SEPTEMBER 21, 2018
YALEâ€™S MOST DARING PUBLICATION SINCE 1986
e l H a e Y r e
from the editors
THE HER AL
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THEAD S A M
EDITORIAL STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF MANAGING EDITORS
Jack Kyono Fiona Drenttel, Nurit Chinn
EXECUTIVE EDITORS Emma Chanen, Emily Ge, Marc Shkurovich,Eve Sneider, Anna Sudderth, Oriana Tang, Margaret Grabar Sage, Nicole Mo FEATURES EDITORS Marina Albanese, Trish Viveros CULTURE EDITORS Sara Luzuriaga, Tereza Podhajská VOICES EDITORS Julia Leathem, Allison Chen OPINION EDITOR Eric Krebs REVIEWS EDITORS Everest Fang, Kat Corfman STYLE EDITOR Molly Ono INSERTS EDITORS Addee Kim, Sarah Force
DESIGN STAFF All ye faithful Herald readers, Happy fall! The semester’s now in full swing: dining halls have started placing gourds on tables in expectation of Halloween, we‘ve all gotten soaked in the ever-returning rain, a cappella rush is finally over—you know how it is. I’ve started to feel a deep yearning in my bones for apple picking, which can only mean one thing: midterms are approaching. Alas! Before they do, kick back and relax! Take some time off with a pumpkin spice latte and this week’s issue.
CREATIVE DIRECTORS Julia Hedges, Rasmus Schlutter DESIGN EDITORS Merritt Barnwell, Paige Davis, Charlotte Foote, Anya Pertel, Audrey Huang
In the front, Julia Hedges, SM ’20, takes us on a tour of the North Haven Commons strip mall and the repercussions of a recent store closing. In Opinions, we travel all the way to Wisconsin with Anna Kane, JE ’21, to discover the ways that cultural and economic displacement have taken root in a local small farming community. More locally, the Herald staff interviewed Patricia Melton, the executive director of New Haven Promise, a scholarship program that incentivizes local New Haven students to go to in-state colleges by providing tuition funding and mentorship. Read all about it in Features. Then, flip over to Culture and find out what literary events you missed at the annual Windham-Campbell Festival—we’ll fill you right in! Have a wonderful week (and stay dry, the rain cometh down in floods), Tereza Podhajska Culture Editor
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 email@example.com. Receive the Herald for one semester for 40 dollars, or for the 2017-2018 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 2018 The Yale Herald.
THE YALE HERALD
IN THIS ISSUE
VOICES Remembering Mac Miller, Jared Brunner, MY ‘22, shares a poem about his brother’s favorite artist. In another piece, Brunner recalls a moment with music, peace, and warmth with a sitar player.
Head up to North Haven with Julia Hedges, SM ’20, as she examines the state of North Haven Commons, a strip mall grappling with the vacancy of its anchor big box store, Toys “R” Us.
CULTURE Reporting on a Windham-Campbell Festival panel, Freya Savla, BF ’22, describes the tension between truth and fiction in biographies. Elliot Wailoo, SY ’21, calls forth the legacy of black guitarists that Windham-Campbell prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks incorporated into her songwriting presentation.
FEATURES YH Staff speaks with Patricia Melton, executive director of New Haven Promise, to discuss the program’s mission, history, and progress within the New Haven Community. Then, YH Staff digs into the recent uproar surrounding the New Haven Board of Education, providing a timeline of the complicated proceedings that have occured over the past year.
Emma Keyes, PC ’19, describes the power of Juliet, Naked, one of Netflix’s new romantic comedies. Commenting on The Internet’s unique musical style, Lena Gallager, JE ’21, delivers a balanced assessment of Hive Mind.
SABROSURA AND DB PRESENT GET LIT: CALENTURA
WEDNESDAY SEP. 26 @ 2:30 P.M. 1156 CHAPEL ST
Reflecting on the unique style of one of her favorite artists, Eve Sneider, MC ’19, takes you through Ariana Grande’s newest album.
FRIDAY SEP. 21 @ 8:30 P.M. 216 DWIGHT ST
TEJU COLE: “AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS?”
Join Gabi Rivera, TC ’20, as she details her life in bright orange hair, and what that means for her relationship to Yale.
216 PRESENTS: MILKMEN/ THE RIZZOS/ SARGASSO/ PAKALOLO PATROL
SATURDAY SEP. 22 @ 10 P.M. LA CASA
Anna Kane, JE ’21, reflects on dams, crops, and change in her rural Wisconsin town in the latest installment of the Herald’s new series, “Stomping Grounds: Local Stories That Will Define the Election.”
INCOMING OUTGOING FOSSIL FREE YALE
FOSSIL FREE YALE ENVIRONMENTALISM FTW!
RONNELL HIGGINS REPORTS ROBBERY AT THE PEABODY
INSERTS Top 5 Times it’s Appropriate to Dunk on Em
ZOE ERVOLINO, MC ’20 If they’ve filed the appropriate paperwork.
To win the affection of Wilhelm Von Bissing, the wealthiest Prussian entrepreneur who has a penchant for what he refers to as ‘bounce bounce’ sports.
3. 4. 5.
Now that you’ve won Wilhelm’s affection, he wants more. “Bounce bounce on those little Squirrels!” he jeers from the front row of the vacant Barclays Center, which you’re surprised to find out he has bought out for this special occasion. To cement your relationship, dunk on em.
If they a tall glass o’ milk.
Q T A F H R U W IEND BASE AR EY DO N O Y U MAJOR RELI O GION U ?
: Z I
THE YALE HERALD
For a Klondike bar.
O V FA
E T I R
AMANDA THOMAS, SY ’21
HINDUISM: The Mom Friend. You’re always checking in on us when we go out with little “text me when you get there!” messages. You always remind us to bring a sweater, ask us if we’ve had enough food, and we love how you’re always down to give us a hug after a hard day.
JUDAISM: The Problem Solver. You’re really the Rory Gilmore of your group. If someone’s in a bind, you ALWAYS suggest the best solution and just in the knick of time. Without you, we can’t even. ISLAM: The Smart Friend. You always have our back in class when we need the notes for the lecture we slept through. You’ve worked really hard for your 4.0, and you deserve it! We really hope you end up going to law school, just because we need a friend to bail us out in case our nights get a little too wild. BUDDHISM: The Funny Friend. You’re the comedian of the group! Your facial expressions GIVE US LIFE and all our text messages are filled with the fattest LOLs. We know that one day you’ll be on SNL with the big ones. CHRISTIANITY: The Basic Friend. You probably have a S’well water bottle, drink frappuccinos from Starbucks, and believe that Judas Iscariot kissed Jesus on the cheek in an act of betrayal which led the Son Of God to sacrifice his life in order to save our sins. You have an INSANE amount of likes on Instagram, and there’s so many pictures of your Uggs, your Chipotle and your pale green horse whose rider’s name is Death, and as Hades followed, they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth (Revelations 6:8).
I Mark “Interested” for Facebook Events, and While I Never Go, I Need You To Know How Genuinely Interested I Am.
SAMMY GROB, MC ’20
ey! I’m so sorry I couldn’t make it to the screening of My Neighbor Totoro that you invited me to; I know you were really excited about it. I just really needed that time to work (you know how it goes, haha). However, if you look at my response to the Facebook event, I DID select “Interested.” Just so you know, I am very interested in this sort of thing! Later that night, I watched a few of Miyazaki’s films to get a sense of the canon. Great stuff! Thanks again for the invite! DEFINITELY lmk next time.
Dude! Agh! I totally didn’t make it to the Branford College Tea with Dr. Aisha Willimon. I didn’t go, but I marked “Interested” on the event, which is totally real. I mean, her groundbreaking work in behavioral economics has high-key been such an inspiration for my academic trajectory. I actually emailed her and we got coffee the day after, and I know this is insane, but I’m in the first round of interviews to intern with her second semester! Wild, right??? It’ll be a pretty big commitment (something like 7-10 hours a week I think?) but totally worth it. Bummer I missed the event (I was having a craving for BUBBLE tea), but who knew following your interests could be so clutch???
Omg, I was getting some extra reps in at the gym last night and remembered: I missed your WafflePuffs Recruitment Jam! Aghhh, I’m sorry. How was it??? If you check, I did mark “Interested” on the event page, and just to be clear, that decision was based in truth, as I am extremely interested in a cappella. How do people make music with their mouths? I actually did some digging around in Beinecke, and did you know that they have medieval scores of Gregorian chants (some might call it the *OG* a cappella) dating back to the 1300s? I was listening to your past albums on repeat as preparation for the concert too, even tried arranging a few of my favorite songs to see what the *process* is like. At this point, I see no other proper fulfillment for my interest than to rush a cappella this Fall! It just seems like the logical thing to do. And all thanks to the WafflePuffs! Thanks again for inviting me, my interest has been PEAKED!
Happy (belated) birthday!!!!! <3 <3 <3 You’re honestly one of my best friends and I’m so proud of who you’ve become this past year. What a shining star :) I know I didn’t make it to the actual party, but marking “Interested” on Facebook was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was like I could finally express how enthralled, fascinated, and genuinely interested I am in you as a person. I just wanted to let the world know! It’s almost like because I wasn’t there, I feel like you really get it now. Phew! Feels good to get that off my chest.
The Sitar Player JARED BRUNNER, MY â€™22
If the fluttering of fingers amongst silver strings that tug and tap with the ease of green curls lapping at the rust-red masses of misty beaches could wish forth such a wispy, chilling breeze to tickle my soul and entangle me whole, just to dangle me, free and resolute, over the freezing depths of all that is true and absolute, then, perhaps, as if by mistake, I could surpass that pulsing periphery that draws a pall over my passionâ€™s rays and rattles me awake, again, at the break of my days; maybe, then, I am safe to place my feet, and embrace the everything here, with that warm drone in the air, and a delicate memory: the melody in my ears.
6 THE YALE HERALD
On the Recent Death of My Brother’s Favorite Artist JARED BRUNNER, MY ’22
“Memento mori.” I’ve known your voice all my life, but the first time I heard you speak we were driving beneath the sunrise, freshly released from our sleep, barely yet alive. After two long winters spent rushing towards the wrong train-line in bitter city winds, I expected your voice to have frozen over, gone empty and numb; through life and its trials, we simply didn’t talk, but now, with your subwoofers buzzing and the engine singing a dirge, a backwards piano-chord loops itself erratically in a cosmic sonic collage on those crinkly Civic speakers, you spoke as we do, and let a couple words loose, while I tapped my hands on the dash and listened: You never mix more than a few colors when you prepare your palette— a touch of red, you said, is louder than the rest, so twenty-six years well-led should crowd out the death.
OPINION Uprooted in Driftless Wisconsin
hen my family left suburban Minnesota in 2011 and bought a farm outside of Viroqua, Wisconsin, a rural town of 4,389 people in the state’s Driftless region, we were enchanted by the unglaciated valley that cradled our farm and the stream that ran through it. This stream, we were warned, had spilled over a few years ago and forced the farm’s previous owners to hike over the ridge to escape. Our realtor assured us that this was unusual—a ten- or one hundred-year flood. In the six years my family farmed that land, we experienced a flood of that size nearly every year. This year’s flood surpassed all in recent memory. In a few short days of heavy August rain, members of my community lost an entire year’s income, their homes, and their livelihoods as crops were washed away and layers of sand replaced carefully cultivated topsoil. Moreover, over the last few decades, many people in my community have seen their town, in the form they recognize, wash away before them in a wave of cultural and economic displacement. Stuck in New Haven, I was reduced to spectatorship as corn cribs drowned in murky water, living rooms filled with mud, and white sheep stranded on a broken earthen dam flooded my Facebook feed. On the photo of sheep stranded atop the broken Jersey Valley dam, one man’s comment stuck with me. He mentioned another dam, one that never got the chance to break because it was never fully built. Decades ago, a neighboring town announced plans to build a colossal concrete dam that would create a recreational lake. In an area where ties to land mean ties to tradition and livelihood, the government tore families from the fields they had farmed for generations. Environmentalists later found that the valley was critical habitat for an endangered species, and construction ended. The land, too far gone to farm, was vacant for decades before becoming a nature reserve. The La Farge Dam was only the beginning of the displacement of families in Viroqua. As farming machinery advances, conglomerate, industrial farms have left independent farms in the dust, unable to compete with multimillion dollar equipment. The Midwestern promise of a stable farm—and way of life—is fading. However, while these old farms fade, my town has been inundated with people who have moved from cities and opened small, organic, and successful farms. These farms feed the growing group of people who have moved to Viroqua for this organic lifestyle. Many old guard farmers, attached to ways of the past, are reluctant to make the switch to organic. Beyond the land itself, they have mourned the loss of the way of life they have cultivated. Newcomers have brought with them more than organic crops. Culturally, the “old Viroqua”—the one some of my classmates’ parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents knew—is disappearing. While the evidence is splashed along Main Street, this death is seen most strikingly and most literally in “the Ark.” The Ark was once a church, but only the outside would be recognizable to its former parishioners. In the last decade, the interior has been transformed by three transplant artists into a community arts center. Walls have been knocked out, and the octagonal room that once
ANNA KANE, JE ’21 served as a nave now holds a stage for performances more stirring than the sermons it once enclosed. The walls, floors, ceilings of the winding basement hallways are completely covered by the bright, bizarre, and beautiful musings of local artists—hardly the hallowed halls of a Protestant church. The most recent manifestation of this cultural change has been political. This spring, Viroqua elected a new, liberal mayor to replace the man who had been in office for 20 years. Liberal Justice Rebecca Dallet also won our county by more than 1,000 votes, which is a large margin in Vernon County. This is especially interesting in light of the 2016 election in which my town, for the first time in decades, voted for a Republican—Donald Trump. I had spent my afternoons phone banking at the county’s Democratic headquarters. The day of the election, I finished a few calls and they told me to go home early. The next day, I listened as NPR commentators told me that my efforts to increase voter turnout had done the opposite of what I had hoped they would. Higher turnout usually means liberal gains, but my phone banking had reached a separate demographic. Those who picked up the phone were a group of people who usually don’t turn out, a group that resonated with Trump’s message that both the reality they have known and the certain future they have counted on are disappearing. Perhaps the 2016 election was the old Viroqua—a town that depended on tobacco barns and dairy farms, imbued with all the trappings of rural America—giving its last breath. When the Jersey Valley dam failed, one woman who had worked on its construction explained how the structural integrity of the dam had never been strong. The focus was not on the water that broke this dam, but the structures that made it unstable. Maybe the traditional structure of small town America just doesn’t hold up anymore, and maybe it is time to change and adapt. Viroqua’s growing pains are revelatory of the change that is sweeping over many of America’s small towns. Understanding the emotional attachment people have to their homes, their ways of life, and their identity is crucial to understanding why perceived threats to those things sting so badly.
OVER THE LAST FEW DECADES, MANY PEOPLE IN MY COMMUNITY HAVE SEEN THEIR TOWN, IN THE FORM THEY RECOGNIZE, WASH AWAY BEFORE THEM IN A WAVE OF CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC DISPLACEMENT.
The Age of Aqu-hair-us
Within a few weeks, I was asked in a dining hall by a white, male student as to whether or not I “really thought I’d be taken seriously by my professors with that hairdo.” I took this to be a not-so-surreptitious questioning of my very existence at Yale. I hid for most of my life behind impeccably straight brown hair that shrouded my face, my shoulders, and my waist. It was the kind of hair I imagined sirens had: a tangle of kelp in which to hide from humans. At first, I dyed my hair both for fun and to create a facade of false confidence. I chopped off my hair because...isn’t that what a confident person is supposed to be able to do? Aren’t the only people who have bright hair the type of people who aren’t afraid if people look? The surprising effect of no longer giving a shit in regard to one aspect of your life is that after taking that giant leap (such as getting a dramatic haircut and dying it all at once), every step afterwards doesn’t seem as drastic. It suddenly became easier to do all the things I always
wanted to do: bold makeup, statement jewelry, mother’s cooking had been warmed by sweet and some perhaps impractically tall shoes. guitar chords and the words in my father’s native tongue. Volver, in Spanish, means: “to return”. At Yale, my orange bob was about not being afraid to take up space as a first-generation American, In hating my natural hair, I was losing my culture, Polish-Chilean Latina in an institution that the long line of brown-haired women who came hasn’t been a space open to people like me for before me, and most of all, I was losing myself. most of its existence. I desperately wanted to I had strayed, but happiness wasn’t far—I just walk alongside this pantheon of Yale history (one needed to go back to the home that had never populated by presidents, Supreme Court justices, closed its bright red door (always adorned and the like), and leave a trail of footprints with my mother’s seasonally-appropriate behind. Underneath my battle helmet, I was handmade wreaths) to me in the first place. absolutely terrified of fading into the background in what felt to me to be uncharted territory. No haircut or brassy dye is necessary for me to take up space, to assert myself, to learn, to It was also at Yale that I realized that the self- grow, or to stamp my name into the long list confident character that I had been portraying of people who’ve attended this institution. when I first dyed my hair was no longer just a That I’ve already done. My hair in its natural role in a play. It was me. All of my imaginary, state, my actions, my presence, and the envisioned self-confidence and fight was tied embracing of my heritage are subversive up with a bow under a bright orange bob that in themselves. Intelligence, grace, and the punched you right in your eye sockets when you courage to fight are things that don’t come looked at it. Where I went wrong was assuming from bleach. I can be the good I wish to see that my power came from the dye. This hairdo’s more of while having unflinchingly brown magic became something that I felt so much hair. All of this can be done with my hair. defined me that I sometimes wondered if it was the thing I needed to maintain my composed exterior, or to exist at all. Sometimes, I truly hated the dark roots that would keep sprouting up and out of my scalp no matter how much bleach and hair dye I smothered on them. The sudden whack of a realization came after I attended a film screening featuring Penelope Cruz and her dark hair in Pedro Almodóvar’s film, “Volver”. In one scene, Cruz’s character sings the old tango, Volver, in the style of the Spanish gitano music that always danced across the tablecloths of my childhood dinners. My
SOMTO OKEREKE, JE ’20
y first day on Yale’s campus began with an application of bleach and developer onto my dark roots, smeared on just far enough away from the scalp so that it didn’t burn. That day ended with my first-year roommate (and her dad) walking in on me while my hair was thoroughly covered in a traffic-coneorange hair dye and piled atop my head like a tangerine Troll doll. When it was dry, my hair framed my face in a bob with a hairline that ended precisely at my chin. I learned how to cut my own bangs so that they would never pass the imaginary line right above my dark eyebrows.
GABI RIVERA, TC ’20
Questionable Style: Our Weekly Spotlight
What is the best article of clothing in your closet? A white mandarin-collar linen shirt
Characterize your style in non-clothing terms. The modern professional man
Describe fashion at Yale in ten words or less. People either try too hard or need to try harder
chool budget cuts are nothing new. However, this past year, under a new superintendent, the New Haven Public Schools district has undergone a serious shake-up and members of the community are not happy. The decision to make Carol Birks superintendent—spearheaded by Mayor Toni Harp and current President of the School Board, Darnell Golson—was immediately met by fierce opposition from parents and students alike. Since assuming the position in March, criticism of both Birks and the Board of Education (BOE) has continued, especially over measures taken to reduce the district’s deficit, such as layoffs and school closures.
July 25, 2018 Mar. 20, 2018
Carol Birks begins her position as Superintendent of New Haven Public Schools, inheriting a projected budget deficit of $19 million.
YH STAFF Nov. 20, 2017 Concerned parents and members of the community form a watchdog group, NHPS Advocates. The group garners 815 signatures for a petition calling for the alders to create criteria for BOE appointments that include educational expertise and freedom from conflicts of interest.
Concerned parents and members of the community form a watchdog group, NHPS Advocates. The group garners 815 signatures for a petition calling for the alders to create criteria for BOE appointments that include educational expertise and freedom from conflicts of interest.
Birks sends layoff notices to 1,153 part-time NHPS employees, saying that their part-time jobs will end June 29.
May 14, 2018 10 THE YALE HERALD
Birks lays off 37 full-time educators, almost half of which are guidance counselors. The president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers says the union negotiated the number down from 135. NHPS Advocates issues a statement: “While we recognize the current budget deficit requires cuts, we reiterate the request… that cost-cutting measures consider ‘Kids First.’ We believe that cuts can and should be made as far from children's day-today needs as possible.”
In a 5-2 decision, the BOE votes to close Cortlandt V.R. Creed High School, an interdistrict magnet school, as well as New Light and New Horizons, two of the district’s three alternative schools. Birks estimates the closures will reduce the deficit by $5 million. The BOE plans to re-shuffle Creed students, who protest the closure of their school at the meeting, into the district’s other schools. Mayor Harp says the vote symbolizes the “failure of the magnet school system.”
June 22, 2018
graphic by Merritt Barnwell
Sept. 7, 2018
July 2, 2018
At a press conference, BOE President Goldson refers to Birks’s actions as a “stumble” and announces that the BOE will direct Birks to rescind the layoffs. He also clarifies that the notice only affected 764 parttime employees.
Birks announces that she plans to form a committee that will evaluate the district’s physical plant and recommend which schools to keep open next year. Goldson admits that there will likely be more school closures: “We want to keep reminding everybody it’s on the table.”
Sept. 20, 2018 Sept. 12, 2018
Tensions surge at a BOE meeting, over comments made previously by Reverend Boise Kimber suggesting the school board was under-serving the New Haven Black community and favoring the Hispanic community. State Representative Juan Candelaria accuses Rev. Kimber of trying to “attack and divide communities.”
A week before the beginning of classes, the BOE unanimously approves the layoffs of 15 school counselors, five library media specialists, and four physical education teachers.
Aug. 21, 2018
Parents of students at John C. Daniels School protest recent layoffs that leave the school understaffed. Birks promises to reschedule a meeting with the upset parents but admits, “I can’t guarantee that the outcome will be any different… we have an $8.5 million budget deficit, and we still have to move the district forward.”
An email sent from an anonymous account alleges ethics violations by several named members of the BOE. Goldson says that external lawyers will probably be hired to investigate the claims. NHPS Advocates, in conjunction with other New Haven organizations, sends an open letter to the members of the BOE and Birks, responding to the recent layoffs: “In order to realize its mission to put ‘Kids First,’ we ask district leadership to end the practice of stealing resources from student-facing services and redistributing toward bureaucratic expansion.” Sept. 10, 2018
Sept. 19, 2018
MALLS “R” US JULIA HEDGES, SM ’20 YH STAFF
edged between I-91 and the Quinnipiac marshlands sits Universal Drive—an isolated, mile-long stretch of big box stores containing your usual cast of characters: low, pale concrete buildings with chunky geometric rooflines, undulating concrete curbs of meager landscaping, acres of yellow-lined parking spaces, and their wide entrances. If you pull into North Haven Commons, one of the shopping centers on the strip, you’ll find Best Buy, Red Lobster, Big Lots, PetCo, and Buffalo Wild Wings. Two hundred thousand square feet of retail and restaurant space, all tucked into prefab boxes, surrounding 1,000 parking spaces on a cracked asphalt lot. Looming front and center is the recently vacated Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us. After closing in April 2018, all that is left of North Haven Commons’ former anchor store is 40,000 square feet of unused retail space. The challenges ahead for North Haven Commons are familiar to many malls and strip malls across the
country. The amount of retail space closing in 2018 is poised to break records, with an expected 90 million square feet of space being vacated by distressed retailers—including Sears, Guitar Center, RadioShack, Sports Authority, and Macy’s. This mass closing of “brick-and-mortar” retailers has been dubbed the “Retail Apocalypse.” Credit Suisse reports that by 2020, 25 percent of all U.S. malls currently operating will be closed.
mons, Toys “R” Us is considered an anchor store—a large retailer with broad enough appeal to attract a large cross-section of shoppers. Doug Gray, the president of Eclipse Development Group, a land development agency based out of Irvine, California, is the creator of North Haven Commons. As an experienced developer, Gray remarks that anchor stores are “how the power centers, such as North Haven Commons, came into being. People want to park as close as they can, to shop specificalToys “R” Us joined the list of companies filing for ly at that retailer. So what you hope, as a retailer, is bankruptcy in September 2017. By June 18, 2018, it that you can get synergism between tenants, so that had closed all of its 735 stores. The demise of Toys somebody will cross-shop.” “R” Us by the overall causes of the Retail Apocalypse: rising rents, over-expansion, changes in consumer With the loss of a big box anchor store, North habits, e-commerce, and debt. Haven Commons will face the fate of many other malls and strip malls: fewer customers. “VacanThe Retail Apocalypse is visible everywhere: in in- cies are like cancer,” Gray tells me grimly. “And it door suburban shopping centers, in open air strip spreads. Because all the sudden, the people who malls, and in “power centers”—a term often used to would normally shop at Ulta at night don’t want to describe an expansive conglomerate of discount big go there ’cause there’s a dark box right next to it. So box stores. In a power center like North Haven Com- they don’t feel as safe as they would have, had the
parking lot been more full with cars and people. So, a mall or shopping center that has only 30 or 40 peryeah, they’re in a tough situation.” cent of the space filled, it’s going to creep you out and you’re not going to go back.” For North Haven, the challenge now is to fill that vacant space—or risk the decay of the entire mall. Uni*** versal Drive, as a shopping strip, brings a great deal of outside revenue into the community. June William- The strip mall evolved as more and more of the Amerson, a professor of architecture at the City College ican landscape became devoted to consumerism. of New York, who has studied suburban landscapes, The ancestor of the contemporary power center is explains how strip malls collect revenue, “The re- the Taxpayer Strips of the 1920s and ’30s. These ward [for strip mall development] is often tax-based. were lines of humble storefronts that eventualWhether it’s an increment on the sales tax, or it’s the ly gave way to department stores, movie theaters, property tax that the community receives… they’re and banks, that then began cropping up at major bringing in revenue from residents outside their com- intersections. The 1940s saw the development of munity, and they’re capturing it within that town strip malls anchored by department stores and suthrough this property tax mechanism.” The closure of permarkets. New American development was dea big box store like Toys “R” Us, therefore, can have centralized, resulting in the physical separation of widespread consequences on the financial standing of shopping and other services, and creating sprawling the town as a whole. “When the businesses close, it outer suburbs. By the ’60s, outparcel buildings beoften produces a significant gap in the municipality’s gan to flank the older malls, creating rows of strip budget—which hurts,” Williamson adds. buildings along the road whose disorderly signage The North Haven community recognizes the store’s loss. In comments to the New Haven Register on the closing of Toys “R” Us, David Cadden, a professor emeritus at Quinnipiac University’s School of Business, says, “A space that remains vacant too long results in a zombification of retail centers. If you go into
and loud, exaggerated look prompted Lawrence R. Rockefeller to call the American roadway a “ruined landscape” and inspiring Lady Bird Johnson to launch her campaign as First Lady to promote scenic beauty of suburban landscapes.
It’s gotten to the point where no one wants to build strip malls any more. North Haven Commons may be one of the last.
By the late ’60s, the strip mall had toned down, taking on earth tones, shingled roofs, and brick and wood paneling to attempt a friendly, neighborhood look. The 1970s, however, saw an explosion of discount department stores: Target, Kmart, Walmart. The ’70s also saw major institutional investors underwriting strip mall lease requirements, calling for tenants with top credit ratings—something that was only achievable by national retail chains. Those retail chains grew by square footage in the ’70s and ’80s. Their signage became standardized, their landscaping and parking areas swelled, and they began servicing areas as far as 15 miles away.
and it has to be an event to go shopping,” says Gray. “If you just do something like 99 percent of what’s in Connecticut—which is just the stale, bland monolithic development, people go there only because they have to.”
North Haven Commons is situated on the edge of the Quinnipiac River wetlands. “For many years, it was a steel reclamation yard, and then an auto wrecking yard,” Gray tells me. In 2004, Eclipse Development Group took on the challenge of developing the site, which had been contaminated with PCBs following years of industrial use. The group’s website reads, “although the River makes for a beautiful backdrop for this development, For decades, corporate growth meant expanding the care and precautions we needed to take along into larger and larger real estate. In the 1990s, in- with the approvals from the appropriate governcreased specialization of malls and stores created ing bodies were fairly intensive.” the power center—which reflected Wall Street’s fondness of architectural uniformity—and the David Sacco, YC ’82, the project engineer for “category killer,” a warehouse-type store that TPA Design Group, which implemented the sells just one kind of product, like Toys “R” Us. development, says that “it was a difficult site for The power center’s massive parking lots reflect some reasons. There were some more soil condigovernment regulations that mandate minimum tions that had to be dealt with… and also being parking requirements and positioning of stores on the riverfront side, it needed to be built to consider flood implications. The development itself away from the road. is not subject to flooding—it’s high enough that Today, 90 percent of space in large malls is leased that’s not an issue, but that’s one of the things to chains. Malls built since the ’90s look virtu- that needs to be considered in a site like that.” ally all the same. The strip mall has no wish to be a social or cultural center, and instead exists Gray originally wanted Dick’s Sporting Goods along access routes and travel corridors, reaching to be one of the major tenants at North Haven outwards from the edges of cities towards na- Commons, but they didn’t sign on fast enough tional expressways. They often are the first im- and so he put in Big Lots, which pays less rent. pression someone has of a city, and are passed After meeting with brokers and thinking of pothrough without any type of social encounter or tential site plans, Gray looked at access visibility experience. It’s gotten to the point where no one and then after conducting intensive research and wants to build strip malls any more. North Haven creating a competition map, decided what tenants to bring into the development. He negotiated Commons may be one of the last. with the tenants on placement of spots, and then *** signed them on.
with larger developments, it keeps the shopper within the development the longer, so more money,” Gray says. His development contains restaurant pad buildings, which are on each side of the entrance to the parking lot, and are finished on all four sides to attract customers to eat. “Look, retailers don’t understand real estate— hell, 90 percent of them don’t even understand retailing,” Gray tells me. For him it’s common sense for retailers to work together. Gray’s original idea for the power center was to add in a fire pit and an outdoor eating space. “They’d drive by and see it on the way to the Target, and go oh, that’d be nice,” he says. But the Connecticut brokers were not receptive to that idea. “Well, one of the things that you find in the Northeast is that there actually are old downtowns and main streets,” Williamson comments. If you were to have a walkable center, you would put it in the historical downtown. “There’s a sense in the Northeast that you can have both— so the big boxes go in one location where you just want to build it as cheaply as possible, and then if you want to go out to eat and sit outside and so on, you’re gonna go where there’s remnants of that kind of experience.” ***
Williamson and Ellen Dunham-Jones, a professor at Georgia Tech, write in their book, Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, about the idea of a “good place.” This is the kind of place where locals would socialize and hang out. It’s a diner, bar, coffee shop, or even a hair salon or hardware store. Suburban landscapes lack a place to grow social capital outside the hierarchy of the home, the workplace, and the school. The strip mall creates dependence on the car, aiding in this suburban The North Haven Commons development was Gray believes in synergy between tenants. “The isolation. Dunham-Jones and Williamson write completed in 2008, designed in a homey, Prairie tenants you tie together help each other. And that the strip mall is the “willing suppression of style theme. “You have to create a sense of place, that’s why I always put food with them. Because local identity by national systems of corporate investment and mass consumption.”
“Look, retailers don’t understand real estate—hell, 90 percent of them don’t even understand retailing.” But in Retrofitting Suburbia, Dunham-Jones and Williamson propose a second life for derelict big box stores and strip malls. They suggest redesigning and reimagining the strip outside the realm of retail chain stores. Suburban residents are already used to the architecture of the malls and strips that surround them, so instead of tearing them down there is an easier and more economical action: putting something else in the storefronts. For the North Haven Commons’ empty Toys “R” Us, Williamson suggests putting in a gym, maybe with an indoor pool, or a memory care center for seniors with dementia. “The wellness centers, where you might have a running track inside and workout areas and maybe an indoor pool. Pop some skylights up in the roof. You can turn it into a public library—things like that,” Williamson tells me, “Then, on the flip-side, there’s also industrial-type uses. Whether it’s hydroponics, for growing marijuana, things like that that use the large footprint building.” Currently North Haven Commons is utilizing a different method to fill the Toys “R” Us: a Halloween City. Its banner in orange and black is strung up where the old store’s signage had once been, but only temporarily. On Nov. 1, the North Haven Commons location and the other 250 or so Halloween City pop-ups will close, and the strip mall will have to continue looking for permanent tenants.
Party City isn’t the only retailer to leverage Toys “R” Us’s downfall. According to USA Today, JCPenny, Walmart, and Kohl’s have increased their toy offerings. Toys “R” Us also created the majority of the 3.5 million square feet of vacated retail in 2018, which CNN reports will start being filled by Ross Stores, TJX (parent company to TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, and Marshalls), and Burlington Coat Factory. “Defying the Retail Apocalypse” according to Business Insider, is Dollar General, which is opening 900 new stores and remodeling 1,000 locations in 2018. TJX and Ross, both discount retailers, are planning to open 238 and 70 new stores respectively. Forbes even goes as far as to report that the performance of the inline strip center is holding up well as populations grow around the strip mall and new types of tenants come in. Mostly when retail spaces become vacated, strip mall owners turn to other big box retailers to fill the void. “There’s a long list,” Williamson says. “[Developers] have connections with those who set up leases with the chain retailers. And that’s the world they’re in. So, unless something forces them to move beyond that world, that’s where they’re gonna stay.”
Although there’s not much the town can do about chain stores closing, Michael Freda, the first Selectman of North Haven, told the Record-Journal, “we have a relationship with the plaza owners. We’re working to ensure they can find a retail replacement, but it’s up to the plaza owners to “Some folks say, well, why does it matter that a determine what businesses they allow in.” Halloween store opened up, we know that’s only temporary, well yes, but for the temporary two Williamson hopes for the retrofitting of big box months, it’s bringing people to the plaza,” Rich- stores, but recognizes that things can do well in ard LoPresti, the chairman of the North Haven some markets and poorly in others. ExperienEconomic Development Commission, says. tial and service-oriented strip tenants are filling the spaces of what once were exclusively retail To further benefit from the closure of Toys “R” stores. In North Haven Commons, Image Laser Us, Party City is now expanding to open another Hair Removal is right next door to Vein Clinics pop-up, Toy City, planning to open 55 locations of America—medical clinics that are more and this season. “The Toy City concept is a logical more frequently moving into strip malls. Nicole extension of our brand—one that allows us to Azimov, the Medical Liaison at Vein Clinics of leverage our existing pop-up store capabilities America, says that they’ve been at their North and capitalize on the category whitespace that Haven location for two years now. She is in favor has recently been created,” says Sara Davis, a PR of the clinic being in the power center, “I would representative for Party City, the company that just say that storefront property in general is easowns Halloween City.
iest to have…your logo is in front of the building…and there is more visibility at the front of the complex.” They’ve embraced their commercial location, and advertises on their website that they are “next to Buffalo Wild Wings in the same plaza as Olive Garden - Red Lobster.” In 2018, there aren’t many large scale strip malls being built. Sacco says that TPA “hasn’t done anything of that size and configuration since then,” making North Haven Commons their last significant power center. “In the last 10 years...they’ll be some combination of retail, plus residential, plus commercial, rather than something that is purely retail space,” Sacco says. Most new buildings are mixed-use, and according to Gray, “everyone’s moving back towards the city. So you’re seeing much more urban development happen.” It seems like we’ve seen our last strip mall going up, but as Gray comments, “Again now, will that shift over time? Sure. Retail’s in a constant state of flux.” The country also is still dotted by the existing strip malls, over 65,000 of them according to the New York Times. In a country that contains 23.5 square feet of retail space per person, we’re still wondering what the changes in the retail landscape will look like. Thinking of solutions, Williamson says, “There is a lot of room for good design here with a strong vision that could come from a civic leader, or an elected official, or some developer who owns a number of properties and is willing to do something different in some special location.” Williamson takes one more look at the picture of North Haven Commons and is inspired with another idea. “Yeah. I’m looking at this, and it would be really interesting, if they were all to be vacated, to imagine putting agriculture on the parking lots…you can put down a barrier over the asphalt, bring in fresh soil, and go from there.”
Promising Futures YH STAFF
his week, the Herald met with Patricia Melton, PC ’83, executive director of New Haven Promise (NHP), a non-profit dedicated to encouraging New Haven high school students to pursue a college education within Connecticut. By pledging to equip scholars with financial assistance, mentorship, and career-internship opportunities, New Haven Promise has incentivized these students to approach higher education with a fresh lens. YH STAFF: How did New Haven Promise start up? Patricia Melton: Well, it’s based on the model of a Promise program, the very first promise program, which was started in Kalamazoo. The mayor of New Haven, the superintendent, the President of Yale Rick Levin (GRD ’74), and Will Ginsberg from the Community Foundation—they were all interested in how to strengthen the public schools and the city. The whole premise of Promise is to incentivize parents and students to work really hard, to want to be dedicated to the city by living in the city, and to attend public schools in the city. For that dedication and commitment to strengthening the city and the school district, students get a tuition benefit to attend college in-state. The program was launched in 2010. YH: How do students qualify for NHP? PM: Students have to get a 3.0 GPA in high school, do 40 hours of community service, and have good attendance. If they do those things, and attend an in-state institution, they could have up to full tuition [covered]. And it’s a sliding scale based on how long they’ve been in the city. YH: Where does New Haven Promise get its funding from? PM: Well, our funding has come from primarily our anchor institutions: Yale covers the scholarship dollars, which is the largest amount at this point in time. But our program activities, for instance—creating the college-going culture, financial aid workshops, as well as following students through college—have a couple of really big donors: Yale-New Haven Hospital, and the Community Foundation. The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven has been a huge supporter and anchor of our programming. We did have some start-up funds from Wells Fargo as well. YH: Besides the ongoing scholarship, how does NHP support Promise scholars once they are in college? PM: We really follow them [through] college. We have what’s called an ambassador program, where we identify scholars who help create a community on our various campuses. We work very closely with our partner institutions to support them while they’re in college. 80 percent of our students are low-income, first generation to college, under-represented minorities—so it’s very important that we work with programming [within college] that already exists to make sure
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that folks are accessing those resources. We [also] have a very robust, and paid, internship program that we’ve done—we’re actually going into our sixth year of that—and we’ve probably placed close to 350, almost 400 scholars in paid internships. YH: I understand that the total amount given in a Promise scholarship depends on how long you’ve lived in New Haven. Why is that? PM: Because [NHP] is really an economic development program, so it’s really focused on a parent’s commitment, and family’s commitment, to living in the city. So, for folks who have been here all along, they get the highest amount of the benefit. And that is pretty much the defining feature of a lot of Promise programs. And when we really look at it, over the eight years we’ve been in existence, New Haven Public Schools have seen an increase in both enrollment and graduation rates. Last year and this year, the schools have been at a 50 year high in terms of enrollment. YH: Has there been any consideration of expanding the program to the areas beyond the city limits? PM: [NHP] was something that was set up by the city to really strengthen the city of New Haven. There is a Promise program that started in Hartford a couple of years ago, and I think there is a Promise program that’s starting up in Bridgeport. I think the barrier is that folks are gonna have to figure out how to fund their Promise program. And so we do give out free advice on what’s worked here. Because even though we’ve certainly [helped students pay] out millions [in tuition bills], most of the money really comes from the federal aid, like the Pell Grant. A huge percent of our kids are low-income and they qualify for federal aid. So [New Haven] Promise is really an incentive that grabs the imagination of families who would turn down money [like loans] that students really need. What we tell them is: Promise makes college affordable, not free. Unfortunately, when I first came, a lot of people misunderstood and thought it paid for a full-ride. I had a lot of angry parents at me in that first year. So we had to get more precise. Students still need to apply for other scholarships—for other merit-based aid, need-based aid—and then with all of that we are able to significantly decrease the amount of debt that students have. For instance, at University of Connecticut (UConn), a good percentage of the last couple of classes are coming out with no debt. They’re turning down all of their loans. But that’s not just not from Promise. UConn has added and committed additional scholarship dollars for every Promise scholar that comes to them. And a number of other institutions are starting to do the same. YH: You went to Yale as the first person from your family to go to college—what was your experience here like? PM: Well, I would say it was really difficult. I was an athlete, so that has its own challenges [and] demands that you have
an intensive schedule. As a track athlete, I was competing year round. When I came I was also an independent student, meaning I did not have any financial support. So there were policies in place that made it challenging every year, like being on bursar hold because of the expected individual contribution. And of course, I didn’t have that money. But, I must say that I had support from my track coach and community—but it was still challenging. I can say today it’s a very different place. Yale has a lot of support [systems] in place now. YH: Is there any advice you’d give to other first generation Promise scholars who come to Yale on how to succeed here? PM: Absolutely. I participate in 1stGenYale. It’s been a group for a couple of years now, so I’m heavily involved with that organization, which is an alumni group. I’ve also been involved with the Yale Club of New Haven [and] the Yale Black Alumni Association, so I’m constantly giving advice. Now the advice that I give them (I’ve been talking about my involvement) is to take advantage of everything that’s here, to take advantage of the resources. Yale was difficult for me because I was very shy, I had come from a very small school, and I just didn’t take advantage of the resources that I could have taken advantage of. They were there, but I was too shy to even access those things. And so my advice is always to connect: you can develop your [own] small community. It’s really important to be in a place with people who look like you. Go to the Afro-Am Center. Go to La Casa. There’s just everything. And there are a lot of activities that bring first-gen students together with firstgen alums to share their stories. I think that’s very helpful as well.
partnerships to deepen our work. Because of our success, a lot of other Promise programs and cities would like for us to share our practice. So, we are now working on a mini conference where we can bring individuals here and tell our story. I would have to say we’re one of the most successful Promise programs in the country given our impact. And we don’t spend the most money. We’re kind of on the small end in terms of the amount of money that we spend, but we’ve had a pretty large impact for the investment that we’ve made. And I think that’s because we’ve been quite strategic: we use technology, we use social media, we have great partnerships, and we have wonderful collaborators and really great leadership here. And I think all those things have helped make this the success that it is. Many other cities are struggling and thinking, “What can we do? Do we need to raise a hundred million dollars?” No, you don’t. You can do it with a lot less. Because Promise is an incentive, it really gets people motivated and energized so that everybody’s rowing in the right direction—rowing together. And through that, you can get so much more done. And I would say that’s pretty much been our mantra, and I think our results reinforce that. YH: How long do you see yourself working for New Haven Promise? PM: Well, there’s still a lot of work to be done! I love what I do, I love being back at Yale, working so closely with the University, and I’m really proud that my alma mater does this. Because there isn’t another college in the country that pays millions of dollars for the city kids to attend other universities. It’s really quite phenomenal. And so, you know, I think I’ll be here. I’m not thinking about anything else at this point because we still have plenty of work to do.
YH: Are there any challenges New Haven Promise is facing right now? What is the next goal for New Haven Promise? PM: We’ve just had very strong growth. And success is wonderful, but you have to always build your infrastructure to keep up with the growth. I’d say that’s the biggest challenge—that we’re successful. With success comes a lot of work. We’re looking at ways that we form new
CULTURE The Invisible Pantheon ELLIOT WAILOO, SY ’21
uzan-Lori Parks, a Pulitzer-winning playwright, usually watches her productions from the back of the house. But on Friday, September 14, she was center stage with a microphone and guitar, dressed from beanie to boot in all black, belting out songs. Parks, a recipient of the 2018 Windham-Campbell Prize in Drama, was performing in the Enormous Room of the Afro-American Cultural Center as part of an event called “Writing Songs with SuzanLori Parks”—a rare moment of celebrating songwriting during a weekend dedicated to highlighting outstanding literary writers. Performing songs both from her plays and from her band, Suzan-Lori Parks and the Band (they went through a lot of names, but she couldn’t remember any of them, she explained. The band is currently comprised of Parks, her husband, and a computer), Parks offered insight into her songwriting process, the musicians and people that inspire her, and the experience of leaving her comfort zone of playwriting for other musical forms. After the performance, Parks fielded a series of questions from the audience. Here are some of the most memorable moments from the night: *** After her first song, Parks briefly addressed the fact that it has taken her the majority of her adult life to come back around to playing the guitar, for the most part because of how her aspiration was treated when she was younger. “When I was a kid, I really, really wanted to play the guitar. I think I’d seen someone in church playing the guitar,” she said. “Some of my white friends played the guitar, and I went up to them like, ‘I want to play the guitar, too!’ And they were like, ‘uh, black people don’t play the guitar!’ No better were my black friends, because I went to them and was like ‘I’m going to play the guitar,’ and they said, ‘what, you trying to be white?’ So there was a misunderstanding about what kind of folks played the guitar.” This misunderstanding, Parks explained, was caused in part by a pre-Internet age popular culture that overrepresented white guitarists and underrepresented everyone else. “I didn’t have access to the pantheon of great guitar players: black men, black women, righteous white folks, folks of all colors and stripes,” she said. To remedy this, Parks spent two minutes listing this pantheon.
The Set List *** Parks spoke about the disparate roles that songs play in musicals and in her plays. “I believe in two kinds of motion for a plot,” she said. “You have horizontal motion—moving along—and I also believe in vertical plot development, like going deeper.”
After pulling her phone out of her right boot and switching it to silent, Parks first played “Bronze Star,” a song she wrote for her father, who served overseas in the military. This song was the basis for her 2015 play Father Comes Home From the War, Parts I, II, and III, which played at the Yale Rep last spring.
Parks used the example of “The Making of a Monster,” sung by Monster, a character in her play The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, to illustrate this point. “He runs into his mother’s house, she realizes it’s him, and he has to explain himself to him,” Parks said. “It’s not forwarding of the plot; it’s an opening of the soul. My songs usually do that— they employ vertical development.”
Next, she played an unnamed protest song, which she said she would play if she ever got invited to the White House. “I am gonna be colored all my life/we don’t got time to take no mess from you,” Parks sang in the first and last verse. On its writing: “I think a good protest song invites the good folks to have a little time for introspection.”
Parks also described the artistic and musical genres that have heavily influenced her playwriting styles, including types of music she was exposed to from a young age. “My dad loved opera. He was a six-foot-four black guy, army guy, he would turn on the opera music really loud and walk around the house and sing La Traviata, Wagner, Puccini, you name it,” she said. “My mom loved jazz—especially bebop. She would turn on the jazz music and we’d dance and she’d teach us how to jitterbug. One day I realized that my structures of my plays are very opera, and the people inside of it are jazz.” *** Right before her encore performance, Parks reminded the audience that while she is usually lauded for her playwriting, this event centered her singing-songwriting skills—and it took her time to arrive at a point where she was comfortable oscillating between genres. “[The change] is not so much in the writing—it’s in the presentation. Here I am. I am sitting here in front of you,” Parks said. “In a couple hours, there will be a presentation of my work. I’m gonna be sitting in the audience and actors will be performing. I decided several years ago to cross the line and put myself in a place where I could give and receive energy to people.” For Parks, it is important to continue to experiment, fail, and succeed. “You see, SuzanLori Parks has a substantial amount of laurels that she could sit on, and I choose to continue to grow,” she said. “There’s less risk [writing plays]. There’s more risk if I’m like, ‘I’m going to pick up a guitar and go to Yale and sing songs. And let’s see what happens.”
A list of black guitarists (and righteous white folks) Parks recommends Memphis Minnie, Libba Cotten, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Albert King, B.B. King, and Freddie King (“They’re not brothers!”), John Lee Hooker, Honeyboy Edwards., Jessie Mae Hemphill, Mother Maybelle Carter (“A very righteous player”), Chuck Berry, Charlie, Christian, Django Reinhardt, Badi Assad, T-Bone Walker, and 20 more!
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Parks wrote her third song after reading the news about the murder of Walter Scott, who was shot in the back running from a cop at a traffic stop. “If we say ‘why is this happening again,’ then we do not know how well we have been trained,” Parks sings on the chorus. In the song she also criticized newspapers sensationalizing black sorrow and death. The fourth song she wrote specifically for her play Fucking A, which is a riff on The Scarlet Letter. The song, “The Making of a Monster,” arrives at the plot’s climax, when Monster, who has been incarcerated since a young age, explains himself to his mother, with whom he has recently been reunited. “You think it’d be hard to make something horrid, it’s easy/You think it would take so much work to create the devil incarnate, but it’s easy/Cause the smallest seed grows into a tree, and a grain of sand pearls in the oyster,” Parks/Monster sings. She ended the main portion of her performance with “Your Love To Love Me,” which she first wrote for her band. Then, her most recent play, White Noise—a portion of which premiered later that night at the YUAG, and will open at the Public Theatre in January—follows a group of college friends “who had a band named Clover and had one song in particular that always took them to their happy place.” She needed that one song, and ended up picking “Your Love To Love Me,” an optimistic love song. “It’s weird to do it without my band,” Parks said. As an encore, Parks played a song from Father Comes Home From the Wars. The song, “I Have Misplaced Myself,” is sung by a talking dog character, and, according to Parks, was inspired by the fact that when a slave escaped, his master would announce that he had misplaced himself. Triumphantly, she sang, “You got everything to lose/I got everything to gain/I’m long gone, I ain’t drinkin’ to your health/I have misplaced myself.”
Echoes of Fact FREYA SAVLA, BF ’22
iographies can lie. Artists aren’t the glorified, complicated beings we imagine them to be—we portray them that way. Biographical perspectives can read like an objective account of artists’ scandalous lives, when in reality we are only presented with the cherry-picked, salacious details. The difficulty of constructing an interesting narrative can often blur the line between fact and fiction, especially when writers have to work within the constraints of the truth to find their freedom. How does one understand the life of an artist? On Sept. 14, a panel of writers sought to answer that very question at a Windham-Campbell lecture titled “Portraying Artists,” at the Whitney Humanities Center. The Windham-Campbell Festival, centered around the Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes (established by Donald Windham at Yale in 2011), celebrates literary achievements in Fiction, Non Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. It strives to keep alive the tradition of discourse about the arts. The panel was centered on the conflict between portraying the life and the work of an artist. It was
“Our own bias is always at work in connecting dots that don’t exist, and creating a story out of unrelated events.” moderated by professor Langdon Hammer, YC ’80, GRD ’89, Chair of the English Department and one of America’s most distinguished literary biographers, who spoke to Olivia Laing, John Keene, and Sarah Bakewell about how they addressed this issue in their own works. The panelists were impressive: Olivia Laing is the author of three nonfiction books, two of which were shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize; Sarah Bakewell has penned four books, one of which, How to Live: A Life of Montaigne, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography as well as the Du Cooper Prize for Nonﬁction; and John Keene wrote Annotations and Counternarratives, works of experimental fiction. In Hammer’s own words, Keene’s Counternarratives is a visionary biography, a utopian recreation of the past. All three panelists had written at least one biography, which brought an interesting perspective on the objectivity and validity of non-fiction.
“Few stories are as compelling as those dealing with artists that inevitably confront the relationship between the life and work of the artist,” Hammer began, without preamble. He continued to say that at the same time, an accurate representation of an artist is hard to get right because of the struggle to find the right balance between the their life and work. The actual life of an artist could be too sensational, or too dull in contrast to their work. The discussion thus began on a note that immediately induced a kind of self-reflection, both on the process of writing and the way we see the depiction of artists. It reminds us to consider the interactions between our lives and what we write as fiction, and how the two echo off each other while existing in their own spaces. Bakewell brought up biographical movies. She discussed the struggle of depicting the process of a writer writing something—or, even worse, thinking—in an interesting manner. Continuing with the biographical perspective, Laing referred to her own work, centered around the English writer Virginia Woolf: “Biographies portray life in retrospect,” she said, and pointed out how this kind of storytelling is incompatible with real lives of individuals who move forwards, not backwards—in uncertainty, not knowing what to expect. Virginia Woolf ’s life is described by other writers as heading towards her drowning conclusion, yet she herself did not live her life anticipating this to be the final scene. Nathan Murphy, PC ’20, agreed with Laing, and responded to her comments by referring to the broader world of art and its proclivity for retrospective portrayal: “I think pop culture is so fascinated by the tragedies that surround death and the ‘suicidal artist,’ that the entire lives of artists are often depicted as a series of events leading to death or suicide.” John Keene introduced what he called the “dream time” of artists. He coined this term to describe the time in which artists ‘dream’ before coming up with something. Keene discussed the difficulty of preserving this aspect in a work about an artist. When dreams are so subjective to an individual, how can we ever hope to recreate them in biographical work? Does portraying artists have special value? The panelists seemed to think it does, because of the twofold value of a biographer interpreting the life of an artist, and an artist interpreting and reflecting on their own life. The talk was an intriguing meditation on negotiating the balance between truth and fiction, and on finding
the writer’s’ own freedom to work within it. Alexis Teh, TD ’22, an audience member in the talk, said it made her think about the way personal bias could affect the construction of a narrative, because of how hard it is to objectively approach another person’s life and create a narrative out of it. Her statement highlights the difficulty and complexity of objectively understanding another person even in something as mundane as conversation. Our own bias is always at work in connecting dots that don’t exist, and creating a story out of unrelated events. Overall, the discussion was a wonderful insight into the act of translating real life experiences into narratives. We often think of the works of artists exclusively, without considering the way they relate to their lives. Conversely, we forget the linearity we constantly impose on our own lives when thinking about events in hindsight. In discussing self-reflective artists, the talk brought to a forefront the widespread impact our lives have on what we do, and what it means to comprehend that.
Sweetener EVE SNEIDER, MC ’19 YH STAFF
he first time I heard Sweetener, I was barrelling down I-80 with my best friend from high school, who loves the rich, pop-inflected vocal stylings of Ariana Grande almost as much as I do. We’d read rave reviews of her new album, and it seemed an obvious choice for the days of nonstop driving that lay ahead. But when we took the plunge and pressed play, I was wholly underwhelmed. The album’s sound is smooth and heavily produced in a way that feels very of-the-moment but does absolutely no justice to Grande’s truly extraordinary voice . In the words of my friend and listening companion, “The first time we heard it, we were like NO.”
know plenty has been said about both. It’s easy to reduce Grande to the way she presents herself or to the men she drapes across her arm, especially in recent months. But the preoccupation with what she wears and, in particular, who she dates is distracting and ends up derailing the conversation we should be having about Grande’s tremendous vocal and emotional range. What’s most surprising and delightful about Grande is the way she has managed to pay homage to the divas of yore while simultaneously poking holes in the stereotype. If her go around the press circuit to promote Sweetener proved anything, it’s that she’s not afraid
“What’s most surprising and delightful about Grande is the way she has managed to pay homage to the divas of yore while simultaneously poking holes in the stereotype.” But because we’re masochists, or maybe because road trips can be long and frequently dull, we resolved to give it a second try the next day. The rules: we would listen to each track in full and in order. Forty-seven minutes later, as “get well soon”—the lilting and lovely final track—drew to a close, we decided it wasn’t so bad after all. We’d been too quick to judge. But just to be sure, we had to listen to Sweetener one more time. So it goes with Grande. One listen turns to two, then three, and before you know it you’ve gone from being unenthused to pronouncing your unwitting but shameless devotion. It’s true that Sweetener is occasionally lackluster and fails to showcase Grande’s talents. But it’s also an absolute delight. Much like Grande herself, it is nuanced, amusing, and commanding when you least expect it. Sometimes, Grande’s music is all three at once. Many of the album’s best tracks are dreamy and hypnotic, suitable for getting lost in even as they address challenging moments in Grande’s personal life. On “everytime,” Grande navigates the rocky terrain of an on-again, off-again relationship. But if the song’s gentle groove is any indication, it’s rolling hills, not steep cliffs, that she’s traversing. And in “better off,” she says goodbye to her troubled partner. “I’m better off without him / I’m better off being a wild one,” she croons softly, a gentle, melodic tune once again belying the inner turmoil her lyrics suggest. Elsewhere, though, Grande’s undeniable aplomb and groovy beats align perfectly on the album’s most certifiable bangers. On “God is a woman,” one of Sweetener’s biggest hits, as bass thumps in the background, Grande announces to a partner that after he’s been with her he’ll “believe God is a woman.” The song is sexy, cool, and confident, and we believe her. While on “borderline” and “blazed,” Missy Elliott and Pharrell Williams, respectively, offer fun, harmonic star power that elevates each song to solidly danceable territory. You’ll be listening on loop before you know it. Still, this isn’t to say that every track on Sweetener hits the ball out of the park. The title track, for one, is a slog to get through. “Hit it, hit it, hit it, hit it,” Grande commands, but all I really want to hit is fast forward. The verses and chorus are dissonant, like an odd couple who don’t make sense together. Other inexplicable moments include Grande’s decision to use lower-case titles for all but two of the album’s 15 tracks. What must have looked cool in the recording studio is tacky and distracting on the track list, like she’s trying to make a creative statement but doesn’t quite know what it is. Each time a new song title scrolls across the stereo screen you’re left scratching your head. In discussing some of Grande’s more befuddling moves, it would be hard not to address her image in the public eye. But I’m making an intentional decision here to not discuss her appearance or her romantic life. If you opened a tabloid once this summer you’ll
20 THE YALE HERALD
to make fun of herself and to have fun doing it. Skip to minute seven of her “Carpool Karaoke” segment with James Corden, and you’ll see what I mean. Corden mentions that he once read Grande insists on being carried everywhere. Grande dispels the myth with a smile. But when the two step out to grab a snack at Starbucks minutes later, she jumps on Corden’s back and announces to the unsuspecting barista and gathering crowd, “Hello, I’m Ariana Grande, and I must be carried.” No one can keep a straight face. In her music and out of it, Grande commands the attention of a rapt audience. She is silly, sharp, and hugely talented, even if she sometimes misses the mark. Her voice demands that you listen, and then listen again.
EMMA KEYES, PC ’19
t’s easy to get lost in this summer’s romantic comedy releases, though some were better received than others. It may not have made the same splash on Twitter as some of the summer’s releases, but Juliet, Naked was a joy to watch. Directed by Jesse Peretz, the movie is based on one of Nick Hornby’s lesser known novels (but don’t worry, it still features delightfully dysfunctional characters).
particularly elusive American musician. Annie can’t stand the music, and by this point in their relationship, she can barely stand Duncan. In a fit of rage after a singularly nasty fight (over—what else?—Tucker Crowe), Annie posts an angry comment on Duncan’s fansite message board and receives an email from the elusive folk singer himself. This unlikely set-up leads to a truly charming transatlantic romance in which every character has to figure out what it means to finally grow up.
of disastrous relationships and neglectful parenting. The first time Annie and Tucker meet face to face, they’re surrounded by every member of his family yelling in a hospital room—an auspicious beginning that blooms into a mature and thoughtful depiction of an adult relationship. I walked out of the movie theater feeling buoyant with possibility. Go watch Juliet, Naked if you get the chance.
Annie (Rose Byrne) is stuck in her small English hometown in a long-term relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), Tucker and Annie make for an unexpectedly sweet couple, an obsessive fanatic of Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), a which is especially surprising in light of Tucker’s history
LENA GALLAGER, JE ’21
he Internet has never been easy to categorize. Formed out of the ashes of Odd Future, The Internet’s music encompasses the freshest hip-hop, soul, funk, and R&B. Their 2015 album, Ego Death, was a critical success, even earning the group a Grammy nomination. Their newest album, Hive Mind, continues to defy labels and is packed with funky and sensual tracks. While it doesn’t quite measure up to Ego Death’s hypnotic energy, Hive Mind nonetheless allows The Internet to explore the boundaries of their genre and experiment with inventive beats—the most memorable tracks being “Roll (Burbank Funk),” “La Di Da,” and “Stay the Night.” “Roll (Burbank Funk),” while not the most lyrically complex, is one of the standout songs of the album. Over a funky bass line, Steve Lacy and Syd tha Kyd craft a laid back and catchy track. Involving Lacy on lead vocals marks a departure from The Internet’s earlier
Hive Mind music, in which Syd is the primary singer. Steve Lacy’s recent solo successes on “Some” and “Dark Red,” as well as his work producing Kendrick Lamar’s “Pride,” have proven him to be a valuable collaborator, and Hive Mind reflects that. Throughout Hive Mind, you can detect Lacy’s increased presence, especially in vocals and guitar riffs on songs like “Come Over.”
on older tracks like “Girl” and “Special Affair,” is at full force. One unique element of The Internet’s personality is Syd’s unapologetic queerness; in a straight- and maledominated genre, Syd’s voice rises above the others. Refusing to play down her sexuality, Syd sings “Come Over” and “Stay the Night” to win over her female lovers.
“La Di Da” exemplifies the experimental attitude of Hive Mind. Its jazzy beat brings a more layered and complex sound compared to Ego Death’s more streamlined, simple tone. Syd’s vocals, however—smooth, smoky, and sexy, as always—maintain the Internet’s old vibe and hark back to classic R&B. It is this fusion of R&B with funk, soul, and hip-hop that embodies The Internet’s unique style.
The rest of Hive Mind also incorporates elements of R&B and trippy hip-hop, but the tracks become difficult to distinguish from one another. The breathy vocals and easygoing beats don’t quite do justice to the group’s talent. Though much of the album may be better suited as background music, Hive Mind is no exception to what fans have always loved about The Internet: their dynamic genre-bending and undeniable technical musical skill.
“Stay the Night” explains why people love Syd tha Kyd. The pure sensuality of Syd’s voice, which hooked fans
Sierra Burgess is a Loser ISABELLA LI, JE ’22
s a shameless rom-com connoisseur, I have been busy the past several months thanks to Netflix’s recent slew of new romantic comedies. The lineup, beginning with A Christmas Prince last December and reaching its zenith with The Kissing Booth, Ibiza, Set It Up, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before this summer, has left the rom-com community revitalized and hopeful. On its surface, Sierra Burgess is a Loser has all the promise of a movie we could love. The color palette is artfully desaturated and the cast is likeable, although the screenplay’s tendency towards forced humor occasionally impedes their performances. Most importantly, the movie has a moral: fairy tale romances are for everyone, even teenagers on the geeky side. In the tradition of classic rom-coms Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You—both modern adaptations of centuries-old literature—Sierra Burgess is a retelling of Edmund Rostand’s 19th-century play Cyrano de Bergerac. The movie follows Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser), a high school senior who falls into all the cinematic stereotypes of someone ‘uncool’: good at school, not size two, and in the marching band. But when Sierra receives a text from football player Jamie (Noah
Centineo) who mistakenly believes he is texting popular representation of those whose stories are rarely seen on cheerleader Veronica (Kristine Froseth), Sierra decides to screen—Sierra Burgess with a plus-sized lead and To All the take advantage of her mistaken identity rather than confess. Boys with an Asian-American lead. But whereas To All the Boys seamlessly integrates its social commentary into its story in a way that is both dimensioned and subtle, Sierra Rarely do catfishing stories have such happy endings. Burgess leans into it such that the movie parodies what it When it comes to rom-coms, I want giddy meet-cutes appears to address. and gooey dialogue—the gushier the story, the better. Unfortunately, the way Sierra Burgess handles its catfishing Even if we look past the movie’s troubling relationship with premise is a bit too creepy to stomach, particularly in an age consent, there remains a fundamental disparity between its where we as a society are beginning to recognize that the intended message and its actual message. Sierra Burgess experiences of #MeToo are not exclusive to women. For all boasts the breaking down of harmful stereotypes, but of Sierra’s twisted antics, she never truly has to reckon with reinforces them in spite of itself. Would it have been so the gravity of her deceptive behavior. This disappointing unrealistic for Sierra Burgess to find love without the need turn is most agonizing in the ending, which seems all too for manipulation and games in the first place? I’ve never been one to scorn a film with a good, old-fashioned love plot, but neat given the disturbing nature of the circumstances. its mushy cliches have to pay off—and Sierra Burgess is still In all fairness, Sierra Burgess is a Loser was always going in the red. to have a tough time following the utterly adorable and culturally significant juggernaut To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. This comparison is due, in particular, to the movies’ shared lead: teen phenom Noah Centineo. Both films are marketed as romantic comedies that support increased
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THE BLACK LIST PLASTIC SPOONS Paper balloons WHEN NO ONE’S DRESSED IN THEME BUT YOU Oh, so I didn’t have to buy this glow in the dark lightsaber from Party City for your “Come over to the Dark Side” themed 21st? WHEN PEOPLE INSULT YOU THROUGH YOUR ASTROLOGICAL SIGN “I finally understand how you’re a virgo! You’re so manipulative!” WHEN VIRGOS INSULT YOU ‘Tis the season NOT KNOWING WHERE NATHAN CHEN IS AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT Ditto for Timothée WHEN THE COTTAGE CHEESE GETS IN THE WHITE YOGURT IN DINING HALLS When you open your white yogurt in your mini fridge and it looks like cottage cheese THE “WORD” “BAEGEL” We get it, we saw your breakfast insta celebrating your 2 year anniversary. FRUIT FLIES Wait, fruit! Don’t leave!
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