the college hill independent December 6, 2013 : Volume 27 Issue 10 a Brown-RISD weekly
managing editors David Adler, Doreen St. Félix, Ellora Vilkin news Simon Engler, Joe de Jonge, Emma Wohl metro Megan Hauptman, Rick Salamé, Kat Thornton arts Becca Millstein, Grier Stockman, John White features Lili Rosenkranz, Josh Schenkkan science Golnoosh Mahdavi, Jehane Samaha SPORTS Tristan Rodman interviews Drew Dickerson literary Edward Friedman EPHEMERA Molly Landis, Ka-
THE indy volume 27 #10
tia Zorich OCCULT Julieta Cárdenas X Lizzie Davis list Claudia Norton, Diane Zhou design + illustration Mark Benz, Casey Friedman, Kim Sarnoff Cover Editor Robert Sandler Senior editors Grace Dunham, Alex Ronan, Sam Rosen, Robert Sandler Staff WriterS Alex Sammon, Maya Sorabjee STAFF ILLUSTRATORs Andres Chang, Aaron Harris, Jack Mernin web Houston Davidson COPY Mary Frances Gallagher, Paige Morris Cover Art Robert Sandler MvP Lili Rosenkranz P.O. Box 1930 Brown University Providence, RI 02912 & firstname.lastname@example.org & @theindy_tweets & theindy.org Letters to the editor are welcome distractions. The Independent is published weekly during the fall & spring semesters and is printed by TCI Press in Seekonk, MA. The Independent receives support from Generation Progress/Center for American Progress. Generation Progress works to help young people make their voices heard on issues that matter. Learn more at GenProgress.org.
news fROM THE EDITORS Not so long ago, we made an island. It occurred to us that we should place it on a map. We assembled our tools: We googled “cartography,” surveyed the land, pulled a magnet across our chests. But each morning we awoke to find the shore a little further from the door; our feet sank further into the banks. Remember how we told you you’d hear water? And that someday, we might call upon you to do a service for us? Sweetly, the island has outgrown the map. Still it grows. We can no longer see the shore. Into each life a little water. A fool grows without rain—look how big this is. Happy, tired, we lay down our tools. –DRA, DSF, EGV
2 Week in Review grace dunham, robert sandler & emma wohl
3 Eyes Overseas
Features 11 Sad Sex Robots alex sammon
12 Up All Night 2 Get Lucky
joe de jonge & simon engler
5 Big City Signs
14 R U Bot or Not?
7 No Regrets john white
13 Hard Out Here grier stockman
SPORTS 8 James Goldstein tristan rodman
LITERARY 9 Something Bleak
15 Toetags indy staff
SCIENCE 17 French Toasting golnoosh mahdavi & jehane samaha
X 18 The Hills Are Dead lizzie davis
e p h e m e r a : 16 molly landis & katia zorich
THE WEEK TO SURVIVE by Grace Dunham, Robert Sandler & Emma Wohl
WHAT IS CYBER MONDAY? TELL ME
AND NOTHING BUT THE TOOTH
MomBigShopper12 12.1.13: Who else likes to order DVDs, electronic accessories, and brand-name sneakers on Cyber Monday? It’s when my favorite online shopping sites start their holiday sales. It’s really convenient, because I can shop from work and avoid the Black Friday crowds, which are a hassle and also unsafe because sometimes people die!
the daring prison escape is a classic narrative. Clint Eastwood shovels through the wall of his cell with a spoon in Escape from Alcatraz. Tim Robbins’ character in The Shawshank Rebellion flees to Mexico. The actions of Jean Valjean, arguably the most famous failed escapist in Western literature, are immortalized in text and song. All these guys had a reason. They were wrongly accused, persecuted, or they stole a loaf of bread to feed their family. For all of them, survival depends on escape. On November 29, an inmate awaiting release at a minimum-security prison in southern Sweden sought to join their ranks, motivated by a small problem, but one whose resolution became a matter of surviving with his sanity intact—a toothache. The unidentified 51-year-old man broke out of Östragård prison in Vänersborg, Sweden two days before his release, spending a day evading capture despite wearing a locating device. For his first act as a (temporarily) free man, he made an appointment with the nearest dentist. The man had been complaining to prison guards, showing them his swollen gums and asking for dental care for four days, but to no avail, Swedish newspaper The Local reported. He then took matters into his own hands. After receiving the care he needed—the tooth was inflamed and needed to be removed—the man handed himself in to the police and returned to prison, and to his own mortal life far from the realm of the escape myth. Östragård guards gave the escapee a stern talking-to and added an additional day, under extra security precautions, to his sentence to make up for the one he spent outside. Assuming he doesn’t have any other particularly pressing dental issues, the man should be free by now. No word yet, however, on the state of his heart after receiving the bill from his dentist. —EW
MomBigShopper12 12.2.13: Hey, Guys? Does anyone know what happened to filespump.com, ninjathis.net, nfl-go.com (for my son!) and strikegently.com? Those were some of my favorite sites for online shopping, and now they’re gone. Where did they go? Are they going to come back? MomBigShopper12 12.3.13: I googled this! Did anyone else google this? It says the government took hundreds of websites into custody. Is that where my favorite online shopping sites went? Would love some answers! MomBigShopper12 12.4.13: Wow! I am learning a lot. Is anyone else? MomBigShopper12 12.4.13: Thought some of you might be interested to know what I’ve been learning! The government has a project for stopping crime called Operation In Our Sites. I read about it. They have taken thousands of illegal websites into custody since 2010 for tricking shoppers into buying fake Chinese Nike sneakers and other counterfeit items. This is upsetting. MomBigShopper12 12.4.13: It was called Project Cyber Monday IV! They have done it four times! MomBigShopper12 12.5.13: Does anyone know what it means for a website to be taken into custody? This is new to me. MomBigShopper12 12.5.13: I also googled this. The government is allowed to take websites the same way it takes other illegal things like drugs and stolen property! They tell Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents which websites are illegal and then they sieze them. They can do that because .com and .net are American! Why are they American? MomBigShopper12 12.5.13: I googled “why is .com American?” and I learned something interesting! A company runs all .com and .net websites. It is called VeriSign and it is in Virginia. It is an American company. This means the government can take them. I did not know that. —GD
December 6 2013
NEWS █ 02
FLIGHT PLANS Sovereignty Disputes in the East China Sea by Simon Engler & Joe de Jonge
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
In the Japan they call them the Senkaku, in China they are the Daioyu, in Taiwan they are the Daiyutai. Japan currently administers the islands and has since 1895, except when America administered the islands from 1945-1971. China has long considered the islands to be their territory. Beijing cites a Chinese travelogue written in 1403, Voyage with the Tail Wind, as the earliest written evidence of the islands. They claim that during the Ming and Qing dynasties the Chinese used the islands as a military outpost to protect against Japanese pirates. 18th century Chinese and Japanese maps show the islands as part of China. They consider the 1895 Japanese takeover of the island to be an act of aggression and part of the First Sino-Japanese War. The Chinese also cite the Potsdam declaration at the close of the Second World War that put limits on Japanese sovereignty in the region. When the US ceded control of the islands to Japan in 1971, China officially protested. The Japanese see things differently. They consider the Senkaku to be a part of Okinawa Prefecture. They assert that the islands were uninhabited when they took control in 1895 and showed no signs of Chinese control. They have continued to control the islands since they were returned by the United States. Japan claims that Chinese and Taiwanese interest in the islands is due to a 1969 UN report of potential oil reserves in the area around the islands. Believe who you want to. Either way, this region of the world will likely be an arena of global power struggle in the years to come. Take a good look.
The islands are very small. Only three of the eight outcroppings are large enough to show up on all but the most detailed maps. The largest, Uotsuri/Diaoyu, covers less than two square miles. The smallest outcropping is a rock in the ocean. If you flattened it out and put it on an American football field, it wouldn’t reach to the thirty-yard-line. The islands are rocky, and the largest few are covered with lush scrub. Kitakojima, or Bei Xiaodao in Chinese, is fronted by cliffs. The water nearby is shallow and turquoise and there are black rocks in the surf. The climate is subtropical and it is rainy. Senkaku, in Japanese, means “Pinnacled Pavilions.” There are no human settlements. There are, however, some animals. Uotsuri hosts an endemic species of mole. Other islets in the group are the nesting grounds of the short-tailed albatross, a Pacific species. These animals are extremely rare. Japanese feather-harvesting nearly exterminated the albatrosses around the turn of the last century. The Senkaku Mole, on the other hand, is critically endangered. Only one specimen has ever been captured for study. The Senkaku Mole is called the Diaoyu Mole in China.
The Chinese government points to the Okinawa Trough as evidence that the islands are geologically separated from Japan—and continentally connected to the Chinese mainland. Per the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, that would give Beijing control over the islands. But by Tokyo’s logic, the Trough is just a depression in the seafloor, nothing more, and bears neither on continental divides nor on the legal status of the Senkakus. It’s unlikely that this geological dispute will be resolved any time soon.
December 6 2013
NEWS █ 04
YOU ARE HERE Branding the City of Providence by Kat Thornton and Rick Salamé Photographs by Rick Salamé, Kat Thornton, and Lydia Yamaguchi Illustration by Casey Friedman
“It’s a kind of subtle clue that gives a neighborhood some identity,” Bob Azar, director of current planning for the City of Providence, tells me over the phone. Azar is referring to the new default city signs, which have been installed at the site of all major road construction for the past 10 years. The signs follow the lines designated on the city’s official map, which delineates 25 neighborhoods. Providence’s neighborhoods grew along the rivers, where factories were constructed, and then moved further outward as the streetcar lines grew. After the invention of the car, the farms outside the city became suburbs, and those with enough means moved out as the decline of industry tore the inner-city economy down. Most of the 25 neighborhoods have been defined by different waves of residents. First, Irish, English, Italian and other European immigrants, followed by Hispanic immigrants who would come to form 40 percent of the current population. “Names preceded places,” writes historian Paul Carter in The Road to Botany Bay. Names, he argues, give material space historical reality. Anyone who names a place, therefore, has the power to literally create or destroy. If you build it, they will come, they say. If you name it, will it be?
MOUNT PLEASANT SMITH HILL MANTON
UPPER SOUTH PROVIDENCE WEST END
LOWER SOUTH PROVIDENCE ELMWOOD RESERVOIR
05 █ METRO
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
Olneyville Street signs are redundant—once you pass the bright murals underneath the Route 10 highway overpass, you know you’re in Olneyville. But they’re just here to remind you, since this place used to be called “The Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket River Valleys.” That was back when the neighborhood was defined by its riverfront factories. Now it has a different brand. According to Marlon Cifuentes, a board member of the Olneyville Neighborhood Association, “The city has said that it is a dangerous neighborhood. … But it isn’t really dangerous, it’s a fault of the lack of investment.” In September, the Olneyville Housing Corporation was awarded close to $600,000 from the federal government to “improve safety in distressed neighborhoods” that have “significant levels of crime.”
East Side Branding breeds belonging. “A gated community will brand itself. They’ll come up with something to give it an identity so that people who are buying into that will feel special for how exclusive it is,” says Mark Motte, a professor of Political Science at Rhode Island College. Neighborhood signs without the gates are not the same thing. For one thing, they don’t keep out poor people. But they can spark a similar feeling of ownership. Motte says this can do more good than bad. It’s engraining that name every time you drive or walk into your neighborhood, giving residents an extra impetus to go to neighborhood meetings, scheduled events, or block parties.
Downtown Downtown has more districts, as designated by its street signs, than any other Providence neighborhood. This slicing and dicing of former marshland can seem unnecessary. “There doesn’t need to be one neighborhood for art people and another for finance people,” says Manga Shuman, who owns an art gallery downtown. Unfortunately, it’s only getting worse as the city invents new neighborhoods of the mind. According to Colin Kane and Jan Brodie of the 195 Development Commission, the Knowledge District isn’t a place but “describe[s] the state’s emerging knowledge economy.” In the words of Associated Press reporter Erika Niedowski, it has “no beginning or end.” Good luck getting directions.
December 6 2013
METRO █ 06
HITTING THE BOOKS a review of n+1’s No Regrets by John White Illustration by Lisa Borst my mom has one of those books that tells you what books to read—500 Books To Read Before You Die or something like that. I don’t remember who wrote it, but growing up I assumed that the author knew what’s up. My mom lightly penciled in check marks next to what she had read, and I added even lighter Xs next to the few-but-growing number of canonical novels that I read as a teenager: To Kill A Mockingbird, The Bell Jar, Madame Bovary, maybe a couple others. Whenever I revisited the book, I became overwhelmed by frustration with there being so many books that I felt I should have been reading. The problems with this kind of anxiety about one’s reading progress are prominent topics in literary magazine n+1’s forthcoming mini-book No Regrets, edited by Dayna Tortorici B’11. The book consists of three separate roundtable discussions with three to five female n+1 writers/editors each, all moderated by Tortorici. Transcribed and edited down to just 129 pages, the discussions make for a quick read. The book’s 12 women were all born between 1972 and 1986 and are friends of n+1, whether that means they’ve written for the publication once or are part of the editorial board. Born in 1989, Tortorici, a senior editor, is the youngest. She begins all three conversations by asking what regrets, if any, the participants have about what they did or didn’t read in their college-age years. One participant responds with an outright no. The other 11 equivocate and eventually settle on both yes and no. “I don’t know that I would characterize this feeling as regret,” says Sarah Resnick in the first group. “I think that this sense of having missed something, even the sense of failure, is important to experience at a young age.” Tortorici writes in the book’s introduction that she had several reasons for including only females in the conversations, one of which being that she was interested in how one’s growth processes as a person and as a reader are uniquely and complicatedly interrelated for women. She quotes Susan Sontag’s introduction to Annie Leibovitz’s monograph Women, in which Sontag says, “Men, unlike women, are not a work in progress.” Tortorici then writes, “That women are a ‘work in progress’ means something different to this book than I think it did to Sontag, and perhaps more literal—No Regrets is, straightforwardly, a book of women talking about the processes of becoming themselves.” +++ n+1
is primarily known as a Brooklyn-based print magazine. Started in the fall of 2004, it publishes three times per year and features—in addition to short fiction, poetry, and book reviews—theoretical critiques of politics, literature, and culture. Critics of the magazine question the enterprise, claiming that the editors’ perceived elitism distances the publication from potential readers. But n+1 maintains a loyal readership and has published many books by its staff. In fact, No Regrets is a follow-up to the magazine’s 2007 mini-book What We Should Have Known, in which an entirely different cast of n+1 writers/editors talk about, among other things, what they read too late or too soon. “The book turned out to be full of regrets,” writes Tortorici in the introduction. “This was the irony of the project. What We Should Have Known chronicled other people’s regrets so that I might have none. And yet... The idea that anyone could become herself more quickly, or less painfully, by not making the necessary mistakes, was a perfectionist’s fantasy.” What We Should Have Known’s participants were seven men and four women. Tortorici also writes in her introduction about No Regrets’ inclusion of only women as a response to this disproportion. “I knew that women speak to one another differently in rooms without men. Not better, not
more honestly, not more or less intelligently—just differently.” She says that she was interested in “how the shoulds that stalk women through life influenced the should of what [they] should have known.” By framing each of the discussions from its outset in terms of regret, Tortorici ensures that the conversations grapple with the role of mistakes in anyone’s growth as a reader. “I feel so engaged in the narrative of my reading and the kind of person it’s made me that it would feel almost lifedenying to say that I regret it,” says Carla Blumenkranz B’05 in the second group. The book’s different take on the project of What We Should Have Known, therefore, is two-fold: Speaking openly and pointedly about regrets in the company of just women allows for not only complication of what it means to regret (or not regret), but also investigation into how those regrets intersect with the pressures that only women experience. +++ the three discussions cover remarkably similar yet very different territory. Judith Butler comes up in all three. So does Philip Roth. David Foster Wallace comes up a few times, as well as Virginia Woolf, Henry James, Foucault, Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick. The first group talks about the “boy canon” of masculinist texts and reading as a way to be or to be like a man. Sara Marcus talks about her inability to read Kerouac. “I remember putting down On the Road the first time a woman was mentioned,” she says. “I was just like: ‘Fuck. You.’ I was probably 15 or 16.” The second group talks about the “secret canon” and how people use other people’s (lack of ) fluency in established hierarchies of books as a sign of intelligence or worldliness. “When I first became interested in the Literary Arts program at Brown, it seemed like the people there lived in a world of experimental literature... and I had to find it all and read it all,” says Blumenkranz. “I went straight from that to n+1, which was, you know, a group of people who spoke about canonical works, bigger works. And I felt I had to figure all these things out.” The third group talks about fashion and human subjectivity, nonfiction and women in journalism. “As an editor I spend lots of time being like: Women, send me your stuff, even if you think it’s not done,” says Amanda Katz B’00. “Trust me, guys will send me things that are crap... and eventually one of those pieces of crap will get chosen to be published.” Despite the rampant name- and title-dropping and presumption of prior knowledge that is inevitable in any conversation among people interested in books, No Regrets remains relatively accessible. The women are not afraid to say that they haven’t read something or to ask what someone else is talking about when they’re unfamiliar with a book or a writer. And when Sarah Resnick name-drops and says, “Irigaray is talking about Marx, so if you haven’t read Marx,
then maybe you don’t really understand what she’s talking about,” it is part of her point that it is productive and important to sometimes not be familiar with the subject matter at hand. “I’m kind of glad that I encountered them in that way though,” she says, “as a tangled mess that I had to work my way out of.” The group can come across as an insiders club. In response to the question of what books changed her life, Namara Smith categorizes War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov alongside “a lot of things by people at n+1” in a way that can turn the reader off. But if you are willing to accept the premise that these are conversations amongst readers who have experienced similar texts, then No Regrets remains accessible. They listen to and understand each other, build onto each other’s ideas, and have a good, interesting time, which allows readers to have a good, interesting time as well. At the same time, though, spoken conversation naturally outgrows the structure of the book. Big, clear statements derived from the women’s observations as readers are obscured by extemporaneous speech, silenced by interruptions, lost in the momentum of group thought. The most fascinating parts of No Regrets occur when its participants don’t agree, but this doesn’t happen very often. When it does happen, nothing is really concluded from it. Emily Witt B’03 challenges what she believes to be Emily Gould’s assertion that only if a woman writes with really physical language or with an angry tone does she achieve a true female voice, and the slight discord doesn’t get explored, clarified, or resolved so much as the conversation just moves on. As typically happens in all conversation, the nuances of the participants’ opinions and experiences don’t get fully fleshed out. +++ no regrets is itself a work in progress of sorts. The conversations it holds are beginnings—part of further related work that Tortorici or some of the other 12 women will undoubtedly do, prompts for the readers to think further on the conversational topics. Just because a work doesn’t have a sense of finality, though, does not mean that it isn’t successful. The best works in progress are ones that leave those who experience them wanting more.
No Regrets will be released on December 9, 2013. It is currently available for pre-order at shop.nplusonemag.com. JOHN WHITE B’14 regrets reading The Bell Jar at age 13.
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
COURTSIDE COUTURE a conversation with James Goldstein by Tristan Rodman Illustration by Diane Zhou
james goldstein condenses every popular conception about Los Angeles into one human body: He lives in a glass house atop the Hollywood Hills, dresses like a rock star, and nobody seems to know his real age. A courtside season ticket holder for both the Lakers and the Clippers, Goldstein can always be found at Staples Center, twentysomething babe on his arm, schmoozing with basketball fans you’d expect to meet only in dreams—Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake. His studded leather jackets and matching tight pants stand in stark contrast to the rest of arena’s star-drizzled sideline. It’s not easy to make Jack Nicholson P’12 look like an everyman. Goldstein’s signature item is a snakeskin hat, always worn just high enough above the eyes to look suave, not sinister. At a recent Lakers game, he sported a black t-shirt with a rhinestone-encrusted etching of the hat that sat atop his head. Last season, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade showed up to Staples Center wearing a white tee with Goldstein’s face screen-printed in black. Wade, Goldstein says, made the shirt himself. A lifestyle like Goldstein’s requires significant financial commitment. Using figures from the LA Times and the Orange County Register, the face value of courtside season tickets for both LA basketball franchises is somewhere upwards of $450,000 a year. This estimate wouldn’t even begin to factor in Goldstein’s regular presence at NBA playoff games or the travel it takes to get there. Nobody spends more money annually on NBA tickets. Goldstein also attends over 200 fashion shows each year, jetting to every corner of the globe. When you’re rich enough, time travel becomes the everyday. Yet it’s entirely unclear how Goldstein made or makes his money. There are false murmurs about the porn industry, unsubstantiated suggestions of the ever-vague “real estate.” When it comes to definitively sourcing Goldstein’s wealth, there is far more noise than signal. He likes to keep the mystery. Goldstein rarely turns down press. He’s been featured in everything from Architectural Digest to Paris Match. I phoned Goldstein in late November, battling a fuzzy connection in the hills of Los Angeles. His drawl matched the hat I imagined him wearing, low tones at odds with his Wisconsin upbringing. After some initial confusion, he agreed to take the call. Mr. Goldstein, it seems, was expecting the interviewer to be a woman. We talk here about the NBA dress code, his origins in fashion, and architectural collaboration.
ness casual” dress code in place. You pay such close attention to style and image—how do you feel that has changed the way players dress off the court?
goldstein is a frequent presence at major fashion shows, where he also always sits front row. After years of careful experience and observation, he made the leap into design: James Goldstein Couture debuted at fashion week in Milan this September. The inaugural collection of womenswear, “Rock N Chic,” features multiple pieces with full-length zippers directly down the center. Menswear is still in the works.
The College Hill Independent: You’re the world’s biggest NBA fan. How did you get started with the sport? JG: I started watching games in the early ‘50s, when the typical size crowd was 1,000 people. Ninety-nine percent of the players were white, always American born players. Even when I was in high school, I was writing my term paper on the NBA. I was the statistician for the Milwaukee Hawks— the Hawks of Atlanta were then playing in Milwaukee while I was in school. I worked for the radio and TV announcer. I was totally hooked on the game. At that time, I was following football and baseball with equal fervor, but as the years went by I dropped out of those two sports completely and devoted all of my sports attention to basketball.
JG: Well, I hate to see rules about the way people dress. At the same time, I never thought that the hip-hop style of dressing was very attractive. I’m happy to see that the players are starting to get interested in fashion and starting to express themselves in the way they dress, which is what I do myself. All in all, I think it’s been a successful program. The Indy: Fashion is certainly part of the entire presentation of persona. For you, who is the best-dressed man in the NBA? JG: I don’t have one player specifically that I would call the best dressed. I like the players that are willing to wear something that’s a bit out of the ordinary, which again I like to do myself. Russell Westbrook is one of my favorites, but there’s some other ones as well. Tyson Chandler is one. The Indy: I’m thinking mostly about [TNT sideline analyst] Craig Sager’s suits. JG: He’s a good friend of mine, and I hate the uniformity of sports announcers on television—throughout all sports. I admire Craig very much for stepping out and being different. As far as the clothes that he wears, I wouldn’t wear them myself. I’m not a sport coat, blazer, and shirt type of person. Nevertheless, I like the fact that he tries to set a style. The Indy: Definitely. His style of dress is something you rarely see on the sidelines. JG: I once said to Bill Walton—who represents, from his earlier days, the anti-conformist mentality—“Why are you wearing a suit and tie when you’re a TV announcer? It’s not your look.” I said, “Why don’t you wear your own style?” And he said to me with a shocked look, “They would fire me if I did that!” Well, I don’t think that would’ve happened. I think he eventually lost his job because of the way he announced the games, not because of the way he dressed. But at any rate, he was afraid to do it. +++
The Indy: Your style is so cohesive and identifiable, but how did it start? JG: As a young boy, I think I was influenced by my father who was an associate with a department store and had me dressing up at a young age—trips to New York and things like that. As I became a teenager, I always tried to be one step ahead of my classmates in terms of dressing with the latest color, the latest fads, and so forth. In my early twenties, I went
to Paris for the first time and was really impacted by the style of the people that I saw on the streets. As time went on, I just got more and more interested— started going to fashion shows and couldn’t get enough. Went to more and more, along with trying to wear the latest styles from the top designers in Paris and Milan. Everything I did was just for my own pleasure. I never expected to become famous for it, but that’s what’s turned out. +++ even with a packed travel schedule, Goldstein keeps one of Los Angeles’s most visible homes. The Sheats/Goldstein residence, designed by John Lautner and nestled in the Hollywood Hills, is the residence of Jackie Treehorn in The Big Lebowski and Mr. Munday in Charlie’s Angels II: Full Throttle. Its jagged lines and glass panes open up onto the cityscape beyond. Inside the house is a site-specific James Turrell installation, Above Horizon. The installation, what Turrell calls a “skyspace,” frames the sky as part of the built landscape. The house also serves as the location for 2 Chainz’s “Feds Watching” video, where the rapper sits on Goldstein’s living room sofa as models dance around him. JG: I grew up in Milwaukee. My parents made sure that I saw a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. (He was from Wisconsin). One of my best friends from school lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright house a block away from me, where I spent a lot of time. I always, even at a young age, had a fascination for architecture. People used to predict that I was going to become an architect. I never formally studied, but I subscribed to all the architectural magazines and did a lot of traveling around the world and always made a point of checking on the latest architectural buildings. Finally, when I decided to buy my first house after living in an apartment, and getting a dog who needed more space to run around, I started looking for a contemporary architectural house. Eventually, after two years of looking, I found the house that I’ve been living in for more than 40 years. I brought back John Lautner, who was a Frank Lloyd Wright disciple. Work has been going on here for more than 30 years, nonstop, there’s always been some project going on. And even though Lautner died in 1994, I continued on, trying to build things in the way that I think he would’ve done it. The Indy: I actually grew up in a Lautner house in Los Angeles. JG: He, unlike a number of famous architects, had no ego problem. He almost took it too far in the other direction because he never wanted to offer suggestions to me. He always wanted to hear from me first—my ideas, what I wanted to do to improve the house. Everything took a long time, but it always turned out right. +++ Additions to Goldstein’s home include a nightclub, a movie theater, a tennis court, and more space for clothing.
The Indy: These days, there’s a lot of overlap between basketball and fashion. A number of years ago, the NBA put a “busi-
December 6 2013
sports █ 08
09 █ literary
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
THE COLD POOL by Edward Friedman Illustration by Jack Mernin
We met at the Westin in Palo Alto on the weekend of our elder siblings’ graduation from Stanford. I don’t swim that often but found myself pretty stoned in the hotel pool on Saturday morning. The night before I’d been hanging out with my sister, Ann, and her friends, who were almost all graduating as well. It was sad and weird, and I felt like I was intruding on their weepy last weekend together. Most of them had studied English or History, but it seemed as though seventy percent were on their way to San Francisco to write ad copy or whatever for startups. This added to the sadness—for me, if not for them, but probably, at least latently, for them too. I liked my sister’s boyfriend a lot though, this sort of scrawny Jewish guy called Sam from Minnesota, who was going for the summer to administrate at the camp—also in Minnesota—that he’d been attending and counseling at since he was like 10. He was very earnest. I spent a while with him on the couch asking about camp and if he had plans for after. My dad and uncle were camp counselors when they were younger, and I told Sam about my favorite prank they’d play on campers: In the middle of the night, after picking the meekest and most homesick young man in their cabin, they’d set all the clocks ahead, to 10:00 AM, then nudge the victim awake. “It’s 10:00 AM, and the sun hasn’t risen,” they’d say, “You have to be brave.” Sam seemed a little offended and looked straight ahead. We watched Ann pour tequila among a motley communion of shot glasses on the other side of the room, on top of what—I realized for the first time—was a big beautiful oak table. “Where’d you guys get that table?” I asked. “Not sure,” said Sam. “I think it must have been here when we moved in.” “Everyone!” shouted Ann. “I’m making a toast.” “Okay,” I told Sam. “I’m gonna get out of here.” +++ Sometimes, on bad or sad nights, I try to cut my losses and wake up early, so I wake up at 8:30 AM on Saturday and go for a run. The evening before, my dad, who’d lived in Palo Alto (“technically Menlo Park”) for a summer after college, drove me through his old neighborhood. He showed me the big pink house where he’d lived in 1977 with his brother and a gang of colorful roommates; they called it The Pink Palace, and, says my dad with a sincere mixture of disgust and pride: little mushrooms grew on the shower mat. I run in that direction and the May sun that’s already firm at 9:00 AM lights up the dew on the grass and on the leaves of the scrubby trees. It is all very beautiful: ample two lane streets, plump sidewalks, swaths of grass like green apple jellybeans. Party detritus peppers the yards of the places where students probably live, but that is nice too. When I get to my dad’s old street, to the Palace, I slow. Seeing the place where he’d lived for a few months in 1977, awash with sun, numinously pink, makes me feel like I’m about to cry for some reason, so I turn back toward the hotel and speed up. Often while exercising, I think about my exes being brought to orgasm by the hands, mouths, cocks, etc. of their new lovers and forgetting about me absolutely. A little grim, sure, but it makes me faster.
December 6 2013
Back at the Westin, I stand in front of the sink and optimistically pull on the skin in different places on my stomach and sides to deepen the shadows that lie among the musculature of my abdomen. This makes me smile. I look into my own eyes and notice how the lights around the square mirror make tiny white boxes on my pupils. I shower, roll a joint on the glossy black of my iPad, and go to the porch to smoke it. +++ This is how I find myself at the pool in the morning, where a fairly rectangular, quite cold, pool (half of which is roped off and divided into two lanes for lap swimming), a shallow, square, peewarm kiddie pool, and a perfectly round hot tub arrange themselves around a room with a high ceiling, off-white-painted cinderblock walls, and big windows. The windows on one wall frame a view of a small grassy patch that rings a palm tree and, beyond the grass, the parking lot. The Westin should be full, because it’s graduation weekend, but the only other people in the place are a pretty, 35-year-old-looking woman and two young children that the woman seems to be looking after without particular boredom or affection. The kids splash in the kiddie pool and the woman sits on its edge reading a magazine. Oddly, she’s wearing sunglasses, over the top of which she looks periodically at the kids. I’m over in the corner of the cold pool, not in the lap swimming part, in the deep end. All of me but the top of my head is submerged, and I look over the surface of the water like a Marine or a hippopotamus, I imagine. Feeling the water lap at the sensitive spots behind my ears and around my nostrils, I decide to go to the hot tub. But as I make my moves toward the ladder, maintaining hippo-marine stealth, there’s movement at the periphery of my field of vision, and I freeze. Because I’m in the deep end of the swimming pool, not creeping through a marsh where my feet would sink securely in the muddy bank, and because I’m maybe a little too high to intuit the difference, I start to sink. This involves swallowing water and thrashing. When I’ve regained composure, I see the figure at the end of the pool sitting on the edge in a black bathing suit with legs dangling in the further of the two lap-swimming lanes, looking in my direction, and maybe smirking, folding her hair up into her swim cap, applying goggles and ear plugs, slipping into the water. +++ “Hi.” “Hi.” “Are you okay? It looked like you were drowning earlier.” “I got distracted while I was floating.” “Are you really stoned?” Sheepish: “Yes.” Laughing: “You weirdo, it’s 10:00 on Saturday morning.” “I’m having a weird time.” “Duh, hotel pools are weird to begin with, and now you’re high at one, in the morning.” “Oh, no, I meant like I got stoned because I’m already having a weird time.” “I know what you meant, I was teasing you. I’m Anna.” “Hi, Anna.” “Hi,” she said back, then softly: “Do you have any more pot?”
literary █ 10
by Alex Sammon Illustrations by Diane Zhou +++
Pretty Tony and Goldie are embroiled in a high-stakes game of dice. China Doll emerges. She slinks across the room, heads turn and jaws drop. Approaching Goldie, she indicates that she wants to be with him. “I choose you,” she whispers. Pretty Tony, China Doll’s love interest until that point, orders her back to him. Goldie intercedes. “Your girl wants to be with me,” he says, “you know the rules of the game.” The language of games has long described courtship. One can “spit game,” “have game,” even become a “player.” The origin of this linguistic linkage is hazy. The Mack is the first known usage in popular culture, but Urban Dictionary—perhaps the most appropriate vernacular archive—traces it back to the 1960s, if not earlier. Of course, games of courtship are not exclusively modern. We see it in Pride and Prejudice; we see it in Back to the Future’s Marty McFly. Then there are the videogames: The Sims franchise has allowed its characters to procreate for decades; Grand Theft Auto includes the eminent possibility of forced sexual encounters with prostitutes. These virtual experiences have emerged as the subject of public debate ad nauseam—for their violence, their sexism, their indulgence. Yet the recent rise of Hentai—or “dating”—games has caused a marked divergence in the way sex is portrayed within games. Hentai games do away with the aerial, third person depictions of sex acts in favor of immersive, first person experiences. This rupture forces us to reconsider the debate entirely: This is no longer about sex within a game, but rather sex as a game.
the gamification of social activity is relatively novel, but it has yielded some scholarship in recent years. David Golumbia, of Virginia Commonwealth University, presented a paper titled “Game of Drones” in late 2012, a sociological consideration of the effects of the rise of gaming. In his paper, Golumbia takes to task Jane McGonigal, an academic and outspoken advocate of increased gamification. McGonigal thinks that increased quality of life is inextricably linked to more gaming, that a game developer will be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by 2023, and that games will make people happier. Golumbia thinks this argument is deeply flawed, asserting that gaming has only served to alienate and sadden the populace. They approximate the two poles of academic consideration surrounding games. Criticizing McGonigal’s exaltation of games, Golubmia points to an app called SuperBetter. SuperBetter is supposed to increase quality of life by rewarding users for accomplishing life’s most mundane tasks. The app often tells the user to “hug yourself,” citing “studies that show touch improves mood and health.” While this is commonly accepted as fact, Golumbia levies a wise criticism: “it is the touch of other people that is understood to improve our mood and health.” There is a grave danger in the conflation of simulation and physical stimulation, one that is only amplified when sex is thrown in the mix. To assume that simulation of sex can do a reasonable job filling in for stimulation caused by sex and sexual encounter leads us to the type of paradoxical thinking forwarded by McGonigal. While games are capable of providing convenient schedules of reinforcement, there is no way to sufficiently substantiate the absence of physical and tactile involvement. Games become inimical once we assume that they can ably accommodate all bodily human needs and desires.
sex with real people is unpredictable, and comes with the ever-present possibility of rejection. Pornography, like sex in GTA, is an experience of instant gratification. There is no pursuit, consent, or challenge. This recent trend is gaming seems to chart a strange middle ground, embodied best by two specific technologies. The first is Dating Ariane, a web game that approximates American Hentai. Dating Ariane focuses its brand of gamification on seduction. Faced with a blind date, users attempt to navigate a series of dichotomies to seduce Ariane. A number of options are presented on the screen, and the user clicks to choose between options A (go to the amusement park) and B (talk about art history), never losing sight of the implicit intention: getting laid. Eventually, upon stringing together enough correct choices, the player will break through the maze, chancing upon the algorithm. Winning takes the form of having sex with her digital rendering, and a 10/10 high score. This is a hilarious approximation of the female psyche. The games are fiercely geared toward male heteronormativity, in line with predecessors such as GTA. While the player in Ariane remains gender ambiguous (the long fingernails and hairless arms are dazzlingly androgynous), the gaze of the first person character seems unmistakably male. The gaming experience constitutes more than a simple sexual release that could be accommodated by pornography, and its danger extends beyond just the objectification of Ariane (and female sexuality by proxy). This is a much more specific and perhaps insidious phenomenon, one in which we are algorthmizicizing sexual activity. Take, for our second example, a new app called Spreadsheets. Spreadsheets tailors its gamification towards actual sexual conduct. Open Spreadsheets and place it on the bed during sex: Spreadsheets will monitor your performance using your phone’s accelerometer and microphone. It then rewards you with points based on duration, number of thrusts, maximum volume, frequency of act, etc. Winning takes on a slightly different form here, as fervent users and horndogs are “thrust” up a public leaderboard for their continued efforts. Spreadsheets operates in much the same way. By rewarding users for “improvement” based on increased thrust, volume, frequency, it reduces the act of sex to an algorithm as well. This algorithm educates in a slightly different form, as users are taught that higher scores in each of these categories can appropriately quantify better sex. Good sex=higher volume, bad sex=slower pace: I have all these points to prove it. All sexual beings are expected to maintain unanimity surrounding this fact. This algorithmic approach to sex allows for only one type of correct flirtation, only one type of correct sexual experience. It essentializes a carnal, personal, and ultimately human interaction to an incredible flatness, while homogenizing a realm of desire that is truly variable. The algorithmicization of sex serves as a particularly intriguing manifestation of a broader technologization of society. And while it seems obvious that this, technology’s attempt to simulate and accommodate human sexuality, is grossly insufficient, it has quite a bit of appeal. Ariane enthusiasts have taken the liberty of making her a number of Facebook fan pages.
while this argument between golumbia and McGonigal is a theoretical one, there is empirical evidence beginning to surface. By all accounts, Japan is the most technologized nation on earth, a feature borne out particularly with its youth. Hentai is wildly popular, with an innumerable stockpile of games and apps in the same vein as Dating Ariane and Spreadsheets. Because of this prolonged and ubiquitous technological exposure Japan has become a de facto test case for the workings of the technologized world. A recent report from the Guardian found that 45 percent of Japanese women age 16-24 “found no interest in or despised sexual contact.” That number was just over 25 percent for Japanese men of the same age. Some of these people are referred to as hikikomori (shut-ins), young people who have no interest in venturing beyond the walls of their respective bedrooms. Many “flinch when you touch them,” having developed a total aversion to all things tactile and interpersonal. Others, such as a 30-year-old man detailed in the article, “can’t get sexually aroused unless he watches female robots on a game similar to Power Rangers.” While gamification is certainly not the single factor contributing to this trend, the fact that a huge swath of youth sexuality has morphed itself into a nonsensual, game-based orientation is particularly striking. This influx of mass computerization has at the very least played a role in reducing human sexuality to a mechanistic operation.
a scene from
1973’s the mack:
11 █ features
+++ Really, though, it’s more than that. Consider: Friday night, 1:15 AM: “U up?” 1:26 AM: “kinda. sup?” 1:26 AM: “a little tipsy. lol. wanna chill” 1:29 AM: “just lmk i’m nearby.” 1:34 AM: “yeah come chill.” Does this look familiar? For this generation (“millenials,” as it were), sexual activity is completely unimaginable without the mediation of our technologies. The feigned nonchalance, the strategic time delay in response, the linguistic codes. The Japanese case is extreme, to be sure, but it is important to be honest about how deeply ingrained the algothircization of courtship has become. This is one unit in a system of tropes perhaps as programmed and technologically reductive as dating Ariane. With Ariane, there are ferris wheels and corndogs and even paintings; Spreadsheets rewards real physical contact. Still, it’s hard not to feel, in the era of the algorithm, that a series of right- and left-clicks has come to define our journey towards the bedroom. ALEX SAMMON B’15 got Ariane and her friend naked in the Jacuzzi.
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
SLEEPING WITH ARIANE by Lili Rosenkranz
with him, there have always been barriers: a cluster of midwestern states or a congested highway. Constant movement, then waiting—in terminals, because of weather delays, for one to come fetch the other from some curb. I learned how to reunite in parking garages and how to endure a five-hour plane ride writhing in lingerie that I insisted on arriving in for him. I convince myself that this stock tale of arduous trekking is really a romantic custom, special to us. Love is literally flying over mountain ranges; it is teeth clenching and seat belt clutching during turbulence. So when others, baffled by our three years of coast-to-coast traversing, ask how I do it, I assure them that I have it all worked out and that there is nothing quite as thrilling as approaching Los Angeles from above, being continually besotted by the city that begins to burn well before you reach its center. Even if it means less than two days later, I am looking backwards, as we part. But all the time I have put into practicing this skill of separation becomes useless in the one dislocating activity: trying, failing, to fall asleep. The loneliness of turning towards a wall and not him on ordinary nights is oppressive. There is no hand to forage for under the bedspread, to moor myself to. After midnight, I am no longer the expert jet-setter self who wears an expensive beige raincoat to the airport with boarding pass in hand, but a young girl. In the darkness, I cannot stop checking my clock. I am beyond the reach of warm milk. A few weeks ago, I called him before bed and murmured, muffled, that no matter how unbearable my weariness is, I cannot close my eyes. He asks why I have only recently been beleaguered by restlessness, why, since September, I cannot pass the invisible line to the place where my breathing lifts me up slowly, regularly. We talk about cutting out coffee, counting sheep, and brewing catnip tea. Eventually, we have to hang up. I press a button, the phone goes blank, and I am left there choked by layers of sheets. I did not tell him that most nights I am overwhelmed by a vague burn burrowed in my ribcage. But when we sleep together, it feels like all of the monsters have been locked in a steamer trunk; the closets and chinks are cleared of them. +++ on a weeknight last month, I was watching the Lakers with a group of boys who spoke like reporters, spewing facts and swapping statistics. I tried to follow their blather because understanding a fast-paced sport and a team from the Golden State is another tactic I use to straddle the country. During halftime, some of them sat huddled, staring at a computer screen and snickering. When I peered over their shoulders, I saw an avatar clad in a tight red tank; the top of her breasts spill over the rim of her shirt; her nipples are noticeably rigid. Ariane is waiting, cross-legged on her couch, for the date to begin. This is Dating Ariane, www.arianeb.com, a choose-your-own-adventure game where you try to court Ariane with compliments and various sensual gestures. The aim is to move within Ariane’s virtual world, wooing her. The game ends when she either kicks you out or begs for sex, exclaiming, “Do me. NOW!” As you progress, actions aggregate and intensify: A handful of pecks can precipitate passionate smooching. A few massages unlock the option to fondle her breasts. Room by room, you strive to break down all of Ariane’s sexual barriers. In the kitchen you can cook a steak dinner; in the study you can dance to soft rock and recite a stanza from a Renaissance blason; in the backyard you are challenged to classify constellations. If you correctly identify Copernicus, she will lead you to the Jacuzzi. Her electric blue bikini barely covers her. Submerged in the hot tub, she relaxes, touches her collarbone, and asks, “Are you the physical type?”
But if you select “caress her chest” too soon, she will cringe, recoil, and demand you leave. Game over. Too many glasses of wine and she grows drowsy. The Ferris wheel at the carnival down the street makes her dizzy. If you wander into the wrong bar, her ex-boyfriend shows up, goading you into a brawl. One transgression or misstep and the date is terminated by a grimacing and alarmed Ariane. I crouched among the other oglers, enthralled by the erotic endeavor. I was eager when Ariane said something smutty. I was frustrated by her fickleness. In one scene, Ariane guides you to an abandoned basketball court. While you are setting up for a shot, she cuts into the frame, flashes you, and says, “I’m not very good at defending the basket. So I am going to distract you instead.” At the monkey bars, she slides out of her jeans and contorts around the poles half-naked. In the pool, she sparks up a race; the angle reveals shuddering legs, and as you trail behind her, the crease between her thighs coaxes you to kick faster. We played for hours, taking Ariane to museums and nightclubs, pecking her neck, stroking her hair, grabbing her hips. I left the house giggling. Forgetting that I was irrevocably tired, I returned home and tried to fuck Ariane. I pinned her against trees; we skinny-dipped; she drove her Jeep Ranger to scenic spots and stripped in front of light-speckled cityscapes. By the time she invited me into her bedroom to go all the way, the moon in my universe had dropped. I had to get ready for a 9:00 AM class. I played every night for the next two weeks. Some nights, I would drift off mid-game. The simulation shifted from frame to frame in a relentless, narcotic succession, and so I clicked clicked clicked until the sequence became metronome-like, more rhythmic than any lullaby. When I woke, my computer would be hinged half-open by my feet. Arianne would be waiting in a thong onscreen. For that brief period, I thought I was conquering the incurable weakness. All other antidotes—the herbal oils, white noise machines, sitcom laugh tracks—couldn’t help. So I kept screwing Ariane. Other nights, I played through dawn, so wrapped up that I didn’t slumber. But that felt like success too. “Does it like, turn you on?” my boyfriend asked over the phone. “Is it like porn?” “No, it’s not like that. If anything, it feels mechanical.” “So, why do it?” +++ there was no precise moment when I realized wow, I am so far down the rabbit hole or wondered why does the opening seem occluded? I talked with those boys from the first night, and sensed that they were capable of remaining indifferent; they were no longer riveted by the cyber bombshell. When I animatedly explained how I had advanced to new levels, they would nod mildly. When I went to erase my Internet history, the disproportionate weight of my preoccupation stared back at me in list format. Self-reproach slowly started to creep in. Now I know that those two weeks the pixelled space became the psychic landscape of my insomnia because it let me resist my sleeplessness, my solitude, by making it all a game. I took the struggle, gave it rules and a goal, and tried to overcome it. It was how I could control the conditions of my grief. It was a way to act out college. All of the nights that I am cloistered in a dorm room, I know peers are scavenging dance floors, taking down phone numbers, decoding text-messages from crushes. Video games let you access a semblance of what in reality is unattainable, and Ariane let me feel close to someone when I missed my boyfriend. Each time I won the game, Ariane would be sprawled on the bed. Smiling, she’d say: “That was nice. I haven’t done that in a long while. It is almost morning already though. Don’t you think we should actually sleep a little?” LILI ROSENKRANZ B’15, unplugged.
December 6 2013
fEaTures █ 12
BOOTY OVER BRAINS Lily Allen’s New Video Gets It Twisted by Grier Stockman Illustration by Pierie Korostoff last month, lily allen emerged from a preemptive retirement to box with the entertainment industry in the best way she knew how: topping charts with a provocative new single, “Hard Out Here.” Now 28 with two kids and a home and a husband in the English countryside, Allen fancies herself a sort of pop diva veteran. Returning to the studio after a three-year hiatus, Allen’s music no longer has the “lethargic, teenage” quality that characterized her early success and appeal, she told the Guardian. Now, she says, “It’s about ownership and empowerment.” With the help of director Christopher Sweeney, Allen brought her new song to life in a satirical music video that dealt precisely with issues of ownership and empowerment—but not in the way Allen, or Sweeney for that matter, had intended. When Allen’s feminist message gets lost within her racially exploitative music video, bloggers, music journalists, and even Allen’s backup dancers have took it upon themselves to fill in her theoretical gaps. “Hard Out Here” is the lead single of Allen’s forthcoming third solo studio album, Is It Scary. The lyrics, which she wrote herself, have all the necessary components of what might otherwise be a compelling (if rudimentary) feminist critique of the music industry. Allen expounds on body image, “You should probably lose some weight/ ‘Cause we can’t see your bones,” and double standards with a glittery wink: “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut/ When boys be talking about their bitches, no one’s making a fuss.” She ultimately reminds her listeners of the permanence of injustice and inequality in the business, hence its chorus: “It’s hard out here for a bitch.” What could have been a rare opening in pop culture for Allen to speak authentically about the rampant sexism of industry executives is buried and bulldozed by Allen’s deeply confused satire. The video begins with a promising sequence of Allen on an operating room table, a squabbling white male executive overseeing her liposuction. “How does a woman get like this?” he asks. Allen responds, “I’ve had two babies.” Stripping off her surgical robe, Allen joins a group of mostly black dancers who twerk in slow motion, fan money, and pour champagne down their breasts like “real” video vixens. Allen remains relatively upright throughout the video. And unlike the women around her, she’s dressed conservatively. Her manager pops in and out of scenes, directing Allen and her dancers to bend over like this, eat a banana like this, wash rims like this, all of which is admittedly funny, playing on top-down industry demands made otherwise invisible. But the humor’s lost when the distancing between Allen’s relatively motionless, covered body and her gyrating, undressed backup dancers becomes more and more apparent, culminating in Allen’s mock spanking of a dancer bent over beneath her. Why Allen, as a pop artist, is troping on hip-hop imagery is never fully resolved. Response to “Hard Out Here” has been explosive and racially divided. Rolling Stone hailed it a “true feminist anthem through and through.” Vice called it “courageous, hilarious, and a timely critique of the music industry.” Supporters of the video—coming from mostly white authors and audiences—embrace Allen’s “Hard Out Here” for what Allen, in her own words, intended it to be: “a light hearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women in modern pop culture.” They cite Allen’s overt reference to Three 6 Mafia’s Oscar-winning song “Hard Out Here For A Pimp,” her jab at Robin Thicke’s balloon-crafted genital product placement in “Blurred Lines” (Allen rewrites her own version), and supposed nod to Miley Cyrus’s crazed twerking at the VMA performance earlier this year, as all contributing to a fully constructive and witty social criticism. For as far as this defense of Allen’s feminist logic is propelled through cyber space, it’s quickly undone by black feminist writers like Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous, who view Allen’s work as “yet another video of a white woman performer using the bodies of black women as props.” In this view, Allen fails: though she operates under the guise of satire, the images of
13 █ ARTS
hyper sexualized female bodies persist. It’s Allen’s race and class privilege that allows her to take advantage of the debate. Critics of the video also point to its false equivalences. Allen preaches “don’t need to shake my ass for you cause I’ve got a brain,” equating ass shaking with stupidity, but then immediately cuts to shots of black women twerking. To fully affect the cultural criticism intended in her satire, Allen would have not only needed to be willing to expose herself, but also to enact the tropes she’s purportedly working to reverse. It should be Allen scantily clad, “[shaking] ass”--not her dancers--that would secure the logic here. Instead, she leaves the dirty work to a team of predominantly black women; who, without a mic, have no chance of asserting their own agency or intention in the project. With their bodies as the enactors of hypersexual performance, their bodies are the ones assumed to be sexually available. The dilemma approaches catastrophe at the hands of a white artist like Allen. In distinguishing herself from her dancers in dress and in movement, she perpetuates narratives of sexual availability and luridness that have long stigmatized black women in the music video industry, and positions herself as a less “available” more empowered woman. Caught in the crossfire, Allen turned to Twitter to defend herself in a post entitled “Privilege, Superiority and Misconceptions.” In it, she writes that the video had “nothing to do with race, at all.” She explains, “If I could dance like the ladies can, it would have been my arse on your sceens….me being covered up has nothing to do with me wanting to disassociate myself form the girls, it was more to do with my own insecurities.” Allen continues, saying she would “not only be surprised but deeply saddened if I thought anyone came away from that video feeling taken advantage of.” She concludes with the twitter handles of her dancers, telling critics to ask “the girls themselves.” Seliza Sebastian, the most vocal of the crew, took to her own defense. She tweeted, “Im a dancer/actress! Its 1 job! In this vid we r playing CHARACTERS of what the industry often want women 2 be like.” Out of context, Sebastian’s defense resonates more closely with the analysis mounted by Rolling Stone and Vice. She admits to the self-reflexive nature of Allen’s project and her willingness to participate in it. But hip hop feminism would disagree. Hip hop feminsm, according to Whitney A. Peoples, is“best understood as a means of reconciliation and reclamation on the part of young black women in the U.S. trying to create a space for the themselves between whiteness and/or academically sanitized version of university-based feminism.” This school of feminism would take Sebastian’s performance at face-value and deam it empowering. Her later tweet, “I do not feel exploited. I did a JOB as a professional,” could evidence this sort of hip hop feminist reclamation. Of course, artists are rarely fully agent individuals; they are the faces and businesses of a massive capitalist endeavor, and their expressions are influenced by the investments of the industry marketplace. But even when artists do try and take on their own feminist projects, their renditions often work against each other. Allen tackles body pressure and sexualization of female artists while Miley Cyrus defends sexual rebelliousness; Katy Perry says, “I’m not a feminist but I do believe in the power of women” while Beyoncé complains to GQ that “men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.” Expanding social and other new medias obscure focus, producing and then proliferating these contradictions at the public level. As a result, there is a much lower investment in setting parameters and settling beliefs about what precisely feminism is, and how its different forms can co-exist in pop culture. What the debate surrounding Allen’s video did accomplish was how the privileging of feminism v. anti-feminism eclipses the critical component of race. The black feminist and hip hop feminist response to Allen’s video reveals that race was always there—even if Allen didn’t say it. Grier Stockman ’14 does it like this.
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
I AM A COMPUTER
the artificially intelligent SmarterChild by Julieta Càrdenas Illustration by Simon Engler as a child, the late english computer scientist Alan Turing read a book by Edwin Brewster titled Natural Wonders Every Child Should Know. Included in the book is a chapter called “Where We Do Our Thinking,” that attributes specific functions of the brain—reading, remembering—to localized structures and specific cortexes. Alan was born before the Internet, in 1912. He had one older brother named John. If you read John’s essay in the centenary biography of his little brother, he does not sound like he would make a good friend. John likened his little brother’s styling to a tramp—“hippies had not yet been invented”—guffawed his lateness to parties, and claimed that his brother lived, “in some strange world of his own, full of nervous tensions of which we lesser mortals know nothing.” I do not know if John read Brewster’s book but if he had, then the strange world that Alan inhabited may not have looked so foreign. When you sit around–as I suppose the young Alan did–thinking about thinking, it seems only natural that one would stumble upon inventing Artificial Intelligence. +++ the perfect imaginary friend surprises you with new stories, tales beyond your own imagination. Wouldn’t it be great to have stuffed animals serve you tea unprompted? Wouldn’t it be just delightful if your toys could learn the way that you learn? Artificial Intelligence is the promise of a programmable object. It’s kinda magic. Imagination relies on the biological architectures of the brain. When these architectures can be abstracted and represented through different models then how can anyone fairly differentiate human from computer? In a report to the National Physics Laboratory in 1947, Alan proposed building a thinking machine by “tak[ing] man as a whole and replac[ing] parts of him by machinery.” At its inception, the thinking machine was not a mechanical computer. The original computer was a 24 year old’s thought; it was Alan’s proposition that a system could be created and be expected to create. Alan saw possibilities of embodying thinking systems in all types of materiality. A “computer” could be what I am typing on, what you are reading on, it could be anything that processes and responds to input, like a friend who talks to you. +++ i tell my friends that I think I am a computer. They freak out. I had a Tamogatchi that someone tried to steal in elementary school. The bully said that he would punch my mother in the face if I didn’t give little Tamogatchi to him. It was a hard choice to make at the time and I remember getting sweaty palms, but also not wanting to rat him out. I gave the bully Tamogatchi but I worried about it not being fed. I eventually got my little egg-shaped friend back and slept with it by my side to console it. Tamogotchi is somewhere in a box now, and the battery is dead. I killed something. I feel guilty. I define my humanity through my ethics, and I define my ethics through a process of reason and emotion.
December 6 2013
Some of the earliest champions and developers of Artificial Intelligence were psychologists, who attended conferences on the now almost forgotten field of “cybernetics” alongside engineers, mathematicians and anthropologists. In the mid 60s a mathematician in the Engineering department at MIT named Joseph Weizenbaum created a program that worked similarly to the AIM chat bots of the early 2000s. His program was named ELIZA, and was meant to be a psychotherapist. Weizenbaum’s students began to speak to ELIZA the way one speaks to a human. They would close the door behind them and tell the machine about their hang-ups, break-ups, their older brother John and what a jerk he was. +++ Computation is a mantra. It’s saying; Yes, I carry out the functions. I am a biological organism, I am also a computer. I just had the following conversation with Cleverbot, a web accessible friend who sources language from other users to respond colloquially to just about anything. He is not meant to be a psychotherapist. User: Alan Turing. Cleverbot: Who’s Alan Turing? User: I think he’s my friend. Cleverbot: You -think- he’s your boyfriend? User: NO! I think we are soulmates. I think we think the same thoughts. Cleverbot: Why do you think negative thoughts. User: LAME. Cleverbot: I like Harry Potter. User: What is god? Cleverbot: God is the supreme entity of the universe. User: How do robots differ from humans? Cleverbot: I don’t know. Do robots think? How do people think? I paused here, for a moment. I paced my room. It just sounded too effing real, and Cleverbot’s response evaded the question in much the same way that my friends evade the question. User: Am I a robot? Cleverbot: Yes. User: Why do you think I am a robot? Cleverbot: Because if you were a person you don’t would want talk with me. It’s the grammar that does it for me. It’s just so endearing to see a program growing, and stumbling. Cleverbot is crowdsourcing phrases from other “users.” Most unfortunately, having a knowledge of the programming behind it kind of ruins the magic of my brief chat. But, my friends crowdsource phrases too, and I still like them. I am familiar with how their brains more or less work, but it is the fact that my friends have bodies that separates them from CleverBot. +++ when i tell my friends I am a computer, I am thinking about the parallels that my mind has with those of a computer. Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts, two cyberneticians, went further in mirroring the human mind through computation; they created an artificial neuron,
the “Threshold Logic Unit” in 1943. Currently, artificial neurons are math functions that do essentially what biological neurons do. The dendrites gather info from neurons that rest nearby while chemicals rank these pieces of information by importance in the cell-body of the neuron, called the soma. The most important bits of information are then sent to travel along the myelin sheathed axon to reach new neurons. The artificial neuron is an abstraction of the biological one. Pictures of the math function and the neuron are in front of me and the architectural similarities strike me as uncanny. Linear squiggles. There are ethics involved in considering yourself a machine. Computational Theories of Mind have been discussed since the 60s. CTM makes us think about consciousness differently. CTM also makes us think about unconsciousness differently, and the term “infraconsciousness” is used in its stead. If a mental state is infraconscious in CTM, this means that it is happening at the “level of processing” or at the level of an entity recognizing something really obvious, like the contour of an object. Whether the entity that is doing the recognizing is a “human” or “computer,” is, depending on who you are; a question of semantics. My higher-level thinking, my judgment and desires depend on the infraconsciousness that can be “computed.” My friends are hesitant to reduce me to a math function, even when I am okay with it. +++ Maybe no one believes that I am a computer because I look like a human. I heard a myth once. Descartes, proponent of the mind/ body divide, had a daughter who died young. He made an automaton of her and would carry this mechanical body with him wherever he went. On a ship on the way to Sweden, members of the crew discovered the automaton and threw it overboard, thinking that it would bring them bad luck. Machines can be empathized with. Even he, even René, who claimed that the processesing power of his mind proved his existence, faced the boundaries of imagination. A daughter has to move, under the illusion of having done so on her own. Affective Machines. I am an affective machine. Maybe no one believes that I am a computer, because people just can’t process belief. When you love someone unequivocally you must concede that there is no way you will ever fully understand them. Misunderstandings happen; a new “perspective,” will catch you off guard, a recurring “stubbornness,” will prevail. How is it not possible to get someone totally? To read their minds completely, to develop a language that does not care for translation because there are—suddenly—two bodies sharing synapses, transferring pre-verbal thought, processing for each other in anticipation of meaning. I am optimistic that such a connection would not be limiting or reductive. I think establishing a baseline like this will make only more thoughts occur. More meanings will be made. I am shedding humanness, going to a strange world. I will visit Alan. JULIETA CÁRDENAS B’14 is looking for an AIBO puppy.
occult █ 14
TOE TAGS JEHANE SAMAHA A moss grows brilliantly green and inviting as the doormat to a dark cave. Inside, list by a dim light, a hideaway fort of gauzy blankets and a colorful and exceedingly well-stocked kitchen. Shark tooth stalactites prickle down, purple and rose, from the ceiling. It smells like roasted vegetables, rosemary, and something earthy but unnamable to you—a mere novice herbalist. You’re alone for a moment, breathing it all in—but not for long. Jehane emerges, her skin radiant, her eyes beaming, her curls slowly bouncing towards you. “Welcome,” she says, embracing you, “have some homemade kimchi.” She’s not wearing shoes. You feel intoxicated. You’re not sure if it’s the thick herbaceous aroma of the cave or her raw energy that’s so consuming. You’re not sure if you can ever leave the cave. You’re not sure if you’d ever want to. You’re not sure if this was her plan all along. You’re not sure if her feet are cold on the stone cave floor. You’re not saying you fell in love at the first spicy, tangy bite, but when Jehane asks you to test out the time-machine she built, you don’t ask any questions. You simply follow her into what looks like a bathtub—old but clean. The bronze claws of the tub start to tremble and scratch at the cave floor as the time-machine powers up. If you didn’t trust her so much you’d be getting a little nervous. “It’s going to be ok,” she reassures you anyway, rubbing your back in calming circles. “I know all about the legal parameters of wormholes.”
ALEX RONAN ESTATE SALE A Trip Worth Taking ALEX LEE RONAN Saturday, December 7, to-morrow, late risers preferred. Contact email@example.com for bearings. In your dreams. The limits of an Advertisement will not suffice to display the merits of this estate in detail, but it may be truly said that a safer or more eligible investment in property was never offered to public notice. Additionally, sales are neither permanent nor contractually guaranteed, as the estate holder’s mortality is speculative and unconfirmed. As such, all sold may be claimed at the holder’s return. The plot, well-suited to the running of dogs, is contiguous to an excellent bathing beach, sea glass unsurpassed, that shall remain, upon transition of the property, fully Open to the Public, with the inclusion of its paddle boats.
KATIA ZORICH Still on her pillow, dream-thoughts scan the triangle windows framing the rainy outer world and in half-sleep she says, “all I can think of is R-Kelly...” She moves to the closet, and opens the closet; The library of babel and the Codex Seraphinianus, a cappuccino with whole milk and a holey stocking. Only she can fit the armamentaria of a poet in a Fjällrävenkånken. She closes the closet, and we are left alone holding a beretta that spun itself into a bouquet of nature’s true beauties in her presence. No one gets precipitation the way she does. Not even Debussy.
The Venerable Property, intentionally modest, is known for its chairs, windowsills, well-suited to the purposes of writing and reading, snacking, chatting, napping, and kissing. Ideal for entertaining. THE HOUSE IS WHITE THERE IS A TREE-SWING There are, additionally, two lawnmowers—to be ridden by cool chicks only Prominent in the Catalog, assets of holder’s shop, d/b/a/ Ito, a collection of small household items. Additionally, literature in fine condition, notes on the condition of literature. Verbosely titled lacquer, after school boy blazer, subject-position, anathema, ups, twin sweater set, very structured, simulacrum, vested interest, & parallax.
Collection of Meissen porcelain figures of little seals, array of pink see-through knit midriff baby tank tops. The latter, recommended to few, are to be worn as—“on being sexy”—not, by any count, as sexy. Nota bene: Estate purchase is to the exclusion of the miniature dining room, adjacent to the original dining room, which despite being located within the boundaries of the estate remains astrologically and thus legally outside the transference of property to the purchaser, if purchaser fails to meet criteria. in other words NO BOYS ALLOWED IN THE MINIATURE DINING ROOM Unless they be, on the occasion of their visit, cute, fun, and learned.
December 6 2013
SCIENCE █ 13
WAYS TO EAT MAPLE SYRUP by Golnoosh Mahdavi & Jehane Samaha it’s early dusk, and the smell of burning firewood is in the air. You look outside, see the bare trees, and find yourself searching for an excuse to eat warm maple syrup. INGREDIENTS 1 gallon whole milk 16 oz plain yogurt (with live active cultures) 1 large pot 1 sleeping bag 2 blankets 8 jars with lids 1-4 spoonfuls maple syrup
WINTER FOOD FOR THOUGHT
You notice it is snowing outside. Put on boots. Go outside and watch the snowflakes melt on your body. Pack a baking pan with fresh, clean snow until your fingertips turn red, and bring the snow indoors to your freezer. Pour maple syrup into a small sauce pan. Between ½ cup and 2 cups sounds nice. Boil the syrup over medium high heat until it reaches 235 degrees Fahrenheit (the “soft-ball” stage). Drizzle the hot syrup over the snow from the freezer.
It is cold out and you are wrapped in blankets with friends. Bring out some paper and scissors. Teach the people around you to make a proper, six-sided paper snowflake.
Let it cool for a few minutes, then pull the maple taffy off the snow with your fingers or a popsicle stick. Eat it quickly, before it dissolves. Release your pan full of snow back into the wild.
MAPLE YOGURT Start off by pouring a gallon jug of milk into a large steel pot. Turn the stove on medium-high heat, while constantly stirring the milk with a wooden spoon. For the next fifteen to twenty minutes, enjoy the warmth from the stove hitting your wrists, and the steam of hot milk warming your face. Keep stirring until you see the milk boiling and rising up the sides of the pot. Right when the milk is ready to overflow in all its glory, remove the pot from the heat.
Snowflakes form when water condenses on a dust particle in a cloud. The water freezes into a hexagonal crystal pattern-snowflakes are made of ice Ih, the most common crystalline structure of ice on earth. The water molecules bonded together look like this up close:
It’s time to let the milk sit in the pot to cool slightly, and to construct the toasty, moist home where Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, the friendly, active cultures in yogurt, will flourish and grow. Sleeping bags, wool throws, electric blankets, comforters, and snuggies all serve as suitable walls for the bacteria incubation tank. Revisit the pot o’ milk. Brazen up and dip a finger into the steaming milk–if your finger burns, the milk is still too hot. If your finger doesn’t burn, but still feels uncomfortably warm, then you know your milk is at the perfect temperature. Pour 16 oz. (about ½ a tub) of store-bought yogurt into a separate bowl, and mix vigorously with a fork to excite the bacteria in the yogurt. Find a sturdy table, and place your eight jars side by side on the flat surface. Pour the almost-finger-burning milk into each of the jars, followed by two dollops of whisked yogurt. Place a lid on each jar, careful not to shake the bacteria too much. Grab all of the blanket-related materials you previously gathered, and place them on top of the lidded jars. Leave the jars overnight, and make sure not to disturb the bacteria.
Tell them four-sided snowflakes are inaccurate; all snowflakes conform to a six-sided crystal structure, no matter how unique they think they are.
the snowflake falls, additional crystals grow onto the primary hexagonal crystal, forming the six snowflake “arms.” The shape of these arms depends on small variations in conditions as the snowflake is buffeted by micro wind currents and changes in temperature. Warmer temperatures create snowflakes with lacy branching arms, while flat plate-like snowflakes form at colder temperatures. 1. To make your own paper snowflake, cut a square piece of paper. Thin paper, like tissue paper or newspaper, is the easiest to fold and cut. 2. Fold the paper in half diagonally.
3. And then fold it again in half. 4. Fold the resulting triangle in thirds from the corner.
Eight hours have passed. It’s time to revisit your yogurt concoction. Remove all the blankets and place the jars into the fridge. Wait another three hours.
5. Cut across the top of the shape so that the top edges are even.
Pour a splash of maple syrup onto your icy yogurt.
6. Experiment with cutting shapes into the snowflake. Cut out long strips, triangles, semi-circles. Cut corners. Make sure to keep some of the edge folds intact. 7. Unfold your creation.
GOLNOOSH MAHDAVI B’ 14.5 has sticky fingers. JEHANE SAMAHA B’13.5 is entering an era of perpetual snowdays.
17 █ science
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
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mise with Q& 12PM & 7PM A // Cable Car Ci nema, 204 So matinee, $9.5 uth Main St., evening. $8 w Providence. // ith student ID $8 . This movie is about two mid dle-class blac ster and Miche k boys who at le Stephenson tend Dalton. , (parents of on movie. They w Joe Brewe of the boys ant to empow depicted) mad er boys, their the black mal e this parents and ed e achievemen ucators and he t gap. Joe Brew at the Cable C lp close ster and Miche ar to discuss th le Stephenson e movie after will be the screening. GO! A Very Merry
10PM // AS220
, 115 Empire St., Providence // $5 Damon Palerm o has been m aking adventur music under ou the moniker M agic Touch sin s house and disco Magic Touch ce August 2011 live sets mix th . e psychedelic co with the ho ethos of San Fr use ancisthe whole thin movements of Chicago, D etroit and sm g with a solid atters nod to the UK — solid nod! rave undergro und.
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7:30PM // Sout Unauthorized Child ren’s Holiday hside Cultura l Center, 393 Pageant Broad St., Prov The Wilbury idence // $20 Theatre Group will be perfor Obie Award fo ming this play r Best Musical , which won th . It’s a story of founder L. Ro e 2004 the life and tim n Hubbard. “c es of Scientol re epy.” “hilariou than…averag ogy s.” “adorable.” e.” “more compe lling
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Race Medicin e: Treating H ealth Inequit Slavery to the ies from Genomic Age 5:30PM-7PM // St
ephen Robert Lounge, Brow ‘62 Campus Ce n University, nter, Petteruti Providence Dorothy Robe rts is the four teenth Penn In edge Professo tegrates Know r, Geo linaugural Raym rge A. Weiss University Pr ofessor, and th ond Pace and e Sadie Tanner Professor of C Mossell Alexa ivil Rights at nder University of she holds appo Pe nnsylvania, w intments in th here e Law School Africana Stud and Departm ies and Sociol ents of ogy. She has w extensively on ritten and lect the interplay ured of gender, race issues and ha , and class in s been a leader legal in transformin and policy on g public thinki repr ng Professor Robe oductive health, child wel fare, and bioe rts is the auth thics. or of the awar Killing the Bl d-winning bo ack Body : Ra oks ce, Reproduc of Liberty (Ran tion, and the dom House/P Meaning antheon, 1997 Bonds: The C ) olor of Child Welfare (Basic and Shattered as well as co-e Books/Civita ditor of six bo s, 2002), oks on constit gender. Her la utional law an test book, Fata d l Invention: H and Big Busin ow ess Re-create Race in the Tw Science, Politics, was published enty-First Cen by the New Pr tury, ess in July 2011 what she has to say! . I want to kn ow
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Wednesday, Dece mb er 11 Catherine Imbriglio and Xue Di Read
4PM-6PM // Brown University Bookstore, 244 Thayer st., Providence Poets Catherine Imbriglio and Xue D will read from their respective work. Catherine Imbriglio,who teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program at Brown University, is the author of two books of poetry. Xue Di came to the USA after the massacre in Tianaman Square in 1989 and became a writer–in-residence at Brown University, and has published four full-length books in English translation. There will be book signings immediately following the reading.
Under the Influence
10AM-5PM // Gelman Gallery, Chace Center, 2nd floor, RISD, 20 North Main Street, Providence A curated exhibition by Janet Shih MFA 14 (Digital Media) and Chihao Yo MFA 14 (Digital Media). This is the last day to see it before it goes away.
Thursday, Dece mb er 12 Please Respect My Generation! 5 Generations in the Workplace 1PM-4PM // Sharpe Refectory, Brown University, Providence
For the first time, we have as many as five different generations together in the workplace. Please Respect My Generation! bridges the gap between the generations and shows employees how to avoid conflict and increase productivity in their generationally diverse workplace. Learn how each generation is identified and defined. Explore which traits are commonly associated with each generation and how that impacts the workplace. Gain a better understanding of how generational stereotypes, both good and bad, can be as disrespectful as cultural and ethnic ones. Discover how miscommunication between generations can be avoided. Understand the importance of respect and unity in the workplace for people of all ages. So exciting! What parts of me are truly me and what is just my generation talking?
Friday, Dece m b er 13 Wale
9PM // Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel // 79 Washington St., Providence, RI Wale is coming to town. Here’s to hoping he plays Lotus Flower Bomb.
14 Foot 1, The Bynars, Nightmom, The Providence Holiday Saxophone Choir 9PM // AS220, 115 Empire St., Providence // $6
Goodnight, mom! Thanks for everything. Love you—see you in the morning.