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An Interview with Katie Calabrese of Little Gunpowder

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Little Gunpowder. Left to right: John Eng-Wong, Katie Calabrese, Sarah Dreyfus. Picture credit: Allie Bowerman.

Little Gunpowder is a band fronted by Katie Calabrese, a senior at Goucher. The indie fuzz rock band — which consists of drummer Kieran Dollemore, bassist Sarah Dreyfus, and guitarist John Eng-Wong — is currently working on an album titled Gasoline Girl, which will be released this winter. We sat down with Calabrese to talk about the new record, her songwriting process, and influences.

My first question is — when did you start writing music and what was your first instrument?

I started writing music probably when I was about 16 or 17 because I was having a really hard time in high school, and I went to a special boarding school for kids that were having trouble in high school. And we didn’t really have music, and there was nothing to do, so everyone learned how to play instruments. And that’s when I started writing music.

I started playing music much younger, though, when I was 6. And I started playing electric bass when I was about 6 years old until when I was about 10 years old.

You told me that you are working on an album right now, so I’m interested in hearing a little bit more about that. I’m wondering if you could describe the sound of your album, and I’m wondering if it’s any different than the sound of your previous projects at all.

I would say that it’s incredibly different than my previous projects because my previous stuff, the stuff I that have on Bandcamp right now, is acoustic, indie, pretty mellow singer-songwriter stuff. But this stuff, I would still consider it indie, but it’s more fuzz and it’s full band and it has more of a punk element to it, I think, than a lot of my other stuff has. And I’m really excited about it because it has this theme of femininity and mental illness and these images of how women or feminized people are demonized, yet also glorified and sexualized around mental illness. So it’s kind of a look at that and a look at the struggle of mental illness. It’s really important to me that there’s a message of hope without being overly optimistic. So there’s this message of “it’s really hard and it might not get better, but that’s okay that it might not.”

That all sounds really interesting; I’m so excited to hear it. What does your songwriting process look like?

My songwriting process, usually, it can start in a couple of ways. Sometimes it will be [that] I’ll sit on a verse or just two lines for a super long time. And then one day I’ll be playing guitar and I’ll come across something that I like and just apply it to that. I usually write songs pretty quickly, like over the course of a few hours or maybe I’ll take a break and come back to it, but usually the total time on songs is probably like 3, 4, 5 hours, so not incredibly long. But usually it will take me a long time to get to a place that I want to write. I don’t write super often, but when I do finally get something that inspires me, it just happens really fast.

What have you been using to record this album, like mics and interfaces and instruments, and things like that?

We’re recording at my drummer’s friend’s house. I don’t know that much about recording, but we’re live recording the drums and the guitar, and then the bass is being recorded at the same time, but it’s being recorded directly into the computer, and then I’m doing voice overdubs with it. It’s in a basement, you know; it’s nothing fancy, but I’m really excited about it because for me, in recording, it’s so much more important that you get the live rawness rather than really clean perfection, studio done.

And I think that’s really important to that fuzz sound that you were talking about.

Yeah, exactly.

What was the most fun song to write, or the song that was the most memorable for you?

We have this really fun song that we do called “Turn Me Off.” I guess I don’t really have a super fun time writing most songs because usually I’m in a mood. But that song was particularly fun because I hadn’t really been writing for full bands previous to now. So all my songs – I felt like I had to write them so that they really, really carried themselves lyrically and that they could be interesting without any accompaniment. But this song is incredibly simple. It’s four power chords, and it is really repetitive. But the thing that was really fun about it is that I was able to write it knowing that my band is really talented and it would be really interesting and crazy. So now it’s one of our favorite songs to play because we have weird breakdowns, we change speed, we start off with only some parts, we have this crazy drum thing going on, we have guitar solos. So I think that’s been really fun for me. Being able to transition from being a singer-songwriter artist to doing more high energy, full band stuff has been really, really fun for songwriting because it’s challenged me to write differently, but also it makes it easier to write because you don’t have to worry about “oh, is this going to hold itself by itself?”

Now, I’m really curious to know a little bit more about what the difference is between writing as a singer-songwriter and doing a solo thing versus writing for a band because it sounds like there’s a huge difference.

Oh, definitely. I feel like for writing for solo, I really liked using a lot of picking stuff. When you’re doing full band, you can make different things [go] on without having to change the actual core center of the music, without having to change the chords, or change the song that much. You can have a different type of drum beat, or you can have a guitar solo, or you could have the bass do something funky. So you have this option to play around inside the original structure of the song, whereas when you’re doing more singer-songwriter stuff, you really just have the guitar, so you have to have more moving pieces within the actual construction of the song itself. So I’ve been having a lot of fun being able to write songs that are more simple on the writing end, but more complicated on the instrumental end, rather than more complicated on the writing end and simpler on the instrumental end.

Who or what are your musical influences or inspirations?

There’s a couple different types of music that I like, but then there’s a couple that I feel like I emulate. So the stuff that I really listen to — I like Anderson .Paak, Gorillaz; those are my two favorites right now. But the people that I feel like I emulate, and also really love listening to [are] Hop Along or Angel Olsen. I really love Courtney Barnett. And I really love Mitski. And I feel like those are artists that I really identify with because I think that they do such a good job of having this intense emotion and power in their songwriting, but still keeping elements of femininity. I feel like it’s this power that doesn’t feel like it has to emulate masculinity, but is its own thing, and I really admire that.

That’s a good segue into my last question . . . what [have you] been listening to lately?

I’ve been definitely listening to Noname’s new album, which is incredible; that’s a no-brainer. I’ve been listening to Mitski’s new album, for sure. I’ve been listening to Pavement a lot recently. And I’ve actually been listening to The Killers a lot; I really love The Killers, and I’ve always really loved The Killers.

Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

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Picture source: https://www.amazon.com/Exit-West-Novel-Mohsin-Hamid/dp/0735212171

“In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.” With these words, Mohsin Hamid opens his fourth novel. Exit West is a short, elegant book which proves to be a timely commentary on the nature of migration. The main characters, Nadia and Saeed, must leave their war-torn country. The method with which they choose to proceed is through a magical doorway. Such doorways have emerged all over the globe, opening the floodgates of sovereign nations. Through these thresholds of mystical transference, Hamid emphasizes not the act of travel itself, but rather the complexities and fluidity of what it means to be a foreigner or a native, and in doing so troubles the assumed stability of these categories.

Exit West begins in an unnamed, Middle Eastern country where Saeed and Nadia, students at a local university, meet in a class on corporate identity and product branding. Nadia wears a long, black robe that covers her body like a sheath. However, she steadily informs Saeed that she does not pray. Saeed is taken with Nadia at once, and the two begin to develop a friendship. Nadia later tells Saeed that she wears her conservative garments “so men don’t fuck with me.” Nadia is independent and lives alone, a rare choice for unmarried women in her country. Not long before meeting Saeed, she informed her family that she planned to move out. Her abrupt decision caused the family to sever ties with her. In this way, Nadia’s parents and sister are established as elusive entities. Indeed, as the civil war begins to tear at the seams of her country, neither the reader nor Nadia will have closure as to the fate of her family.

Unlike Nadia, Saeed lives with his parents, as is common for unmarried men in his country. His mother was a schoolteacher, and his father continues to be a professor at a nearby university. Saeed’s parents are affectionate and gentle. These qualities are likewise reflected in their son. As the friendship between Nadia and Saeed becomes a courtship, the two confront the rapid decline of their country into a permanent state of warfare. The rebel militias are establishing strongholds in pockets of the city, and the government is finding it increasingly challenging to pacify aggrieved citizens. Gradually, the city becomes a haggard jigsaw puzzle of divided territories.

At first, it is not the centers of such newly established territories that prove dangerous, but rather the checkpoints dividing them. Over time, however, the rebel militants begin to infiltrate the lives of those close to Nadia and Saeed. War is an “intimate experience, combatants pressed close together, front lines defined at the level of the street one took to work, the school one’s sister attended, the house of one’s aunt’s best friend, the shop where one bought cigarettes.” Once, Saeed’s mother thinks she sees a former student of hers firing an automatic rifle from the open bed of a truck. She imagines the man’s shooting stops when he sees her, but she cannot be truly certain it was her student. In another instance, Saeed’s neighbor is targeted for belonging to an ethnic denomination accused of being disloyal to the militants. The neighbor’s throat is cut and blood seeps through the floor above the family’s apartment, a dried, burgundy stain forming on the ceiling. In yet another moment, Saeed brings Nadia supplies for her apartment, apologizing that he could not find flowers. “Do you have a gun?” she responds. Such delicately wrought passages shine a light on the enduring banalities of daily life during wartime.

Eventually, Saeed and Nadia decide they must find a way out of their native country. From the beginning of his book, Hamid has provided glimpses at magical doorways through which thousands of migrants from the Global South are entering wealthy, Western nations: “Rumors had begun to circulate of doors that could take you elsewhere, often to places far away … a normal door, they said, could become a special door, and it could happen without warning, to any door at all.” Nadia and Saeed purchase passage through one of these forbidden escape routes. Traveling through a doorway is described as being born and dying at once. Yet, despite the ambiguity of the doors through which Saeed and Nadia travel—the island of Mykonos they initially land upon, and the uninhabited townhouse they later occupy in London, are unambiguously framed—as both of these locations currently house a plethora of people whose native lands are uninhabitable due to war, or climate, or a combination of the two. Hamid is clear that the reverberations of a global immigrant crisis, sparked in no small part by European and American hegemony, will be felt in the West.

Interspersed throughout Exit West is a series of vignettes that show the reader glimpses of unnamed characters as they interact with those who are flooding, with increasing frequency, into the world’s wealthiest nations. As the story of Nadia and Saeed’s partnership unfolds—a partnership that is born equally of love, obligation, and necessity—the reader is continually reminded of the transformative nature of time in a rapidly globalizing and transitory society. The absurdity of the concept of nativeness is brought forward by Hamid, as he shows how immigrants render countries unhomely and foreign to some of their citizens. Hamid notices how those with “light skin” in America tend to be more outraged by the perceived threat of immigrants, than those who are in actuality native to the land America was established upon. He does this with a thoughtful, extended prose style; often leaving the reader with images invoking a deep, sensory response. Through the utilization of magical realism, Hamid envisions a future that may not be far away.

Hamid’s latest book has been a contender for, and the recipient of, numerous awards. The novel is a favorite of the former president of the United States, Barack Obama. Exit West was named by the New York Times as one of “The 10 Best Books of 2017.”

“Uplifting, and Existing, and Being”: A Look at Sitting Pretty

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LaToya M. Hobbs standing next to “Double Portrait: Marci”. Photo by Skyler Aikerson.

The current exhibit at Goucher College’s Rosenberg Gallery is titled Sitting Pretty and features art by painter, printmaker, and MICA professor LaToya M. Hobbs. The exhibit contains striking woodcut and monotype portraits that, according to Hobbs, aim to “show a more holistic view of what black women are . . . and how we present ourselves.” At Hobbs’ artist reception on September 27, curator Sheena M. Morrison said that these portraits “[convey] a narrative about women inventing their own measures of beauty.”

“Shay IV”. Photo by Skyler Aikerson.

Hobbs captures a beautiful intimacy in the pieces of Sitting Pretty, which is part of a larger collection called Beautiful Uprising. Elements of the personalities of the women in these portraits are shown, such as the playfulness of Crystal (who is featured twice in this exhibit). This is intentional; Hobbs’ subjects are women that she knows personally, which she feels “gives a greater emotional connection through the work.” She also hopes that these varied images show the range of emotions black women experience, as opposed to the strict and stifling view that black women are only ever angry. She stated at her artist reception, “I like to show that we are angry and we get mad . . . but we’re also regal. We’re also sophisticated. We’re also sassy, and that’s fine, and that’s good. We’re the spectrum of all of those things.”

Morrison stated that the inspiration for curating the pieces in this exhibit came after a conversation with Hobbs about her natural hair journey. In Sitting Pretty, Hobbs captures the versatility of black women and their hair beautifully, particularly in both double portraits that are featured in the exhibit. One of these pieces is a double self-portrait, and it displays the complicated relationship many black women have with their hair. This contemplative piece aims to create “an internal and an external dialogue” with the viewer that revolves around preferences and beliefs not only about black women’s hair, but also black women themselves. Hobbs described a comment someone gave on the piece, saying that the woman in the portrait looked angry with the other woman. She said, “I think how you perceive the piece kind of gives some insight into some of your own biases that you may not even know that you have.”

During her artist reception, Hobbs explained the process of making both woodcut and monotype works, which are both printmaking processes. “With the woodcuts,” she says, “I start with a piece of wood as my matrix and carve and then print it. With the monotype . . . you start with a piece of Plexiglas . . . and do your drawing and painting on the Plexiglas, and then you print that.” Hobbs often combines her painting and printmaking processes to create what she calls “hybrid work.” The monotype portrait “Chelsea” is an example of this; Hobbs used collage to create the patterns in the background and for the subject’s clothing and drew and painted parts of this piece. Hobbs also explained that printmaking has its roots in protest. In that sense, this medium complements these portraits well, as they rebel “against standards that [black women are] expected to uphold that we actually can never reach.”

From the mesmerizing “Shay IV” to the otherworldly “Inner Glow,” every piece in Sitting Pretty is beautifully crafted and has a refreshing tenderness inherent to it. Sitting Pretty will be on display in the Rosenberg Gallery through October 25. This exhibit is free and open to the public. More information about Hobbs’ work can be found on her website http://www.latoyamhobbs.com.

BlacKkKlansman Film Review: “All power to all the people!”

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Picture source: collider.com

Spike Lee’s fascinating and timely cinematic hit, BlacKkKlansman, has earned a whopping 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The reviews are all very similar. You may be able to imagine that one guy’s voiceover on almost all movie trailers, “entertaining, witty, funny, intelligent, and thought-provoking.” All of these may be true but it is important to realize that BlacKkKlansman is one of the most crucial films of our times. The film highlights the history of racism and bigotry in America. It asks you to take into consideration how America was more than five decades ago, and what you see happening today.

Before we get into that, here is a brief synopsis. In 1978, Ron Stallworth is recruited to be the first ever black police officer in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As Ron is searching through newspaper ads, one ad in particular catches his eye: a listing for the Ku Klux Klan. He dials their number directly, not realizing that one phone call would embark a series of events that would remain one of the most outrageous and radical stories of all time.

His mission becomes to convince the members of the KKK that he is interested in becoming a member. He spews out racial slurs and states how his sister had fallen for a black man and that he just can’t stand thinking about his black hands touching her “pure white skin”. The whole scene is carried out quite comically. Surprisingly, the Klan becomes supremely intrigued by Ron and how he would contribute to their “organization.” His colleague, who (in the film) is named Flip Zimmerman, goes undercover impersonating Ron, meeting face-to-face with the Klan to befriend its members and gain intelligence on their schemes and conspiracies. Ron, on his end, has conversations with the Klan on the phone and forms a surprisingly cordial relationship with the grand wizard of the KKK, David Duke. Ron and Flip’s mission is to unveil the KKK and orchestrate it’s downfall.

The objective of BlacKkKlansman is to wake us up to the realities of American racism. Spike Lee does a tremendous job of illustrating how racism and classism are as existent now as they were then. The circumstances are different, but the effect is still the same. This film’s intent is to outrage us so that we will want to contribute to making the future, unlike those times. It’s telling us that it is imperative to not remain stagnant, not standing by watching as things happen. Before we did not have a choice. Black people and those who stood for and by black people would be lynched. Lee urges us to recognize that there is nothing holding us back now from standing up for those who are broken, other than our own fears or neglectfulness. We all have some sort of privilege. As Goucher students, higher education is our privilege. I encourage you to think about how to use that privilege, and to use that education to do something powerful, and life-altering with it.

BlacKkKlansman highlights that the Klan’s agenda was to show the world that the white race was the superior race. It exemplifies how an “us versus them” mentality will only return us back to racial and class segregation. In one scene a parallel is made between the deadly protests in Charlottesville, VA just a year ago to images when black people were ostracized in public decades earlier, proving that not only has racial violence like this happened in the past, but that it is happening now. This film was not solely intended for an all-black audience. It’s intended for viewers of different backgrounds and identities to get a glimpse of the history of racism in America. That being said, this national dilemma is not a “blacks only” problem. It is a human rights problem. Being human means standing up for what is right. Racism in America will not end unless we stand for peace and not tolerate or uplift those who contribute to violence and racial hatred.

All in all, BlacKkKlansman provides a small amount of insight into the horrific truth of what it means to be alive as a black person in the 1970s and dating back centuries before that. It begs us to remember that black people did not choose to be enslaved or choose to be discriminated against. Slavery is not over. Slavery is not something that we as a nation, as a community can forget about. Especially not since black people are still being dragged and killed in the streets. American colonization initiated centuries of oppression, genocide, racism, slavery, that of which if one didn’t live, survive, though, that cannot begin to imagine or understand. This movie was made for the audience to become knowledgeable of these events and tragedies that took place, so they are neither ignorant nor complacent.

This film truly is magnificent in persuading viewers to rethink their current biases and opinions. I encourage you to see this movie because you will have a new outlook on life, in general, if you watch carefully. The end scene displays an American flag that fades into black and white until it completely disappears. Take away from that what you will.

A Night at Joe Squared

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Joe Squared is a pizza place, bar, and music venue located in Station North. It is a small, intimate space. The walls are yellow and blue and covered with tiny rainbow flags. The lights shining on the stage are purple and golden. Fleetwood Mac plays between sets as patrons sing and laugh with each other. On Sunday, September 16, 2018, it served as the backdrop for four acts from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C.

The first act was Alice, also known as Borderless State. She is a member of the Baltimore-based ethereal folk metal band Gingerwitch and is currently working on a solo album. Her acoustic set, though short, explored many different sounds and emotions. The quick and tense song “Smooth Mud” was about dealing with crushing anxiety, while the final song of her set was about her mother, who was in the audience. Alice’s voice was expressive and full, soft when it needed to be, and always compelling.

The second act was an indie rock band called Buster. The 4-piece is from Philadelphia, and their show at Joe Squared was their first time playing in Baltimore. They played their latest EP Kupo!, as well as two other songs, one old and one new. The youthful, unreleased tune “Theme Song” had bouncy vocals, and “Growing Old” was a perfect song for the end of summer.

The Zells are an energetic basement punk band from Pittsburgh. They are currently touring (with Buster) in support of their debut album, Failure to Slide, which was released September 7, 2018, on Crafted Sounds. Like Buster, this show also marked their first time playing in Baltimore. The five members took turns singing lead vocals, and even switched instruments, with drummer Tyler playing the guitar, and singing halfway through the show. Though technical difficulties cut the band’s set short, they were good sports and still played a fantastic and fun set.

The Zells. Photo by August Skylar Napolitano.

The last act was Saturday Night, an indie pop band from Washington D.C. Their show at Joe Squared was the last stop on their tour supporting their self-titled album, released August 17, 2018, on Gentle Reminder Records. The band’s sound revolves around bright melodies and prominent baselines. Their set was at the end of the night, but they effortlessly kept the audience dancing and singing along the entire time.

One of the most charming parts of the Saturday Night’s set was the band’s interactions with a fan in the front row, who sang into the microphone during the band’s final song, “Saturday Night.” This interaction is just a testament to the intimacy of Joe Squared. There is little separation between audience and stage, which helps make shows like this so special.

Part of the magic of indie and DIY shows is this lack of distinction between performer and audience, and the comforting humanization of the performers, who were all down to earth, friendly, and approachable. Between sets, Alek from Buster talked about the band’s relationship with The Zells (who they’ve known for some time), and Phil of The Zells talked about life on tour (for example, the difficulties of finding a place to sleep on the road).

At only $5, this show was an amazing way to not only hear great music and discover new favorites but also make wonderful and talented friends, as well. Upcoming events can be found on the Joe Squared Facebook page. Joe Squared is located at 33 W. North Ave., Baltimore, MD, 21201.

Book Review: The Art of Starving

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Picture source: www.blackgate.com

Sam J. Miller’s, The Art of Starving, follows the story of a young man who believes that through starvation he will acquire special powers. The less he eats, the more his senses sharpen. Miller’s protagonist, Matt, is a queer, high school junior living in a poor, rural town in upstate New York. Matt’s first-person narrative begins in late autumn, and the cold, repressive weather mirrors the outset of the story. Matt’s sister, Maya, has recently skipped town without explanation. Maya’s character is tough and independent. She likes rock and roll and claims that she left to record her band’s first album in Providence. But Matt feels that something must have happened to her, that someone must have hurt her to make her leave without being entirely honest with him. And he thinks he knows who did. There is a boy, Tariq, who Matt suspects Maya had been seeing before she left. Matt believes that Tariq and his friends know something about or had something to do with Maya’s disappearance.

As Matt deprives his body of food, he begins to cultivate his senses. He can smell, associating heightened, pungent scents with people or feelings; see sharp, dream-like visions of his sister and estranged father; and hear, somehow perceiving the internal sentiments that his classmates and mother are the least likely to divulge. Matt’s mother works at a local pig slaughterhouse cleaving massive chunks of meat and bone with heavy machinery. When she comes home from work her hands smell of pig’s blood. The factory provides the family’s source of income, as well as being the town’s primary place of employment. However, with the rising economic pressure to outsource factory work, the plant may be in danger of employee cuts or, worse yet, permanent closure.

Matt empathizes with the acute stress his mother feels as a community leader in their small town and as a single parent. Her husband left when the children were little. In one passage Matt recalls how in childhood he imagined that his father was a king, a villain, a sensitive artist, yet he knows that what he truly wishes for is a parental figure who he can relate to intellectually as well as emotionally. As the book progresses, Matt’s relationship with his mother is perhaps one of the most touching arcs of the text. Miller’s depiction of an imperfect, deeply loving parent-child relationship illustrates his aptitude for writing with emotional sensibility while portraying genuinely caring, flawed characters.

Matt is dedicated to practicing The Art of Starving because he imagines that through hunger he will be able to magically manipulate his senses and surroundings. He believes that this cultivated power will place him at the helm of his tumultuous life. However, Miller shows his readers that when bodily denial becomes obsessive, it is often indicative of more than simply the food itself. There are many ways in which we can deny ourselves sustenance.

Although the narrative in Miller’s story is beautifully rendered, it does not glamorize mental illness or anorexia. As Matt comes to terms with what his body hungers for and desires, his sexuality and eating disorder become intertwined: “Your body’s hungers are simple. It’s the mind that makes things complex, spinning a web of stories and fantasies and prejudices around something as basic as love, until we crave the stories more than the love itself” (Miller, 2017).

Miller understands that there is no simple cure for mental illness. Unlike many young adult novels that spin fanciful tales of recovery around a romantic partnership, The Art of Starving, evades this trope. The relationship that grows between Matt and another character in the story does not act as a panacea.  Miller’s writing is sparse, yet the narrative he weaves is as absurdly magical as a Grimm’s fairy tale.

The author’s debut novel is a tender story about what we all hunger for, be that food, sex, love, power, respect, acceptance, or internal serenity. The Art of Starving reminds us that, ultimately, we alone can heal ourselves. And moreover, that healing may be the most spellbinding, gratifying special power that one can practice and hone with care over time.

The Art of Starving (HarperTeen) is currently on the ballot for the Hugo and the Nebula Awards. Sam J. Miller will be at the Baltimore Book Festival, which takes place the weekend of September 28th-30th, as part of the tour for his latest novel, Blackfish City (Ecco Press; Orbit). He will be participating in panels on LGBTQIA science fiction, futuristic cities in fiction, and the politics of resistance in speculative fiction. To learn more about all of the authors coming to Baltimore for the event visit: baltimorebookfestival.com

No Spectators: Renwick’s Unique Art Experience

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Marco Cochrane, Truth is Beauty sculpture. Picture taken by Emily C. Scheppegrell.

Renwick Gallery, a free art museum in Washington, D.C., provides a unique and fascinating look into the infamous Burning Man festival in Nevada. Every year, 70,000 humans fill the empty, sandy desert of Black Rock, Nevada, constructing a temporary city. Art installations, steampunk costumes, and innovative futuristic vehicles fill the desert with radical self-expression as far as the eye can see. Burning Man is a celebration of human innovation, creativity, and genius, a once-in-a-lifetime experience one could only achieve by traveling thousands of miles to Nevada in August – until now.

Renwick Gallery offers a look into this riveting cultural phenomenon for anyone with a few hours in D.C. . Even better, they offer it for free, a great option for college students who can’t afford a pricey museum ticket. The downstairs portion of the gallery takes you through various art creations made and featured in the festival in previous years, from ornate, science fiction aesthetic costumes to massive sculptures and vehicles. A time-lapse features the entire Burning Man experience, from the music and festivities to the grand finale of burning several wooden sculptures in a grand celebration of freedom and renewal. A miniature theater shows silent, black and white movies, while the next room asks museum-goers what they want to do before they die. Various answers include “travel the world,” “have a family,” “go sky-diving,” and my personal favorite, “go full yeet”.

The upstairs area of the museum is a collection of rooms, starting off with the large recreation of a temple from Burning Man. While the other installations demonstrate creativity and celebration, the temple is a more serious place, created to honor grief and remembrance of those we have lost. The quiet atmosphere in the dimly-lit, elaborate temple is broken only by the scratching of pens on wooden tiles; visitors can write on a tile in honor of someone they have lost or an experience they have had, and then place it somewhere in the room. This ties into the theme of “No Spectators”. Visitors to Burning Man aren’t simply visiting, they are participating, and adding to the culture. The same goes for visitors to the Renwick Gallery’s art show.

The next rooms include dynamic, massive glowing mushrooms that rise and fall based on visitor interaction, paper-lantern-esque creations visitors can climb inside, and a psychedelic art screen on the ceiling that visitors watch from a lying position on the floor.

If you’re not one for typical art museums with halls upon halls of landscape and portrait paintings, don’t rule out the Renwick – the gallery is extremely interactive and really does require museum-goers to interact with exhibits instead of merely walk through. The exhibit will remain open until January and is an easy, cheap adventure for Goucher students. Students can utilize the college shuttle to reach the train station for free, and then buy the MARC train ticket to D.C. for only $8. From there, it’s around a twenty-minute walk to the gallery. Have fun, and remember, no spectators, everyone is part of the experience.

Crazy Rich Asians Review

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Photo Credit: IMDb.com

Crazy Rich Asians is an absolute must-see for the beginning semester. Set in modern day, it starts with the life of Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American economics professor who lives in New York. She has happily been in a relationship with her boyfriend, a dashing young man who is known by the name of Nick Young. When Nick receives an invitation for his best friend’s wedding back in Singapore, Rachel takes the chance to finally meet his family. Much to her surprise, the mild-mannered and sweet boy she met is the firstborn heir to his family’s vast fortune. The movie follows Rachel as she tries to navigate falling head first into the world of the vastly wealthy and her relationship with Asia’s most eligible bachelor.

Going into the picture, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I knew it had good reviews and a promising premise since it had been based on a book, but other than that, nothing. What I watched was a beautifully executed love story that would warm the heart of any romantic.  Overall, I thought some parts felt a bit self-indulgent. Without getting too far into spoilers, the way the family shows off wealth is potentially off-putting for some people. However, I found it sort of like a breath of fresh air. As the perpetual fear of student loans and god only knows how many other financial troubles await me, it was nice to see someone who just didn’t have to worry about it. It was nice to watch someone who seemed to be a genuinely likable person sit in the lap of luxury, even if she did have to fight for it. Another thing that I appreciated was just how dedicated to the culture the movie was. Admittedly, I knew nothing about Singapore or the culture that it has, but that too was like a breath of fresh air for me. Seeing Rachel speak with English subtitles underneath her just felt so genuine, and I can’t quite recall the last time I’ve seen a Hollywood movie do that before (except for maybe Star Wars, but alien tongues don’t count in my book). Not to mention that the movie wasn’t afraid to be a little ridiculous. Sure, the comedic relief was a bit over the top, but I liked that about them. They are the type of people we wish we could be for our friends, completely unbound by social norms and unafraid to shout into the streets looking like a crazy person just to show support for those you care about. I like that about those characters. Also, I won’t ruin the ending, but the movie ends on a truly touching note that I found to be very sweet.

Overall, if you aren’t a big fan of rom-coms, this movie probably isn’t for you. However, if you want something that will brighten up your weekend a little bit more, I say why not give it a go with an open mind.

Movie Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Photo Credit: IMDb.com

We all go through crushes. Since according to zodiac signs I am a Cancer, when I develop a crush, it can become quite an emotional experience for me. If only I had thought about writing a letter to all the boys who had unknowingly stolen my heart! “Liking” someone can be an overwhelming experience for some: constant butterflies in the stomach, nervous to be around the person they admire, and also being afraid to say how they feel due to fear of possible rejection. For others, having feelings for someone does not have this effect; it is just an extra amount of liking for them versus their “regular” friends. Lara Jean Covey (portrayed by Lana Condor), however, falls into the first category of people who have crushes.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, originally a book written by author Jenny Han, was directed by female director Susan Johnson and premiered on August 17, 2018, on Netflix. The movie follows the life of a teenage Asian-American girl, named Lara Jean. Lara Jean wrote five letters to five different boys who she had developed a large crush on. Somehow, the letters get out and are sent to the five guys. Peter Kavinsky, the boy with the beautiful smile and starry eyes (portrayed by Noah Centino), addresses Lara Jean about his letter, which later, much, much later, turns into a happy ending for the both of them.

Throughout the film, Lara Jean is able to talk to the other four boys about the letters and all of them are understanding, well, except Josh, but that’s another story. Peter and Lara Jean decide to “date” to make his ex-girlfriend, Gen, jealous. Slowly but surely, and quite obviously, Lara Jean begins to develop real feelings for Peter, and little does she know that he feels the same way. She continues to tell herself and him that it is all fake due to not wanting to get hurt by him. After the big ski trip, Lara Jean and Peter make themselves official, but it only lasts about ten minutes because, of course, Gen ruins things when they get off the bus. SPOILER ALERT: In the end, Lara Jean and Peter end up together, and the audience and fans now must wait until it is confirmed that there will be a sequel to the movie to see how everything really ends.

This movie did a great job of casting the perfect actors for the roles that they had. Lana Condor fits the role of Lara Jean in every single way imaginable. She is sweet, kind, genuine, but also very strong and knows how to stand up for herself. Noah Centino, whose big debut was on the Freeform show The Fosters, had everyone’s heart throbbing throughout the movie. His talent shone throughout the movie, proving to fans that he knew all the right ways to play with the camera and his emotions. This movie felt very relatable for me, and I am sure others feel the same way. Twitter and Instagram went crazy once the movie was released on Netflix, and all actors immediately rose to fame (if they hadn’t already) due to the roles they had in the film. If this movie has taught me anything, it is to not be afraid to tell someone how you feel in-person, even if you don’t end up with a happy ending like Peter and Lara Jean had.

 

Edit on 9/17/18: The second sentence of the article was changed for clarity.

It’s More than the Title – Crazy Rich Asians

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For the first time in a quarter of a century, Hollywood has made a rom-com movie with an all Asian cast entitled Crazy Rich Asians. Starring Constance Wu, Harry Shum Jr, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Remmy Tan, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding and so many more, the lineup is breaking grounds. This book turned movie is hitting the big screen on August 17, 2018 and is one of the few blockbuster films starring Asians in lead roles (but the only one with a full Asian cast) this summer. Backed by Warner Brothers and directed by Jon M. Chu, known for Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Step Up and Now You See Me 2, the trailer for the highly anticipated movie dropped on April 23 on The Ellen Show.

Now, for some, the plot may seem a bit too generic. Rich man falls in love with a poor woman, decides to introduce her to his family, his mother doesn’t think the woman is good enough, and hilarity/drama ensues. But for the Asian American community, this is a huge deal. For, in Hollywood, Asian American representation is not very common since the practice of whitewashing of roles in major films is very frequent. With the most publicized of these being Emma Stone in Aloha, Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in a Shell, basically the whole cast of The Last Airbender, and Matt Smith in The Great Wall. Even Crazy Rich Asians and the soon to be made, live-action Mulan, almost became the victim of whitewashing too. And so, while YouTube creators like Wong Fu Productions, Anna Akana, and Domics produce lots of stories about the Asian American/mundane experiences of life, and television shows like Fresh Off the Boat, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Dr. Kim and Master of None fill in some of the gaps with regards to representation for Asian Americans, the impact is not the same.

However, with all the fanfare around this film, it should be noted that the movie does not represent every Asian American experience. I mean, how could it? It’s an hour to two-hour long film! But if anyone wants to hear more about this topic, the YouTube channel FUNG BROS did a video called CRAZY RICH ASIANS – WHY YOU SHOULD NOT WATCH IT AND WHY YOU SHOULD.

This conversation about what the movie means is only a small part of a much larger discussion. No matter how one spins it, Crazy Rich Asians is a step forward towards representation in the media for Asians and Asian Americans.

Photo Credit: Google Images

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