Pepsi commercial completely falls flat

This piece was originally published in PLU’s student newspaper, The Mast

JEFF DUNN; LASR GENERAL Manager; dunnja@plu.edu

Wow, I had no idea this corporation run by rich one-percenters lacked a basic understanding of the social context of the time! That’s crazy!

Imagine this:

“What do millennials like? How can we reach that demographic with our new campaign?” one socially detached Pepsi public relations director asks his board.

“I know!” one potentially well-meaning but equally detached board member pipes up. “Kids love fighting systemic racism! What if we solved police brutality with Pepsi?”

This notion is met with many “harumphs” of agreement, and before long, Pepsi has produced an advertisement starring Kendall Jenner. In a nearly three-minute video, Jenner is shown walking amidst a crowd of protesters before she plucks a can of soda from a cooler, marches up to the police line staring down the protest and hands it to a cop. The cop takes it, the crowd erupts in cheers, racism is over, police brutality solved and all possible racial tension in the United States is relinquished.

End scene.

Needless to say, backlash against this ad was rampant. Deray McKesson, a prominent member of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, joked online that if only he had carried a Pepsi, he wouldn’t have been arrested.

Pepsi pulled the ad within a day, apologizing to Jenner, of all people. Jenner chose to do the ad. She’s an adult. She should understand just as well as Pepsi that her actions have consequences.

This is all beside the fact that this ad was a very unsubtle way of co-opting the BLM movement, and replacing the dominant figures in it with white people.

According to their apology, “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark.” Yeah, you think so?

Who knew that in this dark age of late capitalism and unchecked imperialism, corporations would attempt to use your own ethics and deep-seated belief in social justice to sell you a can of soda? It almost makes sense that the reality that we perceive has become a parody of itself. Almost.

I’m not gonna tell you to boycott Pepsi, because it’d be nearly impossible. I just want you, dear reader, to not let corporations like Big Pepsi Cola pander to you. Don’t let them reduce your ethics and morals to selling points. Be socially conscious of your beliefs and don’t let a company sell to you based on them. And don’t expect companies like Coca-Cola to be any better just because they haven’t made a mistake… yet.

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The Grammys SUCK

This piece originally published in PLU’s student newspaper, The Mast

JEFF DUNN; LASR General Manager: dunnja@plu.edu

As a rule, I don’t watch the Grammys. Never mind that I don’t have cable; even if Comcast wasn’t the devil, I’d still find something better to do with my two and a half hours than watch meaningless awards be handed out to the wrong artists.

What’s amazing is that my disgust at the Grammys doesn’t stem from general disgust of pop music. Believe it or not, there were some great pop and hip-hop albums this year, but for a host of reasons I knew they wouldn’t receive awards on February 12.

Beyonce’s “Lemonade” losing to Adele’s “25” for Album of the Year is by far my biggest peeve with this year’s ceremony. “25” is a vastly inferior album to “Lemonade.” We all know that. Anyone with ears knows that. Even Adele knows that: “What the fuck does Beyonce have to do to win Album of the Year?” she asked in the Grammys press room. Pitchfork gave “Lemonade” an 8.5/10, while “25” got only a 7.3.

“But Jeff! ‘25’ sold better in the United States! Adele sold nearly nine times as many albums than Beyonce this year!” You’re right, conveniently contrary writing device, but the Grammys isn’t a popularity contest.

According to their guidebook, the academy members are required to vote based upon the quality of the work. Their decisions can not to be influenced by sales, chart performance, friendships, regional preferences or company loyalty. Based solely on critical acclaim, “Lemonade” is leaps and bounds ahead of “25.”

Besides Beyonce getting snuffed for what feels like the millionth time, the Grammys voting committee proved their noncompliance with their own guidebook further by awarding Chance the Rapper “Best New Artist.”

Excuse me, new? “Acid Rap” came out in 2013, y’all, I’ve been listening to that album since before I came to college.

I know, I know, you have to sell your album to catch the Grammy, and “Acid Rap” was available for free via Soundcloud. But therein lies my main issue with the Grammys: selling music. If music is art, and art is a true expression of some honest message to share with the world, why should we sully that pure vision by remixing it so it’ll sell well? Frank Ocean abstained from entering “Blonde,” his highly acclaimed 2016 release, in any category at the Grammys. In a blog post on his Tumblr, Ocean wrote (in all caps) he would’ve liked to participate to honor Prince, but decided the best way to do that was to continue being successful without the awards ceremony:

“Winning a TV award doesn’t christen me successful. It took me some time to learn that. I bought all my masters back last year in the prime of my career, that’s successful. ‘Blonde’ sold a million plus without a label, that’s successful […] Use the old gramophone to actually listen bro, I’m one of the best alive. And if you’re up for a discussion about the cultural bias and general nerve damage the show you produce suffers from then I’m all for it.” Try listening to something that definitely won’t win a Grammy. Listen to something released for free. Listen to something that a Facebook friend from your hometown recorded in their basement and released on Soundcloud or Bandcamp. If you’ve gotta listen to pop music, just pirate it. I promise, Adele won’t miss the $10.99 you were gonna pay on iTunes for “25.” Her record company might, though.

Elephant Jake makes the most of discomfort with “Classic.”

This piece originally published on my radio show’s website, Finding Emo

EJ

by Jeff Dunn

“I don’t wanna talk, talk, talk anymore than we have to,” croons Sal Fratto on Sebastian Bauer, the second track from Elephant Jake’s LP “Classic.” released March 17, 2017, on Wreck It Records. As the line would imply, Fratto and Colin Harrison cut straight to the point on “Classic.”, blending that now-quintessential emo revival sound with just enough indie rock to make it stand out palpably.

Fratto and Harrison don’t pull any punches lyrically, crafting intimate imagery with their words, reminiscent of Modern Baseball, Slaughter Beach, Dog, and Marietta. Fratto and Harrison capture the indeterminate feelings that come with maturing; fears of being alone, hesitantly leaving comfort and the familiar for the sake of changing and growing. “But it’s alright,” Fratto and Harrison offer on Minute Hands; “Everything’s alright.”

I don’t want to present the album this album as the saddest thing you’ll hear this year – far from it. “Classic.” is as irreverent and fun as the dudes who make up Elephant Jake, and this carefree attitude shines through in the opening riff to Six Four (You Know Better Than I Would), guaranteed to get your toes a-tapping, and At Least For Now’s tom-heavy drum beat.

Elephant Jake has songwriting ability in spades; “Classic.” sounds like it couldn’t have been written any other way. The album bounces from song to song, keeping your attention at all times. Energetic electric guitar riffs trade the spotlight with somber acoustic ballads; both pull your ears to the center of the music and drop you gingerly into verses where Fratto and Harrison’s voices weave around each other like they were two heads on the same body.

There’s a certain honesty to “Classic.” that a lot of indie/alternative rock misses the mark on. Elephant Jake isn’t out to prove anything on this album. They’re here to rock and give you a 42 minute long peek into their psyche.

Ultimately, this album comes from a place of discomfort and awkward social interactions and turns it into something beautiful, channeling primarily negative emotions into positive outcomes.

Stream/purchase Classic. here

Check out our interview with Sal and Collin here

Mineva’s “Precious, Endless” a cathartic expression of reflection

this piece originally published on my radio show’s blog, Finding Emo

by Jeff Dunn

On March 15, Nik and I had the pleasure of playing a few tracks from the recently released “Precious, Endless” EP from Connecticut post-hardcore five-piece Mineva.

“Thematically, they address stages of grief and dealing with different loss that we dealt with in our personal lives,” bassist Peter Strockowski told us on-air. “There’s a ton of emo influence in our music, I don’t know if it comes across as simply as that, in a less teenage angsty, since we’re all a little older now and have been around the block a few times, but it’s definitely very introspective in an emotional way.

The best lyrics are always introspective, and Mineva pulls at their own hearts to find meaning in their music; “I’m still stuck somewhere between selfish / and a question still unanswered / it’s only fear that’s speaking back to me / year after year i just want you to be happy / as I overthink everything about me annually” rings the chorus to the opening track Annually, hitting the themes of introspection and reflection early on.

Sonically, each track on “Precious, Endless” sweeps effortlessly from the softness of a reverb-soaked arpeggio to the raging punches of hardcore verses and back again. I find something new to love about the guitar work on the “Precious, Endless” every time I listen; subtle dichotomies between the lead and rhythm parts demand your attention several times over.

“There’s an Alan Watts quote dealing with love and enemies,” Strockowski told us. “It kinda came to us, what he was saying about loving like a faucet and the necessity of enemies to someone as a part of basic human relations, it’s really incredible. A lot of people these days wouldn’t say they necessarily have enemies, but it’s a reflection of how your relations grow and change as you mature.”

“A great deal of damage is done in practical human relations by saying that you love people,” the Watts sample monologues over the opening riff to “bluesummers (The End With You).” “when what you mean to say is that you ought to (and don’t). You give the impression, and people begin to expect things of you which you are never going to come through with.” The Watts quote mixes well with bluesummers’ lyrical themes of a fear of loving. “It’s like we always wanted/ to hold hands and watch the end / to find closure in compassion / and hope to love again” sings Kevin Covill, before Watts returns; “But love is not a sort of rare commodity—everybody has it. Existence is love. But its like water flowing through a hose, it depends on what direction you point it.”

A beautiful album with a direct theme and wonderfully unique sound, “Precious, Endless” will restore your belief in love while taking you on a deeply personal journey through the hearts and minds of Mineva. Get it for pay-what-you-want on their bandcamp.

Game of Porcelain Thrones: A senior’s farewell through selfies

 

This piece originally published in The Mast, PLU’s student news paper.

As I near the end of my stint at PLU, I’ve come to an interesting realization: my average on-campus restroom visits per day is about to plummet.

Five days a week, for the last four years of my life, I’ve pooed on campus at least once a day, not counting my first year where I lived on campus and pooed exclusively on campus. In my time here, I think I’ve assembled a pretty good taste in choice of public restrooms. Ranking my favorite public restroom on campus might seem a silly or derivative task, but I’ve got a system that compares restrooms along three axes: popularity (or privacy), quality of restroom experience and selfie potential.
I should preface this with two facts: I’m a humanities major, so I’m biased, leaning towards the upper-campus restrooms. And, sorry everyone else, but I typically use the men’s room, being a man and all.

The popularity of each restroom varies by time of day, obviously, but there are still some restrooms on campus where I’ve never seen another soul. The family/all-gender restrooms top the list in terms of privacy, since they’re typically single-occupant. Among these perpetually private restrooms, the Lower Anderson University Center family restroom takes the cake. The lighting is perfect, the mirror is big, and I’ve never taken a bad selfie there.

Oh, you’re not interested in hogging up a single-occupant restroom while you take selfies? Can’t relate. But don’t fear: the ground floor Ramstad restroom has you covered. With an equally wonderful mirror and beautiful natural lighting streaming in from the south wall, your search for the perfect selfie mirror has ended. It even has a nice ledge beneath the window that you can prop your foot up against for those head-to-toe fits.

Now, this bathroom is designed for multiple occupants, but don’t let that stop you from looking good. If someone happens to walk in while you’re taking your selfies, honesty is always the best policy. Let them know that you do, in fact, look great today, and you’d appreciate their assistance by staying out of your light.

If that doesn’t deter them (damn determined poopers), run from the room screaming. If nothing else, you’ll probably scare them away from ever returning, and you’re one step closer to reaching the trifecta of private restroom plus good lighting plus quality restroom experience.

The final property that to consider when choosing a favorite restroom on campus is general restroom experience, or how comfortable the restroom actually is when it’s (ahem) “in use.” Our facilities staff does a wonderful job of keeping our campus and its restrooms looking and smelling clean, but there’s a few that I avoid no matter how often they’re cleaned.

The Ingram men’s room, for one, has always smelled atrocious. I have no clue what causes it. I could be the next person in there after the staff have finished cleaning it, and it will always carry a general aura of stank.

I also tend to avoid any and all residence hall restrooms, not just because I don’t actually live on campus, but because y’all be showering and walking around barefoot on those floors and that is gross. Sorry, underclassmen, I used to be one of you, I know how often you dudes think you can get away with not showering, and I thank the stars every night that I no longer live in the residence halls.

The cleanest and most generally pleasant of my on-campus poops have made their moves in the Mary Baker Russell Center. Talk about a nice bathroom. I’m almost fairly certain this is the only restroom on campus stocked with two-ply or better toilet paper a travesty in its own right — two-ply is a human right!

It’s with a heavy heart I bid farewell to these restrooms. I’ve written some of my best (read: all) emails to professors pants-down parked on the porcelain throne. I’ve puked alcohol into at least one toilet on campus (that I remember), and I will genuinely miss that Ramstad men’s room mirror with all my heart.

Standing with Standing Rock

This piece was originally published on mastmedia.plu.edu here

 

The way Americans consume media and form opinions through news is miserable. It’s not entirely your fault, fellow Americans; the news media most consumed is often biased beyond belief, as in the case for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its fight for the protection of its culturally significant sites and water sources.
Since late August, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has peacefully protested against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This $3.8 billion project will stretch 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, snaking its way through the sacred burial grounds and other culturally significant sites of the Standing Rock Sioux. Additionally, the DAPL runs the risk of polluting the water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux people living on the reservation.

Militarized police have been present at the peaceful protest sites in Morton County, North Dakota for over a week. A private security company clashed with protesters Sept. 3, unleashing dogs and pepper-spraying several water protectors (as the protesters have identified themselves to the media). All of this for oil, as iconic a symbol of capitalism and culture-crushing as any.

It’s unfortunate that the lives and culture of the Standing Rock people means less to Americans than Energy Transfer’s “light, sweet oil.” While a federal judge ruled against the tribe’s motion to halt the pipeline, the United States government released a subsequent statement halting the construction until further consultation with the tribes. A great first step, to be sure, but there is more that can be done.

In a September article for the New York Times, writer Jack Healy interviewed Jack Schaaf, a white resident of St. Anthony, North Dakota. Schaaf states his main concern with the pipeline is that he has to “navigate a police checkpoint whenever he wants to drive into Mandan for a pizza.” Healy made a conscious decision to report on the “suffering” of white residents rather than focus on the much more noteworthy suffering of the Standing Rock Sioux. Seriously? Does Healy miss the irony in writing a piece on the white ranchers (from a town built on ground taken from Native Americans) feeling threatened by the presence of an encampment of Native Americans fighting for their culture? Or, is he of the opinion their struggle isn’t important? Either way, his presentation of the situation in North Dakota, while not inaccurate, misses the point.

As someone outside the Standing Rock Sioux community, my voice should not be the only one you hear discussing this. I urge my readers to seek out voices of the water protectors. Adopt their perspectives from first-person interviews. Learn their reasons for protesting straight from their mouths. Traditional protest tactics have proven to be ineffective in the U.S. Just look to the recent protests by the Black Lives Matter group, where evidence of police brutality: in Tulsa, with the death of Terrence Crutcher; in Charlotte, with the death of Keith Lamont Scott, and countless other black men murdered by police this year.

These brave souls have blocked the construction of the pipeline with their bodies and with their hearts, and you owe them your support for protecting the planet you live on. I urge readers to show their support for the Standing Rock people and the environmentalist groups camped at the Dakota Pipeline, and to be media-literate and recognize when articles and videos are presenting you a biased view of the news. Gather your own data, do your own research, make your own decision.

New Sidewalks near Harstad

This piece was originally published on mastmedia.plu.edu here

Many Lutes have stumbled over the cracked and cragged sidewalks on Park Avenue across from Harstad Hall, but Pierce County Public Works is working to make those struggles a thing of the past.

Work to improve the sidewalk along Park Avenue between 125th Street South and Garfield Street South began Aug. 31 and is expected to conclude mid-September. Garfield Street South will be closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for 10 days during the final stages of the project.

New additions include curb extensions, lights and rectangular rapid flash beacons to improve the visibility of pedestrian crossings. In addition, ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act will be installed on the east side of Park Avenue South at 122nd Street South and Garfield Street South.

“This work to improve pedestrian access will benefit local businesses, Pacific Lutheran University students and faculty and the surrounding neighborhood,” said Pierce County Public Works engineer Brian Stacy in a press release.

Crews removed the vegetation and trees before the school year started.

PLU contributed $50,400 to the $966,675 project.

“I think it’s really nice that the university recognizes that we do have students with disabilities,” senior Shiori Oki said. “Even as an able-bodied person, it can be cumbersome to not have a sidewalk and feel like you have to walk in the street.”

Oki lives off-campus and said her walk to and from class can be dangerous because of the lack of sidewalks, especially late at night. Pierce County Public Works currently has no plans to add sidewalks north of Garfield Street South.