Lifestyle

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: Dateland, Arizona

As its residents admit, more people seem to stumble across Dateland, Ariz. than intentionally visit the little town dedicated primarily to the production of – you guessed it – dates. The town’s quaint and serene atmosphere is rife with pleasantly uncanny ’50s nostalgia, with waitresses in pink retro uniforms wishing customers “”howdy”” as they enter the green-checkered Dateland Restaurant, the town’s one diner. The large billboard along Interstate 8 highlights the same landmarks that the sleepy town’s official Web site boasts: a date shop, a gas station, an RV park and the diner, featuring surprisingly mouth-watering cactus and date milkshakes. If there is any lingering doubt as to the town’s date fervor, one step inside the adjacent gift shop will quell it in an instant – books, postcards, hats, T-shirts and even shot glasses bearing the image of the yellow-brown mascot litter the small store like a busy garage sale. The only visible downside to visiting Dateland is time – with a population of 483 and a year-over-year population decline of 19 percent, who knows how long this little gem of the Southwest will stick around? ...

Travel: Habitat for Humanity

Established in 1987, the San Diego affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical organization that builds houses to sell to low-income families with a 25-to-30-year, no-interest mortgage. The local organization has recently completed their 67th home, and currently has plans for 45 more. Habitat utilizes volunteers on-site building houses, as well as in its store Habitat ReStore, which provides low-price furnishings. I have spent a day at each site, and both experiences have been remarkable. As soon as the supervisors see our group file in, they are full of smiles, offering granola bars and taking pizza orders for lunch. After splitting into smaller groups, we are wisked off to begin work; despite every head volunteer’s incessant friendliness, Habitat for Humanity is dependant on volunteers, and we are expected to accomplish plenty. Admittedly unhandy myself, it always amazes me how much volunteers help in every aspect of building the homes. I have installed flooring, built cabinets, painted, secured roofs and used more power tools than I knew existed. And I get to work side-by-side with my teammates, making our efforts even more memorable, and a lot of fun. ...

Travel: Arusha

While some students here at UCSD may yearn for the typical ease of summer vacation, and may seek travel locations during their break that assist their escape from the rigors of college life, others seek adventure and satisfaction at the price of sacrifice. Some will abandon dreams of sunny beaches or plush hotel rooms in order to serve the global community. These students will face one of the scariest epidemics on our planet, AIDS, head on in the place where AIDS is literally everywhere, Africa. These students will be a part of the Arusha Project, which sends students to Arusha, Tanzania to volunteer in schools, hospitals and clinics. The project, according to its Web site, addresses gender equality and sexual health and exposes students to these issues through hands-on experience in the global community. Stephanie Moody-Geissler, a senior from Revelle College, went to Tanzania last year with the project, and with the chancellor’s research scholarship for $3,000, to look at the availability of antiretroviral drugs to the women of the area. The experience changed her career ambitions drastically. Moody-Geissler wanted to be a forensic pathologist since she was about 8 years old, but the trip made changed her focus to public health and HIV across the world. While in Arusha, Moody-Geissler volunteered in the testing clinic of the district hospital, where she would sit in on counseling sessions, administer tests and do other assorted odds and ends. “”Three days before I left, they just got their first computer,”” she said. “”They looked at me, and they said ‘You set this up.'”” Moody-Geissler will return with the project this year for another trip. Giving up the easy live to volunteer in far-off places, like Arusha, does have its rewards. Ryan Shepherd, a Sixth College junior who also participated in the program last year, gladly soaked up the culture and enjoyed the local ways. “”In their language, they call everyone brother, father, mother,”” he said. “”I was always kaka Ryan, which means ‘brother Ryan.'”” Shepard was placed at a preschool to teach English, often in the form of song (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was a favorite). He enjoyed how the locals would talk to him on the street with sincere interest – ‘what’s the news’ is the greeting of choice, as a simple ‘hello’ does not exist in Swahili. Most of the students, like Rachel Keeler, a Sixth College senior, say that volunteering in a place like Tanzania trumps tourism any day. Keeler, who studied in Spain prior to going to Arusha, says that just visiting a place will give a traveler only a superficial experience. “”It’s completely different if you live in the place and work with the people,”” she said. “”It’s such a better way to get to know a place.”” ...

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. ...

Travel: Australia

Australia’s culture is an easy transition because it is Americanized. But don’t fret; although Australians are English speakers, Australia’s vernacular consists of lingo that is far from American. Do not be surprised if a “”bloke,”” Aussie slang’s equivalent of “”dude,”” turns to you and says, “”G’day, how are you going?”” A must-see destination for the student traveler in Australia is the Great Barrier Reef, located off the northeast coast of Australia. The best part about visiting the reef is its easy access to snorkeling or scuba diving. Rainbow-scaled fish, life-sized clams and sea turtles are just some of the creatures you are likely to glimpse while snorkeling or scuba diving. Brushing your hand against a sea turtle’s back is just the beginning. Australia may be famous for its sea life, but its unique collection of land-locked wildlife is what sets it apart from other countries. Australia’s native marsupials, kangaroos and koalas, offer photo ops with cute little furry things in their natural habitat, not in a California zoo. Other native animals, much less cute, include the platypus, emu, wombat, dingo and the Tasmanian devil. Even if you aren’t an animal fan, you will be captivated by Australia’s remarkably contrasting sceneries. Australia has a variety of topographical regions, including the Outback, the coast, the rainforests and desert terrain. Visitors can also familiarize themselves with Australian aboriginal people and their customs. The aborigines are well-known for their art, especially sand paintings and wood carvings. A way to embrace the aboriginal culture is to visit Ayers Rock or Uluru, which is a sacred site to the aborigines in the Northern Territory of Australia. Uluru, like a Monet painting, changes color throughout the year, depending on the varying light angles and intensity of the sun. Visiting Uluru can also be a physical endeavor; tourists can scale the 800-meter rock formation for a spellbinding view. Dining out under the stars in front of the desert landscape is an experience you will cherish forever. When it comes to Australian beaches, surfing is king. A great place to enjoy the surf is Surfer’s Paradise – home to a great night outdoor market where merchants sell hand-crafted goods. If you visit Surfer’s Paradise in the summer, you can catch Lexmark Indy 300, the annual car race. Another interesting sight in Surfer’s Paradise is the gold bikini-clad meter maids. These women, scantily clad to fight the thick Aussie heat, drop coins into parking meters that have expired and leave a calling card underneath the driver’s windshield wiper. After visiting the beach and the Outback you can enjoy the city life in Sydney, the capital of Australia. Sydney is home to the world-renowned landmark of the Sydney Opera House, which stands proudly by the stunning Darling Harbour and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The ultimate way to experience the bridge is to take a climbing tour up to the top and savor the sweeping views of the city. Studying abroad in Australia encompasses the best of both worlds: an excellent environment in which to study and learn and an abundant amount of exciting and fun places to visit. And best of all, the U.S. dollar is worth more in Australia, a trend we’re all hoping to cash in on considering the currency’s plummeting value worldwide. ...

Travel: Venice

People say that Venice is a city for lovers, and that Italian is the language of love. Movies such as “”Casino Royale”” and “”The Italian Job”” have captured the antique beauty of the city. Home to the famous Grand Canal, Piazza San Marcos and various palaces, Venice provides plenty of culture to see and experience. Though it may be one of the most romantic places to vacation in the world, it is certainly more than enjoyable if you are single, especially during the spring and summer seasons. Not only are Gondola rides in the Grand Canal mandatory while in Venice, but true tourists try the gelato – the slop made in the United States doesn’t even come close to the real Italian stuff. There are beautiful knick-knacks in tiny stores and street-side stands, and lovely little churches in just about every square. The best part is the collection of small outdoor cafes that serve wonderfully strong coffee – Starbucks has nothing on it. Another plus: You’re bound to meet beautiful people to match the city’s loveliness, whether you understand what they are saying or not (Italians are very tourist-friendly). Even if you can’t spare a week or two exploring the labyrinth of streets in Venice, a weekend getaway while enrolled in European study-abroad program is worth every moment – and Euro. ...