VOLUME 10, ISSUE 2 (NOVEMBER 2012)

ECO FEATURE: SANDY AWARENESS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Ilia Widman ’14

In light of the recent erratic weather conditions on the East Coast, it has become increasingly clear that our planet is undergoing climate change. Not that we should expect the world to implode on December 21st, but global warming is no longer just a blurry speck on the horizon. Hurricane Sandy, which began on the night of October 28th, lasted only for a couple of days, but its trail of destruction was severe.  In just two days, 4.7 million students were unable to attend school, eight million people were without power from South Carolina to Maine —many of whom were also lacking running water— and more than six thousand New Yorkers had resorted to emergency shelters. The number of deaths attributed to this storm increased by day and was eventually tallied to over one hundred. Those who live on the East Coast know that the occurrence of this kind of storm is rare. While hurricanes are much more common in other parts of the world, New York, which was hit the hardest, has not seen such a hurricane in over a decade. In the midst of reconstructing the demolition and just days after Sandy let up, a Nor’easter hit New York.  This storm was nowhere near Sandy in magnitude, but it contributed to the difficulty of clean up, and knocked out power for many who had only recently had it restored.

The likelihood that two storms would hit in an area ordinarily free of natural disasters in the space of about a week is very, very low. Our planet is changing, and we should expect to see more vigorous weather conditions in the future where there have not been in the past.  This problem will only heighten if we continue to treat our global ecological situation so lightly. One problem with our lack of environmental progress is that there is such a sharp divide between the people who are fighting strongly for a green world and those who make no effort to cut down on their lives of high consumption. Of course, the amount of people who have minimal carbon footprint are nowhere near enough to balance out the damage by those who use electricity, water, and non-recyclables in excess. 

Hopefully, our suggestions for ways to cut down on carbon footprint have been ingrained into every BHSEC student’s mind by now: turn off the lights before you leave a room, don’t leave the water running while you brush your teeth, don’t keep electronics on for a long time or your cell phone charger plugged in or shower for too long. 

Unfortunately, these tiny changes, while helpful, will be nowhere near enough to counteract or even measure up to the colossal ecological problems that we are facing as consequences of the elephantine amount of waste that we have managed to produce over time. We need to close the gap that separates the environmentally-supportive and the environmentally-ignorant and work towards larger change, because we all live in the same world and, and as Sandy so clearly demonstrated, it is changing quickly.

 

 

THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE BARRIER OF VOLUNTEER EFFORTS

Danya Levy, ’15

In the days after Hurricane Sandy, many volunteers with good intentions swarmed the devastated regions of New York City. The Rockaways, Coney Island, Red Hook, Breezy Point—people from the relatively untouched parts of the city arrived in the thousands to do their part in helping the hurricane victims.

Upon arriving, many of these volunteers encountered obstacles, some expected and some unpredictable. Maybe they had brought more clothing donations than food when the opposite was needed; perhaps the relief effort was disorganized, and the same buildings were checked on multiple times while others were left ignored. But one of the most devastating obstacles was surely the inability to communicate: the language barrier.

Several hundred thousand Russian speakers live in New York City, and the majority of them reside in the areas that were most affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Rockaways and Coney Island – sections of which, with their signs in Cyrillic and restaurants boasting authentic Russian cuisine, seem like they were lifted straight from the Russian Federation – were hit especially hard by the storm.

Apartment buildings in the Rockaways lost power, and without heat or a working elevator, many elderly residents who speak only Russian found themselves homebound, without food or even basic supplies. Families whose homes were destroyed in Coney Island could not apply for government aid because they could not read or write in English. And many of these vulnerable hurricane victims slipped through the cracks of both FEMA and the volunteer efforts because of their inability to communicate.

In addition to language barriers, Russian speakers also sometimes necessitate a cultural translation. In the Rockaways, when a female volunteer offered to carry food and supplies up the pitch-black flights of stairs for the elderly residents of apartment buildings, it was not uncommon for their offer to be refused. Such a refusal could be received as ungrateful, or as a message that the resident could carry the bags themselves. But this rejection of aid was simply a manifestation of a quirk of culture: in Russia, women are almost always forbidden to carry even light loads, because it is feared that this may harm their fertility. A volunteer who is knowledgeable about Russia can recognize and address this issue of cultural differences, but many are not.

As a result, one Russian-speaking volunteer ended up being valued much more by relief organizers than ten other people or almost any amount of food or supplies. Without these translators, the doctors knocking on doors in the apartment buildings in the Rockaways would never be able to find out which residents were running out of prescription medications and which were fine. The family in Coney Island whose small children had ended up spending two nights in a hospital because their parents had not been able to find anywhere to hide from the poisonous effects of the gas leak that plagued their building would never have had their case eventually reported to relief organizations without a translator. But many Russian-speaking victims continued—and still continue—to not receive the aid they should simply because they can’t speak English.

Many organizations that normally provide support for Russian speakers in the city have banded together to provide effective hurricane relief aid. COJECO, which provides support for Russian-speaking communities in the New York City area, Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst and the Kingsbrook JCC wrote in an email to volunteers that, “Over 12 days, over 300 volunteers have visited over 3500 trapped, Russian-speaking residents in more than 40 buildings.”

The aid that these groups have provided with the help of translators and their knowledge about the Russian-speaking population in affected areas is an extraordinary testament to the power of organizations who truly understand the needs of the specific demographic of the population that they serve.

But many other efforts continue to flounder because of the Russian language barrier. And while large organizations like the Red Cross, which has harbored widespread criticism, and Occupy Sandy, which has risen to the occasion, get most of the attention, some of the most effective efforts have been spearheaded by groups like COJECO and the JCC.

The volunteer efforts have begun to taper off, but the devastation created by Sandy hasn’t gone away, and Russians are still in need. So if you speak Russian, or know someone who does, do some research, find an organization like Occupy Sandy or COJECO, and offer your services, or suggest that a friend do so. You may be surprised at the impact you can have.

 

OP-ED BHSEC SYNDROME

Chloe Kekovic ’13

Life at BHSEC Queens was not unlike an episode of the Twilight Zone. Suddenly, we were tossed into a world of amenities: cafeterias with booths and vending machines, roomy hallways that allowed for ample study space, and a library with a strict code of silence. New rules were implemented immediately: cell phones were not to be seen, classes were thrust into voyeuristic territory, and eating anywhere outside of the cafeteria was strictly forbidden. Dare I say it felt like…a high school? 

The general vibe that I got from the BHSEC Queens campus was that students have a structured schedule – they had designated places to eat, certain places to study, and a prevalent security system. This was essentially the antithesis of BHSEC Manhattan, where students sprawl themselves about hallways, stairwells, and empty classrooms whenever there is availability. Free periods are not designated to any given location; they can be utilized (or not) however the student deems necessary. However, while this freedom has its perks, being at BHSEC Queens also emphasized the drawbacks of having such an emphasis on self-reliance. 

The years between 14 and 18 are pivotal to the growth of one’s self, and during my time at BHSEC Manhattan, the emphasis placed on schoolwork has completely overshadowed the fact that high school is meant to be a period of development intellectually, as well as socially. Being at BHSEC Queens made me realize what we lack at BHSEC Manhattan: a true high school experience. As a senior looking back, I realize that I never really had the chance to just be a teenager as I grew up on the BHSEC Manhattan campus. While I have memories of classes that changed my life, I don’t have any memories of doing anything collective as a student body that was just fun, without an educational basis. While we’ve had incredible speakers and performances, all of this was rooted in furthering ourselves intellectually. S

Socially, I feel like BHSEC Queens and BHSEC Manhattan could not be more polarized. While I was already conscious about the lack of a cohesive student body at BHSEC Manhattan, it was truly emphasized for me when I found myself at the BHSEC Queens mixer, immersed in strobe lights, with Kanye West blaring in the background on a playlist that a BHSEC Queens teacher had made. I was able to freely enjoy myself without reservation, and it dawned upon me that an event like this would be incredibly unlikely on the BHSEC Manhattan campus. Due to the fact that we have been treated like adults since the start of our adolescence, BHSEC Manhattan students have grown accustomed to cloaking themselves in a veil of importance, that – while earned in the sense that we dedicate ourselves to our studies – is socially stifling. Since we’ve been taught to equate ourselves with college students from such a young age, we’ve grown accustomed to viewing ourselves through a self-righteous lens. 

Don’t get me wrong – I am immensely grateful for the education that I’ve received at BHSEC and don’t think that I would have been able to grow and develop at such a rapid pace anywhere else. Yet visiting our sister campus emphasized the fact that we haven’t created a balance between intellectual and social stimulation, nor have we attempted to. With such a small and intellectual student body, we have ample opportunities to work collectively to create an environment conducive to developing our community in ways that extend past solely the educational. 

 

 

BROOKLYN CASTLE MOVIE REVIEW

Sam Willner ’16

“I didn’t come here to be second”, said a student on the IS 318 chess team, and though it is one person speaking, the quote accurately illustrates the mentality of the illustrious chess team. Over the last decade, this school has won more chess championships than any other school in the nation, as well as boasting a master-level student. The movie Brooklyn Castle follows five students closely, as well as the other seventy-something other students on the team around America, at championships, as well as at home. 

In my opinion, Brooklyn Castle is definitely one of the best contemporary documentaries that I have ever seen. The usual boring, jog through the mud pace of most documentaries is replaced with an emotionally upbeat feeling, excellent interaction, and endearing characters. By the end of the film, you don’t only have the feeling that you know the kids well: you are rooting for them. 

Besides the actual game, Brooklyn Castle also documents the uphill struggle to maintain the chess club on a diminishing shoe-string budget, the lives of the players and their supportive immigrant families, who show us the true meaning of dedication. The students also work harder at chess than most of us work at anything, some spending 2 hours a day, seven times a week practicing with the chess club, and another few practicing with chess grand masters another couple hours a week, while balancing extensive school work, all to so they can go strut their stuff at national and regional tournaments. 

While we may usually think of watching chess as boring as watching paint-dry, the students of 318 make the whole thing into an exciting affair, each swift move precise and calculated then punctuated by a quick smack of the clock, the tangible intensity filling the room, and the whole game upholstered by their unique personalities.

Justus, a genius 6th grader who is just 50 points from becoming a Master, Pobo, a big hearted giant who splits his time between school, chess, and working at his Nigerian mother’s home daycare and ultimately coaching chess at 318 after he leaves, Rochelle, a quiet but competitive chess prodigy with the potential to become the first female African American master in the world, Alexis, a teen who doesn’t want to be good at chess just for himself, but for his mother and father from Nicaragua who came searching for the American dream, like all of the parents in the movie, and finding it for themselves when they realize their son will go to college. 

In the end it seems like all the characters win, leaving you with a satisfied feeling. My only qualms with this otherwise excellent film, is that in some section instead of focusing on the schools excellent chess team and abilities they overuse the fact that a lot of them are poor. But even this should not stop you from seeing this otherwise flawless, emotional, heartwarming, and ultimately brilliant movie. 

 

 

BRINGING THE TWO BOROUGHS TOGETHER

Sarah Ayla Safran ‘15

Hurricane Sandy affected many people in different ways, and one effect that it had on all BHSEC students, teachers, and faculty was the relocation to the BHSEC Queens campus in Long Island City. This relocation was a big deal for both schools, and student schedules had to be staggered, so as to allow both student bodies to attend (almost) all of their classes. Principal Valerie Thompson, teachers, and students at the Queens campus were all very open and welcoming. Despite the inconvenience for many people and the longer commutes, this change did give students of both BHSECs a chance to meet each other.

Yet this was not necessarily what happened. Although the Manhattan students were in the Queens building for a total of three days, Lauren Burke, a BHSEC Manhattan sophomore, admitted that she, “Didn’t speak to more than two people from BHSEC Queens.”

This is true for many students. Another sophomore said that she, “Only talked to the Queens kids to ask for directions.”

There was a clear separation between the two campuses, which may have been because most classes were not mixed between student bodies.

On Wednesday, November 7th, BHSEC Queens held their monthly student council meeting. All of the student union members from BHSEC Manhattan were invited, and this student-led meeting was centered on the topic of how to unite the two student bodies. One major issue that was discussed is the tendency towards animosity and competitiveness between the students of the two schools. Many of the students noticed some differences between the kids from BHSEC Queens and those from BHSEC Manhattan. One sophomore from BHSEC-Q, Tulah Fuchs, said she noticed that, “There were some obvious differences between the student bodies, namely the way we all dress, and the ratio of ethnicities in smaller groups of students. The Manhattan kids seem to dress in more daring styles, while many Queens kids wear more simple outfits.”

Many BHSEC-M students expressed these opinions as well. According to Alex Cohen, a BHSEC-M Y1, “They said, when asked what they thought about us, that the BHSEC Manhattan students are tall but BHSEC-Q kids are more stylish.”

This remark demonstrates the competitive spirit between the schools. One BHSEC-Q student also said that, “A lot of us felt that we had to defend ourselves as you guys came to our school.”

The student council addressed this, suggesting that maybe a competitive relationship between the schools could be utilized as a way to bring them together. Both schools have common sports teams, such as ultimate Frisbee, Basketball, and soccer, and if these teams were to play each other, the students could attend these events and spend more time getting to know each other. In addition, the possibility of a joint student newspaper was brought up; while the students wouldn’t necessarily spend time together to create this, they could communicate online in order to put it together. A BHSEC Manhattan and Queens newspaper would also keep the students informed about what is going on at the other school.

In terms of whether the students from the different campuses tried to interact with one another while they had the chance, Lucas McGill, another BHSEC-M sophomore, said that “In my experience, there wasn’t a whole lot of mingling… Maybe there would have been more if we had stayed there for longer.”

This is a valid point, and is true of interaction between the schools in general as well. Although the two high schools do have a few events together, most students don’t know very many people from the other school. Some students suggested that more events would bring the students together, and this plan was put into action at the “BHSEC M&Q Mixer” held on Friday, November 9th. Unfortunately, this event took place after school, and many students chose not to attend.

Another option proposed at the student council meeting was the possibility of some type of student exchange program between the two schools. The intention behind this suggestion was to enable BHSEC-Q students to take courses only offered at the Manhattan campus, and vice versa. This would also allow the students of the different schools to get to know each other better, but is not practical for many. In addition, most students chose their respective schools for a reason, and would not necessarily want to take classes at the other campus. While the issue of bringing the two schools together was not resolved, many ideas were proposed, and will hopefully be put into action. In the meantime, it was an interesting experience for the students of both schools to be able to meet each other.

 

 

HURRICANE DAMAGE IN BHSEC

Laura Leekin ’15

Hurricane Sandy is a cringe-worthy name that very few New Yorkers will forget. About three weeks ago, Manhattan streets south of 37th lost power, running water, and heat for over a week due to the hurricane. Along with the lack of electricity, much of the city faced high winds and flooding. BHSEC, located on 525 East Houston Street, stood strong but had major flooding of the first floor due to the fact we’re directly adjacent  to the East River. Floors two through five of BHSEC were unharmed. The gym, cafeteria, basement and PE closet suffered the most damage. The $11,000  gym floor had to be torn up and replaced because 3 feet of water had flooded it. A hard, black and white tiled floor has now replaced the soft, padded gray floor.  Approximately 140 students with bottom lockers lost everything in their lockers, from gym shoes to textbooks. Unfortunately, students will not be reimbursed for their lost possessions in the flood (students with middle and top lockers were unaffected).

A good portion of the equipment in the PE closet had to be thrown away. This means the PE curriculum will be modified slightly. New equipment is in the process of being ordered, and orders for the most urgent equipment have been placed. Some of the custodial equipment was destroyed, leaving nothing but tens of thousands of dollars in damage behind. The cafeteria’s chairs, tables, stoves, refrigerators, and cooking utensils had to be replaced. Dr. Lerner prices the total cost of the flood damage at hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, something less than terrible did come out of Sandy. While city employees and the custodial staff worked on making BHSEC flood-free and safe, students and teachers were relocated to BHSEC Queens. In this three day expedition, while getting lost in the middle of seemingly nowhere, new friends were made and learning experiences were gained. The Friday students and staff left BHSEC Manhattan they had no idea as to what was coming that weekend. The following entire week students were not in school. The Wednesday BHSEC Manhattan was relocated to Queens, a few problems presented longer commutes, lost class time, longer school days and overcrowding.   

Looking at BHSEC now, there aren’t many signs that, less than a month ago, parts of the East River resided in the school. Waste and other unhealthy particles of the river were cleaned out of BHSEC within a matter of days, thanks to the hardworking clean-up crew. BHSEC is getting back to its normal routine. Parent Teacher Conferences have been rescheduled for a later date. BHSEC is on the road to recovery, with school beginning at its usual 9:00 AM, instead of beginning at 10:50 AM, as it did in Queens. Luckily, the damage BHSEC suffered was only property, and no one was harmed. The school and its academic integrity still stands, and it will take far more than a Hurricane to tear that down.

 

 

HOW THE COMMUNITY SAVED RED HOOK

Eliza Fawcett, ’15

P.S. 15 still had no power.  A week after Hurricane Sandy had swept through Red Hook, there was still standing water in the basement of the local elementary school, and the dark hallways smelled of mildew. The entire school had to be relocated to P.S. 676. The principal, Peggy Wyns-Madison, greeted volunteers in the lobby, which was only lit by the sunlight streaming through the windows. The task she directed us towards seemed simple enough:  go to a classroom, find the list of supplies written by each teacher, and pack all the items into cardboard boxes.

As we began the work, however, the magnitude of the job became much more clear. We had to take out the contents of each individual student’s desk (journals, books, pencils, secret notes to friends), put it in a bag with their name on it, then pack up stacks of math and reading workbooks, teaching materials, social studies textbooks and science textbooks into what became fifteen cardboard boxes for a single room.  There were two floors in the building and at least ten classrooms per floor, not to mention administrative offices.

Suddenly, the process of cleaning up after Sandy seemed formidable. This was only one school out of many, and one building in a neighborhood left devastated by the storm.

But it seems that volunteers from across the city and locals themselves rallied efficiently and impressively to the cause of putting Red Hook back on its feet.  

If anything, the graffiti sprayed across boarded up homes said the most about how Red Hook has responded to Sandy.  There’s the warrior mentality:  “Give it ur best, Sandy.”  Then there’s the defensive plea:  “Oy Sandy! Enough already!” And finally, there’s the resolute call for recovery:  “Red Hook > Sandy.”

It was abundantly clear that in Red Hook, locals and other New Yorkers had aided relief efforts in any way possible, lending a hand where and whenever they could.  Whether that meant canvassing the neighborhood to find out who needed help, gathering volunteers, purchasing supplies, providing manual labor, or offering technical skills, the Red Hook community proficiently and forcefully shouldered the responsibility of dealing with the ravages of Hurricane Sandy.  Groups walked down the streets to donation centers carrying steaming pots of homemade food.  People biked through the streets with bags of supplies dangling from their handlebars. Fliers from the local acupuncture practice were affixed to lampposts, offering “Complementary acupuncture” that would allow people to “relax and reset [and thus] better face the challenges ahead.” Signs posted around the neighborhood gave information about local services for hurricane victims.  Most importantly, volunteers simply showed up.

When I went down to Red Hook a couple of days after Sandy hit, you could simply follow the flow of people and end up at 402 Van Brunt Street—one of the command centers of the Red Hook Initiative (RHI).  The RHI—whose motto is “Creating Change From Within”—is a local organization for social change that essentially assumed the task of organizing relief efforts in the aftermath of Sandy.  The organization quickly set up four branches in local office spaces or galleries, each devoted to different aspects of the cleanup and recovery efforts.    

The set-up at 402 Van Brunt, a small, first floor office space, was remarkably efficient. Previously, volunteers had canvassed the neighborhood, going door-to-door asking locals what kind of help they needed.  These requests were written on slips of paper, along with the address of the home and the number of people needed for the job.  Volunteers waiting at 402 Van Brunt received a task, got together a group, and headed off to the specified home. After assessing the situation, they went back to the office to gather supplies, and returned to do the job.  Thanks to a continuous flow of donations, the amount of supplies available to volunteers was extremely impressive. Tables were piled high with rolls of paper towel, jugs of bleach, bottles of cleaning fluid, rubber gloves, mops, brooms, garbage bags, dust masks, and many, many sponges. It seemed that the stockpiles were replenished as quickly as the supplies were removed for use.  

Gillian Kaye, a leading volunteer at the RHI office and, as it turned out, a BHSEC parent, gave a sense of the neighborhood scene over the last couple of days:  “before the sanitation trucks came it literally looked like everyone’s life was simply in ruined piles lining the streets.”

On the street, as another volunteer and I swept debris from the sidewalks, this was still very much the case.  Jagged pieces of wood.  Lots of broken glass. Rusted pipes.  Cracked CDs, a dirty bathrobe, a tattered Joy of Cooking, a Yankees pin.

We asked a local man as he went up his front steps if he needed any help with anything. Somewhat reluctantly, he agreed, and led us through his house.  His porch was lined with pairs of shoes, put out to dry like peppers in the sun. As we descended the stairs into his backyard, he shook his head.  The wooden fence around his yard had been torn down, and the garden was a mess of debris, uprooted plants, and heaps of dirt. Despondently, he motioned toward the little patio under his porch that was covered in a thick, dense layer of mud and leaves.  Rotted wood planks and roofing shingles were littered around, along with dented toys, stray bricks, and broken glass.  We walked over to the door that went from the patio to the first floor of his house, and he pointed to a clear, dark line halfway up the door.  It was a watermark, he explained.  The pressure of the water that had pounded through his backyard had bent the door so that you could stick an arm through the gap between the frame and the door.

We cleaned up his backyard, throwing out detritus, raking up the leaves and mud.  The job did not take long, but for a one man alone, overwhelmed, frustrated, and forlorn, it had seemed like a mighty task.  

We were just two people helping one old man. But across the city, questions have been raised about the adequacy of national relief efforts, as compared to the community-based response.

James Molinaro, the Borough President of Staten Island, recently had a press conference in which he called the efforts of the American Red Cross “an absolute disgrace,” for not helping Staten Island when it most needed aid.  “My advice to the people of Staten Island,” he said, “is do not donate to the Red Cross.”

According to Kaye, the Red Cross showed up to Red Hook “later”—long after, at least, community-based organizations were functioning at high speed. But it seems that local, grassroots organizations such as the RHI were successful enough, quickly enough, that anti-Red Cross sentiment did not arise.  “I haven’t heard it from people.” Kaye said. “I think people really got out and mobilized thousands of volunteers to just make it happen.  It was really a local effort here.”

Without the aid of national organizations, Red Hook put itself onto the road to recovery.  As Kaye said, with more than a hint of pride, “The community did it.  They did it…it was an unbelievable thing [that] instantly arose out of need and people just made it happen. And there was no national coordination at all; local politicians, local organizations and volunteers. That’s it.”

One local man seemed to sum it up perfectly.  “We really appreciate it,” he called out to us volunteers as we walked by with pails, sponges, and jugs of bleach.  “Y’all are doing more to help us than the Government.”

 

 

VOLUNTEERS, CONSTITUENTS, STAFF: AMERICA IN A CAMPAIGN OFFICE

Everett Pelzman ’15

BHSEC students are often entranced by their Lower East Side routine, a groove that seems to encapsulate our four years of high school early college here. Sometimes, dumbfounded by the brick barriers of our neighborhood, students forget that they live in the nation’s greatest city. And the majority of the time, we have no outlets to pull us from this trance. But for the last few months there was an outlet, albeit unnoticed by many and otherworldly to some. Working for a campaign is a perfect way to meet fellow New Yorkers you would otherwise brush by on the street, characters of all shapes and sizes and attitudes and odors and habits, volunteers and voters and campaign staff. No matter their background, they all share something in common, and this is a commitment to a candidate, a unifying force missing from most public settings.

There were those from years past, whose remarkable energy set them off pace with the rest of the pack. The occasional stranger would sit by the computers until dawn and enter digits and select options from dropdown boxes. Some people would enter rooms to almost immediate, raucous applause, just because they were loved. Others would shift into the background, 2012 tees backed by an ever-camouflaging block of Forward posters. Even others spent nights across the nation curled up with a dozen boxes of a dozen water bottles each, waiting to head off to the next swing state in the morning. A few took sabbaticals from powerful careers in France or Australia (yes, almost always France or Australia) and seamlessly joined the staff. The aspiring congressman, a Wall Street banker just one year prior, learning a little bit about campaign life. A few were always on the phones, and most phone-bankers didn’t know how to use one. A man locked up yesterday, making calls for the President today, shades protruding his eyes, hands grabbing shoulders asking for help. The woman with glossy makeup and the features of a model who did not know how to use a computer mouse, and her husband who tried to help, but was not able to either. Or the man who diligently came in every day after work for five weeks and organized teams and riled up volunteers, but who is now back to working a part time job behind a dull cubicle in midtown Manhattan.

In addition, we have the retired woman who always forgot how to do things but was utterly genuine in everything she did. Or the man with no expression who sometimes shouted, ordered, and organized, but had a legitimate reason for needing to have the President reelected. The young college student turned data-extraordinaire or the college student with a crammed social life who gave it all up. People who poured out their personal stories, their every movement reflecting their mission, and those who knew none of why they were there, or did not even really care. The man who circulated around phone banks, dishing out suspicious cranberry cookies and lentil this and lentil that. The woman without a home because of Hurricane Sandy who created one in a campaign office and called for three days straight, and went to Ohio without a coat for a week. Some came from out of state, as far as the Midwest, and spent a year in New York because they were needed here.

Beyond that were the voters to be contacted, strange faces to be seen, and awkward conversations to be had. A couple of evangelicals supporting the President in Pennsylvania, whose neighbors did not know it was election day. Or those who let you test your foreign language skills out on them, and the boy who followed canvassers around for a day. An elderly woman spoken to on the phone who did not stop calling back for at least a month, and the aggressive store manager who delivered a well-rehearsed call for Libertarianism from behind a musty counter packed with Twinkies in Easton, Pennsylvania. There are Americans who laugh at volunteers for wasting their time, and those who offer up baked goods and more buttons in support. It is not tough to find complex arguments that challenge Nate Silver’s wisdom and the essence of the electoral system on the streets of Philadelphia, nor is it tough to find a Columbia student who does not know that one has to register in order to vote.

America is a sea full of individual voters with individual perspectives. The ballot they cast at the polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of the month of November every few years might be on their travels to work, in between their wandering the streets, or, for many, early, because it is too much to think about on the day of. Voting, for many, is part of a transition between two places, often as simple as the home and the office. The volunteers walk on the other side of a very thin line, and are not much different at all. They too make up a diverse body and are simply in transition in life. And when the public can become part of a group of people in transition, working on the same mission but all on different tracks, every phone call moving them closer to leaving the two month act and pushing back into life again, only then does the public see the public. And when New Yorkers, shuffling hurriedly through every day, BHSEC students included, have the opportunity to see the public in this environment, working on a campaign, they truly have a privilege. I mean, it is America, right there before your eyes.

 

 

CUE THE RAIN

Riley Pearsall ‘15

The moment a crane on 57th Street bent in half as though a vengeful storm god had punched it in the gut was the moment many New Yorkers realized Hurricane Sandy was no pushover like its dear Aunt Irene. So far (as of November 5th), out of the 60% of BHSEC students polled by the PTA, 31 families reported property damage or flooding and 22 have been evacuated, as their homes are currently inhabitable. More still spent days in darkness as power outages swept downtown Manhattan and areas close to the rivers in all boroughs. And every student still faces the headaches of a new commute and classes packed to the brim as we temporarily to BHSEC Queens after the flooding of the seemingly impenetrable fortress that is the BHSEC Manhattan building.

In light of all this bad news, student reaction to Sandy has been mostly negative, regardless of the unanticipated twelve-day weekend. Those students whose lives have been affected the most severely and who still lack power cannot be reached; their stories remained untold. But nearly every student I interviewed showed signs of the onset of cabin fever, regardless of whether they rode out the storm unscathed or were forced from their homes. “It’s a serious downer not being able to see my classmates,” said Ethan Graham’15, expressing the common view that socialization, if not the academics of school, had been sorely missed during the hiatus.

Because of the damage to the public transportation system, lockout from social media due to power outages, and homework on top of it all, reaching friends required Herculean effort. Many have been almost entirely isolated. “I haven’t left my house in a week,” said Eli Rose ’15. “I have no idea what it looks like outside.”

Students with power outages in flooded neighborhoods suffered the worst, as they were left without information about when the storm would end and utilities would return. “Hurricane Sandy showed me how lucky I was to have Internet and power before and how dependent we have become on electronics and the media,” said Isabel Grey ’15, who quickly grew frustrated by Sandy when she lost power and was left with little to do for the next several days. While Isabel was able to keep her sanity by playing Monopoly with a friend in her building, it was no replacement for the vast entertainment system of the Internet when she was faced with an unprecedented amount of free time.

Others, however, took a more positive spin on the hurricane. A storm like Sandy has not been seen in New York for years, and the freshness of the experience was invigorating for some. Many students learned what life would be like if they lived in Atlantis, and anybody with news access got to view spectacular footage of floating cars, toppled trees and lower Manhattan completely darkened as the City that Never Sleeps settled down for a quick nap. “There was something exciting about the feeling of danger,” said Lucas McGill ’15, “hearing the wind whip against the windows and trees blowing around.”

Students who faced power outages or property damage were perhaps less amused by the strength of the storm than those who stayed high and dry, but Wendy Li ’15, who evacuated after losing power, heat and water, was not jaded by her hardships. “I thought it was an adventure,” she said. “There was no pressure, no interruptions, no distractions. Hurricane Sandy gave us a few extra days to finish our homework and catch up on sleep.”

Wendy’s view was especially common among students who were unaffected by the storm. Full access to the Internet and television with an unexpected surplus of time turned the hurricane into an impromptu vacation for these lucky students. This reporter can attest to the special satisfaction of movie marathons and home-cooked meals when one was expecting the normal avalanche of homework.

Regardless of one’s feelings about the break, most students share a sense of trepidation about the return to school. While there are few places harder to reach than our beloved BHSEC, relocation to BHSEC Queens on a subway system that just got back on its feet presents an additional challenge to the already complex process of getting students back to school. Overloaded classes with multiple teachers, students sitting on the floor and an unfamiliar building pose a severe impediment to learning. Many students are without crucial materials or assignments that were left in the lockers of the Manhattan campus, and worse off yet are those with bottom lockers that were drenched with a toxic cocktail of river water, sewage, boiler fuel, and hydraulic fluid; these lockers have been cleared of their contents to prevent a safety hazard. Teachers will have to decide on their own how to grade the lost notebooks of these students, but studying for midterms and finals will be much harder for these unfortunate few.

Yet even these difficulties come with a benefit for some. “You used to think I was crazy for living in Queens and going to BHSEC Manhattan,” said Cindy Prado ’15. “Now all of you will perish and I get to wake up late!”

Indeed, there is a silver lining for us all, albeit one less bright than Cindy’s. We are alive and relatively well, and for most of us, life is quickly returning to normal.

 

 

HURRICANE SANDY

Hannah Frishberg ’13

Maybe if Hurricane Sandy had had a scarier name New Yorkers would have taken her more seriously; but we didn’t. “Irene didn’t do anything, so I’m not evacuating for this one either,” a friend in Sheepshead Bay told me, mere hours before his power went out and six feet of water flooded the ground floor of his apartment building, leaving his family surrounded and stranded in the dark.

The damage done by this Frankenstorm was astounding: the subway submerged, Breezy Point in flames, Coney Island washed out to sea, and Lower Manhattan without power. For a moment, the City That Never Sleeps was turned off. A new neighborhood was even created: SoPo, for South of Power. For many, the full extent of the destruction was revealed days after the fact, since, without power, they only had access to the view from their window. Facebook became a lifeline of current information, my newsfeed filled with status updates and pictures which often brought information about the state of neighborhoods well before networks reported on them. The ubiquitous picture of BHSEC underwater far predated any official emails, thus simultaneously building a community of online students and creating an eerie isolation from reality. Sophie Lilla ’12 spoke for many when she reposted the photo with the heading, “BHSEC, you changed my life and gave me the best education. I hope you’re okay. Current students, be thankful for the education you’re getting and if you need volunteers alumni living in NYC will help out.” A petition to expedite health and safety reviews of BHSEC Manhattan reached 250 signatures. Photos of Sandy dominated social media to the point that posts on more standard fodder (like new movies and relationship statuses) seemed selfish and tactless. For a moment, and then a day, and now weeks, we have all been constantly virtually reminded that, for now, we are New Yorkers not because together we scoff at tourists and walk quickly, but because the images on our newsfeeds and the sights in our backyards are pocked by property damage and sometimes apocalyptic-level destruction (pictures from The Day After Tomorrow mixed in unrecognizably with cell phone shots of Brighton Beach), continuous pixelated reminders that our city has been wounded.

We lost six days of school to the storm, the largest amount of cancelled school days at NYC public schools since the 1968 strikes, and that’s not including our three day relocation to BHSEC Queens. Suddenly, smack in the middle of first semester, when the homework load seems endless and time moves faster than light, we had an unprecedented amount of free time and no way to get anywhere. Unfortunately, there is nothing less motivating than a citywide crisis, and nothing more inconvenient than not having internet or lights, and so time quickly slowed down to a painful slog as we waited for our city to heal itself (and then we would start homework again).

The death toll in New York City alone currently stands at 41. That number may seem low in a city of eight million, but the deaths were all so random and all so innocent that it becomes difficult to think about after awhile without coming to truly fear the power of nature. I lost a friend in the storm. Jacob Vogelman was a coworker at my summer job at a day camp in Prospect Park. He was the most kindhearted, generous, and hardworking techie to be found, and it was his job to deliver popsicles to the campers at the end of every day, leading to his title of Popsicle Man. He was 24. He was a first responder, accompanying his childhood friend Jessie to check on her cancer-stricken father in Ditmas Park. While out walking Jessie’s father’s dog, in the height of the storm, a tree fell and crushed them both. At camp, Jake was ubiquitous, always the one fixing something on top of a tall ladder, with a sharp knife, or some other dangerous tool which the less skilled could easily hurt themselves with. He was dependable, beloved, and competent at anything and everything; the last person you would expect to die in a storm. It is a testament to the ability of nature that the winds alone can extinguish the life spark of as beautiful a soul as Jake’s, blow out the lights of as powerful a place as New York City.

Nothing good came out of Hurricane Sandy, but as it always is in times of tragedy, from a massive city is exposed a massive community. At one of Jake’s memorial services a fellow coworker and South Carolina native who moved to the city three years ago commented that, “This is the first time I’ve really been able to see that, underneath its scary urban façade, New York is truly one big family.” And it’s true. Because when the power goes out and the waters rise and the trees crash down upon the Earth and our loved ones, New York City’s cement face breaks down, and the inner love is exposed.

I wish I could end with some kind of take away message about global warming, about the future, about the fact that we’ve had two once-in-a-century storms in 18 months, but really all I can say is that I believe Hurricane Sandy has impacted us far more than we realize now. In the same way that people ask “Where were you on 9/11?” we will likely ask in years to come “How were you impacted by Sandy?” And still it’s not over. The Rockaways remain in ruins, death tolls are rising as elderly people in high rises and other difficult to reach locations aren’t given proper assistance, and it is questionable whether Coney Island will ever again be what it was in recent years. I feel powerless in the face of the damage, in the face of nature, but I find reassurance in the knowledge that the amount of love and empathy and kindness in New Yorkers allows us to shine even when the power is out.

 

 

DISPATCHES FROM THE ROCKAWAYS

Eliza Fawcett, ’15

Hurricane Sandy has left the Rockaways a war zone. Military convoys grind through the streets, passing sidewalks piled high with sand, dirt, and detritus. Camouflaged trucks, loaded with debris, follow city buses and Red Cross vans down deserted streets. Dark military helicopters circle in the air like eagles, moving swiftly over a barren beach landscape.  The remains of buildings destroyed by fire poke jaggedly into the bleak sky, burnt and bare. Members of the National Guard move through the area, working with the Sanitation Department to lift ruined mattresses, rotted pieces of furniture, smashed appliances, fiberglass insulation, battered pieces of walls, and tons of waterlogged possessions into garbage trucks.  Makeshift tents, put up in parking lots and front lawns, offer people the basics: food, water, and warmth. Countless pieces of clothing are draped over fences and front steps, lying limp under a sunless sky.  Dust hangs in the air, thick and pervasive. Locals gather in ragged circles outside of their ravaged homes, sitting beside piles of debris that once made up their livelihoods.

The extent to which the Rockaways were devastated is harrowing. I was expecting flooded basements, neatly tied garbage bags of waste, the camaraderie that arises from times of adversity. Instead, I found a neighborhood in ruins. Cars twisted and broken, crumpled as though they were made of paper.  A great swath of the solid timber boardwalk lying mangled at least 100 yards away from where the boardwalk had once been.  

My parents and I had gone down to the Rockaways to help a local group shovel out cars from under sand. It took at least two hours to get out there – a long subway ride followed by a long wait for a late city bus, and then a ride clogged by traffic over the Marine Parkway Bridge that connects Brooklyn to the Rockaway Peninsula of Queens. At first, our bus, crowded with volunteers, was filled with the cheerful banter of people looking forward to “doing their part.” People clutched cups of coffee and chatted about this and that. One woman described how she had had a front-row seat on the drama of the infamous crane that, during the storm, snapped backwards and swung dangerously over midtown Manhattan. “Nothing happened, though,” she said with a laugh. When Robert boarded the bus, however, things began to sound much different.

Robert had the rough-shaven face of a construction worker, and the coarse voice of a longtime smoker. He got on from the back of the bus, rapping noisily on the glass until we opened the door to let him on.  Brandishing his Metrocard defensively, he explained that with his tool bag, getting on at the front would be too much of an effort. Robert quickly noticed the shovels that my father was holding. “I see you’re geared up,” he said, by way of an introduction. “Me too. I’m Robert.” Robert told us that he was going out to Breezy Point to help one of his friends clean out his house. He had lots of friends out on the Rockaways, we soon learned, and the stories he sketched out for us were ominous harbingers of what lay ahead. The house of one of his friends, Irene, had water up to the ceiling of its first floor.  The house of Irene’s father-in-law had been swept out to sea. Her daughter’s house had been burned to the ground. “It’s like 9/11,” he said, “only widespread.”

As the bus sped into the Rockaways, we began to understand just what Robert meant. Our first sight of the wreckage of the area was the Jacob Riis Park parking lot, which had been converted into a dumping ground – at least ten full city blocks long – of debris.  Excavator arms towered over mountains ranges of detritus.  The bus seemed to become quieter as we passed by. If this was the introduction, what would lie ahead?  

When we stepped off the bus, we descended into a different kind of air, one laden with dust and diesel fumes, and later, sewage. Cops in dust masks directed traffic.  We made our way to the waterfront, confronting the increasing enormity and intensity of the devastation with each step.  

We passed an entire half a block that had been razed by fire. Only a couple brick walls and a few storefronts – the glass shattered, edifices blackened by fire – still stood. But the remaining walls were simply suggestions of what had once been.  One swath of the block was simply a chaotic junkyard of doors, twisted steel support beams, pipes, rubble, and a white sign reading “Christmas.”

Piles of debris lined every block, one for each home. Homeowners milled around, cleaning and waiting.  Handwritten signs affixed to their front doors indicated fears of looting. One read, “Have gun. Will shoot you.” Another stated, “Step into my house and you will be shot. No questions asked.”

We walked by Waterside High School, where articles of clothing dangled from the chain-link fence bordering the playing field, which itself was now a sea of mud and sand. The parking lots of the public housing projects at the water’s edge were surreal in the extent of their devastation.  The water that had rushed through the streets of the Rockaways overnight had lifted up cars, bashed them together under the force of waves, and strewn them about the neighborhood. Cars lay belly-up, were balanced on their sides, or one on top of another – tires of one smashing through the windshield of another.      

As we approached the waterfront, a formidable sight greeted us:  only the concrete support arches of a boardwalk that had once stretched across the length of the beach remained.  The wooden planks were strewn across the beach, giant slabs of concrete were fragmented into abstract forms.  There was simply no boardwalk to be seen.

When we arrived at the designated volunteer spot, we were greeted by the orange-shirted members of the Rockaways Waterfront Alliance, who were methodically shoveling sand from sidewalks, depositing it into buckets, and then heaving it into a towering pile that was accumulating by the side of the road. It was long and hard work for what would have taken a bulldozer a couple minutes; but no bulldozer was in sight.

Later, as we walked back to the bus stop, past gas stations with no gas, a Sleepy’s with its ruined mattresses piled high in the parking lot, and the slow procession of trucks loaded with debris, a man approached us. “Do you know when the power is going to come back on?” he asked, arms outstretched, palms upwards. No, we didn’t know.

 

QUADROPHONICS 

 

SONIC AMUSEMENTS!

Cena Loffredo, ‘15 and Lilabet Johnstongil, ‘15

Our equivalent of Teacherisms but with band names! Basically, Sonic Amusements is an assortment of mildly amusing and real band (or album) names that will eventually, hopefully be submitted by readers.

1) When Saints Go Machine                                     

2) 69 Love Song                                                    

3) Glitter Penis                                                           

4) The War on Drugs                                     

5) Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin               

6) The Russian Futurists

7) Times New Viking

8) Drink Me

9) Oneohtrix Point Never

10) Starf***er

If you have submissions for Sonic Amusements, send them to cena.loffredo@gmail.com or lilabetgilabet@gmail.com. Only real bands/albums will be accepted unless you come up with a really, really, really funny fake name. The pressure is on. 

 

 

TEACHER PLAYLIST

Sunday, December 09, 2012 By Oliver Divone ’15

A list of some of our teachers’ favorite songs, albums, and types of music:

Mr. Rosenbaum – The Beatles, favorite albums being Revolver and Rubber Soul

Mr. Garces Kiley – The Black Key’s “Everlasting Light”

Dr. Matthews – The Gorillaz’ “Empire Ants”.  Other favorite bands include The Jam, The Minute Men, and The Replacements.

Mr. Rubenstein – Bach’s “The Goldberg Variations”

Dr. Chaterpaul- Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly”. Dr. Chaterpaul likes most R&B music.

Mr. Mcveigh- Puff Daddy’s Led Zeppelin recreation “Come With Me”

Ms. Marasigan – Freestyler’s “Push Up”

 

 

THE TALKING HEADS DON’T NEED TO MAKE SENSE

Lucas McGill ’15

If you’re like me, the music you like to listen to depends on the mood you’re in. You go through phases, one month you can’t stop listening to that one song (you know the one), and the next you pick up that song or that artist you’d completely forgotten, and they become your new fixation. But, if you’re really like me, there’s that one band that you never forget, that one band you can listen to in any mood. For me, that’s without a doubt the Talking Heads. The Talking Heads was a new wave band in their heyday during the 80’s. If you read last months review of David Byrne’s joint concert, you already have some idea of their style. David Byrne was the Talking Heads front man. He is a… character.

I always try to give you one album or performance to sum up the artist behind it, and for the Talking Heads, that is the live show Stop Making Sense (1984, Pantages Theater, Hollywood, California). I will always regard this movie to be one of the best films of a live performance ever, possibly the best, challenged only by a few, such as The Who, Live at Leeds. The live show sums up everything about the band, from their amazing, energetic, often beautiful music, to their strange lyrics and stranger stage presence.

As with any performance, it ain’t worth your time if the music isn’t good. And let me assure you it is good. In fact this is the album that made me realize just how good music could be. This is the album that made me love music. As the live show progresses, more members of the band show up on stage. David Byrne walks out on stage after the opening credits roll, wearing a gray suit and an acoustic guitar, carrying a tape recorder. He plays through the famous “Psycho Killer”, playing the drum line in tape form. Afterwards, Tina Weymouth brings her bass on stage to play a moving version of “Heaven”. After this it’s not long before the stage is covered in drum sets, hand drums, keyboards, electric guitars, backup vocalists, and guest performers, the members of Parliament. This all culminates in an incredible performance of “Cross-eyed and Painless” that literally has the whole audience dancing. I fell in love with this show just listening to the album, without seeing the movie. My love only grew for it when I witnessed David Byrne’s antics on stage for the first time.

After all, what really makes the Talking Heads the Talking Heads is their style. Despite being an excellent rhythm guitarist, David Byrne demands attention with his unheard-of, riotous, hilarious and yet sincere behavior. Everything from running laps around the stage during “Life During Wartime”, dancing with a lamp in the end of “Naïve Melody (This Must be the Place)”, doing what I like to call the David Byrne Worm (also in “Life During Wartime”), the pure energy with which they perform numbers like “Burning Down the House”, to the unforgettable Big Suit (A suit worn by Byrne, about ten sizes too large) established Talking Heads in my mind as an incredibly powerful group, as intense as they are goofy. This movie made me regret that I hadn’t been born early enough to see this band live.

I’ve thought for so long over lines like “if you feel like you’re in a wormhole, you feel like going home, you feel like talking to someone, who knows the difference between right and wrong”, or “lost my shape. Trying to act casual. Can’t stop. I might end up in the hospital,” and “We’re killing the beast, kill it!”. What do they mean? What were the Talking Heads trying to say by mocking the stranger aspects of human behavior? What does David Byrne mean when he points out that “We got great big bodies…We got great big heads!” or when he dons the Big Suit. Can we take a description of urban warfare like “Life During Wartime” or a love song like “Naïve Melody” at face value? Or is there a deeper meaning to the lyrics? It’s impossible to over analyze the Talking Heads because the music is so damn good! You can listen to “What a Day That Was” for hours and it won’t get old, and when David Byrne starts singing about lightening bolts and electrical stores, you can try to figure out what he means, and you might figure it out to some extent, but it’s vague enough that different listeners can draw their own conclusions.

Lastly, what I love about this music most, is that if you want to try to find the meaning to it, you’re welcome to, but if you just want something energetic and fast to jump around and dance to, nothing tops the energy and power crammed into every minute of this show.

Well, that about sums up my love of Talking Heads, particularly Stop Making Sense. If this sounds interesting to you, check out the live show (the full performance is on YouTube) as well as their studio albums Speaking In Tongues, More Songs About Buildings and Food, and Fear of Music.

 

 

BAD BOOKS’ II

Travis Coles ’15

II comes to you from a supergroup band by the name of Bad Books. Singer/guitarist Andy Hull is also the singer/guitarist from the band Manchester Orchestra, and other singer/guitarist Kevin Devine is a solo artist. This album was made in ten days according to Hull, though you wouldn’t know by the quality of the music. Hull said that the band would write the songs and record them simultaneously. Clearly, the writing process for this album was a very rushed process.

Even with all the rush, II is a very good album, definitely better than their debut self-titled record (though I still recommend that highly). The album starts off with the familiar “The After Party,” where Hull exclaims, “It’s so good to be alone, I need to be alone, I hate to be alone.” A track that gets better as it goes on and one where you feel Hull’s indecisiveness. “Forest Whitaker,” the single off the record, is a song which channels The Strokes “Room on Fire” in what the band calls “video-game guitar pedals”. “Pytor” is a beautiful acoustic track about Peter the Great, followed by the very-good “Friendly Advice” in which Hull shows his vulnerability, saying “I don’t mind if we’re alone, as long as we’re both alone, and by that I mean you can’t speak with anything without me.” The closing track is my personal favorite, “Ambivalent Peaks”. Devine sings on that, an acoustic track where Hull and Devine’s harmonies make you long for more Bad Books music than we get. But then you remember Bad Books is only a side project. But then you remember that these members have other music that is better than Bad Books. As good as this album is, it is not as good as any of the three Manchester Orchestra albums: I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child, Everything to Nothing or Simple Math. Either way, this is a great album and I highly recommend it, and if you like this, give Manchester Orchestra a listen.

Rating: 8/10

Other October Releases to Consider Listening To

-The fun and exciting Lightning by Matt and Kim. Rating: 7/10

-Another good Muse album, The 2nd Law. Rating: 6/10

-The Vaccines get better on Come of Age. Rating: 7/10

-Titus Andronicus’ good follow-up to Monitor, Local Business. Rating: 7/10

-Death Cab for Cutie’s frontman Ben Gibbard’s Former Lives. Rating: 6/10

 

 

LED ZEPPELIN CELEBRATION DAY MOVIE

Oliver Divone ’15

In 2007, British heavy metal band Led Zeppelin played their first public show in 27 years at London’s O2 arena. 20 million fans signed up for the raffle to get tickets to see the event, but only 18,000 people actually won tickets. As a result, Led Zeppelin’s legendary reunion was only viewed by a select few. That is, until now. The latest Led Zeppelin movie, entitled Celebration Day is to be released on blue ray DVD as well as in multiple audio formats on November 19th. The movie was also shown in theaters for three days, from October 17th to 20th.

Led Zeppelin formed in 1968, out of the ashes of the early British rock band The Yardbirds, which included such greats as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. After the Yardbirds split, Jimmy Page, looking for musicians to fill their open spots, acquired Robert Plant on vocals, John Paul Johns on bass, and John Bonham on drums. Originally calling themselves the New Yardbirds, the band quickly changed their name to Led Zeppelin after Keith Moon, the drummer for the already successful British band known as The Who, made a joke about how this new band would go down faster than a “led zeppelin.”

The band grew in popularity with the release of Led Zeppelin I, II, III, and Led Zeppelin IV, which included the massive hit “Stairway to Heaven”.  From 1968 through 1980, Led Zeppelin was one of the biggest rock bands on the music scene, and even after their split in 1980, after the unfortunate death of drummer John Bonham, Zeppelin remains as one of the most musically and economically successful bands of all time.

Hearing the news of being able to see one of my favorite bands on the big screen among other fans was a big shock, and I, among thousands of other fans, flocked theaters for the chance to see the concert film.

Arriving at the cinema at 10 o’clock on Friday the 20th, I bought my ticket and proceeded to the theater, where I was struck by the generational difference of all the viewers, brought together by the chance to see a great band once again on the big screen. The lights dimmed and the movie started, as the original members of Led Zeppelin appeared on the screen along with drummer Jason Bonham, John Bonham’s son.

At first, the band didn’t seem up to the challenge of living up to the great showmanship they are remembered and cherished for. Robert Plant seemed hesitant to give it his all, and being much older didn’t seem to be able to hit all the high notes in the songs, which is his signature singing style. Although they started off slow, they seemed to warm up to the audience and expectations by their third song, the classic “Black Dog.” By this time the band seemed to be back in the grove.

The next few songs surprised me, pulling out songs from their 1975 album Physical Graffiti like “In My Time of Dying” and “Trampled Under Foot.” The year Physical Graffiti came out, Led Zeppelin went on tour, but the tour was not one of their best. Jimmy Page had broken his hand and Robert Plant had a cold, so they could not give the performance their all. As a result there are very few good quality live recordings of these songs.

Hearing them play live in 2007 made me realize how good Led Zeppelin still was after all these years. Yes they were old and yes the music they played was recorded over 30 years ago, but they could still rock an audience of thousands; something many bands of today fail to do.

The rest of the show was filled with hits like “Stairway to Heaven,” which while being the most famous song of the night was in my opinion not the best song by far. Other songs were “Dazed and Confused,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “No Quarter,” an eerie song about Vikings and the cold dregs of winter.

The band ended their set with another classic from Physical Graffiti, “Kashmir,” and was given a roaring applause from not only the fans at the O2 arena but also the fans that came to watch the concert in the theater. They were called back for two encores by the fans at the arena, the first playing a classic from their second album, “Whole Lotta Love” and the second encore, and in my opinion the best song of the night “Rock and Roll”.

 “Rock and Roll” seemed to bring out the kid in the three original members again, Robert Plant smiling while singing the words, “been a long time since I rock and rolled,” standing back to back with Jimmy Page, who nailed the guitar solo, and the final drum solo of the night from Jason Bonham, who filled his father’s shoes with his fantastic skill and drumming capabilities.

All and all, I think the concert really showed that while some of the most classic bands from the 60’s and 70’s may be old, they can still rock an audience of all kinds and all ages.

 

 

GOOD KID, M.A.A.D. CITY

Julian Librizzi ’15

Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is Los Angeles rapper Kendrick Lamar’s second studio album, released on October 22, 2012. For most hip-hop fans, this album was highly anticipated. Kendrick Lamar isn’t your stereotypical mainstream artist. For one thing, the word “swag” is notably absent from any lyric in this album. Second, his lyrics are diverse, not repeating the same phrase for a song’s entirety, which is a welcome relief. Lamar was first noticed by Dr. Dre after Dre heard Lamar’s song “Ignorance Is Bliss”, and subsequently Dr. Dre is one of the major producers of this album.

One of the things Kendrick Lamar is famous for is the fact that he changes his voice pitch using technology on almost all of the songs he makes. For instance, he uses it to symbolize something (i.e. his conscience in the song Swimming Pools). It works well, and tends to convey much more thematic importance than other artists who abuse auto tune (think Nicki Minaj).

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is definitely an album you should download if you are a rap/hip-hop fan. The beats are amazing, Kendrick is as good if not better on this album than his first, and the guest appearances fit in perfectly. If you are not that big of a hip-hop fan, I would recommend listening to the tracks “Now Or Never ft. Mary J Bilge”, “Sherane”, “The Art Of Peer Pressure,” “Sing About Me”, or “Poetic Justice ft. Drake”. Some of these songs you have to listen to more than once to get exactly what Kendrick is talking about. As I previously stated, don’t listen to this album expecting a stereotypical rap album. It is not similar at all. So it is a perfect album for casual rap fans, rap enthusiasts, or people who never got into the genre.

All of the songs I mentioned previously I would recommend you download if you don’t feel like downloading the entire album, but add the song “Good Kid”, the song “M.A.A.D. City, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, “Swimming Pools”, and “Recipe” to that list. Honestly, I didn’t like one of the most popular songs on this album, “Money Trees ft. Jay Rock”. It didn’t have a flow to it that other songs on this album had. “Backstreet Freestyle” falls to the same fate. One other thing I didn’t like about this album was that almost all of the songs had some sort of voicemail after the songs ended. It got old after about the third song.

In conclusion, this album is worth your time. It is one of the best Rap/R&B albums of the year, rivaling one of my favorite albums ever, Channel Orange by Frank Ocean, which came out in July. Honestly, I can’t think of a better album. 

 
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