The New Journal
Volume 45, No. 2
The magazine about Yale
and New Haven
ART, R U O Y SELLING
YOUR S ELF
+ YALIES HOST COUCHSURFERS, GO TO SEA
Publisher Whitney Schumacher Editors-in-Chief Juliana Hanle, Aliyya Swaby Managing Editors Benjamin Mueller, Cindy Ok Photo & Design Editors Brianne Bowen, Susannah Shattuck Senior Editors Nicholas Geiser, Helen Knight, Nikita Lalwani, Sanjena Sathian Associate Editors Eric Boodman, Sophia Nguyen Copy Editors Cassie DaCosta, Justine Yan Staff Writer Caroline Durlacher Members and Directors Emily Bazelon, Peter B. Cooper, Jonathan Dach, Kathrin Lassila, Eric Rutkow, Elizabeth Sledge, Jim Sleeper, Fred Strebeigh.
The New Journal www.thenewjournalatyale.com To write, design, edit, draw, or photograph, e-mail: email@example.com
Advisors Richard Bradley, Jay Carney, Joshua Civin, Richard Conniff, Ruth Conniff, Elisha Cooper, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Jennifer Pitts, Julia Preston, Lauren Rabin, David Slifka, John Swansburg, Steven Weisman, Daniel Yergin Friends Michael Addison, Austin Family Fund, Steve Ballou, J. Neela Banerjee, Margaret Bauer, Anson M. Beard, Jr., Blaire Bennett, Richard Bradley, Martha Brant, Susan Braudy, Daniel Brook, Hilary Callahan, Jay Carney, Daphne Chu, Josh Civin, Jonathan M. Clark, Constance Clement, Andy Court, Masi Denison, Albert J. Fox, Mrs. Howard Fox, David Freeman, Geoffrey Fried, Sherwin Goldman, David Greenberg, Stephen Hellman, Laura Heymann, Gerald Hwang, Walter Jacob, Jane Kamensky, Tina Kelley, Roger Kirwood, Jonathan Lear, Lewis E. Lehrman, Jim Lowe, E. Nobles Lowe, Daniel Murphy, Martha E. Neil, Peter Neil, Howard H. Newman, Sean Oâ€™Brien, Laura Pappano, Julie Peters, Lewis and Joan Platt, Julia Preston, Lauren Rabin, Fairfax C. Randal, Robert Randolph, Stuart Rohrer Arleen and Arthur Sager, Richard Shields, W. Hampton Sides, Lisa Silverman, Scott Simpson, Adina Proposco and David Sulsman, Thomas Strong, Margarita Whiteleather, Blake Wilson, Daniel Yergin and Angela Stent Yergin
Cover image: Gordon Skinner, design: Susannah Shattuck
The New Journal
The New Journal The magazine about Yale
Vol. 45, No. 2 October 2012 www.thenewjournalatyale.com
and New Haven
20 Where the Art Is
A local artist struggles to make it in New Havenâ€™s competitive art scene. by Adela Jaffe
28 A Wooden Boat A Branford Boatbuilder reacquaints the author with her own history. by Molly Hensley-Clancy
4 Letter from the Editors 6 Points of Departure 10 Snapshot Surfing CT
by Gideon Broshy
14 Verse Ornithology
by Felicity Sheehy
16 Snapshot Dead in the Pots by Eric Boodman
34 Photo Essay Orange, California by Max Saltarelli
38 Endnote A Conversation with Cord Jefferson The New Journal is published five times during the academic year by The New Journal at Yale, Inc., P.O. Box 203432 Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520. Office address: 305 Crown Street. All contents Copyright 2011 by The New Journal at Yale, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction either in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher and editor in chief is prohibited. While this magazine is published by Yale College students, Yale University is not responsible for its contents. Four thousand copies of each issue are distributed free to members of the Yale and New Haven communities. Subscriptions are available to those outside the area. Rates: One year, $18. Two years, $32. The New Journal is printed by Turley Publications, Palmer, MA; bookkeeping and billing services are provided by Colman Bookkeeping of New Haven. The New Journal encourages letters to the editor and comments on Yale and New Haven issues. Write to Editorials, 203432 Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520. All letters for publication must include address and signature. We reserve the right to edit all letters for publication.
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
Dear Readers, On September 24, Newsweek published a cover with the large headline “MUSLIM RAGE” above a photo of screaming men, alluding to recent antiU.S. protests in the Muslim world. Many respected media outlets denounced and mocked Newsweek for its sensationalist and simplistic portrayal of a diverse religious community. For the October issue of The New Journal, we interviewed Cord Jefferson, a contributing editor for Gawker, who argued this error could have been avoided by bringing more diversity into the newsroom itself. But the philosophy of diversity and inclusion is as much about changing a broader mindset as it is about improving statistics. News outlets have a responsibility to include and accurately portray underrepresented demographic groups in the issues they cover. As a publication that focuses on topics of social justice, The New Journal has to report in a nuanced way about Yale and the broader New Haven community. The Society of Professional Journalists suggests looking at the way complex stories cross five specific “faultlines” or important social forces in the U.S. — race, class, gender, generation and geography. Thinking of sources along these lines will improve a piece’s accuracy and fairness. Our editors and reporters consciously thought about issues of diversity as we worked on the October issue. For example, Adela Jaffe’s feature article “Where the Art Is” discusses the way local artist Gordon Skinner’s race and socioeconomic background affects his perception of his status in New Haven’s art scene. However, we know this is an ongoing and difficult process. We are primarily trying to think broadly and source widely — keeping an open mind when reporting on varied backgrounds and sourcing outside of their comfort zones. A gap exists in the framework of mainstream media that allows for the promotion of ignorant beliefs. We would like to be part of the solution. Sincerely, Juliana Hanle and Aliyya Swaby Editors-in-Chief
The New Journal
POINTS OF DEPARTURE Beads, Weeds, and Palaces When Gabriel Prieto was a little boy, he ran around the hills of Huanchaco, Peru, collecting tiny beads and shiny ceramic fragments. As a fifth year PhD candidate at Yale, his perspective has changed, but he hasn’t stopped running his fingers through the soil. Prieto has spent the last two years excavating the 4000-year-old remains of the north coast Peruvian fishing village of Pampas Gramalote. Beginning in the summer of 2010, he picked carefully through layers of dirt, finding the decaying remains of totora reeds still twisted together in ropes as if just released from a fisherman’s hands. With surprise and delight he found that the ancient fishermen of Pampas extracted red pigments from plants and shark lipids in order to dye the cloths they tied to fishing nets—the same red cloths fishermen in Huanchaco tie on their nets today. A century earlier, in 1911, Yale assistant professor of Latin American history Hiram Bingham III and two Peruvian colleagues followed a native boy high up into Peru’s mountains, where they stepped into the remains of Incan imperial city Machu Picchu. The tops of stone walls and terraces barely showed beneath a mass of jungle and wild vegetation. As he gazed out at the ethereal ruins, Bingham likely felt great awe. Though separated by a hundred years, Prieto and Bingham shared what has now become a guiding principle of Yale’s archaeology department: the desire to academically, cross-culturally collaborate. Prieto thinks of today’s efforts as essentially finishing the project that Bingham began a century ago, when he entered Peru with the intention of studying its ancient culture. Until recently, the legacy of Bingham’s work has not represented this sensibility. In 2011, Yale and Peru agreed on terms for the repatriation of the artifacts that Bingham had excavated, with the Peruvian government’s
blessing. By November 2012 the collection would be fully returned and available to both parties at the newly launched Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad del Cusco-Yale University International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture, accessible to faculty and students from both universities. Through the efforts of Richard Burger ’72, chair and director of graduate studies for Archaeology, Yale
“I always saw the work of Andean archaeologists as corrective [of] the biased and racist notion that there’s only one important center of civilization.” students should have the opportunity to take part in the excavation of the Casa Concha, a fifteenth century Incan palace and home to the center, next summer. They would work alongside archaeology students from the University of Cusco. The dig would serve as part of a practical course—provided it receives enough funding, likely from Yale donors. And Prieto hopes to contribute to Professor Burger’s effort. Although Prieto has already worked with several students from Yale and from his Peruvian alma mater, the University of Trujillo, he wants to draw these two groups together in a formalized, meaningful way through collaboration on his project in Pampas Gramalote. He contextualized Burger’s work, saying, “it is all part of this larger dream.” Achieving productive cross-cultural collaboration has only become possible as archaeology departments have exhibited increased interest in non-Western civilizations. In the time since Burger was an undergraduate at Yale, the field of Peruvian archaeology has grown dramatically. He took the “Introduction to Peruvian Archaeology” course that he now teaches and claims that seventy percent of what he was taught then has been superseded by new information. At one point during his fifteen field seasons in Peru, he was able to name a previously-unstudied pre-Incan culture. “I always saw the work of Andean archaeologists as corrective [of] the biased and racist notion that there’s only one important center of civilization,” he said. The volume of information unearthed in the field of Peruvian archaeology during Burger’s tenure is a testament to the The New Journal
dissipation of that mode of thinking. Over the past hundred years, artifacts have come to be viewed as both national and international patrimony. Right now, the Machu Picchu collection can leave Peru for no more than two years at a time for circulating exhibitions. Peru recognizes the educational significance of these objects, and that they should be made available to as wide an audience around the world as possible. But it would seem that the key to successful collaboration is the understanding that the artifacts should always be able to go back home. Earlier this month, Prieto helped pack up the final set of the Machu Picchu artifacts for shipment back to Peru. They will soon make a journey that Prieto has made countless times, bridging a gap between two hemispheres. – Arielle Stambler
Never Ending Books started as a little bookstore called Books on State Street, Uihlein explained. He passed by often and would see a man sitting in a wicker chair among small, three-foot-tall bookcases. One day Uihlein entered the store and spoke with the man in the window–Frank Caso, the space’s owner. Caso told him that the business was failing and Uihlein decided to help out. He supplied more shelves left over from a carpentry job—he worked in carpentry at the time—and gathered a community to brainstorm and ultimately name Never Ending Books. New Haven has already seen a decline in independent books sales—Labyrinth closed last year and Atticus and Book Trader are sustained largely by their cafes. Without the publicity and local backing of nonprofit and book bank New Haven Reads, the
Outside the Lines Waiting outside Never Ending Books at 810 State Street one Saturday afternoon, I saw how the store gained its local nickname, “Never Open Books.” Its red-screened door, I was told, hadn’t opened once all week. Owner Roger Uihlein does little to alleviate the mystery of the closed storefront. Press-shy, he cannot be contacted by phone. Aside from regularly scheduled live events, business hours follow Uihlein’s whims. “He likes to be elusive,” said Brad Jacobs, who runs the store’s open-mic concert series and whose cell phone is listed as Never Ending Books’ only means of contact. Just to speak with Uihlein, I sat on the pavement outside the store for four hours. Outside, just to the left of the door, a small built-in bookshelf sports an assortment of works. A handwritten sign in the opposite window reads: “All books, records, CD’s (etc.) are FREE. Please feel free to leave a donation (large or small)! With much appreciation, Never Ending Folk.” Uihlein and his young son arrived to unlock the place around four p.m., and I entered. A single person could just barely pass through the labyrinth of towering shelves and stacks of crates and boxes near the storefront. The variety inside was even more pronounced than that of the small collection kept outside. Browsing, I found a copy of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing alongside a thick book entitled Gem Elixirs and Vibrational Healing, Vol. 1. Customers can take or leave whatever and however many books they want. “People come in and they assign a value to the book and donate what they want,” Uihlein said. October 2012
crowd drawn to Never Ending Books is necessarily selfselecting. It remains even more of a wonder that Never Ending Books has maintained business. By encouraging the physical experience of reading, Uihlein said he aims to support the cause of the entire book industry. The financial operation of the space remains shrouded in as much mystery, if not more, as the store’s hours. A donation jar on the countertop of the kitchenette in the back contains some crumpled bills and a great deal of change. Behind this, out of sight, are some offices, such as those of the Rainbow Recycling Company, one of the main financial contributors to Never Ending Books. Uihlein is not willing to divulge much about how he has kept his store running for the 7
past twenty years. “I also use the office space here,” he said. “So I consider myself to be responsible for contributing substantially to the rent.” Through a door to the right is a second room used as a musical performance space and art exhibit. In addition to hosting musical performances, the space often holds community gatherings like meditation circles, casual political discussions, and even a girls’ bicycle repair club. During events hosted on the last Saturday and fourth Friday of every month, Never Ending Books comes to life as dozens of musicians, poets, and other artists gather to share their work. Uihlein invited me to read some of my own poems that night. Sharing my work felt completely natural in the relaxed space. Toward the end of the evening, everyone simply played together — piano, harmonica, guitars, and voices blended together into one. “This place is special to me,” Uihlein said. “It’s like my own version of college. I’m receiving my own education from the musicians and artists and other people who come here.” I can’t help thinking that, even if books without end is a wishful thought, this store’s community and creativity do not have to come to a stop. – Jordana Cepelewicz
Making the Grade Up Tom James stood at the head of his algebra classroom his back to a poster that urged students to “question everything.” For my benefit, he asked his students if they knew the basics of their school’s new philosophy. Why had High School in the Community decided to eliminate grades in favor of a mastery-based evaluation system? Fifteen first-year students stared back at him in brief, confused silence. “So we can get ready for college and stuff,” one girl offered after a few seconds. The magnet school’s new system replaces grades with numbers, one through four, to indicate how well students understand a certain concept, with a three indicating a satisfactory passing score. Although they still have homework and tests, in most classes that have implemented the system, students may choose to test out of a unit when they feel most prepared. The school hopes this change will create an environment of exploration and understanding, rather than rigid,
systematic instruction. But many students are confused, which springs from the fact that they are barely acquainted with the new system. It has been in place only since the end of August. Administrators would like for them to eventually have a measure of control over their own education and for the current uncertainty to give way to clarity, awareness, and self-determination. In the cafeteria one Friday morning, throngs of students crowded around small tables for their lunch break, laughing and talking. Shawnece Jackson sat alone at a small round table, texting. Like the students in James’ class, she offered only a hesitant explanation for the change. “It’s helpful…because they want us to graduate and [the mastery system] is making it easier,” she faltered. All courses for freshmen or “foundation level” students will apply the new mastery-based system, and so will some upper-level courses. The partial implementation leaves some upperclassmen feeling particularly confused. High School in the Community doesn’t have a
“When kids have been getting by with a sixty, they have to learn to make progress now.” principal. Instead, it has a Building Leader, an elected position currently occupied by Erik Good, a former English teacher at the school. An affable, easygoing man, he rarely sits in his office, instead spending much of his time making rounds and visiting the school’s thirty-four teachers and more than two hundred fifty students. He maintains a decisive calm that suggests that his two years of experience at High School have made him comfortable with his position’s requirements. Good said the school’s courses are designed to instill an element of “character education.” He believes the magnet school’s major goal is to allow space for its students’ individual self-expression within a larger community both inside and outside of the explicitly educational experience. “How do we function as a group, as a country, and still maintain our individuality?” he asked. This emphasis on civic values, formalized in the curriculum as a “Law and Social Justice” theme , hearkens back to the school’s roots in the liberal 1970s, when a collective of teachers founded High School in
The New Journal
To ease his students into the new system, James encourages them to think of each assignment as another “draft” until they reach the acceptable mastery levels of three or four. Students should only request to test out of a unit when they feel prepared. James said students who initially attempted to use the system as an opportunity to avoid all tests became self-motivated once they fell behind classmates who progressed independently through topics. “Every week that goes by, I see more students start to understand what the point is,” he said. Good said that he hopes they will by the end of the year. More radical plans have yet to be implemented. Eventually, teachers and administrators say classes may be eliminated entirely, with students working at their own pace and receiving occasional guidance from instructors. But both student understanding and the mastery system itself have many stages of development ahead. Administrators must communicate their big ideas for the future first and foremost with students to ensure both develop in tandem with one another. – Emily Efland
the Community as a magnet school. Because the school transitioned to the masterybased system so recently, teachers and administrators have not yet decided how to apply it practically. One difficulty lies in determining the bare minimum students must know in order to “master” a subject. How can teachers determine the exact limit of comprehension while ensuring that students graduate in a timely fashion? Academic Coordinator Chris Kafoglis, who oversees curriculum and teaching at the school, stresses the commitment of the school’s employees to laying down a concrete framework for the mastery system, something they hope to develop over the next three years. The goal, Kafoglis asserts, is that the overall system emphasizes continuous, necessarily self-motivated learning. “There are lots of kids who have been told in middle school, if you don’t do this you’re going to be held back, and over and over and over again they’re not held back,” Kafoglis stressed. “The difficulty [with mastery-based learning] is that when kids have been getting by with a sixty, they have to learn to make progress now.”
Eva Song â€™14 sets up an inflatable mattress in her apartment, perparing to host a stranger through an online community called Couch Surfing. The New Journal
Yale students use CouchSurfing to host strangers from around the world. By Gideon Broshy
va Song’s one-bedroom apartment, on the sixth floor of Taft Apartments at 265 College St., is cluttered. A tall black loft bed stands in the center, surrounded by various objects: a painting of a Venetian mask hangs to the floor with cardboard boxes full of rolled-up artwork underneath; a bookshelf on the other side of the room holds The Official Guide to the GRE, Frida Kahlo: Song of Herself, and manuals for Adobe Illustrator and InDesign; two coffee tables, both from Ikea, face each other at awkward angles. On the floor, Song has set up an air mattress for the strangers she regularly invites to pass through her apartment, when she temporarily pushes the bean bags and other colorful debris to the side. As I talk to Song in her room, I imagine her toiling on an art project while the stomach of an unfamiliar traveler rises and falls heavily across the room. Song is a member of Couch Surfing, an online network through which travelers can contact locals for a place to stay and find people who will offer them a mattress to stay on, and possibly food, a tour, a party, or
advice. Since she joined the network two summers ago, she has hosted and met students and travelers from all over the world. A small but vibrant community of New Haven Couch Surfers exists within and beyond Yale. Couch Surfing allows Song — and the few other Yale students involved— an escape from what she describes as a culture of single-mindedness at the university. For these students, inviting strangers into their homes is a way
to connect with a network of travelers who envision a more interwoven, understanding world. Song, an art and political science double major, is from Chengdu, China. Originally enrolled in the class of 2013, she took a gap year after a freshman year filled with confusion and self-doubt. “Before college I just knew I was going to go to America, that was the plan,” she tells me, while sitting in a pile of art supplies and cosmetics on her floor, “but when I came here I didn’t really have a goal anymore, a plan.” She needed, urgently, to get away. In her year off she, among other things, worked at a radio show in Uganda, volunteered at a school outside Beijing, took a diving course in Australia, and travelled through Europe. Going away gave Song perspective, and after a year she was ready to return. When Song came back to Yale for her sophomore year, she lived on campus in Pierson College. The following summer, she made a permanent move to her current apartment and began hosting 12
foreigners passing through the city. Bringing in people with outside perspectives, like those she had observed while travelling, helped Song accustom to being at Yale once more. Couch Surfing has provided her an escape from the goal-oriented attitude that can pervade life at Yale. “People tend to get similar if they stick together for too long,” she explained. Couch Surfing purports to be “a global network of travelers, adventure seekers and lifelong learners” valuing diversity, openness, and sharing. Based in San Francisco, the Couch Surfing project was conceived by Casey Fenton in 1999. Fenton came up with the idea after, finding an inexpensive flight from Boston to Iceland, he e-mailed 1,500 students from the University of Iceland asking for a place to stay, and received more than 50 offers. Couchsurfing.com went public in January 2004; eight years later, the site has 5.2 million members and is the most popular free accommodation site on the web. The United States has the most Couch Surfers in the world, followed by Germany, France, England and The New Journal
Photos by Henry Ehrenberg
The living room of 216 Dwight Street, with the couch that sometimes sleeps strangers.
203 more countries. Couch Surfing is changing the nature of travel. When I travelled around Europe last summer — without the help of Couch Surfing — I felt most connected to the cultures I experienced when interacting with the people I met along the way. Having meaningful conversations with the man renting me a bike a town outside of Paris, or the Swiss man and his mother on a train through the heart of Germany, or even a roofer from Oakland who had been at the running of the bulls in Pamplona the week before, made me feel like I was part of a greater global network and sharpened my sense of how the world works. According to Jeremy Rifkin, a best-selling author and economic advisor to the European Parliament, the technological and economic innovations that have pushed human history forward are also pulling us together. In his book The Empathetic Civilization, Rifkin argues that we have a natural impulse toward empathy and that globalization nurtures this impulse by exposing us to more people from more places. We have moved, he claims, from a macro-society of diffuse, conflicting communities to a more cohesive, communicative one. I believe that Couch Surfing is both a result and an agent of this change—it exists because the world is increasingly tolerant, and it helps to connect individual communities even further. In the past three years, undergraduates living off campus at 216 Dwight St. have hosted many Couch Surfers, and it became a tradition of the house. Travelers slept in a sunny nook on the house’s first floor — last year, there were two comfortable black sofas perfect for weary bodies, and they had extra mats in case people come in groups larger than two. When Brandon Jackson ‘13 lived there last year, he and his housemates hosted seven groups of Surfers from Germany, China, Poland, and Russia as well as within the US. One girl visiting from Asheville, North Carolina, came to New Haven to undergo month-long treatment for Lyme disease, and the housemates offered to let her stay for an extended period of time. The first night she was in the house, she figured out how to fix their house’s fireplace, which had been broken for years. She also offered to pay some money for the utilities bill.
here’s an unspoken code of ethics among Surfers, Jackson said. Many offer to help out around the house or contribute to the household in any way they can. People know and respect the etiquette. “If not, it quickly escalates into an uncomfortable situation,” he said. But the code differs by country. Like Song, Jackson took a year off from Yale, in his case after sophomore year. He has Surfed about fifty times in his travels around Europe and the United States. None of his hosts asked him to cook or clean in the European countries he stayed in. “When I was traveling, I was treated like a prince,” he said. Jackson lives on campus this year in Calhoun and plans to host travelers in his single this year. He said he would give up his bed and spend the night somewhere else. He said he hosts Couch Surfers because the happiness he gains from it never diminishes, even as he brings in more and more people. Each experience seems brand new. The New Haven Couch Surfing community gets together once in a while—they had three or four meetups last spring. People connect through the online Yale/New Haven group on the Couch Surfing website, which consists mostly of Yale students and alumni. When I browse the site’s accompanying discussion board, I find a wide variety of requests. A Yale couple from Ohio, “Mike and Jing,” are looking for someone to move into a house a one-minute walk away from New Haven’s beach on the Long Island Sound. In July, a user named Dessi sent out a message asking for participants in “Tuesday Trivia.” Shawn and Molly Persinger advertised a musical event: “PRESTER JOHN: Live House Concert.” A man named Torsten asked the board where he could find 0.0 strength colored contact lenses near New Haven. The nature of the community allows them to ask for almost anything and they seem to expect their requests, no matter how peculiar, to be answered. In addition to connecting travelers in person, Couch Surfing has established a culture of expectation and reward, of communal exchange. Most Couch Surfers that stay with hosts from the Yale/New Haven group are students. Jeeva John, a fourth year medical student at the University of Glasgow, traveled from Scotland to New Haven to work with a Yale neurologist for five weeks last summer. She
In addition to connecting travelers in person, Couch Surfing has established a culture of expectation and reward, of communal exchange.
VERSE Ornithology You are not good at lying in wait by slits in wooden hides or crawling on your stomach through moorland to peer over cliffs for a single, shimmering egg. The specialists, with their brimmed hats and new binoculars, their careful speech and mind for populations -“200, 000 off these cliffs, alone” – delight you: they talk of specimens and graphs, their print marches birdlike over lined pages. Still, in these open places, you always find yourself wandering off through common scurveygrass and kidneyvetch, past the delicate balloons of sea campion and the yellow tongue of bird’s foot trefoil speaking the names of the unseen: curlew, razorbill, skua, wheatear, kittiwake -this incantation of nothing or wings.
-Felicity Sheehy ’14
The New Journal
The number of Couch Surfers by country, according to the social media website. met up with Song a few times in New Haven and the two travelled together to visit Boston. John said taking a trip with a stranger “was sort of a leap of faith I guess, but it made the whole experience less lonely, more interesting.” The intimacy that results from Couch Surfing is singular. “There’s an immediacy to the relationships formed through Couch Surfing,” said Hans Schoenburg ’10, who has been hosting since his senior year at Yale, when he lived at 216 Dwight. “It’s not like ‘break the ice,’ it’s ‘go straight to the heart.” He still regularly hosts travelers in his New Haven home. Song sometimes feels awkward around her Surfers when she first meets them, but that discomfort soon wears off. The intensity of Couch Surfing relationships is exciting to her. “People can be interesting in little bits—you get little tastes of people,” she said. She has had conversations with her Surfers about her problems, her relationships, her anxieties, ones that she wouldn’t have with her closest friends. Clément Casse, a student from France studying for a master’s in economics, stayed with Song for ten days last summer, and they took a spontaneous trip to Niagara Falls together. Couch Surfers often act at the spur of the moment, milking the personal connections they make. The interactions mirror Rifkin’s vision of a tighter-knit planet made up of transitory relationships between strangers. he current residents of 216 Dwight — six juniors who moved in this fall — have not hosted any Surfers yet. They plan to have a house meeting to
discuss the possibility at the end of this semester, after they get used to living together. Sebastian Monzon ’14 said he is excited at the prospect of meeting new people from interesting places. He likes the idea of the network, of bringing people together and sharing stories, but he is also a little tentative about the responsibility hosting entails. Although technically he is bringing visitors into the Yale bubble by hosting Couch Surfers, Jackson said his experiences also help him step outside of the stress and pressure that comes with being an undergraduate at the university. Once he hosted a man from southwest China who was “giddy” to be touring Yale’s campus. Jackson returned to his room one night, overloaded with homework and activities, and vented about it to his new housemate. He said the man ordered him to stop working and to have tea with him instead, snapping him out of his anger and giving him a better perspective on his situation. Song also indicated that part of Couch Surfing is almost therapeutic. Going away for a year balanced her, gave her perspective, prepared her to return to college. By bringing strangers into her home, she keeps her hand outstretched to the world that brought her in.
Gideon Broshy is a freshman in Calhoun College. 15
Dead in the Pots What’s killing the Long Island Sound’s lobsters (and taking a culture with it)? By Eric Boodman
chain swings in the salty breeze blocking the waterfront in front of Fair Haven Clam & Lobster, and three “No Trespassing—Keep Out” signs hang in prominent places. The barrel of a revolver points out of yet another sign, which leans in the upper window of the house. “Never Mind the Dog, Beware of Owner,” it says. The owner, Michael Fraenza, is a beefy, tattooed lobsterman. For the last fifty years, he has motored out from this dock six or seven mornings a week to fish in the Long Island Sound. Like his Fair Haven property, he exhibits attributes that are true to the Northeastern 16
lobstering culture: a plainspoken unsociability and a close connection to the sea. That culture could be on the brink of extinction in parts of Connecticut. Since the late 1990s, when lobsters in the Western Long Island Sound mysteriously began to die rapidly in large quantities, the crustaceans have been scarce in the Western Sound’s mucky bottom. Scientists cannot resolve why, and different theories pit the lobstermen and the state against each other. This summer Connecticut lobstermen organized a press conference at the Guilford Lobster Pound to protest a moratorium proposed by the state’s Department of The New Journal
Energy and Environmental Protection, but their efforts may have been more symbolic than practical. “None of ‘em left,” Fraenza said when I asked him about New Haven lobstermen. Fraenza himself no longer catches lobsters, though he still identifies as a lobsterman—the die-off forced him to switch to conches and clams. We usually attribute the death of subcultures to Westernization or nationalist regimes, but the decline of the Connecticut lobsterman is harder to source. The lobstermen’s troubles began with the die-off—but what caused the die-off in the first place? Politicians, scientists, lobstermen, and economists have been arguing about the answer to that question since 1999, when lobstermen first reported the loss of lobsters in their waters. Like many of his colleagues, Fraenza believes that while the government blames the lobstermen for the die-off, the real culprit is the state’s spraying of insecticides to prevent West Nile Virus. “They sprayed again just last week,” he said. “I know a guy who’s fishing down in Greenwich, and he’s pulling ‘em up dead in the pots.” The lobstermen’s hypothesis isn’t that far-fetched. West Nile Virus first appeared in North America in 1999, beginning with a smattering of dead crows in the streets around the Bronx Zoo. Then the zoo’s birds started keeling over as well. Human New Yorkers came next. Mosquitoes were transmitting West Nile Virus, it turned out, from birds to humans. The idea of a mosquito-transmitted epidemic in New York City was terrifying. The government began to use insecticides widely: Planes sprayed the toxins over Connecticut and Long Island while crews doused the streets of Manhattan and the woods of Central Park. Lobstermen say that these chemicals seeped into the water of the Western Sound and poisoned the lobsters, causing the massive die-off of the late 1990s. And because there continue to be outbreaks of West Nile, municipalities continue to spray these substances. If only the government would stop, the lobstermen believe, the lobster populations would bounce back. Scientists are not so sure. A week after I spoke to Fraenza outside Fair Haven Lobster & Clam, I met with Carmela Cuomo, a marine ecologist at University of New Haven. Cuomo researched the lobster die-off, and she feels that understanding what happened then can help us piece together what is going on now at the
bottom of the Sound. Cuomo describes her worldview as “Native American-Zen-Buddhist-Catholic” and she professes an awe of the intricate machinery of the world. She talked to me about people-watching in airports and about the ants on the moonflowers in her garden, about six-foottall worms in underwater valleys and about the way “we are slowly but ever so surely moving away from Europe even as we sit” across from each other in a café. Even when she talked about the lobster die-off, which she considers tragic, her excitement was palpable. “It was a puzzle, it was like CSI Lobster,” she said, describing the meeting in April of 1999 where the lobstermen of the Western Sound told scientists what they had seen. The lobsters “weren’t their normal lobster selves. You know, growly. They were just bluh,” said Cuomo, sticking out her tongue and letting her hands go limp. “And then they’d die.” And this was only happening in the Western basin of the Long Island Sound: the lobsters in the Central and Eastern basins were fine. With these clues, Cuomo and the other scientists tried to track down what was killing the lobsters. At the lobstermen’s suggestion, they first tested the pesticide hypothesis. This explanation was compelling: more pesticides were sprayed around the Western Sound, because of the proximity to New York City, and one of the insecticides used to combat West Nile could plausibly have caused some of the symptoms exhibited by the lobsters. The insecticide killed mosquito larvae by turning them into adults before they were ready—imagine a human fetus born only three months into pregnancy—and the lobstermen were pulling up lobsters that had shed their shells long before their new shells were ready to harden. To test whether these insecticides were killing the lobsters, the scientists created a computerized model of the Long Island Sound, incorporating the interactions of currents, water quality, and weather patterns. When they inputted the insecticides, though, they found that a relatively insignificant amount of these chemicals reached the bottom where the lobsters live. The models determined that there would not have been enough insecticides in the bottom water to kill lobsters even if there had been five or ten times the levels observed. Meanwhile, scientists at the University of Connecticut were dissecting lobsters that had been
“They sprayed again just last week,” he said. “I know a guy who’s fishing down in Greenwich, and he’s pulling ’em up dead in the pots.”
caught in the throes of death. Not all of the lobsters they dissected showed traces of insecticides, which confirmed the results of the computer model studies: if all of these lobsters were dying with the same symptoms, and only some of them had traces of pesticides in their bodies, the scientists concluded that insecticides were not the main cause of the epidemic. What all the lobsters did have in common was a parasite of the nervous system called Neoparamoeba pemiquidensis. This looked like a prime suspect, Cuomo said. “The problem was, lobsters from Branford, which is in the Central Sound, were found to have this paramoeba in them, but they weren’t exhibiting any symptoms whatsoever.” There wasn’t enough genetic difference between the Western and Central lobsters to explain why the paramoeba would kill the Western population and not the Central one. “Thus the mystery deepened,” she said. Cuomo tried to imagine what made the Western Sound different from the Central Sound, working with basic facts. Of the Sound’s three basins, the Western Sound is the muddiest and the most crowded with lobster traps. When she found out that 1999 had been the warmest year on record, she hit on a diagnosis: certain bacteria in the mud were making the water both toxic and hypoxic. Hypoxic conditions occur when the amount of oxygen being introduced is less than the oxygen that is being used: it means that there isn’t quite enough oxygen to go around. In the late 1990s, the water of the Western Long Island Sound appeared to have many elements that could cause hypoxia. One of these elements is excess organic matter. When plants and animals die in coastal waters like the Sound, their remains sink through the water and come to rest on the bottom where they may sink deeply into the mud. Usually, most animal corpses are broken down by oxygen-breathing bacteria. Sometimes, however, they are buried in mud beyond the level where oxygen can penetrate. The remains are then feasted on by bacteria that use nitrate and sulfate instead of oxygen. In doing so, these bacteria produce ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which eliminate oxygen as they move up from the mud into the water. Ammonia can also be toxic to lobsters, making them lethargic.
The more dead stuff floating around, the likelier hypoxia is. And there was certainly enough dead stuff. For years, erosion in coastal areas had allowed organic matter to collect in the Sound. And then there was the mackerel and other fish used as lobster bait. “The lobstermen told me they put down a minimum of three pounds of bait per pot per week,” Cuomo said. “There were legally one hundred thousand pots in Western Sound. As we all know, there were a lot more than the licensed pots, but if we only go with licensed pots, you’re talking about adding 300, 000 pounds of organic matter to the Western Sound a week.” That means that bacteria were eating up an awful lot of oxygen while breaking down all of that dead matter. As if this wasn’t bad enough on its own, the bacteria were working faster due to the warmed water. On top of it all, the warmer water can hold less oxygen than cold water can. Even without hypoxia, lobsters don’t like warm water. The combination of the two was creating some pretty stressed out lobsters. Cuomo called it “the perfect warm.” Imagine being trapped with numerous other people in a stifling hot room without much air. Now imagine that there is an infection going around, and that the walls are made of asbestos. This is roughly the situation in which Western Long Island Sound lobsters found themselves at the end of the 1990s. Officially, the paramoeba was finishing them off, but it didn’t have to work very hard. “If you had sneezed on these lobsters, they would have died,” Cuomo said. “They were under so much stress.” In 2003, Carmela Cuomo was selected by her colleagues to deliver this complex verdict at a press conference in Bridgeport. “It was both an honor, and kind of like being thrown to the wolves,” she said. The lobstermen didn’t like the findings she presented. “The lobstermen were hoping it was the pesticides, because if it could be proven that it was the pesticides, they could turn around and sue the municipality, and sue the makers of the pesticides,” Cuomo said. “That’s fixable.” The lobstermen could have lived off the lawsuit money until the lobsters came back. But the lobster population never really came back. “This killed their livelihood.”
“Imagine being trapped with numerous other people in a stifling hot room without much air. Now imagine that there is an infection going around, and that the walls are made of asbestos.”
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Lobster pots at Lobster Haven’s dock on the Mill River. When she stood in front of the podium at Stony Brook, presenting the discoveries she and her colleagues had made about the die-off, Cuomo became the face of the scientific establishment. “I was personally vilified by Billy Joel,” she said. “He was out defending the lobstermen.” Cuomo is sympathetic to the plight of the lobstermen. Her cousin is a lobsterman, and she supports the lobster-catching culture. “I am not antilobsterman,” she said again and again. Yet lobstermen like Michael Fraenza still blame the government for the die-off, and hold a grudge against the scientists who determined that insecticides were not the primary cause. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection continues to conduct research on the insecticides, as yet without conclusions. “They’re really killing us,” Fraenza told me. “I’ve been in the business for fifty years, and I’m just barely hanging on.” In order to make ends meet, Fraenza traded his wire-mesh lobster pots for metal dredges that sweep up conches and clams. Shellfish get pushed into the bars at the back of the dredge by a jet of water. It is hard not to see the lobstermen’s fate in the work of the dredge. The lobstermen too have been pushed into a corner by an unfortunate confluence of circumstances. Fraenza still goes out at six every morning aboard the Rock’n’Roll, while the fishermen he has hired man
his other two boats. New hires still lean overboard, puking their guts out for the first week. Fraenza keeps his eye on the horizon, checking for the next day’s weather. And families still brave the forbidding exterior of Fair Haven Clam & Lobster to buy fresh seafood. But it isn’t the same. The lobsters crawling around in the green, algae-covered basins now come from Maine and eastern Canada. “I hear stories of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lobsters coming in,” said Evette Gilbert, who sells the seafood for Fraenza from the basement room of Fair Haven Clam & Lobster. “They say people were lined up down the street to buy lobsters. Back then Michael was doing better.” A family comes into the room, which is cooled by seawater cycling through the lobster tanks, and they pick out three crustaceans, one for each of them. They know that in a few hours, these antennae will stop twiddling and these tails will stop flicking. What they don’t know is how many tails and claws and antennae probed the mud a few nautical miles away just twenty years ago. They don’t know that these mud-dwellers gave rise to a unique lifestyle in and around New Haven; nor do they know just how rare that lifestyle has become.
Eric Boodman is a sophomore in Branford College. 19
Where the Art Is: A local artist struggles to make it in New Haven’s competitive art scene. By Adela Jaffe
n March 31, self-taught artist and high-fashion lover Gordon Skinner hosted his 35th birthday party in the basement of Gilt Bar. Guests– including Shante Skinner, his half-sister and confidante, Bob Albert, his friend and agent, and Coco and Breezy Dotson, twin sisters and designers of a celebrityapproved accessories line who posed with Skinner’s art in Dekit Magazine–yelled into each other’s ears as a DJ played hip hop at jack hammer decibels. Skinner drank directly from a bottle of Moet & Chandon. He had reason to celebrate: In January, only three years after he began painting, his first solo show opened
at the New Haven Public Library. He was then profiled in the New Haven Independent and interviewed on local TV station WTNH. While the stories featured Skinner’s colorful, figural, and mask-like paintings, they also examined his background. Skinner grew up in New Haven’s South Church Street housing project. His absent father was a heroin addict who subsequently died from AIDS when Skinner was 15. When he was 10, his mother and stepfather moved to suburban Hamden, where Skinner felt isolated as one of the few black kids in school. His paintings are an attempt to give voice to the community in which he grew up, which, he says, is
not often represented in popular contemporary art. “I want to be a voice for the people,” he said. If the party also seemed like a prequel, it was because Skinner did not yet feel like he had been able to share that voice. He wanted more recognition from what he called the “elitist” and “pretentious” art world. He wanted to start selling his paintings so that he could quit his jobs and paint full time. He wanted, someday, to move from New Haven to New York, where there are more artists and arts-related events. A week later, I sat with Skinner outside the Brooklyn Museum, talking about an exhibit we had just seen by famed visual artist Keith Haring. Skinner told me that he hoped to someday have his work displayed in a museum. Before that, though, he just wanted to be able to paint on his own terms. “I’ve worked for people all my life,” he said. “This is my time.” When I met Skinner last spring, I knew nothing about the process of becoming a professional artist. The art world was more of a mystery to me than it was to him. Even after speaking to artists, collectors, gallery owners, and a Yale History of Art professor, I did not understand what qualities distinguished art shown in expensive Chelsea galleries from art that was never seen. In the process of exploring these questions, I found two different spaces in New Haven that try to break down these barriers in the art world. Artspace, a New Haven nonprofit, gives artists strategies to get their work seen within a traditional gallery framework, as well as exhibition opportunities in both conventional and unconventional spaces. People’s Arts Collective, a newly founded organization trying to break down the art world’s economic and racial boundaries, aims not to operate within traditional frameworks at all. I realized
Right: Painting outdoors during Artspace’s City Wide Open Studios; Previous: “Jesus Piece – Self Portrait at 27” by Gordon Skinner.
that while access to more resources might make it easier for an artist to reach a broad audience, some artists choose to define their own success instead of allowing it to be dictated by a standard measure of popularity. Artspace was founded in 1984 by a group of local artists seeking more opportunities to share their work with the public. It regularly hosts exhibitions in its gallery space on Orange Street and also helps artists get seen in other venues. This October, Artspace kicked off the fifteenth annual iteration of City-Wide Open Studios, which allows nearly three hundred artists in the area to share their work with the public–far more than could be featured in New Haven’s galleries in a year. The non-profit’s Executive Director Helen Kauder said CWOS “is a very democratic, inclusive event.” Anyone who defined him or herself as a visual artist was invited to participate, just as anyone can become an Artspace member. Over the course of the first three weekends of this October, CWOS will be bringing visitors to artists’ private studios in New Haven, North Haven, and Hamden, to the group of studios in a former factory in Erector Square, and to site-specific art installations in the New Haven Register building.
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Because there are only four commercial galleries, three co-op galleries and three non-profit galleries in New Haven and only a handful more in the surrounding region, according to Cynthia Clair, the Executive Director of the Arts Council of New Haven, getting art into them often proves difficult. Skinner spent two years driving to galleries in New Haven, Bridgeport, Westport, and Stamford, a painting or two sitting in his trunk, hoping to convince them to display his work. For years, he had little success. On the last Sunday in September, twenty-three curators, gallery directors, and art scholars– the kind of professionals Skinner needs to impress to get his work seen–gathered at Artspace for “Speed/Networking/ Live!” Artists had three minutes to explain their work to the professionals, who responded with two minutes of feedback. “There are many occasions when an artist might meet a collector, a curator, or someone who works at a museum, and the artist doesn’t have his or her work there, but has an opportunity to say something,” Kauder said. “The question is, how does an artist put his or her best foot forward?” The event was an opportunity for artists to try up to twentythree ways of talking about their work in the most compelling way. Daniel Belasco, a New Yorkbased freelance curator who participated in the networking event both this year and last year, said, “[Artists] could practice their pitch in the shower. What’s most important is to get feedback.” As Kauder prepped the professionals inside, JP Culligan, an artist and an Artspace employee, stood outside and asked the arriving artists to wait on the street until the event’s one p.m. start time. Culligan grew up in New Haven and graduated from the Hartford Art School with a degree in printmaking. He told me that because a lot of art internships, jobs, and exhibitions require resumes and artist statements, he values the opportunity to meet these professionals face-to-face. “I tend to do better with these things when I actually get to talk to people,” he said. Bryant Davis brought printouts of his digital art, which he calls “homoceptual blending” and which involves breaking down JPEG files. He agreed with Culligan. “It’s nice to actually get to meet somebody and talk to them,” he said. Like Culligan,
Davis formally studied art, graduating from The New School’s Parsons School of Design. Skinner, on the other hand, did not go to art school or college, and he didn’t know that Artspace hosted networking events in addition to being a gallery space. On September 20th, when his second solo show, “Hard Works,” opened at the DaSilva Gallery in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood, the reception was primarily attended by his friends, family, and previous supporters. He is frustrated by the difficulties in getting the other people he wants to see his paintings– including those who run art foundations, contemporary art museums, and large commercial galleries–to attend a show at a small gallery in Westville. “The biggest problem,” he said, “is the disconnect between myself and the movers and shakers in the art world.” His agent Albert agrees that getting art into galleries is difficult, “especially if you don’t have a resume already, if you haven’t shown at such and such galleries or graduated from such and such schools.” Albert, a cinematographer and selfdescribed “marketing consultant,” met Skinner at the Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery in Stamford while Albert was filming a reception. The two men became friends, and Albert subsequently made a short documentary about Skinner. Like Skinner, Albert is an outsider in the art world, despite having some experience in the film industry. While Skinner may resent his separation from the more traditional art world, his position as an outsider also shapes his art. The poster for “Hard Works” was designed to mimic a timesheet, a reference to Skinner’s working class background and the eighty hours a week he works as an aide to developmentally disabled adults. Some of his paintings, like “Crack Baby” and “Jesus Piece” explicitly reference the poverty, drugs, and diseases he encountered during his childhood. Sometimes Skinner worries that gallery owners “want to see me in a cardboard box, living under my paintings or some shit,” so that they can swoop in and save him, and that his art isn’t as appealing to them once they find out that his personal narrative isn’t quite that dramatic. Trying to gain their approval, and crafting a compelling story to draw them in, frustrates Skinner on principle, but he believes that it is necessary. Seeking validation “can go against everything you stand for in
Some of his paintings, like “Crack Baby” and “Jesus Piece,” explicitly reference the poverty, drugs, and diseases he encountered during his childhood.
Above: “Self Portrait at 35” by Gordon Skinner; right: Skinner recently transferred his art show to Yale’s AfAm House. your work, but you kind of need that,” he said. Not everyone agrees that validation from the traditional art world is necessary for success. Kenneth Reveiz ’12, one of the founders of the People’s Arts Collective, said that “a lot of art spaces can be really alienating, whether it’s because people don’t have the money or because it’s not part of their culture or habit to go to galleries.” According to its website, PAC is a “group of artists and activists collaborating to address social, racial, economic, environmental and human injustices in New Haven.” Reveiz and his cofounders, Diana Ofosu ’12 and Gabriel DeLeon ’14, want to use art-based interventions to address these injustices.
PAC rents two formerly dilapidated storefronts on College Street for $250 a month. All of their events and services, which include a take-what-you-like pile of clothing and books and classes taught by members of the New Haven community, are free. During PAC’s weekday open hours, anyone is welcome to come in and create art–or just hang out. When I visited PAC to speak with its founders, I did not understand their specific goals; I knew nothing beyond the mission statement. They told me that art-based interventions are highly aesthetic, mostly performative actions that create some change in the world. One tactile example of a solvable problem, Ofosu
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said, is bathroom signs. The way the signs graphically represent men and women is alienating to those who may not identify with those representations. Ofosu, Reveiz, and DeLeon are searching for gender-fluid graphics– one café in Santa Cruz has a robot graphic on one of its bathroom doors and an alien on the other. The point is to illustrate that choosing of a bathroom should primarily be based on personal preference, Reveiz said. After two brainstorming and planning sessions, they plan to gather a group to replace bathroom signs around New Haven on October 26. “It’s an intervention because it actually exists as a change in urban space,” Ofosu said. Ofosu and Reveiz both graduated from Yale last May, and DeLeon is a member of the class of 2014, currently taking a semester off to focus on PAC. They have all studied art since coming to New Haven. DeLeon is an actor and Theater Studies major. Reveiz is a poet and playwright. Ofosu majored in History of Art and started creating art of her own during junior year, inspired by Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle and its interpretation of ethical representations and how images function under capitalism. The three share a progressive political worldview; Reveiz is a community organizer, and he, Ofosu, and DeLeon became close with members of the Occupy New Haven movement. They started PAC, Reveiz said, because they wanted to have an independent voice that was not dictated by “some bullshit art world standards, expectations, or definitions of success.” They said they are presenting an alternative way of living, one that “provides resources for people outside dominant modes of capitalism.” By creating a space where anyone can create art, they are empowering members of the New Haven community. Their Yale education may seem at odds with their radical language. By applying to and attending an Ivy League university, they have already sought out a very traditional measure of success. But they said they all still feel that they are outside the structures of privilege that govern the art world. “What we look like and who we are is very much not the norm in the art world or who runs any organization,” they said. Ofosu came to Yale intending to major in classics. She found it difficult that her coursework was dominated by the traditional white male canon, and that her perspective as a black woman was not represented. Coming up against what she described as Yale’s “traditional, old boys’ club” taught her that she does not align with that aspect of Yale’s identity and reputation. At the same time, she says she wouldn’t be where she is now without her experience at the university. In fact, it seems unlikely that PAC would exist if the founders had not had access to Yale’s intellectual and institutional resources. Their place in October 2012
New Haven’s art world is defined on some level by this privilege, and they hope to use it to create an alternative space for creation and expression. At an event called “Stew and Stencies” in October, the group of attendees was diverse: Yalies, curious passersby on the street, New Haven activists, homeless New Havenites, people who just wanted stew, and people who just wanted to make stencils. PAC passes out flyers in Fair Haven as well as downtown, and hopes to engage and empower members of multiple communities by giving them a space to make art and, ideally, change. n October 13, “Hard Works” transferred from the DaSilva Gallery to the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale. Before it closes on November 12, Skinner hopes that some of the art world insiders who did not make it to the DaSilva gallery will come to the show, perhaps drawn in by the Yale-centric location. “I’m really looking forward to being in institutions,” he said. But it is unclear what will come of the exhibition, and whether
A Davenport Masterʼs Tea with
it will draw the members of the Yale community that Skinner thinks it will. Over the summer, he sold his first three paintings to a private collector, and another during the “Hard Works” reception. But the income generated by those sales is not significant enough to allow him to leave his jobs, and he is still striving for wider recognition. According to Skinner, it is especially difficult to be an artist in New Haven. The city is much less cosmopolitan than New York and has fewer galleries and art institutions. But when I brought up this idea at Artspace, Culligan disagreed. “In some ways it seems like it’s easier to be an artist in New York, but there’s so much more competition,” he said. “You’re just a drop in the bucket, and New York’s a much bigger bucket.” Kauder said that New Haven’s location between Boston and New York makes it easier for Artspace to tap into the art networks in those cities and bring curators to events like Speed Networking, for which twelve of the art professionals came from other cities. After the “Speed/Networking/Live!” event, I looked up many of the artists who participated. Some of them had been showing in galleries and even small museums across the country for decades. They have fruitful careers, and yet most are unlikely to become household names.” The more I learned about Artspace and PAC, and about the different interpretations of recognition and success in the art world, the more I wondered whether Skinner was placing too much stock in a big break or the transformative powers of fame. Shortly after his birthday, Skinner told me, “I’m thirty five years old, and I can’t be a famous artist when I’m dead. I need that recognition now.” As thrilled as he is to be showing at Yale, he still says that he does not know what is going to happen next in his career. “I don’t know how to connect the dots. I don’t know where my break is going to come from.” Skinner’s background itself is not an impediment to fame, but his lack of access to important resources may be keeping him out of the inner circle. His big break may be realizing that the power of his voice need not be defined by the number of people who choose to hear him.
Editor-in-Chief of The Atlantic Thursday, November 8 4:15pm, Davenport Common Room
Adela Jaffe is a senior in Calhoun College. 26
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A Wooden Boat A Branford boatbuilder reacquaints the author with her own history. By Molly Hensley-Clancy
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find Bill Clapp standing fifteen feet above the saltwater tides of the Branford River, his reed-thin frame shadowy against a darkening October sky. A thunderstorm is brewing, but Clapp, on the platform of Dutch Wharf Marina’s enormous hydraulic boatlift, has eyes only for the sailboat he is carefully raising from the water. It is a delicate task; the boat weighs more than six tons. Below him, Clapp’s coworkers scramble on the deck. They crane their necks and call up to him: “This go here, Bill?” “How’s it look from up there, Bill?” “We good?” Clapp calls down. “We’re good.” It begins to drizzle just as the hull of the sailboat clears the riverbank, and the men on the docks exchange glances. “Bill, you know it’s lunchtime?” “It is?” Up above us, a sailboat in his hands, Clapp has lost track of time. The rain falls harder, sweeping across the water in heavy sheets, but he simply flicks his rubber hood over his head. His fingers return to the levers of the lift. Almost eagerly, he says, “Give me a few more minutes.” They call Bill Clapp the guardian angel of the boatyard. After twenty-two years at Dutch Wharf, he is more than qualified to work as a supervisor or yard foreman, but, as he sheepishly says, he’s “not the management type.” Clapp is nobody’s boss. Managers spend most of their time inside a neat, carpeted building, making phone calls and tapping at keyboards. Clapp does everything else. In the winter, he repairs boats, sanding and polishing their wood, replacing rotted planks and varnishing masts. He resurfaces decks, sairs keels, and carves tillers. In the fall, he lifts, cleans, and transports the boats, storing them on spindly metal legs, or boat stands, until they fill the sprawling gravel lot. In the past few weeks, Clapp has lifted stubby lobster boats, tall, angular fishing craft, and sleek powerboats, but mostly he lifts sailboats: yawls, schooners, sloops, ketches. In the yard, from among rows of massproduced white fiberglass hulls, it is the wooden crafts that stand out, like redwoods growing between buildings of glass and cinderblock. Bill Clapp loves all boats, but these are his obsession. “A wooden boat is a living thing,” Clapp has told me. He meant that wooden boats speak to him—of history, devotion, mastery, and craftsmanship. They are the
reason why, at 75 years old, he is still here. Still the last one in to lunch, even on days like today, when all he has on his agenda is hours of strenuous manual labor and freezing rain.
am fourteen. My grandparents are out alone on the lake when their boat, a fiberglass ketch that my grandpa bought a few months earlier, capsizes. My grandpa has been a sailor all his life, but he has never owned a fiberglass boat before, and it’s more temperamental than his wooden boats—too difficult for an eightytwo-year-old man to control. The water is cold. By now, after years of being medicated for bipolar disorder, my grammie is even frailer than she was in my childhood. Her hair is colorless, her skin pale, her body wrapped in an oversized purple cardigan to keep warm. She loses consciousness and slips beneath the water, and my grandpa, clinging to the side of the boat, cannot hold her up. What hurts most, when my mom tells me what happened, is imagining how afraid they were.
When Clapp takes me into the Ayesha’s cabin, I feel a wave of claustrophobia, and, for the first time since I came to Dutch Wharf, something akin to real fear.
’ve always been on the water,” Clapp told me once. “And I’ve always had a boat.” Clapp grew up in a narrow white house overlooking the Farm River, which stretches lazily from Lake Saltonstall down through olive-colored saltwater marshes and into Long Island Sound. He had a small wooden skiff, graying from age, that he poled into the Farm River Gut to swim and crab with other boys, and to jump off of dikes built to hold back floods. When he was 8 years old, Clapp realized he and his skiff could go faster if he “used the wind,” and he strung a bedsheet onto the poles. From then on, he sailed. At 14, Clapp bought his second boat with the salary he earned teaching sailing to the wealthy patrons of a local yacht club, and kept it until 1954, when entered SUNY Maritime College. He sailed in the US Navy and spent two years living on boat number three, a hulking cable-laying ship that was tethered to the ocean floor for hundreds of miles. Clapp told me he liked it—liked the camaraderie, the rush he felt when the captain put him in charge of the craft. Clapp married his high school sweetheart, Sis, after two years in the US Navy. “That was the end of my going to sea,” he said wistfully. He got an office job and his fourth boat, a 28-foot ketch that made Clapp’s days as an 29
am four. Grammie is standing at the counter of my grandpa’s boat, the Squidulum, holding a paper bag from Dahl’s Foods. We are alone in the cabin and she is wearing purple. From the bag, she takes a Tupperware container of homemade coffee cake, a carton of lemonade, and a baggie of the yogurt-covered pretzels that she buys and I devour in bulk. Above us, the sound of my grandpa’s worn boat shoes on the deck seems thunderous, the slap of the waves against the hull even louder. Grammie and I sit together on one of the benches, her arm around me. I am terrified, as the cabin pitches to one side and then another, that we might tip over. Breathless, my grandpa comes below deck, his khaki pants soaked and his windbreaker glistening with beads of water. He wants me to come up with him, so that I can steer the boat, so that I can see the beautiful lake and look up at the tall white sails. He 30
engineer at Southern Connecticut Telephone Company bearable. In the summer, he stored up vacation time to take his family—Sis and their son and daughter— on long “cruises” to Martha’s Vineyard and the Cape. Those were the times when Clapp was happiest. After twenty-six years working his way up at the telephone company, Clapp got out as soon as he could. He took a golden handshake and, instead of retiring, went to work at Dutch Wharf. Then came Tern. The boat belonged to the founder of Dutch Wharf, who passed the boat—and the yard— along to his son, Paul, after his death. It was a 28-foot Hereshoff Rozinante ketch, built only for, as Paul says, “the most experienced of sailors”—no motor, no lifelines, so light and sleek that it could be caught up in even the slightest of breezes. Even Paul couldn’t sail it. He sold the boat to Clapp, his most trusted employee, with the understanding that he was passing on a legacy. “It was like he was bringing my father back, in a way,” Paul told me. Clapp kept Tern for nineteen years. In the summers, he worked at Dutch Wharf until noon, then returned home. He swam out to where he kept Tern moored in a cove and sailed all afternoon, sometimes cruising up the Long Island Sound, other times simply tracing the waters of the bay he had sailed since he was a boy. Even in the wintertime, Clapp and Tern were rarely apart. In the basement of his Branford home, he crafted and customized its every feature: teak wedges to keep the anchor from rocking, a constellation compass in the cockpit sole, a wood-fired stove. When Clapp’s grandchildren began to sail, Sis demanded he replace the Tern with something safer—the 25-foot teak Vertue, a solid, heavy boat originally built to weather the storms of the English Channel. Stowed in its hull is a noisy, bulky motor.
promises that up there, with him, I will be safe. I shake my head and tell him I want to go home. If it were possible for grownups to be sad, Grandpa’s face, before he climbs back up the ladder, would have flashed with a kind of loneliness.
fter lunch, Clapp takes me to the Ayesha, a 46-foot yawl that is the shining star of Dutch Wharf ’s wooden craft. Built in 1932, the Ayesha has a deck made from rows of long, narrow planks, steamed until they became pliable and bent like the limb of an archer’s bow. Its brightwork—the varnished wood of the cabin and rails—shows the fine grain of the teak. Unlike Dutch Wharf ’s fiberglass boats and those that need a winter’s worth of repairs, the Ayesha will spend most of the offseason in the water, “wet-stored” to keep the hull from drying out. When Clapp takes me into the Ayesha’s cabin, I feel a wave of claustrophobia, and, for the first time since I came to Dutch Wharf, something akin to real fear. It’s not even the steep, narrow companionway or the low ceilings. It’s the smell. Almost as soon as my foot touches the cabin sole, it hits me: wet, aging wood, varnish, mildew, maybe, hanging heavy in the air. I dig my nails deep into my palms as Clapp shows me the detail work in the galley, trying to breathe through my nose. It’s a relief when we go back above deck. “Wood boats do best when they’re in the water,” Clapp tells me. He grins, and his thin lips turn up lopsidedly. “That’s when they’re in their natural element.” BeThe New Journal
together again, and Bill Clapp can do it. Fiberglass develops spots and stress cracks, but the beauty of a wooden boat, when it’s maintained, only increases with age. “It’s simply elegant,” Clapp tells me of the Ayesha. “Its beauty comes from the craftsmanship, but also from being unchanged.” Clapp’s apprentice, Mitch, once told me the same thing about Clapp. “Bill comes from another time,” he said. “He devotes everything to this. He’s single-minded. He’s not a modern guy. Everything everywhere is constantly changing, but not Bill.”
Left: Bill Clapp stands at Dutch Wharf; right: Author Molly Hensley-Clancy, her grandparents, and her uncle at Boston Harbor in 1996. neath Clapp’s boots, the Ayesha’s rain-soaked teak deck, rich and dark, gleaming as though cast in lamplight, seems no better evidence. Some say a wooden boat’s beauty comes from nature, just as the boats themselves do—that wooden boats, in reflecting the grain of trees, the wings of birds, evoke a visceral need to connect to the natural world. Lawrence Cheek, author of The Year of the Boat, connects their beauty to biophilia, an innate tendency born of instincts of survival and reproduction to “focus on life and lifelike processes.” We can see the strong, fanning branches of the oak in a sailboat’s hull; the long, elegant arms of the cedar in its bowed planks; the buttressed roots of the mahogany in the boat’s lustrous brightwork. The beauty of a wooden boat is also reflected in its craftsmanship. It is not manufactured, like fiberglass boats; it is built, by hand. There is something beautiful about the sight of a Dutch Wharf employee sitting in the shadow of a 38’ sloop and lovingly sanding its tiny nameplate. A wooden boat does not just have a personality within it. It has a person behind it, a person with the skill to bend and shape wood and make dull things gleam. For Clapp, who spends much of the year performing repairs, part of a wooden boat’s beauty is its construction. “A wooden boat is made of pieces,” he tells me frequently. The keel, the stem, the stern, the strake; if one of these becomes worn or aged, it can simply be replaced. This is why a wooden boat lasts. Even after years of neglect and disrepair, a wooden boat can be put back
am sixteen. Even after two years, my grandpa’s big brick house feels empty—of purple, of pretzels, of giddy races down the front staircase. In the den, as always, sits a big model boat, its brass sails tarnished from age. Above the television is a framed photo of Grandpa and Grammie on the deck of the Squidulum, the lake glittering blue behind them. “I’ve been going to Lake Rathbun,” Grandpa tells me proudly, when he sees me staring at the picture. He spends time at the yacht club and sails on the mile-wide lake with his more agile friends. “It makes me feel young again,” he likes to say. To me it feels like a betrayal.
hen I leave the Ayesha’s cabin, the rain is falling even harder, gusting in my face like sea spray. The
cube-shaped boatlift has been returned to its place, now straddling the slip on its four angular metal legs. After the lift’s slings have been lowered into the water, the boat—a small racing craft—is driven above them, and the slings are repositioned snugly around its hull. Clapp grins at me from the docks. “You can sit in the crane!” he calls through the downpour, gesturing to an old blue machine that is used to unstep—remove— sailboats’ masts. “We’re just about to start.” The rain is inescapable, even in the shelter of the crane’s cab. It sheets through the open door and drips from the cracks in the ceiling. As I have taken to doing for the past few weeks, I pull out my notebook and begin to scribble on the damp pages. If my eyes wander, they go to the sailboats’ forebidding masts, their uneven decks. It’s better that they don’t. “Put down your notepad,” Clapp is used to telling me. “Look at this.” I look up to see Clapp standing at the door of the crane, the corner of his mouth open in a slightly sheepish smile. Beneath the brim of his rubber hood, his angular cheeks are flushed and ruddy from the cold; his crooked nose, mottled with a network of dark red veins, pokes out. After the boat has been lifted, he explains to me, it will be scrubbed, its barnacles scraped away, and sprayed with a pressure washing hose. “You could probably write a whole paper just about pressure washing,” he finishes, eagerly. Thunder growls in the distance. “Come on up with me. I want to show you how it feels to lift one of these,” he says. Before I fully realize it, I am up on the platform of the boatlift, the soggy remains of my notebook still sitting in the crane. Clapp climbs up after me. Here, the wind cuts against us, and my jeans are soon soaked to the skin. While Clapp monitors the work on the deck of the boat below us, explaining to me the intricacies of the slings’ placement on the hull, I turn to stare out at the river. I know I’m imagining it, but the sky seems a little lower up here, pulled closer to the water and the reeds. The boats look smaller. Where the flat, low river turns away from us, their masts barely scrape against the horizon. “You ready to lift this?” Clapp asks me. He is still grinning, almost impishly. “Okay.” He puts my palm on one of the levers, and then his own gloved hand on top of mine. “You’ve got to go real slowly,” he says. Together, we pull the lever, and the boat begins to rise, rise until it is out of the water, until it hangs in front 32
of us, suspended in midair, its keel exposed.
am ten. My grandpa is determined to teach me, his oldest granddaughter, to sail, so he builds me a wooden boat in the backyard of his Iowa home. In the single picture that exists of it, the Molly Rose, a ten-foot catboat still without its mast, looks almost like a toy, child-sized and slick with new varnish. We’ll go out on the lake in the boat together, Grandpa promises, and he’ll show me how to work the rigging, and how to steer. When he mentions it, I say nothing. I don’t want to set foot in his boat, even if it was made for me. That summer, Grandpa is driving the boat to me for the first time when a man rear-ends him on the highway. Before it ever touches the water, the Molly Rose splinters apart.
our days later, Clapp and I go sailing. For me, it is the first time in sixteen years. For Clapp, it is the last sail of the season, the end of a summer’s worth of cruises. The day is, like so many on the Connecticut coast, gray and still. The cove where Clapp moors the Vertue is lined with yellow-gray slabs of granite that seemingly slough off the banks into the water. Trees, and the umber shell of a long-defunct fishworks, protrude like a spine from the granite island. We float into the cove in a dinghy that Clapp keeps tied in the shallows. Clapp rows, and I sit hunched in the bow, narrowing my eyes at the sailboat ahead of us and feeling my throat tighten with every stroke. A hundred or so feet away, the Vertue sits elegantly on the water. Its hull, made from solid teak, is a simple white with a green stripe at the water line, and its wooden bow curves slightly upwards. The mainmast, against the frame of the fishworks, looks like the needle-thin spire of a country church. I told Clapp about my fear of sailing on the day we first met, almost a month ago. A the time, he only nodded, and neither of us have brought it up since. Alone together in the dinghy, with only the faint sound of a motor puttering in the distance, I find myself wondering if he remembers. As I climb onto the Vertue for the first time, Clapp offers me his hand, and I take it, knowing I could easily step on without him. He grips my hand tightly even after I am standing on the deck. When he lets go, I feel the motion of the boat worming into my stomach. The sail is still bundled away in a sail cover, but the bare mast looms uneasily above us. At first there is too little wind to sail, so we use the Vertue’s motor, a slow noisy thing that Clapp says he would “rather do without.” While we sit together in the cockpit, holding watery mugs of coffee, Clapp tells me stories of Branford Bay. Thoughts of my grandmother The New Journal
crackle like static over Clapp’s voice and the scenery around us. It’s impossible to listen to more than a few words before he, and the boat and the bay, are blurred out. Then the wind picks up, and Clapp switches off the motor. The silence is uneasy, cut by the occasional smack of a shallow wave against the hull. “Are you all right steering while I put up the sails?” he asks. I nod, wordlessly, and take the tiller. The sail snaps in the first gust of wind, and suddenly I can feel the boat picking up speed beneath me, as though we are being lifted, shedding weight. “See, now the luff is tight,” Clapp says, tying the rope to a cleat. “Now we can start sailing.” Clapp returns to the cockpit, but he doesn’t take back the tiller. Instead, he sits next to me and explains the positions of the sails, the meaning of tacking and heeling and gybing. Sailing requires focus, he tells me. Watch the waves, to see if they change; watch the white sails above you, to see if they Clappow and shift; watch the swinging jib, the heeling hull. Feel the wind, smell the salt. Then the seam of clouds splits apart and thick, angular rays of sunlight fall on Branford Bay. The trees burst into flame, maroon and orange, and the steely water is swept with a rim of cerulean. The breeze flares and the sail cracks and fills and I can feel the tiller straining against my hand, and us, the boat and Clapp and I, caught up in the wind. The hull slices through the water, accompanied by the deep groan of the mast in its step. “There you go,” Clapp says. “Now you’ve got it.” He is perched on the edge of the cockpit, just beneath the boom, worn baseball cap blown back to reveal traces of stubbly gray hair. “The breeze is picking up, see? We’re going to tack.” He points ahead to where the waves are beginning to stir, to where the blue is tipped with glittering gold, and he takes the smooth wood of the tiller. We steady. I feel, in that gilded, breathless moment, a swell of grief. I look not at the boat but at the hand next to mine, calloused and rutted, guiding the tiller. I’m thinking about a day last week when Clapp was trying to explain to me the beauty of wooden boats. At first, he tried to describe the experience of sailing Tern. Then he trailed off and began again with a story about his five-year-old grandson—they go sailing together in
the summer, often for hours at a time. Clapp told me they had been meaning to go on a cruise yesterday, but his grandson was grounded; it was so late in October that the cruise would have to wait until next year. Next year, when Clapp will really teach him how to sail. It’s only now, holding the tiller, listening to Bill Clapp explain how to catch the wind, that I understand what his grandson has to do with the beauty of a wooden boat.
am 20. I call Grandpa after Clapp drops me off in New Haven that afternoon. I tell him, not entirely untruthfully, that I liked sailing. I tell him about Clapp’s thick sturdy boat, gliding slowly through the Bay, and about how I took the tiller and held the jib sheet. I use the words Clapp has taught me, straining to remember the vocabulary that comes to him with such fluency. It is the longest conversation we have had since Grammie stopped chiming in from the phone in the upstairs bedroom. “Did you get to the lake at all this year?” I ask. “To sail?” “Not this year,” he says. “I’m not walking so good nowadays. I can’t stand on a deck that’s pitching back and forth.” He’ll be 88 next year, and it’s the third summer in a row that he hasn’t been able to sail. While we talk, Grandpa cycles nostalgically through his own line of wooden boats: the Kevelle, the Squidulum, the Capella, the never-sailed Molly Rose... After that he trails off. Neither of us mentions the last boat, though we are both thinking of her. But I am thinking, too, of Bill Clapp and his grandson. The grief I felt on the sailboat today was not for my grandmother, but for the man whose hand should have been next to mine on the tiller. Now I have to think that it never will be. “I thought about you a lot today,” I tell my grandfather. “I miss you.” “I’ve been missing you too, granddaughter,” he says. Then his voice grows low, strangled. “Maybe next year we can sail together.”
Even after years of neglect and disrepair, a wooden boat can be put back together again, and Clapp can do it.
Molly Hensley-Clancy is a senior in Branford College. 33
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Orange, California Max Saltarelli '13, photographs the weird side of suburbia in and around his home town of Orange, CA.
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A Conversation with Cord Jefferson In early August, Cord Jefferson was hired as the West Coast Editor for online publication Gawker, after a job as a senior editor for GOOD magazine. In between editorial positions, Jefferson has built a rich repertoire of articles freelanced for outlets including The Nation, National Geographic, NPR and The Root. He often writes on topics related to race and class. He sat down with The New Journal to discuss diversity in media today.
Aliyya Swaby: You’re the second black editor Gawker has ever had. Why is this significant? CJ: I think that there are things that you simply can’t do as a publication and viewpoints that are hard to come by without having a lot of diversity on staff. In an increasingly multiracial nation with an African-American in the White House; if you don’t have a significant number of people of color on staff, you’re approaching irrelevance. Juliana Hanle: You wrote an article for BET News this summer about racial disparity in marijuana use prosecution in the US. How and when do you decide to approach articles using a racial angle? CJ: I have no interest in being the guy that’s cramming racial stuff down people’s throats. Having said that, I think there’s no way to get around the fact that race has influence over pretty much everything that happens in society -- from politics and criminal justice to 38
music and fashion and real estate. I do often feel pulled to discuss the racial element because it fascinates me. Privilege is invisible. If you’re middle class or a wealthy white person in America, you don’t see how your race affects everything that you do. The thing that’s a blessing and a curse for brown, black, females, and other minorities, is that you’re able to see how often race influences your life. In most cases, “playing the race card” is just a person of color acknowledging that race is a real thing that exists, and that there’s a power dynamic that goes along with it. AS: In The Root last April you described being a “formerly angry black man” before going to anger management. Could you have written an article like that one in a publication that wasn’t specifically from an African-American perspective? CJ: Absolutely. Gawker has been open to me writing about racial stuff. They have never said no to pitches that deal with race. The smarter outlets and publications The New Journal
see that these are important issues. You can’t just publish something anymore that caters exclusively to straight white men. AS: What do you think mainstream media outlets should do to improve the diversity of their newsrooms? CJ: People should be very earnest and direct about fact that they want to hire people of color, women, and gay people. The fact that you’re looking for a diverse newsroom is not something about which to be ashamed. Not having a diversity of opinion will start to make people look foolish, like it made Tina Brown and Newsweek look foolish for propagating nonsense about all Muslims being violent. JH: Can you point to one key lesson you took from your experience studying sociology in college? CJ: Sociology helped me understand that the idea that certain groups of people are civilized and others are uncivilized is kind of meaningless. The barriers we put in place to restrict ourselves from one another are all manmade. I went to William and Mary—I would imagine Yale is kind of similar. Those kinds of environments are really tough places in which to get a real sense of what’s going on outside of campus. People struggle with things that many William and Mary or Yale students don’t struggle with. Sociology taught me that those people’s lives were not worth any less than the life I was leading. They were just as valuable, interesting, and important as mine. JH: At The New Journal, our writers, some of whom come from privileged backgrounds, find themselves writing about a city where a lot of social issues deal with race and socioeconomic status. Do you have advice for a college student handling these issues? CJ: I’m the same way. I’m a person of color but at the same time, my mom’s white. I also come from a middle class background–my dad’s a lawyer. The best advice I can give is not to be embarrassed not to know things, not to be embarrassed to feel uncomfortable in a place. Some of the greatest pieces I read, whether they’re creative fiction or creative nonfiction or journalism, are about people who find themselves in uncomfortable positions: places where they don’t know a lot, where they have to work really hard to understand why they’re feeling the way they are about what they’re encountering. The best piece of advice you can give anybody is,
don’t go to a place with an agenda. AS: You have an active Tumblr you update regularly. How does the site interact with your journalistic writing? CJ: I can’t tell you how many times things I put on Tumblr and Twitter have become the kernel of some other bigger story that I was working on. Being able to put your ideas into a quick safe space like that and to see what people say about them is beautiful. AS: You recently came under fire for a Gawker article you wrote arguing that pedophilia should be considered a sexual orientation, and in subsequent blog posts, you apologized for some of the article’s shortcomings. How should a writer deal with the possibility of backlash when reporting on sensitive topics? CJ: You have to have thick skin, especially when you’re going to write about topics that are really sensitive, like gender issues and race issues. You have to go in knowing people will be angry. The pedophile piece is a perfect example. I talked to my editors about it and we knew that it would make some people hate me right away. You have to be willing to admit that you may be wrong and be willing to discuss things. There were a lot of rational critiques of that piece, but there were also a lot of irrational ones. There’s a great Ricky Gervais quote, “Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re in the right.” Right now we have to realize that the Internet is like the Wild West. You have to be willing to take heat, be yelled at. After that pedophile piece came out, this feminist writer and editor in New York who I really respect e-mailed me said, “Hey, if you want to talk about the responses people are having, then let’s talk.” We chatted for two hours. For me, that conversation was worth a million people yelling at me online.
Juliana Hanle is a senior in Davenport College, and Aliyya Swaby is a senior in Pierson College. Both are Co-Editors-inChief of The New Journal. 39
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