VOL 28 ISSUE 9 APR 25 / 2014 BROWN//RISD WEEKLY
MANAGING EDITORS Julieta Cárdenas, Simon Engler, Tristan Rodman NEWS Sebastian Clark, Alex Sammon, Emma Wohl METRO Megan Hauptman, Rick Salamé, Kat Thornton ARTS Greg Nissan, Maya Sorabjee FEATURES Kyle Giddon, Lili Rosenkranz, Josh Schenkkan TECHNOLOGY Houston Davidson SPORTS Zeve Sanderson INTERVIEWS Drew Dickerson FOOD John White LITERARY Eli Pitegoff EPHEMERA Molly Landis, Matthew Marsico OCCULT Addie Mitchell, Eli Petzold X Layla Ehsan, Sara Khan, Pierie Korostoff LIST Claudia Norton, Diane Zhou DESIGN + ILLUSTRATION Mark Benz, Polina Godz, Casey Friedman, Kim Sarnoff COVER EDITOR Polina Godz SENIOR EDITORS David Adler, Grace Dunham, Sam Rosen, Doreen St. Félix, Ellora Vilkin STAFF WRITERS Lisa Borst, Vera Carothers, Sophie Kasakove, Abigail Savitch-Lew, Carly West, Sara Winnick STAFF ILLUSTRATORS Andres Chang, Amy Chen, Aaron Harris WEB Edward Friedman, Patrick McMenamin COPY Mary Frances Gallagher, Paige Morris BUSINESS Haley Adams COVER ART Polina Godz KICKBALL MVP Team Indy
VOLUME 28 // ISSUE 9
NEWS 2 Week in Review
alex sammon, maya sorabjee & emma wohl
LIT 17 After the Flood abigail savitch-lew
11 Funny Men katherine long
13 Not So Free Agency jake coonin
3 Monkey Research will fesperman
FROM THE EDITOR S Lena Sclove and I went to camp together for four years. It was a small camp, about 100 people, in Vermont. It is the best place on Earth, and she made it better. Lena Sclove and I have gone to Brown together for a year. It is a large school, about 6,000 people, in the center of Providence. She makes it better. Every Tuesday evening at camp, a counselor would tell their story around the campfire. We would lean in, open our eyes, and listen. This Tuesday, Lena told her story, and now it spreads. Please listen, support, and act. –KS
14 Gold Chain
9 PVD + 20 rick salamé
matthew marsico & molly landis
7 Bâtard Rouge vera carothers
18 Sparkle Bucket
layla ehsan, sara khan & pierie korostoff
15 Google Ga Ga
Indy: 6 Herald: 5 P.O. Box 1930 Brown University Providence, RI 02912 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.
THEINDY.ORG // @THEINDY_TWEETS
WEEK IN HORTICULTURE by Alex Sammon, Maya Sorabjee & Emma Wohl illustration by Lisa Borst Have you had your head in the ground all week? Or, um, up in the clouds? Indy News is here to catch you up.
WHEN IT RAINS... For a number of years, India’s rural farming population has been mired in a suicide problem. Farmers stand vulnerable to the fickle whims of what President Pranab Mukherjee has called the “the real finance minister” of the country—the monsoon. If the rains arrive too early or too late, are too strong or too weak, thousands of acres of sown land are laid to waste. Even if the rains do come, farmers have to worry about paying off mounting loans: growing volatile cash crops on small areas of land is risky business. With failed harvests, looming debts, and inadequate government support, many farmers can’t imagine a solution to their immediate future. With desperation encroaching from all angles, farmers have taken to gulping down insecticide until their insides go numb, falling to rest alongside their lifeless plants. In 2012 alone, 13,727 farmers committed suicide. The suicides have become newspaper mainstays. The response has been one of limp futility, with news coverage overwhelmingly using the word “epidemic” to describe the phenomenon, as if it’s some baffling, incurable disease. Years of underreporting have kept the facts from inspiring social upheaval, and the broken system drags on. But this month, with the national parliamentary elections—a staggered five-week process, the largest democratic exercise in the world—currently underway, farmers and laborers have the opportunity to elect a government that will protect them from unstable market prices, fickle weather, and callous loan sharks. And their vote has surprising weight—despite the daily additions to the death toll, agrarian workers make up a staggering fifty percent of the Indian workforce. The election campaigns of the two main political parties, BJP and Congress, have taken note and sought to exploit the crisis in two ways. First, they blame each other for failing to prevent farmer deaths. Congress officials cite the fact that farmer suicides went up 31% when the BJP was last in power. In response, BJP damns Congress politicians for their negligence. “While farmers were committing suicide, the Agriculture Minister was playing cricket,” BJP prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi said at a recent rally. Getting in on the action, the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party blames all others for the past agricultural disaster: it wasn’t even around to be responsible for anything. Next, all three parties attempt to woo farmers with a smattering of promises in their manifestos—soil health cards, more genetically modified cotton, increased support prices, concessional loans. All through April, party leaders have been busy trying to up each other in their number of visits to dessicated farm areas. With the attention finally on them, it all seems exciting, but the farmers of India have decades of personal disillusionment informing their vote. And when the dust of the election frenzy settles, they could face even more. –MS
APRIL 25 2014
DOWN AND DIRTY China gets a bad rap for not taking its environmental issues seriously. Take air pollution, for example: Beijing has the worst smog problem in the history of the world, with particulate matter frequently measured at levels 45 times higher than what is safe to breathe. One report attributed 1.2 million premature deaths to smog in 2010 alone. Going outside is like sucking on a tailpipe. This week, the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection proclaimed that 20 percent of China’s farmland is polluted with heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, and nickel, a statistic so shocking even Beijing couldn’t ignore it. Published via Xinhua News, the report was emphatic: “The overall condition of Chinese soil allows no optimism.” Specifics are even direr. Seventy percent of samples taken were deemed “lightly polluted,” with pollution levels twice the national standard for agriculture. Given China’s notoriously lax environmental thresholds, it is likely that “twice lightly polluted” is a euphemistic synonym for “polluted.” The report goes on to identify “cancer villages,” entire agrarian communities suffering from terminal diseases due to the toxification. Former president Hu Jintao has gone on record pleading with the Chinese congress to “reverse the ecological deterioration,” to little avail. Turning over a new leaf was much easier when things still grew. –AS
HIGH HOLY DAZE Israel, which hosts both a warm climate and a robust technological industry, could be a veritable Holy Land for weed production. Too bad the country’s government does not want to invite this particular pilgrimage. In Jerusalem on Friday, April 18, police arrested two organizers of a “Big Bong Night,” a pro-legalization protest to be held on Sunday, April 20. The officers asked a judge to place the two men under house arrest. Among the charges: sedition, advocating an illegal gathering, and conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor. The judge denied the police petition for house arrest, but told the men to stay away from the park where the event would take place. The two refused, preferring to remain in custody rather than accept these mega-unchill restrictions on their freedom of assembly. Dov Silver, one of the organizers, is now being heralded as Israel’s “first political prisoner in the struggle to legalize marijuana,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. Thirty more protestors were arrested at Sunday’s event while boldly declaring their right to spark up in the middle of the street. In Tel Aviv earlier this month, police questioned a famous actress, a fashion designer, and a producer, reportedly searching their apartments, over their illicit extracurricular pastimes. The incident caused a stir among celebrities who had assumed their innocuous-seeming activities would be safe from scrutiny. Motty Reif, a fashion designer and producer who was questioned in the case, wrote in a Facebook post, translated by Haaretz, “I really don’t understand why my marijuana joint makes front-page headlines,” stopping just before he got the chance to ask his followers, “And what if the colors you see aren’t the same as the colors I see?” Despite the crackdown on illegal consumption, some ten thousand Israelis legally consume marijuana for medicinal purposes. And some foreign investors and consumers—and even whole countries—have begun to speculate that the grass in Israel might really be greener. In March, the Czech Health Minister visited an Israeli medical marijuana dispensary, hoping to induce the company to export its product. Tikun Olam, Israel’s first and largest licensed marijuana grower, recently partnered with Canadian corporation MedReleaf, sharing its technology and strains of the cannabis plant. (The company’s name, commonly associated with good deeds, means “healing the world.” It takes its tagline from Psalms: “This is the GOD’s doing; it’s marvelous in our eyes.” The Canadians no doubt agree.) But to export the drug without violating United Nations trafficking laws, the Israeli government would have to form a national narcotics agency that would oversee the issue. That idea that does not sit well with the nation’s Health Ministry, medical marijuana producers said, adding a barely distinguishable “Way harsh, dude.” For this purpose, the doors to the Holy Land remain closed. –EW
In The Name of Science monkey testing at Brown by Will Fesperman illustration by Julie Kwon
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
Around 38 monkeys live in research laboratories at Brown University. It is difficult to know for certain how many—the researchers won’t say. Thirty-eight is simply the latest available number, listed in a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report from 2013. This number changes throughout the year when University researchers buy new monkeys or kill existing ones. There is so much secrecy around animal research at Brown that at first I was unable to determine where the University’s monkeys actually live. A graduate student in neuroscience assured me that the location was “not secret in any way.” But I had to make multiple requests through the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to learn more. In the past few months, I accessed five grant applications filed by Brown researchers to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which finances most of the University’s animal research. Last year, NIH gave Brown researchers $2.1 million for research involving monkeys. I also retrieved 21 documents about Brown’s animal research from NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare. Most of the NIH grant applications I looked at had black stripes over the location of Brown’s primate facility. The researchers had the chance to redact such details before I saw the documents, and they did—in all but one case. For unknown reasons, one reseacher did not redact detailed information about the new primate facility that was then under construction. Brown’s monkeys are housed in the Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences, on the University’s main campus. In 2010, the USDA cited Brown for 11 violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which sets standards of care for animals used in research and entertainment. At least six of those violations involved monkeys. “Their Primate Chair” Brown uses most of its monkeys for neuroscience experiments. University researchers have used monkeys to study the brain’s primary motor cortex, visual processing in the temporal cortex, and optogenetics, a method of electrically stimulating the brain. Brown has been buying more monkeys in recent years: the University owned just two monkeys in 1999, while in 2012 40 monkeys were kept in Sidney Frank, as the building is known among Brown students. The monkeys have about 112,000 peers in labs across the United States. Some are used to study deadly diseases like HIV and tuberculosis. Last month, researchers at Rockefeller University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used monkeys to test a new drug that could protect humans from contracting HIV for months. The experiments used 28 monkeys, half of which acquired the virus. At Brown, the BrainGate Neural Interface System is probably the most celebrated product of monkey research. BrainGate is a groundbreaking technology that has already allowed human test subjects to control robotic limbs with their thoughts. John Donoghue, a professor of neuroscience who directed the project, spoke about it on Dr. Mehmet Oz’s radio show in 2008. And in October, the project won a million-dollar prize for excellence in brain research from Israel Brain Technologies, a research and technology nonprofit. A video on Brown’s website shows a woman, paralyzed from the neck down, using the BrainGate interface. She uses her thoughts to control a robotic arm that holds a bottle of coffee. She brings the bottle to her lips and drinks the coffee on her own—for the first time in 15
years—then grins at the camera. When I met with BrainGate’s John Donoghue in the University’s Institute for Brain Science, he asked me a few times why I was writing this article. “Do you have a personal belief yourself about [non-human] primates being special?” he asked. A porcelain figure of a monkey rested on his desk, and on another table were coasters featuring antiquarian drawings of monkeys. Donoghue’s lab first tested the brain implants in a group of rhesus macaques, some of which still live in Sidney Frank. According to the NIH grant applications I looked at, monkey experiments like these require invasive surgical procedures and months of training. Surgery begins with the insertion of tiny electrodes into the monkeys’ brains. For this procedure, research assistants remove a section of skin, muscle, and bone, and then insert the equipment into the brain. Sometimes researchers replace the bone flap with titanium mesh, attaching the mesh to the skull with screws before closing the skin over top. If the skin is not “sufficiently intact,” Donoghue’s 2011 application states, dental acrylic is added to close the incision. The monkeys are anesthetized for all surgeries. Researchers also implant three titanium rods into the monkeys’ heads. These rods stick out of the sides and back of the head. The rods are meant to restrain the monkeys’ heads during training and data collection. After recovering from surgery, the monkeys are trained to “sit quietly in their primate chair,” as one grant application puts it, for hours at a time. While sitting in the chair—their arms separated by a barrier, their heads fixed in place—the monkeys learn to perform specific tasks, like pressing buttons, to receive “rewards” of water or juice. Donoghue’s grant application says the training is “not stressful” for the monkeys. Monkeys, the application states, “readily cooperate in performing the task, and session length is determined by the animal.” The monkeys cooperate because they are thirsty, and because liquid is the reward for participation. Researchers can restrict their access to water for days before the training session. In these cases, the monkeys’ water intake is less than what USDA regulations require. But the USDA exempts Brown and other research institutions from this requirement when experiments demand it. Such exemptions are routine; they are approved not by the USDA directly, but by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC). I looked at five annual reports since 2005, and every one of them included an identical statement: “Brown University has several IACUC approved protocol exceptions to USDA regulation in which access to water is regulated for [x number of ] non-human primates…” IACUCs are required for every research institution under the Animal Welfare Act. Brown’s IACUC consists of a chair—Rebecca Burwell, an animal researcher at Brown—and three other members. One is James Harper, a veterinarian and the director of animal care, who declined to be interviewed for this article. As required by the Animal Welfare Act, the other two members have no connection to Brown. IACUCs determine whether proposed experiments meet federal animal welfare regulations and follow the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, published by the National Research Council, a private, non-profit organization. Experiments can deviate from these guidelines if “acceptable justification” is given, according to Brown’s Animal Welfare Assurance, filed with NIH in 2014. The document does not explain what counts as “acceptable justification.” The committee also decides whether the researchers really need to use animals. “If you can
“While sitting in the chair—their arms separated by a barrier, their heads fixed in place—the monkeys learn to perform specific tasks, like pressing buttons, to receive ‘rewards’ of water or juice.”
APRIL 25 2014
answer a question without using animals, you would want to do that,” Burwell told me, “because [animal testing] is labor-intensive and time consuming,” and introduces ethical concerns. Neuroscientists use monkeys when using human test subjects would be deemed unethical, and when the experimental question cannot be answered with what Burwell called a “lower species,” like rats or mice. Brown’s IACUC can’t control everything that happens in the lab. In 2009, Brown students performed three surgical procedures on unidentified animals without getting IACUC approval. According to a USDA report, two of the animals “experienced complications” during surgery and had to be euthanized. Living Alone Brown’s primate facilities are relatively new. Prior to 2007, the monkeys lived in the University’s BioMedical Center. With the construction of Sidney Frank came new monkey labs and housing. According to a grant application, the new primate facility features a “state of the art surgical facility” and offices for Brown professors, post-doctorates, and graduate students. Donoghue’s laboratory alone has three rooms for behavioral training. The building can only be accessed with a key card. The monkeys live alone in separate cages. If solitary housing is common in research labs, it presents a stark change from monkeys’ lives in the wild. Rhesus macaques, which are housed in Sidney Frank, are highly social animals in their Asian habitats. Macaques live in matriachal groups and communicate with a system of gestures and vocalizations. The effects of solitary captivity were the subject of a discussion among lab workers from the U.S. and Europe, published in the October 2004 issue of the Laboratory Primate Newsletter, a quarterly for primate researchers published by Brown. According to the lab workers, the majority of individually housed monkeys can be seen “rocking, self-biting, bar-biting, ear-pulling, hair-pulling, eye-poking, etc.,” as a result of being housed alone. And a study of 362 individually housed research primates, published in the American Journal of Primatology in 2003, concluded that behaviors like hair-pulling, self-biting, and self-injury increase with the number of years a monkey is held in solitary captivity. Labs try to counter these behaviors with environmental enrichment. In the same 2004 issue of the Laboratory Primate Newsletter, Jo Fritz summarized her research on music as a form of enrichment for captive chimpanzees in Arizona. “What a blast and great fun animal research can be,” she began. Fritz described in perky exclamations how researchers gave the chimpanzees “a tiny plastic piano with four keys!” A 2010 USDA inspection found that researchers at Brown violated the Animal Welfare Act by failing to provide enrichment for a “young juvenile” monkey. The same report gave Brown a citation for existing enrichment devices: white PVC pipes that were stained orange from contact with the rusty metal clamps on the monkeys’ cages. The Animal Welfare Act requires group housing for monkeys, but the USDA—the agency responsible for enforcing the law—allows Brown and other research institutions to bypass this regulation. In 2012, all forty monkeys were exempt from pair housing. Brown’s annual statement of IACUC-approved exemptions said that if the monkeys were housed together they might damage the titanium rods sticking out of each other’s heads. Pair housing would also make it difficult to regulate how much water each monkey drank, the statement added. “A Human Interest Story” I asked Donoghue about his relationship with the monkeys he experiments on, but he declined to comment. He explained that such anecdotes belong in a “human interest story,” not a “press story.” When I pressed Donoghue on this, he appeared irritated: “It would be the same for mice or for rats or for monkeys,” he said. “This is a research environment.” People working with
conscious monkeys must wear “a full-face shield and goggles,” a face mask, and “kevlar gloves and arm protectors,” according to Brown’s 2014 Animal Welfare Assurance. In 2010, one of Brown’s monkeys, #H310, went without water for 72 hours. According to the USDA inspection report, an unidentified researcher was “out of town” and “forgot to make arrangements with other laboratory staff to take care of the animal in his/her absence.” #H310 experienced “no adverse effects,” the report said. Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, told me in an email that “corrective actions have been taken to mitigate the chance for future errors” since the 2010 incident. But a November 2012 letter from Clyde Briant, vice president for research, to the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) reports a similar violation. In September of that year, the letter says, a monkey did not have access to water for 48 hours, the result of a “breakdown of communication” among laboratory staff. According to the NIH award number listed in the letter, the monkey was being used in Donoghue’s research. Briant wrote that lab workers would receive “additional training” to prevent future incidents. An OLAW official replied two weeks later, simply acknowledging that OLAW had received the letter. “OLAW concurs with the actions taken by the institution” after the incident, the official wrote. I contacted twelve research assistants, graduate students, and undergraduates who have worked in primate labs at Brown, asking if they would talk about their experiences with monkey experimentation. Only three responded; of these three, only one was willing to talk to me, but he does not have direct contact with the monkeys and was unable to provide any information. “This is interesting, but risky business,” he wrote in an email. Rebecca Burwell, the chair of Brown’s IACUC, said that people who research on animals tend to keep a low profile to stay off activists’ radars. “People sometimes quit doing this work because their family is threatened,” Burwell added. While most advocates for animals use peaceful methods, some activists threaten researchers with violence. The intimidation ranges from protests outside researchers’ homes to death threats. Burwell and Donoghue both said they know researchers who have been targeted, though they themselves have not. But self-protection alone does not explain the researchers’ silence. Even the people who agreed to be interviewed for this article were hesitant to talk about Brown’s monkeys. I asked Burwell, whose research uses rodents, where the University gets its non-human primates. “I don’t want to answer the monkey questions,” she said. Oversight The USDA has little power to penalize research institutions for animal abuse. Brown didn’t receive any penalties for its violations in 2010 and other years, only orders to improve conditions by a certain date. When penalties do exist, they are minor. In 2012, the USDA held Harvard University responsible for the deaths of four monkeys, including one instance where a cage was put through a mechanical washer with a monkey still inside. The extent of the punishment was a $24,036 fine. Brown’s animal labs receive yearly, unannounced visits from USDA inspectors. The University’s facilities also undergo an inspection every three years by a private accreditation group, the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, or AAALAC. “[AAALAC] isn’t required, but we want to be an accredited institution,” Burwell said. Unlike the USDA, AAALAC alerts labs before inspections occur. AAALAC does not release its inspection reports to the public, nor can they be released under the Freedom of Information Act. Harvard, after the multiple violations in 2012, remains fully accredited by AAALAC. Unlike Brown, public universities are obligated by law to release information like primates’ medical histories and veterinary logs. But Jean Barnes, director of the Primate Freedom Project, said they are rarely eager to do so.
“Brown’s annual statement of IACUC-approved exemptions said that if the monkeys were housed together they might damage the titanium rods sticking out of each other’s heads.”
05 □ FEATURES
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
“Things got really tough in Los Angeles for a good while,” Barnes told me. “UCLA had sent me a long list, twenty pages, of primates that they had in their laboratory. Well, they just decided that they were not going to abide by the law any more. They started telling people that they didn’t have those primates in their lab.” UCLA had moved its non-human primates out of University facilities and into a nearby veteran’s hospital. “They would write back to [our requests] and say, ‘We don’t have that primate. We’ve never had that primate. We know nothing about that primate.’” Life and Death Brown kills its monkeys with an overdose of sodium pentobarbital, a drug employed in many labs, shelters, and pet hospitals to euthanize animals. Some U.S. states also administer the drug for capital punishment, though not without controversy: advocates who oppose its use on humans claim the drug can cause a slow and painful death. I could not access records of how many monkeys were killed by year. But nearly every grant application I looked at ended with these lines: “Euthanasia. The animals will be euthanized with an overdose of pentobarbital (120 mg/kg).” What varied was the number of monkeys slated to be killed: Fourteen male and female monkeys in a 2001 application; six male monkeys, ages four to ten, in a 2003 application. Three monkeys in a 2006 application. In a 2011 application, ten monkeys. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s “Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals” instruct labs to give psychological support to people whose job it is to kill the animals. The document says labs should teach “grief-coping skills” in particular. The guidelines warn that people who repeatedly have to kill animals may show their psychological distress through “[skipping work], belligerence, or careless and callous handling of animals.” Not all research primates are euthanized; some are retired to sanctuaries. But sanctuaries are crowded and don’t always have the space to take in new monkeys. “Most [sanctuaries] are operating at or close to capacity,” said Sarah Baedecker Davis, executive director of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance. “Primates are very expensive to care for,” she said, and as a result, sanctuaries often cannot take in a monkey unless the lab pays at least part of the expense. Donoghue said that Brown researchers have begun requesting funds in their grant applications to retire monkeys to sanctuaries. His most recent application in 2011 did not request such funds; it stipulated that the monkeys would be euthanized. But Dan Brooks’s application from 2010 stated that three monkeys had indeed been retired from Brown to primate sanctuaries. James Harper, the Director of Animal Care, would not say where exactly these monkeys ended up. “We do not keep records of who went where,” he wrote in an email. Donoghue told me the monkeys might have gone to sanctuaries in Texas and the Pacific Northwest, but, to the best of his knowledge, the Texas sanctuary has since closed. Sanctuaries are growing as primate research becomes increasingly unpopular, Baedecker Davis said. “Chimp research, the writing’s on the wall that that’s over…[Primate research] is starting to be less publicly supported.” As a result, labs are more likely to retire their monkeys and more willing to pay sanctuaries for their care, she said. But so far, only “several” of Brown’s monkeys have been retired, according to Harper. And retirement is not always an option. Donoghue said that sometimes researchers need to kill monkeys to examine their brain tissue after an experiment. Brooks’s 2010 grant application suggests that some Brown researchers have begun to consider the ethics of killing monkeys. While other applications merely state a drug and dosage for euthanasia, Brooks’s application briefly weighs the costs and benefits of killing. Brooks, then seeking his Ph.D., stated that “the tradeoff of using in-vivo electrode tracking versus killing additional well trained animals must be considered seriously.” In-vivo electrode tracking is a
APRIL 25 2014
method that implants hardware in the monkeys’ brains, and usually requires that they be euthanized after the experiment. According to Brooks, such techniques may become unnecessary “with the advent of advanced neuroimaging methods,” which are non-invasive. Then labs could reuse the same monkeys for many experiments, or use human subjects instead. Of course, Brooks may simply want to save money and time: it can take months to train new monkeys for experiments, and a rhesus macaque costs around $6000. He did not respond to a request for an interview. The Beginning of the End? There has already been some movement away from using primates in research. Last year NIH announced that it would retire most of its 360 chimpanzees and phase out many research projects that used them. Burwell declined to comment on this decision. Donoghue supported the move, but said that NIH should keep some chimpanzees in case of “future viral diseases” like AIDS that might require them for research. Such experiments are already illegal in the European Union, which in 2010 banned research on great apes—that includes chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas, but not macaques or other monkeys. In addition to bans on testing, there is also a movement toward granting legal rights to primates. In 2008, the Spanish parliament considered a resolution that would have given great apes the rights to life, liberty, and freedom from torture. Steven Wise, president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, expects courts to grant legal rights to some non-human animals within his lifetime. “I think that once you make the first breakthrough, judges and legislatures everywhere will start looking at it, and then the process will start to take hold,” he told me. “Things can go on for a long, long time. And then they start to crumble. And they start to crumble quickly.” Michael Rule, a graduate student in one of Brown’s primate labs, had this to say in a blog post in 2010: “The fact that science seems increasingly evil as we look back further into the past, suggests that science is always doing things that will be considered evil by future generations.” Coming to Grips In our conversation, I asked Donoghue how he justifies his work ethically. He asked me a question back: “If it’s your grandparents or your younger sister that might die because a disease was not understood, is [animal research] worthwhile?” For Donoghue, the question is not whether monkeys are intelligent or complex enough that caging and killing them is wrong, but whether human lives are worth more than non-human lives. He justifies research on non-human animals this way: “We’ve decided that in science [researching on non-human animals] is how we get the information.” He said that to give “special treatment” to monkeys because they are similar to humans is anthropocentric and “almost sounds like racism.” “Then I’m just as justified in saying that only humans matter, and no other animals matter,” he added. In place of such anthropocentrism, Donoghue says he follows an ethic of respect for all animal life. But this respect plays out in different ways for humans as compared to other animals. Donoghue takes for granted that nonhuman animals can be used and killed for invasive experiments, while humans cannot. When I asked if some non-human primates have an interest in being free, he replied, “I have no way of knowing that. It’s like asking if ants have a basic interest in being free.” Yet Donoghue acknowledged that animal research poses “an ethical dilemma.” “We should come to grips with that,” he said. “I think we have to do it individually and as a society.”
YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE the Red Bastard and bouffon clowning by Vera Carothers illustration by Pierie Korostoff
At first, we see only his wagging tongue, set in a chalk white face with red-rimmed eyes. Playing striptease with wicked glee, he coyly reveals glimpses of his grotesque body to the audience. Finally, with a revolting smile, bouffon performer Red Bastard pulls back the curtain, releasing his full, bulging sack of red flesh onto stage. Red Bastard is the most disgusting thing you will ever see. He revolves slowly on two chicken legs, aiming the absurd arches of his red buttocks at the audience for their full approval. They lose their shit. He is raunchy and hilarious, but also devilish, capable of being your worst enemy. His impish grin repels you, but you cannot look away. In a video of Red Bastard’s August 17, 2013 performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he pokes and prods the audience like schoolchildren, feigning a nurturing role to gain their trust, then laughing at their efforts at participation in the show. He plays his part as teacher in a dangerous pendulum swing from sincerity to deceit. The audience finds that they must play along or else face individual ridicule. At one point, Red Bastard demands the audience create, in quick succession, “something interesting,” “something weird,” and “something beautiful.” He responds to the audience’s suggestions by pointing at specific people and saying “No! No! No!” to uproarious laughter. From the moment he appears on stage, Red Bastard commands the audience to love him. His mockery only escalates until he confronts the audience directly for its shortcomings. Flirtatiously tossing his head, he says, “I am disappointed! As an audience, you have absolutely no presence.” He inverts the typical clown performance; instead of pleasing the audience, he demands that it please him. +++ Red Bastard is the project of Eric Davis, a performer, writer, director, and founder of the NY Clown Theatre Festival. Davis brands Red Bastard as a “dangerous, seductive comedy monster,” but offstage, the man under the red balloons is slight, humble, and even slightly reserved. Born in rural Kansas, Davis got hooked on performance early in high school, in competitions where he and partners would have seven minutes to improvise a scene. “My first taste of it is still what I am doing,” he told me. He went on to attend drama school and studied under clown luminaries Sue Morrison and Philippe Gaulier. With Morrison, his most influential teacher, Davis began his work in bouffon, a style of French physical comedy popularized by Jacques Lecoq in 1960s Paris. The practice draws from a medieval tradition of casting out the sickly or grotesque from the villages and then bringing them back once a year for a festival to entertain the beautiful people. In the director’s note for Bouffon Glass Menajoree, a bouffon version of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, directed by Davis, he says that the outcasts would come back with a vengeance to “take a piss out of those people who threw them out.” These anti-clowns learned to mock, taunt, and harass their audience, “eternally smiling with hateful eyes” while wildly entertaining them. Like Red Bastard, they make the audience the joke. Red Bastard was born in a workshop with Morrison. One day, he says, Morrison “proposed that we created bodies that were even more fun to move in than our own. I brought in all these things,” Davis told me. “I made this body, because my
body is very skinny, kind of angular, so it was fun for me to kinda make a voluptuous, round body.” Red Bastard is obscenely bloated, with undulating bulges in front and back. I do not dare ask what is jiggling inside the suit. +++ Under Morrison’s guidance, Davis developed a show that explores personal risk and self-discovery, for him and for the audience members. In this sense, Davis deviates from traditional bouffon ensemble work, which focuses on parody and game play, rather than on direct connection with the audience. His website advertises his show as a “no-holdsbarred theatrical master class—demanding to know nothing less then the existential query, ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’” +++ In the second half of the show, Red Bastard’s performative gymnastics kick up a notch. In one segment, he solicits the audience to shout out their dreams. As he pushes the audience’s psychological buttons, asking “How can you realize your dreams if you can’t articulate what they are?” he bullies and eggs on the audience into self-discovery. Like a perverse red Rorschach inkblot, Red Bastard is an open template for each audience member’s psychological condition. “When people are interacting with this monster of sorts,” Davis told me, “it allows people to act differently than they would with someone they meet on the street.” Davis is confident that he can create a safe space to explore our limits and fears through a real connection between the performer and the audience. “It is about finding a person’s line, and inviting them to step and see that the line is farther than they thought it was,” he told me. “And if it’s not, I am never pushing people over.” That line depends on the person. Some audience members, he says, are willing to stretch to physical extremes. “At one point, there was this 80-year-old guy, and I had my hands around his testicles. Then there was a lady who was pregnant who invited me to take off her underwear and bra and to go under her dress,” Davis told me. “So that was possible because those people were ‘okay’ with that.” Others find it difficult to answer questions in front of a group of people. Despite Davis’s rational serenity, it’s easy to imagine the Red Bastard as a gleeful ferryman goading the audience toward Hades. The journey to the end can have radical effects on audience members. He has had people decide to divorce at his show, or call up a sibling they have not spoken to in eight years, or quit their jobs. When that happens, he says, “it is like a cherry on top. It is beautiful.” But in general, his aims are slightly humbler. He hopes that people come away invested in “who they are and the things they are struggling with…about their hopes, their desires, and the difficulties of living with that.” This intention stems from a teaching of Morrison’s that he has taken to heart. “Your job as a clown is to present yourself, take the audience into your world, and form them and bring them back with a new awareness,” Davis told me. “I think I do a show where I know all those things are happening, for some people at least.” VERA CAROTHERS B’14 trains with clown luminaries.
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
Springtime a guided meditation
Take a deep breath in, preferably through your nose. If your nose is congested, take a deep breath through your mouth. If your throat hurts, just try to sort of sit with the air. Feel your pores, etc. Close your eyes. Yes, they might be itchy. No, you’re not allowed to scratch. Feel your weight against the earth. Feel your breath blossom throughout your body. No, stop, you’re not allowed to scratch, seriously. Notice the water gathering at the edges of your eyes. The oceans, too, are made of saltwater. Do you need to, like, sit on your hands, or something?
APRIL 25 2014
Paul Di Filippo’s PROVIDE emails from the future!
by Rick Salamé illustration by Layla Ehsan
In January I emailed Paul Di Filippo, a Providence science fiction writer, asking if he’d help us write a story. Paul has written tons of novels and short stories and has been a finalist for honors like the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, Wired magazine, and BSFA awards. We started a correspondence that lasted through the late winter. I served up summaries of some present-day news and Paul wrote back excerpts from the transcript of a fictional news show from the year 2034. I’ve met him only once, but you shouldn’t really meet your pen pals too often. I get the impression he’s a nice guy. Future Providence is a curious place: technology borrowed from São Vicente has made the world less traumatic, less difficult. The city seems cleaner, sleeker, and more efficient. No doubt this is in part because we see so few people roaming around it. Many of our self-inflicted problems have been solved by high-tech ingenuity, and adaptation to a changing world is normalized. In what follows, Lidia Carvalho, our (fictional) Brazilian reporter, fawns over the apparent success of the Providence–São Vicente information exchange. Her story is picaresque, accuracy TBD. —RS
The Indy is proud to present the transcript of an episode of Brazil’s Globo Repórter news show first uploaded to the common pool internets on August 12, 2034. We have interpolated links at various points in the transcript, which we hope will help the reader understand the origins of many of the topics and developments discussed by the journalist Lidia Carvalho. CROWDSOURCE-TRANSLATED TRANSCRIPT OF “Providence and São Vicente: Into the Future Together” The Indy Link: December 25, 2013. The city government chooses Alta Bike Share, an Oregonbased company, to operate a bicycle share program linking college campuses with downtown and Federal Hill. —Providence Journal Bom dia, viewers! My name is Lidia Carvalho, international correspondent for Globo Repórter, and I am standing on the lawn of the State House in Providence, Rhode Island, in the United States of America. 2034 marks the tenth anniversary of the twinning of Providence with Brazil’s own São Vicente in a sister-city relationship. Today we’re going to take an all-too-brief tour of the American city to see exactly what innovations Providence has derived from São Vicente, and what it can offer in return. We’ll be traveling about the city by e-bike, a hybrid electric and muscle power vehicle. You can see here that the racks and racks of communally-shared e-bici around the capitol building, resting on their lovely SuperTurf lawn—an organic product developed by São Paulo’s own FAPESP group—have supplanted what was once ugly blacktop filled with polluting vehicles. Just let me use my phone to register and unlock one of these streamlined and lightweight bikes. There! I’ll certainly appreciate having the motor assist, since Providence is built on seven hills, just like ancient Rome! As we set off down this lane of PaveGen tiles, we’re actually generating electricity through the forces exerted by our tires. That will help us later as we want to recharge at the many e-bici stations around the city. Let’s go!
The Indy Link: November 2, 2013. Brown University’s administration plans to further expand into Providence’s Jewelry District. Expansion, online education, and new partnerships with other area colleges, local government, and nonprofit and for-profit institutions portend a geographic decentralization of the institution. —Providence Journal As you can see, having coasted down Smith Hill, I’m pedaling now through a vibrant scene. Once a wasteland of asphalt dedicated to exhaust-spewing busses, it’s Providence’s Greater Kennedy Plaza, a lush “village green” dedicated to cafés, live performances, food trucks, and a variety of urban sports. Leaving “Downcity” behind. We transition easily through the newest part of the city, a thriving neighborhood built on the real estate footprint once occupied by an interstate highway. I wish you could enjoy all the great restaurant smells! Doughboys—which are a rough counterpart to our malasadas—calamari, and kettlecorn! Our ultimate destination is not far off: the bayside campus of Bechtel-Odebrecht Institute of Geoengineering. My viewers back home will note the São Paulo roots in the latter half of that name. Higher education here in Providence, both theoretical and technical, is no longer concentrated in the old core districts and campuses. Learning has become a communal activity across many platforms, happening not just in classrooms but at hundreds of venues around the city. Private schools, businesses, NGOs, charities, and public schools engage together to train and enlighten citizens of all ages.
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
ENCE 2034 The Indy Link: February 10, 2014. Members of the General Assembly, executive agency heads, and municipal officials gather in Providence to discuss state policy towards the Narragansett Bay. Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save The Bay, asks those gathered to make water quality a government priority—but elected officials have an economy to worry about. — SaveBay.org Phew, that was some ride! After I rack my bike, we’ll go inside the Robert Ballard Building, where I’ll be fitted for a wetsuit and a Hollis Explorer Rebreather. We’re going to descend under the pristine waters of Narragansett Bay, where we’ll check in with students learning about the care and maintenance of undersea settlements. I understand we’ll meet one or two grad students who have committed to artificial gill implants… Thank Yemaja the Ballard building has showers and a sauna! Being underwater for hours, even in a heated Thermalution wetsuit, is no picnic. These students work hard, but they seem to love being on the cutting edge of mariculture. I certainly enjoyed learning how to telefactor those robots used out at sea to mine for manganese nodules. But the next part of our Providence experience, even though it takes place on the water, is pure luxury. You’ll note that we’re striding up the gangplank to board the M.V. Buddy Cianci, whose sleek lines, superhydrophobic hull coating, and Wärtsilä natural-gas engines make the vessel totally green. It’s Rhode Island’s state-sponsored casino ship, whose sizable profits are dedicated entirely to the benefit of the Bay. With stops in Warren, Bristol, Fall River, and Newport, the ship hosts a constantly rotating set of clients, who come for the gambling and entertainment. Tonight we’re going to enjoy the music of the Talking Kids, a group consisting of the children of the original Talking Heads, a famous Rhode Island-born band from the golden age of the 1980s. Malu Byrne, Robin and Egan Frantz, and the Harrison kids, Griffin, Aishlim and Dylan, have agreed to sit down to an exclusive pre-show interview. But right now I need to hoist a few caipirinhas!
The Indy Link: March 14, 2014. Massachusetts’s decision to award a slot parlor license to Plainridge Racecourse, only 20 miles from RI’s Twin River Casino, means that many Massachusetts gamblers will soon no longer make the drive to Lincoln. The state expects to lose $422 million in revenue between 2015 and 2019 due to MA casino expansion. —Boston Globe Bom dia, viewers! It’s a bright, fresh morning here in Providence, and I am happy to report that your faithful correspondent, Lidia Carvalho, is showing no aftereffects of some strenuous cruise-ship partying, thanks to the product of one of our Brazilian sponsors, Bio-Manguinhos, the makers of Alkanull, the only hangover antagonist with over fifty percent DHM extract from the purest crops of Hovenia Dulcis. And mention of that economically-important herb ties in nicely with today’s mission. We’re biking now to the site of the South Side Community Land Trust Biosphere. The SSCLT was founded in 1981, and celebrated its fiftieth anniversary just a couple of years ago. They’ve expanded in that time to rehab nearly one square mile of city land, which now is totally enclosed by a fourth-generation eco-structure derived from Amazon’s famous Seattle headquarters…. Let’s enter through the protective lock now. We’ll undergo a mild and swift decontamination process to make sure we aren’t bringing in any of the invasive pests that have plagued the region since climate change and global trade encouraged them. Ah, I wish you could smell that beautiful fragrance of living green things! Here scores of families grow produce for their own kitchen, small-scale commercial outfits raise food for local restaurants, and several test plots managed by the University of Rhode Island run trials on GMO vegetables that will withstand the changing climate conditions around the planet and help feed hungry millions. I don’t know about you, but I could use a snack. Let’s visit the Laotian temple located at the heart of the garden, where I believe the monks are getting a special version of their famous nime chow ready for us!
The Indy Link: March 23, 2014. Following the surprise launch of a federal investigation into RI House Speaker Gordon Fox, political maneuvering at the state house has reached a high pitch over the question of choosing a new speaker. The favorite to win, House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello, is a conservative Democrat, like Fox and Murphy before him. Says progressive journalist Bob Plain, “it’s high time Rhode Islanders demand a change to the leadership team in the House of Representatives.” —RI Future Our all-too-brief time here in Providence, Rhode Island—sister city to our own São Vicente— now concludes where we began: at the State Capitol building, where we rack our bike and prepare to catch one of the fast and frequent intermodal trains to T. F. Green airport, which sees thousands of international travelers pass through its gates each day. But before we leave we’ll venture inside the Statehouse, where legislators are currently in session. One thing we’ll notice is the important role of legislators of Asian descent. Asian-Americans now account for nearly fifteen percent of the state’s population—up from a mere four percent two decades ago—and have also assumed a commensurately important role in the political structure. Rhode Island has recently made a “year of serving” requisite for all state representatives and senators. Based on the Theravadan Buddhist tradition of youngsters living a monastic life for a short period before returning to worldly affairs, this practice requires legislators to devote a year of community service to the state before assuming their seat in the legislature. At first reluctant, politicians now praise the experience as putting them in better touch with their constituencies at all economic levels. Let’s pass through security now… Oh, this is too good to be true! Visiting the Asian community here in Rhode Island is Thailand’s champion game of go player Krit Taechaamnuayvit, and he’s taking on the artificial intelligence Crazy Stone VI in a public game. I understand there’s free snacks too. Ka Noom Huer Lo—that’s Fried Sesame Balls to the uninitiated—and Thai Boba Tea. It should be muito louco!
april 25 2014
SPINNING OFF, political satire in the Middle East
Comedian Bassem Youssef has often been called “Egypt’s Jon Stewart.” Youssef ’s El Bernameg (literally, “The Show”), broadcast online and on Egyptian station MBC Masr, “is a copy of the Jon Stewart Daily Show,” Dan Rather noted in an interview with Stewart. “You know that [Youssef ] considers you his role model?” “Yeah, yeah. That’s all pishposh,” Stewart replied, blushing. In April of last year, Youssef made his second appearance on Stewart’s Daily Show. Two hulking bodyguards disdainfully bent Stewart over his own news desk and patted him down before the interview. Youssef then appeared in black Ray-Bans, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, to thunderous applause from an audience reveling in Stewart’s discomfort. Youssef had won the crowd and, with it, Stewart’s control over the remainder of the show. Youssef is far slicker than Stewart will ever be. His suits are better, his ties bolder. The production on El Bernameg is shinier. Of the two, Youssef is the more riveting showman. For their news commentary, both Stewart and Youssef have been named to the Time 100 list. “The only difference between him and me,” Stewart wrote of Youssef in the magazine, “is that he performs his satire in a country still testing the limits of its hard-earned freedom, where those who speak out against the powerful still have much to fear.” Humor has always been a powerful mode of political criticism. Satirists are oftentimes uniquely able to peel away the fake stories and the lies and the rhetoric, wielding jokes like scalpels to cut the powerful down to size, Youssef noted on his most recent Daily Show appearance. Indeed, Americans trust The Daily Show more than they do many mainstream news programs. A 2007 poll by the Pew Center placed Stewart as the fourth most-admired journalist in the country, tied with “real news” anchors Tom Brokaw, Anderson Cooper, and Dan Rather. In the past decade and a half, the Internet and the airwaves have seen the explosion of political satire that plays on the boundary between real and fake news to critique power brokers in the government and media alike. The
Daily Show has inspired copycats the world over and, just like Stewart, they’re taking aim at the repressive, absurd, and opaque—with great success. +++ In 2008 Kambiz Hosseini, an Iranian expat living in Washington, DC, decided to found a satirical news program based on The Daily Show. His satire targets the Islamic Republic and its repressive political culture. Four years later Hosseini, the co-founder of Parazit (“Static,” a reference to Islamic Republic jamming), was sitting across from Stewart laughing about Ahmadinejad in front of a live studio audience. (In many ways, an invitation from Stewart to appear on The Daily Show has amounted to a quasi-official sanction from the archetype of his copycats’ activities.) Parazit, broadcast online and over the Voice of America satellite network, had a considerable following both in Iran and among Iranian expatriates living abroad during its 2009–12 run. The Daily Show is particularly well-suited for imitation. Hosseini and Youssef, like Stewart, use digitally manipulated graphics and tongue-in-cheek segment names to carefully critique mainstream media. Hosseini’s latest episode played on an Iranian children’s television show to make a point about the infantile nature of the Iranian blame game over the country’s struggling economy—a segment that ended with Hosseini dancing around the studio, singing a song from the show: “What happened? What happened?” There are other imitators, too: CHiNN in Lebanon, Bri Holt of Newsish (briefly), and, of course, Stewart’s protégé Stephen Colbert. Yet, for all the spin-offs’ similarities to The Daily Show, Hosseini and Youssef operate in environments completely different from Stewart’s. The dangers they face for critiquing those in power are serious: imprisonment, torture, or action against their families, and the systems they’re combating are much more intrusive, centralized, and vindictive than
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
TUNING IN by Katherine Long illustration by Casey Friedman
their American counterparts. Every episode of Parazit’s successor show, Poletik, opens with a long shot of Hosseini’s empty chair behind his anchor’s desk, overlaid with a series of ultimatums that change by the week: Poletik says ‘no’ to artistic repression at the hands of the government; ‘no’ to official and unofficial promotion of violence, whether by government or antigovernment forces; ‘no’ to an unemployment rate for women twice that of men… +++ Hosseini, lifting from Colbert, addresses his viewers as mellat, “nation.” This is a powerful gesture, especially for Iranians illegally streaming the show. Even as those viewers risk arrest, Hosseini offers them identification with a group of like-minded thinkers, critical of the Islamic Republic, of Iranian media and of Western foreign policy. He drove the point home in the opening episode of Poletik, when a list of all the viewpoints welcome in the mellat-e Poletik (“backers of the revolution… constitution writers, constitution demanders… expats, nationals, partisans to the left and the right and the green, purple, brown; Basij, the Green Movement, dictators, American democrats…”) devolved into a gruff rendition of Iran’s national anthem. Poletik calls itself the show for “the generation of Hassan [Rouhani] and post-Hassan,” the generation jaded by the Islamic Republic’s oppressive control of media. Hosseini’s explicit attempts to build a community of skeptics have deeply worried the authoritarian state. The Islamic Republic has become so tired of rooting out Iranian citizens illegally streaming Hosseini’s shows that the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance produced its own Jon Stewart spin-off, called (imaginatively) Anti-Parazit. Youssef, who previously worked as a cardiac surgeon, was the Middle East’s first YouTube sensation. He made the jump to television after the success of his weekly webcast The B+ Show, which criticized the mainstream media’s reporting on the Tahrir Square protests. Even after Egyptian channel ONTV (and, later, CBC and MBC) Masr picked up El Bernameg, its viewership on YouTube remains roughly three times that of the satellite broadcast: the second season of El Bernameg garnered over 120 million YouTube views while the satellite broadcast reached an audience of 40 million. Hosseini’s Parazit was disseminated to Iran via satellite by Voice of America, a government-owned broadcaster with the mission of promoting US interests and values abroad, but its main viewership—and that of its successor show, Poletik, which is also funded by the American government—has always been on YouTube. (Each episode of Poletik earns about 50,000 views.) In an environment as toxic to opposition reporting as the Middle East, there’s really no other choice than to broadcast on the Internet—especially for programs as virulently anti-establishment as El Bernameg and Poletik. During a November 2012 episode of El Bernameg, Youssef blasted his parent network, CBC, for its pro-Morsi news coverage. In response, CBC took Youssef off the air. In the past, Youssef has been taken into custody for “circulating false news likely to disturb public peace and public security and affect the administration,” according to the Associated Press. While he currently has a contract with MBC Masr, his show was again cancelled just this week. Hosseini, on the other hand, can never return to Iran: His critique of the Islamic Republic has made him too many enemies in high places. +++ When it comes to reporting on the Middle East, even The Daily Show is often at a loss. Stewart often fails to break out of the discourse traps that plague Western journalism on the region because of the lack of reliable, up-to-the-minute, fact-checkable sources for alternative news from the Middle East—especially in English. More often than not, he falls victim to the same pitfalls of mainstream journalism that reinforce stereotypes about the region, despite his admirable work deconstructing media myths on America. Stewart has never hosted a cultural leader from the Middle East on his show, with the possible exceptions of Youssef and Hosseini. Rather, the guests he hosts on the Middle East talk about geopolitics, the nuclear threat, revolutions and coups. So does Stewart. In February 2014, for example, he named Iran—monolithically presented, as a union of gov-
APRIL 25 2015
ernment and population—a “real evil.” To be sure, the narratives Stewart presents challenge the stories of Middle Eastern regimes and often clarify what Americans hear on the radio or read in the New York Times. Yet Stewart remains resolutely focused on the politics of the Middle East, the absolute evil of its regimes, and the noble but ill-defined resistance of its revolutionaries—in a word, on the region’s clichés. The homegrown Egyptian and Iranian spin-offs are subversive not only because they challenge the political and media cultures of their target countries, but also because their reportage challenges the conceptions of the Middle East found in mainstream American media and echoed by fake-news icons like Stewart. Americans, for instance, typically saw Egyptian protestors as either radical Islamists (who are those Muslim Brotherhood guys, anyways?) or college-aged protest tourists (get a job, already, am I right?). Meanwhile, the Mubarak regime continued to assert that the protests were fomented by “foreign agents.” Youssef disputes those characterizations. In one segment of El Bernemeg from November 2011, Youssef attempted, satirically, to “prove” that anti-government protestors were being paid off as the Mubarak government had alleged. Youssef walks around the square, interviewing men and women volunteering in emergency clinics, delivering food and medical supplies, and just plain hanging out. Over and over Youssef asks, deadpan, “So who’s paying you?” The people play along with the joke. One woman responds without flinching, “America, of course. The Mossad…Iran…want more?” “And that’s all you’re getting out of them?” Youssef asks, pointing at her medical supplies. “You’re not doing too well.” A group of Muslim Brothers all swear they’ve been paid two cigarettes each to come out and protest. A clinic volunteer claims blithely that as soon as she “saw the thugs [government parlance for protestors], I had to come down and help!” The segment’s obvious humor makes it difficult to prove that Youssef was criticizing the regime, but the ring of truth under the sarcasm is nevertheless a potent critique. Youssef ’s footage captures an element missing from most American media reports on Egyptian unrest: the day-to-day experiences of the people protesting, their thoughts, and the fact that these people, against all odds, have a deep-seated sense of humor. Youssef humanizes cycles of coups and counter-coups, revolutions and counter-revolutions—or whatever we’re calling them. Hosseini achieves the same result. The majority of the guests he invites to Poletik are Iranian cultural leaders: Mohsen Namjoo, Golshifteh Farahani, Shirin Neshat. This is partially a function of the fact that it’s impossible for him to access Iranian politicians and relatively easy to dredge up exilic Iranian artists disaffected with the current regime. But it also serves as a potent reminder, especially for those sick of a steady diet of Geneva and sanctions: Iran is more than the nuclear issue. +++ For Western audiences, Poletik and El Bernameg have one major pitfall: they’re not in English. An uncoordinated grassroots effort among Arabic-English speakers has produced passable subtitles for a handful of episodes of El Bernameg; Poletik has not yet been translated. Their insight, therefore, is largely confined to the shows’ primary audiences. Bilingual speakers and language students could help bring these important shows into the Western journalistic sphere. As it stands, the shows challenge modes of command and control in their own countries. But were the shows able to reach a wider audience, they could be serious challengers to norms of thought on the Middle East in the West. Hosseini and Youssef are humorists—not held to the same standard of ethics as “real” journalists—a fact that can be empowering in the face of repression. Last April, Youssef and Stewart spoke about the Egyptian government’s crackdown on journalists. Youssef mused about whether he was in danger. If he was sent to prison, he reflected, “It’s like— ‘You can’t take a joke? Seriously? You’re such a sore loser?’” Going after comedians, he surmised, is “a projection of weakness,” the government admitting it was “insecure—it’s like they’re stuck in their teenage years, still having to deal with all that body hair.” Selfdelusion, maybe—but with a grain of truth. KATHERINE LONG B’15.5 says ‘no’ to sore losers.
ON THE MARKET the other side of free agency by Jake Coonin illustration by Cecilia Bérriz
In September 1992, eight football players filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the National Football League. They publicly called into question the power that franchises had at that time to prohibit players from leaving their employers to seek opportunities with other teams. Their landmark victory gave rise to the first true unrestricted free agents in League history. After the Denver Broncos’ loss in Super Bowl XLVIII, General Manager John Elway responded to questions about the future success of his team by aggressively pursuing players during the free agency period, the time span when selected players are free to change teams and franchises can strengthen their rosters. “I view free agency like dating. If you didn’t want me to scoop them up, then you should have treated them better,” said Elway at an offseason press conference. Elway’s aggressive 2014 free agency strategy, one in which he handed out over $120 million in future contracts, aimed to quell fear that his team had peaked without championship. Elway’s unusual metaphor highlights some of the fundamental issues with how NFL executives, media members, and fans view free agency. Most from these groups defer to the owner’s business acumen and cast players as pawns in a much larger system. Free agents themselves often describe their fates in a similar vein. “I hope to be back with the Broncos, but it’s out of my hands now,” said Eric Decker, newly signed Jets wide receiver. “The NFL is a business and I have to do what’s best for my family,” he noted in response to local media, repeating the language echoed by hundreds of previous free agents. NFL teams are lauded as brilliant and forward-thinking when they are able to cut players at the optimal times, squeezing as much cost-effective performance out of them as possible. Take, for example, the case of Laurent Robinson. After signing a multi-year free agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012, he was released after just a single season with the team. The four concussions Robinson suffered during his tenure raised doubts about his playing future. Fan comments on Jacksonville.com articles announcing his release were seething: “So Laurent ‘I should be playing flag football’ Robinson made 13.5 million dollars or should I say $562,500.00 a catch last year.” “Easy decision (to release him),” wrote another. Comments targeted the injured player instead of the businessman who chose to give him his expensive contract. When players try to maximize their net-worth and choose more money over staying with their previous team at a discount, they are often criticized as if they owe the organization and fan base something. +++
NFL teams typically recruit players from the yearly draft of collegiate athletes and from the pool made newly available during the free agency period. Out of these two sources of recruits, free agency entails far more financial activity. The 2014 free agency period began on March 11, and the NFL’s 32 teams combined to hand out just under a billion dollars in contracts in its first four days. Free agency reflects the purest form of the free market the NFL has to offer. It implies mobility. Players who reach free agency will typically accept the most lucrative contract offered to them, while also prioritizing teams with likely playoff candidacy. But if free agency seems to reflect a free market, the NFL as a whole doesn’t. Teams must compete for players while staying under a rigid salary limit, a hard salary cap, which limits the cumulative salary a team pays its players. The hard salary cap distinguishes the NFL from other major US sports leagues, like professional basketball and baseball: wealthy NBA teams, like the Brooklyn Nets, can exceed the Association’s soft salary cap by claiming dozens of exceptions, and the wealthiest teams in the MLB, like the LA Dodgers, are not constrained by salary caps at all. The NFL settled on a $133 million salary cap for the 2014 season, and in all but a few cases, no team can exceed this number. Rookies are not eligible for free agency until their fourth year in the League. By that point in a player’s career, team management typically has enough game film and data on performance to confidently assess a player’s value. Less speculation means less risk. But this predictability frequently comes with the cost of massive financial commitment. The free agency market allows each team to use its available funds to bid for players, determining an athlete’s monetary worth in the process. +++ After Darrelle Revis signed early in this year’s free agency period with the New England Patriots, rivals of his longest-tenured team, the New York Jets, Jets fans took to the Internet to berate him. Comments on ESPN articles detailing the terms of his new contract called Revis a “waste of 12 mil.” “You obviously don’t know Revis in a contract year,” read another. Some fans tweeted images of Revis’ old Jets jersey ablaze. Yet Revis was making a calculated decision in the same vein as Jacksonville’s decision to cut Robinson. Revis acted in the best interest of his earning capability, intending to rehab his value on a talented team, compete for a championship, and be a free agent again in a year. Wide receiver Danny Amendola signed with the Patriots as a free agent just a year ago. Despite struggling with injuries
throughout his early career, the Patriots considered him worthy of a fruitful five-year contract. Amendola’s first season with the Patriots did not go smoothly. The receiver suffered a groin injury early in the season, which forced him to miss several weeks and affected his speed when he eventually returned to the field. Amendola was signed to fill the shoes of Wes Welker, the former Patriots star, and his struggles made him the scapegoat of their low-scoring receiving corps. Amendola, famous for his work ethic—who quickly gained the respect of his new quarterback, Tom Brady—was showered with criticism about his reliability and dedication to the team. FOXsports.com posed the question after last season, “Is he the biggest free agent bust since [lucrative 1995 free agent] Alvin Harper?” “There’s always room for improvement,” Amendola said to New England Sports Network’s Doug Kyed. “You can always learn something whether you lose or you win. Just trying to get better everyday.” Faced with high expectations, Amendola was set up for failure in the critical eye of the media. Assimilation into a new environment takes time for anyone, but in his case, Amendola had Patriot supporters calling for his trade after just a year. There seems to be little that can prevent vehement criticism for players. Even the most basic of all leveraging tools, the withholding of labor, generates outrage from followers of the league. Ex-Jaguars running back, Maurice Jones-Drew, knows this all too well. Deserving of a new contract because his play exceeded his pay, Jones-Drew held out in 2012, refusing to participate in nearly the entire offseason program. “As an NFL fan I have no sympathy for selfish players like Maurice Jones-Drew… It is actually Jones-Drew that showed a lack of appreciation with his holdout,” wrote Andrew Sweat of Yahoo! Sports. Jones-Drew responded firmly. “I don't feel that way 'cause what I did was right,” he said to reporters at his first practice back. “No one can tell me it was wrong. Not one person here can tell me what I did was wrong.” Teams try to get the most out of their players. So why do we blame players for trying to get the most out of their teams? JAKE COONIN B’17 is eligible for NFL free agency in 2020.
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
F I LT H Y, S C U M RICH
by Julieta Cárdenas
Restraint in its etymology sounds active and violent: Restreindre, to press, push together, bandage; restringere, draw back tightly. Restraint today sounds sedentary. Sitting down to write calmly, with clarity of mind, for intelligibility to be drawn from syntax. Restraint, when one does it to oneself, coheres as a willed action free of conscious volition. Restraint is done without thinking. But you know, can it be done without feeling? (The rhetorical aim of ending a paragraph on restraint with a sentence that in its gentle colloquial first clause seems particularly inviting aims to introduce you to the text to follow, a sentence like this does not hope to make you care to feel just yet. It sounds sedentary as if it is being written on a chair and not while pushing, or pulling, drawing back tightly or bandaging.) In rhetoric, restraint can be used as a guide to convince the unconvinced. More flies with honey than vinegar. Aspasia, from Miletus, was the fifth century teacher of rhetoric. As a pre-Socratic talker she built her home as a place for intellectuals. Plato in Menexenus has Socrates repeat an oration Aspasia taught him for praising men who had died in battle. Aspasia knew how to build the kind of honeycomb language that led Socrates to say, “every time I listen, fascinated, I am exalted and imagine myself to have become all at once taller and nobler and more handsome.” If you laugh at him as I have done, then we have added vinegar to the honey in his mouth. (Restrain it, there against the pink skin of your inner-mouth.) A 1967 copyrighted manifesto typed by Valerie Solanas, entitled the SCUM MANIFESTO will not lullaby sing you to sleep. It will wake you brusquely with a yell. The document contains headings underlined in pen. Among them are, “NICENESS, POLITENESS AND ‘DIGNITY; MONEY, MARRIAGE AND PROSTITUTION, WORK AND THE PREVENTION OF AN AUTOMATED SOCIETY.” SCUM MANIFESTO, is not an acronym as the future publishers insisted. Solanas maintained SCUM is its own word standing on and not for other words; Society for Cutting Up Men. SCUM is indeed a Manifesto in direct meaning; it is a public decleration of aims providing reasons for removing men from power thorugh political sabotage, a destruction of the money-system and murder. Solanas self-published the manifesto, with typos, without regard to writing elegantly. Writing this way––with expletives, and grammar and spelling mistakes––on subjects that are political and economic is unusual, infrequent and rare. +++
The Modern Language Association’s Commission on the Status of Women in the Profession held a forum on “The Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century” in December 1971. Adrienne Rich, feminist poetess was a speaker. In her talk “When We Dead Awaken” she makes the case that writing must move beyond the voice of restraint of past female authors. Virginia Woolf, Rich says,
APRIL 25 2014
was writing for women knowing that she was going to be overheard by men. Rich went back to the older women poets, among them Sappho and found that she was “looking in them for the same things I had found in the poetry of men, because I wanted women poets to be the equals of men and to be equal was still confused with sounding the same.” I will use her adverb, “still” and echo only once that the value of a piece of writing is still today measured by a stabilized tone. This baseline of self-binding is well suited to carrying forth methodologies wherein facts should speak for themselves. Rich was careful in addressing her audience, (as one should be if you want them to listen) calling them special (as one should be if you want them to listen), and reminding them that in order for thoughts to be published one must be given a platform from which to deliver. “We have known that men would tolerate, even romanticize us as special, as long as our words and actions didn’t threaten their privilege of tolerating or rejecting us and our work according to their ideas of what a special woman ought to be.” Valerie Solanas calls educated, middle class women, Daddy’s girls. Daddy’s girls have been told they are special and have been provided with an education that will make them well-suited to enter into professions. SCUM says, “All non-creative jobs…could’ve been automated away long ago…But there are non-human, male reasons for maintaining the money-work system.” +++ Julie A. Nelson, author of Feminism, Objectivity and Economics––the first single-authored book on gender-bias in contemporary economics–– and Professor of Economics and Department Chair, University of Massachusetts wrote this past November in a post for openDemocracy, that the narrow way of thinking used in academic economics has resulted in “neoliberal thinkers treat[ing]the ideal of the competitive market as the summum bonum (or supreme good)….they argue that the “invisible hand” of the free market causes individual selfishness to serve the social good.” Resigning to the machine is self-denial of the moral agency. Allowing the precedent of restraint in writing to continue is a resignation of the agency of voice. I can get away with most things, if I go about it the right way. Which means give them what they want so I can get what I want. Trade is a compromise. I heard this question posed once, “How long will it take to change $1,000 USD to nil through a series of currency exchanges?” It might take some time, but it is indeed possible. Section two of SCUM states that one male non-human reason for keeping the money system is to provide the male with the illusion of
usefulness. And women if educated and special may get a good-job “co-managing the shitpile”(I am crossing out the quotes because I want to use these words too). The section ends with this: “What will liberate women, therefore, from male control is the total elimination of the moneywork system, not the attainment of economic equality with men within it.” But you know, can the elimination of the money-work system happen without feeling? +++ When the question was posed on how quickly money could disappear I was sedentary taking notes during an architectural conference at MIT. I played an experiment during the reception. When I twirled my hair and finished sentences with “What do you think?” I got a business card and eye-contact. When I told them what I thought without conditioning my statements I got a pat on the back and the conversation moved towards whatever the fuck else was around; art, culture. (If he’s an “enlightened father, [he will] “give guidance.”)After I heard the talk on Solanas I went to dinner with a professor who two years ago told me “Brown is not the place for you. Maybe you should think about art school,” but not in a nice way. During dinner, I asked if anyone thought it strange that we were going to dinner after hearing about Solanas’ poverty, her homelessness and the idea that we should destroy capitalism. Apparently not. Apparently the University was paying for dinner so I should just eat my “not real food” salad. “I am going to eat like a real adult,” said the Professor. I narrate this pretty calmly, sitting down as it were. Solanas is perhaps best known for shooting Andy Warhol. (placing this sentence next to the one before is at a tonal disjunct and makes the article sound kind of creepy) Once I played a game of cards at an art fair and won 7 Warhol prints of dollar bills. I put them in a book. I think I know where they are. I don’t know if I am allowed to say this. In jail she fought against her new publisher at Olympia Press, Maurice Girodias, and the edits that his daddy’s girl secretary had made on her spelling mistakes. When she was released from the New York State Prison for Women in 1971 she headed to the NYPL where she found a copy of her manifesto and with a firm grip made deep annotations that ripped the pages of the book. Each bit of marginalia, she signed. If her work is edited and ignored, all the better for me. Only the chosen can handle vinegar. Sometimes I need to be soothed with curses and chastisement, and SCUM does this for me well: “Females crave absorbing, emotionally satisfying, meaningful activity, but lacking the opportunity or ability for this, they prefer to idle and waste away their time in ways of their own choosing––sleeping, shopping…popping pills, getting analyzed, traveling, raising dogs… ’improving their minds’, ‘absorbing culture’.” JULIETA CÁRDENAS’14 cuts diamonds with her teeth.
Young and Younger the creative practices of tech’s next generation by Patrick McMenamin illustration by Maya Sorabjee In his newest film, A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought Alone, Mike Mills interviews the eight- to twelve-year-old kids of Silicon Valley employees. Some of the children give endearing visions of extreme connectivity and robot friendships. Others identify some of the more troubling implications of technology for the world they will inhabit as adults: Amy, age 10, believes that because humans “won’t have access to as much nature” in the future, they will not be as smart as they are now. Kyle, age 11, thinks that the poor will “[be] out of it,” without access to “all the high tech stuff.” Courtney, age 11, has this to say about growing up: “When [people] get older, their creativity just flows away. You just see the little spark in them just sometimes goes away, gets washed out by a flood,” and later describes how adults become so focused on “getting money” that they forget family and what’s “actually really important in their lives.” There’s something incredibly endearing in the way kids simplify the complex and compromised concerns of adults. Yet, at the same time, these kids seem incredibly perceptive about the issues—of environment and class especially—that follow from technology’s current orientation. This prescience seems at odds with their age and, even more so, with how most identify a piece of technology as the most valuable item in their lives. It would be easy to identify this prescience as a simplification of ideas handed down by typically liberal and educated parents. Yet to do so could be a mistake, for this prescience fundamentally opposes their parents’ concerns. It’s as if youth’s hold on creativity comes with a different set of values, as if adults’ emphasis on money over what’s “actually really important” is less an achievement than a loss of an initially intuitive critical awareness. Youth’s creative simplification provides alternate ways of seeing the world and illuminating problems. This is nothing new: The idea of a youth movement seems as old as social change itself, and young creatives are often seen as leading the charge. But Courtney’s observations are especially interesting because they emerge from a culture so emphatically obsessed with change—from Silicon Valley. Despite this origin, Courtney’s idea of creativity becomes a means to maintain older, humanist values—family, the environment, helping the poor—rather than to invent new ones. +++ Most of the kids featured in A Mind Forever Voyaging describe themselves as creative. But when they speak of how technology will change the future, they don’t consider their own capacity to influence it. One of the kids, discussing technology’s detrimental effect on human connection with nature, says, “I don’t like that idea, but I guess sometimes you have to accept what the future’s going to be like.” When asked if she thinks computers could develop souls, the same girl who lamented the loss of creativity and family values in adults worries about computers establishing tyranny over humans. In order to combat this dystopian future, she professes a desire for a benevolent human dictator to individually respond to the needs of the people. By this logic, the path of technological development is inevitable, and humans can only react
to, rather than alter, their futures. How have these kids—so elevated for their creativity and potential to change the world—come to feel so resigned to the future current technology has set out for us? A possible answer lies in the way technology has come to frame creativity in terms of a “connectivity” that is bound to the products of its industry. In his book From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, Fred Turner traces the attitudes of web culture back to the sixties New Communalist movement to establish the constancy of the promise of utopian connectivity in the personal consumption of its products— whether it’s LSD or an iPhone. As Turner told the Independent, the idea of “connectivity” justifies the tech industry’s “very individually centered project[s]” under the guise of social improvement. The elevation of youth—occurring both in the sixties counterculture and the current tech landscape—to the exclusively creative time of life dictates the orientation of this creativity. Start-ups with the most fundraising success respond to the needs and desires of the demographic of their young creators—largely white, well educated, young, and male. There seems to not be enough incentive to address social problems in broader social spheres, like health care or biotechnology. With an entire industry geared to their needs, Silicon Valley’s youth seem incapable of using its creative abilities to contribute to progress outside of the “individually centered projects” that technology has legitimated. The generations of people who have grown up within information and consumer technology—from those depicted in Mills’ film to contemporary start-up CEOs—assume that engaging with technology is inherently a social good and that merely connecting to the network already contributes to progress. They have come to think, “that the moment of consumption is itself also always a moment of production,” according to Turner. When the older generation of Silicon Valley engineers derides the younger generation’s creative ventures as self-involved, they omit their implicit role in engendering such an attitude. The older generation of technology historically youth as the exclusively creative time in one’s life while tying it to a project of “connectivity.” The attachment of creativity to this project has resigned today’s youth to the impossibility of change outside of digital spheres. The “connectivity” of technology promises that “everyone has an equal opportunity to be an entrepreneur.” The problem, Turner told the Independent, is that “in fact, that’s not quite the case.” The web, despite claims that it provides universal access to opportunities and information, has not been the great equalizer. On the contrary, this rhetoric of a leveling equality often obfuscates inequalities in the material world. Technology necessarily codes the world as systems of data that can be organized and manipulated. For Turner, this re-framing of the world as systems of information “makes it much harder to talk about the living bodies that are in the workplace and around it.” He identifies this reframing as the reason that “at Google, the living bodies in the kitchen frequently don’t earn enough to pay for health insurance.” The exclusive use of creativity with reference to “connectivity” has prevented even those with privileged access to technology from seeing themselves as agents of change. This helps to explain the resignation
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
of the kids in A Mind Forever Voyaging. In viewing every technological interaction as a creative act, these children lack the ability to conceptualize creativity elsewhere. They thus either give a utopian view to the future of technology or forfeit it to mythical agents of change, figures like Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. Instead of seeing change as coming from a tide of like-minded individuals, the individual tinkering in his or her garage then sharing his or her findings in a “connected” world has become the primary agent of change. Mills, in an interview with The Believer, mentioned a scene that didn’t make it into A Mind Forever Voyaging, where one of the kids talked extensively about “how Steve Jobs is basically the Second Coming and how he created the world we live in now.” The faith we have in these individuals as the only ones to create change becomes literal. But the varieties of change we envision remain limited. +++ The creative simplification performed by the kids in A Mind Forever Voyaging—the invocation of values such as equality, family, and the environment—turns out to in fact not be a simplification of more complicated adult ideas. In the tech sector, social change and liberal values are discussed at the same level at which they are approached by the kids in A Mind Forever Voyaging. The parents and the kids perceive social issues using the same shallow platitudes. Social change is paid lip service and aestheticized to complete the tech industry’s progressive image. With the possibilities of actual change paralyzed by the harnessing of youthful creativity “to an industrial project devoted to the making and the distributing of software and hardware,” as Fred Turner puts it, the rhetoric of change shows itself to be empty outside of digital spaces. Yet, there remains the possibility of subversion in the way the kids set themselves apart from their elders. Self-awareness might be develop-
APRIL 25 2014
ing around the platitudes handed down to young people. In a piece for the New York Times Magazine, Yiren Lu, a graduate student who has worked at many large web firms, identifies “the vague sense of a frenzied bubble of app-making and an even vaguer dread that what we are making might not be that meaningful” among the young people working in tech today. This realization—that systems of information might not allow for unprejudiced connectivity and social improvement—hints at the possibility of a gap in generational understanding of the scope of innovation and change in technology. Perhaps the consequences of this conceptual gap will materialize. The way the younger generation uses the older value systems—like those referenced by the kids in Mills’ documentary—may prove central to imagining the future of tech. The question becomes whether these value systems—of family, the environment, and equality—are treated as the platitudes of an older generation or as sites of self-awareness and critique for the next generation of youth. As sites of critique, these values could reveal problems in the world that technology currently glosses over. The possibility of actualizing change then depends on the creative use of what are handed down as simple concepts. Despite all of its trappings, youth seems uniquely suited to the task. PATRICK MCMENAMIN B’17 may soon develop self-awareness. For more thoughts on the creative possibility of youth and how the tech industry relates to it, read the Indy’s full interview with Fred Turner online at www.theindy.org.
WALKING IN THE OCEAN by Abigail Savitch-Lew illustration by Andres Chang
Their last morning in the old man’s house, Alice woke and found George out of bed. She rose to her elbows and saw him through the window, leaning on the porch railing, a cigarette in one hand. No possibility of returning to sleep now but she spun in circles of breath, her own breadth and the breadth of babies suckling congealed air. Cooing from the next door neighbor’s bird feeder, tinkling of necklaces draped on the fence posts. She remembered how the old man used to sit on the porch and tell the pedestrians to take a necklace. There were gold necklaces for power, purple ones for justice, green ones for faith. He dispersed himself in a thousand pieces, the beads shimmying in a thousand clubs, smashed on a thousand corners, traversing to places he’d never been. She and George had watched his disintegration. They had come to the city to volunteer, two months after the hurricane. At first they’d lived in their RV, and then they’d moved into the old man’s house and taken care of him until he died. He’d been black, with yellow palms. Gangly and diabetic and alone. There were stories of his days as a flag boy, parading the streets in a golden-feathered robe with a beaded helmet. Sometimes he would point to the face on his Tshirt—usually a dead Mardi Gras chief, with the words “Rest In Peace” and the man’s name on the back—and say “Alice, you’ve got to hear the chief sing!” Or he would send her to the addresses of his favorite bars, and she would get there and find a ceramic gallery. He hadn’t had an inkling of how the city had changed and would never have predicted, once he was dead, that she and George would receive an eviction notice. With her eyes still closed, Alice imagined entering through the gate, past the necklaces and the oak tree smothered in Spanish moss. As if she was a young lawyer with a federal department. She’d been exploring the neighborhood, seen the real estate agency’s sign on the fence and decided to wander in. “What a cute house,” she’d say as she approached. But George was in the way. He stood on the porch, staring at her, the intruder. She wished George would come back to bed but he was like the leering statue at the end of a bowsprit. He was awake and had forgotten how to tumble in sleep. She opened her eyes, spread her thickening legs across the mattress, and thought of those mornings when they had risen to the call of needs. Drinking from the faucet, peeing in a bucket, feeding the old man Kit-Kat bars. Now there were new needs, and she opened the buttons of her blouse.
When he died, she was carrying one baby inside her and one on her lap. One breast white with foam and the other yellow with butter: a marsupial. People at home, her classmates from college, her siblings in New York, thought she was crazy. Her mother asked how did it happen—as if it had been the result of contamination. Everyone thought she and George had made a mistake, but it was the babies that had helped them cope, had helped distract the old man, had gained the neighbor’s trust. As they fed, Alice looked at the place that had become their home. It was a shotgun house: rooms opening one onto the next. Farthest: the half-packed disarray of the kitchen, with dried rosemary on the floor and their plates wrapped in 1960s newspaper clippings. Next the old man’s room, with the clothes and books she had failed to bring to the Salvation Army, the lemony smell of his armchair. And finally their room: a mess of thrift store baby clothes, their neighbor’s stroller with its rusted handlebars. Now that they were leaving, she realized how much she’d been fooling everyone. Of course, no one on the block knew yet; Emmanuel had even offered to help George pack the RV. She never told anyone where they were moving, or that her sister’s house in the suburbs of New York had three bathrooms and prepared salads in the refrigerator. She didn’t know why she had tried to convince George it was time to leave. Maybe she had grown tired of defending herself to her relatives, or maybe she was afraid of the schools established after the hurricane. The eviction notice had been almost welcome: they could say they were at the mercy of forces beyond their control. She rose from the mattress with the baby and unhooked the wooden door to the porch. She took George’s hand, the one without the cigarette, and held it against her stomach. “We could stay here and see what they do,” said George. “Tie ourselves to the porch.” He blew into the front yard and didn’t look at her. “We could roll the RV over to the parking lot on Claiborne Avenue.” “And squat until they ticket us?” she said. She had reservations. This was their last morning, a time to think practically. “First stop is Walmart,” she said. “Diapers.”
After the old man died she started taking evening walks across the city, one baby in the strap outside her stomach and the other inside. She walked passed the neighbors sagged in porch chairs and passed the oil trains to the side of town where the gaping houses reminded her of skulls floating in a graveyard. It was like walking on the ocean floor, her feet dragging in weeds, organs swollen. Around sundown she would reach Frenchman Street and sit on the curb across from the teenage brass band. On each of the other three corners the audience, mostly out-of-towners, smiled sheepishly and swayed their shoulders. A man with skin the color of mussels danced in the middle of the street, danced with the cabs, which crossed the intersection and avoided him. On her walks she would wonder why the old man had died. At first she would have said he’d been murdered: by the contractors with their port-a-potties and generators and helicopters, the developers with their maps and rulers, the deeply sorry President and people like her mother, who asked, what were those people thinking? They heard the warning, who in their minds formed the images of floundering black bodies and screaming black pregnant girls and thought to themselves, such a shame. The old man had barricaded himself until someone took him to the Superdome. There, with thousands of others stewing in pools of urine and feces, he ate Oreos. He lived for four more years. Ultimately she would have conceded that he had died not of murder or maltreatment but of old age. Or perhaps they had killed him indirectly, by placing him in a situation where he had done things he could not live with. Almost every night, he’d sit in his armchair as the pigeon cooed and the oil trains blared into the dark, retelling the Oreo story. She heard one passing now, the shaking of metal chains. She kissed George’s neck, folded her hands across his waist, breathed into his shoulder the softness of her sleep. He shut his eyes and threw his cigarette into the front yard. It was those evening walks that had convinced her. The neighbors, the dancers, the oil trains. Everything would go on without them.
THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT
Friday, April 25
Sunday, April 27
Content and Context Content and Context Content and Context Content and
Art Shots: Coloring Space
Wed, April 30
Alec K Redfearn and The Eyesores, Minibeast, and Redfern. (The music is like doo doo do do do dooo)
The Indy’s own Kim Sarnoff will help you explore the world of abstraction. She invites you to dive into the use of color and space, and together you are going to make sense of and draw connections between different abstract works.
9PM-1AM // AS220, 115 Empire St., Providence // $6
6PM // Museum of Natural History and Cormack Planetarium, 1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence // $3 Have you ever heard of the Meridian Project? They’re presenting a multimedia lecture and performance exploring cutting edge research in dark matter detection. You might be able to learn about the latest research into the origins and workings of our multiverse while immersing yourself in new transcendental grooves and vivid imagery on the Cormack Planetarium’s fulldome and Zeiss star projectors.
Saturday, April 26 Earth Day Clean Up
8AM // Waterplace Park, One Citizens Plaza, One Moshassuck Ct., Providence Because it’s good to take care of things.
Scifi Film: Coherence
7-8:30 PM // The Columbus Theatre, 270 Broadway, Providence // $10 Movies.com really like this movie. Apparently it’s a mindbending puzzle that twists logical thought to the breaking point. A group of friends gather on the night a strange celestial object passes overhead, causing reality and relationships to fracture. It was also a recipient of Best Screenplay Awards at Fantastic Fest & Sitges Festival.
3-3:30 PM // RISD Museum Grand Gallery, 224 Benefit St., Providence
Monday, April 28 Visiting Artist Talk: Barbara London, MOMA Associate Curator 5:30-7PM // Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Studio 1, 154 Angell St., Providence
A Call to Care: A lecture with Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, Mind and Life Institute
5:30-6:30 PM // Smith-Buonanno, Room 201, 95 Cushing St., Providence Brooke Dodson-Lavelle is the senior program officer for the Mind and Life Institute’s new compassion and secular ethics initiative. Her work focuses on the confluence of Buddhist contemplative theory and cognitive science, as well as the cultural contexts that shape the transmission, reception, and “secularization” of Buddhist contemplative practices.
Thursday, May 1
Barbara London, Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art at the Museum of Modern Art will be spending the day at Brown, visiting with select Gene Gregorits, Lisa Suckstudents and giving a talk at 5:30 disdog, and Ric Royer cussing her work as curator of video and electronic media at the Museum of Modern 9-10:30 PM // Psychic Readings, 95 EmArt and “Soundings,” the first comprehen- pire St., Providence // $5 sive show of sound art at MOMA. First of all, Happy May 1. Someone named Gene and Lisa will read from their newest publications which covers money, taboo, depravity and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. Also, Ric Royer will the evening with a lighting-round ten RISD Textiles Graduate Stu- end minute Coincidental Hour, which is a game show that you can google. dent Exhibition 12-6PM // Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery, 169 Weybosset St., Providence
Tuesday, April 29
Content Content Content Content Content Content Content Content Content
and and and and and and and and and
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and and and and and and and and and
Context Context In the know?! E-mail listtheindy@gmail. Context com. Context Context Context Context Context Context