Monday, March 31, 2014

Greetings and salutations!

Midterms may be over for you, or they may not (they aren't over for me unfortunately.) But, of course, you are all looking forward to Spring Break in two weeks. The weather is gradually getting warmer so, of course, we CUNY students will have the better Spring Break than other college students will. And we will make sure that we will rub that in their faces.

One: Thursday, April 3, is the Poets V. Singers Slam Poetry Show at 7 pm. It is at the Jefferson Williams Room in SUBO. Come one, come all!

Two: Submissions to the Junction are now closed. could submit to the Ploughshares Writing Contest, which accepts fiction, nonfiction, and poetry submissions until May 15th. Check out for more details.

That's all for now.
                               - Jacqueline Retalis

News Briefs 3/31/2014

Equity Charter Schools: “The Olympics of Teaching”

There is a charter school right here in New York City that pays its teachers $125k a year. $150k if you land a performance bonus. This place is called The Equity Project Charter School.

The middle school opened four years ago with the radical notion that good teachers bestow incredible value upon society, and should be compensated for it accordingly. The Equity Project is a publicly funded but privately run charter school in Washington Heights that primarily serves low-income students. Their philosophy is based on “the three R’s: Rigorous Qualifications, Redefined Expectations, & Revolutionary Compensation.”

Zeke Vanderhoek, the principal of TEP claims, “We at TEP want to serve as a model of how to attract, retain, and treat teachers... The money is a signifier. Because money, in our culture, is a signifier of how jobs are valued, and right now schools are telling teachers that they are not valued."

Of course, as far as teacher retention goes, the numbers are not great. More than 25% of teachers are not invited back at the end of the school year. Teachers reported putting in as many as ninety hours per week teaching, planning lessons, tutoring students after school, and taking up work outside the classroom normally done by full time staff. For many, this job is simply too demanding for anyone who expects to have a family or life outside of their work. This is strategic. Vanderhoek wants only those who are 100% passionate and committed to teaching, and is willing to pay more to incentivize that level of commitment. Job performance is measured not by standardized test scores, but by Vanderhoeks’s own rigorous standards. Classes are recorded and monitored to analyze the teacher’s ability to engage, motivate, and assist all students–– particularly those with behavioral problems, or whose grades are lagging behind their peers.

Teachers are not allowed to unionize, and no one at TEP will ever be granted tenure. The six-figure salary is more than enough to live on, but no one operates under the assumption that they are set for life.

Whether or not this free-market experiment will work remains to be seen. At the moment, TEP’s test scores are not above average, and are even outperformed by numerous public schools in the surrounding area. Of course, many students entering TEP are far behind their peers due to years of substandard education, family hardship, or their status as immigrants with limited understanding of English. If they ultimately bridge the socio-economic barriers they have grown up with, by receiving a quality education from teachers who are invested in their success, then the school has fulfilled its mission. The real test of this school’s efficacy probably won’t be available for another four years, when its first batch of graduates finish high school.

-Maegan Ciolino


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Teen's Science Project Could Save Brooklyn College Thousands of Dollars

If you could adopt an eighth grader's science project that would save our school $21,000, would you do it? Even if it meant letting go of our precious, beloved font, Times New Roman? That was exactly the case fourteen-year old Suvir Mirchandani argued for his Middle school in Dorseyville, Pittsburg and for state and federal governments. The young scientist conducted an experiment that used five different documents from the Government Printing Office, suggesting that a switch from the standard font Times New Roman and Century Gothic—which is used on all government documents, to Garamond would save thousands of dollars worth of ink for both learning institutions and government offices.

Fundamentally, I do not particularly care for saving the government money; I’m more interested in how this could benefit our learning institution. I would imagine that it would begin with our Professors: they would have to approve our using of a different font, (especially for the advance writing courses where textbooks are replaced with student essays for workshopping.) If so, then our school could potentially have an extra $21,000 in their supply budget, annually. (This was Mirchandani’s estimate for his school, and I have adopted it theoretically for Brooklyn College.)

Think of what we can use that money towards. Maybe fixing the forever broken sink in the ladies bathroom on the third floor in Boylan Hall, for starters. What about electric hand dryers that reduce our immense waste of paper tissue? Then move on to bigger things, like expanding our library—particularly our quiet study room, it could be bigger with more outlets for people to use their laptops. Or perhaps something more aesthetic, like adding another pond. You decide.

Mirchandani’s project for his school’s science fair was based on environmental sustainability. How it actually worked was that the font Garamond ended up being more space-efficient and slightly lighter in coloration, thus it required less ink for printing. His findings led him to look at the most used letters of the alphabet: e, t, a, o, and r. Then, he experimented with fonts that required less ink when printing these frequently used letters: Times New Roman, Century Gothic, Comic Sans and Garamond. The font that used less ink… Garamond.

A teacher at Mirchandani’s school suggested that he submit his project to the Journal of Emerging Investigators, which publishes the work of students between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. The founder of the journal told Forbes magazine that she could see this experiment in actual application, she says, “We were so impressed.”

Each year, millions of empty ink and toner cartridges are thrown into the garbage and end up in landfills. The truth is that ink cartridges are recyclable, but many households and institutions that use a lot of ink do not take the extra steps to recycle them. You either have to return your used cartridge to the retail store where it was purchased, or seal them in a plastic bag and ship it to a recycling company that will give you a small amount of money to re-use them.

Mirchandani project has gotten to the source of limiting our use of ink. Again, would you adapt this experiment? The font you are reading now is Garamond. Is it that different from our usual Times New Roman? I think only slightly. I am ready for a change. 

~Ninoska Granados

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NYC Department of Education Turns its Attention on Student Suicides

I want to preface my news brief this week by thanking Izzy for sending me this article and bringing this to my attention.

According to the Department of Education Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, “ten of New York City’s public school students have committed suicide in less than two months.”

The article doesn’t reveal the source of these suicides; in fact, Fariña hints toward not knowing why these students committed suicide.

As a prospective educator, I’d be irresponsible and unfair in assuming that the students’ respective high schools may have been the inspiration behind their suicides. But given the violent nature of the social hierarchy in high school and the crippling pressure of grades, standardized tests, and college applications, it’s a reasonable assumption.

Because adolescents are confined to a realm of mental insecurity, self-consciousness, and absent identity, high school is probably the last place a mentally battered teenager would want to roam for four years. It is a vortex unrelenting to students’ need for introspection and individuality. It forces students not only to compare themselves to their classmates in terms of physical attraction, academic success, and social glory, but also to earn scores that will secure their futures.

So, I wouldn’t be surprised if the pressure of high school, either alone or coupled with a tempestuous home life, comprised the source of these teen suicides.

I can’t imagine feeling like your life has reached a dead end at the age of sixteen. Fear paralyzes me when I learn of another teen suicide, because I can’t help but wonder what could have happened in this person’s life that made him/her feel like s/he couldn’t make a U-Turn out of the dead end. If life really is a prison sentence, or an existential struggle to which we’re sentenced for a finite period of time, why not be like McMurphy from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and make the best of it while you’re here? At the risk of spewing a cliché, when you’ve hit rock bottom there’s nowhere to go but up. I just don’t believe that anything bad lasts forever, just like everything good can’t last forever—not to suggest that depression and the desire to commit suicide result only from a state of great sadness. I know that it’s infinitely more complicated than that; but it’s even more frustrating to know that I can never fully grasp this feeling, and can never relate to or help someone who has plummeted to this point in his/her life.

Nevertheless, I am happy that this has become an issue that the DOE is determined to oversee and fix. Fariña has requested that teachers “look for children that might have problems, and find ways to connect with them and offer engagement.”

While the battle for a child’s success begins at home, it continues in the classroom. Teachers shouldn’t have to be ordered to care about and pay attention to students. It should be an instinctive impulse. A teacher can only teach and influence the lives of her/his students by caring about them and connecting with them on a personal (albeit professional) level.

High schools may not have been the cause behind any or all of these suicides, but they certainly can be a part of the solution. Teachers and students: pay attention. You never know who’s silently calling your name for help.

-Alex Hajjar

News source:

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Mudslide in Washington Pulls the Ground Out from Under: Heroes Rise to The Challenge

Saturday, March 22nd a mudslide hit a town in rural Washington, covering State Route 530 near the town of Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle. It was reported to be at least 135 feet wide and 180 feet deep, and hit just before 11AM.

Let me put that in perspective for you- that’s all the ground a width 65 feet short of an acre, and more than half a football field deep caving in all before brunch on a Saturday morning.

The numbers of deaths and missing persons are still fluctuating, while it seems at least half the town has come together in searching for loved ones and anyone still buried beneath the rubble. There’s little hope for finding anyone alive, but “[the town] just want to have their loved ones, to bury their loved ones,” says a Darrington local, Leslie Zylstra.

She is also quoted saying that just about everybody in town knows someone who died, and they are coming to grips with the idea that many of those yet unfound would remain buried in the debris.

As the town tries, literally, to get back on their feet, many of them are out every day, up to their waists in mud, searching for mudslide victims. In addition to the steady rain complicating the search, townspeople and National Guard units are working in a mix of mud and toxic chemicals.

One man, Dayn Brunner, while risking his own life by joining in the dangerous search, found his sister's remains in a blue car disguised by the wet ground. Summer Raffo, Brunner’s sister, was known to have been driving through the area when the slide struck. It took him and his son an hour to dig her out, covered from the neck down in mud, and still one of the most pristine people to be found. She’s not the only bittersweet bright thing in this broken mess of rubble, the heroism of those risking their own lives to bring comfort to those in their town is inspiring.

-Rebecca Najjar

News sources:
CBS News
Yahoo! News

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The Truth About Peter Pan

The Baaden-Meinhof Phenomenon describes that experience of hearing about something once, and then noticing it everywhere. It’s an uncanny feeling that something is following you, and it’s even worse when that thing annoys the crap out of you. I’ve been Baaden-Meinhof’d pretty bad for a while now with theories about Peter Pan, a book I love dearly, and the worst thing about it is they’re all wrong. So I’ve taken my copy of J.M. Barrie’s classic story off my shelf and I’m ready to school the Internet.

Theory Number One:

Grammatically incorrect and wrong. This depressing little idea must have come from poor reading comprehension and the part of the novel when Mrs. Darling is looking into her children’s minds after they had fallen asleep, as mothers do. She comes across the word Peter in there, in big bold letters, and she ponders over this figure who has taken hold of her children’s imagination. She recalls stories she might have heard of Peter Pan when she was a girl, the “odd stories about him; as that when children died he went part of the way with them, so that they should not be frightened.” It was a rumor, the kind that grows around any enchanting figure, making them even more than larger than life.

And what’s more, that’s not how the Lost Boys get to Neverland. Peter tells Wendy clearly that the Lost Boys are the ones who fell out of their baby carriages when their nurses weren’t looking (girls are too clever to fall out of their prams). Which is another issue: if Neverland is Heaven, and those children are dead, why are there only boys? And why are they only six? Doesn’t anybody think before posting on the Internet? And another thing: those boys clearly aren’t dead, and neither are Wendy, John, and Michael for that matter. They all leave Neverland at the end of the story, and I don’t think J.M. Barrie was bringing up zombies in 1911. Which, incidentally, debunks the next theory,

Theory Number Two:

This theory manages to use textual evidence completely out of context. There’s a line regarding the Lost Boys that goes: “The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they appear to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out.” I can see where people get tripped up; the phrase “thin out” could be taken badly. But doesn’t it make more sense that he simply sends the Lost Boys home when they cease to be lost, as it’s what actually happens in the end? This theory might be a matter of opinion, but I think it riles me more because people use it to support the next theory,

Theory Number Three:

No. I know that literature is supposed to be subjective, but some interpretations are wrong and this one certainly is. Peter is not the devil, and he isn’t evil; he’s the epitome of childhood, and if you didn’t get that I can’t imagine that you understood the book at all. Peter is all the charming sweetness and all the naughtiness of children, eternally unspoiled because he never grows up. He is selfish, and capricious, and mischievous, and even sometimes a little mean. He’s also endearing, brave, adventurous, and innocent. How could he corrupt others when he is incorruptible himself? At one point during a fight with Captain Hook, Peter is stunned by a blow in bad form. For any other child, this would be a step towards adulthood; Barrie writes:

Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. All he thinks he has a right to when he comes to you to be yours is fairness. After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except Peter. He often met it, but he always forgot it. I suppose that was the real difference between him and all the rest.

Peter will never grow up to be bitter or to hate. He will remain always carefree. And if this isn’t enough to prove his innocence, I’ll give you the line that broke my heart, from just before Wendy and the Lost Boys leave Peter forever: “The lateness of the hour was almost the biggest thing of all. She got them to bed in the pirates’ bunks pretty quickly, you may be sure; all but Peter, who strutted up and down on deck, until at last he fell asleep by the side of the Long Tom. He had one of his dreams that night, and cried in his sleep for a long time, and Wendy held him tight.”

So if perhaps you’ve come across these theories and got the wrong impression of dear Peter Pan, then I implore you to read the book and figure it out for yourself. If you have indeed read the book and come away with these conclusions, then read it again, you silly ass, and read it with a child’s innocence. 
-Elizabeth Coluccio

Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros

They say I’m a beast.

And feast on it. When all along

I thought that’s what a woman was.

They say I’m a bitch.

Or witch. I’ve claimed

the same and never winced.

They say I’m a macha, hell on wheels,

viva-la-vulva, fire and brimstone,

man-hating, devastating,

boogey-woman lesbian.

Not necessarily,

but I like the compliment.

The mob arrives with stones and sticks

to maim and lame and do me in.

All the same, when I open my mouth,

they wobble like gin.

Diamonds and pearls

tumble from my tongue.

Or toads and serpents.

Depending on the mood I’m in.

I like the itch I provoke.

The rustle of rumor

like crinoline.

I am the woman of myth and bullshit.

(True. I authored some of it.)

I built my little house of ill repute.

Brick by brick. Labored,

loved and masoned it.

I live like so.

Heart as sail, ballast, rudder, bow.

Rowdy. Indulgent to excess.

My sin and success–

I think of me to gluttony.

By all accounts I am

a danger to society.

I’m Pancha Villa.

I break laws,

upset the natural order,

anguish the Pope and make fathers cry.

I am beyond the jaw of law.

I’m la desperada, most-wanted public enemy.

My happy picture grinning from the wall.

I strike terror among the men.

I can’t be bothered what they think.

¡Que se vayan a la ching chang chong!

For this, the cross, the calvary.

In other words, I’m anarchy.

I’m an aim-well,









loose woman.

Beware, honey.

I’m Bitch. Beast. Macha.


Ping! Ping! Ping!

I break things.

What I like about this poem is that it challenges common notions of femininity and female sexuality in both Mexican and American society. Since women are expected to be submissive to men, the speaker of the poem is labeled as a “beast”, a “bitch”, and a “macha.” Most of all, she is seen as both anti-man and anti-society. She aims, shoots, and fires, hoping to break the patriarchal barriers that are strongly held in this society. I say we should join her, right guys?

Hungry for Change

Although not everyone's idea of an action-packed Saturday night, I stumbled upon a great food documentary on Netflix and figured I'd give it a try. Gladly, it's something I benefitted from. The documentary exposes some shocking information on how food industries trick consumers into coming back for more.

The documentary's main concept explores the idea of today’s food industry. Rather than nourish our bodies with food, it seems that actually we aren’t eating "food" anymore, but instead, “food-like products.” The foods today are made to look and smell better so that people are attracted to them. To make them cost efficient, these "foods" are also given a long shelf life.

Despite people being overfed, they are ironically starving to death because our foods are high in calories but low in nutrients. Health experts and nutritionists call sugar the "cocaine of the food world," but the food industries get away with it. Our biological makeup as a species, starting from the hunter-gatherer days hundreds of years ago, is on a search for calories for survival. When we taste something sweet or fatty, we think "yes, this is what I need to keep eating to survive." But now, we live in an age of abundance and no longer need to pack on calories at any opportunity we get. We can be eating 10,000 calories a day, but starving ourselves nutritionally. Man-made foods trick our bodies into thinking we’re getting nutrients but since we actually aren't getting any, we are essentially starving and consequently, continue eating.

People can understand the addiction to cigarettes and to alcohol, but not the addiction to sugar. The documentary also compares addictive foods to smoking. The “nicotine trap” is a concept where people smoke because they like to, despite every smoker wishing they could quit. The need for a cigarette is only caused by the last one. In the same vicious cycle, certain foods are addictive. The food companies know what appeals to the average consumer. They put in addictive components in the food so that people come back for more.

Every day a new diet comes out that forces you to lose weight fast. But a REAL diet would consist of adding non man-made foods. Our bodies do not know how to digest man-made foods. The best strategy would be to ADD in the good stuff and eventually that will override the bad food. Inevitably, you’ll feel so good about eating the good stuff that the bad stuff will seem invalid.

Here are some interesting statistics that this documentary included:

“One third of all women and one quarter of all men in the US are on a diet.”
-Colorado University

“More than $60 billion is spent each year on diet and weight loss products in the US.” -
-Marketdata Report

“Up to two-thirds of those on a diet regain more weight then when they started.”
-University of California

“The average American consumes more than 150 pounds of sugar and sweeteners each year.”
-US Department of Agriculture

“Msg and free glutamates are used to enhance flavor in about 80% of all processed foods.”
- Raymond Francis M, Sc. MIT

Documentary Trailer
-Chana Trappler

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Frayed for The Fray

I am rarely of the “fangirl” type when it comes to songs or movies made past 2002. Mention Ferngully: The Last Rainforest or “Nobody’s Angel” and I’ll immediately start ranting about how unfairly underrated they are. In contrast, I couldn’t give a cat’s claw for Inception or The Wolf of Wall Street (except for Leo, who will always be my Jack—which still holds true to my bias since Titanic came out in 1997!). In my short and humble existence, I have found one exception. The Fray.

What started out as a bunch of guys performing for their local Denver church quickly led to mainstream attention. Their debut album titled, How to Save a Life featured a top 40 hit of the same name as well as “Over My Head.” Fast-forward to today, the band is working on their newest album titled, Helios.

So what makes The Fray so special? Why has my 98° and O-Town-loving little girl made some room in her obdurate (GRE word!) heart for a new boy band? I can’t pinpoint a specific reason. I think it’s the perfect combination of lead singer Isaac Slade’s falsetto and the emotion he evokes when singing. Pair this with frequent appearances as background music for dramatic/sad scenes in my constant viewing of The Vampire Diaries and I can’t help but choke up.

Below are some clips of their singing. The first is the official clip for one of their more popular singles “Never Say Never.” The second, “Be Still” is taken from The Vampire Diaries. SPOILER: It’s of a main character dying. I recall the first time watching it with my sister. We both looked at each other in anguish with foggy eyes. In fact, anytime a beloved character from a show, movie, or book, dies, I sing (internally, of course) the somber lyrics in their memory. The third song, “Ungodly Hour” is another less popular song. As the title suggest, it speaks about painful moments in a relationship. Gosh, I feel my eyes getting wet already. 

Never Say Never

Be Still

Ungodly Hour

A vine that perfect depicts what it's like listening to The Fray.

Until next week,
(a tearful) NH


In August of 2013, I attended a massive West Indian Parade in Toronto, Canada. Similar to the West Indian Parade that we have here in Brooklyn during Labor Day, Caribana is a celebration of Caribbean culture. Participants of the parade spend a year and thousands of dollars making their costumes. Wearing these hand-made, flamboyant, and often scantily clad costumes during the parade is called “Playing Mass," or "Carnival Mass."

There were about twenty-four trucks carrying bands. Each band played different music. Some played Calypso, and others played Soca. A couple of trucks carried live steel drum bands.

The best part about any celebration is the food! At Caribana, vendors set up tents alongside the parade route. Each tent sells authentic island food.

(Devouring roti with potato and chana)

The difference between Caribana and the West Indian Parade in Brooklyn had to be the variety of ethnicities. Although a large percentage of participants and onlookers seemed to be of Afro-Caribbean descent, I noticed that there were a higher number of Caucasians that attended this parade, as opposed to the one in Brooklyn. I met a few people that flew in from different countries to experience Caribana. Hopefully, I will be in Canada this August, representing the great island of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Politics of Empathy

The Politics of Empathy

I was once told that a writer should work from a clear sense of what the world is, and what the world should be. Not that one’s judgment should be treated as infallible, but that all true tension and conflict comes, in some sense, from a discrepancy between these two ideas. What I have not been told is that a writer should, through his work, attempt to effect change in the world, and attempt to shift the needle in the direction of what the world should be.

While particular works of literature have occasionally been credited with changing the world—Uncle Tom’s Cabin springs to mind—it is often seen as passé for a writer to set out with the intention of changing a reader’s views. In particular, any work that is seen as politically motivated is liable to be dismissed as didactic. I would argue, however, that one of the essential tasks of literature is precisely to change the views of the reader toward an inherently political end.

I am referring to the purpose of expanding the reader’s empathy. Certainly I wouldn’t claim that it belongs to one political party or the other (as political parties seem to exist primarily to undermine any sense of empathy for their opponents), but rather to the general tendencies of political progress. Every great political advancement in history—or at least all the ones I can think of to scrutinize—has involved an expansion of empathy. The abolitionists, the suffragettes, the civil rights leaders of the 1960s all depended on their ability to make themselves (or those they were fighting for) recognized as the equals, in humanity, of the men (generally speaking) who propped up systems of oppression and dehumanization.

Identifying the deep unity between ourselves and those who are outside of our “tribe” will always have a political component. A powerful sense of empathy can be brought to bear on every structure of social hierarchy, every system we have for assigning people to simple categories—immigrants, criminals, enemies—and every rule we have for suppressing what is “deviant” in all of us. But the question remains: What does it take for a work of literary fiction to deliver a reader to this higher state of understanding?

The most basic component is a character that the reader doesn’t wish to relate to—a fraud, a bully, a coward. Pulp fiction (as opposed to Pulp Fiction) has always relied on protagonists who represent an inviting space between good and non-descript, into which readers can happily project themselves. If literary fiction is going to achieve something more, it must start with characters who are substantially flawed—enough that a reader would naturally resist engaging with them as equals—but too well-developed, too real, for an earnest reader to ignore their humanity.

The good news is, even before any development, flawed characters are inherently interesting. Even in simple stories we love to hear about characters who are self-indulgent and irresponsible. We resent them for claiming the freedoms that we deny ourselves. While we relish the chance to enjoy their indulgence vicariously, we maintain a smug sense of superiority—anticipating the arrival of comeuppance with a vindictive glee. Much as we might thrill at their transgressions, we still root for the downfall of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, or the latest “reality” star to be martyred on the altar of manufactured celebrity.

Unfortunately, it’s not such an easy thing to change someone’s mind just because you have their attention. No one wants to see something of themselves in the villain or the loser. It’s so much easier, so much happier, to relegate those characters and their flaws to another species. If we hold to the conviction that there is something alien in them, it is never necessary for us to fear that we could become them, never important for us to interrogate our own flaws and consider the role we fill.

The more we work to dehumanize the Other—the thinking seems to go—the more we fortify our own privileged sense of inalienable humanity. So lock up addicts, separate immigrants from their families, bomb foreigners. They are only criminals, illegals, enemy combatants. They are unlike us.

--Keith Baldwin

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Erté: "Ondée" (1983)

The Canvas

I have an unhealthy obsession with anything Erté (born Romain de Tirtoff). I have posters of his work hanging on my bedroom walls, two Erté calendars, and I enjoy being an art snob about him because not many people I know are familiar with his work. What I love so much about Erté’s serigraphs are that the colors are so strong and saturated, the lines are incredibly clean, and they are insanely detailed. Erté himself had a very long and prolific career spanning from the 1910s until his death in 1990 at age 97. He designed over 200 covers for Harper's Bazaar, created ornate costumes and set designs for Hollywood films in the 1920s, and designed jewelry, built bronze sculptures, and produced hundreds of serigraphs. Best of all, Erté helped to bring Art Deco back during the 1980s, when Art Deco had a big revival.

One of my favorite serigraphs of his is Ondée, which he made during the 1980s Art Deco revival. There are many reasons why this serigraph is a masterpiece: it uses deep, rich colors, it has high contrast, and the lines are fluid—the lines that comprise the folds of the subject’s dress seem to meld into the lines of her limbs, and the strings of pearls that surround her seem to be flowing from the folds of her dress, too. All of Erté’s works are luxurious in their look and their content, and Ondée is no different. The woman’s dress sparkles, and she is surrounded by strings of pearls. I like to think that she is so wealthy, so careless with her precious jewels, that she has broken the necklace just because she wanted to, and that the white circles that surround her are loose pearls that have come off the string. The serigraph is a celebration: the woman in the picture is jubiliant, independent, and carefree. The attitude reflected in this work is definitely one I try to remember in times of stress.
          -Sarah Allam

Old Bay Dreams

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea." - Isak Dinesen

I only recently starting using Old Bay Seasoning. Maybe in the past year or so. I had heard of it through the grapevines of the New York-by-way-of-New England, of it’s tangy and salty snap, peppery odors rising up in a paprika cloud. Before meeting to go to my friend Liz’s birthday party we stopped by CVS for seltzer water and chanced, walking down the junk-food isle to where the refrigerated beverages were kept, upon the faded-orange, vintage-looking bags of Utz chips that were intimidatingly labeled, “The Crab Chip.” It irked me how, in the centering of the serifed text, the inclusion of the quotation marks set the whole thing off balance, beckoning the eye to stay locked at those first downward strokes. Shocked to come across them, and knowing the tastes of Liz (who hailed from Virginia, sort of), my friend grabbed two bags in tow. Bringing them in to the too-loud bar induced kisses and hugs of embrace for finding the hardly-sought chips in a random Queens drugstore.

Opening the bag gave off a whiff of the ocean. Like the salt and vinegar chips that make you salivate with their acids, the hand followed the nose into the deep, metallic abyss of crinkly plastic. A hand that ventured to these piquant depths could not not return for a second taste, to the point of a licked finger scraping the corners for collected spices. Despite Utz’s desire to throw its consumers (and the McCormick & Co. in-house lawyers) off of the trail of flavor by calling their spice mix “Chesapeake Bay Crab Seasoning,” these sapid granules were undeniably an analogue for Old Bay. Despite its true home in Virginia, the spice is also found all over New England. It developed in the late 1930’s by German-Jewish immigrant Gustav Brunn. This is ironic for two reasons. First, the spice is generally used on seafood, specifically crabs, which aren’t kosher, and second, Brunn actually worked for the McCormick spice company before they found out he was Jewish and was fired. McCormick purchased Brunn’s seasoning company in 1990.

I love putting Old Bay on baked potatoes, into my homemade hummus, on pizza, in soups, on vegetables, on lox sandwiches, in meatballs, in kimchi and just about everything else, too. Like sriracha, there are few things it doesn’t improve. It is great mixed into mayo for a spread, or made into veggie dip with yogurt, lemon, and cucumber. I even found a recipe for Old Bay Bloody Mary cupcakes, which can be found here.

Now, Old Bay clouds haunt my olfactory dreams, sending me off to savory, spicy, and seafood-filled sleep.

Image is from this amazing blog devoted entirely to Potato Chips and still amazingly active.
Old Bay image from seriouseats, which claims that "to eat Old Bay is to Eat American"


“Speak up midget, I can’t seem to hear you.”
            “It’s still not my fault that I’m short,” replied Hailee, pouting.
            “It’s still not my fault I can’t hear you then. You’re a foot smaller than me, and you never speak up.”
“You speak up.” Hailee said.
He looked at Hailee.
Hailee looked at him.
“So, when you gonna tell your parents about the baby?”
“JEREMY!” Whisper- screamed Hailee, looking along the hallway connected leading out from where they were standing in the kitchen.
 “What if they hear you?” She whispered angrily, “What if my mom was in the living room, folding laundry? Huh? You want to be here when they find out you got me pregnant? You wanna be here when my father finds out I’ve had sex?
“You need to tell them eventually Hailee!” Jeremy whispered back, his face bent to hers, “What’s gonna happen when there’s a baby shooting straight out of your vagina? It’s a baby Hailee, not a- a- something that isn’t a human that’s easily hidden.
“But, I don’t want toooo,” Hailee whined, burying the top of her head in Jeremy’s chest.
“Shh. Don’t cry. I know, I know you don’t want to,” Jeremy cooed into her hair.
“Well, you’re not doing the other thing, so they’re gonna find out eventually. Like, in a few months for sure.”
She looked up.
“You know I have a cousin who didn’t know she was pregnant until she gave birth in the bathtub,” said Hailee.
“Shut up.”
“No, seriously. She was kind of heavy I guess, and didn’t get her period regularly so she went into the bathtub because she had stomach cramps and…”
“Surprise,” finished Jeremy, a smile turning up the corners of his mouth.
“What would you do?!” Exclaimed Hailee. “A baby! She didn’t realize she was having a baby! Oh! What if my parents just didn’t realize I was having a baby?”
            She mulled it over for an eight of a second before Jeremy interrupted-
            “Um, Hailee- not gonna happen. Even if you hide nine months of pregnancy under your baggy T-shirts and sweatshirts- which is probably impossible anyway- how are you going to hide a child?” Where are you going to hide a child? In your underwear drawer?”
            “Well, what if I give it away?” said Hailee quietly, looking at the floor-tile.
            “What?” Jeremy was looking intently at his girlfriend.
            “Like, not the other thing, but the other other thing.”
            “The adoption thing,” the word fell hard and flat.
            “The adoption thing,” answered Hailee.
            “But you can’t give away my baby! It’s my baby too! Give it away to me if you have to, but- but-“ lost in his sentence, Jeremy turned to Hailee.
“Our baby,” she corrected him.

“What baby?” Asked a hoarse voice in the kitchen doorway.