All posts by Ray Cotolo

Humans of Etown: Sean Danieli

“This is just a strange situation. Because I am finding myself fundamentally unable to articulate what I’m thinking. It’s about not actualizing myself, which is ironic because I am not actualizing what I wish to express. I’ve perpetually had this issue of not being able to actualize myself, and it comes about in the form of not doing well in school and a lot of other things—like not knowing how to talk. I was kicked out of Elizabethtown College and now I’m back at Elizabethtown College, because it is an upward battle against executive functioning deficits, and learning the skills to compensate for things I don’t automatically do like everyone else does.”

Kyle Praseut: Virtual Vagabond

Hidden in the dark at the top of Gibble Auditorium, Brennan Praseut, or Kyle as people call him, operates the lights and other technical happenings for Mad Cow, Elizabethtown College’s improv group. A sophomore computer engineering major, Kyle has travelled many miles just to end up in the techie booth and, while his academics and extracurricular may not reveal it, carries with him an energetic innocence which likely brought him to the group in the first place.

A mobile homestead

Kyle was born in the great state of Mississippi, known for its river. This garnered him the nickname ‘Mississippi Kyle’ within the group, but Mississippi was only his temporary home. His mother, a flight attendant, moved the family around often as Kyle grew up and, to date, he has lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and California before he and his family moved to their current residence in Wisconsin.

“I’ve gone to more schools than there are technically grades up through college,” he said. “This has led to me being able to experience so many different regional cultures within the U.S.”

The constant movement for Kyle prevented him from fully planting his roots. Once acquainted with the social climate, the Praseut family would pick up tack and haul over to another place in the country they would try to call home. As a result, Kyle learned how to express himself more vibrantly—essentially learning how to market his personality efficiently enough to fit into his new environment.

“But the deeper set of solidifying friendship skills I never really truly developed,” he said.

A path forward

Working on an essay regarding the implications of virtual reality in the workplace, Kyle’s field of study is computers, a popular market in the rising tide of the digital age. More specifically, Kyle studies the process of engineering technologies including artificial intelligence and virtual reality. His hope is to one day work with top-technological companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, etc.

“Optimally, I would go into research for quote-on-quote cutting-edge technology, like A.I. and neuronetworks,” he said. “But most likely I’ll end up doing database management or be the lead engineer at a leading technology firm. Hopefully.”

In his dorm room, which he shares with another engineering student, is a computer tower, where Kyle plays games and works. It stands as a virtual centerpiece both to the otherwise messy aesthetic of a college guy’s dorm room and to the life of Kyle. The tower is the beacon to Kyle’s life—computers are what currently propels humanity and what Kyle wants to propel him.

A reflection

Coming of age in adolescence is among one of the major thresholds people attempt to cross over in life. Kyle, despite his unconventional childhood, looks back positively on the experiences which ultimately culminated into him as a person today.

“It’s a good question to think [if I wished to have grown up a different way], but I think it’s a trap in of itself,” he said. “If you’re not truly happy with who you are, then that definitely influences your answer. I am happy with who I am today regardless of my flaws, because of all the trials and tribulations I have had to go through as a person. As long as I’m happy, that’s all that really matters.

“I would not wish I’d lived a different life, because I would’ve missed out on so many positive experiences that I feel people who stay in one place really do lack, and that’s not to say lacking that experience is making them lesser in any way, shape, or form—we all live and lead different lives. It’s just a core part of my personality that I would loathe to give up.”

***

Once the show goes and the lights come up, Kyle exits the booth at the heavens and walks down to chat with the cast and the crowd as they walk out. Conversations pop up across the room as audience talks to cast about the show and people pour out through the doorways. Eventually, the room empties and the lights come down. Kyle, satisfied with the direction his life, picks up a box of unsold merchandise and strides out of Gibble Auditorium, leaving a place he can call home.

MGMT ventures deep into ‘Little Dark Age’

Now ten years since releasing chart-topping songs including “Time to Pretend” and “Electric Feel,” MGMT, well removed from popular music, emerges from its experimental rabbit hole with a nostalgically vintage sound in Little Dark Age, its fourth studio album.

MGMT, composed of the dynamic indie-rock duo of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, rose to fame in 2008 with the tracks “Time to Pretend,” “Kids,” and “Electric Feel,” all of which were satirically composed—“Time to Pretend,” in particular, mocks the band’s potential meteoric rise to fame with them buying islands, having more women than necessary and overdosing just because, for rockstars, its par for the course.

Following Oracular Spectacular, MGMT left the soundscape of popular music and moved to the more fringe indie realm with their sophomore record Congratulations, which was more introspective in nature with a narrative dissecting the pressures and emotions the band faced while ascending to the heights of pop culture. This album was then followed by their self-titled album, composed entirely of unusual and often improvised melodies as the band played around with their sound.

However, with their move to making music in untested waters, both Congratulations and MGMT did not reach the critical acclaim of their debut record. In fact, MGMT experienced a critical descent following their strong debut despite the fact that both Congratulations and MGMT are great albums in their own right, particularly Congratulations, which many critics retrospectively view as the pair’s best record to date. Now, with Little Dark Age, MGMT applies the same awareness they did with Congratulations to the cultural paradigm of what is defined, for lack of a better term, as the Trump Era.

Leading to the release of Little Dark Age were four singles, the first being the title track which rides heavily the gothic aesthetic inherent to the dark ages. As the title track, “Little Dark Age” serves as a thematic guide to the rest of the album, but not necessarily restricted to the sound of the record. While “Little Dark Age” is a haunted synth-pop tune with motifs of fear and uncertainty, the first track on the album, “She Works Out Too Much,” is an ironic homage to ‘80s pop with the feel of Olivia Newton-John if her sound was influenced by psilocybin.

The second single accompanying the album was “When You Die,” a song that’s lyrically aggressive but melodically tender. “When You Die” displays an annexation between themes from Congratulations and the ideas which Little Dark Age attempts to convey all through the guise of ego. While Congratulations felt more personalized in the sense that the album focused more on the struggles of the “artist” (to put it pretentiously), “When You Die” is able to universalize similar themes in a somewhat symbolic way—death, as a great equalizer, serves as an unambiguous messenger of a message regarding the volatility of ego.

The fourth single released was “Me And Michael,” a cover of a song of the same name by True Faith, a rock band from the Philippines. It’s the closest the band will ever get to writing a pop song of the same caliber as their previous chart toppers, and the band is so aware of this that they mock stardom in the process. In the music video, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser are in different parts of the country (as they were before working on Little Dark Age since the band was on hiatus since 2013) and they share the song with each other, both falling in love with the innocent and compassionate sound of the song. VanWyngarden then says “It’s beautiful. We should steal this song” and the music begins. The rest of the video is a rapid dramatization of achieving fame, falling under scrutiny for stealing a song, then landing destitute before apologizing to True Faith for stealing “Michael.” Basically, it’s the themes of “Time to Pretend” rehashed and matured.

Finally, the third single, and the last song on the album, is “Hand It Over,” which is a spacey elegy to MGMT’s stardom. Like “Congratulations,” which comments on the band’s contributions to culture not mattering so long as “the tickets sell,” “Hand It Over” is the band exiting its little dark age by coming to terms with their place in the musical universe. The band’s denouement comes at the hands of record companies not rewarding experimentation but profit instead. However, the general theme of the song is the conflict of authority (a “king”) milking his constituents, who are responsible for his power as they grant it to him.

While it may not be the last record for MGMT, Little Dark Age could serve as a manic finale to the duo’s career together. It is holistic to the motifs the band has played with from day one and is, as such, a climax and resolution to the artistic arc of MGMT. After entering their own dark age following critical panning of their work, the band has created a beacon and encapsulated the inner-most conflicts of the infantile 21st century with Little Dark Age, all while the band grabs hold of the light at the end of their tunnel and resurfaces both anew and accomplished.

Accelerate Giant in ‘Big Cap’; Bolt d’Oro Golden in San Felipe

Ascending to the graded-stakes stage after beating world-champion Arrogate in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap last July, John Sadler-trainee Accelerate collected his first Grade 1 victory, romping over the wet-fast surface in the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap as the favorite going a mile and a quarter on Saturday, March 10 at Santa Anita.

Sitting close to the front behind pacesetter Mubtaahij, jockey Victor Espinoza and Accelerate waited till the far turn to advance, overtaking Mubtaahij turning for home with Giant Expectations close. Accelerate extended his lead to five-and-a-half lengths at the wire. Mubtaahij finished second, with Fear The Cowboy closing to finish third seven lengths back.

A five-year-old stallion by Lookin At Lucky, Accelerate, competing for owner Hronis Racing LLC, won his sixth race in 17 starts, surpassing the million-dollar earnings plateau with $1,262,480 compiled. He paid $7.00 to win.

“I’m a hometown boy—I’ve seen a lot of big caps and ran [horses] in a few of them; ran a few pretty well, but didn’t win one until today,” Sadler, winning his first “Big Cap”, said. “[Victor Espinoza] did exactly what we wanted him to. We thought this horse has a high cruising speed he was exactly where we wanted him to be.”

Following a long inquiry resulting in the disqualification of even-money favorite McKinzie, Bolt d’Oro was placed first in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, run before the rains downgraded the track, at Santa Anita.

The disqualification of McKinzie came after a stewards ruling of interference at the top of and through the stretch. McKinzie bumped into Bolt d’Oro, who was closing on the leaders moving around the turn. The bump forced Bolt d’Oro wide into the stretch and finishing second by a head, a margin small enough for the stewards to declare McKinzie won with an unfair advantage.

In his first start of the season, Bolt d’Oro, a three-year-old colt by Medaglia d’Oro, won his fourth race in five starts, earning $780,000 for owner Ruis Racing LLC and trainer Mick Ruis. Javier Castellano was aboard the $630,000 yearling purchase, who paid $4.40 to win.

“We just wanted to see a good race out of him,” Ruis said. “He broke well, then it looked like we were going to win by a couple there. Losing by [a] head was okay; I didn’t even pay attention to the inquiry.

“To be able to beat a horse like McKinzie, and how fit Bob [Baffert] had him, that is incredible. With Bob, if I run even within a nose of him I feel like I won. So, even in defeat, I would’ve been okay with it.”

The San Felipe, reserving 50 points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard for the winner, put Bolt d’Oro at the top of the standings for the first Saturday in May, leading Gotham-winner Enticed and Risen Star-winner Bravazo.

“We’re looking forward to the Santa Anita Derby. And then, coming good out of that one, there’s that other race that we’re looking for.”

To listen to the podcast recap, click here.

Etown to host speakers on opioid epidemic

ELIZABETHTOWN, PA—Elizabethtown College on Thursday announced that it will be hosting a group of speakers on Monday, Feb. 19 who will discuss in detail the extent of the opioid crisis in central Pennsylvania.

The symposium will be held in light of the current state of opioid abuse in Pennsylvania, which has the fourth-largest overdose rate in the United States. In early January, Gov. Tom Wolf declared the opioid epidemic a statewide disaster, which was done to provide greater access to aid for the state.

“I knew like three kids that went to my high school that died from [overdose] in the past year,” a former Elizabethtown High School student said. “I wasn’t friends with them, but I knew who they were.”

“Almost every night you hear the firetrucks or ambulances going to respond to overdoses,” an Etown college student who lives off campus said. “It’s a real issue around here.”

Issues to be covered at the symposium include the science behind addiction, treatments for addiction, and the sociological ramifications of the opioid crisis.

On the speaking panel are Mary Dolheimer, a board member of York County’s drug-awareness organization ‘Not One More,’ Kate Eberz, a social worker at the Naaman Center for drug treatment in Elizabethtown, Tom Hagan, an associate professor of Biochemistry at the college, E. Fletcher McClellan, a professor of political science at Etown, and Gail Viscome, executive director of Elizabethtown Area Communities That Care, which focuses on the promotion of drug-abuse prevention as well as physical and emotional wellbeing.

The Masters Center at Elizabethtown College, where Esbenshade Hall is located.

The symposium, which is free to the public, will be at 7 p.m. in Esbenshade Hall. Additional information on the event can be acquired from Susan Mapp, a professor of social work and a department chair at Etown college, by calling 717-361-3766 or by email at mapps@etown.edu.