MUSIC THEATRE DANCE
Jonnell Burke Talks
WGA / SAG-AFTRA Strike
The television writer sits down to talk about her career, her inspirations, and the WGA strike.
Reviews from Abroad
A gallery of Street's summer exploits
Where's the Break in Summer Break?
Long gone are the summers of sunshine and sunscreen. Enter the Internship.
West Philly Meets Foodtok
Your next favorite Philly TikTok chef only owns one cookbook.
Dance Dance Revolution
How a dance party became the beating heart of Philadelphia’s latest protest against fascism.
The Write Side of the Picket Line
"Baraye" is the Sound of Freedom
Music is uplifting the voice of Iranians fighting for equality and justice.
Thrift Pop-Ups: Pockets of Community in Bustling Manila
Manila's developing thrifting scene is creating a new culture for younger generations, if you know where to look.
ON THE COVERPictured: Ed the criminal, so to speak. By Collin Wang
season closing in, I was faced with a choice: become a scab, or embrace my union girl summer.
My face keeps breaking out from a combo of soot and sweat, and I’ve got these lingering headaches from a summer cold I keep insisting wasn’t COVID. My body feels like it traveled the world in a cargo plane.
To be clear, by abroad I do mean New York City, and not even the kind of NYC summer spent in a roach–infested studio apartment or the homes of distant relatives with perpetually understocked pantries; no, I shared the cushy accommodations of my dad, stepmom, and their dog (who also happens to be the canine love of my life). But hey, at least it was Brooklyn. That’s, like, practically a different country.
But location doesn’t really hold much bearing on the abroad–ness of it all, if you ask me. To be “abroad” is a state of mind, a rarified plane of existence that’s all about freedom. Specifically, freedom from the permanence of your bad choices. Penn’s campus—any college campus, really—is a rumor mill, and part of that is a protective measure. How else are we to know which frats are creepy or racist and should be avoided like the plague?
This poses a problem, though, for those of us who want to sleep with someone and truly never have to worry about seeing them again; who want to be able to get blackout without appearing on somebody’s Instagram story or, god forbid, The Roundup (R.I.P.) the next morning. Abroad is that magical place where you can ratchet down your Rice Purity Index without letting it define you.
So, let’s take a tally. I’m not going to absolutely expose myself here, but there are a few details that are so juicy I just have to share them with all of you, like the man I hooked up with who, mere moments prior, was dressed in head–to–toe leopard print. And get this, he played in the backing band of the same drag queen as another guy I’d seen earlier in the summer. I can now definitively say that musicians love me.
Not to say this was some kind of ecstatic,
Aquarian bacchanal. The good sex was … fine and the bad was bad in ways I’m not going to get into here, except to say thank you to my friends who helped me through it. The point is that it happened, and now I’m a different person because of it. One might say abroad changed me.
Of course, not everyone at Street spent the summer entangled in their personal slut eras. Most of my time went to an internship at The FADER (obligatory plug), while other writers and editors were busy with their own career advancement, traveling, or just spending quality time with their families across the U.S. and beyond. Shoutout especially to Norah Rami and Catherine Sorrentino for steering this ship in my stead.
Think of this issue as a journal of those most formative months. The stories span from union strikes in our Western Pennsylvania backyard to protests in Iran and thrift markets in Manila, but they all prove that abroad doesn’t really change you; it just gives you the space to change yourself.
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Back from abroad, and I'm exhausted.
Return of The Prodigal Artist
Rediscovering myself in the arts community of my hometownBY NORAH RAMI Illustration by Insia Haque
Iwas walking through pouring rain when Bean called to see if I wanted to work with him this summer. I had promised my mom that I would come home, a prospect I wasn’t entirely excited about—it would mean reinstated curfews and the self–imposed house arrest of the 110 Texas heat. Bean had been a mentor for me throughout high school, and when he first offered me the job, I was tentative. In many ways it felt like a step backwards: I’d be working with a local non–profit to help coach a youth slam poetry team, a program I’d been a part of all throughout high school. When I went to college I wanted nothing more than to move forward, to leave behind everything I once was as a teenager in Sugar Land and re–emerge a metamorphosed girl. But here I was back again after my first year, in the same lifeless town, in the same small life.
My plans to spend summer on a beach studying primates were dashed when, by the middle of second semester, my mom insisted that I come back for the summer because she “was worried about me.” For good reason, too. On paper, everything seemed fine, but in the way only my mother could recognize, I was falling apart. I silently sobbed for no known reason in front of a friend at McClelland. I nearly transferred to Engineering. I had no clue who I was or what I was supposed to be. Part of that came from existential doom of the forthcoming “real world,” of an idealist suddenly coming to terms with the rat race. I met people my first week at Penn who were born to be dentists and actuaries at heart. My first week of school, someone laughed as they noted, “There’s no point in passions that can’t make money.” Those were basically all my passions.
That had never bothered me before. I had spent my high school years so deeply in love with passion, that I had never considered what came next. It was through the aforementioned nonprofit that my passion for poetry was nurtured. I had auditioned and joined their slam poetry team my first year of high school, and it became my second home. Every summer, I would spend most of my days at the repurposed house that had become their office. Through that community, I made some of my first real friends from all across Houston with experiences unlike mine in so many ways, yet all the same. It was with my team that I learned about colonialism, attended my first ballroom show, failed miserably at a cipher, and discovered that I was lactose intolerant.
Now as I returned, I found myself slowly reintegrated with a community that chose passions over anything else. I shot the breeze with Brandon Leake, discussed the nuances of the gig economy, and spent my evenings with people who had found something they loved and held on to it, despite living in a state that was making it harder by the day, cutting funding to programs like ours, and limiting space for children to speak out.
I looked forward to my 30–minute com-
mute to the city in the evenings, a journey that would inevitably stretch out to an hour on days with the worst of Houston construction. I found myself back in a place where, at every event or open mic, I was greeted by a hug. I spent evenings editing with a mouth full of rice crackers, emceeing slams with jokes that never quite hit, and coming home at 11 p.m. because I was at “work late” (which really meant I was at a bar for an open mic). This community had once made me who I was, even if I had forgotten. And now it was building me back up.
This was the opposite of how I intended to spend my summer—the same way I had spent it since I was 14. But, in another way, it was all new. I wasn’t spitting in the mic, I was setting up the sound system. Instead of writing the poems, I was editing them as the kids asked for help. We had moved to a new
location, abandoning what I nicknamed the “asbestos” room after it had been condemned. I guess I had changed, too.
Yet here I was mentoring these kids as much as myself. Telling them to follow their passions even as I freshly emerged from the Penn storm that nearly made me a computer science major. Reminding them never stop writing, but answering the question of a new poem of my own with an “it’s complicated.” Once, Bean asked if I was still going to write that children’s novel I had been talking about since I started high school. I had forgotten about that.
I found it in my closet. A series of spiral notebooks that I had poured heart and soul into, then forgot I had hid my heart there, 19 and 15 and 70 and ten all in one. It’s hard to hold on when you don’t remember where you came from. k
Where's the Break in Summer Break?BY YEEUN YO,MEHREEN SYED,AND ENNE KIM
Growing up, summers consisted of going to the playground every evening, reading at my dining room table as my parents grilled barbecue chicken in the backyard, and playing with Legos in my living room while Good Luck Charlie played in the background. But summer has changed. College marks an end to our childhood, and our perceptions of summer shift with it. Rather than being a season for leisure and family time, summer is now a period where productivity and building our resumes takes ultimate priority—internships, research opportunities, career preparation, academic obligations, financial responsibilities. Gone are the memories of relaxation and play, replaced with professional development and productivity.
But what exactly is a productive summer?
For Penn students, it often means an internship. Once you’re inside the “Penn Bubble,” your world starts to revolve more andIllustration by Heaven Cross
more around a need for work and looking presentable to employers rather than developing individual passions. Any time spent for yourself is seen as a waste.
Extreme stress is placed on students to land a coveted internship, and not doing so exacerbates feelings of failure—failure to live up to the standards expected of us as Penn students. Scrolling through LinkedIn alone perpetuates this feeling as we constantly compare ourselves to our peers who rabidly post about their pre–professional summer plans. It’s easy to begin questioning our personal accomplishments and feel undeserving of past achievements in a comparison game with other high–achieving students who have “prestigious” internships—whatever that means.
Take Saanvi Agarwal (C ‘26), who spent this summer interning with an Australian–based consulting group through Penn’s Global Research and Internship Program (the infamous GRIP).
“Not having an internship at all would have definitely made me feel so worried because of personal comparisons,” Agarwal says. “A month before the school year ended, I was having a conversation with someone who called GRIP a ‘rip off,’ and I remember feeling almost ashamed that it wouldn’t look good on my resume.”
Internships are one way to overcome imposter syndrome and create a sense of validation. They provide career development opportunities, an extended network, and maybe even a return offer. But while internships can be a valuable learning experience, they are not a substitute for personal fulfillment.
Internship culture ties directly into hustle culture, as they both reinforce the idea that having a career and having time set aside for yourself are mutually exclusive. Interns are expected to prioritize their work over family, friends, and even themselves, like many of the corporate jobs that Penn students often hope
Long gone are the summers of sunshine and sunscreen. Enter the Internship.
to land after graduation. Regardless of how meaningless internship tasks are, they are viewed as more important than doing something meaningful for yourself. They might give students hands–on skills, but they also perpetuate a work–centric mentality.
Of course, not all internships are the same— but the ones that Penn students are typically encouraged to pursue require us to sacrifice the leisure time that once defined our summers. Instead, we must become the determined and ambitious intern.
As the line between work and one's personal life becomes even more blurred, interns are expected to juggle multiple responsibilities and unconditionally sacrifice their time. Establishing boundaries to keep yourself sane becomes incredibly difficult. You also become caught in what feels like a limbo period: As a mere intern, you aren't yet a company member and don't rely on this gig for a living, but you're also expected to dedicate yourself like a full–time employee and push back on friendships, hobbies, and making summer memories.
The intern experience involves pursuing long hours in high–pressure environments while desperately trying to outperform our peers. We’re encouraged to add new accomplishments to our resumes rather than take some time to wind down. The Penn pressure to always be productive leads us to ignore our mental health and put all our efforts into finding the best position in the corporate world.
In order to validate our self–worth, we seek resume–boosting opportunities, choking a Word doc with stretched margins and size nine font full of consulting clubs, case competitions, research, and finally a Goldman Sachs Summer Analyst position, all in the hopes of feeling that we have done enough. This becomes anxiety–inducing to the point where students feel the need to make every moment of their lives productive or fixated around the corporate world.
College summers often feel like an unfair exchange. We sacrifice precious moments with family and friends—the bloom of our youth—only to fill out Excel sheets, take meeting notes, and grab coffee for executives. It feels unfulfilling, but these intern-
ships are supposed to be a step toward the supposed career of our dreams. So we tell ourselves that the sacrifices are worth it; that one day we, too, will be able to order an intern of our own to grab coffee. We trade our summer dreams in the hopes that we’ll end up with a dream job.
Coming to terms with this hard truth means learning to define success on our own. For some, an internship is still exactly that. But for others, success could mean going abroad or even having a summer free of having to work for others. Spending two hours to learn a new song on the guitar is probably far more fulfilling than spending two hours on a PowerPoint for a new project that won’t ever get off the ground.
Instead of focusing on external accomplishments and definitions of productivity, we need to create a more multifaceted definition of success. There’s no one–size–fits–all summer. We must self–reflect on our personal goals to create a truly authentic summer for ourselves.
My dream summer is quite simple: A summer of healing. It would be a summer catching up on my ever–growing TBR list, a summer of nagging my sister, a summer of staying up until 4 a.m. only to sleep in until 3 p.m. My dream summer has no rules. My dream summer is being back with my family in Korea: eating street food with my aunt, car–tripping around the countryside with my grandma, and feeling the sticky summer breeze as I explore Jongno–gu. It feels silly and weirdly nostalgic, because it is. My dream summer is a time travel back to my youth. When hanging out with your cousins was a priority on Google Calendar, when eating cheap pizza with your friends at a sleepover was the most riveting highlight of the weekend, when playing outside until sunset was a daily routine. My dream summer is taking myself back to those poignant moments of innocence and youthful bliss. But my dream summer is also a deliberate act for myself—doing things for myself because it makes me happy. A summer to grow, let go, and love. A summer love letter to me.
A dream summer for me would be a time for self–discovery and adventure. I would spend countless hours at a the Smithsonian Museum or deeply explore the walls of an art gallery with my friends. We'll talk about pieces from the past and present and explore the stories that shape us. I would go on picnics with my family as I lay on the cool blanket in the hot summer air with the aroma of food flowing around us. Later, I'd curl up in my room with my windows wide open as a refreshing breeze blows in while I read everything that I’ve been meaning to all year long. With each turn of a page, I’ll delve into a new world and get lost in the emotions and adventures these books have to offer. I would retreat to the warmth of my kitchen at night and bake chocolate chip cookies and blueberry muffins with my little brother as our house fills with laughter. My dream summer would leave me with hundreds of cherished memories with my family and friends that would later spontaneously pop up into my mind when least expected.
In an ideal world, I’m sure no one dreams of interning inside a corporate office for the usual eight to ten weeks—nine hours a day, five days a week—during the rare opportunity of the summer season. I know I wouldn’t—and why would I, when I have the chance to drive to the beach in three hours and cover myself and my younger brothers in sand castles and ice cream for the rest of the night? When I can go on late night drives with my friends, talking through the same types of mundane histories and stories that always become ten times more exciting at 10 p.m. while sitting in the parking lot of our hometown's only Target. When I can stay up laughing with my grandma as she fries some syrupy hotteok, sprinkling some white sugar over the crispy pancakes while we disseminate another type of history, another type of story. To have this ability to continue creating intentional and unintentional joy—for myself and for these people I love—during the most beautiful season of the year should not be taken for granted. k
Underpaid and Overworked: Internship Culture Dissected
Nomatter how shiny high–paying summer internships may look on our resumes or LinkedIn profiles, the reality of many of these jobs is less dazzling. But it isn't just the endless hours of Excel weighing us down. Unpaid internships continue to prevail in the United States, with over 40% of internships not being paid. This unsettling statistic is only another scheme of corporate America (again) reaffirming its capitalist agenda. This time, exploiting a pool of young workers—many of them college students—who may be stepping into the industry for the first time.
At Penn, paid or unpaid, summer internships are the general expectation. The expectation to have a “productive” summer—no matter how burnt out we are. Because of this suffocating pressure of pre–professionalism, our summer line–up feels limited. Instead of a much needed rest from an exhausting semester, we are instead always onto the next: constantly moving, running, hustling with no breaks. This has all become normalized as part of the Penn student experience. Therefore, unpaid internships are inextricably part of a “Penn summer expectation.” Penn advertises these realities with the Global Research Internship Program (GRIP), where many of these students substitute the “abroad experience” for their unpaid labor. Some of these interns may receive a stipend to pay for living expenses, but this again reinforces how this opportunity is not attainable or realistic for all students.
When internships are unpaid, the playingBY YEEUN YO,MEHREEN SYED,AND ENNE KIM Illustration by Katrina Itona
field becomes much smaller. Essentially, only those who have money and privilege can afford to give their time for the “experience.” Only those who are not pressured or bogged down by living expenses can manage paying rent in places like NYC with no source of income. Only those who have the privilege can afford life’s luxuries while boasting these unpaid internship titles. And the ones who so happen to attain such luxuries are the white, cis men who make up the majority of such internships. For low–income students, these unpaid internships are unfathomable possibilities. The abusive, hyper–exploitative wheels of capitalism spins once more, again perpetuating a cycle of inequity in America. When these opportunities are only accessible by wealthy white people, they only further America's wealth gap. Capitalism not only ostracizes and excludes, but also repackages itself to appear innocent to students who are desperate for a summer internship.
Because of this pressure from both Penn and corporate America, it is so easy to be manipulated by glittery internship titles. Despite our physical and emotional labor and time, we are told that we are given “an experience” of the real world and an “opportunity” to get to know a company’s culture and work environment. We are
tied into these parasitic relationships in the hopes of attaining skills and benefits that can expand our knowledge base and build further connections. This bait machine orchestrated by capitalism continues to trick us to fetishize these unpaid internships—for the mere desire to have something listed on our LinkedIn profiles.
In America, these internships are almost an essential component for any student to attain a white–collar job. This is especially true for job vocations in journalism or politics, where these internships are key qualifications and networking opportunities to even be playing in these competitive fields.
But the struggle to survive under capitalism is a struggle for all waged and unwaged workers, the paid and unpaid interns. It is a struggle for Penn students as we navigate our own internalized burden of forced productivity. And it is a struggle as we question our own intentions of what we choose to do in our lives in order to forge meaning beyond money, prioritize healing over hustle, and to resist instead of relent.
It is true that Penn is not solely responsible for this competitive culture. It is also fueled and sustained by industries in order to trap students in a harmful cycle. A cycle that deludes, deceives, and does not compensate. k
When desperation for an internship turns into systemic exploitation.
West Philly Meets FoodTok
Your next favorite Philly TikTok chef only owns one cookbook.BY KATE RATNER Graphic by Insia Haque
Noah Tanen eats, sleeps, and breathes food. But, it hasn’t always been this way. It wasn’t until his twenties that Noah realized his greatest passion lives in his kitchen.
Despite the recent rain, Noah spent his routine Saturday stocking up at the Clark Park Farmers' Market, a West Philadelphia staple. Noah’s loyalty to the vendors at Clark Park is apparent; he contends that the more popular Rittenhouse Farmers' Market just isn’t quite the same.
A native of Rutland, Vermont, Noah found himself in West Philly after graduating from Temple University in 2019. “The reason I came to Philadelphia in the first place was because it’s so different from [Rutland],” he says. Even though he’s only spent a few years living here, Noah holds a true Philadelphian’s love for the city.
When he started school at Temple, Noah had no interest in cooking. “I didn't grow up really cooking or caring about food in any significant way,” he says. At first, he dreamed of pursuing a career in the music industry as a recording engineer. He spent his college years interning at recording studios and working at venues around the city.
After struggling to find studio work, Noah turned to the old reliable restaurant industry. He applied to what he thought would be "easy jobs:" fry cooks, pastry chefs, and prep cooks. Two days into working as a fry cook at Federal Donuts, Noah was hired as a pastry chef at Zahav. What started as a “bit” turned into Noah’s first “honest–to–god restaurant job,” spending fifty hours a week in the kitchen. Soon, he switched to working exclusively as a pastry chef at K’Far.
At the start of the pandemic in March of 2020, Noah was laid off from K’Far. In the meantime, what started as on–call work as a food stylist at the televised shopping channel QVC turned into a full–time job. “Food styling was considered an essential business [at the time],” he says with a laugh. Food lovers who had perfected the art of making a plate look photo–ready were suddenly frontline workers.
While working a full–time job that offered far less demanding hours, Noah began to cook and never stopped. “I was still cook-
ing at work, but I was able to take all of this energy that had been going into executing a service every night [at Zahav] or baking at K’Far and put it into cooking all the time,” he says. “I think there was a two–year stretch, throughout 2020 and 2021, where I was always cooking. If I wasn’t actively cooking, there was some kind of project, like fermentation or a bread dough, in the works.”
All the while, Noah isn’t a fan of cook-
came too big to contain in his kitchen, Noah turned to TikTok. Two years later, Noah has amassed over 80,000 followers on TikTok and uploaded hundreds of videos, chronicling his recipes, trips to local restaurants, and everything in between.
In the last few months, Noah broke the digital barrier between himself and his followers. He began hosting pop–up events in collaboration with local Philadelphia restaurants. Most recently, he cheffed up smoked whitefish malawah at Alif Brew and Mini Mart on 45th and Baltimore, and a Utica, New York–themed restaurant dinner party in Brooklyn. Pop–ups give Noah the opportunity to experiment with new recipes and share them with his community.
Noah’s first pop–up came to life after a spell of New England nostalgia. He had a hankering for fried clam rolls and didn’t rest until he found a way to bring his hometown’s delicacy to Philly. The recipe required soft shell Ipswich clams, only accessible by bulk wholesale shipment from Massachusetts. On a Sunday afternoon, Noah spent the day at The Lunar Inn in Port Richmond, sharing his abundance of soft shell Ipswich clams with the community.
When Noah was uncertain of the future and lacking inspiration, Philly welcomed him with open arms and led him to the kitchen. He worships the West Philly block of 45th and Walnut, a hub for some of the best international cuisine in the city. “Abyssinia is so good … maybe my favorite restaurant on the planet,” Noah says. He also recommends his tried and true Alif, Ice Cave just a few doors down, Mish Mish in Passyunk, and Tom’s Dim Sum in Chinatown.
books. The only one he owns is English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David. “That’s the only one that ever really spoke to me,” he says. Much of Noah’s recipe inspiration comes from his community. “I love eating as much as I love cooking,” he tells me, as he explains his method of tasting a dish at a restaurant and working the recipe backward at home.
When his excitement for cooking be-
Noah’s explanation for staying in Philly post–grad is short and sweet: “It’s such a beyond special place,” he says. “There’s so much depth to it … and there are so many ways to be a Philadelphian.” We agreed that if and when we choose to leave Philly and get to know a different city, we will always yearn for its one–of–a–kind culture and charm.
At the core of his unexpected TikTok fame, Noah Tanen has a few simple pleasures in life: a Lucy Dacus jam session in his kitchen, the comfort of home, and a super awesome grilled cheese sandwich. k
I think there was a two–year stretch, throughout 2020 and 2021, where I was always cooking. If I wasn’t actively cooking, there was some kind of project, like fermentation or a bread dough, in the works.
Jonnell Burke is Only Asking for What She’s Already Due
I’m certainly not cutting open brains today, I’ll tell you that,” Jonnell Burke (C’18) laughs over our Zoom call in early August, almost 100 days into the WGA strike. But her cog–neuro degree is, oddly enough, where she first got interested in entertainment. She tells me that one of her professors encouraged her to take classes that were “all the different building blocks of how your brain works,” like philosophy, logic, and anything else that helped Burke become “a more holistic person.”
Burke “always had this dream of writing,” though, and decided in her senior year to travel to Ireland. “I wanted to get it out of my system before I went on and did something serious,” Burke tells me, still laughing. “And I picked Ireland just because it rains there all the time.”
the support of Phil Lord (Spider–Man: Into the Spider–Verse).
But her happy tale of short film production couldn’t last forever. “It felt like the bubble was closing in on itself,” Burke tells me, of her time writing professionally for film and television. And that bubble did indeed burst. At the time of writing, the WGA has been on strike for over 100 days, longer than their last strike in 2007. SAG–AFTRA is on strike alongside their sister union, marking the first joint strike between actors and writers in about 80 years.
Burke hasn’t let it get her down, though. “One thing the strike has taught me, and taught a lot of us, I think, is: actually, you’re not in it alone,” she says, impassioned. “Actually, there’s been this squeezing that’s been happening at all levels of our industry.”
There certainly has been. Burke takes me through the working writer’s perspective on the ongoing strike and the issues inciting it. There is, predictably, a lot of talk about artificial inteliigence, but that certainly isn't the only problem discussed. It doesn’t make the problem any less career–threatening, to be sure; the danger of artificial intelligence infringement upon writers’ livelihoods is a relatively ubiquitous stressor. What isn’t getting enough attention, though, argues Burke, is the simple but overwhelming fact that the streaming model has irreparably changed the landscape of creative pay, and that “there’s no accountability” for the hidden streaming numbers behind a model that is changing “in perpetuity” with the only reason for its change being “so that creators don’t get any more money. If you can’t tell me the success of the change of the system, then why are we changing it?” Burke asks.BY ISAAC POLLACK
That vision of sitting in a misty cafe quickly turned into Burke’s first job in film—working on a local Irish news broadcast. “It was sort of just figuring it out as you go and realizing that you can, that you are capable, actually,” she says. And Burke is capable of a lot—she’s been a late–night writer, a staffer on an Adult Swim show, and has created her own short film with
Streaming services have been anything but upfront about their demographic metrics, and it’s practically a running joke on the internet at this point that Netflix will cancel their series one season in with reckless abandon.
Beyond model and residual changes, Burke talks about small–order seasons and content voids. “When Succession ended,
The television writer sits down to talk about her career, her inspirations, and the WGA strike
luckily something like The Bear picked up pretty quickly afterwards,” she explains. “But we were suddenly in a bit of a content hole.”
Burke’s comments echo some popular sentiments that the current streaming service model is simply a repackaging of cable for the Internet age. “Now,” Burke says, hands emphatic and voice impassioned, “it’s like, fill the hole with this! Fill the hole with unscripted stuff!” This is in reference to the current WGA/SAG–AFTRA strike, to be sure, as unscripted content is some of the only entertainment that is allowed to be created under strike rules. It explains the boom of reality TV in the late–aughts during/post–strike era that never really died down, which was the “content hole filler” following the 2007 WGA strike.
Burke says, “We can’t keep changing the model in perpetuity if the only reason we’re changing it is so that creators don’t get any more money. If you can’t tell me the success of the change of the system, then why are we still changing it? Why are we still doing that thing?”
The answer, of course, is profit, an end goal that comes at the expense not only of writers’ livelihoods but also at the expense of quality television. As someone who’s been increasingly frustrated of eight–episode seasons, I have to ask about season length and minirooms. “My favorite show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” I tell her, “so I’m a big fan of, you know, long seasons and filler episodes and—”
“Absolutely,” Burke jumps in, grinning. “Filler episodes. Musical episodes! I love—I need them. They’re so important to character development and side plots. There’s so much depth there. You wanna live there. And that’s the time that you get to spend living with these characters and loving these characters, and it’s a different relationship if you see someone for ten hours than if you see them every single week. I love The Nanny because [Fran Drescher] is my nanny, okay?”
And with shorter seasons, the length of employment for everyone involved in the process of show creation has been dramatically cut down. Burke talks about
Drescher’s comments on the subject, with Drescher having spoken about how, during the shooting of The Nanny, “everybody was on the gravy train.” “And for good reason!” Burke says. “All the different points of the production that make the production happen, if they can’t pay the bills, you’re crazy. They absolutely should get a piece of the pie and enough of the pie before we even think about what the guy in the suit has to say. Because he can’t say anything until we actually do the work.”
She has to pause to breathe. “I’m only asking for what I’m already due.”
It sometimes feels like an impossible field to work in. “Rooms get smaller and smaller, and the budgets for TV shows get smaller and smaller,” Burke laments. “That means that sometimes a creator who has an amazing idea and wants to bring it to life is given this impossible task of making something incredible with a fraction of the time that it would take to make it years ago. A fraction of the staff. The corners are cut everywhere. And then it goes up on these streaming platforms, and the success of it, or the lack of success of it? We don’t really even know. There’s no accountability.”
But Burke’s far from hopeless. She tells me about how one of the first things to draw her into the industry was internet content created by Black women, such as Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl and Quinta Brunson’s time at BuzzFeed. And while the success stories of Insecure and Abbott Elementary are beyond inspiring, Burke wonders “if there is at all an opportunity for [creators supporting their community] to be institutional?”
Part of her work now is focused on creating those systems of support so that other underrepresented voices can be heard, and other paths can be taken toward success. Burke herself got a chance to make a short film, which was her first time spearheading a production. “There’s so few things these days I’m scared of,” Burke tells me, smiling. “There’s so few. I think that I’m more prepared for the challenges that face us today because of this. And I’m glad to be fighting.” k
Rooms get smaller and smaller, and the budgets for TV shows get smaller and smaller. That means that sometimes a creator who has an amazing idea and wants to bring it to life is given this impossible task of making something incredible with a fraction of the time that it would take to make it years ago.
A College Student's Guide to the WGA and SAG Strikes
If you want to cross into Hollywood, you don't want to cross the picket line.BY ISAAC POLLOCK
You don’t tend to hear drivers honking their horns in LA. It’s just another example of the stereotypical laid–back nature of Southern California that my East Coast upbringing hadn't prepared me for while working there this summer. But I was easily guided to the picket lines by the sounds of supportive beeps flooding downtown Culver City on Friday, July 14, as I headed to the Sony and Culver Studios lots to march with the strikers.
SAG–AFTRA president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree–Ireland announced on July 13 that actors would be going on strike effective midnight that same night. This came after the WGA went on strike earlier this summer, marking the first time in 63 years that the two sister unions have been on strike simultaneously. With the exception of a few productions that have been granted waivers, Hollywood has ground to a halt. In her speech to the press, Drescher pointed to a refusal to restructure how actors get paid in the streaming era and the encroaching threat of artificial intelligence as some of the main reasons that went unresolved during negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Even before the strike was formally an-
nounced, there were rumbles that SAG–AFTRA was about to strike. Heading into negotiations, roughly 98% of union members had voted to authorize a strike. The cast of Oppenheimer even walked out of their own debut screening in support.
Now that the strike has been issued and its guidelines have been laid out, SAG members are barred from working on any projects that fall under their “unfriendly” list, with the exception of independent projects that receive a waiver from SAG allowing them to continue. Advertising for movies that have come out or are coming out is banned under the terms of the strike, which could include the Emmys, if the strike stretches on. And if you happen to be an influencer, you might want to check out SAG's guidelines surrounding influencer content relating to and/or promoting struck works.
Those who are not yet union–affiliated but hope to one day be part of the WGA or SAG–AFTRA should make sure that they’re not crossing the picket line. Both the WGA and SAG do not allow scabs, or people who undermine the strike, to become part of the guild (see the WGA’s strike rules for non–union members and SAG’s as well), and considering that the vast majority of writing and acting jobs in Hol-
lywood are union jobs, crossing the picket line now could mean blacklisting and unemployment in the future.
Be wary of job listings that may be trying to incentivize you with large sums of money to do so without truly understanding the gravity of such an act. If you’re unsure about whether the work you might do would cross the line or not, both the WGA and SAG recommend you email them and ask before taking action.
As such, all production in film and television is essentially shut down. New scripted entertainment development has grounded to a quick halt. As was the case with the 2008 and current WGA strike, unscripted and reality programming is sure to increase. Creatives can still work on projects that have obtained waivers from the WGA/SAG, truly independent projects, student projects, and a few other exceptions outlined for actors and writers (see the “Strike Rules” section). In the meantime, consumers can catch up on their backlog of shows and movies they’ve been meaning to get around to, as neither union has called for a boycott.
The reasons behind the strike echo those behind the WGA strike. Two of the main points in negotiations are, as was the case with the WGA, residuals and AI. Both issues fall under
the general umbrella of securing fair labor practices and fair payment for labor within the context of the advent of new media platforms and systems (such as the streaming model) as well as the growth of new technologies, such as AI. Crabtree–Ireland said at the press conference that the AMPTP wished to use AI to scan actors’ likenesses and use those likenesses in perpetuity without the actors’ consent for specific projects, and without receiving any pay above one day’s worth of pay for coming in and getting scanned. The AMPTP denies some aspects of this claim, but not the overall idea of wishing to scan background actors and using those scans instead of hiring real background actors.
Another incentive behind the strike is the current way that self–tape auditions are handled. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these at–home, self–taped auditions became the norm due to lockdowns. However, actors are now upset about being forced to make professional–grade audition tapes on their own time and on their own dollar. Additionally, being unable to connect with the casting director in the room feels frustrating. The actor's guild wants to regulate self–tape expectations, granting the actors more time and making them do less material.
Jeane Phan Wong, a WGA strike captain at the Culver Studios lot, says that with regard to the WGA, the motivation behind the strike boils down to wanting to get paid fairly for the work that they do. Or, to quote Drescher speaking for SAG–AFTRA, “We demand respect and to be honored for our contribution.”
“Sounds reasonable, right?” Wong asks, dryly undercutting Disney CEO Bob Iger’s claim that the unions’ demands are not realistic.
This is the second time in history that the WGA and SAG–AFTRA have been on strike together. The last time a joint strike occurred was in 1960. At the time, Ronald Reagan, who hadn’t yet shifted his politics into hardline conservatism, was the president of a SAG that voted overwhelmingly—though not as overwhelmingly as today—for a strike, with 83% of SAG members being pro–strike.
A lot of the reasoning behind and rhetoric around that strike is similar to the labor struggle of today. A point of contention during the
1960 negotiations was residuals, which continues to be a part of the WGA and SAG advocacy today. There had been no prior system in place to ensure that individuals involved in the production of a film would receive payments for reruns or rerelease of productions after their initial release. With the boom in popularity of television since 1948, the guild wanted a system in place that would allow them to get paid for televised screenings of movies from 1948 until forever. The guild ended up securing a deal for residuals for all projects from 1960 onward, which was a massive win for fair labor practices evolving alongside advancements in new media. The 1960 strike also led to the creation of a pension and welfare system for the guild, with the Actors’ Equity Association following suit and securing the same benefits in their strike a few months later.
This history is a shining example of the power of union solidarity, something that’s proudly at the forefront of the current joint WGA–SAG strike. Both in 1960 and today, there’s a lot of power in two of the prongs of the entertainment industry going on strike at the same time. Even if a backlog of writing exists, without actors to perform, no production can go forward. The joint strike showed back then and shows today the inextricable ties between all areas of production. It doesn’t hurt that actors, who are inherently much more front–facing than writers, are good poster children for the movement.
Union solidarity was one of the things I spent time discussing with a handful of people while marching outside the Sony and Culver Studios lots. I spent a while talking to a non–SAG woman who had done acting under Actors’ Equity and contributed to the production of a handful of film and TV projects. She had knit sweaters for Shameless. As an enthusiast of The Bear with zero crafting skills to speak of, I was an appropriate level of jealous.
“Are you a SAG member?” she asks me. And then, looking at the WGA–branded picket sign I was carrying, she amended (quite flatteringly, considering my age): “Or a WGA member?”
“I hope to be a WGA member one day,” I tell her. “What about you?”
“I’m neither. But I’m going to be SAG soon.” Yet another loud honk of support blares through the air, and she covers her ears as best
as she can while holding a picket sign in one hand and a bottle of water in the other.
“It’s good to see this kind of support,” she says, “but I kind of wish it wasn’t so loud.”
Support is a key factor in keeping the strike going. It was in 1960, and it is today. I asked Wong about the importance of non–union support, and she quickly responded with ways for how anyone can show their support, if they so wish. Boosting the unions’ online activity is a good way to support the strike for free. Additionally, there are a handful of funds to provide assistance to those on the picket lines, such as Entertainment Community Fund, individual union solidarity funds, the Democratic Socialists of America–LA snack fund, and more.
Even though A–list actors might be easy faces to attribute to the movement, the SAG strike affects the Waiter Number Threes and Library Patrons of the industry much more than it affects the Barbies and Destroyers of Worlds. And there are a lot more Library Patrons out there than stars.
Even outside of the NYC and LA picket lines, people are showing their support for the strike. Back in Philly, people are rallying in solidarity at LOVE Park, including Abbott Elementary stars Sheryl Lee Ralph and Lisa Ann Walter. In particular, I saw lots of young people on the ground and in pictures of picket lines across the country—unsurprising, considering how many young people are involved in or supportive of unionization efforts across all fields of work.
And support is strong and present within the community of those on the picket lines, even amid illegal strikebreaking efforts and comments from higher–ups about wanting guild members to lose their houses. I showed up alone at nine in the morning on a Monday with no union connections and no sign adorned with pithy protest slogans. And yet I was instantly taken in by the crowd, all of whom wanted to talk to me about the strike, about their hopes for the industry, or even just about LA weather.
“It’s evil,” I hear a 20–something–year–old say, carrying a sign that read, quite simply, “Eat a dick, AMPTP.” Just as succinctly, he summarizes: “We should just fucking get paid for the work we do.” k
LA All Day
Inside the homegrown, multigenerational culture of soccer fandom in the City of AngelsBY CALEB CRAIN
Late in the afternoon, July 4th, 2023, just northeast of downtown Los Angeles. In suburban Pasadena, over 80,000 people file into the Rose Bowl. The stadium was originally built over a century ago, and has hosted hundreds of events, including Super Bowls, College Football National Championships, and World Cup Finals.
But tonight, it was the venue for two teams much closer to home: the LA Galaxy and the Los Angeles Football Club, two Major League Soccer teams, meeting for the third time that season and playing with the entire city as witnesses.
This game was technically just a regular season league match—playoffs wouldn’t come until later in the fall. But so much more was on the line. This was not just any game. This
was the Los Angeles Derby. This was El Tráfico. This was a rivalry game, with bragging rights up for grabs, and potentially the soul of the city at stake. And what that meant, on a warm July evening in the City of Angels, although Los Angeles—and the whole country—had just been united in celebrating America, for the next 90 minutes, the city would be divided.
What sets soccer fandom apart from the other major sports in the United States is the presence of ultras: the club’s most die–hard fans organized into groups that are sometimes recognized by the team. The're very common in continental Europe and parts of South America, and have had a presence in MLS for years. Ultras groups provide passionate support above and beyond the level of an average fan, complete with drums, smoke, banners, and or-
Both LAFC and the Galaxy have numerous organized ultras groups. LAFC’s are mostly organized under the umbrella of the 3252, named after the number of seats in their home on the north end of BMO Stadium. The Galaxy have several groups as well, like Angel City Brigade and the LA Riot Squad.
In a way, both teams' fan bases—especially the ultras groups—highlight the differences between the two clubs. The Galaxy are much older, having played their first game at the Rose Bowl over 25 years ago. Their fan base grew more organically over time, with LA Riot Squad founded after the team lost in the MLS Cup in 2001. LAFC is newer, having only played its first matches in 2018. But what the club lacks in time to build traditions, it makes up for in effort and investment in the fans. The 3252 was announced before the club ever took the pitch.
“I think what LAFC has done well and you continue to see is that they focus on the fans,” Gio Garcia, who runs LA Soccer Hub—a podcast dedicated to the city’s professional soccer scene—says. “They built a really strong foundation with the fans and they really empowered their fans … and you see it when you go to games at BMO Stadium, you see how much pride and passion there is in just [a few] years of the actual club playing.”
From LAFC’s beginnings, the club was locked in a rivalry with the Galaxy. The conflict was cemented the first time the two teams played, in March of 2018. For decades, the Galaxy were the toast of MLS, and brought international talents like David Beckham and—importantly— Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish striker had signed for the Galaxy just a week before the two teams’ first meeting, and immediately made a splash by announcing his arrival with a full–page newspaper ad that simply read, “Dear Los Angeles, you’re welcome.” But in the first half of this inaugural Los Angeles Derby, LAFC was the one flexing its muscles, quickly jumping out to a 3-0 lead. But their advantage didn’t last; the Galaxy thundered back, scoring four straight goals—including two from Ibrahimovic—to eventually emerge victorious.
For Garcia, not only was that first contest an incredible soccer game, but it also did a great job of setting the stage for the ongoing rivalry. That game “had every single storyline that you would want in a rivalry,” he says. Garcia credits Ibrahimovic for fueling El Tráfico, calling him “a perfect dance partner for [LAFC star for-
ward] Carlos Vela, who is a little bit quieter.”
While Galaxy won that first matchup, it didn’t take LAFC long to seize momentum. The very next year—in 2019—they had the best regular–season record in MLS. It was during the 2019 season that according to Garcia, Galaxy fans began to acknowledge that LAFC was talented, and that they could actually be something. And last season, in a show of how far they’ve come, LAFC had the best regular–season record again and ended the season with their first–ever MLS Cup win.
The July 4 matchup was the third between the two clubs during the 2023 season. Earlier in the year, each team had won at the other’s stadium. But what made this clash different was the neutral site. Fans were split 50/50, and both teams were given an equal number of seats for their respective ultras groups.
“There haven’t been that many things at the Rose Bowl where you can get 82,000 fans at the stadium and get it packed like that,” Garcia says. “It goes to show that the MLS is obviously here to stay, but it also shows that this rivalry is only getting better and people want to see this rivalry … and I think that if it’s your first time experiencing [MLS], regardless of whether you know the sport or not, if people went to that game they got their money’s worth.”
Each teams’ ultras were given the sections behind each goal line, while the sidelines were officially designated neutral. In those ultras sections, people could not enter if they were wearing opposing team’s colors. To prevent some of the violence that had plagued supporters’ groups in Europe and elsewhere in MLS, extra security measures were taken. All drinks were poured into paper cups, and no metal cups were allowed into the stands. In front of each teams’ supporters section, there was a line of extra security guards.
In the hour leading up to the game, both supporters groups put on a show. LAFC’s fans proudly displayed their team scarves during the teams’ walkouts. But then, with about ten minutes left before kickoff, the Galaxy end unveiled their coup de grace: a giant tifo. These banners are common in Europe, and this one covered multiple sections. On it were written the words “ayer, hoy, siempre,” meaning “yesterday, today, forever” in Spanish. Alongside the words were some of the club's many trophies and club legends, showcasing the club’s legacy and history.
From kickoff, both teams’ fans began their
non–stop chanting and singing. With each goal, the fans shot off numerous smoke bombs and small fireworks. The Galaxy struck first, but LAFC tied the game 1-1 in the 57th minute. Then Galaxy star Ricqi Puig scored the winner in the 73rd minute, which emboldened Galaxy fans, especially after a potential LAFC goal was called off for offsides. Galaxy ultras set off numerous flares and smoke bombs, some of which wafted over the pitch before being removed by crowd control officers. As the final whistle approached and then sounded, braggadocious Galaxy fans waved the white towels they were provided upon entrance.
As the crowd filed out into the warm night— or settled back into their seats—to watch the pre–planned fireworks from their cars, there was a mix of emotions. Most Galaxy fans were upbeat, as this victory meant a fifth–straight game without a loss. But the LAFC supporters were more downtrodden, having just experienced another slip in a less–than–perfect title defense.
But post–game, all the fans, LAFC and Galaxy, joined together. They weren’t going to insult each other or chant for their teams. Instead, they sat side–by–side, in their seats and in the beds of pickup trucks in the parking lot, and looked to the sky to watch the fireworks, as one city, united. k
So much was on the line. This was not just any game. This was the LA Derby. This was El Tráfico. This was a rivalry game, with bragging rights up for grabs, and potentially the soul of the city at stake.
Dating Across Campuses and Time Zones
For a select few, dreams of college travel conjure images of cold daiquiris on white sand beaches or never–ending cobblestone streets in far away cities. Instead, for most of us, travel is meticulously budgeting Amtrak tickets, sampling unfamiliar dining hall fare, and cuddling up to watch a movie in an unfamiliar twin XL bed.
This is the reality for college students navigating the complexities of long distance relationships. Whether you’re annoyed by your roommate’s late night Facetime sessions with her high school sweetheart, or you’re the one constantly texting your long–distance significant other, it can feel like everyone is dealing with the trials of long distance love in college.
In fact, by the time college ends, a majority of people will have experienced a long–distance relationship, and at any given time, 37% of college students are in long–distance relationships. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering the myriad reasons young people might be long distance. There are the enduring high school couples who make it
work despite going to different schools, the online romances spanning state lines, and the couples who meet during college and are separated by study abroad programs and internship opportunities.
DaJuan Ferrell is a sociologist and lecturer for the Critical Writing Program at Penn whose work centers around how individuals encode information from their social realities to shape behavior. He teaches a popular writing seminar, "Love’s Labor: The Invention of Dating," which explores how society has conceptualized dating. As a researcher, he has an interest in the sociology of dating, and he says that with recent technology making communication easier, people may be more inclined to embark on a long–distance relationship.
“Video calls have become a powerful tool for people to communicate with long–distance partners, because they're not only able to talk to them—they're actually able to see their reactions, see their mannerisms, and build that connection through that visual cue that's so important for relationships,” saysBY ANNA O'NEILL–DIETEL Graphics by Wei-An Jin
Juggling long–distance romance and the challenges that come along with it as a college student
Ferrell. However, video calls don’t provide a complete understanding of how people move through the world: “You’re always seeing each other through a small square. You don't know how they interact with the world, how they interact with the people around them, how they move, even what they smell like.”
Dr. Ferrell also emphasizes that college long distance relationships are nothing new. He explains that during college, many young people leave home for school, forcing young lovers to communicate across distances. “The college student has actually often been associated with long–distance relationships,” he notes. “So though technology may create new opportunities [to connect], the trend in and of itself may not be as new as we think.”
He observes a recurring pattern among Penn students involved in long–distance relationships: a commitment to prioritizing their personal growth and their studies. “Students are using this time to focus on themselves. And they may have partners who are at other colleges or partners who are back home, but despite having those partners, they are not letting that be a barrier to their academic pursuits,” he says.
While many students embark on longdistance relationships in college, it is by no means easy. Just look at the statistics: long–distance relationships last an average of 2.86 years compared to proximal, or in–person, relationships lasting 7.25 years. Yet, despite the odds, thousands of students embrace long distance while at college. Even while navigating travel and virtual communication, students find several benefits within the situation.
Take Alice Stricker and Jacob Smollen, college students making long–distance love work. Their connection began about four years ago, when they were assigned to be partners in a Spanish class during their junior year of high school (Alice says it helped that one of the first units was on love and dating). Today, Alice attends George Washington University in Washington, D.C., while Jacob is at Brown University in Providence, R.I. For those who measure long distance by the numbers, that’s a sevenhour train ride or hour-and-a-half flight. The couple manages to see each other every three weeks, including school breaks when they’re together in their home town.
Alice and Jacob have found several benefits to long distance. When they visit each other, they get to play tourist in their own city, and experience a different college’s culture. Alice’s trips to Brown are filled with bike rides and ice skating. For Jacob, visiting Alice in D.C. means exploring a larger city than Providence, sampling the many D.C. museums and enjoying a different social scene.
Doing long distance while in college also means that they’ve established vibrant social lives independent of their partner—which they both emphasize is a good thing. “I feel like if we were on the same campus freshman year, it could have been bad, because we were pretty attached, especially because our friend groups overlapped. When you're starting off in a new environment you're trying to make friends,” says Alice.
They both emphasize that long distance has had its challenges, but for both Alice and Jacob, their relationship has fostered a sense of independence, enabling them to develop a healthy balance between academics, friends, and their relationship.
Contrary to popular belief, long–distance relationships are not inevitably doomed. “A long–distance relationship can have many positive aspects to it,” says Ferrell. “People can successfully navigate long–distance relationships and feel very fulfilled and happy in them. Long distance doesn't equal disaster.” So for those college students who find themselves separated by distance from their partners, know that the journey might be rough, but the destination is worth it.
Be mindful that you’re getting to know them through virtual communication. Mannerisms and routines can be different over video. Spending time together might be different or a little awkward when you do spend time in person, so be prepared for this.
Set clear times to talk over the phone or by video.
Catching up with your partner should become a routine, but make sure to set boundaries between socializing with your SO and other parts of your day.
As fall study abroad programs gear up and those high school flames head off to different colleges across state lines, many college students are about to dive into their very first long-distance relationships.
Integrate yourself into their lives (even the boring stuff!).
“What we do know based on research is that relationships are in part based on experiencing those more mundane things that people do,” says Ferrell. “Doing chores, running errands, just watching TV, hanging out with family and friends— things that we don't really think about, but are cornerstones to building relationships.”
Plan. Your. Travel.
Having a clear understanding of who is visiting whom, how often, and when, is vital to making distance work. Not only is it reassuring to know when you’ll see your partner next, but planning in advance can ease the burden of the financial strain of long distance. Cost of travel is one of the largest barriers to long distance travel, and whether you’re buying train tickets or booking a flight, doing it in advance will always be cheaper.
Plan for how long the distance will end (or won’t).
Ambiguity negatively impacts relationships. It can be scary to not know how long the two of you will be separated, and what the future looks like together. Consistently talk about the plan regarding how the relationship moves and if there is a perceivable end date for the long distance aspect. k
So, without further ado, here are the top five pro tips for nailing long distance while in college:
"Do they even have newspaper in Australia?"— Not Lindy Chamberlain
"He didn't sound like a predator, I think he just wanted to help fund our binge–drinking habit."
— DeSantis' next victim
— Charlie Javice— Ron DeSantis — Charitable misandrist
Dance Dance RevolutionBY CATHERINE SORRENTINO Graphic by Norah Rami
Music floats through the air: hyperpop remixes of Charli XCX, bubbly EDM, Beyoncé, Lizzo, pumping club beats. Around 30 people have just started an extremely energetic Cupid Shuffle, and even more are dancing around them. Pride flags, most of them in trans colors, swing through the air. Every so often, a chant ripples through the crowd: “Philly is a trans city! Philly is a Black city!” This is not your average rave. From Thursday, June 29 to Sunday, July 2, the intersection at 12th and Filbert in front of the Philadelphia Marriott transformed
into a protest—the biggest dance party in the city.
Back in early May, it had been announced that right–wing “parent's rights” group Moms for Liberty (M4L) had decided to hold their annual conference at the downtown Philadelphia Marriott, with their opening reception to take place at the Museum of the American Revolution in the heart of Old City. Backlash was immediate: around 40% of staff at the Museum called for the event to be canceled. Moms for Liberty—which was recently classified as an “antigovernment extremist organiza-
How a dance party became the beating heart of Philadelphia’s latest protest against fascism.Photos courtesy of Catherine Sorrentino
tion” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks extremist groups— was founded in Florida in 2021. Over the past two years, they have spread across the country, with 195 chapters in 37 states advocating for what members term “parental rights” in education. However, the organization is best known in mainstream media for their anti–LGBTQ positions and hard support for banning books and classroom curricula that focus on race and gender. Despite petitions protesting the event, walkouts from museum staff—many of whom identify as LGBTQ—and growing
outrage from local advocacy groups, the leadership at the Marriott and the Museum didn’t budge.
Tensions peaked when Moms for Liberty announced that their keynote speaker would be none other than former President Donald Trump, and that he would be joined by Florida governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis. Once this news reached the public, ACT UP Philadelphia, the local chapter of direct action group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), immediately mobilized alongside many other community groups. Begin -
ning on May 12, ACT UP Philly, the Young Communist League (YCL), PENNSYLVANIA STOP Moms for Liberty, Defense of Democracy, and others began holding rallies outside of the Marriott multiple times a week. ACT UP Philly spent weeks giving speeches and holding protests, trying to convince the hotel to cancel the conference. The Mariott responded by calling security.
ACT UP Philly organizer Max Ray–Riek believes that the struggle against Moms for Liberty is bigger than most people think. “Moms for Liberty are engaged in a
mean–spirited project to use trans lives as a wedge issue to introduce a whole host of dangerous viewpoints: erasing Black history, anti–Semitic and Islamaphobic messages, and violently targeting trans kids and LGBTQ+ families," Ray–Riek says.
Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement condemning M4L’s attempts to “disregard history, ban books, and silence conversations about race, gender, and sexuality.”
Celena Morrison, the executive director of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, called Moms for Liberty a direct threat to the wellbeing of Black and LGBTQ communities. However, despite growing opposition from local politicians, planning for the conference continued.
So ACT UP Philly escalated. The evening of July 29, the night of the M4L reception,
was the beginning of a four–day–long protest that brought thousands of people to the streets to demand dignity and affirm community. Supported by a heavy–duty sound system and a very lengthy playlist, protesters circled the Museum of the American Revolution in a vibrant, nearly four–hour dance party while M4L attendees slunk out the back door. “We lit out here. We not boring like these f**king people!” one protester yelled as the sound of hip–hop blasts through the streets. However, some demonstrators took a more grim view of their situation. “What [Moms for Liberty] is pushing for … These things have real material effects on how people are able to live day–to–day beyond the legislation," says one protester who goes by the name Lea, holding back tears.
Moms for Liberty advocates have been successful in helping pass anti–trans legislation in Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, and North Dakota. Most recently, after helping a conservative majority take power over the school board in the Philadelphia suburb of Central Bucks County, the suburb successfully banned books with “sexualized content” from school libraries. M4L's influence is growing close to home for Philadelphians. One protester carried a sign ranking states by the number of books bans introduced: the top three were Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
"[Moms for Liberty] claims they want to protect children, but whose children?” shouted activist Jazmyn Henderson on the night of June 29. The crowd screams back in rage.
The dance protest continued into Friday, June 30, as participants decamped bright and early to the Marriott, where they faced an endless stream of Philadelphia police. Not a problem. From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., organizers cranked up music, led chants, dance numbers, sing–alongs, and made speeches to an unusually joyful crowd. Despite the police fencing them in and the smoky air from Canadian wildfires, the group carried an irrepressible energy. Many of the attendees were teenagers, scrawling chalk drawings and messages all over the street and dancing with their friends as if they were alone in their bedroom—no cops, no cars; just the music.
There is a moment of rage when Trump’s car pulls into the Marriott garage, accompanied by endless security and police officers.
“It’s very jarring how quick they are to protect these people. It’s our tax dollars that pay police officers’ checks, not theirs!”
Dom Shannon, an organizer with YCL, says. “It's pretty clear that they've got us fenced in,” their partner chimes in. “They have their backs to M4L and [their] faces towards us. We’re just dancing, and we’re supposed to be a threat?”
But organizers remained adamant that the dance party should stay peaceful—after all, the driving idea behind the party itself was to emphasize joy and commu -
nity, not to meet M4L on its own level. Whenever tensions rose, particularly between protesters and the police, an organizer would grab a mic and calm the crowd. “Showing joy in the face of hate provides a very stark contrast," Shannon says. "What is there to provoke us about? We’re out here dancing!"
Philly has a history with dancing across the protest lines. In 2017, protesters held a dance party outside of a GOP retreat. When 20 Philadelphians were arrested for demonstrating at Trump’s inauguration, their advocates protested by holding a dance break on the famous Philadelphia Museum of Art steps. More recently, videos of Philadelphians dancing in the streets while election workers tallied up the ballots for the 2020 presidential election went viral.
But the history that protesters were pulling from is much bigger than Philadelphia, and much more specific in its mission of queer solidarity.
“Joy is crucial to the struggle for liberation,” says YCL organizer Glaive on July 2, as the final day of dancing comes to an end. “It might have been in bars in the ’70s and clubs in the ’90s, but spaces of dance have been a safe haven for queer people, trans people, and people of color for so long. I think we’re tapping into a tradition of struggle through joy.”
“When you dance in rhythm with other people, it feels so good and builds solidarity,” Ray–Riek says.
Many attendees and organizers told me that they felt motivated to join the dance protest because of recent legislative attacks on the trans community. “If you think about the trans kids, the kids out here dancing today, M4L wants them legislated out of existence,” says Wren, another protest organizer.
Groups like ACT UP and YCL were keen to encourage queer youth participation during the weekend of protests, featuring plenty of kid–friendly events and songs. “I think it reflects the kind of world we want to build,” Wren notes about the dance protest's large portion of teenage participants. While the average attendee was on the younger side, there were also many parents who had come in support of their children, even if they weren't present in Philadelphia. One mother was coming in place of her son, who was in Singapore. “He would want me to be here,” she says firmly.
A good part of the crowd were Philly natives, but a sizeable number of protesters had driven hours to attend. Schoolteachers Taylor and Nicole had driven four hours from Baltimore to protest book banning in their classrooms.
“Schools are supposed to prepare kids to enter the real world, and you’re not going to agree with everything in the real world. What kind of school board could say that banning opinions and voices you don’t agree with is okay? I can’t tell my students that with a good conscience,” Nicole declares.
A surprising number of scrubs populated the crowd as well. Some were doctors and nurses on break from a nearby hospi -
tal, but others had taken specific vacation days from work to come to the protests, like Zeke Taylor, who sported a white doctor’s coat and a sign reading, “White Coats Against White Supremacy.” Taylor and other medical professionals reiterated the same message that hundreds of other doctors have made in the press about proposed bans of gender affirming healthcare: that it would worsen the quality of life for young patients—the very young people out protesting in the streets.
While the fight against Moms for Liberty was rallied to combat transphobia and homophobia, organizers also constantly acknowledged the threat that M4L’s proposed book bans present to Philadelphia’s Black community.
“We have to wake up and remember that celebrating Black and brown futures demands a reckoning with Black and brown legacies,” Samantha Rise, a musician and organizer with ACT UP, says. “Our histories must be taught, and must be celebrated, must be shared. What M4L wants to do is make sure that that history never even existed.”
As the procession of cars carrying Trump through the side door of the Marriott passes by, the crowds chants, “Philly is a Black city! We will not go back!”
During the final day of dance protests on the afternoon of July 2, more police gathered around the barricades and streets. But two performers and organizers started a call–and–response chant with the crowd. “I went to take back what they stole from me / I went to take back my dignity," sang the old and young, parents and children, friends and partners. Others began to dance to "We Are Family," even as organizers began to wrap up equipment. Through the protests against Moms for Liberty, for four days, queer culture was on display for all to see and enjoy—a powerful response to the far–right rhetoric that LGBTQ people ought to remain hidden. During those four days, nothing could have extinguished the energy in the streets.
“When you sing with other people, you cannot be afraid," Rise says. k
Showing joy in the face of hate provides a very stark contrast. What is there to provoke us about? We’re out here dancing!
There's Nothing Iffy About Iffy Books
Meet the Penn alum reading the riot act and fighting the power at Iffy Books.BY YEEUN YOO Courtesy of Iffy Books
Inside a building full of art galleries and artists’ studios in the northern edge of Chinatown is Iffy Books, a small independent bookstore filled with all things “hacking, free culture, gardening, and zines.” While they may seem unrelated, this tagline summarizes the many passions of founder and Penn alum, Steve McLaughlin (C ‘08).
At Iffy, Steve explores the beauty of hacking as a form of resistance and anti–capitalism, the importance of free culture—which includes the anti–copyright movement to abolish copyright laws and regulations—and showcases the power of gardening and zines as it relates to the climate crises and the interconnected struggles to present day politics. He founded Iffy in the hopes of creating a space to share knowledge and radicalize reading, and the intertwining of his background in arts and culture with his passions in technology and digital media cultivated the quirky and eccentric bookstore that his community knows and loves today.
For Steve, Iffy Books goes beyond just a “bookstore.” Iffy Books exists, resists, and reimagines what it means to be an independent book space in Philly. Iffy Books is a verb, an action, and a growing movement.
Steve founded his bookstore to welcome "a wide range of folks from a wide range of backgrounds.” One way he does this is by drawing
in those interested in technology or the tech industry—not the stereotypical bookstore denizen—through hosting hacking workshops or technical projects. Steve explains that he wants to introduce techies to “ideas about ecology [and] ideas on organizing politically.” He also wants to confront the world of computer science and programming. "The barriers to entry are pretty high—historically, if you're not a cis white male, the barriers are even higher," he says. "But learning these [computer] skills is really empowering, so part of my goal is just to introduce technical ideas in a way that's really beginner–friendly to welcome more people into that space.”
Iffy Books endeavors to foster community by cultivating creativity. "Whether we're making a solar powered synthesizer, or a tiny website on a chip you can carry around in your backpack … Every workshop should be not just putting knowledge into people's brains, but also inviting them to explore further and learn more on their own and be creative with it," Steve says.
But creativity–building aside, Iffy is also simply a place to make friends: a place to talk to people who don’t want to sit around and wait for change; a place to feel less alone.
model that would not pass muster in business school,” Steve notes. “Our events are, by and large, completely free. You can donate if you want to. Sometimes there's a cost involved in the hardware for the project. But we really want to be as welcoming as possible to pretty much anybody.”
As Iffy Books comes up on their two year anniversary, this business model continues to persist. “[When] you're artful about it, you can set up a shop, put on a little show—even with pretty limited resources,” he says.
According to Steve, the biggest challenge as an independent bookstore is “keeping costs down and getting people in the door.” His struggles are a common sentiment amongst many small, independent bookstore owners. Without a corporate marketing team or chunks of money thrown for advertising, Steve shares the strategy that is commonly used across Philly communities: flyers. “I just started printing a lot of flyers—hundreds and thousands. I bounced around the city; just kind of did a rotation. People actually showed up, and we were able to build the community," he says.
The mission of Iffy Books is to offer an alternative way of life, out from under the pervasiveness of capitalism. This means finding pockets of hope. For Steve, the way to fight against the murderous, capitalist machine is to "make your own culture." "You can't flip a switch and change the entire culture or the entire U.S. culture or world culture," he explains. "You can't just go to a political leader and suddenly fix the problems that we face. You have to start with the people around you.” Organizing, resisting, and revolutionizing through books, workshops, and events are all part of Steve’s vision.
Community building had been a big part of Steve’s vision for the book store. He was inspired by the small, radical bookstores he’d seen, like Monkey Wrench Books in Austin, Texas, where vibrant community spaces flourished alongside book collections on the shelves.
Founding Iffy Books meant making things up and doing things differently. Here, profit is not the priority. “We're following a business
By operating very differently from what a bookstore is “supposed” to be, Iffy Books experiments with intention and evolves with purpose. “It's really much more about building community and helping people meet each other and share skills among themselves," Steve says. While he acknowledges that the world's problems can't all be solved at Iffy Books, he also believes that change starts from your own skills and personal network. "We can definitely help the people around us," he says. k
You can't just go to a political leader and suddenly fix the problems that we face. You have to start with the people around you.
Elif Batuman writes in The Idiot that “everyone thought they were Dumbo." Even school bullies will cheer along with the pink–eared baby elephant as they watch the Disney classic. Nobody has the self–awareness to realize they’ve been the bad guys all along. But when I sat down this June in a chilly conference room at the ornate William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, reporter’s notebook in hand, I realized that some people are content to play the villain.
Looking at the lawyer representing the Pittsburgh Post–Gazette in a bargaining session, I couldn’t imagine this man thinking he was the hero. He had a face straight out of an Ebenezer Scrooge casting call and absolutely no intention of making a fair deal.
“‘By the end of [contract negotiations] you're probably gonna hate me,” he says in an early meeting, according to newsroom guild leader Ed Blazina. Blazina adds, “I can guarantee you it did not take nearly that long for us to hate this guy.”
A striker seated near the middle of the table held a plastic bag dripping with a juicy fruit that he clarified was a Crenshaw melon. He offered it as a snack to the PG lawyer, who declined it with a sneer. “I had the fruit bowl at the hotel restaurant,” he says.
The striker shot back,
gal bargaining impasse that the PG had declared back in 2020. Newsroom employees had been working without a union contract for five years—and as then–PG Features Editor Bob Batz Jr. put it, his son in high school was older than his last contractual raise.
Every PG staffer has a different perspective on the day of the strike itself. Helen Fallon says it happened “so darn fast,” Karen Carlin says it was “a scary decision,” even though she knew it was the right thing to do. Steve Mellon, after years of frustration, was ready to take a stand and say to the community that “we're not afraid to push back against the publisher.”
In early April, I was in waiting–to–hear–from–internships purgatory when an email offering me a position at the PG popped up on my phone. I shrieked with surprise—I’d applied several months before and figured I’d simply been ghosted. My excitement, however, lasted for mere hours. As soon as I got around to googling the paper, I was met with headlines detailing the strike, the labor issues leading up to it, and eventually, the Pittsburgh Union Progress, or PUP: a digital outlet representing the striking workers of the PG. I spent the rest of the evening scrolling through their articles.
By the time morning came and I was sitting in my Huntsman Hall marketing class, I’d worked up the courage to email Batz, PUP’s interim editor.
BY THIS POINT, workers represented by five unions—Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, Teamsters, Pressmen, Mailers, and Typographical—had been weathering a strike for over seven months. When the PG refused to pay increased health care premiums of $19 per worker for the four craft unions, they walked out on Oct. 12, 2022. A few weeks later on Oct. 28, the News Guild joined them on the basis of solidarity and to take a stand against the ille-
I wrote the message in a fairly manic state: Hello Bob,
I hope this email finds you well. I'm Delaney Parks, a student journalist and junior at the University of Pennsylvania. I'm writing to you after receiving a summer internship offer from the Pittsburgh Post–Gazette, which I have not accepted.
We can't afford the fruit at the hotel restaurant.
WITH INTERNSHIP SEASON FACED WITH A CHOICE: EMBRACE MY UNION
SEASON CLOSING IN, I WAS BECOME A SCAB, OR UNION GIRL SUMMER.
I attached my resume, one of my other Street features, and a classic Penn email signature, then sent it into the void.
I hoped to hear back but didn’t expect it. I was certain Batz had more important things to worry about than my “Summer Opportunity Inquiry,” fighting vital labor battles while managing a staff literally working without a salary. Instead, he got back to me just a few hours later. I got my first glimpse at his dad energy—I’ll quickly learn that his emails were always riddled with ellipses, Pittsburgh slang, and some of the best opening lines I’ve ever received, including “glad to have you both aboard this pirate ship,” and “I hope today finds you doing great and that you haven't yet blocked my email address.”
Over the next month, Bob and I figured out an internship plan, funding, and housing—I’d sublet for two months from the roommate of one of my high school best friends. When June arrived, I lugged an overstuffed black duffle bag onto a Greyhound bus at 3 a.m., and so began my Union Girl Summer.
LATER THAT JUNE, after the sitdown with Lowe, I was revisited by my earlier thoughts of Dumbo and good versus evil. This time, I was at a meeting on the second floor of Pittsburgh’s United Steelworkers building, surrounded by posters that mocked “scabs” (workers that cross the picket line) and urged observers to “end corporate welfare!”
Mellon, a veteran photojournalist at PUP with an enviably cool aura (he writes most of
his stories on his patio at 2 a.m., sipping bourbon), began to tell a story.
Last summer, he’d been assigned to cover a downtown clash between a small group of anti–transgender protesters and a larger group of trans rights supporters for the PG. When he had tried to get an interview with one of the advocates, they’d told him that they might trust him as a person, but they didn’t want to speak with him in his capacity as a PG reporter.
Beyond the scope of labor issues, the paper’s current publisher, John Block, came under fire for a tirade at the newsroom in 2019 and his connections to Donald Trump—in 2020, the paper endorsed Trump, whose administration attacked LGBTQ rights.
That moment at the protest sparked an “existential crisis” for Mellon. “What am I doing at this stage in my career, where I'm getting tossed out of these movements that I think are very important for us to cover?” he wonders. “Because the people who are pushing back against bigotry, pushing back against racism and hate, associate me with [them] simply because of the place I work.”
Ten months of striking has taken a toll on everyone, and Mellon is no exception. He’s got car repairs he’s been putting off, and bills to pay. Still, there’s something to be said for the type of coverage he can produce now. So far, he’s covered a drag bingo event, taken breathtakingly colorful photos at Pittsburgh’s pride month, and written a feature profiling several trans kids.
One of the longest articles I put together during my time at PUP was actually a companion piece Mellon felt was necessary to accompany that story about trans kids in Western Pennsylvania—an explainer about gender–affirming care resources available in the area.
While I wanted to dive into the world of feature writing, my stories ran the gamut of beats, encouraged by Batz, who peppered Harrison Hamm (my intern counterpart from Denison University) and me with endless pitches and always met our own ideas with enthusiastic yeses.
A week in, I suggested tailgating the first Pittsburgh show of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour—so
I spent the night surrounded by sequins and rhinestones, learning about the songs that most resonated with the Swifties dancing around the lawn outside the stadium.
Midway through the summer, I wrote two stories entirely in first–person, making the hard news reporter within me shudder with fear. One was a collaboration with Harrison that involved driving to a new whiskey distillery outside the city and tricking myself into enjoying a Manhattan. The other offered me a slice of pickle pizza I still fantasize about—and introduced me to a romance built around a pickle festival that renewed my faith in love.
On a far more somber note, I spent a day at the federal courthouse downtown most weeks, hearing testimony for the trial that ultimately ruled that the Pittsburgh syn -
agogue shooter will get the death penalty. PUP covered the trial in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, and Batz heralded it as the future of collaborative, rather than competitive journalism. By the end of the trial, we’d produced dozens of stories.
It was also my first time doing court reporting, and I found the odd juxtaposition of semantics and procedure with the horrific content of the testimony disturbing. Hateful social media posts and descriptions of guns were read out, psychologists for the defense and prosecution clashed over the definition of delusion, and I tried my best to piece together a narrative that reflected what happened, without making the reader relive each excruciating moment.
WHERE OTHER INTERNSHIPS have networking sessions and Lunch and Learns, PUP offered pickets, solidarity cookouts, and fundraising events showcasing labor history, like a viewing of Matewan in a community center basement.
I picked my outfit with care: my tote bag with all kinds of PUP and union buttons, and a vintage CWA T–shirt that my father found at a thrift store, referencing AT&T labor issues. It was a special find for more than the obvious reasons. Right before I started the internship, my dad told me about how my grandfather was a CWA steward at AT&T, and my great–grandfather was an organizer for the Westinghouse Air Brake Company right in Pittsburgh.
The CWA shirt wasn’t just peak Union Girl Summer fashion, it was a reminder that IPhoto Courtesy of Bob Batz/Pittsburgh Union Progress
was basically fulfilling my ancestral Pittsburgh destiny. Fallon, a PUP co–editor and writer, compliments the shirt when she arrives in the community center basement.
I’m honored—Fallon, who always has a warm smile and a story up her sleeve, knows a thing or two about unions. This is actually her second strike. Now a part–time journalist and professor emeritus at Point Park University, she remembers the chaos of a strike at the Montreal Star in 1979, where she worked when she was just a bit older than I am now.
Fallon says now she feels like a “full–time” striker, though she was only a “part–time” journalist, adding that “in my semi–retired life, I would just be alone lying around, drinking more iced tea than my body can handle, getting ready to go to work on Wednesdays and Fridays, sometimes Saturdays.”
This echoes a sentiment that several reporters have agreed on—it’s plain exhausting to always be waiting for the next update, or waking up and immediately remembering you’re on strike, on top of everything else. “No matter how prepared you are,” Fallon says, “It's a very difficult thing. I heard someone say ‘Some of you are happy to be on strike’—no one's happy to be on strike.”
TO CONTINUE with the non–traditional intern programming, Bob drove me about 50 minutes out of the city into Butler, Pa., where the distribution of the PG takes place on Saturday nights. That night, strikers and supporters were holding a picket outside of the facility and trying to block the trucks from accessing it.
As I talked with him on the drive over, I was reminded of what makes him a great journalist—he really listened to the stories I’d tell, whether about my time so far at PUP or my high school swim team experience, and he knew to weave a tale of his own. He was filled with passion for both IPAs and doing the right thing, and, as always, emphasized that he was on strike not because he antagonized the PG, but because he loved what the paper could and should be.
As he says later, “It's not because we hate
the Post–Gazette or we want it to go out of business. It's because we love the Post–Gazette.”
For Batz, running PUP was a “whirlwind” at first, but it’s allowed him to keep his identity as a journalist. Figuring out how to cover bargaining sessions and pickets like that night’s was a precarious balance, but one they had to figure out. “We were going to do journalism even if it was about ourselves,” he says. “I don't feel like I compromised that at all by being a journalist at a strike paper.”
When we arrived and I hopped out of the car, he joked that the PG never would have me doing something like this as an intern. I grabbed a slice of broccoli pizza and made the rounds among the strikers I had gotten to know. It was a beautiful night for a picket, and morale was high. Community allies like 412 Justice had joined us, the Pittsburgh Labor Choir was teaching all
of us the words to the classic “Solidarity Forever,” and we were painting a banner streaked with rainbows.
Later, the sun faded, and with it, the calm atmosphere. While police cars loomed, our group arranged ourselves in a circle blocking the entrance to the facility and walked counterclockwise, repeating “get up, get down, Butler is a union town.” The rhythmic chanting did wonders for my nerves—as did the dance moves of Jacob Klinger, one of the News Guild organizers. Neighbors, many of whom I’d been told supported the cause, lined their porches to watch the scene.
At one point, it seemed like the officers were going to break us up before backup even arrives—they yelled some things I couldn't make out at a few strikers, and the circle became more of a misshapen blob. Amid the chaos, someone was drawing chalk hearts near the feet of the police.
They relent and we ended up continuing for another 15 minutes or so before the backup arrived and police loudspeakers commanded us to “remove [ourselves] from the entrance immediately.” As the trucks rolled on past the gates, strikers shouted “scab!” and “shame on you!” into the night.
PERHAPS THE WILDEST brush with the law I witnessed all summer was the situation that Blazina found himself in. Months earlier, he had been part of a group passing out “Solidarity” signs in the neighborhood of Stan Wischnowski, the executive editor of the PG. The group placed one about six inches onto the editor’s property.
Blazina, for the record, is even more non–threatening than your average grandpa figure. He’s 67 with rectangular glasses, wispy grey hair, and an earnest smile as his default expression. His beat is transportation, and as Batz told me, he’s the heartwarming guy that would end up in this predicament in the “movie version” of the strike.
On his way out of the neighborhood, Blazina got a message from a fellow striker who’d spotted Wischnowski headed home. He decided to watch from a distance as Wischnowski and his wife ripped out the sign and looked around at the others scattered along the street. In order to navigate out of the neighborhood, he first had to reenter the directions into his phone.
“I drove about two blocks to a pastor's house and pulled over to the side. [Wischnowski] pulls up beside me and yells through his window. I have my window up, I have no idea what he’s saying. He goes back to his house, I pulled back up to his house too. I parked on the other side of the street, I get out of my car, and I can hear his wife on the porch saying, ‘Now he's getting out of the car and heading this way.’ Like I was holding an axe or something,” Blazina tells me. “I said, ‘Stan, if you want to talk, I'm willing to talk—I couldn't hear what you were saying.' And he just looked at me and said,
STAY OFF MY PROPERTY.
Blazina was found not guilty of a simple trespass and criminal trespass charge, but he—and the other strikers—lost even more respect for Wischnowski and PG management in the process.
“There were no nasty words. There was nothing, there wasn’t any threat at all. But that's what he did to somebody who has worked with the paper for more than 30 years,” he adds. While the whole incident sparked a fun “Ed the criminal” running bit, the strikers’ boss calling the police on one of his friendliest and most senior reporters made it even more difficult to envision returning to the office.
AT THIS POINT, Christmas Carol–style changes of heart and dramatic gains in bargaining aren’t impossible, but my sources predict that the strike will end through legal means—namely, a National Labor Review Board decision expected to come out this fall. If it rules in their favor, and a new contract eventually goes into effect, co–workers who have been “scabbing” all this time will benefit too, a harrowing prospect. Carlin, a co–editor at PUP, says that it may be premature, but she’s already worrying about the environment that may greet her return. She had considered many of the people who have been working this whole time to be her friends, but she anticipates coming back after everything that happens to be “very difficult.”
“I'll be civil, and I will do my job and I will do it as well as I did before. But you know, maybe there'll be a little less joviality,” she says with a wry chuckle.
Fortunately, the team at PUP has joviality to spare. Carlin says one surprise upside of the strike has been growing far closer with her fellow union colleagues. Before everything, she might have seen them in passing, or barely at all in the age of hybrid and re-
mote work. Everyone I spoke with agreed— solidarity has carried them through difficult times.
On my last day in Pittsburgh, I get another dose of that feeling. Batz and I share a byline to cover a rally for Starbucks workers in the morning and head to join the rest of the core PUP crew at a Japanese restaurant downtown. Sipping my spicy mezcal drink, I’m bittersweet. I joke with Harrison about his continued gravitation to fruity cocktails, have a solid conversation with Steve about the future of advocacy journalism, and hear all about when Fallon visited the Cavern Club where the Beatles played.
After extended goodbyes, PUP writer and News Guild organizer Andrew Goldstein, or as everyone calls him, “Goldie,” offers me a ride home. Batz fondly considers him to be the young rabble–rouser of PUP, and his “striker beard,” which he’s been growing out since October, fits the bill. We’ve talked before about the strike—he’s expressed his frustrations about how PG officials “just sit there quietly breaking the law, while the people who, are the ones who put their blood, sweat, and tears into the paper are the ones trying to hold them accountable.”
I’d shared his frustration a few days earlier when we collaborated on a story about the death penalty verdict. Though Goldie and PUP photographer Alexandra Wimley had been part of the team behind the Pulitzer Prize–winning shooting coverage, scabs were at the same press conference we were, writing about the trial’s resolution for the PG. He and Wimley couldn’t shake the feeling that “it should’ve been us.”
In our conversation on the ride home, we dive even deeper into his reflections on the decade that’s spanned his journalism career so far, my fears about entering this turbulent industry, and how he believes the strike will go down in the history books someday. As a parting gift, Goldie hands me a sign, with “On ULP (Unfair Labor Practice) Strike from the Pittsburgh Post–Gazette” emblazoned on it. He thanks me sincerely for my work at the paper and for my courage in seeking them out in the first place.
I remember something he said a while back, about how solidarity gives “life blood” to those out on the picket line. I can only hope I’ve donated enough of mine to make a difference. k
Music is uplifting the voice of Iranians fighting for equality and justice.BY MEHREEN SYED Graphic by Collin Wang
The United States has had its fair share of popular protest music, like Childish Gambino's “This is America” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” but songs have always played a key role in social movements across the world by inspiring people to mobilize. As an art form, music has the ability to not only serve as entertainment, but also to build a sense of community through chants, and as rallying calls in protests and demonstrations. Specifically in Iran, music has fueled protests during the recent uprisings as songs refer to the oppressive conditions under the current regime.
The Persian song “Baraye” by Shervin Hajipour won a Grammy earlier this year for a new special merit category: Best Song for Social Change. “Baraye” describes the shared struggles and historical challenges that Iranians across the country relate to, making it a quintessential protest song for rallies and congregations across Iran. Iranians have responded to laws that limit their freedom of expression, infringe upon due process rights, and undermine the rights of women and children. Iranians can be found chanting the lyrics “for my sister, your sister, our sisters.” “Baraye” has become a symbol for the Iranian protests and demonstrates how music can create worldwide recognition for social movements.
The death of Mahsa Amini under police custody sparked protests across the country and inspired the song “Baraye.” After allegedly wearing the headscarf improperly, Amini was arrested and died only three days after the arrest. While the Iranian government claims that she died from a heart attack, according to many reports, “her
death was due to a fracture on her skull due to heavy blows to her head.”
Infuriated by the systematic violence against women under the hands of law enforcement, protests erupted in cities across the world, including in Santiago, Chile along with Atlanta, Paris, and Tehran, Iran, where Amini had died. Even students from Penn and the West Philadelphia community held their own demonstration last fall near the LOVE Statue, mourning the lives of women like Amini. These protests aimed to bring to light the truth about living under an authoritarian regime.
In the past year, the Iranian government has been imposing strict laws that interfere with almost every aspect of Iranian life. The government requires “anyone who explicitly violates any religious taboo in public [to be] imprisoned for up to two months, or flogged with 74 lashes.” More recently, the government has threatened the lives of girls in school and hindered them from receiving an education through gas attacks. Many girls in school have even been hospitalized due to these gas attacks, which have fueled another wave of protests against “bioterrorism.”
As these protests unraveled, songs such as “Baraye'' began to capture people’s feelings of mourning, outrage, and hope for change. Hajipour’s song has even been trending on TikTok, with over 18 million views under #Baraye. The song has been featured under posts demonstrating protests and honoring the lives of those who have been killed under the regime. “Baraye” has become a tool for social change in Iran by giving a voice to feelings
of frustration, representing the people’s grievances, and amplifying messages of resilience.
Hajipour exclaims in "Baraye", “For the feeling of peace / For the sun after these long nights / For anxiety and sleeping pills / For men, homeland, prosperity / For the girl who wished to be a boy / For women, life, freedom.”
“Baraye” has become a tool for social change in Iran by giving a voice to feelings of frustration, representing the people’s grievances, and amplif ying messages of resilience.
“Baraye” alludes to the peace that Iranians have been desperately fighting for. In his lyrics, Hajipour draws a connection to the chant used by protesters in demonstrations—"Women, Life, Freedom"—where they fight back against discriminatory laws violating basic human rights. Moreover, Hajipour explains how mental illnesses and substance abuse are on the rise due to the fear and anxiety caused by governmental subjugation. "Baraye" also refers to the solidarity between men and women as they fight side by side against the authoritative
After “Baraye” received over 40 million views in less than two days on Shervin Hajipour’s Instagram, the government responded by arresting the singer on Sept. 29, 2022. His main charges include “instigating violence” and inciting “propaganda against the regime.” While Hajipour was released on bail shortly after, many others continue to suffer inhumane prison conditions for shedding light upon the regime’s brutal tactics.
“Baraye” has become a national anthem
for the Iranian people as they protest the current regime they live under. This song has worked to bring activists together while also emphasizing the oppressive conditions of the country. “Baraye” has become a noteworthy example of how music serves to fuel protests by creating a sense of empowerment and sharing stories that inspire people to continue fighting against injustice.k
Reviews From Abroad
A gallery of Street's summer exploitsCOMPILED BY NORAH RAMI
When I travel to a new place, the first thing I look for is an art museum. There’s a comfort in the disembodied space between framed worlds— timeless and distant, near and long bygone. Yet as far as the art may transport you, art museums are deeply rooted in the space they inhabit, something our Street writers learned intimately as we visited art shows from around the world.
This summer, we infiltrated art festivals catered towards elite art collectors and returned to the same local city museum synonymous with home. We navigated experimental exhibitions that redefined what a gallery was and stood with our hands crossed in front of decades old pieces with a pedantic plaque. We were moved, disgusted, shocked, inspired, never bored. We traveled across continents with exhibitions as different as the spaces they inhabited, yet all nonetheless united in their shared impact of forcing us to view art, aesthetics, and ourselves from a new perspective.
SYMBOLIC OF HOME
Whenever I’m in my hometown, I can’t help but indulge my curiosity and walk into the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil to explore their newest art exhibition. Throughout the years, the CCBB has become my second home—I know the location of every single bathroom, where every staircase leads, and have taken dozens of pictures of the multicolored glass mural.
The current exhibition in the CCBB is perhaps my favorite one so far. The Portinario Raros Exhibition is focused on the rare artworks of Candido Portinari, a visionary Brazilian artist who stands even now as a celebrated figure in the realm of art history. Portinari is the kind of artist who infiltrated the mind and the imagination of every single Brazilian. His works are in textbooks illustrating inequality’s ghostly face and stamped on the tiles of large
buildings and tourist spots around the country.
IT'S A FAMILY THING
As I explored the exhibit, I found myself among a crowd at the center of the second floor surrounding an elderly man; his white hair shines beneath the exhibition's lights, and dozens of people have stopped to listen to him talk.
"The realization of a dream that I nurtured for decades is to bring Portinari's entire body of work to the people, to a large audience,” he says, as he is being interviewed and recorded live in the middle of the room. His voice carries a knowledge so expansive about Portinari that I can’t help but join and watch what seems like a live TED Talk. Turns out he knew Portinari better than anyone.
The man was none other than Portinari’s only son, João Cândido—the founder of the Portinari Project.'Portinario Raros,' Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil Belo Horizonte, Brazil
'Artists on Site' Series 4, Asia Society Texas HoustonBY NORAH RAMI
Artists on Site Series 4 (AOS S4) is the fourth iteration of an experiential exhibition where process and presentation are intertwined as artists in residency transform traditional galleries into their own studios. Selected creatives get the chance to develop and exhibit their art in an evolving, public–facing environment that pays homage to process of art as much as the final piece. As a result, Artists On Site transcends the typical gallery, presenting art in the state of perpetual progress and showcasing the artist even before the art itself.
The age old debate of who determines an artwork's meaning always ping–pongs between the creator or the consumer. At AOS, both
engage in conversation to create shared meaning and experience. Art is not static, but a dynamic part of human connection.
THE LAVENDER LATTES BEHIND THE SCENES
As I looked around, Pye sat at her desk to sketch a geometric figure. When asked what she was drawing, she confides, “You know that Washateria in Montrose?”
I did, in fact, having worked in a coffee shop just down the street. Pye was painting a passerby, someone I may have well seen on one of my many rendezvous for a lavender latte. Suddenly, the faceless figure, abstract and distant, became rooted concretely in the city I call home.Jerusalem BY ENNE KIM
The free postcards were what first attracted me to the small exhibition, tucked away on the dimly lit third floor of the Israel Museum. I fully committed to walking around for the next 30 minutes (which quickly melted into an hour) when I saw the rusty metal frog in the corner, holding one pretty real gun in its webbed hands.
AT THE ALTAR
[This] work contains collages of different pilgrimages to the shared Holy Sites, made up of the broken fragments of the people who cross through Israel–Palestine. There is a startling effect of the roughly sketched refugees, pilgrims, and holy land juxtaposed against
the idea of holiness. In this somewhat disfigured landscape, I found brokenness in the construction of holiness. Viewers could feel the moving parts that make up these places that are special to so many people.
This was especially present by how Tolkovsky mixes in real pieces from the Jews, Muslims, and Christians who traveled through their Holy Sites. I was touched by the different spaces he gives to the nature of holiness as he highlights the grief and forced displacement that the power struggles induced by religion had caused. For Tolkovsky, his collages represent a continual mystical pilgrimage, with the pilgrims being the ones who create the final destination.'Zvi Tolkovsky: Pilgrimage in the Holy Land,' Israel Museum
'Down the Street: Rhode Island Avenue,' Art Enables
Washington D.C.BY MEHREEN SYED
Art Enables creates a space for artists with disabilities to share their powerful stories and experiences. Providing artists with disabilities the opportunity to market and sell their pieces, Art Enables' mission is to reduce barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in the workforce by promoting accessibility, showcasing their art, and providing workshops to assist them in advancing their artistic careers. As one of the artists from Art Enables explains, “I realized that I wanted to become an illustrated book writer because when I go to every bookstore, they don’t have any special books for kids with special needs. I want to show the world who we are."
THE CITY IN A GALLERY
Down the Street: Rhode Island Ave. replicates the commu-
nity’s diversity and historical significance through a variety of buildings, ranging from a Catholic church as you enter the exhibition to a Jamaican restaurant in the corner. Moreover, the small townhouses featured in the exhibition provide a glimpse into the lives of the people that call this street their home. The posters allude to social movements that people in the area actively mobilize for—one displayed in front of a pizzeria, stating “Black Fathers Matter” and “Black Lives Matter,” refers to the Black Fathers Matter Motorcade, a celebration honoring the role of Black fathers through a five–mile parade across the nation’s capital. Shining a spotlight on the diverse lived experiences in D.C., Down the Street: Rhode Island Ave. embodies the resilience of a community building a brighter future.
Art Basel Festival, Basel, SwitzerlandBY IRMA KISS
IKEA SHOPPING FOR THE CAVIAR CROWD
The crowd here in Switzerland consists mainly of people you’ve never heard of, all the hands that quietly steer the global economy while us mortals sleep. Walk along one of these aisles and you’ll hear a lot of shoptalk and amusing back–and–forth. Near the Zwirner booth, one Frenchman quipped to another, "Mais là, tu vas en prison!" But it’s not all business. In another booth, an American buyer gestured at his wife to examine a pair of mobiles: "Oh, these Calders are just adoooorable." That’s Alexander Calder, pioneering sculptor of the 20th century. No biggie.
ECONOMIC CRISIS AT THE ART SHOW
By now slightly intoxicated, I rejoin the teeming hordes in the showroom. The art this year tends toward the earthly. A dozen Giuseppe Penones— and just as many knockoffs—dot the walls. Scattered throughout the fair, you’ll find hand–carved wooden chests, threadbare canvases, and rough–hewn metal
sculptures. Arte Povera is in again, and none too soon.
The movement sprang out of Italy in the late ‘60s and sought a return to humble materials, craftsmanship, and nature. Its revival at Basel follows a spate of related exhibitions, from the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Penone show, to Roma/New York at David Zwirner, to Lucio Fontana at Hauser & Wirth. What may seem like an austere mode feels appropriate given ongoing economic downturn and war in Europe.
THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
On the second day of previews, newspapers trumpet the most impressive sale of the previous day: an itty–bitty Louise Bourgeois spider that went for $22.5 million USD. Whenever a transaction of this scale is being considered, I’d like to think a sensible person reasons along these lines: Will this make me happy? Will I satisfy this work’s demands for appropriate care and display? Would this same purchase be undertaken by a Liberian warlord?Louise
ART IFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
The idea of technology potentially replacing creative work is a very prevalent one today, amid the rise of ChatGPT and other advancements. But what Coded implicitly suggests about our own uncertain future is that artists will not be replaced by machines. Instead, technology will assist artists to make works that neither could create alone.
TECH, ACTIVISM, ART
The coup de grace of the entire exhibit is Charles Csuri’s Random War from 1967, which combines the human and computer elements to create a truly special piece. For it, the artist drew hundreds of red and black figures of soldiers, but then used a computer’s random–number generator to place them in different spots—and facing different directions—on a blank white background. The result is a mass of bodies, often overlapping, with guns pointed in just about every conceiv-
able direction. It's holds a solemn message in the age of Vietnam, as war became increasingly random and dehumanized in the face of carpet bombing and Agent Orange.
BEFORE GRIMES SOLD HER VOICE
What Random War and the rest of the pieces on display in Coded show is a period of uncertainty. Most knew that computers had some potential for art—and even the possibility that they could reduce human life into something binary—but few could see the way they’ve taken over our daily lives in 2023. But what that chaos allowed for is creativity, which many very talented artists took full advantage of. And in our age, where people are questioning whether it is possible to work creatively and collaboratively with computers, Coded shows we’re not the first, and that artists have been grappling with this very question for decades.
FIRST Film Festival Xining, ChinaBY WEIKE LI
LOW–BUDGET, HIGH HOPES
This is my third year covering the "Xining FIRST Film Festival," a local festival held in a northwestern city on the Tibetan Plateau, dedicated to the first and second feature–length films of young filmmakers in China. With its slogan of “act wildly,” FIRST celebrates passion and vitality, and while many works selected for the main competition were often flawed in production with extremely low budget—some even unfinished—they nonetheless truthfully reflect what the younger generation of
filmmakers care about in its most original and daring form.
A HOME BUILT FROM ART
On a more personal note, the festival is also a heavy dose of medicine for my homesickness, bringing me closer to the contemporary life of China I’ve missed for a whole year. The prestige of other international film festivals like Cannes grants them almost unlimited power in choosing films, and I believe FIRST firmly stands against such global hegemony and attempts to discover talent in often unnoticed corners. k
The College Student’s Guide to National Parks
During my childhood, the floor of my family’s Toyota Sienna was always covered in a film of sand and dirt. My parents took every chance they could get to share the outdoors with my sister and I. They were more than happy to load up our minivan with camping gear and placate us with audiobooks and Cheez–Its during trips to national parks. My mom’s constant refrain was, “nature is good for the soul,” and we lived by this mantra. My family battled mosquitoes, hiked around scorching hot battlefields, pored over interpretive signage about the flora and fauna—and I loved it. Many of the formative outdoor experiences I had as a child took place in America’s national parks. As an adult, I yearn to experience these marvels again, and make new memories.BY ANNA O'NEILL–DIETEL Graphic by Janine Navalta
The United States has 63 national parks, which range from the vibrant canyons of Yellowstone to the lush forests of the Great Smoky Mountains. Each park is invaluable. Not only do they preserve rare ecosystems,
but they encourage visitors to engage with the outdoors, science, and history. While at Penn, I'm trying to visit as many as possible. But I find that as a college student, visiting national parks has its own unique considerations.
WHY VISIT AS A COLLEGE STUDENT?
As I navigate through the demands of college, my mom’s mantra, “nature is good for the soul,” echoes in my mind. While walks along the Schuylkill and visits to the BioPond are pleasant, they aren’t exactly treks into the wilderness. It can be difficult to prioritize time in nature as a college student, but the mental health benefits of immersing oneself in the outdoors aren’t just old wives' tales; they’re backed by several scientific studies. National parks are a respite from the pressure cooker that is campus life. They offer the chance to challenge oneself to hike, bike, or paddle through some of the most stunning areas in the United States. Not only does a national park visit have the chance to nurture your
How to score the best deals, beat the crowds, and most importantly enjoy the outdoors.
spirit, but they offer a chance to extend learning beyond the classroom. Parks such as Petrified Forest, Joshua Tree, and Capital Reef offer the chance to get close to untouched, ancient rock carvings and rock paintings. And yes, at Shenandoah National Park you can see what the heck your professor in "rocks for jocks," aka EESC 1000, was talking about when he mentioned rock cleavage.
PURCHASING A PASS
While national parks nourish a free spirit … they are not free. Entrance into parks is around $25–$35 per vehicle each day, but if you’re considering visiting multiple parks a year, the $70 annual pass is well worth the investment. Additionally, the National Park Service does offer a free Interagency Access Pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities, and a free lifetime Military Pass is available for Gold Star families and U.S. military veterans.
Several national parks offer shuttles. Not only can you pay a lower fee to enter the park, but supporting parks’ shuttle systems is a great way to limit traffic congestion, parking problems that national parks experience in peak season, and of course, cut down on exhaust and noise pollution.
TRY CAMPING (but think carefully about backpacking)
Camping is a great lodging option when visiting a national park. Hotel stays are usually the largest expense when visiting a national park, especially in the summer. During peak season, expect to see modest motel rooms close to popular parks going for upward of $200. Camping is a great way to avoid this expense and experience the great outdoors up close and personal. If you’re visiting a national park with friends, chances are your most cherished memories will be the goofy moments spent making s’mores and playing cards by flashlight against the backdrop of awe–inspiring views.
That being said, think carefully about backpacking. It can be especially tempting to reserve a hike–in site in national parks when many drive–in campsites are snatched–up within moments of going live on recreation.gov, but know what to
expect. While schlepping a tent and food a mile or two into a site is not a huge deal, anything more will significantly cut into touring time, and you will likely need special equipment and research (like learning how to navigate with a compass, purify water, and make bear bags). My advice? Make sure you’re backpacking with someone with lots of experience, and save the multi–day backpacking trips for when you’ve gathered more experience.
The best solution to snatched up national park campsites? Look to campsites just outside of the park. There are often state parks or national forests located within a reasonable drive of your national park that offer campsites. Privately run campgrounds, or sites like Tentrr (which provides a spacey “glamping” tent) and Hipcamp are also economical options.
National parks are experiencing a spike in visitors. While it's great that more people get to experience these vital landmarks, too many visitors can strain park infrastructure. Think campsites and nearby hotels booked months in advance, hour–long waits outside of park entrances, and parking lots with double parked cars. As most national parks experience the heaviest crowds during summer months, the simplest work around is to visit parks during the shoulder season, with fall and spring break offering great opportunities to see the parks.
There are also fantastic national parks that are a little more off the beaten track than others that make excellent alternatives to more well–known ones. If you want a Yellowstone experience without the hordes of visitors, try Lassen Volcanic National Park, which offers aquamarine hydrothermal ponds, steam vents, and forests of ponderosa pines. If you’re looking for snow–capped peaks, glacial lakes, and chubby marmots, try North Cascades National Park instead of its much more visited neighbor, Mount Rainier National Park.
National monuments also offer a great alternative to busy national parks. And don’t worry, they aren’t just historical sites. The designation also includes areas preserved for natural value. Typically less busy than
national parks, and much cheaper to visit, national monuments include several hidden gems worth visiting. Just to name a few, there’s Dinosaur National Monument, an ancient canyon that rivals Zion National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, a cave system just as fascinating as Mammoth Cave National Park, and Giant Sequoia National Monument, which is as stunning as Redwood National and State Parks.
As a college student, embarking on a journey to explore the wonders of America's national parks is not only a chance to reconnect with nature, but also an opportunity for personal growth and education beyond the classroom. So, fellow college students, heed the call of the wild, and embark on your own unforgettable journey through the nation's natural wonders. There you will find not only recreation, but re–creation. k
Each park is invaluable. Not only do they preserve rare ecosystems, but they encourage visitors to engage with the outdoors, science, and history.
Thrift Pop–Ups: Pockets of Community in Bustling Manila
Inching up the stairs towards a secluded bar, my friends and I are surrounded by colorful lights seeping in from the building’s tinted windows. Each floor turns into a different color: blue, red, green, and finally yellow, perfectly complementing the establishment they engulf. As we enter the lounge, the DJ greets us with music we had only heard murmurs of on the way up. Remnants of the bar’s evening operations are tucked into corners, the bar and kitchen barely in focus. Today, it is transformed into a boutique. In place of tables, rows and rows of vintage clothing crowd the well–lit lounge for this weekend’s Season Pass Community Flea.
whelmed by the capability of vintage cartoon prints to transport him back to his childhood.BY EYANA LAO Graphic by Katrina Itona
Season Pass is a vintage clothing store located in Quezon City in the Philippines, which has hosted weekend flea market events since 2019. Owner Lean Torres tells the story of how the company started out importing streetwear clothing but later transitioned to curating vintage essential wear. Torres was initially hesitant because of negative perceptions surrounding thrifting or “ukay–ukay;” but he fell in love with the design of the clothes themselves, over-
Concealed within the upper levels of high–rise buildings, weekend second–hand pop–ups have slowly sprouted in cafés, bars, and creative spaces around Manila. Advertised on Instagram and TikTok, daytime scenes like that of the Season Pass Community Flea are increasingly appealing to young shoppers as an experimental alternative to malling—a popular hangout activity for teens and adults alike. Music is central to the identity of these events, with a live DJ setting the tone through tunes ranging from local rap, such as hip–hop collective Kartell’em, to mainstream K–pop like NewJeans. Coffee and pastries are equally central, if not almost expected of these weekend pop–ups. If they aren't hosted in an establishment that offers refreshments, you are sure to find a booth that does so.
Season Pass is quintessentially community–based. From its establishment, the community flea was organized to uplift local sellers, many of whom are friends and friends of friends; some frequent shoppers
Manila's developing thrifting scene is creating a new culture for younger generations, if you know where to look.
have even become sellers. While “ukay–ukay” is often associated with shopping at a consignment store, Season Pass and other markets like it elevate the ukay experience while still retaining bargainable prices. Some goods are admittedly higher–priced ($15+), and others venture into the territory of luxury goods. Shopping at the pop–up nurtures a sense of community, with merchants conversing with shoppers about their day and remembering familiar faces amid hundreds of visitors.
Season Pass isn’t the only second–hand brand with heavy traffic: pop–up markets hosted by Nirvana Collective, Fits Ya Good, and Venus Collab offer different styles of clothing and thereby project distinct experiences. Collectively, these brands generate creative communities of young, fashion–loving regulars.
Growing up in the crowded metropolis of Manila, I often found it difficult to meet
strangers in the insular culture of the Philippines. However, these regularly–scheduled weekend events allow for young Filipinos to develop their own sense of community separate from family, work, or school. Often high up in perplexingly unassuming buildings and living spaces, these enticing thrifting events appear almost invisible to those who don't know about them—an immersive break from everyday life. k
Collectively, these brands generate creative communities of young, fashion–loving regulars.
The Soundtrack for Your Summer Might Be Korean
From mooning over first loves to plotting murderous revenge, K-Drama original soundtracks always provide the perfect back track for your summer shenanigans.BY ENNE KIM Graphic by Wei-an Jin
From North and South Korean star–crossed lovers to blind dating CEOs, K–Dramas have covered every single possible love/drama/murder/mystery scenario one could ever think up. They demand addictive engagement—an hour of entertainment packed within each episode. They contain multiple storylines, introducing a variety of couples and family nuances while retaining the trademark Korean humor—that careful balance between dry comebacks and over–the–top reactions. They invoke second lead syndrome (warning: don’t watch Reply 1988 unless you want a severe case of this), where the main character doesn’t end up with the person you were rooting for. In other words, they’re incredibly entertaining.
And what makes K–Dramas especially endearing—what makes me devote an entire week to curating a Notion page on my favorite ones—is the emotion embedded into each character, each line, and each song. This added emotional depth is what sets these dramas apart from most Western shows, which are usually centered around important plot points rather than audience–to–character connections. On–screen relationships and friendships are often much more nuanced; love is communicated through feelings rather than physical
actions (especially with the lingering Asian taboo around sex), and grief is allowed to be constant.
This poignancy is most clearly illustrated through OSTs. OSTs, or original soundtracks, are the underlying heart to every drama. As soon as the song begins fading into a familiar scene—the two main leads holding hands, a slow onslaught of rain draping over them, the realization that maybe they’re in love— your heart starts to catch. OSTs are perfectly curated to their audience, their drama, and their scene, so much so that they become an essential part of the setting.
During this weird liminal space before your next internship, vacation, or school semester, where you’re just sitting on your couch picking through Netflix, I present the following OSTs and their respective K–Dramas: the perfect (dramatic) soundtrack to your summer.
When you happen on your summer fling: "It's You" by Jeong Se–woon
Picture this: you’re in Sydney taking an early–morning stroll at the beach, and you bump into a Park Bo–gum look alike just as the sun begins to rise. Or maybe you’re back in your hometown, buying yet another ceramic mug in the dollar section of Target, and your fingers brush with the stranger. It’s time for the
summer romance we all deserve, one where this song can serve as the crooning backdrop to every late night date and every 4 a.m. obsessive thinking session. And if you can’t seem to find that summer someone, then live vicariously through Kim Mi–soo (played by Park Min–young) in What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim. As Lee Young–joon (Park Seo-joon) attempts to convince Kim Mi–soo to continue working as his secretary, this OST drifts in the background, capturing the revelation of love in all its irreconcilable depths.
For those late night drives with your best friend: "Hyehwadong" (or "Sangmundong")by Park Bo–ram
The first few notes of this song pique the nostalgia of childhood and friendship. This summer, it’s time to reconnect with your first loves: your best friends from high school, the neighbors you grew up with. Even if you don’t have the chance to go back home, don’t forget to take care of your inner child—and the people who took care of you. Reply 1988 has been my favorite K–Drama for three years running, and this OST never fails to make me call the best friend who recommended it (and who’s also still on my Netflix account). Set in 1988 in Korea, this drama takes you through the chaotic lives of five childhood friends, probing issues as
deep as the military regime of the '80s or as light as having to get tutored by your older sister (SPOILER: who also ends up dating your first love). The whimsical use of the accordion accompanied by the wistful piano chords always conjures that fleeting adolescent joy and unadulterated friendship.
If summer isn’t all about sunsets and roses: "You Remember" by Paul Kim
Now for a slightly different turn. What dramas do best is dramatizing—this is where the emotional aspect plays such a critical role, ensuring that every character’s responses are attuned to the situation and none are overlooked. It’s what allows us to empathize most easily, as well as realize that it’s okay to be expressive (it’s okay to not be okay). In The Glory, Moon Dong–eun (Song Hye–kyo) lives a vindictive, enraged revenge story after becoming the homeroom teacher of her former bullies’ children. In this OST, Paul Kim sings about Moon's tears becoming her bullies’ happiness, and the drama shows how she never forgot the dangerous escalation of harassment that victimized her. In South Korea, there is an epidemic of school bullying, so much so that dramas, movies, and other forms of media have been exposing it's underbelly for the last decade. By depicting such cruelty and trauma, K–dramas pick at the heart of significant
issues through emotional connections and pure relational empathy, allowing others to understand the characters and their real lives.
But back to daydreaming: "Romantic Sunday" by Car, the garden Lalalala~ summer weekends are for long drives and listening to songs like this, for daydreaming and watching dramas like Hometown Cha–Cha–Cha. Everyone has thought about starting over, especially in an idyllic seaside town like Gongjin (set in the real city of Pohang). As Yoon Hye–jin (Shin Min–a) unexpectedly moves to Gongjin after choosing conscience over career, she finds herself back in the simple ups and downs of one’s hometown. This song makes me want to drop everything and move to Korea immediately—probably not to start a dental clinic like Yoon, but who knows what the future holds? That sentiment is exactly what this OST holds; for a brief three minutes and 50 seconds, you can bask in the idea of a romantic Sunday, where obligations can be pushed to the side, however briefly—before the week starts, it’s just you and your newfound love. To best capture this mood, Cha Jung–won sings with melodic strings in the background and tops every ascension with a chill electric guitar solo. Listening to the combination of strings, guitar, and steady drums makes you
want to fly over Gongjin, searching for your own hometown love.
OSTs are inextricably linked to their drama and are repeated throughout the episodes, framing every encounter in their unique way. You can still catch me sniffling every time I hear a rendition of "You Are My Everything" by Gummy, which played continually in the background of the romance between Yoo Shi–jin (Song Joong–ki) and Kang Mo–yeon (Song Hye–kyo) in Descendants of the Sun. Such songs provide an impressive emotional backdrop. As soon as you hear the first notes of the main “goodbye” melody, you prepare yourself in bittersweet anticipation for whoever is departing next, conditioned into the next stirring experience. k
OSTs, or original soundtracks, are the underlying heart to every drama.
The Cannes Film Festival is addicting. Not just because of the luxurious assemblage of the grandest and most star–studded films of the year, all demanding one's attention, but because it's combined with the frantic atmosphere of a carnival. Covering the festivity for a Chinese media outlet, I attended the 76th Cannes Film Festival this May. Every morning—even after a mere four hours of sleep—in a small apartment I shared with four other reporters, I was instantly energized by yet another
Behind the Glamour of a Summer Film Festival
At the Cannes Film Festival, power comes before everything elseBY WEIKE LI Graphic by Janine Navalta
day exclusively dedicated to a cinematic world: where every conversation, every chance encounter, belonged to a magical experience.
At Cannes, cinema completely takes over one’s mind. The only actual worry is making sense of the labyrinthine timetable and trying to squeeze just one more screening into a day already full of events. This is immensely gratifying for any cinephile. The world ceases to exist and only the screen remains intact. But the cinematic world doesn't exist in a vacuum, despite the effort put in to making it seem that way at a place like Cannes.
When watching Wang Bing’s latest documentary Youth (Spring) on the lives of young textile workers in a small Chinese town of Zhili, it is hard not to remember the ongoing labor protest due to the recent pension reform in France and local authorities’ ban on rallies in much of Cannes. Or when watching a Senegalese narrative film on female empowerment, Thierry Frémaux’s remark that he only “cares about Johnny Depp as an actor” becomes much more troubling. The knowledge that many of the films being screened for the pleasure of the attendees are born from reality and decisively tackle social issues sharply contrasts with the festival's ceaseless attempt to separate art from the rest of the world.
The Cannes Film Festival is also an incredibly difficult ticket to get. Flaunting its status as a temple of cinema that celebrates film as the glitziest art form there is, Cannes is a notoriously exclusive event reserved for the stars, the press outlets, and industry personnels. The program “Three Days in Cannes”—introduced just recently in 2018—is the only access for people outside of the industry, and even it limits participants to a time frame of three days and an age range between 18 to 28. A badge, in this sense, becomes another tool to filter through those who promote the hierarchy and thus belong in it.
The premiere system also contributes to this hierarchy of art and who can see it,
as the greatest allure of coming here is to see a film before anyone else in the world can. It may even give one a certain sense of superiority. Someone would have to spend long hours waiting in line just to see Martin Scorsese or Wes Anderson’s newest entry in the Grand Auditorium Louis Lumière, while people with badges of higher category could walk inside with ease—the crux of the event is not about seeing a film or missing a film, it’s how gatekeeping, power hierarchy, and discrimination are normalized in the almighty name of cinema.
to face reality, not run from it. The narrative of “art for art’s sake” is problematic precisely because of the shared knowledge that films originate from reality, and one should never build a wall to separate art from everything else. Johnny Depp as a human being is inseparable from his job as an actor, just as the war in Ukraine, the protests in France, and the textile workers in Zhili are no less important than the starlight, fame, and glory of the king of all film festivals. At the end of Youth , after four hours of staring into the daily routine of a group of people we may never cross again halfway across the planet, Wang Bing thanked all the workers “for their splendid life.” Maybe we should do the same. k
While seeing the faces of the textile workers, their joys and sadnesses, on the enormous screen of the auditorium, I was among some of the wealthiest people on Earth. The realization that absolutely no one in the audience could have similar experiences, or could even empathize with them, was startling, rendering that experience of premiere immensely surreal. This isn't to say that the wealthy are not entitled to watch a film if they have no personal connection with the subject matter—films are meant to bring us to worlds we’ve never seen or experienced before—but it is a poignant reminder that a film festival could and should never be depicted as some sacred land of cinema, conveniently removed from all the problems of the real world.
It should be a microcosm of our world. We watch films in order to find strength
The cinematic world doesn't exist in a vacuum, despite the effort put in to making it seem that way at a place like Cannes.
Hollywood Thrives in the Steel City
How the film industry has found its niche in PittsburghBY JULES LINGENFELTER Graphic by Heaven Cross
When put in the always–uncomfortable situation of sharing fun fact ice breakers, my go–to answer has always been, “My
home town is obsessed with zombies.”
It’s more than a little strange and, while not a lie, there’s more to the story. Night of the Living Dead , the horror movie cred -
ited with first bringing zombies to the big screen and putting an unexpected critique of racial tensions onscreen in the 60s, was filmed in my hometown’s
cemetery. Moreover, that cemetery is right behind the backyard of my childhood home. As a kid, I could slip between the grave stones and envision hoards of corpses stalking me. I have a love–hate relationship with zombie media, because it's so integral to how I grew up and because, to this day, I still occasionally wake up in sweat and terror over a nightmare of living through the apocalypse. “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!” Oh, the amount of times I’ve heard that line.
Sandwiched between the city of Pittsburgh and rural Western Pennsylvania is Evans City, the small town I grew up in. Though its claim to fame may be in zombies, Evans City is far from the only place touched by cinema. Along with many other facets of the city's culture, like the colors black and yellow, our sports teams, Mac Miller, and the 412 area code, Pittsburgh natives hold up the city’s involvement with the film industry with pride. From Flashdance to Silence of the Lambs to Zach and Miri Make a Porno , plenty of iconic films feature scenes in and around the Steel City.
Released in late December of 2022, The Pale Blue Eye is the latest addition to the ongoing list of films in Pittsburgh. Starring Christian Bale, the movie follows Bale’s Augustus Landor as he befriends a young Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling) and enlists Poe’s help to solve a murder. McConnells Mill, a well known park on this side of the state, serves as the backdrop of the movie’s many wintry outdoor scenes. I’ve spent my fair share of time hiking around the same woods in which Bale’s character isolates himself.
A fellow classmate of mine even worked on the movie as an extra during our senior year of high school. She tells me, “I had gotten an email in need of extras for this upcoming period piece Netflix film and I knew I had to apply, as it was something right up my alley. Getting to see all that goes on behind the scenes of a movie to then seeing it complete on your tv screen was surprising. The process of costuming and the days on set
weren’t at all what I had expected, but I loved getting to see the movie come to life in the end.”
The Pale Blue Eye is the third movie Bale has filmed in the area, following The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Out of the Furnace (2013). His time spent in Western PA has even led to an unexpected friendship with PA Senator John Fetterman. Having met Fetterman back in 2013 when he was the mayor of Braddock, Bale later invited Fetterman to make an appearance in The Pale Blue Eye . According to director Scott Cooper, Bale told him, “You know what, John has such a great face that looks like it came from 1830, why don’t we put him in the film?" That's how then–State Senator John Fetterman, alongside his wife Gisele, briefly appear as background characters in a tavern scene.
Cooper reflects fondly on his time spent filming in Western Pennsylvania and his decision to film both The Pale Blue Eye and Out of the Furnace in the region, stating, “I love the people of Pittsburgh; the crews are fantastic. Love the people of Braddock. I have a real affinity for that city.” Cooper also cites both the landscape and the weather as a large reason for returning to the area for his most recent film.
Pittsburgh and its surrounding area have drawn in many a filmmaker, with over 200 films and TV show productions taking place here. And, with state tax incentives peaking at $100 million in 2022 to support the industry, it's certainly an economic decision for both production teams and the city itself.
But heart and beauty are at the core of what makes Pittsburgh so popular. Not quite midwest, not quite East Coast, Western PA delivers on a city setting with Pittsburgh and breathtaking rural mountain scenery just 20 minutes outside of city limits. The people of Pittsburgh have a real love for their home, and one that they are more than willing to share with others. With our roots as a steel city and the surrounding small towns, there’s a working class, down to earth appeal that has managed to remain even after the
steel mill fog has lifted. As Director at the Pittsburgh Film Office Dawn Keezer puts it, “People feel like home when they’re here.”
And it would appear that the imagery and soul of western Pennsylvania appeals to many filmmakers' visions. In The Dark Knight Rises , Heinz Field becomes “Gotham Stadium,” and for the first time, people tailgate outside the stadium not for the Steelers, but to catch a glimpse of movie magic. The Christmas vibe of Happiest Season is first set by opening with a scene of the two main characters touring Candy Cane Lane in Duboistown. And the Fort Pitt Tunnel, which was once only an entrance into the city, is now home to the iconic tunnel scene from The Perks of Being A Wallflower
Prompted by taking on the task of writing this article, and hoping to develop an even deeper love for this city, I took it upon myself to recreate the scene. With the help of my high school best friends Danny and Ava (who had to be phoned in) we took on the challenge. I sat behind the wheel. Danny sat in the passenger’s seat with his dad’s old camcorder in one hand and Ava’s video call in the other. We queued up David Bowie's “Heroes” and rolled down the windows (yes, physically rolled down, because my car is that old), and barreled through the tunnel. The wind whipped around us and both the music and the screech of other drivers echoed off the walls. As we neared the exit, traffic sped up, and before us, the city of Pittsburgh unfolded. The night sky in its perpetual overcast, the bright yellow bridge, the skyline of makeshift neighborhoods combined into one, and the river rushing below us were all in their full glory. It was cliché, and eleven years late, but it was incredible. As we entered the highway and headed home, Danny told me, “I think they were really onto something in that scene.” k
InsideDarlingsideBY NOR AH R AMI
What happens in college a cappella doesn’t always stay in college a cappella.
Darlingside, an indie folk quartet from Boston, emerged on the scene at the turn of the 2010s, capturing audiences with their dreamy melodies, avant–garde instrumentals, and the kind of poetic lyrics that mystical woodland creatures might dance to in their free time. On July 28, they released their fourth LP, Everything is Alive. But before they were featured on the soundtrack of the hit NBC show This is Us, or captivated hearts with an acclaimed NPR Tiny Desk Concert performance, they were simply college students in the same a cappella group at Williams College.
“We got to be really good friends through singing together,” says Don Mitchell, one–fourth of Darlingside. The group's future members first encountered each other through a cappella, and overlapped again in a singer–songwriting class. They formed an informal group to back each other up on their compositions with some other friends, but as people went on to different postgrad pursuits, the band was short–lived. However, a few years after everyone had graduated, friends Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, David Senft, and Harris Paseltiner began floating the idea of making music together again.
“[The idea] just happened to come when I was between jobs working as a biologist.
I was kind of [like], ‘Yeah, I'll give that a shot for a year.’ If nothing else, it'll be like, you know, in my early 20s, I'll have had this phase where I was in the band for a year,” Mitchell says.
Little did Mitchell know, Darlingside would go on to become a decades–long phase.
The group hit the ground running, planning to go all in for a year and treat the endeavor like a business. They used their college network to ask questions about the music industry, divided administrative roles amongst each other, and began to figure out their sound.
“I remember those discussions before we really started,” Mitchell notes. “We talked a lot about, ‘We'll go really hard at it for a year’ and see where we're at and reassess.”
But as Darlingside kept working, the year deadline ended up passing.
“I don't think we ever had a conversation that was like, ‘Is this worth continuing beyond a year?’ A year was [just] not nearly enough time," Mitchell says.
Still, the group recognizes that as young adults, living out their indie dreams was no easy feat. For college students jumping into the unstable waters of the music industry, having the freedom and savings to forgo a more stable income is a crucial position of privilege. In Darlingside's case, after a few years, reality began to set in as they considered the revenue they needed to generate
to support themselves now that they were a few years out of college, as well as the logistics of touring out of state. During this period, the group’s drummer amicably left, realizing he needed to stay closer to home. The remaining four members recommitted and decided to lean further into making music a full–time professional gig.
“There was a sense that there was something good worth holding on to,” Mitchell says. After the departure of their drummer, the group switched to a one–mic bluegrass setup and began experimenting with the wistful harmonies that Darlingside is known for today: one big voice from four.
In many ways, it is hard to isolate the united voice of Darlingside into the four individuals that comprise it. They've worked hard to separate themselves from a long history of bands torn apart by egoistic infighting and preeminent personalities. Songwriting is a communal exercise for Darlingside, each song a mosaic of the quartet's personal perspectives and thoughts.
“Someone might come in with a melody idea or a lyrical idea, but then it would turn into this group consciousness exercise where it wasn't any one person's confessional song,” Mitchell says. “It was more like, what did we all see in this original idea, and where does each of us take it?”
With their new album Everything is Alive,this ethereal indie folk friend group is sure to become your next favorite.Photo by Shervin Lainez
It's a joyful thing to be able to still be singing with your friends. People often leave that behind when they're out of school, but we've gotten to enjoy it… we're really grateful for that.
When asked about the song “Right Friend” on Everything is Alive—which could easily be interpreted as a homage to the band’s amazing friendship—Mitchell admits that he can't say exactly what it's about. While he may have thought about one person while coming up with the chorus melody, Mukharji might have arranged the piece with another person in mind. Each of the members brought their own stories to the song, so that it was no longer about a particular person, but rather about a shared experience—what it means to have a friend when you’re falling apart.
At the end of the day, friendship is what Darlingside is all about, with a band mascot aptly named “The Unicorn of Friendship.” For these four musicians, being there for each other comes before being a band, even when their individual lives draw them in different directions: Darlingside took a break from touring when Paseltiner started a family, and this year, Senft made the decision to step back from the album release tour to be closer to home.
Everything is Alive reflects the new trans-
formation of Darlingside. It's a distinct departure from their past work, shedding the mystical and peaceful scenery of Fish Pond Fish and distant dystopian harmonies of Extralife. Instead, Everything is Alive is brutally intimate, showcasing solo voices on most of the tracks without the support of unified harmony.
Part of this shift was driven by the COVID–19 pandemic, which disrupted the group's communal songwriting process and forced them to create apart from one another for the first time in decades. As a result, many of the album's songs deal with individual and personal stories—a preview of “Baking Soda” takes you inside the ordeal of domestic frustration firsthand.
Where Darlingside once distanced itself from its stories with elusive poetry that focused more on the external rather than internal, Everything is Alive mirrors the pandemic it was born of, making its listeners and the band itself sit still and softly with what it means to exist on our own—to be alive as a single being. But while the group takes on a new face, the communal spirit
of friendship still reigns supreme as they voice the pride they have in hearing their bandmates stand on their own. Darlingside never takes themselves too seriously—at the end of the day, this band is united by their friendship, even more than their music.
“It's a joyful thing to be able to still be singing with your friends,” Mitchell says. “People often leave that behind when they're out of school, but we've gotten to enjoy it … we're really grateful for that.”
It’s hard not to be changed by Darlingside’s music—their luscious melodies cause you to slow down and take inventory of the world around you, all the things you’ve overlooked. They transport you to an ethereal landscape, where life can be boiled down to beauty and poetry can be found in the mundane. This is their world: where breath can be found even in lead paint cracks, where work is making music with friends, where Everything Is Alive