Smith Hall Takes Home Pink Spoon During Policies for Dollars

By: Stacey Axler

During the classic competition among the residence halls, the freshmen students from Smith Hall took the grand prize of the pink spoon.

The annual Hood tradition Policies for Dollars took place on Wednesday, Oct. 5 among Shriner Hall, Smith Hall, Coblentz Hall, Memorial Hall, and Smith Hall, with Smith Hall coming out on top for their first win in several years.

“I was so proud that Smith Hall won Policies for Dollars this year,” said sophomore Lanee Higgins, vice-president of Smith. “I felt that it was well deserved.”

“All the halls did really well this year,” she added.

The members of the various residence halls wore different colors to represent each of the five teams. In a change from past years, the residents of Shriner Hall wore dark green. The remaining residence halls continued to wear their standard colors: red for Memorial, black for Smith, yellow for Coblentz, and purple for Meyran.

The commuters at Hood had originally been expected to have their own team for Policies, but it ended up not coming together in time for the competition.

On the night of Oct. 5, Policies officially began when SGA president Doug Raftery ran across the residential quad with a flag.  After Raftery waved the flag, the residents of every hall progressed to the Pergola to begin the cheering section for policies.

Concurrent to the cheering section, the residence halls competed one at a time in the obstacle course. After the cheering section and obstacle course concluded, the residence halls progressed to Hodson Auditorium in Rosenstock Hall to watch the skits and Jeopardy portion of policies.

“The skits seem really well-executed this year, said sophomore Brittany Gammel. “The freshmen did a good job.”

The skits featured various characters from different films and fantasy stories, in addition to well-known Hood personas.  Characters such as Snow White, Dorothy, Stars Wars, and James Bond were featured, along with President Ronald Volpe and Dean Olivia White.

While those who attended Policies enjoyed the skits, many felt upset with the outcome of the Jeopardy section of the competition. Several freshmen students felt that the rules of the Jeopardy portion were not clearly established.

“Jeopardy was really tough, because the rules of how to play kept changing throughout the different rounds,” freshman Baily Czech said.

Overall, Smith came in first place with a total of 65.75 points, Memorial came in second with 64.5 points, Shriner came in third place with 59.75 points, Coblentz came in fourth place with 58.25 points, and Meyran came in fifth place with 42.75 points.

Policies as a whole provided the whole campus an opportunity to bond over a rich Hood tradition.

“I really enjoyed Policies,” said freshman Amanda Stockley. “It gave an opportunity for me to bond with my residence hall.”

 

Students Enjoy Latest Display in Tatem Art Gallery

By: Stacey Axler

Over 30 members of the Hood community recently came to Tatem Arts Gallery to support the art gallery opening of the exhibit “Everybody Knows.”

The “Everybody Knows” exhibit on Oct. 13 ran from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and featured artwork from several mediums including charcoal drawings, photography and video.

“I wanted to come to the gallery opening because every time I walk into Tatem Hall, I tend to look at the art on the walls. This time, I was most interested in the charcoal drawings,” junior Nilsa Gonzalez said.

Altogether, the gallery opening featured over 20 pieces of artwork; however, the big charcoal drawings at both ends of the gallery seemed to draw the most attention from spectators.

Many members of the Hood community who attended the reception deeply appreciated the amount of detail and the high quality of the artwork featured.

“The different photographs are interesting, you need to look at them several times to see all of the detail included,” senior Katie Rattigan said.

The different aspects displayed in the art exhibit intrigued many inquisitive spectators.

“I find the exhibit really interesting,” sophomore Stephen Cloud said. “There was a good turnout this year to the gallery opening, and I think this exhibit is a great way to start off the semester.

Many individuals enjoyed the images presented in the artwork that represented simple images.

“I really enjoyed the minimalist art featured in the gallery for this exhibit, and I had a great time,” Gonzalez said.

 

Analysis: Faculty Salaries at Hood

By: Catherine Collins

The comparatively low salaries of Hood professors have long been a cause of concern between the faculty and the administration. An official report done last year by a task force appointed by President Dr. Ronald Volpe names a number of recommendations to improve faculty salaries, which are currently in their beginning stages.

“Some of the recommendations are currently being addressed, while others may call for more time,” Volpe said. “I am hopeful that most or all of the recommendations will have been addressed by the end of the spring 2012 semester.”

According to the report, in which Hood’s faculty salaries were compared with those of 10 similar institutions, the following discrepancies in average faculty salary in 2010 were calculated: a -10 percent discrepancy for assistant professors and a –15 percent discrepancy for both associate and full-time professors.

The report states, “The gross faculty salaries at Hood are below the market. Similarly, the benefits are non-competitive as well.”

The report takes into account the fact that Hood professors teach 18 credits a year instead of 21 or 24, like most of the college’s competing institutions, by factoring in the time dedicated to research, mentoring and service done by Hood faculty, which is higher than at other colleges. The report contextualizes this data by comparing salaries based on student to faculty ratios.

A second report done last year by Dr. Anita Jose, associate professor of management, on behalf of the Faculty Senate, details the history of Hood’s faculty salaries and compares them on state and national levels.

According to Dr. Jose’s report, when the average Hood faculty salaries are compared to those of otherMarylanduniversities, Hood ranks 22 out of 23 in assistant and full-time professor salaries and 23 out of 23 in associate professor salaries.

Although the current administration contributed $900,000 to full-time faculty salaries in the fiscal years of 2003, 2006 and 2009, 3 percent cost-of-living increases in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and a 5 percent cost-of-living increase in 2008, those adjustments have not been considerable enough to bring Hood’s faculty salaries out of the 20th percentile.

Ever since Hood’s faculty took a 5 percent pay cut during the 1992 – 1993 school year, the remedial efforts to recover have not yielded significant improvements.

“I have been committed throughout my tenure atHoodCollegeto increasing faculty and staff salaries,” Volpe said.

The aforementioned official report, done by the president’s task force and published on May 14, lists nine recommendations to improve faculty salaries that Volpe has promised to uphold in an email to faculty members. The recommendations include establishing and enforcing workload policies, such as implementing an appropriate use of release time; funding endowed chairs and positions to relieve the operating budget; and others.

Although the course release system is currently being revised, the administration has recently suggested that modifying release time will not actually yield enough money to make a significant difference in salaries.

The recommendation regarding endowed chairs states that the college should plan on “dedicating some portion of annual budget surpluses toward funding of endowed positions.”

At a faculty forum on Aug. 16, Charles Mann, vice-president for finance and treasurer, said that there was a surplus of $1 million for the upcoming school year. That number includes the $450,000 that will be set aside as a contingency, which has been a policy for the past five years, leaving a surplus of $550,000 for the 2011 – 2012 school year.

Only four of the 83 faculty members at Hood are currently endowed, but the official report charges the Office of Institutional Advancement with “actively seeking endowed chairs,” which is not typically difficult for institutions to accomplish.

Nancy Gillece, vice-president for Institutional Advancement, called the search for endowed chairs “a staff priority.”

The most basic question regarding salary increases is whether the college has the money available. Although Hood is very tuition-dependent, the college’s economic situation has improved in recent years.

“We’re much more stable than we were 10 or 15 years ago,” Mann said.

This year, there is a $40 million operating budget. Money for endeavors like the summer campus renovations ($17 million total) and the new athletic center ($10 million total) came from capital funds, which is money borrowed from bond holders or accepted from donors. For capital funds, which are not included in the operating budget, the college actively seeks people with a connection to a certain aspect of the institution and requests money.

“Approximately 85 percent of the College’s operating revenues come from student tuition and fees; the remainder comes from other sources including raising money from friends, alumni, benefactors, foundations, and other donors,” Volpe said. “Through the Office of Institutional Advancement, the College continues to aggressively attempt to raise money from many sources.”

But that money that can be raised is not always consistent or unrestricted, Volpe added.

“These monies raised are oftentimes ‘one-time’ gifts that are not repeated for future years and/or are restricted monies earmarked for projects designated by the donor and, therefore, cannot be used for salaries,” he said.

According to Volpe, approximately $1.5 million is obtained every year through Annual Funds, which is the money that can be used to improve salaries.

“We are always attempting to increase the amount raised in the Annual Funds, which remains the number one priority for the Office of Institutional Advancement,” he said.

 

History Professor Travels to Vietnam with UNESCO

By: Kristina Southwell

Dr. Leonard Latkovski, professor of history, spent a week inHanoi,Vietnamthis past August attending the eighth UNESCO World Congress. The conference brought together 250 representatives from 50 different countries.

Latkovski, who is on the board of Frederick’s UNESCO Center for Peace, was the only American in attendance.

The conference commemorated the 30th anniversary of the World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations (WFUCA). The conference aims to bring together representatives from all over the world to share ideas and have a cultural and social exchange, as well as learn about new projects and issues around the world.

Latkovski, a lifelong advocate for human rights, found that the trip provided a memorable experience. The trip was the first visit toVietnamfor Latkovski, who said he “didn’t know what to expect.”

“The people are friendly, polite, and intelligent,” he said about his experience. “It is an interesting culture.”

The firsthand knowledge Latkovski gained from his trip also helps him in the classroom, particularly in his globalization class.

Latkovski describedVietnamas “open, progressive . . . changing fast, but the paradox is that communists are still in power.”Vietnamis a communist country that only recently adopted a modified open economy.

A professor from a local communist university acted as his tour guide, but she also asked Latkovski many questions about women’s rights in theUnited States. That moment highlighted the main objective of UNESCO, which is to create a dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values, with the aim of promoting human rights, mutual respect and the alleviation of poverty.

Latkovski enjoyed his time inVietnamand the people he met.

“Everybody is accepting of Americans – students and officials,” he said.

Latkovski also noted thatVietnamviewsAmericaas a “role model” since they are “looking forward to greater progress and joining the rest of world.”

According to Latkovski, the fellow representatives at the World Congress were a “dynamic set of people.”

“They were not just there to enjoy the trip,” he said. “They were also working to improve their own countries as well as others’.”

Latkovski was glad that he had the opportunity to visit a country he has studied and taught the history of for so many years. Although the trip “came out of the blue,” according to Latkovski, giving him little time to prepare, he was happy he went.

“Your eyes and mind are open when you travel,” he said.

A leading expert onRussiaand the Baltics, Latkovski teaches courses at Hood onRussia, revolutions and 19th and 20th centuryEurope. A noted specialist of Baltic history, his research interests include the history of Latgale, religion inLatvia, and Latvian ethnic minorities. Latkovski has presented more than twenty scholarly papers on these topics.

He is currently working on a project entitled “The History of the Catholic Church in Latvia.”

 

Project: OUT Encourages Openness

By: Stacey Axler

Over 60 Hood students and faculty members came out on Oct. 13 to support Project: OUT, a mission created by a Hood graduate student that offers an outlet for the LGBT community.

Project: OUT, created last semester by Hood graduate student Charity Smith, allows members of the LGBT community to write coming out letters in an anonymous fashion to whomever they want, and send it to aFrederickpost office box as a safe way of personal expression.

“Project: OUT is where people can anonymously come out,” Lindsay Cogdill, president of Equal Sex, said. “I’m really grateful to Charity for doing what she did and I feel honored that I was able to be a part of it.”

The main event of Project: OUT was open to the Hood community and occurred on the evening of Oct. 13 in Hodson Auditorium in Rosenstock Hall.

“The event was very moving,” senior Molly Poling said. “I love that Hood provides good outlet for these programs so people can experience and learn new things.”

At the event, members of Hood’s T.E.A. (Tolerance, Acceptance, Equality) and Equal Sex groups worked together to present the letters mailed to Project: OUT to the Hood community in creative ways, such as through presentation and slide show format. Members of both T.E.A. and Equal Sex read a variety of submissions out loud, which ranged from uplifting to very emotional.

“I came to Project: OUT because I am the outreach coordinator for T.E.A. and I wanted to support my peeps,” sophomore Jackie Frenning said.  “The event was really emotional, and I think we should have provided some tissues.”

The presentation of the original submissions to Project: OUT stirred up a lot of emotions for the audience members in attendance.

“The PowerPoint [presentation of letters] made me bawl,” Poling said. “It was very moving.”

At the end of the event, audience members could write and decorate their own letters in support of Project: OUT, as well as read more original submissions to the project.

Overall, those in attendance to the campus event learned more about the positive affect that Project: OUT has had as an outlet for the LGBT community.

“[Project: OUT] was a really powerful event,” junior Olivia Wolz said. “It shows how words can affect the LGBT community, and how one person can make a difference in the lives of many.”

 

Provost Drafts Adjustments to Release Time; Some Faculty Concerned

By: Catherine Collins

Hood’s course release policy, which allows professors a decreased courseload when holding a leadership position, is currently under revision by Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner, provost and vice-president of academic affairs.

Release time refers to the time created by reducing the number of classes a professor is teaching each year so that the professor can hold a position such as chair of a department or director of a graduate program.

Currently, each department chair receives two course releases each year in order to perform the duties required of that position.

Under the draft that Conway-Turner is working on, department chairs would receive one course release per year, and positions that require one course release would have that release eliminated.

The final decision on the drafted revision will be made during the next month, according to Conway-Turner. A faculty vote is not required to approve the proposal, but professors are being consulted by the provost on the suggested changes.

One of the problems with the current system is the equal allotment of release time given to departments of different sizes and complexity and to positions of varying demand; another is the high dependency it creates on part-time professors.

“We are trying to find a more fair and equitable way to compensate certain roles,” Conway-Turner said, explaining that it’s not logical or fair for less demanding positions in smaller departments to be given the same time allowance as more challenging ones in larger departments.

“We’re going to move to a system where there is either release time or a stipend,” Conway-Turner said.

For example, the drafted policy includes the removal of the communication arts course release. Currently, the English department receives three course releases a year – two for Dr. Mark Sandona to serve as department chair and one for Dr. Aldan Weinberg to direct the communication arts department. If the proposed policy is passed by the administration, Weinberg will receive a stipend of an unknown amount instead of release time.

The drafted policy includes the elimination of releases to smaller departments instead of the addition of releases to larger departments, which would have been a different way to address the problem of disproportionate time distribution.

“That there will be reductions is pretty clear,” Sandona said.

While the provost said that reducing course releases would benefit students by putting more full-time faculty members back into the classroom, some professors are concerned about how their one-on-one mentoring time would be affected.

Dr. Scott Pincikowski, professor of German and current chair of the department of foreign languages and literatures, said that he would be apprehensive about his ability to mentor individual students if he loses a course release.

“I am concerned that my effectiveness as a teacher will be impacted by this decision,” he said. “I will have less time to devote to students who come for extra help, and I will have less time to devote to my course preparation.”

“I was disappointed and a little surprised that this plan would be considered, because our primary concern is to have as much time as possible for our students,” Pincikowski continued. “If I have one fewer course release, I’ll have less time for the students. And that is the greatest thing at stake here. As chair, I am to be available to not only my students but the hundreds of students in enrolled in the foreign language program at Hood. I would hate to see that availability decrease.”

For Dr. Roser Caminals-Heath, professor of Spanish, losing a course release would mean compromising the ability of professors to uphold the academic standard they currently sustain.

“Advising, independent studies, directing honors papers and graduate theses, etc., would be affected,” she said. “It would also affect our scholarly activity.”

Caminals-Heath added that it would be especially difficult for her, since she is expected to publish novels with certain regularity.

“Personally, the impact on my work is troubling,” she said. “As a novelist, my publishers expect me to produce at a regular pace so that my name won’t fall off the public radar completely. A sabbatical every seven years isn’t enough to keep up with my writing.”

The Removal of Hodson Fellowships

At the beginning of this semester, the administration eliminated the Hodson Fellowship opportunities for Hood faculty. This fellowship, which is very competitive and prestigious, had allowed professors to apply for a paid semester off to research and write books, and is now being replaced by faculty-student collaborative research.

“Eliminating these opportunities sends a discouraging message and doesn’t improve the image and status of the college,” Caminals-Heath said, adding that the fellowships did not cost the college very much money.

Caminals-Heath said that having time to research and write on one’s own enhances the quality of the teaching that professors can offer.

“After a period of research and writing, we come back invigorated and pour much of our newly-acquired knowledge into our classes,” she said.

Pincikowski also said that the research that professors do outside of the classroom significantly contributes to the quality of teaching they can offer.

“To remove something like the Hodson Fellowships sends a message about how scholarship and the faculty are valued at Hood – or not, as the case may be,” he said.

A Possible Decrease in Reliance on Adjuncts

Whether the drafted revision to the release time policy could generate money by reducing Hood’s dependence on part-time faculty is currently debatable, but the provost called that consideration “a very small component” of the decision.

During the 2010 – 2011 school year, 72 course releases were provided to a faculty base of 83 full-time members.

Hood’s dependence on adjunct faculty members is high compared to its competing institutions. In 2011, part-time members constituted 68 percent of the faculty.

A collaborative report on faculty salaries published in May placed considerable importance on eliminating the institution’s relatively high reliance on part-time professors and suggested that doing so would save the college money.

It is stated in the report that “one source of funding for faculty salary increases [is] to reduce the College’s reliance on adjuncts at the undergraduate level.”

The report then cites “developing and implementing an equitable and appropriate use of release time” as a way to “make progress on faculty salaries.”

The report, which was intended to address the historically low state of Hood’s faculty salaries, which are currently in the bottom 20th percentile for all IIA institutions, was done by four faculty members and was co-chaired by Conway-Turner and Charles Mann, vice-president for finance and treasurer.

Conway-Turner and Mann said in an interview on Sept. 27, however, that freeing up money is not the primary goal of changing the release time system.

“There might be a little bit of money [generated], but we won’t know until it’s implemented,” she said.

“It is purely a fairness issue and an equality issue,” Mann said.

Caminals-Heath said, however, that any amount, no matter how small, should be used for the purpose originally designated.

“The administration stated that these savings would be used to raise faculty salaries,” Caminals-Heath said. “Even though I understand that the savings won’t be significant, I believe that they should be added to savings coming from other areas to improve faculty compensation, as initially agreed.”

Changing Teaching Load

The main way that the administration has sought to eliminate the high demand for part-time faculty is by trying to increase faculty courseloads. Hood professors teach 18 credits each year, while most of its competitive institutions require its professors to teach 21 or 24 credits each year.

The report done by the task force, however, states there is “empirical evidence that the full-time faculty at the College shares a greater burden of advising and mentoring students than their counterparts at the peer institutions.”

According to Mann, though, Hood professors do not do any more work than faculty members at similar institutions.

“Mentoring and service can’t be quantified,” he said. “Faculty would like to see those other things [quantified], but they can’t be.”

“The focus has to be on increasing teaching load,” Mann continued. “It’s the only way to generate revenue. Research and service don’t bring in money.”

Last spring, the faculty was given a proposal by the administration to increase their teaching load from 18 credits each year to 21 credits each year in exchange for an unspecified increase in salary. This proposal was rejected by the faculty in a 71 to 6 vote in the negative.

“We recognized that there would be significant savings from reducing adjunct faculty members,” Mann said of the proposal.

“The only answer was to increase teaching loads,” he said. “The faculty chose not to do that.”

Many professors felt that taking on more credits each year would drastically diminish their ability to mentor individual students.

Pincikoski, who voted in the negative, said that he was “strongly opposed” to moving to a 21-credit teaching load.

“Creating academic rigor in the classroom takes a lot of preparation outside of the classroom,” he said. “If I’m doing four different [preparations] in any given semester, this will negatively impact the quality of my courses.”

In an email sent out to faculty members on May 11, President Ronald Volpe called the 18-credit teaching load “an unsustainable model” for Hood, citing the Office of Institutional Advancement’s finding that the average teaching load during the previous year was 14.4 credits per faculty member.

“I will not mandate an increase in the contract teaching load at this time,” Volpe said. “Still, I must express concern about what I believe is the somewhat unfair and unsustainable situation caused by many current practices . . . I must reserve the option of changing my position on teaching loads should it become necessary in the future.”

For Sandona, considering a move upward of the 18-credit model would be symbolic of the college’s image and priorities.

“Faculty teach better when they have fewer courses to teach,” he said. He citedGettysburgCollege’s recent move from an 18-credit teaching load down to a 15-credit teaching load.

“We have to ask – what direction are we going in?” Sandona said. “Are we going in the direction ofGettysburgCollege, or are we going in the direction ofFrederickCommunity College? Let’s be honest with ourselves.”

Lindsay Cogdill contributed reporting.

 

iPad Program Extended Through Next Year

By: Catherine Collins

All members of next year’s incoming freshman class will receive an iPad, due to the recent decision to extend the pilot program in order to more accurately assess the technology’s effectiveness, according to Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner, provost and vice-president of academic affairs.

The provost announced the decision to lengthen the iPad program at a meeting of faculty department chairs on Oct. 5. The stated reason for continuing the program into the 2012 – 2013 school year is the need for a two-year assessment period.

According to the provost, there will not be enough information by the end of this semester or this year to know whether the iPad is effective in Hood’s classrooms.

“We just need the time,” Conway-Turner said. “We had been working so hard on implementation [last year] that we didn’t focus so much on assessment.”

Unlike the iPad program this year, which was funded by a grant from a late alumna, next year’s iPad program is currently unfunded.

“I don’t really know where the funding will be. That will be defined as we move ahead,” Conway-Turner said. “We don’t have it in our budget. But it will not come from instructional funds.”

Conway-Turner is currently working on ways to survey students and consult faculty members about the iPad.

At the end of this semester, all students who are in a class in which the iPad is being used will take a survey about what role the iPad played in their class. At the end of this academic year, all freshman students will be surveyed as to how the iPad has played into their college experience.

“There’s a whole range of ideas out there,” Conway-Turner said. “We’re interested in not only what happens in the classroom, but how students are using iPads in general.”

Information Technology is currently working on a Blackboard application that will allow faculty members to interact and discuss which applications they are using in various classes, according to the provost. Additionally, focus groups of professors will be convened at the end of the semester to discuss the iPad’s effectiveness.

Dr. Shannon Kundey, assistant professor of psychology, said that the iPad has been “interesting and fun” for her Psychology 101 class.

“It’s been an interesting experiment, but the data is not in yet,” she said.

Out of 32 students in Psychology 101, there are 20 freshmen. For the online activities that Kundey does in class, she lets students use whatever technology they happen to own – an iPad, a laptop, a netbook, etc.

“It’s not specific to the iPad,” Kundey said of the electronic approach she takes to certain assignment.

For Spanish professor Laura Cordova, though, some iPad applications are proving to be useful and good for creativity.

Cordova, who is teaching two sections of Spanish 101 this semester, has been using the iPad for speaking and writing exercises.

“It’s been wonderful, and students have been excited about the iPads in the classroom,” she said. “It makes the assignments more personal and creative, and hopefully more motivating.”

Only several of the students in each 101 section are not freshmen, and Cordova allows them different options on the computer to do the exercises.

“Some of the applications are unique to the iPad, but there are a few you can do on the computer,” she said.

All of the applications Cordova has used are free, with the exception of one that cost $0.99.

 

Halloween with H.E.A.T

By: Olivia Sledzik

Let’s face it—the environment is the one thing that affects each and every one of us.

That’s why H.E.A.T., the Hood Environmental Advocacy Team, is here to guideHoodCollegein the green direction.

The club’s current focus for this semester is recycling. If you haven’t noticed, Hood recently got recycling bins, and the Blazer and Coblentz now use biodegradable utensils and food containers—all thanks to H.E.A.T.!

They have chosen to focus on recycling this semester because of the upcoming America Recycles Day on Nov. 15.

On Monday, Oct. 17, H.E.A.T. hosted an event where students could make eco-friendly Halloween decorations from materials around campus.

The art department was glad to donate most of the materials including used magazines, jars and puffy paint.

“Hood is very supportive of what we do,” H.E.A.T. executive board member Mishee Kearney said.

H.E.A.T. has actually done a lot to push the college into becoming more environmentally friendly.

Residence Life has installed motion sensor lights into the bathrooms, and the facilities management team has changed almost every light in the library to the energy-saving bulbs (the spiral light bulbs).

The company that keeps the campus gardens even donated a tree for Earth Day this past April. H.E.A.T.’s most recent initiative has been to get the dining hall company, Aramark, to stop using trays.

If H.E.A.T. sounds like something that you are interested in being a part of, the group meets Mondays at 9:30 p.m., and every third Monday of the month is an interactive promotional activity.

H.E.A.T. would love to have more members to try to do off-campus trips and volunteer work, such as cleaning up Carroll Creek.

Anyone with a passion for the environment, or students who want to learn more about going green, are encouraged to stop by a meeting.

 

You Don’t Know Me, Ricky Martin

By: Paige Jurgensen

The Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin is very talented — but he should stick to singing.

Ricky Martin’s “Me” is quite possibly the worst autobiography I’ve ever read.

I recently went through a phase of reading nothing but celebrity autobiographies, so I thought reading the book would be a good idea. Honestly, I only read about two-thirds of the book before I just couldn’t go on anymore. The pages of Martin’s autobiography consist of him overusing the phrase ‘needless to say,’ and not-so-subtly dropping celebrity names.

One element of the book that really made me dislike “Me” was that Martin came off as a bit conceited. For one thing, the front and back covers are just large photographs of Martin attempting to seduce the reader.

Secondly, Martin’s tone of writing was very condescending, as if he’s trying to tell the reader, “You will never be as famous as me,” which made me go, “Shut up, Ricky Martin, you don’t know me!” several times throughout the book.

I found Ricky Martin’s “Me” in the Best-Seller section of the library, although I have no idea how it could ever be a best-seller, mostly because I cannot imagine anyone spending any amount of money on such a terrible waste of paper.

I cannot say there was anything I truly enjoyed about Ricky Martin’s “Me.”

I truly hope Martin never condemns the world of literature to another train-wreck autobiography and just sticks to singing.

 

All-Star Cast of Oscar Nominees Enhance “The Ides of March”

By: Jarred Braxton

A young and intelligent campaign manager to a potential presidential candidate gets a lesson in dirty politics, in the sharp political thriller, “The Ides of March.”

The film is an adaptation of a play called “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon.

“The Ides of March” is produced, written, directed and stars Academy Award winner George Clooney (“Michael Clayton”, “Syriana”) as Governor Mike Morris, a promising prospect for occupying the White House if he gets elected.

Morris is managed and guided by his senior campaign manager Paul Zara, played by Academy Award winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman (“Capote”, “Charlie Wilson’s War”), and deputy campaign manager Steven Myers, played by Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling (“Blue Valentine”, “Crazy, Stupid, Love”).

Morris’ campaign faces its greatest challenge because the state ofOhiois up for grabs, and if Morris takes it, he is a shoe-in for the democratic nomination for president. However the race is just as important to Steven because the rewards for assisting the man who could be the next president are monumental.

Steven is good at what he does. So good in fact, he attracts the eye of the Tom Duffy, played by Academy Award nominee Paul Giamatti (“Sideways”, “Cinderella Man”), who approaches him with an uneasy crisis of conflict — to work for another campaign.

Duffy’s offer then spirals into a series of ethical dilemmas for Steven, which sends him stumbling into a scandal that involves the governor and a lovely young intern named Molly, played by Evan Rachel Wood (“Across the Universe”, “True Blood”).

“The Ides of March,” is a very patient, intelligent, simple yet stimulating thriller about ethical lapses in judgment, consequences, hypocrisy and loyalty.

This movie is a prime piece that illustrates the heightened level of risk involved in the world of politics and how one mistake can be monumentally costly and loyalty can be greatly rewarded yet easily discarded.

Clooney’s fourth directorial outing is a well-paced film that leaves a fascinatingly thoughtful impression that leads the audience to question the integrity of the elected official that you could vote for.

Clooney has a solid outing in every aspect of his motion picture. The directing was smooth, it was well written, and he was quite convincing as a candidate for the presidency.

Gosling was superb. His development throughout the film was very polarizing as he transformed from a naïve assistant to a cutthroat outcast with nothing to lose.

The rest of the cast was top-notch. Hoffman, Wood, Giamatti and even Academy Award nominee Marisa Tomei, who plays a pesky political reporter, were very immersed in their roles.

This is a movie that gives audiences a real perspective in the world of politics; where consequences are severe, failure is costly, virtue is expendable and the only thing that matters is winning — whatever the cost.