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arts + culture In the spirit of fastenings, of healing, of alleviation, I sought to piece together a section focused on how cathartic the mundane can really be in trying times. I tried to shy away from analyzing the pretentious art world, instead exploring the everyday modes of healing people have accessed. From unpacking the cultural implications of photo dumping and artistic potentials of psychedelics to prodding the cathartic qualities of national post-traumatic film, I wanted to highlight the quotidian methods of healing humans have used to fasten chasms ripped by our modern world. I hope that in doing so, I foster a space that is at once critical and imaginative of how we all cope. -Andrew
By Karina Curry
n April of last year Bella Hadid posted a series of photographs to Instagram sans caption. The first picture to be featured was a zoomed-in shot of the sun hitting a vase of poppies and half full wine glasses, the window in the background revealing a horse grazing on the lawn outside. When swiping left, the images became immediately disparate from the first. The pictures that followed included shots of loose flower cuttings, homemade chocolate chip cookies, a close-up of some ambiguous psychedelic pattern, a mirror selfie of Bella adorned in her horse-back riding attire, a bouquet of flowers, a goose, more flowers (this time accompanied by some crystals), the batter to what I assume would become the chocolate chip cookies, and–you guessed it–more flowers. The posting of unrelated photos, without captions and without context, was once a sanctimonious practice, gate-kept by the bizarre stoner and introverted e-girl. Self-entitled “photo-dumps’’ got their start in the alt-scene. It was leftsist and weird to post ugly, random pictures all together in a singular post. Posting such posts went against the grain of forced
selfies, “fit pics,” and curated “food porn.” These posts–say, a zoomed in shot of a beer next to a trash can paired with a zoomed in photo of some hands holding a carabiner during golden hour–these were semblances of real life. These were the mundane, the scrappy, the dirty. The aesthetics of the blurry and zoomed-in resisted the high-resolution images of our knowledge economy. When combined, they alluded to life with cinematic-quality, hinting at reality, playing with temporality, and confusing the viewer with emphatic ambiguity.
Photo-dumps have grown popular in recent years, with an explosion of popularity arriving with the Covid-19 pandemic. The random, disparate images found in a photo-dump make sense during a time in which late-stage capitalism’s state of anomie and repression has coalesced, entering into our homes, unannounced through Zoom and Slack. When life has been reduced to the bare minimum, when we have become a culture predicated on productive survival, when they
promise us a future that we know will never come, the ghosts of a different life come back to haunt us. The pinnacle of posting pre-pandemic–eating out, partying, travelling, gathering together–is now politically incorrect: those things are an embarrassing display of privilege of ignorance! Post instead your mundane life: your hobbies, your cooking, your walk around the neighborhood. Bella Hadid’s snapshots of “mundane” and “everyday” life are, of course, negated by her celebrity status and the immeasurable beauty of her “quarantine home” (which seems to be somewhere in the countryside, lol). We know most people’s quarantine did not include horseback riding and baking cookies, but nonetheless, her post recalls photo-montage techniques, ultimately cultivating a specific narrative and affect of her pandemic experience. Like memory, the creation of random, heterogeneous groups of images offer up a space for associative interpretation. What is the zoomed-in image of some nondescript art doing alongside Bella’s pristine life? Why is your friend posting their sliced up apple alongside a picture of some rando on a swing set? These are not schizophrenic disembodiments of our lives, but platforms of affective association that we will work through. In both recognizing the fragmentation of our life, and the absurdity of the moment, the random, dissimilar collections of images proposes something closer to memory, to the true remnants of
your mundane life”
The Image Landfill Rise of the Photo-Dump and the Aesthetics of Resistance
“we will return to the blurry image”
our lives. Instagram is deeply implicated in the memory industry that pervades our culture, but the move away from curated, perfect images comes with a desire to transform the platform away from totalization, emphasizing our deeply human will to relate. In our paranoid, hyper-critical, overworked era, it does not come as a surprise that we desire to connect what cannot be, to rise above the disconnected, fragmented times. Our impulse to archive has become something other than an attempt to cleanly document our lives. The photo-dump is a jumping off-spot for interpretation, a point of departure for understanding the montage of our lives. These are not passive posts, they are deeply active and deeply personal in a moment where we are desperately grasping for ways to express what has happened to us, what has happened to our lives. These are the aesthetics of resistance that recognize the crisis of our time. Think of the film reel, the scrapbook or the montage. Where cultural, collective memory fails us, where mass media distorts our perception of
of reality, we will return to the blurry image: to that ghost of life. It’s there, in these traces, in the images that disturb our symbolic order of influencer-utopia, that we will articulate our monuments outside the realm of commodity-media. When the visions of our future fail us, we will create our own. And when they silence us, when they repress our realities, we will sort through the landfill and recover, and ultimately connect, what they couldn’t.
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Outlets ofAutonomy The Psychedelic Life Drive Amidst Death
ucy in the Sky is blaring in the background. Hills ebb and flow with your breath as mushrooms dance in the distance. Vibrant hues of fuchsia kaleidoscopically radiate off of the wilting petals of the long-bloomed magnolia above you. “This is nirvana,” you think. The psychedelic experience has often been summed up in such cliches. It’s become a commodified experience like any other, distilled into boardwalk t-shirts, sitcom vignettes, and the likes. But at its roots, the psychedelic experience is radical and those rebellious roots are resurging today amidst pandemic. Americans have undoubtedly been pushed to their wits’ end. To sum up the havoc that the pandemic has wreaked on American mental health would take centuries of mining, prodding, internalization, and meditation. Nonetheless, we can adequately characterize the state that we’re in as a constant tickling of our collective death drive. Vanquished by virus and desocialized by isolation, Americans inevitably have succumbed to the patterns of repetitive, compulsive self-destruction which our death drives tempt us with. We have surrendered ourselves to constant captivity by our own reflections; we dart between speakers’ cubes and our own cubes on Zoom, obsessively scanning angles and imperfections; we become prisoners to our mirrors at home, piering into them after every activity; we’ve even lost the self-affirming quality of being looked at and perceived by strangers. To be so trapped by our own reflections, by our own death drives, it comes as no surprise that our postmodern malaise and anxieties have manifested in skyrocketing eating disorders and OCD diagnoses during this time.
But the pendulum must swing. And it has already. The robbery of our bodily autonomy at the hands of this pandemic has elicited a roaring response amongst Americans desperate to create, to make life, to defy the death drive. Through a multitude of non-conventional artistic media, Americans have reclaimed their agency in a time of constrained bodies and fates; a boom in amateur and Instagrammer tattooing has made Americans feel freer and more liberated in their bodies while DIY culture’s resurgence calls back to 90s queer resistance and its cunning way of evading corporate tastes in favor of crafty self-expression. But perhaps the most immersive artistic medium Americans have dove into during the pandemic is in fact not an artistic medium at all (that is on the surface), but a type of controlled substances: psychedelics. These substances are experiencing something of a renaissance. That is, a renaissance recalling their historical, counter-cultural roots. Psychedelics find their roots in shamanistic practices spanning the globe. As vehicles of indigenous spirituality, they’ve inevitably run into colonial suppression. During the colonization of the Americas, psychedelics were a weapon in the arsenal of colonial resistance as native people continued to utilize them in their spiritual practices. Centuries later, psychedelics again found their place in resistance in their intimate tie to the counter-cultural movements of the 60s; the youth’s defiant consumption of psychedelics was not a symptom of rebellion, but rather a vessel of radical leisure and spirituality during the taxing times of the Vietnam War. In short, these substances have demonstrated their capacity at resistance in the past. Now, they are being mobilized as life-giving art amidst the death of the pandemic.
“These substances are m o r e than just drugs, they are
These substances are more than just drugs, they are artistic media in and of themselves. Just as art fosters a sense of heterotopia, so do psychedelics; functioning like art, psychedelics offer an immersive experience in which the user can understand reality through the simultaneous reflection, disturbance, and contradiction of the world around them. Moreover, the heterotopia fostered by psychedelics allows users to become children again, seeing the world anew and thus gleaning understanding of the tumult around them. As such, users can mobilize psychedelics as an art form of introspection and distraction, creating new realities, new life, and thus defying the death drive. And Americans have done just that. From a record number of clinical studies on the psychological benefits of psychedelics this year to a surge in amateur psychedelia everywhere online from Reddit to TikTok, the hallucinogenic drug is finding a home in America again. Gone are the days of stigma and commodification. Now, psychedelics are finding an ever more prominent place in the realm of psychiatry with LSD and ketamine therapies disseminating across the states and underground trip guides administering psychedelics such as psilocybin in controlled environments for catharsis and relief from the pandemic. But perhaps more radical is the surge in amateur use. The youth and elderly alike are tripping at record levels to access the art-like therapy and understanding psychedelics provide. But the re-popularization of psychedelics comes with perils as well. Moving forward, post-pandemic, psychedelic drug use risks further commodification; the regulation and monetization of mushrooms, for example, throws the psychedelic experience farther into the market economy than boardwalk shirts and sitcom jokes have already. To ensure that these experiences remain sacred, and that Americans can access psychedelics’ art-therapeutic qualities rooted in millennia of indigenous practice and counter-cultural resistance, psychedelics must evade the same big, corporate interests we’ve witnessed seize and commodify other substances.
K-Trauma: National Trauma in South Korean Thriller and Horror Films of the Korean New Wave Movement By Stella Royo Film major Stella Royo (21’) examines themes of national trauma in South Korean thriller and horror films of the Korean New Wave movement through the lens of Bong Joon Ho’s “Mother” (2009) and Park Chan Wook’s “Oldboy” (2003).
n 2020, Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (2019) became the first South Korean film to win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards. The film’s national and international success demonstrates the globalization of South Korean film, specifically thriller and horror film, in the 21st century. This globalization originates from the Korean New Wave movement of the 2000s and 2010s, a movement characterized by directors such as Bong (Memories of Murder (2003), The Host (2006), Mother (2009)) and Park Chan Wook (Oldboy (2003), Lady Vengeance (2005), Thirst (2009)). In this article, I examine South Korean thriller and horror films from the Korean New Wave movement in relation to the national cultural, social, and political trauma of South Korean history, specifically the Korean War. I claim that, like many East-Asian cinemas, South Korean cinema uses the family to represent the nation and South Korean thriller and horror films use familial trauma, supported by themes of memory, to represent the national trauma of the Korean War and the resulting Korean Conflict. Using Bong Joon Ho’s Mother and Park Chan Wook’s Oldboy, I argue that South Korean thriller and horror films use familial relationships, specifically the relationship between parent and child, to represent the national relationship between South Korea and North Korea, as well as the international relationships between South Korea and countries such as the United States and Japan.
Korean National History in South Korean Cinema South Korean cinema’s representation of Korean national history transformed throughout the 20th century, from films that used melodrama and comedy to disengage audiences with history to those that used historical drama to engage audiences with history explicitly. The Korean New Wave Movement of the 21st century redefined cinema’s representation of national history and the resulting national trauma through thriller and horror genres, but the foundation of this movement was the films of the late 20th century, specifically the 1990s. In “Post-Trauma and Historical Remembrance in Recent South Korean Cinema”, Film scholar Kyung Hyun Kim examines South Korean cinema’s transition from genres such as the melodrama and screwball comedy, whose main goal was to entertain and make profit, to genres such as the historical drama, whose main goal was to establish a national identity by acknowledging national history. Kim states that “[in the 1990s] no nation in East Asia...was more insecure about its national identity than Korea, given the country’s history of....violence [by] both Japanese and American colonialism”. He argues that, as a result, South Korean cinema established a post-traumatic identity characterized by heroization and villainization. However, more important than cinema’s use of heroicization or villainization is its use of victimization. In Hollywood, victimization is used to establish the duality of the protagonist and the antagonist. (Protagonists are victimized and antagonists victimize.) In South Korean cinema, it is used to establish the identity of the protagonist. (Protagonists are victimized and, as a result, victimize others.)
Korean New Wave cinema is defined by a cycle of violence that speaks to the cultural, social, and political relationship between South Korea and North Korea in the period following the Sunshine Policy, a period marked by social and political division. Mother and Oldboy exemplify this phenomenon. In “Peppermint Candy: The Will Not to Forget”, Film scholar Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park examines South Korean cinema’s establishment of the historical drama through themes of memory. He argues that the nation’s identity is defined by “national amnesia”, the “forgetting” of parts of its history, specifically parts that challenge its cultural, social, and political success. The Korean New Wave movement uses non-linear narratives and discontinuity of time and space to establish a relationship between personal memory and national history. Mother and Oldboy exemplify this phenomenon, as well. Mother (2009) Bong Joon Ho’s Mother is a psychological thriller about the relationship between a mother and her mentally challenged son, Do Joon. The protagonist, Mother, lives with her son in a small town in Busan, where she sells medicine and performs acupuncture. When her son is convicted for the murder of a local high school student, she fights the town and the police department in order to clear his name. Mother exemplifies the Korean New Wave movement’s cycle of violence, through the victimization of its characters. Both Do Joon and his mother are victimized by circumstance, Do Joon by his imprisonment and his mother by the imprisonment of her son and her excommunication by the town. Both Do Joon and his mother also victimize others. As Mother discovers,
Do Joon is, in fact, guilty of the murder of the high school student. Mother kills a witness of the murder. She also has an innocent man convicted for the murder. Mother achieves her goal of clearing her son’s name, but is victimized by the discovery of her son’s guilt and, as a result, victimizes the witness and the innocent man. Her commitment to her son, despite the violence it prompts, speaks to South Korea’s commitment to its relationship with North Korea, despite the violence it has prompted in the years following the Sunshine Policy. Film scholar Oh Eunha examines the role of female protagonists in Korean film in relation to Confucianism. She claims that “in Confucian culture, the mother-child relationship is characterised by the virtue of family lineage”. The goal of the family is to maintain the family lineage through a male child and, therefore, the goal of the mother is to birth and raise a male child. She claims that “the most horrifying monster... is the female who destroys the family lineage”, referencing Australian professor Barbara Creed’s theory of the “monstrous-feminine”, the woman as the monster in relation to her reproductive system and her role as a mother. In Mother, the protagonist is not a monster because of her irresponsibility as a mother, but because of her overbearing responsibility as a mother that problematizes the relationship between her and her son. On the one hand, the relationship is immature, resembling that of a mother and child-son, rather than that of a mother and adult-son. Mother is overprotective of her son, both physically and psychologically. She tries to prevent him from spending time outside of the house, with his friend Jin Tae. When he makes a decision, she tries to prevent him from having to deal with the consequences of that decision. In one sequence, Do Joon and Jin Tae are arrested for assaulting a group of old men. When Do Joon’s mother arrives to pick up Do Joon, she gives each of the police officers a bottle of medicine, presumably as a bribe for Do Joon’s bail. On the other hand, the relationship is overly mature, with sexual undertones resembling that of a husband and wife, rather than that of a mother and son.
In one scene, Jin Tae asks Do Joon “Have you ever slept with a woman?” and Do Joon responds “Yes, I sleep with my mother”. Jin Tae laughs at Do Joon’s misreading of the question, but the audience is forced to question whether the misreading is a misreading, at all. In another scene, Do Joon and his mother sleep together and Do Joon caresses his mother’s body. The problematizing of a familial relationship, specifically a parent and child relationship, speaks to the problematizing of South Korea’s relationship with countries such as the United States and Japan, both colonizers–political parents and symbols of authority–and allies– political partners and symbols of safety and security.
Mother also exemplifies the Korean New Wave movement’s use of non-linear narratives and discontinuity of time and space. The opening scene, in which Do Joon’s mother dances in the country, exists outside of the time and space of the story. It is not in continuity with the succeeding scene, in which she cuts medicinal plants in her store in Busan, but in continuity with two other scenes: the scene in which she discovers the field and the closing scene. In the scene in which she discovers the field, there is continuity of location and costume. In the closing scene, in which she performs acupuncture on herself in order to erase her memory, there is continuity of narrative (the character’s mental state and behavior) as well as music, which also exists outside of the diegesis of
the story. The discontinuity of time and space in the opening scene represents Do Joon’s mother’s loss of memory. For Do Joon’s mother, there is no salvation in memory, only in loss of memory. Rather than using her to represent the nation, Bong uses her to represent the hopelessness of national salvation in what Magnan-Park defines as “national amnesia”.
Extreme”, a genre coined by Tartan Films as a brand for “Asian films that share a combination of sensational features” such as extreme violence. She also claims that as a brand, Asian Extreme exoticizes East Asia based on Western stereotypes but that, as a genre, it explores the traumas of East Asia’s relationship with the West, specifically South Korea’s relationship with the United States. Park Chan Wook’s Oldboy is a psychological thriller about the relationship between a father, Dae Su, and his daughter, Mido. The protagonist, Dae Su, is abducted and imprisoned for fifteen years. When he is released, he meets Mido, who he does not recognize as his daughter, and falls in love with her. Together, they search for answers to Dae Su’s abduction and imprisonment.
Like Mother, Oldboy exemplifies the Korean New Wave movement’s cycle of violence, through the victimization of its characters. Dae Su is victimized by Woojin, the man who abducts and imprisons him. Dae Su also victimizes others. As he discovers, he has been hypnotized to fall in love with his daughter, as revenge for spreading a rumor Oldboy (2003) about Woojin’s insestuous relationship with his sister, which resulted In “Trauma, Excess, and the Aesin his sister’s suicide. In the past, thetics of Affect”, Lee Eunah exam- Dae Su victimized Woojin and his ines Park Chan Wook’s use of the sister. In the present, he victimizthriller and horror genres to repre- es the guards of the prison. Mido, sent “the otherwise unrepresentable however, does not victimize. She trauma” of South Korean history. is an example of what East Asian She claims that, in the United States, Studies scholar Kyung Hyun Kim Park’s films are marketed as “Asian refers to as “female protagonists
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who are the victims of society’s sexism”. Dae Su achieves his goal of finding answers to his abduction and imprisonment but he is victimized by the discovery of his daughter’s identity. Unlike Do Joon, who victimizes others after discovering the truth about her son, Dae Su victimizes others before discovering the truth about his daughter, after which, he submits to victimization through mutilation. Dae Su’s submission to Woojin, in response to the problematizing of a familial relationship, speaks to South Korea’s not only military but cultural, social, and political submission to countries such as the United States and Japan, in response to the problematizing of those relationships. Oldboy also exemplifies the Korean New Wave movement’s use of nonlinear narratives and discontinuity of time and space. Like the opening scene of Mother, the closing scene of Oldboy, in which Dae Su is hypnotized in order to erase his memory, exists outside the time and space of the story. It is not in continuity with the preceding scene, in which Dae Su confronts Woojin in his apartment. In fact, it is not in
In fact, it is not in continuity with any scene in the film, in terms of location, costume, or narrative. The discontinuity of time and space in the closing scene represents Dae Su’s loss of memory. As for Do Joon’s mother, for Dae Su, there is no salvation in memory, only in loss of memory.
Oldboy uses flashbacks that not only insert the audience into the character’s psyche, but insert the character into his own psyche. Dae Su’s memory of high school is represented by a flashback that inserts both the audience and Dae Su into the high school. The flashback features a past Dae Su, observing Woojin and his sister, and a present Dae Su, observing past Dae Su observe Woojin and his sister. In this scene, the discontinuity of time and space represents the presence of Dae Su’s past in his present. Similarly, Woojin’s memory of his sister’s suicide is represented by a flashback that inserts the audience and Woojin onto the bridge with his sister. The flashback features both a past and present Woojin. It also combines Woojin’s sister’s suicide in the past with Woojin’s suicide in the present. Park uses Dae Su and Woojin to represent the nation’s past (the Korean War, colonization by Japan and the United States, etc.) as a part of its present (the Korean Conflict, the SouthSouth conflict, etc.)
Conclusion Mother and Oldboy use familial relationships, namely the problematized relationships between mother and son and father and daughter, to represent the national relationships between South Korea and North Korea, as well as between countries such as the United States and Japan. They exemplify the Korean New Wave movement’s use of cycles of violence through the victimization of its characters as well as its use of nonlinear narratives and discontinuity of time and space. The result is an exploration of themes of national trauma, which serve as a form of individual and collective healing. Hopefully, the globalization of South Korean film, specifically thriller and horror film, in the 21st century will inspire other nations to explore the cultural, social, and political traumas of their national histories.
“inspire other nations to explore the cultural, social, and political traumas of their national histories.”
he COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world and the lives of everyone living through it in addition to drawing back the curtain on what the systems of capitalism and white supremacy that the United States, and many other countries, are built upon. From an increase in police violence and suppression of the right to assemble in protest as guaranteed by the First Amendment to pharmaceutical companies worth billions of dollars patenting life-saving vaccines for profit, it can be hard to have a positive outlook. However, what fastens us together as members of the Vassar community and readers of independent publications is the desire to educate ourselves, to recognize when our voices shouldn’t be centered in a conversation, and to work together towards the goals of equity and restorative justice. -Beck
Of the Masochist By Anonymous ad Nietzsche lived during the COVID-19 pandemic, he may have included another character in his work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: the Masochist. The Masochist shares many commonalities with those Zarathustra encounters in his travels, the most significant being an incapacity to affirm life.
Who is the Masochist?
The Masochist simultaneously lives in near-paralyzing fear of contracting the coronavirus and embraces the changes that the pandemic has forced on them wholeheartedly. Out of their fear comes subconscious joy, for they have found a path toward virtue. “Alas, how ill the word ‘virtue’ sounds in their mouths! And when they say
‘I am just,’ it always sounds like: ‘I am revenged!’” (“Thus Spoke” 119). Ah, sweet sweet revenge. The Masochist, therefore, goes beyond CDC guidelines, creating a rationale for out-precautioning the precautionaries. They agonize over which test to get and when, which masks are most protective, which sanitary wipes to buy. They pour their soul into this work, and it’s 100% worth it. Above all else, the Masochist finds any excuse to say no, to cut themselves off from the world, preferring to read about it from the safety of their homes. They wouldn’t dare go to the supermarket — the Times says cases are rising! Better to Instacart, they say, and let some eager Joe Six-pack expose themselves for minimum wage. Yes indeed, you know the Masochist.
The one banging pots and pans for the healthcare workers, looking out at their neighbors from a perfectly safe distance, unknowingly sad for the day this custom dies out. They do not want “normal.” They do not truly care about the efficacy of Pfizer vs. Moderna, despite reading article after article on the subject. After all, “masks and social distancing won’t be going anywhere soon!” they say. Curious to find out what has become of men, it is written that Zarathustra descends from the mountains. What does he find?: “I go among this people and keep my eyes open: they have become smaller and are becoming even smaller: and their doctrine of happiness and virtue is the cause” (“Thus Spoke” 189). How Zarathustra would goggle at the Masochist of today. How small
their virtue makes them. In the Masochist, Zarathustra would likely recognize many traits he had come across before. The Masochist is, in a sense, one of the many despisers of the body, one who can no longer create beyond themselves. However, unlike the conventional despiser, the Masochist acts out a deep desire to protect their body from affliction. It is ironically out of this obsession with their own health that they embark on such a deeply unhealthy mission. To interact, laugh, share a conversation, dance even, are all too risky. Their self-preservation takes precedence over their daily bodily needs.
They are also like the Preachers of Death: “Muffled in deep depression, and longing for the little accidents that bring about death: thus they wait and clench their teeth” (“Thus Spoke” 72). In the Masochist, we find a similar longing, albeit a more complex one. The longing of the Masochist is not for death but rather for a life so deeply deprived of life that it would be as if they had died. A capitalist slave to productivity, the Masochist runs from death (the most unproductive human condition) and will always pick a deprived life over death. They live, hollowed out by fear, loving only their own ability to control and solemnly waiting for others, the less careful ones, to slip up.
They are also like the Preachers of Death: “Muffled in deep depression, and longing for the little accidents that bring about death: thus they wait and clench their teeth” (“Thus Spoke” 72). In the Masochist, we find a similar longing, albeit a more complex one. The longing of the Masochist is not for death but rather for a life so deeply deprived of life that it would be as if they had died. A capitalist slave to productivity, the Masochist runs from death (the most unproductive human condition) and will always pick a deprived life over death. They live, hollowed out by fear, loving only their own ability to control and solemnly waiting for others, the less careful ones, to slip up.
Let us note that only a few subtle differences separate the Masochist from the sublime men that Zarathustra encounters as well. The sublime man, Zarathustra says, is “hung with ugly truths, the booty of his hunt, and rich in torn clothes; many thorns, too, hung on him — but I saw no rose” (“Thus Spoke” 139). A collector of truths and thorns. So too is the Masochist, whose home is filled with a stockpile of masks and whose mind overflows with COVID-facts. Such a life leaves scars on the body like torn clothes.
But for all these scars what is the Masochist’s prize?
is resigned to perpetual cowardice. What is so obvious to Nietzsche is somehow so foreign to the Masochist. To Nietzsche, the world is fundamentally “chaotic, conflictual, excessive, open-ended… no longer
To the Masochist the world has never before seemed so sinister, so filled with uncertainty. While the rest of us shrug on, doing the best we can to integrate the external forces that constrain our lives, the Masochist cannot. The Masochist deals in absolutes, in COVIDtruths, and therefore, “as of yet he has not learned of laughter and beauty” (“Thus Spoke” 139).
Likely with the same scorn he shows to most people: “Loving and perishing: these have gone together from eternity. Will to love: that means to be willing to die, too. Thus I speak to you cowards!” (“Thus Spoke” 145). If one wants to love, to find love, one must be ready to die. But the Masochist will never make this sacrifice and is resigned to perpetual cowardice.
ordered rationally” (Grosz 93). To think that the coronavirus brought chaos to an otherwise orderly world is what makes the Masochist so naive. Implicit in the Masochist’s conception of the world is a level of
privilege that previously sheltered them from seeing what now has been laid bare before their eyes. Privilege has meant that they have never felt unable to control their environment, and so losing control becomes maddening. Faced with Nietzsche’s concept of the eternal return, how would the Masochist respond? Would this reactionary, this self-starver of human interaction, be able to take on the weight of this moment returning to them an infinite amount of times? Or would they look back with regret, at having squandered a year, and in that year eternity itself? How many months have passed since they allowed themselves to feel true joy? How much has been forgotten about the range of the human experience? Undoubtedly, the Masochist would be crushed by having to live their hollow life over and over again. Yes, “the question in each and every thing, ‘Do you
desire this once more and innumerable times more?’ would lie upon [their] actions as the greatest weight.” (“Gay Science” 341).
MA SO CH IST
The Masochist is, therefore, the ultimate oppositional force to affirming life and the ultimate negation of amor fati. While Nietzsche advocates for an unconditional love toward the body and toward corporeal needs, the Masochist clings to austerity. The best we can do for the Masochist is try to lead by example. They must recultivate within themselves an ability to love and appreciate life, despite its dangers. Of course, this is made difficult by the fact that the Masochist thinks themselves to be the star example of how to respond to the pandemic. They truly believe that their actions are virtuous, morally superior, and that no one else has a grasp on what is really happening. But we must try, for their sake, to remind them of the world that waits for them outside, of the life that will always be worth living.
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ultimate negation of amor fati.”
“The Masochist is therefo
Popular Progressive Policies aren’t Impossible: On New York State’s Legalization of Recreational Cannabis By Beck Schaaf fter more than five years of overwhelming popular support, New York State just became the 15th state (along with Washington D.C.) to legalize recreational cannabis after the state legislature passed Senate Bill S.854A/A.1248-A. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has held the seat since 2011, had opposed previous moves to legalize cannabis not out of personal or political reservations but because he was not in favor of the amount of tax revenue that was planned to be reinvested in communities of color that have been most affected by laws criminalizing the possession and use of marijuana. Last year, people of color made up ninety-four percent of marijuana-related convictions by New York State police departments. This overwhelming disparity is even more shocking when compared to rates of cannabis usage, which a NYC Health Department survey measured at 24% among white city residents compared to 14% of Black and 12% of Latino residents, respectively.
Following intense political pressure from both Democrats and Republicans, at levels from seat holders in New York towns and counties
to U.S. Congresspeople (including both New York Senators Gilibrand and Senate Majority Leader Schumer) that called for Gov. Cuomo to resign after multiple allegations of workplace sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior, the governor has finally chosen to sign the bill to legalize cannabis. With this leverage, the new legislation will reinvest 40% of tax revenue from cannabis sales and licensing into communities of color, $140 million of the projected $350 million annual tax revenue. “My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of color across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalization to help heal and repair those same communities,” said State Senator Liz Krueger who co-sponsored the bill and has been championing for racial justice in NYS for years. Many activists are calling for more explicit descriptions of how exactly this money will be spent, and are demanding it be put into programs like a universal basic income for those previously affected by harsh criminalization of the plant in addition to affordable housing and home-ownership programs for low-income New York State residents. The Bill included ambiguous descriptions of “equity programs” that will work with small farmers to distribute grants and business licenses, but are not clear in exactly how they will do so
“However, following New York’s legalization of medical marijuana—which was one of the most restrictive of the Democratic states by choosing not to legalize medical sale of marijuana flower, only tinctures, concentrates, and salves—10 large companies invested in the medical marijuana industry “in New York early on by making deals with the State.” and who will be eligible. Additionally, past and current convictions relating to the growing, possession, and use of cannabis that are now legal will be expunged and lifted from the criminal records of “tens of thousands” of New Yorkers. It is unclear if and to what extent convictions relating to the distribution and sale of cannabis will be expunged.
The State has the goal of granting half of adult-use licenses to “social equity” applicants and small, independent dispensaries. However, following New York’s legalization of medical marijuana—which was one of the most restrictive of the Democratic states by choosing not to legalize medical sale of marijuana flower, only tinctures, concentrates, and salves—10 large companies invested in the medical marijuana industry in New York early on by making deals with the State. These companies chose to do so because they predicted the legalization of recreational cannabis in the coming years, and wanted an “in” on the expected high profitability of the industry.
New York’s long-time insistence on not legalizing recreational cannabis while other states were pioneers of the industry because of the demand to reinvest money taxed into communities that were affected by harsh racist, classist, and xenophobic policies is still highly present in the wording of the Bill and how it is being reacted to by State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Most importantly, what S.854A/A.1248-A moving forward means, though, is that legalizing marijuana and investing in communities of color has never been impossible. It was only politically unfavorable to the New York State lawmakers (including Gov. Cuomo) who represent majority-white counties and districts, and could only be moved forward when damning information about the man who holds veto power over passed legislation came into the limelight. It shouldn’t take our lawmakers being accused of and undergoing investigations relating to sexual misconduct and power abuse to be able to move these widely-supported policies forwards, especially when a measured 60% of New York State and an overwhelming 68% of United States residents were in favor of legalization and record expungement. A small handful of very wealthy, often white, individuals hold immense power over the laws that govern us and often actively oppose measures that hold popular support, like nation-wide universal healthcare and voting reformations. An answer—often proposed by privileged and out-of-touch dissidents of these policies—is to ‘simply’ run for public offices at local, state, and nation-wide levels. But for the majority of Americans who are working class and struggling to make ends meet, especially during an ongoing pandemic, taking tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and anywhere from six months to a year to campaign for these seats is simply impossible. Average Americans are held down by
commitments to their families, where almost a quarter (23%) of families are single-parent households, and restricted by having what little money they had saved up going towards medical debt and ever-rising rents. Those with generational wealth and privilege are those most able to set aside such worldly commitments to be able to run for public offices and take charge over the legislation that shapes our country and communities. Many Americans, especially people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and disabled individuals are stuck in a designed cycle of poverty that prevents them from being able to make change from the “top-down” level of our society. Programs like universal healthcare, affordable and/ or guaranteed housing, student loan debt forgiveness, and a basic income are all policies that would allow our governing bodies to be more diverse, representative of real Americans, and able to tackle problems faced by communities across the country. We are stuck in a designed paradox, a cycle of disenfranchisement, that prevents progressive policies from being passed and supported by social inequalities that prevent young progressives from entering the public sector with new ideas and equitable visions of the future.
CW: This section contains graphic content relating to assault, self-harm, and eating disorders.
SEX + HEALTH
hen we were putting together our section we knew it would be important to acknowledge how this past year deeply impacted our relationship to sex and health. The effects and trauma of this moment live on in our bodies, amplifying conversations about mental, physical and sexual health across media ecologies previously silent on such issues. We want to emphasize that these are not new concerns. These pieces derive from specific circumstances and individual embodiments, but they are a result of a collective experience. Some of these pieces invite you to laugh, some invite you to grieve, and some invite you to grow with the writer. All are invitations. We hope to provide a space for comfort and solace amidst all the noise. -Karina & Tessa
Proper Health By Anonymous hen I think of health, and what health means to me, I think immediately of fear. Health, rather than being a word that fills me with gratitude, relief, and thankfulness, feels fragile, delicate. I believe I am wrong for thinking like this.
I was born into a bloodline of hypochondriacs. Father’s side. His mother’s side. Too many times I have called my mother urgently, asking her if the pain in my leg was from blood clotting, if my horrible migraines were actually the result of a brain tumor. Unnecessary stress. I’d stay up all night feeling my neck glands; throat cancer. “Let’s just chop the whole leg off,” my mother learned to respond to me. Of course, it isn’t completely genetic. When I was fifteen my body shut down. It started with headaches, moving my eyes a certain way brought pain. Then it was joint pain. And then one morning I woke up and couldn’t pee. I couldn’t do anything to fix it. My bladder was full, I had to use the bathroom, but once I sat down on the toilet… nothing. It was such a basic human function to have suddenly ripped away from me. This was followed by a twelve hour visit to the emergency room and a remarkable amount of prodding and poking over the subsequent weeks. I underwent MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, dozens of blood tests, a test examining my brain activity, and countless extremely–and I mean extremely–intrusive tests at the urologist that I do not wish to share the details of. The doctors were concerned. I remember sitting with my parents in these random offices awaiting more results, the doctors coming in throwing their hands up in the air, their brows furrowed. Nothing. I was in perfect health. “You’re stumping New York City’s entire medical community!” One doctor joked. I wanted to punch him in the face.
I had to learn how to use disposable catheters. I carried dozens of them everywhere I went. I was used to the fear of having a hidden tampon in my pocket
when leaving my High School Spanish class to go the bathroom, but hiding a catheter was something else. I would take deep breaths in the stalls before using them, wincing but remaining silent, lest someone washing their hands would hear me. Soon I was able to do it without the deep breaths, numb to the pain, my routine taking under two minutes. My head hurt. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Outside my family, I only told two people. The doctors never figured out why my body’s basic system shut down. All I was left with was a doctor saying, “Maybe it was anxiety.” Slowly, things started to go back to normal. Sitting on the toilet, I learned to count up and down from ten before I could pee. Deep breaths. My body healed all on its own. I tried so hard to get something beautiful out of my months as a healthy sick person; I tried to feel gratitude or appreciation for my body’s resilience (it had resolved its ailments all on its own!). Impossible. I was simply left plagued with a wariness of doctors, a mistrust of my own body, and an incredibly annoying, and sometimes debilitating habit of torturing myself on WebMD. Hypochondria was the secret friend that would pull me away from my friends and family, sitting on the ground of a bathroom, recognizing the headache, the painful movement of the eye. The repeating
it’s happening again. Hard to shake. Over the years I’ve made visits to doctors and specialists who would shake their heads and ask me what exactly I was doing there. You seem fine. I’d shrug. Chest pain? This year suddenly hypochondria became everyone’s friend – and no one was secretive about it. It has not made me feel less alone in my worries, it has not made my anxieties feel heard or seen in any way. Frankly, it was disturbing to see people I had known to be completely unfazed by a doctor’s visit now in daily duress. It made me feel worse to see my own neurosis manifest itself in everyone around me. I am not sure if I will ever learn how to think of health properly. I am aware of the privilege I have to be speaking of health in such abstract terms, void of any urgency or real danger. I simply have to remind myself that my body is doing everything in its power to work for, and not against, me. I need to learn how to be kind to my body, to forgive my body.
Patienthood By Brynn Gauthier Content Warning: Eating disorders, hospitals, self-harm, death. Author’s Note: Names have been changed for the privacy of other patients.
n October 1, 2020, I was sent home from Vassar College at the recommendation of Health Services. I was a senior for the month of September, and then I was a patient. I would learn that my home, Denver, Colorado, is the eating disorder capital of the world, and that Oreos cannot be dipped in milk. I would learn to earn my butterfly clips from my Sharps Bucket with good behavior and I would learn how ungentle I had really been: making a paperclip, economy, police-precinct-sketch of myself. For the next two months, I live in a bedroom on the second floor. My roommate is named Tonya. She is 58-years-old, from Oregon, and her fingernails were flaky, like mine. She gives me a sand dollar when she leaves. I am very afraid of it crumbling.
We drink milk and put our feet above our heads: it helps with the swelling. Some days, we are I watch my friends cry over maple syrup rivers and rip spoon-shaped and some days we are lighthouses. out endless National Geographic pages. Yolky and blue, Other days, we are endless apologies. At 7pm, we wait we wish upon saloon doors and construction paper. for mail. Staff watches us open and read long letters from far away people, and then they keep the envelopes. In the bathroom, we share Q-tips and wonder if the morning will come again. I give my eating disorder a name, Gloria, and explain that she is the friend I am friends with at college because my mom probably wouldn’t like her. I liked that she was interested in me, and when her love hurt, it seemed like you were just learning what everyone else already knew. We laugh, and I stink of half-truths. On Christmas, we make a tree out of pipe cleaners. On New Year’s Day, we miss house parties we never went to, upstairs neighbors we never had. While rioters storm the Capitol Building in January, we are waiting in front of a thermometer, hoping that the temperature goes above 32 degrees so we can get 10 minutes of Fresh Air Time instead of five. On our second floor, our world is narrowed to murky voicemails. Our gravity lies in lukewarm Ensure bottles while the Earth’s gravity lies in vaccines and impeach-
ment processes. My extinction was charming until it wasn’t. My decay was organized until it wasn’t. Eating disorders are the entanglement of someone constrained to pay attention. I was so sick of being itched by the world, and so I began investing in a new geometry. But this is the math as I remember: I remember tiny, spider Brynn who was cold on her 21st birthday and her dad had to hold her. I remember clumps of hair. I remember the evil joy of eating on my own and the pain of snack time. I remember being sunken and alone. I don’t know if I should be ashamed or angry. I am ashamed that people I love saw me like this, I am ashamed I scared those people, I am ashamed that I still mourn the control my eating disorder gave me every day. I am ashamed that I am exhausted by and infatuated with the very thing that almost killed me. I am ashamed that I could so easily forget what my life was without it, and struggle each day to choose not to live the way I had become so comfortable living. I am angry that I have this shame, I am angry I couldn’t handle the world as I was starting to know it to be, and I am angry that I still struggle to deserve anger. When I dutifully write down my shame and my anger, therapized and still, I realize it is about others. It has very little actually to do with me. My eating disorder preyed upon my pursuit of Goodness, tempered my actuality in pursuit of the Brynn that wanted to be whatever other people wanted her to be. In her false compassion, I felt like I was doing the best thing I could for myself and for others: I was making my bigness smaller. I was making my cheeks less red. I was making my heart more palatable. Treatment has been a pilgrimage to the lives I thought I was supposed to be living while avoiding the life that I feared was too confrontational, too much. My college experience, in a way, simulated its own Second Floor Narrowness. Believing in Gloria felt, at first, like believing in the hierarchy of the sides of the Deece. Your world gets comfortable, small, then suffocating. I came to Vassar a romantic and am leaving symptomatic. I don’t want my senior year back. I don’t even want the fantasy of my freshman year. I’m done with Vassar, I think: grateful, but done. I just want a second chance and to never see a Mandala coloring book ever again. I can’t help but still hold my patienthood. There is still a part of me standing on cold tiles in a paper gown in front of eggshell walls with a Dixie cup of my own urine. In my new saturation, I know I am also flimsier. I have neither the steady hollowness of Anorexia, nor the bouncy tumble of someone who has never known addiction. I still keep my hands above the table when I eat, and have to be reminded to put my napkin in my lap. I sometimes wait for someone to tell me to sit down when I am standing, and anticipate being yelled at for not eating a mushy grape. Why am I writing this? Who am I writing this to? I guess the hope is that by saying that at one point I was a senior, that I can still be a senior, that I can then also be a graduate.
ere lies t he H “
ut being ne abo ing think
Perhaps you knew me as headstrong shopping cart wheels, or Silly String matted on wet grass. Perhaps I am a stranger writing nonsense about mainlining hard boiled eggs in a hospital. Perhaps you know Gloria, perhaps you have liked her, too. Maybe I write this because popsicle sticks can make great castles, when all put together. Maybe I write this because I want to be told that I have been Silly String, so I can say back that I want to be Silly String again, maybe
on rs pe
I left Vassar on October 1st a popsicle-stick of a human being, horseradish on bread you wish was buttered. I am trying to believe that I have been more than a patient before and that I will be again. I don’t have to be what I have been, but I can, and maybe I already am.
even the biodegradable kind. I was so lonely. I simply don’t want to be anymore. By putting words on paper, I am calling out the Brynn I had shown you and the Brynn I have chalked myself up to being, calling on both to make room for a not-yet-defined seasonality. I do not know what is next, but silence and isolation is not it, and so here is my last five months. Here is the room with the frosted windows I lived in on that second-floor. Here is my microwaved heart. Here lies the person you thought I was and the person I thought I was and the person I am thinking about being next. So once again, here I am, investing my narrative in other people: needing a recipient to validate my
the pers o n
Iw a s ght an ou d th
ou ny o s r
s wa I t ugh
smallness, my bigness, the fact that I am trying, the fact that I was once something more than I am now. I am struggling with the need to justify myself, the need to let you know what I was thinking and how I was thinking. If I don’t, I am destined to be irrational and Gloria would have been right. I was waxy and susceptible and taken by something. But it wasn’t me. Do you believe me? I want you to, so I can believe myself. This is a story of custodianship. I don’t intend to romanticize what it is to not want to feed yourself, to be afraid of hunger. It was the least romantic thing in the world. This is a story of how, at 21-years-old, I learned to want to take care of myself again. In the past, that meant talking to others, sharing campfires,
holding hands. It meant telling the truth. That is what I am trying to do again. My tongue is finding new caverns in brownie batter barns. Some days I blossom and some days I bellow. Some days I write frantic letters that I can hang my marbles on. Learning to take up space again is the hardest thing I have ever done. I am done trying to fit into hands, asking how I can be different from exactly what I am. When you see me next, I hope to be vulgar. I hope to have cold, soft-serve ice cream teeth and sweaty palms. I hope to have infinite Fresh Air time and triumphantly dip Oreos in milk. I hope to be full and foul and sagging with joy.
But most of all, when you see me next, I hope to be alive.
This Can Be Funny By Keira Seyd
ell me about it.” Tell you what? “Has it gotten worse?” It’s really difficult to tell. “Do you notice new symptoms?” Yes, well, I think so. “Can you describe it to me?”
Mmmm I want a cig. “Miss?” The doctor interjects my funny little spiel and stares at me with eyes trained to convey patience. Have I fallen silent? “Can you describe it to me?” Well, I say hesitantly. “That’s okay.” I mean, there are more floaters--
“Are you ~dazzled~ when you walk into a bright room?” This one is my favorite question. Razzle-dazzled, I respond with jazz hands and a grin, waiting for her to burst out into laughter. “Excuse me?” With a sigh of boredom, I give her what she wants. Yes, I feel dazzled. “Okay, excellent.” Excellent, I think to myself, stifling a laugh.
“Can you describe it to me?” What a funny little question, what a set-up. I know she won’t like my answer. No one ever does. They want me to describe what I can’t see, and in that, describe what I can see. It’s hilarious to wrap my mind around it, especially when I do try to answer, all they respond with is “Interesting.” They aren’t legally allowed to give me much more than that. It’s a niche experience, having someone look into your eyes and have them only respond with a monotone “Interesting.” I have to stop myself from saying I’m sure it is buddy. They never get the punchline, I wish they would.
still can’t see at night. “Interesting.” Bingo.
“Mmmhmm,” she nods sympathetically, scribbling notes on the back of her folder -- and the snow is hard for me, in terms of the reflection, I can’t see in the snow. I think it’s getting more difficult to recognize people and things from far away? Can’t really tell. And then the night is the same as it has always been. “And by that you mean…” I
Whenever I come here, the technicians always compliment me. There’s this one technician I like to flirt with sometimes. He’s 24 and I can already see him as a successful doctor living in Westwood or Brentwood or one of the other “woods” with a family and like, six Goldendoodles -- hypoallergenic, of course. He does my dark adaptation tests and calls me a trooper, tells me if there was such a thing as acing a dark adaptation test, I
would be doing it. I know he’s lying because I suck at dark adaptation tests per my genetic inability to adapt to the dark, but I appreciate it nonetheless. They tell me “It’s such a relief to work with a patient who can sit still and not complain.” At first, I didn’t understand what they meant by this. After a couple of times going in, I soon realized that they just meant it was nice to work with a young patient and not some seventy-five-year-old who has a small bladder or is in every right angry at life. They’ve lived too long and just as they’re starting to relax and enjoy the golden years, they can’t even watch their favorite TV show. I don’t love when they tell me how great I am, what a dutiful patient I am compared to the others. It’s a reminder that this might happen to me fifty years too early. After six hours, I collect my mom from the conference room and fight the urge to rub my eyes. They’re numbed from the test where they tape my lids open and hook me up to what I can only describe as plastic robot contact lenses. If I rub them too hard, I could pop my eyeball in and barely even feel it. On my way out, I spot a frail old woman in post-dilation glasses smoking a cigarette in the parking lot, refusing to sit in her wheelchair and waving her attendant off of her. I laugh, really laugh, for the first time today. My mother smiles at me, not in on the joke, but happy to bear witness. “What is it?” She asks me with a hint of a smile. Nothing, I reassure her. It’s just -- Like staring into a warped mirror-- it’s nothing, just tired and delirious. I’ve written numerous pieces about my eyes -- it’s one of the only concrete forms of processing I can engage in freely. As I grow with this diagnosis, I have found the humor in my condition. My sister and I joke about our experiences with our doctors, the way that people react when we tell them, what we will be like when we are older, etc. I want to joke about it. I want to be able to laugh at my diagnosis because finding humor in pain is a necessary aspect of coping, growing, and simply existing. My disease is not this dark looming depressing feature in my life. When I joke about it, it is not a haphazard attempt to cover my grief with forced laughter. I especially don’t want sympathy in those moments because when I am unable to share the humor in my condition, it’s a reminder that it is a disease and that its valence is more often than not viewed as tragic. It is and it isn’t because it just is what it is. There are moments where it is loaded and upsetting, of course, but within those are funny and joyous moments too. It is okay to laugh with me, in fact, it makes me feel better.
Thoughts on Title IX By Anonymous Content Warning: Sexual Assault/Rape/ Title IX
got into an abusive relationship my first year at Vassar. I tried to leave him (Y) seven times but he would stalk me on campus or blow up my phone until I got back together with him. It was also my first year at Vassar and Y’s last year. The power dynamics were horrifying. Another survivor and I reported our abuser to Title IX last year. The process ended up lasting over five months. More than 15 people got dragged in to testify for either Y or the survivors. Throughout the process Y filed multiple complaints of harassment against me and others. The resource that was supposed to be a justice attaining healing source so easily became weaponized against the survivors. I thought Y was the exception for abusers/ rapists that have the audacity to file Title IXs against survivors, but I was wrong. As I joined multiple healing spaces for survivors of SA at Vassar, I heard more about how traumatizing the Title IX process was for the survivors that filed. I heard about instances of the abuser filing complaints against the survivor, of rich abusers bringing in lawyers with lawsuits, and more. An abuser can easily turn Title IX into a “game.” “Game” because any person can file a complaint, and the office will have to investigate. An abuser can easily claim Malicious Intent or Harassment for the survivor speaking out about their experience. And then what? It’s almost as if the Title IX Office expects the survivor to file a Retaliation claim back at the abuser. A “game” emerges of who can file the most claims and stand through the process the longest. These dirty tricks happen because there simply is no rule against it. I am not writing this to show abusers a way out of a Title IX–they have already been doing this. My point
is to expose the corruptness of the Title IX process and to explain how this process ultimately ends up serving people who abuse and manipulate systems/people. People don’t understand how traumatizing the Title IX process is. The process goes on for months, and the survivor is forced to relive and explain why their experience is valid. In instances where the abuser denies the allegations (which is the majority of the time), the abuser jumps at the chance to twist the words in the survivor’s testimony. Even if the abuser doesn’t file a case against the survivor, the system becomes an accessible way for the abuser to further abuse and gaslight the survivor. This relates to a more extensive conversation on how society views/treats sexual assault, justice, and education. However, now, on the Vassar campus, we need to recognize this problem. Why is it all hush-hush when you see the rapist walking around campus? Why is the rapist still walking on this campus? Why does the survivor have to relive trauma every time they see the
see the rapist? Why are people immediately kicked off campus for breaking COVID-19 rules while rapists are allowed to stay? What are the priorities of this school?
There needs to be a new way we view these harms. A way that fully supports the survivor and applies justice to the perpetrator in a transformative way. One that ensures the perpetrator genuinely acknowledges the harm they caused, and ensures they commit to change in a way that does not burden the survivor. If we allow these abusers and rapists to continue walking around campus, then they should be going through intensive therapy and discussions that lead them to recognize how they have harmed another person, but ultimately, they must want to change. College Regulations Handbook: https://deanofthecollege.vassar.edu/documents/college-regulations/VassarCollegeRegulations.pdf
Sexual Assault and Rape on College Campuses Statistics/Info: https://savp.vassar.edu/information/statistics.html
Our Tiny Villages By Anonymous
s that something I should get checked for?” My boyfriend asked when I told him I had a yeast infection.
I suppressed the urge to laugh before reassuring him that yeast infections tend to be a routine—albeit extremely irritating—part of having a vagina. That being said, I had never had one before and was more than a little freaked out by the itchy, chaffe-y feeling and weird, clumpy discharge. Still, I was amused by my boyfriend’s lack of understanding regarding the subject, having dealt with vagina-issues-by-proxy for years as various friends came down with infections. As I explained to him the ins and outs of the vagina (pH levels, good vs. bad bacteria, etc.), it occurred to me just how much work this particular body part can be. It’s like your own little world: a private ecosystem that relies on you to care for and nurture it. All the actors need to be accounted for—there can’t be too little bacteria, because then you’ll get yeast, but there can’t be too much of certain types of bacteria, because then you’ll get bacterial vaginosis. There’s flora and pH and good discharge and bad discharge and birth control and 100,000 ways to deal with your period. Suddenly, I was less entertained by my boyfriend’s dearth of knowledge and more intrigued by my own wealth of such. “Intrigued” here is a complicated word: I was simultaneously impressed with myself and infuriated by the necessity of knowing all this. My boyfriend was pretty perfect throughout this process—he listened actively and comforted me when appropriate. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of jealousy. He will never understand what it’s like to deal with vulvar drama firsthand. He will never wake up randomly itchy and wonder which aspect of the careful balance was out of whack. He will never lie in a chair with his legs spread apart while a doctor cranks tools open inside his body. He will never fight with a pharmacist about the date of his birth control refill because he decided to skip his period one month; he will never panic about being unable to remove his menstrual cup; he will never fake an orgasm. The act of explaining the amount of work that goes into having a vagina made me both appreciative and resentful of myself. This accidental anatomy lesson had another adverse effect: I began to panic about my yeast infection. Vaginas are so delicate (and in other ways unbelievably tough and resilient—babies fit through there?!) that it seemed at once both inevitable that issues like yeast would come up and also impossible to adequately address them without inadvertently causing more problems. I began to envision a never-ending cycle of infections and treatments that caused other infections followed by infections whose treatments caused the original infection again. This proved true, to an extent. After treating for yeast, I still felt symptoms. I went to the doctor, who told me nothing was wrong. A week later, when I was still feeling symptoms, the same doctor prescribed antibiotics to treat for bacterial vaginosis (which she was certain I didn’t have) and, warning me that the antibiotics were more than likely to cause another yeast infection, a Diflucan pill to be taken on the last day of the course. I was panicking by this point, spending hours on
WebMD and Mayo Clinic’s websites searching every possible iteration of “vulvar discomfort.” Feeling the stress mount, I reached out to an absurd number of vagina-having friends for advice. Every single person had a story. Some accounts I remembered from when they happened; others had been suffered in relative silence. One friend in particular had been through a monthslong process of unidentifiable vulvar discomfort, culminating in her parents’ anger as expensive lab test after expensive lab test (not covered by insurance) came back negative. Her gynecologist eventually insisted that the whole thing was somatic. The itching finally ended five months after it began, when she went off birth control and learned to manage her anxiety. “It was all-consuming,” she empathized as I described what I was going through. Other people had recurring post-sex UTIs no matter how quickly after they peed, or yeast infections that cleared up quickly upon treatment before coming back less than a month later. We all had one shared observation: vulvar discomfort is horrible on more than just the physical level. There isn’t a perfect equivalent of the word “emasculate” for people who identify as women (a fact that is in itself telling about the stigma of this issue), but that’s what it feels like. Like the part of you that provides pleasure—a powerhouse of femininity—is turning against you, stealing your comfort and your sanity along with an aspect of your identity.
My mom, who is a practicing therapist, was vital in helping me identify that addressing such emotional pain would be a central part of my treatment plan. She instructed me to separate the sensation from the pain: “The pain of feeling scared and inadequate is not equivalent to the sensation of itching or burning. Unpleasant sensation can be managed with medication and with non-pharmacological approaches. One non-pharmacological approach is deciding where to place your focus. Which is another hugely valuable life skill,” she texted me in the middle of one of my anxiety attacks.
This advice proved helpful, if not curative. Several times I called her crying from the staircase of my boyfriend’s apartment at 3am (he told me to wake him but nothing compares to my mom’s voice when I’m sad) and she would talk to me for hours, sometimes sympathetic and soothing, sometimes tough and firm, reminding me how fortunate I am that this is my primary health concern. Overall, she served as a wealth of knowledge regarding both vaginal health (she’s had decades more to hear friends’ stories) and anxiety management, reminding me that people have lived through this and that the pain and shame is something I can control even when the sensation isn’t. My dad is equally loving and supportive, but in terms of knowledge…not quite so much. I told him about my discomfort only when I needed his help with the logistics of scheduling a doctor’s appointment. At the time, I hadn’t gone to my dad with a vagina issue since one fateful day shortly after my parents’ divorce when I asked if he could pick up a box of tampons to keep at his new apartment. “Of course!” he answered in an overly enthusiastic attempt to quell any possible awkwardness. “What size?” “Just get a variety pack,” I replied. “Okay, but what size are you?” I looked at him for a beat. “What size am I?” It slowly dawned on me that my dad, a 58-year-old father of two post-adolescent daughters and who had spent nearly 30 years in a relationship with their cis-gendered mother, was under the impression that vaginas have tampon sizes. After processing this surreal development in my life, I realized that it fell to me to explain basic vulvar anatomy to my dad. “Vaginas don’t have tampon sizes, but different people have different period flows, which also change throughout the week. For example, at the beginning of the period you might need a bigger tampon because your flow is heavier, whereas right before your period ends you’d probably use a smaller one.” He soaked this in (no pun intended) and obediently bought a variety pack of tampons for his apartment. Thus ended any lingering illusions I might have clung to that my parents were all-knowing.
This stayed in the back of my mind as I explained to him my new vagina problems. He listened non-judgmentally and then advised me to lay off the Google searches. This was probably sound advice: as we all know, the Internet is full of horror stories regarding every possible medical condition, and vaginal pain is no exception. People write of years long battles with recurring yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis, the medication for which often causes yeast infections, starting the cycle again. Every over the counter treatment I found came with at least a handful of stories about how it had worsened the situation rather than bettering it, sprinkled between a couple “miracle cure” reviews, the authorships of which are questionable at best. This rabbit hole of problematic vaginas is enough to send one into full-on panic, which is exactly what it did to me, and more than once. And yet there were true success stories. There were women and people with vaginas more generally who had found peace by learning how to work with their bodies. I began to see my vagina as a small but powerful village, one which needed my help to stay healthy, but to which I also needed to listen. It’s a process that I’m not done with yet—my vagina and I have some conflict resolution left to do, but I love her and myself unconditionally and am determined to find what works for both of us. As for the women in my life and the anonymous vagina-havers on the Internet, I love them too. In this uncomfortable, anxiety-provoking, self-esteem-threatening realm of vulvar insecurity, I have found yet another example of resilience within this community. I have also discovered how woefully uneducated people with penises can be about the bodies of those they love and care for. This is detrimental to all of us: I know how much my boyfriend and my dad want to be there for me, but no one took the time to teach them how. Instead, we stigmatize, silence, and shame people out of discussing their vaginas and reaching out for support. We develop and prescribe medications that are so harsh they upset the vaginal ecosystem in an effort to fix it. We use language that causes insecurity
about the ways vaginas look, smell, and feel. In short, we are afraid of vaginas. Those of us who have them worry that ours will fail us or that they aren’t similar enough to other people’s; those without don’t know enough about them to appreciate their fragile might. This journey through vagina itching and burning and chafing ultimately deepened my relationships with both my body and the people I love, and despite all the pain (and sensations, as my mother would have me add) I am grateful. Let this be a call to love the tiny ecosystem between your legs or the legs of someone you love. They are volatile, but so very worth the time and effort it takes to get to know them. And if you have struggled, or are currently struggling, with something similar, know that you are not alone and that you will survive. Reach out to those around you—I guarantee you will find empathy within the massive community of people learning to understand their tiny villages.
Some people say that the pandemic is really just an hors d’oeuvre to the looming effects of global climate change to come. We are certainly faced with a crisis within a crisis. From this position it can be difficult to find steady ground. Yet despite the particular grief ridden disorientation of our day, it is imperative that we fasten ourselves down for the long haul. Is the “new normal” that of perpetual crisis?
The pieces that follow share a similar goal in that they are all speculatively looking for a future. Together through the varying scales of the global, the institutional, and the personal, these three visions seek to find a way forward . -Caleb
RCP8.5 By William Riley
he immesnse expanse of our planet is most often visualized through abstracted forms, yet global catastrophe remains difficult to reduce to the single diagram. In recent memory the flattened projection of globe, turned technical diagram, has become an iconic visualization of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wildly disseminated maps produced by organizations such as the New York Times, the pandemic is divided by the political boarders of internationally recognized states. Countries are rendered in shades of yellow, orange, red and maroon. Continents become color fields. Crisis is crimson. Presented with the existential and inescapable severity of the climate crisis, our visualizations of global climate catastrophe also default to the evocative shades of the sanguine. Often corporally detached by the technical precision of computer generated graphics, maps such as RCP8.5 lack a human connection. While the technical projected map provides severely impoverished vision of the violently dire stakes of climate catastrophe, it remains an alluring conception of our immediate and incompressible global emergencies.
Fig. 1 IPCC’s RCP8.5 scenario average change in surface temperature (1986-2005 to 2081-2100). The RCP8.5 is the most extreme climate scenario, a future humans are not likely to survive for long. Models take available data, knowledge of how our climate functions and has functioned, and makes projections based on trends that can be extrapolated. A model is not a bible, it is a model. We do not know exactly what will happen, when, or where. This watercolor may bleed 1000km too far west – this map, like the projection, is not an exact look at the future. Yet these models hold immense value as they give us a larger idea of what will happen on different paths we take. We can see that the impacts will not be evenly spread. We can see how extreme this temperature regime is. We can see that this is an uninhabitable world, regardless of how the watercolor dried.
VISIONS OF THE GOLF COURSE
By Elijah Chilton & Ekin Gülen
ss Va ar Go
lf Team 18
39 Proposal for the Golf Course 1929
n 2025, Vassar is set to renegotiate it’s contract with the company currently leasing the golf course. While the Climate Action and Sustainability Committee (CASC) and Students for Equitable Environmental Decisions (SEED) have discussed more sustainable alternatives for the immense golf course acreage, the future of this carefully mowed expanse remains uncertain. As a substantial portion of the western side of campus, the land of golf course is geographically significant despite its limited use by students, and the vassar community at large. Yet there is no shortage of golfable terrain nearby. Within a three mile radius of campus there are three other golf courses to choose from. Keeping in mind Vassar’s own institutional goal of carbon neutrality by 2030, is the apocalyptic suburban ecology of the golf course really so essential? Throughout the 1920s students, faculty, and alumnae eagerly fundraised and planned the construction of the golf course we know today as a welcome campus amenity. Yet nearly 100 years later as effects of climate catastrophe loom, the continued maintenance of bourgeois leisure athletics no longer seems to be the most pressing matter in campus planning. As the campus community continues to ponder the future of the Vassar campus, and where its institutional ideals lie, 21st century visions for the golf course are desperately needed.
Proposal for the
Golf Course 2029
Foraging with Diego Scala Chavez
By Caleb Mitchell
CPM: So what got you into foraging? DSC: At the start of the pandemic I was really into TikTok, I am now not into TikTok, but at the time I was following this person named Alexis (@ BlackForager). She posted these really funny and informative videos about foraging and she would always show the end product with her recipes. I thought the concept of food from your backyard was really nice. CPM: Nice. What sorts of things do you like to forage? DSC: The most delicious thing I have foraged is definitely ramps. Previously I had never had a ramp, but I learned about them in ramp season, which is late April, that they are really good. Apparently chefs and farmers-market-people all over the world go and forage for their own ramps. That being said, the thing that excites me the most is mushrooms. Although hunting for mushrooms is definitely on the more dangerous side of foraging, since there are many more steps that go into it, I really enjoy the mycology components the most. CPM: Certainly mycology seems incredibly interesting! What is it about mycology, or the mushroom hunt, that excites you?
Morel mushrooms found in a secret location.
DSC: When I was bored and procrastinating, I would watch mycology lectures on Youtube around the same time I got this field manual
o ti n g s o m e r am
for mushrooms of the Northeast. They are really cool. The mushrooms that we eat are the fruits of the actual mushroom. The mushroom is the fruit, but the mycelium is the organism. They aren’t a plant or an animal, they have their own realm. They have their own kingdom, that is so sick. About 80% of trees in the world depend on mushrooms to grow, so it’s so cool. It’s a huge scavenger hunt, it feels fun. GinGin: Where do you go to forage at vassar? DSC:Over the winter I would literally forage in the backyard for field garlic. That then extended to looking around campus, and then to the ecological preserve too. The only thing is that the ecological preserve has sooo many ticks. It’s not okay. The plants that grow there that are invasive just help the ticks because they are high in moisture content. The ticks are just really turned on by that so it’s kind of crazy. When I go back home I will have to read a different manual for Northern Mexico foraging, but for now I am in the Northeast. CPM: do you have any advice for the aspiring forager? DSC:Get a field guide and read it. See which plants you are able to identify and what recipes you can make from them. The worst thing that can happen is you get a nice walk.
hen writing, I am often confronted with the question of why: why am I writing this, why must I say this, why would anyone want to read it?
The answer is simple: because I need to say it. Because if I don’t, I may explode. Every word printed in this magazine needed to be said. Writing for oneself is one of the hardest things to do; sharing that writing is one of the bravest. This section is thought-provoking; we invite you to consider your place in the world through the lens of these poems, stories, letters, and images. Examine the bonds between mother and child, between grief and love, between lover and beloved. Explore your relationship to yourself, your birthday, how you feel about leaves falling to the ground. Enjoy yourself, and think. Think about what you have to say. Think about that thing that has been gnawing at your brain, squirming to be let out. We invite you to open the floodgates, to write what you can’t say with your throat. If enough of us decide to be brave, to share our hidden selves through ink, the world could be washed anew. Perhaps that’s a bit too optimistic, but I dare you to test my theory. Write it down, and send it out. You’ll feel better, I promise. -Keira and Claire
My Father’s Garden By Adam Benamram
think at this point in my academic career I can say that I consider myself a short story writer. That said, until this piece I have never been inspired on my own to write a short story or a story of any kind. I was walking from my dorm room to get breakfast, listening to a podcast, as I do every morning; today’s subject was the Taliban and its renewed relations with the United States government, but it began with a personal account of life under siege and under peace that struck me as horrifyingly poetic. This story is an exploration of the menace of war and unbalanced power that can so fully invade and destroy your life without ever directly inflicting violence upon you. Peace was intermittent in that time. More often than not we could hear missiles trailing through the air or bombs going off. Nowhere was safe and we lived with the knowledge that at any moment our small house, made of rough white rocks bridged by a thick mortar, could soon become our tomb. I was a young boy then and so the knowledge never gave way to fear. It was the only life I knew. We were among the lucky, we had a garden. It was my father’s garden and he showed it intense care. He kept the arid soil watered, red peppers neatly placed, never intermingling with the cucumbers. The grapes he allowed to grow up the back of the house and we would eat them one-by-one in the summertime, spitting out the large seeds that could ruin a bite if you weren’t careful. He sometimes grew jasmine flowers for my mother, the seeds of which he collected on short walks he took alone when the fighting died down, briefly. His pride, however, rested on the thick-branched fig tree that grew in the center of the garden with its smooth trunk and plump fruit,
consistent in the puzzle-patterned shape of its leaves and protected by the patchwork of wire and wooden slats he had repurposed into a tall-enough fence. I would often peer out through the holes in that fence, a good way to watch the world without truly stepping into it. The garden was my father’s safe haven. Anything important sent him out to the garden, and usually us with him. At his most worried he worked the soil, he brought us out there for holidays, he spent an hour there just looking over what he had grown when he learned my sister would be born, and most of his prayer he did facing the Western wall of that makeshift fence. By the time I was twelve years old, I was praying daily out in the garden with my father. It was a meditative experience in peaceful moments. You could hear both near and far, the sound of bees buzzing among the flowers, birds in the fig tree, as well as trucks rolling down the street and the ezan phasing in and out from the speaker at the top of the minaret that was so tall, it even overlooked our little garden from so far away. The smells were pushed by a gentle breeze, soft thyme mixing with the sharp mint and the sweetness of fallen figs. In the middle of the day the sun shone down powerfully and you saw the dull red of your eyelids, even as you put your head to the ground. We laid on our mats as we always did—not a monotonous task, but a grounding one—when we heard the high-pitched whine of a missile. I continued to pray; in a situation such as this there are always three options. The first is prayer and the missile passes you by. The second is again prayer and the missile strikes you and you die closer to God than at any other time. The third is the revocation of prayer in which case I do not think it matters whether the missile misses or not. And so I continued
to pray. The whine grew louder and seconds later I heard a swish and a thump. I was compelled to look up to see that the branches of the fig tree were swaying, jostled by a huge gust of wind. I looked down at the earth below it and there in the soft soil that my father had only just hoed and aerated was a large hole. Neither of us moved. I turned to my father for what to do next but he was fixated on that hole. For entire minutes we sat in this posture, my eyes fixated on my father’s, his on the indication that, no matter whether we were actually in imminent danger, something important occupied that hole in our garden. Years later at an American university I attended an introductory philosophy class in which we discussed Shcrödinger’s cat. Placed in a box with a poisonous gas released at an unknown and random time, the cat could be said to be both alive and dead at the same time. Only the observation of the cat released it from its prison.
Sitting under the bright fluorescent lights I could think only of this moment where, without moving, without reacting, my father and I could remain both alive and dead—could remain unaffected by that aftermath— and my eyes never wavered. Finally he looked up from that hole, then down at his mat, and began to roll it up. I was still rooted in place but I watched as he walked inside the house, leaving the door open behind him. He walked back out, holding a filled watering-can which he brought over to the hole and immediately emptied into it. The circuits, he explained, Like the hot plate. He spoke in reference to the hot plate my mother used for cooking which I had ruined the month before when I spilled a bottle of water, sending sparks flying and earning a curt, well-deserved slap across the face. With that I was freed. My father understood the situation fully, its inner
machinations and exactly how to deal with the problem. I rolled up my prayer mat and followed him back inside.
only as a responsibility.
The fighting ended at around the same time. It took months, trickling out of the suburban areas first and We never called anyone to remove the missile. There then slowly, at last, receding from the bigger cities. But was no police and no bomb squad and, even if there peace came with a price. You could no longer watch were, they would have had much more important television, listen to music, keep family pictures. There bombs to worry about. My father continued to love his was only one channel now that played and I found garden. He watered his peppers and his cucumbers, the it exceedingly boring. The adult programming we grapes and the flowers and the fig tree, and he began to watched on our little black-and-white TV was dull and water the dormant projectile, too. After a few days the one-note (propaganda as I later learned) and the chilhole fell into itself and closed up, but he continued to dren’s programming which generally involved a rabbit soak the area in hopes that it would rust and eventually chasing a carrot, I found too immature. We didn’t break down into just a memory. have many pictures of the family. Those we did, we hid behind paintings on a thin canvas, stuck between Slowly, the bomb became a part of the garden. On days the glass, the paper, and the frame. Our family sat when my father was sick or could find work, someone safely behind these perfect patterns, blossoming from else had to take care of the watering and weeding, and singular points and rapidly expanding into colliding we all knew that this empty spot was a stop that had to hexagons, squares, and triangles that eventually made be made. Years passed and, though we did not forget every shape imaginable, only infinitesimally small. We about it, we no longer worried about it. It was our watched over our own lives through that infinity of unspoken secret, no longer shapes. recognized as a threat, The music ban hit my father especially hard.
He had a large plastic bin of cassettes—Ahmad Zahir, Mehri Maftun, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan—that he often pulled from at random and dropped into our tape player, another luxury of ours. When general peace began, however, personal peace disappeared. Anyone could expect a raid at all hours of the day and, fearing for our lives, my father sealed the bin, making sure it was watertight, and buried it in the garden, not far from the bomb. The tapes, too, entered our routine, only now we knew where not to water so as to preserve them. We never ended up unearthing them. The other big change was in our schooling. I was permitted to attend the same school, but we now studied more religious texts and many of my teachers left or had disappeared. Women were not allowed to study, however, and my sister who had recently completed her sixth grade was relegated to secret study in our garden with my mother or my father, whoever had more time available to spend with her that day. This worked for a while, a few months even, but they found us out as they always seemed to find out. Perhaps it was a neighbor, or someone walking by who happened to peer through one of the many holes in our fence but it does not matter how, only that they knew. On a late Thursday afternoon, two men walked through our open front door, both carrying large assault rifles. These I had seen only on the adult TV programming, but I associated them with a familiar sound—a sound that was supposed to be heard exclusively from far away. I was in the kitchen, making myself something to eat and as they walked by I was unable to move. In my memory I believe I was cordial, greeting the men with a, Good afternoon, but I forgot to ask them if they wanted something to drink. They asked if my sister lived here. She does. They asked me if my parents were home. They are not. One of them asked me if I had prayed this morning. Of course. The other asked me if I was scared of them. I did not know. I said nothing. They asked me where my sister was and I could think of nothing but to point to the sliding-glass doors. They walked out to the garden where my sister was watering the jasmine flowers and, wordlessly, one of them pulled out a knife and killed her with a cut across the throat. Then they stood there, enjoying the garden, enjoying the smells and the shade and the beautiful sights that we so lovingly tended to and created in our haven of a backyard. Then they left as quickly as they had come, causing no real disturbance in the daily routine. I never even thought to shout for help.
When I arrived in Germany, Jason was waiting in a black taxicab. He lamented my treatment by the airport staff so profusely that by the time we reached our hotel I was apologizing to him for the worry he had felt. He eventually got over it and we went to bed as the sun peeked over the horizon. We had a wonderful time in Germany.
My father spoke of the garden. It was wholly the same as when I had visited some three years before. The routine was unchanged: water the bomb, skip the tapes, tend to the jasmine. There was now also a small headstone in my mother’s memory. On the flight over I had had a premonition that I would reach my childhood home, walk through the kitchen to the garden, and find that the missile had finally exploded. It never did and it still has not. We still prayed together, outside among the fruits and the flowers, shaded by the fig tree. Its branches had continued to lengthen since I’d left for university more than a decade before, and it now covered that entire area, with patches of sunlight shining through. We prayed there with my sister and my mother, with the growing plants and the memory of flowing music, we prayed with the bees and the ants and the snakes and the birds, and we prayed with the missile, whose sharp whine had long diminished to a dull trill: the trill of the garden.
I was hired as an associate professor of anthropology at Iowa State University: Iowa State’s first Middle Eastern, Muslim, non-American, associate professor in the Anthropology Department, that’s how they introduced me. My mother passed away of tuberculosis a little while before that as I was earning my Ph.D. and she wouldn’t let me come home to see her—or rather I could not leave the United States and be readmitted due to my stupid oversight and my unrenewed visa. I said goodbye to her by phone. I felt so alone. A year later, visa successfully renewed, I travelled home to see my father. We had horrifyingly little to talk about. I told him about my work, the wide berth people gave my academic interests due to my Islamic background. I was never questioned when I proposed the study of Middle Eastern relations because why should I not be interested in the one thing they felt defined me?
A birthday after birthday poem By Isabel Drake
hings that appeared this past week: four bitter teas, over-steeped three Wednesdays, overslept two mass shootings, and our elders struck on Market Street on 360 W. 43rd Street (the puffy faces resemble my grandma) one paper cut— so I learned to stop seeing patterns in everything. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’m thinking about yesterday, and then tomorrow and yesterday and then yesterday again. No, such amiable friends dare not creep by in cruel unison, rather, they skitter and tumble and flow backward. Feigning their embrace, but soon puncturing my skin. Is tomorrow my birthday? I’m thinking about my grandmother’s fried rice, white pepper in the air. Tickling my throat, scallions spilled on the floor— Grains of rice still stuck to our insides, many birthdays later. It must have been lunchtime, but now it is dusk.
autumn By Austen Juul-Hansen
n the fall I grew my hair out Past my shoulders but no one believed me The room was bleak Filled with false intimacies, Tenderness by which I was blinded Until the walls spun out like those teacups And people spoke to me in the quiet Some things external Now silenced by the privacy of this lonely moment She said we would not repeat ourselves September not marked as it was before I knew things would reset I knew it would be fresh Like the smell of my sheets, and her skin I was naive of seasonal change I let magic take me, once again How do I trade truth for last fall I know nothing of September this time
An Unsent Letter By Thomas Tomikawa
ctober 2020 In an apartment complex in Huntington Beach, California, a mother and son sit on their couch, as neighbors give snide looks and raise Blue Lives Matter flags outside. The mom passes as a goyim, as she sits comfortably, relieved after finally securing health insurance for the first time in five years. Her child is passing in so many regards, even passing as a son. Neither of them belong in this place, yet somehow, they were in their house. A house is not a home, and they made do with whatever they found. The mom feigns freedom from the mental chains that weighed down her child; she didn’t think twice about her heritage as an Ashkenazi Jewish woman, about how she is the child of an immigrant, or how she raised two kids on her own. She is only “free” due to her own ignorant bliss. The child, meanwhile, sits there, not knowing how to come out about a lot of things; their gender expression, their sexuality, their trauma, each facet of their identity swirling together until the world is a tornado of self, waiting to be expressed. Both sit there, watching a Disney movie, a movie where all ends well, smiling at a scene for escape. The movie doesn’t show neighbors bashing the taillights of the car, spit and slurs slung in their direction, or the disdainful stares felt through the blinds. Neither of them sit on their patio because that would force them to reckon with reality. The child expects it and avoids it, but the mom acts shocked every time it happens towards her. She fakes her
Anglo-whiteness, has assimilated into White America, exaggerates her surprise when her kid calls her out for spewing the same hate, pretends she doesn’t “get” racism, homophobia, transphobia. They both sit there in the last few moments of their escape. The kid will return to reality soon. They saw themself on the screen; it was the end of Mulan, her duty to her family. While they recognized themself in her, the mom just saw the shallow surface of the movie. In this letter to my mother, I just want to say I’m happy-ish. I’m still learning, and I know you are too. I’m proud of who I am, and I hope you’re proud of me. People can try to hurt me, but it’ll be hard for them to do so. I also want you to know that I don’t think I can forgive myself for letting you and the rest of our “family” ignore my needs. It’s hard to say that, as I still avoid blaming you. I never told you who I am, I just assumed you knew. Moms always know, or so it seemed. I am your kid, but I’m also a kid who feels the waves of generational trauma of my grandmothers and grandfathers. I’m a kid who had to smile through being called “fag” and threatened with violence on the street walking home from school. I’m a kid who avoided synagogues because I’m trying to “pass” as christian. I’m a kid who avoided the sun, because my tan made me “yellow.” I’m the kid who survived my first, second, third, fourth, and countless other trips to the clinic after a “bad night.” I’m a kid
who learned how to speak in euphemism, because the pain became too much for me to bear. I am your kid. I love you. I want to see you smile, like the time you bought your first menorah. Like the time you took me to learn about the culture your father grew up in. Like the time I made your dream come true and got into college. Like the days I give you a warm hug. Like the day, in some distant future, when I surprise you with the gift of forgiveness. I know you’ve asked me this time and time again, but I’ll finally say it. I’m not angry because I’m not happy; it’s a lot harder than that. I wish I could be angry with you, I wish I could express my frustration. I want to be angry when you gaslight me due to your own ignorance. I want to be angry when your boyfriend of the month says some damn racist shit. I want to be mad at you when you’re smiling that insincere smile.
But I’m not. I let it sit inside, mix and bubble with my own selfdoubt and intrusive thoughts. I go for a drive, trying to find a way to take my mind off it. I’ve nearly fled to Canada by accident. It all just sits inside me. We need therapy. I only ask for you to recognize me as a person, as relatively equal. It feels like I beg for the impossible sometimes. I say these things knowing you’ll never read it. I know it would break your heart to know your own kid—no longer a son, just a kid—has carried this on their back for quite some time. I love you. I still don’t forgive you.
LOLA, WE REMEMBER By Jeanne Malle
ur kids would be awful singers,” she says staring at the ceiling, not letting go of our intertwined fingers, hands, arms and legs and toes. “I know. ‘Good singer’ would have to be one of our sperm donor requirements,” I reply. “But then what if they still got our genes?” We remember it the same. Hot, sluggish summer mornings. Conversations bathing in detail, each of which We remember because we agree upon the importance of memory.
We’ve been lying on the queensized bed of her room in Brooklyn since last night. Somehow, it’s past lunchtime. We probably shouldn’t have canceled our only plan of the day. I feel the increasingly large knot forming in my hair as I pick up another pillow from the ground. I always throw the hard pillow on the floor before falling asleep because I don’t want to risk waking up with neck cramps. She has three under her from the barricade she perpetually creates for herself throughout the night. I stroke my
messy hair. The very thought of the pain I will endure while untangling it keeps me from doing so.
she’ll find what I’m referring to. Her nose scrunches, communicating her inability to recall.
Lying on her side she now stares at me, reaching out her hand to indicate her desire to hold mine once more. Her thin body stretches across the grey linen comforter, almost fully separated from its insert. “Snile,” she whispers, staring at the misspelled ‘smile’ banner she made as a child. This isn’t the first time we have discussed this creative masterpiece. “I can’t even look at that anymore,” I respond. My eyes focus on the little crease separating her bottom lip from her chin. She never notices my regard but I keep scanning her features — deep brown eyes, unfairly beautiful thick brown curls. “Are you looking at my acne? I hate how you never have any.” I smile at her typical remark, her inability to recognize my adoration. The oversized teal t-shirt with drawings of Italian landmarks she stole from Jonas looks better on her this morning than any other. Or this afternoon, I guess. Light shines through the opaque white cotton curtains which don’t really do their job. A few minutes later she looks at me while I’m reading and tells me I’m beautiful. I jokingly sing a few words of “Beautiful Girls,” hoping she’ll follow my lead. As expected she does, allowing me to hear her tone-deafness. “I’m a disturbed person to have told you I’m tonedeaf the first time we talked,” she says. “The second time, you mean.” She smirks at my remark and I can almost see her searching through her memory, hoping that this time
I can’t believe she doesn’t remember. I’ll never not remember. Let’s try telepathy. It was one of those college nights where everything seems the slightest bit too perfect. You know what I mean. I looked around and wondered how every person I love ended up in the same 30x20 foot living room. The Lindsey Lohan magazine photos and egg-shaped paper cutouts on the walls hadn’t changed since September. The DJ seemed to have entered each person’s brain because every song pleased more than the last — no wonder you want him to DJ your wedding. The heat produced from dancing bodies permeated the room and coated each of us with a distastefully sexy layer of sweat. Upon the first sensation of discomfort, I stepped outside to smoke a cigarette in the cool January air. An unexpectedly friendly conversation occurred with the drunken stranger who offered me a lighter. I came back inside and saw my friends moving synonymously, eyes closed
and smiling. I joined them and for a moment didn’t know where I was because of the numbing feeling of the flashing lights. That kind of party. Lucy let out an ecstatic scream when she noticed you behind her. My goal for the evening had been to catch someone’s attention, but his attention was caught by someone else. I moved into the center of the room to find Lucy and distract myself from him. She made me laugh and I forgot my disappointment. I can’t recall the song playing but want it to have been “Homecoming” by Kanye West or “American Boy” by Estelle. Months later you told me those two tie for “top song that makes you dance.” You two exchanged a hug after she saw you. I stood behind her, unable to catch a glimpse of you, and grew curious about who you were. Oh sorry! Cleo, this is Lola. If you remembered you would know I grew uncommonly nervous. My first instinct was to reach out my hand for a shake. Your hand was warm and you exclaimed an overly enthusiastic yet evidently blurry “hello!”. I grinned as I grasped that too many shots had made their effect on your 100-pound body. I’d noticed you in the dining hall a few times before, intrigued by your fearless energy and beauty, by your striped-shirt-and-dark-pants uniform. Three weeks passed before Lucy shared my absolutely secret infatuation with you and we exchanged more than a hello. You remember it differently. The way we first met. The first time I said it, the first time you thought it, the moment we knew it. But I remember it differently too. “Can we please eat something? I’m starting to get hangry,” she says as I blink back to reality. Blood rushes to my head when I stand and attempt to find a sweatshirt. “I can cook? Or do you want to order?” I pause from my search to see why she hasn’t answered my question. Fixated on her phone screen, she’s unable to give me a response. It’s the ADD. I can’t lie down again if I want any chance at remaining vertical for some part of the day, so I head out the room and down the creaky, deep brown, wooden staircase. “Where did you go?” she yells from the bed after ten minutes. “Eggs and french toast! I couldn’t decide,” I shout back, waiting to hear her coming down the stairs. Small flash forward. I look into the sink in disgust. The sticky bread crust and scrambled
eggs blended and left their residue for me to deal with. She knows I can clean anything but the sink itself. She taps my shoulder signaling her kind request for me to move. Medium flash forward. It’s been nine weeks and there’s only more waiting to look forward to. Her world is a coffee shop and tuna melts and three roommates and a middle-aged Republican neighbor who they’re embarrassed to like. Mine is a campus I can’t escape and Thelma and Louise and veggie sausage and friends who I love and who also love me. Hers is me through the phone and mine is her through the phone. Big flash forward. 4:30 pm and the room doesn’t even need curtains because darkness permeates the entire city of New York. There’s supposed to be snow tomorrow, but we agree the weather people cannot be trusted. “Close your eyes, I think I want to give them to you now,” she says as she gets out of the grey linen and bounces off the bed. I hear her scrambling through her walk-in closet. “Ok,” she warns me, “I know I’ve said this but don’t expect anything. It’s stupid, really.” I take my hands off my face. She doesn’t seem to understand I’ll be happy with anything. This is the first gift she’s given me. “See, I told you, they’re just silly trinkets.” The start of a letter she tried to write eleven weeks ago. A blank birthday card and a satirical collection of erotic short stories. Fancy canned tuna. We pretend as though the differences in memory matter, That difference equals frightening when really it doesn’t. In combined interpretation, in our neurotic overthinking,
We remember. 59
By Hannah Schwimmer
This piece is about time, s p e c i f i c a l l y holding onto things from the past while s i m u l t a n e o u s l y trying to let them go. It represents all the ways I bring each one of my experiences with me into every present m o m e n t
By Simon Goldsmith
n image of city and sky assembles before me. Wasn’t this the swooping drama I had yearned for when I left this morning with the camera? It was a clunky Sony thing from the ‘90s or early two-thousands, but what’s the difference—decades are a poor way to organize history anyway. Ten years don’t hug the contours of upheaval and repression and mutation. I found it at a garage sale and biked home with it perched on my handlebars. Then I brought it with me today. I don’t know what I wanted to do with it. There was already a tape in the machine, a yellow and black eight millimeter labeled O’DONOVAN 1999 in neat black capitals. It was full of old family movies, the kind that doesn’t age well because it contains laughter, or the strange piano recitals of cousins who no longer play piano but spend eighty percent of their paychecks on fentanyl, or the belabored birthday party interviews with members of the family who are no longer members of the family and never should have been. I was drawn to the camera because it could emit the fabric of that moment towards the end of the twentieth-century that I would never live, but that I would always know through symbols, projections, intimations. The machine’s bent colors, the grain of its image, its cracked audio forever revealed the years when it was used, when it was advertised in profane consumer reports and carted to turn-of-the-century reunions. History hung on its every frame. In some doomed way I longed to see my world through the lenses of the past, to translate the material of today into the pixelated and distorted shapes of history. It was the only reason I wanted to record anything at all. If I rewrote Miranda in the image of the camera, would she stay with me? Could I help her? Would our story belong to the past? I took my truck west on 6th and down to where the creek cuts a gash through the city. I parked and locked the doors, took a path down to the edge of the waterway pulled myself over a rusted fence, straddling the cold bar at the top and twice nearly dropping the camera into the gutters of used bikes and used syringes and used glossy packages of blunt wraps. That 2002 pickup, white and rust-brown where it was dinged up, had carried me and Miranda across the country spitting and sputtering. I jumped down from the top of the fence and my ankles stung, the tight, coiled pain briefly spreading up my heels. I had practiced these motions countless times, at night and in the hellscape late afternoon. Laughter would ricochet through the damp freeway overpasses and I would know the eroding concrete monuments of a failed and forgotten future. Miranda had four gold hoops of identical size. Two around the edge of her left nostril and two on the upper cartilage of her left ear, each ring of each pair equidistant from the center of their respective body parts. We drove with no map, miraculously illuminating a path through sagebrush and lavender. Somehow, we oriented ourselves in the grid of interstates and back roads that bind the flesh of a country. We would see how far we could drive without sleeping and sometimes at night we would smoke too much to stay up and blast through entire states, and every time Miranda lit one up, she would pass it to me first. This was not for my benefit, not to give me the first drag, but to offload some of the guilt of each new cigarette, as if it diminished her responsibility in the act or transferred some of its weight across the center console.
It was the middle of the summer and she wore knee-length carpenter shorts and white socks and dark leather shoes, and just before sunset we’d always, and I mean without fail, pull off the road to sit in the bed of my truck, or climb some tragic water tank indelibly marked with a ‘50s motor oil logo, rust eating into the color and line of history. Sweat would weigh down our shirts and hang on the hair behind our ears, and we’d watch the blood ball sun burst over wheat and cattle and red clay canyons and endless oceans of sage. Then there was usually no talk, because there was already an infinite conversation contained in the most minute motions of our hands and our eyes. The name Miranda might come from Latin. Mirandus: to be marvelled at. But I like the theory that it was produced by Shakespeare for The Tempest. That it erupted into the realm of language because a writer sat at a desk and wrote something that was wrong, thus inventing a word, a world. Miranda shared with me this origin. She felt that it was a falsehood, a lie from which other parts of her radiated. She meant nothing, three syllables randomly fused together. But for me the solidification of Miranda out of the wisps and mists of language meant everything. It allowed for a kind of liberation where wrong sounds were not wrong, but that they butted up against the flesh of speech and ruptured the folds of a fortified tongue. As we drove, finally approaching
Miranda’s city across the sea, she spoke. We had been on the road for a few months and our arrival at her house in Brooklyn had been methodically delayed. “You do know that you can’t come in,” she said. “Where?” “My house. You can’t come in when we get there. I just need to pay my dues, you know, say hi to the dog and kiss my mom or whatever, then we can go upstate or to Vermont or Maine.” “Okay,” I said. “I thought we were gonna see the city.” “We can see the city, but you can’t come in,” she said. “Okay, I get it. But why? Why would it be so awful.” “It’s not that it would be awful. It’s that I don’t want you to meet her. I don’t want my family to invade us. I want to tell you things like you are untouched by the past.” “But I already know everything. So what’s the difference if I meet your mom?” She popped a paper match with one hand and lit a cigarette. “Because then in your mind there’ll be a voice and an eye color to my stories, and it will all become too real, and you’ll leave, won’t you?” The static jumped and cracked. The colors bent in and out of crude four sided pixels. Her voice was stretched and restitched, fried almost beyond recognition. Smoke filled the screen. Before the trip we had both been pleasantly lost for a few months, drifting from the grids of
command and behavior that hang in the air. But we were also swimming through hysteria—citywide benders and little blue pills and each week we were further from any kind of salvation. And that was both a wild screaming freedom and a horrifying freefall, our stomachs crawling up our throats. Our trip, which was really more of a departure with no end date, felt like a series of impulsive decisions, motions that cannot have consequences or implications because nothing comes after them. They exist pure and clean and untouched by guilt. And since we knew that nothing did come after one’s actions, no final culmination nor moment of exalted clarity, this was exactly how we aimed to live. In that way we were ecstatic and in that way we mourned the dead. Soon thick smoke would choke the arches of glass that bent through the city, and it would hang low in the sterile corridors, those places where the mirrored buildings watched and judged, and where well-hidden klaxons could at any moment announce the start of curfew. As we approached Texarkana, Texas I watched rusting transmission towers fan out into yellow brush. They were placed perpendicular to the road so that every forty miles I would look out the window and they would snap into alignment, forming for a second a straight line of infinite structures stretching out to the horizon.
When we reached Texarkana we walked into a bar full of men in ‘70s shirts leaning heavily over their drinks. And it was the ‘70s. Framed pictures plastered the wall, but they weren’t of celebrities, like in Hollywood restaurants and Connecticut pizza places. These pictures buzzed with the grain of sixty millimeter film, sons and fathers next to bloated trout, farm girls and tractors and leagues of wheat, cows and clapboard houses and dogs caked in mud. Miranda and I sat in a dark booth, staring down a pitcher of beer, the room smoky and tepid. A mother and three small children entered the bar and the high squeals of siblings filled the booths and dark corners of the room. I looked at the faces of the children, towheaded and streaked with traces of red dirt, and they echoed those local faces on the wall, and then I suddenly knew they were the same people, some of the same children. Soon I could see most of the men in the bar reflected on the walls, bordered by slim pieces of homemade frame; they drank and watched themselves stretched through time, their faces levitating above bottles of bourbon. We paid our bill and left. It was 97 degrees out and as soon as we stepped out the door we were wading through
viscous, swampy tar. A sweet apocalypse of cicadas enclosed around us, and neon weeds sprouted from crumbling, heat-stressed brick. What did it mean for flora to reclaim what humans had forged? Heaven bent to our methods, supersonic booms and empty coiled towers on Park, and still everything returning to dust and wet. This is our mid-century epoch. Writing it is mere archaeology. We drove to the edge of Texarkana, beery and laughing, where the little grid of streets stopped pretending and trailed directly off into dirt. Miranda parked behind an abandoned gas station right out of an Ed Ruscha photograph, except the whole building was completely consumed by kudzu. The stuff sprouted through gaps in the patchwork tin roof and rushed through the door frames, bright dense green vines against postwar reds and yellows.
The two old gas pumps stood ten feet apart like fossils revealed after some total cataclysm, the STANDARD logo atop the crest of each pump beaming in the 6:00 PM sun, conjuring latent images of Studebaker trucks and pleated pants and roadside diners.
We kept the windows down. The air was an impossible molasses. Then, still laughing, we pulled off our sweat-heavy clothes and I caught hazy, saturated glimpses of the thick coiled black snake just above Miranda’s hip, and the black butterflies on her ribs, and the
thin curved black line with a bow that wrapped around her upper thigh. Dry, fingerlike spindles of vine lapping at the top of the truck in the hot wind. The warm LCD strings hummed as they jumped and curved from the screen, and the slowly advancing tape purred. Miranda and I were neither present nor past, neither here in the ruins of empire nor there in the warm glaze of Americana, but drowning in a fever of time, with dull headaches and little beads of sweat on our wrists and collarbones that held perfect teardrop shape before imploding in silent ecstasy and darting down our arms and our chests. Later, long after Texarkana, we built bookcases in our one bedroom apartment off 6th Street. Miranda and I found and cut and sanded and stained the wood ourselves. After a few months, I picked up a book and the middle shelf splintered apart. Even some of the texts were chewed through, obliterated, you could say, rendered blank and flat by the insects, bugs whose intricate dance I would never
understand. But I already knew the futility of trying to know such things. Archeology is more bounds and borders than possibilities. The second time we passed through Tennessee I lost her. We were just east of Knoxville and I realized I should have stopped there for gas, where we moved for an hour through rainy traffic past water towers and brick smokestacks, old refineries and forges battered by the downpour. I couldn’t get a range readout on the old truck, so I had been nervous about gas since L.A., especially in the desert. But Miranda was never nervous, because I think some part of her wanted to run out of gas between Kingman and Flagstaff. Maybe she wanted to break down and walk out into these alien valleys, and feel the humming, high-pitched sunset light funnel through oblique juniper trees and into our eyes. “I can’t do it,” said Miranda, her eyes trained forward in thought. “Miranda,” I said in frustration. We had passed Knoxville on the I-40 just two
weeks ago, turning around in Virginia, again pushing back Miranda’s return home. “We can keep going, go back up to the Midwest, or Mexico.” She wouldn’t look at me. “You don’t know what it’s like to enter your house and feel gravity pulling you to the floor. Or see your dad sitting on the sofa staring into space, beer going warm on the coffee table, not a thought in his head. I think about running into him in a grocery store parking lot, or on the train, and what would I do? Brief eye contact? For how long would I cry after stepping off at my stop? But you know what the worst part is?” I could sense things rupturing in her mind, her inner self breaking through layers of mirrored, out-ofreach models. “I am supposed to take care of him! He says to me, you’re going to take of me when I’m old and sick. I am? How could I? How can I not?” Now the rain had stopped, and I watched wet moss and slate and hills flash past the windows.
Miranda stopped talking and I didn’t have a response for her. Language couldn’t voice whatever it was that boiled within her, and so something else had to give way. We stopped in a small town to get gas. I stood by the pump and Miranda went inside to get a pack of cigarettes. The tank was full. I walked inside to piss. I didn’t see her inside. When I got back to the pump she was gone, and I didn’t see it, but the camera would have caught it all in beautiful grain and distortion, her short brown hair flashing behind her as she found a ride in the parking lot, crossed the street with a woman half her height and slipped into a brown sedan with Mississippi plates. I walked along the basin of the creek, holding the camera by the strap of its bulky plastic case, a kind of cheap black plastic made thick to look like leather but that scuffed easy and frayed like twine. The dark water ran by me on the right, and on either side the concrete sloped up to accommodate a fuller flow. I was looking for a place where I could set up the camera and let it run, where it could take in a good few minutes of city noise, traffic and sirens
and fronds rustling in the wind. I wanted to capture in that static an image of the scraggy hill that rose to the south revealing motionless oil drills and cranes bending towards the heavens. But the camera had already become rooted in my mind, had already begun to sculpt and render my world. What I saw and heard was filtered through its aura. I approached a bridge in the creek and pulled myself up over a ladder enclosed in a rusted metal box. It was almost dusk now and things had begun to feel grey and alien. I placed the camera on the top of the bridge, just resting it on the concrete, and it assimilated perfectly what was in my field of vision. There was no difference between what I saw and what the camera saw. I had manipulated my eyes, through the tunnels and interstices of history, to see.
Miranda descended in a painstakingly adorned chariot carried by bony black wings, transfigured finally and forever in the glow of history, black mesas and broad blue skies and railroads and wheat fields and clothes lines and junkyards flashing in her eyes. She stopped and swayed over the city like so many lights above America, hanging and ticking in the smog-choked night.
The sound of the city rolled towards me, immediately filtered back through time and made gorgeous. It was curfew now. The klaxons fired and waxed in and out of pitch. From the top right corner of the screen,
Letter to a Long Lost Self
By Claire Walker
ou wonder where you are, and who is there to watch you. Mother misses you, darling, and you know better than to stay up on a Thursday night; there’s work in the morning! You’ve grown taller than she ever imagined; does she still say your name? Or has that sweet word left her tongue for the last time? Mother misses the matinee but tries to make the game the next day; a van breaks down and you catch a ride home. Garbled words only you can make out; at least this will make a good Sob Story. Dad says it can get you into college, if you really milk it right. You’d rather have a hug, but higher education will suffice. Little self: you patch up your heart with tin foil then put it in the microwave and act surprised when it explodes. Dirt and grime under your fingernails while he fucks you in the studio, a bruise forming at the nape of your neck, sore tomorrow. Little self, run! He will never make you feel good, and don’t you know that angels are watching everything you do? Mother would be so disappointed. Waking up in a cold sweat again, work on Friday morning. You’re just a child, tiny self; I feel the fear you carry in every one of your cells. You grow, to your own dismay, wondering all the while why cant it just stop why cant it just stop why cant i remember anymore. She’ll never say your name again. Do you feel that, little one? In the middle of your chest, there’s a point on your sternum that you have to press to feel alive. Sometimes you press too hard and it hurts, but you don’t stop. You feel it, right? I discovered it, the newest black hole in the universe. Some days it towers over you, tiny self, and some days it towers over me as well. I sit with you in this hole in my chest, holding you tight. Long lost self, soul of a child stunted and shoved and sold somewhere, I hold you and hold you and hold you, and together we ask: Will it ever stop? Even at your young age, you know the answer.
HUMOR + SATIRE
This year saw the violent receding of the world into tiny squares in the palm of our hands, yet our ability to laugh at just about anything remained –– even with such little air to breathe. The nature of humor is so hard to grasp (a common shower thought: why were they
laughing, was what I said really funny, or just really sad?), but at its core, laughing at the face of something has the strange power of zooming out and exposing its farcities; reacting to the absurdities of what sometimes feels like a cruel, uncaring world. The following pieces run the gamut in their mileage; poking fun at the futility of trying to improve oneself, the nonsensical nature of institutional laws holding us in place, the audacity of data-mining companies trying to quantify our precious emotions. There are cheeky understatements, quick asides, unexpected insights. Most importantly, there are good jokes in here. Light and breezy. Easy and fun. Just how we like it. -Zaafir
Some Thoughts from 2019 By Camryn Casey I have an addiction At my worst, I go through a whole pack a day Everyday I’ve gotten a lot better Now it takes me 4 days to finish a pack Come on now, progress! *you clap for me* I like to count that as a win Even though I did upgrade from the 15 stick to the 35 stick Cobalt Peppermint Sugarfree Gum pack To every reader, going through what I’m going through When you start putting 4 sticks in your mouth at a time Just to feel something stop I’m scared rescue rats are in our future Can’t you imagine a Lindsy from Strong saying “I rescued this stray rat from the subway, his name is Larry” Really a I rescued My Best Friend Moment Ok now let’s talk about me, I don’t drink water because, I am too concerned about the water crisis If I’m going to keep taking 45 minute showers I have to cut back somewhere As an activist I drink Coca-Cola only PSA Stop colonizing the streets with your skateboards sideWALK DRIVEway I know what you’re thinking Q:“Bruh where am I suppose to skate?”
No Birds Sang By Teo Hadigan
here are no such thing as birds, and everyone knows it. If you ask my uncle, he’s never seen one. But then again, he’s a bartender. And he’s not even my uncle, he’s my dad’s cousin. My friend Gabby said she once had a pet bird, until a detective knocked on her door in the middle of the night and confiscated the creature. It was all screeching and talons, she said. She says a lot of things, though, and has a lot of nightmares. Gabby has caused disturbances before, and I think it was a rat in a costume anyway. In truth, the absence of birds makes everyone sing a little louder, chirp a little more. People look up to the sky, and I’m sure some think of the myth of birds. Nostalgia for something that never happened. But some of us are inspired by this absence – to flap our elbows or grow wings. And the poems, all the poems that no birds inspired. My favorite is NO BIRDS by Pope Edgar Allen II: and the sky turned orange and no birds sang, only me and my little brother no birds ran away from home or stole from the bride or groom no starlings disrupted our dinner no birds danced and none learned to fly none defecated on my holy mercedes benz – so now i glide through a crowd of believers on a four-wheeler they chant NO BIRDS and i’m proud of the world’s children A small group of deluded farmers live in Long Island, devoted to the myth of birds. They host a summer camp, and read to children about things with crystal eyes and blue, red, and yellow feathers. As the campers
grow older, they are exposed to more and more bird stories. Propaganda. By 15 years old, they start to read about grey, beady eyed birds called pigeons. Pigeon birds roam around big cities and only eat bread and rats, apparently. These farmers are ranked among the most dangerous organizations in the United States, but loopholes in the law allow them to continue preaching. The thing is our laws are not very good, or very specific at all. Lots of things go on that should be stopped, and lots of things can’t go on that should be started. Including bird education camps like the one in Long Island – this should never be allowed in the first place, yet it grows bigger every year. Granted, most local politicians are elected on the basis of who can shoot the most clay pigeons tossed into the air in 3 minutes. Once a few pals and I started a bread baking organization. We made pastries that people could purchase and send as gifts. The gift would come with our anti-bird pamphlets, which most people seemed to enjoy. We had to warn customers about leaving pieces of bread outdoors, in case they would attract unwanted creatures like pigeons. Even though there are no birds. We have our principles, what are we without them? Anyway, after a year or so we were shut down by a detective, because the laws are very strict when it comes to food allergies. This can be traced back to a simple typo in the massive Dorito Recall case in 2019. It was meant to be a big step forward in preventing unnecessary food-related deaths, but it wound up changing the way we live altogether. It read: “No persons or organizations shall make food capable of harming anyone.” Of course, it should have said “with intent” rather than “capable”. This new law introduced a comprehensive ban on cooking or baking, as there exist serious allergies to almost all ingredients you can think of. Since then, we can only buy frozen meals and
pastries from the store and reheat them. My favorites are from the 7/11 – there are these delectable mini hamburgers, and the nice cashier who gives me cigarettes and drinks Jägermeister on his breaks. Still, we’ve got to trust the system. And some scholars have pointed out a silver lining – with no pieces of bread lying on the street, there’s no chance in hell a bird could soar down from the sky, find a meal waiting for him, and mistake us for welcoming them with open arms. All it takes is one bird, my uncle would say. One of my former business partners would tell me that, if birds were to descend on the Earth, they would have no idea and simply sing and defecate at all hours. Imagine the horror. The only thing separating us from badgers, mice, and tadpoles is our ability to sing our way out of all sorts of situations and depressions. Singing is all we’ve got, and we can’t start sharing it. I pity the ignorant bird of the future, who arrives with a happy song to sing. A logistical nightmare. Tonight at 6pm, like every Monday, we’ll all get together as a community and boo birds. Sometimes we cheer the absence of birds, but mostly boo the idea of them. People just love to make noise. It really brings us closer, gives us a reason to be. Raison d’être, as I like to say. Some people think I’m saying “raisin catcher” but I tell them it’s French and has a much deeper meaning. Philosophical, maybe even metaphysical. I caught a drink with the 7/11 guy, George, on his break the other day. I asked what his raison d’être was and he took a long swig of Jäger. The New York Mets, he said, and my beautiful family. As he turned to me, his eyes glimmered in such a way that I thought he might weep – but he grinned ruefully. I told him I’d like to go fishing with him at the East River some day, and for a second I thought I might weep. We decided we’d do that in the summer, and that we’d meet every Monday at 6pm to make noise and drink, read books and whatnot.
By Simone Rembert here was a terrible recession. No one is ever very sure how terrible a recession must get before it becomes a full-blown depression, but the situation was dire. A shortage of jobs, exorbitant rent, frequent layoffs. For Willa, such uncertainty was familiar. Fifteen years ago, she’d noticed things slowly disappearing from her childhood home: HBO, then dental insurance, finally, her father, with his income. Her grandparents were born during the Depression, her parents had carried gallon jugs to the gas lines— Willa understood the boom and bust as an inevitable fact of life. With challenges came solutions. It was all a matter of locating them.
Statput was a solution, albeit a desperate one. Not only was taking their test seen as an admittance to some sort of problem (of deviance, obsession, or worst, illness)— it was the disclosure of one’s most private humanity. Active contemplation data was reported to corporate sponsors and then sold to advertising and marketing firms. Participants made very little in terms of residual pay. But Statput was a solution, at least. She scheduled an appointment at the suggestion of her family friend Gina, who’d been tested in July. Gina had made great success in
validating her clinical anxiety and minimizing rumination. Though she’d accepted decreased payment in exchange for MOSS treatments, a new brand of motivational talk therapy in which professionals synthesized the results of Statput’s testing for their client’s weekly visits, she’d still made enough money to pay her Utilities— twice. (Gina’s egg withdrawal the year prior had paid far
more, but Willa, with one ovary remaining from a single salpingo-oophorectomy at age sixteen, wasn’t eligible.) The world had its thoughts about Statput. Protesting Seventh Day Adventists and Socialists and altruists alike were permanent fixtures outside the six offices in the tri-state area. But on this day, with Willa’s mother in $187,000 of credit
card debt, and her father rationing insulin in order to finance his second divorce, she knew better than to privilege morality in pursuit of financial stability. So, she’d completed the intake forms, followed the series of hexagonal pills, accepted the intravenous benzo, and let them run the scan. When the machine was done interpreting the data, she was called back in. “Let’s break down your percentiles. As you’ve likely been explained, we measure active contemplation. As we put it: the kind of thoughts which require vocal phrasing in our internal monologue. That’s a wide array of things, but we break it into three essential cortexes: physical, metaphysical, and emotional. I’ll give an example of each. Physical thoughts are most easily summoned during bodily activity. I use the case of demanding your body to finish an exercise. Metaphysical thoughts concern well,” the doctor, whose name tag read Brad, chortled smugly, “it’s your questioning of the meaning or nature of things, your explorations into why. Some may be inclined to designate this category ‘logic,’ but we believe that implies a level of objectivity we see present nowhere in the human brain. Most of the time, these sorts of thoughts lead to emotional responses. Emotional is both the most and least obvious category. All activity which stimulates the amygdala falls under this category. So the breadth of ‘the
feelings chart,’ He did air quotes. “but also things like memory and decision making that we don’t typically classify as ‘emotional.’ Again. “Now, within these three cortexes, we observe and document recurring themes. I won’t explain how that part works, if that’s okay.” “Sure.” Willa didn’t really care for science. Not in grammar school. Not now. He turned to the first page in the manila folder he held. “Well, your results, in ascending order: your recurring themes were doubt, nostalgia, confusion, shame, envy— all very common recurring themes for members of your demographic, occurring with a frequency between 4 and 7 percent.” He flipped to the second page and paused. For a moment he looked stunned. His face soon settled. “So.. what about the rest?” “Well, for you... for you, it was all sex.” He handed her an infographic. It was printed on card stock, in color. “As you can see there, at a frequency of 68 percent.Dispersed in near equilibrium amongst the emotional and metaphysical cortexes. I’ve rarely seen something like this.” Willa was distracted for a moment; his cadence reminded her of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park. “Just to highlight your magnificent difference, for the average Statput participant, active contemplation of sex occurs at a frequency between 10 and 20 percent,
existing mostly in the physical category.” “Oh.” “Well, do you have any questions?” “Not really.” Outliers, as they were called in Corporate, were a purposeful result of the machine’s algorithm. For every 250 scans, one set of randomly selected data was set askew. Executives had justified this as a part of the company’s scientific process. It was the controlled variable in their continued experiments on the human psyche. And, though no one ever read this subsection of the waiver, Statput did not guarantee accuracy. Brad, in awe of the severity of Willa’s skew, particularly bored on this day at the office, decided to start the bit. “Is it alright if I ask you some more questions? I can give you a moment if you’d like. I think this case could help us greatly. And you will be compensated extra for your time. Of course.” Willa followed him into another room. This one was yellow. Next to Brad now was Claudia, a silent note taker. He started. “You mentioned on your intake form that you’d had one major surgery bef—” “Two actually. There’s one I forgot. Dental implants, my left and right bottom molars.” Metal messed up machines, which Willa knew because she’d been required to remove the nose piercing she paid $75 for last week in order to take the test. “That won’t be relevant. As I was saying, this surgery, you classified it as a laparoscopic procedure with no further detail. Can you explain?”
step-sister’s boutique dog-grooming parlor, knowing that business was slow, and Stephanie would inevitably answer the phone if Statput was to call. She could still use this information, and should they call the parlor, Stephanie would still pick up and vouch for her. But suddenly it became evident to Willa that these two doctors or employees or whatever they were had access to all the thoughts she actively contemplated, now and ever. She couldn’t be humiliated any further.
“It was a single salpingo-oophorectomy. When I was sixteen.” “Interesting. Emergency?” “Yes, I was meant to have a cyst removed, but it’d ruptured and killed the fallopian tube and ovary.” “Sounds serious. Are you fertile?” “Yeah, it’s fine. The procedure only advances menopause by a few years.” “Have you exhibited any hormonal symptoms since the surgery? Perhaps increased libido?” She withheld. Then, “I suppose... I suppose I get hairs on my chin sometimes.” “You suppose...?” Claudia looked up as she spoke. “Yes. I do. Get hairs on my chin sometimes. Like, only a few.” Brad nodded. “At what age did you have your first period?” “Eleven. No, twelve. March of seventh grade.” “We don’t need the story, just the date.” Claudia sounded experienced. “What is your line of work?”
Willa hesitated. She’d lied on the intake forms. The unemployed were barred from engaging in Statput testing. (The government’s ethical sanction. Bipartisan support.) Willa had provided the number for her
“I’m unemployed, I lied on the form.” “It’s alright, thank you for your honesty.” A long breath in. “I don’t mean to pry here, but it seems there’s a very obvious answer for your results. At least to me, observing your questioning for the past few minutes.” Claudia was far more assertive than Brad. She trusted herself. Well, he did too. But she, more. “What do you mean?” “Are you a sex worker? Prostitution, live entertainment, pornography?” “Claudia, please.” Brad was shy, pulling at his partner’s sleeve. Begging. “There’s no shame in it Brad, we just need the truth.” “No. I worked at a bank. Before that, Papa John’s.” Claudia fell silent, shifting behind her tablet to take
to take notes again. Brad resumed leadership. “Have you ever contracted a sexually-transmitted infection?” “No.” “Not even herpes?” “I’ve never even had a cold sore.” “What is your sexual orientation?” “Hetero.... Heterosexual.” “Are you sure?” “Is anyone?” “Have you ever thought about having sex with non-human organisms or objects?” “Not that I can recall.” “Try to recall.” “Nothing’s coming.” “Do you masturbate?” “Occasionally.” “How often is ‘occasionally’?” Claudia was now pacing behind Brad with a palm
pacing behind Brad with a palm pressed firmly to her forehead. She stopped. Hands on hips, she knelt to the ear of her colleague, whispering, then turned to Willa. “I’m sorry, I’ve just realized my path of questioning missed a major point. Sorry if this is patronizing or repetitive, just procedure. Are you sexually active?” They had every memory on file. She couldn’t lie. “It’s all right, feel no shame.” “I... I, I can’t remember.” Brad clarified. “Any partners in the past calendar year?” “No, I don’t think so.” “Well, when were you last sexually active?” “It was a long time ago.” She was thinking of the edge of Eva Cohen’s sofa. Fourth grade. “I’m not recalling much, just...” They stared. Willa hadn’t seen either bare such expression. “What counts as active?” “Any form of oral, vaginal, or anal sex.” Brad recited lists so eloquently. “No.” “What? November?” “No. I have never. I have never been sexually active. I’m a virgin.” It spewed out of her mouth like hot vomit. Brad’s eyes widened. Claudia resumed pacing. His reaction was automatic, uncharacteristically natural, but in all parts, terrible. “You’re a virgin!?” Silence. For a long time. Claudia left the room. Brad gathered his coherent thoughts, which had halted completely when Claudia bolted out of the room. So
Medical Assistance (2 Birds 1 Stone) by Jacob Zachary-Flanders
unfair; this would be the highlight of his day, surely, and he couldn’t acknowledge it in the moment. There was a new feeling too; this growing gnaw behind his top two abdominal muscles. He really pitied the poor girl. He’d gone into this wanting titillating conversation. Perhaps she would admit to a porn habit or a weird kink. Instead, he and Claudia had made her feel like nothing. Worse than nothing. An adult virgin. He put on his ‘You will believe I have more than an Associate’s in Business Management’ voice and tried to finish up. “Well, sorry for that shock,” he looked down at the manilla folder in his lap. He’d forgotten her name. “Ms. Mendelsohn, your data just presented a very different expectation. But I think your... status could perhaps explain your results. Is this making sense?” At the front desk, the cashier compensated Willa in $800 cash, which she promptly spent on three months of MOSS. For her extended questioning, she was given her a single share of Statput— presently worthless, given the recession and all.
Paintings and Mixed Media By Valeria Sibrian
Llegar nunca es Llegar, 2020 Untitled, 2020
The Body is Painful, 2020
Imagining the King Bunny, 2019
Artists Credited By Page
5. Boot Boyz Biz 11. Nthng 12. CW Moss, “Shoplifters” 17. Min Liu 20. Jean-Honoré Fragonard, “The Swing” 21. Baya, “Femmes et Orangers Fond Blanc” 23. Millsent Connor 24. Walker Evans, “Untitled [Street scene]” and Milton Avery 28. Linnéa Andersson 29. Lennard Kok 31. Matt W. Moore 33. Sebastian Koenig 42. Damien Hirst, “Untitled” 55. Didier William, “Ki moun ki rele Olympia” 56. Derek Brahney 63. Fisk Projects 69. Sandow Birk, “Skater #1” “Skater #21” “Skater #16” and “Skater #27” 72. Keiji Yano 74. Lucien Smith, “TBE PIE” and Wayne Thiebaud, “Cake Slice” 76. Snail Mail 79. Romina Malta
79 pages. While 79 may not seem large in a world with infinite numbers, the task to create this many pages taught me much more than just the power of good design. Here is what I learned: 1. Trying to represent other people’s stories visually is hard, really fucking hard, especially when you are limited to a 8.5 x 10 inch frame. But this forces you to use these limitation to your advantage. 2. Good writing can open up a world of imagination that you didn’t know was possible. It was almost like drawing a picture with a new box of 64 crayons while listening to the craziest podcast you’ve ever heard. 3. It makes you question, damn is Shel Silverstein is the most talented man of the 20th century? Maybe of all time? Regardless, congrats! You made it through 79 page and an overload of visual stimulation. -Harrison
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