Olivia Bernard ’07

James Mercer, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter in The Shins, has proven that the band’s nearly four-year hiatus since “Chutes Too Narrow” was time well spent. Their latest album, “Wincing the Night Away” is nothing short of excellent. I certainly did not envy Mercer for the task of following up such a successful album; it would be comparable to sitting down and writing the next Harry Potter book. But The Shins pulled it off with elegance and authority.

This is The Shins like we’ve never seen them before. They’ve got a harder edge and more distinctive style, yet still present their albums in the way their listeners love. “Wincing the Night Away” kicks off with “Sleeping Lessons,” an attention-grabbing tune that starts slow but takes its listener for a roller coaster ride a couple of minutes in, something like U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” in that the whole song builds up to a brilliant crescendo. All of the songs in “Wincing the Night Away” are also expertly executed because they segue smoothly into each other. In fact, I temporarily forgot a few names of the songs because the whole piece melds together into one work.

Some of the other songs that stand out the most are “Australia”, an upbeat track that incorporates a banjo during the chorus, “Turn On Me,” one of the few songs on the album that is catchy because of its lyrics, and “A Comet Appears”, which is, in traditional Shins fashion, a slow, melodic end to a powerful, musically diverse album. The single, “Phantom Limb”, is worthy of recognition for the great background vocals but it sounds a lot like songs in previous Shins albums.

One thing that surprised me about this album is how little I paid attention to the lyrics; frankly, I cared little about what Mercer was singing about. Even after you figure out the lyrics you may still be wondering what they’re really talking about. The Shins have an amazing ability to convey ideas and elicit intense emotions merely through the use of melodies and the cadences of their voices. “Phantom Limb”, for instance, turns out to be, according to Mercer, a song about “a young lesbian couple” dealing with small town life. Simply based on a listen, however, it seems to be about of love, finding yourself, or one of those other popular, hazy themes. For this reason, “Wincing the Night Away” will be the sort of album you hum along with rather than sing along to.

The good thing about The Shins is that this is perfectly okay, and you would do well to treat yourself to an hour humming along with The Shins.




Elizabeth Vulaj ’08

Mr. Smith, a recent addition to the BHSEC faculty, decided to become a photographer when he was eighteen years old. He attended a photography exhibit and was extremely moved. In experiencing this emotional aspect of photography, Mr. Smith discovered the feelings that a camera can elicit in a viewer. “I saw Sebastian Salgato’s workers exhibit, it made me realize what photography can do.”

Among Mr. Smith’s favorite photographers are Eugene Smith, Roy Decarava, Gordon Parks, and Josef Koudelka. He draws inspiration from other photographers’ work, yet he doesn’t believe in “copying someone else’s style.” His philosophy is that if you learn from the best, you can aspire to be the best – and this applies to all vocations, not just photography. “If you want to be a writer, you read a good writer’s work. [Doing that] can help influence you, and help you figure out new ways to look at things,” he advises.

One of Mr. Smith’s main objectives in his courses is to help students become aware of the emotions that are conveyed through their pictures. He wants to demonstrate the power of photography as an art form and how it is possible to “…use photography as a way of expression.”

After graduating from Morehouse College, Mr. Smith attended the International Center of Photography from 2001-2002. He has photographed people all over the world, from Asia to the Caribbean and throughout the United States. In addition, he has taught at Acorn Community High School in Brooklyn and Ballard High School in Seattle. He has also taught in several schools in “a photographer’s workshop format” since the late 90’s.

Mr. Smith labels his style as “humanistic” and “in the vein of Eugene Smith,” although he believes he has a long way to go. “I don’t think I’m that good yet,” he says. His interest in depicting raw, human scenes is exemplified in a collection of photos he shot of children and family life in Jamaica.

Smith assigns major projects to his photography students, giving them room to develop their personal, unique styles. Among his assignments this year was a project in which students used their cameras to capture what BHSEC meant to them. In another assignment students took over a dozen pictures of an environment that is significant to them.

One of Mr. Smith’s main priorities in his work is to communicate significant meaning to the viewer. “To me, a photo should bring out some sort of emotion… that doesn’t mean you have to cry when you see a picture, it should just make you feel something,” he states.





Elizabeth Goldfarb ’07

As the weather has glanced at the calendar and reluctantly dropped some degrees in tribute, we are now enjoying the temperatures we expect of the season. Winter is a divisive season, and there are the bundle-uppers, the stay-indoorsies and the plain indifferent. I am here to promote the hot beverage camp.

While I realize that the temptation of Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and other such overpriced establishments can be overbearing at times, I urge all to forego these options and brew their own scalding liquids, a few recipes for which I will shortly provide. I apologize to those who seek healthy advice from this column—although I do offer some healthier variants, some entries, although sumptuous and warming, are of dubious nutritional merit.

Foremost, the powers of tea cannot be underestimated. It is absurdly easy to put water in a kettle, heat until boiling, and pour into a teacup. To shake up traditional tea and sugar, add honey, lemon slices, and cinnamon sticks. For those who enjoy a stronger tea, I recommend Earl Grey or Darjeeling. These are both black teas, containing more caffeine than their green counterparts. In addition to green tea, Jasmine and Chamomile are soothing winter alternatives. Of course, these may be drunk in any way desired, and adamant British tea drinkers have philosophies that I won’t force upon our open-minded students. Be that as it may, milk should never be drunk with green tea. Avoid adding cold milk to black tea—put some milk in a cup in the microwave for about half a minute.

Another enticing hot drink is mulled cider (recipe from http://www.mixed-drink.com.) For every 2 quarts of cider (buy it, it’s much simpler), add ____ cup brown sugar, 1 stick of cinnamon, a dash each of nutmeg and salt, and a teaspoon each of allspice and cloves. Tie the allspice, cloves, and cinnamon together in a cheesecloth—if you haven’t got one, use a tea infuser. Really, use anything that keeps the spices together and lets them float around in the cider. Bring the cider to a boil, put in the spices, and let simmer for twenty minutes.

An intense chocolate drink (although buying the powder and adding to microwaved milk has its own charm) is something that http://www.mixed-drink.com calls Austrian Chocolate Cup. Break 30 oz. Semisweet chocolate into bits, and combine with grated orange peel, 2.5 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, and 15 cups milk (use skim to cut fat and calories). Put the chocolate and orange in a saucepan and heat, adding more and more milk as the chocolate melts. Pour into mugs and top with whipped cream if desired (this is clearly a less healthy alternative, to be drunk occasionally). Add a cinnamon stick and some grated chocolate to each mug for flavor, scent, and attractiveness. Marshmallows are another (nutritionally detrimental) alternative.

One of the manifold benefits of making one’s own drinks is the ability to control their temperatures. I have often been subject to the unpleasant feeling of tongue burning and fully appreciate the chance of avoiding such a sensation. Another benefit of drinking hot beverages is that you won’t need to wear three shirts or suffer any ignominy among more fashion-oriented friends. Happy warm drinking to you all, and, as usual, send all soggy tea bags and burnt tongue complaints to editors. Be sure to consult the next article for more nifty tips, including how to make your own latte at home without fancy equipment.




Chloe Steinhoff-Smith ’07

A few years ago, OK Go was a quirky indie band that had managed to slip beneath the media’s selective radar. Then, in 2005, their homemade video for the single ‘A Million Ways’, which features all five members of the band dancing in singer Damian Kulash’s backyard, exploded all over the internet and became the most downloaded video in history. Soon, their fan base had multiplied perhaps by thousands, and OK Go began playing sold out shows to hoards of screaming fans around the world. They garnered still more recognition last year with their second homemade video, in which they performed an intricately choreographed dance on moving treadmills to the single ‘Here It Goes Again’. The now infamous “treadmill dance” earned OK Go constant radio play, a spot on MTV’s Video Music Awards, a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video, and widespread idolatry. Luckily, Tim Nordwind, OK Go’s bass player, has refused to succumb to the temptations of rock snobbery, and agreed to submit to an e-interview with a loyal fan.

Q. What factors do you think contributed to the huge rise in OK Go’s popularity over the past year?

A. There’s no doubt that the popularity of our videos – both for A Million Ways and especially Here It Goes Again – have contributed to OK Go’s rise in popularity over the last year. It’s kind of a backwards formula. Most of the time video follows radio in its path towards exposure. In this case, however, radio followed video, which is rare. What’s even weirder is that video followed the Internet, which until this year was almost unheard of.

Q. Why do you think the “A Million Ways” dance and the “Here it Goes Again” treadmill dance were such successes?

A. In general the videos for “A Million Ways” and “Here it Goes Again” have been such successes because, first and foremost, they are good ideas which are well-executed. There is something inherently fun about watching people pull off something they have clearly worked hard to achieve. In this case people seem to respond positively to the fact that both routines are done in one take with no edits. It’s a simple concept captured in a way that people can relate to. Most people these days have access to a video camera, some friends, and YouTube. The thing I hear most often about our videos is “I love your video because it’s just like the fun stuff my brother and I used to do in the back yard…” Also, people just seem to enjoy watching guys who clearly can’t really dance, dance.

Q. What made you decide to be a musician? How did you and Damian decide to start OK Go?

A. Boy it’s hard to remember the very moment I decided to be a musician. I have always been interested in a lot of different artistic endeavors. More than anything I’ve spent my life making things. Growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan I studied a bunch of different instruments, performed a lot in local theatres, wrote plays and short stories, sang a lot in choirs, played in bands, made films with my friends. The thing about music is that it is so immediate. The sound of a snare drum or the strike of a chord can evoke so much so quickly. The excitement is pretty intoxicating. One of my favorite songs in the world is “Shoot You Down” by the Stone Roses. The most unusual and amazing thing about it is that it’s such a lyrically angry little song that musically feels so good. Music is at its best when it plays between the tension and release of different emotions at the same time. Trying to write music like that has become almost an obsession. When it actually happens it’s the best feeling in the world.

Q. One of the things that people seem to like most about OK Go is that you’re very devoted to your fans. How do you think your popularity will affect your relationship with your fans?

A. We’re lucky to have wonderful fans that have almost never crossed the line between appreciating the band and wanting more. Obviously the band-to-fan dynamic can be a strange one. However, it’s always been a pleasure to meet people after the show. I suspect that we will always try to make ourselves accessible to our fans in one way or another no matter how big or how small we get.

Q. What is your response to accusations that, with the JC Penny commercials and soundtracks that OK Go has done, you guys are compromising your integrity to make a profit; or that your new found mega-popularity is based on “gimmicks” like the treadmill dance rather than on the merits of your music?

A. In this day and age it has become very hard for bands to make a living and keep the lights on based on album sales alone. In the last ten years the record industry has begun to collapse under its own weight due to free downloading, CD burning, as well as many other variables. Bands are often left to figure out other sources of revenue because records just don’t sell like they use to. Therefore, bands like ours have gone towards the Internet, commercials, TV shows, and movies to promote and sell their music. We weigh every decision very heavily before signing onto a deal. Some we are glad we did, others we wish we hadn’t. But in the end our main concern is getting our music heard. We’ve been fortunate to get such great exposure for our music from things like commercials and YouTube, especially when it is so difficult to get on radio and MTV.

Q. Your live shows have gained quite a reputation. What or whom do you draw inspiration from when planning them?

A. The main goal in planning a show is to create a party. The Flaming Lips are particularly great at creating that kind of fun atmosphere. Generally we like to involve the audience whenever we can and to shoot as much confetti into the world as possible. The end.

Q. What is the strangest rumor that has ever been spread about you or other members of the band?

A. Hmmm, well, nothing comes to mind particularly. Many times people say they can tell that the Here It Goes Again video was done with a split screen? I’m not quite sure why they think that would make things any easier? But often times people tell me there’s no way we could have done that all at once AND that they can see the split screen in the video. OK.

Q. What is the most surprising thing that a fan has ever done for you?

A. One of the most surprising and inspiring things a fan has ever done was to simply stay alive. Once we went to play some acoustic songs for a girl in the hospital. She had a brain tumor and was going in for surgery the next day. Her parents wrote to us to say that we were her favorite band and wondered if we’d come in to play. Luckily we were in the neighborhood and were able to do it. According to her parents her chances of survival from the surgery were not great. Miraculously though, she pulled through and a few months later came to a show. I was so surprised and thrilled to see her there, and so touched that she would try to come out to see us so soon after her operation. She said OK Go was the last thing she listened to as they put her under. That was pretty moving.

Q. Where would you be and what would you be doing if OK Go didn’t exist?

A. If OK Go didn’t exist I suppose I would have tried to make a more concentrated effort in theatre and film, both acting and writing.

Q. How has Andy Ross [the replacement for Andy Duncan, OK Go’s original guitarist and keyboardist] changed OK Go?

A. Andy Ross has brought a lot of spirit and camaraderie to the band. He’s also a fiercely intelligent guy and has helped to make a lot of important stylistic and creative decisions throughout our time with him. I am looking forward to writing the next record with Andy because, along with everything else, he’s a really amazing musician and songwriter.

Q. What can we look forward to from OK Go? What is the next album going to be like?

A. If I were to guess I would say there will be a bit more groove and soul in the next record. Perhaps it will be more minimal and spacious than Oh No. The songs will be driven more by lines and patterns and less by traditional bar chords. The production might be slightly more hi-fi than Oh No, but not totally synthetic and overwrought like our first record.




Max Marinoff ’07

Reggae… I used to think this stuff was garbage. The first reggae album I ever listened to was the ever so popular “Legend,” a compilation of Bob Marley tunes that everyone around me could hum and my middle aged parents knew all the words to. I was not a big fan. Being a teenager to me means two things: one, having at least a little resentment towards the world, and two; having a certain level of energy that will slowly decrease and fade away as you get older and begin to turn that volume knob on your stereo down. I found the passive, laid-back Marley tracks a little too lacking of energy. Lyrics like “I wanna love you every day and every night”(from Is This Love) and “Rise up this morning/ Smiled with the risin’ sun”(from Three Little Birds) added to the peace-loving, ganja-smoking, happy world perception I had of reggae.

Gangsta rap had the energy and shock-value I was looking for, and became my music of preference for the next few months. Violent and racy lyrics of artists like Wu-Tang Clan and NWA fed my ears, and although I liked them, I began to realize that I was the prime example of a parent’s worst nightmare of “the child being plagued with pop culture violence and sex.” I refused to feel guilty about the music I chose to listen to, but I did begin to realize that a balance of anger and peace-loving happiness in my music choices might not be a bad thing.

Recently, while at a friend’s house I heard another reggae album called “The Harder They Come,” a soundtrack to the eponymous movie. The CD was a compilation of different reggae musicians, and produced by reggae-soul-ska great Jimmy Cliff. When I heard a track on this album, I decided to give reggae another shot, and asked my friend if I could borrow the CD. I listened to the album one time through on the way to school and, from that moment on, could not take it out of my CD player for two months.

Every stereotype I had tacked on to the reggae music genre crumbled to the ground. Lyrics on this CD were nothing like “Legend.” In the midst of beautiful harmonies and happy major chords were violent and shocking lyrics. On the track “Shanty Town,” Desmond Dekker sings, “And now rudeboys have a go wail/ cause them out of jail/ rudeboys cannot fail/ ‘cause them must get bail,” and “Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail/ A shanty town/ dem a rudeboys get a probation/ A shanty town/ and rudeboy bomb up the town.” “Johnny Too Bad,” by the Slickers, has lyrics of a similar vein: “Johnny you’re too bad/ You’re just robbin’ and you’re stabbin’/ and you’re lootin’ and you’re shootin’/ You’re too bad.”

Many of the songs were two to three minute bursts of energy and the lyrics were comparable to the gangsta rap in their subject matter –– life, poverty and violence in the shanty towns of Jamaica and projects of New York. Although the songs on “The Harder They Come” seemed to be the rap of yester-year, their melodic and happy sounding music was the perfect juxtaposition to their edgy lyrics, a perfect blend of anger and pleasure.

If you’re ever at a friend’s house and hear him (or her) playing reggae, ask him what it is, and if he says, “Why, it’s Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come,’” you look your buddy dead in the eye and say: “Can I borrow it?” It will make you a happy man.




Talor Gruenwald ’08

Students who attend BHSEC accept that our school is not a normal high school. Our cafeteria is more than twice the size of our gym, our library is a place to hang out, our sinks, urinals and toilets are about a foot too low and we don’t care, and despite the rigorous academics our school offers, there is a very relaxed atmosphere in the halls of BHSEC. The students, it seems, have accepted the quirkiness that is BHSEC. We’re content with our small corner at the end of east Houston Street. We’re humble and satisfied, quietly absorbing and discussing our texts. Why, then, have we chosen an image and name for our sports program that does not embody this spirit?

Our current sports team name is the Bard Raptors. A raptor is a bird of prey, characterized by intimidating hooked talons and a powerful beak. The raptor family includes hawks, buzzards, falcons, and ospreys, and their names have often been lent to military aircraft. These hyper-masculine and overly aggressive predators do not fit with our school’s unassuming personality. Students who participate in Bard sports, including myself, should feel at least a little silly, if not absurd, when we face our opponents on the court or field with this emblem sewed to our jerseys.

The source of this madness is our namesake and benefactor, Bard College. Their team name is the Raptors, and either by default or in an effort to further our association with Big Bard, our name too became the Raptors, and we the students acquiesced. Before committing to such a name, the administration should have found time to consult the student body on such a name. It’s generic. BHSEC is anything but generic. We want other schools to remember us as something different, (the Bardvarks, maybe?).

Benjamin Franklin is said to have regretted that the Bald Eagle (incidentally a type of raptor) became the national bird, calling it “a Bird of bad moral Character.” He instead believed the turkey to be a more suitable emblem, deeming it ‘respectable,’ with apparently enough courage “to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard.”

While I understand that it would be a sizable inconvenience to switch names, as that would entail ordering new uniforms, we are in the special circumstance of not having years and years of tradition to overcome. If Yale were to oust the bull dog…well they couldn’t, and I am sure Princeton couldn’t shed its tiger skin. We, however, have a mighty five years of existence under our belts and few among students and faculty appear to be wedded to the Raptor.

In the end, perhaps the largest obstacle to negotiate would be two hundred years of choosing the raptor over the turkey.




Simon Glenn ’07

The air was tense. Blows were dealt via connection cables as one player confronted the other. Soon it became all too clear that someone had wasted good money on a hyperbeam, which the two contestants knew was useless in the first BHSEC Pokemon Tournament.

The grand tourney was organized by BHSEC humor publication The Politicizer, which promoted the event with posters in mid-December featuring an image of a chap named “Slowbro.” The caption under the Pokemon read: “This could be you!!” That tempting promise and a considerable amount of hallway buzz were enough to send a score of hopefuls rummaging through closets and under beds in search of old Gameboy gear.

Pokemon defined the elementary school years for many current high school students, but until The Politicizer announced the tournament it had long been considered defunct. A descendant of a Japanese tradition of insect collecting, the Pokemon craze began as a video game for the handheld game console, Gameboy, in three versions: red, blue and special edition yellow. Each one of these versions contained 151 different types of Pokemon, the object being to catch and train as many as possible, to different levels. After much deliberation, the cap for the tournament was set at level 60; any Pokemon over that threshold would be disqualified.

Of the entrants, the early favorite was Craig Gordon (Year I), who was a front-runner after an early win over Jack Lynch. The big shocker of the day was Sophia van Valkenburg’s early victory over the tournament’s organizer, Christian Gaffney. He looked stunned, but took the blow in stride.

The top prize was cash, collected from the two-dollar entrance fee. The rest of the prizes included: A Seinfeld DVD boxed set, a s’mores home cooking kit, a kite, and various small trinkets. The second place winner got to take first pick at the prize table.

Although the tournament was set up in bracket style, even the early departures, such as Talor Gruenwald, Zane Smith, Jack Lynch, and Max Marinoff, were given second chances to battle each other. This opportunity was not taken wasted and contestants all fought gallantly to the end.

The final was truly a match of David and Goliath: the underdog, a ragtag bunch of ninth graders, against the superpower Craig. However, the match followed the ancient story in premise only, as the underclassmen were easily ousted, leaving Craig with the crown, and 20 dollars.




Will Glovinsky ’08

On January 8th an Israeli high school jazz quintet visited BHSEC and played two sets for students and staff in Mr. Casey’s room. The group, from the Thelma Yellin High School of Arts in Givatayim, was in New York for the International Association of Jazz Education conference on January 11th, where they had been selected to perform representing their State.

The musicians, Roy Harmon, trumpet, Hod Moshanov, piano, Itai Shahar, bass, Dean Tsur, saxophone, and Amir Bresler, drums, are all seniors and study jazz at their school, a prestigious arts academy. Their ensemble, April Quintet, has been invited to perform at several Israeli Jazz festivals and won the International Competition for Original Composition Performance in 2006.

The ensemble played at BHSEC after a red-eye flight and a jam session at LaGuardia High School and planned to tour in Manhattan throughout the week. Despite the lack of rest and the daunting schedule ahead of them, the musicians played lively and both times answered questions in English. They said that their musical influences were varied, including some Israeli and non-Isreali musicians, but all mentioned the great American jazz pioneers such as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. One said that he also enjoyed listening to Jimi Hendrix.

Students and staff alike expressed amazement at the performance. “They were tight and had great solos,” said one impressed student in the audience. Josh Weinstein, who teaches Jazz at BSHEC, said, “I was amazed at their technical ability for their age.” He added that musically, they were “incredibly well equipped.”

Towards the end of the second set, an invitation was extended to BHSEC musicians who wished to jam with the quintet. Ruslan Panteav, a guitarist in Year II, stood up and joined the group, soloing and trading fours with the members of the ensemble. He explained what it was like to play along side the Isreali musicians, who are studying what is called the ‘uniquely American music form’ on the other side of the world. “Their ideas, shaped by a different culture, helped feed me. It comes out in great musicians who aren’t afraid to show their emotions. As is sometimes said, ‘the things worth learning cannot be taught.’ I am grateful to say that they taught me one of those things.”




Gloria Bazargan ’10

To kick off the spring semester at BHSEC this year, there is one significant change afoot. As many have already noticed, the writing center has been moved to the library, and in its place, there is a new “Student Commons” in the making.

The idea to relocate the learning center originated in the middle of the fall semester, but BHSEC faculty members only recently decided to move it to the library. In the center’s old location, room 512, there now resides a student lounge with cushioned chairs, computers, and a coffee machine. The Community Council is leading the project of the new student center under the supervision of principal Ray Peterson and other members of the faculty.

Lengthy debates have taken place regarding the creation of a designated social area at BHSEC. A student lounge existed several years ago but was shut down due to irresponsible student behavior. Several students were asked how they felt about the change and most responses were positive. Students generally felt that the new location of the writing center provides a solution to overcrowding issues and chit-chat in both the writing center and the library. One student noticed a decline in the number of people crowding in the hallways. Many others reported less noise in the library because the students who wished to talk now had another place to go.

Principal Ray Peterson shared similar feelings about the problems the student center solves. Mr. Peterson said, “We weren’t sure it would work, it was an idea and it seems as if its working.” Mr. Peterson agreed that the racket in the library had been reduced due to the new student center. He said that there is, “one place for quiet study, and another for socializing.”

The Community Council has many ideas for improving the Student Commons that will be discussed with the faculty and the students in an upcoming assembly. Several Community Council members mentioned the possibility of including student artwork on the walls, a bulletin board for clubs, a printer, a pay phone, and a copy machine. The leader of this project says that money from the school’s budget would be used for initial purchases, and that the money from student use of the pay phone and copy machine would hopefully raise enough money for future additions to the center. These ideas have not yet been fully formulated or approved by BHSEC faculty members.

When asked about the types of responsibilities the students would have while using the center, Community Council members said they might post a list of rules on the lounge’s door. It was also asserted that there would always be a faculty member in the room. However, the Community Council members said that they did not want the student center to be a very strict place. Stephen Bonnet, Year II and head of the Community Council asserted, “The more it feels like our space, the more we’ll take care of it.”


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