Thursday, December 14, 2006

Arts: Shudder, Release: Patti Smith’s Photography

By Josh Kurp

Jesus might have died for somebody’s sins, but not Patti Smith’s. In an exhibit entitled A Phythagorean Traveler, at the Robert Miller Gallery at 524 W 26th St., photographs and drawings of the dark and tortured songstress show that Smith isn't ready to quit anytime soon. The show ends January 13th.

This isn’t Smith's first collaboration with the Robert Miller Gallery. Back in 1978, she and Robert Mapplethorpe—the photographer who took the shot that became the album cover for Smith's Horses—had a joint exhibit of her drawings and his pictures.

The work on display at this exhibition consists of mostly small photographs of images ranging from William Butler Yeats' tombstone to a picture of shoes on top of some sort of religious figure. Around the pictures run small, almost undecipherable text, of which you can only pick out every other word. But sentences like, “Rain…horses…fit…into…eggplant…birds” would actually work quite nicely in a Patti Smith song.

When Lou Reed had a photo exhibition at the Steven Kasher Gallery, I found myself wondering whether I enjoyed the pictures because they were superior pieces of art or because they were done by one of my heroes. I wanted to believe that they were stunning glimpses of New York City, but after a lot of time "leaning on the parking meter,” to steal a line from Smith, I realized that I had succumbed to Mr. Reed’s star power. That’s not true with the Patti Smith exhibition. The pieces are quite good and give us a real glimpse into the mind of a person who got Jimi Hendrix, Jesus Christ, Grandma and Jackson Pollock all into the same song.

On its opening night, I got to the exhibition a little late, but Patti Smith was still roaming around. A friend—who happened to have a slight buzz from the free wine that flows like a waterfall at the Robert Miller Gallery—ran up to me exclaiming, “Patti Smith came up to me and said ‘Hi!”

Wearing a pair of tight jeans covered partially by stylish boots and a blazer over a white button dress-shirt, Smith evoked an aura of “you’d better not mess with me” while retaining a sense of girlishness that’s been prevalent throughout her 30-plus years in the spotlight.

Unfortunately, I never got to meet her, but judging solely by the work on display (and the fact that I’ve listened to Horses too many times to count), I know that Patti can still provoke that artistic creativity that began in the early '70s. And that she can probably kick my ass.

News: Gere Reads About Life in Jail

Photo courtesy of The New School

By Liz Garber-Paul

As they entered the sold-out Tishman Auditorium on the evening of November 30th, audience members watched a slideshow of photographs by Andrew Lichtenstein and Steve Liss while murmuring to each other about catching glimpses of actor Richard Gere from behind the curtains.

The event was the centerpiece of a two-day New School conference entitled “Punishment: The U.S. Record.” Besides Gere, it attracted a number of leading professors, writers and activists to discuss the ethics of American concepts of punishment.

The conference featured Richard Gere and his wife Carey Lowell as keynote speakers. But, as President Bob Kerrey noted during his introduction speech, this was a “different kind” of keynote event.

While Gere and Lowell are best known for their lead movie and television roles, they have been human rights activists for nearly as long as they’ve been actors. Gere is best known for his Free Tibet advocacy, and has also been active in the fight against AIDS. In 2001, he founded Healing the Divide (HTD), a New York-based nonprofit that works towards solutions for marginalized communities throughout the world. Lowell, who has long been working with the victims of pediatric AIDS, has been a member of HTD’s board since 2001. She is also the co-chair of HTD’s Criminal Justice Initiative, which is set to launch in 2007 and will re-examine the current prison system and help bring reform.

Instead of speaking expositorially about the prison system, the A-list couple read selections from the PEN American Center’s Prison Writing Program, a literary competition for incarcerated men and women that has been sponsored by the PEN American Center since 1973. Most of the selections are published in Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing, a PEN American Center Prize anthology released by Arcade Books in 1999. This was only the second appearance for the actors in which they spoke as a couple.

The selections read at the event, ranging from poems to short essays, chronicled life in prison: arrival, the daily routine and thoughts from death row. One poem, “How I Became a Convict,” by life-without-parole inmate Victor Hassine, described the chilling sounds of entering prison knowing he would never leave—the metal on cement clanks that are familiar to many from movies, but not personal experience. The piece “Contraband,” by Patricia Prewitt, humorously told of the mundane objects that aren’t allowed in some American prisons: not just homemade tattoo guns or knives, but things like clocks and colored pencils.

Gere and Lowell read thirteen selections in just under an hour, exiting the stage to a standing ovation.

News: Still Mad About That C-? Time to Get Even

By Liza Minno

When a school’s administration wants to know what’s going on with their professors, they make students fill out teacher evaluations. Students, however, in today’s wiki-fied world, have another option: It is a site made and used by students to, well, rate their professors—in areas such as clarity, easiness, helpfulness and, optionally, physical attractiveness (hotness). Site users can also comment at length on the strengths and weaknesses of their professors.

For those students who don’t have a university-sponsored way to learn about fellow students’ reactions to professors, does the sometimes down-and-dirty trick. And, if nothing else, it’s an entertaining read!

A comment on one professor’s page refers to him as “a real old turd,’” while another calls the instructor in question “the best!” Neither, of course, is objective—or, for that matter, particularly useful, when it comes down to how students will work with a professor.

But most of the comments, it seems, are written in earnest, with some semblance of objectivity, and users of the site say they can prove extremely helpful.

One Lang student, who prefers to remain nameless, cites a foreign study experience (not related to Eugene Lang College) during which she had a male professor who was overly sexual in his classroom comments and inappropriate in interactions with female students, creating a hostile learning environment.

“I went to the [study abroad program’s] administration and asked what this man’s credentials were and they told me that they run extensive background checks on the teachers they hire and that this man was highly recommended by his colleagues," she says. "I really couldn’t believe that this was the first time he’d acted this way in a classroom and so I checked [] and, like, twelve women had written things like ‘ladies be careful,’ ‘if you’re a woman, don’t take his class,’ ‘he’s extremely inappropriate, unprofessional,’ etc. It just confirmed that I wasn’t crazy and also how easy it is for people, even professional people, to bullshit their way into jobs.”

Lang senior Bailey Nolan also feels that the site is a valid way to obtain essential information about the people who students are, essentially, stuck in a classroom with for five months.

“I've used for almost every professor I've had over the last four years and, more often than not, it's completely reliable,” Nolan says. “It's shocking to me that we, as students, can simply visit a Web site and find more honest information than our university administrators'. I know from experience, the Web site is an incredibly valuable tool for students that should be more widely recognized in the academic world.”

Lang College’s Rate My Professors page reviews 110 professors. A Lang student moderates the page. Most professors have somewhere between one and five comments, but some, apparently, provoke stronger reactions, for better or worse. Eleven people, for example, have posted comments about theater professor Colette Brooks, thirteen about education professor Gregory Tewksbury and twenty have commented on philosophy professor Barrie Karp.

Some schools, like NYU, have a similar feature that is available through the school’s official website to aid students during class registration periods.

Ava Holliday, a third year student at NYU, says that she doesn’t really use the school-sponsored rating program and finds that other people generally don’t either. Even though it’s designed to give students an idea about what kind of professor they would be working with, the site, Holliday says, “tends to focus more on the class than the professor.”

She adds, “I find myself asking advisors and professors about a teacher’s personality or teaching style instead of using [NYU’s school-sponsored rating site]."

The New School has nothing of the sort—and often students don't seem to take professor evaluations seriously. But at least there are other, online, interactive and much more entertaining options.

Op-Ed: Fly Me to the Skybridge...

By Alison Bensimon

Where is the love? Our Lang courtyard is there to replace another university's green, cafeteria and sporting venues. We came to Lang to stay away from lame frat parties and out-of-control drunk sorority girls. We asked to be a part of this courtyard and we made it the center of our socialization process at The New School. But when I walk through the famous Lang smoke-zone, also known as "the courtyard," I don't see love.

Lang is known for its class discussions, in which students unite by sharing their thoughts on specific class topics, but not about their lives. When class is over, everyone parts and goes on with their individual lives. The discussions rarely continue outside class, especially between a male and a female. Talk about sexual tension in class: eyes crossing, smiles being exchanged, hands accidentally touching, arguments about subjects which make voices raise, hearts beat faster and temperatures rise.

But once I'm out of class, I don't see couples acting on this tension in the courtyard. This should be a place that unites great minds and personalities, a place where students can flirt and kiss and touch in the midst of the chaotic college life. All I see are friends hanging out. The courtyard should be there for strangers and friends to socialize and for students to meet their Prince Charming or Ms. Right. Where else is that going to happen? In our non-existent quad? What ever happened to the fantasy of marrying your college sweetheart? What ever happened to the exploration of our sexualities?

All girls want is to have fun! When I'm in class, walking around school or in the courtyard, I feel as though looking for a guy is useless because the odds of actually speaking to him—or even seeing him again—are so small that it would be a waste of time.

Like most people, I claim to despise rumors. But I must admit that it is the perversion of juicy gossip, the "who's dating whom" or "who hooked up with whom last night," that brings excitement to the college dating scene. It's the kiss and tell that sparks everyone's interest.

When I asked Lang sophomore Anna McCarthy her thoughts on the dating scene at Lang, she replied angrily, looking at me with piercing eyes, her chin glued to her neck. "There isn't one," she said, and walked away.

"It's different from a guy's perspective," said Lang sophomore Paul Moore. Paul Lives in the William Street dorm and feels that there are a lot more options for guys than there are for girls. "This works to my advantage because it feels like the guy to girl ratio is 1 to 7," he explained. Paul has had had a few dating experiences with girls he met in the dorms. He feels as though it is more convenient that way. "All you have to do is press the right button in the elevator," he said. Although he did mention the difficulties of extending the date through the next morning, "A girl can't spend the night, because I am afraid that I will fall off my top bunk. And you have to be respectful to your roommates sometimes, so an open double is sexually restricted."

What we can all agree on is that dating works in different stages: the talking and flirting stage, the getting-your-number stage, the hanging out stage, and the hooking up stage. So why does it seem so difficult at Lang? We can blame it on the invisible green or the missing quad, but maybe we should blame ourselves. We should stop complaining and start flirting, stop telling and start kissing.

Arts: Rock ‘n’ Roll Rembrandts

Thurston Moore, Taking a Subway Ride With The Ramones

By Chelsea Werner

What would happen if your favorite musicians and your favorite artists switched media? Imagine Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth trading in his guitar for a pair of scissors and using a glue stick instead of a pick. That scenario exemplifies a new exhibit at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, "Music is a Better Noise" (from a line from an Essential Logic song), which highlights the unusual exchange between visual arts and music.

The first floor of the exhibit consists of two rooms divided by decade. The mid-'70s through early '80s room features the found object, crucifix-centric work of Alan Vega (known for his work in the formative electro-punk group Suicide), the sculptures of Rammellzee (a rapper who was one of the first to translate graffiti style into hip-hop culture) and the digital and pin-hole photographs of Barbara Ess (of no-wave and experimental bands such as Y Pants, The Static, Ultra Vulva and Radio Guitar).

The second room focuses on artists of the mid-'80s through the '90s. Bjorn Copeland, guitarist of noise outfit Black Dice, contributes a mixed media photograph called Gore Mixer Drip (2006), which shows a man with orange beads streaming down from his eyeballs resting a drumstick on a mixing machine. By using the title of a Black Dice song ("Gore"), Copeland finds a way to incorporate the words, images and allusion of sound into a visual medium.

A less successful attempt at a similar idea, Thurston Moore’s Street Mouth series (2005) demonstrates that his strength lies in sound collage, not paper collage. Images of his idols, such as Brian Eno, The Ramones and Lou Reed, are pasted under headlines to create a collage that looks more like a paparazzi spread than the work of an experimental, genre-blending artist. Moore's wife, Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon, has an offering of her own. Her Rocked Up series (2006) are canvases covered in acrylic and black glitter. Besides the obvious glam connotations, the only musical dimension to the pieces is that drugs have become so intertwined with music that one can't help but think the title of her series refers to a substance rather than a genre.

Arts: Music: Ali Lohan, Lohan Holiday

Ali Lohan, Lohan Holiday

By guest reviewer Lindsay Lohan

Hey bitches, it’s me, Lindsay Lohan. I’m guest reviewing my sister Ali’s kick ass Christmas album, Lohan Holiday. But, like, you can totally listen to it, even if you’re Jewish, or Kwanzakin or whatever. This album is so great, and not just because I sing a track on it. This album is great because it makes Christmas cool again. The second track, “I Like Christmas” opens with an electric guitar, so it’s kind of taking a punk rock approach to Christmas, which I think is like really edgy because Christmas is so not usually associated with electric guitars. Some asshole on iTunes said that Ali’s voice sounds like a chipmunk’s, which is so not true, and I would like to see that assweed sing an entire Christmas album. I bet he couldn’t. Besides, once she starts smoking her voice will totally drop like mine did. Don’t worry though, Ali covers some classics too, like “Winter Wonderland,” but she makes it totally fresh-sounding with a backing track that sounds like something you would hear on the game Dance Dance Revolution, which I am so good at and I totally beat Nicole every time because a minute into it she starts swaying and stuff and says she has to “sit down and drink some water” (we don’t talk anymore). Ali’s cover of “Jingle Bells” is inspiring because when it starts it doesn’t even sound anything like "Jingle Bells," and you’re thinking, what the hell is this? But then she starts to sing the chorus and you’re like, “OMG, it’s 'Jingle Bells!!'” The next track, “Groove of Christmas,” has a funky '70s beat that reminds me of my hit single “Rumors” because Ali sings in a sultry style, “Let’s get in the mood for Christmas/I can’t wait it’s almost Christmas” to really intense drums and then her voice gets all electronified like Justin Timberlake’s on “Bye Bye Bye.” We asked Justin if he would collab on this album, but he said he was busy so I was like, whatever. The money track, “Lohan Holiday,” has a special appearance by moi, but you can barely hear me on it because the night before I was at the Chateau (that’s industry talk for Chateau Marmont) singing karaoke with Damien Rice and Yoko Ono and my voice was shot by time I got in the studio to record this thing. The only thing about this album that isn’t so awesome is “Silent Night,” which is a track that my mom gets in on. She doesn’t even sing. She like, quotes Bible verses. I was all, “MOM, why do you always have to impede on our independent creative voyages?” And then she was all, “Lindsay Morgan Lohan, do not talk to me like that, I am your mother,” so I was all, “Oh yeah, then why don’t you ACT like it for once, BITCH!” and she was all like, “OMG, I can’t even believe you, you are being such a brat!” and I was like, “WHATEVER, IT’S MY LIFE!” and she was like, “I wish you would get back with Wilmer, he was such a positive influence,” so then I said, “MOM, STEP OFF. YOU DON’T KNOW ME, MOTHERFUCKER!!!” And I guess that about covers it. Happy holidays! XO, Lindsay.

Rating: A million times better than anything Paris has done. Britney too.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Arts: Profile: Ugurlu: By Drama Possessed

By Nora Costello

When Lang professor Zishan Ugurlu first came to New York in 1993, she was a struggling actress and grad student at Ankara University in Ankara, Turkey. Although she spoke almost no English, she was invited by Ellen Stewart, founder and director of La MaMa Performance space in the Bowery, who had met her in Turkey and been impressed by Ugurlu’s talent and her thesis on the importance of the play and its cultural context. Stewart helped Ugurlu acquire her green card and set her up with a small apartment above the tiny theater, where she became immersed in the downtown theater community.

“She was my mommy here,” Ugurlu says of Stewart. “I was a theater cat. It was a very dreamy, theatrical life. I used to watch the plays from the top of the theater.”

After receiving her MA in directing in Turkey, Ugurlu went on to pursue an MFA in acting at Columbia 1996. She was the first non-English speaker admitted to its drama school.

“I learned English from Leonard Cohen songs and reading a lot of books. The New Yorker was my English teacher,” Ugurlu says, sitting in her tiny basement office whose shelves are crammed with everything from Anais Nin to Chekov to yellowing spines printed in Turkish. “It was a constant effort. Memorization would take me ten times as long as the average student.”

For her, Ugurlu says, learning comes from the desire to communicate and the urge to understand, an impetus that compels her to work on her English vocabulary every day. “Two people can speak perfect English, but if they have no desire to understand each other,” she says, “there is no communication.” Speaking to Ugurlu, it is immediately apparent that she is an expressive, passionate person with a zeal to communicate, always, with candor, compassion and truth.

After Ugurlu completed her PhD at Columbia, she began teaching dramaturgy, acting and drama history part-time at Wesleyan University in 2002. Two years later, she came to Lang. She now balances her time between teaching, directing, and maintaining a career as a working actor.

“She has a really serious work ethic and is generally interested in helping her students advance their talents,” says Susannah Pugsley, a student of Ugurlu’s. “She creates a safe space for pushing yourself really hard, and you know that she genuinely cares about you and your success as an individual.”

Among the many original courses Ugurlu has developed at Lang are "Creating the Solo Performance," "Acting: Banned Plays," and "Latin American Playwrights and Acting." Next year, Ugurlu says, she hopes to develop an "Acting Science" class as well as a course that would incorporate community work. “I literally live in this room,” Ugurlu says of her tiny basement office. “I come here at nine or ten in the morning and if I am not rehearsing or performing I am here sometimes until midnight, reading. I’m thinking about new courses I can create.”

Last year Ugurlu directed the highly acclaimed Operetta, performed at La Mama, and next spring she will direct Rainer Fassbinder’s The Blood on the Cat’s Neck. Though not directing this semester, Ugurlu appeared in two downtown productions, playing the title role in La Mama’s A Whore From Ohio, a controversial play from Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin, and the meek Bettina in the dysfunctional family-drama Women Dreamt Horses by Argentinean playwright Daniel Veronese. Women Dreamt Horses played at P.S. 122 as part of the Buenos Aires in Translation Festival, and won high acclaim from The New York Times.

To her students, Ugurlu stresses the importance of their journey in understanding themselves, others, and what it is to be human and communicate with one another.

“Be present is all I ask," she says. "Bring your energy and effort to the room, every day. And read!”

Arts Q&A Clifford Chase

Winkie's Creator Speaks

Photo by John Kureck

By John Zuarino

Winkie is a story about an 81-year-old mangy teddy bear that can think, a la The Velveteen Rabbit. When Winkie wills himself to life one day, he crashes through a little boy's bedroom window and escapes into the wild, where he learns to shit, miraculously gains and loses a child, and becomes subject to the world's scrutiny when put on trial as the next big threat in the War on Terror. Through retrospection, Winkie ponders his existence in his maximum-security cell amongst the hard, absurd world he’s now a part of.

Clifford Chase's novel was released in June 2006 to rave reviews from the likes of David Rakoff, an essayist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, and songwriter Stephin Merritt. He also wrote The Hurry-Up Song: A Memoir of Losing My Brother and edited the collection Queer 13: Lesbian and Gay Writers Recall Seventh Grade. He taught First Year Writing at Lang ten years ago, before the school believed in grades.

I: How did Winkie start out?

CC: It began as a short story. I started by writing about Winkie running away, and that story surprised me. Then I went on to write another story about Winkie in the forest where he encounters the Unabomber character. That was written way back in '97, not long after the Unabomber had actually been captured. I was interested in the Unabomber as a fairy tale figure and the way a figure like that becomes a sort of two-dimensional ogre, so it kind of made sense to me that Winkie would encounter him in the forest.

In the course of that I developed the character Baby Winkie, Winkie's child, as a creature that speaks only in quotations. In some ways I think of Winkie as the essence of my childhood, and then Baby Winkie is the essence of an essence, so I was trying to understand what that would be. And intuitively I figured that she would only speak in quotations.

I: And they happen to be the right quotations at the right time.

CC: She's not necessarily using those quotations correctly, but she knows what she wants to say, and she doesn't want to say it herself. There's playfulness to it really, and the book begins as an act of playfulness. What happens if Winkie runs away? What if he learns to shit? What if he gives birth, etc.?

I: How did the Winkie snapshots come into play?

CC: When I visited my parents in California, where Winkie resided at the time, I took my camera with me and took pictures of him. I thought that if I were going to write more about him, I would need to find more information for practical reasons. I was previously working off of memory, and I felt like the descriptive stuff I was writing was getting stale, and I needed more information. So my mother and I took pictures of him. With half a mind I thought I might use them also as illustrations, but again as another purely playful act. We thought, "Let's have Winkie smell a rose" or "Let's have him looking behind some vines." Then the film came back, and the photographs were just very odd. I suppose it tightens the illusion of him being sentient and alive because in the photographs it looks like he's really smelling a rose and thinking.

I: Is there a different process that you go through when writing fiction as opposed to memoir?

CC: It depends on what you're writing. I approached my memoir [The Hurry-Up Song] as a fiction writer, so when I began I approached it in a way where I was writing scenes for characters with a lot of interpretation. There was a lot of the standard "show, don't tell" approach to narrative. On the other hand, I have a strong autobiographical component in my fiction. It was exhilarating walking out on a limb while writing the Winkie scenes with pure invention. It was thrilling and scary. When working autobiographically you're weighted down to earth with facts, but it's really about how you arrange them. Obviously with fiction you're not tied like that. I suppose, in reaction to just having written a memoir, I wanted to do something that was really playful and inventive as opposed to a realistic novel. Then again, I had to do a lot of that when writing about my mother. They were very somber, realistic chapters.

I: Tell me more about your mother's role in the book.

CC: I began writing a chapter about Winkie grieving for his child, and that's when I started writing about my mother's childhood. That was another way of having Winkie as a useful tool to enter into my mother's childhood as sort of a fly on the wall and to think about that in a different way than before. In my memoir I talk about her upbringing as a Christian Scientist, but there's not much about it in there. So, I wanted to go back and re-imagine her as a kid, partly because as an adult she was very playful among other things. For instance, when I said that I wanted to take pictures of Winkie, it wasn't like she was the type of person that would say that's really weird or ridiculous. In fact she thought it wasn't ridiculous, and she even helped me take the pictures. There's a wonderful picture on the Grove Press website of her holding Winkie like a baby and looking down on him, cradling him. She could be a lot of fun in that way, and I wanted to know where that came from. She was already in her 80's when I started writing the book. She was the way old people would begin to seem like children.

I: There's a scene that sticks out where Winkie witnesses the casual racism at the dinner table and wholly disapproves. Where did that scene come from?

CC: That scene was part of my childhood memories, and it was pretty difficult to write about. There were a lot of difficult decisions like showing two children acting in this shameful way, and it's a part of my childhood that I often wanted to write about. I had written already about my parents' racism in my memoir, but I had never written about my own. Winkie reacts as a wise innocent. He speaks kind of naively, but he's also seen and lived through a lot. I wanted him to react in a way where he didn't understand the political implications of it, but he just sees it and doesn't like it. And there's a bit of a racism theme in my mother's childhood too because of what was going on in Chicago. Winkie's a minority of one and sometimes the subject of persecution by the authorities, who arrest him and accuse him of a laundry list of bizarre charges.

I: Who were the influences for Winkie? How did they play out in the origins of the book?

CC: Donald Barthelme is a big influence. I studied with him at City College. I went there in order to study with him because I really loved his writing. He also turned out to be a really good teacher. You know, he writes in a very playful and postmodernist way, and that's a way of seeing literature that has always made a lot of sense to me. In terms of how that played out in the book, I went back to his novel The Dead Father the summer before last when I was revising Winkie for my editor and was stumped. I went back to that novel to try and loosen up my mind and pay attention to how he went about putting together the novel, and he's very playful about it.

I also studied with Frederic Tuten. His novel Tintin in the New World has similarities where he takes a children's book character and transplants it into an adult literary novel. That's what Winkie is doing. There's also a story by Kafka called Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse-Folk that I kept in mind a lot. It's sort of a cute, furry little Kafka story. It's not dark and scary and tormented, it's just about a little mouse that's a diva and her following. The mice risk their lives to hear her sing, and it's just a cute and lovely little story.

Midway through someone told me to look at Jan Svankmajer's films that I was unaware of, and I felt validation from his stop-action animation. It's not trying to be believable, it's trying to be something else, and that's a way of approaching aspects of Winkie.

I: Were the terrorism themes highlighted after 9/11?

CC: Yeah, that came to the fore. As the absurdities of the situation began to pile up, the Times ran a couple stories about people being rounded up and mistreated by guards. Then I thought maybe I could keep this as a theme in the novel, and maybe Winkie being accused of terrorism could make a lot of sense as a way to address what was going on. Not to make light of it, but to address it in a comic way. When John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban," was captured and tortured, I followed his case carefully. There was this total abuse of power going on. When I decided that Winkie would be arrested, I realized the authorities in the book didn't even know what happened, so I used Lindh's case as a template.

I: Are Winkie's judge and prosecutor based on real people?

CC: Not specifically. John Ashcroft was on my mind, though, because he would go out and make these charges against people in the press, and again and again they would bring the charges to court like nothing. He was just a big incompetent blowhard. I just hate him. I think he abused his power and is one of the people responsible for Abu Ghraib. Otherwise they're cartoon characters. I just let myself give in to a very comic-cartoonish portrayal of the war on terror through Winkie's trial. Winkie is more multi-layered and three-dimensional next to the human characters.

I: Last question: How does a teddy bear become pregnant?

CC: It's a mystery, like the Virgin Birth. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what happened. It was one of the first things I wrote, and I spent a long time trying to understand that. It was one of the questions my editor asked that I couldn't answer. In my little world it's a mythic element, the uncanny thing where he got what he always wanted without knowing it. It's a stamp in history.

I: I read that you originally incorporated a sex scene for Winkie that you deleted.

CC: Yeah, that was one of my experiments. I wrote Winkie having sex, and it was just really weird and didn't work. I won't go further than that.

Op-Ed: Got A Gripe: Meet My Roommate, Oscar Meyer

Illustration by Jeremy Schlangen

What's up with college roommates living like pigs?

When you dare not even enter the room down the hall because you dread the mess that awaits you, you know you're living with a greedy, filthy swine.

Aside from dirty bong water and piles of laundry, I have come across the worst of the worst. For instance: Chef Boyardee, with remnants of red sauce, left to rust, glass shards left to be stepped upon in the kitchen and cigarette butts on the stove.

Some thought the dorms were bad, but when you're living in an apartment with a microwave as your only cooking mechanism, dorms might actually be a blessing in disguise. I have found, though, that the easiest way to resolve these problems is to simply write a note about your concerns at pin it to the refrigerator.

There comes a day when one must stand up for their rights to live in a clean home, and not be forced to confine themselves to an eighty-square-foot sanctuary of dirtiness.

Op-Ed: Coulter: A Pundit In Need of a Good Spanking

Illustration by Jeremy Schlangen

By Liz Garber-Paul

Self-proclaimed right-wing patriot Ann Coulter claims that society is becoming “coarsened,” and she’s using the infamous hotbed of liberal propaganda, known to the rest of us as Columbia University, to illustrate her point.

For almost ten years, Conversio Virium (CV), a Columbia University student group, has been discussing, educating and offering peer support concerning BDSM (erotic bondage and discipline, domination and submission and sadomasochism) issues. In early November, New York Daily News Staff Writer Douglas Feiden went incognito to a CV meeting that taught technique and safety on flogging, a kind of low-impact whipping. Despite accepting the group’s confidentiality agreement upon entrance, he published an account of the meeting in the conservative tabloid and the story was picked up by the Fox News Channel. Instead of talking to an authority on BDSM play, they invited self-proclaimed rightwing patriot Coulter to comment.

Her analysis consisted of mocking the group. “Probably not your lookers,” she said. "Probably something wrong with them.” You have to wonder: if she had no real points to make, apart from an uneducated ad hominem attack on the members, why was she invited?

The whole thing made me realize just how much farther the sexual rights movement has to go before the kink community is accepted. I’ve been around it for as long as I’ve been in New York, and around a very liberal community my entire life. I forget that--to some people--tranny-boys and leather daddies are things confined to the realm of daytime talk shows. Some of those people, like Coulter, see the kink scene as an affront to their way of life.

“What kinky people are doing, what trans people and queer people are doing, is consciously pushing our acceptable forms of sexual expression and gender expression," one CV member--a recent Barnard graduate who, I might add, is quite attractive and popular—told me. “We’re teaching people to recognize the rules that they have been following their whole lives without questions. Rules about gender, and family and relationships, and turning them on their head. It’s like a fucking kaleidoscope.”

They’re playing on the fringe of the conventional gay movement, testing the boundaries of their bodies through pain sensation. They are looking to experience life in a different way, though perhaps more informed than the rest of us.

“I feel like the activism I’m doing now is the same as the activism I was doing in the gay rights movement ten years ago,” the CV member continued. “We’re helping people be brave enough to see what draws them, and making their life fun and interesting and exiting. It’s all about making people brave enough to challenge the rules that they were blindly following.”

In a sense, you can’t really blame Coulter for being so afraid of the movement. She seems to blindly believe only in the “Christian” way of life, where there is a husband and a wife, where men are men and women are women, where no one is gay and where everyone supports Dubya. But this has been an issue for some years now.

Ten years ago in gay rights? Hmm… that was the beginning of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy. That was years before gay marriage hit the ballots, even in Massachusetts. Years before Will and Grace* made femmey gay lawyers acceptable outside of Manhattan. It’s only a matter of time before coming out as kinky carries no more stigmas than coming out as homosexual, at least in liberal society.

Coulter claims that Evangelicals have, “more sex, better sex, more sexual satisfaction...” The kink community is trying to do more than that. They’re trying to expand their previous conceptions of sex and change the entire structure of society. It's interesting that Coulter’s the only one talking about getting laid. How very Christian of her.

Op-Ed: I Wii. And You?

Illustration by Jeremy Schlangen

By John Zuarino

Several weeks ago, beefheads and the socially awkward camped out at the Toys "R" Us in Times Square for the Nintendo Wii release. With its odd name and especially phallic controller, one wonders if Nintendo has finally created the gayest video game console ever. Given the hetero-normative sociological expectations in video gaming, the idea of men waving phallic motion-sensing controllers at each other can be somewhat unsettling to most gamers.

I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. When the company announced back in April that they would name the console "Wii" instead of the originally intended "Revolution," millions were outraged. "Gay," said one Japanese publisher. "Sorry if that offended. I hate using that word in the pejorative sense, but it totally applies this time. …Joe Schmo from middle America can't say 'Wii' with a straight face, whereas he has no trouble saying '360' or 'PS3.'"

Honestly, I can't keep a straight face saying any of the three names. Saying "I want a 360" and "how 'bout that PS3" just creeps me out. But 'Wii' has a bit of a ring to it. Not only does it embody the onomatopoeic equivalency of the word "fun," it also says something sexy about the machine. "I want a Wii" and "how bout that 'Wii?'" just roll off your tongue, and make you tingle in all the right places. It's no surprise that gamers started a petition to force Nintendo to change the name.

Even more amazing is the slew of reports that players have been accidentally throwing their Wii remotes through their TVs and even in each other's faces. Have you ever heard that saying—that homophobia stems from self-hatred? Well, just imagine sitting with a group of frat boys jamming their six-inch Wii phalluses in each other's faces during a game of Mario Bowling, and you'll get the idea. Follow the debauchery of crushing beer cans on your head with a long night of trading Wii blows, and you've got a deal!

At, the "blog with homosexual tendencies," contributor Andy writes, "Part of the fun of the Wii is designing your own character, called a Mii. You start with a head shape and add from dozens of features until your character is created. Of course, this ultimately turned into an incredibly amusing diversion. As you can see, it wasn't long before our friend Martin's journey into cyber-drag resulted in the character below." Andy refers to a Mii character resembling a coked-out circuit boy one would find on the dance floor at the nightclub Heaven. "When hooked up to WiFi, you can send your Miis over the internet to participate in a parade on another user's Wii."

This Christmas, why not don your Link outfit and role-play with your partner over a Nintendo Wii? That's what I'll be doing, and I'll be sure to order the purple silicone skin from eBay to slip over my Wii for that extra effect while I swordfight with my bros.

Op-Ed: You Read it Here First: Newspapers Suck

Photo Illustration by Alexander Porter

By Ben Kelly
Yesterday I was surfing the Internet on my T-Mobile Sidekick for porn and/or celebrity tidbits when I accidentally clicked on a link to an article: "Newspapers Struggle to Avoid Their Own Obit." It was in something called The Christian Science Monitor. The article wasn't about Jesus, though. It said that this journalism professor, Philip Meyers, has written a book, The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age, which says that newspapers are doomed. Meyers predicts that by 2050, newspapers will have "lost their last reader."

Thank God. I mean, who reads the newspaper? What is this, the 1950s? Should I pick up a paper while I wait for the commuter train to take me to my Madison Avenue job? Maybe I should circle items of particular interest with my Montblanc fountain pen, so I have something to talk to my housewife about over Tom Collinses. The article went on to say that "young people" are to blame for nobody reading the paper anymore. I don't see it that way, exactly. I think it's more the fact that newspapers are really lame.

"Newspapers will have to be smart about distributing the news in the way [young] consumers want, or they won't be relevant," Sammy Papert III of Belden Associates, a newspaper research firm, is quoted as saying. He goes on to offer a bunch of ways to get people like me to become readers, like free papers and entertainment sections. Well, I've got some news for you, Sammy Papert III—no one I know is going to pick up any fossilized newsrag, no matter how many Sudoku puzzles you stick in it. That's because there are much, much better ways to stay up to date.

If you're really serious about the news, there's TV. The few times I've tuned in, there were experts there to analyze whatever global crisis in TriBeCastan we're supposed to care about. Plus if you want to get really in depth, you can watch the news on a couple different channels, to compare coverage. And, unlike the stupid newspaper, you don't have to read.

But if you're like me, when you flip on the TV, the last thing you want to do is learn something. You know what's way more convenient? A little thing called the World Wide Web. There's all kinds of information on there. Like, the other night I made a bet with my friend Paul about what the name of that blimp on the cover of the first Led Zeppelin album was, the Hindenburg or the Heisenberg. We never found out the answer, but we did get to see those Britney Spears pictures everyone's been talking about. And if those are on there, I'm assuming there's probably a good chunk of news stuff, too. If that's what you're into.

You know what's weird? I read that report about newspapers dying out in the newspaper! I bet I can tell you what's really going on: a bunch of journalists decide to get themselves some sympathy by pretending that their beloved newspaper is on its last legs. That way, people will start reading the paper, thinking they better do it while they have the chance. 'Course, with all those new readers, the papers will actually be doing fine. It's like classic rock bands that are always going on their farewell tours, only to announce at the last show that, because of how successful the tour was, they're going back to the studio to put out their, like, 900th album.

So, while I hope that the report is true, and that, by the time I'm sixty-five, newspapers will be something my grandchildren will pester me about, the same way I used to ask Grandpa Dan about speakeasies and food lines, I doubt it. After all, you can't believe everything you read.

Arts: Film: Miss Potter

McGregor as Norman and Zellweger as Potter looking over proofs of her great hit, Photo by Alex Bailey

Miss Potter. Director Chris Noonan. Starring Rene Zellweger, Ewan McGregor. Opens January 5th.

By Courtney Nichols

Much like Finding Neverland, Miss Potter is a linear, uncomplicated, kids' movie that does not provoke debates or questions, but rather carefree smiles and an empty mind.

Directed by Chris Noonan (Babe), Miss Potter is a fantastic journey through the author of Peter Rabbit's predictable yet heartwarming life. Renee Zellweger plays the lonely Beatrix Potter whose only companions are her drawings—which speak to her from time to time. This is the only part of the movie I found unique and intriguing.

Norman Warne (played by Ewan McGregor, who can simply stand there and do no wrong) notably illuminates the screen, but is lost alongside Zellweger’s glossy Botoxed cheeks. Emily Watson also excels as the homely Millie Warne who, with the consent of her brother Norman and the friendship of her partner Beatrix, remains single in a world devoid of unmarried women.

Despite the A-list cast and the overwhelming chemistry between Zellweger and McGregor (first exhibited in Down with Love), the script is hum-drum and the ending melodramatic, so much so that even a backdrop of adorable farm animals cannot save the movie from becoming a banal homage to love lost and regained. Undoubtedly, the script is sickeningly cute and the creation of the beloved children’s tales conjures up memories, but any movie that ends with cheap character follow-ups needs to be tossed into the made-for-TV pile.

Miss Potter is perfect for the awkward ages between five and nine, and for those that are sick of having to think through a film. But for rest of us, this flick can surely be missed.

Rating: Can Renee even smile without squinting her eyes?

Potter at work, Photo by Alex Bailey

Arts Theater: The Vertical Hour

The Vertical Hour. Director Sam Mendes. Starring Julianne Moore, Bill Nighy, Phillip Lucas. At the Music Box.
By Hannah Papageorge

A former war correspondent turned Yale professor (Julianne Moore) and her simple boyfriend (Philip Lucas) take a trip to the Welsh countryside to visit his father, who challenges the woman’s long-standing pro-war beliefs. Politics and personal histories clash, making the play volatile and unpredictable. The writing is witty and thoughtful, but Moore’s inexperienced performance is weak and lacks the passion her character requires. In contrast, theater veteran Bill Nighy commands the stage. The countryside set, which features a massive tree, is remarkable.

Rating: One hundred giant trees

Damien Rice, 9 NORA

Damien Rice, 9
By Nora Costello

pulls us in slowly with Lisa Hannigan’s willowy vocals, then charges forward into Rice’s bleeding-heart wails. While cozy lyrics like “I love your depression and your double chin” are sweet, Rice's work doesn’t live up to his vocal power, and is overwhelmed by over-the-top orchestral work. Despite possessing Jeff Buckley potential, Rice unfortunately gives into the Connor Oberst lurking within him. The result is hollow and trendy. In the second half of the album, Rice trades power and grit for tempo, denying us the vocal energy at which he excels. Too folk-y and trying too hard, 9 is sleep-inducing. While it isn’t all bad, the 20 minute track “Sleep Don’t Weep,” half of which is high pitch musical wineglass sound, is unforgivable.
Rating: Like three razor blades and a spoonful of sugar

Arts: Andy and Edie, Together Again

By Sophie Okulick & Hannah Papageorge

If you walk down Madison Avenue past Barneys this holiday season, you'll notice a window display featuring Andy Warhol's classic motifs. This season, the Pop Art icon returns to his old stomping grounds: fashion-forward New York City. With the opening of Factory Girl, starring style icon Sienna Miller, the swinging '60s have invaded closets everywhere with short mod dresses, mink coats and tubes of black mascara. To target the young and rich Edie-wannabes, Barneys couldn't have chosen a better or more eye-catching display. The publicity that Warhol receives from these industries is altering his reputation, making him into more of a celebrity than he was and, consequently, detracting from his standing as a fine artist. As we enter the new year, Barneys, in giving over their prime window-front to the display, has chosen Warhol to represent the future of fashion. The crowds swarming to the window to catch a glimpse of these infamous and artful creations are so large that it’s almost impossible to get a picture. The plastic, humanoid figures on display look real enough to bring Warhol and Sedgwick back from the dead.

Arts: Film: Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth. Director Guillermo del Toro. Starring Ivana Baquero, Sergi López.
By Chelsea Werner

Director Guillermo del Toro recreates the political tensions of post-Civil War Spain and of childhood imagination. Ten year-old Ofelia finds a twisted context for the fascism around her that serves as a tale of corruption for adults. The original score evokes a truly disturbing world, where ideologies destroy humanity.

The first appearance of the shape-shifting insect that finds and leads Ofelia to the fawn that reveals her fate is a signal that Ofelia is striving to enter an underworld. It is not surprising, then, that her adventures involve the entrails of giant toads and ghastly child-eating ogres. These interactions pale in comparison to the evil represented by Captain Vidal, Ofelia’s new stepfather, a neurotic who lacks the possibility of redemption. Not for the eyes of children, this film was captivating and disturbing at the same time.


Op-Ed: Yo Teach, You're Not Paid to Ditch Class

illustration by Jeremy Schlangen

By Brendon Hancock
, outside contributor

This is a shorter version of a piece that appeared on the Eugene Lang College community, on November 21.

Nearing the end of this semester, I find myself reminiscing about my Lang education. Overall, I feel content, even thrilled that I have been able to customize a course of study that best fits my personality and my interests. At Lang, I have some amazing mentors and teachers who have educated me in my field, as well as bestowed upon me new introspections and outlooks on life.

Yet, I also find myself frustrated to no end by a problem that has pervaded for the entirety of my education at Lang, infuriating me more this semester than in semesters past: my professors are truant and tardy.

This semester, I have a teacher (who shall remain nameless) who shows up late to class every day, if at all. Now, most students might take this as a godsend, a day of class missed and an unexpected break. But this supposed break makes me upset, even angry.

By my calculation, this teacher has missed 435 minutes of class. I am infuriated more than my fellow classmates, in part because I have had more than one unpunctual professor. In fact, I have kept meticulous track of professorial absences and truancies in my three years at Lang. In 5 semesters, I have had a total of 27 classes missed through a professor's failure to attend. Perhaps most infuriating is that all but one of these truant professors is still employed by this university.

Every single semester, I inform the proper authorities of the university, including the dean, the chairs of the faculty departments and academic advisors. My efforts have not resulted in any teacher attending classes more regularly and none of my complaints seem to have made the university any more aware of this chronic problem of professorial truancy.

This semester, I know I am not the only student complaining. I received emails from my classmates who were attempting to write letters to Lang Dean Jonathan Veitch. My classmates have complained even higher up the chain than I care to go, and yet not a thing has changed. Even after my complaints, my teacher walked in 30 minutes late to class, and it has made me understand why Lang is rated number #2 on Princeton Review's list of "Long Lines and Red Tape." It's because student problems aren't addressed, they are ignored. In contrast to this teacher being replaced, or given an ultimatum to come on time, she will likely just be "let go" when the semester ends. In the meantime she will show up late or fail to show up at all for the rest of the semester, continuing to waste my money and time.

In my first semester at Lang, an amazing Poetry professor explained the financial breakdown of our educational costs. He showed us how much our education was costing us in terms of cents per minute. It was staggering to find out just how much money my education cost. I was paying more than a dollar a minute to be in class. Since that early lesson of economics, I have attempted to capitalize on the overwhelming price of this private education, recognizing that if I wasn't learning, I was wasting thousands of dollars.

A grand total of 27 classes in three years, 2700 minutes x $1.11= $2997. My total tuition so far has been $65,760, and $2997 is 4.5% of that. Absenteeism on the part of New School professors so far has wasted at least 4.5% of my education. Each of the teachers I mentioned would have failed the classes by the students attendance standards--although, those never seem to be enforced either.

Op-Ed: Highway to the Xenu Zone

Exploring Scientology

By Najva Solemani

The holiday season is upon us, which means that people everywhere are going to shop, celebrate their religious traditions, and occasionally make fun of others'. The scapegoat of the minute is Scientology, which could be why I found myself watching A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant at the New York Theatre Workshop on Wednesday the 6th.

Before the pageant, I expected to find alien stories and lots of tasteless jokes about Tom Cruise. Of course, I was right. But what I didn't expect was the children's balanced and hilarious portrayal of L. Ron Hubbard's life story.

Unfortunately, most of the media isn't as fair as Les Freres Corbusier, who produced the pageant. The media has a consistently negative approach to Scientology, causing the average person to view it more as a bad joke than a valid system of beliefs.

Admittedly, Scientology has its issues. As the daughter of a loosely practicing Scientologist, and therefore, a Scientologist-by-association, it feels a bit like my duty to straighten out some of these misconceptions. Please don't throw down your paper in mock-disgust of my defense.

Let me start by saying that if you judge Scientology by Tom Cruise, it's like judging modern day rock music by Fall Out Boy. It is uninformed to judge a group by its most prominent member—both Fall Out Boy and Tom Cruise are terrible examples of what they supposedly represent. Most Scientologists I've met are normal, intelligent people. They have families, college degrees, and middle class homes. They aren't celebrities, or depressed misfits who end up estranged from their families, declaring bankruptcy, and committing suicide.

People can be bat-shit nuts in any religion, but, for the most part, Scientologists are rational. They also happen to be non-judgmental and generous. That's probably due to the religion's focus on health—meaning Scientologists sleep well, eat well and abstain from drugs.

Scientology is similar to Confucianism; it's a lifestyle. There are no gods to pray to or idols to worship. There are classes and sessions you pay for to learn the teachings, as well as books by L. Ron Hubbard that support the teachings.

Shockingly, after having taken a few of these classes, I realized that they do teach useful things. The elementary courses cover topics such as how to study and how to communicate, both of which I highly recommend. I've also done a bit of auditing, which is like getting hooked up to a baby lie detector. An auditor asks you questions about the past, or yourself, and sees what areas of your life bother you based on the readings. You talk through any area of stress and unhappiness until you reach a point where your needle floats an indication that you're no longer stressed about it. That's all. Still sound like they were brainwashing me?

The organization as a whole is engaged in the community, doing charity work trying to keep kids off of A.D.D. meds that are proven to be addictive. They're not, as critics allege, just out to prey on the lost and weak.

I've also heard criticism that claims Scientologists are "cut off from family members and loved ones" that don't support them. Most Scientologists I've met certainly don't ignore me because I'm not "rah-rah L. Ron." Maybe as you get deeper that happens, but it's comparable to a devout Christian struggling with being best friends with an Atheist. There's just a clash of beliefs.

Lastly, there's the Aliens-took-over-the-earth, super-secret story of the world that people love to point and laugh at. I get it. It's really weird. But are aliens any crazier than the mystical creation of Adam and Eve, burning bushes or turning water into wine?

Let's just give them a break on that one. Every religion needs its crazy creation story. L. Ron Hubbard may have been a bit crooked, financially as well as mentally, and he might've gone a bit too far. However, that doesn't mean the religion's basic principals are inherently flawed.

So this holiday season, when you're tempted to make your family laugh with another below-the-belt crack at crazy Scientologists, remember: it's just Tom Cruise.

Arts: Music: Gwen Stefani, The Sweet Escape

Gwen Stefanie, The Sweet Escape

By Almie Rose Vazzano

Here are few of my favorite things from Stefani’s The Sweet Escape: use of The Sound of Music’s “The Lonely Goatherd” in "Wind It Up," the jaunty title track that sounds like Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” and the giddy and silly “Yummy," an anthem to “sleepovers without pajamas." But when the dog bites and the bees sting, Stefani’s tracks sound like early Janet Jackson throwaways. “Orange County Girl” is the ghost of the superior No Doubt hit “Just A Girl.” In “Now That You Got It,” the only thing Stefani’s got is the same alarm sound effect Beyonce used in “Ring the Alarm.” Without “The Lonely Goatherd,” "Wind It Up" is a boring, unmemorable mess. This is made clear on the “Original Neptunes Mix," which lacks the *Sound of Music* sampling. Why include it? That’s like a magician revealing how the trick is done.

Rating: The hills are alive with the sound of Gwen, but they’re not thrilled.

Arts: Film: Factory Girl

Factory Girl. Director George Hickenlooper. Starring Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce.

By Julia Schweizer

Set in the midst of the New York City Pop Art scene, Factory Girl depicts the rise and fall of beautiful heiress Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller). Upon meeting Edie, then-starving artist Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce) is determined to make her a star without paying her a penny. Like so many other factory girls, Edie gets wrapped up in a life of drugs and scandal. Despite melodramatic shots of empty Vicodin bottles strewn on the nightstand of her Chelsea Hotel suite and cliché trippy camera angles to depict Edie’s highs, Sienna Miller couldn’t have been more perfectly cast.

Rating: You’re the boss, applesauce.

Arts: Books: Siberia By Nikolai Maslov

Siberia. By Nikolai Maslov
By John Zuarino

Following the recent trend of local publishing houses to translate foreign works, Soft Skull Press has imported Nikolai Maslov's Siberia, a graphic novel from Russia. Maslov's book chronicles his life during the last twenty years of the Soviet Union, where he was drafted into the Red Army in Mongolia and later landed in a Moscow psych ward after his brother's death.

Each panel evokes a dreamlike quality. Maslov relies on soft pencil drawings and completely avoids color, allowing for a greater contrast between the truly beautiful Siberian landscapes and the grotesque Russian soldiers' faces.

Maslov says of his book, "This graphic novel is nasty, very nasty, but it is the reflection of my life. …My story is neither the most violent, nor the most tragic." As horrible as things get for Maslov, one needs only to read over his elaborate dream sequence in which old-fashioned Russian clay ovens parade through Red Square before the USSR dissolves. It's unlike anything ever seen in American comics.

Rating: 4 out of 5 clay ovens.

Arts: Music: Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas

Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas
By Kayley Hoffman

I hope you’ve been a good little Langer this year, because Sufjan Stevens' box set of Christmas tunes is coming to town! The annual project, started in Stevens' kitchen in 2001, has now evolved into a 5-disc compilation featuring traditional Christmas faves (“Joy to the World,” “O Holy Night”) and original gems (“Christmas in July," "Put the Lights on the Tree"). Each tune is personalized with Stevens' signature banjo, recorder and piano, which will undoubtedly compel you to bust out the eggnog and a baby Jesus while getting your Christmas boogie on. Don’t be a Scrooge, buy the CD online—the box set includes fun novelties like a Christmas comic, stickers, a songbook with chord charts and a short story by Santa Sufjan himself.

Rating: 10 Yuletide banjos-a-strumming.

Arts: Theater: Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening

By Courtney Nichols

At least it's not Disney. While attempting to be as different as possible, Spring Awakening is a stereotypical coming-of-age Broadway musical that is awkwardly acted and just as awkward to watch. The play, strangely set in 1890s Germany, attempts to fit every possible teenage rebellion story into a two-hour rock opera. If nothing else, at least one can say they saw teenage boobs, PG sex and a man masturbating in front of middle-schoolers. As author and lyricist Stephen Sator aptly noted, “this is not a Sondheim musical.” Thanks be to God for that—if it were, Sondheim might just shit himself.

Rating: Bad sex, cheap drugs, and rock ‘n roll.

Op-Ed: Pardon Moi?

Today’s Polite World, Explained

By Amber Sutherland

I missed the deadline for my final paper. What can I do?

Don’t let a silly thing like gross academic negligence stand between you and your well-deserved A! Make like Cher in the hit '90s film Clueless and finesse your way into finally achieving a minimally acceptable GPA.

I have overheard many students taking the old “you didn’t get my email?” approach. This is always ill advised because your professors know that, for the most part, the Internet works. It will also barely help you squeak by, affording six hours, at the most, to have a languid dinner out and return home to “re-send” your paper. This is not enough time to write the brilliant essay you know you’d be capable of, if only you would apply yourself.

I also advise against the classic just-not-showing-up-to-class tack. Guess what, jerk? Your paper is still late! And your professor is not going to believe you were suddenly stricken by a mean case of the 24-hour plague, you filthy liar.

However, everything is negotiable. We are approaching the only time of year when a bribe can come cleverly wrapped in the guise of a gift. My understanding of these academic types is that the only thing they enjoy is reading. Find a nice rare or out-of-print book in your professor’s field and send it along with a little note. “In the spirit of the season, let’s forget the nastiness of my missing paper,” or “I ho-ho-hope you give me an A” should get your point across. This not being the 1960s, veiled suggestions of gifts of a sexual nature are not recommended.

Lately many celebrities are going pantiless. Should I do the same?

It is important to emulate celebrities in every way possible. The very famous have achieved greatness and the admiration of the people through hard work, talent and a certain inexplicable bravado that makes a young woman throw modesty to the wind when stumbling out of a limousine or bending over just a little too far to check out a guest list.

While I do think you should make the majority of your lifestyle choices based on those of celebrities, like marrying haphazardly or worshiping alien ruler Xenu, the traditional reason for going pantiless is obsolete. Thanks to great strides in panty technology, women no longer have to go without intimate apparel in order to avoid unsightly and very offensive panty lines. Try a thong, a boy short or almost any style in lace for a pantiless look without the commitment.

If you’re considering going pantiless to garner some quick attention, don’t forget your trip to the spa. You should also wear a very high heel so as to elongate the leg, and a garter belt never hurts. Remember, in all of your pantiless endeavors, it will be harder to sell out later if you give it away now.

Send your bribes to