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It would be difficult to characterize 2015 as a banner year in film. Take a look at the top 10 box-office hits of the year and we find sequels, reboots, and superheroes. A box-office list doesn’t necessarily show us the good in film. Most often, it’s quite the opposite. These are major-studio-produced projects that have big budgets, and major dollars in advertising campaigns behind them, most of which are released in the summer months. We’re past that now. October brings in the season of more serious fare. Indie, art-house, supposedly award-worthy films.

Let’s break down some of the early hopefuls already in theaters. Perhaps this post helps some of you who aren’t sure what films are worth your time and money this season.

SICARIO – 3.5/4

My favorite of the early awards hopefuls, Sicario is a tense thriller that takes a look at the frightening drug wars on the border of the United States and Mexico. Director Denis Villeneuve (Enemy, Prisoners) has established himself as a man so adept at tension in even the simplest of scenes. Shot beautifully by Roger Deakins (DP – The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, No Country For Old Men, Skyfall), and led by a quiet, but powerful Emily Blunt, and Benicio Del Toro in his most chilling performance in years, Sicario is an ambitious, and compelling thriller that at times will leave you breathless.

THE MARTIAN – 2.5/4

I couldn’t help but feel disappointed walking out of this one, feeling as marooned as Matt Damon’s character on Mars. While critical praise is almost universal, The Martian left me cold. Damon gives a fine performance, but the rest of the cast—that for whatever reason needed to be someone recognizable in each role—was distracting at best, and annoying at worst. At times, the science is fascinating, and the imagery wonderful, but it was too Hollywood-by-the-books. A neatly wrapped up film where the end is never in doubt.

BRIDGE OF SPIES – 3/4

Steven Spielberg is no stranger to war-time film-making with movies such as Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, and Lincoln under his belt. While Bridge Of Spies may not be a major Spielberg work, and at times feels like it’s a film more settled than ambitious, it’s well done. With a tight, at times humorous script by the Coen Brothers (of course!), and one of America’s most beloved actors (Tom Hanks) leading the way, it’s a drama about morals. About doing what’s right instead of doing what’s asked or expected. Mark Rylance as Abel, the Russian spy, is scene-stealing.

STEVE JOBS – 2.5/4

It’s another slam-you-over-the-head with quick, witty dialogue Sorkin-fest. Think The Social Network, but not as good (and I didn’t love that, either). There isn’t a lot of revelatory information here. Jobs was a difficult person to work with and be around, but this is known, and there are better sources for that information. The film, and script are more concerned with showing you how bad a guy this was, rather than the visionary who inspired it. This gets the extra half a star for Michael Fassbender’s immersive title performance as Jobs. He’s so good, you forget they look nothing alike.

A bonus pick for those of you who enjoy documentaries:

JUNUN – 3/4

For my money, Paul Thomas Anderson is the greatest working filmmaker today, and of the last 18 or so years. Writing and directing the fabulous Boogie Nights at 26 years old, and creating what I consider to be the only masterpiece of the past decade (There Will Be Blood), PTA is known for his flair behind the camera, his close-ups, and getting the best damn performances of actors a director could dream of. He sets most of that aside here to film his friend, and regular collaborator Jonny Greenwood (lead guitarist of Radiohead) creating an album in India with a group of Indian musicians. There is almost no dialogue, and very few interview moments we’ve become accustomed to seeing in documentaries, but the connection of these musicians, and the feeling conveyed by each shot left an impression on me. It might not be for the average viewer, and maybe you need to be a fan of PTA to get it, but for the wonderful music alone, and that it’s less than an hour, it’s certainly worth the look.

Tweet me @BobbyJDaniels!

Robert is a current student here at CUNY SPS, pursuing a degree in Communication and Media. He is interested in platforms of media, especially those related to digital media; and a fan of serious film as well as this current golden age of television.

Hey guys,

When I decided to write a graduation blog—sort of a tell-all about my CUNY academic journey—I quickly found out I literally had no idea of what to say. It isn’t that I’m lacking in material; rather I was chock-full of witty statements about meeting (or missing) deadlines; “thanks,” to send out to all my CUNY professors and other administrative staff that helped make earning my undergraduate degree an experience I’m truly proud of; and, of course, time-management tips for full-time students who have thousands of other obligations. However, I struggled with pulling anything cohesive together. So, after many wasted afternoons at my local Starbucks, I did what any other Communication and Culture graduate would do—I communicated by sharing my “writer’s block” phenomenon all over the Internet. While waiting for inspiration to hit or a friend to text back with a sympathetic ‘smiley face,’ I stumbled across a really enlightening video featured here.

As a Communication and Culture major, this video really struck a chord with me. The author presents his message in a brutally honest manner that cannot be ignored, if only because we are all so plugged in to society via “smartphones.” I, personally, can attest to the difficulty of striking up a conversation on the bus stop or even offering something as simple as a greeting to a passersby because we just don’t notice each other. The lives that we live online, the conversations that we hold via social networks, even the pictures we take and immediately post have become so important that we may be missing out on everyday moments. And why? Why is it so important that we ‘share’ every minute detail about our lives on social networks—it’s only being looked at, considered, judged, and then passed over, reduced to a ‘like’ or simply forgotten. I don’t quite know the answer to that question but I do know that I am going to utilize my degree NOT to publish my life online but to communicate interpersonally with the people around me.

My studies here at CUNY SPS helped me realize we are a nation of many cultures, languages, ethnicities, backgrounds, stories, and feelings. Each of us matters in our unique way and we all are worth more than the click of a ‘like’ or ‘share’ button. Communication, thus culture, is comprised of much more than wording an essay online or in class, composing an eloquent response to a peer, and knowing the correct usage of a word. Communication does not stop when we leave online chat rooms, close out private messages, or even exit our classes. Likewise, the history behind the many cultures populating America cannot be summed up and manifested in one person who thinks to share his or her life-story via Facebook or chooses to post authentic cultural dishes on Instagram. Communication and culture is so much larger than us that to truly understand its content, we must go outside the Internet, beyond our smartphones and venture into this people-populated world.

Big steps are not necessary in our quest to start interpersonal communication with those around us. The first thing I’m going to do is stop practicing yoga in front of my laptop screen with my cell close at hand and actually enroll in a class at my local gym. Ten dollars a class, no cellphones allowed, and interaction with men and women of all ages and ethnicities. Sounds perfect!

As I write this I am sitting under a hooded dryer, 10 minutes into a 40 minute process involving 2 steps and 3 chemical mixtures to achieve one result: hide my gray hair. To be a successful magician I have to do this every 4 weeks and I am not alone; I am a hairstylist and all but a handful of the color clients where I work come in to get rid of their grays. In fact according to Professional Consultants and Resources’ 2012 research Americans spend $756 million to color annually—as a beauty professional, I can’t say I mind.

I started coloring my hair when I was 13 and have never thought much of it. In my mid-twenties, my want became a need due to the little crop of silver that had sprouted on the top of my head. Again I didn’t think much of it and went about coloring with the same fun and creativity as I had for over a decade, until about two months ago.

My life started getting pretty hectic at the end of August 2013. Classes started and the summer lull at work came to an end. My mom’s 60th birthday was coming up and my 33rd was 5 days later. I held off coloring my hair until the end of the month because I wanted the color to be fresh for our birthdays. But things got hectic and it never happened. Then I pushed it a little further because I was going on vacation and wanted it to be fresh for that, but things were crazy and I never got a chance. Before I knew it, 2 months had gone by! Looking at the top of my head, I had so much more gray than I realized. And then it hit me: I don’t know what my hair looks like; I don’t know how I look—naturally. That really messed with my head. I toyed with the idea of letting my hair grow out to see what I look like in my natural state. In a way it was kind of exciting. But could I do it? No, obviously not or else I would be sitting somewhere else right now. I thought and thought, constantly checking out other woman’s hair color. I had thoughts like, “She colors, and she doesn’t look too high maintenance,” and “She doesn’t color and she looks really good.” But ultimately, it came down to looking at gray haired people and asking, do I want to look like them. The answer, for me, was no.

Recently, many women have decided to give up coloring their hair—this emboldened my hemming and hawing about my own color. Less chemicals on your skin, less maintenance and an “I’m beautiful, accept me for who I really am” attitude that seems empowering. People have been coloring their hair for millennia; the cult of youth is nothing new. Ancient Egyptians used henna, and American woman began to color their hair late in the first half of the 20th century when hairdressers started working with caustic chemicals. A quick Internet search shows two distinct points of view: tips on how to be a silver fox and tips on the best ways to hide the ugly, wiry truth. It’s great that we have so many choices, but what are the consequences of this choice?

Apart from social pressure, there is professional pressure to look young. Even in my own hair debate I wondered if a hair stylist should have gray hair. Could it be done? In a world where our personal brand is increasingly more important, and people are staying in the workforce longer, both men and woman feel added pressure to artificially turn back the clock. This is an especially important thing to think about for people returning to school as many of us are entering our second careers and will be competing for jobs against traditional students that are a decade or more younger than we are. We need to look hip and contemporary without looking like we raided a Millenial’s closet—a tricky balance.

What I learned from my great hair crisis of 2013, as I now call it, is that what’s truly important is my ability to be confident and comfortable in my own skin. And right now, part that confidence comes in a bottle, and that’s okay.

 Ligeia Minetta is currently at student at The CUNY School of Professional Studies studying Communications and Media.

The SPS Scholarship Committee has identified six scholarship recipients for the 2013-14 academic year. After careful deliberation, the Committee selected these students from an impressive pool of approximately 70 submissions—the most SPS has received to date.

Vearlane Edge and Velma Felix have been selected as 2013-14 Bob Martin Scholars. Vearlane is a student in the Online B.A. in Communication and Media program, and she anticipates graduating in 2014. For the past 20 years, she has organized and hosted Girl Scout troops of all ages, and has been especially active in an event providing children in need with backpacks and school supplies. With her help, this event has grown from 150 to over 300 participants in just three years. Velma, a student in our Online B.S. in Business program, is on track to graduate in December 2013. Velma returned to SPS after discontinuing her college education because of financial hardship. The Bob Martin Scholarship will allow Velma to finish her degree with SPS.

Tiffany Garcia is our inaugural Timothy Meade Scholar. A student in our Online B.A. in Disability Studies program with a Spring 2014 anticipated graduation date, Tiffany was led to the degree through her work as a special education teacher’s assistant in New Jersey. Tiffany has always worked hard for her education. Following an associate’s degree at LaGuardia Community College, she chose to finish her undergraduate education at SPS. She is on her way to becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college, which has inspired her older sister to return to higher education as well.

Nooria Nodrat and Merrilee Robinson have been awarded Founding Dean’s Scholarships for the 2013-2014 academic year. Nooria is an in-person student in the M.A. in Disability Studies program, and anticipates graduating in May 2014. Nooria, who is blind, decided to come to SPS to pursue Disability Studies in order to give back to her community. Merrilee is currently pursuing a B.S. in Health Information Management with an anticipated graduation date in Spring 2014. Born in a “third-world country,” Merrilee has overcome hardship and prioritizes her education. Her goal is to enter the workforce, earn certification in RHIA and RHIT, and find employment as a compliance officer

Elmo Paige will be receiving the 2013-14 Stephen M. Rossen Memorial Scholarship. Elmo, a single father of four teenagers, is guiding them through their educational journeys as he embarks on his own. With the full encouragement of his employer, this scholarship will allow him to reduce his work hours and focus more closely on his studies: he anticipates graduating from SPS in 2015 or 2016 with the M.S. in Data Analytics.

Communications Earnings Info Graphic

The following post was submitted by Crispin Goytia ‘09, Chair of the Alumni Advisory Council

The CUNY School of Professional Studies Alumni Advisory Council was formed with the intention of bringing alumni together to make time to dedicate and “give back” to the school that gave us so much. Personally, it has been a blessing for me to be a part of this council because I can’t think of a better way to keep the legacy of SPS alive.Alumni Reception at The CUNY School of Professional Studies

I was part of the first group of students enrolled in the online degree program and I have always thought of ourselves as “trailblazers” daring to take education to new and improved heights. I have many wonderful memories, but honestly my favorite was going on a nature walk in Inwood Park as part of the Nature and New York Course.

By being a member of the Advisory Council, we are able to partake in that vision each time we work together to develop ideas and programs that will forever shape the school and the populations it serves. Each time we meet, I am reminded that the Advisory Council feels like a family.

Giving of your time, even if it is just once a month can impact the life of a fellow student at CUNY SPS. I ask of all alumni both near and far to create an alumni action plan which can help people figure out how they can best give back to an institution that has given us so much.

Crispin is a graduate of the Online Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Culture Program, currently works in research, and plans to apply to one of the Master’s Degree programs here at SPS. 

In less than 4 weeks, I will be standing in Staten Island waiting for the start of the 2012 ING NYC Marathon with great anticipation. This is what I have been working so hard for over the last 5 months. It started with giving up a pack of Marlboro Lights a day and my commitment to fight for my health. Even though 5 months seems like a very long time, it’s almost a blink of an eye compared to the events over the last 2 weeks since my last post, “The Final Countdown.”

On September 29th, I ran with my team at Prospect Park with a brand new pair of running shoes, shoes that I call my “ruby-red-running-slippers.” I had special ordered these shoes in this special red color to match my American Cancer Society DetermiNation blue and red jersey. And special they are! Wearing them for the first time, I did 13.9 miles in them! So, I like to believe they are magical. It was as though I clicked my heels three times and the run was done! (Okay, so maybe not that magical!)

I used these very same running slippers on October 7th for the Staten Island Half-Marathon. It was an extraordinary experience for me. I was overjoyed while I ran. I kept a positive attitude and a steady pace. I was joyful and smiling at the finish! It brought me back to the day I felt as though I was forcing myself to try and fall in love with running. The idea seemed like a fairytale—just as clicking my ruby-red-running-slippers to magically complete a race might sound to you.

The puppy-love I was feeling with running didn’t stop there. I recall how I was emotionally happy but physically beat up after my first 10K race in July. Practice on the following Tuesday was so painful, that I felt like quitting. I fully expected and prepared myself for a tough practice this past Tuesday after doing the Half-Marathon on Sunday. Guess what—that was absolutely not the case. I ran my fastest 5.1 miles ever at 1 hour, 9 minutes and 21 seconds. My first race ever, the “Take Your Base 5-Miler” on June 30th, I clocked at 1 hour, 17 minutes and 48 seconds. Even though it’s exciting, having a personal-record is not everything. To me, it’s more about how I’ve been feeling after my runs. I feel giddy and excited. After Tuesday’s practice, I remember thinking, “That was a GOOD workout!” I never imagined in a million years that I would be excited about how “good” a workout felt.

So, indeed so much has happened in the last 2 weeks. I’ve had somewhat of a personal transformation. I am not getting over-confident though. Next weekend is my last opportunity for a long run before the big day. After this weekend, I begin to taper down on my mileage—while still practicing with shorter runs. I must must MUST hit 16-20 miles this weekend. I missed my target last weekend by 3 miles. But I am a “DetermiNator” and I am up for this challenge no matter how much time I have left to practice!

And while “time” is in the spotlight, I must remind myself—TIME is after all why I am doing this. Whether you are an individual who is fighting cancer, surviving cancer, helping a loved one fight cancer, or remembering a loved one who lost the battle to cancer—we all want time and lasting memories together. The American Cancer Society gives people the greatest gift and their most precious commodity; time.

For more information on my journey to the ING NYC Marathon & fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society, please visit http://bit.ly/xahndra.

Alexandra Hertel is an Ohioan living in Brooklyn, New York. She attends CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and works full-time in the events industry.

Does anyone remember what the feeling is like when you are on your way to school and you realized that you forgot your homework assignment at home? I had that heavy pit in my stomach last night at practice. A fellow American Cancer Society DetermiNator reminded me that we have just 4 weeks left of training before the big day in just 39 days. Race day will be here before I know it. Am I prepared? Can I do this? I’ll just say it, I am scared!

I hurried to practice yesterday evening straight from work, meeting up with my daughter and my puppy along the way. Pix11 was waiting there to interview me, hear my story, and meet my daughter and dog. As the official media partner for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation athletes for the ING NYC Marathon, they wanted to learn more about me. Who is this Alexandra person? She quit smoking, never worked out before—and now she is running a marathon? (Read: Is she crazy?)

Speaking with Magee Hickey was exciting and motivating. Hearing more about her story made me want to keep pushing and working on my story. I didn’t have a pit in my stomach during the interview—I was overwhelmed with excitement. In the end of the interview, she asked me what my final message would be to anyone hearing my story. I said, “If I can do this, anyone can do this!” I really meant that.

 After my interview with Pix11, practice was already starting and I ran to join my team. It was test night—meaning, we needed to run 3 miles (with a short recovery time between each mile) as fast as we could. During the warm-up, I did a quick mental check.

1 – Hydrated / Fueled? Yes, Check!

2 – Positive attitude? Yes, Check!

3 – Ready to do this? YES! CHECK!!!!

The first mile, I pushed hard—like I was supposed to. During the recovery period, I had pains in my ankles and on the top of my feet. As a result, I had to take it very easy and slow the rest of my run. I recalled my statement to Magee Hickey… “If I can do this, anyone can!”  IF I can do this, anyone can. Ah, and there is that heavy pit in my stomach. I carried that heavy pit in my stomach the rest of my run. Can I do this marathon? I. AM. SCARED.

Fortunately, my dedicated (volunteer) coaches from the American Cancer Society did not leave me stranded with my self-defeating thoughts. Through investigation, discussion and observation, I learned the cause of my discomfort. I learned that I’ve already worn out my first pair of running shoes (seriously?) and that I am not stretching correctly after my runs. What a relief! I can fix that!

I honestly don’t mean to whine about my training. Perhaps I whine or get emotional because I am scared of the unknown. There is always silver lining to every issue, if you are willing to look hard enough. I didn’t have to look that hard for it this time, because I hit a personal record for my fastest mile ever at 11 minutes and 30 seconds. I’ve made vast improvements since my first run. I am stronger. I am training for a marathon. I will finish the marathon! I am doing this for the American Cancer Society so I can help others celebrate more cancer free birthdays… and at the same time, I am fighting for my health.

For more information about my race, please visit my fundraising page at http://bit.ly/xahndra. You can also sign up to be an official cheer station volunteer on race day here: http://bit.ly/CowBellCheer.

Alexandra Hertel is an Ohioan living in Brooklyn, New York. She attends CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and works full-time in the events industry.

On Your Mark, Get Set…. Go!!!

Last Sunday, I joined the CUNY School of Professional Studies “Race for the Cure” team comprised of students, faculty, and staff. Being with our team of over 20-strong was such an emotional high for me. All dressed in our CUNY SPS blue shirts, we (and our mascot, Lex the Lynx) made quite an impression! I was proud to be standing with our school and overwhelmed at the same time with the sea of pink supporters out to fight breast cancer with us.

The Challenge

So race day finally arrived and I was eager to attempt the personal (and fairly public) challenge I gave myself:  to beat my best 5K time. Why did I go with the public part? Was I over-confident? Was it for accountability? Well, it’s accountability that forces me to report that not only did I #FAIL to beat my last time, I exceeded it by over 2 minutes.

First, my excuse! Well, it’s not an excuse—but it’s an observation and a lesson learned. The race was combined with walkers. As a result, the first portion of the race was like playing an intense game of Frogger. I was weaving in and out of people trying to run while large groups were blocking the route. The key take-away for me was understanding that large races can be slightly overwhelming and a rough start. Since I am new to races, I think setting a goal time is an “over-achiever” mentality and I should instead be focusing on my form, my stamina, and my mental game.

Speaking of my mental game, my slower time almost had an impact on me during the last few minutes of the run. I remember thinking, “Now that I am running over 10 miles, a 5K should be a like a walk in the park!” Thankfully, when my subconscious is beating me up; sound-bytes from my American Cancer Society coaches speak up. Specifically, this time around, they reminded me that less than 2% of the world’s population has ever completed a marathon. TWO PERCENT! They also kindly reminded me to stop being so hard on myself. I have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time.

So by the time I crossed the 5K finish line, the sun was shining and so was my attitude. I celebrated with the team and relished in the excitement of everyone around me. Being a part of the finish line and celebration was a first for me. Usually, everyone is packed up and gone by the time I complete a race.

The Highs, the Lows and the HIGHS!

The Race for the Cure actually was the final act to a big running weekend for me. On Saturday, I ran for three hours and 6 minutes in extreme weather with my teammate and mentor from the American Cancer Society, Dawn. When the rain set in, we could have stopped and probably should have stopped (as we had no idea there was a tornado warning). Instead, we put our phones in ziplock bags and continued our long run. We made it fun even though we were literally drenched and sledging through puddles (that seemed like mini-rivers). We even sang some favorites (with minor modifications) together while running, keeping each other motivated through any discomfort.

We’re running in the rain,
Just running in the rain.
What a glorious feeling, we’re happy again!
Stride after stride, Mile after mile
Just singing and running in the rain!

Ultimately, I learned an incredibly valuable lesson this weekend. I can’t judge every running day against the last. There are so many factors that change how a run or race will go: extreme weather, health, crowded streets, or lack of energy—just to name a few. Every day is different and every time that I go out there is some victory to be had. As a runner, it’s my responsibility to find that victory and own it.

We are all winners!

I want to sincerely thank CUNY School of Professional Studies and our Susan G. Komen team. We raised over $800 toward community programs that will help run breast cancer out of town!

You can be a part of the excitement too. The American Cancer Society is looking for cheer station volunteers. Sign up to help cheer me and my team members on the 2012 ING NYC Marathon race day, November 4th! Cheer station volunteers get an American Cancer Society T-Shirt AND a cow bell. Who doesn’t need a little more cow bell in their life? More info at:  http://bit.ly/CowBellCheer

Alexandra Hertel is an Ohioan living in Brooklyn, New York. She attends CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and works full-time in the events industry.

The power of positive thinking; if you can believe it, you can achieve it; walk by faith, not by sight; what you think about, you bring about; keep your eyes on the prize… All these sayings and mantras are what millions of people repeat and live by every day.

All stem from the law of attraction.

The law of attraction has become a big part of my daily life. I am in the process of changing my thinking to be more in line with the law of attraction. Over the past recent years, we have been inundated with information regarding the law of attraction via various books and movies. I always thought it was just some self-help bull so I didn’t stop to listen, but I’m listening now!

The law of attraction is very powerful yet very simple. It can be described with so many different words, but my favorite words to describe it are:

VISUALIZATION BRINGS MATERIALIZATION

What that means is that if you visualize something enough you will bring it to fruition; you will bring your visions into reality.

Even before I was aware of this law, it happened to me. In the past, I’ve thought about something so much that it manifested into reality; good and bad things.

Now with this knowledge, I try my best not to dwell on my fears and things that I DON’T want because those very things will come about. Now, I dwell on the end result, the things that I do want.

It is a struggle at times because when things go wrong it’s easy to slip back into a negative thought pattern. Being more conscious of my thoughts, and what triggers my fears and negative thoughts has helped tremendously. When I find myself emitting negative thoughts about a certain situation, I immediately fight it off by thinking of something that makes me happy, like shopping or driving that new Range Rover that I have posted on my vision board.

What are your thoughts on the law of attraction?

Martine Chevry received her B.A. in Communication and Culture from the CUNY School of Professional Studies in June 2011. She currently works as an Assistant Editor and lives in Queens, New York. She is a devoted mom, daughter and girlfriend, as well as an up and coming indie writer. She enjoys kickboxing, shopping, reading, writing and her guilty pleasure is reality television.