I remember movies with scores of people driving hover cars, wearing aluminum foil like it’s the only material left to make clothing, and using an electronic voice activator for just about everything, from toothpaste to opening their front doors.

This world has been crafted and envisioned for decades by curious minds who wonder what the future might hold. Although we are not all wearing space boots, our technological advancements are much closer to our perception of “the future” than we care to realize.

Case in point: Skype. Hundreds of millions of people have logged onto this popular route of communication.

People may use this technology to reconnect with friends at other universities and parents who live out of state, but now Skype is making its way into the classroom. Whether it is a good or bad thing has yet to be determined.

The Chronicle of Higher Education addresses the idea that professors can provide lectures with incredible guests who do not have to do anything except turn on a computer screen and answer questions by pupils who may be a couple hundred miles away. There is little preparation needed on behalf of the lecturer, yet their knowledge is so easily accessible to students that it would leave many people from only a few decades ago with their jaws on the floor in amazement of such advanced technology.

Also, with so many bad weather days that TCU has had lately, talk of “Skyping in” to a missed class does not seem too far-fetched. Students would be able to directly communicate with their professor, listen to a lecture as if they were there, and even make a presentation over the video conferencing application.

My only concern is how far this mode of instantaneous communication will take us. What if it became a slippery slope to not ever sitting in class? Day after day, students across the country would wake up, pull their computer on to their lap and “Skype in” for a lecture to their ‘Intro to Psychology’ class. Our world may become more like the universe in the movie “Wall-E” than we care to believe.

Face-to-face interaction is vital to our comprehension of a concept and to building relationships. Texting, Facebooking, and e-mailing have become quicker routes of information sharing, but we are missing out on significant amounts of context when all we get are black letters juxtaposed to a white background of an opened e-mail.

Similarly, we are seeing a secondhand version of the person who we are talking to on Skype. With only a pixilated image on a screen, being in a different environment than your conversation partner can affect your mood. Too many adjustments need to be made in order to get the full effect of traditional interaction. Since when could a normal lecture in class be bumped down a few notches in volume or blacked out for a few seconds of privacy?

Today’s technological advancements are simply awe-inspiring. Our only challenge is to maintain a healthy physical awareness of self as well as making the most of our rapidly modernizing world. Maybe someday we can achieve a balance between conventional communication and purposeful Skyping while eating freeze-dried astronaut food.


The life of a college student is constantly changing — this is the time we lay the foundation for our values, opinions and beliefs. We are always trying out new majors and political views and making new friends.

Just two years ago, our nation was in the midst of one of the most exciting national elections to date. The Democrats had a solid hold over Congress, the first black president was on the verge of election and we discovered that Tina Fey had an uncanny resemblance to Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president. The youth vote, largely in favor of the Democrats, played a vital role in that election. However, the upcoming 2010 mid-term election looks to be much more evenly spread when it comes to youth voter identity.

Kirk Johnson’s article in The New York Times, titled “Fewer Young Voters See Themselves as Democrats,” explored the shift in these patterns through universities across the country. The article points out that, with such a troubled economy, young voters are more fiscally conservative, but socially liberal.

It can be scary, especially as an upperclassman or young adult in general, to be so close to taking the next step in life and focusing on starting a career. With the unemployment rate higher than it has been in a while, why not be cautious?

Although I personally lean to the left of the political spectrum, I believe that Americans — young or old, employed or not — have similar basic political motivations. It seems to me that the dominant two-party system of government is fundamentally blocking any progression on either end of this polarized partisan process.

Both parties have solid platforms that are respected for what they are, but political identification is not always black and white. Practically anything can affect a voter’s habits, such as parents, personal experience with an issue or even current events, like the state of the economy.

Politics often follows a cyclical pattern that trades off phases in the majority between the Republicans and Democrats. The upcoming election may well be a transition in party control with so many seats up for grabs.

As with the influence youth voting patterns in 2008, the youth vote could sway the election this time around. Whether impassioned by one party or another, I ask that you take a measured look at how you cast your vote.

It is always interesting to see the changes in voter identification, but are we as youth voters really as fickle as the statistics make us look?

I have no intention of swaying anyone’s vote to one side or another, but I just ask that you fully weigh your options before stepping into the voting booths in November. During this exciting time in American politics, our government may sway back and forth on issues, but we don’t have to.

Feeling the beads of sweat drip down a heroine’s face, seeing a beautiful sunset out of a narrator’s bedroom window or hearing the sobs of a star-crossed lover is to know the world of a good book. What takes you beyond the written word to the story behind it is the author’s beautifully constructed vernacular and passion for the subject. From the tales of Shakespeare’s love triangles to the anguish of George Orwell’s “1984,” books of literary merit resonate through history and continue to affect people.

It is not so much the message, however, that is in the hot seat of discussion nowadays, but more the messenger. The overarching popularity of the electronic book has caused both relief and anguish in the world of written composition.

DailyFinance.com, a website offering hot-button news on finance, warns that it will cost much more to own a hard copy of a literary work within the next few years. Readers will spend almost 30 percent more on books than today’s average hard cover price, yet the prices of virtual books will remain affordable, according to the website. This should be good news for the average college student, though, as textbooks are predicted to become increasingly more popular in their virtual formats.

Amazon recently announced that the sales of e-readers like the Kindle and Nook have surpassed real books on its website.

Of course, convenience is another relevant issue at hand. What is easier than picking up an e-reader and reading it on the way to class, on a long trip or just slipping it off your shelf for some leisure reading? It is lightweight, unable to be torn, space-savvy and leaves you more worry-free than a real book.

Conversely, I cannot help but feel the expediency of the e-book does not make up for the reverence we should pay to the greatest authors of the past and present. The popular maxim—too much of a good thing is bad—accurately depicts the concept of so many great writers compressed together into one electronic device. Harper Lee, Vladimir Nabokov, and William Faulkner justly deserve good-sized amounts of shelf space.

As university students, we have a lot on our plates. Sprinting from a class in Rickel to a class in Bass in 10 minutes is a challenge in itself. The convenience of an online textbook, or easily cradled e-reader, can assist in diminishing some of the complexity of our lives and maximizing the generally small spaces we are given in our dorms or apartments.

But although the magnificent stories and information of the past will live on through technologies such as the e-book, it would be heartrending to see the book in its physical form gone forever. There is something poetic in opening the cover of a book to its first page. It is a journey through the binding.

We do not currently have to choose exclusively between the e-book and the real book, but it is vitally important that we will always have an option.

Hollywood, since its inception, has captivated the hearts and imaginations of millions.

Almost everyone at some point has fantasized about his or her shining moment. Whether you’re partial to Tom Hanks, Vin Diesel or Nicole Kidman, somewhere deep inside is a fantasy about being a star. As Hollywood has certainly taught us, we know that anything’s possible in the land of movie magic.

Consequently, Hollywood moguls have to have some way of separating the haves from the have-nots.

Enter a small, golden man with a crusader’s sword standing atop a reel of film. This is Oscar.

Every year in early spring, the rich, beautiful and yes, even the talented, gather at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre for industrial honors – The Academy (as in “I’d like to thank the”) of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. The Academy hands Oscar to the very elite – those who, over the last year, have made us laugh, cry and experience a myriad of emotions.

From the moment their rarified feet touch the temporal tapestry of the red carpet, stars, directors, key grips, best boys – even seat fillers – exude a special message: This is the biggest night of the year for movies.

Why should this year be any different? Film enthusiasts say that the lineup may be lacking. The viewer turnout should be pretty strong, though, because of the blockbuster hit “Avatar,” which is up for nine nominations.

Of course, this cinematic phenomenon is worth discussing for the sake of its significance in the film industry over the past year. James Cameron, director and writer of “Avatar,” has poured his lifelong dreams and voracious work ethic into the movie. At first, moviegoers seemed skeptical when they heard tall, lanky, blue people would be starring in what was expected to be a box office hit.

A huge nod goes to “Avatar” for breaking special effects barriers and providing a pretty good storyline. When Cameron berated the Academy for not giving a nomination to the actors, I think a line should have been drawn. Never before has an animated character won an Academy Award for acting, nor should it.

Other buzz-worthy nominations include the true artistic successes of films such as “District 9,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “Inglourious Basterds.” These gems are filled with visually appealing elements as well as engaging storylines.

As for Best Picture, the Academy decided to double up on its nominations this year, choosing 10 instead of five. Why? Perhaps there were too many fantastic pictures to choose from or perhaps there were too many mediocre ones. In actuality, this announcement was released at the end of June last year and the Academy did have good reason for it.

In the early days of the Academy Awards, there was a larger pool to select from in each category. So when some people are skeptical that the Oscars might fail to represent the artistic masterpieces of the year, or just run even longer than they have been for the past few years, they needn’t worry.

Personally, I have faith in the Academy members, and perhaps even more so now that they’ve chosen the comedic pair of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin to host for the night. When March 7 arrives, the Oscars will be different. But I think it will be for the better. Although some movies seem to lack the caliber of an Academy Award-nominated film, there are still plenty of films that could fall somewhere on the “Greatest Movies of All Time” list.

One thing is for sure, Oscar won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

Anyone who disagrees that the news isn’t a form of entertainment should try flipping the channel to CNN sometime.

The latest eccentricity within the pages of your daily newspaper is the story of Tareq and Michaele Salahi. What one couple saw as a chance to climb a few rungs up the social ladder was conversely considered a White House security nightmare.

Bravo television has recently released its plans to turn out another cycle of its popular TV series ” The Real Housewives.” On previous seasons, tensions run high for trivial reasons, regardless of how difficult it is to read their botox-injected faces. National Public Radio appropriately deems the show, “Theater of the Insignificant,” yet this “guilty pleasure” has ratings sky-rocketing. The newest season is expected to follow the glamorous lives of Washington D.C.’s socialites.

Of course it’s nice to whisk yourself away to a place where luxury is at its finest and almost little to no brain activity is involved. But there must be a line drawn between what is entertaining behavior and what is completely unacceptable. The Salahis were in the pool of socialites that would potentially be featured on the next season of “The Real Housewives,” but now they have a much larger issue at hand.

The question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the couple was actually invited to President Barack Obama’s White House dinner honoring Indian president Manmohan Singh. Tareq Salahi thinks he was, but when interviewed, his answer to the question was a little more than vague. Various e-mails have claimed to assist in shedding the mystery of how the two got through numerous levels of security without presenting any form of invitation.

Presently, the Salahis are likely to come out of the situation fully acquitted and further proof of their blamelessness is expected to surface soon. If that’s the case though, why does it seem like they’re trying too hard to substantiate something that could have been proved simply?

Ultimately, the White House must make sense of the whole situation and re-evaluate the dispensation of their security efforts. Luckily, it was only a group of sycophants and not anyone wishing to harm the president this time. What the White House must do now is prevent any possibility of a “next” time.

It is about time someone accurately depicts the end of the world.

Today, the long anticipated movie “2012” hits theaters and will tell the story of how the world will come to an end in a little more than three years.

But how could that be fair at all? Society won’t get to witness the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. What will our next president accomplish? Freshmen, we won’t even be able to graduate.

Well, that is too bad. The 13th cycle of the Maya Long Count calendar – each cycle has 394 years – will end during the winter solstice of the year 2012. Of course, there have been many inaccurate apocalyptic predictions in the past, but this event has got to be true.

Reason No. 1 – John Cusack has prioritized this ominous date enough to make a movie about it.

Appearing in “Sixteen Candles,” “1408” and “Igor,” it is apparent that Cusack only participates in movies that parallel his strong convictions. For example, in “Must Love Dogs,” his character demonstrates the importance of dating, dogs and decision-making (Is he the right one?) Obviously, such pressing societal issues need to be addressed and Cusack is the man for the job.

Secondly, we must believe the Mayas. There is no doubt that this ancient civilization was far more advanced than any other group on Earth at the time. Extremely well-developed irrigation systems, quizzically modern astronomical discoveries and complex architectural achievements are great reasons to agree with the Mayas on this “end of the world” issue. After all, who could argue with a population that used chocolate as currency?

Disregard the accusations of Mayan culture experts who say that the apocalyptic association with the date has no Mayan origin. What do they have besides a decade or two of concentrated Mayan research under their belts? They even go on to say that this “end of time” the Mayas bring up represents a fresh start, rather than a disastrous end. Such rational thinking could only deter the world from all-out chaos by Dec. 21, 2012.

Although NASA has debunked this “myth,” and one too many people are skeptical of the association between the apocalypse and the Mayan calendar, it might be in everyone’s best interest to review this issue more thoroughly. Look at it from both sides – The New York Times may have an article questioning the Mayan apocalypse, but The National Enquirer fully supports the Doomsday date.

At the very least, try looking into selling your car or home (the real estate market may be doing well by then), but if that doesn’t sound appealing, you might have more luck befriending John Cusack.

Who couldn’t resist the soothing intonations of the folksy melody in Bob Dylan’s classic “The Times They Are A-Changin’?” The harmonica riffs and easy-going style make it just too catchy to resist the temptation to sing along.

However, it is the lyrics that should capture our main attention. The times are changing, and it might be time to accept Fair Trade coffee and other products into our daily consumer patterns. As always, there are positive and negative perceptions of any issue, and with the utmost respect to alternative opinions, I offer the assenting aspects of Fair Trade.

First, to form an opinion on Fair Trade, you must understand what it is. In developing nations such as Ethiopia and Ecuador, small farms and landowners rely largely on coffee trade as their only means of income. These farmers hardly have the option to negotiate the price for their coffee beans when the “middlemen” come around. Fair Trade limits the excessive amounts of money some “middlemen” acquire between the transaction with the farmers and later the coffee companies.

“It comes down to an ethical issue,” said Ricky Anderson, co-coordinator of TCU’s Frogs for Fair Trade. “These small farmers shouldn’t have to choose between working or eating.”

So in regard to whether or not Fair Trade is “fair,” the answer should be a resounding yes.

To explain the difference between the perception of charity and doing the right thing, the faith of Judaism has something to teach us. Tzedakah is a Hebrew word often interpreted into English as “charity,” but the accurate translation is “righteousness.” Investing in Fair Trade coffee is not what we ought to do, but what we should have been doing for a while. Even Starbucks, a juggernaut in the coffee industry, has pledged to use 100 percent Fair Trade coffee by 2015. Fair Trade coffee is in no way “giving” money to the impoverished, but mending an unacceptable pattern of consumerism.

Certain studies have even shown that people are willing to pay more for a cup of fairly traded coffee when tested in real market settings. Why not spend a little more for a product you know will be premium grade? Most importantly, Fair Trade is a matter of redistributing the money, and not a scheme to cheat devoted coffee customers. Those skeptical of Fair Trade often see this issue on a cup-to-cup basis, but looking wholly at where your money is going helps visualize getting more bang for your buck.

Bob Dylan sings, “Come gather ’round people wherever you roam, And admit that the waters around you have grown.” In a world with such polar opposites in wealth and economic stability, the pursuit of ethical trade and global prosperity can start with your morning routine.

After all, what goes better with a cup of coffee than cream, sugar and a little goodwill?