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Do We Really Want to Live Forever?

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If you’ve spent any amount of time with me in the past couple of weeks, I’ve probably tried to get you to watch Altered Carbon—a new cyberpunk noir murder-mystery based on Richard K. Morgan’s novel of the same name that recently came out on Netflix. The show is set in a world where humans have found a way to download personalities into bodies (a.k.a. Sleeves), and in doing so, the human form has essentially become disposable and interchangeable. While the following is mostly my own musings, I will try to avoid spoilers where possible, but if you don’t want spoilers go watch the show then read this.
First off, let’s talk about pain for a bit. Humans have, as a society, generally accepted that pain is a bad thing. The International Association for the Study of Pain defines it as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” What does this mean for the world of Altered Carbon? The IASP definition mentions one of the principal factors: damage. We, in our frail human bodies, are extremely susceptible to damage. We are not exactly the sturdiest things around. And as of right now, we have no way of recovering from many types of damage. But what if we could?
Altered Carbon’s Protectorate has their sleeve technology, Elysium (the film, not the afterlife) has their Med-Bays, and Star Wars has space magic. Escaping the physical limitations of our own bodies and mortality (and mind you, I’m only counting glaringly obvious ones here, so no mech suits, A.I., or crazy life-support machines in this issue) is something we mortals seem to be mesmerized by. In this context, where either the real impact of any damage is reduced (as in Altered Carbon and Star Wars); or where damage is easily repairable, does it become less negative?
We see this interaction between damage and cost play out in Altered Carbon when Lieutenant Ortega tries to arrest Kovac for “sleeve damage” after a fight. Her reaction is what one would expect if a cop in 2018 caught someone smashing a car. It’s still a serious offense, but doesn’t have nearly the same moral implications, which is, in my view, much more significant. It’s almost as if our current ethical and practical dilemmas (punishing those who cause pain and harm) have become the future’s holdover laws. In the same way that we see Tulsa, OK’s “You need an engineer present to open a soda bottle” law as old-fashioned, or as some kind of meme, a future society may eventually come to find our laws to have no contextual grounding for them.
Let’s extrapolate from this something we hear about briefly in the show: death. Now, we’re talking about sleeve death, not real death, because that’s another can of worms entirely. It’s reasonable to say that death, right now, is a bad thing. It is, as far as any of us can prove, the end, and therefore, any damage that causes death is something that we as a society find in our best interests to criminalize. But what if we could just plug ourselves into a new body and keep going? Bodies still cost money, and they are still things you own, so it’s still property damage, but it would be as easy as activating car insurance.
So, this lack of a true conclusion leads well into the question I want to ask: considering a society where the practical justifications to outlaw, criminalize or marginalize a given thing or behavior has been addressed, should we judge solely on moral objections? If so, can we do it fairly and accurately? Going a little further still, to what extent can we really compare what we know as our human experience to that of a society like this? Personally, I’d like to say that while I’m often the first to present moral objections, I’m also the first to acknowledge that those morals are entirely baseless and set in nothing but my own conviction. Because of this, I do not at all think that any judgment we pass can really be called fair and accurate, especially considering how completely different our experiences are.
I would love to hear what you think, so you can email me at cavic001mail.goucher.edu with questions, comments, thoughts, and suggestions for shows or topics you want me to take a look at.
Catch y’all later!

Poetry as Community

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It is not so frequent an event that speakers are introduced as having created oceans. Oceans with “clear and clean water,” into which one can be submersed, “with no part left dry.”
On Thursday, February 15th, poets Airea D. Matthews and Ladan Osman visited Goucher for an evening of dinner, conversation, and, most importantly, poetry. They were the first in a series of poets whose visits will be sponsored by the Kratz Center for Creative Writing at Goucher College.
Typically, the Kratz Center sponsors one visiting writer event in the fall semester. For example, last semester Elizabeth Strout made a visit, and in previous years, other big names like Sherman Alexie, Seamus Heaney, and W.S. Merwin have come to Goucher. Then, in the spring semester, the Kratz Center sponsors a visiting writer to teach a course. This semester H.G. Carrillo is leading a fiction writing workshop. Goucher alumni Edgar Kunz is also visiting and teaching creative writing. In addition to these annually-run programs, however, the Kratz Center is also sponsoring something new this year—an “experiment,” in the words of Bill U’Ren, current Kratz Director and Goucher creative writing professor.
The Poetry Series is the experiment. Although U’Ren is the acting Kratz Director, the go-ahead for this experiment was given by last year’s co-directors Madison Smartt Bell and Elizabeth Spires. Meant to work in conjunction with this semester’s theme of “community,” the series involves creating several smaller events with visiting writers, rather than try to acquire big-ticket names. The series is also an attempt to organize a variety of readings which may not be the most traditional. For example, Matthews and Osman both employed mixed media presentations, using images along with their work. Future visiting poets include The Black Ladies Brunch Collective, a group of poets who work collaboratively.
Goucher poetry and peace studies professor Ailish Hopper was the curator of the series (and the author of the lovely introduction at the Thursday night event). As the curator, Hopper reached out to poets in the broader Baltimore community and asked for their help in creating the events. To create a pair for a joint reading, she would first contact one poet, and then ask whom that poet would like to read with, be it “a friend, or mentor or poetry-crush,” as Hopper put it. The poets were then asked what the phrase “poetry as community” meant to them. The focus, or subtitles, for each event, came from their answers to this question. Aptly, Hopper used a metaphor to describe her involvement as curator in this process: “I was like a sail on a sailboat, and all these winds came along to push the sail,” said Hopper, miming the movement of blowing winds to represent the various people who made the series possible.
At the event on Thursday, throughout the evening Matthews and Osman showed their friendship and respect for each other, each sharing stories about the other. At the end of the night, Hopper thanked both for their time, their poetry, and, ultimately, for their togetherness. Matthews and Osman laughed and looked at each other. “We really love each other,” said Matthews.

The Poetry Series has already been building connections between members of the poetry community. Of the 40-50 people at Thursday night event, there were a number of local poets, who teach in colleges, high schools, and afterschool programs. One outcome of this community-building is co-publicity and the creation of a master list of all the poetry events happening this spring. If you’re interested in attending poetry events on or off campus, check out the list below!
The final visiting poet of the semester, Rudy Francisco, who specializes in spoken word poetry, will lead a master class at Goucher in the morning but will perform in the evening at the DewMore Baltimore Poetry Festival. Hopper hopes that Goucher students connect with Francisco and make an effort to travel into the city for the festival.
Upcoming events at Goucher feature Poets Jenny Johnson and francine harris on March 29th, 7-9 in Batza Room and The Black Ladies Brunch Collective on Thursday, April 12th, 7-9, also in Batza.

On a final note, the Q is hoping to publish poems and spark poetry-centered conversation this semester in connection with the idea of poetry as community and poets as truth-tellers.
Go to an event and compose a response. Or be inspired in any other way. Write a poem… passionate, reflective, heart-breaking, fast, slow, rhyming, free verse…whatever your style is and wherever your heart is, just write.
Then send it into the world.

Throne of Glass: A Review

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Like every Young Adult Fantasy novel these days, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas has it all: a swashbuckling teen heroine who’s lived through more travesties in her eighteen years of existence than most people have in one lifetime; a creepy male antagonist who is hell-bent on world domination; and the quintessential duo of (male) best friends vying for the main character’s affection (of course, one of which is grumpy and stand-offish while the other is a lovable playboy). All this, along with a “healthy” dose of female competition, adorable animals, names that cannot be pronounced, and magic.
Published in 2012, Throne of Glass was not an instant success. Sure it had raving reviews, but unlike Maas’s books nowadays, it did not debut on the New York Times Bestsellers List. What made it a classic in the ever growing and fast-paced industry of YA fantasy are the characters and the world that Maas expands upon throughout the series.
However, I plan on only discussing the first book, so here we go.
The main character is named Celaena Sardothien, a first-rate has-been assassin, fighting in a competition to become the King’s Champion. She’s a bit self-centered, a bit egotistical, and only on occasion willing to play nice (as befitting a true eighteen-year-old). So, along with her new friends, Prince Dorian Havilliard and Chaol Westfall, Captain of the Royal Guard, Celaena must figure out a way to stay alive in the tournament to buy her freedom, keep her head down in the castle of her arch enemy and catch the castle murderer before she becomes the next victim. Piece of cake.
All in all, Throne of Glass is good, but not a great first book. The pacing isn’t too fast nor is it too slow. It checks off all of the boxes necessary for YA fantasy: court intrigue, a shadowy presence, snappy comebacks, minimal romance (compared to the series presently) and innocent friendship; not to mention a dedicated fan base who will love the series till their last breath. What makes the book truly worth your time is the well-articulated and beautiful style of writing that Sarah J. Maas has. I mean, just the way she describes a forest gives way for pause.
“The forest had gone silent. The ebony hounds’ ears were erect, though they didn’t seem to be bothered by the stillness. Even the soldiers quieted. Her heart skipped a beat. The forest was different here. The leaves dangled like jewels-tiny droplets of ruby, pearl, topaz, amethyst, emerald, and garnet; and a carpet of such riches coated the forest floor around them. Despite the ravages of conquest, this part of Oakwald Forest remained untouched. It still echoed with the remnants of the power that had once given these trees such unnatural beauty.”
Maas’s words flow naturally in such a way that many authors struggle with, and it is due to her ability to write images, characters, dialogue, and action that could entice someone to pick up the next book. Sarah J. Maas does a remarkable job of pulling you in just enough with the characters, plot, and storyline. But it is her gift as a storyteller that ensnares a reader that leaves you with wanting more.

Readings in Baltimore (March 1st – March 16th)

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UPCOMING READINGS IN THE AREA (through March 16)
For more information: http://www.theivybookshop.com/event

Thursday, March 1: Eric Puchner In Conversation With Nate Brown: Last
Day On Earth
BIRD IN HAND

Tuesday, March 6: Giles Milton: Churchill’s Ministry Of Ungentlemanly
Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler's Defeat
THE IVY BOOKSHOP

Wednesday, March 7: Elliot Ackerman: Dark At The Crossing
THE IVY BOOKSHOP

Thursday, March 8: Peter Edelman: Not A Crime To Be Poor: The
Criminalization Of Poverty In America
CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER

Monday, March 12: Elana Zaiman: The Forever Letter: Writing What We
Believe For Those We Love
CHIZUK AMUNO CONGREGATION

Tuesday, March 14: The Writing Seminars Presents: Jessica Anya Blau, Jane
Delury And Rahul Kanakia
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY WRITING SEMINARS

Tuesday, March 14: Writers LIVE: Joshua Clark Davis: From Head Shops To
Whole Foods: The Rise And Fall Of Activist Entrepreneurs
MD STATE LIBRARY FOR THE BLIND AND PHYSICALLY HANDICAPPED

Wednesday, March 15: Antero Pietila: Not In My Neighborhood: How
Bigotry Shaped A Great American City
BALTIMORE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY – PIKESVILLE BRANCH

Thursday, March 16: Brown Lecture: Dr. Mary Frances Berry: History
Teaches Us To Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded In
Challenging Times
ENOCH PRATT FREE LIBRARY, AFRICAN AMERICAN DEPARTMENT

Thursday, March 16: Imbolo Mbue: Behold The Dreamers
THE IVY BOOKSHOP

Events in Baltimore (March 2nd-March 16th)

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KEY:
*​ ​18+
** ​21+

March 2

  • “Take Me Out!” 2000’s Indie Dance Party!* at Ottobar
  • Tomason (record release), Sea Lilies (record release), Flying Faders, Yanni II at The Windup Space
  • Pressing Strings, Skribe* at Metro Gallery
  • Lost in Society, Rooney’s Show, The Stifled, Old Bay Thrashers* at The Sidebar
  • American Nightmare, Pissed Jeans, Protester, Cloak/Dagger at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ in Concert at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • SOOHAN, Anna Morgan, Christian Dope* at The 8×10
  • Border and Prison Empire with Todd Miller and Nasim Chatha at Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse
  • Your Solar, In The Presence of Wolves, Heavy Wire, Geph* at Downsquares
  • Outcalls, North by North, Hexgirlfriends at The Bun Shop
  • “Western” directed by Valeska Grisebach (2017) opening at The SNF Parkway
  • “Loveless” directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev (2017) opening at The Charles Theatre
  • “Nostalgia” directed by Mark Pellington (2018) opening at The Charles Theatre
  • “The Party” directed by Sally Potter (2018) opening at The Charles Theatre

March 3

  • Koru Mindfulness Workshop (3pm) at ACE Multipurpose Room, JR 233
  • New Wave Dance Party w/ DJ Billy** at Ottobar
  • Bedlam Brass, The Mondawmen, J Pope and the HearNOW at The Windup Space
  • Midvale (album release), The New Reign, Saturine, Navarium, Spermasaurus Rex at Metro Gallery
  • Madball, Next Step Up, Flatline, Evade* at The Sidebar
  • Kid Rock: American Rock n’ Roll Tour at Royal Farms Arena
  • Jeanne Robertson at The Lyric
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ in Concert at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Dermot Kennedy at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Endless Hyteria (CD release party), Go On Red, Common Corpse, After the Broken at Fish Head Cantina!
  • 15th Annual MammoJam Music Festival at The 8×10
  • Fox 45 and The CW: B’More Healthy Expo at Baltimore Convention Center
  • Purim in Space!** at The Crown
  • NYC Comedy Invades Baltimore at Joe Squared
  • Baltimore Family Biking Open House at Peabody Heights Brewery
  • Revival Series: “The Earrings of Madame De…” directed by Max Ophüls (1953) at The Charles Theatre
  • Cinema Sundays: TBD (announced the week of) at The Charles Theatre

March 4

  • Bedlam Brass, The Mondawmen, J Pope and the HearNOW at The Windup Space
  • Vista Kicks, Rent Party, Stranger at Metro Gallery
  • Alice Cooper at The Lyric
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ in Concert at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Aaron Watson, Jack Ingram, Ryan Beaver at Baltimore Soundstage
  • World Sound Series: Meklit at The Motor House
  • The Body Is Not an Apology with Sonya Renee Taylor at Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse
  • March Drone Brunch ft. Forrest Marquisse & his Ocatones, La Llorona, Will Ryerson, Dan Zink at Holy Underground
  • Sunday Night Video game Throwdown ft. GoldenEye 64! at Holy Frijoles
  • “Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai Du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” directed by Chantal Akerman (1973) opening at The SNF Parkway
  • Revival Series: “Singin’ in the Rain” directed by Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly (1952) at The Senator Theater

March 5

  • Hippie Sabotage, Melvv, Olivia Noelle at Rams Head Live!
  • Brett Dennen, Dean Lewis at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Revival Series: “The Earrings of Madame De…” directed by Max Ophüls (1953) at The Charles Theatre
  • Revival Series: “Singin’ in the Rain” directed by Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly (1952) at The Senator Theater

March 6

  • Arts on Stage: The Peking Chinese Acrobats (10:15am, 12pm) at Kraushaar Auditorium
  • Dell Upton – What Can and Can’t be Said: Commemorating African-American History in the Shadow of the Confederacy (7:30pm) at Kelly Lecture Hall
  • Standup Comedy at The Windup Space: Benefit for Homeless in Baltimore at The Windup Space
  • Sweet Ascent* at The Sidebar
  • Eric Johnson (with original band members Tommy Taylor & Kyle Brock, guest Arielle) at Rams Head Live!
  • Transgender History with Susan Stryker at Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse
  • “Until the Birds Return” directed by Karim Moussaoui (2017) One night only! at The SNF Parkway
  • Revival Series: “Singin’ in the Rain” directed by Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly (1952) at The Senator Theater

March 7

  • Arts on Stage: The Peking Chinese Acrobats (10:15am, 12pm) at Kraushaar Auditorium
  • Drink and Draw!** at The Windup Space
  • The Zephyr Bones, The Dune Flowers, hellp* at Metro Gallery
  • TRON-PING: Black Light Table Tennis at The Windup Space
  • JJ Grey & Mofro, Hollis Brown at Rams Head Live!
  • People’s Blues of Richmond, March Residency, Disco Risque, Medusa’s Disco* at The 8×10
  • “Everything Is Terrible!’s The Great Satan” LIVE SHOW! One night only! at The SNF Parkway
  • Revival Series: “Dune” directed by David Lynch (1984) at The Senator Theater

March 8

  • Music Program Student Showcase (8pm) at Haebler Memorial Chapel
  • “Queer Qrush” All-Inclusive dance party w/ DJ Pancakes at Ottobar**
  • Epic Beard Men (Sage Francis & B. Dolan), Height Keech, Seez Mics* at Metro Gallery
  • Lost Stars, FIVES, Saving Apollo, Cecilia Grace* at The Sidebar
  • From Vienna to Broadway at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Raw Baltimore presents: “Envision” at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Toubab Krewe, Suga Grits* at The 8×10
  • USA Fencing 2018 March North America at Baltimore Convention Center
  • The Slim Jimmies, Pinkwench, Your Ex’s Pets at New America
  • Revival Series: “The Earrings of Madame De…” directed by Max Ophüls (1953) at The Charles Theatre

March 9

  • Arts on Stage: Harriet Tubman & the Underground Railroad (10:15am, 12pm) at Kraushaar Auditorium
  • Le Malade Imaginaire  (7:30pm) at Mildred Dunnock Theatre
  • Emo Night Baltimore* at Ottobar
  • Super City, :3Lon, Raw Silk* at Metro Gallery
  • The Dissociated* at The Sidebar
  • From Vienna to Broadway at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Deer Tick, Solomon Georgio at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Crazy Town, Davey Suicide, Dead Atlantic, 13 Prisons, Ethics** at Fish Head Cantina!
  • TRUTH, DMVU, Distinct Motive, Seromatic* at The 8×10
  • Revolution Talent at Baltimore Convention Center
  • USA Fencing 2018 March North America at Baltimore Convention Center
  • The Ward, Silver Gulls, Pale Stag, Vickers* at Joe Squared
  • End It, Hangman, Paper Trail* at Asian Taste
  • Witches, Wine, & Tattoos at Ripp’d Canvas Tattoo
  • “The Young Karl Marx” directed by Raoul Peck (2017) opening at The SNF Parkway
  • “Werewolf” directed by Ashley McKenzie (2017) opening at The SNF Parkway
  • “Submission” directed by Richard Levine (2018) opening at The Charles Theatre
  • “The Leisure Seeker” directed by Paolo Virzì (2018) opening at The Charles Theatre
  • “Thoroughbreds” directed by Cory Finley (2018) opening at The Charles Theatre

March 10

  • Le Malade Imaginaire  (7:30pm) at Mildred Dunnock Theatre
  • The BPM Experience: The Baltimore Experience at The Windup Space
  • Fade To Black (Metallica Tribute), Bastards of Reality* at Metro Gallery
  • From Vienna to Broadway at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • St. Patrick’s Celebration at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Family Luncheon: St. Patrick’s Celebration at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Senses fail, Reggie and The Full Effect, Have Mercy, Household at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Dethstrike (Megadeth tribute), Impact, Season of Fear, Start the Scene, Dark Entity** at Fish Head Cantina!
  • Charm City Bluegrass Festival: Battle of the Bands FINALS* at The 8×10
  • Revolution Talent at Baltimore Convention Center
  • USA Fencing 2018 March North America at Baltimore Convention Center
  • Bollymore* ft. DJ NativeSUN, Hoeteps, Nikilad and Bharatanatyam Dance Performances by Sylvia Vadakara at The Motor House
  • Graffiti Warehouse Broadway Meet n’ Greet Party!
  • Awesome – Art Addiction at The Impact Hub
  • Revival Series: “Good Morning/Ohayo” directed by at Yasujiro Ozu (1969) at The Charles Theatre
  • Cinema Sundays: TBD (announced the week of) at The Charles Theatre
  • MET Opera: Semiramide opening at The Charles Theatre

March 11

  • Patricia Racette at The Lyric
  • From Vienna to Broadway at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • PNB Rock, Lil Baby at Baltimore Soundstage
  • The Music Workshop at The 8×10
  • Revolution Talent at Baltimore Convention Center
  • USA Fencing 2018 March North America at Baltimore Convention Center
  • BPS Presents: “Thank God It’s Friday” at Homewood Friends Meeting, Baltimore
  • Revival Series: “Dune” directed by David Lynch (1984) at The Senator Theater

March 12

  • Aseethe, Vile Creature, Curse, No/Mas at Ottobar
  • Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School: Baltimore at The Windup Space
  • Music Adventures with Michael Ferraguto at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Dark Funeral & Septicflesh, Thy Antichrist at Baltimore Soundstage
  • USA Fencing 2018 March North America at Baltimore Convention Center
  • Revival Series: “Good Morning/Ohayo” directed by at Yasujiro Ozu (1969) at The Charles Theatre
  • Revival Series: “Dune” directed by David Lynch (1984) at The Senator Theater

March 13

  • Arts on Stage: The Wizard of Oz (10:15am, 12pm) at Kraushaar Auditorium
  • Division of Student Affairs Spring Diversity Speaker: Laverne Cox at Towson University – SECU Arena
  • Bachelor Boys Showcase at The Windup Space
  • Raising Cadence* at The Sidebar
  • Nightwish at The Lyric
  • Dumpstaphunk* at The 8×10
  • The Legend of the Black Mecca with Dr. Maurice Hobson at Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse
  • Revival Series: “Dune” directed by David Lynch (1984) at The Senator Theater

March 14

  • TRON-PING: Black Light Table Tennis at The Windup Space
  • Movie Night! ft. Hackers + Post-movie DJ set at The Sidebar
  • People’s Blues of Richmond, March Residency, Tweed, Hustle Souls* at The 8×10
  • “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” directed by Blake Edwards (1961) at The Senator Theater

March 15

  • Arts on Stage: Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat (10:15am, 12pm) at Kraushaar Auditorium
  • Clayton Fletcher at Joe Squared
  • Us and Us Only, Nina Gala, Mess at Ottobar
  • Heresy – Goth/Industrial Night** at Ottobar
  • Iron Chic, At Face Value, American Television, Cowabunga Pizza Time* at Metro Gallery
  • Schubert The Great at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Dokkem, Korupt, Reckoning Crew, The Methmatics** at Fish Head Cantina!
  • Third Thursday Bluegrass: The Plate Scrapers, Strong Water, West King String Band* at The 8×10
  • Keith Harkin at Tin Roof
  • Revival Series: “Being John Malkovich” directed by Spike Jonze (1999) at The Charles Theatre

March 16

  • 4 Hours of Funk** at The Windup Space
  • The Blow, Joint Combo* at Metro Gallery
  • Fourth Dominion, Ancalagon, Genevieve, Mother Moon* at The Sidebar
  • Blake Shelton: Country Music Freaks Tour at Royal Farms Arena
  • Schubert The Great at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • The Noise presents “Pop Evil: Music Over Words” Tour: Black Map, Palaye Royale at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Dying Breed, Voodoo, Fast As Lightning, Adjust the Sails** at Fish Head Cantina!
  • Christian Lopez & Plevyak, Conor Brendan and The Wild Hunt, Splendor Tree* at The 8×10
  • Coffee Fest at Baltimore Convention Center
  • Thee Lexington Arrows, The Combs, The Forwards, The Creachies at Joe Squared
  • June Pastel, B.R.A.T at New America
  • “Kill Me Please” directed by Anita Rocha da Silveira (2015) opening at The SNF Parkway

Poetry as Community

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It is not so frequent an event that speakers are introduced as having created oceans. Oceans with “clear and clean water,” into which one can be submersed, “with no part left dry.”
On Thursday, February 15th, poets Airea D. Matthews and Ladan Osman visited Goucher for an evening of dinner, conversation, and, most importantly, poetry. They were the first in a series of poets whose visits will be sponsored by the Kratz Center for Creative Writing at Goucher College.

Airea D Matthews and Ladan Osman.
Photo Credit: Goucher College Events Calendar

Typically, the Kratz Center sponsors one visiting writer event in the fall semester. For example, last semester Elizabeth Strout made a visit, and in previous years, other big names like Sherman Alexie, Seamus Heaney, and W.S. Merwin have come to Goucher. Then, in the spring semester, the Kratz Center sponsors a visiting writer to teach a course. This semester H.G. Carrillo is leading a fiction writing workshop. Goucher alumni Edgar Kunz is also visiting and teaching creative writing. In addition to these annually-run programs, however, the Kratz Center is also sponsoring something new this year—an “experiment,” in the words of Bill U’Ren, current Kratz Director and Goucher creative writing professor.
The Poetry Series is the experiment. Although U’Ren is the acting Kratz Director, the go-ahead for this experiment was given by last year’s co-directors Madison Smartt Bell and Elizabeth Spires. Meant to work in conjunction with this semester’s theme of “community,” the series involves creating several smaller events with visiting writers, rather than try to acquire big-ticket names. The series is also an attempt to organize a variety of readings which may not be the most traditional. For example, Matthews and Osman both employed mixed media presentations, using images along with their work. Future visiting poets include The Black Ladies Brunch Collective, a group of poets who work collaboratively.
Goucher poetry and peace studies professor Ailish Hopper was the curator of the series (and the author of the lovely introduction at the Thursday night event). As the curator, Hopper reached out to poets in the broader Baltimore community and asked for their help in creating the events. To create a pair for a joint reading, she would first contact one poet, and then ask whom that poet would like to read with, be it “a friend, or mentor or poetry-crush,” as Hopper put it. The poets were then asked what the phrase “poetry as community” meant to them. The focus, or subtitles, for each event, came from their answers to this question. Aptly, Hopper used a metaphor to describe her involvement as curator in this process: “I was like a sail on a sailboat, and all these winds came along to push the sail,” said Hopper, miming the movement of blowing winds to represent the various people who made the series possible.
At the event on Thursday, throughout the evening Matthews and Osman showed their friendship and respect for each other, each sharing stories about the other. At the end of the night, Hopper thanked both for their time, their poetry, and, ultimately, for their togetherness. Matthews and Osman laughed and looked at each other. “We really love each other,” said Matthews.
The Poetry Series has already been building connections between members of the poetry community. Of the 40-50 people at Thursday night event, there were a number of local poets, who teach in colleges, high schools, and after school programs. One outcome of this community-building is co-publicity and the creation of a master list of all the poetry events happening this spring. If you’re interested in attending poetry events on or off campus, click here for events and bios of the poets.
The final visiting poet of the semester, Rudy Francisco, who specializes in spoken word poetry, will lead a master class at Goucher in the morning but will perform in the evening at the DewMore Baltimore Poetry Festival. Hopper hopes that Goucher students connect with Francisco and make an effort to travel into the city for the festival.
Upcoming events at Goucher feature Poets Jenny Johnson and francine harris on March 29th, 7-9 in Batza Room and The Black Ladies Brunch Collective on Thursday, April 12th, 7-9, also in Batza.

Poetry in Baltimore, Spring 2018

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Poetry Events in Baltimore This Semester

*for bios, below
3/4 Artivism Day
5pm, Impact Hub
3/8 ART Rising open mic, with featured performer TBA (Brought by Slammageddon Baltimore)
7:30pm, GLCCB, $5
3/29 Jenny Johnson* and francine j. Harris*
7pm, Batza Room in the Athenaeum, Goucher College
4/4 ART Rising open mic, with featured performer TBA (Brought by Slammageddon Baltimore)
7:30pm, GLCCB, $5
4/10 Terrance Hayes*
6pm, Mudd 26, Johns Hopkins University
4/11 Rigoberto Gonzales
5pm, Skylight Room in the Commons, UMBC
4/12 ART Rising open mic, with featured performer TBA (Brought by Slammageddon Baltimore)
7:30pm, GLCCB, $5
4/12 Black Ladies Brunch Collective*
7pm, Batza Room in the Athenaeum, Goucher College
4/19-21 DewMore Baltimore Youth Poetry Festival
4/21 Rudy Francisco,* featured performance
5/10 ART Rising open mic, with featured performer TBA (Brought by Slammageddon Baltimore)
7:30pm, GLCCB, $5

Chris August is a teacher and writer based out of Baltimore. He travels the world performing his work and has authored the collection Loving Instruments (Sargent Press, 2013). His poetry has been featured in Hyperlexia and the anthology From Page to Stage and Back Again. For over ten years, Chris August worked as a special educator in and around Baltimore city. During this time, he spent all of his free moments writing poetry and traveling the country to perform it. Over that time, he became involved in the national slam poetry community, which challenges writers to take their poetic works to the stage, competing with performance-ready versions of their best work. He has represented Baltimore, Washington, DC and Philadelphia at the National Poetry Slam and the Individual World Poetry slam, which he was lucky enough to win in 2011, after which he represented the United States at the Poetry World Cup in Paris, France.

Airea D. Matthews​’s first collection of poems, Simulacra, recipient of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, has received praise from outlets including The New Yorker and The Washington Post. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Best American Poets 2015, American Poet, and elsewhere. She received the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and was awarded the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in 2016 from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Ms. Matthews is working on her second poetry collection, under/class, which explores poverty. She is an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College.

Somali-born poet and essayist Ladan Osman​ is the author of The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony, winner of
the Sillerman First Book Prize, and the chapbook Ordinary Heaven. Her next collection Exiles of Eden, a
work of poetry, photos, and experimental text, is forthcoming in 2019. Osman’s writing is a lyric and
exegetic response to problems of race, gender, displacement, and colonialism. Throughout her writing,
Osman is concerned with the question of testimony. Whose testimony is valid? Whose testimony is worth recording? Osman has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem, and Luminarts Foundation, Michener Center for Writers Fellowship, among numerous other nominations. Osman’s writing and photographs have appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Roar, Rumpus, Transition, and Washington Square Review. She is a contributing culture editor for The Blueshift Journal. Osman currently lives in Brooklyn.

Jenny Johnson​ is the author of In Full Velvet, published by Sarabande Books in 2017. Her honors include a 2015 Whiting Award and a 2016-17 Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. She has also received awards and scholarships from the Blue Mountain Center, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Virginia
Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo. Her poems have appeared in The New York Times, New England
Review, Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, and elsewhere. After earning a
BA/MT in English Education from the University of Virginia, she taught public school for several years in
San Francisco, and she spent ten summers on the staff of the UVA Young Writer’s Workshop. She earned
an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College. She is a Contributing Editor at Waxwing Literary Journal. She teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and at the Rainier Writing Workshop, Pacific Lutheran University’s low-residency MFA program.

francine j. harris​ is originally from Detroit, Michigan, where she grew up in one of many neighborhoods
operating in economic limbo in the aftermath of the motor industry collapse. After high school, harris moved to Arizona and attended several community colleges part-time before earning scholarship to attend Arizona State University, where she earned a BA in English. harris spent the next several years working with grassroots organizing projects for community radio, social justice, and queer performing arts, while facilitating poetry workshops for young people and practicing visual art. harris moved back to Detroit in 2002. In 2011, she earned an MFA in Poetry from University of Michigan, where she was awarded a Zell Fellowship. harris is the author of allegiance (2012), a finalist for both the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Open Book Award; and play dead (2016). Her poetry has appeared in many journals, including McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Poetry, Meridian, Indiana Review, Callaloo, and Boston Review. A 2008 Cave Canem fellow, she has also won the 2014 Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest and was awarded a 2015 NEA fellowship. harris has taught creative writing at University of Michigan and Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and she is currently writer in residence at Washington University in St. Louis.

Terrance Hayes​ is the author of Lighthead (Penguin 2010), winner of the 2010 National Book Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books are Wind In a Box (Penguin 2006), Hip Logic (Penguin 2002), and Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999). His honors include a Whiting Writers Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a United States Artists Zell Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship. How To Be Drawn (Penguin 2015), his most recent collection of poems, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award, the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, and received the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Poetry. He is the current poetry editor at New York Times Magazine and has two forthcoming manuscripts: American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin (Penguin, 2018), and To Float In The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight (Wave, 2018).

Rigoberto González​ is the author of 17 books of poetry and prose, most recently Unpeopled Eden, winner of the Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Recipient of the Guggenheim, NEA, NYFA, and USA Rolón fellowships, he is currently professor of creative writing at the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark and on the board of trustees of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). His book of criticism Pivotal Voices, Era of Transition: Toward a 21st Century Poetics is forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press Poets on Poetry Series.

Black Ladies Brunch Collective​:
Katy Richey​’s work has appeared in Rattle, Cincinnati Review, RHINO, The Offing and other journals. She
received an honorable mention for the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and was a finalist for Tupelo Press Snowbound Chapbook Poetry Award. She is a Cave Canem fellow and hosts the Sunday Kind of Love reading series open mic at Busboys and Poets in Washington D.C. Tafisha A. Edwards​ ​is the author of THE BLOODLET, winner of Phantom Books’ 2016 Breitling Chapbook Prize. Her work has appeared in The Offing, PHANTOM, Bodega Magazine, The Atlas Review, The Little Patuxent Review, and other print and online publications. She is a Cave Canem Graduate fellow and a graduate of UMD College Park’s Journalism school. Saida Agostini​ ​is a Cave Canem fellow, and lover of Prince. A queer Afro-Guyanese poet and social worker, Saida’s work has been featured in several publications. Anya Creightney​, a Cave Canem fellow, is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico with roots in Kingston and Copenhagen. A poet, editor and coordinator, she is a Programs Specialist at the Poetry & Literature Center in the Library of Congress. Teri Ellen Cross Davis​ is a Cave Canem fellow and has received scholarships to attend the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her first collection HAINT was published in June, 2016 by Gival Press. Poet and journalist celeste doaks​ i​s the author of Cornrows and Cornfields,  (Wrecking Ball Press, UK) March 2015. Cornrows was listed as one of the Ten Best Books of 2015 by Beltway Quarterly Poetry. Her journalism has appeared in the Huffington Post, Village Voice, Time Out New York. Currently, she is the Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at University of Delaware.

Rudy Francisco’s​ spoken word art is an amalgamation of social critique, introspection, honesty and humor, using personal narratives to discuss the politics of race, class, gender and religion while simultaneously pinpointing and reinforcing the interconnected nature of human existence. He has conducted guest lectures and performances at countless colleges and universities across the nation. Francisco has shared stages with prominent artists such as Gladys Knight, Jordin Sparks, Musiq Soul Child, and Jill Scott. He is also the co-host of the largest poetry venue in San Diego, competes in domestic and international poetry slam competitions and had the honor of being nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Ultimately, Rudy’s goal is to continue to assist others in harnessing their creativity while cultivating his own. Rudy Francisco is the 2009 National Underground Poetry Slam Champion, 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and appeared on TV One’s “Verses and Flow”

Events in Baltimore (February 16th-March 2nd)

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February 16

  • 4 Hours of Funk** at The Windup Space
  • BEYONCE VS RIHANNA DANCE PARTY at Ottobar
  • IT’S UNVALENTINE’S DAY! DANCE PARTY* at Metro Gallery
  • Caz Gardiner w/ The Flying Faders, Suburban Hi Fi at Sidebar
  • Shellshag w/ Bigmouth, the Guests, Faunas, Pearl at Joe Squared
  • The Future in the West** at The Crown
  • REACHES//PWM//TarikEvolve//SeanKing** at The Crown
  • LITZ 2 Day Run (Live Album Release): Funk You* at The 8×10
  • Frozen Harbor Music Festival: Day One at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Frozen Harbor Music Festival: Day One at Rams Head Live!
  • Monster Jam: Triple Threat Series at Royal Farms Arena
  • “Pictures at an Exhibition” at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest of Your Life at The Lyric
  • Ladies Night at Grand Central Nightclub
  • “Along with the Gods: the Two Worlds (신과함께-죄와 벌)” at The SNF Parkway

February 17

  • Baltimore Into Comics Issue #17 at The Windup Space
  • STACKED LIKE PANCAKES w/ THE STOLEN, MORE TBA at Ottobar
  • SURF ROCK NIGHT! OTTOBAR’S SHRUNKEN HEAD w/ KILLERS FROM SPACE, THE TSUNAMI EXPERIMENT at Ottobar
  • JOSEPH & THE BEASTS w/ Manners Manners, Santa Librada, DJ Pancakes* at Metro Gallery
  • Rats In The Wall w/ All Torn Up, Pearl, Syringe at Sidebar
  • Elegant Filth: Live Burlesque** at The Crown
  • LITZ 2 Day Run (Live Album Release): Box Era* at The 8×10
  • Frozen Harbor Music Festival: Day Two at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Frozen Harbor Music Festival: Day Two at Rams Head Live!
  • Monster Jam: Triple Threat Series at Royal Farms Arena
  • “Pictures at an Exhibition” at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Charles Revival Series: “Night and the City” at The Charles Theatre

February 18

  • ROAD TO SXSW at Ottobar
  • HONEY RADAR w/ Margins, Homosuperior, Birth (Defects), Henry Owings* at Metro Gallery
  • GLOOP, Jim Shorts, Middle Kid, Too Soon Jokes at New America
  • INTERVALS “THE WAY FORWARD TOUR” w/ JASON RICHARDSON, NICK JOHNSTON, NIGHT VERSES at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Monster Jam: Triple Threat Series at Royal Farms Arena
  • “Pictures at an Exhibition” at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Cinema Sunday at The Charles Theatre

February 19

  • Hortio Dark at The Windup Space
  • Charles Revival Series: “Night and the City” at The Charles Theatre
  • “Chisholm ’72 – Unbought and Unbossed”: President’s Day Screening! At The SNF Parkway

February 20

  • Black Mass w/ Led To The Grave, Narrow Grave at Sidebar
  • SILVERSTEIN & TONIGHT ALIVE w/ BROADSIDE, PICTURESQUE at Baltimore Soundstage
  • STRFKR w/ Reptaliens at Rams Head Live!
  • Louis Malle’s “God’s Country” presented by Colette Shade at The SNF Parkway

February 21

  • Drink and Draw!** at The Windup Space
  • TRONG-PONG: Black Light Table Tennis at The Windup Space
  • I SET MY FRIENDS ON FIRE w/ KISSING CANDICE, AWAKEN I AM, AT THIS POINT, SPERMASAURUS REX at Ottobar
  • YNDI HALDA w/ Staghorn, Time Columns at Metro Gallery
  • Pow Pow Family Band/ $100 Girlfriend/ James and the Giant Peach** at The Crown
  • ELM February Residency: lespecial* at The 8×10

February 22

  • Beat Barrage featuring Ashley Sierra and Ullnevano and MORE! at The Windup Space
  • FULL OF HELL w/ PRISONER, NEOLITHIC, R-COMPLEX at Ottobar
  • DJ DIAMOND DUSTIN SPINS PUNK & METAL!** at Ottobar
  • IAN BROWN MEMORIAL w/ Alms, Cemetery Piss, Pearl* at Metro Gallery
  • No Zodiac w/ Strengthen What Remains, Iron Price, Dahmed., Cancer Priest at Sidebar
  • UFO VOL 11** at The Crown
  • A Night Of Japanese New Wave & Obscure** at The Crown
  • Roots of Creation Grateful Dub Tour ft. Kash’d out, The Elovaers* at The 8×10
  • “Rite of Spring” at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Justin Moore: Hell on a Highway Tour at The Lyric
  • Charles Revival Series: “Get Out” at The Charles Theatre

February 23

  • Surf Harp (Record release) w/ Operator Music Band, Zula, Chiffon, Jacober at The Windup Space
  • TIM BARRY w/ JOSH SMALL, ROGER HARVEY at Ottobar
  • MATT TALLEY (EP RELEASE) w/ Locus Sound, Thunder Club, Flying Jacob, TM Lockemy* at Metro Gallery
  • Street 45’s w/ E. Joseph and the Phantom Heart, 3rd Grade Friends, Subtastics at Sidebar
  • Depth Perception Presents: The Pleasure Tour ft. Exmag + Bass Physics, DeltaNine, Image.Nation* at The 8×10
  • ELI YOUNG BAND w/ MELODIME at Baltimore Soundstage
  • Katt Williams at Royal Farms Arena
  • “Off the Cuff: Rite of Spring” at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Baltimore Craft Show at Baltimore Convention Center
  • “Golden Exits” with director Alex Ross Perry! at The SNF Parkway

February 24

  • LET THERE BE HOUSE! at The Windup Space
  • BLACK MASALA at Ottobar
  • BUTTER::
  • OLD-SCHOOL CHILL HOUSE VIBES W/ DJ DAN G & MORE!** at Ottobar
  • PIANOS BECOME THE TEETH w/ Praise, Unholy Sights* at Metro Gallery
  • Bad Time w/ No Parking at Sidebar
  • June Star with Stars and the Sea w/ Leland Sundries, Saddle of Centaur at Downsquares
  • Night Gruuvs** at The Crown
  • Splintered Sunlight* at The 8×10
  • THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE at Baltimore Soundstage
  • “Off the Cuff: Rite of Spring” at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Charles Revival Series: “Boudu Saved From Drowning” at The Charles Theatre
  • MET Opera: “La Bohème” at The Charles Theatre
  • Atomic Comics Klatch (ACK!) at Atomic Books

February 25

  • Baltimore Record Bazaar Winter Show! at The Windup Space
  • “Expert of Nothing” comedy game show at The Windup Space
  • “MORE LAUGHS” THE ANNUAL BIG FRED BIRTHDAY COMEDY SHOW at Baltimore Soundstage
  • “Rite of Spring” at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Center
  • Revival Series: “Warner Brothers Cartoon Show” at The Senator

February 26

  • VÉRITÉ w/ Roses And Revolutions, Pale Spring at Metro Gallery
  • Runaway Brother w/ The Neckbeards, Clairvoyant, Pinkwench, 96 Olympics at Sidebar
  • Charles Revival Series: “Boudu Saved From Drowning” at The Charles Theatre

February 27

  • Brews and Board Games** at The Windup Space
  • Gutter Demons w/ Meteor King, Skapparoneday at Sidebar
  • The Beanie Bros Tour 2018* at The Crown
  • Oak House / Drone Theory / Stars and The Sea* at The Crown
  • Atomic Reading Club: Less Than Zero at Atomic Books

February 28

  • TRONG-PONG: Black Light Table Tennis at The Windup Space
  • ADULT. w/ HIDE, Extended Release* at Metro Gallery
  • ELM February Residency: DJ Williams Shots Fired w/ All Star Cast* at The 8×10
  • Revival Series: “Once Upon A Time In America (Extended Director’s Cut)” at The Senator
  • Gunky’s Basement Presents: “American Psycho” on 35mm! At The SNF Parkway

March 1

  • Foxhole Atheists at Sidebar
  • MONDO BALTIMORE: Trash Flicks and Cult Epics!
  • Ed Schrader’s Music Beat w/ Wume, Smoke Bellow* at Metro Gallery
  • CHEFS: The Sizzling Kitchen Showdown
  • Revival Series: “Belladonna of Sadness” at The Charles Theatre

March 2

  • Tomason (record release) w/ Sea Lilies (record release), Flying Faders, Yanni II at The Windup Space
  • Pressing Strings w/ Skribe* at Metro Gallery
  • Lost in Society w/ Rooney’s Show, The Stifled, Old Bay Thrashers at Sidebar
  • SOOHAN w/ Anna Morgan – Christian Dope at The 8×10
  • “KÉKSZAKÁLLÚ” at The SNF Parkway
  • “Western” at The SNF Parkway

The Shape of Water (2017): A Review

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Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in The Shape of Water. Photo Credit: The Atlantic

Yes, I am aware that this is a review of a movie that is over a month old. Yes, I am aware that I have missed the zeitgeist of this movie by many weeks. And yes, I am aware that the initial hype that built through the limited release schedule over the course of December has long passed, having culminated in a wide theatrical release in early January. However, I was unable to see the film until recently and, considering how long it has been since it came out, I’ve decided to forgo a regular review in favor of a conversation about the craft of this movie and the commentaries it provides through its set design and character choices.
The Shape of Water, Guillermo Del Toro’s newest film, is nothing short of a modern monster masterpiece. A spiritual sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon, the film that directly inspired it, the movie takes all the tropes of a classic monster film and filters them for a modern audience. However, this is not a monster movie at heart. There is nothing horrific about this film, save for the small wounds that powerful humans inflict upon those who lack that power. There is no dark reflection of our fears contained within the monster. There is no cautionary tale about the dangers of science or nuclear war. There are only lonely people, trying to find comfort in a world that hates them for the things it perceives they lack. But perhaps that is the horror of the film.
Regardless, there is a theme to the film that is found in these thoughts: the theme of completion. The protagonist, Elisa, feels incomplete; she has been told all her life that because she cannot speak, there is something wrong with her. Her neighbor, and one of her only two friends, Giles, desires love but cannot have it – no man will give it to him in an age of repression. They both require companionship, and while they have each other, it is an incomplete match. They are two halves of a whole but, as the set design reflects, there is always a wall between them.
The Shape of Water also works within its setting to create a world that asks us to examine our fascination with the idealized time that was the ‘50s. Creature from the Black Lagoon came out in 1954, and the aesthetic of this film is a direct commentary on the setting of the original as well as the constructed version of the 50s we have bought into ever since. Our villain, Colonel Strickland, played by Michael Shannon, lives in a perfect 50s home with a perfect 50s wife and two perfect 50s children. It even has the pop art clock that looks like the sun exploding and bright, garish orange walls. He is representative of all the horrible things that mid-20th century (and present day) American cinema has swept under the rug – sexual harassment, toxic masculinity, racism, ableism, sexism, etc. The film does not shy away from the harsh realities of the past but also does not revel in them.
We focus instead on the characters who would have been marginalized and trivialized in Creature from the Black Lagoon instead of the traditional sci-fi “hero” embodied by Strickland. Yes, Strickland is more villainous than traditional Hollywood monster movie heroes, but he reflects the worst aspects of those “heroes.” He is also couched in the “best” of the ‘50s, juxtaposing that which the American consciousness has deemed as “a simpler, better time” with the horrors those pastels mask.
In contrast to Strickland’s “beautiful past” aesthetic, the rest of the film is steeped in dark, art deco architecture and design. Yet, these are the moments and locations that provide the most warmth and humanity. In the dark corners and hidden locations, we find ourselves. We find our humanity; we find out where we stand. These locations are, however, still dirty, still imperfect. And there is no better example of this reflection than in Giles’ obsession with old Hollywood musicals. He needs them to bring meaning to his life, to bring companionship and to distract him from the world he lives in. He cannot handle the reality of the civil rights rallies, preferring to live in a world that is blissfully unaware of the socials ostracization he faces as a gay man. He wants to live within the perfect fabrication he creates with each Jell-O ad he draws. He is a fallible character, willfully complicit in a system that marginalizes others as well as himself because he does not want to see the harshness of the world. He wants, much like we often do, to see the world as an old Hollywood musical: “perfect,” simple, uncomplicated, and filled with problems that have simple solutions.
At its core, The Shape of Water is a romantic drama that just so happens to feature an amphibious man as the love interest. It is a beautifully constructed movie, unapologetic in its inspirations and one of the most fulfilling films I have seen in a long time. If you can, see this film in theaters. It has much to love and much love to give.

So About Taylor Swift’s Reputation…

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Contrary to what she wants you to think, the “old Taylor” definitely isn’t dead. After Swift’s year long media hiatus she dropped a string of disappointing singles. “Look What You Made Me Do”, “…Ready For It?” and “Gorgeous” left a lot to be desired. Despite this, Swift manages to deliver the high-gloss pop we’ve come to expect while being refreshingly introspective and showing growth as an artist. The old Taylor isn’t dead; she just drinks, has sex, takes an arguably more adult view on relationships, and doesn’t care that you think she’s hyper curated or calculating.

Taylor Swift has a reputation. Photo Credit: Google Images

Reputation continues the synth-pop we received with 1989, working with hit producers Max Martin and Jack Antonoff. Beginning with the bombastic, speaker shattering “…Ready For It?” to the more quiet but still booming (for Swift) “New Years Day,” Swift has adapted to the sonic trajectory that pop has been on recently.

The absence of her signature love ballads is glaringly apparent and may be a turnoff for some fans, but Swift is all “grown up” and wants you to know it. The relationships and love Swift is now concerned with are noticeably more age appropriate and long term. The adolescent, idealized versions of love have been replaced by a more realistic twenty-seven year old who’s well versed in failed relationships and just how disappointing they can be.  Her new remorselessness is admittedly hard not to enjoy, especially on “I Did Something Bad.” This isn’t Swift’s best, but the spite and apathy is new for her and it just feels so, well…good. This is also the first time Swift sings about sex, mentioning it frequently throughout.

Drinking is referenced heavily as well, another first. “Delicate,” which feels oddly comforting in its description of a fragile, budding fling, is one of the album’s strongest songs both lyrically and sonically. It finds Swift meeting her lover at a dive bar in the East Side: “We can’t make any promises can we babe, but you can make me a drink,” probably to cope with the stress of an undefined relationship, and while she knew “from the first old fashioned” that they were cursed, her doomed lover isn’t thinking and Swift is “just drinking” in “Getaway Car.”

Ever the image-conscious capitalist, Swift manages to make references that straddle the different lifestyles of her fan base, subtle cultural cues that attempt to appeal to both Middle America and the wealthy living on the coasts. “…Ready For It?” was teased on a  Instagram pre-football game hype montage and booms with aggression.  “End Game,” arguably Reputation’s weakest song, features her and Ed Sheeran attempting to rap alongside Future, has a football game warm-up feel, “I wanna be your first string, I wanna be your first string,” and stays clear of any explicit sexual- or alcohol-related lyrics. Meanwhile, “Getaway Car,” “New Year’s Day,” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” find Swift reveling in her uber-wealthy bi-coastal lifestyle.  While the shameless mentions of wealth aren’t great— “Jump into the pool from the balcony, everyone swimming in a champagne sea…feeling so Gatsby for that whole year” she sings, before lamenting her fight with another celebrity (Kanye?) on “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”— it is the world she knows, and Swift traditionally has written from a very personal place.

If you can stomach the unapologetic privilege and some bad rapping, Reputation is definitely worth a listen. Swift might not be currently popular as a human after her series of self-pitying public relations gaffes this past year, not to mention some of the well-deserved criticism for her lack of political action during the 2016 election, among other problematic aspects of her too extensive to include in this article. However, there’s no denying that Reputation is an incredibly strong piece of work, and most importantly, enjoyable to listen to. Just skip past the self-pity and “End Game”.

 

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