More Life: An Album Review

Noah Elmore

Death, taxes, and another boring Drake release. These are the only certainties in life. Drake’s work, officially released on March 18th as a playlist, was played via OVO Sound Radio. A week after the release, I have had ample time to listen to, digest, and attempt to understand the 22 track, 1 hour and 21 minute long, More Life.

The highlights on this album are scattered for me. The production shines in some places, on songs like “Free Smoke”, “Passionfruit” “Glow”, and “Portland”. Additionally, the production is admirably varied, reaching into Jamaican dancehall and old soul samples. Some of the feature verses, notably Young Thug’s, are incredible. Sampha (whose debut album I wrote about here) and Skepta make two great appearances here as well.

However, that’s about all I have to say positively about this album. I haven’t been a fan of a Drake work since his 2013 release, Nothing was the Same, and this playlist pushes me further away. Drake continues to attempt to replicate the success of his smash hit “One Dance” from Views by venturing further and further into dancehall. While I can appreciate the attempt, it’s simply not good. It feels incredibly inauthentic; even though Jamaican influences have filtered into Toronto music since the 2000s, because Drake has notably claimed rep Houston and Atlanta.

Drake’s flow is astonishingly lackluster. It’s lazy and laid back, and while that style can fit other rappers, it comes off as blasé and monotone. Since I brought it up, Drake’s flow on the song “KMT” (which features the worst lines I’ve heard on a major album release since some of Kanye’s embarrassing bars from The Life of Pablo from Gibbs) is a complete rip off of Floridian rapper XXXtentacion’s flow on “Look at Me!”. It’s such a blatant bite, that it even features the same rhyme scheme, where Drake rhymes cans with advance, and XXXtentacion rhymes mans with pants.

The lyrics are so generically relatable, they sound like a bad horoscope website. They inspire no emotional connection at all because they’re so bland. The awful faux accent entirely removes any authenticity from Drake and his persona, particularly in a genre where authenticity, or at least the perception of it, reigns king. The best songs on this album have features, meaning Drake’s appearances are minimized. The uninspiring dancehall production sounds like a lazy attempt to create “One Dance, Part 2”. The many negatives outweigh the very few positives this playlist brings.

Overall, I’d score it 3 of 10. I won’t return to this album, save the few songs that feature other artists. My favorites off this album are: “Passionfruit”, “Portland”, and “4422”. While I wasn’t a fan, maybe you may enjoy this album more. It is available to stream on all major platforms.

Hysterical Fiction: A Book Review

John Hynes

Hysterical Fiction: A Review of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

This was a book that, at first glance, I really wanted to like. The cover was beautifully designed, with praise from some well-known authors. However, judging this book by the cover would be far too generous. As soon as you begin reading, you’re welcomed into a predictable, played out plot stolen from countless young adult novels, with characters much the same. Connie, our heroine, brings little to offer, only doing what is precisely expected of her by the reader: stumbling blindly forward, acting without any depth or substance, and shockingly little common sense, for an allegedly educated main character.

The writing, however, separates it from the painfully generic young adult novel it so desperately craves to be. Katherine Howe uses unnecessarily long, drawn out phrases with atrociously florid language, to describe minute and unnecessary details that add little to the quality of the story.

“At least,” you might be thinking, “she’s historically accurate, right?” You would be sorely wrong, my friend. The historic segments vary from ‘decently researched’ to ‘complete nonsense’ fairly regularly, only serving to push plot points home that had already been made obvious by the events in the present.

Ultimately, this first novel fails to live up to its literary praise, and utterly disappoints those in search of a strong or interesting female lead. Additionally, the plot and writing form up what is essentially an overdressed one-off teen novel, pretending to be a serious work of literature. Overall, I’d have to give it two stars, for effort.

Process Album Review

Noah Elmore

Sampha’s debut album Process was a project long awaited from fans of hip-hop, R & B, soul, and electronica. First springing into the mainstream in 2010 as a part of the electronic group SBTRKT, Sampha is a British singer-songwriter who has experimented in a distinctive blend of genres. Most well-known for his collaborations in the hip-hop community, Sampha has been featured on Drake’s “Too Much” and Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo”, the latter a song that is hailed among the best on the album, praised frequently for its moving outro, sung by Sampha himself.

Process begins with “Plastic 100°C”, a song that sums up the album well. Present with the dark and moody themes that prevail through the rest of this album, it’s sung with heart and power. Sampha continues to showcase his vocal prowess over perhaps his most popular song, “Blood on Me”. Explained by himself in a Genius interview, the song is about a dream-state where he is being chased for things he has done wrong. The regretful theme again is present here.

Continuing with “Kora Sings”, Sampha again exemplifies why he is an artist that is here to stay. His lyrics are poetic, and laced with metaphors and other intricate literary devices. Some soaring synths provide a nice break from the heaviness of the two previous tracks as well, showing diversity. The ballad “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is perhaps the best track on this album. Stepping away from the confines of synths and drum rhythms, Sampha carries this song on his vocals and a delightful piano solo. This song is a true stand-out on an album full of other powerful songs.

The albums marches forward, albeit somewhat slowly, until “Timmy’s Prayer”. This song displays more versatility here, with the beginning of this song featuring a falsetto voice from Sampha in a faux-soul song here. The wide spectrum of genres that Sampha can dabble in is impressive, let alone how well he does each of them. However, the true defining moment in this song comes about halfway through as the beat changes from a slow drum pattern to an up-tempo synth filled track. Singing about all of his faults and mistakes, the emotion wields enormous power and conveys a true sense of who Sampha is, errors and all.

Overall, the album has few, if any weak spots. The only criticism, for me, is that around the middle of album it can be a little same-y. Some of the tracks can start to blend together, something that is very easy to happen when the high-pitched dream-like vocals and synths mesh. While that is the concept strived for, I still would’ve liked some more shocking punches to snap out of that trance, like the ones present on “Blood on Me” and “Timmy’s Prayer”. This album scores a 9/10 for me, and is definitely one of my favorite albums of 2017.

For fans of this album, I recommend: SBTRKT by SBTRKT , Nothing Was The Same by Drake, and LP1 by FKA Twigs.

Photographer Visits News Writing Class

Professional Photographer Ingrid Bonne was a guest speaker in English Professor Paul Gaszak’s ENG 114 class: News Writing on Tuesday, January 24 at the Chicago campus. Students had an opportunity to interview Ingrid about photography tips and her career before engaging in a photography activity.

The News Writing class not only got to learn helpful tips, but also got to interview Ingrid. Ingrid visited the class to explain what her career is like. Photography can be an important part in news writing. This is a chance to show a visualization of what the article is discussing. Having Ingrid in class gave the students an opportunity to learn from a professional and hear her tricks. She told the students, “If you learn what is unique to your couple/subject you take better pictures, but the real trick is lighting.”

Ingrid’s photography interest began when she got a new pet and began taking pictures of it constantly. Soon enough, friends asked her to photograph their pets and eventually she made it her career and quit her job as graphic designer. After realizing there wasn’t a market in pet photography, she decided to do wedding photography as a second shooting. What she loved about wedding photography was all the romance. She said she’s always been a romantic type of person who loves love and hearing couple’s unique stories of how they fell for each other. Now wedding photography is her career focus.

Ingrid says her photography style could be described as colorful, silly, and goofy. Her most important technique is the lighting. She either looks for the light or creates it because it is definitively a fundamental. When editing pictures, she tries to avoid using a lot of filters so that the images look sort of timeless and they don’t look antique as the years pass by. Usually she adds contrast, adds saturation, and makes the whites look whiter and the blacks look darker. Basically, whatever is better to make the image look at its best. The editing process usually takes her an average of 8 hours a day she must deliver her work 4-6 weeks after shooting under contract. As for how many pictures she shoots per wedding, it depends on how long she is hired for. Usually, she is able to shoot about 1,000 pictures per hour plus the ones that the one or two other partner photographers shoot. To make the images more interesting Ingrid aims to find cool, distinctive places that she could shoot pictures at. Her favorite spot is an empty street on Grand and Milwaukee where there is great graffiti, since it’s very urban and different than most places. She likes to take couples there to shoot pictures that are adventurous enough.

When asked to describe her style, Bonne said “fun, vibrant, silly, carefree, wacky, colorful, and romantic.”

Ingrid makes a point to make each couple feel like a friend. To her, this is one of the most important factors when photographing a wedding. She’ll have drinks and food with her clients to make them comfortable and get to know them. As a photographer she is capturing a moment in time and making it timeless. Ingrid Bonne’s favorite wedding day shot is the speeches and toasts. These shots are the most organic, because the couple is actually reacting to their guests. These are the most authentic moments. “Weddings are such an intimate thing. I am quite a hopeless romantic and when it comes to love I bought it” Bonne expressed to the class.

Ingrid likes to be a part of the most important day in people’s lives, but she wants to see her family more. Ingrid really seems to love her job and falls in love with each relationship. She took this hobby and built it into a lifestyle that she gets to enjoy every day.

Ingrid said that if you truly believe in yourself, you can do anything and with that she is now shooting around 25 weddings a year. She still finds it difficult to run her own business. During the interview she revealed what her favorite and least favorites parts are to owning a business. Her favorite part is getting to make her own hours. She likes how she can take off when she wants and work strange hours. Her least favorite part is the business side. She loves photography, but having to do the finances and marketing gets hard.

After the class interviewed Ingrid, they were then told to write words on the whiteboard that were abstract ideas. Then Ingrid went on to pick a few words that she thought would work for the assignment which was to go off campus and take pictures that describe the word that each student chose, examples of words were “adventure” and “hope”. Students were then told to post their pictures to the classes Google community so that they could discuss once they all came back to campus.

If anyone is interested in talking to Ingrid Bonne, you can contact her through email at ingrid@ingridbonnephotography.com, by phone number at 773.991.2400, her website http://www.ingridbonnephotography.com, or her facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ingridbonnephotography.

European Landmarks

Mark Carlson

We are in the City of Chicago, a place with history and landmarks that we can see daily, but my European Adventure was one that had to be planned out so well just to make sure I saw everything in the week I was there. There are so many places to see alone in Paris. Places that I went to in Paris were: The Louvre (home of Mona Lisa), The Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, and Notre Dame. London consisted of seeing: Buckingham Palace, The Queen’s Private Art Gallery, The Eye, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. But when it came down to Spain, it was just more of a look around and spending time in the city shopping, as well as spending time with my Fiancée’s cousin.

(Paris) The Louvre – a super big museum underground that not only consists of Art, but recreations of homes of Kings as well as their grand structures of how their houses and secret tunnels looked like. When looking at how the outside of Napoleon’s house looked like, I instantly did not want to leave at all. This full on marble with a few trees and bushes made it look surreal. The Eiffel Tower, one of the main things we all think of when we say Paris. Yes, I went on it even though I have a fear of heights, but the view of the city at night was something that will never be forgotten. Being able to see the entire city just from the middle of the Eiffel is something that everyone should be able to do if you ever go there. Looking at Notre Dame, you can see the majestic view of a Catholic Church. Going inside, the first thing I wanted to do was look up. The super high ceilings what throw in a tower look that has medieval looking windows. Looking at the altar, it is a design you have to sit and look at due to the many things that are going on.

(London) Buckingham Palace is one of those buildings that instantly run to mind for me when I think of London. The reasoning might be due to the fact that they spend a lot of time recording leaving or going to Buckingham Palace, but never did I think that the lion décor on the fence had actual gold. If you stand in the correct way, you can take a picture of Westminster Abbey, Big Ben as well as the eye in one photo. I decided that I wanted a photo with the Telly, Westminster Abby, and the Big Ben. One of the best things to see is the Tube. The way that they have their underground train system (Tube) is so interesting. I questioned the entire time how they were able to design this correctly and not have any flaws with support.

(Spain) Of course, a multiview of things going on. Just like Chicago and other bigger cities, they do not change history. The preserve the view of the outside as well as a few things inside to make sure that they can keep history alive. I stood on the exact middle of Spain and it even has a marker on the ground. Going on one of the clock towers, you can see a view of the city, and the one thing that got me was the roof across the street. This roof was pure history — painted all black with actual gold around images of life.

European Adventure

Mark Carlson

What is a typical trip? We usually go off to another state to do something that we want with either friends or with family. When it comes to me, it’s do something out of the ordinary. My trip starts off with something crazy. Planning in secret where no one in my family knew what was going on. One thing on everyone’s bucket list (if you have one), go to the Eiffel Tower. So what else can I do? That’s were planning came in. I had tickets to go to Paris a month before I left, but of course, I didn’t know where I was going to stay at all until 2 weeks prior to leaving. My flight left on Saturday, January 21st at 4:44 PM. This gave me the time to get ready and make sure I had all of my last minute things. Of course, heading to O’Hare would have been my problem since I didn’t want to spend 2 hours from my house in Burbank, all the way to the airport. I also didn’t have anyone in my family able to drive me, and I for sure didn’t want to pay over $100 to park there.

The morning of my trip, I thought that Uber would have been the best way to go, since that takes all the struggles out of the way. When I got to O’Hare, I was able to get checked in fast as well as get through security fast, because barely anyone was there in the morning – for international flights. Of course, we all know if we are from Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, that O’Hare International is the craziest airport that you need to make sure that you are early for. Throughout the flight, I had the normal seats. If you of course haven’t been on a plane for a while, they got a lot smaller than needed. The longest 8 ½ hours of my life just happened. I wanted to sleep, and of course I was able to for a little, but the seats were so uncomfortable due to the fact that I am 6’2”. About half way through my flight, I decided to pull out the laptop and look to see if I was able to upgrade my flight. I thankfully was able to. I chose the emergency exit seats, because those have the most room. Something that I didn’t know about the flight, is the fact that you get free liquor as well.

When I got to Charles De Gaulle Airport, I was super happy. I was able to finally stretch and enjoy the trip I was able to. In order to get to Paris, I had to take their public transportation. This was something I never really did when I went out of the country, because everyone has different points of how their systems work. They had the RER (the new train system — like our Metra system), and they also had the Metro (this is like the CTA system). Of course, we bought tickets that would get us through zone 1-3, because that happens to be everything that we wanted to see. The train system is nothing that we are use to, only due to the fact that both of their train systems (RER and Metro) are connected. In order to get the Paris from the airport, we first have to take the RER to the Notre Dame stop and change over to another RER that gets to Invalides. From this, we take the Metro for 2 stops and that gets us to Ecole Militaire.

Getting to the Hotel (Hotel Eber Mars), was simple and easy, since all we had to do was cross over the street from the train and walk around the corner to get there. This hotel is one that gives you the full feeling of Paris. Being able to walk out onto the small balcony, and the first thing that I see when I turned to my right was the Eiffel Tower. Of course, I wanted to be on the Eiffel Tower, but I have a fear of heights. Eventually, I get over the fear and just go and see it, but that’s later on. The first thing that I wanted to do when I got to the hotel was eat something. This isn’t the usual hotel that we have in America, where they have a restaurant connected to the hotel, but there is a restaurant on almost every block, if not more. Of course, after eating my lunch, my fiancé and I got back to the hotel and talked about the future plans of our trip. I was the one that had to plan most of it, but I wanted a bit of insight on what he wanted to do. Our original trip was supposed to be: Paris, London and Brussels; but that didn’t happen. We ended up changing our trip to: Paris, London and debating on Rome and Spain. We looked into flights from Paris to the 3 locations and we saw that London was a good one to choose with a flight that was under $100 each if not cheaper.

The first actual day that we were able to start doing things, was Monday. This was the day after we landed. Our trip consisted of seeing the Arc of Triomphe, The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Of course, the Arc is something completely different in person, because it is so big that you have to sit there and just look at it for a while. So many people come to see a lot of things around Paris, but there is so much that has to been seen that it isn’t easy to do with a week only. The Eiffel Tower is one thing that we expect to be a lot bigger in person, but to what it looks like, it isn’t as high as I thought it would be. Of course, it is one of the greatest things that I have ever seen in my life, but I was seriously scared to get on it. My hotel room was only 3 blocks away from the Eiffel Tower, but we walked over to it quite a bit of times. The Louvre is one of the best art museums that I have been to. The Mona Lisa is there, as well as a built replica of Napoleon living quarter.

On Tuesday, we had to wake up early in the morning and have our breakfast at the hotel and go back to the airport. Tuesday, the day for London. There wasn’t that much time in London, because our flight returned back to Paris about 6 hours later. We had to go from the airport, to the shuttle, to the train and walk to Buckingham Palace, that happened to be through the park. Post seeing the Buckingham Palace, I wanted to see the Queen’s Art Gallery since I am into art. This wasn’t a far walk, since it’s around the corner, connected to the Palace. Post seeing the Palace and the Gallery. The main things I wanted to see was the Palace, Gallery, Big Ben, and the Eye (their ferris wheel). Using the train system in London is a lot easier, but the craziest thing I have ever seen was… yes… the Tube. This to me was the craziest underground subway system I have ever seen. It isn’t like the red line where it goes underground for a little, it is one that seriously goes so far down, it’s like flipping the Willis (Sears) Tower upside down and going straight down it to get to where you have to go. When you are in this remarkable system, you have to stop and question how they built this, because there is so much weight above the ground that they have so many big spots of openings underground without an issue.

Wednesday, we of course spent our time in Paris again and decided to have dinner at the same restaurant. After dinner, we stopped at the Eiffel Tower again, but this time, I went up to the second floor (after having a meltdown, because of my fear of heights). This was the most remarkable views I have ever been able to see. There is a part of the Eiffel that has access of being able to see the middle directly down, with a slanted glass throughout the edges, but that is pushing my limit to looking down. I was not planning on getting anywhere close to that.

Then we get to Thursday, the day to Spain. We went to Madrid, something else on a bucket list of mine. We decided to go there, because my fiance’s cousin lives there and they haven’t seen each other in over 3 years. As soon as we landed, his cousin was waiting for us at the airport. We went straight to the city and had lunch and walked around. We went shopping in Madrid since it happens to be super cheap. Of course, anywhere you go in Europe, they include the tax directly into the price of the item, because their taxes are super high. When it started getting dark, we went back to his cousin’s house and spent time eating dinner and talking all night long. Of course, when people don’t see each other for a long time, you sit there and talk for hours. That is exactly what happened to us. We talked until 2 AM and had to wake up by 5 AM to get ready to head back to the airport. Going to Spain and coming back, we decided to take another airport, Orly Airport. This happens to be a 30 minute train ride, but this is one airport that was recently built, and is so much easier to get around in. Getting back to the airport, we wanted to take an Uber just to be able to see what they had around the city. Seeing the views are remarkable. I absolutely fell in love with Paris when I got there.

When we get back to the hotel, the first thing we decided to do was sleep. We were so tired from constantly traveling and being on planes that we were ready to call it quits. After a few hours of sleep, we decided to stop at a few gift shops and get things for our families. For me, it was a bit harder, because my cousin’s birthday was the next day. I wanted to make sure I got her things that she would love and would realize that even though I’m not there, I still think of them all. After shopping, we go and head out to dinner and just take a stroll down the streets of Paris and just see what we can. Just being able to see things from outside was the gist of what we wanted to do if we could get in. After walking for about an hour, we headed back to the hotel and made sure everything was packed and ready to go, since the flight back was on Saturday, January 28th, the exact day of my cousin’s birthday.

To summarize my trip, I highly recommend going to Paris one day when you can. I would not suggest traveling to many locations, like I did. The only thing I would suggest, is that when you go, be careful of where you put your belongings and frequently check by skimming pockets that you have everything. Paris is well known for pick pocketing and you definitely do not want to have a wallet in your back pocket.

A Day in the Life

Ricardo Camacho

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to devote all your time to a specific cause? 0400 and you hear your alarm sound and all you want to do is hit the snooze button. Well you can’t as much as you want to close your eyes and fall back asleep you think to yourself about the commitment you made to yourself and to your country. Although you may not actually be in the Army yet, you have taken the first steps into furthering yourself mental and physically. You still represent the Army and you should hold your head high proudly. You have made the decision to become an Officer in the United States Military, which alone says a lot about your character.

As you’re waking up in the morning at 0400 you begin to get ready for what’s ahead of you. You stand up and look at your uniform, ACU blouse and bottom. You begin getting dressed making sure all your patches are in line. The American flag is on your right side and always facing forward as we always go forward towards the enemy. You proudly wear the ROTC battalion patch under the American flag as well to represent what you stand for. On the left side you wear the leadership excellence patch before you are preparing yourself to be a future leader and you want nothing but excellence to precede you.

You finish getting ready and you look in the mirror to make sure you are well dressed. Freshly shaven and hair is within the regulations of the Army. This is because you have to take pride in wearing the uniform, you are about to go out into the world and although you’re not in the Army there are other people around you who may be veterans or current active service in the military who have earned the right to wear the uniform you are currently wearing. Individuals who have shed blood, sweat and tears in the uniform you are wearing defending this great country. It’s a sign of respect to yourself and to those who have already paid their dues for their country.

Why join ROTC, you may ask. The answer is simple. It makes you a better person all together. It build character and shapes you to be a well-rounded individual. Those 0400 wake ups may seem like they suck but you have to prepare yourself when you’re finally an officer and you are prepared and ready to go. You’re going to be a young 2nd lieutenant and are going to be leading other soldiers who already have time in the Army. They want a leader who is going to be ready to lead and know what they are doing and that is what ROTC prepares you for.

You are looking for light at the end of the tunnel. There are times where it is going to suck waking up every day especially since you are also going to school and trying to juggle both, but you have to remember why you joined in the first place and never lose sight of the ultimate goal. When you walk that stage at your commissioning ceremony, hold your head high because you made the decision that only 1% of the people in the United States make and that’s the will to serve and protect the country you call home. You are willing to give up everything so your family and friends and even people you don’t know can have a great and safe life home knowing there are people out there protecting their freedoms back home.