Jon Stewart

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

In a recent op-ed piece, Nicole Kruijs provides an uncharitable and one-sided description of the Rotnofsky-Mandalapu campaign for Student Government president and vice president. She emphasizes the satirical elements of their message without paying heed to the substance that undergirds that satire. Fairness demands a more considerate treatment of their candidacy.

“Jon Stewart is hilarious,” Kruijs says. "But I wouldn't want him to be president of the United States."

This analogy is disingenuous in that it presumes the qualities required of the two offices — president of SG and president of the United States — are identical. This is fallacious. 

As commander-in-chief of the armed forces and custodian of our nuclear arsenal, the president of the United States must obviously possess attributes that extend beyond compassion and a willingness to listen to the people who elected him.

This is not so for the executive officers of Student Government. Their role — their only role — is to be a faithful representative of the student body — the whole student body. Kruijs concedes this much later in her piece. 

Rotnofsky and Mandalapu evince a desire to fulfill such a representative role. As evidence of this fact, I direct the reader's attention to their profile in the Daily Texan, in which Mandalapu provides an eloquent response to the question of what's wrong with Student Government, namely that it's unrepresentative. Mandalapu has noted that only 15 percent of the student body voted in last year's election, which — amusingly — was considered a record turnout.

Mandalapu attributes this lack of participation to the fact that SG has recently been dominated by Greek and spirit organizations, an arrangement that inhibits less represented student organizations from receiving SG funding. While I can’t prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, I do have reason to believe it is true. As treasurer of UT's Undergraduate Classics Society, I have seen SG and Senate financial officers ignore my organization’s request to borrow the required credit card after completing the mandatory steps to receive funding for an event.

Without attributing any malicious motives to the other two candidates, I do assert that they undeniably fit the profile of the unrepresentative elements whose influence within SG is alleged to be disproportionate. This is precisely why I support the Rotnofsky-Mandalapu ticket: a consideration of what the two campaigns stand for. That students do not engage in such a consideration is no fault of their campaign. 

Kruijs also suggests that the Jones-Dargahi slate, unlike Rotnofsky and Mandalapu, will "listen to you" as the official representatives of the student body. This allegation I find generic, insincere and unsubstantiated.

Consider the recent Assembly resolution to remove the Jefferson Davis statue from the Main Mall. Rotnofsky and Mandalapu, taking into account the discomfort the statue's presence creates for students of color, are taking action to bring about its removal. Though Jones admittedly signed on as a co-sponsor, this resolution should be adduced as an example of the Rotnofsky-Mandalapu ticket's willingness to listen to students. I find it more reassuring than a Twitter hashtag. 

Indeed, all the measures Kruijs attributes to the Jones-Dargahi ticket — "building bridges across communities," for instance — are ill defined; they're broad, and what's more, they're not accompanied by specific examples of how Jones and Dargahi propose to accomplish such an objective, other than "relationships" (more on that below).

This is precisely the sort of electoral laziness that Rotnofsky and Mandalapu seek to ridicule when they propose Adam Sandler movies as a method by which the Assembly and the Executive Board can develop greater rapport. I find their humorous attempts to underscore the insincerity of conventional responses to such issues less insulting that their opponents' assumption that they can walk away with the election with empty phrases. Kruijs seems to assume that the campaign's satire is gratuitous, that it isn't directed at any systemic shortcomings. This I find overly simplistic. 

Finally, Kruijs attributes the connections Jones has established with alumni, faculty and administrators during a time of administrative transition as reasons to support his candidacy. She provides no assurances that such connections are representative — that they fulfill precisely the role she says SG should play in conveying the concerns of the student body to higher authorities (I find the allegation that any bill adopted by state legislators depended upon the support of a UT student ludicrous on its face; Kruijs provides no evidence — short of the fact that she and her colleagues "voiced their support" — that Jones was instrumental in SR 11's or AR 30's passage). I would appreciate confirmation that Jones can use his connections responsibly, or at the very least evidence suggesting he is capable of so doing. 

Dean-Jones is a Plan II, history and classics senior from Austin. He is not officially involved in the Rotnofsky-Mandalapu campaign.

Comedian Wyatt Cenac comes to the UT SAC

On Wednesday, writer and comedian Wyatt Cenac brings his stand-up routine to UT. Cenac is renown for his humorous reporting and writing for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” He covered political issues for the presidential campaign as well as African American issues, creatively weaving awareness and comedy into his pieces.

The Daily Texan spoke with Cenac about "The Daily Show" and his comedy routine.

The Daily Texan: When working with "The Daily Show," did you have enough time to also work on your stand-up routine?

Wyatt Cenac: I was a stand-up before I was working there, so stand-up was the thing that I continued to do even when I had time off. I would go off — even when we were doing the show — I would perform in the city when I had time.

DT: What made you want to continue your stand-up even while working with "The Daily Show?"

WC: My stand-up is sort of my perspective and my view on things, and I think that, with "The Daily Show," you’re kind of speaking through the show’s voice and Jon’s voice. For me, stand-up has been a great opportunity and way for me to talk about the things I wanted to talk about. It’s ultimately his show — you’re working to help him produce the best version of what he’s got in his head. So for me again I think stand-up and individual projects were my way of producing what I’ve got in my head.

DT: Why did you leave "The Daily Show?"

WC: I felt it was time — I felt like I had kind of done everything I wanted to do there and said everything that I had wanted to say.

DT: What did "The Daily Show" represent for you, as far as your career is concerned?

WC: The show, I think was a learning experience. On some levels it was like going to a kind of a graduate school, where there was a lot of stuff I had to learn. I wasn’t the most politically interested person when I started at the show, so I had to learn so much and watch and digest so much of kind of the news of the day. 

DT: What was the best part of working with "The Daily Show" team? Was it the people, the locations and events you got to cover, or the writing you got to do?

WC: At the end of the day, it’s always the people. There are a lot of really talented people that work at that show — from the PA’s to the writers, to the correspondents to the producers — there are so many talented people working behind the scenes that are not just talented, they're wonderful to be around. I think those relationships are things I will always cherish and hold dear. I am always happy when I get to reconnect with people form the show, whether it’s going to grab a beer or eat some food, or just getting together for anything. I think to me that’s probably the thing that means the most from the show. There are definitely pieces and things I’ve done that I’ve enjoyed or had fun doing. But it’s the relationships and things that came from the show that will mean the most.

DT: How has working at "The Daily Show" changed your stand-up routine, if at all?

WC: Jon had nothing to do with my [stand-up] comedy. They’re two very different things. There are definitely times where I’ve done shows where people come in with the expectation that I’ll do a one-man version of "The Daily Show." That’s not what I did when I was at the show and that’s not what I’m doing now. If anything, any evolution that’s happened from a stand up perspective I would attribute to the New York comedy scene and its various venues.

DT: How would you describe your comedy routine and the subject matter it deals with?

WC: You know, I always find this an odd question because it’s kind of weird to step out of myself and say “that’s what my comedy is — it feels like this.” Whenever I watch "Top Chef," and they describe their genre, the only question I’d ask is “Does it taste good?” That’s all I give a shit about. “Does it make you laugh?” That’s the point. There is enough of me telling jokes on the Internet that someone else can watch and they’re more than welcome to describe it.

Who: Wyatt Cenac
When: Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.
Where: SAC Auditorium (SAC 1.402)
Cost: Free with a UT student I.D.

Pop Index: Bon Iver’s new album, a possible Destiny’s Child reunion and Jon Stewart’s media war.

Welcome, kind readers, to the Pop Index. My name is Aleksander Chan (pronounced like Alexander, but with a Russian spelling) and I am the Life & Arts associate editor. Every Friday I will write this index of the best and worst of the week’s pop culture, handily rendered in the photo above for your viewing pleasure.

The 20th anniversary edition of Nirvana’s Nevermind was released last week with 35 previously unreleased tracks. (Photo courtesy of Sub Pop Records)

Nirvana’s Nevermind, the album that catapulted the grunge movement into the mainstream and steamrolled pop music in 1991, turned 20 this weekend. To commemorate the album’s legacy, Universal Music Enterprises has issued a deluxe edition that promises to delve deeper into the mythology of Nevermind, an album that Rolling Stone Magazine has regarded as one of the “greatest albums of all time.”

Why is this though? Why do Dave Grohl’s roaring drums, Krist Noveselic’s punk-laced riffs and Kurt Cobain’s lyrics of alienation, angst and animosity towards the “rock star” aesthetic still linger on well after Generation X has faded away?

Jon Stewart, in his discussion with former Nirvana bandmates Grohl and Noveselic and Nevermind producer Butch Vig, sums it up perfectly. “It had everything — sonic menace, melody, urgency, irony. It was like The Beatles had swallowed Black Flag.” Those who know that The Beatles and Black Flag are at completely different sides of the music spectrum would probably denounce this statement as foolish, but if you look back at Nirvana before the days of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” you can see that Cobain was the medium between the two.”

Cobain had always been into pop. His aunt Mari would give him Beatles records, and even in his posthumously-released journals, he called John Lennon his “idol.” So it comes as no surprise that “About a Girl” was the result of listening to Meet The Beatles! for three hours. “But I can see you every night, for free,” sang Cobain over jangly pop chords that, as producer Butch Vig states was “the first hint that there was more to Nirvana than grunge.” Although “About a Girl” was the diamond in the rough off of Nirvana’s debut album Bleach, songs such as “Negative Creep” were the crusty, punk jewels that would reflect Cobain’s desire to channel the inner rebel in himself.

Behind chugging riffs and dark tones was Cobain’s distorted voice as he yelled “I’m a negative creep,” the anger and frustration behind the lyrics leaving your head spinning. “Negative Creep” was the demented, rebellious counterpart to the melodic and sweet “About a Girl.” Cobain’s journey was barely beginning and it would be this challenge to
combine both sides of the spectrum that would ultimately lead to Cobain’s success and demise.

Fast forward to 1991 when Nirvana’s Nevermind is released, featuring the hit single, teen revolution anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Due to the success of the song and its video, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became an instant hit on MTV and contributed to Nirvana’s breaking out into the mainstream. Say goodbye to Michael Jackson’s Dangerous and hello to Nirvana’s Nevermind.

“It was shocking to be famous,” said Noveselic in a recent interview with the Associated Press. “Then, of course, there was Kurt, who was thrust into being the spokesman of a generation.”

Three nobodies triumphed over the King of Pop. How were the underdogs of the grunge movement able to pull the rug from under one of music’s biggest artist? The answer is not that simple, but we can look to Cobain’s constant battle with pop sensibilities and the punk aesthetic as the means of an answer.

Looking towards influences like Pixies and label mates Sonic Youth as sources of inspiration, Cobain was slowly drifting away from his past influences, intrigued by bands that incorporated dynamic contrast and were more melodic. Along with Pixies and Sonic Youth, R.E.M. became a large contributor to Cobain’s growth as a musician.

“I don’t know how that band does what they do. God, they’re the greatest,” said Cobain in an interview with Rolling Stone, months before his death in 1994. R.E.M.’s influence on Cobain can be heard in Nevermind’s “Come as You Are” and “Lithium.” Fluid and enticing, each song was a beautiful display of dynamic manipulation as they would start off quiet and subtle, only to end with resonance and power.

You can see this same formula in mainstream music today. Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” starts with a soft verse, only to grow into a powerful wave of guitar and drums. Even hip-hop prince Lil’ Wayne, who was a Nirvana fan growing up, follows a similar routine in “Lollipop,” where his rhymes are backed by minimal electronic sounds that grow into explosive, pulsating beats. Dynamics and volume would become a huge part of Nevermind’s success, especially with “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

The soft melodies and Cobain’s guttural, low vocals clashing against Grohl’s roaring drums and Noveselic’s piercing bass lines formed to create something that was ahead of its time. It managed to bring together Cobain’s growing taste in music with that of his past influences. You still get The Beatles’ verse-chorus-verse pop formula, but you also get the dynamic manipulations of Pixies and the hard, anarchic sound of Black Flag. “I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies,” said Cobain in the Rolling Stone interview.

Nevermind did what no other album was able to do during the 1990s: bring in both sides of the rock music spectrum. Most of the songs on the album are written in a way to where each melody can be hummed and easily memorized.

“I remember being in the sixth grade and Nevermind was a really popular album,” said UT History of Rock professor Benjamin Krakauer. “Kurt Cobain was a pop icon. A lot of kids wanted to look like him, dress like him and play guitar like him.”

The battle that Cobain faced wanting to encompass his pop and punk sides fueled the album into what it is known as today. From the lyrical content to the musicianship, you can hear, see and feel Cobain’s desire to master that middle ground. Nevermind bridged the gap between pop and punk, resulting in a masterpiece that still resonates with people today.

“I think Nevermind made disillusioned young people feel empowered, even heroic in the angst of their teenage experience,” Krakauer said. “The music was really fresh and clear, and that is why people have continued to enjoy it.”

Printed on September 29, 2011 as: "Nevermind" celebrates 20 years with re-release

About 1,500 miles away from Austin, political satirists and Comedy Central show hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Although the rally took place on the National Mall in Washington D.C., Austinites had a front row seat to the day’s events.

More than 6,000 people of different races, ages and political affiliations came together at the Capitol to watch a satellite projection of the rally and to advocate civility in politics. They carried signs with sayings like “Pro-sanity, not profanity,” “Friends don’t let friends teabag” and “I have a different opinion than you, but you aren’t Hitler.”

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin; State Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and City Councilman Mike Martinez spoke at the rally.

“We are rallying for a change in tone, a new process in getting things done,” Watson said. “We want a Texas that aspires, even as it achieves. We want leaders who are more interested in fixing things than fighting them.”

Instead of focusing on the upcoming Nov. 2 elections, the speakers addressed the need for respectful resolution of political conflicts.

“Our political discourse in this country has become a race to the bottom,” Leffingwell said. “We need to be civil, especially when we disagree.”

Local artists such as Dave Madden and Sticks and Stones played on the Capitol’s steps.

The audience watched as Stewart and Colbert presented mock awards for reasonableness and spreading fear and sang a song about how great it is to be an American. Although the rally was lighthearted and fun, it ended on a somber note when Stewart talked about the need for American unity.

“We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it is a shame we can’t work together to get things done,” Stewart said during the speech. “The truth is, we do. We work together to get things done every damn day.”

Dallas native Sandra Richards said she was pleased with Stewart’s critique of the media.

“Jon Stewart made it clear to me that the media does not chose what it covers very well,” Richards said. “Journalists tend to focus on inconsequential things and let important things go by unnoticed. This is unfair to the public who trusts them.”

Austin resident Morgan Cook said he is glad someone is standing up for what should change in politics.

“Although they are comedians, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have a lot of power,” Cook said. “Someone needs to let politicians know that what is going on is not right, and I think they have done a good job of it.”

But he isn’t sure how much good a rally will do, he said.

“A mass amount of change needs to happen for D.C. to become reasonable,” Cook said.