Archive: Fri Apr 2008

  1. Dining hall caters to Eli iron chefs’ needs

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    The Berkeley ’09er across from me sullenly pokes at her charred chicken, scooting it beneath piles of rice, cottage cheese and half-macerated beets like a smoker indifferently toeing a smoldering butt beneath a layer of beach sand. It is not unusual for interactions with dining-hall fare to take on this tinge of food-related depression or, worse, apathy.

    Were we to awaken from our self-protective stupor long enough to realize that we have eaten the same five ingredients for the past two days, we might endeavor to shape something scintillating out of the monotony, but do we have time? And do we have the skill? You, nuke-master supreme, are well acquainted with l’art culinaire of Ramen. You can whip out a mean “quesadilla Señor Foreman” (yes, that’s a tortilla folded in half with cheese in the middle, grilled by your amigo, George), so what makes you think you’re incapable of a simple vinaigrette, an inspired sandwich, or even a spunky satay sauce?

    With a few simple rules and some old-fashioned chutzpah, you can elevate uninspiring dining-hall fare, transforming a thrice-daily chore into a creative outlet and gustatory adventure. This is a reminder that food should be nourishing to the soul as well as the body.

    Rule No. 1: Confidence in Condiments

    Sriracha, the Thai hot sauce made from sun-ripened chili peppers, garlic and vinegar, is edible ecstasy. The first time I tried Sriracha, I wondered at the millions of palettes that live and die by its satanic and somehow savory spice. Is the American public too content, too anesthetized, too enraptured by endless incarnations of tomato ketchup to desire something so powerfully piquant? Is the breadth of our palates determined by the interpretive capacities of corn syrup? It is not unusual to hear preteens pontificating on the bouquet of a Cheesy Dorito like it’s a fine Bordeaux — yet letting the va-va-voom of our food be dictated by our country’s surplus production of corn is simply unacceptable.

    They lay at your fingertips — at the end of the salad bar, clustered bottles of A1, Tabasco, sherry vinegar, soy sauce — secrets to shaping flaccid legumes, flabby starches and various reincarnations of yesterday’s chicken into peppy, provocative meals. Try it now: Animate your salad with one of these easy dressings. (Beware! Taste with your pinky before you douse your plate. To not do so is a waste of food tantamount to flinging the contents of your tray all over the dining-hall floor, and this time you can’t blame it on the guy who popped you in the gut with his over-stuffed L.L.Bean.)

    Zesty Mustard Vinaigrette:

    2 tbs olive oil

    1 tbs red wine vinegar

    1 tbs rice vinegar

    2 tsp grainy mustard

    Salt and pepper

    Sweet Asian Barbecue


    1 tbs olive oil

    1 tbs rice vinegar

    3 tsp soy sauce

    2 tsp orange juice

    1 tsp barbecue sauce

    Salt and pepper

    Rule No. 2: Breaking the Mold

    An assembly line of sleepy students shuffles along the sandwich bar, piling homogeneous ingredients between slightly stale slices of bread. Turkey. Cheese. Lettuce. Tomato. Mustard. Rinse, repeat. It’s a mindless procession that is more frustrating than fulfilling. If your only emotional reaction to a meal is violent fury towards the person in front of you in the dining-hall line (could you take any longer to pile frickin’ onions on your frickin’ tuna fish?) or if you approach the silver bins of deli meats with the deadpan gaze usually reserved for hungover trips to the laundry, something is wrong.

    Making your lunch shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t be another reason to knot yourself into a volatile stress ball. Breaking out of the lunch line is an unexpected way to reinvigorate your lust for life. Not only will your food taste better, but you will enjoy barefooted-hippie-freedom and the self-esteem boosting adulation of your clone-sandwich consuming friends.

    Southwestern Grilled Cheese:

    3 slices cheese (Pepper Jack, if available)

    2 tomato slices

    Red onion slices

    Tabasco Butter (combine 1 tsp Tabasco with 1 tbs butter)

    1 tsp barbecue sauce

    2 slices white bread

    Warning: this is not your Mama’s grilled cheese. We all have fond memories of Kraft melting over butter-golden bread, warm tomato soup sliding along salty crust. But don’t let nostalgia stop you from exploring new dimensions of gooey goodness. Spread one side of each slice of bread with Tabasco butter (this will be the outside). Assemble sandwich, spreading barbecue sauce thinly. To the George Foreman! Don’t forget to check progress.

    The Gobbler:

    4 slices cold-cut turkey

    Thin slices of beets

    Thin slices of red apple (preferably MacIntosh)

    1 slice lettuce (replace with sprouts if available)

    1 tbs garlic hummus

    Honey mustard (combine 1 tbs grainy mustard with 1 tbs honey)

    Tart up your turkey with a twist — sweet beets and crisp apple bring new dimension à la dinde. Assemble and grill. Remember, toasting makes tasty, and Weight Watchers bread tastes like cardboard (and is just as unhealthy). Go for the real stuff.

    Rule No. 3: Allez, cuisine!

    You habitually bake cakes for your roommates’ birthdays, so why go all deer-in-headlights when confronted by a room full of raw ingredients? It might take some searching, but the dining hall holds all of the potential of a fully-stocked kitchen. Be not afraid to experiment — creativity is the key to satiating both physical and existential hunger. Much of what you make in the dining hall will be dictated by what’s available, making each meal a hunt for inspiration. I like to think of it as a kind of perpetual game of Iron Chef (“Today’s secret ingredient is … day-old meatloaf! Allez, cuisine!”). The next time monotony plagues your taste buds, try whipping up enough of this zesty zinger to awaken your apathetic amigos:

    Wake up! Satay Sauce:

    2 1/2 tbs smooth peanut butter

    2 tsp olive oil (or 1 tsp each sesame and olive oil)

    3 tsp red-wine vinegar

    1 tsp rice-wine vinegar

    4 tsp soy sauce

    2 tsp ketchup

    1 1⁄2 tsp honey

    3 tsp Tabasco

    4 tsp orange juice

    1/4 tsp pepper

    Pinch of salt

    Combine ingredients in bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds or until lightly bubbling. Mix, season and serve as a delectable dip for chicken, a unique sandwich-topper, or mix with pasta and lightly microwaved green and red peppers, mushrooms, bean sprouts, celery and onions for Asian-style peanut noodles.

  2. Kooky Kooks’ ‘Konk’: The most recent expression of British eccentricity

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    The Kooks are repackaged candy for the long-forgotten, boy-band-loving heart, with its lingering fondness for disposable songs and a carefully crafted image. No trans fats! 40% more lyrics about love! Xtreme pop: Now with real instruments. With lyrics written to unnamed girlfriends and safe, well-worn melodies, “Konk” goes down as easy as hot chocolate . Or cherry-flavored Robitussin. Or a slickly produced quartet of British pop musicians.

    The Kooks’ debut album, “Inside In/Inside Out,” went triple platinum, so it is difficult to blame them for trying to replicate their earlier success. The Kooks sound the same as they did on their debut album — but with a greater fear of surprising the listener. Hearing the same thing over and over again wears thin, and all cries for mercy are ignored: The Kooks bludgeon listeners with the cudgel that is their lovelorn pop formula.

    Even the tracks about broken relationships are unrelentingly upbeat. Those looking for originality should keep moving. “Konk” is named after the studio where it was recorded, after all. All the songs on “Konk,” including the track “Always Where I Need to Be” (number three on the UK singles chart) lack the charm of “Inside In/Inside Out.” No song distinguishes itself as “Naive” did on the debut album. On “Gap,” the Kooks briefly deviate from the plodding, strummed guitar and peppy drums that characterize the rest of the album, but it is not enough to hold the listener’s interest.

    Lead singer Luke Pritchard seems to be promoting the idea that the Kooks are adults now, both as musicians and people. Growing up for the Kooks means becoming subdued. Attempts to prove their worldliness come out in awkward bursts, as with the song “Mr. Maker,” about a righteous man troubled by the rough world he sees. All discussion of the undistinguished nature of the track aside, Pritchard’s reassurances to Mr. Maker sound forced.

    Then the Kooks try to make themselves edgier by talking about sex. But when Pritchard sings, “Do you wanna make love to me? / I know you wanna,” on “Do You Wanna,” it feels like the embarrassing advances of a middle schooler. The Kooks are uncool, and have yet to embrace it.

    Pritchard’s second-person lyrics about love keep the tracks ambiguous enough for romantic mix tapes. However, some of them are jarringly stupid. “One Last Time,” otherwise one of the best songs on the album, drops the line “A, b, c, d, e, f and g / Oh that reminds me of when we were free.” As helpful as the refresher course on the alphabet was, perhaps it’s time for the Kooks to graduate to words. Later Pritchard declares, “Safety pins holding up the things / That make you mine” on “Shine On.” What are these “things”? Her baggy pants from Hot Topic?

    “Konk” is about personal life without being personal, familiar without being memorable. The Kooks croon, strum and leave no lasting impression.

  3. Punishment and Claustrophobia

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    Before even going to “Esdras,” you should know it’s something very special. It is one of those rare things — a play produced, written and performed by students. Even rarer still, most of these students are freshmen. But you wouldn’t know it.

    Haunting the Ezra Stiles Little Theatre this weekend are the stories of eleven damned women performed by a trio of wailing, quivering and sometimes joking actresses (Gwynedd Davis ’11, Isabel Siragusa ’11 and Alice Walton ’10). Playwright and director Oren Stevens ’11, the mastermind behind this production, said he chose the stories because they “resonated with [him],” and that, whilst he was writing the script, “some of them just flowed out.”

    The play — an audacious mixture between staging and text — relies heavily on the use of language to convey atmosphere. The intent listener will definitely be rewarded by the variety of styles (including a child’s song about Mary Tudor, a translated lecture by Marie-Antionette and a bickering moment between three different aspects of Cleopatra’s personality). Stevens’ mastery of these styles is astounding; he switches from a colloquial Ethel Rosenberg to an arrogant and unspeaking Mata-Hari in the blink of a scene change.

    Of course, the danger of a play like this is that the audience will be bored. The play has no intermission and has little action beyond the symbolic gestures and expressions of the damned women. However, credit must go to the actresses. Given little to work with aesthetically beyond the words themselves (the few props and costumes are simple so as not to “impose on the action”), the actresses breathe life into the lines, thereby conjuring up rich images of bygone days. The audience will find themselves waiting for yet another story by the time the play ends.

    “Esdras” works itself to three climaxes for each of the three actresses. First is Livilla (made rich by the wailing Davis), the scheming poisoner-wife of Drusus, son of Tiberius, imprisoned in her own room without food. Use is made of the walls to signify her punishment as the room suddenly becomes more claustrophobic. The audience grows conscious of the space surrounding them, the closeness of the atmosphere and the darkness of the paint; the theatre becomes stifling, suffocating, urging one forward like a swimmer in a cavern desperately seeking air.

    Indeed, there are pockets of air in the tales of executions and the surreal, after-death experiences of the wives of Henry VIII and Joan of Arc which are treated with a wry humor by both the cast and the play itself. In addition to this, relief is offered by the orchestra, illuminated, somehow angelically, in the background.

    The highlight of the play and its second climax is the story of Elizabeth Bathory. In it, the beauty of Stevens’s language is exploited to the fullest extent possible by Siragusa who struts and poses her way around the stage in a truly magnificent way. The fluidity of the lines is at its best here, and the circumstances of the story are treated so euphemistically (blood is only referred to as “hot, red life”), that it conjures up the most horrifying images of any of the stories. The imagination of the audience is key here, and Stevens’s language darts around so nimbly that the free play of mental images is unstoppable.

    The final climactic moment is the story of Sharon Tate, wife of Roman Polanski. Perhaps the rewinding, pausing, fast-forwarding of her life could have been further honed through the use of props, but Walton’s performance and innocence creates the most scarring moment in a scarring play. The image of her cut body, frozen in light against the back wall is photographic in quality and the most memorable visual effect. This, out of any moment of the play, will remain in the minds of audience members long after the play has run its course.

    With few flaws beyond the (very) occasional stumble and the somewhat monotony of just one lighting style, “Esdras” is certainly something worth seeing. Indeed, Stevens might be, as his high school teacher told him, “The next great female playwright.”

  4. ‘Shots’ and wine: By Yale, for Yale

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    This week saw the debut of two student-produced films, “Half Court Shots” by Maxwell Lanman ’10 and “Everyone Who Has Ever Lived Here,” the senior thesis of Michael Nedelman ’08.

    “Half Court Shots” runs like a YTV comedy, employing “The Office”-like situational humor and playing off social stereotypes to appeal to a student crowd. In contrast, “Everyone” feels polished and extremely well-made, exhibiting the benefits of a professional cast and passionate direction.

    “Half Court Shots” unfolds in familiar sitcom style, following geeky “level 27 mage” Charlie Conroy (Joshua Silverstein ’10) as he attempts to woo the ladies with bromides and inflated bravado. Predictably enough, when his roommate’s beautiful sister Laura (Pippa Bianco ’11) moves into their apartment, Conroy scrambles to impress her and her sorority sisters by throwing a party. Situational humor ensues.

    Silverstein carries much of the show’s comedy, delivering forced machismo and extensive “Lord of the Rings” references with panache. Silverstein’s flamboyance and the show’s abundant play on geek stereotypes start off strong, with Conroy preening before his fellow geeky friends and unwittingly delivering a string of cliched pick-up lines towards an athletic girl. After 20 minutes, however, the plot starts to drudge into predictable territory as the characters remain stagnantly stereotypical. The Weirdo Who Tries to Get the Girl. The Hot Girl Who Only Dates Jocks. The “World-Of-Warcraft” Geeky Sidekicks. Only Laura’s studious brother Jonathan (Stan Seiden ’10) feels real, but he merely serves as a foil to heighten Conroy’s outrageous behavior.

    The panning handheld camera popularized by shows such as “The Office” often slows down “Half Court Shots.” Many scenes were filmed in one continuous panning shot from one angle, which added an element of “reality” but also felt laborious and dragged on scenes where more stringent editing would have tightened the pace and strengthened the humor’s punch. The constant zooming in an out of characters’ faces also creates a somewhat dizzying effect.

    “Everyone Who Has Ever Lived Here” presents the drama of three consecutive residents of a New York apartment: Joseph, a Holocaust survivor penning his novel; his son Jason, an aspiring filmmaker; and Nirav, a pre-med student struggling with a budding romance and his traditional Indian family’s expectations to become a doctor.

    The three stories unfold simultaneously in split-screen, with occasional sequences that present a single scene at once. Throughout most of the film, two of the scenes are muted, focusing attention to the one scene with audio. Initially, the three concurrent scenes create a disconcerting effect, and you don’t quite know what to feel, especially as you are just figuring out the characters and their stories. At one point, the screen shows a man lying on the ground after a heart-attack, two men undressing each other in bed, and one man unpacking in his apartment.

    However, as the film progresses and unravels the tenants’ intertwining lives, the split-screen and masterful juxtaposition of scenes create mystery and drama. The individual scenes are shot beautifully and impressive if shown independently. While the simultaneous presentation of scenes occasionally detracts from an individual scene’s effectiveness, the film overall succeeds in balancing the scenes’ moods and visual impact to create a highly dramatic and aesthetic result. Mystery, romance, drama, edgy cinematography and superb acting, “Everyone Who Has Ever Lived Here” shows true vision and talent.

  5. If it’s not fresh, it’s not ‘dirty’ enough for Banks

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    Ever since my favorite Cup Noodles was removed from the intersection of Broadway and 45th, all the advertisements in Times Square do nothing for me except justify wearing sunglasses at night. I have no interest in buying men’s underwear or the latest toys, so I usually ignore the gigantic eyesores and concentrate on seething at the tourists that stop and gawk every five feet — except for one night a few weeks ago.

    It was late March, and I was walking briskly with a friend toward the theater district. Suddenly a 20-story tall ad for Smirnoff Grand Cosmopolitan appeared, and part of me shrieked and died inside. Not only was it aggravatingly gigantic, but it was also hawking a PRE-MIXED cosmopolitan.

    I realize that we live in an era of convenience: dried noodle soup, McDonald’s, iPhones, automatic greeting-card services and txt mssgs are the norm. I can see how it would be tempting to fix your drink for the evening by going to the liquor store and picking up a single bottle to swig from while you type on your Blackberry. But when we can’t take the time to make a fresh cocktail, we might be taking the ready-to-eat concept a bit too far: Is drinking a prepackaged cocktail really the best way to enjoy alcohol?

    Even in the sparest of circumstances, a decent drink can be made fresh. Last fall, I was wandering around downtown Manhattan with some friends before we made it to Brooklyn for the night. Looking to avoid the high prices at bars, we opted for the liquor store instead. A quick stop at Associated Supermarkets, and we had grapefruit juice and rum served in classy cartons. It took a little more time, but there’s little to compare to fresh(ish) juice in a cocktail.

    So if Times Square represents the beacon of American capitalism, I dearly hope that the Grand (Fake) Cosmopolitan is just a fluke. I realize that I’m starting to sound like a nostalgic dreamer wishing for a return to an agrarian paradise, but I actually see nothing wrong with technology. Bring on the hovercrafts and high-speed transit! Anything to get rid of the traffic in SoCal!

    The problems with American drinking culture are not the result of technology or a high-speed life. I am tempted to blame the high drinking age and a Puritan cultural ancestry, but I don’t think it’ll ever be completely clear.

    I do believe that a healthy attitude toward alcohol in American culture is a very real goal. Not only does this include injunctions against drinking too much — my grandfather died from complications of alcoholism and I am all too aware of the dangers — but also a recommendation. Know what’s going into your cocktail; you’ll be more aware of how much you’re drinking, and you’ll get more out of the whole experience.

    And maybe I’m wrong; maybe bottled mixed drinks taste better, cause people to drink less and are more likely to be recycled than Solo cups. Then I will happily stock my bar with pre-mixed Manhattans, packaged tequila sunrises and fruit-on-the-bottom sangria.

    Until then, I leave you with the recipe for the Dirty Cosmopolitan: impossible to bottle, and worth every second in the cocktail shaker.

    Dirty Cosmopolitan:

    1 1/2 oz. vodka

    3/4 oz. triple sec

    1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice.

    1/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice

    1 1/2 oz. cranberry juice

    3 oz. Prosecco or other dry sparkling wine

    Mix the first five ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Top with the Prosecco. The orange juice highlights the orange flavor in the triple sec, while the lemon plays off the acidity in the wine. The squeezed juice — with just a little pulp — is enough to make it “dirty”: a dirty martini is just a martini with olive juice. But if you want to make it extra dirty, add a swirl of chocolate syrup on top and some chocolate shavings. It’s champagne, chocolate and cranberries — in a single cocktail.

  6. There are probably still a lot of great jobs out there

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    I currently do not have a summer job or internship, and it is causing me to wake up in a cold sweat and spontaneously vomit on myself. Am I the only one left who doesn’t have a cubicle with my name on it at Goldman Sachs?


    No. God, I hope it’s not just you and me remaining at the bottom of the pit of unemployed despair. I receive those e-mails from the Yale Undergraduate Career Services that begin, “Help! I Need an Internship!” and I want to punch my laptop in its smug face and scream, “You don’t know me!”

    But it does know me, because it can see me sending desperate e-mails to employers with whom I’ve already pleaded for a job (multiple times in the past weeks) trying to prove that since I last inquired about an internship, I have become a much more qualified individual. It also laughs at me – makes that low grumbling noise with which it expresses displeasure before it flashes Chinese symbols and shuts down – whenever I Google phrases like “cool job.”

    To help you adapt to your new status as a desperate loser, I would like to present a ladder (leading straight into hell) that shows what job opportunities one imagines are still available as time continues to flee, kicking rejection letters in its wake. Perhaps this will be good to review next year, as this death-cycle repeats itself, and we both act like fools once again.

    Stage One (circa January, 2008)

    Things are rosy. Life is beautiful. You dream that it is already the still-distant summer, and in your dream you look much like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” You have ideals. You have goals. You make things happen. You don’t bother looking into summer grants because at the salary that you are going to be earning as you churn out Pulitzer Prize winning work/save planet Earth/rule the world, you won’t need to think about that kind of chump change.

    Stage Two (circa February, 2008)

    It begins to seem strange to you that other people already know what they are going to be doing this summer. You wonder what all those e-mails about Bulldogs and Bluegrass were about, but laugh it off. You go to Yale, so … you’re essentially the perfect candidate for anything. That fat old Y is the golden ticket. You worked hard to get here, so you’re going to sit back with your cigar and bottle of Andre, and ready yourself for when the job offers start rolling in.

    Stage Three (circa March, 2008)

    You begin to worry. You call up your mother, who is disconcertingly cheery about the whole thing, and tell her to start contacting everyone she knows that has a job. She wants to know what kind of job, and you start weeping and screaming, “Any job at all, Mom, I’m a Humanities major. I just want a roof over my head and an air-conditioning unit in the window.”

    Stage Four (circa April, 2008)

    You start sending drunk e-mails to your parents asking them why they don’t have more connections in the Right Places, why they didn’t get goddamn famous when they had the chance. You start trying to sabotage other people’s summer options, by belittling all the jobs they mention having applied for, and then applying for the same jobs behind their backs. Your parents start using the phrase “long-shot” a lot, and sending you care packages in the mail.

    Stage Five (circa May, 2008)

    Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. That’s all you hear in your head, all the time, that and the song “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston. He’s only eighteen and look at his job, you think. You start asking if your parents will pay you not to watch “Make Me a Supermodel” all day. You take up knitting. You tell all of your friends on AIM that you’ve started a novel, but you won’t video chat with them because then they would see you swigging whole milk out of the carton, while wearing your Garfield pajamas (tops and bottoms, they just make you feel comfy).

    Mid-Summer (a.k.a. Reality Bites)

    You are working at American Apparel.

    Summary: See you in the pit. I’ll bring the milk and the slim slacks. I get a discount.

    Emma Allen could be YOUR intern this summer! Email! Or call! Whatevs!

  7. ‘The Year’ I lived in Sao Paolo with Jews

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    Let’s face it: You’d enjoy watching a cute little boy playing soccer. You might even pay to sit in a dark theater and eat popcorn while doing so. But if you’re expecting a more meaningful experience than that from “O Ano em Que Meus Pais Sairam de Ferias” (“The Year My Parents Went on Vacation”), you will be disappointed.

    The film, directed by Cao Hamburger and starring the adorable Michel Joelsas, tells the story of a young soccer-loving boy named Mauro living in Brazil in 1970. His parents, wanted by the military dictatorship for unexplained reasons, decide to leave him with his grandfather while they are “on vacation” — presumably in hiding or in jail. Inconveniently, the grandfather dies just before Mauro arrives at his apartment, leaving him effectively abandoned in a neighborhood of Sao Paolo called Bom Retiro. The neighborhood is strongly Jewish, full of Yiddish-speaking black hat types who fled to South America during the Holocaust. A neighbor of his grandfather’s, a yarmulked and bearded old man named Shlomo who seems to have forgotten what it means to be young, takes pity on Mauro and tries his best to care for him.

    “Vacation” portrays the miseries and joys of Mauro’s life that year as he adjusts to his unwanted independence, discovers an unfamiliar culture, roots for Brazil in the World Cup and waits anxiously for his parents’ return.

    But as eventful as that sounds, not much actually happens. And though that can sometimes be a nice change from the action-packed pace of American cinema, in this case it mostly results in a lack of cohesion. There’s just not enough material with which to make any sort of point.

    The movie is certainly trying to tell us something, maybe in part about race — a lot of emphasis is placed on the fact that soccer stars Pele and Tostao play on the same team, presumably representing a successful partnership between black and white. And the same soccer-fueled transcendence of racial barriers is mirrored in the local Bom Retiro games between the Italians and the Jews, whose goalie is a black man with a Greek girlfriend. At one point Mauro announces that his greatest aspiration is to be a black goalie. So … soccer is an arena where race becomes less important? Living in a big city is nice because people of different races interact? The movie doesn’t say anything new or particularly concrete here.

    Frustratingly, it also mostly ignores the issue of Mauro’s relationship to his father’s religion. Mauro, who is not Jewish, watches wide-eyed as one of his peers becomes a bar mitzvah, and after some initial reluctance he allows Shlomo to call him “Moishele,” which means “Little Moses.” But mostly he seems to be completely indifferent — no curiosity, no rejection, no attachment. He does describe himself as a “goalkeeper,” which seems as though it’s supposed to have some kind of deeper significance apart from soccer, but the film provides no hints as to what that might be.

    Still, Mauro’s sad but inescapable plight is interesting in and of itself, and the tender portrayal of the poor kid’s frustrations and tentative friendships makes the film worthwhile. “Vacation” is most moving when it portrays Mauro’s compassion toward an anti-totalitarian friend of his father’s. After the man is beaten up by the police, Mauro hides him in his grandfather’s old apartment, showing him the kind of tenderness Mauro might have wished to receive from Shlomo. As sweet as the scene is, though, it isn’t exactly character development. By the time Mauro leaves Bom Retiro, all one can really say about him is that he grew up. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t make for particularly thrilling cinema either.

    Even if its treatment of familiar themes like soccer and totalitarianism doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know, it’s nonetheless a likeable and rather entertaining movie. It’s incredibly endearing to watch old Jewish men in suits jumping up and down in front of the television chanting “Brasil!” And Mauro, to the film’s immense benefit, is a compelling character with all the zest of boyhood and no artificial sweeteners. If nothing else, the movie is engrossing because the viewers want to be reassured that he’ll be okay.

    Or at least to watch him dribble the ball a few more times.

  8. Green ‘Bridge’ counters mass consumerism

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    “Money doesn’t make us happy.” We’ve all heard it from parents who drive Mercedes, innovative musicians who sell out to big labels, and Yale grads in their third year at Goldman Sachs. The mass consumerism that drives our economy — encouraging you to buy that new cell phone with the built in PDA and GPS and that pink argyle sweater from J. Crew — is harming our community. Dean James Gustave Speth of the School of Forestry speaks out against American consumer capitalism in his new book “A Bridge at the Edge of the World.” Recognizing that we are now in a state of environmental crisis, one that if not resolved will lead to an inhabitable world by the end of the century, Speth makes a call for drastic change.

    Speth’s argument for environmental reform comes in a holistic and pragmatic form. By delving into social science, Speth asserts that money really does not buy happiness, and that it in fact increases “social pathologies”, such as the widening income gap. Given that there is little correlation between economic success and personal enjoyment, Speth believes there should be few constraints in a movement for sustainability.

    Yet there are multiple obstacles to growth of environmental activism and governmental change. First and foremost is the concern for individual wants and desires. Speth points out that by focusing on our wants — such as our desires to buy superfluous electronics — we alienate those of future generations, and that the continuation of human life is more important than economic success. He places this burden on the shoulders of our youth by indicating that if the world economy does not drastically change to highlight the things that really do matter in life — people, health, education and happiness — we will not be able to provide a sustainable planet for our grandchildren.

    Speth frames our current situation by comparing it to his childhood summers spent swimming in South Carolina’s Edisto River. As a young kid he struggled swimming against the current of the river, but as he grew older and stronger he would be able to push through it. Speth recognizes the increase in activism for environmental reform, especially on college campuses, but stresses that the current we are swimming against is growing stronger at a faster pace than the growth of our sustainable actions.

    The solution is much greater than replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs, reducing individual energy consumption and trading in that big old Chevy Blazer for a Prius. Speth’s solution is a complete restructuring of the American government and individual thought. The United States government views success in terms of GDP and economic growth, thus supporting immensely powerful corporations and influencing the career motivations of American youth. The drive to decrease prices to increase consumerism not only reduces the potential for small business growth, but also encourages companies to cut costs in ways that are environmentally detrimental. Speth believes that restructuring corporations by placing more power in the hands of public shareholders and making corporations more accountable to government regulation will be a major step in reasserting the importance of environmental action.

    Yet the American government as it now stands is not going to interfere with a corporation that is catalyzing economic growth, which is why Speth calls for such drastic social change. He is no Marxist — he does not believe in the need for control over means of production or central planning. Instead, he focuses on the need for economic reform. In order to decrease environmentally destructive consumerism, Speth discusses the need for an increase in the prices of consumer goods. Essentially, by increasing the price of a house that is built on top of a wetland, the amount of viable consumers will decrease, and subsequently so will the desire of contractors to build in environmentally destructive ways.

    In order to spur massive environmental change, Speth establishes that the movement for sustainability must be linked to movements for social justice, universal health care, education reform and job creation. He believes that, in order to deter the growing current, we must establish a movement for social action of greater strength than the civil rights movement of the ’60s. Studies illustrate that individuals believe the United States has become too materialistic; now with additional information pertaining to how materialism is detrimental to human life, one might see the need for drastic social change.

    While it’s easy to get swept up in Speth’s engaging writing and warning to “stop looking at GDP growth as our savior and instead seek to solve our problems by addressing them directly,” one must keep tabs on the fact that the post-growth economy the author recommends is hardly flawless. The establishment of a post-growth economy would need to be economically managed in a manner that will avoid recessions and the creation of additional unemployment in order to increase environmental sensibility and overall well-being. And while many of us can survive without our iPhones and Jordache jeans, it’s hard to ignore the fact that a nice pair of jeans can in fact improve self-image and even make you happy. Speth notices that it will be difficult to alter modern thought and encourage mass activism necessary to implement a shift away from consumer capitalism in the American government, but by compiling an argument supported from professionals from several different disciplines he makes it hard to ignore that we are in a crisis, and that change is necessary. First we need to become content with the goods we already have.

  9. Nobody likes a twenty-year-old in a dirty poncho

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    People always get really upset with me when I tell them I’m a vegan. If the topic ever comes up, my admission is almost inevitably met with stares of condescension, rolled eyes and furrowed brows. It makes me feel weak and emasculated, when really all I want is to show my solidarity for animals and let the world know how much I love them.

    I find that the only time I’m really comfortable admitting that is when I’m in the company of other vegans. Whenever I spot the telltale signs of a vegan — bare feet in public and a Subaru wagon with a Kerry Edwards ’04 sticker on it — I can’t help but feel a sense of unity, and the hair on the back of my unwashed neck raises in anticipation of our encounter. When we see each other, I give my brother in arms the vegan salute, which is just a choreographed dance from “Step Up 2: The Streets” that prominently features my Wild Oats card.

    When he sees my salute, he reciprocates appropriately, tilting his head to the left, squinting, and giving me a quizzical look. That’s when I know for sure that he’s a vegan, and not just some dirty hippie who drives a Subaru and can’t afford shoes. I approach him and, when we finally arrive at each others’ side, I address him in the universal vegan language: Esperanto.

    “Saluton,” I always say, “mi vidi tiu vi es a vegan.”

    “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian,” he responds, “but I did like your dance from ‘Step Up 2: The Streets.’ That movie was amazing.”

    At this point I usually know that he’s a beginner vegan, not yet proficient in the auxiliary language of the world, but dedicated enough to the cause to know a good dance movie when he sees one. I don’t condescend to beginner vegans because, embarrassingly enough, I was once a beginner, too. Instead, I make a move to further welcome him into the elite world of veganism.

    “Oh, that’s okay, you’ll learn Esperanto soon enough, especially since everyone in the future is going to speak it. Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice that you, too, are a vegan. There’s an Outback Steakhouse around the corner, and I’d love it if you found a pair of shoes and went there with me.”

    And that’s always where the conversation turns sour. For whatever reason, I’m the only vegan I’ve ever met who likes steakhouses, and whenever I invite another vegan to join me for a steak dinner, he or she gets really angry and goes on a long tirade about animal rights. It’s so ridiculous to preach to me about that! I of all people know that animals have rights, like the right to be lightly seasoned, and the right to be delicious.

    Clearly, these people I meet and greet and not true vegans, because if they were, they’d be eager to eat a steak. But apparently there are different schools of veganism. For example, there is my school – the traditionalist, conservative school – that believes that it’s disrespectful to animals to eat more than one type of meat at any meal. You must show your love for a specific type of animal by not diluting its uniqueness and heritage with other types of meat.

    Furthermore, we believe you should lather every piece of meat you eat in butter to prove your respect for all types of animal products, and you should eat your meat as rare as possible, so that the animal may be respected in as pure of state as is possible without you getting E. coli.

    But the, on the other side, there are people who I refer to as “Sissy McDennis Kucinich vegans,” who insist on “abstaining” from eating any type of “meat” or “animal product” and who “just want you to leave them alone because you’re distracting me from playing my bongo drum.” These Sissy McDennis Kucinich vegans are cowards who don’t know how to respect an animal when they see one. They make a mockery out of everything that is sacred to me – namely, buttered sirloin and buttered pork ribs – and they spread misinformation about how eating animals is cruel.

    The truth is that it would be cruel not to eat animals, since we’ve already fattened them up and raised them close to slaughterhouses. If we didn’t eat them, their fragile legs would eventually succumb to the delicious weight of their ribs, flanks, and haunches, and that would be extremely painful for them. Is that what bullshit vegans want? For fat young cows to be robbed of their chance at heroic martyrdom and deliciousness because a bunch of poncho-wearing twenty-year-olds with nose rings thought they should live?

    I, for one, will not stand for that sort of idiocy. Sissy McDennis Kucinich vegans are diluting what it really means to be a vegan, and they prevent mankind from showing appreciation for cows, pigs, lambs, chickens and turkeys in the most reverent way possible: by consuming them – with butter, and also with light seasoning.

    For those of you who think my veganism is cruel or ignorant towards animals, I wholeheartedly disagree, and I bet they do, too. If cows had evolved to the point of developing methods to domesticate, fatten, and slaughter humans for consumption, then I’d be more than okay with that, since the cows would clearly be the more able-bodied, intelligent ones. “Congratulations, you bovine geniuses,” I’d say to my cow masters, “you’ve won.”

    But instead, humans are the ones who are smarter, more capable, and intrinsically carnivorous, which is why my veganism means so much to me. Veganism means embracing evolution and the natural order of life, and not trying to dilute it by adopting Sissy McDennis Kucinichism.

    That said, the one plus side of that sort of veganism is that their abstaining from meat means that there’s more for me to eat, particularly considering we all know their views won’t have an actual impact on the eating habits of the larger population. All I request is that they stop calling themselves “vegans,” since it distorts the true meaning of the word and detracts from the pride of actual vegans, like myself.

    Daniel Zier is like the Jesus of cows.

  10. Yale-dancers Yoyo, solo, tambourino

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    If variety is, as they say, the spice of life, be prepared for a flavorful experience at the Yaledancers’ Spring Show. These muses of the dance floor mesmerize viewers with masterful choreography, fluid motion and sprightly music. Yaledancers, the oldest Yale dance organization dating back to 1973, has challenged the traditional concept of a dance recital. No longer will you think of parents jamming into auditoriums armed with camcorders and huge bouquets of flowers to see their little princes and princesses trounce across the stage. Yaledancers have made their performance into a sleek, hip, high-energy experience.

    The Spring Show, about an hour and 40 minutes, is composed of 25 dances and a diverse playlist. Add the high-tech lighting effects, and you’ve entered a vogue world unbeknownst even to you. The dances, in either solo or group arrangements spanning from classical ballet to hip-hop-inspired modern dance, exemplify the comprehensive range of styles by the Yaledancers. Notable among the acts are Wen-Chuan Dai’s ’08 liquid, pliant movement and deft command of the stage to Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin’s “Grace,” an in sync, interpretive group dance of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” in which the dancers embody every feeling of loneliness and anguish, and a surreal group dance to the trip-hop “Only You” by Portishead. The music selection also includes Yael Naim, Moby, Cat Power, Brahms and, of course, Britney Spears.

    This student-run production is a domesticated beast. It runs smoothly, but has a deep-seeded power and intensity that will amaze you. The noticeably bare stage places emphasis on the captivating light show, illuminating the dancers in an otherworldly glow. The intricate student choreography is balanced by the simplicity and uniformity of the costumes. Black leggings and simple dresses are on the menu for the evening, allowing the dancers to gallivant across the stage and silhouette their limber forms.

    The dancers, who have been preparing for this performance since January, are adept at assuming the emotions of the song in their motions and bodies, so you are bombarded not only audibly by the feeling of the song, but also visually. In the group collaborations, the dancers each have a certain degree of autonomy to exhibit their own style and personality. By the end of the performance, you feel as if you know each dancer’s quirks and characteristics.

    The Spring Show holds something for everyone. For those of you who still tightly hold that childhood love for poofy tutus and crisp, white tights, don’t worry; this eclectic performance includes a few of those acts. A visit from “Esmeralda” is in order for the night too, as she agilely jumps around the stage, beating her tambourine lightly on her heel and enchanting the crowd. And be prepared for a grandiose finale that’ll make you want to jump and jive a little.

    Not only will you leave the theater marveling at the dexterity of the human body and beauty of motion, you will have a new playlist to shop for once you get home.

  11. Shoegazing M83 equates Saturdays with solemnity

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    Post-erboys for the new post-musicality that is affecting our age. Remembering the grayness that pervades the world. Something empty streams through reticence.

    M83’s new album “Saturdays = Youth” capitalizes on minimal use of lyrics, sounds, comprehensibility. Somehow Saturdays do not equal Fun. Or anything particularly Saturday-ish.

    “Too Late,” a song that speaks of sleepiness, pared-down-ness. Typical of the album. Taking the East Coast seaside desolation to a European level. But perhaps it’s a little too light to slit your wrists to. Saturdays = The End of The World? Yes, but accepted passively. No mass panic for M83.

    The lean aspect falls into shades of gray which pass the unsuspecting listener unnoticed.

    But surely M83 cannot take itself seriously. Or maybe parts of their brains were removed. Or maybe they have given up and the drugs have taken control. Needless to say, they have forgotten how to speak, how to produce anything happy.

    Listening to “Saturdays = Youth,” perhaps a pleasant experience? Gray? Yes. Empty? Yes. Fulfilling? Somehow. The album comforts, lets it drag you into its glare, somewhere the moment of a rabbit caught in the headlights. Watching a mote fall to the ground. Listening to people lying in bed together a floor below. Post-Coital? Most definitely. Especially “Midnight Souls Still Remain.”

    But how bland, one can say? Why should one listen?

    One track that seeks to alleviate itself from the utter lack of feeling of solitary piano tunes and emptily drifting electronic sounds is “Couleurs” (the first single release), which attempts an upbeat use of eighties drumbeats that sound suspiciously like the intro music to “Miami Vice.” It’s difficult to imagine the context in which one would play this song, but it’s relatively springy as a beat, especially when contrasted with the rest of the album. About six minutes in, a newer, “loucher” beat starts to project itself onto the song. And … is that singing? Yes, it’s obscured by the beat and it’s so distorted that it’s difficult to tell what the vocalists are saying. “Forget yourself.” No matter, the effect created lasts, a somewhat haunted trance, an empty paralysis.

    “Up,” is another slightly more substantial song. It starts out a warped version of some R&B hit, but soon drifts into high pitched singing, quite ethereal, and describes flying through the stars (but could this be an allegory for something else?!). “We fly / We freeze / We suck / We bleed / We ne-e-e-d” is what they do up there, apparently, anyway.

    “Graveyard Girl,” the album’s second single release, tells of a girl … who lives in a graveyard and “worships Satan like her father.” “I’m fifteen years old and I feel it’s already too late to love,” she proclaims, angst-ridden. Maybe you should stop listening to My Chemical Romance? However, the song is not without its innocence, lightness, beauty in electronic progressions and blurred singing.

    While there is no doubt that “Saturdays = Youth” is very carefully constructed and track flows into track, listening to it in its entirety is a feat, one that is very likely to put one to sleep or make one waste time gazing at something when there are “more important things to do.” Like eat food. No wonder the youths on the cover of the album look so malnourished.

    Towards the end, the songs start to slow even more. “Dark Moves of Love” seems to acknowledge the passing of the album: “So time is running out, dividing you and me,” but then again, “everything is wrapped in gray” and it doesn’t really matter.

    We should all love this album. One cannot get past the feeling that it is somehow very special, innocent, maybe even important, but it is difficult to say why. It simply takes itself far too seriously to be something that will stick with you forever. Its beauty will wisp away, unnoticed by many and hated by a few. Some might appreciate it.