Beyond the Books

Your Guide to student life

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Morgan Baskin.

Courtesy of Royal Sprinter's Facebook page.

Courtesy of Royal Sprinter’s Facebook page.

Want to take a weekend trip in style without shelling out more than $100 in train fare? Royal Sprinter, the new luxury Mercedes bus company running trips from D.C. to New York, has got you covered.

For $90 one way, you’ll get to kick back in a leather reclining chair with a personal flat screen and DirecTV service, cubby for your bags (to avoid the cluttery nuisance of below-the-seat storage, obviously), Wi-Fi and a foot rest.

The company’s biggest competitor, Vamoose Gold, offers the same amenities (except for the TV) and charges upwards of $60 for a one-way ticket. BoltBus and Megabus, two standard charter bus services that provide wifi and run similar routes, offer tickets as low as $2 round-trip if you’re the first user to purchase them.

Royal Sprinter’s service begins April 11 with D.C. departure times of 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. While the company doesn’t have an online registration system just yet, you can book a seat by calling (202-590-0506).


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Politically active students, prepare to cringe.

Out of the 100 U.S. senators currently serving at Capitol Hill, some American University students can’t name a single one.

When students at American were asked whether they could name a senator by Dan Joseph of MRCTV, a conservative video site, most just replied “no.” Some attempted to answer the question with approximations of names of political figures. But, when asked to name the single from “Frozen,” none had hesitations.

This is concerning for a school that sends the most interns to the White House and boasts its high level of political activity by calling its students “wonks” in Metro stations and Nationals Park.

But the question remains: Could GW do better?

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014 12:56 a.m.

Spring Fling: What could’ve been

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Morgan Baskin. 

Reactions to the Program Board’s Spring Fling lineup announcement have been ambivalent at best, and it’s not hard to understand why: Jay Sean hasn’t had a hit song since the freshman class was wrapping up middle school.

Best Coast. Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons license

Best Coast. Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons license

Plus, the University of Pennsylvania booked David Guetta, Ra Ra Riot and Magic Man for its spring concert. Yale snagged former GW Fall Fest star Diplo, and Northeastern will feature Snoop Dogg. Our neighbors at American got Chance the Rapper.

This is not to point fingers at Program Board. The group has plenty of financial and scheduling restrictions – and it’s always a highly scrutinized pick. That said, it’s always fun to play a game of what-could-have-been.

Below are artists who cost about $40,000 to book and who had free spring tour schedules:

Ace Hood

The Florida-born rapper is most famous for his 2013 hit “Bugatti,” but it’s still arguably more relevant than Sean’s “Down.”

Mos Def

Dante Smith helped shape ‘90s rap in a way few other artists of his generation did. Although he was more popular in decades past, his contributions to the world of hip hop are undeniable–and for less than $30,000, his show would’ve been a steal.

Best Coast

The L.A.-based indie electronic duo is stereotypical Urban Outfitters soundtrack fodder, but their tracks “When I’m With You” and “Boyfriend” became alternative summer anthems.

Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo has helped to define alternative rock for over three decades, impressing critics and amassing a cult following with their nontraditional downtempo rock and quirky stage presence.

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Hatchet File Photo.

Hatchet File Photo.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Cailley LaPara. 

The Class of 2014 may not have showered José Andrés with compliments when GW announced last week that he would be the Commencement speaker. But the city’s globally renowned chef was one of the most notable picks across the country, according to a post by Business Insider on Monday.

Andrés landed on the list alongside the country’s high office holders, actors, and other major public figures including President Barack Obama (who will speak at the University of California Irvine), Secretary of State John Kerry (Yale University), and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen (New York University).

Plus, many of the names on the list have already graced stages at GW. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (Harvard University and Williams Colleges) addressed GW graduates three years ago and International Monetary Fund leader Christine Lagarde (Smith College) spoke at GW this past fall.

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Monday, March 24, 2014 9:32 p.m.

What We’re Watching: Divergent

Promotional Poster for Divergent. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

Promotional Poster for Divergent. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

Hatchet reporter Tim Palmieri shares his latest cinematic experience. 

Divergent” 2014


If “Divergent” reminds you of “The Hunger Games” its not an accident.

The latest YA novel to hit the big screen, “Divergent” hopes to capture the success of Twilight and the Hunger Games. In a dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions distinguished by their unique characteristics and roles. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) must choose her faction based on an aptitude test, but when her results are inconclusive, Beatrice soon realizes she is a threat to the structure of their world.

With so many dystopian novels transitioning to the big screen, it’s inevitable that audiences are drawing comparisons with the genre’s most popular story, “The Hunger Games.” Here are the standout comparisons:

Heroine Development

Character development drives these two stories. Beatrice Prior and Katniss Everdeen are both strong females willing to stand up for what they believe is right even if it means opposing their superiors. They both represent an independent, strong female heroine that is sorely lack in many films. While running around in the woods and shooting things come natural to Katniss, Divergent’s Beatrice has to learn to become a warrior and much of the film is dedicated to her development in her new fraction, Dauntless. The spotlight on Beatrice Prior ends up being one of the films highlights due to Woodley’s excellent performance.

Love Interest

The large number of hormone high teenagers hitting the cineplex to see their favorite lovers portrayed on screen means that chemistry and hunk-factor are important to The Hunger Games and Divergent’s success.  Compared to standard young-adult fiction, Divergent’s central romance is refreshingly different. While Katniss finds herself insnared in the typical, almost expected, love triangle, the connection between Beatrice and Four is more developed and becomes increasingly significant to the plot and central themes of the story.

Book to Film Continuity

“Divergent” remains faithful to Veronica Roth’s  novel, but major plot points failure to deliver on the emotional impact of the books. The Choosing Ceremony scene is not as powerful due to little prior development for the audience to understand the relationship between Beatrice and her family in the Abnegation faction. With such a successful book series to guide it, Hunger Game also tries to stick to  original content. But inevitably, the biggest hurdle for both book to screen adaptations is always character development. Like “Divergent”, “Hunger Games” often glossed over the more complex aspects of characters.

Despite these similarities, “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” are two very different stories, but if “Catching Fire” is any indication, there is hope for improvements in Beatrice’s next chapter, “Insurgent.” The exclusion of characters, scenes, and traits makes “Divergent” lose the minute dynamics and flare that made the novel so special, ultimately leaving audiences with a barebones experience amidst traditional plot elements and twists.

Director: Neil Burger

Genre: Dystopian, Sci-fi, Action

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet

Release: March 21

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Photo courtesy of Jay Sean's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Jay Sean’s Facebook page.

Updated: Monday, March 24 at 2:08 p.m.

Rapper and singer-songwriter Jay Sean will headline Spring Fling on April 12.

Sean’s debut single in the U.S., “Down,” shot to the top of the charts in 2009. His other successes include “Do You Remember,” “2012” and “I’m All Yours.”

While his singles featuring artists like Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Pitbull make him fall more in line with R&B, his recent album “Neon” plays more like a reggae boy band, with love-ballad lyrics, acoustic guitars and swooning solos.

American rock group Wavves and DJs Haile Supreme & Congo Sanchez will open the Program Board-sponsored show in University Yard.

“We’re very excited about our lineup because we tried to incorporate a diverse array of musical styles as a way to attract various aspects of the GW community,” said Jon Carfagno, the Program Board’s executive chair. “We really were able to capture GW’s interest in the music scene and the various genres they represent.”

GW senior Abbay Misganaw, known onstage as Haile Supreme, and D.C.-based producer Jeff Franca, better known as Congo Sanchez, toured together last fall with their DJ group Thievery Corporation. Their sound includes mixes of reggae, soul, psychedelia and freestyle hip-hop, and they have covered artists ranging from Bob Marley to 50 Cent.

“We thought it was really important to showcase new talent, and we wanted to take the opportunity to have a student demonstrate their musical talent,” Carfagno said.

Rock band Waaves, best known for their single “Nine is God,” reflect their California roots with a surf-rock style and pop-inspired beats.

The acts follow Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who drew thousands to University Yard last year with their hits “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love.” Other past Spring Fling performers include Childish Gambino, Mike Posner, State Radio and Gym Class Heroes.

Tufts University booked Nelly for its spring concert. University of Pennsylvania landed David Guetta as well as indie favorites Ra Ra Riot and Magic Man for its spring concert. Yale University will have former GW Fall Fest star Diplo, and Northeastern University will feature Snoop Dogg.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Tufts University booked Nelly for its spring concert this year. Nelly actually performed for the school last April. We regret this error.

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Media Credit: The Pizza Underground Media Credit: Morgan Baskin

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Morgan Baskin.

You might not expect a child star who got his roots in the “Home Alone” series to tell a crowd at his band’s show that they were giving him a hard on.

But then again, nothing about Macaulay Culkin’s five member pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band could be anticipated.

Not the German tambourine player telling jokes about the gynecologist, the Kurt Cobain impersonator singing Nirvana songs in the past tense (yesterday I found my friends, they were in my head), or the bizarre, nonsensical interludes of cat images set to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and dancers sporting kitty ears and #PussyJoel T-shirts.

Most of all, nobody could anticipate the Pizza Underground to have a sound so scarily similar to the Velvet Underground or to, surprisingly, not suck. The single electric guitar, tambourine and keyboard were sparse and minimal, a definitive nod to the Velvet Underground’s classic ’60s rock vibe.

The only true departure was the complete lyrical rearrangement to suit the pizza-themed affair: new lyrics include “Papa John says/ when answering the phone/ why give half your pie/ to toppings you don’t like.”

With their black leather jackets and Raybans, they performed punny if not mildly monotonous and jangly covers of “I’m Waiting for the (Delivery) Man,” and “Cheese Days.”

When Culkin brought out his miniature kazoo trumpet and Deenah, the drummer of pizza boxes, began their rousing chorus of “Take A Bite of the Wild Slice,” it seemed like nothing else mattered but this attempt to preserve some semblance of Velvet Underground culture.

The band’s March 21 show at the Black Cat was its 12th show this year year, following a string of performances in New York and California.

The only question left, really, is what would Lou think?

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Courtesy of DC Film Festival Facebook page

Courtesy of DC Film Festival’s Facebook page

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Tim Palmieri.

National Geographic’s Environmental Film Festival is showing a record 200 films across D.C. this month, but one stands out as a must-see.

South African filmmaker Rowan Pybus’s mini documentary “Amazing Grace” follows a young Zambia man named Lloyd Maanyina who is seeking redemption after he single-handedly destroyed thousands of trees to support his family through charcoal burning. Realizing his fatal mistake, Maanyina begins a nursery and sets out on a mission to plant trees.

Pybus’s work earned the first-ever Eric Moe Sustainability Film Award at the National Geographic’s Grosvenor Auditorium Thursday night. The theme of this year’s festival is “Our Cities, Our Planet,” aiming to scrutinize the challenges created by the planet’s urban environments and mankind’s efforts to balance environmental and economic needs in cities.

Thunderous applause and new ambitions filled the venue Thursday as Maanyina slaved over the destruction of trees and painstakingly strived to revitalize the land around his home. The film received six awards across the globe, including Best Film at the UN Forest Film Awards and Best Script at the Ethekwini Filmmakers Association Awards. Pybus said he hopes the film will spread awareness about the dangers of anti-environmental behavior.

“We’re trying every way we can to allow the message of sustainability to be shared and spread,” Pybus said in a discussion after the film. “We have great solutions to share.”

The Eric Moe Sustainability Film Award, given by a jury consisting primarily of environmental activists and educators, recognizes short films for their inventive solutions to sustainability and comes with a $1,000 cash prize.

It was founded by Julia and Richard Moe in memory of their son Eric, an award-winning filmmaker with a passion for sustainability.

“Some of the films were funny, some were serious, but they all celebrated this thought of sustainability that was Eric Moe,” said Shelley Cohen, senior project developer at Ameresco and one of the judges. “I wanted a film that spoke to the heart as well as Eric Moe.”

Runner-up was Simone Giampaolo’s humorous animation, “Hope,” which centered on the interactions between mankind and Earth. One scene depicts a man sitting on the personified planet as it struggles to walk. Similar to Maanyina, the man ultimately fixed his faults, making redemption a recurring theme.

“We still have the opportunity to change what we have, to change what we are doing,” said environmentalist Dianne Dillon-Ridgley. “That redemptive message is a message to us to change. It is truly time to mother nature.”

The festival runs until March 30.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Garphil Julien.

the grand budapest hotelWes Anderson’s latest film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” is full of chromatic cinematography and exotic locations, but it’s the witty and amusing dialogue that pulls viewers back into a classic Andersonian world.

The film, which is a testament to the stories of famous German writer Stefan Zweig, features a hotel concierge named M. Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes, who, with the help of a lobby boy named Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori), attempts to clear his name after he’s accused of murdering one of the hotel’s most esteemed guests.

With any Anderson film, audience members look for trademark characteristics like his use of color and cartoonish costumes, as well as more intricate details like typography, writing and familiar plot points. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is no exception. Here are the standout Andersonian characteristics:

1) Letter writing

Snail mail is the main form of communication in the film. The main characters constantly use letters when they need to communicate from prison, reveal the location of hidden artifacts and leave each other information about the murder. This is seen in other Anderson films such as “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” where Jane (Cate Blanchett) sends notes to Ned (Owen Wilson), “The Royal Tenenbaums” when Richie (Luke Wilson) confesses his love for his sister and most notably between the two young lovers in “Moonrise Kingdom.”

2) Familiar font

Anderson’s continues to employ his heavily used font Futura in the film, which involves many different time periods and is divided up into different temporal sections. Indications of how much time has passed and which chapter of the film we are watching pop up on the side of the screen in the familiar font. This is most memorable from Anderson’s earlier film, “The Royal Tenenbaums,” which is also broken up into different chapters.

3) Wry escapes

Escapes are a prominent course of action taken by Anderson’s main characters. In “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” hilarious escape scenes involve the protagonist M. Gustave as he amusingly tries to escape from prison. Gustave and his cohorts dig their way out using tiny tools smuggled inside the prison in fancy pastries. Similar situations appear in Anderson’s stop motion animated comedy “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and in “Moonrise Kingdom.” These two films feature elaborate escape plans involving digging underground and by climbing on rooftops. In “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” for example, the foxes find themselves escaping through their elaborate tunnels dug underground after they have raided local farmers.

On top of these recurring traits, Anderson continues to add new material that works with his preexisting set of tools. Spoiler alert: A few of the characters – thanks to an assassin played by William Dafoe – die in more violent ways than any of Anderson’s previous films. Heads and fingers are chopped off in the film and Anderson does not shy away from showing the audience the remains – in his comedic manner, of course.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014 10:49 a.m.

Tidal Basin boathouse opens for spring

Cherry blossoms will bloom in D.C. in the next two weeks. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Cherry blossoms will bloom in D.C. in the next two weeks. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Tim Palmieri.

With temperatures predicted to rise in the upper-60s today, this weekend seems to herald the first notes of spring – as long as you ignore the snow that might come next Tuesday.

Respite from this year’s unrelenting winter could not have come a better time as this weekend marks the opening of the Tidal Basin’s paddle boat supplier.

The Tidal Basin Boathouse, located on 1501 Maine Avenue SW, offers two-passenger boats for $14 per hour and four-passenger boats for $22. Boats can even be reserved for free online between opening at 10 a.m. and noon, while the last boats are let out at 5 p.m. and must be back by 6 p.m.

Check out the paddle boats this weekend, before the snow returns, or wait until early April when the Cherry Blossoms on the National Mall are predicted to bloom.

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