American Idol: Fourth judge debuts
Jan27

American Idol: Fourth judge debuts

Many people dream of one day being a star, to be worshiped by adoring fans and constantly in the spotlight. This dream has been realized by countless individuals, but the popular television show, American Idol, has been able to create superstars seemingly overnight. Thousands of contestants from around the country audition in the hopes of making it to Hollywood, where the journey to superstardom can begin. Some people thrive in the competitive environment and release raw talent that lies within, while others crack under intense scrutiny. Over the years, American Idol has produced gifted artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordan Sparks and, most recently, David Cook. Now in its eighth season, the panel of judges look to find a new singer to take the world by storm. Traditionally, the show has been made up of three judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. Abdul is an ex-pop star who is known more or less as the “nice” one. Cowell is an Englishman who has no problem speaking his mind and adds an obvious flair to the group. Jackson is a musician who has performed with various bands, and he provides a happy medium among the other judges. In order to receive a golden ticket, a contestant only needs the approval of two out of the three judges. This season, however, the show made a big change and added producer and songwriter Kara DioGuardi as the fourth judge. Senior sport management major Lucious Cotton said, “I think it should be the original judges, but to make it even, they added another woman.” So what happens when the decision is split? This has already been an issue with contestant Katrina Darrell, better known as “bikini girl.” Both Jackson and Cowell agreed she was good enough, while Abdul and DioGuardi felt otherwise. After a heated battle, the judges came to an agreement, and she was permitted to move on to the next round. Senior history major Luke Beasley said, “I think it’s good to have four judges because it evens them out. Plus you get to see a different perspective.” The real question is, who is the new face that is holding the key to a hopeful’s dream, and why the change from three? Kara DioGuardi is a new face but she is no stranger to the music industry. She began writing her own songs while working a desk job at Billboard Magazine. In 1995, she received a record deal with MCA. It was Abdul, however, who gave her the break that led to the successful career she now has. Abdul gave the pop artist Kylie Minogue a copy...

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Twilight grosses $139M despite criticism
Dec09

Twilight grosses $139M despite criticism

Twilight revolutionizes the way most view vampires and embraces the infatuation between a human and a vampire who has been 17 since 1918. The story is based on the New York Times best-seller, Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, in which Bella and Edward, played by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson respectively, struggle to uphold an out-of-this-world relationship under the persecution of their peers and the threat of other vampires who thirst for Bella’s blood. The vampires in the film break the stereotypical mold of bloodthirsty, devilish beasts. The Cullins vampire family is made up of Edward, Emmet, Rosalie, Jasper, Alice, Esme and Dr. Carlisle, who compare themselves to vegetarians because they fight the urge to feed on human blood and choose to feed on animals instead. Edward describes it as being similar to eating tofu because all the nutrients are there, but it never quite satisfies. Bella’s story begins in hot and dry Phoenix, Ariz., as she prepares to move to cold and wet Forks, Wash., with her father because her mother and stepfather are moving to Jacksonville for his chance in minor-league baseball. Her relationship with her father is strained because of the distance and inability to connect over the years, and it is interesting to watch both grow over the course of the film, despite their differences. Both Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson do a good job of convincing viewers that their characters, Bella and Edward, are truly in love. Their transcendental feelings toward one another provide a backbone to what would otherwise be a flimsy retelling of the book. The movie makes good use of lighting and scenery to set the vampire-friendly scene in Forks. The overcast skies, thick forests and nearly constant rain all make the town habitable for the vampire Cullins family. The gray tones and paleness used in the video production embrace the overall mood that director Catherine Hardwicke attempts to mimic from the best-selling novels. Twilight is obviously marketed to teens and young adults. The story takes place in high school and incorporates things like prom, inexperienced driving and curfew to relate to the target audience. The weakest part of the movie is the lack of closure. The story is left open ended, which strikes resemblance to the books. But without finality, it is frustrating. The film seems to just stop without warning or resolution. The technique is effective for novel writing, but in film, closure is key to determining the great movies from the mundane. Critics expressed negativity over the film mostly because of the inability to live up to the hype created by the books and the lack of resolution to...

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Pause for Thought: Fantasy Football

By Joshua Thiering Everyone keeps asking me, what are you going to do when you graduate this month? Well I’ve made up my mind to pursue a career as a professional football player. Never mind that I only have two years of playing backup safety on the Grisham Middle School A-Team under my belt. I’ve seen Rudy. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Skeptics will tell me, “Josh, you are 6-foot-2, 170 pounds and always seem to be awkwardly bumping into door frames instead of moving through them.” Well, prepare to be baffled, all you armchair critics, who claim they don’t even make shoulder pads small enough to fit me. I will wear as many T-shirts as it takes to fill out the pads. And for the record, whenever I accidentally collide with the door frame, I always get a better piece of it than it does of me. To all of you who still remain unconvinced of my athletic potential and make allegations that I move slower than FEMA — stop treading on the egg shells of my dreams! I’ve got things going for me. Things like inspirational quotes and motivational posters. I’ve spent thousands of hours watching football on TV, and I’m open to criminal activity. To be a professional athlete, you need to have a big ego. Well, my ego belongs in the hall of fame right next to Muhammad Ali, and Chad, I-can-swim-faster-than-Michael- Phelps Johnson. Furthermore, if I were ever interviewed, I could say politically incorrect things, and string together sporting cliché after cliché, by calling my own number when the going gets tough in this game of inches. I’ve spent many late nights sprinting through my living room carrying the pigskin, juking the coffee table, hurdling the remote and breaking imaginary tackles. I’ve even played pickup football with real people a couple of times since eighth grade, but the results have been mixed. Often times I’ve wondered if I’m getting slower or if fat people are getting faster. According to my astute roommate, who always tells the truth, it’s the latter. So, naturally, I will just eat myself into top-playing condition. I will use the local church flag football league as a spring board to the pros, by racking up bloated statistics and putting forth every possible effort to win each game so that pro scouts will have to take notice. I expect nothing less than to become an overnight YouTube...

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Music of the heart
Dec09

Music of the heart

Jimmy Needham and Downhere entertained Crusaders, Preview students during weekend concert

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Madagascar, successful Escape 2 Africa
Nov18

Madagascar, successful Escape 2 Africa

“I like to move it, move it.” “He likes to move, move it.” “She likes to move it, move it.” “We like to … move it!” The catchy opening song to Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is the most recognizable part of the first movie, in which four New York zoo animals find themselves on a ship headed to the island of Madagascar. In the second movie, however, the animals, in their attempt to make it back to New York, crash land in mainland Africa. The collision forces Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman to learn what their own species do in the wild, and Alex has an improbable encounter with a family member, Zuba, voiced by the late Bernie Mac. The animals’ development in the story is fun to watch, and the humor in the film, although intended for children, can adapt even to the most mature sense of humor. The cross-species love story in the sequel provides backbone to the two characters involved and also shifts the focus away from the dominant nature of Alex’s story. The film does justice to each character, embracing its unique traits, while still showing that it is the same as its ancestors “back home.” The story gives the “cookie-cutter” zoo animals more depth, but reminds them of their love for the zoo they left. The all-star voicing in the sequel is led by Ben Stiller (Alex), Chris Rock (Marty), Jada Pinkett Smith (Gloria) and David Schwimmer (Melman). The cast also includes big names like Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer and Alec Baldwin. The performance by Bernie Mac was one of his last on film. The late actor appears in Soul Men and this sequel to Madagascar. His career began in 1992 in Mo’ Money, as a doorman, but blossomed into a rich portfolio of blockbusters including Transformers, Ocean’s Thirteen and Guess Who, along with his own show. The recognizable voices in the movie, however, are not a distraction from the story. All performers do a great job of encompassing their roles, shedding the stereotypical acting that goes along with their voices. The only downside to the film is the lack of continuity between the minor characters from the first and second movie. The lemur king is silly, but his part in the movie is almost overplayed, and his circumstantial appearances in the stories of the four zoo animals in this movie are seemingly spastic. The plotting penguins are done an injustice in the film. They are underplayed and underutilized in the development of the story. An encounter between the wild animals and the out-of-place penguins would have definitely been interesting to watch....

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Texas Java serves Cru treats
Nov18

Texas Java serves Cru treats

Texas Java is the highly anticipated coffee house that opened its doors in Belton this past July. It’s about a mile from campus, and for many, it has been a godsend. Temple used to be the nearest place to find a coffee house, but now that has changed. Junior Christi Williams said, “I love it because it’s more convenient than driving all the way to Temple for Starbucks.” It’s suitably placed in the Oak Ridge shopping center on Main street, next to a popular sandwich shop. People from the surrounding businesses are always stopping in for a quick cup of coffee. Java is in full operation, and the community has welcomed it with open arms. It is, however, more than a coffee shop. Not only does it have a wide variety of coffee, but they also sell fruit smoothies, soft drinks, an assortment of cakes and pastries and even Blue Bell ice cream. Java is also a good place for students to study and do homework. Charles Rayburn McRae, an alum of the university, said,  “It’s very peaceful, and the staff is learned in their trade.” The mood is laid back, and the urge to get classroom assignments accomplished is strong with the help of an affordable caffeine rush. The shop also offers free wireless Internet for people who bring in their laptops, iPhones or other wireless devices; and with more than 10 tables and a few comfortable couches, there is plenty of space to go around. The atmosphere seems to be a common reason why students enjoy the place. Williams said, “The staff is very friendly and personal. They’re not like (others), who just want to get you in and get you out.” A good reason for that is most of the staff are current students of the university. Senior Asa Crow, an employee said, “all but one” of Java’s employees are UMHB students. The staff is made up of 10 workers. A few of the popular drinks they offer are the Chi Tea Smoothie, White Mocha frap, and flavored pecan coffee. Another feature is that the java can be made hot or chilled. They even have a special cold blend that keeps the frozen coffee from melting too quickly. Customers even have the option of the color straw they would like to drink their coffee or smoothie with. It’s the little things that makes this spot so inviting to college students. Before Texas Java came along, the university had its very own coffee house called The Daily Grind. It was equipped with coffee, treats, various soft drinks and games. Unfortunately, the hours of operation were limited, and...

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