MEISEL | Poetry in a Time of Crisis

Admittedly, during times of intense crisis or panic, most people aren’t running around asking what the poets think. My own interpretation of this fact is not that people don’t care what poets have to say. It’s rather that they don’t believe in any reason for listening to them (a faulty judgement that I suppose amounts to the same result). If we experience social upheaval, for example, what good would reading Wordsworth do? If we encounter history in palpable manifestations, why read a poet to understand that history?

Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting

GUEST ROOM | Who Needs Meaning?

When I was a junior in high school, I taught a film and media class at my former elementary school. I gathered a group of 11 year olds around a computer to write a script and asked them, “What message do you want to share to your audience?” They told me they wanted to make a movie about a dog traveling around the world; somehow dynamite and chicken wings were involved but I can’t remember how. “No, I mean what do you want the meaning to be?” I asked again. They didn’t understand what I was trying to say. They suggested dinosaurs instead of the dog.

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GOULDTHORPE | DreamWorks Revisited: Where Are They Post-Trolls?

A couple months ago, I delivered my thoughts about DreamWorks Animation, a studio that’s grabbed the industry spotlight — not through any smashing successes this year, but because of their recent acquisition. I don’t want to go through that whole rigamarole once more, but some recent developments have grabbed my attention and deserve to be brought to the discussion table. First of all, some good news: Trolls seems to be doing very well in theaters. After two weeks, it’s brought in $226 million worldwide. With a budget of $125 million, it looks like there’s some profit in DreamWorks’ future.

COURTESY OF NBC

JONES | SNL and the Normalization of Donald Trump

I hardly ever watch Saturday Night Live, or even single skits from it. From what I’ve seen, its sense of humor isn’t really my style: too broad and too topical without offering real criticism. Nonetheless, I watched the post-election episode, and thought that the show was exhibiting a new side. Kate McKinnon’s opening performance of “Hallelujah,” in character as Hillary Clinton, paid simultaneous tribute to the deaths of Leonard Cohen and Clinton’s presidential prospects (and the hopes of millions). This double-sided swan song was surprisingly powerful, especially when McKinnon ended by turning to the camera and saying sincerely, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.”

Following just after, Dave Chappelle’s opening monologue was a reminder of his talent, a rumination on Trump and America’s progress that was by turns cutting, glum and hopeful.

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CHAZAN | Creon’s America

“What report do you come bringing us from god?”

“A good one! For I say, things hard to bear might chance to mean good luck — if, by some chance they turn out straight.”

Thus, Creon reintroduces himself to Oedipus after a long journey, bearing significant news. His report is of course not good. This I the first thing I said as I walked onstage for three nights, in the recent Classics department production of Sophocles’ Oedipus. This circular, beguiling phrase, swollen with hope and deceit, has come to haunt me.

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty

GUEST ROOM | Trump: A Cinematic Perspective

Like many students on this campus, I was devastated at the victory of Donald J. Trump in his rise to the office of President of the United States. I sat there with my friends who had just been canvassing in New Hampshire as we all asked ourselves how in the world this happened. I was shocked like everyone else, but I shouldn’t have been. I should’ve seen this coming. I’m not qualified to speak on the politics of this election.

COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES

SWAN | Expression in the Era of Trump and Pseudo-Masculinity

When I was much younger, around four or five years of age, I played soccer on a YMCA little league team. Yet, as I’ve been subsequently told, rare was it that I actually joined in and played the game with the other kids. I possessed no interest in the ball and I instead preferred to run around carefree behind my team, acting out my own fantastical Power Rangers- or epic action-adventure. After soccer came a brief, two-year stint in little league baseball during elementary school. My brazen defiance of the rules in both of these sports indicated to my parents that organized sports were indeed not my forte (and around this time I began taking piano lessons).

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ALUR | Billie and Ella: The Timeless Two

Jazz warms my soul. It’s the sound of horns, mingled with brushed snares and sparse keys that strike a chord with me, bring me to an everlasting ease. I appreciate the way the same standard can be interpreted by the famed and by the lesser known, phrased and formed to fit the voices and styles of the musicians. I love the flexibility, the innate improvisation, the freedom and spontaneity. And while there is jazz that goes over my head, music that feels more speedy than soothing, I look to the genre as a pick-me-up more often than not.

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STANTON | Trump’s Rosebud

Despite being an acknowledged and well-researched psychiatric phenomenon, panic attacks remain a tricky beast — treatable only by pinpointing their underlying causes. According to Wikipedia, approximately 11 percent of the U.S. population experiences them, putting Europeans to shame at their measly 3 percent and inviting any number of cultural critiques.  In the absence of a Nate Silver-esque trend line documenting day-to-day stress levels of the average American, one need only consult their Facebook feed to identify Election Day 2016 as a stress point of apocalyptic magnitude — the moment in which we collectively confront the bed we’ve made for ourselves. Suppressing my personal nightmare of waking up next to the GOP’s spray-tanned Frankenstein monster has proven itself a time-consuming effort, and one that shirks the comforting assurance of historical precedence. Whom can we consult to contextualize the first true reality TV election?

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MEISEL | Reno 911! When Police Play the Fool

Maybe the oddest thing about the television show Reno 911! was how little work needed to be put in for a mid-2000s cable TV stint to become something unique and inventive. The show was founded mostly on a collection of whims by alumni of the infamous mid ’90s sketch comedy troupe The State, specifically Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant and Kerri Kenney-Silver, whose endeavor Viva Variety had ended shortly beforehand on Comedy Central. Simply put, it’s a fake cop documentary about the Reno Nevada Sheriff’s Department, only the police aren’t depicted as heroes. Instead, they’re portrayed as magnificent buffoons.