Courtesy of Cardi B

SWAN | Cardi B’s Realness

Yesterday, Cardi B made news when it was discovered that the artist has been charged with assault over a violent incident that occurred in a strip club in Queens and involved members of her entourage and two women who have allegedly had illicit affairs with Cardi B’s husband, Offset. According to a New York Times article about the matter, Cardi B supposedly “showed up at the Angels Strip Club on Aug.15 and confronted the sisters” when “her bodyguards and other members of her entourage attacked the bartenders with bottles and chairs, causing serious injury.”

Some qualifications and disclaimers are certainly due. As a white man, I recognize the limitations inherent in the true scope and relevance of any public, non-peer-reviewed discourse I might offer on the lives of black, female hip-hop artists. Nevertheless, as a student of musicology and cultural studies, these are topics that interest me, and I feel as though engaging in the attempt at discourse brings me closer to some sense of empathy towards the way other people experience the world. So, I turn to Cardi B.

In Cardi B’s defense, it is important to note that the details of this altercation at the strip club in August are merely alleged; none of us were there, of course, and so we don’t really know what went down.

LING | New York Fashion Week and Political Intents

At the recent New York Fashion Week, staff at Pyer Moss’ Spring-Summer 2019 show wore t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, “If you didn’t know about Pyer Moss before, we forgive you.” This statement, rooted in bravado, was also prophetic, as the five year-old fashion house went on to put on what was arguably the most important show of the season. Founder and designer Kerby Jean-Raymond brought NYFW crowds to Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, the previous site of one of the first African-American communities in the United States where a 40-person gospel choir sang in models who strode past 19th-century wooden framed houses, creating what Vogue reporter Chioma Nnadi called a “tableau [that] was like something out of a Kerry James Marshall painting”. In an interview with Vogue, Jean-Raymond said that he wanted to use the show to “explore what Black American leisure” looked like in the face of structural racism, where simple existence is systemically deemed threat. The result was a collection that featured beautifully structured suits, silks printed with images from visual artist Derrick Adams and vibrantly patterned athleisure from the Pyer Moss x Reeboks collaboration. Kerby Jean-Raymond is no stranger to the fashion show as medium and embraces experimentation with social commentary and art, having featured a short film on police brutality and a Raphael Saadiq-directed gospel choir in previous Pyer Moss shows.

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GUEST ROOM | Cel Shading, Framerates and The Dragon Prince

You may have first seen Cel Shading in 2013 with the premiere of RWBY, an “American Anime” aimed at both American and Japanese anime fans. Characters are 3D models, like a lot of modern animation, but they look a little different from their Disney-Pixar cousins. In stills, they could fool you into thinking they’re two-dimensional drawings or frames from some traditionally-drawn anime. The character’s skin looks flat and their eyes are large and cartoony. Cel Shading is a technique long used by video games, from the classic Katamari Damacy to the more recent The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but in recent years, animation studios have used it to bring the anime style into the modern era.

Simon (Nick Robinson) and Abby (Alexandra Dripp) in Love, Simon.

YANG | Creating the New Normal

I’m not the type of person who watches one movie after another on long-haul flights, and usually spend the better part of the sixteen hours sleeping. The trip back from Hong Kong before the beginning of this semester ended up being one rare exception, however, because there was a crying baby in the seat next to me. I had no choice but to cycle through all the MCU movies they had (thank God), and afterwards, set my eye on a movie I had deliberately avoided seeing in the spring — Love, Simon. Despite putting the movie’s soundtrack on repeat the moment it came out, and despite promising every one of my friends who went to opening weekend and raved about it afterwards that I would go see it, I never did after watching the trailer. You would think that as someone who loves rom-coms and never shuts up about representation, the premise itself is enough to make me want to go.

SWAN | Karaoke Dreamin’

Philip Roth’s American Pastoral is a favorite novel of mine. For one, Philip Roth, like Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, was from New Jersey, and he manages to artistically encapsulate the working-class, Newarkian fervor that seems to extend down to and characterize so much of our state – north, south and central. American Pastoral is about European immigrants and their successive American generations, calling to mind my not-so-distant ancestors who ventured to New York and New Jersey from places like Italy and Scotland. They, like the Levovs, were in pursuit of something like the American pastoral, that Waspy utopia of spacious, suburban homes and Ivy League educations. Of course, as the novel contends, it is easy to shoot for the dream, miss and be cast away to the American berserk.

Courtesy of Netflix

YANDAVA | An Ode to the Teen Movie

I watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before last week — twice, actually, because as much as I like to scorn cliché and make fun of it, I really am a hopeless sap when it comes down to it, and also because it was so damn cute and sweet and wholesome. Much of this sweetness and wholesomeness results from the fact that the film makes copious use of the tropes we’re familiar with in high school rom-coms. Even the characters are in on this; the film’s protagonist, Lara Jean Covey, is obsessed with romance novels, and her shock is apparent when she finds out her fake boyfriend Peter Kavinsky has never heard of Sixteen Candles. Similarly, much of the film’s fashion takes inspiration from the ‘90s, what with its plaid skirts and slip dresses, combat boots, chokers and leather jackets. However, the movie manages to be referential in such an earnest, wholehearted and honest way that it’s hard not to like it. Good, old-fashioned sorts of teen movies like this seemed to have been waning in popularity for the better part of this past decade.

Rami Malek as the protagonist of Mr. Robot, Elliot Alderson.

GUEST ROOM | Why We Need to Watch Mr. Robot

The recent news that Mr. Robot’s fourth season will be its last signals the end of a show that redefines what it means to be revolutionary. The techno-thriller chronicles the story of cybersecurity engineer Elliot Anderson, a morphine addict who wants to save the world from corrupt corporate powers. The cybersecurity firm that he works for protects the data of conglomerates such as E Corp, a manufacturer of most of the world’s computers and phones and a provider of much of the world’s entertainment. E Corp, led by a power hungry board of directors, also covered up a toxic gas leak that led to some of their workers contracting leukemia — including Elliot’s father. Thus, despite the mission of his workplace, Elliot works to expose some of E Corp’s secure digital records with the hopes of diminishing their grasp over the global market.

Elon Musk Smokes Weed on the Joe Rogan Experience.

LING | Free Grimes

At this year’s Met Gala it wasn’t Rihanna’s extravagant pope ensemble or a Kardashian’s ethereal interpretation of sainthood that grabbed the internet’s short attention span, but rather the debut of an unlikely couple: Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and experimental pop artist Claire Boucher, who goes by Grimes. The juxtaposition of Musk’s white jacket and priest’s notched collar with Grimes’ goth gown and silver Tesla choker underscored the sense of surreality surrounding their coupling. Musk, one of a new generation of tech titans, an elite group consisting of household names like Bezos and Zuckerberg, embodies a greater neoliberal push toward innovation at any cost, often accompanied by hazy ethical grounding. Grimes, on the other hand, is a counter-cultural synth icon who has gained a cult following by working with the avant-garde. The unlikely union is at once shocking for what seems like a bizarre mismatch in fundamental ideology, and completely logical.

YANG | Thoughts from the Subway

I worked in a research lab at a university in my hometown this past summer and, for the first time in my life, experienced what it’s like to have a long commute — an hour and a half each way standing in a hot, humid, insanely crowded subway car. Most of my fellow commuters spent these long and miserable daily trips on their phones, either scrolling through Weibo (think Twitter) feeds, watching viral videos, playing online games, binging the newest hit TV series or reading trending articles on Wechat (a Chinese amalgamation of Facebook and Instagram). Hundreds of commuters with headphones on staring down at their smartphone screens was quite a sight be behold but also incredibly frustrating, especially when I had to transfer lines at one of the busiest stations downtown, and had to follow a massive crowd of people up flights of stairs to another platform, a process slowed down significantly by those who were too absorbed in their phones to even walk properly. Despite my frustration, and because social learning is a natural thing that we all do, a few days into this commuter life, I also started killing time by spending it solely on my phone, going through my Weibo feed more times than necessary, replying to comments, reading Wechat articles that I normally wouldn’t care for and, when all that was still not enough, busted out my VPN to go through Instagram and Twitter. Yet, as you may have guessed by now, aggressively working my way through every social media platform every morning and evening did not make me feel “more connected” to friends and family, all the articles I read did not make me significantly more knowledgeable in certain areas or enlighten me on social or political issues, nor did the viral funny videos make me happier.

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SWAN | Unpacking the Frat Aesthetic

During events like homecoming or reunion weekend, I love listening to the older alumni of my fraternity tell stories about their time at Cornell. I suppose that I’m a nostalgic person — an old soul — and I really enjoy trying to discern the similarities and differences between the campus dynamics of now and then. Some of them, the “’80s brothers,” share memories of their flippant college years, of wild parties, inside jokes and ridiculous traditions. All of their memories conjure in my mind an image of Cornell, 1984, like some Richard Linklater movie where boys will be boys and chase girls, Van Halen is always playing in the background, Ronald Reagan is president and it’s morning in America again – think Everybody Wants Some!!. Of course, this world excluded a lot of people, dismissed much of the agency of women, and cast away individuals of minority cultures to mere supporting roles.