04. 15. 10
THESTUDENTWEEKLYSI NCE1 969
e Li t e r a r y Iu e I ns i de:J us t i c eSt ev ens ,LadyGaga,andTi gerWoods .
04.15.10 vol. xli, no. 21 The Indy heads off to the library. Co-Presidents Patricia Florescu ‘11 and Susan Zhu ‘11
Cover art by KRISTINA YEE
Editor-in-Chief Faith Zhang ‘11 News and Forum Editor Riva Riley ‘12
FORUM No Holds Barred: Justice Stevens 3 Riding to Walden Pond 4-5 ARTS Book Reviews 6-7
Recommendations The Most Overrated Books Best and Worst Movies from Books Explaining Lady Gaga and
SPORTS Tiger Woods Isn't Good 9
Everything SPECIAL From 11
Arts Editor Pelin Kivrak ‘11 Sports Editor Daniel Alfino ‘11 Graphics Editor Sonia Coman ‘11 Associate News and Forum Editor Weike Wang ‘11 Columnists Chris Carothers ‘11 Sam Barr ‘11 Staff Writers John Beatty ‘11 Ezgi Bereketli ‘12 Arhana Chattopadhyay ‘11 Andrew Coffman ‘12 Levi Dudte '11 Sam Jack ‘11 Lester Kim ‘11 Marion Liu ‘11 Hao Meng ‘11 Alfredo Montelongo ‘11 Nick Nehamas ‘11 Steven Rizoli ‘11 Jim Shirey ‘11 Diana Suen ‘11 Alex Thompson ‘11 Sanyee Yuan ‘12 Graphics, Photography, and Design Staff Chaima Bouhlel ‘11 Kayla Escobedo ‘12 Eva Liou ‘11 Rares Pamfil ‘10 Lidiya Petrova ‘11 Kristina Yee ‘10
The April 8th article "For the Love of a Musk Ox" incorrectly stated that the Musk Ox Project had successfully domesticated musk oxen and that qivuit sales support the farm. In fact, musk oxen are still in the process of domestication, and proceeds from qivuit sales benefit a for-profit knitters' cooperative. The Musk Ox Farm relies on private donations, grants, and summer visitors to fund its continuing work. The Indy regrets the error.
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As Harvard College's weekly undergraduate newsmagazine, the Harvard Independent provides in-depth, critical coverage of issues and events of interest to the Harvard College community. The Independent has no political affiliation, instead offering diverse commentary on news, arts, sports, and student life. For publication information and general inquiries, contact Presidents Patricia Florescu and Susan Zhu (firstname.lastname@example.org). Letters to the Editor and comments regarding the content of the publication should be addressed to Editor-in-Chief Faith Zhang (editor@harvardindependent. com). Yearly mail subscriptions are available for $30, and semester-long subscriptions are available for $15. To purchase a subscription, email email@example.com. The Harvard Independent is published weekly during the academic year, except during vacations, by The Harvard Independent, Inc., P.O. Box 382204, Cambridge, MA 02138-2204. Copyright © 2009 by The Harvard Independent. All rights reserved. 04.15.10 • The Harvard Independent
NO HOLDS BARRED By Sam Barr
STEVENS FINALLY LETS GO - HANG ON TIGHT!
Supreme Court Justices, I’d put John Paul Stevens on my bedroom wall. The man is a progressive hero — first and foremost, for his longevity. In 2006, the liberal radio station Air America made a parody of “Hang On Sloopy” called “Hang On Stevens” — with lyrics like, “Stevens, I don’t care if you lose your mind, just wait until Bush leaves before you resign.” Past Sandra Day O’Connor and William Rehnquist and David Souter, Stevens hung on. And he probably could have kept going. He plays tennis twice a week, at 90 years old! Still, his retirement is well-deserved. And thankfully, we don’t need Stevens to hang on anymore. We can only hope that President Obama finds someone as thoughtful and, yes, empathetic as Stevens to fill his shoes. Appointed by Republican Gerald Ford in 1975, Stevens was not always an icon of the left. He has claimed that he didn’t change — that the Court changed around him. But it’s hard to take that seriously. Over the course of 34 years, Stevens has changed his mind on affirmative action, obscenity, and the death penalty, always moving in a more liberal direction. Even his last major opinion, his dissent in the Citizens United campaign finance case, reflected a f they made posters of
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The Harvard Independent • 04.15.10
long-ago flip-flop. In January, Stevens caustically wrote, “While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.” In 1978, though, a Stevensbacked majority ruled that speech doesn’t lose the Constitution’s protection “simply because its source is a corporation” — the same sort of claim made by the Citizens United majority. It’s a shame Stevens wasn’t always as liberal as we’ll remember him, but he should feel no shame in admitting that he learned on the job — that he came around. On some issues, of course, Stevens has been consistent. He has always protected a woman’s right to choose, upheld the separation of church and state, and defended the federal government’s power to regulate the economy. And in the last ten years, he has made his name, and shaped his legacy, as the intellectual leader and chief strategist of the Court’s increasingly beleaguered liberal wing. What we might call Stevens’s heroic era began in 2000 with Bush v. Gore, an affront to democracy that Stevens unabashedly identified as such. In the early part of the decade, Stevens helped the liberals eke out major victories, or at least stave off major defeats, by assigning opinions to centrist justices like O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy and then rallying the liberal troops. This savviness gave us cases like Lawrence v. Texas, the major gay-rights victory; Grutter v. Bollinger, the last vindication of affirmative action; and Roper v. Simmons, which forbade the death penalty for crimes committed by minors. This period will also be remembered for Stevens’s brave defense of the rule of law in a string of decisions rejecting Bush counter-terrorism policies. In 2004 he led a six-justice majority in holding that federal courts had jurisdiction over the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The Bush Administration would no longer be able simply to ignore detainees’ claims of wrongful detention. In 2006, Stevens wrote the opinion overturning Bush’s military commissions because they had not been authorized by Congress and violated the Geneva Conventions. Finally, in 2008, this line of cases culminated in Boumediene v. Bush, which rejected even congressionally authorized military commissions as offensive to the right of habeas corpus. After September 11, few would have guessed that a majority of the Supreme Court would be courageous enough to stand up for the procedural rights of terror suspects. Stevens deserves a great deal of credit for that outcome. Of course Stevens wrote a few decisions that
shouldn’t sit well with liberals. I don’t want to suggest that he was the ideal Supreme Court Justice, as if such a thing exists. In 1989, Stevens refused to protect flag-burning under the First Amendment, hearkening back to “the soldiers who scaled the bluff at Omaha Beach” under the Stars and Stripes. (Stevens himself served in the Pacific Theater.) And in 2008 he upheld a photo-ID requirement that, like most anti-voter fraud laws, hindered the poor and the elderly from exercising their right to vote. But neither Supreme Court justices nor the nominees chosen to replace them should be held to a standard of ideological purity. With regards to nominees, we couldn’t do so if we tried. No prominent lawyer, judge, or politician is going to have a track record on every constitutional question that might arise in the next thirty years. And if they did, they’d never be confirmed. Our broken political process demands that nominees say nothing interesting or substantive; platitudes and evasions are the name of the game. The next several weeks will, of course, be given over to fevered and uninformed speculation about whom Obama might nominate to replace Stevens. I’m not going to pick a favorite. Harvard parochialism doesn’t decide the issue for me — how could I choose between Elena Kagan, Elizabeth Warren, Cass Sunstein, and Martha Minow? If I wanted a smart, liberal, female law professor from Stanford, I’d have to flip a coin between Pam Karlan and Kathleen Sullivan. Better to just wait and let Obama pick for me. Still, I can say this much: Obama is probably never going to have such a good chance to appoint a bona fide liberal to the Court. There’s no doubt the Democrats are going to lose at least a handful of senators in the fall, making any post-midterm nominations much dicier. And, as the New York Times reported last week, Republicans may be wary of being portrayed (accurately) as “kneejerk obstructionists.” My bet is still that they’ll filibuster anyone Obama nominates; they cannot afford to deflate their base’s balloon before the midterms. So the question becomes whether the nominee can be sold to the public and to the handful of reasonable GOP senators. Ultimately, “wise Latina” or not, Sonia Sotomayor was broadly popular from the get-go, and there just wasn’t enough there for honest Republicans to oppose. Let the Republicans complain; if Obama appoints the right person, things will fall into place. We need someone like Stevens, someone who we’ll be cheering for to “hang on” thirty years from now. firstname.lastname@example.org
“Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity” Cycling to Walden Pond. By SUSAN ZHU
D unster House tutors organized a Dunster bike trip to Walden Pond. The emails had said that the trip would be twenty miles each way, but that we could take the commuter rail back if we got tired. I had not biked twenty miles total in my entire life, but I was extremely tempted to go to Walden. In eighth grade, my American History final essay — a very long ten pages to a thirteen-year-old — had been on Henry David Thoreau. I felt like I owed it to Thoreau to visit his little shack in the woods, to complete that eighth grade project. So I signed up for the trip, not because I had a secret desire to become the female Lance Armstrong, but because I’m a nerd. I had been assigned “Civil Disobedience” that week in my Hist-B core class, and I decided to bring it along to read at Walden Pond (I did just say I’m a nerd, didn’t I?). Besides, it would be an excuse to get out of the Harvard bubble. Biking Don’t have your own bike? Not a problem. A lot of Dunsterites rented bikes from LevBikes, which operates out of the super’s office in Leverett. They’re not the easiest to handle, but they’re still a step up from the bikes that VeriFast Cycles have (I almost killed someone trying to ride one of those to watch the IM crew races last spring). If your bike needs a tune-up, QuadBikes, located in the basement of Cabot House, has you covered. Once you’ve got a bike, it’s relatively easy to get to Walden Pond. You bike on Mass Ave for a while, go past Alewife station, and few more twists and turns later, you end up on the Minuteman Trail, which is quite scenic in some areas — your typical northeastern forest trail. At some parts, we were on not-so-bike-friendly roads, but the majority of the trip is on the trail. We stopped for lunch in Concord, Mass., a cute little town with boutique stores geared towards the grandmotherly crowd, then headed 4
ast weekend , some
down for a quick ride to the pond. Did you know that biking hurts your butt? I had never considered this before because I figured biking just involved a lot of leg power. But even with a plush seat, those twenty miles hurt. I don’t regret going on the trip, but I would just say that if you have never biked for more than a few minutes at a time (the distance from Dunster to
Vanserg being the longest trip I’d ever made), I highly recommend not trying to bike twenty miles with lots of people who know what they’re doing. For most of the trip, I over-exerted myself, the fear of being separated from the group and the potential for humiliation (I’m pretty athletic! Why is this so hard?) overriding the fear of not being able to walk the next day. If
you decide to bike to Walden, you should try to go with people whose biking skills are similar to yours. Dunster’s last Happy Hour of the year was that night, but I stayed in my room because my body was too stiff and sore to make it downstairs and dance. Luckily, with some extra stretching, my legs recovered enough the next day that they only hurt when I squatted. Other tips: dress in layers, especially if it’s going to be windy (as it was for us — at some points, I honestly thought I was on a stationary bike), wear gloves, bring water, consider having a bicycle bell (there are a lot of joggers and pedestrians on the trails), and don’t forget to bring money ($6.25) if you want to take the commuter rail back. Bring the money anyway, even if you don’t think you’ll use the commuter rail. Walden Pond Walden Pond is beautiful. The water is really blue, and hiking around the surrounding woods, the forest floor covered in acorns and leaves, is quite a nice escape away from concrete roads and red brick houses. For someone who lives five minutes away from Valley Forge National Park, Walden Pond made me feel nostalgic for home the way nothing else at college has. Instead of trying to describe it in words, here are some pictures I took. There was caution tape covering the entrance to the trails, but we kind of ignored it — civil disobedience, eh? Porter Square The commuter rail is about a fifteen-minute bike ride from Walden Pond, and it will take you and your bike back to Porter Square. We stopped for Ethiopian food at Addis on Mass Ave., my first (delicious) Ethiopian meal. Porter Square is full of restaurants of every variety, and makes for a wonderful pit stop before biking back to campus. Susan Zhu ’11 (szhu@fas) wants a bicycle built for two (and for the other person to do all the pedaling). 04.15.10 • The Harvard Independent
I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
From the “Conclusion” to Walden
The rubble beside the site of Thoreau's cabin. Susan Zhu/INDEPENDENT
Walden Pond through the trees The Harvard Independent • 04.15.10
Across the pond and through the woods, to Thoreau's cabin we go. email@example.com
BOO BOO BOO
Janice Y. K. Lee, The Piano Teacher
ne of the reviews for The Piano Teacher compares it favorably with Atonement, and although I have never read Atonement, I must disagree — the compelling power of The Piano Teacher made it a singularly fascinating read. Much of this intrigue comes from the setting, Hong Kong in the 1940s and ‘50s. Lee takes the transplanted British society and portrays the ways it has mingled with native culture in a truly exhilarating fashion, blending the familiar and foreign seamlessly. The setting is almost disorienting in its beautiful representation — I felt like I could see and sense the places described. Furthermore, the plot and characters are intricately woven and wonderfully complex and appealing. The books tells two parallel narratives, one spanning the last days of British colonial rule and the messy revolution that follows, and the other spanning the decade after Hong Kong has stabilized. The characters are interwoven through the parallel stories expertly, and there are several clever twists that kept me up into the night turning the pages. The ending was marvelous, in no small part because of the brilliant lead-up, and I cannot recommend this novel enough. It was given to me as an unexpected gift early this semester, and I have never received a book that riveted me so thoroughly. The Piano Teacher reveals the alien world in our own consciousness, and it is every bit as enlightening as it is heartbreaking. - Riva Riley
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
just read this book this year and sorely regret not having read it earlier. It tells the powerful love story of Jane Eyre, a plain little thing, and Mr. Rochester, a rather stony figure; but behind their tumultuous romance is a more poignant lesson about inner beauty and self-possession. You may groan and deem those motifs overdone, but Jane Eyre is the original — the paragon for all coming-of-age romances to follow. So, for the sake of cultural literacy, you should read it and find out for yourself why it is a masterpiece. While rich in language, characters and structure, Jane Eyre remains a Brontë novel, which means angst, melodrama and dated Victorian speech. Ergo, I suggest you take your time with this one, read every word, and feel the weight of those words as Charlotte Brontë weaves a hypnotic tale. - Weike Wang
Tim O’Brien, Going After Cacciato
inner of the National Book Award in fiction, Tim O’Brien’s hauntingly surreal portrayal of a combat unit in Vietnam represents one of best and most underrated war novels. The plot both grips and disturbs, as solider Paul Berlin leads an infantry unit to try and capture Cacciato, a runaway soldier determined to walk from Vietnam to Paris. The destination and walk to Paris, like much of O’Brien’s writing, may seem odd or arbitrary at first, but O’Brien imbues every sentence with distinct purpose. Unlike many of today’s guiltypleasure novels — I still love you, Dan Brown! — every page of O’Brien’s work is carefully and beautifully crafted to build his narrative rather than to merely add another page number. The book carries you across the scenes associated with Vietnam and digs down to the violent commonalities and frustrating ironies of all wars. While The Red Badge of Courage, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Ernest Hemingway are essential war novel reading, O’Brien’s thoughtful and disturbingly addictive style makes Going After Cacciato in particular an absolute must-read. And if that isn’t convincing enough for you, it has a great plot with a totally sweet twist at the end. - Alex Thompson
Nathaniel Fick, One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
ick chronicles his journey from majoring in classics at Dartmouth through Marine OCS and tours in Afghanistan and Iraq — his reasons for joining up, his education in command, and his slow disillusionment. This is an imperfect book: Fick’s idealism at the beginning strains credulity, and the middle section of the book devolves at times into a dry account of events without the personal insights that enliven the beginning and end. At times, there is the sense that Fick is holding back in order to avoid putting the Corps in a bad light. Nevertheless, One Bullet Away is a powerful book in its own right, and an interesting read in counterpoint to Generation Kill, the book written by Evan Wright, a reporter for Rolling Stone who embedded with the platoon under Fick’s command in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It is at its best when describing Fick’s own thoughts about the processes and pressures he undergoes, as a glimpse into a world foreign to most of us at Harvard. A book that is ultimately compelling despite its flaws, and well worth a read. - Faith Zhang 6
Looking forward to summer reading. By INDY STAFF
Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
ou don’t have to be a runner to appreciate this book — but by the time you finish it, you may wish you were. McDougall enters Mexico’s remote Copper Canyons chasing stories of the Tarahumara, a people said one and all to be incredible distance runners. In the process, he delves into the evolutionary history of the human species, the biomechanics of running, and the world of competitive ultrarunning, a word that applies to races that take place over any distance longer than the traditional marathon — races that are often fifty to a hundred miles or more, and take place over some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. At times, McDougall waxes almost mystical about running, a tendency that can approach the ridiculous at times — I get that you love running, I wanted to say, but that doesn’t mean it’s the answer to all the world’s ills — but is, at other times, genuinely moving. It is fascinating to consider the question of what drives people to run mile after through pain, through injury, through the heat and the cold; to race a horse on foot — and win. Most of all, though, Born to Run emphasizes the physical pleasure, the sheer joy of running — something that, reading, I realized I had forgotten sometime around the time I entered middle school, and find myself wishing to rediscover. - Faith Zhang
Herta Muller, The King Bows and Kills
he recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature in 2009, Herta Muller experienced the Communist regime in Romania before she fled to Germany. The King Bows and Kills is a series of interconnected and mostly autobiographical essays on what it meant to take an intellectual and cultural stance against the Orwellian world she describes in most of her literary work. The writing style is beautifully unsettling, engaging the reader in an exploration of the author’s emotional responses, lucid recollection, and sharp analysis. - Sonia Coman
04.15.10 • The Harvard Independent
OKS OKS OKS
Best Movies Based on Books
Persepolis Harry Potter series The Lord of the Ring series Atonement Bridget Jonesís Diary I Gone With the Wind The Bourne series Pride and Prejudice (BBC version), Sense and Sensibility (1995 and 2008 versions) Forrest Gump The Shawshank Redemption The Notebook Capote Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Gene Wilder version) Memento Dances With Wolves No Country for Old Men Children of Men Schindler’s List The Princess Bride The Princess Diaries The Godfather Shawshank Redemption
- Weike Wang and Susan Zhu
Worst Movies Based on Books Ella Enchanted: Completely ruined my all-time favorite children novel. Bridget Jones’s Diary II The Time Traveler’s Wife The Da Vinci Code Twilight Saga: Horrible movies based on horrible books. - Weike Wang
Most Overrated Books
nything by Nicholas Sparks. The man writes fluff and the clincher for most of his stories is that someone dies of cancer; yet, women weep over his pages as if he were Cupid incarnate, as if his stories never get old. But his novels are bestsellers and those bestsellers make blockbusters, so who am I to question his success? It’s just that whenever I flip open a Sparks novel, I can hear a serenade of cloyingly sweet ballads in the background. Mushy, much? - Weike Wang The Harvard Independent • 04.15.10
Samuel Beckett, Short Plays
eckett’s unique absurdist effect is maximized in his shorter plays, like Not I, Play, Krapp’s Last Tape, and …but the clouds…. The intensity of the language is heightened by the minimalist approach to all theatrical devices. Although short, these plays have some of the longest and deepest moments of silence ever prescribed on paper. Written for theater as well as for radio and television, the plays reconstruct the human voice in all the richness of its expressive range. Not I focuses exclusively on the voice of a woman whose mouth is isolated on stage by a spotlight — a mouth that seems to talk independently about the individual to whom it belongs. Krapp’s Last Tape encapsulates a lifetime of memories and regrets, which Krapp unwinds from old tapes. The voices of Beckett’s characters pervade the space of the dramatic realm to constantly question the quality of their living and liveliness. - Sonia Coman
Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence
ome people collect to possess and to take pleasure from it; others collect to revive a sense of personal or collective history. Both types of collecting interlace obsessively in the sensitive and unsettling tale of Kemal’s lifelong love for Füsun. This obsessive longing for the loved woman objectify her as the center of Kemal’s collection. Will he ever be fully aware of her immediate human presence? The wondrous fabric of the novel is characteristic of Pamuk’s style. The writer is establishing an actual museum in the Cukurcuma district of Istanbul based on his novel — an act which allow this rich and captivating text to take on a life of its own outside its literary boundaries. - Sonia Coman
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girl Among Ghosts
he Woman Warrior is a memoir by Maxine Hong Kingston about her family and their move from China to America. It details her upbringing in California and her connection to her homeland. I’m a Chinese immigrant myself, and I have to say, along with Homesick by Jean Fritz, this is one of my least favorite books of all time. I feel like it’s the kind of book someone says they like because they like its creativity, its questionable realism, and maybe just because they want to feel like they’re tolerant of other cultures. I have never been one for ambiguity; I don’t like not being able to distinguish between reality and fantasy. I also dislike Kingston’s style and the way she writes in general. It is incredibly messy and confusing. Mostly, though, I think I’m just bitter. Kingston does not represent my story. Her family’s beliefs, their experiences, even the language she chooses to use, are not representative of the Chinese immigrant experience — but Americans, lacking a sense of what it’s like to be an immigrant, sometimes take her story and apply it too generally. This happens a lot with nonwestern literature, since Americans know so little about what lies outside the boundaries of their own country. After reading Homesick by Jean Fritz in sixth grade, other kids asked me if I bound my feet, or if my family members let their pinky nails grow. Why, yes, can’t you tell that under my sneakers I’ve applied a thick layer of binding? With Woman Warrior, the differences kept coming. For instance, my family is well-educated. My grandparents do not believe in ghosts (I can’t account for my great-grandparents, but my guess is that they didn’t either — my great-grandfather went to college and studied abroad), and “ghost” itself, is, in my opinion, too literal a translation. The Chinese word for ghost is gui and yes, sometimes Chinese refer to white people as gui zi — literally meaning ghosts, but more symbolically meaning foreigners, a somewhat derogatory term that probably originated from when Europeans came and burned down China’s palaces, or maybe because the Chinese were surprised that white people were so pasty. Not all Chinese believe in ghosts, and I dislike that, by publishing her story, Kingston is putting forth her own story as a prototype of what it’s like to be Chinese. Instead, might I recommend In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, by Bette Bao Lord? It is a clear, fun, touching read whose principles can be more generally applied — trouble dealing with American culture, struggling to fit in, having trouble pronouncing the words of the Pledge of Allegiance. - Faith Zhang firstname.lastname@example.org
Digital Killed the Analog Star I
went back and watched the music
video for “Video Killed the Radio Star” the other day. The video was the first to be played on MTV, and it was an obvious choice; it presents a vision of artistic advancement irreversibly tied to technological advancement. The second verse mentions a “second symphony/re-written by machine and new technology,” claiming that even classical music, which is seen as striving toward an artistic perfection unconnected to history or fashion, is being swept along. “We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far,” goes the last line of the chorus. As a statement of artistic position, it is compatible with MTV’s corporate desire to eke out a market for itself in the face of the radio juggernaut. The song is an effective enough battlecry, but the lyrics have little to say about what makes video as a medium superior to the radio single or longplaying record. The first image is of a man in a reflective silver suit, standing as though he were a still image, with a neon shape superimposed over him. He is wearing dark sunglasses with white rims and a rather futuristic design. Synthesizers enter and the man’s head jerks just before he starts singing, as though he were the tin man from The Wizard of Oz having finally seen the benefit of the oil can. His voice has obviously been processed in some way; it sounds as though he is singing through saran wrap. He doesn’t dance or change his facial expressions; he remains mostly still. The in-studio audience sits around listening, expressing neither interest, nor boredom, nor hostility. The back-up dancers are mannered. The overwhelming characteristic of the video seems to be self-effacement; everyone in the production is revealing and hiding themselves, both at once. This video is MTV’s chosen introduction of the medium! A medium with the potential to realign the music that singers make with their physical presentations as people, to roll back the disembodied voices of the radio in favor of a reaching-out through the television. Video can kill the radio star by combining the personal connection of a concert with the portability and reproducibility of radio. The problem is that, within the framework established by the Buggles’ song, it isn’t possible to use technology to reproduce the benefits of a pre8
technological age, namely the musician’s earnest gaze and her connection with an audience — bringing such benefits to a home audience does not require the rhetoric of killing and replacing. In order to put themselves in line with this rhetoric, the Buggles adopt a stance rejecting some of the obvious benefits of the medium they are introducing. There is one long close-up on the lead singer’s face where the singer is looking away from the camera; he is showing viewers the opportunity he has to make eye contact, and showing us too that he is turning down that opportunity. The oddity I’ve observed in “Video Killed the Radio Star” is, I think, a product of an attitude toward technological advancement that goes back to the very beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, wherein those who align themselves with technological advancement are aligning themselves against human relationships on a smaller scale. Our vision of the future always seems to be smoother than our presents. Everything is chromed and rounded so that we, like our devices, can slide past each other with minimal friction. The music video as the locus of intergenerational competition or hostility didn’t last, and quite a while ago we arrived at a point where the music video had nothing to prove and simply became another medium for artistic expression, for artists to use way in any way they pleased — whether to capture the experience of concert-going or to send viewers into orbit around Neptune. Technology kept advancing, of course, and the advances kept having new ramifications for pop music, allowing for the creations of new sounds and new images that might shock us in new ways, but it has only recently become clear where the endpoint of this advancement lies: now, in the present, pop artists — and artists in general, if they have the money — can control every sound and image they release on an extraordinarily fine-grained level, a level so fine as to approach the digital, the realm of ones and zeros. Every pixel and pitch becomes a vehicle for the artist’s explicit intent. The approach of this power, and now the reality of its availability to our elite artists, has produced a discomfort that I think goes part of the way toward explaining the change of tone in the more thoughtful vein of pop music
How Lady Gaga reflects, and heightens the spirit of our times. By SAM JACK
(stupid or crappy music has pretty much stayed the same, or has used technology to make itself stupider and crappier). The unique power of digital technology is to make sounds and images that we could never produce organically — witness Avatar, the consummation of this trend in the realm of cinema. This new pixel-level totalitarianism, unlike the introduction of analog music video broadcast, does seem to be truly anti-human, an uprising of digital zombies. Its whole power lies in its ability to create what nature never could. Artists, musical and otherwise, have been struggling for a solution to the problem of where their bodies go, where they can be inserted into these contraptions “re-written by machine and new technology.” Some, like OK Go and Feist, have rebelled against digital modification, using old ideas and technology like Rube Goldberg machines, treadmills, and huge groups of dancers in creative and unexpected ways. Others — T-Pain comes to mind — have put themselves and their personas wholly in the hands of technology. T-Pain, with his fetishization of AutoTune, triumphs over technology by proving that however much you try to iron out his personality with digital tweaking, you can’t do it. Lady Gaga is in the company of a few other mainstream artists who are neither trying to avoid nor co-opt this zombie rebellion. Gaga has put herself in a position of command by using digital to the fullest while at the same time using it to produce a critique. The video for “Bad Romance” does this most clearly: as in “Video Killed the Radio Star,” we begin with a still tableau of Lady Gaga. An excerpt from Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” is playing, until Gaga presses a finger to a button and switches the track to her own song, “Bad Romance.” This simple action is the first indication of Gaga’s assertion of control over the bad dream she’s fabricated. The lyrics of “Bad Romance” have only a glancing connection to the plot of the video, which is sublimely melodramatic: a group of what look like Russian mobsters (one with a metal jaw) have grown Gaga, a piece of technology herself in this scenario, in a gleaming white pod labeled “Monster,” and now decant her for their gratification. The dizzying array of costume changes that follow have been seen by some commentators as symptomatic of
baroque excess, but each undermines Gaga’s selfhood in a different way. She is seen dancing with a group of others, wearing a costume that conceals her face except for her lips. She is shown suspended in a field of floating jewels. She is shown with her eyes digitally enlarged so that she looks like a figure from Japanese animation. She is shown from behind, nearly nude, with her spine modified, digitally or through makeup, so that it protrudes animalistically from her back. Gaga’s message to the audience, represented in the video by the uninterested mobsters, is that she is willing to make herself monstrous to satisfy their desire for “ilinx” — their desire to be shocked or disturbed. At seemingly random points in the video, we cut away to a close-up of Gaga’s face. Unlike the lead singer of the Buggles, Gaga makes visual contact with the viewer, and she is represented as lacking make-up or retouching. Of course everything is made-up and retouched, but the intent is clear. A look of desperation is on Gaga’s face; a tear rolls down her cheek. In the context of the rest of the video, it’s hard to think of what would be more shocking. And yet, she is clear that her sadness does not adulterate her desire, which she presents as ineradicable; she was “born” a “monster.” She says, “I want your ugly, I want your disease./I want your everything as long as it’s free,/I want your love.” Gaga’s tragedy is that she has been internally as well as externally compelled to sacrifice her unenhanced physicality for the sake of her desire to transcend the merely human. Put all this together, and the video powerfully reflects our tortured relationship with our servants both mechanical and organic, here at the beginning of the second decade of the third millenium. Obviously the video has struck a chord; just yesterday it became the all-time most-watched video on YouTube, with 180 million viewings. The final image, of Gaga lying in bed with the burned corpse of her lover, presents the artist’s final, cynical opinion of the way we are now inclined to use each other while looking past the reality of what is before us; of the endlessly clever new ways we think of to use each other up. Sam Jack ‘11 (sjack@fas) feels like listening to some puh-puh-puh-polka. 04.15.10 • The Harvard Independent
A Sub-Par Record Why Tiger Woods is a disappointment twice over.
’m not going to waste your time or mine by discussing Tiger Wood’s accomplishments as a professional golf player. He’ll go down in history one day as golf’s Michael Jordan. That’s without question. Instead, I’d like to focus on why Tiger Woods is an idiot who thinks with his phallus, and not his brain. I overheard someone in the dining hall last weekend rave about Tiger Wood’s performance at the Masters (he tied for fourth), and exclaim — with what I can only hope was poorly executed sarcasm — that Tiger had successfully regained his status as a sophisticated and wonderful role model. Naturally, I couldn’t believe what I heard, so I turned to him and told him the following joke: “You know, I heard a rumor that Tiger Woods won’t be playing any more tournaments this year.” His jaw fell open, so I tried to comfort him: “Yeah, man, but don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll get in some holes here and there.” “I DON’T CARE IF HE PLAYS A COUPLE OF HOLES! HE NEEDS TO PLAY MAJORS SO THAT HE CAN GET BETTER AND WIN!” was his response. Ironically enough, it was me who ended up laughing uncontrollably, not him. So why am I telling you all this? Well, for two reasons. One, Tiger Woods is an idiot. And two, the level at which Tiger jokes are appreciated does not match the level at which Tiger is an idiot. I know I haven’t done a great job of The Harvard Independent • 04.15.10
convincing you that the first statement is true, and I’d certainly like to remedy the terrible reality of statement two. So in the spirit of making fun of Tiger Woods, here are three reasons Tiger is an idiot — paired with three of the best Tiger jokes everyone should know and appreciate. 1. Tiger, have you seen your wife? If we’re going to be truly honest, Tiger Woods is hardly the most attractive male athlete out there. Hell, I wouldn’t even claim that he’s the most handsome golfer (girls tell me that some guy named Aaron Baddeley has him beat). Knowing that, why in the world would Tiger cheat on a blonde Swedish model — one that took him over a year of waiting in line to win over? It’s not as if the women Tiger slept with were Heidi Klum, Jessica Alba, and Rachel McAdams (had he done that, he wouldn’t be an idiot, though “selfish bastard” wouldn’t be unreasonable). Think about it. Would Jay-Z cheat on Beyonce? Would Chandler Bing cheat on Monica Gellar? Would Tarzan cheat on Jane? No, they wouldn’t, because they’re aware of the vast discrepancy in attractiveness between them and their spouses, and that they don’t lie on the positive end of that discrepancy. Tiger either needs that magic mirror thing from Snow White or a better set of contacts if he doesn’t realize that he belongs in that very group. “CBS passed on an interview with Tiger Woods, saying that five minutes
By HAO MENG
with the golfer wouldn’t be enough. There are hundreds of women out there who disagree.” 2. When did crashing your car into a hedge, a fire hydrant, and a tree become a solution? Look, Tiger, I get that your wife was probably mad at you for cheating on her, but saying sorry usually doesn’t involve wrecking a perfectly nice 2009 Cadillac Escalade and bringing national embarrassment to the family. Women tend to like the whole pretty-red-flowers-pluschocolate-plus-cleaning-the-houseplus-actually-winning- the-Mastersthing (c’mon Tiger…the one thing you’re supposed to be good at…). Not only did all the information about the scandal originate from this one incident, but it also further marred Tiger’s less than glamorous face. Yet, the incident did send — in my opinion — two positive messages. First, not all bad drivers are Asian females. Second, if this was a suicide attempt (knock on wood), then we definitely don’t have to worry about Tiger. I, however, have no doubt that these two messages were inadvertent, and as a result, they do not in any way contradict Tiger’s apparent affinity for idiocy.
shouldn’t), then do it right — make sure you don’t get caught! Cheating is not acceptable. End of story. But if you’re Tiger Woods, and you’re a moron, and you’ve firmly decided to cheat, then at least cheat in a way that doesn’t seem like you actually want to be caught! Don’t say, “I want you to be my whore” to every porn star over the phone. Don’t send text messages that say, “I will wear you out,” because, well, text messages can actually be saved (who knew?). Most importantly, don’t forget that you’re what we Muggles like to call famous, and it’s kind of always been a trend to let the world know that you’ve slept with a famous person. Hell, some people even like to inform the world that they’ve slept with a non-famous person. I know, crazy right? “Elin Woods was shocked to learn that she was pregnant. In a rage, she called Tiger at the golf course. ‘You bastard! You bastard!’ Elin screamed. ‘You got me pregnant!’ Tiger replied, ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Who is this?’”
“Tiger and Elin have signed a new prenuptial agreement. According to the new contract, the next time Tiger plays a round, Elin will hand him his balls.”
So what’s the moral of this extremely professional analysis? Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood once said, “ People need to focus on bigger issues instead of whether George Bush is an idiot or not.” He’s absolutely right. It’s time we focused on bigger issues — like why Tiger Woods is such an idiot.
3. Ok, if you’re going to do the whole cheating thing (and you
Hao Meng ’12 (haomeng@fas) believes in doing things right. email@example.com
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04.15.10 â€˘ The Harvard Independent
1971 Construction continues on the Science Center
The Harvard Independent â€˘ 04.15.10
captured & shot
By ALEKSANDRA STANKIEWICZ