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editor's note 2016 was a whirlwind of a year. We were on a ridiculous Six Flags roller coaster that corkscrewed up and down (but mostly down, let’s be real). We were bombarded with nasty names and alternative facts from all sides. We never disproved the theory that Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. Kendrick got robbed of the Grammy. All the musicians died. The United States embarrassed itself on a global scale, and we persevered through an election cycle more worthy of the Onion than the New York Times. Our news feeds exploded with nasty political arguments and opportunistic meme artists. We pressed on, doing our best to fight.
upfront features 3 • frenemies Alexandra walsh 4 • to bottle a memory Tushar Bhargava
lifestyle 6 • no i still can’t do latte art Sydney Lo 6 • i’m too old for spider-man Bianca Stelian 8• the dating game Rachel Teller
arts & culture 6 • you’ll never walk alone Josh Wartel 6 • love and crime in the mountains James Feinberg 7 • aspirational hip-hop today Joshua Lu
Editor-in-Chief Monica Chin Managing Editor of Arts & Culture Joshua Lu Managing Editor of Features Saanya Jian Managing Editor of Lifestyle Annabelle Woodward Arts & Culture Editors Taylor Michael Joshua Wartel
Features Editors Kathy Luo Claribel Wu Lifestyle Editor Jennifer Osborne Celina Sun Creative Director Grace Yoon Copy Chief Alicia DeVos Head Illustratrix Katie Cafaro
This week, it began to snow. We threw snowballs and made snowmen and trudged forward. Some of us protested, others donated, and all of us tried to self-care. A movie came out about the work of Black women at NASA in the 60s, and we cheered when, despite all the horrific racism they had faced in the American south, they helped put a person in space. We watched Simone Biles win us a pile of medals, and cheered for the same country we’d been hating for the past several months. Today, we found out that Beyonce is having twins, Lady Gaga will play at the Superbowl, and the world will keep turning, at least for now. Keep fighting, and keep self-caring. We’re here for you. Best,
Monica Please send your photos to alicia_devos@brown. edu!
Serif Sheriffs Livia Mucciolo Yamini Mandava Elizabeth Toledano Staff Writers Sara Al-Salem Daniella Balarezo Anne Cheng Pia Ceres Sarah Cooke James Feinberg Anna Harvey Katherine Luo Jennifer Osborne Lindsey Owen Rica Maestas
Ameer Malik Chantal Marauta Isabella Martinez Randi Richardson Spencer Roth-Rose Ananya Shah Celina Sun Alex Walsh Joshua Wartel Annabelle Woodward Xuran You Staff Illustrators Clarisse Angkasa Alice Cao Tom Coute Socorro FernandezGarcia
Ruth Han Diana Hong Jenice Kim Kay Liang Doris Liou Emma Margulies Michelle Ng Tymani Ratchford Natasha Sharpe Maggie Tseng Claribel Wu Yidi Wu Stephanie Zhou
Cover Katie Cafaro
frenemies revisiting friends in 2017
ALEX WALSH staff writer illustrator EMMA MARGULIES
It was late December. Having just finished (what will hopefully turn out to be) the worst finals week of my undergraduate life, I needed to do something that would entertain without educating, requiring thought, or upsetting me. This—along with an offhand comment from my mom about old TV shows—is what led me to Friends. I watched Friends all through break. As I slowly recovered from finals, I lay in bed shamelessly, nearly demolishing four seasons. For a while, it was like a magic pill; starting with Season 2, though, doubts began to climb in. I didn’t care about any of the characters, but their actions revealed truths about the late 90s that my dead brain wasn’t ready to absorb. For one, there was the expected sex obsession of Chandler and Joey, the two “regular guys” in the six-person friend group. A straight man does something nice for Rachel, and Ross, her everjealous boyfriend, claims he’s just trying to get in her pants. And Joey agrees: “A man is only nice to a woman for sex.” In the eyes of that era’s media—no comment about the current era’s media— men didn’t really like women, but men did really like having sex with them. Things were different in the 90s, though, so I was ready to ignore that dynamic, despite its unavoidable, thematic presence in every episode. Then, of course, there was the unironic belief that women can’t play sports, even if they are unusual enough to know how. In one Thanksgiving episode, there’s a girls vs. boys flag football game, and Phoebe says—no joke intended— “But how are we going to beat them? They’re boys!” This came up again with playing poker, going to hockey games, getting into fights, asking people out… In each case, the creators of the show were careful to sneak in an exception—Ross is a monogamous, non-hyper-sexual man, while Monica, his sister, is actually pretty good at football—but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re setting up a problematic norm. Beyond the definitive gender roles that Friends openly enforces,—“This is a girls’ apartment. That is a guys’ apartment” or “You don’t tell a guy that you’re looking for a serious relationship”—there are sinister powers at play that Friends doesn’t quite seem to catch. While there are, of course, non-heterosexual characters, the general rule is that the main characters ought to be surprised by them, and offended whenever anyone thinks they themselves aren’t heterosexual. Take the episode where Chandler tries to avoid being seen as gay, or the one where Joey goes dancing with a man and Monica says, “Are you gay yet?”. The fact that Ross’s ex-wife Carol is a lesbian never ceases to amuse the friends, and her sexuality is invariably mentioned when her character is brought up. In fact, lesbianism is ruthlessly fetishized: Chandler and Joey like nothing more than imagining two women together, as evidenced by the episode where they co-
erce Monica and Rachel—two of their best friends—into making out with each other as they watch. But the aspect of the show that I found most troubling was the evolution of an entire character. Ross Geller starts out as a nerdy paleontologist with a history of being unlucky with women. He’s refreshing at first in that he isn’t quite as quintessentially horny as Joey and Chandler, and thus serves as a foil to them. Hopelessly monogamous, Ross has only slept with one woman—his ex-wife Carol—and doesn’t seem to know how to sleep with another. He’s had a crush on Rachel since high school, when she was a popular cheerleader and he was a classic geek. There’s nothing wrong with this archetype, although it has, at least by this point, been used so many times we can all predict its trajectory. Sadly, Ross quickly takes a turn for the worse. For the first batch of episodes, all we see is him hopelessly pining after Rachel. Then they get together, miraculously, and his other side begins to show itself. It’s a dynamic modern viewers are all too familiar with: the sweet, caring boyfriend who rapidly develops into a jealous, possessive partner.
While Rachel works at a coffee shop and has a lot of time for Ross—who spends all day at the museum—their relationship seems to be going well. Then Rachel gets a job in the fashion world, and Ross blows a gasket. She’s not home when he wants her to be, and he complains daily. Why can’t she go out to dinner with him? Can’t she just come home early? He feels like he never even sees her anymore. In addition, he immediately thinks she’s cheating on him with her coworker Mark, essentially because Mark is a man. Day after day, Ross accuses Rachel of being unfaithful and working too much; day after day, Rachel explains herself. Finally, Ross comes into her office uninvited and tries to force a picnic on her while she’s taking an important call. She tells him to leave; he lights a candle. She tells him again; he pulls out bread. He is utterly unwilling to listen to her or take no for an answer. The show tries to excuse this sort of behavior by making it clear that it’s not meant to be taken seriously, but so much of the series revolves around Ross that I couldn’t ignore it. We are, I think, meant to see him as a well-meaning guy who’s a victim of the hyper-masculine stereo-
types around him—and he is a victim. But that doesn’t fully justify the character that sneaks in around it, the “feminine” side that’s intended to make his jealous behavior okay. Ross is just sensitive, the show seems to argue. More so than the obvious gender roles, which Friends seems fairly aware of, Ross’s possessive side slips through the cracks of critical engagement, presenting itself as a trivial character flaw similar to, say, Joey’s penchant for one night stands. I’m not saying Friends is a terrible, sexist show, and I’m not saying shows can’t or shouldn’t have characters like Ross. My issue is with the way the show portrays his behavior as endearing, or, if not, then acceptable and understandable. It’s easy to say that since Friends first aired twenty years ago, things were different back then. There weren’t cell phones. Men couldn’t wear tight jeans without being made fun of (at least in the Friends’ friend group). But because it’s still popular today—when, thankfully, Ross’s behavior is more readily recognized as problematic—it’s up to us to be aware of implications that people in the 90s may not have questioned. Even if it means that Friends isn’t the ideal homeon-break show after all.
to bottle a memory a brown bucket list
TUSHAR BHARGAVA staff writer illustrator KATIE CAFARO
“Young man, you keep your nose clean.” My friend Mike shifted uncomfortably on the hard plastic seat. The old lady with frizzy, grey hair sitting next to him glared.
“We should have taken an Uber,” Mike said, walking ahead with both hands in his jean pockets. “It wouldn’t have cost that much, split four ways.”
“You hear me? Stay away from that nasty stuff,” she said, shaking her finger right under his nose.
“But then you wouldn’t have learned about the dangers of drugs,” Kevin said, winking at me and Philip.
Mike, fidgeting even more now, nodded, his head nearly touching the ceiling as the bus hit a speed breaker.
“I don’t know why she picked on me,” said Mike as he waited for us to catch up. We were on the unpaved part of the cliff walk, balancing on uneven grey stones. The waves crashed below us. I was doing the worst: sometimes getting down on my hands and knees to hop from one stone to the next—like Gollum, I thought, as I finally caught up with the rest.
We were on-board RIPTA bus No. 60, and because there were no four adjacent empty seats, we had scattered: Kevin and I were sitting in the front, a row apart; Mike and Philip were sitting in the back row. Between Mike and Philip sat the old lady, who—as she had informed the whole bus a while back—was a reformed drug addict. “Trust me, that stuff will kill you,” she said, giving Mike another glare. “Looks like Mike is making new friends,” Kevin whispered to me. I laughed and looked out of the window as the bus drove past small Rhode Island towns: shops with hand-painted wooden signs, green and red canopies, two-story houses with U.S. flags fluttering from jaunty angles, the walls painted pink, blue, and white. We passed a small theater. Now showing: Deadpool, 19:00 & 22:00. Philip, who had been quiet up until then, asked the old lady, “Have you watched Deadpool yet?” She turned towards him, “What was that? Speak up, will you.” “Uh sure, sorry.” Philip repeated the question, louder. A sudden smile made the old lady’s wrinkles disappear: “Watched it first day, first show. I love superhero movies.” “Oh cool, me too,” Philip said. “Did you also see the last Avengers?” Mike relaxed visibly at this topic shift: his face became less red. He caught us looking and shook his head. We cracked up again. As the bus rattled along I-95, the only sounds were those of Mike, Philip, and the old lady talking superheroes at the top of their voices and of Kevin and me discussing summer plans in hushed voices. All the other passengers were staring at their iPhones, their white earbuds dangling from their ears. When we were almost at the end of the bus route, Mike got into trouble again. He found himself on the wrong side of the Marvel versus D.C. comics debate, and the criticism was harsh: “Young man, those aren’t real superheroes.” The cold sea breeze rushing in from the window had made my face numb; otherwise, it would have ached from the laughter. *** A lined sheet of paper, folded into a small square. I unfold it. Once, twice, thrice. I smooth out the wrinkles and place it on my desk. White paper on dark mahogany. On the top of the sheet, the legend: senior-year bucket list. Just below, the first item on the list: visit Newport with friends. ***
“I mean, I haven’t even smoked weed,” Mike said. “I thought it was kind of cool how we managed to find something to talk about in superheroes. Like how universal something like that is,” Philip said. “Can we take an Uber back?” Mike said. “No,” Kevin and I said in unison. We then walked along the proper, paved cliff walk. There was a white fence on one side, and the green lawns of the Newport mansions on the other side. I had seen photos of the mansions, but they looked much bigger up close. As the others walked ahead, Mike lecturing on the economics of outsourcing, I took a tentative step onto the lawn of the closest mansion. Although I knew that the Newport Preservation Society owned most of the mansions, I still half-expected a mastiff to come running out or a warning gunshot to sound. But all was quiet. I took another step. Mike’s voice seemed muffled and far. I started walking towards the greystone mansion. *** The floors are wooden, polished. Weak sunlight slowly filters in from the clerestory windows—it is a cloudy day outside. But the room is well-lit: a giant chandelier hangs from the ceiling and the light that refracts and reflects from its crystal faces fills the room, illuminating everything—the leather chairs, the marble busts, the Persian carpet. Take off your muddy shoes. We don’t want to leave a trace here. And trust me: this place is impressionable. *** I learned about the art of memory from Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein. Foer, a journalist, was initially covering the U.S. memory championship, but later decided to take part in the next memory championship himself. He enlisted the support of European memory champion Ed Cooke and began training in the art of memory. The ars memoriae is an ancient mnemonic technique that involves mentally walking through a building and associating facts with rooms or objects in the building to remember in the form of vivid images. This method seemed elaborate and strange when I first read about it. I was skeptical. But I used it once to remember some facts for a history
quiz and it worked—well. Curious, I dug deeper and found some scientific basis for the method: our brains have evolved to excel at remembering places and images. Recent studies using fMRI machines showed that practitioners of ars memoriae harness this geo-spatial recall to better remember facts. However, ars memoriae is an archaic name. Today most people call these elaborate mnemonic-constructions Memory Palaces. *** Your hand rests on the brass knob, and you can see your blurred reflection in the polished metal. You look at me; I nod. You turn the knob and open the door. Inside, a Viking longship. You notice the watertight shell with overlapping wooden panels forming ridges. You notice the planks like ribs. You notice the mast set in keelson. You notice the large rectangular sails made of unwashed wool—unwashed because sheep oil is a natural water repellant. These details matter; Professor Conant gives tough quizzes. *** My favorite passage in Moonwalking with Einstein, however, has nothing to do with memory palaces. Foer, while discussing the passing of time and its relation to memory, makes an observation about how we perceive time, which is eerily similar to a passage that the novelist E.M. Forster wrote nearly a century ago in his Aspects of The Novel. However, since Forster said it better, it’s his words that I’ve included here: “There seems something else in life besides time, something which may conveniently be called ‘value’, something which is measured not by minutes or hours, but by intensity, so that when we look at our past it does not stretch back evenly but piles up into a few notable pinnacles.” While Foer doesn’t use the same terminology as Forster, his insight about our perception of time is the same. Foer, however, goes one step further and makes a bold claim: “Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it...If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next—and disappear. That’s why it is so important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible...Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perceptions of our lives.” When I read this passage, in the spring semester of my junior year, I panicked. For the past two and a half years, I had been living like a clockwork soldier, and I was afraid that my only memories of Brown would be of late nights in the Sunlab, each night collapsing into the other, a confused remembrance of my everyday routine. However, the idea of time being stretchable, like pizza dough, seemed to have some promise. I still had a year and a couple of months at Brown left, so feeling hopeful, I tore out a piece of paper and started writing my bucket list. *** “You must be wondering why I brought you all here,” I said. Kevin, Philip, and Mike, who were all sitting on a low-slung stone wall near the cliff walk, looked confused.
“What do you mean?” Philip asked. “I thought Philip brought us here,” Kevin said. “I thought I brought myself here,” Mike said. “Ah, yes, the illusion of choice,” I said. Mike threw a pebble at me, and it bounced off my shoulder. “Explain yourself, young Tushar,” Mike said. So I told them everything: about the memory palaces, Foer’s theory of stretchable time, and my fears of having no recollection of my years at Brown. It sounded less crazy than I thought it would, and I even got some nods of understanding along the way. When I was finished, Philip raised his hand, as if asking a question in class. “So this trip, by that theory, is helping you expand your memory?” he said. “Uh yeah, I guess you can say that,” I said. “Wait, so...,” Philip started. “So that is why you wanted us to come along,” Kevin said, faking an expression of shocked enlightenment. “We are just props in Tushar’s memory palace,” Mike said. “Yeah, like waiters or something,” Philip said. I looked at them sitting on the wall—trying to suppress their grins and look offended at the same time. I stooped to pick up a handful of pebbles and threw them, just as the red and green RIPTA bus pulled up and blocked the sea and the mansions from view. *** You close the door on the Viking ship. You are about to leave, your mud-encrusted shoes in your hand, but I gesture for you to wait. There is one more room you need to see. Its door is identical to the first door, painted white with a gleaming brass knob, but when you step in, you realize that this room is much smaller, that there are no windows. The room is empty except for a wooden cabinet. You open it. Inside are rows and rows of proppedup glass bottles, the kind used to store ship models. Most of them are empty, but a few are filled. You pick up one, and there seems to be a swirling mist inside. I take out my handkerchief and rub the glass. The mist clears, and you see four boys sitting on a stone wall, laughing, the green sea in the background. When dealing with something as nebulous and unreliable as human memory, it is comforting to have a place of retreat, somewhere you can always go, where you can always find what you are looking for. My memory palace was never meant to just help me with history quizzes. It was meant to store the memories important to me, to bottle them, and hide them in the wooden cabinet in neat rows, with labels. Standing before the cabinet, in my memory palace, I’m reminded why I started my bucket list—and this monthly column——by the distant sound of the crashing sea bucket list. Because I know that time—the relentless time of minutes and hours—will march on, and I want to steal something from time itself.
no i still don’t do latte art reflections of a barista
SYDNEY LO staff writer illustrator JENICE KIM
I stand in line for coffee in the Minneapolis airport, watching sinks fill with used dishes and steam pour into the air from the milk pitchers behind the counter. As each person steps up to the counter, I recite the recipes for their drinks in my mind. Two shots of espresso, milk frothed until 120 degrees, poured until an inch of space is left in the cup, and so forth. I peek behind the cash register and see the familiar machines, the containers of tea leaves lined up against the back wall, and the cabinets stuffed with extra to-go cups. Even in a different location, the Caribou Coffee shop chain feels comfortingly similar. Although I left my job as a barista months ago, it is still challenging to face the subdued chaos of a coffee shop and know I am no longer part of that experience. My town’s Caribou Coffee shop looks quaint. The shop is carved into the adjacent grocery store and decorated with warm wooden furniture and framed pictures of mountains. Shelves of mugs and many members of the small town of Sartell already enjoying their beverages greeted those entering, along with a welcoming seasonal sign that once read, “We’re Hiring.” I noticed the sign while applying for a job in the grocery store and had applied for the barista position immediately.
I soon separated the reality of working in a coffee shop from the leisurely paced scenes from romantic movies or the slow busywork one could do while writing a novel or chatting with friends as a customer. I never spent a single evening mastering a latte art leaf or analyzing the exact amount of espresso required to make a perfect beverage. With just one coworker I took orders from both inside the store and the drive-thru, made beverages, prepared food items, cleaned every syrup bottle, pitcher, container, and inch of the bar, vacuumed, mopped, and restocked. Regardless of whether or not a customer was in the store, we were always busy, catching up on what the morning shifts were unable to do or preparing for our next rush of customers. It was a thankless mayhem. Still, in the haze of orders and unappreciative customers, I found a community amongst my coworkers. Our different backgrounds and paths converged for a few hours in the store. I worked with intelligent college students trying to make a dent in their loan debt, single mothers just trying to pay the rent, tired adults trying to move out of a small town, all smiling while ignoring the burns they got from the milk steamers. Little interactions with them were notes of levity between stressful
evenings. While we cleaned the fridges, a student and I joked about the never-ending construction of roundabouts in town. After a busy shift, a mother with children my age told me about her passion for painting. We discussed styles and techniques she’d taught herself. These brief exchanges over time grew into friendships. As I began to apply to colleges my coworkers supported me without question, covering shifts so I could finish applications and encouraging me while I waited for decision dates. When I left my position during April
of my senior year, I met it with the same kind of stress and relief that accompanies finishing high school or moving from a childhood home. At the same time, I felt uniquely in debt to the shop and those who worked in it. The memories of coffee beans and conversations stayed with me, reawakening with the smell of burnt espresso. Even at this airport coffee shop days away from beginning my new life in Providence, I still can’t consider myself just a customer.
i’m too old for spider-man growing up and aging out
BIANCA STELIAN staff writer illustrator SOCO FERNANDEZ GARCIA
Recently, while caught up in a Wikipedia clickstorm, I came across the page for the new Spider-Man movie and found out that boys born in 2001 were considered for the lead role. As a proud baby of the late ’90s—December 1997, in case any readers want to send me a belated birthday present—this fact really freaked me out. I grew up with the lovably dopey Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, a glassy-eyed champion whose Spidey sense made all the young girls tingle. And when Andrew Garfield took over the role, I didn’t think much of it; he was just some Brit who would only half-convincingly play a boy over a decade his junior. So when I heard that post-millennium tykes whom I can only picture in diapers were up for the job, it came as a shock. Now, I know there are plenty of young upstarts in the world who paint a masterpiece at age four or compose a symphony in utero, but I’d always seen them as exceptions to the norm. The idea that a decent proportion of kids who didn’t endure the anguish of Y2K will be taken seriously for such a large role is rather frightening. It makes you reevaluate what you’ve done with your 19 years, and whether it amounts to much. I was a precocious child. In second grade, I was given spelling tests for seventh graders, and eventually the school just decided to remove me from spelling lessons altogether and let me study Latin and Greek roots online instead. In fourth grade, part of my self-designed curriculum involved listening to pronunciations, and from time to time I would loosen my headphone jack so my classmates would “accidentally” hear the difficulty of the words. My crowning jewel came when I learned how to spell “antidisestab-
lishmentarianism,” and believe me, I made sure my whole class knew it. I hope nobody considers this information braggadocious; let me tell you, I’d have much preferred to be a math or music savant as a nine-year-old. Being able to spell words with ease is a skill that has been rendered quite unimpressive both as I and technology have aged. I often preferred speaking to adults rather than their children, and I loved impressing parents with my conversational abilities so much that it inspired the title of my memoir Parents Love Me coming to shuttered Borders locations near you in 2018. But you get the point; I loved being told I seemed older as a little kid, because when you’re young, all you want to be is old. When I worked as a hostess at an Italian restaurant the summer before my junior year of high school, I loved steering conversations with guests toward guessing how old I was, as hearing their surprise that I wasn’t 20, or 23, or 45 (a rather unrealistic guess from a seven-year-old girl, but I appreciated it nonetheless) was quite gratifying. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve slowly lost that “wise beyond my years” quality, as nobody gives a shit if a 19-year-old can memorize state capitals or make a coherent comment on the current political climate—in fact, it’s concerning if one can’t. I remember teachers in middle school using my tests as the answer keys to help them grade other students’ tests more quickly; now, that would be considered both lazy and presumptuous on the professor’s part. (To all science teachers who are surely reading this, please never use my exams to help you grade. You’ll thank me later.) Back in the day, my sister would love when I came to her room to recite The Raven every time I memo-
rized a new stanza; now, she’d be both unimpressed as well as confused as to why I’m in her dorm room in Chicago and not back at school. Now that I have a full year of adulthood under my belt, such behaviors that used to be considered mature and grown-up are par for the course. I’m no longer that little girl who relished the adoration of my elders; adult interactions are commonplace and occur without pomp or circumstance. Instead of having experiences where I’m viewed as wizened and worldly, I’m now reading about kids who have written the Great American Novel while potty-training. When you’re young and smart, you develop an ego, because you’re viewed as special and the world routinely affirms that notion. But when you’re old and smart, you’re just another student who is as capable as the next one, and you don’t get a fraction of the recognition or encouragement you used to. This change is probably for the better. Those of us bright children who maintain our youth’s ego also develop unbearable insecurities and the insatiable desire for external validation. We need those around us to shower us with as much praise and affection as we had growing up, so we are never able to question our self-worth, so that we have the undying metaphorical belief that we could play Spider-Man, ignoring that there may exist people younger and brighter than us who could as well. Coming to terms with my age—an ongoing process, of course—allows me to understand that though I don’t have the same charms as I did 10 or 15 years ago, I have every opportunity to make a name for myself now, rather than resting on laurels of the past. Just as some people fear peaking in high school, I fear that I peaked
in fourth grade, but with acknowledgment of this fear comes the empowerment to do more, to be more than what young Bianca could. I’m coming up on two decades of life this year, and even though young Bianca had her own childlike allure, current Bianca has the perspective to know that nobody cares what you did when you were six. Present-day actions will far outweigh some minor past accomplishment whose luster has faded with time. Understanding your place in the world now rather than reminiscing about what you used to be will do wonders for your mentality, and though I’m still a work in progress, it’s already done wonders for mine. Perhaps out of respect to insecure ageists like me, the new Spider-Man film didn’t end up casting a youngster after all. The role will be played by Tom Holland, a boy whose 20 years of existence make me more comfortable with his success. Then again, he also debuted in the musical Billy Elliot when he was 12, so I guess I still have some catching up to do.
arts & culture
you’ll never walk alone scenes from the women’s march on washington
JOSH WARTEL staff writer illustrator NATASHA SHARPE
They came from Houston and upstate Michigan, from Greensboro, North Carolina, and Brooklyn. A group of young girls carried a giant banner representing hundreds more from Kentucky and a parade of women from New Mexico passed by in yellow sashes. A local TV reporter searched for anyone from Indiana and I met a trio of James Madison students by way of Los Angeles, Ohio, and nearby Fairfax, Virginia. An Irish man whose wife was marching in Dublin talked to a woman whose husband was protesting in Oslo, Norway. They came from York, Pennsylvania, Nashville, Tennessee, the Bay Area, and four Metro stops down, across the Potomac River in Rosslyn. Where they came from didn’t matter so much now that they had all arrived here, at the same time, on the same day. So many people came to Washington on Saturday that it resembled less of a march and more like an occupation. Independence Avenue was stuffed so tightly that it took three minutes for a woman on the intersection of 9th to reunite with her friends standing maybe only 40 yards away. We were packed so tightly in such a small space that I heard one high school girl asked her friend if they should crowd surf. “They’ll carry you for a little while, but then they’ll drop you,” she advised. Near the stage, a group called the Pussy Hat Project gave out pink hats knitted from across the country. (Mine was 100% acrylic and vegan friendly, made by Laura Martinez of Ventura, California, who attached a note saying that she was a survivor of sexual violence.) An older woman from the Pussy Hat Project used a megaphone to proclaim that these hats were part of a new “sharing economy” and were made with love. “I don’t think anyone from Wall Street is
here,” she said, earning chuckles. Marchers were generous with what they had on hand; a woman in a unicorn costume walked around carrying a sign offering free hugs. I thought I saw two women sharing a joint. The mood, although frustrated at times with how little space there was, was relentlessly upbeat. The Marxists and Socialists handed out their newspapers a block away from where a contingent of middle-aged white woman representing the gun safety group Moms Demand Action shared buttons. A bearded man from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee mentioned Elizabeth Warren and passed around a signup sheet just off the Washington Monument. As I walked around the March alone, I grew attuned to the other solitary explorers. In fact, once I separated from my mom, who was also marching, early in the morning, I didn’t see a single person I knew all day. I kept my eye out for celebrities, and I thought I saw Jessica Chastain at least two or three times, but alas, it’s the red hair that fooled me. Instead, I imagined the March was like living in a small town where closeness breeds a certain familiarity. For all the talk by conservatives of liberals being out of touch with “real America,” the March touched upon a tone of coziness and solidarity that wouldn’t have been out of place from another day long ago where a group of citizens took on another greedy real-estate baron in It’s A Wonderful Life. As one protest chant put it nicely: This is what democracy looks like. Since I wore a Brown sweater, I received all sorts of strange tidbits that had to do with the University. I met a man from Maryland who asked if I followed Brown basketball and then preceded to tell me about 6’9” freshman David Ere-
bor. Near the White House, I passed a woman who said she graduated in the Class of 2011. I met parents of a Brown alum (“She’s wearing that gray hat over there,” they said), a woman from a South Carolina contingent who said that they were traveling with a Brown student, and a teacher, I think, who mentioned the name of another Brown student, Will Weatherly. I ran into no current Brown students, however, although I’m sure, like everyone else, they were there somewhere. Even once we walked down past Independence and around the Washington Monument towards the White House, there wasn’t anything to do but to keep marching. At almost 6 p.m., it was still impossible to get on a train. So, reunited with my mother, I walked further west to
the Watergate Hotel. We found an Italian place to eat dinner and were amazed that the CNN reporter on their TV was talking about Trump and not us. Weren’t we at the center of the world at the moment? The tattooed cashier gave my mom an iced tea. “It’s on the patriarchy,” he said. As a few more marchers found their way to the diner to use the bathroom, I watched men in black suits and women in blue dresses step out of their valet parked cars, ascending slowly up the adjacent stairs to the Kennedy Center. You already missed tonight’s show, I wanted to tell these people. Come back tomorrow and wear comfier shoes. There will be so many more steps to go!
love and crime in the mountains sundance’s all-over-the-map programming
JAMES FEINBERG staff writer illustrator KATIE CAFARO
The news that An Inconvenient Sequel, the decade-later follow-up to the 2006 Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth, would be opening the 2017 Sundance Film Festival came only shortly before the first day, but the pick seemed fitting considering the line-up’s general doom and gloom with twinges of hope and humor. By contrast to its predecessor, Sequel (subtitled Truth to Power) is more a portrait of its protagonist— former Vice President Al Gore—than of the crisis he confronts. It’s a moving picture of the man himself, pushed almost to a breaking point as he shouts into the void—often literally, which is surprising for a man long ridiculed as wooden. Full of fascinating behind-the-scenes stories, especially from the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference at which Gore played a pivotal role, Sequel manages the difficult trick of ending with the election of Donald Trump while still seeming hopeful, which may be wishful thinking. In the documentary section, another notable film is Bryan Fogel’s Icarus, an inside look at the Russian Olympic doping scandal. It’s a fascinating subject undone by imperfect execu-
tion—Fogel started off with a Super Size Me-style attempt to cheat the system and compete in world-class amateur bicycling while doped up himself but was blindsided halfway through filming with the revelation that his advisor, Russian anti-doping lab head Grigory Rodchenkov, was himself responsible for the farthest-reaching instance of state-sponsored doping in Olympic history. Fogel isn’t adept at handling the change in his initial cinematic plan, and his film descends into hagiography once Rodchenkov defects to the United States as a whistleblower. But the frequent graphics are engaging, and the core of the story remains gripping. For films to avoid, look to a pair of femalecentric comedies that don’t live up to their potentials. Jessica Jones stars in The Incredible Jessica James, a rom-com designed to make her a bigscreen star which may, unfortunately, work. As a Daily Show correspondent, Jones shone—her poise and flair for deadpan were the highlights of the show in the final Jon Stewart years. But unfortunately, though supremely likeable, Jones is not a great actress, though her co-star, Chris
O’Dowd, is great as always in what’s become his signature role: the slightly befuddled, older love interest in a female comedian’s star vehicle. The script, though, is weak and juvenile. The visual style of the opening scenes, heightening Brooklyn beyond anything Girls has ever attempted, is great but inconsistently applied. This is the kind of film that is very clearly trying hard to be interesting but never really is. Meanwhile, Colossal, an Anne Hathaway monster comedy, makes James look masterful by comparison. It’s piss-poor in almost every respect—terrible dialogue, silly premise, sloppy directing, and a plot with no sense of causation. One saving grace is Jason Sudeikis, sinking his teeth into the kind of loathsome villain he never gets to play. Otherwise, it’s a hard must-miss. Thoroughbred, a directorial debut from Cory Finley, is like a less whimsical Heathers—spoiled rich girl Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her sociopathic childhood friend, Amanda (an incredibly strong Olivia Cooke, of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) decide to kill Lily’s stepfather (House of Cards’ Paul Sparks) after he threatens to send
Lily to a boarding school for disturbed girls. Lily’s plagiarism got her thrown out of Andover, but Amanda’s guilty of a much more gruesome crime involving the titular horse—so she’s the perfect accomplice. It’s maybe the best-written script at Sundance this year (Finley also wrote it), and it has a wonderful visual style—a tracking shot up a staircase and a chic scene set by a giant outdoor chessboard are highlights. Perhaps most importantly, it’s the final film of the late Anton Yelchin, who delivers the best performance of his career as a wannabe-drug lord, a Tarantino-worthy character that reminds us of the tragedy of the death of an actor who could’ve been one of the greats. Just as funny and slightly more optimistic is The Little Hours, from Josh Baena, who also wrote and directed Joshy, which I saw at last year’s festival. That film dealt with a bachelor party that goes on despite the fiancé’s suicide, and the unconventional Hours is tonally similar in its explicit humor and underlying dourness. It’s the story of a group of 14th-century nuns at a barely-controlled convent, spewing profanity and anachronistic dialogue with the best of them. It ends up com-
arts & culture ing to very little but is somehow deeply satisfying (again, much like Joshy). The cast, characteristically for Baena, whose friends are the most soughtafter comedians in the business, is incredible. Standouts: Aubrey Plaza, who’s also a producer, plays the same part she always does—a barely likable misanthrope who, in this case, turns out, in a bit of on-the-nose narrative, to be a literal witch. But as always, she’s wonderful. Fred Armisen, however, steals the show as an incredulous bishop worthy of a guest spot on Portlandia. Baena, meanwhile, does the normally overlooked honors of making a sex comedy visually gorgeous—it was shot in Italy, and it shows. The two overall strongest films of the festival are both comedies that are romantic, if not romantic comedies by the strictest definition. Landline, directed by Gillian Robespierre (Obvious Child), stars as her muse, Jenny Slate, doing some incredibly strong acting in a very low-key period film (set in the ‘90s, though it’s unclear why—the titular landline doesn’t factor into the plot) that ends up much more than the sum of its parts. Its characters, members of a New York family for whom monogamy doesn’t come easy, are occasionally inconsistent or cookie-cutter, but Robespierre and her co-writer Elisabeth Holm never cheat—every reaction is authentic, and one particular sequence, near the end of the film, is flawless in its gorgeous sentiment—it crystallizes
the meaning of the story in retrospect. The breakout hit of the festival is and should be Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick, which already looks to be rivaling the record-breaking distribution deal of last year’s Birth of a Nation—I’m hearing eight figures in the offing. Written by Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon and based on their own romance, it is a remarkably assured, inviting, and complete rom-com with great stars (Nanjiani, playing himself, and Zoe Kazan as Emily) and an even better ensemble (Bo Burnham, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano come to mind). Though Kazan’s character is slightly underdeveloped (not entirely wrongly, since she spends much of the film out of commission with the titular sickness), the movie is so honest and truly funny on so many levels. It’s produced by Judd Apatow, and one after the other it delivers the most laugh-out-loud jokes in any film with which he’s been involved. (One 9/11 crack had the audience at the screening in stitches for over a minute.) But the intimacy and realism of the scenes between Nanjiani, Hunter, and Romano highlight what gives this film its real strength— it’s infused with love, not only for its characters but for its audience and the idea of love itself. Not the worst thing to watch this month—or for the next four years.
aspirational hip-hop today rap, memes, and culture
JOSHUA LU staff writer illustrator MICHELLE NG
A week ago, a gentleman by the name of Justin Good started a petition on change.org entreating the NFL to “replace Lady Gaga with the Migos for Superbowl LI Halftime Show.” By sheer force of memes, the petition circulated and currently sits at over 50,000 signatures. Publications couldn’t resist the clickbait potential, and sites like Complex (“While this is incredibly unrealistic...you have to admire the effort of the petition’s creator”), A.V. Club (“If democracy works, we should expect no less”), and Vulture (“Do it for the culture, NFL”) enthusiastically reported on this development. Migos then went on to say in an interview that they were completely down to do the gig, but it remains to be seen whether they will appear at the Super Bowl and make it, as promised, “the TRILLEST.” If they don’t end up appearing—well, it won’t be the first instance in recent times that democracy has failed us. In case you’ve spent the entire previous paragraph wondering who the heck Migos is, they have the No. 1 song in the country at the time of this article’s publication, titled “Bad and Boujee” with a feature from Lil Uzi Vert. If that surprises you, you probably aren’t alone; despite being popular on iTunes and streaming sites, it’s notably absent on Top 40 radio. Indeed, “Bad and Boujee” instead got its momentum through the power of the internet, through LOL-worthy and shareable tidbits like the aforementioned petition. Namely, memes: Even its single cover, featuring model Tommie Lee daintily preparing to eat cup noodles, speaks volumes; genius.com cites it as a “variation of a meme” that made its way throughout the web some time ago. The vast majority of the memes stem from the opening lines, “Raindrop / Drop top” (which sound random on their own, but one must never doubt the ability of social media users to morph the most random phrases into Twitter gold). Other memes come from the title of the song itself, like one tweet that adapted the name to the various The Fast and The Furious titles, spanning The Bad and the Boujee to The Fate of the Boujee.
“Bad and Boujee” is thus easily dismissed as another meme song, sort of like Ba u u e r’s “Harlem Shake,” which shot to No. 1 in 2012 by literally soundtracking an internet phenomenon. But discrediting “Bad and Boujee” as just a joke would be grossly unfair to the song’s merits, if only for the fact that Migos have been around for about four years and have had a string of radio rap hits. The song operates as a celebration of success, with the “bad” part of the title being a reference to how attractive their women are and the “boujee” (read: bourgeois) part referring to their lifestyles; they rap about their lavish belongings and the expensive tastes of the women they love. There’s a certain irony to their lines, though, since the music video depicts women in Moschino shopping at run-down liquor stores, as well as a scene where a group of them eat out of regal black KFC buckets and, of course, cup noodles. These contrasts are genuinely funny and make for memorable cinematography, but the song itself, though likely ironic, still takes itself seriously. Its lyrics are consistently triumphant and aspirational in nature, and the production, a subdued and standard trap beat delivered by Mike WiLL Made-It, never grows overbearing. It’s a well-crafted, catchy song that rolls along contentedly, specifically designed for you to nod your head to. (Or just wild out to; whatever makes you happy. Donald Glover said it’s the best song to have sex to, and I’m not going to disagree with him.) The song has received significant critical acclaim, having been listed on “Best Of ” lists in publications like Complex and the Fader at the end of last year. This celebration of success seems to have greater relevance that lies outside of dorm room parties. Last year, Beyoncé released “Formation” (an explicitly pro-black, trapinspired song that was also unmistakably political in essence), which ended with the lines, “Always stay gracious / Best revenge is your paper.” While there Beyoncé sang specifically
about black women, a similar idea resonates in a song like “Bad and Boujee,” where lyrics on monetary success can still translate into a distinctly political message. In addition to all of its previously mentioned qualities, “Bad and Boujee” is an unapologetically black song through its lyrics, production, and associated imagery; the aspiration of being middle class, while still humorous in the context of the song and music video, is a legitimate triumph in a socioeconomic system that has historically failed to treat all races equally. The ascent of “Bad and Boujee” to No. 1 was noteworthy in another way, as it was the first time a rap song replaced another this decade. The previous No. 1 song was Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” a song that centers around the boast that they’re the black versions of The Beatles, who took an African-American art form and rode it to become arguably the most storied artists in modern music. The two songs share numerous qualities: immense critical acclaim, memes that aided chart success (for “Black Beatles,” it was the Mannequin Challenge), and implicit themes of success in the face of an unfair society. “Black Beatles” also had a distinct tinge of iconoclasm; Rae Sremmurd treat The Beatles, as reviewer Ryo Miyauchi puts it, as “ephemeral as yesterday’s
internet joke… Not afraid to break the rules of past tradition to set the standard of today’s cool: to me, that’s rock n’ roll as fuck.” The fact that these songs originated as memes also then gains additional significance; these are songs propelled to popularity truly through the will of the general public, not through radio deals or record label tactics. They are songs for the people, supported by the people. In the time it has taken me to write this article, the number of signatures on the Super Bowl petition has increased by about 600. An important aspect I neglected to mention is that the petition is not only for Migos, although they are the ones in its title. There is a whole setlist outlined by the petition, with Goodie Mob, Ludacris, Young Jeezy, and, of course, Rae Sremmurd opening the show, as well as Andre 3000 and Erykah Badu “hit[ting] Donald Trump with a FIRE 64 bars” in lieu of singing the national anthem. Funny in its implausibility, surely, but it also speaks to the power of a song like “Bad and Boujee” to inspire this unity in order to triumph over an orange evil. Now, more than ever, we need a soundtrack for our country that works to motivate us to persevere, as well as to celebrate our success when it comes.
topten thoughts in a snowstorm
I’m in an abusive relationship with the library. Waffles are just like pancakes, but with abs. One last Obama Christmas. I hope to one day find someone who looks at me the way you look at pasta. Let him set himself on fire again. He’ll warm up.
1.it’s snowing 2. i need to show everyone i know on every single social media platform that it’s snowing 3. OH GOSH I’M FALLI- just kidding i’m good 4. *blinks furiously as snow flecks fly directly into eyes* 5. my socks are squishy. i want to scream 6. so this is trump’s america. just more white oppression 7. these touchscreen gloves are bogus 8. SNOW DAY- fuck i’m in college (plz come through russell carey) 9. my grandchildren will never see snow 10. *leo voice from the revenant* “i ain’t afraid to die anymore, i done it already”
the dating game the ‘jeff’ dilemma
RACHEL TELLER staff writer illustrator DORIS LIOU
We all have a list of what if? people. For example, what if I told you I liked you? What if you hadn’t dated my best friend? What if we weren’t cousins? I have one such list (although mine does not involve incest), mostly comprised of people I went to highschool with. One member of the list is named Jeff. Jeff is blond and dresses like he walked out of a nautical clothing magazine. He is quirky and kind, and in many ways just a bit strange. He collects special edition prints of famous literary texts and is wildly devoted to the things he finds interesting. When I’m with him I get into heated debates with myself about whether or not he’s attractive. When we watch movies he sits very close to me—I don’t know if this is intentional or if he just has spatial issues. One day, last summer, he asked me at noon if I wanted to drive up to his house in Door County, Wisconsin, the midwest equivalent of Nantucket. The combination of my raging hormone levels, confusion about our (potentially romantic?) relationship, and New Year’s resolution to be more spontaneous pushed me to say yes. So I said yes. We set off for our five-hour drive relaxed and happy. It was nice—we listened to chill music and just talked like we normally do. He had broken up with his girlfriend of a year and a half, Paige, roughly two months prior and was still upset, so we spent a lot of time discussing his feelings for her. Door County held a lot of significance in their relationship—they had met and spent the entire summer there together. Jeff hadn’t been back since the breakup. We made a pit stop for snacks somewhere along the way, where he sent me the clear signal that nothing was going to happen: a purchase of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles.
Bummer. I thought. At least I know now. When we arrived it was dark outside. We put our stuff in separate rooms and sat down to have a beer, one and a half for me and six for him, a habit he picked up at his college in Boston. We were falling asleep and then suddenly kissing: more out of boredom than anything else. He kept trying to do weird stuff with his tongue, and I was not having it. Both aware of the fact that there is no going back once you see someone naked, we silently agreed that we shouldn’t risk our friendship and stopped. I declared I was going to bed. Five minutes later he came into my room, looking like a child who had just had a nightmare, and asked if he could sleep with me. I agreed, figuring it would be nice to share a bed with someone. I’ve since learned that I’m not a very big fan of spooning. This makes sense, considering I wince almost every time somebody touches me. Apparently, as a child, I had to be taught how to give/accept hugs. Even now, whenever I meet a European and have to kiss them on the cheek, I sweat profusely until the moment is over. I have problems with physical interaction. It was fine—at first. Then I was overheating and ready to go to sleep. Figuring Jeff was asleep I tried to roll away from him—proud of my suave maneuvering and ability to handle the situation with grace. My comfort lasted for a whole 10 seconds until he pulled me back into place and wrapped his leg around my torso. He was like a furnace with rocks for arms, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by kicking him out of my bed. Immobile and conflicted, I just lay there, stiff. I slept four hours that night—for all the wrong reasons. When we woke up in the morning we didn’t discuss what had happened. We
wasted an uncomfortable 12 hours walking around Door County, both of us feeling strange about the night before, and Jeff a bit cold toward me. He spent the day
trying to reclaim the places he loved as places without Paige. I spent the day trying not to fracture our friendship. It was a long drive home.