Let’s face it: we could all use a little escapism right about now. In fact, the current COVID-19 hellscape that we live in requires a special kind of escapism. One that can transport you back to a silly, uncomplicated time – perhaps the 2000’s? In 2006, to be specific, things were really looking up. Angelina Jolie was named the World’s Sexiest Woman. Donald Trump’s greatest contribution to society involved a cable tv feud with Rosie O’Donnell. Hannah Montana premiered on the Disney Channel! I struggle to think of a more historically vacuous time in recent memory, and I yearn for it. In my quest to fully encapsulate myself within the blissful ignorance of this period, I inevitably fell into the deepest cultural black hole of them all: Paris Hilton. This hotel-heiress-turned-reality-star invented “famous for being famous” at a time when Kim Kardashian was still organizing closets! It’s hard to overstate her influence on popular culture, and yet, it seems we so easily forget her greatest accomplishments. We are all, I hope, more than aware of her and Nicole Richie’s iconic docuseries The Simple Life. The chronicles of braindead socialites traversing middle America must have some political parallel to our present state of affairs; alas, we are in 2006 now, and such things are better left in 2020. While I could blather on about the intimate details of Paris’ life and lineage, I would be neither the first nor the best to do so. (For that, I highly recommend Jerry Oppenheimer’s “House of Hilton”. Thank me later.) No, no. Today I am here to talk about music. Specifically, our dear Paris’ debut single Stars are Blind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icpqB22c4G8 Perhaps you’ve forgotten Ms. Hilton’s burgeoning music career. Perhaps you were never aware in the first place. Just know that I forgive you, but I will never forget. Because to the surprise of music critics and culture vultures alike, Stars are Blind is just the song Paris was never supposed to record. It’s effortless and breezy. Modern yet instantly classic. Coy, clever, and endlessly repeatable. Best of all, it’s reggae! (To be fair, it’s as much reggae as it is the sonic personification of bottled piña colada. But still, reggae!) Variously described by critics as “perversely enjoyable” and “an incredible fluke”, I am here to say that Stars are Blind is exactly the antidote we all need in the chaos within which we currently exist. With lyrics intent on meaning as little as possible, there’s no substance to pick apart here – how refreshing! The jaunting guitar strings will get your foot tapping no matter the level of cynicism you enter the tune with. Occasional steel drums are like a warm breeze caressing your cheek at a trashy beach resort. Paris’ vocal technique is best described as Melatonin-Soprano: her dulcet tones are sure to send you into a deep sleep before the second chorus hits. The entire song has the atmosphere of the weirdly un-sexy, softcore programming you might find on the Playboy Channel as a child while looking for cartoons. For just a moment, you’re back. Back in a time where your biggest concern was whether or not Carrie Underwood was going to win American Idol. Back in a time where George Bush being President meant absolutely nothing to you. Back in a time where the closest thing to a Tik Tok dance was Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat”. And then, just as quickly as it comes, it’s gone. Until you hit repeat, that is. And I dare you to tell me you won’t. I was like you, too. Naïve and headstrong. Once you let Paris in, she’s not coming out. What’s better, you don’t want her to. So, as you sit listlessly in quarantine with nothing to occupy you, give Stars are Blind a shot. You might, like me, find that Paris is much more than just a relic of the low-rise 2000’s. Now, more than ever, I think we can agree that she was right: the gods sure are crazy, and goddamn it the stars are blind.
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By Carter Cooley Last week, tens of thousands of Indonesians flooded the streets of their capitol Jakarta. Protesters were marching against a proposed morality bill that would completely overhaul the Indonesian criminal justice code as it stands known today. Facing down police lines, tear gas, and water cannons, protesters hocked rocks at the parliament building and clashed with authorities, causing dozens to be hospitalized for minor injuries. The morality bill includes several damning proposals that have inflamed the populace nationwide: the new criminal code sought to ban extramarital sex (which effectively prohibits all homosexual relationships, as gay marriage is illegal), prevent unmarried couples from living together, restrict access to abortion and contraceptives (especially for minors), and significantly expand the legal definitions of blasphemy and treason. While legislating relationships invoked outrage among the populace, the protesters took special offense to the impingements on private life implied by redefining the terms ‘treason’ and ‘blasphemy.’ According to the conditions of the bill, treason laws would give officials the power to arrest dissenters, peaceful protesters, and anyone who speaks ill of the government; it even included a provision that makes personal insults against the dignity of the president punishable by up to 3 years in prison. The morality bill follows on the footsteps of a bill that curtailed the power of the widely respected Corruption Eradication Commission, an independent agency established as a check on the President and Parliament; the convenience of the morality bill’s proposal following on the footsteps of a bill that severely weakens Indonesia’s foremost anti-corruption infrastructure has been cause for alarm. Additionally, the bill’s proposed expansion of blasphemy codes and a vague article addressing “living laws,” would give the criminal justice system the appearance of enforcing Sharia Law. From provisions for the jailing of indecently dressed women to the prohibition of unmarried cohabitation, the bill is clearly partial to a somewhat-ecclesiastical, traditional code of law that many have speculated could be used to enforce Sharia law. Intentional or not, the verisimilitude between the bill and Sharia law have evoked contumelies against paternalism and integration of Church and state. The bill was postponed until the next session of parliament, at which time it will be voted upon. Protests subsided as the week concluded, but Indonesians are still on alert; after decades of corruption and authoritarianism, Indonesians are not likely to roll over and surrender their hard-won democratic liberties.
Climate change's devastating effects were at the center of Friday's event, where students and activists alike demanded action from the local government. WIUX News member Ryan Masoncup took these photos to illustrate the community that came to support environmental awareness. [gallery columns="1" size="large" ids="19023,19024,19025,19027,19028,19029"] To hear more discussion about the protest in Bloomington, along with interviews and other audio, listen to the WIUX Newscast: https://wiux.org/listen/podcasts/wiuxnewscast/wiux-newscast/
Following a long and enigmatic hiatus, FKA twigs has finally made her dazzling return with her new single "Cellophane." Complete with a wholly indescribable visual, the song represents a shift away from twigs’ trademark glitch and glitz. Stripped back and quite minimal, "Cellophane" is at once an aberration of over-stuffed art pop and a testament to the power of intensely experimental works by artists like Björk. The similarities to Iceland’s preeminent cultural icon, though, do not stop there. The aforementioned music video was directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, who has overseen the production of a number of Björk’s own videos. His influence, while impactful, works in tandem with the visionary style of twigs herself. Showing off a newfound mastery of pole dancing, the video shows the English singer, dancer, and artist contorting and careening on a bare, golden stage. The video begins with the sharp clinks of her outrageous platform heels and ends with twigs painted in red clay, the camera capturing her exhausted breaths with intense intimacy. Though the visual effects are stunning, the performer’s movement still manages to steal focus. The song itself relies on a somber and slightly altered piano melody. A ballad embellished with strained falsettos, it tells the story of a romance poked and prodded by outside forces. Twigs somehow combines the mystique of her persona with some of her most personal lyrics yet. She whimpers, “I don’t want to have to share our love… I try but I get overwhelmed”. This is a far cry from the expertly produced LP1, her only full studio album. While that project was unafraid to pack a multitude of otherworldly sounds into each song, this release prefers to pare down to the most vulnerable production of her entire catalog. It is an endlessly refreshing song in a world of near-constant chaos, something which few artists have been able to achieve in recent months. Twigs announced the single’s release just yesterday following the reveal of a brief world tour spanning Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia. Her Instagram teased the new cover art, featuring a portrait of the singer adorned with metallic crosses and other trinkets. Though an official album announcement remains to be seen, the song seems to usher in a new era of the most grounded twigs we have seen yet. This transformation seems purposeful. Writing on Twitter, she said, https://twitter.com/FKAtwigs/status/1120757389706371072?s=20 Following a song as uniformly gorgeous as this, we can’t wait to hear where this reinvention takes her. Watch the new video for Cellophane by FKA twigs below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkLjqFpBh84
Photo (Left) by Sarah Johnson National tobacco company, Juul Labs, and locally beloved eatery, BuffaLouie's, are set to join two supremely beautiful things, e-cigarettes and that buttermilk-based salad dressing for a truly beautiful April Fool's Day. NOTE: JUUL labs & Buffalouies urge you not to dip boneless wings in the pod’s liquid. (That isn't safe, you sicko!)
By Carter Cooley Incumbent Petro Poroshenko is still lagging behind challengers in a recent public opinion poll regarding the fast-approaching Ukrainian presidential election. Two-time former prime minister and leader of the prominent pro-EU “Fatherland” party, candidate Yulia Tymoshenko maintains the position of frontrunner, with a recent BDM poll predicting she will capture 21.3% of the vote. Meanwhile, popular candidate Volodymyr Zelensky is polled in second place by about 4%. Zelensky’s “Servant of the People” party was created less than a year ago by the Ukrainian TV production company “Kvartal 95,” the same company which in 2015 began airing a television show by the name of “Servant of the People.” In this show, aforementioned presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky portrays a high-school teacher turned unlikely President of Ukraine. That’s because Volodymyr Zelensky is actually a comedian by trade, though he has branched out into acting, screenwriting, directing, and most recently, politics. Zelensky is running on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption campaign, reiterating many of the camera-ready promises his fictional counterpart told the Ukrainian people during his rise to power on network TV. Criticisms of Zelensky stem mostly from his lack of experience, lack of solid policy platform, and business connections to Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoyskyi, who is accused of embezzling millions of dollars from the Ukraine national bank. Zelensky’s rise to political prominence has sparked a debate about the role celebrity figures should play within politics and how the anti-establishment, populistic campaign Zelensky has run parallels the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump. With just over a month until Ukraine’s presidential election, it will be interesting to see if Zelensky has in fact been all talk, or if he will be the one to have the last laugh. If no candidate secures an absolute majority in the March 31st vote, a second vote will take place on April 21st.
By Tanner Chaille Following the end of the longest-ever government shutdown which came to a close late last month, a new budget deadline is rapidly approaching. In the face of more public backlash, Congress has produced a spending bill with bipartisan support. This would provide a solution to the conflict which was at the heart of the last standstill. Republican Sen. Richard Shelby and Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey were part of an announcement that outlined some, but not all, of the details within the new bill. Among the concessions is limited funding for border fencing totaling 1.7 billion dollars. This allotment would provide for around 55 miles of fencing at the US-Mexico border. This figure is virtually the same as the previous amount offered by Democrats before the last shutdown. President Trump has remained steadfast in his demands for more than 5 billion dollars to make his trademark border wall campaign promise a reality. Nancy Pelosi and her House Democrats have consistently refused this amount. However, the President is facing newly intense pressure to approve the measures within the bill in order to circumvent yet another government shutdown. Trump’s presidency has been riddled with such freezes, far more than other contemporary administrations. As a result of this trend, government agencies and their employees have grown increasingly weary of the dissolve between the President and Congress’ relationship. Late in January, TSA employment issues led to the grounding of flights at New York’s LaGuardia airport. This was a key aspect in ending the shutdown with a short-term spending bill. Lawmakers and strategists fear even bigger issues with government contractors and non-essential employees should Homeland Security’s budget be jeopardized once again. The timing of another potential shutdown would coincide with millions of Americans filing their tax returns; the freezing of IRS employees’ paychecks could lead to a halt in returns. This is seen by many within Trump's own party as a dire misstep, one that would sour Trump’s public approval even further than its current state. Though Trump himself has expressed his desire to avoid another shutdown, he has also voiced suspicion over the contents of the new spending bill. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday before a meeting with the Colombian President, he stated, “We haven’t gotten it (the legislation) yet. We’ll be getting it. We’ll be looking for land mines”. Though the political effects involved with yet another standstill in government operations are daunting, this would certainly not be the first time in which the President has briskly struck down measures he claimed to support. Congress has come together in order to ensure the continued operations of vital government agencies. Only time will tell if President Trump has gotten that memo as well.
By Carter Cooley First world countries enjoy the highest quality infrastructure, amenities, and degree of economic opportunity in the entire world, but what happens when progress starts to outpace human acclamation to progress? The people of Japan enjoy the comforts and quality of life supported by an industrious economy and strong work ethic, but the stresses of outperforming in a society of high expectations have yielded one particularly disconcerting societal trend: a gradual constriction of the population. In 1997 the number of elderly eclipsed the number of children in Japan, and in 2014, sales of adult diapers surpassed those of baby diapers. Currently, individuals aged 65 years and older make up just over a quarter of the total population, and if the current negative rate of population growth does not change it is predicted this demographic will account for roughly a third of the population by 2050 and an astonishing 40% of the population by 2060. Record low fertility rates coupled with the highest life expectancy of any country in the world has sandwiched Japan between a two-fold demographic time bomb which carries with it a host of social, economic, and political consequences. One such effect is the tragic wave of elderly crime sweeping Japan. An aging population has imposed unexpected pension and social security expenditures on the government, reducing the livability of the average pension check and forcing many elderly into poverty. Faced with the terrifying and often deadly prospect of homelessness, many of these impoverished individuals have turned to petty crime, preferring the security of being behind bars to the uncertainty of life on the streets. While in 1997 just 1 in 20 crimes were committed by individuals aged 65 and up, twenty years later this statistic has quadrupled to 1 in 5. Moreover, a third of the senior citizens convicted of a crime in 2017 were recidivist offenders with at least 5 prior convictions. A BBC article from January 31st of this year reports that the overwhelming majority of crimes committed by the elderly are shoplifting offences of food totaling 20 USD or less, typically stolen from the supermarket they visit regularly. In the stalwart Japanese judicial system, petty offences are taken seriously and can easily land offenders up to a year in prison. This is just one of many potential turmoils Japan will face in the coming years if this demographic trend persists, though the consequences down the road will be far more imposing than a simple shift in the diaper market.