Can’t Say It Ain’t Good: Florida Georgia Line’s Latest Album Hits All Marks

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

Florida Georgia Line duo, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Can’t Say I Ain’t Country” hits the ground running and maintains its momentum. Released on Feb. 15, Florida Georgia Line’s fourth album topped country music charts and sold 50,000 album units in its first week, including digital downloads, according to Nielsen Music.

Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley showcase their versatility in this album with great tracks, such as “People are Different,” “Women” and “Simple,” the first single dropped prior to the album’s release. It debuted at No. 24 on the country charts when it released on the June 1, 2018 Airplay chart and peaked at No. 1 in October. This marks the 14th No. 1 hit for the dynamic country duo.

Their latest album reflects the adaptability of this country music group. While maintaining the groups’ roots, it also features collaborations with R&B/Hip Hop singer Jason Derulo and country superstar Jason Aldean. Derulo, best known for his platinum singles “Talk Dirty,” “Wiggle,” and “In my Head,” adds flavor to the duo’s album.  

“Women” reflects the group’s ability to infuse R&B into a truly new age country ballad. The trio harmonizes to create a powerful message, “Women, ya keep the world spinning with love in our eyes.” Tracks like “Sitting Pretty” also give listeners glimpses of the group’s musical range, offering some bluegrass twang to this country album.  

“Can’t Hide Red” is a masterful collaboration between Hubbard, Kelley, and Jason Aldean. The song reminds listeners to appreciate their roots because no matter where they go or how far they get in life, they can’t hide their bloodlines. Lyrics like “don’t you know you were born this way” and “you can see it in everything” remind listeners that no matter where they go or what they do, they “can’t hide red.” “Colorado” also brings out the duo’s roots and reflects the magic that made it possible for the group to stay relevant in the very competitive country music industry.  

An excellent balance of this group’s talent and soothing collaborations, “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country” is filled with music that will easily fuel Florida Georgia Line’s tour, set to begin this May.  

Trump’s Emergency Declaration Upsets Lehman Students

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

President Trump views border wall prototypes. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

President Trump views border wall prototypes. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Isn’t that unconstitutional?” asked Lehman sophomore and psychology major, Ana Gomez, about President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on Feb. 15.  During his speech that day at the White House Rose Garden, the president alleged that the declaration was necessary to expedite his border wall plan.  Trump also said that national emergencies have been signed many times by past presidents and that “nobody cares.” Whitehouse.gov states that the president plans to utilize military construction money in order to build the wall.

“I think it’s a symbolic form of bullying,” said Lehman junior and English major Jennifer Monique Crespo regarding the border wall. “With all the reports and research, it has been shown that the border wall is not the main entrance that illegal immigrants use to enter the U.S.,” she added.

A report for the Center for Migration Studies found that the number of illegal immigrants who overstay their temporary visas is double that of immigrants apprehended at the border.  The Department of Homeland Security reported that in 2017, 701,901 immigrants remained in the U.S. past their departure date which dwarfed the 303,916 that were apprehended attempting to cross the border illegally.

Trump’s previous effort to fund the wall resulted in a 35-day shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.  He failed to acquire the money he demanded and on Jan. 25 he signed an act to fund and resume halted operations. This included paying the salaries of more than 800,000 federal workers across the country whose wages had been held since Dec. 22.  The online magazine Vox estimated that 380,000 employees were suspended and 420,000 more worked without pay.

“I think it’s a symbolic form of bullying that the president is doing.” 

- Jennifer Monique Crespo, Lehman junior and English major 

The shutdown also impacted students, since all financial aid checks, scholarships, and other federal aid were delayed. This impeded the enrollment of thousands of students, including the 59 percent of Lehman students who receive financial aid, according to Lehman’s Department of Institutional Research.

Lehman junior and computer science major, Guevara Torres said, “I was definitely worried, not so much about coverage [of the shutdown] but on what terms my loans would need to be fulfilled.”

Smashing Pumpkins’ New Album Brings Back Classic Sound

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

“Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol 1” album cover. Photo by Jonathan Rivera.

“Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol 1” is The Smashing Pumpkins first album in over four years and takes fans back to their classic sound.  

Their latest album commemorates the return of founding guitarist, James Iha, after his two-decade hiatus from lead singer Billy Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and Jeff Schroeder on guitar and keyboard.  With Iha back, the classic balance of this alternative rock mega-group has been reestablished.

The first song “Knights of Malta” is a pseudo-emo anthem that is reminiscent of “1979” a hit song from their “Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness” album.  “You’ll just rise on forever…When doldrums age in platinum,” it croons.  

“Solara,” the album’s most memorable, offers the listener classic Pumpkins’ sound with a neoclassic twist. “Tear down the sun. Bring down the sun,” it exhorts. 

While well known for their hit albums “Siamese Dream” and “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” the band suffered a series of unsuccessful album releases over the span of the 30-year span of their music career. Their album “Adore” was one of the most anticipated albums of 1998 but fell short of fans expectations, selling only 174,000. Their previous album sold 246,500 in its first week.  

Iha’s departure from the Pumpkins created a new sound from the band, with “Machina,” their first album without Iha, ushering in a new era of Pumpkins music of further declining album sales. “Machina” sold only 583,000, making it the second lowest selling album released by the group.

Iha’s return brings back the classic sound that die-hard fans will appreciate, especially in “Silvery Sometimes,” where the steady guitar rhythm reflects Iha as a master musician and recalls “Tonight, Tonight,” one of the time-honored favorites of Smashing Pumpkins’ fans.  Lehman junior and English major Albert Gonzalez said, “I’m glad that Iha came back for this album. He is the driving force of the band’s rhythm in their songs.”   

Former President Bush’s Passing Signals End of an Era

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

President Bush pictured in 1992. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“The man served his country for over 40 years. He wasn’t the best president, but he served our country well,” said sophomore Orlando Green, a sociology major, regarding the passing of President George Herbert Walker Bush. On Nov. 30, 2018, the 41st president of the United States passed away at the age of 94, but his legacy still lives on.  

The patriarch of his family, Bush dedicated over 40 years of his life to public service. He stepped into the political field when he ran for U.S. Senate in 1964. Narrowly defeated by Democrat Ralph Yarborough, he went on to serve as U.S. ambassador to China as well as director of the CIA before being elected President in 1988. He was the first Vice President in 152 years to be elected president. “Freedom is at the very heart of the idea that is America. Giving life to the idea depends on every one of us,” Bush said in his 1990 State of the Union Address. 

During operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Bush deployed U.S. forces into Saudi Arabia to help expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait during the start of the Gulf War.  

Joye Decker, a junior in an adult degree program student said, “I remember the Gulf war on television when I was a kid. It’s a black eye in our history.”  

Bush’s death surprised many Lehman students who were familiar with both his administration and his influence on today’s political landscape. “When I heard the news, I was shocked.  It wasn’t that long [ago] that Barbara had died,” said Lehman junior, Joanna Rosario.  

Others viewed his passing as a blessing for Bush since he suffered many ailments in his advanced age. After the death of his wife, he suffered a blood infection that led to sepsis. 

“He’s finally at rest,” said CUNY Office Assistant, Crystal Jackson. “He seemed so fragile after his wife died.”

Is Dining Dollars a Wise Investment?

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

Dining Dollars poster. Photo by J. Manuel Rivera Cortes.

Lehman’s Dining Dollars, a system first implemented in the fall of 2016, offers students tax-free meals and 5 percent back for every $50 they deposit. The program has the potential to help alleviate the financial burden that many Lehman students experience. However, its two major incentives, tax-free dining and bonus dollars, may not be enough to convince the student body to buy into it.

Students can enroll by downloading the Blackboard Transact eAccounts app from the App Store or Google Play.  They can then use their Lehman logins to access their Dining Dollars accounts and add funds to their cards through any cafeteria cashier or at kiosk stations located on campus.

Director of Administrative Operations, Diane Clarke, stated that, “Students are able to save more from [tax-free] dining than the bonus dollars of the program.”  But while the program promotes savings of approximately $150 every semester, many students are unaware of its existence. 

“Never heard of it,” said senior English major Nelson Fernandez.

The price, quantity, and quality of the food offered at the cafeterias may explain the low enrollment.  “It sucks,” commented Crystal Jackson, a CUNY office assistant for the School of Education. “The quality isn’t worth the price. They’re overcharging us for garbage.”  

Lehman senior Alice Tharay, an English major, agreed: “[The food] is mediocre for the price we have to pay. [It’s] worth less than we pay.” 

Junior Davidia Boykins, a biology major, said, “I feel that the food is delicious but overpriced.”

The average price of a simple breakfast like coffee and a bagel with cream cheese can range between $2.75 and $5.50, while lunch and dinner costs from $6.85 to $11.75. As a result, students are upset that the quality of the meals is not worth the weekly financial burden.  High prices and subpar quality cause students to purchase food off campus.

Another downside to Dining Dollars is that it requires students to use up the entirety of their funds before the end of the semester or forfeit them to the system.  Senior Yesnuel Ramirez, a Computer Information Systems major, exclaimed, “That’s unfair, man. That’s actual dollars spent. Tangible money. If it doesn’t roll over, where does it go?”

Lehman senior and film major Robert Velasquez disagreed: “It’s a good program…If you forget your cash, you’re able to use the card to buy some food.”

Junior Waverliey Torres, a Biology major who has used Dining Dollars in the past, commented: “It’s nothing amazing.  I don’t really eat at the café too often anymore, so I don’t know how much I’m saving.”

Jesus Hopped the A Train Wows Audience

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

Poster courtesy of Lehman Stages.

Poster courtesy of Lehman Stages.

“Jesus Hopped the A Train” opened in the Studio Theatre Oct. 17. The production received a standing ovation once the curtain fell.  The contemporary play was written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, who has been part of the New York theatre scene for the past 20 years. He won the 2015 Pulitzer for drama for “Between Riverside and Crazy”. This play is the third Guirgis original to grace a Lehman stage, following “Motherfucker with the Hat” in fall of 2013 and “Our Lady of 121 Street” in the winter of 2008.

Directed by Lehman Theatre professor Jennifer McCabe, the play entailed moments of humor as well as addressing serious themes like disillusionment in society.  

“Jesus Hopped the A Train” follows the lives of two convicts on Rikers Island: Angel Cruz, played by Giovanni Ortiz, Lucius Jenkins, played by Jonathan Carter. Cruz is a young Puerto Rican man arrested for shooting a religious leader, Reverend Kim, who he believes to be the leader of a cult that brainwashed his best friend. Matters take an unexpected turn when Reverend Kim dies during surgery, and Cruz is charged with his death.

Jenkins on the other hand is a serial killer who has connected with his lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Cruz must come to terms with the consequences of his actions, while Jenkins fails to take responsibility for his own.  Both men are transformed by the sadistic Officer Valdez, played by Shantelle Watkins. She takes them on a journey that causes them to accept  their circumstances.  

Ortiz and Carter put on rousing performances as murderers. McCabe implemented serious themes, while incorporating levity and humor.  The initial exchange between Jenkins and Cruz was tense yet humorous. Lou’s positive spirit complemented Angel’s pessimism in a comedic way. McCabe was able to direct the actors in a way that created a balance between the gravity of the situation and the lighthearted moments.   The audience was overcome with laughter when Valdez was attempting to break Jenkins spirit and Lou commented, “I have rights.” 

“Carter does an amazing job relaying the inner conflict of his character.”

– Lehman senior Albert Huertas, a history major

The revelation about Lou’s fate resulted in gasps from the audience. Senior Albert Huertas, a history major, said, “I was shocked, I thought Lou was gonna beat it. Carter does an amazing job relaying the inner conflict of his character.”

Lehman alumna Cynthia La Cruz Jimenez said, “It was so great! They did an amazing job.” Albert Huertas agreed: “I don’t normally like plays, but this was freaking sweet!”  

The eight student actors were transformed by their onstage experiences. Watkins said, “My journey has been impactful. I believe in [McCabe’s] vision. She allowed us to grow as actors and as students.”  

Senior Christine D’Onofrio, who played Mary Jane Hanrahan, concurred: “This experience has been life changing and eye opening to me…[McCabe] is extremely good at constructive criticism. We respect and trust her.”

Bullet Shatters Glass in Carman Hall

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

Carman Hall. Photo by J. Manuel Rivera Cortes.

On Oct. 23, Professor Amod Choudhury discovered a bullet in his office in Carman Hall.  

“I was on a phone call with the Dean’s office when I noticed a copper-like bullet on the ground near the window,” said Choudhary. Upon further review he noticed a small hole in the pane of glass near him.

Public Safety quickly dispatched three officers to complete an initial investigation. Director of Public Safety, Fausto Ramirez then contacted the 52nd Precint. Its forensic team was able to extract the pane of glass for laboratory examination. They figured out that the bullet was fired from a distance.  

Memorial of Paula Soto. Photo by J. Manuel Rivera Cortes.

Ramirez said, “The act is believed to have occurred in an adjacent neighborhood across Reservoir Avenue.”  The NYPD declared the incident as a violation of the Penal code 120.25, defined as reckless endangerment in the first degree.  

Ramirez questioned the 50th and 52nd precincts about any possible gunfire activities during the discovery of the metal fragment. He told The Meridian that no report of this was confirmed.

Ramirez recalled the tragic death of Paula Soto, a former Lehman student. On March 19, 1991 Soto was killed by a stray .22 mm bullet shot from the 4 train while playing softball on the campus field 150 yards away. Ramirez, a public safety officer at the time, was the responding officer to the shooting. He explained that Soto was rushed to the hospital but died four hours later. A memorial in her honor was placed near the Shuster Hall building.

According to a report released by the 52nd Precinct, there  were 15 shootings in 2017 and 2018. The report also states that these numbers reflect a 42.3 percent drop over the past eight years and an 80 percent drop over the last 25 years.

Lehman currently has 144 operational video cameras and 188 call boxes all throughout Lehman College to help ensure student safety.  The NYPD also dispatches sector cars to patrol the perimeter of the Lehman campus during the evening hours.

Despite these measures, the most recent incident has raised concerns among students, with some stating that a checkpoint should be implemented where students must swipe their ID cards to gain entry to the campus. Senior Neil Omancharan, a Diet and Nutrition major, said, “I don’t like the idea of not having a swipe system when it concerns my safety.” 

Professor McCabe Brings Jesus to Lehman

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

Jennifer McCabe’s headshot. Photo courtesy of Lehman College.

“Jesus Hopped the A Train” rolled into Lehman Oct. 17 thru 20, directed by veteran actor and assistant professor, Jennifer McCabe.  “As a director I get everything from my actors,” she said. “I am 100 percent an actor’s director.”  Having grown up in the theatre, McCabe explains it is a second family to her, and she brings the strength of that bond to her directing.

McCabe has over 30 years’ experience within theatre.  The child of thespians who lacked child care, she began watching her parents’ rehearsals at the age of two.

At 13, she joined their world, and began acting onstage while playing soccer for her school team. The latter would garner her a scholarship to college, where she slowly found that theatre was her love and motivating force.  To pursue it professionally she earned an MFA from the Actors Studio Drama School at The New School. After graduation she worked for a majority of the playhouses on Theatre Row, and this motivated her to become an educator.

Junior Shantelle Watkins, theatre major and business minor, said of McCabe’s directing style, “She makes sure we have a full background. Her technique helps us analyze and go deeper.”  

Senior Christine D’Onofrio, a theatre major in the Adult Degree Program, said, “She makes us feel safe.  She is able to pull things out of us. In this play, the character work is so important, we give meaning to it with Prof. McCabe guidance.” Both agreed that McCabe has brought them and their classmates into the creative process, and made them molders of the drama.

McCabe explained the idea for the production came to her in conversation with Professor Richard DesRochers, Director of the Multimedia and Theatre programs, who encouraged her to direct it for the Fall 2018 semester. For her, the most memorable scene of her most recent play is Act 2, Scene 4. “This scene feels like the final countdown.  It is very tense, and every player helps to build that tension.” She hopes that this production sheds light on what it means to take responsibility and on the extent to which we have become desensitized and disillusioned in our society.  It addresses the state of the criminal justice system, faith and forgiveness.

McCabe advises anyone interested in pursuing an acting career to know that there are many ways to participate in theatre that will help students to become better actors.  “Theatre is collaborative!  Therefore, you have to know how to work well with others.  Stay educated on the subject and its trends and purpose in society.”