VOLUME 4, ISSUE 2 (NOVEMBER 2006)

PROVOCATIVE, IN A GOOD WAY

Zane Smith ’08

Based on a novel by Mitch Cullin of the same title, Terry Gilliam brings to the screen a disturbing portrait of a young child’s surreal life. Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) lives with her inattentive, deadbeat parents in an apartment in LA. When her mother dies of a heroine overdose, her father brings her to a rural farmhouse and soon overdoses as well, his corpse becoming an eerie backdrop for the rest of the movie. Jeliza-Rose befriends old, dismembered Barbie doll heads. With a name for each one, the dolls travel on her fingers throughout most of the tale, which follows the young girl’s adventures and encounters in her dream-like universe.

Viewers may feel the impulse to close their eyes or leave their seats at intervals, as there are many unsettling parts of the film, but the little girl who faces so many scary things in her young life is oddly never scared at all. “Tideland” reminds us that childhood is the time of our lives when we accept everything and take in more than we give out. In the course of the movie’s nearly two hours, Jeliza-Rose encounters death, freaky individuals and eerie settings, fearing nothing and absorbing all.

If the film is grounded by any solidity, it is Jodelle Ferland’s powerful portrayal of the young heroine. Emotions are raw and natural and the twelve-year-old Ferland allows them to flow through her. It’s a good thing, too, because the movie’s profoundness could be so easily skewered by shoddy child acting.

The unconventional plot and unsettling imagery may be well received by those with an appreciation for the abstract (think magical realism minus the humor) and a healthy inner child. For those who lack these attributes, a.k.a. big movie critics, the film is a senseless experiment with drugs and freaks and a lost child. One of the worst reviews said “toward the end, it becomes creepy, and not in a good way” (New York Times), and Entertainment Weekly called it “gruesomely awful.”

Despite its absurdity and gruesomeness, I found “Tideland” deeply moving. It is undoubtedly a movie that you’ll ponder from the time you leave the theater to the time you go to sleep, and possibly after that.

 

LADY SOVEREIGN’S: BRITISH RAP AND LOCAL? ROCK

Sarah Marlowe ’08

When Louise Harman was born in London 21 years ago, no one expected her to drop out of school at 15 and start rapping, but she did. And she’s good at it.

Lady Sovereign joins fellow Brit The Streets in that little, but oh-so-enjoyable subgenre of British rap. Her songs are quite catchy—as a matter of fact, you may have heard a few before. “Love Me or Hate Me” is featured in a Verizon commercial and, as of last week, its video is the only one by a British artist to reach the top on TRL. One of the best songs on the album is “9 To 5;” I think the meaning’s pretty clear just from the title, but just to clear it up “There’s no turning back, I’m working 9 to 5…Did I say 9? I meant 1:30.” The song was also remixed by the Ordinary Boys in a Linkin Park/Jay-Z-esque mash up, which is also pretty good.

Honestly, one thing I love about this album is the fact that almost every song starts out with “It’s the biggest midget in the game,” because I always love people who are willing to poke fun at themselves (Sovereign’s only 5’1”), and I can totally commiserate.

The Big Sleep: Son of the Tiger

From the get-go, I was convinced that this album would be good, based solely on the name; anything named after something related to Philip Marlowe is awesome in my book. Luckily, that gut feeling was right. While Son of the Tiger would probably be too much for Marlowe, many of the songs have an intro that wouldn’t seem too out of place in film noir; that build-up is what makes this album great. I realize that description is a little too vague; the Big Sleep are more akin to Queens of the Stone Age than Air, if that helps.

The Big Sleep is apparently a local band, although I cannot find an exact area to define as local, but they’re in there. Somewhere. I actually can’t find much about them, except for the fact that they’re signed to Frenchkiss Records, which isn’t that helpful as I knew it already.

Appropriately enough, one of the stand-out tracks on the album is entitled “Murder.” Raymond Chandler would be proud.

• A quick note on some other new releases:

• Pete Yorn’s Nightcrawler

Solid follow-up to Day I Forgot; keeps with the “naming albums after different times of day,” trend. It’s definitely worth a listen.

• Nouvelle Vague’s Bande _ Part

They’re French. All they do is cover 80’s songs. What’s not to love? Their cover of “The Killing Moon” is amazing.

• The Oohlas’ Best Stop Pop

The Oohlas were one of the first acts to be signed to former Spin editor Sarah Lewitinn’s label, Stolen Transmission. The album is appropriately named; it’s very poppy, but not overly so, or in that stereotypical way. It might not get much radio play, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. The album is strong, especially for a debut.

 

 

WHAT THE LITTLE ONES SAY: THE 9TH GRADE RESPONSE TO BHSEC

Noa Bendit-Shtull ’10

The start of a new year at BHSEC comes with a sea of new faces. Slightly disoriented ninth graders navigate the hallways as they stare confused up at room numbers on class doors. They laugh with newly acquired friends, chat about the homework load and their teachers, all the while adjusting to strange surroundings. In order to tap into the collective conscience of a class, a number of interviews with ninth graders were conducted around the school.

Many students shared similar opinions concerning the workload. Said one ninth-grader, “Usually the homework is reasonable, but in some classes it’s worse.” She added that it “challenges you, but it doesn’t drive you crazy.” Another girl agreed: “It’s pretty challenging, but not too hard.” The same student voiced interest in seeing how the students would keep up and who would leave the school. Others spoke more plainly: “It’s hard,” said one student, “it’s insanely hard.”

One commonly voiced sentiment was that BHSEC is a very unusual high school. A student hesitantly commented, “I like it, but it’s definitely different from any school I’ve ever been to before.” Another student said, “It’s different from what I’ve experienced so far. It’s all right I guess. I just have to get used to it.” A ninth grader sitting with a group of friends in Bard’s yard entranceway said it was “very unconventional,” a discovery she was happy to make.

Assorted opinions ranged from, “The clubs are disorganized” to “the teachers are nicer than I expected.” One said the students have more freedom at Bard than they did at her middle school, which she thought was good. Sitting next to her in the newly renovated auditorium, another student echoed some ninth-graders’ opinions that the teachers were accessible and interesting. One student, sitting in the library, cryptically said that she thought the school would be more “public-schoolish” socially and academically. She then clarified her previous statement, adding, “I love it.”

Other students chose to express themselves with half serious complaints (“There should be more mocha in the vending machine,”) or joking rhetoric (“Where is the swimming pool?”). Many ninth graders complained that there should be a student lounge, and complained that third-period lunch was “too early” and that fifth-period lunch was “too late.”

Overall, however, the new ninth graders are happy at BHSEC. They’re making friends, coping with homework and enjoying the experiences that this school has to offer. Almost everyone said they liked the school. One student preferred to describe BHSEC numerically, bestowing the school with a 4.5 rating on a scale from zero to five.

 

PREP FOR BHSEC: THE EARLY COLLEGE ACADEMY EXPANDS ITS PROGRAMMING FOR 2006-2007

Michele Lee ’08

Last summer was the inaugural year of the Early College Academy, a program in which BHSEC students and faculty work together to mentor neighborhood middle school students and prepare them for early college programs, either at BHSEC or other schools with early college curricula.

A collaboration between BHSEC and neighboring middle schools, the Academy included middle school students from PS 188, PS 34, and PS 140. Funding for the program comes from a $618,000 Jacob K. Javits grant that Principal Peterson and Dr. Barbara Slatin, principal of PS 188, were awarded. The instructors who taught in the program are Elizabeth Howort and Jennifer Minnen (humanities), Gabe Rosenberg and Ben Rubenstein (math) and Melissa Blain (science).

The thirty-five students in the program took classes in the morning and went on trips or participated in workshops in the afternoon. Afternoon trips included visits to the Brooklyn Museum’s Islamic Art exhibit, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and Thompson Square Park. On one day, the students learned about tessellations in the morning and attended an Islamic art exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in the afternoon to examine tessellations in Islamic paintings and sculptures. Another day, the students studied the concepts of writing descriptive essays and later walked to Thompson Square Park to write about their surroundings. One day the Gorilla Press (a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing literacy) visited BHSEC and helped the students make their own books.

For 2006-2007, the Academy will introduce a three-day-a-week program after school during the school year in addition to its summer session. It will narrow its focus to mathematics and the humanities. A speaker series featuring talks by students, faculty, and members of the community will be instituted on Wednesday afternoons. BHSEC students will teach in the Academy and work with Elizabeth Howort or Gabe Rosenberg to develop lessons. The program’s funding will continue next year through the Javits grant and other sources will be sought to support the Academy in the future.

 

 

BHSEC SPORTS GAIN MOMENTUM: THE SCHOOL NOW FEATURES 8 PSAL TEAMS

Talor Gruenwald ’08

When most of us applied to Bard High School Early College, we did so knowing that its athletic program left much to be desired. Yet we still applied, because our interest lay in the early college program and the rigorous academics that BHSEC has to offer. However, the past few years have seen considerable growth in the athletics program.

According to Principal Raymond Peterson, the main reason that BHSEC never boasted a developed athletics program was due to the school’s original mission. When BHSEC was founded five years ago, its purpose was to offer advanced New York City public school students an accelerated academics program and the chance to earn 60 college credits through a rigorous curriculum. Sports would have to wait.

Many students assume that the scarcity of boys in the BHSEC hallways is the reason our sports program has been underdeveloped. Mr. Peterson insists that this is not the principal reason for our small athletics program. As he explained in an interview, “If we tried to have sports [at first], Bard would not be Bard.” He does agree, though, that the lopsided ratio of boys to girls has something to do with the slow development of sports at BHSEC.

On a more practical note, the facilities at BHSEC are not conducive to a large athletics program. There is no full-sized gymnasium that belongs solely to the school. We have no football or soccer field that is always available. Instead, the Athletics Department is forced to purchase permits for the field behind Bard and for the fields in the East River Park.

In response to these obstacles, BHSEC has collaborated with NEST + m, a kindergarten through 12th grade school on Avenue D and Houston. NEST has a full-sized gym and BHSEC hopes to use it for the coming basketball season. Additionally, the BHSEC athletics program may further expand its numbers by inviting athletes of NEST + m to play on its PSAL sports teams. Explains Ray Peterson, the collaboration is perfectly legal, “The principal of NEST is cooperating, and PSAL endorses this.”

Mr. Peterson agrees that the athletics program has grown greatly in these past few years. He believed this is in part due to the increased student and parent involvement. He also believes that the Athletic Director, Michael Larkin, has significantly aided the cause.

Mr. Larkin is responsible for coordinating several teams and gaining all of them entry into the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL). All but one of Bard’s eight sports teams are in the PSAL B-division. These teams include Boys and Girls Varsity Basketball, Tennis and Soccer; Girls Varsity Volleyball; and Coed Ultimate Frisbee. Mr. Larkin coaches three of these teams.

Mr. Peterson and the administration are working on plans to expand the program through the construction of new facilities. Several parents who are architects have examined the roof and have concluded that it is strong enough to support physical activity. The elevator currently under construction will give us access to the roof upon completion. In addition, a full-sized gymnasium may one day be built on the yard to expand the athletic program. As of now, however, these plans are all tentative.

In terms of actual sports teams, Mr. Larkin believes that if student interest continues to grow, the athletic program will expand further. Unfortunately, there are more upperclassmen than underclassmen on BHSEC sports teams. If future college students do not replace their predecessors, some teams may go under for lack of student participation. If we are to maintain our sports program and make BHSEC more appealing to athletic-minded applicants, the student population needs to do what it can to support the existing teams and develop this important dimension to our student culture.

 

 

WHAT’S HE BUILDING IN THERE?: AN UPDATE ON BOB DYLAN

Olivia Bernard ’07

Bob Dylan, best known as spokesman of baby boomers, has been keeping quite busy these past few years, despite recently reaching the age of sixty-five.

Anyone who pays any attention to aging sixties icons probably will recall that Dylan wrote a New York Times bestselling memoir in 2004 entitled “Chronicles, Vol. 1” and was soon afterwards the subject of a lengthy Martin Scorsese documentary, “No Direction Home.” Musically, he has spent the past three summers performing in minor league baseball stadiums and this past August he came out with his first album in five years, “Modern Times.”

Less widely circulated, perhaps, is that he has had his own weekly XM radio program since May 2006 called “Theme Time Radio Hour.” For those not familiar with XM, it is commercial-free, satellite radio that charges users a small monthly fee. Each week on Dylan’s show, a particular theme or idea is selected and he then plays songs of his own choosing that correspond to that theme. For instance, one week the topic was the Devil and he played Elvis Presley’s “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise” and “Way Down in the Hole” by Tom Waits (who incidentally also wrote the song that is the title of this article). The show airs every Wednesday at 10 AM.

At the Morgan Library and Museum in New York there is an exhibit through the 6th of January called, “Bob Dylan’s American Journey, 1956-1966.” The show contains listening sections, rare photographs, aging posters advertising shows Dylan did in small Village cafes, handwritten lyrics, and other interesting memorabilia. While its contents may suggest yet one more collection of disjointed objects and setups, the exhibit has been described as an insightful visual account of Dylan’s early musical development.

Perhaps Dylan’s continued success is due to his willingness to adapt to the changin’ times. “Modern Times” definitely has a certain Nora Jones quality in its smooth production. The album is bluesy and soft on the ears while also containing Dylan’s signature politically savvy lyrics. For the next month, Dylan will be touring with several contemporary bands, including the Kings of Leon, the Foo Fighters, and The Raconteurs.

So what is the master plan? Is Dylan beefing up his already vast imprint and legacy? Or is he just a hardworking guy trying to stay busy? Given his tendency to shy away from the grandiose, he would probably tell you it is the latter.

 

 

EUROPE COMES TO BHSEC: FOREIGN STUDENTS REFLECT ON LIFE AND STUDY IN NEW YORK

Chip Raghunath ’08

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.” – St. Augustine

By those standards (however pretentious), Valentine Gardier and Ramona Bimbo could say they’ve read a couple. Valentine and Ramona have come to BHSEC this year through American Field Service Intercultural Programs. AFS describes itself as an “international, voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit organization that provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.” Both exchange students chose to leave their home, travel more than 4,000 miles in order to spend a year in New York City—a city brand new to them. This involves living with a “host” family they’ve never met before and speaking constantly in a language foreign to them, all the while doing well in school (a task that many would find a feat in itself).

Valentine is a Year II student who hails from the Belgian town of Spa, famous for its healing hot water springs which have given rise to the “spa” as we know it today. When asked about what influenced her to study abroad, she replies, “I wanted to learn new things and learn a new language.” But the going was tough at first. “In the beginning I missed my family,” she says. As days went by, Valentine grew more familiar with her surroundings. “A lot of people are the same,” she observes, comparing the Belgian and American societies — although she does note that people here wear “strange clothes.” She comments that Belgians are substantially more relaxed and tension free than New Yorkers.

Valentine arrived in New York State along with 80 other foreign students through AFS. Several students from her own class traveled abroad this year to Australia, Canada, Brazil, and elsewhere in New York. Valentine, already a high school graduate, says that European students sometimes take time off before college to do something else. They learn a new language, and sometimes travel to do so. “I wanted to take a break,” she remarks.

Valentine has noticed several distinctions between her old school and BHSEC. “Here you can use the bathroom whenever you want,” she observes. She adds that in Belgium one has to request permission to do so, and one’s request may be denied. Liberal bathroom rights aside, does she like BHSEC? “I wanted to discover a typical school in the US,” she says, “but Bard isn’t like that.” She says she would be more suited to a school with more clubs and engaging activities, and less studying.

Ramona, a Year I student, had a contrasting viewpoint to share. Ramona comes from the small town of Alberobello in southeastern Italy. She is one of 350 Italian students who came to the United States through AFS this year. “It’s like a second life,” she says, and it’s one that she finds “exciting.” “You feel so small,” she remarks, reflecting on the more than 4,000 miles she has traveled to come to New York City. When asked about the difference in education, she replies, “In Italy, we have some good teachers, some bad teachers; here I find only good teachers,” She goes on to say that BHSEC is better than her previous school, where memorization was overemphasized. In her former school, there was “nothing like Writing and Thinking Workshop.” The workshop is something that appeals to her at BHSEC, along with the freedom to choose her own subjects. She also notes that the relationship between students and teachers is comparatively less pro forma at BHSEC. Ramona noticed differences in the way people dress as well, saying, “People here show their personality with their dressing style, more than in Italy.” She adds that in her previous school, girls weren’t allowed to wear skirts, a privilege she is apparently quite happy to have over here.

She has also noticed the popularity of MP3 players at our school. “Everyone has an iPod,” she says, apparently overwhelmed, adding that people seem to “listen to music and not reality.” Ramona currently lives in Brooklyn Heights with her host family, with whom she is very comfortable. Unfortunately, she has already had an unsavory experience in the city. She remarks, “It’s more difficult living here, it isn’t safe” adding ruefully, “someone stole my wallet.” But stolen property notwithstanding, her experience has been quite satisfying.

The stories of Valentine and Ramona shed light on the importance of travel and its educational benefits. Or, as Mark Twain put it, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

 

 

DARFUR CLUB ACTS WHERE GOVERNMENTS DO NOT

Will Glovinsky ’08

We have often found that the best way to deal with a distant catastrophe is to acknowledge it, deplore it, and then forget it. The genocide, past and present, of the western Sudanese region of Darfur has unfortunately been received according to this terrible pattern. Our government has acknowledged the killing, maiming, rape and displacement in Darfur to be genocide, but has made it clear though inaction that genocide does not merit our intervention. Likewise, the United Nations has hesitated to label as genocide the deaths of 400,000 people, mostly African Muslims at the hands of Arab Muslim janjaweed militias because “genocidal intent appears to be missing.”

Luckily, there are some people out there doing something about this catastrophe. In fact, there is a group students in our very own school building who are dedicated to examining the problem. They meet on Wednesdays during Dean’s Hours. The Darfur Club, active since spring 2005, is one of many non-governmental organizations that have provided aid and attempted to raise awareness of the atrocities committed daily in the cracked deserts of Darfur.

Last year, the club held several bake-sales and fundraisers in which pins and ribbons were sold. Darfur Awareness Days periodically dotted the calendar. The club’s members raised $400 and students could be seen ascending stairways with bags, iPods and little green ribbons. The money was sent to Doctors Without Borders, an organization with medical professionals operating in refugee camps in Chad, where over 100,000 displaced Sudanese now live. (According to the Doctors Without Borders website, a donation of $500 provides a “medical kit containing basic drugs, supplies, equipment, and dressings to treat 1,500 patients for three months.”)

This year the club plans to continue its work but hopes to expand its mission beyond the humanitarian crisis of Darfur. “This year, I think it’s important to raise awareness in a broader sense,” says Emma Ellman-Golan, Year 1, co-founder and president of the club.

At a recent meeting during Dean’s Hours, Emma and co-founder and vice-president Sophie Rand, Year 1, addressed a group of around twenty-five students (almost exclusively freshmen) on the club’s mission and goals this year. The retraction of habeas corpus by the US government in the prosecution of terrorism suspects came up as a popular theme for the near future.

“There are many other human rights violations in the world,” says Emma, speaking of the Darfur conflict, “like the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and secret C.I.A. prisons.” She tentatively suggested that the club might have monthly awareness days with different themes. When asked if money raised would continue to go to aiding the victims of the conflict in Darfur or to another cause, she said that that matter had yet to be decided.

At the same meeting, one standing attendee raised his hand and asked a question often posed to small groups that tackle big issues through raising awareness. “What would raising awareness do?” he asked. Later, Emma and Sophie replied to this question directly. “That’s the point of the club,” they said. “People don’t help a cause they don’t understand.”

 

 

BARD TEAM STEPS TO THE TOP: THE STEP TEAM REPRESENTS

Elizabeth Vulaj ’08

BHSEC has over twenty clubs, teams, and student organizations, ranging from the Gay Straight Alliance Club to the literary magazine, “Cave Canon,” to the girl’s volleyball team. But none (including this publication) has the real world exposure that the Step Team enjoys.

Shannon Everett, Year 1 and captain of the Step Team, says that there are about fifteen performances throughout the school year, including a performance at the Liberty Basketball game. The team also performs at many other sporting events, usually entertaining the bleachers during half times. The Step Team has even been on television, performing for the BET show “106 & Park Live” on a segment titled “Wild-Out Wednesday,” where a vast array of dancers and singers have the opportunity to showcase their talent. On the program, the Step Team was picked out of many contestants to demonstrate their dancing flair. The Step Team has participated in many different contests and has won several trophies, including a second place award from a competition two years ago at Adelphi University on Long Island.

What is step? Surely not the monotonous tread of walking. Shannon Everett refers to step as a “form of dancing” where footwork is vital and everyone’s dance moves must be synchronized. In the little intellectual cocoon we like to call Bard, we have many liberal arts clubs, but at the same time it is refreshing to have something different and entertaining like the Step Team here.

The Step Team has about seventeen members so far, varying in ages. Even though the members of the team choreograph the dances, credit is due to their advisor, Ms. Blain, who is also the science technician. As their advisor, it is her job to “…find out about places where we could step” and upcoming performances.

The steppers are a tight-knit group, evidenced partially by the audition process. The whole team teaches the potential stepper two dance steps, one complex number, and one fairly simple routine. Then the team asks the person several questions, such as if she has had any previous experience in step, and what made her come to audition in the first place. Afterwards the team decides whether or not to have the person on their team “based on their answers and how well they step.”

What is next for this determined and gifted team? They just performed at The Café right here at BHSEC and at Madison Square Garden for the Black College Tour the day after. They also performed for a middle school in Brooklyn as part of a contest on November 3rd. They are planning to step for the BHSEC basketball team the Raptors, and want to serve as a replacement for cheerleaders and drive some school spirit. The Step Team has plenty of performances headed their way this year, and surely many of us here at BHSEC will be ready to support and watch.

 
 
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