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.

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.

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.

Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock tried to warn Seattle

Album artwork for Modest Mouse's second LP The Lonesome Crowded West. Isaac Brock, the band's frontman and lyricist, predicted the metropolitan nightmare that Seattle would become in the years following the album's release.
Album artwork for Modest Mouse’s second LP The Lonesome Crowded West. Isaac Brock, the band’s frontman and lyricist, predicted the metropolitan nightmare that Seattle would become in the years following the album’s release.

 

By Jeff Dunn

Isaac Brock was right. In the album released by Modest Mouse The Lonesome Crowded West, Brock predicted the now-inevitable metropolitan megalopolis that will end the Seattle-Tacoma area as we know it.

OK, you could say I’m a bit bitter. Lonesome Crowded was released in 1997, just before the city began to feel the weight of its own size and expansion. At the time, nothing was being done to prevent issues Brock points out. We’ve made progress since then, but too little, too late, and for the foreseeable future I will be forced to endure the endless monotony of traffic up  and down the I-5 corridor.

The satisfaction we gained from our rapid and immediate expansion has cost us much more than just our elbow room. We would’ve been better off “compacting” our conscience and keeping it safe for another time, rather than to “bottle and sell it.”

Nineteen years later, Lonesome Crowded‘s predictions for a dystopian Seattle have come to fruition. To someone like Brock, who was quick to point out that he was an Issaquah native, and who penned such lines as “I didn’t move to the city, the city moved to me,” which carried more weight under the surface than above it. Brock becomes (or already was) the character Cowboy Dan in the song of the same name, who rails against the city encroaching on his lonesome, crowded west. On “Convenient Parking,” Brock bemoans the destruction of nature to make way for the paved world. He even comes off as accusatory (Well aren’t you feeling real dirty/Sitting in your car with nothing/Waiting to bleed on the big streets).

Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine opens with “From the top of the ocean / To the bottom of the sky / I get claustrophobic.” Here, at the top of the album, Brock sings against the dangers of consumerism. Brock’s entire world is shrinking around him. The Seattle he knows and loves is rushed with wave after wave of new residents, draining themselves into spaces that weren’t there before, propelling the city ever-forward on its capitalist tide. The influx of Amazon employees has long been touted as the reason behind rising rent costs in the downtown and South Lake Union area (Brock couldn’t have predicted Amazon specifically when he wrote “Workin’ real hard to make that internet cash/ work your fingers to the bone while sittin’ on your ass on the album’s fifth track, Jesus Christ Was An Only Child).

Seattle has crested since 1997. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area added 57,000 people in the last year and remains the nation’s 15th largest metro area, with 3.61 million people. 65,000 of those people live downtown, and 24 new residents move in per week. That’s a lot of people. And all of these people are always out and about. I don’t know if you’ve tried to get anywhere downtown recently, but it’s a nightmare. It’s the 5th most traffic-congested city in the U.S., with drivers in the metro area waiting in traffic for an average of 89 hours per year.

Seattle has nearly 100,000 parking spaces downtown. But, as Seattle Business editor John Levesque puts it, “it always seems that my car is No. 100,001 in line.” Brock and Levesque share the feeling that though we live in the metro area, something as simple as convenient parking has gone down the drain.

The city has not been stagnate in getting traffic flowing again. In November of 1996, (yes, 1996) King, Pierce and Snohomish County voters approved a tax increase which allocated funds for a 25-mile light rail system. Thus began what is collectively known as the “Dark years” for Sound Transit. I’m not being dramatic for effect, the time between 1999 and 2009 wherein the project faced numerous political and financial delays is referred to in numerous source documents as “the Dark years.”

While the Link is open now, and in fact just opened two new stations in Capitol Hill and the U District, it isn’t a solution. The process that was funded 1996, won’t even be anyway to “Ride the Wave” line to ride from Federal Way until 2023.

Seattle is, however, ranked the best city in America to find a job, the fastest-growing big city in the country and the most “cultural” city in the United States, according to the State of Downtown 2015 release. We may have made small steps in the right direction, but Brock’s central message was ignored; the time has come to pull the bottle of conscience off the shelf, pop the top, and drink up.

 

Online Dating: Get With The Times, Grandma

This article originally appeared in The Mast in April 2015

Dating in the digital age is something that many people still haven’t fully grasped.

I’m an online dating success story. Well, one half of an online dating success story. My significant other and I met on the online dating site OKCupid more than a year ago.

Online dating has exploded in the past year among college students, as it transitions from the realm of the taboo to a more socially-acceptable practice. Apps and Websites such as Tinder, OkCupid, PlentyofFish and more are making dating more accessible than ever.

This was my first encounter with an online dating website, and I’ve gotta say, I don’t see where all the stigma comes from. Many people may be afraid that making an account on one of these websites will make them look desperate. But, according to the PEW Research Center, more than 50% of Americans agree that online dating is a good way to meet people.

Another issue many have with online dating is the lack of human interaction. Some would say that the level of personal connection required to form a romantic relationship just isn’t possible to achieve online.

The fault here, though, lies with the communicators. If you can’t communicate well in an online setting, then online dating probably isn’t for you (along with many other things our culture has embraced in the digital age).

I’ll be honest. I have a hard time meeting new people. I’ve gone to parties. I’ve made small talk. But, I felt like I was always missing connections with people.

The stigma of being viewed as desperate by my peers definitely contributed to my initial discomfort with online dating. But, certain aspects did appeal to me.

As a college student, I didn’t have much time to spend meeting people that didn’t go to PLU. So, having the ability to skim a few profiles in my free time at lunch or in between classes was awesome.

Sociology Professor Laura McCloud agrees with my assertion that sometimes compatibility can’t emerge naturally from an “IRL” setting.

“Oftentimes, you do better matching people based on identities or social groupings rather than ‘You like funny movies, my friend likes funny movies, you should get together sometime and see a funny movie.’” McCloud says. “That’s not what compatibility is.”

I also liked the idea of online dating because everyone’s intentions are on their profile (more or less). Typically, what people were looking for was stated right in their profiles. The options on OKCupid range from “New Friends” to “Casual Sex” or “Long-Term Relationship.”

Setting up a profile took some time, but realize that the more time you put into it the better matches you’ll get. OKCupid has a great matching system where you answer specific questions like “Who are you most likely to reveal your deepest, darkest secret to?” Then, you rate the question on its importance, allowing you to quickly scan potential matches’ profiles for information.

While some dating websites use algorithms to determine compatibility, the dating app Tinder uses only location to filter the results of its users. Then, users swipe left or right on their screens if they see someone they’re interested in.

Tinder has earned a reputation as being a “hook up” app, and it’s often assumed that you won’t be able to find a relationship on Tinder. That mentality definitely won’t lead you to a relationship. You’d be surprised where you end up after taking a genuine interest in people you meet online.

The best part of finding a date online is the accessibility and personalization of the experience. Everyone is looking for something different in a relationship. All OKCupid did for me was match me with someone who was looking for the same thing.

 

 

 

 

 

International Indecision

This piece was originally published in The Mast, in response to a news article by Lucas Schaumberg, in September of 2015

More than 175,000 Syrian refugees have poured into Europe since the onset of the Syrian civil war, now entering its fifth year. In a testament to European bureaucracy, the European Union has struggled to capacitate this influx of refugees. This inability to act with immediacy cost the lives of dozens of migrant men, women and children. Even while western European countries – Germany, France, and the U.K., to name a few – have agreed to receive varied amounts of asylum-seekers, other countries close their borders, blocking the route the refugees need to take to reach their destinations. All of this only begs the question; is the EU doing enough?

The EU’s asylum policy calls for “a joint approach to guarantee high standards of protection for refugees.” So far, after four months of what basically amounts to bickering, the EU and United Nations have enacted a plan to impose refugee quotas on European nations. The quotas would require several EU nations to share a 120,000 incoming refugees.

This has caused a significant amount of anger in the countries that voted against the plan; Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The Slovakian Prime Minister has vowed to defy the plan, calling it unprecedented. Words like “pathetic” and “disgraceful” peppered the tweets from European officials. Serbia publicly denounced Hungary for its use of tear gas against migrants on the border, Hungary blames Serbia for failing to stop migrants from throwing stones at its border police, and Slovenia expressed its anger that Croatia has begun bussing refugees to their shared border, The Seattle Times reports.

So, why is it the EU can’t seem to work together? The EU has been trying to reach a decision since May. Even now, the number of refugees continues to skyrocket, reaching well over one million people, at least 400,000 of which will need permanent residency. 120,000 is barely a dent in the enormous wave of displaced people, and the refusal to cooperate from the four nations above won’t help at all.

While the European nations quarrel with each other, thousands and thousands of refugees wait. They wait at the border of Hungary, they wait in boats trying to cross the Mediterranean, and they wait on the roads at night to be robbed of what meager possessions they have.

This isn’t a political issue, it’s a humanitarian issue. These are human beings. They’ve had their entire lives uprooted by a civil war that has left more than 240,000 dead. And now they’re told that their lives are in the hands of a group of ill-behaved world leaders?