In an early sequence of The Predator, government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) and Dr. Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn) facetiously debate about the titular creature’s Earth-given name. Dr. Casey believes the beast should be christened to the more appropriate moniker of “sports hunter,” given the fact that the creature likes to toy with its prey before finally killing it. To this, Traeger quips “we took a vote… and predator’s cooler right?” His surrounding entourage immediately erupts in unanimous affirmation and Casey sighs, accepting this shallow verdict for the sake of quiet. For such a chaotically and sloppily arranged film, this sole moment of introspection took me by surprise. I imagine a permutation of this very conversation played out between director Shane Black and execs of 20th Century Fox while the former pitched his story.
Whenever someone asks me if homecoming weekend is fun, I say, “It’s overrated. If you have work to do, just do that instead. It happens every year and you won’t miss much.” While I skipped all other homecoming activities this weekend, the only one I thought was worth getting out of bed for was the concert — and not just because I had a free ticket. Back when the lineup was announced for the homecoming concert, I could not believe that Cornell students chose CupcakKe to headline such an important event. CupcakKe is a female rapper from Chicago and her sexual, vulgar lyrics are unlike anything else (perhaps her most popular song is called “Deepthroat”).
Ruby: Man, that was wild. It’s going to be hard to get that image of the demon with a knife where his dick is supposed to be out of my head. What do you think the movie is about, though? To me it seems like there’s not much depth to it, since the revenge story has been told too many times. Varun: I love revenge films. I don’t think they get old.
You may have first seen Cel Shading in 2013 with the premiere of RWBY, an “American Anime” aimed at both American and Japanese anime fans. Characters are 3D models, like a lot of modern animation, but they look a little different from their Disney-Pixar cousins. In stills, they could fool you into thinking they’re two-dimensional drawings or frames from some traditionally-drawn anime. The character’s skin looks flat and their eyes are large and cartoony. Cel Shading is a technique long used by video games, from the classic Katamari Damacy to the more recent The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but in recent years, animation studios have used it to bring the anime style into the modern era.
I’m not the type of person who watches one movie after another on long-haul flights, and usually spend the better part of the sixteen hours sleeping. The trip back from Hong Kong before the beginning of this semester ended up being one rare exception, however, because there was a crying baby in the seat next to me. I had no choice but to cycle through all the MCU movies they had (thank God), and afterwards, set my eye on a movie I had deliberately avoided seeing in the spring — Love, Simon. Despite putting the movie’s soundtrack on repeat the moment it came out, and despite promising every one of my friends who went to opening weekend and raved about it afterwards that I would go see it, I never did after watching the trailer. You would think that as someone who loves rom-coms and never shuts up about representation, the premise itself is enough to make me want to go.
Philip Roth’s American Pastoral is a favorite novel of mine. For one, Philip Roth, like Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, was from New Jersey, and he manages to artistically encapsulate the working-class, Newarkian fervor that seems to extend down to and characterize so much of our state – north, south and central. American Pastoral is about European immigrants and their successive American generations, calling to mind my not-so-distant ancestors who ventured to New York and New Jersey from places like Italy and Scotland. They, like the Levovs, were in pursuit of something like the American pastoral, that Waspy utopia of spacious, suburban homes and Ivy League educations. Of course, as the novel contends, it is easy to shoot for the dream, miss and be cast away to the American berserk.
The first annual installment of Cayuga Sound saw both X Ambassadors and The Roots headline. But while this past year has certainly been a busy one for X Ambassadors — as the band has been hard at work on their second major record which Sam Harris, X Ambassadors frontman, described to me as constantly in flux but “expected to be completed sometime in 2019” — they have grown their festival to include a second night of action in Stewart Park. This year’s ticket includes acts such as Young the Giant, who rose to stardom through singles like “My Body” and “Cough Syrup,” Talib Kweli, Towkio and dance duo Matt and Kim. Harris described the process in curating this year’s festival in a recent interview with The Sun:
“Honestly, we really just kind of reached out to [this year’s] artists blindly. We didn’t really have any prior relationship with any of them.
If there’s anything we learned from last year’s Cayuga Sound Festival, it’s that X Ambassadors are more than just a band. They are expert showmen, skilled curators and philanthropists: home-town-heroes in every sense. Cayuga Sound began last year as X Ambassadors’ homage to their roots and is hosted in Stewart Park — a place Sam Harris, the frontman of X Ambassadors, says holds tremendous sentimental value. “I was a camp counselor at Stewart Park Day Camp … it was a place where I would go to play soccer as a kid,” he described. He continued on to discuss how he “has a very deep emotional connection with the park” and how “it is insane to be able to put a festival on there.”
Harris notes that as a kid he “just wanted to get out” of Ithaca.
At this year’s Met Gala it wasn’t Rihanna’s extravagant pope ensemble or a Kardashian’s ethereal interpretation of sainthood that grabbed the internet’s short attention span, but rather the debut of an unlikely couple: Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and experimental pop artist Claire Boucher, who goes by Grimes. The juxtaposition of Musk’s white jacket and priest’s notched collar with Grimes’ goth gown and silver Tesla choker underscored the sense of surreality surrounding their coupling. Musk, one of a new generation of tech titans, an elite group consisting of household names like Bezos and Zuckerberg, embodies a greater neoliberal push toward innovation at any cost, often accompanied by hazy ethical grounding. Grimes, on the other hand, is a counter-cultural synth icon who has gained a cult following by working with the avant-garde. The unlikely union is at once shocking for what seems like a bizarre mismatch in fundamental ideology, and completely logical.
I worked in a research lab at a university in my hometown this past summer and, for the first time in my life, experienced what it’s like to have a long commute — an hour and a half each way standing in a hot, humid, insanely crowded subway car. Most of my fellow commuters spent these long and miserable daily trips on their phones, either scrolling through Weibo (think Twitter) feeds, watching viral videos, playing online games, binging the newest hit TV series or reading trending articles on Wechat (a Chinese amalgamation of Facebook and Instagram). Hundreds of commuters with headphones on staring down at their smartphone screens was quite a sight be behold but also incredibly frustrating, especially when I had to transfer lines at one of the busiest stations downtown, and had to follow a massive crowd of people up flights of stairs to another platform, a process slowed down significantly by those who were too absorbed in their phones to even walk properly. Despite my frustration, and because social learning is a natural thing that we all do, a few days into this commuter life, I also started killing time by spending it solely on my phone, going through my Weibo feed more times than necessary, replying to comments, reading Wechat articles that I normally wouldn’t care for and, when all that was still not enough, busted out my VPN to go through Instagram and Twitter. Yet, as you may have guessed by now, aggressively working my way through every social media platform every morning and evening did not make me feel “more connected” to friends and family, all the articles I read did not make me significantly more knowledgeable in certain areas or enlighten me on social or political issues, nor did the viral funny videos make me happier.