The do’s and don’ts of Valentine’s Day

Last year I wrote an article offering some simple steps to follow suggestions on how to get that person you’ve been pining after. If you haven’t read it yet, shame on you. Go do it now. I’ll wait. Done? Good. This year I’d like to give you all some tips on how to keep your significant other, so you don’t grow up alone in a house full of cats wearing fashionable yet creepy sweater vests. First on the list of do’s and don’ts: gifts. Everyone loves gifts. Girls typically love chocolate and flowers, and boys love anything that goes fast and/or explodes. The question is usually, “When is it appropriate to give said gifts?” Answer: any time. It is going to be sweeter and more romantic to give someone a gift just because it’s Tuesday, rather than waiting for their birthday because it’s expected then. However, don’t give gifts every Tuesday; that’s excessive, and more than a little clingy. Also, there are such things as bad gifts. For example, I don’t care how much your significant other likes horror movies, do not try to give them Saw as a romantic gift. Not only does it not say, “Let’s snuggle,” it may be an indication that you need help. From a professional. Next up, try to surprise them once in a while. Planning dates weeks in advance is definitely a good idea if you have a busy schedule, but that can also get stale quickly. Movies and dinners can become repetitive, so find a way to switch it up. Tell your date you’re going to a movie they don’t want to see – but will go to in order to be with you – then change the plan at the last minute and do something new. Go bowling. I know, nobody likes bowling. It’s one of the few sports you can play half asleep (and probably be better at). But it’s infinitely more fun with someone you care about. Again, there is a downside. Please don’t try to be too surprising with your impromptu dates. Don’t take your significant other to an illegal cock fight. That really won’t end well for anyone involved. At best, you’ll just leave hungry. Finally, a word of warning: all of your lovey-doveyness may be having a bad impact on your friendships, but not in the way you think. You may be hanging out with your friends doing all the normal stuff, but they could still resent you. Do you know why? It’s because you won’t shut up about your relationship! Your friends know you are happy; your friends are glad you are happy. They...

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Be in control of your holiday entertainment this Christmas
Nov15

Be in control of your holiday entertainment this Christmas

Hollywood likes to use the Christmas season as a time to pump out a lot of big-name movies back to back. Producers know people love any excuse to get their visiting family members to shut up for an hour and a half. This year we are seeing big budget releases like the Sherlock Holmes sequel, Twilight Saga: Is It Over Yet? and Harold and Kumar Do Drugs and Meet Neil Patrick Harris, just to name a few. Granted, the titles may be off, but the plot is covered well enough. But if you are anything like me, you aren’t really planning to see any of these movies this season because you have no money, no one to see them with and are really lazy. But there is good news. Hollywood offers a metric ton of classic Christmas movies you can marathon during the school break, as long as you don’t mind admitting to yourself you’re a shut-in. One great movie is Scrooged, starring Bill Murray. Released in 1988, the film is a meant to be a modern, comedic retelling of the classic story A Christmas Carol. Murray plays Frank Cross, a TV executive who is a real Scrooge (ba dum, tiss!) to his family and employees. Through a series of wacky mishaps, the determination of three spirits and one very awkward scene with a frozen homeless guy, Murray learns the true meaning of-oh geez-I can’t even finish that sentence. Regardless, it’s a fun movie. A personal favorite of mine is The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack Skellington, a literal skeleton and king of Halloweentown,  becomes bored with the repetition of scaring children. Upon finding a magical portal to Christmastown, Jack tries his best to celebrate the season in his own unique way. Once you get past the Danny Elfman of it all, it’s highly entertaining. Plus, it’s a singing skeleton. A third choice would be the Chevy Chase classic Christmas Vacation. This film tells the tried-and-true tale of how letting more than one side of the family into your house at the same time will always end in a highly volatile standoff with the police. The good news is, the movie has Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid. The bad news is, it has everyone else, too. But, honestly, Randy Quaid should be enough to make anyone watch this movie. And finally, there is It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s not a comedy like the other three, but it is an absolute must-see despite that fatal flaw. Released in 1946, the movie stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a terminally depressed individual with a heart of gold. When George is on the...

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50/50 movie attempts to mix in comedy with a serious subject
Oct04

50/50 movie attempts to mix in comedy with a serious subject

Cancer is never a funny subject, but in their new movie, somehow Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen make it work. 50/50 tells the story of Adam (Levitt) and his best friend Kyle (Rogen) as they deal with Adam’s recently diagnosed spinal cancer. After finding out that he is sick, Adam looks online to see what his chances are, and the Internet tells him he has 50/50 odds of surviving. On the surface, it sounds like the movie would just be about Adam’s struggle to cope with his possibly fatal illness, and that is certainly a part of it. But the story goes much deeper than Rogen’s crude humor and Levitt’s portrayal of a cancer victim. Early on, Adam realizes that his girlfriend is cheating on him, and Kyle’s quest becomes finding his friend a rebound girl, although secretly he is just intending on taking his friend’s mind off of the situation. This works, but it also shows Adam that many people will just pity him, and he doesn’t want that. Some of the most interesting character development comes from Adam’s meetings with his therapist and obvious love interest Katherine (Anna Kendrick).  A 24-year-old college student going for her doctorate, Katherine is a slightly scatter-brained counselor at Adam’s hospital. The dialogue and emotions flying between these two characters are strong, and manage to be both dramatic and light-hearted when needed. Everyone in the movie has a great depth to them, but these two really move beyond the rest. Instead of being a depressing, two-hour cryfest, 50/50 manages to focus not only on the person suffering from cancer, but also on the people surrounding them. Adam’s father has Alzheimer’s, and his mother is an overbearing control freak.  His best friend Kyle is a free spirit who is only concerned with having fun and being there for his friend. Each of these characters comes alive in the movie, and the acting is superb. The film, more than anything, is a celebration of life. It puts a human face on a touchy subject and forces the audience to look at the ugly reality of cancer. The way it presents itself is unique and it’s hard to limit this movie to one genre. I walked into the theater not sure what to expect. Having Rogen in it meant there was a good chance of some foul humor in the film, and that was there. Levitt meant there was going to be a lot of drama and suspense, and that was there, too. But an excellent balance was found between the two, and I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. Typically there is a lull...

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Film has nearly Limitless potential

As it turns out, an age-old myth can make a compelling groundwork for a movie. Bradley Cooper stars as struggling writer Eddie Moora in the new movie Limitless, a film that turns out to be more or less about opening your eyes and allowing yourself to see. The plot is based around a magical pill called NZT that allows people to access the full 100 percent of their brain power. Of course, modern science has proved the idea false that people can only access 20 percent of their brain, but suspension of disbelief is the name of the game. Personally, I think this movie is a fantastic piece of cinema. The script is clean, and each character has a compelling story to tell. Moora is a writer struggling just to survive in the city. Robert De Niro plays the head of a giant stock-trading corporation and Anna Friel plays the small but mysterious part of Moora’s ex-wife. For the most part, the movie is fairly streamlined. The only real hiccup in the plot comes from Moora’s initial acquisition of the drug. Walking down the street after another dead-end interview, Moora bumps into his drug dealing ex-brother-in-law Vernon – aka cheesy plot device – played by Johnny Whitworth. His sole purpose is to give Moora the magic pill and then inexplicably dies 10 minutes later. Everything picks up from there, however. Moora quickly discovers that, while on the pill, he is able to “see” almost everything. He is able to remember books vaguely glimpsed years before. He can manipulate the stock market to make $2,000,000 in four days. And he is able to work his way into a job as a consultant for the most powerful businessman in the city, Carl Van Loon (De Niro’s character). For the first 40 minutes, there isn’t even much conflict for the characters, and I was still compelled to find out what was going to happen next. It is a rare film that can keep me invested if there isn’t a struggle for the characters to overcome. But once problems do start cropping up, they come fast. People who have taken the drug start dying left and right, and Moora is left running for his life from a mysterious hunter and trying to survive the effects of the pill. Most of the special effects enhance the experience in ways that perfectly accentuate the movie. When Moora doses himself, he describes the feeling as his mind getting clearer and brighter. At the same time, the movie itself becomes crisper, and all the colors take on a vibrant hue. Also, to display how much faster his...

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Once again gas prices spike, affecting people everywhere

The economy is slowly beginning to pick up from where it was two years ago, but in some areas it is suffering worse than ever. Gas prices are dangerously close to reaching an all-time high, currently sitting at a national average of $3.50 a gallon. Central Texas prices are coming in just under that number, averaging out at about $3.39 a gallon. Costs are rising much faster than pay increases, and everyone is starting to feel the effects, including students. “I have to spend about $45-$50 every time I fill up my car,” senior performance major Kimberly Jones said. “I live in Harker Heights and go back and forth to UMHB every day of the week. I also work in Austin parttime, and I go to Killeen to drop off and pick up my son, so I               average between 40-60 miles of driving.” One month ago, when prices were still around $2.80 per gallon, the IRS estimated the cost of gas for an average vehicle to be roughly 50 cents every mile. This basically means that if someone drove 100 miles, it would cost him $50. Even students who don’t drive much throughout each week are feeling the effects of the increase. “I only live in Belton, but I still drive at least 30 miles a week,” senior sport management major Brenson Bristow said. “I drive a truck, so two months ago, when the gas prices were lower, it cost me around $65 to fill up. Now, it costs about $80.” Bristow said he is noticing his wallet taking serious hits. “My grocery budget has definitely suffered from the increase. Also, if someplace I want to go is really far away, I won’t go unless I absolutely have to.” Adjunct French professor Geraldine Touzeau-Patrick lives just outside of Austin. She only teaches at UMHB on Tuesdays and Thursdays which still requires her to drive roughly 200 miles round trip each day she comes to campus. “When I drive like that for 16 weeks, statistics say that I have to spend $1,600 over the course of a semester,” she said. “And that was back in the fall, when gas was only $2.50 a gallon. At this rate, a third of what I make teaching here is spent on gas getting here.” Many people are choosing to make fewer and less expensive purchases, and people are also deciding to drive less and walk or bike more when their destination is close. “It’s crazy that gas went up so much literally overnight,” Jones said. “I’m having to cut some unnecessary items out now …. Usually I’ll go to HEB to buy lunch,”...

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