Page 1

yale daily news magazine Vol. xxxviii · Issue 6 · April 2011 ·

the children left behind Domus Academy’s pledge to help them

p. 31 z vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv z

Plus, How Yale Press Took Over Art Publishing on page 25.

ydn magazine’s 1st annual illustration contest

winner lucy chen ’14

z  uvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvu table of contents vuv 3

the children left behind

Magazine shorts 4

by Molly Hensley-Clancy V 31 V

Zack O'Malley Greenburg '07

A home at Domus Academy

Gourmet Heaven x Winterfest Weenie Bin C62F

yale press by Edmund Downie TU 25 TU Dominating the art world

the new pilots by Madeline Buxton ed 40 ed The growth of television writing in college classrooms

Q’s 8 small talk 9 crit

Maximum Strength Daniel Bethencourt


PHOTO ESSAY Spring Awakening Jennifer Giang


Personal Essay To Be Southern Sarah Atkins


Profile Su Wei and Su Laoshi Justine Yan


fiction Cyprinidae Elisa Gonzalez



go bulls by Paul Wainer D 48 D Trumbull C Hoops

Yale Daily News Magazine

The Letter x solstice Because nothing runs faster than it falls


dEAR dr. lipschitz 51

4  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z

Editors’ Note

nonfiction, fiction, poetry, art, design join the ydn magazine

Magazine Editors

Zara Kessler u Naina Saligram

Associate Editors

Sijia Cai x Eliana Dockterman Jacque Feldman x Molly Hensley-Clancy Nicole Levy x Lauren Oyler Cooper Wilhelm

Design Editors

Raisa Bruner u Eli Markham u Christian Vazquez

Design Assistants

Jacqui Lee x Cora Ormseth v Rachel Needle

Photography Editors

Christopher Peak x Sarah Sullivan x Emily Suran

Yale Daily News Editor in Chief Vivian Yee

Publisher Kyle Miller


ast month, a hockey skate graced our cover. The story it accompanied traced the rapid rise of the Yale men’s hockey team over the past five years. In the time since the March issue was published, the Bulldogs won the ECAC Tournament championship and scored a thrilling victory over Air Force in the first round of the NCAA tournament. But in the end, their dream of advancing to the Frozen Four was crushed. This month a different sport is featured in several pages of the Magazine: basketball. In her cover story, Molly Hensley-Clancy takes us to the first basketball game ever played by Domus Academy. The middle school, which opened in September, serves 50 of New Haven’s neediest students, kids who would otherwise be overlooked by the public education system. In his personal essay, Paul Wainer recounts his experience as a member of the Trumbull team during the C Hoops intramural basketball playoff semi-final. In both pieces, basketball is more than just a sport. It is a site where emotions run high, relationships run deep, and possibilities are endless. It is a game where victory need not be defined by winning. In this issue of the Magazine, we see success represented in diverse ways. Sometimes it is overt and quantifiable, as with Yale University Press, whose path to becoming a leader of art book publishing is charted by Ned Downie. Sometimes it is seen in the influence one has on others, as in Justine Yan’s profile of her Chinese professor Su Wei. And sometimes success is not fixed but relative. When Daniel Bethencourt dips inside the world of powerlifting, he finds a sport unlike basketball: a sport where victory is measured by nothing but self-growth. As graduation looms ever closer, we hope that seniors will remember these stories, where intangible successes are often the most powerful. Now that the weather is getting nicer, grab your jerseys and head out to the court.

— Zara Kessler & Naina Saligram

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

z  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuuuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv shorts uvu 5


Professor Recs

What artist would you bring in for Spring Fling? TOSHIYUKI SHIMADA On the top of the list Yo-Yo Ma, although he is a Harvard grad. He can cross over to any type of music. And I am sure he can also cross over to Yale. My all-time favorite from the past was Frank Zappa, a very wild and unpredictable character, but he had created great music, including symphonic works. He was crazy enough that he could have set a fire on Woolsey Hall, literally speaking. How about the Sesame Street Show? It is most students’s comfort zone, shown all over the world and in many languages.  I would love to see the Big Bird and Rick Levin interact. Why not? It is supposed to be an educational show. Shimada is the Director of the Yale Symphony Orchestra and an Associate Professor (Adjunct) of Conducting.

MARIA TRUMPLER Indigo Girls because I fell in love with their music. Trumpler is a Senior Lecturer of Women’s, Gender, And Sexuality Studies and the Director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources.

NUNO MONTEIRO I’d pick Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti or the Sun City Girls. Because it would be that or Alfred Brendel, and Brendel, though possibly closer to the spirit of the Yale Spring Fling, is no longer performing live. Monteiro is an Assistant Professor of Political Science.

JOLYON HOWORTH Brassens — he is a poet and a philosopher of the most elementary human and social realities. His songs speak to the universal rebellion of the human individual against external constraints of every type. Howorth is a Visiting Professor of Political Science.

KATHRYN LOFTON I think Michael Hutchence deserved one more chance at pop redemption. But for pure Spring Fling joy, Teresa Brewer would be my pick. Lofton is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies.

Yale Daily News Magazine

book review tweet Why architecture matters by paul goldberger ydnmag want 2 know how architecture affects us emotionally/intellectually? want to know why we should care about it? check this out #yup

VOCab•yale•ary Fling \fliNG\ n. 1. When preceded by “spring” a marathon drinking event on Old Campus, accompanied by music for the lucky few who survive past 3 p.m. 2. A spontaneous and brief sexual relationship. v. What students often feel possessed to do to their textbooks during Reading Week.

Ydn, old school: In January of last year, the Yale Daily News’s Esther Zuckerman ’12 reported that Mayor John DeStefano Jr. was launching a plan for comprehensive school reform under the catchphrase “It takes a city.” The goals: cut the school dropout rate in half by 2015, close the city’s achievement gap, and strive to have all students graduate from high school and college. Since then, in September 2010, Domus Academy has taken on the children who most desperately need the city’s help. How are the city and Domus faring? See p. 31.

6  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z

Top 10

1 2 3

stores to bring to new haven

Jamba Juice: Nothing does it like a chilled fruit smoothie. I’m sick and tired of coffee, froyo, and bubble tea! Scrap Willoughby’s or Starbucks and blend up some Mangoa-go-go, Blackberry Bliss, and Aloha Pineapple. Please.

Any cheap clothing store:

4 5

J.Crew, Gant, Urban Outfitters, American Apparel. We can choose between these, Salvo, and the internet — can’t we get some midrange clothing stores? Somewhere where a T-shirt costs less than $30? Forever 21? Something?


‘Nuf said. Why make students drive 40 minutes for this godly stuff? Everyone wants it. Why can’t everyone get it?


Party World: Birthdays are some of the most heart-warming, feel-good diversions from studying and are best celebrated with lots of loud, obnoxious decorations. Where can I buy helium balloons in bulk to fill an entire common room? We’re left with meager means to show proper appreciation to our suitemates.

Hands-On Pottery: Did you ever go to one of those birthday parties at a pottery-painting place? If not, you missed out, big time. They’re all over the place — Pottery Piazza, The Claypen, The Clayroom, Paintable Pottery. Once you choose from an array of blank pottery pieces (mugs, plates, statues), you paint and glaze it (sometimes with sparkles!). And all this in just one afternoon! Talk about the perfect date.

24-hour American Diner: Who doesn’t want chocolate chip pancakes at 3 a.m.? By coming to Yale, we all say a tear-jerking goodbye to those early morning runs to the local diner, where the excitement of ordering anything on the menu (breakfast, dinner, or lunch!) never dies. Except that now it has. It needs to be revived. Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011


z  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuuuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv shorts uvu 7


The Container Store:


Victoria’s Secret:



In cramped living quarters where maximizing space and visual appeal is imperative, the Container Store would be God’s gift to students. The shop has so many bins, shelves, hampers, and hooks, you’d find the perfect fit for every corner and door.

Girls, you’ve finally found the time for a guy worth the time commitment, and you want to add some spice to your lessthan-exciting undergarment wardrobe. And guys, for some not-so-subtle gifts for your girl, look no further. More importantly, another excuse not to do laundry.


Sometimes after finishing that 20-page final paper, you need to reminisce about those pre-Yale years. Or just hold something cuddly. Would you like a soft bunny or floppy giraffe or a good old fashioned teddy bear? Maybe in some Yale gear? The possibilities are endless.

Hide & Seek Want to brighten your day while getting from Point A to Point B? Check out these underground murals ... if you can find them.

“Coffee Shops”: Think: Amnesia, Coffeeshop Mellow Yellow, Cum Laude Coffeeshop … just a few examples of Amsterdam’s unique establishments. Why not New Haven? Let’s be honest, there would be a huge and devoted clientele. — TaoTao Holmes

Yale Daily News Magazine

erica cooper / senior photographer

8  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z And it forces you to do crazy things like fly to California to chase down a crucial source who won’t return your calls.... Do you have a Facebook account? Why or why not? Yes. For shameless self-promotion, procrastination, and not having to bother friends to find other friends’ contact info. How do you take your coffee? Black, per journalist handbook requirements. za ck









for Zack O’Malley Greenburg ’07

covers music and finance as a staff writer at Forbes, where he started as an intern in 2005. Along the way he’s profiled the likes of Akon, 50 Cent, and Afrika Bambaataa, as well as a host of nonfamous mutual fund managers, CEOs, billionaires, and a convicted murderer (though nobody who could be described as all of the above). Zack’s stories have taken him from Macau’s casinos to the diamond mines of Sierra Leone; he currently writes a column for Forbes called The Beat Report. His first book, a Jay-Z biography titled Empire State of Mind was released by Penguin/Portfolio in March. Writing today needs more ... Punctuation.

If you could go back to college now what would you do differently? This may sound super-nerdy, but we’re all Yalies here, right? I wish I could go back and sharpen the thesis of my senior essay — it was a little too broad. I wrote about baseball stadiums and their impact on cities and instead of focusing on three or four ballparks, I should have honed in on one. Could have turned it into a book, I think. The most embarrassing moment of your career is ... Three years ago I was one of the several dozen writers and editors at Forbes who did not notice that we had misspelled “America” on the cover. Somebody forgot the “i,” and nobody caught it until Gawker did. Oops.

If you could ask President Obama a question, what would it be? Can you spare an hour (or five) for an interview?

What’s your favorite New Haven establishment? Yankee Doodle, rest in peace. Very crucial for brunch when I’d sleep through dining hall lunch hours.

What is your favorite word and why? “Schlep.” So much more interesting than “bring,” plus it can be used intransitively.

Most importantly, why is Yale better than Harvard? No school Monday.

What’s the most difficult piece you’ve ever had to write? I’m gonna go ahead and say it was my first book, Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner To Corner Office. Writing 200-plus pages about somebody who refuses to meet with you is tough, but when that person actively attempts to prevent people from talking to you, the experience goes from tough to downright difficult. Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

z uvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv small talk vuv 9

Small Talk gourmet heaven W winterfest W weenie bin c62f


W gourmet

heaven W

6:42 a.m.

Sunlight begins to trickle overtop the bundled roses and past the rows of potato chips until it seems to collect with a concentrated gleam on the silver metal of the buffet bar — and day begins at Broadway’s Gourmet Heaven. Or was it just ending? Owner Chung Cho says he has kept his store operating 24 hours a day since he opened his first shop in New York City in 1992. (The five Gourmet Heaven shops in New York City have since closed.) His employees had to spend the dark hours of the night preparing food, so Cho decided to hire a cashier and welcome night owls. Bruce Alexander ’65, Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development, explains that he recruited Gourmet Heaven to New Haven in part because it could quell students’ hunger at all hours and also because of the vibrant atmosphere created by the flowers and produce arranged outside. “I was on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in a taxi cab one day,” he said, “and I kept seeing these specialty grocery stores with flowers and produce out front, and I said we needed one of those for New Haven.” New Haven may rise soon with Wednesday’s sun, but Gourmet Heaven has been awake for quite a while. 8:40 a.m. Streams of people meander through the shop with the same goal: breakfast. Mack Przecioska, a construction worker who is helping with the renovation of Ezra Stiles College, leans his baggy, neon-yellow shirt against the glass of the deli bar and reads the list of sandwiches — the “Godfather,” the “Italiano.” Each day, a member of his crew journeys to Gourmet Heaven to collect food for the group to eat together on their break. Once he departs with his stash of sandwiches cradled between his arms and his T-shirt, a man with a crisp purple suit and a striped tie steps forward to order above the cackle of his walkie-talkie. Carlos Roman, who has served as a police detective with the New Haven Police Department for 20 years, seems not to notice the noisemaker attached to his belt as he collects his tin foil-wrapped sub. He and his colleagues come to the store nearly every day.

Yale Daily News Magazine

SALLY CHO / contributing photographer

12:30 p.m. Beyond the buffet and in front of the drink section sit the stairs to the upper floor of tables and chairs. Up here, the view feels unnatural. The backsides of the hanging lights and the tops of cereal boxes reveal themselves, the vents traverse the ceiling at eye-level, and self-absorbed shoppers waffle between different items without noticing the overlooking tables above. For one young man wearing a Trumbull College fleece, the choice between drinks seems especially tough. He stares at a Sprite for around 30 seconds until deciding to return it to the refrigerator and continue his search. As he paces up and down the aisle, past the smoothies, sparkling water, juices, and then back by the smoothies, the rising cadence of Katy Perry’s “Firework” only intensifies the drama, until he finally snatches a blue Gatorade. If any part of the store is most like “heaven,” it would have to be this balcony that gazes down upon shoppers as they make critical choices, between Sprite and Gatorade or cheddar and Swiss. 6:30 p.m. On the upper floor, everyone is absorbed in something. The hunched body of one woman with a tight ponytail and buttoned sweater is directed at the course packet on her table. Behind her sits a man with a different focus: his turkey sub. His eyes do not leave his dinner until he washes down the last bite with a green tea. 10:03 p.m. Scores of students approach the deli to collect late-

10  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z

SALLY CHO / contributing photographer

night snacks. Many swing open the front door with a plan in mind — they have done this before. They stride directly to the deli, barely slowing to quickly say, “egg and cheese, please,” as they continue to the drink section. Some of these ever-efficient students choose their drinks just in time to swing by the deli as the final strip of tin foil is wrapped around their sandwiches. 11:47 p.m. At the tables upstairs, students peruse their books and spread their notes across the tables. Some have a long night ahead of them. Armed with a laptop, pink headphones, and a Diet Coke, Helen Rankin GRD ’15 says she comes to Gourmet Heaven when she knows she will have to spend all night studying. Tomorrow she has her qualifying exam. 2:10 a.m. Toad’s Place, the dance club just down the street, ends its Wednesday night parties at 2:00 a.m. Two words to describe the “post-Toad’s crowd” are “drunk” and “loud,” according to one student who said he has been both a member and observer of groups that wander from the dance floor to the balcony of Gourmet Heaven. On this night, a shooting at Toad’s ended the party early, but the night still brings its share of partiers to the store. A collection of eight boys stakes out a corner of the balcony, where their banter ranges from topics such as senior societies to movie stars. Some of the studying students lift their eyes from their problem sets in annoyance, but most seem bemused by the inebriated characters in the corner. “I may be somewhat brown-out,” one of the partiers shouts matter-of-factly to his friends, “but certainly not blackout.” With that, they depart, leaving only the murmur of the radio and the sound of pencil on paper. 6:42 a.m. Another day begins as sunlight again streams through the glass. But the “beginning” of a day at Gourmet Heaven is difficult to pin down. Does it begin when New Haven’s

professionals pass through for their breakfasts, when the lunchtime rush comes, when students start their allnighters, or when the “post-Toad’s crowd” stumbles in? Though the beginning of a day is hard to identify, what’s clear is that it never ends. — David Burt

W winterfest W A chain of three ducks waddles across the pen

as a boy reaches out his hands to touch one and narrowly dodges a group of chickens frantically fleeing a camerawielding first grader. Neither a child nor a parent, I feel out of place in the middle of this hectic petting zoo — one of the top attractions at Common Ground, a high school, urban farm, and environmental education center located just three miles northwest of Yale’s campus. At first glance, Common Ground’s forested trails, cabin-like buildings, and welcoming atmosphere remind me of my childhood’s endless summer days, long hikes, and midnight s’mores-making around an open campfire. Founded by a group of parents, teachers, and environmentalists looking to educate the New Haven community, Common Ground welcomes visitors to the farm for various seasonal festivals, hiking trips, and Open Farm Days every year. This season’s biggest event is Winterfest, a celebration of winter’s long-overdue end through learning about maple sugaring, the process of making maple syrup. Winterfest’s modest $8 entrance fee goes to support Common Ground’s other community programs. Today, I follow a group of families around to each of the festival’s stations, where different steps in the sugaring process are explained. I head over to a clump of bare maple trees with spigots nailed into the trunks and tin buckets hanging to catch the flowing sap. There, Jill Keating, a Common Ground staff member, explains that cold winter nights and warm days are needed for the sap to run. She invites us to come closer and look. Peering

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6 April 2011

z  uvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvu small talk vuv 11 into the buckets, I’m astonished that the sap looks hardly any different from water and certainly nothing like the sticky, viscous liquid I’ve been imagining. “It’s very similar to coconut water,” Jill explains. “It’s even got similar nutritional value. Do you want to try some?” She fills a small Dixie cup with filtered sap, assuring us that it is perfectly potable, and I take a sip. It tastes almost like water, with a refreshing hint of some indescribably subtle flavor. The next fad beverage? There’s definitely potential. After tasting the sap, we wonder where the syrup comes from. I know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but I’m startled to discover that raw, sticky syrup doesn’t flow from them either. The watery sap I’ve just tried is diligently boiled and evaporated until it finally becomes the golden, delicious syrup with which I often drown my pancakes. The collected sap is carefully filtered and reduced until it becomes sufficiently dense, an indication that the desired sugar content has been achieved. Depending on the amount of sap boiled at once, the process can take many hours — even days. “It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup,” says Rebecca Holcombe, Director of Community Programs at Common Ground. “It’s all done with wood fires, even for big syrup manufacturers.” We walk behind the school building to take a look at the wood fire evaporator, a large box-like oven overflowing with sweet steam evaporating from the surface of the bubbling sap. Gathered around the woodfired evaporator, we are rewarded with a special treat: a blind taste test to see if we can tell the difference between artificial and real syrup, the latter produced right at Common Ground. I pick up the two samples and tip my head back, waiting for the syrup to trickle down the side of the cup. One of the syrups is much thicker and sweeter than the other. I correctly identify this one as the real syrup, and as possibly one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Caught up in lessons about maple sugaring, it’s easy to forget that Common Ground is also a high school — though it hardly resembles any high school I’ve seen before. After tasting my fill of maple syrup, I return to the petting zoo, where students Alicea Vazquez and Starr Colbert are volunteering, keeping a watchful eye on the pecking chickens and bouncing toddlers. “It’s just like a normal school,” says Starr of Common Ground, “with normal classes and everything.” What began in 1997 as a charter school with only 20 students has quickly evolved into a thriving school where 155 students grades 9 through 12 learn to care for their environment: in addition to the typical high school curriculum and extracurriculars, students also study environmental science and U.S. environmental history, and they brainstorm solutions to contemporary challenges. Yale Daily News Magazine

“I love being here more than any other school,” says Alicea. “I’ve never been to a school with animals before!” She laughs as Starr bends down to introduce some kids to Einstein, a grey chicken with an unruly puff of white feathers on the crown of its head. “And the small class size makes it easier to learn. You really get to know each other better.” Starr wholeheartedly agrees. But all New Haven nature-lovers, students or not, can enjoy a beautiful Saturday morning at Common Ground’s Winterfest. It is, in Starr’s words, “a totally different experience.” — Sue Li

W weenie

bin c62f W

Weenie Bin C62F is just

like the 43 other weenie bins in Bass Library, except that it isn’t. Like the rest, it is lit by an overhead bulb with a motion sensor to save energy in case the occupant forgets to turn it off or falls asleep. The oak desk in Weenie Bin C62F is labeled underneath with a number that is supposed to correspond to the room number but doesn’t — none of them do, a convincing testament to their interchangeability. This weenie bin, like the others, has one custom-designed Gothic chair, and only one. Before the library was renovated two years ago, the architects studied patterns of weenie-bin use and concluded that two-person weenie bins were almost always used by only one person — except when they weren’t. Generations of alumni recall weenie bin make-out sessions, and even Urban Dictionary defines the term with the sample sentence, “I was trying to study for my orgo exam while two freshmen were hooking up in the next weenie bin.” But those who frequent these subterranean dens of drudgery for their intended purpose know better than to fall for the initial impression that all weenie bins are created equal. In fact, the choice of weenie bin is critical, and students take it just as seriously as the work they plan to accomplish there. For example, to work on her fluid mechanics problem set, one senior told me she chose C10A because it’s on the end, which reduces the chance of a noisy neighbor by 50 percent. There are, in fact, other subtle differences. The precise location of the power outlets varies. Each weenie bin has a different bronze plaque with the name of the donor through whose generosity it was made possible — that is to say, whose $50,000 bought some 250 cubic feet of premium Yale study space. And, according to one graduate student, the temperatures also differ slightly, which is why he always prefers to study in C62C. Early in the term, he has his choice, since the library is not at all crowded. But during reading week, the competition for a weenie bin — any weenie bin! — will

12  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z turn fierce. Some especially zealous crammers will try to claim one by leaving their belongings there all day or even overnight. The security guards in Bass Library say this practice, though common, is not allowed. But the last weenie bin on the west side of the upper level, C62F, the special one, is claimed. Even locked. The guards know this, and they believe it’s supposed to be that way, although they don’t know why. The reason is that every day, an 82-year-old man with thin white hair and soft blue eyes behind horn-rimmed bifocals walks 15 minutes from his house on Prospect Hill and enters the library, leaning on his wooden cane as he goes. The librarians all know and greet him, but to the library’s other denizens, all some 60 years his junior, he is a stranger. He occasionally notices their wayward glances; they are no doubt wondering what an octogenarian is doing there. But mostly he doesn’t mind. He treasures his anonymity. His name is Richard Selzer, and he carries the key to Weenie Bin C62F, which has belonged to him about as long as it has existed. Before the renovation, Selzer, who used to teach at the Yale School of Medicine, frequented a weenie bin in the old Cross Campus Library, dating back about two decades. After the renovation, the librarians decided to give him his own space so he wouldn’t have to keep carrying all his books and papers back and forth. “It’s mine, and only mine,” Selzer says in a gentle, faded voice. “And I feel a little ashamed about that, but

emilie foyer / staff photographer

also very grateful.” The space is extraordinarily cluttered, “just like my mind,” Selzer says. There are 27 books, two floppy disks, two videotapes, countless stacks of paper, a blood pressure kit, a backscratcher, a box of clothing, and a mounted marble sculpture of a boy climbing out of a wall holding a book (which is supposed to represent Selzer himself, according to the friend who sculpted it, though Selzer doesn’t see the resemblance). Four of the books are Selzer’s own, and one of the stacks of paper is the manuscript for another: his 16th book, Diary, which was published by the Yale University Press in February. It was originally composed longhand, on this very desk. Selzer uses a fountain pen — which he, as a former surgeon, prefers because it reminds him of a scalpel — on bound pads of yellowish paper whose lines he usually ignores, covering them with script that is taut and slanted, creating a clutter not unlike that of his weenie bin. Some of the objects there he doesn’t even recognize himself, but his memory isn’t so good anymore. He finds books that seem unfamiliar until he sees his name after the blurbs he contributed to their back covers. He finds a strange flowerpot knickknack whose origin and use he can’t recall, until he notices the characters on its base and figures it must relate to his tour as an Army surgeon in Korea. That experience is the subject of a journal, which was the first thing he ever wrote and was finally published in 2009, in the form of a novel. He has also written about his stint in a Venetian monastery and about his hometown of Troy, N.Y., where he grew up listening to the moans of his father’s patients downstairs and the scales of his mother’s soprano upstairs. But here in his weenie bin, he cherishes the silence and, above all, the solitude. Selzer is very much not alone. He has a loving wife, who runs a bed-and-breakfast in their home, and three children, all successful in their respective careers. He also has a dedicated following of readers, who flood him with letters, though he says he doesn’t know what they find so terribly interesting about him. In the library, Selzer says, he can vanish, escape all the responsibilities and distractions of his world, and just write. The weenie bin is where Selzer can be with himself, and be himself. C62F is his weenie bin — not terribly unlike C10A and C62C, those other students’ favored weenie bins, but certainly not just any weenie bin. “When I come into this little cubby hole, something happens to me, as if something descends on me and keeps me writing,” he says. “I’m at home here. It’s like a nest, or a scriptorium. Every writer should have one.” — Isaac Arnsdorf

Vol. xxxviii, No. 6  April 2011

z  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuuuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv crit uvu 13

Crit maximum strength D

by daniel bethencourt D


tanding at the entrance of Payne Whitney’s people through the air. He holds his breath through three sprawling fourth-floor fitness center feels rounds, his eyes focused on the expansive ceiling. something like floating inside an enormous, Jon is the last of the original four members of the fourwhirring human brain. It’s 7 p.m. on a Thursday, year-old team, which he discovered as a freshman at the and I’m wading past three soaring rows of treadmills and activities bazaar. Jon came across a 275 pound man with ellipticals, every last one of which is packed with sweating enormous crossed arms, who was staring down at passing figures whose vaguely desperate gazes aim toward freshmen from behind a pair of cheap sunglasses. On nowhere. The distant clangs and clatters — contained by the table in front of him was a standard sheet of printer a towering ceiling and factory-high white walls — sound paper, folded upright, that, in tiny black capital letters, mindless, like wandering thoughts. Amid the treadmills read: POWERLIFTING TEAM. Jon had lifted weights for the frantic and somehow hopeful chaos of thudding feet high school sports, but now he was looking only to stay forms a rhythm for in shape, and he liked a moment, almost something about a coherent chain of this man’s ominous ideas — and then its approach. He asked patterns split apart the beefy figure, “So and scatter once I this is powerlifting?” think I could have The man, Craig cracked the code. Kafura ’09, who I’m here to would later go on to find Yale’s club an MA at Columbia powerlifting team, and a think tank in whose members Chicago, nodded push and pull on curtly: “Yeah.” He heavy barbells to gain uncrossed his arms as much strength and handed Jon as possible — no a flyer. Jon later matter what happens explains, “I guess he florian Koenigsberger / contributing photographer to their waistlines. deemed me worthy.” Strength is a means to an end in so many other sports, The powerlifting practices, and the growth stimulus but in powerlifting, it’s the only end in sight. resulting from them, were so intense that Jon began to eat Jon Richardson ’11, the captain of the Yale Club as the team’s two leaders, Craig and Dave Damminga ’08, Powerlifting Team — a demure and modestly stocky told him to: at least a gram of protein for each pound of Physics and Astronomy major with a soft Virginian his bodyweight. (Measured out in beef, that would equal accent — arrives alone in dark blue warm ups and black 9-10 burger patties for a 200 pound man, not including Chuck Taylor high-tops. (Experienced lifters wear shoes carbohydrates.) During a practice in October that first with flat soles because the soles of running shoes will year, the team’s only sophomore, the nearly-300-pound wobble under heavy loads — as if you were squatting Josh Colon ’10, arrived 20 minutes late without his on a creaky mattress.) Jon trots down to the farthest lifting belt. Dave, who was himself a 340 pound, 6’10” bench press station in the corner and lies back against behemoth, heaved Josh six inches off the ground with his it, his bare hands caked in white chalk for better grip bare hands, and shook him in the air while screaming: strength. His breath held and face flushed red, he lowers “Josh what the fuck is wrong with you?? How can you lift and then vaults a bar bearing the weight of two small without your fucking belt??” Josh went back, got his belt,

Yale Daily News Magazine

14  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z

Why am I going to care about looking strong, if I’m not going to be strong?

florian Koenigsberger / contributing photographer

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

z  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuuuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv crit uvu 15 and was never late again. The team’s membership expanded slowly by word of mouth. Lifters approached Jon and others in the gym to tell them they looked smart about their training. This year the membership has settled at 12, with about half that number showing up at least once each week. But powerlifting’s focus is not what most gymgoers are after, that is looking more attractive and strong. Powerlifters want to actually be strong, no matter how that makes them look. Elias Quijano ’12, a Biomedical Engineering major and the team’s president, knows all about the difference. He began his lifting career as a 14-year-old 140-pound bodybuilder in Miami, a city home to a vibrant gym culture. Elias made time for two hours of cardio per day in addition to his two-hour weightlifting workouts. His bodybuilder’s diet was rich in lean protein; he’d sit with his friends while they were out for pizza and open up a can of tuna. He chewed gum while lifting as Arnold Schwarzenegger used to and emulated Schwarzenegger’s mental strategy for lifting weights: imagine you are carrying the universe, and that if you don’t push the weight the universe will fall, and everyone will die. Elias came to Yale and stuck with his training in the spare time he had. He met the powerlifting team in the gym during his sophomore spring and tried to

off the safety catches. Jon and another teammate are crouched on either side, in case anything goes wrong. Elias sets his feet inside the metal cage, gulps a huge gust of air, throws his head back to the ceiling, whose rows of fluorescent lamps reveal beads of sweat rolling down his cheeks and forehead, and then lowers everything toward the floor. This simple, brutal motion seems to deserve its own satisfying sound, like the resounding clang of a sword being forged. Elias lunges the bar back up through the air and emits a strained curt yell, and then he stands upright, the 45-pound plates on either side of the bar ringing against each other. He breathes out and gulps in again, looks to the ceiling, and for the second time, lowers himself down. Why do this? What benefit lies in the sacrifice of time, body image and possibly even health, to eventually lift huge plates of metal through the air? The victory lies in knowing that you can. And that victory is deeply physical and personal, because it’s with you all the time, trotting around with you in your muscles, buffered by your connective tissues. “In bodybuilding you stand up on a stage,” Elias says, “and somebody compares the group. But powerlifting is really about constantly improving upon yourself. Why do I care how you look or anyone else looks? Doesn’t change who I am,

Strength is a means to an end in so many other sports, but in powerlifting, it’s the only end in sight. compromise his bodybuilding methods with theirs. But then, he noticed they were getting stronger faster than he was. Elias said that eventually, he thought: Why am I going to care about looking strong, if I’m not going to be strong? Elias committed to the powerlifting team and with it, to the pursuit of maximum strength. Over the next school year his bodyweight climbed from 200 to 235, his belt size from 29 to 38, and his bench press weight climbed from just over 200 to 315. It’s 1 p.m. on a Saturday, and Elias is getting ready to squat three times with 315 pounds across an unpadded bar on his back. He’s already panting from his heavy warm-up rounds, and now he paces the floor in plain black socks with no shoes and an adjustable lifting belt that was a birthday present from his girlfriend. He force-inhales and exhales until he’s nearly hissing, and then throws himself under the bar and growls while he lifts it Yale Daily News Magazine

doesn’t change me essentially.” Once you claim that inner victory, it stays with you for a while — as long as you keep pounding down the protein, heaving up the iron, and dreaming of a little more victory, day after day. All of this is driven by a focus that resides at the back of the mind, a quiet, unceasing thirst. On that same Saturday afternoon, Elias paces back and forth before his second set of squats. He still chews gum like Schwarzenegger, but has long since left behind his old hero’s advice on lifting up the universe. “When I’m lifting that bar,” Elias says, “I’m not thinking about anything. I don’t even think about moving the bar — my mind is completely blank. It’s really peaceful, actually.”


16  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z

Spring Awakening Photo Essay by Jennifer Giang

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

z  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvu photo essay vuv 17

Yale Daily News Magazine

18  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z

Personal Essay To be southern D

by sarah atkins


he house is dark and quiet, peaceful in the predawn hours. I, however, am frantic. With mere minutes until my parents and I must leave, I am still thinking of and packing a million little things that suddenly seem of paramount importance. I run back and forth through the kitchen, one of my cats observing me lazily from the counter. I sprint up the stairs and into my room for what will be the final time for several months. I walk to the two eastward-facing windows to close my curtains. My family’s land stretches out below me, with the garden and trees and treehouse that formed the map of many a day spent outside in the Southern sun. I hesitate for a moment, trying to allow this image to imprint permanently on my mind. I have lived in Lexington, Kentucky since I was four years old. Growing up there breathed the sweet air of Southern charm into my life. For to be Southern (yes, with a capital “S”) means more than simply being from below the Mason-Dixon line. And Kentucky is indeed a part of the good ol’ South. Southern hospitality lives here, in the pleasant greetings, in the sweet tea, in the bluegrass lawns my brothers and I used to run across barefoot in the summers. Seven years after coming to Kentucky, my family moved to Deepwood, the neighborhood built upon the


The past is as much a part of us as the present. And now, for the first time in fourteen years, I am leaving this past behind for a new future, 800 miles away. I am leaving Kentucky. By 5:30 a.m. the car is packed, and we are off. By 6:30 the first true rays of sunlight break across the sky, reflecting off the fog of the Smoky Mountains and creating hundreds of rainbows. The blues, purples, reds, and greens bounce around in the car, infusing my luggage with one last bit of countrified mystery. By 8:30 we have nearly left the state of Kentucky, home of horses and the brave. We stop at our usual road-trip Starbucks, located on the Kentucky border, the gateway of many a trip “up North.” A blonde girl with a soft Southern lilt and freckled nose takes our orders and says, “We’ll have those all ready for ya’ll in just a minit.” Of course, it takes more than a minute, but a certain amount of patience comes with hospitality. Ten minutes later, we’re on the road again, and as I look out the back window over my big blue duffel, I see the final stretch of Kentucky road. We pass the sign that says, “You are now leaving Kentucky.” I turn and see that on the opposite side it says, “You are now leaving West Virginia. We hope to see you again soon.”

To be Southern (yes, with a capital “S”) means more than simply being from below the Mason-Dixon line. land of the old Deepwood farm. My house was the original house on the farm, sitting at the base of a hill that overlooks what is left of the woods for which Deepwood was named. The old hardwood floors creak and many windows probably let out more heat than they let in light, but no one would ever consider changing these features of my house. The house speaks of history, of generations of families enjoying Indian summers in our backyard and delicious home-cooked meals in our breakfast nook. We Southerners are traditional by nature, not averse to change but appreciative of the past.

West Virginia flies past in a series of mountains, both peaked and halved. The only interruptions in the pristine Appalachian landscape are the coal-mines, with slurry creeping down mountainsides, as though some unfriendly giant upended a black-flecked Snow Cone. We make a pit stop to refuel both the car and our growling stomachs. The gas station attendant offers, with quite the drawl, to throw in a fried Twinkie with our sandwiches. Our demurral earns us a toothy grin; he knows we’re “not from ’round hurr.’” Some would consider his relatively strong accent an indication of

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

z vuvuvuvuvuvuvuuuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvu personal essay uvu 19

maria haras / staff illustrator

“backwardness.” To me, the Southern accent adds personality to a voice. He sounds like home. Maryland marks the divide. I watch the sun crest in the sky as we speed away from it. The mountains, our final connection to Appalachia, smooth out to rolling hills as we cross into this new state. As the hills begin to shrink into mounds, then ant hills, so too do the final whispers of the South fade. Politically, it begins with a single Democrat lawn sign. Then there are two. Then three. Finally Republican lawn signs become the needles in the haystack of the more liberal North. There’s even an independent sign or two. My dad snorts at an old Ralph Nader poster as road signs for Washington, D.C. begin to appear overhead. Fortunately, before we enter the city we take a break in Hagerstown and hop onto Highway 81, putting off our entrance into the metropolitan monster of the East Coast. The suburbs of D.C. retreat into the distance as we make our way into the smooth green of rural Pennsylvania before our descent into the ultimate monster: New York City. Driving through New York is a time of white, clenched fists on the steering wheel and much swearing, both within our car and without. The final patches of green disappear as urbanity swallows and spits us into a driver’s nightmare. Yale Daily News Magazine

Though my dad handles the many twists and turns rather deftly, there is nothing but tense silence in the car. We are used to open roads and little traffic; the grid of New York City streets feels claustrophobic. Our arrival on the Merritt Parkway brings the greatest sighs of relief. New York is behind us, and the only thing that stands between us and a good night’s rest at my godmother’s house in Connecticut is an hour or so of peaceful, scenic driving. When we do eventually arrive at her house, which is surrounded by the majestic evergreens I’ve come to associate with my visits to the North, I make my way to my godmother’s kitchen for something to drink. I notice a pitcher of iced tea at the back of the second shelf. I pour a glass, take three heaping spoonfuls of sugar from the canister on the counter, and stir until all of the crystals have disappeared into the golden-brown of the tea. I take a good long sip; the South is still here. I can see the sun setting through the window, coming down to rest in my new home. As the final rays leave the kitchen, I can’t help but be reminded of a similar sunset in a different, faraway kitchen, one that I’ve seen a thousand times before.


20  ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc  O

Su Wei and Su Laoshi by Justine Yan ali vivinetto / contributing photographer

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

O  bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ profile][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ 21

I wonder if I will be a chipped trophy, or a baseball, or a framed drawing, or a letter written in childish Chinese.


n Su Wei’s cluttered office, Chinese calligraphy, framed photographs, and awards cover the wall. Papers and books are spread across every surface. The floor creaks as Su Wei walks across the room. From a shelf filled with thick Chinese encyclopedias, he picks up a baseball and turns it over in his hands. It is a gift from a former non-heritage student, a baseball player who impressed Su Wei with his unexpected use of a Chinese idiom one day and who now works in China. Su Wei approaches another shelf and picks up a framed drawing. On the back, in Chinese characters, a student wrote, “Thank you for saving my life.” The young woman felt that Su Wei had helped her out of depression by teaching her how to “taste Chinese.” Learning how to appreciate the melody and metaphor of the language led her to rediscover meaning in her life and eventually to pursue a master’s degree in Chinese Studies. Since 1998, Su Wei has been a senior lector of Chinese at Yale. The many gifts that occupy his bookshelves and hang on his walls are from Ma Yuanmao, Tang Kailin, Shi Liwen, and others — Yalies who usually go by their well-worn English names. But Su Wei refers to them only by their Chinese names, as if transforming them into characters from a story. As Su Wei recounts anecdotes from generations of his former students, alternately beaming with pride or raising his eyebrows with concern, I find myself in an odd position, for I am his student too. I wonder how I will be represented someday. I wonder if I will be a big chipped trophy, or a baseball, or a framed drawing, or a letter written in childish Chinese.


Yale Daily News Magazine


t Yale, you kind of expect your professors to change your life. After my first day in Su Wei’s class “Readings in Modern Text,” I wondered if he might change mine. That Monday morning, he awed the class into silence with quotations from Chinese poets and intellectuals. Perhaps it was when he told us to write down and memorize a Confucius quotation that I realized this wasn’t just a standard Chinese language course. We would be talking about society, literature, and philosophy — he promised that we would try to achieve a depth of thinking in Chinese. Su Wei came to America in the early eighties as one of the first Chinese students to pursue a western degree after the Cultural Revolution. He played a key role as a leading intellectual in the Tiananmen Square student protests of 1989, was blacklisted by the Chinese government soon after the bloody June 4 crackdown, and eventually fled his home country. Also an acclaimed essayist and novelist, he has published three novels and several books of short stories and personal essays in Chinese. He also seems to know all the major figures in Chinese literary and intellectual circles; when I mention some of my favorite writers, he is quick to call them “close personal friends.” But at Yale, most of us don’t call our professor “Su Wei.” We call him “Su Laoshi,” Teacher Su, a title which carries respect and affection. He currently teaches classes in modern Chinese fiction and nonfiction. Su Laoshi loves to talk about his past. Very little is deemed inappropriate for class discussion. In our nonfiction course, general themes in our reading often trigger long personal narratives. If our class discusses

22  ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc  O

Su Laoshi

Su Wei

justine yan / contributing photographer

the differences between Chinese and American marriage customs, Su Laoshi talks about how he met his wife. If we discuss intellectualism in modern Chinese society, he mentions a human rights activist about whom he has written a poem. One story leads to the next, and he frequently reminds us, “actually, this is relevant,” though we have long abandoned the text. When we press him for more details, he sometimes says, “It’s a complicated story, I won’t get into it.” But still he goes on to tell us about, say, flouting school rules to date a pretty girl or throwing “the first co-ed dance party at Sun Yatsen University.” After studying abroad at ucla, Su Wei returned to China in 1986 and, unlike most bachelors his age, owned his own studio apartment. This apartment soon became one of the most important salons for Beijing intellectuals. Political activists and writers held meetings there so regularly that he decided to distribute copies of his keys. “I pushed my bed into the far corner, and there were people coming in and out at all hours of the day,” he said. Magazines were put together; major events leading up to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests were discussed. When Su Laoshi narrates his life, his face glows. He stares up at the ceiling, continuing on as if class will never end. But suddenly he remembers that there is vocabulary to cover, so he hastily clears his throat, turns his eyes back to the course book, flips a couple of pages, and asks a student to read something out loud, as if he had never digressed. If there is time left, we pick up our pens and look diligent for another

su wei

few minutes. Some mornings, Su Laoshi doesn’t realize class is over until a crowd of students in the next class gathers outside of the room. When Su Wei recounts his life, sometimes he will skip the details or scenes that you would expect to be most important. He spares no vivid descriptions but seems to value connections and ideas over plotlines. One day, he tells his life story without mentioning his role in the Tiananmen Square protests. Another day, he focuses entirely on why he became a writer. But often Su Laoshi foregoes speaking about his own life to talk about his xuesheng, his students. He always finds a way to mention Wen Houting, “the best student that our Chinese department has ever seen.”


en Houting is Austin Woerner ’08. I met him when I was at Carnegie Hall for the New York premiere of “Ask the Sky and the Earth,” a cantata commemorating China’s “up to the villages, down to the countryside” movement of the sixties and seventies. During this period of Chinese history, urban teenagers from intellectual families were sent far away to be “re-educated” in the countryside through hard farm work. Su Wei was one such youth. He left home when he was 15 and didn’t return for ten years. In 2008, he completed a poem based on his experiences during that time, working with a friend who composed accompanying music. Soon after, Austin translated the lyrics into English, so that the Western world could understand. About 1000 people attended this cantata’s preVol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

O  bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ profile bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ 23 miere. At the end of the performance, Su Wei stood up in the balcony, beaming and waving both his arms in the air: a gesture of pride and thanks. Later, he asked me if I was touched by the music and lyrics. “Many audience members told me after the show that they cried,” he said. “You were sitting down there, weren’t you? Did you see people cry?” But there were also audience members who complained that the piece was too upbeat, that it didn’t represent all the suffering that youth went through during the decade they spent in manual labor, far away from their homes. Su Wei understands these objections to the lyrics. After all, in Austin’s English translations, the lyrics express positive sentiments: “Oh, the mountain knows its noble truth, / The ocean knows its drunken ecstasy. / Do not ask me, do not ask me, / whether I regret my youth.” Even in its lowest dips, the poem is wistful and nostalgic, but there is never bitterness. “This is because that was a time of hope, too,” said Su Wei. “In my life, I have never completely lost hope, because even in the darkness, there have always been good people, good memories, sources of light.” Witching Vale, Su Wei’s novel that also draws from his experience during the Cultural Revolution, is currently being translated by Austin. In meeting Austin, I encountered for

the first time one of the human beings behind Su Wei’s characters. When he was at Yale, Austin was on the 2007 Chinese Debate team with three other non-heritage students handselected by Su Wei to represent Yale at an international Chinese debate tournament that was broadcast on Chinese Central Television. Su Wei was happy to share this episode of his life, boasting about his four students, now his “buddies” and “American sons,” who had mastered Chinese idioms and could recite lines of ancient Chinese poetry. The team persisted through ten grueling days of researching, competing, and as Austin put it, “performing like monkeys” for the audience and cameras. In between debate rounds, television hosts pushed microphones in their faces and told them to recite poems, attempt tongue twisters, and talk about themselves and why they loved China. Austin and his friends were rushed from one activity to the next, spending all of their free time holed up in the hotel preparing evidence or at the TV station recording. At many points, it became difficult for the team members to grasp why they were in the competition at all. At the start of one of the rounds, Austin remembers feeling relieved rather than anxious when he and his teammates thought that

justine yan / contributing photographer

Yale Daily News Magazine

24  ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc ][ bc  O

But often Su Laoshi foregoes speaking about his own life to talk about his xuesheng, his students. their opponents were going to beat them. But Su Wei was very serious about representing Yale properly. Before each of the three rounds, he wrote up extensive pieces for the team — sophisticated, flowery stuff that the team just didn’t know how to use. So one day, they left, opting to prepare with the help of their Chinese friends at Tsinghua University instead. Su Wei was furious. The championship round against Oxford was the next day. The Yalies returned home as champions, carrying a big glass trophy in the trunk of their taxi. But when the driver tried to unload the heavy prize, he dropped it, shattering part of it on the street. Su Wei was upset for a long time. Austin was just glad to be home. There are points when Austin’s memories and Su Wei’s stories fail to overlap. For instance, Su Wei does not mention the joy with which he and his American sons pranced around the hotel room after they had won, tearing up all their evidence and throwing it in the air. Austin’s favorite moment: lying on the floor watching the paper shreds drift down, like snowflakes.


wo hours into our conversation in his office, Su Laoshi pauses, and I say what’s been on my mind. “Su Laoshi,” I begin, “do you think you have so many stories because you’re a writer, or are you a writer because you have so many stories?” He leans back in his chair and combs his fingers through his hair, seemingly the most content man in the world. “That is one of the best questions!” he says, eyes glittering, hands folded over his stomach. “It’s one of those chicken or egg questions.” He responds with another story, mentioning Bei Dao, a famous Chinese poet he describes as a strictly “literary” friend. He recalls a major argument he had with the poet,

who was once nominated for the Nobel Prize. “He is very cool and remote in his writing. He said that the essay I had submitted to his anthology was too warm,” says Su Laoshi. “And I told him, ‘So what, I’m just warm. I write to give people warmth. Is there something wrong with that?’” Su Laoshi’s warmth is reflected in the realtionships he has built, both past and present. He connects to people because they can come into his office at any time, because he pushed his bed into a corner and gave out keys, because he has always believed in himself and the people around him. “To be a writer is not important. It is more important to be a person.” He gestures towards me. “When I face a student of mine, including someone like yourself, I am not just facing a Chinese learner,” he says. “I am interacting with a whole person.” This is his teaching philosophy. When writing about Su Wei, it is easy to miss this side of him, because people are interested in his past, which has become a type of history. But Su Wei truly values the influence he has on his students. He values his role as Su Laoshi. Hours into our conversation, I am telling my teacher about my family. For one second — but I notice it — he looks up at the clock, and I get a bit nervous. I try to weave my story more tightly, afraid to take up any more of his time. But he seems to detect the change in my tone and tells me to continue, shifting a little in his seat. “This is no longer an interview. We’re just friends talking.” SOS

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011


HowYale Press took over art publising

By Edmund Downie


nter the reception room for Yale University Press’s New Haven office, and, for a second, you might think you’ve wandered into the parlor of a country gentleman’s estate. You’d certainly think so if you saw the mirror on the right wall, whose gold-painted frame is chipped and scuffed just enough to bestow it with an antique grace. Then there’s the brown leather sofa beneath the mirror, its edges

studded with brass tacks that pop out like blisters on the upholstery. The mirror’s reflection catches another antique on the opposite wall: an old clock, whose face is the off-white of a worn manuscript. Cast your gaze over the entire room, though, and your illusion collapses, punctured by cubicles, Venetian blinds, walls of white drywood, fluorescent lights — the accoutrements of office life. Among such drab company, the

Yale Daily News Magazine

photographs by Sagar Setru

mirror, the sofa, and the clock would feel out of place, even awkward, were it not for the books scattered throughout the room — propped up on supports, laid flat on tables, lined up on shelves. They form a sort of bridge between the room’s artistic flourishes and the more quotidian elements of office life. For Yale Press’s Art and Architecture division, the challenge of publishing is just this: forming a bridge between the aesthetics of art and the nitty-

26  &TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&  TU gritty of producing and selling books. In this task, they have no peer. Yale University Press (YUP) books regularly win the major prizes of the art book world, with five winners over the past decade for the Alfred H. Barr Award for museum catalogues and four for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award for works on art history. Even the mainstream media has taken note of Yale’s dominance, with praise coming from prominent national publications like The Boston Globe and The San Francisco Chronicle. While the last decade has seen contractions of the art publishing divisions of many of Yale’s competitors, Yale has actually increased its art book output since


f publishing is an art, then, for most of the last 40 years, John Nicoll has been YUP’s premier artist. But that’s not a title the former managing director of YUP’s London office would care to hear. He prefers more prosaic similes. “Publishing books — you’re a midwife to other people’s children,” he says. The 67-year-old from the tiny town of Staveley in the Midlands of England speaks with humility and verve in a crisp British accent. Whether he’s a midwife or an artist, there’s no doubt that art publishing at Yale owes a great deal to John Nicoll. His combination of business skills, production sense, and editorial finesse, in the words of longtime colleague and former YUP

that art books required. Nevertheless, YUP found itself thrust into the industry in the early 1970s by a series of events wholly unrelated to the press itself. In 1970, the Mellon family set up in London the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, a sister institution to the Yale Center for British Art, whose building, collections, and endowment had all been provided by the Mellon family. The London location initially included a program for publishing books on British art, but financial complications pressed the Mellons into negotiations with Yale University Press to bring the books under publication in London under the purview of YUP editors in New Haven. After the gift of

If publishing is an art, then, for almost 40 years, John Nicoll has been YUP's premier artist. But he prefers more prosaic similes. "Publishing books — you're a midwife to other people's children," he says. 2000, and art books make up a larger chunk of YUP’s revenue than books from any other discipline. Yale Press’s mission statement sets as its goal “the discovery and dissemination of light and truth, lux et veritas.” For its art book division, it’s clear what constitutes the lux et veritas — art itself, as critiqued and celebrated in works from the world’s top museums and scholars. But these works don’t end up on our shelves of their own accord. Their journey is the culmination of 50 years of strategizing, hiring, negotiating, guessing — the stuff of business, not of museums or scholarly tomes. If anything, the story of the rise of art publishing at Yale Press shows that there’s more art to these books than just the lux et veritas between the covers. Publishing, too, has an art of its own.

Publishing Director Tina Weiner, “set a new standard” for publishers in the art book industry. But Nicoll might never have come to Yale had it not been for a quirk of fate. For its first 60 years in existence, YUP published almost no art books. Few scholarly publishers did at that time because of the enormous headaches involved in reproducing images, an obvious prerequisite for almost any book about art. Book printers of the era still relied heavily on a 19th-century technology called hot metal typesetting, which did not accommodate images easily. Color printing technologies did not allow for high-quality reproductions in books. In addition, image reproduction required (and continues to require) extra expenditures for better printing, as well as for permissions fees paid to the museums and collections that own the original artworks. Few scholarly presses could justify the investment of time and resources

an entire museum, Yale couldn’t refuse. By 1973, communication issues between New Haven and the Mellon authors had convinced YUP Director Chester Kerr to hire an editor in London for the Mellon books. He chose Nicoll, then a 29-year-old editor at Oxford University Press. Since the Mellon books weren’t so many as to merit full-time attention, Kerr also allowed Nicoll to add a handful of other titles to his list — in other words, to produce more books at his discretion. These titles could come from any discipline, art or otherwise. Nicoll’s skill set suited the challenges of art book publishing remarkably well. Nicoll loved the aesthetic process of bookmaking. “It’s more interesting for me to print a book that looks good than one that gets good reviews in the Times [of London],” he says. He gained experience in the field as the author of books on the PreVol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

TU &TU&TU&TUTU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TUTU& feature &TU&TU&TU&  27 Raphaelites and the English painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Colleagues also speak to his natural feel for numbers and business. Gillian Malpass, who joined the Nicoll’s staff in 1974 and now works as the Publisher for Art and Architecture at YUP’s London office, says: “‘We’d be sitting around a table and he’d say, ‘Okay, if we do x, y, and z, it’ll cost this,’ and he’d run through the figures. And you’d be sitting there thinking, ‘What’s x?’” During his first few years, Nicoll began to incorporate art books — in particular, art history books — into the YUP list, hoping for a book that would establish Yale’s reputation in the field. The break came in 1978. Yale released a title by the British architectural historian Mark Girouard called Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History. The initial print run was 10,000 copies — “a colossally large print run,” remembers Nicoll today. It sold 180,000 copies and won several of Britain’s most prominent book prizes. “We knew it would do well,” says Nicoll, “but we didn’t know it would do anywhere near as well as it did.” The next two decades were the golden years for art publishing at Yale, thanks to Nicoll’s shrewd leadership. In the 1980s, he moved most of London’s printing operations out of Britain, first to other parts of Europe and

eventually to Asia. “It was quite an adventure,” he says of the move to Asia. “None of [the employees at the Asian printing houses] spoke English, they all had different currencies, different expectations. But if you were prepared to do it, you could luck out — it would be incredibly welldone for less than you expected.” He also kick-started Yale’s entry into museum catalogue publishing, a market that was just beginning to open up in the early 1980s. Throughout, Nicoll continued to emphasize Yale’s ability to combine excellent scholarship with design that was, in his words, “stylish, classy, sexy.” Nicoll’s leadership owed much to the force of his personality. Malpass remembers an early encounter with Nicoll in 1973 that, as she puts it, “was absolutely typical of an encounter with John, in that it was both wonderful and terrifying.” A graduate student at Oxford, she had just been hired as a temporary picture researcher and was finding illustrations for a catalogue of works by the British painter John Constable. “[Nicoll] said to me, ‘Why do you think you can do this [job]?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m doing my D.Phil at Oxford in 18th and 19thcentury British art.’ He said, ‘Oh, that’s all completely irrelevant,’” she remembers with a laugh. That’s not to say that Nicoll had a mean streak. “He’s an incredibly charismatic

Yale Daily News Magazine

figure, with this incredible physical and intellectual presence,” adds Malpass, “and he’s all the while very nice to you.” Was there any sense that the good times would end? “Absolutely not,” says Nicoll. “Things just got better and better.” And then, the market changed.


he turn of the millennium brought unsettling shifts in the art book world. Most significant of these was the rise of the superstore. Serious art publishers had relied heavily on sales at independent bookstores that could cultivate a clientele with an appreciation for scholarship. But superstores like Barnes & Noble tended to prefer “promotional books” — cheap to produce, easy to sell, and wholly without serious content — over more scholarly works. As these superstores started to gain market share and squeeze independents out of business, serious art publishers lost a large portion of their trade or nonacademic audience. The commercial side of the publishing industry took the worst hit. As for-profit institutions, commercial presses require higher profit margins to survive. Thus, houses like Abrams — formerly Harry N. Abrams, the first publisher in the U.S. to specialize in art books — found themselves forced to retrench. Under the direction of

28  &TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&  TU CEO and President Michael Jacobs, who is incidentally a current Eli Whitney student at Yale, the size of the Abrams Books imprint — art, architecture, and a hodgepodge of other subjects — has fallen from 125 books in 2004 to 80 today. In contrast, commercial art publishers who have grown substantially in this market have done so with books that, while well-designed and produced, are styled and promoted in ways that publishers like YUP would never countenance. The German publisher Taschen’s bestknown titles from the last few years include Norman Mailer’s Moonfire: Lunar Rock Edition, a special edition of a book about the moon landings that came with pieces of the moon, and The Big Butt Book, a photographic paean to, well, big butts. “Taschen’s books are interesting and flashy, very arresting,” says Jacobs, “but I think they have, in my opinion, low-caloric content.” Though a nonprofit, Yale has also suffered from the changes crippling its

commercial competitors. Trade markets for Yale books have shrunk substantially. “I remember phoning up Tina Weiner 10 years ago and her saying, ‘You don’t have to worry. For even the most scholarly book, I will always be able to sell minimum 2,000 copies [in America],” says Malpass. Today, some of Yale’s most scholarly works sell 500 copies worldwide. In addition, outside funding to offset costs like translation, image permissions, and printing has mostly dried up. One Yale Press author recently had to pay $25,000 of his own money to pay image permissions costs for his work. “The funding sources aren’t there anymore,” says Patricia Fidler, Publisher for Art and Architecture at the YUP New Haven office. “It’s jeopardizing art history as a discipline.” Compared to its competitors, though, YUP is in decent shape. Its dominance in the art book industry remains unquestioned. Reviewing 2004’s best art books for The San

Francisco Chronicle, critic Ken Baker wrote, “In 2004, a publisher rather than a single book merits singling out as the year’s best: Yale University Press.... In recent years, it has taken an almost unchallenged lead in art books.” In addition, the size of Yale’s art book list has actually increased over the last 10 years, reaching as high as 180 titles for fiscal year 2011. Yale is only handling distribution for half of these books, mostly exhibition catalogs. Under these arrangements, the museums running the exhibitions edit, design, and produce their catalogs, while Yale organizes the process by which the catalogs go from printers to bookstores. Distribution arrangements carry far less risk for Yale, since they require a much smaller financial investment from YUP, so it’s noteworthy that most of the expansion of the Yale list over the last 10 years comes from distribution-only arrangements. Yale’s stability owes to a handful of built-in advantages. The

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

TU &TU&TU&TUTU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TUTU& feature &TU&TU&TU&  29 foundation built by Nicoll means that, as Fidler puts it, “we don’t have to convince people we know how to do it.” Its nonprofit status allows it to publish books whose expected sales aren’t large enough to draw interest from commercial

“Numbers were being inflated, bad vibes were being tossed around. The bidding wars for one or two [major] titles each year was counterproductive.” Meanwhile, presses weren’t even bidding for catalogues for smaller exhibitions

British publisher Lund Humphries, to name a few — publish museum catalogs, but none have a lineup to exclusive partnerships to match Yale’s. Only in the realm of modern art does Yale give ground, mostly to the New York-based Distributed

"It's more interesting for me to print a book that looks good than one that gets good reviews in the Times [of London]," Nicoll says. publishers. In addition, the London office still attracts top European authors because, unlike many European publishing houses, Yale doesn’t need to buy the rights to sell their books in America, by far the biggest market in the global book industry. Yale has also benefited from expanding its museum publishing program over the last two decades. Today, Yale enjoys publishing partnerships with 17 museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery in London. Exhibition catalogues make up 50% of the YUP list. They also tend to reach a wider audience than Yale’s more scholarly works, a large reason why art books earn more revenue for Yale than books from any other discipline. Much of the credit for Yale’s success in this field goes to Fidler, who came to YUP New Haven in 2000 with a particular expertise in exhibition catalogue publishing. As with Nicoll, her arrival was timely. In the 1980s and 1990s, art presses like Yale had to submit bids for every catalogue they wanted to publish. With this model, museums hoped to secure for each catalogue the best publisher at the best price. By the late 1990s, though, it was clear the approach was backfiring. The competition for big catalogues “was getting disgusting,” says Sherry Babbitt, Director of Publishing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

that couldn’t sell as widely. The publishing partnership model circumvents these difficulties. For every exhibition catalogue put out by Yale’s 17 partner museums, Yale serves as the sole distributor, organizing the process by which books go from printer to bookstore. In this way, museums can take advantage of Yale’s distribution and marketing staff, which specializes in academic and international audiences. Yale also handles the editorial process for smaller museums that lack the resources to build strong in-house departments, while providing advice in a more limited capacity to editorial departments at some larger museums. Moreover, in the absence of bidding wars, museums that sign onto exclusive partnerships don’t have to worry about their smaller books being ignored. Says Babbitt, “I have books that are 60 pages, but I never felt that [Yale] gives them any less attention than the blockbuster catalogues.” When Fidler arrived at YUP, Nicoll and Weiner had just clinched a partnership with the Met, to add to deals with the National Gallery in London and several smaller museums put in place during the 1990s. Control over these deals transferred thereafter to New Haven under Fidler, who built the catalogue program up to its current strength. A handful of other full-size presses — University of California Press, MIT Press, and

Yale Daily News Magazine

Art Publishers, a distributionfocused company whose clients include the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Fidler’s success in museum catalogue publishing has granted her something of a reputation of her own. “Patricia is one of the outstanding people in publishing today,” says Michael Sittenfeld, now at the Met, who worked with her as Publishing Director at the Jewish Museum in New York. It has also helped ensure that the Yale name remains strong as ever. Says Babbitt, “[The Philadelphia Museum of Art] is honored to be associated with what I feel is the finest art book publisher in the world today.”


s significant as the changes of the last decade in art publishing have been, they pale in comparison to the digital revolution looming ahead. E-books are already well-established in the mainstream publishing world, constituting 8 percent of 2010 trade book sales in the U.S. Up to now, however, they have yet to penetrate the art book market. E-readers like the Kindle are mostly made to accommodate text-based designs and lack the image quality and design flexibility that printed books can provide. The advent of the iPad provides publishers with the first electronic platform that fits the needs of art

30  &TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&TU&  TU books. But taking advantage of the iPad presents a host of new challenges. Within the industry, there’s great uncertainty over how to make an electronic art book that fully takes advantage of the digital medium — a book that, as Malpass puts it, “doesn’t feel like a translation of a printed book.” Nor is there a clear consensus on how to manage image reproduction in the digital age. Many museums are placing high-resolution reproductions and details of works in their collections online, most prominently through the newly launched Google Art Project, which has digitized the collections of 17 museums worldwide, including the Met and the Tate Britain. But the high cost of permissions fees for electronic images will force companies to be judicious in figuring out how to incorporate these resources into their works. A handful of presses have taken the lead in the search for these questions. This January, a consortium of presses from four universities — the University of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, Duke University, and the University of Pennsylvania — received a $1.2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that, as part of its mandate, will promote digital approaches to art history publishing. “We’re really looking to push the conversation forward because, if we don’t, [art history publishing] will be that much further behind,” says Ellie Goodman, executive editor at Penn

State University Press. Meanwhile, on April 1, the Museum of Modern Art released its first e-books for the iPad. As for Yale, the press has some digital projects in the pipeline, but it has yet to release anything. Yale Press will transition to the digital age without one of the most important figures in the division’s development. John Nicoll left the press in 2003. He spent the last two years of his tenure at Yale doubling as managing director of illustrated books press Frances Lincoln in place of his late wife, who passed away in 2001, and he now works there full-time. What will become of art publishing at Yale? The rise of the e-book has made eulogies to the printed book a favorite trope among contemporary Luddites, though it will take some time for the e-book to completely push out such a cultural staple. But that’s no reason to wait as the digital medium grows more and more pervasive. The bridge that Yale Press’s books form in the YUP offices — between the mirror and the beige cubicles, the brass-tacked sofa and the drywood walls, the antique clock and the air ducts that snake across the ceiling — matters for more than just decoration. Whether electronic or print, we need good books, and we’re counting on YUP to deliver them.


Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011


The Children Left Behind

by Molly Hensley-Clancy

Photographs by brianne bowen


omus Academy opened in September as a home for 50 of New Haven’s neediest middle school students. A sixth are involved in the juvenile justice system. More than half live with guardians or in foster homes. Most were expelled from their previous schools. And at one point or another, in one way or another, the education system has given up on all of them. Until now.

Yale Daily News Magazine



n a Tuesday afternoon in February, the gym at Domus Academy echoes with the sound of jumping jacks. Hands clap in unison. Polished Nikes squeak against the floorboards. The 12 boys of Domus’s basketball team stand in a loose circle at center court, warming up for practice. They bark out numbers with military-like intensity: “One! Two! Three!” When they have finished, they begin a jog around the gym in two straight shoulderto-shoulder lines.

Their coach, Richard Cheng, who is also Domus’s curriculum director, watches from the sidelines with his arms crossed over his chest. He is young, just three years out of college. His close-cropped black hair is paired with a neat gray zip-up sweater and dress pants. “Let’s go, guys!” he shouts. At his words, the boys that have been lagging pick up their pace. One of them holds up a pair of sagging khaki pants as he sprints to catch up, and another clutches at a stitch in his side. “Let’s go!” Cheng repeats. His shoes leave thin streaks of black on

the waxed floor as he jogs to join his students. “First game tomorrow! Let’s pick it up!” In tomorrow’s basketball game, the Domus Academy Phoenixes have a lot to prove. It is the first game their school will ever play. As part of New Haven’s education reform initiative, Domus Academy — domus means “home” in Latin — opened in September to serve 50 of the city’s neediest middle school students. A sixth are involved in the juvenile justice system. More than half live with guardians or in foster homes. Three quarters have special education portfolios related

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

V  GKKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKN on the cover GKKN 33 to social, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Most were expelled from their previous schools. And at one point or another, in one way or another, the traditional education system has given up on all of them. Split into two teams, the boys, Cheng, and a few other staff members begin a scrimmage. Some players don’t know what to do when they catch the ball. Others make clumsy attempts to mimic their favorite NBA stars, dribbling the basketball between their legs only to have it bounce away. While some of his teammates lob air balls, one student, Javon, arcs his shots fluidly into the net. (All students’ names have been changed to protect their privacy.) Javon is a tall eighthgrader who dribbles the ball as if it were a natural extension of his hand. He rarely passes, preferring instead to drive down the court, body angled forward. “Of course we’re gonna win tomorrow,” Javon says later, his voice exuding swaggering confidence. “I know what you’re thinking — it’s our first game ever. But we’re good. Hell yes, we’re gonna win.”


n 1998, New Haven city officials began a billion-plus dollar project of public school renovation and rebuilding. The result was a fleet of more than 40 clean, modern buildings with floorto-ceiling windows and bright, open classrooms. Urban Youth Center, in the struggling Dixwell neighborhood, was one of the few schools that New Haven chose not to renovate. It was housed in a long, low building, circa 1968, with a patchy grass lawn and only a few windows in the dark brick façade. Urban Youth was intended to serve middle schoolers who had failed in other academic settings. By most measures, however, it too failed: its attendance rate was 35%, and test scores were the

lowest in the district. On the 2007 Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMTs), more than half of Urban Youth students scored at a “below basic” level, putting them among the lowest 5% statewide. “Whatever was going on at Urban Youth,” Cheng says, “it wasn’t working.” In October 2009, New Haven

traditional academic settings. Though their test scores still fall short of district levels, Trailblazers students, who begin the school year more than three grade levels behind in reading and math, consistently post dramatic improvements. The hope was that, under Domus’s purview, Urban Youth’s students would make similar advances.

"Whatever was going on at Urban Youth," Cheng says, "it wasn’t working." Mayor John DeStefano and New Haven Public Schools announced a sweeping four-year initiative aimed at improving the district’s test scores — which lag far behind Connecticut’s averages — as well as cutting the dropout rate by 50% and closing the achievement gap. Schools were separated into Tiers I, II, and III based on their performance. Tier I schools would be given higher levels of autonomy, while Tiers II and III would be more closely monitored, with the possibility of some staff replacements and other restructuring. Under the first round of tiering last March, only two schools were named Tier III “turnaround schools” — in essence, a fourth level that mandated a complete overhaul. Urban Youth was one of them. To the surprise of many in the district, New Haven Public Schools invited a small, little-known charity group called Domus to take over and reinvent Urban Youth, though it would remain a public school. Domus, which started in 1972 as a home for boys, has had a successful track record in helping struggling youth. The organization runs a community center, an after school program, and two group homes based in Stamford, as well as a middle school, Trailblazers Academy, that serves more than 150 students who have failed in

Yale Daily News Magazine

Mike McGuire was the principal of Trailblazers Academy when he agreed to become the director of Urban Youth’s replacement, the fledgling Domus Academy. Under McGuire’s leadership, Domus Academy still serves many of the students who attended Urban Youth, but almost everything else has changed. In his new role, McGuire has worked to give the school a fresh start: a whole new staff, a new philosophy, and eventually — years after the renovation of most New Haven public schools — a new building. For now, Domus Academy has a permanent home in the second floor of a bright, clean “swing space” in Hamden, which often houses schools for a few years during construction. At the entrance of Domus Academy’s space is a mural of a phoenix. Its cobalt blue neck arched upwards, wings spreading, it emerges from the ruins at its feet into a blazing red-and-orange sky. Early every morning, in their own cobalt-blue uniform shirts, Domus’s students file past the mural. In assembly, they stand, place their hands over their hearts, and recite their school pledge — a promise to respect themselves, to treat others with empathy, to persevere when times are difficult. Just as Domus Academy was born from a school that had been destroyed, its students

34 GKKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKLKKKLLKKKLKLN V vow to “embody the attributes of a phoenix”: to rise from the ashes.


n their Hamden swing space, Stephanie Sun’s six students have pulled their desks into a small semicircle around her. In front of them, English packets are open, but only two students are reading. One girl sucks on a pink bead that dangles from her braid. Her classmate drums insistently on the desk in a frantic, uneven rhythm. “Chester, can you stop that, please?” Sun says. She is smaller than many of her students, but her voice is energetic and surprisingly loud. Sun begins to read a passage about April Fools’ Day, taken from a sample CMT test. After a few sentences, she says, “Popcorn Angelo.” Angelo, his face pained, halts through a few words, stuttering over “people” and “comment.” When he finishes a sentence, he looks expectantly up at Sun, who says, “Popcorn Chris!” Chris has dragged his desk

variety of ages were hired before the school opened in the fall, by February, four of the staff members over forty that began the year had quit. “Traditional teachers, with all their years of wisdom — well, that’s exactly it,” Cheng says. “They have 20 years of expectations on what education should be, and we defer to them on the grand scheme of ‘normal’ education. But in terms of our kids, we needed people with moldable talents and mentalities. For our kids, the traditional education systems haven’t worked — so why would we go with traditional educators?” Domus’s academic curriculum, too, has been designed to accommodate students who have failed in traditional settings. A heavy focus is placed on data; at the end of every class, teachers fill out forms assessing their students’ success in achieving various objectives and constantly reevaluate lesson plans. Class sizes are small, with 12 students at most. Teachers try to

“We ask them to add two plus two, and they’re thinking, ‘The rent, the rent, my family can’t pay the rent, two plus two is five, what if we have to live on the streets?’” halfway across the room and is looking aimlessly out the window, his chair tilted back. “I don’t wanna read.” Unfazed, Sun tries again. “Popcorn Isaiah.” Sun is fresh out of college, having graduated from NYU last year, and is now a part of the Teach For America program. Three of her colleagues are also TFAers, and most of Domus’s academic teachers are recent graduates. Though staff of a

use creative, interactive lessons to keep students engaged. Isaiah, chewing on the end of his pencil, reads smoothly; Sun does not have to prompt him on a single word. He pauses to tell a story about an April Fools joke he played on his sister, with a fake knife and ketchup, before popcorning Tykem. Tykem works through the paragraph more slowly than most students half his age. He pronounces the g in the word “might,” and cannot decipher

“September.” After Jordyn refuses to read, Sun popcorns back to Isaiah. Isaiah is small, with shoulderlength dreadlocks. He is the sole painter of one of Domus Academy’s most prominent murals, a brownand-green alien cityscape. He wears a black uniform sweatshirt instead of the usual Domus blue—an honor given only to the six students who completed the marking period without a grade lower than C. After finishing the passage on April Fools, Sun’s class popcorns through another CMT lesson. Chris brings his desk back into the semicircle and gives a halting reading. Isaiah becomes agitated. He rattles his fingers against the desk. When Sun opens a discussion about the origins of different holidays, he makes a comment about his ass. Sun chides him: “Was that really necessary?” He grunts and says, “Yes.” Finally, when she popcorns him again, Isaiah jumps to his feet, sweeping the packet off his desk. “Man, fuck this shit!” he shouts and storms out the door.


or half a century, politicians have been promising to reform American education. As the gap between white and black, rich and poor, grows wider, as American children fall farther and farther behind their international peers, the mantra has been: fix the broken system. Save America’s children. In 2001, George W. Bush proposed “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). At the bill’s core was the implementation of tests — lots of them — and the belief that standards-based education would close the achievement gap. Little argument can be made that there has been no improvement in the 10 years since NCLB. Test scores have gone up for most subgroups, especially those in the middle percentiles. New Haven’s Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011


own school reform initiative is a byproduct of NCLB; though Associate Superintendent Garth Harries claims its measuring standards are “more complex” than those used by the federal government, New Haven schools are still largely evaluated based on the results of federally mandated tests. Since NCLB, an increased awareness has also been placed on the plight of “at-risk” youth: poor urban students, especially minorities, who fall on the wrong side of the achievement gap. Last year, the blockbuster documentary Waiting For Superman highlighted the country’s thousands of “dropout factories,” largely urban schools in which the overwhelming majority of students do not make it through their senior year of high school. Superman celebrated charter schools that took at-risk youth and turned them into high-achieving college graduates. Headlines praised schools where 100% of students attend college, teenagers who went from “homeless to Harvard,” from

“the projects to Yale.” But at Domus, as Cheng puts it, “our kids are not going to go to Harvard.” Unlike the poor, urban students at charter schools such as the highly successful Achievement First group, Domus students were specifically singled out by the district as failing. Most do not choose to come to Domus. They are forced: they have literally nowhere else to go. Kids with social, emotional, and behavioral disorders, kids with special education plans and reading levels equivalent to the average sixyear-old’s, do not usually pass tests in a year’s time. Samuel Stringfield is the editor of the Journal for the Education of Students Placed at Risk (jespar); he says his publication has never printed any studies of alternative schools because “nobody has figured out what would be evidence of their success.” In a country heavily focused on results, the idea of specifically seeking out these students is unappealing. According to Stringfield, if education reform is an onion,

Yale Daily News Magazine

Domus Academy’s students are “the last layer” — the one that has yet to be peeled. While programs exist, and have always existed, for students like Domus’s, they are usually no more than warehouses, posting results much like those of Urban Youth Center. And while there are many charter schools that welcome, even recruit, urban minorities, Stringfield says he has never heard of another charter group that specifically seeks out the system’s most challenging children. At Domus, says Cheng, “It’s not about, ‘I guess we’ll take them.’ It’s about, ‘We want them.’"


meet Domus English teacher Jenna McDermit outside her house at 6 a.m. on a Monday. The air is cool and damp, and circles of yellow lamplight reveal streets shining with a fine layer of new rain. “I have to warn you,” McDermit says as we get into the car, “there’s a 70 percent chance she won’t show up.” For weeks now, McDermit has

36  GKKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKLKKKLLKKKLKLN V driven to the house of one of her students, Alexis, and given her a ride to Domus. Alexis had been showing up to school so infrequently, once every two weeks at the most, that she was bound for truancy court. When she did come to class, she was one of McDermit’s most frustrating students, volatile and prone to frequent outbursts. “She’s really intelligent,” McDermit says. “The kid just needs to come to school.” For the first week that McDermit showed up at her door, Alexis came faithfully outside, and to school. During the 20-minute car rides, they didn’t often speak. McDermit bought a Taylor Swift CD for them to listen to, learned Alexis’s favorite donut, and how she liked her hot chocolate. By now, the novelty has worn off, and more often than not, Alexis simply does not answer the door. As we drive, McDermit dials Alexis’s number. The second time it goes to voicemail, she sends a text message: Get up. You promised. Many Domus teachers drive students to school. One day in the Domus hallway, Cheng shouted down a boy at whose house he had left a scarf the morning before. Cheng had learned that the boy, whose attendance was spotty at best, didn’t show up to school because he didn’t like the morning walk to his bus stop. “For most kids, that’s not a problem, but we’re not in the business of saying, ‘Gotcha!’” Cheng explains. He served as door-to-door transportation for the boy until they could arrange for a district bus to pick him up outside his house. More than anything, Domus’s educational philosophy is driven by the belief that serving its students does not end in the classroom. It begins with getting students to school, and extends to fostering relationships with their parents, to making sure they aren’t out on the streets between school and dinnertime. It is a recognition that, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

V  GKKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKN on the cover GKKN 37 in order to be able to learn to read, students with so many issues in their lives need much more than an encouraging face at the front of the classroom. At the core of this program — what Sun calls a “holistic approach to the child” — are “family advocates.” Domus’s three advocates act as a mini-social services department and a point of contact for Domus families. They call students’ homes nightly to check in with their parents and do everything from finding grief counseling to helping families pay rent to making sure that students have the right kinds of khaki uniform pants. At Domus, the school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., hours after most New Haven students have come home. “Juvenile crime triples between the hours of three and six,” says Jonathan Hoch, Domus Academy’s Chief Community Officer, who developed its afterschool programming. After regular school hours have ended at 3:15, students can pick from extracurricular programs like African drumming, art therapy, video games, cooking, and the everpopular basketball team. “Things happen in our kids’ lives, where we ask them to add two plus two, and they’re thinking, ‘The rent, the rent, my family can’t pay the rent, two plus two is five, what if we have to live on the streets?’” says Mike Duggan, the executive director of the umbrella Domus charter group. “They need a lot of support, and we’re going to do whatever it takes.” McDermit and I pull up in front of an aging duplex in a neighborhood near Union Station that students call “The Hill.” McDermit dials again. No answer, again. “Most mornings, I’m sitting outside her house, banging my head on the window,” McDermit says. “But whether she comes outside or not, whether she cusses me out

the day before or not, I will be that adult that is there for her in her life, outside her door at 6:15 every morning.” Minutes later, I watch from the warmth of the passenger seat as McDermit, dressed in purple rain boots and hugging her jacket against her chest, paces back and forth on the porch. It’s now 6:20, and dawn is threading grainy and blue across the sky. McDermit presses the glowing doorbell a few times in between calls to Alexis’s cell phone. Finally a light flickers in the upstairs hallway. A few minutes later the screen door opens. McDermit exchanges words with a shadowy figure — Alexis’s mother — before the door slams closed. When McDermit gets back into the car, she is quiet for a moment. She kneads her forehead with one hand, the other gripping the steering wheel. “She cursed at me,” she says, forcing a smile. Alexis is still inside, taking a bath. We drive away, and the windows in her house darken again.


y teachers, they don’t stop pushing me. They don’t want me to be on the streets,” Javon says. “They want me to be an NBA player, because that’s what I’m best at.” He straightens. “I know I can do it.” On the day of the game, Javon leads his team in laps around the Stamford gym of Trailbazers Academy, Domus Academy’s first opponent. Counting off jumping jacks, Javon shouts the odd numbers at the top of his lungs, and teammates chorus the evens in response. “It’s like I’m the leader of the team,” Javon says. “My teachers expect me to be the leader of the class, too. I’ve told my friends more than once, ‘It’s time to step up now.’ We’ve got this opportunity, let’s

Yale Daily News Magazine

step up our game.” Javon and his teammates, including Isaiah, warm up under a banner that declares Trailblazers Academy to be last year’s junior high conference champions. For all his bravado, Javon seems nervous. He drops the ball as he goes in for a layup. His shots bounce consistently off the rim. His missed three-pointer brushes the bottom of the net. In the first few minutes of the game, Trailblazers Academy looks to be the better team. They execute their plays smoothly, while the Domus Academy Phoenixes look inexperienced and unorganized. Javon hogs the ball. Isaiah makes brilliant drives, but is much too short to get off real lay-ups. Still, with scrappy defense and help from Javon and another tall boy, Domus stays within a few points. As the game goes on, Cheng becomes more and more agitated. He is rarely anywhere near the bench, but inches, even feet, onto the court. Behind Cheng on the sidelines are Domus Academy’s fans. While no players’ parents could make the trek to Stamford, every single teacher is here, holding up posters marked with strings of exclamation points. Sun sports a uniform shirt that matches the one her students were wearing that afternoon. The teachers exclaim with every movement of the ball. They applaud every missed shot.


omus’s teachers have more than their youth in common. While their students are almost all poor and black, the teachers come from what McDermit calls “the right side of the education gap.” The four TFAers attended prestigious universities: Boston College, NYU, The University of Chicago. Cheng, who did his two years of TFA at Trailblazers before coming to Domus Academy this

38 GKKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKLKKKLLKKKLKLN V year, was a neuroscience major at Northwestern. After graduating from NYU, Sun was offered a job teaching Mandarin to wealthy Manhattan preschoolers. But having volunteered with at-risk public school students in college, Sun says she felt it was “immoral” to do anything but Teach For America. “Having seen for myself the education gap, teenagers who were struggling with English when there were pre-K students learning another language, I felt like I had no

and respect from his students, in conversation McGuire is softspoken. There are moments in the day when he pauses in exhaustion: to take a deep breath in the midst of an argument with a student or to rest his forehead against the wall after a fight has been broken up. Most fights occur when students are in the hallways between periods. One day before lunch, McGuire barks orders forcefully at students who have gathered, arguing and

There are moments in the day when McGuire pauses in exhaustion: to take a deep breath in the midst of an argument with a student or to rest his forehead against the wall after a fight has been broken up. choice.” According to Samuel Stringfield, editor of JESPAR, the burnout rate for young teachers of at-risk students is “horrendous.” “They put their lives into these kids, which is wonderful,” he says, “but most of them simply can’t do it for more than two, three years.” “It takes a special person to do this,” Domus Academy director Mike McGuire says. “This consumes you.” McGuire has been with Domus since the umbrella organization’s inception. One wall of his office is covered in black-and-white photographs of students’ faces, some laughing, others staring solemnly at the camera. McGuire calls them his “successes and notso-successes:” students he’s sent on to college, and students he has lost to the streets or to prison. Though he is forceful in the hallways, commanding attention

chasing each other. Some students respond with curses; others run away. “I want you to eat lunch in the library today, Natrell,” McGuire says to a boy who is squabbling with a classmate on the stairs. Domus’s most difficult students eat lunch in separate, more heavily supervised areas, to keep disruptions down in the cafeteria. “Can I go downstairs?” the boy begs. “Not today.” “Oh my God. Man, shut up!” He turns to his classmate. “Fuck, get off of me! I’m going to smack you.” McGuire closes his eyes for a second. “Appropriate or not, Natrell?” he says slowly. His voice grows sharp. “Let’s go.” Natrell makes a last, threatening lunge at the boy he was fighting with, before turning toward the library. As Natrell walks away, muttering under his breath,

McGuire shouts after him. “Natrell, you know I love you. I love you, man.”


n July, the results of the Connecticut Mastery Tests that students took last month will be released. New Haven, like the federal government, relies on the CMTs to decide the fate of its schools, and as a result, Domus Academy prepared its students heavily; almost all had one-on-one tutoring sessions, sometimes daily. After he scored “below basic” on his CMTs at Urban Youth last year, one boy admitted he and his friends had decided it would be “cool to circle C” for all the answers on the fillin-the-bubble sheet. To avoid such incidents and to keep distractions and disruptions down, this year, Domus students took their tests in pairs, or even individually. At a morning assembly before the March CMTs, Cheng insists he will drive to the houses of chronically absent students and watch them take their tests over the weekend. As he speaks, one girl shakes her head: “Well, I can’t tomorrow, ’cause I got court.” Nobody is holding the illusion that Domus’s scores will be on par with New Haven’s as a whole, at least not yet. “The bottom line is, we can’t compete with some of these other schools. We’re coming in sixty percent behind the average,” Cheng says. At best, Domus students’ test scores will rise one or two grade levels — an enormous achievement, but they will still be four grade levels behind. Domus’s accomplishments are tempered with failures — with fights, with doorbells that are not answered, with tests that are not passed. To some on the outside, they may not even look like success. Cheng tells me about one of his students, Martin, who didn’t show up at Domus until three weeks into the school year. He was in Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

V  GKKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKKKLKN on the cover GKKN 39 trouble with the law and acted out constantly. Now, when he’s angry with Cheng — which is still fairly often — Martin no longer says, “I’m going to fucking kill you,” but, “Get out of my face.” “This is the progress that’s really critical to these kids,” Cheng says. “However rude saying ‘Get out of my face’ might be, it’s a step in the right direction, and I’m proud of him.”


omus Academy loses the basketball game. With four minutes left, the Phoenixes trail by seven points. Javon moves easily through three players, weaving in across the court. On the sidelines, Domus’s supporters shriek in excitement as he whips the basketball behind his back. But Javon’s fourth fake fails.

He stumbles, loses control, and the ball is stolen and carried away. Javon, head hung, is slow to run back. Still two feet onto the court, Cheng nags him, “Come on, play some defense!” It’s too late. The deficit grows to nine points. A tall, husky boy from Domus dribbles forward and hands the ball off. Javon drives in angularly, perhaps too hard, and the ball bounces out of his control. He falls to the ground and stays there. Eleven points. “Are we quitting or are we playing?” Cheng barks. Javon is lying with his back flat on the floorboards, hands hiding his face. At Cheng’s encouragement, he stands up, but slowly, with the deliberateness of an elderly man. The clock hits zero before he makes it back to the defensive end.

Yale Daily News Magazine

“All right. All right, good job guys. Shake hands.” Cheng claps his players on the back as they trudge to meet the other team, shaking hands and even, on Javon’s part, bumping chests with a few other star players. When they return to the sidelines, the Domus Academy Phoenixes are greeted with applause and cheers. From their teachers, there are hugs. The boys press their arms against their sides and turn sheepishly away, but they are smiling, despite themselves. Today, there were no fights. No outbursts. Not even a curse word.


40  d X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X e  ed

The New Pilots

The growth of television writing in college classrooms by Madeline Buxton /Illustrations by Kat Oshman





Three months before the world reeled from the events of 9/11, another tragedy was on the mind of almost every mother in America. On June 20th, 2001, Andrea Yates, a 37-year-old woman with a history of mental illness, drowned her five children in a bathtub at her home in Houston, Texas. When Yates’s murder trial began on February 18, 2002, Suzanne O’Malley, a former writer for Law and Order, sat in the courtroom and watched the proceedings. O’Malley was first covering the story for O Magazine. But when State District Judge Belinda Hill barred independent journalists from receiving media credentials in April 2002, O’Malley waited in line every morning to receive one of 50 passes that let members of the

general public into the courtroom. On March 7, 2002, forensic psychologist Park Dietz took the stand. Like O’Malley, he had ties to Law and Order — he was a consultant for the series. Dietz testified under oath that Yates, whose favorite television program was Law and Order, conceived of the idea for her crime from a recent episode of the show. The prosecution used his statement as evidence that the killings were premeditated, and on March 12, Yates was found guilty and convicted to life in prison. There was just one problem. O’Malley didn’t remember an episode with similar themes ever being aired — or even discussed in the writer’s room. She was right. There was no such episode.

“No one who hadn’t written for Law and Order and/or watched all 300 episodes would’ve caught the error,” says O’Malley. In the three days that led up to the jury’s verdict, she made her findings known to the media and Yates’s lawyers. It was a groundbreaking discovery — but one that came too late to overturn the initial prison sentence. The false testimony, however, was not forgotten. It was raised four years later when Yates was retried in a Texas courtroom. For O’Malley, the Andrea Yates trial is an example of television’s impact on real-world events and is one of many

reasons that television writing should be included in college curriculums. She strives to show that the craft should be taken seriously as a form of writing that both mirrors and affects everyday life. “If we send students out into the world without some experience using a liberal arts education to get quality writing in a form that is so, so powerful, I feel irresponsible,” she says.

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

ed  d X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X e CUT_TO


Two years after Yates’s first trial, O’Malley made her way to New Haven for a Calhoun Master’s Tea. In the spring of 2007, Calhoun Master Jonathan Holloway and former Dean Stephen Lassonde invited O’Malley to teach the college seminar “Writing Hour-Long Television Drama.” She had previously taught the course at Rice University, just a short distance away from the courthouse where the Yates trial took place. Today, O’Malley offers two courses as part of the Yale Summer Film Institute, “Television Crime” and “Television Situation Comedy.” She is one of a growing number of professors who consider television to be a means of story-telling that is just as worthy of attention as other writing forms. “With notable exceptions, I think the current generation of writers is undereducated in the principles of story, at a time when telling a story is the dominant cultural force in the world,” O’Malley says. O’Malley isn’t the only one teaching television writing and analysis at Yale. This semester, Saybrook is sponsoring the college seminar “Writing Half-Hour Television Comedy” taught by Bob Stevens, a former writer for Malcolm in the Middle and The Wonder Years. English Professor Amy Bloom regularly taught “Writing for Television” during the academic year before her appointment as Wesleyan University’s Writer-In-Residence in the spring of 2010. This school

year, no classes on television writing have been taught in the English department, which has directed its focus toward nonfiction, fiction, poetry, playwriting, and writing for film. “That’s not because it [television writing] is a ‘lesser’ genre, but rather because within the limited resources we have for hiring eminent writers, we’ve focused on these longer-established genres,” explains the English Department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies, Amy Hungerford. While the number of television writing classes still lags behind the number of screenwriting classes — Yale’s Film Studies department offers screenwriting courses every semester — the craft has made great strides at educational institutions. While she was an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin, O’Malley became interested in writing for television, but no such classes were offered. “It was a much more mysterious field,” she says. “It was still growing creatively. The format we think of automatically today didn’t exist then.”

feature d X ed X ed X e 41

created NYPD Blue. After reading one of Macak’s plays, Milch hired him as an intern and thrust him into a television writing crash course. “I essentially learned the craft of TV writing by having David rewrite my scripts — sometimes every word — and trying to figure out why he made the choices he did,” explains Macak. Like O’Malley, Macak has also brought his knowledge of television writing into the classroom. He teaches four seminars at Emerson: “Writing for Television,” “Writing the Prime-Time Drama,” “Writing the Television Pilot,” and “Writing the Web Series.” David Tolchinsky ’80, the director of the School of Communications Creative Writing for the Media program at Northwestern, has placed a particular emphasis on the craft within the department. Students enrolled in the program must take at least one course in television writing, as do graduates in the Writing for Screen and Stage program. Courses that are offered include “Writing the TV Pilot,” “Writing TV,” “Writing the One-Hour Drama,” and “Writing the Sitcom.” One goal of the courses is to teach the structural elements of the script. A typical half-hour TV show consists of two or three acts, whereas hour-

PULL_BACK James Macak GRD ’87, an Assistant Professor in the Visual and Media Arts department at Emerson College, encountered the same problem as O’Malley while he was a graduate student at the Yale School of Drama. While the number of He received an television writing MFA in Playwriting but recalls that no classes still lags behind television writing the number of screencourses were taught during his time at writing classes, the craft Yale. After he graduhas made great strides at ated in 1987, Macak was contacted by educational institutions. David Milch, a former Yale graduate student and teacher who wrote for Hill Street Blues and co-

Yale Daily News Magazine

42  d X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X e  ed long dramas feature four to six acts, depending on the number of commercial breaks. Compared to other kinds of writing, the format for television is stricter. “You absolutely have to fit yourself into the ‘box’ of the show — the character bible, the length of the scenes, the structural breaks, etc,” explains Tolchinsky. “Structure is there in screenwriting, but it’s more unforgiving in TV writing. We know what’s expected. But we also have to be new.” Despite structural inflexibility within episodes due to timing and commercial breaks, television writing allows for greater freedoms in the long run. While most feature films feel pressure to present spectacle, television places an emphasis on character growth. “It’s still a medium where great stories can be told over an extended period of time, allowing for characters to evolve with a depth and complexity that you might only find in great novels,” Macak explains. Both television writers and screenwriters emphasize that the process of writing for movies is different than that of writing for television. “It used to be believed that a television writer could never be good enough to write a screenplay,” says O’Malley. “TV was seen as a downgrade.” Aaron Sorkin, who successfully transitioned from the feature film A Few Good Men to The West Wing, is one writer who has combated this assumption. Macak also points to the positive impact that three recent “golden ages” of television drama have had on the public perception of the craft’s legitimacy. One began in the late 1980s on nbc and abc with shows like St. Elsewhere and Moonlighting, followed by more recent pay-cable series including The Sopranos and The Wire, and current basic cable programs like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Such shows, particularly The Wire, are valued as sociological studies and have also found their way into classrooms.



In the summer of 2008, Richard Price, a writer for the The Wire, visited O’Malley’s “Television and Crime” class. The Baltimore-based series ran on hbo from June 2002 to March 2008; each season explored a different aspect of the inner-city drug scene. For Price, the show’s writing both reflects and influences reality. He spoke about actual Baltimore police who ran wiretaps and heard drug dealers talking about episodes of The Wire in those wiretaps. Anne-Maria Makhulu, an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Duke, was on research leave in New York City when her colleagues encouraged her to watch The Wire. She rationed out the show, ordering one DVD at a time from Netflix. At the time, she was writing a book on South African shantytowns, places of poverty that she began to realize were comparable to the depictions of Baltimore in the show. “The Wire is a jumping off for me for things that I would probably teach anyways, with the backdrop of a serial which brings everything together,” she says. “The power of The Wire as a TV format is that it is a serial and it’s the kind of serial where you can withstand to watch all sixty episodes. It builds momentum — there’s tremendous identification with some of the characters.” Duke now offers a second course on the show, a first-year writing seminar that combines academic writing with television analysis.

Berkeley, Harvard, Middlebury, and The University of California also offer courses on The Wire. William Julius Wilson, a professor of Sociology and Social Policy at Harvard, taught “Urban Inequality and The Wire.” After the shopping period, 140 students tried to earn admission to the 30-person class. “Although the series is fictional, not a documentary, The Wire offers a sophisticated depiction of systemic urban inequality that constrains the lives of the urban poor,” explains Wilson of the show’s appeal. “Basically, The Wire reflects fundamental sociological principles that have long been the concern of social scientists and policymakers focusing on social inequality.” CUT_TO


Television writing not only benefits educators and sociologists, but also those who seek to make a living as professional writers. At Northwestern, professors use the framework of the writer’s room — in which a small group of students sits around a table in the classroom setting — to emphasize the importance of learning the business side of television writing. They seek to replicate the process of pitching ideas and instruct students on how to take meetings, understand contracts, and buy and sell scripts. This is essential given that most television writers are young, the majority being in their late twenties, thirties, and early forties. “If you’re going to teach writing, shouldn’t you necessarily teach the form that

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

ed  d X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X ed X e

feature d X ed X ed X e 43

Berkeley, Harvard, Middlebury, and The University of California also offer courses on The Wire. William Julius Wilson, a professor of Sociology and Social Policy at Harvard, offered “Urban Inequality and The Wire.” After the shopping period, 140 students tried to earn admission to the 30-person class.

most people want to work in, the form which is central to our culture?” Tolchinsky asks. The field presents an extremely viable market for aspiring writers. According to Macak, television offers more entry-level positions than screenwriting or playwriting. O’Malley has seen her students go on to do medical consulting for episodes, work in screenwriting at the William Morris agency, and consult for pilot shows. Inside Yale’s Saybrook Lyceum room, fifteen students sit around a table, their laptops open as they read over an outline for an original pilot episode. It’s the class’s second stage following the pitch. Ideas are lobbed back and forth. Is this character actually likeable? No wait — is she too likeable? The one with all the piercings and tattoos, she’s too similar to the guy. Maybe she could be really straight-laced — opposites attract, right? This conflict needs to be elevated. Take more of a risk, up the ante!



When O’Malley was leaving the courtroom in 2002, Yates’s lawyer told her that she saved his client’s life. Judge Hill might have refused to communicate with the press, but O’Malley’s voice was still heard. Her discovery had an even greater impact on Yates’s fate and the court system as a whole on June 22, 2006, when the retrial com-

Yale Daily News Magazine

menced. A little over a month later, Yates’s sentence was overturned and she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Today, she resides at a Texas state mental health facility. O’Malley’s use of television not only changed the verdict, but also set the stage for what is becoming an increasingly relevant and predominant form of writing. One thousand seven hundred miles away from the site of the trial, she brings her knowledge of television and its application to everyday life into the classroom. The challenge that remains: to enter into a new golden age of television writing that will close the gap between the fictional world of the screen and reality. As in any good television episode, it’s time to raise the stakes. END_OF_ACT_I dcbacbe

44  7v6v8v6x8v6v8v6x8v6v8v6x8 v6v8v6x8v6v8v6x8 v6v8v6x8v6v8v6x8v6v8v6x8v6v8v6x8  v


Cyprinidae by elisa gonzalez

chika ota / contributing illustrator

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

v  7v6v8v6x8v6v8v6x8v6v8v6x8 v6v8v6x8v6v8v6x8 v6v8v6x8v6v8v6x8v6 fiction v8v6x8 45


year and two days ago, she called me at 3 a.m. to tell me about a dream she had: fish, all colors, most with the odd protruding bubble-heads of fancy goldfish, “the kind they sell at Wal-Mart,” she said. “Orandas, I think.” In her dream, she tried to contain them, capture them from the air and shove them into glass jars brimming with water. “I couldn’t tell if I was trying to save them or kill them,” she told me after describing their fins, thin as tissue paper, waving protests, and the tracing of veins she could see through scales. “But I knew it was urgent. I couldn’t stop.” A week after that, she called me again, at a more reasonable hour, to tell me that she had dreamed the same thing again. “It’s so weird,” Lara said after finally taking a breath. “So odd…it scares me a little, like I’m supposed to know what it means.” “Nothing, I would guess. Dreams are the random effluvia of the unconscious mind.” She laughed. “I love you for saying things like that. I should marry you, not Richard.” “Definitely not — you couldn’t have the perfect life with me. I’m no good at weddings and commitment and 2.5 kids.” I used to be in love with Lara, but third-grade love had passed into the kind of friendship where I wouldn’t consider hanging up on her if she did call me at 3 a.m. — comfortable, and reassuringly platonic. We’d kissed once under an apple tree in my backyard, in an elementary-school-era mock wedding ceremony. She had worn a torn tulle skirt, 25 cents at a yard sale, and the day had been hot, the kind of day perfect for bee stings and grass stains. We would never kiss again. “I’ll tell him you said that,” she said, and laughed. “He’ll be home next week from London…the study-abroad thing is wonderful, but I’m so glad he’ll be home soon. With the wedding this summer…” “It’ll be wonderful. Everything

you’ve always wanted. I’m sorry I can’t be there. Is that all I need to say?” “You’re too impudent for your own good…you know you’ll miss me and my floaty tulle when you’re slogging through the Amazon.” “Oh, desperately.” A month later, she came to visit me while I packed for mud and practicality. I saw her dimly through a plate-glass door, and didn’t recognize her at first, tugging the door open with the politely discouraging expression I designated for door-to-door salespeople before realizing who it was: Lara. And she had cut her hair — once a long, shocking orange-red, it was now a blond bob with swinging bangs and a perky flip at the back. “Richard and I — we’re having problems,” she confessed after coffee and exclamations about her change. “I feel like I don’t … or can’t … understand him anymore. I think — I think he met someone in London, that maybe he doesn’t still want to marry me.” “Of course he does,” I said with the father-confessor air of an old friend. “He’s probably just having trouble adjusting to being here again — relocating between cultures is always tough. You know he loves you; you’ve been together three years now, right?” “You’re right,” she said after a long silence. “I just needed to talk to you. I think I’m going crazy — my perceptions are all skewed, and I’m still having those dreams.” “About the fish?” I stopped dissecting and cataloguing the remains of my cranberry muffin and stared at her. “Yes … it’s different now. I have to plug holes in the jars to stop the water from escaping. It’s frantic — maddening. I wake up and want to

Yale Daily News Magazine

scream.” She only called me once more before I left, and said nothing about either the fish or Richard. I described my preparations and goodbyes, the conversation stuttering along like an exhausted Chevy before it puttered out with a few halting farewells. I told her to write to me; she didn’t. But a week after I returned with a tan, a few scars, and more research than clothes or money, she visited me again, as I unpacked and recategorized my life. She perched on a torn jacket between scarcely organized piles of paper, and smiled a little when I told a story about piranha and the myth of purely nocturnal feeding. Her hair had grown out, mostly red now, not blond, and had started to curl at the ends. “How are you?” I asked, a portentous question. “Fine, fine,” she said, her gaze wandering over the room, never settling. “Your mom may have told you…I’m not — I didn’t get married. Richard left me a month before the wedding. For a — a guy, actually, that he met in England.” She twisted her hands together repetitively, a motion I associated with mental patients, and focused on the carpet. “He says he needs to be happy.” She finally looked at me, her eyes wide but tearless. “I told him I do too.” “You’re not, then?” She didn’t answer. “Stupid question,” I added. “Well,” she said, smiling a little. “I’m not having the dreams anymore. They stopped a week after Richard left.” “That’s good. You don’t miss them, do you?” “A little,” she answered. “Sometimes, yes, a little.”


46  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z

Poetry the letter ™ solstice © Because nothing runs faster than it falls r

the letter I’ve been checking my mailbox for that letter you said you would send, fifteen years ago — I never got it, you know. I was sick from that, and I haven’t gotten better. You were supposed to call me crazy but charming, because I had written crazy, charming things in my letter — like how spring’s freshness made me want to take up farming, and how your elbow touching mine had thrilled me, and how there was no need to stop at elbows. I did not stop at prose — I gave you lines composed while young dreams filled me. For weeks I checked that mailbox with a fury, believing each new day would be the day. April slumped into May — that’s about where my memory gets blurry. It’s like you own this mailbox now — you haunt the emptiness, you leave your old wild scent on bills for the rent and catalogs telling me what I should want.

— Bryce Taylor

rebecca zhu / contributing illustrator

Vol. xxxviii No. 6  April 2011

z  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuuuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv poetry uvu 47

solstice we were born into a reliquary. priests gave us wine to suck then shut the etched glass door. the church burned white and green. * now the days are so small. at dawn the air moves from blue to gray, so you raise your head, and touch your throat, and it’s finished. the sky shoots gold then black. sitting before the television you stretch out a calf and lo, morning. * you hold your hand in your hand. you say, I walked in the woods today, I wept. you say, Nothing changes. the diamonds are still there in the cedar grove where the dog was buried, the crown of ice. when I see you break I fall in love. *

rebecca zhu / contributing illustrator

because nothing runs faster than it falls Knocking keys, knocking keys mothers, generals, doctors all arrive in brass and bells and do you kneel? You do, but your nose in the corner and your knees in the rice tell you time is up. Then to realize what you left and what you kept were not a tenth of what you hurled away for fear. When on your palm you felt scales, the famished—

this is what I mean. every moment a structure, a white frame. above, the heart beats its huge wings slower. it’s not the cold. * the clouds will melt. the mind will remember itself part by part.

— Noah Warren

Have you seen shining dimes pouring out the sun? No, but they’ll split every skull down the middle. And we’ll all see then how silent eyes can spread.

— Steven Garza

Yale Daily News Magazine

48  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z

Personal Essay go bulls D

by paul wainer


The ref blows his whistle. The moment has come. This is the C Hoops intramural basketball playoff semi-final. We are facing Berkeley, our archrival. We are 11-0. They are 8-3. Berkeley is the defending champion, but we are the favorites, given our perfect record and our win over them in the regular season. The winner earns a shot at the championship. The loser goes home. C Hoops is the lowest level of men’s basketball in Yale’s intramural program. In our league, though the games are heated, it is not uncommon for players to shoot the ball over the backboard or to trip over themselves while dribbling. We’re so unimportant that although the A, B, and women’s intramural finals will take place in the varsity stadium, our final will be on this very same court, in the student gym. But for me, my Trumbull teammates, and many other C Hoopsters, it might as well be the NBA. As I approach center court to take the tipoff, I look around. A dozen of my Trumbull friends line the court, cheering. They sport the same C Hoops jerseys — personalized with names and numbers — that we do; when my team ordered the jerseys, 45 of our fans ordered them too. My friend Alison, an intramural veteran and the captain of the Trumbull women’s basketball team, is one of the loudest of our fans. “Go Trumbull!” she screams. Ryan, my co-captain and our best player, bounces in place, slapping the soles of his Air Jordans. I eye Berkeley’s captain, Peter. He wants revenge. Earlier in the season, he was so distraught after losing to us that he blogged about it: “They’re more athletic and better coordinated, but for some reason, I still think we can beat them; we have the intangibles. I refuse to believe we’re going to lose next time.” Trust me, we have the intangibles. We will crush them. The only people here who convey no sense of intensity whatsoever are the student refs, one of whom, though the tipoff is now seconds away, lounges far from center court, chatting with one of his buddies. I curse our bad luck for drawing lazy refs and prepare for a game with few calls. Finally, I look at my parents. They have secured their

usual seats on the middle of the bench by center court. My mom, as always, has my Flip video camera in hand, already filming. My dad, who has rushed to the game from work, stands out in his suit and tie. My parents, who live in Westport, Conn., just forty minutes from Yale, have become a permanent fixture at my games. At first, I was a little embarrassed by their presence. I’m not 12; I’m 22. But soon I was bragging to anyone who would listen that my parents were coming. Even my friends — who initially would say, with their eyes squinted and their mouths agape, “They come to watch you play C Hoops?” — now expect my parents to be at every game. My mom waves at me enthusiastically and smiles. My dad points to the ball, signaling for me to focus. My uneasiness disappears. The ref throws the ball in the air.

My parents began coming to my games after our third regular-season win. In the first game they attended, I played poorly — two points, four missed lay-ups, four missed free throws — probably because every time I ran up and down the court, I was looking at them. One time, while I was glancing at my mom, a pass intended for me whizzed four inches above my right ear. Regardless, we dominated our opponent, Timothy Dwight, 39-29. Immediately, my parents became the Trumbull Bulls’ biggest fans. Since then, my dad has emailed me analyses after every game, which I forward to my teammates: Go stronger to the boards and get rebounds out for the fast break basket. Keep the ball in Ryan Wilson’s hands to run offense. GO BULLS. Though his basketball experience merely consists of coaching my fourth grade rec team (he led us to an 0-9 record), I take his advice seriously. My dad also texts me about the Bulls every day: JE game for first place go bulls. He even mentions the team in messages wholly unrelated to basketball: Are you up go bulls. My favorites are the combos: Are you practicing also study go bulls.

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

z  vuvuvuvuvuvuuuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvu personal essay uvu 49

mona cao / staff illustrator

Midseason, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease couple minutes to see if the team needs you then sub out go bulls. and got an IV PICC line in my left arm. The doctor Seconds later: Mom will bring bandages to wrap arm not as risky told me to avoid basketball. “Are you sure I can’t play?” I asked him. “It would just be one game a week and I’d take it easy. And I’m in the C league. It isn’t that physical,” I lied. “Some doctors think it’s fine, but I don’t recommend it,” he responded. “If you’re hit hard in the chest, the tube might break. If you’re hit in the arm, there’s a chance the picc line could dislocate and bleed. You won’t die, but you might need to be rushed to the ER.” My dad, also a doctor, agreed that it wasn’t worth the risk. “Focus on coaching in the meantime,” he said. “It might be good. It’ll let you analyze the team from a different perspective. I’ll give you tips.” But as my next game neared, even though it was against measly 0-4 Saybrook, my dad and I found ourselves coming up with reasons the team might need me. “Dario” — a starter — “has section and can’t come,” I told my dad. Minutes later, after we had hung up, he texted me: Tell him to play first half and then go to class. It didn’t take long before we’d convinced ourselves that if I didn’t play, the Bulls would lose. The morning of the game, he texted me: Maybe play first Yale Daily News Magazine

as doctor says but be careful especially on rebounds go bulls. That night, my mom, a nurse, wrapped four thick medical bandages around my arm. I put on my jersey and looked in the mirror. I admired my bicep, which was the size of a watermelon, and couldn’t wait for tipoff. I played the entire game.

When I return to my room after each game, I watch my mom’s film from the Flip. I do so to prepare for future games, to relive the experience, and also just to hear my parents talking on the video. During one play against Silliman, I steal the ball and run to the hoop for a lay-up, but I miss. “Ohhhhh,” my parents groan in unison. When playing Branford, I make a monster block, sending the ball 30 feet across the court. “Woahhh!” they yell. Against Pierson, I hit a three-pointer, my first and only of the season. “Yes!” they scream. When their interactions are especially funny, or when they seem especially close, I rewind the clip and listen again.

Though the Berkeley game is physical, the refs call few fouls. Dario almost gets into a fistfight. A burly Greek

50  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv  z grad student bristles after I slam into him. He screams at me in Greek, something that sounds heavy on profanity and light on vowels. We enter halftime trailing Berkeley, 17-16. I’m nervous (we’ve never been down at the half ), but I’m certain that we’ll win. In the second half, hardly anything goes our way. Shots won’t fall, passes slip between our hands, and rebounds bounce away from us. Soon we are down by eight. But then, in a flash, we find ourselves down by just one, with two minutes remaining and possession of the ball. We pass the ball around, and find Jason, our best shooter. He dribbles through a pair of Berkeley defensemen and finds an opening near the free-throw line. His shot looks perfect. The ball hovers above the rim. If it goes in, we take the lead and control of the game.

After the game, I review the tape. I watch even more carefully than I do normally, rewinding the last two minutes once, twice, three, even four times. Jason’s shot falls out. Berkeley grabs the rebound, and the Greek grad student draws a foul. He makes the first free throw to increase the lead to two. He misses the second, but a teammate scores a put-back lay-up to make it a two-possession game. We are now down by four with just thirty seconds remaining. Ryan shoots a desperate three-pointer five feet behind the line as the Greek grad student body-checks him to the ground. The ball hits the backboard, rolls

Jason does. It’s an air ball. My parents accept defeat only in the very last moment. “It’s not looking good,” my mom says dejectedly. “Six points … Nine seconds,” mutters my dad. The buzzer sounds. In an instant, the perfect season is over. The tape continues. While my teammates and I slowly gather on the court, the Berkeley players run around, screaming and chest pumping. The camera centers on Peter. He joyously tilts his head to the ceiling, raises his arms, and points his index fingers upwards. During the entirety of this footage, my parents are silent, until my mom finally speaks. “Oh, I feel so sad,” she says, and the tape ends. An hour later, my dad texts me: Still great season and people said you were great captain you were screwed by refs go bulls. At first I manage a smile, but soon I find myself holding back tears.

The next day, Alison texts me. Her team has made the women’s final. My mom just called me wishing me good luck because she keeps up online. If only she lived as close as your parents… As I look at her text, I think about how my dad would sometimes arrive to my games early to scout other teams; how my mom would bring my teammates homemade chocolate chip cookies, with extra chips; how my dad would follow the standings online from home; and how my mom told me before every game that she couldn’t wait to see me play.

Keep the ball in Ryan Wilson’s hands to run offense. GO BULLS. twice around the rim, and is now part way through the hoop. Will it go in? Is a game-tying four-point play actually a possibility? The ball pops out. Worse, still, no foul is called. Many students on the sidelines, including Nahrek, one of the intramural supervisors, are infuriated. Hands in the air, Ryan begins to protest to the ref, but he realizes that no amount of arguing will change the call. He stops, shaking his head, as my parents shout, “Foul!” There are only 20 seconds left, but I hear my parents screaming on the tape, as if there is still a chance. “Foul!” My dad’s voice is high pitched and desperate. “Foul them!” We do. Peter swishes both free throws. “Shoot a three!” they both yell.

I attend Alison’s game and bring my Flip. I capture her at her best — swishing three-pointers, diving for steals, and motivating her teammates in the huddle. I sporadically interject comments: “Go Alison! What’s up now, JE? Damn, that girl is a monster!” I know she’ll appreciate the commentary. Alison leads her team to victory. When the buzzer sounds, she leaps in the air. “Oh my God!” she yells, then sprints toward her teammates and falls into their arms. I’m happy for her, but I can’t help feeling jealous. Though I haven’t told her, I plan to mail a copy of the tape to her parents, so they can watch her win the championship.


Vol. XXXVIII, No. 6  April 2011

z  vuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuvuv 51

Dear Dr. Lipschitz Dear Dr. Lipschitz,


here’s this girl I’ve hooked up with a couple of times and have been seeing a lot, and I want to ask her out. But with so little time left in school, is it worth it? I’m really into her, but I’m just trying to weigh the benefits and costs. —Waffling Until Summer Starts Dear WUSS,


Dr. Lipschitz has all the answers. Got a problem? E-mail mag@ yaledailynews. com.

If you’re weighing costs-benefits, let’s look at this like a freshman in Micro. So if your life is a sunk cost — no, just kidding, I’m definitely taking Major English Poets, not Econ. But from an informal poll of the Davenport Dining Hall, 68% of respondents are optimists and say, “Why not?” Another 18% of respondents are defeatists and choose, “It’ll end in tears no matter what, so why not?” Overall, that’s an overwhelmingly positive reaction in favor of taking the metaphysical plunge. There is the other option of enjoying each other’s company now, holding one another close in the throbbing sunlight of spring, with the knowledge that it’s short-term and perhaps things will rekindle in the fall. To that end, an anonymous source and SigEp brother confided, “Make sure you break it off though. There’s a 50-50 chance it’ll be you, so don’t suck.” This leaves you free to a summer of romping down cobbled avenues, wooing demure Florentine gymnasts, and shotgunning pizzas in the bliss of singledom. Not that that ever happens. So if you do want to try a summer relationship, communication, as my ESL tutor says, is key. Be sure that the two of you are sufficiently well-adjusted to sit down and discuss expectations (no hookups

on that Vermont cheese farm internship), boundaries (limit your drunk dials to two a week), and rate of progression (instead of letting it fester all summer, get your “I love you’s” out of the way early via tearful confession or over a romantic Wenzel). Evaluate whether you two have compatible communication needs. Some people want constant texts from their main squeeze. This works if you both enjoy knowing what the other is up to 24/7 and can abide inane back-and-forths of: “how u bbygrl” and “gud papi workin on da vermont cheddar now, how was ur bath?” Otherwise, the wait-1.5xlength-of-time-it-took-them-to-text-back equation is a linear regression toward constant frustration and internalized resentment. Or something. By the time you reach the passive-aggressive readand-don’t-respond, it might already be too late. Although this brings up one more caution: avoid the pitfall of taking candid communication too far — that is, staying in and talking about your relationship until one of you throws up. Sometimes flying by the seat of your Nantucket Reds is fun. So, you know, be respectful, keep it in perspective, and enjoy yourself. Oh, and if you’re a senior, disregard all of this. What the hell are you thinking? By Rachel Lipstein

Yale Daily News Magazine

Christopher Buckley ’75. Fareed Zakaria ’86. Samantha Power ’92. YOU? join US: visit US:

YDN Magazine  
YDN Magazine