Pokémon Go or Pokémon No?

by Robert Johns | July 20, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

After seeing that Liberty University’s Instagram account posted a photo about our campus having plenty of room to catch Pokémon (and the 2,300+ likes on the photo), it is impossible to ignore the impact this game has taken as of late. And our 7,000-acre campus isn’t the only place booming with the excitement of little virtual creatures; in just a couple weeks, Pokémon Go has made an impact on places and people all over the world. Like every global trend, there are many advocates as well as nay-sayers, and this game has no lack on either side. In order to make a fully developed opinion on the game and what it means to indulge in playing it, it is important to look at both sides, taking into consideration everything Pokémon Go has created over the past week or so.

When it comes to the downsides of the game, you may have heard about the armed robbery in Missouri last week, where “Armed robbers used the game Pokémon Go to lure victims to an isolated trap.” You may also know about the complaints from places such as the Holocaust Museum, Arlington Cemetery, and Ground Zero due to the lack of respect the game represents on their honorable grounds. And these are factors that cannot be argued with – these instances and situations are uncalculated misuses of the game.

Yet, there is some good coming from the game as well. Vox recently published an article titled “Pokémon Go May be the Greatest Unintentional Health Fad Ever”. Whether or not this statement is true, there is undoubtedly an increase in exercise from our fellow Pokemon-playing US citizens over the past couple of weeks. Vox’s article includes tweets stating “Co-worker walked 7 miles on Saturday to catch Pokémon” and “Just walked at least 8km in the past 3 hours”. The game is definitely getting people on their feet, which is inarguably a positive feature.

So what can we conclude? With the facts in front of us (whether positive or negative), perhaps the best way to use the game is just like with anything else – in moderation. Whether the Pokémon creatures become your friends (that you can have a good time with but are also okay being away from for a little while) or your ultimate foes (that become your only focus) is really up to you.

Aside from whether or not it is beneficial to people, there is no argument that the game is ingenious – it combines nostalgia and our modern-day detachable devices, creating the perfect mixture for excitement and worldwide buzz. And in our society of needing to be ahead of everyone else, it promotes the kind of competitiveness that is causing people to go outside much more than they may have before. Therefore, there isn’t really an objective answer to the question: Is this a “good” game or not? The answer is different for everyone, and if the game is being used simply as a game and it isn’t taking over your life, then hey, go for it!

Yet, the question that remains is: Is it possible to play the game without it taking over your life?

Spotify and the Downside of Streaming

by Robert Johns | July 11, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

Relevant Magazine reported on June 21st that Taylor Swift and hundreds of other artists are "petitioning to Congress to update the legislation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to allow them to be paid properly and have more control over the way their music is used on the website." Many people know at this point that Taylor Swift seems to be the captain of the "artists should make the money they deserve" team, and for the past couple of years she has spoken out against streaming companies (especially Spotify). Besides Swift, artists such as Beyonce, Adele, lead singer of Radiohead Thom Yorke, Bjork and countless others all agree that they are not being compensated properly for their music from streaming sites. And as convenient as Spotify and other streaming sites may be, it’s time we ask a tough question: Are we cheapening music, and for that fact artists as a whole, by not buying albums directly anymore?

Artists are getting upset, and mainly it seems as though the biggest artists are the most angered. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they have already been discovered and now they are feeling frustrated at a lack of compensation. Some of the most important female singers in the world are all choosing to be off of Spotify, and this is not something that can be ignored. Clearly, Spotify is causing certain artists and their work to feel undervalued. Singer Bjork made a statement to Billboard in early 2015 stating, "To work on something for two or three years and then just, Oh, here it is for free. It's not about the money; it's about respect, you know? Respect for the craft and the amount of work you put into it."  

Robert Johns brought up this issue on our blog about a year ago and made the point that he uses Spotify strictly to discover music. From there he purchases the music that he finds and enjoys. While this is undoubtedly the best way to support artists and the music that you enjoy from them, it wouldn’t be a huge statement to say that most people do not use that model. Non-upstanding citizens like me simply subscribe to Spotify Premium and take advantage of the wide library of music that is offered to me for $9.99 a month. Yet, I cannot deny that from time to time, I pose the aforementioned question to myself about the cheapening of music. Is that what I’m doing? Is that what we’re all doing? When it comes down to it, Spotify does not pay its artists enough for them to live off of if Spotify earnings were their only income. Spotify pays an artist between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream, which is possibly a decent amount for artists that have their music streamed constantly. Yet, smaller artists struggle greatly from this amount.

This issue has been brought up for a while now, and it’s just the beginning. The recent petition for the updating of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is just the push that the war between dissatisfied artists and streaming sites needed to continue. We the listeners can only wait and see what ends up happening with the digital streaming debacle. Yet, in the meantime we can try to figure out what it means to stream songs that are important to people even though the people aren't being compensated in the way they wish to be. It's a tough question to pose, but what I believe is most important is that we are always conscious that we are not undervaluing music or the people who write and perform the music we love.

What do you think about the petition? Should Congress update the law in order for artists to have more control?

Movie Review: Finding Dory

by Robert Johns | June 21, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

Finding Nemo: the beloved fish tale that left heart strings all over the world being tugged when it premiered in 2003. With a high volume of emotional twists and learned life lessons, Nemo is a motion picture that sticks with its viewers far beyond their initial movie experience. Out of all the occurrences and characters that made Finding Nemo important, there is one fish that stuck out to all: Dory, the fun, spunky blue tang. And this is why the fish now has her own movie: Finding Dory, released June 17.

Although Finding Dory is the sequential movie to Nemo, it did not seem to be a sequel at all - instead, the attention was taken off of Nemo and Marlin and focused on Dory and her past. Because of this shift in character attention, the films felt separate, illuminating each for its strengths. While Nemo focused more on a father's love for and protection over his son, Dory focuses more on overcoming obstacles and facing her infamous short-term memory loss head on in order to find out more about herself and where she came from. Instead of allowing Dory’s memory issue to make her feel alienated, Dory's parents and friends work with her in order for her to live her life as "normally" as possible. Alissa Wilkinson from Christianity Today writes, "Dory's short-term memory loss isn't the result of an accident: it's just something she's born with, and something her parents need to help her live with, while figuring out how to avoid being overprotective."

Tasha Robinson from The Verge seems to pinpoint the overarching theme of the film in her Dory review when she states, “disabilities aren’t the same as limitations.” Dory's parents and friends will work with her as much as they need to in order for her to feel safe and cared for despite any challenge she may face. An example of this lies in the fact that Dory's parents do not chase her when she leaves, but instead leave a trail for her to find her own way back home despite her memory struggles. Her parents trust her intuition enough to allow her to survive on her own although they wish so badly that they could take care of her.

When it comes to the plot as a whole, the movie is a bit predictable in a Pixar/Disney "everything will work out" sort of way. Yet, having this in the back of your mind does not mean that there is not excitement happening through the journey of Finding Dory. In the case of this movie, the means to the end is exciting even if the end is already foreseen. 

Finding Dory is not “better” than Finding Nemo, but it does a great job of being everything it needs to be: adventure-packed, fun-filled, and gently instructing to all ages. Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood writes that Finding Dory is "a sequel that proved you don’t have to stint on quality", while A. O. Scott from New York Times writes, "certainly the best non-Toy Story sequel the studio has produced."

Mumford and Sons: A Celebration of Music

by Robert Johns | June 16, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

It’s a band we all know and some of us love – Mumford and Sons. The band has something new up their sleeve, and as always it finds a unique way to celebrate music.

Mumford and Sons is a band that is essential when it comes to the discussion of music being “Christian”. While it is true that Marcus Mumford is the son of a pastor, his music shows that he has internal struggles when it comes to what he believes about God. The first Mumford and Sons album, Sigh No More, was released in 2009, in it carrying lyrics full of angst, sadness and questioning while also somehow displaying a sense of acceptance and celebration. Although it is true that each song of Mumford’s holds the dichotomy of peace and confusion, he somehow finds a way to tie the two together into a piece of music that can be described with no other word than “human”.

Formed in 2007, the band has not only created interesting and attention-grabbing music, but they have also continuously provided new and exciting ways for people to experience their music live. In 2012, the band began "Gentlemen of the Road" stopovers for their album Babel, and it was such a hit that it has set the tone for all of the band's shows today. These stopovers are not always big cities and large amphitheaters - mostly, they are small towns and places with exceeding history and character. The tour also encourages local vendors to participate in order to be supported through the shows. This sort of tour is more like a festival than a typical concert, and it is the way that Mumford and Sons has changed the idea of live music for their listeners.

In accordance with the band creating unique music and experiences, lead singer Marcus Mumford and his bandmates hit the road this past January, traveling all the way to Johannesburg, South Africa. Their time there made its impression on Mumford and Sons, and it shows through the music that was created and recorded during the trip. The band features South African musicians and DJs on their new mini-album Johannesburg, which was created and recorded during two days of all-day and all-night sessions.

Johannesburg is set to release on June 17, but two singles from the mini-album are currently on Spotify: "Wona" and "There Will Be Time". Both of these released singles are a perfect combination of South African rhythm and Mumford's signature British rock sound. 

These two songs along with the rest of the album are being brought to America to be shared. If you're interested in seeing Mumford and Sons on their Johannesburg tour, take out your white blank page and write down Mumford's upcoming dates in New York City and London.

A “Lynchburgian” Summer

by Robert Johns | June 7, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

The moment after graduation caps are tossed in the air, Lynchburg seems to lose half of its inhabitants for a few months. Being one of many "college towns" across America, Lynchburg experiences a spike of residents in the fall and spring and a significant drop in residents for the summer. Yet, this does not mean that "the Burg" becomes a lackluster spot on a central Virginian map! Instead, it is easier to get around and explore without the nuisance of extra traffic and long wait lines at restaurants. With this in mind, here are a few thoughts that come along with being a year-round Lynchburgian (is that a cool term?).

  1. Do you ever have a day in Lynchburg where you have to walk into multiple coffee shops just to find a spot to sit down and start some homework? Most likely this occurred on a Monday night when online class homework was due and you were in a bit of a frenzy. One of the best parts of living in Lynchburg over the summer is the higher chance that a seat will be available at The Muse, Bean Tree, White Hart or any Starbucks around the area.
  2. Along with the higher probability of having a table for yourself at a coffee shop, food is definitely up there on the list of reasons why a summer in Lynchburg can be enjoyable. Of course, the wait times to be seated significantly decrease over the summer, but there are even more perks - one of these being Food Truck Thursday. On Thursdays around lunchtime, Lynchburg's most hip and Snapchat-able foods are served at Miller Park. If you're around, you won't want to miss T&E Catering's dirty fries and Uprooted's sweet tea. And if we're discussing food, Lynchburg Restaurant Week cannot be passed over. With participants such as RA Bistro, Main St. Eatery, Waterstone Pizza and others, Restaurant Week is always one to look forward to in the summer. This year, Restaurant Week is from June 18-25, and you can see the deals that each restaurant is putting on here.
  3. Over the summer in Lynchburg, we get to experience pretty cool "happenings" before the students return. Some of Lynchburg's newer features this summer include Aldi (a grocery store with lower priced food but higher priced shopping carts), Locked Up Lynchburg (an escape room located in Wyndhurst), and Steak and Shake (no explanation necessary). All three of these locations bring something new to Lynchburg that contributes to what people like to do around here: eat, get milkshakes late at night, and make new memories with a group of pals.
  4. Lynchburg's shopping scene is not typically one that people rave about, but it has its perks. Just think - with thousands of college students departing for the summer, how much more is there to buy at TJ Maxx and the J.Crew Clearance store? Stores around the 434 are much more enjoyable to peruse when there are less people and seemingly more items for you to choose from.
  5. Lastly, let's talk about the place where we probably feel the most judged - you guessed it! The gym. If you are able to get into the LaHaye Student Union during the summer, consider yourself blessed. During the school year, 5 pm is the time to avoid the gym the most due to no available treadmills, a small selection of weights that are undoubtedly too heavy for most, and a lack of foam rollers (which are the best part of any post-workout). Yet, during the summer 5 pm rolls around and the gym is pretty much as unoccupied as a spring or fall semester's 5 am (which is slightly busier than you would think, but still not overwhelming). Due to the lack of students in Lynchburg over the summer, one could imagine that many fitness centers in the area experience the same sort of retreat of members, just in a less dramatic fashion.

There you have it, folks! In the summer, Lynchburg becomes less "Liberty", leaving room to notice some of the pretty cool things we have goin' on that might not be given attention to with the influx of students in the fall and spring. We live in a pretty cool place, and there is no better time to discover its features than from May to early August, when the students come back and we start the excitement and bustle all over again.