The Yale Herald CON
YALEâ€™S MOST DARING PUBLICATION SINCE 1986 | VOL. XIX ISSUE 7
FROM THE EDITORS Hiya Kidos, Congratulations, not only did you survive the great Northeastern snowstorm of 2018 (lol am I right?), you also made it to Spring Break. Now if you’re anything like me, you can now happily kick your Jitter Bus and Koffee addiction, deal with the inevitable withdraw, wait two weeks, and return to campus knowing that your blood caffeine content will return to its abnormally high levels upon the first day of classes. This week’s front comes in the form of a photo essay. In light of the recent evacuation of 80 residents of the Norton Towers Apartment complex, Fiona Drenttel, BF ’20, chronicles the condemnation of five New Haven buildings in the past five years. What leads to these buildings’ degradation and when does the municipal government decide to label them as condemned? In Features, Nurit Chinn, DC ’20, investigates the apparent lack of on campus debate surrounding Israel-Palestine conflict. Margaret (Migs) Grabar Sage, ES ’19, explores how public art can initiate political discourse as the “WE ARE: A Nation of Immigrants” public art installation debuts this spring on the New Haven Green. And in Culture, Marina Albanese, PC ’20, decodes the mysteries that exist in the The Paston Treasure exhibition, now open through May. So before you wave goodbye to campus, take a gander at what the Herald has in store for you this week. And if you’re not traveling for Spring Break, pop a squat on Cross Campus, pick up that small blonde roast you told yourself you wouldn’t buy, and read the following issue in hand.
THE HERALD MASTHEAD EDITORIAL STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Eve Sneider MANAGING EDITORS Margaret Grabar Sage, Jack Kyono, Nicole Mo EXECUTIVE EDITORS Emma Chanen, Tom Cusano, Emily Ge, Marc Shkurovich, Anna Sudderth, Oriana Tang, Rachel Strodel SENIOR EDITOR Luke Chang, Hannah Offer FEATURES EDITORS Fiona Drenttel, Brittany Menjivar CULTURE EDITORS Allison Chen, Nurit Chinn OPINION EDITORS Lydia Buonomano, Tereza Podhajska REVIEWS EDITORS Gabe Rojas, Tricia Viveros VOICES EDITOR Carly Gove INSERTS EDITOR Zoe Ervolino AUDIO EDITOR Will Reid BULLBLOG EDITOR Marc Shkurovich
DESIGN STAFF GRAPHICS EDITOR Julia Hedges DESIGN EDITORS Audrey Huang Rasmus Schlutter Lauren Quintela The Yale Herald is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, incorporated student publication registered with the Yale College Dean’s Office. If you wish to subscribe to the Herald, please contact the Editor-in-Chief at firstname.lastname@example.org. Receive the Herald for one semester for 40 dollars, or for the 20162017 academic year for 65 dollars. The Yale Herald is published by Yale College students, and Yale University is not responsible for its contents. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of The Yale Herald, Inc. or Yale University. Copyright 2017 The Yale Herald.
Safe travels, Gabe Rojas Reviews Editor
VISIT THE YALE HERALD ONLINE AT YALEHERALD.COM 2 THE YALE HERALD
IN THIS ISSUE VOICES
Mariah Kreutter, BK ’20 muses on transformation in “Being.” Sonia Gadre, SY ’20, investigates family through a snapshot of American family life in “American Dream” and generational communication in “Wave Cycle.”
Nurit Chinn, DC ’20, interrogates the Yale community’s lack of discourse over the Israel-Palestine conflict, an issue that dominates and divides college campuses across the nation.
Eli Mennerick, ES ’21, guides us through the ultimately gratifying discomfort of accepting our unknowable futures. Excited that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Class Day speaker for the Class of 2018? Ali Vandebunt, SY ’21, is here to offer an intriguing alternative.
YH Staff offers snapshots of five New Haven homes that have been condemned due to unsafe conditions.
The Yale Undergraduate Prison Project hosted a Guantanamo Bay art curator. Read to see Sarah Pillard, PC ‘21, present Erin Thompson’s work towards humanizing Guantanamo Bay detainees despite the U.S. government’s opposition. Sort through the treasure trove of the YCBA’s new exhibit, The Paston Treasure, with Marina Albanese, PC ’20.
FRIDAY, MARCH 9 @ 4:30PM
TONY KUSHNER ON COPYRIGHT AND COLLABORATION YALE REPERTORY THEATER
STAND WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD FOR WOMEN’S DAY!
Sara Luzuriaga, BR ’21, considers the cultural commentary underlying MGMT’s new album Little Dark Age; Johnny Gross, MC ’21, invites you to sample a taste of traditional Taiwanese boba tea from New Haven’s own Vivi Bubble Tea. Nicole Mo, BK ’19, explores the refreshing and creative musicality of Janelle Monáe’s two singles “Make Me Feel” and “Django Jane.”
Probably wasn’t a good idea to start a serious relationship in March anyways
345 WHITNEY AVE
SUNDAY, MARCH 11 @9:00AM
PARADE DAY 2018 AT CHRISTY’S!
MONDAY, MARCH 12 @7:00PM
SPRING BREAK If you drunkenly break another bone in your body, your father and I are disowning you
CHRISTY’S IRISH PUB
SATURDAY, MARCH 10 @8:00AM
Netflix is greenlighting a vast amount of television content from various international production studios, but they’re not all hits. Sahaj Sankaran, SM ’20, elaborates why Dark should be the next show in your queue, while Marseille is an unfortunate flop.
JOURNEY TO AVALON WORKSHOP CURIOUS GOODS NEW AGE SHOP 3
I N S E R T S Mar.9.2018
My Charming Two-Bedroom Sublet Turned Out to be Plato’s Cave BEN KRONENGOLD, TD ’18 It took me three months to realize that my chic, two-bedroom East Village apartment was the physical manifestation of an ancient Greek allegory. But now that I know, I’ll never look at real estate the same again. Or anything, really, since all objects are merely shadows of figurines that represent the faraway truth of forms. Wow! The things a change of scenery could teach you! “This is why you have to tour apartments first,” you’re probably thinking to yourself as you sip wine in your non-allegorical, noncave sublet. But of course I toured it first. And of course everything about it seemed normal. The owner was a soft-spoken fellow in a distressed wool toga. Sure, he focused on some attributes of the East Village loft more than others, opting to discuss the floor-to-ceiling windows and quaint surrounding neighborhood rather than the rock walls and stalagmites. And yes I noticed the stalagmites. But I just thought they were “art deco,” a phrase that I love to say out loud. Things only started getting strange on my first night in the apartment. I stood on the stone parapet that overlooked my loft when, out of nowhere, a robed man holding a sculpture of a tree walked up beside me. He didn’t speak a word, but his eyes screamed, “Your perception of reality is twice abstracted from the truth.” “Ohhh!” I exclaimed. “You must be the door-
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man.” And then I smiled to myself. Because I have a doorman. A few days later when I was tending to the raging, free-standing fire at the back of the apartment, my doorman returned with three of his friends. This time, I caught a glimpse of his tree sculpture’s shadow against one of the walls, and I started to question the nature of reality. “Ugh,” I told the doorman. “Moments like this are exactly why I didn’t look for a place in Brooklyn.” Then I stared at his face to see if he was laughing, but he wasn’t. Then I repeated, “in Brooklyn.” But still nothing. Shit. He must be from Brooklyn. On another occasion, I thought I might leave the apartment and explore the neighborhood, especially since I hadn’t seen the outside world since moving into my chateau caveau. But when I finally decided to get up and walk out the front door—less of a door and more of a jagged vertical cavern that opened to sunlight—I was chained at the neck and feet! That’s when I realized there were six or seven other men chained on either side of me. It was like pledging a fraternity all over again. “CHI PSI!” I chanted, to no response. That’s when I knew I might be in trouble. I thought for a while about how I could escape my predicament. Should I try to coordinate with the other chained men? Should I make litigious threats about my lawyer
Top 5 things I thought after seeing Black Panther uncle like I did back on pledge week? But then a horse appeared on the wall in front of me (a real horse, I’m nearly positive!) and then I forgot what I was thinking about. I spent the next day, or week, or maybe month just watching the world exist before my eyes. It was the real world, I’m almost sort of sure, and I was living in it. Things were going well: I read books, visited friends, ate at nice restaurants. But every once in a while, I felt a pang of emptiness, like something was missing. Like everything was distant. Part of me felt like I needed to break out, but then the craziest thing happened. I stumbled upon a charming East Village sublet with floor-to-ceiling windows, a quaint surrounding neighborhood, and these enormous stalagmites. Then I totally forgot what I was thinking about. I’ll probably move in.
AMANDA THOMAS, SY ’21
was Wakanda when the white 5. Where boys behind me wouldn’t shut up?
Do you think Wakandans use Spotify or Apple Music? Wait… definitely Tidal.
Lupita Nyong’o. Michael B. 3. FMK: Jordan. Stan Lee.
Did I take my birth control pill today?
Wakanda Forever. Forever ever, for ever ever? 5
V O I C E S Mar.9.2018
Being MARIAH KREUTTER, BK ’21
I didn’t know potatoes had flowers, but here they are: pink blooms, delicate, sprung from such a quotidian root. The grassy floor of the drainage ditch is blanketed with them. Long ago, before it gathered rain away from neat rows of houses, the ditch was a potato farm. And before that, it was a forest, and before that it was the bottom of a sea. (Layers of being, unbeing, rebeing, that fall away like silt in a stream.) This land has become itself so many times. Among the flowers a turtle lies dead. The ditch fills when it rains (a sea once more) and then bleeds out under the heat of the sun. The turtle must have been trapped. It would be as if the ground slowly sank away beneath our feet, the sky receding, mountains rising up around us, encircling a dissipating earth. Its shell has cracked, its head— what we imagine to be identity— rotted away. Soon, it will all have rotted away. Being, unbeing, rebeing. The land will again have been transformed.
Illustrations from The Noun Project
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American Dream SONIA GADRE, SY ’20
“AND IT ALWAYS ENDS WITH A PUNCHLINE.”
My dad has this story he likes to tell at dinner parties. In the story, there is always a seedy Los Angeles Motel (“It was the shittiest place I’ve ever lived, but it was cheap and it was close to the hospital where I was going to start my fellowship.”), a helicopter (“At the time, I had no idea what the letters LAPD meant, let alone why they would be on the side of a helicopter”), and a serial killer (“Turns out my neighbor in this motel was Dorothea Puente, the ‘Death House Landlady!’”). And it always ends with a punchline. You know the line is coming because my dad emphatically raises his wiry eyebrows halfway up his forehead, and it goes a little something like: “With little to no nothing and no family in California, this was my first night in the U.S.” My dad has an infinite number of stories like this. The time he pulled a friend out of a manhole in India. The time he and my mom bought lawn chairs instead of a sofa in order to save money. The time he saved a man’s life on an airplane. To sit for awhile and listen to dad’s stories is to get lost in the action packed movie of his life. In his experiences, there is always a struggle, a conflict, always a sense of overcoming, moving onward and upward. Perhaps I am fascinated because these stories are the only indication I have that something like the American Dream exists in this world. My stories are quite different. They’re always about growing up in a suburb of Louisville, KY, in a neighborhood of men perpetually mowing their lawns and women watering powder blue hydrangeas a million times a day. They’re always about my beloved Toyota Camry, Carmen, always about Chad and Kristin and high school crushes. They’re about sledding down the picturesque snow-covered hill in my backyard and coming home to my mother’s incredible cooking. They are always––in comparison to my dad’s stories––utterly uneventful. I call this boring. My dad calls it lucky.
Wave Cycle SONIA GADRE, SY ’20
The waves off the coast of Santa Catalina, Panama, crash in even intervals like a metronome. Some swell up to heights of almost 25 feet before toppling over themselves, runners in a photo finish. Others stay only waist high. But as long as the moon exists, there will always be waves, and as long as there are waves, there will always be a boy on a surfboard lying flush on the water like a leaf. The boy glances over his shoulder, and sees a wall of water fast approaching from behind. Although it rises to his full height, Nico decides this wave is not worth his time. The undulation of water, ruthless in its march to the shore, passes him peaceably. It gently rocks his chest upward and then plops him flat on his stomach. Two waves pass like this, until finally ten-year-old Nico sees what he is looking for. When Manolo watches this boy, his son Nico, it is as if he is seeing himself as a child in the Bay of Biscay. He feels the deep scar along his calf. In the wipeout, his board surged into him, causing irreparable damage. Suddenly, he sees Nico’s whole life unfold. The boy will travel the world in pursuit of the waves. It’s always like this once you know what it’s like to be held within the palm of the ocean like a gift. When he runs out of money he will work odd jobs along the coasts. Manolo glances back at his bungalow for a brief moment. He’ll find a partner and raise a family, but he’ll never quite be a father or a husband. Part of him will always be with the ocean. He’ll wonder if he’s a good father. He’ll be surfing the wave of his life one moment, scarred to the point of never mounting a board again the next. A wall of water twice Nico’s size is fast approaching. Manolo wants to scream, to pluck his little body out of the water, to hug him tightly and take him home and never let him leave. But it is too late. The young boy is already paddling in preparation. He is lifting his torso. He is standing. And suddenly, Manolo is riding the wave of his life once again. When he cries out, it is a scream of pure joy.
O P I N I O N Mar.9.2018
#CupcakkeForClassDaySpeaker2019 ALI VANDEBUNT, SY ’21
At this point, finding incredibly eminent people walking around campus is the norm. I mean, it’s Yale, what do you expect? You can walk into LC one night (dressed in baggy sweats) to find former CIA Director John Brennan speaking on the current state of global affairs, or the Men in Black script-writer Ed Solomon sharing his experiences at a Saybrook College Tea. Your Econ professor may have a Nobel Prize. In fact, the student copiously taking notes next to you may also have a Nobel Prize. Clearly, Yale can get basically anyone to come to campus. So, it’s no wonder that the Yale administration can afford to invite the ridiculously famous Hillary Clinton to speak at this year’s Class Day. But c’mon Yale! Surprise us already. Another Yale graduate giving a class day speech? Yes, I know, it’s Hillary Clinton. She’s one of the most accomplished, renowned politicians of our time, and her name in itself brings immeasurable attention to this 300-year-old Yale tradition. But it’s seriously time for a change. This would be the third Clinton Class Day Speech (Bill Clinton gave the Speech in 2010, and Hillary herself already gave the Speech in 2001.) We’ve also had John Kerry, Joe Biden and Samantha Power. We have had so many moderately—but never extreme—left wing politicians give our speeches that these liberal giants have been normalized as Class Day speakers. I think it’s time to rock the boat; it’s time for something sensational. I know that Yale, in order to maintain its financial assets and good name, does not want to cause too much controversy over whom they hire. Providing grads and esteemed alumni with space to give an enjoyable speech doesn’t hurt, either. As an institution, we are playing it very safe, getting speakers that we know won’t incite conflict among our student body, faculty, alumni—and even the nation itself. The announcement of Class Day speakers is, after all, reported on in publications like Time or The Business Insider. But this policy of ideological safety upholds our rep as “Snowflake Teens,” amplifying the widespread idea that we cannot stand to hear statements which don’t adhere to our opinions. In 2016, Harvard invited Steven Spielberg to speak; the University of Pennsylvania had Lin-Manuel Miranda. We’re in an era of entertainment; an era where TV stars are becoming our most prominent figures. As declining news outlets become less and less reliable and more and more politicized, a generation of entertainment emerges. Comedians such as Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert inform our nation about politics, and this year’s Oscars served as a protest against sexual misconduct. At Yale, by getting yet another liberal politician to speak, we are enforcing our status as an elitist, highbrow institution unaware that we live in 2018, not 1925, and that there are more people out there who can give exceptional life advice than just the members of the Washington elite. Take my high school graduation speech as an example of this. The senior class always elects one student in the
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grade to address the audience. Most years, it was a nearvaledictorian, a moral, not too social student who has been expected to give the speech since freshman year. The speech was always concise, never daring or thought provoking. Nobody ever remembered it in detail, if at all. But our year, we did something different. We elected a social, personable, and less academic student to address our audience. Rather than give a typical, forgettable speech, he engaged the audience, walking with his microphone up and down the aisles as he talked about the importance of making mistakes and failing. It was special: the entire audience loved the speech. Although this was a simple high school graduation, and the content was NOT even that profound, Yale really needs to take heed: change the status quo. Most of the time, it will be for the better. I’m not arguing against Hillary Clinton as a person, nor am I diminishing her accomplishments in any way, shape, or form. I voted for Hillary in the last election; I portrayed Hillary in my second grade Wax Museum, dressing up as her and telling passersby to “vote for me in the 2008 Presidential Election!” From day one, I was team Hillary. I would love to see her speak any other time—just not for Yale’s 2018 Class Day. If Yale wants to hire an alumna to speak, why not hire someone relevant from our time? Some sensational star that will truly spark a new message—maybe even incite controversy—and get the crowd to remember the speech for years to come? We boast incredible alumni such as Lupita Nyong’o and Meryl Streep, so why not ask them? Or, why not ask an activist like Malala Yousafzai? A musician like Beyoncé or Solange? An athlete such as Mia Hamm? A first-generation college student or a high school dropout that used persistence and determination to make a fortune? The more political and thought evoking the speaker, the better. We need someone we will remember for years to come. And so, I am a firm believer of Cupcakke being the best possible 2019 Class Day Speaker.
“From day one, I was team Hillary. I would love to see her speak any other time—just not for Yale’s 2018 Class Day. “
9 Choosing a Future
ELI MENNERICK, ES ’21
Every time my younger sister calls me from home, she asks me two questions. First, “Do you have a girlfriend?” Then, immediately after, “Have you chosen a major yet?” To both, I unfailingly reply, “Nope.” Yale students (and their sisters) worry a lot about choosing a major. This concern is part of a larger, school-wide obsession with the distant future. Before coming to Yale, I planned out my potential classes and upcoming summers for the next four years. I tried to figure out what my true passion was, what majors and careers could benefit society most, and which paths would be the most practical. After arriving at Yale, I found that many of my conversations with friends revolved around the same topics. I’ve met many people who, like me, have tried to plan their entire lives on a spreadsheet. A popular Yale pastime seems to be plotting out distant goals and fitting each choice into a predetermined path. While this type of planning can sometimes be fruitful, it is often impractical and needlessly stressful. Most people don’t have one singular, easily identifiable passion, and the majority of students I’ve encountered at Yale aren’t certain exactly what they want their futures to look like. When faced with this uncertainty, we should be able to let go of our instinct to plan every moment of our future. We shouldn’t feel that we need to figure out our dream and then follow it—we should be comfortable with figuring out a dream by following something. Of course, some people really do know what they want out of life, and it makes sense for them to plan out how to reach that goal. If you know you want to be a doctor, then it’s a good idea to direct your classes and summer opportunities to that end. If your dream is to become a musician, then organizing your life choices around that aim makes sense. However, the majority of people I have encountered at Yale (myself among them) are much less certain of their end-goals. For these undecided students, the campus-wide tendency to excessively plan out the future can make for a daunting social and academic environment. Our emphasis on the distant future intensifies disagreements over which choices are acceptable. Is it okay to choose a major based only on economic practicality? Based only on what we enjoy most? Or should we, instead, choose the major that will allow us to do the most social good? Questions like these underlie many of our judgements regarding majors. We joke about someone “selling out” because they decide to go into finance. We (or, perhaps more often, our parents and family members) concernedly ask art history majors, “What are you going to do with that?” And we debate whether studying economics, or philosophy, or English, or physics, can make any meaningful difference in the world. With so many potentially conflicting narratives—that we should be economically pragmatic, that we should find our passion, that we should contribute to society—it’s hard to find solid ground on which to found the choice of a major. We feel a distinct imperative, borne of all this conflicting advice, to uncover the “correct” path. We act as if that correct future is something we can discover, in a moment of insight or a feat of deduction, and we feel unjustified acting before we determine that correct path. No wonder choosing a major is scary. We sometimes think
about our major as if it collapses the rest of our lives into one decision, and we must choose the right pre-packaged life after only a year and a half of college. I believe that many of us (myself included) would do well to alter our thinking. We’re encouraged to figure out our dream in life and then follow it. We’re prodded to discover our passion, as if that passion is preordained and simply waiting to be found. This may indeed be feasible for some, but it’s not the only way to go through life. For most people, it’s impossible to determine through sheer intellect which choices will make for the best future. We can never truly know in advance whether a different choice might turn out better. Instead, we should try to determine which decisions are best through making them. Without the guidance of one ultimate passion, the best way to figure out what we want to do in life is to try different paths as we go. Instead of viewing college primarily as a place where we must reason out our futures, we should embrace the opportunities college affords to experiment and develop our goals as we go. Of course, one of the great things about college is that it can serve both purposes. Those who know their career goals can use college as a means to an end, and those who don’t can use college as a place to experiment with different options. But at Yale, because of a compulsion to ensure success, we often overlook our opportunities to experiment. We should be more willing to act based on incomplete information, to let interests develop gradually, and to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. We should be aware of the different considerations that influence our choices (for instance, personal enjoyment, practicality, and social benefit), but we should avoid the conclusion that we must discover the one path that optimizes every possible factor. Of course, some planning is necessary for everyone. It’s helpful to reflect on goals for the future, it’s practically advisable to think ahead about summer plans, and at some point, you will have to declare a major. But in general, those of us who find ourselves endlessly debating the options for the future would benefit by acting more and agonizing less.
“No wonder choosing a major is scary. We sometimes think about our major as if it collapses the rest of our lives into one decision, and we must choose the right pre-packaged life after only a year and a half of college.”
F E A T U R E S March.9.2018
The Discourse Dilemma NURIT CHINN, DC ’20 YH STAFF
Last year, 50 demonstrators gathered outside Lerner Hall at Columbia University. They were protesting a speech given by the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, at an event hosted by Columbia’s Students Supporting Israel, and co-sponsored by the Columbia Chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi. Around the same time, Jewish students from UC Berkeley demanded the resignation of Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the Ethnic Studies department and the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), after an anti-Semitic tweet of his sparked outrage. All over American campuses, the issue of Israel-Palestine has become a central political cause, polarizing student bodies and communities. But at Yale there is a complete lack of robust activism surrounding the conflict. This year, Yale University’s SJP and J Street U (a left of center Israel-Palestine advocacy group) chapters have dwindled into non-existence. Beyond the lack of activism, there is a noticeable absence of discourse surrounding Israel-Palestine. So what’s stopping the conversation? Ellie Boswell, TD ’17, is the former Regional Vice President for J Street U’s National board, and currently works as a development and program assistant at the New Israel Fund in New York City. She sees this silence as a Yale-specific “cultural phenomenon,” that largely has to do with “the lack of infrastructure” for national or global campaigns. She explains, “even if we have people who are ready to do radical activism, either on the right or the left, where in other college campuses, people walk onto those campuses and immediately there’s structure, there’s organization and there’s infrastructure to fund that activism, that doesn’t exist in Yale in the same way.” Student organizing around Israel-Palestine is usually done through campus chapters of national organizations, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, or SJP. Each chapter can then coordinate with other campus chapters to put pressure on their institutions and ultimately the American government. At Yale, however, the emphasis is on university-specific organizing. Although Yale divestment organizations, such as Fossil Free Yale and Yale Prison Divestment, communicate with other student divestment campaigns around the country, they specifically target Yale’s endowment and Yale’s investments in fossil fuel companies and private prisons. Other organizing campaigns follow similar goals and standards: Students Unite Now (SUN) works to eliminate Yale’s student income contribution; the graduate student union Local 33 campaigns to negotiate with Yale. And when Yale does expand outwards, it never goes much farther than the the city limits. New Haven, with a strong activist network and demand for community organizing, invites Yale students to focus attention to the city. Over the past year, for example, Yale students have organized with New Haven activists through Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), a grassroots organization dedicated to protecting immigrants’ rights. One reason for this is strategic: local campaigns have clearer goals, and a greater likelihood of realizing them. Many Yale-specific campaigns been successful in recent years. The Next Yale campaign, which took place in Fall 2015, saw increased funding for Yale’s Cultural Houses and the elimination of the term “master,” and established the Change the Name campaign, which succeeded in renaming Calhoun College to Grace Hopper College in 2017. Boswell notes that Next
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Yale opened the doors for movements dedicated “to disrupting campus stability,” and addressing “controversial campus discourse.” Boswell sees Next Yale as setting a precedent for what could become a conversation around issues such as Israel-Palestine, adding that “maybe not enough time has passed.” If Yale students tend to organize locally, focusing on issues with tangible and specific goals, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a less than ideal object for attention. Elisabeth Siegel, PM ’20, Co-President of Middle Eastern Resolution through Education Action and Dialogue (MIREAD), emphasizes that the conflict is incredibly intractable (“You look up that term in your textbook and you find the IsraeliPalestinian conflict.”) and that people are drawn to issues with clearer paths forward. Beyond activism, a more interesting question is why there is so little discourse around the subject. Other campuses across the US are impassioned over Israel-Palestine in a way that Yale is not. J Street U, for example, failed at Yale precisely because of the sizeable lack of discourse around the subject. J Street U’s organizing principle is to occupy middle ground between the polarizing spaces of pro- and anti-Israel factions (often groups such as SJP on one side and those supporting AIPAC on the other). Boswell notes how the lack of polarization meant “there was nowhere for [J Street U] to go, and nobody cared because there was no immediate goal...J Street U is premised upon this being something people cared about and were divisive about.” Often, at Yale, global conflicts are designated academic attention, where students intellectualize the issue instead of confronting it as an object for political action. Daniel Yadin, MC ’21, who attended the Jewish Voice for Peace National Student Organizing retreat, comments on how often conversations between American Jews over the conflict “treat Israel as an idea, just an idea; same with Palestine. I think that if you relate to Israel as a real place, with millions of people and a distinct culture and history and something that’s lived, the way you can talk about the conflict is different than if you’re really detached from it.” The Peace and Dialogue Leadership Initiative (PDLI), a student-run initiative that seeks to educate students about the intricacies of the conflict and coordinates a trip to Israel and the West Bank, also treats the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a subject for academic study and intellectual engagement. Boswell comments that PDLI espouses the idea that “we’re not going to change anything as students right now, but the way that we change the world is by becoming the next set of diplomats.” Much discourse surrounding Israel-Palestine also takes place at the Slifka Center, Yale’s Hillel, which, among other things, seeks “to promote a living connection to the State of Israel.” Yonatan Millo, the Director of Israel Education and Engagement at the Slifka Center, acknowledges that although “the culture of debate [around Israel-Palestine at Yale] might be a little more lacking”, Slifka “really tries to foster as much dialogue as possible.” He also perceives that Yale students engage with the conflict as a subject of “intellectual discourse,” which “for [him] as an Israel educator, eases the challenge of talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by having that high level of intellectual discourse that students of different opinions can actually engage with.” Boswell adds that “Slifka would love if people gathered
“ISRAELPALESTINE IS KNOWN TO BE HOW YOU LOSE YOUR FRIENDS. YOU SAY YOUR STANCE ON ISRAEL AND PALESTINE, AND THEY GO.”
17 from different political perspectives, but Slifka is just really not down to engage seriously with anything that has an agenda, which activist organizations inherently have, which is also the case with most Hillels across America.” Slifka, therefore, is a place where a conversation can happen. But the conversation is also limited by the fact that Slifka is a necessarily apolitical organization that restricts controversial campus discourse. By remaining apolitical Slifka avoids becoming a vehicle for radical agendas on either sides of the conflict. This is not the case in other campus Hillels, such as Columbia’s, which is known as a bastion for right-wing organizing, or UPenn’s, which Ivanna Berrios, a sophomore there, calls “a staunchly Zionist organization.” Yet Siegel points to how the apolitical quality of Slifka has even graver effects for the state of discourse around Israel-Palestine. She calls attention to how Slifka and other groups that affiliate themselves with Israel predominantly interact with the conflict by hosting Israeli “culture events.” This allows students to interact and engage with Israel as a subject divorced from the conflict: one may attend Israeli music events, or eat hummus in a pita, without having to consider the harsh realities of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. Siegel notes that “you could never claim a Palestinian event on campus to be apolitical without raising some eyebrows. Some Israeli stuff has the privilege of being able to cast itself in an apolitical light.” She also argues that there are “a lot of ways for Yalies to do get involved with Israeli cultural organizations” without having “to examine their political choices critically.” But institutional deficiencies cannot possibly account for the lack of engagement with Israel-Palestine on campus. Many students, primarily those who sit in more radical factions of the left, have expressed a kind of fear in organizing and conversing around Israel-Palestine. A former member of SJP, who requested to remain anonymous, expressed how there “is a lot of baggage around SJP,” stating that “once you get involved in the world of SJP, you grow extremely conscious of other places that exist specifically to harass SJP members.” They listed the Canary Mission, a website dedicated to publishing the names, faces, and personal information of those deemed anti-Semitic, as one of these places. Among the targets of the Canary Mission are many student activists involved in SJP and other radical left organizations around Israel-Palestine. Siegel commented, “as a person of Jewish heritage myself, I’m very conscious of when activism strays into the anti-Semitic realm. For what it’s worth, my opinion of Canary Mission is that they just exist as an organization to bully and harrass people who believe in justice for Palestine.” Reasons for fear also exist closer to home for Yale organizers. The former member of SJP expanded on the difficulty of organizing around Israel-Palestine due to hostility from the administration, noting that “there have been times when posters have been put up and they’ve been suggested to be taken down, there have been times when Yale hasn’t made it easy for us to bring in speakers. And that definitely made the atmosphere a lot more cold to something like SJP than to other organizations.” But beyond the administration’s resistance to SJP, the former member repeated that “that people are
just scared to engage in this topic. And I think the only way to change that is if louder voices are around, on either side, and they aren’t.” There is an understandable reluctance towards making IsraelPalestine a central political concern at Yale. Columbia University has an incredibly lively activist community, filled with several organizations and factions, dedicated to Israel-Palestine. But this engagement has created vicious, divisive debate which has inevitably taken a turn for the personal. The debate has divided the community at Columbia, and is likely to divide a community such as Yale’s. Yadin remarks, “I’m happy that there’s no Israeli activism here. Talking to other universities that have diversity of thought, it’s so toxic; it’s horrible and it doesn’t do anything.” The former member of SJP above quoted also acknowledged the threat discourse poses to the cohesion of Yale’s community: “Israel-Palestine is known to be how you lose your friends. You say your stance on Israel and Palestine, and they go.” This potential disruption of campus harmony may also be why current campus leftist activist groups, like FFY or Yale Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), may have avoided expressing solidarity with SJP or other Palestinian justice groups, or why they have not sought to expand their goals into the political territory of IsraelPalestine. Boswell affirms that there is “something to be said about the fact that some people see other campuses and the way Israel-Palestine has torn them apart.” It is less than strategic for other activist groups to express solidarity with advocacy organized around Israel-Palestine, precisely because of how polarizing and thorny these issues are for many students on campus. But it goes beyond strategy. It is hard to incorporate organizing around Israel-Palestine into other activist campaigns because the goals of such advocacy are unclear. It would take education, conversation, and consideration of the paths to be taken and the goals to be reached, keeping in mind how tangible these goals really are. However, the former member of SJP sees this solidarity as an essential path forward for bolstering Israel-Palestine advocacy at Yale, where other activist communities are much stronger than SJP ever was. They stated that “optimally, what would happen is the people in Fossil Free Yale and the people in Engender, and the people who are doing activist-leftist work, who say in theory that they support SJP, would actually team up and create a community in SJP that is robust because they have a lot of these activist experiences that are overlapping.” There are many visions for what an optimal path forward would look like. Of course, there is an argument that Yale already presents the ideal vision for discourse around Israel-Palestine, with its current path of minimal engagement. Other voices have called for action, and a community dedicated to organising around Israel-Palestine. However, most students expressed that the right path forward would be more open and forgiving conversations in the Yale community. Siegel remarks, “what’s going to do the most work for this conflict is radical empathy.”
A Home, Condemned YH STAFF
On Thurs., Feb. 22, 74 people were evacuated from an apartment building on Norton Street. Through a series of inspections, building officials discovered substantial structural issues, declaring Norton Towers unsafe for human habitation. The buildingâ€™s residents have been placed in various motels around New Haven. The owner, Ernest Schemitsch of Brooklyn, N.Y., is covering the cost of the motels and food vouchers for those residents, and will pay the security deposit for new rentals once they find new housing. The building now stands empty, awaiting structural repairs. The Herald looked into the legacy of condemned buildings in New Haven, and went out to photograph similarly unsafe residences.
Dagget Street Square Over 100 tenants were evicted from this factory-building-turned-residence in May of 2015, after a small fire led inspectors to discover numerous code violationsâ€” including broken overhead sprinklers, padlocked exits, and only one functional emergency light in the entire building. Residents were given one week to find new housing.
66 Norton Street
The five-story, U-shaped building is over a century old. During a structural review last week, New Haven Building Official Jim Turcio discovered internal structural deterioration, water damage, and some floors sagging as much as six inches.
558 Winchester Avenue Positioned next to a vacant lot, the house is entirely boarded-up. This triplex was condemned in 2016, after a portion of its second floor collapsed.
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1323 Whalley Avenue Set off from a busy road and tucked behind a Burger King, 1323 Whalley Avenue was partially condemned last year for lead paint. The residents of the buildingâ€™s second floor apartment sued the New Haven Health Department for health issues resulting from lead poisoning.
C U L T U R E March.9.2018
The Humanity of Prisoners
They all said one thing: “We want people to see us as humans.” That was the response Erin Thompson received when she asked the artists at Guantanamo Bay what they wanted people to get out of their work. Thompson initially didn’t understand why they would ask for something so basic. For most of us, being seen as human is expected—something we take for granted. But prisoners at Guantanamo Bay don’t have the same privilege. Thompson, a professor of art crime at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, recently curated a free exhibit of art made by Guantanamo Bay detainees. Eight current and former Guantanamo Bay prisoners made the 36 pieces lining the walls of one of John Jay’s smallest art galleries. Of the eight prisoners, only one has been tried and charged with any crime. The exhibit, called “An Ode to the Sea,” sparked incredible controversy. Shortly after the exhibit started receiving significant media coverage, the Pentagon declared that art made by Guantanamo Bay detainees is government property. Such a declaration permits guards to destroy any art they deem as “excess,” and allows for the burning of artworks left in prisoners’ cells after their release. “As with so many policies about Guantanamo, the true rationale remains hidden. My guess, the authorities were surprised that the artwork they had been scrutinizing so carefully for hidden meanings had an overall unifying one that they had missed: that the artists were human beings,” Thompson said. For some, the exhibit and subsequent Pentagon policy reignited conversations about the mistreatment of Guantanamo prisoners. Others, however, took issue with the humanization of suspected terrorists. Thompson’s exhibit received mixed reviews, with some praising her work as activism bringing attention to the treatment of Guantanamo prisoners and others condemning it as glorification of terrorism. “People asked questions like, ‘Does displaying this art glorify terrorism? Does it help prevent terrorism by allowing people to understand the minds of suspected terrorists? Does it insult the victims of the 9/11 attack or try to help them receive justice by renewing pressure to try and charge detainees? Is humanization of the artists evil or good?’” Thompson said. The paintings, all of which are stamped with the words “approved by U.S. forces,” mostly depict water and the
16 THE YALE HERALD
sea. In a talk at Yale, organized by the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, on February 28, Thompson recalled her initial confusion over the commonality of water in the paintings. “I had expected protest art, art full of pain, art about Guantanamo in an obvious way and what I saw was painting after painting involving water,” she recalled. When Thompson asked the detainees, through their lawyers, about the art, she received simple and unrevealing answers, many of which revolved around the desire for visibility and for the recognition of their humanity. This answer did little to explain the overarching theme of water in nearly every piece of their art, from paintings of the Golden Gate Bridge looming over still water at sunset to a sculpture of a boat made of cardboard, old t-shirts, and bottle caps. So Thompson asked again, this time contacting one of the artists who had been released: he revealed that the cells in Guantanamo Bay are next to the sea. Guantanamo prisoners can hear ocean waves and smell salt water, but they cannot see any of it; tarps block their view of the vast open sea. For a few days in 2013, guards removed the tarps due to threats of an approaching hurricane. For the first time, the detainees could actually see the water. “A few days later, the detainees began to draw pictures of the water as a substitute for what they had seen in those few days,” Thompson said. Much of why the U.S. has been able to unabashedly commit flagrant human rights violations in Guantanamo Bay is because they have successfully framed detainees as monsters, as subhuman and therefore undeserving of the respect that we ourselves expect. Men at Guantanamo suffer torture and indefinite detainment without trial. Some have been released after years of imprisonment, having been arrested for seemingly no real reason. Cases of mistaken identities, sales of people to American authorities—the list of injustices continues. While attention on and activism for these human rights violations exist, U.S. authorities have largely been able to counter these efforts by their negative portrayal of Guantanamo detainees . The detainees’ art strives to change this perception. “Water serves as the perfect disguise. Its winds and waves and rocks represent the all-too-human emotions of the artist without ever making them visible to the senses,” Thompson said. U.S. authorities, missing this underlying objective at first, stamped the artwork with approval and allowed their presentation to the public. Once the exhibit’s message became clear to them, authorities attempted to stop its
proliferation by taking over ownership of art made by detainees. For Thompson, working on this exhibit was wholly different from her other work. When she was younger, she didn’t think she was the type of person that could be an activist. In college, she wrote for a poetry magazine and went on to receive a PhD in classical art; in law school, she specialized in international law surrounding the looting and smuggling of antiquities. “Working on the exhibit meant that I met so many people using so many different skills to fight the injustice they see around them, I realized I too have the responsibility to use my own skills—not the ones I wish I had but they ones I actually have—to make the world a more just place,” Thompson said. The Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, the student-led organization that brought Erin Thompson in to speak, does criminal justice and prison reform advocacy and runs a mentorship program at a nearby men’s prison.
AS MONSTERS, AS SUBHUMAN
THE RESPECT THAT WE OURSELVES
Treasures Lost and Found MARINA ALBANESE, PC ’20 Enigma. That’s the most accurate description of The Paston Treasure, the 17th-century painting of a wealthy English family’s collection of curiosities, around which the YCBA’s new exhibition revolves. In a tour of the exhibit, Nathan Flis, the organizing curator, described the making of the exhibition as if it were a treasure hunt. This theme applies to both the objects depicted in the painting and answers to the various mysteries surrounding the piece itself: the unknown identities of the artist, the patron and the African boy depicted, as well as the unclear motives behind the painting’s strange pigmentation and structure. The main move the curation makes to ground this exhibition full of unknowns is to place The Paston Treasure in the vanitas tradition of 17th-century Dutch art, a still life genre that employed symbolic objects to evoke the inevitability of death and the ephemerality of earthly achievements and pleasures. Common motifs included symbols of luxury like gold and pipes, symbols of the arts and sciences like musical instruments and globes, and symbols of death and transience like cutopen fruit, burning candles, clocks and hourglasses—all of which appear in The Paston Treasure. The curation sorts the objects featured in the crowded disorder of The Paston Treasure into six categories: figures, vessels, animals, music, time, and vanitas. The vessels, a collection mainly composed of mounted shells, are presented as the heart of The Paston Treasure, and as the visitor takes her first steps into the exhibition, she is greeted by five of the actual vessels featured in the painting. These include a cup with Strombus, a shell found in the Caribbean, a cup with Nautilus, a shell found in coral reefs in the South Pacific, and a Mother of Pearl Flask fashioned from the curved backs of Green Turban snail shells originating from Western India. These shells, transported from their native habitats to the workshops of artisans in London and Amsterdam, were carved down, polished, and marked with the Paston coat of arms. Hundreds of years later, having made several journeys of thousands of miles, the mother of pearl carved from the Turban snail back still glimmers enough to take the visitor’s breath away. As the visitor stares past the objects and to the painting itself, which stands prominently behind the vessel display case, she is invited to consider the two living “treasures”
in this portrait of family heirlooms: the figures. First, she may consider the mysterious boy on the left side of the painting, who interacts with, and perhaps forms part of, the Paston collection. The curation thinks it likely that he was a real person and not a fictitious, generic figure, but the only information they are able to ascertain about his identity is that he was of African descent and probably a servant or slave. These might have been the only details relevant to the patron and painter, too. The anonymity and ontological uncertainty of this African boy demonstrate the way the gaze of the English elite stripped Africans of their humanity, chipping away so that they became little more than the color of their skin and their servitude, just as naturalia were shaved down so that they could become instruments for use. In both the shells and the boys, the visitor observes the hijacking of the natural world and the imposition of man’s own artificial order—a pseudo-natural order that will last for centuries and still reverberate today. The African boy stands in sharp juxtaposition to the other painted figure in The Paston Treasure—Margaret Paston—whose white skin is unnaturally pale. The granddaughter of William Paston and daughter of Robert Paston, the two possible commissioners of the painting, Margaret did not inherit the Paston collection of “earthly goods,” though she did become heir to Robert’s famous “earthly pursuit”: alchemy. Margaret, like her father, became dedicated to turning base metals into gold: the ultimate outmaneuvering of nature by manipulating its creations. Margaret’s inclusion in the painting adds to its enigma. While it was a common practice of the vanitas style to feature generic African figures in the background, it was extremely unusual to place the patron or his family in the painting; one was, in fact, far more likely to include a skull. But the curation points out that Margaret’s inclusion in the painting was purposeful: space was left for her from the painting’s inception. Her presence runs fundamentally contrary to the concept of vanitas, which asserts the transience of luxurious treasures. Margaret Paston, as the vessel of the Paston legacy and her father’s alchemical secrets, represents the exact way in which Paston “treasures” will be carried into the future.
servant to nature’s ways. Other parts of the exhibition demonstrate that the Pastons were not passive abiders but rather actively constructed their past, present, and future. The curation features a Paston Family Genealogy, traced back to 1066, and reveals that most of it is fiction. The Pastons rewrote their own bloodline, consistently linking their ancestors to illegitimate sons and daughters of monarchs to enhance their familial prestige. By acknowledging this interventionist tendency of the Pastons, the enigma of Margaret’s presence in the painting may become easier to decipher, for she becomes a symbol of the Pastons’ future. The exhibition makes clear that the Pastons were masters of construction and artifice. Stuffed crocodiles, the visitor learns, were bought in London or Amsterdam, then hung in the Pastons’ Great Hall so that William Paston could tell guests his story of seeing crocodiles during his travels to Egypt. The Paston Treasure, when seen as empirical record of a collection, is also false. Though some of the objects in the painting certainly existed, evidenced by their presentation in this exhibition, others, such as the parrot, the globe, and even the African servant, may have been generic “stock motifs”, conjured into the space. In the words of Flis, “everything in The Paston Treasure painting itself occupies a fictitious state.” Vanitas is about the emptiness of goods and pursuits, but The Paston Treasure, evoking celebration rather than lamentation, is not a story about voids. It embodies an attempt to overcome, rather than accept, perishability. The exhibition demonstrates that the Pastons were keen on outdoing, rather than merely imitating, nature. By appreciating this dynamic, the current state of the painting (fragile, with much of its pigment thoroughly degraded) and the collection (dispersed and mostly lost due to the demise of this line of Pastons) become much more relevant. Perhaps, even, the enigmatic story of this painting and this family becomes more coherent. And if The Paston Treasure is seen as a site of the battle between man and nature, then in each part of the exhibition one may consider the question: who triumphs?
It is necessary, then, to reconsider the idea that this painting is part of a tradition that implies man is a
“MARGARET PASTON, AS THE VESSEL OF THE PASTON LEGACY AND HER FATHER’S ALCHEMICAL SECRETS, REPRESENTS THE
EXACT WAY IN WHICH PASTON “TREASURES” WILL BE CARRIED INTO THE FUTURE.”
R E V I E W S Mar.9.2018
NETFLIX’S HIGHS AND LOWS:
DARK AND MARSEILLE
Image from cdn.com
SAHAJ SANKARAN, SM ’20 A light rises over the horizon, illuminating all the land with its splendor, healing the sick, delivering the downtrodden, redeeming the sinners. I cannot help but bow before its majestic luminescence. Yup, Netflix is expanding. The popular streaming service has been pushing aggressively into new terrain—snapping up popular shows like Black Mirror and announcing a content expansion into India, possibly the world’s largest untapped English-speaking market. And, of course, they’ve been trying to sway global audiences with increasing amounts of local content, much of it non-English, from different countries around the world. And, with an already-entrenched appreciation of good television, Europe was a good place to start commissioning big, new projects. Naturally, I decided I just had to review its two biggest reveals of the last few years: France’s Marseille, and Germany’s Dark. Europe is a strange place because of its lack of consistency in television. Those of us who watch German television (a lonely group indeed) remember, with some confusion, the contrast between two of its global hits: the action-packed, fast-paced Cold War spy thriller Deutschland ’83 and the gritty WWII miniseries Generation War. As for France, hit shows have ranged from lavish historical dramas like Versailles to the cerebral spy series The Bureau. I’d hoped, when Netflix commissioned the shows, that each piece would be sui generis—a blend of American sensibility and European aesthetics, producing a beautiful (well, for those of us who find well-made TV beautiful) work of art. This is why Marseille, Netflix’s first French original, disappoints. A political thriller starring the venerable Gérard Depardieu as the longtime mayor of Marseille and Benoît Magimel (known for La Haine and The Piano Teacher) as his backstabbing protégé, Marseille feels far too much like one of any number of American-produced shows. It’s been labelled a French House of Cards by reviewers from Vulture and Esquire, but it also tries to mesh together echoes from True Detective, gangster movies from the ’90s, and The Wire. The show blends motifs together until you aren’t quite sure what you’re watching; Depardieu’s protagonist is an awkward blend of Frank Underwood, Boardwalk Empire’s Nucky Thompson,
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and Scarface’s Tony Montana, while his treasonous deputy is more one-dimensional than a ’60s James Bond villain. The writing abandons House of Cards’ occasional effort at smooth, naturalistic dialogue, but retains all its stilted one-liners and clichés. Even as an imitation of American shows, Marseille falls flat; as an original contribution to the television landscape, it’s a disaster to rival The Borgias. Unfortunately, this isn’t where Marseille’s shortcomings end. The show’s executive producer, Florent Siri, claimed that the most important character in the show was the city of Marseille—a beautiful port city with a rich history and diverse culture. Fertile material for a smart political show à la The Wire, right? It should be, and I wish it was, but the only nods to these aspects are brief scenes set throughout Marseille and the unconvincing assertion that the conflict between Depardieu’s and Magimel’s characters represents that between the new and old France. This is where the show truly disappoints. It had potential— there are a few shining moments, and Depardieu’s garrulous, larger-than-life, cocaine-snorting, good-hearted mayor is a character I could get hooked on—but that potential is snuffed out in a stagnant pool of bad writing and worse characterization. Perhaps Marseille’s only saving grace, the excellent atmospherics of Alexandre Desplat’s score lets you tune out the terrible conversations, but not even great music can save this show. In a Europe that has produced world-class political dramas like Borgen, Marseille had so much to work with, yet falls flat in execution—and that is unforgivable. To be fair, when you’re commissioning as many shows as Netflix is, you can’t expect to hit home every time. And when you do—when your show is tightly-written, well-made, and nuanced—you get a great show unlike any other: and that’s why the other big European Netflix show, Dark, excites me as much as Marseille doesn’t. Dark is a vastly different show. Not just in contrast to Marseille, but to anything on television. Yes, the usual comparison is to Stranger Things (as the creators noted in a Radio Times interview), but they’re really only alike insofar as kids go missing in both pilot episodes. Better comparisons have been made to Twin Peaks, and I see traces of 2004’s sleeper hit movie
Primer. It’s also a much harder show to watch than Marseille because of its attempt to interweave three timelines—taking place in 2019, 1986, and 1953—through a time-travelling wormhole in the small German town of Minden. We’ve seen attempts to do this sort of thing before; Cloud Atlas did so in a relatively simple alternating fashion, and Memento opted for a disorienting reverse-polarity that I’m still trying to figure out. Dark is interesting because it tries hard not to let the puzzle get in the way of the plot—science fiction is fundamentally about examining people, and Dark understands that. The show’s complex, layered narrative of lies and secrets in a small town is a standard trope that’s excellently executed. And when combined with its time-travelling shenanigans, the show is incredibly entertaining. This is not to say Dark is perfect; the themes of truth, choice, and consequences are honestly a little heavy-handed, and that’s something I hope will be better managed in the next season. Some of the characters start out relatable and end up unlikeable. Though the pacing is generally good, the writing lags in places, and sometimes it feels like we’re killing time between plot twists. However, with a solid cast, excellent score, and creative camerawork, it is an addicting watch. Unlike Marseille, it truly does try to be original—some of its tropes are borrowed, of course, but the creative ways it blends them together are worth commendation. Dark hits all the sweet spots Marseille failed to. That they were such different shows, though, actually might be a good thing. There’s never been as much television to watch as there is now. And with the constant challenge to creators to make something different, there’s never been as much variety as there is now; even Netflix, just one of many sources of great TV., has commissioned everything from Suburra, an Italian show examining Rome’s seedy underbelly, to Brazil’s 3%, a dystopian thriller. The most niche of tastes can find something to satisfy it, and even the existence of Marseille gives me hope that the explosion of local content all around the world will create a world where you can find absolutely anything you might want to watch. Though if that does happen to be Marseille, well, to paraphrase its protagonist, “I will never, ever forgive you.”
MGMT, LITTLE DARK AGE SARA LUZURIAGA, BR ’21 YH STAFF With the exception of upbeat indie hits like “Kids” and “Electric Feel,” MGMT’s music has always been a delightfully strange blend of warped electronic melodies with heavy beats, altogether creating a futuristic effect. The band’s new album, Little Dark Age, is no exception, but after a five-year hiatus from releasing music, MGMT displays a heightened awareness of their social context as they delve even further into the realm of the unexpected. The duo, composed of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, began creating music together while undergraduates at Wesleyan before rising to unexpected fame when Columbia Records signed them in 2006. Their first album, Oracular Spectacular, became an instant sensation on the indie charts, and the band seems to have spent the past 10 years recovering from such commercial success. In contrast to their first album and its upbeat hit songs, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser waded deeper into
unexpected—even unpleasant—territory on their next two albums. Little Dark Age distorts commercialized music even more, criticizing the age’s addiction to technology through ironic use of techno beats. Some such symbolism is quite heavyhanded, as in the song “TSLAMP,” the title of which stands for “time spent looking at my phone.” The lyrics are at times clever, but the repeated refrain and dull rhythm render the song tiring to listen to, reducing the power of its critique. A more successful example of the band’s cultural criticism is “She Works Out Too Much,” which employs the over-the-top absurdity of a robotic female-voice, heavily synthesized sounds, and blunt lyrics—“But I’m constantly swiping it, tapping”—to criticize dating-app culture. This song broadens the scope of its criticism beyond dating-apps themselves, speaking to larger issues of gender norms and beauty standards. Using a hyper-modern musical aesthetic to critique the modern era seems clever, but on this album it is overdone; the symbolism would have been more effective if it were used in one song instead of both.
VIVI BUBBLE TEA
A few stand-out numbers include “Hand It Over,” a more traditional, mellow piece with a catchy chorus and cunning political commentary in the lyrics: “The deals we made to shake things up and the rights that they abused might just fuck us over.” The upbeat “One Thing Left to Try,” is rhythmically exciting EDM that overlays urgent existential insecurities in the lyrics with a catchy musicality. Unlike much of the rest of the album, this technique does not become tired or overwrought. I appreciate VanWyngarden and Goldwasser’s continued resistance to popular standards of indie pop, and the extent to which they write songs in response to the present cultural climate. Much of the album doesn’t make for light-hearted background music, but is artistically exciting and valuable nonetheless. Little Dark Age might not usher in a new era of chart-topping hits for MGMT, but it appears to be the duo’s intention to move their music back underground, trading in chart-topping pop sensations for unexpected pieces of hyper-modern art. Image from clovereats.com
JOHNNY GROSS, MC ’21
You might do a double take when you walk into Vivi Bubble Tea on the corner of Chapel and Temple. The color scheme is overwhelmingly pink—it has to be the pinkest building in the city—and the inside is plastered with Chinese characters denoting special new flavors. The air inside feels different, too. It’s cold, in a refreshing way. The chilled breeze that assaults your face when you walk through the door wakes you up. But most assaulting (in the best, most delicious way possible) is the unmistakable scent of boba that permeates every cubic inch of the shop. The boba—sweet and chewy tapioca pearls—are what make up the “bubbles” in bubble tea. And the boba at Vivi’s is in a class of its own.
“THE BOBA—SWEET AND CHEWY TAPIOCA PEARLS—ARE WHAT MAKE UP THE ‘BUBBLES’ IN BUBBLE TEA. AND THE BOBA AT VIVI’S IS IN A CLASS OF ITS OWN.”
Walk into Vivi’s, and you’ll most likely behold two types of customers: English speakers, perhaps experiencing an exciting foreign treat for the first time, and Chinese speakers, maybe seeking a vestige of home. Indeed, people familiar with the drink might rejoice in the shop’s authentic representation of traditional Taiwanese boba. Vivi’s serves bubble milk black tea, which is an iced beverage sold all over Taiwan. In addition to boba, the drink contains equal parts milk and black tea; the customer can also choose whether or not to add sugar and indicate how much ice they want. While most American “bubble tea” consists of a sugary smoothie-
like beverage with tapioca pearls thrown inside, Vivi’s traditional rendition of the drink—made with fresh boba hand-crafted right in front of you, actual black tea, and special East Asian flavors like taro and sweet red bean— transports customers to the streets of Taiwan, where bubble tea began. Additionally, customers can choose to have their bubble tea infused with flavors such as mango, ginger, and coconut. Patrons can also order either tropical flavored iced tea or various fruit smoothies.
In desperate need of an alternative to a night-out? Vivi’s is clearly the perfect solution. Order a bubble tea and make your way toward the eggshell sofas in the back. If you’re on a date, you might instead opt for one of the two-chair tables that line the right wall of the store, or maybe the smaller gray sofa in the front of the store. No matter what, walk into Vivi’s on any occasion, with any group of people, at any juncture in your life, and you’ll understand why their mission is “customers above all, quality above all, effort from heart.”
JANELLE MONÁE, “MAKE ME FEEL” & “DJANGO JANE” NICOLE MO, BK ’19 YH STAFF The trailer for Janelle Monáe’s upcoming album stitches together the Afrofuturism of Black Panther with the lush cinematography of Moonlight (in which Monáe had a supporting role) and the stylized saturation of the “San Junipero” episode from Black Mirror. It’s overwhelming for a 32-second video—but that’s likely what Monáe intended. In the two singles she dropped on Feb. 22, Monáe again provokes this sense of rich inaccessibility. Both “Make Me Feel” and “Django Jane” reinforce the suggestion that Dirty Computer will be an album of joy, protest, and complexity. “Make Me Feel,” a nod to Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” is a refreshing funk-pop jam with a bouncy synth line courtesy of the late Prince. Indeed, the single functions in part as an homage to Monáe’s late mentor as she articulates sexual hedonism in classic Prince fashion,
so catchily that you don’t notice the subversive undertones. “That’s just the way you make me feel / So good, so good, so fucking real,” she sings sweetly between verses about sexual benders and shagging on shag carpets. It’s an answer to Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ less exciting (and much creepier) “Blurred Lines.” Monáe, expressing a sexual positivity that’s “powerful with a little bit of tender” on this unabashedly fun track, is also at her most unabashedly human. If “Make Me Feel” sees Monáe embracing her likeness to Prince, “Django Jane” is her tribute to Ms. Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot. Monáe, who generally sticks to a fusion of pop, neo-soul, funk, and R&B, holds her own on this swaggering rap track, but “Django Jane” is not conventional Top 40 fare and trails behind “Make Me Feel” on the charts. Another artist may have let such an out-of-the-comfort-zone track dwell on the B-side: Monáe places it front and center. The
radical lyrics, positioning Monáe as the unsatisfied feminist queen of her label, boast the achievements of Monáe and other Black women in a culture industry held hostage by white men. “Take a seat, you were not involved / And hit the mute button / Let the vagina have a monologue,” she spits over a heavy beat, calm and aggressive as she envisions a world painted in pink. Releasing two singles on the same day is a power move. It either means you’re supremely confident in the selling power of your music, or you don’t care. “Make Me Feel” is a surefire commercial hit, “Django Jane” less so. In choosing two songs so ostensibly different, Monáe asserts that she is both confident in and indifferent to their success. In choosing two songs both essentially about human liberation, she asserts that her success isn’t necessarily qualified by chart performance. Perhaps it’s a declaration— from here on out, it’s power moves only.
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20 THE YALE HERALD
THE BLACK LIST
THINGS WE HATE
ANKLE SOCKS WITH BOOTS
Haunts you all day
My blisters have blisters
THE SOFT SMILE
I prefer a hard frown.
To whomst’d’ve it may concern
NON-SINGLE STREAM RECYCLING
Single streams: cleaner environment and cleaner toilet seats
I can’t even read this
POYNT E R F E L L O W S H I P
J O U R N A L I S M
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Published on Mar 13, 2018