The Virtual Reality Revolution

Henry Perazza, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Hey, VR is pretty cool. 

Virtual Reality is a recent fad that has swept the tech industry. From Oculus Rift to Samsung Phones, experiencing things in VR has become a total craze. While the technology hasn’t really surpassed anything spectacular, what it can supply is a totally immersive experience. Placing the viewer into that open field, or the spooky house, or whatever fictional or non fictional reality they wish to sink themselves into.

But there’s more to VR than just an experience.

While there’s been a tendency to see and report on VR as a purely gaming addon, that is far from it’s only benefit. On a much grander scale, VR has a multitude of business applications. Real Estate businesses offering a fully VR tour of an open house. Engineering companies immersing themselves in the design of their product, walking around and performing calculations right in front of it. The allowance for not only immersion, but full integration of yourself into an environment could be invaluable in many business scenarios.

Think of training too. Intense segments of jobs, like surgery for doctors or military captains doing...pretty much anything. It’s a freedom of movement in a 3D environment, completely placed inside the scenarios and learning from direct experience, with none of the drawbacks. It’s not a complete substitute for hands on training, but it’s a good way to start someone’s education.

VR allows for intense, intricate planning. Urban design gets a massive benefit to the integration of VR. Now city blocks can be programmed and explored from many angles at street level, putting the design to the human test without needing to put any time into actually building the project. Flying around and observing, then making active changes an the drop of a hat. VR assisted Computer Aid Design: the future.

There are limitless possibilities, if you choose to consider the thought. Encounter phobias or previous trauma through VR instead of the real world, learning to cope with it there before it harms you in the real world. The world as we know it can be greatly expanded and tested in virtual, leading to smarter, safer, and a better designed and explored reality.

The Future is Hell

Henry Perazza, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Why does the future suck? Honestly, it’s so bad. While the actual future is totally uncertain, science fiction has led us all to believe that whatever the future may hold in store, it WILL kill us all. Guaranteed. Government takeover, zombies, disease - a dystopia is inevitable. What I don’t get is why people enjoy it?

Is it entertaining to watch a group of angsty teens somehow have every answer? Is it fun to watch them throw tantrums while the author ignores any sense of continuity? What is appealing?

It’s the shoehorned romance, isn’t it? Definitely the shoehorned romance. 

Whether it be forcing all of our young into a maze to grow up secluded, or living in an overgrown forest society, this subsection of entertainment is an expansive one. Games, movies, tv shows, there’s a plentiful supply of different fallen paradises that you can immerse yourself in as the characters around the protagonist inevitably die. Because that’s hardcore. Grrr.

And that’s not to say that all of them are bad. On the contrary, games like The Last of Us and Blade Runner deserve all the praise they get. But that’s because they don’t fall into the same tricks and tropes as their unfortunately bad counterparts. The difference between a The Last of Us and The Walking Dead is that things have meaning and purpose. Joel and Ellie have plenty of meaningful interactions as they traverse a society that’s falling apart. Rick and his crew, on the contrary, seem to actively cause more problems than they solve with no real endgame, leading to unnecessary plotlines, encounters, and an overall feeling of pointlessness that taints the series

Yes, The Walking Dead is bad. Fight me after you culture yourself a little bit. 

The common failure that most of the bad examples in the medium is a focus on stereotypes. When sifting through one of the many of examples, you’ll find that each and every character is a check box. The protagonist, the klutzy friend, the intelligent friend, the asshole, the antagonist, the love interest. It’s moving down a list. So even though there is a plethora of titles, if you experience one, you’ve seen em all.

Seeing people fall for the same trick over and over again is infuriating. Ready Player One is mediocre, but is also adored. Denouncing an archetype of entertainment is far from fair, but it’s important to really look at what entertainment you’re consuming, and not just mindlessly accept the tropes of a genre.

And the winner is...

Henry Perazza, Arts & Entertainment Editor

There’s a yearly ceremony that occur that rocks the mainstream entertainment business. Awards season. Oscars, Grammys, Tonys, Golden Globes: those kinds of awards. Every year, a list of movies or albums or whatever the award list is for is shown to the masses, spurring debate and controversy of what is on the list, what isn’t, and which is the best of each category. It becomes a national phenomenon for all of 2 weeks. A celebration of the media that came from the past year. 

Of the awards ceremonies coming up, the Oscars are the closest, while the Grammys have just passed. Names like Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars sweeping categories of their respective genres, while nine blockbuster movies prepare their acceptance speeches in hopes for the biggest trophy in film.

But is it really that important?

Awards are awards, no doubt about that. Producers, directors, and writers, and many of the occupations the entertainment industry have can really boost a resume should they win an award. But in the end, all these presentations are less about the awards, and more about what entertainment usually centers on: the camera, or the mike, or the effects, or the choreography. 

Think about it: why is it a big deal who hosts? Why do they give live performances at all these ceremonies? Because the awards are nothing more than padding for the creators, while the true win is getting the cameras to shine on who they are, and for the millions who argued endlessly about the victors to know their names. For the host to be put on the map as ‘the one that hosted the academy awards in 2018’. 

It’s something I’m sure we’ve all known, but haven’t accepted: The Academy Awards is all a publicity stunt. However, that might be exactly why its necessary.

The Breathing City of Newark

Henry Perazza, Arts & Entertainment Editor

I’m sure we all think of the Prudential Center as the place the Devils play. I know I did for the longest time. And while hockey is it’s premiere event, Newark is a living breathing city, not just diet New York. So while sports may be the highlight of the stadium, its a locale that also hosts concerts and shows all the same, like any reasonable stadium should. From Jay-Z to the Foo Fighters, megastars can take over this up and coming city each and every night.

Not into the Prudential Center? No big deal, there’s more places. Places like NJPAC or the Newark Symphony Hall can be just as enticing to visit and have a blast at, and at a fraction of the price of New York. 

It’s not just music either! Dance, Comedy, Pageants: all that and more. All it takes is a little research. So since I’m a nice guy, I’ll do some of the dirty work for you. This website, https://www.newarkhappening.com/events/, has all of your Newark event needs. Afrobeat, Latin Festival, the Newark International Film Festival, and much more. There’s always something to do, some inspiration to acquire, and all it takes to find it is a little planning. So explore, and grab the urban magic with your hands; hands that can forge your dreams.

Last Jedi Review

Henry Perazza, Arts & Entertainment Editor

When talking about Star Wars, there’s a lot of history with the name. Six previous movies, a plethora of books, and characters that everybody knows, it’s hard to not know what Star Wars is. So when JJ Abrams took the helm on a new trilogy, people became concerned. The last time this happened, the prequel trilogy, it didn’t go too well. However, Episode 7: The Force Awakens, released in 2015, did well both critically and economically; the community was filled with hope that JJ Abrams knew what to do with the franchise, and got excited for Episode 8, dubbed The Last Jedi, to continue the rebirth of Star Wars.

But does it hold up?

Like Episode 7, 8 is trying to emulate the original trilogy of 4, 5, and 6, but with a new age spunk added to it. And like 7, it succeeds in it’s characterization. Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, fully models the passionate youth learning the ways of the force from the wise master, a returning Luke Skywalker. Ray was easily the best part of the movie, both in performance and her plotline. New additions like Finn, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren also return to the camera alongside the old favorites like Luka and Leia, played by Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher. For the most part, the characters are fun and played well, by all the actors. The acting direction is strong, which is the usual case for an Abrams film.

The Last Jedi chooses to divide it’s screen time in three for the sake of the plot. One following Rey and her training with Luke, one following Poe and Leia as they try to escape the pursuing First Order before running out of fuel, and finally following Finn, BB-8, and newcomer Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran, as they attempt to assist the Resistance escape attempts from the outside. I will gladly say that this is the biggest weakness of the film. Dividing the attention of the movie in thirds made it feel very oversaturated. This flaw was only accentuated by the actual plot of the movie, with so much being stuffed into every scene. And Episode 8 is a very long film at that, so the cramming was far from a benefit.

In addition to feeling cramped, there was very many questionable moments from the characters. While all played well, the writing made it hard to wonder if nobody wanted to talk to each other about anything at all, or even think half their plans through. A very large issue could’ve been solved should many characters simply communicate, and it left me feeling smarter than characters like Poe, Finn, and many of the Resistance despite them meant to be leadership figures for this Resistance. Because the Resistance side of the plot was so questionable, it made Rey’s story all the more appealing.

While the plot may have holes, the biggest benefit to the movie is that it is incredibly fun to watch. The action is flashy, the tone keeps light, and the highs of the movie are incredibly high. Easily the best scene for me is its opening. It starts with a full on space battle, that of course goes haywire thanks to Poe Dameron. Right away, Episode kicks off with a bang. What is especially amazing is that a minor character, Rose’s sister, goes through a full arc and had me supporting her despite not knowing her name. A very well done scene to kick off the film.

All in all, the movie is a safe ‘ok’. The characters are enjoyable and the action is exciting, but it’s held back by questionable decisions and moments from the plot and writing. If a standalone film like Rogue One, there’s less impact of that flaw. But because this is a Part 2 of 3, the writing weighs on the plot a lot more. As it stands, Episode 8 is the lesser of the new Star Wars movies, and one can only hope that the final episode of this trilogy ends on a high note.

Ya like jazz?

Henry Perazza, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Did you know that this week is Grammy Week? Well, now you do. Thanks to the Grammy Museum, where the week gets its namesake, and The New School’s College of Performing Arts, there is going to be a special music event. Students from The New School and Renaissance Youth Center are going to be performing Blues and Soul music pieces alongside musicians and actors William Bell and Bobby Rush. The concert will begin at 7pm at the New School, which is at 63 Fifth Avenue, New York. At 4pm, same location, is a panel featuring Rush and Bell and former Stax Records owner Al Bell. Tickets cost 5 dollars to students, and 20 for general admission. Tickets can be purchased online at tmttrgrammy.eventbrite.com. All funds received from admission will support education initiatives across the state. Take Me to the River was a 2014 film that brought multiple generations of southern musicians together to make a truly legendary album. It is designed to inspire a deeper knowledge and understanding of history and culture that comes with the music. The film is designed to show the meaning behind cross-culture collaboration. A hearty message for a film.Since the music will be mostly Soul and Blues, then many classics from Stax Records and New Orleans. Since both Bell and Rush starred in the 2014 movie, many songs will be of similar genre. Additionally at the 4pm panel, the first showing of a new film, Take Me to the River: New Orleans, the sequel to Take Me to the River, will be debuted. The ladder film was already being shown in schools all across the country, so they must intend the sequel to really make a splash.This concert is more of a celebration of culture. A celebration of music as it travelled through the generations. If you have the time, why not celebrate?

Rutgers musical coming soon!

Henry Perazza, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Feeling repressed and want to let your inner songbird fly? Well, you might want to consider trying out for the Rutgers-NJIT musical. On January 23rd, 24th, and 25th, this twin-university performance is hosting a completely open tryouts. Any and all students are welcome and call try out with no strings attached. Auditions take place from 6pm to 9pm, and callbacks would happen on the 26th.

The play being performed is none other than In The Heights, a play originally written by Lee Manuel Miranda, the creator of the one and only Hamilton, based off the book written by Quiara Alegria Hughes. With awards for Best Musical and Best Original Score at the Tony’s among other honors, it is definitely no slouch of a screenplay. Taking place in Washington Heights, the play is more about the lives of the people in the less than ideal neighborhood rather than any single character, and is chock full of the catchy music Lee Manuel Miranda later became famous for. As stage productions go, this is one excellent pick.

If you feel the urge to perform, to throw caution to the wind and leap on stage, then head over to the NJIT campus. The auditions will be taking place at the Jim Wise Theatre, which is in the Kupfrian Hall on the 2nd floor. Go out there and shine!