To-Do Before Graduation

By Molly K. Lichtner, 5/10/17

  1. Get the new apartment unpacked
  2. Go grocery shopping to replace all of the frozen food that was left in PA
  3. Have the maintenance guy look at issues in the new apartment
    • Master bathroom shower water not running
    • Ceiling fan not completely attached to ceiling
    • Mystery light switches?
  4. Take Scout the cat to have her shots boostered
  5. Learn how to hang pictures straight on a wall
  6. Get gas in the car
  7. Take out the trash
  8. Find the screws to attach the mirror to the dresser
  9. Put the right furniture in the right room
  10. Find laptop charger (Did I pack it?)
  11. Make sure mail is being forwarded
  12. Explore new town
  13. Make new friends (How?  How is this done?)
  14. Sort Laundry
  15. Pack for the trip back up north
  16. Finish blog posts

Well, one out of sixteen isn’t bad, right?

An Interview with Karen Sheldon, DelVal’s Quintessential Librarian

By Molly K. Lichtner, 5/10/17

Being a librarian runs in Karen Sheldon’s blood.  She comes from a family of librarians:  “My grandfather was the director of the Salt Lake City public library, my uncle is the director of  the Newark public library…I never thought that I would become a librarian, because they all do.”  When she started her senior year of college at the University of Delaware, she wasn’t sure what she should do with her Bachelor of the Arts in Italian Literature.  Things fell into place (just as they often do), and Karen found herself at Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus, studying for a Master’s degree in library science.

It turned out to be a perfect fit, especially because of her love of research.  When asked which search engine for researching was, Karen didn’t hesitate: ““…I have a soft spot for JSTOR because it has so much humanities stuff and so much weird stuff.  It goes back to like the 1700s…That’s one of the ones I flip through.  I don’t really flip through the databases all that often.”  She really loves to learn, especially about things she knows little to nothing about.  “…Every semester there’s just something that catches my interest.  Earlier I was learning all about gharials…Maggie [Ligouri] was telling me about it, so for a couple days I read everything about them that I could.”  For those that aren’t sure what a gharials are, imagine a crocodile with a long, skinny snout.  They have limited habitat and are dying at an alarming rate, but luckily because of research and databases, their existence won’t be gone for good.

For anyone that’s ever written a research paper, you know how specific some articles need to be.  Karen has also helped students with things a little bit out of the ordinary, like strawberry juice, but that’s part of the fun.  “…When I was at Rutgers I worked in the business library, and I basically only got MBA students…they always had these ridiculous projects and somebody came in and they wanted to know about the strawberry juice industry in France, but not the public industry—private companies.”  She was eventually able to find something for the student to use (it was in French, but still, that’s dedication).  Karen believes that what makes DelVal’s library special is the service they provide to everyone on campus.

“Unlike a big school, somewhere like Rutgers, you really don’t get a lot of time to spend with students.  Somebody comes up to the reference desk, you give them their article, you move them along.  Here, we can kind of check back in with the students, we see them, we know what kind of topics they’re interested in.  We buy books specifically because we’ve seen someone and see —oh, the sierra mountain frog, or the Sierra Nevada mountain frog—I know somebody wrote about that last year.  I’m going to buy this book because somebody might need it in the future. Or we’re always buying equine business stuff because there’s so many equine people.  It’s based on exactly what we see the students doing.  It’s really nice to be able to connect what you do, not just to the faculty research but to the student.”

Karen’s love of the library and its patrons is obvious, especially when it comes to ending librarian stereotypes.  She’s not one to shush, and would rather encourage students to talk and learn together.

“I hate shushing people.  At my old job, that was the worst part.  I hated shushing people.  It was  at a community college and the floor that the reference desk was on was a silent floor, but it was the only floor with big tables, so it was the only place on campus that groups could meet.  It was just bad design.”

Karen is excited about everything in the library, even the fact that it may be haunted, although she doesn’t believe those rumors.  Rumor has it that Rabbi Krauskopf’s ghost still lurks in his office and around the memorial room.  Karen has another theory for that.  “I think it’s that the air conditioning in the memorial room is the best functioning so that one gets the coldest…I figure that if he haunts the place, it’s because he loves it.”

DelVal is exceedingly lucky to have such a passionate and devoted librarian on campus.  Who knows, maybe someday Karen’s ghost will haunt her old office too!

Gentle Giant

By Molly K. Lichtner, 5/10/17

The Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is the epitome of a gentle giant.  They are large, soft, and covered in algae.  With greyish-brown skin and mottled green backs, they blend into their aquatic sanctuaries with ease.  No one quite knows why they need to be camouflaged so well; the manatee has no natural predator besides climate change and boat propellers.

—–

            I was never one to fit in very well.  Throughout elementary school I was the tallest child every year in every class, which is a tremendously embarrassing feat for anyone of any age.  That paired with the fact that both of my parents worked for the school district made it nearly impossible to go unnoticed.  “Oh, is Mr./Mrs. Lichtner at the high school your dad/mom?  Tell them I said hi!”  I was under the constant stress of being taught by someone that goes to teacher in-service days with my dad or exchanges Christmas cards with my mom.  Any infraction on my part may have been an embarrassment to my parents’ careers; things like that put a lot of pressure on an eight-year-old.

—–

            The Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) can weigh up to 1,600 pounds.  Females are usually larger than males, most likely due to the demanding needs of a fetus during gestation.  Manatees in general are large due to their low cold tolerance; they cannot survive in temperatures below 68°F.  One fifth of their body weight is from their gastrointestinal tract alone.  This generates heat as they digest in order to keep internal temperatures high.  Manatees, in a nutshell, are living, breathing, insulated animals.

—–

            I have been fat my entire life, but I didn’t quite know it until about the second grade when a kid called me and another girl “big boned” during recess.  I knew this was an insult of some kind, but I wasn’t quite sure why.  How can I be ashamed of something that I didn’t know I was?  Being fat became clearer to me when my mother signed me up for Irish dancing classes in the third grade and my grandmother applauded her initiative because she thought it might help me “lose the baby weight.”  But I was still a baby.  I hated Irish dancing and quit within a year.

—–

            The Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is slow and has difficulty moving out of the way of boat propellers.  The propellers tear up their flesh and leave scars: long, jagged, and slow to heal.  Sometimes the boats do enough damage to kill the manatee, leaving its battered and bruised corpse to decompose in the water.  Most manatees have crisscrossed patterns of scars adorning their backs, sides, and tails.  These are permanent reminders that they are not invincible.

—–

            I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have stretch marks.  Unnoticeable and innocuous to anyone but me, I have them on my tummy and my arms.  I used to hide them under baggy sweatshirts— I was afraid that someone might notice them and realize that I’m a fat person—but now they no longer are a source of shame.  They show how soft I am.  They show that I have grown physically, but mentally as well; I am no longer afraid to show my propeller scars.

—–

            The Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) becomes sexually mature around four years of age, and reproduces a few years after that.  One calf is customary, but occasionally twins are born as well.  One female may have up to seven offspring in her lifetime.  Mothers and calves stay together for two years.

—–

            I have never gotten along better with my parents than I do now that I no longer live with them.  My mother and I have become particularly close; we talk nearly every day and see each other as frequently as possible.  My mother, like most mothers, is desperate for grandchildren.  With my brother recently separated and soon to be divorced, her efforts for grandchildren have turned toward me.  She frequently urges me to go out to potentially meet “Mr. Right.”  She had met her first husband by the time she was my age, and she had my brother by the time she was 27 years old.  I don’t have the heart to tell her that I don’t want children because I don’t want to pass my own neuroses on to another generation.  I am still learning to take care of myself.

—–

            The Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is a generally solitary creature, apart from mating season or when caring for a calf.  They travel alone, they eat alone, and they rest alone.  They are not territorial and their lack of predators defeats the need for a herd mentality.  Despite their near constant solitude, they are still able to thrive.

—–

            I have lived alone for almost a year now, and after about five months the silence in my apartment was deafening.  My solution to this was to get a roommate; I brought my first cat home in late April.  Coming home after a long day was no longer lonely.  There was something there that craved my attention as much as I craved his.  After six months of bonding, I worried if he was lonely when I wasn’t around.  My solution to this was another cat.  I am greeted with a chorus of meows and leg rubbing when I walk in the door.  I can count on one hand the number of times my family has visited my apartment.  On my other hand I can count how many friends I have had over more than once.  I am alone but I am not lonely.  The quiet is comforting.  I am a solitary gentle giant.

A Reflection On A Semester of Reading: What I Knew, What I Know, and What I Still Don’t Know About Women’s Literature (Mostly the Latter)

By Molly K. Lichtner, 5/10/17

Before taking Women’s Lit last spring, I was sure of two things.  One, I am a feminist, and two, I already knew everything about women’s literature.  After taking Women’s Lit, I was still sure about two things.  One, I am still a feminist, and two, I most certainly do not know everything about women’s literature.  Women’s literature has a lot of gray areas concerning what it actually is.  It is hard to tell what constitutes as true women’s literature.  Is women’s literature trashy romance novels, like Susan Lute’s Oops…We’re Married? that caters to what women readers want in a novel?  Or is it like Uprooted by Naomi Novik, that has many complex female characters but and  fails to properly flesh out and stereotypes its only character of color? Or is women’s literature the graphic novel A League Of One by Christopher Moeller, where Wonder Woman is surrounded by egotistical men?  Out of everything we have read this semester, I think the strongest example of women’s literature has been Marjane Starapi’s Persepolis because of its brutally honest depiction of what growing up as a young woman in Iran and Europe is really like.  Over the course of the semester I have learned that there are two kinds of women’s literature: literature for women and literature by women.  Everything we have read this semester has fit into one of these two categories.  Literature for women, which includes Oops…We’re Married?, Uprooted, and A League Of One, all have female characters but none are developed or characterized to their fullest capacity.  Literature by women, which includes Persepolis, has the capacity to stand the test of time in the greater discourse of literature because of its deeper meaning and cultural relevance.

Every year, millions of dollars are made off of the romance novel market.  There are hundreds of them in any given bookstore; all of them are red or pink with mysterious men and scantily clad women on the covers.   Although they hold a large part of the paperback book market, they are unsubstantial.  Lute’s “Oops…We’re Married?” falls into the category of literature for women because of it fits right along into the well-defined trope of all romance novels; they pander to what women want without being anything deeper.   In Janice A. Radway’s “Women Read the Romance: The Interaction of Text and Context,” Radway claims that the women she interviewed “especially like romances that commence with the early marriage of the hero and heroine for reasons of convenience.”  This is exactly what happened in this book.  The heroine, Eleanor Silks Rose, is asked by her brother Jake to participate in a dating game for charity.  Her character is exactly the way Radway describes the main character that readers prefer in romance novels: “[they] all emphatically insist that the ideal heroine must be intelligent and independent, and they particularly applaud those who are capable of holding their own in repartee with men.”  This is exactly what Eleanor is; she is a successful business woman that lives on her own.  She needs no one, until she reconnects with Dillion Stone: “Eleanor ignored the faint tremble in her heart as she felt again his prowling interest…”  Because of this novel’s predictable plot and reader-pleasing clichés, this book is written for women.  It has a specific target audience.  It may be an entertaining afternoon read, but it does not contribute to women’s literature.

Although Uprooted is an enjoyable romp in a fantasy world, it cannot be considered women’s literature because of its underdeveloped and underrepresented woman of color while it spends hundreds of words on other secondary characters.  One of the most pivotal supporting characters of Uprooted is Agnieszka’s best friend, Kasia.  Because of her beauty, Kasia is groomed from a young age to be able to serve and entertain The Dragon.  She is denied most close relationships that children have because everyone assumes that she will be the 17 year old girl that will be taken for ten years: “We knew it would be Kasia, but that didn’t mean we weren’t still afraid.”  Although beautiful and soft on the outside, one can assume that Kasia was forced to grow numb and hard inside in order to keep people out.  After not being chosen by the wizard, everything Kasia has been trained for is now useless.  Her preparations for ten years of servitude have no meaning now, and although she did not want to go, it is a letdown.  All her wasted time and spurned relationships are now meaningless.  She could have been like other little girls.  She could have had lots of friends and been openly loved by her parents.  When Kasia is taken by the Wood, her outer appearance changes remarkably: “Her skin was soft, but beneath it her flesh was unyielding; not like stone but like a smooth-polished piece of amber…She might have been a carved statue.”   Her inside personality changes too, although less obviously.  After leaving the Wood and becoming inexplicably strong, Kasia has no fear of being taken away from her loved ones again.  She is able to let people in and love them, namely young Prince Stashek and Princess Marisha.  After their mother’s death, Kasia becomes an older sister and protector to them.  Her love for the children is obvious: “Hush, Marishu,” she said, a quick touch of her hand to Marisha’s cheek, to quiet her; the little girl was trying to reach for her.”  Novik gives readers a deep look into a character that is fully fleshed out, but gives little greater meaning to its one and only character that is explicitly stated as being a person of color: Alosha the court witch.  Her skin tone is mentioned when she is first introduced: “…Alosha was taller even than me, with ebony-dark skin and shoulder as broad as my father’s, her black hair braided tightly against her skull.”  In addition to her skin color, her attire is described as well: “She wore men’s clothes: full red cotton trousers tucked into high leather boots.”  The fact that she is the only woman of color in the book but wears what is characterized as men’s clothing is concerning.  The trope of “strong black women” has been around for a long time.  What Novik is doing here is taking her only minority character and turning her into something almost akin to a caricature; if no one else’s race was important to mention, why was Alosha’s?  Black women are so much more than just stereotypically “strong” or as Novik describes, almost “mannish.”  Because Novik puts Alosha in men’s clothes and has Agnieszka relate her to her father, this novel is literature for women (namely, white women) instead of literature by women.  Its lack of representation will keep it from entering the lasting discourse of women’s literature, even if it is made into a movie.

Wonder Woman has always been a favorite of many women around the world because of what she represents.  Wonder Woman is strong and self-confident.  She is self-assured and does not worry about what other people think of her.  Even though Wonder Woman is not technically human, she is relatable to human women because they can see themselves in her.  She is represented perfectly in Christopher Moeller’s comic JLA: A League of One, but that does not make the comic a piece of women’s literature.  Besides Wonder Woman and a brief encounter with Poison Ivy, the only other female characters are the nymphs and the dragon.  They are not even human.  A dragon has more speaking lines than the second humanoid woman in this comic.  In addition to its lack of female characters, JLA: A League of One is incredibly heavy with self-centered male superheroes, specifically Superman.  A League of One is a fitting title for this comic because Wonder Woman is the only woman that is a part of the Justice League.  Her biggest battle is the battle against her male counterparts’ egos.  This is particularly notable after Wonder Woman saves the day and is discussing her choices with Superman.  He is angry with her for not letting the Justice League help her defeat the dragon.  Wonder Woman explains her reasoning:  “I did what I had to do!  Believe me, I didn’t do it out of pride.”  Eventually Superman retorts: “I would have died fighting at your side, Diana.”  On the surface, this seems gallant and brave, but by potentially sacrificing himself he puts the rest of the world in jeopardy.  Wonder Woman knows this.  She knows that the world can live without just her but the world could not survive if all of the Justice League perishes.  Wonder Woman’s strength and the comic’s lack of women help categorize this comic as literature for women.  Although it has a strong female lead, its overall lack of representation (and male author) keep it from being literature by women.

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis has always been one of my favorite books.  The first time I read it I was a freshman in high school—seven years ago.  I was about the same age as Marji was when her parents sent her to Austria.  At the time, I thought that was probably the coolest thing ever for a 14 year old.  I understood why her parents sent her there (to escape the ravages of war, obviously) but I didn’t fully comprehend the ramifications of a young teenager being left to her own devices.  After a couple years being parent-free, Marji makes some questionable choices regarding recreational drugs.  Without close contact with her parents, Marji falls into a death spiral.  She becomes homeless after breaking up with her boyfriend when she finds him in bed with another woman.  Marji almost dies from a horrendous cough (which I can only assume is something severe like tuberculosis) and has some major realizations about her life: “I had known a revolution that had made me lose part of my family.  I had survived a war that had distanced me from my country and my parents… …and it’s a banal story of love that almost carried me away.”  Her realization had no lasting effect on me as a 14 year old (probably because I had never even been kissed at that point) but now her claims ring true.  She had escaped a war unscathed but almost succumbed due to futile teenage puppy love.  The juxtaposition of the two situations is jarring; war is a life changing event that killed hundreds of thousands of people whereas breaking up with a boyfriend is a more commonplace occurrence.  What makes it even more lasting is the fact that it is true.  Satrapi is brutally open about her experiences in Persepolis.  She does not sugarcoat her life or try to make herself seem better than she is.  The honesty and subject in this graphic novel confirm it as true women’s literature; it is literature by a woman and it has greater significance and importance than anything else we read that semester.

I have come out of this course more well-read and more equipped to participate in feminist discourse.  I think I know what women’s literature is now, but I have only scratched the surface.  Although Persepolis had the most lasting effect on me, the other novels hold merit as well; all of them tell immensely different stories of different women.  Maybe I am wrong about my assertions of women’s literature, that there are concrete and tangible differences within women’s literature between each kind of story or novel.  Maybe it does not really matter what I make of women’s literature.  Maybe it matters what women’s literature makes of me.

Beekeeping & Teaching Go Hand-In-Hand

By Molly K. Lichtner, 5/10/17

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to be able to assist Dr. Vince Aloyo’s for his continuing education Introduction to Beekeeping course.  This is a three-day course that he teaches every summer to people that have never kept bees before, new beekeepers, and seasoned beekeeping pros that need a refresher.  Most of the time for this course is spent in the classroom with some time spent at the apiary as well.  Normally when I work at the apiary I work alone or with Dr. Aloyo.  When I am alone, I build, wire, or paint.  I construct the frames from scratch and put wire and wax in them, and I build the boxes, and prime and then paint them once the glue is dry.  I also do occasional things like mow around the hives and put wax scraps in the solar wax melter.  When Dr. Aloyo is there, the real fun begins.  We open up the hives and do things like look for and mark queens, check for healthy eggs, and sugar shakes in order to assess the number of varroa mites that are present.  A lot of my learning at the apiary this summer has been hands on, so I was excited to have an opportunity to be in a classroom to observe how Dr. Aloyo teaches about honey bees.  I was also eager to show all of the new students what I had already learned in the bee yard.  At first glance, it may not seem like teaching would be an integral part of a beekeeper’s job, but teaching others of all ages is essential for the survival of honeybees everywhere.

This class had a wide variety of students with a mixture of skill levels, so making sure everyone had generally the same starting point was important.  Dr. Aloyo began with the basics in order to get everyone up to speed.  He had powerpoints that covered every topic about honey bees, from their anatomy and physiology to how to care for them in the winter.  One of the things I noticed about Dr. Aloyo’s teaching style is that he always stopped for questions, no matter what.  A lot of professors I have had will not answer questions in the middle of the lecture; this can be frustrating because questions are usually pertinent to the topic immediately at hand and are often forgotten about by the end of the lecture.  Even though stopping for questions frequently derailed the lecture for a few minutes, I think it was the right thing to do.  By stopping for questions, Dr. Aloyo opened up a dialogue in the class.  Students were able to help other students by answering the questions themselves and discussions of topics started.  This was beneficial because it made the students in the class more comfortable with each other and it made the class more like an open forum as opposed to a stiff lecture.  It made the sharing of thoughts and ideas a lot more natural.  The class was able to work together to understand or learn something new.  Some students would preface their questions with something like, “I know this is a stupid question, but…” and Dr. Aloyo would make a point of telling them that their question was not stupid and he would answer honestly and openly.  He did not talk down to anyone, but he made his answers accessible and easy to understand.  I felt like this was a really strong method of teaching because Dr. Aloyo made his students feel like equals that had the potential to one day know as much as he does.

Dr. Aloyo’s impressive teaching techniques were just as prevalent out in the field.  We spent about an hour and a half each day of the course actually out at the apiary (we probably would have spent more time there if the heat had not been so oppressive).  I would have liked it if we could have spent more time at the apiary; learning in the classroom is important, but being in the field is a whole different experience.  The things we talked about in theory came to life when the whole class got to be hands-on.  The first thing Dr. Aloyo showed the class was how to find eggs in the comb.  A beekeeper can tell that a hive is doing well when there are lots of eggs and a healthy brood pattern.  Everyone surrounded the hive that Dr. Aloyo had open, but not everyone was able to see.  Seeing an opportunity to assist with the class, I got a frame from the hive and started showing the people around me what Dr. Aloyo was showing the students closest to him.  This made sure that everyone had the same chance to see for themselves without having to take extra time because the bees get more upset when the hive is open for longer than it needs to be.  Some students were uncomfortable with getting close to the hives, but Dr. Aloyo did not pressure them into coming up.  He said that “opening a beehive is like wrangling 50,000 rattlesnakes” and a few students were afraid of getting stung because they had never been around bees.  I made a point of taking a frame from the hive over to the students that were nervous so they did not miss a learning opportunity.  Overall, being at the apiary was an incredibly informative experience; Dr. Aloyo slowed things down in order to sufficiently explain everything.  Usually he is very quick with getting into and out of the hives because there are so many to go through.  Dr. Aloyo changed the way he normally does things just for the sake of learning.

Being able to attend Dr. Aloyo’s continuing education class was an eye-opening experience.  He is not just a master beekeeper, but he is an ambassador for the species as well.  By teaching in an open and inviting way, Dr. Aloyo did not alienate anyone that was new to beekeeping.  With global climate change and colony collapse disorder threatening the well-being of all species of bees, Dr. Aloyo taught in a way that inspired others to fight for bees.  A lot of what I do as a beekeeper involves direct interaction with the hives, but by shadowing Dr. Aloyo for three days I learned that community education is an essential part of being a beekeeper.  We have to speak for the bees.

John B. McLemore lives in S-Town, Alabama

By Molly K. Lichtner, 5/10/17

Warning: If you haven’t listened to S-Town, please stop immediately and listen to all 7 parts in one sitting.  This blog is full of spoilers.

John B. McLemore lives in Shittown, Alabama.  I’m sorry; John B. McLemore lived in Shittown, Alabama.  He’s dead now.

A few years ago John contacted Brian Reed, a producer and presenter from This American Life, and asked him to leave New York and visit Woodstock, Alabama to investigate police corruption and a murder cover-up.  Instead, Brian ended up recording and releasing an in-depth profile of a multifaceted and complex man.  That man was John B. McLemore.

When John talks, it’s impossible to tell if he’s 36 or 66; he sounds timeless, which is fitting because his main source of income was to work on antique clocks.  John was a horologist: someone that studies time.  His personality was full of quirks and inconsistencies: he hated tattoos but was covered in them, he detested the government but was instrumental in founding his hometown, and he was lonely but pushed people away.

There is no denying that John is a genius.  In his backyard he created a hedge maze with over sixty possible solutions.  At the time of his death, it was about knee height, and there’s something poetic about that.  The hedge maze was never completely finished, and neither was John.  The story of his life is also a cautionary tale of being defeated by one’s own hubris; John had people that loved and cared about him, and now through the podcast, that number has grown exponentially.  Should this podcast have been made?  Maybe, maybe not.  Is it an exposé of the horrors of small town police corruption?  At times.  Is it about a man that felt like he was stuck in a shit town?  Yeah, partly.

But why couldn’t—or wouldn’t—John leave Woodstock?  Throughout the podcast, we hear different excuses: he can’t leave the dogs, he can’t leave his Momma, and he can’t leave his land.  But I think the real reason he didn’t leave was because he didn’t think he could fit in or be accepted anywhere else.  Where else would a queer redheaded manic hypocritical genius that preaches about the dangers of climate change and the uselessness of tattoos fit in?  Well, S-Town shows us that John could have—would have—fit in anywhere he met someone that would listen.

A Review and Analysis of Sufjan Stevens’ “Impossible Soul” That Literally Nobody Asked For

By: Alyssa Murphree, May 9, 2017

I’ll cut to the chase. This is a completely unwarranted review and analysis of a song that was released in 2010. You may be wondering how or why I’m going to write a review of a just one single song. But this is no ordinary tune. This is the nearly 25-minute spectacular that is Sufjan Stevens’ “Impossible Soul” and I’ve only now just garnered a mature enough attention span to listen to it in its entirety and ponder its meaning.

“Impossible Soul” is the final track on folk-rock, multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens’ 2010 album The Age of Adz. The song is a five-part musical epic chock full of deep, as well as catchy lyrics, wild guitar solos, the harmonizing of male and female vocalists, and some questionable, yet intriguing autotune usage. Much of Stevens’ music is autobiographical, and “Impossible Soul” is no exception. However, this song happens to provide a different experience for each listener, as each individual may have their own favorite part of the song and their own interpretation of its meaning. Music is, a very personal medium after all. Given the lyrical content though, the majority can agree that this song is Stevens’ way of reflecting on and coming to closure with a past relationship, a lover to whom he had bared his impossible soul to.

Each of the five parts have their own distinctive sound and are unique from each other, however leaving any one out could potentially alter the context of the song. They all carry each other and bring something beautiful of their own to the table. Based on my interpretation, these parts symbolize the five stages of grief, the grief Stevens experienced following the end of this intimate relationship. Grieving does not occur in linear progression, and the sequence in which they occur varies between each individual. In fact, some people may not experience every single stage. But here on “Impossible Soul”, we can observe the run of Stevens’ emotions through the different parts of the song

The first part is when Stevens and his partner are actually in the process of breaking up, the very beginning of this personal journey. We can gather that this was an unhealthy relationship for Stevens by the lyrical content that occurs in this section and throughout the song. The rhythm to this part is slow and cautious, as if Stevens is trying to gently tread his way out of this relationship. In the first few verses of the song, Stevens sings “oh woman, tell me what you want, and I’ll calm down without bleeding out, with a broken heart that you stabbed for an hour,” before stating “my beloved, you are the lover of my impossible soul.” It appears that Stevens is defensive and somewhat apologetic through this breakup, and that he feels the need to assure her of the love he did feel for her, despite how he was treated. But unfortunately, the damage was done and we can get a sense of denial, the first stage of Stevens’ grief in this part, as well as the next. “Don’t be distracted,” are the words that Stevens sings repeatedly throughout this second part, as he appears to be hyping himself up for the rocky road that is yet to come in the aftermath of this breakup.

In the third part, we garner the self-loathing that Stevens is experiencing at the very beginning of his newly single life. “Stupid man in the window, I couldn’t be at rest. All my delight, all that mattered, I couldn’t be at rest,” sings Stevens, although it is not entirely clear if the “stupid man” he is referring to is himself, or rather that he is angry at God, as he is a highly spiritual individual and many of his songs allude to that aspect of his life. This section displays the anger and depression he is experiencing in his grief. In the background of this part, we hear frantic, muffled, what seems to be yelling, which elevates the unrest that is felt in Stevens and that the listener can feel as well. The lyrics “oh I know it wasn’t safe, it wasn’t safe to breathe at all” add depth to the unsettling and emotional downward spiral he is experiencing before slowly calming down at the end of this part. “Hold on Suf, hold on Suf,” he sings to himself over and over before enthusiastically clattering into the next part.

With no time to spare, we move from the melodramatic lyrics and instrumentals right into my favorite part of “Impossible Soul”, the rousing and self-motivating part four. “It’s a long life, better pinch yourself! Put your face together, better get it right,” chants Stevens and the background vocalists in what is seriously a bonafide jam. It’s hard to imagine somebody’s emotions shifting into self-love, perseverance, and acceptance this quickly following the brutal breakup we just spent nearly half of the song listening to. From there, the remaining majority of this part is Stevens repeating the catchy mantra “it’s not so impossible!” to himself over and over with a trumpeting, infectious beat scattered between.

Just as quickly as the transition from part three to four occurred, we move into the slow, acoustic final part of “Impossible Soul”. Because this part has the ability to stand alone from the rest, it can sometimes be found individually with the title “Pleasure Principle”. Stevens tinkers on the strings of an acoustic guitar as he sings “I never meant to cause you pain, my burden is the weight of a feather. I never meant to lead you on, I only meant to please me however.” Stevens is coming to terms with the circumstances of the breakup and accepting that he played a role that led to it as well. He acknowledges that a significant factor of him remaining in the relationship for so long was for his own pleasure, his selfishness, stating that “girl, I want nothing less than pleasure” and even questioning his partner in believing that he would stay for so long with “and did you think I’d stay the night? And did you think I’d love you forever?” In this part, we hear Stevens finally accepting the course the relationship took, the final stage of grief. “Boy, we made such a mess together,” he admits to himself, as the 25 minute tale ends and softly fades away.

The Real-life Caroline Forbes

By: Anna Merezhko

“I finally remembered what character you remind me of,” I told my best friend, “Caroline Forbes! You know, from The Vampire Diaries.”

My best friend looked insulted until I clarified that I meant Caroline from season 5.

“Minus the OCD, annoyingness, and incessant need to be in control, you are so much like her,” I said, trying to not dig myself into a deeper hole.

Caroline Forbes is a character from The Vampire Diaries that I have grown to love more than the heroine of the story. She’s a beautiful blonde cheerleader who’s very into being involved in her high school. I’m pretty sure she was head of student council and was always in charge of planning school events.

From the beginning of the show, she was portrayed as a cold, self-involved, thoughtless person. She needed to constantly be the center of attention and was jealous of everyone that stole that spotlight from her. She was jealous that her best friend (and heroine of the show,) Elena, managed to land herself a very hot, mysterious boyfriend. She continually proved over and over again that she was blunt and not afraid to speak her mind, even if it hurt her best friends. She was a bit of a bully, honestly. Then she became a vampire.

In the show, vampirism heightens all of your senses, so for a while, Caroline was more insecure, needy, and controlling than ever before. When Stefan, the person who constantly saves everyone, taught her how to embrace her new vampiric lifestyle, there was a change. Caroline evolved into the best version of herself. Though her previous negative qualities came out every now and then, she made an effort to hold them back or apologize when the occasional sharp word slipped out.

I admire Caroline’s character much more than the heroine’s. When her friend Tyler learned he was a werewolf, she supported him. She let him know her secret and then helped him through his first transformation, something that was life-threatening to her.

She became a confident person that stood up and fought for her friends. She became kind-hearted, gentle, and very protecting. All of these are qualities of my best friend. There is a vibrance in her that is very similar to Caroline’s. They are both fierce and would do whatever it took to protect their loved ones. They’re mama-bears.

One of the hardest things Caroline had to overcome was when her father kidnapped her and tortured her HORRIFICALLY to make her associate blood with pain. She was rescued by Tyler and her mom. Even after suffering through that ordeal, she felt sorry for her father. She loved him and stood by him. That may not have been the wisest choice, especially since not EVERY psychopath realizes they were wrong, but it shows her heart.

I look up to Caroline and my best friend in many ways. I haven’t finished the show yet, but I look forward to seeing Caroline’s character grow. I’ll get to witness my friend’s character growth during the span of a lifetime, however, and I can’t wait.

 

 

 

Through Rose Colored Glasses

By Molly K. Lichtner, 5/7/17

“You know, it’s funny; when you look at someone through rose colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”

— Wanda the Owl, Bojack Horseman

In theory, recognizing an abusive relationship is easy.  In actuality, recognizing an abusive relationship that you’re a part of is hard.  The signs are all still there, but you’re blind to them; it’s easier to ignore and make excuses for them and you than it is to stand up for yourself.

I’m Molly and I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for six months.  There, I said it.  Now everyone knows.  Now we can get on with it.

In retrospect, I never thought it could happen to me. In the beginning, it was nice and normal.  He checked all my boxes.  Smart (check),  funny (check), mature (check).  Likes cats, loves his mom, no kids (check, check, and check!).  On paper, it was a perfect fit.  I was lucky though; I got out before it completely took over my life.

I feel like I’m re-watching my life through a screen to see the warning signs pile up: when he looked down on my job at the water toxicology because of the work I did, when he told me he would break up with me if I got any more tattoos, or when he said it was depressing that I became a science major instead of pursuing art after high school.   He tried to turn his life regrets into my problems.

But it was more than that.  It was personal things too: when he made me use the hall bathroom in the in the hotel, when he would point out that I was wearing pants instead of a dress, when he called everything he didn’t like about me “annoying.”  When he told me not to talk to my therapist about him.

I started to have my doubts when we ran into someone he knew and introduced me as a “friend.”  The day after my birthday, the day after we spent the night in Cape May together, and I was just a friend.  I felt like an embarrassment.  I felt like I was something shameful.

The penultimate straw was when he questioned my ability to teach because we had a difference of opinion on a complicated issue.  The final straw was when he insinuated that I don’t care about the treatment of farm animals like he does, and because of that I’m a bad person.  I’m not a bad person; I’m just not vegan.  This may not seem like a big deal on its own, but it was a turning point for me.  It caused a realization: “He doesn’t want to be with me; he wants to be with someone just like himself.”

And like that, I was free.  No more tears.  No more shame.  No more anxiety.  I had my favorite tattoo redone without fear of recourse.  I went to his apartment and said “I can’t date you anymore.  You make me feel bad about myself.”  I took my things, said goodbye to his cats, and left.

Abusers will do anything to get back at you.  They will make excuses to see you again.  They will blame you for not speaking up sooner.  They will claim you faked the whole relationship.  They will be angry;  you will be free.

My DelVal Experience

By: Anna Merezhko, May 3, 2017

The first time I visited DelVal’s campus, the only thought running through my mind was whether I would have enough time to run across campus to get to my classes. It was naive of me to think that the university wouldn’t tend to that to accommodate their students, but that was my experience with most educational institutes- students are left to figure everything out on their own.

The school I transferred from was like that. All the questions I had about my classes, credits, and their transfer policies were met with various answers. It seemed each person I talked to knew less and less about what they were doing. If every student was met with such disdain for their education and future, I can imagine how many of them left frustrated and disappointed.

In a rush to finish my associates’, I took some independent study courses. I was never given a hint of a doubt that my classes wouldn’t transfer over. I thought that if two schools had a dual admission program, that meant your classes were set- they’d all transfer over.

I enrolled in Temple and went to the orientation. While the staff was busy shuffling us around from room to room, talking about all the school had to offer, the only question I had was whether my classes would transfer. When they finally sat us down and handed us our transcripts from our previous schools. There were five other students in the room. All of us transferred from different places and were majoring in Communications. When they were handed the paper that listed all the credits that transferred over, I could see the life drain from each of their faces. Of course, that was only after it was drained from mine.

They were all told that some classes wouldn’t transfer. Though only two of mine didn’t, I refused to accept that. I was very as-a-matter-of-factly told that Temple doesn’t accept independent study courses unless they were taught by Temple staff. I’m guessing the staff member that was in the room could see our defeated faces, because he immediately followed with “if you want to go complain about how much money you’re paying for this, they’re not going to care” because there are colleges that are more expensive than that.

I understand that having almost 40,000 students to deal with becomes a bit of a hassle if each one goes to complain about their credits not transferring but a) why lie and give them the impression that they will? Why is it a guessing game? Why couldn’t anyone give me a specific answer on how much of my money will be going down the drain? The reason people go to two-year schools and then transfer over is to not build up a massive debt when they get out of college. B) Why take on a job you are clearly understaffed for? If you’re going to enroll that many students, just hire more staff so it won’t be too overwhelming.

Their careless attitude infuriated me, especially when they said that other colleges are more expensive. I know just how much they cost, and I’m not ready to sell my organs on the black market to put myself through school. I didn’t register for classes that semester and I dropped out.

That summer, my husband came across a flyer that we received in the mail for a program DelVal and my previous school teamed up on. I was very hesitant about following up on it and didn’t notice it at first, to be honest, but my husband convinced me to give it a shot.

I started working with some people from DelVal and let me tell you- night and day. Everyone was so helpful and they worked with me through all of my questions and helped me transfer all of my credits. ALL OF THEM.

I was jumping for joy. All that work that I put in to finish my associates faster was not going to go to waste. I enrolled in DelVal and quickly came to love it. I love everything about it. The professors here are truly professionals in their field. They know what they’re doing and strive to see you succeed in your major. I have never had anyone work so incessantly with me to make sure I am getting what I want out of my education and that I have a good idea of what I want to do when I enter the professional world.

I could sing the praises of this school like no tomorrow, but the people I am most thankful for are the ones working in registrar. Teresa Brandt has worked fervently with me and my courses to make sure I’m taking everything I need to take. She even helped me find courses at Bucks that are equivalent to DelVal’s that I can take to save money.
I’ve never seen people so driven by what they do. I hope that when I finally get that degree, I will do my job with as much passion and mindfulness as they do. It’s been such a pleasure learning here.