Category: Arts & Features

Record Scratch: “The Desaturating Seven”

By Michael Harrington

 

Humans like to be comfortable. If the temperature is not to our liking, we use climate control. If our chair is hard, we add a pillow. If we are hungry, we snack. If we do not like the radio station, we change it. But why be comfortable? You do not grow as a person without at least a little discomfort. You must be challenged in order to change.

Primus has been around for a while; they released their first studio album, “Frizzle Fry,” in 1990 alongside the single “John the Fisherman.” Anybody who played Guitar Hero II growing up should recognize the name “John the Fisherman,” a tale about a man who wants to grow up to be one of the harvesters of the sea. While this fishy tale was the first Primus single, the group would follow up with other such singles as “Tommy the Cat,” “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” and “My Name Is Mud,” all of which tell silly stories.

At its core, Primus is a metal band, but they have gone out of their way to create a sort of progressive funk-metal sound so that they stand out in an otherwise aggressive-sounding genre. What makes Primus especially unique, aside from their funky storytelling capabilities, is how disconcerting they make their songs. Being only three members large means each member has to be a top-tier player as well as creative so as to sonically fill every track. They do this with musical tension with little resolution.

So what is this weird metal band doing in 2017? On Sept. 29, Primus released their first entirely original album featuring the original lineup of bassist/vocalist Les Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander since 1995. “The Desaturating Seven” is a protest/concept album based on the children’s book “The Rainbow Goblins” by Ul de Rico. There are seven goblins, one named for each color of the rainbow, and they all love to eat color. Primus keeps the theme of seven by limiting the album to seven songs. However, these seven songs are masterfully crafted to mirror the tale of “The Rainbow Goblins.”

Opening the album is “The Valley,” which features Tool’s Justin Chancellor as the narrating Goblin Master setting the stage for the story of these goblins. The Goblin Master’s voice is grand and booming, giving him a mystique enhanced by clean-guitar arpeggios. An ominous, almost tribal movement follows the narration. After the introduction, the album moves into “The Seven,” a marching roll call for the goblins. “The Trek,” our next song, is the longest on the album, reflecting the journey that the goblins need to go on in order for them to find the colors they desperately wish to eat. “The Scheme” flows into “The Dream,” which flows into “The Storm,” making the second half of the album feel like a hypnotic, refined and meticulously constructed symphony. “The Ends?” features the same musical themes of “The Valley,” giving an ominous feeling that these seven goblins have met their demise, yet the world continues on without them.

It is no surprise that Primus would release this album at this point in the world’s political situation. Claypool’s lyrics denounce the goblins as greedy, abusive and defamatory. So described in “The Seven,” these goblins plan to turn the world dark and gray simply because that is what these goblins do by nature. This claim would not be unfitting to describe some of the world’s leaders and political decisions in recent history. By comparing these high-profile individuals to goblins who want nothing more than to create a colorless and boring world, Primus turns “The Desaturating Seven” into a musical allegory.

If I had to recommend a single Primus album, it would be “The Desaturating Seven.” The simple complexity of the music holds your attention for the entire duration of the album. Goofy yet multi-layered lyrics add substance to the storytelling, but the movements in each song are what truly push the tale forward. Despite being weird, uncomfortable and tense, this album is much easier to listen to compared to Primus’s older albums without sacrificing any of the talent that Primus fans have come to adore. I implore you to suspend your disbelief about what music should sound like and check out this truly odd and endearing work of art.

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The (Sh)‘It’ Movie

By Sol Gray

 

I had the supposed honor of seeing the new “It” movie last week, and I decided I had some things to say about it.  

Now, I did see the movie rather late and didn’t originally have the intention to see it at all.  So unfortunately, I had already seen any memes and spoilers about Pennywise, the demon-clown antagonist, which took away from the horror aspect of it.  Pennywise being the clown that is the main antagonist of the movie.  But my boyfriend had free passes for the movie, so we went to go see it. And this too does contain spoilers, so if you still want to see it, then you shouldn’t be reading this.  

The film was Bad; I capitalize bad so that you all know how bad it was. The acting was amazing, and Finn Wolfhard continues to be my favorite actor, but remaking a film originally made in the ‘80s for TV just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. I was constantly figuring out points (the ones that weren’t spoiled, that is) in the plot despite never having seen the original movie or read the book. “It” is a very predictable movie that may invoke fear in children, but most adults I’ve seen say they found it more funny than scary. I don’t agree that it’s funny — more boring than funny, using jump-scares as a tactic to scare rather than the plot.

After the film was over, my friend asked me how it was, and I said what I thought: The best part in the movie is when the Jewish kid is reading one of the most boring parts of the Torah in Hebrew for his Mitzvah. I find that to be the best part because I can relate. If I wasn’t Jewish, the best part would probably be every time Richie speaks, and even then it’s almost overdoing it — but hey, it’s the ‘80s and he’s a teenager, so what can you do?”

I believe the problem is that these movies and the book are technically marketed towards adults, but have an actual audience of children who want to defy their parents and see scary movies.

I know if I were to show my little cousins this, they would be scared out of their minds, not because of the jump-scares, or the constant piano banging that makes this movie “scary,” but because they would imagine what Pennywise might turn into for them. Whereas us adults are all over the place saying, “LMAO, Pennywise can’t turn into my student loans” — well, that’s because he’s not meant to scare YOU. He’s meant to scare children. He eats the fear of children because they (normally) don’t have to worry about money and bills and the constant fear of dying alone; they’re scared of monsters under the bed, bugs that are bigger than their little fingernail and clowns.

The “It” movie had a lot of potential, and I was almost excited to see it.  And I am super not excited to see the 2019 release about the adults perspective on Pennywise, because that’s a thing, I guess.

A Kitchen and a Canvas

By Noor Ibrahim

 

Who would have thought that visual art and food had a connection?

This week’s adventure was a visit to the SMCC Culinary Arts Building kitchens as well as its dining hall.

Every time I walk by the Culinary Arts Building, I imagine a modern and flamboyant interior. In front of the entrance there is an island garden. During the spring, the tree in the center blooms charming pink flowers.

As I walked into the building, I was welcomed by the well-lit hallways and a delectable scent of a warm and juicy pizza sauce. The interior did not meet my expectations, but at the same time it did not disappoint me.

There is a combination of many art forms in this space: the arts of cookery and the visual arts. I was quickly drawn in by the many art works that were hung in almost every hall. If it was not on a canvas, then it was a mural.

One painting that captured my attention was hung on a black-tiled wall in front of the front desk. The painting is full of abstract shapes and the tones were a mixture of reds, yellows and blues.

I wandered around the hallways, overhearing the clunking of metal in the labs/kitchens. I first went in the pastry lab. They were in the process of making cakes from scratch. After walking in, Chef Meg Hutchins greeted me, and then the conversation began. I asked many questions about the student experience as well as the products that are produced and served in the dining room. The most important question was about sanitation and overall cleanliness. Ms. Hutchins informed me that there is a special training dedicated to sanitation in the kitchen before taking any lab. She also said that they take extra care when cleaning grease from the kitchenware (since it attracts more bacteria).  

Next I headed to the dining hall. Wow! What  a scene! We are truly blessed to be on a campus surrounded by extravaganza. From the red-brick walls to the large windows to the simple and elegant table set up, the only thing I thought of was  when a place is stunning, taking a picture is effortless.

I was then welcomed by the instructor of the dining room, Angela Aspito. She informed me about the buffet they have every Friday. She stated that “Every week has a theme, and the chefs decide on what will be prepared. I don’t know the themes in advance. We find out when we come into class, so we learn our menu then.” She further explained what kinds of themes they have. For example, last week they had a traditional American theme  so they carved roast beef and served pork tenderloin and a variety of different appetizers and hot dishes like duck cassoulet. They also have things like latin week. This week they have Italian week. Therefore,  flatbread pizzas will be out for people and a variety of italian classic dishes.

In all, my experience  at the Culinary Arts department was very pleasant and informative as well. I have certainly noticed how much art was placed throughout the building. This provides the proper atmosphere to enhance the students’ creativity. The only thing I wish would change is that there should be some form of three-dimensional art form somewhere in the lobby where the front desk is.

 

Poetic License

My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimers a few years ago. And it was one of the hardest things to go through. Just watching him slowly forget me was horrible. So I wrote the poem for my English class because we had to submit a piece of writing to any contest. And yeah, this is what I wrote.

-Cassie Marceau

Papa: By Cassie Marceau

Papa, I saw the expressionless look on your face.

There was nothing in your eyes.

That familiar sparkle was gone.

I wonder where it has gone to.

Papa, I miss the hugs you used to give me.

I miss the laughs we used to share.

I miss the four-wheeler rides.

I miss the gardening.

I miss Easter mornings where you would be more excited than me.

I miss Christmas Eve where you would pretend that you saw Santa outside.

I miss the jokes.

I miss you.

I’ve been telling myself it will be okay.

That you will be back to your old self.

In all honesty, Papa, I don’t think it will.

 

I miss the days spent on the porch,

with you teaching me how to play the harmonica.

I miss car rides down to the little store at the bottom of the hill,

just to get an Italian Sandwich.

I miss the dog you used to have, named Jake.

I miss the mountain.

I miss the quiet, peaceful nature that surrounded us.

I miss my Papa.

 

I saw you staring blankly in your room

You were lying down, like you were alone.

But Papa, you weren’t alone.

I was there,Nana was there, Im sure mom was there too.

I knew that you didn’t have much longer.

 

You were in a confused place,

you were there for so long.

I never thought you would leave.

I thought you had another year

Waiting up your sleeve.

I know you loved me,

And I still love you too.

So I’m trying to be strong

Just for you.

You may not know why, but Ill make you proud.

You always said you wanted to see me graduate.

Soon Papa. Ill be walking across the stage.

I know you will be there too.

It’s all you’ve ever wanted.

I won’t let you down.

I know you had to let go,

You were holding on for so long.

 

Record Scratch ‘Saturation’ and ‘Saturation II’

By Michael Harrington

So long as I have existed have I been a fan of music. I grew up listening to the local classic-rock station, old cassettes and background music for my video games. In recent years, I’ve listened to far more music than I ever would have thought possible, even five years ago, when I started to practice to be the best musician I could be.

Listening to, writing, playing, and talking and writing about music have become an immeasurable part of my life, and I would like to share this portion of my life with you. This is the first installment of “Record Scratch,” a column where I will discuss fresh music releases. I will do my best to recommend music that might have been ignored by the masses.

We’ll start with the alternative hip-hop albums “Saturation” and “Saturation II” by Brockhampton.

Brockhampton describe themselves as “the Internet’s first boy band,” but they are a new breed of boy band. Having met on a Kanye West fan-forum website, this group of young men released their first mixtape last year. Their debut album, “Saturation,” was released in June. “Saturation II” released in August. By the end of 2017, the “Saturation” trilogy will be complete.

Whereas mixtapes are used more as a demonstration of musical capabilities, the debut album needs to solidify why an artist is relevant in their scene. “Saturation” is an emotionally rough album. The stories told on “Saturation” are charged with energy that has been waiting to be released. Heartfelt performances from every member make the lyrics resonate more closely with the audience. Regret, sorrow, anger, frustration, dedication, and perseverance are all conveyed by the men who tell these stories. They pause, they end things unexpectedly, and they change direction sometimes without warning.

The rhythms and sounds they use are unconventional, but Brockhampton manage to form a cohesive project thanks to their production and mastering team. They create a form of art unique to themselves. “Saturation” is for those who want to explore a more artistic and experimental side of hip-hop.

“Saturation II” is a sequel. “Saturation” was the blockbuster hit, and its successor had a legacy to live up to. Releasing so soon after the original was a huge risk for Brockhampton. It paid off.

Any sophomore album needs to take the sound of the original and twist it enough to be different while staying recognizable, and “Saturation II” does just that. “Saturation” is a love project; while there are definitely strong rap verses and tracks that bump, the album is more R&B influenced. “Saturation II” goes hard. It sounds like its predecessor, but you notice how Brockhampton have pushed themselves to innovate. The R&B tracks are still here, but there are more rap verses over both R&B and rap tracks. If you would rather listen to rap than R&B, I would suggest “Saturation II.”

The boys in Brockhampton are not afraid to say what’s on their mind, nor are they afraid of new flows and rhythms. They know how swiftly they are rising in the hip-hop community, and they want everyone to know that they know. If you do not know now, you will certainly know by the end of 2017.

Summer 2017 Film Highlights

By Justin Taylor

The summer of 2017 was a fantastic season for blockbusters as well as independent films. There were so many great movies that debuted over the last few months. The following films are my personal favorites, and I feel almost anybody would enjoy and be entertained by.

okja

Okja

(Bong Joon-Ho)

A touching yet unorthodox love story centering on the friendship of a young farm girl and a genetically engineered super-pig. “Okja” is at its freshest when it boasts its use of some of the most strange and original characters I’ve seen in years, played by experienced character actors — Tilda Swinton as a pair of twin CEOs, Jake Gyllenhaal as an unhinged celebrity zoologist, and Paul Dano as the head of an underground animal activist group. Okja cleverly utilizes these roles in a story that manages to be horrific and tragic, yet touching.

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Baby Driver

(Edgar Wright)

Edgar Wright’s newest flick, “Baby Driver,” is a technical masterpiece that uses its thrilling score of hand-picked rock songs to fuel its action set pieces. Featuring the stellar performances of Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx (in a fantastically psychotic role), Kevin Spacey and starring the charismatic Ansel Elgort in the title role. Wright brings the style and flare that makes this delightful surprise one of the summer’s must-see features.

Dunkirk

(Christopher Nolan)

Nolan’s entry into 2017 brings one of his more experimental films. Centering on the military disaster at Dunkirk, Nolan tells the story from three different perspectives: land, sea and air. He uses this formula to experiment with structure and tell a non-linear story that all comes together by the climax, in the third act. This technique becomes integral in building suspense, as well as the tense soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, mixed from the ticking of Nolan’s own stopwatch. Dunkirk stands out as an intense and at times bleak take on war, featuring very little dialogue and character, opting to focus on the violence and hardships of the disastrous operation.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming

(Jon Watts)

In the franchise’s second reboot, director Jon Watts manages to bring the character back to the big screen in a way that still feels fresh and foremost, in a tone and style that fit and perfectly embody the character. Taking inspiration from the “Ultimate Spider-Man” comic run, “Homecoming” is packaged as a teen film, a convention that works well for the character as he attempts to balance his responsibilities with his newfound power. Coming in late to the Marvel Universe, the film takes pleasure in exploring and playing with the elements of an already established world.

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The Big Sick

(Michael Showalter)

Written by comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, writer Emily Gordon, comes this unconventional romantic comedy based on their relationship. Everything from the cast to the writing is absolutely brilliant, tackling hard-hitting themes like racial tension, diverse relationships, and the effects of tragedy, all without forgetting that it’s a comedy. And in that aspect, “The Big Sick” is hysterical; I haven’t laughed that much during a showing in years. The likeability of its leads elevates the comedy; it features Ray Romano in what is surprisingly one of his best roles.

War for the Planet of the Apes

(Matt Reeves)

In the final installment of the newest trilogy in the franchise, “War” dials down the action in a meditative and gripping reflection on war and its impact on society wrapped in a hard-sci-fi package — and still manages to deliver fresh and exciting sequences. Andy Serkis returns as Caesar, in one of the most intense and gripping character performances in years, which surpasses its predecessor.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

(James Gunn)

“Vol. 2” manages to be even more insane the the first. James Gunn returns with the same irreverent splendor and nonsensical action that made the original so great. Featuring stellar special effects and building on the team dynamic of roguish Guardians, “Vol. 2” is ridiculous fun that throws the humor at you like a bullet-train, as well as being able to balance it with some of the more dramatic moments of the film.

 

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Free Fire

(Ben Wheatley, Benjamin Taylor)

This experimental film features bold character bundled together in a gun deal gone bad. After just 15 or so minutes of setup, the film erupts into a marvelous gun fight that lasts pretty much the remainder of its runtime. “Free Fire” is backed by a chaotic jazz soundtrack, which manages to hold the momentum and interest of the audience for the duration of the firefight and highlights the sense of danger in the drawn-out sequences. Explosive and dynamic, this indie flick from A24 is one of the most memorable theatrical experiences I had this summer.

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Colossal

(Nacho Vigalondo)

This early-summer features an inventive premise in which a late 20s party girl, after returning to her home after being dumped by her boyfriend, discovers she is controlling a massive monster halfway around the world. Nacho Vigalondo does more with this premise than I would have thought, and uses character to propel the conflict forward in a way I’d prefer not to spoil. He focuses not on the how or why of the concept, but uses the characters to showcase the capabilities and repercussions of such a situation. The bizarre and surprisingly humorous finale makes this one of my favorites of 2017.

Poetic License

By Rebecca Dow (I’m excited!)

Hello everyone, my name is Becca and it’s a pleasure to be writing for SMCC’s school paper! I am currently overseeing The Beacon’s poetry column for this fall, and I am eager to read and publish your work; this section is a place where ideas can converge into a medley of literary gold! Occasionally, I will call for a theme [spooky, family oriented, personal (anonymity is an option)], so please feel free to contact me with your suggestions and submissions. Students, submit your poetry to rebeccadow@smccme.edu or through message via the SMCC app. Let’s discuss the musings of our minds! Personally, I love to witness others’ art, especially when it’s channeled through a medium that they love. Even if it’s not poetry, I could incorporate student-created images to decorate this column, as well as place YouTube links somewhere in this section leading to short performances of student-made content. The sky is the limit when it comes to creativity!