Win Free Tickets To The SMU TEDxCHANGE Webcast

September 13, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Aida Ahmed

The Technology, Entertainment and Design forum is coming to SMU. TEDx is made up of local, self-organized events to bring people together. This year the university is hosting TEDxSMU events, starting with an arts salon and exhibit and ending with the TEDxSMU conference in October.

So how can you be a part of TEDxSMU?

TEDxSMU and the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth are hosting a live webcast of TEDxChange: “The Future We Make” from New York on Sept. 20 from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m in the Collins Executive Education Center, and you have a chance to be in attendance. The webcast will focus on the United Nations’ millennium goals of tackling global issues like poverty, child mortality and disease by 2015. Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will convene the webcast.

SMU is giving away ten tickets to the webcast for the first ten Daily Mustang readers who e-mail us a picture of themselves holding a sign stating their ideas for a better world. starting with the phrase, “In Our Future…”

For more information on your submission visit the Gates Foundation.

E-mail all submissions to

Tips on Building Your Own Brand, From The Expert

September 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Mike D. Merrill Speaks at Social Media Workshop from on Vimeo.

Video by Aida Ahmed / Editing by Aida Ahmed and Andy Garcia

Mike D. Merrill, president of the Social Media Club of Dallas and director of marketing at ReachLocal, spoke to SMU students, staff and professionals in the fields of journalism and public affairs at the Social Media Workshop at SMU’s Division of Journalism on Saturday. During his presentation, Merrill talked about how to build your personal brand on the social web using tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and your own domain. The workshop was presented by the Press Club of Dallas and the Asian American Journalists Association.

Jessica Nuñez and Victoria Harres

The Social Media Workshop at SMU's Division of Journalism on Saturday included guest speakers Jessica Nuñez (left), owner of Nuñez PR Group, and Victoria Harres, director of audience development for PR Newswire. Nuñez and Harres shared tips on how social media can help public relations professionals connect with reporters online and distribute clients' messages to a wider audience. (PHOTO BY AIDA AHMED / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

The workshop also included guest speakers Jessica Nuñez, owner of Nuñez PR Group, and Victoria Harres, director of audience development for PR Newswire. Nuñez and Harres shared tips on how social media can help public relations professionals connect with reporters online and distribute clients’ messages to a wider audience.

The opening panel focused on how to use social media as a journalistic tool. In this audio file, SMU digital journalism professor Jake Batsell introduces Theodore Kim, staff writer for The Dallas Morning News, and Mike Orren, founder of Pegasus News, each of whom shared social media strategies and practical tools for reporters:

Tim Halperin Puts On a Show

September 8, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Aida Ahmed

Walking into Hughes-Trigg Student Center Tuesday night you would have thought John Mayer was performing from the looks of the sorority-packed room. That’s because Chi Omega and Pi Beta Phi brought out musician Tim Halperin to perform for an all Panhellenic event.

Playing both original pieces and covers of popular songs, Tim Halperin shows his musical talents in the Hughes Trigg Commons. (PHOTO BY ERIN GOLDSMITH / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

The concert, originally scheduled to be at sorority park but moved because of bad weather, featured Halperin in the middle of the student center, surrounded by sorority girls. In jeans and cowboy boots, Halperin sang while playing the piano and his band on the guitars. He performed one of his original songs which was featured on MTV’s Real World XXIV: New Orleans. And while Halperin sang covers of Justin Timberlake and John Mayer, students sat around in a circle eating pizza and drinking soda.

Engaged by the music, Ellen Flowers, left, and Kaitlynn McConville watch as Tim Halperin performs. (PHOTO BY ERIN GOLDSMITH / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

Junior Chi-O Melanie Evans said her sorority chose to put the event together in an effort to bring all the sororities together under one roof.

“It’s so hard to get an event together for all of us with school and sorority events,” Evans said. “We wanted to do an event for all Panhellenic women to come together and enjoy good music.”

Evans said she first heard Halperin when he came to the Chi Omega house and performed for the girls. After hearing his music they decided to bring his show on campus as a part of one of their annual events.

Along with Chi Omega, Pi Beta Phi hosted the event. Pi Phi sophomore Emily Brantt said her sorority hosted the concert to bring live, local music to SMU.

“We do these to bring live music to campus,” Brantt said. “And to intermingle with other sororities and promote Panhellenic.”

SMU students Jennie Pearson, Stevie Farrell, and Samantha Matthews spend time with friends and enjoy the live music. (PHOTO BY ERIN GOLDSMITH / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

Jilian Rossow, an SMU freshman, heard about the event at night at the club and flyers and came to check it out.

“I was upstairs and I heard the band and I called my friend to come see the show,” Rossow said. “I really like it.”

To hear music from Tim Halperin check out his site.

Special Showing of “When the Levees Broke”

August 30, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Aida Ahmed

If you’re a freshman or if you’ve been keeping up with our NOLA Now blog you may be familiar with this year’s freshman reading, “Zeitoun”. This week’s fifth year anniversary of Hurrican Katrina culminates in the SMU premiere and discussion of Spike Lee’s documentary of “When the Levees Broke” Tuesday August 31, at 5 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Theater.

Director of the SMU Human Rights Program, Dr. Rick Halperin, will be opening the showing with a few words about Katrina and the human rights issues violated in the disaster.

Students are invited to stay for pizza, cookies and drinks and discuss the film.

SMU Ranks 56th on Best Colleges List

August 17, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

SMU ranks 56th on the 2011 U.S. News and World Report's list of Best Colleges. (SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

By Aida Ahmed

Southern Methodist University achieved its highest national ranking with the results of the 2011 edition of Best Colleges by U.S. News and World Report. At 56, SMU jumped up 12 spaces from the 2010 report and up from 73rd in 2004.

SMU only falls short of two Texas universities: Rice University, ranked 17th, and the University of Texas-Austin, ranked 45th.

U.S. News and World Report ranked 191 institutions for this year’s Best Colleges list and over 1,4oo national universities and liberal art colleges for various rankings.

For more information on how U.S. News and World ranks colleges, visit their site.

DIFF Boosts Sales at Independent Theaters Despite Downturn

April 29, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Aida Ahmed

Twenty-five movies in seven days.

That’s how many films Patsy Cartwright saw at this year’s Dallas International Film Festival. While curious onlookers surrounded the ticket table on the closing day of the festival at the Studio Movie Grill in Dallas, Cartwright was checking off the 26th movie for the week, Thunder Soul, on her list of must-sees of the annual festival.

“It makes us want to see more films, it’s so exciting,” Cartwright said. “I like film art and art documentary film- the other things are just advertising and blockbusters.”

Cartwright isn’t just obsessed with movies, she lives for them. Since she has no cable or television in her house, she goes to the movie theater every weekend and only frequents the Angelika Film Center and The Magnolia for independent films.

“They’re the only good films,” Cartwright said. “This is the real stuff; a true spectrum of feeling and knowledge.”

A weak economy is said to be great for the movie business because movies serve as cheap entertainment. But in a time when everyone is watching where they spend their dollar, independent film theaters have had to count on regulars like Patsy Cartwright to keep coming back. And festivals like DIFF bring in business no matter the economic climate.

Omar Bacallao has worked at the Angelika Film Center for three years and as manager he says festivals really keep the theater alive.

“It definitely brings awareness of the Angelika,” Bacallao said. “It’s a different experience. They tend to know the Angelika and come back more and more.”
Still, Bacallao has seen that the economy has upset business.

“I have a lot more disgruntled customers because of ticket prices and concession prices going up,” Bacallao said. “All theaters went from $8 to $10, that’s just the economy.”

According to Box Office Mojo, a Web site that tracks box-office revenue, there was a decrease in ticket sales for 2007 and 2008, but in 2009 theaters surprisingly saw a 5.3 percent increase.

This all comes with a constant increase in ticket prices. The average ticket price in 2007 was $6.88. In 2010 it’s $7.61. And at theaters like the Angelika, is has risen to $10.

“It differs. It’s fast sometimes, then slow,” said Bacallao. “Independent movies people have heard about or made by a famous director will attract more people.”

Assistant professor of cinema-television at Southern Methodist University, Pamela Elder, says that even during the Great Depression people found money to go to the movies but to compare regular theaters to ones like the Angelika is wrong.

“They didn’t start out in the same place so you can’t really compare them,” Elder said. “They’re not red carpet, blockbuster movies. They are more concerned with the artistry of the film and not the money.”

But even independent film theaters need constant revenue to stay afloat. Elder says they are known by their brand and attract people who want their product.

Lancaster resident Suzi Weaver and her husband come to Dallas just to catch documentaries at the Angelika. Weaver sips on a soda in the Angelika Café while waiting for her husband. She likes the atmosphere of the venue and says it’s a nice change from the small town she’s used to.

“We only have to pay $2.50 for a movie in Lancaster, but it’s gotta be special for us to come to the Angelika and spend that,” Weaver said. “I would not come here to see a first run movie I could see at home.”

Making the trip to Dallas through traffic is worth it because she says the theater is the only place where she can see documentaries, like the movie she just bought tickets to see, “Sweet Grass.”

Even with dedicated movie goers like Weaver, Bacallao says his theater’s major competitor is the AMC Theater at NorthPark Center.

The Angelika plays independent films at a ratio of six to two, compared to mainstream flicks, but the Angelika crowd has always been very intimate. The Angelika staff is mixed with former Magnolia workers, and for them, it’s important to maintain a relationship with the movie goers that really come out for the independent films.

“The staff is held to a lot higher standard and we know almost all the regulars now,” Bacallao said. “We’re big on customer service and show a little more favor to our loyal customers to show our loyalty to them.”

The Angelika Film Center is devoted to independent and specialty film. Built in 2001, the Angelika houses eight screens and is located at the now booming Mockingbird Station. It doesn’t look like an average theater. Right off the DART and surrounded by fairly new shops and restaurants, the Angelika gives off the vibe of a film culture hub.

The theater features stadium designed seating, digital sound and wall-to-wall screens. They also differ from other theaters because they serve alcoholic beverages at the café in the lounge area. The film center also strives to be a part of the Dallas arts community by building awareness for independent films and filmmakers by hosting film discussion groups.

Everything they do is intimate, except for the festivals.

The annual festivals boost revenue and set the theater apart from their mainstream competitors.

Michael Cain, Chairman of the Board of the Dallas Film Society, said that the annual Dallas International Film Festival complements the area’s independent theaters.

“I think the theaters are doing well without us,” Cain said. “We just bring in an influx of folks over 11 days who take an interest in independent films.”

So when planning for the DIFF, Cain said the Dallas Film Society had many good reasons to pick the Angelika Film Center as one of the venues.

“For one, they have great production, sound and a sense of unity,” Cain said. “They also have their own unique audiences, art house audiences, that are perfect to get the word out to.”

The Dallas Film Society created the Dallas International Film Festival in 2006 to celebrate film and filmmakers, as well as to educate the community on the role of film. In the first three years, over 110,000 people attended the festival for over 600 screenings and events.

The 2010 DIFF offered 159 films from 25 countries, including shorts and features. Both festivals bring in new well-known actors and filmmakers, as well as give student filmmakers a chance on the big screen.

The festival and the Angelika seem to go hand in hand.

“People have recognized us as a higher class theater and a higher event promoter,” Bacallao said. “Most people who come to the festival have a hard time finding the Angelika, but once they come they find themselves being regulars.”

That’s how Glenn Oswald, who frequents Dallas film festivals, became an Angelika fan.

The devout movie buff has come to the festival since its start and was also first in line at the DIFF on closing night to see the documentary feature Thunder Soul.

“I’m supporting the film arts and the festival is a way to see film screenings before they open,” Oswald said. “There’s an opportunity to see films that aren’t otherwise commercially available. The everyday filmgoer is not the target audience.”

Inside the Vampire Craze

April 23, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

By Aida Ahmed

From Dracula to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to Lestat and Edward Cullen. The vampire myth is nothing new, but there has been a recent resurgence of the blood-sucking characters we just can’t seem to get enough of.

There is no doubt that vampires have been a part of some of the greatest horror films and novels in history. The vampire image has shifted from Bram Stoker’s hideous and terrifying character, Dracula, to Stephanie Meyer’s mysteriously dreamy teenage Edward. Along with the physical transformation of vampires, the complexity and historical research behind the novels in which they appear has diminished.

But why? And what do the vampires of today say about our relationship with the undead?

“What most concerned me was how we find our way morally in a world without God,” said best-selling author Anne Rice. “This was my response to the nihilism I experienced as a young woman.”

Rice has sold nearly 100 million copies of vampire and religious themed novels. Her first, Interview with the Vampire, introduced the attractive vampire Lestat. She also brings to life a female bloodsucker in The Queen of the Damned. Both were adapted into successful motion pictures. Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, a series of novels revolving around the vampire Lestat, made her the first author of the late 20th century to revive the vampire myth into a best-selling genre.

“Certainly Interview with the Vampire introduced to us the glamorous and tortured vampire and writers today continue to explore this aspect of the vampire, that he or she is essentially a tragic figure, struggling to be heroic against impossible odds,” said Rice, who answered questions through e-mail. “In other words, we now embrace and explore vampires with moral depth and moral implications.”

Rice created Interview with the Vampire in the 1970s in the midst of the Watergate scandal and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Immense change was happening in America. It was time, she says, when morality no longer guided people who were searching for values. She knew her themes would resonate with readers who could identify with the vampires.

“They share the human conscience, the human heart, and the belief in a soul and a soul’s journey” said Rice.

Many authors credit Rice for appealing to social anxieties and a sense of alienation at the close of the 20th century just as Dracula had done in the century before.

In his book Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampirism, Harvard Divinity School graduate Joseph Laycook writes that Rice made the vampire more synonymous with the outcast rather than with terror.

According to SMU Frensley Professor of English Dennis Foster, although vampires in the past instilled fear, they still in some way bring out the worries a society has.

He explained that when Dracula was written in 1897, there was a powerful fear that Britain and the west would be contaminated by the east and its political philosophies. The hideous villain represented those fears.

The vampire was a representation of a less modern world that threatened to reawaken primitive ideas in England and at the same time he represented a kind of passion, particularly in women.

“Dracula allowed people to think about a break from the restraints of the modern world and to condemn it at the same time,” said Foster in an e-mail interview.

But today’s vampires are in no way ugly or horrific. In fact, they’re rather charming and have become an obsession for many young girls.

Shows like HBO’s True Blood and CW’s The Vampire Diaries capitalize on teen drama and the co-existence of humans and vampires. True Blood became the most watched program on HBO after the 2009 second season premiere brought in 5.1 million viewers.

Foster questions if these new vampires in pop culture are a response to an increasing sense among younger audiences that passion and sexuality have been placed under restraints, while sexuality is more present than ever in media.

“The result seems to me to be an idea of the vampire that is simultaneously more romantic and more ironic than the fearful Dracula,” said Foster.

That seems to be the case with the film adaptations of the Twilight series.

Millions of teens read Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight for the forbidden romance between teenage Bella Swan and her stunningly handsome vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen. When the book became a movie in 2008, it became a vampire phenomenon. Twilight grossed more than $382 million worldwide and $157 million in North American DVDs sales alone.

Greer Monson, a junior studying education and psychology at Dallas Baptist University, admits she is obsessed with the fairytale relationship between the young Bella and Edward.

“There is a lot of mystery in Edward because he is a vampire,” said Monson. “He has restrictions on what he can do but he has so much power because of who he is.”

At the time she was reading the series she was a senior in high-school and in a relationship, wondering if it would last after graduation. She said she knew she would have to make a decision on the relationship, like Bella had to decide whether or not to become a vampire. After the relationship ended, she knew the emotional pain Bella felt after Edward left her.

But even Monson agrees that the vampire series capitalizes on the teenage craze for love.

“The bond that Edward and Bella have is something that every girl wants,” said Monson. “A man that will protect her all the time.”

Cinema-television professor at SMU, Rick Worland says this is nothing new.

“There is a long history of vampires throughout the century and they all have references to sex,” said Worland. “What you get is an attractive lover and seducer that has a broad appeal to both men and women.”

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