Monthly Archives: February 2012

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THOMAS KEATING ’13 | Entertainment Editor

Thomas Keating '13 (far right) poses with other choir students by the Coliseum in Rome, Italy.
Thomas Keating '13 (far right) poses with (from left) Nate Turner, Spencer Sattelmeier and Isaac Piecush, all '14, by the Coliseum in Rome, Italy.

Before I get into this column, I’d just like to say that the seven days I spent in Italy with choir were among the best of my life. Any complaints, gripes or sarcastic remarks should be taken with a grain of salt.

We set off at 12:25 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. The Friday before we left, classes seemed to go on forever. The thought of Italy was on everyone’s minds, the anticipation killing us all. Unfortunately, we still had to, you know, actually get there. That part consisted of ten hours on planes and eight more in layovers.

Just as Columbus sailed the Atlantic in 1492 on three Spanish ships, I crossed it in a German plane. And some exaggerations by some whinier kids revealed quite a few parallels. Like Columbus, we were in cramped conditions for extended periods of time, rife with disease and famine (i.e. economy class). We endured a long journey (a whole eight hours) to a mysterious land (Frankfort International Airport) full of strange people (Germans).

students try to catch up on sleep in the airport after a long flight
Students try to catch up on sleep in the airport after a long flight.

But seriously, the flights were probably the worst part of the trip. The five hour layover in Hamburg didn’t help much either, with 93 jet-lagged choir students laying on seats, tables and mostly floors in front of the gate. I Then, we got on another friggin’ plane so we could go to another friggin’ airport full of more friggin’ tourists so we could spend more friggin’ time waiting for our friggin’ luggage. In the 42 hours between Friday morning and Saturday night, I slept for one and a half hours.

Leaving the Rome airport was the most relieving feeling I have ever had. After nearly 20 hours of friggin’ bull-honkey, we were finally in Italy. We met our tour guides, Edie and Laura, and we were on our way.

After we arrived in Rome, we took a walking tour of an area containing many Roman landmarks. We saw the massive Trevi fountain, the beautiful Piazza Navona and the famous Spanish Steps. Rome is truly a beautiful and fantastic city. Before embarking on this walk, however, our guides emphasized that there were pickpockets “every single where.” This is a good time to talk about the Gypsies, the pickpockets in question.

Gypsies were a constant nuisance in Italy. They would often flash lights and throw things into the air to distract absent-minded tourists, hoping to score someone’s wallet. A group of 93 teenagers probably looked like easy prey to them, so they seemed to follow the choir everywhere we went. At one point they became such a nuisance that our director, Ellen Bowen, slammed one into a wall and yelled “STAY AWAY FROM MY KIDS!” True story.

Anyway, Rome is a fantastic city, full of history, art and culture. I’m a Latin student, so the Roman history and architecture was especially phenomenal to see firsthand. I even picked a piece of Roman cement from a wall in the famous Coliseum.

Since this was a choir trip, we obviously sang quite a bit. Our first venue was St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Even on vacation, I still had to go to church on Sunday. Dang.

All kidding aside, singing at St. Peter’s Basilica was unforgettable.

All kidding aside, singing at St. Peter’s Basilica was unforgettable. There I was, some random kid from Michigan, singing a mass in the most famous church in the entire world. Just walking through the doors was an experience in its own right. The art on the ceilings (courtesy of the Renaissance artist Michelangelo) and the architecture were breathtaking, creating a sense of awe that stayed with me for the entire mass. Naturally, we all sang our little hearts out.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see the Pope, as he only gives masses on Wednesdays (because giving a mass on Sunday would be silly or something). Other than that, the mass couldn’t have gone better. I’m not the most spiritual person, but singing at the Vatican still felt like a religious experience.

On our third day, we visited a high school. The students there were… interesting. The school seemed more like a government-mandated daycare center for meatheads, which makes sense, considering Italian students attend a “technical” high school if they don’t intend to go to college. Some unique features of this school also included a smoke break around noon and several students attempting to sell me marijuana.

The visit was intended to be a cultural exchange, and to a certain degree it was; we exchanged our musical performance for their sexual harassment and homophobic insults. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the guys were basically clones of The Situation. However, the girls were perfectly pleasant and appeared to enjoy our performance.

The next day, we rode our bus up to Florence, stopping for about four hours in Pisa on the way. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was beautiful yet surreal. Naturally, most of the male students got their picture taken with tower, if you catch my drift. Then, some genius decided that we should do an impromptu performance in the church next to the tower without consulting the curator. The guards were not entertained, and we were heavily fined.

Austin Montgomery '12 poses in front of "Gros Point de Venise," or "Grosse Pointe of Venice."

This was not the only time we did an impromptu performance. In fact, the choir had learned several a cappella (without music) songs for just that purpose. We learned some classical religious songs, the Italian national anthem, its American counterpart, “Telephone” by Lady Gaga and a medley of Michael Jackson songs. Armed with only our voices, we were amazingly effective at annoying the crap out of random tourists. We would form into a messy group, yell at each other about what song we were singing, organize ourselves into a differently shaped messy group and yell some more, get yelled at by Ellen Bowen, reorganize a third time, get yelled at by Ellen again, and then finally sing the song that it seemed like the rest of the group was probably singing.

From Pisa we headed to Florence, where we sang at another school, this time a prestigious junior college. Suffice to say there were no meatheads. We performed our songs and mingled with the students, who were perfectly pleasant and didn’t try to sell me weed.

Taken in Florence, this photo shows the waterway that runs through the entire city.

The rest of the trip was basically buses and shopping. We had another performance at Padua near Venice in front of some college students in some kind of gym. We spent any remaining money we had from the trip in Venice.

Something else I should discuss is the differences I saw between Italy and the United States. One difference is food. People who say America is a fat country need to look at Italy. Seriously, I don’t think those people know what calories are. At the hotel breakfast buffet, I decided to pour myself some “cioccolato,” or hot chocolate. The thing was, Italians take the term “hot chocolate” in the most literal way possible; I took one sip and realized that I was drinking pure molten chocolate. But, in general, Italian food over there is like Italian food over here—just better.

Another difference could be found in the hotel bathrooms. I don’t know why, but it looks like shower curtain technology hasn’t reached Italy yet. There was also the issue of the bidet, a small, sink-like apparatus next to the toilet. One girl tried to wash her feet in it.

Jokes aside, this trip was one of the best weeks of my life. Singing at the Vatican, seeing history, and hanging out with friends for ten days made this an unforgettable experience.

Ellen Bowen assaulting a Gypsy was also pretty good.

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Photo courtesy of Visual Sports Network | The girls JV basketball team poses in its team photo. The team capped off an undefeated season with a win against St. Clair on Feb. 22.
Photo courtesy of Visual Sports Network | The girls JV basketball team poses in its team photo. The team capped off an undefeated season with a win against St. Clair on Feb. 22.

CASEY LIVINGSTON ’14 | Staff Writer

For the first time in his 32 years of coaching, Bruce Pelto has overseen an undefeated season with the girls JV basketball team.

The team finished its season 18-0 with a Feb. 22 win against St. Clair.

“If you would have told me at the beginning of the season we would go undefeated, I would have been stunned,” said assistant coach Jacqueline Caldwell.

This season was special for everyone on the team, said forward Alexa Scheppler ’14, saying  “the team had a special bond and we were all very close.”

Caldwell also agreed it was a unique season with a great group of girls.

“They were very close outside of school,” said Caldwell. “They got together all the time — bowling, sleepovers, etc.”

A key reason to the team’s success was the consistent defensive play, allowing an average of just 21 points a game, said head coach Bruce Pelto.

Though great defensively, the team’s goals were achieved this year by playing as a unit and everyone contributing in their own way, Scheppler said. The coaching the girls received was integral, as well.

“Without coaching, the team would have gone nowhere,” said Scheppler. “We love our coaches and we improved and did so well because of them.”

For Caldwell, this was an amazing team in every aspect of the word. The girls played hard and worked together everyday, she said. 

“Everyone on the team had the same goal and there were no egos in the way,” said Pelto. “This season was very special.”

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Photo by MARISSA DAY '12. A banner supporting the library millage tax hangs on Kerchaval to spread the word of the upcoming vote.
Photo by MARISSA DAY '14| A banner supporting the Grosse Pointe Library Millage Proposal hangs to spread the word of the upcoming vote.

MARISSA DAY ’14 | Academics Editor

On Feb. 28 voting will take place to pass the Grosse Pointe Public Library (GPPL) Millage Proposal. The tax increase, which has been in talks since 2009, plans to increase the annual library funds by $700,000 each year the library spends more than they actually have in their budget.

There are three branches of the library in the Pointes. One is next door, the Central Branch and head of the libraries. Of the two other libraries, the Grosse Pointe Public Ewald Branch can be found on East Jefferson, the Grosse Pointe Public Woods Branch is located on Mack and Vernier attached to Parcells Middle School. The library has a long-term debt that needs to pay back from the cost of building the Ewald and Woods branches in 2004.

“We’re asking for an additional amount of money to be taxed to property owners to help pay for the library deficit,” said Brian Garves, President of the Library Board and member of the GPPL Millage Committee. “The municipalities and public entities like the library are funded by taxes on real estate and that’s how we get money. In order to increase the amount of money that can be taxed, it has to be approved by tax payers.”

The libraries, which receive funds from real estate taxes in the district, have experienced harsh cutbacks from the 2008 financial crash and drops in property value. In response to its growing deficit, the library has had to cut back book purchases by 29 percent. They removed many part time workers and cut back student shelver salaries by 22 percent.

Although these cuts do not affect everyone, they barely help the library get by and still leave a deficit of about $1 million. If the libraries are unable to get the .007 percent increase drastic measures will be taken, Ben Burns said, who chaired the millage committee.

If this happens, library services and employees would be reduced by a third or a branch of the library may even close. Although the library is open on Sundays during the school year, the libraries may have to close in order to save more, Burns said.

Negative changes affecting the library could begin as soon as 2013, Burns said. The libraries have a rainy day fund, which is reserved money to use in emergencies, like if the roof fell in or if the library was flooded. The money is to be saved for crises only, but the libraries have had to cut into the fund to pay for normal operational expenses.

Photo by MARISSA DAY '14. The Central Library locks its doors when closed, but without the millage, there is a chance the lock could become permanent.

“We do have a rainy day fund that will get us to 2014, but once that’s exhausted we have no reserve,” said Garves. “If any unexpected expenses come up, we would probably have to drastically cut hours 30% or possibly close a branch and we really don’t want to close a branch because people in Grosse Pointe value our local branches.”

Then there is the issue with the proposed .007 percent increase, which has taxpayers riled up. That would be equivalent to each resident paying a mere $52 a year to help the library. David Fleig, a longtime resident of Grosse Pointe City, has concerns about multiple parts in the proposed millage.

“My wife and I and my family are heavy users of the library,” said Fleig. “One of my concerns about any tax increase is what is going to happen once the property values rebound.”

Although the library has been heavily publicizing the need for a budgetary increase, they have not told taxpayers where their money is going yet, Fleig said. The money could go to general operating expenses or they would hold onto the money if property values suddenly increase.

“As far as the library tax,” said Fleig. “(my family and I are) supporters but quite frankly, there hasn’t been enough publicity either in the Grosse Pointe News or Grosse Pointe Times or anywhere to give me any information on how to make an informed decision on whether to vote on the library millage.”

While Fleig said he will be voting, ‘Yes,’ when voting day rolls around, his hope is that the library informs people where the money is going.

“My concern is more general in that the community as a whole is being asked to support a millage which I don’t believe has been adequately justified,” said Fleig. “Independent of my personal feelings there’s still a lot of uncertainty on exactly what the money is going to be used for and how it is going to be spent.”

What taxpayers fail to understand is that .007 is the most the library would take depending on how far in debt they are, Garves said.

“The last thing we want to do is go back and ask for extra money like we’re doing now,” said Garves. “People believe that once you have a tax it’s going to be a permanent tax, what we are telling everybody is that we are only looking to have the millage pay for whatever deficit there is that year and that’s the amount that we would levy, we’re not trying to get any more money than we actually need.”

If that isn’t enough, the library’s number one competitor has become technology. With the Nook, Kindle and iPad right at a person’s fingertips, the common question is, ‘Why save the library when I can get it online?’ Surprisingly, the library has become more popular, despite the technology, Garves said.

“The library is turning into a community center,” said Burns. “I can’t begin to tell you the number of meetings that we’ve had at the library. They use our conference rooms and that’s where people are going now because there aren’t that many places to have meetings.”

This isn’t just a matter for adults to worry about, but teenagers as well. Libraries create a quiet work environment and are universal places for people to study without the distraction of noise or food at coffeehouses like Caribou or Starbucks.

“Teenagers use the libraries a lot,” said Burns. “There’s a lot of reasons that they do in terms of database research and such that they can’t necessarily do in their own high school libraries.”

Also, technology isn’t just competing with the libraries, but it’s helping the library’s reputation grow stronger. Just last year the computers were used for 112,000 hours, said Graves. That is 308 hours a day collectively with all the library’s computers and it gives people access to the world they can’t always get at home.

“Those are people who need those computers,” said Garves. “Whether they’re to find jobs, do their homework, and they just can’t afford the internet. If we don’t have this library and we don’t have these services that the library provides, those people who need it the most are going to be left farther and farther behind. That’s something that I think our community doesn’t want.”

Sarah Fentin, ’12, an Audiovisual Page at the Central Branch has seen just how much people use the library. She shelves DVDs, CDs and audio books and readily agrees with Garves there are numerous ways in which the library has become a part of the average person’s everyday life.

“You see so many people here every day and they’re all getting a much needed service, it’s definitely a negative,” Fentin said.

Photo by MARISSA DAY '14. Johnstone and Johnstone have a sign placed in their window to show support for the libraries.

Various organizations have stepped up to gain support for the library’s financial troubles including the Friends of the Grosse Pointe Library (Friends). With five members on the millage committee, they have been able to help clear up any confusion about the proposal, Vice President of Friends Joanne Dennis said.

Members of the millage committee as well as Friends have seen countless support for passing the proposal, said Dennis. People have been putting lawn signs up on their properties and in store fronts found in the Village and on the Hill.

“We’ve been lucky so far,” said Dennis. “All the people who go to the library have been in favor of (the millage proposal); we’ve got over a thousand signs all over Grosse Pointe; people really seem to be in favor of it.”

Grosse Pointe, a well-rounded, academically strong district may be able to pass the millage, but nothing is certain, said Dennis. The key to the library’s success is in Grosse Pointers and only the final results on Feb. 28 will determine the library’s fate.

“We have no idea if it (the millage) will pass or not,” said Dennis. “That’s why we’re working so hard, so we can get people to vote.”

From providing books, DVDs and CDs to giving people a way to access the internet, libraries are focal points in having someone choose Grosse Pointe as a place to have a home, said Garves. There are about 275 questions for librarians per day, and getting rid of the needed service impacts the librarians, the people, and the community as a whole.

“In a community the size of Grosse Pointe, we still have 275 people every single day that call us for help,” said Garves. “It’s important that we’re there to provide those answers for those people.”

Voting to decide whether the GPPL will get the proposed budget increase will occur on Feb.28. If you are a senior and 18, you can vote. For the official report of the millage proposal, follow this link: http://www.gp.lib.mi.us/bannerflyers/2011MillageReport.pdf.

 

 

 

 

Graphic by Ava Lux'12 | Executive Webe Editor
Graphic by Ava Lux'12 | Executive Webe Editor

 

Norman Bird ’12 | Staff Writer

The Tower Pulse decided to see if I and four of my friends (David Trudel, Matt Temrowski, and Andrew Barnett all ’12 and Josh Carolan ’13) could accomplish the impossible: the Wendy’s 200 nugget challenge. To our surprise, we persevered, eating all 200 nuggets. Only one group had ever accomplished this before.

 

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Cam Davies ’12 | Staff Writer

I don’t watch movies. I never go to see them in theaters or download them online or obsess over early-release trailers. But I do appreciate the classics: my dad, ever the nostalgic one, would park me on the couch and dust-off old VHS’s of the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and Mighty Mouse cartoons.

So when I heard that a mainstream silent movie was set to be released, I prayed that it would not simply be Oscar bait. Far too many times, superb actors, directors, and screenplays are wasted because they try too hard to tug at the heartstrings of the award judges. Thankfully, though, “The Artist” happened to be the most fantastically written and cast present-day movie I have ever seen (my apologies to “Ghost Rider”).

“It’s brilliant,” said Film Literature teacher John Monaghan. “It’s the kind of movie you want to share with people.”

Photo courtesy of IMBD.com

During the opening minutes of the movie, I’ll admit that my mind began to wander. With no voices, the only sound in the theater came from the dull, 1920’s background music and the elderly couple sitting behind me who kept saying “How am I supposed to be able to read that?” However, the film soon began to pull me back in with its humor and wit.

French actor Jean Dujardin portrays famed silent film star George Valentin; he lives rather uncomfortably with his wife, Doris, who serves as a surly backdrop character early on and provides more laughs than most critics give her credit for. Valentin soon falls for an aspiring young actress named Peppy Miller, played by fellow French thespian Bérénice Bejo.

Both actors look the part, but Valentin’s over-the-top pencil-thin mustache and slick smile create a true early 20th century feel.

“They casted people who have that timeless quality,” said Monaghan.

As the film progresses, Valentin’s role as Hollywood head-honcho begins to diminish as silent movies are slowly replaced with “talkies”. The studio boss (John Goodman) soon abandons Valentin and casts Miller as the star of this new era of film. Predictably, conflict between the two ensues.

Of all the characters in “The Artist”, the overwhelming favorite of those in the theater has been Uggie, Valentin’s dog. Acting as the comedic relief, Uggie’s cute tricks and surprisingly large role take the edge off of the more depressing scenes.

Throughout the movie, cheesy elements take center stage; however, the excellent writing and directing come into play, preventing “The Artist” from becoming overly dramatic. The film even utilizes its nostalgic feel, showcasing the clichés of the time.

Naturally, a silent movie has its disadvantages. At points, the film’s dialogue (albeit written on the screen) and plot can be difficult to understand. Moreover, every sound in the theater becomes amplified, from the crinkling of a popcorn bag to the mindless chatter of an easily-bored viewer. Once the movie is over, though, all of those factors have been wiped away and the audience is left in an uplifting mood.

Possibly, the film’s best element is how it breaks the standards that current cinema has left us with. Throughout the movie, I kept expecting an M. Night Shyamalan-like twist or a major fight scene or a heartbreaking tragedy. In that sense, the film caught me off-guard with its overall humor and cliché, happy-go-lucky storyline.

“You feel so good about things when you walk out of it,” said Monaghan.

Graphic by Cam Davies '12| Staff Writer

With February being in the midst of awards season, there has been much talk over whether or not Dujardin should be nominated for his performance. Once the Academy Awards nominees were announced, however, it became clear that people have taken notice of “The Artist” actors’ exceptional acting abilities, albeit silent: not only has Dujardin been nominated for the Best Actor Award, but the film itself is up for Best Picture. Other awards nominations include Best Supporting Actress for Bejo, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius. This all adds to the numerous awards the film as well as Dujardin has won, including the Golden Globes.

Detroit Film Critics Society, in which Monaghan is a member, nominated “The Artist” for many of the same awards, and Monaghan said he personally voted it for Best Picture. He said while the movie has some corny elements, the viewers end up “touched by the relationships”.           

Personally, I hope the Academy does not ignore the writing and acting of “The Artist”. It would be a shame if the film did not win Best Picture and Best Director, as well as Best Actor for Dujardin. His expert acting in a role that must be so difficult to perform due to its obvious restrictions deserves only the highest prize in its category.

“They casted people who have that timeless quality,” said Film Literature teacher John Monaghan.

Overall, The Artist escapes the confines of what most people would expect a silent movie to be. At the end of the day, the movie proves to be both nostalgic and brand new, and hopefully, with all of its Oscar buzz, it can introduce a new generation to the magic of silent films