April 17, 2019 | 34st.com
FACING THE MUSIC
WITH PENN'S DAEDALUS QUARTET p. 5 Weike Wang: Faculty Author
p. 8 Retiring "Anything But Country"
p. 15 69th Street Too Gay or Not Enough?
April17 17,,2019 APRIL 3 WORD ON THE STREET
Annabelle Williams, Editor–in–Chief Dalton DeStefano, Managing Editor Daniel Bulpitt, Audience Engagement Director Lily Snider, Assignments Editor Ethan Wu, Media Director
Sophie Burkholder, Word on the Street Editor Katie Bontje, Ego Editor Sam Kesler, Music Editor Eliana Doft, Special Issues Editor Meerie Jesuthasan, Long–Term Features Editor Angie Lin, Developing Features Editor Bella Fertel, Style Editor Maryanne Koussa, Film & TV Editor Josephine Cheng, Arts Editor Emma Boey & Sophia Dai, Photo Editors Tahira Islam & Katie Steele, Copy Editors Dean Jones & Jackson Parli, Video Editors Ben Zhao, Print Director
Ghosted by Goat Boy
EOTW: Teddy Kurowski, Weike Wang
Ego Beats: Amanpreet Singh, Michelle Shen, Sophie Xi, Caroline Emma Moore, Chelsey Zhu, Sonali Deliwala
Sky Ferreira, "Anything But Country", Artist of the Week
Music Beats: Beatrice Forman, Arjun Swaminathan, Teresa Xie, Melannie Jay, Johnny Vitale, Julia Davies, Paul Litwin Features Staff: Katrina Janco, Shinyoung Hailey Noh, Allison Wu, Srinidhi Ramakrishna, Caroline Riise, Paige Fishman, Chris Schiller
Video Staff: Jean Chapiro, Christina Piasecki, Anab Aidid, Deja Jackson, Megan Kyne
Film & TV Beats: Anna Collins, Shriya Beesam, Shannon Zhang, Zovinar Khrimian, Calista Lopez, Ana Hallman, Samantha Sanders
Copy Deputies: Sarah Poss & Kira Horowitz
Arts Beats: Jess Araten, Katie Farrell, Adeleke McMillan
Copy Associates: Kate Poole, Serena Miniter, Erin Liebenberg, Lexie Shah, Carmina Hachenburg, Luisa Healey, Agatha Advincula
Design Editors: Gillian Diebold, Lucy Ferry, Alice Heyeh, Jess Tan, Tamsyn Brann Associates: Ian Ong, Jackie Lou, Isabel Liang, Ava Cruz, Donna Liu, Nancy Kang
Audience Engagment Associates: Brittany Levy, McKay Norton, Kat Ulich, Emily Gelb, Ryan McLaughlin, Valentina Escudero, Samantha Lee, Nadeen Eltoukhy, Fiorentina Huang, Rachel Markowitz, Julia Zhu
Staff Writers: Liz Kim, Jordan Waschman, Anjalee Bhuyan, Shunmel Syau, Bebe Hodges, Emma Harris, Tara OʼBrien, Jessica Bao, Mehek Boparai, Zoe Young, Sophia Schulz-Rusnacko
Cover Photos by Ethan Wu
Illustrators: Anne Chen, Anne Marie Grudem, Brad Hong, Carly Ryan, Catherine Liang, Jake Lem, Reese Berman, Saranya Sampath, Jessi Olarsch, Christopher Kwok, Diane Lin, Jacqueline Lou, Sabrina Tian, Kathy Chang, Ben Joergens Staff Photographers: Sophia Zhu, Eleanor Shemtov, Alice Deng, Hoyt Gong, Sukhmani Kaur, Mona Lee, Sally Chen, Adiel Izilov, Christine Wu, Anran Fang
Contacting 34th Street Magazine: If you have questions, comments, complaints or letters to the editor, email Annabelle Williams, Editor–in–Chief, at email@example.com. You can also call us at (215) 422–4640. www.34st.com Where the FUCK is my Sudoku?
©2019 34th Street Magazine, The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. No part may be reproduced in whole or in part without the express, written consent of the editors (but I bet we will give you the a–okay.) All rights reserved. 34th Street Magazine is published by The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc., 4015 Walnut St., Philadelphia, Pa., 19104, every Wednesday.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR T
BKLV, 69th Street
LOL 18 FILM & TV
Existential Crisis Movies, New "Joker" Trailer, "The Aftermath"
Student Art Collective, Emily Yao
LOL 23 OVERHEARDS 2
Style Beats: Karin Hananel, Allie Shapiro, Jen Cullen, Alice Goulding, Diya Sethi, Hannah Yusuf
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his year is legitimately almost over, and it’s starting to freak me out. As I write this letter, there are two weeks left until the last day of classes. Finals are sneaking up, the seniors are near graduating, and my friend is even getting married at the end of the year. There was a tornado warning the other night around 3:45 a.m.—I texted my friend. “Are we going to die?” “Is this the end?” The lightning shook my flimsy windows so hard I thought they’d shatter and the rusted pipe opposite my bed started to leak. It was freaky, almost apocalyptic, and I had the sense that there were so few people awake that I was one of the only people in the world experiencing the storm. And it shocked me how quickly it blew in and blew away, raging one minute and silent the next. I sat with my window open and looked, thinking about sleeping but jolted out of my stupor by the lightning. There’s nothing like a freak 3 a.m. tornado warning to make you feel contemplative. And I guess I contemplated changes, the fact that I have no finals, having the whole month of May to myself. It feels weird, kind of freeing, and more than a little scary. But it felt okay. The storm passed, and I fell asleep, calmer than I had been. These next few weeks will be intense, tiring, and
emotional. But I’m ready for them to also be really damn fun. I hope you all—at least, all three of you who read these letters—remember to have fun too.
WORD ON THE STREET
Ghosted by Goat Boy What do you do when a dreamy Tinder date suddenly stops replying? Claire Pince I tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear before turning the corner towards my favorite coffee shop. As I approach the back door, a guy walks out, coffee cup in hand. I’m not wearing my glasses, so I can’t make out his face. “Are you Claire?” I step closer and recognize his smiling eyes from his profile photo, though his curly hair has been reduced to a buzz cut. He was still cute, even without the hair. That says something. We sat down on the patio and fell into a two hour conversation that had an impressively low amount of silent pauses, especially for a Tinder date. Having had a handful of disappointing dates in the previous year, I tried to have minimal expectations for this one. But then I learned that he was an aspiring vegetarian, a prospective comparative literature and Slavic studies major, a world traveller, a native Minneapolitan, and a socialist. Hot. I’m sure I said a number of embarrassing things in those two hours, but I’ll excuse myself: I was nervous. He told me we should hang out again, that he had some free time in between working on construction projects (also hot). Then, he said what was simultaneously the best and worst sentence I could have heard at the end of our surprisingly good date: “I’m free for the next couple weeks—oh yeah, I didn’t mention earlier, I’m going to work on a goat farm in Quebec!” Is he serious? That was my first thought. That’s a lie. It was more along the lines of “Are you fucking kidding me?” Here I was, excited at the prospect of a fling, or at least a new friendship, and he’s leaving in a matter of weeks to go work on a goat farm? In the time be-
tween his announcement and my arrival back home, I swear I went through the five stages of grief. DENIAL: How does one even get a job working on a goat farm, let alone in Quebec? Who does that? There’s no way he would bother going on a date mere weeks before leaving, right? ANGER: Honestly, fuck goats. Goat cheese is inferior to cow cheese, and no one can change my mind. BARGAINING: What if I had messaged him first? Maybe we could have met up sooner, and I could have seduced him (doubtful). Maybe he would have changed his mind. DEPRESSION: So much for that. Guess all I have to look forward to in my love life is men who won’t talk to me unless they need homework answers or want something soft to grab on the dance floor of a frat party. ACCEPTANCE: You know what, the goats need him. That’s so cool that he gets to have that experience. I’ll see if I can spend some time with him before he leaves, I mean, he said we should hang out again. I guess I’ll just have to make it happen. And I tried to make it happen. I really did. I even broke some dating rules, but I excused myself, again, because of the whole goat situation. The first rule I broke was texting him to hang out again after the date had ended. In my defense, I didn’t have any plans for the weekend and figured I might as well ride out the goat excuse while I could. I knew I was running the risk of seeming clingy and overzealous, but he had told me we should hang out again. He seemed interested, so I took a chance. He first gave a tentative yes to hanging out over the following
Ben Joergens | Illustrator
weekend, which he later rescinded due to pre-existing plans. I tried again for the next week, and he told me he was getting his wisdom teeth out on that Monday. I still held out hope that he might recover enough to hang out on Saturday, fantasizing about Indian takeout and documentaries, shy touches—who knows! The last text I sent him was updating my availability—I could only do Saturday of that week, as it turned out. I sent that on Monday and never heard back. I went through a number of scenarios in my head that could explain it, though none of them were particularly good. In order of best to worst: SCENARIO I: Maybe he was drugged up from his surgery and forgot to respond. SCENARIO II: Maybe he was drugged up from his surgery and forgot who I am. The only reason this one isn’t ranked first is because it would be grounds for a malpractice lawsuit. SCENARIO III: Maybe he wasn’t drugged up from surgery and still forgot to respond. He wasn’t the most reliable texter, so it would make sense. SCENARIO IV: He’s really busy with work and planning his trip and doesn’t have time to spend getting to know someone, so he didn’t bother responding. I would have understood this answer if he had bothered typing it out and sending it to me. SCENARIO V: He was just being polite when he said he wanted to hang out again, so now he’s ghosting me. Either that, or he decided I was annoying after I
reached out one too many times. This was the scenario I chose to dwell on the most, of course. Based on my analysis, he’s either a flake, a victim of malpractice by an oral surgeon, an ass, or some combination of those things. I asked for my mom’s take, which was something along the lines of “Men are stupid” and, “Don’t date a farmer, they’re trouble,” which is a whole other story. About a month after my last text to him, he was still following me on Instagram—he actually watched my story sometimes. He also didn’t bother unmatching with me on Tinder, so I took the initiative, and I made a point to like all of his posts on Instagram. That was my only weapon. I guess I was trying to remind him that I existed. I couldn’t text him and call him out for being rude because that would make me “crazy,” right? So I settled for passive aggressive likes on Instagram, each white-to-red heart screaming “I’m still here! I thought you were a good one, but you let me try and left me on read!” I was irked, to say the least, and so I did the only thing I could think to do: I asked a mutual acquaintance to find out the details. As it turned out, the explanation was closest to Scenario IV. That is, he did like me, but he figured it wouldn’t lead to anything and that we probably wouldn’t see each other again anyways, so he stopped responding. When I learned that, I kicked myself for not telling him that I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere, but I still wanted to hang out—that I
wasn’t there for a long time, just a good time, as per the classic Tinder bio proverb. I haven’t been on a Tinder date since, and I’m not planning on it. I mean, a man nearly turned me against goats, and I love goats. I guess my takeaway from this whole experience, beyond a disdain for online dating and goat farmers, is that we can all become better communicators, myself included. Admittedly, I’ve ghosted people before. I’m not proud of it, and I’ve tried to justify it by asking myself, “Did I give this person the impression I wanted to see them again?” Well, no, but that doesn’t matter, because they may have thought it went well (even if it was a shit–show for me). In the case of Goat Boy, the worst part was that he really did want to see me again, but his silence left me wondering whether he was just saying that to be nice (I certainly wouldn’t put it past a Minnesotan). What I perceived to be a lie was actually a combination of laziness and inconsideration, and I’m not sure which is worse. It’s so easy to get swallowed up in our own lives, especially at Penn, but this laziness about communication can quickly turn toxic. Take the two minutes to send the text that might just give someone closure. Let’s stop being so lazy in our relationships, whether it be with your friends, family, partners, or Tinder dates. Claire Pince is a sophomore from Minneapolis, Minnesota studying Biological Basis in Behavior in the College.
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Ego of the Week: Teddy Kurkoski EGO
Meet the Penn senior who loves drag, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and sub–matriculated to get a master's in Materials Science and Engineering.
AMANPREET SINGH Ethan Wu | Media Director was like, "This is actually super weird but super, super cool stuff. Sam, if I wanted to study this, what would I study?" He was like, "Oh probably materials." And not a lot of schools have their own materials department, but Penn does. I'm really lucky to have ended up not only at Penn, but in the department. Street: Why did you decide to get involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy? TK: Coming from a small town and being one of very few openly queer students, I definitely wanted to be more immersed in a community of that type in college, but I think my first year especially there was a lot of learning. At the very far east side of our campus is engineering, Kurkoski and at the Hometown: Barrington, RI far west Major: Bachelor and Masters of side is Science in Materials Science and the Engineering Activities: Founder of Penn chapter of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, Out for Undergrad, Carriage Senior Society, Materials Science and Engineering Society, Theta Tau, previous baritone sax and bass clarinet player for Penn Band wind ensemble
34th Street: Why did you decide to come to Penn? Teddy Kurkoski: I'm from a really tiny town in Rhode Island. My house is about a 14– minute walk from the beach. It’s the type of place, you know, where everyone says hello to each other. I didn't realize how goofy it was until I left, but I love it and it's a beautiful place. In high school I was super into chemistry, and my brother was an engineering student at Delaware, and I visited him one weekend, and they had this free bookshelf in the mechanical engineering student lounge. So, I snagged two, one was physical metallurgy and the other one was experiments in polymer science, and I Name: Teddy
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LGBT Center. Going into my sophomore year, a few friends and I were like, "We should try and make some kind of space for this. We should try to do something." So we revived oSTEM chapter here: oSTEM is a national organization that's professionally focused and all about helping [LGBTQ+] students, but it can also be [for] graduate students. And through the people I met in oSTEM actually, I got to go to an O4U conference which was really great. Out for Undergrad has a set of four conferences that are sort of focused on teaching queer undergraduates how to find out which spaces are queer– friendly in the industry, and how you can be out at work and your authentic self at work. I've been to two conferences. The first one was especially eye–opening because there were so many new ideas at the time. The idea that I can talk about people that I may be seeing and going out on dates with at work is so important, not only as a possibility—it’s actually really important to a workspace. Street: We heard that you performed at the QPenn x QSA drag show! Can you talk about your experience? TK: I did drag for the first time ever at my high school's
Relay For Life. They had a Miss Relay event which was this big drag show. I think my name was Alabama Chartreuse. We had a talent portion and a speech portion. For the talent I did this really goofy line dance called “The Train,” which I don't know if it exists outside of my high school and our gym class. I ended up winning and I was like, "Who did that?" So then I went to a drag show my sophomore year where one of my friends was performing. So then my junior year I was really interested in doing it. Last year, my persona was Rosalind Skanklin, which is a joke on Rosalind Franklin who was essentially this biological crystallographer who uncovered a lot of the structure of DNA. Watson and Crick ended up stealing a lot of her data, and she died of X–ray–related complications. It's really a tragic example of women in science being completely taken advantage of and not credited at all. So last year I came out in a tight curly brown wig and a lab coat. But it was so much fun. Halfway through, I dropped the lab coat to reveal a bodysuit and the energy was so good. So then this year I was super excited. I made this outfit out of tickets, which was so weird but so much fun. It was all just admissions tickets
and tape. I bought a funky wig and lipstick and I made high pants and a little jacket for it. And literally an hour before I was going to go for makeup that night, I was like, "Oh shit I haven't even thought of the song and dance I'm going to do." And then my housemate came up with the name "Dick it to Ride," like "Ticket to Ride." I could not stop howling when he said that. LIGHTNING ROUND Street: What is your go–to Wawa item? TK: I usually will just roll through and get a quart of chocolate milk because that stuff is so good. Street: What is one makeup item necessary for any drag persona? TK: Oh geez. I think the thing I really loved is contour. A few people came up to me and were like, "Omg, I didn't even know it was you at first." You can really just reshape a face which I didn't know was an option. Street: There are two types of people at Penn... TK: People who treat service workers well and people who do not. This interview has been edited and condensed.
WEIKE WANG: THE PRACTICAL WRITER WHO WILL ALWAYS TELL YOU THE TRUTH The PEN/Hemingway Award–winning author and Penn lecturer talks about switching her career from STEM to writing. Jessica Bao
Soph ia D ai |
Ph ot o
er ph a r g
When I first read Weike Wang’s name on the roster of the Penn English Department, I was thrilled. The Chinese–American author, teaching one course this semester and two next semester, is not only known for her debut novel, Chemistry—which received the PEN/Hemingway Award—but also for the journey she took to get there. With an undergraduate degree in chemistry and doctorate in public health from Harvard University, as well an MFA in fiction from Boston University, Weike’s career trajectory reflects a curious intersection between two areas that do not often mix. The move away from a pre– planned career in STEM, and toward one's passions, is also the story of the unnamed protagonist in Chemistry. However, unlike her fictional character, for whom the pressure to choose culminates in a breakdown, Weike’s move was strategic—choosing to finish her public health doctorate and pursue her MFA at the same
time. This was partly due to how she grew up, but also her own practical nature. “This idea of writing and art not necessarily being a viable path is so ingrained in the community that I grew up in,” Weike said. “I wanted to prove to myself that I have this degree—If this writing thing doesn’t work out, which 99% of the time it doesn’t… I needed a job.” But the relationship between Weike’s two areas of studies went beyond that. Although Weike has no plan of returning to the sciences (“Once you get off the STEM train, you can’t get back on”), her background has proved to support her writing in many ways. It has taught her about hard work, provided a familiarity with the scientific world that many of her works are set in, and rewired her brain so that she is almost clinical when it comes to writing. “[With] my background in STEM, I’m just not that emotional when it comes to my own writing,” She chuckled. “Sure,
there i s emotion in it, but you have to figure out a way to control it.” Really, it's this cool, critical approach that has allowed for what PEN America praised in Chemistry as “elliptical prose, spare and clean as bone.” While her writing style varies, she never overwrites. Chemistry features probably the sparest style that she has em-
ployed, but sometimes, with essays or short stories, she lets herself go a little bit—"Not a lot,” She added. “You can expand or constrict, depending on what the piece needs.” For Weike, writing is and should be hard work, “In the same way that STEM requires creativity, writing should actually require rigor.” She holds her students to the same standard that she holds herself. “Sometimes students now, especially in workshops or writing, they just want you to say that this is so great, but sometimes it just sucks,” She explained, “And that is true for
me, and true for any writer right now—there is always gonna be room for improvement.” Weike is never under the illusion that writing is something that can be grasped in a day. “There are rules, and knowing them is important—not necessarily following them." In fact, Weike is never under any illusion about writing at all. When she first began, she had no expectations, but did have a strong support system in the writing community and a great professor as her mentor. Today, that realism persists. “I think everything [since] I came into this
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field has obviously exceeded expectations,” she said, “but there’s still a sense of being realistic about what you can write, and being practical about [how] you can’t necessarily support yourself writing after a certain amount of time—you have to teach, you have to have side jobs.” For students who may want to pursue writing, Weike advised caution instead of blind passion: “I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for students to say, ‘Oh, I’m gonna definitely be a writer,’ because I feel that those are the students who end up quitting writing… because it’s hard. It gets super hard after a while.” She suggested figuring out if they really want to tell the story—a story so important that they can’t give up—and if they’re willing to put in the work. “I’d only recommend [writing] after they’ve figured out that there’s really nothing else they can do, or there’s nothing else they’re willing to do, and that takes some time.” The final decision to write was made for Weike through a passive, yet almost inevitable, draw to writing. “I had heard everything there was to hear about not giving up STEM, and I still didn’t pursue it,” she said. “The choice to write—I fell into it, and
Jake Lem | Illustrator
it was also made for me by an inactivity to do something else.” Regardless, Weike had definitely taken the time to decide what she truly wanted, and she represents the middle ground between the two opposing camps that we often see at Penn—following liberal arts passions and pursuing pre–professional fields. And that is incredibly refreshing. Today, Weike is working on
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some short stories, as well as a second novel that also features a female, Asian–American protagonist in the STEM world—a physician. When asked about her place in Asian–American literature, Weike answered matter–of– factly, “For novels, I am mostly going to write Asian–American characters. If I don't do it, who’s gonna do it?” Weike is teaching two courses
next spring: Intro to Creative Writing, which she described as a more fun, relaxing class, and Advanced Fiction Writing: The Novel, for which she asks students to come with a project to work on. If you choose the latter, be prepared for some hard work and honest critiques. I jumped at the chance to speak to Weike, because I wanted to learn more about her
unique career trajectory and her straightforward, searing writing style. In the end, she was all that I expected, and more—her pragmatism and honesty was a welcoming change in a field that is often self–indulgent. Whether you’re asking for her feedback on a piece of writing, or advice on how to pursue your dreams, you can be sure that she will tell you the truth.
Sky Ferreira Promises Unadulterated Authenticity on Upcoming Abum Abby Gillardi | Photographer
THE PRINCESS OF SAD–GIRL POP IS BACK, AND SHE WANTS TO RECLAIM HER CROWN. Beatrice Forman
2013 feels distant, just far away enough for our memories of middle school—and what we considered cool—to grow hazy around the edges. If you need a refresher, remember this: 2013 was the year sad–girl pop gained legitimacy. It was the year Lana Del Rey broke through the mainstream, infiltrating Tumblr with quotes ringing with depressed existentialism and radio waves with moody vibrato. It was the year of Electra Heart, Marina and the Diamonds' concept album about how being a persona erodes every fiber of the self. 2013, most notably, however, was the year Sky Ferreira sulked her way into the indie scene. It was also the year she left it. Sky Ferreira creates the kind of pop that plays in the background of an existential crisis, which made her debut album Night Time, My Time something of a shrine to coming–of–age. Released when she was 21, the 46–minute–long album details exactly who Ferreira wasn’t— the next coming of Britney, the Courtney Love to a D–list Kurt Cobain, the Kate Moss of a new era—and who she hoped to be, which wasn’t quite clear yet. Chock full of atmospheric instrumentals and vocals that whines and whispers, Night Time, My Time, captures exactly what it feels like to grow with anxieties and aspirations that cut across one another. Hit singles like “Everything is Embarrassing,” which melds a heavy backdrop of 80s–themed
synths with airy verses of regrets to create a quiet banger, and “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay),” which begs to be screamed into a hairbrush in front of your childhood mirror, cemented her as the princess of indie music. Photos of her always–windblown, bleach blonde hair and penetrating, vacant stare littered Instagram and Tumblr. Critics adored her, touting her as the voice of a generation teeming with angry, teenage energy. It was in this frenzy she teased her second album, Masochism, for a summer 2015 release. And then a 2016 release. And then no release at all. Until now. Ferreira claims that, in 2019, Masochism will finally be heard. This is the year Ferreira re–emerges to gain her spot in the aristocracy of indie—and she’s doing it on her own terms. Never having learned to formally read music or play instruments, Ferreira worked on her upcoming second album with the frantic energy of a creative director, visualizing a sound and mood that only she can touch and others can re–create. The product of a back–and–forth between producers Tamaryn and Jorge Elbrecht promises a high contrast between Twin Peaks–level sullen and bedroom pop perfection. Its first single, “Downhill Lullaby” is a track that lurches well past the five–minute mark into the morose, with a string section that paints Ferreira's im-
agery of a relationship that does nothing but destroy with orchestral melodrama. It’s big and impactful, making the song appropriate for a return teased for six years. Meant to sound like “one of the birds from Snow White, singing under water, while slowly being suffocated by plastic,” it feels both otherworldly and wholly proximate, bringing the listener closer to Ferreira than anything from her first album. As for that hiatus, it’s the side effect of her quest for autonomy
and authenticity. Set against the backdrop of label disputes over ownership, Ferreira wants Masochism to represent the slow– burn of self discovery. “I refuse to put out something that isn’t honest. It’s not something that I can force out,” she wrote in a 2016 Instagram post. “[It] needs to be pretty/ugly/everything/nothing.” With expectations like that, it’s no wonder the album still isn’t here. Ferreira wants the album to be everything to everyone, and while lofty, it's an aspiration that reso-
nates with fans, however impatient they’ve grown. So, what can listeners hope to hear on Masochism? A supernova of emotion, collaging everything Ferreira and the universe has experienced over the past years. It’s slated to be both a return to the candid aura of her debut and a departure from it, with bolder sounds and quieter sentiments. Mostly, it’s supposed to offer more Ferreira than ever before.
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It's Time to Retire the Phrase 'Anything But Country'
You don't hate country—you're just not listening hard enough. SAM KESLER
While at karaoke just the other day, my friends and I sang our way through everything from Maroon 5 to My Chemical Romance, but the song selection that shocked me most was ending on John Denver's "Country Roads," a country classic about West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Shenandoah River. A diverse group of six college students, many of whom I'm sure have scoffed at country at some point in their lives, naturally came to singing along to a country staple. I have recently come to love country, and I didn't even try to convince them to pick this song. So why would I hear the phrase so often growing up, "I will listen to anything but country," when so clearly even the most country country song is revered as a classic?
Let's begin by asking what a country song even is. Lil Nas X made everyone reconsider the meaning of country with his blend of country and trap music on the song "Old Town Road." Although the track originally made it onto Billboard's Hot Country charts, that position was removed by Billboard, which stated that, "Determining which chart a song lives on is an ongoing process that depends on a number of factors, most notably the song’s musical composition, but also how the song is marketed and promoted, the musical history of the artist, airplay the song receives, and how the song is platformed on streaming services." The song then made it to #1 on the overall Billboard Hot 100. Kacey Musgraves similarly challenged the definition of
country with her album Golden Hour, which fused pop, disco, and country into one of 2018's best albums. Recently performing at Coachella, her place in the pop ethos is unquestionable, but most people don't think of Musgraves when they think of country. This hatred for country isn't based in actual popularity— there is clearly a space for country in popular culture—so is this a question of definitions? When one thinks of a typical country song, one thinks about a straight white man singing in a Southern drawl about his truck, his gun, his whiskey, and his wife. But does that represent the typical country song? Sure, many popular country songs may be that stereotypical (see: "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" by Kenny Chesney), but
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Camille Rapay | Illustrator
country music has always been built on representation of the working class. Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" represents this best, with lyrics like "Barely gettin' by, it's all takin' and no givin'" and "Waitin' for the day your ship'll come in/An' the tide's gonna turn and it's all gonna roll your way." It's no surprise the song is now inspiring memes. So, is this then a question of demographics? Like I said, many imagine the typical country singer–songwriter as a straight white man. While country is not known for its diversity and inclusivity, it is a genre that has a thriving community of women and people of color. Musicians like Margo Price and Brandi Carlile lead the most recent iteration of women in country, while artists like Rhiannon Giddens and Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff are women of color making waves, but often left out of discussions of the genre. So, what exactly drives this distaste for country among our generation of college students? It can be a combination of any of these factors, with the addition of biases among country radio disc jockeys who play the most generic music for their audience, rather than take a chance on the underrepresented artists and instead skewing our perception of the genre.
Only with the rise of streaming has further exploration of country become possible, not only giving fans a chance to learn about any genre late in life, but also encompassing a huge span of artists in little time. Previously, finding a new, exciting artist took time and money spent at record shops. Now, the record shop costs five bucks a month and comes with Hulu thrown in. What can be done, then? If you yourself have ever been guilty of claiming that you'll "listen to anything but country," it comes down to you to think about what it is you dislike about the genre. It's a diverse, working class genre that's built on the struggle of average Americans to get by. It's built around picking up an instrument, learning a few chords, and singing what's in your heart. It's built around storytelling, sharing songs, and reveling in your ups as well as your downs. So take some time to listen to some of country's less appreciated (you can start with some of the artists mentioned above), keep an open ear, and try to find an artist you can connect with. Like any genre, you won't find yourself falling in love with every song, but when you can really get down to a pedal steel and upright bass, no genre can match that.
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Artist of the Week: Natalie Prass On 'The Future and the Past,' Prass stares down her demons.
Tonje Thilesen | Photographer
This time last year, Natalie Prass weaved her way into music lovers' hearts with her performance on Conan singing her hit single “Short Court Style.” The song details the ups and downs of a relationship, but also the ultimate strength that comes from a perfect pairing, while shiny synths and an unforgettable groove evoke the high–paced environment of a street basketball game. Decked out in a shiny pink power suit and backed by two of Philly’s favorites, Dominic Angelella (of DRGN KING) and Eric Slick (of Dr. Dog), the latter her fiancé, she landed herself a place in indie pop that she’s firmly lived up to since. On her sophomore album, The Future and the Past, Prass brought all that energy and more to tackle her frustration with re-
cent politics. Instead of bringing the mood down, she uses rhythm and style to face those demons. But that was the second iteration of her album—the singer–songwriter had an entire other album planned for recording, but after the 2016 election, scrapped the whole thing and began rewriting, much to the chagrin of her label. “Yeah they were pissed,” Prass tells me over the phone, “Basically, I thought I was going to be recording in June of 2016, then it got pushed to September and then it got pushed to December. But then after Trump won the election, I was just like, ‘Oh, hell no. There’s no way I’m recording this. This record makes me feel nothing right now.’” It all worked out, however. The Future and the Past is a bril-
liant record combining dance rhythms and powerful messages, charming the listener while talking out the larger problems that face our society. On the opener, “Oh My,” Prass sings, “Seems like every day we're losing/when we choose to read the news,” with a thick bassline underneath and slick guitar licks inspiring a more upbeat attitude than the words would suggest. The words come from Prass’ own concern over the constant barrage of bad news, but ultimately resolving to take action. “I need to stay engaged,” Prass states, “I need my energy. I’m sorry but Trump and all of that, they can’t take my energy away from me. That’s all I have. Yes, it’s extremely disconcerting and confusing, but I have a limit, and I have shit to do. And we all do.”
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Prass makes that subtext clear in the music video for her equally challenging song, “The Fire,” where she dons a pink prizefighter robe and confronts giant busts of former presidents' heads in a field. In the video, Prass is minuscule compared to the sight of these powerful men, but as she confidently strides in their shadows, she eventually becomes a statue herself and faces her own figure before an even larger Prass carries it away. “Everybody knows about those, has kind of heard about those presidential busts on somebody’s private property,” Prass says of the filming process, “but there’s kind of a lot of urban legends around the guy that owns them. That he’s very eccentric, that there’s a lady that guards them with a gun.” Her friend Alex, however, took a chance and gave the owner a call and managed to get him to allow them to film there. Prass says, “He let us bring the whole crew out there, and he’s like, ‘As long as there’s no negative political messages in the video, then yes, I’ll allow it.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, wink.’” This talent for picking out striking visuals comes from experience. Prass studied visual arts in college,and utilizes her skill in everything from her music videos to her live performances, but it’s reflected most strongly in the fashion of her work. “Putting on a very strong kind of silhouette is always very important to me,” she says, “Even the outfits that I made for my live shows, it’s like my uniform, where I have this work attire on, but it’s in these really fun colors. I just like to have these very classic and utilitarian kind of looks to my image.” Her live shows tend to have her band clad in all blue, reflecting the blue on the cover of The Future and the Past, also reinforcing this idea of a uniform. Teamwork is a huge part of the music
she makes—her band tends to rotate through different skilled musicians, each bringing their own style to every performance. “Anytime I have a new band member playing with me, I like to accentuate what they have to offer,” Prass says, “It’s a challenge but it’s also super exciting because it gives us an opportunity to rethink.” That approach also follows her into her relationship with drummer Eric Slick of Dr. Dog. Between their busy schedules as full–time musicians, the two still try to play together whenever possible. “It’s true, absence makes the heart grow fonder, for sure,” Prass says. “But we also both have the kinds of personalities where we’re just very go with the flow, and we’re very supportive of one another, and we both want each other to succeed, so there’s no jealousy, there’s no competition … It’s based in trust, like we really trust each other, and if we didn’t have that I don’t think we’d survive.” Speaking with Prass, one can hear her steely resolve, a bit of trepidation in her voice but also strength and hope. This is no better exemplified in her music, where she approaches difficult topics with flair and style. Despite all the outrage of the past few years, she has faced it with resilience and continued to make music that brings joy to her fans. “I guess I just want people to feel inspired, to feel engaged, and to feel like the best versions of themselves,” says Prass. Considering that Prass has reworked an entire album, perfected her vision through film and fashion, and found her other half, she certainly inspires others to become the best version of themselves. Natalie Prass will be performing Thursday, Apr. 18 at World Cafe Live. Tickets and more info can be found at World Cafe Live’s website.
By The Slice: The Story Behind Baklava By Rachel Baklava by the slice is Penn Appetit Executive Director Rachel Prokupek's latest obsession. Allie Shapiro Walking up and down Locust, you may notice that small, rose–colored boxes seem to be slowly, but steadily, taking over campus. You may notice Rachel Prokupek—graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris studying cuisine and pastry, Executive Director of Penn Appetit Cookbook, and innovator behind the Whisk cookbook—running a baklava business out of Huntsman GSRs and her apartment. Maybe you've come across some of her successful and fan–photo based Instagram accounts and campaigns, which showcase the beauty of Rachel's craftsmanship. After trying a slice of this crispy, gooey, and nutty baklava, available in rose, orange blossom, and salted caramel flavors, we can attest that not only is this baklava a feast for the eyes, but for the soul as well. Where did she learn all her skills? Beirut, of course. And how did she end up there? Rachel had a job in Philly during her sophomore summer, but as she sat at her computer at night, she came across Facebook posts of her friend Rita from culinary school working at a restaurant in Beirut. Her boyfriend, Adam, was studying in Beirut and Rachel managed to set the two of them up so he could try out the restaurant. After Rachel’s two worlds collided, she ended up making the tough decision to quit her job and move to Beirut on a whim to work at the same restaurant as Rita, an opportunity she knew she would never get again. Rachel went down the rabbit hole that would become
Ethan Wu | Media Director
her obsession with baklava one day in the kitchen that summer. Baklava is traditionally a sweet pastry made of phyllo dough and filled with nuts. It’s usually held together by honey and formed in a diamond. But this one in Beirut was completely different—it was in a pie form, served with a scoop of ice cream, and held together by loads of syrup instead of honey. After witnessing her fascination, Tommy (the owner of the restaurant), taught Rachel how to make this new baklava pie. She was hooked. "It was just so cool because it was very trendy, but had the same flavors that baklava would normally have.” By the end of the summer, Rachel was making this beautiful dessert every morning, continuously posting images of her final creation all over Instagram, unintentionally marketing it to her future customers at Penn. Rachel's passion for baklava continued when she returned to campus. After adjusting to cooking in a small apartment, she kept making this new baklava, giving it to friends and posting it all over social media. The turning point wasn’t until winter break when she made her new “go–to” dessert for her mom and her friends and saw their excited response. Already making baklava constantly at school, studying branding, packaging, and logo design at Wharton, and wanting to experiment in a low–risk environment like a college campus, Rachel started brainstorming. Using her Wharton background, Rachel started small and worked with focus groups to
answer her questions about demand, pricing, packaging, and distribution. She focused on the logo and packaging, and started by reaching out to the old creative director of Penn Appetit to learn more about graphic design and testing her own styles. She ended up with her BKLV logo. At that moment, it clicked. While the logo resembles the love statue, the meaning for her stemmed far deeper. It represented her story, her background, and her community. In the Arabic language, there are no vowels and only accents. Additionally, the V is positioned as a slice of
pie. This non–traditional way of serving this dessert indeed needed a non–traditional logo. The rose color of the box reflects the fact that rose is an important color and flavor in Middle Eastern countries, and Rachel’s baklava is rose–flavored with dried roses. “I know these are good problems to have, but I just had so many orders the first week.” Rachel is less inspired by the financial reward of the business, but rather driven by passion and genuine desire to share her skill and flavors with the Penn campus. “Success isn’t about making
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money; that’s not why I decided to do this. It’s more about sharing my passion for making baklava, and I think success to me would be having people I’ve never met before order this," Rachel reiterated. And the minute you bite into the crispy phyllo dough, the sugary and buttery sauce, and the crunchy nuts, you'll taste Rachel's passion. Now eight weeks into orders, Rachel sells large slices for $6, a half pie at $20, and a full pie at $35. Make your orders at the Baklava by Rachel website, which is also listed in her Instagram bio.
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Facing the Music with Penn's Resident String Quartet The Daedalus Quartet has wowed audiences from Rodin lounges to Carnegie Hall. By Shinyoung Hailey Noh Photos by Ethan Wu Four professional musicians sit in the fourth ﬂoor of Fisher Bennett Hall, tapping their feet to the music they’re playing together. The violinist, violist, and cellist are used to playing together. They’re used to having a second violinist as well, but today she isn’t here, and an oboist is visiting from New York. They have three hours to ﬁnish rehearsing an oboe quartet for their concert in the ARCH building. While they sit in a semicircle in the front of the room, the blackboard behind them is still covered with colorful calculus equations from the class before. After a sudden break in the music, the violinist turns to the violist and blurts out: “Is your family upset about Duke?” The violist replies: “Yeah, my 9–year–old was running away with the
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bracket before that happened.” Their banter comes from years of making music together. First violinist Min–Young Kim, second violinist Matilda Kaul, violist Jessica Thompson, and cellist Thomas Kraines make up the Daedalus Quartet, the Quartet–in–Residence at Penn. The group periodically performs at venues around campus, works with student performers, and visits classes at Penn to discuss music theory. The four are world–class musicians who perform internationally, but are also part of the Penn community. The Quartet has played in Carnegie Hall and the lounge of Rodin. They have played the complete Beethoven Quartets and student compositions from MUSC– 278. The Daedalus Quartet was formed in 2000, and the group has had a residency at Penn since Fall 2006. This is rare: few research universities have a resident string quartet, especially if they, like Penn, don’t offer a performance degree. It almost seems counterintuitive. But Matilda sees the merits: “it gives you the freedom to deﬁne your role as something much closer to what you represent in a regular society.” Being outside of the bubble of musicians makes her think about what she can bring to the community at large. Min, Jessica, and Tom rehearse with the visiting oboist in Rose Recital Hall. They seem a bit nervous. I have been warned about this: “When you add a ﬁfth person, we behave differently,” Matilda had said. “Oh, I was thinking that might be sort of a saving grace,” said Tom. Matilda had let out a hearty chuckle. There’s a different vibe at the rehearsal now, perhaps because the visiting oboist is here, but also because Matilda, with all her joyous energy, is missing. When they start playing all at once, it’s like the beginning of a dramatic movie montage: all the sounds in the room spring into motion. Min’s high violin notes scream out while Tom’s cello pizzicatos climb up little by little. Jessica joins Tom to take a big bow stroke. Min leans forward and stares at her music. Everyone stops at the same time, even though no one has said anything. “Can we start from the pickup to [measure] 75?” Min says. “I did that totally wrong.” They all furrow their brows in the same way they scribble on their sheet music. They all wear their wedding rings on their right hands. “Does what I’m doing seem okay?” Min asks. “Should it be more or less?”
“It was ﬁne,” Tom says. They go again. To many in the Penn community, the Daedalus Quartet brings a rare experience of live classical music. Jessica loves performing for students who have little background in music and may be taking introductory music courses to fulﬁll the College’s Formal Reasoning requirement. “Reaching students in classes like MUSC–070 is so cool. For many of them, that might be their ﬁrst experience with a live string quartet,” she says. Tom gets excited for the opportunity to blow students away by exposing them to new types of music. He typically performs for very informed audience members who frequent classical concerts, so playing for people who aren’t used to that scene is refreshing. Min remembers visiting GRMN–010 “Translating Cultures” to play Beethoven’s late string quartets. “There was one student who was visibly crying,” she says. “That’s why we do this. I know that feeling because it’s made me cry too. It’s just a shared experience, and it’s something that’s great about music.” Their relationship with Penn gives them more creative freedom, too. “We get to choose music that we are genuinely artistically interested in without regard for the marketplace,” Matilda says. Not having to persuade a board of people helps them present material that they believe in. This upcoming season, they’re planning a project on the topic of migration. Being at a research university as opposed to a music school means that they can take an interdisciplinary approach to their performances, too. “The kinds of connections we got to make here with writers, the theatre department, and the medical school changed the way that we hear those pieces and think about them,” Jessica says. “It’s hard to replicate that in a
10–day residency because you just don’t have this kind of collegial relationship to lean on,” Matilda chimes in. “So that makes this kind of a unique place.” Jessica starts to explain the work they did with the medical school: “We shared it with a professor in the school of otor—” Tom chimes in: “otorhinolaryngology.” Min explains: “Ear, nose, and throat.” Back to Jessica: “He talked about Beethoven dealing with his deafness in terms of hearing and perception, but also about how an audience cognitively processes music.” “A lot of times, performing quartets have a residency in a music school and are focused on training up–and–coming quartets, which is important, but that’s not so much what we’re doing here,” Min says. “We love having access to all the great things that a top–notch research university can offer us, so we reach out to different scholars and different disciplines to collaborate and see our music with a new perspective.” Some fascinating projects have been born out of these collaborations. The Quartet has performed in the Arthur Ross Gallery alongside actors from the theatre department who read from the diaries of Leo and Soﬁa Tolstoy. They also performed at Kelly Writers House and had poets write and read poetry in response to their music. “It’s certainly changed my image of the piece,” Tom says. “We’ll always hear [the poems] now.” It’s one of Jessica’s favorite memories from being in the Quartet. Tom’s favorite collaboration was with Penn professor emeritus George H. Crumb. The group performed his electric quartet, “Black Angels,” at the Chinese Rotunda in the Penn Museum. The piece had them rubbing their bows on wine glasses pitched with water. The setup was as experimental as the piece: while running extension cords for their ampliﬁers, they accidentally created a radio signal. Tom says that when they ﬁnally ﬁgured it out, “there was something very cathartic about getting up and playing the piece, even though there was a very loud helicopter at a very signiﬁcant part.” The
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F E AT U R E
Daedalus Quartet has collaborators beyond Penn as well. Last year— when they were doing a cycle of the complete Beethoven Quartets—they worked with playwright Michael Hollinger. After a semi–stage reading of 'Opus,' Hollinger’s play about a string quartet learning to play Beethoven’s Opus 131, the Daedalus Quartet played the same piece. “When we played Opus 131 after that,” Min says, “it just was a very different experience from any other time I played that piece.” Jessica agrees: “[the audience was] in on our process.” When they’re not working on big projects, the Quartet mentors student musicians at Penn. Two years ago, Tom started a weekly improvisational workshop for students. “When you’re there and the audience is there, everything that happens is part of the music,” says Tom. Saagar Asnani (C ‘19) was one of the students in the workshop. “[Improvisation] really opens your mind and your ears because you're listening to what people are doing,” he says. A violist, Saagar is also in a string quartet, so he knows about the challenges of playing with other people. “A quartet is like a weird marriage of four people,” he says. As Min plays in Rose Recital Hall, she bounces using her entire torso. Jessica 1 4 3 4 T H S T R E E T M A G A Z I N E A P R I L 17 , 2 01 9
moves more from her shoulders. Tom can’t move as much with his cello, but when he does, his movements add that much more to the performance. As they reach the highest note, they all breathe in, and on the top of her breath, Jessica glances over at Min, who’s closing her eyes in concentration. Everyone pauses and lunges forward to look at their music. “That was good,” Tom says to Min. “Was that not what I was doing before?” she asks. “No, something else happened,” Jessica says. They go again. Julie Cohen (C ‘19) attended a masterclass led by the Daedalus Quartet as part of MUSC–236, “Performance, Analysis, and History.” The Quartet listened to students play through a piece and offered them feedback and tips. “They have this sort of intuition where they could ﬁnd things that the untrained ear wouldn’t pick out,” Julie says, “and it would totally change the feel of what was happening.” She had an opportunity to work with them again in MUSC–278, “Composition for Musicians.” For their ﬁnal projects, students had to compose for a string quartet. On the last day of class, the Quartet came in and played their pieces. Julie remembers that they were good at adapting to different styles. Jeffrey Cheng (E, W ‘19), who was also in the class, says, “I don’t think you could have picked eight pieces that were more separated by inﬂuence and by direction, and they slaughtered all of them.” The Quartet took the students’ work seriously, and asked the students about their musical intentions. For example, Matilda would ask whether a student wanted a note in one bow stroke or multiple. “They would
ask, ‘What does the name mean?’ ‘What are these tempo markings?’” Jeffrey says. “They asked about some of the articulations I put in, which were meant to resemble hammering. So they’re very perceptive.” “They also showed crazy skill with sight reading,” Julie says. By their second performance, everything was perfect. “I was like, ‘How are you doing all these tempo shifts exactly in sync? Do you feel 56 beats per minute in your bone?’” Jeffrey says. Julie appreciates how nonjudgmental the Quartet is. “You would expect musicians of that caliber to be kind of haughty and know–it–all, but it was not like that at all,” she says. Tom would always come up to her and tell her she was doing such a great job, and she could feel that he was being genuine. “It just felt so good to hear that from people who are so accomplished. As an insecure musician, that means a lot.” “The Penn community has ownership of us, if you want,” Matilda says. “In ways that maybe they don’t all realize, but they own this music.” I can feel the instrumental sounds vibrating beneath my shoes. As the movement closes, Min swooshes her bow into the air, triumphant. Tom smiles—“better,” he says. They agree that they’re done rehearsing this movement. “And there’s this whole other piece, too,” Min says. “Oh my god,” Jessica says. “Oh my god,” Tom says. They start packing up their instruments to go to ARCH. “Can you feel the stress level?” Min asks me. “But it was good!” I say. “It’s not this piece we’re worried about,” Min responds. “The other one is like, ‘Oh my god, can we even get through this?’” Performing at ARCH is not quite the same as performing at Carnegie Hall, but the Quartet is still anxious. And that’s when I realize: they truly are a part of the Penn community. Shinyoung Hailey Noh is a sophomore studying English & Cinema Studies from Seoul, South Korea. She is a features staff writer for Street.
Because sexuality doesn't necessarily deﬁne personality Ryan McLaughlin Ever since I was a little kid, it seemed like the whole world knew I was gay. Well, the whole world except for me. It took me a little while to become comfortable and confident in my sexuality, and after 16 years of figuring things out and some awkward pre–teen phases, I finally came out to the world and confirmed the news that they had already known. Still, I was proud, and that was what mattered. But after announcing my homosexuality to the world, new questions began to circulate in my head, with the most pressing one being: Am I too gay, or not gay enough? Often times, I feel that the terms “homosexual” and “queer” are associated with flamboyance and assuming personality traits of the “opposite” gender. Yet, I feel like I have landed in the middle of it all. While I spend more time talking about boys than to boys themselves, and can’t go a sentence without saying the word “tea” in it, I also love competitive sports and have never seen an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race in my life. The most difficult part of my sexuality has been navigating how I interact with others, because I’ve gotten into this internal tug of war with myself. I am proud to be gay, and my friends support me, yet there are still times when I feel like my sexuality has to be almost toned down because it doesn’t fit in. For example, when I get really frustrated or excited, my voice goes up an extra pitch, and if I get a little too tipsy, I start dancing like I’m in a Beyoncé
music video, and I can tell that my friends start seeing me in a different light—it's as if my sexuality takes over and makes me someone else. In scenarios like this, I feel on edge, and like I need hold some of my more “gay” tendencies back—and I’m not the only one who struggles with this. As a bisexual woman, EJ Carlson (C '20) shared that she is more than familiar with the notion of having to tone down her sexuality, especially her attraction to other girls. “It’s not that people wouldn’t understand what I’m feeling, it’s just in my social circle, the norm is to be heterosexual and every activity revolves around being heterosexual,” she said. “If you’re at a frat party, you’re not really going to find other girls to hook up with there necessarily, and if you are pregaming for an event, it is usually gendered.” It's a struggle to feel “too gay” sometimes, but other times it can feel like I’m “not gay enough” when I do tone down my sexuality. Part of me asks myself whether I am letting down my fellow LGBT community members, because I consciously choose to not fully embrace myself and don’t make an effort to be heavily involved with the gay culture on campus at times. However, I just don’t feel like that it is necessarily who I am, or who I want to be. EJ shared similar feelings of not feeling exactly connected with the LGBT community as a whole on campus. “It is something I would have to go out of my way to do and outside of my
established social circles,” she explained. As a member of Penn Dems, she also talked about a group called Queer Dems, a smaller community within the student organization that aims specifically to promote conversation between LGBT members. She emphasized that having more groups like this on campus, such as Queer Dems, would help her feel more connected with her sexuality and the LGBT community, as it serves as, “a natural community that I don’t have to seek out,” she said. “It could be something that is already embedded in the social circles in my life.” When it comes to being a member of the LGBT community, it’s hard to have a smooth path in life. Even after getting over the fear of coming out and
self–acceptance—if you’re like me—it seems like the challenges never clear up completely. There are still some times when I find myself checking the back of my mind for whether or not I am being "too much" with my sexuality, and I still push myself to make an effort to get to know my fellow LGBT community members when I feel like I haven’t done that enough. But if I’ve learned anything throughout my 18 years, it is that no matter what, you’re always going to have times when
you feel like you’re being too much or too little. The important thing to remember is that you are you and you should never have to change yourself completely or hide a whole part of your life from the rest of the world. Whether you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, genderfluid, or straight, we all have our own tendencies, and while it can be hard to be okay with that at times, those tendencies are what make up you. And the last thing you should ever be ashamed of is being yourself.
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FILM & TV
Existential Crisis Movie Roundup Curl up and embrace the uncomfortable nothingness of life with these movies. Calista Lopez
Jackie Lou | Design Associate
Have you found yourself pondering the meaning of life more than usual? Have you started to accept that certain things—like life—are fundamentally unknowable? Have you Googled anything along the lines of "What's the point?" in the last five days? Congratulations—it seems that you may be having an existential crisis. But if you’re one of the few, rare college students not currently experiencing this phenomenon, I say to you—don’t worry, because I’ve compiled a list of the ten best existential crisis–inducing movies.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Directed by legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered in 1968 and since then, has been regarded as a milestone in the science fiction genre and one of the best movies of all time. Set in a highly advanced version of the year 2001, the film follows Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea), as he and other astronauts embark on a mystery mission into space. After their ship's computer system HAL begins to behave strangely and defiantly, Dr. Bowman is faced with a man vs. machine showdown that travels from man's rudimentary beginning to its eventual demise. If you're looking for stunning visual effects, a majestic score, or a mind– bending trip through space and time—this is the movie for you.
Starring Joseph Gordon–Levitt and Seth Rogen, 50/50 fol-
lows 27 year–old Adam Lerner (Levitt) as he learns he has malignant tumors all along his spine and has a 50/50 chance of survival. His best friend Kyle (Rogan), serves as his main support system as he fights for his life and begins chemotherapy. Adam also starts developing unprofessional feelings for his psychiatrist, Katherine McKay (Anna Kendrick), all the while trying to manage his diagnosis and come to terms with his potential fate. 50/50 is a great example of tackling tough subject matter with humor.
3. American Beauty
While Kevin Spacey has long fallen from grace, his role in American Beauty as Lester Burnham—a depressed suburban husband and father—is still regarded as a masterful satirical take on American self–fulfillment and standards of beauty. Amidst a mid–life crisis, Lester becomes infatuated with his 16 year–old daughter's cheerleader best friend, Angela. The film focuses heavily on themes of sexual repression, conformity, and standards of beauty. While certainly jarring, and bound to make you uncomfortable, American Beauty provokes questions about how to live a meaningful life and what about people makes them beautiful.
4. Being John Malkovich
style and work. Starring John Cusack, Katherine Keener, and Cameron Diaz, the New York City–set film follows puppeteer Craig Schwartz (Cusack) and his eccentric wife, Lotte (Diaz). After Craig is hired as a filing clerk, he discovers a portal that allows him to live in the mind of renowned actor John Malkovich. Craig reveals his discovery to his co–worker Maxine, who he has a crush on, and the two begin a business partnership at the expense of Malkovich's mind and life. With a storyline that's as absurd as it is enjoyable, Being John Malkovich is sure to make you question your place in the world.
Starring Justin Long and Emmy Rossum, Comet follows the lives of pessimistic Dell (Long), and optimist Kimberly (Rossum) after they meet by chance during a meteor shower. Comet's use of non–linear narrative allows us to view Dell and Kimberly's rocky, six—year romantic relationship through the lenses of flashbacks and paral-
lel universes. The film is sappy enough to scratch your rom– com itch, but it's also self–aware enough to remain effectively witty and satisfying. Comet is a mystical exploration of love, loss and fate that will, more than likely, make you cry.
6. Donnie Darko
Out of all the films in this list, Donnie Darko is probably the oddest (and that's no easy feat). Donald "Donnie" Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a troubled teenager living in suburbia. During a sleep–walking episode, Donnie wanders out of bed, narrowly missing a jet engine that has crashed in his room. He meets a demonic rabbit named Frank that tells him the world will end in 28 days. Frank continues to haunt Donnie as he deals with his erratic family, trouble at school, and the impending doom of the end of the world. Disguised as a horror/psychological—thriller, Donnie Darko is actually a a poignant commentary on self–sacrifice and the power of the hypothetical.
7. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind
Do you believe in soulmates? Regardless of your answer to that cryptic question, Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind is sure to challenge your opinions on soulmates, love, and fate. Charlie Kaufman's second movie to appear on this list stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski, respectively. After painfully breaking up with Joel, Clementine hires Lacuna, Inc. to erase all of her memories of Joel and their relationship. Joel learns of Clementine's decision and decided to undergo the same procedure. We follow a non–linear narrative that takes us into Joel's mind as he revisits his fading memories of Clementine and eventually concludes that their love—no matter how imperfect—is worth remembering. Rest assured—there’s a movie here for you that’s guaranteed to make you question everything.
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The first Charlie Kaufman– written film of this list, Being John Malkovich embodies themes of surrealism and existentialism that have come to characterize much of Kaufman's writing A P R I L 17 , 2 01 9 3 4 T H S T R E E T M A G A Z I N E 17
FILM & TV
The New 'Joker' Trailer is Perfection With a new actor playing the Joker, the villain's origin story is in good hands. Anna Collins Of all villains in comic book history, the most famous is certainly The Joker. His green hair, red lips, purple suit, and too– wide grin are lodged into the collective cultural knowledge of not just comic book villains, but villains in general. He is not only the most recognizable villain, but perhaps the most interesting to follow when it comes to his film adaptations, with the tragic story of Heath Ledger’s run followed by the disappointing revival by Jared Leto. After the cancellation of Leto’s Joker film following the painfully embarrassing Suicide Squad, the fate of DC’s most iconic villain remained up in the air—until now. Joaquin Phoenix's Joker came to be with the trailer drop on April 3. Phoenix himself is a well–established actor, most fa-
mous for playing Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and Theodore in Her. The announcement of his role as Joker comes after months of debate as to who would take up the mantle, even prior to the cancellation of Leto’s film. What is clear about Phoenix’s Joker, however, is that he was made entirely different. The trailer opens first to a shot of a therapist, then to Phoenix himself. He is unmasked, aged, with wrinkles drawing lines around his mouth, which is downturned in a frown. His eyes raise slowly, and there is a glint in them—just an inkling of insanity. Here is the first hint that this Joker is different: He is halfway to becoming crazy before he even gets there. He is given a name, Arthur Fleck, and it is clear that he is not quite the Joker—not
yet. Most startling, perhaps, is the dichotomy between Phoenix acting as a normal citizen of Gotham followed by clips of him slowly deteriorating. He bathes his mother in water in the bathtub—audiences may know her as one of the reasons for his turn to villainy—then is seen bent over, writing jokes in his childish handwriting. Phoenix’s body contorts over the desk in a way that feels unnatural, alarming, inhuman. He scrawls a smiley face into the large final “O” of what is supposedly a joke: “The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” For those who have seen the story of the Joker multiple times, it becomes obvious here— through the first shot of the ther-
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apist and the blatant statement about a mental illness—that this is not the same Joker backstory we've seen before. In perhaps the most famous comic about the Joker, The Killing Joke, the main character—never named— falls into a vat of chemicals. He emerges with the green hair, pale skin, and red lips of the nation’s most famous super villain. This Joker, however, has no moment of dramatic, chemically induced transformation. In fact, we see him in his famous outfit and makeup in the next scene, but it's only a costume. The Joker’s day job is playing a clown on the streets of Gotham dressed in a frizzy green wig, emphasized lip makeup, and oversized shoes. It is here that a group of children steal his sign and beat him with it. It is also here that we realize that it is not a vat of chemicals that is going to push Arthur Fleck into corruption—it's the world around him. Unlike the trailers for Marvel films, which often include clips that aren’t even in the films themselves—focusing on the explosions and action more than the plot itself—every moment of Joker's trailer is spent revealing something new about this version of the titular character. Perhaps it sounds rather surface–level to insist that this Joker is corrupted by society. However, much of the trailer is spent setting
this up: We watch as he is torn down by a group of children on the street, then by three men on an empty subway. We hear how he laughs unnervingly in a crowd by himself, and then watch as he applies eye makeup in the mirror, allowing a tear to fall down his face. The Joker’s corruption is a slow one that Joker will let us examine piece by piece, scene by scene, moment by moment. Instead of an abnormal transformation, Arthur Fleck dyes his hair green as he moves to unheard music, watching himself with intense, unflinching eyes. Looking into a mirror, he pulls his lips into his famous smile, and then does the same to a child from behind a gate. He leads a revolution of men in masks, runs through the halls of Arkham Asylum, and sets himself up to be one of the greatest super–villains of all time. A knee–jerk reaction may be to compare Phoenix to Ledger in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but here we're seeing a very different form of the Joker: One that has not already fallen from morality by the time we are introduced to him and one that is not far past saving. Even in the brief moments of the trailer, he is able to be seen as pitiable, terrified, and three–dimensional. The layers of the Joker, of course, are yet to be unraveled, but it is clear that they are in capable hands.
FILM & TV
'The Aftermath': Boring and Predictable 'The Aftermath' is a poorly recycled rendition of 'Romeo and Juliet' that tastelessly uses World War II as its backdrop.
Ana Hallman Photo by David Appleby
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I settled into my seat at the Ritz at the Bourse to see The Aftermath. I hadn’t seen a trailer and I hadn’t read the book, but I knew that Keira Knightley starred in the film alongside Alexander Skarsgård and Jason Clarke, so I had high hopes. I was completely disappointed. The film gets off to a good start with beautiful overhead shots of a train bearing Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley) chugging into the station of Hamburg, Germany. Similar shots capture the bombed–out, wintry city, and this, alongside a couple of other more explicit indications, clues us into the setting: the “aftermath” of World War II in Germany. Rachael meets her husband, Lewis (Jason Clarke), and it is clear in the flickering eyebrows and the hesitant hug that something is amiss. The feeling of distance grows when he tells her that they will be living with a German host, the widower Stefan (Alexander Skarsgård) and his daughter, in his mansion. The two parties agree to separate
into “zones” of the house, although Lewis is often absent to complete the work assigned to him by the British military. With the distance between Rachael and her husband, and the availability of the handsome Stefan, the narrative of Rachael and Stefan’s attraction and the subsequent themes of passion and betrayal become only too predictable. The film began with promising acting and mise–en– scène, but the separation of the two families into “zones,” with German Stefan quartered on the upstairs floor and the British Morgans inhabiting the first floor, is entirely too reminiscent of a twisted version of Romeo and Juliet. The movie is set only a short five months after the Allied victory—after the liberation of prisoners from concentration camps that killed millions—and the use of the Holocaust as a backdrop for a forbidden love story is crude and entirely tasteless. What’s worse, we never really find out what Stefan’s role in the war was. The writers try to make him palatable by giving him a physical pass that clears him of Nazi af-
filiations—Skarsgård’s puppy dog eyes certainly add to the effect—but what was he doing in Germany for six years, dressed with his blond hair and grand estate, as the Nazis persecuted millions of people? His direct role in the war
is questionable at best. The Aftermath is uncomfortable and insensitively uses World War II merely to stage a hackneyed story of Romeo and Juliet. That’s not to say recycling Romeo and Juliet is a bad thing—West Side Story,
10 Things I Hate About You, and Warm Bodies are all wonderful movies—but to essentially use the suffering caused by World War II just to recite a boring and predictable confusion of passions is just flat– out wrong.
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The Nameless Group Behind 'Color Vision' Anticipates Their Next Event, 'Before We Go'
Photos by Leina Betzer
Aayush Sanghrajka (W '19), Belle Carlson (C '19), and Ethan Daly (W '19) are three of 15 members presenting an art show. BEBE HODGES
Huddled around a table are three strikingly different figures: one wears brown glasses with hues of blue and rounded lenses, another dons a neutral colored scrunchie and big golden hoops complemented by her subtle nose piercing, and the third has blonde locks and a dark green hoodie. These three students—Aayush Sanghrajka (W '19), Belle Carlson (C '19), and Ethan Daly (W '19)—each have unique personalities, yet the chemistry between them is evident. As they sit down, the three immediately exchange updates on their weekends in New York, with continual laughter and the casual exchange of chocolate covered raisins.
There is a commonality among these three students: a passion for art—both to create and to share it with others. Last fall, the trio—along with six other Penn students—presented the interdisciplinary art show ColorVision. This coming Thursday, April 18, the group is reuniting to present their second art show, Before We Go—featuring live music, DJ tracks, photographs, paintings, multimedia works, and more. One of the most striking aspects of this group is the absence of a name. Aayush explains that the students rejected using "ColorVision" as a group title because their events after ColorVision—like
Before We Go—are inherently different. They didn’t want to be defined by a past achievement. With a fluid name, Belle adds, the group can “promote fluidity in the future.” Even more so, a definitive label seems inappropriate for an artistic group. “With an arts group, it's naturally dynamic,” Ethan explains, “so like to label nine people or even a group of people with the same name for every event… doesn’t seem natural.” Started last fall, the initial group consisted of nine Penn students who were friends or friends of friends, all committed to sharing their art with others. Aayush has been DJing since he was in tenth
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grade, but didn’t enjoy the type of mainstream music he was playing at the beginning of his time at Penn. His idea for events such as ColorVision and Before We Go started with a desire to give people access to a different kind of music—which he describes as influenced by Hindi music, worldly music, and EDM, among other genres—and offer an inviting space that could serve as both a social and fine arts setting. He wanted to create a space where people could “relax, have a drink, look at some beautiful art," and "talk to people.” To Aayush, “art demands that you… [are] present in the moment,” and that’s what he strived to foster with these collaborations. For Belle—who creates photographic multi–media works, recently with a focus on environmental portraitures—the opportunity for this creative collaboration was appealing: “the idea of having… many different mediums of creators collaborating in one space was really beautiful to me.” Ethan was attracted to the opportunity “to have a clear time frame, a clear objective at the end,” that would require him to complete his EP in a timely manner. In these art shows, he’s tested new styles, creating electronic music for ColorVision and now “pure bedroom pop” with “a lot of singing, a lot of choruses” for Before We Go. With ColorVision this past
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fall, the group's goal was to bring an art show to the Penn community that features a specific group of artists in an intimate setting. The event took place at Color Space Labs and included one sound–based, dance–based room and one conversation–focused room. For Belle, one of the most successful aspects of this show was the overlap she witnessed among social circles. All of the group members had mutual friends without realizing it. They were pleasantly surprised when friends showed up who they themselves hadn’t invited but a different group member had. This overlap of social circles is key to the group’s mission—to create events that everyone can enjoy, not an activity limited to members of any one particular group. While Before We Go will aim to reproduce the intimacy of ColorVision, the event is scaling up—hosted at a 400–person venue, and will include more artists and more work. Before We Go features 15 group members, including three more DJs from Penn, an artist from Temple, an artist from NYC, and an artist fom Upstate New York. “This is a Philadelphia thing, not just a Penn thing,” Aayush explains. Even more so, the work displayed will be different. While ColorVision gave each artist a wall to depict their work, Before We Go will display works of different artists next to each other— including photographs next to
paintings and paintings next to multimedia works. The music scene will also change, now including Ethan performing live with Chris Troop (C '19), another new addition to the group, along with DJs performing in separate rooms at staggered times. Regardless of these changes, Aayush says he wants to retain a lot of the spirit of ColorVision: “I still want the intimacy and the conversations—especially around the art—to exist, because that was one of my
favorite parts of the last show.” Before We Go is also a last hurrah for the group’s seniors before they graduate. They recognize that this 15–people group will never be in the same space creating the same project for the Penn community and the greater Philadelphia community again. Furthermore, the name is about “forcing yourself to be in the present and in the moment,” Aayush explains. “The term Before We Go… can even be [interpreted] on a more…
micro–level… like before we go, before we leave this interview, before we leave a class or anything, it’s like be in the present, be in the moment… and you can get darker on that [and think] like life is very fragile.” Regarding advice about what you should do ‘before you go,’ or graduate, the trio came to a consensus: don’t take yourself too seriously, try new things, and reach out to new people. Maybe text a friend who you don’t talk to much,
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but who you think would enjoy the event. Before We Go will take place on April 18 from 8:30 p.m.– 12:30 a.m. at Location215.
The event will feature multimedia works, paintings, sounds, and a live set as well as an open bar.
Live music • Film • Dance • Theater Art Education • Community Fire Museum pres. Xylouris-White & Elkhorn Apr 16 2019 @ 7:30 PM Admission is FREE/donation requested Playing Cretan music of original and traditional composition, the band consists of Georgios Xylouris on Cretan laouto and vocals and Jim White on drum kit.
Taína Asili album release party w/Interminable Apr 17 2019 @ 7:00 PM doors open (show starts at 8:00 PM) $12 in advance / $15 at the door Celebrate the release of Taína Asili's new album Resiliencia! Joining the night will be Interminable! Taina Asili is a Puerto Rican singer, bandleader and activist carrying on the tradition of her ancestors, fusing past and present struggles into one soulful and deﬁant voice.
Falsa 14th century Suﬁ music Apr 18 2019 @ 8:00 PM $5-10 suggested donation Formed in West Philly, the music is described as a "cure for alienation", "not about means to ends but about meaning and transcendence".
Bowerbird pres. a double bill Fingerstyle & American primitive guitarists Yasmin Williams and Daniel Bachman Apr 19 2019 @ 8:00 PM Admission is FREE
Youth Talent Showcase! Calling all Philadelphia schools K-8! Apr 20 2019 @ 3:00 PM Admission is FREE Singers, musicians, spoken word artists, dancers, rappers, and young entrepreneurs are welcome! Cash prize! To participate, call (215) 2598003, or email oﬃcialbiggadre@gmail.com. Jazz Appreciation Month Featuring Ella Gahnt & Sistahs Attune Apr 21 2019 @ 4:00 PM Tickets are $12 in advance; Vendor spots are $25 Live music, vendors, food, raﬄes. Proceeds from tickets go to The Women's Coalition for Empowerment, Inc. As an alcohol-free/smoke-free venue, The Rotunda provides an invaluable social alternative for all ages.
Jeffrey A. Miller (W’82) founded JAM Catering in 1980 as a sophomore!
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EMILY YAO: Revealing Yourself at a Distance Through Poetry and Photography Poet and photographer Emily Yao shares the motive behind her art, and what inspires her to keep writing.
KATIE FFARRELL “Are we poets because of what we’ve went through or because we want to write.” I’m expecting inflection at the end of that sentence, but it’s missing. Instead, the line registers as a declarative statement. It is akin to the seemingly paradoxical puzzle pieces that perfectly fit together for photographer and poet Emily Yao (C '21). Emily is sitting directly next to me. Her hair is composed into a ponytail, almost but not quite, concealing the electric
blue strands at the tips. There is a practiced distance to her. When discussing the inception of her poetry–photography Instagram account (@smileycammie), she laughs about creating the account before the “required age,”—these brief, shared moments of laughter reveal her dimpled smile. “In 9th grade, I began to— and still do,” she quickly caveats, “struggle with body image, I couldn’t stand to see photos of myself and couldn’t look in the mirror for a long time, I didn’t
want to delete my account, so I thought, what else can I do.” Her Instagram shift is an departure from the “actual Instagram”—she places in air quotes with a gesture of her hands— which emphasizes the body, the amount of likes and followers, and a perfectionistic ideal. Rather than images of her external figure, she showcases the internal, by sharing her most vulnerable thoughts. Emily achieves a comfortable equilibrium in her work. She
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shares her inner dialogue, while also walking the fine line of keeping herself hidden. She intentionally masks the particulars of her life with a vagueness that allows the reader to insert themselves, as well as Yao to evacuate herself. I think of my own Google Drive folder, named “Writing” with at least twenty different narratives from the past three months; writings I would not share with anyone, and definitely not the internet. Emily and I have this anxious feeling in common, yet, she is the one who takes the next brave step. She has something to say, and she knows how to say it. Her work is deeply, almost unnervingly, relatable. On the troubles of inner turmoil, she writes, “My mind understands the facts/But my heart chooses to believe/The screeches my inner demon wails/ The monotone drone of anxiety/ And the white noise I've come to learn as depression.” Here, Emily's poetry captures what many of us feel, yet struggle to convey. Despite the authenticity of her
words, she describes h e r writing process as communicative of the fact that “there are ways to open up while still putting a protective layer around you, people who have been through trauma it’s very hard to open up, but it’s not impossible.” She continues by saying, “emotions don’t make you weak,” and adding that “poetry became a form of something for me to tell people 'I’m going through this,' instead of straight up saying it out loud, instead of saying ‘Hey I’m going through something, I’m not doing well.' It’s different than saying that.” Her art is a physical representation of emotion; not only are they a work of inner reflection, but also an outlet for readers to express themselves. She concludes by sharing a poem she has not published yet. It reads, “I have pretended to go mad in order to tell you the things I need to / I call it “art” / Because art is the word we give to our feelings made public / And art doesn’t worry most people.”
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