Taylor Swift’s Red Delights and Disappoints

By Allison Ulaky

Teenage girls went crazy when they learned of an upcoming album by one of country music’s top superstars. But now that the newest soundtrack is out, is it really worth buying?

Taylor Swift’s fourth album, Red was released October 22, and so far has been a huge success. According to Billboard.com, Swift’s newest album sold 1.2 million copies in a single week, which is more copies sold in a single week than any other album since 2002. Red had also sold nearly 465,000 copies in iTunes, and stores such as Target and even Papa John’s sold tons of copies to help the 22 year old singer out.

The pizza company partnered with Swift and advertised her CD on its pizza boxes. Papa John’s also promoted different offers that included the album, such as buying a large, one-topping pizza and getting Red for $22. In total, Papa John’s sold about 8,000 copies.

The album itself consists of 16 tracks, making it a pretty long album that would be hard to listen to in one sitting. An obvious hit on her soundtrack is “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which anyone can find on their local radio station. Another popular track is “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and with a dubstep-like beat playing behind her vocals, it is ranked as one of the top songs in iTunes.

The album also features collaborations with singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran on “Everything Has Changed,” and singer of the band Snow Patrol, Gary Lightbody, on the track “The Last Time.”

Most of the other tracks on Red express Swift’s past heartbreaks and her current relationship status, which draws young, teenage girls into her music because it is so relatable. But these songs alternate from her usual country vibe to a new pop sound.

Music critic Mesfin Fekadu of the Huffington Post states that “while Red contains its share of winners, many of the songs lack the colorfulness and vitality the album title suggests, leading to an overall letdown. Lyrically and sonically, the album lacks oomph and feeling: It sounds like we’ve heard it all from her before.”

Swift branching out to try to gain new kinds of listeners was bound to have its ups and downs. Either way, everyone should expect Red to stay on the top of the charts as old and new Taylor Swift fans listen to her.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Holiday Tradition with a Long History

By Elise Klingaman

Many citizens of the United States have different traditions for Thanksgiving: baking turkeys, watching It’s Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown!, or traveling to different areas to be with their families for Thanksgiving Dinner.  One holiday tradition commonly shared among Americans is the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade.

According to The New York City Tourist website, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a New York holiday tradition since 1924.  The website also states that the Macy’s Day parade attracts more than 3.5 million people to attend the streets of Manhattan and more than 50 million to watch the parade on the fourth Thursday of November.

According to the TLC Family website, in 1924 there were only three floats in the entire parade, each one pulled by horses.  There were also four bands and groups of camels, elephants, donkeys, and goats, all from the Central Park Zoo.  Santa was last in the lineup, a tradition still carried to this day.

In comparison, the 2007 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade included 24 floats, 800 clowns, 11 marching bands, 1,900 performers, and 42 balloons.

The famous-and sometimes comical-giant balloons in the Macy’s parade first appeared in 1927, because the zoo animals were beginning to frighten the children.  The first balloons were of cartoon characters, such as Felix the Cat. The balloons used to be released into the air at the end of the parade, but in 1932 a pilot almost crashed into one of the balloons and that tradition came to an end.

The New York Police Department does not release the exact number of police officers are stationed at the parade. Officers are found riding along the outskirts of the parade on their motorcycles and watching from the Sky Watch, a portable two-story building that allows the guards to view the parade from above and can be displayed with multiple cameras.

Before the parade begins, all objects that could damage or obstruct the balloons, such as lampposts, street lights, and trees are either removed or altered.  By 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, all of the floats and balloons and prepared and ready to go.  The parade begins at 9 a.m.

Immediately following the parade, each of the structures and balloons is taken down and deflated.  The Sanitation Department estimated that the cost of cleanup after the 1990 parade was about $30,000, including mechanical sweepers to clean up the mess.  According to the book, Imponderables-The Solution to Mysteries of Everyday Life by David Feldman, the parade’s trash rarely exceeds 10 tons.

Looper a Mind Bending Thrill Ride

By Gabrielle Bauman

This is one odd little movie.

Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, is based around one basic premise: time travel exists. The year is 2030, and time travel has not been invented yet. But by 2050, it will be –and immediately become so illegal only massive crime syndicates will use it. Joe is a “looper,” a hired gun for one of those syndicates. Early in the movie, we are told that because DNA testing and crime scene science have progressed so far that it’s nearly impossible to hide a body, the need for hit men has become tantamount. Joe is one of those hit men.

Looper stars Joseph Gordan-Levitt as Joe.

His job is pretty easy. He goes to the same place every day at the same time and waits. A person appears out of thin air, and he kills them at point blank range. He disposes of the body. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The basic premise for the movie is intriguing enough, but the route that the movie actually takes is so different than it could have been that it’s almost as if I saw a different movie than in the trailer. I don’t mind, though, since Looper is a fascinating mix of wry self-awareness and morality choices. Also, time travel. I’m a sucker for time travel.


The main problem Looper has, and in fact most time travel movies have, is that it doesn’t really hold up to close inspection. None of the time travel really makes any sense, a fact which becomes readily apparent at the close of the film, but the great thing is that Looper is aware of its own ridiculousness.

There are two separate scenes in Looper where one character tells Joe (and the audience) a good rule of thumb while watching any movie that features time travel: “I don’t want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.”

Looper is surprisingly funny. Little moments of humor do a brilliant job of breaking up tense scenes, especially the dialogue about time travel. Abe, a character from the future tells Joe that learning French is pointless. Instead, why not go to China and learn Mandarin? Joe replies that he’s going to France. Abe says “I’m from the future; go to China.”

Another scene takes place in Joe’s favorite diner. Instead of drinking coffee by himself like he normally does, now he’s dining with himself. Literally, himself. An older version of himself, looking at his younger self and not thinking very much of him. There’s a missed opportunity here: we could have had an entire movie like this, where a man examines his own past and looks at it with disgust. Of course that premise does not lend well to an action movie, but that still doesn’t stop me from missing the movie-that-could-have-been.

The addition of another science fiction trope — telekinetic powers — pushes the movie-that-could-have-been even further out of the way and turns the movie from a film about the past to a film about childhood. But instead of being another trope in a movie based on a trope, it pokes fun at that trope. Joe explains that when TKs (short for telekinetics) first appeared, they though there would be superheroes. But instead, it’s just a bunch of people levitating quarters in an attempt to woo young ladies.

I usually never have a problem with movies that don’t make any sense sci-fi-wise, as long as they play by their own rules. I could nitpick and whine about timelines and plotting, but since for the most part Looper plays by it’s own rules, I’m not going to.

Looper is a movie well worth seeing.

Part of the reason that Looper is so good is that it brings a completely original story to the table. I can’t just say that Looper is like this movie or another movie, because it isn’t. I, as a moviegoer, have been hungering for something new that wasn’t just rehashing what has already been done, and Looper delivers that much needed originality.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is, as per usual, excellent in this movie, and even Bruce Willis as Older Joe turns in a good performance — which is pretty rare these days. The makeup team deserves an award for turning Gordon-Levitt into a young Willis, though the montage that shows the actual transformation leaves a bit to be desired. Gordon-Levitt’s makeup is eery when both Older Joe and Young Joe are together. One begins to notice the small details: Gordon-Levitt’s nose has been changed, his eyes are different, his eyebrows have been modified.

Looper has been rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content.

If you are old enough to go see it, I would give Looper an 8/10 stars. An excellent but criminally underseen film just as smart as Inception or Primer, Looper is a movie for anyone who loves both smart storytelling and heart-pumping action.

Remembering Adam Yauch: A Rap Icon

By Austin Rowley –

There’s a line from the Beastie Boys’ top hit, “Sabotage,” that reads, “your crystal ball ain’t so crystal clear.” Nobody had in their crystal ball the possibility of Beastie Boys’ band member Adam Yauch passing away on May 4.

A practicing Buddhist, and Beastie Boys lead man, Adam Yauch, sometimes better known as MCA, died after a three-year battle with cancer at the age of 47.

In 2009, Yauch was diagnosed with a cancerous parotid gland and lymph node, more commonly known as throat cancer. Doctors told Yauch that the cancer was in its early stages when it was detected, and Yauch was expected to make a full recovery.

His cancer treatments over those three years delayed the release of the Beastie Boys’ latest album, Hot Sauce Committee Part II, and the subsequent tour.

The news of Yauch’s death shook the entire music industry.

“To become this gentle Buddhist soul who literally would not step on a fly was something else,” said longtime friend and Rage Against the Machine guitarist, Tom Morell0, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.

“His commitment to social justice and especially to Tibet’s freedom put it on the map for an entire generation of people.”

Adam Yauch (middle) passed away Friday, May 4, 2012. Photo courtesy of highsnobiety.com

Russel Simmons of Def Jam Records said that Yauch was “incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist, who I loved dearly.”

The band that also featured Michael “Mike D” Diamond and  Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz, and the three Brooklyn childhood friends would sell 40 million records and had four No. 1 hits. What made this music group so incredible for its time was its ability to cross genres and color barriers. They helped bring rap to a much wider audience.

The Beastie Boys were a pioneering rap group, since the music industry they were most involved in was mostly dominated by African-Americans. They frequently transitioned from rap to punk throughout the records they released.

Yauch, Horowitz, and Diamond grew up together in Brooklyn, New York. All three members grew up involved in music programs through school as well as non-school related functions. The band’s publicist said the first time the Beastie Boys actually played in front a group of people was during Yauch’s 17th birthday party.

The three were a tight knit group, almost family-like.

“He really served as a great example for myself and so many of what determination, faith, focus, and humility coupled with a sense of humor can accomplish,” Diamond wrote. “The world is in need of many more like him. We love you Adam.”




Mortal Kombat on PlayStation Vita, No shortage of Gore or Cost

By Alex Lombardo and Chad Gates

Mortal Kombat on the PS Vita, with console-quality graphics. Image courtesy of Google Images

It’s an old game with a new twist. Mortal Kombat, now on the PlayStation Vita, is making a strong run in the world of hand-held gaming.

Mortal Kombat is a series of video games allowing combat-based interactions between players. A player may choose a character or create their own, and battle another player to the death.

Although many Penn Manor students are loyal Mortal Kombat fans, the $249.96 price tag for the device keeps them from purchasing the Vita.

“Its way too overpriced and people aren’t willing to spend that money. But if it had more features I would be willing to buy it,” said Penn Manor student Ben Murphy.

The 960 x 544 resolution on the OLED screen with about 16 million colors combined, make some extremely crisp graphics on Sony’s latest hand-held gaming device: the PlayStation Vita.

The Vita, released Feb. 22, has been all the rage in today’s portable gaming community. The Vita showcases features such as a 5-inch multi-touch screen, a feature that allows for multiple fingers to touch the screen at once, frontal and rear cameras, and the ability to connect and play with a PlayStation 3 console.

“PS Vitas have been selling better here than in Japan,” said Michael MacEntee, an employee at the game retailer Just Press Play.

Besides the hype of the device itself, the worldwide gaming favorite, Mortal Kombat, has just been released May 1, and copies of the game have been rolling out of stores since.

“Sales have been pretty steady (since the release of the game),” said MacEntee.

The Vita version of Mortal Kombat was ported from the latest Xbox and PlayStation version but with a few special additions just for the Vita. You can now create your own fighter and even take a picture of your own face to use for your customized fighter.

This new version of Mortal Kombat now has an added feature called X-ray mode. A super meter is filled by performing combo moves against your opponent. When the meter is filled to the third level, a player can then enter X-ray mode. While in X-ray mode you are able to see through your opponents skin to view bones breaking and organs rupturing.

Maybe what fans are most excited about is the portability of the game on the new hand-held device.

“I can play Mortal Kombat wherever I want,” said Trent Schaeffer a student at Penn Manor. 

IGN.com (International Gaming News) rated the game an 8.5 out of 10.

The M rated game can be purchased online or in stores today for $39.96.

Music Is In The Air

It’s not 76 trombones. It’s more like 15 Ukuleles.

“The music department which has seen better times with the cuts at the elementary school level have something to be happy about. Four grants were just given to Penn Manor’s music department by the Music For Everyone foundation. These grants include 15 Ukuleles, two cellos, and a hand full of Orff instruments,” explained Ricciardi.

An Orff instrument is simply a wooden xylophone used primarily by younger students.

Check and cello from the Music for Everyone foundation. Photo credit by Jay Jackson.

“The Music For Everyone foundation has the grant program every year. It grants money to programs in need. In light of the budget cuts here, we could use every penny that we can get. A bunch of different teachers applied for grants. We didn’t get the full amount that we wanted but we got almost $5,000 dollars, which is better than nothing,” explained Sara Ricciardi the Orchestra teacher at Penn Manor high school and middle school.

The Music department is under much distress with more then half of their budget getting cut from the year before.

“Next year we are cut below $9,000 dollars, and that is down from $20,000. Our department alone at the high school run one about $12,000 dollars every year just for basic necessities to keep us functioning as a music department. So every penny that we get can help,” said Ricciardi.

These instruments are much needed at Penn Manor and are being put to use right away. The Ukuleles, guitars, Orff, and the pair of cellos are already in use.

“Here at the high school we had eight cellists and only four working cellos. So those cellos will be used for those students for rehearsal but we still need two more cellos. We use the Ukuleles down at Marticville, where I use it in my general music classes,” said Ricciardi.

Penn Manor got 15 Ukuleles as well in the beginning of the year from the education foundation.

“I needed 15 more so that I have a full classroom set. I can get way more done with the kids. It is like a Ukulele uprising down there.”

It isn’t just the high school music department that is getting in the fun. The elementary schools are jumping in as well. Hambright and Pequea music classes got a nice addition to their classrooms.

“The guitars are at Hambright Elementry. Lee Jordan, the teacher there, got thirty guitars and Sue Hamer at Pequea got a bunch of orff instruments,” explained Ricciardi.

There is nearly $5,000 of grants that will be spread across the district.

“We are really excited because Music For Everyone is doing this for us and they told us to apply again next year because that is there purpose, to keep music alive in the schools. So we’ll keep applying for stuff and maybe I can get two more cellos,” explained Ricciardi.




Buried Life Book Release

By Jay Jackson-

There are many things people want to do before they die and never get around to doing them. It is four guys’ mission to do as many as possible and at the same time help people do theirs.

Brothers Jonnie and Duncan Penn and their friends Dave Lingwood and Ben Nemtin have their own MTV show which is called the Buried Life and now, they are breaking into to writing.

This quartet of boys, now men, have changed peoples lives all over the nation.

“Our goal was to give people the feeling that you can do anything,” says Jonnie Penn, 25. “We started with that. We scribbled down the ones that moved us … Some are sad, some are hilarious, some are scandalous. We wanted to get that balance.”

This group of guys want to prove that anything is possible and you shouldn’t settle. This mission has had them cross off 80 of the 100 things they wanted to do before they die.

The Buried Life's list of things to do before they die.

They’ve crashed a wedding, making a toast to a mystified bride and groom. Survived four days on a deserted South Pacific island, and possibly the most stunning: they played basketball with President Obama on the court in the White house.

“We added it to the list because we knew it was going to be almost impossible,” says Lingwood. But through good old Washington lobbying, they eventually got the ear of the president. “He liked that we helped people.”

This book and TV series is designed to get people thinking. The group of guys don’t just try to cross out things on their bucket list, They also help people do the things that they want to do .

“We try to help people achieve what they might need,” says Lingwood, who earlier this month was lured to Georgia’s Kennesaw State to urge students to help a classmate who needs a kidney transplant. The request came through Facebook, where the men have 1.25 million fans, people they call “Community.”

The Buried Life helps as many people has they can achieve their goal.

“I really want to go skydiving when I get older,” said Kara Overmyer as she pondered about her own bucket list.

This new book is appropriately called “What Do You Want to Do .”

Sales are expected to be a success just like the MTV series that is entering there third season.

“I want to watch a baseball game in every major league  stadium in the US,” said Austin Richwine, a Penn Manor senior and the starting center fielder for the Comets baseball team.

The boys really think that the book is for everyone.

“To be honest, this is a book for more than just fans of the show,” Penn says. “This is for anyone who’s ever going to die one day. It also tells a bit of our story going from depressed college dropouts to meeting Oprah and starting The Buried Life on MTV.”

The book is in stores right now. Maybe it could help someone get motivated to cross a couple things off their bucket list before they get buried.






A Popular Book Series Continues to Fly off the Shelves at Penn Manor

By Blake Wales – 

The “Hunger Games” series continues to fly off the shelves of the library at Penn Manor High School and has done so for the past two months. The book series has and continues to grow in popularity because of the movie coming to theaters soon. It seems to be that the students want to read the book before the movie comes out so they can compare the two.

All three books of the the “Hunger Games” series photo by nannypoppins123.blogspot.com

Diane Bounds, the librarian at Penn Manor High School,  said that not only “The Hunger Games” but every other book in this series has been off the shelves for several weeks.

The library has actually set up a waiting list where the students sign up for what book they want and have to wait their turn to get it. The first book of the Hunger Games series was published in 2008 and since August of this year students have been all over these books, according to library personnel.

“I dont think the students will stop reading these books after the movie comes out because of all the other books,” Ms. Bounds said about the books’ popularity even after the movie was released into theaters.

“I have definitely  seen students check out this book who normally don’t check books out at the library,” Bounds said.

With the amount of students who are interested in reading these book, some students have decided to take this problem into their own hands like sophomore Megan Laughlin who asked around and found some friends that actually own all three of the book so she was able to barrow them instead of buying them or waiting on the list. Megan really enjoys reading this series because  of all the action and suspense that makes it very easy to loose track of reality and read through the book at a fast pace because you want to find out what happen next.

“Im really excited to see the movie and im pretty sure that it will be very accurate to the book,” said Laughlin

Last week was the midnight showing of “the Hunger Games” where some students from Penn Manor attended the showing at a theater near them.

The Hunger Games movie has been one of the biggest movies for gross revenue, $155 million, on its opening weekend, more than other popular book series movies such as the Twilight movie. Hunger Games fell behind other popular movie like last year’s “Harry Potter” which raked in 169.2 million and “the Dark Knight” which brought in 158.4 million dollars a little more then the Hunger Games.

Although there have been no plans to make the other two books in the Hunger Games series into movies, “Catching Fire” and “Mocking Jay,” but with the high success of the “Hunger Games” movie on its opening weekend it may be that these next two books in the series will bring in the same kind of profit.

The Experiment – Movie Review

By – Jake Shiner

Sometimes true stories can be inspiring when brought to the big screen, but other times they can highlight mistakes and problems with society. The Experiment did the latter.

A remake of the German film Das Experiment, it tells the true story of a Stanford psychology experiment gone miserably wrong. The test subjects are offered $14,000 to participate in the two week trial. It seems like easy money but there’s a catch, some of the volunteers will lose some of their civil rights for the duration of the experiment. This is because the volunteers will play the roles of guards (Forest Whitaker) and prisoners (Adrien Brody) in a prison like atmosphere.The only rule is no violence or the experiment will be terminated and no one will be paid. Easy enough.

Being a remake of a huge hit, it had a lot to live up to and was unfairly compared to the original. I never viewed the original so I had no bias while coming up with my opinion of the film, and I personally thought the movie was 3 out of 5 stars. Something to rent to watch, but not necessarily to be part of your movie collection.

A great part of the film were the leading actor’s portrayals of their characters. Forest Whitaker had an outstanding performance of a man who became drunk with power. There wasn’t much background information on Whitaker’s character given, but I got the feeling he was someone who had been bullied all his life and now all the power was in his hands. His role is kind of creepy, he seems unstable, and Whitaker pulls it off terrifically. He was very convincing and actually provoked feelings of fear in me for the other inmates.

Brody’s role is that of a recently laid off worker that meets a love interest during a protest. Unfortunately for him, the girl is leaving for a long trip to India and he doesn’t have enough money to join her on her travels. The experiment is the fix. Brody does a terrific job of balancing the traits of a leader, while also being on the brink of losing his mind at some points as the experiment takes a turn for the worse.

The Experiment is a gritty true tale and definitely leaves you wondering if things like this still happen, maybe not in the U.S., but in other countries. The real story is that a Standford psychology professor, Philip Zimbardo, conducted a prison experiment in a Stanford basement in 1971. Zimbardo allowed the guards to abuse the prisoners, all of which is on footage, until he ended the experiment after six days because of the brutality.

The Experiment is a psychological story of how power can make one corrupt, which I believe is a reflection of our society in all forms of government.

The Girl on Fire Blazes the Box Office

By Dakota Jordan and Corina Connelly –

The Hunger Games was set to light the world on fire when it reached theaters Friday, And with over one million tickets already pre-sold its expected to be a feast for fans everywhere.

The Hunger Games takes place in a post apocalyptic world in what’s left of a nation that was once called America this nation of Panem is split into 12 districts each with its own commodity there districts are all controlled with an iron fist by the capitol and the all powerful president Snow. Each year as a show of subservience each district must present two tributes, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12-18. These tributes are then thrown into an arena to fight to the death until only one is left standing, that one is then declared the champion of the Hunger Games.

As the film’s premier quickly approached, fans eagerly awaited the chance to step into the theater and get lost into a world that has engrossed their minds since the day they opened the pages of the book.  The numbers were expected to keep rising as the release day quickly approaches. The producing company Lions Gates is reporting an expected profit of $95+ million in the first weekend alone. The gross receipts actually topped $150 million in the initial weekend.

The sold out signs started to be posted up in over 2,000 theaters. Fandango is already ranking it one of their top selling movies. Early reviews by some critics before the opening date, exclaimed your eyes will be thoroughly entertained as the two hour movie plays across the screen and that it is true to the books, which for many fans is what they want to hear.  In Los Angeles, the movie brought in $155 million and it is near the top of the record book according to the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. As the next week rolls in, the odds seem that they will be in the film’s favor.