What is real music today?


By Jorge Cantu

What is real music today? It seems real music’s definition has been lost in a world of image based, catchy and money driven hit songs. With their glossy production and team of engineers behind them (not including the actual artist), it seems the perfect formula has been made for so called ‘ear candy’.
In other words these hit songs are usually undeniably catchy, and image driven. The average hip hop video on MTV consists of several different camera shots per minute, each with effects, painting a picture of the life of a ‘rapper’. With bottles of alcohol and money (along with the girls) being tossed around and used like it means nothing to them, these artist project an image as well as delivering their ‘ear candy’ song to the viewer.

So your favorite artist is Flo Rida or Britney Spears? Well here is a quick summary of what you’re actually listening to.
You’re listening to a team of engineers, a few producers, and other songwriters who get together to write these artists songs. Sure some of the songs are left up to the artist, and some artists may come up with a lot of the ideas, but these big music companies don’t tell you to sign big money locked contracts for nothing. They are signing you for the money, and if it means you (the artist) having to accept that your music will change (and may not be entirely written by you), then that’s something the artist will have to accept if wanting to make that much money.
You think Flo Rida really wrote all of his songs, including ‘Get Low’? No, his song goes along with his image, the video being shot in a club and showing specifically what the lyrical content delivers.
It is the world of business, and in business, money is the number one thing. What I feel is lost now-a-days is a person’s own, honest, and real music. Many of the bands I listen to have since become famous, and I usually always stick to their first album. In my opinion, the first indie label albums are usually the best and most raw. They aren’t plagued with the glossy production values and team of musicians (aka businessman) trying to change your music.
I am a musician myself, and have been for a number of years. Being able to appreciate the technical musicianship of some artists, it sort of frustrates me when people buy into the mainstream music scene so much. I understand that some of the top hit songs in the country are catchy, but hey, they don’t spend truckloads of money to produce a record that wouldn’t be catchy, right?
To me these hit songs are not real music, they are not the artists own, they are simply a money making machine, with the artist driving this machine with their image.
I have a band at the moment, named Farewell Austerity. We play progressive metalcore, and it is something I love and never want to give up. My dream is to be signed to some sort of label, just to get some recognition of the hard work we put into the band.
This may seem contradictory to my earlier angry sentiments about mainstream music not being real music, but hey, if Sony Music came up to my band and offered a check for a million dollars (even if it meant having to change our sound), that would be an offer too good to refuse. Don’t you think?

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Love to hate it, Hate to love it

By Jorge Cantu

I have overheard people walking out of the theater saying that this should have been on YouTube, that the quality and movie was that poor, that bad. That the simple setting of the movie was stupid, never leaving the house in the suburbs of San Diego, California. The special effects, little to none, were too simple, not being scary at all. That the unknown actors brought the movie down, versus using well known A-list actors. I can see why people would think this; I can see why people would leave the theater commenting on these things. But in my opinion, all of these things are what make the movie what it is, what makes it almost seem real.

What really makes the movie is the very last scene, and the feeling you get walking away. It makes you think about the movie once it is done.
So I agree you either get into the movie for what it is, or you look at it as a simple, cheap and stupid non-scary movie. You either love it or hate it, and I have to say I loved it.

The unknown actors make the movie even more believable; since you are not staring at say Tom Cruise freaking out on screen that you know for sure is fake.
Yes it was a cheap movie to make, but I feel it is a slap in the face for Hollywood and their big budget films. Paranormal Activity is able to do what most scary movies do not, and that is a feeling of genuine suspense and a feeling of relation to the characters.
It seems that the special effects probably cost less than a say a crappy car to make. It isn’t what you are actually seeing on screen, it is that the story draws you into believe that there is something really there, happening to this girl Katie. You can almost relate to her raw fear as she screams and turns frantic on screen, because the movie makes it seem like such a real life scenario.
Now I won’t go into detail about the storyline too much since I do not want to spoil the fun. But I will go into what this movie does so well. The building of the story is slowly building, suspenseful, and not so much scary as more so creepy. During the movie I found myself intensely following the story line, excited to see what was going to happen night after night. And when things happen, they are downright creepy.
Katie, Micah’s wife, has experienced some sort of supernatural following all of her life, commenting on seeing shadows before at night, and feeling a presence around her in the past. Micah starts messing with his camera, thus the beginning of the movie is filled with glimpses of film when he turns the camera on. He wants to record their bedroom at night to try and witness any strange events of the paranormal force that follows Katie to see if it’s real. Then the real spookiness begins.
The story involves a couple who just moved into a new house. Their names are Katie and Micah, and it is shot through a home camera. This brought me back to the Blair Witch Project, which I loved because of the realness that the shaky camera brought to life. Paranormal Activity does just that, but takes it a step further in making you believe. With the beginning and ending of the movie involving a screen saying how the San Diego police department found the tape, adding to the realness.



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“Last Cicada Singing”

by Jorge Cantu

Last Cicada SingingThe Guqin is one of the most unique instruments I have ever encountered. It is formerly known as the Qin, and has been involved with famous Chinese philosophers such as Confucius. With a range of about four octaves, this ancient instrument is known to have 91 different harmonics, as indicated by the white dots on the side of the instrument. Being unique, and having a history, this instrument has made its way into the hands of one of Whatcom’s very own; musical instructor Christopher Roberts. He has just released a solo CD with the use of the qin, called the Last Cicada Singing.
Christopher Roberts describes on the inside panel how the Chinese used to take their qin into the mountains, and would develop string techniques to mimic the movements of birds, insects, streams, etc.
Mimicing nature; that is what this CD is all about. You pick up on the relaxing, soothing feel of the CD as soon as the first song starts. You can tell automatically Chris Roberts is taking it back old school, to nature. It feels as though the CD was meant to be listened to while lying down, or sitting out at night looking at the sky.
There really is no song structure, so do not expect to be snapping your fingers along to the beat. The feeling conveyed is rather, the feeling of nature. Roberts uses sliding tones on the instrument, as well as harmonics. It is filled with wondrous tones, all of them very soft, as the qin is a very quiet instrument anyway.
“Last Cicada Singing” doesn’t really differentiate between the sounds of the songs, more so it sounds to me like an ongoing song. It definitely feels like something I have never heard before. I would recommend to anybody, that before listening, look up the qin instrument, and study a little about what the Chinese were trying to convey with this instrument.
The qin is a very peculiar instrument, being the most revered instrument in Chinese history, and dating back about 5,000 years. It was so revered, that they even had qin “societies”, in which large gatherings of qin players would take place a few times a month.
Christopher Roberts has embraced the qin and it’s history, and created new pieces for solo qin, that in my opinion seem very hard to follow, but I feel as though that wasn’t what he was getting at. Rather he was getting at nature and in a way the feel for the Northwest and all of its beauty.

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The Bargain Hunter’s Used Car Guide


by Matt Benoit

Today, the Bargain Hunter, a “certified” (by which we mean he once spent time in a mental hospital) expert on both bargains and hunting, is here to help you find the used car of your dreams, and hopefully not your nightmares, by pointing you in the right direction. He will, not, however, loan you any cash.

So, it’s time for you to find a used car. The easiest way to go about finding a used car involves finding what are called “classified” ads, which are usually where desperate people go to sell things they don’t want anymore, including their own loved ones:

“In-laws—2 for 1 special! They said they were only staying two weeks, but they’re STILL here! $500 OBO, but willing to throw in Menudo album.”

Classified ads can be found in newspapers, but also on-line at Web sites such as Craigslist. On a side note, I have no idea who the hell Craig is, or what his list looks like.

Anyway, once you have found a car that you are interested in and it does not convey from its photograph that it was a stunt vehicle in Mad Max or is an otherwise heavily-oxidized death cage, it is time to meet the car and owner in-person.

You must now make an appointment to meet, hopefully in broad daylight. Consider bringing along someone who looks like Steven Seagal for “moral” support—just in case.

As a discerning consumer, it is always important to ask the owner questions about the vehicle. These should include at least some of the following:

1)     Does it run?

2)     Is the door supposed to fall off like that?

3)     Has this thing ever been in any high-speed chases?

4)     What are all these stains in the trunk?

5)     Can I paint over the “Pimpmobile” logo? 

Once you are satisfied with your responses, and the person who is answering them does not freak out and try to run away (you can always send Steven Seagal after them if they do), it is time to suggest taking the car for a “test drive.”

This is where you will get to “feel out” your potential wheels—none of which will hopefully shoot off the vehicle when you make that first right-hand turn into traffic—by driving the car around with the owner sitting shotgun.

It has been my experience that you should accelerate the vehicle to at least 100 mph to get an idea of its maneuvering capabilities, as well as properly testing the brakes by slamming on them as hard as possible.

If anything, these exercises should help you determine whether you really want to purchase the car, and may even help you persuade the owner to knock off a few bucks (especially if Steven Seagal, who is sitting in the backseat, has him or her in a head lock).

After this, if you are still confident about the vehicle, you may cut a deal and make your purchase. And even though the Bargain Hunter will not help you with gas money, he would love to know how your used car is treating you.

So drop him an e-mail sometime. By the way, that vomit green AMC Gremlin you have really matches your personality.

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This is only a test….


by Matt Benoit

Horizon Editor

Behind the wooden double-doors of Laidlaw 133 lies a room absent of most sound, filled with desks and numbered chairs that are usually at least half-full with students making up faculty exams, doing GED testing, or taking math and English placement exams. This room is Whatcom’s Testing Center.

Named after Norma Stevens, former program manager for drop-in advising and testing services, the testing center has given out over 10,000 tests in the last four academic quarters.

Lisa Anderson, testing center coordinator, said that Stevens, who retired from Whatcom a few years ago, worked to improve the standards and environment for testing at the college, and helped secure the funding and space for the current testing center.

“Our previous space was small and inefficient to meet the growing needs of our students,” said Anderson in an e-mail.

Students needing to make up exams from faculty must make advanced arrangements with their instructor and arrive with enough time to complete the test. GED Testing is available by appointment and requires a mandatory enrollment session prior to testing, along with a one-time $75 fee.

Individual and ESLA placement testing is available on a drop-in basis, while math and standard English placement testing requires a group testing appointment and a one-time fee of $20. Group tests are normally held in a different location, and Anderson said two to three placement test sessions a day are common during finals weeks in order to accommodate new students for the next quarter of classes.

 Individual placement testing is not offered during finals week, as Anderson explained that the center dedicates all its time and space to faculty finals, facilitating anywhere from 300 to 500 tests during that week. 

Community proctored exams for non-students are also available on a limited basis.

With all this testing, does cheating ever occur? Anderson said that although she believes the testing center does a great job at preventing it, it can be hard to determine the difference between a student’s honest mistake and an attempt to smuggle in unauthorized materials for a test.

“We try to give the student the benefit of the doubt when these materials are discovered during check-in,” she said. “What happens in the check-in room stays in the check-in room, unless the attempt is really flagrant.”

Repeated attempts at taking in banned materials are documented for faculty, Anderson said, adding that only a few students tend to get something past. She usually documents at least seven situations a quarter, but said that how the students cheat will remain “a trade secret.”

Still, Anderson said cheating is something that makes the staff of the Learning Center feel very badly. “We work here because we like students and want to play a part in helping them succeed,” she said, adding that students’ reactions to being caught range from tears to anger.

“I think many students would typically not cheat but have found themselves unprepared for a variety of reasons and then make a bad choice,” Anderson said. “We strive very hard to not personalize the situation, stay supportive, non-judgmental, and professional.”    



Testing Center Hours for Fall Quarter (through Dec. 10)

Mondays: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tuesdays: 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Wednesdays: 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Thursdays: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fridays: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.          

A photo I.D. is required for all testing, and any fees must be paid in full prior to testing with a receipt of payment required to be shown.

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The official student newspaper of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington