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TUFTS OBSERVER TUFTS’ STUDENT MAGAZINE

NOVEMBER 23, 2009

Together, Online The re-emergence of small town life


Featured Articles

2

FEATURE

Redening community

5

OFF CAMPUS

The prospects of bike sharing in Boston

WAY OFF CAMPUS

24

A look at how grafti culture is changing in Boston

CAMPUS LIFE

Drop your vitual shovel and reexamine FarmVille

PROSE

A short story by Amy Connors

The Observer has been Tufts’ weekly publication of record since 1895. Our dedication to in-depth reporting, journalistic innovation, and honest dialogue has remained intact for over a century. Today, we offer insightful news analysis, cogent and diverse opinion pieces, and lively reviews of current arts, entertainment, and sports. Through poignant writing and artistic elegance, we aim to entertain, inform, and above all challenge the Tufts community to affect positive change.

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O Editors

Contents

November 23, 2009 Volume CXIX, Issue 5 The Observer, Since 1895 www.TuftsObserver.org

EDITOR DITOR-IN-CHIEF

Daniel aniel Rosen Ros

MANAGING ANAGING EDITORS

Marysa arysa Lin L Lauren auren Mazel

PRODUCTION DIRECTOR

Joshua Aschheim ART DIRECTOR

Ryan Stolp

SECTION EDITORS

Katie Boland Katie Christiansen Zachary Foulk Michael Goetzman Micah Hauser Zachary Laub Eliza Mills Dana Piombino Will Ramsdell Caitlin Schwartz

PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR

Elizabeth Herman COPY EDITOR

Kristen Barone ASSISTANT COPY EDITORS

Danielle Carbonneau Kate Grifths Karrie Larsson Carly Machlis Cara Paley Daniela Ramirez Isobel Redelmeier Brian Wolf LEAD ARTIST

Alyce Currier LAYOUT DIRECTOR

Avery Matera ASSISTANT LAYOUT EDITORS

Meg Boland Charlee Corra David Schwartz Natalie Selzer Daniel Weinstein Alyssa Wohl

2 FThe Dilemma of Staying Connected in a Tech Age, by Michael Goetzman and Micah Hauser 5 OFree CRide?, by Madeline Christensen 6 CTufts JoinsL the $50K Club, by Madeline Garber N Maine Objection, by Jon Svenningsen 8 The L A Fresh Look at the Changing Season, by Ariana Seigel 10 CTransitions: 12 CFacebookLRevolutions, by Michelle Zhang L a Hoe, by Molly Rubin 13 C(Don’t) Use 14 NThe War on Climate Change, by Michael Bendetson C by Ryan Stolp 19 PCrown&Jewel, C A by Potato, by Reggie Hubbard 20 Death A &E In: A Tufts Radio Review, by Daniel Heller 21 Tuned &E Should Love the Venus De Milo, by Alex Blum 22 AWhy We 24 WTagged:O TheCIconography of Grafti in Boston by Katie Lazarski E Living 101, by Katie Boland and Katie Christiansen 26 ROff Campus P Fields, by Natalie Selzer 28 PPorcelain Poppy 31 PThe Agnostics,P by Amy Conners 32 Hbunchofguys, by Alyce and Malcolm EATURE FF

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IFE

ATIONAL

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IFE

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IFE

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ETEY

HUCK

LTERNATIVE

ULTURE

RTS

NTERTAINMENT

RTS

NTERTAINMENT

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STATE

OETRY AND

ROSE

OETRY AND

ROSE

UMOR

BUSINESS MANAGERS

Jason Clain Max Zarin

Contributors Michael Bendetson Alex Blum Amy Conners Laura Curren Madeline Garber Daniel Heller

Raphael Kohlberg Katie Lazarski Jessica Madding Haley Newman Lizzy Roberts Molly Rubin

Alriana Seigel Lorrayne Shen Amy Shipp Jon Svenningsen Ruth Tam Ira Vogel

Michelle Zhang

Cover Photo by Elizabeth Herman

Since

1895


CULTURE

All

My

The Dilemma of Staying Connected in a Technological Age

MICAH HAUSER & MICHAEL GOETZMAN BY

Friends... Many adults discount social networking websites as a meaningless distraction that enfeebles our young minds. This is a predictable and cautionary response, but it neglects to explain why 300 million users worldwide ďƒžnd the need to log onto Facebook. Like it or not, this is a phenomenon that is here to stay in some form or another, and there may be more to the increasing digitization of our social lives than meets the eye. 2

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November 23, 2009

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CULTURE that, he hedged his bets that the tide of public opinion would turn. He was right. Within a few weeks the protest groups died out. People got used to the News Feed, and even started liking it. The earlier fears about full disclosure on the News Feed—the possibility of drunken photos or embarrassing break-up rumors popping up for all to see—turned out to be exactly what everyone wanted. Moreover, even the harmless details became oddly alluring. We got used to knowing what our friends thought of lunch that day—Sarah is going to puke after eating that heinous dining hall pizza—or when they changed their favorite bands—Jason joined the group “I would totally eat Thom Yorke’s fingernail clippings.” The information had always been there, but now we could access it effortlessly and immediately.

GRAPHIC BY ALYCE CURRIER

THE ADVENT OF THE NEWS FEED On September 5, 2006, Facebook introduced a change that nearly ended in digital warfare. In an effort to streamline users’ ability to access information on their friends’ pages, Mark Zuckerberg, C.E.O. and founder, rocked the social networking community with the advent of the News Feed. Instead of having to bounce around to check the status updates, relationship news, or photo postings of specific friends, a single page would actively broadcast any changes that a user made. Everyone’s digital lives were suddenly subject to minute-by-minute coverage, and, understandably, the initial reaction was complete panic. Just 24 hours later, the largest antiNews Feed group had already reached 284,000 members. Concerns about privacy were rampant, and many outspoken users compared Facebook to an aspiring version of Big Brother. In response to the outcry, Zuckerberg added a privacy feature to the News Feed, but other than

AMBIENT AWARENESS: THE NEW DIGITAL INTIMACY Social scientists have a name for this type of constant online contact. It’s called “ambient awareness,” and it very accurately replicates the experience of being physically near someone. But instead of using corporeal clues like body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to pick up on someone’s mood, we use the little pieces of digital information to assemble a larger picture of what our friends’ lives are like. This is especially true of status updates. On their own, they can be insignificant, even banal and boring. But taken together, over time, the individual fragments coalesce into a complicated portrait of our friends and family, much like the tiny dots of a pointillist painting. In a world increasingly characterized by emotional isolation and disconnectedness, the News Feed is a blessing in disguise. As college students, we are physically separated from so much of what is important to us. We are far away from home, our high school friends are spread across the country, and our family members are busy with their own lives. The News Feed, it seems, affords us an

opportunity to connect with them on a level that would otherwise be impossible. It allows us to pick up on the subtle rhythms of their everyday lives and tune in to the many details of their existence that would never be fully communicated through a phone call or an email.

ONLINE IDENTITY: BECOMING YOUR OWN P.R. MANAGER Part of the initial appeal of social networking is the opportunity it provides users to assert power over their self-image. In everyday life, projecting an identity can be a difficult, anxietyridden endeavor. Facebook allows us to broadcast a favorable image of ourselves all from the comfort and privacy of our desk chairs, offering enough control to keep us content, but not so much as to let us grow complacent or lose interest. Indeed, our attitude towards our online identity is simultaneously vigilant and carefree. We curate our online personalities to our liking, ensuring that our virtual selves aren’t defined by others, but we’ve learned to accept what we know we can’t control. Nonetheless, Facebook’s popularity hinges on our continual vigilance and understanding that our online reputation is secure only if we tend to it. Becoming our own PR manager, we untag compromising or unflattering photographs, make sure to reciprocate wall posts in a timely manner (but not too timely—no one wants to seem creepy), and make the required effort of wishing everyone a happy birthday. Abandoning Facebook can result in the distortion of the identity we’ve so carefully cultivated, so we stay online and stay alert, perpetually reminding ourselves of what others have said and can see.

SMALL TOWN LIVING IN THE URBAN WORLD Psychologists and sociologists have long posed the question of how humans might adapt to the relative obscurity of urban existence. Thoreau once said, “City life is millions of people being lonesome November 23, 2009

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CULTURE

THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF FACEBOOK With our ever-increasing number of “friends,” photos, events, and groups, we have to wonder when the pendulum may shift, when we’ll realize we don’t have as much control over our online identity as we hoped, and that maybe anonymity wasn’t so bad after all. We have to wonder if we’ll ever grow tired of self-broadcasting, realizing that our virtual personas are but gilded semblances of ourselves. And, ultimately, we have to wonder what will replace Facebook when it finally runs out of steam. We’ve known networking sites like Friendster and MySpace long enough to understand that they’re short-lived and transient things— vaunted and populated, then abandoned like gold-rush towns. Facebook won’t last forever, and its creators are wary of this; they know their history. But we’ll hang tight in the interim, foregoing a degree of privacy in an effort to stay connected. Eventually, we may decide to stop logging on, we may even de-activate our accounts, but our information will remain. And in time, it may be worth a lot, maybe nothing at all. O 4

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November 23, 2009

More than 3 million events created monthly

......

The average user has 130 friends on the site

......

together.” In this context, social networking can be seen as a means to combat the anonymity and isolation inherent in urban living. Facebook in particular is a diffuse matrix that, remarkably, provides its users with the advantages of village-like connectedness often lost in an urban setting. When you think about it, scrolling through the News Feed is a lot like walking down the Main Street of a small community—think “Gilmore Girls” style. We see what everyone is doing, and, if we want, we can stop to say hello, but we also have the freedom to keep moving with our own lives. The small town element does have a catch, however. While social networks afford the city dweller a way to connect more intimately than he might through his own devices, the thought of being constantly “followed” or observed can seem suffocating, much like life in a small town, where every one knows your business whether you like it or not.

Over 8 billion minutes spent on Facebook daily

More than 45 million status updates daily

More than 2 billion photos uploaded monthly

ALYCE CURRIER


OFF CAMPUS

Free Ride? BY

P

MADELINE CHRISTENSEN

aris may be one of the most iconic cities of the world, and, in the eyes of many, it has become inseparably intertwined with certain images. The Eiffel Tower. Chic wardrobes. Tiny coffees and crusty baguettes. And bicycles. Famously known as the nish line for the yearly Tour de France, the city of love has also put in place a far-reaching and thoroughly developed bicycle rental system. Residents can rent bicycles from hundreds of stations around the city, providing an inexpensive and low-carbon way to travel. The company Velib’ established the program about two years ago, dotting the city with 20,600 sturdy bicycles, which, after the program’s startup and maintenance fees are included, cost around $3,500 each. Sadly, human nature has proven

ALL IMAGES BY

RYAN STOLP

detrimental to the system, which has seen 80 percent of the original bicycles stolen or damaged. Many of the bikes are popping up on the black markets of Eastern Europe and northern Africa. Others have been found hanging from lampposts or oating down the Seine. To make matters worse, bikers have popularized the art of “Velib’ extrême,” to the expense of the bikes. Vélib extremists have plastered their exploits, which have included riding the Vélib bikes down steps, into metro stations and on BMX courses, all over YouTube. The assaults on the Velib’ bicycles, which seem to cater mostly to the middle class, may expose a less glamorous underbelly of Parisian society, where social tensions incited car burnings in its suburbs in 2005. Professor Robert Russell, who teaches

courses on environmental law and policy in the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Department at Tufts, notes that programs such as the one in Paris have still come a long way from earlier bike sharing systems of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. “Essentially, cruddy bikes were scattered around the city, and people were advised not to steal them, jjust, yyou know, thinkingg

that they were so clunky, they wouldn’t disappear,” he said. “But in everywhere from Portland, Oregon, to various places in Holland, they ended up in the river . . . Probably teenagers participated heavily in destroying them.” Russell explained that efforts to make society’s habits more eco-friendly always bear some risks. “There are always unintended consequences whenever you try to manipulate at least part of a system,” Russell said. “In the environmental area . . . we’re always manipulating part of the system, and that inevitably produces problems. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best.” Boston might be the city to pioneer a similar bicycle rental system in the United States. Next spring, city planners intend to lead the nation’s rst city-wide bike-sharing system in the hopes that Boston’s lower theft rate will prompt better treatment of the bikes than seen in Paris Planners hope that the endeavor will put more cyclists on the streets and help change the attitudes of brassy motorists who often display nearindignation towards cyclists on the road today. Between 1,000 and 3,000 bikes will be stocked in stations 300 to 400 yards apart, located at heavily frequented areas such as subways, bus stops, and tourist landmarks. Riders will be able to purchase annual subscriptions to the program for around $40 or day passes for about $2.50. Bikers

could have unlimited rides of less than 30 minutes, and anything over that would be charged an extra hourly rate. The developers hope to make helmets available for $6 at local stores. Russell considered that while bike sharing would make the lives of students on college campuses easier, the logistics might prove more burdensome than for a large city. “Would it work at Tufts? I actually don’t think so,” he said. “Not because Tufts is populated by kleptomaniacs, because it isn’t, but that there’s just a general entropic force . . . Somebody would ride their bike off campus, and it would get stolen, somebody would come onto campus and steal some bicycles.” In addition, Russell pointed out that Tufts would not be able to employ enough bicycles to justify the expensive anti-theft measures that city-wide programs use. Bike-sharing programs are not the only endeavor that the environmentally aware have petitioned for in the hopes of making carbon emissions a point of individual concern. Russell said that initiatives have already been attempted in Europe to assign carbon emissions credits to corporations, which they could in theory buy and

trade from each other, thus making reduced carbon emissions a matter of a company’s personal interest. But Russell said that the beginnings of these programs have also proven rocky. In order for bike-sharing to work smoothly, city dwellers may need a shift in attitude towards communal use of property. But this sort of change in paradigm could make for not only a cleaner environment, but also for a healthier and more convenient lifestyle. O November 23, 2009

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CAMPUS LIFE

Tufts Joins the $50K Club MADELINE GARBER

other institutions have experienced.” Regardless of their dedication to supn November 1, The Chronicle of porting faculty, however, Thurler said that Higher Education reported that the university has eliminated raises for college costs are soaring nationmost employees and put all non-essential wide. This year, 58 private schools are hiring on hold. Furthermore, all employcharging $50,000 or more for tuition and ees earning more than $50,000 have had room and board, known as the universitheir salaries frozen. Tufts cut its nonty’s “total cost.” This is a striking increase research budget by about $36 million and from the 2008-2009 academic year, when deferred capital projects, such as the inonly ve colleges fell into this category. tegrated research laboratory that was in Most of the schools that entered the “50K planning stages. “Virtually every departclub” this year, including Tufts University, ment and every ofce cut back, often goare small liberal arts colleges located in or ing to great lengths to not even spend all OLS IN TH O H around the Northeast. of their lowered budgets,” Thurler C S E BO IVE S This year, Tufts charged said. S N TO PE $51,088 in total charges. According to Dean N X E AR According to the of Undergraduate T EA Education OS Chronicle, it is the James M 20th most expenGlaser, schools like sive university in Tufts with budget BOSTON UNIVERSITY the country and models that are the highest priced more tuition driven school in the greattend to be more imBABSON COLLEGE er Boston area, mune to changes in beating out neighthe economy than bors such as Harthose institutions BOSTON COLLEGE vard University and that are dependent Boston University. on the interest of With many their endowments. buildings still lack“If you’re budget TUFTS UNIVERSITY ing in wireless Inis largely fed by ternet capability, an endowment, as an athletic center is true down the that has yet to be street [at Harvard], renovated, a health center that is closed With expenses higher as a result of then you’re very vulnerable. Large numon Sundays, and a library café that’s only economic distress, staff cuts would also bers of staff have lost their jobs there. functioning after noon, it’s understandable lead to fewer research librarians and uni- We’ve been a little more secure than that Tufts students and parents alike are versity counselors, and longer lines in Harvard, which isn’t to say that we didn’t wondering: why is Tufts so expensive? Dowling Hall, which would decrease stu- tighten our belts considerably. There was According to Kim Thurler, Tufts’ Di- dents’ overall experience. By increasing pain felt. Hopefully it wasn’t pain that rector of Public Relations, Tufts didn’t see the tuition, Thurler said, Tufts has “been students saw… members of the staff did cutting faculty as a plausible solution to able to avoid widespread layoffs that some extra work, went without raises. We did BY

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lowering undergraduate tuition in an economically difcult time. “It’s important to keep in mind that reducing faculty and stuff would also hurt students,” Thurler said. Tufts is consistently recognized for its small class size and has one of the highest percentages of classes with fewer than 20 students (73% according to US News & World Report’s rankings). “Such cuts would result in larger classes, fewer new, young faculty teaching new subjects, fewer opportunities for undergraduates to work in close contact with faculty.”

$50,245

$50,324

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$51,088

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CAMPUS LIFE more with the same amount of people, or with fewer people, as a response to the scal crisis.” Undergraduate tuition also makes possible the implementation of programs such as the senior thesis programs, university seminars, and summer scholars. Additionally, it allows Tufts to fund a wide array of student programming, ranging from sports teams to events held at the various culture centers, Thurler said. Additional areas that tuition dollars go towards include the Academic Resource Center, the Institute for Global Leadership, Career Services, the Chaplaincy, and the entire Dowling Hall operation. “This is not a place where there’s a lot of fat or waste,” Glaser said. “The staff works really hard and we’re not interested in collecting every tuition dollar to live high on the hog. The hope is that we offer lots of opportunities and have a terric faculty and have excellent laboratories and that we support the creation of knowledge and not just the transmission of knowledge. And that’s expensive.” According to Glaser, Tufts’ facilities, which tuition also helps to support, have improved a great deal throughout the past 20 years. “If you look at what’s happened in the time I’ve been at Tufts, as dean for the last six years and in the political science department for 18 years, the change on campus is incredible,” he said. “The new music building, the new political science building, Sophia Gordon Hall… the library doubled in size in the late ‘90s and went from a sub-standard library to a state-of-the-art library. The research labs at 200 Boston Avenue, the Gantcher eld house. There are other things on the agenda, and it does take some time to be able to accomplish them.” Glaser recognized that students have

of the recession, Tufts made every effort to keep increases in tuition and fees in check,” she said. “Last year’s increase in tuition and fees was the lowest in 45 years: 3.5 percent.” To help students and their families combat rising costs, nancial aid grew by 12 percent this year, and Tufts claims to have met 100 percent of its students’ need for assistance. According to Bacow, nancial aid was the only expense in the university budget that was increased. 50 percent of undergraduates currently receive some form of assistance, which includes grants, work/study positions throughout the university, and student loans. AcDIGITIAL COLLECTIONS AND ARCHIVES, TUFTS UNIVERSITY cording to Thurler, what’s happened to this place under the the average grant is $27,000, which is more Bacow administration, the change has than half the cost of attending Tufts. Pell been huge. And the value of your degree Grants, which are doled out to the most goes up, and that’s something that you nancially strained students, increased carry around with you. It would be great from $550 last year to $670 this year. But what about the 50 percent of stuif we had wireless in every building and there are always places where we could get dents that aren’t receiving nancial aid? They are still paying $50,000 for an edubetter. But there’s been a lot of change.” According to an e-mail that President cation at Tufts, and it can often be hard Lawrence Bacow sent to the Tufts com- for these students to nd jobs, as they ofmunity on March 11, 2009, Tufts has ve ten only go to students eligible for work/ major sources of revenue: tuition and study. “Financial aid is only one piece of fees, income on the endowment, gifts for current use, research revenue, and income this,” Glaser said. “If you think about from clinical operations performed at what comes from that 50,000, you’re part Tufts’ School of Dental Medicine and the of a community, you’re being taught by Cummings School of Veterinary Medi- highly specialized people, you’re [part of] cine. “In this environment, nothing would a research agenda.” Students that pay full please me more than being able to freeze tuition “are gaining by being in a school the tuition,” he said in the e-mail. “Ulti- with a diverse student body, and I think mately, the need to balance our budget a large amount of their tuition dollars go towards supporting a high quality edumeans we cannot do so.” Thurler points out that while Tufts’ cation. My hope is that people take adoverall cost has surpassed $50,000, the vantage of the opportunity, because not increase in tuition and fees for the 2009- everyone [does]. We know it’s expensive 2010 academic school year is the smallest for your parents to send you here, and we it’s been in almost ve decades. “Knowing hope you take full advantage of what we that many families were feeling the pain have to offer.” O

been waiting for a renovated tness center and increased wireless in buildings, and emphasized that facilities are very expensive to build and maintain. “I totally understand that people have complaints, and those complaints can be legitimate,” he said. “But the fact is, if you look at

November 23, 2009

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NATIONAL

The Maine O Although Question One succeeded in repealing same-sex marriage in Maine, the national movement maintains momentum. Five states have legalized same-sex marriage, and more are considering doing the same. BY JON

SVENNINGSEN

E

lection Day 2009 came and went, and, while for most people this meant local elections for mayor, alderman, or county executive, something much more important and divisive was on the ballot in one state. On November 3, Maine voters became the latest state to weigh in on same-sex marriage, narrowly passing Question 1, which asked voters, “Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?” The vote passed by a margin of 52.82% to 47.18%, repealing the law that had passed earlier in the year and making Maine just another state in a long list of states to reject gay marriage at the ballot box. This past May, Maine passed a bill that would have recognized and allowed same-sex marriage. However, opponents of the bill compiled signatures to put the bill up for popular vote, postponing the bill’s implementation until after the election. While initiatives and issue voting have become increasingly well known since the

cal behavior. “If they turn out in fairly cohesive numbers, they have the opportunity of swinging the vote in their direction… It demonstrates from a political science point of view how powerful a small voting bloc is, particularly at the local level.” Initiative elections do not usually draw large crowds to the polls, particularly during an off-year election like 2009. Masuoka explained “It’s really only going to be the small bloc of folks who really feel adamant about getting the ban passed that are actually going to turn out and swing the election.” This phenomenon informs our underROFESSOR ATALIE ASUOKA standing of the results. icy to taxes. Massachusetts voters decrimi- Masuoka added, “From a political science nalized marijuana and banned dog racing point of view, I don’t think we should take in last year’s elections while voting against this as something that is overwhelmingly abolishing the income tax. Initiatives are demonstrating some kind of moral or ethiplaced on the ballot only if supporters cal shift in American perspectives about have enough signatures as determined by gay marriage. I think what it demonstrates is the power of a small bloc of voters to the state. “The interesting dynamic about prop- create or implement policy in this counositions or local initiatives is that they are try.” The vote in Maine highlights the imvery much subject to very active and mobilized interest groups, or a small elector- portance of appealing to a small group of ate,” said Professor Natalie Masuoka, who voters and motivating supporters to get specializes in American politics and politi- out and vote. For Tom Bourdon, director passage of Proposition 8 in California last year, they tend to make for a different sort of vote than standard elections. Created during the Progressive Era, initiatives were meant to make state governments more accountable and beholden to the people. However, in recent years, initiatives have been used with varying degrees of success for issues ranging from social pol-

I don’t think we should take this as overwhelmingly demonstrating some kind of moral or ethical shift in American perspectives about gay marriage. P N M

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November 23, 2009

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of the Tufts LGBT center, while the result of the vote was disappointing, there is still a lot of hope to take out of the support that gay marriage received in Maine and from the enthusiasm of supporters “It was amazing to see the way the supporters of marriage equality mobilized and had such a positive impact on Maine,” said Bourdon. “We saw people young and old, gay and straight, stand up for one of our nation’s highest principles: equality. These people did such a great job of getting their message out there loud and clear: we cannot have two classes of citizens. It is heartbreaking to me that the measure to reject same-sex marriage still passed.” Even though Maine passed Question 1, national movement seems to maintain momentum. Gay marriage has, in less than ten years, developed from not being legal anywhere to being legal in ve states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa. On top of this, there is the distinct possibility of more states legalizing it in the future, (the New York Senate is poised to vote on the issue very soon, but as of yet it has not quite gotten its act together). According to Masuoka, same-sex marriage “is a generational issue. “As generations shift into the actual voting population of the electorate, that’s how we get a lot of social issues to change. This is same thing that went for women’s issues and for civil rights issues. As these blocs of voters change and age, that’s when you see the social change happening in the electorate.” Taking age into account, it seems that although the initiative passed, the population should shift more towards being supportive of gay marriage with time. Considering the margin of defeat in Maine, Bourdon said, “However, it only passed by 5.6%, and I think the vote says that we are almost there. We are so close to winning over the majority and having people understand that separate is not equal.” O

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA On May 17, 2004 Massachusetts became the rst state to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States of America. On November 12, 2008 Connecticut became the second state to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States of America. In 1998 Iowa hurried to pass a law prohibiting same-sex marriage. The decision was reversed on April 27, 2009. In 2000 Vermont became the rst state to legalize civil unions. Same-sex marriage was legalized on September 1, 2009. Same-sex marriage in New Hampshire will be legalized on January 1, 2010 at which point civil unions will no longer be performed. In November 2008 California narrowly passed prop 8 banning gay marriage, despite prior legalization. On May 6, 2009 a law legalizing same-sex marriage was passed. The law was repealed six months later.

November 23, 2009

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TRANSITIONS A FRESH LOOK AT THE CHANGING SEASON BY

ARIANA SIEGEL

A

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009

Barnum, Professor Ellmore stooped to introduce the first potential ingredient in a veritable salad of winter edibles at Tufts: the ever popular Stellaria media, commonly known as chickweed. The tiny green sprouts can be found in beds of clover that grow all over campus in every season and are recognizable by the way their leaves grow in pairs. They have a very green flavor (like that of romaine lettuce) and were apparently used as such in times before lettuce was available to consumers year round. Circling around to the front of Barnum, another addition to our wintry salad was made. The Tilia genus, also known as a Basswood tree, sustains itself in the winter by storing fuel in small, pointed reddish-green buds at intervals along its branches. The taste is subtly green and vaguely mucilaginous, almost like a lima bean. Circling around to the front of Barnum, another addition to the salad was made. The Tilia genus, also known as a Basswood tree, sustains itself in the winter by storing fuel in small, pointed reddish-green buds at intervals along its branches. The taste is subtly green and vaguely mucilaginous, almost like a lima bean. Right next to the Basswood lies another perennial treat that has gotten a bad rap as poisonous, but is, in fact, edible to those in the know. The berries on the common Yew bush, whose short needle like leaves are

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AMY CONNORS

AMY CONNORS 10

AMY SHIPP

s the impending season rides in on a tide of increasingly cool November winds, some in the Tufts community may experience feelings of mourning for the beautiful green landscape that the university enjoys in the spring and summer months. Trees grow brown and bare, rolling green hills turn white and gray, mushrooms and flowers disappear from view, and the vibrant botanical scene lies dormant for many months— or so it may seem, to the untrained eye. But the expert eye of a trained botanist like Professor George Ellmore can certainly detect the diamonds in the rough winter landscape. Elmore, Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Tufts, shared his excitement through a private tour illuminating the botanical profile of Tufts in winter. Beginning outside Barnum and reaching to the Tisch roof, Hill Hall and beyond, Ellmore traversed the academic quad finding evidence of life and beauty that persists despite the impending cold. With the help of a trained eye, one can discover the beauty, intricacy, and edibility of the fall and winter greenery at Tufts. After taking fewer than five steps from the side door of

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useful for landscaping, are rose-red, squishy, cuplike berries whose seeds can induce cardiac arrest. However, one merely has to isolate the seed from the berry by spiting the seed out or removing it beforehand to enjoy this perfectly safe, sticky and sweet berry. “Birds eat the berries and wipe their beaks off in another place, dropping the seeds wherever they travel,” Ellmore said, spitting the seed into his hand and tossing it as a demonstration of this evolutionary advantage. “But the seeds are poisonous to humans—there was once an Agatha Christie novel where the murderer baked a pie out of the berries.” Despite the gloominess often associated with leafless winter trees, the delicate intricacies of bark that remain can make even naked plants quite beautiful. According to Professor Ellmore, New England landscapers are especially aware of this, and specifically include trees and bushes with interesting bark to maintain appearances even when fall drains the color from the foliage. The Tufts landscapers have included several specimens of interesting bark. Along the path between Goddard and Eaton stands the Dawn Redwood, a sculpted conifer whose orange-toned bark flakes and twists along its trunk. Ellmore said that the Metasequoia genus was thought to be extinct back when communication with China was cut, but in 1948 when communication opened up, Western scientists discovered that the trees in fact existed in abundance in China, and immediately imported the seeds. Tufts University was one of the first places to receive such seeds, and, for the last 61 years, the tree has added visual distinction to the quad during leafless months. Next to the Redwood stands another tree whose bark is worse than its bite. The Paperbark Maple is covered in ruddy, paper-thin sheaths that curl from its surface as if attempting to escape. Across the lawn, by Packard Hall, another tree offers more subtle interest. The Ulmus parvifolia looks rather ordinary from afar, a thin, short tree with unremarkable leaves. But when scrutinized closely, the bark reveals brilliant orange AMY CONNORS

ots: ckver ble en ed ear

CAMPUS LIFE

dots, sprinkled evenly over the surface of the small tree like fairy dust. For those who have an insatiable appetite for arboreal alimentation, a female Ginko tree stands by Hill Hall whose fruit is edible only for the brave. Female ginkgos are coveted in Africa and Asia but loathed in the West for the same reason: their seeds. Ginkgo seeds are edible and considered a delicacy in some places, but they are encased in a fruit that contains butyric acid, a substance also found in rancid butter and equally foul smelling things. If one then proceeds to crack open the pistachio-like shell in one’s mouth and suck out the slimy inside, one can understand why the seed is considered a delicacy. The consistency is similar to coconut, milky and crunchy, and the flavor is vaguely reminiscent of seafood. Swinging back around to Olin, Ellmore pointed out another dually natured plant that contributes to the cold-weather beauty of Tufts University. The stems and branches of the Siberian Dogwood bush come in two colors: deep scarlet and banana yellow. Also marking the landscape were a series of Burning Wahoo bushes, a plant found all over the academic quad, whose brilliant red leaves hang from branches with four curious “wings” of cork that run along their entire surface, giving them an odd, twizzler-like look. One thing that became abundantly clear over the course of the tour was the enormous amount of thought put into landscaping at Tufts. Although this university is known for being “green,” the focus is usually on clubs or school policy. However, the actual greenness at this school (the plants that cover the grounds we tread on our way to promote ecological agendas) seems vastly underappreciated. Though expertise like George Ellmore’s is hard to come by, students can certainly take a moment to wake up and smell the ginkgo seeds, and perhaps even taste one. O Ariana Siegel is a sophomore majoring in English. November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

11


CAMPUS LIFE

FACEBOOK REVOLUTIONS

I

BY MICHELLE ZHANG

12

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009

you like this Obama

6,922,851 likes

Guantanamo Bay Theme Park 91 likes

Mahmud Ahmedinejad 32,868 likes

Anarchist Communism 6 likes

Make a “don!t like” button on Facebook 1,998,712 likes

Peace

928,063 likes

Maa Wars

151,314 likes

you dislike this

RUTH TAM

n 1963, 250,000 people gathered in Washington, DC to participate in a Civil Rights demonstration. In 1969, another 250,000 joined together to protest against the Vietnam War. Fast-forward about 40 years, and Washington, DC has metaphorically been relocated to Facebook. Our causes have shifted from peace and equal rights to the reestablishment of the revered “Old Facebook” and installation of a much-needed “Dislike” button. Social responsibility has been extended to social networking responsibility— and with over 3.6 million Facebook users demonstrating in a “DISLIKE BUTTON—NEED 7,000,000 MEMBERS INVITE EVERYONE YOU KNOW ASAP” group, it’s possible that the latter has become a greater sensation than the former ever was. What exactly is it about the new Facebook layout that gets us more riled up than gang violence or the banning of gay marriage? We care about human rights, the availability of healthcare, and saving the environment— but are we 3 million strong for any of these causes in such a cohesive, coherent way? Hardly. Perhaps it’s simply about ease and effectiveness. In order to join a protest against the new Facebook layout, you nd a group (two or three are bound to show up every day in your News Feed), click on the link, and press a button to join. Done—you are now a participant in a worldwide effort towards a common goal (disregard how trite the goal may be). It’s safe to say that no legitimate cause in the world can be solved by the a few clicks of a mouse, and that might just make them a tad less appealing than the causes of the social networking web-world. Not to mention, we just don’t know how to solve world hunger, or how to provide education to those in need, or how to ensure adequate healthcare in poor nations. The resolutions we’re seeking for these issues seem farfetched, out of our control, all but impossible. Whereas getting the old Facebook layout back? Certainly feasible. Procuring a “Dislike” button? Easy enough. We’re much more inclined to be a part of those actions that are likely to yield actual results. That’s fair enough, right? But let’s face it—our proximity to any particular problem denitely inuences our deci-

sion to act. Most of us have to deal with the new Facebook layout at least once a day, more often if our classes are particularly dull. On almost an hourly basis, someone’s status says something so appalling that we have to comment, in outrage: “Why is there no dislike button?!” Conversely, we do not often have rsthand contact with the social causes that need the most support. We are not, by any means, ignorant to instances of human rights violations, but those conicts aren’t present in our immediate environments. We are aware of the many countries in which women are oppressed, but this is not one of those countries. Although we can sympathize with global difculties, it’s harder for us to empathize. And maybe that’s why social networking revolution has gained more momentum than social revolution. But who’s to say the two can’t develop a mutually benecial relationship? Social networking sites have already taken steps to promote social change. The “Causes” application on Facebook has 35 million active users each month; additionally, almost every social cause has multiple Facebook groups. Granted, their members are few compared to those of the aforementioned groups— but at least there is initiation. Facebook is only in its fth year. The online social networking phenomenon is still in its infancy. While resolving social issues will never be an easy task, social networking tools will certainly make the organizing of support a much more manageable task. Although we may still remain unexposed to the heavy consequences of these global problems, social networking can denitely help facilitate the spread of information at a quicker rate and to a wider audience. Of course, we’ve got a bit of work to do before we can claim Facebook as a vehicle for social progress. So the next time you’re sitting at your laptop, outraged at the most recent layout change, about to start a group requesting the membership of x million people, just consider for a moment: is there nothing better to demand action for? And honestly, is Mark Zuckerberg really going to give a damn? O Michelle Zhang is a sophomore who has not yet declared a major.

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owdy, friend! How’d you like to be neighbors? Come join me in FarmVille, where you can grow delicious fruits and vegetables on your very own farm!” My Facebook just asked me if I’d like to farm. This has got to be a joke. There is no way someone would really want me to farm on Facebook. Facebook itself is addictive enough to keep us glued to the computer screen for hours on end, but Farmville and similar applications add a whole new dimension to the way we spend our hours online. The popular application combines social networking with an obsessive game. FarmVille is Facebook’s latest craze, where online users look after virtual farms, raise crops and till soil, hoping to make a prot on the pumpkin seeds they invest their virtual money in. The concept is basic, simple, and mindless—the perfect sell for the average Facebook user. Apparently, FarmVille is no joke. My friends (and 62 million other people worldwide) are compulsively logging into the social networking site, not to meet new people or nd fun events on campus, but to milk their cows and take care of their eggplant crop. But the game soon develops into something wonderfully addictive and alarmingly time-consuming. “Hang on a sec,” said my friend as I was telling her about my weekend trip to Virginia, “I just gotta get my blueberries; can you wait ve minutes?” Stopping conversations in the real world in order to take care of your virtual farm is starting to become standard practice for Facebook users. The game has transcended the real world, letting cyberspace promote three-dimensional introversion via a social networking site. Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of the site itself? Facebook was developed to bring people together, not isolate them. When they

A

log into Facebook, users are now more concerned with their crops than they are with eachother. FarmVille, like so many Facebook applications before it, (think JetMan, Café World, or Maa Wars) is part of a growing trend for users of this social networking site to retreat further into their own cyber world, allowing

IRA VOGEL

sed bal elp ker ’ve im So utout of nt: or? ng

CAMPUS LIFE

their rice paddies and raspberry yield to take precedence over their daily lives. Facebook started as a way for students on college campuses to meet each other and nd people with similar interests. Now that our siblings in fth grade and our grandparents in their Floridian geriatric facilities have access to the site, it’s clear that the masterminds behind its addicting power decided it needs a new niche. Enter applications. Making friends and joining groups seem so passé

HOE

now that I have the ability to answer one of the thousands of quizzes just dying to be taken on the site (What Harry Potter character are YOU? What European city are YOU destined to live in? What is YOUR rapper name?) More and more people log on to Facebook to play games that not only detract from the initial mission of the site but also become catalysts for their users to immerse themselves deeper into the Internet. What happened to the excitement of a friend request? The simplicity of forming a group? If I log into the site to buy seed for my virtual horses or spend a half hour answering questions that will tell me “what Broadway show tune were YOU in a past life,” I miss out on the essential mission Mark Zuckerberg developed back in 2004 in his Harvard dorm room. Facebook is slowly ceasing to be a social network and becoming a network of isolated users who get to know each other based on the acreage of their farm or the scope of their cyber maas. Is Facebook fostering a community that now looks inwards instead of outwards? I get RPGs and video games. I understand the draw to Call of Duty or Second Life (if that’s the sort of thing you’re into). What I don’t understand is the point of these types of “second-worlds” on sites that claim to bolster social connection and school community. I am nagged on a daily basis to start a farm and see what so-and-so is up to on FarmVille. I’m sick of it. I don’t want to sit in Tisch, worrying about whether or not my cows will be content through the night instead of about my history nal. Some claim that FarmVille is a product of society’s innate desire to lead a pastoral life. These are the same “some” who spend two hours a day in front of the computer buying duck ponds and hot air balloons for their farms. This has got to be a joke. O Molly Rubin is a sophomore majoring in English. November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

13


NATIONAL

THE WAR BY

MICHAEL BENDETSON

I

RYAN STOLP

n recent weeks, the Obama Administration, in conjunction with Congress, has been debating the merits of a military surge in Afghanistan. However, our efforts and attention are better served on a different front. While the dangers of Afghanistan potentially affect millions, climate change is a global issue that carries ramications for billions. With the support of allies, the United States must commence a “War on Climate Change.” As in any war, we must be willing to concede short-term losses for invaluable longterm environmental and economic benets. The task of uniting the country and the world around lasting environmental legislation will be challenging, but the alternative of inaction is too dangerous. Ironically, the best person to turn to with regards to dealing with a global threat would be former Vice President Dick Cheney. In ofce, Cheney instituted a policy known as the One Percent Doctrine. The plan stated that if there was a 1% chance of a terrorist threat, “we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” The same logic must be carried over to policies involving climate change. It is simply better to be safe than sorry in an effort to prevent our glaciers from melting and our sea levels from rising. The United States must begin the War on Climate Change domestically. In order to attain credibility in the eyes of the world, Americans must prove their serious intentions on the matter. Unfortunately, Congress has stalled on the issue of climate change. Republicans, that are and remain proponents of the One Percent Doctrine, continue to drag their feet on the issue of climate change. Last spring, Republican Minority leader John Boehner went so far as to comment, “Calling carbon dioxide dangerous is almost comical.” Alongside the

14

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009

ON

CLIMATE CHANGE

Republicans, many Democrats are displaying great hesitation in enacting any environmental legislation for fear of high costs. Many “blue dog” Democrats opt for a more “businessfriendly” attitude. What are the results of this political football game? A relatively weak Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that has not and probably will not get passed in the Senate. The legislation implements a system of greenhouse gas permits that allows the market to reduce pollution instead of tight regulations. In addition, the government can control the amount of pollution as it determines the amount of permits. However, signicant compromises in the House have set the cuts in CO2 by 2020 to drop a mediocre 17%. For a country that

pletely disconnected from both the reality of climate change and the public mood. The greatest challenge facing the United States is that of creating global cooperation on climate change. America must be part of a worldwide commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The task of leadership will prove especially difcult for Uncle Sam, as the US was the only country in the world that failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. However, the greatest test to global action is the divide between industrialized and developing countries, who were originally treated leniently but now face increasing pressure. China and India, current and future leaders in Co2 emissions, have already indicated that they will not ratify any agreement with the establishment of these targets. While HILE THE DANGERS OF Senator John H Kerry has FGHANISTAN POTENTIALLY a d v o c a t e d FGHANIS punishment AFFECT MILLIONS for countries that do not par ticipate CLIMATE CHANGE IS A in an agreeGLOBAL ISSUE THAT AT CARRIE CARRIES ment, this view is simply RAMIFICATIONS FOR BILLIONS short sighted. Any restriction or tax on China or produces as much as 20% of the world’s CO2 India would hurt the US and global economy emissions, the long term cuts fall well short of more than the developing countries themwhat is needed. Yet despite these major com- selves. America must pave the way by propospromises, the Senate has failed to even bring ing ambitious standards, but must also work the issue to a vote in sixth months. with these developing countries to implement However, there is hope for the American a system that is both fair and effective. people. We are witnessing an unprecedented While a War on Climate Change may be grassroots call to action by state and business unrealistic, it is indeed necessary. We are facing leaders. Over half of the United States econ- a global threat. The United States must create omy is under a mandatory reduction scheme. unity both domestically and internationally to Despite federal inaction, there have been re- address this. Climate change is an issue that gional actions like the Regional Greenhouse is too important for compromise, it requires Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Midwestern Green- swift and decisive action. President Obama has house Gas Accord (MGGA), and the Western told us that he is a different type of leader; the Climate Initiative (WCI). In addition, over a time has come for him to prove it. O 1,000 mayors nationwide have signed an agreement with the hope of making cities greener Michael Bendetson is a sophomore who has not yet and more energy efcient. Capitol Hill is com- declared a major.

“ A

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,

.


LAURA CURREN

FOCUS ON...

PORTRAITURE PHOTOGRAPHY A

PORTRAIT IS NOT A LIKENESS. THE MOMENT AN EMOTION OR FACT IS TRANSFORMED INTO A PHOTOGRAPH IT IS NO LONGER A FACT BUT AN OPINION. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS INACCURACY IN A PHOTOGRAPH. ALL PHOTOGRAPHS ARE ACCURATE. ONE OF THEM IS THE TRUTH - RICHARD AVEDON

N

.

November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

15


FOR ME IT'S ABOUT CAPTURING SOMEBODY IN A MOMENT — YOU JUST HAVE TO SEE A PICTURE IN A SPLIT SECOND AND TAKE IT, AND I THINK THAT'S WHERE THE BEST PORTRAITS COME FROM, GLIMPSING SOMEBODY IN A MOMENT AND CAPTURING IT ON FILM.

— BECCA NOVAK

I

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THE

SHOULD

SUBJECT

— KYLE CHAYKA

16

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009

BE

RATHER

QUIET THAN

AND

PAY

SPEAKING

TESTAMENT UP

FOR

TO

WHAT’S

THEMSELVES.


I am deeply intrigued by the faces we present to the world; whether they are during times of work, times of repose, or quiet moments lost in thought. —

N

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I HAVE COME TO FIND THAT WHEN YOUR SUBJECTS THAT TO

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— AMY SHIPP

November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

17


I chose subjects who I know well and made pictures of how people literally see each other — not as a whole, but one snippet at a time. It turned out that the closer I got, the more there was to see. The whole thing was an imposition — the pictures weren't just of their subjects, but of how we were together together..

ADVERTISEMENT

— JESSICA BIDGOOD

18

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009


DISTRACTIONS O

F

Find 5-letter (or more) words by using the letters in circles that are connected by lines. You can go up, down and sideways. For example, L-A-C-E-S. You can use the same letter more than once in a word, but cannot double up on the letter. For example: C-E-D-E-D is okay, but F-A-N-N-E-D is not. ! 5- letter words are 1 point ! 6+ letter words are 2 points

O

C A

D

In this p puzzle,, at least 60 p points are p possible

L A

N E

M

I S

O

C

. Got what it takes? Keep track of your score by connecting the dashes on the wordmometer!

E

R

K

November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

19


REALITY LITERACY: A GUIDE TO DISSENT AND DECONSTRUCTION

THIS POTATO IS A TEST OF YOUR WITS

. A puzzle. To nd the solution, ruminate on marketing strategy and the lives of its intended consumers. To crack the riddle, you need data. Here is a start: the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, which states that consumption of food microwaved in conjunction with plastic wrap will, assuming average consumption patterns, cause body tissues carcinogen levels 100-1000 times FDA recommended limits. As per western science, caveats exist—the type of plastic, whether or not it was produced for microwave use, as with TV dinners, and whether or not the plastic wrap is in contact with food at high temperatures. Observation: the plastic seems to be touching the tuber.

S

in response to data. Results: the FDA will issue a ables that meet certain standards. This potato penalization for companies who do not meet Don’t all the smart doctors and scientists care

S

generate a pack of abstractions. If most of to with “the horror! the horror!” then you have your birth and this moment.

tep two: investigate the extent of action taken “microwave safe” label to plastic microwavsports no such label. There is no program of such standards, nor are warning labels issued. about us?

tep three: Review your ndings and those abstractions cannot be responded erred at least once somewhere between

For the love of Reason,

LOOK AT THIS POTATO

Hint: The Great Experiment in Democracy went haywire

on the toilet, in class, and now online

O

tuftsobserver.org

20

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009


ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

A TUFTS RADIO REVIEW

H

BY

DANIEL HELLER

ave you ever considered reading a Daily/Observer/Source/Roundtable article about national politics or world issues and instead just thought, “Why? Why is my classmate, the dude wearing sweatpants with the half-eaten Hodgdon burrito resting on his laptop, writing an article about the merits of the public option? What original insight would reading this article provide me that reading a similar but better written article on NYTimes/Politico/Slate.com would not?” I may be mistaken, but it seems that the original insight from sweatpants, burrito dude writing for any Tufts’ publication is zero, and thus, the reasons for reading it are null. Why then am I so taken in by the political insight of sweatpants burrito dude when he is on the radio? I have no idea whether Jon Erlich or any of his guests on “Tufts Roundtable Live” actually wear sweatpants and eat burritos from Hodgdon, but what I do know is that they sound surprisingly knowledgeable and authoritative for a bunch of college students talking about political issues. Anybody can press play on an iPod, most people possess the skill to spin a record, but who amongst us can ll an hour of radio time with talk? “Roundtable Live,” Wednesdays at noon, aims to do just that: satisfy the campus’ insatiable desire for talk radio. Lead by DJ, host, and moderator Jon Erlich, the show features guests from the Tufts Roundtable, talking about domestic and international issues as well as a grab bag of Tufts-related issues. During my listen, they discussed domestic politics focusing on the recent gubernatorial elections, the special congressio-

nal election, the Middle East peace process, and issues in Afghanistan. In the segment focused on Tufts, they commented about Pub Night v. Club Night, a TCU President’s excessive drinking, and cafeteria trays. If you are looking for a shouted, political death match of ideological foes, “Roundtable Live” might not be the show for you. The tenor is far more “Morning Edition” than “Crossre.” While things did get ever so mildly heated when discussing U.S. military support for Israel, voices were never raised, and it sounded as if punches were never thrown. Numbers and percentages back up most assertions, regardless of their factual accuracy, and give the show a veneer of truthiness. The conversations have a good amount of give and take between the guests and the moderator, and even the radio equipment, which, in classic WMFO fashion, had some technical issues. Energy levels remained high throughout the course of the show even as the sound levels varied drastically. While it may not have the polish of Glenn Beck’s radio show, it has far more intelligence and doesn’t leave you wanting to kill yourself. Overall, my listening experience was pleasant and informative. I would give “Tufts Roundtable Live”: Listen to it if you are dissatised with the political coverage in the Daily/Observer/Source/Roundtable, using crappy analog radio that doesn’t tell you what station you are listening to, or unable to nd your local National Public Radio station.O If you are inspired to listen, WMFO can be heard over FM radio at 91.5. What’s that? Your iPod doesn’t have a radio? Neither does mine. Luckily WMFO is also streaming online at WMFO. org.

Dear Dewick, November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

21


CAMPUS LIFE

WHY WE SHOULD LOVE THE VENUS DE MILO HOW THE MAYER CAMPUS CENTER “ART” SULLIES US ALL BY

URREN LAURA C

& RAPHA

EL

KOHLBER

G

A

22

THE OBSERVER

ALEX BLUM

rt needs at least two of these three features to make it worthwhile. One: A novel synthesis o of ideas that challenges concep conceptions of reality. Two Two: An aesthetic that ilil luminates an aspec aspect of beauty which resres onates in the depths depth of our psyches. O Or three: Tits. With this in mind, mind walk with me through the lower oor of the th campus center. We en enter from the patio, turn right, and slide past the th avid studiers besid beside the windows. As you ascend the three step steps up to The Common Commons register area and wonwon just der if that hot guy jus he winked at you or if h has a twitch, you see it it: three canvasses painted the colors of a fungus fungusridden, hard-boiled egg and overlaid with jagged white and brown squig squiggles. To me, it resemble resembles an aerial view of dried dried, tributaries sun-scorched tributarie Serengeti on a hellish Serenget have landscape. Others hav suggested a rotting brain, vomit with lines, lines child’s or an autistic child’ nger painting. your If you put you November 23, 2009

face close, you’ll notice it smells like dog. If you then blow, dust will scratch your eyes. If you take an exacto knife and carve your name into the corner, a chubby TUPD ofcer will show up at your room and question you. I come to the campus center to unwind, grab a bite to eat, and chat while convincing myself I’m studying. This “art” makes that impossible. How can I focus on accomplishing anything when such a blatant failure assaults my senses faster than the reek of the quiet room bathroom right after a 90 pound girl drops a massive load? And what does it say about Tufts students that we let this go on? That we’re apathetically disengaged with our surroundings? That we don’t yearn for beauty? That we could care less about the campus center because we wish we went to Brown and our parents don’t love us as much as our older brothers and now we’ll never meet Emma Watson? Ever since Marcel DuChamp decided to hang up a urinal and call it art in 1917, the notion that technical skill matters has slowly disintegrated. Now, only the idea matters. But it is the process of perfecting creation that leads to the best ideas. You have to practice telling stories as a child if you want to convincingly lie to your close friends and family about your cocaine addiction once you grow up.

When the process of creation dies, the ideas do too. For example, the title for the most expensive artwork sold by a living being belongs to Damien Hirst for a skull he glued diamonds onto. He got $100 million for it. Weird, because my ex-girlfriend rhinestoned her cell phone and all she got was dumped. If we want to attribute talent to a single artist, they need to have a distinctive thought and a distinctive way to show it. The difference between a stoner babbling about the cosmos and Einstein is that one was right, could explain why, and showered regularly. Back in the day, the possession of rare and expensive ne art reafrmed the aristocracy’s superiority. It was difcult to make and expensive to acquire. Today, with the democratization of access to most forms of information, any guy with a Flickr account can show off his “Nude with Pink Feather Boa” series to the world and have his friends tell him how great his abs look. While this opportunity spreads the opportunity to participate in creative pursuits, it has also destroyed any coherent hierarchy with which to judge art. Beauty is subjective, you say? Who am I to judge? We should understand it as a Rohrshachian examination of our subconscious desires? No, that can’t be true because I keep see-

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CAMPUS LIFE ing myself playing with the new limited edition American Girl doll, Chrissa. Listen, the campus center wall debauchery looks ugly for no good reason. Just because it’s hung up and presented as an ofcial piece of art doesn’t mean we have to accept it unquestioningly. We don’t approach anything else this way, but for some reason, we see art and immediately stop thinking we should have opinions. It’s squiggles on a canvas! We call someone with bad ideas that can’t spell stupid and illiterate. Why don’t we say the same about art that fails equally? Flickr and the Internet’s inuence on the dispersion of knowledge may inuence values, but we can’t just start thinking every idea holds equal merit. I mean, what if we did the same thing with U.S. foreign policy? We could just start a war with some country in the Middle-East for some unarticulated reason, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and conveniently prot from their abundant oil reserves while failing to provide poor U.S. citizens with adequate healthcare. How messed up would that be? We must recognize that how we approach artistic ideas inuences our ability to differentiate between the good and the bad in every arena. We rely on a system of values to derive our culture and identity, the tools we use to construct meaning. The more considered and perfected our values are, the greater the meaning we can create. Without these

How can I focus on accomplishing anything when such a blatant failure assaults my senses faster than the reek of the quiet room bathroom right after a 90 pound girl drops a massive load?

societally established referents of meaning, we can’t even communicate collectively. I couldn’t rely on the outrageous connotations of “tits” to offensively draw you into my essay and hopefully make you laugh and think. Instead, words like “tits” and “breasts” and “mammaries” and “daddy’s little fun bags” become nothing more than a collection of worthless, squiggly lines on a piece of paper – tit nihilism. If we accept the campus center paintings as art, we contribute to the depressing leveling-off of meaning that isolates individuals by making it impossible to communicate. We end up with no mutually comprehensible mode of expression. Art should explore and beautify subtle distinctions, not homogenize them. The freedom of expression granted to art makes it an especially vital testing ground for new ideas. If a piece of artwork has no ideas or suggests ideas are dead, we cannot accept it, much less praise it. That would be

like loving your parents even if they didn’t pay for college. I think we should all want to live in a world that values the masterful expression of great thought and judge accordingly. Each human act, from oil painting to ling taxes should have established criteria for judgment because they all require thinking. The most talented and established practitioners in a eld should strive to improve those criteria. If a person hasn’t developed the necessary skills for mastery, they can’t credibly question that eld. At the end of the day, if my father doesn’t get a tax writeoff for that “business dinner” he took his mistress on, his accountant isn’t an artist; he just doesn’t know what he’s doing. Colleges function as factories that manufacture the enriching ideas which redeem a confusing and often mediocre world. Our art should celebrate and take seriously that responsibility. Or at least have tits. O

MICHAEL GOETZMAN November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

23


WAY OFF CAMPUS

Tagged: CREATIVE COMMONS

CREATIVE COMMONS

ALL PHOTOS LIZZY ROBERTS 24

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009

BY

W

KATIE LAZARSKI

ith all the crackdowns on grafti in Boston, it’s a wonder that artists are still out on the streets covering buildings, dumpsters, and trains with their work. While anti-grafti programs have cut the amount of it in the Boston area to the point that many view the once-thriving Boston grafti scene as “dead,” the city is far from being grafti-free. While most people think of grafti as a couple of guys with some spray paint cans “tagging” a street sign or the façade of a building, grafti around Boston comes in other forms as well. For instance, a series of stickers spotted especially around the Northeastern area depict a simple black and white female gure in different poses called Nineta. The artist occasionally incorporates additional color gures, such as speckle slug-like creatures and owers. The distinguishing feature of all of the stickers, besides the gure itself, is the name “Nineta” somewhere on the sticker. This makes the stickers, which appear mostly on walls and street lamps. Two identical women with numbers for eyes comprise another

The Icono gr

distinctive sticker series known as 5003. The numbers can appear either by themselves or as the eyes of the women. The artist known as “Pixnit” has done series around the metro area of single-color stenciled designs featuring owers. Often large in size, the pieces are mostly found on brick walls around the city. She is an alumna of the Tufts/SMFA program and displays her work in museums around the world. Noir doesn’t do series per se, but his work follows a general theme that distinguishes it from other street art. Focusing on undead creatures, his work often depicts creatures and monsters, including a series of sexually promiscuous zombies. He often writes his name in block letters below his work. Grafti artists push the limits by writing all over Boston: the typical walls, street signs, lampposts, electrical boxes, dumpsters, and even cars from the T. On September 8, the Boston Globe reported that 14 Green Line cars were found covered in grafti in Brighton.

the cit on arr Sh po the in ton

an ge po be ma

Gr ba bo mo

sti to wh sio tio sp


WAY OFF CAMPUS

no graphy of Grafti in Boston

he or

ne lor en on na ays

his inng cts ies en his

ng ns, nd he hat ere af-

Due to the abundance of grafti in the city and surrounding area, police and citizens alike have instituted a crackdown on street art. Numerous artists have been arrested in the past few years, including Shepard Fairey, the artist behind the Obama posters who also did the mural outside of the campus center at Tufts. He was arrested in February for tagging property near Boston University. Last December, police from 12 cities and towns in the Boston area banded together to arrest as many grafti artists as possible. While most illegal artists used to be given nes or community service hours, many now receive jail time. The city also provides a service called Grafti Busters, which removes grafti based on citizen complaints. Their web page boasts that they have erased grafti from more than 1,000 locations in the city. The Boston Arts Commission has instituted a program called PaintBox to try to reduce the amount of grafti in the city while adding aesthetic appeal. The commission hires local artists selected by application to paint street boxes. This takes away space which grafti artists can use to create their designs, but also adds the visual appeal of unique designs on otherwise plain boxes. The program was based off

of a similar one in Somerville. With all of these programs designed to cut back on grafti, one would think that barely any street art would be left. As I wandered around the Downtown Crossing shopping area, I wondered if I would even see any grafti. The marble buildings didn’t show a speck of paint. As I walked by Citizen’s Bank, I noticed a faded patch of purple spray paint, most of which had clearly been scrubbed away before. It seemed as though this was remnant from before all of the programs to prevent and remove grafti. An alleyway off of Milk Street proved otherwise. Tucked in between two beautiful buildings, the alley was a haven of grafti. The dumpster was covered in all sorts of tags, and the walls were coated in stickers and spray painted designs. Amongst the swanky shops and restaurants, the alley was evidence to me that grafti in Boston isn’t dead. While the grafti scene in Boston might not be as lively as it was in the ‘90s, it is by no means extinct. Artists are still out on the streets slapping stickers and spray paint on any at surfaces they can nd. To them, the potential penalty of jail time is worth it for the art they are creating and the spread of their names. Guerilla art is still all over the city; you just have to look for it. O

CREATIVE COMMONS

CREATIVE COMMONS

November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

25


REAL ESTATE PROS:

Occupying the series of streets between Boston Avenue and Capen Street, this neighborhood is about as close to Boston Avenue as you can get. The walk to Gantcher and Cousens is very doable and rent tends to be slightly less expensive than the area’s more uphill counterpart.

CONS:

The houses in this area tend to be slightly older. Don’t forget; living here means you live at the bottom of a giant hill. If you’re not down with daily hikes this might not be the place for you. Getting to Davis from here can also be a bit of an ordeal.

PROS:

This cluster of streets spans the blocks between Winthrop Street and Hillsdale Avenue, between Capen Street and Professor’s Row. Houses here are close to the Residential Quad and the Academic Quad and residents need only take a quick walk down Winthrop to get to Boston Avenue and its many amenities. The area tends to be populated mostly by students.

CONS:

Rent in this area tends to be slightly more expensive, although well-priced apartments are available. A cluster of break-ins in recent months has prompted some concern among residents, but TUPD and local police ofcers patrol the area regularly to make sure things stay safe.

PROS:

A relatively small area between Powderhouse Boulevard and Professor’s Row, these streets offer a surprising wealth of roomy houses that tend to be on the newer side.

CONS:

Because many of the houses are more newly renovated, rent tends to err on the pricier side. Raymond and Conwell Avenues also abut government-subsidized housing which may be uncomfortable for some prospective residents given the area’s less-than-stellar safety reputation. 26

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009

O


REAL ESTATE

Off-Campus Housing 101 BY KATIE BOLAND AND KATIE CHRISTIANSEN

Finding off-campus housing is often more stressful than picking a roommate — after all, you want to live someplace in which you feel comfortable and at home. While many Tufts upperclassmen choose to live in the same house for their Junior and Senior years, many elect to change in between. We hope the tidbits we’ve gathered here help to clarify the nebulous and muddled process.

PROS:

This neighborhood populated mostly by students about as close to campus as you can get. Some houses are within Tufts wireless range, which means Internet is free and for those who choose to hole up in Tisch on a regular basis, the location is ideal.

CONS:

For those bothered by trafc and street noise, the College Ave area may not exactly induce sweet dreams. Getting to Olin in the morning may also prove to be an uphill battle for those who prefer to sleep as late as possible.

PROS:

This enclave of dwellings sits on the other side of Powderhouse Boulevard, which makes for convenient access to Teele and Davis Squares. Houses on the whole are just a tad larger here than uphill or on College Avenue. With all the walking you’ll do uphill, you’re bound to end your tenure in this neighborhood with some killer calves.

CONS:

Like some of the Hillsdale Avenue neighborhood houses, many of these abodes are family-inhabited. The area tends to be a bit busier and prone to trafc — especially around Powderhouse. November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

27


POETRY AND PROSE

Porcelain Poppy Fields Natalie Selzer

S

he lived in the apartment upstairs, and sometimes we rode the elevator together and talked about the economy going to hell or how we both loved Billie Holiday or the weather when we really couldn’t think of anything. Her hair was cut short around her chin and I liked that about her. Lots of girls can’t pull it off, but I think she had the right bone structure or skin color or something because it looked good. I only saw her sometimes but it was nice when I did—she seemed clean and pleasant and wore good clothes that weren’t too stylish but not frumpy either. Girls who wear too many fancy clothes with the purses and those shoes with the heels and their mascara are always hiding something, if you ask me. They seem so shiny and glowy with their long, long endless legs and then you meet them and you realize they hate their dad, or their rst boyfriend hit them once, hard, in the backyard and told them not to tell and they didn’t, or they’ve got some mom who’s always telling them they’re fat. But Cat wasn’t like those girls so I thought she probably was different, better somehow. I imagined that really she didn’t walk so much as oated because she didn’t have all the heavy things weighing her down like the rest of us since she lived in the apartment upstairs and wore clean, tasteful clothes and sounded smart when I talked to her in the elevator for the minute or so it took to get from the lobby to the seventh oor. “Good-bye Charlie, see you next time,” she would chirp in this way she had of talking, holding soft onto the ends of each word like she wasn’t quite ready to let it go, just yet. I would turn and wave until the big metal doors closed shut. On those days I ran into Cat, I would usually lay awake at night and think about her in that apartment, square above mine. I decided she probably had lots of art on her walls. But not in that pretentious, slick way like some people I’d known. No, she would’ve picked out something real interesting, something with meaning to it. I mean, 28

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009

you could just tell that about Cat. And besides, the art I imagined that she had was nice rugs that she put in all the rooms— probably Eastern-looking, Tibetan or Indian or something, that she would sometimes just lay on and stare at the ceiling from. I could picture her short hair spread out around her head like some little brown beautiful Japanese fan, and there was probably nice gauzy moonlight coming through the window and lighting the whole oor, too. Milky white.

ALL IMAGES BY

RYAN STOLP

I guess I was probably half in love with Cat, or more maybe full in love, even. But I’m not so sure anybody has really managed to gure out what that is, so I can’t say for sure. I do know when I saw her, though, there was this rosy glow around her hair, that brown short perfect hair, and around really all sorts of things. I’d be slapping together a goddamn ham sandwich, even, in my kitchen after seeing her, and it’d have this whole shiny tint, warm-like and warbly. I also know she smelled like woman’s deodorant if I stood close enough, owery and soft and crumbly, like you just wanna put your face up against her little upper arm to get that smell in your nostrils, get that clean in you, for a bit at least. But what I really remember is the day when it all kind of slid somewhere else in me, slipping from obscurity and hazy rosy half-thoughts into some place, where I can’t really explain, but a more concrete place that probably smells like a bit of lavender or mowed grass or something if you had to describe it at all. Late March, biting cool air slipping into spring, I remember because

that morning Elena, my oldest sister, had called me on the telephone. I had to sit on the bare ground and stare at the clingy dust that lined the creases between the dung-colored walls and oor and nod my head, listen to her talk about the things that I always wanted to forget. Elena was the smart one out of us all, but she never did get why I hardly called. That I couldn’t think about all those things because I maybe never would have been able to crawl up off that oor again if I did, what with all the sandbags tied to my heart. She told me all about our mother, the paleness and the shaking and told me I had to come home, that everyone was asking after me and inevitably demanded to know why in hell I ever would have gone so far away knowing what I did. I think I told her I just couldn’t pick up and go right then, couldn’t afford to leave the job, the life I had and then click went the line. That was late March and our mother was still alive then. It’s hard to explain how I actually really did love them. But I mean maybe it hadn’t been enough, it could probably never have been enough. Or maybe it was too much, if I think about it. Probably if I’ve gured out anything it’s that loving someone too much thickens your blood, the walls of your veins and makes it near impossible for the muscles to pump and push and beat. And really what’s there left to give to the ones you love when you’ve got a second-rate heart on account of loving them more than it can stand, some cruel paradox of living. That was a favorite word of Cat’s, paradox, and I think it became one of mine, too, after a while. Anyhow, it was that day, the day of the last phone call late in March, that Cat stood across from me in the elevator, and through the pale of her blouse I could see this faint shadow of lace that fringed her black bra, a slight raised shoreline around the cupping curve of her small breasts. It was a glance, a short, warm look and then I kept my eyes

on sh bu

tha on for tha ally int thi tha sh

Sp bu

sai sog lim thi lon kin of tha tha aq an the do an lik lik yo

tw rig sh

tha me sh wh yo stu


ad on ust olisays

all, ed. ngs en id, rt. he ad ng ow far

up ave he her

ally n’t ave ch, ed oo our he nd nes ate an ng. ox, ter

he od gh int a, a ng ce, yes

POETRY AND PROSE on her forehead while she talked at me, and she probably saw the blush all over my face but hell I don’t know. “You all right, Charlie?” she asked with that voice of hers, the songbird. My name on her tongue felt warm and round, the ‘r’ formed with a soft, lilting mouth. The thing that really bowled me over, though, just really got me so I said the rst thing that came into my head, was that I think she meant it. I think she honest-to-goodness meant it, and that, especially, I liked about Cat. Somehow, she managed to mean things she said. I must’ve laughed before I said anything. Sputtered, probably. “Honestly? I guess not, but isn’t that just really how it goes?” I wanted to kick myself after I said it, said that dumb, wilted thing. It gave me this soggy feeling inside, like the words were just limp remains that probably meant something big, something huge even, but a real long time ago. Lifetimes ago. And she just kind of looked at me, head cocked in one of her funny ways, frowning, I think. But that real delicate, real nice kind of frown that makes you think maybe there’s gotta be a quiet spot where you could just lie down and someone else would want to keep you there, just watch your chest move up and down a little, rhythmic-like, while you slept and you breathed, or some goddamn thing like that. I mean you just got that feeling, like you maybe wanted that person to keep you there. Well Cat looked at me, and then at the two yellow pressed elevator buttons stacked right there one on top of the other, before she said anything.

“I don’t know if it’s always got to go that way,” she said and then paused, gave me some kind of heart attack with the way she bit that lower lip of hers. “You know what? You should come up and I’ll make you some tea. I’ve got cupboards full of the stuff. What do you say?”

It wasn’t really much of a question so much as she already had seen I was coming up with her, knew I would follow her wherever right then. I got this image of us just sitting, some kind a sepia-toned image and fuzzy around the edges, cross legged maybe, with probably near a hundred of these tea cups all different sizes and chipped and painted and whatnot all over the oor around us, our own little poppy eld of porcelain. We had drunk them all, hours and hours and not a move but to drink the tea, not even to go to the bathroom. And what was best about the whole thing is that I don’t think we said much of anything at all, but it really was better that way, warm and clean because of it. At the door, Cat had to jiggle the key a whole lot and push the stuck door hard before it jerked open, fussy. She sighed a little, or laughed maybe, or both, and I followed her through that door I had imagined for how many months, the door that really looked just like the door one oor down, my own, dull brown plain wood and a gold peep hole and boxy gold numbers nailed to the panels. The whole apartment was pretty basic, small like mine with wood oors and dun-colored walls and there weren’t many rugs, just one square maroon thing set near the sofa and the television. Her kitchenette was right on the left as you got in the door, beige fridge and tiled counter and half eaten toast on a plate left near the sink. I mean there was all that and there was also that smell, her smell, pretty and soft and probably half imagined all over the place, clinging warm around my skin. I sat at her kitchen table and she lled the kettle at the sink, this beaten-up tin thing with a lid that ipped up. The rst thing I remember saying to her was, “You don’t have any art on your walls.” She glanced back at me before closing the kettle lid and putting it on the stovetop. “I guess not. Do you?” I shook my head. “No. I mean not that I wouldn’t like some, if it was any good. But that feels like plans, sometimes. Like you’ve got to make plans when you buy things, and I guess right now I don’t have any I’m so sure about. You see what I’m saying?” “Sure. I suppose I’ve got some plans, but a lot of times I’m not even sure I like them much,” she said with this look on her face, lips just parted like maybe she’d said

something that even was a surprise to her, something she’d had there all along but she barely knew it until the words came tumbling out together all in a row, fresh and dripping. “I mean, maybe that’s why my walls are still bare, too. Never really thought about it. But I guess now it doesn’t even matter. I’ve been thinking about getting a place closer to work, anyhow.” When the kettle whistled she poured

the hot water in two plain cups before sitting down with me, dropped a tea bag in each. The tea smelled strong like mint and I decided I liked the feel of it warm around my face, like her smell. “You like the tea?” She asked. “Yes.” “That’s good.” I nodded. I thought it was good, too. “You feel any better?” On the tabletop her arm was pretty close to mine, enough so I thought I could feel the soft downy brush of her arm hairs and the hot blood of her veins near my own. “I think a little bit. But mostly I guess I like you sitting here with me. That’s the nicest part.” She smiled at me, the damn cutest smile I’d maybe ever seen or would ever see, with round lips and these teeth that you could tell never had braces but were perfect in a crooked way. The thing about Cat, though, is that she kept looking at you when you said things like that to her, looked you straight in the eye and didn’t turn her face away to hide like other girls because they don’t understand that it’s not a game and you mean it. But I guess a lot of times we don’t mean it, not really, so that’s what they learn. It gave me this sinking sad feeling, though, that no one had ever really meant it before and they knew it. But she kept on looking me in the eye, not confrontational or nervous or curious or anything except maybe tender. You never November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

29


POETRY AND PROSE met anyone who could look at you tender the way she could. “So what is the matter, Charlie? If it’s okay I ask. I hate to see you look so down. I really do.” I remember I could feel her looking over at me, not telling me to say more, but just patient. “I got this call from my oldest sister today, that’s all. Her name’s Elena, real smart. Think you’d like her a whole lot.” “What’d she want to say?” “Oh god, just talked about home stuff. Depressing is what it was.” I stopped there but I could hardly think with her looking over at me like that and with her arm so warm by mine and this strong mint steam all in my face and her smell of deodorant and hot skin, so it was nally I nally just let whatever words were in my mouth fall out there on the table between us. “I mean, she talked about how our mom’s dying. She’s been dying. We’ve known for years now. But I mean I guess it’s really…I guess it’s just that sometimes it feels too hard to love them the right way, and still make it out all right, you know? I can’t think if I’ve ever even said ‘dying’ before right now. But Elena called and she said it’s worse, a whole lot worse lately and she’s been talking about making preparations, you know, and my younger sister’s moved back home, I guess. She never lived so far away, but still.” When I’d said it all, spit it out into the air, Cat did this thing, the most beautiful thing I think a person could do right then. She just laid her cheek, softer than anything, right down on my arm on the table, held my hand tight with both of hers, her paws. “Oh, Charlie,” she breathed, and I could feel the warm air of my name on my own skin. “Oh Charlie.” And that was it, none of those sad limp words like “terribly” or “sorry” or the pitying looks. Putting my face against her hair, the only thing I probably was capable of doing at all, I was surprised to nd my own wet tears against it. I just let it be, though, let the salt and the hair and skin press together until for a bit I didn’t know which was which, her skin (her skin!) or mine, everything just warm and soft and sewn together and nothing mattered but that everything was really connected, this real heady rush buzzing in 30

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009

the edges of my brain. When she let me kiss her by the window in her living room, hushed yellow light glowing through beige curtains like the ones in my apartment just downstairs, just millions of years away, the clingy dust swept up and was thrown out into outer space with the stars and meteors and moon and maybe aliens, too, I hoped, it felt like my feet had started to hover just above the oor, buoyed up by my own little cushion of air. I remember thinking I’d nally got what it was to be Cat, without all the goddamn sandbags on your heart. I really remember thinking

that, and burying my hands in her hair. It was one of those times when everything feels so full that it’s fragile. When you’ve got this rare thought that maybe someone actually wants to stay there, right where they’ve been. And it’s greatness but you’ve got another feeling in your stomach and maybe it’s just you’re scared as hell but you can’t really ever know. But Cat had her hands wrapped tight around the back of my neck even though it was sort of damp from sweat, and in between my own hands she felt warmer than any girl I’d maybe ever held, softer, too. And for a bit, in between her lips I forgot about it all, the phone calls and the loving that was too hard and my empty apartment downstairs. In between her hands that pulled the t-shirt over my head and didn’t even laugh when I got the stupid thing stuck, that took me to a bed with a yellow quilt and paused just to hold my face for a minute while she looked at me with these pretty eyes, set a bit wide on her face. And I guess I should’ve seen it, seen

that laying a girl like that down on a bed in low afternoon light, pulling back the fabric on some lacy thin blouse like it’s just tissue paper in your hands and seeing that pale skin and running your hands over its warmth and its sweetness, it can’t ever be like you want it to be, not really. The last magic thing was the smell of her sweat, earthy and faint and so damn beautiful in that room pressed against me. But that was before it all sort of began to unravel, rose threads fading from all the light in the room. Or more really, I started to unravel, each frayed piece plucked apart. It’s just that what happened then wasn’t supposed to be a part of Cat’s story. At least not the story I’d written for her on the inside of my own skull. Sliding my hand up along the bend of her leg I found rough, scarred skin on her thigh and a damp look in her eyes when I brushed my ngers against and realized the hell she felt now that I knew the secret. But more than that, I didn’t know everything, didn’t know the whole ugly truth in those burns. And of course that’s probably the biggest hell there is. I felt my whole body sick and expanding out against its skin, pushing it taut with knowing how ragged Cat’s edges were, after all. But I think most of all I knew I’d ripped through the shimmery magic veil draped all about her, and there wasn’t any way to hide from a thing like that. I guess with the expression on my face or maybe with my words I asked for the story. And so she told me, voice soft, of the kitchen lled with the sweet terrible scent of gin and of her father in his typical haze, drunk. Told me of the night he accidentally knocked a pan of hot cooking oil into her lap. He never let her see a doctor, just wrapped it up in make-shift gauze and bandages for weeks and let her suffer quietly for his own mistakes. The thing really is that I couldn’t stand to look at her anymore afterward, but not on account of the burn being ugly or anything like that. No, nothing on Cat could ever have been ugly. The truth is, when you’ve half fallen in love with someone you realize you wanna absorb everything that’s inside of them, even on top of all your own mess. And that’s what got me scared shitless because I knew then that I’d really never be able to crawl up off the oor anymore if I

lov co an tha o of

the ser low I lo mi mi the Pic it o fac pe sor be lef fro


of mn me. to he ed art. upnot of

of her nI he But ng, ose he

ndith ter ed all de

my for oft, ble cal acoil or, nd tly

nd not nyuld en ou at’s wn ess be f I

loved Cat in the real kind of way, the way I could’ve before I looked around the room and saw the yellow light and the clingy dust that lined the creases between the walls and oor. It hadn’t ever gone anywhere, not any of it, if I thought about it. I got up from her bed and went into the kitchen, hot salty tears that I didn’t deserve to cry stinging my face. She didn’t follow. On the table sat our empty teacups and I looked at them for a minute before I threw mine on the oor, watched it crack into a million sharp pieces on the wood and heard the high thin chink hover briey in the air. Picking up one big porcelain piece, I turned it over in my hands, rubbed its smooth surface with my ngers. Then with a black felt pen I found on the counter, I wrote, ‘I’m sorry, it’s too hard’. It didn’t make me feel better, just maybe a little nauseous and so I left it there on the counter and went out her front door. After that I don’t remember much but

that I walked to the deli down the street with the sandwiches I liked and only realized I was still shirtless when I went in the door and the man at the register told me I had to nd a shirt or get out. So I left and I wandered but I can’t really know where, so much, just that everywhere I saw seemed dirty and it felt like hell that I couldn’t ever stay anywhere.

W

hen I think back on my knowing Cat for a little, the biggest thing, in the end, was that I somehow got that t-shirt back. I didn’t deserve it. But one day, weeks later from my window I saw Cat in a patterned dress and walking through the parking lot like maybe there was actual asphalt under her feet, this time. She didn’t see me but got into a pick-up truck full of cardboard boxes. I supposed she was nally moving closer to work, like she’d said. The air was still cool and crisp that day, but there was sunlight that reected off the body of

The tar from this road clings to our souls And by the way you’re the greasiest saint I’ve ever seen What did you douse your sins in gasoline You’re judging me if you think I’m judging you Well if we’re telling the truth I never had faith in those telephone wires slithering anywhere and nowhere So you’ve tried to escape too I see the scars from the rusty fields on your shins Stick with me there must be a dead end out of here

the truck and struck the small leaves of the trees, thin and bright like it always is at the beginning of spring. I went up to her apartment, empty with the door left open, and there by the living room window folded real neat was my tshirt looking just the same as it always had, but maybe different because it had this smell like a bit of woman’s deodorant around the sleeves, owery and soft and crumbly. I tucked it right under my arm and shut the door behind me as I left, and thought about calling Elena or catching some train or going in to work even though it was my day off, but I wasn’t really sure about any of it, still. But when I unfolded the t-shirt in the hallway, I nally saw written on the inside hem in black felt pen, “Go home, Charlie.” I went on into the elevator and all I did was just put that t-shirt on over the one I already was wearing, but that seemed really like the right thing to do. O

The

Agnostics AMY CONNERS CONNERS

JESSICA MADDING

in ric ue kin nd t it

POETRY AND PROSE

November 23, 2009

THE OBSERVER

31


CAMPUS SAFETY

POLICE BLOTTER “ ”

Sunday, November 15 At 1:30 a.m. Tufts police answered the call of seemingly homeless students who were camping out on the quad when a non-traditional camp pest barged into their campsite. They reported that while camping for purposes related to the environmental movement, twenty people descended upon their camp, making their presence known by banging on tents. They left, but soon returned following one of their own who was running with an American ag. The patriotic track star threw himself on the tent, breaking the poles, and then ed into the safety of Wren Hall. Police found the individual who admitted to breaking the poles and consuming two beers.

—illustrated and compiled by Ryan Stolp

32

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009

Everyone only has two beers. It’s always two beers. Even if you did have two beers, don’t say it. Say three or four! -Sgt. McCarthy

Saturday, November 14 At 7:30 p.m. Ofcers responded to a medical case at Ware St. in Somerville and simultaneously brought closure to a bafing and troublesome unsolved crime. At the house, presumably after attending to the medical case, ofcers noticed an eight foot sign that weighed over 100 pounds and bore the cryptic phrase “Powderhouse Square.” Upon grilling the residents of the house, police uncovered that the sign had been stolen in the summer of 2008 from the rotary and brought to their then house on College Ave. When the residents moved, they brought the memorabilia with them. Somerville Public Works was notied and came by to pick up the sign.


Elizabeth Herman 32

THE OBSERVER

November 23, 2009


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Fall 2010 - Issue 5