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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.

Aargh-ticulate like a pirate day

Bizarre holiday into its 10th anniversary

International Talk Like a Pirate Day. It sounds like something made up in a smoky basement by two college students drunk off cheese dust, but in all reality, September 19th has become renown as a day where it is socially acceptable (I wouldn’t dare say normal) to speak like a swashbuckler.

What began as an inside joke between a pair of Oregonian friends, the concept of talking like a pirate gained notoriety after the friends, “Ol’ Chumbucket” John Baur and “Cap’n Slappy” Mark Summers contacted Dave Barry, a humor columnist from the Miami Herald. In 2002, Barry, known for his comical take on life’s idiosyncrasies, took hold of the helm and steered Talk Like a Pirate Day into international waters.

Baur and Summers started the holiday as a way to glamorize the golden age of seafaring buccaneers back in 1995, not knowing their casual witticisms would trigger a worldwide phenomenon.

So when you’re out there going about your day, try to pepper a little pirate-speak into your vocabulary. That being said, the eyepatch and fake parrot might be a little much. People are staring to stare as it is.

Randy Newman, "Dreaming of a white president"

Newman’s new song pokes fun at conservative voters

Randy , the singer-songwriter best known for his uplifting songs about friendship and belonging, has decided to weigh in on the presidential race. Newman, whose recent claims to fame have been songs featured in Disney-Pixar films such as “Toy Story,” “Cars”  and “Monsters Inc.,” recently released his latest effort entitled “I’m Dreaming.”

Newman’s “I’m Dreaming” is a satirical song regarding issues of race in the 2012 presidential election. Within the song is a line, “I’m dreaming of a white president.” Newman, who sides with Obama, wrote the song in relation to the number of conservatives who he believes still hold prejudices toward America’s black president.

In his song, Newman pokes fun at conservative voters who long for the days of a white president. Another line in the song states, “He won’t be the brightest, perhaps / But he’ll be the whitest / And I’ll vote for that.”

In a brief interview with the Associated Press, Newman expressed his beliefs toward ever-present racial prejudices regarding the presidency, saying: “I felt that sentiment exists in the country. I don’t know how many people you can get to admit it. I think maybe zero.”

Newman also stated: “I think there are a lot of people who find it jarring to have a black man in the White House and they want him out. They just can’t believe that there’s not a more qualified white man.”

Newman, an outspoken liberal, posted the song on his Web page, also asking for fans to donate to the United Negro College Fund.

Chief Keef, suspect in teen rapper's slaying

Lil JoJo’s death still unresolved, product of gang violence

Chief Keef, a 17-year old rapper from Chicago, remains under investigation by city police regarding the death of rival rapper Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman. Coleman, a resident of the nearby Altgeld Gardens neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, was gunned down as he rode on the back of a friend’s bicycle in early September.

Both hailing from the South Side, Chief Keef and Lil JoJo had inner city aggressions pent up inside of them. An in a crime-torn neighborhood that in recent years has seen its murder rate increase as the overall city crime rate decreased, the life expectancy is at a disturbing low for many youths.

The beef between Chief Keef and Lil JoJo is reminiscent of 90s era gangsta rap, where rappers wrote about their lives and struggles in the inner city, gang life and run-ins with the police. But this feud is one that ends in tragedy as gang affiliation looks to be the culprit in the teenage rapper’s death.

For some, living in an economically struggling neighborhood like Englewood poses little escape, and often its residents fall victim to the neighborhood’s violent surroundings. For Chief Keef and Lil JoJo, who received record deals before they were even old enough to buy cigarettes, music was the way out. Unfortunately, gang violence, often a prevalent theme in Keef’s and JoJo’s music claimed the teenager’s life.

JoJo’s first rap song, “3HunnaK,” was posted on YouTube and served as a taunt to the Black Disciple gang, “300” being street slang for the BDs. The added “K” stands for killer, as the line in the song states, “These n—— claim 300, but we BDK.”

Anyone who has ever learned anything about street gangs and gang violence knows that there is always retaliation to follow. And that is precisely what followed as Lil JoJo, who rode to Englewood from his home in Altgeld Gardens on the pegs of a friend’s bike. At around 7:30 pm on Tuesday, September 4, JoJo was shot when a gunman fired six to seven shots, striking the teen in the back.

JoJo, who had been taunting a rap associate of Chief Keef in the months preceding his death had been exchanging “diss” videos via YouTube targeting the Black Disciples.

Hours after JoJo’s death, Chief Keef posted on his Twitter account, “Its Sad Cuz Dat N—- Jojo Wanted to Be Jus Like Us #LMAO,” leading Chicago police to open up an investigation into the rap feud.

After receiving a backlash of criticism on his Twitter, Chief Keef claimed that he did not post the tweet, that in fact, his account had been hacked.

Many have since boycotted Keef’s music, calling for Interscope Records to withdraw their contract with the teenage rapper following his mockery of another person’s death. Interscope, the same label that housed Dr. Dre, claims that it will not tolerate another East vs. West rap feud, the one that claimed the lives of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

Some have even glorified the situation between gang tensions and rap music, saying that it sells records. But when is enough finally enough? It seems that only when it’s too late.

Topless photos surface of Prince William's Catherine

The royal family takes legal action against various tabloid publications

An Irish tabloid newspaper risks legal action from England’s royal family after publishing topless pictures of Prince William’s wife, Catherine. The royal couple has already taking action against the French magazine Closer for publishing a dozen photos of Catherine as she sunbathed topless at a secluded French country house.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge—formerly Kate Middleton—has become the subject of what can only be described as an invasion of privacy. The pictures have incited a debate over freedom of the press and the media could potentially face new regulations after the scandal.

Now, an Italian gossip magazine has followed suit and published a 26-page spread on Catherine, leading William to consult the palace’s legal authorities to prevent more publications from showcasing his wife’s photos.

The Italian magazine Chi, one of the three publications passing around the controversial pictures, is owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s publishing house, Mondadori.

Chi editor Alfonso Signorini told the Associated Press that he did not fear legal action because the photos were already in the public domain following Closer’s publication.

Lawyers for the royal couple are due to appear in court in Nanterre, France to seek an injunction against Mondadori. The palace also said it looks to seek damages from the Italian publication, and that royal family lawyers would file a criminal complaint against the photographer responsible for the intimate photos.

The scandalous photos were taken from afar as William and Catherine enjoyed a weekend at a relative’s country house in France. The palace said it would be up to French prosecutors to decide whether to pursue a criminal case for trespassing and breach of privacy.

The lure of Gangnam

Internet sensation Psy increases tourism to Seoul district

Imagine a South Korean Weird Al Yankovic. Subtract the outlandish parodies on contemporary pop songs, add a video that has gained more than 150 million views on YouTube since mid-July and you have Psy, the man responsible for the latest Internet dance craze with his song “Gangnam Style.”

The South Korean rapper, known for his comical music videos and innovative dance moves pervaded the American dance scene with his video for “Gangnam Style,” making him the latest Internet sensation. South Koreans are puzzled why so many Americans are catching onto Psy’s brand of K-pop (Korean popular music).

The video speaks for itself. Since the song is in Psy’s native Korean, many Americans and non-Korean speakers in cyberspace have only the song’s catchy techno melodies to rely on. The video’s flash and self-awareness as a dance video garners attention from many electronic music fans, and keeps viewers hitting the replay button time after time. One viewing is simply not enough.

From confetti canons to the massive Bollywood-style dance ensemble, the video proves its viral club-hit success. But unless you are familiar with South Korea, “Gangnam Style” is a make-believe place where everyone can dance in unison and a funny little man in sunglasses rides an imaginary horse after you on the streets.

Gangnam, in all actuality, is a place on the map. Meaning “south of the river” in its relation to Seoul’s Han River, Gangnam is a wealthy district comparable to California’s Beverly Hills. With high-end fashion, fine dining and luxury brand shopping, Gangnam appears like something from an episode of “Nip Tuck,” playing home to many cosmetic surgeons and those seeking to go under the knife.

In that sense, Gangnam can be accurately described as a South Korea’s blending of Beverly Hills and South Beach, Miami. With Psy’s mega hit and exploding Internet success, Gangnam has seen a substantial boost in tourism with many curious about the origins for the viral video.

The posh boutiques selling top-line designer labels and the ginkgo tree-lined street Garosu-gil have contributed to Gangnam’s rising popularity as a hangout spot for many looking to do some luxury shopping or enjoy South Korean cuisine.

Among the top tips for those interested in traveling to Gangnam are: 1. be prepared to spend lots of money, and 2. dress well. And if Psy’s video can teach us anything, it is learn how to dance, too.

Rihanna's babysitting offer to Snooki

Snooki might have found help in the singer’s friendly Twitter reply

Rihanna’s summer smash hit “We Found Love” earned the Barbadian singer her eleventh number 1 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as quadruple platinum certification. But now, it appears the single has made Rihanna a new friend and perhaps a baby-sitting side gig, that is, if the whole singing thing does not work out.

Two weeks after giving birth to her son Lorenzo, the “Jersey Shore” star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi wrote via her Twitter account that “Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ will never get old to me. It’s my song for life.”

The tweet made its way through the social media celebrity grapevine to a flattered Rihanna, who responded in 140 characters or less, “Let me know if you need a sitter.”

Granted the sentiment exchanged between Rihanna and Snooki resembles one of good will and perhaps empty promise, new mom Snooki can be sure of the positive support from family, friends and celebrity alike.

Since the birth of her son Lorenzo, Snooki has admitted to leading a relaxing life at home. The “Jersey Shore” star has said that while caring for her son, she enjoys watching TV shows like “The X Factor,” and that “Laying in bed with Lorenzo in my arms is the best feeling in the world.

And in another TMI moment viewers of the “Jersey Shore” have come to expect, Snooki even shared via Twitter that “the breast pump bra is a miracle. Thank you for making it so much easier.”

Snooki, who has been engaged to fiancé of two years, Jionni LaValle, assures fans that she and LaValle are doing well and plan to tie the knot sometime in 2013.

In a conversation with Today Entertainment, Snooki said, “We will focus on the baby first. I want to have the baby, lose weight and have the baby in the wedding.” When asked about her ideal wedding, Snooki said, “I want bombs going off at the reception—fireworks. And I want a princess-type gown with a huge train.”

Who knows, if Snooki’s Jersey-style wedding does kick off sometime next year, maybe we can expect to see a performance/appearance from her new-found friend Rihanna.

Chicago teachers negotiate new terms, strike indefinite

Negotiations not enough to put an end date on strike

Chicago Teachers are still unhappy. Now entering the second week of the strike, union members continue to find themselves at odds with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, even with a newly proposed contract detailing what Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called victories for the 29,000 union members.

Chicago teachers look to meet with their respective schools before making a decision on whether to end their strike so as not to feel rushed in the matter. While teachers deliberate, Chicago public schools will remain closed Monday and Tuesday, with parents planning for their children to remain out of school until at least Wednesday.

The teachers’ union bargaining team met with city officials to discuss the terms of a proposed contract, one that would stray from merit pay and enable teachers to appeal their evaluations. Evaluating teachers based on students’ standardized test scores, along with the impending threat of teacher layoffs due to school closures have been key talking points in the negotiations. Teachers want to be sure that if they do experience school closings, then the laid-off teachers will be relocated for other jobs within the district.

Among the reforms Chicago teachers have been calling for regard issues of pay, evaluation, hires/job security and textbooks.

Teachers want a three-year contract that guarantees a 3% increase in the first year and 2% increases for each of the remaining two years. Also included in the possibility of the contract being extended a fourth year with a 3% raise.

With Emanuel’s new legislation, 70% of teacher evaluations would rely on how educators teach, while the remaining 30% would depend on the manner in which students improve. This imbalance would put greater pressures on Chicago teachers in terms of teacher practice, rather than student growth. These evaluations would not affect tenured teachers during their first year.

On the matter of hires and job security, Chicago Public Schools would hire more than 600 teachers who specialize in art, music, foreign languages and physical education, to name a few specialties. Teachers want to ensure that they will be able to find work somewhere else in the district if they happen to be laid-off, and the Chicago school board has pushed to leave teacher relocation control to school principals.

Teachers have also pushed for earlier textbook acquisition for their students. With this, Chicago students would have their textbooks on the first day of school as opposed to having to wait up to six weeks.

In an effort to quell the strike and put teachers and the 350,000 kindergarteners, elementary and high school students back in schools, Mayor Emanuel said he would file an injunction against the union to force an end to the holdout.

Calling the strike “illegal,” Emanuel believes that the Union walkout occurred over issues that are not subject to strike under Illinois state law.
Emanuel, who has been pegged as the villain during the teachers’ strike, released a statement on Friday:

“This tentative framework is an honest and principled compromise that is about who we all work for: our students. It preserves more time for learning in the classroom, provides more support for teachers to excel at their craft and gives principals the latitude and responsibility to build an environment in which our children can succeed.”

There is little hope that even with the newly proposed negotiations teachers will step off picket lines and return to classrooms, but so far this has been the most headway both Union members and city officials have made in the last week.

When it all boils down to it, who really suffers the strike, teachers or the students?

Chicago teacher strike puts Obama in a pickle

An Obama stance can pose problems come November

The Chicago Teacher’s Strike is well into its third day and with failed negotiations happening day after day, leaving 350,000 students shut out of class, the idea that something has got to give is leaned on more than ever. But if there is anywhere an organized union-focused strike can thrive, it is Chicago.

The third-largest school system in the country, Chicago serves as home to more than 30,000 teachers, administrators and support staff workers, all of which deeply rooted into their third day of striking.

A recent poll of registered Chicago voters has shown that majority of those who have voted are on the teachers’ side in favor of the strike. A 47 against 39 percent sway.

This is the first organized walk out by Chicago teachers in 25 years. In union-driven Chicago, where even non-union Wal-Mart spent years trying to get a store within city limits, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has become the villain.

Emanuel, whose administration proposed the requirements regarding teacher evaluations in response to student success, faces all sorts of criticism from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). Mayor Emanuel is accused of going against the grain, a Democratic official taking sides with the union’s opposition.

Emanuel, President Obama’s former White House chief of staff, stresses that it is not the teachers who are suffering the most because of the strike, rather the children are the ones being shorthanded.

President Obama has remained silent on the subject of the strike occurring in his hometown. With an election in November, the economy in shambles, anti-American rallies in the Middle East and the ever-increasing prices of gas, Obama simply has his hands full.

If Obama were to weigh in on the issue of the strike, he would be put in a tight spot. If Obama calls for teachers to return to work and comply with Mayor Emanuel’s administration’s requirements, then he would gain the vote of mothers who only want to see their children get the education they deserve, however, it would go against the democratic union-driven ideals upon which Obama has based his presidency and would widen the enthusiasm gap with Republicans.

On the other hand, if Obama sides with the CTU, then he merely appears as a prisoner of his political party. Right now, the best bet for President Obama is to watch the fight from the bleachers and hope that everything passes before November.

A Beatles Breakfast

UK grill commemorates the Lads from Liverpool with their breakfast menu

The Beatles have become immortalized through nearly every avenue imaginable. There are lunchboxes, dolls, coffee mugs, clocks, not to mention thousands of clothing articles dedicated to The Fab Four. Now, the Beefeater Grill UK restaurant has taken Beatles representation to the next level with a recreation of the group’s 1969 “Abbey Road” album.

To celebrate The Beatles’ 50th Anniversary of the first time the band recorded at their renowned Abbey Road Studios, food sculptor Paul Baker has recreated the album cover entirely in breakfast foods.

The food mosaic is composed of anything and everything one would find for a hearty first meal of the day. George is made of sausage, Paul in an ode to his vegetarianism is mushrooms, Ringo sports a coat of bacon and John, as always, is the egg man. Goo goo g’joob (sorry, I had to do it).

The food comes from the Beefeater Grill’s chain and represents cuisine that can be found on the restaurant’s menu.

“To celebrate our breakfast menu, we wanted to do something to mark an amazing year for Great Britain,” said spokesperson Sam Vaughan. “And what is more British than The Beatles crossing Abbey Road?”

Baker’s art is the fruit of four days of labor with help from three assistants. The final product, dubbed “Let it Bean,” is one of several food paintings Baker has done.

His other works include art of Prince William and Kate Middleton kissing on the Buckingham Palace balcony, Winston Churchill throwing up the peace sign and the Queen’s 1953 coronation.

Here’s a link to the artwork:


Octomom uses porn to buy home

Nadya “Octomom” Suleman’s work in adult entertainment has given her and her 14 children a home

Octomom Nadya Suleman, who came into the spotlight in 2008 for her in vitro birthing of octuplets has finally found a home for her and her 14 children.

The home equipped with five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a three-car garage and a 14,000 sq. foot backyard is located in Palmdale, CA and represents some stability for the mother of 14. At least for the next eight months.

The Octomom, who has come under public scrutiny for being unemployed and relying on public assistance but still going ahead with the in vitro pregnancy that brought about her octuplets, has already paid the first eight months rent for her new home. The welfare Octomom has found a new calling: the adult entertainment industry.

The porn industry is more or less paying for Suleman’s house. In March 2012, Suleman posed for “Closer” magazine, allegedly making an estimated $10,000 for her efforts. It was as if a light bulb went off in Suleman’s head, seeing as the Octomom continued to maneuver her career into the direction of adult entertainment.

After posing for “Closer,” Suleman accepted a solo role in an adult film, raising questions regarding the impact her decision will have on her children in the future.

As if that was not enough, Suleman accepted a gig working as a stripper at an adult nightclub, a job that allegedly brings the Octomom a six-figure paycheck.

All these sums, plus the $2,000 a month Suleman receives in welfare proved not enough for the mother of 14, as the Octomom went on the website gofundme.com, where she looked for charitable donations to help her scrounge together the $150,000 for a new place.

Now the Octomom is sitting pretty in her new California home as she already put the first eight months rent down in advance. The home costs $2,150 a month.