All posts by acadia-otlowski

Book Review: “Guts” by Kristin Johnston


by Kaitlin Lyle

The first time I ever saw Kristin Johnston onscreen, she was busy shrieking her love for a fictional 80’s pop sensation in “Music and Lyrics.” Little did I know that the exuberant lady of laughter was caught in the midst of her own private hell by the time I became acquainted with her on the small screen.

On the outside, her vibrant personality and talent for bringing laughter set her career alight as she made her way up Hollywood’s social ladder. On the inside, years of self-esteem issues and fame-ridden anxieties were drawing her into the downward spiral of addiction.

In her memoir, “Guts,” the actress takes her audience aback with a heartbreakingly humble, often comedic, story of her trials and tribulations following a near-death experience halfway through her career.

Starting with the opening chapter, Johnston drolly acknowledges the fact that “an actress addicted to booze and pills” is a frequent cliché made public throughout the years, and one who writes a book about it is especially “rare” (i.e. “disturbingly commonplace”). Yet, somehow, her readers perceive her story as being exceptional from the rest of the crowd through its raw sincerity in detailing the experience at its best and worst moments.

Starting with a brief synopsis of an awkward childhood, our good-humored narrator secretly proclaims herself as a freak upon realizing that she was anything but ordinary with her hideous corrective shoes and epileptic seizures. It was there that dreams of fame were associated in her mind’s eye with leaving the “freak” personality behind, “If I was FAMOUS, it would mean that I was NOT ME, which would, in turn, make me HAPPY.”

From the moment she realized she had the gift to make people laugh, (later using it as retaliation against a school bully),  Johnston recognized her comedic strength and love of the arts as her ticket away from awkwardness. This later came into use for opening the door to her acting career, where she landed an Emmy-winning role for the show “3rd Rock From the Sun,” as well as various theater roles around New York.

However, even as her talent for laughter opened doors to a newfound career, Johnston was still plagued by uncertainties that were heightened by the Hollywood scene. For the next six years, she found herself locked in a battle of alcoholism and substance abuse.

During one night in December 2006, where Johnston was in London for a theater production, a gastric ulcer (previously unknown to her) burst, leading to her hospitalization where she was diagnosed with acute peritonitis. Realizing that her rendezvous with death was the result of her destructive addictions, the next two months brought forth an honest desire to begin again, resulting in “the endless follies and tiny triumphs of a giant disaster” that composed her heart-wrenching memoir.

Though Johnston is correct in her epiphany being as “unique as a manila envelope,” (having been told by celebrities time and time again), her refusal to depict the story with even a fragment of self-pity or blame opens her readers’ eyes to the courage it took to write down every gory detail of her follies. Johnston’s courage radiates from the pages of the book, and helps readers to relate with the theme of finding the “guts” to levitate from the secrets that destroy us from the inside.

From her time in the hospital to the decision to create this memoir, the stories that Johnston details are equally balanced with wry humor, naked sincerity, discovered joys and hidden pains alike.

Miles and Memories: The Value of the Road Trip


by Chris Marinelli 

This past spring break, eight of my friends and I crammed into two cars and set our sights on Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Now having completed the 24-hour trek down the east coast, I have a brand-new outlook on how much fun living can be.

The trip started out on complete impulse; my close friend Victor brought the idea of all of us driving to an apartment his family owns in Fort Lauderdale to me two weeks before spring break. After a couple days of planning and sorting out all the details, I packed my bags the second I was done with midterms, and looked forward to palm trees.

Hitting the road was one of the most exciting moments of the trip. We were a mixture of close friends, strangers and acquaintances. We packed all of our things, went to Walmart and bought some walkie-talkies, which would be subject to cruel puns throughout the trip, planned out the driving schedule and set off on the road.

The walkie-talkies proved to be a valuable asset through the trip, both for comical purposes as well as practical. Driving through New York became a maze of us following the other car, which was made considerably easier through the quick contact the walkie-talkies provided.

On a more comical note, from the second we started driving, we made up code names for each car. We were “dragon fruit” while the other car became “blueberry.” These changed consistently throughout the trip, including names such as “palm tree” and “coconut.”

When driving for 24 hours straight, boredom inspires you to discover more ways to laugh than you can count.

One of the funniest moments was when we had the ingenious idea to start blasting Disney songs that you can’t help but sing along to. I can only imagine the looks we received from other cars as we belted out the chorus of “Under The Sea” and “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You.”

Being confined for over a day forces you to find new ways to sleep that you would have deemed impossible before. I fell asleep sitting up with my hands folded, my head against the window, and once with my head on my friend Carlos’ shoulder. These interesting sleeping positions inspire hilariously humiliating photographs of our friends cuddling and snoring in the backseat.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of being part of a long journey are the unbreakable bonds of friendship. Through being with each other for such a long period of time, we opened up and told stories and confessions that created intimate friendships and memories that will last forever. Being confined in a tiny car traveling hundreds of miles creates the opportunity to learn who your friends are, and what trials and tribulations they have gone through in their lives.

Through these newly-formed connections you also learn new things about yourself. Being with people who are opening up about their lives creates a new level of empathy that can only exist between a group of close friends. Moments like these are rare and irreversible. They are what make a road trip worth it.

I truly recommend driving across the country with a group of friends. As my brother said to me when I got home, “These are now your memories. You’ll never forget the time you got to spend with those people.” While planes are nice, the convenience does not replace the memories that can be built during a drive across the country.

Board of Regents Stresses Student Awareness


by Chris Marinelli

The Board of Regents is the steering body that guides the entire Connecticut State University (CSU) system, but students are not aware of its importance.

“On average less than 10 students show up to these [meetings], and I’m just speaking for Central,” said CCSU Student Government Association President Simms Sonet referring to the monthly meeting of the board.

According to Board of Regents ex-officio member Rob Brown, “The typical turn out is 6 to 7 kids.”

The Board of Regents replaced the Board of Trustees For Higher Education three years ago, and set all of the Connecticut state schools and community colleges with the exclusion of UCONN under one governing body. The Board of Regents is made up of members appointed by the governor as well as the legislature, and consists of both voting and ex-officio members.

“They are the policy makers. They do not deal with the operations, they do one thing – they hire and fire a president, me. My job is to take care of the operations that are consistent with the policies that they have put forth,” said Gregory Gray, president of the Board of Regents. “They are very tied into the political landscape of the state. They understand what is happening fiscally, politically, socially, and all of that translates into policies into where the system is heading.”

“Most of them have lived in Connecticut almost all their lives, so they understand the fluctuations and the budget and the political nuances of the small state. They’ve grown up in this system, some of the former regents served in the former community college board… The board has also matured, at least from what I’ve observed since I’ve been here,” he continued.

However, many student leaders do not feel as if the performance of the Board of Regents is up to par.

“I don’t think they are dong a very good job, and I don’t think they are doing a very good job advocating on our behalf,” said Sonet. “They don’t get it. They don’t understand. They are not at all in touch, and the one person who is in touch got the silent trip. It’s one thing to be represented, it’s another thing to have an understanding.”

Sonet is frustrated with the methods the board is using to run the CSU system.

“We don’t need just a business, we need people with experience in education. Most of these people are former legislators or people who have been involved in higher education but are acting as if without any seeming sympathy. I realize that may not be the way they think, but I study communications and the way you come off matters,” said Sonet.

“It’s not so much a lack of respect, but rather benign neglect,”
 said Catherine Addy, president of Tunxis Community College.

When Brown was asked if he felt that there should be more academia representation in the Board of Regents, he said, “I think they are largely people from the corporate world. I think it would be useful. I think it would be a good thing for them to at least understand the issues in education rather specifically instead of more general. “

A factor in the disinterest from students is the business-oriented language used. Students can easily be intimidated by the legislative talk that is used at these meetings.

“Students have no idea what the structure is, so how could you have them show a lot of interest in something they don’t necessarily understand,” said Sonet.

While there is a feeling of disconnect between the Board of Regents and the student body, the responsibility is not just in the hands of board members.

“I can’t speak for them, but I don’t believe they have a specific mindset that they need to convey themselves to the student body,” said Board of Regents member Sarah Greco. “I think that’s something that when you work in a system, you think people know you exist.”

The Board Of Regents has all of its committees and meetings open to the public, including the upcoming finance committee on March 26. The board also hosts meetings at each of the state schools and universities to encourage student participation.

Gray said,  “Here I would like to say that there is somewhat of a shared responsibility. Our board is very interested in hearing students. When we were at central, 6 or 7 students spoke about the tuition raise.”

“We aren’t going to call all of our students and say, ‘hey, this meeting’s open,’ but the information is there. Everything is posted on the Board of Regents website,” Gray joked.

Gray suggested a potential workshop to teach students how the CSU governing bodies work.

“One of the things that I’ve found with students that have some concerns and believe me, we all want to hear those concerns, is that they aren’t based on real facts,” said Gray. “The most embarrassing thing you can do for yourself is talking off the top of your head without facts. This workshop is how you get facts. Bring it in, and trust me, people will pay very close attention to what you have to say.”

Students interested in participating in a workshop for the Board of Regents are encouraged to contact their student government.

Much Like America, Football League Disparities Exist Overseas


by Chris Fazio 

A visit to two games in two different football (soccer) leagues in England over spring break showed how the atmosphere at these matches can be totally different, even if the game is technically the same.

A group of students attended a Millwall vs. Brighton match, who compete in the Football League Championship, and I attended a Chelsea vs. Southampton match, who compete in the English Premier League.

“You and your classmates are going to a Millwall match, are you mad(crazy)?” said Chris Day, a Chelsea fan club member and season ticket holder. “Millwall fans are the craziest bunch in London. Be careful and think about leaving a bit early.”

Millwall hooligans go by the name the Millwall Bushwackers. They are considered to be one of the roughest hooligan firms in any English football club, and have been involved in two massive football riots involving hundreds of fans.

The Bushwackers took up their own section of the stadium and echoed chants such as, “No one likes us and we don’t care. We are Millwall, Super Millwall.” There were other chants executed that used vulgar language and even listed off other clubs that could go “f**k themselves.”

Even the Millwall fans that were not sitting with the Bushwackers were fanatical about the match to an extreme extent. If a Millwall player jumped offsides, fans would rocket into the air cursing at players directly.

The fans at the Chelsea match were noticeably less vulgar and hostile towards their players. Once in a while, a fan would shout something nasty to a player, but it wasn’t as frequent as the Millwall match.

Even though I noticed that fans at the Chelsea match were noticeably classier compared to fans at the Millwall match, the Chelsea fans were still considered to be a rough lot.

The accommodations at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s home stadium, were significantly better than The Den, Millwall’s home stadium. Stamford Bridge Stadium is equipped with luxury skyboxes which include a four-course meal before the match with finger foods throughout play. Two massive video screens occupied opposite corners of the stadium, which were used for replays and scorekeeping. Stamford Bridge was in pristine condition, from the grass on the pitch to the seats in the stands.

The Den looked like it was still under construction. There wasn’t even a working scoreboard in the stadium. Compared to Stamford Bridge, it was much smaller and only included two tiers of seats, while Stamford Bridge had four tiers.

Scaffolding and power tools stood in the location of the scoreboard in The Den.  “We haven’t had a scoreboard for about five months now. It doesn’t look like it’ll be fixed any time soon at this rate,” said Alice Mills, a security guard at The Den. This was a big shock for me, going from a stadium with two giant video screens to a stadium where you don’t even know the score of the match.

The quality of the two football clubs could be attributed to the league each club plays in. English Premier League clubs have significantly higher budgets than Football League Championship clubs. A Premier League footballer’s average wage is £30,000 (roughly $45,000) compared to £4,000 (roughly $6,000) a week in the Football League Championship.

The reason for Chelsea and other Premier League team’s massive budgets are due to the owners behind each club. Chelsea’s owner is a Russian billionaire named Roman Abramovich. Abramovich, Russia’s 12th richest businessman and investor who has made a significant amount of money in oil. Abramovich is able to pump money into the team and attract high-end sponsorship from companies like Samsung, and even his own business.

“Abramovich is one of the reasons why Chelsea is so successful,” Chelsea supporter Paulina Achramowicz said. “He grabbed three of the best players in Premiere because he’s able to afford their wage.”

Any club from the Football League Championship can move into the Premier League at the end of the season. The top three clubs get bumped up a league, and clubs with the worst records get demoted a league. If a team like Millwall finished in the top three of the Football League Championship, the disparity between the two leagues would be easily identifiable.

The solution to the vast difference in quality is one that is hard to fix. It would mean finding a billionaire like Abramovich who’s committed enough to sink millions into a currently struggling football club while winning a few matches along the way.

London Street Art Draws Out Artistic Abilities

by Lorenzo Burgio 

It was a little bit breezy as the group walked the cobblestone streets of East London, but as people started noticing the countless artistic creations displayed everywhere, the weather began to seem unimportant.

Several Central Connecticut students traveling in London for spring break, accompanied by Professor Eleanor Thornton, chairwomen of the graphic design department at CCSU, were immersed in this atmosphere during a street art walking tour of London’s east side.

The tour was conducted by The Alternative London group. This group is focused on developing an imaginative and inspiring atmosphere for all its participants. As well as opening each individual’s eyes to the international, ever-changing world of street art.

The group does this by guiding its participants on a two-hour, visually stimulating expedition filled with famous street artists such as Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Invader, WHILS, Zadok, El Mac and STIK.

The tour guide provided in-depth description and background information about each artist as their works of art were being presented. Most have college degrees and have been painting for 15-20 years, and simply thrive on the idea of free art for everyone.

“He purposefully placed this portrait across from that lamp on the building behind you,” said Josh, (who withheld his last name due to his involvement in street art), as he began to explain about El Mac’s famous cowboy head painting. The portrait was entirely line-work and created with its surroundings in mind. At night, the light and shadows cast by the streetlights added contrast to the painting, almost bringing it to life.

Thornton described the experience as “creative and energetic,” and an environment for true creative growth that stemmed from the diversity of its participants. There were multiple families and friends, some local, others visiting, even some children as young as 8-years-old were exposed to this unique environment.

“Eyes before lenses,” the onlookers continuously heard from Josh. His emphasis for appreciating the art first-hand instead of through a lens derived from his contribution to a large portion of the art presented, as well as his involvement in East London’s art community.

Participants on the tour were informed that as long as the property owner of any building in the area allowed an artist to display any form of art on the outside of a building, nothing could be done by the city to remove it.

Many businesses jumped at the opportunity to have art displayed at their establishments. Josh said that this commonly helps the establishments draw in business and a variety of customers.

A comedy theatre, for example, had an astounding mural by Zadok. While walking down the street it was clear the artist’s mural, radiating detailed lavender and turquoise birds, grabbed everyone’s attention.

The dynamics of street art is viewed in a multitude of different ways by many different demographics all around the world. The city of London views any expression of art, from spray paint to stickers placed on any area that’s not the property owner’s, to be a legal offense.

The city’s response to street art is to cover the art with gray paint or “buff” the area. The tour guide proposed an interesting concept: “Isn’t what the city’s doing street art as well? And is it really better to have a gray block instead of a creative piece of art?”

The tour group agreed that covering up the art was unnecessary, and an artistic environment was desired for the community. “You don’t know what is being covered up, but you know the gray doesn’t look good,” said Thornton. The tour served as an assurance to everyone that the artists were fully aware that their art could easily be covered up at any given time. However, most artists disregard this possibility for the simple fact that street art is a core aspect of the area’s culture.

“The U.S. doesn’t really seem to give it any sort of importance. It’s only exposed to people who are trying to seek it out. Whereas for the U.K, it’s almost a part of their culture,” said Sahrish Saher, a CCSU graphic design student who participated in the tour.

Multiple mediums were demonstrated by the artists: everything from molds of their faces, to plaster walls chipped into a perfect portraits, as well as entire pieces created out of tiles.

The variety of art is thought to derive from London’s largely diverse population. Artists from China, Germany, Australia and the United States are known to travel to London just to be part of its street art culture.

Noticing the diversity of artists is vital to understanding London’s art environment. “It was worth it because we got to look at their culture and way of life from a different angle, and it gave us an interesting perspective on British people and culture,” said Saher.

Prior to the tour, participants were able to mingle with one another while sharing their passion for creativity. Alternative London continued their artistic endeavors with a street art workshop held in a reconstructed double-decker that Thornton said was “the most enjoyable thing in my life.”

Everyone from parents to CCSU design students worked hard in making stencils with the Alternative London crew. The workshop’s ambiance was described by Thornton as “free-spirited and collaborative.”

The creative atmosphere provided by the crew quickly ignited everyone’s artistic fires. All were able to think of a stencil idea and pursue it. The next step was to grab a spray paint can, a pair of gloves and put the stencils to use.