Memphis mayoral debate

Mayoral candidates point fingers at each other in debate

Like schoolchildren pushing and shoving to be the next in line, the Memphis mayoral candidates jostled one another with accusations on Sept. 22 at a University of Memphis debate.

Current mayor A C Wharton was the lone wolf Tuesday, spending most of the evening deflecting criticism from the other three contenders, Harold Collins, Jim Strickland, both city council members, and Mike Williams, Memphis Police Association president,.

“I would like to make a rebuttal, but I’m all out,” Wharton joked.

The Millennials for Memphis organization focused the debate on the interest of the 202,000 young people in Memphis between the ages of 18 and 34.

“So often when it’s time to make decisions concerning what is going to happen in Memphis they don’t include us (millennials) at the table until the very end,” Teniesha Pender, the debate co-host, said. “Well, this time we ask that they include at the table from the very beginning.”

Unfortunately, the candidates turned what was meant to be a conversation with a panel of 16 millennials into a war of words among themselves.

“Be careful,” Williams said to the audience. “He (Wharton) may look great up here under the shining lights, but is he giving us the truth?”

Though questions from the panelists ranged from entrepreneurship to crime in the city, the majority of their responses from Strickland, Williams, and Collins all emphasized the need for a transparent administration.

Rachel Knox, panelist and current city council candidate, sparked tension among the four candidates when she asked how they will improve the communication between the administration and the city council.

The three contenders agreed that Wharton’s should be more transparent and implied that the current mayor is not direct and honest with his City Council. When he answered, he disagreed, saying that he consistently communicates with City Council members. He cited the budget posted online as an example of his transparency, but did admit that most people don’t have the accounting degree needed to understand it.

“It’s not a matter of deception,” Wharton said. “It’s a matter of misinterpretation and it happens every day.”

Wharton’s rebuttal did little to convince Collins, who stayed pugnacious throughout most of the debate.

“Three of us up on this stage all said that the administration doesn’t tell us the truth and did you hear the mayor say that we weren’t right?” Collins asked.. “What does that tell you?”

Resume and cover letter workshop

Students help students with cover letters and resumes

Graduate students Lauren Turner and Kate Friedel of Meeman 901 Strategies spoke to journalism students about how to create a strong resume and cover letter on Wednesday, March 25.

Turner and Friedel stressed the importance of well-written resumes and cover letters when applying for jobs and internships.

They believe that a good cover letter should company a good resume. Cover letters are written to the specific person that one is applying to work for and should be tailored to that job.

“Creating a resume can be daunting, but there are a few rules of thumb to follow,” Friedel said.

She encouraged students to make resumes that are concise and limited to one page, and mostly importantly readable.

“If they can’t read it, they’re going to take one look at it and throw it in the trash,” Turner said.

Turner agreed with Friedel on the importance of a visually appealing resume that is easy on the eyes. Turner also stressed that fluff, clutter, exaggeration and old information are all resume faux pas and should be avoided.

Barring any unnecessary information, Friedel explained that there are five elements that should be included on every resume: contact information, education, experience, skills, and accomplishments.

Of these, Turner and Friedel both agreed that highlighting your skills and experience are the most important.

“People want to know what makes you special. If you can make a banging PowerPoint, then don’t be afraid to put that on your resume,” Turner said.

“Unfriended” movie review

“Unfriended” is gruesome, eerie and just plain spooky.

Producer Jason Blum, known for using found-footage in his highly-profitable “Paranormal Activity” movies, pushes the envelope again with this cyber-cinematic horror film.

The film starts slowly, showing the audience only what a teenage girl can see on her mundane laptop screen.

There are mixed emotions from audience members as the movie picks up and they discover that the entire 82-minute film will take place on the MacBook screen of teenager Blaire, played by Shelley Henning.

The unconventional “set” of “Unfriended” is simple yet it is such a commonplace for most audience members that its relatability in itself is horrifying.

The mundanity subsides and the plot thickens when Blaire and her boyfriend, Mitch, played by Moses Storm add three of their friends, played by actors Jacob Wysocki, Will Peltz and actress Renee Olstead to their Skype call. In doing this, they unintentionally add a fourth, an unwelcomed spirit from their past that will flip their Saturday night upside down.

No ghost or goblin takes physical form in this film; instead the five teenagers are haunted by the internet presence of a dead classmate who was a victim of their cyber-bullying.

The ghost of Laura Barns, played by Heather Sossaman, seeks revenge on the teens. As they desperately try to get rid of the ghost, she only becomes angrier.

The ghost uses the divide and conquer method as she dupes the teens into playing twisted mind games with each other, causing chaos. Hairs on the back of the audience’s neck will rise as they watch the ghost take nightmarish revenge on the teenagers one by one.

Beyond the screams and the blood, the underlying premise of this entertaining horror film discourages cyber-bully. Though only showing exaggerated, supernatural consequences of cyber-bullying, “Unfriended” suggests that cyber-bulling can lead to real devastation and even real death.

“Unfriended” will send a chill up spines causing computer screens to never be looked at the same again.

One might even be frightened enough to think twice before partaking in cyber-bullying.

Memphis Cup Tennis Tournament

Weekend of tennis unites friends and raise money

Adult tennis players headed to the courts of the Mid-South over the weekend, to compete in the 6th annual Memphis Cup tournament.

“We are very excited about this tournament,” director Shannon McCalla said on day one of the competition. “This is one of the largest turnouts in Memphis Cup history!”

The tournament had drew an estimated 200 participants coming from more than 17 different cities, including Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

Twenty-two-year-old Pauline Gilbert, of Minneapolis, made her long trip worthwhile by taking home first place in her division.

“I’ve been traveling for tennis since I was a kid,” Gilbert said. “It’s just something that I’m used to. I’ve learned that a good match is worth every mile traveled.”

For some, the tournament was more than a weekend of competing; it was also a weekend of connecting with old and new friends they’ve met through playing tennis.

McCalla said she planned the tournament, hoping to bring together the tennis community and get them excited about the upcoming spring tennis season.

“So far almost everyone I’ve met since I’ve started playing tennis  has been friendly and as nice on the court as they are off and I feel like I have a whole new world of friends,” said budding tennis player Nancy Hixson of East Memphis. “This tournament helped me reconnect with that world and broaden it.”

McCalla also had another goal in mind for the tournament; said she hoped for the Memphis Cup to raise at least $5,000, but was pleasantly surprised to see the proceeds reach $7,420.

The proceeds from the tournament go to the Memphis Tennis Association (MTA), a non-profit that organizes, promotes and supports the development of tennis in the city.

MTA funds the Tennis Memphis Youth Summer Camp, the largest summer camp in Memphis, bringing over 2,000 kids together every summer and operating out of 23 different locations in the area.

McCalla was happy to hear that the majority of tournament proceeds will be donated to the summer camp.

“The weekend was a success,” McCalla said as the tournament wrapped. “People got to play and the goal was met.”

Career and Internship Expo

Students look for work, companies search for talent

By Maya Smith

Many University of Memphis students made their way to the UC yesterday for the 2015 Career and Internship Expo hosted by Career Services.

The event was designed for companies to recruit qualified students, while allowing students to network and secure future professional positions.

“Even if students don’t find a specific job or internship at the expo, they will still have the opportunity to put their name out there and build relationships that might be beneficial in the future,” said Tola Jenkins, coordinator of Academic Experiences/Learning Internships for students at the university.

Approximately 80 companies, varying from McDonald’s to the United States Peace Corps, had recruiters present at the Expo.

While many companies were looking for a very specific resume and skillset, the Peace Corps was willing to recruit any student exhibiting leadership capabilities.

“I am looking for any student who can step up,” said Stephanie Wade, recruiter for the Peace Corps. “We offer international internships; the only requirements are a bachelor’s degree and some relevant work experience.”

Wade said over the course of the day about 20 students showed interest in the Peace Corps. She was hoping for more but was excited about the potential of those 20 students.

Most students at the expo were near the end of their college career, if not already graduated, but there were specks of lowerclassmen in the mix as well.

“I want to start early and this is a great way to do that,” said freshman Karishma Arja, an electrical and computer major. “I’m not really sure what kind of internship I’m looking for but I was able to meet people from MLGW and that seemed promising.”


VaporWize offers electronic smoking option

Bacon, banana, bourbon, brownie, bubble gum and blueberry are just six e-liquid flavors that line the walls of VaporWize, Memphis’s only store devoted solely to battery-powered smoking.

VaporWize sells all the items needed to smoke electronically, including e-cigs, e-liquids and e-accessories.

Since November 2013, fruity aromas and minty scents have filled the air of 569 S. Highland St., the VaporWize store located three blocks from the University of Memphis.

Osman Udtill, owner of the Highland store and two other VaporWize stores in Memphis, said he wanted to build a store as close to the U of M as possible to help encourage students to make the transition from regular cigarettes to e-cigs.

He expected the majority of his business to come from college students, but Udtill said most of the patrons at the Highland store are age 30 and above.

Recently Udtill expanded his flavor list from 90 flavors to 150 flavors. He added flavors such as cake batter, cotton candy and Cinnamon Crunch Toast in an attempt to appeal to a younger crowd.

Also to attract more college students, he started offering a discount to students. Since the flavor expansion and student discount, VaporWize has seen a steady influx of younger customers.

“One day I smoked cookie dough liquid from my friend’s e-cig and it was the best thing I ever tasted,” U of M graduate student, Charlie Smith said. “After that I threw my box of menthols out and bought a vaporizer.”

Udtill hopes that more people will jump on the bandwagon and make the switch to electronic smoking.

“I want to be a part of changing the human smoking experience,” Udtill said. “We (VaporWize) are helping to transform the smoking scene into something that is generally better, safer and less expensive.”

Udtill said that in two years, a pack-a-day smoker will save $5,000 after switching to e-cigs.

Based on the VaporWize website, the other key difference between e-cigs and traditional cigarettes is the ingredient list. Regular cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing chemicals. E-cigs do contain nicotine, but they lack the other additives present in cigarettes resulting in less than .05 percent of the chemicals in a regular cigarette.

Research suggests that switching to e-cigs significantly reduces the chance of damaged lungs, heart attack, and cancer.

U of M sophomore Justine Whitney said that she is aware of the dangers of smoking, but is not ready to trade in her lighter for a battery.

“I’ve tried the whole electronic cig thing,” Whitney said. “It just doesn’t feel the same to me. I know real cigarettes aren’t the healthiest thing, but I’m going to stick to them for now.”

Before starting VaporWize, Udtill owned service stations, in which the majority of the revenue came from tobacco sales. He said when the e-cig trend came along, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sell a healthier way to smoke.

“All I know is since I put down the regular cigarettes and started smoking e-cigs, I don’t cough like I used to,” Udtill said. “I want people to realize you can be smoker and still be healthy.

Vine King

Student quits school, finds fame on Vine

Memphis, once home to the King of Rock n’ Roll, is now home to the King of Vine, 21-year-old Darius Benson

Currently spending his days playing dress up, talking to himself, and capturing it all in six-second videos, Benson takes the “Do it for the Vine” saying to a whole new level. Vine is an app that allows users to create looping videos to share with their friends.


Courtesy of Darius Benson

     With nothing but an iPhone and a dream, this Memphian started using Vine in May 2013. By the end of that summer he had reached 20,000 followers; today he has more than 2 million.

His 6-foot stature and elaborate beanie collection are not the only things that attract viewers. The real crowd pleaser is the way he’s able to turn everyday situations into a comical six-second videos.

“Darius Benson is one of the funniest dudes I know,” David McKinnie, a 21-year-old U of M student, said. “He’s good, but it’s still crazy how quickly he became famous.”

Benson started this journey very confident in his skills, but had no idea how people would react to his Vine videos.

“It all happened pretty fast,” Benson said. “I wanted to be recognized, but I didn’t realize how much I would be recognized. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”

Benson said that though his fame has affected many areas of his life positively, the more he becomes devoted to his Vine creations and entertaining, the more strained his relationship with his father becomes.

His father, Alvin Benson, former chief of the Memphis Fire Department and current chief of the Shelby County Fire Department, views his son’s Vine videos as a fruitless waste of time and a distraction from his future. He wants his son to consider going back to college sooner and putting his entertainment career on hold.

“I want to be proud of his accomplishments, but more than that I want Darius to make a real future for himself,” Alvin Benson said. “He would have made a great engineer.”

Benson was an engineer major at the University of Memphis until May 2013. When his Vine hobby turned into lucrative career, he decided to put his education on hold.

When Benson reached 100,000 followers, large companies began offering him payment to promote their products via his Vines. Benson has made 20 promotional Vines in the past two years for companies including Pepsi and Gillette.

To keep his promotional Vines entertaining, Benson said he tries to incorporate the products into a pre-existing Vine idea. In the Gillette promo, he humorously illustrates the downfall of trusting to all weathermen. In response to the weatherman predicting sunshine, Benson is shown using Gillette products to shave his head bald; only he walks outside and its snowing.

Each promotional Vine earns him anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. He said as his amount of followers increases, companies are willing to offer him more money for each promo.

Six months after Benson began using Vine, he signed a contract in Collab, a network designed solely to help Vine users make the transition to YouTube. Under the contract, Benson is required to ask his Vine followers what kind of videos they want to see on his YouTube, post said video to his YouTube, and then promote that video on Vine. Since the agreement with Collab, Benson also has gained 40,000 YouTube subscribers.

Benson said he knows realistically he cannot rely on social media to bring home the bacon forever. He hopes to eventually have a career as a live entertainer. He is inspired by the work of musician, comedian and actor Donald Glover and wants to pursue a similar career path.

This summer Benson plans to take a leap of faith and move to Los Angeles. Benson said he was influenced to make the move by other social media influencers who have moved to Los Angeles and made measurable strides toward a successful career in entertainment.

Benson admits that he is a little intimidated by what comes next, but is ready for the challenge.

“There isn’t a guidebook for this,” Benson said. “What I’m doing is outside of the normal realm. I guess I have no choice but to make my own guidebook and to walk my own path.”

Follow this link to see the Vine King in action.


Photos taken with an iPhone and Canon t5.