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Photo Courtesy of the Vanishing Point Chronicles

Mid-October marks many things in a college student’s life. It’s the beginning of midterms, the end of the beginning-of-semester haze, the hangover from homecoming, the warm weather’s slow abandonment. We desperately begin to count down to Fall Break, but the wait seems impossible. In this hour of need, you ask, what else but film can lift our spirits? What films and shows can we turn to?

Fall TV premieres are slowly trickling in, but for immediate therapy, check out this summer’s best premieres and releases:

  1. Dunkirk

Only Christopher Nolan can write a 70 page screenplay, cast Harry Styles as the most talkative character, and then insist that his film be shown in 70mm across all theaters in the US. And only Christopher Nolan can turn all of that into a smashing success. Based on a true story, Dunkirk is not only the most visually stunning film you’ll see this year, but also the most enthralling. Commonly mislabeled as a typical war movie, there’s really no way to describe Dunkirk to someone who hasn’t seen it. What Nolan has created is a plot line with twists and characters unlike those you may be familiar with. And that’s precisely what makes it so great.

  1. The Big Sick

I don’t think I’d be able to count the number of times I burst out laughing while watching Kumail Nanjiani’s debut feature film. A movie based on Nunjari’s own love story, The Big Sick was the romantic comedy version of Dunkirk. Nanjiani refuses to conform to the tropes that often plague this genre and instead infuses this story that isn’t really about romance at all with an incredible sense of humor and relevant social commentary . This innovative story, combined with Ray Romano’s adorably dopey performance as the girlfriend’s dad, catapults The Big Sick to the top of romantic comedies.

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

If you’re only planning on watching one of this summer’s blockbuster superhero hits, skip Gal Gadot’s overrated Wonder Woman for Tom Holland’s stellar performance in Spider-Man. Sure, Wonder Woman broke a glass ceiling and it’s great that a woman superhero is getting her chance to shine, but amidst the massive boost of superhero movies, Spider-Man returns to the genre’s roots. Unlike Wonder Woman and other recent films in the genre, Spider-Man is light and funny, and it finally feels like the movie-for-all-ages superhero films promise to be. Holland’s character is indeed “super,” but he’s also relatable, and I found myself rooting more genuinely for him than I had for any Marvel or DC character in a long time.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale

If you don’t want something dark, don’t watch The Handmaid’s Tale. But if you want to experience television’s most thrilling and thought-provoking series of the summer, it may be worth it. Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale follows a dystopian futuristic America in which women are forced to return to domesticity. Our protagonist, played by Elisabeth Moss, is chosen as a breeder– and while her performance is outstanding, nothing could prepare you for the chills that will run up your spine when Yvonne Strahovski’s and Ann Dowd’s characters come on screen. In fact, nothing really could prepare you for the whole show at all, so I guess you’ll just have to watch it yourself.

  1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I know I’ve spoken about this show before, but in this season Kimmy attends Columbia, and her observations are so spot on that it should probably be required viewing for incoming first-years. Although they filmed at UTS and not Columbia, the Kimmy Schmidt showmakers somehow found a way to harness the culture of Columbia– stress levels and all– in a wonderfully concocted season of puns, social commentaries, and Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs. Even if you haven’t watched the first couple of seasons, season three is worth your time. Maybe use it as a study break when you’re up late in Butler– and perhaps take Kimmy’s advice when she tells you there’s more to life than studying.

This piece is in response to a piece published in “The Columbia Beacon,” which in turn was published in response to an op-ed in the “Columbia Daily Spectator.”

I hated showing my work in math class.

No, seriously, I hated it.

Take 3(4x +7) = 45. I’m sure all of you remember how to prove that this obviously is true. You have to rewrite the equation to distribute the 3 into 4x+7 to get 12x + 21 equals 45. Then, you have to subtract 21 from both sides to get 12x=24. And finally, you divide both sides by 12 to get the answer, x =2. This, again, being obvious, I would just write the answer, x=2. It wasn’t as if math stopped working if I didn’t write out the three steps on my homework along with the answer. The answer would always be two, so why did I have to waste what little energy I had on one of 46 questions I had every evening for homework?

That argument did not save me from losing points on my assignments in 7th grade.

While I love questions about how a government operates and how we justify government action much more than I loved my algebra proofs, I can see why it’s tedious. Sure, prosecutors should focus on true threats to the community and not otherwise law-abiding citizens, the executive branch in the modern era is given significant discretion on how to enforce legislation; it’s fine if the de facto result of prosecutorial discretion means that a certain group of people already determined as safe have some guarantee of safety; and amnesty through this understanding is not the worst thing that has happened to the American rule of law. But did saying any of that make it truer? Would not saying that make it falser? Life, like math, doesn’t change absent the work that went into it. And while proving these complex questions of political theory makes one a better debater, debating the validity of one’s life to everyone who asks is an exhausting exercise of existentialism.

So sure, Joey, we should show our work to the teacher. Maybe it should be in op-ed form, or The Lion, or re:claim, for the sake of posterity. But I think, to stay in math class a moment longer, Undocu is tired of algebra and wants to move on to Accelerated Multivariable Calculus, and would be happy to debate Accelerated Multivariable Calculus, but you insist on debating algebra, and there’s only so many times they can write x=2 before 800,000 pencils snap in unison. I think that’s what they mean by “reconstructed.” Most people don’t question the virtue of DACA recipients. Most Trump-reluctant Republicans prefer to look like they’re being helpful on the issue as is.

And I’m sure you could make a wonderful argument in Accelerated Multivariable Calculus without writing MS minus 13.

 

If you’d like to submit an op-ed to The Lion, email submissions@thecolumbialion.com

Photo by Timothy Diovanni

Hypercube: Brain on Fire

(le) poisson rouge 10/15/17

 

If you want to learn about philosophy in action, talk to Hypercube, a NYC-based contemporary music ensemble comprised of saxophone, percussion, guitar, and piano:

“A hypercube can be described as an analogous shape, a 3-dimenseional cube, in four or more dimensions. The cube formation is essentially a 3-dimensional equalizer. We like to think that it enters another dimension when the music is added,” Erin Rogers, saxophonist, explained over e-mail.

Does the music transport to another dimension? Or is this just lofty language – is the actual experience more conservative?

To answer these questions, I will describe the musical experience. Mikel Kuehn’s Color Fields (2006/8) sounds like painted landscapes. Barren, desolate tundra morphed into desert glow. In the most colorful moments, it is hard to determine which instrument is playing which line. Disembodied sound eliminates the individual, presenting a blurred image.

These mixing timbres – a fancy term to say how an instrument sounds because of its physicality (i.e. what makes a clarinet sound like a clarinet and not a flute) – are explored in Andriessen’s Hout (1991). I appreciate Rogers’s commentary before the piece; she describes how the instruments interact through a displaced motive. Tree branches shoot out, overlapping, rustling into each other. Rare unisons sound like the manifestation of unshakeable wood.

Behind me, as I listen, ice cubes rumble. Spaghetti and meatballs float in waiters’ hands. This is a new concert experience for me – I am used to the absence of most extraneous sounds – and I am not very happy about it (boohoo for me, I guess).

Rogers leans back with her instrument, like a rocker with their guitar or mic stand. Jay Sorce, spectacled, navigates his instrument’s fingerboard, stoically, with an occasional head wiggle. A grey-haired man in the front row moves his head in time with the music, outwardly satisfied. Unflinching precision masks Chris Graham’s face; he is a Secret Service agent on the marimba. Between pieces, he appears relaxed, friendly, smiley. Pianist Andrea Lodge’s head bounces in a groove. Yellow, blue, pink light shroud the performers, their instruments, sheet music, and iPads. One forlorn disco ball dangles, misplaced, from the ceiling.

Photo by Timothy Diovanni.

Most composers treat Sorce’s guitars – he plays both acoustic and electric – with extra care, making sure to not have them overpower the ensemble. Schuessler’s Liminal Bridges (2016) and Hurel’s Localized Corrosion (2009) stand in contrast: Sorce shreds, riffs, wails, screams eruptions of living sound. Flutter-tonguing in the saxophone complements these outbursts. Who knew these instruments could mix so convincingly?

Considering these sound worlds, does the program achieve its goal of setting the audience’s “Brain on Fire”? This program is as a challenge to concertgoers: the music should, in theory, cause vigilant attention, surprise, visceral responses. Hurrel’s Localized Corrosion best accomplishes this task for me.

Intense, overwhelming sound catapults the piece. Thunderclaps in the bass drum, a growling saxophone, trembling guitar. Quick switch in texture. Sad vibrations stream from the solo guitar. Ensemble jumps at him, vigorous, interruptive. Disconsolate saxophone sighs: hell-plunging, uneasy piano pulsations: metallic acceleration on a small gong: vigorous, bold guitar. A bass drum orgasm terminates in profound stillness. Tense energy radiates from the stage. 10, 15, 20 seconds. Nothing. The performers hold their positions. Lodge rustles; her head moves slightly downward. Then, they release their stance, breaking the spell.

Because of its multifarious, competing textures, Hurel’s work causes continual engagement.  This is not mind-numbingly music: it cannot be turned into Muzak, lightly pacified in shopping malls and convention centers. It demands the precision and daring of this ensemble to strike the deep chasms between passages, to become alive. Provocative music ignites an experiential fire.

Following up a previous email from Professor Goldberg, the University Provost has emailed students to make them aware of the Rules of University Conduct, likely related to recent protests of speakers invited to campus by CUCR.

In particular, he notes that students actively disrupting speakers are subject to being disciplined, confirming reports noted by Zack Abrams (CC ’21).

 

The full email can be found below.

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

 

As President Bollinger made clear in his Commencement Address last May, freedom of speech is a core value of our institution. The University is committed to defend the right of all the members of our community to exercise their right to invite, listen to, and challenge speakers whose views may be offensive and even hurtful to many of us. It is the duty of every member of the community to help preserve freedom of speech for all, including protesters.

 

This duty does not evaporate when the freedom we enjoy protects community members who invite speakers made famous by grotesquely unfounded and unethical attacks on people whose presence at Columbia, and in the surrounding Harlem community, contribute so much to the diversity that makes us great.

 

Two years ago, after broad consultation, the Columbia Board of Trustees adopted amended “Rules of University Conduct” to protect freedom of speech for invited speakers and their audiences, as well as for protesters. Since a number of controversial speakers are already scheduled to come to Columbia in the coming weeks and months, it may be helpful for members of the community, especially students, to keep the following points in mind.

 

  • It is a violation of the Rules of University Conduct to interrupt, shout down, or otherwise disrupt an event.
  • It is also a violation to obstruct the view of the speaker with banners or placards.
  • Individuals engaged in disruption will be asked to identify themselves by a Delegate or Public Safety Officer; it is an additional violation of the Rules to refuse to do so.
  • Delegates or Public Safety Officers will request that individuals stop disrupting (e.g., stop shouting, sit down, move to another location); individuals who fail to comply promptly with such a request may be subject to interim sanctions up to and including suspension by the Provost for the rest of the semester.
  • On receiving reports of a violation of the Rules of University Conduct, the Rules Administrator will investigate to determine whether a Rules violation may have occurred. The Rules Administrator may meet with students or others involved in a disruption to determine if an informal resolution is possible.
  • If informal resolution is not possible, the disciplinary process will continue with the Rules Administrator filing a formal complaint with the University Judicial Board. That Board will follow the procedures specified in the Rules of Conduct. Repeated violations of the Rules of Conduct will be subject to greater penalties.

 

More detailed information on University free speech policies and procedures is now available on the website of the Office of University Life.

 

John H. Coatsworth

Starting next week, late night package service will be available thanks to Columbia Mail’s new package offerings. Students will be able to send in a request by 3PM on the day their package arrives and request for it to be left in one of the 28 new lockers in the basement of Wien Hall. With this new option, students will be able to pick up their package after the Package Center closes meaning students with high priority items will not need to be stressed if they could not grab their package in time.

The full email can be found below:

Located on the lower level of Wien Hall, lockers will be available upon request starting Monday, October 16. How it works:

  • Lockers are accessible only when the Student Mail Center is closed.
  • Locker space is limited and so usage is prioritized for critical needs, such as:
    • medication (non-perishable only, lockers are not refrigerated)
    • time-sensitive materials (e.g. employment documents, identification)
    • items of high value (e.g. cell phone, laptop)
  • There are 28 lockers in total, the largest being 22x16x13.5 (LxWxH). Over-sized packages are not eligible for lockers.
  • To request a locker, students should reply to the email notification received when mail or a package has arrived.
  • Lockers cannot be reserved for mail or packages before they are received and processed at the Student Mail Center.
  • Students that are unable to reach high or bend down should indicate that a mid-level locker is needed.
  • The email request must be received by 3:00 p.m. the day the locker is needed in order to be considered.
  • By 5:00 p.m., Student Mail will send a confirmation email with a 6-digit pin to open the locker.
  • If the item is not picked up by 9:00 a.m. the following morning, the item will be removed from the locker and returned to the Student Mail Center for pick up. The student will not receive further email notifications.