LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Tuesday, January 03, 2006 By
Letter to the Editor
I have a question about the article on clothing styles in BHSEC (“What Does Your Style Say about You? Volume 3, Issue 3). What point was the author trying to make? I read it a couple of times, and I figured that it was an informational article. I was just wondering what the message was?
Rozan Abdulrahman replies:
It should be noted that there was no hidden message behind the article titled “What Does Your Style Say About You.” However, after re-reading my article several times it seems as though I wanted to make a point. The notion that individuals are judged by their appearance is certainty not my creation, neither is it a new idea. Most people are very conscious of the role that physical traits and appearances play in our lives. My article should be a reminder of this fact in relationship to life at BHSEC. There are also other points I wanted to make with my article.
In the article, there is an attempt to emphasize the role of physical image in the eyes of others. I did not wish to point fingers at a specific group. I have stated that this way of thinking is inherent to most people. I attempt to make a general statement about the defining elements in an individual, one of which includes clothing, and then relate it more specifically to the BHSEC community. The two fashion codes that I recognized to be most dominant in our school are “punk” and “ghetto.” This is not to say that everyone is or can be defined within these limits. I hope I did not offend anyone with my narrow descriptions of the prevalent fashion codes. However, I stand behind my descriptions because they are based on my close observations.
The last paragraph of the article is an obvious attempt to express my deepest opinions about the issue. I take the specific example of the BHSEC community and conversely, relate it to the broader context of society. It is obvious, that I meant to criticize those cocky BHSEC students who think they are above all stereotypes simply because they attend a prestigious institution. Though BHSEC is great, in my opinion it is not perfect, neither are those who attend it. We are humans who function in a society, so it is inevitable that society’s views, however narrow they are, will eventually become second nature to us. Therefore, even the highest education, such as that provided by this school, cannot erase these biases.
MOVIE REVIEW: PRIDE AND PREDJUDICE DIRECTED BY JOE WRIGHT
Pride & Prejudice is an absolutely stunning adaptation of Jane Austen’s infamous novel.
For those not familiar with the story, it is centered on a fierce, headstrong woman named Elizabeth Bennet, who lives during an age when marriage was the most frequently used word. Elizabeth, in stark contrast to those around her, is unwilling to enter into a marriage, no matter how financially advantageous it would be, unless she is deeply and irrevocably in love. She believes that it is impossible to ever meet a man worthy of her love, but eventually she becomes acquainted with the somber and shy Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, who stirs her thoughts and emotions. They force each other to reevaluate their worldviews and in so doing learn how similar they really are.
The beautiful score of this film, composed by Dario Marianelli, and performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet, works perfectly. Each song appears in the film at precisely the right moment and elicits the desired emotions in the viewer. The music is nothing less than evocative and sure to leave a lasting impression. A few of the scenes, especially those toward the end, wouldn’t be half as memorable if not for the music.
This is not to say that the music is the glue that keeps the film together. All of the performances in Pride & Prejudice are truly superb. The young and attractive Keira Knightly takes on the role of Elizabeth, and portrays the character to the best of her ability. She glows on screen and certainly deserves an Academy Award, or at the very least a nomination. Matthew MacFadyen makes Mr. Darcy multidimensional and breathes life into a fictional man. Furthermore, the smaller roles acted by both established and new actors and actresses alike are very believable. Some of the best performances among the minor parts were done by such people as Judi Dench (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), Brenda Blethyn (Mrs. Bennet) and Donald Sutherland (Mr. Bennet).
The movie is also very visually appealing. It was filmed in the picturesque English countryside, making the film much more believable. In the movie, Mr. Darcy’s estate, Pemberley, is supposedly where Miss Austen actually had imagined him to live.
Now that I’ve sufficiently gushed over the exceptionally executed aspects of the movie, I will proceed to address two questions that may be on readers’ minds. First, does the film do the book justice? And second, how does it compare with the version created about a decade ago starring Colin Firth?
To begin with, having read and loved the book myself, I must say that I am not at all inclined to go easy on how true the movie was to Miss Austen’s beloved work. As a fan of Austen, you may be slightly irritated that there is a certain Hollywood edge to the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy (such as a kiss that is nowhere to be found in Pride and Prejudice’s pages). However, the movie contains so many quotes lifted directly out of the book that I dare viewers to be disappointed by the sugary moments.
In comparison to the A&E version starring with Mr. Firth, there is no comparison. That mini-series was a grand total of five hours, while this most recent interpretation of the book is just over two. There is no possible way that this new film could have included as much of Miss Austen’s book as the A&E edition did. Nevertheless, I did find Mr. MacFadyen’s Darcy to be superior to Mr. Firth’s. I cannot articulate why I feel this way, but Matthew MacFadyen creates a Mr. Darcy more like the man I had imagined when I read the novel.
The only legitimate fault I could find in Pride & Prejudice is that it does eventually have to end. Shortly after exiting the theater, the reality will begin to sink in that no Mr. Darcys really exist, and that you are not living in a place as peaceful and enchanting as the 18th century British countryside. If you can bear this inevitable realization, I wholeheartedly recommend this film. It has brought a wonderful writer more well-deserved recognition, and it is sure to make even the biggest cynics believe (even if just for a day) in true love.
MOVIE REVIEW: PRIDE AND PREDJUDICE DIRECTED BY JOE WRIGHT (2)
We all need a breath of sentimental feel-good sap from time to time, but some romances may actually have some depth and meaning as well. The cast of the 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, which includes Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy, brings fresh prospective to the well-known story.
Pride & Prejudice’s 18th century English rural Bennet family is at a constant stir. The family consists of one exasperating mother, a humble father, and five vivacious daughters in a race for marriage. Mrs. Bennet is ecstatic at the discovery of the arrival of the wealthy Charles Bingley in a nearby manor, and even more so when he falls for her eldest daughter Jane. Meanwhile, Elizabeth, the second eldest daughter, and Bingley’s gentleman friend Darcy, engage in a bizarre relationship.
Keira Knigthley plays the part of Elizabeth perfectly, demonstrating an ideal balance of wit and intensity of character. Elizabeth may have been born to simple parents, into a simple family, but she has much more to offer than it would appear from her social class. On his side, Macfayden does a fine job of playing the role of the prosperous, at times narrow-minded, strong man of few words who miraculously becomes infatuated with the spirited Bennet country girl. Elizabeth Bennet entirely overturns his snobbish and sometimes sexist biases, which are revealed during his early stay in the countryside.
The remaining members of the Bennet family (Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet, Jena Malone as Lydia Bennet, Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet, Brenda Blethlyn as Mrs. Bennet) serve, for the most part, as dashes of comic relief in the movie. The mother (who only convinces Darcy of the country folks’ lack of sophistication) is perhaps the most entertaining of the characters. She is positively irritating in her boasting ways and her enjoyment of juvenile pleasures (such as her excitement at the arrival of the soldiers which matches that of her fifteen-year old daughter). Her struggle to marry off her five daughters is all but a sign of maternal love. In fact, her efforts solely cater to her selfish needs for money, as an aging mother.
The dazzling balls, the vibrant countryside, the overwhelmingly vast and ornate mansions, and the contrastingly simple but snug Bennet home are depicted at their very best. The vivid scenery and aesthetics of the movie were by all means a success.
If one aspect of the movie fails to give justice to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, it’s the movie’s overall plot and scene organization. Unfortunately, two hours is only enough to merely scratch the surface of the literary masterpiece. In this one aspect, the previous long and episodic 1995 interpretation of Pride & Prejudice, directed by Simon Langton, is superior to the more recent version. In the 2005 version, Lydia’s elopement with Wickham is no more than touched upon and the passionate romance between Elizabeth and Darcy ends with a disappointing kiss at dusk.
Pride and Prejudice is not the movie to see if you are yearning for a mind-blowing action-packed story. Still, if compelling acting and the visual pleasures of sun-kissed greenery and rosy-cheeked girls in flowing dresses are enough to captivate you, the movie is worth your buck.
MOVIE REVIEW: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN DIRECTED BY ANG LEE
No film manages to haunt audiences like Ang Lee‘s controversial Brokeback Mountain, a heartbreaking tale that details the lives of Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), two 1963 cowboys who defy all stereotypes. When the strangers take a summer job herding sheep on lonely Brokeback Mountain, the two form a tentative friendship, which, one drunken night develops into a physical relationship.
What really shocks the two young men however, is that the physical relationship blossoms into a tender, pure love that neither has ever experienced. Intolerant Wyoming society unfortunately does not allow for love between two men, so they must part ways when the job ends that summer, and try to be who they‘re expected to be. They both marry and have children, content to live out their half-lives, never feeling for their wives what they felt for each other during that distant summer. That is, until Jack shows up at Ennis’s place four years later, and the two rekindle their relationship, meeting occasionally in wilderness terrain reminiscent of Brokeback Mointain for 16 years, until tragedy changes their relationship forever.
The performers carry this film with Herculean strength. Michelle Williams, who plays the confused and lonely wife of a man who can’t love her, is wonderful. Gyllenhaal is perfect as Jack, his expressive eyes often conveying sheer hope, only to be crushed continuously by Ennis’s fear and logic. Those puppy-dog eyes allow him to become Jack Twist, an idealist who wears his heart on his sleeve, even when he wishes he could just forget Ennis. His hurt and his eventual descent into a bitter man tug at our heartstrings.
The buzz about Ledger being a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination isn’t for nothing. His portrayal of Ennis breaks moviegoers hearts. His mumbled words require concentration to hear, but he says so few that you know he really means it when he does speak. Watching his gruff demeanor crumble before Jack’s outgoing spirit, while the two men wrestle and joke during that first summer, is marvelous. Over the years, we see that it’s only during those few days every year when Jack is back in his life that he’s really alive.
It’s Ledger’s performance during the last half hour of the film that really gets to our emotions. There first youthful summer is long gone and you can literally see it killing Ennis that he can’t be like Jack, can’t just surrender to his fears. Terrifying images from his childhood, and a full awareness of what society thinks causes them to break each other’s hearts over and over. Ledger’s realistic portrayal of a tough, introverted man dealing with the ultimate regret gets to the very soul of the viewer.
Ang Lee’s direction is fantastic. His decision to have no dialogue during the first seven minutes of the film and his long, frequent shots of the breath-taking scenery, make viewers feel the loneliness of Wyoming life. We can then appreciate the way the loneliness evaporates when the two men find each other. Characters and audiences alike crave the all too infrequent meetings, when youthful bliss can return momentarily.
All these elements, plus a perfect musical score and amazing ending, make any minor flaws the film might have seem small. You would have to be a small-minded bigot not to feel something while watching this masterpiece unfold. Raw and passionate, this film doesn’t just take place upon a mountain, but is powerful enough to move mountains.
WHAT DOES INDIE MEAN? PART 2
While indie music may not be as clearly defined as “hard metal” or “folk rock”, it has a distinct sound that transcends such genres. Furthermore, labeling bands as indie or mainstream based solely on their record label would clash with the “indie” lifestyle that rejects association purely on commercial grounds and values individual preferences over predetermined categories. Technically, “indie” is an informal abbreviation of “independent,” used to describe any type of media that, purposely or not, is separate from the mainstream. In the music industry, the term translates as bands that aren’t signed to major corporate labels. NME, a United Kingdom based music magazine, considers any band not signed to a label under recording companies Sony BMG, Universal, Warner, or EMI (the “big four”) to be indie, and bases its indie charts on this criterion.
Purists include bands signed to “big-indie” labels, or those who practice corporate, profit-driven management, in the category of mainstream. However, the term has evolved since the 1970s to become much more than a simple distinction between the mainstream and the underground. The term now implies a vague but important quality of sound. Like punks, goths, and gangsters, “indie kids”–as fans of independent music are commonly called–live a particular lifestyle with a distinct attitude. They choose music with a sound that represents that attitude.
Indie kids are determinedly individualistic, unique, and well, independent from societal trends and influences. Indie has become a rebellion against the idea that music should be about selling a product and an image, and should instead aim to genuinely represent an artist’s personality. Therefore, indie encompasses a vast range of genres, and is tacked on as a prefix to form indie rap, indie dance, indie pop, indietronic, and many other subcategories which have in common a certain defiant authenticity.
Ironically, big labels have picked up on this trend and have begun to make music which is produced deliberately to sound either gritty or unpolished, as if it came straight from a dank basement somewhere in the Lower East Side, or purposely mimics the retro throwback sound of modern indie rock. Such bands as Franz Ferdinand and The Killers began their careers as big-label chart-toppers and are still touted as the best of the best in the indie world, even as their smiling faces appear on MTV on a regular basis. The sound is the key to their indie titles, not their labels. Bands can also retain their indie titles even as they transition from minor to major record companies. Bands such as the Decemberists and Modest Mouse, who were once poster-children of independence have begun signing up with big labels to be sold for all they’re worth.
Although they are no longer technically “independent”, everything else about these bands remains the same. The music and the message they try to send doesn’t change, but purists consider the former independence to now be manufactured and artificial. By definition, indie kids judge music by its merits, not by how it is marketed, so changing one’s mind about a band because they are signed would be a contradiction of indie values. Thus, indie has changed from being short for “independent” into a definition of music with a distinctive sound, even if it is difficult to pinpoint the exact qualities of that sound.
WHAT DOES INDIE MEAN? PART 1
“Indie” is a slang term used to refer to music that is not main stream and the people who listen to this music. In other words, if you hear it on Z100, it’s not indie, and chances are you aren’t either because you’re listening to Z100. Sure, it’s fine to say that a band is indie because they’re unsigned, or don’t get much radio play, but to say that a band sounds indie? That’s pretty ridiculous.
There are so many bands of so many different genres that are unsigned, or are signed to indie labels that it’s impossible to say that they all sound similar. Take for instance, Leona Naess (blues/pop-rock), Architecture in Helsinki (Australian avant-garde pop), Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer (pure, frilly power-pop), and Sir Front A Lot (rap). All of these performers are signed on to indie labels, yet none of them sound alike.
The other thing about “indie” is the volatile nature of the word. If indie was actually a genre of music, an indie band would always (more or less) sound indie. In today’s world “indie” bands are selling their souls to the devil, Satan being major record labels. Once signed onto a major label, the bands figure they have it made, so they feel that they’re able to “experiment” with their sound. This experimentation usually leads to the band becoming more and more mainstream in sound, as they must now appease record executives who want them to follow safe market friendly formulas in order to rake in the dough.
One band, My Chemical Romance, was once “indie”. They used to be label mates with Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer on Eyeball Records, but they’re now on Warner Brothers, and are played on Z100, MTV, and Fuse. You name it, they’ve been on it. Their sound has also changed dramatically from their Eyeball days. They went from rough, screamo to polished pop-punk/faux metal marketed specifically to the Hot Topic crowd. I’m not saying they were better back then, just that they’ve changed their sound drastically.
Another example is Death Cab for Cutie. Death Cab was a favorite among the indie set, and was selling more than enough records from their former home on Barsuk Records. This past year, they signed on to one of the biggies – Atlantic. Prior to their selling-out, Death Cab frequented indie festivals like Coachella in California, and Siren in Coney Island. Since they’re major label debut with the record titled Plans, they’ve played in Central Park, been on the cover of Spin, and are slated to perform on “Saturday Night Live” on January 14. Their sound has changed too. For Plans they whipped out the acoustic guitar, and left the drums to gather dust in the corner.
Plainly, indie isn’t a genre. If it was, it would have a clearly defined sound that remained stable throughout a band’s musical career. Indie bands are, excuse the pun, labeled indie. Their titles as indie bands are dependent only on their record contracts, and who they report to. If there is any difference in sound between indie and mainstream, that difference is caused by the retooling of the band for a more streamlined and money making machine.
HOW THE OTHER 1/500TH LIVES
Bard High School Early College is a learning community that is known for, among other things, its diversity. BHSEC students come from many different economic and social backgrounds, but BHSEC students aren’t known for their political diversity.
By any standard, the collective BHSEC community is politically liberal. We express our progressive political point of views, we support our GSA, we frantically worry about our vegetarians, but do we ever worry about our conservatives?
A sizable portion of our school’s–and our city’s–political culture consider themselves to be oppressed. This is a popular sentiment among disgruntled progressives in a conservative nation, but many people forget that at Bard the opposite is true. There are conservative students at Bard, and chances are they don’t feel as welcome as you do.
In a series of interviews, self described political conservatives shared their experiences about what life and education are like at BHSEC when you fall on the right side of the political spectrum. Students indicated that they were relatively comfortable, but that there are undeniable realities that go hand in hand with being a conservative at BHSEC. Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, the students all spoke on the condition of anonymity.
One student who once considered himself conservative said that though he did not worry about clashing with peers, classes were generally “geared towards liberal points of view,” and that teachers were “indifferent” to conservative arguments in class.
Interestingly, this student’s opinions have evolved through the course of time. He started out as defiantly pro-war during his freshman year, but found the BHSEC community to be a “big influence” on his political views, and is now proud to be considered a Democrat.
But is this necessarily a good thing? Do we really want to convert students to a liberal mode of thinking? Isn’t that what everyone complains about: the poor, downtrodden leftists living under the rule of the tyrannical red states. Don’t we want people with differing opinions to step out and fight for what they feel is right? Isn’t that the way we do things at BHSEC?
Perhaps in theory, but the reality does not always agree with the theory. The student that changed his political views, partially because of his tenure at BHSEC, stated that, “teachers sparked debates” in class in which most arguments were the “complete opposite” of the conservative point of view. The ex-conservative student said that classmates were often “attacking” his values.
Speaking out against isolated conservatives may in part be a reaction to the political divisions of our country, relating back to the inside-out political nature of New York City and BHSEC when compared to America as a whole. During such tense times as the invasion of Iraq and the 2004 presidential election, left leaning students might have found it satisfying to take out their anger on the sole conservative in the class. In effect, a conservative student in an all-liberal class is a ready made Republican punching bag.
Another conservative minded student expressed hostile indifference towards BHSEC’s political situation, stating that they “didn’t care” because people in BHSEC “assume they’re right” and that liberal faculty and students “all just agree with each other.” But, he said, “it doesn’t affect my education, the teachers like me, and politics don’t come up in class.” However, throughout the interview he called Bard students and faculty “self promoting,” and even commented on BHSEC being one giant “back-patting session.”
From these interviews, it is evident that liberal students here certainly do take things for granted. Has a liberal student here ever really felt uncomfortable about class discussions, talking about abortion, or gay marriage, or making fun of President Bush in the cafeteria?
Thankfully, students that I interviewed agreed that their political views do not interfere with their social lives at BHSEC. One student said that regardless of their misgivings about being part of the conservative minority, Bard was still a “safe and comfortable” learning environment. Another self described conservative said that making friends “wasn’t a problem” despite any political disagreements.
We pride ourselves on our open, vocal classes and culture, but at the same time it is easy to forget that we are not a completely homogenous political community, and the last thing anyone wants is for people to feel like they are being attacked for their personal beliefs.
A DAY TO REMEMBER: COMMUNITY DAY 2005
Whether you viewed Community Day on November 30th as a half-day off from classes (even though the staff craftily scheduled it so that many students would only miss lunch and advisory), or as an opportunity to focus on school pride, it can be universally agreed upon that, for better or worse, this was a Community Day like no other.
It began normally enough. Students met in combined advisories and some advisors brought refreshments to mark the occasion. Above the din of munching and chatting, rumors were passed between students and advisors. Speculation about a mysterious “scavenger hunt” spread throughout the building.
These rumors had been circulating for over a week, although the details for the planned activities for Community Day were treated as a secret of sorts, with many teachers and faculty finding themselves out of the loop. Finally, the secret was revealed and explained, and groups toting manila envelopes with clues and cameras ran and walked throughout the entire building attempting to locate and photograph places in the BHSEC building they felt special connections to. Some areas predictably attracted crowds. The library became a characteristically loud space to be in, and the enduring reality of BHSEC, climbing stairs, was enjoyed by one and all.
However, not everyone found their special place to be a popular place. One photograph was taken of the 3rd floor girls’ bathroom mirror by a male student as a “protest” against lavatory inequalities. (The actual photo was taken by a female student in the group). Anne Gebbie, a Year 1 student, took her group to a section of the hallway wall where the door to former teacher Dr. Serlin’s classroom used to be. Soon the scavenger hunt itself commenced. Students frantically ran about the school, trying to solve such questions as, “find a picture of the Goddess of Grammar,” or “find a teacher who has lived in another country.” Uncertainty was the name of the game. One group decided that the Goddess of Grammar was Dr. Birch, while another took a picture of a poster depicting dozens of Greek gods, and goddesses. Some problems occurred with congestion in front of the dean’s office, where additional clues were distributed, creating a stagnant mass of impatient groups and estranged individuals.
There were also accusations of groups misplacing sought after objects so that other groups could not find them. In general, most groups carried out the scavenger hunt tasks faithfully, if not slightly aggressively. Eventually time ran out, no matter how many clues remained to be solved. Everyone clambered to get their belongings and headed to the yard where students and faculty formed the letters of “BHSEC.” The formation of the letters took a good fifteen minutes, but eventually everyone settled and stared up at the roof where the photographer and coordinators stood. Most of the letters were accurately embodied, although the 10th grade had some trouble forming into the “S,” making the bottom curve oversized and minimizing the curve of the top half of the letter. The spectacle was a shock for those who remember Community Days from semesters past, which consisted of students doing free writes on school culture, discussions about problems, skits on school culture, and more free writes analyzing the results of the Community Day activities.
In a larger context, the differences between present and past Community Days can be related to the ever changing nature of BHSEC, as well as the persistent question of whether to treat students as young, college aged adults or as high school kids. While students undoubtedly have mixed feelings about the most recent Community Day, it is important to remember that it was an experiment and the administration was trying something new. And if anything, now we all know who in the faculty was a member of the military, and the exact location of the bowling trophy in the main office.