February 25, 2021 | 34st.com
TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S
Letter from the Editor 3 WORD ON THE STREET
Sobremesas at an Empty Table
The Spice Collective
The Weather Station Combats Ignorance On New Album
LOL 11 FILM & TV
Time Loop Rom-coms
e’re never done with killing time,”
sings Lorde on “400 Lux,” a casually evocative pop ditty about a couple savoring a pretty silence. I’ve been replaying this lyric a lot in the first month of my 20th year, but definitely not as the song intended me to. I’ve been thinking about what it implies for adulthood— namely, is life just about waiting until you're happy, or fulfilled, or energized again? Maybe it’s just the mood that comes with settling into real life, but I’ve been feeling an electric kind of anxiety lately. You know, the perpetual buzz that drones at the back of your head when you’re paranoid about missing an extra assignment, or when you’re pretty sure you either left your car keys on the kitchen table or they’re lost forever. I worry that I’m missing out on an existential type of something—some divine explanation as to why I struggle to keep friendships, or if I will always guilt–trip myself for needing to relax. Simply put: I’m worried that my life will never get better in the ways I want it to. For comfort’s sake, I tell myself this feeling is universal to being 20 years old and angsty. I’m going to venture a guess that a lot of us were misfits in high school, so a lot of us grew up conditioned with the advice, “You’ll find your people/place/ passion soon. Just wait.” And I’m also going to venture a guess that a lot of us—myself included—still haven’t found any of those things. If you’ve spent almost a decade waiting for things to fall into place the way your parents told you they would, it’s nerve–racking when they don’t. And that feeling still stands, regardless of
whether you’re 25 or 45. Waiting sucks, especially when our whole existences are categorized into fits of patience. We wait for summer. We wait for the semester to start. We wait to find the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, and then we wait to find the perfect time to break up with them. We wait, and we wait. And for what? More waiting? This edition of Street is about the passage of time, and how we trick ourselves into thinking endless waiting is enjoyable. We have commentaries on rom–coms about futile time travel and revenge bedtime procrastination. Our feature, as funny as it sounds, is also about waiting. Only this time, it’s about the high–stakes kind of anticipation, where analysts and organizers alike are—you guessed it—waiting for Pennsylvania to decide its political identity.
Illustration by Alice Heyeh SSSF,
Why did Pennsylvania Flip Blue? Beatrice Forman, Editor–in–Chief Chelsey Zhu, Campus Editor Mehek Boparai, Culture Editor Karin Hananel, Assignments Editor
Not Your Mother's Pearls: Gen Z's Newest It Accessory
LOL 22 UNDER THE BUTTON
Lily Stein, Features Editor Denali Sagner, Features Editor Hannah Lonser, Special Issues Editor Julia Esposito, Word on the Street Editor Kyle Whiting, Music Editor Peyton Toups, Deputy Music Editor Kaliyah Dorsey, Focus Editor Emily White, Style Editor Eva Ingber, Ego Editor Aakruti Ganeshan, Arts Editor Harshita Gupta, Film & TV Editor Isabel Liang, Design Editor Alice Heyeh, Street Design Editor Mia Kim, Deputy Design Editor Jesse Zhang, Street Multimedia Editor Caylen David, Street Audience Engagement Editor
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Features Staff Writers: Sejal Sangani, Angela Shen, Lindsey Perlman, Mira Sydow, Amy Xiang, Pranav Mishra Focus Beat Writers: Rema Bhat, Kira Wang, Jean Paik, Gabriella Raffetto Style Beat Writers: Tara O'Brien, Naomi Kim, Matthew Sheeler Ego Beat Writers: Maddie Muldoon, Nick Plante, Fernanda Brizuela, Saranya Das Sharma, Lily Suh Music Beat Writers: Emily Moon, Allison Stillman, Nora Youn, Evan Qiang, Walden Green Arts Beat Writers: Jessa Glassman and Avneet Randhawa Film & TV Beat Writer: Arielle Stanger Staff Writers: Meg Gladieux, Aidah Qureshi, Jillian Lombardi, Kathryn Xu, Alice Heyeh, Phuong Ngo, Aria Vyas Multimedia Associates: Dhivya Arasappan, Sage Levine, Sophie Dai, Sophie Huang, Samantha Turner, Sudeep Bhargava, Sukhmani Kaur, Alexandra Morgan-Lindo Audience Engagement Associates: Kira Wang, Samara
Kleiman, Shana Ahemode, Stephanie Nam, Yamila Frej Copy Editor: Brittany Darrow Cover Design by Sylvia Zhao
Contacting 34th Street Magazine: If you have questions, comments, complaints or letters to the editor, email Bea Forman, Editor-In-Chief, at email@example.com. You can also call us at (215) 422–4640. www.34st.com
©2021 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. "Breaking: Street likes Gwyneth Paltrow."
WORD ON THE STREET
Sobremesas at an Empty Table Moving to America and missing home in a year of isolation | HERTHA TORRE GALLEGO
y days have softened into routine. The gleaming novelty of dining hall food, snow, and independence has slowly drifted away. Curled up on my twin XL bed, you can find me reading the weekly novel assigned for my most unconventional class this semester, "Happiness and Despair." This week, James Baldwin’s narrative makes me fall in love with Giovanni’s Room. One quote is especially significant: “Perhaps home is not a place, but simply an irrevocable condition.” Across the room, a virtual pile of prerecorded lectures accumulates while I miss the familiarity of home. I’ve never been worried about feeling homesick, and I didn't think college would be any different. However, I now realize homesickness might be real. Back home, I counted down the days to come to Penn, to gain the autonomy I had been longing for. Yet now that I am here, I can feel home’s gravitational pull. Being in such close emotional proximity to everything you thought you were ready to grow away from feels absurd. I'm a nostalgic at heart. Everyday old memories bring me comfort: my mom’s discursive style of talking about news, the fireplace lighted by my dad every morning, and the coziness of my own bed. Since homesickness is mainly sentimental, I even brought some physical things with me when I moved in: my high school’s sweatshirt, old family pictures that I put up in my dorm, and a collage of tickets to Madrid’s museums and concerts that now sits on my wall. Perhaps Baldwin is right. Home has started to feel more like a condition. The vivid greenness of the backyard grass, the pebbled sidewalks around Madrid, dinner at 10 p.m., and my everyday siesta. Filled with Spanish stereotypes, home feels like a voice softening with distance. And, as if floating, you feel like this place does not belong to you anymore. It exists just to be loved, missed, and yearned. Predictably, most of my homesickness comes from food and how nurturing it is. Because it's an important part of our culture, I miss Spanish olive oil and my dad’s signature breakfast—a piece of toasted bread with freshly grated tomato rubbed over it. I miss the bright and harsh sun and seeing people drink beer in the cold, even if it's two degrees Celsius—or, gasp, 35 degrees Fahrenheit— outside. I miss traditions that currently exist an ocean away, rooted in the comforting scent of a late dinner on a summer night. But above all, there is something that comes with such familiarity that I cannot escape. Back home, eating is inherently social. Sobremesa does not have a clear American translation. Its literal meaning is "over the table." It's the experience of sharing food and the conversations that come after it. Food is so central to Spanish society that it affects our social structures.
Illustration by Alice Choi My family, gathered around a paella every Sunday. A Saturday afternoon spent at a bar, surrounded by friends. An after–class lunch, always accompanied by some great jokes. The intimacy that timidly lingers between the moment when the dessert comes and the time when the bill is paid. Usually, there’s laughter involved, although it's during this talkative time that we have the most ferocious arguments. It’s through these emotional sobremesas that social bonds are created. Eating in the United States feels lonely. Not that I don’t have anyone to share food with—right now, I'm blessed to have found great friends with whom to share Hill House's Caesar salad and 1920 Commons' tater tots. We walk along Locust, visit Penn Park, and enjoy the times we get to explore cuisines around Philadelphia. I have people to eat with, yet I mostly do it alone. It might be a college thing, but oddly, I now cherish eating in company more than ever. An American might ask what made me leave the country of sobremesas. Why am I here in the first place? In a year of isolation, it's almost comical how the word 'homesick' means the exact opposite of what it seems to mean. It sounds like, "feeling sick of home, bored from being at the same place for so long, and in need of a change of scenery." Have we not all experienced this? As much as I enjoyed living in Madrid, I could not wait for the plane to take off. Living at home during the fall was a constant reminder of the privileges I have—access to online classes, a supportive family, a home—and what I lacked—mental stability, morning classes, endless sobremesas with new friends. And thus, here I am, exploring the beauty of American life. Although I was familiar with the United States and its people before moving here, I have found a campus (or perhaps, a country) where everything appears to be coated in calculated layers of norms: Fahrenheit instead of Celsius, inches instead of meters, $1 bills instead of 1€ coins. A culture that encourages a very specific set of val-
ues: optimism, drive, attentiveness, grit. The eagerness to be innovative, even if unsuccessful. The mindset that not all those who wander are lost. That is why I came here. To expand the sense of belonging that I felt the first time I visited the United States. To continue being surprised by strangers that engage with me in small talk in the most genuine and candid way. To still not understand how Fahrenheit works. To become part of a multicultural space. To experience the spark in a Penn student’s eyes that tells me they want to change the world. To be the owner of my own education. To build my future brick by brick, interweaving poetry, health care, and whatever it is that I discover next. I came to Penn to engage in meaningful conversations, sobremesas, or whatever one wants to call them. I am eager to blend my colorful and vibrant Spanish heritage with American diversity and opportunity, intertwining my two life experiences. While I now have a ritual of eating scrambled eggs and turkey bacon on Sunday mornings, I will always make time for my friends to understand the importance of gathering around the table. I will enjoy my very early dinners, and I will admire my beloved Spanish painters at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It's been a full month since I arrived, and sobremesas are still on my mind. I miss raising my voice about how the answer to Spain’s political problems is not populism, but political reforms to eradicate the present corruption. I miss sharing the latest gossip among my group of friends and debating that the Spanish university system needs to change. I miss the familiarity of these conversations. But I now share my high school memories late at night when making new friends. I raise my voice to talk about how the liberal arts enable me to find myself. And most importantly, I listen, sit back, and observe the new home that I am building here. Baldwin wrote that home is an irrevocable condition. For me, home has become an empty table at which I silently sit, uncertain which memory will come up next. F E B R UA RY 2 5 , 2 0 2 1 3 4 T H S T R E E T MAG A Z I N E
Behind the Counter:
How Hummus Grill's Authenticity and Acclaim Endure
Co–owner Yaron Netz talks about the Hummus team's passion and perseverance — despite the challenges of the pandemic. | MADDIE MULDOON
h e t h er it be velvety hummus spread atop warm pita, flawlessly fried falafel, or baba ganoush bursting with flavor, a meal from Hummus Grill is truly a work of art. 14 years ago, Yaron Netz and his business partner Fabrice Saadoun cooked their first shawarma in Saadoun's garage in Philadelphia. The two met while working at a small tech company in Delaware, where Saadoun was Netz's boss. “It was really hard for our small tech business to compete with the big guys, so we looked for alternatives," Netz says. "Both Fabrice and I are from Israel, and we had the idea of opening a restaurant that served Israeli cuisine." The partners quit their former jobs and learned the ins and outs of the restaurant business through trial and error. They invited friends and family to taste their first shawarma in 2007, which received glowing reviews. That same shawarma, with some alterations, is served today at Hummus, the award–winning Mediterranean restaurant that has become an iconic and beloved hotspot at Penn. Co–owners Netz and Saadoun had no culinary background when they opened the restaurant in 2008. However, what the partners lacked in business knowledge, they made up for in their Israeli background. “Your taste buds have a good memory. That is the advantage that we have, as people who grew up in Israel," says Netz. "We knew how it was supposed to taste. When we weren’t sure if we were doing it right, our taste buds told us that we were." He reflects that 2008 was a scary year to open a new restaurant. With the economy crashing, it wasn't easy for Hummus to stay afloat. However, the restaurant slowly found itself increasing in popularity within the Penn community. Eventually it prospered. The majority of Hummus' clients are Penn students, many of whom Netz knows by name. “It’s nice to see them from [first year] or sophomore year through graduation, and see them growing up and moving on to the next chapter of their lives,” he says. Netz has two children himself—his son is a sophomore at an art school in Maryland, and his daughter is a senior at a high school in Philadelphia. She was accepted early decision to Penn and will be attending in the fall. “We are very fortunate that she was accepted," Netz says. "I will be more involved in the Penn community now that I’m going to have a kid here in college. It is such a great school, and you can see that kids love being here." 4
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Photo by Kylie Cooper
Though the pandemic has presented new challenges to Netz, Saadoun, and their business, they are hopeful that Hummus will make it to the other side. They've decreased both their staff size and their hours, and they've increased takeout and delivery options. Netz and Saadoun come into the restaurant every day, staying from opening until closing to work behind the cash register and oversee operations. Business at Hummus has dropped by around 60%, according to Netz. One of the most significant causes is a decrease in catering, which used to account for roughly 30% of their business. It now accounts for zero percent. “It all happened in one day, I remember. The week of March 10 to March 16, we had cancellation after cancellation, every single day," says Netz. "I still have a couple of orders in my office from that time that were pre–paid that I’m holding onto for people to come back and get their credit." "It was a strange situation, and things have been challenging since then, to say the least. But probably every restaurant in Philadelphia is facing the same challenges that we are right now." He says that business has improved this semester as students have returned to campus. At the moment, Netz estimates that Hummus serves between 80 and 100 students a day. Though this is an increase from last semester, it's half the number of students that they are used to serving at this time of year. Despite the challenges that Hummus is facing, Netz remains optimistic. “There are small moments that give
us hope. Once in a while, we’ll see a flare of the good old days, when it’s a busy day," he says. "The past three Fridays have been much busier than previous weeks, and it’s a good feeling. It is still far from where we used to be, but things are getting better. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it gives us hope that one day, business will return to the level that it was at before." Throughout everything, Netz’s love and appreciation for the Penn community endures. He appreciates its diversity and that students here truly value their education. “I myself never went to college because I grew up in Israel, but I have kids in college, and I know what other colleges are like," he says. "Sure, kids here come for the college experience and to party too, but the bottom line is that they come here to get a degree to help them succeed. Especially when it is not coming at a small price, they want to get the most out of it. It is a great community, and I can’t wait for my daughter to be part of it as well.” What truly separates Hummus from other Mediterranean restaurants is its authenticity. Everything is made fresh in house every day, and Netz states that the cuisine is very similar to what he and Saadoun grew up eating on the streets of Israel. “You can feel and taste the difference. It’s not like some of those Halal carts sitting on the street, serving food that is premade. We take our time to make sure that everything is done right," Netz says. "We may not be super-chefs like Michael Solomonov, getting so much exposure, but after all these years—12 years—we’ve gotten it right."
Spice Collective is Bringing Much Needed Conversations to Penn Spice Collective’s leaders Leah Wang, Sam Pancoe, and Mira Shetty share insights on race, gender, and identity as students at a predominantly white institution. | LILY SUH
Illustration by Tylier Kliem
ith Penn’s emphasis on education and endless opportunities for everyone, it can be easy for some to forget that Penn is a predominantly white institution (PWI). However, for students and faculty of color, daily existence is a sharp reminder of this honest truth, as they continue to be pushed to the shadows and treated differently from their white peers. In order to combat this reality, Spice Collective—a discussion group about identity, race, and gender for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) women and non–binary people—is working to amplify the voices of students of color at Penn. Spice was founded in 2016. Current Spice leaders Leah Wang (E '22), Sam Pancoe (C '22), and Mira Shetty (C '21), who is also a former multimedia staffer at The Daily Pennsylvanian, have continued to foster an inclusive space through biweekly discussions with APIDA Penn students over Zoom. Arriving at Penn can be unsettling, especially for students experiencing independence for the first time. The transition from Penn being a distant dream school to one's home for four years is undeniably drastic, and it introduces many unknowns, especially for students of color. “When I was coming to Penn, I didn't really realize what the culture was going to be like. I didn't really think about the fact that it was a predominantly white institution, and what that would mean for my experience," Mira says. "I think it can be a little alienating to realize that this institution that you work so hard to get into, or felt like you were really excited for—realizing that maybe they're not always acting in your best interest is hard to deal with. And so I think spaces like [Spice] are really beneficial to build that solidarity, and realize that so many other people are experiencing this too, and working to change it.” Although many clubs at Penn are notorious for their competitive nature and grueling application processes, Spice offers a different type of community. Instead of narrowly fixating on prestige and resume boosters, Spice gives students a chance to exist outside Penn culture and instead enter a welcoming environment. “I like having a discussion space where it's not with my friends, where it's completely unstructured and super casual," Leah explains. "I can learn a lot from lots of differ-
"Spice is really here for you, whoever you are, wherever you are in processing your life and your existence.” - Sam Pancoe (C '22) ent people, but I can also feel okay sharing things." Spice is all about rising to the call of activism and illuminating the shared and complex issues that come with being Asian women or non–binary people in society. Without the added pressure of perfection, students engage in Spice to feel heard and learn more about their identities through safe yet candid conversations about the intersection of race and gender. Past topics include neocolonialism and body image, gender dynamics in the family, and racial fetishization. On top of biweekly discussions, the group hosts guest speakers, holds social events, and collaborates with groups like Sangam and South Asian Women’s Space (SAWS). Over the summer, Spice raised thousands of dollars for the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit focused on education, racial justice, and criminal justice reform. “I think a barrier for entry for a lot of people can be like, ‘I haven't talked about this before. I'm not super well versed in these things. I feel like I need to have a better handle on this before I talk to other people about it.’ But
that certainly wasn't true of me when I entered Spice, and I think it's not true of a lot of people," Sam says. "Spice is really here for you, whoever you are, wherever you are in processing your life and your existence.” Although life at a PWI is often isolating for students of color, Spice gives students the chance to relate to peers with common experiences in order to better understand their identities. “I obviously always knew I was Asian, but I never really thought too much about it," Leah says. "I think being in Spice and thinking about how all these different issues affect that identity, that's definitely something that I think more about since I started joining it.” Mira says that Spice has also helped her come to her own realizations. “I think for me, joining Spice helped me see that there were intentional spaces to kind of combat the broader culture of this being a PWI," she explains. "I definitely knew that they were out there. But I think actively participating in one made me see how many people are also struggling with it being this kind of environment. [It's] reassuring and nice to feel like you're also actively participating in making [Penn] a better space for everyone." Although life can be difficult for students of color at Penn for many reasons—such as microaggressions and cultural centers' lack of visibility on campus—Spice is a safe space. “Spice, in a small way, at least, makes me feel like, even though we might not be prioritized all the time by broader Penn, there's still some space and some place to just exist," Sam says. F E B RUA RY 2 5 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E
MITCHELL CORNELL HOMETOWN:
Incline Village, Nevada
Physics, minor in Math
Penn Men's Golf, Camp Kesem, Friars Senior Society, Order of Omega Leadership Society, Sigma Phi Epsilon
BY FERNANDA BRIZUELA
You have a very rigorous academic path. Why did you choose to pursue both your bachelor's and master’s in physics at the same time? MITCHELL CORNELL: I got interested in [physics] in high school. I didn't know if I was up to the challenge coming into college. But I started, and I was fortunate to have very great professors. My first two semesters, I had a professor that I ended up working with my sophomore summer, Elliot Lipeles, who really provided a source of inspiration. As time has gone on, I've been able to take some of the harder, cooler classes. Being able to understand the world in such a precise way is amazing to me. Being able to do the math and understand it at that level has been very rewarding. I’m going to finish both the bachelor’s and the master’s in four years. Because there was not that much golf this year, I was able to take some more classes. STREET: You’ve been described as a leader in different areas of campus. Can you talk about what it means to be a leader, and why you chose to take on leadership roles? MC: I never really thought about how to be a good leader until I was golf captain and on Camp Kesem board my junior fall. The characteristics that could make [me] a good leader really stem from all the amazing people I met in my first two years— whether that's the previous golf captains who really shaped my first two years at Penn, or the previous leaders of Camp Kesem, or just really inspirational people I met throughout my time here. I could take little bits of conversations or ways that people acted to try and be a great leader on the golf team. That obviously means just not only playing good golf, but also getting up with everybody at 5:30 a.m. in the morning for workouts, focusing but also being a great teammate, having fun on our van rides, making it the family that it should be—and that it is. Camp Kesem has been another really unique experience. I'm over the moon that I've been able to be a part of it. It's something that's personally very meaningful to me. To be able to be, in some 34TH STREET MAGAZINE:
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sense, the face of the meetings, of the recruitment process, of trying to get people excited about this great cause, has been fun. STREET: What inspired you to get involved in Camp Kesem, and what’s been your favorite part of the experience? MC: That's actually kind of a funny story. My [first– year] fall, someone in my Spanish class was like, “Come to this meeting. Camp Kesem puts on a summer camp for kids whose parents have cancer. There are chapters throughout the country, and ours serves kids in and around Philadelphia.” My family's been affected by cancer, so that has a deep, meaningful connection to me. At the time, I went to the meeting. Then I just forgot about it, which was so silly, because I could have had all this time to be a part of it. But then one of my good friends bugged me about it again my sophomore year. And then I stuck it out. 'Kesem' means magic in Hebrew, and it's hard to describe the magic that Camp Kesem is. It's a group that provides a lot of strength and community for these kids who are going through very hard times in their lives. STREET: Can you talk a little bit about your love for golf, and how joining Penn golf has influenced your Penn experience? MC: Golf has been something I've played since I was three years old. I went out there with my dad. In a lot of ways it’s taught me ... how to persevere and how to be strong, mentally, when things go poorly on the golf course. You have to keep your cool, trust your abilities, trust yourself, and keep going. I've been able to draw a lot of parallels from golf to succeeding in other areas of my life. In respect to college golf, an interesting thing is that you don't really get to play team golf that often. Coming into college, I had this individualistic outlook on golf, and then coming out, you realize you have made a family through your competitive spirit and your desire to work hard for each other. I think it’s impossible to overstate how much these guys mean to me, and our coach, and everybody that's part of Penn golf. It's obviously been difficult this year not to have that in a very meaning-
ful capacity. The program is in a very great spot and I definitely feel fortunate to have been able to lead it for the time that I officially got to be captain when we had a season. But when I think about Penn, that's the first thing I associate Penn with—the golf team and being able to compete. STREET: You're a part of the Friars Senior Society, which focuses on leadership and service. What has that meant to you? MC: Friars means a great deal to me. I was able to take on leadership last fall within the group, which I think not only allowed me to have some sort of responsibility within it, but also to make sure that I got—selfishly, I suppose—the most out of it for myself. It's tough to broaden the kinds of people we interact with as seniors because sometimes it's hard to branch out. But to be able to be around 40 people who lead different groups or win championships, people who make differences on Penn's campus or make great music—I don't think I could have expected to come across so many fantastic people throughout my time at Penn. To have been able to do it in under a year has been the biggest treat of senior year. STREET: What has been your most memorable experience at Penn? MC: The last Ivy League championship I got to play, which was when there were three senior captains at the time who really shaped my understanding of myself on the Penn golf team, and how to be a leader, and how to be a great friend. It was sad to me that it was going to be their last golf tournament. And then to sit today and understand that we’re not going to have a last Ivy League championship makes me put myself in those shoes and be grateful that I got to have those experiences, that I got to learn from this group of people and compete at a very high level. Also the Penn graduation in 2018. The whole day was quite memorable—being able to hear Bryan Stevenson speak was powerful. STREET: If you could impart one lesson on the Penn student body, what would it be? MC: When people come to Penn, you understand that it’s this great institution that will provide you
with great education, probably some fun, and whatever groups you want to be a part of. But I think that it's really important to understand—this is something that I've only begun to do for myself in the past year—the historical context that Penn sits in, with respect to Philadelphia, and the people who live in Philadelphia, and how we impact their lives positively or negatively. It's very important to understand that context if you want to be a positive member of the Philadelphia community. Trying to not think about [the negative aspects] or ignore the very real impact that Penn has on Philadelphia is not right. Penn students should pay attention to understand [the impact], to try and build on it positively going forward. STREET: What’s next for you after Penn? MC: I'm going to New York to be an interest rate trading analyst at Goldman [Sachs]. I'm not sure what I want to do after that, but some things that interest me a lot are climate science and quantum computing, which are very different. But I think that getting my feet set in the world, and then trying to understand how I can apply the skills that I love and have on some of the more complicated problems we have to solve—I think can be very rewarding. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
LIGHTNING ROUND STREET: Last song that you listened to? LB: “Up All Night" by Khalid. STREET: Something people wouldn't guess about you? LB: I took a gap year, and I lived in Granada, Spain for three months. It’s absolutely my favorite city in the world. STREET: If you were a building on campus, which would you be and why? LB: Unpopular opinion: I'm going to go with DRL [David Rittenhouse Laboratory]. A lot of the people and the work that goes on in that building are just unbelievable. STREET: Favorite golf club? LB: My putter is my favorite golf club. It's probably the most important one, the one you spend the most time practicing with, and the one you have the biggest love–hate relationship with, so there's a lot going on. STREET: Who do you look up to? LB: The two people I guess at the top of my mind right now are my two grandfathers. In different ways, but they both just shaped who I am and what I care about. STREET: If we weren't in a pandemic right now and you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you first want to go? LB: Granada, without a doubt. I missed that city so much. STREET: There are two types of people at Penn… LB: Those who show up to their 8 a.m. recitation in DRL, and those who don't. STREET: And you are? LB: [My first year,] I was the one who showed up. This year, probably not.
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Going Gaga for Lady Gaga's Chromatica Oreos It's giving us camp. It's giving us gay. It's giving us Gaga. | PEYTON TOUPS
n the scale of notorious celebrity merchandise from Gwyneth Paltrow’s candles to Belle Delphine’s GamerGirl Bathwater, Lady Gaga’s new line of Oreos are relatively mild. Packaged in bright magenta plastic that vaguely radiates an aura of futurism and camp in equal measure, these are not your typical chocolate–and–white– creme Oreos. Instead, they are “pink–colored golden cookie[s]” filled with neon “green creme,” per the label’s description. On the side of the package, the new brand of Oreo is advertised as “A Cookie Inspired By Lady Gaga.” Underneath this reiterative assertion, there is a sharp line of cryptic yet alluring symbols from her 2020 album, which lends the package an air of intrigue. And under that, Gaga’s latest mantra is typed out in a skinny, typewriter–like font, as if to hint at some sort of authenticity: “In Chromatica no one thing is greater than another.” I had to stifle a fit of laughter when first seeing it. Lady Gaga’s Oreos are a strange culmination of a lifetime of work for the atypical pop star. Once under constant scrutiny from the media and hellbent on shocking the American public from one outrageous outfit to the next, she was an outlier as much as the mainstream accepted her. All of that changed in 2018 when she starred in Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star Is Born. Suddenly, she was America’s darling, humanized by the role of Ally Maine—relatable and down to earth. The larger–than–life pop star born from an alien planet became a person. Chromatica sought to reclaim some of that avant–garde star power while balancing her newfound soft side. These Oreos are 8
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emblematic of this balancing act, at once a concession to public appeal and an extension of her latest album campaign. She’s still out there—the album’s “story” is literally located on another planet—yet she is grounded in the ways of capitalism. Gaga’s Oreos are an All–American endeavor. Plastered on the top and the sides of the parcel in a so–obvious–you–can’t–miss–it way is the cookies’ namesake, in bolded white, all–caps letters—in case you forget who Gaga partnered with. On the bottom is a QR code which leads you to a website where you can send friends voice messages, made by Lady Gaga herself, or you can make your own. Taken as a whole, the result is a bizarre product that exists in that murky area between art and consumerism, a Warholian exhibition of capitalism pimped out in pink and packaged for the masses. When I received my first pack of Chromatica Oreos a week ago, it felt like I was holding a collector’s item: too precious to eat, yet dangerously enticing to behold. I ignored the fold at the top of the plastic, sealed airtight, and instead carefully opened it on its side to preserve its pristine condition. I slid out the tray of Oreos. There they were, in all their gay glory, lined up in three cylindrical cavities that were stained with green creme. I ate one and then another, each one more addictive than the last. They tasted nothing like their chocolate siblings, nor their golden ones. Pure sugar and uranium–green food dye, the icing—which slid off easily with the flick of my tongue—was the most addictive part. I had to push them away from myself, sliding them down the dining table at which I work, to resist temptation. By the end of the next day, they were already gone.
The Weather Station Combats Ignorance On New Album
Illustration by Isabel Liang
Tamara Lindeman illuminates the existential threat of climate change on her latest effort. | ALLISON STILLMAN
he soft rock beat and sweet voice of Tamara Lindeman has been unraveled again in The Weather Station’s poignant fifth studio album, Ignorance. Against piano, strings, and '80s beats, the powerful message of Ignorance is rich and important. Lindeman exhaustively expresses the need for mass reform in the malignant and persistent problem of climate change. Throughout the ten–track composition, The Weather Station effortlessly captures the anxiety of global warming on both an individual and universal scale, touching the unnerving sensation of being vastly out of control. The name of the album, Ignorance, speaks for itself: If we continue to ignore the omnipotent tidal wave of the current climate emergency, our apocalyptic doom is inevitable. For anyone who has felt heartbroken—about a relationship, an event, or a global crisis—this album is eye– opening. Ignorance opens with perhaps the most mournful track on the album, “Robber." The heartbeat of the song follows a percussive backbeat, piano crescendo hits, and a duet of saxophone and strings. The lyrics provide the bloodline, serving the narrative on a golden platter of metaphors and imagery. Lindeman poetically divulges her internal apprehension towards being out of control—or robbed—towards things that have an immense individual impact on her. She elaborates on the extended metaphor of a burglar as an unruly force: “The robber never believed in you / he never saw you / you were two halves of the same piece / divided into two.”
The profundity of this song lies in the deeper implication of its message, or one's own interpretation of it. In her self–directed video, Lindeman is draped in a fragmented mirrored suit, perhaps embodying the dark and convoluted idea that we, as a consummate population, represent this enigmatic robber. She concludes the song by provoking this notion further, “Hold open the gates for the want of lust / All I saw was the dust.” Essentially, if mankind continues to pollute the Earth based on our own insatiable desires, we will become the robber of our own future. Lindeman’s anxiety regarding global warming flows like a rampant current throughout the album, emphasized in tracks like “Atlantic.” Against a jazzy percussion beat, light piano chords, and gradual saxophone riffs, “Atlantic” is a poetic gem with a heavy emphasis on natural imagery. She confronts the central question of whether ignorance is truly bliss, singing “I should get all this dying off of my mind / I should really know better than to read the headlines / does it matter if I see?” Each track adds to the narrative, shepherding the listeners into different scenes of Lindeman’s imagination. In “Tried to Tell You,” Lindeman sings sorrowfully about being disregarded by a loved one. In a desperate attempt to be heard, she grieves, “This is what the songs are for / This is the dirt beneath the floor,” but she is ultimately “As useless as a tree in a city park / Standing as a symbol of what we have blown apart.” This song confronts the vulnerability of being human, of falling deeply in love. She
expresses these emotions through her diction and lyrical artistry, encompassing the agony of the one you love most setting you free. The album follows an analogous complexion of melancholy and remorse, against The Weather Station’s conventional '70s pop sound. In “Parking Lot,” “Separated,” and “Loss,” Lindeman pours her heart out while the band maintains a catchy instrumental framework. She creates a metaphorical plot out of the action of watching a bird fly in “Parking Lot,” discussing the intimacy of the action and relating it to her vulnerability in a past relationship. In “Separated,” Lindeman divulges her inner battle with constantly giving her best effort and receiving nothing in return. This song is a standout on the album since it forms a tempest of emotions, finalizing in a dramatic string interlude that creates a fracture in the traumatic emotion she expresses: “Separated by the belief this cut can heal.” Finally, in “Loss,” she comes to the candid actualization that “Loss is loss.” These three words feel like a culmination of the whole album’s objective to uncover a remedy to heartache: Acceptance of loss is the best way to grieve it. The Weather Station’s Ignorance is brilliant. Lindeman carefully conveys sentimentality and emotion into each song through poetic diction and environmental tropes. A must listen, it bestows a unique perspective on coping with loss and concludes that ignorance is simply harmful. We cannot look away in the eye of the storm but must listen to one another and hold hands in fighting towards a greater good. F E B RUA RY 2 5 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E
FILM & TV
Dancing with the Devil: Dance in Horror Films
Dance horror is the genre where the graceful meets the grotesque. | ARIELLE STANGER
hen ballerinas pirouette like spinning tops and perform weightless jetés across the stage, the audience is in awe of their grace. Though it may look like their bodies are carried by the wind, dancers must master a great deal of strength and control to appear effortless. A look behind the curtain shows that the art of dance is rooted in contradiction. Pain and poise go hand–in–hand with vulnerability and violence to achieve a beautiful performance. Horror films that focus on dance and physicality are cinematic studies in manipulation and control, both visually and thematically. Though the list of dance– thrillers is short, it includes compellingly intense films such as The Red Shoes (1948), Suspiria (both the original from 1977 and the 2018 remake), Black Swan (2010), and Climax (2018). The Red Shoes, loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 fairytale of the same name, set the stage for the dance horror sub–genre. The film differs slightly from Andersen’s original tale. It follows protagonist Vicky on her journey from an undiscovered dancer to the lead in a ballet created specifically for her—The Ballet of the Red Shoes. Vicky's authoritarian and possessive impresario, Boris Lermontov, forces her to choose between dance or her husband Julian right before she is to go onstage. When Vicky jumps from a balcony to chase Julian, she is hit by a train. It's a mystery whether the death is a suicide or whether she was murdered by the bewitched red shoes, but the tragic story exemplifies the obsessive nature of dance—it is all–consuming, and in Vicky's case, leaves no room for love. It orbits around the film's iconic dialogue, where Lermontov asks Vicky, "Why do you want to dance?" Her response: "Why do you want to live?" The almost supernatural forces that compel dance in horror films are also featured in Suspiria. The 1977 original by Dario Argento is kitschy and colorful, whereas Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake features a muted color scheme and bleeds deep red. The films tell the story of a renowned dance academy in Germany, which, unbeknownst to the young dancers, is run by a coven of witches. The witches use the academy as a trap to find vessels to possess and inhabit. When some dancers begin to suspect the ruse, they are brutally murdered. In a harrowing scene from Guadagnino’s version, protagonist Susie performs a dance for the matrons—meanwhile, in an adjacent
Illustration by Alice Heyeh room, a dancer named Olga is jolted, twisted, and mangled as her body is manipulated to involuntarily mirror Susie's jumps and spins. Guadagnino’s Suspiria juxtaposes grace and swiftness with jagged, grotesque movements. Many times, dancers perform in a bewitched trance, as if someone else is controlling their limbs like puppets. Susie becomes a sacrificial lamb for the matrons of the coven, representing the objectification of dancers' bodies and the horror of losing control. Climax is similar, both in terms of visual imagery and its themes of free will. In the film, an alternative dance troupe rehearses and celebrates in an abandoned school. It starts with a beautiful performance that becomes "progressively more hideous,” as the dancers realize their drinks have been spiked with LSD. Though this film deals with more psychological themes, director Gaspar Noé's knack for body horror is evident as the dancers literally spiral out of control on the dance floor. Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan examines both the physical and psychological tolls of obsession through dance, covering all the basics of the dance horror genre. The
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film takes a more realistic path; instead of being possessed by witches or tripping on hallucinogens, protagonist Nina is the antagonist of her own story. Nina is given the opportunity to play both the white swan and the black swan as a dual role in her ballet's performance of Swan Lake. She embodies the white swan—perfect, pure, and controlled. However, she struggles to be as mysterious and seductive as the black swan. Artistic director Thomas tries to make her feel more free by telling her, “Perfection is not just about control, it’s also about letting go.” Describing Nina as an obsessive protagonist would be an understatement. She scratches her skin out of stress until she bleeds; as the film unravels, so does Nina’s sanity. She suffers hallucinations of an evil doppelgänger, and struggles with violent impulses toward a fellow dancer named Lily. The film is unclear as to whether Lily is real or Nina's delusion. After performing perfectly on stage, the audience realizes Nina stabbed herself in the abdomen during a delusion. Black Swan serves as a metaphor for pushing yourself far beyond your limits
to the point of self–sabotage and self–destruction. Nina and her evil alter ego parallel the white and black swans. Ultimately, the role consumes her, as she gives in to her dark side. Just as dance is a mesmerizing representation of the body's physical limits, dance horror is intoxicating in its grotesque exploration of the body. The genre has produced visually stunning films that showcase the disturbing nature of losing control of—or destroying—your mind and body. Lermontov sums up the genre the best in his warning that "the great impression of simplicity can only be achieved by a great agony of body and spirit.” Just as
dance is a mesmerizing representation of the body's physical limits, dance horror is intoxicating in its grotesque exploration of the body. The genre has produced visually stunning films that showcase the disturbing nature of losing control of—or destroying—your mind and body. Lermontov sums up the genre the best in his warning that "the great impression of simplicity can only be achieved by a great agony of body and spirit.”
FILM & TV
Illustration by Alice Heyeh
The Strange Comfort of the Time–Loop Romance Movie
Exploring the beauty and cynicism of sci–fi twists on classic rom–com tropes | MEG GLADIEUX
hat would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?" is Bill Murray’s classic, existential line in Groundhog Day. Though in his case, he’s stuck reliving the same day over and over, his words also encapsulate the endless stretch of February—the repetitive melancholy of late winter days that has now been magnified in the midst of a pandemic that, more or less, keeps us confined to our homes day in and day out. As I weather the lonely pandemic winter, I’ve found myself sinking into the comfort of rom–coms. One corner of this genre has been a specific joy: the time– loop romance movie. The classic example is, of course, Groundhog Day. It so distinctly defines the genre that it’s obligatorily referenced in nearly every time–loop film and has ingrained itself as its own cultural phenomenon—an analogy to define any vaguely déjà vu scenario. Palm Springs, The Lonely Island’s summery take on the Groundhog Day trope, was the breakout movie of summer 2020 on Hulu. Then, this February, Amazon released The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, another time–loop romance along the vein of coming–of–age teenage love, rather than the cynical angst of single thirtysomethings in Palm Springs. The time–loop rom–com has become a slightly more novel take on the cliché of the classic rom–com, so much so that it might even be developing into a cliché in itself. The genre retains all the tropes of the typical rom–com: the meet–cute, the quirky best friend, the force that drives the main couple apart, and then the satisfying resolve, where the couple ends up together. But the genre has also developed its own formulaic and classic features. At some point, the characters will likely perform some bizarre, eccentric, and even illegal antics only possible in a universe in which everyone around them has no idea that the day is being repeated—things like elaborately choreographed dance numbers in roadside bars or literally kidnapping Punxsutawney Phil. These fun adventures might even be presented in a light–hearted montage. There’ll probably be some vague, physics–based explanation for why the time–loop occurred, along with a brief subplot in which the characters obsess over figuring it out. The main characters will most definitely ponder the meaning (and meaninglessness) of life. They will probably equate their situation to a purgatory, or hell, where there is absolute certainty about what the next day will bring—but a complete sense of unknowingness about why the same day
happens over and over. The main characters will unquestionably fall in love; they will also likely fantasize about their own deaths. At times, the time–loop romance movie is dark. That’s the beauty of the genre: It lends itself to the perfect mix of the campy, ridiculous, and romantic, as well as the deep, philosophical, and existential. It’s the rom–com–cynic’s ideal rom–com. These movies don't claim to be realistic. Rom–coms are frequently chided for not portraying practical ideals of relationships. But when you add this sci–fi twist, the rules of real–life romance are out the window. It makes the premise the perfect setting for a cheesy romance minus the urge to point out how improbable the meet–cute is. One moment they’re dark and nihilist, the next they’re nostalgic and saccharine. In a lot of ways, a time–bending, otherworldly premise is the perfect setting for the kitschy and unrealistic expectations of a rom–com. The fantastical setting somehow makes up for the otherwise cliché romance movie tropes and starry–eyed depictions of love we usually see in rom–coms. That being said, this niche take on the rom–com doesn’t solve all of the genre’s problems: We’re still seeing only white, heteronormative portrayals. As rom–coms have made some strides in representation, the time–loop sub–genre still has yet to do so. If we’re treading into sci–fi rom–com territory, why not make it inclusive? The genre has the potential to portray a multitude of stories—even a multitude of serial relationships—in the endless timeframe it sets for itself. Let’s hope it starts to take those leaps in further subverting the rom–com tradition of straight, white relationships—the premise certainly affords it that opportunity. While there is a certain particularity to the time–loop setting, there is also the wider genre of time travel–based rom–coms too, usually grounded in some narrative of becoming a better person or finding yourself. In films like About Time, The Time Traveler's Wife, and If Only, the main characters are constantly trying to fix past mistakes—the ultimate lesson of each movie being that no amount of effort in going back and fixing these mistakes can actually make the chaos of life as perfect as you dream it could be. There are the time–loop movies of other genres too, most of which center around the main character reliving their own death, or, near death: Edge of Tomorrow in the action realm, Before I Fall as a sad YA adaptation, and of course, Happy Death Day in the horror canon. Netflix’s
Russian Doll even brings the existential absurdism into a full–series interpretation. The premise of time travel, or rather, being stuck in time, is romantic in and of itself, bringing another fantastical dimension to a story, regardless of the genre. There's a deeply contemplative joy to watching these time–bending narratives in quarantine because life kind of feels uncannily like we're in a time–loop when we're isolated at home, waiting for the pandemic era to pass us by. There’s a fantasy of the idea that you could just exist, with an infinite amount of time to catch up on all of the content, read all of the books, and learn all the answers to that night’s Jeopardy! Isn’t that the dream? To have unlimited, inconsequential time? There’s a lust to be able to fall into those rhythms, where the main characters can anticipate—
We take the time–loop romances for what they are: a meta–commentary on the quotidian banality of life and an imperfect—but quite welcome— romantic distraction from that very reality we inhabit. and even perfect—everything that will happen in a day. The time–loop movies' recursion makes them comforting and highly rewatchable; just as the characters can expect what will happen when they wake up the next day, you can expect what will happen when you rewatch them on a rainy Saturday night. But of course, the ultimate catch of the time–loop romance is that it must end: The characters are ultimately yearning to get out, to move forward, to escape. It’s a metaphor for grief, for burnout, for depression, and for pandemic fatigue—if you want it to be. Or, it’s just a fun premise to break from the typical formula of the ‘realistic’ rom–com, while still retaining all the fanciful warmth of watching two people fall in love. We take the time– loop romances for what they are: a meta–commentary on the quotidian banality of life and an imperfect—but quite welcome—romantic distraction from that very reality we inhabit. F E B RUA RY 2 5 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E 1 1
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F E AT U R E
Why Did Pennsylvania Flip Blue? Pennsylvania likely decided the 2020 presidential election. But the deciding factors weren’t what you think. | SEJAL SANGANI
Illustration by Sylvia Zhao
tephen Pettigrew went into election night anticipating a tough race in Pennsylvania. As the director of data science at the Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies (PORES) and senior analyst for NBC’s Decision Desk, Pettigrew thought he knew what to expect. But the narrow electoral margins and long days ahead surpassed even his imagination. Like Pettigrew, millions of Americans sat glued to their televisions for hours on Nov. 3. Amid grueling races in several swing states, many only succumbed to sleep well past midnight the next day, with former President Donald Trump still ahead in a handful of races—including Pennsylvania. These states were pivotal in the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. For weeks leading up to election night, many analysts closely watched the few that might offer a tipping point for the candidates, where a victory would likely deliver them the presidency. Across the country, eyes were on Pennsylvania. In 2016, former President Donald Trump narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton, flipping the state red for the first time in six elections by a slim 0.72% margin. The previous Democratic trend and sudden Republican flip in 2016 made the battleground state’s outcome in 2020 more ambiguous than ever. On Nov. 6, 2020—over 72 hours after election 1 2 34TH STREET MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 25
day—Decision Desk HQ called Pennsylvania for Biden. A day later, most major news outlets followed suit. Pennsylvania certified the results on Nov. 24. When President Joe Biden won the state—although by a slim margin—voters and analysts alike assumed that the state’s reliably Democratic metro hubs, like Philadelphia, had tipped the scales. But a look at the data unveils that Philadelphia County had shockingly low voter turnout this election cycle, and parts of the city even shifted further to the right. It was actually moderate suburban voters in Philadelphia’s surrounding counties that helped bring Biden to victory. “If somebody had told me on the day before the election ... that turnout in Philadelphia was going to be awful, and that Trump was going to outperform his performance last time around, I would have said Trump was getting reelected pretty easily,” Pettigrew says. So why didn’t he? As Pettigrew points out, it’s all in the margins. Trump’s 2016 victory in the state was slim—Pennsylvania’s narrowest margin for a presidential election in 176 years. Many thought it wouldn’t take much for him to lose the state. “Any momentum against [Trump] was going to be enough,” Pettigrew says.
Executive Director for Turn PA Blue Jamie Perrapato witnessed this momentum firsthand. Through canvassing, phone banking, online training events, and speaker series, the organization raised over
“Extremism on either end is very distasteful to Pennsylvania voters. The state likes a moderate.” – Jamie Perrapato $800,000 for Democratic candidates this year and engaged volunteers nationwide. As an organizer, Perrapato feels that Trump’s far–right policies turned off many centrist voters. “Extremism on either end is very distasteful to Pennsylvania voters,” Perrapato says. “The state likes a moderate.” Biden’s moderate policy stances—advocating to fight mass incarceration, while rejecting calls to defund the police; expanding on Obamacare; and rejoining global climate agreements without pursuing the Green New Deal—helped propel him to victory in one of the regions most critical to his win: the Philadelphia suburbs.
During the 2018 midterm elections, suburbs trended blue nationwide, which led analysts to expect the same trend of votes in these areas in 2020. But that wasn’t the case. Many suburbs across the country that had voted for Democrats in 2018 shifted red in November. Unlike other suburbs, though, Philadelphia’s surrounding counties—Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks—saw a blue wave that was crucial for Biden's win in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia suburbs have trended blue for years, but their leftward shift this past election was unprecedented in its scale. Pennsylvania is often decided by less than 100,000 votes. In those four counties, Biden received about 287,000 more votes than Trump, outperforming Clinton's 2016 lead on Trump by almost 100,000 votes. Montgomery County, which is immediately northwest of Philadelphia, saw a large percentage of this surge, with 57,000 votes of Biden’s 100,000 vote lead coming from the county alone. Chester County, historically a Republican stronghold, saw an eight– point shift to the left, delivering the largest percentage gain to Biden of any Pennsylvania county, with a margin of over 17 points. Analysts are now putting together why Pennsylvania’s suburbs saw an uptick in Democratic votes. Shoshanna Israel (W ’20) and Aaron Davis (C ’20), organizers at Pennsylvania Stands Up, attribute it in part to Trump’s confrontational style as a politician. They highlight the Democratic candidate as a refreshing presence for voters who had grown tired of Trump. “[Biden] represented a meaningful difference in policy and in temperament that I think a lot of voters responded to,” Shoshanna says. According to Pettigrew, Trump’s more abrasive features turned a few pivotal groups of voters away from his camp, including college–educated voters, many of whom live in suburban areas. In exit polls, Biden garnered 57% of the college–educated vote, compared to Clinton’s 52%. Also heading to the polls for Biden in 2020 were many voters disillusioned with the 2016 election. Some were Obama voters who skipped the 2016 election because of a distaste for Clinton. Others were a smaller subset of traditional Republicans who were lukewarm Trump voters in 2016. It’s because of them that Biden was able to offset the gains Trump brought in from rural areas. Owen Voutsinas–Klose (C '21), the former president of Penn Democrats who led the group during the election, attributes the Biden win in Pennsylvania to a Democratic coalition of voters who put aside their differences to elect the candidate. “It was this really large coalition of young people, people of color, labor unions, and then even some moderates in Philadelphia suburbs that really put Biden over the edge,” he says. Sitting Vice President Emilia Onuonga, who is also
Aishi met many of these voters through phone banking and organized protests—called “actions” at the Sunrise Movement. She saw a lot of “discontent”
“People were voting less so for Biden and more so against Trump. I was one of those people.” – Emilia Onuonga
Photo by Sophia Dai
“It was this really large coalition of young people, people of color, labor unions, and then even some moderates in Philadelphia suburbs that really put Biden over the edge.” – Owen Voutsinas–Klose
a former opinion columnist for The Daily Pennsylvanian, echoes this sentiment, adding that “the width of the ideological spectrum within the Democratic Party” helped push Pennsylvania towards Biden, along with anti–Trumpism. “Democrats had a common foe—and that foe was Donald Trump,” she says. “People were voting less so for Biden and more so against Trump. I was one of those people.” Organizers across Pennsylvania watched these shifts happen firsthand. Aishi DeBroy, coordinator for the Sunrise Movement's Berwyn hub, a chapter of the national climate–focused political action group, says that, although the group primarily spoke with Democrats, the Republicans she interacted with were willing to cross party lines.
Photo courtesy of Penn Dems
on both ends of the political spectrum, and she often talked to voters who, despite being right–leaning, felt that they were losing the United States to Trump’s policies. “These are lifelong Republicans that are talking about voting for Biden and voting blue for the first time,” she says. Steph Drain, a member of the Steering Committee at Reclaim Philadelphia, a progressive organization in the city, is one of the voters who skipped the 2016 election but voted for Biden in 2020. He recognizes the role of voters like himself and of grassroots organizations in mobilizing such groups. “We engaged the folks that didn’t vote in 2016,” he says. “I think there was an activation.” The statewide blue trends in Pennsylvania are also a collateral consequence of COVID–19. Democratic votes increased because many felt Trump mishandled the federal response to the pandemic. Pettigrew says that the pandemic was at the forefront of many voters’ minds, and these voters went “overwhelmingly” for Biden. Data from Pennsylvania exit polls shows 20% of respondents selected COVID–19 as “the most important issue to their vote.” 91% of these respondents voted for Biden. Similarly, when asked how the United States’ pandemic response was going, 34% of respondents picked “very badly.” 96% of these respondents voted for Biden. The pandemic also widened voting accessibility with the use of universal mail–in ballots. Over 2.6 million Pennsylvania voters returned mail–in ballots in 2020. “Expanding the electorate by making voting easier by having universal mail–in ballots really helped push Pennsylvania blue,” Aaron says. He notes that mail–in voting allowed many groups who may not have otherwise voted to cast their ballots, such as working–class voters. Shoshanna adds that many working voters “can’t just take off half a day to go stand in line.” The increase in working–class turnout meant an increase in votes for Biden. He expanded on Democratic favorability among Pennsylvanian voters with incomes under $30,000. Exit polls showed that Biden widened the winning margin with these voters from Clinton’s 56% to 60%. Pennsylvania’s legislation on mail–in ballots misled F E B RUA RY 2 5 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E 1 3
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“Biden is a household name. Many folks don’t know what state representatives and state senators do.” – Steph Drain
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talk to everybody walking by.” Penn Dems is one such organization. Owen says that, due to the pandemic, the club had to center their student engagement around those already residing in Philly. Penn Democrats participated in phone banking and door–to–door efforts for down–ballot candidates, as well as expanded accessibility to mail–in ballots, according to Owen and Emilia. “We had to do our best to reach Penn students who are already registered and are already here,” he says. He notes the substantial drop in turnout in Pennsylvania's 27th ward, Penn’s neighborhood. The absent piece was college students. In addition to endorsing Biden, Penn Demo-
“We really had to get to the local issues that the Republican candidate was just not acting on, like the environment, education, and the economy.” – Emma Wennberg crats maintained a focus on down–ballot candidates, including Rep. Dwight Evans, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Auditor General Nina Ahmad, and state Rep. Rick Krajewski. Despite a presidential Democratic victory, down–ballot Pennsylvanian races split at unusually high rates, with many Biden voters electing local Republicans. Democrats lost a net of three seats in the Pennsylvania State House, and two out of the three major statewide Democratic candidates lost their races. Owen says that many of the voters he spoke to were willing to vote blue for the presidential race, but voted for Republicans in other races as a “check on Joe Biden.” Drain also attributes the split down–ballot to a lack of public awareness around local races. “Biden is a household name,” Drain says. “Many folks don’t know what state representatives and state senators do.” Emma Wennberg (C ’24) spent last semester campaigning for a down–ballot race. As financial instructor and voter engagement director for Pennsylvania State House candidate Paul Friel, she faced
Photo by Sophia Dai
many Americans to believe that Trump would win the state on election night. Because mail–in ballots, which were predominantly Democratic votes, weren’t counted until election day, Trump led Pennsylvania with an 11–point lead at 7 a.m. on Nov. 4. Pettigrew says that if mail–in ballots were counted earlier, election night would have looked different. Biden would have likely been ahead in Pennsylvania with around 90% reporting. In the 2020 sea of Pennsylvania blue, Philadelphia County stood out in an unexpected way. In addition to seeing low levels of voter turnout, the county also grew redder by over two percentage points. Republican gains in 2020 were greatest in North Philadelphia neighborhoods affected by poverty and the opioid crisis. Another factor contributing to Philly’s rightward shift was the noticeable absence of students from college campuses this past fall. Although youth votes increased statewide, campus closures at Penn and other universities meant that first–year students and upperclassmen who hadn’t previously registered in the state couldn’t vote in Pennsylvania. Pettigrew suspects that many of these students voted in their home states or not at all, thereby contributing to the Republican surge in Philadelphia. He also points to the missing impact of on– campus political action groups. Although many of these clubs continued their work through the pandemic, it was much more difficult with fewer students on–campus. “Usually, there are lots of different student–run organizations that are running voter registration drives and doing all of these efforts,” he says. “There were those efforts going on, but their tasks this time around were so much harder because they couldn’t stand in the middle of campus and
a similar challenge of separating Friel from Biden and nationally recognizable Democrats. Friel ultimately lost his election. “You say you’re a Democrat, and they automatically start talking about socialism, and Nancy Pelosi, and defunding the police,” Emma says. “We really had to get to the local issues that the Republican candidate was just not acting on—like the environment, education, and the economy.” Biden’s moderate position drew in these voters. However, they remained apprehensive about the Democratic Party as a whole. “[Republicans] would cross over to vote against Trump,” Perrapato explains. “But they already voted for one Democrat. That's more than they were comfortable doing in the first place.” After Hillary Clinton’s unexpected defeat in 2016, analysts like Pettigrew learned not to rely on any one outcome. Still, they were surprised by Biden’s slim margin of victory in Pennsylvania—only 1.2%. There are a lot of unknowns about upcoming elections: Will Pennsylvania continue to have slim margins? Will the return of college students to campus move Philadelphia swing the state blue again? Will the rise of the progressive movement pit more left–leaning Democrats against moderate incumbents like Biden? Like always, Pennsylvania’s role in the Electoral College is significant because its voting patterns are unpredictable. No interest group can claim Pennsylvania as a stronghold—not establishment Democrats, not Republicans, and not emerging progressives. The state may have flipped blue in 2020, but the state’s diversity means there are no guarantees for the next election.
We Need to Condemn Anti–Asian Violence, But Not Through More Policing Relying on racist and oppressive systems won't keep our communities safe. | JEAN PAIK
icha Ratanapakdee, an 84–year–old Thai man, was killed on Jan. 28 in San Francisco after suffering a violent attack. On Feb. 3, a 64–year–old Vietnamese grandmother was assaulted in San Jose, Calif., and a 61– year–old Filipino American was slashed across the face while riding the subway in New York. Within a three–month time span, over 2,100 anti–Asian hate incidents have been reported. In response to this, Asian American celebrities such as Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu have attempted to take matters into their own hands. They are offering a $25,000 reward for information towards the arrest and conviction of the assaulter of a 91–year–old man in Oakland’s Chinatown. Others have demanded increased surveillance and collaboration with the police. The recent deaths, murders, and assaults on Asian Americans are enraging and disturbing. However, calling for more policing is not the solution to anti–Asian violence. Bounties will not protect our Asian elders, and a greater reliance on police and prisons is not what will keep our communities safe. Last October, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) created an Asian Hate Crime Task Force in response to the growing number of hate crimes against Asian Americans in the midst of the COVID–19 pandemic. While some regarded this as a positive step forward for the Asian community, groups like the Asian American Feminist Collective shared their denouncement of the task force in this open letter. The NYPD has had a long history of perpetrating violence against the Asian community, from the profiling and surveillance of South Asian and Muslim communities, targeting of Asian sex workers, asylum–seekers, and immigrant workers, to the murders and attacks on Asians in New York by law enforcement. Calls for more policing disregard the decades of abuse that the most vulnerable members of the Asian diaspora have endured at the hands of the police. Violence towards the Asian American community goes deeper than the senseless physical attacks on our elders. It extends to the increasing rates of poverty, gentrification, and policing that working–class families experience across
Photo courtesy of Asian Pacific Environmental Network the country. Police and prisons will not resolve these layered forms of violence—they serve to perpetuate them. In Los Angeles’ Chinatown, more than 41% of the population lives in poverty, and “public spaces are increasingly being policed by private security who are hired by the Chinatown Business Improvement District. They have harassed street vendors, musicians, and homeless individuals who make up the community.” Even so, it is understandable that these traumatic events have been difficult to navigate. Many of us are grappling with the question of how exactly we can demand justice for our elders in ways that don’t rely on the state or trivialize the harm. The problem with the carceral system is that we’re often forced to choose between something or nothing: The only option for accountability is seemingly either our silence or a default to incarceration and punishment. But this is precisely how the punitive system of justice was designed; it doesn’t seek to address harm, or center the victim’s healing, or respond to the needs of the community. We cannot condemn anti–Asian violence while simultaneously propping up systems that are racist, anti–Black, violent, and oppressive. Ultimately, abolition is not just the divestment from police and prisons—it's the formation of what writer Stephanie D. Keene calls “communities of care.” There
are many organizers who have worked to build these types of support systems. Jacob Azevedo, for example, is organizing volunteers to accompany seniors and anyone in Chinatown on their grocery runs. Asian Pacific Environmental Network, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, and Chinatown Community for Equitable Development are grassroots organizations that have mobilized working–class Asian immigrants and refugees for social, environmental, and economic justice. These fights for quality housing, food, air, education, and language access in the Asian American community (and beyond) are directly linked with the vision of abolition. As human rights lawyer Derecka Purnell writes, “Rather than thinking of abolition as just getting rid of police, I think about it as an invitation to create and support lots of different answers to the problem of harm in society, and, most exciting, as an opportunity to reduce and eliminate harm in the first place.” For those interested in directly donating to various AAPI organizations and movements, here is a list of places to support. It is these forms of mutual aid and multigenerational community care that keep us safe and work toward making the very existence of police and prisons obsolete. F E B RUA RY 2 5 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E 1 5
The Grind Never Stops, Even in Our Sleep Revenge bedtime procrastination is another reason why self–care shouldn’t be a luxury. | JEAN PAIK
he hours between 2 to 5 a.m. are my favorite part of the day. The typical sounds from my dorm—winter boots shuffling towards the stairs at the end of the hall, the occasional thuds and crashes from neighboring rooms, the chirp of the door lock as people scan their room keys—finally lull to a stop. As I sit at my desk, feeling the drifts of cold air creeping through my window, I indulge in the fact that there are no immediate deadlines, time–crunch assignments, or emails to attend to. It is truly the most tranquil time of day. Unfortunately, I enjoy it at the expense of my sleep schedule. Little did I know, there is actually a term to describe this form of late–night leisure: revenge bedtime procrastination. Although the exact origins of the phrase are unknown, the earliest mention that journalist Daphne K. Lee found was from a November 2018 blog post. The author of the post, a man from Guangdong province in Southeast China, described that during the workday he “belonged to someone else,” and that he could only “find himself” when he got home and could rest. Essentially, revenge bedtime procrastinators sacrifice their sleep in order to regain a sense of control or freedom that they lack during the day. The term may have first been popularized in China, but its effects are felt across boundaries and generations. In particular, this phenomenon has gained significant attention from Gen Z on TikTok. A particular TikTok video, which explains the idea of revenge bedtime procrastination, has over 15.5 million views and three million likes. The comments are flooded with a whopping 76,000 people saying that this video “called out” their toxic sleeping habits. It was strangely affirming to see that so many people felt the same way, united in our warped sense of happiness from getting “alone time” at three in the morning. At the same time, revenge bedtime procrastination makes it painfully clear that self–care is still considered 16 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E F E B RUA RY 2 5 , 2 0 21
Illustration by Sylvia Zhao a luxury, not a necessity. In a society where 24/7 productivity culture is normalized—and even celebrated—the capitalist workday isn’t designed to maintain well–being or rest. When basic activities like decompressing and relaxation are discouraged and excluded from our schedules, it is unsurprising that people become willing to sacrifice their sleep hours for leisure. The pandemic has made the balance between work and rest even more precarious. Work literally follows us home everyday, and the expectation to be constantly available is higher than ever before. But why do people feel the need to have leisure time instead of just going to sleep? Aren’t they interchangeable forms of rest? Not exactly. Ciara Kelly, a lecturer from Sheffield University, makes an important distinction between the two. She explains that while sleep is one of the most important parts of recovery from work, the quality of our sleep is affected by how well we can detach from work pressures before we even close our eyes. Winding down and relaxing is therefore a crucial precursor to a good night’s rest. Ideally, people would have enough time to set aside
for adequate sleep and leisure, but this isn’t always feasible. The United States is one of the most overworked countries in the world, yet offers little to nothing when it comes to childcare, health care, sick and parental leave, and vacation days. The lack of sleep, rest, and leisure we get isn’t just a personal problem—it’s a systemic one. Revenge bedtime procrastination, and the problem of toxic productivity culture more broadly, has pushed psychologists to question if our current sleep schedule is even the most effective form of rest for our minds and bodies. One alternative to the typical eight–hour chunk of sleep at night is something called biphasic sleeping. TikToker Madeline Pendleton recently posted a TikTok about her interest in this novel sleep pattern, which separates our sleep schedules in smaller blocks of time to clearly distinguish time for work and leisure. Regardless, revenge bedtime procrastination is relatable to a wide swath of the population, but it shouldn’t be. Overworking, sleep deprivation, and burnout are not things we should glamorize. It’s become more important than ever to treat leisure as what it is—a basic human necessity.
NOT YOUR MOTHER'S PEARLS: GEN Z'S NEWEST IT ACCESSORY Riffing off of the punks of the 1980s, Gen Z is helping to reinvent a classic for a new generation. | AIDAH QURESHI Illustration by Alice Choi
he pearl necklace has always been a timeless piece of jewelry. Pearls often evoke super–polished and glammed up images of Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly, but the modern interpretation of the pearl necklace isn’t so prim and proper. From TikTokers like Ellie Zeiler and Vinnie Hacker to full–fledged supermodels like Bella Hadid, to seemingly every single girl on Instagram, everyone is wearing the Vivienne Westwood Mini Bas Relief Choker. With its delicate string of faux pearls and an orb charm, the choker has become a must–have in any self–professed fashion fanatic’s jewelry collection. However, Vivienne Westwood has been making waves in the fashion industry long before the choker even existed. She first gained notoriety as a designer, not in the mainstream, but as part of the punk and New Wave fashion movements in the 1970s and 1980s by creating clothing designed to provoke social and political change. In the early 1970s, Westwood and her boyfriend at the time, Malcolm McLaren, set up shop in London, which members of the punk scene would often use as a meeting place. Sex, the name of the store which Westwood finally settled on in 1974, was filled with leather, latex, and fetishwear. This rebellious spirit underlies many of her collections, and she often combines punk symbolism with traditional feminine aesthetics. Westwood is often credited as one of the pioneers of British punk fashion, using tartans and bright pops of color to revolt against the establishment. While Westwood’s designs were popular with punk youth and those in the music world, she only achieved mainstream success in 1981 with the release of her first collection, the Pirate Collection.
The collection was both a critical and commercial success, with the British public praising Westwood Westwood for her clothing, which was inspired by the British aristocracy but maintained hints of anarchy. By the 1990s, Westwood’s signature style was established as she married traditional British fashion with a French sense of proportion, creating designs that were equally polished yet outrageous. Inspired by the 18th century, Westwood began to incorporate corsets into her collections, using them as pieces of outerwear instead of underwear, thus recalling her sex–inspired beginnings. The brand first saw mainstream success during a 2019 revival backed by Gen Z when vintage Vivienne Westwood corsets were spotted on numerous celebrities such as FKA Twigs, Hailey Bieber, and Dua Lipa. However, due to the high prices of these vintage corsets, these pieces are hardly a reasonable purchase for the average consumer. With this celebrity exposure, Vivienne Westwood was quickly becoming the brand to wear among the younger generations. Around the same time that Westwood put out the corset, she introduced the world to her signature pearl choker, an homage to the jewelry of royal women of the past with a contemporary flair. Westwood’s orb is the perfect representation of her brand: The recognizable emblem is the British Sovereign’s Orb surrounded by a ring of Saturn, which combines a piece of classic British regalia with astronomy—the perfect hybrid of the past and the future. The juxtaposition of the new and the old is part of what made Westwood's designs so successful with younger audiences at the emergence of her career
and how she is able to continue to find success with the same demographic today. In early 2020, the choker was spotted on two of today’s It Girls, Madison Beer and Bella Hadid. Paired with the rise of gold jewelry and pearl accents, this means that more and more people have begun to wear the necklace, specifically on TikTok, and by mid–2020, interest in the necklace had spiked astronomically. The popularity of the necklace on social media showcases how Gen Z is able to take a notoriously exclusive style and reclaim it for the masses. It may not be rebellious or punk for everyone to be wearing the same jewelry, but to have the power to determine what is in trend most definitely is. The fact that the trend du jour is from a designer as defiant as Westwood makes its power that much greater. There can be honor in reviving pieces inspired by that past and sporting them in a modern day context. TikTokers, Instagrammers, and influencers have all taken what is pivotal to the fashion industry— in–person advertising and interaction—and turned it on its head. They've learned how to exploit the temptation of trends via online platforms, creating an endless stream of thrifting hauls and "outfit of the day" content while also building a level of trust with their viewers. Without a doubt, the internet has helped shape trends and facilitate the spread of them. The average teen on social media might order a Vivienne Westwood pearl orb necklace in an effort to look like that girl she saw on her feed or maybe even to emulate her favorite celebrity. But, unlike the punk customers of Westwood’s early days, Gen Z has a disruptive loyalty among themselves rather than with any particular brand. Their trends move too fast to dwell on any one designer for long. F E B R U A R Y 2 5 , 2 0 2 1 3 4 T H S T R E E T M A G A Z I N E 17
PHILADELPHIA’S MURALS SEND POWERFUL MESSAGES ABOUT
Black History Month
f you’re walking past the Broad Street and JFK Boulevard in Center City, you might stop and take notice of the vivid mural painted boldly above its front door. By illustrating images of protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement, Crown by Russell Craig stands as a testament to the fight to end the scourge of systemic racism in Philadelphia and across the country. It is one of three murals featured by the city’s Mural Arts for Black History Month walking tour. The impact of community murals is far–reaching. If art evokes empathy and increases feelings of belonging, murals make those experiences free and accessible. They open the door to necessary, stimulating conversations with yourself or others. They ask you to slow down on your walk and to pay attention to your thoughts, cultivating a sense of community in an age of political division and social distancing.
Must–see sights during Black History Month | ARIA VYAS
Photo by Alexandra Morgan Lindo
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Photo by Alexandra Morgan Lindo
Photo by Alexandra Morgan Lindo
In a city struggling with a dark and tainted history for its Black residents, we need Black artists and Black voices more than ever. These projects are impactful and effective in their delivery, and understanding the artist and artistic process behind them allows for a deeper grasp of their messages. On a public arts program trip seeking to foster such understanding, youth members visited artist Amy Sherald’s studio in Jersey City, N.J.. It was then that 19–year–old North Philadelphia local, Najee Spencer–Young, became the muse for Sherald’s next project. Amy Sherald, widely recognized for her historic portrait of Michelle Obama, is the creative mind behind the stunning six–story mural of Spencer–Young. The Untitled Amy Sherald Project spans the side of a Target at the corner of 11th and Sansom streets. When presented with the project, Sherald was looking to paint someone who would accurately represent the community. She notes feeling drawn to Spencer–Young’s energy, an experience that is emulated by the striking composition of the final portrait. Posing in a black and white floral coat with glimmering gold buttons, Spencer–Young’s confidence brightens up the whole block.
Just several streets over from Sherald’s work is Lincoln Legacy, a collaborative mural project pieced together by five local public schools and a number of individuals, including Philadelphia muralists Jack Ramsdale, Josh Sarantitis, Eric Okdeh, as well as inmate artists at The Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Graterford. At nearly 10,000 square feet and with over 1 million hand–laid glass tiles, Legacy holds the title as the largest glass–tile mosaic in the city. The work of art, which features a young Black girl rising from blue flames holding an abolitionist coin, serves as a modern visual ode to the efforts Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln in ending slavery. The left side of the mural shows wooden planks of a slave ship broken to reveal a map of Africa, produced by Okdeh and the inmate artists who painted the scene on cloth before it was transferred to the wall. Black History Month is a time of celebration and recognition of the massive contributions to our society by Black individuals. It is a time to reflect on history we’ve lived through, and history that we are still trying to understand. It is an opportunity to take advantage of the rich artwork that bolsters the beauty of Philadelphia. These, and many more murals allow us to see, to marvel, to listen, and to ultimately deepen and better our understanding of Black history.
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When Productivity Becomes Unproductive Ground your relationship with productivity in fulfillment instead of checking off a to–do list. | MATTHEW SHEELER
roductivity is the quality of effectively bringing about something. Whether your version is checking off all of your tasks for the day, or feeling dread because you think you’re not doing enough, productivity plays a huge role in your life. As students at a rigorous university with a competitive culture, many of my peers and I have had toxic relationships with the concept of productivity. I’m not talking about imposter syndrome—that's a separate conversation. This problem is a culture where you're expected to work yourself to the bone and neglect basic self–care. However, the past year of social isolation, virtual learning, and possibly too much time to think has allowed my relationship with the concept of productivity to evolve. At Penn, it’s really easy for your perception of productivity to be skewed. I found this out early in my first year. Coming from a tiny high school in rural Pennsylvania, where it was fairly easy to make myself stand out, I felt secure in my productivity. I did well in my classes, set ambitious goals, and took care of myself most of the time. I felt confident that I could keep up with my responsibilities. That totally changed once I arrived at Penn. I found myself struggling to complete tasks throughout the day. When homework piled on, I experienced mental collapse. It seemed like I was never on top of things; I was just always trying to catch up. My mind was in a hundred places at once—unfocused and unhinged. There was always a pressure to produce some quantifiable output. We place so much emphasis on productivity that it feels like we're all competing to be more productive. It's the end point of American productivity culture. As Nick Martin of the New Republic writes, it seems like
I realized then that being productive for the sake of being productive is actually really unproductive. 2 0 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E F E B RUA RY 2 5 , 2 0 21
"every nanosecond of our lives must be commodified and pointed toward profit and self–improvement." The productivity that is preached to us hinges on how many quantifiable things we accomplish in a day, which completely disregards that we are all living humans before we are anything else. We can't ignore our basic well being and expect to still function. Unfortunately, a lot of people have experienced this stress—feelings of burnout reportedly grew 33% in 2020. Burnout can come in many forms, including mind–wandering, irritability, cynicism, poor sleep, depression, exhaustion, and feelings of uselessness. Yet being perfectly 'productive' is still an unachievable goal we're all supposed to meet. A year later, people are still trying to figure out how to deal with this identity crisis, but they often leave their attitudes toward productivity out of the conversation. How can you feel confident in your ability to be successful if you don’t think about your relationship with the things you do on a daily basis? Being productive is so much more than getting as much homework done in a day as possible. It's more than keeping your video on for an entire Zoom class session. It's more than spending any free time trying to master a new skill. Rather, it’s a personal relationship that hinges on your mental energy. My productivity evolution started when I felt mentally empty and exhausted during the first lockdown last spring. The state of the world aside, I felt horrible about myself. I was waking up every morning and doing as much work for school as I could bring myself to do, pushing aside any glimmer of happiness. I wasn’t taking care of myself—I was doing whatever I could to feel secure about being what other people would think of as productive. I realized then that being productive for the sake of being productive is actually really unproductive. Why can't productivity be fulfilling? I started exploring my relationship with productivity and asking myself a lot of questions. What makes me feel productive but also happy? What makes me feel productive but quite unhappy? Ultimately, I realized that productivity encapsulates the simplest of responsibilities—spending time with those who make you laugh, being hygienic, eating healthy meals, taking medicines and vitamins, and going outside to get some sun. Yes, I still have to do my homework, but I shouldn’t be substituting work for health and the most basic pillars of
fulfillment. I also started exploring hobbies that made me feel good about myself. If productivity is the quality of effectively bringing about something, and you aren’t doing anything that makes you feel content, then the whole system collapses. For me, playing piano more frequently and expanding my plant collection were what made life more enjoyable. I went to bed at night knowing that we’re in a pandemic and online learning sucks, but I also felt good knowing that I did something I really enjoyed. Eventually, this became a habit. I locked in a pretty cliché morning routine: I would wake up, make my bed, take my meds, clean myself up, and enjoy a really great latte (or three). After a day that started with that routine, I could go to sleep at night feeling like I really lived my morning in the most effective way possible. The purpose of this narrative isn’t to make you feel bad if you aren’t doing the things I’m talking about. I also don't want to point fingers and tell you how to find your own personal fulfillment in productivity. But if you’re already feeling like you struggle to keep up with your work, breaking productivity down into different steps can prevent your perception of it from only encapsulating the things you get graded on. You can also start thinking about productivity in a positive light. Burying yourself in mindless work to distract from feelings of anxiety is not a solution. If you do things each day that make you feel prepared to take on the rest of your life, then those not–so–fun tasks will be more achievable. I know that if I’m going to go to Zoom class all day and finish a problem set that night, I better have at least three chai lattes and a walk around campus while listening to evermore by Taylor Swift on repeat. So when you hear a friend worrying about not being productive today, remind them that falling a little behind on homework doesn’t mean that they should feel dreadful about their productivity. We shouldn't be holding ourselves to lofty expectations that equate productivity to school and work—it’s unhealthy, unrealistic, and unnecessary. Instead, let’s focus on the little things that make us capable of tackling those tasks.
More Than The Renegade: The Evolution of TikTok
Illustration by Isabel Liang
Chronicling how the social media app has grown from Musical.ly to a platform for social and political change | PHUONG NGO
f you have a smartphone, you've (at the very least) heard of TikTok. Gen Z loves the social media app as much as Donald Trump hates it. TikTok and its short–form videos have gained incredible momentum over the last couple of years and have contributed to changes in pop culture, social activism, and users’ lifestyles. But TikTok hasn't always been so influential. The app has been witness to numerous dance trends, cult recipes, and celebrity drama. But when did it become the monumental influence we know it as now? At its conception, TikTok was about music. TikTok was created from the ashes of what was once Musical.ly, a social media app used to share short lip–sync videos. A Chinese tech company, ByteDance, acquired Musical.ly in 2018 and merged it with Douyin, an app also used for lip–syncing, to create what is now known as TikTok, which now boasts over 1 billion active users per month. Going back to its roots, TikTok was made to share lip–syncing videos, which are still popular. But the app took that purpose to the next level, as users shared short videos of themselves dancing, and when thousands of people learned a series of body movements and shared it on the app, it became a trend that was recycled over and over. Some of the most emblematic dance trends that have definitely graced your For You page include the 'Renegade,' created by Jalaiah Harmon but made viral on the app after then–15–year–old TikTok sweetheart Charli D’Amelio shared her own rendition. Another dance trend sensation includes the one made to Doja Cat’s song “Say So” by teen Haley Sharpe (known as @ yodelinghaley on TikTok), who was even featured in the artist’s official music video performing her viral dance. Then, it became a massive source of income. Not only did people gain fame from their viral videos—they often earned money, too. TikTok introduced its Creator Fund Program in July 2020 where TikTokers, if qualified, could earn money based on their number of views and engagement with their videos. But the Creator Fund is only the tip of the iceberg for many creators. TikTokers with large followings have the chance to be sponsored by brands both big and small. TikTok paralleled Instagram and YouTube when the app became more than just a content–creating platform but, for some lucky TikTokers, also a day job that makes a lot
more money than most other jobs. Addison Easterling (known as Addison Rae) earns an estimated $5 million a year, two–thirds of which comes from merchandise and sponsorships from brands such as Reebok and American Eagle. We don’t give it enough credit for changing marketing. Businesses always follow where their customers are going online. But when big name brands such as Chipotle, Hulu, and L’Oreal participate on the app and actually boost sales by doing so, it shows the massive effect TikTok has had on the marketing strategies in the age of social media. For brands, TikTok became a platform for customer engagement, which has served as a new form of advertising. Chipotle launched the “Chipotle Royalty” contest asking their fans to submit TikToks about why their custom Chipotle order is the best. Many challenge entries, vying for the $10,000 grand prize, went viral and appeared on people’s For You Pages to advertise Chipotle’s online ordering app. For Chipotle, this social media challenge was more effective than many other forms of advertising. But TikTok didn't only serve as a platform for large brands. Small businesses found the app to be an effective way to reach larger groups of people internationally and boost their sales. Small business owners were able to engage with potential customers and share their production process. When everyone was stuck at home, TikTok connected people. As COVID–19 spread and governments mandated isolation and social distancing, people turned to other forms of entertainment at home. Some turned to Netflix and Disney+, but many people decided it was time to hop on the TikTok bandwagon. When everyone was sitting at home, it made sense for the entertainment app to have a massive boost in downloads. But TikTok became a lot more than just a relief from boredom at home. It gave all of us in isolation a medium to connect with others. TikTok is shaped to be engaging. Whether it’s through a simple like, comment, duet, or share to your group chat, the app encourages users to interact with the rest of the community. By creating and watching TikTok videos, people were
able to peek into the lives of others while in isolation. Whether it was people's daily routines or their recipes for banana bread and whipped coffee, TikTok videos provided people with a needed distraction through the unprecedented changes in their lives. And it made quarantine a lot more bearable for all of us. From Quarantine Trends to Political Revolution and #BlackLivesMatter It started in May 2020, when Black activists used their platforms to speak out about the injustices against the Black community and raise awareness. Activism surged following the police killing of George Floyd and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement. TikTok became a center for political activism and a source of news and education, with people also voicing their thoughts on the issue through the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. The accessibility of the app made it the central platform for people to organize and share first–hand footage of protests that news channels neglected to show. But for Gen Z, the political activism didn’t stop at raising awareness and going to protests. Donald Trump, as part of his unsuccessful reelection campaign, scheduled an indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla. in June 2020. That decision was not well received on TikTok, where hundreds of Gen Z TikTokers and K–Pop fans collaborated to register for the Tulsa rally, giving the Trump team a false impression of the number of people planning to attend. Despite their age, Gen Z successfully flopped the former president’s rally with the use of a social media app, and they did it so well that Trump even attempted to ban the app in the United States. Though TikTok opens its doors to people of all political views, it has contributed extensively to the growth of political progressiveness in young people. But TikTok is still, and will continue to be, a source of entertainment. The beautiful thing about TikTok is that, despite its vast size, it still allows users’ experiences to be nuanced. The numerous subcultures of TikTok, from ‘SkinTok’ to ‘BookTok’ to D’Amelio–sisters–dancing–Tok, the app personalizes everyone’s experience and keeps us scrolling. Whether you are on the app to live vicariously through others, develop a new aesthetic, or see some dark humor, TikTok has become an important source of entertainment for its users and is changing pop culture and politics while doing so. F E B RUA RY 2 5 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E 21
UNDER THE BUTTON
JOBLESS SENIOR DISCOVERS SELLING OUT IS
Actually y Hard S "Why did no one tell me?" she groaned. AMJAD HAMZA
Photo by COD Newsroom / CC BY 2.0
oon-to-be unemployed senior Jessica Robertson is coming to grips with an uncomfortable fact: Being principled is hard, but getting a nice job at the cost of her soul is also pretty darn hard. “Why did no one tell me?” she groaned. Robertson isn’t a total saint, but she had always tried to do the right thing. You know, separating out plastic waste, saying, “Gosh that sucks” when reading about the internment of Uighurs in China, and reminding herself that investment banks are bad. Many of her friends are moving to New York to work for Goldfish Snacks or whatever, and she accepted their life choices but, deep down, felt they were taking the easy way out. “But then someone said they had to get through like seven
interviews and do math? Isn’t the whole point of selling out that it’s chill? I’m so confused. Why would anyone do this?” Robertson asked. Poor silly Robertson thought she could always pivot to selling out later in her Penn career, but as she approaches graduation, she sees that she may have run out of time. “Apparently these soul suckers recruit kids halfway through sophomore year.” With a cushy, morally dubious job out of reach, Robertson is left wondering what to do with her half-formed, unpursued principles. “I guess grad school and Twitter it is.” It’s no easy thing toeing the line between sainthood and selling out, so we at Under the Button wish Jessica well in her efforts to be both useful to the world and not poor.
NICKI MINAJ MAKES UNPRECEDENTED $100 MILLION DONATION TO CAPS Minaj has not commented personally on the donation, but insiders say Nicki was worried about a few fans — known to the community as Barbz — who expressed their struggles with Penn's psychological services. SAMMY GORDON
n a philanthropic move that has shocked the world of higher education, famed rap legend and cultural icon Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty, better known by her stage name Nicki Minaj, has pledged to donate $100 million to Penn's Counseling and Psychological Services. Following the donation, which is just a small portion of Ms. Minaj's massive personal fortune, CAPS will be renamed to the Nicki Minaj Center for Mental Wellness. Minaj has not commented personally on the donation, but insiders say Minaj was worried about a few fans — known to the community as Barbz — who expressed their struggles with Penn's psychological services. 2 2 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E F E B RUA RY 2 5 , 2 0 21
Minaj's donation will also allow for CAPS to give out 10 scholarships a year to particularly mentally ill and high-achieving students. This scholarship will be called the Nicki Minaj Monster Brain Baddie Fund. Nicki Minaj is one of the most outspoken advocates of secondary education in the entire Western world. It is estimated that her fans make up 78% of all college students in the United States. She has personally mentored 15 out of the last 17 Rhodes scholars, including current Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. Some speculate that Minaj is gunning for Amy Gutmann's job, though Minaj has yet to back up these claims.
Photo by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity Photographer / CC BY-SA 2.0
UNDER THE BUTTON
Not Funny Anymore AFTER CAPS THERAPY SESSION
Photo by Liwa Sun / The Daily Pennsylvanian
Especially in these unprecedented times, CAPS is more committed than ever to creating a safe and caring environment for Penn’s diverse student body. | LIWA SUN
n a story developing out of University City, Under the Button staff writer Sharon Brad-Grassley (C ’22) emerged out of her remote Counseling and Psychological Services therapy session completely unfunny. CAPS at the University of Pennsylvania has been providing extraordinary mental health support for students and community members alike. Especially in these unprecedented times, CAPS is more committed than ever to creating a safe and caring environment for Penn’s diverse student body. Brad-Grassley, a pre-med junior who is on the executive board of over 10 clubs on top of being a staff writer at UTB, is reaching a breaking point, a source close to Brad-Grassley claims. Last Tuesday, after a three-hour lab, Brad-Grassley logged into BlueJeans to join
the CAPS therapy session she had scheduled two years ago. After precisely 45 minutes and not one minute more, Brad-Grassley emerged from her bedroom and reported to her housemate, “I am cured.” Brad-Grassley proceeded to complete all of her assignments, labs, club responsibilities, graduation requirements, and even her medical school residency. She then started to write her weekly UTB article but realized that she was unable to come up with anything remotely funny. “It’s almost like being cured of mental illnesses makes you unfunny or something. How am I supposed to joke about being cripplingly depressed, and being pre-med, and Penn’s cutthroat environment anymore?” wondered Sharon Brad-Grassley, M.D.
Wharton Latino Elects Its First Ever
"My great grandfather was Italian, and I absolutely LOVE going to Latin BBQ every year. It's one of my favorite Penn traditions," stated White. | KEVIN ZENO
am, like, so excited to be serving this population!” exclaimed Karen White, a junior in the Huntsman program, after being elected as the new president of Wharton Latino. White makes history as the first Italian ever to lead the organization! During elections, one of the most pressing issues was representation. Wharton Latino was “established with the purpose of promoting and bringing together the Latino community within the University of Pennsylvania.” Its constituents represent
many different countries in South America, and even some countries in the Caribbean. This is exactly what made Karen White the perfect candidate, especially during this unprecedented time when COVID-19 has glaringly highlighted the racial and socioeconomic disparities of the United States. White noticed a lack of Italian representation in the organization and felt inclined to create change by bringing diversity to the group. When asked about her qualifications for the role, Karen pointed to
her commitment to Italian and Latino culture. “My great-grandfather was Italian, and I absolutely LOVE going to Latin BBQ every year. It’s one of my favorite Penn traditions,” stated White. Additionally, she explained that she knew she would be a competitive and appealing candidate among the other nominees as a white woman from New York. “It’s like affirmative action,” she giggled. Not only does Karen bring Italian representation to the Latino group, she also technically comes from a middle-class background! Through-
out high school, White recalls having to take the MTA a couple of times instead of ordering an Uber. Because of this, she hopes to make the club more accessible to students who unfortunately were not born into rich families in Latin America. White has many ambitious initiatives she wants to tackle in her new role, including reduced ticket prices to Latin BBQ for students who know what FAFSA is and hopefully moving La Casa Latina out of the ARCH basement, although that is not the first thing on her list of priorities.
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