Monday, September 28, 2015

Greetings 9.28.15


Hello again, dear readers! This week is one of the few this semester so far without any days off or conversion days, so maybe we'll finally settle into a normal routine.

First off, a few reminders. The English Majors' Open Mic is scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, during common hours in the Woody Tanger auditorium. We're hoping for our usual fantastic turnout of talented readers and kind watchers. In the meantime, our weekly Writers' Circle will be occurring on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 1:30 in Boylan 2307. Obviously the Writers' Circle will not meet on the day of the Open Mic, but that's not for awhile; every other Tuesday, we'll be there!

In the meantime, for any further information on our events and activities, there's almost always somebody in the office, so pop in whenever you want! Pick up a copy of the Junction and start scheming ways to get into next semester's edition - which, by the way, is open for submissions year round.

Until then, please enjoy this artistic portrait of my cat looking beautiful. He is grumpy, old, and fat, and his name is Malkovich.

Yes, he is named after John Malkovich. It's a long story.

-Maggie


News Briefs 9.28.15



The World is Not Separated into "Bad" and "Good" People, but Rather into"Vegans" and "Potential Vegans"

The News: The Woodstock Animal Sanctuary moved this September from its original 23-acre location in (guess where) Woodstock, NY to its new, 150-acre spot in High Falls, NY. It's retaining its name, though, because, well... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Part of the property
The Place: Is a blessed animal utopia for those animals (usually factory farm escapees or rejects who have been subject to cruelty and emotional suffering. 

Some eggcellent chickens (not sorry)

The Rest: The sanctuary, open only on weekends, offers tours held by one or both of its owners: Jenny Brown and Doug Abel (married). On the tour, one is simultaneously educated about the animal agriculture industry and thrown into the arms of several species of sweet animals. On my tour, I met and interacted with chickens, turkeys, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, cats, ducks, rabbits, and one (very special) llama. 

I call this...Attention Whore Llama with Selfie-Craving Millennial
I stared into the warm brown eyes of Fawn, the cow with two broken front legs, had apples slurped out of my hands by Frank the bull, and rubbed heads with Jenny the goat. 

Fawn <3
It was life-changing. That combination of documentary-esque lecture and face-to-face interaction really...stuck. The Woodstock Animal Sanctuary is run by two compassionate, no-nonsense enthusiastic people who really make a difference in the lives of animals who would have had tortured lives. 

So come visit (the sanctuary is open every year from April until October); it's only a 90 minute drive from the city! It's an unpretentious place with perspective and cute animals.

--Alex

* * *

NEWS 12

I'm not a person that watches the news very often but when I do, it's my local news 12 - the Bronx channel. Traffic, weather, and a couple of current events are all I need, mostly because I'm an internet person. I read a lot of articles and Facebook posts, and although I'm not trying to claim that those sources are any more accurate or any less manipulated, they are, however, more convenient. Recently news 12 reported that a supermarket in the Soundview section of the Bronx is closing its doors after sixty years of serving the community. What's coming in its place, you might ask? The rumor is, Best Buy

Here's why this is a big deal: Key Food, the supermarket I keep referring to, is the only supermarket in walking distance for a five-mile radius. It is smack dead in the middle of three separate housing projects, a slew of private homes, two Mitchell Lama Co-ops, and three public schools. There is no other supermarket this central to all of these things. It is safe to assume that some, if not a lot, of the people in this neighborhood live without cars. A five-mile walk in the Bronx is probably like no other Five-Mile walk in any other borough, with the exception of perhaps Staten Island. There are hills. Hills that come with their own folklore stories about people dying on the way up. Sometimes, there are three or four consecutive blocks without a single street lamp. Most people have long bus rides to the nearest train station. This particular section of the Bronx is Urban Suburbia. 

Key Food has a sign across its door that reads "Closing: They Won't Renew our Lease." I'm not sure who "they" is, the property owners or perhaps a "bigger they," but I'm sure this is the way Key Food is letting the community know that they don't want to leave, they're being forced out. Big Bad Gentrification. I'm not a person who believed gentrification to be a myth, I fully understood it and its effects on communities. I just thought it was something that happened "over there," in other neighborhoods.  I never thought it would be on my News 12 - the Bronx.

-Chante

* * *

                                                           A Practice in Assholicism 

His face reminds me of a meme
In what has become common practice in capitalist douchebaggery and necropolitics, a pharmaceutical CEO hiked the price of a drug used by AIDS patients and critically ill children by approximately 5500%. Martin Shkreli, a 32-year-old ex-hedge fund manager and CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, made the rounds on the business news circuit defending the price hike, saying the drug was grossly underpriced and his company has to turn a profit. The drug in question, Daraprim, faced a price hike to a steep $750 from its $13.50 original price tag, bringing the total cost of treatment from around $1000 to over hundreds of thousands of dollars. The drug, which treats malaria and a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis, costs a little over $1 to manufacture. 

Daraprim is just one of many examples of a broken and often corrupt pharmaceutical system. Perplexing is the lack of a generic or other viable alternatives to the drug to challenge this heinous increase. Shkreli’s argument for increasing the price of the drug is to motivate the creation of a better more efficient product. I call bullshit on this. It’s a drug that has been around for over sixty years, yet instead of its price decreasing over the years it is subjected to a price hike. The truth is there is no good alternative to the drug and there currently is no research being done to create a drug that treats toxoplasmosis. Unless you have Medicaid or some government mandated rebate for the drug, you and your insurance company will be responsible for covering the price, and we all know how willing insurance companies are to open their fat pockets and dish out a few dollars.

Another example of pharmaceutical douchebaggery is found in the drug to treat a more common illness, hepatitis C. The drug in question is called Harvoni, owned and distributed by Gilead. There are a myriad of drugs used to treat hepatitis C, but Harvoni is special in that it offers the option of getting cured of the disease in as little as 12 weeks of drug therapy. This was a breakthrough in the treatment of hep C, being seen as a new wonder drug. What’s problem here? How about its astronomical price tag for its complete drug therapy: approximately $95,000. Making this more egregious is the fact that Medicaid and private insurance companies are reluctant to cover the cost of the complete drug treatment. What’s the alternative here? How about a lifetime of drug therapy, or even a costly new liver? The alternatives to Harvoni cost over $100,000 and does not promise a new lease on health. 

What is keeping the price of Harvoni high, as well as other wonder drugs, is the good old spirit of pure capitalist greed. As long as there is a market for these drugs, and there will always be a market on good health, prices will be subject to gouging. Maybe it is the $125,000 worth of chemotherapy to treat the leukemia, osteosarcoma, and the complications that have arisen from such a sweet cocktail of death that has me a tad pissed off about this. The most frightening feeling is the feeling of helplessness. The worst thing to do is nothing. Let’s face it: what can you do? Do you stop taking your medication in protest of such ghastly price-hikes and leave it to your body to do the fighting? Of course not. What has worked in the past is good old fashion protest. Larry Kramer and the ACTUP campaign is legendary in this regard. We as a society need to lead by example and show the faces of the sick; show everyone what illness looks like; demonstrate what illness feels like; take to the streets and to the pharmaceutical headquarters and demand reform. Just how much bullshit, douchebaggery, and assholicism can we take as a society before we demand change?

-L

Currently Reading 9.28.15



Crazier Than The Prince of Denmark

A short while ago, a dear friend of mine, a director I cherish and admire, came to me with the proverbial unrefusable offer. (Unrefusable is now a fancy academic word, because I deemed it so. Get on with the using of it, will you?)

He asked me to play Hamlet. 

"Like, Ophelia?" I asked incredulously. "I'm too old to play Ophelia. My virginal gamine days have long since passed. Please don't tell me you think I'm old enough to play the queen. I am very much not old enough to play the queen. I am Titania. Beatrice. The odd wet nurse." I gestured to my less-than-ample bosom, which has nevertheless fed my children.

He quirked an imperial British brow, well acquainted with my histrionics and buffoonery. "No, Dovey, I want you to play Hamlet. As in the titular character." 

"Titular is right. I have a set of titulars, if you've not noticed." 

"I don't care about your titulars. You're going to do this. We're queering the role. The cast is color blind. You're doing this."

Written out, it sounds much more of a demand than unrefusable offer. However, like most good directors, he suffers from a near pathological need for control. Of course, I agreed. Terrified and barred up in a Globe-spangled aura of nerves, but I agreed. Any actor worth their salt would lick horse froth to play Hamlet in New York City. 

The first table read took place at his home. He lives in a large, ostentatious Victorian manse in the outskirts of Brooklyn. What it lacks in desirable locale, it more than makes up for in patrician comfort. The cast is set up around an overlarge table in the solar, because that is apparently a thing. Our fearless director is passing round carafes of wine and pots of tea, because that is also, apparently, a thing. I skip the wine and smile politely at the familiar faces, and smile more broadly at the unfamiliar ones. I am socially awkward, so this makes sense to me. Sitting to my left is the young actress who will play Ophelia--my Ophelia--she is dwarfed by me, and is graced with a visage so lacking in guile or hardness that it is instantly apparent why she was cast. The king and queen are to my right, and I've known both actors for years. This actually isn't the first time the actor playing the king has played my "father." He is as stout and strong as a Rottweiler, and just as German. Our director sits in an elevated chair behind where I sit at the head of the table. I can't decide whether he looks more like well-dressed gargoyle, or some reincarnation of Errol Flynn. Either way, his point is made. 

It is only after everyone is content with their libations that our lord master on high has us begin. My palms feel as though they've been dipped in sticky brine, and every word I utter is a constant reminder of my femininity. I remind my brain over and over again that it's ok, I'm supposed to be here. I was chosen. I am the Prince of Denmark.

As we wend our way though hundreds of lines of Shakespeare's pregnant text, the cadence becomes more natural. It starts to sound less stalled, less stunted, more Elizabethan. 

We fuddle through act one, loosening our tongues, perfecting the accent. We riddle out act two, find the rhythm, accept the unnatural echoes of the past through our instruments. We prepare for the third, and I find that the brine has thickened across the skin that grips my glass of water. Slippery hands meet the cool perspiration on the surface, and I cannot lift the relief to reach my parched palate. I swallow against the thickness in my throat and throw a glance at the director. As two comes to its final lines he calls for a ten minute break. 

Ten minutes is too long, I think to myself. I only need barely enough time to slake my thirst and come back to my own mind. I want this first read over. I want it done. But here I am, minutes away from musing about death and dreams, the most famous lines in the folio, and I can't spit words past paralyzed lips. 

And in a moment, Polonius is there, making me laugh with a story about how it was when we played Bassanio and Portia, or when I played Viola. Now, it wasn't Shakespeare queering my person, it was the director, and no ruse for convenience.

I decide that refusing the offered wine was no longer a good idea. After relaxing into half of a glass of Bordeaux, we are called to resume. 

I imagine my accent in my head before the first breath of the soliloquy erupts from my heart. I inhale deeply, and,

"To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd."

It was done. I'd read it. Mostly recited from memories of seeing some of the world's most respected actors quote the same lines over and over again. From times listening to fellow students make mince meat of the text in a vain attempt to impress an acting teacher, or boy, or girl. But this time it was me, it was my voice, my character making music or mincemeat of words written over 400 years ago. It was my spirit connecting to that long ago bard. 

It was rapture. 

Cat.

Culture Corner 9.28.15




I'm going to a wedding. Well actually, I wish I was just going to a wedding. If I were just going I'd be more excited. Weddings are fun. Weddings are great. Weddings are a time of great joy, except for those in the wedding. I tried to politely decline when I was asked to be a bridesmaid. I truly did. It's not that I don't love and care for my friend(s) getting married or that I have something against 'tradition' (a subject we'll return to later), it's just that weddings are work. Unfortunately, there is no polite way to say,  "I don't have time for this" but I tried:

1) "Oh you're getting married in October, I have midterms then."
I received blank stares. 

2) "You know,  I can't exactly fly to New Orleans in the middle of the semester,"
to which she responded "Oh, you'll be fine. It's Columbus Day Weekend."

3) "I'm actually choosing to observe the holi-"
I couldn't even get that one out. 

So to make a long story a little bit shorter, I'm going to be, or rather, I am a bridesmaid.  

This past weekend, the wedding party as well as the bride and groom's respective parents met to discuss the ins and outs of the big day. Everyone was very tired and from the look of most faces that night, not too happy either. My friend, the bride, began to tell us all about what exactly would take place at the ceremony. How long each thing should take, what time it would start, what time it would end. It was so fiercely scheduled, there wasn't a second unaccounted for. However, she forgot something. Or rather, her mother felt she forgot something. 

"When are you supposed to jump the broom," she said. 

I wanted to run for cover. I knew this wasn't going to end well for anybody and what makes matters worse is, I felt like I was the only one who knew this wasn't going to end well. Being surrounded by inquisitive, clueless, but curious faces while knowing exactly how something is going to end, is not comforting. It is number four in the top five of things-that-make-me-anxious. It falls right before Sending a Professor an Email and right after Not Hearing What a Person Said For the Fifth Time and Being Afraid to Say 'What' Again.


I know my friend very well which is probably why I was asked to be a bridesmaid and more than I know her, I know her views. It's weird to know someone else's 'views' so well, especially when you don't  always share them. It is the moment where it goes from friendly banter, to heavy debate. It's a ticking time bomb in all conversation. It is the trigger.

The bride's trigger is 'tradition' (the word I said that we'd come back to). I won't go on a tangent about how ironic this is because I've already gone on too many tangents.

The jumping of the broom is a Black wedding tradition that stems from American Slavery. It is actually a custom that seems to be on its way out so my friend, the bride, isn't alone in her disdain for this particular tradition. The act of jumping the broom was used solely for 'sham weddings', weddings that didn't count, if you will. There was no exchanging of vows before God, because as property and not people, enslaved Blacks had no rights to God (although they could and did serve him) or to law (although they were expected to adhere to it) which is what marriage is or what marriage was or what marriage was defined as or what marriage is defined as: a contract between two people, God and the law. In 2015, we're probably not buying that definition or we probably are, you know, whatever. Regardless, two hundred years ago, jumping a broom meant your marriage was not actually 'real' or I suppose 'respected' is the better word.

However, the act has taken on a new meaning, to some. The historical context of 'jumping the broom' has been somewhat forgotten although I wish I could find a better word. I don't think people who choose to participate in the custom have "forgotten" where it comes from. I think it may just be another act of reclaiming or even if not actively trying to reclaim the tradition, what if it is just something people enjoy doing or watching, would that be so bad? I don't know, man.  I don't know. 

My friend, the bride, dismissed her mother's question with an eye-roll and although my anxiety is grateful this didn't turn into a two-hour debate about 'tradition' and what should and should not be considered 'tradition', and how much of the past should be brought into the future, I felt her mother deserved more of an answer. However, I also felt my friend, the bride, had every right to dismiss this question, if only for the fact that this is her wedding. 

I don't know.

-Chante

Poem of the Week, 9/28/15




LULL                                                        by Jorie Graham

At the forest’s edge, a fox                                 came out.                                 It looked atus. Nobody coming up the hill hungry looking                                 to take                                 food. The fox-                                 eyetrained. Nobody coming up the                                 hill in the broad                                 daylight with an                                 axe forwood, for water, for the store in the                                 pantry. I stock                                 the pantry. Iwatch for rain. For too much                                 rain, too                                 fast, too                                 little, toolong. When dryness begins I hear the woods                                 click. Unusual.                                 I hear the arid. Un-                                 usual. My father                                 is dying ofage, good, that is usual. My valley is,                                 my touch, my sense, my law, my                                 soil, my sensation of                                 my firstperson. Now everything is clear. Facts lick their tongue deep                                 into my ear.Visiting hour is up. We are curled                                 on the hook we placed in our brain and down                                 our throat into our                                 hearts our inner                                 organs we                                 have eatenthe long fishing line of the so-called journey and taken its                                 fine piercing into                                 our necks backs hands it comes out ourmouths it re-enters our ears and in it goes                                 again deep the dream                                 of ownershipwe count up everyone to make sure we are all here                                 in it                                 together, the only                                 share-holders, the applause lines make the                                 tightening line                                 gleam—the bottom line—how much                                 did you think you                                 could own—the first treewe believed was a hook we got it                                 wrong—the fox is still                                 standing there it                                 is staring it isnot scared—there is nothing behind it, beyond it—no value—                                 the story of Eden:                                 revision: we are nowbreaking into the Garden. It was, for the                                 interglacial lull,                                 protected                                 from                                 us now we                                 have broken                                 in—have emptied allthe limbs the streaming fabric of                                 light milliseconds leaves the now inaudible                                 birds whales bees—havein these days made arrangements to get                                 compensation—from what                                 we know not but the court says                                 we are to be                                 compensatedfor our way of life being                                 taken from us—fox says                                 what a rough garment                                 your brain isyou wear it all over you, fox says                                 language is a hook you                                 got caught,try pulling somewhere on the strings but no                                 they are all through you,                                 had you only lookeddown, fox says, look down to the                                 road and keep your listening                                 up, fox will you notmove on my heart thinks checking the larder the                                 locks foxsays your greed is not                                 precise enough. 

Jorie Graham is a poet who raised herself from the intersection between philosophy and poetry. When she read her poetry aloud about half a year ago at the River Terrace poetry center, the continuous flow of her words gave the impression that her work had to do with singular episodes of eternity in time, as moments in which she was almost possessed-- like an oracle, more specifically the oracle of Delphi, which I gathered was a central influence to her work.
Once the critic Calvin Bedient said: she is "never less than in dialogue with everything. She is world champion at shot-putting the great questions. It hardly matters what the title is: the subject itself is always 'the outermost question being asked me by the World today.' What counts is the hope in questioning itself, not the answers."
So much of her poetry is peripheral, and tells a story as it winds down the road of a particular thought until she finds it. It is as though she is working towards a thought instead of having a pre-determined idea to synthetically achieve. Her poetic voice often searches through stanza after stanza and then when she does find it, it seems that what she finds is a message that stands out in gleaming epiphany, but only for a moment before descending again. Another one of the things I enjoy about her poetry is her relevance to modernity, but not through her ironic, constant references to classics and philosophy alone. Through her use of multiple stimuli in each poem and the quickness of her movements from one subject to the other, when they are seemingly unrelated, she paints an image of our era of distractions and sensationalism. She finds a language with which to speak to those of us-- (most of us)-- who, as a result of our culture, cannot focus on a single thing for very long, and in my opinion she uses this as an advantage which can propel the reader through her fast-paced discourse. She has ways to make you concentrate-- and they involve the need to read her poems more than once. Once you begin a poem, you're hooked-- her lines are often short and her less recent work involves odd punctuation, but it does not serve as interruption. 
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/02/17/fast-5
Sometimes she meanders around a word, but does not say it. Such as when in the line "comes fast--mediate-- immediate--invent, inspire..." I am tempted to think of the word meditate, but of course she does not say it, because the craft with which she works is indirectness, which is sometimes the best way to say something, because the body of work poses the question "who are you" and it does not have to be answered by Graham if she says the words to give the reader the sense that the words are coming not from elsewhere, and not from her, but from themselves-- and besides perhaps the words are divinely inspired, perhaps like the oracle, she does not take ownership. 
I wonder if one would be able to arrive at that moment of epiphany, unless they were in tune with modern consciousness enough to match the sensibility of her poems, enough that the two combined could carry you through the poem in a single current. These moments of epiphany are disjointed, untouched, and stand out in a higher light than the rest of her lines, although wholly dependent on them to be heard. Her poems remind me that you cannot simply have the bright moments of clarity stand alone and omit the journey to them; I wonder if, isolated, they would have the same effect on a reader as opposed to being read in context. (I highly doubt it.) Of course, the same poem will have different meanings to some people as compared to others-- but I wonder if the gravity of the emotional impact on one reader can be equivalent to another's. All I know is that I first approached Jorie Graham's work with the same standard skepticism anyone else would have in our society, and still always leave her poems being ridiculously impressed-- which is why I believe in the way she breaks down the wall of modernity by channeling a language we can relate to and understand.
P.S.-- Almost six months after hearing her read her poems I remember her narration, and the tone of voice and clarity of certain lines of her poems. In "Fast," the words are "you will not be understood."
In another one of her poems called "Two Paintings by Gustav Klimt," I remember: "why be afraid?"

Currently Watching 9.28.15


I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Apparently it's forever going to be my shtick to answer each "currently" post with "nothing." But the truth of the matter is I have no idea why I was compelled to ask for Currently Watching when I knew how hard it would be for me to write. I'm happiest when I'm busy, and so I usually keep my schedule packed to the point of combustion, everything planned out so that I don't stop moving until I fall asleep at night (not kidding; I've had five minutes that were unscheduled today. I'm crazy, I know). But the problem with living like that is that I schedule when to indulge in movie-watching or something of the sort, but sometimes that falls to the edge of my priorities. This past weekend I was supposed to watch a movie with Kyle and I was going to write all about that and make it cool and super interesting. I swear I was. But then I got a bit too busy and forgot about the film.

And so: with a broken laptop and short on time, I decided to opt for an honest post to you guys. What have I been watching? To answer in the pseudo-mysterious way I approach things when I'm feeling silly: nothing. But that's a lie, because we're always watching things. What have I been watching? I've been watching museums.


This occurred to me a while back, that walking through a museum is comparable to a virtual reality experience that is actual reality. Hear me out. When you watch a movie, you interact with it only insofar as your eyes interact. You're emotionally touched through the visual - and, admittedly, audial - aspects. You cannot pick it up and play with it; it's a passive source of entertainment consumption. Similarly, museums are rife with signs telling you exactly what's implied in movies: do not touch. You wade through the hallways and you are engaged with the material through visual (and sometimes audial stimuli).


I love me a good museum, and have recently been in and out of so many that I've joked I could easily build a stylistically appealing one. And the reason I'm so certain of this is for the following reason: a good museum is, first and foremost, well-structured. Within it is the beautiful illusion that the viewer is in control; one feels like one is choosing to follow this path or that, but really the halls make a labyrinth leading to one core place. The role of a museum's hall is to take you on a guided journey through the exhibitions. Similarly, a good movie is a well-structured movie. When falling into the realm of the film, you feel that reality can go any which way. The girl running from a monster might run up the stairs, but she may also go out the back door into the dark woods behind. But really, this all has dramatic purpose. She has to run into the basement so that she can discover the bodies of her now-dead friends. It all has purpose. You're being led - like in a museum!

Am I way off-base? Probably. Talk to me about it. Let's make this baby idea a real thing!

-Courtney

Currently Eating 9.28.15


My Romantic Fantasies are so Intrusive that they have Taken Over My Breakfast


Not THOSE kind of romantic fantasies, people. Really, it's too early for that. 

No, it's time to talk about my current favorite breakfast.
Artistic placement of laptop in Romantic map case

This'll be a pretty short post because, realistically, how long can I wax poetic about a chocolate croissant? (And let's not test the limits of that.)

So, for the kids in the back who weren't paying attention, this is a chocolate croissant. -->

With tea, of course. (Barnes and Noble's Holiday Tea. Alright, alright. Nerd alert.)

Let me fill you in on this croissant:
          -2 Fancy Menu Description: Toothsome chocolate folded into a buttery pastry with essence                of flake covered in a harvested light glaze cocoon. 
          -BuzzFeed Post Description: 27 Reasons this Croissant is Officially #Queen After 15 Seconds            in the Microwave 
          -College Student Blog: $2.

If my attempts at making you laugh (or even mouth-twitch) have failed, the address to this bakery is sure to put a smile on your face!
Cafe Riviera, 830 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222 --> Greenpoint, your home away from home!

Semper ubi sub ubi,
Alex

P.S. To those noticing the non-veganness of this article (compared to my News Brief piece)...shhhh...


Currently Listening 9/28/15

~lots of music coming your way!~

Because I have a big family, my home is always noisy. Rarely am I ever home alone or left with silence to write in peace, so instead of attempting to write a novel to the soundtrack of seven other people, I listen to music. Normally, I opt for music without lyrics or music in a foreign language so I don’t get distracted and type words from the song.
But when I’m writing about love...I need words.
I don’t know what my problem is, but I have issues rendering love in my writing. Maybe I’m just not the most romantic of writers, or I've just been in a harmonious relationship for too long to get in contact with the lovestruck, lovesick version of myself from five years ago. 
The love I’ve been writing so far in this book is mostly subtle, blooming from the smiles and dreams of my characters, not yet known to their hearts. And although they are necessary and relevant, these budding (or crumbling) relationships are not the main focus of my plot. It's easy for me to get bored with that and skip to the things I enjoy writing the most - intricate, tangled, puzzling fantasy.
Teach me how to feel love again, Kelela.
Teach me.

One of my favorite artists to listen to when I am writing romance is Kelela. Her song Bank Head could literally play on repeat for an hour and I wouldn't get bored. In fact, it has played on repeat for OVER an hour and I was still jamming. Not only can I write and sing along to this song at the same time without mistyping a thing, the lyrics convey what I want to convey in my writing.
The only way to describe all of this is magic. Of course it's magic.
Kelela's a witch, and I'm here for it.

Anyway, Max Marshall's "Yesterday" is another song I write romance to. This one started my habit of assigning theme songs for characters and the relationships between characters. 
I've always drawn inspiration from the feelings that visual art and music evoke in me. I want conversations to read the way a certain painting looks, or I want a character's persona to resemble the sentiment of a certain song. So when I realized just how aptly "Yesterday" painted a picture I aimed to paint, I thought "I need to make a playlist!", and so I did.
Different from my love songs, I listen to this playlist whenever I need some help before writing with characters I really don't like (see: hate) or characters that I simply don't relate to that much. These songs keep me grounded, making me able to pace myself and flesh characters out even when I don't want to.
And out of all of these songs, from the relationship themes to the character themes, there's one song in the playlist that is much more effective with the video:
*screams internally*
I don't know what it is, but after I watch this video I can turn on my inner empathetic mess. I can finally let myself get possessed by some tragic girlfriend who just checked into the heartbreak hotel. Somehow I'm reacquainted with the fresh hell that is new, unrequited love and I can write my characters into that torture like a champ. This stuff turns my pen into a bleeding rose...or something...look, I'm typing. You get the idea.

And then when that sap is over with, it's back to my regularly scheduled programming of music that just lets me tune out my family and focus on the fantasy.

- Renee


Illuminations 9/28


It’s weird when song lyrics really get to you. On one hand you want tell everyone about the beautiful gem you found, but on the other you don’t want to sound like the kid who says, “oh my god! ‘Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars?’ Did you hear that? Hayley Williams and B.o.B. totally get me. I really could use a wish right now too,” every chance they can. We get it. You posted those lyrics as your Facebook status yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. I’m pretty sure they were your AIM status for the past month. (I’m sorry, 2010.)


Personally I don’t force lyrics down people’s throats. Instead, I passive-aggressively play the song on repeat and sing along to the one part of the song I want people to hear, which is arguably more annoying but don’t think about that too much. Most of the time I don’t think they catch on to what I’m trying to do anyway.


Recently I’ve been really caught up on the album “As It Were” by Marietta, particularly the song “Are You Afraid Of God? No, But I’m Afraid of You,” and even more particularly the ending gang vocal section where they’re screaming, 
“am I imaginary, or is my voice not loud enough?”


Marietta - Are You Afraid of God? No, But I'm Afraid of You
I don’t know if it’s the isolation of the vocals, or if it’s the desperateness in all the voices, or if it’s the magnitude of emotion jammed into that moment, but they really get to me every time I hear them. They start off obfuscated by the preceding vocals and explode into a cry as if they had just surpassed the threshold  of the container holding them in. Like letting out tears, the sonic direction of those lyrics create a visceral experience out of an arguably simple phrase.


That’s the interesting thing about music. Nothing of what I said, had anything to do with the words themselves. (Albeit, I do have a personal response to those words, but then I’d be going into a rant about who I am and no one wants that.) There’s so much that can be drawn out of a couple of seconds in a song without even touching a word. I’m pretty sure a lot of us are accustomed to picking through poetry, and I’d say music is no different. 

What is music anyway? Or I guess the better question would be, considering music can encompass instrumental composition, which is a different ball game, what are songs? Some would say poetry with musical accompaniment. Consider this song:


Old Gray - Show Me How You Self Destruct

It’s basically spoken word over a sparse guitar riff and moving violin line. Because the instrumentation is very simple, it’s easy to pick up the big change that happens in the song that really defines the piece. The first half of the song is relatively bright, with its major key and play on harmonics (those are the bell sounds the guitar makes), but then a change happens at around the <0:27> mark where the key becomes minor and the guitar stops playing harmonics for the most part. That change elicits a negative response from the listener and adds to the experience of the song. Looking into the lyrics and a description by the vocalist, the song is about “chasing something you can never get again,” in his case, opiates, “ and continuing to do so against your will.” The music adds to this by placing two very similar instrumental sections with different emotions attached to them. I want. I shouldn’t. I want against my will. There’s a dissonance between those phrases that the music inhabits.


I said I wouldn’t go into the technical parts of music, but I did lightly. I’m sorry. For something simpler, I’d consider this song:


Watermedown - Exposure

What’s really nice about this song is that what it does is very simple. Looking at the second verse, at around the <0:19> mark, screaming vocals are layered under the main, clean vocal track. The screaming track is so subtle that, without thinking about it, you could miss it, but the addition of it adds to how those lines should feel. A better example would be the line at the <1:29> mark,


“I’ve never wanted any more than for someone to understand me.”


The vocals in that part juxtapose each other in a great way. The clean vocal track slowly becomes defeated as it goes down that line, and at its lowest point the screaming track bursts in with a passion that felt lost in the clean track. The juxtaposition between the two vocal tracks create a dilemma for the listener, asking them how they feel about the lines and possibly how they feel about themselves. Are they hopeful? Or have they given up? If you try singing along, see where you fit in.

-Christian

I'm sorry all of these songs are pretty big bummers. Here's a song to chill out to:


Clara C - Quesadilla