All posts by ceccheed

What Harrisonburg Sounds Like to Me

What would your answer be if someone were to ask what music means to you? It’s one of those questions that can be tantalizing and frustrating, not because of our lack of a response, but because it’s sometimes difficult to put such an intangibility into words that do it justice. Music has the amazing ability to make us smile, laugh, cry, and even write about it in a long list of clichés. For me, music has played a huge role in preserving memories and even defining periods of my life. Hanson will always remind me of the first time I bought a cassette (I know. Laugh it up), the Smashing Pumpkins bring vivid recollections of my first girlfriend, and Rage Against the Machine will forever be tied to the day I realized a white, affluent pre-teen from the suburbs could raise his middle finger to the government. Now as I get ready to leave college and reluctantly watch another milestone of my life fade into the distance, I’ve thought a lot about the ways music has made a difference these past few years and how it will resonate with me in the future.

When I came to JMU two years ago as a transfer student living off-campus, the change in scenery was intimidating. Adapting to a new school and friends was something I had all but forgotten how to do. During this time, music played a crucial role in the process by helping me connect with those around me to establish meaningful relationships. The first day I met my new roommate Michael, it was easy to overcome social barriers because of our shared interests. Even if the conversation was something as simple as discussing what the best Weezer album is (Pinkerton of course), it provided us a relaxed topic through which we could easily connect.

As my time at JMU progressed, I continued to use music as a means of extroversion. After only about a month, my good friend Nate and I had our own radio show through WXJM. Airing during the primetime slot of Saturdays at 12 am, this outlet provided the incredible opportunity to share something that was so important to us with a wide (probably like 6 people) audience. Between WXJM and other chance encounters, music has proved to be a binding aspect of building the relationships that I still value to this day.

Whether bands were playing soundtrack to the good or the bad, they helped make these past two years become the unique and special times that they were. During my first month at school, The National’s brooding lyrics and soft piano melodies accompanied me perfectly. I will never forget listening to the new Vampire Weekend album while walking home to Stonegate, or watching my friend stand on his porch with a beer in hand, loudly singing Whitney Houston to anyone who cared to listen.

When I finally head home after two fantastic years here at JMU, my life will change drastically, but like always, music will remain a constant. It will be there to help me re-connect with the old friends that I’ve been apart from, as well as remember the ones I’m leaving behind. As I said at the beginning of this post, however important music is to us, sometimes it simply defies description. In an effort to try and share these feelings in the most direct way possible, I have put together a short playlist of the songs that define my time here in Harrisonburg. Whether you love them or hate them, it is my hope that at least one of these songs will resonate with you the way they did with me, and perhaps even become an important part of your life.

Eric’s Definitive Harrisonburg Playlist

Brainy – The National

Movie Star – Swearin’

Amenamy – Purity Ring

Everything Goes My Way – Metronomy

Klapp Klapp – Little Dragon

Genesis – Grimes

Every Single Night – Fiona Apple

Lodi – Creedence Clearwater Revival

The Mother We Share – CHVRCHES

Made-Up Dreams – Built To Spill

Breezeblocks – Alt J

T.S.R – Against Me!

Someone Great – LCD Soundsystem

The Drying Of The Lawns – The Tallest Man on Earth

Custom Concern – Modest Mouse

Pusha Man – Chance The Rapper

I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston

Money Trees – Kendrick Lamar

Obvious Bicycle – Vampire Weekend

Let ‘CAP’ Help You Take That Next Step to Success.

After a few years here at JMU, I have come to realize that there is truly something for everyone. When I wanted to host my own radio show, WXJM allowed me to do that. When I wanted to play in an organized soccer league, JMU’s intermural program helped me make that a reality. When I wanted professional experience in my field, the Office of Technology and Design was there to offer me an amazing job. JMU’s vast expanse of extracurriculars and services cater to virtually every conceivable situation students would want to find themselves in.

I am now a JMU student in the twilight of his senior year, becoming exponentially more panicked each passing day about life after college, and much to my relief, JMU has something for that too.

The JMU Career and Academic Planning Center’s goal is to “provide opportunities and support that will engage students in the process of exploring, evaluating, and choosing academic programs and careers.” Whether you are a freshman concerned with choosing a major or a panicked senior trying to lock down a job, the CAP program has something for you.

After speaking to the very helpful communications coordinator Emily Blake, I learned that the ways in which CAP helps students can broadly be broken up into three categories.

Helping students find their direction. By providing knowledgeable and friendly professional liaisons for every major, CAP makes sure to cater directly to all JMU students. Whether you are a freshman trying to determine your major or a senior frantically researching graduate schools/potential career options, the CAP faculty is here to help!

Cleaning up that resume and sharpening those interview skills. Working in tandem with their faculty, CAP provides an extensive online guide to crafting the ideal professional persona. The numerous links on their website cover everything from resume building to networking techniques and everything in-between.

Job and internship opportunities. Job fairs and professional workshops are all held on a regular basis. Keep up to date with the latest events with the handy calendar located on their website.

Last but certainly not least, CAP offers students the “Recruit a Duke” service. This online amenity allows students to search through a wealth of potential employers who are interested in hiring JMU students. By using multiple filters, users of “Recruit a Duke” are able to create a personalized experience that helps bring you one step closer to landing that job.

Now that you know all about the comprehensive, available, and completely free services dedicated entirely to taking that post-grad stress off your shoulders, come check it out here!

The College Culinary Guide for the Lazy and Hungry

by Eric Cecchett

Returning to school after a long summer can be difficult for some students. Exchanging those long beach-filled days and carefree summer nights for 15 credits and a job hardly seems like a trade worth making. For me, one of the hardest parts about coming back to Harrisonburg in the fall is saying goodbye to the coddling embrace of living in my parents’ house. After living in an apartment for two years where you would be hard-pressed to find a paper towel, I have come to truly appreciate the beauty of a domesticated and well-established kitchen.

Until I came to JMU and began living on my own, I never quite realized the challenges involved in shopping for and feeding oneself. But after many ramen dinners and desperate walks to E-Hall in two feet of snow, I like to think I’ve learned some valuable lessons. In this article, I hope to impart some of this knowledge in the hopes that it will educate even the most parsimonious and nutritionally confused college student.

Perhaps the most essential ingredients (get it?) to maintaining a well-stocked kitchen is to find recipes, plan ahead of time, and most importantly, make lists. On too many occasions have I absent-mindedly left the grocery store having forgot to buy the very thing I went there for in the first place. If you are half as scatter-brained as I am, a well thought out list is an absolute must for any successful grocery run.

Although I would strongly suggest using recipes (I’ll provide some later), if you are someone who simply prefers to wing it, I have some tips for you as well! Amassing a large selection of versatile and non-perishable foods allows you to have a wide range of meal options for an extended period of time. Purchases such as rice, canned beans, and frozen vegetables are easy to store and provide a countless variety of options for the cook who prefers not to follow directions.

Lastly, I will play the role of the concerned parent and implore you to not ignore fresh fruits and vegetables. Most grocery stores in the area offer a fine selection of fruits and veggies for an affordable price for any college student (try downtown Harrisonburg’s Friendly City Co-op for slightly more expensive, but delicious and local produce). I’ve learned in these past few years that buying lots of veggies for myself forces me to get creative and find new ways to use them that I never before would have considered. If you’re still like I was a few years ago and are scared of those greens on your plate, it’s time to grow up and learn to love your veggies.

Hopefully these tips have provided some guidance from your kitchen to the grocery store and everywhere in between. Here are some of my personal favorite recipes for your viewing (and perhaps tasting) pleasure. Enjoy! Easy, healthy and completely vegan tofu lettuce wraps! Sweet potato fries are an easy, moderately healthy snack (or meal) fit for any occasion.

This last recipe is one that my girlfriend and I have pieced together over the past couple of months. It incorporates tons of veggies and leaves enough leftovers to feed yourself for most of the week!

Chelsea and Eric’s lazy veggie pasta:

1 lb of your favorite pasta.

1 can of plain tomato sauce.

~2Tbs olive oil

½ large onion, diced.

½-1 green pepper, diced

1 clove of garlic, finely diced

½ block of tofu. (optional but highly recommended)

frozen spinach (however much you like.)

8-10 baby carrots, diced.

Salt (to taste)

Pepper (to taste)

Red pepper flakes (to taste)

Cumin (to taste)

  1. Start by sautéing onion, garlic, and olive oil in a medium sized pot (this will be the same pot that you cook your sauce in. So make sure it’s big enough!)
  2. When the onions begin to turn translucent, add the rest of the veggies and crumbled tofu. Continue to sauté for a few minutes on medium heat.
  3. After a few minutes, add the entire can of tomato sauce and stir, making sure the veggies are evenly incorporated. This is also when you want to add your spices. Turn heat to low and leave covered for roughly 30 minutes. Make sure to come back occasionally to give it a good stir.
  4. After the 30 minutes are up, cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. Once it is finished, combine with sauce in a large pot.


Summer Fun in the District

By: Eric Cecchett

With the summer months fast approaching, I, like so many others here at JMU, am slowly (but surely) trudging through a sea of assignments and deadlines, the promise of three months vacation serving as my light at the end of the tunnel.   Among a schedule of erratic naps and binge-writing sessions, I manage to find time to fill my head with daydreams of the warmer, carefree months ahead.  As a native of Northern Virginia, Washington D.C has always been the place to go when looking for an exciting way to spend my time.  

To help make sure you fellow NoVA residents don’t take our nation’s capital for granted this summer, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite DC activities to help get you started.

“Screen on the Green”-  Taking place on the national mall between 7th and 12th Streets,   every Monday night, this unique event takes movies ranging from “E.T” to “Psycho” and puts them up on a large projector screen for anyone to watch (for free!).  Although the movies for 2014 have yet to be announced, I would recommend prepping your lawn chairs and picnic baskets for what is sure to be another great summer from this DC staple.  

Baseball at Nationals Park-  Ever since the installation of their beautiful new stadium in 2008, seeing a game at National’s Park has quickly become one of my favorite DC activities.  With a wide range of tickets available for well under $20 and easy access via the metro, a day at the Nat’s ballpark is both convenient and affordable.  

The Black Cat-  Although it may be overshadowed by larger local venues such as Merriweather and the 9:30 Club, The Black Cat has maintained a quiet modesty while becoming one of the best spots in DC for live music and dance parties.  If you’re not into the live music scene, this venue has been known to host karaoke nights and even the occasional Dr. Who happy hour.  Check out their website here and find something on the schedule for you!

The Brooklyn Brewery Mash- Those of you that choose to do your beer shopping with downtown Harrisonburg’s Midtown Market have undoubtably seen products from the Brooklyn Brewery.  As a rapidly expanding independent company, Brooklyn is bringing their brand to DC with the self-proclaimed “largest traveling food and arts festival in America.”  The Brooklyn Brewery Mash combines food, beer and culture in a one week (June 1-7), city-wide event.  Brooklyn’s site offers detailed schedules and descriptions of the many exciting events that can be expected.  

The National Gallery of Art-  While I realize that many people have most likely visited the National Gallery before, after paying $15 to get into the MoMA in New York, I cannot stress enough how fortunate we are to have this completely free resource available to us.  Hosting paintings ranging from Monet to Dali, the collection at this museum is guaranteed to amaze even the most casual advocates of fine art.  Visit their site here to check out upcoming exhibitions for the summer. 

A Spring Hike at Shenandoah National Park

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By: Eric Cecchett

Although you would never believe it after stepping into the brisk 32 degree Harrisonburg weather, the spring season is officially upon us.  As we keep our fingers crossed for rising temperatures, it is difficult not to begin contemplating warm weather plans from the comforting shelter of a dozen blankets.

During a short-lived spike in temperature this past weekend, a group of friends and I eagerly pulled out our mental lists in order to decide on how we would take advantage of the lovely weather.  After narrowing down our options, we eventually decided on a hike at Shenandoah National Park.  

As a child born and raised in the gentrified suburbs of northern Virginia, even our drive to the park left me completely amazed.  Located roughly 20 miles outside of Harrisonburg, the road to Shenandoah National Park consisted of steep winding roads that provided breathtaking views of the surrounding area.  

Upon our arrival, my friends and I decided to take on an intermediate trail known as the Rose River loop trail.  This particular hike consisted of a variety of terrains, ranging from rocky climbs to tame creek-side strolls.  The Rose River loop is also known for its proximity to two spectacular waterfalls, which hikers are able to walk directly up to.  Unfortunately, the beauty of these natural wonders was slightly obscured by the residual ice and mud left over from the long winter.  Our group unanimously agreed that this would be a trail worth doing again in the summer months.  

Despite the intermediate label on our trail, by the end of the hike, everyone was sufficiently exhausted.  During the relaxing drive back down the mountain, the sight of dozens of deer and a beautiful sunset only augmented our sense of serenity.  After my amazing first trip to Shenandoah National Park, I have yet another reason to keep my fingers crossed for warmer weather.

Check out the park’s site and plan a trip of your own here!

Must See Movies of 2013

By: Eric Cecchett

With the 86th Academy Awards fast approaching, now seems to be as good a time as ever to look back on the best of what Hollywood brought us in 2013.  All Oscar speculation aside, here is a short list of what I thought to be the best films of this past year.

Inside Llewyn Davis– The Coen brothers’ latest film takes place in Greenwich Village as it patiently chronicles a few days in the life of an aspiring 1960s folk singer.  Focusing on live musical performances from the wonderfully talented cast, this unique story manages to fascinate while largely avoiding a traditional plot structure.  For the audience that doesn’t mind a little aimless tragedy, Inside Llewyn Davis  provides an emotionally charged and aesthetically brilliant experience.

Upstream Color– Although you won’t find this movie on any Oscar list, this Sundance-released film was hailed by many critics as the quiet masterpiece of the year.  Rookie filmmaker Shane Carruth directs and stars in this deeply complex and experimental piece of cinema about a woman attempting to rebuild her life after an intensely traumatic and damaging life experience.Upstream Color is certainly not for most audiences, as it will often pose more questions than provide answers.  However, those interested in a serious, challenging film will not be disappointed.

Her– Is it creepy to find a serious relationship between a grown man and his computer endearing?  This is a question that many will find themselves asking when watching Spike Jonze’s beautifully strange new film.  Her raises frighteningly relevant questions regarding both ourselves and our ever-increasing obsession with technology.  Driven by a heartbreaking performance from Joaquin Phoenix, this film excels on nearly every level.  Boasting dazzling visuals, captivating music, and one of the most original screenplays of the year, this film deserves a spot on everyone’s ‘must see’ list.

Wolf of Wall Street– With a run time of three hours and detailed depictions of just about every act of depravity imaginable, this is not a film for the easily offended.  Leonardo DiCaprio plays the lead character, Jordan Belmont, with an unbelievable intensity that could very well earn him his first ever Academy Award.  Wolf of Wall Street acts as a smart, and often exaggerated, satire on the indulgent nature and questionable morals of America’s one percent.  A lewd and wildly entertaining epic of greed and corruption, this film practically demands a viewing from anyone who is brave enough.

Gravity–  Before this film, I never imagined I would enjoy watching Sandra Bullock flail around in space for an hour and a half.  Much to my surprise, I was proved wrong.  Gravity provides one of the most immersive and suspenseful film experiences of the year behind the masterful direction of Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men).  Using state-of-the-art special effects, this movie is able to faithfully recreate the look and feel of outer space to an incredible degree.  The perfect use of these effects creates an intense atmosphere that keeps the audience in a constant state of terror.  In very few cases have I ever seen a film with such a simple plot manage to be so compelling.  Short, sweet, and an absolute joy to look at, Gravity is a fantastic watch for anyone who wants to be entertained.

Happy watching!