TELEVISION REVIEW: Parks and Recreation

Photo courtesy of semania.tv.

Photo courtesy of semania.tv.

By Jay Panandiker

While Parks and Recreation may not be the most popular television show, and while it rarely gets over five million viewers a night, it is one of television’s best and smartest comedies. The NBC comedy, now in it’s fourth season, is one of TV’s most underrated shows. The show, which comes from the producers of the more popular show, The Office, follows the Parks and Recreation Department of “America’s fourth most obese town,” Pawnee, Indiana.

The cast is led by Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler, who plays Leslie Knope, a mid-level bureaucrat. In the first episode, Knope is befriended by local nurse, Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Perkins’s longtime boyfriend, Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt). The rest of the cast includes bureaucrats Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider), and the Director of the Department, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman).

The show’s first season received many negative reviews, saying that it was much too similar to The Office. Some claimed that Knope came off as ditzy and a female version of Michael Scott. Through the first season’s sixth episode, the show was constantly “on the bubble,” primarily due to its slow pace. One of the quintessential examples of this is “the pit” story-arc, which was dragged on through the whole season.  Essentially, Knope hopes to convert a abandoned pit at a construction site into a city park. Initially, the pit storyline created a great segue to allow Perkins and Dwyer to enter the lives of the government officials (a drunk Dwyer fell into the pit breaking both his legs, forcing Perkins to assist him with every action). The arc initially provided a good storyline, and it would have provided a good side plot to the season. However it was pushed so far out of the plot that nothing was ever achieved. The first season ended with no real mention of the new park. In addition, the cameras spent a majority of their time focusing on Knope’s professional life. This led to more restricted plots, and several characters having such minor roles that went unnoticed.

However, after almost being cancelled, the show’s second season showed one of the greatest television comebacks. In the second season, the writers addressed many of the complaints made by critics and viewers alike. The show began to develop elements that are now some of its greatest assets, particularly the character development and use of satire.

First, the show embraced the idea of an ensemble cast where each character had a more equal role. Characters that had remained relatively quiet in the first season such as April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), Donna Meagle (Retta), and Jerry Girgich (Jim O’Heir) became more significant players in the plot.

Tom Haverford, who in the first season was a funny but minor Scrabble-playing underachiever, received a complete episode dedicated to his personal life. More is revealed in the relationship between Perkins and Dwyer, eventually resulting in a break up. The second season can be characterized as a series of looks into the personal lives of characters, particularly Knope, and a budding romance between Ludgate and Dwyer. The Leslie Knope — Ron Swanson friendship, which develops in the second season, represents the quintessential liberal-libertarian compromise. In the first season. Swanson was more antagonistic, but he became friendlier as the show progressed.

In the second and third seasons, the producers of the show also made an effort to become more topical. Rather than just slapstick or situational comedy, the show began to expand into satire and political humor. The comeback season began with Leslie attempting to marry two zoo penguins, which turned out to be gay. Consequently, Leslie gets into trouble with several religious groups. One of the most brilliant bits of these new styles of humor involved a city council member engulfed in sexual scandals, an allusion to then-South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford. In the final two episodes of the season, there was a story arc involving a government shutdown, which introduced two new characters: Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and Chris Treager (Rob Lowe). The two are government accountants, who are in charge of reassessing the town budget. Lowe’s character is very upbeat. He is friendly and obsessed with his personal health, whereas Scott’s character is more of a “comedic straight man.” The two actors have proved to have a great presence on screen and have played a key role in making the show so much better.

Parks and Recreation is now one of television’s smartest comedies. It has a perfect mix of lowbrow and highbrow comedy. The show has evolved from The Office’s younger brother to what Time Magazine labeled the second best show of the year, and what Entertainment Weekly named TV’s smartest show. Parks and Recreation has become the quintessential example of a comeback show.

MUSIC: Top 15 Songs of 2011

MUSIC: Top 15 Songs of 2011

By Priyanka Parameswaran

These are the tracks that I have chosen as my fifteen favorite songs of 2011. Click on the blue song titles to watch the music videos on Youtube.

Piledriver Waltz (Alex Turner): Turner wrote this for the movie Submarine (which is amazing), allowing him to venture into a territory his position as Arctic Monkey’s frontman doesn’t allow. “Piledriver Waltz” is, essentially, three and a half minutes of perfection filled with undecipherable lyrics and smooth singing.

 

 

Video Games (Lana del Rey)2011 was definitely a good year for Lana del Rey, with every other music magazine raving about her. “Video Games” proves that the hype is well deserved.

 

 

 

 

Suck it and See (Arctic Monkeys)“Suck it and See” is my personal favorite off of the album of the same name. It is the perfect summer tune, and calls back to an older era. The line, “Be cruel to me ‘cause I’m a fool for you,” may be the best tragically romantic line since lyrics of The Smiths.

 

 

 

Pumped up Kicks (Foster the People)This was THE song of the summer, with radio stations and magazines alike professing their love for the song and the band.

 

 

 

 

If You Wanna (The Vaccines)My personal favorite off of their amazing debut, “If you wanna” is amazingly energetic. Content wise, the lyrics may the most pathetically sad I’ve heard all year.

 

 

 

 

Call Your Girlfriend (Robyn)Robyn gives us one of the catchiest and cleverest pop songs of the year, writing from the third point in a love triangle. She sings (and dances) with more emotion and energy than the average pop star.

 

 

 

AKA… What a Life! (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds): A self-professed “disco tune,” Noel Gallagher proves he can move past his Oasis background and create some of the best rock music I’ve heard in a while.

 

 

 

 

Shake it Out (Florence & the Machine): One of the best moments on an album filled with them.

 

 

 

 

 

Wilhelm Scream (James Blake): In a year filled with love songs, James Blake has given us the quietest, calmest version.

 

 

 

 

 

Rolling in the Deep (Adele): “Rolling in the Deep” was undoubtedly the song of the year, and with its lyrics, attitude, and vocals, it deserved to be.

 

 

 

 

Broken Record (Katy B): 2011 cemented Katy B’s status as the queen of dubstep; “Broken Record” is one of the few vulnerable spots in the album, and for me, was the song that cemented my liking for her.

 

 

 

 

Pictures (Benjamin Francis Leftwich): Leftwich had one of the best debuts, and voices, from 2011. “Pictures” is the ideal singer-songwriter track with lyrics I’m still trying to figure out.

 

 

 

 

Hellcat Spangled Shalalala (Arctic Monkeys): Possibly one of the weirdest titles in history, this love song involves some of the best lyrics I’ve heard in a while.

 

 

 

 

Still Life (The Horrors): ”Still Life” shows that The Horrors have matured from the band they were, and might be their best song yet. It’s quieter, slower, sounds like it’s from the 80′s, and is beautifully written.

Simply Unstoppable (Tinie Tempah): Written after Okogwu had already achieved success with “Pass Out,” “Simply Unstoppable” shows the experience that comes with success.

Girls’ and Boys’ Basketball Results

Girls' and Boys' Basketball Results

By Claire Duncan

From left to right: Claire Duncan, Hillary Goldsmith, Alexis Lindsay

Girls’ Basketball Statistics:

Scorers:

  1. Lauren Weems – 17pts
  2. Hillary Goldsmith – 10.8 pts
  3. Alexis Lindsay – 10 pts

Rebounds:

  1. Alexis Lindsay – 10.2 rebounds
  2. Lauren Weems – 6.6 rebounds
  3. Katie Cirulli – 5.4 rebounds

Assists:

  1. Lauren Weems – 3.6 assists
  2. Claire Duncan – 3.2 assists
  3. Katie Cirulli – 1.2 assists

Girls’ Record

Nov 28, 2011 VS Reading… WIN 55-40

Dec 3 VS Woodward… WIN 58-33

Dec 5 VS Lockland… WIN 65-50

Dec 7 VS Summit… LOSS 29-45

Dec 12 VS Cincinnati Christian… WIN 46-39

Jan 4, 2012 VS Madeira… WIN 46-43

Jan 6 VS Cincinnati Country Day… WIN 53-50

Jan 14 VS CHCA… WIN 57-41

Upcoming Girls’ Games

Wednesday, January 18 VS Summit at 7:30PM, AWAY

Saturday, January 21 VS Clark Montessori at 2:30PM, AWAY

Monday, January 23 VS Butlerville at 7:30PM, HOME

Wednesday, January 25 VS North College Hill at 7:30PM, HOME

Saturday, January 28 VS Lockland at 2:30PM, HOME

Wednesday, February 1 VS Landmark Christian at 6PM, HOME

 

Boys’s Basketball Statistics:

Scorers:

  1. Roderick McFarland – 10.5 pts
  2. Pauley Gosiger – 8 pts
  3. Alec Kagan  – 7.8 pts

Rebounds:

  1. Daniel McKinnon – 5.2 rebounds
  2. Pauley Gosiger – 2.2 rebounds
  3. Mathew Cohen – 2 rebounds

Assists:

  1. Mathew Cohen – 2 assists
  2. Harrison Addy – 1.8 assists
  3. Roderick McFarland – 1.2 assists

Boys’ Record

Dec 3, 2011 VS Franklin County… LOSS 35-71

Dec 6 VS Summit… LOSS 40-74

Dec 8 VS CHCA… LOSS 39-45

Dec 13 VS North College Hill… LOSS 37-59

Dec 16 VS Cincinnati Christian… LOSS 61-72

Jan 3, 2012 VS McNicholas… LOSS 50-65

Jan 6 VS Cincinnati Country Day… LOSS 47-52

Jan 13 VS Lockland… LOSS 34-56

Upcoming Boys’ Games

Tuesday, January 17 VS Highlands at 7:30PM, HOME

Friday, January 20 VS CHCA at 7:30PM, HOME

Saturday, January 21 VS Dayton Christian at 7:30PM, AWAY

Tuesday, January 24 VS Summit at 7:30PM, AWAY

Friday, January 27 VS Clark Montessori at 7:30PM, AWAY

Tuesday, January 31 VS Western Hills at 7:30PM, AWAY

Friday, February 3 VS North College Hill at 7:30 PM, AWAY

SPORTS PROFILE: Harrison Addy

SPORTS PROFILE: Harrison Addy

By Claire Duncan

Harrison Addy, a multifaceted senior athlete, has proved to be a strong competitor in every sport he attempts. He first began playing sports when he was six as a pitcher for his Little League baseball team.

Initially he got involved because his father wanted him to try it out, but he quickly developed his own passion for the sport: “At first I liked Little League because I got to hang out with my friends, but now the game is totally different for me. When I pitch, I feel calm and like I’m in complete control of the game. I love it.”

In addition to pitching, Addy also plays shortstop and third base. His shining moment as a baseball player came his junior year when he pitched a complete game and hit a grand slam. Addy is a key contributor to the Seven Hills Baseball team, and has been a major factor in their recent success. His sophomore year, the baseball team reached the Regional Semifinals in the State tournament, and his junior year he made First Team All-City.

Not only does Addy excel on the baseball field, but on the basketball court as well. He has played basketball since he was eight, and he is now the co-captain of the Varsity Basketball team. Though they are having a rough start to their season this year, Addy continues to demonstrate the work ethic and drive that make him such a great athlete.

Before each baseball and basketball game, Addy listens to music, stretches, and prays to prepare himself mentally for the competition, but it is nothing compared to the preparation he did for the marathon he ran at the beginning of his senior year. By far the most challenging and rewarding athletic experience he’s ever had, the marathon was 26.2 miles of strenuous running. He trained for three months in preparation for the grueling event, and had to change his diet and run consistently in order to get in shape.

Though he does not plan to play sports in college, no matter what Harrison Addy is taking part in, from athletics to academics, he is sure to give his all.

FASHION: Top 20 Dresses of 2011, Contd.

By Priyanka Parameswaran. Continued from the first ten dresses at 7hillscanvass.org/?p=485.
  •  Rosie Huntington-Whitely: red Antonio Berardi dress at Transformers 3 premiere

    Image by Jason Kempin/Getty Images.

  •  Jessica Alba: Atelier Versace blue dress at the BAFTAs

    Image by Getty Images.

  •  Olivia Wilde: chocolate brown Marchesa Golden Globes dress

    Image by Getty Images.

  •  Emma Stone: peach Calvin Klein Golden Globes dress

    Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America.

  • Michelle Williams: Chanel Oscars dress

    Image by Getty Images.

  • Gisele Bundchen: red Alexander McQueen dress for the Met Costume Institute Gala

    Image by Joe Schildhorn / BFAnyc.com

  • Alexa Chung: Christopher Kane dress for the Met Costume Institute Gala

    Image by Joe Schildhorn / BFAnyc.com.

  • Liu Wen: Alexander McQueen dress for the Met Costume Institute Gala

    Liu Wen is on the right. Image by Larry Busacca/Getty Images North America.

  • Diane Kruger: Elie Saab dress at the Venice Film Festival

    Image by WireImage.

  • Pippa Middleton: Alexander McQueen bridesmaid dress

    Image by Zak Hussein/wenn.com.

FASHION: Top 20 Dresses of 2011

FASHION - Top 20 Dresses of 2011

By Priyanka Parameswaran.

As I look back on 2011, a year filled with glamorous celebrity weddings and red carpet events, here are my picks for the twenty best dresses.

  • Kate Moss: John Galliano wedding dress

    Image by Getty Images.

  • Kate Middleton: Alexander McQueen wedding dress

    Image by Getty/Reuters.

  • Angelina Jolie: green Versace Golden Globes dress

    Image by Getty Images.

  • Anne Hathaway: red Atelier Versace Oscars dress

    Image by Christopher Polk/VF11/WireImage.

  • Blake Lively: Marchesa sari dress at the Brits to Watch BAFTA Gala

    Image by INF.

  • Leighton Meester (as Blair Waldorf): sequined Jenny Packham dress for Gossip Girl

    Image by CW Television Network.

  • Kate Middleton: hand-painted chinoiserie silk Jenny Packham dress at the Foundation Polo Challenge

    Image by PA.

  • Jennifer Lawrence: red Calvin Klein Collection Oscars dress

    Image by Steve Granitz/WireImage.

  • Mila Kunis: lavender Elie Saab Oscars dress

    Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America.

  • Natalie Portman: purple Rodarte Oscars dress

    Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America.

PART 2: Please continue to 7hillscanvass.org/?p=607 for the next ten dresses.

Arts Profile: Senior Seamstress Courtney Linne

Linne wears her Challenge Project: her recreation of Queen Elizabeth I's coronation gown.

By Sara Johnson. All photos courtesy of Courtney Linne.

 

“My passion for sewing began with my kindergarten Halloween costume. I was really frustrated that my mermaid costume had the tail on the front.”

Linne in kindergarten, wearing her mermaid costume -- after sewing the tail onto the back.

Since senior Courtney Linne learned to sew the mermaid tail onto the back of her costume, she has passionately sought out and perfected period sewing techniques.

“My grandmother started by teaching me how to hand-sew with a simple whip stitch. By third grade, I could use a sewing machine and make my costumes by myself. I was so excited when I was given my little Babylock Sewing machine.”

“Sewing interests me because it is the solution to making something two-dimensional fit a three-dimensional person,” said Linne in a feature for the Seven Hills School Magazine. Linne continued to pursue this interest for her challenge project. Instead of staying within her comfort zone, she chose to study Victorian period sewing techniques and recreate Queen Elizabeth I’s coronation gown. “I wanted to choose a garment that is challenging to create and that people would recognize,” said Linne.

Linne wears her Challenge Project: her recreation of Queen Elizabeth I's coronation gown.

Linne has completed three major projects: Queen Elizabeth I’s coronation gown, the 1900s Moy Gown worn by Irish working women, and an 1800s princess-line cuirasse gown.

From start to finish, the process of creating a gown can take 500 hours. “I have to begin by choosing a garment then analyzing primary sources.” Linne learns the period sewing techniques by observation, looking to identify the type and placement of the seams. For example, she observed that in the Victorian Age, side seams and set back sleeves that force the shoulders into perfect posture are characteristic of the time. “I then have to do pattern drafting and create the shape out of muslin.” She chooses her fabrics and the final garment that we see begins to come together.

Linne wears her princess-line cuirasse gown.

Surprisingly, Linne uses math and science when creating her gowns. Calculations are needed when she creates her patterns, and she used chemistry to dye her Irish gown in an indigo dye bath with an oxidation-reduction reaction.

Linne wears the corset she made for her princess-line cuirasse gown.

Linne used her skills to construct and repair costumes for the Seven Hills production of Get Out of My Hair, and she is interested in doing costume design in the future as a hobby. Linne outlines the long process of creating the gowns on her website: sites.google.com/site/oneamericanseamstress.

ELECTION 2012 OP-ED: Does Iowa Really Matter?

ELECTION 2012 OP-ED: Does Iowa Really Matter?

By Jay Panandiker

It’s virtually impossible to watch any news show on television without hearing mention of the Republican presidential candidates. Last week, when I turned on CNN, they had a clock in the corner counting down the hours until the Iowa caucuses. So far the Republican candidates have each spent millions of dollars in the state already, and there have been several debates there. In addition, SuperPACs have spent well over ten million dollars. In spite of all of this, there are so many reasons that lead me to believe that what happens in Iowa has no lasting effects on the presidential race.

A graphic by The Chicago Tribune showing past Iowa Caucus results.

One perspective on the Iowa caucus is that the winner gains significant momentum, and the win in Iowa often sets the tone for the rest of the election. However, recent winning statistics show that Iowa is not all that accurate in predicting the nominee. In fact, since 1980, a non-incumbent Iowa Caucus winner has become the nominee only twice. That is equal to about a 40% success rate.

My guess as to why this happens is the fact that Iowa is a caucus state and not a primary state. In a primary, a registered party member can go into a polling booth, vote, and leave within minutes. However, in Iowa, each town has their own meeting in a public place, usually a school or church. In the Democratic Primary, each individual must publicly declare whom he or she is voting for.  Then, whichever candidate has the most votes wins that precinct. However, in the Republican Caucus, each member of the community writes their candidate’s name on a sheet of paper. These slips of paper are then counted and recounted several times.  Both party’s caucuses must have multiple hour meetings. So instead of spending five minutes voting, a voter must spend two or three hours.  These impractical and long meetings lead to very few people showing up to vote. Often those who do show up are from the extremes of the party, because they are the only people patient enough to sit in a meeting for hours. I believe this is why, in 2008, the more conservative Mike Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus, while in 1980 the more moderate Ronald Reagan lost.

The second problem I have with the focus on Iowa is its role in the general election. While candidates spend the most money in valuable battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, Iowa is not far behind these states. For starters, Iowa is not a battleground state at all in the general elections.  In every election since 1988, Iowa has been a blue state in the presidential race.  Even in 1988, when George H.W. Bush got 426 electoral votes and California went Republican, Iowa went Democratic. Moreover, Iowa could never decide a presidential election. There will never be a moment where a candidate says, “Oh, if only I could have won Iowa.” Its six electoral votes are dwarfed by states like New York (29), Texas (38), or California (55).

In this election year, only the Republican Party has to worry about the Iowa caucus. Many of this year’s caucus goers will be Evangelical Christian voters. These voters are often the most conservative in the American political system, because they combine fiscal conservancy with conservative social values. So in the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses, candidates try to focus on these voters the most, which makes the GOP candidates appear far more conservative than they actually are. With so much media attention in Iowa, this could turn out to hurt the candidates in the end. The current political rhetoric could potentially turn off the important independent voters.

A graphic by the New York Times showing the 2012 Iowa Caucus Results.

In 2012 especially, it is clear that the polls change every week, and almost every candidate has had their moment at the top. Even though Michele Bachmann won the Ames Iowa Straw Poll in August, she lost momentum and even dropped out of the race, while Mitt Romney has risen to the top. Polls were still fluctuating days before the caucuses. Many political thinkers suggest that there is no candidate that satisfies both the conservative base and the moderates. They argue that GOP is trying to find candidates other than Mitt Romney to pit against President Obama in 2012.

This year in Iowa, frontrunner Mitt Romney won by a marginal eight votes – the closest victory in the history of the caucuses. Rick Santorum, who was nowhere to be seen leading up to Iowa, came in a close second. However, in New Hampshire, Romney won by a huge margin of 17 percent. In my opinion, Santorum came so close in Iowa for two reasons. First off, he spent more hours campaigning there than any other candidate. Furthermore, the Iowa caucuses just happened to coincide with his time at the top of the polls.

When I turned on CNN the day after the Iowa Caucus, I heard one analyst say that Santorum can carry the momentum from Iowa, through the election. However, Santorum now is running low on funds, and he came in fifth place in New Hampshire, behind Romney, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, and Newt Gingrich. Many people find Paul, who placed third in Iowa, unelectable due to his libertarian views.

And lastly, just for a little bit of perspective: in the Iowa Caucuses this year, 121,147 people (or about 4 percent of the state) voted in the caucus. In New Hampshire, 242,908 people (or about 18 percent of the state) voted in the primary. This statistic alone shows that the Iowa caucus represents a small group of partisan voters. What happens in New Hampshire is more representative of what may happen around the country.

There is a political proverb that says, “Iowa picks corn, New Hampshire picks presidents.” And there is some truth to that statement. After all, what ever happened to Mike Huckabee after he won in Iowa?

MOVIE REVIEW – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

MOVIE REVIEW - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

PG-13, 129 minutes, Mystery & Suspense, Action & Adventure

Directed by Guy Ritchie

Written By Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney

Released December 16th, Warner Bros. Pictures

 

By Elizabeth Young

Continuing where the previous film left off, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows features Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes on the hunt for the devious Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris). The motives and means behind the bombings and murders weave a larger tale, as there is also a threat of a European war breaking out. Jude Law and Rachel McAdams reprise their roles as Watson and Irene Adler, and Noomi Rapace (from the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo films) makes her Hollywood debut as the gypsy Simza. The sequel expands the scope and budget of the first film while retaining the original’s core elements.

The action sequences are far more elaborate than those of the first film, but they return to the use of slow motion to break down the fights and showcase Holmes’s intellect and skill. Pyrotechnics are featured heavily, and make Game of Shadows more of an action movie than the first installment. However, the sequences also relate human emotions of the pain and the challenge between Holmes and Moriarty.

A still of Robert Downey Jr, Noomi Rapace, and Jude Law. Photo by Daniel Smith, Warner Bros Entertainment, Inc.

Throughout the film, the events have a visible psychological impact on the characters, especially Holmes. The game between Moriarty and Holmes plays to both the mental and emotional sides of Holmes. The battle of will and intellect spans stunning scenery as Holmes searches for answers and a way to thwart Moriarty. The pain and insecurities displayed by Holmes make him more human and relatable despite his often eccentric and condemnable behavior.

During the film, details surrounding Moriarty are presented but the meaning behind them is revealed slowly, leaving the viewer dependent on Holmes to lead the way. The beautiful scenery, fantastic period sets and costumes, dazzling cinematography, and fast-paced script all contribute to the adventure and mystery.

Academy Award winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot gives the film a brilliant range. From crossing great expanses of Europe to the nuances of each encounter between Holmes and Moriarty, the cinematography engages the viewer and sets the pace for the film.

Composer Hans Zimmer revisits many themes from the first film but, like the rest of the film, expands on them as well. The score complements the movie well; Zimmer adds darker themes for Moriarty and the game between masterminds, while emphasizing the light banter in other scenes. The music further connects the two films while also providing Game of Shadows with its own sound.

While some secondary characters lack sufficient screen time, Downey’s gripping performance as Holmes seems to make up for the loss. The banter between Holmes and Watson fits with the strain that Watson’s nuptials have placed on their relationship.

While some of the dialogue and disguises are only saved by the acting of Downey and Law, the movie is still entertaining. The ending incorporates the two sides of Holmes, brings the film full circle through Watson, and leaves the possibility of further films open. The characters created by Ritchie, Downey, and Law are interesting and enjoyable to watch, despite the fact that they may not be exactly what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle imagined.

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