The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Tory Dobbin (Page 1 of 4)

Millenium Dance Delivers a Pleasant Surprise

Britney Spears. OutKast. Lil Mama. 50 Cent. Do those names ring any bells? Hit songs from the 2000’s rang across campus this past weekend, as Bates celebrated the final decade’s dance of the year, Millennium Dance.

The decade’s dances were introduced a few years ago as a way to bring all of campus together in celebration of a particular musical and cultural era; now, the dances have grown to be some of the biggest social events on campus. The three dances, 80’s, 90’s, and Millennium Dance, often involve era-themed music playlists, outfits, and celebrations across campus. They typically occur in the Ladd Library Arcade, and a DJ or live band performs on the elevated platform as students bump around on the main arcade floor.

This year, Bates celebrated the last decade’s dance of the year in style. The DJ played chart-topping tracks from the early 2000’s, and I loved the mix of music. Hits from childhood, though now realized to be inappropriate, included “Yeah,” by Usher, “Gold Digger,” by Kanye West, “Stacy’s Mom,” by Fountains of Wayne, “Since You Been Gone,” by Kelly Clarkson, and “Turn Me On,” by Kevin Lyttle. As students gyrated to the beat, each time a new song came on, students screamed and started yelling lyrics at the tops of their lungs.

Summer Peterson ’18 also enjoyed the music; according to her, “the music was fun. The dancing was fun. It was music we all actually knew, because we were alive when it came out.” Here, she brings up an interesting point; in a few years, all college students will be born after the year 2000, and, consequently, may not remember many of the songs featured in the Millennium Dance. I wonder what their experiences will be like, as they will be less likely to have grown up with the music of the dance.

As the music blared, students were grinding and bumping to the throwback tunes. Taryn Bedard ’18 observed that, “It was less of a culture of slimy interpersonal interactions,” then continued to clarify that people seemed to be more respectful. She observed less unsolicited contact between dancers, such as inappropriate touching or unwanted advances. I also picked up on this pleasant trend; while I am sure that many dancers experienced undesirable physical contact, I saw much less of it compared to past years.

Despite these positive reviews, something peculiar occurred at Millennium this year. I recognized several Lewiston High School students in attendance, brought to campus by family members or friends. I taught in the high schools this spring and was shocked to see some of their familiar faces amongst the fray in the Arcade. While Bates dances remain open to all community members by default, I wasn’t expecting to see my high school students mixing in at our college dances. Despite my discomfort, they appeared to be having a good time, which is the entire purpose of the dances in the first place.

As my last decade’s dance, it was bittersweet to participate in this Bates tradition for the final time. The 80’s, 90’s, and Millennium Dances have been a huge part of my Bates experience, and I hope that other Bates students take the time to determine what traditions they enjoy and choose to participate in them prodigiously.

 

Other Schools Party, too: A Review of Bowdoin Ivies

Whilst many a Batesie was enjoying the splendor of Short Term’s first weekend, I ventured south to another small college’s spring party weekend. Bowdoin Ivies, best described as a three-day, all-campus party, vastly differed from what us Batesies experience with school security and party guidelines.

The whole experience started Thursday with a brief AJR concert in their student union. Like the Bates concerts, students were dancing around, bumping and grinding to the music. While technically guests were not allowed, security was relaxed and focused primarily on ensuring the safety of intoxicated students. Consequently, no one seemed to care that a non-Bowdoin student was infiltrating the mix, as long as I remained well-behaved. The concert itself was pretty good; the three-brother group of Alex, Jack, and Ryan Met delivered on their most-popular songs “Sober Up” and “I’m Ready.”

Friday, students in one set of campus apartments host an outdoor party, “Quad Day,” in a small grassy area surrounded by school-owned Brunswick Apartment buildings. They had set up beer pong tables out in the grass next to can-jam and corn hole, while a food truck handed out free poutine to the masses. Another student had set up large speakers and was DJing to a crowd of dancers. As I hung out with friends, I noticed male sports teams in themed tank tops grilling and girls in their Coachella finest, tinted glasses and all.

Meanwhile, Bowdoin Security was watching out for incoherent students, taking away glass bottles, and helping students access the water stations posted around the periphery of the lawn. When one student popped open his bottle of champagne, a security guard walked over and grabbed a red cup off a nearby pong table. He handed the cup to the student, watched as the student emptied the champagne into the cup, then took the glass bottle away.

The events concluded Saturday with more outdoor parties around campus in preparation for the late afternoon concert. As I walked around and tossed a frisbee with friends on their main academic quad, amused prospective families wandered about while students partied on lawns across the Bowdoin campus. One family even stopped us and asked what was going on; most of the time, colleges try to avoid showing prospective students the party life at the school.

Around 4pm, most parties ended and students congregated near the baseball field and athletic facilities. Dining services had prepared a cookout just outside the field house, and students could easily wander around the cookout and into the field house concert venue. Between eating and attending the concert, I threw a football around and caught some of the nearby baseball game. The relaxed atmosphere made it easy for students to calm down and hang out in the last few days of their school year.

Around 5:50pm, DRAM took the stage and headlined a much-anticipated performance. The German-born artist was chosen much like how the Bates CHPB selects performances for our fall concerts; the governing board selects a group of performers within their budget range and sends out a survey for students to complete a few months before the concert date. DRAM was one of the more popular choices and consequently was chosen to come to campus.

DRAM typically is classed in the genres of trap and hip-hop music, two styles I do not enjoy, however, the energy in the crowd made the concert more enjoyable. Students were jumping up and down and pumping their fists in time to the beat, and it was hard to stand still. He performed some of his best-known hits, such as “Broccoli,” and the crowd was ecstatic.

As I drove back to Bates, I wondered whether it was better to have one weekend of crazy parties or five weeks of relaxed fun. Short Term gives us the chance to spread out the shenanigans, and we don’t have many tests or finals. In contrast, Bowdoin students have one weekend of concentrated, much-anticipated partying two weeks before their final exams. While Ivies was definitely a great time, I much prefer the Bates model of moderation and relaxation over the entire five weeks of Short Term.

 

Bleachers Bring Down the House at State Theater

If you haven’t heard of the band Bleachers, you’re missing out. This group, led by ex-fun. front man Jack Antonoff, recently came to Portland’s State Theatre for a colossal concert experience. The band, on tour this year with their 2017 album Gone Now, shared music, jokes, and personal anecdotes under lights Friday, March 30 for a crowd of thousands.

The band started with track two off the album, “Good Morning.” The strong drums and piano gently introduced the theme for the rest of the concert: energy. As the group transitioned into more tracks from Gone Now, they carried the energy level and excitement they started with. Many of the songs the group performed highlighted their particular 80s pop/rock vibe; “Everybody Lost Somebody,” “Let’s Get Married,” “I Miss Those Days,” and “Don’t Take the Money” all used synths and harmonies reminiscent of a John Hughes film soundtrack.

While the majority of the performance emphasized the 2017 album, several tracks from Strange Desire were played; “Wild Heart,” “Rollercoaster,” and “I Wanna Get Better” are all some of my favorite works by this group and I was happy to hear them performed. The group also played “Carry On” made famous by fun. and “Alfie’s Song” released by Bleachers earlier this year.

One of the most surprising aspects of the performance was the saxophone player, Evan Smith of Portland, ME. He played a prominent role both in the songs and in the stage presence of the group. His riffs and melodies helped carry the band’s songs from Gone Now, as most of that album uses a saxophone in the band.

While the band’s energy and sound were all upbeat, the lyrics and personal anecdotes shared throughout the performance were much more somber. “The pain of waiting alone at the corner/ Trying to get myself back home/ I gotta get myself back home soon” embedded in “Everybody Lost Somebody” demonstrate that even the upbeat, pop-y songs have dark roots. When trying to hear what a crowd member was yelling (“Do you want to get a drink with me?”) Antonoff revealed that he was on medication to manage his depression and consequently could not get a drink or even smoke pot with the person who yelled. He later implied that the management of his illness has been tumultuous and challenging, but a source of lyrical inspiration.

The group closed off their set list with three high-profile songs, “You’re Still a Mystery,” “I Wanna Get Better” and “Don’t Take the Money.” While the first and third songs listed recount experiences in romantic relationships, “I Wanna Get Better” harkens back to the personal struggle Antonoff (and many of his friends) underwent in their management of various mental illnesses. As the title suggests, the narrator of the song tells the story of someone dissatisfied with themselves; the resolution is “I put a bullet where I shoulda put a helmet,” a reference to a choice many people dealing with mental illness elect.

While much of the concert was all cheers and band banter, I picked up on the darker undercurrent resultant from the inspiration of each song’s emotional lyrics. Bleachers were truly masterful in their performance. They both demonstrated their excellent musicianship while also hinting at the inner struggles bandmates and audience members alike share. If you are looking for subtle yet gripping lyrics and a pop-rock sound, look up the band on your music app of choice; I promise you will not be disappointed.

 

A Cappella Dazzles at St. Paddy’s Day Concert

While many members of the Bates community were celebrating St. Paddy’s Day at various events, this past Saturday evening I found myself in the Peter Gomes Chapel listening to some fantastic a cappella music. I was there to listen to Owlmen, a joint concert between the Bates College Deansmen and Vassar College Night Owls. When both groups came out of the practice area and took their seats, audience members murmured about the splashes of green replacing the typical black-and-white Deansmen tuxedos.

The Deansmen opened with a tried-and-true classic “The Walk,” a song narrated by a man as he breaks up with his girlfriend. John Thayer ’18 lead the group through the sassy ballad. The group shifted gears to the Fleet Foxes song “Mykonos” with Patrick Nelson ’18 taking the solo. The group deftly navigated the change in genre from their doo-wop beginning to the indie-pop hit.

As the Vassar College Night Owls took the stage, a leader introduced the group to the Bates audience. They are one of the oldest all-women a cappella groups in the U.S. (rivaled by the Smith College Smiffenpoofs) and previous members include Meryl Streep. They continued their history of jazz vocals with the song “Sexy Silk” originally performed by Jessie J. This sultry introduction set the mood; the group would continue their bold attitude throughout the 4-song set.

Their next song, “Saving Ourselves for Yale” is a play on history between Vassar and Yale; apparently, years ago Yale University reached out to Vassar and asked to merge schools. Vassar politely declined the offer, and both institutions eventually became co-educational. As the title suggests, the song is about women who would like to marry Yale graduates and is sung by both the Night Owls and an all-male a cappella group from Yale (The Whiffenpoofs).

The group changed genres in their third song with Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” This emotional jazz tune shares the story of a turbulent breakup and consequent fallout.

The Night Owls ended their set with the mesmerizing song, “Plain Gold Ring” by Nina Simone. This song shared the story of a woman in love with a married man. While the story and lyrics were not particularly exciting, the Owls created a dazzling soundscore. When the soloist sang her sad story, the rest of the group produced a shimmering vocal backdrop that entranced audience members. The effect was dizzying.

After the Owls finished and bowed, the Deansmen came back onstage and completed their four-song set with other Deansmen classics, “Shenandoah” and “Army.” The folk song “Shenandoah” shares the emotional daily struggle of living during the United States’ early expansion period as French fur trappers explored west of the Missouri River. In particular, the song tells the story of a sailor who falls in love with a Native American woman but never fulfills his heart’s desire. John Thayer ’18 sang the solo in the sad story.

The group switched gears for the next song; Ben Folds Five’s “Army” was an energetic pop song about a young man’s struggle to find purpose in his life. Soloist Justin Demers ’18 sings his heart out while the group performs goofy choreographed dance moves that tell the relatable story.

Both groups chose set lists that demonstrated a wide variety of performance ability, however, I was left wishing for more. I am an avid a cappella fangirl and longed for a longer set list than the short eight songs presented. For the next show, I can only hope for a longer performance and more time listening to the music I love.

 

Sex Trivia Excites the Den

Free food filled the Den; wine and beer were sold at reduced price; condoms littered the tables. What event am I describing? None other than Sex Trivia hosted by Residential Life and the Feminist Collective.

This past week has been Bates College Sex Week, a week full of events and activities meant to spark conversation regarding consent, safe behaviors, and positivity. Already, the week involved a sex-positive a Cappella concert, an aphrodisiac cooking class, and several informative conversations.

Around 8:50pm Saturday night, the Den started to fill with eager trivia participants forming sex-themed groups. Team names were creative, such as “Dirty G,” “Academic Challenge,” and “The Nasty Women.” Giggles and light chatter filled the air as the Trivia coordinators Taryn Bedard ’18 and Anna Luiza Mendonca ’18 signed people up, distributed response cards, and talked with friends.

Part of Sex Week is getting students excited to talk about sexual health, behaviors, and preferences; Sex Trivia expertly covered all of these topics. Bedard and Mendonca led 6 rounds of 10 questions each with themes varying from “History” to “Fun Facts” to “Non-traditional Sex.” Questions addressed many aspects of sexual life, such as “What proportion of European babies were conceived on an Ikea bed?” (10%) and “What percent of the population has sex once a day?” (5%). The questions also addressed the orgasm gap among heterosexual couples by asking the percent orgasm rate for both male and female partners in such relationships (men orgasm 78% of the time, women orgasm around 26% of the time). Other questions asked “In which state do you need parental permission before getting a wax if you are under 18 years old?” (Missouri).

Between rounds, trivia participants took breaks to get drinks and free food, while volunteer table-runners counted points and tallied results. Dining Services provided mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, spanakopita, and pigs in a blanket; these snacks were quickly consumed by participants and observers alike.

While many participants may have been motivated by food, others may have been motivated by the prizes. Fleshlights, lubricants, a sexy card game, sensual wax, sex tape, vibrators, dildos, and vibrating rings were all in the running to be won by a team or individual. Bedard and Mendonca explained that they had so many toys that each member of the winning, second place, and third place teams could win an item! Batesies walked away with some prizes worth up to $49.99; all trivia participants could grab the free condoms on tables (provided by Planned Parenthood), so each person walked away with something useful in addition to the knowledge gained through trivia.

While I was observing the festivities, I noticed many people who were not playing all the rounds but had happened upon Sex Trivia on their visit to the Den and wanted to join in the fun. These groups had sat down at the high tables in the den, faced towards the TV where questions were displayed, and chatted amongst themselves trying to figure out the answers. Though they weren’t in the running to win any of the prizes, these Batesies still wanted to learn and discuss sex and health in a casual atmosphere.

As I walked away from the Den towards the rest of my evening, I contemplated the success of Sex Trivia; it is inclusive, fun, student-lead events like these that make me proud to be a Bobcat.

 

Filmboard Presents the Senegalese Tragi-comedy Hyenes

This past Friday, I found myself sitting alone with a member of Bates’ Filmboard as we watched the Senegalese film Hyènes (Hyenas). Though the original film (Frontières) was held up by last week’s snowstorm, I was excited that the Filmboard was able to find another Senegalese film in Ladd Library’s Digital Media collection. I settled into the empty theatre and prepared for the 113 minute drama that was about to unfold. Warning: this review will include spoilers!

In the destitute village of Colobane, Senegal, Dramaan Drameh owns a market and cantina where his friends and other male townspeople gather to socialize and purchase necessities. Drameh is told in the beginning of the film that he will be recommended to be mayor in the upcoming election, however, the arrival of his ex-lover disrupts all plans.

Linguère Ramatou, former Colobane resident and jaded ex-girlfriend of Drameh, parades into town with a caravan of caretakers and her wealth on clear display. Though the origin of her wealth is never explained, audience members learn that she was in a dangerous plane crash and lost a leg and an arm. While initially seeming excited to be home, Ramatou soon reveals her reason for returning: she will donate “one hundred thousand millions” to the town if someone kills Drameh.

Drameh is shocked by this request and immediately starts to fear the worst. Townspeople appear offended by the assumption that their loyalty can be bought, however, one by one they all appear in Drameh’s cantina with new shoes and purchase expensive products on credit. Once Ramatou materializes on her promise of riches, townspeople are chomping at the bit and ready to kill Drameh. In the final scene, Drameh and the male townspeople meet in the desert to conduct the trial to determine Drameh’s guilt in abandoning of Ramatou; all the men agree that he is guilty and the film ends with Drameh’s corpse sitting in the center of the desert.

Hyènes is an adapted film production of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play The Visit; though the story has been remade several times, director Djibril Mambéty highlights the depth of the play in his version. This film could have been a simple take on how power and wealth corrupt moral judgment, but it has two deeper layers. One interpretation is that the characters in the film represent the actors and interests in neocolonialist Africa; a wealthy “savior” bestows gifts at the cost of human dignity and manipulates the local population to do her bidding. Another interpretation of the film relates to the gender limits explicitly and implicitly present in the story. Ramatou symbolically has no leg to stand on or hand to act with, so she must enlist the men around her to accomplish her wishes. Further, no female townsperson is involved in the trial and murder of Drameh; only men possess the power to try and convict criminals and only men are shown in positions of authority. Mambéty powerfully demonstrates these two power dynamics in his version of the story.

Presented in Wolof with English subtitles, Hyènes underlined the universal challenges and temptations of the human condition and ever-current geo-politics. As I sat in the near-empty theatre, I was surprised by the lack of other students and community members interested in seeing the story play out; hopefully future Filmboard showings will draw more Batesies out from their rooms and into the critical thinking space of Olin 104.

 

How Music Impacts Your Workout

People listen to all kinds of tunes as they prepare for the gym; this past week, I dug a little deeper into why people listen to what they do as they are physically active.

Research conducted in the past 10 years has indicated that music during workouts has unique impacts on perceived exertion. For example, a study by Fritz, Hardikar, Demoucron, Niessen, Demey, Giot, Li, Haynes, Villringer and Leman conducted in 2013 found that an increased connection to music decreased perceived body stress during physical activity. In other words, their findings indicate that the ability to impact what you are listening to through your movements actually decreases how tired you feel when you hit the gym. Another study by North and Hargreaves conducted in 2000 found that participants chose music to match their objective arousal level. When people were exercising and thus energized, they chose different music than when they were relaxed. Both of these studies indicate a special relationship between music and workouts that does not exist in other contexts.

Most of you likely already knew that your homework” music is different from your gym” music, but what does that translate to? To answer this question, I asked a few of my peers about what they listen to while working out.

Some people like to listen to exciting music while they hit the gym, choosing songs with 140 beats per minute (bpm) or more. Summer Peterson ’18 follows this trend, with her workout track Love on the Brain” originally by Rihanna, remixed by Don Diablo. Peterson’s version of the song is at 160 bpm, ideal for a cardio workout. Sarah Keith ’18 also likes this track, but includes other hits such as When you were young” by The Killers. That song rings in at 130 bpm; a little low compared to Peterson’s but still good for a workout.

When I chatted with Elliot Chun ’18, things got a little interesting. This gym-goer actually prefers the Star Wars main theme; he says, It’s one of my favorite movies of all time! And just listening to it gets me all ready to take down the empire and save the day.” Despite clocking in at 117 bpm, Chun seems to enjoy using this slower song for his gym excursions.

My songs know what you did in the dark” by Fall Out Boy is Justin Demers’ ’18 number one gym track; its 152 bpm likely energizes him as he starts his workouts.

A friend who prefers to remain anonymous mentioned that he enjoyed listening to Margaret Atwood’s Hag-seed audiobook, claiming that its connection to Shakespeare’s The Tempest keeps him intellectually stimulated as he runs.

I follow a different pattern when it comes to workout music; for me, my music depends on the activity. I like to listen to audiobooks when I run outside, but on the treadmills inside I prefer songs such as Dreaming” by Smallpools and My Type” by Saint Motel. Both of these tracks have 118 bpm, but they still manage to keep me going. However, on the ellipticals, Netflix is king and bpm is thrown out the window.

What role does music play in your workouts? Most researchers would say that songs ranging 120-150 bpm are the best, but the above testimonials demonstrate that that is not always the case. My advice is to keep using the music you like, but if you are looking for a change, check out this link for a list of songs with 160 bpm to support a cardio workout: https://jog.fm/workout-songs/at/160/bpm?order=desc&sort=popularity

BOTM: Is Reading Right For You?

From a young age, I have been an avid reader; I pride myself in my third-grade Berenstain Bears library, high school collection of dystopian fiction, and collegiate assortment of French theatre. With new technology, like Nooks, Kindles, and e-books, reading has been more accessible than ever. You almost don’t need books to read!

Despite this common sentiment, many organizations are combating the digitization of information. One such organization is the Book of the Month Club (BOTM). This book club releases their new month’s selections February 1. Much like the trendy monthly box subscriptions for vegan beauty products or boutique snack food, BOTM delivers a book for a reduced fee every month. On the first of each month, BOTM sends members an email with details about the new offerings. From that moment on, club members may pick at least one book of the 5-7 books offered as the monthly selection, paid and delivered for $14.99/book. For those of you used to purchasing expensive textbooks and worried about getting swindled by the next trendy thing, this is still a bargain. I have a BOTM book sitting on my shelf valued at $28.95, and I feel that weird sense of pride that accompanies finding a secret bargain.

For my first box, I explored around all the options of BOTM. I could order the one book, at $14.99, or more books from the archive (at $9.99 each). BOTM also tries to get as many genres in their options as possible; a new historical fiction, contemporary fiction, thriller, and mystery book appears almost every month. For my first box, I went with a trifecta of thriller, true crime, and dystopian fiction composed of Bonfire by Krysten Ritter, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, and Sleeping Beauties by Owen and Stephen King.

Built-in to the BOTM subscription is access to the online discussion boards and blog. As a leisure reader, you may miss the deeper connections that book discussions in class yield; look no further than the “Discussions” tab on the BOTM menu! Here, find a virtual book club ready to dissect that one paragraph laden with meaning or argue over the overarching themes. The blog is mainly a fun, quick read with many videos and articles related to the book selection, however, it also houses a few social media competitions with cool prizes.

At this point, you may be super excited to join up! Some other Batesies have actually done so; Sarah Keith ’18 said, “I joined because I love reading but I wasn’t reading enough and wasn’t getting a good selection. And the low prices really attracted me, so I joined!” Halley Posner ’18 added that, “this program seems like a great idea because it makes books cheaper and therefore affordable. So it puts books in more hands!” Clearly, BOTM is a great option for Batesies who want an affordable, easy service to provide them with critically acclaimed reads and fresh takes on various tried-and-true genres.

When my books arrived, I was delighted by their glossy covers, lush photography, and rave reviews from major publications, however, I was let down by one thing: my Bates student schedule. Though I hardly have the time to read my emails, let alone leisure books, I am still excited about the books BOTM brings into my life. As my mom always says, you can never read too much!

 

A Capella on Spotify: A Reflection

Like many of you, I use the music-sharing platform Spotify as my primary listening app. Each week, Spotify generates a new playlist of 30 songs specifically chosen to match each listener’s preferences, called Discover Weekly. My Discover Weekly for the week of January 15-21 included several unfamiliar artists and one very familiar artist: The Northwestern Nor’easters.

The Nor’easters were brought to my attention last spring, when I was abroad and they were winning the International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella. I had since forgotten about the group, until this past week when I saw their name on Spotify. They recently released a new album, Collective, Vol. I, and the song “FOOLS” started playing from my Discover Weekly as I ran errands. Upon realizing what I was listening to, I immediately searched for the rest of their album and listened to it a few times.

The Nor’easters’ album was impressive, demonstrating their dynamic ability to perform various moods with energy and skill. The songs “Cheyenne” and “715- Cr∑∑KS,” the first two of the album, are two poles in texture. “715-Cr∑∑KS,” originally by Bon Iver, emphasized dissonance and utilized strategic silences. My favorite piece off of their album is the song “FOOLS.” The song opens with gentle oohs and aahs filling in the introduction, then the group sets up the verse and drama of the lyrics. It was easy to notice the craftsmanship that went into the creation of the album and this particular song.

Upon listening to the album several times, I realized that many Bates groups were likely on Spotify, and I quickly looked up some of my favorite songs. After some digging, I found albums and tracks by many Bates groups. “Love You Long Time” and “Bust Your Windows/Why don’t you love me?” by the Merimanders and “Sexual Healing” by the Deansmen are easily my three favorite tracks by Bates groups on Spotify, and I consequently listened to them on repeat for longer than I would like to admit.

As I listened to the Nor’easters, Deansmen, and Merimanders, I came to the realization that I enjoyed their music as much as I liked the music of other “professional” musicians on Spotify. I started to reflect. Singing sans instruments does not preclude a singer from having talent or devoting time to their craft, and my Spotify history clearly demonstrates that a cappella musicians have audiences. Why don’t we hear more a cappella groups on the radio or online? Why was I so surprised to hear a cappella while I ran errands?

Much like how Facebook caters ads to each user, Spotify runs algorithms to determine what type of music users would like based on their listening habits. While I definitely appreciate some aspects of this technology, I am now left wondering what wonderful music I am missing out on because Spotify doesn’t think I will enjoy it. I am struck by how much I enjoy the a cappella music Spotify had hidden from me, because I had grown so trusting in the application’s ability to predict my music tastes. My biggest takeaway from this realization is that, as intelligent consumers, we should be aware of how often we depend upon algorithms to know our preferences, and how misleading these algorithms can be.

 

Ashlee Haze: Comedy and Personal Stories in the Benjamin Mays Center

VCS, often a music-exclusive space, hosted slam poet Ashlee Haze on November 30. Haze, a Chicago transplant currently living in Atlanta, has received several slam poetry honors since formally entering the scene as the Grand Prize Winner of V-103’s 2006 “Got Word” Youth Poetry Slam. She came to Bates as a stop along her 100+ city college tour of the U.S.

Haze opened her performance comfortably, introducing herself as a slam poet who discusses her experiences as a black, plus-size woman in today’s world. Wearing all black with electric pink hair, Haze’s strong personality was evident after spending her first seconds on the stage. She quickly jumped into introducing her first explanatory vignette and its associated poem.

This first vignette and poem shared her reaction to the release of the film The Help. Several prominent film critics decried the film’s depiction of black women in the 1960s, however, Haze saw accurate portrayals of her aunt and grandmother in the maids and housekeepers presented in the film. “I find this film to be mildly nostalgic,” said Haze, disagreeing with reviewers’ opinions on the “bad image” of the black maid. The poem itself addressed Haze’s opinion and questioned why critics thought The Help presented a “bad image” if it was an accurate image.

Her next set of vignettes revolved around the theme “Hexes on my Exes” and included the poem “Ode to F*ckboi.” Haze found herself faced with the National Poetry Month prompt to write an ode, so she wrote the satirical “Ode to F*ckboi.” Before presenting the poem, Haze made sure all audience members were familiar with the term “f*ckboi” and gave us a few examples of such people. The poem itself was a critique of all aspects of a f*ckboi existence, such as using the utilities, internet, and resources of others without being held accountable. A hilarious ode, Haze appealed to the audience members’ experiences dealing with such lecherous existences as a person who would not be held nor hold themselves accountable for their actions.

Haze presented herself as a confident and happy woman, however, her poem “Faceless” addressed the path she took to achieve the self-acceptance she now has. In this poem, she describes her response to the microaggression “you have such a pretty face.” She argued that “when he complimented my face that isn’t what he meant;” the compliment highlighted how the rest of her physical appearance was not worthy of such praise.

In between vignettes, Haze built up a comedic rapport with the audience. As she transitioned to new poems, Haze talked to us about pop culture, about her childhood, and about the next poem. She asked us “either or” questions, where she would say two things and the audience would shout out their preference. For example, she asked “Skittles or M&Ms?” and the audience responded with their choice. As she jumped into her haikus, she explained that she would chant “5-7-5” then we chanted “5-7-5,” then she would jump into her haiku.  Because her haikus are so explicit, Haze didn’t need a long introductory vignette or quick anecdote; this call and response chant worked to prepare me for the 17 syllable poems to follow.

Through her powerful poetry and funny stories, I related to Haze; she articulated her version of the human condition well, and it resonated with me. Though many of her stories were not about my particular experience (I am a white medium-build female) I still felt included in what she had to share. I hope VCS continues to explore other genres outside of the indie and folk artists that often populate the Mays Center, because Ashlee Haze provided Bates students with an opportunity to enjoy a genre and hear a voice not often shared on campus.

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