Lifestyle

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: 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. ...

Travel: Korea

In Korea, there are enough Buddhist temples and royal palaces to enthrall a cultural connoisseur, and enough designer stores and open-air markets to appease any shopaholic. But best of all, there is enough clubbing and alcohol to satisfy both a sorority and fraternity of 19-year-olds. International students at Yonsei University are a heartbeat away from the artsy nightlife of Hongdae, popular among college students for its underground music and club days. On the last Friday of every month, thousands flood 10 local clubs – admission to each club is only 15,000 Korean won, or $16. At Noryangjin, denizens sample the freshest seafood: King crabs, snow crabs, abalone and more can be prepared as sashimi or hot pots. What palate could resist sides of chili and garlic, lettuce and wasabi? Seoul’s city streets envelope Korea’s historical landmarks: Gyeongbok Palace is popular for its ceremonial re-enactments and elaborate architecture, Dongdaemun stands as a great gate amidst the eastern markets and Jongmyo Shrine guards royal graves of the Chosun Dynasty. And for those who never matured past childhood, Lotte World is the local version of the happiest place on Earth – complete with the world’s largest indoor theme park, a luxurious department store and a year-round folk festival. ...