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March 23, 1994 - Image 23

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-03-23

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mericl adopts theIringe, leaveng us with. i
N0 ALTERNATIVE
have always been cool. They're the loners, the hepcats - the out-
siders. Sure, they have attitude and they dress great, but they don't
have many friends and grown-ups hate them.
So what in the hey is going on these days? ter youth films of the last decade (Say
Supermodel Kate Moss in flannel and boots? DO.J T Anything, Singles), says this transition is
Smashing Pumpkins and The Breeders in entirely natural in any form of entertainment.
Billboard's Top Ten? Films like Slacker in heavy-mar- "Pop culture just sweeps along and takes everything
ket rotation coast-to-coast? with it," he says. "Granted, it will only enter the
It's 1994, and the outsiders are in. mainstream if it's profitable, but that's the nature
*ETfl of the mainstream.
lternative culture is a phrase that, even 10 "Still, recently in film, real issue-oriented stuff is
years ago, had little meaning. Yet in a Zen-like more prevalent than in the '80s. There are more films
ay, this essentially meaningless phrase has about real people. Take Reality Bites. I liked it. It jokes
become the most fashionable marketing term of about TV and music and pop culture. It's funny."
the day - a media-bite full of sound and fury, EM In American literature as well, many authors
signifying nothing. Like the ridiculous were markedly "counterculture" in their origins.
Generation X tag, it's a term that presupposes some "Allen Ginsberg is now a great American poet, instead
sort of common agenda which simply doesn't exist. of the filthy beatnik he was in the '50s," Nachbar says.
Put a San Diego surfer and a New York thrash- Hell, even Thoreau was considered a spacey
punk in the same cafe and see if they get along. PLAY granola nut while he was
Don't let MTV play you - there is no alive.
Alternative Nation.
Still, if alternative culture has any real meaning, it's W ith media terms like
that it isn't mainstream. Or wasn't, at any rate. alternative and Gen-
That's what alternatives are supposed to be all E J eration X stumbling
about. about, you have to wonder
So how do we cope with an (ostensibly) alternative - how much of what comes
band like Pearl Jam on the cover of hoary old Time across on TV, radio and film is
magazine? accurate, and how much of
Since distrust of power and authority is the - it is pre-chewed, marketable Brad Hubbell sells counterei
gospel of alternative, it's ironic that it's being co- catch-phrasing? Is the
opted by Time Warner. But that's the way it's always media simply reflecting popular opinion - or is it
been, says Jack Nachbar, professor of popular culture pacing it?
at Bowling Green State U. in Ohio. "I think there's a little of both," says Brad
"If an alternative culture is perceived as a Hubbell, the 32-year-old co-owner of the
threat, the threat is neutralized by absorbing it recently opened store Gen X, an "alternative
into the mainstream," Nachbar says. "Jazz used to be media" shop in East Lansing, Mich. Hubbell's store
'slumming music' until the young beatniks caught on. sells comic books, 'zines and cult films like Blue Velvet
Now it's high art. Rap was extremely underground and She's Gotta Have It. "In the past few years, pub-
initially - now it's in the Top Ten. So for Eddie t lic opinion has definitely moved towards the idea
Vedder to be,saying, 'Oh my God, I'm selling out' that one view of something is not quite right," he
- wake up. This is what happens." says. "It doesn't have to come out of Hollywood to be
Rob Creighton, a junior at Loyola U. of Chicago a good film. It doesn't have to be a Time Warner
and program director at WLUW, says he doesn't publication to be a good magazine.
buy the idea that the mainstream is embracing alter- m "On the other hand, every time a generation
native culture. For Creighton, the changing styles in comes up, the generation before has a tendency to
music and fashion have less to do with alternative cul- want to put a tag on it. Like with Generation X - it
ture than youth culture. It's a matter of growing up, defines a certain age group, maybe, a certain experi-
with all the inevitable compromises. ence in growing up, but that's it."
"For a while I ran around with a shaved l E A hard-core cynic might point out
head and a nose ring," he says. "Now I'm that, in that case, naming your store Gen
older, and I don't. As people, we're growing into the X smacks more than a little of condescension and
mainstream, and so is the music we listen to." opportunism.
Alternative, hazily defined as non-main- Hubbell's perspective: "For us, Gen X is
stream, has become mainstream. It's like AT, just the name of the store - something to
growing up to be your parents. It's icky. say hey, there are some different things
And it's not just happening in music, although that's inside here."
where the 'alternative' concept began. Cameron Well, yeah... OK. Hubbell's a businessman - those
Crowe, screenwriter and director of some of the bet- who dismiss him are probably just angry they didn't
20 " U. Magazine

think of it first. 0 0
And he has hit on a rapidly growing market. Tens of
thousands of 'zines are being published in America -
small, underground publications often designed on
personal computers and printed at the local copy cen-
ter. In addition, innovations in electronic communica-
tions allow people from all over the world to exchange
information, via computer modem, at cyberspeed, and
people are finding they don't need to rely on tradi-
tional media sources.
"Mainstream media are appropriating and pillaging
youth culture - and giving nothing in return," says
R. Seth Friedman, publisher of Factsheet 5, an index
and guide to 'zines.
"More and more, though, alternative literature is...
hecoming accessile. Places like Tower Records are
stocking 'zines now. Through computer technology,
'zines are looking slick and costing less."
David Moodie, a 1993 graduate of Syracuse U. and
editor of Might magazine, is also attempting to pro-
mote alternative media. His pulication, recently
released through national distributors, is attempting
to find a middle ground between regional 'zines and
full-bore mainstream rags.
Moodie and his fellow editors, David Eggers and
Marny Requa, want to ensure that their magazine and
others like it can maintain editorial integrity in the
ultra-slick world of mainstream pop culture maga-
zines. "Details is a phone book," says Moodie. "Every
damn product you see in that thing has a phone num-
ber or address where you can buy, buy, buy."
he point remains - even though Hubbell and his
*partner are banking on it, and even though Details
advertisers are targeting it - there still seems to
be no actual, cohesive, alternative culture.
"The term 'alternative,' in music at least, has lost all
significance," says Austin music crit-
ic and Rolling Stone writer Don
McLeese. "Alternative is as much
packaging as content. It's become a
demographic term.
"There's a local artist here in
Austin, Allahandro Escovedo. He's
w great, and his music is certainly
alternative to the mainstream, but
he will never be embraced as an
ltureinhisnewstore. "' alternative artist. He's 42; he's
Hispanic.
"Alternative marketing is getting in the way of alter-
native music."
So what if we break down the word 'alternative' into
its component parts? What about the myriad fringe
groups, sub-sects and pocket cliques? Cyber punks.
Retro-hippies. B-boys. Riot grrls. Even at this level,
there's no real viscosity. Jane Student is likely to go to a
Dead show Friday, tell her e-mail pals about it Saturday,
and unwind with the new Beastie Boys CD Sunday.
And this isn't even considering historically dispos-
sessed groups - what about contemporary black cul-
ture? What about gay culture, feminist culture? Do
they fly under the alternative flag?
How about fundamentalist Christians, for that mat-
ter? They're certainly outsiders with the media and cur-
rent administration. If you're really looking for an alter-
native culture, why not try Nepalese Tantric Shavism?
The cruel truth is, alternative and mainstream lost
any sort of meaning years ago - maybe when Kerouac
met Burroughs, maybe when Dylan met the Beatles.
"It's almost on a personal level now," says Jamie
DePolo, a 1993 graduate of Michigan State U. "Be
true to yourself, to what you believe in. I remember
when I first heard The Clash on the radio. I ran right
out to get the album. That's alternative."
Alternative culture is whatever you want it to be. It's
your in-jokes with your roommates, your junior-high
poetry, your Uncle Hank's elephant jokes. Whatever. U
APRIL 1994

Freshiman binges
for big bucks
Going to the cafeteria with Orie Ito
can be quite a spectator event.
A recent dinner with the Williams
Baptist College freshman demonstrat-
ed what friends call her "very large
stomach." In a mere half an hour, the
21-year-old consumed half a chicken,
three plates of spaghetti, a bowl of
Cocoa Puffs mixed with Special K, a
serving of green beans, a salad, an ice
cream cone and a glass of iced tea. (Ito
also mentions that an hour earlier, she
ate a large hamburger at a fast-food
restaurant.)
Most people with this propensity for
eating would be worried about the
freshman 1,500. But for this 4-foot-
11-inch, 105-pound student, eating is
not only guiltless - it's profitahle.

At 19, Io std entering contests
in Japan and reigned undefeated for
almost two years. She came to
America to study in 1993, and last
Octoher, Ito competed in a hot dog-
eating contest in New York. Ito faced
down Mike Devito, a 200-pound New
Yorker, and lost by a mere two hot
dogs. (She says the hot dog buns were
too filling to make for good contest
results.) She did, however, down 16
dogs in 30 minutes and take home
$500 for her digestive feat.
Unfortunately, Ito says that she's
retiring from contests because she is
getting older and not able to eat as
much as she once did. After buying a
motorcycle with her winnings, she has
settled down to her studies, eating for
sustenance and recreation only.
Ito did mention, however, that "If
the money was big enough, retirement
would end." * Marabeth L.LeDuc,
The Torch, Williams Baptist College

Ito's voluminous appetite has won her
more than $5,000 - plus prizes.
Strangely, Ito doesn't think her
appetite is all that extraordinary.
"Everyone else thinks it's a bigger deal
[than I do]," she says.

Green Corps turns graduates into environmental leaders

Three years ago, Parker Blackman
was green. He was developing an
interest in the environment, but didn't
have a lot of experience in the field.
Then the 1990 graduate of Stanford
U. found out about Green Corps.
Now, after graduating from the corps,
he's working for the U.S. Public
Interest Research Group.
Green Corps, an environmental field
school founded in 1990, trains recent
college graduates to work toward
improving the environment.
"What college graduates find is that
they don't have the skills to work with
environmental groups. Green Corps
tries to fill that gap - we are seeking
to train the next generation of envi-
ronmental leaders," says Kelly Wark,
Green Corps' lead organizer.
Each year, Green Corps receives
about 1,000 applications for 20 one-
year positions. After a month of class-

room instruction, corps members are
placed in field training at sites across
the country, where they work on vari-
ous environmental campaigns. As part
of the campaigns, they meet with
members of Congress, work with the
media and educate the community.
Last year's campaigns focused on
such issues as preservation of the
ancient forests and the reauthorization
of the Endangered Species Act. This
year they will also work on issues of
energy efficiency and lead paint poi-
soning.
"With more people educating, you
are one step ahead in motivating and
activating the public," Wark says.
Member Gregg Small, a 1992 gradu-
ate of Dickinson College in
Pennsylvania, says, "Environmental
issues are especially strong with young
people... but there is also tremendous
concern among citizens in general."

Green Corps helps its graduates find
jobs by writing letters of recommenda-
tion and serving as a data base for
positions in the environmental field.
Some recent graduates have found jobs
with Greenpeace, the National
Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club
and the Western Ancient Forest
Campaign.
To receive a Green Corps applica-
tion, call (215) 829-1760 or (617) 426-
8506. Yvette Cabrera, The
Occidental, Occidental College

Short Takes
& Updates
AND NEXT, "DOGS PLAYING POKER... "
UNIVERSITY PARK, PENN. - Wine and
cheese at the opening of Pennsylvania
State U.'s new art exhibit? Try Cheese
Whiz, Spam hors d'oeuvres and red dye
punch.
This was the menu for the black velvet
paintings exhibit, on display recently at
the Zoller Gallery. Tiled "The Art We
Love to Hate," the exhibit included ren-
derings of John Wayne, Elvis, family pets
and Jesus. "We had people in here who
had never been to the gallery before,"
says Cindi Morrison, gallery director.
As for the exhibit opening, Morrison
mentions, "We did have some fruit too.
We weren't totally bad."
COUCH POTATOES FOR HIRE
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - The first
school of video game programming will
begin reviewing applicants in June for its
September opening. DigiPen Applied
Computer Graphics School will accept
high school graduates and/or college
students for its two-year program.
But the school is looking for more than
stoner Nintendo addicts - courses will
include algebra, algorithms, probability
and statistics.
DigiPen will review applicants on the
basis of an entrance exam, reference let-
ters, grade transcripts and work experi-
ence. No mention was made of reviewing
their high scores in Mortal Kombat.
BLOWN OUT OF PROPORTION
HOUSTON, TEXAS - After finding what they
believed to be a bomb in an arts building,
the U. of Houston canceled classes and
called in a bomb squad. But they found
that the "bomb" was nothing more than a
discarded art project created for a sculp-
ture class.
According to university spokesperson
Fran Howell, the creator was fulfilling an
assignment requiring the creation of a
tool. "He decided to do tools of a revolu-
tion as opposed to a hammer or some-
thing," Howell says.
The student was issued a student life
referral for the incident. "He had quite a
bit of contact with people in uniform as a
result of this," Howell says. "The police
want people to realize something like this
is taken very seriously."
HERE'S ONE FOR YOUR TRANSCRIPT
CORVALLIS, ORE.- Oregon State U.'s Food
Science and Technology department
offers an overview class titled "The
Maraschino Cherry," which will be "a
focal point for demonstrating the roles of
the many disciplines intrinsic to food sci-
ence and technology." The class is worth
one credit and will meet 10 times.
Professor Ron Wrolstad comments:
"In the first day of class, we had two pro-
fessors emeritus cone and talk about the
history of the maraschino cherry and
how it developed. I think the students
were just awed to have these professors
there."
cone d next page
U. Magazine * 5

Researchpoetry,music Now 19, Day is tired of labels -
genius, intellect, child prodigy. "I'm a
- all in a Day's work normal person, a normal college stu-
dent," says Day, a microbiology and his-
tory major.
Why can't you be more like Carolyn She has been interested in microbiolo-
Day? gy since her father, a microbiology pro-
When you were 13, refusing to mow the fessor at LSU, came to the university in
lawn and sitting too close to the television, 1979. But the early age at which she
the Louisiana State U. sophomore began began her research into pseudomonas
researching a potential treatment for an aeruginosa brought some skepticism from
infection that kills most cystic fibrosis her elders.
patients. At 17 she found it, and scientists "A lot of kids are undervalued by
are studying her discovery in clinical tests. adults," she says. "Nobody's going to
"I was lucky in that I came to my 2 take you seriously because of that stigma
research with little background knowledge attached. Creativity and initiative are sti-
on the subject," Day says. "So I didn't real- Dfled."
ize I was moving in a direction that scien- Day has opted to pursue a career in
tists, because of their previous findings, were saying would research instead of practicing medicine, and plans to earn a
not work." doctorate of philosophy or a medical degree, and to "broad-
In her spare time she gets around to cross-country run- en out" her research pursuits.
ning, Civil War re-enactments, antique book collecting, "I have the feeling that anyone can do what they want to
singing professionally, playing guitar, reading a book each do," she says. "It just depends on whether you're interested.
night and writing poetry. You have to like what you do." Jim Radosta, The
"I absolutely detest being bored," she says. Graphic, Pepperdine U.
APRIL1994

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