ONLINE BLACK MARKETS and
VIDEO GAME STORIES
ATEC Students in UTD’s newest school struggle to find the classes they expected
february 2017 | volume 13 | issue 5 | amputd.com
Editors’ Desk The Fight for Truth
lternative facts. Post-truth. Fake news. These buzzwords do not do enough to capture the gravity of the assault on reality that has plagued our nation in these past months. These attacks have ranged from something as innocuous as exaggerated estimates of crowd sizes, to something as outlandish and detrimental to democracy as unfounded accusations of millions of instances of voter fraud, to something as devious and destructive as professing that the phenomenon of climate change is a maliciously-fabricated myth. Regardless of the severity of the lie, however, each one uttered is an attack not only on truth, but also on our sanity. Multiple studies, such as those by Harvard’s Daniel Gilbert, have demonstrated the way that a steady stream of lies wears down our brains, makes us more susceptible to falsehoods, and reorients our perception of events. While we don’t have room in this column to dive into all of the subtle ways that these lies penetrate and transform our psyche, they can pretty much be summed up thusly — dealing with bullshit is exhausting. And dealing with the rhetoric and dictates of the new administration has been exhausting. Having to discover day after day that too many of the words coming from the head of our government are distortions, fabrications, or just flat wrong, takes a toll. The reality of these next four years is that we must engage in a constant struggle to reclaim and reassert the meaning of truth. We cannot allow objective reporting, verified statistics, definitions, statutes, and peer-reviewed research to be classified as opinion and summarily dismissed from debate with the
Zachary Boullt - Editor-in-Chief
Nicholas Provenghi - Web Editor
notion that “I believe differently.” This battle will take a mental toll; feelings of outrage, anger, disgust, and incredulity are not enjoyable and are difficult to sustain. However, we implore that you unflaggingly pursue the truth in the information you consume. Whatever news outlets you determine to be the ones that report it best, be sure that what’s being reported to you is rooted in what’s real. In your personal life, with your friends, family, and coworkers, trust the claims they make, but verify the veracity of their claims before you regurgitate them or use them in your decision-making. The truth isn’t partisan. AMP is a small, college opinion and satire publication. Our audience is tiny. Our stories, filled with personal viewpoints and jokes, are not what anyone would call objective reporting; that is not our mission. Regardless, we take the attacks on the press and on the idea of truth itself by President Trump and his administration personally. Even though our stories often contain personal perspectives or satirical musings, we remain committed to ensuring that the viewpoints espoused are rooted in evidence and fact. The satire that is fanciful is clearly labeled so that you know when you can believe what we’re saying. One thing our publication does have in common with most others is that we aim to call bullshit when we see it. And we implore you to as well. Never pretend that the lies levied at you day after day are normal or should be accepted. Learn the truth. Speak the truth. Act on the truth. With any luck, it will safeguard us against the threat of tyranny that ominously follows attempts to discredit the facts, revise history, and obscure what’s real.
Maisha Razzaque - Marketing Director
Matt Carpenter - Managing Editor
Bryar Bennett - Art Director
THE PROBLEM WITH ATEC VALERIA ACOSTA by
04 WALKING WALK 06 INVISIBLE WALLS 10 12 ILLICIT INEVITABLE 20 DJ SHOWCASE 22 FOOD THOUGHT 24 26 28 DAY REMEMBER 30 ILL-ADVISED by MORGANNE BLAYLOCK & JOANNA HAUG
by MOLLY HARRAS
by KAYLA ROMERO
PINNACLE of NARRATIVE
by ANDREW SWANSON
by THATCHER REISMAN
with DEMIR CANDAS
by BRYAR BENNETT
HOW TO DECLARE YOUR LOVE FOR YOUR ONLINE CRUSH by MAISHA RAZZAQUE
FOOLISH MISADVENTURES: NO LOVE LOST by SLOAN
to by ANGEERA NASER
Editor-in-Chief Zachary Boullt
Managing Editor Matt Carpenter
Art Director Bryar Bennett
Web Editor Nicholas Provenghi
Marketing Director Maisha Razzaque
Staff Designers Anthony Inga Chiamaka Mgboji Jennifer Moravits Katie Risor
Contributors Valeria Acosta Morganne Blaylock Molly Harras Joanna Haug Angeera Naser Thatcher Reisman Kayla Romero Sloan Andrew Swanson
Photographer Rabia Fatima
Media Adviser Chad Thomas
Disclaimer Opinions expressed in AMP are those of the editor or of the writer of the article and are not necessarily those of the university administration, the board of Regents of the University of Texas System, or of the operating board of the magazine.
Have an opinion? Think youâ€™re funny? Write for AMP! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on social media for more information.
d e s i v d A l l I LIFEST YLE
t n u A h t Wi
o J t n u A Mo and
Aunt Mo and Aunt Jo are not aunts and are in no way actually qualified to answer your questions. However, they have a lot of opinions and want you to follow them. This column aims to satisfy their need to give unsolicited advice. How do I confess my love to my TA???? – Pining Pupil
Jo: Don’t. Don’t engage, stare from afar… That’s what I always do and I feel like it works pretty well. Mo: Legally, you can. You have to jointly file paperwork with the University. I had a really hot Physics TA my first year here… Sadly, his butt was not as cute as his hair, and I pretty quickly fell out of love. Oh wait, my Math TA was also really hot. I had him in a class the next semester, but I did not engage. Jo: But I think the more pressing question is, how do you confess love to someone? Mo: I’m going to say you don’t… Jo: New plan! You should write love notes on the back of tests… and stare at him a lot until he notices you. Mo: Use it as a motivator to study for the class and bottle up all your emotions.
How do we go back in time and somehow elect Obama for a third term? – Desperately Hopeful Jo: Aunt Mo, you’re a scientist, how do we do this? Mo: ...Science can’t help us now.
I’m not really interested in any of the guys I know, but I feel like I’ve met everyone I’m going to meet at UTD. How do I find new social circles without ditching my old ones? – Dateless in Dallas
Mo: First off, thank you for using the correct name format. Jo: I would like to add that we are in Richardson… Might I suggest Romanceless in Richardson? Unless you actually do live in Dallas, in which case I apologize. Mo: You don’t have to be interested in anyone. Don’t stress yourself out if you don’t connect with someone right away. Maybe now just isn’t your time. Jo: 10/10 can relate. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer this question because I don’t really date... My solution has been to give up and really work on strengthening my female friendships.
Mo: A lot of our friends have met people at the UTD climbing wall… So there’s that. Jo: If you go get boba, sometimes boys will hit on you. Mo: Apparently, there is a hot market of TAs out there… Might want to take some classes that tap into that. Jo: Or, if you don’t want to actually interact with people, get on Bumble! It will probably not help you form friendships, but you can find boys, and, if you’re female, you have to take the first step! Which is why Bumble is better than Tinder, because you can make it a game. I would like to take this time to formally apologize to any boy I have matched with on Bumble and/or Tinder and not messaged. It’s not you, it’s me. Mo: I would like to suggest you reexamine your best friends. Who knows! Jo: Or, if they’re hopeless, get involved in your community in new ways. Join clubs! Get involved with club sports, if that’s your jam. Talk to people in your classes. Every stranger is a new friend waiting to be made!!!! Mo: Four years isn’t too long, right?
My friend keeps asking me for “help” on stuff she writes for classes and stuff, and she’s using my ideas. She’s gotten really good grades and reviews on stuff she has written. I’m upset because those are MY ideas and she’s taking credit for them. Am I being petty? Or do I have a right to be upset? If I have a right to be upset, how do I tell her to stop/how do I get out of it when she asks for my “help”? Thanks. – Accurately Depicated Jesus
Jo: You are perfectly justified in being annoyed. I don’t think it’s petty, but there’s a chance that I’m also just petty... Mo: Unless she is using the ideas to benefit herself in classes you are also in, I can see how she doesn’t see the harm in her actions. It is then up to you to stop her. Jo: If you want to go the straightforward route, you could say something like “It bothers me when you use my ideas for your work. I’m happy to brainstorm, but it bothers me when you use my ideas.” But also, how much do you value this person’s friendship?
Mo: If this friend only uses you for answers, you might want to rethink this friendship… or start giving terrible ideas.
Does Temoc date humans? – TemocGirl4Lyfe MoJo: YES! Disclaimer: Cannot confirm if procreation is possible.
I am homesick. What have you found is the best way to combat this? – A Californian, Desperately Missing the Beach Jo: Have I mentioned yet that I’m from New Orleans? Okay, well I’m from New Orleans and because it’s the best city in the world, I miss home constantly… Mostly my family, but also the food... Mo: Well, I’m from San Antonio, so my most common coping mechanism is eating tacos. Jo: My best advice is to create a home here in any way you can. Try to find communities, keep yourself busy, call your mom, make a home cooked meal, make your friends eat said home cooked meal, journal about how much your friends enjoyed said home cooked meal... Hopefully you’ll end up still appreciating your home, but recognizing how much you have here. Mo: Call your mom. Do it. She will thank you. And us.
Why is Trump the way he is?! – A Confused Alum / Medical Student Jo: Toxic masculinity and extreme privilege!!!!! Mo: ...
I’ve a crush. How do I stop having a crush? – Crush Haver
Mo: Turn that crush into a boyfriend! You’ll no longer have a crush. Jo: I support that. Whenever I’ve had a crush and started dating them, I then start hating them. That’s a form of eliminating a crush, right? Let’s hope my one ex from high school doesn’t read AMP! Mo: But if you really must keep this crush... Jo: What level is this crush? Is it Aunt Jo and Aunt Mo having crushes on random people in the dining hall, or is it someone you know and really care about? If you really have strong feelings, you can tell them and get over it either way. But you might want to think about how much they might like you back. Alternative options include spending a lot of time with them so you end up hating them, or spending almost no time with them so you forget they exist. But, if they’re a random person in the dining hall, calling them out on Yik Yak tends to be the best option. Otherwise... Mo: Cut ‘em off.
I keep submitting questions to the AMP advicecolumn instead of doing my homework. Please help me stop. – Advice Addict Mo: I keep submitting answers! I can’t help you there. Jo: No.
MORGANNE BLAYLOCK & JOANNA HAUG sophomores | mech. eng. & sociology Morganne and Joanna are best friends that enjoy long talks on the couch and telling their friends what to do.
walking the Perspectives from the Women’s March on Austin
n a blazing hot winter’s day, over 40,000 Texans joined in solidarity at the base of our state’s capitol to send a message to America’s elected officials: love trumps hate. This love is the force that binds women together in the face of prejudice, that keeps women standing for hours with the sun beating down on the backs of their necks, that makes women smile and laugh while demonstrating for legislation to protect their fundamental rights. This was the Women’s March on Austin on January 21, 2017, a day of action to set the tone for the next four years. I attended because I felt that if I was going to call myself a feminist, I needed to put my feet on the ground where my mouth was. I am young and I have everything to lose if the federal government makes good on some of its recent promises, so I took a stand for my future, for my children’s futures, and most importantly, for the women and men who, unlike me, did not have the privilege of growing up in a household that empowered them. But that’s just me. I was but 1/40,000th of the protesters who made the trek down Congress Avenue, across 6th Street, and up Lavaca Street. What about everyone else? I designed this photography project to gain an understanding of the movement through portraits of protesters and quotes. I asked my subjects to make a serious expression, then an expression they felt projected their emotions. Then I asked, “For what or for whom are you marching today?” Well over half of the subjects wound up grinning and telling me that they were excited and happy to attend. Even the ones who gave the camera a grimace or snarl exuded hope. This is the love that will protect us and guide us through the political storm ahead. This is what it means to be a woman.
To not go back in time.
For womenâ€™s rights.
Because my mom made me.
For everyone who has lost something because of who they are.
Because women have a lot to fear from the incoming administration february 2017
For myself and my future kids.
Because itâ€™s a beautiful day.
To stand with women.
For immigrants, since weâ€™re all immigrants. Because I want to have men and women equal. 08
For me and my daughters. To criminalize and bring awareness to rape.
For healthcare, conservation, Planned Parenthood, and the Affordable Care Act.
For womenâ€™s rights. Trump attracts mosquitos. Because I believe women are equal to men.
molly harras sophomore | mathematics Mollyâ€™s contradictory interests include writing, math, the arts, and making a living. She can also be heard on RadioUTD.
The overly complicated process of legal immigration under H-1B visas is hurting our national interests. 10
ver the course of the presidential election there were numerous speeches and debates that surrounded immigration policy, specifically illegal immigration. Words like “walls” and “free” were thrown around, but what was rarely mentioned in the media was legal immigration — employer sponsored visas. Every year, employers in the United States file hundreds of thousands of H-1B visas with the hope that some of their foreign employees will be issued a work visa. The process is literally luck of the draw. According to Roy Maurer, “USCIS [has] received far more petitions than are allowed under the statutory cap of 65,000 visas plus 20,000 visa petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption,” and unfortunately, this is “a random process.” How many petitions? Within the first week of being able to file for visas, the cap is reached, according to Maurer. The number of visa petitions filed has increased from 124,000 in 2013 to 233,000 in 2015. Clearly large numbers of companies are willing to sponsor employees, and while it may be assumed that these employees are displacing residential workers or being paid beneath market wages, the reality is, in fact, the exact opposite. According to the American Immigration Council, “under the H-1B program, the U.S. Department of Labor is tasked with ensuring that H-1B workers ‘do not displace or adversely affect wages or working conditions of U.S. workers’”. The entire process of initiating a case under the H-1B program includes posting notices within the company that include the wage and job offered to the foreign employee that other workers in the company can apply for. It is required by USCIS that if a U.S. employee wants to apply to the job, they must be interviewed and reviewed. If the U.S. employee meets the requirements for the job, then their employer must offer them the job instead of the foreign employee. Also, within the H-1B program, under the Department of Labor, the employer is required to file a Labor Condition Application, where “the employer must attest that the firm will pay the nonimmigrant the greater of the actual compensation paid other employees in the same job or the prevailing compensation for that occupation; the firm will provide working conditions for the nonimmigrant that do not cause the working conditions of the other employees to be adversely affected; and that there is no applicable strike or lockout,” according to the American Immigration Council. To have the visa petition for a foreign-born worker approved, it must be shown that the employer attempted to offer the job to a U.S. citizen and will pay the foreign worker a fair wage given the requirements of the job. Employers are paying significant fees to
keep and sponsor these employees. Bill Gates once said “Microsoft has found that for every H-1B hire we make, we add on average four additional employees to support them in various capacities.” To answer the lasting question on whether H-1B visa workers take jobs from Americans, the National Foundation for American Policy reports that “for every H-1B position requested, U.S. technology companies increase their employment by five workers,” on average, the following year. With so much research showing positive correlations between provision of H-1B visas and job creation and numerous other benefits in the United States, capping highly talented workers to 60,000 plus 20,000 for Master’s and PhD holders seems a little insane when you think about it. However, under newly-elected President Trump and his 10-Point Immigration Plan, he will “reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, keeping immigration levels within historic norms.” He has followed this with stating that he wants to boost wages of H-1B workers and impose a labor market test for employers before they can petition for a foreign worker — adding more hoops and making it more difficult and expensive for employers to petition for H-1B visas. So, what options are available? How can the H-1B visa process really be reformed? First, get rid of the quotas and simplify legal immigration to the fullest. Helen Raleigh from the Federalist suggests that there be three categories of visa holders: skilled workers, reunited families, and those with humanitarian needs. Her suggestion emphasizes, and is based off, free-market principles for skilled workers in order to help the U.S. economy. Specific to H-1B visas, Kurt Davis suggests that because of the impasse that the H-1B policy is at, jobs are moving offshore. To prevent this from happening, the government should offer more work visas for rural, technical jobs in America. Furthermore, he says that we should emulate Canada and Australia’s foreign immigration policy, which is based off of local needs. There are multiple solutions to the work visa problem at hand, but until we are invested and informed about the process of the path to citizenship, nothing beneficial will ever be done.
KAYLA ROMERO senior | business administration Kayla works as a Talent Acquisition and Immigration Intern at Copart and enjoys reading, writing, and cooking.
Pinnacle of the
Narrative Video games are better equipped for storytelling than other media magine a day devoid of all work or responsibility. No errands to run, no homework to do, no chores to complete. What would you do? If you’re like most, this is the point where you decide to indulge yourself in one of your favorite stories. Maybe you curl up under the covers with your favorite Harry Potter book or join your roommates in a marathon of House of Cards. If you’re like me, however, you jump into the world of one of your favorite video games, because video games are uniquely suited to tell stories. There are, of course, strengths inherent in every narrative medium. Novels allow the versatility to craft anything from brief novellas to epic, multi-entry series and are limited in scale only by the author’s imagination. Movies, while more limited in time, can convey more subtlety in their themes and symbols with the addition of musical cues and a visual workspace. They are also afforded the budget necessary to visually depict stories on a grand scope. Though television shows often lack this budget and are therefore limited to a smaller scale, they have the benefit of including longer narratives that allow
viewers more time to learn about their favorite characters. Under proper management and direction video games can possess the strengths of each of these mediums while foregoing many of their weaknesses. Therefore, video games have the potential to become the best-suited form of storytelling for the modern day. Very much like novels, games are afforded the virtue of narrative versatility. Without the constraints of a movie theater time block or a television season, game developers are able to fine tune the length of their game based on the needs of their story. Because of this, there are far fewer instances where gamers feel a story is too crowded with content given its length, as was said about 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, or is padded with filler content just to justify a set number of hour-long episodes, like recent seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Because everything that appears on screen is digitally generated, games are also allowed to be versatile in their scope and tone. The same company can release a somber, intimate game set in the post-apocalyptic Midwest and then release a globe-trotting, treasure hunting adventure february 2017
three years later (referring to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us and Uncharted 4: A Thief ’s End, respectively). Even within a single game, the tone can change drastically from moment to moment. The Last of Us, for example, can spend half an hour showing our characters bonding and reflecting on some of the quirkier aspects of our current society, only to transition to a bloody, gritty scene of violence as they are forced to fight for survival. This all feels organic and natural, as there is no expectation by the player for a fight scene every 25 minutes, as with blockbuster films, or a clean resolution at the end of each half hour, as with many television shows. All things considered, given the proper development company, video games are nearly unrestricted in the types of stories they can tell. With the introduction of the cutscene, video games joined films as a form of visual storytelling. Over time, game developers sought to find new ways to increase how cinematic they could make these portions of their games, developing cutscenes from simple text boxes to pre-animated character models, adding voice acting, and, finally, utilizing motion capture to take full advantage of an actor’s abilities. The development of the cutscene has only served to improve the ability of video games to tell stories. Instead of breaking up the gameplay with sections where the player must read the story, the gameplay almost bleeds into scenes where the player watches the story unfold with the kind of emotional performances, cinematography, and music one would expect only from Hollywood actors, directors, and composers. This all adds emotional resonance and allows for visual and musical symbolism with a subtlety that would not be possible to achieve through written word without great difficulty. The Last of Us is extremely impressive for how it handles its visual and musical motifs. This is a game that aims to emulate film. Musical motifs appear and reappear throughout, giving subtle significance and new context to scenes. The cutscenes are handled with motion capture, meaning the characters move based on the performances and facial expressions of their actors. This, combined with the care placed on camera angles and lighting, makes each cutscene feel like a three-to-five-minute short film. Visual symbols are used very subtly throughout, their significance and even presence going unnoticed to those that aren’t paying attention. Perhaps the most poignant of these is that of the deer, an animal that appears before a series of events that deeply traumatize one of our characters and whose image reappears, almost unnoticeably, later on to suggest to the player that this trauma still exists just beneath the surface of our character’s disposition. The great strength of television shows is their ability to tell longform stories that focus heavily on character interaction while employing the visual and musical technique of a film. Their episodic structure, much like the chapters in a book, grants the viewer better control over the pace at which they progress through the story. The only significant constraint placed on this form of storytelling is its budget. With a few notable exceptions (HBO’s Game of Thrones comes to mind), television shows often lack the funding necessary to tell any story that isn’t small or intimate in scope, making moments where they aim to depict intense action or extraordinary feats look silly compared to film. As previously mentioned, games do not possess this constraint, as almost anything that can be imagined by a writer can be digitally created and depicted in a game. Taking advantage of the storytelling strength of television, video games mirror episodic structure through levels (in more linear games) and quests (in more open-ended games). Much like episodes, levels and quests tell smaller, more confined stories that build upon each other to further the overall narrative. Unlike television episodes, however, there is no pressure to make each level last 22, 44, or 60 minutes. This means that game developers can not only fine tune the overall length of their story and tell it as cinematically as possible, but also that they can tweak the length of each incremental moment throughout to maximize its impact in and contribution to the story.
Like a television show, The Last of Us affords the player a large deal of time to get to know its main characters. With a runtime of about 14 hours, the game lasts the length of an entire season for shows like Netflix’s Daredevil and AMC’s Breaking Bad, which means the player has a television season’s worth of time to spend with its characters. The story, which spans the length of a year, is broken down into four seasons with each season broken down into a collection of levels. These levels take place in unique locations where our characters are driven by unique goals. For all intents and purposes, these levels function as episodes, each one containing an isolated story that links together with the stories of other levels to form a full narrative. Unlike television episodes, however, these levels do not all last a similar length. Instead, they vary from 20 minutes to about two hours depending on what the story needs. The longest level in the game, for instance, which sees our characters make their way through a dilapidated city overrun by bandits and scavengers, is so long in order to help the player share in the feeling of exhaustion and endless tension felt by the characters themselves. This is similar to video games’ greatest strength of all. While it is true that games have the strengths of all of these other narrative mediums, they also possess a unique quality that is impossible for books, movies, or shows to emulate — engagement. By necessitating physical interaction, video games have become a medium that does not simply tell stories, but allows participation in a narrative. The mechanics of a game serve as the means to instill a certain emotion in the player. You are not simply watching a story unfold, you’re determining whether the main character succeeds and, if so, through what means. The Last of Us contains a variety of mechanics that create different emotions, and numerous moments that exploit them. One such moment occurs when Joel, our main character, helps boost Ellie, his ward and sidekick of sorts, over a fence so that she can unlock the attached gate to let him through. This is a maneuver that the two have performed numerous times over the course of the game, each time marred with a sense of anxiety in the wake of Joel’s temporary inability to protect Ellie should danger be around the corner. However, nothing ever happens, and the player is eased into a false sense of security. In the final occurrence of this mechanic, however, Ellie is grabbed by a clicker (the game’s version of zombies) before she can unlock the gate. This happens while the player has full control of Joel, meaning Ellie’s survival hinges on the player’s ability to kill the clicker. In this moment, the player feels fear. However, unlike in a movie, show, or book, where they would think “I hope Joel is able to save Ellie,” their thoughts are “If I don’t do something, Ellie will die,” and the fear is intensified. In this moment, a game has evoked an emotional response from its player that would be impossible in any other medium. It’s clear that I hold The Last of Us in high regard. The sad reality, however, is that games like this are the exception rather than the rule. The great potential of video game storytelling that I’ve described is only really taken advantage of by a few developers. However, this potential is just that: potential. While today, novels, movies, and TV shows are the dominant forms of storytelling, each of these have their weaknesses. Video games are the solution to these weaknesses. Thus, going forward, I anticipate developers placing greater value on the stories of their games and pushing the limits of medium, so that games like The Last of Us become the standard.
ANDREW SWANSON sophomore | finance Andrew has witnessed first-hand the evolution of the video game medium into the premier form of storytelling.
THE PROBLEM WITH ATEC
ATEC is failing to fulfill the expectations of students in less popular areas of study, and students are part of the problem.
t’s a new semester, and while we’re a few weeks in already, things still haven’t settled down — the alarm clock rings earlier than we’re used to, classes seem longer, and we can’t quite find the right time to beat the lunch rush at the SU. Between figuring out the right routine and mourning the impact of all those overpriced textbooks on our bank accounts, there are few things more irritating than the start of a new term. Unless, of course, you’re stuck in a class you never wanted, with a professor you tried to avoid at all costs. While I can’t speak for other schools here at UTD, I can speak for the school of ATEC, where this problem is far more common than it should be. The School of Arts and Technology is, for many students, a sanctuary. It’s a means of escaping the corporate world, while keeping true to a creative field of work. Even though it promises a stable workflow in an environment as smooth as a future job, ATEC has failed to live up to expectations. Concerns are held not only by current students, but even by faculty members. Needless to say, ATEC has begun to set off alarms among those it serves. While it can be easy to assume that fault lies with faculty, further investigation
suggests that students are also out of sync with their community. In the School of ATEC, students are privileged to have the opportunity to forge their own paths; every specialty within the degree plan is meant to be customized to the fullest extent of the school’s resources. Across disciplines including animation, game design, sound design, and everything within the spectrum of new media, ATEC advertises a degree fit for artists and technicians alike. Problems begin when advertisement for one specialty, especially 3D animation, takes center stage over the rest of the school. This results in other concentrations, such as sound design, preproduction, and UX design taking a backseat to a total of 15 animation courses (including Lighting, Modeling and Texturing, and Rigging). Compare this diversity of course offerings for animation students to the measly total of six classes in sound design, and it becomes apparent that there is a severe neglect in other concentrations. Oftentimes, this issue of not enough specialty-concentrated courses forces students to wait a year to take fundamental courses in their area of study and fill the semester gap with a class irrelevant to their concentration. A fellow ATEC student described their experience, mentioning that “the courses I need are almost never available when I need them. I’m a junior specializing in sound design and I still haven’t been able to take, like, three classes out of the eight total [sound design] classes offered here in ATEC. Only eight courses in four years! That’s… one specialty sound design course per semester. I understand [sound design] is, like, one of the underdogs, it’s not as desired as animation, but I think that if [ATEC] advertise[s] for a specific sound design specialty... [they] should be prepared for it.” I can personally confirm that preproduction students can be in an even worse position. One of the most common pieces of
advice given to people our age when starting college is to not fall in love with the major we start with and be ready for a plan B. However, rather than determining based on the nature of the field that the major they went into isn’t quite right, preproduction students never get the chance to actually test out preproduction. The consensus conclusion among multiple interviewed preproduction students is that an ATEC degree specialized in preproduction is a degree specialized in 3D animation with design electives and a single preproduction-specific class. A preproduction student explained that “Preproduction II is never guaranteed. I think the general consensus is that we would like for it to happen, the instructors would like for it to happen, but I think everyone is spread too thin and it’s a very intensive course. I would need to board almost every week; that’s easily 50 frames hand drawn. Now if I have to draw fifty frames, the instructor needs to evaluate those fifty frames, along with everyone else in the class,” which can be a logistical challenge. This is the exact resource allocation problem ATEC is facing. The neglect of other specialties outside of animation was never intentional. Instead, the demand of a surplus of animation students has prompted administration to prioritize resources in that area. While these imbalances in the size of specific concentrations may not be able to change significantly in the short-term, student initiative can help bring about slow improvement. Unfortunately, many students have given into the current system of ATEC without question. They have established a trend of assuming the system will stay the way it has been, and reluctantly take on the challenge of learning a skill set they did not expect or desire to learn. It’s easy to point fingers at faculty and staff, but when I asked students about their
efforts to facilitate improvements (Did you ever think to meet with your advisor and talk about expanding classes? Do you fill out your student evaluations at the end of semesters? Have you talked to your instructor to see what you can do to change the coursebook?), most found themselves liable to not taking action. Overall, a large percentage of the students I interviewed, spanning the wide diversity of ATEC, admitted to never considering talking to faculty, staff, or administration about this widely-known issue. Why is this? Perhaps students feel that they stand no chance of influencing administrative decisions even by dialoguing with the people whose job it is to provide for the students of ATEC. However, the impression I got when speaking with faculty and staff is that if you ask, you shall receive. Or, at the very least, if you don’t ask, you’ll never receive. In assessing the root causes of dissatisfaction in ATEC, I first inquired as to how classes are chosen for a particular professor and how much influence professors have on their schedules. A faculty member who teaches animation described the process as follows: “I’m given a proposal for what my schedule for each semester looks like, based off of what the trend is overall. If we have, say, five filled courses for Computer Animation I, we can expect to have enough applications approved for two courses in Animation II, and it whittles down from there. I would hope that the board in charge of curriculum knows my skills pretty well not to stick me in a topic I’m not familiar with, but it does happen from time to time, if not to me, then to other professors. Most of the time I’ll refuse a section because it’s at a time and date that’s impossible for me, and if someone else can’t cover it or reschedule, we’ll drop it.” On the issue of appropriate use of faculty members’ expertise, a professor who teaches design recounted “an instance where [they] [were] scheduled to teach a topic really unknown to [them]” and “after reading through the curriculum... decided to refuse because it wasn’t something [they] could walk through using only the curriculum materials.” This faculty member surmised that the situation occurred “because [faculty] [are] spread out so much.” This sort of problem with resources is closely linked to situations where specific courses are inconsistently available or advanced courses aren’t offered sequentially after the prerequisite. An animation professor explained that while classes in “the general topics of 3D animation” and “big game design courses… are usually pretty solid,” “specialties in sound design and UX design” are “usually more supplementary to the general degree plan.” The impact of prioritized focus is more severe in the specialty of preproduction which ATEC “[doesn’t] have the resources
for…right now”, though “we have a lot of students who want the Prepro special.” Overall, this professor finds this “miscommunication… frustrat[ing]... not because students keep asking, but because we genuinely cannot go in that direction right now,” although “we really want to do everything.” However, some irregularity is unavoidable in these fields, and therefore unavoidable in a school like ATEC, as explained by a member of the animation faculty: “What first attracted me to the School of ATEC, what inspired me to take this job, was the diversity, the diversity of the students, the program, and how reflective it is to the industry. This industry is always changing. Sometimes you fall in sync with it, a lighter when lighting is at it’s prime like in The Incredibles, a rigger when they’re messing with new programs for animating Moana’s hair, or a sound designer when… well, when Ratatouille blows everyone away! When you don’t quite sync up it’s up to you to reach out, seek independent study. Your professors are here to help and maybe they can’t take on an entire new class, but a student is doable; become their shadow.” A staff person in ATEC administration offered a similar perspective to those of faculty. While praising the growth of the animation program in the last few years, including the movement into a dedicated building, this staff member acknowledged that “some years” offering “diversity” through “the ability to take a little bit from everything and piece it together” and courses in “preproduction and UX as well as sound design… is more achievable than [in] other [years]”. They had the following to say about the future growth of ATEC: “At this point it’s the question of, at what point will animation go too far? At what point do we step back and really consider that the cost of upbringing animation in ATEC is too great? Our students deserve the same opportunity to learn. Maybe it’s time we consider expanding in a different direction, and I say ‘we’ because it really is a team effort here. Ultimately we are all a community of artists, we want our students to feel included and welcome. Then again, it’s up to them to guide us and let us know which direction to go. If all of the students with these concerns came to me, emailed me, talked to me over the course of the semester, I would do everything in my power to make
a movement, but someone ultimately needs to start that conversation.” They also offered a perspective on whether other schools at UTD struggle with some of the same issues as ATEC: “I don’t know much and I can’t necessarily speak for other schools, but our industry is always changing. You get a new release of Photoshop, a better mic, a different cutting tool, a new patch tool, a new technique. Maya has new extensions at least every four to six months and with that we change the curriculum to reflect those changes. You get used to picking up new software. With that in mind we do everything we can to keep up, changes in courses, changes in curriculum, and changes in staff. With so many elements that are always advancing it’s difficult to keep a quality control, but I’m not sure that any school within UTD is without its own little flaws.” Given a look at the history of classes taught by the School of ATEC, one can clearly see the wide diversity in classes ATEC is capable of providing its students. The problem is that not enough students go out of their way to ask for them. This recent trend has fixated ATEC into a school for animation and game design, resulting in a surplus of animation and game related classes. Lack of diversity in coursework forces students to hyper-focus on one specialty and the classes related to that specialty. Even though ATEC advisors often reiterate the importance of focusing on developing a wide range of skill sets that are interrelated, students fall short on creating an effective degree plan. Through the entirety of my interviews I thought about how these issues might connect with the general student population of UTD, beyond all of the jargon about specific degree plans. We need to remember that our schools, our staff members, and our faculty are here to help us out. Struggling through that one class that’s overpopulated or haggling with an undesirable professor for an increased grade does not have to be part of the college experience. To change this, a conversation needs to begin at UTD, where students seek to create their own college experience and take control of their education.
VALERIA ACOSTA sophomore | EMAC Valeria likes cats and pretending that talking about them doesn’t annoy people.
ILLICIT & INEVITABLE
Why onl i ne bl a ck markets are here to stay, and why that might be a good thing.. E
ver since our own infamous UTD alum Ross Ulbricht created and operated the world’s first online black market, named Silk Road, in February 2011, it and sites like it have flourished into a burgeoning anonymous marketplace wherein shoppers have access to contraband ranging from high explosives to bulk shipments of designer drugs, all obtainable with virtually no fear of detection. This is in spite of the best efforts of law enforcement, who take years to take down marketplaces and achieve little but provide room in the market for new sites to emerge. For most of the public, markets like these are seen as taboo places, dens of evil that only the most morally abhorrent would seek to enter. There’s no question that these organizations have dark aspects, yet to say that they are devoid of positives is objectively false. Rather, these markets operate in a sort of moral gray area, and their benefits to society are discussed far less often than their costs. Ulbricht is perceived by many as a nihilistic hedonist, unconcerned with the ramifications of his creation, but the truth is quite the opposite. Though financial gain motivated Ulbricht, he believed, and still does, that marketplaces like Silk Road represent a bastion of freedom and classical libertarianism against the will of an oppressive majority. These sites provide a very real threat to society’s ability to prevent citizens from possessing materials which it deems illegal, which is why they elicit such an aggressive response from law enforcement. What makes these markets so powerful is in part their ease of access; anyone with the inclination could perform a cursory google search and discover that accessing sites like AlphaBay Market would be frightfully easy. All a user would have to do is install free Tor browser software, subscribe to a VPN or use one of the many free ones, navigate to a black market, install some free software, and within half an hour could find themselves on any number of illicit websites anonymously purchasing contraband with no fear of retribution. This means the average citizen is fully capable of circumventing the law. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in pirated media. Virtually every movie, videogame, and book is available for illegal download through torrent services. We’ve all seen the warnings before films regarding theft. The
punishments are ludicrously steep, including two years in jail and fines up to $200,000, but this ridiculously high punishment belies the reality that the government is all but powerless to stop pirating or punish those who download. What we don’t see is anyone actually being prosecuted for this crime; it’s too widespread, too hard to find evidence for, and the wronged party is often too hard to discern. So the government creates a comically large punishment in the hopes that it will deter would-be offenders from a crime that is virtually impossible to be caught committing. Marketplaces like Silk Road 3.0 and AlphaBay offer the same essential service as the torrent services that many more people use, but instead of free movies, they deal nearly exclusively in illegal substances, firearms, explosives, data theft, and stolen merchandise. Because of the nature of these markets, they are devoid of morality and laws. If someone is buying, someone is selling. The only rules of these sites deal with transaction. In this way, places like AlphaBay are the realization of a quintessential market utopia. What perhaps is less often thought of when considering an individual’s reasons for using online black markets is safety. Getting access to illegal narcotics, for example, is not a difficult task, especially in urban centers, and certainly doesn’t require knowledge of tor browsers and VPN’s. People don’t use online black marketplaces because they are the only means or even the cheapest; rather, they’re far more likely to be more expensive. People use these services because they are safe. Vendors have reviews from former customers and track records of good practices. There’s no fear of police stings or gang violence. Compared to the shady nature of face-to-face dealers, these sites provide a vastly safer option. Considering that people are going to get their hands on these substances regardless of whether or not they are available online, is it so bad that sites like this exist to provide a safer means? Obviously we cannot explicitly condone these sites, as doing so would violate the basis of our society. However, perhaps an occasional blind eye could be implemented, such that these sites are never legitimate, never accepted, but never attacked either. That being said, the decision is rather inconsequential. Currently, dozens of major black market sites exist, and the government is unable
to take them down at rates even close to matching their growth. The time and effort necessary to track these sites down is costly and inefficient, and even when government agents succeed in discovering the administrator, many cases are thrown out due to lack of evidence. Only a few years ago, Peter Sunde, one of the cofounders of ThePirateBay, a notorious torrenting site, was arrested in a case that had been building up since 2005, and, despite all of that effort, ThePirateBay is still up today. Gone are the days when agents could steal a laptop and gain access to the entirety of a marketplace as was done in the apprehension of Ross Ulbricht. The industry has since adapted and evolved in order to overcome these obstacles, and the government is woefully inept at adapting themselves. As such, it should be assumed that these markets will not go away as long as there is demand for them. So long as there are things the government forbids, there will continue to be demand. That was the central concept of Ulbricht’s Silk Road. People were buying illegal firearms long before Ulbricht, the drug trade had been booming since long before the internet, and prostitution has existed since before recorded history.. There will always be a demand for debaucheries and the illicit; all these sites do is facilitate markets that already exist. Even if the government succeeded in taking down all of these black market sites, it wouldn’t stop people from seeking them out. These sites accept that there will be people willing to engage in illegal trade, and that it’s possible to provide a safe, and profitable, environment for these exchanges to take place. However, whether it’s good for society or not is up for debate. These sites are essentially lawless, with a culture that doesn’t bat an eye at hitman requests or high explosives. But this apathy is necessary in order for the system to work. For the Silk Road and its ilk to establish a no-judgement environment, they cannot have any limits. There can be no line they won’t cross, or business they won’t engage in. This makes them all the more enticing, but all the more threatening.
sophomore | economics Thatcher is AMP’s resident tech whiz. He only uses his powers for good, we hope... february 2017
DJ SHOWCASE | amputd.com
in collaboration with RadioUTD
What kind of music do you play on your show, Ambient Cats?
This month, AMP interviewed RadioUTD’s blog editor about his show Ambient Cats and his goals in curating RadioUTD’s website.
I would say my music is thursday, electronic music, but that’s a little too vague. My show, quite in the literal sense, is dance music mostly. I also play a lot of beats in the vein of hip-hop, funk, soul, and some pop, but I have to clarify what “dance music” means because of its broad association with EDM. Artists like Deadmau5, Marshmello, David Guetta, they’re all there and fine in their own respects, but that’s not what my show is about. The music I like to play has deep roots in communities across the world where club/dance culture, visual and performance art, and the hybridization of genres take shape, and this really progressive sound makes the music. It isn’t all buildups and drops.
What motivates your music selections?
My motivation is really the feeling I get when I listen to new or old tracks. I follow a lot of the up-and-coming and trending DJs in the techno circuits, like Peggy Gou or The Black Madonna, because they are really making an impact in the dance community in their own way. I admire that. I have a dream to emulate that impact on my show, because essentially I’m this curator of music, not putting out anything original besides promo graphics for my show, and my show is a large percentage new, trending music. It goes back to that feeling of discovery. The coolest thing is looking back on a year of music I faved, saved, and discussed, and saying “Damn I loved that one.”
How did you first develop an interest in dance music?
I didn’t even like music a whole lot until I was about 14 maybe, although I listened to old rock which I tried to learn on the electric guitar like any other tween boy — that guitar phase, lol, we all had one. But something sparked around my early adolescence. My dad and sister were playing music in the car like The Fashion, Friendly Fires, and Daft Punk, and those are pretty rhythm intensive bands. My dad is Turkish and can never escape that Euro-dance craze and likes hearing it in the new music he finds. At some point unclear to me, I just started loving that so much. And then I went online and found classic EDM artists, experienced all phases of electronic, and just made this journey to where I am today. I think my taste changes gradually every year, to be honest, because I used to despise pop music, but there are some real bops out there from pop artists. I used to die for Chillwave releases, but we all know how that genre turned out.
What songs and artists would suggest for someone listening to Ambient Cats for the first time?
Ambient Cats has many faces. But truly, Kaytranada, Disclosure, Javelin, Jessy Lanza, The Chemical Brothers, !!! (ChkChkChk), these are my bread and butter. The most accessible, catchy, groundbreaking, beat wrecking, booty-popping artist out there that I would call for any day would be Kaytranada — songs including LEAVE ME ALONE, LITE SPOTS, and DESPITE THE WEATHER. Others songs are So Much To Me by French Kiwi Juice (FKJ), I Love… That You Know and Just Your Type by Disclosure, and Cell by Falcons.
As the main editor for RadioUTD’s blog, what are your priorities when curating?
There’s been a lot of talk among our people about the blog, because that’s how important it is. We are a group of young adults who love music and love talking about music. Our blog has the opportunity to extend that discussion in a public way. Being an internet-only station makes all of our content that much more critical. If we aren’t talking music, and talking often, we’re essentially obsolete. We literally talk about music on a daily basis among our peers, in the station, and at home, but we need to write about it. That was my first initiative when I reassumed this role Fall 2016. After that, my contingency plan was fairly simple: assemble the blog team, prime them for critical, analytical thinking about music, and organize a system where all of these elements come together. We have finally just gotten to this point, and I’m feeling pretty happy about it.
How do you see RadioUTD expanding its blogging and online presence?
It’s funny, because when I first joined there was a “blog team”, but there were no bloggers. We solely relied on DJs to write up album reviews and event reviews for the site, and the rest were just pieces that DJs did on their own volition. I took charge when I got the application for bloggers, or DJs who had to step back from their positions, and motioned for this overhaul on pushing content. We are college radio, an alternative broadcasting team, so we have to keep our reviews to the lesser known. But following music as closely as the collective RadioUTD does, we push for some nice, popular releases, and that’s what expands our fan base as well. The combination is what is really going to make the RadioUTD site a better spot for reading about music. Our blog team, as well as the DJs, are all writers, content creators, and judges of music, which is all I can ask of them when it comes to the blog. But it shouldn’t be all work and no play. These albums that come out every week, from artists we either love or are strangers to, are works of art and for our entertainment and provocation of thought. I want anyone writing for the blog to remember this so they can collect it all and establish their voice. But the hardest part is balancing that with objective review.
Is there anything else you’d like new or current listeners to know about you or Ambient Cats?
So, Ambient Cats is this seemingly ancient idea of a show because it’s been around for so long. I can’t offer anything I haven’t already done, so I’ll continue to do more of the same, just better and with just as much fun and ambition as when I started. In my final semester at RadioUTD, I really just want anyone who has ever cared enough to listen to us to continue the support. It sounds dumb but we have this acronym, YORF, You Only Radio Forever, so I’ll never forget this program, and I’ll never stop with music. february 2017
Food for Thought:
ysters are the worst. They’re slimy and squishy and I’m not super sure what part of them I’m actually eating. I just find them generally upsetting, so I wasn’t thrilled when a friend dragged me into Big Shucks. Upon entering I was greeted with the typical Krusty Krab décor — lifesavers, string lights, buoys on the wall for some reason, and the promise of beer and margaritas. I’ll be totally honest, I’m not here for the whole seaside aesthetic. I don’t care about the ocean and I’m not above ordering chicken strips at a seafood restaurant, but for the purpose of a review I agreed to give it a shot. For YOU, readers. Is this what you wanted? For me to leave my comfort zone? I hope you’re happy. Much to my displeasure, the man behind the counter was incredibly helpful. As I stood, sour-faced he offered us suggestions and a margarita of my choice, explaining that the establishment operates under the honor system. You order your food, seat yourself, eat, and then tell the cashier what you had on the way out. Despite that being really cool and awesome, I obviously couldn’t let him know that. I sat down, readying myself for the series of audible scoffs and eye rolls I had planned, but the food came out before I had a chance to really express my lack of interest. I geared up to try again, but then I inhaled like an idiot. It smelled amazing. Never in my life had I been so conflicted. I stand by the fact that seafood is lame and overhyped, but I ate two catfish fillets, a basket of calamari, and half a shrimp cocktail before I caught myself. I blame the margarita. Big Shucks has a remarkably casual atmosphere and it’s not the kind of place I would meet friends for lunch, but that’s no fault of their own. In the age of Instagram, it’s easy to forget that sometimes I just need to quit pouting and eat some quality food. A whole basket of
quality food. More than my share, maybe, of quality food. We dropped about 50 bucks that night and nothing I ate was the least bit disappointing. The catfish fillets were fresh and crispy, the calamari was hot, and the mug shrimp cocktail was flavorful. At some point the manager came by to check on us, but I must have missed him while I was struggling to scrape the last baby shrimp out of the cocktail. And, while I would have sooner knocked them off the table then put one near my mouth, even the oysters were well-plated, and my friend said they were “delicious.” I mean, I guess. If you’re, like, into that sort of thing. All joking aside, by the end of the meal (and my third margarita) I found myself staring down the family across the aisle, coveting their crawfish boil and kicking myself for being so blind to the food I should have tried. It taught me an important lesson, and now that I’ve developed a hankering for catfish, I’ll definitely be back. Probably for happy hour. Maybe even for one oyster. Definitely with a better attitude and more comfortable shoes. Seriously, though, what even is an oyster?
Visit them at 103 S Coit Rd Richardson, TX 75080
BRYAR BENNETT senior | EMAC When she’s not designing this specific magazine, Bryar is complaing about the smell of seafood. february 2017
ou live in Dallas. He lives in Australia. It doesn’t matter because love knows no distance. Destiny, chance, and a Twitter algorithm brought you together. Now you’re about to embark on the most important endeavor of your online correspondence thus far. Normally, these things happen organically and don’t require extensive planning. However, because the circumstances of your association are less conventional than most, you have to invest in some careful preparation to pull this off. Not to worry, for I have compiled a list of steps to guarantee the most favorable outcome when you do finally say the words. First, you need to find out his real name. While @aussiegrunge2000 has been enough to capture your heart so far, eventually you have to learn his legal name so you can figure out the measurements for your collarbone tattoo. Also, telling him that you’re soulmates might be more convincing if you didn’t refer to him using his Twitter handle. Your next step is to calculate the cost of a round trip to Melbourne. Sadly, you cannot declare the depth of your feelings online. You have to invest in seeing him in person. For extra pizzazz, don’t tell him you’re going to be visiting. Instead, hire a renowned private investigator to track down his home address and all other relevant details about his life. Everyone loves being surprised. Be sure to figure out how many shifts at Wendy’s you have to put in to earn enough money for the ticket. It’ll be a nice little fun fact during your wedding toast. Obsessively plan an itinerary to be followed during your visit. This is the only way you can pinpoint the exact perfect moment to propo-declare your feelings. In the meantime, you can take him out to do pleasant date-like activities like bowling, feeding ducks, and playing rigged carnival games in exchange for stuffed animals while he works out his internal confusion over why you are here. Come up with a thoughtful, personal gift for your first meeting. Nothing makes a first impression quite like receiving a heart-shaped craft made entirely of pictures of one’s own face. In order to obtain these pictures of his face, you will need to find his Facebook account and print out all of his profile pictures dating back to 2007. Set your “@aussiegrunge2000 (soon to be replaced with his real name) and my wedding board” on Pinterest to public. Do this because commitment is a state of mind, and the best place to start is by showing the entire world how many months of effort you put into planning your nuptials. Orchestrate a meet cute — something that sounds easier said than done. But do not despair. Upon receiving your online crush’s daily itinerary from your hired private investigator, you need to memorize each stop he makes going about his day. Then, all you need to do is hire a theatrical troupe upon landing in Australia. Each one of them will play a part in manipulating every step of your beloved’s path until he runs into you at a pet shop while you are lovingly petting kittens. Take that for a meet cute, Hollywood! A few days later, when you have lulled him into a sense of safety (because he thinks your meeting was a happy coincidence), your
itinerary should have you plan a nice picnic at the park. This day is specifically designated so you can lie back on the picnic blanket, stare up at the promisingly clear blue sky, and name your future children. Don’t forget to act surprised when he tells you he would like to name one of the children Bertram, after his favorite maternal uncle. He isn’t supposed to know that you have his family tree marked and sticky-noted for emergencies. Don’t forget to present him with an innocuous token of your fondness for him, like a t-shirt with your face ironed on the back of it. It’s suggested that you don’t let him see that your face is on the shirt. I find the results to be most promising if you wait until he’s asleep, put the t-shirt on him, and then feign obliviousness when he asks how he got into it. Be sure that the shirt is soft and comfortable so that he doesn’t try to remove it immediately upon waking. Friend his mom on Facebook. It’s important to maintain good relations with his family as you’re inevitably going to be his future. During your visit, obtain a lock of his hair to sew into the sweater you will be wearing while you confess your love for him. This way, when he is (understandably) confused about your sudden declaration, you can gesture to his hair in your sweater as a testament to the validity of your feelings. Screenshot all your twitter interactions together and print them out to make a scrapbook. This includes every like, fave, mention, retweet, and when he retweets stuff that you retweet. It’s all a glaring testament to your compatible psyche and uncompromising devotion. Gift him with a self-published edition of of your dream diary containing entries regarding dreams only about him (all of them). This will convince him that the only thing that occupies your thoughts daily is him. Have the private investigator you hired find you his tax file number so you can look up his tax records. Then, find out which charities he donates to, and make a generous donation yourself. Present the certificates of donation when you make your big announcement of love to assure him you’re a good person. Last, but not least, try the shoulder-to-cry-on method. Buy him a dying dog. Do not tell him the dog is dying. Then, let him get emotionally attached to the dog over a short period of time. Let nature take its course, and be his shoulder to cry on. When he’s most vulnerable and within your emotional clutches, he will be most receptive to your proclamation of love. And that, my enamored friend, is how you declare your love for your online crush whom you’ve never met.
maisha razzaque junior | cognitive science In her spare time Maisha listens to podcasts, writes, and concocts absurd conspiracy theories about celebrity breakups.
Welcome to the multi-dimensional, mind-bending adventures of The Fool and Sard, the greatest partnership of erratic genius and stupefying idiocy to grace the pages of AMP since last year’s Editorial Board resigned. After accidentally inventing a machine that opens portals to alternate dimensions, Sard, a curt scientist and cynic on the border of lunacy, recruited a local nobody, dismissively known as The Fool or TF, to test his apparatus. Unexpectedly, Sard found himself sucked through the portal along with his test subject. Now the mad scientist and this average joe of average joes have no choice but to wander through a maze of worlds that look absolutely nothing like our own in their quest to return to a world of reason and sanity... n the middle of an idyllic field, bathed in the light of a pair of suns and coated in a curious kind of grass consisting entirely of pairs of two blades wound tightly around one another, an unstable portal unceremoniously deposited our heros into yet another bizarre dimension. “I keep asking you to fix that portal landing!” exclaimed TF. “And I keep telling you that the instability is symbolic for man’s inability to control his emotions. I have to leave it in for the academics.” replied Sard. “According to my instruments, we’re in the love dimension.” Sard replied as coldly as TF’s high school prom date, that is, if imaginary people can be cold. “Well,” TF said, “I’m not feeling particularly lovey. Especially not with you. And since you’re a man and I don’t see a rainbow, tight pants, or a lisp anywhere on you, I’m unable to conceive of the possibility that you might feel differently. Let’s get moving.” *one brief transition later*
As the pair approached the skyline of twin cities, each city most likely jealous that the other was more attractive, they passed a cliff marked by beautiful, floral sign that read “Heartbreak Point: Let Gravity Do The Work For You!” They then watched a woman in a wedding dress walk up to the edge and jump off. Before they could even react, another person walked up to the edge and leapt, quickly followed by another. Soon TF and Sard had been lulled into a macabre trance, somewhat like the kind that results from watching three too many Twilight movies. “Hey!” A sudden voice startled the pair. They turned quickly to see a woman who looked like a female Skrillex, if Skrillex dressed for success. *another lazy writing transition featuring customary introductory remarks and an unnecessary, almost fatal, misunderstanding* “Welcome to Lisaton,” said Narcy, whose name had been discovered during the time jump. “This city’s partner is
been discovered during the time jump. “This city’s partner is Joshuaville but communication has been temporarily halted between the cities.” “Why?” asked TF. “Because they’re having problems.” replied Narcy. “What problems?” interjected Sard. “Nevermind,” Narcy huffed, “you should know what’s wrong.” Chastened by Narcy’s frustration, TF and Sard walked in silence like two nuns who had just renounced their vows and made the mistake of stopping at a strip club. Soon, TF noticed a large dome across the street and inquired about its function. “That’s the Connection Center,” their guide explained, “where children are brought to find their soulmate. If at the end of the week, a couple of children have completed all of the Disney Channel Original Movie romance steps, they will be married on the spot.” Shocked, TF replied, “Okay, so what if they don’t find a soul mate? What happens then?” Narcy looked forward and calmly repeated the slogan they saw earlier, “Let Gravity Do The Work For You.” *collection of scenery descriptions and fun anecdotes intended to build attachment to otherwise uninteresting characters* Later in the tour, Sard spoke up, “I’ve been meaning to ask, where’s your significant other?” Narcy then stopped in her tracks and twitched, like a cocaine-fueled Bieber fan who just got a tip that the Canadian was supposedly spotted within 300 miles. She turned around and gave Sard a death glare, more deathy than even the deathiest death glare imaginable. Her voice dropped two octaves as she said, “I’m right here, punk,” before walking away. TF and Sard followed in silence, like two nuns leaving a strip club mere hours after renouncing their vows. Through a few hurried looks Sard communicated to TF his theory that the inhabitants of the love dimension had been so brainwashed on the idea of storybook romance that, should they somehow lose their soul mate or fail to easily find a deep romantic connection with another person, they either use the cliff to escape the shame or fall into insanity from trying to fulfill their social obligation to love single-handedly.’ Before Sard’s musings could conclude, the group stopped to investigate a commotion on the side of the road. A couple stood near a tree, the man playfully spinning round with the woman in his arms, recording the whole thing on his phone. They were both smiling. Until the phone stopped recording, then they walked away stoically, wearing Kanye West pouts on their faces. Suddenly, Narcy grabbed TF and Sard and hurriedly whispered like a racist grandmother warning her grandchildren of incoming melanin, “Just stand up straight and be silent.”
TF and Sard obeyed her instructions as they were swiftly surrounded. Not the good waitstaff-singing-you-happybirthday-at-a-mediocre-chain-restaurant surrounded either. More like, that’s-a-very-nice-watch-in-a-not-very-nice-partof-town surrounded. This crowd contained men and women in gray shirts, gray pants, and a blank, featureless mask. Soon they began to speak angrily and overtop one another, much in the same way a lecture hall reacts to news of a cumulative final. Practically assaulting TF, Sard, and Narcy with their words, they said things like: “You’re too skinny,” You’re too fat,” You’re too short,” You’re standing up too straight,” You’re not standing up straight enough. I hate your hair. I love your hair. Be perfect.” After a few minutes of the simultaneous yet uncoordinated barrage, the whole crowd scurried off to find a new target. “They’re known as… well, ‘Them’.” Narcy informed, “They don’t really have any identity, nor do they have a purpose other than to judge. You can’t get rid of them, so the only thing you can hope for is that they leave you alone quickly. On the whole, they’re basically difficult teenagers. However, sometimes, they’ve been known to converge upon lonely people and either turn them into Them, or harass the lonely folks about every facet of their appearance and demeanor until they jump off a cliff.” Concluding that this was where the love dimension crossed the line (think, invasion of South Korea, not Obama’s Syrian red line in the sand), TF and Sard dashed out of the city to find a suitable location to activate a new portal. On the outskirts of town, TF and Sard shared a passionate kiss underneath an oak tree, in the sunlit rain of a gorgeous sunset as black church choirs, a country singer on one beer and several divorces, and a generic, blonde, female soprano sang in the background. At least, that’s what happens in my fanfic. In the actual story, TF and Sard fired up their machine in silence. All of a sudden, as the portal field, composed of the energy of pure science, closed around Sard and TF, a hand grabbed both of them before they left the love dimension. Upon tumbling out of a portal into their new destination, the pair looked down to see it was Narcy who had followed them. “Being in love is quite boring. And I figured you guys could use a woman’s touch,” she said. “Ha,” TF replied, “that’s what she said.”
SLOAN freshman | biochemistry Baby Sloan was kicked by his WWE-loving father into a shelf of poetry, manga, political memoirs, and nudie mags. His brain damage influenced his writing.
A Day To Remember
It’s finally February! Now that the new year’s festivities and resolutions are distant memories, the air is positively buzzing with anticipation and romance. Even if your lover is the type to constantly grumble about the cheesiness and blatant consumerism characteristic of this holiday, there are some sure-fire tricks you can use to get even the biggest Debbie Downer excited for the most important holiday of the month – Presidents’ Day! Here are some tips to help you and your beau sweep even the most stoic forefather – I’m looking at you, Zachary Taylor – off his presidential feet:
Ideally, you should start your gift-shopping and shrinebuilding shenanigans in mid-January, just as the novelty of the new year starts to wear off. However, in case you haven’t begun, there’s still hope for you! The officially recommended deadline for commencing preparations is February 12th. This gives you just enough time to grab everything you need – the Sanctioned Tome of Incantations (the complete guide to not offending your presidential partner on Amazon for just $400 – what a deal!), raw lumber and the corresponding precious metals for your chosen one’s altar, and whatever else suits your (or rather, your beloved president’s) fancy. When dealing with accent metals, remember: gold for Washington, copper for Lincoln, and palladium for anybody but Jimmy Carter. Mixing those up can have devastating consequences.
Ticket prices might be inflated, but you never want to get stuck in the general admission stockade, am I right? With proper planning, you’ll get to enjoy dinner with your love from your guest suite and appreciate the sophisticated and artful spectacle of the lottery selection of the poor saps below. Watching the live sacrifices over a fine Cabernet Sauvignon is truly one of the most beautiful ways to spend an evening; seriously consider shelling out the $20,000, especially if it’s your first time.
Aside from the advance preparations, there’s plenty of steps you can take on February 20th to make sure the holiday goes smoothly. In the morning, of course, you have to start with a classic breakfast; eggs, bacon, and toast are usually presidential favorites. Appendix V of the Sanctioned Tome has a reference guide detailing how your chosen one prefers his eggs; memorize the instructions and follow them as closely as possible. Failing to meet expectations at the beginning of the day is inexcusable; you will have no hope of redeeming yourself. If you’re an adventurer, you can try an ethnic twist to your dish, but don’t stray too far from tradition. You don’t want to end up with a citation, so try your best, for the sake of your family, to remember those pesky details.
Set up mood lighting, and pay special attention to filling your home with themed yet tasteful décor. Rehearse your federally mandated pick-up lines; your memory of them might be a little rusty from all the re-education sessions you may or may not have been sentenced to throughout the last year, but practice makes perfect! Some classic ones include “Let’s see if we can heat this Cold War up together,” or “The carved scythe of American Oak will forever stronger than Soviets be.” The second one is certainly a fan favorite among the 40’s through 90’s crowd; a strong monotone and dead stare make for the perfect delivery. If you manage to woo John Tyler, write back to let us know how – he’s the only remaining Old One our staff hasn’t managed to crack yet, and it’s literally killing us.
Don’t chew your holiday meal with your mouth open, and don’t make too much or too little eye contact with the Elder Priests conducting the ceremony. Resist the urge to look at your phone throughout the day; it’s rude and it dangerously diverts attention away from the stars of the occasion — not to mention that simply viewing social media posts or texts from those involved in the riots and protests of late can potentially get you branded as a rebel. Obviously, exile will shortly follow those accusations. Presidents’ Day might be bloody, cheesy, and thoroughly antiquated, but it’s our own quintessentially American holiday. Our participation, whether driven by love or fear, is an essential part of the robust social culture that keeps our nation great. There’s a beauty to these yearly rituals that gets far too easily lost in the muck of any change or revolution; just enjoy yourself, and as always, don’t do anything that could be construed as deviating from this fabulous societal norm. After all, you know what they say: “Happy president, happy life.” Good luck, and have fun!
angeera naser sophomore | comp. sci. & molecular biology When she isn’t busy drawing or coding, Angeera can be found letting people know about her very strong opinions on things.
by KATIE RISOR
“HUGE success at the Russian summit #relationshipgoals #MAGA*” -@realDonaldTrump, 2/14/17 *(Make America Gay Again)
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