Category Archives: A&E

Whitman hosts comedian Eliot Chang

by Caitlin Tortorici
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER

Sponsored by the Intercultural Center, the President’s Office, the Dean of Students and the Asian Cultural Association, Comedy Central’s Eliot Chang brought his “Let’s Die Laughing” stand-up comedy tour to the Reid Ballroom on Thursday, Nov. 30.

Chang’s TV appearances include Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend,” NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU,” and Spike TV’s “Crashtest.” Chang was advertised around campus as “honest, never predictable, and [not dependent] on stereotypes.”

Many students agreed. “I thought the show was very original,” said sophomore Jerreh Badjie. “He was really honest about himself, and I liked that.”

“I just liked the fact that he didn’t tell a bunch of Asian jokes, because that’s what I was half expecting,” said sophomore Liam Wall. “I just like the fact that he went off a lot of random [stuff], because that’s what I do with my friends. That’s what I find funniest.”

Throughout the first part his performance, Chang satirized his struggle as a comedian forced to represent the entire Asian race, and tied racial humor to matters such as jury duty, penis size, fake breasts and (sometimes Amish) girls gone wild.

Toward the end of the show, Chang asked the audience if they wanted to hear jokes about politics or sex. Whitman went with sex.

Chang did not disappoint. “I liked the part about him making a whole lot of noise in his apartment. I don’t necessarily believe him but he’s good at telling stories and I appreciate that,” said Wall.

“I thought the ‘You lied to me!’ bit was hilarious,” said a Whitman sophomore on Chang’s expressed feeling of betrayal when a woman’s face falls short in attractiveness compared to her derriere.

However, many students gave mixed reviews about the racial aspect of Chang’s comedy.

“He was an average comedian, but I don’t think he was worth all the hype that we gave him,” said sophomore Jack Mountjoy. “Everything about him being racially sensitive was just not true. I heard the comedy would be different, but it was the same old racist stuff, and I was expecting a lot more. He should have stuck to the sex and developed that a bit more.”

Nevertheless, students agreed Chang made many a good point at his critically acclaimed Q&A workshop “Asians in the Media” following the show.

“I thought the end session explained a lot about him. I learned a lot from it,” said sophomore Megan Duffy.

In his workshop, Chang argued the media identifies “Asians” in terms of physical appearance rather than continent of origin.

He addressed the unspoken prejudices against Asians in the United States, such as the stereotype that Asian women are “sex objects” or “bitches” while Asian men are unappealing, that Asians are only “cool” if assimilated into other races and the lack of press coverage on Asian hate crimes.

He also discussed the limited roles for Asian actors in American television and film.

He asked students, “Why is it okay to make fun of Asians when it’s not okay to make fun of other races?”

Chang advised audience members to research and embrace their cultural histories. He stressed the importance of quality education and voting, and encouraged audience members to throw some entertainment into cultural awareness events. “Do what you need to do to get the asses in the seats,” said Chang.

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‘Bobby’ opens on the big screen

by Josh Boris
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER

1968: a terrible year for the liberal dream. Not only was Martin Luther King, Jr. gunned down in the midst of his increasingly politicized fight for the future, but Robert F. Kennedy, upon whom was placed the burden of fixing everything that was wrong with America, was assassinated during the primaries that almost assuredly would have won him a spot on the Democratic ticket.

With a long line of Republican presidents (and only a slight repose in the form of Clinton), a quagmire in Iraq and an increasingly untrustworthy presidency, there’s little surprise that one of the Hollywood elite (joined by an overwhelming onslaught of other Hollywood elites) would decide to make a movie with the ostensive message “if only Bobby Kennedy hadn’t been shot, this would be a great nation,” accompanied by a heavy sigh.

However, the movie isn’t about Bobby Kennedy (at least a large portion isn’t). “Bobby” takes an Altman-esque, overloaded vignette form that offers over 20 characters with at least 10 separate plotlines. It would take much too long to hit all the plotlines so I’ll just rattle some off: William H. Macy is the hotel manager having problems with his wife (Sharon Stone) and is having an affair with a switchboard operator (Heather Graham), Lindsay Lohan is marrying a young soldier (Elijah Wood) so that he is sent to Germany rather than Vietnam, Ashton Kutcher is a hippy giving LSD to two young campaign workers, and Demi Moore is an alcoholic diva who treats her husband (Emilio Estevez) like a lackey.

This doesn’t even take into account plots involving actors such as Laurence Fishburne, Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt, Freddy Rodriguez, Anthony Hopkins, or Christian Slater.

A veritable who’s who of Hollywood, it’s a wonder how a movie about a beloved political figure with an all-star cast could ever go wrong. Here’s how: make all the parts not involving Bobby pretty much meaningless, overload it with “drama” that isn’t at all heart-wrenching, and under-use practically your entire cast. Director-actor Estevez reaches too high and tries too hard with a script that is stretched too thin (granted, he has only himself to blame, as he also wrote the movie). Each little piece isn’t given its fair share of screen time, and when we’re forced into an emotional situation involving an underdeveloped plotline, it’s hard to feel for any of the characters and it appears more like a blatant attempt at manipulation. On top of all this, the vignettes have little to do with Bobby himself; many of them actually have little to do with the milieu of the ‘60s in general, and could easily be transposed to a contemporary movie. Estevez presents us with a plot that pulls us every which way that we couldn’t care less about.

This is unfortunate because the parts using Bobby Kennedy are actually very good. The first 10 minutes of the film outline the social climate (interspersed with shots and voice clips of Bobby) and excellently set up the film. Then we have a little more than an hour of fluff, which is also unfortunate because some of the plots are actually amusing or enjoyable but must share screen time with everything else. However, then we reach the finale, which is by far the strongest point. After Bobby Kennedy is shot, the audience is presented with a stirring voice over of a Kennedy speech accompanied by a mishmash of chaos and despair as the camera fluidly moves through all the characters, depicting how their lives have come crashing down. Perhaps it is because that which came before it seemed so unimportant, but the final 15 minutes are powerful and moving.

As a big fan of Bobby Kennedy, I thoroughly enjoyed all parts that actually utilized his charismatic presence. However, I feel that Estevez had so much more he could have done, and it is unfortunate that his best directorial choices all consisted of which Kennedy clips to use. If you’re a big Bobby fan, check this out on DVD, but everyone else might just want to skip it.

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Harper Joy presents Ivona

by Sarah McCarthy
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER

Ivona, Princess of Burgundia is a play that masterfully combines the beautiful and the ugly—while it is visually stunning in terms of its set and costumes, its plot centers around nothing but the ugliest parts of human nature. It is well-paced, well-acted and well-directed, and though there is hardly a single laugh during its two hour run, it still manages to be entertaining as well as thought provoking.

The play, advertised as a “grotesque fairy tale,” tells the story of Prince Philip (excellently played by Rohan Flinn) who, to his parents’ horror, decides to marry Ivona, an ugly common girl for whom he feels nothing but hatred. Ivona hardly ever speaks and generally does nothing but stare ahead as the members of the court harass and mock her, trying to force her to be less repulsive to them. When she does not acquiesce to their wishes, Prince Philip and his mother and father, King Ignatius and Queen Margaret (Keagan Buchanan and Caroline Leader) all independently plot to kill her. The King’s plan is put into action, and, just as he desired, Ivona chokes to death on a fish bone at his grand banquet.

The plot is, in and of itself, little but ridiculous, and it’s thus that the numerous extra touches brought to this production that make the absurd world of the play come to life. For one thing, Ivona is played by five different actresses (Megan Duffy, Cadence Ellington, Seren Pendleton-Knoll, Sarah Hathaway, and Roberta Gannett). Every times she appears, she is played by a different person, a fact that the audience is instantly aware of but that those in the play fail to notice at all. This clever choice drives home the point that Ivona becomes nothing more than a blank slate upon which the viewer projects his or her own impressions of what she is.

Likewise, rather than taking the obvious choice and making up the Ivonas to be as garishly ugly as they are described, her “ugliness” is conveyed only in that she does not have the white face makeup that all the other actors do. To the audience, Ivona is actually the only person on the stage that looks remotely natural. It becomes clear throughout the play that Ivona appears so ugly to the other characters only because her refusal to be like them makes them act in ugly and malicious ways.

The play is full of more absurdities than just these large ones. The king, for instance, does an excellent job of making a decidedly canine-like sound whenever displeased. When he pleases the queen, he gets rewarded by a little tasty treat. The ladies in waiting flip their handkerchiefs as a sign of agreement, and though at the end Ivona has her murder practically explained to her, she still chokes upon the fish bone just as the royalty had planned.

Roberta Gannett does a disturbingly good job of choking to death, and her character in death has not quite let go her mysterious hold on the royalty-at the end, the prince, the king, and the queen all kneel as her dead body lies on the banquet table. The absurdist elements of the play make clear that it is, in many ways, a fantasy and a fairy tale in a world far from our own.

The disturbing messages about the potential for human cruelty when faced with someone who challenges us hold definite relevance in the real world, even if it’s a message that isn’t particularly fun to hear.

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Marc Forster directs feature film ‘Stranger Than Fiction’

by by Erin Salvi
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER

“Truth is stranger than Fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” When Mark Twain wrote these words back in the 1800s, I doubt he could have foreseen that Zach Helm would use them as the premise for a postmodern screenplay in 2006. Yet, the fact that “Stranger Than Fiction,” directed by Marc Forster, even exists seems to be a tribute to Twain’s idea that what we experience in real life often surprises us more than anything we might find in a book.

The film tells the tale of Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), an IRS auditor who leads a monotonous, mechanical life. Or, rather, I should say that the film reveals the tale of Harold Crick, because it is really Emma Thompson’s character who tells his tale. Thompson plays Karen Eiffel, a haggard, chain-smoking writer whose latest novel just happens to be about Harold Crick.

However, Karen doesn’t know that Harold is real. And Harold doesn’t know that Karen exists. That is, until he begins to hear her voice accurately narrating his every action. This, of course, would be an unsettling occurrence in and of itself, but as Karen’s narration persists, Harold soon finds out a much more disturbing fact: he is going to die. Karen plans to kill him off at the end of her book.

Fearing his imminent death, Harold seeks the help of Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), a literary expert, hoping he can help him identify the narrative voice he keeps hearing. Hilbert leads him through a series of questions, trying to figure out if Harold is living in a comedy or a tragedy in the traditional sense of the terms (tragedy ends in death, comedy ends with marriage), assuming that with this method they will at least discover if Harold is really going to die or not.

Harold isn’t sure which kind of life he’s living until he meets Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), an anarchist bakery owner whom the IRS is auditing, and begins a relationship with her. The relationship inspires him to break out of the tedium of his life, but he must still grapple with the fact that the click of a typewriter could determine the moment of his demise.

Helm’s script is clever and has a very Charlie Kaufman-esque postmodern tone to it. It is surprisingly easy to go along with the seemingly absurd idea that Karen is somehow controlling what happens in Harold’s life through her writing, and that she could possibly hold his life or death in her hands. In fact, what is most unbelievable about the script is the so-called “brilliant” novel that Karen is writing, in which the most complex metaphor involves the relationship between a man and his digital watch.

Ferrell is impressively subdued as Harold, given his usual outrageous acting style in movies such as “Old School” and “Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” However, I’m not sure if it is his actual performance that is truly impressive, or if it is simply the vast difference between this performance and others that makes it stand out. Thompson is wonderfully anxious as Karen, and Hoffman and Gyllenhaal make for an excellent supporting cast.

The end of the film doesn’t quite live up to the inventiveness of the rest of it; Helm wraps things up a bit too nicely for the complications that he initially sets up. Really, the film isn’t so “strange” after all; it’s just a creative approach to encouraging people to live life to the fullest.

The entire purpose of the film is well-represented by a conversation in which Professor Hilbert suggests that Harold could eat nothing but pancakes if he wanted, to which Harold replies, “What is wrong with you? Hey, I don’t want to eat nothing but pancakes, I want to live! I mean, who in their right mind in a choice between pancakes and living chooses pancakes?” Hilbert responds, “Harold, if you pause to think, you’d realize that that answer is inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led … and, of course, the quality of the pancakes.” It is a film about our innate desire to live, and the need to do it to the best of our ability. And if we get to eat some tasty pancakes along the way, that’s okay, too.

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New restaurant offers unique, local tastes

by Chelsea Gilbert
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER

After asking our party of five if we had eaten at Luscious before (we hadn’t), our waiter launched into a brief spiel about the concept behind the new restaurant.

The restaurant (located on Colville and Main) is built around the idea of seasonal cooking. Only local food and beverages are served, and all of the food is organic or sustainably grown. The menu changes seven times a year in order to utilize the different foods that become ripe seasonally. The Autumn-Crush Menu, which will run through Nov. 27, is their current menu. But don’t think the theme is limited to just the menu. The walls are covered with seasonal art entitled “A Luscious Harvest” by a local artist Todd Telander.

As soon as you walk in the door, it’s clear that Luscious is not exclusively a restaurant. Loosely divided into three different areas, Luscious features a deli with a casual eating area (the food in the deli and the food served in the restaurant is made from scratch daily), a small shop that sells organic jams, kitchen products and the like, and the restaurant itself. Luscious also hosts a full cocktail bar.

The restaurant’s interior is nice, but not fancy. There are no white tablecloths here—instead, they opt for a cozy, simple feel. The décor has the (arguably) beneficial effect of making you feel, once you step through the door, that you’re no longer in Walla Walla.

The restaurant is on the smaller side, though heated patio dining is also available. On a Thursday night, we noticed that the restaurant was busy, but not crowded enough to require a reservation.

For those of you who are of legal age, the menu boasts an impressive list of intriguing cocktails. “A Pearfect Pear” is as perfect as its name implies. The sweet, light green cocktail, complete with several slices of crisp pear tastes exactly like the fruit.

At $9.23, though, these cocktails do come at a steep price.

The “Dark and Stormy” is a drink for people who can hold their liquor. Though strong, it is not deterrently so. Its citrus tang is described by the menu as a “Caribbean concoction for contemplative cowboys.”

The “Naughty Boy Scout” turned out to be entirely different from what our dinner party had expected, though, in hindsight, perhaps we should have been warned by the drink’s description: “campfire +contraband = trouble.” The drink is served hot and tastes like you are drinking, well, a campfire. It would have likely tasted better if paired with a rich dessert to offset its strong taste.

The fact that Luscious pours local wines is hardly unique in Walla Walla. Even our waiter admitted that their commitment to local vintages was a downfall, saying the nearby winery in Dayton was nothing special.

From drinks, we moved on to appetizers (called Plates to Share on the menu). The cheese & organic fruit plate included an array of thin apple and pear slices, shelled almonds, warm bread and about three different types of spreadable cheeses. The plate could probably serve about four people comfortably and was enthusiastically approved by everyone at our table.

The Autumn salads are generally satisfying enough to eat as a meal—especially if you plan to order from elsewhere on the menu. Their dressings are light enough that they don’t overshadow some of the salads’ unique flavors—augmented by beets, goat cheese, green apples and pears—and are reasonably priced at around $12 each.

Our dinner party enjoyed a number of the entrées. The “Duck a la Walla” was moist. The “Molten baby back ribs” had the right balance of sweet and salty and were, according my dining companion, comparable to the ribs at The Backstage Bistro (a local restaurant that advertises its “world famous BBQ” ad nasuem).

The menu’s meatballs had the perfect amount of spice that didn’t overwhelm the palate. Not a meatball fan myself, I even found myself enjoying the restaurant’s refined version of an old classic.

The menu has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available. There is a vegan vegetable lasagna, and a vegetarian risotto and polenta. The portions are not huge, but they’re nowhere near meager either. An impressive list of $5 side dishes is also available if you feel the need to supplement your meal with a little something extra.

The presentation of the meals is beautiful. The food is tastefully arranged on square white plates, and somewhat resembles the presentation found at 26brix.

Ordering dessert proved to be an exercise in frustration. There was no actual dessert menu (the menu says that their desserts change daily) and so the waiter listed off their selection.

First, we ordered a slice of chocolate cake. After a few moments, our waiter came back to let us know that they were all out of chocolate cake. Disappointed, but not discouraged, we ordered the cheesecake. Turns out they were out of that. Finally, we settled on the lemon bar which the waiter guaranteed us actually existed.

Though we were prepared to not like the dessert, it was undeniably delicious. The lemon bar can easily serve 2-4 people and had a side of delicious homemade whipped cream. Because of the generous sizes, I would suggest ordering dessert to share.

Everyone was happy with their meals, but the general consensus was that the food, while very good, wasn’t quite amazing. It is Luscious’ atmosphere, unique commitment to locally grown organic foods, and availability of vegan meals that makes it really stand out amongst the slew of other Walla Walla restaurants.

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Sheehan Gallery exhibit ‘Goatsilk’ explores coexistence between humans and animals

by Sarah McCarthy
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER

The most recent exhibit at the Sheehan Gallery, entitled “Goatsilk,” explores the intriguing question of how animals and humans will continue to co-exist in an increasingly technological age.

Two of the artists, Ben Bloch and Caroline Peters, were inspired by a “New York Times” article that explained how scientists were researching a way to mass produce spider silk for human consumption. The work that deals most directly with this question is “Portraits From an Ark,” a digital media piece which shows 55 participants getting their faces painted like different animals. Visitors to the exhibit say an animal’s name (anything from “sheep” to “blowfish”) into a voice-activated microphone and a one minute video begins to play. The participants look decidedly uncomfortable as a mysterious hand pokes and brushes their faces with thick paint, but become more relaxed and begin to imitate the actions of “their” animal, once it’s reavealed what creature they’re meant to resemble. The piece, Bloch and Peters write, “… reminds viewers that the act of becoming requires acquiescence and abandonment.”

Another intriguing piece, “Nexting,” is compromised of short film clips from the MTV dating show “Next.” The show usually involves a contestant and five “daters.” When the “dater” begins to bore or annoy the contestant, the contestant says “next!” and another dater is sent in to finish the date. The piece, then, is comprised of six-second clips which show the “daters” delivering a snide remark to the contestant who has rejected them. After they have finished their line, their faces are distorted into a large and exaggerated caricature of themselves. As the artists write, “Besides being humorous, these distortions give a glimpse of the oft repressed horror that results from being ‘discovered’ and then rejected.” Anyone who is disillusioned with the self-centered cattiness of reality TV is sure to enjoy this work.

Other works include “Pressing the Vessel,” which shows a mouse in its last few minutes of life the paired with the voice-over of an evangelical sermon. The piece is meant to address “the moat between our idea that life is sacred, and the isolation that seemingly takes over at the end of life.”

These pieces, along with six others, will be in the Sheehan Gallery until Dec. 8

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‘Hard Candy’ portrays shocking storyline

by Erin Salvi
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER

I’m not sure that I have ever felt more uncomfortable for 105 minutes straight than when I watched “Hard Candy.” In a good way.

Directed by David Slade, and recently released on DVD, this film will have you squirming in your seat. Still, you won’t be able to look away for a moment—which is a pretty impressive feat for a film that essentially has only two characters and a single setting. Promoted as a drama/thriller, it’s difficult to pin down exactly which genre this movie belongs to, as it is rather unlike any drama or thriller I have ever encountered.

The film begins when a 14-year old girl and a 32-year old photographer who have been chatting on the Internet for three weeks decide to get together in person—already a cause for concern for the viewer. At a coffee shop, they hit it off in person just as much as they did online, and sexual innuendoes begin to crop up on both sides of the conversation. Hayley (Ellen Page) and Jeff (Patrick Wilson) soon decide that they should go back to his place to get to know each other a little better.

Cue the “Lolita”-like plot to take over, right? But it doesn’t. At least, not exactly. While the audience has been tricked into assuming that Jeff is the one with the power in this situation, as he is much older and supposedly more mature, the seemingly vulnerable and naive Hayley has been making plans of her own. Taking Jeff entirely by surprise, she gains complete control in a game of cat and mouse that grows more and more horrifying by the minute and takes the film in a direction far away from that which the beginning seemed to promise.

The script of this film is, in itself, quite a piece of work. It delves into a number of different psychological issues, including what the appeal is of meeting people over the internet and how far someone will go to fulfill a vendetta against another person. Despite the extreme circumstances, the dialogue feels natural, though this may be due in part to the excellent delivery of the actors. Page and Wilson capture these unbalanced characters to perfection. Page’s wide-eyed, innocent face creates an excellent contrast to the vindictive, manipulative young girl Hayley proves herself to be, and Wilson’s transition from a reserved pedophile to a terrified victim is seamless.

Slade’s camerawork also assists in adding to the general uneasy feeling of the film. Close-up shots of the actors’ faces and purposely unsteady, swirling shots of the house help to confuse the viewer as much as the strange and terrifying interactions between Hayley and Jeff do. But this confusion carries a little too much of the film, even to the very end, and the purpose of the movie is difficult to pin down. It implies that it deals with pedophilia, when in fact it is dealing with one girl’s idea of what should be done to pedophiles, which is complicated by the fact that the girl is herself a very disturbed human being. Still, the film is provocative and gripping, and worth watching if only to see Page give such a brutal, masterful performance. Just don’t watch it alone, because this candy is anything but sweet.

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