On The Record: The Week’s Best New Music (July 29)

It can be hard to sift through a sea of new releases each week, but lucky for you, we’ve got the scoop on the week’s most promising new albums:

Jenny Lewis – Voyager  (July 29)

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Former Rilo Kiley frontwoman, Jenny Lewis, returns with her third  solo collection after a more than 5 year break that followed the dissolution of her long-time band. Still treading in the waters of emotional turmoil, as Rilo Kiley did so well, Lewis has infused her smooth vocal approach with a range of indignance and lively resistance that was missing in her previous work.

Always unabashedly feminine and angsty, her admission that “I am still into you” on “Slippery Slopes,”  her  grown-up version of  Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” in “She’s Not Me,” with its tale of a lost love settling down with another woman,  or her decrying those who view her as “just another lady without a baby” on “Just One Of The Guys,” shows Lewis’ unapologetic emotional  openness. For her, vulnerability becomes strength and power.  Jenny Lewis doesn’t depart from her distinctive blend of retro pop, alt country, and mid 2000s indie rock on Voyager, but her clear, mournful voice continues  to act as an empathetic  rallying cry for women scorned.

The Muffs – Whoop De Do (July 29)

muffsRiot girl group The Muffs are also making a comeback with their first release in 10 years, giving us grimy pop punk led by Kim Shattuck’s battered snarl, as sweet and tipsy as a cupcake served with a side of whiskey and broken glass. Never age gracefully, Muffs. Do not go gentle into that good night of jazz standard cover albums and acoustic guitars like other career musicians. Keep on kicking and screaming until we say “stop.”

Beck – Song Reader (July 29)

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In 2012,  veteran alternative pop musician and all around cool guy, Beck, released an album as a collection of sheet music, intended for his audience to bring to life with their own instruments and voices.  Now, a collection of venerable and varied fellow musicians have been called in to perform Beck’s Song Reader for the long-awaited LP, from Norah Jones and Jarvis Crocker, to  Jack White and  Laura Marling.

Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date: Book Review

When I first picked up Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date, I was just joking with my friend. I remember grabbing it from the shelves and saying, “Oh, look! Someone wrote a book about my life!” My friend laughed at me and then I put the book back down. Before leaving the store though, I decided I just had to buy this book. I wasn’t used to reading memoirs, but I was looking for a new book to read and figured I’d give it a try.

I have to say I am so glad that I decided to read it! Katie Heaney brings you on a journey of all her crushes from when she was only 7-years-old, all the way to her current experiences as a 25-year-old woman.  You will find yourself completely immersed with her stories; all it will take is reading 20 pages into the book for you to feel like you and Katie are long lost best friends.

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The way Katie wrote Never Had I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date makes you feel like you’re reading a text your friend just sent you about her crush. Most girls will be able to relate to her stories, from thinking you are in a relationship with guys you have a crush on in elementary school, to freaking out over a cute boy in college and hoping he’ll text you back after you drunkenly made out at some party.

Through her incredibly candid writing, Katie illustrates that despite all those years of failed crushes and attempts at snagging a significant other, it’s not a bad thing to be single.

As we get older, it seems like we are hurled with constant questions about our dating status. “Still no boyfriend? Anybody you’re seeing? Nothing? Really?” This is not only annoying, but it can make us feel like there is something inherently wrong with who we are. It’s almost as if you’re expected to be miserable if you’re in your twenties and single.

Katie proves that this isn’t true, while showing us that girls don’t need a significant other to make them happy. That doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t like to find that one partner and fall in love, but there is nothing wrong with being single until you find the person that you (and only YOU) feel is right.

Author Katie Heaney. Image Source

Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date goes beyond Katie’s failed dating life. While reading her stories and crazy adventures, you realize that Katie’s book focuses on her personal growth and developing friendships as well.

If you’re looking for a book to read, I highly recommend Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date. It’s a fun, laugh-out-loud read that you can relate to — whether you’re single or not.

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Vote for Knope – Great Female Leads: Part I

If you aren’t already a big fan of Parks and Recreation I suggest a date with your Netflix account — it’s time to binge! NBC’s Parks and Rec is a comedy that revolves around Leslie Knope, the Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation department in Pawnee, Indiana. The show is filmed in mock-umentary handheld camera style that aims to embody an actual documentary. The characters even address the camera directly in interview-style interactions.

Leslie Knope is not only a great female lead in the show, she might just be the greatest female lead on television. Leslie Knope is played by Amy Poehler, who is most famous for her time at Saturday Night Live from 2001 to 2008.

Leslie Knope was born in Eagleton, Indiana and subsequently grew up in Pawnee as she discovered a love for public service. Leslie was a founding member and participant in several student activities in high school, including Debate Club, Model United Nations, and Young Democrats. As a Deputy Director of Pawnee’s Parks and Recreations Department, she has aspired to serve her hometown with ambition and enthusiasm.

Leslie is a member of the city council and has dreams of being the first female president of the United States. Leslie honors her role models: Hillary Clinton, Condolezza Rice, and Nancy Pelosi, and proudly displays pictures of them in her office. Leslie is not only ambitious and enthusiastic, but she also has a deep and unconditional love for her hometown. She expresses this love often, although at times the people of Pawnee do not appreciate her. She also loves waffles, her best friend Anne Perkins, and candy.

I would like to be president someday, so no, I’ve not smoked marijuana. I ate a brownie once at a party in college. It was intense. It was kind of indescribable, actually. I felt like I was floating. Turns out there wasn’t any pot in the brownie. It was just an insanely good brownie.

                                                                                    – Leslie Knope

Leslie gives the town of Pawnee her all and strongly believes that it is the government’s job to serve the public. She works in an environment that is still dominated by males, but that doesn’t stop her from accomplishing her goals. Leslie continuously manages to stand her ground and fight to get her voice heard as a strong leader. And Leslie Knope is not only great at her job, but she is also an amazing friend, girlfriend, and wife. She goes above and beyond for the people she cares most about. Not to mention, her naïve optimism makes her not only lovable, but hilarious.

Leslie Knope’s character is a great female lead because she represents the hardworking, successful American woman. Quirks and all, Leslie is a great leading lady.

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Headlines You May Have Missed: July 25-27

In case you slacked on watching the news this weekend, we’ve got the headlines you may have missed:

Israel and Hamas Agree On 24 Hour Cease-Fire
On Sunday, Israel and Hamas agreed to stop the fighting with a 24-hour cease fire, which followed the 12-hour cease fire from the day before. This is a temporary situation that provides another break for humanitarians to help citizens in need.

During the cease fire, Israel continued to locate and neutralize Palestinian tunnels, while officials try to close the deal on a cease fire that would last a week.  Secretary of State John Kerry continues to work towards an end to the violence.

A Wave Of Bombings Takes Place In Nigeria
The Nigerian city of Kano got hit hard with bombings over the weekend. First, a bomb was lobbed over a wall into a predominately Christian area and detonated as church-goers were leaving Sunday service. In a different part of Kano, a women detonated a bomb on herself when police officers stopped her and attempted to perform a search. The bomb killed the woman and injured five officers. The third attack was attempted via car bomb but, thanks to a helpful tip received by the police, a bomb squad managed to disassemble the remote detonated bomb successfully.

A Man And Daughter Hit By Plane In Florida
A small plane had to make an emergency landing on a beach in Florida and, in the process of landing, tragically hit both a man and a girl who is assumed to be his daughter. The man was killed by the crash and the girl, in critical condition, had to be rushed to a local hospital via helicopter. A witness to the horrific incident was taken to the hospital due to stress induced cardiac problems, however, the pilot and passenger of the plane were unharmed.

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“Do you wanna be white?”

“Do you wanna be white?”

What kind of a question is that, you ask? Well, it was one posed by a Korean skincare brand recently that has sparked an immense amount of controversy and backlash.

Korean skincare brand Elisha Coy, in an attempt to make an entrance into the U.S. cosmetics industry, posed this horrifying question on a billboard for its makeup in New York’s Queens-based Koreatown. The advertisement features Elisha Coy’s new tinted moisturizer with “skin-whitening” abilities.

While there is a long history of skin-whitening, common across the world, this kind of practice is controversial in the United States. This advertisement especially, so blatantly charged with notions of white-power and racism, is extremely detrimental to the development and confidence for Korean-American women and men. It is well known that South Korea is home to some of the strictest beauty standards in all the world, but that same trend traditionally has not been present in the United States. In fact, celebrities like Rihanna and Beyonce have actually faced immense criticism from the media in the wake of allegedly lightening their skin.

It is concerning that in this day and age, children can walk down the street and see this advertisement. This kind of advertisement only promotes fear and inadequacy in individuals who do not fulfill this (impossible) beauty standard. Meanwhile, it is spreading more beauty and racial issues to the United States.

South Korea is infamous for its desire for whiteness. In fact, it is estimated that nearly one-in-five South Korean women will have plastic surgery in their lifetime. This preoccupation with appearance begins at an early age for many Koreans, and affects not only girls, but boys too. The social pressure to be “beautiful,” is defined by the white-European woman—light skinned, big eyes, light hair.

Contemporary Korea accepts only one measure of beauty, and Koreans will do anything to meet these standards of what they deem to be white perfection. Eye reconstruction surgery is an obsession for many Koreans. In fact, many boys and girls receive the surgery as a birthday gift on their sixteenth birthday. Plastic surgery, which in America is considered very “hush hush” and is commonly kept private out of embarrassment, is openly spoken about in Korea.

The eye surgery results out of an obsession with the Caucasian eye and a belief that these larger eyes are more beautiful. Asian women are striving to appear more Caucasian in the belief that the Caucasian individual is the picture of perfection and beauty.

The South Korean belief that their bodies, faces, and unique features as a racial and cultural group are flawed is extremely detrimental and saddening as well. Children grow up believing that they are defective and not beautiful — in dire need of fixing by means of plastic surgery and radical reconstruction.

There is a need for a radical change to this culture that believes their natural being is flawed. The incessant focus on being Caucasian is wiping away and entire racial group and the features that make them unique. It is saddening to hear the way Korean women speak about themselves and what they are and what they are not.

This is a beauty standard promoting racism and discrimination, even within and among Koreans. From speaking with friends that are Korean Americans, I have been informed that they face extreme backlash for not having undergone plastic surgery. Upon a return to South Korea to visit family, they feel out of place and shamed for not adhering to the Caucasian standard.

Here we have the case of a racial group trying to erase themselves and their own identity. How can we advocate for change? How can a whole culture rethink a beauty standard that has infected the minds of millions?

“Whiteness” is not “rightness” and it is important to promote self-acceptance and racial differences in order to preserve the uniqueness of each human individual in this world.

What do you think?

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Headlines You May Have Missed: July 24

Check out headlines you may have missed from July 24:

U.N. Shelter Hit In Gaza
There were 16 casualties in results of a U.N. shelter in Gaza being hit amidst the continued fighting in the Middle East. More than two hundred other people were wounded, and a significant portion of those people were women and children seeking safety. Officials claim no staff was killed in the incident, but the brutality has people all over the world upset and hoping for resolution.

Flights To Israel Resume
The U.S. has lifted its ban on flights to Tel Aviv, Israel. The ban originated when a Hamas missile hit an area in close proximity to the airport. After lobbying from the Israeli Prime Minister could not change the ban, it was unknown how long it would last. Although the situation has not changed in Israel, airlines will resume flying passenger flights to Tel Aviv. Many European countries have also reversed ban that they had put in place for passenger flights.

ISIS Blows Up Holy Tomb
In the Christian and Islamic religious, Jonah is prophet who gets swallowed by a whale (or large fish depending on the version being taught). There is tomb in Mosul, Iraq that was believed to be the final resting place of his earthly remains that has been bombed by ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, who planted multiple explosives around the tomb in an attempt to destroy it. ISIS has been at odds with the government and this is just one of many religious sites that has been vandalized or destroyed in recent weeks.

2 Dead After Tornado
A Virginia couple was found dead in their tent after a powerful tornado fired through a campground of over 1,000 people. The couple was killed by a tree that landed on them, and their teenage son (who accompanied them) was critically injured. In total, 38 people were taken to the hospital after the large hail and powerful winds broke bones and caused lacerations.

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“A Perfect 14″: A Documentary Examining Beauty And The Media

It’s no secret that we live in a world where retouched images of thin models are plastered all over the place. Because of the pervasiveness of this ideal beauty, we’ve grown up with this idea of what beauty should look like. We often think that to be thin and have the “perfect body” is to be beautiful. But what really defines the “perfect body?” What makes someone’s body better than somebody else’s?

A new documentary about plus sized models called, A Perfect 14, is currently in production. The documentary will follow the lives of 3 models: Elly Mayday, Kerosene Deluxe, and Laura Wells. The models will share their own personal experiences and show the world how they deal with being plus sized models in a world where “skinny rules.”

A Perfect 14 wants to help change this concept of what girls think they should look like (based on the images they see in the media). A Perfect 14 will illustrate these complex issues by looking to everyday society as well as the fashion world.

Plus sized models are very rarely shown in mainstream magazines, making it all too often for us to see a one-dimensional view of beauty in most media outlets. Our on beauty and women is deeply rooted in society; Media Hegemony suggests that the ideals of the ruling class  becomes the standard in our society, and that is definitely the case with our depiction of beauty.

In other words, what we are reading and seeing in magazines, online, and in TV and film are all selected by other people — most of the time the dominant class of affluent white men and women who want to capitalize on the image of ideal beauty. Our media is controlled by a subset of the population, but it has an overwhelming influence on what people believe in, strive for, dress like, eat like, and aim to look like.

Many people have a strict vision of ideal beauty, largely impacted by the media’s huge power over our perceptions and opinions. But what the media is not conveying is that these models are not all perfect, most of these pictures are heavily Photoshopped, and even these grade A models have flaws. We all do.

Creating an idea of what beauty should look like has created some pretty big self-esteem issues, especially in young women.

A Perfect 14 wants to change this view; the film aims to illustrate and educate younger girls that being plus sized is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not shameful to be any size, (especially if you’re healthy). The models in A Perfect 14 want to convey a new point of view with a new idea of what beauty should really be. And in my own opinion, the idea of beauty should really be as diverse and versatile as well all our. Embrace your body and learn to love yourself.

Filmmakers Giovanna Morales Vargas and James Earl O’Brien – Image Source

Let’s be clear: I am not saying we should all revolt against thin models because of the smoke and mirrors behind mainstream media. But I do believe that we should all be aware that what we see isn’t exactly what we get when it comes to models and mainstream media figures. We should all know that we are good enough as we are, and just because we don’t have the lives (or bodies) that are portrayed in advertisements and glossy magazine covers, doesn’t mean that anyone is any better than we are.

At the end of the day, the media surrounds us and we can’t just escape it easily. Instead, we have to make an effort to expect change — and more positivity from our media outlets. Until then, we are going to see these types of images continue to permeate our society, but even if the media is slow to change, we can’t let false ideals control who we are.

For more information check out the film’s official site. 

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childrens-books

You’re Never Too Old For A Children’s Book

As children grow up, they are constantly encouraged to change their reading habits and become more advanced. In school, students are given increasingly challenging books with topics designed more for growth of knowledge and analytical skills than enjoyment. But even after progressing into advanced levels of reading and content preferences, books for children and young adults are still relevant to everyone. They may sit in different areas of bookstores and libraries, but they hold just as much value as any other book.

Though stories written primarily for kids are easy to understand and lack complexities that books intended for adults have, the plots are still hold relevance in our lives. Yes, even the simplest solution to a character’s problems can help break down the intricacies of adult life, making the lessons that children’s books teach timeless.

The basic answers that kids are encouraged to find and apply to their lives through these stories apply to people of all ages. In fact, they can even become more powerful as the reader grows older, proving that not all solutions to life problems have to be complex.

Rereading old childhood favorites can definitely create a sense of nostalgia, while also allowing the reader to pick up on details and themes through a different mindset. In having a larger variety of experiences and gaining new perspectives as one grows older, certain aspects of the content and characters in children’s books become more apparent and relatable, which can create a greater emotional impact on the reader. There is no limit to the amount of interpretations one can take on a story, making every book — no matter who its intended audience — relatable to all who pick it up.

Just because the writing style is easier to comprehend doesn’t mean that it is a poor literary choice. Rather, this type of writing is of a higher quality than you may think. As any good writer is able to hook multiple audiences, children and young adult authors have a great amount of skill in being able to make concepts and emotions palpable for beginner, intermediate, and advanced readers.

For people with busy schedules, children’s books take less time to read.  They help the mind relax and enter into a quality story without having to exert a ton of energy to comprehend the plot line and analyze what may come next. Rather than being  stuck in the middle of a denser book for a longer period of time, you can get through books for younger audiences quickly — which allows you more time to read other works.

No matter what the book, reading is as enjoyable as it is important. Picking up and enjoying books “meant for” children and young adults is nothing to be embarrassed about. Age does not and should not limit one to a certain genre of books. After all, aren’t we all children at heart?

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Headlines You May Have Missed: July 23

Need the news? Here are headlines you may have missed from July 23:

Truce Talks Are Happening For Gaza
Secretary of State John Kerry assured that progress was being made over creating a cease fire to end the atrocities occurring in the Middle East. Kerry is pushing to create a cease fire that will then allow Palestinian and Israeli officials to negotiate terms for peace without having to worry about battle fronts. After statements by Kerry, Palestinian officials came out and said that no cease fire was happening unless it was on their terms. While conflict resolution attempts to unfold, the casualties continues to occur.

Taiwanese Plane Crash Claims Dozens Of Lives
A plane on the way to a Taiwanese island was forced to make an emergency landing due to bad weather. The typhoon, Matmo, was passing through the region, making for heavy rainfall and wind speeds over 40 miles an hour. Unfortunately, the plane ended up crashing and killing dozens of people on board.  Out of the 58 people on the aircraft, 47 travelers lost their lives in the crash. The ill-fated flight was only supposed to last 45 minutes.

People Try To Sneak Weapons Into The Capitol
A man named Ronald Prestage was caught trying to enter the U.S. Capitol Building with a firearm. Prestage is not the first person to attempt this recently. Last Friday, a staff member tried entering the building with a gun at around the same time in the day as this incident. Ronald Prestage has been charged with a felony for carrying a concealed weapon without a license. Read more here.

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loving-yourself

The Art Of Loving Yourself

“Maybe if I don’t laugh, I won’t get wrinkles.”

That’s what I said to myself as I looked in the mirror earlier this week. I’d recently read an article about how it’s never too early to buy some anti-aging cream to ward against laugh lines and other intruding wrinkles — because how dare my face age like a normal human?

Don’t get me wrong; I love the beauty industry. I’ve spent many hours reading how-to’s, playing with makeup, and admiring celebrities’ daring looks.

But at the same time, it worries me. Despite recent advertisements from Pantene, Dove, and other companies, it seems as though a majority of the industry makes their profit by feeding off our insecurities.

We are exposed to hundreds — if not thousands — of advertisements every day. To sell their product, marketers convince us we need something. That our lives are somehow incomplete without the newest cream, gel, or serum. That we are not perfect the way we are.

As a result, women and young girls develop negative body image issues, depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem. We base our worth on the arbitrary beauty ideal we see in the media, thinking that’s the end-all, be-all of desirability. We forget that beauty standards have been changing for centuries, and 50 years from now, something new will be “in.”

We forget that we are not defined by the numbers on the scale, the blemishes on our skin, or the designers we wear.

When are we going to take back our worth? We are women. We are strong, intelligent, beautiful (yes, you!) — and we are worthy of love and acceptance.

The movement toward accepting ourselves has already begun, but compared to the huge beauty industry, it’s the underdog. How can it gain support?

It starts with us. Love who you are, inside and out. Treat your body well, and take care of it. Accept every single part of yourself. In the end, this is the only body you’re going to have.

Instead of picking apart everything that’s “wrong,” remember how incredible your body is! Outside of how it may look, your legs carry you on scenic runs, your eyes see loved ones’ faces, your ears hear your best friend’s laughter. Even embrace your laugh lines! Marks, scars, wrinkles, and gray hairs serve as reminders of where you’ve been and what you’ve overcome.

Every day, remind yourself of something you like about both your body and your personality. Confidence takes work, but it’s worth it. And when you’re comfortable in your own skin, it’ll show.

This isn’t to say you should stop buying beauty products or caring about your appearance. If you want to, wear a full face of makeup every day, buy designer jeans, or get started on an anti-aging routine. Just don’t feel pressured to do so. Do things because they make you happy, not because you think you’re not good enough the way you are.

In practicing the art of loving yourself, you (and I) must teach ourselves, our friends, sisters, and families that we are more than our outside appearance. We have intrinsic value, and it does not depend on any person or product. We are beautiful, exactly how we are.

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