A Timely Project: Senior Courtney Schrom studies the impacts of mask-wearing during the pandemic for her senior thesis.

Courtney Schrom is a senior who is prepping for her last couple of weeks on-campus at Eastern. That means she is in the home stretch of her senior thesis, and that is a true light at the end of the tunnel at this point for the senior. Schrom is a Communications major with a Digital/Emerging Media concentration and chances are, you’ve seen her photos of Eastern’s athletic teams as she is a student photographer as well.

There aren’t many more topics that could be timelier as Schrom’s senior thesis is on the impact facemasks have had on people during the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, her research focused on the impacts of relationship development, mental health, and communication. Mental health is a topic that is very important to Schrom though not her original idea for a topic. She had a few other proposal ideas before honing in on the impacts of facemasks, but the idea for researching facemasks came after a conversation with a friend. After the conversation, she heard numerous different stances on facemasks which helped give her interest in further research.

Once she got her topic proposal approved, Schrom began her research which was difficult at first. Even if the pandemic has felt like it has gone on for a long time,
there wasn’t a whole lot of published work on it when Schrom began doing her research for the senior thesis. Obviously, it was a relatively new topic at the time, but
by the time last semester was winding down there was a lot more research done and that helped get the ball rolling.

A couple of the interesting findings Schrom shared with me are that masks actually make people less anxious in public settings, and that drug use has gone up since people began wearing them. The first tidbit was especially interesting to me as someone from a family of introverts, and her research showed that the masks provide a sense of “protection” which helps reduce anxiety.

Another important tidbit Schrom gave me applies to any students that have taken COMM 280: Communication Theory and are Communications majors. You may want to keep your textbooks handy from the class as Schrom said that she ended up having to use a couple of those theories from the class into her thesis, so make sure to freshen up on the “Social Penetration Theory” and the “Narrative Paradigm” going into senior seminar.

While Schrom doesn’t have any immediate plans to continue her academic career by going on to getting her Master’s or PhD right after her time at Eastern, she
would be interested in doing further research down the line once the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have settled a little bit more. Her senior thesis was a
qualitative study, which required a lot of second-hand research, but she would also like to do a quantitative study someday that would focus on the socio-economic
impacts the pandemic has had. Schrom also has the hope that her thesis can be a stepping stone for other scholars who will continue studying effects of the pandemic for years to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic may be a subject that is still “too soon” for some, but Schrom took on the tall task of focusing her senior thesis on the current pandemic. While it was a long and very tedious journey that has taken up most of her senior year, the finish line is now truly in sight and it is a rewarding feeling to see it all
coming together. The paper itself should be wrapped up over the next few days, and then it’s on to presenting her thesis for the department before finally being done with her senior thesis.

Make It or Break It: Do superstitions affect performance? A look at some athletes’ routine rituals.

A lot of athletes have habits that they have had since their early years. Whether it’s a simple ritual that they believe enhances their performance, or a certain type of music they listen to before a game, it’s not uncommon for athletes to
have something specific they have to do before their games. Before writing this article, I never knew that the legendary Michael Jordan wore his UNC Tar Heels shorts under his NBA shorts. Or that one of the fiercest linebackers in the history of the NFL in Brian Urlacher ate two chocolate chip cookies before games. Speaking to some of Eastern’s athletes, I was enlightened to some of the routines our players have.

Pitcher for Eastern’s baseball team Riley Kiebach said that he used to play with his fly down. While all players have their distinct types of music they enjoy listening to, it was surprising when Riley said he listens to Gregorian Chants to get himself in the right mindset to go out and play.

Pitcher Michael Gray has adopted a simple routine leading up to his games since coming to college. On his way to the mound, he does a little jump over the baseline. He also has a playlist of rap music that hypes him up and gets him in the right mindset to play. As simple as his routine may sound, his high school regimen consisted of always eating a peanut butter sandwich, making two lines in the dirt, and counting the “two” times table. He would also always shake his bat the same way. “Just something that worked,” Gray said after I asked why he stuck to such a specific routine before his games. When talking to Gray, he also mentioned that he has
become less superstitious since coming to college. As he mentioned, he had an actual routine that he followed in high school but has become freer since coming to college. Now, his main concern is with actually getting out onto the mound and playing and not focusing on superstition. He has become less obsessed with the mental games and wants to just go in and do it.

Midfielder for Eastern’s Men’s Lacrosse team, Connor Gill, also shared his routine. The chapel services before his games is one thing he noted about gamedays. Showering before games has also become a habit, and he also listens to relaxing music to get himself ready for games. When you attend sports games, you’ll usually hear rap or rock music on the PA systems that create an energetic atmosphere. Gill prefers to listen to EDM music along with remixes found on SoundCloud to get
into the right mindset almost like the calm before the storm.

Getting to hear some of our athletes’ routines and habits before games was eye-opening. A lot of what was said came as a surprise, but it gives a peek into the mental preparation athletes go through so that they can go out and do what they do best.

Source: Business Insider

Image description: NBA legend, Michael Jordan, is famously superstitious for wearing his UNC Tar Heels shorts under his Chicago Bulls ones.

The Big Goodbye: China and the Last Years of Hollywood.

The book I’ve been chipping away at this semester is “The Big Goodbye: China and the Last Years of Hollywood”. It’s a historical look back at the 1974 noir film, Chinatown. It was one of the last films in the golden age of Hollywood, and the final line “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown” remains one of the most iconic lines in all of cinema. It’s also a film that launched the career of Jack Nicholson into stardom. The book details the process of casting Nicholson, a tough choice as “Jack had had his share of big roles in small movies and small roles in big movies, but he never played a big part” says author Sam Wasson. The studio took a chance on Nicholson similarly to the way Paramount took a chance on Al Pacino in “The Godfather” just a couple of years before “Chinatown” released. Suffice to say, the risk paid off.

Another thing the book covers is the story of Roman Polanski. The legendary director had a rough stretch after his 1968 hit, “Rosemary’s Baby”. His wife, Sharon Tate, was unfortunately killed which cast quite a shadow on the filmmaker. His resilience to continue making the film that became “Chinatown” is all the more impressive after reading this in-depth look at that period of Polanski’s life.

What makes ‘The Big Goodbye” different from other film books is that it gives you a full history on the important people who had a role in the making of Chinatown. Sam Wasson is able to capture a moment in a time of the world of film that we are so far away from with the rise of franchises. I highly recommend ‘The Big Goodbye” to anyone interested in the history of films.

Movie of the Month: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.”

After four long years in the making, Zack Snyder’s original vision for 2017’s “Justice League” finally released on HBO Max this month. The 2017 version was so utterly disappointing, and a lot of it can be traced back to the turmoil that happened behind the scenes on the production.

Zack Snyder has confessed to not seeing the 2017 version, but according to the people who worked on both productions, they only used about an hour of his footage. That means that about half of the film, to our knowledge, was what he originally intended. It was a mixed bag of forced humor, clunky CGI and a story that was clearly trimmed down and rushed. Now, the director of “300” gets to share his version of the film.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” follows Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), as he tries to recruit a team to combat earth’s biggest foe yet: Steppenwolf. The events of the film take place after
2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” so the world
is still without a Superman heading into this film.

One of the biggest things 2017’s “Justice League” wasted was a stacked cast. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is able to redeem Ray Fisher’s Cyborg and Ezra Miller’s Flash. Those are two characters that got pushed off to the side in the 2017 counterpart in favor of heavy-hitters Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman.

That being said, it’s very much still Ben Affleck’s film for the most part. Batman is the leader of the group, and it’s him that assembles and leads the team into battle.

Does a superhero film really need to be longer than “The Godfather Part 2,” “Seven Samurai,” or “The Irishman?” In short, no, but don’t be intimidated by the four-hour runtime. The story moves at a swift pace for the most part, and the film is also split into six chapters, making it much more digestible as a miniseries if desired.

Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller got their dues in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” but another character that gets redemption is the villain, Steppenwolf. The 2017 “Justice League” film featured a watered down and overly simplified version of the character. The CGI of the character in the 2017 film lacked any sort of emotion and looked straight out of a PS3 video game.

Zack Snyder’s film rejuvenates the character aesthetically and story-wise, making him a much more formidable foe to go against the Justice League. He also gets a backstory, so the
audience understands his motives to an extent. The 2021 version of the villain is much closer to Thanos from the Avengers films than Malekith from “Thor: The Dark World.”

Whether you liked 2017’s “Justice League” or absolutely hated it, it’s hard to argue that “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” isn’t an improvement in some way. The story still has the bones of the original, but this feels like an entirely different film as the stories are fully fleshed out in the four-hour runtime.

Where the 2017 film fumbled, the 2021 version picks it up and runs it into the end zone. Sadly, it ends with cliffhangers that may never be paid off, but it also offers one last glance at Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill sharing the screen as Batman and Superman. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is an anomaly in film history where the stars are perfectly aligned, and it will continue to be looked at for years to come.

Source: MovieWeb

The Art of “The Joshua Tree”: Insight on the career-defining album that made U2 the biggest band in America.

Long before U2 put an album in your iTunes account in 2014, they were the biggest band in America. “The Joshua Tree” has lived on as one of their greatest accomplishments as the songs feel just as relevant today as they did 34 years ago.

The album opens with a soft organ before The Edge’s signature guitar riff comes in. “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a timeless rock anthem that has been shaking arenas and stadiums for over 30 years now. The second track is for anyone who has doubts about their religion and hasn’t found what they’re looking for. U2 explores gospel and soul music with, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The shimmering guitar of “With or Without You” sends chills down my spine on every listen. It’s a slow burn that builds to a crashing crescendo.

“Bullet the Blue Sky” remains one of the band’s most visceral political songs to date. Bono was inspired after a trip to El Salvador, and his growling vocals add to The Edge’s roaring Jimi Hendrix-style guitar riff. It’s a perfect quartet piece where each member of the band is at the height of their powers.

“Running to Stand Still” is a heartbreaking tune about heroin addictions that closes out the packed side one of the album. The closing lines of the song, “She will suffer the needle’s chill/She’s running to stand still” has remained one of Bono’s best lyrics. The second side of “The Joshua Tree” is where you get some songs that are lesser-known than the opening five but are much more personal. “Red Hill Mining Town,” “In God’s Country,” and “Trip Through Your Wires” are where U2 really sink their teeth into Americana music.

Greg Carroll was a roadie for U2 since their early days. If you watch their Live Aid performance, you can see Carroll untangling the microphone and adjusting it for Bono throughout their set. Carroll died in 1986 and was only 26, which hit the band so hard and inspired “One Tree Hill.” The song is both a celebration of life and a promise that Carroll will reunite with the band one day.

The second to last song, “Exit,” matches the intensity of “Bullet the Blue Sky” but adds builds on top of that with an even more manic energy. The closer of the album is the quiet “Mothers of the Disappeared.” The song is seemingly inspired by Bono’s aforementioned trip to El Salvador along with the Chilean mothers who had children taken from them. It’s a somber but fitting end to an album that both celebrates the beauty and ugliness in countries.

My aunt had always promised to take me to a U2 concert when I was little, and it was her that introduced me to the album and the band that would become a constant in my life to this day. I was fortunate enough to catch a show on the 30th anniversary tour in 2017 at MetLife stadium.

Hearing 70,000 fans erupt during the opening notes of “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a feeling that you have to experience yourself to understand. Even though U2 this was as an “anniversary tour,” the album is filled with songs that translate to our political climate today, which justifies the tour for me. It’s a timeless album that will continue to age as one of U2’s best.

Source: Diffuser

People of Eastern: Meet Dr. Hatch, the Chair of the Communications Studies Department.

Dr. John Hatch has been the Chair of the Communications Studies Department here at Eastern for almost a decade now. I sat down with Dr. Hatch and spoke to him about his journey to Eastern along with interests he has that students may not know about.

To describe his path to Eastern University, Dr. Hatch said “it was a long and winding road” with a smile as he used The Beatles’ famous line. Dr. Hatch actually grew up in Bryn Mawr which is only minutes from Eastern’s campus. Dr. Hatch’s earliest memory at Eastern was actually as a pre-teen when he and his friend went skateboarding on Eastern’s campus. He began his undergraduate journey at Messiah College before taking a year off. He then returned to school at Temple University studying psychology. After two years at Temple, Dr. Hatch then spent five years working with the Youth With A Mission organization in Colorado. This was a turning point for Dr. Hatch as he then resumed his studies and spent three years at Colorado State College finishing off his bachelor’s degree with a double major in English and secondary education.

Dr. Hatch returned to Colorado State College for his master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. This is also where he happened to meet his wife Christie. After finishing his master’s degree, Dr. Hatch and his wife spent three years from 1994 to 1997 in Kazakhstan where he taught English.

After the life-changing trip to Kazakhstan, Dr. Hatch returned to school to get his Ph.D. at Regent University. His reasoning for going to Regent was wanting to attend a Christian university where he wouldn’t have to separate his faith from his academics. The closest program Regent had to English was Communications, and I think it’s safe to say it ended up working out well for him. Even though Dr. Hatch’s college journey was long – eleven semesters over eleven years for his bachelor’s degree alone – he wants students to know he can relate if they don’t feel like they know where they want to go in life.

Shortly after getting his Ph.D., Dr. Hatch took a job at the University of Dubuque. By his own admission, Iowa wasn’t necessarily the first place he went looking for a job, but it ended up teaching there for eight years and is grateful for his time there. It helped him establish himself as a professor and refine the trade he has been doing since.

Something Dr. Hatch has always loved to do was analyze literature. He named poems specifically as a medium he always enjoyed analyzing. While in school, he discovered the art of rhetoric and finds it rewarding to dig into an artifact and its significance. It has become his new expressive outlet. What fascinates him is how certain artifacts shape perspectives, worldviews, and identities. His most recent published work is a rhetorical analysis of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was three years in the making but was completely worth it for Dr. Hatch. While nothing is set in stone, his next potential analysis could be of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album What’s Going On.

The overall theme of Dr. Hatch’s journey has been that despite an unconventional journey, he has seen God’s providence time and time again. The right opportunities presented themselves at the right moments and led him to where he was meant to be.

Athlete Spotlight: A look beyond athletics at EU Baseball’s Michael Gray.

Michael Gray is a sophomore pitcher for the Eastern University Baseball team. We spoke over Zoom and ended up talking for over 3 hours. Starting with baseball, this is clearly a season of ambiguity, and Grey simply hopes to play. The current plan in place has the season being
trimmed in half, but the training hasn’t let up. On top of practices, the baseball players are required to be COVID tested three times a week. While Grey deems it necessary, he also sees it as an inconvenience as it takes a chunk out of his mornings. All of these steps are being taken in preparation for the upcoming season which will consist of double headers on weekends. The first game will be 7 innings, and the second will be a full 9.

Grey grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey which is only minutes away from New York City. His parents never forced him in any sort of direction. Being so close to “The Big Apple” was a great learning experience for him as a child as his parents would visit museums and go to Broadway plays.

Grey is currently studying Communications with a minor in Marketing and a concentration in Interpersonal Communication. His career goal is
to do something in social media marketing which explains his favorite class being “Social Media in Organizations”. Another dream of his is to be location independent. Even now, Grey enjoys traveling when it’s feasible. He currently works at Zime at least three times a week while also juggling the responsibilities of baseball and school. With actual games coming up soon, it’s going to become even harder to juggle all of this but “it’s a means to an end,” says Grey as he gives a shrug.

While most know Grey as a student athlete, he wants to be known as more than that. Outside of playing baseball some of his hobbies include collecting baseball cards and reading. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been full of hardships, Grey has also used this time to
improve himself and learn about things that interested him. At one point he held up the book he is currently reading which is on Buddhism. It’s something he claims to not have a lot of knowledge in and wants to garner some through reading. “Even if it’s a page a day, that one page can lead to more,” Grey shared.

As mentioned earlier, Grey loves to travel. Grey and his girlfriend run a travel Instagram page titled “traveling.under.the.stars.” It’s filled with beautiful pictures of New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, among other cities. The account has grown to over 1,300 followers and speaks volumes about Grey’s ability to market and grow an account.

Grey’s ambition is clear when you talk to him, he’s always up to trying new things and is working hard to make his dreams a reality.

“Whether it’s a podcast, YouTube video, or post, the first one will always be bad. Just go for it.”

Make sure to check out his travel page: @traveling.under.the.stars on Instagram.

“Nomadland”: A book spotlight on the new American dream.

In an age of social media and constantly being surrounded by technology, it’s almost impossible to imagine living a quiet and low-key life. It’s almost admirable that people actually live the lifestyle nomads do. “Nomadland” is a partly-tragic and partly-uplifting look into the lives of nomads who take their mobile homes all over the country finding seasonal jobs. The book consists of real accounts of people who have taken on this unconventional way of living. With the recent film adaptation of “Nomadland” releasing in time for the awards season on Hulu, it seems fitting to take a look at the 2017 award-winning book that inspired it.

Our culture seemingly has an idealistic standard of what a normal life is. It usually consists of a steady job, family and a house. “Nomadland” quickly debunks this and immerses you into the nomadic lifestyle. Interestingly enough, the beginnings of this trend can be traced back to 2005 as learned in the book. Bob Wells launched CheapRVLiving.com in 2005, detailing how people could begin minimizing their lifestyle. It’s not easy all of the time as many do face hardships. For one, the work many of the nomads do is generally very demanding. Some oversee campsites, which include the not-so-glamorous aspects of these vacation spots. Others will take seasonal jobs at an Amazon facility. Most of us have ordered stuff we really needed from Amazon and got it within a few days. The book will surely give you a new perspective and appreciation for the people who do the physical work at a company we all give money to. Not only is it physically taxing, the work itself is so mundane as workers spend hours categorizing and scanning items. Certain workers in the book detail a routine they have, which consists of taking different medicines at specific times to get them through the day. There was one couple in particular that would park their RV miles away from the warehouse and then bike together at night before their long, overnight shift. They would then have to bike miles back in the cold and pitch black before starting the rotation again the very next day. If the book doesn’t do it for you, I am sure the film will paint a vivid picture of what goes on behind the smile you see in the Amazon logo.

“Nomadland” is a must-read for college students as we prepare to head into the workforce. The book may not change your mind on what you want to do in your career, but it will open your eyes to this new way of life. It’s such a grounded story that takes place exclusively in the real heart of America. I personally found the book to be inspirational, and if U2’s 1987 album “The Joshua Tree” was an exploration of the American Dream, “Nomadland” seemingly details what the new and improved American Dream looks like.

Reddit and Wall Street: The 2021 David vs. Goliath Story ; The trading world turned on its head when day traders caused GameStop stocks to jump astronomically high.

The new year started off in weird fashion when a group of day traders put GameStop and AMC Theaters back in the news when their stocks skyrocketed in late January. If you’ve ever seen Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film, The Wolf of Wall Street, this idea of “shorting” is nothing new. As I understand it, “shorting”, or “short-selling”, is borrowing stocks and selling them off at market value while predicting their value will diminish. People will borrow the stocks for a set amount of time, and then they have to eventually buy the stocks back while hoping that their prediction is correct.

If it goes well, the trader returns the stock and takes the difference. It’s a risky strategy as you could be “short- squeezed”, which is when the stock may not lower as much as you expect and thus you have a decision to make. This became a headache for big-time professional investors, called retail traders, who usually make a living off of “shorting”.

The team of Reddit users created a David vs. Goliath dynamic between the two investing groups. The small-time day traders began driving up the prices of the stocks which left the established retail traders with a proverbial grenade in their hands as they would lose money. This graph below* is taken from statistica.com and shows the meteoric rise in late January. GameStop’s stock went up at least 1,700% during this time, and the retail traders likely let out a sigh of relief when different trading outlets like Robinhood stopped the bleeding for a little bit by blocking the trades with GameStop among other companies. Interestingly enough, GameStop’s stock was actually trending upwards before all of this happened. They brought in new executives who placed a heavy emphasis on digital sales, which seemed to grab
the attention of investors. The whole Reddit situation only gave it even more of a boost.

AMC Theaters was also propped up by day trades in the days following the GameStop news. Even as an avid movie goer, I still am a bit dumbfounded by the decision to go after these failing businesses such as brick-and-mortar video game stores in an era where digital purchases are more prominent and movie theaters which are stripped of any sort of tentpole or new releases. I am by no means an economics expert, but this whole play doesn’t seem sustainable. It’s great that some people jumped on a fad and made money but this whole system is incredibly risky.

Another thing to consider is the logistics of the legality of it. As of right now, the Reddit traders haven’t spread any fake information that would sway the trends of stocks, but it remains messy at best since there was collusion within the Reddit thread.

This wild David vs. Goliath story has seeped its way into pop culture. Twitter was flooded with memes within days of this all happening. Like a lot of culturally-significant events, the whole situation with Reddit, trading, and GameStop is going to be adapted into a film. There were already numerous other projects that were in-development about the rise and fall of GameStop, but the recent events have given people even more material to write and create on the subject.

While this story seems to have died down a bit since it started, the Reddit traders are still trying to make money as they shifted focus towards marijuana distribution stocks. That didn’t seem to go as well as GameStop, as the weed stocks plummeted this past week. We’ll see if and how the Reddit traders continue on from here.

Either way, this David and Goliath story has turned the stock trading world on its head, and provided a new way for private investors to aggregate interest in the way large trading corporations already do.

Sources: CNN, CNBC, Statista, The Verge

*Image Description: This graph follows the growth in GameStop stock prices from December 2020 to February 2021.

Black Voices In Film: A look at Black representation in the films of 2020.

Despite a lack of big films, 2020 provided a voice for Black filmmakers. 2020 was a year of delayed blockbusters and tentpole films, but it was a great year for independent films with Black filmmakers at the helm. The logical place to start is with the legendary Spike Lee who had another solid outing with the Netflix-produced Da 5 Bloods, which was Chadwick Boseman’s second to last role before his tragic death. Chadwick Boseman’s final role was also a Netflix film titled Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which he co-starred in alongside Viola Davis.

Regina King beautifully transitioned from acting in the critically-acclaimed Watchmen HBO series to directing feature films. Her directorial debut for Amazon Prime, One Night in Miami, was truly a special ensemble film that tells a fictionalized account of a night with Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown. British filmmaker Steve McQueen directed an anthology film series for Amazon Prime titled Small Axe. The five films center around different immigration stories in England from the 1960s through 1980s. The first of the bunch, Mangrove, is a stellar courtroom drama and what The Trial of the Chicago 7 aspired to be.

Judas and the Black Messiah was just released and stars two of the biggest up-and-comers in Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield. The stirring tale of loyalty and betrayal when Stanfield’s character infiltrates the Black Panther Party for the FBI. It is currently streaming on HBO Max until March 14 and is also in theaters.

Most of these films mentioned are available on streaming platforms, making them easily accessible. We’re finally beginning to see more Black voices get an opportunity to tell their stories and it’s as important as ever to watch their films.

Sources: Deadline, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max