Tag Archive: Living

  1. Tomatillo: Chipotle’s lime-y cousin

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    Tomatillo Taco Joint is the culinary equivalent of elevator music.

    I’m not just saying my meal wasn’t memorable — it wasn’t, but who’s expecting that? — but that it had no personality. To the postmodernist in me, it was a hyper-realistic, Play-Doh diorama kind of meal. At Tomatillo, one gets the sense that the cultural origin of the taco is not Mexico but Disneyland.

    The way you order at Tomatillo is, not unlike at Chipotle, by choosing some permutation of filling, stuffing and toppings for your taco, burrito, burrito bowl or taco salad, which, by the way, are the exact same options Chipotle offers. The only discernible difference with Chipotle is that Tomatillo offers citrus-marinated shrimp and tempura-battered Baja fish (both for $7.35) whereas Chipotle only offers the usual repertoire of chicken, beef, pork and veggies.

    Point for Tomatillo!

    So, for example, I ordered a burrito bowl stuffed with cilantro and lime-flavored rice and vegetarian black beans, filled it with the Baja fish and topped it off with pico de gallo, shredded cheese and guacamole ($0.95 extra). The one problem was that I was handed a burrito instead — which, to be honest, was my fault, since I could have corrected the employee when he rolled it right in front of me. In any case, it didn’t take long for the bloated burrito to break through the thin, silky tortilla, so I ended up just eating a messier version of the burrito bowl.

    The fish was comfortably soft — and my friend who ordered a steak burrito ($7.35) said the same for the meat — but I couldn’t exactly taste it, or anything else for that matter, except LIME. I guess whoever seasoned the cilantro and lime-flavored rice was pretty squeeze-happy, and I didn’t exactly mind the taste until I realized I couldn’t fill up a 600-word review with one flavor. But that’s really all I felt.

    In retrospect, the monolithic flavor is a snug metaphor for the Tomatillo experience, which is something akin to eating in a bunker, or vacationing in a walled Playa del Carmen resort. Sure, the color scheme of orange and olive green was tasteful, the brick wall sophisticated, the floor spotless; the soundtrack (Shins, Vampire Weekend) was cool. But the tact of it all bored me, too. The token hints to Mexico (cacti in stone grinders, little framed pictures of ambiguously Mexican landscapes) were playing it too safe. And the gaudy lineup of neon Jarritos bottles could only be an ironic gesture.

    To its credit, Tomatillo goes bold with the salsa. The habanero chili sauce hit me at full blast, and the salsa verde was thick and robust; both work as complements to the main meal. I was less taken with the aji amarillo, which tasted overwhelmingly of banana peppers. A Peruvian friend who ate with me noted that the aji, a traditionally Peruvian paste, was too watery and indelicate.

    The most polarizing dish we ordered was shrimp tacos garnished with corn salsa, shredded cheese, pico de gallo and sour cream. My suitemate — a serial Yelp reviewer with a refined palate — was turned off by the corn salsa’s taste of canning fluid, so another suitemate finished it off with a grin, pointing out the piquant and inexplicable aftertaste of Doritos. I was pleasantly surprised by the generous portion of shrimp on the taco, though it was chewier than expected — especially considering how delicate the fish and steak had been.

    Mostly because it defies categorization, Tomatillo deflects facile judgment. But that leaves me with only two thoughts: LIME! and bleh.

  2. Pay2Play: The virtual classroom

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    Capitalizing on the success of simulations like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, the recently launched mainstream game Rocksmith actually teaches you guitar as you play it. And the pedagogy uniquely emphasized by games — learning by doing — develops concurrently with the player’s growing skill in a way that traditional textbook learning does not.

    “In a video game, every action produces an immediate and proportionate reward. If you are better, you do better and are wildly praised by the game-world, where in the real world you may do great things that go unnoticed,” wrote Devin Race ’13. “And seldom can you find an activity where you can vary the difficulty so the challenges match exactly with your abilities, allowing you to enter into the incredibly rewarding psychological state typically called ‘flow.’”

    The flow that Race lauds — an intense consuming stimulation of the brain and its attentions — is seen negatively as addictiveness. And yet, the reward system feedback video games trigger can be rerouted and exploited to our benefit. The significant levels of patience and focus that games require have been shown in some case studies to actually increase player’s attention capacities. A 40 plus hour time commitment is a lot longer than most spend studying for tests, watching movies, or reading novels.

    Puzzle games demand new levels of critical thinking. Former Chess Club President Lawrence Moy ’11 also pointed out that real time strategy games force players to balance long-term needs (such as resource management) with short-term demands (like battle-ready units) during war.“First person shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield require individuals to analyze situations in order to decide how to best achieve an objective, and to use teamwork to survive and succeed under pressure,” he wrote.

    Annie Paul, a lecturer at Yale who’s working on a book about the science of learning, sees practicing games as useful past their immediate benefit in the gameplay world. Games present an “intriguing model of learning” as a way of aiding individuals in their academic studies through providing “instant feedback on performance and [presenting] challenges that are precisely tailored to the player’s ability.”

    According to multiple studies, surgeons who are avid video game players have better laparoscopic surgery skills than those who had never played, and make fewer errors. And the more games surgeons played the better their dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and success in the operating room.

    For medical schools, these games not only help to train surgeons before they ever hold a scalpel, but also have the great potential to educate others. More and more, graduate schools, fittingly those with a professional focus on real-world skills over theorizing, have looked excitedly towards the development of “serious” or “educational” games for use in fields as diverse as health, forestry, journalism, and higher education.

    Play2Prevent™, a new collaboration initiative between researchers at the Yale School of Medicine, doctors, video game designers, and community organizations, is developing a video game to help teach youth about the risks of HIV infection. Researchers hope to effectively bring prevention strategies to those who need them through tapping into the captive audience of both teens and other age groups in consuming video games.

    “Video games possess several advantages as a method of delivering educational information,” writes the Play2Prevent™website. “They are engaging, they allow the player to repeatedly practice or rehearse a new skill, and they are transportable — potentially traveling with the player via cell phone or other mobile device.”

    Simulations create spaces for users to rehearse, to prepare, to explore, and take risks that they couldn’t or shouldn’t take in real life otherwise. Or in the case of unsafe sex strategies “before life makes them all-too-real and risky” as Associate Professor Fiellin, Play2Prevent director and principal investigator put it to the Yale Daily News in May.

    For Yale School of Forestry, the open-access simulation and educational buzz around Second Life made it the perfect place to build Elihu Paper Mill, a virtual mill for students to explore paper mills through new perspectives. Second Life avatars can fly and wander without any safety concerns. The scholarly article published this spring about the professors’ experience using Second Life to teach ecology elaborated: “Jumping into the hydropulper or wood chipper is possible (and even encouraged!), in order to explore its operation and how it connects to other pieces of machinery in the facility.”

    Despite disadvantages, like Second Life’s lack of skeletal sensory representation and student’s lack of direct interaction with workers and industry professionals, researchers saw the platform as providing an important supplement to a real tour as well as a useful replacement for those who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to an industrial facility.

    Although games are being increasingly harnessed for professional uses, the training Yale offers undergraduates in studying them as a viable pre-professional field is scarce to none. The type of training should be less about studying a game, and more about learning how to make one.

    The formal teaching of the skills of these games sitting behind a desk in a classroom seem pointless because it would run counter to the very learning-by-doing logic they represent. And, the diversity of gaming (like Wii Tennis vs. 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand) makes it impossible to lump games together into a strategy course like one ostensibly could with chess. Moy adds that “for fighting games, the strategies are incredibly idiosyncratic to both the players and the parameters of the game. The differences between a fighting game like Smash and an RTS game like StarCraft are even more pronounced.”

    “I think it’d be a waste of time,” Ben Barasch ’14 grumbled. “I don’t know how you’d study a game. You just play the game. If they were going to teach games, it would have to be programming. From a story line perspective, video games are way behind film and books. English majors could work on that.”

    As a national industry, games have surpassed the music, book and movie industries. Last year, almost half of all U.S. residents two years of age or older played a game online. Starcraft is South Korea’s national sport.

    Keeping all this in mind, and as a school with sizeable pre-professional considerations, Yale could teach a video game narrative, design or strategy class with an eye towards the future as they do for the fields of graphic design, TV writing, coding, coding for business, journalism, playwriting, screenwriting and so on.

    The Yale Residential College Seminar Program provides a space for subjects not already offered in the Blue Book. The college seminar “Technocultures”, being offered next spring, will teach video games in the classroom: there’ll be collaborative play in Second Life and playing of the first-person shooter Call of Duty 4.

    “You cannot understand a novel without reading it, you cannot understand a film without watching it, and you cannot understand a video game without playing it,” says J. Jesse Ramírez, a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies and the class’ creator.

    Although Ramirez says he’s sympathetic to the people who don’t like to talk about art because it takes away from the experience, he sees critical thinking and analysis as a pleasure that can enrich the others.

    Ramirez wants to study games precisely for their sociological and philosophical questions. He pointed to the gaming’s problematic “violent masculinist pedagogy” and the questions they can ask such as “What does it mean to be a person, to claim a racial or sexual identity? Do these conditions exist online?”

    “Technocultures,” in looking at games with open and eager arms, will invite students with experience and expertise in gaming to raise further questions.

    “Many undergraduates are already experts on video games and in some ways know more about them than I do or any Yale professor does,” Ramirez wrote, who himself pointed out the irony in that he doesn’t own a cell phone. “That doesn’t mean undergraduates have nothing more to learn. But that knowledge and experience, the learning that undergraduates have already amassed through their own doing, should be our starting point.”

    Press play to start.

    Correction, Nov. 11 2011: An earlier version of this article stated that Play2Prevent is the name of a video game being designed to help teach youth about the risk of HIV infection. In fact, it is the name of the initiative to design that game, not that of the video game itself.

  3. Your body is beautiful with the Alexander Technique

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    Having procrastinated for the entire week, I had been up till 7 a.m. writing my English paper on monstrous Indian gods. And so when I had to wake up at 10 a.m. to learn about a holistic way of conducting my body, I tried to curl back into my bed cover. As I walked to Professor Wolf’s office, I drew in my shoulders in the morning mist. Once there, I slouched into her office chair. Appraising my posture carefully, Professor Wolf asked, “How is freshman year progressing, Devika? You seem stressed.”

    As she smiled sympathetically at my freshmen woes, she told me that she had a solution for the stress resulting from my failed attempts to make friends at Yale. Magic? Even better — the Alexander Technique, a method of movement and thinking revaluation proven to increase ease of motion, alleviate bodily pain and the stress resulting from the everyday misuse of our bodies. As Professor Wolf summarised, “We are creatures of habit, and habit is powerful. The method of doing something is more detrimental than the activity itself.”

    The Alexander Technique aims at changing our daily motion through practice by creating a psycho-physical education within the students of the School Of Drama, where the technique is a mandatory part of the curriculum.

    Actors need to be physically versatile. Wolf said that the Alexander Technique can help actors know their bodies to more efficiently embody their characters and adapt to different patterns of posture, gesture, breathing and tone, giving the most realistic performance.

    So how will the Alexander Technique make your life better? The technique will change your method of standing, walking, lying down and even breathing; once applied, it reduces the tensions that the awful mattresses of college dorms wreak on our bodies, and teaches us how to efficiently guide our body’s actions.

    It gives us a little grace. It really is quite magical.

    To implement it, sit down and be conscious of how your body is situated. Are you slouching again and bending your neck to awkward angles (don’t lie to yourself!)? Now, place your feet on the ground, straighten your back and put the weight of your body on your (very sexy) butt.

    You’ve just learnt the very basics to the Alexander Technique. While it seems simple, this foundation is just scratching the surface of a rigorous discipline.

    While it might sound awkward and uncomfortable, the technique, once perfected, will actually add a certain level of coordination to your movements. It might even convince someone that you really are a royal of an exotic country like Genovia. But if not, it will certainly help you use your body better. When your doctor can’t charge you an exorbitant sum for a spine-straightening surgery, at least your insurance company will thank you profusely.

    Tim Brown DRA ’13, a student of the class, says that the Alexander Technique has taught him to relearn some of the basic habits he has used all his life, from standing, to breathing and even crawling.

    “It’s frustrating to learn, but it’s also rewarding” Brown said. “It’s hard to redo everything you have known your entire life in such a short period of time, although we are relearning these habits to benefit the rest of our lives.”

    So if the Alexander Technique seems like a methodology that you’d like to incorporate into your life, try using the correct sitting posture. If you’re more adventurous, do try the ‘Active Rest Lie Down’ for just 10 minutes daily. Lie down on your back, knees bent and feet flat, head supported by a book, and make a choice not to move your body in parts. Your body is one beautiful, cohesive and seamless whole. Close your eyes, let your breath move through your body, feel your blood flow from your heart to your toes and let your back fall to the floor. Feel that electricity, that zing, as it zips from your slowly untangling thoughts to your fingers! Ideally, it will increase the proper direction of the “neuromuscular energy” through your body to let you identify those areas of tensions you didn’t even know existed (unless you’re one of the lucky students getting weekly massages from the boy on the floor above).

    Now that you’ve understood the basics of the Alexander Technique, get up from that desk, grin, and get ready to face another day in the life of a Yalie. But while you do so, don’t judge me for sinking into my bed and falling back to sleep.

  4. 2011's Hottest Costumes

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    It’s that time of year. When you can dress up as whatever and not (really) be judged. We’ve seen it all: the funny, the classy, the downright dumb. If Salvo ran out of that cape you wanted, never fear. This (almost) Hallow’s Eve, we asked Yale’s funniest people to give us some last minute inspiration.


    As “Mean Girls” so aptly describes, everyone and their grandma tries to be sexy on Halloween. It seems like if you can think of a costume, there is a trampy version of it. Disney princess, nuns, pumpkins — all have been tainted by sex. Well, what if you want to be an original skank? Then, the slutty octopus is the right costume for you!

    To make this happen, you will need nine people. Yes, nine. You will also need a lot of paper maché and paint. Model the octopus after the “Love Actually” octopus in the nativity scene. If you haven’t seen “Love Actually,” rent it immediately, watch it, gawk as to why you’ve never seen this brilliant piece of cinema before, and continue. The person that dons the body of the octopus suit should be a leggy lad/lady with excellent, colored pumps. Each tentacle should be very long and detachable. At the end of each arm should be a person in a nude body suit with the tentacle attached at a suggestive place. For example: groping the boobs, up the ass, in the mouth, etc. (Good thing it’s Parents’ Weekend!)

    On Halloween night, take a load of amusing pictures with the lot of you and label the album “Slutty Octopus.” Everyone will have a riot! Then get drunk, detach and go off into the night to various Halloween parties where people will be much too drunk to care that you are only wearing a nude Speedo with a giant tentacle hanging off your package. It’s the perfect recipe for an epic “I’m a BAMF” nostalgia session.

    Have a happy, slutty Halloween!

    -Mila Hursey


    2011 Halloween costume idea: a mask of myself on my face, so people will think I am not myself but someone pretending to be me. This idea is the product of legendary theorist and renowned crackpot Slavoj Zizek, and it is the most inspired Halloween costume idea since “Sexy Slut.” The advantages are clearly infinite. You will already be in perfect character. You can ask probing questions to others about what they actually think of you. Sample interaction: “Hey, look I’m dressed up as Devin, is he a doofus or what?” ‘Friend’: “Haha, yeah, what a dingbat!” A great way to narrow down an over-large social circle. There are two basic options for constructing this costume. Option 1: Take a mask and make it look like your face. Option 2: Take your face and make it look like a mask. Option 2, although probably more convincing, will also likely be more awesome. Use with caution. And consider the trickle-down effect: people who see you in real life later will think you’re more important because they saw someone who took the time to dress up as you, and imitation is the highest form of flattery. In sum, what are you waiting for? Get out there and be you.

    -Devin Race


    The costume for this year is obviously a Ward 1 alderman. It’s an easy look to pull together: just a T-shirt with your name in a patriotic font and a handful of corresponding flyers. Once in costume however, you have to sell it by badgering everyone you meet about your campaign. Make sure to have a long list of platitudes about democracy and how you are down with the people even though most of your donations came from your affluent family. When you are having legitimate conversations with people, the costume will be even more effective if you gradually slip into presidential candidate speech mode. And boy, will your efforts help you out in the romantic arena! (The ladies love a winner.)

    -Ryan Bowers


    This Halloween, all the experts agree, dress as a duck. It’s the one costume that absolutely cannot go wrong (see: Prince Harry, circa 2005). Everyone loves ducks, you see: they’re friendly, non-threatening and delicious. You have a lot of room for improvisation here. There are yellow ducks and white ducks. There are mallard ducks and wood ducks. Once you’ve picked the kind of duck you like the most, you’re in for a great night. Think of all the fun you can have. You can pretend to lay eggs, you can confuse real ducks, and best of all, you can say the word “duck!” to describe your costume, but people will think you’re encouraging them to duck, themselves. I’m sure a lot of silly fun will result.

    -Jordan Ascher


    This Halloween season, occupying is in. For your feet, try sockupying Wall Street. And if you’re mixing up some spooky cocktails, be sure to wear your smockupy Wall Street.

    When it comes to costumes, try heading out to Zuccotti Park or the New Haven Green dressed as “the 1 percent.” Just walk out there with your Moleskine, duck boots and earnest questions. That’ll do the trick.

    Now, some of you might want to try going as “the 99 percent.” That’s a bit harder. You can’t use your corporate-made iPod or wear your synthetic clothes or eat your Goldman Sachs hamburgers. Tough. So instead, dress up as “the 99th percentile,” which is close enough. Just get naked, cover yourself in glue, and roll around in your SAT scores.

    -Alexander Klein


    Two words: nudie suit. Before you judge, hear me out. A nudie suit offers so many possibilities. There’s the classic route: naked person. Personally I don’t recommend that route because, frankly, it’s uncreative. But you have oh-so-many other options with a nudie suit. Put on a hat and be a naked person wearing a hat. Put on a scarf and be a naked person wearing a scarf, a costume that would also double as a naked hipster, because wearing a scarf while wearing nothing else is totally ironic.

    My costume last year fell in the realm of potential nudie suit costumes. I dressed as a flasher, but I went the literal rather than the nudie suit route, the punny rather than the pervy. Underneath my trenchcoat I wore not a nudie suit but very large strobe light. Oh, and clothes. I promise I wore clothes. At least for most of the night. Just kidding. I wore clothes for all of the night. You all don’t know me that well enough for me to make that joke, I guess. Awkward.

    -Nina Beizer

  5. The Year of Czeslaw Milosz

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    “He had his home, posthumous, in the town of New Haven,/ In a white building, behind walls,/ Of translucent marble like turtle shell”

    • from Czeslaw Milosz’s “Beinecke Library”

    So begins Milosz’s poem that reflects the placement of his archives in Beinecke Library, and so too begins the new exhibition dedicated to the Polish poet within those turtle shell walls. “Exile as Destiny: Czeslaw Milosz and America” occupies both floors, but the heart of the exhibition lies in two large glass cases on the first floor. The Beinecke Library acquired the Milosz archives through gifts and purchases between 1966 and 2001. The extensive collection consists of personal papers, photographs, letters, manuscripts and audio material.

    The exhibition starts with the Milosz poem that reminds us that, in seeing his own archives, Milosz himself was surprised by his “complete change into letters, that no one/ Could guess who he really was.” Setting the tone for the rest of the exhibition, “Beinecke Library” questions the extent to which a man’s written word produces the essence of his being. So, who was Czeslaw Milosz?

    Americans most often recognize Czeslaw Milosz for his book “The Captive Mind” published in 1953 and Milosz’s Nobel Prize for Literature awarded in 1981. The exhibition includes a telegram from current Yale Professor Tomas Venclova upon the announcement of Milosz’s Nobel Prize. In the telegram, Professor Venclova states, “There are three great poles”: Wojtyla Walesa Milosz, Pope John Paul II, the Polish President and the poet, respectively. Professor Venclova is scheduled to give the keynote address at the Czeslaw Milosz Conference to take place at Yale on November 4th and 5th, 2011.

    “Exile as Destiny” joins the worldwide celebration of the hundredth year of Milosz’s birth. In Poland, 2011 has been officially declared “The Year of Czeslaw Milosz”. The curator of the exhibit, Lisa Conathan, believes that it is easy to forget that Milosz encountered many struggles in the first half of his life. The exhibition aims to reveal how many of these challenges Milosz overcame.

    Czeslaw Milosz was born not in Poland, but in Lithuania on June 30, 1911. In his lifetime, he lived in Poland, France and the United States, where he spent his later years as a professor at Berkeley. During this time, he served as an associate fellow for Pierson College. The pamphlet accompanying the exhibit states that his life “spanned a century of political upheavals and societal turmoil and was situated in pre-Revolutionary Russia, cosmopolitan Vilnius, Nazi-occupied Warsaw, the Paris of exiled literati, and the United States….” Milosz’s story is complicated, but the exhibition’s careful organization aids the viewer to grasp his timeline.

    The collection also includes Milosz’s correspondence with Albert Einstein, Thorton Wilder, Josephy Brodsky and T.S. Eliot, to name a few. The exhibition tells the story that while under fire during World War II, Misolz clutched a book of T.S. Elliot’s poetry. Milosz said that “The Wasteland” made for “somewhat weird reading as the glow from the burning ghetto illuminated the city skyline.” The same case contains a copy of Milosz’s translation of a collection of T.S. Elliot’s works into Polish.

    The difficulty of translation substantiates an overarching theme of the exhibit. Milosz always wrote his original poems in Polish. He then selected which of these poems he would translate to English. Conathan explained, “He was curating his reputation by what was translated into English. He insisted on excellence.” Like the T.S. Eliot poems, Milosv also translated other great literature of foreign languages into Polish. The exhibit displays examples of his translations ranging from Shakespeare, to haiku, to the Greek and Hebrew forms of the Bible. A photograph depicts Milosz’s presentation of his translated Bible to Pope John Paul II. The look on Pope John Paul II’s face alone is worth the trip to the exhibition. Whether in the translation of his own work or the works of others, the pen-marked manuscripts filled with crossed out phrases and alternative word choices reveal Milosz’s struggle to convey the true spirit of a text in translation.

    This challenge harkens back to the original question: do we really get to know Milosz through the experience of the exhibition? From the photographs, we certainly become familiar with the cragged lines on his face and the distinctive upward swoop of his long eyebrows. We recognize the patterns of his doodles splashed across his manuscripts. With close examination, we can identify his cramped handwriting. We appreciate his friendships through his personal letters and his intellect through the selections of his poetry. In the end though, the answer to the question is no. As Milosz indicates in “Beinecke Library,” posterity viewing the collection has a pulse, the living spirit, which paper could never contain. However, “Exile as Destiny” comes as close as an exhibition possibly could to fashioning a complete portrait of Czeslaw Milosz.

    “Exile as Destiny: Czeslaw Milosz and America” will be on display October 24 through December 17, 2011.

  6. On "The Graduate," graduation

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    I first saw “The Graduate” during my freshman year of high school. It instantly became my favorite movie. If you don’t know the plot, it goes something like this (spoiler alert is obvious, but if you haven’t seen it, you should have): 20 year old graduates college, comes home, sleeps with parents’ friend, falls in love with parents’ friends’ daughter, runs away with her. The tale of cougardom interrupting young love appealed to my ninth grade interests: there was sex, leopard print coats, Dustin Hoffman and a mopey Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack that was perfect for drowning out Ciara’s “1, 2 Step” on the bus ride to school. I latched onto the film as a high school student because it was a pretentious outlet for my angst. What? Was I supposed to identify with the people on The O.C. with their perfect noses and WB melodrama? Please.

    Inspired by the tiny, limb-heavy poster that hangs in my dorm bedroom, I decided recently to re-watch “The Graduate” on Netflix. As Mrs. Robinson seduced Benjamin Braddock, it dawned on me: I’m just now at the point in my life when I truly get this movie and identify with its protagonist.

    Many of my friends at Yale are getting word that they are going to have a future. They’re getting into grad school, getting jobs at consulting firms, beginning to apply to internship programs that might be pathways to permanent spots. I, however, have chosen a career path for now that forces me to put a hold on my job search until second semester. And in turn I’m starting to feel a little bit like Ben.

    The panic that leads Ben into his unfortunate relationship with Mrs. Robinson is one seniors face: It’s the looming question, “now what?” In Ben’s case the answer is to fend off adulthood and jump into a bed with someone twice his age. That’s not my case (thank God). In my case, I know what my next steps should be, but the system within which I’m working has forced me to wait to make any moves. Therefore, I’m stuck staring into my computer screen, clicking mechanically on job listings, enacting the 2011 version of Ben’s glazed over gaze that acts as the dominant image of the first half of the movie.

    “The Graduate” paints a pretty sorry picture of post-college life. “I’ve had this feeling ever since I graduated. This kind of compulsion that I have to be rude all the time,” Ben says. He’s not alone. The prospect of graduating is making us all assholes just like Ben. We’re self-absorbed. We’re nervous. We’re taking our stress out on our friends and families. We’re lazy. We’re prone to making reckless decisions. Maybe a few among us will do what Ben does: run away with someone, jump on a bus and then stare into space, having no idea what the fuck we’re doing.

    So, I guess, “hello darkness, my old friend.”

  7. "Sophomore Surprises" defy classification

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    Last Friday night, York Street was a scene.

    No, I don’t mean Toad’s. Keep going (does anyone even go to Jack Wills?), past Loria (even the hipsters had gone home by then), and arrive at 168 York Street Café: proudly advertised on its website as “one of the oldest gay bars in Connecticut” and “the only gay owned and operated bar/restaurant in New Haven.”

    Friday night saw an influx of Yalies at 168 for an LGBTQ Co-op sponsored party called “Sophomore Surprise.” The name was a “sort of tongue-in-cheek thing” intended to attract students and their friends, said Ryan Mendías ’13, a Co-op co-coordinator. Among Yale students, “sophomore surprise” has become an increasingly familiar term used to refer to those who come out as queer during their sophomore year. Its growing popularity marks the emergence of a larger trend, of students who come out later in their time at Yale rather than those who identify as queer as soon as they set foot on Old Campus.


    We’ve all heard it before: college is the time to reinvent yourself! To discover yourself! A clean slate, a fresh start.

    And many students do take advantage of that immediate freedom, deciding to come out at the beginning of freshman year.

    “It’s almost as if society wants to keep you in the closet — I don’t really think of it as a closet, but you know — and Yale wants you out as soon as possible. It seems like the longer you wait, the more it’s like, ‘Why did you wait so long?’” said a sophomore who asked to remain anonymous and came out as gay during the second semester of his freshman year.

    Coming out at this time, though, is by no means the norm. The question of “Why did you wait so long?” ultimately becomes irrelevant, for it relies on a flawed premise; for most, the decision to come out later is not a question of waiting, but a function of personal experience and development. For freshmen especially, issues of sexuality may get pushed to the back burner as they make their transitions to Yale.

    “Freshman year is such a turmoil-filled year that [sexuality] is something a lot of people just don’t think about,” said Carolyn Farnham ’13, a Queer Peer at the Queer Resource Center. “You’re trying to make friends, settle into school and settle into classes.”

    Some freshman traditions can also complicate the matter, such as the Freshman Screw we know and (kind of) love.

    “I felt like I should go with a girl, but part of me also really wanted to go with a guy, and I was still figuring things out,” said a junior who wished to remain anonymous and came out as bisexual in April of his sophomore year. “If you go to screw with a guy, it’s a very public thing: you’re right there together and everyone sees you. Generally speaking, people tend to be sensitive to people who identify as LGBTQ when it comes to screw, but the difficulty is when someone’s queer and you don’t know it.

    “It took me almost two years to come out at Yale, even though I knew when I came here that I could be whoever I wanted to be. I didn’t know anyone; there was no one else from my high school here. But coming out to myself was the hardest part,” The anonymous junior continued. “Even though I acknowledged the fact that I was bisexual, embracing it and being totally okay with it took me a really long time.”

    The real question then becomes one of personal process and development, of internal resolution rather than external concerns. Some students do not even want to consider the possibility of leading a queer life. “For me, if there were any inkling of a possibility that I could be straight or live a straight life and not have to deal with everything that comes with being gay, then that was what I was going to try to do,” said the anonymous sophomore. “I definitely came to Yale as a straight guy.”

    The development of feelings for a specific person, as opposed to more general sentiments, can lead to experimentation and reassessment of sexuality. Such instances reinforce the concept that sexuality is a spectrum, not black-and-white. Labels cannot always apply, and Yale’s culture with respect to LGBTQ students welcomes the idea of experimenting.

    “What often happens [during] sophomore or junior year [is that] someone might identify as straight but find someone [of the same gender] they like, and for that reason, starts dating someone,” said Kati Moug ’13, also a Queer Peer.

    For the anonymous sophomore, feelings for another boy provided the most natural path for him to come out. “If I had come to Yale ready to come out, I probably would have been experimenting more with the hookup culture. Later on, the only way I could imagine coming out would be at the beginning of a relationship with another person. I couldn’t imagine just saying, ‘I’m gay’ without saying, ‘I’m gay because I feel this way about this person,’” he said.


    Because Yale’s gay community is “really well represented,” the anonymous junior felt that he encountered more difficulty coming out as a bisexual. “People use [bisexuality] as a transition phase because it can seem socially more acceptable than [being] gay,” he said. “That’s just sort of the sense I get. I came out to one person and she said, ‘Oh, thank God you’re bisexual, you can still have a normal life, get married, have kids’ — even though that’s not how it works, you fall in love with whoever you fall in love with.”

    Sam Huber ’13 also emphasized the importance of resisting the impulse to categorize sexuality. Huber said that there was no “single word” he would use to describe his sexuality. “I could say bisexual, but that doesn’t feel entirely accurate. Queer doesn’t feel specifically descriptive enough to be a sufficient disclosure,” he continued. “I don’t think of myself as attracted to men or attracted to women, or attracted to men and women. I’ve been attracted to various people, some of whom are men and some of whom are women.”


    Those who come out at the beginning of freshman year begin their Yale careers as members of the queer community. For those who come out later, though, this change can be tricky to navigate: telling friends, telling roommates, deciding who’s worth the conversation and who to leave for the grapevine.

    “I’m now having to try to keep track of whom I’ve come out to, and whom I haven’t come out to, who’s heard by word-of-mouth and who hasn’t,” said the anonymous junior. “I went on a run with a friend yesterday and told him during our run, but I wasn’t sure if he had heard yet or not … I was a little worried, to be honest, about how people would respond because I came out so late. I thought people might think I had lived a lie during those two years, but that hasn’t happened.”

    Word does travel on this campus, which can work to students’ advantages in cases like these. Students who come out later tend to come out to their closest friends, and then let word spread from there. Their decisions also become matters of privacy, energy and personal comfort.

    “I’ve sat down and had longer conversations with my roommate and some of my closest friends, but the rest of the world I let just kind of find out or overhear, see or happen upon, just because I don’t have a sort of convenient and compact shorthand for it … I don’t feel like I should be obligated to announce my sexuality to people just because it’s divergent from their expectations of straightness, especially if it isn’t a person with whom I already have a relationship where we talk about things like sex or romance,” said Huber.

    The question of “Why did you wait so long?” fades with a closer look at the phenomenon of “sophomore surprise.” Students’ decisions come down to subjective indicators. They are motivated by feelings of personal acceptance and readiness, making it impossible to generalize across genders, ages, sexual orientations, or, for that matter, to attempt any form of categorization at all. Moug, who sees many upperclassmen in her work as a Queer Peer, observed that she hasn’t found any sort of “common theme” across the stories she’s heard. “Their situations are as unique as people who are just coming out freshman year,” she said.

    And that should come as no surprise.

  8. Fork and Knife: G-Heav cheesesteak is surprisingly authentic

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    Philadelphia is a special place. It’s a place where people pronounce bagels “beggels,” where the delicious frozen confection “water ice” isn’t considered redundant, where subs are called hoagies and where soft pretzels taste like they’re supposed to. Philadelphia is also the birthplace of American democracy, me, Will Smith, brotherly love and most importantly, cheesesteaks, the best idea for a sandwich ever. Tragically enough, no one outside of the Philadelphia area knows how to make a cheesesteak. People outside of the Philadelphia area think it’s acceptable to use mozzarella cheese, to chop the meat too finely, to add things like peppers and olives, to use bread that isn’t soft enough to properly absorb the meat juices and too soft to maintain the sandwich’s structural integrity.

    According to lore, cheesesteaks were invented by Pat and Harry Olivieri in South Philadelphia in the 1930s, where they were sold out of a hot dog stand in the Italian market. The sandwiches became an instant hit — obviously — despite not yet being served with cheese, but merely pizza sauce (these are now known as pizza steaks). The Olivieri’s went on to open their own restaurant, Pat’s King of Steaks, now a legend in the cheesesteak-eating community. At Pat’s, and any legitimate cheeseteak establishment, you’ll find up to three cheese offerings: provolone, American or Cheez Whiz (yes, that thick processed cheese sauce, and the traditional choice). The meat must always be thinly sliced sautéed ribeye beef. The roll must be long, crusty, and rarely with seeds, though I’ve seen it done. You are allowed to put fried onions, ketchup and sautéed mushrooms (occasionally) without angering the cheesesteak gods.

    As a freshman I had a lot of difficulty adjusting to Yale. The constant rain, living with people and the lack of an authentic Philly cheesesteak, a Philly cheesesteak that really deserved its “Philly”, made my transition into college life bumpy. How could I live in a place where a grinder was the sandwich of choice? Grinders have lettuce in them. Lettuce. Why would I want lettuce to interfere with my meat, cheese, and bread? I’m sorry, but lettuce doesn’t have flavor. It just doesn’t. Juicy, hot meat has flavor, as does cheese and sautéed onions. There is no reason to eat any type of sandwich besides a cheesesteak, unless it’s Philly roast pork, but that’s a different story.

    So it was to my great surprise when I stumbled upon a Philly cheesesteak worth my time, at Gourmet Heaven of all places. I actually first stumbled upon the cheesesteak in my suite, half-eaten and sitting in the microwave. Without bothering to ask who it belonged to, I took a bite. Wow. I would have done a spit-take if the sandwich wasn’t so god damn delicious. Could this really be happening? Am I really eating an authentic Philly cheese steak in this miserable, rainy excuse for a town? Did someone have this shipped from Pat’s, Geno’s, Jim’s or John’s in Philadelphia?

    The bread was soft, but firm enough to hold up to the succulent filling of meat, cheese and sweet, sautéed onions, elegantly chopped together on the stove, Philadelphia’s standard procedure. The proportions were spot on: 3:2:0.5 (meat, cheese, onions). The meat was moist and expertly chopped, and the cheese was American. It tasted like freedom.

    The sandwich is a steal at only $6.95, and the perfect choice for late-night snacking, or anytime snacking, if you’re not concerned with drastic weight gain. It’s also a perfect choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is probably one of the only offerings at G-Heav I would recommend to a sober hungry person.

    The other night, I brought one of these cheesesteaks back to bed with me, ate it and watched three of the Rocky movies. I love my city.

  9. You can, actually, go your own way

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    “This panlist is going to be crazy. Literally. I want so many signups Yale’s servers won’t even be able to deal with my recruitment emails and eager freshmen. God, I’m pumped.”

    A friend of mine breathlessly made the above declaration to me as we malingered in Payne Whitney before the chaos of the extracurricular bazaar. Each of us was entrusted with a sacred and time-honored duty: winning new members for our organizations. Our instructions were simple — more is better; most is best. “We want freshman excitement. We want new enthusiasm. We want signups. And we will let nothing stand in our way,” was a veritable mantra.

    So there we stood. And we laid in to our prey with three solid hours of yelling and brochure-brandishing.

    But what matters most was not how much effort we were willing to put in. It was, it is, whether any of that had any effect.

    Freshman Yalies are a group of intelligent people with diverse interests. A booth and a couple of emails with inordinate amounts of exclamation marks and mentions of “great opportunities” are unlikely to faze them. And what in-depth conversations with many of them about how they choose their extracurriculars reveals is that more and more frosh are relying on their skills, knowledge and drive to guide them to the right organization.


    A number of freshmen in the class of 2015 did not wait til the extracurricular bazaar to identify what they think they would like to be involved with.

    Jordan Moore ’15 exemplifies this decision. She knew she wanted to join the ballroom dance team thanks to online research before she arrived on campus.

    “So, I just emailed [team captain] Allen Granzberg ’12 and told him I was interested,” a calm Moore explained on a lazy afternoon in the L-Dub courtyard. Granzberg explained the process of joining to her, and Moore now actively “looks forward” to her weekly practices.

    Taking that initiative with ballroom enabled her to get exactly what she wanted. Indeed, Moore said that it meant that she didn’t even go the extracurricular bazaar, because she thinks “one extracurricular is about [her] limit right now.”

    Other students speak of different ways of identifying a passion. Lincoln Mitchell ’15 and Kenneth Gunasekera ’15 were both intent on continuing with sports they had been involved with in high school, soccer and swimming respectively. Meanwhile, one of their peers said she knew she wanted to be part of the Yale Political Union after being impressed with their Bulldog Days debate, which she felt showed “who [they] are … a little bit formal, but very interesting.”

    The question this begs is what, if anything, freshmen gain from the much-heralded extracurricular bazaar. Some did not even attend the event, and spoke of whole suites of their friends avoiding the big mass of desperate recruiters as well.

    Much of this aversion to the bazaar seems to stem from its being seen in a negative light. Mitchell, who did attend, pointed out that “recruiters can just be way too pushy.”

    “If someone asks you, ‘Do you want to save a kid’s life?’ what are you going to say?” he said.

    Also key, Moore said, was the fact that, since the bazaar was postponed a week this year because of Hurricane Irene, many in the class of 2015 had already taken their first steps towards adjusting to life at Yale and getting a feel for out-of-classroom opportunities on campus.

    Thus, Irene gave freshmen a grace period to look through the offerings that would be on display at the bazaar itself. And that, according to Rod Cuestas ’15, endowed them with enough decisiveness, at least, to “sign up for 10 mailing lists instead of 20.” Turns out Yale’s administrative nightmare might just have been a blessing in disguise for the class of 2015.


    Even with this added time, though, some new Yalies simply choose not to be involved with any extracurriculars, or to pick one at most. Other priorities take precedence for this group no matter how hard recruiters pitch.

    These vary: Forrest Maddox ’15 is “more focused on getting a job right now,” Dure Aziz Amna ’15 sought to prioritize “making an effort with school,” and others cited a desire for personal time both to adjust and reflect with leisure activities like reading. One freshman who did not wish to be identified stated that a major impediment to her joining an organization was simply that “as a first-semester freshman, it’s just too scary to go to a whole bunch of mixers and be all charming and witty and ‘let me in!’”

    Yale is a fine school that embraces everyone equally. But its students, as much as we try to deny it, have a bit of a thing with achievement. Yalies strive to shine the brightest and be the best. Part of that is doing it all — and those who don’t seem to be working towards that goal could unfairly face prejudice.

    Most students said that they “respect” the low-extracurricular brigade. But more than one freshman questioned “if [their peers who limit their extracurricular involvement] are missing out on something.”

    At the other end of the judgment spectrum comes another species: the kid who does a multitude of activities, and still seems on top of their academics. Views on those differ, but are generally a variant of contempt or, in an unsurprising development for the high-achievement set, envy.

    “Some people are just trying to do too much,” one freshman, whom we can call B., said. “I think that just makes them stressed out and leaves them with too little sleep.” She was clear about what she thought of this strategy: “That is NOT how you should be juggling your first semester at college.”

    Yet what might be the cause of some of her discomfort was clarified by Cuestas, who said that “people just get competitive about extracurriculars here.”

    He cited an instance of “two girls trying to outdo each other. I think each ended up with about eight things to balance.” Both, he went on to say, eventually dropped the majority of their commitments.

    I managed to hunt down one of these elusive do-it-all frosh. Kirsten Adair ’15 is part of five extracurricular organizations. And she evinced that some in the much-maligned group she represents are struggling to find a balance just like any other ’15-er.

    What Adair had to do was purposefully “choose a courseload [she] know[s] [she] can manage” while being active in various organizations. The striking part for the critics is that she seems to not be cutthroat as much as hold a different set of priorities. Granted, she “maybe loses some sleep.” But based on what she values, this is acceptable and appropriate.

    That freshmen are consciously making decisions based on their priorities is a good sign. But one wonders, to what exent will this be based on subtle understandings of what’s socially acceptable? Do kids have the guts to stand up and say no? Some members of this freshman class would answer in the affirmative. Others would (and did) say that motivation comes from within, rather than from external social expectations.

    But they might be surprised by what happens to their peers next fall. Sara Hendel ’14 told me she “wants to limit her extracurriculars so that she can devote more time to school” sophomore year. Meanwhile, another sophomore expressed his desire to “branch out — I only did one extracurricular each semester last year.” He’s now looking for a long-term commitment. So maybe what Yalies, young or old, are really searching for is just the right balance that all those interviewed for this piece emphasized.

  10. Fork & Knife: Polish dumplings worth the trek

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    This Sunday, the first day of spring, I felt inspired to walk to the Wooster Square farmer’s market to celebrate the new season. I had visions of verdant bundles of asparagus, overflowing baskets of strawberries and hipsters in jean cut-off shorts trying to play harmonicas and banjos. So I Google-mapped Wooster Square, put on my bulky down jacket and headed out.

    Forty minutes later, I was lost in the New Haven hood. I walked around frantically and conspicuously for a good twenty minutes until I came across a beacon of hope: Wozniak’s, a Polish deli and grocery store at 835th Grand Avenue. I was intrigued, hungry and seeking shelter, so I ventured inside. The shelves were filled with Polish sweets, breads, soups, sauces, pickles and periodicals; the refrigerators, with dumplings, cheese, horseradish and unidentifiable meats; and the walls, with pictures of the Pope and other Catholic paraphernalia.

    Everything looked so excitingly foreign — so foreign that I didn’t even really know what I was buying, since everything was labeled in Polish. This proved to be problematic when I headed home to sample my bounty.

    First I attempted to prepare zupa borowikowa, a packaged soup mix. The instructions seemed simple enough…for a Pole. Step one: Zawartosc torbki wsyp do kubka. Step two: zalec 200 wrzacej. They lost me at zawartosc. Fortunately, instant soup is pretty easy to make. It came out a little bland — it was more like a broth than a meal in itself. Curious, I Google-translated the description on the packaging. It turns out they recommend “adding your own family flavors” to the soup, which I hadn’t done.

    The Wozniak’s pickle offerings are stellar: they were crisp and bursting with flavor. Even the brine was scrumptious — I caught my suitemate slurping the garlicky, vinegary, dilly liquid by the spoonful. I didn’t even judge her. It’s that good.

    The baked goods are less inspiring. They’re not baked on premises, so they run a bit dry. Their brioche-like plum loaf, however, regains some life if you pop it in the oven for a few moments, and the sweet, tangy plum filling becomes gooey and warm. I recommend slathering a slice with butter, or some of the butter-cheese they offer, which is delicious. I respect the Poles for coming up with a product that is literally just made of butter and cheese.

    But if you’re going to make the trek all the way out to Wozniak’s, do it for the dumplings; they’re heavenly. You can find them in the refrigerated section, in a variety of flavors, including mushroom, potato, cheese, kraut and blueberry. They make a perfect late night snack — actually anytime snack — and an extremely generous package costs only $4.00. After boiling and pan-frying, the little dumplings are both chewy and crispy, and taste great with some of Wozniak’s house-made beet horseradish. The horseradish, which comes in a sassy pink color, could also make a great garnish for any piece of meat or fish.

    Here’s how to prepare the dumplings. Think of them as a blank canvas and season them however you’d like. Even add your own family flavors.

    Mushroom Dumplings

    1 pack pre-made mushroom dumplings

    2 tbsp of butter

    2 tbsp of olive oil

    sour cream


    salt and paper

    1. Bring a quart of salted water to a boil. Add the dumplings and boil for one minute.

    2. Drain the dumplings. Heat butter and oil in a non-stick skillet.

    3. Add dumplings, cook until golden on both sides.

    4. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with sour cream or parsley, if desired.

  11. Mizu makes mackerel and more, masterfully

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    Restaurants around Yale form a pattern as you head farther west. There’s Ivy Noodle, the scourge of Broadway, where an obnoxious staff sucks all the pleasure out of the excellent food they serve. Next comes Basil on Howe Street, where food as tasty as Ivy Noodle’s finds its match in decent service but is made bland by nonexistent ambience. And now, if you are in the mood for a walk farther down the road comes Mizu Sushi on Whalley Avenue, a Japanese restaurant which successfully combines good staff and great food in a bold, if somewhat misguided, atmosphere.

    Entering Mizu Sushi is like stepping into the inside of a mouth: Everything is painted a hideous shade of dark skin-pink. The restaurant discreetly divides into two portions — one has a more relaxed bar-like setting, while the other is more spacious. But after you get accustomed to the dim lighting and ubiquitous pinkness, the experience takes a turn for the better which remains consistent to the end. Immediately after I settled into a comfy half-booth, the Japanese pop song playing on the stereo segued into Celine Dion’s age-old classic, “My Heart Will Go On.” I was hoping the progression would end with Lady Antebellum or, better yet, Gaga but it sadly ended with more Japanese pop.

    The service is the exact opposite of Ivy Noodle, pleasant as well as efficient. The waiter’s English skills were not the best, but one is more inclined to forgive when he has the grace to smile and is willing to help the customer with the plethora of options on the menu. The selection is impressive, and necessitates a second visit for those who wish to further explore the array of dishes. On this particular trip, the staff maintained a continuous procession of fresh food that always arrived promptly.

    Sushi, the restaurant’s prime attraction, stands up admirably to its competitors, offering juicy flavor without Miya’s pretension. My buffet platter consisted of nine pieces of colorful fish: salmon, red clam, tuna, Spanish mackerel, yellow tail and striped bass wrapped in succulent rice, and served in a large dish. Fantastic presentation was equaled by freshness of ingredients. Shrimp tempura dipped in teriyaki sauce and served with white rice was crispy and steamy. The only hiccup occurred when the waiter brought miso soup which gave off an offensive odor and whose udon noodles were only half cooked. Prices are sensible to begin with, but coupled with the 20 percent discount applicable to Yale students and faculty, they are downright reasonable. Mizu also offers an “all you can eat” buffet special for just under $20 which features a sushi option and an assortment of other choices. Fortunately, Mizu does not enforce the ridiculous requirement to finish everything on the plate before ordering more (I’m looking at you, Sushi Palace). They also offer free delivery.

    Mizu has yet to become anchored in the Yale community, and it is certainly not near enough to campus for a casual meal after Toad’s. What’s more, a midnight snack of hibachi chicken is impossible because the restaurant closes at 11 p.m. (and 10 on weekdays)! But for a classy, sit-down experience that will keep your purse intact or simply curb a capricious sushi craving, Mizu Sushi wooes with fabulous food and gracious service. All in all, it is well worth the walk down the Whalley, especially if you stay away from the soups!