The Brandeis Hoot 12/4/2020

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Volume 17 Issue 21

“To acquire wisdom, one must observe”

December 4, 2020

Brandeis University’s Community Newspaper · Waltham, Mass.

BAP proposes public safety alternative By Victoria Morrongiello editor



Police cars outside of the public safety headquarters.

Members of the Black Action Plan, Sonali Anderson ’22 and DeBorah Ault ’22, proposed a new “Campus Safety Alliance” as an alternative to the current Brandeis police department in an effort to defund the campus police, the organizers discussed during an event on Nov. 12. The tentatively named Campus Safety Alliance would be a collected group of “mental health professionals, unarmed de escalation specialists, medics, a restorative justice director, an education resource center coordinator, a Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) management staff, transportation director and a phone call directory” which would replace the current Public Safety roles, explained Ault. Creators of the Black Action Plan hope to remove the requirement that public safety officers carry firearms on them, hire more trained mental health advisors in-

stead of additional police officers and have more qualified Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC) staff and social workers available to students after business hours to report issues, instead of directly to Brandeis police, they explained during the open forum. To change the Brandeis Police structure, the presenters called for additional trainings, including mandatory de-escalation training and yearly anti-racism training. The student leaders also called for mandatory background information on police staff, a formal review board made of students and administration and more concrete consequences for any violations, according to their slides. Anderson and Ault added that it would be difficult to change the current job description and add training for police officers because they are unionized under contract and have the ability to demand compensation or refuse See BAP, page 3

Prof. finds social media linked to decline in vaccination By Victoria Morrongiello editor

Disinformation campaigns launched on social media platforms have been linked to a decline in vaccination, Professor Steven Wilson (POL) found in a study that looked at social

media and vaccine hesitancy. Previous studies have shown that the most prominent vaccine content on social media is anti-vaccination messages, according to the study. There have also been campaigns linked to Russian pseudo-state actors which spread anti-vaccination messages on social media

Fierke named provost By Victoria Morrongiello and Tim Dillon editors

President Ron Liebowitz announced that Brandeis has hired Dr. Carol Fierke PhD ’84 as the new university provost and executive vice president, a role currently held by Provost and Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy Lisa Lynch, in an email sent on Nov. 30 to the Brandeis community. Fierke will fill the role as provost beginning Jan. 1, 2021. “I … became grounded in Brandeis’ founding values of academic excellence, openness and commitment to repairing the world,” said Fierke, according to a BrandeisNOW article. Fierke has had extensive prior

Inside This Issue:

experience in higher education, working most recently as the executive vice president and provost at Texas A&M University since 2017 and also previously served as vice provost, dean and chair of the chemistry department at the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School. “Dr. Fierke is already a champion of the values that have defined the Brandeis community since 1948,” said Liebowitz, according to a BrandeisNOW article. Fierke has been the recipient of multiple awards in her field including: the American Chemical Society’s Repligen Award in Chemistry of Biological Processes, the Protein Society’s Emil Thomas Kaiser Award and the Mildred Cohn Award in BiologSee PROVOST, page 3

News: Multiple people attacked in Waltham. Ops: You’re wrong more often than you think. Features: Samore survived a terrorist attack. Sports: NFL is not COVID-ready. Editorial: Looking forward.

Researchers looked across different countries around the globe to understand the impacts of social media on vaccine hesitancy, according to the study. The study examined social media in two dimensions: usage of social media platforms as a means of organizing action and the level of negativity surrounding vaccines on social

media platforms, according to the study. To measure their findings, the researchers polled the sample population and questioned their hesitancy towards vaccines and whether they thought vaccinating was unsafe. Researchers also compared data from the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine the vacci-

nation rates across 166 countries. The study found that social media’s influence on an individual’s offline actions is largely related to anti-vaccination sentiment, that vaccinations are unsafe, according to the study. Researchers also found that foreign disinSee VACCINE, page 3

Streit named SAS director By Sabrina Chow editor

Dr. Cara Streit has been named the new director of Student Accessibility Support (SAS), a department within Academic Services. She started her position on Nov. 30. Streit was initially drawn to Brandeis because of the university’s commitment to social justice, she wrote to The Brandeis Hoot in an email. “I could tell that there is a student body here that lives those social justice values, and will hold University representatives to their responsibility to do the same, and I care about that,” she wrote. “I’m a social worker at my core, I’ve spent the last 13 years at a University with deep social justice values and it’s important to me to always be somewhere that shares those values.”


Page 3 Page 10 Social media responsible for vaccine hesitancy. Page 4 Page 6 NEWS: PAGE 3 Page 5

“Student accessibility support departments can have a key role in fostering a culture of accessibility, boosting student voices, creating accessible spaces for students to be listened to, and translating student experiences into improved and more equitable practices,” Streit wrote, explaining the importance of SAS on college campuses. “We also have a role in supporting faculty in effective implementation of accommodations that students have a legal right to, and in helping them to reach all the learners in their classes.” Streit has already identified goals to focus on, including increasing awareness of SAS as a support for all students at Brandeis, requesting and implementing accommodations and helping individuals understand disability as diversity and the intersectionality of disability and

other identities facing oppression, she wrote to The Hoot in an email. “I have already started listening and learning, and I’ll make sure that acting on what we learn from listening is a deeply ingrained part of what we do moving forward,” Streit wrote to The Hoot. SAS fellow Anna Cass ’21 hopes that Streit will continue, and expand, upon collaborations across the university to bring accessibility to the forefront of university decisions, she wrote to The Hoot in an email. “Many people haven’t considered that, while accessibility measures are necessary for many people to access and participate in the Brandeis community, they also enhance everyone else’s experience as well,” Cass added. “I hope

Supernatural The “Supernatural” finale sucked. ARTS: PAGE 13

See SAS, page 2


2 The Brandeis Hoot

Brandeis COVID-19 testing tracker:

IN THE SENATE: Nov. 29, 2020 • •



Number of Covid tests per week.


Number of positive cases per week.

December 4, 2020

Student Union Vice President Krupa Sourirajan ’23 announced that the Student Union will once again be giving its state of the union address as a series of pre-recorded videos and that it will be “done soon.” Chair of the Dining Committee Ashna Kelkar ’24 said that the committee “realized there are troubles with dining in general.” Kelkar talked about working to improve vegan and vegetarian options, and about the need to continue doing so next semester, as well as the possibility of “implementing training for the workers about the taste of the food.” Because of the results of the dining survey earlier this semester, Kelkar said that the committee realized that “the dining staff don’t understand our concerns.” Chair of the Social Justice Committee Noah Risley ’24 said that the committee had “closed the book” on the process of inputting student pronouns into the various online platforms the university uses. Risley also said that the committee had spoken with Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mark Brimhall-Vargas about working to accommodate international students from China who would be attending class remotely next semester, but that they “[would] not talk about that too much in open session.” Open session is the period of the meeting which the press and public are allowed to be present for, as opposed to executive session, which is when the senators discuss issues without reporters and constituents present. Executive Senator and Chair of the Rules Committee and Club Support Committee Joseph Coles ’22 talked about plans for next semester, including an amendment to the rules about what constitutes a quorum, which he put before the Senate at a previous meeting this semester. Chair of the Services and Outreach Committee Courtney Thrun ’22 said that the shirts for the Midnight Buffet did eventually arrive, although not on time for the event, and that she and Sourirajan went around campus distributing the shirts to students in person. Thrun also said that if she were reappointed as chair next semester, the committee would work to “bring more fun to campus life,” which Thrun said “kind of sucks right now.” Reporting in place of the absent chair of the Community Enrichment and Enhancement Fund (CEEF), Sourirajan said that CEEF will finish reviewing proposals “soon.” - Tim Dillon


Streit named student accessibility support director SAS, from page 1

that [Streit] advances accessibility as part of Brandeis culture.” As the new director, Streit is committed to working towards long term goals for the university and contributing to the “legal compliance to genuine equity” that is outlined in the univer-

sity’s plans to grow in the years to come, she wrote to The Hoot. The university has also committed to the development of the Campus Accessibility Committee (CAC), which Streit will be a cochair with along with Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity Sonia Jurado and Dean of Academic Services Erika Smith. Prior to Brandeis, Streit was

the inaugural Associate Director and Director of Academics, Innovation and Inclusion of the Threshold Program at Lesley University, according to a BrandeisNOW article. While at Lesley University, Streit “oversaw inclusive education programming and curriculum building for students with intellectual, developmental, learning and physical disabilities,”

read the BrandeisNOW article. She also examined the accessibility of physical buildings and virtual spaces and worked with students and families to address disability accommodation needs. Streit received her bachelor’s degree from Boston College, her Master of Social Work from Simmons University and a Doctorate of Education in Special Education from Boston

University and is a licensed social worker in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The university has been working to fill the position of director of SAS after the previous director, Beth Rodgers-Kay, announced her retirement in Sept. 2019, according to an earlier Hoot article. Scott Kalicki has served as the interim director prior to Streit’s appointment.

Member of the public dies on Brandeis campus By Rachel Saal editor

A member of the Brandeis facilities crew found a person dead outside of Sachar International Center on Nov. 23, Executive Director of Communications and Media Relations Julie Jette told The Brandeis Hoot in an email. The person was not a member of the Brandeis community, wrote Jette. Jette said that the police were contacted immediately after the body was discovered. There has not been any identification of the individual yet; the deceased was male. Waltham Police believe that the deceased may have

been a homeless person based on previous contact with the individual, according to Jette. “Even though we do not know who this person was, we are deeply saddened by his passing,” said Jette. The Hoot was notified of the incident through the Brandeis Police Department’s media log. The report read, “Sudden death investigation. Waltham and state authorities notified. Report composed.” The homeless population in Waltham has been particularly affected in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Waltham has one overnight shelter, the Bristol Lodge, which has separate facilities for both men’s and women’s lodging, according to the home-

less shelter directory page. The men’s lodging has 45 beds and has a 90-day stay limit, according to the Middlesex Human Services Agency. The Community Day Center in Waltham also offers programs for people who are experiencing homelessness during the day, however, they do not have overnight lodging. “We are supposed to be locked down, and we have not been locked down,” Warren Parks, a man who had been staying in the Bristol Lodge’s Men’s Shelter, told Patch in April, regarding the stay-at-home advisory. “There’s no place for us to sit down and recuperate or get warm. Businesses are

closed, and restaurants don’t like us. I understand why.” People who have experience with homelessness and a coalition of advocates for people experiencing homelessness sent a letter to Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy on Oct. 2 calling on her to increase access to public bathrooms for Waltham’s homeless population during the pandemic. Bristol Lodge’s men’s and women’s shelters provide bathrooms for guests from 4 p.m. until the morning, but for more than eight hours there are few public bathroom options for the homeless in Waltham, according to Patch. McCarthy responded to the request by saying that the Com-

munity Day Center, a day shelter and community center in Waltham, would be given around $400 thousand to “create extra space and a warming center.” The Community Day Center offers people who are experiencing homelessness meals, clothing, personal hygiene products, programs for referrals and services and workshops for positive lifestyle choices, according to their website. The center serves over 40 people daily and serves over nine thousand meals annually. The Waltham Police told The Hoot that they did not have any additional information on the deceased.

Univ. sets record in Giving Tuesday donations By Victoria Morrongiello editor

The Brandeis community raised a record-breaking amount of donations this past Tuesday, according to the Giving Deisday page, raising over $1 million, with over 2121 donors on Tuesday alone. The university unlocked an extra $100 thousand after passing their goal of 1948 donors, in honor of the university’s founding in 1948. An extra $50,000 was also unlocked, with their additional goal of meeting 2,121 donors in honor of the soon-to-be alumni class of 2021, according to the page.

The greatest need for donations listed on their website was for COVID-19 readiness. The Greatest Need Fund supporting COVID readiness received $115,494.61 in donations from 420 donors as of press time, according to the page. “Support of the Brandeis Fund will help maintain a COVIDready campus that features robust testing and contact racing, retrofitting learning environments and community building amid a pandemic,” the page explained. Other campus priorities listed on the website included diversity scholarships, general scholarships and the student emergency fund.

All 10 varsity athletic teams had over 35 donors which unlocked each team an additional $1,000 in donations towards each program, according to their page. Women’s Basketball received the most donors, with 99 donors, followed by Women’s Soccer, according to the Team Challenge scoreboard. Women’s Basketball raised $17,573.70, according to the chart. The largest number of donors were from the United States, with 2,094 gifts. The breakdown of the United States listed the top donation states as Massachusetts, New York and California. The university also received international donations

from China, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Norway, Australia and Sweden, according to a graphic. Donors could also choose to make donations towards campus units, varsity athletic teams, research funds, graduate student funds, the Rose Art Museum, pre-college programs, Hillel, various scholarships and academic departments according to the page. The minimum gift amount was set to $5. Donations were accepted past Tuesday for a limited time, and payments could be made to the Giving Deisday page. Last year the university re-

ceived $865,000 from 2,559 donors, according to a previous Brandeis Hoot article. The year prior the university received $438,000 worth of donations from 1597 donors, a 60.2 percent increase in donors and 97.4 percent increase in donation amount, according to the article. As of press time, 2706 donors have donated a total of $1,105,797 to the university, according to the Giving Deisday website. Editor’s Note: Opinions Editor Sasha Skarboviychuk is the Co-Chair of the Senior Class Gift Committee and did not contribute to the writing or editing of this article.

December 4 , 2020


The Brandeis Hoot

BAP creators propose public safety alternative BAP, from page 1

to work beyond what is stated in their contract. The American Coalition of Public Safety (ACOPS) Local 20 represents the Brandeis University Police Association and assists with their collective bargaining agreements, according to their website. The student leaders noted the university’s “dependency” on Public Safety. Aside from first responder obligations, public safety also manages BEMCo, van and shuttle services and parking, according to the presentation. “The Brandeis Police are sort of a call center for the university, and they oftentimes respond to any calls that are done after hours,” Ault explained. “Their professional training hasn’t really provided them with the professional development to answer phone calls well and effectively.” Anderson and Ault proposed an alternative to responding to liquor law or drug abuse violations where mental health professionals and a medic would be the primary first responders to help treat and address trauma the individual, or other eye-

witnesses, may have endured. “Having this response duo offers a more holistic response since police officers are illequipped to assist in addressing the physical and mental challenges created with instances of liquor law violations,” said Ault. From 2016 to 2018, 90 percent of the calls that public safety officers responded to were liquor law or drug abuse violations, according to the 2019 Annual Fire Safety and Security Report. There were no arrests made on any individual with liquor law or drug abuse violations; rather, they received disciplinary action, according to the report. Three percent of the Brandeis Police first responses, from 2016 to 2018, were Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and sex offenses, according to the report. Two percent of responses were aggravated assault and burglary, according to the report. Ault noted that they do not know the exact proceedings of how Public Safety approaches these types of situations. However, Ault said, “Offenses of these natures are usually responded to rather than prevented.” The student leaders proposed

an alternative for responding to these types of offences, which would include a primary and secondary responder. The primary responder, like in liquor law or drug abuse violations, would be a mental health professional and a medic, said Ault. If needed, said Ault, there can also be a de-escalation specialist if the situation requires one. The secondary responders would pursue to launch an investigation, once the situation has been stabilized, according to Ault. There were two reported instances of hate crimes from 20162018, according to the report. To address these types of situations, the student leaders proposed preventative measures and unique responses to interpersonal hate crimes and campus wide threats. “I believe hate crimes occur because individuals don’t understand the background of another person, and they are struggling with how the social status of different people operates,” said Ault during the presentation. The preventative measures would attempt to decrease the likelihood of hate crimes by providing an educational space where students can have


conversations cross culturally. Interpersonal hate crimes would be responded to with restorative justice methods, according to the presentation. This would correct the harm done to the individual victim as well as the community as a whole, according to the presentation. For campus wide threats, the student leaders proposed that external police be called to campus to handle the situation in lue of public safety, according to the slides. “Among all these new ideas, the core is community building and ultimately connecting students

with what they need,” said Anderson. The Black Action Plan’s goal in transforming public safety “will prioritize increased transparency and accountability, greater communication, enhanced training, and updated responses protocols,” according to the plan. Previous coverage by The Hoot detailing concerns brought forth by community members about public safety and demands by the Black Action Plan in regards to public safety can be found here. Sabrina Chow contributed to the reporting of this article.

Social media linked to vaccination decline VACCINE, from page 1

formation campaigns have led to a drop in mean vaccination coverage and negative discussion of vaccines on social media platforms, according to the study. The results found a 15 percent increase in negative tweets regarding vaccines. “These findings suggest that combating disinformation and misinformation regarding vaccines online is critical to reversing the growth in vaccine hesitancy around the world,”

the study explains. The study noted the significance that policy makers should combat anti-vaccination campaigns on social media before releasing the vaccine for the coronavirus since social media could increase the public’s hesitancy to get vaccinated. To get their results, researchers looked at five dimensions to understand public hesitancy: access, awareness, affordability, acceptance and activation. Misinformation which was spread on social media was linked to the public’s hesitance on wheth-

er a vaccine is safe or not, thus targeting their acceptance of vaccines, according to the study. Foreign disinformation campaigns sway the public’s activation of vaccines since it persuades them to not receive their vaccinations. The variables relating to access, awareness and affordability were previously focused on in previous studies so they were not the main focus in this study. Researchers looked at people’s tweets and were able to measure the sample population’s location using GPS technology and contextual regional clues; whether

they were talking about vaccinations by looking at the key words ‘vaccine,’ vaccination’ and ‘vaxx,’ and sentiment of the tweet by using a sentiment lexicon which labels words as positive, negative or neutral. Researchers also measured how likely a person would be to use social media to organize offline action, according to the study. They measured this with a five-point Likert scale which participants could select never to almost never to regularly The study noted that historically, public health trends exhibit that wealthy, developed democratic

countries are more likely to have better health outcomes in relativity to less developed countries. However, more modern trends show that anti-vaccination sentiment is heavily concentrated in the wealthier, more developed democracies, according to the study. This reversal of trends can be contributed in part to the influence of social media, because while social media provides a new network of communication, it also allows for opinions which negatively impact public health.

Carol Fierke to succeed Lynch as Brandeis provost PROVOST, from page 1

ical Chemistry from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, according to a Diverse Education article. She has also done research projects funded by The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Office of Naval Research, the Keck Foundation and the Welch Foundation, according to the BrandeisNOW article.

Her background in scholarship is important for an R1 research university (universities that have the highest research activity), according to Prof. Isaac Kraus (CHEM), a member of the search committee for the new provost, according to a BrandeisNOW article. The search for a replacement for Lynch has taken the university nine months, according to the email. The provost search committee began its national search in March 2020 and was led by Susan Birren (BIOL/NBIO/ PSYCH), the Zalman Abraham

Kekst Chair in Neuroscience, and was composed of 11 other upper administrators and professors, wrote Liebowitz. Input from faculty, staff and students was also considered when looking at candidates for the position. “I am so pleased to welcome Dr. Fierke as our new provost,” said Birren in a press release announcing Fierke’s appointment. “It was very clear in our search that Dr. Fierke was an excellent choice for Brandeis.” The Brandeis community will have virtual opportunities to meet the new provost over the coming

weeks, according to Liebowitz. Fierke’s role as provost will make her the university’s chief academic officer, responsible for overseeing teaching, learning, scholarship and research across varying departments of the university, including educational activities and research initiatives, according to the provost search page. The provost is expected to work in tandem with the university president and executive vice president on matters regarding administration and finance, according to the description. Lynch had initially announced

that she would be stepping down from her role as provost in Jan. 2020, and was preparing to go on sabbatical as late as Feb. 2020, after holding the position for 12 years. On April 3, Liebowitz announced that Lynch would be staying on as provost until Dec. 2020 as part of Brandeis’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. As of a Sept. 24 email from Liebowitz summing up the Board of Trustees meeting, the university had still been searching for a new provost prior to Fierke’s appointment.

Attacks in Waltham, Public Safety issues warning By Victoria Morrongiello editor

There have been 11 unprovoked attacks in Waltham over the past month, according to a CNN article. Director of Public Safety Edward Callahan advised students, faculty and staff remaining on campus and in the Waltham area to “exercise extra caution,” according to an email sent by Callahan on Monday.The attacks began on Nov. 10 around the Gardencrest Apartment Complex, according to Callahan’s email, and more have

followed near Chestnut Street and Charles Street. The first five attacks occurred closer to Bentley University, and the more recent attacks occurred downtown closer to Brandeis, said Waltham Detective Sergeant Steve McCarthy in a CNN interview. The attacks occurred between 5:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., according to the Waltham Police Department from an NBC News article. The 11 victims were all targeted with a blunt object after dark by an unknown perpetrator, according to McCarthy. One victim was hit from behind with a baseball bat

to the head, according to an NBC news article. Another victim was hit with an unknown object to his eye, according to a CNN article. The Waltham Police Department believes that these attacks were committed by the same person, wrote Callahan, though the department has received varying descriptions of the attacker from different victims, according to a WCVB article. Police told WCVB that the attacker in all of these cases was waiting to catch the victim by surprise, according to the article. None of the victims have been members of the Brandeis

community, according to Callahan’s email, though he issued a warning about traveling alone at night in Waltham. Callahan said to be alert while walking and to not walk alone after dark. He recommended walking with a friend or colleague when on campus or to alternatively use campus transportation that is available until 10 p.m. After 10 p.m., he advised the community to contact Public Safety for on campus transportation, and to walk with others if off campus, according to the email. Callahan wrote that the Waltham Police Department is

doing “all it can to bring these cases to an end.” The Waltham Police Department released video footage of the perpetrator on Facebook on Nov. 28 asking for the public’s help in identifying the individual. The video footage shows the back of an individual running in jeans and a black hoodie, according to the Facebook post. The Waltham Police Department has asked that anyone who has information regarding the attacks to call the Waltham Police at 781-314-3600 and select option four, or use their anonymous tip line at 781314-3636, according to their post.


4 The Brandeis Hoot

December 4, 2020

Professor Gary Samore: the man who survived a terrorist attack By Shruthi Manjunath editor

Imagine traveling to India for a conference and getting caught in the middle of a terrorist attack. You are stuck in your hotel room and hear explosions and gunshots all around you. Suddenly, when you are finally able to get some sleep, you hear an extremely loud explosion and see that your hotel is on fire. What would you do? Professor Gary Samore (POL), was in this very situation, during the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks in 2008. He was staying at the Taj Palace and Tower with his family. When he saw that the hotel was on fire, he and his family escaped through a fire exit and were helped by the Indian security forces. Samore is the senior executive director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies and a Professor of the Practice in Politics and previously worked under the Clinton and first Obama administration. During the Clinton administration, he was the Senior Director for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council. During the Obama administration, he served as the White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). As a teenager, Samore enjoyed reading about the history of Europe and foreign policy regarding Europe. He always had a unique interest in foreign affairs. Later on, Professor Samore received an undergraduate degree in government from Harvard University and pursued a PhD at Harvard as well. “I was interested in practicing foreign policy,” Samore told The Brandeis Hoot in an interview. “So that’s the choice I made and spent most of my career working in the US government or working in think tanks that produced policy reports for government officials. He illustrates how you should “do something that you find fascinating…enjoyable and rewarding.” His first job was working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which works to strengthen the security of the United States. At this job, he analyzed nuclear programs of foreign countries in the Middle East and South Asia, specifically writing lots of reports on classified infor-



Samore (right) with former President Barak Obama in the White House.

mation about Iraq, Iran, Israel, Libya, Syria, India and Pakistan. Under President Clinton, Professor Samore was a civil servant in the state department on loan to the National Security Council. He had experience in non-proliferation and export controls, so he worked in North Korea, Russia and China on export control issues. He worked for President Clinton during his second term. President Clinton had mastered a lot of the subject matter and had already formed relationships with foreign leaders and as a result he did not require as much staff support and briefings. Under the Obama administration, he had a much broader job which consisted of arms control and nuclear security issues with Russia, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. He was appointed to this job by the President. Professor Samore worked with President Obama during his first term and as a result needed more support and more time to learn the subject matter. “It was more satisfying to work for Obama, because...I had a more important role in terms of, you know, providing background material and briefing him and the top leaders on the key issues they would have to deal with,” Samore explained. He further explained how, “we try to avoid taking the President’s time unless he asks for it or it’s something where it’s important…

Samore (left middle) at a meeting with the Argentinian government.

[then] we meet with him personally.” Professor Samore left at the beginning of President Obama’s second term as he felt that he had done everything he could to help the President with arms control and non-proliferation and he wanted to spend some time outside government work. His day as the White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction always began with coffee and a blueberry muffin and reading a brief from the CIA with intelligence reports and analysis and any information that the National Security Advisor or the president deemed as important. Then, his day consisted of many meetings, some being interagency meetings with officials from different departments. In these meetings, Samore and others would discuss issues and come up with decisions and go through certain options that they could recommend to the president. These meetings often took place in the Situation Room, a space in the White House designated for interagency meetings. Samore would also meet with foreign diplomats to discuss various issues, prepare memos for the president and give him background information and talking points for his meetings with foreign diplomats. For example, if the President was on a phone call with a foreign diplomat, he would also be on the call, writing notes to Obama if he


had a question. Samore explains that there were many successes during the Obama administration. There was a specific international conference on nuclear security in which the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia was created that decreased the number of nuclear weapons on each side. In addition, during this administration, they were also able to strengthen sanctions against Iran which created the Iran nuclear deal. However, there were also a few disappointments during this administration. Specifically, the administration was unable to come to an agreement with North Korea and Pakistan regarding their nuclear weapon and missile programs. President Obama “came in at a time when there was an interest in reviving international arms control efforts,” Samore explained. “And so in 2009 and 2010 we had a number of successes, including the Nuclear Security Summit, the new treaty with Russia...We had a successful review of the NPT, the Non Proliferation Treaty and those were all...important accomplishments that the President had laid out in his program for international arms control.” While negotiating contracts, Samore illustrates that you begin with a definition of your objectives. When you go into a negotiation, you must have a clear understanding of what your goal is which is reached by a govern-


ment consensus. Then, you have to prepare a presentation of those issues to the country that you are negotiating with. There is a lot of back and forth between sides and therefore you need to always think about what compromises you want to make to come to an agreement. “You can’t necessarily force the other side to accept your maximum demands,” he highlighted. “So I think a lot of negotiation is preparing for potential compromises from your opening position.” The environment in the negotiation room depends a lot on the circumstances. While negotiating New START with the Russians, it was clear that Russia wanted a new arms control treaty and was willing to compromise. In the case of Iran, the first few meetings in the negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal were very unsuccessful as the Iranians did not have any interest in negotiating. The meetings consisted of diplomats from Iran, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, however, it was very clear that the Iranian diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was under strict instructions to not engage in any compromises which created a lot of tension. Negotiations often take months and sometimes years. There is a lot of going back and forth and going through many rounds of negotiations in order to come to an agreement. In addition, there are many technical details that must be worked out. There must be monitoring techniques in order to ensure that both sides are following their deliverables based on the agreement. It involves a lot of detail work and a verification process to make sure that everyone complies with the agreement. Overall, Samore very much enjoyed working for the government and loved the team environment “The way the government operates best is if there’s a sense of teamwork,” he told The Hoot. “Everybody is sort of working together to try to achieve a common objective, and that’s, to me, that’s a very satisfying feeling.” After exiting government work Samore began teaching politics at Brandeis in 2019. There is no news as to whether he will return to politics, and he remarks,“I’m quite happy at Brandeis. I enjoy teaching.”


December 4, 2020

“To acquire wisdom, one must observe.” Editors-in-Chief Sabrina Chow Celia Young Managing Editor Natalie Fritzson Copy Editor Madeline Rousell News Editor Rachel Saal Deputy News Editors Tim Dillon Victoria Morrongiello Arts Editors Aaron LaFauci Emma Lichtenstein Deputy Arts Editors Stewart Huang Caroline O Opinions Editor Sasha Skarboviychuk Deputy Opinions Editors Abdel Achibat Thomas Pickering Features Editor Shruthi Manjunath Deputy Features Editor Emily Chou Sports Editor Sophie Trachtenberg Deputy Sports Editor Justin Leung Photos Editor Grace Zhou Deputy Photos Editor Teresa Shi Social Media Editor John Fornagiel Deputy Social Media Editor Anya Lance-Chacko

Volume 17 • Issue 21 the brandeis hoot • brandeis university 415 south street • waltham, ma

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The Brandeis Hoot 5

Looking forward

hankfully, the long trudge through 2020 is almost over, and the promise of a new year, however symbolic, cannot help but inspire hope and fear for the coming winter of our discontent. Brandeis has faced some drastic changes—transitioning to a mostly online learning environment, implementing new software and attempting to hold a campus community together without everyone physically being on campus. Looking to 2021, it’s important to keep in mind both the successes and failings of our university and our student representatives to make 2021 the best it can be despite the circumstances. The greatest lesson we can take away from 2020 is the importance of empathy. The pandemic has affected all of us in different ways, exacerbating existing challenges, like heavy workloads, mental health struggles and access to crucial resources. Simply having a stable Wi-Fi connection is a privilege, one that not everyone has access to away from the Brandeis campus. Professors and students alike need to be kind to each other, and we must be kind to ourselves. Everyone has been hurt by the pandemic, and the best we as a community can do is be good to one another. As the pandemic will drag on into 2021, professors need to remain flexible and empathetic to student concerns and challenges. While we as a student body may be more used to the electronic life that the pandemic has forced upon us, that does not make this new existence any easier. One action professors can take to make next semester go as smoothly as possible is having a consistent and clearly explained schedule. It is already very difficult for students to navigate this new online environment, and with the lack of an organized syllabus or the sud-

den addition of new assignments, it can feel impossible to keep track of every change. While adjusting a syllabus will certainly be necessary for some, unexpected changes and an unknown class schedule adds to a semester’s already massive stress. We would like to encourage professors to keep a set number of lectures and assignments: an organized class provides a necessary anchor to a learning environment that has become radically decentralized. We also encourage students to remain committed to preventing the spread of the coronavirus in the Brandeis community. Compared to many other universities, Brandeis’ number of coronavirus cases was low throughout the fall semester. By the time classes resume in the spring, this pandemic will have been a major fixture in the United States for almost a full year. It may be tiring, and we all may be getting frustrated with the precautions, but these precautions are necessary. This semester has demonstrated that they can be effective in keeping our community safe and healthy. We also hope that the Student Union will see next year as an opportunity to be more transparent with its student constituents. Given that the current president and vice president jointly ran on a platform of transparency, it has been alarming to see how often the union has refused to discuss matters before the public. Particularly, the weekly calling of “executive session,” a closed portion of the union meeting during which reporters and members of the public are not allowed to be present, has been used in nearly every Student Union Senate meeting this year. The Senate has, in the past, used executive session to avoid admitting to the public that the Union cancelled its diversity, equity and inclusion training after Union members failed to attend, according to a pre-

vious article by The Brandeis Hoot. This year, executive sessions were used to privately discuss controversial issues like white affinity spaces—spaces for anti-racist trainings available to students, staff and faculty offered by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI)—and accommodating international students taking courses abroad. (The ODEI’s site for the affinity spaces has since been taken down but can be viewed on an internet archive site). These discussions, which were about important issues that affect the lives of Brandeis students every day, occurred in the shadows, away from the eyes and ears of the Senate’s constituents. Senators and other members of the Student Union must never forget that they are elected to serve the public and its interests, not their own. We encourage the Student Union to be transparent through senate meetings and more generally as well. While executive session is allowed according to the Union constitution, the practice’s use severely limits the student body’s ability to evaluate the work of the Student Union. It is critical that the Union upholds its promise of transparency. Open communication is crucial to a functioning government. As Louis D. Brandeis himself once said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” The nation dances upon a razor’s edge, but with a successful vaccine on the horizon, it is easier than ever to indulge in a little healthy optimism. We cannot slip, however. If we hold fast to the measures that worked this semester, the spring semester can pass with equal, if not greater success. Zoom technologies are almost comfortable to us now, and it is our hope that professors will continue to learn and adapt the software to their best teaching methods. Beyond that, the possibilities are endless.


6 The Brandeis Hoot

December 4, 2020

NCAA college basketball returns despite raging pandemic By Sophie Trachtenberg editor

Since the conclusion of the National Basketball Association (NBA) bubble in October, fans have been craving more of the sport amidst the stay-at-home orders, advisory warnings and quarantines that have become so normalized in recent months. Despite cases of the coronavirus roaring at all-time highs across the country, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has resumed play at the Division I level as student-athletes took the floor for the first time this season during the week of the Thanksgiving holiday. However, returning to play comes at a devastating cost, as the potential for spreading COVID-19 is not absent when it comes to competing in high-level sports. In fact, playing basketball—an activity that requires close physical contact, the exchanging of sweat, sharing equipment and occupying a confined, indoor space—is not the most coronavirus-friendly option at hand. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights that “full competition between teams from different geographic areas” poses the highest risk for transmission, which is exactly what the NCAA is allowing to occur at the moment. In Oklahoma alone, three out of its six Division I basketball teams—including the Oklahoma State Cowgirls, as well as both of the men’s and women’s programs at the University of Oklahoma—

have either postponed or canceled upcoming competition due to positive tests of either players and/or staff. According to a tweet from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, similar occurrences have happened to the Tennessee men’s team, as head coach Rick Barnes’s positive test led to a pause in activities, and the eventual cancellation of their annual Volunteer Classic multi-team event. Most recently, the men’s programs at both Wake Forest and the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) have either paused team activities or postponed games “out of an abundance of caution,” according to official press releases from each team. Although some programs, like those mentioned above, have taken action to stop practices, travel and games in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, others have done just the opposite. According to an article from USA Today, the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs from Gonzaga University continued play in their season opener against the No. 5-ranked University of Kansas, despite a traveling staff member testing positive for the coronavirus. The team then made its way down to Florida for the Fort Myers Tip-Off Classic, taking on Auburn University despite seeing a positive test result from one player and deeming another as a close contact. The university issued a statement saying, “following yesterday’s game, two Gonzaga student-athletes are out today per tournament guidelines and COVID-19 protocols.” Apparent-


Gonzaga Stadium, Spokane, WA.

ly, this did not halt competition later that day, as the statement continued with, “after the Florida Department of Health independently conducted its contact tracing measures, the two individuals are isolating in their hotel rooms and the medical staffs of all four participating schools deemed today’s games can be played.” After the game, Bruce Pearl, the Head Coach of the Auburn Tigers, spoke to reporters from the New York Post and said, “I’m glad we got the game in and I hope nobody gets infected by it.” At this point in time, with 13.6 million cases nationwide and nearly 270 thousand deaths, “hop-

ing nobody gets infected by it” is simply not enough. If we want life to eventually resume as normal, we must stop and take a moment to reevaluate what is important, necessary and needed right now. For some collegiate athletes, the pressure and stress relief that is granted by playing sports is ever-pressing after months of separation from coaches, teammates and simple face-to-face interaction. However, on the other hand, physical lives are at stake each time such gatherings happen, and the chance of spread only increases with travel and inter-squad competition. This fine


line is walked each and every day by university administrators and athletics departments, who are supposedly responsible for protecting the health and safety of their students. At what point will we deem containing the spread as more important than playing basketball games? At what point will we value the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and other staff over continuing with competition? What will it take for us as a society to put our social and professional lives on hold in an effort to protect the well-being of those around us?

The NFL is not prepared for the coronavirus, and it is starting to show By Justin Leung editor

The coronavirus has caused all sports to become very different, however most sports have fully gotten through at least one season without having to go to a complete shutdown. This can be attributed to strict protocols, and in some cases, a bubble where the players are only allowed to stay in a confined area. The National Basketball Association (NBA) was extremely successful because of the bubble in Orlando, FL and Major League Baseball (MLB) was very good when the playoffs occurred by limiting travel to specific areas of Texas. When the


National Football League (NFL) was set to start it seemed as if it would go well, considering the NFL had even more time to plan than the other leagues. However, as the league is finishing up week 12 of the season, it seems apparent that the NFL’s plan was in fact very poor. The basics to the NFL’s plan was to increase the size of the rosters and make sure that everyone is getting tested daily, according to an article by SportingNews. However, the article includes a section that says that they were expecting players to test positive. Due to the lack of restrictions for the players when it comes to travel and time outside of football, the number of cases has begun to rise. This can

Lamar Jackson (#8) for the Ravens.


be attributed to the lack of restrictions, in general, the spike in cases in the country, the lack of mask wearing from coaches and the lack of mask wearing from the players. According to, earlier in the 2020 NFL season, five coaches were fined $100 thousand for not wearing a mask during a game. Ultimately the coaches put on masks, but it is very evident that this fine did not change all players’ and coaches’ points of view about wearing masks. When watching games, you can see not all players are wearing masks. Due to the rules in place, not all players are required to wear masks, however they are required to wear masks when traveling to and from games. Apparently, that rule has not been consistent. On Nov. 28, the Denver Broncos were in an unfortunate situation. According to The Guardian, all four of the Broncos quarterbacks were ruled out for the game on Nov. 29 because quarterback Jeff Driskel tested positive. The first thought is, why would all the quarterbacks be ruled out if only one of them officially tested positive? However, contact tracing found that all four quarterbacks were in close contact and were not wearing masks, causing them to be ruled out. Ultimately, they started undrafted wide receiver Kendall Hinton who had played some quarterback in college. The Broncos lost badly to the New Orleans Saints the next day 3-31. Hinton completed only one pass for 13 yards and threw two interceptions.

The Baltimore Ravens were in a similar situation when a large portion of their main roster was moved to their reserve list as many of the players on the main roster tested positive for COVID-19. According to Yahoo Sports, this list consisted of 22 players on the main roster, with one of them being the reigning MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. Due to the huge influx of positive cases, the Pittsburgh Steelers game against the Baltimore Ravens that was set to be primetime on Thanksgiving day was moved to Dec. 1. However, according to a tweet from NFL insider Ian Rapoport, after further consideration, the game was once again moved back one more day to Dec. 2. As of Nov. 30, the Ravens will be missing 12 players including their starting quarterback Lamar Jackson. So, these are two examples of what has happened within the last two weeks with two very different outcomes. The Broncos were without any of their quarterbacks but were still forced to play, while the Ravens with many positive tests had their game moved back many days. So, what is the difference? Obviously, the Ravens had a larger margin of positive tests, but this does bring to question what number of positive tests is required for a game to be moved. There isn’t a listed number from the NFL, which further shows how unprepared the NFL is and how they are mostly just making up what to do as the situation develops. Additionally, the Ravens situation has brought up some is-

sues from some players. According to USA Today, many Steelers players were upset that they were forced to miss the Thanksgiving primetime game due to the fact that the Ravens players were not working hard enough to stay safe. The Steelers’ star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster went to Twitter and showed his displeasure as the NFL had already messed with their schedule by moving up their bye week and moving their game against Tennessee Titans back a week when they had a spike in cases. Again, there is a discrepancy, as many other teams have had spikes in cases, but their games have not been moved. Obviously, these situations are more quality of life-related as players just want to know when they are playing to plan out for the week. However, it is evident that the NFL has not planned very well because of these scheduling discrepancies and obvious holes in their restrictions. The way that the NFL is making their adjustments are clearly subjective. When one of the most dynamic players in the league is out, they push back the scheduling and make all sorts of adjustments. Yet when all the quarterbacks of a single team make them almost completely unable to play, they say “play on.” Again, there are many other factors, such as the fact that the Ravens had many players out, but the players and fans do notice that the way the NFL is handling things is not consistent or wellthought out.


December 4, 2020

The Brandeis Hoot 7

Slowing down to appreciate the moment By Thomas Pickering editor

Life is always teaching us when we least expect it and my dog, Scout, has been the one teaching me a lot my whole life. From how to always be there for someone to taking care of other when they need help like Scout does now in his cone—life and Scout are always teaching me. But before Scout came home all drugged up in his cone he had one more lesson for me: My family has always been close with our neighbors. We attend every neighborhood barbeque and holiday party and end up staying until the very last second so that we can talk to everyone. But one neighbor in particular we got very close with—for the sake of this article we will call her P. P was an older lady with quite a long history of interesting stories about how she came to be the pastor of her protestant church and raised her family despite all odds being a divorced woman 60 years ago. Although her life is filled with wonderful stories of her accomplishments and lessons learned this story is not about her. This story is about her daughter, we will call her D. We came to know P’s family because as she got older, she needed help keeping her house up and without any of her kids nearby or able to help she needed someone else. My family stepped up since we share a fence and we all began to get to know P more. It was my job to mow her lawn every two weeks and I would always wave to her and chit chat when the job was over.

By Celia Young editor

I had hoped to write this piece, graduation cap in hand, with some great and optimistic future draped across my shoulders. I hoped to follow it by standing in a crowded room of my peers as we celebrated our winter graduation from Brandeis University. I won’t belabor the point. We all know that social anxiety is least of my concerns in crowds these days. It’s hard to summarize my time at Brandeis—which looked so opposite to the long hours before my computer screen this year. I spent my spring mornings at Waltham’s farmers market, my winter afternoons telling my friends that snow boots are, in fact, imperative for sledding and nights of any season trapezing across blur-

So, my family and P became very close and the closer we got the more we learned about her family. Only one of P’s six children had stayed in Worcester, where I live. P had three sons and three daughters with two husbands and the only one to stay local was her daughter D. We learned that D suffers from mild autism and although her learning is impaired her memory is far stronger than anyone’s I have met. As our families got closer, we soon began to invite D to events with us and P. We went to a number of Worcester Bravehearts baseball games together since D’s favorite team, the Red Sox of course, are a big hassle to get out to, but we still wanted to watch some baseball. Every game was a joy to attend since D, all excited and energetic, would contest the umpires from the stand if she thought they made a bad call. D became a larger and larger part of our lives and soon she was calling the house every two to three weeks to check in on us and see how all of us were doing. One Thanksgiving we actually invited D and P over since the rest of their family was busy, we thought it would be nice to have the two of them over to eat with our family. D was excited to come over because this meant she got to finally meet Scout, my dog. Before we could even say hello to them all D went to the backyard to play with Scout and watch him run around. She had the biggest smile on her face when she came in and throughout dinner, we learned all about D and how she got her memory to be so good. Every two years, she told us, she buys a two-year planner and every time she meets someone, she writes their birthday into the planner and facts she found cool about them. She was so excited to tell us all about this because she then handed us each our own two-year planner. My brother and I were still so young we did not know what to really do with planners so we traded them but D told us we were not allowed to do that. The ones we got were special to us because D picked them out just for us and on the inside, she pointed out—she wrote our birthdays in to show that she could never forget and even wrote hers in too so that we wouldn’t forget to call. Well since going to college and COVID I have not been home as much and not able to stay in con-

ry street crossings, unable to feel the chill in the air. I explored the woods that surround campus and I laid on the warm earth, heated I suppose, by geothermal vents that crisscross these hills. I spent hours on end getting to know the most intimate parts of Brandeis at the paper I once said I’d take a bullet for, The Brandeis Hoot. In a way I feel a bit like a Brandeis expert, cataloguing the scholarship and scandal any student journalist digs up in a fouryear career. As someone who can outline Brandeis’ greatest shortcomings and successes in extraordinary detail, it’s no surprise I’ve loved my time here. There is no way to do this work without caring, deeply, about your community. To that point, being an Editor-in-chief of this paper has been, in a word, incredible. There


tact with D as much as I used to. So, coming home from school I was disappointed to hear that D had been admitted into the hospital and then moved to a rehab facility to treat her newly discovered cancer in her abdomen. My family made a plan to then visit outside her rehab window and wave hello to cheer her up a little. We even went out and got her Red Sox paraphernalia to have brought up to her room to keep her warm and chipper. But when we called the rehab center to ask if we could visit, we had learned she had been moved to another facility but we were told they could not legally tell us where she went. We did not know where to go from there so we called P and asked if she knew and well—she did. She told us D was being prepared to be transferred to hospice care the Sunday after thanksgiving. Apparently the newly discovered cancer was older and far more malignant than the doctors were expecting. In the short time between her entry scan and most recent scan, only a week if not less, the cancer had spread to her kidneys and in a matter of days had shut them down entirely—she only has days left. Naturally, this devasted my family—we had watched my grandmother go in a similar fashion but to a far slower process—so old emotions and new ones were popping up. D was not and will never just be our neighbor’s child—that is our friend and more so a part of our family. That night my family did something we have never done in our house together before—

we prayed together. With D getting moved into hospice care we knew we had to visit as soon as we could. Unfortunately, the center only allowed two visitors at once so my mother and I went to see D first. D was not any different than before, she was telling us about how happy she was to hear that the Red Sox had signed Alex Cora back to the team and she was sharp as ever with her memory. This was my first time in a hospice care center so I did not know what to expect but when I saw D I was immediately calmed. She told us about the sickness and how she wanted to be home but that despite that she chose to be where she is now. She had the choice to go to dialysis once a day to extend her life past Christmas but she did not want that for her life. She made the choice that takes real strength, to go on her own terms and despite all the hardships she had been through in her life suffering from her mental setbacks, in this moment she comforted her own mother—P. When she chose to be moved into hospice, she told her mother she would not be home for Christmas and in that moment, she took care of the woman in her life who had always been there to take care of her. D is stronger than anyone I have met and something she said when I saw her made me think. We were talking about everything we had done together and she began to talk about that Thanksgiving we had her at our home for years ago. She brought Scout up and talked about how happy playing with

him made her and she said and I will never forget, “What’s better in life than being able to play with a dog who loves to be outside?” That little moment had traveled with her throughout her life— Scout was that important in that little moment to her. My dog, who for reference pees on every tree when we go on walks even when nothing comes out because he is just dumb, made her that happy. Leaving D was tough, it is hard waving goodbye to someone you know you very well may never see again but I made sure to tell her I loved her and would see her soon. Whether or not D makes it to when this article is published does not matter—I will always love her like an aunt and I will never forget her and every little moment we shared. I hope everyone reading can come to appreciate those little moments as well—slowing down to really take them in. Scout taught me that through D, a message heard all the time in the world around us but nonetheless true. It is the little moments that matter the most in the life. When we find ourselves in our final moments we will not think of when we graduated or took a big trip. We will reflect on the little moments that stayed with us forever—the moments that truly made us happy. So do not take anything for granted, especially not now during this pandemic—you never know, that little kind gesture you make today might be the fondest memory someone has before they go. Never hesitate to be someone else’s Scout.


is a version of me, somewhere, that didn’t pick up a flyer for her student newspaper off the ground her freshman year. I feel incredibly lucky to be living this life, one where I found a passion for journalism and a group of friends that I hope to never lose. The people that make up Brandeis, though often aggressively passionate and a little odd, are what made my experience here beautiful and certainly, memorable. In and outside of The Hoot, the friends I’ve made here helped me feel at home. I feel a lot of love for place and person, despite some of the stress schooling has put me under. My relationship with my soon-to-be alma mater, like most things, will always be complicated. I don’t regret a minute of my time here. My unceremonious departure is a strange sort of comfort. There


are no graduation parties, gifts from long-forgotten relatives or formal attire required. The lack of pomp and circumstance means that the weirdness of being suddenly deposited into the nebulous realm of “adulthood” is more obvious. I’m forced to stare the awkwardness of disappearing between

yearbooks in its face. I don’t have the advantage of looking away, and for all this year’s weirdness, this departure feels more honest. Maybe some endings are meant to be unsatisfying. In that spirit, should I leave it here? I think so.


The Brandeis Hoot

December 4, 2020

The Hoot’s table: pasta edition

By Aaron LaFauci editor

Conchiglie (shells): I like shells. They are actually called “Conchiglie,”but who can pronounce that. My practical favorite pasta is probably farfalle AKA bowties, but shells simply fascinate me. Conchiglie, as it is apparently known to nobody in America, is a marvel to kids. They are like

By Sasha Skarboviychuk editor

Farfalle (bows): The pasta debate is a very heated one in my household. Every time we go to the grocery store, there is a five minute long argument over what pasta we should get. To me the right answer is obvious: Farfalle. What can be better than perfectly sized bows onto which you can easily scoop sauce and other ingredients? It is also one of the only shapes of pasta which is actually a decent size and convenient to get with your fork. People

By Victoria Morrongiello editor

Rigatoni: I am pretty well versed when it comes to pasta, if I do say so myself. Pasta is a staple in the Morrongiello household. Growing up in an Italian household, Sunday dinner was always pasta and red sauce. There are just so many types of pasta offering endless variety that never gets old. You’ve got ravioli, linguini, fettuccine, spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, rotini, ditalini and the list goes on! It’s almost

little ears, and you can play with them like suction cups on your tongue. Shells tend to be served as the mac & cheese pasta in brands like Annie’s and Velveeta, which gives them a special status among the youth. Unfortunately, Annie’s and Velveeta taste like pure stomach-ache, and it is for that reason that I suspect shells don’t really fly off the shelves like other pastas. Shells don’t have to be weird, though. It is true that mac &

cheese is the default dish for the funky pasta, but anything creamy will do. The cup shape is perfect for holding your favorite creamy sauces. This power scales with the size of the pasta. You can get really big shells and stuff them with cheese and sauce for a kind of unzipped ravioli. It’s pure fun! Shells aren’t an everyday pasta, but you will amaze yourself and your guests if you manage to do them right.

seem to like Penne and Rottini, but those are just so inconvenient to eat: who wants sauce leaking out of the pasta (cough, rigatoni, cough)? And who likes to chase your pasta around your plate? Monsters, that’s who. The longer pastas are also pretty good, but they are just so messy to eat, even with a spoon, and I am not one to have sauce all over my face. Imagine enjoying dinner and ending up with sauce everywhere, ugh I feel gross just thinking about it. And Farfalle doesn’t do that, it is very easy to just get a few on your fork and neatly eat them. Shells are great, but they aren’t practical

for everything (also who can pronounce their actual name). They are the perfect shape to stuff, but that only goes for the big shells, the ones that are the size of an apple. The small shells are just weird, imagine eating pasta and getting a shell full of sauce? As much as I love pasta sauce, that is a little excessive. And guess what doesn’t do that? Farfalle, which also has the perfect amount of pasta per piece. Bottom line? Stop lying to yourself and admit that Farfalle is the best (and cleanest) pasta shape there is!

sinful to make a person choose one. But there is a correct answer. Rigatoni. Why Rigatoni you ask? Why not Rigatoni. It’s not as messy as Spaghetti or Linguine. Whenever you eat spaghetti in red sauce or linguine with garlic and oil you are bound to have some stains on your shirt. There’s no escaping it even with well refined motor skills as an adult. It’s also not as thin as penne, penne just doesn’t have as thick or good of a texture as Rigatoni. Not to say penne isn’t good it’s just not all that special.

I’ll give you Rotini is fun and so is Ravioli but Rigatoni is reliable. It’s a classic that’s always there for you no matter if it’s with a Sunday Meat Sauce or Pesto Sauce or Garlic and Oil, it’s got your back. Also, it’s objectively a lot more fun to slide the Rigatoni noodles onto the teeth of your fork than deal with messy ravioli as the stuffing falls out. I’ll admit, in the past, I may not have been the person whose opinions you should listen to. But when it comes to pasta I’m your gal and there’s no denying Rigatoni is the best.


By John Fornagiel editor

Fettuccine: During middle school, in my 8th grade english class, I specifically remember three distinct methods of persuasion: logos, pathos, and ethos. I will first appeal to your sense of authority by saying that I come from an Italian background. Specifically, my father has a heavy background in Italian food, so you know you should trust my opinion when it comes to italian cuisine and pasta shapes. Okay let’s be honest, what is the best pasta dish that you can think

By Jonathan Ayash special to the hoot

Spaghetti: Pasta. Who doesn’t like pasta? Oftentimes, the better question is what pasta do people like best? For me, it has always only been one type: spaghetti. As a kid, all our meals would include 1 side and 1 meat (and vegetables but that’s not the important part). Probably 4 out of the 7 days in a week, the side would be pasta, with the other 3 being 2 days of rice and 1 day of mashed potatoes. On those days, my mom would always ask my brother and I what pasta we want. We had loads of pasta types to choose from, ranging from shells, to parpelleni, to macaronis. But we always gave her the same response: spaghetti. If spaghetti was available, me and my brother were having it.

By Thomas Pickering editor

Rigatoni: Italian households are simple because there exists a favorite everything. From movies to games to pasta to children Italian parents always seem to pick favorites and then make it known which is their favorite. So, following in my heritage here I will say this linguine is the best type of pasta ever. Angel hair—too thin it needs to eat more! Fettuccini—too fat it needs to lose some weight! Penne—eh, it’s just fine Rigatoni—oh god, do not even get me started on this train wreck of a

of? Is it perhaps cheesy, maybe with some grilled chicken and some broccoli? If you are anywhere close to rational, you will understand that fettuccine alfredo is perhaps among the best dishes ever created. The fettuccine provides a perfect medium for grabbing on to the mouth-watering cheesy sauce, and can easily wrap up any chicken pieces and broccoli on to your fork. Not only this, but typical spaghetti and meatballs, while a classic, is often overused and like all foods, you just get sick of it after having so much of it throughout your life. Fettuccine alfredo provides a fresh-take on pasta. Spaghetti has that perfect continuity that no other pasta has. By this I mean that spaghetti is the only pasta that is not made into shapes that do not have completely equal surface area along the entire pasta (texture is huge for me). Also when I eat, I eat big. By this I mean that I love shoveling food into my mouth, in the most respectful way possible. With other pasta, you have to take the time and stab each pasta individually. However, with spaghetti, you can just swirl as much pasta as you want around your fork and insert that straight into your mouth. This means less waiting and more eating. Also, one of the most classic italian and really any meals, spaghetti and meatballs, requires spaghetti and tastes delicious. Most pastas can replace one another. However, there is no such thing as replacing spaghetti. pasta and all those who think its their favorite. But linguine—oh my lord if the Italian hand gesture was something we could put into print boy oh boy would I put it in! You never want a pasta that escapes your fork or is too big to not swirl so linguine is here to save the day. Not only does it slide perfectly into your fork but yeah, it’ll be a little messy. What kind of day do you remember the most? The one that went by as planned and was fine or the day when things got crazy and you had to enjoy the mess of it? You see linguine is that second option that is so much more fun. Because what do we really want in a pasta—a good time and that is that.

Time to change our elections

By Abdel Achibat editor

While the United States continues to pride itself as being a liberal mecca and exemplification of democracy to the rest of the world, we lack severely in the aspect of representation. The notion of “no taxation without representation” reigns supreme in our history lessons and as a core principle of America’s democratic strength, yet women, racial, ethnic and sexual minorities remain unjustly underrepresented. What marks as most exemplary of America’s hypocrisy is our claim to high levels of gender equality when even after more than two centuries of democracy, women constitute only around 25 percent of our legislature. Defenders of America’s history and commitment to the outdated framework of government will paint societal notions and public opinions as crucial to understanding why women have still

not been able to break through holding higher percentages in government. While sexism and gender discrimination has been an integral part of our heternormative and patriarchal government, it is the electoral systems and rules in place that I believe hold even greater influences on the delayed electability of women and gender minorities. Based on Hillary Clinton’s 65 million votes, it is plenty evident that the public believes a woman can hold the highest position in government. Based on the numerous women who are elected into congress each race, it is well established that women are more than able to gain the support of constituents in virtually every state. Ultimately, given today’s social understanding of gender, there exists high support for women to be elected to office, yet they still struggle to comprise a healthy proportion of our legislature. The argument that the general public is still not ready for more female representation is

ultimately a scapegoat to the real systems that prevent women from holding office. Consequently, it is our strict adherence to our majority electoral system that has allowed for this culture of a male dominated congress to persist. Our electoral system being “first past the post” means that whoever wins a plurality or majority of votes in a given district gets the whole district. What this does to our government is make it so that large populations (as high as 49% of the votes) are not being represented. While we, as people living in the United States, have become accustomed to this idea that whoever wins the most votes gets the whole district or whole state, many other governments around the world have adopted other electoral systems to address this disparity in representation. Proportional representation electoral systems essentially allow for a multitude of candidates from any given district to be elected into the national assembly as

long as they get a sizable amount of votes. This allows for multiple parties, a lot more candidates, and consequently a lot more diversity. Even more so, governments across the globe have implemented gender quotas ensuring higher percentages of female elected officials, often greatly impacting women’s rights prevalence in government than in states without these quotas. Essentially, it is our electoral system that prioritizes the majority, no matter how slight it is, that has created an environment where female candidates are often stuck to the sidelines despite great support of them. Consequently, if we as a society truly value gaining gender equality and progress in terms of womens, sexual and gender minority rights, we will seriously consider a constitutional shift in the way we organize our elections. We would drop this electoral system that inherently fosters an atmosphere that is susceptible to the patriarchal and heternormative perceptions of dominance and instead


adopt a proportional representation system that implicitly commits to ensuring representation. As we continue on in our history priding ourselves on our liberalness, it is time we actually reform and revolutionize the way we have organized the power of our votes and the true power of representation and shift from this 200 year strong electorally systemic prioritization of the straight white male.

December 4, 2020


The Brandeis Hoot

Thanksgiving is the best holiday By Aaron LaFauci editor

This year has cemented in my mind the idea that Thanksgiving is the greatest of all the cold-month holidays. Bereft of the burden of extended family antagonism, turkey day becomes just that—a day dedicated wholly to the consumption of poultry, potatoes and pie. Perhaps the dearth of cousins and uncles allowed us room to really get the food down right because the fare this year was simply delicious. The potatoes were whipped to perfection, the cranberry sauce was made in a pan rather than a can and the turkey was, for the first time in my living memory, not dry enough to absorb a lake. The pilgrim-obsessed romanticism that birthed this silly holiday was totally forgotten amidst the solitude of a small family gathering with great food, and I have to admit that I’m already looking forward to next year’s feast. Perhaps you Christians out there will attest to the wonders of the Christmas ham, but my family isn’t into that sort of thing. Regardless, Christmas demands that you not only shell out for good food, but good presents as well. Turkey day doesn’t ask you to make desperate 9 p.m. Walmart runs for plastic junk destined for landfills and couch creases. It does occasionally ask you to make desperate 8 a.m. Market Basket trips, but at least you delegate these runs communally. The act of buying a present is so secret, so personally demanding. Ham and guilt lead to a sore stomach! You don’t need to give your family a receipt in case they don’t like the turkey. Thanksgiving softly tells you to save that anxiety for Friday. What does that pink, plastic-like hunk of Christmas ham even go with anyway? The Thanksgiving


palette is beautiful to the mouth as well as to the eye, and there is a reason you savor the leftovers for days and days. The crimson cranberry sauce and the orange-brown hues of the squash remind you of the new England foliage that, by late November, has only recently faded. The stuffing, when made with care and creativity, looks like a festive mass of earth tones and vegetable greens and the contrasting mashed potatoes and the pale flesh of the turkey remind the eater of oncoming winter. Do these feelings resonate with folks living in Florida and Arizona? If they don’t, then the flavors certainly do. Unlike the salty ham, turkey is a mostly neutral meat. It begs to be mixed with the stuffing and the squash and as much gravy as you can heap onto the pile. The Thanksgiving plate is a hot mess of bright colors just waiting to be mashed together. It’s autumn made consumable, a wonderful send-off to the pre-winter season. Thanksgiving is one of the most hedonistic holidays and that suits

us denizens of 2020 very well. Participants are required to pack as much savory and sweet food into their bodies as possible before passing out. Then, moving from the kitchen table to the couches, participants are allowed to sleep or lounge to their heart’s content. After a good deal of this torpor, the family may once again convene at the table for another round of face stuffing, but this time with cake, pies and ice cream. Doesn’t that sound like a dream? Thanksgiving is not just a holiday marked by feasting. Thanksgiving has elevated the feast to an event of national significance. Food is the be-all and end-all on this lazy day. Of course, if you and your family suck at cooking, this day of rest must be pretty depressing. I suppose I can’t praise Thanksgiving without addressing the elephant in the room. In Massachusetts elementary schools, the pilgrim heritage of the holiday is really hammered in ad nauseam. It can be difficult to think about Thanksgiving without imagining a quaint little harvest

feast with buckle-clad Puritans and hunched Native Americans crowding about a wooden table. A lot of mental capital is dedicated to forgetting the fact that these native peoples were later butchered, sickened by foreign disease and forced from their homes. Young Brandeisians likely think about the holiday with an ire that is admittedly deserved. I ask that these detractors, however, consider the great entropic power of time. As Thanksgiving, like all of the mainstream holidays, continues to decline into ever more depraved levels of commodification, it becomes an object detached from itself. It can be remolded. Never forget the deadly ego of the pilgrim. Never forget the native lives destroyed to build this nation. It is good that this holiday instills a healthy dose of historical reflection and wrath, but ignoring the delicious feast in front of you isn’t going to make your racist uncle care about any of that more than he already does. And hey, if you need a holiday to really di-

rect your angst toward, look no further than the king of them all. Christmas happens to be all about Jesus Christ, the symbolic figure responsible for more accumulated death in the modern era than anybody else. Jesus was the inspiring force behind those crazy Puritans sailing out to Massachusetts in the first place. Thanksgiving is sort of his problem. Is Thanksgiving a morally fraught nightmare of industrial agriculture and dirty history? Well, of course. It is also the only holiday Americans have that really forces us to appreciate good food and the communal activity of preparing it. It is a day of peaceful labor with a superb reward. We want our holidays to remind us of the importance of working together toward common goals and to be thankful for all of the wonderful people and things that enrich our lives. As Christmas becomes more and more of a cash cow wracked by guilt and wastefulness, Thanksgiving might be our final grounding hope.

Sal’s mobile pizza in Waltham needs work Sal’s pizza has made another appearance in Waltham, this time in the form of a food truck, which offers delivery (but only within a three-mile radius, so not to

Brandeis) and pickup. They offer their full pizza menu, in two sizes, small (10 inch) and large (14 inch). After our experience with the Sal’s on campus back in Oc-

tober, we had to try the real Sal’s. After an hour of arguing about what pizzas to get, we decided on a large cheese pizza and large Buffalo chicken pizza, which cost us

$12 and $16 respectively (though we have to say that we got 50 percent off our order). The cheese pizza consists of shredded mozzarella, Sal’s fresh dough and Sal’s

sauce, while the Buffalo chicken consists of shredded mozzarella, Sal’s fresh dough, cheddar, chicken, oregano and parmesan, Buffalo drizzle and Sal’s sauce.

By John Fornagiel

By Sasha Skarboviychuk



While Sal’s was REALLY bad with respect to punctuality, what Sasha has yet to mention is that while we were there, the cashier gave one of the customers the wrong pizza, and he had to return in order to get his proper order. However, despite the horrendous customer service, the cheese pizza was absolutely incredible. As Sasha has previously mentioned, the ratio was incredible. With each bite, there was a perfect amount of dough, sauce and cheese, and none of the flavors overpowered the others. This is a big fault when it comes to many pizzas, and is one of the first characteristics I look for when judging a pizza. Overall, Sal’s Cheese Pizza gets an eight and a half out of 10 from me! I would definitely go again, even despite the price. While Sal’s nailed the ratio on their cheese pizza, the Buffalo chicken pizza (which is actually one of my favorite foods) was absolutely LOADED with Buffalo sauce, and not in a good way. Each bite that I took of the Buffa-

Sal’s did not leave a good first impression on me. We had to wait another 20 minutes after our pickup time for our pizza, which means we waited for our pizza for 45 minutes. We were hungry. Very hungry. Even though that has nothing to do with the taste of the pizza, it still left a bitter taste in my mouth. By the time we got home with the pizza, it was cold, which isn’t really Sal’s fault, but I want to disclose that information, since it could’ve impacted my opinion. The cheese pizza was really good. It had the PERFECT ratio of dough, sauce and cheese, which was honestly such a breath of fresh air. Most pizzas that I have had have too much cheese and not enough sauce, and let’s be real here, the sauce is what makes the pizza. The Buffalo chicken pizza was not the best. The chicken had a really weird taste and some of the pieces were way too big to be on a pizza. The Buffalo sauce, which was not evenly spread on the pizza, was overpowering in places where it

actually was and the places that did not have sauce on them were just kind of bland. If I wanted Buffalo chicken pizza again, I would definitely go to AK’s instead: it is much closer and has a better pizza. Overall, I would rate the cheese pizza an eight out of 10, and the Buffalo chicken pizza a seven out of 10. I would probably not go back to Sal’s, just because it is too far away and without the discount, not worth the money.


lo chicken pizza contained an almost repulsive amount of Buffalo sauce, to the point where it overpowered the actual flavor of the pizza. I might as well have been chugging Buffalo sauce. With that being said, I might be bashing on it a bit too much, because this was a great “leftover” pizza. When I eat leftover pizza, I eat it cold, and at this temperature the Buffalo sauce was significantly more tame and incorporated itself into the flavors of the pizza. Overall, this Buffalo chicken pizza gets a seven

out of 10 from me! There are definitely better pizzas in Waltham, but there are also worse pizzas. This is definitely a fun trip to take, and since it’s a food truck, you don’t have to go inside to get your pizza! But it is also a long trip to take. We don’t know, we are not solid on an opinion, so how about you try it for yourself. You can also use the code “PIZZAPARTY” to get 50 percent off of your first order at Sal’s, which is definitely a deal to take advantage of!


The Brandeis Hoot

December 4, 2020

You’re wrong more often than you think, and so am I By Ben Helzner special to the hoot

As any psychologist, neuroscientist or economist will tell you (the lattermost perhaps accompanied by an expletive or two), people are not entirely rational. In our decision-making, we do not often proceed consciously from evidently true axioms down a line of entirely transparent reasoning before reaching our conclusions. Rather, as one influential theory by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt proposes, we often begin with an intuition and then create post hoc rationalizations and justifications for that intuition. How is that intuition formed? Sometimes it is based on personal experience, sometimes on other deeping intuitions or maybe through the dark, quirky realm of the human subconscious. In fact, Haidt claims, it’s incredibly difficult for us to change our own minds, see errors in our arguments or really challenge ourselves in any efficacious way. Our minds did not evolve with the goal of making us correct— they evolved with the goal of making us survive. To this end, there are many quirks about the functions of our minds that do not quite line up with reality. We often grasp at patterns where there aren’t any (clustering illusion), assume purposeful action where there may be no reason to (agent detection) and overestimate the amount of attention other people are paying to us and our foibles (the spotlight effect). Many of these quirks also concern our knowledge and may give us pause in having too much faith in our beliefs.

The first, and perhaps most widely known, of these quirks is the Dunning-Kruger effect. This effect refers to the phenomenon of those who know a little bit about a field to be much more confident in their breadth of knowledge than people who know much more than them. In the words of Alexander Pope, “a little learning is a dangerous thing.” The next two go hand in hand: the first being the illusion of explanatory depth. This (aptly termed) theory says that we often assume we can explain things in much more detail than we actually can. The second is the funny habit our minds have of conflating what people in our community know with what we know (if someone knows how a toilet works, I may feel that I do too). Here it may be useful to think about the causes of some of these biases. This last one, the conflation of communal knowledge with individual knowledge, is a good example. For me, as a functioning early human in my early human community, I probably don’t need to know something if my neighbors know it (assuming they’re nice enough fellows), so it should make perfect sense that my brain wouldn’t quite care about the distinction so much. However, it’s this very intersection between community, individuals and knowledge that is the crux of understanding why it’s critical to be skeptical of your own beliefs. If I am liable to conflate common opinions with correct ones, then that ought to make me want to check my work a bit more carefully, shouldn’t it? Perhaps the most powerful of these social biases (and most relevant for our time) is what’s known

as group polarization. Cass Sunstein, a political and legal theorist, wrote an article describing this. The general idea of it can be boiled down to this example: if five Brandeis students meet every week to discuss how they feel about the food at Sherman, after seven weeks, what direction, if any, do you think their opinions have swung? Or, if ten baseball fans meet every week to discuss why baseball is better than football, what direction, if any, do you think their opinions on football have swung? Or (here’s the kicker): if I create a Facebook page, subreddit, Tumblr page or other kind of community with a certain political bent, after a year, do you think that page has gotten more or less extreme in its views? Probably more extreme. If you guessed this, congrats! You’re correct. You’re also probably susceptible to the same effects. Before thinking you’re immune because of the scrupulous nature of your sources, it is not necessary for anything underhanded to be going on for this effect to occur. In fact, one of the most prominent reasons for this effect is what’s known as a “limited argument pool.” The idea being, not many of these Brandeis students are bringing with them arguments for why Sherman is good (if, indeed, there are any), and not many of these baseball fans are bringing arguments for why baseball may be worse than football, so, in the course of deliberating over these topics, more arguments (and these are arguments that the participants are predisposed to agree with) are heard in one direction than the other, exacerbating the magnitude of the convictions

without changing the veracity of them. By your simple ignorance of what the other side is saying (and, importantly, what individuals on the other side are saying in good faith), your opinions may— seemingly rationally—swing in a certain direction. If you feel unsettled by the idea that your opinions could be formed by forces outside of your focus and lacking in rhetorical rigor, welcome! Now you might understand a bit better that craze some time ago about subliminal messaging and the fear that may have produced. People generally don’t like the idea of being manipulated. So, hopefully, you’re on my side in that you’re reconsidering how much faith you should have in your opinions, but perhaps you’re wondering where we should go next. Group deliberation was aided by one thing: dissent. The expansion of the argument pool, and the proximity to someone from “the other side,” actually did make group deliberation fruitful. Haidt as well termed his theory of decision-making “social intuitionism” for the reason that he saw decision-making as a social activity—when we are confronted by others who disagree with us (or who simply have access to arguments from what we disagree with), we are forced to justify our beliefs. And this is no faint exercise—most people believe they are right, and, indeed, want to be right. If their intuitions are found to be without justification, or if another’s justifications seem oh-so-much stronger than their own, that can lead to real change. Confrontation—in the friendliest of definitions—is the lifeblood of

self-examination. Brooding and communal agreement can lead to polarization—confrontation can lead to discourse. This is not to say that everything is up for grabs—I, for one, feel little compunction to relitigate my stances on such issues as rape, human bondage or genocide— but that first step in an argument should never be holing up on your own side and lobbing justifications across no man’s land. Instead, the whole premise of successful discussion is the deep and sympathetic understanding of the opposing point of view. Empathy in debate: it is absolutely crucial. Thinking about it, maybe I should have gotten this article published before Thanksgiving. Oh, well. The main takeaway I hope comes from this is to be nicer to people you disagree with, however right you may think you are. Many people far more intelligent than I have been wrong about many things. We may not all be Socrates, proclaiming, “the only thing I know is that I know nothing,” but we also ought not to have too much faith in our beliefs. It is only taking the strongest opposing arguments you can find and dismantling them to your satisfaction that should bring comfort in belief—and that being a provisional comfort. As Judge Learned Hand aptly said, “the spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.” Seek out the dissenters, the troublemakers, the obstinately different. Come to them with kindness and openness, trusting at least that they too want what they believe is best for us all. Everyone, by and large, has a kernel of wisdom to give—it’s simply a matter of finding it.

Rhum Barbancourt four year By Harper Pollio-Barbee staff

When I asked my manager Dan about rum, he told me that the Caribbean, and rum by extension, was the Wild West of the liquor world (compare this to France, which is its polar opposite. More on this later). Most of the countries in the Caribbean tend to have pretty lax regulations on what “rum” is and how it’s made, which makes for some really interesting variations, especially among different rum-making traditions (English, French and Spanish). The exception to this is Martinique, which is an overseas territory of France and has to submit to obsessive French scrutiny. A brief aside about the French: One thing I will say about the French is that two things will survive the pending apocalypse: Nose -Call me Old Gregg because I have the FUNK -Some sort of citrus peel note -grass??? -Definitely has a hot nose, the booze comes through here Palate -Sweet. The sugar definitely comes through here -Definitely more of that bitter orange peel flavor that came

cockroaches and the French desire to follow all of their traditions to the letter for as long as possible without changing them. To give credit where credit is due, the French are really consistent in the quality of their products, since their gastronomic traditions have more or less been preserved in amber since the 1800s. It’s why cognac and armagnac have been far surpassed in terms of total sales by spirits like whiskey and tequila, where there is much more of a tradition of change and boundary pushing. It’s also why French food is always best in France, since the recipes have so little room for errors or change. Back to rum: Once again, I should probably draft up a little FAQ section, which is by no means a compilation of frequently asked questions, but more questions that I asked Dan and can remember the answers to.

Q: What is rum? A: Generally speaking, rum is a distilled spirit that comes from sugar. I can’t really get more specific than that, since there are traditions of rum that are distilled from molasses (especially the English, so think Jamaica and Barbados) or sugar cane juice (this is called agricole and is generally associated with the French tradition).

through in the orange -Maybe cinnamon? Not sure, definitely an earthy spicy flavor that wasn’t quite sweet enough to give me ginger -The alcohol is actually a lot less potent in the palate than the nose, which is a strange sensation but not wholly unusual (truth be told, it probably just means I nosed it too close to the rum, since you’re generally supposed to smell it at a distance where the booze doesn’t come through too

much). Finish -Burnt, dark sugar -Molasses -Ginger! -Definitely a bit of an earthy spiciness to it

Q: You keep mentioning different traditions? What’s that all about? A: Basically, the three big European colonial powers in the Americas (England, France and Spain) started making rum in the Americas. The English normally made rums that had a lot more of that molasses flavor remaining from the base distillate. This, combined with the light aging, creates some really strong, funky rums. The French are mostly known for agricole, or rum whose

This was a really cool rum! I don’t necessarily know if it was for me (I think the orange mixed with the booziness in a way that didn’t sit well with me), but it’s definitely a good rum that I could


base distillate is sugarcane juice instead of molasses. This results in an earthier, grassier rum. The Spanish, like the English, also primarily used molasses as the base distillate, but tend to age their rums a little bit longer (ron añejo), resulting in a smoother

finish, more wood character and less molasses character. They tend to be sweeter and less funky than English-style rums. Now for the actual tasting! This is Rhum Barbancourt, which is a Haitian rhum agricole. Let’s get into it.

see someone who likes sweeter liquor enjoying (I have the same issue with tequila). *I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge the gruesome history of rum in the Caribbean and all the colonial atrocities that came with it. Sugar (and the rum that came from it) was so immensely profitable that it was cheaper to throw Black bodies at plantations and literally work them to death than

actually provide liveable working conditions. Rum single-handedly brought triangular trade to its peak, and became so ubiquitously associated with slavery that higher-proof rums were made specifically as a currency to purchase slaves. Rum’s history in the Americas is deeply entwined with that of slavery. Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part of the series “No mom, I don’t have a drinking problem.”

December 4, 2020


The Brandeis Hoot

Who is the New England Yankee? By Alex Williams staff

The distinguished American writer E.B. White had his own opinion of who the Yankee is: “To foreigners, the Yankee is an American; to Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner; to Northerners, the Yankee is an Easterner; to Easterners, the Yankee is a New Englander; to New Englanders, the Yankee is a Vermonter; and to Vermonters, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.” For the country at large, it is of great interest to determine the essence of the Yankee, an entity that is both well-known and elusive. It was the reticent Yankee, after all, that unfurled the earliest blueprints to plan the America with which we are familiar today. The fundamental structure of the northeastern Yankee hamlet was exported west and mass-produced to become the default model of a small-town locality. This ubiquitous model, which consists of a church or religious house at the center, surrounded by orderly plots of land and neighborly dwellings, as well as schools and other civic structures, reflects the particular values appreciated most by the Yankee. The Yankees emerged from the diverse denominations of English Protestants that sought refuge in the New World. As England acquired new stability in the eighteenth century following its civil war and violent repressions of religious sects, it came to regard the New Englander as unsophisticated and hopelessly distant from the civilization of European high culture. During the revolutionary revolt, British troops devised a song to mock attempts by the Yankee to imitate the dash-

ing fashion of the time: “Yankee Doodle went to town a-riding on on a pony, stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni!” This song was readily adopted by the Yankee rebels themselves, and subsequently became the state anthem for the New England state of Connecticut—I remember we sang it during music class in second grade. The Yankees, dispersed among the hills and woods, developed a character of classical liberalism, one which exalted individual enterprise and communal cohesion in equal measure. Their social egalitarianism, coupled with a ruthlessly expansive and highly diversified economy, attested to both the industriousness and the libertarianism of the Yankee spirit, which believed above all else that the world could reform to ever greater perfection. Thus, alongside the rising Enlightenment, the Yankees embarked upon the task of implementing the values and assuring the rights of a better world. The recipients of these irrevocable rights were individuals, not collectives, and their freedoms were not gifts from the state, but birthrights from providence. The Yankee resolved that all were free to speak and practice religion without discrimination or repression. As time wore on for the Yankees of New England, a connection emerged between the centrality of the church and the centrality of the university. Each of the oldest colleges of New England was founded on behalf of its own religious denomination, and swiftly dedicated themselves to all secular knowledge that was available at the time. For a region that was the most literate and the most economically productive in the world by the late eighteenth cen-


tury, such schools served a vital mission and education constituted an profound tenet of Yankee life. New England, already positioned to industrialize before the rest of America, continued to expand its commercial and civic ambitions, as Yankee migrants drew westward and a new wave of Irish immigrants arrived from the east. Perceiving itself to occupy the role of improving the new republic, New England introduced the great majority of nineteenth-century reform movements, including those of temperance, public education, women’s suffrage and abolitionism; indeed, the first organization devoted to women’s electoral enfranchisement was the New England Woman Suffrage Association, founded in 1868. By the twentieth century, New England had long since been over-

taken by the nation it had helped to build, and the Yankee itself had faded from prominence. Yet the existence of Yankee New England persisted, relying upon a timeless balance to sustain itself—balance between the individual and the local community, between innovative enterprise and devoted tradition, between openness to newcomers and mindfulness of local culture, between national loyalty and regional identity. Balance requires meticulous care and conservation, a trait of frugality that is itself a hallmark of the Yankee. Nimble Yankee hands, unassuming and underestimated, had crafted the delicate instrument of the Republic’s societal organization. The spirit of the Yankee, and its values of enduring timelessness, are well alive in New England, extending to all who ar-

rived over hundreds of years. As waves of Yankee influence rolled over the country, a crest of virtues emerged which defines the foundation of American life. Waltham, a city that is seated in the heart of Yankee New England and which has a history of industrial inventiveness for which the humble Yankee is famous, therefore does not lie when it proclaims that America’s history is its own history. Its history reveals, perhaps, the answer to the enigma of the New England Yankee and where its natural habitat lies. Perhaps, the local Yankee—inventive, frugal, idealist, rooted—lives neither here nor there, but is a cultural spirit that lives in us all and deserves to be preserved. Within New England, it could be that it doesn’t matter who eats pie for breakfast, but that there remains pie to be eaten for breakfast.

The swimming pool By Scarlett Ren special to the hoot

Prior to landing, I strived to live as a responsible, aware civilian abroad who standardized my thoughts and actions to high, active social engagements anywhere I go, though it’s been six years since I’ve lived full-time back home. Fear of the once-familiar, now-unknown home, I landed, peeked through the airplane windows and naturally viewed my motherland as a “battle zone.” Expectedly, life back home was going to be the brutal battle between the silenced people and a hierarchy. Unexpectedly, high school taught me everything, but the brutal battle was only for those who are ready. I wasn’t. I wasn’t prepared to know that not everyone is kind, and not everything is easy. I wasn’t anticipated to view our society in a mature, grown up perspective. I wasn’t qualified for the battle and would drown as a useless victim. Fear of drowning back home became my go-to emotion in the following days. I observed, cried, processed and soon materialized my surroundings into a symbol: a swimming pool, as the society, and the pool water as all the complexities within the society. Here, drowning is growing up, swimming is surviving and the pool is filled with people who don’t know how to do either; a lack of governance was symbolized as the


safeguards who didn’t care about the safety of its people. Having no idea what I was about to face, I had to adjust and learn how to swim, as I am already here. As soon as I touched the water—it wasn’t clear or blue—I saw droplets of red blood. Confused, shocked and angry, nobody paid enough attention to answer. For the first time I questioned: why is the pool red? Prior to visiting the blue pool abroad, I couldn’t picture what colors other than red would look like in a pool. Tears washed my face as I tripped, fell and continued seeking for answers. Soon, I adapted to the temperature and hovered around like others. While my body is temporarily red, “brainwashed” by the party, my mind remains crystal clear. But not everyone has a clear mind. Many don’t feel the need to wash the red color off because

they haven’t seen the blue pool outside, the comparison between the communism democratic and other government styles. Fortunately, I have. Living six years at the blue pool abroad, though with their own gruesome filters and millions of swim pretenders, made me realize a blue pool works. I’ve lived through it and learned it’s the people in the pool that matters. Swimmers aren’t cared for and this is one of the many answers to why is the pool red. After seeing the distinct pool color differences, my conscious directed me to the final answer: the pool was never meant to be one color. It’s okay if the water is red, just not when it’s made of human flesh, innocent lives that were lost in the brutal battle. It’s okay if the country is communist, just not when the government doesn’t represent the

people. Year-long, people floated, dogs paddled, drowned and the safeguards didn’t care if you knew how to swim. I was pushed to decide whether to stay or not, and most importantly, question whether I will be able to learn swimming in this dark, red water. The coronavirus pandemic isn’t over, so I was left forced to learn and explore. What’s the solution? Cleaning the pool: it’s home after all. Pump out the water, be the best swimmer the pool has, become a member of the pool governance team. But there are risks: they will threaten anyone who claims the water is not blue or wants to leave, always insisting, “pools are never blue anyway” for controlling purposes. The reality is: the more swimmers inside, the higher the water level. Then, people incapable of

swimming well, like me and so many others who truly feel the need to speak up and fix issues, will drown, forming the dirty pool management bottom secrets that never will see the sun, and the truth will never be revealed. In the end, the pool administration still won’t care, like they never did, because it’s just a pool for them, a place to exercise their desires as individuals. How many swimmers drown— as long as it doesn’t conflict with being nominated for the best pool or the second fastest growing economy award—will never matter. Is transparency too much to ask? Maybe, but especially when my stance remains alone: most swimmers, selfish individuals as humans are naturally, are so content and satisfied with what swimwear they wear, outfits they put on daily to appeal to others that they refuse and forget to think about how to swim, what role they play in our society… You can’t make them clean the water because “as long as I can swim, that is enough,” they say. After years, most swimmers have lost the ability to see that pools are blue, red, all colors but human flesh. I hope this pool will be filled with healthy, conscious swimmers one day who’re willing to fight for themselves. It should be up to the people what the pool color should be. For now, and as long as I swim, I hope to not lose the ability to speak up and dissect what’s true.


The Brandeis Hoot

December 4, 2020

Trying to stomach norovirus By Alex Williams staff

Chipotle, although one of my personal favorite Mexican chains (anyone who says Moe’s is better is just flat out wrong), has definitely had its fair share of foodborne illness outbreaks. From E. coli to salmonella, Chipotle does not seem shy to rub germs into their food. One of the more prominent viruses responsible for these outbreaks is norovirus, who’s responsible for three separate cases since 2008. Norovirus is highly contagious and can cause the sudden onset of severe diarrhea and vomiting. As you can guess, this is certainly not fun to have hanging out in your gut. Other symptoms include nausea, muscle pain and general weakness. Since norovirus has signs and symptoms that are essentially indistinguishable from the stom-

ach bug, it’s pretty hard to tell the two apart. Since it is highly contagious, if you’ve been in close contact with someone who was infected, then you can reasonably deduce that you probably got sick from them (feel free to call them up and yell at them for plaguing you). The infection can also travel on surfaces, such as a counter or a table. So if someone that is infected sits down in your favorite chair, then you better dunk the chair in rubbing alcohol before coming within a 50-foot radius of it. Although this infection is associated with some pretty debilitating symptoms, it normally doesn’t cause death. However, due to all of the diarrhea and vomit that’s spewing out of your body, you can get really dehydrated. Signs of dehydration are fatigue, dizziness and dry mouth. It is a bit more difficult to tell if a child is dehydrated, since they are sometimes unable to tell you

how they feel. To tell if a child is dehydrated, then they will generally have decreased urine output. Moreover, when they cry, they will not produce as many tears. Fortunately, it’s really easy to avoid dehydration in most cases by simply making sure that you are drinking enough water. I cannot stress this enough! In any case, if you are losing a lot of fluids to vomit or diarrhea then it is essential to replace them. Even if the last thing you want to think about is water, it is critical to at least try. In most people, norovirus will clear up in a few days and is not life-threatening. In these people, their immune system is strong enough to push back the virus. However, in other people, their immune system can be so weak that the virus can be life-threatening and they must see the doctor. People that generally have weaker immune systems include children, the elderly and HIV pa-

tients. Once again, if you fall into one of these categories, then it is essential to contact a doctor immediately. There is not much that you can do at home to treat the virus on its own, as your immune system will often fight it and the infection will resolve on its own within a few days. As noted earlier, one way to help your body in fighting the infection is by providing it with enough food and water. If symptoms last for longer than a week, then make an appointment with your doctor. You should also make an appointment with your doctor if your stool is bloody, you have abdominal pain or if you are severely dehydrated. One thing that you can do, however, is prevent norovirus from ever entering your body in the first place. This is way easier said than done. However, practicing good hygiene and avoiding

those who are infected are two easy ways to avoid getting many infections. Although norovirus is not a lethal infection for many people, it is important to keep in mind that it can cause severe complications if you do not properly mitigate your dehydration with proper restoration of fluids. Also, remember to see your doctor if you have a compromised immune system or if you encounter any of the complications above. I honestly just sincerely hope I haven’t ruined the fine dining experience of Chipotle for everyone! (Note: These articles are goodfaith attempts to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means to be taken as universal. This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional. This article is not written on behalf of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) and is not affiliated with BEMCo in any manner.)

SSIS advice column By SSIS special to the hoot

If neither my partner or I have had sex or touched genitalia before/had ours touched by others, what kind of protection is necessary for us to be safely intimate (we are both cisgender girls)? Do we need protection? What are the risks involved here? Thank you for reaching out to SSIS! This is a great question. According to Planned Parenthood, cis women who have sex only with cis women are at less risk than other women for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV. Still, they are at risk for other infections such as bacterial vaginosis, herpes, HPV, pubic lice and trichomoniasis. Using barrier methods can be a great way to minimize fluid transmission and lower the risk of STI transmission. These include finger cots and gloves for manual stimulation/ penetration and dental dams for oral sex. It’s important to be aware that toys can also transmit STIs, so using condoms and barrier methods on toys, as well as cleaning them after use, can greatly reduce the risk of STI transmission. (Note: SSIS sells condoms, finger cots, dental dams and gloves 10 for $1!) Since you’ve said you and your partner have never experienced direct genital contact, the risk for having and transmitting STIs is much lower than it would be for sexually active partners. Howev-

Welcome back to the SSIS column, where we answer any and all of Brandeis students’ questions about sex, sexuality, identity and relationships. If you have a question you’d like answered in our next column, email or leave a question in the Google Form link on the Student Sexuality Information Service Facebook page. Any and all questions are welcome: there are no bad, stupid, or weird questions! (Note: These answers are good-faith attempts by SSIS to be helpful to the Brandeis community, and are by no means exhaustive or to be taken as universal. If these answers don’t resonate with you, either pay them no mind, or reach out to us with suggestions for improvement!) er, it is still possible to have and transmit certain STIs, even if neither one of you has ever had sex. Skin-to-skin transmitted STIs, for instance, can be present on the thighs and/or buttocks and can be spread even in the absence of direct genital contact. Also, some STIs can be spread in non-sexual ways, such as using IV drugs or passing from mother to child during childbirth. If this is something you are concerned about, getting tested for STIs is a great way to know for sure whether you or your partner have an STI. Luckily, the Brandeis Health Center offers free routine testing for STIs including HIV, chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea. If/when you are on campus, you can make an appointment with them on the Brandeis Secure Patient Portal. Additionally, if you want the visit to stay confidential, without any bills sent to your home, just let the doctor/ nurse know. If you are off campus, feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss testing options in your area. If you and your partner are monogamous and both test negative for STIs, the risk of STI transmission are quite low. Many monogamous couples who test negative for STIs choose not to use barrier methods, while others choose to continue to use them. However, many factors can play into one’s decision to use barrier methods or not, such as risk of pregnancy,

number of partners and personal preference. Whatever you choose, is up to you and your partner(s). Overall, since you and your partner have not been sexually active, the risk that either of you has an STI is relatively low. It’s great that you are thinking about the risks and about protection before becoming sexually active. Hopefully this information helps! If you have any other questions, please come to SSIS’s office hours or send us a message on Instagram, Facebook or at ssis@ How do I bring up the conversation of sexuality with a friend who has made comments that make it clear she is not straight, but has not said it outright?

Thank you for your question! Navigating the topic of sexuality can be difficult, especially if you have grown up in an environment where talking about sexuality is uncommon or discouraged. It’s important to consider where your friend is coming from; they might be totally comfortable talking about this topic directly with you, or they might not. Above all, it’s important to offer a nonjudgmental, patient ear. It is possible that your friend isn’t sure about how to navigate this conversation directly, so they may be using indirect methods of communication to test the waters and see if you are receptive. It might be that your friend is looking for a way to talk about this with

you, but needs a little encouragement. If you feel comfortable, initiating the conversation first may help create an environment in which your friend feels comfortable talking directly about sexuality. For example, bringing up your own experiences with sexuality might help your friend to see that they are not alone and that there are people comfortable with and willing to engage in this topic of conversation with them. If your friend seems comfortable hearing about your experiences, you might try asking them, “What do you think?” or “What’s been your experience with this?” to gently encourage further conversation. However, if they seem uncomfortable or not receptive to this, be ready to pivot the conversation to another topic. It may be that your friend is not ready to talk openly and directly about their sexuality, and that’s okay. Even just sharing your own experiences can be a first step to opening up a dialogue about sexuality in your relationship. This can be a difficult conversation to bring up, and it’s awesome that you are thinking about this and asking for help. If it would be helpful to practice or roleplay this conversation before bringing it up with your friend, SSIS is happy to provide that support. Just email or DM us on our social media, and one of our members will be happy to talk about this with you!


December 4, 2020

The Brandeis Hoot 13

‘Freaky’ is underwhelming but entertaining By Lucy Fay staff

I have seen very few movies in which I felt the writers truly captured the complexities of teen language and diction. “Freaky,” the newest teen horror released in theaters, truly felt like it was written by adults trying to sound young. Its entertaining premise and the fantastic performance given by Vince Vaughn do not make up for the fact that this movie failed to escape the tropes it attempted to mock: the cheesy unrealistic decisions of high schoolers playing out in a silly, predictable, flat slasher world. The plot of this film is a familiar one, seen before in the likes of “Freaky Friday,” “It’s a Boy Girl Thing,” “The Shaggy Dog” and a million other body-swap movies. “Freaky” stars Kathryn Newton as Millie, a bullied high schooler dealing with problems in her home, school and social life. At the same time, psychotic killer Blissfield Butcher, played by Vince Vaughn, is on the loose in her town. One night, the two cross paths and through a non-fatal stab from a magical knife, the two switch bodies. The rest of the movie is Millie trying to get her body back while the Blissfield Butcher uses Millie’s body to more easily ambush and murder unsuspecting teens. “Freaky” came off as a predictable, tonally confused horror-comedy. The most egregious misstep this film made was its attempt to defy two very different types of movies at the same time. While trying to provide a

new spin on a body-swap movie, “Freaky” also sought to be a self-referential slasher. The only way this juxtaposition of a comedy trope being the center of a horror movie could have worked was if the horror aspect of the movie was played in a more straight way. Any casual fan of slashers could recognize the dozens of references to some of the most notable series in the golden age of the genre. It is expected in the modern era for a movie to pay homage to famous older works in its genre. A line like “You’re black, I’m gay—we are so dead!” yelled by a central character while running away from the killer may be a clever, quick line that a large portion of the audience can laugh at and understand, but it also makes this movie meta. The characters are aware of the genre they are living in, which is in no way a flaw, but I would no longer consider the movie an actual slasher. It has become a meta-slasher and therefore a horror-comedy. The addition of a comedy trope onto a horror-comedy undercuts the juxtaposition created. That does not have to be a point against the film, but, as a horror snob, it put a damper on my entire experience. A horror film that could not stand without the crutch of humor is not something that I would consider a horror. Onto more legitimate critiques, the predictability of “Freaky” was really disappointing. Once you know the basic premise, the rest of the movie goes exactly as every slasher and every body swap movie has gone. The final girl keeps getting into trouble with the killer but narrowly escapes, leaving a trail of bodies behind her, and


both body-swapped characters learn the pros and cons of the other character’s lives while silly and awkward situations ensue. A saving grace to this tedium is Vince Vaughn. As both a creepy intimidating killer and a sweet quiet teen girl, he conveys the character who is meant to be inhabiting his body incredibly. In arguably the best scene in the entire film, Vince Vaughn plays a body-swapped Millie, flirting with her love interest, a short, skinny high school boy named Booker (Uriah Shelton). This hilarious scene manages to come off as really weird but also somehow extremely endearing. A large man in his 50s flirting like a coy high school girl should come off as alarming and off-putting, but the believability that Millie inhabits that large 50-year-old man body serves as an emotional founda-

tion for the rest of the movie. What was alarming and potentially off-putting were the few gory scenes. Everyone views gore in a different light. Some call it lowbrow; others write it off as lazy shock value. A lot of people just say that it’s gross and excessive. But I, like many other horror or action fans, respect gore done well. Creativity, realism and artfulness are my basic criteria to judge gore. And “Freaky” pretty consistently had two of the three. While graphic deaths that occurred may not have had any avant-garde qualities nor meaningful symbolism, they were creative in the style of classic slashers and realistic to the extent that I expect a horror-comedy to be. The opening scene is the Blissfield Butcher’s largest massacre. It contained a wine bottle being shoved down a teen’s mouth and

out his throat, a girl’s head being smashed via toilet seat and a tennis racket being broken in half and shoved into either side of a character’s head. The deaths were effective, graphic, feasible and relatively original. There are about three notable gory scenes but the rest of the movie was extremely tame in terms of violence, so whether or not you like gore in horror, “Freaky” could be a good movie for you. This film is consistently funny with stereotypical but likable characters. What it lacks in scares and originality it makes up for in gore, good acting and an absence of lulls. The movie comes out on demand on Dec. 4, but if you’re lucky enough to live near a drivein theater, schlocky horror movies like “Freaky” are the perfect kind of movie to go see.

‘Supernatural’ ends long run with wacky finale By Emma Lichtenstein and Celia Young editors

“Supernatural” ran for 15 years, devouring days of our lives and taking years off of it. For a decade and a half, Jared Paledecki and Jensen Ackles have played the iconic brother duo Sam and Dean Winchester. Both of us binged an unholy amount of the show in recent weeks, frantically trying to catch up before the finale. The plot was intriguing, each character greatly changed from early seasons, and the show seemed set to end on a beautiful, happy note.

For 15 seasons, “Supernatural” made us feel that these characters would find peace when their trials were done. Instead, the writers threw character development out the window in favor of a finale that could have been written for the end of season one. Warning: Many spoilers will follow. Proceed at your own risk. This season, the Winchester brothers faced their worst villain yet: God—also known as Chuck (Rob Benedict). In a very heavy-handed way, Chuck, as a writer himself, represented the writers. Internally, Chuck was the one pulling the strings all along— or so he claimed. “Team Free Will


2.0,” as they dubbed themselves, successfully defeated the literal God of the “Supernatural” universe relying on help from all the friends and enemies they’ve made along the way. The finale addressed none of that. That resolution came one episode prior, with Jack (Alexander Calvert) becoming the new Chuck. Instead of an hour of happiness, like a well-deserved epilogue at the end of a novel, the showrunners decided to completely revert back to the tropes of season one: two brothers, their car and the knowledge of an inevitable early death. The finale ignores crucial characters and gives Dean Winchester a sloppy, unsatisfying demise. Only two episodes ago, Castiel (Misha Collins) got sent to the equivalent of super-mega-hell after sacrificing himself. He told Dean he loves him, sending the Internet into a “Destiel is canon” frenzy, only to willingly and happily die for Dean seconds later, sending Dean—and fans—on a grief trip like no other. For the finale, Dean dies on a hunt, scared and in pain. He survived years of monster attacks only to die impaled on a pole in a barn facing some low-level vampires. Dean literally helped kill God himself in the previous episode. Not just a god—though he’s killed plenty of those. THE God. Dean Winchester, impaled, 2020, a tombstone might read. It just doesn’t sit right. In a closing sequence, “Carry On Wayward Son”—the show’s defacto theme song—played twice

over a montage of Dean on a road trip in heaven and Sam growing old on earth. Sam is seemingly married with a child, but the one shot we get of his wife has her blurred out in the distance. Do women exist in “Supernatural?” Well after 15 years, we couldn’t tell you. Sam’s house is covered in old photos of himself and Dean, with a couple of his parents thrown in. There doesn’t appear to be a single image of Cas, Jack or any of the other friends they made—and there doesn’t even seem to be a picture of his wife! This montage was likely meant to be a satisfying ending to Sam’s story. He finally got the good old-fashioned life he always wanted. The payoff never comes though, as this decision is poorly executed, wildly out of character and shown through a gray wig that clearly came from Party City. At the end of the montage, Sam finally dies, reuniting in heaven with Dean. At this point, I think I can safely say not a single fan cared about this reunion. The truly touching moments of the show lie in the found family between characters, not vaguely incestuous death scenes and a subsequent reunion in the afterlife. “Supernatural” writers, we promise that a forehead touch between brothers isn’t the touching moment you think it is. The episode was, in a word, fake. From costuming to plot, the end to a 15-year run felt completely unreal. And in a way, nothing could summarize those years.

How do you take a television show the age of a high-schooler and conclude it? How do you end something that’s represented such a large part of the viewer’s life, the actor’s life, the writer’s life? In that way, “Supernatural” shockingly succeeded. The final clip, a thank you from Jensen and Jared to the fans for keeping them on air for such a long time, manages to pull it all together. “Supernatural” has had more than its fair share of meta moments. From “The French Mistake” to the musical episode, the series hasn’t shied away from poking fun at itself. But the fakeness of the finale wasn’t met with more meta, or some sort of joke at the show’s expense. Instead it was concluded with a sincere message of gratitude from the actors and showrunners, who are probably wondering what to do with their newfound free time. Unrealisms, meta episodes and jokes aside, the conclusion to “Supernatural’’ was heartwarming, not because of the episode’s plot or acting, but because the audience got to connect with the actors and showrunners in a final, real moment. In a way, all of us got to mourn and celebrate the show’s completion. Everyone got to take a little piece of credit for the show’s successes and its flaws. Everyone was on the same team. With the ending of “Supernatural” in all its glory, all of us got to share just one perfect moment with each other. And in an alarming political climate and a global pandemic, those little moments of connection mean all the more.


The Brandeis Hoot

December 4, 2020

‘Happiest Season’ is 2020’s movie for the most wonderful time of the year By Caroline O editor

Let me start off by saying that I am not the biggest fan of holiday movies, mostly because of their formula. (Grinch-y male character hates Christmas before accidentally falling in love with a woman whose sole personality is loving Christmas, and boom, there’s your movie.) However, “Happiest Season” pleasantly surprised me in its thoughtful exploration of multiple themes, the one standing out the most being the misconception of what “perfection” looks like. By the end of the movie, this reviewer had cried a total of four times and immediately watched it again the next day. Directed by Clea Duvall, this Hulu original film explores the relationship between Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis). While the two are clearly in love, things become complicated when, on the way to Harper’s house, Abby learns that Harper has not yet come out to her conservative family. So the spiral begins! Simply put, Harper’s family is dysfunctional under the thinnest veil of functionality. Harper’s father (Victor Garber) is running for mayor, while Harper’s mother (Mary Steenburgen) runs the

social media campaign. Harper’s older sister Sloane (Alison Brie) is a grade-A control freak who, after quitting her law career to make gift baskets (or, as she calls them, “vehicles”), seems keener to win her Golden Child privileges than anything else. Harper’s younger sister Jane (Mary Holland) is the most normal—she’s eccentric and a bit of a ditz, but she’s the kindest of them all. And then there’s Harper, who claims that Abby is just a roommate who also happens to be an orphan and therefore needs someplace to be for the holidays. To top off the familial deceit, Harper asks her girlfriend to not disclose that Abby is, in fact, a lesbian—because, of course, having a lesbian roommate as a woman would be much too awkward. Harper’s entire family plays up the orphan part of Abby’s “background,” often using this (along with much else) to portray that they are, in fact, good people who care for the “needy.” The whole family is desperate to give off the impression that they live a perfect cookie-cutter life. It is because of that obsession with perfection that compels Harper to hide her identity and her relationship from her family— and while there has been enough discourse on Twitter about the toxicity of Harper being so closeted, Harper is a sympathetic char-

acter for those who have been in a similar position. When the Golden Child has a secret that simply doesn’t fit with her family’s idea of perfection, that person is forced to split themselves into two people who happen to be fighting for different wants. One of the most heartbreaking scenes that depicts this tension is when Harper, after finding out that Abby’s about to leave early, exclaims, “I am scared that if I tell them who I really am, I’ll lose them! And I know that if I don’t tell them, I will lose you—I don’t want to lose you.” Of course, Abby herself is struggling with how best to deal with this situation. She’s willing to excuse Harper for so many of her actions. At the same time, she’s also hopeful that she could convince her girlfriend’s family that she is a good person. Abby’s attempts to warm Harper’s family up to her even before revealing that she’s Harper’s girlfriend are overwhelmingly touching—it’s enough to make a grinch like myself soften. Viewers might be tempted to just shout for Abby to leave Harper—get the heck out of that house like Abby’s friend John (Daniel Levy) says! Abby’s too good for this nonsense! And what about Riley (Aubrey Plaza), who apparently had gone through this same thing in high school? Abby


and Riley have wonderful chemistry together. Maybe an alternate version of this movie would have Abby ditch Harper, who must certainly suck if she’s unwilling to be open about her sexuality, regardless of the fact that she loves both Abby and her parents. But for people who are still in the process of coming out or who grew up in conservative families, Harper is a painfully relatable character. Seeing Harper’s struggle to both hold onto Abby as well as her family, who, for all their flaws, she still genuinely loves, is genuinely painful and perhaps hits a little hard for the cheerful holiday genre that this movie’s supposed to belong to. That said, I personally appreciated the underlying story and, more important-

ly, the theme that perhaps some things are more important than maintaining a certain image. Love is more important. Love is more important, the movie says over and over again towards the end. Love is more important when Harper declares that she loves Abby. Love is more important when Harper says that she wants to build a life with Abby—Abby is her family, no one else. Love is more important when Harper’s family all wind up supporting the couple. A cheesy message, perhaps, but that’s holiday movies for you. And what a darn good holiday movie this was. You can fully expect me to rewatch this and cry another four times for the entirety of this month.

Fan service done right in season two of ‘The Mandalorian’ By Josh Lannon staff

Season two of “The Mandalorian” continues what was great about the first season, but improves upon it by connecting the show to other Star Wars properties. As of press time, four episodes have been released. Each one maintains a fine balance between episodic adventures and overarching storylines, with many references to other Star Wars properties that will make fans go crazy with excitement. The first season only hints at connections to the greater galaxy, like the child known colloquially as Baby Yoda and its connection to the Jedi. The first season also teased elements from the Clone Wars that made Star Wars fans like me go crazy. For example, the titular Mandalorian, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), was rescued from the Droid Armies of the Separatists as a child. And the antagonist of season one, Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) reveals that he possesses the Darksaber, a Mandalorian artifact featured heavily in the Clone Wars cartoon. These reveals, while awesome, are not fully addressed in season one. The Darksaber appeared only in the final episode of the first season, way too late to affect the plot. Likewise, Baby Yoda’s connection to the Jedi is left unresolved. These plot points were left intentionally undetermined to set up season two. Season two picks up almost immediately where the previous season left off. Din continues his search for more Mandalorians to help him locate the Jedi and deliver the Child to them. Unlike


the first season, which left many questions unanswered, season two starts answering them right away. Each episode links directly to the next and Din’s quest to find more Mandalorians is resolved by episode three. Despite this increased pacing of the story, each episode still feels unique on its own. Each of the first three episodes follow a similar pattern. Din goes to a new world, fights an alien monster and continues his journey. The formula, however, does not limit the overall quality of the show. While the first three episodes have similarities in plot structure, each manages to stand out in unique ways because of the excellent character-driven world-building. In the past, the Star Wars franchise has been both praised and criticized for its commitment to world-building, but the Mandalorian finds a perfect balance between expanding the lore of the galaxy while maintaining a cohesive narrative. For example, Din visits Tatooine, one of the most famous planets in the Star Wars galaxy, in the first episode. Instead of simply going there for

fan service and moving on, the show explores different elements of Tatooine and its society. The episode features the fallout of a post-imperial government on Tatooine, showcasing how the Galactic Empire, while inherently oppressive, did provide security to many planets plagued by scum and villainy. We also learn more about the Sand People. This group has appeared in both the original and prequel trilogies, but the average viewer would know nothing of these people beyond their violent ways and scary demeanor. Primarily referred to as savage raiders by the inhabitants of Tatooine, the episode gives the audience a glimpse of the Sand People’s society. It presents them not as raiders, but as an indigenous people trying to survive the desert world just like everyone else. The world-building is fascinating, but what truly makes it stand out is how it’s presented as part of the narrative. The new perspective on the Empire and the Sand People is not forced or clunky. Instead, lore is introduced through the plot. For example, the citizens of Tatooine team up with the Sand


People in order to take down a Krayt Dragon that has been harming both their communities. The animosity between the two peoples creates conflict within the narrative, while also teaching the audience about the world without forcing us to Google obscure lore. The show is supported by excellent characters. Although the show primarily follows Din Djarin and the child, there are many recurring characters. In episode four, Din returns to Nevarro where he meets characters from the first season, Cara Dune (Gina Carano) and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers). Since season one, the planet has grown and so have the characters. The planet has become much more civilized; it even has a school now. This is amazing because it shows that these worlds are not simply stagnant mosaics; they grow and change alongside the characters. Of course, the highlight of the first four episodes are the cameos from characters of other Star Wars properties. In episode one, we got a glimpse of Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett. Morrison is famous for playing Jango Fett in the prequel trilogy and dubbing the

voice of Boba Fett in re-releases of the original. The main attraction, however, is the appearance of Bo Kotan, a Mandalorian who first appeared in the Clone Wars cartoon. Bo Kotan, portrayed by Katee Sackhoff, is integral to the storyline because she sends Din to deliver Baby Yoda Ahsoka Tano from the Clone Wars, teasing the introduction and first live-action portrayal of a legendary character in the Star Wars mythos. “The Mandalorian” season two also fixes a lot of issues that Star Wars shows and films have with referencing other Star Wars movies. Some might feel that the various references from previous Star Wars properties is cheap fan service, but these references serve a practical purpose. Season two of “The Mandalorian” presents famous characters like Bo Kotan and Ahsoka Tano but keeps their roles integral to the plot. The show expands the lore of the universe but keeps that expansion within the confines of the narrative. If these first four episodes are any indication of the overall quality of season two, I’d say the Force is with this show.

December 4, 2020


The Brandeis Hoot

Miley Cyrus’s ‘Plastic Hearts’ is the album she was born to make By Uma Jagwani staff

Miley Cyrus’s new album “Plastic Hearts” captures feelings of complex youthful sorrow and navigating identity through the lens of pleasure and pain in her lyrics. The inaugural track of “Plastic Hearts,” titled “WTF Do I Know?” acknowledges this from the get-go, which sets the rebellious and emotional yet high-energy rockstar energy for the rest of the album. Her single “Midnight Sky” has some surprisingly poetic lines that highlight Cyrus’s musical growth, like “The midnight sky is the road I’m taking, head high up in the clouds.” (I truthfully never expected to be impressed by a Miley Cyrus lyric, but here is 2020 surprising me once again). “Midnight Sky” balances raw emotion and her poetic truth of not being able to “fight the devil on the tongue.” Cyrus finds another way to say she can’t be tamed: “I was born to run, don’t belong to anyone.” Musically, it is punky, punchy and painful. Cyrus owns her soulful voice and unique rasp, which really lends itself to the rock-punk blend she vaunts. Amid all the media revolving her controversial career and relationship status to Liam Hemsworth, I sometimes

forget Cyrus is a celebrity with true talent. Her voice has matured and has become audibly more trained, and these tracks seem to have found some equilibrium between notes of pop, country and rock. With Cyrus’s roots in country and influences in pop from her “Hannah Montana” days and “Bangerz,” she has completely distinguished herself as more than a past Disney star or daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus—she instead seems to be discovering more fully her musical identity. “Angels Like You” is a slow rock ballad that boasts Cyrus’s impressive vocal range and timbre. It’s a beautiful song about mental illness and how “people say she looks happy,” but she’s not doing as well as she always appears. She suggests through the lyrics “Angels like you can’t fly down here with me/I’m everything you said I would be” that her darker side has influenced her relationships, and one can’t help but speculate if this is about her ex Hemsworth. After her Disney days, Cyrus’s music suggested a total abandonment of her identity associated with Hannah Montana, such as with “Bangerz” and “Dead Petz.” However, “Plastic Hearts” doesn’t try as hard. It holds the effortless feeling of fruition. “Plastic Hearts” feels natural and speaks to common emotions such as anxiety, depression, rage

and all the chaotic good that Miley represents. After her last album, “Younger Now,” went mostly under the radar, the pandemic era seems to have jolted her quality of music, and her ability to translate raw emotion. This album is about the good, the bad and the ugly all amalgamating to the discovery that, “pain and pleasure are both the same.” Miley sings in her titular song, “Plastic Hearts,” “I just want to feel something, but I keep feeling nothing.” She describes desensitized emotions and being numb to any feeling at all; hence, her “plastic heart bleeding.” This fast-tempoed song evokes fierce emotion about ironically, not being able to feel anything. Cyrus has some thrilling collaborations on the album, such as her song “Prisoner” featuring Dua Lipa, which is an example of her rock and pop blends. “Night Crawling” ft. Billy Idol, a high-energy, classic rock track, is an example of her musical excellence. This bop features a perfect verse from 70s legend Billy Idol and nostalgic synth beats. “Bad Karma” ft. Joan Jett is also a modern-nostalgic track that hits the sweet spot in this edgy, spunky track with another rock legend. The notoriously untamable Miley Cyrus refutes the media calling her crazy in her song “Golden G


String,” which reprises the melody of the bridge from her hit “Malibu” that speaks honestly about her journey to where she is now in her career. “Malibu” was released in 2017, when she famously sang of her happy place, presumably with Liam Hemsworth, as they shared a house together in Malibu. “Golden G String” is a callback to how she has been portrayed to the media in the past: “You dare to call me crazy/have you taken a look around this place?” Cyrus questions what it means to have

come out on the other side of her journey victoriously, and contemplates the costs of “putting her hand through hellfire,” revealing she did it all to “make you love me and to feel alive.” This album is Cyrus’s attempt at “calculated crazy.” “Plastic Hearts” has been molded by the aftermath of her wild early life, and this album offers a glimpse into the next chapter of Miley’s career and personhood, as she seems to have found her musical footing lyrically and emotionally.

Rapper Tré Warner is back with new music and a new name By Claire Odgen staff

Brandeis rapper Tré Warner ’22 is back with new work, a name change and a sharper, more mature sense of his artistic identity. The rapper made a quarantine comeback this year with several new singles––the latest of which, “Woah,” was just released in October. Fresh off of the success of “Woah” and its accompanying music video, Warner is hard at work in preparation for his upcoming album, tentatively set to be released this summer. Some may be too early on in their Brandeis career to remember, but Warner opened Springfest in spring 2019. It was the biggest live crowd that he’s ever performed for––and unfortunately due to the coronavirus pandemic, that record likely won’t be surpassed any time soon. It’s quite an impressive accomplishment for a first-year, but where do you

go from there? “People liked [the Springfest performance], but I think you could probably tell I didn’t know exactly what I was doing just yet,” Warner said in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. He jokes about the “braggadocious energy” of his old persona. Some may know Warner by that old persona, when he went by Trizzy Tré the Rapper, but he goes by Tyler Hustle now. The name change is just one of many transformations Warner has made to his musical identity over the past year or so. What’s in the new name? Given to him by his father, Tyler is Warner’s middle name. “Hustle,” meanwhile, refers to his drive to work hard and succeed as a young Black man in college. The “hustle” concept is “pretty much ingrained in hip hop,” Warner explained. “Originally, it was about hustling as about coming out from the projects, rapping because they hustled in selling

drugs … it’s about like finding some type of way out of making it out of there.” While some rappers have used the term “hustle” to refer to selling drugs to escape those conditions, its meaning to Warner lies in his hard work and drive to succeed in college. Warner’s new single “Woah” gives a nod to that hard work while questioning those who’ve dismissed it: “affirmative action get all of the credit / whenever I kill it or win it or shred it / like I ain’t been putting the work in.” Warner has experienced this form of dismissal at Brandeis. “You can see that on Brandeis Confessions, like there’s a lot of people who don’t take Black students who come into this university seriously,” he explained. Luckily, the disrespect doesn’t give Warner pause: “I’m Black in America, and you know, I’m doing good …. I put in the work and the results showed,” he told The Hoot. “And if you don’t like it, too bad.” Busy with school and other responsibilities, Warner hadn’t had time to fully focus on his music in the wake of Springfest. Quarantine presented him with an uninterrupted opportunity to focus on music-making––namely, his freestyle. Warner has a mini-studio setup in the corner of his bedroom–– complete with a microphone and pop filter––so music was just a few steps away while in quarantine. Aside from improving his improvisational skills, freestyling helps him find phrasings that later on become lyrics. Warner often re-records his free-styles for a sharper finish and they form a significant part of this new album. Freestyling is clearly important to


Warner’s process: “When you first say it, it comes off more impactful, like you mean it the most, more so than when you write something down and then recite it,” he said. Warner is still working on his first album, entitled “Good Grief,” which he hopes to release in summer 2021. He started the album in the wake of a close friend’s death in summer 2019. That friend “was actually the first person who wasn’t me to ever listen to my music. He was my first fan, essentially,” Warner told The Hoot. After his friend passed, Warner decided to dedicate his first album to him. The album takes us through Warner’s grief process in the year that followed his friend’s death. Initially, Warner was focused on moving forward rather than sitting with that grief. He picked up some new vices, in full denial. The beginning of the album parallels that denial: in the first song, Warner is in shock. But by the second, he raps about making money, signs of grief nonexistent. The listener begins to get the sense that this is merely bra-

vado, and the tension comes to a head in the title track, where “it all comes crashing down” for Warner. In this song, he contends with what he’s realized is a nicotine addiction, and forces himself to take control of the addiction in favor of healthier ways of coping. By the album’s close, Warner comes out a better person and a better artist. He knows how to face his emotions and he knows how to reach out for help. That same braggadocious energy still rears its head, but Warner believes it has more substance now. “That’s essential to hip hop, you have to brag, but when I brag [now], it’s more about … being a leader for the people around me,” Warner explained. “That’s something that I pride myself on, being able to make sure that the people around me are okay … now that is something you can brag about.” It’s clear that Warner has become a more intentional artist and developed a more confident sense of his style in this process. I for one can’t wait for the upcoming album, but for now, it seems that the hustle is paying off.

December 4, 2020


The Brandeis Hoot

Hoot Recommends: winter holiday edition By The Brandeis Hoot editors and staff

“The Nice Guys” Do you know what sealed it for me that humanity should just give up already and make way for the dolphins to replace us? On its opening weekend, Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys” grossed less than “The Angry Birds Movie.” It’s too late for us as a species. “The Nice Guys” is a 2016 comedy noir starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as a pathetic private investigator and hardened hired enforcer, respectively, tramping through late 70s L.A. on the search for a missing teenager. Their journey takes them through the magical realms of corporate espionage, kid detective work, existential hallucination and high class pornography, all punctuated by biting dialogue and almost constant near-death experiences. Like Black’s other venture into crime-comedy, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “The Nice Guys” is absolutely hysterical. Gosling and Crowe’s March and Heely seem to have both the best and worst luck possible, stumbling in and out of firefights and accidently happening upon evidence, while making jokes sharp enough to decapitate. Black’s style of clumsy and awkward yet realistic violence is on bloody display and allows for engaging and side-splitting fight scenes. The performances should also be commended, from Gosling’s hilariously out-of-his-depth March to the frighteningly calm heartthrob hit man John Boy, played by Matt Bomer. This film is the perfect concoction of charm, charisma, chemistry, comedy and carnage. It’s a smart little pearl of a film, so perfect in itself I would dread a sequel, especially considering how Black’s next project was “The Predator,” an unfunny death rattle of a franchise about aliens trying to steal autism. So right the wrongs of mankind and watch “The Nice Guys’’ this holiday season. It is after all, like every Shane Black film, technically a Christmas movie. There’s mistletoe and Christmas lights at the bar they visit, sue me. —Sam Finbury “Polar Express” Perhaps this is because I watched “Polar Express” at a crucial moment during my childhood, but reflecting on the movie now that I am older, it has always stood out to me as not only being


a classic, but also a movie that provides an insightful message to children such as myself that recently discovered that Santa Claus was fantastical. Immediately after discovering this, I found myself losing a little bit of excitement during Christmas, and the magic associated with the holiday disappeared almost entirely. This movie, however, gave me new meaning for Christmas, and another reason to celebrate it. To minimize the risk of spoiling the movie for any of you that have not seen it, I will limit my discussion to the final scene of the movie, which involves a bell that only rings if the person who rings it truly believes in Santa. During this movie, some of the characters have gone through struggles regarding whether they believe in Santa or not, and this metaphorical idea of a bell reinvigorated the magic of Christmas for me; I hope it will for you too! —John Fornaigel “Full Court Miracle” Disney has created one Jewish holiday movie ever: “Full Court Miracle.” You’ve probably never heard of it because it was infrequently played and never advertised. This is for good reason of course, as the movie is completely nonsensical and hard to believe. “Full Court Miracle” tells the story of Hanukkah through a Hebrew school’s basketball game for middle schoolers. And yet, I can’t help but watch the movie every year. The plot isn’t particularly good, the acting is cheesy and the script leaves a lot to be desired. But there is something so oddly wholesome about watching a bunch of middle school boys try to play basketball—while wearing kippahs, nonetheless! If you don’t know

the story of Hanukkah, well, you probably still won’t after watching this. If you do know the story of Hanukkah, you can see how the story is going to play out but instead of dreading the predictable ending, you find yourself looking forward to it. When the power goes out during the game and the backup generator just has enough power left for a couple minutes at most, you smile. Buried in this Hanukkah plot is a heartwarming story about a basketball player who had to give up on his dreams of being a star, but still finds a way to stay with the game. It’s a story of how one man can really change an entire team’s lives. It’s… honestly not that good, but it’ll make you happy all the same. —Emma Lichtenstein Holiday Lights Holiday lights are my favorite part of this time of year. People go above and beyond for their light displays: some sync their lights up to music, others coordinate with their neighborhoods and there are those who do both. I love it because even in the darkest time of year, the night remains lit by the cheerfulness of others—it’s contagious. I used to, and still do, love driving around to look at fancy lights, or even going to see the light displays at the Winter Lantern Festival at Snug Harbor. Because it may be dark and cold and miserable weather, but, boy, are the lights pretty and they are mesmerizing. I love the community that decorating builds; when neighborhoods work together to create displays which are solely for the enjoyment of the public it brings people closer. They get no real reward from doing these elaborate light displays except for the hap-


piness of others—isn’t that kind of beautiful? This year, more than ever, we could all use a little extra light in our lives. —Victoria Morrongiello “Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” If you’re a Star Wars geek who wants some wholesome holiday cheer, look no further than the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (streaming on Disney+). The galaxy far far away doesn’t have a Christmas or Hannakuh, instead celebrating Life Day, which is analogous to most winter solstice-esque celebrations: gift-giving, family and friends gathering, etc. Here, we follow Rey (Helen Sadler), who is now officially a Jedi. Rey takes it upon herself to teach Finn (Omar Benson Miller) how to become a Jedi himself. Meanwhile, Poe (Jake Green) stresses about making the perfect Life Day celebration, and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) is the only one who seems to at least be trying to have a good time. In the middle of all this, Rey discovers a portal that takes her back in time. Thinking that this will help her figure out how to best train Finn, she jumps through the timelines of past Jedi teacher-student duos, showing a highlight reel of fan favorites. Most importantly, underlying all these time-jumps, Rey essentially learns that being a Jedi teacher is not really about being the perfect teacher—the most important thing is friendship. In a very “Christmas Carol” fashion, one of the special’s final scenes involves Rey looking up at the ghosts of all those Jedi who she encountered. It’s touching, and fans will have no choice but to feel the warm

fuzzies when they see their favorite character duos, in a rare moment, look genuinely happy, albeit in their Lego forms. In sum, this holiday special is a love letter to Star Wars fans who also want some warm, wintery cheer in their favorite fictional universe. So if you want something to laugh about this season, this holiday special is the right Star Wars content for you! —Caroline O “Love the Coopers” Cheesy holiday movies are undoubtedly the best part of the winter holiday season: what could be better than a cup of hot chocolate and a movie? And what better movie than a light-hearted comedy about family drama? “Love the Coopers” is a prime example of such a movie: Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman) are getting a divorce after being married for 40 years, but before telling their entire family, they want one more “perfect” Christmas. Despite that desire, it seems like no one is looking forward to this Christmas—they’re all just pretending to. The movie follows all the members of the Cooper family, including their adult kids and grandkids, Sam’s aunt, as well as Charlotte’s father and sister, as they navigate their own issues so close to Christmas. A lot of family drama and hidden feelings are revealed during dinner, and of course, are all resolved by the end of it. Oh and did I mention that the movie is narrated by the family dog, Rags (Steve Martin)? If that doesn’t persuade you to watch the movie, I don’t know what will. It is a movie full of memories, family and love: perfect for a cold winter night. —Sasha Skarboviychuk

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