Monday, April 28, 2014


Okay guys, I don’t want to alarm you, but there’s three weeks left of this semester, and if you’re anything like me, you’re feeling somewhat stressed – alright, a lot stressed. Summer vacation is so close we can nearly grasp it, but first we have to go through the mire that is final papers and exams.

Though this may seem an insurmountable task at the moment, we’ll get through it somehow. And by somehow I mean a lot of coffee and all-nighters. But if you have some extra time and want to get your mind off end-of-semester stress, we have some fun events for you!

- We will be hosting a Zine Workshop on Wednesday, April 30, at 5 p.m. in the Maroon Room, 6th floor of SUBO. Bring your best ideas for a collaborative zine to be created at the event.

- The English Major’s Tea will be held on Thursday, May 8 in the Gold Room, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Join us for an awards celebration and the first reveal of The Junction.

- The Lily Pond Open Mic will be held at the Lily Pond on Thursday, May 15, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. The sign up sheet is on the door of the English Major’s Counseling Office, 3416 Boylan.

- And join us for The Junction Function, our official publishing party for our literary magazine, on Thursday, May 15, at 6 p.m. in the Stateroom, 5th floor of SUBO, for an evening of food, drinks, reading and celebration. Fancy dress is suggested but not required.  

Have a good week, everyone, and don't stress too much!


April 28, 2014

One Vice for Another

If you’ve had your eyes open for the last few months, you’ve probably seen some sort of advertisement or mention of electronic cigarettes, the wonderful, sexy, perfect alternative to traditional cigarette smoking. “E-cigarettes” supposedly give “vapers,” as they’re called instead of smokers, all the pleasure of nicotine without harmful tobacco or icky smoke. Because of this, e-cigarettes have managed thus far to sidestep the Clean Air act and FDA censure – that is, until recently. Finally, the FDA has begun to cast a more critical eye on electronic cigarettes.

I really don’t like cigarettes, and when electronic cigarettes burst on the market, I was leery. So, prompted by a school project, I did some research, and found my gut instinct could be backed up with fact. While e-cigs do cut out the danger of tobacco and tobacco smoke, they still contain nicotine, which is in itself still a carcinogenic substance, as well as a variety of other dubious chemicals like propylene glycol and formaldehyde. And e-cigarettes are not a smoking cessation device, as some would say. An e-cig might satisfy a smoker’s nicotine craving, but it does nothing to lesson the addiction. A patch would slowly wean the smoker off nicotine but an e-cig maintains the same level of nicotine. Even Len Horowitz, Internist and Pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, backed me up.

“I don’t think it would be successful [as a method of quitting smoking],” Horovitz told me. “The spike in nicotine is just like regular smoking. In order to go from vaping to quitting, they would have to find a psychoactive pattern. Smoking to vaping to cold turkey won’t happen.”

Another thing Horovitz found disturbing was the amount of young people who use electronic cigarettes, which is what has caused alarm for the FDA. More than 10% of high school students have tried vaping, according to the CDC, and Horovitz said that’s especially dangerous.

“Most dangerous is access to teens. It could become a gateway to smoking, from e-cigarettes to cigarettes,” he said. “Nicotine addiction in teens 13 to 17 is the most hardcore group of addicts. They might never give it up.”

It certainly doesn’t help that e-cigarettes come in fun flavors like “Cherry Crush” and “Vivid Vanilla,” and decorative cartridges like these:

Electronic cigarettes haven’t been popular long enough for us to know for sure what long-term effects they might have, but with this kind of information, I would be wary of them.

- Elizabeth Coluccio

Piketty on Capitalism

Thomas Piketty seems like the next big economics superstar. In his recent book, Capital in the 21st Century (published in September 2013 in French and recently released in English), Piketty models how capital has developed as the main source of unregulated power in the world, and how this development, if left unchecked, will destroy the system of free markets. He argues that the circulation of capital causes an increase in wealth inequality exponentially, an idea that directly opposes the model of the “trickle-down” system which some people seem to be holding dearly to.

In the recent economic conference at the institute of New Economic Thinking, Piketty’s book was continually mentioned. The book gives an expansive look at the past two centuries and models the growth of capital and its circulation, offering some very striking conclusions. Many of his arguments may seem familiar—he addresses issues of large inheritances, the overpayment of high management, and the ways in which lack of regulation have reinforced power into capital—but seeing all of these issues (which we, as a society have wanted to address since OWS and the Tea-Party) represented in a methodologically sound way is a different shift in the discourse, which seems to systematize economic “practicality” on the side of the right.

Yep, that's a CUNY Grad Center banner in the background!
Rather than being a field of economic mobility, Piketty’s data supports that in the current system, entrepreneurship is largely not available as a means of mobility. The successes we see are largely exceptions, and when we address how the majority of people gain access to capital—through wages, it becomes clear that any capital equality between high and low-earners is near impossible. In the UK, while the top 1% pay a third of income tax, it is not the main base of tax revenue. Instead, the VAT is. In the US, people have proposed leaning more heavily on consumption taxes, arguing that it is unfair to make people who don’t consume bear the burdens of consumers. But this is ridiculous. Of all forms of taxes, value-added and sales taxes are the most damaging for poor and lower-income households, as it cuts into savings more deeply, even for everyday commodities.

The proposals to adjust for the vast problems facing our current capitalism are grand: Piketty argues for large property, inheritance, patent, and stock taxes, and for these taxes to be internationally implemented, making tax evasion more difficult. It is hard to see how such a system could be integrated, but the fact that such an argument is being made in the mainstream seems to me to already be a huge improvement to the marginalization of discourses about wealth disparity. Perhaps these conclusions will actually lead to sustained movements against the distributions in our current capitalist system.

-Isabel Stern

The Guardian
Al Jazeera
Book reviews

Outclassed by Alice Munro

I vividly remember the first time I encountered an Alice Munro story. It was just last year, and my girlfriend, Arhanti, was visiting from out of state. She had brought along some reading material in the form of a collection of stories with a strange name—Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. I had heard of Alice Munro before though, if you had asked, I couldn’t have said where.

We were lying in bed before sleep. She was reading, I had just finished whatever I was working on, and rolled away from the light to try to sleep. Arhanti, however, was just getting into the meat of one of Munro’s lengthy stories, and found herself so engaged that she wanted to share. She offered to read it out loud to me, and I agreed—having ample enough experience with the dormative quality of audiobooks that I didn’t expect to catch much of it. However, within a few paragraphs I was sitting up, asking to have sections repeated or wanting to see them for myself. Her language was so crisp, so controlled, and what she was expressing was so complex yet so familiar.

The story was “Nettles,” about a middle-aged divorcee reconnecting with a girlhood friend and potential love interest. Not exactly the kind of stuff that usually interrupts my sleep, but by the end I was equal parts exhilarated by the triumph of written words to relate so much of real experience—and dismayed by the overwhelming responsibility I felt as a writer to find words that could do as much. It seemed to me that, if I couldn’t be as good as Alice Munro, I shouldn’t bother writing.

It was some consolation a few weeks later when she received the Nobel Prize. At least, I figured, I was not alone in being awed by her. At least those powers of expression were not so commonplace as to be overlooked. She is, in fact, so celebrated that she has made it a point to reject any honor that isn’t expressly about her writing. Still, that initial feeling persists. She is breathtakingly intimidating—so good it’s genuinely upsetting. Look at her up there, laughing at us! As her daughter Sheila wrote, in her biographical effort to escape her mother’s shadow, “So unassailable is the truth of her fiction that sometimes I even feel as though I’m living in an Alice Munro story.”

Her stories elevate the lives and thoughts of ordinary people to the level of high art. Everyone should read them but, if you're a writer, you should prepare to have your confidence shattered.

--Keith Baldwin

Have the Hands Ask it Back

I’m aware of the new reply, differences between early and later starts to the day. A greater sense of rousing ducks tucked into little patterns, distant flock of urban matters. I am here and alone, sharing. The hawk doesn’t come around. The hummingbird pipped as if a punctured balloon, zipping away. Property as it belongs. We look in on more private things than we know. With a Palomino I am let into any field. Each willow lisps the morning over and after noon we calibrate a point of view, to rows a farm knows. I was gentle with hate. I am sorry for belittling the things around me in youth. Sun collects in canoes. The canoe as object, the sun helps to make our move in the object the image all along. That what we trust ourselves in while moving, the Palomino, the boat, the bog, becomes the completion of the image and after being looked at. Still things remain. Often the path is ordinary but disordered. My looking turned into a hand demanding.

         -Tyler Flynn Dorholt

Within reading the first few lines, I didn't know where the poem was going to lead me. I circled around it a few times before I got to the last word. It was a hard one to decipher, but I understand that the things I find the most intriguing and meaningful are the hardest to understand. The first line indicates a question that is continually asked with an unsatisfactory reply. The person in the poem is outside in nature reflecting on his surroundings, perhaps near a farm because of the Palomino horse. The line that struck me the most was: “We look in on more private things than we know.” I love and hate this line. It overstates an obvious human endeavor with a slap to the face. It implies what we all cannot come to admit that we are all voyeurs of some kind. Towards the middle there’s a vague confession about the past: "I was gentle with hate. I am sorry for belittling the things around me in youth." Although this confession was perhaps a roadblock in this persons life, there continues to be movement or an evolving process, because he is looking back at a time when he could not help but to judge things. Eventually, he steps back to let all the imagery sink in. Although time seems to be passing in a gentle pace, everything continues to get older. The poems' overall tone is expecting something, but not exactly indicating what. Dorholt points to the fact that everyone has a journey, but the only thing that sets us apart from one another is the way we organize our chaos. Overall, I would be a liar if I did not admit that in some situations I only did something to expect something in return. He wants something back from nature than what it is able to give to him. It is not so much about disappointment, but a sense of what a lack of satisfaction feels like.

I finally understood the damn poem.


Videos by Millennials, for Millennials

What is my current media obsession? As of now, it is Youtube videos created by millennials, for millennials.

Since millennials are the largest consumers of media, millennial-run media is essential. Millennials are often fed negative messages about themselves. A TIME article blamed the plight of millennials on their habits, such as texting and taking “selfies.” In order to combat negative depictions of themselves in mass media, millennials turn to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. There, they provide realistic images of themselves while mentioning their experiences in a humorous and relatable way.

An example of millennial-run media is Stephen Parkhurst’s “Millennials: We Suck and We’re Sorry” on Youtube. The video is a satirical take on the negative depictions of millennials in the form of an apology. It addresses common depictions of millenials as entitled, lazy, passionate about nothing except texting, and unwilling to move out of their parents’ basements. Baby boomers, instead, are obviously better than millenials: they worked hard, were passionate, went outside to do something, and had cool music to boot. Right?

Not exactly. The speakers in the video then mention the faults of the baby boomers. The baby boomers in fact, were responsible for economic decline and environmental catastrophe and yet they have the nerve to point their fingers at millenials just because they like to text. I think I’ve explained enough. Here’s the video to watch for yourselves:

I also enjoyed the video, “Customer Service: It Gets Worse” modeled after Dan Savage’s well-known “It Gets Better” campaign. The video exposes that not everything necessarily gets better, which includes millenials’ place in the job market. Despite being the most educated generation, millenials face underemployment. Effects of underemployment include low pay, crappy people, and chronic dissatisfaction and despair. Basically, this video is a breath of fresh air from the images of pseudo-positivity that is prevalent in the media. To watch a funny and honest video, just click on this link here:

Let's hope things don't get worse!

-Jacqueline Retalis


Inside Llewyn Davis Soundtrack

The Academy Award nominated film, Inside Llewyn Davis, is the story of a singer who is active in New York’s folk music scene in the 1960’s. While watching the movie, I was more drawn towards the soundtrack than I was to the actual plot. Nothing too significant happens throughout the story, but I found myself enjoying the genre of folk music for the very first time. The soundtrack, produced by Bone Burnett, is filled with songs that are soft, soulful and relaxing. As soon as the movie finished, I went on Youtube and found a compilation of some of the more popular songs that were played throughout the film.

Take a listen...

Short Term Gain, Long Term Strain

The other day I was reading an article that took my breath away. Notorious conservative billionaires and big-time polluters the Koch Brothers have finally found a tax they can get behind: a tax on solar panels! Oklahoma recently instated a surcharge on the practice of selling excess energy created by solar panels back to utility companies. It is clearly a bid to make the prospect of installing solar panels on one's home––already an expensive endeavor––less appealing to homeowners. This legislation was pioneered by the American Legislative Exchange Council––a conservative group funded by the Koch brothers and other multi-billion dollar energy interest.

Clearly the Koch brothers feel that their profits are at stake. "People over profits" just isn't good business. But where does that leave us? A lot of people like to say that clean energy IS good business and I want to believe that but if that were the case why aren't the "entrepreneurs" getting on it? Right now I think finding a loophole for that energy surcharge is the only tax evasion I can refrain from feeling indignant about because honestly why NEED to change our ways now. Right now.

Sometimes I don't feel illuminated. Sometimes I really worry about the world I and my children will inherit. How much longer can we ignore the planet and how climate change is going to affect us?



Image Source:

On a Wednesday, It Started To Rain

The Canvas

On a Wednesday during spring break I made my very first venture into The Brooklyn Museum. My little sister and I trekked a few hours through the subway system from Far Rockaway to Flatbush Ave. and found the adventure to be well worth the time-suck.

First, we stopped off at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, a filled canvas with spring blooms. The careful planning and care necessary for the gardens’ landscape is romantic and serene.

My sister and I took a long walk through the garden (free for you and one guest with your Brooklyn College ID!) trying to be sparse about picture-taking while we enjoyed the diverse foliage and flowers.

Second, my sister and I took a quick walk around the corner to The Brooklyn Museum. On the same floor as Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Table,” a strong, feminine, monumental, delicate, careful, intellectual and truly astounding piece of artwork that I recommend everyone to go and see, there is a smaller exhibit featuring a sequence of small, square canvases by Byron Kim.

They are each named “Sunday Painting” with the date the painting was done, simultaneously recording a moment in the natural world with renderings of the sky and a moment in the artist’s personal world with a few journalistic sentences.

I was struck by such a simplistic and artistic blend of the private and the public. What is more personal than a journal? And what is more communal than the sky? I think artists for centuries (although, most certainly in the past century) have been struggling with the question of what art is. Malevich and Mondrian try to create art that speaks to universality with geometry or pure color. Picasso, Monet and Matisse support the personal, to the point that scholars can see influences of their personal lives in the lives of their work. Kim’s simple, small square canvases are quiet, personal memories, recounting events of her own life while simultaneously rendering the more shared atmosphere as a background to her personal thoughts. Maybe Kim is trying to convey the relationship the two share, the public and the private, the personal and the more broad. One of the beautiful aspects of her paintings lies in the marrying of these two.

As my sister and I left the museum, feeling hungry and excited for the next leg of our Brooklyn tour (Theater for a New Audience’s “King Lear”) I took a look up, trying to remember a moment, a personal moment with my sister under the great dome of the world. and lo and behold, it started to rain.

Potato Pancakes

I didn’t grow up in a Jewish household, but I did grow up eating and enjoying a lot of the food, since my father works in a Jewish deli. One of my favorite Jewish dishes is potato pancakes (also known as potato latkes). My father noticed that lot of the potato pancake orders at the restaurant were being returned because customers found them to be heavy and hard to cut easily with a fork and knife. He then decided to improve upon the recipe by boiling the potatoes beforehand (instead of just using raw potatoes) and by adding more onions. Not a single order of potato pancakes has been returned since. Here’s his recipe:

· 3 pounds peeled, boiled potatoes (my father boils them for about 30 minutes, only partially cooking them)

· 1 ½ big onions

· ½ pound matzo meal

· 2 eggs

· 3 tablespoons oil

· salt and pepper to taste

After boiling the potatoes for approximately 30 minutes, roughly chop the potatoes and onions together. Afterwards, sprinkle the matzo meal over the potato and onion mixture, mixing them together. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Form into patties, then pan fry. My father is always very adamant about the last step. “They’re called potato pancakes for a reason! If ya deep fry it, ya kill it!”

--Sarah Allam

Middle Passage Bend


Force fed dreams
My pillow, Speculum Oris
My bed shakes like "Yes"
It rocks like no more crying
Soft shrieks squeak from the springs
"Please be gentle with us. We have no end, no beginning."
My box spring's burden is boxed in
Bellowing slave ship sentiments
Each board, bored, side by side, by side
My headboard is Lord
Nodding psychotically
Dipping like praise
Fanning the flames
As it watches me sleep.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Semester Wrap Events

Check these out:

- The Brooklyn Zine Fest is going down on Saturday and Sunday, April 26-27, at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Make sure to stop by the BC Zine Library table. The event is FREE to attend, and you can get information on zine-making before our workshop on the 30th, and meet other zine-makers in the city, as well as purchase zines for your own collection. More event info can be found here.

- We will be hosting a FREE ZINE WORKSHOP for all Brooklyn College students on Wednesday, April 30, at 5pm. It will be held in the Maroon room, on the 6th floor of SUBO. We will be creating a somewhat impromptu, collaborative, one-hour zine, so bring ideas for a page to work on, and learn how to make your own zine and meet other cool people at BC!

-The English Majors' Tea will be held on May 8 in the Gold Room from 12:30-2pm. Come join us for the annual awards celebration for the English Department. We will also be handing out free copies of The Junction, in all its glossy array!

-The Lily Pond Open Mic is happening. We will see you at the Lily Pond on May 15, from 12:30-2pm where we will throw down words and love.

-Last but not least, The Junction Function, our official wrap party for the publication, will be held on May 15 from 6-8pm (maybe later, too). We will see you at the super swanky State Room, where we will hold readings, conversations, and engage in general good times. Refreshments will be served.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Ahh! The time has finally arrived. The temperatures are rising, Spring Break is approaching and classes are wrapping up. There is excitement in the air as we inch closer towards summertime. We can finally put away our winter attire and dust off our spring clothes. For those of you graduating in May, congratulations! You’re just weeks away, so pat yourself on the back and be proud! For the rest of you, you’re one whole year closer to the end, so hang in there... After our break, we just gotta’ conquer finals and then we can really celebrate!

Here are some things you should know:

*Are you taking summer classes? Registration is now open, so sign up for your favorite classes before it’s too late.

*English M.A. at Brooklyn College is now accepting applications for Fall 2014. For more information visit or contact Professor James Davis, English Graduate Deputy, at

*Afternoon Tea at Brooklyn College on Thursday April 10, from 12:30 to 2:00, in the Barker Room (2315 Boylan Hall). For the first time, students and faculty are given the opportunity to mingle in a relaxed, informal setting.

*This summer, students have a chance to spend a week or two in the Hamptons, studying with some of the best writers in the country! More info at:

*The 28th Annual Iowa Summer Writing Festival, a noncredit writing program, held on the campus of The University of Iowa in Iowa City. Phone: 319.335.4160 OR visit

Have a Great Week!


News Briefs 4/7/2014

“Attempted Murder” in Pakistan 

Breaking News: In Pakistan, a nine-month-old boy was booked for attempted murder.

"The police filed a wrong, false arrest charge sheet and brought this innocent 9-month-old into this court room for an appearance," said the family's lawyer, Irfan Tarar.

According to a senior police officer, Atif Zulfikar Butt, several police officers and a bailiff went to a home hoping to get payment for a gas bill. The infant's father, one of his teenage sons, and others in the residence severely injured some of the officials by tossing bricks their way.

“How and why the baby was implicated was unclear, though the Lahore police official acknowledged that the child appeared in court Wednesday and was booked as his grandfather held him,” says the CNN article.

I guess there might be stranger things happening in the world?

- Eta Oyarijivbie


Race, Gender, and Higher Education

I’m sure you all heard of Kwasi Enin, the 17-year old student from Long Island who was accepted to all of the Ivy League schools, by now. Hearing that news was pretty emotional for me. I was overjoyed that a highly motivated black student was able to attain the success that he deserved. I was angered when I read comments on the Internet that stated that Enin only got into the Ivy League schools because of affirmative action. One of the comments was on Reddit, in which a user by the name of MisterMJH stated: “Was expecting to read about some new prodigy. Came away disappointed, finding out it's just the next example of affirmative action and college selectionism.” As well as being angered, I was a bit bitter. It seems like no matter how ambitious a black student is, there will always be people who do not believe that he (or she) truly deserves to achieve.

This reminds me of the ‘I, Too, Am Harvard’ campaign, which shows black students displaying certain experiences of the racism that they face. Unfortunately, Kwasi Enin, as well as other students like him, might be prone to such experiences. The picture that stood out to me (and is the most relevant to highlighting the cries of ‘affirmative action’) is the one in which a black man is holding a sign that reads, “Surprise! My application to Harvard wasn’t just a picture of my face.” Here is the picture:

There are also gender-related issues, in addition to race-related issues, on college campuses. Last Monday, an account of the aftermath of a sexual assault was published on the Crimson. It was titled, “Dear Harvard: You Win.” This account highlights the lack of effort that Harvard, and other colleges, places on preventing sexual assault and prosecuting the perpetrators. In this account, the student writes, “My assailant will remain unpunished. Today, Harvard, I am writing to let you know that you have won.” Read the rest of the account here.

Fortunately, there is more action being done to prevent sexual assault on college campuses. In January, President Obama appointed a task force to focus on a widespread issue, which caused many college campuses to start to address the issue. Colleges are doing so by developing a clear definition of sexual assault and punishments of assaulters, creating websites for victims of sexual assault, and starting centers for sexual assault prevention. To test if those new initiatives are working, Al Jazeera started a social media campaign called Tracking Assault, in which students will answer these questions:
Does your college or university handle sexual assault well?
Has you school made any changes, and what impact have they had?
Are student attitudes about sexual assault changing?
What more could your school do?

In many classes, universities address issues related to race and gender. However, they have yet to address and reduce these issues on their campuses.

- Jacqueline Retalis



When the #CancelColbert controversy kicked off last weekend, I was primed to dismiss it without a second thought. For a start, I’m a big fan of Stephen Colbert. I have watched just about every episode of the Colbert Report since the show’s debut in 2005, and will happily defend the assertion that it delivers some of the most trenchant social commentary television has to offer. I am also a member of pretty much every privileged category in America: a straight white male from an affluent background. I am essentially the target that Suey Park set out to critique.

For the record, the Twitter movement started after a tweet from the Colbert Report’s (though not Stephen Colbert’s) official account made a reference to a segment in which Colbert announced a foundation “for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever” as a satirical dig at Washington Redskin’s owner Dan Snyder and his transparent PR move in starting the “Original Americans Foundation.” Under different circumstances I have no doubt that I would have rolled my eyes at the apparent overreaction and hypocrisy of Suey Park and her followers, and would’ve gotten on with my life. Unfortunately, my first exposure to the issue was through Reddit—a website that consists largely of affluent white men entertaining each other, occasionally at the expense of anyone who doesn’t fit that description.

A link to a Huffington Post interview about #CancelColbert described it as an “epic fail” on Park’s part. And while I did take issue with some of what Park said in the course of her five-minute interview, it didn’t seem like she was allowed to say much. Josh Zepps, the interviewer, seemed not to be terribly interested in giving her the chance to say her piece. Instead, he made her point for her with his continuous condescension, by interrupting her and dismissing her opinion with the smug assurance that he didn’t even have to question whether his preconceived notions might be wrong. He reacted harshly to Park’s suggestion that, as a white man, he wasn’t really in a position to understand the offense that Colbert’s satirical use of slurs might cause, but I couldn’t help but feel that he’d strengthened her case with a clear example of a white liberal thoughtlessly defending racially charged humor.

Since then, I have hesitated to pass any judgment on the #CancelColbert movement—for fear of being like Josh Zepps—and have done a lot of reading to try to get past several layers of confusion. For a start, Park has asserted that it was not actually her intention to get the Colbert Report canceled; that was an exaggerated stance designed to attract the kind of controversy and attention that would not have accompanied #MakeColbertApologize. There has also been a lot of confusion about what actually sparked the movement—whether it was a reaction to an out-of-context tweet, or to the actual segment. Initially, I was in the camp that believed that Park had missed the context and refused to back down from that first reaction, but Park has asserted that this is not the case—that she saw the segment and was planning a response before the inciting tweet ever went out.

On top of all this, I added my own layer of confusion to the mixture by focusing on the new content of the segment—regarding the foundation—which struck me (and still does strike me) as effective satire, rather than on the 8 year old clip that the segment replayed. Having seen that clip replayed on a number of different episodes, and knowing that it came from the show’s first season, I suppose I glossed over its content. After all, why would all this controversy have arisen over something from 2005?

Well, as Suey Park has pointed out, she was in middle school in 2005, and no platform like Twitter existed at the time, so you can’t exactly blame her for not jumping on the issue back then. On top of that, there’s the fact that Colbert chose to replay that clip which, whether or not it was justified in its original context (I have been unable to track down what the clip was originally satirizing), loses that defense in replay, and comes off a bit like an unaccompanied recipe for Irish baby stew.

Lastly, it’s honestly kind of hard to think of a context that would be compelling enough to justify the caricature that Colbert portrayed. Ching Chong Ding Dong—with his broken English, and invocation of a number of Asian stereotypes—is obviously meant to be over the top, but so is a minstrel show. If it wouldn’t be alright for him to don blackface in order to satirize racism, why is it alright for him to play to an audience’s knee-jerk laughter at squinted eyes and the “Oriental riff”?

As this controversy has continued, Suey Park has been critical of the idea that white liberals can be made to understand this issue, or that it should be her job to try to make them understand. She has also flat out said that she doesn’t want white people on her side. There is a sense that incorporating the input of white people, or trying to play to their (our) sensibilities would weaken and delegitimize the message. Some of what she’s said also seems to suggest that she’s trying to give white people a taste of their (our) own medicine—to make them feel dismissed, minimalized, pigeon-holed, and see how they (we) react. And they (we) have definitely been reacting—with articles and comment sections across the internet railing against her supposed oversensitivity and hypocrisy, calling her a bitch and an SJW (which apparently means Social Justice Warrior, and is apparently meant as an insult…).

While I can’t agree with everything that Suey Park says or all of her tactics, she wouldn’t expect me to, and that is really not the point. The point is that just because someone is a liberal—just because they are making fun of someone who is more racist, just because they make us laugh and we don’t have an initial negative reaction to the way they do it—doesn’t mean they are above criticism, or that we should jump to their defense.

There seems to be a defensive impulse among a lot of white people based on the idea that, if we don’t immediately see why something is racist, we must therefore be racist. But if we’re not willing to take a step back and consider that our experience hasn’t prepared us to know why something might be offensive, then we can only perpetuate the boundaries that already exist—become part of the dominant structure that interrupts, dismisses, patronizes. It’s easy for white people in our culture to pretend that race isn’t important, because we aren’t force to face its consequences on a daily basis. Whatever you might think about the #CancelColbert movement, it sparked a conversation that’s worth having.

--Keith Baldwin

News sources:

Image sources:


More Us than We Are

The book is a bright blue, with no words on the front cover. The title is a picture, more specifically a drawing, of a star and a girl. The binding reads “Stargirl” and “Spinelli” in quiet sibilance. It follows a boy, Leo, who lives in Mica, Arizona, and a girl, Stargirl who, after being homeschooled by her parents until her junior year joins Mica High School. In her long flowing white dresses, with a ukulele and a pet rat she shakes things up quite a bit.

Instead of plot-summarizing I wanted to tell you about a moment in the book that came up in conversation with my sister today.

Devora and I were sitting on the steps of the building that houses the students in the art program at her school. And all political correctness and stereotypes aside, they’re a little different. Maybe it’s an artist thing, or maybe it’s personal to the particular students she and I are friendly with, but for whatever reason they beat to a different maraca. There’s something refreshing about kids just “doing them.” But, there’s also something terrifying about it. Sometimes, we may find ourselves uncomfortable with kids or adults who defy these “cultural rules” or “suggested tips for living.” Kids who don’t care if it’s cool to be hipster, because tight pants are uncomfortable and they don’t want to buy new glasses. Watching other people embrace themselves reminds us that we may not be. That our socio-political-communal-religious-social-media-cultural environments seep deep into ourselves, sometimes oozing over the best parts of us, or the truest parts of us.

I remembered a moment in Stargirl where Leo and his friend, Kevin are trying to figure out the new girl with community mentor and retired paleontologist, Archie (I know how it sounds, but somehow it works). The boys, as well as all the students at Mica High, are in arms over Stargirl’s irregularity and are looking for guidance. White smoke puffing out of his pipe he chuckles to himself and tells the boys he was wondering when they would start asking questions.

“She is different, isn’t she?” 
Kevin exclaimed, “like another species!” 
Archie cocked his head, as if he had just caught the sound of a rare bird… He stared at Kevin. “On the contrary, she is one of us. Most decidedly. She is more us than we are us. She is, I think, who we really are. Or were.” 

Stargirl is a story of acceptance, both of others and of ourselves. Set in high school, one of the most turbulent moments of self-discovery it provides context for kids, young adults, and even adults to be honest about themselves. What I love is that it questions if readers even know whether or not they’re being honest about whom they are.


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if we take
-Charles Bukowski

if we take what we can see -
the engines driving us mad,
lovers finally hating;
this fish in the market
staring upward into our minds;
flowers rotting, flies web-caught;
riots, roars of caged lions
clowns in love with dollar bills,
nations moving people like pawns;
daylight thieves with beautiful
nighttime wives and wines;
the crowded jails,
the commonplace unemployed,
dying grass, 2-bit fires;
men old enough to love the grave.

These things, and others, in content
show life swinging on a rotten axis.

But they've left us a bit of music
and a spiked show in the corner,
a jigger of scotch, a blue necktie,
a small volume of poems by Rimbaud,
a horse running as if the devil were
twisting his tail
over bluegrass and screaming, and then,
love again
like a streetcar turning the corner
on time,
the city waiting,
the wine and the flowers,
the water walking across the lake
and summer and winter and summer and summer
and winter again.

I love the progression of negative to relatively positive in this poem. If we take the bad with the not-so-bad, we can achieve contentment. There are plenty of terrible things that go on in this world that are disruptive in our lives. These things can consume us if we do not remember to appreciate the mediocre things that life has to offer. Thank the gods for red nail polish, or the ability to sweep a floor, and from there your realization of these overlooked mundane objects/ actions can grow into satisfaction… or better yet, something beautiful.


"Dallas Buyers Club"

I love movies. I love the ones that make you think, make you feel, and leave you a little bit different from the person you were when you sat down to watch it. I was expecting all this when I saw Dallas Buyers Club; I knew that the story about Ron Woodroof, a man who finds out he is HIV positive in 1985 and works around the system to get medicines that work for himself and other people who are suffering, would be a heavy one, and I heard from the award season buzz that the performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto would be inspiring, and I was not at all disappointed.

Good characters make the whole film, and that’s exactly what stuck with me long after I watched it. Woodroof’s story begins with his life as an electrician in Dallas, indulging in drugs, gambling and women. Woodroof continues thinking he has nothing to lose; that is, until he does lose something: his health. He comes dangerously close to death and is given only thirty days to live. But with Woodroof's fighting spirit, he spends his time doing research. He rejects the only drug available to AIDS patients, "AZT" when he finds out the side effects are nearly as bad as the disease. Instead, he smuggles alternative treatments from Mexico into the U.S. When Woodroof realizes he can make a business out of it, the "Dallas Buyers Club" is born.

Woodroof’s arc as a character is really spectacular. He’s a larger than life character, so reckless and determined you might mistake him as purely brash. In opposition, viewers see his fears, vulnerability, and the way he truly comes to care for his business partner, Rayon, a transsexual AIDS sufferer who acts as a liaison between Woodroof and his prospective clients, who he does not treat kindly in the beginning. There was some controversy over Leto’s portrayal of Rayon, since some believed he wasn’t able to fully understand the struggle of his character. Luckily, Leto is a very good actor, and I thought he played Rayon beautifully, with a tragic stoicism that becomes very poignant later on.


The story of a man who flips the bird to a failing system to help himself and others is a compelling one, but it’s the characters of Dallas Buyers Club that are most memorable, and if only for that this is a film I highly recommend.

-Elizabeth Coluccio

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Mildly Excited

"We're gonna start at the edge of everything, and we're gonna take it right back down. To you, baby, right here on planet earth. It's a little introspective, a little cosmic, going for the Terrence Malick angle on this, it's a snoozefest, people, put on the timer. There's not a lot of talking. It's just a lot of heavy breathing. But there's some really beautiful photography."

Living in the digital age poses a whole new set of problems for what it means to be an individual. And trying to live like one. Especially for young, irresponsible adult-children, it has become increasingly clear that none of us really knows what we are doing. Perhaps that's always been the same, but somehow working and breathing and moving with these foreign objects held intimately and dearly in our pockets casts the world in a strange, blue-hued light. Furthering this problem of alienation for me is that I'm not really up on stuff. Whether it's actual news (which becomes more and more like your next reality tv show every day) or just popular culture, I'm pretty tuned out (which I know is terrible but...oh, right, I have no excuse).

So, most of what I know of what's going on in the world comes from my twitter feed. And Mildly Excited. Mildly Excited (@mildly_excited) is a long-form podcast that basically records the meandering conversations of two twenty-something-year-old Brooklyn imports as they both hate on popular developments in contemporary media culture and shower others with interesting, comical, critical, and awed praise. The podcast captures what it is to be dumb and confused, but also engagedly so. I think ultimately it asks the question: are we really apathetic and incapable? And if so, can we be engaged in our own apathy and incapabilities? And can we turn that into something productive and creative?

Once a week, Corey and Sidney sum up all the cocktail conversation things that you might need to be perfectly up-to-date for the average, middle-brow human (in the best of ways, really!) and come off as passably normal (I should stop telling you all my secrets for being human in the 21st century). But  hear how two other people who are somewhat like me construct their visions of themselves and their placement in the world, and how my own construction differs. The podcast makes me continually question: how do I see myself as other than what I do?

What I love about the podcast is that it's wonderfully relatable, cynical, and post-apocalyptic while still managing to be light-hearted and really hilarious. And sometimes sentimental. Topics range from the deep web to stew recipes, from the multiverse to Kanye West, theorizing on the future universe (in which the sentient super-aliens discover all of our catalogued twitter accounts in the Library of Congress) and the imminence of our moronic beings. If you have an hour to kill while commuting, cooking, or exercising (yeah, right), this podcast is a great way to remind yourself that yes, it's all terrible and yes, it's all a joke anyways.

Remember: Things are gonna get weird.

You can download/listen/subscribe here.

          -Isabel Stern

Need to Publish Fast? There's an App for That!

It began in 1996 when mathematician Alan Sokal trolled postmodern scholars by submitting a paper full of utter nonsense to a top academic journal, which was immediately published. Then, in 2005 three MIT graduate students developed a simple computer program that could crank out intelligent-sounding but utter nonsense sentences, posing as intelligible work. They used it to write a scientific paper that was soon accepted to a prominent conference before they revealed that it was all a hoax. The point: to prove that conferences accept meaningless papers.

Even better, the program the students used to create the nonsense paper is called SCIgen and it is now free to download. And scientists are using it. Recently a German academic publisher had used 16 nonsense papers submitted by people using SCIgen. Of course, there is now software available to detect papers created by SCIgen.

The reason paper-generating software has become so popular is that scientists and academics rely so much on publication and conferences to make their living. It’s very hard to make a living in academia and the pressure is intense to submit the next big idea before anyone else, so of course some people are willing to sacrifice accuracy and integrity. This whole scam raises questions of whether this is a structural problem in the academic world or the fault of a few bad apples. This whole ploy was brought to my attention by a silly social media site and I really didn’t think much of it until my Professor assigned us a paper wherein we were asked to literally copy and paste words, not complete sentences, but randomly picked out phrases from four critical essays which we had been reading in class. This type of writing is called a cento and according to Wikipedia this means “a poetical work wholly composed of verses or passages taken from other authors; only disposed in a new form or order.” This of course was no way in the vein of creating computer software to produce conference papers, but I would be getting a grade for basically plagiarizing, a word that holds the utmost taboo for us college students.

This is the result, my conference ready work:

The Cento: A Roman Age of Excess in the World of the Author

Its social significance, particularly in its most positive form, is inconceivable with out speaking of God. No doubt it has always been that way. Current practice; however, is not determined by those elementary difficulties, difficulties that must be understood in order to comprehend historical processes. Such a concept suits criticism very well, that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meaning is to refuse God.

In opposition to the artificial notion, this destruction was repaid at a given date, in order to efface humiliations, and not because it regrets the absence of real suffering but because it condemns artifice. More or less in spite of these attenuations, ostentatious loss remains. It is incapable; however, of a face with which one is already acquainted. Conscious humanity has remained an aura tied to his presence; there can be no replica of it; exiled not only from the stage but also from himself.

We have already seen to what extent Christianity replaced pagan custom. It would therefore be wrong to underestimate the value of a hidden political significance. Even more explicit and more imperative is the function that is fairtylike, marvelous, supernatural. They are, on the other hand, it seems, able to subsist only at the limits of horror. Mankind is now one for itself.

These concepts which are introduced in such a way so as to give them prognostic value, are almost always obtained by an ensuing fight. The result was that one could expect agitation on the scale of irreducible needs. It is closely tied to terrestrial despair, with the words attributed to Christ, in other words in mud. The right to speak and these ironic words reveal the hidden roots of a spectacle which, as soon as a fact is narrated, the disconnection occurs, and the voice loses its origin. The immense travail of recklessness, discharge, and upheaval translate absolutely modern ideas into dead language.

Conversely, foul play exists only therefore to understand why the narrowness of judgment that puts the father in opposition to the satisfaction of his son’s own needs exists. To the small extent he is inclined to see the rules broken, this is a purely moral concept: that of justice, but only in moderate form since violent pleasure is seen as pathological. Which is why it is derisory to condemn in the name of fundamental obligation.

As dreadful as it is, in order to maintain this preeminence the pursuit of innocent shadows, that provide nothing but vertigo or rage, must be called anti-theological activity. An activity whose profound ridiculousness indicated precisely the truth which differs from the more familiar terms such as creativity, genius, eternal value and mystery. We must expect great innovations to transform trends that seem destructive to man himself. A certain human homogeneity, does not accept with out protest. One is not ashamed of ones suffering, one knows how to cry. If the latter is obvious, he immediaely disappears with the intolerable spectacle of his powerlessness.



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