VOLUME 10, ISSUE 7 (JUNE 2013)

KEITH HARING AND HIS MURAL ON BHSEC’S NORTH WALL

Ashley Abou-Suleiman ’13

Keith Haring, born on May 4, 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, was a courageous artist and social activist. His art served in New York City and fed off of the NYC culture of the 1980s. His art represented concepts of anti-drug use, birth, death, and war. At an early age, Haring established an inclination for drawing, having learned cartooning skills from his father and also from popular culture at the time.  When he moved to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts in 1978, he immediately became intrigued by the graffiti in the alternative art community of the downtown streets, seeing potential for political messages. Soon enough, Haring began showcasing his artwork in subway stations, drawing with white chalk on the black backgrounds of unused advertising panels. His famous simply drawn chalk outlines of interlocking bodies became familiar to frequent subway riders. Although Haring was arrested numerous times for illegally spray-painting on building walls, he continued to paint his murals, all the while gaining admiration for his art from the public and the international art community. Haring’s philosophy was that art should be available to everyone, and this was enhanced by his fresh and simple style in art. Diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, Haring passed away in 1990, leaving his legacy and extraordinary artwork recognized worldwide.

In the 1980s, Haring’s artwork was far more visible on the Lower East Side than it is today. In fact, the north wall of BHSEC was one of his many canvases for a time. Taking a look at the north wall of the BHSEC Manhattan building, underneath the large blue man currently painted on the wall hides a Keith Haring mural.  In 1986, back when BHSEC’s building, 525 East Houston St., was elementary school P.S. 97, Haring presumably climbed over the fence into the yard, and without permission, painted on the north wall of the school. The principal of P.S. 97 at the time was of course angry; however, afterwards, Haring formally asked the principal for permission to paint on the wall and was granted approval. Haring’s refreshing black-and-white mural included his signature black-outlined, interlocking cartoon-like creations and an important message conveyed through the text “LIFE IS FRESH CRACK IS WACK!” This text was meant to communicate a serious anti-drug message to the community. According to Principal Lerner, it would be impossible to restore the original “Crack is Wack” mural underneath the current one, and it would need to be re-commissioned, the cost of which would be a $30,000. The primary issue in re-commissioning, however, is not the price so much as the rights, as the Keith Haring Foundation owns the design as its intellectual property

Another famous Haring mural can be seen at East 127th St. and 2nd avenue, overlooking the FDR Drive at the Crack is Wack Playground. At this playground stands a handball court wall with a mural painted on it known as the “Crack is Wack” mural. Painted in 1986, this mural, instantly recognizable as a Haring work of art, immediately stands out to any passersby simply because of its bright red background and Haring’s signature style of interlocking cartoon-like bodies, pigmented colors, and thick black outlines. Haring created this mural with the same intentions for the mural painted on the north wall of BHSEC that same year: to convey a serious anti-drug message to the community. In addition to his presence on the Lower East Side, Haring also painted a mural on Avenue D in 1983. It was restored and commissioned by the Keith Haring Foundation later on but was whitewashed in 2009 since it was only meant to stay up for a short period of time.   

Since Haring’s passing because of AIDS on February 16, 1990, his artwork has been cherished and recognized all over the world. The Keith Haring Foundation, that Haring established before his death, has been preserving the legacy of the famous artist while educating the public about Haring’s life and career as well raising money for AIDS and children’s charities.

 

 

LET’S EXCHANGE THOUGHTS!

Eddie Westerman ’13

Would you rather spend the rest of your life caked in blood or cow manure?

I’d have to say blood.  At least then it could be a light coating and maybe even fashionable. I could pretend to be permanently red tinted or an alien. But cow manure would smell horrible and people wouldn’t want to spend time with me. 

What does my font choice say about me?

Like it or not, your font choice says a lot about you.  People who use bold fonts were likely born in January or February, while cursive and slight users often were born on the 20th of the month or around midnight. Those who use Webdings or Times New Roman in 10 point are often unsatisfied with life. 

If you owned a farm, what vegetable would you sow?

Radishes or oranges. 

What were the best and worst years of your life?

Well four and six were pretty good, so was 11. Worst: 12 and 15 ugh. 

Why do people even eat celery?

What kind of a question is this?  People can eat whatever they want, jeez.  SOME PEOPLE LIKE CELERY.  

How many petals are on a rose?

Between 20-50 depending on the rose!!! Love me, love me not? #SeventhGrade #JustSaid12WasABadYearNowYouKnowWhy #LoveMeNot

How many colors are there?

I am scared of infinity so I’m leaving this one unanswered and changing it to:

What’s the scariest color?

Pure white is harsh on the eyes. Robotic chrome is scary.  I have bad associations with rusty green and too much black/white contrast. The sun can be scary.  And you can’t ever run from the sun. 

Which is a better word, click or clack?

Click. 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

If I don’t become a massively successful rock star, it would be nice to run a business. I’m also considering priest and candle maker as potential careers. 

Now that you’re leaving BHSEC, are there any final words you’d like to say?

I’d like to thank the academy.

 

 

THE GREAT GATSBY

Alex Cohen ’14

“The Great Gatsby” is a film based not only on a famous book of the same name, but on numerous remakes. That in itself shouldn’t be a recipe for disaster, considering it is easy enough to make a solid film when there’s a great piece of literature behind it, but this film is most certainly a disaster. The movie was true to the novel, but washed in gold and silver, and with the heart and soul ripped right out, and filled with too many hokey shots for a cinephile to stand.

Take, for example, the way that the camera zooms around so the audience feels as though they’re watching a movie through Google Earth and not a camera, or how, during a scene of debauchery at the apartment Tom Buchanan keeps for his mistress, the camera zooms outside repeatedly to show us a man playing a trumpet on a fire escape. This Harlemite manages to play the trumpet for the whole day, while Nick, the protagonist (played awkwardly by Tobey Maguire), does opiates and gets piss drunk in the apartment. During this crude representation of the fact that the apartment is in Harlem Nick also manages to keep his sunglasses on even though it is night time.

I mention this badly thought out series of frames because it is representative of the entire film. Nothing seems to fit except Gatsby himself, and the one achievement of the film is drilling into our brains the melancholia of hope, and even this basic accomplishment is ruined by the fact that the only relevant ideas we get out of the film are told to us and not shown to us. Why make a film of a book if you are going to tell and not show? That is the advantage of film, the ability to show, and all we are shown is people in the 1920s somehow listening to modern music and Jay Z. Even if you can fall in love with the (in my personal opinion) unbearable hokeyness of the entire picture, when the character that you are rooting for is Tom Buchanan youknow something is wrong. The entire movie looked like a music video, and feltlike a two hour long cover of Vogue magazine.

The only two casting choices (not counting extras) that worked were those of Gatsby himself (arguably the most important choice) and Tom Buchanan, who is a relatively minor character. Leonardo DiCaprio is quite good at playing people without personalities, (see “Inception”) villains, (see “Django Unchained”) and he is great as Jay Gatsby, especially in scenes when he is acting like a middle schooler on a date, so scared is he of meeting Daisy again. Carey Mulligan is a good actress, in “An Education” as well as a host of other films, but playing Daisy she seems out of place. A good choice for Daisy would have been an actress who seems empty, a prize that looks great but turns out to be not worth the wait, such as Mia Farrow in the 1974 remake (the third). Carey Mulligan, on the other hand, is totally worth the wait, and in this film it is her and not Gatsby who is the voice of reason, saying “Isn’t it enough that I love you now?” while Gatsby insists that she has to have loved him in the past as well (he is either unaware of the physics of time travel, or severely deluded, most likely the latter).

It is really too bad that Hollywood knows that it will always profit off of a remake, no matter what a waste it was, as this film brought nothing new to the table except maybe a bumping soundtrack. In one scene, Gatsby is having a conversation with Nick and his butler opens the door to say something to him, “Hertzog” Gatsby says, “not now.” and Hertzog leaves the room. If only the director of this trash had taken a leaf out of that lauded director’s book.

 

 

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, didn’t last long, but its trail of destruction was severe. In just two days, 4.7 million students had been home from 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 placement 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, another rainstorm hit New York. This storm was nowhere near Sandy in magnitude, nor was it even categorized as a hurricane. However, 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 weshould 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, these suggestions for ways to cut down have been ingrained into everyone’s minds by now: turn off the lights before you leave a room, don’t leave the water running while you brush your teeth, or keep electronics on for a long time, or your cell phone charger plugged in, or shower for too long (but please, shower).

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, as Sandy so clearly demonstrated, it is changing quickly.

 

 

THE SLT EXPLAINED

Liana Van Nostrand ’16

The true purpose of the School Leadership Team (SLT) remains vastly unknown to the student body. After students vote for their grade wide representatives in September, almost all contact with the SLT is lost. Although some do approach their representatives with concerns, many do not. For those students especially, the function and practices of the SLT remain a mystery. Many students are left wondering about what their representatives do all year after they are elected.

SLT meetings are held once a month at five in the afternoon, long after most students have left the building. In attendance are Dr. Lerner, Ms. Turitz, the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president, four teachers, a parent representative from each grade, and a student representative from each grade. However, the attendance level varies because many alternate representatives attend meetings as well. The meetings are open to the public, but no student has exercised this right yet this year. During the meeting, the SLT discusses predetermined agenda points affecting the whole school. Another element of every meeting is the presentation of reports by the principal, PTA president and students. These reports detail specific concerns facing each constituency. They also include updates about progress made on projects and concerns from previous reports. This year, the student representatives voiced concerns on issues ranging from the lack of paper towels in the bathrooms, to the freshmen math grading system, to the CTO trip, to advocating for a space for students to relax. These issues are all inspired by what the representative’s peers ask them to include in their reports. However, it is often difficult to facilitate change due to the restrictions of the SLT’s bylaws.

Most students believe the SLT is a forum for their grievances to be voiced to the administration. One student, who chose to remain anonymous, defined its purpose as to “communicate the concerns of the students to the people in charge of the school.” Although these definitions are partly true, and the bylaws do mention that the SLT “will act as a communication and problem solving body to share, discuss and consolidate all issues and decisions affecting our school community”, the true purpose of the SLT is to create and vote on Comprehensive Education Plan (CEP) goals. CEP goals are the school’s official budget priorities for the following year. They must also be quantifiable and be linked directly to student achievement. CEP goals are the only matter that the SLT has jurisdiction over. The members of the SLT cannot and do not vote on or shape school policy. Everett Pelzman, the tenth grade representative, summarizes this well, “A common misconception among students is that the SLT is a forum for their complaints about such things as the lack of a soda/water machine in the cafeteria since Sandy. The SLT is a place for concerns to be communicated to the administration, but its main purpose is to formulate the mission and broader goals of the school, which we do in the CEP every year.”

The confinement of the SLT to the CEP goals has caused some recent tension. In particular, student representatives reported their peers’ concerns over grading policy and curriculum pace. However, as these concerns do not fall under the CEP umbrella, the SLT cannot take any action to remedy them. One student representative, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “If this is a place to learn, shouldn’t the school’s biggest priority be to hear out these academic complaints?” The SLT appears to be the perfect place to do so as administrators and faculty attend meetings. Although Dr. Lerner does follow up on concerns that fall out of SLT jurisdiction but are brought to him by the student representatives, he does so as the principal and not as a member of the SLT.

However, the student representatives and their alternates are looking for a way to change this. For the June meeting, students have been asked to bring in their proposals for how the SLT, or another body, could better serve students and address issues. This could involve a revamping of the SLT or Students’ Union, or the creation of any new body. No matter the body created or expanded, the goals of the representatives are the same. Allie Gumas, the Y1 alternate representative, said “I think on the ideal SLT students would be more involved in the problem-solving process…if we got more feedback on who to talk to or where to go, we’d be more successful.” In the end, the goal of the representatives is to best present their grade’s concerns to the appropriate faculty and administration members. If the SLT cannot provide the action student representatives and the students they represent are looking for, a new venue for student-administration communication may need to be established. 

 

 

SUMMER READING LIST!

Iolanthe Brooks ’15

It’s way too hot a day in July, the TV is utterly mind numbing, and you’re feeling too lazy to move. What could there possibly be to do? Or perhaps you have a three-hour plane/train/car ride to get through and your iPod/iPhone/iPad screen has died? Luckily, there is an easy solution: read a book! I am a huge supporter of summer reading wonderful, witty, interesting, and time-consuming books. For fun. So go to the Strand(used books are cheap, a huge bonus), check out amazon.com (for 1 cent deals on almost any book), or visit the library, and get cracking on a few of these wonderful summer reads, favorites of a couple wonderful BHSEC students(courtesy of BHSEC BOOK LUST, a Facebook group for book suggestions) . 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Although Extremely Loud… does have a central plot, it focuses more on the characters within it and their stories. It is told from the perspective of a young boy who loses his father in 9/11, the boy’s grandmother, and a mysterious old man. Together they struggle with the father’s death, the boy’s alienation from the rest of the world, and their pasts – all of which intertwine just enough to provide a sense of resolution. This is a perfect summer reading book because, although it has a lot of substance, it is not too difficult to understand (it’s not Shakespeare!). Also, its poeticism makes it easy to pick up and then put down; the plot is not as important as the beauty and lyricism of Safran Foer’s writing.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

“This is an amazing novel [and] a great summer read!” an enthusiastic Isaiah Back-Gaal ’15 proclaims. I could not agree more! The plot of this novel is a little more involved, but put simply: it follows six different characters, all mostly unrelated – apart from a comet shaped birthmark they all share – and set incompletely different times in history; Mitchell explores both the past and future! Each character’s story is told in two parts, the first one always interrupted by the next character’s story, and then resumed later (the stories count up, get to the sixth story, and then count down again). Each story is told in a completely different way, from letters to an interview, and the connections between them are both subtle and gripping. “It is beautifully written and its thrilling plot is overflowing with twists and cliff hangers, making it impossible to put down,” Isaiah says. Also, it has a (surprisingly decent) movie, which is always a huge bonus for summer books. In short, “it’s just awesome!”

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee is a novel set in both England and Nigeria. It follows a young white couple vacationing in Nigeria. They become involved in some pretty dramatic and tense conflicts and eventually end up saving the life of a young girl; but there’s an ugly twist. The story then looks at the journey of the young girl to England “in order to find the woman who saved her life,” explain Jenna Martin ’15. It is well written and moving, though at times upsetting. It explores the problems that the British caused in Nigeria – at the time there were “a lot of wars, conflicts, and violence[which] evoke complex feelings. The writing is good, the plot is good, and it is disturbing in a way that you want to feel disturbed,” Jenna says. The book is full of twists and turns you would never expect and tests the limits of human empathy.

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forester

This is a short story set in a dystopian future where “everyone is under the control of an omnipotent machine,” says Jakob Rehmann ’13. People spend their entire lives underground, in small cells where they have been conditioned to live. The story follows a teenage boy who tries to free himself from the machine. He tries to build up human interaction as well as a sense for understanding space, because he has no conception of ‘near’ or ‘far.’ “The scariest thing about the story is that everyone has put their life into this machine where they no longer control it – it controls them,” Jakob adds. Everyone becomes reliant on the machine to mediate their conversations and interactions with others. The story was written in 1909, long before the age of Skype, Facebook Chats, and Facetime ruling over many of our conversations. Although it was written more then 100 years ago, it deals with contemporary problems. Lastly, “it’s a very human book, in the sense that even within this dreadful situation you have a teenager who wants to be with his mother. It transcends time, and thus this alien world becomes [very] realistic.” And short stories, quick and non-committal, are perfect for a really hot day or to read while sunbathing.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

One of Sedaris’ most famous memoirs, Me Talk Pretty… is somehow hilarious, serious, and articulate all at once. Sedaris very loosely ties together short essays about his childhood (“as little boy with a lisp”) and young-adulthood (“as a drug-addicted contemporary artist”). Sedaris has managed to experience enough crazy and strange things to keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat; “this book’s hilarious, sarcastic tone makes it hard to putdown. It the type of book that has you laughing out loud on the subway,” Ayla Safran ’15 says (and I can attest to this!). All in all, the short stories allow for a light and very fun summer read, so get to it!

A couple others…

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey; Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (please, please read!); 1Q84by Haruki Murakami; Looking for Alaska by John Green;  One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez; Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides; A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess; A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut; The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls; The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

As BHSEC students, we spend a huge majority of our lives reading. The problem is, most of that reading is assigned and not our own choice. Ironically, it is rare for a BHSECer to find the time to read a book just for fun, which is why the summer is such a unique time. All of a sudden (okay, not all of a sudden, we have to make it through finals and all) there are no more tests, no more readings, and no more papers to write. So what is the best way to use this time? To read more, of course! It is surprisingly comforting to return to pleasure reading on a summer day and revisit the joy of totally non-committal, interesting, witty, challenging, or just plain fun books. There are so many great books to read, but this list can hopefully provide a starting point for all your summer literary adventures. Explore, enjoy, and have a wonderful summer!

 

 

TIRED BHSECERS REFRESHED BY A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

Riley Pearsall ’15

The faeries don’t come to New York very often—any idea how hard it is to fit wings on the subway?—but they did appear in BHSEC for this year’s theater production: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s classic tale of love and enchantment. This show’s got everything – true love, sneering villains, clownish buffoons, magic, singing, dancing, transformations, revelations, and a cross-dresser entirely too in love with his own breasts. The play, directed by Prof. Tibbels-Jordan, Mavis Corrigan and Maverick Cummings, is unconventionally set in New Orleans, a decision that never takes away clarity and adds many moments of distinct personality, like Theseus (Alex Athenail) getting married in his best Elvis casuals. The costuming as a whole, done by Wendy Phillips-Kahn, is shockingly professional. Titania (Chloe Kekovic) is radiant in a silver-lame jumpsuit, while her consort Oberon (Joseph Monroe) looks like an aristocratic Edward Scissorhands, befitting his somewhat dastardly nature.

The acting is also fit for Broadway, with nary a weak link in the chain, the entire cast having sweated blood and worked overtime to make sure everything was perfect. There is love in every glance and movement of Lysander (Clayton Brandt) and Hermia (Katherine Lerner Lee, Oona Roche), as well as simmering resentment from the rejected Demetrius (Simon Smith) and Helena (Melina Finck, Tessa Murphy) at the beginning of the play, but the players must (and do) portray every emotion towards each and every character as they masterfully steer the audience through Shakespeare’s convoluted love trapezoid. The contrast between the graceful attendant faeries (Isabel Cruz, Janay Anderson, Eilish Moogan, and Mavis Corrigan) and the gawky, foolish Puck (Sebastian Espinoza), impotently firing a laser gun with comic self-importance, is wonderful in their seamlessly choreographed scenes. Nick Bottom (Kameron Block) is hilarious, a childlike figure rushing across the stage in exuberant bounds, as is Francis Flute (Alex Muyl), whose role as Thisbe in the play-within-the-play is a non-stop mammogram.

Credit also goes to the designer of the set (Tom Moogan), the choreographer (Isabel Cruz), the lighting designer (Gillian Wolpert) and board operator (Emily Van Bloem). The set is elegant in front and mardi-gras gaudy in the back, and moments of exposition, normally static and tedious, are turned into vivid flashbacks through a beautiful wedding of light, music and choreography. These choices visually enrich the play, allowing the actors to do so much more than they could with an empty stage.

Yet no matter how great the show is, it disappears after only three days, short and ephemeral as a dream. Like the rest of the school year, it’s gone before you know it. While students are still eagerly awaiting midsummer and perhaps sleeping in class as well, the combination of the two is still best.

 

 

BHSEC’S ATYPICAL PROM

Chloe Kekovic ’13

Prom is perhaps one of the most American traditions that exists today, except for the likes of pie eating contests and beauty pageants. Girls shell out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on the perfect dress, the most delightfully coiffed up-do, and a limo they’ll spend mere hours in. BHSEC students could never conform to such a stereotypical practice, such a blatant indulgence in consumerism. And yet, this year more than ever, it seems as if BHSEC seniors have fallen victim to the promise of sequined dresses and manicures. The word ‘prama’ flutters around in conversation – a hybrid of ‘prom’ and ‘drama’ – whether this be about who is taking who, how much someone spent on their prom dress, or who is going to throw after prom – there is definitely an ongoing conversation about this event that will occupy about four hours of our lives. This is quite unusual – I don’t even think that the event is titled as ‘Prom’ on our BHSEC calendar, but rather ‘Senior Formal’. Our blatant disregard for conformity has become wildly uprooted this year. Why? Are we merely less hipster, less blasé than previous graduating classes? Possibly. Or have we just fallen victim to the evil grips of capitalism? Marx would have a field day with prom as a reflex of dialectical materialism.

I could analyze and BHSEC-it to death, but perhaps prom is not so black and white. I’m unsure whether I should resent prom, or resent BHSEC for making me resent prom. On the one hand, I can recognize that prom is overrated. It will inevitably be disappointing: dancing will be awkward, dresses will get ripped, tears will be shed. But on the other hand, I can recognize that BHSEC has also made me overly critical towards normal teenage activities. So I’ve opted to neither write prom off nor to fully immerse myself in it. I don’t have a dress yet, but I do have a date. I don’t have a limo, I don’t have a makeup artist or a professional photographer to stalk my friends and I around, but the night does matter to me for some reason. By virtue of being a girl in the 21st century, I have read young adult fiction and seen silly movies about a girl kissing the guy she liked or having a transformation from a nerd to a supermodel at prom. Maybe I just want to be Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. Yes, that is stupid. But I think the reason we all have opted to put such stock into this one evening is because it gives us the chance to embrace something truly adolescent. Much of our past four years as BHSEC students have been addled with stress that most teenagers our age have not grappled with. So maybe we need an evening of revelry and yes, some superficiality, as a temporary escape from our day to day lives as young intellectuals. I, for one, am looking forward to it. 

 

 

THE YACKER TRACKERS

Isaiah Back-Gaal ’15

A few months ago two machines resembling stoplights appeared on the fourth floor hallway. One hangs immediately outside the history office, while the other is suspended further down the hallway, across from the library. In the first week of their being put up, they were constantly surrounded by inquisitive students confused about the purpose of these new apparatuses. A lengthy letter attached to the wall below the machines explained that they were implemented as a response to the high noise level that was common for the fourth floor.

The machines, called yacker trackers, are simple black boxes with three vertically arranged lights, the bottom one being green, the next yellow, and the top red. Each also has a small screen that displays a red digital number. The yacker trackers are set so that the red light flashes at a certain decimal of noise. When the noise of the environment (in this case the hallway) reaches twenty decimals below the maximum the yellow light flashes as a warning. Curious students quickly observed while crowding around the yacker trackers that the machines would flash red when their talking, laughing, and bustling around reached a certain noise level.  After flashing red the machines then would “speak,” asking for quiet. Each time the set noise decimal limit is reached the number increases on the small panel. At the end of the day, the number on the panel supposedly shows the number of noisy disruptions throughout the day, although, especially when the yacker trackers were first implemented, it is difficult to know how many of those are real problems with the noise level, or just the inevitable din from hundreds of students and faculty passing by everyday.

After much discussion with other faculty and administrative staff, Dr. Freund decided to buy the yacker trackers to try to alleviate the noise level of the fourth floor. Dr. Freund described that his intention was simply to provide objective feedback to students who are not aware of their volume. For unknown reasons, this year teachers have noticed a higher level of noise in the hallways than in previous years. This is especially true for the fourth floor, which has students constantly bustling to and from the library, computer lab, and numerous classrooms. One factor that has certainly contributed to the noise is the size of the year one and tenth grade classes, which are the largest they have ever been. Dr. Freund observed that the noise level is in no way particular to students. He elaborated that if one were to put any large group of faculty members in a room a similar racket would ensue. Dr. Freund explained that the installation of the yacker trackers was “predicated on the belief that students don’t want to disrupt.” The machines were put in place as a reminder that excess noise can be disruptive to classes, with the hope that students would begin to police themselves.

From their installation, the yacker trackers have been a controversial topic at BHSEC. Many students view the machines as unfairly limiting their rights. Some feel belittled while others are simply frustrated, feeling as though their only place to hang and talk freely has now been revoked. Recently there have been fewer students on the fourth floor, but this may also be a result of the nicer weather. In a school built on respect, many students dislike the yacker trackers because they interpret them as a scolding from the faculty.

Dr. Freund believes that it is important for students to have a place to hang out and enjoy themselves. BHSEC should strive to allow that sort of freedom for its students, especially because we are not just a high school, but an early college. The goal of the yacker trackers was ultimately to have the students quiet down by supervising themselves, therefore decreasing the noise in the hallway while maintaining the students’ freedom. The fourth floor has become quieter in the last months; however, when asked if he believed that the goal of the yacker trackers has been achieved, Dr. Freund responded by saying no, “if the students feel infantilized then it is not successful.”    

 

THE HOLE AT 312 BOWERY

Maya Moverman ’13

May 3rd saw the opening of New York-based painter Holton Rower’s solo exhibition at The Hole gallery, located at 312 Bowery. The show pairs two of his series, “Pour paintings” and “Focus paintings”. Both bodies of work explore themes of construction and process. Rower’s pour paintings are large, vibrant works in which he hand-pours acrylic paint over wood, adding one color on top of the other. He carefully sequences the colors and measures the appropriate amount of paint by sight; the improbability of instinct and gravity are integral components of his process. The resulting paintings are large, psychedelic, and fossil-like, and they feel carefully and consciously amorphous. Rower’s focus paintings also possess a similar, conscious, constructed, nebulous quality. These seem to be paintings of intersecting circles; however, it’s difficult to know for sure, as they are purposefully out of focus and it is nearly impossible to detect how he achieves this effect. Unlike the pour paintings, which are enticing because they feel hypnotic, Rower’s focus paintings are enticing because they are disorienting and unsettling in their ambiguity.

Although distinct, these two series complement one another quite nicely. The exhibition is arranged so that the focus paintings occupy a temporary wall erected in the center of the room, and the pour paintings occupy all of the surrounding walls; the wall bearing the focus paintings would be the focus of the room, but the contents of the wall are out of focus, so that no one piece or area of the room grabs attention over another. Critics point out various influences and references in Rower’s work, from Vassily Kandinsky to Gerhard Richter to Jackson Pollock to the Grateful Dead. While these are astute and certainly relevant associations, I felt that Rower’s painting doesn’t reference or pay homage to any specific artist or source so much as it refers to itself. The works strikes a balance between uncertainty and precision that is inherent to their own creation, ultimately self-referential, but in a visceral and moving fashion, celebrating the process as much as the result. 

 

 

NEIGHBORHOOD PORTRAIT: DITMAS PARK

Ayla Safran ’15

While many BHSEC students live in Brooklyn, few have heard of the small neighborhood near Prospect Park called Ditmas Park. When asked where they live, the residents of this area are used to the blank expressions that follow the name of their neighborhood. But despite its anonymity, it has been in existence since the late nineteenth century.

Part of the reason that the neighborhood is not better known is because of its size. Stretching from the Parade Grounds (near the Southern side of Prospect Park) to Cortelyou Road, the area contained in this district does not exceed ten square blocks. Ditmas Park is best known for its large, Victorian-style houses, consisting of upwards of three stories. In addition, each house has a wide wooden porch, a front lawn, a backyard, and a driveway. In various locations on the porches, a small bronze plaque is proudly displayed that declares the year in which the house was built. These dates range from 1900 to 1915.

Each year, there is a house tour conducted by the Prospect Park South Association, in which curious people – whether tourists or locals – are able to view the different styles of the houses. The exteriors of the homes are made of painted wood, and the insides similarly contain wooden floors. The area is generally considered a Historic District, and therefore is protected from any changes that would alter the style of the neighborhood. This can be an obstacle for the residents if they wish to make any changes to the exterior of their home – if the alterations are visible from the front of the house, then they are strictly prohibited. But before the neighborhood was designated a historic district (in 1978), many of the houses were painted bright colors, completely defying their original, Victorian styles. This makes it quite interesting to walk up one of the blocks, as each house is very different from the last.

Some of the residents of the neighborhood have been there almost as long as the houses. Mary Kay Gallagher is a real-estate agent who has lived on Albemarle Road since 1959. She is currently 93 years old, and still shows the houses to potential buyers, despite a recent knee-replacement surgery. Many people consider her to be the mayor of the neighborhood. Similarly, 94-year old Tom lives on Rugby Road in a house in which he has raised children who have now gone on to have children of their own. In his free time, he walks up and down the blocks and does favors for his neighbors such as bringing their empty garbage cans back from the curb or picking up trash from their lawns.

Many of the residents refer to the area as “The suburbs in the city” because of its odd combination of large houses and closeness to commercial areas. Because of this, the houses are often used for scenes in movies and television shows such as Law and Order. Recently, Hugh Grant and Marisa Tormei filmed a few scenes for an upcoming untitled comedy directed by Marc Lawrence in a house on Rugby Road. A few of the residents were lucky enough to meet the celebrities, but many did not even take notice of the bright orange “No Parking” signs and the large white trailers; such occurrences are not out of the ordinary.

Although the neighborhood itself is strictly residential, the streets that border it are quickly becoming more and more developed. Church Avenue and Cortelyou Road have both become very commercial. Within the last year, a Thai restaurant and a coffee shop have both opened up on Church Ave. Soon to follow are an Indian restaurant and a new pizzeria. On Cortelyou, almost any type of food can be found. The most recent installment is a brick oven pizzeria. Only a block away sits San Remo’s, a more traditional New York pizza place, which has been in one family for three generations. It was the first commercial development in the area, but is nicely complimented by all of the newer developments.

In addition to its unusual style, the neighborhood also has one other strange aspect; it contains three train stations for the same line within four blocks. The Church Avenue, Beverly Road, and Cortelyou Road train stations are all reserved exclusively for the B/Q (also known as Brighton) line, and yet it only takes about ten seconds to take the train form one to the next. In fact, the Beverly and Cortelyou stations are the closest to each other of any train stations in the city, only 600 feet away from each other. When standing on the outdoor platform at the Beverly Roadstation, one can easily see and hear the train as it stops at Cortelyou. This odd phenomenon can be explained by an interesting fact: the man who designed the Q-line is rumored to have lived in this neighborhood at the time that these stations were opened in 1907.

Although Ditmas Park is not well known by many, it is well loved by its residents, and is appreciated for its interesting quirks. It has remained much unchanged since it was originally established at the beginning of the 20th century, and taking a walkthrough it can feel like a blast from the past. If it were not for the cars and the modern clothing worn by the bystanders, it would be easy to believe that one was in the era during which the neighborhood was first constructed.

 

 

BHSEC AND THE NY TIMES

Liana Van Nostrand ’16

There is a wonderful part of BHSEC I managed to overlook for the entire first semester: the table with a stack of the New York Times. I walked past it every morning for months without a second glance. Perhaps it was because I was always so concentrated on getting to physics on time. Alternatively, it may have been because by nine, when I would rush in the door, there were no copies of the New York Times left. After my happy discovery of the table early one morning, I was hooked. I now try to pick up a copy every day. I was also intrigued. Where do the newspapers come from? Why does no one take the Wall Street Journal? Do people really just take it just for the crossword? I am happy to say, I finally have the answers to these pressing questions.

The newspapers arrive through a program run by the New York Times. When subscribers go on vacation, they can opt to suspend their service for the duration of their vacation. They can either keep this newspaper credit for themselves, or they can donate their credit to schools. Every morning before seven, a stack of twenty-five to fifty newspapers is delivered to a blue box chained to a lamppost on Mangin St. Ms. Poreba described the process of how the box’s current condition came to be. At first the box simply sat outside the school. However, someone stole the newspapers contained within the box. Next, the box was locked. This time, the thieves stole the entire box. Now, the box is chained to a lamppost. It has not yet been broken into or stolen. Ms. Poreba also made an interesting observation about the delivery of the Wall Street Journal. “They just leave [the newspapers] outside the door, and no one has ever taken them!”

Thieves are not the only ones not interested in the Wall Street Journal.  While you have to rush to grab a copy of the New York Times in the morning, the case is not the same for the Wall Street Journal. Many more Wall Street Journals are delivered each day, yet they are vastly less popular. Io Brooks, a sophomore and an avid reader of the Times, says she doesn’t take the Wall Street Journal because “it is much more business-centric” and on the whole she feels that “BHSECers are not very business-minded!” This may be the source of the New York Times’ popularity. Students’ favorite New York Times sections varied from the art section to the science section, but one thing was constant. As Tristan Hickey, a freshman who takes the Times almost every day, said, “I read everything but the business ssection.” Other students shared this sentiment.

For the custodial staff, the large pile of the Wall Street Journal that remains throughout the day is not a joke, but a chore. One custodian, who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, called the stack of the Wall Street Journals “a waste of time and effort. We recycle at least 150 of these everyday.” These Wall Street Journals are an ecological waste, because they are printed but never read.

Lastly, to discuss perhaps the most important aspect of newspapers for many BHSEC students: the crossword puzzles. The New York Times features a crossword puzzle every day, but most readers do not attempt it, citing its difficulty as the reason. BHSEC students are clearly an exception, papers often containing everything but the crossword, to the chagrin of many a procrastinating individual. Crosswords from local newspapers are much more popular.

Our fondness for the New York Times evidences some of the BHSEC flavor that not many other school shave. It is a great show of our maturity and interest in national and international affairs. I think the student body’s relationship with the New York Times can be summarized quite well by a conversation I overheard by the lockers. One sophomore said to the other, “Do you know why Wednesday is her favorite day?” To which the other replied excitedly, “The dining section!”

 

 

THE STUFF IN YOUR UNDERWEAR: A BREIF BIOGRAPHY OF ARTIFICIAL TURF

Danya Levy ’15

We’ve all been through it. Maybe you were in the shower, or changing your shirt. Perhaps you were taking off your shoes or brushing your hair. You know the feeling: you were just going about your life when, suddenly, you see a little green strand. Or a plastic black dot. Or both, somewhere where it really shouldn’t be. And you immediately think: “Astroturf.”

Although this is the name most BHSEC students know it by, Astroturf is really just a brand of artificial turf, and is the self-described “Inventor and Leader of the Synthetic Turf Market.” On its website, the company states that there are more than 160 million square feet of turf in use worldwide.  

According to City Limits magazine, the team of scientists that received a grant for research into artificial playing fields stated in its first paper, “Whoever invents for rooftop and playground a material that looks like grass and acts like grass, a turf-like substance on which a ball will bounce and a child will not, a covering that brings a slice of spring in Scarsdale to 14th Street in April, will have struck a blow for stability in the big city.” Certainly seems like an epic beginning for the little green stuff that gets stuck to our sweaters.

Astroturf.com has a handy historical timeline detailing the journey of its prized turf from “chemgrass,” as it was called when first invented in 1964. This revolutionary product spread like wildfire: within ten years, the Superbowl was being played on synthetic turf.

Although artificial turf has been praised for its environmental and cost-effective properties, its use has long been controversial. In 2008, the New York Times reported that the city had temporarily approved all synthetic turf fields, but the decision relied on a study that was contested by many scientists and did not contain any original research or definitive findings.

Since then, the city has tightened rules on artificial turf. Chief among concerns is that synthetic fields contain hazardous materials, such as lead or certain hydrocarbons, breed bacteria that cause skin infections, and generate extreme heat, which leads to injuries. (According to a 2010 Times blog post, turf can reach temperatures of 150 degrees on a warm day.) Some turf fields are even made from recycled rubber tires, which is an especially controversial substance.

In addition, many athletes—from amateurs to professionals—insist that artificial turf changes the way games like soccer are played and contributes to an increase in sore muscles and worse scrapes and cuts. Peeling or ripped turf provides an additional safety hazard.

The advocates of artificial turf, however, continue to insist that synthetic fields are environmentally friendly because they do not need herbicides or enormous amounts of water to be maintained. According to some, the minimal upkeep also makes it cost-efficient. Yet even this statement is contested, as artificial turf fields become increasingly decrepit and continue to be challenged on the grounds of public health—and cost much more to fix or replace than real grass.

Countless studies have been done on the health hazards of artificial turf, but no definitive conclusions have been made. After being immersed in BHSEC’s often skeptical environment, one can only imagine the executives of artificial turf companies manipulating study results behind the scenes so that synthetic fields will never be eliminated.

Yet none of these university studies take into account the effects of artificial turf that we feel every day. Most BHSECers have experienced the comforting softness of the field next door, which students flock to during their lunch periods, where they play Frisbee, soccer, or bask in the sun. Synthetic fields are certainly great places for a nap. And if the scientists investigating the lead content of artificial turf had spent hours picking the little green strands off of their jackets, perhaps their anger might be exacerbated.

Whatever the scientists and park officials decide, our neighboring synthetic field will probably be there for many years to come. BHSEC’s love-hate relationship with synthetic turf will certainly continue. So bask in the sun, eat your lunch, and enjoy the plastic.

 

 

RETURNING TO NEW AMSTERDAM

Nika di Liberto Sabasteanski ’12

Anyone can love a perfect place. Loving Baltimore takes some resilience. Laura Lippman

On your way north out of Baltimore, you leave the Hopkins campus, which more resembles the summer estate of Charles Carroll that it once was with its dogwood canopies and marble staircases. You make your way through the surrounding village packed with glass verandas and federal style mansions. If you keep straight, the hedges and bursts of magnolia fade as the car rumbles past Van Dyke and Bacon Shoes, and Swallow at the Hollow, past the crumbling tropical fruit markets and the hair salons that accept food stamps. The children that sit on their half-decayed stoops stare through the window of the car with a look that has no written correlate. And then it is gone—Baltimore becomes the I-95, then the Delaware water gap bridge and finally with a little luck, the Holland Tunnel. On my first trip home for Thanksgiving, I started crying as the train made its way up the coast and I finally caught a glimpse, over the shoulder of my startled seatmate, of the southern tip of the island.

There is an amazing confirmation of your existence awaiting you in the city that had been so precarious away from it. But that too has changed, and on each of my infrequent homecomings, it grew less impressive and less necessary. Part of me has been weaned off of New York. That is to say—I have a life away from here, carved out in the middle of this odd little city. That also means, that I have learned to grow past BHSEC, which was the entire point after all, but was certainly not immediate. For my first few months at Johns Hopkins, I craved the level of intimacy I had had with my professors and fellow students, that doesn’t seem to exist in other high schools. I waited, much too expectantly, for my kindred spirits both intellectually and socially, and my metric was my expectations. But then, we’ve all read The Great Gatsby.

It was only when I stopped looking, as the proverb goes, that sure enough, the good ones crawled out, or maybe I was just better positioned to find myself in their company. Armed with my confidence from BHSEC, I made it a point to have a discussion with each one of my professors, which (since I am a neuroscience major) meant braving the size of lecture classes, and showing up to office hours until the teachers knew my face…and eventually my name. Loving Hopkins is a bit like loving Baltimore. BHSEC was easy to love, because well, it was perfect, or at least as close as a school can get. We existed in this other dimension, removed from the world to a luxurious and yet remarkably still productive degree. We are prepared for the ‘real world’ despite our coddling, but it takes more initiative and more searching to fall in love again.

I won’t list the countless and tiresome lessons that I’ve learned away from BHSEC—everyone will have their chance at that. There is no tangibly broader outlook, no profound wisdom for all the samplers. Instead, my year away is summed up in the words that I write and the person I have become. There are moments when you can feel the pace of your own evolution, but mostly, the changes happen in the dark and emerge only when you are confronted with the next day. At BHSEC, we were primed for this expansion through the texts we questioned and the exhausting shifts in our frames of reference. But away from New York and the walls of the school, the changes seem more permanent. They are also less guided, and instead of having your growth facilitated by a senior thesis or an astounding seminar discussion, you have to change all on your own. It’s not as if this process is as deliberate as I’ve just made it sound, but the imperative to discover your character becomes more essential.

Finally, there is a new excitement that sits within me, as I watch myself and my friends unfold into these fully formed creatures who know what they want, at least we think we do, and how to get there, at least for the next three years. I don’t need my BHSEC pacifier nearly as often as I did last semester, and instead of feeling melancholy at the mention of Kafka or Catullus, I find myself grateful to be on my own frontier, with the Swiss army knife I earned in my four years on East Houston in my pocket. I feel very much responsible for who I am turning out to be, in a way that was once purposefully structured. This existence is my own, and I find more and more that I am a self-contained unit, dare I say, forever grateful to and shaped by, but independent of BHSEC and New York City. I am who I am without the confirmation that was so precarious upon arriving in Baltimore, this city that exists in a Twilight Zone episode, with a trolley car museum in the forest beneath the Jones Falls Expressway and a beehive festival in the middle of June. Whether I am sitting in a poetry class discussing Auden, a neuroscience lecture learning the circuitry behind my own consciousness, asking homeless men in the Baltimore Rescue Mission Clinic their stories while I give them a flu shot, or bicycling to the Sherwood gardens for some rhubarb pie and tulips, I am myself, whoever she is and whoever she is becoming.

 

 

NOSTALGIA AT BHSEC

Iolanthe Brooks ’15

The black and white screen flickers. “The 20th century? I could pick a century out of a hat, blindfolded, and get a better one!” exclaims Mr. Larrabee, cinematic love interest of a young Audrey Hepburn, in the film “Sabrina”. The movie, which premiered in 1954, holds a special place in my heart. Each time I watch it I feel a pang for an era I haven’t lived through. The nostalgia Audrey Hepburn evokes in me is one that has preoccupied many, from 5thgraders who build Hoovervilles on “Great Depression Day” (yes, that too was me)to the hundreds of New Yorkers who flock Governors island’s “Jazz Age Lawnparty” donned in their best roaring twenties attire. But is BHSEC nostalgic? Do we all romanticize, as I do, other decades or look to our own childhoods with a wistful eye?

The answer is mixed. Many people thought back on an idyllic version of their childhood, admiring the very buzz of naiveté that poets and new parents alike have squealed over for centuries. “There’s a sense of purity to kids, it’s that innocence that I feel nostalgia towards,” Rebecca Gurvets (10) says wistfully. Childhood, bringing along with it the feeling of liberation–getting away from the many responsibilities we all face and the endless stress of being older then ten–seems to be remembered as a magical time of sugar-high imaginations. “I miss the mystical aspect of being a kid, like believing in fairies and all those good things,” Marisol Sharpe (Y1) says, smiling. Nostalgia mixed with regret as people expressed that they only appreciated the beauty of childhood once it was gone. Although she felt nostalgic towards her youth, Marisol agreed, “when I was a kid, I was always looking to the future. In second grade, the big thing was wanting to be sixteen.” The slight obsession with childhood far extends BHSEC’s walls, or even this century. All agreed that every generation wished to return to their, as one put it, “more simple” childhoods.

For some, however, the simplicity of childhood extends beyond their own lifetimes. Decades, even centuries ago seem less stressful, less complicated. Marisol looks to the Victorian era, defined by strict social codes for women, with a mixed love: “Everything just seemed a little simpler, women’s roles seemed simpler–even though that sounds horrible.” She is not alone in her uncertain feelings; others recognize the cost a more simple time has on other aspects of life. “I feel nostalgia for a world that isn’t so fast moving…Some cultural and environmental things seem more pure in the past,” a tenth-grader tentatively suggests, “but at the same time there are a lot of things that are much better about our society now.”

How did this romanticized version of far-away times come to be? And, almost more importantly, is BHSEC ashamed of its nostalgia? BHSEC students, or rather those who feel nostalgia, question the simplicity they yearn for with a critical eye. They know that no time is truly simple; every decade struggles with huge difficulties and inequities. There’s an understanding of what it was like to live in the past; the princess phones and tulle dresses of the 1960s didn’t seem as glamorous at the time as they do now, in retrospect. “When we learn about different time periods, they don’t seem happy – they seem gloomy,” Rebecca reflects. As she points out, in history we study wars and famines, neither of which leaves a nostalgic impression. History from a textbook, at least for those like Rebecca, can be far from enticing, and the perspective we receive from movies and television shows of the era exaggerate people’s daily lives. Marisol recognizes the gap between the reality of decades past and what is presented to us: “there are dark sides to every time. I mean, can there ever be one truly great era?”

While Rebecca learned about history from textbooks, I drew many of my beliefs about the past from old movies and television shows. The one-sided (and often unrealistic) history that series like “I Dream of Jeannie” teach and inspire much kinder feelings towards the past. Older movies, especially slapstick and silent movies, show mostly happy characters living out privileged lives. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Fatty Arbuckle (along with many others) often starred in Horatio Alger-type stories where predominantly white, middle class, male characters made it big and fell in love with beautiful women. Obviously, life in the 1930s was not the same as silent films project it to be. As students, we are weighed down by homework, daily life, and the increasing stress of getting into, and paying for, college. To some, books, television, and movies from long ago can provide a false sense of the “simpler” time we all yearn for. Our generation, unlike that of our parents or grandparents, has constant access to shows and movies from the past. The Internet allows access to archives of newspapers and YouTube streams of advertisements, PSA’s (a personal favorite), and clips that would,25 years ago, require hours of work to find. Just searching “1960s movies” comes up with over 2 million results instantly. Sabrina, as an example, is available to be streamed on Netflix, making a snippet of the 1950s only a click or two away.

Although reminiscing is easier for our generation then ever before, BHSEC students are still not blindly nostalgic. “We [may] know a lot about the past, but when it comes down to it, BHSEC kids mostly look forward,” Marisol asserts. Instead of becoming a way to stay lost in the past, BHSECers have used nostalgia, their love of the past and appreciation of its differences with today, as a way to move forward and into the future. “Other generations were defining new times, while for us, we are able to look back on what previous generations have done and pick and choose what works,” Rebecca observed. In most cases, the past plays out stylistically. “I think that clothing styles especially reflect a certain nostalgia,” remarks Sarah Safran (10), and most others agree that the mannerisms and clothes of the past suit BHSEC students more then the cultural ideas or confinements of the same era. While the past can provide new ideas and fun movies, BHSEC students are more concerned with what will define our generation to others and how we will use the tools history has tested in the future. As Marisol points out, “our generation hasn’t [yet]done anything that monumental,” to define us.

 

 

WHERE IS THE CLASS OF 2013 GOING

Isabelle St. Clair ’13

The Class of 2013 is about to take huge steps in many new directions; we are off to colleges scattered across the country and the world! After endless anxiety-ridden months of applying and then waiting, BHSEC’s 11th graduating class is finally scribbling the schools they intend to attend on a very colorful dry erase board hanging in the CTO. So, where are we all going?

Most, it seems, are staying put. A majority of the class is remaining in New York State, going to schools like SUNY Geneseo, SUNY Binghamton, Bard College, the University of Rochester, and Hunter College to name a few. A whopping 58 students applied to SUNY Binghamton this year and an equally large, but not as shocking, number of students applied to Bard College – 26, to be exact. But staying in New York is not the only trend of BHSEC graduates, staying in Massachusetts also seems to be a favorite amongst the Class of 2013’s college application and attendance. Some MA colleges include Tufts, Hampshire, Wellesley, and Mt. Holyoke.

And for the most part students are sticking to the East Coast. From Yale to Brown to Swarthmore to Princeton to George Washington University to Goucher to Davidson, students have picked the most elite schools that the East Coast is known for. Others are going to Grinnell and Oberlin in the Midwest. And still others are going far out to the West Coast to Stanford and Reed. Then there are those leaving the country, off to McGill and Cambridge. There are countless more schools students are attending, but alas, many haven’t had the chance to update Naviance, where I’m getting all of my information! Some students are also still playing the wait-list game.

This year an unprecedented number of students applied to their schools early decision or early action, hoping to get ahead of the rest of the students across America applying to their favorite schools. Early Decision and Early Action seem to be the new route of college applications.

Reflecting on the outcome of this year’s acceptance and attendance rates, Ms. Chiekes says the Class of 2013 was a good year. What was surprising, she found, was the drop in the acceptance rate at SUNY Stony Brook, a university that usually accepts many BHSEC students. This year there was a spike in applications and thus a plummet in acceptance rates, but it seems to have been this case for many schools this year. With the increasing efficiency of the Common App, more and more students are applying to more schools, the list reaching as long as 20. The more applications the more colleges have to turn away students who qualify and over qualify.

With the summer approaching and graduation just a few weeks away, the Class of 2013 is looking forward to their new schools and a new, fresh beginning. A year ago was the beginning of the stressful, sleepless nights staring at the Common App, but the Class of 2013, like the ones before it and the ones soon to come, made it through!

 

 

THE Y1 COLLEGE ADVENTURE UPSTATE!

Karina Estevez ’14

The Year 1 Trip this year was much earlier than usual but nonetheless heaps of fun and incredibly informative. Our wonderful trip of 116 students began on Tuesday, April 24th as we excitedly boarded our buses. Approximately three and a half hours later we arrived at the first school on our list, SUNY Binghamton. The campus was beautiful and we had the opportunity to chat with BHSEC Alumni in one of Binghamton’s four dining halls over dinner. After our lovely tours and dinner we went off to our hotels in Ithaca.

Our day began quite early, 7:30 am, at Cornell University, where we heard Hedwig’s Theme on the chimes and the story of a massive pumpkin on top of a tower. As we walked through the Gothic structure we had a glimpse of the “Hi mom” camera(yes your parents can see what’s happening on campus through a live stream) and Tiffany & Co. chandeliers in Sage Chapel (if you want to get married there you might want to make reservations right now). Our next stop was Ithaca College, which also had a beautiful campus, a massive fountain, and a panoramic view of Ithaca. We then had lunch in Ithaca before heading out to our last tour of the day, Geneseo. After a short tour, we had dinner on Main Street (literally a Manhattan block long) and visited some of the local stores. But our day did not end there! We headed to Niagara Falls to View the Illumination (it was freezing cold but quite enjoyable and pretty magical). Regardless of the chilling 30°Fweather, we headed to the Hard Rock Café for some ice-cream where the lovely Nick Eng, a former BHSEC student, chatted with us. Finally we headed back to our hotel rooms, absolutely exhausted.

*Ring, ring* It’s the wakeup call which means that it is time to start the long day ahead of us. Up first was SUNY Buffalo where we had a lovely tour of yet another lovely campus. We then headed to Mamasan’s, a Vietnamese restaurant in Rochester, where we had some yummy lunch (they reserved the entire place for us!).After a fantastic meal (which included black-eyed peas sweet milk pudding-sounds weird but tasted incredible) we were off to the University of Rochester. Very amiable and informative tour guides (cat videos and accents included) lead us through U of R’s gorgeous campus. Our final tour of the day was of R.I.T where we met up with Nijina Acosta, a former BHSEC student, and saw some of the wonderful projects going on at the moment (which included building cars from scratch). To cap off our night we had some tasty dinner on Park Avenue (some of us again braving the weather to eat gelato).

Unfortunately our trip was coming to an end; we only had three more schools to go. Our final day started with a great tour in Syracuse. Our lovely tour guide warned us about sitting on the “kissing bench” (legend has it that if you sit there with a significant other you will be together forever, but if you sit there by yourself you will be forever alone) and we made some pretty wicked light saber sounds. We then headed off to Hamilton and had a nice tour regardless of the fact that it began to rain. After lunch (which Hamilton graciously provided us)we headed for the final tour of the trip – Skidmore. After a great tour and info session, we explored the lovely town of Saratoga Springs. After a long ride, we said our goodbyes and capped a wonderful and unforgettable trip.

The trip was absolutely wonderful! Not only was it informative but it was also a fantastic bonding experience. Apparently every school (except Hamilton) has a Quidditch team (“and we’re actually really good”) and if you only have $20 in your pocket, it is enough to go to a Macklemore concert. I cannot end this without thanking Ms. Cheikes (and those whom helped) for planning this wonderful trip and the chaperons for adding on to the incredible experience.      

 

THE Y1 TRIP

Sarah Hill ’14

In mid-April, two busloads full of Year 1 Students embarked on the annual CTO trip. We faced many long hours of driving as well as the stressful task of thinking of college 24/7 and somehow keeping up with our schoolwork. Since I was a freshman I had heard about how the CTO trip was great experience for some class bonding. Yet all I could think of was the daunting prospect of visiting ten colleges in the upstate NY area, and somehow retaining information about each school. We visited SUNY Binghamton, Cornell, Ithaca, SUNY Geneseo, SUNY Buffalo, University of Rochester, RIT, Syracuse, Hamilton and Skidmore. The tours were a great opportunity for Year 1’s to see a large variety of colleges, and I found that it helped me confirm some beliefs about the kind of school I was interested in. The trip also allowed me to open my mind to some opportunities and programs I hadn’t previously considered.

Although the colleges started to blur together after a few tours, there were aspects of certain schools that really stuck with me. For instance, our first tour at SUNY Binghamton felt ages away as we embarked on the third day of our trip, yet I will never forget the enthusiasm of our tour guide. It was a school I had previously considered but knew little about and our tour guide provided us with information in an accessible and passionate manner. She seemed truly interested in the Binghamton community and the opportunities opened to her by the institution. Throughout the tours I found that the exuberance of the tour guides gave me insight into the atmosphere on campus and the attitude of the student body. Occasionally we would have to break off into larger groups making it difficult to get an intimate feel of the college. Regarding our massive size as a group, it’s understandable that sometimes more tour guides were unavailable to us. Noting, however, the impact a good and engaged tour guide had on my impression of a school there were times when I felt that I would have formed a better opinion of a college had I been in a smaller tour group or with a more enthusiastic guide.

The opportunity to see so many schools really helped me get a sense of the learning environment I am looking for and the specific programs I may be interested in. Although practically every school discussed making your own club and the hundreds of study abroad programs they offered, the trip helped me get a sense of what college had to offer in general. It was also enjoyable to spend time in some of the college towns we visited. In downtown Rochester and Saratoga Springs we spent our time exploring the different food options and amenities the towns had to offer. When considering where you’ll be spending the next four years of your life the aesthetic appeal of a campus and its surrounding area really do make an impact. Coming from a city that is constantly buzzing with things to do, to see the town was an integral part of my impression of a college. Getting some down time to see Niagara Falls and lunch at Mamasans Vietnamese restaurant was definitely a great way for our grade to bond. It was nice to unwind and think about all the schools we had just seen while also enjoying each other’s company.

The CTO trip has changed over the years and often the timing of the trip and the schools we visit have been debated, but the intent of the trip was successfully met this year. It afforded a great opportunity to see a variety of schools, even if we heard countless times about their Quidditch teams.

 

 

ADVICE FROM A GRADUATING SENIOR

Chloe Kekovic ’13

The purpose of this article was to give out some advice and warnings for 9th grade students, and I couldn’t help but allow a cliché to roll through my head: they say that you should never regret anything, because at some point in time, it was exactly what you wanted. Alas, while this might be a valid point for some, as I reflect over my career at BHSEC, I would say that there are moments I wish I could have undone, decisions that I regret making.

For starts, if I could go back in time, I probably would have opted to take a language other than Latin. It is difficult, to say the least, and something that I have grappled with throughout the entirety of my time at BHSEC. Achieving less than average grades was immensely frustrating, and at times felt like there was no reward. However, when Ms. Francois came to BHSEC, my usual feelings of resentment towards the archaic language changed immensely. Latin became more than just memorization and frustrating misunderstandings in syntax rules. There was life to it; poems that I had once been bewildered by were presented to me with clarity: the language breathed. So as it would turn out, I wouldn’t tell anyone to not take the language. I would say that it pays off, an attitude I feel in general towards my BHSEC experience. Even though there have been moments in which I seriously doubted myself as a young scholar, perseverance has its perks. I guess this mentality could be applicable to a lot of things that I regret: not studying harder for that one final, taking a class out of my league. All in all, I’ve come out the person that I simply have chosen to be, for better or worse. I might not have straight As, but I have gained some kind of intangible pleasure from the experiences that I’ve gotten here. So instead of writing a list of regrets and things to be weary of for 9th graders, I’ll give some more optimistic advice to keep in mind:

1.Don’t procrastinate, don’t do extensive assignments the day before they’re do, because it’s simply stunting a lot of potential. (Facebook is always going to be there and so will a less than satisfactory grade on your report card.)

2.Use and abuse the math and writing centers!

3.Ask questions when you don’t understand; feeling temporarily self-conscious is a lot better than never truly understanding the material.

4.Take a mental health day when you have to. Sometimes we need it!

5.Understand that everything we’ve learned/are going to learn at BHSEC does come up outside of school, and will be an advantage in college. Having sat in on college classes, I can safely say that seminar classes at BHSEC have immensely prepared us for our upcoming “real” college years.

6.Take a class you don’t think you’re going to like. In my second semester of Y1, I took the Social Contract with Dr. Mazie, which propelled my interest in political theory, something that I know I will pursue later in my educational career.

7.All in all, live and let live.

The cliché I opened this article with truly has validity, especially when it comes to expanding yourself academically. Take risks. I think that high school has been a strange and bewildering time of self-discovery, and even though I wish certain elements had gone differently, it’s made me the person that I am, and I whole-heartedly accept that. I don’t think I’ll truly realize how privileged I’ve been to have professors who are masters at their subjects, and who truly care about pushing me academically until I leave. As that date nears, I can’t help but to be astounded by all that has been crammed into the past four years of my life, both academically and socially. Don’t have regrets – the end is closer than it feels.

 

 

STUDENTS’ UNION: A CRITIQUE

Anna Goldelman ’15

Who is the Students’ Union, and what do we do? In my opinion, we don’t really know. Our role is to be there for each and every one of you, and in order to fulfill our goals, we need to be a recognized presence in the school. But how many of you know who the representatives are for your grade? Do you know that you can email us about any questions or suggestions you have regarding the school? We try our best to make a difference in the school, but not many people can tell we’ve done anything at all.

Last year, the Students’ Union consisted of four representatives from each grade. As a team, we successfully introduced and managed the beloved coffee machine, raised hundreds of dollars, funded clubs, ran community day and the blood drive, and held town halls to address student concerns such as racism. At the beginning of this year, we were informed by the administration that they had completely changed the structure of our club so that there would be one representative from each advisory, and within our club of now upwards of forty people, there would be a core council which would have more control and influence. In theory, this would work very well; each advisory would be represented, and we would get ideas from everyone in the school, as well as be a noted presence. In practice, however, this did not work at all; we have become more dysfunctional, with a 50 percent attendance rate at each meeting, very little communication, and a regrettable lack of productivity. We have had very few town halls (much to the delight of the student body, but the opposite of what we wanted), and have seriously considered shutting down the coffee machine.

During discussions, we decided that part of the problems that we’ve been having are that a large portion of the members feel like they have been forced to participate in the SU. So, for next year, we thought of requiring everyone who wants to be part of the SU and is willing to fully commit to it come to the first few meetings so that they can decide if they really want to be part of our club. We will have similar goals as the previous years: town halls to connect with the rest of the student body and address issues raised by the students, a coffee machine and other commodities for the student body, an effective and good community day, a productive blood drive, and funding for clubs. Our main goal is to reach out to students more to see what we need to do. Each representative participates to present the concerns of the student body and represent the voices of each grade, which we unfortunately were, in my opinion, unable to do this year because of the sudden change by the administration and the unfortunate set up of meetings and the absence of by-laws. However, we hope that we will be more organized and effective next year. Our role is to represent you, so we will be working on amending our structure so that we are more helpful. We are open to suggestions at any time, so please consider emailing us at bhsecsu@gmail.com.

 

 

THE INS AND OUTS OF TURNITIN

Willa Glickman ’14

In the age of the internet, it has never been easier to plagiarize, but with the advent of Turnitin, it has never been easier to catch.

Turnitin, which is a product of the Oakland, California-based company iParadigms, was founded in 1996 by Dr. John Barrie, who was at the time working at the University of California at Berkeley. He wanted to be able to give his students in large lectures more feedback on their papers, so he created a database where students could submit their papers and receive anonymous peer reviews. Papers in this database were soon being plagiarized by students in other classes, so Barrie created a program that could check the papers against each other.

Today, Turnitin processes papers for over 20million students. To put that in perspective, there are only about 37 million students enrolled in high school or college right now.

190,000 papers are submitted every day(500,000 on busy days) and each paper is processed in about 13 seconds. Turnitin supports 15 languages (including Finnish), and it is used in 126 out of the 196 countries in the world.

When checking for plagiarism, Turnitin searches over 24 billion web pages, 300 million archived student papers, and 120 million articles from journals, periodicals and books.

Turnitin’s website is filled with links to articles with titles like “Turnitin Receives 5 Stars in Review” and “Fighting Plagiarism with Technology,” but not everyone is such a happy customer.

Turnitin has attracted concerns about privacy and copyright infringement on students’ work, because when students submit papers they are included in Turnitin’s archives, and when Turnitin sells its services for profit, that includes having a large archive of student work to search through, but the students are not compensated.

In 2007 two high school students sued Turnitin for copyright infringement, but the court ruled against them, and the United States Court of Appeals ruled again in favor of Turnitin when the students appealed the decision.

Turnitin has also drawn criticism for presuming the guilt of students. Many competitive universities such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Stanford choose to rely on Honor Codes instead, much to the derision of John Barrie.

Barrie was quoted in a 2006 article in the Daily Princetonian as saying, “It’s a shame that schools like Princeton aren’t taking the lead because they’re too concerned about what they are going to find. They are the top schools that would need to use it [Turnitin] because as the prestige of the institution increases so does the amount of cheating…The disturbing thing is that Princeton is producing our society’s future leaders and the last thing anyone wants is a society full of Enron executives who can’t think critically and produce scandals in our society.”

Whether or not Princeton is producing “a society full of Enron executives” is up for debate, but it is true that a great deal of plagiarism goes on, and that Turnitin can catch a lot of it. Over a third of the papers in Turnitin’s database have been flagged for suspicions of plagiarism.

There are certainly some valid concerns about Turnitin, but perhaps in the day of the internet, the only thing to do is fight fire with fire. 

 

 

BHSEC’S FORGOTTEN BATH HOUSE

Hannah Frishberg ’13

The decrepit slab of concrete behind the handball courts is the last place you’d go to get clean today, but not so long ago that building spearheaded the national movement for public baths. Predecessor of the modern swimming pool, public baths were a key part of social reform movements for cleanliness in the late 19thcentury, a time before the popularization of private plumbing, when epidemics of typhoid and cholera ravaged slums due to lack of basic sanitation facilities like toilets and baths. The situation reached a point in New York when there could be found blocks of tenements with one bathtub for every 440 families. Dr. Simon Baruch was a huge advocate of “hydrotherapy” (using water for therapeutic and medicinal purposes) and, along with his son Bernard Baruch, played a large role in providing public baths for “the great unwashed”. Indeed, they were so successful that in 1895 state legislature passed a law requiring free bathhouses in cities with populations of 50,000 or more, despite skeptical Mayor Hugh J. Grant who scoffed of New Yorkers, “The people won’t bathe” (nycgovparks.org).

The Rivington Street Public Bath (later renamed the Baruch bathhouse) was opened on March 23, 1901, the first public bathhouse in the city of New York. Serving mainly the Jewish population of the Lower East Side, it featured both indoor and outdoor bathing pools, 45 showers and 5 tubs for men, and 22 showers and 5tubs for women (michaelminn.net). Used both for bathing and a break from the heat, the public bath at 326 Rivington was a huge success, and in the record breaking summer of 1906 lines were so long there was nearly a riot.

1939marked the end of the building’s bath-use life, as Bernard Baruch donated the space to the city and the Parks Department gained jurisdiction. In 1940, the area was reconstructed, and a playground was built, along with two handball courts, a basketball court, a softball field, a comfort station, and a memorial flagpole. Not long after, in 1959, the Baruch houses apartment complex was completed.

In the second half the 20th century, public baths no longer relevant in the face of private plumbing, the building fell into disrepair. In 1975, too dilapidated to operate, the City of New York closed and sealed the bathhouse, filling every possible entrance with cement. It was the official end to a once glorious structure. Today the building is severely damaged, all architectural, mechanical, and electrical components of the space intensely compromised. In2005, City Council candidate Michael Beys recruited local children to raise awareness and advocate for the renovation of the building into a community center. “This bathhouse just needs a scrub,” said the candidate. In reality, restoration would be a tremendous undertaking, likely costing tens of millions of dollars. Nature has visibly retaken the top of the building, potentially indicating compromised roofing which would render what’s left of the inside unusable. Due to its location in the center of public housing, although the former Baruch bathhouse is likely fairly valuable real estate, it is unlikely the city will address the building for some years to come, leaving it to further rot until somebody bothers with the wrecking ball.

Afar cry from its glory days, today some NYCHA employees don’t even know what the building is, “I’ve never seen anyone in there, no clue what it’s supposed to be used for,” one custodian commented. Decayed beyond anachronism, hope of restoration is 50 years in the past, and the place would undeniably need to be gutted, baptized into the 21st century. And so the Baruch bath housesits and watches the world change from its century old home under the Williamsburg Bridge, unloved, without landmark status or a future, but a pivotal part of a forgotten past.

 

 

CABARET AND WHY EVERY CITY KID SHOULD SEE A LAGUARDIA PRODUCTION BEFORE YOU GRADUATE

Hannah Frishberg ’13

“Yeah, Cabaret is pretty good,” my technical theatre friend told me of LaGuardia High School’s final play in this year’s Spring Drama Festival.  

“As compared to what?” I asked,

“Oh,” he laughed, “Broadway, of course.”

The Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts’ 2013 production of Cabaret truly feels like you’re three blocks away at Lincoln Center, not in a public high school. The quality of acting, singing, dance, technical skill, musical ability, and costume simply has a flow, a budget, and a naturalness that seems adult in every sense. Indeed, like the LaGuardia mission statement, which lists “professional preparation in conservatory arts” before “academic education”, cast members are firstly actors, secondly students. Leads, ensemble, and orchestra alike often miss weeks of classes and stay weekends at school to rehearse, teachers forced to comply with the absences. However, based on the caliber of performance and nothing else, LaGuardia students are clearly hugely benefitting from the direction and training they receive in the artistic half of their education. Really, the only time anyone broke character, revealing their true teenage self, was atthe bows, when the entire cast broke down in tears. Completely understandable, considering they’d all be graduating in coming weeks, they’d spent 100s of hours working together, and it was the show’s last night. It was a testament to the quality of the performance that night, though, that seeing them cry was a shocking reminder that oh, yeah, these are kids.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the acting in Cabaret is the level of commitment. Students do not shy away from kissing scenes or antagonistic characters, and I can only imagine mandatory therapy accompanied the casting for those playing Nazis. Cabaret itself is a very mature show, certainly not typical fodder for high school students. An intensely sexualized musical about the Berlin club scene at the brink of World War II, characters range from elderly German women to old Jewish fruit vendors, an ensemble of prostitutes, and dancing sailors. The actors ages ranged from 17to 18, but the characters ranged from 20 to 70, and all were performed with an intensely convincing deliberateness and knowledge. I believe it is a tribute to both director Henry Shifman and New York City that teenagers, the most stereotypically exclusive, insecure, and generally unappreciative age group in American culture, should do such justice to characters so far from their daily lives (or so I hope). Not just the quantity but the diversity of talent was hugely impressive.

In terms of budget, it is clearly generous. Although specific numbers are not available, LaGuardia was allocated a $14 million budget for the 2012 – 2013 school year, while by comparison BHSEC Manhattan was allocated only $3 million. LaGuardia notably has double the amount of students as BHSEC, and there is no breakdown for these numbers on the DOE’s website, but the massive difference would suggest that a large quantity of the budget is being used for performances.

It’s common knowledge that BHSEC isn’t just an alternative education but a lifestyle, and so it becomes easy to assume all other high schoolers are having disparate, underfunded, standardized experiences. Obviously, though, that’s simply not true, but I’ve visited few high schools with such a different vibe as LaGuardia. In the same way that I assume many are intimidated by the intensely academic atmosphere at BHSEC, so does LaGuardia feel intensely theatrical and kinesthetically aware. The way students dress, the way students support each other, it’s the dramatic equivalent to BHSEC’s intellectual intensity.

Who’s to say if anyone from LaGuardia’s 2013 production of Cabaret will go on to greatness (joining the ranks of such famed alums as Leon Botstein), but this was a great performance. Seeing a LaGuardia show at some point in your high school career feels like a rite of passage as a kid who grew up in NYC. Films like Fame may seem dated and appear to create an unrealistic, marketable screen version of New York high schools, but the possibility for such dramatic experiences is very real. The truth of the matter is even though most people will not spend these formative years singing on top of cafeteria tables or dancing on cop cars (as they do in the movie), if you wanted to you could, and the actors of Cabaret are evidence that, if you try hard enough in this city of opportunity, you can go very, very far.

 

 

BHSEC’S TRANSER RATE

Eliza Fawcett ’15 

‪One of the stated “Community Rights” of BHSEC is that “All who work, teach, and study at Bard High School Early College are here by choice” – and that certainly is (as it should be), true. Yet for a number of students each year, that choice is not the right one.

According to Dr. Lerner, the number of students who transfer out of BHSEC each year (across all grades) is “weirdly consistent – [always] 15 or 16 students” – or roughly 2.5% of the student body. Although this may sound small, it translates to quite a lot of students: oddly, both last year’s graduating class and this year’s graduating class lost 21 students between freshman and senior year. Most of the loss in student body occurs as students transition from the high school to the college program: the sophomore class of 2008-2009, for example, lost ten students during this transitory stage.

BHSEC’s transfer out rate is one of the school’s most important issues. Despite the tireless efforts of the administration and the guidance department, each new year sees the departure of a small crop of students. One of the most challenging aspects of BHSEC’s consistent transfer out rate is that there is no quick way to solve the problem. As Dr. Lerner said, “If there were an easy fix to all of this, we would have done it a long time ago.”

Perhaps obviously, the very structure of BHSEC –intellectual rigor combined with high standards of academic achievement set for young students – is a major factor in this issue. As Dr. Matthews said, “Any discussion of transfer rates has to acknowledge the experimental nature of BHSEC.” The school, he continues, is doing something remarkable by having a college within a high school: “we are attempting to square a circle.” Few high schools indeed offer a college program and that, for Dr. Lerner, is why transfers occur “here more than [at] other schools.”

It is no small coincidence, thus, that the crucial transition between sophomore and Y1 year sees the highest number of transfers. The basic fact is that in order to be accepted into the college program, students must have a 2.0 GPA (a C average) for their entire high school career. Each year, some students simply do not make that cutoff. And, as Dr. Lerner said, “if someone’s getting straight D’s or F’s at the end of 10th grade, are they ready for college classes?”

Yet it would be much too reductive to simply conclude that the 2.5% of the student body that leaves each year represents those not cut out for BHSEC-style work.  Students leave for diverse, and sometimes multiple, reasons. According to the administration, half of the students who leave BHSEC leave for academic reasons, and half for other reasons.

Ms. Gesoff, one of the school’s guidance counselors, said that when she meets with students considering transferring out, she advises on a slew of problems: “oftentimes it’s a lot of academic counseling, but sometimes it is more than that – [sometimes] there’s something going on socially, emotionally, psychologically, physically.” In any case, said Dr. Lerner, “it’s always a more complicated story than everyone might think.”

One student who transferred out recently (and prefers anonymity) said, “I left BHSEC because though I was trying extremely hard in all of my academic classes, at the time, it didn’t seem as if my efforts were paying off.” This is the same student who had seen BHSEC as “the perfect choice” as an 8th grader.

This speaks right to Dr. Matthews’ assertion that one of the most important factors to consider in terms of the transfer rate is that students are deciding to come to BHSEC when they are 13 years old. It can take two years, and full submersion in a school’s culture, to decide that that choice was not correct.

Still, over the years, teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors have toiled away at providing students with all the support possible to ease students’ BHSEC career. Dr. Matthews contended that teachers are “constantly bending over backwards” to help students, echoing Ms. Gesoff, who claimed that “[I’m] working my hardest to make sure that every student here is getting [all the] support [they need]….that’s my goal, and my job.” For students who are struggling, Ms. Gesoff usually holds weekly meetings, assisting them with plans for the future. She helps “empower” students to “own” their decisions (be able to transcend outside pressures to figure out what is best for them). Ultimately, the student’s needs must come first.

But the results just haven’t been as promising as some would hope for: despite the school’s efforts, Dr. Lerner said, “we haven’t made a lot of progress” in trimming the transfer rate.

For students who do end up transferring out, though, post-BHSEC life often works out quite well. A recent transfer student contended, “I don’t feel any bitterness towards BHSEC. Mainly, I’ve come to appreciate the experiences I’ve had here.” A different transfer student asserted not feeling much resentment because “I believe that there are a number of students and faculty that are actively working to improve and sustain the school.” The student, who left for a private school, added not “regret[ting] the decision I made at all, [because] I feel that where I am now is much better in terms of creativity, caliber of students, dedication to learning and collective atmosphere and morale.”

Some students who transfer out even say that they did benefit from their time at BHSEC, however brief: said one, “I learned how to think, talk and write in an analytical way that for sure, I wouldn’t have learned at any other school.”

But the issue of transfer rates still poses a problem to the school itself. What can BHESC do about the transfer out rate? Is it a matter of working harder to retain students, or does the issue start before students even step into the building as freshmen? 

One current sophomore suggested that the school intensify the selection process so that fewer students end up leaving. But for Dr. Matthews, the admissions department already has a challenging task, since the school strives to identify students with “sincere curiosity to learn, [along with] a love of learning” – and that is hard to test for. 

Yet there are still ways for the school to actively improve in the framework of the transfer out rate.

While one transfer student contended that BHSEC was “perfectly reasonable and supportive in my transfer out process” another claimed that “the staff at BHSEC [was] not particularly supportive” and that the student felt “left alone, with my family, to struggle through the difficult and stressful process.”

Dr. Matthews thinks that one area of improvement lies in “creating a more productive culture for 9th and 10th graders [where it does not] feel like you’re drowning.” He envisions a 9th grade where, early on, “there are high expectations placed but yet you are given discipline, straight upfront…[in terms of] time management, grammar, writing – almost like a boot camp approach.” This would prevent the development of inefficient and detrimental behavior that is then spent being “unlearn[ed]” in the coming years.

 

 

DRAG DAY

Allie Gumas ’14

Two years ago, a brave senior, the desperate treasurer of Model UN, brought Drag Day to BHSEC in hopes of spicing up the fundraising ideas for his club and humiliating his fellow seniors. He gathered somewhere between five and ten acts of girls in suits and sagged pants, and guys in skimpy dresses and crop tops to perform in front of the whole school. The result was an amazingly entertaining show with witty commentary from the three teacher judges, and an overall profit of about $750. The selected winner was awarded a small percentage, and everyone was left with a lasting memory that could only happen at BHSEC.

Drag Day wasn’t only for the seniors, though. On that day students from every grade were swapping clothes and modeling themselves after celebrities and fellow students of the opposite sex.  There were girls with fake facial hair, boys with dresses, and everything in between. BHSEC has never been famous for its spirit, but on that day no one could question our ability to come together and have some fun.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Drag Day was that it could happen without prejudice, homophobia, or even a second thought for most kids. Only at BHSEC, where an environment of acceptance has always existed, could teenage boys in revealing dresses not be subject to the gay-bashing slurs that are typical to almost every other school. That speaks wonders to the kind of school we go to, and even more so of the students that attend it.

Sadly, last year no one was able to organize Drag Day. This year, however, I was treasurer of Model UN and was not going to let this opportunity slip by.  At the beginning of second semester a few members of Model UN began to make our first plans for the day that was sure to bring our school together in clothes of the opposite sex, again.  

Seniors were recruited, approval was granted, and dates for the auditorium were reserved, but it didn’t come together until the first week of May, and only accidentally. As Model UN was in the midst of pushing back the date of the show to late May, we were approached by the Students’ Union. They offered us $400 to take Drag Day from us and use it as a rainy day alternative for Community Day. With some hesitation we agreed, knowing that it would still be an enjoyable time and the SU was desperate for something exciting to do on Community Day. We had less than 48 hours to plan the show.

On the morning of Community Day, Mr. Mueller, two representatives from Model UN, and one from the SU were assigned the task of conducting rehearsal. Going into that day, maybe two of our acts came to school with the intention of performing – the other four were hastily recruited. Students from every grade volunteered. Costumes came from fellow students and the Lost and Found, but were still fabulous.  

When it came time for the show, no one really knew what to expect from what had been composed in just a few hours. All worries quickly melted as soon as the first few notes of Beyonce’s “Ego” played, and the hips of two brave boys began to shake. Freshmen boys pranced around in skirts, Year Two girls posed as a boy band, and everyone was laughing themselves to tears. Our teacher captains became our judges, and feedback was given to every performer. In the end, the group of Year Two girls dressed as One Direction, and singing to a sophomore boy was deemed winner. This was all just another testament to what an incredible school BHSEC really is.

 

 

CITIBIKE

Sophie Houser ’15

A few days ago, on the last leg of my daily commute to school, I overheard two women chatting as the 14D bus cruised down Avenue C.  “Have you seen the new bike racks that have been popping up around the city?” one asked. “You know you have to pay to park your bike in them,” the other replied, then added, “It’s f**king ridiculous.”

I thought it was too rude to interrupt their conversation, but I wanted to tell them they had the new Citi Bike share system all wrong. Although the empty bike racks might seem like places to park your bike, on May 27th the Department of Transportation will place special “Citi Bikes” in the racks. People can rent the bikes for unlimited intervals of 30 minutes for a daily rate of $9.95 plus tax or weekly rate of $25 plus tax. For $95 plus tax you get unlimited 45 minute intervals for a year. If you return the bike late, you are charged extra for every additional half hour. If you can’t find a parking spot at a kiosk because it’s full, you get an additional 15 minutes to ride to a nearby rack.

The woman on the bus is just one of many New Yorkers who are infuriated by the 330 new bike racks that have been installed mainly in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Many feel the futuristic gray metal racks are ugly. One BHSEC student described them as looking like “a robot that wants a hug but nobody wants to hug it.” The racks also attract pigeons, garbage bags, mice, and worst of all, dog poop. Critics argue the racks also pose safety hazards since some block the sidewalk in front of buildings, impeding access to fire and garbage trucks. In fact, many buildings have sued the City already, citing safety violations from the bike kiosks.  

Some people worry the bikes themselves pose a threat as well since they will give easy bike access to scores of new, inexperienced cyclists. Critics argue these novices won’t know the rules of cycling on the already congested streets, so they will be more prone to accidents with both cars and pedestrians. To counter this possibility, the Citi Bike program is offering free Street Skills classes. They also ordered heavy, clunky bikes so that people can’t ride fast on them. Another safety worry is that people can rent bikes but not helmets. However, at certain events around the city the Department of Transportation gives out free helmets and fittings.

Though naysayers abound, the program has its share of advocates as well, including the 7,000 New Yorkers who have already signed up for annual passes even though the bikes are not yet even available. In addition to looking forward to the ease and convenience of the readily available bikes, proponents point out that the bikes will be good for the environment. Bikers will also save money on taxis and Metro Cards. Also, many say that the racks might seem to stick out now, but as people get used to them, they will become part of the fabric of the City.

A rack has already become a staple right outside of BHSEC, in front of the field. Students seemed surprised when it was installed 3 weeks ago, but many like the idea of the bike share program. According to one student, “the benefit of being able to easily bike around here and not have to worry about my bike being stolen or what am I going to do about my bike if I want to go out with friends after school outweighs the factor that there could be more dog poop on the Lower East Side.”

The bikes could certainly help students with their commute to school since there is a kiosk right in front of the 2nd Avenue F stop at Houston and 1st avenue. Students will be able to bike the .7 miles to school from the train in a fraction of the time it takes to walk.

Another student who has a rack in front of his apartment building has ambivalent feelings. “It’s definitely going to get annoying having a bike rack right in front of my house, but it’s worth it since I’m going to use them to bike down the river.  It’s going to take me 20 minutes to get to school instead of my usual 50 minute commute.”

Overall, the positives seem to greatly outweigh the negatives, and we should be heartened that similar bike share programs run successfully in major cities like Boston, Chicago, Paris and Barcelona. Though the woman on the 14D was rallying against the new bike racks, once she understands the program and gets used to the new racks, she may very well end up biking across 14th street instead of riding the bus. I know I plan to.

 

 

COMMUNITY DAY

Ayla Safran ’15

Community Day is one of the few times of year that BHSEC attempts to demonstrate some school spirit. According to Lisa Goldenberg, Student Activities Coordinator, “Community Day is an annual day of community service within BHSEC and a day to build connections, collaboration and spirit within the BHSEC community.” In previous years, the first half of the day has consisted of community service within our school as well as in other parts of the neighborhood. This year, however, the Students’ Union decided to prioritize cleaning and decoration within the school, which turned out to be an unexpected blessing because for most of the day it was pouring outside. Despite this obstacle, both the indoor and outdoor games throughout the day were successful.

Students were instructed to come to school before nine in the morning, and many stumbled into the building bringing a small lake of water with them. Almost no one managed to stay dry, and by 9:15 most were not feeling very optimistic. Isaiah Back-Gaal ’15 said, “I was looking forward to Community Day as a relaxing day without classes where fun activities were promised, but at the same time, upon hearing about the torrential rain that was guaranteed, I would have preferred simply to stay at home.” Emma Evans ’15 agreed: “I was looking forward to it until I found out it was going to rain, and then I wasn’t excited anymore because I didn’t like how last year we had to do things inside.”

For the first part of the day, students spent an hour and a half cleaning the classrooms and hallways. Bulletin boards were decorated, and chalk murals were drawn on the walls. Soon, a cheery mood was kindled, and people got excited about their tasks, despite the weather. Many classrooms blasted music, and after they finished cleaning, students hung out and played cards. After the cleaning was finished, there was a game tournament between the different grades. The objective was for students to get to know those in other grades, and it seemed to be pretty successful. Out of the games offered, most groups chose scategories and mafia. The games got competitive in many advisories, and teachers had to remind their advisees that, after all, it was only a game. Io Brooks ’15, a Students’ Union member, asserted, “People actually did get involved in the games, which was awesome because Community Day can’t work unless people are willing and excited to be involved.” After all of the scorecards were collected, the winning grade was determined: first place to tenth graders, second toY2, third to Y1, and fourth to ninth.

One of the usual Community Day obstacles is the massive potluck lunch. Although it sounds fun and exciting in theory, there is a physical impossibility of having everyone in the school stream into the cafeteria within a short amount of time. Although a slightly different system was used this year, many students were caught waiting on long lines for almost half an hour. Oliver Divone ’15 articulated his frustration by saying, “I would like the lunch system to be put together better next year; it was really confusing.” In addition, Eliza Fawcett ’15 complained, “There wasn’t enough food at all.” Students offered different suggestions for how to better organize the lunch in the future. One tenth grader recommended that students who bring food are given a ticket to prevent those who don’t contribute from taking food away from those who do. Another student, Jenna Martin, suggested, “Next year for Community Day, I think that everyone should bring dessert because I care more about dessert than other food, and so do most other people.” This would prevent the massive line in the cafeteria, since students could eat their own lunches in the classrooms or outside.

After the potluck lunch, most of the school crowded into the auditorium for a drag performance. Four groups performed, ranging in grade and gender. The staff judges (Dr. Freund, Dr. Matthews, Ms. Gamper, and Ms. Walk) gave very positive “American Idol style” feedback, mainly praising the courage of the performers. The winners – a Y2 group who performed One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” – was rewarded with the cheers and applause of a supportive audience. Although BHSEC may not be the most spirited school, everyone enjoys a good drag performance! Multiple students expressed that this was their favorite part of the day, and something that they would like to see again next year. The step team followed, and also received high praise. As Eugene Varnedoe exclaimed, “The passionate dancing was inspiring!” Most students do not have the chance to watch BHSEC’s clubs perform, and so the opportunity was much appreciated.

One of the most anticipated parts of this Community Day was the massive game of bucket brigade. Luckily, the weather cleared up for long enough in the afternoon for everyone to be able to go out onto the field. In this silly spectacle, the end result was the dumping of water on the team leaders: Dr. Matthews, Dr. Freund, and Ms. Gamper. Dr. Freund was chased across the field multiple times by his enthusiastic ninth graders, while the sophomores cornered Ms. Gamper. In addition, many students participated in a water balloon toss and tug-of-war. By the end of the afternoon, almost everyone was soaking wet, but many students also expressed that they enjoyed the activities.   

Lisa Goldenberg and much of the Students’ Union were very pleased with how the day turned out. Io Brooks ’15, a core council member, explained, “I think that everything worked out as well as it possibly could have… In the future, we should keep on exploring with new ideas of things to do. This year we changed the format a lot and I think that we should keep on trying to do that and have fun with it.” Other Students’ Union members expressed the same sentiment. One representative said, “In the future, I look forward to a Community Day where we will be able to help the school more effectively and have fun while doing so.”

 

 

EVERYTHING YOU NEVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT AARDVARKS

Danya Levy ’15

Aardvarks have long been a crucial part of BHSEC life and merchandise. Cartoons of this wonderful animal grace our planners and t-shirts; recently, the Y2s graciously awarded us with a mascot costume, worn by a lucky few. But what is the true nature of this creature? Shockingly, it does not wear glasses or read newspapers, as we have been lead to believe.

As it turns out, aardvarks live throughout Africa, south of the Sahara. Their name comes from the Afrikaans language and means “Earth Pig.” The aardvark may bring to mind many other animals in addition to the pig—perhaps a kangaroo or a South American anteater—but is not closely related to any of these animals. In fact, it is the only surviving animal of its order: all of its closest relatives have gone extinct.

Most aardvarks weigh around 115 pounds and are about 50 inches long. They are nocturnal, which is understandable, considering that Africa can be very hot during the day. In order to escape from the heat, they use their powerful claws to burrow themselves little underground holes to live in. These underground homes can be quite extensive, and some have several openings. As night falls, they exit their burrows in a very specific way. First they peek outside to check for predators, then they jump around and search for enemies several times before finally walking away to look for food. Aardvarks mainly hunt for termite mounds, which they dig through to find food, but their diet is omnivorous.

Aardvarks have thick skin to protect themselves from insects and have no layer of fat. Their hair is most apparent on their young, and it often wears off by adulthood. The tails of aardvarks are muscular and resemble those of a kangaroos. Their tongues are often about 12 inches long, and are made sticky by very active salivary glands in order to eat termites.

Aardvarks are secretive and territorial, only gathering in order to mate. Males often mate with more than one female. The gestation period is around seven months, after which naked and adorable baby aardvarks are born. The babies spend a couple weeks in an underground burrow, after which they begin to follow their mother above ground. After three months, they stop nursing and begin to eat insects. At six months, aardvarks leave their mothers, and at age two they become sexually active. Aardvarks can live to be around 20 years of age.

In African folklore, aardvarks are often admired for their dedication in searching for food, as well as their brave reactions to poisonous ants. Aardvarks have also inspired the much-loved television show Arthur, in which the main character is an anthropomorphic aardvark.

Yet aardvarks still remain relatively obscure. One study notes that only 4.7 percent of elementary and middle school students can identify an aardvark. Their obscurity is due, in part, to their secretive nature. In fact, they are so rarely seen by people that some Africans believe that seeing aardvarks twice ensures a long life. Hopefully, their ubiquitous presence as school mascot  ensures longevity to all who inhabit BHSEC.

 

 

DR. ANDERSON ON RESPECT CULTURE AND WHY BHSEC STUDENTS ARE STATISTICALLY BETTER

Hannah Frishberg ’13

The vast majority of pre-collegiate institutions worldwide use a standardized curriculum and assess students through different types of written exams, multiple choice being the most common. Currently, in America, only a little more than half (66 percent) of high school graduates enroll in college; a recent study by the National Research Council reports that upwards of 40 percent of high school students are chronically disengaged from school, and nearly 80 percent of New York City high school graduates need to relearn basic skills such as remedial math and English before they can enter the City University’s community college system. How then, after only ten years of existence, has an inner city public school like BHSEC managed to maintain a nearly 100 percent graduation rate, more competitive admissions than Harvard, one of the arguably healthiest school environments in the nation, and all without stunning new facilities or a large budget, but instead an intense de-emphasis of standardized tests?

Dr. Vanessa Anderson would answer respect: “The culture of respect and collaborative spirit between students and teachers alike creates an atmosphere where everyone’s thoughts are valuable and should be heard.”

Sponsored by the Booth Ferris Foundation, a provider of educational funding, Dr. Anderson is currently working at all three BHSECs with the goal of documenting both the high school and early college program, studying what we do and how it can be replicated in other schools. Through observing classes and holding focus groups with faculty and administrators, she has deduced what she considers to be the core parts of the BHSEC model, namely administrative practices, writing and thinking workshops, the seminar program, funding, hiring, and critical thinking. It’s through these core aspects of the academic calendar that the elements of rigor, respect, and confidence are transitioned into the classroom.

Whether or not individual students feel particularly respected or particularly respectful of the education they are receiving here at BHSEC is a matter of personal choice, but the crafting of the curricula is objectively fair in process. The writing and thinking workshop anthologies we receive at the beginning of every year are compiled with the input of every teacher at BHSEC, regardless of degree, seniority, or subject matter – everyone contributes. This is a stark contrast to other schools, where tenured professors often hold far more leverage over new hires, meaning more influence, higher class budgets, and generally the existence of an intensely contrasting bureaucracy not in place at BHSEC. At Stuyvesant, in light of the recent cheating scandal, students explained the motives behind breaking their academic honesty quite simply: a lack of respect for the teacher. As quoted in a New York Times article on the subject, “A recent alumnus said that by the time he took his French final exam one year, he, along with his classmates, had lost all respect for the teacher. He framed the decision to cheat as a choice between pursuing the computer science and politics projects he loved or studying for a class he believed was a joke.”

The findings of Dr. Anderson’s study are not exclusively based on observation and atmosphere, but also on hard numbers. As it states on the Metis (a research and consulting firm) website, “The Booth Ferris Foundation engaged Metis to conduct a three-year study, beginning in 2011, to examine outcomes for the classes of 2010, 2012, and 2013. Through rigorous propensity score matching procedures, and using data from the NYCDOE and National Student Clearinghouse Database, Metis is comparing the performance of Bard students to that of students who had similar academic and demographic profiles when they entered high schools. Outcomes to be examined include high school credit accumulation, graduation from high school within four years, college admission and persistence, and post-graduate activities. With the support of Bard’s internal evaluation staff, Metis is helping to manage data collection and analysis in ways that will answer questions from funders, policy makers, and those looking to replicate the program.”

In summation, students involved in the study have a match student of a similar demographic at a different school who we will be compared to for some years to come (through anonymous data involving our OSIS student ID numbers) so as to measure the overall relative success of the Bard High School program. In addition to the Metis data, the Year 2 exit survey also provides figures for the study. In Dr. Anderson’s words, the evaluation “quantifies the obvious”.

The preliminary analysis on the class of 2010 shows that only do BHSEC students have a higher four year high school graduation rate than students at traditional high schools. The study is thus serving its purpose as an advocacy piece for early college programs internationally, as well as encouragement for potential grants to BHSEC I and II.

Although the study focuses on the impacts of the early college program on students, the data measuring our academic education cannot be entirely separated from our personal lives. Indeed, Dr. Anderson attributes a portion of BHSEC students’ success to the maturity which comes alongside growing up in New York City. In her words, “Being a city kid colors every aspect of a student, in a very awesome, special way. It is quite relevant as a qualitative piece of data.”

In addition to increasing our high school graduation rates and better preparing us for college, the BHSEC program also does an excellent job of creating opportunities for students of different demographics. In response to the question “Do you think that BHSEC has equal results for every student, or do race, socioeconomic standing, and home life have a significant influence?” Dr. Anderson immediately responded with “Yes, it does. There are certainly achievement gaps, but they’re smaller at BHSEC than other places. And there’s no end result gap, because lower income students can often use their credits at their transfer colleges.”

At the end of the day, numbers and studies will have no impact on an individual’s experience at BHSEC: our transfer rate is a testament to the fact that this is not a school for everyone. Clearly, though, the BHSEC program is doing something right, and whether we realize it or not, we are all likely benefitting (consciously or subconsciously) from the atmosphere of respect, inclusion, and diverse stimulation that this school gives us.

THE SOUNDS OF SUMMER

Hannah Frishberg ’13

Hot town, summer in the city – all across the five boroughs ACs are turning on, schools are letting out, and outdoor music venues are thawing from the long winter, vamping up for the encroaching 2013 season. So focus your lagging concentration on which shows you’d most like to see, because NYC’s got quite the spread this year, and it’ll be September before you know it.

For whatever reason, hip-hop is one of the best represented genres this season. Celebrate Brooklyn, the city’s second largest free concert provider (all shows are at the Prospect Park Bandshell and start at 7PM) is hosting Cody ChesnuTT and Mavis Staples (June 14th), Akoko Nante, Radio Jarocho, Susana Baca, and Calexico (June 15th),Big Boi, Phony Ppl, and D-nice (June 20th), Bombino and Amadou &Mariam (June 21st), Ladysmith Black Mambazo (June 28th),and Theophilus London, Les Nubians, and Aabaraki (July 6th). Tocounter, Summerstage, the largest free concert provider (shows are scattered into the outermost corners of NYC, including underserviced neighborhoods, but they’re usually worth the trip, the most loyal fans making sure the farthest shows are just as, if not more, fun than the accessible ones in Central Park. Times differ from 3 – 9PM) has the Flatbush Zombies and the Underachievers (Red Hook Park, June 4th), Rakim (Red Hook Park, June 5th),Big Daddy Kane with DJ Scratch (Herbert Von King Park, June 12th),the Zombies (Central Park, also June 12th), Dead Prez (Herbert VonKing Park, June 16th), Jon B (Betsy Head Park, June 20th), IAM with Rakim (Central Park, also June 20th), Femi Kuti (Central Park, June 23rd), Mos Def (Central Park, June 24th), Joe Bataan with Felix Hernandez (Soundview Park, July 2nd), DJ Kool Herc(Crotona Park, July 10th), Black Sheep, Marley Marl, and Das EFX(Queensbridge Park, July 18th), Pete Rock and CL Smooth (Central Park, July 28th), Jungle Brothers and Zhigge (Marcus Garvey Park, August 6th), and Bilal (Marcus Garvey Park, August 7th).

Other highlights from the Celebrate Brooklyn lineup includes a showing of Dracula with alive accompaniment by the Philip Glass Ensemble (July 13th), the LowAnthem (July 20th), Jamie Lidell with Dan Deacon and the Stepkids(August 2nd), Beasts of the Southern Wild with a live score and Slavic Soul Party (August 8th),and They Might Be Giants and Moon Hooch – the drum and saxophones trio often playing under the arch in Washington Square Park – (August 8th). Summerstage has the Airborne Toxic Event (Central Park, June 18th), Lianne La Havas (Central Park, July 27th), Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra (Soundview Park, August 3rd), Bobby McFerrin (Central Park, August 20th), and the annual tradition of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival (Marcus Garvey Park, August 17th – 25th). For specific times, openers, and the rest of the lineups, check out the programs’ websites: bricartsmedia.org/celebrate and cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage.

On the more classical side of culture, the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park (whose performances are free, but you have to wait in line for tickets, sometimes for upwards of three hours) is putting on the Comedy of Errors in June, and Love’s Labour’s Lost (a new musical version) in late July and August. Conversely, Shakespeare in the Parking Lot will be putting on Cymbeline in July, and Richard III (the bones of King Richard III having been recently found beneath an English parking lot, the company claims “Our intention is to bring Richard III back to life in a parking lot”) in August, in the empty lot off Ludlow street.

The New York Philharmonic will be playing its traditional series of free concerts in each borough’s major public park (these are gorgeous events, testing the rarely used acoustics of massive spaces, and often ending in fireworks), Prospect Park July 10th, Cunningham Park (Queens)July 11th, Central Park’s Great Lawn July 13th and 15th,and Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx) July 16th.

Good Morning America, for those willing to get up early(or perhaps not go to bed the night before) lets the public watch live performances (albeit consisting of two or three songs) from big name artists who come on that day’s filming of the show. This year Carly Rae Jepsen (June 14th),John Legend (June 21st), Jennifer Lopez (July 19th), Macklemore (August 16th), and Alicia Keys (August 30th),as well as others, will be singing in Rumsey Playfield for whoever has the self-will to be there from 7 – 9AM.

Other assorted free events this summer include the South Street Seaport’s 4Knots Festival (replacing the significantly less punk Siren Music Festival of the early 2000s) on June 29th, as well as various free screenings at Hudson River Park, including Moonrise Kingdom (July 31st)and Beetlejuice (August 16th), year-round salsa lessons, classes, and parties (check out salsanewyork.com), the timeless Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on the 4th of July in Coney Island, and some free (though mainly ticketed this year) viewings at Rooftop Films (a movie and a view!).  Williamsburg Waterfront is also a great, if sporadic, free music venue and the McCarren Park pool parties are always a good time (although with so much violence in the past, it is unlikely the tradition will continue, though no formal announcements have been made as yet, so keep checking their website).

This is just a partial list of the free things New York City has to offer this season. If you have money to spend, the possibilities become truly endless. So kick back and breathe deep because it’s almost summer, yes summer, in New York, New York, and you’ve got three months of hot weather and music ahead of you, for free, in the greatest city in the world.

 

 

SUMMER LISTENING RECOMMENDATIONS

Alessandro Bruni ’15 and Oliver Divone ’15

Alessandro Bruni’s albums recommendations:

The Ziggurat – The Constructs Corporation

Russian Roulette – The Alchemist

Sit Down, Man – Das Racist

In Search Of – Nerd…

Scrublife Mixtape – Wax

The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest

Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division

Roman Candle – Elliott Smith

Chutes Too Narrow – The Shins

Summer Sun – You La Tango

Speaking In Tongues – The Talking Heads

On The Beach – Neil Young

Go To Nassau – The Grateful Dead

London Calling – The Clash

Houses Of The Holy – Led Zeppelin

Oliver Divone’s album recommendations:

This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem

Dreams – The Whitest Boy Alive

Favorite Worst Nightmare – Arctic Monkeys

Broken Boy Soldiers – The Raconteurs

Attack and Release – Black Keys

One Hot Minute – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Gish – Smashing Pumpkins

Angles – The Strokes

Closer – Joy Division

Get Behind Me Satan – The White Stripes

Birth Of The Cool – Miles Davis

Sea Change – Beck

Mario Serrano’s song suggestions:

1. UOENO – Rocco ft. ASAP Rocky, Future (Remix)

2. Moonshine – Bruno Mars

3. Money Make Her Smile – Bruno Mars

4. Chris Tucker – J. Cole

5. Wicked Games – The Weekend

Lilabet Johnstongil’s song suggestions:

1. She’s Lost Control – Joy Division,

2. Buggin’ Out – A Tribe Called Quest,

3. Jackass – Beck

Lucas McGill’s song suggestions:

1. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) – Talking Heads

2. Ambulance Blues – Neil Young

3. Looks Like Rain – The Grateful Dead

4. Spanish Bombs –The Clash

5. The Ocean – Led Zeppelin

Rayna Holmes’ song suggestions:

1. Superheroes – Esthero  

2. Nakamarra – Hiatius Kaiyote

3. Str8 To Mumbai – Jai Paul

4. The Art of Peer Pressure – Kendrick Lamar

Isabel Gadd’s song suggestions:

1. The Dump – Soul Vibrations

2. My Girl – The Techniques

3. Contender – Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

4. Berimbau – Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66

5. From Temptation To You – Jeffrey Lee Pierce

Eugene Varnedoe song suggestions:

1. You are the Quarry – Morrissey

2. Random Access Memories – Daft Punk

3. Parklife – Blur

4. Otis Blue – Otis Redding

5. Sunlandic Twins – Of Montreal

 

 

THE MOSH (LOVE) PIT

Finn Clark ’15

I stood bewildered as the grown men around me began pushing each other, flailing their limbs as they went. It started abruptly when the first Dinosaur Jr. song came on. At first I was surprised, then disgusted, then fascinated. In between songs, a tall man with trendy wide-frame glasses approached me and complimented my shirt. Then he gave me a hug. The combination of the lengthy hug and the aggressive crowd seemed a dichotomy. But as the man hugging me began diving around to the next song, I realized that the group of aggressive moshers were not just angry, but also loving.  Sometime later in the show, the mosh was halted. A man had dropped his glasses; the community seemed to be very concerned with the situation and scoured the ground for them. Finally someone jumped up smiling, glasses in hand. The owner of the glasses took the glasses and pulled the man who found them in for inappreciative embrace, ending in a slightly ironic, yet very emotional, kiss on the cheek. The mosh promptly resumed.

The next day, I was sore and preoccupied. In retrospect, I did not know how I felt about the mosh.  The only thing I was certain of was that I would have to do it again and be prepared. I also could not help but to remember the various hugs that had occurred the night before. Hugging seemed so out of place in punk music. But as I thought more and more about certain instances, I realized that the mosh pit was actually a tight-knit community. When someone grew out of control, the pit banded together in order to subdue the wild one. The mosh pit was a self-regulating organism powered by angst and a sense of brotherhood.

I brought two of my friends, who’d never moshed, to a concert later in the year. I watched the surprise and apprehension cross their faces as the mosh started.  I knew it was my job to be their moshing spirit guide. Having snuck up behind them, I shoved them into the pit; the community did the rest. They clambered for escape, but I did notelet them. Finally, we took a break. They were bruised, and did not exactly thank me for bringing them.  I understood their uncertainty and did not push them any further.  Despite this, while sitting at a table of Indian food later that night, one of my friends looked at me and said, “let me know next time you’re going to a mosh concert.”  My other friend agreed.  I grinned at the term “mosh concert” and knew that the love of the pit had claimed two more souls. 

Music is a unifier.  The mosh is a place where those unified can co-exist. Perhaps it is not a peaceful co-existence, but it is one deep with bonding and emotions.  Do not be afraid of the mosher who punches you in the face amidst the confusion of sound and movement, for what he meant to do was give you a nice, welcoming hug.

 

 

THE NATIONAL

Isaiah Back-Gaal ’15

The National was formed in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1999. The band consists of Aaron Dessner on guitar and keyboard, his twin Bryce Dessner playing guitar, Scott Devendorf on bass, his brother Bryan Devendorf on drums, and vocalist and songwriter Matt Berninger. Today, they are based in Brooklyn, New York. In the music video frothier song “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” Berninger strolls through Brooklyn’s Prospect Parkland reclines in a few local restaurants.

Berninger’s baritone voice gives the ruminative rock band a deep, sultry sound that compliments the poetic, often seemingly meaningless lyrics. Many of the songs seem to be inspired by the band members’ travels. Varying emotions are evoked when Berninger sings about places such as Ohio, London, or Los Angeles. The songs are also quite often nostalgic, bringing to mind scenes of childhood and days long past. Strings of metaphors create beautiful, sometimes haunting lyrics. Berninger’s voice rings clear above the smooth percussion and bass without undermining the instruments, and creates a sort of rippling, echoing, enveloping effect. The National has been compared to artists such as Leonard Cohen, Wilco, and Joy Division. 

The National released their album High Violet on May 11, 2010. Within the first week of its release the album reached number three on the top sales charts in the United States and number five in the United Kingdom. High Violet achieved gold status in the UK, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, and Australia. The album is a medley of the band member’s fears and desires, passions and sorrows.  

The National is performing at the Barclays Center on June 5, 2013. This will be the band’s first performance in Brooklyn since performing at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park in 2010.

Besides being in The National, Bryce and Aaron Dessner created the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry music festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in May of 2012. Bryce also collaborated with musicians Nico Muhly and Sufjan Stevens to create Planetarium, a collection of songs devoted to the planets and other celestial bodies.

The National recently released their newest project entitled Trouble Will Find Me. The album art depicts a woman’s head that appears to be divided horizontally by an immense mirror. This makes it seem like there are two top-halves of a head connected just under the nose, facing the sky. This newest album shows the band’s revitalized confidence and the blunt honesty of their music.  As The Guardian put it, “Few groups make mournful music sound so life-affirming.” However, some of the songs of Trouble Will Find Me are more upbeat and lively than on previous albums, although they remain very personal and introspective. 

 

 

AN HONEST REVIEW OF THE BEATLES’ WHITE ALBUM

Lucas McGill ’15

The Beatles are one of the most famous bands ever, known around the world for their style and largely credited for many new revolutionary musical techniques. Many theorize that if it weren’t for the Beatles, many beloved bands that came afterwards would not have existed, or at least would have lacked the same inspiration.

Despite being an avid fan of the Beatles, there was one album I always lacked sufficient knowledge of until recently. Strangely enough this album was the White Album, one which has always been recommended to me so strongly one could easily start to believe it was the best thing the Beatles ever put out there. Not too long ago I picked it up and listened to it through many times, and have come to a few conclusions. Giving an honest review of this album is not an easy thing to do, because I know a lot of people will not want to listen to any criticism, but what I hope to present here is, from my perspective, an honest review of the White Album, based on my own knowledge of the Beatles and of what an album should ideally be like.

The album starts off exceedingly strong with “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” a song I’ve always known and loved even without knowing this album too well. This Beach Boys spoof is followed up by another amazing song- “Dear Prudence.” Despite the fact that these are both excellent Beatles tunes my major complaint about this album is already apparent. The songs don’t match up at all, the sounds of jet plane engines fading into the soft guitar melody of Dear Prudence just doesn’t sound right.

The album continues well enough. I enjoy the references to the Magical Mystery Tour in “Glass Onion,” and many of the songs are lighthearted little tunes. One little hymn such as this is “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” which is followed immediately after by the much darker “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Here’s where the problem becomes really apparent. These songs feel out of place with each other, like the album was put together in random order. An album should have a flow to it, or be centered on a core theme, but it’s starting to feel like there’s none to be had here.

I do enjoy this album all in all despite these complaints. It’s certainly not my favorite album of theirs (for now Sgt. Pepper’s remains king) but it’s got some great songs on it. Fast paced fun songs like “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, grand songs like “Cry Baby Cry,” and just plain fun, jolly songs like “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da,” this album has them all. There’s great fun to be had in many, many of the songs, be they powerful stories like “Sexy Sadie” or campy love songs like “Honey Pie.” These songs, even if a bit mismatched, make the album greatly enjoyable.

Unfortunately, there were a few songs I didn’t think as highly of. The first of which is “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”. I’ve known this song from before I owned the White Album, and, though some will surely disagree, I’ve always found it rather whiney. The next of them is “Happiness is a Warm Gun”. The song is, in my opinion, as scatterbrained and randomly put together as the rest of the album. The very beginning (“She’s nota girl who misses much…”) could have been its own song. Scrap the middle part(“Mother superior jumped the gun”) and expand the last part into its own song as well. I’m not a fan of “Revolution 9” but I understand that’s the risk you take when you experiment with a lot of different styles. However, I cannot forgive “Goodnight.” It’s repetitive, it’s corny, and it sounds like the closing credits to a bad movie. Worst of all is the whispering at the end.

Many defend the album as being a good representation of all the different styles of the Beatles – from their rock songs, to their love songs, to their orchestral performances to their just plane wackiness. That’s a valid defense of the album, but even so, that’s not the purpose of a studio album, that’s what a best of album should do in my opinion.

To conclude, this is a great album worth buying, but neither the Beatles, nor this album are immune to criticism.

 

 

THE SOUNDTRACKS OF WES ANDERSON

Lilabet Johnstongil ’15

 “Quirky” is a funky word. Pre-teens generally use it to describe their supposedly random and kooky personalities on their brightly colored, swag-appreciating Tumblrs. Wes Anderson movies are often referred to as “quirky” or “funky-fresh.” His movies (among them The Royal TenenbaumsMoonrise Kingdom, and Rushmore) are strewn with misunderstood characters, cigarettes and candy-colored sets. These things are characteristic of nearly every Anderson film, and shockingly none of them diminish their quirkiness. Anderson films are also characterized by their soundtracks: ranging from the music of Benjamin Britten (Moonrise Kingdom) to the Kinks (The Darjeeling Limited and Rushmore). In both cases, the music reflects not only the mood of the scenes but also seems to clue the viewer into what on earth is happening inside the characters inscrutable and misunderstood heads.

Rushmore, Anderson’s second movie, is the story of a fifteen year old kid named Max Fischer who falls in love with a teacher and then gets expelled from his exclusive private school when he attempts to build an aquarium for her. Since Max was initially imagined by Anderson as a British transfer student, the soundtrack was initially composed of nothing butte Kinks. However, the decision was eventually made for Max to be American, and the soundtrack subsequently became a variety of 60’s Britpop. The soundtrack still, however, allows the viewer into Max’s mind as it is reflection of what he is listening to as the story progresses. It shows us how he’s feeling and also, I suppose, clues the viewer in to some vague perception of what Max is like in case you can’t gather that from the movie itself.

Martin Scorsese (who is a big fan of Anderson) sums up the deeper meaning behind the music very well in his article for Esquire magazine: “and I also love the scene in Bottle Rocket when Owen Wilson’s character, Dignan, says, ‘They’ll never catch me, man, ‘cause I’m innocent.’ Then he runs off to save one of his partners in crime and gets captured by the police, over 2000 Man by the Rolling Stones. He – and the music – are proclaiming who he really is: He’s not innocent in the eyes of the law, but he’s truly an innocent.”

The music in these movies almost gives the viewer a guidebook on what certain scenes might mean, or at least a general idea of the meaning they’re trying to convey.

 

 

MODERN VAMPIRES OF THE CITY ALBUM REVIEW

Benjamin Gordon ’15

The battle for the best New York City band at the moment is close. There are the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, who just released the marvelous Mosquito last month. There are the Swans, who released the surprisingly amazing The Seer last year. And when you mention New York, you have to mention The Strokes. But no band is doing a better job at representing New York right now than Vampire Weekend, and they’re doing it with some damn good music. Modern Vampires of the City is their 3rd album and it’s pretty great. Contra, their 2ndalbum, was a commercial success and spread the good name of Vampire Weekend far and wide. But Contra lacks the flow of Modern Vampires of the City, and ideas like the yodeling on “White Sky” don’t work so well.

Modern Vampires of the City on the other hand, is fantastic. Opening with the quiet “Obvious Bicycle,” singer Ezra Koenig sings “Listen, don’t wait,” which is a perfect way to start this album. There is never a time in this album where you shouldn’t be listening. Leading into the incredibly catchy “Unbelievers,” horns, piano, and a drum roll on the toms while Koenig sings “I’m not excited, but should I be?” With a great climax, it may be the best song on the album.

“Step” is a slower song that sounds like CSNY’s “Our House,” and gives off the same type of feel regarding New York; this is our city. “Diane Young” is a fast-paced song where Koenig uses the name Diane Young to say that if dying young won’t change your mind, “baby baby baby I won’t mind.” The beginning of this album is as strong as any.

“Hannah Hunt” is very quiet for the most part, and when the drums come in at the end, the song feels euphoric. “Finger Back” and “Worship You” sound more like first album classics “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “One (Blake’s Got a New Face)” with Koenig’s slurred singing along with fast-paced drums and acoustic guitar.

The most exciting moment on this album may be on “Ya Hey.” “Ya Hey” is an anthem. Listening to Koenig sing “Oh sweet thing, the Zion doesn’t love you” feels incredibly familiar. The whole song has a certain feeling to it that feels familiar and after listening, you can’t help but smiling and singing the chorus to yourself; “Through the fire, through the flames, you won’t even say your name, I only am what I am.”

Overall, this album is fantastic. It may be the best this year has produced so far (if only Daft Punk hadn’t decided to come back this year). “Young Lion” is the closer, and is a soft song with one repeating hook with constant harmonies. Vampire Weekend are the best representation of New York City right now. They’re very proud of where they come from, with obvious references to the city. In “Finger Back,” there is a section where Koenig talks, saying “see you next year in Jerusalem, you know the one at 103rd and Broadway.” It sounds so genuine, so normal, so New York. And that is what makes Vampire Weekend so great; they’re so familiar, catchy, and New York. And that is why Modern Vampires of the City is such a fantastic album.

 

 

A SHORT HISTORY OF JOY DIVISION

Oliver Divone ’15

Joy Division is a band self described as sounding “a bizarre way and that to us was interesting.” Many consider Joy Division one of the sole creators of the post punk sound. Post punk is a genre of music that combines punk roots with a slower, more precise and melodic rhythm. Joy Division formed in 1976, with main lineup including Ian Curtis as the singer; Peter Hook on bass and backing vocals; Bernard Sumner playing guitar; and Stephen Morris on drums. The group began to form when Hook and Sumner attended a performance by the then prominent punk rock band the Sex Pistols at a show in Manchester. The next day, inspired by the Pistols to form their own band, the two went out to buy their own instruments and learn how to play. Through the next few years, the group’s sound progressed and evolved from fast punk to the slower more rhythmic sound of a classic post punk band.

Their first album, entitled Unknown Pleasures, was released in 1979.The album included hits such as “Disorder,” “New Dawn Fades,” and “She’s Lost Control.” The album was a relative success, selling about 10,000 initial copies. The band followed the release with a tour around the United Kingdom supporting the punk group The Buzzcocks. They continued on their own tour through the beginning of 1980. Throughout the tour, singer Ian Curtis started to experience unforeseen difficulties with his health. He had developed epilepsy, and often had seizures on stage during performances. He was embarrassed and ashamed by these episodes, something that he describes in “Atrocity Exhibition,” the first song of their next and final album Closer.

Closer was released in 1980, and received good ratings, many critics claiming that it was a fitting last album. With the success of the new album, Curtis’s health continued to diminish. Lack of sleep, stress with his wife, and his depression caused his epilepsy to continue to worsen. In early April of that year, Curtis attempted suicide. After surviving the encounter, Curtis shared the stage with another singer at their show that night. The audience did not like this, and a riot ensued. Many shows were canceled after this, allowing the band to rest up for their North American tour later that year. They played what would be their last show on May second at the University of Birmingham’s High Hall.

The night before Joy Division’s first North American tour, Ian Curtis returned home to talk to his wife about their impending divorce. He proceeded to tell her to leave him alone until the next morning when the band would depart on their tour. After watching Werner Herzog‘s film Stroszek and listening to Iggy Pop‘s The Idiot, Curtis hung himself in the kitchen of his house. The band was shaken, claiming that they were stupid to have not seen it coming. “I think all of us made the mistake of not thinking his suicide was going to happen … We all completely underestimated the danger. We didn’t take it seriously. That’s how stupid we were.”

The remaining members of the band continued on under a new name, New Order. They became a larger commercial success than Joy Division, and widened the category of the post punk movement.

 

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