Vo l u m e I I I , N u m b e r X I I
Celebrating The Precious Human Tapestry
November 21, 2008
Gypsy: Just another song and dance?
BY ELI SEDRANSK Staff
There were two stars in the Tympanium Euphorium production of Gypsy, and boy, were both needed. Mind you, this is a very strange play, chronicling a mother’s desire for her daughter June (and later, her daughter Louise) to become the next big thing in vaudeville. Of course, June leaves and Louise’s talents do not suffice, and she ends up working, rather successfully, at burlesque houses. Littering this generally meandering, schmaltzy plot are half-conceived characters and plotlines, all designed to simply show that Mama Rose, played incredibly by Jennifer Faber ’09, is abandoned at every turn but cannot stop her dreams deferred. But this plot is far from intricate, and the songs are contrived at best. While the play itself is confusingly mediocre in its own right (how did this do well on Broadway?), the production of the play itself was no help whatsoever. From still-wet paint on the scenery to the seeming lack of physical instruction for most of the actors to the offtime, sometimes off-key orchestra, it seemed impossible for this play to succeed. So one can only be left wondering—how was this atrocity-waiting-to-happen worth seeing? Two people: Faber, and Arielle Kaplan ’10, who plays a sensational Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee. The two actresses create a realness for their characters that leaves you wanting to know these girls. It is immensely satisfying to watch the two characters convincingly transform. Rose goes from crazy mother with dreams for her children to manic manager, never knowing when there is nothing more worth fighting for. Louise grows from the seemingly unwanted extra child to reluctant, untalented star, to the sexually alluring burlesque star Gypsy. The best of the play, indeed, is the only time the two characters have a large, meaningful interaction in the whole play, at the finale. Kaplan and Faber play off each others’ emotions magnificently, drawing you in and making you truly care about shy little Louise’s well being, even if it means that her fame can only be infamous. You even begin to feel for Rose, who starts to lose her grip on the world after her fiancé Herbie (played with the emotional range of a billy goat by Jordan Brown ’12) and Louise decide they are better off without her. This is no small feat, mind you, as Faber’s Rose is intolerable, absolutely incapable of true caring for others, always trying to make up for what she could not do as a child herself. So her and Louise’s reconciliation does end up rather contrived, but Kaplan manages to remind the audience that Gypsy is still a little girl at heart, incapable of anything but love for her mother. Faber complements that with just the right amount of love and the still prevalent desire to “make it,” even if only in show business. The two even succeed in song, as while there was rampant microphone trouble, the two were possibly the only players whose ability to project was noticed. Their voices were quite nice, and full of emotion: Rose’s always overblown, and Louise’s melancholy and, later, alluring as she realizes that burlesque isn’t the worst thing in the world. Rose and Gypsy were meant to be misunderstood characters, surrounded by faceless, unimportant “extras” wherever they go. And while they all drop away, leaving for greener pastures, we ultimately see the weakness of both characters and how in the end they truly need the other. And Faber and Kaplan, well, they make you believe it.
IN THIS ISSUE:
PHOTOS BY Max Shay/The Hoot
GYPSY PERFORMANCE: Clockwise from upper-left: Jordan Brown ‘12 as Herbie, Jennifer Faber ‘09 as Rose, Mark Eder ‘12 as Tulsa, Amanda Hoffman ‘11 as a Gypsy backup dancer, and Arielle Kaplan ‘10 as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee.
The lies Pitchfork told me Chorus, page 10
New Kanye album debuts Monday End Note, page 11
DID YOU KNOW? More than 1,100 midnight Friday screenings of the movie Twilight were reported sold out across the country.
November 21, 2008
VOICES The remarkable thing about Mela BY MYRA CHAUDHARY Special to The Hoot
The remarkable thing about Mela is people from eight different countries—Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan-come together as South Asians to create a beautiful illustration of their culture, the masterpiece that we know as Mela. As a PakistaniAmerican and a South Asian, I could honestly never get tired of watching this thrilling show. It makes you feel like you are in South Asia with out even leaving Brandeis. This show is definitely worth seeing and always a magical experience. Words could never do justice to the beauty of South Asia and many of its people. It is a region of the world that will always hold a special place in my heart. Mela is full of energy and excitement and a representation of this enchanting beauty within South Asia. It is a dazzling display of lights, colors, song, dance, poetry, jewelry, music, food, fashion, and so much more! So lovely is the sound of the poetic, fluid languages and the music filled with beautiful rhythms, emotions, and energy— all about love, happiness and friendship. The sound of pianos, flutes, violins, drums, guitars, sitars, tablas, dholkis, and harmoniums create the most magical melodies. The very beautiful classical dance— with foot and hand movements and gestures that flow gracefully
with the music and translate into so many different emotions all flowing like water—is one with music. The dancing spreads a happy energy that becomes contagious, allowing even the most unwilling of dancers to have a thrilling time. The culture is a vibrant celebration of life, love, joy, and happiness. Mela is a lovely illustration of the joy of being South Asian and this vibrant culture which is so much a part of our lives at SASA. Like a patchwork quilt we are all different, but we come together as one to produce something completely amazing. And this is the essence of the Mela that we must always love. South Asia itself is made up of many different people representing a number of religions including Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others. So many different languages are spoken: English, Hindi, Urdu, Kannada, Pashto, Balochi, Punjabi, Sindhi, Marathi, Guajarati, Nepalese, Sinhalese, Sanskrit, Dhivehi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, and the list could really go on forever. Languages may be modified or change completely but the power and message of these words will live on in a very special way. Whatever language one may speak or country one may be from, the people of South Asian share a fascination with the arts, poetry, literature, dance, drama, music. Even as we move forward, these precious gifts and treasures
continue to be important elements of the culture. While Mela may just last one evening, the immense passion and enthusiasm will be in the hearts and everyday lives of South Asians. Whatever happens, the love will always survive. The different voices and ideas of all the students combine to produce all the separate acts intertwined by a common theme of rediscovering our roots. It is possible to embrace one’s roots and simultaneously adopt elements of new cultures in a very creative and seamless manner. Being open to new ideas is the very thing that allows us to move forward. This idea of blending elements is not new to South Asia, which has ancient Indus, Turkish, Persian, Arab, Chinese, and Aryan influences constantly shaping and reshaping our conceptions of culture. Mela is a mix of the new and old, traditional and modern, exotic and familiar, just like our heritages. You really have to be there to get a full idea. Discovering the voice and rhythm within us and never letting it fade away is the true essence of our heritage. It is reminder that once you discover your true passion or talent, you must never let it go to waste. You may be surprised what you discover along the way. The best thing about Mela is being able to share our heritage with all of Brandeis. Every single country has its own wonderful qualities, and there could never be enough hours to fully explore
PHOTO BY Napoleon Lherisson/The Hoot
MELA MAGIC-MAKERS: From left to right, Kamolika Roy ‘09, Shannon Cabell ‘09, and G. Athena Oliver-O ‘10 are Mela participants.
all of the magical treasures with South Asia. It’s simply wonderful! Equally wonderful are the special students behind the show. Everyone works hard to make the show special, spending an entire semester planning and practicing. It is easy to see how much they care about their culture and love what they are doing. Mela
would not be possible without the earnest devotion of every single member of SASA. This article is a tribute to the special people within South Asia and all those who make Mela possible at Brandeis. May that lovely spirit that brought us here always live on and continue to be a source of beautiful hope and pride.
Book review: After film, Namesake the novel exceeds expectations BY SYDNEY REUBEN Staff
I am definitely the kind of person who, when I see a good movie that was adapted from a novel, finds and reads the original book. I’ve done this with various movies, such as Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, and most recently, The Namesake. I saw the movie this summer, in parts, on Encore. I kept tuning in at the same time and only being able to watch about an hour of the film. Finally I Tivoed it and was able to watch it from beginning to end. I absolutely loved the film, but it wasn’t the visuals or acting that caught my interest (though they were good); it was the story itself that hooked me. I thought the characters were interesting and that you really cared about all of them. Also, it’s easy to see inside the characters and to understand why they did what they did especially because the movie goes so much into depth about each character’s past. After watching the film I decided to pick up Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel of the same title. I was amazed at how well the movie stayed true to the book, but was certainly not surprised to discover how much better the novel was. Lahiri is clearly a gifted author. It is rare for me to feel so connected to characters in the novels I read and to understand them so thoroughly. The main character, Gogol, is so interesting and likable that it’s impossible not to care about and connect
with him. As far as plot goes, the book is truthful. Not everyone’s life is extravagant and the book’s plot is nowhere near as important as the characters in it. It’s not an exciting book, because it shouldn’t be. It was just incredibly refreshing to read a novel that sticks to its purpose and is still incredibly interesting. You learn so much about Bengali culture and what it is like to grow up in America with Bengali influences. The story centers around a guy who is named Gogol by his parents. In Bengali culture, every child has a pet name and a good name. The good name is to be used for official and other important things, but the pet name is for your parents and those close to you. Gogol was meant to be a pet name until his parents would receive a good name from his grandmother. This name never arrives and eventually Gogol’s parents decide on Nikhil. This name though, affects Gogol’s life immensely and it is this journey that the book revolves around. The book is an incredible reflection on the importance of names, family, tradition, and relationships. It’s an interesting and quick read, and I would recommend it to anyone who has any interest in these things. The movie is fantastic as well, so if you’re in no mood to read, perhaps the movie is the thing for you. Either way, definitely give The Namesake a look. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did.
TWO WAYS TO ENJOY THE NAMESAKE: Jumpa Lahiri’s novel published in 2003, The Namesake, was made into a major motion picture in 2006. The story details the life of Gogol and his parents, who come to the United States and deal with the trials and tribulations of moving and starting over.
CHORUS Lies Pitchfork told me:
November 21, 2008
The best albums your favorite rock snobs overlooked BY MAXWELL PRICE Editor
I find it amazing that a bunch of pretentious graduate school English majors with overdeveloped record collections can effectively determine whether some indie albums live or die. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the site Pitchfork (www.pitchforkmedia.com), you probably go through the largely unnecessary process of forming your own opinions about music. Good for you. For the rest of us Internet music pawns, I believe it’s time someone stood up to those hypercritical bullies at that ubiquitous online publication. And as someone who used to maintain Pitchfork as his home page, I believe I’m the man for the job. I could go through a list of albums that Pitchfork praised that deserve the good old waste disposal treatment. (Has anyone honestly ever listened to an entire Liars album and lived to tell the tale?) But I’d rather take the high road and rescue from infamy those records I cherish that certain power-tripping twentysomethings decried. It’s not easy for a heterosexual male to stand up and declare his love for Death Cab for Cutie, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Aside from an extra pretentious review in the form of a rough draft outline, critic William Morris slapped a 6.4 (out of 10) rating on their seminal album, Transatlanticism,
because it made him feel old. Let’s face it, DCFC have never been hailed for their maturity. But the dudes know how to write a pop melody and buttress it with billowing arrangements like no others. “The Sound of Settling” might set crowds bouncing and “bah-bahing” along, but it’s the standouts like the Cure-influenced catharsis of “We Looked Like Giants” and the ricocheting guitar pop of “Expo ’86” that make the album worthy of vindication. Belle & Sebastian got even worse treatment with its bestselling album, Boy with the Arab Strap, which received a 0.8 rating. While I won’t deny that a few duds—“Is it Wicked Not to Care?” springs to mind immediately—mar the disc’s flow, there are certainly enough twee-a-licious tunes to satiate any fan. The tunes tend toward sprawling and meditative, but the lyrics are as wry and poignant as any B&S album. Coldplay makes itself an easy target, so it’s not surprising that Pitchfork takes the bait. Perhaps I became a fan of the British piano pop maestros before it was uncool to admit it, or maybe it happened before I’d learned to care what other rock snobs thought. In any event, I find every reason to indulge in the saccharine goodness of A Rush of Blood to the Head. Needless to say, Pitchfork does not agree. But is it really necessary to defend pitch-perfect atmospheric sing alongs like “Clocks” or “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face”? Coldplay may have been aspiring to the stadiumrocking scale of U2, but in failing to live up to that ideal, they crafted songs most readers can’t help but hum. Miraculously, they even managed to make an
album that sounds like an album. It ebbs and flows in a way that goes beyond loud-softloud dynamics into an emotional realm. Finally, in case you thought I was simply an apologist for indie pop, let’s not forget my favorite divorced husband and wife duo that’s still raising hell. Meg and Jack White did what so many over the years have tried and failed: created an original sound using only a guitar and drums (although the plural form of the word “drum” might be a little generous for Meg). When the ramshackle Get Behind Me Satan was released, a friend told me he thought it was a joke. Apparently, Pitchfork couldn’t get behind it either. But after you accept the fact that it’s a grab bag of unrelated tracks, you can see the simple brilliance of the songs. “My Doorbell” and “The Denial Twist” replace bruising electric guitar with sunny piano licks, exposing the pop songwriting chops beneath White’s blistering distortion. And then there’s “White Orchid” and “Take, Take, Take,” guitar-based romps that remind you why we put up with White’s eccentricities in the first place. Needless to say, I could write countless articles about my qualms with that infamous music site. But until people start taking its writers less seriously than the writers take themselves, I encourage music lovers everywhere to continue sticking it to the fork.
Attention NBC: How you can save Heroes (before it’s too late) BY MATT FOWLER Staff
There comes a point when talking about how to save a television show becomes pointless. This point is usually made when entertainment and popular culture scribes decide that giving their own suggestions would be a good way to kill a thousand words or so. However, the truth of the matter is when a program reaches this point there is ultimately no way of salvaging it, and the only hope is to slow down the bleeding. Presently, this is something that NBC network executives as well as loyal fans of the previously megahit show Heroes know all too well. When Heroes, the television program that told the story of normal individuals receiving extraordinary powers, first premiered, it was what every show aspires to be. The hour-long drama was a critical darling from the outset and quickly became a ratings juggernaut, rapidly pulling in close to fifteen million viewers per episode. The story was fresh, moved quickly, and was marketed as smartly as a television show featuring a cheerleader who routinely experiments with breaking every bone in her body in order to see if she can later force her joints and skeleton back into their appropriate places (don’t worry, all the cracking and creaking of the bones are highly audible). Tim Kring’s brainchild was truly a pop culture phenomenon and there was no reason for anyone to think that it wouldn’t stay one heading into it’s much hyped second season. Alas, the good fortune that Heroes was met with in its first season was not to be duplicated. After the first few episodes of the second season of Heroes, it was clear to the critics that the show had been hit with the dreaded sophomore slump. There were
many causes for this drop in the quality of the show. Kring himself believed that most of the problems had to do with the Writer’s Strike that shortened many other television shows that same year. However, that event was not the sole cause of the mess that Heroes seemed to have unexpectedly trip into. The writing became stale. Suddenly a show that prided itself on fast paced storylines and played with the adrenaline of the viewer was being bogged down with ridiculous love stories and convoluted plot twists that didn’t make sense in the overarching storyline (not exactly a show you would want to spend an hour with every Monday, right?). To Kring’s credit, he did acknowledge that he and his writing team had made these mistakes and would do everything to in their power to fix them. Fast forward to season three (this year, for those who are not mathematically gifted). Unfortunately, it seems that Heroes has still not hit the creative stride it once had. The viewership is down again and the network recently dismissed two of the chief writers. Thus, without a doubt, the creative team of Heroes is probably wondering what can be done to save the fledgling show. How can they restore what was once supposed to be the trademark show of NBC? In all honesty, lightning in a bottle rarely strikes twice, even less often when dealing with television. Viewers are fickle people, and once they leave they seldom return (I know this because I once spent two days
watching every Heroes episode I could find then promptly dropped the show after it’s season two finale). There is no easy answer to the problem Heroes has stumbled upon. Instead, the hour-long drama’s writers have two options. Option 1: Continually try to patch up persisting story problems with the belief that a change here or there will save the show … Option 2: Go big. Recognize the change that has to be made and make it. Characters can develop without losing sight of who they truly are. Action is good but meaning-
less action is lazy writing. These characters are supposed to be normal people doing extraordinary things (a fact that has been forgotten). That is where the true story lies. Finally, realize that the show’s ratings won’t ever equal what they once were. But, creativity (as shown by Season 4 of Lost) can always be found again. NBC may not have a show that saves the network anymore, but given the right plan (one that I do not propose to have) Heroes can still be a viable program and the critical darling it once was.
November 21, 2008
The Hoot 11
END-NOTE War World computer game comes to Xbox Live Arcade BY IAN GUSS Staff
War World has the worst demo in the history of Xbox Live Arcade. It lasts for only 50 seconds, which makes this review all the more important. War World, an arcade style mech shooter, first made an appearance on the PC in 2005, but this version has even fewer customization options than the original release. A number of predetermined characters are available for your choosing instead. Each mech has different strengths, like stealth, hovering or penetrating lasers. Unlike many of the newer games available, War World does not have any destructible environments. This omission makes the environments seem more like a background with no interaction. Giant mechs are no match for objects on the map. There are two other minor problems worth mentioning. There is no way to check the leaderboard during the game and there is no countdown to signal the
end of the round. The best thing that War World has going for it is the graphics. This is one of the best looking arcade games out there. The lighting effects are particularly amazing for a downloadable release on the 360. All of War World’s enjoyment comes from its Xbox Live play. Standard options are here in eight player form: Death Match, Team Death Match, Capture the Flag and Bomb Assault. This game’s longevity is based on the number of people who will be playing it online. With so many releases each week both on Arcade and in retail, it is unlikely that this title will have anyone online in a month or two. Offline play is no fun at all. Single player with bots and an Arcade mode (100 short battles) are the only options. War World is a game that almost everyone should pass on. If you are a fan of mech games, options like MechAssault or Chromehounds are a smarter choice than War World.
Bottom Line Pros: Beautiful graphics, easy to learn controls. Cons: Nothing unique about it, no strategy whatsoever.
Kanye disappoints with excessive Auto-tune on new album BY DANIELLE GEWURZ Editor
Kanye’s made a career as both a rapper and producer of pushing boundaries, making sure that you don’t “act like you can’t tell who made this,” and he appears to want to continue to do so with his newest album, “808s and Heartbreak,” which is due the Monday before Thanksgiving. As Kanye explained in a recent interview, “Heartbreak” is a technique he created that involves a mixture of Auto-Tune, distortion, and delay effects. However, on first listen it’s the Auto-Tune, cranked up past pitch correction to a distinct “effect” most frequently heard in T-Pain songs. The “808” alludes to the Roland TR-808, a famed drum machine which Kanye reportedly insisted be featured on every track. The majority of the album has leaked by now in one form or the other, and as a whole, I think that Kanye’s pursuit of pop sensibilities in elevating hip-hop has steered him wrong this time. While obviously the album should be judged on its merits as a whole, I listened to the leaked
tracks, with the obvious caveat that they might be different versions than on the album. The first single, already released, was the unexpectedly moving “Love Lockdown”. Kanye’s tale of a doomed relationship begins, “I’m not loving you/Way I wanted to...I’m in love with you/But the vibe is wrong/And that haunted me/All the way home.” The chorus, backed by African drums, instructs the listener to “keep your love locked down” but concludes, moodily, “You lose.” Here Kanye’s thesis is not only clear, but in fact aided dramatically by his digital effects; Kanye’s voice bursts with emotion, and the backing beat, mimicking tribal drums, adds to the drama. It’s a catchy, perfect heartbreak tune, and if the rest of the leaks had lived up to that standard I might be more excited about the album. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It’s clear there’s a great deal of emotional turmoil that went into this album, but in some sense, the robotic effect of Auto-tune dampens the emotional power of the song; the narrative of “Big Brother” has more
impact than “Heartless”, a catchy song at first, but whose hook quickly wears. The leaked “Tell Everybody That You Know” is a messy breakup song featuring Lil’ Wayne, who is only one of two guests on this album (the other is Young Jeezy). Here both Wayne and Kanye forsake conventional rapping for a pseudo-howl of “Tell everybody that you know/that I don’t love you no more” and Wayne dabbles in the Auto-Tune stylings of “Lollipop”. This song, like “Heartless” and the Jeezyfeaturing “Amazing,” drags in its later minutes as the novelty factor wears off quickly. “Coldest Winter” is most notable for its Tears For Fears sample/lyric cribbing. Interestingly, this is the only album track featuring a notable sample, previously a hallmark of both Kanye’s production style and of the tracks he chose for his first three albums. Part of the emotional catharsis that Mr. West appears to be seeking in this album comes from his ability to express himself outside the constraints of rap as a genre. Along those lines, I think West decided to refrain from using samples to express his own emotions, which is why
in “Winter” he chose to re-sing the lyrics, rather than use a direct vocal sample. “Street Lights”, like “Love Lockdown”, is a bright spot, where Kanye’s vision really shines through. The song is quiet and contemplative, and the digital trickery fades into into the background as Kanye’s voice and the instrumental take center stage. Kanye observes, “streetlights glowing/happened to be just like moments/passing, in front of me;” Kanye sounds like, mostly, a lost little boy, and the strong is much stronger for it. It seems that here, truly, we get a glimpse of how West is grieving for his recently deceased mother. I do hope that there prove more pleasant surprises on the album itself; we’ll know in three days. There are moments of genius to be heard (“how could you be so/Dr. Evil” is hilarious in delivery), but on the whole I was disappointed by what we’ve heard so far. Hopefully, having gotten much of this raw emotion out of his system, Kanye refocuses in a new direction altogether. Despite these missteps, I remain excited to hear Kanye’s future output. At the very least, he is anything but predictable.
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DARE TO CREATE! The Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts invites students, faculty and staff from all departments to participate in a celebration of creativity on April 22 - April 26, 2009. We are looking for innovative projects from a variety of fields so if you have an interesting idea floating in your mind, consider applying for our grant by December 3, 2008 and make it into a reality! For more information on our grant see application guidelines at http:// www.brandeis.edu/arts/festival/ participants/GrantGuidelines.html (A grant is not necessary to participate in the Festival. A separate application for non-grant funded projects will be available soon.)
For more details go to brandeis.edu/arts/festival