Aside

A Little Misunderstanding

Think about something for me, religious or not. When one prays and doesn’t receive what they prayed for, what do they think?

I can tell you what they think. They believe what they prayed for just wasn’t in God’s “plan” for their lives. And whatever happens after that they’re okay with because this was supposed to happen. It was all just part of his plan… I don’t buy it.

I just don’t understand it, well religion as a whole. For instance, the example above. I believe people who don’t receive what they prayed for and use God’s plan as an excuse are just using that excuse as a way to cope with it. No one has a plan for you. You make your own life plans.

I used to be religious. I went to church pretty regularly when I was 15 or so whether it be with my mom or some friends, who happened to show me the church. I grew up and still live in the Bible Belt, Southeast Texas to be exact. I eventually had enough of listening to the word of God and all these ridiculous stories from the Bible, I stopped going on my own.

I never told my parents why I lost interest and somewhat recently it was brought up. I told my mom I just didn’t buy the things I was told in the church. She was understanding and was perfectly okay with it, as long as I wasn’t worshiping Satan, of course. My dad was upset about it and told me he hopes that I change my mind. Change my mind about what exactly? Start believing these stories about Jonas living in the belly of a whale for three days and three nights?

I know how people are down here. If you try to have a religious talk with them, they strike you down and there’s no way they’re wrong. They won’t listen to your reasoning. I ask them if the starving children in Africa, all the people who burned in the Holocaust and families who are murdered at night are all apart of this great plan. Normally I wouldn’t get a response or the typical ‘they’re in a better place.’

I recently wrote a story for the University Press, the paper for Lamar University, about a girl who was implied to leave her church after she came out to the leaders there. A person is trying to show her dedication and love for her religion and she is told she should leave just because she’s a lesbian. Are you kidding me? Now correct me if I’m wrong, but Christian’s aren’t supposed to judge right? No sin is worse than another sin? If people at the church are sleeping with each other before marriage or say ‘God dang it,’ shouldn’t they be kicked out as well?

 

After writing that story, it got me thinking about a lot of things. Being a good, honest and decent person should be able to get you everything you want in life or allow you to believe whatever you wish to believe. This is just my brain on paper.

Photographer:  Nicole Nodland

Lana Del Rey Reveals New Single Art ‘West Coast’

The elegant artist has been hinting at a new single, that we have all been waiting for, the past few days.

Del Rey revealed the single artwork for lead single “West Coast” from her upcoming album “Ultraviolence” yesterday. She has been posting pictures from her Facebook and Twitter accounts of herself with the caption “West Coast.” Yesterday she posted a professional picture, most likely from the new music video she has been filming, with her logo and “West Coast” at the bottom. The post almost immediately crashed her website from anxious fans. The caption read “Down on the West Coast, they got a sayin’…”

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The new single will most likely drop within the next few days. Rumors say “Ultraviolence” could be released as early as May 1, but we won’t know for sure until she announces the plans. Her website, lanadelrey.com, received a makeover in anticipation for the release.

Update: A Guardian journalist posted on Twitter that the single will premiere on Fearne Cotton’s radio show April 14.

Developing…

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15 Weeks (Feature Story)

15 Weeks

Lamar graduate travels to Istanbul, Egypt

Traveling alone is scary, especially to countries that are 11,500 miles away from home. It’s crazy, frightening and nerve racking, but it’s exciting. At least that’s how Lamar graduate Tim Fountain describes it.

During the summer of 2011, Fountain traveled to Istanbul, followed two years later with a trip to Egypt.

“I realized I was about to graduate and I needed to do something really cool before I graduated college,” he said. “Turkey was my first choice, because it was something different and it was an easy country to travel to, according to what I researched. Istanbul is a place that most people in Southeast Texas wouldn’t chose to go.”

Most people are worried that a big trip will break the bank, but Fountain said it was less expensive than he expected.

“I was okay with (the idea of) destroying my bank account, and I was okay with going broke over the trip because that was the idea,” he said. “The first trip it was about $2,300, which includes being robbed of $500, and the second trip was around $1,500.

“I assumed the trip would cost everything. I figured I would have to ask for money from the parents. I thought traveling would be much more expensive than it actually was.”

The 2011 Lamar University graduate was robbed on his second night in Istanbul.

“Two locals approached me and asked if I wanted to go to some local bars,” he said. “We started ordering a few beers, then they suggested going to a different bar. The bill was for 2,000 Lira, which is about 1,000 US dollars. They said, ‘You’ll pay half then we’ll pay half, so that’s fair.’ I realized I was being robbed or scammed — it was me being stupid, too.

“I didn’t have the cash on me so, they walked me to the ATM. Then a third guy joined us and they said it was the manager, but most likely he was just an accomplice. I could only get $500 because that was my daily limit, then they let me go.”
Despite the experience costing him money, Fountain said the men were actually quite considerate.

“The men stopped at a taxi and told him to drive me back to the tourist area,” he said.

Fountain said he usually stays in hostels because it is the cheaper option, and he gets to meet other travelers and get tips on the different places. He also saves money by backpacking, which he admits can be a little daunting at first.

“I’d never traveled alone by myself, and to go across the Atlantic to another country was pretty frightening,” he said. “I met a bunch of cool people and they told me where to go next — I found all sorts of awesome things.

“When I first got there, I found a map then got on a subway — that wasn’t too bad. Then, when I began to walk around the city, I felt like a kind of excited nervous. The next time I was much more comfortable.”

Fountain said he doesn’t like to plan a trip down to the last detail.

“You can’t plan for stuff like that, you kind of have to just go with the flow,” he said. “I planned where my plane landed and my first hostel, then I started talking to other people to see what they’ve done and what they’re going to do. That’s the most important part, communicating with other people. Everywhere I went there were other travelers. I was never alone, and that’s a big deal for people. They think they’re going to be alone but it’s not like that at all, there’s always someone else.”
Fountain said that wherever he went, he would buy something that would help him understand the culture..

“I bought newspapers and magazines so I could see their languages,” he said. “I bought something called the ‘Evil Eye’ in Turkey. It’s a piece of glass to ward off bad spirits, so I bought a few to hang in our house. I bought a Keffiyeh in Egypt — it’s a head wrap the men wear to keep their heads cool, since it’s, like, 110 degrees.

“I also collected beer labels. There was a Chinese guy that gave me a postcard from eastern China. He would give one from his home to people he met along the way, so if you never make it to China, at least you have something from there.”

Fountain, who earned his degree in economics, kept journals for both trips.

“The front part was day-to-day about the things I did, and the back half was kind of my brain on paper,” he said. “I crunched numbers everyday, wrote down how much different things would cost, planned my routes and kept track of my money. I also wrote pieces of the language I could use. It looks better if you try to speak their language. I wrote down people’s Facebook information, too, so we could keep in touch afterwards.”

Fountain said that his travels supply him with many interesting stories to bring back home.

“In Egypt I met up with five other Americans and went walking that first night, and was approached by a local who offered us cash for our passports,” he said. “He just wanted to buy alcohol with them because Egypt has strict alcohol rules and you can only buy it in duty free shops or in airports. There has been basically a black market for alcohol with passports in Egypt ever since 2011.”
They helped the man get his alcohol and he offered to either give them cash or drive them to the pyramids the next day. They went to the pyramids.

Fountain found himself in the forefront of the news.

“I witnessed riots in Egypt,” he said. “In Dahab, when they overthrew Morsi, their democratically-elected president, I had to go to Cairo to fly back. Everyone was celebrating and we were told to stay away, but I went. It was thousands of people yelling and waving flags because they got what they wanted. We were told to not say we were American, but I did. So many people wanted to take pictures with me and talk to me, I had to walk away from some of them because they just kept talking and talking.

“After Egypt’s president stepped down, thousands of people gathered at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo to celebrate. To protect everyone, a few groups organized and made checkpoints to search people for weapons and to block foreigners from entering. I wanted to get into the square, and I met a woman, a reporter for a news station in Norway, who wanted to meet with some activists for a report. Together, we got to a checkpoint and she was allowed in as a reporter; I was stopped — I said I was a photographer, but I wasn’t convincing enough.

“I doubled back to try again as a crowd of people attempted to go through. I slipped by and was free to walk around Tahrir Square for the next few hours, stopping every few feet so Egyptians could pose with the American tourist, and to watch as military fighter jets flew in formation and helicopters hovered overhead with the Egyptian flag hanging below.

“I also got to see the Gezi Park protest. The people were mad that the government was going to build strip malls over the parks the people praised so much. It was a peaceful protest, then police tried to remove them. They started to use tear gas, water pumps and paint balls. I was behind the protesters, then hauled ass back to an ice cream shop.”

Fountain plans to travel more in the future.

“I’d like to cycle across the US, which would take around two to three months,” he said. “I want go to India because I’ve been told to go there and stay for, like, six months. I really would like to go more into Africa. I met several people who came from Sudan and they said the people there are the nicest in the world. The locals take the tourists to restaurants and then argue who will pay for their meals.

“I’m pretty much open to anywhere — everywhere sounds good. But most of all, I really would love to be in Brazil for the World Cup, because it would be insane if they won or lost — it would be awesome to be a part of that.”
Fountain paused as he reflected on his stories, worrying that the stories made sound negative and influence people to think twice about traveling.

“Believe me, it was an awesome experience,” he said. “I still recommend people to go. The whole trip all together was amazing. They were some of the nicest people and the hospitality was unreal.

“It changed my perspective on things — my views on people, other cultures and the world itself.”

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Review: The Wolf of Wall Street is vigorously entertaining

“Was all this legal? Absolutely not.”

Martin Scorsese’s latest film, one of the best he’s made in years, is over the top and packed with drugs, money, sex and cussing — which can’t be emphasized enough. It’s an amped up “Goodfellas,” if you will. It’s a story about the son of accountants, who dreams of making his fortune on Wall Street. When he does, he has a good time — a very, very good time.

Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, sets out to become a rich man. Belfort narrates his story and tells us of him humble origins — although, as this comes just after we see him tossing a “midget” at a big velcro target (and yes, this film is politically incorrect from start to finish).

Belfort starts at a small firm where he meets his overly-relaxed boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey). He is given businesses No. 1 tool — cocaine, with the simple explanation — “How the f— else would you do this job?”

When his firm closes after Black Monday he is forced to work for a small stockbroker selling worthless penny stocks. It’s quite a come down, but Belfort finds he has a knack for pushing the penny stocks on unsuspecting clients.
He hires some good friends who have sold merchandise in the past — “mostly weed” — and starts his own stock company, Stratton Oakmont.

From here on, Belfort, supported by his crew, especially his neighbor Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), indulge in the kind of excess that typified the 1980s., as FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) investigates Oakmont for fradulent sales of stocks.

The movie is an orgy of sex, drugs and epic spending sprees. Belfort becomes crazy in love with the idea that one cannot have enough money.

DiCaprio is absolutey brillant. This is one of his best works, hands down. He depicts a yelling, money-hungry psycho perfectly. The Oscar nomination he received proves that.

Everyone sees Hill as just a fat, funny man who plays the same role every movie. This isn’t true. Hill is a fantastic accomplice to commit crimes with. He and DiCaprio have a chemistry and they work together smoothly. Hill received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his work.

Scorsese knows how to take it over the top, and he proves it with “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Some critics have argued that the movie simply glorifies the excess of Belfort’s lifestyle without being sympathetic to the people whose money he stole. However, the partying is over done and gets disgusting. But this correctly depicts the times that Belfort experienced. The beginning provides a time to love Belfort, while the ending provides a time to hate him.

There is only one extra feature on the DVD. Scorsese, along with writer Terence Winter and the actors, tell how, from the beginning, they planned to go all out and cross boundaries that movies haven’t crossed before.
Scorsese discusses how five hours of material was eventually cut. It’s just as well, as the movie comes in at a whopping two hours and 40 minutes as it is.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” is a modern classic. It has the length and visual appeal of the old Hollywood Roman epics. And like Caligula or Nero, Belfort’s story is a cautionary tale of a rise and fall.

Thoughts on the Oscars

Predicting the Oscars this year was quite simple. I hit the top three categories (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress) right on the head. It seemed inevitable to me that 12 Years a Slave would take home Best Picture because of how powerful the film was on a drama level. Matthew McConaughey was sure to win Best Actor because of the drastic turns he had to endure to prepare for Dallas Buyers Club, and just the turns he has taken to become the actor he is today. I was sure that Cate Blanchett would take home Best Actress for her performance in Blue Jasmine. The only thing that isn’t so simple is your Oscar hopefuls.

I truly wanted Leonardo DiCaprio to win an Oscar. Just like the other billion people in the world. He’s proved over and over again he is one of the greatest actors in our generation. This was the fourth time he has been nominated for Best Actor in a Leading/Supporting Role and still hasn’t taken home the golden statue. I really believe he didn’t win because well first the competition was too tough with the performances from McConaughey/Ejiofor. Second, he didn’t take home the Oscar because his incredible acting happened to be in a hardcore comedy movie. I feel like a comedy movie just can’t get any of the love against good drama movies, even though The Wolf of Wall Street was a fantastic film. Even though he doesn’t need an Oscar to prove his acting ability, his time is coming, just not right now.

I was hopeful that Sandra Bullock would win for her performance in Gravity. It was really a one-woman show since Clooney flew away. She was all on her own throughout most of the movie. I knew Cate Blanchett would take home the golden statue but it was all just wishful thinking.

Lupita Nyong’o’s speech was incredible. I have never gotten drawn to an acceptance speech the way I did with her speech. However, I will say I enjoyed McConaughey’s speech a whole lot when he was talking about his hero and how it’s himself every 10 years. Nyong’o  was just so grateful and happy up there and everyone was so proud of her. It got to me so much I almost teared up watching it. “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every child, no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid,” she said.

The last thing at the Oscars that really stood out was Ellen. What a fantastic job she did with it! She had me laughing from start to finish. I say bring her back every year to host it. The selfies and the pizza bit were hysterical.

I love watching the Oscars for the celebration of movies. I enjoy film and always try to see as many as I can, especially the ones that are nominated for Best Picture. Well, ’til next year’s Oscars!

Seahawks Take Down Broncos, Super Bowl XLVIII Reactions

The picks between experts throughout the two weeks leading to the Super Bowl were pretty split. Some had the Broncos number one offense and some had the Seahawks number one defense but one thing was pretty clear, it was going to be a close game. That was not at all what happened Sunday night during the most watched event in television history.

Seattle Seahawks 43 Denver Broncos 8

Seahawks Reaction

The Seattle Seahawks dominated this game in all three aspects. The defense was superb and absolutely dominant. It seems as if every time the ball was thrown, there was a pack of Seahawks there to stop the play. The hits were harder than ever. The biggest thing Seattle did right was cause turnovers (4) and limit the time of possession. The Legion of Boom made Manning look uncomfortable and move his feet around quickly to not be able to release the ball in his normal 1.5-2.3 seconds. Malcolm Smith (MVP) finished with 10 tackles, a touchdown on an interception and a fumble recovery. This is the number one defense in the NFL and they proved it with a opportunistic performance on the biggest stage.

Russell Wilson put on a great performance and basically limited his mistakes to none. Everyone, including me, was very skeptical of Wilson over the past few weeks and wasn’t sure if he could straiten up, but he did just that. The 2nd year quarterback finished the game 18/25 with 206 yards passing, 26 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The x-factor in the Super Bowl for the Seahawks was definitely Percy Harvin. This was his first full game after being traded to Seattle and he made it count. He rushed for more yards than Marshawn Lynch (45) and had a kickoff return for 87 yards and a touchdown. Lynch finished with 39 yards and a score. On the receiving side Doug Baldwin had 66 yards and a score and Jermaine Kearse finished with 65 yards and a score.

The Seahawks did everything right. You know what they say, defense wins championships and they just showed all of us that’s still a relevant statement.

Broncos Reaction

From the very beginning of the game the Broncos started on the wrong foot. As Manning stepped back up to the line of scrimmage to call out audibles, the ball sails over the top of Peyton’s head into the end zone for a safety for the fastest score in Super Bowl history (12 seconds). From there on Denver wouldn’t see anything go there way. Heck the team didn’t convert a first down till the 2nd quarter came around 20 minutes into the game. Manning just didn’t seem himself and I believe it was a mixture of timing and just how good Seattle’s defense is. He finished the game throwing 34/49 (Super Bowl record for completions), 280 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. There were never really any deep throws for Seattle’s secondary was all over the receivers. Peyton relied on short passes in the middle of the field for short gains, which is why he averaged just 5.7 yards per completion (lowest in Manning’s two years in Denver). The Broncos thrived on not allowing pressure to get to Peyton which is one of Seattle’s specialties. The running game was a non factor throughout for Moreno finished with 17 yards and Ball with just one. Demaryius Thomas had a good game with 13 receptions (Super Bowl record), 118 yards and the only touchdown. Welker had 84 yards. The defense can’t really be talked about because the didn’t do very much to stop Seattle at all. The Broncos finished with four turnovers including a pick six to Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

This leaves us with the question what does this do to Peyton Manning’s legacy? It’s a fair conversation to have when you want to discuss who the greatest quarterback of all time is. Do we differentiate based on stats? Super Bowls? Manning now holds the record for most losses in the postseason and has lost in two Super Bowls. But one things is for sure, he have to tip our hats to him for his unforgettable, record-setting season with 55 touchdowns, 5,477 yards and added a 5th MVP trophy to his collection. After the game Manning was asked if this added fuel to his fire to come back next year and he responded by saying he planned on coming back all along with a win or loss pending his March physical.

I’m going to add that the commercials were very sub par, which was a disappointment. However, the half time performance by Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers was fantastic and one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

Well the 2013-2014 NFL season is in the books with the Seattle Seahawks taking home the Lombardi trophy in Super Bowl XLVIII. Now the countdown begins till the 2014-2015 season. See you then!

Dates to look forward to:
February 19-25 – 2014 NFL Scouting Combine
March 11 – Free Agency and Trading Begins
May 8 – 2014 NFL Draft