist at the Oregonian. Not only is she a kick-ass local journalist, we interviewed her during Rob’s Newswriting class last year, and her tweets are usually comedic gold, even when making a newsy announcement. I certainly hope to meet her in person and pick her brain someday; for now I’ll just Twitter-stalk her and link her to all of my stories in flagrant self-promotion. Margaret Jacobsen is the person who organized Saturday’s historical protest, the Portland Women’s March. I began following her last week after I figured out who she was and her role in the march, she is also a young writer, journalist and poet. It’s probably best to keep tabs on all the incredible local writers; they have the most interesting and relevant things to say. I got to meet her and do a quick interview on Saturday after sneaking backstage, and she’s pretty powerful in person.

The Tweet that most recently worked as clickbait for me was a link to an article by the New York Times. It’s probably because I’d just watched the video in which Kellyanne Conway speaks about such a thing as “alternative facts,” so the tweet which promises to reveal all the “alternative facts” of the Trump administration recieved my attention rather quickly.

While social media has indeed increased the connections I make and keeps me up-to-date on breaking news, it also becomes overwhelming in the great deluges in which it occurs, and this, in turn, encourages me to totally disconnect myself. I’ve found that while I occasionally pay more attention to current events because I’m on social media, it’s almost like it’s forced upon me when I open my phone or computer, instead of actively making the choice to engage reading or watching the news. I’d rather make a clear choice to get up and watch the news in the morning and not just open my Facebook or Twitter to whatever people happen to be sharing. Facebook feeds continue to freak me out when people share graphic images of dead animals killed by abusers or something equally horrible; I mean come on, Facebook, I really didn’t want to wake up to that! I’ve delete the app from my phone a few times, but I’ve always had to bring it back for my own purposes as a student journalist. When using it to post updates and breaking news when on a story, I find it clumsy and time-consuming when instead I could be out talking to people and making real connections or taking photographs. However, I’ve felt very connected when faraway friends of mine at political protests “go live” and I can see exactly what is happening at Standing Rock, for instance. For this reason, it excites me. I watched my friends march through the streets of Seattle, and saw people be shot with water cannons and rubber bullets in freezing North Dakota weather in real time. This is truly breaking news, and I hope to be able to use this type of instant video communication to connect and share information as a journalist in the future.

Social media has also allowed me to inform myself and take positive action in my own life on a very personal level. I have endometriosis, and I have an advanced and severe case. There is so much misinformation surrounding this disease, directly from the mass majority of misinformed doctors, including almost every doctor I’ve seen in my life. (Check out my post “Invisible Disease”) However, I stumbled on to two major support networks on Facebook, both of which were started by healthcare professionals (expert doctors and nurses) to connect and inform women suffering from the disease and help them find access to the proper forms of health care and relief. It is because of these groups on Facebook that I was able to find a surgeon in Portland who went out of her way to take my insurance, and who was skilled enough to perform an extensive excision surgery; this is a surgery which requires extreme and rare skill. These Facebook support groups have changed my life and given me the power of knowledge, community, and doctors who really, truly care. If I am having a flare-up, I post on this group, and these doctors respond almost immediately. It’s incredible; not to mention all the other women on their who share their experiences, speak about their trauma, and offer emotional support.


In an article on The Daily Beast, “The Trump Parody Video Going Viral In Japan,” the author explains the climate in Japan when it comes to American election politics and some possible consequences of Trump winning the U.S. election-- what dire consequences it could have for Japan. The author also disseminates some of the intense visual imagery in the video and what it means. The videos simultaneously pokes fun at Japanese pop culture and America’s fascination with Donald Trump. I’d agree with this assessment; the video seems to fondly recreate Donald Trump’s character as a cute animation and yet as someone who uses fearsome military power to build a wall and transform into a robot to blow up the world. Those are two pretty different extremes, and it’s part of what makes the video so fascinating. The article says that the imagery of Trump’s head floating as a blossom in all the cherry blossom trees may represent the impermanence of a Trump presidency; traditionally in Japan cherry blossoms represent the impermanence of beauty, which makes it all the more beautiful and rare. Comparing Trump to a beautiful cherry blossom is one thing, but let’s just hope he falls off the tree before he makes it to the part where he blows up the world. Most likely, people are just over-analyzing this video that is just meant to be funny and visually entertaining and to incite people to over-analyze.

The same person who made the “Japanese Donald Trump Commercial” made one for Hillary Clinton, too. It’s called “Hillary Clinton: Meme Queen 2016.” Similarly, this video is fully of pop culture references, picking up pace and finally turning into what seems like a one-sided rap battle/video game, featuring an actress that looks pretty close to Hillary. It starts of with a man in a frog costume riding a unicycle, immediately referencing Donald Trump’s co-opting of Pepe the frog meme by the alt-right, originally becoming a white-supremacist frog and then Donald Trump. The video punches with this first reference and then goes straight into a "Damn Daniel" meme reference starring Hillary Clinton, a red backpack and her education policy. There's definitely something going on with Lipton Tea, but I'm not getting the reference. Pretty quick after that it becomes a video game of Hillary destroying, alluding the the military power she's weilded in her political career... as the music bulids, Hillary becomes more sinister, and not long after that, her creepy floating head asks "I'm sorry, are my memes too dank for you?" as a wheel of pizza, smiley faces and a swimming fish spin behind her. The whole thing is visually stunning and chock-full of references to internet culture. Both videos seem to make fun of pop culture and American politics in a very dark way. It's almost as if the video creator, Mike Diva, is just playing on how messed-up and entangled politics have become with populist internet junk, how this type of misinformation or communication is the driving force behind a lot of power in our nation, and the dark implications of this relationship.

Also this vine compilation is pretty awesome.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Media and Society Week 1

I'm Emily Goodykoontz, and I am a journalism student. Honestly, I sort of stumbled into this gig. I was offered work study through financial aid, and when looking through the available jobs I noticed a position with the student paper. I really had no idea what it would be like, but I have been a writer my whole life and thought it could be a an interesting experience for me. Little did I know what I was getting into…

Now I am the editor-in-chief of The Commuter, our local student-run newspaper. When I began classes at LBCC I was rather directionless; now, it seems like a path has unfolded right in front of me. All the weird and random skills I have gathered over the years living my life as a real person and not a college student (college students are mostly zombies because we live on caffeine and almost zero sleep) suddenly have a practical, applicable purpose: finding and telling important stories, creating compelling visual media, and creating a level of accountability and truth-telling. Not that I’ll make any money at this, ever, but it seems worth doing, regardless. It feels important, necessary, especially in this day and age.

My dream job has little to do with money making and everything to do with holding up a mirror to the face of the world and saying “Hey this is messed up, look at yourselves and change!” I suppose I have a few dream jobs but my biggest dream is to create my own independent online news and media source. I’d like to travel, and tell stories from around the world, and give voice to those stories that often go unheard or are swept under the rug by mainstream media. I want to create short documentaries, or even long, investigative documentaries and writings with a group of other like-minded journalists uninfluenced by corporate media greed.

As such, I’m interested in learning about how mainstream media works, from the bottom up. I’m curious as to what mistakes have been made to have led us into this time where everyone and their grandmother blames the mainstream media for the woes of the world. I want to know what they did wrong so I can find a totally different way to serve society with news and information. I want to know how the old system worked, and what is wrong with it, and why newspapers are “dying,” so I can better transform and create my own news source.

Outside of journalism I have a whole and happy life. I have this really great partner, (who is making cinnamon rolls right now) and three healthy dogs. I’m also an artist, painting and drawing mostly, and I have a passion for music. If I still had a tenor saxophone I’d play the blues all the time, but it was stolen from me a few years back when I was playing in a punk-ska band in Seattle. I still have a guitar, and I compose my own music, but unfortunately haven’t found anyone in the Corvallis/Albany area to play with. I trail run a couple times a week with my dogs and can’t wait to get outdoors for hiking and camping in the summertime. Running with my dogs on the beach is pretty much the happiest thing in the world for me; spring can’t get here quick enough.

Topic 2:

I'm from this weird group of millennials who didn't have cell phones in high school and for whom the internet was just a baby until about a year after graduation. We had dial-up and AOL. We couldn't talk on the phone and check our email simultaneously. Our friends actually had to leave messages on our answering machines and ask our moms and dads to speak with us when someone answered the phone. There was none of this texting and Snapchat and whatnot. (I am only 30 yet somehow I feel like a dinosaur.) As a result, I haven't become as dependent upon the internet and social media for my daily entertainment, although I must admit that Netflix plays a pretty large role in my nightlife. However, here are some webpages that have been influential on my life, or that I find interesting, even if I don't visit regularly:

YouTube music video: Grimes- Flesh Without Blood
I chose this video as a representation of what I use YouTube for the most, which is watching music videos. (I tried to embed the video but blogger is weird and won't embed vivo videos) Grimes writes and produces all of her own music, which is impressive since the producing side music industry is so dominated by men. The imagery in her music videos is disturbing, compelling, and beautiful, and when paired with her music it takes it to a whole new level. I think music videos are an incredible creative outlets for musicians to become visual artists as well, as in this video. YouTube allows me to see a side of my favorite musicians that I wouldn't get to otherwise, and it allows not well-known artists to put self-produced videos out there for discovery.

That segways into my next example, which is also a YouTube video. However, it differs as it is a live video by a band that was not well known when this video went up. I stumbled across it on a late night music search, drinking wine and clicking links and just exploring what was out there, trying to expand my little view of the world. Then I found this entire live show by an incredible New Orleans band, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and it is just gold:
YouTube led me to this discovery, and I learned to play many of their songs and they are still my favorite songs to play on the guitar that aren't mine. This band is just gettin' down in their neighborhood, and I get to watch, and really see how they move and play, what the neighborhood is like, giving me an idea of their roots, their faces, their look. It makes listening to their music so much more interesting. I figured out how to play a couple of the songs just by watching the lead singer's guitar.

For both of the aforementioned links to YouTube videos, Google owns YouTube and therefore owns both videos, partially. Those who created the orignial video also own the videos, so Grimes owns her video and Hurray for the Riff Raff owns theirs, but Google has essentially the same rights that they do to the videos.

My next link is a site that I don't visit often enough, HighExistence, but it stuck in my mind as something unique and interesting that I should explore more. I think I stumbled onto it through a link someone posted on Facebook a few years ago, but I honestly can't remember. It's just stuck in my brain as something cool and interesting. HighExistence has a plethora of articles about alternative spirituality, psychedelics, and well, other stuff I'm not sure how to explain. It's not just a site with articles, though. It has discussion forums, podcasts, blogs, videos and more. This website is a kind of online community. It's mission statement:

 "Provide a medium for freethinking individuals to connect & discuss
Compel you to follow your bliss & make a life, not a career
Explore all aspects of the human condition
Question anything & everything that is considered 'normal'
Promote the general spread of happiness and love"

I keep revisiting the site because there is just so much to explore on it, and I like reading alternative ways of thinking about the world. It challenges me, and is somewhere I can explore when I don't feel like reading a book or watching TV.  I can't figure out who owns it, but it seems to be supported through donations and via their publication, HighExistence Magazine.

My final link is to my favorite independent online news source, Democracy Now! Although I don't watch their daily show every day, I do watch it a couple times a week. They also have links to their top stories, important clips, and written articles and columns to read. My favorite thing to do is compare how Democracy Now is reporting on a topic versus how NBC or CNN is reporting on a topic. It gives me fresh perspective and insight into how very different independent and mainstream news sources are. I found Democracy Now after hearing their podcast played on NPR many many years ago, and have been visiting their website a lot since I decided to pursue journalism and pull my head out of the sand, or so to speak. Democracy Now is supported through donations, and I can't figure out exactly who owns the organization.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

LBCC Degree Debacle:After a 15 month wait, the last student left behind after the AAS Graphic Design degree termination of 2015 will finally complete degree in visual communications

Doug Hibbert at work in the design lab. Photo by Emily Goodykoontz

A Debacle in Retrospect:

Events of spring 2015 left LBCC’s graphic design students wondering if the school had their best interests at heart.

On April 15, the 22 students enrolled in the program were informed that the degree they’d worked towards for two years did not actually exist.

Yet in essence, it did exist. Courses were offered, students attended classes taught by graphic design instructors, and worked in a large building dedicated to the program. Their degree was listed in the 2014-15 catalog.

But the AAS in Graphic Design was supposed to be in a “teach out” period, only educating students who had entered the program before its suspension in 2013 after a round of heavy budget cuts. According to administration, the degree should not have been listed in the catalog and no new students should have entered the program after spring 2013.

“It’s really a product of failure of internal communications,” said Greg Hamann, president of LBCC. “So we had different parts of the institution thinking and doing different things in regards to the program.”

The news shocked staff and students. Students wondered for most of spring quarter whether they’d receive the degree to which they’d been dedicating their lives.

“I felt like my time, my money, was being completely wasted,” said design student Doug Hibbert.

Initially, design students nearing graduation were offered an alternative: an Associate of General

Studies, accompanied by a letter from the school assuring their education was primarily in graphic design.

“It matters that we get the degree we signed up for. Not only the degree, but the education,” said Hibbert.

Students were angry; they felt betrayed.

“I have a screenshot of Webrunner that shows my degree type as Graphic Design,” said Hibbert. “Four days later, all of a sudden Webrunner says I’m in General Studies; I have a screenshot of that as well. Now, I didn’t change that, so to me, it’s fraud.”

Hibbert was one of the three students told they could not receive the AAS of Graphic Design because they enrolled in 2014, after the 2013 teach out cutoff.

After delving into the matter, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities allowed LBCC to offer an AAS of Visual Communications/Graphic Design for all of the students enrolled.

“This thing hasn’t ended for us,” said Dave Becker, dean of applied business and technology. “It’ll never really end until we take care of every student that was in that program.”

Hibbert will be the last student of his class to complete the visual communication degree this fall, after more than a year waiting.

Doug Hibbert’s Degree Nightmare:

Hibbert is a photographer who worked for Pepsi as a local merchandiser. A family man, he lived only four miles from Chemeketa Community College in Salem and was making a decent living wage when he decided to take a plunge and go back to school. Hibbert wanted to add graphic design to his repertoire, expecting the education to propel him deeper into the photography and design business.

Kam McCallister, another Salem photographer, Pepsi employee, and a friend of Hibbert’s decided to attend college at the same time for the same program: Graphic Design.

McCallister chose Chemeketa Community College because it was close to home, but Hibbert decided to make the drive to Albany every day for two years because LBCC’s program was supposedly superior.

“I left Pepsi at the same time that Doug did. We went to school the same amount of time for the same degree. I struggled, I was broke, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done, and to go through that and not get a degree… I can’t imagine what I’d do,” said McCallister.

McCallister warned Hibbert in March of 2014 that LBCC’s graphic design program had been shut down after learning this from a Chemeketa faculty member, according to McCallister.

“I talked to Lewis [Franklin] four or five times about it, and in February [2015] I asked him again because I was unhappy about how the classes were going,” said Hibbert.

According to Hibbert, Lewis Franklin, the head instructor for the program reassured him there were no problems.

Franklin and other faculty had been making improvements to the program and were unaware of its total termination.

Despite this assurance, Hibbert spoke with Chemeketa faculty about transferring to their program, but discovered that most of his credits would not transfer. He would need to start over from scratch, and chose to stick with LBCC’s program.

Other students noticed something was amiss.

“Once we were about done with the first year, we were told that the third-year program was not available, and we would be getting an AAS degree which was designed to make us ‘job ready.’ Then, the mess began,” said Cheri Shones, one of the affected students.

Shones expected to earn an Advanced Certificate in Graphic Design on top of the two-year degree. Many changes had been made to the program, and the advanced certificate program was terminated in 2013 with the AAS.

It had been a bumpy ride, culminating in the disastrous news of program termination.

“It wasn’t picked up until spring term that there was a problem,” said Franklin. “They were just starting into their spring term and their last term here at school, and when they got that news it was like somebody dropped an atom bomb on us.”

After administration sought resolution and were notified they could give Hibbert a visual communications degree, Hibbert walked with his class in the June 2015 graduation ceremony.

He still had 8 credits to finish in the fall, but when fall quarter arrived, his financial aid fell through.

“Two days before my first day of class I’m told by financial aid that they won’t cover two of the three classes I was going to take because they weren’t required by my degree,” said Hibbert.

His degree may have still been listed as general studies, but these three classes were necessary for a visual communications degree.

Hibbert immediately went to Becker’s office, left notes and spoke with his secretary but received no communication. They were unable to resolve the issue in time for him to continue without paying out of pocket, and he dropped his classes.

This forced Hibbert to wait until fall 2016 to attend, because one of the classes is only offered during the fall quarter.

“I was not aware that he could not receive financial aid,” said Becker.

Becker had been vocal with students about offering help navigating the mess the school had caused.

Somehow, Hibbert’s call for help got lost in the chaos.

“Things do unfortunately sometimes fall through the cracks, but I know that we want to make it right for this student,” said Hamann. “You know, it does feel like red tape, because so much of this relates to external entities and financial aid gets weird, but it’s still our job to solve this.”

The financial aid mess has been sorted, and Hibbert is receiving grants through LBCC.

“We always had a pathway forward,” said Becker. “The talent grants were there to take care of whenever he wanted to complete his degree.”

Deans are allotted three full terms worth of grants to award the appropriate students, based on need or excellence.

“Eight credits to go; I would never want to see a student not complete because there was no financial aid, and nobody at the college would want to see that,” said Becker.

Aside from a loss in trust, Hibbert and the other students face a variety of consequences.

“It has put me in debt rather than help me build a better life for me and my children. They robbed me of success. It was a slap in the face. I don’t want my children growing up thinking going to college is just a ‘waste of time,’” said Shones.

Hibbert filed bankruptcy in January. He believes the year spent living on credit and grants and the past year without a job due to his lack of credentials caused most of the damage.

“None of the other students I’ve graduated with have been able to get even entry-level positions with the degree,” said Hibbert.

He is now struggling to pay his student loans, but doesn’t think he should have to. According to the Education Act of 1965, colleges are obligated to repay student financial aid when a program’s misrepresentation of accreditation and federal funds are involved.

“Any student who had the graphic design major and received federal financial aid, they will have no obligation to pay that,” said Dale Stowell, executive director of institutional advancement in an article printed in edition 27, volume 46 of the Commuter.

Hibbert’s loans have been deferred until February, but they’re still gaining interest, and though he will receive a degree, it is not exactly the same as the one in which he enrolled.

“I’ll feel bad about this, regardless of even if it works out,” said Becker. “There was a lot of anxiety over that time frame and anxiety for the students, and I really regret that. But at the end of the day words don’t matter a whole lot; it’s what we do from here, you know, the action taken.”

Becker says his door is open to any student from the program who needs help finding job placement and opportunities.

Note: There will be a follow-up in next week’s edition on what really went wrong and where the Graphic Design program goes from here.

Hibbity Dibbity: San Fran band brings their killer funky tunes to Corvallis

Photo by Emily Goodykoontz & Nick Lawrence

Ever heard of swamp-funk? Sounds kinda like a weird foot fungus, right?


It’s not, and it’s awesome.

Swamp-funk is a spin on swamp-rock, a style drawing from the ‘60s and ‘70s sounds of Memphis, Tenn. and Muscle Shoals, Ala. It combines soulful vocals with the silver slides of country, the grit of blues with the danceable edge of a funk beat.

Hibbity Dibbity, a swamp-funk band hailing from San Francisco, just blew the lid off at Bombs Away Cafe on Saturday, Oct. 8.

That’s right; y’all missed it.

Their music can only be described as clever, ecstatic, and riotous. Timeless, but kinda dirty. Pelting rhythms that make your feet move. Super tight; then loose in all the right places. I was grinning from the moment they started playing.

They were, too.

“Fucking fantastic,” said Dallas Renick, former LB student and current server at Bombs Away Cafe. “Very underrated for the turnout; they should be seen by way more people.”

The band played a high-energy set that lasted for over two hours, convincing an initially sluggish crowd to move as more folks percolated through the doors.

“I just love playing music with my best friends. It’s what I do,” said Parker Simon, Hibbity Dibbity’s bass player. “It doesn’t matter if one person shows up or 500.”

This band’s good energy was key; their joy spilled right over the stage and into the crowd. By the end of the set, the small space in front of the stage was packed with dancers.

“I thought they were great; there was not a weak link in the band,” said Steve Hunter, the sound manager who also books the bands for Bombs Away.

Hunter spent the last six years working at the cafe. For two and a half, he’s located unique bands from around the country to grace the cafe’s stage. Although the stage is little more than a four-inch high platform in a small corner of the cafe, they make it work.

This kind of venue offers a rare opportunity for bands and crowds. The constraints of a small space create an intimate setting that begs for interaction, making it easy to connect and send the energy spinning upwards.

The turnout for this band wasn’t what Hunter had hoped for, but it didn’t seem to matter to the band or the audience.

“It’s not what I would have expected at the beginning of the term. It’s been a slow couple weeks,” said Hunter.

Hunter hopes to expose the Corvallis crowd to new bands, but the best way to do that is to bring in the local with the out of town.

“Usually with out of town bands I try to pair them with a local band,” said Hunter.

Even without a local draw, Hibbity Dibbity pulled their own that night. By the end of the raucous evening, drummer John Jack’s symbol hung broken and swaying, pieces littered beneath and gleaming.

Mo'reen: Hibbity Dibbity's transport. Photo by Emily Goodykoontz

The four members have played together for three and a half years. Their setup includes two electric guitarists, one of whom doubles on keys, an electric bass, and drums. The entire band pitches in on vocals, giving the music breadth and punctuation, their vocal harmonies exactly on point.

A group of transplants from around the U.S., Hibbity Dibbity met in college at the University of San Francisco.

Then, like a perfect storm or some dreamy love story, they discovered they were musically right for each other, and all in the right place at the right time.

“Everything fell into place,” said Tommy “Fuego” Relling, whose fingers dripped guitar licks all night.

Within their first year of playing, the band flew to Chicago to play shows. They also found success in New York, playing sold-out shows.

“It just took off right away,” said Simon.

They were neither incredulous or smug with their success; just honestly happy to be doing what they do.

“It’s fulfilling something,” said Simon.

While on tour the band travels and practices in their yellow steed, a shortbus they’ve dubbed Mo’reen. They even serenaded her in concert, striking up the Paul Revere and the Raiders cover she’s named after.

Most of their music is original, however. It’s soaked in the shadow of bygone days, days of blues, roots music, and rock ‘n’ roll.

“It’s a pretty broad range that comes together in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” said Relling.

The band will finish their tour of Oregon this week, but they’ve promised to come back.

“The main goal is getting the music to the people,” said Simon.

So, even though you missed this particular chance to catch the act, keep your eye out for another opportunity to experience Hibbity Dibbity. 

From left to right: Tommy Relling, Parker Simon, Chris Deyo Braun, John Jack.
Photo by Emily Goodykoontz

At a Glance:

Tommy “Fuego” Relling- guitar, vocals

Chris Deyo Braun- guitar, vocals, keys

Parker Simon- bass, vocals

John Jack- drums, vocals

Albums: 2014 self-titled release, “Hibbity Dibbity,” and 2015 release, “Tinctures, Potions and Elixirs”


Available on Spotify

Facebook: @hibbitydibbitysf