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When Good Marching Bands Go Bad

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Editor's Note: The deadline for our $50,000 Tuition Giveaway is January 31. Rather than nag you every day with a post that starts and ends with "TIME IS RUNNING OUT," we've decided to keep the scholarship top of mind by re-running some of our favorite college-centric stories and quizzes. Today's selection comes from our former marching band correspondent Steven Clontz.

In my first full-band rehearsal for my university's marching band, our director emphasized one thing: Class. Wherever we go, we are representatives of our state and university. Therefore, we must always be vigilant in portraying the best image possible. This dedication to class is, tragically, not universally shared. If you would, I'd like you to join me on a journey, examining the seedy underbelly of the marching band world. Maybe you'll find out what happens"¦ when MARCHING BANDS GO BAD!

1. University of Miami

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First stop on our tour of terror: Miami, Florida. The University of Miami banned its own band from performing during halftime for at least one football game in 1999, after band members on one bus were caught drinking, watching pornographic videos, and mooning passers-by on an away game road trip.

2. University of Wisconsin

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The Hurricanes could have learned from The University of Wisconsin, as far as avoiding the long arm of the law is concerned. UW's band was placed on probation just this past year, when accusations of hazing surfaced. The claims were of a relatively innocuous nature, at first, with one band member being pressured into shaving his head before a September 2006 game. Upon further investigation, it appeared that band members were also disrobing and dancing seminude on one of their buses returning home after the game. Crazy thing is, this type of behavior had been going on for years.

UW-Madison's Chancellor John Wiley: "It has become increasing clear that certain types of sexualized and hazing behavior are an ingrained part of the band's culture." I prefer my section's tradition of singing the word "trombones" to the tune of Amazing Grace, personally.

3. Prairie View A&M

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Let's move on to Prairie View A&M, facing off against Southern University. Shortly before the September 19, 1998 game, Prairie View was voted the nation's top historically black band. This slighted many members of the penultimate selection, Southern University's "Human Jukebox". What should have remained a distant flame war spilled over into a game, billed by many as simply The Battle of the Bands. (Prairie View's football team had a losing streak which had lasted for nearly a decade.)

What followed is open to interpretation. Southern's band had taken the field first, and was trying to exit via the sidelines, when they were blocked by Prairie View's band. Prairie View claimed that Southern's band was "charging" them, while Southern claimed that Prairie View was actively trying to stop them. Whatever the case, the result was Southern's drum major Terrell Jackson being smacked in the face by a couple trumpets. This, in turn, spurred on an all-out brawl, with members of both bands bludgeoning each other with drumsticks and trombones, sending many to the hospital. Perhaps Prairie View would have been better served sending their marching band out on the field to play football instead; once order was restored and play could continue, their losing streak was extended to eighty games. Instead, both bands were suspended for the next two games.

4. Stanford University

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But not all marching band aggression is taken out in fisticuffs (Tubacuffs?) The kids in the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band know that more damage can be dealt by attacking the heart and mind of your opponent. Strictly speaking, the LSJUMB isn't a marching band at all; rather, it is an example of a scatter band. Rather than using precise drill to move the band between formations, scatter bands, well, scatter between sets. In addition, a scatter band's show tends to be of a more satirical nature than your average marching ensemble. And of course, sometimes the jokes can get out of hand.

For example, consider Stanford's 1991 show at Notre Dame. Preceding halftime, the LSJUMB drum major was dressed like an Orthodox Jew. Kindly, he changed attire before their halftime show"¦and took the field dressed in a nun's habit. Apparently the Fighting Irish took offense to the use of a wooden cross as a conductor's baton; Stanford's band has been banned from Notre Dame's campus ever since. LSJUMB apologized in 1997 by dedicating another show to Notre Dame, "These Irish, Why Must They Fight?" The Catholic Church isn't the only group to be targeted by LSJUMB - their show during a game against Brigham Young University featured their drum major being betrothed to a member of their dance team, followed soon by the other four members. LSJUMB was suspended for unrelated hijinks off the field in 2006, helping them to embody the title of their 2004 album, This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things.

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science
4 Expert Tips on How to Get the Most Out of August's Total Solar Eclipse
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Richard Bouhet // Getty

As you might have heard, there’s a total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. on August 21. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the country since 1979, and the first coast-to-coast event since June 8, 1918, when eclipse coverage pushed World War I off the front page of national newspapers. Americans are just as excited today: Thousands are hitting the road to stake out prime spots for watching the last cross-country total solar eclipse until 2045. We’ve asked experts for tips on getting the most out of this celestial spectacle.

1. DON’T FRY YOUR EYES—OR BREAK THE BANK

To see the partial phases of the eclipse, you will need eclipse glasses because—surprise!—staring directly at the sun for even a minute or two will permanently damage your retinas. Make sure the glasses you buy meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standards. As eclipse frenzy nears its peak, shady retailers are selling knock-off glasses that will not adequately protect your eyes. The American Astronomical Society keeps a list of reputable vendors, but as a rule, if you can see anything other than the sun through your glasses, they might be bogus. There’s no need to splurge, however: You can order safe paper specs in bulk for as little as 90 cents each. In a pinch, you and your friends can take turns watching the partial phases through a shared pair of glasses. As eclipse chaser and author Kate Russo points out, “you only need to view occasionally—no need to sit and stare with them on the whole time.”

2. DON’T DIY YOUR EYE PROTECTION

There are plenty of urban legends about “alternative” ways to protect your eyes while watching a solar eclipse: smoked glass, CDs, several pairs of sunglasses stacked on top of each other. None works. If you’re feeling crafty, or don’t have a pair of safe eclipse glasses, you can use a pinhole projector to indirectly watch the eclipse. NASA produced a how-to video to walk you through it.

3. GET TO THE PATH OF TOTALITY

Bryan Brewer, who published a guidebook for solar eclipses, tells Mental Floss the difference between seeing a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse is “like the difference between standing right outside the arena and being inside watching the game.”

During totality, observers can take off their glasses and look up at the blocked-out sun—and around at their eerily twilit surroundings. Kate Russo’s advice: Don’t just stare at the sun. “You need to make sure you look above you, and around you as well so you can notice the changes that are happening,” she says. For a brief moment, stars will appear next to the sun and animals will begin their nighttime routines. Once you’ve taken in the scenery, you can use a telescope or a pair of binoculars to get a close look at the tendrils of flame that make up the sun’s corona.

Only a 70-mile-wide band of the country stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will experience the total eclipse. Rooms in the path of totality are reportedly going for as much as $1000 a night, and news outlets across the country have raised the specter of traffic armageddon. But if you can find a ride and a room, you'll be in good shape for witnessing the spectacle.

4. PRESERVE YOUR NIGHT VISION

Your eyes need half an hour to fully adjust to darkness, but the total eclipse will last less than three minutes. If you’ve just been staring at the sun through the partial phases of the eclipse, your view of the corona during totality will be obscured by lousy night vision and annoying green afterimages. Eclipse chaser James McClean—who has trekked from Svalbard to Java to watch the moon blot out the sun—made this rookie mistake during one of his early eclipse sightings in Egypt in 2006. After watching the partial phases, with stray beams of sunlight reflecting into his eyes from the glittering sand and sea, McClean was snowblind throughout the totality.

Now he swears by a new method: blindfolding himself throughout the first phases of the eclipse to maximize his experience of the totality. He says he doesn’t mind “skipping the previews if it means getting a better view of the film.” Afterward, he pops on some eye protection to see the partial phases of the eclipse as the moon pulls away from the sun. If you do blindfold yourself, just remember to set an alarm for the time when the total eclipse begins so you don’t miss its cross-country journey. You'll have to wait 28 years for your next chance.

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Pop Culture
IKEA Publishes Instructions for Turning Rugs Into Game of Thrones Capes
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HBO

Game of Thrones is one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced, but even the crew of the hit HBO series isn’t above using an humble IKEA hack behind the scenes. According to Mashable, the fur capes won by Jon Snow and other members of the Night’s Watch on the show are actually sheepskin rugs sold by the home goods chain.

The story behind the iconic garment was first revealed by head costume designer Michele Clapton at a presentation at Los Angeles’s Getty Museum in 2016. “[It’s] a bit of a trick,” she said at Designing the Middle Ages: The Costumes of GoT. “We take anything we can.”

Not one to dissuade customers from modifying its products, IKEA recently released a cape-making guide in the style of its visual furniture assembly instructions. To start you’ll need one of their Skold rugs, which can be bought online for $79. Using a pair of scissors cut a slit in the material and make a hole where your head will go. Slip it on and you’ll look ready for your Game of Thrones debut.

The costume team makes a few more changes to the rugs used on screen, like shaving them, adding leather straps, and waxing and “frosting” the fur to give it a weather-worn effect. Modern elements are used to make a variety of the medieval props used in Game of Thrones. The swords, for example, are made from aircraft aluminum, not steel. For more production design insights, check out these behind-the-scenes secrets of Game of Thrones weapons artists.

[h/t Mashable]

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