Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rutgers Looks Foward After 'Upset'

By Shawn Lopez

Saturday February 28th, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Women’s Lacrosse team fell to Cornell’s Big Red (ranked no. 17), in quadruple overtime at Schoelkopf Field, in Ithaca, New York. Rutgers started off the game with a 4 goal lead in the first half. Cornell began gaining ground on the Lady Knights, ending the half 5-2, Rutgers. After last year’s 10-6 loss against the Big Red, Rutgers poured out of the locker room at the end of half time with one thing in mind, revenge.

However, little by little Cornell’s offense chipped away at Rutgers seemingly solid defense. The clock ran out with a score of 7-7 sending the game into overtime. After a valiant effort from both teams, the game ended in its fourth overtime when Cornell scored the winning goal with 2:10 left in the game.

“This was a huge upset but in a different sense. We were the underdog but we were the better team. We can’t lose leads like that. We gotta get up and stay up,” Rutgers Coach Laura Brand-Sias told the Lady Knights in the locker room after the game. Brand claimed groundballs, draw controls, and a lack of urgency were the key reasons for Rutgers breakdown. Cornell had 18 to Rutgers 16 groundballs, and 11 to Rutgers 9 draw controls. With these statistics alone, it is clear the game was a competitive match-up.

“We folded,” said Brand. “None of the teams we’re going to play are going to be easy wins, we have to rise to the challenge.” Brand and the Lady Knights are now looking to their next game against the Princeton Tigers (no. 7) but with their loss to Cornell in mind. “Don’t forget the way you feel right now,” said Brand. “That way you will take whatever means necessary to keep from feeling this way again.”

The Scarlet Knights are scheduled to play the Tigers Wednesday March 4th on Rutgers newly remodeled turf field. The Knights have not beaten the Tigers in the history of Rutgers Women’s lacrosse. This Wednesday will not only give Rutgers a shot to redeem themselves for their recent loss but also a chance to prove themselves as true competitors in the NCAA.

Monday, March 23, 2009

They Still Have the Right Stuff

By Tiffany Y. Hsia

After a 15-year hiatus, New Kids on the Block are back and yes, they still have the “Right Stuff.” Though many of the “kids” are now in their mid to late 30s, they still have the ability of turning scores of grown women into hysterical, screaming fanatics, as witnessed at the NKOTB Reunion tour on September 27 in Atlantic City.

Over 2,000 women and yes, even some men, filled the Borgata Event Center on the evening of the concert. This time around, things were a little bit different. Instead of thousands of screaming pre-pubescent teenagers in NKOTB T-shirts milling around, the concert mainly consisted of women between the ages of 20 and 40, downing cocktails in provocative club wear, euphorically re-living their childhoods by scream-singing lyrics to some of NKOTB’s biggest hits.

This is the first tour for NKOTB after 15 years and it has been selling out so quickly that the boys from Boston - that’s Donnie, Danny, Joe, Jordan and Jonathan for the uninitiated - have had to schedule three go-arounds just across North America alone. This concert at the Borgata was the eighth stop on the first leg of their North American tour and the show featured their greatest hits and songs from their new album called “The Block,” which has already been certified Gold and debuted at # 1 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums Chart.

The feeling in the room was electric as the concert opened with a montage of the ‘kids’ earlier music videos on the bi-leveled stage’s jumbo screen. The screams became deafening once the strains of their current single, aptly titled “Single,” started thumping through the speakers. The vocal chords on these grown women were definitely in working order as NKOTB appeared from beneath the stage on a moving platform to the top of the stage while singing “For the next couple hours…Imma gonna be your boyfriend,” which provoked roars of a hormone-surging frenzy.

It’s always been known that NKOTB weren’t superb vocal performers, but these men put on a supremely entertaining show. It was obvious that they were having as good a time as the audience as they laughed, smiled and danced around the stage. After going through a medley of some of their greatest hits, Donnie Wahlberg, the traditional NKOTB emcee, stated “You’re already louder than the crowd at the Izod Center and you are three or four times smaller,” which produced even louder screams, to his amusement.

After the concert, the fun continued as two members of the group, Donnie and Joe, partied with concert goers at the Borgata night club, The Mixx. The duo arrived around 1 a.m. and performed two additional songs, “Full Service” and “Put It On My Tab,” karaoke-style, from the VIP area.

Set List:

“My Favorite Girl”
“(You Got It) The Right Stuff”
“Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”
“Valentine Girl”
“Please Don’t Go Girl”
“Grown Man” (With Nicole Scherzinger)
“If You Go Away”
“2 In the Morning”
“Dirty Dancing”
“Baby I Believe in You”
“Give It To You” (Jordan solo)
“Stay the Same” (Joey solo)
“Cover Girl”
“I’ll Be Lovin’ You (Forever)”
“Click, Click, Click”


“Step By Step”
“Hangin’ Tough”

Town Meeting

By Aliyah Finney

The Piscatway, New Jersey township council meetings usually consist of a handful of middle-aged to elderly adults, and more rarely completely uninterested children dragged to the hall by their parents.

Tuesday’s night audience was an exception.

Boy Scouts from troops 6, 20, and 106 were present that night for a ceremony. There were about 30 Scouts and Troop Leaders in all. The mayor, Brian C. Wahler, came in, apparently unaware of the ceremony, and excitedly spoke with the scouts, as well as handed out his business card after a firm handshake. After which the Troop Leaders rallied their boys in the hallway in order to line up. The women in the council room began to buzz elatedly and one even positioned herself for pictures.

The councilmen entered and the chatter died as they took their respective seats. Chairman Michael Griffth banged his gavel and the meeting was called to order. The Council consists of Mayor Wahler, Kenneth Armwood, Mark Hardenbburg, Loretta Keimal, Steven Cahn, Gabriel Cahill, Michele Lombardi and Griffith.

The Scouts entered through both openings of the room and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. They were quiet and almost mumbling; a stark contrast to their previous animated dispositions. The Scouts Oath, said right after, was presented in the same tone. They seemed nervous but did not falter. Two scouts then approached the podium and informed everyone of some of the many community services they were involved in, form the Acme Food Drive to volunteer work at animal shelters. They also discussed some of the trips and field events that took place over the last year, which included a ski trip to Pennsylvania.

Additions to the Eagle Scouts, the highest rank a scout can obtain, were also mentioned. It was impressive to know that the national average of Eagle Scouts is 4%; while the Troops of Piscataway had over 10% of their members at Eagle Scouts. After the boys were finished, and the applauds subsided, Rich Ellis took his turn. Ellis, the leader of troop 20, presented two checks totaling over $2000 to the scouts so they can continue to serve their community.

The boys were visibly excited and clapped and beamed at the great news. Truly a welcomed change to the average town meeting.

Small City, Big Problems

By Ezra Dreiblatt

The New Brunswick city council meeting on the night of February 18 started out like any other council meeting, with a roll call followed by the pledge of allegiance. In a wrinkle reserved for wartime, there was a moment of silence for troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. After City Council President Elizabeth Garlatti finished taking attendance, focus shifted to the first important item on the docket. The matter at hand was closing a loophole that allowed a resident of New Brunswick to claim two places of residence on their tax forms. William J. Hamilton Jr., the attorney for the city, said that one reason the loophole needs to be closed is so that landlords cannot claim that a house where students live is a primary place of residence. Basically, the city wants to make sure that the only place of residence citizens list is where they are not only sleeping but also performing basic living activities. In response to this proclamation, residents in attendance at the meeting were concerned that the city would go too far in checking if a resident was performing “basic living activities” at a place of residence. As one woman said, “It seems intrusive to check where people are eating.”

After an intense discussion, one man in the back stood up and asked to be heard. He went on to tell the council and the public that they needed to pay attention to Assembly Bill 3709 as well as Assembly Bill 3648. In Assembly Bill 3709, the man claimed, the state is considering putting fluoride in the drinking water. He went on to say that fluoride could potentially affect the brain, sterility in men, as well as possibly cause cancer. Having captured everyone’s attention, he went on to say that Assembly Bill 3648 would make it easier to eliminate a paper trail when it came to voting in the gubernatorial race as well as senate and local elections. Unfortunately, this same man went completely off track and decided to bash the suggestion that George Street in New Brunswick be renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Street. He started raving about crimes of infidelity that he said King had committed and completely undermined every point he had made before. He also managed to make everyone in the room visibly uncomfortable.

The meeting continued with residents bringing up problems that affected their everyday lives. One man said that he constantly saw cars with license plates that are obscured by decorations. Neither the council nor the police captain present seemed to take his concern that seriously. Another person wanted to know why it was so hard for residents of the city to get parking permits. City officials replied that limited parking space meant there had to be an arduous process to receive a parking permit. At this point it seemed the meeting was coming to an end when a group of people wearing shirts with the message, vote yes on wards, began to make their complaints public. According to Sean Monahan, a young resident of New Brunswick, the current system of representation in New Brunswick does not sufficiently represent the city. He went on to say that three of the five members of city council live in Ward 1. Not coincidentally, he added, that is the most affluent part of the city, as well as the ward where the only two non-failing public schools are located. Monahan believes that the current council is obstructing true democracy and that the city council needs to be enlarged from 5 to 9 members with each ward represented. He indicated that the city attorney, Mr. Hamilton, who lives in Ward 1, is the key opponent against ward representation. Unfortunately, Mr. Hamilton was not available for comment after the meeting. The issue is currently being argued in court with both sides arguing the merits of their cases and holding a referendum. The meeting eventually dissolved with the city council president, Garlatti, looking increasingly agitated while the pro-ward crowd heckled the council. Clearly there is a lot more going on in New Brunswick than just issues concerning Rutgers; it would be wise for students to take notice.

Friday, March 20, 2009

So Close, Yet So Far

By Travis Drobbin

Many of the seats were empty and many fans were seemingly disinterested. This was the scene when the Rutgers University men’s basketball team took on West Virginia University at home on February 21. So far the season has been quite harsh for the men’s basketball, which is struggling at 1-13 in Big East play. “It’s very hard to still come to the games, considering there is little chance to see a Rutgers win,” said Alex Silagi, 21. Many students and fans alike have lost interest in a team that has given little promise for a win. The Louis Brown Athletic Center (RAC) has barely reached half capacity this season, and has failed to sell out any games so far this year.

Rutgers showed little glimpses of hope throughout the game against West Virginia. The Mountaineers of West Virginia started the game on a 23- 7 run and never let up. Though the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers showed times of promise and cut the lead to four with 6:58 to play. The Mountaineers quickly responded and easily pulled off the 74-56 victory. West Virginia went on an 11-1 run in the last 4:24 of the game. This was a time when Rutgers needed baskets to keep their hopes alive. Rutgers shot just 0-7 from the floor in the last 4:24 of the game, and made two key turnovers in the late West Virginia run.

Rutgers coach Fred Hill Jr. expressed his thoughts on the game, “I thought we got some really good looks and I wish we could have got to the rim a little bit more. Anthony [Farmer] got some good looks, Corey [Chandler] got some good looks and we threw the ball inside and got some good looks, but didn’t convert. We shot 44 percent, which isn’t bad, but we need to get to the lane a little bit more,” he said as reported by The Daily Targum. Farmer finished the game with 7 points and 2 assists, while Chandler finished the game with only 4 points. Mike Rosario, who has been the Rutgers basketball team’s season MVP, finished the game with 15 points and 1 assist. Rosario is the first McDonalds All American to attend Rutgers, and is widely looked at as the future of Rutgers basketball. “Rosario is the real deal, and he makes everyone on the team better, and makes games more exciting to watch,” said a fan, Steven Gard, 20, a junior at Rutgers.

Even Rosario couldn’t stop a potent WVU offense that responded to every one of Rutgers’ runs. Leading the Mountaineers in scoring was freshman Devin Ebanks with 14 points. Da’Sean Butler, Wellington Smith, and Alex Ruoff each scored 12 points. The Mountaineers are currently 19-8 (8-6) and looking for an NCAA Tournament birth. The Scarlet Knights are 10-17 (1-13) and are looking to end the season on a positive note going into next year.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Freehold Regional Residents Angered Over Superintendent Actions

By Jaclyn Mandelbaum

At a January 26 Freehold Regional High School District Board of Education meeting, angered residents spoke out about the various cost that the community has been incurring due to what they believe is poor monetary decision-making skills on behalf of Dr. James Wasser, the district’s superintendent. The Freehold Regional High School district is comprised of Marlboro, Manalapan, Freehold, Freehold Borough, Colts Neck, and Howell Township.

Residents questioned the appropriateness of Wasser’s car of choice, provided to him by the district. He has been supplied with a leased luxury sports-utility-vehicle to use for business. Angered residents spoke out at the January meeting, and said that Wasser has already deprived several townships of enough money to begin with.

Residents found out in prior months that Wasser was using tax dollars to obtain a doctorate degree from an online degree-mill. Angered by this happening, residents demanded that Wasser return the money that they believe, should have been put towards the various high schools. He declined this request, and legally is not obliged to return the money.

The new vehicle was just the icing on the cake for resident Gloria Close. She demanded to be informed of the total cost that Wasser has inflicted upon citizens. Between tuition costs, salary adjustments, adjustment to his pension, and now a brand new car, Freehold Regional residents are still waiting on a total figure, Close said.

Another meeting attendant argued that in the state of our current economy, a less expensive car would have sufficed. She questioned whose interest Wasser is looking out for. She said that his behavior is selfish, considering the district just incurred large budget cuts. The money that is going to Wasser’s automobile could be used to reinstate programs that had been cut from various schools, due to lack of funding, she argued.

Michael Fishman spoke out about an additional cost to the district, due to the degree-mill controversy. Board of Education members felt public meetings are now “high risk” because of the large turnouts of disgruntled residents. The board hired two police officers to attend all meetings. Fishman said that this is yet another “unnecessary cost” that could have been put towards school programs.

Any monetary expenditure that the board makes is being looked at under a microscope. Outspoken citizens for months have been reprimanding Wasser for his admitted wrong-doings.

While such topics were up for discussion, Wasser got up from his seat and exited the meeting for a short period of time. At the conclusion of the meeting he addressed everyone and said, “I sat here for 8 months listening to people come to the microphone about the same things over and over again and I understand your concern. I don’t agree with you totally. I don’t like to be yelled at or defamed in public, but I think I have done a fair job of accepting it.” In regards to the future, he continued, “I will finish my contract. I made an obligation and obligation to this board. I have other things I would like to do before I leave. This is a great school district, and when I leave it will be great. Stop what you are doing. We have things to do and we are listening to the same thing about the superintendent.”

Friday, March 13, 2009

Career Success Strategies

By Russell Booth

On Monday, February 9 there was a program called “Career Success Strategies…Your Link to the Future,” which took place in the Busch Student Center at Rutgers University. The meeting attracted about seventy students. The host of the event was Toi K. Tyson, the assistant director of Rutgers Career Services career and interview center. Tyson presented a very professional PowerPoint presentation that shows students how to build a resume, do well in interviews, and be prepared for the real world.

Tyson began the meeting with information regarding Career Services and their mission, which she said is to help prepare students and alumni for applying to internships and life beyond Rutgers. It also helps to develop academic and career interests, as well as short and long-term career goals through individual counseling and group counseling. Some other services include “Resume critique hours, alumni career network, career/job search seminars, and assessment testing.” Tyson told the audience that it is very important to establish a game plan, gain experience, and seek out leadership activities. During this point of the presentation she presented a website called http://online.onetcenter.org/, which is an occupational website where anyone can seek jobs based on their personal set of skills or search for a specific company. Tyson told the audience that these are the kinds of websites that are important for students to use in order to network.

Once a student finds a company they wish to work for, they need to have the required skills to get the job. According to Tyson, some of the skills that employers look for are “Critical thinking, problem solving, written and verbal communication, presentation skills, creativity, resourcefulness, and community and pride.” She explained that the purpose of the resume is to introduce yourself to employers and to promote your skills, abilities, and accomplishments. Think of things that are expected of you and things that enhance your resume. Tyson also provided handouts to the audience, a page that showed two resumes. One resume was the standard kind, while the other was a plain text/electronic resume. Tyson said these two are the ideal resumes that students should work to create. She mentioned that it was very important to have an electronic resume just in case an employer wants you to send it online. She also showed a slide about things you should not do on your resume. Some of the resume no-no’s, she emphasized: Don’t list a reference section, don’t include dates available, don’t use first person references, don’t include personal information, and never send out a document without getting it critiqued.

The last part of her presentation focused on creating a strategy and things to do after you have been hired. Networking, she said, is a very important strategy. She had audience members practice this by getting up and introducing themselves to other members of the audience. The objective of the presentation was to inform students on methods that would increase the chances of getting an internship. The skills taught the meeting can be used when interviewing for jobs. When asked about the meeting, 20-year-old youth counselor Jason Stafford stated, “It was real informative and has potential to be very effective and beneficial for people who implement it properly.” Jason said he learned a great deal about applying for an internship and tips on how to do well in an interview. The meeting was well received by the audience.

Bitter Tension in New Brunswick's City Council Meeting

By Shaun Van Moerkerken

The City Council met on Wednesday, February 18 to discuss housing and street name changes being made to the New Brunswick community. The main topics for discussion regarded an amendment the council passed that would prevent landlords from declaring multiple properties as their primary residence, and the proposed renaming of George Street to Martin Luther King Street. The meeting began at 6:30 pm and was full of uneasy citizens ready to speak their minds to the council.

The first issue is a problem not only for residents of New Brunswick, but also affects Rutgers students who rent houses. The problem is that some landlords own multiple houses in New Brunswick and claim more than one of them as their primary residence. “This will prevent the landlord from trying to claim that house as a principle place of residence in addition to another place he lives,” said Department of Economic Development Director Glenn Paterson, as quoted in The Daily Targum. When a landlord rents out a house that he has labeled one of his primary residences, they are not required to abide by the city’s rent control regulations which are there to protect the renters of the house. These rent controls regulations, which consist of how much your landlord could raise rent after a given year, how many occupants are allowed to live in the house, and more.

What’s happening now is landlords are renting out their houses labeled as primary residences to Rutgers students and putting more than the legal occupancy load in the house, a student in the audience said. The landlord then charges each student a lower price than the legal price, but since there are more people in the house the landlord makes more profit off of his investment. “I think I am a victim of one of these landlords, there are currently six people in my house, which is no bigger than a four person home. It’s pretty messed up landlords pack tenants in these houses just to make some extra cash,” said Dan Wills a Rutgers Student. With the passing of this new amendment, landlords will only be able to claim one house as their primary residence and must fill out a written application proving their residence in the home.

The second issue was more debated by the audience than by the city council. A New Brunswick citizen stood up and claimed that Martin Luther King was unworthy of having a street named after him in New Brunswick and the street should be named after a real American hero; John Peter Zenger. The speaker went on to explain why MLK was unworthy of such an honor, “Martin Luther King Jr. has plagiarized many of his speeches, has committed adultery on countless occasions, is a communist, and he rejects the catholic religion,” the New Brunswick man said, while being interrupted by laughter from people who did not share his point of view.

In response, a long time New Brunswick resident paced the room and delivered a rebuttal that left him in tears. “There is no street in New Brunswick that could reflect the true beauty that Martin Luther King represented, but I see no better street in this town that’s worthy of his name,” the man said. The city council did not render a final decision on this topic and will consider it at a later date.

Civil Rights Activist Bernice Johnson Reagon Speaks To Rutgers Students

By Kiyanna Stewart

Internationally-renowned Civil Rights activist, singer, and scholar Bernice Johnson Reagon is a woman who believes in the power of song as a medium to bring people together for a common purpose.

At a recent visit to Rutgers University- The State University of New Jersey on February 18 in conjunction with the English department's ongoing "Writers At Rutgers Reading Series," she proudly announced, "The very first time I experienced music as a means to articulate the needs of our community was during the Civil Rights Movement,” she told her audience. “I knew that as students, we could bring about the transformation of a culture. So, I decided to move myself against racism.”

Students of various academic concentrations gathered in the Rutgers Student Center to hear the self-proclaimed, "song talker" expound on her history as a member of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), as well as offer life-altering advice on how to navigate through a world engulfed by capitalism, racism and sexism.

Reagon is also the founder of an all-African American a cappella ensemble, established in 1973, called Sweet Honey in the Rock. The Grammy award-winning troupe has traveled the world over the past three decades, spreading awareness of the importance of singing in oral traditions.

"The songs are only a vehicle to get to the singing," professed Reagon. She later added, "Singing is not an organizing element, it's an organizing experience.”

Christine Awe, Rutgers Junior and Women's and Gender Studies major, said, "It was important for me to be there and witness what this living legend has to say. After all these years, she remains relevant to social, political and artistic issues. I'm honored to be here."

Reagon began her lecture, "Notes from the Cultural Autobiography of a Freedom Singer: 1961..." with a song which originated during American slavery, called, "Come and Go With Me To That Land." Students and faculty in attendance listened to her sing the traditional Negro Spiritual, soon catching on that they were supposed to join her. By the end of her lecture, the audience sang in harmony, confident in the, for some, newly-learned lyrics.

Rutgers sophomore and Africana Studies minor, Therese Eggleston told reporters "This was a truly liberating experience - To begin singing in a room with people you don’t know, and not care. It was moving and unlike anything I've ever experienced.”

Reagon not only sang. She focused her lecture around several formative moments in her life - being thrown in jail during college for protesting the arrest of five African American Albany State College students for buying train tickets at a “Whites Only“ teller, finding her identity and passion in a world that continuously imposed its own demands on her, as well as her discovery of music as a political and social statement used to incite change.

Students were not the only attendees who expressed gratitude for the scholarship Reagon has performed throughout her lifetime. Adjunct Professor Bill Davis teaches courses in the Africana Studies department, and told The Raritan Journal, “Bernice Johnson Reagon asked some very difficult questions tonight. Not only did she question social and political institutions, known for perpetuating racism, but she asked of the individual as well. This lecture, I’m sure, was the catalyst for change in someone." Reagon did in fact ask thought provoking questions, which left many students and faculty questioning the very fabric of their identity.

Edward Steele, a Rutgers freshman and Biology major, recalled her suggestion “that one will lose themself if they don’t do something catastrophic to find themself. This is just what students need to hear, as motivation during rough times.”

Photo Source

The Signal's Source

By Alexander Cole

One of Rutgers University’s two radio stations is 88.7 WRSU FM. While many people listen to the various programs available during various times of the day and week, most take the music itself for granted. What gets on air is picked during weekly music meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to decide what would go into the station’s music playlist from the new music that had been sent in all week. Open to anyone with an interest in radio or music, the meetings take place in the WRSU radio station on the fourth floor of the Rutgers Student Center.

Before the meeting last Sunday began, I spoke with Lisa Uber, the Music Director of the station. According to her, the music comes in the form of CDs or individual files that get mailed or e-mailed in to the station. “We get ‘em from promoters, record labels, and individuals,” says Uber. This music is gathered over the week and stored in bins based on what genre it is. Geoff Pape, Community and World Music director, commented, “The ones that don’t fall into Urban, Metal, or Radio 200 lists are left out of the meeting and go straight through me.”

When it came time for the music meeting, it all started with a call to the pizza place. Once the food arrived, the first CD was brought out and put into the CD player on a small desk. The air became one of tension and suspense as the eight people in attendance waited for the CD to play. As the first notes of the song floated through the air, all seriousness was shattered as someone loudly stated, “I’m already feeling pretty s***ty and this [song] isn’t helping any.” As everyone laughed, Zach Huff, a DJ on the radio show Oh, The Shenanigans, looked at me and asked, “You thought we were going to be that serious about a song?”

One might say the people who have the responsibility of selecting the music that gets aired to thousands of people weren’t doing a very good job, but this is the opposite of the truth. This is how it went for the rest of the meeting. Of the 100 CDs played, 62 wound up being added to the station’s playlist. In a later discussion Uber mentioned that the amount of CDs listened to that day was average compared to what comes in each week. Jared Migden, former Music Director for the station, told me that it is actually better for the people at the meeting to have a casual attitude.

The reasoning behind that is that the people at the meeting have to judge whether or not the music will actually get played by the DJs at the station. If they let CDs in randomly, Huff opined, they would quickly run out of room for them and might be left with artists that no DJ wants to use anyway. By acting as if they were choosing songs for their own personal collections, the DJs, officers, and attendees of the meeting act as a sample audience for the radio station. When asked why they would volunteer one to four hours of their time for such a cause, Huff’s response sums up the general feeling of those in attendance. He smiled and said, “First, to decide what I’m going to play during the week. I’m kind of a music snob. However, it’s cool to know that I’m deciding what others hear on their radios.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Empower Our Neighborhoods Continues Stand Against City Council

By Joe Bindert

At the February 18 News Brunswick City Council meeting, members of the progressive-activism group Empower Our Neighborhoods continued to take a stand against the city council officials on their refusal to adopt the ward-based election system.

Created in 2007 by Rutgers University activist group Tent State, Empower Our Neighborhood’s ward-based election campaign seeks to establish a system in which New Brunswick City Council members are elected by city ward as opposed to at-large as they are now. Each of the six wards would have its own elected member of the council, and three more members would be elected at large for the whole city, making a total of nine member. Empower Our Neighborhoods argues that this system will be more democratic, as those running for the council seats will have smaller areas to focus on, allowing individuals with less establishment support and less money to compete more fairly for election. The current system, according to the group, favors those connected to the local Democratic Party and keeps lesser known candidates from running.

Last September, the New Brunswick City Council denied a motion to include a question about the ward system on the November general election ballot. Despite this, Empower Our Neighborhoods has not stopped attending city council meetings and making their voices heard. The February 18 meeting was no different, as three members of Empower Our Neighborhoods made their voices heard to the council and the people of New Brunswick at the meeting. Charles Kratovil, 23, also attempted to hand out literature written by the group during the meeting, but City Attorney William Hamilton denied him from doing so, telling him to do it after the meeting.

The motion to get a ward system in place is currently tied up in a legal battle as a result of it being turned down for the November elections. The cost of the legal proceedings was raised during the meeting when a concerned citizen asked about getting a traffic light installed at a dangerous intersection by her home. Empower Our Neighborhoods member Xavier Hansen, 34, spoke up and told the council that the city could have installed the traffic light she requested with the money the city have wasted trying to fight the ward system in court.

The group also shows no signs of letting up with their cause. “We will never give up”, Hansen told the city council during a heated discussion. When questioned after the meeting, each member of Empower Our Neighborhoods claimed that they would be attending future city council meetings as well.

Empower Our Neighborhoods will be having their next meeting on Tuesday, March 17 in the New Brunswick Free Public Library.

Inaugural Rutgers University Concert Provides Great Chance for High Schoolers

By Stephen Yoon

Rutgers University hosted its very first Mid-Atlantic Honors Wind Band Festival recently, giving top high school wind ensembles a groundbreaking and amazing chance to perform on a university stage. The Verona High School Concert Band led by Erik Lynch, the Randolph High School Wind Ensemble led by David A. Aulenbach, and Bridgewater-Raritan High School Wind Ensemble led by Lawrence D. Markiewicz and Gary A. Myer displayed their talents for a fully packed audience at Nicholas Music Center in New Brunswick, NJ on February 25, 2009 with the Rutgers University Symphony Band closing out the concert. This concert also included a special performance by Mason Gross faculty member Stephen Arthur Allen, the professor of euphonium at the Mason Gross School of Rutgers University.

Organized primarily by the student-run Rutgers chapter of the MENC, the National Association of Music Education, this concert was quite an ambitious undertaking by Rutgers MENC Instrumental Coordinator Ryan Jameson and the president of Rutgers MENC, Kristen Conrad. The MENC chapter at Rutgers is made up primarily of students majoring in Music Education, and they were clearly very dedicated to the task. Coordinating a concert comprising of four separate bands is certainly no small task, and they did a wonderful job as the event went off without a hitch, much to the spectators’ delight.

“A special thanks goes to Ryan Jameson for his expertise, dedication, and untiring efforts to coordinate this event,” said Rutgers Symphony Band Conductor Darryl Bott. “Also, to the entire undergraduate membership of Rutgers MENC, Kristen Conrad, president, for their support and efforts to make today’s event a success.” The Verona High School Concert Band, which has received consecutive Gold/Superior ratings at the New Jersey State Concert Band Festival, Music in the Parks, and North American Music Festivals, performed a John Phillip Sousa march, The Fairest of the Fair as well, as Flight of the Years by Patrick J. Burns. Their rousing performance started the concert well, as both pieces featured an up-tempo, driving beat.

Randolph High School’s Wind Ensemble was next, performing Pageant by Vincent Persichetti and The Nature of the Beast by Julie Ann Giroux. They have also received numerous Superior and Gold ratings at festivals, and have performed at the Annual State Gala Concert every year since its inception in 1998. They displayed their versatility by following the solemn, regal Pageant with the dark tones of The Nature of the Beast.

Bridgewater-Raritan High School Wind Ensemble was the last out of the invited high school groups to perform, and they capped it off in an impressive manner. This Gold and Superior voted band has performed in such prestigious settings as the New York Wind Band Festival in Carnegie Hall, and their experience and talent certainly showed. They displayed a preference for a more traditional repertoire, starting us off with a conventional piece in Divertimento by Vincent Persichetti and finishing with the lively English tune of Shepherds Hey by Percy Aldridge Granger.

Finally the Rutgers Symphony Band took the stage to serve as a finale. The seventy seven member band, comprised mostly of undergraduate instrumental music majors led by Professor Darryl Bott did not disappoint, putting on a fantastic show consisting of three extremely difficult and technically challenging pieces. They began with the stately Fanfare and Allegro by Clifton Williams. This was followed by the faculty guest solo, a tradition at Rutgers University Symphony Band concerts. This particular solo was Napoli, Canzona Napolitana con Variazioni by Herman Bellstedt, performed by Dr. Stephen Arthur Allen on euphonium in a sublime rendition of a classic piece. Indeed, Dr. Allen displayed the strength of Mason Gross School of the Arts’ instrumental faculty, putting on a performance that was both technically astounding and musically brilliant. The Symphony Band did a great job of carrying the momentum, capping off the concert with the very intense and ominous Symphony No. 2 by John Barnes Chance. Despite the garden variety title, it is an extremely modern piece with eclectic harmonies that cause an almost palpable tension in the listeners, which the band delivered resplendently.

Overall the event was a very successful one that set the standard for future Mid-Atlantic Honors Wind Band Festivals to come. This groundbreaking event will give other stand-out high school bands a chance to experience a performance on a bigger stage and give future musicians invaluable experience. Indeed, the Rutgers chapter of the MENC and Mason Gross School of the Arts are creating an invaluable event for the today’s young musicians.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Recession Takes Toll on 2009 NYC Fashion Week

By Diana Curreri

Fashion Week or similar events where designers show their new collection to the public in a runway-style manner have been taking place annually in New York City for approximately fifty years. This year, despite the economic climate, the ritual continued.

In tents or rented out rooms or floors of vacant buildings throughout the city, designers like Calvin Klein, Nicole Miller, Michael Kors, and Carlos Campos presented their fall 2009 collections. Fellow fashion designers, PR representatives, actors, models, and lucky guests were present for these invitation only events that took place Feb. 13-20.

Lining the inside of the tent built in Bryant Park were booths for companies sponsoring the events. Tresemme had sectioned off an area for hairdressers to style hair. MAC, American Express and Havaianas also had booths set up selling products.

“There are perks to being a sponsor,” said Robert Di Mauro, lifestyle commentator and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the High School of Fashion Industries, “Famous people come in and wear their product when on the runway.” He explained that when a celebrity wears a certain brand, it shows the brand’s validity. This in turn develops and strengthens brand loyalty with new and old customers. Since the professionals trust and wear the brand, why shouldn’t everyone else?

The models presented fall 2009 fashions in several different ways. In contrast to years before, not every designer decided to present their collections using the most popular technique, on a runway.

Instead of having models strut down the catwalk, designer Benetti has his models silently stand and pose. Then the models would slowly walk in a clockwise fashion and simultaneously pose after every several steps. This allowed better viewing of the clothing on display. However, seats were set up in an “L” shape. Depending on where you sat, it might have been difficult to see everything, since at least four models would be presented simultaneously for about a minute.

The other type of presentation was a bit odder. Tim Hamilton had his models stand on two levels of platforms for several hours straight while guests stared back at them. However, the models were allowed to converse with one another, did not have strict poses, and drank beer. This created a more relaxed scene, yet because the models were not moving as much, it was impossible to see outfits in their entirety.

Anne Szutek, senior writer for findingDulcinea.com wrote that the fashion industry has clearly been affected by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. “Some established designers, such as Carmen Marc Valvo, Vera Wang and Betsey Johnson, did not have full fashion shows…Betsey Johnson and Vera Wang displayed their fall 2009 collections on mannequins rather than live models.” She also explained that by having two companies share the same stage and make joint shows, designers were able to save 40 percent in show costs.

Designers are always looking for the most eye-catching color, the hottest new accessory item, or a new twist to put on an otherwise simple item. This year, the theme that held true for almost all designers was a return to the 80s - of course with a 2009 twist.

The most frequently asked question after these shows is what color is “in” this season. Orange and brown for fall, or light pastels for spring are the norm. However, no designers showed a recurring theme of one specific color. For many, gray seemed to be most popular, however when outfitted with another color, no two designers picked the exact same shades.

Designer Binetti paired his gray women’s fall/winter 2009 line with mainly purple and deep blue shades. However, Carlos Campos paired grey with brown, white, and metallic shades of black for both his men’s and women’s lines.

Tim Hamilton’s line for men focused on two simple colors; black and white. He paired striped sweaters or black turtlenecks with knee-length capris and trench coats with thin, almost sheer, loose fitting gray leggings.

People have been taking well to the return of the basic black turtleneck. By layering this simple piece under a bright color, it “adds drama and depth to outfits that might otherwise look flighty, out of season, or just too optimistic,” said a trend report from content.coutorture.com.

By creating a fashionable piece that could double as two different items for the price of one, designers found a sure crowd pleaser. Convertible style trench coats could unbutton to become a blazer perfect for the spring. Presented by Phillip Lim and Karen Walker, convertibles were the answer for those trying to get the most out of their money.

Despite the economic crisis causing this year’s Fashion Week to have the lowest budget shows in decades and demanded designers to make clothes more wallet-friendly, the contemporary 80s look of Fashion Week 2009 was a success. Mercedes-Benz hosted this year and last year’s shows in New York.

The Business of Blogging: Online Publishing Discussion at Rutgers

by Alex Guadagno

Rutgers journalism students found out on Wednesday, Feb. 25 that there is much more required for prolific online publishing than plopping down at the keyboard each morning and dishing unbridled witticisms, pajama-clad and coffee-cupped, à la Perez Hilton. This vision, presented by Ed Silverman of Pharmalot.com, may be how Hilton writes his snarky celebrity gossip blog, but this particular fantasy was dismantled for some would-be bloggers when Silverman spoke at a talk hosted by the Rutgers Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists at the New Brunswick campus. "How to Become a Successful Online Publisher” also featured panelist Cameron Barrott of Blogcorp.com.

According to Silverman, the potential to make money in online publishing rests on the blog’s ability to attract a demographic that is interesting to advertisers. It’s not simply a matter of laying out the material and waiting for the advertising revenue to roll in—an enterprising blogger must actively pursue both the audience and the advertiser.

Silverman’s blog, Pharmalot.com, was the “go-to destination for news and discussion concerning the pharmaceutical industry” before he decided to shut it down last month, according to Silverman’s goodbye post. Even though it may seem like a very specific market, Pharmalot boasted of more than 11,000 independent hits per day near the end. Silverman, who covered pharmaceuticals for ten years at the Star Ledger, saw the potential for this type of online presence and established his Pharmalot blog. “A web site represented not only a next step in gathering and disseminating information, but also an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and move on to another stage in my career,” said Silverman.

Silverman suggested that making money in blogging may mean tailoring the content to the desired audience, which can quickly become a balancing act between putting forth the kind of material you want and appeasing the readers—as well as the advertisers who are paying you based only on your ability to get these readers coming back. “It’s a really noisy world,” says Silverman. “And it’s going to get noisier.”

Does this have to mean compromising one’s voice or integrity? “There’s that old-fashioned wall between advertising and editorial. The question is: do you want to reach that wall?” Silverman posed. “The answer is: you have to.”

This may be discouraging to budding bloggers who are drawn to this medium for its apparent separation from the more structured business world of print media. But Silverman, a self-proclaimed “content person,” maintained: “Like it or not, that business consideration is paramount everyday. Maybe not every minute, but every day.” He suggested that other “content people” develop a partnership with someone more adept at business matters, which would free up the journalists’ hands for more creative pursuits.

Cameron Barrott of Blogcorp.com spoke next. Blogcorp advises organizations on setting up successful blogs to meet their business needs. While Silverman focused on the writing and journalistic aspect of the business, Barrott delved into the dirty details of the technical side to blogging. This was at the expense of losing more than half of the student audience when the topic of Web 2.0 was breached, as one moderator jested when students began filing out of the room.

But Barrott’s attitude seems to suggest that taking the sort of risks that may cost you half your audience is part of the niche-carving and name-building process. “You have to fail at something before you can succeed at anything,” said Barrott. When it comes to blogging, “failure is the best teacher.”

And failed he has: Barrott shared with the audience an anecdote about how one disparaging comment he made on a blog followed him around for the past 8 years. But even Barrott, with his live-and-learn-and-then-get-libel-insurance attitude, suggests that advertising is the most direct way to profit in the blogging world. One audience member suggested subscription-based niche marketing, but Barrott insisted that even this is not the best route unless you have a clearly defined group pegged.

Barrott insists that bloggers must make themselves an indispensable part of the audience’s day by providing readers with something that cannot be found elsewhere. He gave the example of Daringfireball.net, a text only blog by John Gruber.

“People read it because they’re afraid not to read it,” agreed Ron Miskoff, who is a former news reporter and currently a lecturer at the Rutgers School of Communication, Information and Library Studies.

The theme of the evening and the message from speakers to students was evident: blog about what you know, carve out a niche, be edgy if you have to, and do whatever it takes to stick out and be heard.

Empower Our Neighborhoods vs. City Council

By Jason Scharch

Rent control, traffic light cameras, and icy sidewalks were all addressed at the city council meeting on February 18. But one thing that was not was the recurring efforts of the civic group named “Empower Our Neighborhood.” The group, which is formed mainly of Rutgers students, is fighting for a ward system that will allow different sections of the city to elect their own representatives for city council. The current city government has successfully avoided the implementation of such a system, and the tensions showed the straining relationship between the individuals involved.

Charles Kratovil, the Co-Campaign Manager of Empower Our Neighborhood, or EON, took an active role at the meeting, bringing questions from members of EON to the meeting and taping the responses. The group handed out flyers during the meeting explaining their goals, and how others can help.

The antics of the EON were only tolerated for so long, as the council members quickly lost their patience when attempts were made to debate during a public meeting. When asked about why the council meetings could not be video taped for cable, and archived online for all to see. Council President Elizabeth Garlatti responded in a sarcastic reference to the topic of cameras at streetlights, “Maybe we’ll set up a picnic table at the intersection with the camera and take care of that.”

EON is having a hard time gaining respect from the city council, partly because most students are only temporary residents. The two organizations are in a legal standstill currently. Mayor Jim Cahill expressed to The Daily Targum his concern about whether their petition was signed by students who had a full knowledge of its purpose. Cahill said, “The petition should have contained a clarification that it was the intended purpose of this petition to place on the ballot two questions calling for two different kinds of government: one by ward and one at large, both consisting of nine council members.” Additionally the city council expressed concern that signatures were located on the back of the petition, and did not clearly display the purpose.

Stress levels are high on both sides of this struggle, seeing as how it has moved to the legal system for settling. According to Sean Monahan, another EON representative, the city has spent over $50,000 on the current legal battle, fighting the petition presented by EON. Monahan disagrees with the action the city has been taking, “It just doesn’t make sense, they are using the taxpayers money to pay for their lawyer who is fighting against a system designed to work for the taxpayers.”

The meeting was rushed to a conclusion before more representatives from the Empower Our Neighborhood group could continue their barrage of questions. The straining of professional relationships was seen on both sides in a meeting full of unanswered questions. Afterward the council members rushed out of the room, while the EON representatives stuck around to talk and answer questions from all of those at the meeting.

Maplewood Environmental Advisory Committee Meeting

By Kaja Stamnes

At the monthly Maplewood Environmental Advisory committee meeting, the hottest topic was the debate over what to do about Earth Day. The meeting, held this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Maplewood Library had an agenda that began with a run-through of newly created sub-committees, and moved on through more important topics of environmental concern. While Earth Day played a starring role in the event, another issued included the continuing debate over the type of field to be used in the recently confirmed make-over of DeHart Park and Recreation Center. Also, defining the roles of the subcommittees in relation to the Township committee was discussed. The general purpose of the meeting was to address the tasks the committee would need to take on in the next few months..

The Environmental Advisory Committee consists of 10 people, appointed by the local Township Committee. The Official Town Website of Maplewood lists the EAC's responsibilities as “[T]o advise [The Township Committee] and the municipal government on environmental/green issues including climate change, recycling, clean air, clean water, and protection against health threatening contaminants. The Committee is also responsible for coordinating the annual celebration of Earth Day and developing educational programs for the community.” The Chairperson, Robert McCoy, led the meeting and Deputy Mayor, Fred Profeta, was there to represent the Township Committee.

The main topic was the Earth Day Event. The committee tentatively set the celebration of this day which technically occurs on Wednesday, April 22, for the following Saturday, April 25. The most important part of this day is the Rahway River Clean-Up, an annual community event. The discussion of Earth Day was driven mostly by the desire to expand it into a week-long event this year, following neighboring Millburn Township's example. The EAC seemed to think that doing so would be possible with publicity from sponsors, and additional events and contests to get more of the community involved. They decided to appoint two people to head the Earth Day-Week conundrum.

A lengthy discussion centered on the EAC's opinion on which approach to take to the DeHart Park reconstruction. The members seemed to agree that an organic approach to the field would be better in the long run and more sustainable. Profeta, however, pointed out that the Township Committee's opinion on the matter currently would result in a 3-2 vote against the organic method. They agreed that the need to distill and present the basic factors which make the organic turf the most desirable and affordable option is very important to convince the Township Committee and other residents in its favor. Many residents were in favor of a synthetic turf field, and some EAC members acknowledged the fact that such residents might simply oppose any other efforts. That field maintenance must accompany the changes, regardless of the selected method, was also determined.

The four subcommittees that were created at the last month's meeting were quickly given a run-through to decide what issues they would address. The categories were Climate Change, Open Space, Recycling, and Municipal Ordinances and Planning. The last category posed somewhat of a challenge as Mr. Profeta was prompted to ask about the effects of having a “Municipal Ordinances” committee to the Township Committee. He seemed concerned that an ordinances with an environmental aspect would be held up and subject to the subcommittees review. The issue was resolved as EAC member and Convener of the Open Space Subcommittee, Dirk Olin, expressed his comfort with the flexibility of what he said “should be an ad-hocracy” emphasizing the group's ability to adjust to change, and play the role as an advisor to help the Township Committee, not a bureaucratic obstacle.

The EAC is hosting a “Green Drinks” fundraiser March 26th at the Maplewood Women's Club. Price is $10 per person, all the beverages will be organic.

Economist Discusses Past, Present and Future

By Lucas Sullivan

This past Wednesday, economist R. Glenn Hubbard gave a speech at the College Avenue Student Center at Rutgers concerning our current economic situation, the lessons to learn from the past, and what to look out for in the future.

Hubbard is the Dean of the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University, and has a prestigious history in economics: he was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors from 2001 to 2003, the chairman of the Economic Club of New York, and very nearly took the place of Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve.

Attendees at the lecture numbered around forty or fifty, including some Rutgers Economics professors such as Neil Sheflin. Hubbard started his speech proclaiming that his goal was to “take something that works in practice and prove it can work in theory.” He then reminded the audience of the tough times we are in, stating that “the forecast is presently grim…continued job shedding is very troubling.” Overseas, the situation is not much brighter: economic growth in China and India is “slipping,” and Japan is currently in a recession. “Humility is in order,” said Hubbard, who asserted that we need to shake up the system in order to bounce back out of the slump. “Currently,” said Hubbard, “we have a banking panic…the instinct is to run for cash.”

How did we end up in this situation in the first place? Hubbard noted three main causes: low interest rates, lax monetary policy from 2003 to 2005 (which led to inflation), and the capital requirements to make transactions being too high. Hubbard suggested that the path to recovery requires confidence and a “principled policy of response” to economic troubles, as opposed to an “ad-hoc” reaction that will be too late in correcting a problem. His main proposition for the future was that instead of hiring more regulators, we hire better ones; doubling the number of poor regulators will do us no good, Hubbard concluded. We should also try to weed out the good banks from the bad ones, or eliminate the bad banks and bad assets altogether; this would provide protection from loss that would be a comfort to the consumer.

Hubbard also discussed the recent stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama. He claimed that it didn’t have enough “bang for the buck,” and that we will not likely see it add significantly to GDP in the next 12 to 18 months. Also troubling was Hubbard’s prediction that the package “may necessitate higher taxes in the future.” The package did have its upside, however, as it will bolster the supply side in the US and keep structural productivity high, according to Hubbard.

Near the end of the lecture, Hubbard fielded a few questions from the audience. One student asked for Hubbard’s opinion on the future of some of the currently competing banks; Hubbard stated that he believed many of the struggling midsize banks will fail in 2009 and 2010. The biggest issue, Hubbard emphasized, was focusing on the long term. Hubbard closed his lecture with a humorous quote he had found in a fortune cookie that he said is analogous to our current economic situation: “riding a flying tiger is easy; it’s just landing that is difficult.”

Six Flags, More Flags, More Jobs

By Maria Monica Abrenica

Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey hosted a job opportunity fair last Saturday, February 21. Applicants came with a lot of patience and their biggest smiles.

Returning employees from previous seasons as well as hundreds of aspiring employees kept the company’s Human Resources Department occupied and the Employment Center packed throughout the day. The company is offering numerous employment opportunities for all ages.

The job fair started at ten o’ clock in the morning and lasted until four in the afternoon. It was a challenge squeezing between all the people in order to make it through the section of departments and their inviting display of work information. Among the most popular hiring departments are Merchandise, Games, Entertainment, Loss Prevention and Security, and Ride Operations.

Twenty-six-year-old Katherine Tytko of Howell, New Jersey is coming back for her seventh season with the Security Department. She said that what makes her keep coming back is the comfort and familiarity with the demands of the job. She also works as a Medical Technologist at the Monmouth Medical Center, but is looking to earn extra income. This season, she is determined to come back in order to double her payments toward student loans.

“The pay is not incredibly high, but you can get so many hours that you still bring home a decent paycheck,” Tytko said.

Rhonda Callahan, 21, of Mount Holly, New Jersey will be returning for her fourth season with the park’s Merchandise Department. She said she enjoys meeting new co-workers each year and being around park guests. She also said that the money she earns pays for college books and clothes.

“Six Flags is a happy place and the money is good too,” said Callahan.

Unlike most other companies, Six Flags provides employment for minors too. The amusement park accepts applicants as young as the age of fourteen. Senior Supervisor Mayra Zayas said that this is a great venue for young people to learn the value of hard-earned money and to develop responsibility. She estimates that about 2,000 people came to this job fair and while she was unable to give an exact number of how many people will get hired, she said that departments are aiming to maximize staffing. In an NBC local news report, it was said that Six Flags Great Adventure is among the biggest seasonal employers in New Jersey. The report said that approximately 4,100 positions are available.

“I live two minutes down the road and I need the money,” said fourteen-year-old Michelle Long.

Long was standing in a corner enjoying the free food and beverages at the fair while anticipating for her name to be called out by an interviewer. She is looking to work in Merchandise and said that she chose Six Flags because it is known for being a fun place to work.

Mothers waited patiently for their kids to finish their application and interview. Kayla Schonyers, 15, and Diandra Schonyers, 18, are sisters who were attracted to the fair by a promotional flier that their mother had brought home from work.

“I am not forcing them to work, but I want them to learn the value of money, especially during these hard days,” said the Schonyers’ mother.

Karen Coryelle, a mother of two from Bricktown, New Jersey, was waiting outside for her fifteen-year-old son to come out from his interview. When asked what job her son was looking for, she replied saying “Anything!” and then laughed. She said that being choosy is not an option at a time when so many people are getting laid off and having trouble finding decent jobs.

Seasonal employment does not discourage people from seeking a job at Six Flags and this is evident in the number of people who went to the job fair last Saturday. “Six Flags has so many jobs within the company that it can fit into anyone’s needs,” Zayas said. “There’s something for everyone.” She also said that the benefits of competitive pay, flexible hours, and free park tickets draw more and more people each year.

The park is still accepting applications and anyone is welcome to visit the Employment Center from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. A list of available seasonal positions and more information about employment are also available online at www.sixflags.com/greatAdventure/jobs.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hijabs, Yarmulkas, and Bare Heads...Oh, My!

By Sylver McGriff
Photos by Sylver McGriff

It was a sight to see: Muslims, Jews and Christians all together in one room, praying, conversing, questioning. Quite a sight - especially in light of America’s recent history with the Middle East, and unfolding events in Israel and Palestine. The unlikely religious gathering on February 18th in the College Avenue Graduate Student Lounge at Rutgers University in New Brunswick - dubbed “Trialogue: A Search for Understanding; Muslims, Christians and Jews in Conversation”- threw together students from various faiths - including a lone atheist - to ask questions of each other. Among the questions provided in a pamphlet handed out to each participant were: “Is Islam under attack right now?", “What stereotypes do you have of different religions?”, “If you had to convert to another faith, which would you choose?” And, as war rages in Israel and Palestine, “Where is the Holy Land, and who has claim to it?”

The event was sponsored by the Catholic Center, Episcopal Campus Ministry, Hillel, Lutheran Campus Ministry, Office of Muslim Chaplain, Rutgers Protestant Campus Ministry, and the Wesley Fellowship, and funded by grants from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and The United Methodist Church. Both undergrad and grad students of many cultures were in attendance.

“I grew up having to pray the Lord’s prayer and recite from the Koran.” says Amytza, a Rutgers SCILS senior of Hispanic-Indian heritage reared by a Muslim father and Catholic mother. Leah, a Jewish graduate student in the field of social work, shares, “I just recently visited my family in Israel, which really solidified my faith.” Across the room, a Caucasian student with blue hair wearing an off the shoulder top above a micro-mini skirt sat beside a fully sheathed Muslim student with only her face and hands exposed. Within minutes, the two were in deep conversation. Present also were a priest in collar, a nun in habit, and a female rabbi; the only missing representative of religious authority was a Muslim imam.

To begin, two students from each faith stood before the gathering to share information about the beliefs of each of their religions. Male Jewish students wearing colorful yarmulkas recited a prayer from the Torah in Hebrew, followed by Christian students, heads bare, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, culminated by a Muslim male and female student - the girl wearing a black hijab (the traditional headcover worn by Muslim women) - who recited passages of the Koran in eloquent Arabic. All spoke of love, peace, and an adherence to their chosen beliefs.

Rabbi Esther Reed, Associate Director for Jewish Campus Life at the university, then divided everyone into small groups. “The focus of the small group is to open your mind and heart to other faiths, ideas, religious practices, and prayers,” quotes the green pamphlet handed around to each group; it is a passage from “The Faith Club,” a book by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner from which the structure of this Trialogue group is borrowed.

Following the 9-11 attacks, a Muslim mother of two who lived in New York City decided to educate her children about the common ground between Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. This decision ultimately led to the writing of a children’s book with two other mothers - Suzanne Oliver, a Christian, and Priscilla Warner, Jewish. The result was “The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew - Three Women Search for Understanding.” It is the premise of this book on which the Rutgers Trialogue was designed.

As the Rutgers students began forming their Trialogue groups, Rabbi Reed calls out, “If you look around your group and see that everyone is from the same background as you, raise your hand and we’ll come around and switch people up a little bit; the idea is to have a trialogue with those from different religious backgrounds than ourselves.”

This instruction leads to amused return call-outs of, “Too many Jews over here!”, and “We need to switch out some Muslims!” With each call-out, laughter ripples through the room, but not the nervous kind. It is instead a genuine mirth about hearing such things voiced so openly without fear. Everyone here seems to recognize that they are in a ‘safe zone’, an environment in which diversity and humor may coincide.

Within the groups, serious discussion begins. “I thought there were only 2 kinds of Jews,” a Christian says. “The kind that wear beards and black hats, and the kind that don’t.” Two Jewish girls giggle. “No, we come in all kinds of flavors!” one answers. Everyone in the group laughs at this. “There’s Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed, and Reconstructionist Jews - and just about every kind inbetween,” the other Jewish girl clarifies. “In terms of differences, it’s more [about] the levels of practicing.”

An atheist poses a question, “Is it like that with Muslims?” A Muslim responds, “In Islam, there’s Sunni and Shi’a. But [it’s not like] the different kinds of Jews because it’s not about levels of practice. It’s about whether or not there is a belief that the first three khalifs [Islamic religious leaders] who led Islam after the Prophet [Muhammed]'s death had blood relation to the Prophet. Sunnis believe they did, and Shi’as believe they didn’t.”

In another group, a Christian is questioned by a Muslim. “Why do you believe that Jesus was the son of God? What historical proof do you have of that?” The Christian answers, “Well, Jesus performed miracles. Neither the Prophet Muhammed nor Abraham - or whoever Jews believe in as a prophet...wait, what exactly do Jews believe?” Everyone laughs uproariously, after which a Jewish student answers, “Let me educate you, o uninformed Christian!” More laughter. The laughter is genuine glee in the excitement and safety, within this supportive setting, to question, challenge, and learn about varying religious beliefs.

Most interesting about this Trialogue gathering was the underlying feeling of 
willingness: each student seemed genuinely interested and open to views that go completely against all which they believe to be true. In fact, the students at this gathering seemed to welcome an opportunity to absorb new insight about things previously shrouded in mystery. The challenges were respectful, the inquiries were of sincere interest. That, in itself, was a beautiful thing to see.

The Wrestler Knocks Down the Audience in Triumph

By Kara Jordhoy

Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson beats his nasty opponent to the ground and raises his arms in victory for an extremely small crowd surrounding the ring. He leaves his fans, who mistake his heavy breathing for victory, not defeat. After being cared for by nurses in his dressing room, Randy collapses to the ground. This beginning shows not only his exhaustion from the deadly battle, but also his fight to keep his life in order.

At the New York City Regal Union Square Stadium 14 premiere of The Wrestler on Jan. 30, many showed up to see the much talked about film that got actor Mickey Rourke nominated for an Oscar. After being invited by a New York University film student, John Schlirf, we sat and watched the movie eagerly with many others. Fortunately, this movie was engaging and moving; however, it was emotional in a way that depressed most of the audience.

“It’s a kind of movie that you can experience alongside the actor,” Schlirf said. “Mickey Rourke brings along his experiences as an actor that makes him even more believable.”

In The Wrestler, Rourke (Sin City) makes a come back by playing Randy, an old, washed-up fighter from New Jersey who constantly screws up with the people he cares for most. Directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream), this movie had a documentary-feel to it, with shaky, hand-held cameras depicting Randy’s days after fame and fortune had ended. Obviously once on drugs, Randy tries to fix his broken life by making amends with his daughter Stephanie, played by Rachel Evan Wood (Across the Universe), getting a job in the deli section of a grocery store and forming a relationship with a stripper. This classy lady named Cassidy, played by Marissa Tomei (The Sopranos), is not the classic stereotypical depiction of a pole dancer. A single mom who yearns for a better life, Cassidy is also attempting to improve her life alongside Randy. While his efforts are admirable, Randy soon finds that it is much harder to keep up with responsibilities and relationships than it is to wrestle.

“The story has a very slow, deliberate pace to it that makes the film seem more like you’re following this guy around through his life,” Schlirf said. “It seems like there’s no barrier between you and the character.”

Written by Robert Siegel (The Onion Movie), The Wrestler is a moving, heart-wrenching tale; one that moved the audience and touched the lives of many. The acting was phenomenal, especially that of Tomei, who was nominated for the Academy Award’s Best Supporting Actress. Her willingness to be nude in multiple scenes, plus actually doings the tasks of a real stripper presented her ability as an actress. Also, Rourke’s talent as an actor was shown through Randy, because he played basically himself: a prior drug addict who is trying to reach for the fame he once had. Once on his way to stardom, Rourke ruined his chance by being rude to his coworkers and tarnishing his good looks by taking heavy medications. After people refused to work with him, Rourke decided to get his career back together again. Happily, Rourke has succeeded, winning a nomination for the Academy Award’s Best Actor.

“Rourke deserved to win because of the sheer amount of self he put in the role,” Schlirf said. “But he lost because he made so many enemies in his past.”

All in all, The Wrestler is a brilliant film, though somewhat depressing. Most of the audience left the theater with glum or sad expressions. While it can be inspirational to some, others may find no hope from it at all.