Debo Band

On March 21, 2014, Debo Band performed at Juniata College as part of the Juniata Presents series. It was quite apparent this would be a more animated performance than most. During the first song, Bruck Tesfeye on vocals encouraged the audience to participate and more than a few were willing. Debo Band consists of eleven members. The style of music is Ethiopian pop music. According to the information pamphlet at the concert, this style of music was only popular during the late 60’s and early 70’s. In the mid-70’s Ethiopia was submerged in what would become a long period of civil unrest. Political powers caused great conflict and night clubs and other entertainment venues were essentially shut down. Musicians were presented with no other choice than to disband and move on.

 Fast forward to 2006 and the Debo Band have taken the Ethiopian pop music style and mixed it with some American genres to create their own style. This method of remixing and presenting a new style to audiences allows new generations to experience styles of music which would otherwise become extinct. The large assortment of group members was as diverse as the audience. It was a skillful example of how people from such varied backgrounds and experiences could come together to form such a unified sound. This unity was apparent on stage as each member had opportunity to showcase their instrument and talents. Their commradery created a participatory link with the audience.

 This bond with the audience was established almost instantly as Tesfeye encouraged the audience to clap along. Before long, his energetic performance was infectious and many abandoned their seats in favor of dancing near the stage. Diversity was the mood of the night. As a spectator, I enjoyed seeing such a diverse and unexpected group of people enjoy the dancing. There were families, small children, students, professors, alumni and other community members. Even those who enjoyed the comforts of their seats were seen clapping, chair dancing and enjoying the uplifting rhythm of the music. Overall, the evening was a great escape and perfect insertion of culture into not just the Juniata community but Huntingdon as well. As always, I look forward to the next performance on campus.

Bailey Oratorical

March 4, 2014

 I attended (sort of) the 104th Bailey Oratorical Contest on March 4, 2014. In my three years at Juniata, this will be the second Bailey I have been able to attend. I attended my first in person and was beyond impressed. The speeches are amazing making me grateful I am not a judge. I planned to attend this year’s contest in person, but instead found myself at home hoping the streaming option would be a viable alternative. Once I had the link, it was very easy to connect to the stream.

                This years’ prompt asked “What Will it Take for Freedom, Justice and Equality to Ring for All?” This topic was inspired from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The seven finalists were the result of a preliminary contest involving 34 students. The seven who competed tonight were James Taylor, Angela Myers, Colton Hallabuk, Ezra Halstead, Alexandra Bernosky, Reinaldo Liem and Elise Mihranian. They compete for the experience of public speaking, honor of winning a prestigious contest, the monetary awards and the traditional loving cup presented to the college. I was struck by how differently each contestant approached the topic. The topics ranged from making small personal changes to changing the world. The finalists themselves were diversely represented. There were traditional, non-traditional and international students. Health, business, education and communications POE’s were represented providing a broad range of perspectives.

                Once again this year, a People’s Choice award was selected and the winner was Angela Myers who was also the overall 3rd place winner. Her speech focused on equal treatment of teachers in order to achieve freedom, justice and equality. The second place winner was Elise Mihranian who offered the solution of focusing on the micro inequities in order to solve the larger issues. The overall winner for the second year in a row was Reinaldo Liem. His personal account of injustices, lack of freedom and inequality as a native Indonesian during a period of extreme political turmoil established the pathos of his argument.  Liem proposed speaking up against injustice will facilitate change.

                I enjoy attending the Bailey each year. I know as long as I am in the area, I will continue to attend long after I graduate. I do enjoy the streaming capabilities which will allow me to watch even if I am not in the area. The only drawback of streaming versus attending the live speeches is the inability to capture facial expressions of the speakers. In person, I also found there was a great deal of excitement and tension in person which can’t be conveyed online. There is also the inability to participate in the people’s choice award voting. In the future, if the ability is there to have alternate camera angles, I think this would allow for a more interactive experience for the at-home viewing audience.  

Lego Movie

February, 19, 2014

On February 19th, 2014 we were able to attend the “The Lego Movie” released on February 7, 2014, in lieu of class on campus. I was humbled in the first minute of the movie considering I had just worked on a stop motion film with Legos as the subject. It goes without saying it was pitiful in comparison. The 3D animation film was directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord and is a little over an hour and a half long. I was the only one that stayed all the way to the end because I couldn’t imagine they wouldn’t do something fun during or after the credits. It wasn’t quite what I expected but it was worth staying for. It was impossible not to look at the movie with a new appreciation for all of the creativity and technical ability which was involved.

                The general mood of the movie is good versus evil. Emmet is a Lego man who lives an ordinary Lego life. He follows the rules and doesn’t make waves. Through a series of unfortunate events, he runs across Wyldstyle which is another Lego figure and she is the complete opposite of Emmet. She incorrectly identifies him as the “special” amongst the Master Builders. He is supposed to save the day from the likes of Lord Business. Along the journey, he makes many friends and finds out he is more “special” than he thought he was. I really enjoyed the parallel message the movie provided. Master Builders created whatever objects they desired out of Legos and it is what made them “special”.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, there was Lord Business who dictated everything be done according to the instructions.

 I couldn’t help but remember buying my son his first Lego set. There was no structure. It was a red bucket full of pieces which you used to construct anything your imagination could dream up, until you ran out of pieces of course. In fact, it was this same red bucket I used to create the Lego stop motion project in class. I noticed during the time my son was growing up that expensive sets became very popular. They contained the pieces to make a specific Lego scene. Instructions were contained in the box with very few variations. I am not sure who thought this was a good idea. I suppose from a marketing point of view, the desire to get each new set to build on the first is incited.

                Looking back now and after seeing this movie, I am glad neither my son nor I purchased collection after collection. We did purchase some of them. It soon became easy to buy one of those and more difficult to find plain building sets. This I don’t understand. Why is it so necessary to tell our children how to play with a toy or game? After all, wasn’t that at least half the fun with Legos? I am happy to say when I went to pull out the Legos for the project from storage; there were no perfectly sorted groupings by object. There were a few big bins full of assorted pieces from many different purchases. As I look at my eighteen year old son, I have to wonder would he read more instructions and explore solutions on his own less if I had properly segregated his Lego usage? I hope not.

Jim Cramer

February 11, 2014

On February 11, 2014 Jim Cramer presented a talk titled “Getting Rich Carefully”. I attended the televised event to hear the host of CNBC’s Mad Money and co-host of Squawk on the Street talk about his investment mantra. I have seen his show before and visited his website. I visited his website again previous to his speaking engagement. His website appears to be a financial investment website. I found it to be more of a commercial website promoting Jim Cramer and his products rather than a sound financial advising site to be trusted as an impartial source. Every page you pull up is promoting his books, product, show or future endeavors. You can click on the stocks and bonds which are listed to see if Jim Cramer himself holds them in his portfolio. Once you go to the trouble of doing this, you are welcomed by a message prompting you to pay money to see what is in his portfolio, specific investing tips about your current portfolio and news updates on what he wants people to invest in. In addition to these links, there are others which are nothing but a page offering his book.

                Having seen his shows and visited his website on several occasions, I am just not a big Jim Cramer fan. I will admit he is a very motivational speaker. He is obviously well educated in the area of finance. He is a skilled investor and seasoned speaker. My investment personality is not the same as Mr. Cramer’s which contributes to my lack of enthusiasm. He is a promoter of buying and selling rather than encouraging long term investing. Of course, he acknowledges the importance of long term investments but it is not a focus of his show, website or books. After all, he makes money off the continual buying and selling of stocks. Overall, I question the motivations of a financial advisor who is as commercially self-promoted as he is. Even so, I always get “fired up” to invest after hearing him speak or watching his show. I feel his charisma will motivate people who have never invested before, to start doing so. That alone is reason enough for Jim Cramer to be heard loud and clear.

Ericka Huggins

January 20, 2014

I attended the 22nd Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation on January 20, 2014. This event was hosted by Juniata College in the Rosenberger Auditorium. The guest speaker was Professor Ericka Huggins. The topic was “The Intersection of Love and Power: Women in the Human Rights Movement”. Professor Huggins began her political activist journey in 1963 when she attended the March on Washington. The cost of her choice was paid at an early age. When she was just eighteen she was already a leader in the Black Panther Party of Los Angeles. Soon after giving birth to her daughter, her husband and a friend were murdered on the UCLA campus. She continued to work for the cause but within a year was arrested and charged with conspiracy. She had become a target. Eventually charges were dropped but not after she had spent over two years in prison.[1] During this time she embraced spiritual practice into her life as a way to cope during her confinement. During her presentation here at Juniata, she discussed the importance of meditation and hosted a yoga and meditation workshop on campus the same evening.

                In addition to her activist achievements, Professor Huggins is also a published poet and was a writer and editor for the Black Panther Intercommunal News Service. She also served as the Director of the Oakland Community School from 1973-1981 and later became the first woman and first African-American to be appointed to the Alameda County Board of Education. In addition, she has hosted and implemented many yoga and meditation programs in prisons and youth facility programs. Presently, she is a professor in Sociology at Laney Berkeley City College and Women’s Studies at California State University, East Bay. She is a seasoned speaker for conference panels and television.

                Listening to Professor Huggins speak, it is immediately apparent how passionately she believes love is the strongest tool we have in both civil and human rights. In fact she speaks heavily on it being the key to activism in the 21st century. She does not just speak on this as the solution; she provides examples where she lives by this example as well. A quote of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. emphasizes this belief, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. In the most simplistic generalization, it has become obvious aggression, threats, war and animosity only breed more of the same with one party or another claiming victory until the next altercation arises. However, smaller political movements focused on the individual rights of humans with no government political agenda involved seem to flourish and endure. We need to always remember, as lofty of a goal as it seems, it only takes one to make a difference. I enjoyed Professor Huggins presentation and found her to be extremely motivational and genuine. Her example of humility and love was a perfect representation on the day claimed to memorialize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.