A Tale of Two LSATS

Months after the start of a pandemic and lockdown, we have begun to take steps toward returning to normalcy.  

Enter the LSAT Flex here. This is a fun little test administered by the LSAC, or Law School Admission Council, who has been continuing efforts across the country for people to take the LSAT even as large testing centers are forced to remain closed.  

A friend of mine and I took our tests this year at the same time. Not only do we both attend the UB, but we have also taken on the task of studying three times a week for the three months prior to our test. We, finally, decided to settle on taking the test in November since it was the final test offered in 2020.  

Originally scheduled for Saturday, November 14th, we planned to take our exams online. Interestingly enough, unlike in-person exams, ours would be an hour shorter with only 3 portions instead of 5.  

It was running smoothly until it wasn’t.  

A week before the exam, we received an email from LSAC telling us to choose between the 7th, 9th, 10th, or the 11th, effectively making the test a week earlier than expected and costly as we had already taken off of work for the original date.  This was only the beginning.  

My friend chose November 10th and I chose November 11th .  

On November 10th, her computer and desktop fail the necessary processor run to take the test. An hour later, after waiting on hold, she is informed that she has missed her test time and will need to take the test in January before ultimately her to take the test later in the day. 

On November 11th, scarred by my friend’s story, I decided to take 3 computers with me to avoid the same issue. Thankfully, this isn’t where my problems lied.   

The test, however, was similar to practice tests taken previously with similar structure and timing. Let’s just say that months after highlighting and other strategies at my disposal, taking the exam via computer was a change of pace.  

In case you’re curious as to how I did, let’s say that I’ll be definitely taking it again.  

Charles Rhem is a staff writer for The Sting.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs at 50

1970 was a big year for music. November of that year saw the release of two of the most highly regarded albums of all time. This week, I’m taking a look back at the one and only Derek and the Dominos LP, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

By 1970, Eric Clapton was growing fatigued with the musicians whom he had played with for the latter half of the 1960’s. Cream released their final LP, Goodbye, in early 1969, and the one-off Blind Faith released their only effort later that year. He toured for a time with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, but still found himself looking for more.

For his next project, Clapton went by an alias (Derek) and recruited a host of studio musicians, as well as acclaimed slide guitarist Duane Allman to play. He didn’t want his fame to get in the way of the band image he was striving to create.

In August 1970, the band went into the studio. The resulting recordings have been described by many as Clapton’s magnum opus.

Inspired by extreme dissolution as well as infatuation with another man’s wife, the songs on this record have really stood the test of time. Oftentimes, I find some records sound dated (even more modern ones), either because of the recording techniques or equipment of the era, or because the songs were only relevant in a certain place in time. That is certainly not the case here.

The album features nine original songs and five covers. Among the covers is a slowed down and powerful version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” honoring the famed guitarist who had died while the band was recording. Other covers include Jimmy Cox’s 1923 hit, “Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out” and Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway” to name a couple. But the original material is what really shines.

“I Looked Away” opens the record, and we immediately hear the pain Clapton is feeling. After all, being in love with George Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd, can’t be easy especially when she doesn’t love you back. “Bell Bottom Blues” follows a similar theme, with the haunting chorus “I don’t want to fade away” ingrained in my mind for all eternity.

“Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?” is probably my favorite deep cut from Layla. The song has an immense sense of urgency, as Clapton sings of trying to save his prospects of love. It shows a man who knows he’s about to lose something, even as he tries desperately to prevent it.

Then there’s the seven-minute pinnacle of Eric Clapton’s entire career. The song opens with one of the most recognizable guitar riffs there is, as Clapton sings of his final plea to save his love. “You got me on my knees/I’m begging darling please” echo as we hear of why he fell in love with “Layla” in the first place. After a climactic guitar solo, the song enters an otherworldly “piano exit.” As Jim Gordon plays piano, Clapton and Allman improvise for four minutes on guitar, resulting in a truly beautiful piece of art.

As I wrote these words, I had the LP on again, reminding me just how magnificent this work really is. It’s in my top five of all-time, and it is for many music fans alike. One of the most universal feelings humans have is love, and it’s love that drives us to do things we never thought possible. Clapton felt it, and made us all feel the immense sense of love and loss in listening to this record.

It’s worth noting that Clapton did end up marrying Pattie Boyd later that decade, although they were divorced 10 years after that. However at least, for a time, Eric Clapton did end up succeeding in love.

Tony Sheaffer is managing editor for The Sting and writes Friday Groove, a weekly music column.

The Color Theory: Symbol of Justice

Photo Credit: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

Like I said before in a previous post, we are closing in on a pretty shitty year. Although 2020 has been a wild ride for many of us, I know I am not the only one that is super happy that Trump is finally being kicked out of the office.

With our new president coming into the horizon, there are still social issues we face in a very divided country. In this week’s post, for me to talk about politics after this year’s election is only “fitting” (pun intended).

We started this year with uncertainty, but many people can say that we are ending it with a shining glimmer of hope. But with Biden becoming President, we have to realize that this is just the beginning, this country still has a lot of work to do.

Photo Credit: Jeff Dominguez

One of the biggest obstacles that President Biden will face in his first day in office is racial inequality. Over numerous decades, we have seen tragedies and murders of innocent black lives. 2020 has shined light upon from the events of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other countless names from this year alone. 

More names memorialized here (via CBS News)

Photo Credit: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

I digress, but let’s not forget that The Color Theory is a fashion column. Like I said in the past, hoodie season is now in full effect. Hoodies have transcended fashion in so many ways, but also social-political movements as well.

Consider this: in the mid 70s, for some, hoodies were seen as a sign of rebellion and crime. Denis Wilson of Rolling Stone says “from its association with punk and hip-hop to skater culture, the hoodie has a history of being adopted by youth-driven communities once relegated to the fringes, imbuing it with an iconoclastic, sometimes criminal, subtext. Mainstream fashion may embrace it as a practical article of clothing, but it never lost that edge”.

Things like this creates racial biases. For people like George Zimmerman, creates a divide and fuels more to the fire. This negative connotation of hoodies meant that people like Zimmerman think innocent kids like Trayvon were “up to no good” just because they had their hood up – and to call it self-defense is absolutely shameful.

Photo Credit: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

Nowadays, some can argue that the hoodie can represent a symbol of defiance and progression after the tragedy of Trayvon Martin back in 2012. If you remember the protests at the time, a great number of Americans donned the hoodie. Marching and chanting “We are all Trayvon Martin”. Hundreds of supporters walked in a Million Hoodie March in New York – and then other gatherings in other cities (Linton Weeks via NPR).

So hoodies do not necessarily have to be a symbol of anything – as this particular piece of clothing should be representing your aesthetic and nature. Let’s be realistic, everyone in America owns at least one hoodie. Troy Patterson from The New York Times Magazine puts it best: “A black guy in a hoodie is just another of the many millions of men and boys dressed in the practical gear of an easygoing era. Or he should be”.

All I am really saying is, racism has been passed down from hundreds of generations. It’s up to all of us today to start a different mindset for many generations to come. Everyone owns a hoodie, everyone poops, everyone dies, so let’s learn how to love and forgive each other.

Photo Credit: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

What Dave Chappelle said in his most recent appearance on Saturday Night Live, predicates to everything I am telling you now. Watch it, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from his monologue:

“All the white people who feel that anguish, that pain, that man, they think nobody cares – Maybe they don’t. But let me tell you something, I know how that feels. I promise you, I know how that feels”

“You’re a police officer. Every time you put on a uniform, you feel like you’ve got a target on your back. You’re appalled by the ingratitude that people have when you would risk your life to save them – Oh man, believe me. Believe me, I know how that feels. Everyone knows how that feels.”

“I don’t hate anybody, but I hate that feeling. That’s what I fight through, I suggest that’s what you fight through”

Although we may have another old white man back in office again, let’s not be mistaken for this: we have to hold him accountable just like any other President before him. We are in an era of progression – an era where we want to love each other and live off the simplicities of life.

In his transition plans, via Build Back Better, it states: “President-elect Joe Biden is working to strengthen America’s commitment to justice, and reform our criminal justice system. As the former District Attorney of San Francisco and Attorney General of California, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has spent her entire career fighting for justice for the people, and equal justice under law”

The Biden-Harris administration will work with Congress to pass police reform legislation including:

  • A nationwide ban on chokeholds.
  • Stopping the transfer of weapons of war to police forces.
  • Improving oversight and accountability, to create a model use of force standard.
  • Creating a national police oversight commission.

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting and writes The Color Theory, a bi-weekly fashion column.

Protest Songs: A Fine American Tradition

There’s a bad misconception about American music that we only had protest songs after Vietnam. 

Certainly, over the past few years, music has made us more aware of the calamities of the Trump presidency and other hot button social issues, but these don’t even tell the entire story of how this genre is ingrained in our culture.

In fact, protest songs are older than the United States itself.

“Free America” is the one of the originals, dating back to the Revolutionary War. Joseph Warren wrote the song in 1774 as a call to arms for the American militia. The song encourages soldiers to defend America from going the way of the ancient republics of Athens and Rome reminding listeners that Britain had been beaten before by the Romans, “Picts, Danes and Normans.” 

The song “Yankee Doodle,” dates slightly further back to the Seven Years War (1756-1763) when British soldiers mocked Americans for being so disorganized in their military prowess. The Americans began singing the song ironically to taunt the British. At the siege of Yorktown (where the Revolutionary War ended), General Lafayette ordered the French army band to play the song when the British refused to acknowledge the triumphant Americans.

In the early to mid-19th century, protest music was sung mainly by enslaved people, in many cases as code. “Go Down, Moses,” is based on excerpts of the Bible where Moses freed the enslaved Israelites. It was even sung by Harriet Tubman as a way to communicate on the Underground Railroad.

During the Civil War, the song “John Brown’s Body” became synonymous with the Union cause.  Played to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “John Brown’s Body” recognizes abolitionist John Brown, who was martyred following an unsuccessful slave revolt in Harpers Ferry, VA. The song, besides lyrics relating to Brown, also endorses the hanging of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Following the Civil War and Reconstruction, James Weldon Johnson wrote another African spiritual that has endured as the Black National Anthem for over 100 years, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Johnson was principal of the Edwin M. Stanton School in Jacksonville, FL when Booker T. Washington visited to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in February 1900. Originally written as a poem for Washington’s visit, it was put to music in 1905 and was adopted as the Black National Anthem in 1919.

Twenty years later, protest music and pop music collided, with the release of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” The first pop-protest song spoke of people hanging from trees, and how they appeared to be, well, strange fruit. In reality, the people had been lynched, an egregious reality for many African-Americans in the south during that time. With recorded music becoming more widely available, “Strange Fruit” went on to become one of the popular and influential songs of the twentieth century.

Around the same time, Woody Guthrie rose to prominence as a singer-songwriter for his ballads about the Dust Bowl, hard times, and war. Among his most famous songs are “This Land Is Your Land” which was a scathing rebuke of “God Bless America” and “Tom Joad” which chronicles The Grapes of Wrath character Tom Joad during the Dust Bowl. Most often when he played, Guthrie had a label on his guitar that read, “This Machine Kills Fascists.”

Just before Vietnam, protest music exploded. Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are A’ Changin’,” chronicling what was perceived as mass public opinion among rising tensions in the United States. That same year, Sam Cooke released “A Change Is Gonna Come” as a jarring look at the state of race relations in the United States. 

Then came Vietnam, when the protest songs we hear to this day took the stage. 

 “For What It’s Worth,” written by Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield (who performed the track) is the iconic anti-war song that has been covered so many times I’ve lost count. It was a rallying cry for the anti-war movement and was even recently performed by Billy Porter following protests after the killing of George Floyd. Country Joe and the Fish expressed a similar sentiment with the “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die-Rag,” which they performed live at Woodstock in 1969. The following year, Neil Young of Buffalo Springfield wrote and released “Ohio,” in response to the horrifying Kent State Massacre in which four college students were killed when the National Guard opened fire on a crowd of Vietnam protestors.

Meanwhile, there are many more songs that come to mind that deserved to be named to this day. You could write an entire book and still not include them all, including some modern ones and my favorites, like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” or Green Day’s “American Idiot,” both of which came out in the last 30 years or so. 

Suffice it to say, as this election drags on and we enter into a newer and more politically-contentious time, don’t let people convince you that music never was political. It’s always been and is just a matter of  whether or not we want to see it.

Tony Sheaffer is managing editor for The Sting. He writes Friday Groove, a weekly music column.

Honeycomb Hideout: Handling Friends While Social Distancing

Photo: Liza Pooor

Dear Honeycomb Hideout, I have been dodging my friends almost all pandemic. It’s nothing personal but watching their Instagram stories they’re constantly out in public without masks, and I’ve been trying to take social distancing seriously.  Any advice on how to handle this? Sincerely, Six Feet Please. 

In short and simple terms, just tell them no because there are two cardinal rules we live by:  One, God is working on all of us and two, don’t put me at risk. Seriously though, we are currently in the middle of a very serious pandemic and the fact that your friends are trying to still have a hot girl summer, well it’s officially fall now but you get my point. I imagine at this point you’ve used all the classic excuses to get out of going like I’m not feeling well, I got a flat tire on the way, or it’s a f****** pandemic. I also want to take a moment to give you a round of applause – even if you can’t hear it I’m giving you a nice golf clap for actually taking this pandemic serious unlike your friends. With everything going on in the world wanting to keep yourself safe is nothing to feel bad about. If your friends are truly your friends, they will accept that you want to keep safe and respect that. I know how hard it is to be stuck in the house 24/7, especially with things opening up to limited capacity. My main advice on this is to stand strong on your beliefs of how you’ve been handling this pandemic. 

I will also offer some Covid-19 friendly things you can do with your friends. A huge thing that has become a hit is Zoom parties. Now I know you may be thinking I already spend eight hours a day behind a screen for my job already; why would I want to spend more time doing so? My answer to this is one: alcohol and two: your friends virtually sharing a space with you having fun. Taking time on a Friday night to sit at home safely blasting music, dance, laugh at jokes, and drink and be happy does wonders for you soul, trust me. I’m going to guess you’re writing me because you miss your friends and also miss your life on the outside.  

Stay strong, stay safe, and don’t forget to vote. 

Sincerely, HCHO 

It’s Election Night. Here’s How The Sting staffers are spending theirs.

It’s not a stretch to say that this year has been one for the history books. 

We’ve endured an ongoing pandemic, protests, murder hornets, and unexpected hurricanes. Not to mention, the passing of two civil rights icons,  former Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis and Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

It seems that an election is all we need to test the limits of our sanity. 

In anticipation for what will certainly be an historic night, we’re offering a glimpse into how The Sting staff is spending their Election Night, in case anyone’s interested: 

Leonard Robinson, editor-in-chief 

I’m a self-confessed political junkie. I voted early by mail, but have no idea what will happen. My eyes are on Senate races in Kentucky, North Carolina, Colorado, Arizona, and Georgia as they seem like they can heat up as Democrats attempt to take back the Senate and some local races in Baltimore City, especially my local city council race between Democrat Carl Stokes and Green Party candidate Franca Mueller Paz. 

I’m pretty sure that we will have no idea who is occupying the White House by tomorrow morning. 

I have class tomorrow morning at 9:30 so I’ll probably take it easy as I watch with friends at my new favorite DC bar, Red Derby (following all social distance protocols, of course). Cigars will definitely be apart of this. (Yes, Tony and I are still looking for “off-the-record cigar club” members) Maybe, you’ll get the occasional tweet from me as well- especially if things heat up in the nation’s capital as some believe it will

Tony Sheaffer, managing editor 

This semester, I’m enrolled in an Elections and Political Parties course. In addition to following the results from the presidential race, I’ll be following the results from the U.S. Senate race in Arizona between Martha McSally (R) and Mark Kelly (D) for a course project. I’m also anxious to see if Independent Bob Wallace can pull off an upset in the Baltimore mayoral race against Democrat Brandon Scott.

I’m hopeful that most of the local and congressional races may have a declared winner within the next day or so, but I’m sure it’ll be at least a week or two before we know if Trump or Biden will occupy the White House for the next four years. Unless one of the candidates is able to pull off a scenario like Ronald Reagan in 1984 (winning all states but one), get ready for a wild couple weeks to cap off a wild year.

As far as what I’m doing tonight, there’s a bottle of Casamigos with my name on it. I’ll be sitting in my living room sipping tequila while I flip through the major networks to see how the usual pundits are reacting. If things start going wrong, I’ll put on some records and try to relax. If things start going well, I’ll light up a couple of Cuban cigars I’ve saved for a special occasion. Who knows? I might even take after Leonard and make an elusive Twitter appearance as well.

Jeff Dominguez, Communications Director

This will be my first year voting and I am holding onto my seat just like anyone else for this election. I will admit, before I was not into politics like my colleagues, but being in an environment where it is important to know who you are voting for and who you want to be representing you are important (and your right) as a citizen of the United States.

Today will just be like any other day for me, since I voted early. I will be working on some projects for The Sting and for my portfolio. Adding onto that, I will be going to my daily routine of going to the gym and catching up on homework for the semester, while waiting for the results like every other person in America.

Flora Giakoumakis, Business Manager

I’m not very interested in politics and there’s plenty of talk on social media about both parties and the amount of pressure that they place on people to vote for them. People should take the time to educate themselves on both parties and every available office basing their vote off the information gathered. 

At first, I wasn’t sure of whether I wanted to stand in lines and vote, but ultimately did. As a result, I’ll be spending this evening doing homework with the results in the background.  I’m looking forward to the results and I hope a civil war doesn’t break out tomorrow, regardless of who wins.

Charles Rhem, Staff Writer

Growing up in Delaware, politics was always a small town local election type of thing. However, moving to Baltimore made me care more about political issues. I voted this morning at my local precinct, and unfortunately, due to currently studying for my LSATS, gave up drinking for two weeks. Thinking back, probably not my best decision going into such a major election.

Tonight’s menu is homemade pasta and watching election results come in until about 9:30. Then, I’ll take some Tylenol PM, awake tomorrow morning to hopefully see the results, and maybe even break my sobriety with a whiskey neat paired with my morning shower.

Tatiana Huang, Staff Writer

I’m a bit of a podcast nerd, and honestly most of what I’ve been listening to since 2016 has been political. I just finished catching up on this past weekend’s Lovett or Leave It, and I’m beginning to regret voting by mail. My vote’s been counted, that’s not the issue–I think I would’ve liked to be one of the folks counted today, live, instead of later. I’m paying close attention to senate races in Colorado, Arizona, and Georgia, and trying to keep myself from the existential dread of the presidential race.

Tonight, I’ll be grabbing drinks at The Backyard in Fells Point between 5-6pm, because they’re two for one and I need all the booze I can get. All of it. From there, I plan on picking up enough Chinese food for a family of four and stress eating while I play WoW and listen to NPR. 

Sierra Farrare, Staff Writer

At posting, Sierra was in line preparing to vote.

Kopper Boyd, Staff Writer

Tonight, I plan to focus on self-care. I’m not really into following the election closely, as the verdict will be the verdict regardless of how much I obsess over what’s happening. I’ve placed my vote so I’ve done my part. Paying too much attention to politics always makes me anxious, so I’m planning on opting out of the anxiety trip this time around. 

I’ll grab some Tropical Smoothie, which is always a treat for me, and relax at home. Most likely, I’ll take a bath with some salts and candles, read a good book, and listen to Sade. We’ve been living in a super stressful climate, so self-care and doing activities that keep me engaged and occupied have been at the forefront of my schedule. I hope that everyone does take some time tonight to do something for self, because it’s super important to stay as sane as you can in this atmosphere. 

Aaron Tucker, Copy Editor

Second time voter.  This was my first time ever casting a mail-in ballot.  Admittedly, I’ve kept informed this time around from a new (although unbalanced) political lens.

Four years ago, election night was quite the captivating viewing experience for me, much like watching Jack Bauer feverishly pound on calculator keys during an entire season finale of 24.  Tonight, I’ll be sleeping the whole thing through and waiting for everything to blow over like never.