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Jason Oliva

“What has your college education taught you?”
To appreciate a greater dependence on caffeine than my own body will allow. That’s the truest thing I’ve learned in my life as an undergrad writing major. If I were ever given an award and had to express thanks under a blinding heat lamp in front of millions, I wouldn’t think of God. At least not at first. No, my saving grace would have to be caffeine (Mom, you come in at a close second).

I’ve noticed that in my own meandering existence I’ve come to enjoy the things that probably won’t get me paid.

I like to read everything from Faulkner to Graphic Novels.

I’ve been playing guitar for the last eight years (the last five of which good). One of these days you might see me on the red line, or in the rafters at a Potbelly’s.

My guilty pleasures are B-rate horror movies, kung fu (preferably dubbed), baseball and all things music.

If I were to be any animal in a future life, I would be an owl. (A: because I already have a similar sleep schedule, and B: because owls aren’t easily domesticated.)

My favorite color is red.

Darden Restaurants skirt Obamacare

Corporation changes employee shifts to avoid benefit costs

Under Obamacare, companies with 50 or more full-time workers are required to offer employees basic health benefits, or else risk paying hefty fines for violating President Obama’s attempt at national health care reform. But Darden Restaurants Inc., the corporation that owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden franchise restaurants, has inadvertently announced that it will try and slip under the radar of Obamacare.

The loophole Darden Restaurants is trying to slip through is one that will experiment in the corporation’s shifting of more workers to part-time status from full-time, a move that will cut benefits for hundreds of its employees.

With this move, Darden will require employees to foot the bill for Obamacare-promised benefits geared toward health care. Darden’s move will also require an increase in worker contribution toward health plans.

The prioritizing of profits over employee well-being has earned Darden Restaurants Inc. criticism. Recently, a labor activist group sued Darden Restaurants for paying its workers what it called a “tip credit wage,” a wage reaching as low as a meager $2.13 per hour.

Darden’s benefit-dodging abuses worker protection under the constituents of Obamacare. There needs to be protection for workers in the case of more Darden-style attempts at loop-holing its workers. Such implemented protection would further promote the quality of life and well-being of wage workers nationwide.

Rolling Stones to tour again

The band celebrates its 50th Anniversary with four shows

The Rolling Stones have announced they will play four shows to celebrate the band’s 50th Anniversary. For the first time in five years, fans will have the chance to catch the Stones live as the band intends to play two gigs in their homeland of Britain and two in America.

The first Rolling Stones performances will take place on Nov. 25 and 29 at London’s O2 Arena, whereas the band will rock stateside at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

This 50th Anniversary for The Rolling Stones is the first time the legendary rock group will perform live since the band’s “A Bigger Bang” tour that took place from 2005-2007. The two year tour earned the already affluent band more than $500 million, so one can be sure that the celebratory appearances, though not expected to achieve the same caliber of cash as the 2005-2007 tour, will surely garner as much buzz and anticipation as their previous tour stint.

The Rolling Stones’ plans for a four-gig concert series closes out 2012 as the icing on the cake for the band’s success. Earlier this summer, The Stones released a hardcover book in commemoration of their illustrious career entitled 50. To accompany the book, the band has also decided to release GRRR!, a compilation album set to hit stores in November.

The Rolling Stones are perhaps the longest-running live band in the history of Rock ‘N Roll. Together since 1962, Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ron Wood since 1975, have unequivocally rocked the ages and defined the nature of rock music today.

The story of one last tour is a familiar story for the English rockers. If this is to be The Rolling Stones’ last performance for a while, it will definitely not be one to miss. Who knows, perhaps this tour will be a miniature, yet bigger bang than the last.

Real-life Walter White

An Alabama man tops Sheriff’s most wanted list for meth cooking

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan couldn’t have made a more likeable character in TV dad Walter White, played by Emmy Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston. The Breaking Bad protagonist has spent four and a half seasons cooking up methamphetamine to support his family in the wake of realizing he has a terminal illness, putting America in a vice grip of anticipation for the mid-fifth-season hiatus to be over and the show’s long-awaited conclusion.

Choosing a name for a lead character in a television series can be a headache, but Gilligan has chosen one that rolls off the tongue in Walter White. Surely, a name as common as this must belong to someone in the world, and it does strangely enough belong to an Alabama man wanted by local authorities for cooking meth.

The real-life Walter White tops the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office most wanted list for violating his 2008 probation of making methamphetamine. The 55-year-old Alabama Walter White, who was arrested on similar charges earlier this year in January, is listed as a top priority on the County Sheriff’s Office website.

“Anyone involved in illegal narcotics, we want to get those people off the street,” said Tuscaloosa County Sgt. Andy Norris. “Mainly the reason we put him on the most wanted list is for his probation violation, and we want to get him back in jail.”

According to authorities, White’s last known address was in McCalla, Alabama. As of right now, investigators do not have any leads on White’s whereabouts.

Taken 2 tops box office

The action-thriller holds down the number 1 spot for the second weekend in a row

Taken 2 remains at the top of the box office for the second weekend in a row. So far, the Liam Neeson action-thriller has amassed $86.8 million domestically, nearly doubling the film’s $45 million budget. Having grossed $22.5 million last weekend alone, Taken 2 has appeared in 3,706 theatres nationwide and even sat down the debut of Argo, Ben Affleck’s director/actor film loosely based on the 1979 Iran hostage crises in Tehran. 

From 20th Century Fox and EuropaCorp, Taken 2 is the story of Brian Mills (Neeson), a retired C.I.A field operative that is kidnapped alongside his recently reunited wife (Famke Janssen) during the family’s stay in Istanbul.

Whereas the first film focused on Mills’ daughter Kim’s (Maggie Grace) abduction while vacationing with a friend in Paris, Taken 2 turns the first film’s plot on its axis. In the sequel, Mills—the hunter scouring Europe for his missing daughter in Taken—is hunted by members of an Albanian mafia vying for vengeance for their fallen comrades.

Needless to say, Taken 2 still sees Neeson breaking a fair amount of necks, with ample chase scenes to keep the adrenaline flowing and audiences reveling in the sight of a 60-year-old man fighting hand-to-hand combat.

Though the plot bears striking similarities to that of the first film, including the same flinching dialogue that at times appears silly and overly endearing, that much is expected. As with most blockbuster action films, all it takes is a strong will to suspend one’s disbelief and an appreciation for extreme fatherly determination to truly enjoy the film that has over the years gained a cult following.

Bad first date? There's an app for that

Relationships app aims to relieve dating stress

Terrible at first dates or relationships in general? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that. The app, Impressions, was recently launched on the website Wotwentwrong, a site that aims to uncover the underlying reasons behind failed relationships.

Impressions, though only in its beta stage, allows users to create a timeline of their relationships. With a user’s dating history set forth in front of them, users can also mark dating milestones such as first kisses and first dates. Forums and polls also help give users feedback on how to approach certain situations, everything from dealing with an argument to deciphering cryptic text messages.

Impressions’ founder Audrey Melnik said the app was created “to help relieve the uncertainty and anxiety that relationships can produce by providing advice on how to proceed in situations that may cause confusion.”

With the rise in popularity of online dating as a means to meet new people, it’s no wonder why the dating app would prove helpful given this technological era. The problem with dating sites is that they get you in the door for a date, but nothing is guaranteed to work. That relies on the individual. Impressions seeks to dismantle relationship complications by providing its users with the intel and experience of others to ensure dating success, and ultimately, happiness.

According to Melnik, the main cause of anxiety in relationships is due to a lack of communication. The Impressions founder cites the text message as the culprit for dating confusion since it omits tone of voice, making it difficult to understand the message’s true meaning.

“It’s about self-improvement,” said Melnik. “You’re doing all of this anonymously so you can really expel those feelings of anxiety.”

Toyota to recall 2.5 million cars

Faulty power window switch linked to smoke and fires

Toyota will recall 2.5 million cars sold in the United States to repair a faulty power window switch that has been linked to reports of smoke and fires. So far, Toyota is unsure if the defect has resulted in any crashes.

Toyota’s recalling occurs in adherence to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation and is part of a global recall of approximately 7.5 million vehicles.

Models affected by Toyota’s recall are the Yaris (2007-2008), RAV4 (2007-2009), Tundra (2007-2009), Camry (2007-2009), Camry Hybrid (2007-2009), Scion xD (2008-2009), Scion xA (2008-2009), Sequoia (2008-2009), Highlander (2008), Highlander Hybrid (2008), Corolla (2009) and the Matrix (2009).

Toyota’s recall comes during a rebuilding period for the Japanese motor company, who has made large market-share gains in the U.S. since massive recalls in 2010 and Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in 2011 have caused Toyota setbacks.

Toyota has even seen sales plummet in China because of a boycott by consumers avoiding Japanese goods in regards to a territorial dispute over islands claimed by both countries.

Toyota plans to repair the faulty parts in its vehicles by applying a special fluorine grease to the power window switches. Toyota vehicle owners who are covered by this safety recall will receive a letter via first-class mail in late October to have their cars inspected and fixed.

According to Toyota, the repair should only take one hour depending on dealer’s workload.

Pussy Riot member freed, two still in custody

One member of the female punk band walks free on technicality

Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich was released from custody and was allowed to walk free from a Moscow courtroom, but her two compadres and fellow bandmates still face a harsh penalty for their protest against President Vladimir Putin. The two remaining Pussy Riot members still being held in custody face being sent to a penal colony for their outspokenness.

The three Pussy Riot women were convicted of hooliganism in August, hooliganism motivated by religious hatred according to the Russian court system, earning each of them two-year prison sentences. Their arrest comes as a result of Putin’s intensifying crackdown on dissent, an attempt to quell religious hatred.

Decked out in neon dresses and balaclavas upon their heads, Pussy Riot performed inside Moscow’s main cathedral, asking the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Putin as he headed into a March election, what would be the leader’s third term if re-elected. What can easily be described as an act of political protest in the United States, brought a flurry of legal troubles for the female punk outfit in Russia.

In court, Pussy Riot argued that their February performance was indeed political, not an attack on religion. The freed woman, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, had her sentence suspended because she did not take part in the performance. Rather, she was thrown out of the venue by guards before her guitar even left its case.

“The idea of the protest was political, not religious,” Samutsevich said. “In this and in previous protests we acted against the current government of the president, and against the Russian Orthodox Church as an institution of the Russian government, against the political comments of the Russian patriarch.”

Putin believes that the two-year sentences were justified because “it is impermissible to undermine our moral foundations, moral values, to try to destroy the country.”

The fact that Pussy Riot remains in custody thwarts any claim that Putin and the Russian government have to democracy and freedom of expression.

Samutsevich says that she will continue to fight for her two bandmates.

“They are my friends and companions in arms,” she said.

2012 BET Hip-Hop Awards unites rappers

Atlanta calls together rap’s young and old

The 2012 BET Hip-Hop Awards aired Tuesday night, October 9 in Atlanta. The annual show that honors the best in rap and hip-hop brought together the biggest names in the industry all under one roof for an explosive, high energy show.

The Awards kicked off with a performance from Wiz Khalifa, as the Pittsburgh rapper rocked his track “Work Hard, Play Hard.” Wiz was then joined onstage by Young Jeezy and Juicy J for the remix of his track, as well as Juicy J’s hit “Bandz A Make Her Dance.”

Other notable appearances of the night included performances by Kendrick Lama, 2 Chainz, T.I., Diddy, Machine Gun Kelly and Meek Mill, to name a few. Not to mention a duo performance from Rick Ross and Omarion.

As with past BET Hip-Hop Award shows, the cypher segment provided a highlight for the night, featuring fan favorites gathered into groups by BET to spit freestyles. 

Among the cypher participants were Grand Hustle (T.I., Trae Tha Truth, Chip, Iggy Azalea, B.o.B.), Mac Miller, Mystikal, Schoolboy Q, Hopsin, Jay Bird the Purdi Boi, Talib Kweli, Jean Grae, Ab Soul, Sarkodie, West coast (Xzibit, YG, Kurupt, E-40, DJ Quik, Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg), Angel Haze, Joey Bada$$, Dricky Graham, Childish Gambino, A$AP Rocky, and Ruff Ryders (Murda Mook, Cassidy, Eve, and DMX).

The most calming and sentimental moment of the show happened during a Chris Lighty tribute. Lighty, a hip-hop industry executive who founded the Violator record label, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on August 30, 2012. To pay tribute to the deceased entrepreneur, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest, along with Fat Joe and 50 Cent set aside past beefs to honor the fallen Lighty, performing some of their own classics alongside Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes.

Overall, the 2012 BET Hip-Hop Awards were a successful showing of the youngest, oldest and in-between talents rap music has to offer.

Johnny Depp not dead

The actor is the next victim of false death rumors via social media

Johnny Depp is not dead. In just another social media faux death trend that has claimed the deaths of Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy and Rihanna, Johnny Depp has become the next reported victim.

The rumor began via a Facebook memoriam page simply stating “R.I.P Johnny Depp,” causing an outpour of google searches and Twitter feed crashes. Apparently, the death hoax arose from a rumor that Depp died while on-set of the Disney film, The Lone Ranger, in which Depp plays the masked gunslinger’s Native American sidekick, Tonto. There is a sad side to the story, however.

According to L.A. law enforcement, the individual who actually died was crew member Mike Bridger. After cleaning a pool tank on The Lone Ranger movie set, Bridger went into full cardiac arrest and died on September 21. The news of an on-set death mutated into a full-blown hoax, claiming Depp as the victim of a freak accident.

The 49-year-old actor and The Lone Ranger co-star, most recognizable for his roles in The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy and a plethora of Tim Burton films, is alive and well though this is not the first time he has been reported dead. In 2010, a fake CNN website reported Depp’s death from a car accident in France, triggering similar cataclysmic Twitter and Facebook trends.

NFL Hall of Famer Alex Karras dead

The former defensive tackle died after a two year bout with stomach cancer

Alex Karras, an NFL defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions during the 1960s, died Wednesday after suffering kidney failure in his Los Angeles home. He was 77.

Having recently been diagnosed with dementia, Karras was also said to be suffering from heart disease, and for the last two years, stomach cancer. According to Karras’ attorney, Craig Mitnick, the former Lions DT died in his L.A. home, surrounded by family and friends.

Karras played his entire career with the Lions before retiring in 1970 at age 35. He made the first-team All-Pro in 1960, 1961 and 1965. Karras was recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a defensive tackle on the All-Decade Team of the 1960s. Despite a praiseworthy athletic career, Karras saw similar success when he decided to pursue a career in acting.

For those who were not around to witness Karras at the heart of the Lions’ “Fearsome Foursome” defense, may recognize the footballer in later decades as George Papadapolis, Emmanuel Lewis’ father on the 1980s TV sitcom Webster. Karras also played a sheriff in the 1982 comedy Porky’s, and can be seen as the oaf Mongo, who slugs a horse in Mel Brooks’ riotous 1974 film Blazing Saddles.

Karras’ death evokes the ongoing dispute of the NFL and the quality of life for its players. Susan Clark, Karras’ wife, recently said that the former Lions DT’s quality of life has deteriorated due to head injuries sustained during Karras’ playing career. Clark also recalled how Karras could not remember recipes for some of his favorite dishes because of head trauma and how her husband could no longer drive, an activity Karras reportedly loved.

“It’s the same thing as back in the gladiator days,” said Mitnick. “Fans care about these guys when they’re playing and they are heroes. But as soon as you’re not a hero and not playing, the fan doesn’t really care what happens to them.”