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the college hill independent

the brown/risd weekly | March 25, 2010

| VoluMe


issue Vii


Brown buyouts |


Foto Fiction |


Cigarettes | 11

Sondheim | 14

“no, i know who Margaret Thatcher is, but i really don’t see the resemblance. Maybe if you’d gotten a parakeet?” -pg. 9

table of contents



week in reView Quick and dirty Mc, es, Bi-B, aZFg


sorry! Forgive them their sins news editors



brown sells out Employees bought out or laid off chris suh


Visionary & Vitreous Empty storefronts made public art Katie lindstedt


brainstorM Weatherization funds go unspent alexandra corriga


science education Blast or bust? nupur shridhar


9 teXt + iMage An inspired exchange John Fisher & fans



cigs r 4 kids Silly legislators eli schmitt



sweet nothings Talk and The Bachelor hannah sheldon-dean


Visions of joanna Joanna Newsom in Cambridge Katie lindstedt

Megaporn deVices Missing Link raphaela lipinsky


he felt pretty Report from Sondheim gala Matt Weinstock


think about life Talk about life on tour eli schmitt



ncaa hits pVd Notes from the Dunk emmett Fitzgerald


17 fashion week bests Hint: not the clothes sue ding




A play

Max posner

ding literary 18 beneVolence A play Max posner froM the editors This might be giving it

froM the editors

This might be giving it too much credit, but Rhode Island is best known for being the smallest and lowest-lying state. So take pride in its storied populist tradition, which has long emphasized individual liberties over stifling big government. Roger Williams founded Providence on the principle. Later, Rhode Island was the last colony to ratify the Constitution. And in one of America’s seminal suffrage battles, Thomas Dorr tried to reform the state’s constitution by mandating that all men be granted voting rights, regard- less of property qualifications. Since then, Slater Mill, Hasbro Toys, and Pauly D have cemented Rhode Island’s credo of unfettered entrepre- neurialism, which, at the expense of the state, has been Governor Donald Carcieri’s seven-year M.O. Populism for Carcieri and so many other Reagan-molded Republicans means irresponsible deregulation instead of basic rights. When Carcieri took the oath of office in 2003, RI unemployment stood at 5.3 percent, a point below the national average. Today, at 12.9 percent, it’s the third- highest in the country, three points above the national average. Tuesday at the Capitol, Carcieri gave his final State of the State Address, and with a straight face called for tax cuts, a jobs bill, and a reduction in the state’s $400 million budget deficit. “We need to reclaim our birthright as a hotbed for busi- ness revolution,” Carcieri said. “Just as it did over a century ago when Rhode Island—Rhode Island—had the highest per capita wealth of any state, our economy once again will rise on the tide of an entrepreneurial revolution.”


With the landmark bill passed and signed this week, a projected 140,000 uninsured Rhode Islanders can be more optimistic about getting medical help than the state’s 73,000 unemployed can about getting jobs. In the immediate future, the federal government will provide tax credits for small businesses, which will allow them to provide health insurance to more employees. But by 2014, Rhode Island will be fronting half the cost—between $100 and $150 million annually—of getting the uninsured on Medicaid, and it may have to provide subsidies for those who are ineligible. A Feburary study led by Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts estimated that if every Rhode Islander were insured, they would incur an additional $123 million per year in spending to find better and more frequent care. Engraved on the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington is the Oliver Wendell Holmes quote: “Taxes are what we pay for a Civilized Society.” Never mind the IRS jihadist who lived free or died last month. America and Rhode Island are moving forward, misappropriated ‘birthright’ be damned. US Representative Jim Langevin, who is paralyzed from the waist down, put aside his pro- choice reservations to vote for health care reform. His fellow congressman Patrick Kennedy spoke with passion about finally realizing his father’s dream. The cause endures, the hope still lives, and taxes will stay high. Sorry, but that’s what we get for calling our state drink Autocrat. —SvZ-W

as if you care

calling our state drink Autocrat. —SvZ-W as if you care I was a little disappointed at

I was a little disappointed at the results of the el- ephant polo championships. Held for the first time at the Karnali Jungle Lodge in Nepal, I was quietly cheering for Anantara Thailand and their number one striker, Sangjay Choegyal. But after beating the very popular all women’s team, the Spice Girls, in the semi-final, Choegyal had to return to Thailand on urgent business. That opened the door for Nepal’s National Parks team to beat An- antara, 7-4, and take home the World Cup in front of the hometown crowd. But all was not lost. Before Sangjay left, he gave me his shirt for good luck. It didn’t help his team, but I think you’ve just scored big. Elephant Polo Shirt (No. 2640). Made of a soft 9 oz. cotton pique with contrast color side insets, contrast trim fabric at front placket, neck band and interior back yoke. Even the slits are accented. Real shell buttons. Exactly what you’d expect to find at an elephant polo match.

get in touch

Email: Blog: Twitter: @maudelajoie The College Hill Independent PO Box 1930 Brown University Providence RI 02912 thEINDy.Org


Managing Editors: Erin Schikowski, Kat Stoeffel, Alex Verdolini News: Marisa Calleja, Beatrice Igne- Bianchi, Marguerite Preston Metro: Rachel Levenson, Katie Lindstedt, Jesse Strecker, George Warner Opinions: Jordan Carter, Eli Schmitt Features: Alexandra Corrigan, Alice Hines, Katie Jennings, Hannah Sheldon-Dean, Laura Tsunoda Arts: Ryan Wong, Erik Font Literary: Kaela Myers, Rachel Sanders Science: Sam Dean, Nupur Shridhar Sports: Simon van Zuylen-Wood Food: Nick Werle X Page: Gillian Brassil List: Lola Bates-Campbell, Margo Irvin

Mega Porn Star: Raphaela Lipinsky Cover Editor: Emily Martin Illustrations: Samantha Ballardini, Drew Foster, Becca Levinson, Emily Martin, Robert Sandler Design: Robin Davis, Liat Werber, Yue Pang, Natalie Uduwela, Joanna Zhang Web: Daniela Postigo, Adam Zethraeus New Media: Kate Welsh Senior Editors: Nick Greene, Simone Landon, Margo Irvin, Miguel Morales, Emily Segal Staff Writers: Malcolm Burnley, Emily Gogolak, Eran Hornick, Corrie Tan Staff Illustrators: Paola Eisner, Jessica Daly, Amanda Greenberg, Isabel Khoo Cover: Pook Panyarachun MVP: Joanna Zhang

week in reView

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“Bone Brother Wel- coMe yoU!!”


tic-eXpect-to - cheat-adocioUs

So just a spoonful of sugar makes… you into an incorrigible womanizer? That’s what a British psychiatrist is arguing in his new book. Dennis Friedman wrote in The Unsolicited Gift: Why We Do What We Do that boys who grew up with a nanny will get used to the idea that a woman outside of his family could satisfy all of his needs. The 85 year-old shrink told The Daily Telegraph, that as a result of having a nanny, a young boy “grows up with the idea that although he will one day go through all the social and sexual formalities of marriage, he will have at the back of his mind the notion of this other woman, who not only knows, but caters for, all his needs.” Dispelling the notion that having a nanny is all flying kites, kooky accents, and letting mom have a career [ha!], Friedman stresses that it really is a more dangerous social set- up that previously imagined. If you don’t want your son to spend the rest of his life looking for a little something on the side with someone who looks like Scarlett Johansson in The Nanny Diaries, moms should stay home during the crucial first year, Friedman says. Not to be outdone—or, you know, sexist—Friedman also wrote that baby girls who do not see their mothers enough as infants will be forever marked with a “vacuum of need” that they will try to fill with drugs, sex, and money. It’s enough to make you think twice about letting cheery Brits with flying umbrellas and bottomless carpetbags into your home.


From our makeshift shack in the middle of Tian’anmen— At 3:00 AM Tuesday morning in the People’s Republic of Purloined Civil Liberties, Internet sultanate Google made its long-dreaded departure from The Mainland, leaving a nation of weepy and defiant Chinese netizens in its wake. Google’s retreat to relatively free (though still China- controlled) Hong Kong came more than two months after the California-based company went toe-to-toe with the Chinese government over hacking attacks originating from government-controlled colleges. They were aimed at foreign journalists and human rights groups. On China’s Twitter-like underground social media sites, microbloggers posted messages including a “Welcome Google” song, in which the authors demand that “Everyone sing together!” or, according to Google Translate, “Bone Brother welcome you, for your epoch-making/ Freedom, the search is full of vitality!” (“Bone brother” is a Chinese homophone for Google.) Google, apparently deaf to the impassioned lyrical summons, posted a banner on its new Hong Kong-based webpage declaring, “Welcome to Google China’s new home,” firmly marking its exodus. Google claims this latest move is in line with its motto “Don’t be evil.” But an anonymous Chinese Internet user who asked to be called Cathy saw things differently: “I think that Google is just a tool of the US government,” she said. “It doesn’t have the right to make these choices itself.” China, ladies and gentlemen.


seX so loUd it’s illegal

Last week, authorities forced 49 year-old Caroline Cartwright back into a bail hostel—a half-way house for criminals in England and Wales—in an attempt to halt her infamously loud romp sessions. Neighbors in Washington, Tyne and Wear, UK have long whined about the incessant and “unnatural” screams, moans, and bed-banging coming from the Cartwrights’ home. The coital hubbub, they say, is loud enough to drown out televi- sion sets, keep even partially-deaf neighbors awake, and irk mothers walking children to school. Instead of high-fives all around, Mrs. Cartwright received

a four-year Asbo (Anti-Social Behavior Order) in 2009. She

broke it only three days later. Then in January 2010, after having spent eight months in a Sunderland hostel, Cart- wright narrowly escaped a jail sentence. For evidence, the Sunderland City Council had installed recording equipment in a neighbor’s apartment, measuring Mrs. Cartwright’s love- racket at an impressive 47 decibels. She told, “I did not understand why people asked me to be quiet because to me it is normal. I didn’t understand where they were coming from.” She also invoked Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, claiming a right to privacy in her own home. The judge gave Cartwright eight weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months. Unsurprisingly, the eight months’ separation prior to January’s trial didn’t harden any hearts (quite the contrary). Even moving the bed into the downstairs dining room wasn’t enough. Now, after their brief reunion, Cartwright’s been separated from her husband once again and thrown back in a hostel. But really, UK, why all the knickers in a twist? Embrace it. That knocking, slapping, shouting, and howling are more a cause for celebration than jail-time. Who wouldn’t want that kind of love life after 25 years of marriage, anyway. Let ’em make whoopee to make up for the rest of you.


no Man’s onan

Movie theater–style masturbating for cash-strapped Belgians may now be a treat rather than a typical weeknight. Last Thursday, the European Court of Justice ruled that Erotic

Center, a sex shop that boasts coin-operated movie cubicles,

is not an actual cinema.

Therefore, it does not qualify for the reduced sales tax rate of six percent. Establishments that qualify for the reduced rate must be “available to the public on prior payment of an admission fee giving all those who pay it the right collectively to enjoy the cultural and entertainment services.” The store and “cinema” owner argued that his Bruges-based business is like your run of the mill movie theatre; it lets patrons pay to please themselves, that is to say “watch,” one or more porno- graphic features, that is to say “movies.” In an age where privacy is dwindling, the fight for sub- sidized solo sessions is admirable. Unfortunately for both the shop and its theatre goers, the standard tax levied on the sexy cinematic experience is now a whopping 21 percent.

Even more upsetting for Erotic Center, the store’s owner must compensate Belgian tax authorities for the evaded payments (about $68,000) plus corresponding fines. Is the personal cubicle worth the increase? Perhaps knocking down all the walls to create a “collective” space where all can reap the “entertainment services” could qualify for the reduced rate. For the time being, cubicle goers on a budget may be better off dimming their bedroom lights and streaming one or more movies—no coins required—from their laptops. Or continue to support their local porno theatre for all the good times.


atoneMent | 3

p u b l i c a p o l o g i e s

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t he Catholic Church is in the midst of a scandal. Priests have been messing around with kids—not just once or twice, not just here and there, but

everywhere and for a long time. In the past year, people from all over the world have come forward with accusa- tions of sexual abuse that date as far back as the ’70s. Up until recently, priests and bishops have done their best to cover things up, smooth things over and maintain their holy image. The Pope himself, in fact, while he was still a Cardinal, was a major player in these cover-ups in Germany, dealing with accusations by simply reassigning the offending priests to different cities. The church, after all, had a reputa- tion to uphold. But just in 2010, 300 people have made allegations of sexual abuse against priests in Germany, and another 200 in the Netherlands, as well as countless others everywhere from Austria to the US. On top of that, the Irish filed two reports last year of investigations that documented widespread and longstanding abuse within the Catholic

Church. With more and more victims breaking their silence, the Catholic Church has had to act. So last Saturday Pope Benedict XVI did what we all learn in elementary school is second only to please and thank you: he said “I’m sorry.” This particular apology was addressed specifically to the Catholic Church of Ireland, in response to those reports of the Irish government and to new scandal: the revelation that the current head of the Irish Catholic church, Cardinal Sean

the current head of the Irish Catholic church, Cardinal Sean Brady was present at a meeting

Brady was present at a meeting where child victims signed vows of silence about their abuse by a priest. Forget repara- tions, forget punishment, forget concrete measures. We’re talking about a good old-fashioned formal letter of apology. It is an art that is all but lost, but the Pope has clearly dem-

onstrated his mastery. He covers all the bases of the classic apology, from the generically heartfelt remorse: “You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that noth- ing can undo the wrong you have endured” to the reminder to keep things in perspective: “It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering.” He also supplied some noncommittal solutions (or “concrete initia- tives,” according to him): “I ask you,” he wrote, “to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of heal- ing and renewal for the Church in Ireland.” And finally, of course, there is what no good apology letter should be without: the part where you describe how what you did re- ally wasn’t that bad, given the circumstances. Explaining the decades of cover-ups of sexual abuse, Pope Benedict wrote:

“[T]here was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations.” With the proper word choice and sufficient groveling, the successful letter of apology is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card. We all learned that in elementary school too: if you say you’re sorry, they pretty much have to accept it. As long as you say it like you mean it. So, to take a page out of the Pope’s book (or seven-page letter as the case may be), here are a few more apologies that could have (should have) hap- pened this week. Now see, don’t you all feel so much better?

Dear Sandra Bullock, I've apologized already, but I'd like to stress how I'm sorry I am that I cheated on you with a suspected white supremacist who claims the “WP” tatooed on her legs stands for “wet pussy,” not “white power.” I'm sorry that aforementioned suspected white suprema- cist waited to tell the media until after you won an Oscar for that movie you made that cured racism. Your Vanilla Gorilla (or is that what she called me?), Jesse James

Gorilla (or is that what she called me?), Jesse James Dear Justin Bieber, We would like

Dear Justin Bieber, We would like to extend our sincere apologies for bumping you off Twitter's top trending topic spot after passing our landmark healthcare reform legislation. We understand that it coincided with your album coming out. We speak for all Americans when we say that the United States does not bare ill will towards baby-faced Canadian pop stars or the lesbian-look-alike blogs they spawn. Best wishes, The Congress of the United States

they spawn. Best wishes, The Congress of the United States Dear America, I'm sorry I didn't

Dear America, I'm sorry I didn't check to see if the microphones were on before I whispered to Barack that the healthcare insurance reform bill is «a big fucking deal.» But just so you know, it is. Yours, Joe Biden

Dear Representative Stupak, I’m sorry I interrupted you the other night during the debate over the health care reform bill (did that actu- ally pass? remind me later). I just want you to know

that when I shouted BABY KILLER at you, I wasn’t talking about you in particular. I would never call you personally a BABY KILLER. I know you haven’t physi- cally killed any babies since you are not a practicing MD. It’s just that I really thought we were on the same page. You gave me hope that some Democrats really do care about the unborn/the future of the Republican party. So you’ll understand that I was disappointed. But in the heat of the moment…well, just talk to Joe Wilson. He understands what I mean. Sincerely, Rep. Randy Neugebauer, Texas

P.S.: to all the unborn babies, sorry I scared you. Randy isn't going to get inside your fetus and murder you. I don't think he's a real BABY KILLER. But watch out

for those liberals. BABY KILLERS.

Dear sei whales both deceased and living, All of us at Hump Restaurant in Santa Monica ex- tend our apologies to the sei whales who endured our poaching, and those who are living and witnessed the murderous acts. Sorry. But, you know how Los Ange- les works. We needed to prepare you and your brethren as sashimi in order to keep our business thriving (lots of sushi restaurants in SoCal). Lucky for the rest of you, team morality—the women of the animal-loving documentary The cove—stepped in, and now you can all live—the few of you left—as a beloved endangered species. At least someone is on your side. Deepest sympathies, The establishment formerly known as Hump Res- taurant Santa Monica, CA

PS: Sorry to all you horses too. Apparently it's not legal to serve your flesh either. But no one made a docu- mentary about it, so. If it makes you feel better, we charged the same thing for you and the whales. Know- ing your flesh is worth 85 bucks a serving has gotta be worth something, right?

85 bucks a serving has gotta be worth something, right? Dear Gabby Sidibe, I didn't think

Dear Gabby Sidibe, I didn't think I was being insensitive when I called you «morbidly obese» and said that it will affect your career, but I now see my error. I failed to acknowledge that you are an Academy Award-nominated actress with an upcoming stint on Laura Linney's new HBO show, and I make exercise videos in my own home for Youtube. My regrets, Susan Powter, 90's weight loss guru

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Metro | 4 b o u g h t o u t BroWn University staFF grapple

BroWn University staFF grapple With early retireMent option

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e arly in the morning of November 4, 2009, all Brown University employees on the staff listserv received an email from Beppie Huidekoper, the Executive Vice

President for Finance and Administration. It began, “I am pleased to announce that Brown will offer a voluntary retire- ment incentive for eligible staff members.” The next week, some 250 staff members went home to find large envelopes waiting for them. They had until December 23 to sign and mail back the retirement contract, though if they sent it within seven weeks, they were given two more to change their minds. 139 staff members, over 50 percent of those eligible, chose to take the incentive. In February, the Brown Daily Herald called the option, “popular,” and Huidekoper said in an interview with the Herald that “[the] individuals who chose to take it are really quite pleased.” After speaking to several employees who accepted it, however, the buyout appears to have aroused a broader range

of reactions. One woman said she was pleased, but others (“Jenny,” “Erin,” “Estelle,” “Mike,” and “Maud”) responded differently. Maud, an employee of 20-plus years, felt the exact opposite: “They told us to take the early retirement package and go away.”

the deal According to the official Brown and the Economy website, the early retirement program was “part of the University’s

overall deficit reduction strategy.” After the University’s en- dowment declined by $740 million (or 26 percent) between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, Brown sought to reduce

a projected defecit of $30 million for fiscal year 2011. The

university charged the Organizational Review Commit- tee (ORC) with the task of “identifying opportunities for improved efficiency and cost reduction through administra- tive restructuring.” The employee buyout was intended to help the University by reducing “compensation costs” and creating “additional vacancies to be used in the redesign of [Brown’s] administrative structures.” In return, the buyouts would “assist eligible staff employees achieve their personal retirement goals.” Other universities with larger endow- ments, such as Dartmouth and Harvard, also offered similar early retirement incentives in 2009. To be eligible, Brown employees must meet two criteria by June 30, 2010: they must be 60 years or older, and they must have continuously worked fulltime at Brown for at least 10 years. They must be union members or staff members of wage grade 13 or below. Wage grades range from one to 15, and the average sala-

ries for grades one to 13 range from $24,000 to $126,000 per year. Staff members through grade 13 include dining service workers, department secretaries, custodians, librar- ians, and administrative workers in J. Walter Wilson—basi- cally all employees excluding faculty members and high-level administrators. The early-retirement package includes a lump sum of

a year’s salary and $15,000, in addition to the employee’s regular pay through his or her last day of work. Maud feels this is not enough: “It’s not the same as working another year.” She said that all that money would be considered her 2010 income, which meant that, next spring, she would pay more taxes than usual, much more than if she was working in 2011.

Two other “buyouts” joined Maud in an interview. “You’re

rich for a little, then you’re poor for the rest,” added Estelle,

a Brown employee of fifteen years. Erin, who has worked

for almost twenty years, grinned at Estelle’s comment, then exclaimed, “We need a sugar daddy!” “I have a sugar son,” Estelle responded. This summer, she will be moving into his house. The move, however, is bittersweet: “I’m gonna move in with my son, pay him half of what I pay now, and that’ll help him because he’s been out of work for a year.”

s hould i s tay or s houdl i go Why take the buyout? After all, the buyout package bears the name “Voluntary Staff Retirement Incentive” (VSRI). “We’re taking it because it’s the lesser of the two evils,” Maud explained. “Rumors went around. There would be more layoffs.” Another staff member told a similar story. Mike, a veteran staffer of 40 years, said he and his colleagues talked about layoffs before the University announced the buyout: “The impression was that if you didn’t take the buyout you would be laid off.” Last spring, the University laid off 31 workers and eliminated 36 positions that had been vacant at the time. On Monday, Beppie Huidekoper and David Kertzer, the Provost, announced in an untitled mass email to staff and faculty that “approximately 60 filled positions [would] be eliminated” on July 1. This was exactly the kind of email that employees were afraid of, and the fear motivated many staff members to take the buyout. Mike presented the case of one his coworkers as an illuminating example: “There’s a woman who has worked here for 40 years. If she gets laid off, she’s

a nobody. It doesn’t matter if she worked here for 40 years.

At least if you’re retired, you get a Brown ID that says, ‘Re- tired.’ You can flash it at someone when you need to.” Two of Mike’s colleagues initially had qualms about taking the buyout, but he eventually convinced them to follow his lead. There exist, of course, employees who took the buyout gratefully, and they took it for different reasons. Sixty-two year-old Jenny, who has been here for 21 years—nine part time then 12 fulltime—said it offered her an opportunity to do a lot of things she couldn’t do while working. For the past

12 years, five times a week, she has left her house at quarter of eight and has gone home at six. “That doesn’t leave a lot of time to do anything,” she remarked. At the top of her list

is deepening friendships. “I’m about to begin the last third of

my life,” she said, “and I’m looking forward to an open, free,

unprogrammed life.” A major reason why Jenny took the buyout was that it would allow her to enjoy that unprogrammed life without worrying about being able to afford health care. One of the highlights of the incentive is that for employees under 65, Brown will contribute $83 per month toward their health care while letting them continue on their current medical coverage until they become eligible for Medicare. Jenny’s husband will turn 65 in October. Considering her plan through Brown will cost $519.49 per month, $83 per month isn’t much. She is happy she won’t have to get independent insurance for herself, which would cost twice as much. Mak- ing the incentive more attractive, the $15,000 will pay for “almost three years” of her insurance cost. In addition, the University, according to Jenny, has been “extraordinarily gen- erous” with its contribution toward her 403(b) retirement savings plan. The Human Resources website states that, if

an employee was hired before 2001, she can contribute two percent of her gross income toward the plan so that Brown would contribute 10 percent until she turns 55, then 12 percent till she retires. Jenny said that she was pleased with the incentive, but she also confessed, “There is elation on one side [but it is] bittersweet on the other.” She explained, “The point of the buyout contract is that you sign away your right to work at Brown ever again, not even as an outside contractor.” Jenny would have worked three more years had the incentive not been offered, but the contract states that recipients of the incentive may work at Brown in the future but for no more than 60 days per calendar year. And for 60 days following the date of their retirement, they may not work here, either. If they want a fulltime job, they can no longer find one with the third largest employer in the Providence area. They need to find it elsewhere. According to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, 73,172 people—12.7 percent of the state’s entire labor force—remained unemployed as of February 2010. Until the unemployment rate leveled off in January 2010, it had continuously risen since April 2007, when it had been at 4.9 percent.

holdin’ out Although Jenny has the option to retire on April 15, she will work through commencement and leave on June 30, as will Maud, Estelle, and Erin. Maud, even as she criticized the buyout, made it clear that she enjoyed working at Brown. “I love what I do,” she said. Mike will be leaving earlier. “I would have taken January 1, actually,” he chuckled. “I wasn’t ready to leave here. But I think I made the right choice.” The only staff member who is known to be absolutely thrilled about the buyout is a woman who’d planned on retir- ing in June before the email went out on November 4. For her, according to Jenny, it “felt like winning a lottery.” For those who had planned to work a little longer, taking the buyout could only be less than exciting. During the interview with Maud, Estelle, and Erin, a man who had been listening from afar came over and in- troduced himself as Jack. He had been offered the incentive but refused to take it. “I’ve been here for 12 years, and I’ve been grade three the whole time. They don’t look at us down there,” he said as he smiled. If the University lays him off, it will save a maximum of $31,000 it would have to pay for his salary. Jack felt confident he would keep his job. “My boss will back me up,” he said as he made his way back to work. After he left, Maud said his boss had been offered the incentive but had not accepted it either. The March 22 email announcing the impending layoffs of 60 staff members stated that those individuals would be informed “over the course of the next few weeks.” Jack and his boss will soon know whether they will be invited back to work here next year.

chris suh b ’10 is currently completing his senior thesis on the WPA Writers’ Project during the Great De- pression.

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n o two of the nine windows that comprise Provi-

dence Art Windows’ 2010 Spring Installation

Series are alike. From March 18 to June 10, the

streets of downtown Providence will act as a metropolitan museum. Its collection ranges from abstract oil paintings to an intricate sundial—multiple layers of dangling light bulbs on Eddy Street that cast dynamic shadows against a wall, their elliptical shapes shifting slightly throughout the day. Providence Art Windows (PAW), which features four installation series per year, is one of several public art proj- ects in Providence that have recently challenged traditional conceptions of a museum. These projects have emerged as improvisational transformations of vacant spaces into galler- ies and murals and as urban incarnations of l’art pour l’art, public projects that supplement the city’s lack of an extensive museum culture. Though Providence is home to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, southern New England’s largest museum, its high density of galleries, art students, and

independent artists has created what current PAW director and fiber artist Rebecca Simering called a “DIY aesthetic.”

downturns and deXterity Elizabeth Keithline started Art Windows in 2007 as an ongo- ing public art project that fills downtown Providence’s empty retail spaces with art installations and provides visitors and locals with visual stimulation. Siemering became the proj- ect’s director in June of 2008. The Providence Foundation, an organization dedicated to the economic revitalization of Providence, oversees PAW’s funding—a combination of private donations and public grants. According to Dan Baudouin, Executive of the Providence Foundation, the vacant storefronts of Providence Art Win- dows are not the former displays of foreclosed businesses, but empty spaces with activity in the rooms behind them—the properties of cooperative owners. An exception is the Kresge Building, which has been va- cant for 20 years. Its storefront serves as one of the spring se- ries’ windows and has featured installations in previous years. “It’s really not a part of the economic downturn,” Baudouin explained. “It just needed a reuse.” Providence Art Windows features a core set of windows in every seasonal series, including those of Trinity Rep and Rhode Island Housing, mere blocks apart on Washington Street. Siemering referenced these two installations as the pieces whose content most closely mirrors its setting.

“Trinity Rep likes a little bit of drama in their window,” she said, “Vibrant colors.” Madolin Maxey’s “Treasured Objects” is a vibrant work indeed, with five oil paintings of personified teapots rendered through bold brush strokes and bright colors. The installation featured in the window of downtown advocacy group Rhode Island Housing was also thematically linked to its momentary home; “Reconstructing Providence” displays Jean Cozzens’ silkscreen prints of Providence’s In- dustrial Trust Building. Baudouin noted that the project hasn’t fully explored the possibilities of urban dispossession as the artist’s canvas. He referenced statistics of downtown buildings’ vacancy rates. Five years ago, the rate was at 27 percent. Two and a half years ago, it had decreased to 11 percent but currently rests at 16 percent. “Maybe there are more opportunities to work with those buildings,” he said. Both Baudouin and Simering acknowledge that the proj- ect’s artistic displays and activation of downtown Providence remain its primary purposes. “It creates a circuit for people to walk and notice the beautiful architecture of downtown Providence in less than an hour,” Simering said. The layering of art upon the blank slates of vacant lots brings to mind current and past practices of Cornish Associ- ates and the Smith Hill Community Development Corpora- tion. Last fall, the Smith Hill CDC commissioned local artists to paint murals on the walls of foreclosed homes to deter graffiti while the Corporation completes its renovations of the properties. The Providence real estate company Cornish Associates provides local artists with spaces for galleries and weekend exhibits. According to Cornish developer Joanna Levitt, some downtown commercial spaces that the company owns have transformed into galleries in the brief interim between the expiration of their old leases and the start of new ones. One such space served as the site of RISD artists’ Black Sheep Projects’ opening event on March 18. The company’s part- nership with local artists traveled by word of mouth, Levitt, who receives phone calls from artists on a weekly basis, said.

proVidence’s Many aVenues of art Providence Art Windows is one example of the many ways in which local artists have transformed the urban landscape

into a canvas. The Steel Yard, a local nonprofit, transformed the former Providence Steel and Iron complex into an industrial arts facility, which provides artists with working space and an education center offering classes in welding, blacksmithing, ceramics, jewelry, glass casting, and the foundry arts. It also offers studio rentals and open studio sessions. In the years since the Steel Yard’s 2001 founding, the organization has transformed into a community of artists from many professional backgrounds: students, automobile specialists, visual artists, and tradesmen. Their collabora- tions—public and private ventures alike—explore the inter- play between industrial trades and visual arts. One such collaboration is Hire the Yard, an ongoing public project in which the Steel Yard works with artists, vendors, and representatives of local industry to produce functional public sculptures. Specific projects have included uniquely designed bike racks, custom-made tree guards, and one-of-a-kind trashcans and recycling bins. The Steel Yard has distributed these products throughout Providence—in Smith Hill and Olneyville, and at the Roger Williams Park—as well as other Rhode Island cities and southern New England locations. Hire the Yard depicts the art in industry—Nate Nadeau’s India Point Park pieces are trash receptacles with nautical im- agery—and the industry in art, as the trash can artists use the techniques of sandblasting, powder coating, and laser cut- ting. Where the industry ends and the art begins—or where the art ends and the industry begins—remains ambiguous. While private art projects have also transformed industrial objects into art (the Museum of Modern Art in New York frequently exhibits installations of household objects), public art like Hire the Yard is unique in its ability to imbue these transformed objects with additional social significance. The trashcans are frequently born of recycled materials, which has additional resonance in light of the function these ‘installa- tions’ serve on a daily basis. Howie Sneider—who runs the Public Projects for the Steel Yard, and whose Providence Art Windows installation is currently on display on Eddy Street—wrote in the Agenda, “These trash cans are unique projects that become unique objects, and they are cultural landmarks: ‘Go down Smith Street and make a left at that weird trash can with the state house cut of out it.’ ”

the coMMon critics “Rudimentary Channels” by Illinois and California-based

artist Jason Chakravorty received mixed reviews last Saturday. The Providence Art Windows installation, one of two in the double storefront of the Kresge Building at 191 Westminster, features an arch of empty US Postal crates that hovers over a cluster of the corrugated plastic crates, some of which are illuminated. The arch descends into an accordion-like semi- circle of the layered boxes. “Oh, that is fresh,” 12 year-old Bryan shouted as he caught a glimpse of Chakravorty’s crates, clutching a skate- board while running across Westminster to examine what caught his eye from afar. Providence resident Mike, however, took offense at the unconventional nature of both Chakravorty’s work and the adjacent installation, an untitled piece by Valerie Kim. Kim’s installation also features crates: red, blue, and green vessels of VHS-copies of Star Wars and Psycho. Television sets of dif- ferent sizes and conditions lie just to the right of the crates. Mike referred to the two installations as “attempts at be- ing artsy that fall really short. It’s mostly just a display against previous culture that shows how unattractive anything old is.”

His wife Cynthia disagreed. “I like it,” she said. “I think it’s taking something that would be placed in a pile and mak- ing it artsy—” “—artsy fartsy, yeah,” Mike interjected. Their exchange highlighted one paradox of public art: un- like the works in a museum, which are usually only subjected to the scrutiny of those who choose to scrutinize, public art can be a pleasant surprise or an offensive curveball to the unsuspecting spectator. Siemering expanded on the museum-versus-street-setting dichotomy. “When you’re working in a window,” she said, referencing the PAW artists’ work process, “It’s one of the most exciting things. You get immediate feedback; pedes- trians will give you a thumb’s up. I always find that really wonderful, and almost better than being in a museum or gallery because you have an instant rapport with the public.”

MuseuM or MausoleuM? The relationship between museum and storefront in America dates back to the birth of the department store in the late 19th century. In his paper “Museums, Merchandising, and Popular Taste,” scholar Neil Harris discusses the close ties be- tween museums, department store displays, and world fairs, all of which served to exhibit commodities and influence the public’s taste. Harris notes that department stores competed with the museum as “a display area for artifacts.” As early as 1868, department store owners used artistic techniques to tempt the shopper: “displays of furs and silks…frescoed

density of young artists.” Ceglio noted that museums are a means of conferring value upon art, though each museum is unique and thus confers a different kind of value upon the works it houses. Sometimes the sheer absence of a museum can validate a work of art as well; she referenced the Steel Yard trashcans as art that would lose its social power in a museum setting. Some public art projects, like the Providence Art Win- dows, have, in certain ways, resembled a museum, but mu- seum practices frequently reverse this relationship. “We like to associate museums with the idea of permanence. The flip side of that is that they are then also associated with the idea of being static,” Ceglio said. “But in contemporary times, the temporary exhibition certainly [is] a means [that draws] people to the museum.” The lifespan of some PAW installations has surpassed their time spent behind glass. Siemering noted that past PAW artists have slightly altered the concept and scale of their installations and either resubmitted or recreated the works for other exhibitions. Occasionally the installations are even curated before they challenge the concept of cura- tion; some of the artists have shown their work, including components of the installations, in museums prior to par- ticipating in Providence Art Windows. Ceglio commented, “That disrupts the inside-outside the museum construction a little bit.”

While formally curated exhibitions and public art projects have questioned—and perhaps undermined—distinctions between their two spheres of art, there are certain values of which neither world can claim sole ownership, transience in particular. As Simering said of the art windows project, “Because it’s temporary, it’s more precious…it’s not something you forget. Everyone notices it and it’s beautiful.” Temporary museum exhibitions can also linger in the minds of spectators, and perhaps challenge the notion of a museum as permanent and distinct from the world of public art projects. “A month in a window is certainly no more tem- porary than a museum’s temporary exhibit,” Ceglio noted. The Providence art scene almost makes it seem like a burden to be permanently on display at the Met.

k atie l indstedt b’11 encourages anyone reading this to submit his or her work for Providence Art Windows’ next installation series.

work for Providence Art Windows’ next installation series. walls, [and] brilliant gas lighting.” John Cotton Dana,
work for Providence Art Windows’ next installation series. walls, [and] brilliant gas lighting.” John Cotton Dana,

walls, [and] brilliant gas lighting.” John Cotton Dana, the iconoclastic 19th century librarian and director of the New- ark Museum even “[insisted] that the buying public learned more about fine art from shop windows and travel than from museums.” Like the lavish department store displays of decades past, the storefronts of Providence Art Windows’ spring instal- lations may have more in common with the museum than initially meets the eye. Clarissa Ceglio, a graduate student in Brown University’s Department of American Civilization with research interests in America’s museum culture and 20 years of experience in the gallery world, challenged the notion that museums stand in contradiction to public art. “Providence’s primary institution that we call a museum and recognize as a museum in the classical sense is the RISD Museum,” she said. “But I think that what we have in Providence is a more complex ecology [with] not only the museum as an institution where art can be displayed, but also a very rich and vibrant gallery community [and] a high

the museum as an institution where art can be displayed, but also a very rich and

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stiMUlUs Money For WeatheriZation rots in storage

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t he Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

(ARRA) doubled Rhode Island’s Weatherization As-

sistance Program (WAP) in February 2009, granting

it $20.07 million. The WAP was designed to lower energy costs for low-income families by adding insulation, closing leaks and holes in the building, and updating heating sys- tems. In February 2010, Gregory Friedman, the US Depart- ment of Energy Inspector General, announced “alarming” findings that many states had not spent their portion of $5 billion in ARRA funds for weatherization. He reported, “The job-creation impact of what was considered to be one of the department’s most ‘shovel-ready’ projects has not material- ized.” He revealed five states’ energy departments, including Rhode Island’s, reported no use of ARRA’s weatherization funds, while continuing to fund older programs that simply subsidized energy bills for low-income families. Architects and constructors chimed in, complaining about months- long delays while families waited for tax breaks. Weatherization projects did increase, but not as fast as funding. From 2001 to 2009, WAP used their normal fund- ing of $1.1 to $2 million. Homes were weatherized from an average of 90 per month before 2009, to 112 to 150 per month in 2009. Still, $20 million of stimulus sumy went unused. States were allowed to use 50 percent of the funds of the stimulus package money before Congress outlined its exact specifications over the course of the year, but RI didn’t get around to them. The Carcieri administration’s hesitation in spending $58 million in federal funding leaves little hope for the state’s green economy. Amy Kempe, the Governor’s Office Spokes- person, blamed delays on a complex “level of transparency and accountability of reporting” outlined by the stimulus package. “Some states started using the money pending the rules and regulations, but from our perspective,” she said, “we just thought it was more appropriate to wait.” The stimulus package was ill-timed for the RI Office of Energy Resources; two important staffers had recently de- parted. To replace those members, as well as create positions for additional staff, the office attempted to maneuver around recession-caused hiring freezes and wage-estimating surveys required by the Davis-Bacon Act. After the state filed their annual report that stated none of stimulus funds had been used in 2009, the Office of Energy Resources hired Senate policy aide and energy policy veteran Ken Payne to “ramp up” the programs. He came with the entourage of a lawyer, an engineer, a policy expert, and a website designer. In late February, he announced, “You’ll see a lot coming out soon,” adding that 160 housing units were weatherized in 2010 with ARRA funds.

dollars & sense Weatherization is a simple process. First, an energy auditor conducts an audit, which can involve infrared scanning of the walls and roof and blower-door tests on wind resistance. RI’s largest energy provider, National Grid, is required by law to provide free audits for low-income residents. However, any- one who has tried this can attest to the long waitlist. Next, weatherization-specific Community Action Program (CAP) agencies evaluate energy systems (e.g. the age of the boiler, type of light bulbs) and measure cost-effectiveness of replac-

ing or altering those systems. After evaluating the homes, CAPs direct non-invasive procedures—such as the installa- tion of non-incandescent light bulbs, or the caulking-up of holes in between windows and walls. If needed, they hire construction agencies to install more insulation in between

walls and roofs. The process costs an average of $6,500. For

a larger budget, weatherization can include better windows

or a complete overhaul of the boiler system. However, these more advanced measures aren’t for the impatient; good win- dows, for example, take 18 years to pay for themselves in decreased energy bills. The program works. Nationally, WAP returns $1.56 in monetary benefits for every dollar spent in property values, bill collection and service shut-offs. The Department of En- ergy cites a $1:$2.73 ratio for cost to health, environmental, social, and political benefits. The program, when implement- ed, increases investment in local industries, national security (read: oil dependence), and long-term environmental health. Experts say the push for weatherizing will sooner come from policy changes and tax incentives than individual fami- lies taking initiative. If Congress agrees to sign onto global CO2 reduction standards, residential energy usage–38 per- cent of US greenhouse gas emissions–will have to change. The market value inherent is seductive. Ninety percent of the 122 million houses in America are more than five years old and so inefficient that they could not be built under today’s energy standards.

spring greening RI homes are “ideally suited for building energy investments,” according to Ross Stackhouse, a senior at Brown currently writing his thesis on environmental efforts in Providence.

“Providence is a very old city, architecturally speaking,” he said, and “the important thing is that homes are old and their systems and walls have degraded over time, making them less energy efficient.” However, state and local government, with the financial capacity to fix some of the degradations, have still had trouble speeding up their productivity. For better or worse, this pace is remarkably slower than private industry. Currently, only two programs train employ- ees for CAP agencies in RI; CCRI and the Apeiron Institute for Sustainable Living both teach Green Job Energy Efficient Training. The demand for certified “green” employees has increased beyond the rate of supply of institutions creating those opportunities. “There have been scaling-up issues you’d expect both in terms of administration and on the ground.

If you’re a CAP agency, you hear about a one-year stimulus,

you probably don’t want to hire somebody because of this blip,” said John Farley, who represents the Energy Council of Rhode Island. One can only predict how long this extra funding will last, based on how efficient the programs will be and how they are being perceived. Although waiting to set up successful, efficient models has benefits, weatherization’s reigning principle remains: as soon as possible. States must walk a fine line when it comes to funding energy efforts. An unbridled energy market could allow an- other Enron debacle, but regulating the profits out of the industry limits the research and development the environ- ment needs. The most important piece of recent legislation remains the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which granted tax

incentives and loans for efficient energy production by large companies. The bill defined states’ roles in public and private energy interests as lightly regulating backers. It also stipulated that electric companies must procure all cost- effective energy savings according to the law. In RI, a new report by the RI Energy Efficiency Resource Management Council (EERMC) will outline technical and economic potential, “develop program designs and budgets […] and refine policy recommendations.” This will change the future of relationships among National Grid, the state govern- ment, city government and CAPs. Changes made by these institutions will affect architects, developers, construction workers, educational environmental markets, and individual homeowners. “What’s interesting is that people are looking at this more systematically. When we see the report, we can look at it and say now here’s how [energy in RI] looks, and then they can tell us how long efforts might take [to become sustainable],” said Farley.

energized coMMunities The slow pace of RI’s government is alarming, especially con- sidering the effects that lower energy bills or increased jobs could have had in 2009. However, Kempe explained that the state aims to weatherize 2,532 houses before the end of the year. As most citizens consistently name the economy their most important concern, the upcoming gubernatorial can- didates will predictably address RI’s green economy. Beyond rhetoric, however, an entire system of people will need to be expanded and supported, from government administrators to educators to construction employees. The future of RI’s economy (including energy prices) remains unpredictable, but effective spending of this money shouldn’t be a mystery. Some have proposed that WAP charge a small fee for energy audits in order to incentivize follow-through so families will actually install the insulation and caulk up their heat leaks. Other suggestions have been to provide programs for middle-class families or landlords to alter their energy usage. For now, states have shown success in ramp- ing up these programs using community-based marketing. In Bridgeport, CT, for example, the largest utility company temporarily hired underprivileged 18-23 year olds to market free energy audits door-to-door. The increase in weatheriza- tion was astounding. Maryli Secrest, who worked organizing community marketing efforts in Bridgeport, provided some perspective: “Its hard to get people to trust us, but once they see that there is money to save them up to 40 percent on their energy bill, they get pretty excited.”

a leXandra corrigan b’12 wanted to get weatherized, but thought it more appropriate to wait.

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f or most Rhode Islanders, the poor condition of the state’s public education system is old news: not only do kids drop out at alarmingly high rates, but most high

school graduates lack the math and science skills to pursue rigorous and rewarding careers in these fields, whether as en- gineers, computer programmers, or doctors. In the past few years, however, Hope High School, the often controversial hub of Providence’s public education system, has undergone a dramatic change. Once known for its fist fights, graffiti, and appallingly low test scores—in 2008, average SAT scores were 900 points lower than Moses Brown’s, a private school two blocks away—Hope High is now mellower, better fi- nanced, and, most importantly, filled with students who are more eager than ever to learn math and science. These improvements, which are not unique to Hope, have been fostered by recent state-sponsored educational reforms. Since assuming office in 2003, Governor Donald Carcieri has implemented policies that provide more fund- ing for math and science classrooms, comprehensive teacher training, and support for students of all ages and abilities. Yet what’s made Rhode Island’s success so remarkable is that many of these reforms have been made off Capitol Hill by mechanics, college students, and other layperson volunteers, everyday citizens looking to improve public education im- mediately and permanently. Greeneville local Joe Silva is one of these science enthusi- asts. In the 1980s, Silva owned Silvacross Corp., a small tech company that made robotic equipment for law enforcement purposes. His early machines scanned license plates and es- tablished security perimeters, but his most successful design was Aexeous (ax-EE-us), a twelve-foot-tall alienesque robot that’s been winning over elementary and middle schoolers since 1996, when Silva began to take his creation out on edu- cational tours in an effort to “inspire students to be creative, stay in school, and promote excitement and more interest in their science, math, and technology classes.” Despite Aex- eous’s intimidating claws and heavy steel ribbing, kids are immediately and instinctively curious about what makes this robot move, shake, and emit electric growls. At a recent demonstration in Hampstead, NH, excited students stood up and cheered as Aexeous stretched himself to his full height and then bombarded Silva with questions about the solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells that make his machine one of the cleanest in the country. His highly successful hands- on approach cuts right to the heart of the matter: instead of spewing dry facts and figures, Silva gets students excited by showing them exactly how cool, how much larger-than-life, science can actually be.

Other Rhode Islanders are working to excite older students, like those attending the University of Rhode Is- land’s Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences (SMILE), an educational program that brings high school students from Central Falls, Coventry, North/South Kings- town, Pawtucket, West Warwick, and Woonsocket to URI’s

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campus for a weekend of hands-on biotechnology. The stu- dents work with undergraduate mentors and take full advan- tage of resources unavailable to them in their public schools:

they learn how to use pipettes, work with microscopes, oper- ate underwater robots, and culture their own cells. It’s a fas- cinating and valuable experience, one that’s readily accessible to many Rhode Island students, but it’s also an expensive operation that’s highly dependent on funding from Amgen. The multi-billion dollar biotechnology company feeds the students, houses them overnight at the Holiday Inn, and brings 35 of its own employees to each SMILE event, im- proving both student performance and their own reputation. Without Amgen’s financial support, it wouldn’t be possible to generate the math and science enthusiasm the program has been able to build.

Yet financial backing from an international therapeutics company isn’t necessary for education reform. Brown Uni- versity’s Brown Science Prep (BSP), a student-led enrich- ment program that competes with SMILE for Saturday attendance, is funded nominally by the Swearer Center but primarily by whatever change its volunteers find in their pockets. Every week, a dozen mentors meet with 25 to 40 Providence area public high schoolers to teach lessons on a variety of topics, from statistics to general chemistry to botany. The low student-to-mentor ratio allows for highly personalized lesson plans that attempt to address one of the biggest problems in Rhode Island’s education system:

campus came out to perform for the kids, and we actually had one participant rap some original songs at the show.” With this kind of encouragement, it’s no surprise that high schoolers keep getting out of bed at 10 AM on Saturdays to learn a little extra science—and the results are already showing. “We have one student this year who’ll be attending Brown in the fall,” Duch adds, “and every single other senior in the program is really excited about hearing back from col- leges soon.” The best and fastest way to reform, then, is to approach the problem of poor science education from both sides: while politicians work to secure funding and high school teach- ers fight the good fight, it’s essential for citizens to become activists and community builders in their own right. Science education isn’t just about test scores; it’s also about the at- tention devoted to each student and the kinds of scientific role models that Silva, Amgen scientists, and excited college students represent. Science is hip and interesting and invalu- able, and in order to ensure that Rhode Island produces its share of brilliant and enthusiastic future researchers, it’s im- perative that we begin to begin promoting math and science immediately, even if we aren’t scientists ourselves.

(nupur shridhar b’11)2 = a2 + b2

scientists ourselves. (nupur shridhar b’11)2 = a2 + b2 each public school has a unique science

each public school has a unique science curriculum that’s incompatible with any other public school’s; each student receives a spotty and often education. “We take the time to write lessons that are accessible to a whole range of students,” says Mark Sabbagh, a BSP mentor in his second year with the program. “We have students coming in from Feinstein, Times Squared, E-Cubed, Hope, and each one of them has a different scientific background. Some kids are already learn- ing about restriction enzymes and others are still struggling with fractions. [The mentors] come in with a formal lesson plan, but if the kids are interested in a particular topic or are struggling with something really essential that might be on the SATs, we have the time and freedom to really focus on that.” The loose structure of the program works remarkably well. BSP’s classrooms don’t feel like classrooms at all:

Saturday mornings begin and end casually, with bagels and YouTube videos that get students and mentors talking about their lives and interests. Lesson plans and hands-on experiments—which have included exploding ketchup and Winogradsky columns made with sludge from India Point Park—are sandwiched between these essential times when mentors and students swap notes on safer sex and fights that may have happened at school. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these students individually,” says Julia Duch, another BSP mentor. “We don’t just talk about science. In fact, we recently had a fundraiser where student groups from all over


F i c t i o n :

F L A S H F i c t i o n : Your five o’clock

Your five o’clock shadow is more am than pm because it is blush-colored like sunrise, and yawn-filled like pillow cheek.

Your bathroom mirror has learned to tell time, the same way I do in California:

By watching suns crawl over hillsides, every blade of grass painted pink—

watching those eyes above your cheek bones—

Ah, yes. Good morning.


The boat in it looked scriptural to the San Francisco lawyer, who was out here on the Continent for the very first time. He wondered whether there’d be a Gideon’s Bible here somewhere, whether in Spanish hotels they had that sort of thing. The gallerist from Amsterdam wanted to buy it, but the owner said that she’d commissioned all the headboards as a set. If he wanted one, he’d have to take all twelve of them. For the old German sisters who came in Saturday,

it was reminiscent of the powder room in their child-

hood home, and its toile de Jouy wallpaper. Which

wallpaper showed a Chinese fisherman perched on

a pagoda porch, with his rod held over what, to

judge by the layered clouds below it, was a smallish mountain pond. This image, royal blue on white, repeated itself precisely 72 times; the clouds into which one angler’s bait dangled were also those that hung above another angler’s conical straw hat. To the Germans’ mother, who had picked out the wallpaper personally, this had felt profound, like mirrors within mirrors, the idea of infinity expressed within a finite space. It had evoked for her a near-religious senti- ment. For the old German sisters, who’d never cared for it especially, the thought of the toile evoked their mother’s musk, which evoked in turn a thin and—to them—imperceptible sadness.

evoked in turn a thin and—to them—imperceptible sadness. You ever wanted to talk to your friends
evoked in turn a thin and—to them—imperceptible sadness. You ever wanted to talk to your friends

You ever wanted to talk to your friends about the lumpy fabulous lumpy man who you met in the wine bar last night & about how weird the clusters of his chest hair were & how educated his sweet nothings were & how well worn his book bindings were but then actually you were stuck in a giant visual pun of


which was much more interesting and visual than anything you can say even if you choose & buy & put on a coat to try to steal some of the


attention for yourself & your unseeable story to make a quick transition to the interesting not quite visible person that is you nibbling your hand, but everyone is still making verbal puns about the visual pun not on you but on the clothesline kind of thing even though you are not even sure it constitutes a visual pun, when hey the waffles you & the man had

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The couple from London ignored it entirely. How lovely, the American said to her husband, craning her neck to get an upside-down view of it, before crossing the thin gap between the two twin beds for one more round of lackluster honeymoon sex. The boy from Barreiro, near Lisbon, loved the four yellow birds in the lower right corner, in the way that you come to love some object in a stranger’s attic on a dusty late spring day. He loved the perched parrotish one that seemed to him tired and sagacious. The paler westermost one whose feathers had halfway taken on the hue of the leaves. And the two at the center, whose angles implied either an airborne meeting or two wholly unrelated trajectories. He dreamt of them for three nights. He was among them, in a forest, and the forest lay somehow inside a voluminous attic—which attic was, he found, amid another verdant forest, and so on. He was perched high in a tree-canopy, dense with chlorophyllic foliage, and as the birds moved invisibly around him, he heard their calls and tracked them aurally. And he was among them, flying low over a lake, watching his own yellow underbelly flit over the green painted waves. When it was time to leave the inn, he lingered behind; he could hear his father start the Fiat noisily as he crawled across the bed to the headboard and said a swift goodbye. Adeus, pássaros. Adeus!


Hey Dad, I was wondering if you could ask that friend of yours who works for Amtrak if they sanitize the headrests on trains between trips. Because it recently occurred to me that my recent uptick in commuting has put me at high risk for lice. Also, I got the picture of the new fish, but I don’t really get why you named the smaller one Margaret Thatcher?



this morning were yellow, so was the honey, so was the tea (kind of), & you hope that eventually people will be bored of looking at the


that you notice is even on the buildings not just the coats, his house was green which is almost yellow on the light spectrum, the buildings they stand in the background & you notice them because you can see them & ok ok fine then you just give up, give into the puns, look at what is in front of you, save the story for the diary, you barely speak this language anyway.


Hey Dad,

No, I know who Margaret Thatcher is, but I really don’t see the resemblance. Maybe if you’d gotten a


Anyway, I have a favor to ask: if you see your lawyer friend (Alan? Alvin?) any time soon, could you just find out if you go to your old apartment where you techni- cally don’t live anymore but you still have a key, if that counts as breaking and entering? And how much stuff you’d have to take for it to be considered a burglary?





Hey Dad, Do you still know that guy who repairs electronics? Could you email me his contact info? Say hi to Margaret for me!


Each Christmas my family makes a gingerbread model of a building by the year’s Pritzker Prize winner. My architect father started the project when I was a kid and hasn’t given it up despite its failures. Two years ago we did Jean Nouvel’s Torre Agbar, which luminesces red and blue into the Barcelona night, but LEDs weren’t really feasible for our version so we just ended up with a gingerbread penis. Cutting in the concentric circles felt like some weird form of circumcision. For the Fourth of July every year we do Chicken Versus Tank, facing the firecracker figures towards each other and lighting their fuses and watching them spark in a lightly smoking fight. Tank usually wins, so sometimes we handicap it by placing Chicken on higher ground. And when we’ve filled up a glass boot with change from our pockets, we always spend an afternoon rolling coins and spending our winnings on candy bought in bulk— sour ribbons that rough a tongue up fast, gummies shaped like sharks and coke bottles, sugared watermelon wedges and my mother’s favorite: lemon drops. So I mean my family is pretty big on tradition, and besides everyone’s heard of emotional eating, and of those warriors who eat their enemies for their strength (what didn’t kill you makes you stronger), and I guess somewhere along the line we got those notions mixed up along with some other ones so now when one of our pets dies we grill it. Honoring the fallen can be delicious.


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sMoKing Might Be terriBle, BUt stop telling Us not to do it.

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o n June 22, 2010, Americans will no longer be able to get free samples of cigarettes, procure pro- motional gear with tobacco brand-names, or buy

fewer than 20 cigarettes at a time (smaller quantities = more affordable for kids with pocket money salaries). Furthermore, cigarette advertisements accessible to teens must be in black & white (for both print and video). These are some of the regulations the FDA announced last week, attempting to diminish tobacco companies’ efforts to “target” kids in their advertising campaigns. Tighter ad regulations are part of a long, aggressive, and— in my eyes—ominous campaign to convince Americans that smoking is not only bad for your health but in fact morally depraved. The effort is multi-pronged. Rising tobacco taxes are arguably sensible. Increasingly anal-retentive legislation is annoying. Vaguely fascistic language is unnerving (“make smoking history,” a ubiquitous slogan in Massachusetts, the UK, and Australia, recalls other things—or peoples—with which governments have aggressively tried to ‘make history’). The effect, all-told, is clear. It is increasingly hard to smoke a cigarette without getting dirty looks (at best). My concern

here, however, is not the pride of sidewalk smokers. Anti- smoking legislation raises troubling questions about personal liberty, class, and cultural taboo.

issues with Money According to a Gallup poll, 62 percent of smokers are from households with annual incomes less than $35,000; therein, 34 percent of all smokers are from households with annual incomes less than $12,000. Given these numbers, the multi- valent effort to discourage smoking on behalf of public health effectively ghettoizes it. Current anti-smoking rules and at- titudes have the monetary effect of a poor tax, and the social effect of making smoking a behavior that “poor people” do. The insidiousness of relegating toxic behaviors to the desti- tute is far more insidious than the objective facts of heart disease and lung cancer. Besides associating something that is ostensibly immoral with poverty, it effectively condones the poor poisoning themselves. Incredulous? Legislation passed in 2009 banned flavored cigarettes of all kinds, except mentholated cigarettes, 75 per- cent of which are purchased by African Americans. The law ostensibly aims to limit tobacco products that will appeal to children—and yet, menthols, the best known flavored ciga- rette, which is most popular among one of the most histori- cally oppressed minority groups in America, is exempted. But don’t these laws constitute steps in the right direction, even if they aren’t perfect? No. Smoking may be dumb, but it’s not in the purview of the government to ban dumb things (I feel the same way about gambling, fireworks, and harem pants). ‘Wait!’ cries the layman econ. concentrator, ‘Aren’t the costs that widespread smoking has on public health effect sufficient to warrant a ban?’ This concern (which is especially valid after the passage of the healthcare bill last Sunday) can be met by paying for cigarette related healthcare measures (assistance quitting as well as medical procedures) in part with the revenue from exorbitant cigarettes taxes. This economic measure would offset the literal cost of smoking without making it a moral issue (read: something disgusting poor people do). Ideally.

bans & adVertising One might argue that the FDA rules from last week don’t condemn smoking outright; they simply limit advertising. This is true. This law does not impinge on one’s choice to smoke, directly. Rather it aims to prevent people, specifically minors from thinking to make that choice. In effect, it posits the tremendous effect of advertising on decision-making. In ’50s and ’60s, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote extensively on the economic effects of advertising. He argued that while

consumers were entirely entitled to have “bizarre, frivolous, or even immoral” preferences, these preferences ought to originate from the consumer, not from the advertising campaigns of large corporations. Among contemporary economists, Galbraith’s argu- ments are not taken especially seriously, in part because of Friederich Hayek’s refutation that the distinction between preferences originating inside or outside of the consumer was bogus (i.e. the only ‘original’ preferences are food, shelter, sex). The other reason for Galbraith’s discredit is that his assertions about the power of massive corporations to control markets regardless of consumers’ actual desires has not stood the test of time. Firms like GM—which Gal- braith described as being ‘above’ the constraints of actual consumer preference because of their power to advertise— have diminished based, to some extent, on consumers’ preference for their competitors’ products. This historical anecdote bears two points. The first is that is that there is little sense in the government inter- vening in advertising for the sake of consumers. It may be widely understood that minors cannot act on their own behalves (because under the age of 18 you are infinitely malleable and have no common sense), but this is why it is illegal to buy cigarettes as a minor (a law which last week’s FDA move makes consistent across all 50 states). Secondly, it’s unclear to me that smoking isn’t actually appealing on

its own. It is hard to assess the effectiveness of such regu- lations, since other preventative measures (consequences for selling cigarettes to minors, higher tobacco taxes) have occurred concomitantly, obscuring efforts to calculate the effects of advertising. Arguably though, the role of cigarette advertising is to convince smokers (or potential smokers) to buy your brand of cigarettes—and that peddling smoking, per se, is an afterthought. RJ Reynolds doesn’t just want

they want RJ Reynolds smokers.

What I’m getting at is that advertising doesn’t cause smok- ing, and that even if we got rid of all cigarette advertising,

new smokers in

anywhere, ever, there would still be smokers.

cigarette as thrysus The problem with controlling cigarette advertising is that smoking doesn’t really need to be advertised; it sells itself. As Richard Klein, professor of French Literature at Cornell and author of cigarettes are sublime, wrote, intrinsic in the act of smoking is “a darkly beautiful, inevitably painful pleasure.” The act is inherently appealing, Klein argues, but

“warning smokers or neophytes of the dangers entices them more powerfully to the edge of the abyss, where, like travel- ers in a Swiss landscape, they can be thrilled by the subtle grandeur of the perspectives on mortality opened by the little terrors in every puff.” This is why the effort to vilify smoking has become so moral. You can’t do it outside public doorways in various states, not because passers-by can’t hold their breath if they see fit. It’s because if we don’t suppress cigarettes, the argu- ments on behalf of health, even moderate taxes, won’t stop it. It is a failure of collective public discourse that it lacks the complexity to oppose something without also declaring it morally reprehensible. Until we can teach children that getting stoned every day is generally an indecorous waste of time without sermonizing, we will continue to render sexy that which we condemn. And smoking cigarettes is already so sexy to begin with.

i think i loVe you – so what aM i so afraid of? The furious reader responds: sexy or not sexy, smoking kills people. To be clear: I am not saying that smoking is good. I am saying that it is compelling. It is true that our bodies are fragile, contingent vessels which are not well served by many of our behaviors. This liberal, middle-class, centrist, medically-based terror, though, this pure outrage, seems most ominous to me. We should also all be thin. We should also all exercise. We should also all ‘love ourselves.’ The fierce cultural paean we sing to the bodily ideals of “health,” “fitness,” “long-life,” and “happiness” should not be sung louder than that quiet, familiar tune we must always hum to ourselves—not just in our heads, but on street-corners and in statehouses—that of the ownership of the individual over his or her body; and therein, the inalienable right to smoke like a chimney. As regards last week’s regulations, I would rather the government—or more specifically, the FDA, that opaque wing of the government tasked with regulating foodstuffs and controlled substances—not also be responsible for deciding which kinds of media children have access to. As with other great American wars concerned in no way with literal territory (see the red scare, the war on drugs) the battle against smoking is not entirely pointless. It is, how- ever, a site where we should exercise caution, and perhaps be more self-critical of how we can harm ourselves—even in what was originally a well-intentioned effort to protect.

eli schMitt b&h’11 quit.

a well-intentioned effort to protect. eli schMitt b&h’11 quit. the college hill independent March 25, 2010

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speech and Understanding on the Bachelor and Beyond

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a s the Bachelor, the star of ABC’s eponymous reality TV show, watches his potential wives step out of their limos, each woman gets about thirty seconds

to introduce herself. A blonde from Kissimmee, FL inquires perkily: “How do you feel about Kissimmee?” The Bachelor, Jake, looks sick with panic for a moment, until he picks up on the wordplay. Jake will soon narrow the field from 25 women to 15, and we are to believe that he makes this deci- sion knowing things that silence could not have told him.

Each “incredible journey” through The Bachelor (this one ended last month) is paved with endless talk. Beginning with squeals from inside the limos and continuing with every an- nouncement of a date or cocktail party—the show’s central narrative mechanisms—the sound of shrieking women is constant. Conversations with more than two participants, though, are viewed by all parties as preludes to the good stuff; one-on-one dates are hot commodities. The archetype of the demure wallflower seems to have fallen by the wayside, and the demanding women dominate every group. “Excuse me, Jake. Can I…steal you for minute?” This is what the woman, looking striking in a bikini or something, says as she enters

about living with someone before you got married?” Corrie shakes her head. “No. I feel like that’s part of the gift of mar- riage.” Jake rearranges his smile. “Well! I have no problem with that at all.” Jake will not invite Corrie back next week. In each conversation, the recitation of facts—albeit mean- ingful ones—passes for interpersonal understanding. Jake is challenged and responds with the words that his challenger expects to hear. He doesn’t ask Corrie why she holds the val- ues she does, nor does he offer any explanation of his own. Gia’s mother takes his vague statements as hard evidence, later telling Gia: “I just know that he really loves my girl!” We expect this kind of thing from any reality show, but here, the empty words are supposed to lead to actual off-screen marriage. The show’s connection to a legitimate legal and social institution makes its reliance on verbal shortcuts that much more unnerving; you get the sense that, although they know they’re in a ridiculously contrived TV environment, the participants really do see depth in what looks like pure superficiality. Their language is the shorthand of the generic, and lulled by its music, women will give their hearts away, and families their daughters.

tions, and makes you sound good. We rehearse this kind of talking daily, perfecting it, until it becomes generic in the sense of a musical genre, with its own hallmarks and reliable repetitions.

Yeah, but, you say. When it comes to real things, the people we truly love, we speak in real words. We do not believe in the Hallmark love of Bachelor matchmaking and its absurd verbal gamesmanship. But let’s look to the last episode of the season, in which Jake struggles to decide between Vienna and Tenley. Tenley is sweet and Barbie beautiful. Vienna is “brutally honest” (her words) and “smokin’ hot” (Jake’s). Jake repeats that he is in love with both women, and when asked why, he says that Tenley is “just amazing, so beautiful,” and that Vienna is “so passionate.” Both women call Jake “so great.” Attempts at in-depth conversation derail: to Jake’s mother, Tenley says that her ex-husband’s leaving her was like “a death in the family” and that that proves she “doesn’t give up.” By the time Jake gives Vienna an absurd diamond on a cliff above a tropical sea, it’s unsurprising that he can’t explain his decision to Tenley. “There was just something…for me… that was missing,” Jake chokes through his tears, looking confused and heartbroken. She goes, the producers give Jake a second to get it together, and he proposes to Vi- enna. She is overjoyed; they do not speak of Tenley. You can laugh, call this tragic or mov- ing, or predict that once the smokin’ hot factor dies down the engagement will be off (the tabloids tell us that it already is). Then imagine yourself telling someone why you love him or her; you might say “You’ve just got this way about you.” Imagine yourself breaking up with someone and saying that, for you, there was just something missing. Walk down these scenic shortcuts, familiar to the ears and tongue. We may not traffic in this talk to the ex- tent that the Bachelor folks do, and it is not our only currency. But we do speak as they speak, and what’s more, our enthusiasm for observing this kind of talk indicates that in it we find things to which we can relate; the bachelorettes are entrancing, even if only in their horrifying artifice. Pretending that we are never wrapped up in these same cozy verbal blankets is dangerous. In valuing the quantity and frequency of talk over its quality and content, we sacrifice creative power in favor of raw possession. As the Bachelor and bachelorettes shuffle their words like poker chips, The Bachelor becomes a caricature of a culture that deals in all things sleek and short- form, where even presidential addresses are reduced to sound bytes; the uncomfortable familiarity of every onscreen phrase makes it the epitome of reality TV as cautionary tale. Still, there is something affecting about the empty verbal gestures. Each episode ends with a Rose Ceremony, in which Jake gives red roses to the girls he wants to see again next week. Jake calls out names one at a time, saying: “Vienna,” (or whoever) “will you accept this rose?” Naturally, the women get more and more nervous as the ceremony goes on, count- ing and re-counting the remaining roses. When just one rose is left, the show’s host, Chris Harrison, appears. “Ladies… Jake,” he says quietly. “There is only one rose remaining.” He then proceeds to exit the room. Chris vocalizes the achingly obvious, and it’s beautiful. His words make it so much harder to dismiss the other words that express nothing. They are akin to the quiet thrill of tell- ing someone you think he’s amazing when you’ve already married him. When stripped of any pretense of revelatory insight, the empty verbal gesture can be its own kind of meaningful; it’s only when we mistake the symbol for the substance that we wind up crying on a cliff, unable to say what went wrong.

hannah sheldon - dean b’10 always preferred Gia anyway.

hannah sheldon - dean b’10 always preferred Gia anyway. some producer-contrived bungalow where Jake and another

some producer-contrived bungalow where Jake and another woman are talking. Jake never refuses the interloper. Tenley is crying over her ex-husband? Vienna is confessing a teenage elopement? These subjects are immediately unbimportant. Apparently it is unthinkable for Jake to say: “I’m sorry, Elizabeth, but Tenley and I are having a serious conversation.” Instead, talk ceases in mid-thought, beginning again with the new woman, never fully stopping, but never progressing either. The producers might encourage this quick turnover, and Jake is trying to get to know a lot of women rapidly, but each conversation mirrors the last; the woman says she really wants to get to know Jake, and maybe she’ll offer a sound byte about her values or upbringing. Jake himself speaks almost exclusively about speaking. “I wish,” he will say, “that Corrie would open up to me more.” But what Jake seems to mean by “talking” is actually the act of appearing to talk. Granted, we see only what the produc- ers show us, but let’s assume here that the parts they do show us are what they consider the most revealing segments. Here is one, from Jake’s hometown date with Gia, during which he meets her family:

“So,” says Gia’s mother, “you say you care about my Gia, but you’re dating three other women at the same time.” Jake grimaces. “…Yes.” “Well, then what is it about her that’s dif- ferent to you?” He relaxes visibly. “Oh, well Gia’s just such a great girl! She’s so beautiful. She really just…has a way about her.” The mother seems to think that Jake has just told her something. She does not press him for details. Another:

At dinner with Jake, Corrie makes a comment about how she’d be happy to move into her own place in Jake’s city. Jake struggles to continue smiling: “So…how would you feel

Set aside The Bachelor’s subtle horrors and consider, for a moment, the let’s-talk-about-our-feelings cultural context from which it’s coming. From elementary school to corpo-

rate seminars, we find the bonding exercise. The group sits in

a circle, and each person shares something, maybe a favorite

flower or spirit animal, and then we’re supposed to assume we all know each other a lot better. That’s just one among many venues in which a tidy quip is a mark of value. While no one really mistakes these activities for true emo- tional closeness, they are just the surface of a whole world of mandatory talk. Younger girls are constantly telling secrets, and when an individual is reluctant to share with her peers (perhaps saying that she can’t think of a most embarrassing moment), she is suspect. Later on, bars and lunch dates be- come the parallel venues; the more frequently one talks to

one’s friends, the closer one is said to be to those friends, even

if the conversations are superficial. In academics, classroom

participation is key at every age. Even the Catholic confes- sional comes to mind: the act of vocalizing one’s interiority as an act toward salvation. The dubious message remains the same: to fit in, make friends, and succeed wherever you go, you have to talk openly and genuinely, even if you don’t always have much of substance to say. This isn’t to say that things of value are never shared in the above scenarios, but it’s the act of sharing that is essen- tial, and what, exactly, is shared becomes incidental. Think of the person who’s always raising his hand or jumping into the conversation. Think also of the chatty acquaintance who’s prone to over-sharing, or the way a conversation goes when you’re attempting to catch up with someone to whom you never really had much to say in the first place. These haphazard words are casualties in the constant battle to say something, something that doesn’t offend, meets expecta-

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t he 44 strings on Joanna Newsom’s harp, illuminated by the stage lights of Harvard’s Sanders Theatre last Wednesday, outnumber the years of the singer’s life.

The instrument itself rested against the red fabric of her cocktail dress and towered over her petite frame. The image visually embodied the contradictory elements of Newsom’s work, which draws inspiration from classical and contempo- rary composers alike. For better or worse, Joanna Newsom is an attractive and charming 28-year-old with a grandiose vision. In the final moments of preparation before Wednesday’s 90 minute set, Joanna Newsom multitasked, tuning her harp while jaunting around in a knee-grazing dress and ex- changing witticisms with vocal audience members. She was charming in the most unassuming of ways. Then came four minutes and 23 seconds of near perfection: “Jackrabbits,” a gentle harp-and-vocals track off of her latest album have one on Me. It’s a modest venture for a musician who frequently dresses her songs in dense orchestration. The performance was the first of many that suggested Newsom’s new restraint is not a paraphrased version of her artistic vision, but rather, the most sophisticated realization of it to date. Joanna Newsom’s music, a blend of shrill vocals (which have softened with age and vocal chord nodules), harp-driv-

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climax culminates in a duel between the harp and electric guitar; “Kingfisher” and have one on Me’s 11-minute title track showcased the album’s sophisticated string arrange- ments. Newsom dressed up old and new tracks alike; she added percussion and guitar to Milk eyed Mender’s piano romp, “Inflammatory Writ.” The updated version was a testa- ment to Newsom’s attentiveness as a musician and suggested that perhaps her songs reveal more of themselves to the singer with every listen just as they do to her audience. It also showed a different side of Newsom, who didn’t seem to be taking herself too seriously as she played with the raw energy of the Milk eyed Mender era, frenetically bobbing her head behind the piano keys. “Inflammatory Writ” wasn’t the night’s only nostalgia- inducing performance; Newsom played “The Book of Right-On” off of Milk eyed Mender and “Emily” from ys. She satiated her oldest fans’ cravings, but only in part—a few audience members shouted requests for Milk eyed Mender’s “Sadie” and “‘En Gallop.’” One individual in attendance pleaded for “Good Intentions Paving Company,” have one on Me’s jazzy standout and the closest Newsom has ever come to playing pop music. “We’re almost there,” Newsom said of “Good Intentions.” “Not as in a few songs away; I mean we’re almost at the point in this tour when we can play it.” Also refurbished was have one on Me’s “Soft as Chalk,” one of Newsom’s most complex piano efforts to date. Only during a fleeting segment of the song did the evening’s addi- tional instrumentation detract from a performance at large. The guitar thundered over “Soft as Chalk”’s descending scale, punctuating a song’s compositional high point that needs no punctuation. It was no fault of the band, which, along with Newsom, hit every note to a tee. It’s just that there’s noth- ing so stunning as the movement of Joanna Newsom’s hands across whatever instrument she’s playing. The harp above all, whose strings she plucked both meticulously and effortlessly on Wednesday night in a way that somehow made her gran- diose aesthetic easy to digest.

k atie l indstedt b ’11 tried to dial back the adula- tion.

en melodies, and esoteric lyrics, surpasses the unconventional. Ask anyone to describe her sound and you will receive answers whose kookiness and verbosity mirror the content of critiques launched against the polar - izing harpist. A few critics’ attempts to capture the essence of her aural aesthetic: “Trying to describe Joanna Newsom to people is difficult. It’s a bit like the parable of the blind men trying to describe an elephant;” “A piercing flutter that’s pitched somewhere between Björk and a hand brake;” and last but not least, “She sounds like Olive Oyl, Popeye’s beloved.” Recently, Newsom’s commercial appeal has risen. In 2009, she appeared in the music video for MGMT’s “Kids” and a Victoria’s Secret commercial featured her song “Sprout and the Bean.” It is no wonder that have one on Me, seems, at first listen, more accessible than past endeavors. Gone are the abrasive vocals of her 2004 debut, Milk eyed Mender; what once was harsh is now a gentle hush. The lyrical content of have one on Me, although still cryptic and rich with word play, departs from the artful tautology—“hydrocephalitic listlessness” and Sisyphean allusions—of 2006’s decadently orchestrated ys, whose five songs span 56 minutes. For “Jackrabbits,” Newsom was accompanied only by her harp, surrounded by empty chairs and a drummer-less drum set. In the nine songs that followed, she had the additional company of five musicians and their assortment of instru- ments. Among the musicians was Ryan Francesconi, who wrote all of have one on Me’s thoughtful yet provocative ar- rangements, which give Newsom’s harp and piano melodies space to expand across, and the listener room to breathe. There were a few particularly outstanding moments: an encore performance of “Baby Birch,” whose gospel-esque

encore performance of “Baby Birch,” whose gospel-esque M e g a p o r n d

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This week's puzzle:

the Missing linK

By raphaela lipinsKy

i n s t r u c t i o n s :

The same word can be added before or after the words in each box to form a compound word or common phrase.

last week’s answers: roe/rove/grove/grovel ash/rah/trash/thrash pie/ pine/spine/supine liv/live/liver/sliver

ash/rah/trash/thrash pie/ pine/spine/supine liv/live/liver/sliver the college hill independent March 25, 2010

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80 year - old BroadWay legend stephen sondheiM and his inhiBitions

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s tephen Sondheim has been the object of hysterical bal- lyhoo for nearly half his life. The first Sondheim retro- spective concert was held in 1973 (when the Broadway

composer and lyricist was just 43—barely out of his short pants), and similar celebrations have appeared of late with panicky frequency: this spring alone will see three New York galas in honor of his 80th birthday. The one I attended, at Lincoln Center on March 15, featured performers such as Patti LuPone, John McMartin, Bernadette Peters, and Elaine Stritch—piddling nobodies in television and film, with barely a Golden Globe between them, but giants in the insular world of the American theater. For a certain kind of audience member, these performers induce an almost intoxicating nostalgia. Three galas could, of course, be perceived as excessive, and there are moments when the Sondheim love feels ir- ritatingly sycophantic. When he came to speak at Brown University in February, the audience roared at his one-liners, clapped obligingly when he remarked that “Big failures are dignified; little failures are shameful,” and each of their re- sponses was magnified to a ludicrous pitch, because theater people project. The audience reacted spontaneously only once. When Sondheim pointed out that he wrote the lyrics to West side story when he was “only 27,” there were gasps, the faint sound of elbows elbowing each other, and even a couple of indulgent awws and cootchy-coos. West side story’s flamboyantly romantic lyrics embarrass Sondheim now (“I Feel Pretty” in particular), but so many people in the audience gasped in amazement because to them, the 1957 musical represents Sondheim’s pinnacle. The show’s lyrics are more familiar than anything from Sondheim’s subsequent, more “difficult” masterpieces: Fol- lies, sweeney todd, sunday in the park with george. Many critics initially resisted these shows, with their unpredictable, almost arrogantly high-minded harmonies, but eventually they came around. Still, as late as 1997, the critic Mark Steyn ended an essay on Sondheim with the plea, “Sing out, Stephen”—the implication being that Sondheim’s songs were excessively inhibited and self-conscious. I tend to think of them as perfectly inhibited. This is the quality that gives Sondheim songs their gawky beauty and their relevance: his characters are never quite able to “sing out.” Conventional MGM wisdom suggests that when a character is too emotional to talk, he sings, but over time this surreal transition has become increasingly difficult to carry off. The contemporary film musicals chicago and nine even devised elaborate conceits to prevent the move from speech to song from seeming ludicrous and corny. Sondheim skirts this dilemma altogether; so many of his characters never “burst” into song at all—they sidle into song, or ping-pong between speaking and singing, too smart and self-conscious to ever truly lose themselves. (Sondheim himself is famously inhibited, and even today has a hard time composing without drinking first or smoking a little marijuana.) In the musical soliloquys of into the Woods (“I Know Things Now,” “On the Steps of the Palace”), the score doesn’t billow over the characters as it did in “Maria,” and the lyrics are beautifully colloquial and clipped. (If we are no longer confident expressing our feelings without irony and ambivalence, Sondheim seems to be asking, how can we possibly hold notes?) This musical ambivalence reaches its logical conclusion in Sondheim’s most recent song, “Brotherly Love” (added to road show during previews in 2008). The song follows two grown-up brothers struggling for primacy in a single sleeping bag, and the two of them barely speak, much less sing. In

fact, “Brotherly Love” seems to take place within the con- fines of a single, luxurious yawn:

addison: We slept there till dawn all wrapped up in those

quilts. Wilson: Boy, Mama was madder than hell. (They laugh.) addison: you’ve always looked out for me, no matter what. Wilson: Just brotherly love, brother-brotherly love. (pause) Je- sus, i smell. These don’t read like song lyrics. Indeed, the two-and- a-half minute song has a nominal melody and only four rhymes. Even the underscoring is lethargic, like a halfheart- edly-chugging train. Last year, the times of London reported that Sondheim “feels his energy levels are down and he may never write another [show],” and “Brotherly Love” reflects that depletion.

While lecturing at Brown, Sondheim came across as more raconteur than artist, an old man basking in the glow of his salad days. Indeed, in the past year Sondheim has “nibbled” at new projects, but was largely preoccupied by lectures and by the completion of a book of his annotated lyrics. Physically, he has passed halfway into myth. While

photos of Sondheim from the 1960s reveal a charismatic, puzzle-loving slob with coin-slot eyes, at 80 he barely has eyes at all; he’s like Homer. Despite the exhaustion in its bones, “Brotherly Love” is a deeply enjoyable song, and ought to have been sung at the Lincoln Center concert, if only as a validation of Sondheim’s recent work. The song choice was tactless, a virtual kiss-off of Sondheim’s post-1984 output—which was represented by

a single number, the pleasurable trifle “It Takes Two” from

into the Woods . To be fair, the reluctantly melodic songs from

Sondheim’s later shows (Into the Woods, assassins, passion, road show) wouldn’t have lent themselves to the extravagant mood at Lincoln Center that night (there was practically caviar in the goodie bags), or to the lavish sound of the New York Philharmonic. In fact, it sometimes seems that the shabbier the instru- ment, the more beautiful Sondheim’s songs become. His most famous song, “Send in the Clowns,” was written to cinch flatteringly around the voice of a star, Glynis Johns, who could barely sing at all. Sondheim could relate; in 1971 he admitted, “I tend to sing very loud, usually off-pitch, and always right in keys that are just out of my range.” His voice in demo recordings is staggeringly unpleasant: he gurgles the high notes and abandons the held ones immediately. Perhaps this is why his characters are so reluctant to “sing out.” Sondheim was invariably the first person to perform each of his songs (whether for demos, at backers’ auditions, or for a performer), which may have given him incentive to imbue his songs with some rhythmic, tossed-off “quality”—

a quality so deeply ingrained in the song that even a voice as

measly and technically unaccomplished as Sondheim’s could deliver it. Tellingly, two of the best performances at Lincoln Center came from indomitable troupers—the 81-year-old John McMartin and the 85-year-old Stritch—whose talents were used up decades ago, and who milked their songs’ dramatic qualities. McMartin performed “The Road You Didn’t Take” as a beautifully-sustained shrug, and in “I’m Still Here,” Stritch (in a fetching red cap) just stomped around and bellowed. I can’t wait to get to the point in my career when I can coast on audience goodwill.

In “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” a trio of bedraggled ex-lovers complain about Bobby, the inscrutable protagonist of the musical company:

exclusive you, elusive you, Will any person ever get the juice of you? The most revelatory of Sondheim’s solo numbers seem to be the product of such violent, labor-intensive “juicing.” (For each of his songs, Sondheim prepares a billowing folder with notes on the characters’ back stories, personalities, and pet turns of phrase.) This systematic “juicing” is a noticeable pattern in his shows (think of “The Glamorous Life” in the film of night Music, or “The Ladies Who Lunch” in com- pany): a heretofore neglected character, or one played simply for laughs, is granted a single, confessional number, and then promptly re-enters the musical’s narrative, refreshed and incalculably deepened. This is to say that Sondheim’s songs are uniquely well- suited to the episodic format of a gala concert. The Lincoln Center concert wasn’t an unmitigated triumph, but the second act did allow for six thrilling back-to-back solos by female performers inextricably tied to Sondheim’s work. Among them were Patti LuPone and Elaine Stritch, who both emoted visibly while watching the other perform; dur- ing the applause breaks they even schmoozed a little. But Bernadette Peters, whose tremulous, shell-shocked performance of “Not a Day Goes By” was the concert’s high- light, didn’t emote at all to the others’ songs. She applauded dutifully, but her thoughts were inscrutable; she didn’t even smile. Peters began performing at age three, in a slew of kid- die game shows, and has remained popular by miraculously deepening her stage persona over the past59 years. However, she is a sort of perpetual child star: shticky and instinctual onstage, and offstage slightly limited. (In interviews, she has revealed her affinity for astrology, gorillas, dogs, and Martin Short.) Peters began developing her musical comedy muscles so early in life that everything else may have atrophied. But the muscles she’s got are phenomenal, and her “Not a Day Goes By” managed to capture Sondheim in all his ambiva- lence:

i’ll die day after day after day after day after day after day after day It’s almost impossible to sing those monotonous “day after day”s well. Peters sang the first few sarcastically, as if intoning a list of love-song clichés, but then the emotions became hers. She grew softer, and was cut short by a bombastic orchestral break. The Philharmonic’s horns swelled, but Peters, instead of crying or swaying, just cocked her head and thought. The orchestrations seemed to represent the emotions expected of her, melodramatic and predictable—but Peters refused to give in. She was too emotional to “sing out,” too vulnerable and torn-up—and so instead she stood, listening. Peters could no longer sing just as Sondheim can no longer truly write songs. At fifteen, Sondheim learned from his in- formal mentor Oscar Hammerstein that “Writing consists of choosing”—and he seems to have grown so choosy now, so in- hibited,thathecannotproduceanything. Allhecandoislisten.

M att weinstock b ’10 implores you to get a little drunk and then YouTube Bernadette Peters’s “Some People,” Audra McDonald’s “The Glamorous Life,” and Barbra Strei- sand’s “Putting It Together.”

arts | 15

g o o d k i d s f ro M M o n t
g o o d
k i d s
f ro M
M o n t r e a l
Martin cesar oF thinK aBoUt liFe on
inspiration, M yspace, and stealing B rea KFast.
liFe on inspiration, M yspace, and stealing B rea KFast. b y e l i s

b y

e l i

s c h M i t t


l ast week Martin Cesar, frontman of the Montreal quartet Think About Life, spoke with the independent by telephone. On their musical stylings, their Myspace

play, go-see-the-pictures thing is what everyone’s into. We’re

very sort of DIY approach band, so the simpler the better for us.


BSR top ten

BSR top ten

BSR top ten

taxonomizes them as “Disco House / Thrash / Pop.” Wiki- pedia, on the other hand says “indie rock, electronic.” Their label, Alien8 Recordings, is home to experimental acts like Acid Mothers Temple and noisy rockers like Les Georges Leningrad. But Think About Life probably has most in com- mon with their labelmates The Unicorns, a legendary, though now defunct, keyboard-driven pop act. Think About Life’s most recent LP, Family, was well-received critically upon its release in May 2009. The album is a listen-all-the-way- through-every-time pop cornucopia. Simple beats, woozy keyboards, eloquent love stories, and falsetto samples merge into frisky yet moderate dance numbers, which occasionally rise to anthemic highs. Think About Life are currently on a sprawling tour in- cluding several spots at SXSW, most of the rest of the United States, as well as dates in British Columbia and Alberta. On April 29, they will play TT the Bear’s in Boston, their second to last set in North America before they head to London and

take Europe by storm.


: The new video for “Havin’ My Baby” is pretty amazing;

1 1



Joanna Newsom Have one on Me Drag City Freak Folk (up 7 spots)

Arnold Schoenberg & Anthony Suter Hymns to Forgotten Moons Cenataur Classical Classics

where did the idea come from? c: The idea was a collaborative effort between us and this guy Matt Wells from LA. This guy Matt had heard of the band and just approached us. He said, “I want to make a video for you; it might just be a fan video but if you like it can be an official video,” and that’s how it happened. We just gave him full creative control, and gave him the song, and he came back with this amazing, beautiful video that takes place in a church with old people, and this guy gets on a bike.


: And there are those puppets




Imagine Africa



c: Yeah, there’s muppets! You know, with things like that it just really warms your heart as a musician when you get to collaborate with other artists like that.


c: I’ve been listening to this one amazing flamenco singer called Camarón de la Isla, he’s really amazing; his voice it just like, it makes you want to live, really, it just makes you want to get gritty and see your life for what it is. That’s one guy who’s really been inspiring right now. And Chet Baker, this old jazz musician from LA, I find very inspiring.

: What have you personally been listening to lately?



Gonjasufi A Sufi & A Killer Warp Psychedelic Beats (up 3 spots)

t he independent: How are you doing? M artin cesar: Good! We’re here…where are we again? [talks to someone] Oh yeah, we’re about to cross the Mississippi.


c: The Midwest is four…uh…burritos. That’s how much we like it. Four burritos [laughs]…we can work with that.

: How do you like the Midwest?


c: I would say California is always beautiful, very inspira- tional, we always come out very inspired by the California region. If we had a chance to just go say, to a place like Santa Cruz or San Diego for a year and just write songs, we would jump on the ship as soon as possible. Another place that’s really cool to tour is the Netherlands, just because of the attitude there; I find the people there to be very warm.

: What are you favorite places to play shows?


c: I get homesick…Well, I used to get homesick pretty easily. I’m the only band member who’s actually from Montreal, so I do get really homesick, but at the same time it’s great to be on the road and see different places and meet different people and eat a lot and go swimming as much as possible…

: Do you miss Montreal?




Lil Wayne/Gudda Guddaville Young Money Rap


: Do you have any fun activities you do to fight boredom

on the road? c: Swimming, man! Swimming is very important. Just be- ing in a body of water—I don’t know, every hotel we stop at has to have a swimming pool, so yeah, we go swimming.


c: Well—I mean—we’re good kids from Montreal; the only thing we do that’s so bad is take too much food from

: Do you ever get in trouble at your hotels?



Four Tet there is Love in You Domino IDM (down one spot

Surfer Blood

Astro Coast

the hotel lobby, from the breakfast area there; they kind of bitch at us when we take too much.


: What, in your mind, are the components of a perfect pop




Indie rock

song? c: I think honesty is a great component of a great pop song. Just like, straight up, honest hooks that everyone can

relate to.

: Can you tell me about the band’s composition process?

c: Well, we progressed from basically being a keyboard and drums band. Now we use a sampler, guitar, bass, and drums usually, and it starts maybe with me—I’ll compose something really quickly at home, like a basic melody, and I’ll bring it to the band, and from there it’s a collaborative effort as we add more instrumentation.


: What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on this tour so far? c: The craziest thing…Hanging out in Pontiac, Michigan


own is…I don’t know, it feels like…I don’t want to offend anyone, but it feels like a slowly dying state, because a lot of businesses have left. When you get there it just feels like it’s deserted, but then you explore the city and meet people and they’re all so warm, and so nice to you. I don’t know if it’s crazy exactly, but just digging into a place like Pontiac, Michigan, it’s just really a discovery.

pretty crazy. It’s next to Detroit, and Michigan on its



Malachai The Ugly Side of Love Malachai Fading World Loud Psychedelic

Broken Social Scene



Forgiveness Rock Record Arts and Crafts Canadian Indie Rock All-Stars

: How do you feel about the thing where instead of having

websites, bands now just have Myspace pages? c: It’s cheaper, that’s one thing for certain. Maybe the website will come back but right now, I guess the click-and-


: How does an indie rock band become economically vi-

able in this day and age? c: Uh, I have no idea, man [laughs]. It’s a big mystery. It’s work and luck. We’re one of the lucky bands.


You can listen to songs by Think About Life @ www.

Terror Bird terror Bird Night People Self-Description:“Kate Bush making out with Morrissey”



the college hill independent


March 18, 2010

w i n s
w i n s
w i n s sports | 16 f o r c e g a e l
w i n s sports | 16 f o r c e g a e l

sports | 16

f o r c e

g a e l

notes on March Madness

b y

e M M e t t

f i t z g e r a l d

a s I watched the players from the St. Mary’s Men’s

Basketball team go through their warm-up routine,

I couldn’t help thinking: Who are these guys?Their

starting shooting guard looked like he was about 16 and wore a jersey at least two sizes too big, their cheerleaders were dressed in a rag-tag mixture of black and red and seemed like they had been plucked from a not-for-credit dance class, and their mascot was…a ‘Gael’? And then Saint Mary’s went and proved all us doubters wrong, upsetting Richmond and Villanova right here in Providence and reminding us once again why we love March Madness. At the end of the decade that brought us the Tiger Woods sex tour, steroid revelations, an NBA referee who gambled on games he officiated, and an NFL dog-fighting ring, we’ve learned integrity can hard to come by in sports. Salaries are so out of control that Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer was widely praised this week for extending his contract for a ‘hometown discount’ of $184 million over eight years. Every few years we pump out a movie like remember the titans, Miracle, or the Blind side to remind us why we watch sports. We yearn to find a stripped down moral purity that has become nearly impossible to imagine amidst the images of Gillette-wielding shortstops, geriatric owners who col- lect players like they’re running fantasy teams, and athletes making millions of dollars a year to sit on the bench and complain that they need more. Contemporary sport in the US lacks any palpable connection to the mythology of the American sporting tradition—a mythology in which the playing field is an ethical arena for the performance of the values of hard work and fair competition. But then once a year, March rolls around. The NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament doesn’t showcase the best basketball in the country. Most of the players won’t go on to professional athletic careers. Non-fans become bracket-experts overnight. The stadiums are packed with amped-up freshmen in seas of school colors which dis- tract opposing free-throw shooters with birdcalls. Cinderella always crashes the Dance. The media sells March Madness as a different kind of sporting event.The players aren’t ego- maniacs, they aren’t making money, and (in contrast to col- lege football’s absurd BCS system) every team has a chance to shock the world. But do we buy it? Is college basketball really an untainted version of the pro-game? Is March Madness, the athletic event praised precisely for its lack of glitz, really sport at its purest? My love affair with March Madness began when I got second-place (and 45 dollars) in my father’s office pool at the age of seven, and learned the important childhood lesson that through a little casual gambling one can quite easily turn a small sum of money into a pile worth starting a checking

account. I have filled out a bracket every year since, making me one of the 40 million Americans who do so annually. This year, for my birthday, my parents decided to get us tickets to the first round of the tournament at The Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, giving me the chance to evaluate this egalitarian Madness for myself.

f riday

First game: #15 Robert Morris Colonials vs. #2 Villanova Wildcats. The Jumbotron streamed clips past upsets to the sounds of Nickelback while a recorded voice yelled: “It’s the upsets that make this tournament so special!” When 5’ 7” guard Karan Abraham hit three towering three-pointers in the first five minutes, putting the Colonials up nine points early, and making Villanova look anything but invincible, the dream of an epic upset started to look like a reality. An old man three rows back began shouting “over-rated!” every time Villanova touched the ball. He told me with a smile on his face that college basketball would not be college basketball without mean old hecklers like him. Wildcats win in OT. Game Two: #10 St. Marys Gaels vs. #7 Richmond Spiders. The Gaels featured a bunch of surfer bros from Australia who somehow, through a recruiting miracle, all ended up playing basketball at a tiny Catholic school in northern California. The game came down to who had the more bizarre looking mascot, and Richmond’s lanky red and black spider lost out to the “Gael”—a goofy-smiled muscleman intended to be ethnically Irish. Game Three: #14 Ohio Bobcats vs. #2 Georgetown Hoyas. In a showdown only slightly more exciting than the informal competition between the two bands, Georgetown was the first high seed to fall. Buoyed by the frenzied band, which featured synchronized tuba dancing and extensive tumbling routines, Ohio pulled the first big upset of March Madness. The game was reminiscent of Georgetown’s last game in Providence, in which they came within a last minute free throw of losing to #16 seed Princeton. Game Four: #6 Tennessee Volunteers vs. #11 San Diego State Aztec Warriors. I remember it best for the laughably drunk man behind us heckling both teams evenly with such absurd insults as: “If I smoked crack [San Diego] would be my safety school” and, after a less than stellar version of “Livin’ on a Prayer” by the Tennessee marching band: “Ten- nessee, we hate Bon Jovi in Prov!” March Madness has a no-alcohol sales policy, but I did find a stash of little empty Jaeger bottles in the bathroom.

s aturday

The Gaels take on Villanova in a second round game for the ages. Villanova’s loyal fan base, which had been too cocky to show up to their team’s first game and very nearly paid the price, came out in droves. Over the course of the game, their cheers devolved into exasperated groans, then utter silence

when St. Mary’s guard Mickey McConnell buried a step- back and banked a three-pointer from well beyond the arc to put the game out of reach. The sight of the St. Mary’s players celebrating ecstatically and giving thanks to the cohort of loyal Gael-fans who made the trek from Moraga, Califor- nia was enough to make even the most die-hard Villanova alumni stand and clap. After Tennessee won the weekend’s final game, I watched three hundred or so white-haired, orange-blazered gentlemen from the southern aristocracy clapping politely at the team while the band looped “Rocky Top Tennessee.”

March Madness is by no means a pure, untainted version of sport. Just like any televised sporting event, the flow of every game was broken up by “media time-outs” so that the corporate sponsors could have their moment. If I thought I was missing a lot of school to be there, the schedules of play- ers are such that, at least in March, they can never be much more than part-time students. A recent proposal to extend the tournament to 96 teams has been widely criticized in part because it would only lengthen the amount of time the players (not to mention the trombonists and the cheerlead- ers) would have to spend away from class. The demographics of the stadium are also of note, as nearly all of the fans were white and male. It seemed like nine out of every ten fans was a white dude between the ages of 25 and 50 with a button down shirt or a navy blue Georgetown sweatshirt. While one could argue that women probably just go to the Women’s NCAA Tournament, the unfortunate reality is that the women’s game does not at- tract as many spectators or receive nearly the same media attention as the Men’s tournamenty. And while the racial diversity of the players on the court varied greatly—from the predominately white Gaels of Saint Marys, to the nearly all- black teams of Villanova and Tennessee—the stands were as homogenously white as the ra-ra culture of collegiate athletic fandom at large. Still, this years’ NCAA tournament has been an elegy to the little guy. In addition to the upsets that I witnessed in Providence, Ivy League champs Cornell knocked out Temple and the University of Wisconsin while the Northern Iowa beat the top ranked Kansas Jayhawks after a cold-blooded three pointer by Ali Farokhmanesh with 30 seconds to go. March might be the only month of the year when you can watch a bunch of players you’ve never heard of, and will never see again, take down a team full of future NBA start- ers. It might be the only month of the year where Omar Samhan is as talked about as Lebron James. It might be the only month of the year when ‘Gael’ breaks into the top-ten most searched words on Wikipedia. As I watched the players of Ohio University and Saint Mary’s celebrating with a joy that can only come when some- thing happens that no one (except you) ever really thought would, I couldn’t help smiling; I was happy to be part of March Madness—even if my bracket is totally busted.

eMM ett f itzgerald b ’10 had the best birthday ever.

arts | 17

arts | 17 b o o b s , i c e b e r g

b o o b s , i c e b e r g

oh, and soMe clothes

d r a M a ,

b y

s u e

d i n g

i t’s time to look back at the circus known as Fashion Week, which is really a month comprising the four individual fashion weeks: New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Twice yearly, these four weeks of schmoozing and showing off shape the trends for the next season. New York is a mishmash of the biggest names in fash- ion—Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta—and many up- and-coming designers like Rodarte and Alexander Wang. London is known for being innovative and edgy, with the Central Saint Martins students and alums constantly challenging the fashion world with new points of view. Milan, where Versace and Dolce and Gabbana show, can be counted on for traditional craftsmanship and over-the-top glamour. And Paris is le top du top, with both avant-garde fashion (see: Gareth Pugh, Comme des Garçons) and the most established luxury houses, like Chanel and Dior. Fashion Month is always a surreal and slightly absurd whirlwind, which some of us are—ahem—lucky enough to experience not in the tents at Bryant Park, or in the gilded halls of Paris, but on our laptops, at home in our pajamas. Below, a few snippets of the craziness.

new york New York laid down the gauntlet in the most interest- ing (or most outlandish) presentation sweepstakes. Marc Jacobs showed in a room covered with cardboard; the designer and the company president tore brown con- struction paper from a giant wooden structure to reveal the models. At Y-3, a laser show was followed by a staged boxing fight between the designer, Yohji Yamamoto, and two models. Meanwhile, Moncler showed their col- lection at Pier 59’s golf club, with models standing at attention on a giant four-story metal framework. Isaac Mizrahi whipped up a fake snowstorm.

london Vivienne Westwood’s invitations for her Red Label show featured factoids about issues like hunger, maternal health, and climate change, and guests at the show re- ceived Sigg water bottles, as Westwood showed her disap- proval of the plastic bottles usually distributed at Fashion Week events (like—cough—her show last season). And yet all of this came off as typical “green is trendy” postur- ing, since nothing about her collection addressed any of the issues she claims to support. While awareness-raising is all very well, it would have been nice if she donated a percentage of proceeds to a worthwhile cause, or used sustainably processed fabrics, instead of simply sending out a few cheap-looking “Loyalty 2 Gaia” t-shirts.

Milan Anna Wintour pissed off all of Milan when she decided to stay for only three days of Milan’s Fashion Week. The organizers scrambled to reshuffle the schedule so that all the major shows would take place during her visit, and at the Gucci show, protestors wore wigs, sunglasses, and shirts that read “I Will Only Stay 3 Days.” The Paris or- ganizers, meanwhile, were typically blasé, requiring only that someone from Vogue’s senior team be at each major show. Wintour then skipped the Oscars so she could stay in Paris longer. Paris to Milan: “I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!” (Photo:

models Miranda Kerr and Alessandra Ambrosio, as well as a few other well-known ‘curvaceous’ models, in its show. Giles Deacon continued the trend in Paris, and the Louis Vuitton show featured Laetitia Casta, Karolina Kurkova, Bar Rafaeli, and Elle Macpherson. Prada and Marc Jacobs for Vuitton also focused their collections on clothing highlighting the female form (read: T & A), to varied effect: Prada’s clothes were boring and ugly, Jacobs’ were less boring and pretty. Enter collective hyperbole, with esteemed times critic Cathy Horyn proclaiming, “We saw the return of the lush, full-hipped woman, her breasts served up like ripe fruit.” Right. (Vuitton Photo: Kim Weston Arnold)

paris Paris Fashion Week was really cold: “Even during the shows, you freeze. IT’S HELL. It’s the death of fashion. No one has any idea how to dress for it,” wrote blogger Garance Doré. Designer Véronique Leroy probably re- gretted her choice of venue; she staged her show at night in an open-air garage. The editors in the audience weren’t pleased, but the models had it a lot worse, having to walk the runway in leotards, bandeau tops, and shorts—some of them were visibly shaking, according to’s Hadley Freeman.

In other frigid news, Lindsay Lohan was sacked as the artistic director for Emanuel Ungaro after her Spring 2010 collection—prominently featuring sparkly heart- shaped nipple pasties—caused many major clients to drop the label. Unfortunately, the collection still kind of sucked. Most of the collection was like a high-end version of Forever 21—cheap looking, scattered, and prominently featuring satin, hot pink, and leopard print.

Karl Lagerfeld beat out everyone in Paris in terms of pure spectacle by importing an iceberg from Sweden for the Chanel show. (Okay, he didn’t actually airlift in an iceberg. It was 240 tons of “snow-ice,” driven to France and then sculpted by artisans.) Things got even more ridiculous when the show opened with three models in full-on Furry suits, although the rest of the collection demonstrated impressive craftsmanship and technical innovations. (Photo: Monica Feudi /

suMMary As for the clothes themselves, it was like an orgy of busi- ness casual—endless variations on beige (camel, khaki, ecru) and tons of jackets and trousers (not pants – trou- sers). The focus was on grown-up, pared-down clothes, a minimalistic take on 80s power dressing. This might be seen as a concession to the economy, except there was also fur everywhere: fur coats, fur purses, fur pants. Velvet, for reasons bizarre and unknown, was also ubiquitous. Our only response is: why?

Of course, there were other trends, from sculptural sci-fi clothes to an excessive number of schoolgirl out- fits (I see you, New York). The overall feeling of this Fashion Week, though, was nice, wearable, and …sort of bland. All those work-friendly separates will prob- ably be snapped up in retail, but here’s hoping to more shenanigans next time; then again, the boring clothes highlighted how ridiculous and ultimately empty Fash- ion Week shenanigans are to begin with.

This season, the fashion world freaked out because Curvy Is Back. Prada, known for lineups of (very) pale, (very) anemic-looking models, cast Victoria’s Secret

the college hill independent

March 25, 2010

literary |18

b e n e Vo l e n c e

b y

i l l u s t r at i o n

M a X

p o s n e r

b y

b e c c a

l e V i n s o n

two young men on your porch. dark out.

YOUNG MAN ONE So there’s this cocker –



YOUNG MAN ONE You know… Spaniel.



YOUNG MAN ONE There’s a Cocker on Power. And it’s late and it’s dark and he’s out on his own, but he’s got a collar on, you can hear his tags jangling.

You’re alone?


YOUNG MAN ONE Alone on Power and I see this cocker and he could be hit by a car, or, or kidnapped. And you know. He’s some family’s dog, they probably love him. So I see him and I walk right past him but then I

think, no, no, be a Good Guy, go look at his tags read those tags and call up his family and return their cocker. Think of it. Knocking on some big house, a saved cocker in my arms. Music. So I go towards him and he seems friendly but then he lets out a little bark, he’s scared of me, so he goes, bark. Then I give up and I keep walking and I leave the cocker.

I leave him walking in the middle of the dark street, almost invis- ible. Now I’m the type of human who leaves a spaniel on a street like that.

YOUNG MAN TWO Well, it was too late to call his house. It would’ve been very rude.

YOUNG MAN ONE But would you do that to me? If I was alone and lost and aimless and scared in the middle of the night? Would you just keep moving and hope I go on, hope I survive somehow on Power?

YOUNG MAN TWO How in the world did they name these streets?

I have my ideas.


WOMAN ONE John worked himself to death, you see. His father was in the fur business and he could’ve inherited the entire operation, but John had a mind of his own. He didn’t know about fur and he had other plans. His mother could never understand why he didn’t just do the

fur thing. It would be simple, John. But John wanted self employ- ment, self-fulfillment, self enjoyment so he did odds and ends until he was rich and then he did nothing. When John built this house here the whole block was empty. Barren, I tell you, barren. You ever seen a desert in New England?

WOMAN ONE No but this was a cute little kitten.

WOMAN TWO Never trust it, just never trust it.


I’m tired of your advice.

WOMAN TWO Arnold, before he died he had kittens and it was before vaccina- tions. B.V. And you can hold me to this. You can. Those. Animals. Murdered. Him.

WOMAN ONE When a man needs an animal it’s a bad omen.

WOMAN TWO Never content with just a person.

WOMAN ONE Mr. Williams has so many animals. One for each of his wife’s in- discretions.

WOMAN TWO We mustn’t speak such nonsense.

WOMAN ONE So this kitten’s tail was broken and cut.

WOMAN TWO Don’t try and make me sympathize, don’t you even try.

WOMAN ONE Someone sliced her tail off on purpose. It was painfully clear. They wanted that tail.


Damn fur business.

WOMAN ONE There is no fur business anymore, honey.


I still wear a mink from time to time.

WOMAN ONE That’s an omen of unrest, I’m warning you.


You know I used to be so uptight I couldn’t fall asleep. I was worried

I left the stove on.

But then I moved right next-door to the firehouse so I don’t have to

worry about leaving the stove on. I can’t wake up these days. Life without Arnold has been terrible and simple.

I had to change streets.


was empty and entirely frozen in those days.

Change wardrobes.


Some animals walked around with bare feet and they’d get so frozen and so numb eventually you’d have to amputate the entire foot, halfway up the leg. So John goes up and down the block as each new house begins and he shakes the hand of the new neighbor, which was very radical

Professions. I’m in the process of being reborn. Forgive me.

back then, to be shaking hands like that.

I never liked Arnold.

People didn’t shake like that. Only your most intimate friends would you shake like that.


But he shook anyone and he said: “I’m John, welcome to the street.” And when he died the neighbors threw the first block party in American history. When he died everyone cried so hard and drank each others’ tears


I know. And he never liked you.

The city council meeting, a long time ago.

They even danced sinfully. And the street it didn’t have a name yet so they just named it John

COUNCIL CHAIRMAN What are the best things?

Street. Sometimes I wish I’d been alive much earlier in time


Because men like John


Men like John They don’t exist these days. As far as I can tell.



WOMAN ONE So there was this little kitten.



WOMAN TWO You shouldn’t touch those I swear to God, Nina got rabies from one of those kittens.










So that’s five. We still have some extra streets to name. So. Why don’t we just. Use our own names for the rest.











COUNCIL CHAIRMAN That should be plenty. That should be plenty.

yoUng Man one and tWo are smoking a cigarette on your porch, they remain casual. tWo is nearly passed out.


I never walk around places as old as this.

I’m used to walking around new places. I’m used to… stucco and… I’m scared of ghosts so. I’m up at night a lot around here because. Well. Lots of ghosts from the. Puritans or. Whoever.

And where I’m from streets are named after famous numbers


Famous flowers.

I grew up on the corner of 3 rd and Dahlia.


One time we found this Corgi in the park. Real fat.

I forget his name.

And he didn’t have his tags on.

And my dad said, “We are taking this Corgi home until we find his family”.

It was a civic responsibility.

And he pooped all over our house. He spent the night. He was scared. Pooped on everything, in everything, in bathtubs, on sweaters.

But in the morning my dad looked at him in complete forgiveness. And that’s The kind of guy I want to be. On a street somewhere nearby I keep imagining This dead cocker spaniel Crushed by a tire, tire marks on his fur

I think of how many hours it took for him to die

Bitten by a rabid animal, twitching on the asphalt So. Many. Hours. And a child will find it one day Breathless and still

A child who belonged to it.

And it will be my fault. I’d like to dedicate this thing To that cocker because

I want to be redeemed.

March 25, 2010

fRI MARcH 26