Lifestyle

Warning: ‘Lost’ Spoil to Follow

Just a little less than two weeks until the premiere of “Lost”’s final season, and I’m getting antsy. Think about all the questions we need answered: Is John Locke really dead, and is that mysterious Man in Black possessing him? What caused the statue of Tawaret to be destroyed, leaving only a foot behind? What happened when the hydrogen bomb exploded and everything went white — did Oceanic 815 land in Los Angeles? Judging by the newly confirmed title of season six’s first episode, “LA X,” it’s still up for debate. The “X” in the acronym is deliberately separated from “LA” by a space, conjuring up images of Los Angeles International but also hinting that “X” is a variable. As Faraday clearly explains in season five’s “The Variable”: “Whatever happened, happened. All right? But then I finally realized … I had been spending so much time focused on the constants, I forgot about the variables. Do you know what the variables in these equations are, Jack?” In essence, Faraday is saying that Jack, Kate and company have the power to mess with time and the universe if they use big enough tools — the hydrogen bomb being the boulder in the proverbial river. So it’s clear they can change the course of history, but that doesn’t answer anything. We’re left waiting for the last episodes like crack connoisseurs who’ve invested lots of time, money and energy in their crack hobby — which is why I’ve decided to provide my own all-encompassing theory that explains every single answer to LOST …wait for it: lizards. Seven-foot-tall, bloodthirsty, shape-shifting lizards. In truth, these past few weeks I’ve been reading conspiracy theories on the Interwebs — you know, the Bilderberg Group, the 9/11 Conspiracy, mind control, etc.— and I stumbled on the Godfather of them all: David Icke. His dense New Age book “The Biggest Secret” spends over 500 pages weaving translated ancient texts and secondhand accounts of lizard man sightings all to conclude that the world’s elite are really a disguised alien race called the Annunaki planning global domination. So in honor of Mr. Icke, I’m going to transpose his fairly insane yet compelling theories onto the world of “Lost” speculation. Here we go: Jacob and the Man in Black are both highly evolved reptilians; one embraces humans and leads them to the island’s secrets, and the other has no faith in humanity. They have existed on Earth since ancient times, at least dating back to the Egyptians, but have never reached out openly to humans until the fateful day that Jacob calls the Black Rock (a 19th century slave ship) to the Island. One of the passengers on this ship is the mysterious Richard Alpert, still unfamiliar with the Island’s magic, but Jacob takes him under his wing and teaches him about eternal life. Richard becomes Jacob’s primary messenger and assistant for the human world, taking leadership of the others (the rest of the people on the ship) and overseeing them as they adapt to the island. More than a century later, Jack, Locke, Kate and all the rest of the important players receive a special visit by Jacob, who pushes them in the direction of the island, ensuring their fate on the Oceanic flight. It’s unclear what Jacob intends for these humans — perhaps they have more potential than the rest of humanity, or maybe they’re part lizard and they don’t even realize it — but he guides them to the event-chain plane crash that begins “Lost.” Going with the lizard motif, what if Jack and John’s fathers were also part of this reptilian bloodline, hiding out as civilians in human disguises and having children with human females? It would explain a lot about the fathers’ self-destructive, manipulative behavior and why both Christian Shephard and Anthony Cooper (Locke’s dad) can never seem to relate to their children (heck, Anthony even does malicious things like steal Locke’s kidney and push him out of a window). It would also answer why Christian and Anthony both appear on the island as if out of thin air, and why Christian guides Locke to push the underground wheel that stops all the wacky time travel. Ultimately, the “Lost” writers have an absurd undertaking here. Trying to wrap up all these loose ends and plot holes, they just might need an ancient lizard conspiracy. Yes, it sounds so crazy that I’m not sure I even believe it. But come May, I might be having the last laugh. ...

Under Flashy Producer, Bubblegum Pop Deflates

It seemed like the Minneapolis boys of Motion City Soundtrack were finally on the verge of some serious radio play: They moved to a fancy label, snagged a veteran power-chord virtuoso Mark Hoppus as co-producer and cranked their Moog synthesizer to a nearly unbearable blast. Motion City Soundtrack My Dinosaur Life Sony Unfortunately, the bubblegum pop on My Dinosaur Life is little more than an overproduced rehash of the band’s limited repertoire: fast-paced, hyper-lyrical storytelling, climaxing in butter-smooth cries of self-loathing and forced irony. With a hotshot producer on board, you’d think they’d ease up on the high-school poetry (“There’s a buzz/ There’s a buzz/ There’s a buzzing of bugs”) and indulge in the kind of melodic simplicity that made their first efforts — “Feels Like Rain,” “The Future Freaks Me Out” — so freewheeling. Instead, we get a haggard Justin Pierre bitching about pharmaceutical evils, something about a tourniquet, dinosaurs and dreams. Notable exceptions to their nonsensical babbling are “Skin and Bones,” which employs jumpy repetition to rival Fall Out Boy, and “Stand Too Close,” paring down every song’s obnoxious synth layers and cutting to recall a bit of their original simplicity. By far the stupidest track is “@!#[email protected]!” (Did I get that right? Am I missing an octothorpe?), which is apparently what Pierre was thinking of when he described the album as “edgy”: “You all need to go away, you motherfuckers/ You all need to leave me and my homeboys alone.” Really. And the rest is so forgettable that it’s better left as background music to the next episode of “Gossip Girl.” ...

Midlife Crisis Drowns in Superficial Sentiment

Ringo Starr Y Not Hip-O Ringo Starr is too damn busy to write you an autograph. He’s got too much on his plate — peace and love, folks. He’s busy singing indie-soft over a collection of wannabe chart-toppers. Stuffed with disco synths and sweet, meaningless nothings, it’s hard to tell whether Y Not is a revitalizing sound for the 70-year-old former Beatle or a delayed midlife crisis. Take duet “Walk With You.” It’s an airy love song with fellow Beatle Paul shoved ignominiously into the background, muddling through predictable rhymes and gimme-an-Emmy sentimentality. After that, we’re in for a barrage of tracks like “Everyone Wins” — peacenick anthems, bizarrely set to Alanis Morissette melodies. If you can stomach that sugary stupidity, though, Ringo comes through with ZZ Top blues like “The Other Side of Liverpool.” This streetwise track is vintage blues-rock, matching down-on-your-luck lyrics with a wobbly guitar with a wailing organ. It’s a refreshing change, and you can hear Ringo’s smile as he lays down some catchy blues. The ridiculously named “Who’s Your Daddy” is a tongue-in-cheek throwback to “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.,” with soul singer Joss Stone guest-starring as the had-enough liberated woman kicking a deadbeat Starr to the curb. There are only four blues numbers, though, and Y Not sinks with Ringo’s attempt at the fame game. The clock’s ticking for the septuagenarian, and unless he cranks out more like “The Other Side,” he’d have been better off sticking with Thomas the Tank Engine. ...

The Remnants of a UK Synth-periment Go Awry

Editors In This Light and On This Evening Kitchenware Records The newest album from Brit-rockers Editors should serve as a poster child for the grim side of taking a risk, when ambition goes awry and experiments turn ugly. Perhaps seeking to deviate from their formulaic yet wildly successful UK chart-topping imitation of similarly dark alt-rock groups like Interpol and U2, In This Light and On This Evening jettisons glitzy guitar riffs for monotonous synthesizers scrubbed of the edgy pizzazz that characterized their earlier work. Lead singer Tom Smith’s lyrics, delivered in a crystal-clear drone that only heightens its banality, achieves torturous levels of incoherence on nearly all nine interminable tracks. Long stretches of bland synth-bass noodles underline both the poor editing and conspicuous underuse of guitars that made Editors’ previous two albums a pleasurable, if rather predictable, listen. The soaring emotional power present in bygone Editors classics like “Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors” and “Munich” is lacking in wannabe anthems like “You Don’t Know Love” — a static and mechanical cut that personifies everything subpar about Evening. There are a handful of bright spots, like “Papillon” — Smith’s stand-and-deliver hook paired with slickly up-tempo drums and synthesizers to make it a standout track — but these flashes of brilliance are obscured under the rest of the album’s sludge. Editors tried to change the game with Evening, but all they come up with is 45 minutes of depressing gunk. ...

Surfers Stumble out the Karaoke Bar

Surfer Blood Astro Coast Kanine Records This Florida band’s name might sound like a late-night B-movie, but the debut album from Surfer Blood is just as velvet-soft and vox-dominated as anything by the Shins or the Smiths. These indie-rockers are so new, they don’t even have a Wikipedia page (I admit it, I looked), but they’re already knee-deep in dust — covered in such a film that five minutes after you turn off your iPod, you’ve forgotten everything but a five-second lick. Linchpin of their sudden popularity “Swim” starts off with a catchy hook and Benatar-esque power chords, but the riffs start rambling halfway through, and the track drowns in distortion. The vocals echo so long, it’s like bad karaoke: The chorus is the only time we can make out the words. Astro Coast does serve up a few clean cuts, especially “Neighbour Riffs,” an instrumental with ringing guitars much like Eric Johnson’s “Cliffs of Dover.” Other than that, though, the only bright sides are “Take It Easy” and closer “Catholic Pagans.” We can hear the lyrics, but they still don’t make much sense: “Please don’t padlock/ Your parents’ bomb shelter/” It’s ridiculous, but “Easy”’s tropical toe-tapping groove mesmerizes us into not caring about even the most terrible lyrics. “Easy” and “Pagans” might get the fuzz-meter right, but they can’t save Coast. Surfer Blood did record the album in a dorm room, so a little professional mixing might make all the difference. For now, if we want to spend almost an hour wondering what’s going on, we’d be better off in the last row of o-chem. ...

Spoon Go Undercover As Formulaic Alt-Rock

Spoon Transference Merge If I wanted to listen to generically crappy indie alt-rock, I’d cue up Hoobastank. But Spoon is a group we expect a little more out of. Or a lot more. From the same men who brought us the awesomely catchy and peculiar Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga in 2007, seventh studio record Transference should have been, at the very least, a rung above mediocre. But Transference doesn’t transcend anything. It’s like Spoon went into the indie-rock handbook and followed a step-by-step formula on how to write a semi-hit. Each cut has an unwavering, steady pace, plodding along without any variety before coming to an abrupt end. But this isn’t as bothersome as the fact that they all run at least a minute too long. This is the A.D.D. Twitter generation; how do you expect us to pay attention for an extra minute of bass drum and guitar strums when we get impatient waiting for a Web page to load? In its journey to experiment with new genre trends, Spoon dabbles with odd echoic Auto-Tune on “Is Love Forever?” and “Who Makes Your Money.” As a result, the album’s overall aesthetic is awfully inconsistent, jumping abruptly from fast-paced feel-good melody “The Mystery Zone” to “Written in Reverse,” a chugging number with somber piano plunks and raw, aggro vocals. The LP’s saving grace is “I Saw the Light,” which weaves smooth vocals and blown-out riffs with calmer ones, and an epic buildup with some “Fuck yeah!” strumming that completely shifts gears mid-song, keeping our attention spans in check. For the most part, Spoon plays a crappy version of their garage-rock facade, resulting in 11 run-of-the-mill tunes that aren’t terrible, but definitely aren’t anything we’ll put on repeat. Guess it’s time to switch to sporks. ...

Locked Out

[caption id="attachment_14620" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Photo Illustration by Philip Rhie & Emily Ku/Guardian"][/caption] After the grand opening of the Sustainability Resource Center last November, members of the Student Sustainability Collective and Campus Sustainability administrators have not yet come to an agreement over how to share the space. According to SSC student director Rishi Ghosh, the center was conceived two years ago when students approached university administrators with hopes to begin the project. When student activity fees were raised last Spring Quarter — providing the SSC with an additional $2.34 per-student per-quarter for projects and staff — SSC members were under the impression their new efforts would be housed by the collaborative space. Since then, however, university staff and student leaders have disagreed on the role of students in the center — leaving the SSC without the opportunity to utilize the SRC on a consistent basis. “The spirit of the referendum, the way we advertised it, was that the funding was for students working right in the new SRC,” A.S. President Utsav Gupta said. “That was the context in which we had all these discussions with the administration — until it totally flipped. It was a bait-and-switch.” According to the SRC’s Web site, its original intention was to “house UCSD’s sustainability staff and the student-funded and -run SSC.” As no form has yet been signed indicating an understanding of the two groups’ control of the center, however, only the CSS currently has full access the space. In the months following the student-fee referendum, plans for the center were arranged verbally between students and staff. University Centers designated a space for it in Price Center. The administration agreed to fund renovations to the space while students and staff negotiated the terms of how the space was to be shared between advocates. The agreement was to be authenticated with the signing of a Memorium of Understanding by the SSC and CSS, to establish the presence of each group in the space. According to Ghosh, SSC members hoped to have the MOU signed prior to the center’s opening last November. “We were of the opinion all the hard work was done,” Ghosh said. “We just needed to sign the MOU.” However, the SCC has failed to come to an agreement with Campus Sustainability Coordinator Margaret Souder since then; as a consequence, Souder has not allowed students to use the space freely. According to Souder, the two groups have been unable to reach a final agreement because representatives from the SSC continue to change their stance on the details of the MOU. “We’ve had several meetings and were all in agreement,” Souder said. “But then the SSC would have come back with new ideas and wouldn’t agree anymore.” New changes were proposed over multiple meetings, according to Souder. “In the details is where it falls through,” Souder said. “We come up with an agreement and everyone is happy. Then, a few people want changes, and we begin discussions again and come to a new agreement. In the last few meetings, though, an agreement hasn’t been reached.” Members of the SSC have expressed frustration with the discussions. Ghosh said that Souder has recently retracted promises she outlined verbally in original discussions of the MOU. “It actually was worked out earlier,” Ghosh said. “It’s just that it was worked out verbally. We were made specific promises. [Souder] had consistently told us her supervisors were on board. It was not as if we just stormed in. We had gone through the correct avenues. We are well aware of how to work with the administration.” As it stands, only Souder and Campus Sustainability Analyst Kristin Hansen hold a permanent office in the center. Students and community members alike are permitted to schedule meetings or events in the center, but are not allowed occupy the space as joint directors. “I would love to make sure there is really good access for anyone that doesn’t exclude everybody,” Souder said. “We want a space where anyone and everyone feels welcome. Ultimately, we’re running it by my bosses; I want to make sure they’re comfortable. The administration has committed a lot of money and effort, and I want to make sure the university is happy.” While SSC members are able to reserve the SRC for weekly meetings, they are unable to use the center as a main office. “We have no functional office space or meeting place,” Ghosh said. “There is no public space where we can display our projects. We can’t put anything on the shelves [in the SRC]. We can’t put anything on the walls. We can only be there at certain hours. We’re forced to run our programs with no central locations.” Various programs the SSC is attempting to house in the SRC include an extension of the TritonBikes rental program, along with an e-waste drop-off center that would properly dispose of broken electronics. “We want to set up an e-waste center,” Ghosh said. “We can’t do that project right now, though, since we have no space to publicize to students. We aren’t even allowed to enter the space.” Ghosh said that the SSC feels there is even difficulty setting up meetings under the current arrangements. “We don’t get preference in the scheduling process,” Ghosh said. “[Souder] can schedule over us if she finds out when our meetings are. She’s treating us as a non-involved third party who she just lets use the space.” Souder holds that the center has been very productive and useful during the time it has been open, despite the SSC’s lack of a role in managing the center. “It’s already proven to be great,” Souder said. “The space is already being well-utilized by many, including students, faculty and staff.” The SSC is currently working with the A.S. Council to expedite the process to reach an MOU. “We’ve decided we need to stop negotiating with [Souder] directly,” Ghosh said. “Our talks weren’t productive. We were going backwards. She kept rescinding promises. Now we’re working through A.S. and various vice chancellors, who are her supervisors. They can make it clear an anti-student activity will not be tolerated at UCSD. If things don’t go well, we won’t hesitate to meet with the chancellor herself.” Gupta said he supports the SSC’s efforts to attain a physical place in the SRC. “The SRC is part of A.S.,” Ghosh said. “The students in the SSC are employees of A.S., which is a department of the university. We’re going to make sure they’re treated with respect — the same respect any administrator would receive. It should be two departments working together.” Gupta said he intends to re-open discussions between the SSC and CSS, bringing in higher administrators including Souder’s supervisor Assistant Vice Chancellor Russell Thackston. Gupta said he also plans on meeting with the University Centers Advisory Board to discuss the current state of the SRC, along with its intended purpose. “We had met with the University Centers Advisory Board,” Gupta said. “They reviewed the space agreement with the intent that students were to share in the space. I’ve spoken with the UCAB chair. We’ll be presenting to them sometime in the next few weeks.” Readers can contact Ayelet Bitton at [email protected] ...

Oil Tax May Fund Higher Education

On Jan. 11, the California State Assembly Committee passed a bill aimed at allocating more funds to higher education with five affirmative votes and two negative votes. Bill AB 656, authored by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico (D–Fremont), will impose an excise tax on oil companies that extract oil and natural gas from the state’s land and water sources. If passed by the California State Legislature, the bill would create the California Higher Education Endowment Corporation. The corporation would be run by representatives from the California State University system, the University of California and community colleges and would be responsible for allocating the money each year. Earlier this month, the bill was amended to incur a 12.5-percent severance tax, as opposed to the previously proposed 9.9-percent tax. According to an analysis by the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation, the tax will now be expected to raise $1.8 billion in 2010 and $2 billion in 2011. Prior to recent amendments, the bill would have sent 60 percent of revenue to the CSU system, 30 percent to the UC system and just 10 percent to community colleges. After the urging of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, however, the bill was rewritten and now directs 50 percent of its revenue to the CSU system, 25 percent to the UC system and 25 percent to community colleges. “We have allowed oil companies in California to extract oil from our ground and we have failed to charge them an extraction fee, as every other state in the country currently does,” Torrico said. “AB 656 will address that problem directly.” According to CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association Rock Zierman, one common objection to this bill is that it would cause an increase in gas prices — something Californians in today’s economic crisis can ill afford. Torrico, however, said that AB 656 wouldn’t allow for such a price jump. “The bill specifically prohibits oil companies from passing along the severance fee to consumers at the pump,” Torrico said. The text of AB 656 states that not only are gas companies forbidden from “using the tax as a pretext to materially raise the price of oil,” but also that the State Board of Equalization is licensed to investigate any producers that they suspect of doing so. However, Zierman doubts the bill’s ability to realistically restrain gas prices, despite its strong wording. “[Torrico’s claim] is true and it’s not true,” Zierman said. “The only companies that [the investigation] would affect are the fully integrated companies that extract crude oil from the ground and take it all the way to their gas stations. What this bill can’t stop is an increase in gas prices. You can’t completely prohibit an increase in the price of gas — that’s a global market.” The bill is backed by the California Federation of Teachers, the Service Employees International Union and the UC Student Association. “I think 656 will provide us with an important alternative source of revenue to allow education to be prioritized in this state,” UCSA President Victor Sanchez said. “It’s the solution that’s out there, the one that’s the most tangible and it’s the one that has the most backing and is moving forward. We’re waiting to see what’s going to happen.” While Sanchez is uncertain about the fiscal effects that the bill would have on oil companies and oil-dependent industries, he stressed the need for additional funding for universities and colleges. “We don’t know what the implications would be [for consumers], but we do know what it would mean for higher education in California,” Sanchez said. Having passed out of committee, the bill must now face both houses of the legislature. Since AB 656 pertains to revenue and budgetary issues, it requires a two-thirds majority from the state senate and assembly. Readers can contact Kashi Khorasani at [email protected] ...

Travel: London

With some of the best professors and teaching assistants in the middle of an international metropolis as laid- back and lively as London, summer school at the London School of Economics and Political Science is an adventure that is guaranteed to be memorable. If studying abroad during the academic year doesn’t work out, this is the next best option. Not only do they speak English, but the LSE is ranked in the top 15 schools in the world, making the credit-transfer process as an Opportunities Abroad Program less of a hassle. In a six-week-long program, teachers – known as TAs in the United States – can easily become friends. Case in point, the teachers make the quick pace of summer school completely digestible, then drink with their students at the end-of-the-term open bar that is sponsored by the university (and student fees). Students from all over the world take one course ranging from economics, international relations, accounting and finance to media, government, law and management per three-week session, with two back-to-back sessions offered per summer. The three to four hours of class per day allow for plenty of learning during and time to explore the city at night. Culture shock isn’t, and shouldn’t be, much of a concern in London. That is, unless you can’t handle interesting books sold in trendy music shops and great-tasting, grocery store-brand ravioli from Italy always on sale – one of the benefits of European Union that can be learned firsthand after listening to a lecture on it earlier that day. High Holborn, the most popular residence hall, is only a five-minute walk from campus and is located equidistant from three tube – London’s subway system. Being in the middle of the theater district, student tickets are easily accessible. Public transportation in London makes it easy to get to Hampstead Heath, the region’s version of a national park. The site has amazing views of the city and lakes in which to swim; classical music concerts at Royal Albert Hall, where standing room in the pit at the British Broadcasting Corporation Proms only runs £5; and Camden Town for the underground British music scene. If museums – which are all free in London, except for special exhibitions – and sightseeing don’t sound exciting, the pubs fill up and spill into the streets at 5 p.m. when most of the city gets off work. Music festivals and outdoor concerts are planned throughout the warm summer, and attract comfortable crowds. Weekend trips to Oxford, Cambridge, Paris and Brussels are also easily accessible, and it’s even cheap to fly anywhere RyanAir, EasyJet and Transavia travel since local airports are their major hubs. Turn in applications early, as the rolling admissions process is easy to take advantage of since there are no letters of recommendation required; however, popular classes fill up quickly. Don’t forget, room and board is in British pounds, which makes the £3,351 fee for both sessions cost approximately $6,790, given the 2.0265 exchange rate. Good thing student discounts and pub lunch specials are plentiful. One final note: In a single day in London, a single person is taped approximately 250 times by CC-TV, the closed-circuit surveillance system in the city. So, despite the weather, try to smile a lot. ...

Travel: South Africa

South Africa may be the last destination students think about when going abroad. Spain, Australia, France and Costa Rica all seem like common choices, but I doubt many people on campus are even aware that South Africa is a possible option. Well it is, and it offers plenty of advantages over other regions; those wanting to shirk requirements to take year of foreign language to go abroad but who are interested in spending a significant amount of time in a unique political and social environment will want to make South Africa their destination. With the disgusting policies of the apartheid regime still fresh in most South Africans’ minds, the racial dynamic in the country is unique, but never as dangerous as it is pigeonholed to be. Locals can be wary of white Americans “”visiting”” their homeland – but a simple explanation that you’re California and didn’t vote for Dubya can render a local friendly. A huge South African draw is the country’s beaches, which may seem lackluster when compared to San Diego’s coast, but the beaches running from Durban to Cape Town dwarf La Jolla Shores. The city of Cape Town is definitely the best metropolitan area in all of South Africa. Not only does it boast Cape Point, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet in a picturesque setting, but Cape Town is also home to great hikes to the top of Table Mountain, an amazing restaurant and nightclub scene and a great mix of cultures that is unmatched, including my diverse hometown of San Francisco. For those under-21-year-olds sick of the underage life in San Diego, the drinking age in South Africa is 18 and the wine country of Cape Town is beautiful, offering affordable wine tours and many other unbeatable excursions. Because of a school system that is nowhere as demanding as the University of California, and an exchange rate that favors the dollar, traveling is an option for every weekend. I personally made it to Swaziland, Zambia and Malawi and other members of my program went as far as Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Wherever you decide to go in your spare time, utilizing hostels will keep adventures affordable for skydiving, shark-cage diving, scuba diving or snorkeling, white-water rafting or just spending a day at a game reserve admiring the animals that you can normally only see at San Diego Wild Animal Park. No matter what you decide, South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa offer an amazing abroad experience and an enlightening experience into political, racial and class issues that face many people outside of the American bubble. ...