Deck the halls with boughs of duck calls
Nov20

Deck the halls with boughs of duck calls

The Robertson family from the hit show Duck Dynasty is at it again. They showed the world that their talents don’t end with making duck calls and hilarious television. On Oct. 29 they released their first Christmas album, Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas. Listen to one song, and you will quickly see that the humor in the show has transitioned into fun Christmas carols. The album has 14 songs, with some of the more popular  being “Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Christmas,” “Hairy Christmas” and “Duck the Halls.” Every song on the track has its own personality. For instance, in the song “Christmas Cookies,” Phil Robertson talks about Miss Kay’s Christmas cookies, which will surely bring some laughter. You might think that the songs would be poorly done, but in reality the Robertson family can sing. Not only do they do a fantastic job themselves, but they brought in some of the most notable and sought-after voices in the country music industry to accompany them in this album. Luke Bryan, Josh Turner, Alison Krauss and last, but not least, the king of country music himself, George Strait, make an appearance. The songs are a mixture of traditional Christmas hymns with a southern twist, to the Robertsons’ very own construction of Christmas carols.  As many know, they are a religious family and not afraid to confess their love for Christ. This is evident throughout the album. It is currently #1 on the Top Country Albums chart. This should be encouraging—that people who may never listen to Christmas music are getting a true feel of the season The album ends with Phil Robertson saying a prayer that  emphasizes what  Christmas  is all about. Yes, some of the songs are a bit goofy, but a number of songs on the track clearly point out the reason for the season. There is a song for everyone on this album. It mixes country music and Christmas carols perfectly with relevant and meaningful lyrics. I am usually not a fan of Christmas music, but this album is different. “Camouflage and Christmas Lights” stood out to me because it paints a picture of the Christmas season that only people from a small, southern town can appreciate. As well done as these songs are, they could stick around for some time and maybe even become Christmas carols your kids will be listening to. Really, how do you make a better Christmas album than one that has Si Robertson and George Strait in the same song? If you don’t want to buy the whole album, which I strongly encourage, make sure you at least check out some of their...

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Runner Runner: a safe gamble? by Katelyn Holm

It’s true: Everybody gambles. Whether it’s with money, time or happiness, everybody gambles. Runner Runner stars it-man Justin Timberlake, who plays genius Princeton gamer, Richie Furst. With his tuition on the line, Furst wages everything he has on the Internet table in one high-stakes game of poker. Though several hands go his way, he loses all of his winnings to a cyber-opponent. But after investigating his loss, Furst realizes he has been cheated. He immediately flies to Costa Rica to hunt down gambling tycoon, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). To the surprise of viewers, Block not only reimburses Furst’s losses, but offers him a job at Midnight Black, the epitome of gaming industries, with the promise of a seven-figure salary in the first few months. However, this isn’t even close to the resolution of the film. Affleck executes his role with arrogance and an all-around unlikable vibe. He isn’t Argo quality by any stretch of the imagination, but the actor still pulls off an intriguing performance. While on the job, Furst realizes he has entered into more than just a game of cards or chips. Now, the graduate student faces dangerously powerful and rich money launderers, gangsters and professional hustlers. But it may seem a little overdone. Sure, violence and drugs plague corrupt industries like the one Block runs. The movie exaggerates these things a little too unrealistically, though. Regardless, Timberlake’s natural demeanor fits his role perfectly. He projects the confidence of a successful man, yet still maintains an innocence in comparison to the dark deals being made. Audiences feel invested in the character, which is something a lot of movies today lack. Soon, the FBI receives a tip that Block’s dealings have been far from clean. In fact, the shark has weighted all of the online tables and takes profits from all of the players. Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) confronts Furst, hoping he will be an informant for the authorities and incriminate Block for his illegal dealings. Because Furst fears jail time and the fact that the Costa Rican government could refuse his entrance into America, he tells Block of the confrontation with Shavers. Wrong move. The special agent just doesn’t seem intimidating, though, and audiences are never really fearful that any of the government investigators could do real harm to any of the characters in the film. A little excursion to Block’s hideaway reveals a lake that is home to two alligators. But these are no ticking clock, Peter Pan alligators. These reptiles eat anything that smells remotely like chicken, which is unfortunate for the two men covered in poultry fat who are forced into the water. Block...

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Animation hits summer cinema
Aug27

Animation hits summer cinema

Summer blockbusters have become a big part of American culture. This year was no exception, as moviegoers of all ages had a wide variety of options to whet their cinematic appetite. What this year lacked in drama, it made up for in animated classics. America’s favorite villain-turned-hero, Gru, returned to theatres in Despicable Me 2. This time, instead of pulling off the world’s most impressive heists, Gru is on the other side, tasked with hunting down and stopping an evil criminal who intends to take over the world. The movie delivers everything that fans of its predecessor could possibly want: an engaging story, plenty of action and those hilarious yellow minions. Another animated sequel has excelled at the box office. Monsters University goes back in time from the 2001 film Monsters Inc. to the college years of Mike and Sulley. The movie shows that the relationship between the two friends hasn’t always been so strong, as both have dreams of becoming the world’s best scarer, and a rivalry soon ensues. The two are forced to rely on each other in order  to accomplish their dreams, and a life-long friendship begins. The film does a great job of giving viewers a look into the past and revealing the unusual path that leads to the bond between the two besties. The top-grossing movie of 2013 to date has been Iron Man 3. The post-Avengers world of Tony Stark can be described as shaky at best as he faces the fear that he might not be as invincible as he thought. With the help of a young fan, Stark is able to outwit his opponents and once again save the world from imminent doom. Robert Downey Jr. offers the audience a side that hasn’t yet been seen of his character as he must work to overcome a lack of confidence for the first time in his life. The film offers viewers all the action and a dramatic conclusion they’ve come to expect from the...

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Music state championship brings high school students and their instruments to campus
Apr17

Music state championship brings high school students and their instruments to campus

The campus was alive with the sound of music as students from across the state flocked to Belton to compete in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state competition for solos and ensembles April 12-13. Voice events were held at First Baptist Church in Belton while all instrumentals took place at UMHB. Audiences were allowed inside of Presser, Shelton Theater, Mayborn campus center and FBC’s sanctuary to listen to the students’ music. Awty International School of Houston teacher Sina Thompson talked about the determination that students show in preparation for the contest. “They’ve worked so hard to get here,” Thompson said. “They compete in other events besides this one.… I’m really, really proud of them.” She also talked about the growing popularity and strength of the music program at her school. In years past, Awty has not been known necessarily as a strong music school. “I heard a couple of the kids on the bus today. One said ‘why are we going to this?’ and the other said ‘because we’re good,’” Thompson said. “And so they’re proud of their work, and it motivates them to keep going.” Sprawled across the quad and filling the SUB were students with trumpets, saxophones, violins, cellos,  guitars, basses, drums and more. String quartets could be seen practicing under the shade of trees, drum lines seated under a large tent kept a perpetual beat and duets and trios alike found isolated corners to practice. In short, a beautiful cacophony of sound flooded the campus. TAPPS State Music Director Vena Williams orchestrated the event in coordination with the university. She hoped a critical review of students’ performances would help them improve their talents. “The God-given talents of the students are challenged to meet a standard … (so) we can measure their progress,” Williams said. “We want our students to develop their talent into the best they can be. The students and directors leave the event with information concerning what they can do to improve their skills.” Members of Kappa Kappa Psi served as volunteers to help run the event. “We have people stationed everywhere around campus to help various events that are going down,” sophomore church music major and group parliamentarian Lantz Crosthwait said. Williams praised the work the university did to help the contest go smoothly. She said, “UMHB faculty and staff and FBC staff put forth a tremendous effort for our organization and our students. The remarkable work done by the UMHB team makes this State event...

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End It Week shows support

Students from the Freedom Movement on campus organized End It Week to help raise awareness about human trafficking in the United States. The organization hosted several events throughout the week, including a screening of Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, a powerful documentary that exposes the alarming trends in modern sex slavery. From the very first scene, Nefarious draw viewers into the nightmare of sex slavery that hundreds of thousands experience daily. Junior elementary education major Ellen Logan is a member of the Freedom Movement on campus, and the viewing was her first time to see the documentary. “My heart was broken even more than before for these people. Even though I’ve heard so much of it, hearing it from people who experienced it, made it that much more real. I want to do more,”  she said. Seeing the film encouraged Logan to find new ways to become involved in the fight against slavery. “I have to do more. I can’t sit still any longer. I love bringing awareness, but that’s not enough for me anymore. You need to do more,” Logan said. Sophomore business management major Nathan Gilmore is the president of the Cru Freedom Movement on campus. The organization plans to help bring an end to trafficking in the coming year. “We will be teaming up with Unbound and Restore a Voice ministries this next fall to provide on-the-ground mission opportunities for college students to serve. We are excited about transitioning from a year of learning about this injustice to a year of getting our hands dirty and serving our local community,” Gilmore said. Other events that occurred during the week included a worship night, a panel of speakers and taking over Focus on Wednesday. “I think one of the biggest responses was everyone just wanting to do more than just raise awareness. Lots of students felt very much more informed. God definitely wrecked a lot of hearts Thursday night. Definitely a lot of bleeding hearts out there now to give these people the hope of Christ and help bring them out of this evil,” Logan said. Students are encouraged to go to enditmovement.com to sign the pledge to help end human trafficking. Gilmore said, “This campus absolutely embraced The Freedom Movement and showed us that they have a heart and conviction to help stop human...

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Paramore reloads with new album

After countless jabs and jeers, Paramore emerged from the cloud of nasty remarks with two fewer members and a promise of returning to their former glory. Josh and Zac Farro left the band three years ago, and lead singer Haley Williams vocalized her struggle to recover from the break-up via social media. But Williams, Taylor York and Jeremy Davis come out swinging with their new album, which hit shelves April 9. The self-titled work features 17 tracks, which seem a bit much, but the fact the band waited so long to name something after themselves really speaks for itself. This collection of songs shows the talent of each member, rather than appealing to the market like previous successful singles have done. The best example of the trio’s new outlook on life can be found in the musicality of “Ain’t it Fun.” This song sounds more like one Justin Timberlake would sing. Instead, Williams delivers a perfect performance. The jazzy intro develops into a chorus the three rockers pull off flawlessly. Then, gospel-style claps and choir music interludes completely puzzle listeners. A lot like her fiery red bangs, not everyone could handle this odd assortment of styles, but it seems perfectly fitting for Williams. “Fast in My Car” features Williams’ sassy lyrical delivery that makes the simple song work for both new and old fans of the group. A future summer hit, perhaps? Undoubtedly, the band has matured over the years even with the loss of two members. “Grow Up” speaks to that process when Williams sings, “Some of us have to grow up sometimes, but I might have to leave you alone. But we get along for the most part.” While there will be plenty of head-banging to come, many things have changed for the young musicians, and the result is a terrific composition. One catchy track stands out for the younger audience the band has attracted. “Daydreaming” hits emotional highs and lows with the punk-rock sound fans have been missing for years. Famous for their “Decode” on the original Twilight soundtrack, “Proof” resembles it with honest lyrics and a drum beat that propels the song. Naturally, a lengthy album like this leaves room for a ballad or two. The band performed “Hate to See Your Heart Break” live on BBC radio before the album’s release. Fans immediately responded with positive feedback and vowed that Paramore will “always be (their) favorite.” Indeed, Williams shows off her vocals, hitting honest low notes and also entering her famous high range in this song. The album as a whole explores places the band has never gone before, while still staying true to...

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