Archive for the ‘Off-Campus’ Category

Occupy: People Power is Back

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Occupy protesters shut down the Port of Oakland, November 2nd

For years I had wondered why my generation was so politically passive, silently observing as war after war was started in our name, as our “democracy” was purchased wholesale, as our planet was trashed and polluted, and then as the latest president we elected to change these things proceeded to make it worse. I sat around, wondering why everyone else was just sitting around.

Then the Occupy movement took root. People started showing their outrage in public spaces. People took that step before me and made it easier for me to get involved. A few weeks ago I made a sign and joined a protest for the first time in my life. (My sign said, “One planet shared by 100%”)

I’m a 26 year old grad student who has been pretty well-informed for a long time, but my experience protesting in the last few weeks has changed my world view more than any class or book ever could. This is especially true of when I went with a group of students to join Occupy Oakland’s march on the Port of Oakland on November 2nd.

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Dr. Pepper TEN…It’s A Boys Only Club

Monday, November 7th, 2011

So I was watching the USC game last week, and a Dr. Pepper ad popped up on the television.  Advertising Dr. Pepper TEN, a new ten calorie drink made with real sugar, the ad sought to make the diet drink “macho.”  The ad is a gold mine for quotes edging on sexist, proclaiming “You can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We’re good.”  and ending with “Dr. Pepper TEN…it’s not for women.” Accompanying the ad is a reworked Facebook page, which allows visitors to take a quiz to see if they are man enough for Dr. Pepper TEN.

Here is the ad:

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

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In Defense of USC

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

I grew up in a house divided. My mom and I went/go to Stanford, my father and older brother to USC. That family dynamic, along with my upbringing in Newport Beach, California (where at least a third of the baby-boom generation of USC alums decided to settle down and raise families) left me a rare outsider on the inside of the infamous, very tight-knit Trojan family. And, up until very recently, that family drove me crazy.

The Fight Song on repeat. The peace-sign/victory wave. The ocean of red and yellow (ahem… “Cardinal and Gold” as my father would chastise me through childhood). The football obsession. The Tommy Trojan references. The endless parade of license plates, stickers, and flags adorning the cars in my hometown. The ridiculously perky “Fight On” attitude. For the longest time, I found the culture so nauseating that the only way I could take refuge from their inexhaustible pride was to adopt the outsider attitude and disregard all of it. I would make jabs about whether being platinum blonde was still a requirement for admission. I would assume that all USC students were vapid, superificial, and unfocused on anything but getting wasted. I made the U$C jokes and took pleasure in the puns: “You can’t spell ‘suck’ without USC”, and the classic “University of Spoiled Children”. With a school like Stanford in my sights, I wanted to make it clear how much above their shallow antics I was. I wanted my attitude to demonstrate how much better Stanford was than USC: how much smarter, less conservative, more diverse, and more successful we are.

"Because Stanford doesn't like me"

But one weekend changed my perspective. With little to do and an itching for a bit of fun, I swallowed my pride, dropped my preconceived notions, and asked my brother if I could tag along for a couple days and get an insider peek at his life as a Trojan. The experience that followed was anything other than what I might have expected. The classes were incredibly engaging and dynamic; the campus was extremely welcoming and filled to the brim with excited students advertising their interests in every culture and activity, and a night on the infamous 28th street left me wanting more.

Admittedly – any college brochure will give you that. But what really caught me off my guard was how authentically friendly and kind everyone was. When I told people that I go to Stanford, every single person I spoke with was genuinely excited to hear about it, showered me with compliments about the Farm, offered references to friends of theirs’ who go here and rave about it, and were noticeably reverent of our fair university – usually tossing in some form of, “I applied there but didn’t get in. But I would have loved to go there”. Not one person had anything rude or snarky to say about Stanford, nor did anyone seem to be withholding any such comments.

Even this past weekend, when the university played host to what one USC student called “one of the most epic games and biggest letdowns I’ve seen in my college career” – Trojans were still surprisingly respectful of the Cardinal win. Especially under circumstances that most Trojan fans identified as “the closest thing to a bowl game we’ll come to this year” – my in-person interactions with students were generally tame. Understandably, most students were disappointed, felt they got gypped, and said they won in spirit, but I didn’t run into anyone who was out to seriously bash Stanford. The harshest comment I heard came in the form of Facebook status: “Whatever Stanford, your helmets are still ugly”.

Which begs the question – why do so many Stanford students seem to harbor such resentment – whether legitimate or in jest – toward our private Pac-12 peer? Why do we feel the need to put down USC at every possible opportunity? (more…)

The Ides of March: Politics, Corruption, and Betrayal

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

        The Ides of March, directed by George Clooney, is not the betrayal in the way you would think.  From the trailers, it seems as though Ryan Gosling’s character, Stephen Meyers, is the Brutus to George Clooney’s charismatic, upstanding Democratic politician, Governor Mike Morris.  It is the opposite, in fact.  Interestingly, the title of the film is quite deceptive.  It is Stephen who is the young, naïve, idealistic Junior Campaign Manager in the campaign for a Democratic candidate that seems like he will be able to change things.  (The movie’s release date was actually postponed until now because its original release date was during the 2008 election and they did not want any likeness to be drawn to Barack Obama.  The only likeness here though, fortunately, is that both candidates are charismatic.)  Things start to unravel quickly.  Gosling unearths a big secret about Governor Morris (I do not want to give away everything but it involves the talented Evan Rachel Wood’s character, Molly Stearns) and needs to use it as leverage when he is manipulated by the opposing Democratic candidate’s Campaign Manager, Tom Duffy, played by Paul Giamatti.  A phenomenal cast brings the Ides of March, which is really not a new or unknown story, to another level.  Hopefully some of the actors will get nominated, perhaps Paul Giamatti or Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Gosling needs to get nominated for one of his roles this year (either from Drive or this film).  Giamatti and Hoffman are great as the disillusioned old-timers and Marisa Tomei finally has a worthwhile part as a hard-hitting journalist who will go to any ends to get a scandalous story.  Gosling, once again proving himself as a fantastic, committed actor, undergoes the most startling, sad transformation as by the end Stephen too is jaded from all the corruption he has seen with his own eyes.

 


The candidate that he had once believed so firmly in has made him lose all faith and the final scene (in comparison to the beginning scene) is haunting as it ends with a close-up shot of Gosling’s eyes (and they look like they have seen it all).  We see everything written in his eyes with just one look.  Clooney is perfect as the politician, smooth and charming and his poker face works well here.  His direction is quite good as he plays it straightforward with nice close-up shots of all the actors.  The climactic, intense scene between Stephen and Morris is one of the best scenes in the movie (besides the confrontation between Tom Duffy and Stephen).  The simmering anger turns boiling as they play a game of cat and mouse, a who knows what.  The betrayal here is Caesar’s, the older, more knowing people manipulating and sending the young out for slaughter.  This is different than what is expected from the previews, and leaves some parts ambiguous and up to the viewer (*spoiler alert*: for example, what really happens to Molly and will Stephen ever reveal the Morris’s secret).  For the latter, the answer is probably no.  Tom Duffy has the harshest lines, including when he tells Stephen to “Get out now,” while he still can and also when he tells Stephen that the Democrats need to learn to get down in the dirt with the Elephants.  With what goes on in this movie and all the meetings in dark alleyways in cars with blacked-out windows, it seems that his wish is sadly not too far off.

 


 

 

Play Ball!: Moneyball Movie Review

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

You do not have to be a fan of baseball in order to enjoy Moneyball (although it probably helps because by the end it runs a little long).  Brad Pitt is in his element and gives a great performance as the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s general manager, Billy Beane.  (Brad Pitt may get nominated.)  He wants to turn around their luck so he starts working by the theoretical approach of baseball using just numbers (which is controversial).  Eventually the team’s luck does start to turn around but it may still not be enough as the players are not that strong.  The saddest part to me, personally, was the end.  I guess it can be taken different ways, as in some things are more important than money (in this case it is Billy’s daughter).  It seemed, though, as if Billy is afraid of success as he turns down a huge offer from the Red Sox, right before they won the World Series.  After all, he has a disappointing past with baseball himself (he did not succeed as a professional baseball player and gave up a full scholarship to Stanford; Stanford seems to be used a lot recently in films).  Jonah Hill also gives a fine performance as the eager young college graduate, Peter, who works with Billy.  The movie is good overall.  The only problem is that it is not too different from inspirational sports movies we have seen already.  It is more subtle than Friday Night Lights but it is also not an interesting biographical take like The Social Network.  Aaron Sorkin co-wrote Moneyball.  Sorkin is a brilliant screenwriter with quick moving, smart dialogue (the likes of The West Wing and The Social Network).  Moneyball’s dialogue is not bad but not as snappy as it could have been.  The movie may have benefitted from being edited down a bit.  I think I had high expectations as it had gotten such amazing reviews and I came out a little underwhelmed.

Race Across the Outback: Solar Car Takes on the World Solar Challenge

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Xenith, Stanford's current car, proves that solar can be sexy - and FAST!

When’s the last time you traversed an entire continent?  Better yet, when’s the last time you traversed an entire continent using only the power of the sun?

Enter the intrepid members of the Stanford Solar Car Project, who are currently battling it out against the top engineering schools and companies from around the globe in this year’s World Solar Challenge.  Each new Stanford solar car represents two years’ hard work  and thousands of hours of designing, development and testing by this dedicated student-run group operating out of Stanford’s Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Laboratory.  At this moment, team leader Nathan Hall-Snyder and his team of Stanford’s best and brightest engineers are traversing the Australian continent from south to north against teams from all over the world using state-of-the-art solar technology.

The race is going on right now, so don’t miss the opportunity to follow this exciting event!  Check out these links to follow and support the team from afar:

Go Stanford Solar Car!!  Go Cardinal!!

 

Crônicas do Brasil: A Vida Brasileira

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro. When Jobim and Moraes wrote "Garota de Ipanema," this is probably what they had in mind.

I have now been in Spain for close to a month with BOSP Madrid. Posts on the Iberian Peninsula are in the pipeline. For the moment, though, I would like to present a cultural wrap-up on Brazil that I never had time to do while I was working in São Paulo this summer. If you are not yet excited for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, maybe this will get you started.

First, let it be known that São Paulo is not a conventionally beautiful city. Miles of concrete with few trees, vistas dominated by powerlines and graffiti, and a certain lack of cleanliness make it appear pretty bleak and inhospitable on cloudy days, of which there are a fair amount. Large parts of the city center are completely abandoned at night; there is one neighborhood called Cracolândia because its streets are literally full of crack addicts, who reside right next to the city’s most beautiful railway station. If you live any further than ten minutes by car from work, your daily commute is usually a pitched battle against jammed six-lane avenues, irregular U-turns, and the caprices of aggressive paulista drivers.

Yet São Paulo is unlike any other place I have seen, and I already miss it. The city has a cultural richness rivaling New York’s and plenty of charm if you know where to look. Its size is awe-inspiring. And to put it another way, São Paulo is the best answer to the question of what you would get if you stuck together 18 million Brazilians with a New York work schedule, an LA transit system, and the sensuality of Miami (which, coincidentally, has a large Brazilian population).

What’s more, São Paulo bears little resemblance to the rest of Brazil. The country is almost the size of the U.S. but far more regionalized, so that each state has its own traditions, holidays, food, dialects, and climate. Other Brazilian cities are magnificent in their own ways, and then beyond them is an ecological paradise with few parallels in the rest of the world. (more…)

Just Drive

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Drive had me with its opening scene.  A man with cold eyes looks in his rearview mirror waiting to drive two robbers away from the scene of a crime.  They run into trouble as the police chase them and the driver jumps out into a parking garage and disappears into the crowd.  Ryan Gosling gives an incredibly strong performance (his star seems to be rising as he gives consistently powerful, poignant performances: see Half Nelson and Lars and the Real Girl).  In Drive, Gosling transforms himself into a man who is a stunt car driver by day and a crook by night (he drives the getaway car for criminals).  His nameless, almost anonymous character, is a sociopath with no aversion to violence.  He is an antihero, yet you still root for him as he fights for the only things he has probably ever loved, a young woman and her son.  In this movie the lines are blurred, as they always are in real life, between what is right and wrong and who is good and who is not.  I am starting my countdown and beginning my list of predictions for Oscar nominations beginning with 50/50 and Drive.  Hopefully, there will be a nod for cinematography (great art direction here) as well as for Ryan Gosling.  Albert Brooks will also get a Supporting Actor nod I predict as he is blood-chillingly good as the suave gangster (almost as scary as Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds).  The music is also wonderful and memorable, a welcome blend of indie and electro-rock.  In fact, the soundtrack is on the Top 10 list on iTunes.  Watch out particularly for the haunting “Nightfall” by Kavinsky and Lovefoxxx (Kavinsky – Nightcall (feat. Lovefoxxx), “A Real Hero” by College featuring Electric Youth, and Cliff Martinez’s “Hammer.”

 

Contagion: A Cold Disappointment

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

There was great hype surrounding Contagion with it stellar cast, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, and Jennifer Ehle.  Unfortunately, the trailer for the movie proved to be much better than the movie itself.  The trailer also proved to be misleading as Contagion felt more like a documentary than a suspense movie.

The film is about the worldwide spread of a disease that is like the bird flu.  Maybe the science was close enough to the truth and something like that could actually happen in real life but Contagion still seemed long and a waste for its talented actors.  The biggest problem may be that we do not care about any of the people in the film.  We are not allowed to get close to them as the movie jumps from one incomplete story to the next.  It could have benefitted from a Steven Spielberg-esque hero.  Matt Damon comes close, but close enough.  Gwyneth Paltrow has no role and Marion Cotillard and Kate Winslet are sadly wasted as well.

The only memorable thing about the movie is a factoid that we touch our faces 3,000 times a day, which is the most frightening part in the movie itself.  Overall, Contagion comes off cold and sanitized.

 

 

50/50 Movie Review: 100% See-Worthy

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Too rarely do recent movies exhibit a certain humanness or sensitivity.  50/50 has both.  Focusing on the relationships and event the mundane occurrences in everyday life rather than delving into all the medical complications like a documentary, 50/50 walks a fine line between being light and funny and still captures the ultimate sadness and gravity of its subject matter, cancer.  We see the main character, Adam, go through diagnosis, chemotherapy, counseling, and a life or death procedure.  We root for this young man not only because he has cancer, but maybe also because we realize how fragile the difference is between being here one day and gone the next.  When he says, “I haven’t even been to Canada or told a girl I love her,” I laughed and cried.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is phenomenal (in my opinion, Oscar-worthy) as he portrays this 27-year old man with cancer and all of his ups and downs, denial, anger, fear and strength.  In Adam’s breakdown in a car, Gordon-Levitt captures all of these feelings with one line, “I’m tired of being sick.”  What grounds the movie is not everything miraculously changes because he has cancer.  His girlfriend cheats on him, his father still has Alzheimer’s, he lives in the same place before and after.  The experience adds to and perhaps shapes a part of his character, but it does change his character.  50/50 does such a fine job capturing the realness of the downs of something so dire as cancer as it also relays the humor and silliness of the everyday ups (talking to girls, getting a new dog, finding a new friendship).  The not so everyday and the everyday live in the same realm after all.  Anna Kendrick, as the nervous new therapist, Seth Rogen, as the soft long-time friend, and Angelica Huston, as the ever-worrying mom, also add great performances to an all-around good movie.

 



Crônicas do Brasil: Falando Português

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Estação da Luz, São Paulo's most beautiful train station and home to the Museu da Língua Portuguesa, a museum dedicated to celebrating the Portuguese Language.

What is it like to speak Portuguese in Brazil? In a word: enchanting. I have found few things in life more satisfying than being able to navigate the dips and curves of this laid-back yet precise, subtle yet charmingly vulgar, and bizarre yet hypnotically musical language.

However, it may not be like that when you start. Especially in São Paulo, Brazilians use so much slang that the language you learn in school bears little resemblance to the one you actually hear. Brazilians insist that their language is very hard to learn, and they are proud of it.

That being said, the language is not inaccessible. In this post, I will portray Portuguese as I have come to know it, clarifying some common misconceptions and providing some tips on how to make it your own.

Portuguese v. Spanish

One of the most common words you will hear in São Paulo is "trânsito," which means traffic, as exhibited by the gridlock outside my apartment window. Be careful not to use "tráfico" from Spanish, which sounds logical but refers to drug trafficking!

Brazilians like to say that they can understand their neighbors but their neighbors have no clue what Brazilians are saying. This is somewhat true. Well-spoken Spanish has clear, well-enunciated pronunciations with sharp consonants and a partial resemblance to English, particularly closer to the United States. Portuguese has enough unique sounds to make it utterly indecipherable to those who have not studied it or grown up speaking it.

I started learning Portuguese after having taken six years of Spanish. As a gringo, I have found Portuguese to be “harder,” since many of its sounds are more unfamiliar and many of its rules less logical and well-regulated. Spanish helps a lot with grammar, but it also produces many traps. Portuguese is a minefield of false cognates and words imported from other languages with highly palletized pronunciations. An example? Take the word “saco,” which in Spanish means “sack” or “jacket.” It technically has the same meanings in Portuguese, but it is more often used to signify something really bothersome or to refer to male genitalia (what a coincidence!).

Nonetheless, because Portuguese and Spanish have similar roots, learning one will likely wreak havoc on the other, particularly for non-native speakers. Alternating between the languages helps, but even Brazilians who have studied Spanish find the two languages tricky to keep separate. (more…)

Where have all the good films gone?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Where have all the good movies gone?  The Netflix queue should not be a cause of anxiety and fear after all.  The former lament is probably usually taken pretty lightly, however, with films, like literature, we can see places we may never see, learn about things we are not familiar with, and meet people we would have otherwise never known or considered.  I have been watching a lot of old movies (I have been addicted actually) lately.  Thank goodness for TCM (Turner Classic Movies) because otherwise it is really hard to find classic films.  Blockbuster is bankrupt and Netflix does not have the greatest selection.  There is everything from the piercing Jezebel, to the hilarious Arsenic and Old Lace, to the terrifying Psycho and the frightening in a much different way The Ox-Bow Incident, to the heartbreaking The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, to the thoughtful Wild Strawberries.  What do we have on this side of the coin?  The only movies recently that may even be considered for awards are Woody Allen’s redemptive, whimsical Midnight in Paris, the quiet, humanistic Win Win (with Paul Giamatti), and the fantastic finish of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (a long shot for the Oscars perhaps but one never knows-why hello Lord of the Rings finale).  On a quick side note, it is frustrating also how small indie films only go to select theaters or big cities, as if the general public would not appreciate a smart, poignant film over another blase hit-you-over-the-head action film.  I am personally tired of the gross-out horror films, campy superhero comic book movies, and the worn-out, forgettable rom coms.  With most films now basically not even earning a 50% on the quick movie review go-to site, Rotten Tomatoes, it is not even worth the trek to the movie theater.  Many movies that we may see in previews do not make it to the big screen and instead just go straight to DVD anyway.  The problem is, though, that going to the movies is an escape.  With everything going on in the world, just taking a break to go to the movies is underrated.  Plus, unless you are one of the rare people in the world that has a home theater, everyday annoyances and distractions make DVD watching at home a bore.  Another problem is that I guess you could say that a good movie nowadays is as rare as a good character role for an actress.  By “good” I mean seldom is there an independent, strong, or even conniving role for women.  There were more of those in the 30s, 40s, and even 50s almost unbelievably!  We are supposedly close to equality between men and women but many of the actresses today are stuck  playing either the girlfriend or the mother.  I digress.  Maybe it is the economy (even affecting those millionaire producers-gasp!) but hopefully films will once again become well-made, thought-inducing, and satisfying.

2011 Summer Blockbusters

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

With all of the summer blockbusters, or lack thereof, out it can be hard to navigate and decide which ones are worth the ten dollars (sometimes even more with 3D, and they all seem to be in 3D).  There is nothing worse than coming out of the movie theater disappointed, with a headache, or even worse, frustrated due to the lack of fluidity and feasibility in the plot.  Leave that last feeling at the door and just enjoy yourself when seeing Cowboys and Aliens and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  First up, Cowboys and Aliens is a fun, albeit strange, ride.  There is some good fun with the Clint Eastwood-esque gun-wrangling, bar-clobbering cowboys but throw in a bunch of random, funny-looking aliens and you have got an interesting blockbuster (I was going to say “movie” but decided against it).  All in all, Harrison Ford is at his best again and Daniel Craig is not too shabby to look at.  There are plenty of seat-jumping parts as well.  The best part possibly?  When the cowboys are about to have a throw down and all of a sudden in fly the alien ships!  Next up, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  When I saw the previews for this film at the start of the summer I said to myself with a snort, “I am not seeing that.”  My bias stemmed from flashbacks to the cheesy Mark Wahlberg remake and I had only heard of the original with Charlton Heston.  I thought, “Eh, what the hay,” and took a chance.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I found myself actually rooting for the apes sometimes (I am sorry, but they do not turn to violence until pushed and *spoiler alert*: humans actually bring the virus that wipes out mankind and leads to ape rule on themselves).  Caesar, leader of the apes, is more sympathetic than many of the people in the film.  There are even some obvious questions brought to light about how far invention should go and how finding compassion and kindness for those who are different than us can be difficult at times.  Standouts in the film?  James Franco does a solid job in a role that generally seems to fit him-vulnerable protagonist.  Tom Felton also does a wickedly good job as a spoiled, mean son of an animal shelter’s owner.  One last thing, the CGI effects really are amazing.

Crônicas do Brasil: The “Real” Deal

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Downtown São Paulo.

Tudo bem, Stanford? I write to you from Brazil, where I have spent the past seven weeks working for a commercial real estate company in São Paulo.

Before the Brazilian winter ends, I intend to write a couple posts about my observations and experiences here. The first will give some timely updates on the state of Brazil’s economy, with a focus on what I have noticed in person. In a later post or multiple posts, I shall address Brazilian culture, the Portuguese language, and some overall takeaways from my time in Sampa. All questions and comments are welcome.

Robust Economy

São Paulo (SP) is unquestionably booming. Lots of construction–particularly of high-rises and large shopping malls–and a flourishing nightlife indicate the city’s increasing wealth. SP is a car-centric city; even the poorest households in the C segment favelas will have a car. Every gas station provides ethanol. As in the U.S., credit cards are accepted at almost every place where you could conceivably spend money, except at some cheaper restaurants. Unlike the U.S., nearly every card transaction is conducted with a portable point-of-sale, separate from a computer or centralized system, which frequently makes the transactions faster.

Furthermore, Brazil’s unemployment rate just went from 6.4% to 6.2%. Residents of SP work as hard and long as New Yorkers, and they have a strong sense of national pride and Brazil’s increasing importance in the world.  (more…)

Bridging People and Technology with Design

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011


Image Credits (all images): Rainmakers Live Photographers Ray Quek and Gareth Yeo

Rainmakers LIVE! are a team of Stanford University students passionate about entrepreneurship and technology. This last tuesday, they held their second live event at AOL headquarters in Palo Alto called “Bridging People and Technology with Design“. It was an event that comprised of a live panel of speakers with various backgrounds specializing in different areas relating to design, discussing everything from user interface to user experience, to how design influences their businesses and what they think of when they think of design.

The panel of speakers were:

  • Garry Tan – Formerly cofounder of Posterous and currently an Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) at Y-Combinator (a startup accelerator)
  • Kevin Fox – Formerly of Google, FriendFeed, Facebook, and Mozilla
  • Luke Wroblewski – Formerly of eBay and Yahoo! and currently is the cofounder of Bagcheck
  • Jason Putorti – Formerly Lead Designer of Mint.com and currently co-founder of Votizen
  • Jessica Mah – Cofounder of Indinero

(more…)