BACKTRACKS Volume 26, Issue 3. Spring 2013
SPRING 2013 Volume XXVI
THE MAGAZINE Backtracks is Andover’s oldest general interest magazine. For 26 years, the magazine has served as a creative and intellectual outlet for the Phillips Academy community. Backtracks publishes exceptional non-fiction writing - including essays, reviews, letters and op-ed - as well as outstanding artwork and photography twice a term. Original writing falls into one of our six sections - Hit List, Notes & Dispatches, Reports, Humane Letters, or Reviews. For each issue, our editors also scour other publications for noteworthy people and articles to feature in Readings or Interviews & Special Features sections. SUBMISSIONS Backtracks welcomes submissions of student work from all disciplines. If you are unsure if the content of your piece is suitable for our magazine, send it to us anyway; we are always seeking fresh perspectives. Please e-mail original non-fiction writing, reporting, artwork or photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Artwork in digital format may be e-mailed to the above address as well . If an electronic version is not available, please contact the Art & Photography editor. CONTACT Backtracks would love to hear your comments, suggestions, and questions. to contact our editorial staff, please e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We reserve the right to publish letters in future issues of the magazine. SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual subscriptions to Backtracks cost $50 on campus. Off campus subscriptions carry a nominal shipping fee. E-mail email@example.com for more information. DISCLAIMER Backtracks is printed by Flagship Pres of North Andover, Massachusetts. All images, text and other media contained herein, unless otherwise specified, are the property of Backtracks and the Trustees of Phillips Academy. The views and opinions expressed in Backtracks can be solely attributed to the author of the article in which they appear. Flagship Press holds no responsibility for the material printed herein.
©1986-2012 Backtracks and the Trustees of Phillips Academy
BACKTRACKS EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Janine Ko Virginia Fu LAYOUT EDITORS Sierra Jamir Daniel Kim Molly Magnell Joey Salvo
ART & PHOTOGRAPHY Soha Sanchorawala
INTERIVEWS & SPECIAL FEATURES Jen Sluka
HITLIST Kai Kornegay
NOTES & DISPATCHES Annika Neklason
HUMANE LETTERS Lily Zildjian WRITER AT LARGE Larry Flynn
READINGS Rebecca Cheng REPORTS Eric Meyers REVIEWS Eric Alpert Lily Grossbard
CHIEF WRITER Katherine Vega
BUSINESS MANAGER Daniel Kim COPY EDITOR Mayze Teitler
PHOTO CREDITS: Outside: Alex Tamkin Inside Front: Alex Tamkin
CONTENTS VOL.XXVI, ISSUE III HITLIST Top Ten Things to Do Without Time While at Andover....................................................... 8 Brooke Bond Ten of the Greatest Books for Young Readers (And Not so Young Readers): A Guide to Children’s Literature (In No Particular Order) ................................................................... 10 Peyton Alie
NOTES & DISPATCHES
An Examination of the Life Cycle of the Urban Butterfly ...................................................16 Sirus Han, Thorn Prize Winner The Tour Guide of Jericó ....................................................................................................28 Miguel Wise Cranberry Juice..... ............................................................................................................ 32 Joey Salvo Footprints in the Sand........................................................................................................ 38 Alexis Lefft Beta Fish Don’t Live in Puddles ......................................................................................... 46 Kate Shih
The Fault in Our Stars ....................................................................................................... 52 Heather Mei Warm Bodies ..................................................................................................................... 56 Katherine Vega Spazzgirl Does Swimming ................................................................................................. 56 Brooke Bond Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal: Breathtaking, Jarring, Moving .............................................. 60 Janice Cheon Backtracks Picks: Allison Schulnik’s Hobo Clown ............................................................. 64 The 26th Board Short Reviews of the Essential 90’s Albums ....................................................................... 66 Jack Elliott-Higgins
Photo: Jordan Johnson
Orwellian Overtones: Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural Address ...................................... 70 Eric Meyers The Negative Effects of United States Drug and Gun Policy in Mexico ..............................72 Henry Manning Understanding the Holocaust: Learning from Experience .................................................. 76 Larry Flynn The Psychology of Punk .................................................................................................... 80 Peyton Alie, Thorn Prize Runner Up
PHOTOESSAY: THORN PRIZE WINNER
True Colors ........................................................................................................................86 Zelly Atlan
HITLIST Top Ten Things to Do Without Time While at Andover
Ten of the Greatest Books For Younger Readers
TOP TEN THINGS TO DO WITHOUT TIME WHILE AT ANDOVER Brooke Bond
1. CAT BONER THE TOWNIES. It’s easy and fun. Just imagine it. You’re standing at the corner of Main and Chapel, looking as nerdy as is humanly possible, waiting to cross the street. And that’s when you see it coming, a blue minivan driven by Andover High Students. The van slows down, and time slows with it. Your eyes narrow. You can hear your blood pulse as you prepare to face your mortal enemies (who are all wearing hoods and jamming to something like All Time Low, ‘cause, you know, nothing’s more hardcore than that). With the stealth of a ninja, the car draws closer. Its windows begin to lower. And then, just as its occupants open their mouths for the attack, you scream “CAT BONER” and experience the extreme satisfaction of watching them drive away with stunned looks on their faces. And that’s that. If “cat boner” is too vulgar for your taste, try the term “muggle” (as popularized by J.K. Rowling) instead. 2. RUN THROUGH POLK AND OTHER... erm... POPULAR HIDEOUTS, BANGING ON AND OPENING AS MANY DOORS AS POSSIBLE. It’s your school, too, after all. You’re welcome there. And it’ll be an adventure. You never know what you may stumble across, like cool pieces of art, and- Actually, on second thought, you should probably ignore this one.
7. PLAY HIDE-AND-GO-SEEK. Not only is this 99.93485724% guaranteed to make you feel like a kid again (within minutes, too!), but it’s a great way to explore this beautiful campus we’re blessed to live on. So why not get a group of friends together, split up, and have one group try and find the other? Or you could hide individually, if you’d like a real challenge. And you could use your phones to stay in contact, in case the searching party gives up. Just don’t try to hide in one of the pianos, no matter how tempting it might seem. It won’t work, the music department will hate you for the rest of your life, and you might scare the living daylights out of Harvey Wu when he goes to practice.
4. FORM A SECRET SOCIETY. Yeah, yeah, I know. There’s already one or two of these on campus (are any more even allowed?), and who needs another when an existing one already leaves out snack food in a bathtub (so hardcore, man)? But who cares? Secret societies are part of the quintessential boarding school experience, at least according to the movies! And bonus points for anyone who can out hardcore the Tubsters, maybe by dedicating their society to the love of eating oranges or something.
8. SLIDE DOWN EVERY STAIR RAILING ON CAMPUS. Be the wild child that you’ve always wanted to be. Just make sure that you treat the source of your infinite fun nicely, and avoid excessive kicking or scratching of the paint or finish, especially in Bulfinch, where everything’s all clean and shiny (ooh... shiny...). Remember, a banister always pays its debts. (Required Legal Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form, is Backtracks or its associated editors or contributors responsible for any personal harm sustained while attempting this task. Slide responsibly.)
5. BECOME AN A CAPELLA GROUPIE. Our parents have sent us to a top notch facility so that we may be productive with our lives and not do something stupid like become “professional groupies.” But we are teenagers, so we’re supposed to be rebellious, so let’s all be groupies anyway. I mean, come on. The Yorkies are pretty damn sexy with their bowties. And, if they’re more your thing, Azure’s got it goin’ on. And we could all make posters and tee-shirts with Hemang Kaul’s face on them. 6. TROLL ON STRANGERS IN COMMONS. It’s simple. Just go up to a group of people you’ve never once talked to, and sit down with them as if you’ve all been best mates since before birth. Crack jokes, bemoan your history test next period, and call them all by whatever names you want. When they ask you who are, just say “just me.” And when they insist that they’ve never met you before, say “very funny guys. Taylor, there’s something on your shirt.” If watching their faces become more and more bemused throughout the conversation doesn’t amuse you, then perhaps watching them try and figure out who Taylor is might.
Andover Public Schools
3. PLASTER OUR BEAUTIFUL CAMPUS WITH POST-IT NOTE MESSAGES. Lame as it may sound, there are actually so many things that you could do with this one. You could leave a lovely message to brighten someone’s day. You could simply prove to the world that you (yes! You!) have stepped foot on the Academy’s hallowed grounds. You could leave cryptic messages and listen as people wonder what the tarnation they’re supposed to mean. At the very least, you could make our grand institution look slightly brighter and tackier, which, let’s be honest, would be totally worth it. Just make sure to post them all inside, because we wouldn’t want to litter. No one on our campus ever does. that.
Photo illustration: Sierra Jamir
9. DO ALL YOUR HOMEWORK RIGHT OFF THE BAT AND EVEN WORK AHEAD. Procrastination is for losers, so why not follow this great and wholesome advice? You’ll understand what’s going on in class before class even happens, and you’ll be free to hang out with all you friends during study hours, even though they won’t be free to hang out with you, andYou know what? This getting ahead stuff sounds like utter crap. 10. COMPLAIN. A LOT. Complain about your massive amounts of homework. Complain about how harshly those evil teachers of yours grade. Complain about the weather. Complain about sports. Complain how Commons has yet again run out of those unbelievably delicious (and addictive, trust me) Legal Sea Foods oyster crackers yet again. You can complain about anything you’d like. It’s essentially our student body’s official pastime.
for Young R e a d e r s
1. “Holes,” by Louis Sachar, follows palindromically-named
teenager Stanley Yelnats, who is arrested for a theft he didn’t commit and set to a juvenile detention camp, where he’s expected to dig holes in the middle of a desert. Never managing to fully fit in at the camp, Stanley befriends fellow outcast Zero. When Zero runs away from the camp, Stanley follows, fearing for his friend’s safety. The book is divided between Stanley’s story and that of outlaw “Kissin’ Kate” Barlow, a white schoolteacher who turned to crime after the black love of her life was killed due to his race. The two stories turn out to be deeply intertwined, both directly and thematically, and Holes’s nonlinear narrative and frank discussion of racial issues makes it mentally stimulating for young readers, and gives the story unexpected depth for older audiences, while the wry humor in the story stops it from getting too heavy.
2. “The Giver,” by Lois Lowry, first published in 1993, was one
of the first young adult books to deal with the dystopian themes that are seemingly omnipresent in literature aimed at that age group today. 11-year-old Jonas lives in the Community, a seemingly perfect world. When Jonas turns 12, he is assigned the highly prestigious position of the Receiver of Memory, but his new job brings pain and alienation along with honor. The knowledge he gains through his position isolates him from his family and friends, and he’s forced to grow up fast when he faces an ethical dilemma after learning more about the Community. To young readers, The Giver is an exercise in critical thinking and morality. To older readers, the Community may seem painfully unrealistic from a logical perspective, but the core of the story should endure, and the symbolism of Jonas’s dilemma is surprisingly potent.
A Guide to Children’s Literature (in no particular order)
by Peyton Alie
3. “My Side of the Mountain,” by Jean Craighead George,
centers around 12 year old Sam, who lives in a cramped New York City apartment with his eight siblings. Tired of his life in the city, Sam runs away to his great-grandfather’s vacant farm in the mountains. There, he imaginatively creates a new life out of his wilderness surroundings (including a bed fashioned in a hollow tree and a carefully tamed falcon) and develops from an impulsive child to a responsible, self-sufficient young man. My Side of the Mountain appeals to the budding independence and desire to explore that many curious children possess, and its impressively realistic and detailed portrayal of nature make it a delight for older readers as well.
4. “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frank-
weiler,” a 1967 novel by E.L. Konisburg, follows 12-year-
old Claudia, who decides to run away from home because she thinks her parents don’t appreciate her. Along with her nine-year-old brother Jamie, Claudia runs away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the two of them live in hiding. When a mysterious marble statue of an angel thought to be made by Michelangelo arrives at the museum, the two siblings decide to investigate and wind up meeting the elderly millionaire Mrs. Frankweiler, who is narrating the story. Mixed-Up Files is imaginative and clever, and puts a great amount of confidence in its young audience’s intelligence.
5. “Stargirl,” by Jerry Spinelli, is told from the perspec-
tive of Leo, a junior in a completely normal high school whose life begins to change when a new student known as Stargirl arrives. Stargirl is intentionally as odd as possible- she wears strange clothes, carries around a pet rat, and plays “Happy Birthday” on the ukelele to absolutely everyone on their birthdays. While Stargirl is shunned by most of her classmates, Leo finds himself inexplicably attracted to her. However, he soon struggles with reconciling his desire to fit in with his classmates with his desire to explore the odder side of life alongside Stargirl. Stargirl’s strong message of individualism is encouraging and inspiring for young readers, and the novel’s characters are surprisingly nuanced. In particular, the sunny Stargirl can fall into periods of deep depression, and it’s suggested that part of the reason why she doesn’t conform is because she simply doesn’t know how to.
6. Judy Blume’s classic novel “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” first published in 1970, is a bit older than most of the
other books on this list. But Margaret addresses many issues that are still relatively rare in youth literature today. The novel is centered around preteen Margaret, who’s mother is Christian and father is Jewish and has grown up without any religion whatsoever. While the book focuses primarily on her search for a single religion, it also deals with issues such as buying her first bra, her first period, beginning to like boys, and disagreeing with her friends. Because of its focus on questioning religion and on puberty, Margaret is one of the most commonly banned books from schools, but it’s hard to see how its frank realism and relatable nature could be anything but beneficial to readers at (or even long past) Margaret’s age.
7. “The Westing Game,” by Ellen Raskin, is complex even by
the standards of adult literature, with about twenty main characters, though it focuses the most on bright but hotheaded 13-year-old Turtle. These central characters have all been brought together to hear the will of millionaire Sam Westing, whom they are all apparently potential heirs to. Divided into pairs, they’re expected to solve the mystery of who murdered Westing based on a series of cryptic clues. The Westing Game is a highly unconventional mystery, and should be captivating for child and adult readers alike. The numerous characters are also impressively complex, especially considering how little many of them are focused on. Above all, The Westing Game treats its young readers like fully capable adults, something I always loved as a child.
8. Katherine Paterson’s 1977 novel “Bridge to
Terabithia” is perhaps best known for its tragic ending, but the story leading up to the ending is captivating alone. Artistic and lonely fifth grader Jesse Aarons is obsessed with running, and spends his summer practicing constantly for the footraces held during recess throughout the school year. However, when the first race finally arrives, he’s beaten by Leslie, an outgoing tomboy who’s just moved into his neighborhood. Though Jesse initially resents Leslie, he soon finds out that the two share common interests in art and fantasy literature, and they become inseparable. Together, they create a fantasy world in the forest near their houses, which serves as a therapeutic way for them to deal with their ostracization at school and their personal problems at home. Bridge to Terabithia encourages a child’s vivid imagination, and the story’s final tragedy is handled with grace and understanding that treats its readers as fully capable thinkers.
9. The nonlinear novel “Walk Two Moons,” by Sharon Creech,
follows 13-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, known as Sal. When Sal’s beloved mother leaves the family for reasons that are unclear to the reader, she is understandably devastated. After she moves to a new town with her father, her grandparents take her on a road trip in aims of finding her mother in time for her birthday. While on the trip, Sal tells them the story of her new friend Phoebe, whose family is also coming apart at the seams, and begins to grow a little more comfortable with her present life by telling stories about her new town. Walk Two Moons can be grim and serious, but it’s overarching message is one of acceptance and peace, and its nontraditional storytelling method and somber themes make it a great choice for the more thoughtful reader.
10. It’s barely fair to call “The Little Prince” a kids’ book,
but it’s often treated as one. Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s 1943 masterpiece tells of an aviator who crashes his plane in
the midst of the Sahara desert and is approached by a young prince who comes from an asteroid. The prince tells him of his adventures throughout the galaxy searching for the meaning of life. The language is simple enough for children to understand, but the philosophical ideas suggested by the story are complex enough for adults to enjoy. The famous advice the prince receives from his friend the fox- “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”- may seem eye-rollingly cliched to older readers at first, but the simple, clear sincerity in which this message is handled gives the story depth that can be appreciated by readers young and old. It is just one of many insights in the deceptively simple novel.
Notes & The Tour Guide Of Jericó
An Examination Of the Life Cycle of The Urban Butterfly
Sirus Han Thorn Prize Winner
Footprints in the Sand
Beta Fish Don’t Live in Puddles
Madeleine Lippey Madeleine Lippey
An Examination of the Life Cycle of the Urban Butterfly Sirus Han Winner of the 2013 Thorn PRize
Itâ€™s a beautiful victory.
They’re followed closely by their subjects, packs of children who, laughing and shouting, trip over themselves trying to pluck orange swatches from the great azure quilt overhead.
1. Incubation The grass is deliciously cool and soft beneath your toes, and so, so green. Your mother will complain later when she finds that beautiful green staining the knees of your new jeans, but that’s a worry for later. Now is about the grass, and about the sky, and about the butterflies. The air is dry, and the breeze brushes your skin like a silken whisper. Your mouth is red with the remnants of a popsicle, and your hands are sticky, clutching a white plastic shopping bag with the words “Have A Nice Day!” chirping from its side. You narrow your eyes, concentrate, and with all the effort that your eightyearold self can muster, you run, jump, and swipe. You’ve missed, of course what are a plastic bag and an eight yearold’s coordination against the grace of a monarch butterfly? The park is alive with them; it’s teeming with the ochre migrants. They’re followed closely by their subjects, packs of children who, laughing and shouting, trip over themselves trying to pluck orange swatches from the great azure quilt overhead as their parents watch the sport from the sidelines. Your own father had been the one to challenge you, but that’s forgotten now is not about him. Now is about the chase, and about the challenge, and about the butterflies. The other children have as much luck as you do, and the brilliant scraps of sky remain just out of reach.
2. Egg Seeing your name inked just under the “Balance” column on the sheet pinned to the wall of the dining hall sends your stomach hurtling towards your feet; disappointment is physical pain. You wanted to be a juggler at your summer camp’s circus whether or not that was solely to please your mother remains to be seen; she’d been adamant that you try out for the part. There are many firsts that you’re exposed to here your first Katy Perry song, for instance, as well as your first time as the recipient of racial and sexual slurs. This incident marks a first as well it’s the first time that you’re told that you can’t be something, never mind how badly you want it. A world once full of opportunities, of open skies and clear pathways, has closed up like a morning glory deprived of sun.
It’s a lifetime until you move again.
You stand, stunned into silence by your epiphanic loss of invincibility and unable to muster the strength to tackle the challenges that the world is suddenly possessed of. Your wings have been clipped, and what was once a few seconds of fluttering is now an insurmountable wall, a daunting, imposing stone barrier complete with a bright red banner fluttering sardonically from atop its battlements, an obstacle that you can’t imagine overcoming.
It’s a lifetime until you move again, a jump at a sudden voice that asks if you’re okay. Your savior has arrived. He looks the part dressed in birkenstocks, khaki shorts, and a babyblue polo, Peter, the head counselor, seems to you some kind of Californian holyman. His tumbles of curly, mussed hair only contribute to this effect of beatifism. He listens to your story and nods twice before making a note on his clipboard, telling you that you’ve been moved, and that if you don’t flit off, you’ll be late. You thank him and disappear into the tent of flying reds, and spinning yellows, and fluttering greens, where you’ll learn to juggle (poorly), spin (but mostly break) plates, and to maneuver the Chinese YoYo (you get a ‘B’ for effort).
You don’t understand why high schools want their applications handwritten, or why your mother insists that your writing is illegible. It isn’t, objectively. It’s on the small side, and your ‘a’s have a tendency to resemble ‘u’s, but with context clues, it’s perfectly parsable.
Applying to school is daunting. Objectively, your achievements are sparse, but you reassure yourself by telling yourself that you applied as you, that you didn’t pad your application with affected care for your community, or a sport or instrument that you didn’t truly enjoy.
The schools, it seems, don’t agree with you. You’re rejected to one, two, three, four in a row, and your conviction and self confidence teeter.
It’s a bright Spring day when your luck changes. You walk through the railroad hallway of the tiny apartment that your family lives in and into the kitchen where you’re greeted by beaming parents and a thick, blue envelope with a soon-to-be familiar crest on it. You know what this is, but your hands shake as you rip open the package nonetheless, and your stomach is full of gossamer wings. Are you happier about the school’s acceptance, or that of your parents? The 231st Admitted Class’ welcome page has a blurb about a young man who is skilled with the Chinese YoYo. It’s a beautiful victory.
You’ve been given a ladder, just this once, but you can’t take it with you.
4. Caterpillar You spend your first two terms at your new school like a ravenous beast, consuming all that you can, taking in as much as you can manage, as if in anticipation of some expected hibernation. That’s what you’re supposed to do at high school, isn’t it? There’s a girl, and she kisses you in the stairwell of her dorm while your friends are in the other room watching a movie about five sisters getting married. You screw your eyes shut, and the backs of your eyelids are alive with golden sparks, with red electricity, and blue, dancing fire.
The kiss is wet, and it’s innocent, and you’re terrified that you aren’t very good. And apparently you aren’t, because she doesn’t talk to you for three months. After the third month, the two of you are in a relationship, and you can’t explain how it happened, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s wonderful. The two of you withdraw into each other, hiding in the safety of mutual acceptance. You’re no longer your own person; you don’t have to be now that you have each other, and it’s beautiful, and it lasts for a year.
the backs of your eyelids are alive with golden sparks, with red electricity, and blue, dancing fire
5. Chrysalis And then it’s over, and you wonder: was it worth it? In the moment, you said yes, she made you who you are. Now you’re not so sure.
It’s dark when you’re used to brightness
Weeks pass and you miss company less and less. In fact, you grow to enjoy the solitude. At first, this strikes you as strange; after all, you’re supposed to like other people, you’re supposed to want to spend time with friends. But then again, you’ve spent too long putting too much stock in what you’re ‘supposed to’ do, and for once, you let go and you let yourself be. Once you let your eyes acclimate to the shadows cast by the monolithic wall looming over you, you see something that you hadn’t before. You’ve spent so long with your eyes fixed on the battlements and that banner fluttering far above that you didn’t notice the mossy door set into the ageworn rock. It’s small; you’ll
barely fit as you are, but it’s a way through. The door is stiff, but gives under the pressure of your shoulder. A plume of dust fills the air and it’s black licorice in your mouth, sweet and earthy, and somehow, familiar. You take a deep breath and step into the corridor, into the darkness. Left, right, left, right don’t trip left, right, left, right. And then: Light.
6. Metamorphosis In retrospect, you decide that you’re not good at relationships. Or friendships. You decide that you’re awful at those as well. You remember the cold, oppressive and harsh, and biting and sharp. You outgrew your warmest jacket, and the winds and snow force you inside your room; your Upper winter is marked by a sudden shift to hermitage. At first, you hate it. It’s dark when you’re used to brightness, and you can never vacuum enough to be satisfied, and with no one else around, there’s nothing to do but reflect. The silence is claustrophobic, and at first, you’re in a near constant state of panic.
7. Wings Your first grade teacher walked into class one day, a glass box tucked under one arm and a bright smile on her face. A little world was in that box dirt, leaves, twigs, and rocks, and a few emerald caterpillars. Incongruous at the time, it seems odd to you now that a group of first graders, some of them unable to tie their own shoes, was put in charge of real, living, breathing creatures, but you were, and somehow, they survived, eventually encasing themselves in chrysali in preparation for their metamorphoses. Don’t touch the wings that was the instruction. Don’t touch the wings, they’re delicate, barely formed. You don’t want to damage them.
From the warnings, you expected the wings to be useless, weak, as flimsy as the tissue paper that they resembled. It was a few minutes outside before the chrysali split and wings emerged, glistening in the sun like sheets of citrine, fiery and fierce, and somehow as flexible as canvas stretched over a frame. The butterflies stretched out on the branch and allowed the sun to rob the wings of their luster, and we watched the insects we had raised prepare to leave us. They sat, motionless, preparing themselves for just a few minutes, until: Delicate, maybe, but useless, never, and drying wings soon turned to fluttering confetti to fleeting memories to distant specks to a wide, empty, swath of infinite sky.
Delicate, maybe, but useless, never.
The Tour Guide Of Jericó Miguel Wise
arrived in Jericó, Colombia after five hours of hiking up a narrow and winding mountain road. It was strange to see a town appear on the mountaintop after passing miles of hanging jungle and hillside coffee plantations. “Look,” my uncle shouted, pointing to the statue in front of the brick church that towered over the main plaza, “la Madre Laura.” Lovingly huddling over a bronze little indian boy, stood a bronze nun. “She is the first female saint from our country,” he tells me, “and she was born right here, in Jericó.” It wasn’t hard to imagine that a saint had lived here. Sixteen churches dot the city and the image of la Vírgen María followed me from block to block. Though the buildings in the town seemed slightly battered from surviving years in the Andes, they were painted in such brilliant multitudes of colors that they, like the townspeople around me, seemed to celebrating la Madre Laura’s canonization. As I went to buy a mango from a fruit vendor in the center of the plaza, a little eight year old boy who resembled the boy in the statue approached me. Hello sir, would you like me to give you a tour of Jericó?” he asked. His head barely reached my hip. I ignored him and hoped that I would lose him in the cacophonous bustle of the plaza. I was not about to give any more of my money to yet another child on the street.
“Let me introduce myself,” he announced, taking another bite out of the mango he had managed to sneak out from the stand, “I have been a tour guide since age five.” He began, “Jericó was first discovered in 1835 by Don Juan Santamaría and founded in 1845 by Don Santiago Santamaría y Bermúdez de Castro, a noble and generous man who set about colonizing the territories he had inherited-” “In 1845?” my mother interrupted. The boy’s face lit up. He had found that day’s customer.
“That’s her church,” Jhon Estevens said, and through the windows I saw la Madre Laura’s portrait hanging on the wall. As my family entered, a nun greeted us and began a tour. I gave Jhon a few pesos and told him to buy himself a chocolate bar.
The nun told us about La Madre Laura’s missionary work with the indians, how she rode for weeks on end on a donkey “Yes señora,” he said “and soon the city to travel to a remote jungle outpost to grew and became known as the ‘Athens of spread the word of God and about her Southwestern Antioquia’ because we are group’s missionary work in 17 countries the most educated and cultural city in the and their new program in Angola, but all region.” He was turning out to be quite I could think about was Jhon. When I the spectacle. The rest of family turned to was his age I was watching cartoons and watch. riding tricycles, not rambling around the streets by myself, guiding out-of-place and “Let me introduce myself,” he announced, misinformed tourists. taking another bite out of the mango he had managed to sneak out from the stand, “I hope he wastes his money on himself,” “I am Jhon Estevens. I have lived in this my aunt said as we walked to the church, city all of my life and have been a tour “not on an alcoholic father.” I remembered guide since age five.” I have to admit, I the kids I saw in Cartagena who would was impressed by how professional the kid raise cups on sticks over the walls of the seemed to be. ancient Spanish colonial fort, begging for money. They would cheer whenever I decided to test him. “That statue there, is anyone tossed a coin into their cups. I that Simón Bolívar?” I asked, pointing to a couldn’t see where Jhon would fit in those bust of ‘El Libertador,’ the man who won stories. Colombia’s independence, shaded by the trees in the center of the plaza. After the mother superior scolded our tour nun for talking too much, we left “Yes, the discoverer of America,” Jhon the church. Jhon Estevens was sitting replied. right outside the door, chewing on his chocolate. We walked in relative silence, Jhon led us down a small and steep side interrupted every so often by a few facts road, past old men smoking on the side- from Jhon, back to the plaza. I bought walk and crowded buses rushing into the him a mango and told him goodbye. center of town. To our right was a humble church, painted a pure white, a rose gar“Goodbye.” He smiled, turned around and den on its perimeter. was lost in the commotion of the plaza. Miguel Wise
Cranberry Juice Joey Salvo
nly Cranberry juice. That was all that was left. Nana always insisted that we had some. It always sat up there, on the third shelf of the refrigerator, a blob of crimson that sneered down on the world below. No one ever drank the cranberry juice but Nana. Usually there was an exciting bottle of soda nearby or a friendly gallon of milk. But not today. The cranberry juice was once again the silent victor, smug at having outlasted the other beverages. Slamming the refrigerator door in disgust, I reached for a glass and held it under the faucet. A few minutes later, Nana came in. “Why are you drinking water?” she asked me. “I thought you wanted some milk?” I made a pouting face. “But there’s no milk left!” “Well you could always try some cranberry juice,” she replied. “I like it. It’s sweet.” “It’s really bitter.” “Alright, well enjoy your water then,” she said as she poured out some of the cranberry juice into her cup. I watched her, and pouted. The door was locked, so I knocked and waited. Soon Gloria appeared, and let me in. The screen door whined like a spoiled five year old as I closed it gently behind me. Stepping into the room, everything was just as I expected it to be. There she was, sitting in her wheelchair by the television set, where an episode from Green Acres was playing. She turned slightly at the sound of the door, but her eyes remained fixed to the television. “Dorothy,” Gloria hummed in her soothing voice. “Your grandson’s here to see you.” I sat on Nana’s left in a wooden chair that usually stood at the table. Now her head turned all the way to me, tilting back as it did. Her mouth opened, but nothing came out but a whisper.
“Hi Nana,” I said, taking her hand. “It’s me.” Her brown eyes looked into mine, and I could see she wanted to tell me something. Her mouth opened and closed again. “Would you like something to drink?” Gloria asked. “We have water, orange juice, some cranberry juice…” “Oh, just some water would be great,” I answered. “Thanks.” As Gloria left the room I looked back at Nana. She leaned over a bit, and slowly laid her head upon my shoulder. I said nothing. She said nothing. We sat in silence and watched Green Acres, while in the kitchen we could hear Gloria running the faucet. I woke up and everything was bright. My mother was on my left, telling me to wake up, and I looked up at her blearily. I could hear footsteps, many footsteps on the other side of door, and I pictured giant ants marching through the hallway. “What’s going on?” I mumbled. “Just stay where you are for now,” my mother said. “Something’s happened, and I want you to be out of the way for a little bit.” Her voice was calm, but her face was as hard as a stone. I looked into her blue eyes, and could tell she wanted to tell me something. But she didn’t. Instead, my mother walked back to the door of the bedroom and opened it. I could hear a man on the radio in the hallway, but I couldn’t tell what he was saying. Then the door closed and everything muffled once again. I stayed where I was, not wanting to break my promise. But my curiosity finally got the better of me. I slipped out of bed and walked to the door. The cold brass knob was cold in my hand as I turned the knob and pushed. There were a few men in white uniforms standing around outside. I looked across the hall where Nana’s room was and saw that the door was ajar. Cold fear flushed into my head. A moment later, Nana was wheeled out on a stretcher. As I ran out onto the stage, everything was bright. The merry trumpets of the Party Scene sang over the sound system, and I hurried to my place. There wasn’t much dancing for the kids at this part, so I took the opportunity to look out into the audience. The light reflected off the first row of people, catching the shine in their stoic glasses. As the rows ran back farther and farther, I could see less and less of the people, but I knew that Nana was out there somewhere, watching. This was my first show on a real stage, and I wondered what she was doing. Maybe she was pointing at me and whispering to my father that I had just appeared. I smiled, and turned back to my friends. We sat uncomfortably in the small blue room. There were no lights on. The windows opposite the entrance let in rays of pale white sunlight, the kind that always comes as the day is dying. The doctor sat behind his desk as he spoke, peering through his shining glasses. He told my father that Dorothy was now stable, but needed to be given constant care. In addition there would be issues over how to get her safely home from Boston. The car that we had brought wasn’t suited to carrying someone on a stretcher. Looking down at my hands, I wondered where Nana was. I wondered what she was thinking. I wondered if she could think. My father answered the doctor’s questions slowly, and methodically. It was suggested that our family start thinking about rest homes, but my father had a very different plan in mind. He wanted to hire
The windows opposite the entrance let in rays of pale white sunlight, the kind that always comes as the day is dying.
24 hour care for Nana, no matter what the expense. We would set her up in the smaller house we owned across the street, where she would live entirely on the first floor so as to not have to worry about stairs. She would, after all, be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. My father came home around 6:00 in the afternoon and I greeted him with a hug. “There’s no more milk,” I told him. “Uh oh,” he said smiling. “Well, that’s alright because I have something to tell you. Where’s Nana?” I ran back into the kitchen to get her. When he had all gathered in the same room, my father told us we would be going on a trip. “I’ve been asked to speak at MIT.” He said excitedly. “So I figured we could all go down to Boston.”After the show ended, I ran out into the audience to find my family. They were where I had expected, sitting far to the side so Nana could stay in her wheelchair. Gloria was wrapping a shawl around Nana to protect from chill. So many years had gone by since the first time I had walked out on that stage. I couldn’t even remember what it had been like to come out into the audience to find Nana and
my parents happily chatting. Now I would still find Nana and my parents, but all Nana could do was try to smile. Nana was back in the hospital. She’d contracted an infection and was under careful observation. I couldn’t that something so simple had brought us back to the hospital. As I sat in the waiting room, the sun slipped below the horizon, like an egg yolk into a bowl. Memories danced in my head. When we’d taken Nana away from the hospital, we’d thought it would be the last time we had to confront the reality of her illness. As long as she was with us, we could pretend that nothing was wrong. And yet here we were. There was no escape. Sooner or later, we would always come back. We would all come back. My father came to sit by me, and put his arm around my shoulders. “You know, we should really take every day with Nana as a blessing,” he said. “There won’t be many days left.” We watched together as the light changed from orange to mauve to violet to black. Three days later, Nana was gone. I had never been to Boston before. As we drove into the city I watched in amazement as the buildings
grew around me. Nana sat beside me, and if I didn’t know better, I’d have said she was just as excited as I was. The hotel we were staying at was plain but nice. There weren’t many furnishings in the rooms, but everything was very clean. There was a nice hallway, which branched off into two bedrooms. One of the bedrooms was where my mother, my father, and I would sleep. The other, directly across the hall, was for Nana. We put our suitcases in their respective places, and turned on the television. An episode of Green Acres was playing. While my father took out his computer to work, Nana and I watched the show. I said nothing. She said nothing. After a while, Nana leaned her head against my shoulder. After about half an hour, the show ended. We were all pretty tired, and Nana said she would go to bed. As she closed the door to go into her bedroom she turned one last time. “Goodnight everyone,” she said. I smiled. “Goodnight Nana.” I turned the knob of the door and walked into the house. Everything was silent. The bed was gone, but it was still possible to see where the casket had stood. The television was still there, but the cable had
long been disconnected. I turned on a light and saw a book called “Where’s Heaven?” sitting forgotten on the table. Some woman had given it to me at the wake and had told me that it would “help.” I remembered the wake. It had been an open casket, and I had looked in to see Nana resting peacefully on a bed of satin. She had almost looked alive, and when no one was looking I reached out and touched her arm. But it was cold, and hard as a rock. Recoiling in horror, I suddenly became aware of a sickly sweet smell in the room. Stepping away from the casket, I ran back upstairs, forgetting about the book on the table. Now here it was again. The woman had told me that this book would take away some of the bitterness that I felt. But maybe bitterness was something I needed. I left the book where it was and went into the kitchen. Almost everything was gone. The flower pot and the stacks of instant coffee were gone. I opened the fridge. There was almost nothing in there either. Only Cranberry juice. That was all that was left. I took out the bottle and reached for a glass.
Photo Illustrations: Molly Magnell
he gentle evening sun bore down on Chitra Chowdhury as she hiked to the upper west field at The University of California Irvine. She had promised her cousin, Aarav, that she would support him in his cricket match that evening. Glancing at her watch, she noted the time, 5:53; the match was set to begin in seven minutes! She increased her pace. Walking, the soft strokes of light reminded her of the home she had recently left in Vijayawada, India. An army child, Chitra moved frequently before enrolling in a catholic, single-sex boarding school in ninth grade.Whilst in high school, she studied biology zealously, sparking an interesting in medicine. After high school, Chitra attended the University of Delhi, India’s premier post-secondary institution. She received her degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology in 1977, subsequently enrolling in Osmania Medical college in pursuit of a medicinal degree; she graduated in 1981. Most of her peers opted to complete their residencies in India, but Chitra’s passion and enthusiasm drove her beyond India’s borders. She secured a spot in the first year residency program at The University of Las Vegas and consequently moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in the summer of 1983. After a few months, however, she realized that she wanted to be closer to family living in Southern California. She applied to the residency program at King-Harbor Medical Center in Los Angeles. Once accepted, she moved to Irvine, California in the summer of 1984.
itesh Bhakta trudged through a parking lot at The University of California Irvine on March 29, 1985. He surveyed the lot as he walked, searching for his best friend, Nikhil. The pair had planned to meet friends at a cricket match that evening. Hitesh was having difficulty finding his way to the field, however, as this was his first experience with the university. Three years ago, the Zambian born twenty-seven year old had immigrated to America from his educational home in England. Though he had seen most of what Southern California had to offer, UC Irvine had managed to evade him. Thus, he was still wandering solitarily through the parking lot when Nikhil punctuated his journey with a shout. “Hitesh!” He turned to find Nikhil approaching him. A grin spread across Hitesh’s face. “Nikhil. How’ve you been, brother?” “I’m living. I see you’re not doing too bad yourself.” The two shared a brief embrace. “Come on, man. We’re gonna be late for the match.” They began walking towards a set of stairs. The sound of their shoes against the asphalt pierced the silence. “So,” Hitesh started, “Who are we here to watch today?” “Do you remember Aarav? The tall, skinny dude I introduced you to at the match over in Glendale a few weeks ago?” “Vaguely. Why?” “He and I go way back, almost 12 years. Anyway, I
promised him I would come today. Don’t worry. It’ll be fun.” The two were finally approaching a large, grassy field when Nikhil noticed a woman lingering near the stairs, seeming uncertain.
He moved toward her, unconsciously bring-
For Hitesh Bhakta, the evening of March 29 consisted mostly of stolen glances. ing Hitesh with him. Nikhil stared intently at the unidentified woman before speaking. “Chitra?” He said, sounding unsure. The woman’s face lit up with recognition; she seemed relieved to find someone she knew. “Nikhil!” she exclaimed. “It’s a pleasure to see you again. Are you here to watch Aarav?” “Nah, I just happened to be in the neighborhood.” He laughed. “I’m just kidding. You know I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Well...Maybe for an In N Out burger.” He signaled for Hitesh to come closer. “Hey, Chitra. I want you to meet my best friend, Hitesh. He moved over from England
a couple of years ago. Hitesh, this is Chitra, Aarav’s cousin. She moved here a little less than a year ago from Nevada. She’s doing her residency at King-Harbor over in LA County.”
itesh came forward shyly and stuck his hand out toward Chitra. She grasped it, looking up to meet his gaze; their eyes locked. Hitesh wanted to look away, embarrassed, but he knew that looking away meant losing her eye. Nikhil was still talking, but his words seemed to be of a foreign language. In that moment, Hitesh thought of nothing except the mysterious new woman and her chestnut brown eyes. After what seemed like eternity, Nikhil grasped his shoulder, signifying that it was time for them to join the rest of their friends in the stands. Hitesh was forced to drop the tacit connection. Enraptured nonetheless, he spent the rest of the evening trying to recapture her eye. For Hitesh Bhakta, the evening of March 29 consisted mostly of stolen glances.
, Chitra Chowdhury, take you, Hitesh Bhakta, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse...” These words spilled from Chitra Chowdhury’s lips on the afternoon of April 28, 1991. The couple stood under a shady oak tree, hands intertwined; rays of placid, vernal sunlight peered through the foliage in the backyard of the couple’s home in Irvine, CA. Finishing her vows, Chitra felt as if a colossal burden had been lifted off her heart. She looked upward into the infinite azure sky, reliving the evening in which the couple first met. She looked down again, recapturing Hitesh’s gaze. He smiled at her endearingly. For the first time, she felt as if everything was right in the world.
hestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide Carols being sung by a choir. And folks dressed up like Ekismos. Nat King Cole’s soothing notes drifted through the corridors of the women’s wing in Saddleback Memorial Medical Center on December 24, 1997. Christmas was clearly present; garland graced the doorways and stockings cascaded down the walls of each waiting room. Pine, peppermint and gingerbread whispered to each of the hospital’s inhabitants. Everybody Knows. A turkey and some mistletoe. Help to make the season bright. The Christmas Song continued waltzing mellifluously through the hallways, light and harmonious. It seemed as if concord would be the sole presence in the hospital that evening, but without warning, cacophony seized the vicinity of room 202. The cries of a newborn child gnawed at the familiar carol, creating perfect dissonance. The nurse’s eyes twinkled as she placed the child into Chitra Bhakta’s arms. “It’s a girl,” the nurse breathed. Her husband, Hitesh, strode over in awe. Glancing out of the window, he noticed a butterfly flittering by. Tears gathered in his eyes. The mother beamed at her daughter, a triumphant joy consuming her.] “Hitesh,” she murmured, “Let’s call her Alisa.” “What does it mean?” He asked, visibly confused. “Great happiness.”
he extended Bhakta family gathered under an oceanfront ramada on a mild
She studied each word intently, longing to feel the sand in her toes and the salt on her skin. afternoon in late July of 2003. “Thank You” blared from the stereo on one of the picnic tables. My tea’s gone cold, I’m wondering why I got out of bed alone. Five year old Alisa sat eating a sizable piece of watermelon, watching her older cousins play a game of beach volleyball. She was cheering attentively for her cousin, Rishal, when a pair of unidentified arms lifted her from the picnic table and placed her on the ground. It was her father, Hitesh. Beaming, he grabbed her hand and led her into the ocean. The waves crashed around their ankles; the pair laughed playfully as they waded further into the water. Hitesh lifted Alisa into his arms, the water gradually deepening. She screamed joyfully, feeling the wind in her deep brown hair and the saltwater on her skin. An inexplicable bond was forming between Alisa and the ocean. Sensing her growing love of the water, Hitesh shared a John Kennedy quote with his daughter. “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea...we are going back from whence we came.” Rays of sunlight peeked through the windows of the Bhakta home on a quiet Saturday afternoon in May. Six year old Alisa sat quietly at the kitchen table, scrutinizing a copy of The Seashore Book. She studied each word intently, longing to feel the sand in her toes and the salt on her skin. She heard the front door open. Her mother, Chitra, walked through the foyer and joined her daughter in the kitchen; she dissolved into laughter. “Hey munchkin. Let me read that to you instead, okay?” She took the chair next to her daughter, turning the book back to the first page. She began reading. “‘What is the seashore like?’ a little boy asked his mother. He lived in the mountains and had never seen the sea.” The two spent the rest of the afternoon together at the kitchen table.
itesh Bhaka maneuvered his car effortlessly through the streets of Huntington Beach, California on September 4, 2007. Nine-year old Alisa sat uncharacteristically quietly in the back seat. Concerned, Hitesh turned around to check on her; he found tears rolling down her cheeks. She spoke up, almost inaudibly. “Daddy, please don’t make me go.” “Alisa. We’re not going through this again. You have to go,” he replied sternly. “Last year, everyone else had someone to sit with at lunch. I was the only one sitting alone. No one ever wants to be my partner in class. No one likes me. Daddy, please.” She sobbed weakly. Hitesh turned the car into the parking lot of the Pegasus School, the school Alisa had been attending since first grade. He looked back at his daughter, his gaze softening. “Pooka, I know this is hard for you, but it’s a new year. Things change. And we both know that no one wants to make friends with someone who’s crying!” He smiled, drying her eyes with his thumbs. “Now wipe your tears. It’s your first day of fourth grade.” He kissed her gently on the forehead. Wiping her face with the back of her hands, a red-eyed Alisa opened her car door and got out, pulling a wheeled backpack behind her. She waved goodbye to her father and began walking towards the elementary school building at a steady pace.The side walk was filled with kids, most of whom she recognized. They were all chatting amongst themselves, discussing their summer breaks. Alisa felt lonelier than ever before. She busied herself by concentrating on the constant drone created by the wheels of her backpack. “Alisa!” An unfamiliar voice broke her concentration; she looked around, confused. Was someone really speaking to her? “Alisa!” The person called her name again. She stopped completely. Was it some kind of joke? The scuffle of feet replied to Alisa’s internal questions. Lauren Kim was sprinting across the parking lot to catch
up with her; her silky black hair seemed to flutter as she hopped the curb and joined Alisa on the sidewalk. “Alisa,” Lauren panted, catching her breath. “Hi.” Alisa stared bashfully at the concrete. Though Lauren had been in her second and third grade classes, this was the first time they had spoken. “Hi, Lauren,” she replied softly. “My mom told me that you have Ms. Cooper this year. I have her too.” Relief washed over Alisa. She was glad to have someone familiar in her class, even if they were only acquaintances. “Anyway,” Lauren continued, “Class is about to start. Do you wanna walk over together?” An affectionate grin slipped onto Alisa’s face. She nodded. Lauren grabbed her hand, and the two walked into the building together. “Guess who!” A pair of hands glided over twelve year old Alisa’s eyes. “Ugh! Matt, I know that it’s you. Get your hands off of me,” she hissed, doing her best to sound irritated. “My sincere apologies,” he laughed. “I didn’t mean to interrupt the intimate moment you were having with yourself here in the hallway. I was just wondering if you would be attending the green team meeting this afternoon.” “Matt! I’m impressed. When did you become an environmentalist?” “Well, about that. Let’s just say their T-shirt design is unreal. And there’s free pizza at every meeting! Anyway, I cannot attend a club that dull alone. As my best friend, it is your duty to accompany me. I trust that I will see you in the library at 3:35.” He ruffled her hair lightheartedly.
hen the final bell of the school day had rang, Alisa found herself on her way to a small, brick building on the edge of campus: the library. After arriving, she spotted Matt immediately and slipped into the chair next to him. Peeking at the screen of his phone, she realized that it was 3:34. Ugh, she thought to herself, this will be the longest hour of my life.
rs. Conti, the school environmentalist, emerged from the librarian’s office and
began addressing the kids in a smooth but booming voice. “There are 15 kids here today. I know that some of you, maybe even most of you, are here only because you want the T-shirt or the days off school. I understand and accept this. I understand that some of you won’t be back for next week’s meeting. I accept this as well. I just want to talk you a little bit today about why we should all care about the environment, in case I don’t see you here again. If I’m not mistaken, most of you are children of the ocean. I grew up in Newport Beach and I was just like you. You like to surf and go to parties at beach houses and snorkel and play beach volleyball. But how many of you have noticed the plastic bags, bottles, and snack wrappers that line the shore most days?” All hands went up. “We all notice. But most of us do nothing about it. And that’s okay I guess. But if we don’t start now, when will we start? When will someone step up, and who will this person be? Living on the coast, the ocean is intertwined with many of our fondest memories. But our children will not know the same ocean we know if someone doesn’t take action. I’m not asking you to pursue a career in environmental reform. I’m just asking you to do something.” Matt yawned. “This is lame. At least I get free pizza to compensate,” he whispered. He waited for Alisa’s response, but
The students, however, seemed to remind the long-established buildings that novelty was on the horizon. she seemed distant. She was going over Mrs. Conti’s words in her head; she was picturing the seaboard, laden with trash. I have to do something, she thought.
lisa stared aimlessly out of the window of her second-floor bedroom on March 10, 2012. She went over their words in her head once more. Thank you for your application to Phillips Exeter Academy. We cannot offer you a spot in the class of 2016 at this time, but we would like to offer you a space on our wait list. She had spent the afternoon locked up in her room, stumbling amongst the ruins of her boarding school plans. She started again. Thank you for your application... Dum, Dum. There was a knock at her door. The door-
knob turned and her mother, Chitra, came in, beaming. “Congratulations!” She exclaimed, tossing a heavy fed-ex envelope onto her daughter’s bed. Alisa stared at the return address: Phillips Academy, 180 Main Street, Andover, MA. No, she thought. This is not what I wanted. I should be thankful. But Andover is not what I wanted. She picked up the envelope and tucked it under her bed, not quite ready to face reality. Pulling her suitcase up the front lawn of her dorm, Alisa thought about how much things had
Slowly, footprints washed away over time begin reappearing in the sand. She grins, eyes twinkling.
changed in the past few months. She stopped in the doorway, surveying the campus for the first time. A group of Phillips Academy seniors, all clad in tie-dye, stood in front of the chapel greeting new students with vivacious cheers and colorful signs. The buildings, all brick, greeted one another, excited for another year in the academy’s rich tradition. The students, however, seemed to remind the long-established buildings that novelty was on the horizon. The bell tower, tall and majestic, produced a charming tune for new students to enjoy. The slightest smile crawled onto her lips. This might be alright, she thought. Pulling the door open, she began climbing the stairs to her new home, room 202.
her mother’s is comparable in size. Each day, Alisa interacts with someone new, inviting them to the beach and allowing them etch their names into the sand. She seldom fails to give them something in return: a word of advice, a genuine smile, a pair of open arms. On a larger scale, she realizes that is she is but one grain of sand, a nonentity compared to the wondrous ocean of her childhood. She often returns to the water whilst on breaks from Phillips Academy; she walks along the pristine Huntington Beach seaboard, silent and thoughtful. The salty air seems to take her on a stroll through time. It allows her to remember time spent with her best friends on the beach or the gratification she felt the first time she volunteered to pick up trash along the strand. Slowly, footprints washed away over time begin reappearing in the sand. She grins, eyes twinkling. She closes her eyes, allowing the seawater to crash over her ankles. In those moments, with her heart full and her mind open, she feels herself going back from whence she came.
here are certain recurring themes in the life of Alisa Bhakta, the most notable being her everlasting association with the ocean. Each event is like a footprint in the sand, each moment a lasting impression on the shore that is her life. Some footprints are small, like those of a toddler, while others a large, like those of a grown man. Her father’s footprint is tremendous, arguably the most discernible;
beta fish don’t live in puddles Kate Shih
They live in Sequim, and she lives with them. The valley is sheltered by the sturdy peaks of the Olympic Mountains, two hours’ worth of twisting road from Seattle. Pilots call it the Blue Hole, for its insistence on fine weather while the rest of Washington State is resigned to rain. Curling alongside the town’s edge is Dungeness Bay, which leads to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which leads to the sea. Once in Sequim, if you take the two-lane highway, turn the right way down the right few roads (the ones, naturally, that are so easy to pass by), and nose into the parking lot with the neatly manicured lawn, you’ll be there. It has a gabled roof, layered with brown shingles and set above clapboard walls. The white wood columns that raise the portico are placed on concrete pillars covered in facades of smooth river rock. An American flag hangs at just the right angle from one column. It flutters modestly in the light breeze. It is summer; there are flowers blooming beside skinny trees, and it looks picture–book perfect against the blue, blue sky. Walk in. Go past the lobby, through another door. Be careful, because sometimes they linger by that second door, and you wouldn’t want to let any out. When you’re in, there’ll be an aquarium to your left. Don’t go left, not yet. You can avoid her, for a little while. Go right. Go right, and you’ll see the first rooms. They have tiny white picket fences between the doors, which are painted in bright colors; they have little plastic boxes set on the walls, some with little dolls, or pictures, or construction paper signs with names made out of glue and glitter. That first door is open, and there is a woman sitting there. It isn’t her, so you can
47 Alex Tamkin
go in the room. The woman’s name was Eva, but it might not be Eva anymore. It doesn’t matter. She doesn’t talk. She is in an armchair, positioned so that she can look out into the wide hallway, maybe even catch a glimpse of fish. There’s a wheelchair, too, but it’s folded up in the corner. The room has white curtains and a white lamp, but the curtains are closed and the lamp is turned off, so there are dull shadows cast by both the light in the hallway and that light which filters through the curtains from outside. Hold Eva’s hand. She will want you to; that, in fact, is all she will do, hold that hand out for you to take. Sit down. You might talk, but she will never respond. Sometimes it seems like she’s going to. The words are there, maybe, caught by the same force that keeps that hand limp. The skin stretched over it feels like wet fall leaves, its bones like twigs— the eyes above it are dull and grey–blue with the edgings of blindness, the hair a ghostly crown, the teeth clicking together, the breath never quite falling into rhythm. When you leave, it’s almost as if she doesn’t notice, except that for a brief moment the hand’s grip is strong. Down the hallway are more rooms, with more picket fences, more shadowboxes. Some of the curtains are flowered. Some rooms have potted plants. Some have books, or magazines. Some have blueberry bushes outside their window. One doesn’t have anything at all that can be picked up and taken, and the dressers are locked, and so is the door to the bathroom; the person who lives there is too young to be docile and too old to trust with her own clothing. She isn’t in her room. This is good. You won’t have to see her quite yet. There’s an office at the end of this hall. The sounds of an old movie—the actors have that particular accent—filter through to your left. Turn towards the sounds, then right, to go outside. She’s probably not outside. Outside is another lovely lawn; walking paths; raised beds; a cherry–red car with the engine removed. Someone’s sleeping in it. He has light, brown, feathered hair that brushes over the lines on his face; he’s a little too tall to fit comfortably. You don’t need to wake him up. The breeze makes a blue–and–silver pinwheel stuck in a flowerpot turn sporadically. A vending machine, emblazoned with a bright Pepsi bottle, hums in the background. The fence isn’t too tall, but you still have to step back to see the mountains crouched in the distance. Walk slowly, and the circle of paths seems bigger than it is.
Hold Eva’s hand. She will want you to; that, in fact, is all she will do, hold that hand out for you to take. When you leave, it’s almost as if she doesn’t notice, except that for a brief moment the hand’s grip is strong. Prints by Natalia Slattery
Beta fish live in puddles in the wild, he says, did you know that?
He looks at you intently. He wants you to promise him something. Promise him.
When you reach the south side of the building, you will see napkins on the ground. They are white and delicate; the wind has picked them up and whirled them away from the basket in front of a walker. Bend down and pick them up, and the man sitting on a bench will thank you. He was just getting up to do it, he says, because he can, but it was nice of you to help. You should sit next to him on the bench when he asks you to. He doesn’t touch you, like Eva. This one doesn’t have a name that you know, and the names don’t really matter, anyway. They change all the time. He looks at you intently. He wants you to promise him something. Promise him. You’ll never let them take you to a place like this, you promise, you’ll never let this happen to you. His fingers shake. He’s paranoid. The wind picks up again, and you grab the napkins before they fly off, tuck them further into the basket. They lie, he says, and he’s right about that. They do. But it works. Some people really do think these are their apartments; those are the ones who take their medicine. He doesn’t seem to want you to go, but eventually, you go. You can’t escape her forever. There’s another door on this side of the building. Go in. There are more rooms, more fences. A dining hall. It’s nearly lunchtime. There’s one whole table full of people who are talking to each other, and nurses murmuring to all the people who aren’t. You’re back in the hallway you started at, with fish swimming back and forth blindly in their tank. Someone—a nurse— says something about them, wonders if they think they’re really in the ocean. Beta fish live in puddles in the wild, he says, did you know that? (Beta fish don’t live in puddles.) You could leave without seeing her, but there’s a code on this side of the door, and you don’t know it. A woman walking a bit straighter than the rest tells you, “Oh, I’m going that way, too.” She doesn’t know the code either. The nurse comes over, smiles, and shields the combination with his hand as he punches it in. “Phyllis,” he says, “It’s lunch time. Why don’t you go sit down?” No. She wants to walk you out to your car, she tells the nurse. She’s not hungry. She wants to go outside. The nurse takes her by the hand and leads her down the hallway, and she is walking more slowly than before, almost hobbling. She shakes her hand free from his, and sits by herself. Catch the door before it closes again. Slip out, and don’t watch her as you leave.
The Fault In Our Stars Spazzgirl Does Swimming
Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal: Breathtaking, Jarring, Moving
Allison Schulnik’s Hobo Clown Essential 90’s Albums
Backtracks Recommends Jack Elliott-Higgins
elcome to The Fault in Our Stars, the tale of two wonderful people. The first person is Hazel Grace Lancaster, deemed Hazel Grace by the second person; Augustus Waters. The two meet at a cancer support group meeting, Augustus previously having cancer while Hazel is living with it. The narrator, Hazel Grace Lancaster, has the strong character and the ironic voice of an adolescent. At first glance, or rather the first paragraph, she seems like the normal female heroine. But by the time your eyes reach the second paragraph, you are filled with the thoughts of a moody teenager who states her opinions very decidedly and forces you to accept them as true. Hazel does not want sympathy, and instead of portraying herself as a victim, she chooses to tell her story in a funny fashion. Hazel is very downto-earth and loves doing what teenagers do: watching television shows and lazing around. She could easily be another girl and her cancer does not change that. I was shocked to find out she had an oxygen tank, and the author, John Green, excels right here. The author does not romanticize the bulk or inconvenience of the tank. It is simply another part of everyday life, mentioned when needed and at other times forgotten.
There comes a time in every person’s life when something beautiful makes you laugh and cry within the span of a few minutes. I have personally experienced this upon reading the book, The Fault in Our Stars.
Photo Illustrations: Molly Magnell
Then comes Augustus “Gus” Waters, the charming male lead. The two meet a cancer support group and hit it off. At first, Hazel believes him to be a fairytale character who uses elegant phrases and woos her. But, she soon finds out that Augustus is not a one-dimensional gentleman, but a witty person who compliments her personality. In one notable Gus quote on cigarettes he says, “It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” There are two sides to Augustus, the
“Augustus” side where he memorizes monologues and plays the big, important hero, and the childish “Gus” side that shows through on his first airplane ride. Or, as Hazel puts it, “When surprised and excited and innocent Gus emerged from Grand Gesture Metaphorically Inclined Augustus, I literally could not resist.” The banter between the two provides comedic relief from the darker parts of the story. Even though this story could qualify as a tragedy, Hazel tells it in a funny way. In Hazel’s eloquent words, “You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice…” Despite the comedy, Green knows where to throw in the emotion. It is one long roller coaster of sensations packed with dips and turns that make you gasp out loud. There are beautiful moments, tragic moments, silly moments, romantic moments, and above all, realistic moments. If you believe that this is the kind of book you can read in one sitting and forget about after, you are most definitely wrong. This kind of book is like a cup of tea. You need to read it slowly and thoughtfully to get the full flavor. Usually, I would say the opposite and read it in one sitting, but The Fault in Our Stars did not live up to this expectation. Just as Hazel describes falling in love, I thought about tthe book in this way: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.”
“He actually reminded me a lot of a sleep-deprived Andover student.”
Katherine Vega Reviews:
(Based on the novel of the same name by Isaac Marion)
This movie did not change my life. It will not keep me up at night, or start heated debates (although, I suppose it could), or win Academy Awards. No, Warm Bodies won’t do any of those things. But it is good, and incredibly enjoyable, and it made me feel warm fuzzy stuff inside. Warm Bodies is a love story. It’s a silly, sappy, funny, post-apocalyptic, slightly gorey romantic comedy filled with pretty people and a somewhat predictable plot. He was a boy. She was a girl. I couldn’t make it any more obvious if I tried. There is one problem though: Zombies. Zombies everywhere. The main character, R (played by Nicholas Holt), is a high-functioning zombie who resides in a now-defunct airport with hundreds of others like him who are lost, dazed, and apathetic. He’s not certain how long he’s been this way—long enough for him to forget his real name, but not long enough for his lips to rot off.
Cue Julie, played by Teresa Palmer. The daughter of a powerful and strict military official who is trying to save the human race, she lives with her friends and father in one of the few remaining human safe zones. Naturally, she’s all for zombie killing. So, when R eats her boyfriend’s brain during a…confrontation, falls in love with her, and takes her back to his place to keep her safe, she’s understandably a little upset. Shenanigans/feelings ensue. Warm Bodies is made of the sentimental, amusing stuff that brightens your day without requiring a lot of thought or effort. There are some hilarious, memorable lines, and surprisingly good character development for a 97-minute movie. By far the best part of the film is the narration. R’s inner monologue is honest and dead-pan (no pun intended), and much more eloquent than any of the noises he can occasionally force out of his mouth. He deals with this issue a lot in the film—he wants to express himself, and is actually quite the witty and intelligent young gentlezombie, but lacks the ability to communicate effectively. He actually reminded me a lot of a sleep-deprived Andover student. Of course, there’s always room for improvement. The special effects were bad. Just bad. The make-up was so excellent and skillfully done, but the computer-animated villains were lacking. And I know that the film is based on a novel, which was based on a certain famous play, but did the writers and director really have to make the Romeo and Juliet references so blatantly obvious? I mean, there’s a balcony scene, for crying out loud. A balcony. The movie also felt a little bit rushed—so much of the story is spent on character introductions and necessary but perhaps too drawn-out flashbacks that once the actual plot is introduced, I’ve stopped caring about it and just want more sappy fluff. Still, I thought that Warm Bodies was a great film with a good message and funny sidekicks. It’s a little like Twilight, only better acted and with emotions and without the creepiness or the anti-feminism or that gross feeling as the credits roll. For a lazy, care-free Saturday afternoon, what more could anyone else want? Rating: Three Zombie Apocalypses out of Four.
unlike every other room in the gym, smelled like chlorine instead of sweat. Major bonus points right there. I’m not quite sure what I had been It has been too long since our last issue expecting to see, but something about the actual together. But I, Spazzgirl, your most intrepid sight of the swim team (which looked, frankly, reporter, have returned to bring you news of yet exactly like a swim team) had me taken aback. another sport about which I know absolutely nothing. The subject of this issue’s exstrangaganza Male swimmers, in order to be as aerodynamically aerodynamic (I’m here to do the writing, not the (“extravaganza” mixed with ”strange”)? Swimming. Not the synchronized kind, unfortunately, physics) as possible, are forced to wear some of but the type where they simply swim back and the most ridiculous athletic uniforms known to mankind, only surpassed by the get-up needed to forth for a long time. partake in the physically grueling and mentally exerting haka1. Seriously, do those Speedos have to And so at 1:00 in the afternoon on a cold and bleary Saturday, I found myself situated in a be that tiny? That was more of Charlee Van Eijk bleacher as far from the water as possible, my than I ever thought I’d see. There aren’t many areas laptop propped open, and my excitement level at in life in which men are explicitly more objectified about 75%. The room was pleasantly warm, and, than women, but swimming competitions are ear Readers,
SPAZZGIRL DOES SWIMMING BY BROOKE BOND 56
definitely an example. Sorry boys. At least the skullcaps are equal opportunity offenders. By the time I had settled into my bench and made sure that my laptop wasn’t in danger of getting inordinately soaked, the games were beginning. And that was when I made my first discovery regarding swim meets: they are loud. All of the female Andover swimmers huddled up into a series of concentric circles and began to dance, each row hotfooting it in the opposite direction of the row in front of them, shouting all the while. In the middle of the mass, someone was blowing a whistle. It was shrill and more than a little bit obnoxious. The whole thing, much like the haka, had a very tribal feel to it. I was half afraid that they were going to come and sacrifice me to the Gods as punishment for my daring to bring a computer into their sacred performance area. Spoiler alert: they didn’t. Then the Andover boys did the classic huddle-and-breakwith-a-yell maneuver, while the other team, some school called Hopkins, not to be
confused with Johns Hopkins (doctors in swimsuits, really?), did their chant. It was just as loud and complicated as the Andover Girls’, though sadly lacking in choreography. At this point, swimming was looking more and more like an alternate religion. Like crew, only less insane. With that initial obligatory display of vocal power out of way, our heroic athletes finally got around to actually swimming. The first event involved the girls. Six of them got into the water and clung to the diving boards with their legs tucked up against the wall of the pool. They looked like baby monkeys hanging on a strangely tiled, half-submerged tree. When then the whistle blew they were off, snaking completely submerged through the water, each one moving her body as if it was just one long limb. They swam all the way down and back. At this point, I figured out that it was relay, since the second group of swimmers jumped over the heads of their teammates (fortunately, no skulls were kicked) and into the
water. This time, the swimmers looked like awkward jumping dolphins, bursting out of the water for split second intervals with their backs arched. The third round of swimmers did the same thing. Really, I’m not quite sure why. The dolphin-style looked much more laborious than eel-swimming, was much slower, and, all in all, seemed completely unnecessary. I can’t imagine why they even do it. By this point, I was so caught up in watching people doing the sea animal impressions that I forgot to pay attention to the race itself. So, yeah, I guess someone won, but I don’t who. It wasn’t until halfway through the boys’ relay that I realized that there was a huge
scoreboard right in front of my face, marking the order in which the relay teams were finishing. If there were a mental Olympics, I would win the gold in obliviousness. Anyways, the boys won their relay, and the girls came back for solo swims. Those went on for freaking forever, I swear, and mostly involved lots of swimming back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth. It looked pretty miserable to me. I soon was sidetracked thinking about what real-life event would occasion the need for so much swimming, and by the time I stopped thinking about the ending of the Titanic (my heart will go on, Jack!), the Andover girls had won and the guys were taking their turn. One race, bizarrely enough, contained only three swimmers, all of them sporting Andover uniforms. The whole thing was a tad bit odd, redundant, and counterintuitive to the idea of teamwork. ‘Cause, you know, you’re supposed to beat the other team, not your own. But no one asked me, so the teammate-eat-teammate shindig continued. And then everything
suddenly got very intense when the next group of girls hit the water. I mean, every person so far had been swimming their aquatic little hearts out, but these chicks were moving (to quote my notes: “MOVIN’. LIKE A MOVIN’ VAN”). I guess that they were the equivalent of sprinters, because they finished after only one full lap. Then the guys did their sprint-thingy, splashing water everywhere, and suddenly the big pool was empty and everyone’s attention was being called to the smaller but much deeper diving pool. For those of you who don’t know, diving is apparently SERIOUS BUSINESS. Before the divers were allowed to show off their highly skilled methods of falling, my fellow audience members and I were all asked to silence our phones and cease any non-whispered conversation. Maybe it was just the pervasive silence that settled over the pool, perhaps it was something else, but the air in the room seemed to thicken. Whereas the racing portion of the competition had taken place amidst a cheerful and rather carefree atmosphere, suddenly no one was laughing. You’d have thought it was some sort of Death match. The divers themselves looked pretty relaxed, chilling in their own personal fun-tub thing. One of the Hopkins divers looked like he’d fit in nicely in the fifth grade. Not exaggerating. Okay, maybe. But only slightly. He was quite adorable, but I doubt that’s the look he was going for. And then we were back to swimming, but by this point, I was getting pretty darn bored. I’d already been there for about two hours, and my butt was hurting. (Note to audience: bring pillows with you to the pool. Those benches hurt after awhile.) So I don’t really remember anything about the next few races, and sowhen the whole aqua-palooza finally came to an end, I was quite glad to be up and out of there. I’m not quite sure who won, or even if there was a winner, because there must have been at least fifty individual scores that required tallying. That was my adventure into the world of fully shaved men, awkward dolphin swimming (which I later learned is called the breast stroke), artistic free falling, and unattractive rubber hats. I was impressed by the athleticism, pleased by the general atmosphere, sore from sitting on that bench, and somewhat confused as to the point of the whole thing. But over all, I had fun. Until next time. XOXO, Spazzgirl ***Brooke Bond
Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal: Breathtaking, Jarring, Moving
“In zero seconds you have to get in and on with your energy and power.”Cayetano Soto, choreographer
fell back in love last night. Seduced by the power of physical expression and the fluidity of pure facial expressions, I succumbed to the beckoning embrace of dance. For my first viewing ever of a non-ballet dance performance, the incredible versatility of BJM, or Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal completely rekindled my love for dance as a superior art form and athletic feat. The location of the performance was appropriate. The Institute of Contemporary Art, or ICA, an avant-garde museum on the edge of the pier into the Charles River, hosted BJM for four days. I was lucky enough to attend their Friday evening performance, a sold-out event.
he first number on the program, Zero in On, a duet choreographed by Cayetano Soto, implemented an unorthodox set design. The size of the stage was shrunk, according to the program notes, to bring the dancers into full focus. The dancers themselves, a power duo of Céline Cassone and Kevin Delany, complemented each other perfectly. What Delany, a rippling dancer whose figure was a testament to hundreds of hours of technique class, lacked in expression, Cassone filled with her full-body portrayal of emotions. The pair, dressed only in nude leotards, began linked by
their arms, heads down, to a haunting transcendental solo piano piece and a fully lit stage. They remained intertwined for most of the dance, unfolding and folding, like a kaleidoscope of motion. Delany held Cassane in the air, a powerful feat, for most of the dance, sometimes by her torso, and sometimes even by one leg. Cassane seized this opportunity to demonstrate her endless extensions in the air, all in a continuous, seemingly effortless display of strength. The seamless transitions between movement phrases created a cyclic element to the dance, as if the whole number were one phrase. As a result, it was even more of a surprise when Cassane suddenly disappeared into the shadows, while Delany remained center stage.
ight Box, the second piece on the bill, was inspired by the “love, loss, sexuality, and joy” of a city’s night-life, quoting its choreographer Wen Wei Wang. Drawing heavily on street dancing, including an obvious dance-off, it also reflected contemporary ballet in its constant movement. Lighting and an impressive backdrop of aerial video footage of a city at night played crucial roles in the dance, constructing the setting of a club, a rave, a private room, and a dark alleyway. The staging was brilliantly planned and executed, but the dances were jarring.
All photos by Corinne Singer
I was scared by one dance, which staged a threesome leading to a rapes, not just because of the content, but because of the intensity of the movement. The transparency of the Wang’s intentions, not only in this trio, but throughout the dance, alarmed me. Some of the slower duos dragged, and I felt as if certain parts were totally unnecessary.
fter an extended intermission, the lights dimmed once again on an excited house for the third and final number of the night, Harry, a forty-five minute spectacle choreographed by Barak Marshall. By far my favorite number on the bill, Marshall’s integration of musical, Greek drama, pantomime, and dance in Harry stood out as the most intriguing, moving, and thought-provoking dance of the night. The physical exploration of gender roles, war, love, and relationships was set to a score of mid-1900’s jazz (the Andrews Sisters), Israeli folk music, live voices, and even some Puccini. The dance, beginning with a compelling group opening that established the corps de ballet as a Greek chorus, told a story of a young man named Harry who was surrounded by gender conflicts, hopeless love, and an ongoing war later revealed to be a manifestation of Zeus for Hera’s pleasure. Through expert acting and dancing, the corps and soloists pulled from it offered a
dark perspective on love and its many failures, the duality of women, and the agony brought on by war, an apparent creation from the heavens. One particularly poignant moment came at the end of a canonical, quasi-waltz dance, when Harry and his love interest cling to each other for a brief moment before the corps attempts to kill their love with balloons and glitter.
he athleticism and intelligence of the corps impressed me. The only other company I had ever seen with a free-thinking corps that had major dance roles was the New York City Ballet, the American company of legendary George Balanchine, who, in dances such as Serenade, was appreciated for giving a heavy dance role to the corps dancers. BJM did the same thing; every dancer in the corps was cast into the spotlight for a dance that could only have been created especially for them.
he performance was truly BJM: Breathtaking, Jarring, and Moving. A highly talented and promising company, I hope they come back to the United States frequently in the future.
Backtracks YouTube Pick: Hobo Clown (2008), by Allison Schulnik [feat. music by Grizzly Bear]
16 Word Responses from Satisfied (Concerned) Viewers: DJ: Clown! Eyes are burning! I will have nightmares tonight! So much color! Someone is on drugs! Charlee Van Eijk: Is this what it’s like to be Anna Stacy? I’m not good at math. Bianca Navarro Bowman: so this is what LSD feels like. I did not know clowns vomited through their eyes. Steph Hendarta: I mean, who needs a house if you have a fruity face that twitches like that? Brooke Bond: Pain isn’t beautiful but it shapes people. People are beautiful, even if we don’t understand them. Caroline Lu: I think the hobo clown won’t do any dishes because its appendages are unfortunately soluble. Autumn Plumbo: the eye is the murderess eye of conception, awake i kill the things i cannot see Corinne Singer: Indifferent to which specific realm, the fractured imagination refuses to cease, the sole reason for destruction.
short reviews of essential 90’s albums Jack Elliott-Higgins Neutral Milk HoteL: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
I immediately wrote this album off as pretentious hipster bullshit, glorified for the sake of glorification. I would not listen to this album for months even after a friend suggested it. At first I didn’t like it much, but now when I listen it burrows into my ear, spreading through more of my body each time. The understated brilliance of the opener, “King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1” never fails to amaze me. The title track is the powerful folk song I have always wanted to write. “Two-Headed Boy” explores teenage sexuality in a seemingly innocent manner, with the perversion of the adult narrator overlain. “Communist Daughter” continues with the topic of sexuality, but adds a seething tranquility, a serene tension that reels in the upbeat chaos of “Holland, 1945”. The album’s cap of “Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 2” ends the album with a reminiscent sigh, piecing together the emotions laid bare over the album. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea always rewards you for the forty minutes spent listening, a feat that few albums have accomplished.
Arguably the most iconic band of the 90s, Nirvana was thrust into the national spotlight in September 1991 with Nevermind. The opening chords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” evoke memories of burned-out summer nights and steam-filled basements. It was when I bought Nevermind in middle school, that I realized that there was a lot more to music than Jay-Z and T.I. Along with singles “In Bloom”, “Lithium”, and “Come As You Are”, “Teen Spirit” found a permanent place on alternative radio shortly after its release. A testament to the album’s progressive sound, these songs and many others by Nirvana are still spun just as frequently today. To truly appreciate Nevermind however, one must listen to its entirety at full volume. The four singles often overshadow lesser hits, such as “Breed” and “Lounge Act”, and songs like “Stay Away” and “Territorial Pissings” tend to be completely forgotten by the masses. It is an easy entry into grunge but still an album that rewards hundreds of listens. Nevermind is pretty damn near the perfect rock album.
Key tracks: Breed; Lithium; Drain You
Pavement: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Key Tracks: King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1; Two-Headed Boy; Holland, 1945
My Bloody Valentine: Loveless Loveless has to be the most personal album released in the 90s; nearly everyone has an intimate reaction to this quintessential shoegaze album. Some cannot stand the noise and lack of tangible words, but many more, including myself, can define certain feelings only in terms of My Bloody Valentine songs. The snare hits that start “Only Shallow” have become a tactile sensation in and of themselves. The serene beauty and chaos of “Sometimes” slowly floods my head until I am completely underwater. Kevin Shields’s vocals throughout the album can only be described as angelic. The album is engulfing, a full-on sensory attack. Listening to Loveless is never far short of a full body experience.
Key Tracks: Only Shallow; When You Sleep; Sometimes
One Sentence Reviews of Five More Incredible 90s Albums
Weezer – Pinkerton: The best pop-punk album ever released. Green Day – Dookie: The second-best pop-punk album ever released. The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs: A sprawling epic with its share of both timeless and forgettable songs (there really are sixty-nine). Nirvana – In Utero: Although less easily digested than Nevermind, In Utero has Kurt Cobain’s best lyrical work and is much more spread out over the sonic spectrum. Elliott Smith – Either/Or: Tragically beautiful, beautifully tragic; simply listen to “Say Yes”.
Key Tracks: Elevate Me Later; Gold Soundz; Fillmore Jive
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is the summer album. Not just a summer album, the summer album. When winter grows colder and bleaker, I want nothing more than to sit on the beach on a warm summer night and listen to the warm drone of Stephen Malkmus’s guitar and voice. Hailing from the perpetual summer of Stockton, California, it really comes as no surprise to me that Pavement’s music would conjure up such an image. Pavement managed to capture the essence of a languid suburban summer at the height of youth in just over forty minutes. There is a creeping terror associated with the each wasted day that comes out in an anxious shout in tracks like “Elevate Me Later”; a strained romance based on inconsequential shared traits, like emptiness on “Gold Soundz”; and a desire to slow down and leave suburban life behind on “Range Life”. These concerns are all typical of teenagers confronted with the boredom of American suburban life, where the most feasible form of rebellion is music. The picture painted by Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is that of a restrained rebellion, a bloodless coup on boredom. Though it is perhaps contrived to say so, the earnestness and relatable nature of Malkmus’s lyrics craft a teetering universe to balance out the reality and the result is the most honest album in my collection.
Radiohead: OK Computer Almost everything that can be said about Radiohead’s masterpiece has seemingly been said. Regardless of that, I will try to explain why this album is so important. It signifies the beginning of indie rock as it is today. It is the end of the grunge era, moving us into a cleaner yet more muddied stage of musical expression. The instruments themselves are pure, notably on “Exit Music (For A Film)”, “Let Down”, and “Karma Police”, a near perfect trio. Nonetheless, the structure of the songs is often disconcerting and dirty, with frenetic changes in songs like “Paranoid Android”, one of the more devastatingly beautiful pieces written by frontman Thom Yorke. Ok Computer throws alternating punches at your stomach and mind, leaving you with an altogether pleasingly painful sensation.
Key Tracks: Paranoid Android; Subterranean Homesick Alien; Let Down 67
Reports Orwellian Overtones: Barack Obamaâ€™s Second Inaugural Address The Negative Effects of US Drug and Gun Policy in Mexico The Psychology of Punk Rock
Eric Meyers Henry Manning Peyton Alie Thorn Prize Winner
Orwellian Overtones: Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural Address A close reading by Eric Meyers
hile the pomp and ceremony of President Obama’s Second Inauguration have faded away, the words of his inaugural address remain. His address may have no memorable lines – no enduring quotes that will be etched in marble one day. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable speech both for what it says and for how it says it. The president does not merely preach a gospel of progressivism. He engages in a rhetorical tour de force that seeks to redefine American individualism and bedrock principles of constitutional certainty.
In this progressive vision of America, Obama creates a binary choice between feckless individual action and effective governmental response. quished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.” One might casually read these lines and conclude that the president is defending free enterprise. However, closer analysis reveals a far different message. While the president pays lip service to “initiative … enterprise [and] hard work,” he takes these qualities for granted by regarding them as the “constants in our character” even though the economy has been anything but constantly good during his presidency. As Yuval Levin concludes, this enables the president to engage in the fiction that business “will keep humming” … notwithstanding high corporate taxes and stringent governmental regulations.
The president does not merely preach a gospel of progressivism.
The president’s progressive agenda becomes even more apparent in the next paragraph of his speech. There he makes it clear that he is not honoring individual “initiative and enterprise.” Instead, he argues, “that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action” since “the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.” The result is a startling linguistic inversion – one where individual initiative becomes its opposite in collective action.
The president unfolds this bold vision of America through a clever bit of rhetorical misdirection. He does not begin his speech by enunciating his vision of progressive collectivism. Instead, he strikes a traditionalist tone by saying, “we have never relin-
In this progressive vision of America, Obama creates a binary choice between feckless individual action and effective governmental response. As “no single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need
… or build … research labs that will bring new jobs,” he argues that we must choose progressive collectivism. By thus removing the traditional role the free market plays in job training and research from this equation, Obama creates what Jonah Goldberg calls “a limitless warrant for state action.” Thus, as “no single person” can “achieve … social good alone … there's no limit to what the state is justified in doing,” according to Goldberg. Not even the Constitution provides fixed and unchanging limitations on the power of the progressive collectivism President Obama advocates. While the president begins his address by “bear[ing] witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution,” it soon becomes apparent that he is engaging in another rhetorical misdirection. In fact, the “enduring” strength of the Constitution proves to be transitory instead. For President Obama, the principles of the Constitution are not constant. Instead, they are malleable, and each generation must interpret them as it deems fit. Hence, the president argues that the Constitution requires us “to bridge the meaning” of its anachronistic “words with the realities of our time.” As Goldberg suggests, this speech reveals that the president is a “progressive salesman” uncertain of his product. The president does not forthrightly express his progressive views. Instead, he “swaddle[s]” them in the “idioms of liberty” according to Goldberg. Under the president’s progressive collectivism, Americans can remain faithful to the “enduring” values of the Constitution only by changing them. And Americans can insure our individual freedom only by supporting its philosophical opposite in collective action. The result is a rhetorically brilliant, but ultimately unsettling, Orwellian vision of America’s future.
The Negative Effects of US Gun And Drug Policy on Mexico by Henry Manning
he debates over gun control and marijuana legalization are at the forefront of the American political arena. Proponents for legalizing marijuana argue that it would produce safety and quality control, would generate government profits, and would save federal funds from the battle to eradicate the use of marijuana. Gun control proponents argue that guns, especially assault rifles, should be restricted through background checks and mandatory registration, or simply banned. Though there is little conversation about their intersection, these two issues are inexorably linked with organized crime, violence and social destabilization in Mexico. Mexico is undergoing a horrendous crime war in which vicious, heavily armed drug cartels are tearing the north of the country apart in a contest over lucrative drug smuggling routes to the US. Since President Felipe Calderon declared a war on the drug cartels in 2006, drug trade-related violence has killed more than sixty thousand Mexicans. The governmentâ€™s militaristic campaign against the cartels has resulted in many high-profile arrests and the demise of several cartels, yet the power vacuums created within and between the cartels have only catalyzed violence. In the year 2011 alone, an average of sixty-six Mexicans were killed each day in cartel violence. In addition ten thousand Mexicans have disappeared and millions have been left disenfranchised. Even those who have not lost family members are indirect victims of the war on drugs. Tourism has withered and local economies have been shattered as Mexican cities become increasingly unsafe. Whole communities have disintegrated and residents of regions in the north live in constant fear of random violence. The cartels have resorted to a system of grisly terrorist attacks against the Mexican public to discourage government crackdown. Examples of these attacks include the hanging of disemboweled anti-cartel blog-
gers from a bridge in 2011, the dumping of 49 headless torsos in rush hour traffic in 2012, and the execution of 72 immigrants in 2010. Innocents are often caught in the crossfire of frequent cartel battles pitched with automatic weapons. Local law enforcement has been impotent against these cartels. Because they are outgunned and underfunded compared to the criminals, police departments have been vulnerable to corruption. In 2006 the federal government deployed the Mexican Army to police the streets of nine states. The extreme power that the cartels wield prompts federal security forces to hide their identities with ski masks while the gangsters fight openly in broad daylight. The US public rarely acknowledges the severity of Mexicoâ€™s violent situation, and even when the American media covers it, Americans scarcely realize that much of this horror is a direct repercussion of US policy. The cartels thrive on a cyclical system in which they sell drugs to the US, spend that money on easily acquired American assault weapons, and bring those weapons back to Mexico. Sometimes the same vehicles are used to transport drugs north across the border and then to smuggle weapons south. There are many arguments for the domestic benefits of legalizing marijuana in America. Likewise, there are many reasons why the US should restrict the sale of assault weaponry, regardless of whether those weapons are leaving the country or not. Aside from domestic concerns, US policy on marijuana and gun control contribute to Mexican violence and instability. The U.S. supplies the cartels with both a lucrative market for their drugs and with weaponry. In addition to serving its own interest, America has a moral responsibility to reform those laws that the cartels are exploiting.
mericans feed the violence in Mexico through their demand for
Cartel Weapons Supplied by US Gun Market US Marijuana Sales Fund Cartels
illegal drugs. The Mexican cartels control 90% of the drugs smuggled into the US. Estimates put cartel profits from drug sales in the US between 19 and 64 billion dollars annually. Colombian cocaine used to be the largest illegal narcotics import to the US, but with the demise of the Medellin cartels, the Mexican cartels have stepped into the power void and replaced cocaine with their own trademark drug: marijuana. This relatively benign and inexpensive drug is the cartels’ largest source of profit. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the sale of cannabis to the US comprises 60% of the Mexican cartels’ net profit. Marijuana is vital to the cartels for several reasons. It is cheap to produce, less hazardous to transport and dependable. Unlike heroin and cocaine, the cartels do not act as middlemen in the trafficking of pot but actually grow it throughout Mexico. Due to its low cost marijuana is much less risky to traffic than more costly drugs. It is a more dependable staple for cartel income. The cartels can send cannabis by the tractor-trailer full north, and if one or two shipments are intercepted, it is not nearly as catastrophic as if a cargo container of cocaine was confiscated. For these reasons, the Mexican cartels depend on the steady stream of cash that marijuana provides. Because of its importance to the cartels, the elimination of the American cannabis black market could debilitate the cartels where combined US-Mexican military tactics could not. Multiple Latin American countries have decriminalized drugs to diminish cartel violence, but America’s drug market is by far the most significant. Felipe Calderon of Mexico decriminalized small quantity possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and crystal meth in 2009 and begged the US to consider legalizing marijuana. Mexico’s “war on drugs” is actually a war on drug violence, in contrast to America’s war on drug abuse. Many experts agree with Latin American leaders that the elimination of the American cannabis black market would strike a crippling blow to the cartels, just as the 21st Amendment incapacitated the bootlegging mafias of
the American 20’s and 30’s. As seen during Prohibition, organized crime thrives when a product with high demand is kept illegal. Logic and experience dictate that if those goods are legalized and regulated by the government, the black-market is made superfluous and the criminals lose power. Some say that cartel pot would still be cheaper than government-taxed pot, and thus the cartels would maintain a market. But to that I ask how many American mafias are getting rich off smuggled moonshine these days? For most Americans, it would simply not be worth buying weed in a dark alley from a shady Sinaloa cartel enforcer who’s packing heat when, for ten bucks more, they could get it at CVS. The federal government did not legalize alcohol because it discovered that whiskey was any less destructive than believed when Prohibition was enacted; Prohibition ended because it was completely ineffective, costly, and empowering to violent criminals. The same is true of the current prohibition on marijuana. The difference is that now, the hundreds are not being murdered in the slums of Chicago and New York, but in the streets of Ciudad Juarez, Monterrey and Chihuahua. Juan Hernandez’s are dying instead of John Smiths. Yet should that matter?
he US supports the cartels financially and arms them as well. Mexico strictly
Cartel Weapons Supplied by US Gun Market controls gun sales and prohibits private citizens from owning military-grade weaponry. There is only one legal gun store in all of Mexico. Due to America’s lax restrictions on firearms, Mexican cartels use the US as their personal gun shop. Approximately 70% of guns seized in recent years from the cartels were bought in the US. Large portions of these firearms are assault rifles, which are completely illegal in Mexico but are easily purchased in Texas. The cartels have numerous straw men buyers across the Southwest through whom they buy hundreds of military firearms and rounds of ammunition each month. All a Texan gun buyer requires is a clean criminal record and proof of residence, and he can purchase dozens of high-power assault rifles over the counter every week. Furthermore,
Texas keeps no record of firearm purchases, so an individual can buy enough weaponry and ammunition for an army without the government even being alerted. Smuggling American guns back over the border is a simple matter for the cartels; it is much easier to cross from the US to Mexico than vice versa. An assault rifle is a rapid-fire, high capacity weapon that is designed for infantry use. The primary assault rifles smuggled by the cartels from America are the AK-47 and AR-15. The AR-15 is a version of the M16 used by American forces in Vietnam; the IRA also favored variants of this weapon during its violent insurgency in Northern Ireland. The infamous AK needs little more introduction than that it is the weapon of choice for rebel groups and autocratic governments the world over. A simple operation can render either of these assault rifles automatic, allowing the cartels to match the firepower of the Mexican army. The potential of the cartels to access weapons that can fire multiple rounds per second endangers the Mexican public. Thanks to the lack of American gun control, the cartels are able to purchase the majority of their AK-47s legally here in the US. In 2004, the ten-year ban on assault weapons in the US expired. It has not been resurrected since. In defense of assault weapons the NRA likes to point out that American assault rifles don’t kill many people, as they are involved in less than 2% of gun crimes in the US. It is true that those guns aren’t killing a lot of Americans. But they are killing thousands of Mexicans. Overwhelming portions of cartel killings are committed with assault rifles, easily converted to be automatic. While these murders do not occur within Texas’s borders, it is hard to argue that Texas gun laws and Texas assault rifles are not responsible.
f most Americans do not realize the effects of US drug and gun policy on Mexico, Mexicans do. In protest of the lack of American gun restriction the Mexican government erected a sign
that read “NO MORE WEAPONS” in Ciudad Juarez (Mexico’s murder capital) just across the border from El Paso, Texas. The sign was made of hundreds of American handguns and assault rifles that had been seized from cartels. To the north the Caravan for Peace protested the international drug war and the laundering of cartel money in American banks. The Mexican and American activists travelled 6,000 miles through the US. Their leader, Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, lost his son to cartel violence and now protests against the international anti-drug campaign that he believes does not reduce drug use and only increases crime. Despite protesting Mexican voices like those of Sicilia and Calderon, Mexico’s plight is generally ignored in gun control and marijuana legalization debates here in the US.
The US government’s primary responsibility is to ensure the wellbeing of its citizens. But Congress must consider the repercussions of its policies on neighboring countries. There are many legitimate arguments to show that gun control and marijuana legalization are in America’s domestic best interest. Additionally, policy change could prevent thousands of homicides in Mexico each year and debilitate some of the most brutal organized criminals in the Americas. Murder is ultimately the fault of the murderer; but giving the murderer billion-dollar markets and selling him automatic weapons do not help.
oming to terms with “The Holocaust,” the mass destruction of Jews by the German Nazi Party in the mid-20th century is an emotionally consuming task. Eleven million Jews died, families were torn apart, and survivors suffered mental trauma. Personal stories reveal the horrors of life in concentration camps; Jews were starved, beaten and gassed. Children lost their fathers and mothers, parents lost their daughters and sons, and everyone watched as dear friends were taken from the relative safety of the bunkers to be murdered ruthlessly. While it is tempting to get caught up in the unbearable stories of the largest genocide in recorded history, the best way to truly understand the Holocaust is to eliminate emotion and think about the social factors that allowed such a horrific phenomenon to occur. After all, because “the people who participated in this mass murder were normal by conventional standards of mental health,”1 there is potential for another such holocaust to come to fruition, and looking objectively at the matter will allow us to create a blueprint by which to evaluate past and future destructions. Ervin Staub, a professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, constructs a concrete concept explaining how all genocides occur, which we can use to compare the Holocaust to other racial conflicts throughout world history. The first element of Staub’s theory is the continuum of destruction. Genocide cannot happen overnight; instead, it happens gradually, over a period of time in which societal factors can either accelerate or decelerate the progression along the continuum of destruction. There are three essential factors which contribute to the progress of the continuum of destruction: difficult life conditions, cultural and personal preconditions, and societal/ political organizations.
Using Staub’s framework, we can see how the conditions preceding the Holocaust maximized the potential of genocide within these three categories. The Weimar Republic and the Treaty of Versailles created economic turmoil,
leading to difficult life conditions in Germany. Cemented in the roots of the German culture was Christian Anti-Judaism (a Christian belief that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ), an elevated notion of the Aryan race (the race Hitler believed the Germans to be), and a proud “Germanness” founded in romanticism (an esteemed self-image of the German people). Finally, societal organizations and concepts such as the euthanasia programs, “life unworthy of life,” better world ideologies, and just-world thinking, all helped facilitate Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of values,” which promoted discarding the weak and handicapped who could not contribute in society to create a stronger nation and race. After considering Staub’s three factors in regard to the Holocaust, it becomes apparent that using the Jewish people as a scapegoat for Germany’s troubles was an obvious, and perhaps even popular, choice among the German people. Now, to illustrate the value of Staub’s framework, let’s consider the United States’ Civil Rights Movement circa 1960. Since the beginning of American history, many white Americans were preconditioned to believe that African-Americans were property with limited rights. The African American slaves’ role as an integral part of the southern agricultural economy was a major factor in the Civil War in the mid 1800’s and, although the slaves were to be emancipated following the war, blacks were still forced to work in plantations and viewed as subhuman. Where? The South only? The social phenomenon of segregation began as a byproduct of the white suburbanization in the 1950’s. Because of an economic boom, middle-class whites moved away from the crowded cities and settled in suburban neighborhoods such as Levittown, forcing black flight to urban districts such as Harlem and Detroit. Citation? In the Jim Crow south, blacks were forced to use different schools, bathrooms, and restaurants, the government claimed that they were “separate, but equal” when, in reality, the quality of facilities and education
in the black neighborhoods was significantly below the white standard. Radical groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and racist political figures such as Eugene “Bull” Connor led to a growing racism against black Americans. Despite the aforementioned prosperous 1950’s, Lyndon Johnson’s ascension to presidency and subsequent policies and programs caused economic hardships. In 1965, Johnson began to deploy troops into Vietnam where the United States lost both soldiers and money. Coupled with Johnson’s expensive Great Society programs, the economy put America into a full crisis. The similarities between the Holocaust and the American Civil Rights struggle is staggering when considering Staub’s framework of difficult life conditions, cultural and personal preconditions, and societal/political organizations. But perhaps an even greater value of utilizing Staub’s framework comes from consideration of the differences between these two racist events. By analyzing the differences, we can see what prevented the Civil Rights conflict from escalating to the devastating destruction of the German Holocaust. Subsequently, we can learn how to halt such racist movements by following in the footsteps of the Civil Rights leaders. To use Staub’s concept, what accelerated or decelerated movement along the continuum of destruction in these two instances? The two key distinctions between the Holocaust and the Civil Rights conflict was the role of bystanders and the retaliation by the oppressed people. Isn’t the distinction between Nazi Fascism and American Democracy critical as well? Could the Civil Rights movement have existed in under the fascist totalitarianism of Nazi Germany? If not, shouldn’t American democracy be given more credit notwithstanding the sometimes violent reaction against the Civil Rights Movement in the South? In essence, there was a Civil Rights Movement to counteract the racial conflict in the United States, whereas there was no
cohesive, unified movement against the Nazis by Jewish people, German bystanders, or other nations which could have taken a stand to protect the Jews. Many countries, including the United States, chose to turn a blind eye to the atrocities happening in Germany. Despite many individual acts of heroism, the oppressed Jewish people and German bystanders never created a movement in which they stood up, unified, for Jewish rights and liberty. It is important to understand, however, that the conditions in Germany made it incredibly difficult to form such a movement; thus, in the interest of taking a positive approach on the comparison, I offer not to place shame on the Jewish people, but rather to praise the efforts of black Americans who broke free from the chains of racism and inequality. Black Americans stood up to racial discrimination on a smaller scale, such as Rosa Park’s refusal to sit in the back of the bus, but also in large scale movements such as boycotting school systems and white businesses, as well as the famous March on Washington. The key in organizing these protests was the presence of leadership. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped to lead millions of blacks by his peaceful actions and powerful speeches. Malcolm X, despite his controversial violent approach to civil rights, helped to attract particularly Muslim blacks who agreed with his radical philosophies. Even sports stars such as basketball legend Bill Russell risked his fame and popularity to organize
boycotts of the Boston school systems called “Freedom Days.” Even white Americans stood up against racism in the “Freedom Rides,” as both blacks and whites joined together and risked their lives for the pursuit of justice. When reviewing catastrophic human suffering such as the Holocaust, it is easy to get caught up in the emotions of the atrocities that took place less than a century ago. Eleven million Jews died as a result of the Holocaust, and it should be our wish that their suffering should have, at a minimum, educational value from which we can better understand our human nature, our history, and our future. By using Staub’s objective framework, we can respond to the events of the Holocaust in an objective repetitive, constructive manner and see just how similar it is to other historic events and realize how simple it could be for another wide-scaled ethnic cleansing to occur. By seeing the contributing factors to create and prevent genocide, we can recognize potential in its infant stages and react as a human race through leadership and self-sacrifice to oppose these ethnic cleansings. After all, we are all one race: the human race. While we have the capacity for evil, we also have the strength of goodness which we can use to tear down the walls of racism in our world. Photos on this page by Jerry Li
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Punk is perhaps the most prevalent youth subculture of the second half of the 20th century. Deeply rooted in a style of fast, simple, and often political music, it first grew to prominence in the 1970s and has continued to have a presence in the musical landscape since then. While the music is the focus of punk overall, the rebellious, hard-edged, potentially intimidating subculture associated with the music is intrinsically intertwined with it. Punk culture depends on a DIY, or “do-it-yourself,” ethic that focuses on individualism and authenticity and is applied to everything from clothing to music to personal beliefs. While the punk subculture has countless divisions, the two most well-known are the seemingly contrasting skinhead and straightedge subcultures. The skinhead culture initially grew out of the mod subculture of the late 1950s and early 60s. Mods were devoted to consumerism, especially high fashion, and had plenty of disposable income due to the economic boom in the wake of World War II. However, working class youth who wished to associate themselves with mods often had a difficult time fitting in, as they didn’t have enough money to purchase the clothes popular within the subculture. Instead, they wore boots, jeans, button-down shirts, and suspenders. These “hard mods” began to be known as skinheads due to their short, cropped hair that was necessary for work in the industrial jobs they commonly held. Furthermore, their short hair provided a sharp contrast with the long-haired hippies dominate in the counterculture of the time. Ironically, skinhead culture was initially heavily associated with genres dominated by black musicians, such as soul, ska, and early reggae (the latter two of which would later go on to heavily influence the development of punk.) Black skinheads were not uncommon, especially since immigrants often dealt with the same issues of poverty and underrepresentation that working class white youth faced. However, in the early 1970s, reggae began to increasingly discuss Jamaican nationalism, which white skinheads felt alienated by. Skinheads began to align themselves with the National Front, a white nationalist movement against Asian immigration into the U.K. Racially motivated violence increased, and white power groups grew far more popular. Skinheads grew increasingly associated with neo- Nazism and racism until the initial movement’s faded away in the early 1970s. It experienced a brief British revival as the economy worsened in the late 1970s and working class youth blamed more qualified immigrants for “stealing” their jobs, but never enjoyed the same amount of popularity it once had in the U.K.
Punk separated from the original skinheads because of differing views on establishment, though the skinhead movement always had at least a minor presence within punk. While skinheads were fiercely nationalistic and tended to support organized government, punks felt no pride in symbols of British culture, and typically supported anarchy and other similar forms of government (or lack thereof.) The Sex Pistols openly criticized the monarchy in their songs, while the Clash’s iconic “London Calling” declared that “phony Beatlemania [had] bitten the dust,” both criticizing their culture rather than idolizing it as skinheads had. In the mid 1970s, England underwent an economic recession that further spearheaded the development of punk. Working class youth saw their families struggle financially and their parents lose their jobs, and worried about their own futures. This only increased anger at the government (and at society’s reliance on a government that was perceived to be failing so severely). Punk was nihilistic, and it was destructive, but it provided a valuable artistic outlet to those who felt confused and abandoned. Stylistically, punk relied on shock value from its genesis. This was not necessarily a sensationalist sort of cheap shock value, but simply a desire and tendency to do the exact opposite of what was expected. Punk grew out of disgust with the current society and attempted to create a more ideal one that didn’t depend on social norms or appearances. Punks saw themselves as authentic and outsiders as shallow imitators of the worst aspects of society’s conventions. Though they were anti-racist, they wore swastikas and Nazi armbands. They despised organized religion, but wore crosses. These seemingly contradictory actions made sense to the punk youth, whose biggest goal was to alienate the society that they’d felt had alienated them. In the U.K., skinheads never really came back to full popularity, though they did experience a brief revival during the economic crisis of the late 1970s. However, in America, the movement grew increasingly popular, reaching a peak in the early 1980s. In the early 80s, a faster, more aggressive style of punk known as hardcore began to catch on, as did an offshoot called Oi! Oi!, which developed separate from hardcore despite musical similarities between the subgenres, was a reaction to a perceived pretentiousness that existed in American punk music. While British punk was ruled by the London working class, American punk coalesced around the New York art scene, particularly the iconic nightclub CBGB. There, artists such as Talking Heads, Television, and Patti Smith formed the forefront of
American punk. These musicians tended to have deep interest in art and poetry, and often approached music in a highly experimental way that gave them a reputation for intellectualism, but also served as a potential turn-off. In the words of Steve Kent, guitarist of Oi! band the Business, many early American punk artists were “trendy university people using long words, trying to be artistic... and losing touch.” In contrast, Oi! music strongly resembled British punk, with a focus on the working class and lyrics that often dealt with topics such as unemployment and oppression by the government. The Oi! movement centered around rebellion, but the music also discussed violence, sports, sex, and alcohol,
neo-Nazi punk band was Skrewdriver, who openly associated with and raised money for the National Front. While no other neo-Nazi band ever attained much significant fame, right-wing political beliefs continued to be a constant in some subsets of hardcore punk and its variants throughout the 80s, though they were nearly universally condemned by prominent hardcore bands. Ironically, the neo-Nazi skinhead scene was popularized even more with the 1979 release of “California Uber Alles,” the debut single by staunchly left-wing San Francisco hardcore band the Dead Kennedys. While actually a heavily satirical critique comparing California governor Jerry Brown’s policies to fascism, the song’s catchy
topics that were typically ignored by traditionally politically-minded punk music, and especially by the artistic CBGB crowd. However, while none of the original Oi! bands promoted racism, many fans of the genre were connected to white nationalist movements. This led to many of them starting bands promoting neo-Nazism and white power ideals, adding to the subculture’s already-present reputation for racism. Undoubtedly the most well-known
chorus caused it to be mistaken as a neo-Nazi anthem by skinheads. In an effort to lose popularity amongst skinheads, the band released “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” which sharply criticized the “religious cult” punk had become and fully rejected any association with neo-Nazi culture. “In a real fourth Reich, you’ll be the first to go, unless you think!” the lyrics declared. But for the most part, the damage done to the skinhead subculture was irreparable, and neo-Nazi sympathies and violence re-
mained a constant part of hardcore punk. The neo-Nazi skinhead culture, despicable as it was, gave working-class youth an opportunity to feel superior, to feel that they had power over something, and it gave them a community where they could fit in, something they quite possibly never had before. Also in the 1980s, another major subculture within punk rock known as straightedge began to develop. Characterized by abstention from drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, the straightedge movement was spearheaded by two songs by Washington, D.C. hardcore punk pioneers Minor Threat, “Straightedge” and “Out of Step (With the World.)” In “Straightedge,” frontmen Ian MacKaye discusses his lack of interest in hard drugs, while the lyrics to “Out of Step” declare “Don’t smoke/ Don’t drink/Don’t fuck/At least I can fucking think!” Straightedge was a direct reaction to the perceived hedonism and excess present in both punk and mainstream culture, and its adherents often refrained from engaging in casual sex, eating meat, violent behavior, and using caffeine and prescription drugs as well as being substance-free. They also tended to be anti-war, have far-left political beliefs, and follow some elements of Eastern religions, in sharp contrast to violent, right-wing, racist skinheads. At first glance, the idea behind straight-edge seems absurdly improbable- after all, the majority of punk fans were males in their teens and twenties, a demographic not typically known for its lack of excess. The notion of marketing a lifestyle of abstinence, both from sex and substances, to teenagers seems impossible even now, and during the 80s, at the height of “Just say no!” PSAs, it seemed like the most natural thing for the self-consciously counterculture punk movement to do would be to embrace excess. But even more present in punk than a need for rebellion against authority was a need for rebellion against one’s peers, and drug use was so widespread across social groups that there was nothing perceived as more rebellious than not using drugs. Straightedgers saw substance use as a consequence of succumbing to peer pressure, which completely contradicted punk’s individualistic ethos. Yet in spite of the movement’s idealistic beginnings, straightedgers developed a reputation for arrogance, intolerance, and even violence. Confusion about what the straightedge’s true goal was began to arise. While the movement’s founder and icon Ian MacKaye did live a more extreme, all-encompassing straightedge lifestyle, other members of Minor Threat didn’t even identify with the movement at all. The ambiguity of the lyrics to “Out of Step”- were MacKaye’s proclamations meant as an order, or a simple statement of a personal creed?- further
The stereotype is of a maladjusted punk who joins a strange subculture because he (and it almost always is a male) has nowhere else to go. contributed to the confusion. The movement began to split into two factions, one that advocated a sort of “live and let live” philosophy in which they embraced straightedge but acknowledged that it wasn’t for everyone, and a more militant group that focused on advocating and spreading the lifestyle to others. Straightedge bands formed, creating a gathering place that also had the negative effects of an echo chamber used to simply socialize with those with similar beliefs. Reports of straightedge adherents bombing stores that sold products made from animals and attacking people smoking or drinking at shows became prevalent, and many states began to categorize straightedge groups as gangs. The more extreme straightedgers, the ones who didn’t drink coffee or use medicine, or who advocated radical environmental causes, tended to look down upon the ones who simply avoided substance use and questioned their commitment to “real” straightedge. Of course, these radical straight-edgers were certainly in the minority and didn’t represent the group as a whole, but the same could be said about neo-Nazi skinheads. Straightedge succumbed to the same hypocrisy as the skinhead movement- in the name of trying to give a voice to those without one, it stifled the opinions of any dissenters. So why, in a movement theoretically characterized by individuality and authenticity, did two movements based on uniformity- and ultimately, exclusion- manage to become so popular? Well, to begin with, many punks were simply desperate to fit in anywhere. The stereotype is of a maladjusted punk who joins a strange subculture because he (and it almost always is a male) has nowhere else to go. That’s certainly not universally true, but it has a basis in reality. Like any subculture, punk appealed to the outcasts, those who felt that their voices were not being heard in mainstream culture. And while they wanted to be unique, to be able to express themselves, they did not want to be alone. Punks wanted to be separate from the dominant culture, but they still wanted to be connected to a culture. So in an attempt to conform, they agreed to increasingly radical beliefs and actions. And furthermore, many teens and young adults are
unsure of who they really are, and only know that they don’t fit in. Adhering to a subculture, any subculture, is an easy way to gain an identity and associate with people with at least somewhat similar interests. Confused kids were able to called themselves “punks,” or “skinheads,” or “straightedgers” and feel that they not only belonged somewhere, but that they knew who they were- even if they were limiting themselves to a caricature. The loathing of the outsider is a constant in both movements, though skinheads shunned racial outcasts while straightedgers loathed those who didn’t agree with their lifestyle, and this seems like a natural consequence of a movement that fetishizes the underground and loathes the mainstream. There are also several concepts in social psychology that can be used to explain the behavior of skinhead and straightedge adherents. First, the concept of group cohesiveness can be easily applied to these situations. Put simply, group cohesiveness is the idea thatt a social group is cohesive when its individual members possess bonds linking them to one another and to the group as a whole. In the case of the neo-Nazi skinhead and straightedge subcultures, these bonds were the factors that attracted youth to the subcultures in the first place: a feeling of not fitting in, an interest in music, and their similar backgrounds. According to the theory of group cohesiveness, the more cohesive a group is, the more likely its participants are to stay loyal to the group as a whole and any actions undertaken by the group. This is due to three main factors: the respect members feel for each other due to their common interests, the pride they feel in belonging to a group, and the commitment they feel to the group as a whole. Furthermore, the more difficult it is to enter a group, the more valuable a group is perceived to be, and the more loyal its participants are to it. Finally, loyalty increases when the group is seen as threatened, or is competing with another group. Cohesion has many positive effects, such as increased confidence, satisfaction, and ability to cope with stress, but it also has significant downsides. Perhaps most harmful is groupthink, a psychological theory that pressure to agree with other members of a group
stops members from thinking critically. This is illustrated perfectly in both previously discussed subcultures. First, the original skinhead movement was based on solidarity amongst working class youth, which gave its participants an easy way to relate to each other, as well as a fairly exclusive entry requirement- middle or upper class people simply didn’t fit in with skinheads. Furthermore, skinheads saw themselves as opposed by a government that did not provide for them or advocate for them during tough economic times. The presence of common interests, exclusivity, and a sense of persecution made group loyalty extremely strong even at the start of the movement. As it transformed into a neo-Nazi subculture, these factors grew even stronger. People of different races were excluded, adding to the exclusivity, and neo-Nazi skinheads felt threatened by the influx of immigrants and increasing social liberalism. Kids who were reluctant to join the skinhead movement were easily attracted to it by the promise of strong social bonds, as well as a sense of superiority that involvement in a white power movement obviously brought. Straightedge operated similarly. The movement was just as exclusive, though based on controllable lifestyle choices, not economic and racial background. And since members of the subculture were expected to abstain from so many typically enjoyable things, it was naturally a relatively small and seemingly selective movement. Additionally, straightedgers felt threatened by the dominate partying culture amongst youth. Since the very nature of straightedge was based on what its followers didn’t do, it was inherently exclusionary, and many straightedgers found that they had little in common besides a belief in staying clean. That meant that this was the only thing they could
rally around, and so it was seen as vitally important. Amongst the fiercest adherents to straightedge, the music became the center of their lives. Both subcultures saw themselves as “us against the world,” skinheads due to their tough economic circumstances, and later their refusal to embrace liberal politics and those of other races, and straightedgers due to their refusal to participate in substance use and other perceived vices popular amongst others their age. And so in both cases, participants were brought passed what would normally be their comfort zone because they were able to trust and relate to the others in the group. Another related psychological concept is herd mentality, or mob mentality, the idea that people are influenced by their peers to do certain things, particularly things that they wouldn’t do alone. This is thought to be because groups create a sort of anonymity and lack of responsibility for one’s own actions, as well as increasing enthusiasm around a certain cause. Thus, a skinhead who’s proud of their working-class background resents those who aren’t like them, and a straightedger is convinced that anyone who indulges in substances or sex is deeply morally flawed, and they both commit violent acts against such people when they’re part of a group that shares their beliefs and fuels their anger. Ultimately, punk, like any other sort of art, has the incredible power to unite, to comfort, and to entertain. Its subcultures are not inherently harmful, but when any group becomes too rigidly centered on a limited set of ideas, the results can be toxic. Both the skinhead and straightedge movements were eventually overpowered by exclusionary hypocrisy and an overzealous commitment to true authenticity, which scarred both individual subgenres and punk overall.
punk, like any other sort of art, has the incredible power to unite, to comfort, and to entertain. Its subcultures are not inherently harmful, but when any group becomes too rigidly centered on a limited set of ideas, the results can be toxic. 85
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Zelly Atlan True
“I had glitter in my hair for about a week afterwards”