vol. 11 no. 2
pop culture, politics, college, etc.
Taylor Swiftâ€™s special place in Sartrean hell
Behind the costume: What you never knew about zamboni Dave
Instagram: To be or to live vicariously
kitsch magazine spring 2013
letter from the editors: Becky’s going to write such a super awesome letter that’s going to fit in this little box!
table of contents Letter from the Editors Masthead Editors’ Page
1 3 4
On the Plaza Earworm Underappreciated Inventions Harmony Korine Springbreakerz To Be or to Live Vicariously
Bringing Cambodia to the Farmers’ Market The Underappreciated Ithaca Karaoke Scene Behind the Costumes
12 15 17
America’s One-stop Shop Education System One Hit Wonders what Would Bieber Do? Making the Perfect Quarterback The rkives: A Rilo Kiley Review Franklin or Frankenstein: the Quantiﬁed Self Movement
19 21 23 25 28 30
Photo Essay: What’s all the Hype?
watch & listen
Robert and Matthew and Cora and Maggie Smith My First Tarantino For the Love of Sci-ﬁ and Sitcoms What’s the Nature of News Today? Taylor Swift’s Special Place in Sartrean Hell the Dark side of K-pop Deﬁnitely a Mad man with a Blog Macklemore Binge-Watching, Buzz and the Bluth Family
Art Exhibitions Geology Lessons To a Future Columnist Sweet Like Summer
5 6 7 9 10 11
ﬁction & poetry
36 38 41 44 46 51 53 57 58
60 61 62 63
kitsch an independent student publication
editors-in-chief Meaghan McSorley • Rebecca Ochs
managing editor Alex Newman
lead copy editor Evelyn Fok
bite size Henry Staley
no babies were harmed in the making of this picture.
art editor Carlos Kong
zooming in Rodrigo Ugarte
zooming out Madeline McCann
asst. zooming in Kristi Krulcik
asst. zooming out Anna Brenner
watch and listen Tory Starzyk
ﬁction Renee Tornatore
asst. watch and listen Kaitlyn Tiﬀany writers
from the left : ron swanson, nate coderre, madeline mccann, carlos kong, evelyn fok, rodrigo ugarte, kristi krulcik, alex newman, renee tornatore, henry staley, and kaitlyn tiffany
asst. ﬁction Nate Coderre
Kevin Burra, Gina Cargas, Sophia Chawala, Emily Greenberg, Emma Harman, Jing Jin, Adam Lerner, Tia Lewis, Kayleigh McKay, Eugene Ng, Mo Rahman, Ralph Recto, Aly Stein, Charles Wang
Nina Andrejevic, Natanya Auerbach, Gina Cargas, Hannah Chatterjee, Esther Hoﬀman, Joanna Ladzinski, Elaine Lee, Yananisai Makuwa, Eugene Ng, Lauren O’Neal, Karina Parikh, Katherine Tregurtha
meet the editors
Josh Barrom, Jen Keefe, Lauren O’Neal, Charles Wang, Peter Zawistowicz, Jenny Zhao
Zander Abranowicz, Alisha Desai, Lauren O’Neal, Daniela Pimentel, Allie Riggs Clarrie Scholtz, Santi Slade, Charles Wang
cover art by Santi Slade
Michael Koch English, Cornell University
Catherine Taylor Writing, Ithaca College
kitsch magazine, an independent student organization located at Cornell University and Ithaca College, produced and is responsible for the content of this publication. This publication was not reviewed or approved by, nor does it necessarily express or reflect the policies or opinions of Cornell University, Ithaca College, or their designated representatives.
On the Plaza: What is the most overor under-hyped thing about
Cornell, Ithaca, “Dragon Day.” - Janice ‘16
art by SANTI SLADE
earworm KAYLEIGH McKAY
or college in general? “Green Dragon.” - Lexi ‘13
“All the course options.” - Anna ‘16
“People’s chalking abilities.” - Gemma ‘13 “Potter’s Falls.” - Erin ‘13
“Slope Day.” - Frederico ‘15
“Big Little Week.” - Sarah ‘14 “Study abroad.” - Gretchen ‘15
“The Plantations.” - Rebecca ‘13
“A cappella.” - Alex ‘15
veryone knows what it is like to have a song stuck in your head. I never even thought very much about it until one morning, on my way to my 9:25 class, when I realized that I was looping part of the LMFAO song “Shots” over and over. The loop would run continuously for the rest of the day. A song stuck in your head has the unsavory title of “earworm.” Out of context it sounds threatening, but the only harm this parasite can cause you is annoyance. That is, assuming midterms haven’t already driven you insane. Though I only recently discovered “earworms,” they have a long and well-documented history in the public consciousness. Henry Kuttner’s 1943 short story “Nothing But Gingerbread Left” is about a song designed to have the “perfect semantic formula” to make it unforgettable. The German song was written by a university professor, and it is about a starving family whose only option for food is gingerbread. When the song was broadcast across occupied Europe, it had a devastating eﬀect on the German forces; through a series of stream-of-consciousness vignettes, Kuttner shows how the song works its way into the thoughts of the soldiers and slowly consumes them. Fourteen years after the story’s publication, Arthur C. Clarke wrote “The Ultimate Melody,” another science-fiction short story centered on the earworm phenomenon. The story follows a scientist who creates a song that is perfectly in sync with the brain’s electrical rhythms. Upon listening to his own piece, the scientist becomes catatonic and never recovers. A fascination with earworms is not unique to science fiction, as they also appear in other genres of literature and even
in television. Mark Twain described an experience in which he discovered a jingle (which, before the advent of television, were printed as short poems in the newspapers) that completely consumed him for days. Finally, he showed it to a friend, thereby freeing himself from its influence. His friend then became obsessed with the jingle, and had to replicate Twain’s solution of “transferring” it to another individual. The popular children’s TV show, SpongeBob SquarePants, also illustrates the phenomenon of “transferring” an earworm. In an episode from the seventh season—aptly titled “Ear Worm”—our porous friend has the song “Musical Doodle” stuck in his head until he successfully passes it oﬀ to his neighbor, Squidward. We are inclined to believe that mind-consuming songs like these exist only in fiction; however, we hear them all the time. Particularly in the advertising industry, songs are specifically designed to crawl into our brains and never crawl out, living in there forever and repeating, “Don’t you want a, want a Fanta?” It doesn’t end until we crack and go buy the damn thing. Companies are just dying to get their brand names and products into your head, and what could be better for business than having a world full of consumers whose own brains incessantly pester them with your product? Answer: Nothing. The eﬀective jingle requires several simple features: it must be short enough to remember, it must be repetitive, and must have a pleasant, yet simple, melody. If the tune is well-written, it will create the “Shots” eﬀect—meaning you’ll start humming it on a Thursday morning and never stop. To spare your wallet, and possibly your sanity, here are some suggestions on how to eliminate these auditory parasites: - Sing or play (on an instrument) another song - Listen to the earworm song - Listen to music other than the earworm song If none of these standard tips work, feel free to try some of the weirder ones, such as: - Try to “infect” a friend. Hey, it worked for Mark Twain and SpongeBob. - Imagine the earworm as a real creature, have it crawl out of your head, and then step on it. And if that doesn’t work, you can always go try to find what Henry Kuttner’s anti-Nazi gingerbread song sounded like. ◊
hey say that to experience withdrawal symptoms, a person has to have a physical or mental dependence on whatever is being abstained from. Now, I’m not going to go so far as to say I had such a dependency on my cellphone that I went through withdrawal symptoms, but there was a time in my life when I decided to go without a cellphone for a month. During this time, I kept feeling ghost vibrations in my pocket even though I knew there was nothing there. And guess what? This isn’t just me. This happens to a lot of people, so many that there’s a Wikipedia page for “Phantom Vibration Syndrome,” otherwise known as “ringxiety,” or “fauxcellalarm” (say it quickly, Mad Gab style). On this Earth, there are just some things we can’t live without. Take them away for a while, and suddenly we’re cavemen again, struggling to find a replacement. A cellphone is just one of many objects we take for granted, possessions that would leave us feeling helpless if we were suddenly forced to live without them. For this reason I present you with the following list:
EUGENE NG the most underappreciated inventions 1. Pockets As a male, I have the privilege of wearing pants that have pockets large enough to actually hold things (like my wallet and phone) without the fear that they will fall out with my slightest movement. But every once in a while, some stupid clothing company will make pants without pockets, which I see as the equivalent to making a purse that doesn’t open. To me, pants without pockets are basically useless. Where am I going to put my cellphone? But seriously, the next time you buy pants, make sure they have working pockets. Otherwise, you’ll just be angry and annoyed when you make a futile attempt to stuﬀ something in them, even if your purse does open. 2. Scouring Pads I worked in a dining hall last semester and learned the valuable life lesson that tomato sauce is quite possibly the worst thing to scrub oﬀ of a pot. Ever. Thankfully, on the back of every sponge worth buying is that green abrasive material that you use to get those hard-to-clean surfaces. I didn’t even know it had a name until I was doing research for this article. Although scouring pads were first invented in 1928, it wasn’t until 1973 that Edward Mednick of Skokie, IL, perfected the modern scouring pad. I am almost certain that this man is
art by CHARLES WANG layout by JEN KEEFE
still alive, but you wouldn’t know that based on Google searches; it seems that he’s dropped oﬀ the face of the Earth after giving us his brilliant brainchild. Thank you, Edward Mednick. I’ve learned something new today, and your vision has made my dishes shine. 3. Doors Have you ever imagined what life would be like without doors? I bet you will appreciate them more if you did. Without doors, you would have no privacy in your room! Buildings would be the same temperature as the air outside. We would all be stuck in the sixties and have beaded curtains everywhere! Doormen would be out of jobs. People in literature and the arts would have no way to symbolize change and new beginnings. It would really be a sad world without doors. 4. Zippers No list of underappreciated inventions is complete without zippers. It might even be the first thing that comes to mind when considering “underappreciated inventions.” The company YKK Group makes 90% of the world’s zippers, essentially holding a monopoly over the zipper industry. That’s a lot of power. But you know what? We could live without zippers. If YKK stopped producing them altogether, we could probably get along pretty well. We could button all our jackets and coats. We could use drawstring backpacks. We could put on our pants and then hold them up with belts. Or we could all wear jeggings. This is why I’m going to make a transition here to…
2. Spell Check Have you ever had that moment when you write something on paper and suddenly realize you can’t spell worth shit? Thank you, spell check. Can we, as a society, please just move on? Can we just use a dictionary or something? Or actually learn grammar and spelling like our parents did? Spell check doesn’t even work half the time because it confuses words like there, their, and they’re. We are smart enough. We know how to proofread. In fact, I wrot this aricle w/o spell ceck. See, we don’t need it! 3. The Internet The Internet, television, and all modern marvels rot brains. LOL JK. The Internet deserves its status as a great invention. 4. Hand Sanitizer First of all, I’m 99.9% sure that hand sanitizer companies are lying when they say they kill 99.9% of all germs. Who measures that? If that statistic were true, I would probably just fill my bathtub with it and lay in there for a while. Now, I’m not an unclean guy. I wash my hands after I pee and take showers and everything. But I don’t carry a pocket-sized hand sanitizer around with me, and sometimes I’ll walk right by the hand sanitizer dispenser without even sticking my hand underneath it. Don’t drop your jaw at me! We could really just wash our hands and actually get by without hand sanitizer.
In fact, I wrot this aricle w/o spell ceck
the most overhyped inventions 1. Sliced Bread The best thing since sliced bread, huh? The greatest thing since sliced bread is probably the thing that came right after it. It’s not like we can’t eat our bread unsliced, right? It might facilitate sandwich-making, but it also just opens up more surface area for the bread to go stale.
There you have it. Some of these inventions could probably have made it onto both lists, to tell you the truth. They’re inventions. They’re designed to make our lives easier, and they do. But some inventions are more recognized than others, and those less acknowledged ones really deserve some credit for their contributions to society. If you were an inventor, isn’t that what you would want? ◊
aron Rose and Joshua Leonard’s documentary Beautiful Losers, a profile of subculture artists emerging in the nineties shows Harmony Korine standing in his childhood haunt Dragon Park in Nashville, Tennessee. He laments the park’s transition into “a place of joy” from its former life as the grounds for the misdemeanors and mischief of the acidheads, goths and burnouts he spent his teenage years with. Donning grown-up country club attire and standing over a porcelain mural play structure resembling a dragon, he talks about a “pool shark and delinquent” friend of his, Samuel. After a mismanaged drug deal, Samuel’s head was severed with a switchblade and left beneath the dragon. He turns to a boy and two girls running through the dragons and says, “Hey how ya doin’? You know we found my friend Samuel’s head back there around ’86!” One little girl stops and squeaks “Cool!” He replies with a sardonic laugh. Harmony Korine likes to shock people. His movies often feel like a collection of all of film history’s footage not subjected to censorship. They are disturbing—exposés of the grit behind the grin, the menace beneath the ordinary. His first feature-length script, written at age nineteen, was 1995’s Kids, a story about New York City teenager’s encounters with AIDS, sex, drug use and violence. The film pairs sixteen-year-old Telly, a young lothario bent on taking girls’ virginity, with Casper, a spry fiend who robs liquor stores, takes Nitrous Oxide and starts fights with winos and gay couples. At the film’s end, a ring of hook-ups and rapes has infected most of the characters with HIV. The teenagers wake to their hangovers as Casper says, “Jesus Christ, what happened?” The credits appear and Korine potentially reveals himself to be a moralist. As you watch Korine’s latest feature Spring Breakers, try to locate Korine’s moral bearings. Critics have tirelessly argued the merits of Korine’s new brand of extremploitation, leading to a greater discussion of message and morality in cinema. Some critics have dubbed Korine a shameless provocateur, misappropriating shock for value, but Korine has been widely acknowledged as contemporary America’s premier enfant terrible auteur. Roger Ebert has praised him as the torchbearer of a new cinema verité, putting him on par with film giants “Godard, Cassavetes, Herzog.” New York Times movie critic A.O. Scott argues that, because audiences have become jaded by repetitive content, un-redemptive endings and films bereft of moral lessons are the new frontiers for shocking audiences. Korine’s films feature both shocks from graphic content and endings without a plea for absolution—championing a glorious, new cinema of nihilism. When Casper concludes Kids
HENRY STALEY art by KAITLYN TIFFANY
with “What happened?” Korine reveals a character questioning his own ruthlessness. This instance is about the only time you’ll see Korine cast judgment in Kids—Korine’s morality often lies in distancing morality from his characters and painting them in true form. Korine’s so-called move towards anti-moralist cinema is on the crest of a wave coming to wash out didactic movies and traditional ethical laws of representation. Quentin Tarantino recently said, “I want morality to have nothing to do with my characters or my movies.” Odd Future’s attack on political correctness seeks to shatter our sense of moral outrage to bigotry, vulgarity and senseless violence. A host of recent horror movies, spearheaded by Eli Roth, director of the Hostel series and Cabin Fever, seem to test the unwritten moral code that artists should withhold representation of certain unspeakable violence or obscenities. However much Korine is championed as a post-conventional director, I find his movies to espouse traditional moral points— albeit jarringly. In conventional narrative cinema, climaxes present the character with a Faustian dilemma (fame or authenticity, wealth or love, apathy or action) and the protagonist wins the audience’s sympathy by making the “right decision.” In Spring Breakers, Selena Gomez’s character Faith goes to church group but her background in either a virtual world of entertainment and video games or her near virtual world of Skrillex and drug use alienates her from the enthusiasm of the fellow members. She is quickly removed from this situation, but the eventual climactic conflict for her comes when her internal moral compass alienates her from her morally-bankrupt friends. You might argue that her friends’ backgrounds in virtual reality make them less moralistic, but Faith’s is certainly not what makes her more so. Her attempt at redemption is not without irony or reproach. Casper and Faith appear to be Korine’s two conventional heroes but they are so immersed in their debauchery and ruthlessness that they never find a real escape. Korine’s take on morality in cinema is not totally new, it just transfers the questions from the characters to the viewers. Korine does not portray characters that turn away from gluttony, promiscuity and ignorance to consider a diﬀerent lifestyle and that is the shock; instead he leaves that role up to the audience. ◊
admit it—I was skeptical, too. Any film whose tagline is “Spring break forever, bitches,” cannot possibly be something that I would spend my money and time on—right? Wrong. Spring Breakers is a high-concept ontological meditation and a scathing comment on our generation, all wrapped up in a neon, bikini-clad, gun-toting, Skrillex-backed package. Barren as it may seem, Spring Breakers is not the outlandish “crime thriller” it’s painted as—it’s thematically, aesthetically, and metaphorically lush. It’s not at all plot-driven—you know everything that happens by viewing the trailer. Four bored girls manage to cobble the money together for a spring break trip by robbing a chicken shack. Once they arrive, they party hard and end up on the wrong side of the law (“This wasn’t supposed to happen” echos throughout this part of the movie). Bailed out by a nearly unrecognizable James Franco, they are then swept into his drug-running thuglyfe. Spoiler alert: Selena Gomez bitches out. There’s some kind of “war” that starts between Franco and Gucci Mane, who were apparently childhood friends (I would love to see that photo album), and the climax of the movie occurs in an ambush on Gucci’s house. I’m not sure I’d call it morally relativistic though; in keeping with Staley’s assessment, there is an almost too-ironic juxtaposition of the girls’ conversations with their parents about the spiritual journey they’re having, with the boozefilled shenanigans of the trip. The dialogue, made up of half a dozen stale mantras—“Just pretend it’s a video game,” is whispered at least a dozen times, and the words “spring break” lose all meaning by the end of the film—has a Beckettian quality. Simplistic and sparse, it begs viewers to fill in the blanks and interpret for themselves. Referred to as “a hypnotic Gregorian chant” in the Duke Chronicle review, “‘Spring Break Forever’ becomes the ‘shanti shanti shanti’ of the Millenial generation.” Like a tweet cloud for our day and age, there isn’t a single line in the movie you’ve never heard before (except maybe, “Why y’all actin’ ’spicious?”). It’s pure distillation. This repetition, coupled with the brilliant cinematography and the choppy narrative, helps to give the film a surreal quality, and makes it feel like a simulation. You aren’t supposed to believe that this is a “real” story about “real” people, and the film doesn’t present itself this way. The “reality” of the film is always in question. Minimalism is only extant in the dialogue though, and isn’t at all present in the aesthetics or presentation of the film—it’s far too decadent and candy-colored. The film has been described as “art-trash fusion.” There’s a lot of Gatsby gyrating throughout the film, too; Franco is Jay Gatsby, a millionaire part-time rapper representing the “achievement” of the American dream. This makes for an interesting interpretation, but check out Salon’s review for a full explanation. The film spends a fair amount of time on our generation’s problem of diﬀerentiating between the virtual—“Just pretend it’s a video game”—and our everyday, lived reality. This is also
supported by the incessant thrumming electronic music; you’re never sure that you aren’t just watching a live-action video game. The plot would be more suited to one, anyway. And reality is fractured even further, split between the mundane (the daily lives of the characters, in which they yearn to “see something new”) and the uncanny—spring break, y’all. This is where the heart of the film lies: spring break is familiar in many ways (the featured college campus appears to be located within the same climate as their spring break destination, for example), yet strange and far beyond the norm—attractive, yet repulsive. It allows for a dream-like alternate reality to set in, and becomes a direct allegory to being “not at home.” It is this discomfort that is ultimately either rejected or accepted by each of the girls in turn, and it is only in their response to the uncanny that the girls diﬀerentiate themselves at all. The constant sound of a gun cocking, used to switch scenes in the film, serves as a heavy-handed reminder of the danger inherent in the attractive power of the uncanny. And perhaps this is also the explanation for the nonsensical plot structure. It is in spring break—in the uncanny—that the girls feel that they “find themselves.” This is in itself somewhat uncanny (for the viewer), but it beautifully demonstrates the decay of American culture that the film gestures to. The characters operate within a pretty limited intellectual and cultural field, and you can’t help but laugh when they assert that they’re becoming the best versions of themselves. And yet there’s a hollow truth there. That this is “the most spiritual place [they’ve] ever been” isn’t too surprising—they come face-to-face with death, and as each of the girls reacts diﬀerently (except the two blondes), you can’t help but wonder who comes out better for it. Here’s the real question though: is Spring Breakers enjoyable to watch? Sure. It can be. I might suggest smuggling in a bottle of something to pass between your friends. And laugh— a lot. It’s a pretty fucking ridiculous movie at face value, even though it allows for so much rich interpretation. Of course, ever the postmodern product that it is, the film is very much in on the joke—and a lot of the dialogue and staging is, in fact, quite intentionally comedic. But don’t think about it too much while you’re watching—just let it wash over you, in a drug-fueled, candy-coated haze. Spring break, y’all. Spring break forever. ◊
to be or to live
t would be an overstatement to say that social media has tak- endured many moments, at parties and otherwise, in which I en over our lives; yet the photojournalistic quality of Facebook was thrown into a picture at an event I did not enjoy very much. and Instagram proves that we are in an era in which these out- But it seems to suﬃce that I was physically there, and, perhaps lets define the social experience. The conceptual groundwork more importantly, I was socially there. of Facebook is to keep people connected. While it serves this The phenomenon, which Laurita touches on, can be expurpose of networking, it would be reductive to say that this is plained by the psychological concept of cognitive dissonance. Facebook’s primary function. According to this theory, when we have conflicting cognitions, Recently on Facebook, after weeks of being pestered, I post- such as beliefs, values, or emotions, we experience discomfort. ed a photo album from a friend’s birthday celebration. Within As a result, we seek to reduce this dissonance by altering our minutes, people I tagged had untagged themselves, people who current cognitions. With regard to social media, dissonance ocweren’t in the pictures at all had tagged themselves, and some curs because reality often doesn’t match expectations. So it realhad already updated their profile pictures and ly isn’t a surprise that people would want their Facebook cover photos. Facebook is the medium by pictures to showcase a more appealing version of which a social image is built. Perhaps the what actually occurred. trend is to—as its name suggests— Similarly, Instagram has become an outlet save face, constructing an identity through which people can create a pleasing based on how we want to be persocial image. Mobile phone pictures can be ceived. As Anne Laurita ’13, a Corenhanced with various filters. It isn’t a secret nell senior in Human Development, that the quality of mobile pictures is lackputs it, Facebook pictures “are often ing, but when “Instagrammed,” they sudabout self-presentation.” Laurita is denly become art. Laurita argues that one of the few modern-day college sometimes social media pictures students who don’t possess a Faceare “creative and artsy” because book account. “they reflect how those people I approached the friends who are in real life: artistic.” However, untagged themselves from my picwith a medium like Instagram tures, and the consensus was that where the simple tap of the finthey didn’t like how they looked. ger makes your photos artsy, it When did Facebook become the seems like anyone can become means through which we impress an artist, to a point where the our acquaintances with model-esintegrity of the word is someque pictures of ourselves? what lost. What I found even more stunSocial media is used to fulfill ning is that people wanted to be diﬀerent needs for everyone. It tagged in pictures that they weren’t keeps me on track with my exin. Pictures and albums have lost tracurriculars—that is, I know the concept of freezing a moment when meetings are, hear about in time, and have rather become foevents for other organizations, cused on showing, as Laurita puts it, that “I was a etc. However, there are very art by DANIELA PIMENTEL part of that event, and oh, I looked good too.” And even few people who use it solely for these then, there are many times when those captured mempurposes, and who do not attempt to ories are forced. The events in Laurita’s life didn’t always live up build a self-image through their online presence. Is this a good to the glamorous pictures other people were posting. When she or a bad thing? Well, that depends on whether social media usstill had a Facebook, she believed that she was being exposed ers would like to venture out and enjoy themselves or, instead, to things she didn’t need to see: “I would see pictures of people stay home tagging and untagging, living vicariously through at parties… and that wasn’t something I was documenting.” I’ve their newsfeeds. ◊ layout by RODRIGO UGARTE
zooming in art by LAUREN O’NEAL
an interview with DJ Dale
or almost seven years, one man has brought karaoke to countless Ithaca bars for the enjoyment of the drunken masses. His name is Dale Harrington, but many know him simply as DJ Dale. Over the years, Dale has expanded his DJ and karaoke business into a successful lineup of shows Monday through Thursday, adding a bit of musical entertainment to Ithaca’s nightlife. I explore how he started. Dale was born not far from Ithaca, just some miles away in Groton. After attending Ithaca High School, he was accepted to Ithaca College.
“I thought that perhaps a career in broadcast journalism was the way I wanted to go: TV and radio production. So, that’s the reason I ended up choosing Ithaca College over any of the other schools in the area or around the area,” explained Dale. “At the time I was looking at IC, it was when they were just finishing building the new Roy H. Park School of Communications. But, after getting into IC, I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be locked in a room with no immediate audience.” He enrolled at IC nonetheless, and began DJ-ing at parties with some friends, honing his CD skills since he had started spin-
ning records just as they were going out of style. Having DJ-ed his way through college, Dale graduated with a B.A. in English and broke out into the local scene as a DJ for weddings and other events. “It was a continuation from college,” Dale explained. “It was something I knew I could do and, at the time, I was working for a company that was doing events and parties, that sort of stuﬀ. And I already knew that that was something I liked to do and I figured that’d be a great part-time job.” His love of DJ-ing and music kept him in the business, but he sought to make it more than a part-time gig, something he could turn into his livelihood. In the fall of 2006, The Haunt gave him a chance to do so. The local nightclub and venue oﬀered him an opportunity to break out into a diﬀerent area while he continued DJ-ing and entertaining crowds. “I had DJ-ed a few nights at The Haunt as a replacement DJ, filling in during Happy Hour. They used to have DJs every Friday when they didn’t have bands,” Dale said. “And I met the owner of The Haunt and he had approached me and asked me if I’d like to host karaoke nights there and what it would take.” But the idea concerned Dale. “I’d never done karaoke at all,” he explained. “Some people shouldn’t sing and some people shouldn’t drink and sing, and that’s what I felt karaoke was.” His first night turned out diﬀerently. Though only six people showed up, they sang expertly and also founded a type of fan club. “Herman has come to about every show I’ve had since I started, so he has been following me for about seven years,” Dale said of one of his fans. “The other, Jeremy, has been coming to karaoke nights oﬀ and on. He hasn’t been to every night. The last couple [shows] at Lot 10, and oﬀ and on at The Haunt for the past five years.”
DJ Dale will be there, singing along with the brave souls.
On a Thursday in March, Herman and Jeremy, along with many of Dale’s loyal followers, arrived at Lot 10 to claim their spots in the limelight. As 11 p.m. rolled around, the crowd continued to grow, but Dale managed the swelling numbers well. He has a system: before each karaoke night, which tend to start around 10 p.m., he lays out thick, white, three-ringed binders listing all the songs available, along with some index cards and a pen so participants can request their songs speedily. As more patrons entered, the cards piled up by Dale’s side, but members of his fan club returned to the stage every couple of songs. “I personally think it’s wonderful,” Dale said about his entourage. “I love for people to sing, and, you know, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have people who are there to help encourage the people who are less likely to hop up and sing. If you have a couple of people who are already there and they’re like, ‘alright, let’s sing,’ the other people are most likely to follow suit.”
And, indeed they did. On the night in question, Lot 10 hosted karaoke on its second floor, with a section partitioned as a stage. Dale brought all his equipment: a flat screen monitor, speakers, wireless mics, and a laptop. Only the nights at The Haunt require a prolonged set-up, and more equipment. Dale explained how he expanded from the Haunt, and acquired his now weekly commitments at Lot 10, the Ale House, and Loco Cantina: “It started, basically, because I felt I couldn’t do karaoke every night of the week at The Haunt; that’d get boring. So, I decided to pursue other venues as part of a way to maintain a full time DJ lifestyle.” Dale started asking diﬀerent venues to host karaoke, and suggested the bar owners try something new and see how it worked out. He described how karaoke would entertain their patrons and give them something new to do. And his pitch worked. “I had already been doing karaoke night at The Haunt for three or four years before I started approaching other venues,” continued Dale. “I’ve done quite a few diﬀerent places. I’ve been everywhere from Elmira to Cortland doing karaoke on diﬀerent nights of the week, [since] every Wednesday has always been The Haunt. Mondays have been the Ale House; Tuesdays I used to be doing karaoke nights at a bar called The Den in Elmira; and I was also in Cortland on Tuesday nights doing karaoke at The Stone Lounge.” Dale has been doing karaoke nights at assorted venues for a long time now, but his present line-up did not start until last year. He started hosting Monday nights at The Ale House in April of last year after Castaways, one of his previous strongholds, closed down. The variety of locations means diverse crowds. “The Ale House has more passing trade because they are closer to the Commons, so there’s diﬀerent people every week, not necessarily regulars per se,” started Dale. “Loco is the college-age crowd, so it’s mostly college students when college is in session, but when it’s not, more locals come up. I’ve seen some of my karaoke followers there during the course of the year and, of course, the summer. The Haunt is just a mix of everyone, you know, from 18-year-olds, who obviously can’t go out to bars, to 40-somethings and 60-year-olds, depending on what they’re doing that night.” As he continues DJ-ing and doing karaoke, Dale’s business embodies two personalities: the entertainer at night, and the wedding emcee by day (or, at least, the weekends). These jobs may seem irreconcilable, but one aided the development of the other—they support one another and they fully support Dale. According to Dale, the guests are the biggest diﬀerence between weddings and karaoke nights. “They are ones getting up there and singing,” Dale said. “I just do all the introductions and announcements to keep things flowing.” At receptions, the guests also provide entertainment, but it’s more incidental— through their dance moves. Regardless of where he is, or how the night is going, DJ Dale will be there, singing along with the brave souls standing on the stage, whether the speakers are blasting No Doubt or Alice Cooper. At the beginning of the night, Lot 10 wasn’t that full, but Dale wasn’t fazed. Important things were happening: there was some good singing, and everyone was having fun. “It’s a slow night,” he mentioned. “But you can see the quality of the singers. That’s why I love it.” ◊
zooming in photos by KRISTI KRULCIK
what you never knew about “zamboni dave”
dored by all for his creative costumes and genuine smile, “Zamboni Dave” has defined the Cornell Hockey home games for years. He’s bold in his costumes, creative in his selection, and particularly friendly towards anyone who stops to admire his gold cape, blue suede shoes, custom pharaoh hat, or crisp sailor suit. A guy with that kind of style and pizzazz is sure to be fun, right? But just how awesome is he? kitsch went behind the scenes at Lynah Rink to find out. Dave Nulle may be known as the colorful figure in charge of grooming the ice between each period during games, but his myriad titles are just as impressive: Duke of Dryden, mesmerizing hypnotist, international dance extraordinaire, juggling aficionado, history buﬀ, and coin-collecting connoisseur. Dave is quite the man. When I first interviewed him during the last Men’s Hockey home game, Dave donned his Elvis ensemble: gold blazer, genuine blue suede shoes, and great hair. He stood next to the bleachers, eager to tell me about his travels, unique hobbies, and costume collection. His tradition of wearing costumes first began sometime in 1989, when he wore a sheepskin hat, complete with flaps that tied at the top, while driving the Zamboni at a game. As he drove by the stands, a student snatched it from his head and everyone began yelling, “Give it back! Give it back!” After the game, a member from a student organization approached him and asked if he would wear a tuxedo during the Harvard game.
KRISTI KRULCIK Dave said yes. His fine clothes were such a hit that this tradition continues today. “Keeps me oﬀ park benches,” he said as he laughed while his favorite cheer could be heard in the background: “It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault!” Dressing up has become a hobby for Dave ever since he wore that sheepskin hat, and as a result his house now resembles a costume warehouse: over 300 of his hats and wigs line bookshelves and hang on doorknobs, while his other costume pieces fill closets and bags. “It makes me seem like a hoarder!” he exclaimed. Despite the storage issues, Dave’s collection is expanding. “I enjoy shopping for these things,” he said as he looked towards the cheering crowd seated behind us. Antique shops throughout New York, Renaissance fairs, and vendors in New York City are his go-to locations for costume pieces. With hundreds of hats, wigs, shoes, and articles of clothing to choose from, Dave enjoys selecting a new outfit for each game. There isn’t a set process; he just has fun with it, like he does with most things. “I kinda like stuﬀ that is colorful and classy,” he explained. He tries not to wear the opponents’ colors and is sometimes inspired by a certain color or particular item that he sees as he peruses his collection. Once Dave makes a purchase for his collection, whether it is a historical hat or an ancient coin, he researches its background. “I really enjoy having things that came from the past…I respect the past.”
This respect not only draws from his interests in history, cus- has visited. During a trip to Egypt, the people surrounding Dave toms, cultures, costumes, and native dress, but also from a fasci- were celebrating the last day of Ramadan. They urged him to nation with the possibility of an amazing connection. dance beside the pyramids under the starry sky, cheering him “One of the things I liked is that you could have a little bit of on as he moved graciously with the Egyptian wind. “And they history in your hands and you kind of wondered who used the were in a good mood and when I started dancing, they started coin,” Dave said. He has a coin from Jesus’ time and wonders if participating and dancing and clapping,” Dave added. perhaps it once passed through the same hands. Another coin His talent hasn’t gone unnoticed. About 30 years ago in New he owns originated from a city once ruled by Genghis Khan, but York City, two diﬀerent professional dance groups approached his favorite is a Trojan coin that he sometimes wears around his Dave to join them in a single night. Although one of the indineck for special occasions. viduals who recruited him was “a gentler version of Catherine “I used to carry around one of Alexander the Great’s coins Zeta-Jones,” he declined the oﬀers because he was bound for in my wallet just to remind myself that one person could make a Ithaca. Once here, he taught ballroom dancing and beginner diﬀerence,” he chuckled. ice-skating. Dave’s fervor for dancing is quite fitting—his parHis extensive repertoire of past and present costume choic- ents first met at a dance in Willard Straight Hall when they were es—varying from Egyptian royalty to colonial militia—shows undergrads at Cornell. his appreciation for history. Dave’s Along with his talent in inmost recent purchases include ternational dancing, Dave is also The Many Numbers of three hats: one Rough Rider hat a fabulous singer. “I sort of think Zamboni Dave: from the Spanish-American War, of myself as a split personality,” he another worn by an influential Air said. “I’m split in that I dance Slavic a 2 Royal Titles Force General in WWII, and a third and sing Gaelic.” a 5 Balls Juggled at One Time from a Vietnam War colonel. Throughout Dave’s time at a 23+ Known Dance Styles Dave regards pieces with hisCornell, he has shared his handa 25+ Countries Traveled To torical importance as investments, some voice with many groups. He from his custom-made pharaoh was often invited to the Glee Club’s a 300+ Hats and Wigs crown to his Turkestan ceremonial after-practice gatherings, where a ~750 Costume Changes Thus Far hat, typically worn by men danche has sung around 30 songs for ing at weddings. In fact, the maker the group over the years. In 2009, of his pharaoh crown named Dave the oﬃcial “Duke of Dryden” Dave decided to accept a Cornell University retirement packand “Earl of Varna” through the New American Aristocracy orga- age—he now drives the Zamboni as a volunteer—and sang at nization, which allows citizens to grant royal titles to other citi- his retirement party. zens. “You haven’t seen the last of me,” he told the guests. Here Beyond collecting, Dave has dabbled in hypnotism. He at- he is, four years later, still driving that Zamboni to the delight of tended classes taught by his friend, Harry Arons, founder of the hockey fans. “I’ve really kept this going in the sense that the fans Association of Advanced Ethical Hypnosis (AAEH), and eventual- have kept it going because they’ve shown the appreciation.” ly became what was called a “hypnotechnician and consultant.” Cornell’s many Daves suggest that maybe the trick to enjoy“It was interesting because in class I sort of surprised peo- ing life is simply being a Dave at this University. There is Happy ple, because I would ask the tough questions and I would know Dave, who plays his favorite music daily at Okenshield’s; then how to do it, and I didn’t have a degree right then,” Dave ex- there’s President David Skorton, who loves interacting with stuplained. “And the lawyers would say, ‘You’re kind of shy and not dents everyday; and finally, the colorful Dave Nulle, who finds outspoken’ but here I was, the best pupil in the class.” He pur- joy in all that he does. sued hypnotism for a while, helping people with bothersome Dave Nulle, at the foundation of his vast repertoire of hobissues. Eventually, though, he decided to “become more of the bies, reminds us to embrace every opportunity we are oﬀered. Zamboni man rather than pursue a business in hypnosis.” With each drive out onto the ice, he allows us to forget our Besides mastering the art of Zamboni driving, Dave has stresses and to just appreciate his jolly character. reached a semi-professional level in juggling. He was eager to “A lot of these things seem to say something to me,” comteach students how to juggle as well, and he enjoyed witnessing mented Dave. “Ya know, I feel connected.” He connects work their surprising success. “A lot of kids coming up, well, their skill and play, appreciation and value, knowledge and opportunity; level is just amazing! Sometimes, [juggling] is a little bit obses- anything Dave engages in is met with a dash of his fun-loving sive and you start and you can’t stop.” personality. This outlook is something we can all learn from, esApart from his other interests, one of Dave’s dearest pas- pecially as we brace ourselves for the daily stresses of prelims, sions is dancing. He is quite the dancing maven, with experi- interviews, and our personal lives. ence in Transylvanian, Israeli, Gypsy, Slavic, Middle European, So spice up this campus and sign up for inner tube water and other styles. As I talked with him during the final period of polo, do the Contra Dance, and sing opera in the shower. Eat the hockey game, he demonstrated some Macedonian moves, too much cake on your birthday, study abroad (and dance while kicking his blue suede shoes up in the air while humming an ac- you’re there), and start collecting something meaningful. Teach companying tune. others a quirky skill, ask that hottie out to froyo, and just add a Learning the dance styles of other cultures has been a main bit of fun to everything you do. You can’t enjoy life without havfocus in Dave’s life. To his delight, Dave has had the chance to ing a little fun—whether or not you have a pair of blue suede dance in the native styles of many of the 25-plus countries he shoes. ◊
exploring structural generality in our education
pring is nascent in the Ithaca air. The sun is finally peeping out of its hiding place, blue pockets of sky are beginning to poke holes in the gray winter clouds; stubborn snow is melting away from the grass, the trees, and the cars. We all know this springtime feeling, but it is never complete without the cherry on top: Course Registration. Ah yes. Registration. ’Tis the hectically wonderful time of the year when the Registrar throws open their gates like Walmart opening for a Black Friday shopping spree. The time has come for us to scour the repository from which we choose the classes that will ultimately usher us into the completion of our academic careers. To me, registration is as consequential and anxiety inducing as paying the bills. In the middle of every semester, I religiously run up the stairs to the fourth floor of the Muller Center to see my advisor, in hopes of knocking out preregistration and registration in one ten-minute shot. The week before spring break, I performed this ritual. I arrived at my advisor’s oﬃce heaving for air and asked him how I was doing in terms of completing my major. As he scrutinized my records on the computer screen, he gave me the report. “Well, Ms. Chawala, it looks like you’ve got classes for your major rolling well,” he said with squinting eyes. A flood of relief filled me until my advisor spoke again. “But…” he paused. “Your general education seems a tad behind. I think it’s time I show you the gen-ed sheet.” My advisor swiveled his chair around to open the bottom drawer of his filing cabinet. He took out a horizontally oriented form and slammed it down on the table. He proceeded to entertain me with a rehearsed protocol speech. According to the speech, the Ithaca College General Education Program requires all students to complete a set of geneds from a variety of fields. Gen-eds are supposed to provide students with the resources necessary to embark on what the College believes will be a “lifetime of inquiry, discovery, and responsible citizenship.” To achieve this, the program aims to foster literacy in the liberal arts, science, mathematics, history, and other fields, so that students can achieve an understanding of concepts, perspectives, and methodologies at a cross-curriculum level. In this way, the program brings with it an ultimate end goal: eﬀective communication and appreciation of diverse cultures and perspectives. The gen-ed sheet looked as if the Martha Stewart of education had concocted a cheap and simple recipe for a successfully diverse mindset: one and a half cups of Self and Society, a quarter cup each of Visual Expression, Science, and Mathematics and
Formal Reasoning, and finally, a pinch of Language and History for garnish. While I was still gazing at the gen-ed sheet, my advisor added that if I did not complete these gen-eds in time for graduation, not only would I become a super senior, but I would prolong the process of becoming oﬃcially licensed as a “diverseminded student” by the College. This “one-stop shop” attitude reflects a typical American approach to commoditization, often with the goal of simplifying things, and it is not unique to Ithaca College. While it has been visible in our consumer behavior for some time, with industrial giants and gargantuan warehouses selling a myriad of products to the masses in one confined space, this idea has become the norm in mainstream education in recent years. As students, we have fallen into this trap, wherein we are told to choose arbitrarily from a set of pre-selected courses in order to fulfill certain standards and goals. But these are intentionally bland enough to apply to every individual and are set by a group that is paid to decide what counts as solid preparation for the future and a valuable contribution to society. According to the Ithaca College General Education Program’s mission statement, we are pushed to be diverse in our thinking, to explore ourselves as individuals, and to formulate our beliefs. However, we are, in eﬀect, crudely shepherded en masse into becoming “diverse” by means of conformity while we unconsciously adhere to the instructions of our herdsmen. We are taught that our institution’s formula is an “important tool” needed to “survive” in our study abroad endeavors, future careers, and interactions within our society; but the path that the administration leads us down is treated as uniformly applicable to each individual learner. We have never been encouraged to make our own ends meet, to seek out our own experiences, and to forge personal connections with the things we learn. Ithaca College is not the only institution poisoned by this mindset. Others follow their own formulae to achieve some universally pertinent outcome. Take the Air Force Academy, for example. In January 2007, the Air Force launched a new mandatory education program for Service members as part of a larger eﬀort to expand the Academy’s “dynamic global mission.” Known as the Air Force Culture and Language Center (AFCLC), here to-be militant combaters, jet fliers, and drone droppers participate in various programs intended to prepare them for the demands of the Service. According to the AFCLC’s mission statement, the primary goal is to “provide the Air Force with a ‘one-stop shop’ for language, region and cultural force development.” Although the Culture and Language Center provides a vast quantity of mo-
tives for and explanations as to why and how they execute these particular programs for Total Force Airmen, the ultimate goal appears to be to furnish the Service with the expertise required for cross-cultural competence. Looking at the situation from the perspective of college and military students, what exactly is the problem here? While “cross-cultural competence” and “responsible citizenship” seem like reasonable goals, there are problems with the assumptions of programs like Ithaca College’s General Education Program and the AFCLC, and the eﬀects they have on students and Service members. Presented as a great opportunity for students, both of these institutions attempt to establish some abstract standard of cultural competence and, through rigid requirements, posit it as a means of gaining monetary and authoritative success. Moreover, these standards can only be reached after completing programs that are composed of carefully constructed activities that promote the use of quantitative measurements in cultural analysis. However, these activities vary both in their validity and in their real-life applicability. For instance, one of the AFCLC’s class activities calls for students to witness, interpret, and evaluate a scenario in which an American citizen interacts with a foreigner in everyday settings. If an American citizen interacting with a Japanese foreigner witnesses the Japanese person having shaky knees, stumbling over words, and displaying hesitancy, the American is taught to make an assumption, directly based on this isolated encounter, about Japanese culture as a whole by using his handy-dandy cultural theorem toolkit. The shaky knees and stumbling words evidence that the Japanese inherently possess high levels of uncertainty. The hesitant behavior means that the culture shares a high degree of detachment. Altogether: Japan is concluded to have a high-context culture, one that embraces formal, indirect communication and hence produces formal, indirect people. But
isn’t it possible that the Japanese person was just having a bad day? On top of the ingrained compulsion for measurement, the AFCLC also boasts the concept of “leadership” in its curriculum. The word is thrown around emptily in its mission statement, vision, origin, course instructions, and interpretations. It tries to cover up this abstraction with synonyms such as “management,” “organization,” and “proficiency,” words that imply a need to almost forcibly engage in modification of cultural zones that are diﬀerent from our own. These goals may contain imperialistic undertones, but the military justifies them by proclaiming our need for “national security” and to carry out operations in key countries in the Middle East, where “the contrast between rich and poor nation states is increasingly sharp; and the ability of terrorist organizations to directly threaten United States interests is increasing daily.” This further mechanizes the call for “cross-cultural” examination, giving it a business spin by applying theories and models that the institution invented to produce a particular, and arguably predetermined, outcome. But the problem with this system is that it does not regard the naturally moving frequencies in the world, nor accounts for the diversity of human experience. Looking at the situation in American colleges and in the Armed Forces, we can see that intercultural communication is nothing more than a tool employed to service this business- and military- (read: money- and power-) crazed world. When we hear the term “intercultural communication,” we most likely imagine a discourse of symbols between two distinct peoples, an exchange and merging of the verbal and non-verbal from diﬀering backgrounds, a meeting to express and consummate emotions and thought we discover to be universal. Of course, placing a finger on one definition seems impossible in a pursuit so crucial for the improvement of our human condition. What intercultural communication can be, in my perspective, is something that transcends words, symbols, and even culture. It is you embarking on a great modest struggle. This struggle, specifically, is to actively embody something separate from you. This is done by letting yourself become vulnerable to diﬀering human conditions that smack you in their rawest forms to create a kaleidoscope of perspectives—perspectives with symmetries and colors you must bear with care in your life. Simply put, it is a performance that requires you to physically, verbally, and emotionally embody one that may become your other “you;” a process executed with empathy, compassion, and honesty. By triangulating these three things, you become humane. That is exactly what education needs more of in this country: it needs more humanity. ◊
This ‘one-stop shop’ attitude reﬂects a typical American approach to commoditization.
art by CARLOS KONG
9. “Jump Around” by House of Pain. Even though House of Pain split in 1996 in order to allow members to pursue their solo careers, they regrouped in 2010 for a reunion tour.
s r e d won
revisiting the nostalgic glory of the nineties
shamed as I am to admit it, I’m guilty of claiming the nineties for my own. I was born in 1994, which means I was an impressive six years old by the time the year 2000 came around. This means I didn’t “grow up” in the nineties; I was too busy crawling around like a toddler. And yet, this is an appropriation that many people my age are guilty of perpetuating. Every so often, a Facebook post about being a “true nineties kid” would completely dominate my newsfeed. Everyone from my old high school would fall into the trap of reminiscing about cartoons, boy bands, and Lite Brites (invented in 1967) which might say something about our perception of time. But for the most part, the people who glorify the nineties are not, regardless of how loudly they protest otherwise, real nineties kids. To be a nineties kid is to have lived a large part of your midchildhood in the nineties; by Urban Dictionary’s standards, you would have be to be born anywhere between 1982 and 1991. If anything, the young adults claiming to be nineties kids nowadays are really more like nineties babies. The only people who can claim to be the part of the coveted “nineties kids” group on campus are grad students, PhD candidates, and an elite group of seniors. Then why is it that we all scramble to claim that we grew up in the nineties, when we really grew up in the 2000s? It probably wasn’t for the fashion. Slap bracelets and backwards caps were popular, as were overalls and nylon, neon-colored windbreakers. Biker shorts became more than just exercise gear, and Saved By the Bell popularized Skids and Zubaz pants, the ones that came in neon prints with elastic around the ankle, so you could wear them while also showing off your Doc Martens. We probably don’t love the nineties for its music either, no matter how much we like to talk about our beloved HitClips
EMMA HARMAN music players which, by the way, only played one-minute clips, whereas most iTunes song previews today are a full 30 seconds longer. The nineties were host to musicians like the Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync, Britney Spears, and the Spice Girls, though VH1’s list of the “100 Greatest Songs of the 90s” also lists Nirvana, Madonna, and Eminem amongst the decade’s musical contributors. Going by this list, it wasn’t a revolutionary decade in terms of music. Pop and dance-pop were on the rise, but the songs being produced were hardly genre-defining. Rock remained popular, but it wasn’t redefined, just made more “alternative” with the popular reception of bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., and Green Day. Still, the nineties had its gems, and a lot of them are memorable, even if they were only one-hit wonders. Each one is packed with enough nostalgia (whether real or feigned) to send you into a neon-hazed, Saturday-morning-cartoon tailspin. In the spirit of recapturing that nineties glow, the following list will detail the top ten nineties one-hit wonders from VH1. The list adheres to VH1’s standards, which allows the occasional two-hit wonder to slip in under the radar. For the criteria of a “true” one-hit wonder, you might want to look at Wayne Jancik’s book, The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders, which describes a one-hit wonder as a song that fits a specific criterion: it must be “an act that has won a position on Billboard’s national, pop, Top 40 just once.” 10. “One of Us” by Joan Osborne. Unlike some other artists on the list, Osborne didn’t fade after her song climbed the charts—the song won her a Grammy nomination, a pattern that would continue with her later albums.
8. “Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik. Sheik continued producing music after the song’s success, and is the writer behind the music for the popular Broadway musical Spring Awakening. 7. “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. The song was Vanilla Ice’s biggest and only break; his popularity declined when it turned out that the personal information he shared in interviews was mostly false. He settled back into the realm of motocross, and continued to release music up until 2008. 6. “Closing Time” by Semisonic. The song earned Semisonic a Grammy nomination, but the band stopped releasing music in 2001, when the band members opted to pursue solo projects. 5. “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba, a pop-punk anarchist band. The music website Discogs claims that the group used the money they made from their chart-topping song to fund various campaigns that aligned with their political leanings. The band finally broke up in 2012. 4. This one needs no formal introduction: Los Del Río’s “Macarena” was the dance craze of the nineties. In fact, in 2002, VH1 named “Macarena” the greatest one-hit wonder of all time. 3. “Rico Suave” by Gerardo. The song elicited contradictory reactions; VH1 ranked it on its “Greatest Songs of the Nineties” and “Greatest One-Hit Wonders” lists, but music magazine Blender listed it as #37 on its “Worst
Songs Ever” list, and AOL Music (which should impart a separate blast of nostalgia all on its own—remember dialup?) ranked it #15 on its own “Worst Songs Ever” list. 2. “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. This song was the group’s biggest hit stateside, but they fared better in their native U.K. The group has their own Twitter feed (verified, of course) and, surprisingly, their tweets are less about being shirtless, and more about the state of politics in Britain. 1. An iconic song whose popularity persists to this day; it’s featured in various movies and commercials, and, perhaps most tellingly, it has been covered on the television show Glee. The honor of the top one-hit wonder of the nineties—the ultimate earworm of a misclaimed generation goes to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” And singer Sir Mix-a-Lot, otherwise known as Anthony Ray, is not looking to retire his era-defining anthem anytime soon. In an interview with The Village Voice, he observed, “A lot of people hate their hit song. Have you ever noticed that? They’re like, ‘I’m bigger than just that song.’ […] So with ‘Baby Got Back’ I said, ‘Hey, it’s a blessing. I’m going to live it, I’m going to have fun with it, and I’ve been doing it for over 20 years.’” If this list is anything to go by, the nineties was a mishmash of influences. It was the beginning of the age of the Internet, the era before the rise of social networks and hyperconnection. To many, it represented a simpler time. Even if that has more to do with the connotations of childhood and less to do with an actual fondness for the nineties, this could be the reason why kids whose actual childhood was in the 2000s still rush to claim they’re a “true nineties kid.” Even so, being a child of the 2000s doesn’t exclude you from consuming nineties culture. If you define a “true nineties kid” in terms of the cartoons that individual watched or the toys he or she played with, then a 2000s kid would fit the criteria (and they do; going by the articles on the web, most of the Internet users prove their nineties cred by comparing childhood memories to lists titled “You’re a nineties kid if you remember…”). Since decades blend and shift, trying to quantify a cultural generation becomes difficult. So reminisce about boy bands, joke about those clothes you used to buy at the Limited Too, try and remember where you were when you first heard Britney Spears’s “Lucky,” but don’t worry too much about what decade you truly “belong” to. Either way, HitClips were still a rip-off. ◊
art by LAUREN O’NEAL and JENNY ZHAO
art by SANTI SLADE layout by JEN KEEFE
re you a Belieber? If so, you should know that your numbers are dwindling—the cure for Bieber Fever has finally been found, and Justin Bieber’s true fans are being put to the test. His recent escapades—flipping oﬀ paparazzi, driving recklessly, and now smoking weed—haven’t helped at all. When did the nation go from being Bieberstruck to being Bieber-struck down? Even my 13-year-old little sister doesn’t like him anymore. At the time of writing, whatdoestheinternetthink.net says the majority of content about him on the Internet—65.1% —is negative (Barack Obama has an even worse score), but maybe we shouldn’t put too much stock into a site that says the Internet is also 61.3% positive about “dead babies.” Instead, let’s look at how Justin Bieber rose from obscurity to fame, what caused all the hype, and what’s causing his current downfall. Have you ever been passed on the ski slopes by a 12-yearold kid? They’re probably going down at a bajillion miles per hour and doing tricks and jumps along the way. And there you are, a first-timer, falling on your butt every few feet and embarrassing yourself. Have you ever seen a sevenyear-old piano prodigy? Playing “Beethoven’s Fifth,” no less—and then there’s you, who likes to play “Chopsticks” every once in a while. Or maybe you yourself were that kid, skiing down the slopes at a million miles per hour, and even playing “Beethoven’s Fifth” on the piano while you were at it. It remains a fact of life that when someone very young can do something very well for his age, it is very impressive. Justin Bieber’s first YouTube video was posted by his mom, Pattie Mallette, when he was just twelve. People can say that, “he sounds like a girl,” “he hasn’t even hit puberty yet,” and, my personal favorite, “he inhales helium before he sings LOL,” but that doesn’t negate the fact that young Justin had both talent and the power of youth on his side. He made people question what they had done with their own lives. Why weren’t they little 12-year-old prodigies?! Plus, he was cute, and all the pre-
teen (okay, and even some college) girls loved him. Part of Bieber’s success can be attributed to social media. “Social media helped launch my career,” the singer explained to Forbes. “Without the Internet and without YouTube, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to put my music out there and have people hear it.” Bieber was accidentally discovered by a talent manager, and then word of mouth brought him to a contract with Usher. And then there’s his Facebook (the number five most followed celebrity, with 51 million fans) and Twitter (the fifth most followed person on the site, with almost 35.5 million followers). The star is on Twitter every few hours, retweeting his fans’ tweets and updating Beliebers on his own life. He may have never been to places like India, but the connectivity aﬀorded by sites like Facebook and Twitter have allowed Bieber’s albums to reach number one there, too. Yeah, Justin gets out there. But here’s where it gets interesting; people on the Internet are mostly negative when it comes to Justin Bieber, yet his videos and social networking sites remain among the most viewed and followed of all time. The music video for his number one hit “Baby” is the second most viewed video on YouTube, topped only by “Gangnam Style.” However, “Baby” also happens to be the number one most “disliked” video, followed by more of Bieber’s own music videos and, of course, Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” Watch “Baby” on YouTube and you will find that the comment section is an ongoing struggle between Bieberstruck Beliebers and vicious non-Beliebers. There are as many “I Hate Justin Bieber” groups on Facebook as there are “Justin Bieber—SWAG” groups. His hit movie Never Say Never has a 64% like rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 1.7 out of 10 on IMDB. Needless to say, there are people out there who absolutely hate him. But all these statistics are useless unless we look at the demographics. You might have guessed it, but, for most of the population, the most popular stand on Justin Bieber is that of
He made people question what they had done with their own lives
indiﬀerence. It’s the individuals who really don’t think it’s worth the time to comment on YouTube or weigh in on Internet forums, and who may or may not find his tunes catchy. Even so, Justin has done a pretty good job marketing himself to his target audience: screaming preteen girls. He has created a whole line of products catering to this audience, including nail polish, perfume, body lotion, and even his own Barbie doll. Never Say Never grossed higher first weekend totals than Michael Jackson’s This Is It. Most of the moviegoers were young girls. Cornell Communications Professor Michael Shapiro said that this was a common observation: “It’s not exactly new—there’s a certain appeal that a young man has to young women, and that’s a phenomenon that goes back in my generation to the Beatles and [in] my mother’s generation to Frank Sinatra.” Shapiro also mentioned that it’s pretty easy for a preteen girl to feel some kind of con-
nection with Justin. “It’s fairly typical, especially with celebrities, that sometimes you know more about their private life than you know about your own friend’s private life,” he explains. With Justin Bieber, you can literally see what’s happening in his life behind the scenes. Connecting with his fans through social media drives his popularity, but the thing about social media is that it doesn’t only connect people to celebrities and breaking news—it connects people to their friends, and to their friends’ friends. It is social. Justin Bieber’s fans do the advertising for him. They retweet and repost and reblog, and just like that, Justin Bieber is everywhere. However, there are drawbacks to this social media eﬀect. Although it magnifies Bieber’s popularity and spreads his music, it also magnifies every mistake he ever makes, and spreads it much faster than print magazines and tabloids can. Yes, he likes to drive really fast. He gets fazed whenever he experiences dislike from the doubters. He was caught smoking weed. His relationship with Selena Gomez became the center of his fans’ lives for a very long time, and many girls probably died a little bit inside as soon as they heard he was no longer single. Then Bieber, the heartthrob that he is, was dumped by Selena Gomez in 2012—which is just as well, because she was getting death threats from crazy fans. Who in her position wouldn’t be annoyed? And that’s where the “haters” come in. I honestly doubt that anyone seriously loathes Justin Bieber, that anyone hates him so much they scream to the heavens, “Damn you, Justin Bieber!” No, I believe that people are just tired of his fans, the constant media attention he gets, and the immature decisions that he has been making recently. And of course, once one person jumps on the hater bandwagon, everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Hating Justin Bieber has become the norm, at least from my experience on a college campus; heck, why are you even reading this article? Hate him or love him, Justin Bieber has been at the top of the world for quite a while now. Forbes’ Celebrity 100, which lists the 100 most powerful celebrities every year, has listed Justin Bieber third for two years in a row (2011 and 2012). He was right behind Oprah both years—Oprah! But know this: his fame is unsustainable. Sooner or later, Justin Bieber will fall, and we are seeing signs that point to it already. His fashion and clothing is a little oﬀ-putting. He’s single. My sister doesn’t like him. It’s in times like these that we must ask, WWBD: What would Bieber do? ◊
There’s a certain appeal that a young man has to young women
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sible advantages anyone hoping to play quarterback for the NFL could dream of. His seemingly unbounded potential drew almost every Division I-A football program to court him for his talents, from East Coast powerhouses like the University of Miami, to West Coast contenders such as Stanford and USC. At USC—both his parents’ alma mater, and the school that Todd would ultimately play for—an assistant coach even dropped hints of national championship possibilities for whichever team ended up landing him, months before Todd would play a snap in the NCAA. “It’s a little too early to talk about him getting us to a national championship,” the assistant coach said. ”But I do know
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It began in the crib: light hamstring stretches, plush football toys that Todd’s baby hands could grasp. He teethed on frozen kidneys, and ate only non-processed foods. He was not allowed to eat cake at birthday parties, and instead brought his own that was specially prepared by his parents. As a toddler, he had no walker, and learned to crawl hundreds of yards when his father would bring him to a football field. By age four he could run four miles at an eight-minute mile pace. It was clear that Todd inherited his father’s athleticism and competitive drive, and he tackled his young quarterback training with the same intensity that his father displayed in his foot-
By age four he could run four miles at an eight-minute mile pace.
ball-playing days. As he grew older, Todd’s training grew more and more sophisticated. A team of experts, including a MLB pitching coach, a vision expert, and a sports psychologist, was enlisted to assist in Todd’s development. His throwing motion, hand-eye coordination, footwork, endurance—every feature that aﬀected his ability to perform as a quarterback was meticulously inspected and relentlessly refined. After entering high school in 1984, Todd became the first freshman quarterback to start for varsity at Orange County powerhouse Mater Dei High, a school that has produced two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks. During high school, he threw for over 9,000 yards, which became a national high school record at the time of his graduation. By his senior year, he had graced the cover of California magazine with the title of “Robo QB,” a moniker that would stick with him as his reputation in the national media grew. In a Sports Illustrated feature on Todd, Douglas Looney called him “America’s first test-tube athlete.” Naturally, the expectations for Todd were high—unnaturally high. Here was an athlete who was given the greatest pos-
you can’t get there without a superior quarterback. And he’s a superior quarterback.” But Todd had even greater goals for himself: the Rose Bowl. In an interview for Sports Illustrated, when Looney asked him what he wanted to be, Todd replied that he wanted to be “the best quarterback ever to come out of California,” better even than John Elway of Stanford. And perhaps, more than anything, he wanted to be “the best quarterback who ever threw the ball.” Coming from any other high school quarterback, such a statement would have been ridiculous. From the Robo QB, it was a possibility. Despite his lofty goals, there were times when the pressure of being Todd Marinovich manifested itself. Todd’s intense training, driven by his father Marv, put pressure on the Marinovich family, especially since Marv and Todd’s mother Trudi did not always agree on the nature of Todd’s training. In one incident, Trudi simply refused to let Todd train with Marv, taking the boy to San Diego for the weekend to get him away from the relentless training. Other times she let Todd break his strict diet and
the story of the todd marinovich experiment
et’s say you wanted to raise an athlete. But not just any athlete—the perfect athlete. Specifically, you want to breed the greatest quarterback to ever play football. So you start with genetics. Take a man who played college football—a lineman who was good enough to make it to the NFL for a few years—and match him up with a woman who set records while swimming in high school. Now you have the perfect set of parents. Your future NFL star will then need an upbringing to match his genetic potential. At first, he will undergo simple exercises, progressing towards the type of training that his dad, who doubles as his trainer, underwent as a professional athlete. His diet will be closely monitored and tailored. This training will continue through high school, and, by the time he graduates, the goal will be a major college football program. And when he’s done with college, he will go on to the NFL to fulfill his destiny.
RALPH RECTO At least that’s the plan. Or almost all of it. There’s just one detail left out. His name will be Todd Marinovich. Marv Marinovich was the architect of this plan. Before his son Todd was born, Marv played college football at USC, where he was a captain of the Trojans’ 1962 national championshipwinning team. Marv was drafted by both the NFL and the AFL, but his career was mediocre at best. He had a penchant for overtraining that eventually wore him down; in three years’ time he was out of the pros, and found work instead as one of the first professional strength and conditioning coaches in football. In recent years, Marv has worked with Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, and MMA fighter BJ Penn. His first and most revered project, however, was the development of Todd. Marv drew from both his deep knowledge of athletic training and from his football experience to shape and mold his son..
art by CARLOS KONG layout by JENNY ZHAO
the band’s members inhibited any sort of success. Through all of this, Todd has attempted a number of comebacks to football. He had a very brief stint in the Canadian Football League that was hampered by injuries. In the early 2000s, then in his thirties, Todd played quarterback in the Arena Football League, even setting the single-game record for touchdown passes with 10 against the Houston Thunderbears. He lasted two years in Arena football before being suspended from the team for a drug-related arrest and numerous on-field incidents with referees. Upon hearing Todd Marinovich’s story, most take the easy conclusion of blaming his father. Any list of the worst sports fathers, whether compiled by ESPN, Barstool Sports, Bleacher Report, or countless others, is likely to have Marv near the top. Some see his obsession to raise a quarterback son as helicopter parenting at its worst. But Todd himself didn’t see it that way. In his first Sports Illustrated interview as a high school quarterback, he said: “There is no way somebody could be made to do all this stuﬀ. I choose to do it.” With his football days gone, now only a relic memorialized in documentaries and what-if speculations, Todd’s main passion today is art. When he wasn’t busy training to be a quarterback as a child, he was an artist. He inherited this trait from his mother, the parent who was more likely to take Todd to a museum than a practice field. He majored in Fine Arts at USC, and even through
took him out to eat fast food. Todd himself dealt with the pressure in other ways. In high school, he began to go to parties, celebrating after the football games of which he was so often the hero. He drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, thereby engaging in typical teenage acts of rebellion, even if his upbringing made him—the child quarterback who teethed on frozen kidneys—anything but a typical teenager. Upon his arrival at USC, Todd was smoking marijuana regularly, and the college scene in Los Angeles facilitated rather than curbed his habit. At first, his play seemed unaﬀected. After a redshirt freshman season, he led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl win and a Pac-10 title in his second year. His third year at USC was less successful. He was suspended from the team briefly for skipping too much class. His play became erratic, and he was not performing as well as he had in his second year. Not long after his third season ended in January of 1991, he was arrested for possession of marijuana and was dismissed from the football team. Yet even this incident did not distract NFL teams from Todd’s skills as a quarterback, and after leaving the Trojans he declared his intention to enter the draft. The Oakland Raiders, the same team that Marv played for almost 30 years prior, snagged Todd with the 24th overall pick. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre was the 33rd overall pick in the same draft.
He passed through the NFL’s drug tests by keeping bottles of urine given by friends in his fridge.
Todd did not see the field much in his first year with the Raiders, though he enjoyed the extravagance that a professional footballer salary could aﬀord. While traveling from one NFL city to the next for away games, he partied with his teammates, and soon he gained a reputation for his morning-after stories. Marijuana was also still a part of his life; he passed through the NFL’s drug tests by keeping bottles of urine given by friends in his fridge. Once, his stock of urine ran out, and in a hurry he was forced to use the urine of one of his friends who was still inebriated from a weekend of partying. The urine registered a BAC of .32, and the team forced Todd to check into detox. In two-and-a-half seasons with the Raiders, Todd started 8 games, throwing for 1345 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 9 in-
the roller coaster of his football career and drug addictions he managed to keep his love for art intact. Nowadays, he makes a living using the training he received on the canvas, not on the field. Despite the switch, a cursory glance through his online art gallery reveals his deeply-held love for the sport of football and for quarterbacking itself. There are multiple pieces featuring Terry Bradshaw, quarterback for the Steelers teams that dominated the NFL during the seventies when Todd was just a child. There is also a self-portrait depicting Todd as a rookie, clad in the silver and black of the Oakland Raiders with a football nested comfortably in his hands. It’s been over 20 years since Todd first put on the Raiders’ uniform, and in those 20 years he did not become the greatest
terceptions. He failed a total of three drug tests, and after the third failed test, he was dismissed from the Raiders for good. He would never play in the NFL again. Marv Marinovich’s plan was derailed by the demons that haunted his son, and its final steps would never come to fruition. Todd spent his years after the NFL addled by his drug use. He has been arrested on numerous occasions, mostly for possession of illicit substances. Todd traveled after his dismissal from the Raiders. He became addicted to heroin. He tried his hand at music, playing with a band called Scurvy, but the drug habits of
quarterback ever, or anything even close to it. But perhaps his life is a lesson of how dynamic a human persona can be. In those 20 years, Todd has been a football player, a druggie, a band member, a recovering addict, an artist—and now, with his wife Alix and the family they have started, a husband and a father. To define Todd singularly as a failed quarterback would not do his incredible story justice, even if most of the public remembers him for little else. The Robo QB proved to have many more dimensions than what his nickname would suggest, and a life more varied than a playbook. ◊
In those 20 years, Todd has been a football player, a druggie, a band member, a recovering addict, an artist—and now, with his wife Alix and the family they have started, a husband and a father.
a rilo kiley review
éjalo, nuestra cosa! Leave us alone. It’s our thing! We were in mourning for our dearly departed. The new album release has opened up my mood though; it’s not hyped and I crave sharing. For those of you who can do “The Frug,” know why “Jack Killed Mom,” and always see that “Silver Lining,” I’ve got good news—RK is back. Although the band went on an indefinite hiatus in 2010, as of April 2nd they’ve released a treat for their many grieving fans. Rkives includes a collection of previously unreleased tracks and B-sides. For those of you who are entirely confused: welcome. Welcome to the world of Rilo Kiley. So what exactly is RK? Well, Wikipedia refers to them as an indie-rock band. But despite its insightful erudition, Wikipedia is wrong. Rilo is so much more than some indie band or hipster enigma. The indie/hipster label embraces a popular quirkiness that welcomes posers and those who try to externalize uniqueness, while RK exudes intrinsic creativity that comes without aﬀectation and crosses over into multiple genres of music and fandom. Rilo Kiley is beyond classification, bringing listeners and lyrics together in a way that feels personal and authentic, yet divine. Much of what makes RK so believable is the lead singer Jenny Lewis. As a former child actor, current solo-career singer-songwriter, and hot ginger, Jenny Lewis is Rilo Kiley. There is a quality to her voice that emits vulnerability and confidence at the same time. Her expression oﬀers ethereal peaks, resonant and woody tone, and spontaneous syncopated rhythm to each track. Whether it’s a hesitant and soulful ballad, a cutesy and daring pop song, or a powerful and raspy ode to country music, it always works. Her voice fits into almost any style of music; some songs are bluesy/sultry, some country/ funky, and some pop/rock. The range of songs is incredible, yet every song is unmistakably Rilo. What’s more is that the group’s lyrics are raw and emotional, but never weepy. Even the most soft-spoken of ballads is unsus-
pectingly genuine. Her objections can prevail without coming oﬀ as whining—an accomplishment made possible by Jenny’s devious combination of inflection and lyric. Although some songs may appear to be the result of an acid trip (and some may very well be), the imagery and shading of each song lead me to believe there is a deeper underlying meaning. After Rilo broke up in 2010, Jenny endeavored a solo career as a singer-songwriter, and I assure you: it’s a hit. (Acid Tongue. Check it out.) She also went on to sing with Scottish-American singer-songwriter Johnathan Rice, forming a group called Jenny and Johnny. If you were at the Phoenix concert at Cornell two years ago, you may remember them as the opening act. You may also remember one crazy girl who, although completely oblivious to Phoenix, was jumping up and down for the opening act, screaming, “I love you, Jenny!” I will neither confirm nor deny who that was. I should really give some credit to Blake Sennett too, though. For all of you childhood Boy Meets World fans—remember Joey the Rat? Harley’s short and all-too-agreeable sidekick plus puny school bully? Well, that’s Blake. Better known as singer and guitar player for RK. Okay, credit paid—now back to Jenny. “She’s meteoric and I’m... mediocre?” Sennett once confessed. He wasn’t wrong. Listening to her is like dreaming a melody—it’s like she’s singing a story. Her songs have a way of transporting you to the gleaming streets of L.A. and, at the same time, to a backwoods cabin in Oklahoma. She’s hip and homey, but not hipster (even if she may have fans and listeners who are). I think it’s her incredible funk that makes this all work somehow. RK’s original band mascot was a possum. (But really, what is funkier than a possum? Nocturnal, marsupial—possums have it all.) Possums are considered one of the most nervous animals, given their reaction when confronted by a predator—since they aren’t well equipped for fighting, they act dead, or “play possum.” In the September 2008 issue of
the drum—and Jenny’s vocals awaken the melody throughout. “Runnin’ Around” is another catchy one: “She’s sitting pretty underneath the southern skies. She’s so damn pretty, even he forgets he’s alive.” And if you can’t do “The Frug,” then you should probably brush up on your moves with track 16. Honestly, Rilo is not hyped enough—yet. Although some, like Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, believe that Rilo is undeniably indie-rock, I would not be so quick to group RK in that category. I think their authenticity and diversity prevents them from being categorized as such. Despite mixed opinions on the genre issue, Jenny’s genuine ability is undeniable. As Crutchfield admitted in a recent interview with Pitchfork, “she sings like a real singer.” As simple as this statement is, I think it sums up Jenny’s appeal: Jenny is real. But I’ll let you form your own opinion: should RK receive more hype than they do? Can hype examine without over-analyzing? Can hype exist without deliberate classification? Does hype detract from sincerity? I think it is a band’s response to hype that determines whether mainstreaming will be their ruin. Rilo can handle the pressure; Jenny is confident in who she is as a musician—even if that happens to encompass multiple genres. Hype can’t touch her. So, “Go Ahead,” hype them up—they’ll still RK your world. ◊
art by LAUREN O’NEAL
The Daily Times, Jenny says, “this nervousness represented the band well at the time.” Possums are quirky and adaptable— and it’s exactly that unique, nervous confidence that makes Jenny’s fans connect to her music. RK’s new album Rkives is no diﬀerent. Although the album includes a cassette as a bonus for the ultra-hipsters, listeners can settle right back into the steady vibes of Jenny Lewis. (I happen to appreciate the cassette. My Mercedes, Maurice [DOB: 1992], only has the ability to play cassette tapes.) “Jack Killed Mom” is my go-to track when Maurice breaks down in the countryside. Indicated by the title, the song tells a bluesy story of a boy named Jack and his relationship with his mom, and Johnathan Rice begins to tell the story in spoken word halfway through. What is especially fun for me is that the song typically culminates with Jenny and I shouting, “Jack killed Mom. Was Jack wrong?” over and over until Maurice’s ignition starts again. This song shows Jenny is not afraid to get weird and be mistaken for a preacher, a stripper, or a lunatic. I appreciate that. Despite my personal memories with “Jack Killed Mom,” I think my favorite song on Rkives is “Let Me Back In,” better known as “I Love L.A.” This wistful ballad makes even those who have never been to L.A. think about the good times in the City of Angels. I also recommend “It’ll get you there.” It’s classic Jenny: trippy and transcendental. The tune starts with trancelike guitar chords and ends with the beating, living pulse of
layout by RODRIGO UGARTE
frankenstein the dubious hope of the quantiﬁed self movement KEVIN BURRA
ast March, the Quantified Self Movement was dubbed one of the “Top Five Tech Trends” at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival, which, as far as attracting “hype” goes, makes for a pretty powerful magnet (or should I say bug-zapper?). The self-proclaimed “movement” consists of people who use an expanding arsenal of gadgets to log countless details of their everyday lives. Hours slept, mood rating, GPS location, steps walked, heart rate, blood pressure, conversations had—any metric imaginable— are all recorded by various wearable technologies, and sent to a computer so that the data points can be graphed, analyzed, and (of course) shared with friends. The quantification of individuals, though traceable back to the earliest censuses, has increased rapidly in the wake of industrialization. Societies have become more dependent on collecting and analyzing information for stated purposes like “workplace eﬃciency” or “homeland security,” and there are plenty of people in distant, powerful places—politicians, marketers, CEOs, healthcare providers, insurance companies—to whom individuals are nothing more than collections of disparate data points. What is diﬀerent about the Quantified Self Movement is that there are no distant, Big Brother figures in play. Rather, with the motto “Self-Knowledge through Numbers,” the quantification is intimate and internalized. Users are led to self-track, and understand themselves through an external, data-based medium—all in the name of “self-improvement.” The Quantified Self Movement, should it become more popular, will be undoubtedly contentious. The criticisms—from practical privacy concerns, to Foucauldian notions of biopower, to the psychological eﬀects of such “self-help”—are numerous. Rather than try to predict the pros and cons of a movement that is just gaining speed, however, I am going to look backwards, and explore how an American historical figure and ancestor to the Quantified Self Movement was advocated and critiqued. As far as legendary figures in American thought go, there are few who have made a greater impact than the man on the hundred-dollar bill. Benjamin Franklin’s aphorisms, such as “there are no gains without pains,” “a penny saved is a penny earned,” and “honesty is the best policy,” continue to adorn
countless grandmothers’ needlepointed doilies; his inventions, including the lightning rod and bifocals, are still used today. Despite his modest working-class roots, Benjamin Franklin’s Wikipedia entry is quite robust: he was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat—not to mention that he was one of the country’s Founding Fathers. How did he do it? In his widely read autobiography, he attributed the “constant Felicity of his life, down to his 79th Year” to one of his greatest inventions—his book of virtues. When he was just twenty years old, Franklin devised a “bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection,” in which he would keep track of where he erred in his behavior on a table marked with the day on one axis, and the Thirteen Virtues on the other. These virtues were:
Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation Let all your things have their places, let each part of your business have its time Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut oﬀ all unnecessary actions
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths [sic], or habitation Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
“The Perfectibility of Man! Ah heaven, what a dreary theme! The perfectibility of the Ford car! The perfectibility of which man? I am many men. Which of them are you going to perfect? I am not a mechanical contrivance.” Lawrence exalts the spontaneous, impulsive, extravagant element in humanity, which are the very things that Franklin, with his rigid self-logging and self-critique, sought to annihilate. With current gadgets such as the Slow Control Digital Fork, which records how quickly users eat and chides them for gluttony, it seems as though Franklin’s ideas of perfectibility are coming back to the fore. Thus, as we grapple with the hype of the Quantified Self Movement, we must ask ourselves: will we let the technologically-mediated path to perfection lead us to a golden future of celebrated Franklins, or to a bleak dystopia of abject Frankensteins? ◊
Rarely use venery but for health or oﬀspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation
Imitate Jesus and Socrates
So, if Franklin erred by sleeping with one of the “older” mistresses whom, with all their “knowledge of the world” and “plump lower bodies,” he found so “agreeable” (see his “Advice on the Choice of a Mistress” for a good time), he would place a red “X” on that day’s measure of Chastity. Focusing on improving one virtue each week, he reflected, “I should have, (I hoped) the encouraging Pleasure of seeing on my Pages the Progress I made in Virtue, by clearing successively my Lines of their Spots, till in the End by a Number of Courses, I should be happy in viewing a clean Book after a thirteen Weeks, daily Examination.” Of course, technology has changed since then. Whereas Franklin had a little notebook that he carried around to record his transgressions himself, those involved in the Quantified Self Movement have an increasingly large selection of devices that rely more on objective data collection than subjective reflections of Virtue. Still, the idea is the same—the externalization and scrutiny of personal details allows for self-improvement. Perfection of the soul relies on a tool to rationalize it. Since the publication of Franklin’s autobiography in 1791, this idea has been imbued in the American consciousness. In Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, for example, at the funeral of Jay Gatsby, the late millionaire’s father brings his son’s schedule for self-improvement, revealing how Gatsby, like Franklin, tried to perfect himself through the use of an external device. Despite its pervasiveness, one 20th century British writer, by the name of D.H. Lawrence, was not having any of this. Responsible for meditations on the beauty in aberrant behavior, such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lawrence compares this act of self-creation, wherein the human will “automizes that being according to a given precept,” to Frankenstein’s monster. In a critique of the American cult of industriousness, he laments,
“I read this boss article recently in Landscape Architecture Magazine which quoted John Stilgoe: ’We became a people who stopped dancing and started to watch others dance.’ Everybody should figure out how to simultaneously dance, and watch each other dance. Sounds like a dance circle! Those are great. And I don’t think any of that was metaphorical, I’m just a big fan of groovin’.”
art by CARLOS KONG layout by PETER ZAWISTOWICZ
Ithaca College, ‘13 “The boombox is my way to get everyone to have a shared experience. Music has evolved into being such an individualistic experience, and also just seems scheduled into our routines. I love being able to disrupt that for a moment in time whether you listen, dance, talk about it, it’s really all I seek to accomplish.”
His boombox, Betty White
Cornell, ‘14 “I’m a manager at Dilmun and associate editor at the Sun, so I’m constantly straddling a weird line between farming and journalism.”
Cornell, Professor “I started the Cornell History class in the Spring of 2011. I was interested in Cornell history as a student, and worked in the archives. As a faculty member, I think it’s important that students realize how influential Cornell has been over the years, as well as the events and people that helped shape the university.”
watch & listen
robert & matthew & cora
maggie smith & understanding the downton abbey phenomenon
I Ulysses Smith
Cornell, ‘13 “I got involved with the SA during the Fall of my freshman year. I don’t know if there’s much hype about me, but I would say the best indication that I made it was when I got Susan Murphy to use the expression ‘throwing shade’ in a meeting. #bawse”
photos by MEAGHAN McSORLEY and MADELINE McCANN
don’t watch TV. But after both my roommate and grandmother told me to watch Downton Abbey, I knew I had to at least give it a shot. What show could possibly be so good that an 88-yearold and an 18-year-old would independently choose to watch it—and for hours on end? Determined to figure out what all the buzz was about, I sat down at my computer with a glass of milk and some sunflower seeds and started the first episode at approximately 11 p.m. on a quiet December night. I stumbled out of my room at three a.m., already three episodes deep, and could do little more than wash and go straight to bed. When I emerged for breakfast at 11:30 the next morning looking anything but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, my mother raised an eyebrow at me and asked, “How late did you stay up?” “Plenty late,” I responded. I then walked right back into my bedroom and proceeded to spend the next 36 hours binging on the rest of the first season, pausing only to sleep, eat, shower, and send my best friend the following text message: ”So I just started watching Downton Abbey and it is SO GOOD, omg, you seriously need to start it, I can’t even.” A few hours later, she replied: “Finished the first two episodes. So good.” By the next weekend, I had started—and successfully completed—the second season. My best friend, meanwhile, had long since surpassed me, and was already halfway through the third season. Through it all, I dreamt about Matthew and Mary, longed to slap Thomas across the face, and quoted the Dowager Countess nonstop. I even noticed a marked improvement in my British accent. May I reiterate that I don’t watch TV? Even so, my life was Downton.
art by CLARRIE SCHOLTZ So what makes Downton Abbey so good? Before I began my foray into Julian Fellowes’ rich world of countesses and duchesses, teas, and turn-of-the-century family drama, I decided to ask my roommate whether my new television show of choice was truly worth it. “It’s great,” she said, “but I don’t know, I can’t watch too much of it at once.” “But didn’t you watch the first two seasons in, like, two days?” I retorted. “I mean, yeah. But with some shows, you can just watch and watch without even really having to think about what you’re watching. Not with this show,” she explained. “With this one, you really have to think a lot.” I thanked her for the warning, logged into my Netflix account, and started up the first episode. My roommate was spot-on: it was complex. In that first episode alone, I noted that everything, down to the visual presentation of the show, was intricate; even the camera angles, the perfectly green grass, and that gold and glowing castle provided a pleasant sensory overload. There were plots and subplots, running themes and tropes and jokes. The characters were full and three-dimensional, and behaved like real people. The show
watch & listen struck me as being a lot like life, except it wasn’t—it was far too vivid, too full to be real. After all, who really has to worry about finding an heir, protecting a vast estate, and covering up scandals that could potentially ruin your family’s good name and fortune—all in a single day? Those luscious, rolling lawns, the narrative’s twists and turns, and those characters’ distinct qualities, desires, and secrets all made the show feel new and exciting to me. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, except it was. It was Gone With the Wind, turn-of-thecentury England-style. Unlike my roommate, I found Downton’s vividness of plot, setting, and characters to be refreshing (not to mention all-consuming). They sucked me into a world in which I felt like an active participant, one in which I was feeling and thinking and viscerally reacting just as the characters were. In other words, watching Downton felt a lot like reading a book—except, in this case, the visuals were already painted out for me in big, bold colors. And, speaking as the girl who read 42 books over the summer between third and fourth grade, I can tell you that anything that gives me the feeling of reading—but somehow even better—is a very good thing. You’re probably thinking, Okay that explains why you, and any other Gone With the Wind-loving, English major type would like the show. What about the other eight million plus people? My first answer is that Americans are often fascinated with England; and, more specifically, traditional English social classes. America, a country in which (in theory) even the poorest child has a chance to grow up and become President, has never had such a rigid, universally-accepted social class system; thus, watching Downton, a show in which the class system is exposed in all its intricacy, compensates for what we’ve never experienced. The English class system is not the only pleasantly foreign aspect of Downton Abbey: the fact that the show is set in the early 20th century—before iPhones, computers, and even before refrigerators—transports audience members into a time when life was considered simpler, thereby providing them with an escape from the complications of modern life. After all, during the majority of the first season, it seems that the biggest issue girls have to worry about is entertaining gentleman callers and picking the right handsome, well-bred man to marry. However, Downton’s best moments arguably occur when its characters echo sentiments of the modern era. While listening to the characters lament about how complicated the world had become with the onset of WWI and all the new technology— telephones! electricity! oh my!—I could not help but be reminded of concerns I have heard today that the modern world, between the war in the Middle East and the latest Apple product, is well, just too complicated. People like watching Downton because they can see themselves standing at the brink of a new social era, wondering, like Robert, if their ways of life will soon
be obsolete—or, alternatively, see themselves rolling around in a swivel chair, like the Dowager Countess, wishing to know what, in God’s name, this latest godforsaken invention is. Like any good TV show, people watch Downton because of its life-like, dynamic characters—which, as I mentioned earlier, are arguably just as intricate as the estate’s front lawn, or Mrs. Patmore’s cooking as it’s set on the dining room table. Everyone either knows a Mary—that headstrong, leading-lady type who will fight her way through anything to get what she wants (and looks absolutely stunning every step of the way)—or wants to be her; everyone knows an Anna—or, at least, someone with her level of kindness and understanding; and everyone knows an Edith—and if you don’t, then that means you’re probably the Edith of your friend group (sorry). And, although you probably don’t know anyone like Matthew Crawley, you can at least relate to wanting to marry someone as smart, dashing, and caring as he is. All right, that’s great and all, I hear you saying, I guess it’s kind of relatable. But it just seems so melodramatic! And guess what? You’re right. Which is where the real reason why people watch Downton Abbey comes in: people like Downton because, well, it’s a lot like Gossip Girl, or even As The World Turns. In other words, they like it because it’s like life, but it isn’t; in fact, it’s kind of trashy. But it’s all wrapped up in period dress and some rouge, so you don’t even have to feel bad about watching it. I mean, it’s on PBS, isn’t it? And PBS is educational, right? And it’s kind of historically accurate. Yeah, totally. Ultimately, my newfound obsession with Downton Abbey (and my eternal debt to both my roommate and my grandmother for recommending it to me) comes down to the fact that it’s an extremely well-made show. Sure, it’s a soap opera. Sure, (spoiler alert!) they’ve killed oﬀ far too many characters in the third season for my liking. But, due to its complexity, its vividness, and yes, even its melodrama, one cannot deny that the show is, at worst, compulsively watchable, and, at best, a brilliantly composed series. As architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe supposedly said, “God is in the details.” I could not agree more wholeheartedly. Details are what make any good story come to life; they suck you in and make you a part of their world. It’s why Gone With the Wind is my favorite book, and why Downton is definitely one of my favorite TV shows. Both provide me with an escape; they allow me to tap into my imagination. And sometimes, when I’m overwrought with work and can’t stand to be stuck in my own head any longer, a little trip to Tara or Downton is all I need. And then, of course, there’s one other, arguably more important, reason: Maggie Smith is a boss. ◊
what does your ﬁrst tarantino say about you?
People like Downton because it’s a lot like Gossip Girl.
’m not going to use the tired virginity metaphor. Putin and Dunham have collaboratively beaten it to death and as much capital “L” Love as I have for Lena, she is out of control with the hymen jokes, (and that’s a Daily-Sun-comments-section level of out of control). Oh, but I really wanted to use this quote that had the word “seduction” in it. Damn. Let’s use it anyway because it’s our thesis about dear old Quentin (“old” is not used here as a term of endearment: he just turned 50 and I actually believe he’s getting dementia. He had a supporting role in Amour, probably. You’ll remember him because he was the one who was a terrible actor and should Never Ever Ever Have Been On Screen, Ever)—“The man-child can make a movie as seductive and entertaining as the next, is a whip-smart writer of dialogue, and creates some of the most memorable characters on screen…but looking back at his oeuvre to date, it is starting to seem like he has a bunch of seductive, interesting ways to say a whole lot of nothing.” I read that quote by Anisse Gross for The Rumpus right after Django Unchained came out. In fact, it was probably two minutes after I vehemently asserted that Tarantino has as much of a right to ask Samuel L. Jackson to use the “n” word in an R-rated
art by CLARRIE SCHOLTZ movie as Nicki Minaj has to use it in music that 13-year-olds listen to. After reading the quote, though, I sat in stunned silence for what could have easily been five minutes. Somewhere in the distance, a pane of sugar-glass shattered. A chill ran down Uma Thurman’s spine. “Like a Virgin” played backwards while a circle of pimply teens séance-spoke to David Carradine’s ghost about autoerotic asphyxiation (“You never think it’s going to happen to you, Kiddo”). Quentin Tarantino dropped out of high school at age 15 and worked at a video rental store. This is the most important thing you need to know to understand what I’m about to say: Quentin Tarantino does not make movies about anything. Quentin Tarantino makes movies about movies. He makes movies with “style for the sake of style,” as Larry Fahey says. But to return to our original point, Tarantino worked in a video rental store, and was allegedly really annoying. He recommended movies to a shit-ton of people who honestly just wanted to rewatch Boy in the Plastic Bubble. What did he tell them to watch instead? Probably martial arts, girls with guns, Macaroni Combat, rape and revenge, blaxploitation, Spaghetti Western, caper noirs, gangland camp, hard-boiled crime, Japanese chanbara, et cetera, et cetera. Raise your hand if you can explain every one of those terms. Now put your hand down, because you’re a filthy liar and we all had to
watch & listen Google some of them (and now Google is a little bit worried that you’re a sicko). At this point, Fahey asks, is he a genius? “Or is he simply a regurgitator of the cinematic styles and subjects too obscure for most of us to have seen before?” None of us is willing to answer this question decisively one way or the other. Let’s all avoid the situation and say “BOTH!” However, on a serious note, it really isn’t just one or the other. Even while we recognize that Tarantino does a fair amount of copy-and-pasting, his dialogue is exquisite, his images and characters are striking, and the Tarantino Universe is one of the coolest conspiracies in show biz. Every single shot is just so meticulous that we can’t look away, we can’t move on; we’re still waiting for that culmination of work that finally has it all—the pomp and the circumstance. And it’s because we’ve all had that first Tarantino experience, that oh-so-seductive first two hours of what at first seems like enlightenment but later feels a little nauseating, that we keep hangin’ around. What does your first Tarantino say about you?
true romance You’re old. Or you’re a hipster. Or you’re an old hipster. Or you’re Christian Slater. True Romance was Tarantino’s “first Tarantino,” and that makes it extra special. There is a real, honest love story somewhere amidst all the violence and the Christopher Walken “Sicilian Scene” rapture. Alabama is your favorite prostitute after Vivian Ward (Slater vs. Gere is a sleazebag toss-up). The line that got you: “If you gave me a million years to ponder, I never would have guessed that true romance and Detroit would ever go together.” This was the movie that garnered Tarantino’s dialogue the designation of “gutter poetry.” You’re also never getting over the fact that Drexel Spivey, the dirty, dreadlocked, shiny grills over rotting teeth, drug-peddling pimp, is a 20-year-old before-shot of one Lieutenant Gordon. You’re welcome—Batman and the Joker are figments of Gary Oldman’s coke and syphilis-addled imagination. The things he stole: The Washington Post called this movie “Bonnie and Clyde for the MTV generation,” which is not entirely unfair. As for the pivotal “You’re so cool,” line… please don’t tell me that’s a Gatsby thing, because I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Fitzgerald would not want to be referenced in a movie that features Elvis hallucinations.
reservoir dogs You lucky son of a bitch. Someone loves you very much. You’ll advocate until you’re blue in the face that Tarantino should only make dialogue-driven movies. While you’ll never listen to “Stuck in the Middle with You” again without twitching (you knew there was a reason you
had Malcolm in the Middle stress dreams), you will develop a lifelong aﬀection for Steve Buscemi. This number one ranked independent movie of all time is a crime movie that is a collage of what’s left out of all other crime movies. And, like Tracy Morgan’s doll-hairs, that’s “not worth nothing.” The line that got you: According to Internet peer pressure, the line that is supposed to get you is “Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie, or are you gonna bite?” But really, it’s, “If you wanna know something and he won’t tell you, cut oﬀ one of his fingers. The little one. Then tell him his thumb’s next. After that he’ll tell you if he wears ladies’ underwear. I’m hungry. Let’s get a taco.” Harvey Keitel is a fucking god. The things he stole: Basically the entire plot of City on Fire. But don’t worry about it, because there’s just no faking the chops that it takes to orchestrate the opening scene of this movie. You’re almost afraid to tip a waitress anymore.
kill bill Aww, you’re a real romantic, ain’t ya? Maybe a vaguely twisted romantic, who would find the line, “You’re a terrific person. You’re my favorite person. But sometimes you can be a real cunt,” swoon-worthy. (Guilty. Guilty as charged.) Released in two separate parts, the full Kill Bill story clocks in at around three-and-ahalf hours and it takes some dedication to stick it out. So, either you’re a go-getter, or you have a lot of free time. You’re going to talk about the QT Universe theory a lot because one of the cooler things about Kill Bill is that Tarantino has said it exists in a “movie movie universe.” This means that if the characters in his other movies watched a movie, it would be this one. This is why it has to be so insanely violent—the first dimension of his movie universe is already a magnification of real-world violence. The coolest thing about Kill Bill, though, is of course watching Lucy Liu get scalped. The line that got you: “There are consequences to breaking the heart of a murdering bastard.” Shiver. The things he stole: A LOT. To start oﬀ, the whole plot of the Japanese movie Lady Snowblood and a crud-ton from Samurai Reincarnation. Daryl Hannah was actually instructed to watch They Call Her One Eye to better understand her character, Elle Driver. Basically the entire film is a nerd-rant on Chinese wuxia, Japanese yakuza and samurai movies, and seventies kung fu. Add every girls with guns, rape, and revenge trope there is, stir repeatedly, and there you have it! But Uma Thurman…Uma Thurman is trump.
inglourious basterds YOU’RE ME. At 15 years old, while watching Inglourious Basterds the day after Christmas with your dad and your uncle, you dropped your first “f” bomb in front of an adult. “I fucking loved that.” (It’s fine. Adult men in your family don’t know how to shop for each other. They figure Maker’s Mark is a safe bet.) You’re definitely going to be one of those people who talk about “the power of film” a lot because of Inglourious Basterds. The coolest thing about it, according to Matt Singer, is that it’s a “war movie where the most powerful weapon on display is film, where movies are used as literal incendiary devices and where guerrilla filmmaking is a crucial part of guerrilla warfare.” Aldo Raine is also the only genuinely entertaining character Brad Pitt has ever
played. I bet you anything you yelled “AU REVOIR SHOSHANNA” at people whenever they left a room for a good long while after you saw this movie. This film is another big piece of Tarantino’s “movie movie universe,” because if World War II really ended in a movie theater, by-products of that generation would set a lot greater store by popular culture, explaining why Tarantino’s scripts are positively riddled with pop culture references. The line that got you: Really just any time you heard Brad Pitt pronounce the word “Nazi.” NAAHT-zi. Yes. The things he stole: The Dirty Dozen/everything Enzo Castellari ever did. Whoops.
django unchained You’re definitely not someone who takes racial sensitivity that seriously. Even if you managed to be oﬀended, crying “NWORD” is about as lazy as Tarantino’s take on combatting racism (kill all the white people). Or maybe you were just confused by ambiguous spelling and entered the theater in a daze. You might also just love a good argument: you’re that person at the party who slips gun regulation into every conversation. I don’t want to spend time on the “is it oﬀensive?” discussion, because, much like Stephen Elliot, “when people call art irresponsible, they lose me a little bit.” There are, of course, fantastic things about Django—Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance (holymotherofGod), for one. I’m sorry, but Christoph Waltz did not deserve that Oscar. That was Leo’s. That blood he rubs on Kerry Washington’s face? Not scripted. He actually cut his hand while giving that monologue, that is his actual blood, he improvised that actual bit of sociopath behavior (might explain why Kerry Washington’s character suddenly seemed so absurdly incapable of keeping her shit together.) Other Django gems are the soundtrack (John Legend’s “Who Did That to You?”), and the Spaghetti Western references. In particular, when Tarantino plays his usual cameo and his character is literally blown up by dynamite, it is a nod to the Spaghetti Western tradition of showing the director’s name last in the opening credits and then making it blow up. If this is your first Tarantino, you’re unlikely to have a second anytime soon because you’ll be convinced that it’s a four-hour time commitment. Better just wait until your next stomach bug or international air travel. But, Sally Menke died. Cut us all some slack. The line that got you: “Normally, Monsieur Candie, I would say “Auf Wiedersehen.” But since what “Auf Wiedersehen” actually means is “’until I see you again” and since I never wish to see you again, to you sir, I say goodbye.” Maybe that Oscar wasn’t his for the taking, but Christoph is still the coolest German I know of (who is actually Austrian.) Apparently being German is sexy again. The things he stole: Pretty much everything. This was the most blatant of hodge-podge collages that Quentin has ever
brought to class for show-and-tell. At the outset it looked like a Homeric epic à la O Brother Where Art Thou (and that wouldn’t be the first Coen brother motif he piggybacked oﬀ ), then it turned into your basic Spaghetti Western. There’s traditional Greek comedy that takes its humor from the embarrassing fumbles of raising someone from nothing to a status that they haven’t earned/can’t comprehend (a humor that is more uncomfortable than the “n” word usage, if you ask me). There’s a lot of Sergio Corbucci, as well as bits and pieces of Django, Mandingo, The Great Silence, and Hercules Unchained.
pulp ﬁction You have a few options here: you never went to the movies before college and when you got there, people made fun of you for it; your parents don’t love you; or you’re a Gilmore Girls devotee and it pissed you oﬀ that you didn’t understand the “Pulp Friction” episode at all. (It did not piss you oﬀ that you didn’t understand why Matt Czuchry was wearing a wife-beater. That’s just good television.) This movie is riddled with cinematic and popular culture allusions; it’s a movie nerd’s wet dream, and you don’t talk neo-noir or black comedy without it. You earn a lot of pretention points for the phrase “chronological distortion,” and you compare theories about what’s in that freaking briefcase until you’re blue in the face, amongst that incorrigible crowd who say “cinema” because they are too good for the word “film” (only hobos say “movie” anymore). The line that got you: Ridiculous task. The scene that hooked you is “The Bonnie Situation.” No, it’s the Epilogue. No, it’s the part where Bruce Willis decides that a samurai sword is the most logical way to kill a redneck. No, it’s the Big Kahuna Burger. No, it’s all of it. The things he stole: The whole thing is a tip of the hat to pulp fiction magazines and hard-boiled crime novels. It’s not plagiarism, but tribute, and Pulp actually passes the test. It’s hard not to admit that this is a watershed movie, unless you are easily oﬀended by completely fictional biblical passages. And that’s probably not no one.
seduced yet? Pulp Fiction is hailed for its scrambled plot structure and Reservoir Dogs for its outlandishly intelligent dialogue, Basterds for its images and Django for its individual performances—which of these Tarantino films is praised for any kind of innovative statement? Maybe it is not the filmmaker’s responsibility to make a big statement, but it seems like someone who wields such immense cinematic power should feel some kind of personal obligation to tell a story that has a lasting relevance. In Larry Fahey’s review of Django Unchained, he points out, “[Tarantino]’s technically skilled, but it’s like being able to rebuild a car’s transmission: it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good driver. Django supposes itself to be a powerful anti-racism statement, but really it’s an anti-19th-century-American-slavery statement, and Tarantino doesn’t seem to realize that these aren’t automatically the same thing.” The title of this review, “Good is the Enemy of Great,” reflects Fahey’s hopes that Tarantino has that great movie in him still, the one that will accomplish everything. And if you’ve already been seduced by your first Tarantino, then I’m going to take a not-so-risky bet and say that you do, too. ◊
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for the love
and sitcoms cult tv shows and their followings
V network executives sift through a plethora of pilot episodes for new TV shows every year. The worst of them never make it onto the air, and some live for only a few months before making unceremonious exits. The average lifespan for a decent show is a few years. And every so often, a show becomes a hit and lasts for a decade or more. But if you log onto the Internet in the dead of night, and spend hours being completely unproductive, you will find another category of television: the cult TV show. According to message boards on fan sites, every cult TV show is “the best TV show of all time,” and everyone is asking, “why, oh why did those money-grubbing bastards at [insert TV network here] cancel my show?” Cult TV shows inherently have relatively small but rabid fan bases. Some people would call fans of film franchises like Harry Potter or Twilight cult followings—they latch on rapidly, dress up as characters for movie premieres, wait six hours to get the next book when it’s released at midnight—but it is diﬃcult to define “nearly every kid on the entire planet” as a “small fan base.” Fair warning—I am a fan of a number of cult TV shows and I’m not going to be impartial. I ardently watch Firefly, Community, Arrested Development, and Doctor Who.
ﬁreﬂy If 100,000 fanatics try to burn down the Internet to protest their favorite show’s cancellation, will anyone else care? Assuming they don’t succeed, no one will. But that won’t stop fans from trying. If any fan base could get their show back on air, it would be the passionate Browncoats (followers of the short-lived scifi adventure Firefly). The Browncoats take their name from the independence fighters who lost the Unification War, and their passion gave birth to Serenity, a feature film based oﬀ of Firefly. Unsurprisingly, it tanked in the box oﬃce. Despite Firefly’s ephemerality, the show’s director, Joss Whedon, is somewhat of a hero among many pop culture circles. In addition to Firefly, Whedon penned Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Dollhouse. And those are just the TV shows. He has written numerous comic book series, Internet films, and blockbuster movies (including The Avengers). Fans love him for
his compelling and complex characters, such as Malcolm Reynolds, the funny, headstrong, swashbucklin’ pirate-cowboy-adventurer star of Firefly, whom fans never felt they got enough of. Over a decade later, the Browncoats remain heartbroken over losing Firefly’s incredibly lovable characters. They continue to talk about the show today, wishing it would find a way to come back on the air. Fans of Firefly have a passion for the show that fans of the average show can’t match.
in extra layers that normal shows wouldn’t. Community fans love the show’s bizarre subversions of the way television is normally done, and it includes episodes that pay tribute to documentaries, war movies, westerns, heist movies, history channel shows, Law and Order, and more. And it’s still just about seven unlikely friends who go to a community college. Since Community was built to be the kind of show that cult fans would love, it’s no wonder that it has become an underground hit. The show struggled in ratings from the outset, but fans have been vocal on Facebook, Twitter, and every other online outlet they can find. They show support whenever they can, creating tributes to the show in the form of art—video compilations, nesting dolls, etc. The most beautiful part about it is that Community responds: actors see the fan art and post about it on Twitter, writers listen to fan suggestions; and thus the love becomes a two-way street. Although the hashtag #sixseasonsandamovie began as a fan-created rallying call to save the show, it is also referenced periodically by the show’s writers. The relationship between the writers and the fans has become so important that NBC’s firing of creator Dan Harmon caused a bit of a fan base civil war; some factions have claimed that the new, Harmon-less season hasn’t lived up to the first three seasons, while other factions responded, “Shut up, Community’s still way better than any other show on TV.”
the writers love writing in extra layers
Of course, Community and all of the other cult comedies must bow down to their king, Arrested Development. It was a show that most critics considered one of the best of all time and others didn’t consider at all. During its original run, Arrested Development always received critical acclaim, but it was never able to gain a large enough following. Arrested Development is the type of show that demands multiple viewings; the writers wove in jokes that were incredibly clever, but undoubtedly easy to miss. As you might imagine, a dedicated few began rallying around the show immediately after it got canceled in 2006. Followers spread the Arrested Development virus throughout the art by ZANDER ABRANOWICZ
“Me and Abed have an agreement. If one of us dies, we stage it to look like a suicide caused by the unjust cancellation of Firefly. We’re gonna get that show back on the air buddy!” —Troy Barnes (Community)
community This is a perfect example of why Community’s fans love the show so much, and why the show will never gain a sizeable following. Community understands who its fans are, and the writers themselves are hardcore TV fans who write unabashedly for the narrow audience of other hardcore TV fans. The writers know that most people who watch the show won’t understand their bizarre meta-humor, recognize their pop culture references, nor take the time to figure out the show’s Easter eggs (hidden inside jokes). But this is exactly what indicates that Community was made to be a cult hit; the show rewards only the passionate TV
it’s proof that fans have the power
fans who can follow the references. For example, in one episode, Abed delivers a baby in the background of the shot, while the rest of the characters advance the plot. I didn’t even notice it until my friend told me over a year later! The writers love writing
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country until they infected enough people for Netflix to give the show new life, eﬀorts that likely contributed to the new season of Arrested Development coming out this May. All of the writers and actors are confident that this season will be every bit as good as the last few. The renewal of the show has served as a beacon of hope for other fandoms; it is proof that fans have the power to convince TV executives to give them more of the content that they want to see.
they build upon earlier generations of television doctor who
The good Doctor is one of the most interesting cases of cult television. Doctor Who, a British science fiction TV show, has been around for almost 50 years, and it ranks among some of the most famous British TV shows in history. Despite its renown, it still qualifies as having a cult following. Months after airing in the UK, Doctor Who was broadcast in the U.S. sporadically and on various channels. It was therefore diﬃcult for the show to gain a major following stateside until it restarted in 2005. The revived version of the show gained a U.S. following mostly by word of mouth (I heard about it from my “cool” hipster friends who went oﬀ to college before me). For those unfortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the Doctor, he is a mythical humanoid alien who travels through space and time in a police call box, assisted in his battles against monsters by sarcastic and confused companions. Doctor Who’s cultish culture comes in part from its obscurity. It’s British and it’s diﬀerent, and, best of all, you get ultimate power over your friends if you find out about it first. It has created classic images and characters that fans will never be able to forget. Just Google TARDIS, sonic screwdriver, Dalek, or Weeping Angel—you’ll find memes, costume projects, video tributes, you name it. With an infinitely large universe out there, the Doctor will probably be flying around in the TARDIS for another 50 years.
of news today? reﬂections on our digital infatuation fandom So why are there still so many people who don’t watch these shows? Bitter Community fans could call people who prefer the Big Bang Theory morons, but Big Bang Theory repeats still beat new episodes of Community in the ratings. In my opinion, it’s an issue of time commitment. Most people don’t want to invest the time required to watch, re-watch, and decipher the subtle winks to earlier jokes and pop culture references of “smart” comedies like Community or Arrested Development. Arrested Development sets up jokes in one episode, only to wait half a dozen more before delivering the punch line. It’s completely understandable that some people can’t keep up. For Community, references to other cult TV shows (like Firefly and Doctor Who) require a particularly dedicated audience—not every television viewer can be expected to pay that much attention. For those who can, having hours upon hours of a great TV show waiting for you at home is an awesome feeling. And there is nothing better than meeting a fellow fan with whom you can spend hours talking about your favorite episodes. There is a connection between fans of cult TV that you won’t find with your garden variety show. Classic sitcoms or police procedurals will always be a serviceable way to pass the time, but they aren’t as exciting as cult TV shows. You might quote the Big Bang Theory once or twice the next day, but you won’t be quoting it years from now. Only with creative comedies like Arrested Development or Community will viewers be able to do that. You might find some gruesome crime on Law and Order interesting, but it won’t engage you like the imaginative planets of Doctor Who and Firefly. Cult TV shows are exactly that because they build upon earlier generations of television instead of rehashing them, taking fans to unexpected heights and living up to the hype. ◊
art by MEAGHAN McSORLEY
RENEE TORNATORE art by DANIELA PIMENTEL
efore I even roll out of bed in the morning, I check my iPhone and find at least fifteen to twenty waiting emails. The majority of these are aggregated news sources, summarizing the major events from the day or night before, or addressing what to expect for the morning ahead. I check my Twitter and news apps, and skim tweets and headlines. In five to ten minutes, I feel informed enough to kick the sheets oﬀ. Forty years ago, a college student would roll out of bed (with similar stunted enthusiasm, I’m sure) and pick up a printed copy of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, either oﬀ of their doorstep or on their way to campus. Over coﬀee and breakfast, or in between classes, the student would carefully read the paper cover to cover. No article would be skipped. It is fairly obvious that generational shifts can spark changes in behavior. But, as members of Generation Y and as digital natives, I feel that we are experiencing something far and above these standard and expected shifts—something revolutionary. We have grown up with the Internet. We tweet, we Instagram, we comment and blog and repost in our sleep. With the amount of time we spend with our iPhones plastered to our palms, we’re essentially cyborgs at this point. Our intuitive digital navigation may blind us in a way. We fail to see how dependent we really are on social networks and mobile apps; if our laptops crash or we drop our phones in the toilet, a near mental breakdown ensues. Our technology is our
lifeblood—most of us will admit we cannot live without it. And those that say they can are probably lying. Or they’re just Luddites. We also often fail to see the many ways in which technology has forced the evolution of the world around us. The news media industry, for example, a longstanding institution responsible for informing and educating the public, is experiencing a period of reconstruction. In the past fifteen years, countless news organizations have changed dramatically as the Internet has become a more dominant mode of information dissemination. The advent of the Internet has irrevocably and undeniably altered the way we produce and consume information. Since the mid-nineties, when the Web first revolutionized the technological landscape, it has developed tremendously to allow instant communication and connection capabilities at the press of a button. Social networking systems, email, e-commerce websites, blogs, and interactive multimedia now constitute modern digital media culture. Our lives are lived mostly online, since we use the Internet to learn, communicate with friends and family, establish identities, make a living, and entertain ourselves, among countless other purposes. Digital media has become indispensible and omnipresent in the lives of billions across the globe.
death to print News media is changing. According to the Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media Report” for 2012, print circulation has significantly decreased in recent years. Advertising revenues have declined to a point where losses in print advertising dollars have outpaced gains in digital revenue by roughly ten to one, and the newspaper industry has shrunk by 43% since 2000. Since then more news outlets have moved to digital subscriptions in order to survive. Approximately 150 papers have implemented some kind of digital subscription model, and about 100 (and counting) plan to do the same in the next year.
watch & listen This digital shift was influenced by the initial success of The New York Times’s paid subscription model, which reached about 400,000 online subscribers as of late March in 2012. Many newspapers lost such significant amounts of ad revenue in their business that digital subscriptions are a last-ditch attempt for them to stay alive. Five-year projections include print deliveries only on Sundays and potentially one other day a week in order to account for print ad revenue. In 2011, Pew’s research revealed that monthly unique audience was up 17% on top legacy news websites, such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, over 50% of smartphone and tablet owners used their devices to get news. In 2012, digital news consumers added to their news consumption with the plethora of new devices available to them. On the other hand, in the past five years, an average of fifteen papers, or just about 1% of the industry, has vanished each year. Another trend in print journalism is the shrinkage of newsrooms in order to cut costs in many news companies. While newspapers have trimmed down in size over recent years, more content is now required from editors to satisfy growing digital audiences. To adapt to expanding social media platforms, news companies require diﬀerent content as well, such as 140-character one-liners. The push to acclimate to the preferred digital mediums (while still managing to churn out daily print papers) has prompted an overhaul in leadership structures at multiple news legacy organizations. More and more industry “outsiders” are being hired as editors due to the need for more tech-savvy executives.
twitter vs. dowd Social media continues to be an important vehicle to deliver news, but it has not yet replaced traditional journalistic methods. According to Pew, approximately 133 million Americans, or 54% of the online U.S. population, are now active Facebook users. The average time they spend on Facebook is 14 times that spent on news sites. Twitter use also grew exponentially in the past year. You’ll probably think twice the next time you absentmindedly click over to your newsfeed instead of looking up the latest Syria updates in the Times. Actually, you’ll probably end up looking at a photo album of adorable rodents on BuzzFeed. However, survey data reveals that no more than 10% of digital news consumers follow news recommendations from Facebook or Twitter on a regular basis. In the event that a user does follow a news recommendation from either of these sites, he or she is still directed to the news outlet’s website or mobile app. According to the Poynter Institute, Mark Zuckerberg has received a lot of criticism for the newest Facebook newsfeed redesign. He’s been talking about the potential for Facebook to be a “personalized newspaper,” but unfortunately, the redesign lacks the moxie to suddenly transform your friends’ statuses about their dogs and drunken debauchery to breaking news stories. Twitter remains the more optimized news delivery network, since it gives readers real-time information in an unfiltered stream. Poynter argues that although Facebook drives significant referrals to many news sites, it still isn’t that great for news. Facebook is, however, better at chronicling your frenemies’ boastful job oﬀer statuses.
an average of ﬁfteen papers have vanished each year
the mobile boom Pew’s 2011 report noted the advent of the mobile age, indicated by increased smartphone ownership. In this year, about four in ten American adults own a smartphone, and one in five own a tablet. New cars are now manufactured with built-in Internet. Inevitably, with more mobility comes deeper immersion into social networking. Now that billions of people can connect to the Internet wherever and whenever they please, accessing news is more convenient than ever. Pew’s research shows that there is still a demand for news, and that technology can act as a catalyst for increased consumption. In particular, mobile devices were found to be responsible for an increase in the individual’s average news consumption, strengthening brand loyalty to legacy news organizations. Eight out of ten users who accessed news on conventional computers did so on smartphones or tablets as well. The explosion of new mobile devices has also improved the functionality of social media platforms, another vehicle that the news industry must master in order to stay relevant to the modern consumer. These trends signal a rift between the news and technology industries—in order to bridge the gap, the news media must continue to acclimate to digital media.
moving forward Because we constantly engage with social networking platforms and interactive apps, our habits as news consumers have changed. We want to get our information quickly and eﬃciently. We want to be able to tag it, share it, tweet it, and like it. We want to be able to comment on it and discuss it with our peers. Essentially, we have become obsessed with engagement–merely reading does not satisfy us any longer. For information to stick with us, or for us to be motivated to come back for more, there needs to be an element of value in the way we get our news. In this day and age, we constantly ask ourselves, “What am I getting out of this?” It’s clear that we’re a value-added generation—our technology eases the operations in our lives, but it simultaneously makes us more demanding. While I do believe that technology enables a more connected world, I also believe that the value of news is to inform, educate, and open our eyes. We should take a few extra minutes each day to more thoroughly educate ourselves on what’s going on in the world instead of just skimming our Twitter feed. If we want the news media industry to pull through in this period of financial reconstruction, we must actively support our legacy news organizations by reading, subscribing, and interacting with them. The future of journalism is uncertain, but we can help bolster its position as a social influencer by staying brand-loyal to our favorite news institutions. ◊
hen Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-hosted the Golden Globes in February, they were slinging jokes at just about everyone present. This includes themselves—it’s the one night of the year that “the beautiful people of film rub shoulders with the rat-faced people of television.” The harshest jokes were aimed at James Cameron and Anne Hathaway (torture and pornography, respectively), but one nearly-harmless joke was directed at Taylor Swift. “Stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son.” End jab.
KAITLYN TIFFANY It’s fair because YOU ARE 23 AND JUST GOT DUMPED BY A 17-YEAR-OLD. The response? In a Vanity Fair interview, Swift commented, “You know, Katie Couric is one of my favorite people because she said to me she had heard a quote that she loved that said, ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” (Yeah, that’s Madeleine Albright, but okay, she just “heard it somewhere.”) Full disclosure—I listened to just as much T-Swift music as the next sort-of-awkward early adolescent, and like anyone else, I obviously know all the words to “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” I might have defended her up until…NOW. Autostraddle’s Marie Lyn Bernard said it already, two years before the full extremity of the situation could possibly have been understood: Taylor Swift is a feminist’s nightmare. In October, Swift responded to a question in The Daily Beast asking whether or not she thought her music empowered women by confusedly missing the point; she said, “It’s funny when you write a song and you don’t expect it to turn into what it turns into when it goes out in the world. It’s not necessarily what I thought I was doing, because I write songs about what I feel.” Re-assessing the literacy of his interviewee, the interviewer tried something more direct: “Would you identify yourself as a feminist?” To which the role model for our female masses responded, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.” So, not only is this a “No,” it’s also a blatant misunderstanding of the way society works. Here’s the thing, T-Swizzle (yeah, we didn’t forget about that ridiculous rap you made), if you “work as hard as guys” in this country, you do not go as far. You get about 70 cents on the dollar. You get about 60 cents on the dollar if you’re a woman of color. It’s also a blatant misunderstanding of the term “feminism,” which does not, in any interpretation, mean “girls versus guys.” It just means equality—exactly what you just said you were interested in, or believed already existed. Or something. Swifty, you’re just not that articulate. Sorry, babe.
watch & listen
But what’s worse than these idiotic sound bites is that she would call on female solidarity as a reason to forbid Tina and Amy from making light-hearted jokes at her expense. Can we talk about the extra, extra-special place in hell for people who ask women to help them, but with no reciprocity? Tay is denying feminism and then calling upon it when it’s convenient for her. And this is all aside from the obvious fact that we let Amy and Tina do and say whatever they want. And if what they want is to make fun of you, it should really be one of those, “One time Regina George punched me in the face. It was awesome,” moments for you. Of course Amy responded with exactly the warmth, humor, and no-nonsense passive-aggression you would expect of someone who has actually been paid and recognized for using words intelligently: “Aw, I feel bad if she was upset. I am a feminist and she is a young and talented girl. That being said, I do agree that I am going to hell. But for other reasons. Mostly boring tax stuﬀ.” If being like Amy Poehler is wrong, I don’t want to be right. And the feminist nightmare doesn’t end here. Taylor Swift is an absolute land mine of horrible when it comes to the status of womanhood in America. Any halfway-observant feminist should take personal oﬀense from Taylor Swift the Music, Taylor Swift the Image, and, now more obviously than ever, Taylor Swift the Person.
digestible beats daring Rick Moody for The Rumpus reviewed Swift’s most recent album, Red, saying, “These songs actually do sound to me like what the undead would sing if they were capable of singing. [They are] about as interesting as Olestra-based products, or Swiﬀers in multiple colors, or tiered Jell-O products, or milk from China that has lead in it, or home cosmetic surgery, or rectal bleaching.” Maybe this is rude, and it seems as though we could ask (as did thousands of absurdly militant commenters) who really cares if Moody thinks her music is boring? If he doesn’t like it, he can just not listen to it. Who is it aﬀecting? Um, everyone. Bernard notes, “there wasn’t even anything to hate about Taylor Swift until she snagged Album of the Year in 2010, thus transitioning her from ‘harmlessly popular teenage pop fad’ into the ‘relatively’ legendary-for-artistic-merit context associated with prior winners like John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Lauryn Hill, U2, and Eric Clapton.” And truly, the Taylor Swift backlash can be traced to that Grammy win. Pre-win she was seen as a harmless diversion. Pre-win, no one particularly cared if she wanted to cry all over a bunch of instruments, twirl her blonde hair, and dial up any one of faceless menfolk on any one of the brightly-colored rotary dial phones that she seems to own in solidarity with the fifties period of Protestant-morality-meshingnicely-with-date-rape. Post-win, notable feminist Camille Paglia wrote in The Hollywood Reporter that Swift represents “emotional deficiencies in sanitized middle-class life,” and expressed a concern that the entertainment industry is trending towards these benign expressions of nothingness. Paglia continued, “middleclass white girls will never escape the cookie-cutter tyranny of their airless ghettos until the entertainment industry looks into its soul and starts giving them powerful models of mature womanliness.”
art by KAITLYN TIFFANY
another blonde oppressor The one thing that Taylor Swift’s music avows to love above all else is Boys. She consistently compares them to light sources, otherworldly super-powered metaphors about angels and rainbows and, according to Bernard, the “sweet glory of Jesus.” Oﬀ of her sophomore album, the song “Untouchable” includes lyrics that describe some unknown (for once) fellow who is “untouchable like a distant diamond sky,”“burning brighter than the sun,” and represents a “little taste of heaven.” When she sleeps, all she dreams about is “a million little stars spelling out [his] name.” When things go right, boys are mythical wonder gods for
Swift enjoys the doting maternal tendencies of the population
Bernard iterates that while these powerful models exist, they are being overlooked, and, moreover, that “[Swift’s] win represents a sinister endorsement of mediocrity/Wonderbread; it means Digestible beat Daring.” So, yes, we get to complain about Taylor Swift. We can be closeted Valentine’s Day watchers as individuals, but there is legitimate cause to worry about her on a public level. It’s not as if there aren’t women out there making interesting and daring music, so why is Taylor being dubbed as so exceptional when she is so clearly not? Moody writes, “In grim economic times, large entertainment providers become more risk averse, which means that they issue more conservative music.”
Swift is a landmine of horrible when it comes to the status of womanhood
And conservatism is really the only arguable merit of Swift’s oeuvre to date. Some argue that she’s a role model for teenage girls: clean-cut and clean-living, without the paradoxes of the early 2000s, “the hypocritical virgin/Madonna antics of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore, and their ilk-peddling Lolita-Sex for sex’s sake but disguised in pastels” that Bernard refers to. These women were a disaster (notably handled by Fey and Poehler on Weekend Update, I might add), but Swift is not a distinct improvement, nor is she really any kind of logical reaction to them. Her music is a mess of counter-feminist arguments.
Swift claims to be representing the high school experience for masses of teenage girls, yet she was homeschooled after age 15 (“She doesn’t even go here!”). She therefore seems to have a flat understanding of high school that presents nothing that hasn’t already been seen in any number of ABC Family programs. The boys she sings about, says Bernard, “never grow beyond metaphor into humanity. If they did, we might have to confront the very idea that Taylor Swift’s entire career is designed to destroy: that teenagers want to have sex. And that wanting is confusing.” No one’s advocating that adolescent sex is better than abstinence, but denial should be reserved to the actions, not the wanting, and there’s no expectation in Swift’s music that young women are even remotely capable of owning/recognizing their sexuality. In “Fifteen” (literally the only song in which Swift has a female friend), Bernard comments, “Abigail had sex with a boy, and later they broke up. That’s right. No marriage. She gave him all she had. All Abigail had was her hymen.” How sad for Swift that her only lady-buddy turned out to be a dumb slut. Everyone cry with her.
whom the constellations rearrange themselves. When things go wrong, like in her new ramped-up dub-step hit “I Knew You Were Trouble,” it is quite literally the end of the world—the sixminute music video is set largely in a post-apocalyptic nightmare with Swift rolling around in the dirt and demonstrating how devastated she is by wearing a wig that is slightly less platinum than would match “the trinity of blond oppressors: Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds and Sandra Dee,” that Paglia compares her to. Not only does Swift talk about loving boys above all else, she spends a fair amount of time discussing what she hates above all else—other girls. Bernard points out that “other girls are obstacles; undeserving enemies who steal Taylor’s soulmates with their bewitching good looks and sexual availability.” Swift portrays herself as fighting in a battle against these pretty-girl sluts, but “even when Swift’s song cast her as an outcast, the freakiest she can get is putting on a pair of glasses and a T-shirt which has apparently been signed by all her nonexistent friends.” In nearly every music video that includes another girl (“You Belong With Me,” “Should’ve Said No,” “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” etc.) the other girl is a heavilymade-up, cleavage-displaying brunette whose attractiveness and willingness to put-out makes her an inherently evil bitch. “Better than Revenge,” which was allegedly written about Camilla Belle, Joe Jonas’ girlfriend after Swift, derides its antagonist, saying, “She’s not a saint and she’s not what you think, she’s an actress. She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.” And “You Belong With Me” includes purposeful juxtaposition of, “She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts,” and “she wears high heels, I wear sneakers.” Congratufuckinglations Taylor Swift. Thank you for telling us exactly what you think sluts wear. One of the most disconcerting implications of Swift’s music is this “sex-shaming girl-bashing passed oﬀ as outsider insecurity,” as described by Bernard.
watch & listen
Her Songs-About-Things-Other-Than-Her-Love-Life count stands at six. One of these is “22,” the anthem to acknowledge that she’s “whoops, not a teenager,” and apparently a fan of “dressing up” like a hipster. Really Tay, we couldn’t tell. We missed your Joni Mitchell bangs and those Zooey Deschanel shorts completely. This also includes “Never Grow Up” and “The Best Day,” stale tributes to the loving parents who financed her fairytale childhood, and “Long Live,” a song about her band who “fought dragons” and “crashed through” walls with her, apparently leading some sort of Narnia-esque charge to merge the worst parts of country music with pop music, ultimately creating a mash-up that sounds more akin to a car commercial. The list ends with “Mean” and “The Lucky One,” upbeat little ditties with tragic-sounding lyrics about how hard it is to be famous.
taylor swift the product Speaking of these challenges, one of the most exhausting things about discussing Taylor Swift is that, more so than almost any other musician today, you have to be very careful to talk about Taylor Swift the Person and Taylor Swift the Product as two separate entities. Swift has monetized her career to the point of absurdity, probably as an insurance policy for when people undoubtedly and finally get tired of hearing the same album over and over. Moody thinks she’ll be fine because, “Her parents work in finance and she has good manners, and she’s going to marry up, and she’s going to get into the movies (not
just guest appearances in CSI), and she’s going to launch some clothing lines at Target (no, wait, I think she already did that), and a personal fragrance (I think she did that too), and parlay all her bad press into some self-serious complaints, making good on every opportunity to monetize her career at the expense of making actual art.” In a Vanity Fair interview this March, Swift asserted that she tries to “avoid the tabloid part of culture because they turn you into a fictional character.” But excuse me while that sentence was preceded by the introductory phrase, “As she sits sipping her lavender lemonade in her ‘Tim Burton-Alice in Wonderland-pirate ship-Peter Pan’ apartment.’” Is she an actual sprite? Because this depiction makes it sound as though she has been possessed by a magical pixie wood nymph, and that apartment description is Swift’s, not the interviewer’s. Any declaration by Swift that she doesn’t love the image the media has created for her reads as absolute bullshit when held up against the fact that she has used it to sell a fragrance, boat-loads of apparel, a line of greeting cards, her soul, et cetera, et cetera.
excuses, excuses The public cuts Taylor a ridiculous amount of slack on nearly every front. Why is it okay that she can’t perform live? (Seriously, neither Stevie Nicks nor Ryan Seacrest are inviting her anywhere ever again.) That should really be a qualification before someone can be considered a genuinely talented musician. Putting Swift’s live performances aside, there are still issues; Paglia notes
in The Hollywood Reporter that her “monotonous vocal style” is “pitched in a characterless keening soprano and tarted up with a snarky spin that is evidently taken for hip by vast multitudes of impressionable young women worldwide.” A lot of it falls under the banner of her being young and still developing as an artist, just as her key demographic is still developing and coming into its identity. And perpetual teenagerdom truly does seem like an image that Swift is clinging to with all she’s got. Autostraddle’s Bernard notes that Swift seems a decade younger than Lady Gaga (the real age diﬀerence is three years), because “Swift’s package is Purity Sue Ingenue: eternally childlike, obedient, and one-dimensional.” If age were any excuse, what would explain Beyoncé singing about “independent women” at age 21 on stage with Destiny’s Child, and Grammy wins going to Adele at age 21, Alicia Keys at 20, and LeAnn Rimes at 16? There’s no need to keep excusing her work on the grounds of “youth.” Not only that, but Swift enjoys the doting maternal tendencies of the population somewhat consciously and openly. Bernard claims, “If Kanye had snatched that mike from Lady Gaga she would’ve snatched it right back, called Kanye an asshole (he is), admitted he was right (he was), and the whole thing would’ve been done and DONE. She certainly wouldn’t have needed—or wanted— the entire country’s fawning fauxsympathy for months afterward.” We applaud her for writing her own songs, which she does…but not well. Seriously, guys, NOT WELL. Not everything she does needs to be taped up on a freaking refrigerator. Most of the writing is simplistic and without metaphor, the most generic, sociopathic expressions of human emotion imaginable, and what does contain metaphor sounds like a fourth-grader’s first triumphant simile (“Fighting with him was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there’s no right answer.” Perhaps if you’d spent less time doodling Prince Charming in a white Chevy and actually cracked open a book, big words wouldn’t be so confusing?). As Bernard notes, “one song misrepresents Shakespeare and the Scarlet Letter so criminally I’m certain she’s never read either,” and I hope the Cornell chimes folks now feel awkward about playing “Love Story” three times a day. Further, are we really going to excuse her inability to declare herself a feminist on the grounds that it would hurt her career and alienate her conservative demographic? The list of successful female musicians who also manage to be outspoken feminists and advocates of LGBT rights goes on and on. Kate Nash’s new album Girl Talk features the song “All Talk,” which says, “Action, action, words are only in my mouth. I’m a feminist and if that oﬀends you—then fuck you.” Well, okay. I don’t know, somehow my middle class background did not cause me to hear that and run away in a holy-fuck-the-status quo-is-being-challenged terror. Sara Quinn, one half of the outrageously popular Canadian duo Tegan & Sara, is publicly homosexual and has stated, “I wanted to be exactly who I was and didn’t understand why I couldn’t make music for the masses as a queer alternative woman.” T&S’s lyricism is irreproachable, and even though it is speaking specifically about a gay life experience, it maintains the power to speak publicly as music is meant to do. The lyrics contain interesting observations about the nature of relationships,
with lines like, “I would go to jail with only boys just to prove I was as tough as you. And when I get out for good behavior I’ll be writing love songs, silly banging knee songs.” How does that compare to, “I can’t breathe without you. But I have to breathe without you. And I can’t breathe without you. But I have to.” What in the actual fuck, Taylor Swift? It’s hard to even bring up Lady Gaga as a comparison because it’s so completely ridiculous to put the two on the same playing field, but when Lady Gaga gets dumped, her response is to say, “Someday when we’re not together, you won’t be able to order a cup of coﬀee at the fucking deli without hearing or seeing me.” Swift’s is to beg in a whiny refrain, “Come back, come back, come back to me, like you would, you would if this was a movie.” Gaga’s summation of the creative process? “When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mindblowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea you’re writing about at the time.” Swift’s? “To all the boys who inspired this album: you should have known. :)” Oh, honestly. In the words of Girls’ Ray Karpovsky, “Go Tweet that.” Jezebel said in 2010, “some may argue that Taylor Swift is a role model, a class-act in the drugged-up, sexed-up music industry, but do we need another cisgendered carefree white girl singing heteronormative songs about mooning over boys?” Hell, no. Lady Gaga wants your ugly and your disease, Swift wants to compare you to a crossword puzzle, then marry you, then “have ten kids and teach them how to dream.” And if you break her heart—“you’ve got your demons and they all look like me.” Woah. So, don’t try to move on after Swifty. She’ll haunt you until the day you die…alone (and probably castrated).
The most generic, sociopathic expressions of human emotion
à la sartre Back to Swift’s special place in hell. If Amy Poehler—who was eight months pregnant when she rapped as Sarah Palin on Weekend Update (and blew the roof oﬀ the place), plays the feminist superpower Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation, and runs a YouTube show “Smart Girls at the Party” —and Tina Fey, who changed exactly EVERYTHING about women in comedy— be it anything from her position as head writer and Update host on Saturday Night Live to the brilliant social commentary of the metafictitious 30 Rock—deserve a special place in hell, then the place reserved for anyone who tries to restrain them has got to be damn near unimaginable. If I were to give it a shot though— it’s one of those really awful “No Exit” situations where all of the people you’re stuck with are very attractive and woefully unfuckable minors. Ogle all you want from behind your creepy Lolita shades, T-Swift. ◊
watch & listen
the dark side of k-pop
and outfits that range from cute to eccentric. This structured method of producing a music group while valuing only the most committed and talented performers can certainly make it diﬃcult for those who want any type of artistic control. Performers are given little, if any, liberty over the content they produce, and confront a similar lack of control over their personal schedules. In 2009, three members of the K-pop boy band Dong Ban Shin Ki sued Korean powerhouse SM Entertainment for mandating a schedule that allowed them only four hours of sleep each night. “I think that really sucks for the artists,” said Hines. “They’re already really talented people. Why do they have to work them so hard?” Ross agreed with what Hines had to say, adding, “I feel like it kind of stops creativity when they’re all being fit into a cookie-cutter mold. There are
Some K-pop fans are infamous for taking their obsession with certain performers to an inappropriate and even dangerous heights.
art by DANIELA PIMENTEL layout by JOSH BARROM angnam Style” by South Korean music artist PSY entered the international scene as a weird viral video of an Asian guy singing and dancing. Somehow, these obscure beginnings evolved into a craze. Oft-parodied, the video took the world by storm, achieving ubiquity that was equal parts entertaining and grating. Today, the oﬃcial “Gangnam Style” video has over a billion views on YouTube. Notable parodies include the Saturday Night Live sketch featuring the infamous “horse dance,” as well as YouTube parodies with Deadpool and Mitt Romney dancing to the Korean hit. After PSY’s four-minute performance became the most viewed video on YouTube, it seeped into subtle television references and not-so-subtle pistachio ads. However, K-pop, the genre under which “Gangnam Style” is listed, is much more than a horse dance across YouTube—it’s part of a growing worldwide obsession with an industry just as complex—and occasionally as dark—as our own Hollywood. K-pop is a term for South Korean pop music, a genre adored in the United States for its catchy beats and foreign novelty. Unless you speak Korean, K-pop is not about the lyrics, but rather about the attractive groups of performers and the beats that will get stuck in your head for hours. “There is no K-pop song that isn’t extremely catchy,” said K-pop fan Victoria Hines ’16. “I guess that’s the way they are formulated to be.” While PSY is considered a K-pop artist, the more typical groups that come to fans’ minds include boy bands and girl groups like 2NE1, DBSK, and Super Junior. These groups vary in size from that of the standard American pop group to as many as thirteen members. They are known internationally for music videos that feature bizarre, highly stylized outfits that range from period dress to bubblegum fantasy, as well as geometrically and colorfully wild hairdos that would stun
For this reason, some K-pop fans are infamous for taking their obsession with certain performers to inappropriate and even dangerous heights. These fans, known as sasaeng, or “private” fans, aren’t the norm, but they do exist and their ardor is disconcerting. In the Filipino publication Manila Bulletin, a K-pop star from the group JYJ said that he is always being followed by taxis that specifically serve to tail him and other stars for sasaeng fans. The performer has had his house broken into on multiple occasions and once had a fan place a GPS tracker on his car to follow his movements. According to the blog Singapore Showbiz, some sasaeng fans have actually attempted to poison the rivals of their favorite groups. “I think it’s weird how diﬀerent fans are in Korea compared to fans in America,” said Hines. “I don’t understand why they would follow an artist to their home. It’s ridiculous.” But the creativity of the stalker fans does not end there. The craziest fangirls (the sasaeng typically being female) have tapped phone lines, installed spy cams, and even committed assault in an attempt to be a part of their idols’ lives, or at least to be remembered by them. While K-pop artists never fail to express their appreciation for their fans, they certainly don’t reach the same privacy-breaching level that their fans do. This concern is great enough that it has attracted the attention of the South Korean government. On March 11, 2013, the South Korean Cabinet approved a bill with the goal of cracking down on the stalking and harassment issues that many K-pop stars have suﬀered. The bill will result in fines for those who harass a victim via telephone, letters, or email. However, Hines expressed some doubts about the eﬀectiveness of the new bill. “I don’t think [the sasaeng fans] care. If they’re so obsessed with their idol that they will do anything, I don’t think they’ll care about breaking laws. They do that already. It’s inevitable.” The music industry that dishes out K-pop’s classically upbeat songs is in some ways as dark as the sasaeng fans are wild. In most cases, the performers are picked out when they are young, trained, and then systematically assembled into groups with other singers and dancers. Unlike most bands of the Western world, which often come together as a group of friends, K-pop artists are grouped together by managers and assigned the songs and dances that they will perform. The music videos are often formulaic and forced, with strikingly professional editing and cinematography, flawless dance numbers, attractive singers,
Lady Gaga into silence. And perhaps even more appealing than their style are the dances that fans all over the globe strive to imitate. Copying K-pop music video dances is a craze of its own; dances that involve relatively simple hand movements and turns that match each beat invite easy imitation. Since they’re not diﬃcult to learn, it’s not unusual for K-pop fans to know all the moves to their favorite songs. “I know the dance to 2PM’s song, ‘Heartbeat,’” said Hines. Sarah Ross ’16, another Cornell K-pop fan, said, “My Asian-American friend taught me the dance to ‘Genie’ by SNSD after introducing me to the K-pop world.” With its viral capabilities and the addictive quality of its song and dance routines, K-pop garners fans that could easily crush Beliebers or Directioners in a fandom war—perhaps not in number, but definitely in intensity.
few solo artists, so it’s diﬃcult for individuals to distinguish themselves outside of a group in the K-pop industry.” It’s not a sustainable lifestyle, as evidenced by the fact that very few K-pop stars remain in the industry for more than a decade. The fading of their youthful appearance is a factor, just as it is with American pop stars. But much of it can be attributed to low pay and the stress of the business. The K-pop industry seems to be divided—there are some artists who happily pursue their craft, and others who are abused by the system. While PSY and “Gangnam Style” met success with what appears to be relative liberty, others in the more structured side of the K-pop industry have not enjoyed such freedom. With mad fans and a lack of control over their careers, many K-pop stars have a lot on their plates. But despite the twisted behind-the-scenes failings of the industry, K-pop groups still manage to smile for the camera. As long as that remains the case, the K-pop genre will continue to thrive. ◊
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KM: What fandom did you get into first and what prompted you to join?
a blog CHARLES WANG
art by CHARLES WANG
herlock. Doctor Who. Supernatural. Homestuck. Long ago, the four fandoms lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when…no, hold on. Sorry, that’s Avatar. Log on to Tumblr—or, realistically speaking, any site on the Internet—and you will probably come across some fandoms. But what exactly makes a fandom? Merriam-Webster defines a fandom as “all the fans (as of a sport).” However, this doesn’t really tell the whole story. After all, fandoms have existed for at least as long as written history, and certainly much longer than modern-day sports. Even the first caveman to slosh mud across the walls of his cave in the shape of a buﬀalo probably had his own little group of fans. While fans have existed forever and then some, the “fandom” as we know it today is a recent phenomenon; it is, as so many developments in this day and age, a child of the Internet, brought to life by the recent prevalence of mass communication.
For a more relevant (albeit less reputable) definition, we turn to Urban Dictionary. UD explains, “[A fandom is] the community that surrounds a TV show/movie/book etc. Fanfiction writers, artists, poets, and cosplayers are all members of that fandom.” Although this gets closer to the spirit of the modern fandom, it still fails to capture its full scope. To get a deeper understanding, this author interviewed fellow Tumblr user kittykat1001001 about her experiences with fandoms (She will hereafter be referred to by her Pesterchum handle, thoughtfulFeline, or TF).
meet the fan ____ kitsch Magazine: What fandoms do you consider yourself a part of? thoughtfulFeline: Quite a few, but mainly [the webcomic] Homestuck, [Axis Powers] Hetalia (APH), [a manga], and partially the trio of [TV shows]: Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock.
TF: My middle school friends got me to read Twilight. A girl I sat next to in my AP US History class kept mentioning APH and telling me what it was about and recommending it. [Then] I heard about Homestuck, and eventually read it when the APH fandom had its first major interactions (which were negative in the beginning) with the Homestuck fandom. I watched Sherlock because one of my favorite authors for the APH fandom had started posting lots of stuﬀ about that show. I join fandoms generally around the time I start getting really addicted to the thing it is based around, since that’s what the fandom’s about, isn’t it?
take characters from a particular work and change key elements of the setting, such as the time period, the professions, or even the species of the characters. One example of an AU maneuver, known as a Rule 63 or “genderbend,” flips the genders of the protagonists. The Sherlock fandom does this often, with a large amount of fanfiction revolving around female versions of Sherlock and Watson. Roleplaying, or RP-ing, is another common expression of fandom. Some fans chat with each other, conversing in the way they imagine the characters they are emulating would. Others take things a step further and make costumes, or cosplays, and dress up as their favorite characters. Many fandoms create their own new characters, also known as “original characters,” or OCs. This is most common in fantastical fandoms, such as Harry Potter, Avatar, or Homestuck, which, because of their wealth of superhuman or alien characters, oﬀer plenty of room for customization. Due to the communal nature of fandoms, individuals on Tumblr are constantly sharing the fan works they find and contributing to an unending cycle of creation. Artists and writers may collaborate to make written and artistic expressions of their AUs. OCs that gain popularity in the fandom draw significant attention, and in some cases are even acknowledged by the author of the original work and given a cameo. There are speculations, for example, that one panel of Homestuck was intended as a direct nod towards the Tumblr avatar of a very vocal and prolific fan theorist. Many, if not most, fandom members (including our interviewee) don’t belong exclusively to a single fandom, but follow several fandoms at once. These multifans give rise to a unique form of fan work—the crossover. One of the most prominent examples, SuperWhoLock, a mash-up of the Big Three fandoms on Tumblr, is a portmanteau of the three TV shows Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock. Participants in SuperWhoLock imagine scenarios where the heroes of the three shows meet and team up in a manner not unlike The Avengers. In fact, one may argue that the current surge in the popularity of crossover AUs is directly related to the success of superhero teams like The Avengers, Justice League America, Teen Titans, and so forth.
One might spend an hour on Tumblr only to ﬁnd that everything was created within a matter of minutes
KM: In what ways do you mostly contribute to the fandoms? Art? Writing? Discussion? TF: [Mostly] writing and discussion, by far. I may not be the most active with either, but I still enjoy writing things and discussing themes and ideas that come to mind about a particular work. (I have certainly had too much fun in the few cases when discussion has also involved the sciences, [for example] when Homestuck had an update involving the noble gases...) ____
it’s bigger on the inside As noted by Urban Dictionary, members of a fandom frequently produce their own fanwork, in the form of written fanfiction, drawings of their favorite characters, or simply casual conversations about plot developments on various forums. The sheer quantity of fandom creations is staggering. One might spend an hour browsing through a fandom tag on Tumblr, only to find that everything one has viewed was created by hundreds of individuals over a short period of time, sometimes even within a matter of minutes. The great range of the quality of fan-made art means that sometimes the fans’ work can have such skill and ingenuity that it rivals the original source material. Fans take advantage of various forms of media to ultimately create a new multimedia experience, and these novel elements are occasionally more popular than their inspiration. One common example is the fan music video; often used to pair scenes from a comic or video with a song, it captures the spirit of a character or event in the source material. Similarly, the music comic consists of lyrics from relevant songs written onto short fan comics. Perhaps art is not quite your division? Fanfiction writers are everywhere, spinning their own tales based on their understanding of their favorite characters. Of course, the quality of online fanfiction runs the gamut from cringe-inducing pseudoporn (50 Shades of Grey was originally written as Twilight fanfiction) to intelligent extensions of the source material, nearly indistinguishable from a non-existent sequel. Other fanfiction writers delve into Alternate Universe (AU) territory. Here, writers
this pairing, i like it. another! When they are not producing copious amounts of fan work, members of a fandom are best known for collectively screaming, crying, and flipping acrobatic pirouettes oﬀ the handle whenever anything notable happens to their favorite characters, or “bbys.” Perhaps the greatest single cause of both jubilation and heartbreak for a fandom member is “shipping,” a phenomenon unique to the world of fandoms. While normal fans are content with accepting whatever romantic arcs may or may not exist within a show or comic, fandom members (almost always) are shippers. The term itself comes from an abbreviation of “rela-
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tionship,” and has since been adapted into both noun and verb forms. A ship consists of a particular grouping of characters, typically romantic in nature. Shippers will pair characters together for any reason—whether they think the characters have a good dynamic, or they look good together, or simply because those characters are the shipper’s favorites. Over time, a complex language has formed around shipping. A relationship that one perceives as fated to be, typically involving at least one major protagonist, is known as a “One True Pairing,” or OTP. If you ship them platonically as best buddies, it’s a Bro-TP. Should the pairing actually be a threesome? You have an OT3. Is one of your ships so out of the ordinary that its insanity defies all logic? That’s known as a “crack ship,” referencing how high you even have to be to consider it a reasonable relationship. Is another fandom member’s pairing so revolting that it is eternally unacceptable? Congratulations, you’ve found your No-TP. Other terminology is derived from whether or not a ship is considered canon, meaning it is oﬃcially acknowledged in the source material. Ships in a fandom are sometimes “sunk” by canon when a particular relationship gets broken up—a play on the word’s similarity to the cannons carried by actual ships, and what happens to those ships when they’re fired at. Pairings that are neither canon nor “sunk” are sometimes referred to as “submarines,” while a ship involving one or more dead characters can be called a “ghost ship.” It goes without saying that the happiness of individual fandom members is often tied closely to the status of their ships. One trend that is specific to Tumblr functions like a bad parody of the U.S. legal system. Whereas defendants in court are assumed innocent until proven guilty, some shippers believe that, in any work where the main protagonists are of the same
Some shippers believe that, in any work where the main protagonists are of the same gender, those characters are gay for each other until proven...gay
of incredible acts of cyber-bullying. Although the bullying is not a common occurrence, anyone that has been on Tumblr for long enough will have witnessed some individual get harassed by a mob of anonymous commenters for expressing an unpopular opinion. This can escalate completely out of control, especially since Tumblr provides the option to send a message anonymously; with no way for the recipient to trace the source, overly-enthusiastic fans can send anonymous hate mail, and even death threats. Even celebrities are not immune to this phenomenon, and are perhaps even bigger targets precisely because of their fame. Several actors have chosen to deactivate their Tumblr accounts as a result of excessive harassment from unscrupulous users.
favorite shows, all from the comfort of their own bed. thoughtfulFeline summarizes the essence of the fandom quite well: ____ KM: What does it mean to you to be a part of a fandom? TF: What it means to me is basically that I share things with others in the fandom, celebrate with them, argue with them on occasion, etc. I don’t always feel like I can contribute, since many draw fan art and my skills don’t go in that direction, but even just putting ideas into it helps in my opinion. KM: What are some of the positive aspects of fandoms? What do you like about them? TF: I think [I like] how people express themselves so happily! People really enjoy being involved in fandoms, and whether that involves dramatic posts about sad stuﬀ, lovely fan art, coming up with elaborate theories, or even just simply saying, “I love you all way too much,” is just really, really great to see. ____
gender, those characters are gay for each other until proven... gay. Perhaps nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Sherlock fandom. A preponderance of JohnLock shippers romantically ship John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, producing an astounding amount of gay fiction/fanart. All this shipping is bound to result in inter- and intra-fandom conflicts. After all, not everyone may agree that your “little bbys totally belong together 5ever,” and some may even commit a crime so egregious as to ship one half of your OTP with another character (le gasp!). As such, shipping wars break out often, with fandom members arguing over why a protagonist should be with one character or another. These wars can occur on massive scales, as many shippers lay claim to entire “armadas” consisting of all the ships they support.
No matter where one’s skills lie, there is always a place in a fandom for anyone. Although there is the occasional conflict, fandoms still serve as a second, virtual home to many fans. Surrounded by their peers, fandom members laugh, cry, scream, shout, and stand as one. ◊
carry on my wayward son This brings us to the darker side of fandoms. Where large groups of people gather, there is bound to be conflict, and Tumblr is no diﬀerent. ____ KM: What are some of the downsides to fandoms? Is there anything you see as problematic? TF: Good grief. [M]y main grudge is people being disrespectful, rude, or otherwise excessively making others—especially those not in the fandom—uncomfortable or upset. For example, APH involves a lot of history. Some overeager fans don’t seem to realize that writing things relating to recent traumatic events revolving around their favorite character/pairing just simply isn’t okay…The fans that harass cosplayers at some conventions and get mad at people because they like/don’t like a [certain] character or pairing aren’t okay either. ____ Because fandoms allow one to immerse oneself in a group of like-minded individuals, it can also lead to severe groupthink. Surrounded by adoring peers, fandom members can become so self-assured in their own theories and ships, to the point where anyone with diﬀering opinions is seen as an enemy. Amplified by the shield of online anonymity and the tendency to exaggerate and over-dramatize emotions, fandom members are capable
they are my family, this is my home In spite of the cyber-bullying problem, many people still find endless joy in being part of a fandom. However one chooses to contribute, the most important part of fandom is participation. This is what distinguishes a mere fan from a fandom member. A single fan may devote his whole being to a work, forgetting everything else around him—a persona that adheres more closely to the traditional image of the solitary geek, surrounded by memorabilia encased in protective plastic. A fandom member, on the other hand, is a part of a vibrant community, one made possible by the Internet and the ease of communication it affords. Tumblr microblogs let fans interact with other like-minded individuals and express and explore their ideas about their
8onus round: 8y this point, I hope you have noticed that there is a large num8er of fandom references perme8ting this article. Now I’m going to test just how gr8 your fandom knowledge is 8y having a little contest. Go through the article again, and list every fandom reference you find, as well as the specific fandom it comes from. Email your findings to firstname.lastname@example.org. The person who gets the most correct answers will win a drawing from yours truly of any character of their choosing. What are you w8ing for? Allons-y! ::::)
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m a c k l e - w h o?
layout by JENNY ZHAO
art by CLARRIE SCHOLTZ
m a c k l e m o r e ! I
first discovered Macklemore on a fall day while visiting some friends at Vassar College. The rap artist had completely taken control of the flannel-infested, Converse-wearing, all-around hipster school. My friends—sporting their own styles of flannel and Converse—were appalled that I had never heard “Thrift Shop,” let alone watched the music video and feasted my eyes on the beautiful being that is Ben Haggerty, aka Macklemore. Soon thereafter, I downloaded all of Macklemore’s music and proclaimed myself to be the pioneer of Macklemore’s induction into the Cornell music scene. Obviously, I was wrong. And so is really anyone who claims to be Macklemore’s biggest fan after only listening to “Thrift Shop” and a few other songs. In fact, Macklemore has been to Cornell. In September of 2010, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis didn’t perform at Barton. They didn’t play on the Arts Quad, and they definitely didn’t boom through the speakers of Bailey Hall. Rather, they played to a sold-out Appel Commons. That’s right—while you were in the Appel dining room contemplating whether or not to have that third warm chocolate chip cookie, Macklemore was nearby, passionately rapping the lyrics of his earlier tracks to an enthusiastic audience. Sponsored by the Asian Pacific Americans for Action, Macklemore wasn’t even the event’s main act. I was a sophomore that year, and I’m sure I saw a flyer for his performance and brushed it oﬀ as some random event that wasn’t worth my precious time. The students who knew of Macklemore before “Thrift Shop” became a movement in music are the bona fide Macklemore fans. In the three years since Macklemore came to Cornell, he has taken his music, and ultimately his fame, to a new level. He isn’t just a name tossed around at flannel-filled colleges like Vassar, or even in flannel-filled cafés like the Green Dragon. He has emerged from the underground hip-hop scene wearing a fur coat and blonde mullet wig, and everyone really really loves it. After his Appel show, a short paragraph about him appeared in The Cornell Daily Sun. This past February the “Thrift Shop” phenomenon was featured by The New York Times, and the song has spent multiple weeks as the number one song in the country, according to the Billboard Hot 100. But in the time that Macklemore has acquired fame and buttloads of fans, he has also created a significant population of frenemies—former friends, now enemies, for lack of a better word. Now hipsters are holding their noses high, insisting that Macklemore is a sellout and far too mainstream to be considered
a part of the righteous indie class of music. Whether they know it or not, these hipsters are sort of right. Macklemore’s indie/hiphop/fuck-the-man persona was recently debunked by some reputable sources that noticed Macklemore’s album was distributed by the Alternative Distribution Alliance, which is owned by the Warner Music Group. While using the ADA ensured his songs would be played on the radio and ultimately led to his success, it tainted the “indie” aspect of Macklemore’s persona. Zoe Chace of NPR notes, “to get [Macklemore and Lewis’] album to the top of the charts…they needed help.” Alas, Macklemore’s shtick as an independently-produced rapper, insisting in his semi-popular song “Make the Money” to “make the money, don’t let the money make you, change the game, don’t let the game change you,” has been discredited. In the process, he has lost some fans here and there. Music blogs have not held back their disappointment. Articles titled “The Major ‘Exposure’ of Macklemore and the Myth of the Indie Artist” (Hypebot), “Macklemore’s Indie Rise is a Simple White Lie” (RapRehab), or even “Macklemore’s Terrifying Secret: He’s Not Really That Good” (Boxden), have surfaced and spread, encouraging hipsters to pray for the indie gods to retreat from Macklemore and eject his music from their sacred scene. I’m no musicologist, but I’m pretty sure that falling short of what he claims to be shouldn’t undermine Macklemore’s talent and fervor. Since that day when everyone at Cornell didn’t see him at the Appel Commons, he has played countless sold-out shows to crowds of girls that want to take his Salvation Army sweat suit oﬀ, and guys that wish they could pull oﬀ said sweat suit like he does. And he raps with conviction about issues that other rappers brush oﬀ as not hip-hop or “hood” enough, like marriage equality (“Same Love”) and the consequences of addiction (“Starting Over”). Finally, there’s a popular rap song that doesn’t degrade women or promote violence, and a rapper who is openly progressive. Compare him to Lil’ Wayne and T.I., both of whom served for possession of firearms, or even 50 Cent, who urges fans to “Get Rich or Die Tryin,” and Macklemore becomes a breath of fresh air. Even if Macklemore used a major record label to get radio time, at least his lyrics aren’t so oﬀensive that they all have to be bleeped out. What’s more important is that his music would have been the same whether or not he partnered with the ADA. So what if he’s not 100% independent? I think the Macklemore craze is just getting started. ◊
n the short time since its February premiere, the Netflix-produced series House of Cards has already become the streaming service’s most-watched content. The political thriller boasts stars like Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and marks Netflix’s first serious foray into original content. It also represents the first time in television history that an entire season of a show has been released at once, and the first time that a successful, mainstream show has completely skipped the traditional process of production. Clearly, the television landscape is changing, bringing with it new forms of writing, distribution, and profit-making. While CEO Reed Hastings claims that House of Cards is “not the center of the company,” it seems that the series is paving a new future for Netflix, and for the television business at large. Netflix isn’t the first online streaming site to produce its own material. In the last year or so, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and Microsoft have also released, or have announced their intent to release, original programming. Amazon Prime is rushing to release Zombieland as Hulu Plus announces The Awesomes, an animated series co-created by Seth Meyers and Michael Shoemaker. Even the music streaming service Spotify is purportedly planning a shift to include video content. The blossoming content wars resemble the cable wars of the eighties—which turned the likes of HBO and Showtime into the powerhouses we know today—in that competitors are scrambling for new ideas, formats, and programming. These sites are certainly benefitting from the current race, but far and above, consumers are the primary beneficiaries. Netflix has been able to challenge traditional television distribution and writing since, unlike your standard TV viewers, House of Cards fans don’t have to wait a week for a new episode. This all-at-once episode-dump fits Netflix’s customer base perfectly, since subscribers can consume at their own pace; and more often than not, this means viewers can remain glued to the couch in a multiple-episode binge. But on the downside for Netflix, binge-watching arguably reduces suspense, and, thus, buzz about the show. While every new episode of Game of Thrones or Pretty Little Liars spawns countless theories, tweets, and blog posts, a show like House of Cards leaves little to the imagination. A team from Mashwork, a New York-based social media analytics agency, analyzed the Twitter buzz during the first seasons of several diﬀerent shows, including The Walking Dead, Homeland, Game of Thrones, and
bluth family the future of television
GINA CARGAS House of Cards. They found that, while House of Cards had the highest percentage of buzz during the first week following the premiere, the chatter died down rapidly in the week after. Based on these findings, Mashwork posed an important question— “what is more important: sustaining word of mouth over a long period of time, or having high levels (or rates) of binge conversation?” With its incredible amount of in-depth data about its subscribers, Netflix occupies an unusual position in the television world. Unlike most regular television corporations, it knows exactly what kinds of shows its audience likes. It knows exactly when spectators choose to pause or abandon a program, exactly which actors, writers, and directors will garner the most views, and exactly which content has us clicking “Next Episode” on repeat for eight hours straight. For instance, Netflix’s upcoming sci-fi series, Sense8, is created by the Wachowski siblings, who are dubbed as two of the most popular creators on the site’s Instant Play platform. What Netflix has created is a place where advertisers are irrelevant and the corporation holds a wealth of data. In short—a network executive’s dream. And this data will include even more specific details going forward. Last summer, senior data scientist Mohammad Sabah reported that the company was examining specific screenshots in order to analyze “in-the-moment viewing habits.” Before long, Netflix will surely know which camera angles viewers favor, which scenes we’d rather watch on fast-forward, and which actors we will never put on pause. This has far-reaching implications for the future of media consumption, in which content is tailored more and more to our specific habits. For television writers and directors, this has its benefits. On the plus side, TV creators will now find themselves free of the standard constraints of the network-centric industry. Your average sitcom writer must structure an episode in three distinct,
Do we really want our shows to be constructed by algorithms?
seven-to-eight-minute acts, allowing time for three advertisement breaks in a 30-minute window. But a similar short-form comedy on an online service like Netflix can bypass these restrictions; and without mid-episode advertisements, nightly timetables, or FCC regulations, writers can follow whichever model they—and the website—see fit. Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz recently commented on the freedom this open-form structure allows, claiming that Netflix has allowed him to push the envelope in his cult comedy’s upcoming fourth season. “We are encouraged to make a more interesting show as opposed to flattening out,” he said at the Dive into Media conference in February. Hurwitz also claimed that the television industry’s ratings system was inherently flawed, and that “the whole model is going to change.” While Arrested Development was still airing on FOX, Nielsen excluded online platforms and DVR recordings from their ratings, and many of the show’s viewers went unnoticed. With streaming sites creating original content, Nielsen ratings become irrelevant and number of subscribers takes the lead. Some, like Hurwitz, believe the new model will promote innovation. But the new format also holds inherent risks, particularly its insidious potential to stifle creativity. According to some critics, online streaming services’ massive stores of data could turn us into media-consumption puppets. Andrew Leonard, writing for Salon, claims that the sheer quantity of data that Netflix accumulates “might funnel craftsmanship in particular directions,” causing a monotony that forces us to ask ourselves whether we really want our shows to be constructed by data algorithms. At the same time, is this concept really that diﬀerent from the way current networks function? House of Cards combines audience favorites Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and David Fincher in a high-stakes political drama—a recipe for instant success—and
it’s not as if the long-awaited return of Arrested Development is a shot in the dark. While the likes of NBC and FOX consider current trends and produce supernatural teen drama after supernatural teen drama, Netflix and its online brethren are considering similar, if far more specific, data. It comes down to a question of priorities. Television is traditionally a one-way medium, in which viewers consume what a corporation provides and are never granted the chance to participate in an active dialogue. So would we rather our television generate months of sustained excitement, hushed conversations about next week’s episode, and meticulous theories outlined in 5000-word Tumblr essays? Or do we want our television to adopt more creative formats, while relying on data algorithms and taking fewer risks? As a loud and proud television geek, I can’t wait to see where Netflix and friends take us. At the same time, the surplus of data signals our entry to an increasingly Gibson-esque world. For the moment, the new series are exciting, but in ten years, these corporations could very well be spoon-feeding us custom-made entertainment. I’m not sure if there’s a solution, a way to preserve the capacity for creativity and limit the corporate over-reaching, or if we’re doomed to become media-consuming robots. The answer could be to strive for active engagement with television, whether that’s through online forums, fanfiction, or simple discussion with other fans, as we do now. Regardless, television is changing, and our method of consumption will have to change with it. In the meantime, I’ll be in my room, binge-watching Arrested Development for the 19th time. ◊
art by LAUREN O’NEAL
Art Exhibitions I Would Create if I Were Adam Lerner, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Instead of Adam Lerner, Lazy College Student Adam Lerner
Mo Monet Mo Problems- For this exhibition, I would cover the walls of my gallery with so many Monet paintings that the deluge of cataract-blurred water lilies would dampen the audience’s appreciation of the work. The experience would compel visitors to reconsider the paintings’ genius, believing instead that they are just a bunch of blurry swamps. Girls With Dada Issues- Featuring work from a movement of people who don’t consider themselves art-
ists, these pieces will feature girls wearing things we don’t consider to be clothes. Much like Dada’s founders protested the unjust tyranny of European nationalism and colonialism, the subjects of these paintings protest the unjust tyranny of their fathers’ curfews.
Jewish Guys Love the Goya- This exhibit, financed by wealthy Sephardic Jews, would consist of the finest Spanish Renaissance paintings that the Jews would have seen, had they not been expelled in 1492. The women who serve as their subjects, while beautiful by most standards, will most certainly not be kosher. Cubist Renditions of America’s Most Unappreciated Presidents- This exhibit will allow audiences to see another side (or two or three) of such heroes as Gerald Ford, Calvin Coolidge, Warren G. Harding, and Rutherford B. Hayes. With the exception of Coolidge, who is rumored to have slept as much as eleven hours a day, these men worked hard to make American history. Unfortunately, they came up a bit short. Took a Girl Home From the Club and I Never Calder Back- Alexander Calder’s iconic stables and mobiles helped define a new generation of American sculpture. In this exhibit, they will be hidden around the corners of the room, as if they were desperately trying to avoid someone with whom they really should be sharing test results.
I Just Finished a Venti Coffee and Now I Need to Use the Jasper Johns- A dual-themed exhibit that features Abstract Expressionist artwork, alongside photographs of people making abstract expressions in search of the nearest bathroom.
This piece was originally published in DASH Literary Journal.
The Grand Canyon
Geology Lessons Emily Greenberg
The Great Salt Lake
Two weeks since the breakup, since he slammed the door so hard on his way out that the glass salt shaker jumped oﬀ the table and shattered across the floor into a mess of glass shards and grains of salt. It reminded her of their early days, the way he gently tied oﬀ her arm above the elbow and shot her up with cocaine. They didn’t like to snort. He would sneeze uncontrollably exactly six times. She was prone to nose bleeds. So they sat like this on the floor, legs crossed, backs against the fridge, shooting up. Then, six months ago, she threw out their needles and tossed the remaining cocaine in with the laundry detergent when he knocked on the door after eight months in prison and said he wanted to live a clean, boring life. Two weeks since he yanked the needle from her right arm, whispered, “Fucking junkie,” in her ear, and slammed the door so hard that the glass salt shaker jumped oﬀ the table and shattered across the floor into a mess of glass shards and grains of salt. Two weeks of ignoring his absence, pretending he was at a business conference and would burst through the door any moment with a bottle of champagne. Two weeks of lying on the kitchen floor crying into a pile of salt.
Back in the day, Bob bowled a 299 in the PBA Triple Crown, missing the ten pin on his last roll. He thought of this now, age fifty-two, tilted back in his easy chair watching the Buﬀalo Bills and licking hot sauce oﬀ his thumb. He watched the fans swoon over defensive end Mario Williams, his skin shiny with sweat. No one cared about bowlers (at least not today). Thirty years ago though, he had been the real thing. They came for miles to watch him: teenage girls with smeared mascara and stilettos stolen from their mothers’ closets, mustachioed middle-aged recruiters in sunglasses and visors, sports announcers with slicked hair and designer suits. Ah, those were the days, Bob thought as he licked sauce from his thumb. Back before he slipped on the hardwood and broke his back with that last roll, before they replaced the slippery floors of Sunnybrook Lanes with a mall, before bowling was relegated to elementary school children who rolled the ball between their legs, jumping from side to side to encourage a hook or curve, only to sigh pitifully when it puttered to a stop midway through the lane. Before his wife told him to stop fantasizing about the past and grow up. Bob snorted and watched Williams fumble the ball. He walked over to his trophy case, caressed his favorite black bowling ball, its sheen dimmed slightly where he used to rub it for good luck. He did not realize how greasy his fingers were until it was too late. He stared at the gaping dent, wondering what he would tell his wife when she returned home.
Jack and Jill were playing outside in the sandbox while their mother swallowed first one sleeping pill, then two, three, four, fifteen. Jack and Jill were playing outside in the sandbox while their mother was playing Sleeping Beauty. Jack and Jill were playing outside in the sandbox while their father was at work and the neighbors were out of town and the newspaper delivery boy was sick. Jack and Jill were playing outside in the sandbox on the hottest day of the year, when news anchors with fake white teeth urged everyone to check on toddlers, pets, and old people. Jack and Jill were playing outside in the sandbox until they were not playing anymore.
The Rocky Mountains
Eighty-seven years old and hard of hearing, Rocky spent afternoons on the porch, sometimes to sip bourbon and play the harmonica, occasionally to balance a checkbook, and always to read the newspaper and take a long nap. That was before the neighbors moved in, a bunch of rowdy twenty-somethings, one of whom had a funny ring poking from his nose. They walked around until three in the morning, hefty boombox poised on their shoulders, polluting the calm and serenity he’d moved out West for exactly one year after Carol’s “death by natural causes,” when he decided hearing her singing in the house they shared for sixty-two years was driving him slowly insane. Sometimes, he would ask them to turn it down but to no avail: “Hey buddy, can’t you just turn your hearing aid down?” He tried to explain, but they could never hear him over the music. “I can’t hear soft sounds,” he would shout from the porch, “it only turns up the soft noises. The loud ones I can hear.” “Right on bro,” they would shout back, and turn the boombox up a notch. One day, Rocky had had enough. He walked over. He picked up his cane. He swung at the boombox exactly three times before one of the neighbors—slender boy with lip ring, John Lennon glasses, and handlebar mustache—woke up from a deep sleep on the hammock and chased him away. The next day, they built a wall around their property. Not a fence exactly, just a bunch of rocks stacked on top of each other. How lazy, Rocky thought to himself. But it sure did block out the noise. It was only then he realized what the noise had blocked.
To a Future Columnist Jing Jin Cherish the slow jottings in thick journals. Accept the strikethroughs on flimsy essays. Let only those who know you oﬀ the page Lance your flaccid, non-sequitured syntax. Once your stream of thoughts widely circulate, Umbrage will be taken at any stance. Steady, beware the charge of callousness.
Sweet Like Summer Kristi Krulcik
I. Helicopters Eloise giggles. Mama picks up a handful of green leaves shaped like baseball bats and places them in her daughter’s hands. Eloise lifts a leaf from her little palm and tosses it into the air, then watches it twirl to the ground like a helicopter. Eloise giggles again. Mama takes another leaf and pries open the pouch that holds the seed. The seed falls out, leaving a sticky substance on her fingers. Mama takes Eloise’s face in her hands and places the sappy part of the leaf onto Eloise’s button nose; the new nose reminds the little girl of Pinocchio. “But Mama, I don’t tell lies!” Eloise giggles. The sunset’s rays shine through the branches of the oak tree and onto the faces of the mother and daughter lying in the grass. It’s dinner time, but they don’t care. II. Sweet Potatoes Eloise sat on the third branch of the oak tree, waiting to see Mama and her boyfriend, Roy, come around the corner in the baby blue convertible. Earlier in the afternoon, Eloise had lifted the pink-checked blanket into the air and watched it gently fall to the grass in a perfect square. She had taken multiple trips up the hill to carry Mama’s floral dishes and teacups to accompany the polished silverware. Eloise set a place for herself, for Mama, and for Roy. She had big plans for this picnic. At seven o’clock, only three-eighths of the sun was still visible over the grassy hill. Eloise alternated between watching the road and straightening the plates of fried chicken, corn on the cob, and dandelion salad that were lying on the blanket. Her big surprise, the dish of sweet potatoes, was stowed away behind the rock next to the tree trunk. It was the after-dinner treat. When Mama asked Eloise three weeks ago what she wanted to do for her ninth birthday, Eloise replied, “I want a picnic! At sunset! It can be under the tree, Mama. I’ll make everything. You can leave for the day, and I’ll cook for you and Roy. And no cake. I saw a recipe I want to try for dessert.” Eloise took the Illustrated Cookbook for the Admirable Housewife out of the library and followed its directions for “Sweetie-Pie Sweet Potatoes.” Anything cooked with mini marshmallows and brown sugar sounded delicious to Eloise. When the last bit of the sun disappeared behind the hill, Eloise climbed down from the tree and took the sweet potatoes from their hiding place behind the rock. “Looks like you guys are more excited about the sweet potatoes than Mama,” said Eloise to a line of ants carrying bits of marshmallow and orange potato. From then on, Eloise’s birthdays had a common theme of lonely sweet potato dinners. III. Cherry Blossom Cheeks He was hers. All hers. And she never wanted to let him go. Eloise went to Aaron like the ants went to her sweet potatoes. After Eloise’s ninth birthday mishap, her young mind decided that having a boyfriend was essential for happiness. To her, it meant joyrides in convertibles on schoolnights and late-night phone calls that involved giggling and inside jokes. Mama had moved on, and Eloise felt that it was her time to grow up as well. The nice sun and cool breeze of Eloise’s sixteenth summer did not fail to inspire young love. Aaron, the boy from “Baw-ston” who had dimples like Clark Gable and a taste for jazz, fell in love with Eloise’s penchant for simplicity. It was during that sixteenth summer that a casual meeting at the Farmer’s Market turned into a series of drive-in movie dates and ice cream runs. In the afternoons, sweet kisses on the fourth branch of the oak tree made Aaron’s cheeks the color of the cherry blossom in Eloise’s hair. Eleven o’clock curfews oﬀered opportunities for nighttime picnics under the shadows of the oak tree and the light of the moon. Ants were recurring guests, often seen carrying mini marshmallow bits and orange
potato pieces. Hot, summer nights can do wondrous things to a couple. In seven months’ time, Eloise’s belly resembled the watermelons growing in the field. IV. Rose Eloise liked to sit on the rock beneath the oak tree and cradle her large tummy. She would remember the helicopter leaves and the setting sun that provided a natural backdrop between Mama and her. The little girl would be called Rose. But complications did not allow for Rose to see the sunlight and the oak tree that her mother loved so much. The loss of the unborn flower came as the leaves on the oak tree drifted towards the wisps of dew-dipped grass. Each tear down Eloise’s moonlit face was accompanied by the orchestrated release of a leaf from the oak tree. Just as the veins of the amber and gold leaves started to close and inhibit life at the appearance of autumn, the vermillion blood that passed through Eloise’s heart gradually began to slow and close the valves illuminated by emotion. V. Domesticity “It is up to her, Roy. She is eighteen now, and has gone through a lot. A lot. You don’t understand.” Mama’s shouts would start after Eloise headed up the hill each night to calm down. She sat on the fifth branch, now. “She has to do something with her life! I will not let her live here forever.” “She’s eighteen, Roy. That’s hardly ‘forever.’” The moon was the only thing that ever saw Eloise’s tears. Aaron used to come by after school every day to check on Eloise and her swollen belly, though he hadn’t been coming around as often anymore. The possibility of Rose had sent its tsunami of shock waves and now everyone was in the recovery stage. The crib collecting dust in the corner was a daily reminder of what had been, what almost was, and what is now. How can you be an admirable housewife when you have no family to cook for? VI. Such a Place It had been four years since the possibility of motherhood had escaped Eloise. Her young beauty was still vibrant, though shadowed by an unspoken event of her past. Wandering the fields each day, Eloise pondered the words she would have said to a baby named after her favorite flower. On the Fourth of July, Eloise paraded around town in a striped, red dress with a navy blue bow tied in the back. She spent most of the day making small talk with the neighbors and enjoying the gentle breeze that tickled her round cheeks. The children ran around the town with red, white, and blue pinwheels. They were fascinated by the sparkling, whirling wheels of their new toys and stared at them with wonder. At dinner time, Eloise took a plate of sweet potatoes—her contribution to the celebration—and walked up the hill to stand underneath the oak tree. The sun was beginning to set over the horizon and Eloise could feel the night becoming cooler. From the bottom of the hill, he noticed her. He watched as Eloise made her way around the grand oak, stepping onto each large root of the tree that was above ground, holding an empty white plate in her outstretched hand. He was staring at the way the wind made her dress swirl around her pale knees. He noticed how the setting sun made her hair appear golden from a distance. And he realized that, with each dainty step onto the next root, this girl was capturing his heart. Through the thick, summer air, Ben gazed at Eloise. And she gazed back. She never thought that she would fall in love again. He never thought that it would happen at such a time, at such a place. VII. Still There are no longer shouts that rise from the house at the bottom of the hill or tears that reflect only moonlight. There is only a tree that occasionally lends one of its branches to be draped with a faded, pinkchecked blanket. This is a fort made by a giggling girl, her mother, and her grandmother. The little girl often stares up at the swaying tree, mesmerized by its size and kind intentions. The branches sway for a while, and eventually stop and are still. Still as a pond on a windless day. Still as can be. Still.
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