by Katherine Schloss
For me, 2020 has been an exploration of interiors. Of my mind, but also of the house that I lived in growing up. An analysis of what exists where and why. And how, returning “home,” you’ll find that the spaces you once knew so well have changed and rearranged without you.
Moving away for college, the interiors that I existed in morphed and shifted in so many ways. First a dingy dorm room with spaces that would never quite feel like mine. Then, an apartment where I manipulated my belongings into arrangements that fit a new room, with a new view and cream colored walls that I could cover with a collage of my existence. I fantasized about owning another place, a haven within a big city with furniture and pieces that I’d gathered over time, creating a physical representation of the chaos within me.
Recently, I’ve been revisiting spaces where I slowly mapped out my own intellectual interior, remembering things about myself that developed in the four walls of my childhood bedroom. Memories of long nights spent studying and contemplating are contained within the architecture. How strange that we’ve become so tied to these insides, these places of safety amidst a world that increasingly offers up dangers at every turn, when not long ago life was about getting OUT. I walk these hardwood floors trying to feel grounded, traveling the carpeted stairs again and again with each rotation of the earth, with the delineation of time based on each new news app notification on my phone.
This fall, the art curatorial committee has created “Five Tables of Floor Plan,”delving into how artists depict humans within these physical floor plans, and how these spaces and bodies and cultural factors play off of one another. I challenge you to see how these pieces reach across time and space to reflect the ever-changing significance that interiors hold.
The first piece that I focused on was Interior perspective of kitchen (House of the Century scrapbook), created by Ant Farm. I found this piece to be particularly fascinating, not only because it introduces conceptualizations of utopian living spaces but also because Ant Farm was a collective that was founded to explore alternative art in its many forms. How can we reimagine living spaces, in their design as well as their function? How does each space we enter inherently contain meanings, both for the people living in it as well as larger social implications? I wonder to what extent the floor plans of this 1970s House of the Century- which as of late is in a state of decay- can be compared to modern architecture today. It’s interesting to see a building and its interior spatial arrangements as a vision for the future or an indicator of the ways in which we exist in these spaces can change over time.
The second piece that I researched was Tetsuya Noda’s Diary: August 22, 1968. I’m currently in a Japanese History class, and have always been obsessed with woodblock prints, but I was drawn to this piece immediately because it’s so different from traditional Japanese woodcuts. Noda has amassed a great visual chronicle of his intimate life as well as the more public happenings that he has been witness to. This specific piece focuses on a family and its existence in a space, however my inclination when viewing it is to notice how people can be arranged in their own sort of floor plan. This picture can be seen as representing a sort of family hierarchy, with the oldest members having the privilege of gaining a seat on the couch, as well as a separation by traditional conceptions of gender for the younger generations. I’m intrigued by the way Noda’s color palette creates a meshing of their bodies, the background, and the objects which have been placed center stage, suggesting that their bodies are inextricably linked to the landscape of the photo. They become a unit in their arrangement, situated below the great expanse of white space hovering above their heads.
As you delve into the BAMPFA student committee’s recent iteration of “Five Tables,” look around yourself and think of the ways that you have shaped the interiors of your life and the spaces around you. How does your personality manifest itself on the walls? And how has being inside for quarantine changed the meaning of the floor plans that you know so well?
by Katherine Schloss
First of all, Lulu Wang- the director of The Farewell- is life partners with Barry Jenkins (who directed Moonlight) and I just think that that’s so special. Also, this is a PSA: Kanopy is amazing and I wish that I’d known about the free access that Berkeley students have to so many amazingly artsy and touching films earlier on in my college career!!
I watched The Farewell (on Kanopy) for the first time a few weeks ago. Ingesting a film that is inherently centered around death seemed like an odd choice at the time- especially because my viewings up to that date had been about the escapism that comes with rewatching comedies that are dear to me, such as New Girl (a show that truly never disappoints and makes me feel fine about my own quirks), or about diving headfirst into trashy reality television dating shows. After watching The Farewell, I felt reawakened and safe in caring about the drama that is whipped up in the squeaky halls of Grey’s Anatomy- despite the fact that the show has a death:episode ratio of about 1:1 (and that’s ignoring the episodes with the big, all-encompassing traumatic events).
My time during this god-awful pandemic has been largely defined by questioning how I view big life events as they are slowly reduced to their barest bones. Holidays become an excuse to dress up, and birthdays an excuse to stuff my face with cake. In the film, Billi (Awkwafina) travels from New York back home to Changchun in northern China to attend her cousin’s wedding- which is a ruse to get the whole family together before they lose their beloved matriarch. Her grandmother is dying, and she can’t tell her. As the film explains, this is not looked down upon in Chinese culture, where the family members are seen as being responsible for taking on the burden of death. The supposedly joyous wedding ceremony takes on a whole new meaning and purpose, becoming cloaked in death.
Death is treated as a taboo subject in the film, and yet it’s all that any of the characters can think about. Death has really been ever-present lately. The decaying of democracy. The death of plans. The death of certainty. And, more seriously, the threat of real, bodily death as we all face the virus that none of us can truly stop thinking about.
Billi is a young artistically-minded gal who is struggling to find herself in New York- a mindset that I’m currently inhabiting despite my noted physical absence from that city that I want to eventually find myself in. She finds herself confronted with her own individualistic existence in the face of the impending death of her grandmother. I felt Billi’s crisis. I understood her willingness to pick up her life and avoid it all by moving to another country, far away from all of her own problems and ready to care for someone else. I know that I’d do the same for my own grandma. But surprisingly, I felt that Lulu Wang wanted audiences to focus on the family dynamics at play rather than to zone in on Billi’s identity crisis. As I’ve found to be characteristic of A24 movies, The Farewell is beautifully staged with its soft colors- but I was surprised at just how mellow and subdued the film felt despite its exploration of complex topics such as what it really means to pursue the American dream, what it feels like to return home, and how to keep a lie for the good of someone you love.
Billi learns that, when entangled in a family, there are some things that you can’t plan, some things that you need to let slip into the hands of others despite a desperate need to have some semblance of control over your own life. She navigates her own role in a family that feels so unlike her in both action and attitude, finding that her own identity will always be an amalgamation of what she knows herself to be and what her family sees in her.
Without revealing too much, when Billi finally walked down the streets of New York and suddenly broke into dancing and screaming, it felt like an embodiment of what goes through my head as I put my airpods in and drown out the world. And I was here for it. All of it.
the world is waiting for you!
By Katherine Schloss
Let’s talk about one of my favorite shows and why it should be yours, too.
What do you usually look for in a romantic partnership? A quick wit and dashing good looks? Watching The Amazing Race has made me realize that there’s so much value in someone who doesn’t piss off taxi drivers, has a stomach of steel, and, most importantly, can drive stick shift.
The Amazing Race is a reality television show that has been kickin’ it since its initial airing in 2001. Teams of two race around the world in a series of pre-planned adventures. Each leg of the race contains a series of clues that the teams must find, which then direct them to various tasks such as Roadblocks (tasks which only one team member can complete), Detours (here, teams must choose between two tasks), the occasional Fast Forward (if a team completes this before any other team, they can go straight to the end), and finally to Pit Stops which signify the end of each leg. As the show developed, producers added more twists and turns, making adjustments each season to keep fans and contestants alike engaged and guessing. For example, Yields (in which one team could yield another team, forcing them to wait until the sand had run out on an hourglass before they can complete the task at hand) would later become U-turns (where the first team to reach it can force another team to go back and complete the other task option for a Detour before they can continue on).
Each episode is hosted by a calming New Zealand television host: Phil Keogan, who reminds audiences that the teams need to find the perfect balance between “brains, brawn, and teamwork,” in order to win the million-dollar prize. I’m truly jealous of Phil’s rad choker necklace and laid back button ups in an ever-revolving series of earth tones.
Aside from Season 26, where the producers tried something new and paired some contestants up with other contestants that they’d never met before, essentially sending them on blind dates that could last up to a month, teams are made up of people with existing relationships. It is fascinating to watch these connections play out, especially in the realm of romantic relationships, as some teams are made up of fighting married couples while others are young people that have only recently started dating.
It’s a sort of a new experiment each time. Producers map out the race a month out from the time that filming starts, and casting takes months as well. When scouting locations, the production team has to keep in mind any political conflicts that are brewing, as well as the fact that natural disasters can strike, requiring back-up countries and alternative tasks to be planned out as well.
I think any reality television that showcases “ordinary people” is extremely powerful. Despite the fact that there is sometimes an overlap of contestants from other reality shows such as Survivor, The Amazing Race makes an effort to provide relatively unknown characters with the opportunity to travel the world and compete for a large chunk of money. This results in a lot of unfiltered reality gold for viewers.
Something that impresses me every time is the way that the camera crew is kept concealed so that viewers feel like they are the camera themselves, traveling with the teams every step of the way, whether it be scuba diving in vast oceans or jumping off of bridges. Sure, inevitably, you’ll catch a glimpse of cameramen here and there, but the only time that I’ve seen a cameraman’s face so far is when Brian and Greg, a hunky brother duo, accidentally flipped their jeep on a dirt road in Botswana and their cameraman was injured.
During quarantine, I’ve been throwing it back to the early 2000’s and nostalgically watching old seasons. While the show certainly still holds up, it’s really interesting to analyze the early seasons from the perspective of travelling in a world that was freshly post-9/11. Watching this show during quarantine has made me as sure as ever that I will continue to prepare for future travels. It’s trippy to watch couples take multiple plane rides in one day, haggle with taxi drivers, and sleep in the middle of the desert when I have barely left my own bubble. I’m sure that it will be a truly out-of-body experience the next time that I travel, but I really do hope to immerse myself in other cultures ASAP.
To say that we rely on our phones would be an understatement. I admittedly can’t remember the last time I had to use a physical map. If you were to be dropped off only in countries that were foreign to you, would you be able to make your way home? In these early seasons, many teams didn’t learn new languages or research other cultures before embarking on the race as later teams would go on to do. This results in a lot of requests that their taxi drivers speak English to them, and many teams end up exasperated. Maybe I’m biased, but it seems like a good strategy to learn a few simple words in more predominant languages such as French and Mandarin in an attempt to meet the taxi drivers halfway.
In the way that reality shows often do, I’m sure that there is some spin that goes into editing in order to make the winning team look good. However, I feel that The Amazing Race often shows couples just as they are. Freddy and Kendra who (spoiler!) won Season 6 didn’t hold back in their bigotry. Comments such as “I feel very unsafe. I feel… we’re in the middle of ghetto Africa,” and “This city is wretched and disgusting, and they just keep breeding and breeding in this poverty! I just can’t take it,” set off more than a few red flags for me. Freddy would go on to completely lose his temper on the other teams when a steel grate crashed down on his head. Infighting is not uncommon in the race, but his anger was completely misguided, as no other team was anywhere close to him when the supposed tragedy occurred. His “One of you, I’m gonna break in half,” and excessive yelling showed how some teams crack under the pressure. I appreciated that the editing team let viewers watch as the couple experienced culture shock at every turn.
On Season 5, my favorite team was cousins Charla and Mirna who emigrated from Syria to the United States at a young age. Charla had a form of dwarfism and wanted to show both American viewers and herself that she was just as capable as the other contestants. I was saddened to watch as other teams wrote her off from the get-go, calling her a “midget” and always displaying such disbelief that her team was so strong. Teams are constantly asserting that the race is, “Really anybody’s game,” but I feel that this grossly underestimates the physical and emotional challenges that the contestants have coming into the game. I’m continuously impressed by their ability to march on because of these setbacks rather than despite them, as many duos seem to have something to prove in the best way possible.
The Amazing Race also shows a lot about the toxic dynamics that can exist in romantic relationships due to ingrained sexism.
Example one: Johnathan and Veronica. Johnathan was a short man with a fiery attitude. He loved fast cars and dyed the underside of his hair bright blue. Throughout Season 6, I would cringe every time he yelled, “COME ON VERONICA!!!!!!” He even took to shoving her when they were beat-out to the Pit Stop, and she began sobbing uncontrollably. Later, she got injured in a subsequent Detour, and our fav Kendra yelled at Johnathan for actively ignoring her cries.
Example two: Ray and Deana. Ray was a real pain. He seemed to take a page out of Johnathan’s book, berating Deana whenever things didn’t pan out as planned. I took issue with the way that he told her that she lacked a confidence and drive that he saw in himself because it was clear to me that she was doing her best to perform tasks while also dealing with a team member who couldn’t stomach the idea of not being THE BEST. He also tended to take out his insecurities on Meredith and Gretchen, a sweet older couple. He called them “sacrificial lambs,” and couldn’t seem to comprehend that they actually were far stronger human beings than he was in the long run. “I can’t be behind the old ones,” he says, “This isn’t their place.”
Example three: Adam and Rebecca. They were described as an on-again, off-again couple. Adam lived at home and Rebecca tired of “babying him” and having to “run things.” Other couples commented that they felt bad that Adam couldn’t stand up for himself. From my vantage point, the relationship seemed to be toxic on both sides. Rebecca would taunt Adam for being a “sissy.” A particular road block comes to mind where Adam had to drag heavy buckets of salt out of the water. Female competitors were working much faster than he was, and Rebecca saw that as an opportunity to establish herself as the supposed “pants” in the relationship, saying, “Never send a woman to do a man’s job.” Not only does she consistently look down upon him, the relationship is clearly not healthy or sustainable, as every time Rebecca tries to tell him that it’s not working, he threatens to throw himself out of moving vehicles.
Example four: Ron and Kelly. Ron was a former prisoner of war, and Kelly was a pageant queen. With this duo, Kelly’s emotional side was treated as weak and a “woman thing.” Ron complains that, when he was an army man, he was able to do whatever and say whatever he wanted. He sees Kelly as the old ball and chain that signifies his “inevitable future” of settling down and becoming boring. Ironically, Kelly would continue to return to India in the coming years for nonprofit work (no longer accompanied by Ron, who I’m hoping she ultimately made the decision to ditch). How incredibly offensive that Ron acted as if dealing with Kelly’s existence as an emotional being was a burden to him. His, “Good job woman,” isn’t just a silly little comment, it reflects an ingrained sexism and the lasting effects of his time in the biggest boy’s club: the army.
I appreciate The Amazing Race for the way that it presents other cultures in a completely balanced way. The show encourages the viewer to analyze their own reactions as a bystander, watching the way that these random Americans make their way through crowded streets in developing countries (by Western standards), and asking them to question whether they would conduct themselves similarly. It’s a lesson on what sleep deprivation, fear of the unknown, and the possibility of a great fortune can do to one’s sanity. It tests relationships, forcing couples to be together 24/7, suddenly unable to ignore where their partnerships are “lacking” (it’s like the pressure that quarantine puts on relationships, but with a constant change of scene). I also commend this reality television show for unabashedly casting gay couples, elderly couples, and other pairings that perhaps weren’t as honestly represented at the time in an effort to show that the human experience is varied and that people are capable of looking normalcy in the face and spitting on its neck.
Applications to be my partner for The Amazing Race will be opening once I finish grad school. Only apply if you’re ready to provide that sweet sweet ~mind, body, and soul connection~. And be willing to skydive for me, because I’m not about to throw myself out of a plane with the kind of luck we’ve been experiencing this year.
by Katherine Schloss
They have finally recovered the bodies of the missing Kennedys. I’ve found that it’s so easy to give into the mystique of their curse. I’m certainly one to be drawn in by the fogginess that surrounds it, the mystery that their uber rich family is shrouded in. They’ve certainly been continuously blessed with fame and fortune, but one can only stop and wonder if the number of deaths and freak accidents that they’ve racked up is actually unprecedented, or if it merely feels magnified because of our intense fascination and following of all things Kennedy.
Curses are linked to supernatural powers, and ending up with one comes with all the implications that someone- or something- is out to cause you harm. I think it’s really interesting that some people walk around with a “victim mindset” in that way. It’s easier to point to something as the cause of an unhappiness, or to blame the bad things that have happened to you on misfortune. Looking at the famous Kennedy family specifically, there is folklore surrounding them, with conspiracy theories pointing to a curse that has manifested in everything from cars launching into bodies of water, botched lobotomies and the famous shooting which has yet to be completely solved and therefore remains subject to scrutiny by the masses.
Why do we find celebrities so entrancing? This question is asked again and again by anyone who cares to take a second to analyze their own obsession with the world of glitz and glamour, where old movies insist that, in the pursuit of fame, celebrities are selling their souls to the devil. They take a risk, and many end up in the hallowed halls of rehab, all for the price of the construction of a “personality.” We fall in love with, or love to hate, the fragments that they give us, following a trail of golden little nuggets of information. Nowadays, the sneak peek into their lives that we get on social media and in “stripped-down” interviews can be addicting. But how much of that would have existed if they hadn’t entered into a contract? How much of their glamorous life was written in the stars and preordained, and how much resulted from years of working towards the image that we idolize?
My art history professor told my class that, when the Cleopatra film came out in 1963 with Liz Taylor at its helm, it brought with it a trend of false eyelashes and the “new Egyptian look.” She managed to capitalize on an image that was ancient and totally unrelated to her own culture, merely because of the starpower that she held. We hold onto these images of decadence, copying those that have their fascinating lives on their hills and many who, in this quarantine, have the luxury of hiding in their mansions without reason to ever leave their shiny infinity pools and manicured pastures.
Watching old Keeping up with the Kardashians episodes- hey, we’ve got to allow ourselves some guilty pleasures during this quarantine, right?- I’m reminded of how we love to pit celebrities against one another as if everything is just one big ‘ol reality t.v. show. We love to read about the drama, to spice things up when we find our own lives to be mundane or stale. Where does the individual end and the personality begin? When writing a thesis on David Bowie and his creation of a sort of alter ego in the form of Ziggy Stardust, I was fascinated by how he described the struggle of trying to separate himself from the persona that he’d crafted purely for the entertainment of anyone who would listen. We criticize celebrities for being unable to handle the fame which somehow comes to encompass a culture where we expect them to be well-adjusted and expect them to share the secrets of their well-adjusted life with the public as well. Who are we to expect an inside peek? It’s as if no stone can be left unturned, no second left unrecorded.
I saw today that there’s speculation that Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik are expecting their first child. As I stared at the pixels that combined to create pictures taken from moments in their tumultuous on-again off-again relationship where they were actually beaming, I couldn’t help but wonder who it was that had leaked this highly personal information. There’s certainly a darker side to things, one where influencers like Caroline Calloway are cancelled and labeled as scammers by fans that had once heralded her posts about her dreamy days at Cambridge. This overload of information that exists at our fingertips has erased some of the intrigue. We no longer have to wait for a magazine to come out in order to see the latest celebrity gossip, and celebrities have literally started opening their doors up to us in Architectural Digest videos galore. I’m slowly starting to feel that celebrities are just like us, but with a whole lot more money and a whole lot less privacy.
I am not immune to the cult of personality that surrounds these moguls. I’ve been known to drool over Princess Di’s drove of fabulous and innovative outfit choices, I spent years trying to understand who Jackie O was aside from her husband, and singers like Maggie Rogers remain my spirit animal. The few times that I’ve been able to talk to these figures that I look up to or love to love- which has mainly been at stage doors or at small concerts- I’m struck by how little I’m able to muster, despite the fact that I’m usually a big talker. Though it may feel like it, we will never truly know the people whose voices fill our earbuds, whose posters covered the walls of our angsty teen years, and whose red carpet choices will continue to shape our own wardrobes for years to come. And that’s okay. We certainly rely upon a pop culture shaped by such individuals as a form of escapism, and I undoubtedly will continue to try to find the magic in the personas that they’ve so carefully created for me to indulge in. On the other side of things, I hope that at the end of the day we find ourselves in our individuality to be all the more valuable and precious, crafting our own personalities and lives based on the people and things that we are influenced by and basking in the fact that we don’t have to drive in cars with tinted windows. I, for one, can’t wait to freely walk around in Trader Joe’s once the quarantine is over, searching for my favorite off-brand takis. At least the mob won’t have something to say about that.
Happy Spoopy Season Witches...
by Katherine Schloss
The other day, I was walking down the lovely street of Dwight Way when something shiny caught my eye. A plaque on the ground marked the usually insignificant stoplight where you can catch the 79 (which I find to be much sexier than the trusty old steed that is the predictable 51B) just before Theta Chi. Called “Hell’s Fissure,” the plaque demarcates the mythical location where, apparently, a chasm opened up during the 1906 earthquake and “creatures of unspeakable horror” terrorized the local neighborhood. I started to think of all the crazy characters that I encounter without a second thought on the daily here in Bezerkeley. I started to really believe in the chasm’s lasting power over the area as a result of its introduction of such colorful characters as the Hell Yeah Guy, Furryboi, the lady at Brown’s whose “Next!” hits you like a freight train…
In related news, recent reports have deemed six buildings on the UC Berkeley campus seismically unsafe. When the beloved Hayward faultline opens up at a football game this year - “We could have been good!” we’ll say, “But the earthquake ruined all of that…” - buildings as old as shit will crumble. I interviewed a few passing people about this dilemma. First, I hit up a Fiji frat dude, just as he was coming dramatically down his mansion’s luxurious staircase as if he were Scarlett O’Hara of the movie Gone with the Wind. “Bro, I haven’t been to class in a week! I gave myself a long weekend and went on a three-day bender. We can’t rent out RVs anymore because of the incident last year, so I’m thinking of hang-gliding to the next USC game. Oh, it’s actually here? Sick… we’ll see if I’m coherent enough to make it. Oh, wait - what were we talking about??”
Then, outside of Moe’s, we find a resident soft boi looking at the $2 bookrack. His instagram bio says, “Brain like Berkeley,” and he cries into his beanie when no one’s looking about the girl that wasn’t receptive to his charms. “The way she says hi is cathartic, like the dew on the soft grass.” I decide he’s a lost cause.
When asked for a statement, our lovely chancellor was tempted to not comment. Then, when walking down Sproul one day, dodging flyers and faceless/nameless consultors, I ran directly into Oski himself. I felt him slip something into my pocket, and then it was like he’d never been there. The note said: “When the time comes, hide in the tunnels. You’ll know what to do.” As the world around me started to burn to the ground, and memories of a recent earthquake came to mind, I started to feel like that meme about the dog in the burning room.
This just in: Those hundreds of people you friended on Facebook freshman year? Yeah, you’ll never talk to them again…
by Katherine Schloss
You’re walking through the “morning fog.”(1,2,3) Suddenly that fog clears, and just as you start admiring the phallic imagery of the regal Campanile, a familiar face appears before you.
Is that? No. Wait… oh no: you definitely don’t remember their name. Are they from GBO? That one day of rush you went to? Did they flyer to you on sproul? Sweet talk you into signing something for CALPIRG? Out of the 30,853 or so students (one drops out every time a toilet refuses to flush in Moffit), you seem to be charmed with the honor of running into Facebook friends of meet-and-greets past.
“Hey you!” (start with a vague greeting that is friendly but not too overbearing). Then the conversation becomes a barrage of vague questions. “How was your summer? Did you go home? What’s your major again? Have you seen those caterpillars around? Isn’t it crazy how they get stuck in your hair?” You try not to be too put-off by the fact that they know where you lived freshman year, or that they remember “that one time” you were drunk and did “that funny thing” on a table, or that they can list all of your best friends by name. Your strongest contribution to the conversation is, “What’s your favorite font?”
Then, like a lighthouse in the fog, you see that you’ve both somehow reached the Dino Man in front of Sather Gate. It’s enough of a distraction for you to slip into the sea of flyers before being hit by a rich international student floating through the crowd on their motorized skateboard. Karma's a bitch, but you’re still gonna continue to blast people with those connection requests on Linkedin. You’re a professional now, and you’re not going to see any of those Facebook friends again anyhow. A swig of Yerb and you’re on your way, ready to take on the world of screenagers.
1 You’re physically foggy because you got sexiled last night and woke up at three am on the couch just to itch your eye with a finger covered in Trader Joe’s fake taquis
2You’re mentally foggy because you’ve spent the past couple of days frantically creating a quizlet for that anthro class that you haven’t been to since the second day of lecture and are trying to cram your brain with various specificities about ape skulls
3There also happens to be a fog surrounding you that rivals that of Karl across the bay
Maria and Me
by Katherine Schloss
Fresh off of a Cal Day full of blue, gold, go bears, and such, my friends and I sauntered to the Memorial Glade in search of respite from the sea of frat noise we’d engaged in, expecting to wade through waves of eager prospective students. Instead, we (thankfully) stumbled upon the concert that SUPERB was putting on. The vibe we encountered on the famous sturdy patch of patchy grass was reminiscent of how I imagine it must have been when the hippies roamed Berkeley in the days of free love and peace. Truly, where have all the hippies gone?!
Writing this has reminded me of my obsession with Lindsay Weir and Kim Kelly of Freaks and Geeks and my envy for their ability to journey off in a VW bus to follow the Grateful Dead. I feel like music today is an escape, whereas it was once a religion. This year I’ve been unintentionally going on a sort of concert pilgrimage. The journey hasn’t taken me far physically, but it has emotionally and intellectually stimulated and changed me. I got my first true taste of the electric experience that is concert-going this past year-- my first year of college. Prior to my time here, I’d only been to a Taylor Swift concert and Vanessa Hudgens’ attempt at one in a small county fair in Pennsylvania. Coming from Orange County, I should have been exposed to more of the small groups that come out of Los Angeles, but I wasn’t savvy enough, always hyper-aware that all of my favorite songs revolved around a 70’s witchy Stevie Nicks period or an 80’s Toto howling “Africa.” But now, I have discovered my intense love for concerts. When I lived in Foothill, notes from the Greek Theater would waft over to my dorm, scoring my study sessions (or lack thereof) and making me feel as though I had started to find a soundtrack for my ever-changing life. I often heard the musicians warming up early in the day, and it felt as if we had gone through space and time together once it was all put together at night. One poignant memory of that time period was when, walking home from VLSB really late one night, I heard the last chorus of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” a few days before he died.
From Berkeley alum Jack Symes to quirky Father John Misty to all of the band nights at Thorsen house, each concert I have attended has been a unique experience that has shifted my perception of the world and of music itself. The concerts with SUPERB have been especially meaningful to me, as they transform various spots on campus that I walk past every day into sites for my infatuations with new artists. The Stelth Ulvang concert in particular was a magical event for me. Rushing from my SwingCal practice, I walked into the beautiful, moody place that is Bowles and immediately was so relieved to shake off the weight from my stressful week and to just vibe to new music with my friends. I felt connected to strangers as we swayed under the purple lights to Stelth’s soothing voice.
For the most part, my concert experience this semester has been like riding a calm comforting wave, save one night where I found myself in the middle of a mosh pit. I’ve learnt to give into the flow of the music without losing my sense of self under the sparkly disco ball and amidst the crowds. I saw Summer Salt at the Corner Stone and I don’t think I stopped smiling once. At the TV Girl concert, I literally went through my whole dance repertoire (trying to avoid the fact that I didn’t know the words and just giving into it all). I was able to just simply vibe with the chill tunes… and that was exactly how I felt on Saturday. The Marías!!! What an insanely hot group they are! I’ll admit that I’d literally only listened to whatever songs my free version of Spotify had fed me-- sorry, I know that’s such chaotic energy but my laziness and lax attitude about some things culminates in having to patiently wait through three of the same ad every hour-- and yet I had definitely loved what snippets I’d heard of her smoky voice. I was not at all prepared for the presence María had onstage- my friend iconically described her voice as “sex embodied” with her black high-waisted dickies, a skin-tight cheetah top and black shades. All of that, combined with her envy-inducing blunt bangs and subtle body rolls, culminated in the creation of one mesmerizing lady. Her movements were sensuous and just self -aware enough to make me immediately want to be so beautifully intentional yet so chill. In a Noisey article, the group’s drummer Josh Conway grapples with the fact that the Marías have been described as “vintage.” I’m personally finding that there’s a timeless collective spontaneity that’s forming in many of the groups I’ve seen this year. By this I mean that the Marías have hit a sweet spot in the combination of their passions somewhere in the mix of old-timey and contemporary, in dreamy tunes that simultaneously evoke hotel lobbies with velour-covered couches and the farthest reaches of the Milky Way. I feel this is best captured by their Ones to Watch article, which says that the music makes one feel, “...transported, taken over by a sultry tranquility as you drift into a timeless space.” They’re all very put-together, care a lot about their music, and each member has a unique look, so their creative juices marinate nicely. This is especially impressive considering the group was a lovechild that sprang from the real love between the band’s eponymous lead woman and its drummer (for once the drummer doesn’t fade into the background). The music videos are a very smooth meshing of retro looks with an effortlessly cool sway set to their sexy and swanky tunes. I could-- and do-- watch “Over the Moon” on repeat, with its intermix of celestial claymation and María in her dazzling, pearly gown surrounded by her monochromatic, white-suited boys. It allows her to be central and showcases her, but not obnoxiously so. She is sexualized, but not exploitatively. Instead, she owns the milky, sparkly dream-like sequence, and its in three minutes and three seconds steals my heart and epitomizes for me what my concert-going journey has been: a time to both find my love for old-school music newly implanted in the present and to also allow myself to grow into my own body. To become my own María, enwreathed by an ivy of the songs that I now carry with me-- whether I know the words or not-- dickies above the ankle and my head held high.
by Katherine Schloss
Lately I’ve been too caught up in it all to sit down and truly commit myself to binge watching a new show. Summer nights spent cramming One Tree Hill until my eyes watered are a far-off memory. Then, my roommate suggested Pushing Daisies, and I absentmindedly starting watching the pilot episode as I packed for spring break. Straight off the bat I was incredibly intrigued by how intentional the cinematography felt. It was very Wes Anderson-esque, with odd color palettes and quirky, witty one liners that are given care and attention. A few episodes in, I discovered that the show was tragically discontinued after two seasons. This dilemma has plagued me often in the niche, cult classics that I tend to be drawn to (another example being Freaks and Geeks). I often wonder how it is that other shows can gleefully exist with their cliff hangers, mistaken identities, etc. while my shows must forever be frozen in time, subject to the powers that exist outside of their realm of existence, a reminder that while trying to maintain my image of the characters as very real, there is also the very real fact that they are mere creations. Is it better that the end is left up to the imagination? Does this extend their existence as never-ending and incapable of being sugar coated and boxed into a set path? Should you even start a show knowing full well that there won’t be any satisfaction of a resolution at the end?
Shows like this are often overlooked by mainstream efforts to drag crime shows on with 10 plus seasons, playing out every possible scenario and stretching the characters and their stories thin. I don’t want to belittle shows that rely on the malleability of their characters in such a way, but there is something to be said about a storyline where characters are created with a certain depth and groundedness that makes you identify so heavily with them.That’s exactly why I find shows such as Pushing Daisies and Psych so refreshing. Both center around male protagonists who have tumultuous relationships with their fathers and are subject to playful yet often traumatic childhood flashbacks. However, they differ in a few pertinent ways: one leading man has a special, mystical gift and one merely pretends to. Psych therefore manages to cross a fine line as Shawn (the main character), a restless soul who cannot hold down a job for more than a few weeks at a time, finds his calling by pretending to be a psychic for the Santa Barbara police force, secretly relying on his keen detective abilities that he learned through years of unwanted daily training through his father. There is an awareness and lightheartedness that comes with the knowledge that he cannot sustain the act until the end of time, making the show, with its endless references to obscure 80s-isms, entirely endearing and digestible. It is decidedly real in its location and presentation of realistic situations, and yet there is a sort of blatant and cheeky undertone of the ridiculousness of the legal system and detectives in general. In comparison, Pushing Daisies is presented through the steady voice of Jim Dale-- notable for his narration of the Harry Potter audiobooks-- relying on the fantastic element of its main character (Ned) possessing the ability to bring dead people back to life. This gift comes with two catches: firstly, if kept alive for more than a minute, someone else randomly dies; secondly, Ned cannot touch the person again without them returning to their dead state. Once he brings his childhood love back to life, there exists the heart-aching situation in which they cannot touch. This creates, within the modern fairytale of sorts, a unique ability to explore a male character’s affection for a woman minus the usually heavily-present physicality that generally comes with TV’s depictions of lust and love. His inability to touch her is, indeed, very touching. In Psych, this plays out as a fragile man’s chase of the head detective’s affections, turning the common power dynamic on its head in a cat and mouse chase that involves a strong woman’s dedication to her career. Both shows are decidedly unique despite their existence within the detective genre, each with a nuanced ability to deliver comedy and commentary with heart and flair despite their decidedly niche existences.
It can be argued that these shows warp our understanding of crime and the criminal justice system. Instead of developing “mean world syndrome,” which causes viewers to perceive the world as more dangerous than reality, these particular television programs make the viewer feel as though they should go into the business of solving murders. I certainly considered criminal justice after obsessing over Sherlock in its delicious Britishness and addictive portrayal of the analytical process that accompanies solving a murder or crime. In a similar vein, the Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller hoped to create an appreciation for life despite the show’s inherent focus on the topic of death. His Amelie-inspired amalgamation of patterns, vibrant color schemes, and quirky dialogue may have been cut short, but the show’s defiant spirit lives on.
by Katherine Schloss
Where the heck did memes come from? Open any social media app and you’re immediately hit by memes about everything from politics to celebrities. Every public event is slyly condensed into a little joke that is a commentary on the unraveling of our society. I feel that memes somehow become an ironic portrayal of the darkest fears of Millenials and Gen Z. Through memes it is acceptable to absolutely decimate someone’s character or make a very serious topic into something that somehow commodifies it into a comedic bit for the entertainment of the “woke” masses. Memes bring people together, just as our own university’s Facebook meme page unites the edgy teens for miles around in their common goal to craft poignant pieces on the culture that they mutually take part in.
This condensed commodification certainly reflects an ever-decreasing ability to focus on something. Everything must be cut down into digestible skits… like SNL on steroids. On social media, our lives are conveyed by a few words, some strange emojis, and carefully curated content. We create our own little art exhibits, raw and vulnerable and on full display 24/7. What does all of this say about our culture? Are we more aware? Is our ability to curate the things that are happening around us into such a stylized, clean look a reflection of our shallowness, or an increased productivity? I think that memes can be different in that they display a certain agency. While it is true that they can become mainstream, they’re not made to feed their creator’s ego, but rather to facilitate a connection between young people that aren’t willing to take any more bulls***. We are creating our own curated worlds, taking what is relevant to us as young people and crafting a new world within the realm of technology and likes and retweets. This brings about a danger of suddenly becoming unable to care about things that aren’t carefully curated to our taste. Our Facebook feeds spit out what we want to hear, targeted ads hit us at every turn, and our Instagram feed projects the “best,” most aesthetically pleasing and socially acceptable points of our days. Memes, on the other hand, are defined as, “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.” Therefore, this massive amount of consumption that is occurring also allows for a new art form to emerge. The urban dictionary says that memes, “are a lifestyle and art used by teens and adults who are willing to actually live a life that doesn't include depression.” That definition in itself is rightfully meme-worthy. I often hear people say “that’s such a meme” which makes me wonder when people aren’t doing things just so that they’ll be worthy of being commodified on social media into a small picture/text combo. Regardless, I do see memes as a way that we can fight back with comedic relevance against the ever-stressing world that we’re being pushed into. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we certainly can’t face the confusion of the world that was created by all those preceding us.
I talked to two of my friends who make memes for The Free Peach, a satirical publication produced online by students from UC Berkeley. One, my roommate, said, “I find my inspiration from current events, media trends, and the many meme accounts I follow, but also from my friends. Some of the most relatable content is just a result of listening to what people around you are saying.” When asked how meme culture has become so rampant, she replied, “I feel like memes are so loved by our generation because they remind us not to take life too seriously, that everything is a joke, and also of the importance of ~~Free Speech~~.” The other social media editor told me, “I find meme inspo from situations that I am in or have experienced! I'll take a photo and then usually see it's meme potential right away. Or, something will come up in conversation, a person will say something funny or unique, and it will instantly trigger a meme response.” Therefore, memes can be seen as a reflection of capturing spontaneity, in comparison to when one carefully chooses an Instagram photo out of a long string of carefully-staged moments. She said, “I think memes are rampant because they create a sort of standardized and digestible joke. One meme format can be applied to a ton of different circumstances so it's easy to create a middle ground for people. Someone says something and instantly a couple people see it through the lens of memes. Also, memes are spread so fast and there is always new content so it's a form of humor that anyone can dabble in and find something that makes them laugh.” I hope that this post was easy and breezy like the memes that we hold so dear. Sweet memes my friends!
by Katherine Schloss
I’ve never been one for horror films. Sometimes I get unpredictably queasy at the sight of blood, and I often laugh disappointedly at the overly emotional responses from female characters boxed into the limiting role of the victim. Why would I put myself into a situation of simulated stress for two (plus) hours only to find out who the killer was when I can so easily look it up?
But I’ve started to realize that there is a sweet spot between thriller and horror. Create just enough violence and sprinkle in just enough nail biting suspense and you’ve got a perfect concoction. I thought it was worth a try to watch Gaspar Noé’s Climax purely because it was tantalizingly French.
Watching Climax was like stumbling through a beautifully lit haunted house, minus the jump scares. There was an uneasiness in that lack. Besides a playful title, Climax was a lot of things. Highly intimate, jarring, nauseating…it was like we were on a drug trip ourselves, with a sensory overload of dancing figures paired with the constantly droning electronic music that became overwhelming in its consistency. The filming style was a couple of long, mesmerizing takes, and it became clear that the film is focused less on forcing viewers to attempt to solve a psychological puzzle and more on presenting life as an ongoing, chaotic dance that we’re all wrapped up in.
Cinematographically, the film was beautiful. It retells a (mostly) true story of a French dance troupe that discovers that the sangria bowl which they’ve been drinking copious amounts of at a small party has been spiked with LSD. The film, which was shot in fifteen days and based off of a three page script outline, is enticingly raw with a supersaturated color scheme. Noé’s decision to cast dancers instead of actors-- save for Sofia Boutella-- created very accessible characters and exposed universal truths, despite the language barrier and sparse dialogue. Their dance background allowed for a freedom in which they weren’t overly conscious of their performance character-wise and were instead able to give into their bodily aesthetic.
I felt this movie presented a sort of microcosm of the world within which the seven deadly sins were present. Certainly lust, but also envy and the like. The characters all seemed to be insanely aware of power dynamics, and then slowly their social positions began to break down as the drugs set in. Reading some articles about the film, which are bound to be mixed with the good and the bad, I realized that there’s a confusing gray area in relation to the fact that the film is presented as “French made,” in congruence with the presence of a huge, sparkly French flag playfully displayed over the DJ’s turntables. Is the movie presented as notably French? I honestly walked out of it feeling that the disturbing messages were universal, and that the flag was somehow ironically placed and discussed. However, upon closer examination one finds that the first one to be accused of lacing the sangria bowl and to be thrown out into the snow was a Muslim man. Is this a commentary in conjunction with racial unrest in France? The fact that all of the characters are insanely different and that their supposed civility at the beginning of the film devolves and degenerates into a hellish-but highly aesthetically pleasing in the red moody lighting- combination of death drops (dancing term), voguing, and bone breaking intermixed with nervous breakdowns, shaky trips down long hallways, and sex, sex, sex further presents the idea of tensions amongst diverse groups of people.
The movie doesn’t have a high point of tension. The line between sanity and whatever else lies on the other side is perpetually blurred with prolonged traipses down hallways, upside down shots, and close-ups of wild eyes. As a viewer you are never truly grounded, as the camera is almost constantly moving and the main character is in a state of paranoia punctuated by bodily outbursts and screams. The camera’s tendency to slowly pan from character to character means that we never quite learn enough about any of them or fully trust any individual character, and are thus presented with the unique ability to make value judgements on our own. The performances are insanely physical and somehow Noé manages to coax out a reveal of the darkness that lies beneath human nature through them.
An interesting trope throughout the film was that of the men as a negative presence, giving into their sexual desires and disregarding how the women actually feel. David’s main goal is to sleep with all of the women. Taylor essentially rapes his sister because…incest. The film essentially breaks down male sexuality into a meaningless search for dominance and pleasure, resulting in their reveal in harsh lighting at the end of the movie as a mass of exhausted bodies. The men are presented as primal and crass, and the women are often manipulated despite their strong personalities. Lou is cornered, Gazelle is raped, and Selva is harassed. In the end, Psyche is the one who spiked the punch and watched unharmed, so perhaps a female prevails? However, she ends up giving in to her supposedly regretted past by applying acid eye drops.
It is clear that, in Climax, dance is presented as a reflection of life itself. This idea can even be found in the opening bird’s eye view shot of a woman screaming in a bloody, snowing, writhing panic. It is especially apparent when Ivana’s response to, “If you couldn’t dance what would you do?” is simply, “Suicide.” I’ll leave you with one of the intertitles from the film: “Life is a collective impossibility,” which hopefully leaves you spinning around like the fruit in their endless cups of sangria.