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.

YouTube Success 101: Don’t Be a Terrible Parent

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 26, 2017

Last week on his show, Youtuber Phillip DeFranco opened up a can of worms that would leave the Youtube community, the internet, and the media up in arms. In the initial segment that appeared on The Phillip DeFranco Show, he accuses the channel DaddyOFive, a family prank channel, of abusing their children.

The “pranks”, include parents Mike and Heather Martin of Baltimore, Maryland accusing and punishing their kids for things they didn’t do, staging a home intrusion, and breaking their kids belongings, among others. These things sound bad enough on their own, but there are many other red flags within the videos that are out of context with the pranks themselves and involve the welfare of the children. DeFranco includes clips from some of their videos for his segment, which include the kids being hit and yelled at by their parents, hit by each other, and gaslit by their parents.

The last prank video that DaddyOFive uploaded which caused this uproar consisted of the parents spilling ink on the floor and blaming their youngest son, Cody for it. However, their version of “blaming” him is them swearing and yelling at him at the top of their lungs. Cody is in very obvious distress during this, even after his father concludes by telling Cody “it’s just a prank bruh”. I can safely say that I am not the only person who was made uncomfortable watching this video and I am glad that these parents are receiving this negative attention for their “humorous” “prank” videos.

DeFranco’s video quickly circulated the internet and it didn’t take long for major media outlets to pick up this story and for investigations on the family to commence. In fact, it has been stated that Child Protective Services have been called to the family’s home previously, but were unaware of the videos. Now that they are under more intense public scrutiny, the family is undergoing a more thorough investigation for child abuse.

Not only is the blatant abuse of their children unsettling to watch, but the fact that these parents continue to upload videos because they actually have a fan base is equally disturbing. DeFranco has said that he has come across people defending the actions of the Martins. As for the family themselves, they have uploaded a series of defensive videos following the accusations. In the first one, they are gathered in the kitchen with all of their kids and the parents ask them if they are traumatized, to which the kids unanimously replied “no”. Those in defense of the family now believe they have fodder for their argument but anybody who is familiar with the dynamics of an abusive household know that disagreeing with an abuser usually doesn’t work out in your favor, which is why the kids are siding with their parents. The big theme here for this family is gaslighting, which is a form of psychological manipulation used to make the victim believe they are wrong and the abuser is right. But emotional abuse isn’t the only occurrence in these prank videos, there are multiple accounts of physical abuse as well, such as one incident where Mike pushes Cody headfirst into a bookshelf, giving him a bloody nose.

“Apparently, a lot of people don’t get it, don’t see the humor in it”, states Mike in the first follow up video, titled Blocking all the Haters! You are correct sir. Quite a lot of people don’t see the humor in watching your kids scream in distress while you exploit them for video views and sponsorships. Not to mention how twisted it is to refer to people as your “haters” for expressing concern over the wellbeing of your children.

But this story is far from over. Following the initial Phillip DeFranco video, Mike and Heather are interviewed by another YouTuber where they tell them that their pranks are staged and that the kids’ reactions are “slightly exaggerated”. After that video though, the backlash didn’t stop, as you could imagine, and they ended up deleting every video from their channel except for one new video. This video, titled Family Destroyed Over False Accusations consists of the parents explaining in a defensive tone that their videos are fake and that the kids are willing participants.

The last time we have heard from the Martin family was last Saturday. They deleted their previous video and uploaded a new one in its place called DaddyOFive Founders Issue Public Apology. This video displays a completely tone than what we’ve ever seen from Mike and Heather Martin. They are teary eyed and apologetic as they take responsibility for their actions and acknowledge the bad parenting decisions they have made. They also tell us that they’ve hired a crisis public relations agent and are in family counseling to deal with the situation.

I have been following this story since the beginning because I have always found the power of social media to be incredibly remarkable and powerful. It’s interesting to witness many people finding themselves and successful careers out of a single upload or channel. On the other end of the spectrum though, sometimes that power can be taken out of hand and used improperly, as we have seen here. I’ve always respected Phillip DeFranco as a content creator due to his level-headed demeanor and honest response to a wide range of subject matter. I think it was important for him to shed light on this channel. With this story still developing and the DaddyOFive channel’s videos deleted, I hope we can all see a happy ending with justice for these kids.

Phillip DeFranco’s video that started it all:

How Airbnb is Making Us Rethink “Stranger Danger”

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 19, 2017

Earlier this afternoon while scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I came across a TED Talk that resonated with me on a personal level. The talk was given by one of the founders of Airbnb, Joe Gebbia, in February of 2016 and was called “How Airbnb Designs for Trust”. Having had a few experiences with Airbnb, I found the perspective of one of the founders to be interesting in terms of how the app originated and the challenges they encountered in generating trust between total strangers.

Airbnb is an app that allows homeowners to rent out their house/apartment, room, couch, or air mattress for short periods of time to travelers, and for travelers to arrange to stay in said house/apartment, room, couch, or air mattress. Staying in an Airbnb is typically much cheaper than hotels and allows you to socialize with your host and get a feel for what life is like in the area you are staying in. To find a place, you search by location and then use filters to narrow down your search by price, amenities, house rules, etc.

According to Gebbia, here was the company’s pitch to investors:

“We want to build a website where people publicly post pictures of their most intimate spaces, their bedrooms, the bathrooms — the kinds of rooms you usually keep closed when people come over. And then, over the Internet, they’re going to invite complete strangers to come sleep in their homes. It’s going to be huge!”

Anybody who knows me would believe that the concept of Airbnb would be my worst nightmare. They would be correct. I am independent as much as I am an introvert, so the concept of staying in somebody’s home where you can’t really keep to yourself was far out of my comfort zone. To date, I have stayed with three Airbnb hosts and I consider my Airbnb experiences to be some of my biggest moments of personal growth and belated teenage rebellion (sorry mom).

My first experience with Airbnb was on an existential crisis fueled whim last summer, when I ventured to New York City via Bolt Bus with no plan. I ended up winning a Broadway ticket lottery to see the musical ‘Fun Home’ for $35. I quickly opened Airbnb to search for an accommodation that would accept an instant booking and ended up making arrangements to stay in an Upper East Side apartment for $70. Fast forward to around 11 pm and I am standing at the stoop of an apartment building waiting to be buzzed in. I was either about to make a memory, or the biggest mistake of my life. Turns out, despite not being the fanciest place, it was quite comfortable and I was greeted by friendly faces. I did not know there would be other occupants upon my arrival, but I ended up chatting for a bit with the Chinese student in the bunk below me and the British student on the couch beside us. He was not there when I fell asleep so that part was quite weird. The only times I interacted with my host was when he let me in and when I left. Most of my socializing was between the other guests and I. Overall, a very mellow, non-traumatizing experience.

Since Fun Home was so great, I wanted to go see it one more time, as well as catch a music festival on Coney Island last Memorial Day. Back to the Airbnb app I went and I booked another $70 stay, but this time in the Financial District. What I did not know is that I would actually be sharing a room with my host, Jason, a 30-something year old data scientist who works on Wall Street, on a couch in his small studio apartment. Jason ended up being one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. He was intrigued by my studies as an equine major so we discussed that, and he showed me his guitars, the music he composed, and the software he uses for work along with an unnecessarily in depth explanation of the stock market. Once we started chatting about music and our favorites bands however, things really took a turn. We ended up watching music videos on his big screen TV until 1 am. This experience would probably be one of the greatest testimonials for Airbnb and what they stand for.

My last Airbnb adventure cost $25 and consisted of a futon in the living room of an apartment belonging to a hip young couple in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, and what are probably the most well-socialized cats of all time. It was a quick in-and-out stay after seeing a concert at The Fillmore that night. I was given a key to get inside where the futon was made up and everybody else had gone to bed already. I didn’t sleep much that night due to the couple’s two overly affectionate cats. Every hour or so I would be woken up by the one kitten pouncing on my feet, snuggling into my arm, racing around the room, or sitting on my chest and staring at my face. Honestly? I didn’t mind any of this at all. Just writing this is making me miss those cats. Does a hotel have cuddly, attention seeking cats? Definitely not.

You may be wondering, “how is this safe?” “How can I trust any stranger enough to stay with them overnight?” Airbnb has many security features in place to ensure safety on both the host and traveler’s ends. Any Airbnb host can require their prospective guests to obtain “Verified IDs” before booking, meaning that they are required to scan a government-issued ID to verify their identity. When searching through the listings, you can also see which hosts are verified as well. Airbnb accounts can also be linked to peoples’ Facebook profiles so you can confirm that they are a real and legitimate person. You also have the ability to private message your host before booking.

The looming concept of “stranger danger” has been the company’s biggest obstacle on its path to success. In the TED Talk, Gebbia discusses one of the ways they’ve updated their app in order to instill trust in their users, which is by requiring user profiles so that members can learn about their hosts and guests ahead of time, and by establishing a rating and review system. While browsing for hosts for each of my trips, user reviews were a huge factor in making my selection, so I can attest to the importance of this feature.

“I’ve always believed that turning fear into fun is the gift of creativity,” said Gebbia. For the up and coming generation fixated on using technology as a means of making human connections, Airbnb is finding its footing and way to success by doing just that. When you design a form of trust between others via technology, anything is possible.

Review: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness @ The Fillmore, Philadelphia

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 19, 2017

On Friday April 7, I had the pleasure of seeing Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness perform at The Fillmore on the Philadelphia stop of their Zombies in America tour. Having purchased my ticket in November, and writing a review of their latest album, you could say this was a highly-anticipated event for myself. I had the right to anticipate it so highly, as I can confidently say that this was undoubtedly my favorite concert I’ve attended thus far.

The night began with two opening acts, Night Riots and Atlas Genius. Night Riots, a band originating from San Luis Obispo, California, enchanted the crowd with their deep, haunting melodies, dark lyrics, and light up drumsticks. Atlas Genius, hailing from Australia, was invited on the tour, according to Andrew McMahon, because of lead singer Keith Jeffrey’s involvement in writing his song “Brooklyn, You’re Killing Me”. Based on the text conversation of the guy next to me, one may find Atlas Genius to be reminiscent of Coldplay, but to each their own. Another fun fact about Atlas Genius is that three of the band members are brothers. I found this out upon further research in order to answer my question of “why does most of this band have the exact same face?”

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is the solo project of Andrew McMahon, who is known for his previous punk bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. McMahon is the principle songwriter of this project and his touring band has been coined “The Wilderness”. This show was part of the Zombies in America tour following the February release of his latest album, Zombies on Broadway.

The collective enthusiasm for McMahon once he ran on stage was nothing like I had ever experienced. The sold-out crowd of 2,500 was comprised of fans who had been along for the ride since his 2005 Something Corporate days, to younger fans like myself, who have been fans for only a few years, but devoured his entire discography and knew every word as if we’d been there forever. The aforementioned texting guy was telling the people around him that this was the first of FOUR shows he was seeing on this tour, all within the next few days. “It’s an Andrew weekend!” he yelled across the rows to a fellow diehard. Intimidating.

McMahon immediately burst into “Fire Escape”, a single from the new album which has received frequent radio airplay. The entire set consisted of him either sitting to play at the piano or jumping around stage, crowd surfing, or running in front of the barricade. He played a variety of songs that originated from every point in his career, from old Jack’s Mannequin favorites to his newer hits.

Andrew McMahon of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

There was never a dull moment during McMahon’s set, as he is truly the master of audience interaction. I can’t imagine that there could possibly be a better show to have a spot at the barricade for, and I consider my left-center barricade position one of my highest life achievements. This first time McMahon crowd surfed (yes there was more than one time), he set sail in an inflatable rubber duck. Duck in hand and venue security in tow, he walked over to where I was standing and discussed his game plan with us. We were the ones responsible for the launch of him and his duck on their grand voyage around The Fillmore. No pressure. How anybody can manage to crowd surf and sing perfectly in tune is a mystery to me, but McMahon managed to do it while singing one of his latest songs “Don’t Speak for Me (True)”.

Some highlights throughout the set included his stripped-down cover of Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream”, a rousing throwback to the Something Corporate song “I Woke Up in a Car”, and emotional renditions of the popular Jack’s Mannequin tracks “Dark Blue” and “Swim”. Of course, we can’t forget McMahon’s newer music, even when nostalgia gets the best of us. Some of the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness songs played included “Walking in My Sleep”, “High Dive”, “Shot Out of a Cannon”, and “Canyon Moon”.

Now, back to the audience interaction I will never stop speaking so highly about. For the song “Synesthesia”, McMahon took us back to our elementary school gym class days and brought out a gigantic rainbow parachute. The parachute, which spanned across almost half of the floor, was held up by fans who danced with McMahon as he meandered his way through the crowd who sang along with him.

Unfortunately, all amazing and fantastic things must end. McMahon goes out with a bang with one more crowd surf during his three-song encore. He tells us about his Amazon browse for obscure pool floats for this very purpose and surprises us with a golden dragon, which he takes for a spin during an instrumental reprise of the Jack’s Mannequin song “La La Lie”. At long last, the final song of the night is the highly-anticipated Billboard charting hit, “Cecilia and the Satellite”.

Andrew McMahon and his golden dragon on their maiden voyage

To those who may be familiar with only a small fraction of McMahon’s work, I recommend you go see him. To those who might have never heard a single song by him but know that he’s coming to your city, I recommend you go see him. Two girls who were near me during the show were actually there to see Night Riots, and told a couple that they didn’t really know any Andrew McMahon songs. They ended up having as much of a ball as the rest of us. I cannot possibly speak higher of such an artist. If you want to experience the most intimate show and the biggest party at once, go see Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.

Fact or Fiction, A Panel on Media Literacy

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 12, 2017

“We’re all sources. What is reliable?”

This is the question asked at the beginning of the Fact or Fiction: Responsible Journalism and Becoming News Literate panel hosted by Delaware Valley University on April 5th. The special event leading up to the inauguration of our new president, Dr. Maria Gallo, welcomed two nationally esteemed journalists to the stage of the Life Science Building auditorium, CNN Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter and NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik.

The panel was based off of pre-determined questions and prompts in order to encourage the discussion of modern media literacy among the members on stage which included Stelter, Folkenflik, interim Dean of the School of Business and Humanities Dr. Tanya Casas, and English professors Dr. Jessica McCall and Dr. James O’Connor.

One of the primary topics of the panel revolved around a term we’ve been hearing quite often lately, “fake news”. Fake news is a story that’s actively designed to trick you and often takes shape in the form of clickbait news articles. It can be described as one piece of a spectrum of content, but unfortunately it falls into the worst end of that spectrum.

As anticipated, many comparisons were drawn to the most recent presidential election. This includes the events leading up to the election and the aftermath we are currently witnessing in the media due to the controversial nature of the Trump administration, as well as hot topics surrounding the decisions of the administration. In a powerful revelation made during the discussion, we analyzed the importance of what’s known as the “local angle” in news reporting. Many democrats were confident that Hillary Clinton would win the election, but that’s only because they were looking at the big picture, which in this case, did not do any good. Many politicians campaign in large U.S. cities such as New York and Washington D.C. where the concentration of votes is undoubtedly high and expected. This is also where the majority of news coverage regarding politics takes place. Small towns don’t usually make the cut in this equation. By losing the local angle, you lose the consensus of voters that still count, even though they slip through the cracks, and unfortunately under the news radar. Regarding Clinton’s loss of the election, many news outlets who lost that local angle say they never saw it coming. According to Stelter, “local news cutbacks have led to more distrust in the media.”

This brings up another question, “how can you be seen as a reliable source?” Folkenflick said it is important to be fairminded, honest brokers of information. “In order to be an engaged member of society, you have to read from the other side,” he advised. This is important to recognize, especially when it comes to politics. Stelter said the key to gaining trust is by “taking the viewer on the journey with us” and that “local sources have the closest connection and are the most reliable.”

From local news to social media, the way we obtain news is constantly changing, and all parts of society need the ability to keep up. Our news consumption can have an effect on our morals and how we interact with others, so it is important to treat it as a priority in our lives rather than a small fragment. Collecting information from various sources is the best way to stay well informed, with an emphasis on obtaining facts from opposing sides. The way in which news is being shared through social media has allowed for constructive debate within the comment sections, which is beneficial in encouraging critical thinking in readers. Folkenflik says it is healthy to consume “a well-rounded news diet”. Either you gorge at a buffet, or you eat at a fine dining restaurant.

As the event comes to a close, our panelists say a few final words. Based on the topics discussed that night, the election, climate change, fake news, and clickbait, I believe Folkenflik says it best when he concludes with, “thank you Trump for the renaissance in fact checking.”

Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos Livestreamed His Electromagnetic Brain Treatment, Here’s Why It Matters

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 12, 2017

Last week, myself and more than one million people who follow Passion Pit’s Facebook page (presumably) received a notification that frontman Michael Angelakos was currently livestreaming. While many artists and personalities use this feature as a newer medium of instant communication to update their fans, what Angelakos did was more unusual. When opened, the live video, which has since been deleted, titled “This is what getting help looks like” shows Angelakos in a doctor’s office, sitting in a chair with an apparatus wrapped around his head. He was undergoing an uncommonly known mental health procedure known as TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Angelakos, 29, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 18, receives the procedure to treat the depressive aspect of the disorder. TMS utilizes magnetic fields to stimulate nerves cells in the brain, which helps treat major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression. The treatment has yet to be approved by the FDA to treat bipolar disorder, which means research on TMS’s success in treating bipolar patients is still undergoing review.

2012 Lollapalooza - Day 1
Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit (Photo by Erika Goldring/FilmMagic)

The nearly hour long video shows Angelakos chatting with fans in the comment section while receiving the treatment. The medical technician, Bobby, chimes in as well if there are more complex, medical related inquiries. Angelakos answers questions pertaining to the treatment and his experience with bipolar disorder, discusses his latest album Tremendous Sea of Love, and offers advice to fans who may be looking to him for inspiration, all to the best of his ability. The discussion is raw and honest, as he explains that he is currently in a manic state and hasn’t slept in three days.

This is not the first time Angelakos has been open about his life with bipolar disorder. He has been lauded by his fans and the mental health community for his honesty about his disorder and how it affects his career, and for his advocacy. Earlier this year he founded The Wishart Group, an organization that has raised $250 million to provide legal, educational, and healthcare services to artists, with its primary focus being mental health support.

Too often when we think of celebrities dealing with a mental illness, we envision a poorly publicized 2007 Britney Spears, who was thrust into public scrutiny. Not somebody like Angelakos who works through the turmoil and generates art through the experiences associated with the illness. Being the sole member of Passion Pit, the majority of the songs revolve around how Angelakos’ mental health has affected his life. In a past interview, he has described the first three Passion Pit albums as the following:

On Manners, I was like, “I have no idea what’s going on and I wish I did but I just don’t have the answers.” Gossamer was like, “This is what happened, I’m so sorry”—acknowledging what happened but not saying that I’m going to do anything about it. Kindred is like: “I’m really trying to make this work and be better.”

Passion Pit is best known for its upbeat, synth heavy pop tracks, which sound like they’d be about something equally uplifting. Upon the second or third listen of a song, you may notice the deep complexity of most of the lyrics. This excerpt from an older Pitchfork article sums it up best: “Michael Angelakos is willing to admit to uncomfortable truths about himself—get past the sugar coating of Passion Pit’s songs and you’ll find bitter pills that detail the singer’s struggles with depression, bipolar disorder, suicidal ideation, drug abuse, and familial strife. It has to be the darkest music ever expected to sell Tropicana orange juice and Doritos Locos tacos.”

These “uncomfortable truths” refer to the trauma and grief the disorder has left Angelakos with. In an incident at the 2009 SXSW festival, he experienced a dissociative psychotic breakdown following a performance. He was immediately admitted to a mental health clinic. 2012 was another particularly difficult year, as Passion Pit had to cancel all of their remaining shows of their tour so Angelakos could seek treatment. He also admits not being able to remember most of the time spent touring for the first album and the period spent making the second album as an effect of the disorder.

While these revelations are startling when put into such a public context, they are very real and important to recognize, as these are the symptoms that close to three million bipolar patients in the United States alone suffer with on a daily basis. The stigma against discussing mental health publicly, while slowly diminishing, is still an issue that exists. With more and more celebrities coming forward about their struggles with mental illnesses however, people have figures to look up to in order to help lessen the shame felt in these diagnoses. Floods of people thanking Angelakos for livestreaming his treatment and being visible about his mental health fill into the comment section of the video. As society becomes more aware of representing social minorities in the media, with topics ranging from sexuality and gender to race and disability, it’s about time mental health got thrown into the mix as well.

In the background of the video, the machine providing the treatment ticks rhythmically like a metronome. Angelakos jokes around with fans as the comment section fills and scrolls at lightning speed. One fan asked whether he writes music better while in a manic or depressive state. He replies by saying, “this stuff helps me write music which helps me not be symptomatic. I don’t write music better when I’m manic or depressive.”

During the livestream and since posting the video, many have thanked Angelakos for sharing his story and increasing awareness of a lesser known treatment option. He said he believed it is important for those with and without mental illnesses to know what getting help looks like in order to make the concept less foreign and frightening. He also encouraged those watching his livestream to engage in more active and open conversations about mental health, saying, “If we don’t talk about it, that’s quite literally why no one understands what we’re talking about. I don’t have anything to hide.”

While the original video of the livestream has been removed from the Passion Pit Facebook page, Angelakos posted a follow up video on The Wishart Group Youtube channel following the treatment. He summarizes his intent of going live, stating, “I just want people to know it’s like, okay you know? — Getting help is kind of hard, it’s like breaking the ice with a conversation. It’s tough sometimes, but once you’re there it gets easier.”

Crazy for Cows: Interview With an A-Day Dairy Show Competitor

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 5, 2017

In last week’s post, I went into detail about my experience showing a dairy cow at A-day last year. Since then, I made a trip down to the dairy barn to reunite with Sahara and spend some time with my friends who were practicing with their cows for this year’s show. One of those friends is Anna Smith, a senior who is showing her other half, Shorty, for the second and final time before she graduates. Nobody is obsessed with their A-day cow quite like Anna, and the best way to get inside the head of a girl crazy for her cow is to hear from her firsthand.

Q: What is your major and did you have any dairy cow experience prior to attending DelVal?

A: I am a small animal science major and I had zero dairy cow experience before DelVal – I hadn’t even seen a cow in real life before I came here… how sad is that?!

Q: Why did you want to show a dairy cow?

A: I wanted to show a dairy cow because of something someone said to me my sophomore year. I was walking back to my dorm one night after finishing a PM check at the Markowitz breeding center. As I was walking, this girl pulled up next to me and asked if I needed a ride, which I gladly accepted. I asked where she was coming from and she told me she just got done “playing with her cow.” I didn’t know exactly what she meant, so she told me all about showing the dairy cows at A-Day and how you have to bathe and brush them, clip them; you know, the works. I’ve been showing horses for many years, and with that, have given many a horse a bath. But I had NEVER heard of someone bathing and clipping a cow for show. I told her how much fun that sounded like and that I wanted to try it next year, and she told me I had to do it. “It’s DelVal tradition,” she said. “This is the one thing, out of everything else, that you truly can’t do at another college.” That sounds a bit dramatic, but that’s what she said to me. And it stuck. I mean, this may be the one and only chance I ever get to show a cow in this lifetime… why not?

Q: Is working with cows easier or more challenging than you expected?

A: Well, considering I had no experience with cows, but many years of experience with horses, my only prior expectation of what cows behave like was based off of what horses behave like. But anyone who knows both knows cows and horses are really nothing alike. Whereas horses are extremely sensitive and often times flighty, cows are belligerent and aren’t as tuned into your body language. Which is great, because the average cow is 10x as chill as the average horse. I also happened to luck out, because the cow I work with, Shorty, is 10x chiller than the average cow.

Q: What is your favorite memory from the time you’ve spent with your cow?

A: My favorite memory of Shorty is definitely from A-Day morning. We all had to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn to go down to the dairy and start bathing and preparing for the show. It was a frenzy of people scurrying around their cows, frantically lathering and rinsing and brushing and wiping off every last speck of dirt and poop. I’m telling you, I felt like I was on the set for that movie “Best In Show”. Those cows were so stinkin’ clean, we could have brought them to Eukanuba and sent every dog there to the pound. But I digress. Amidst all the insanity; people shouting for baby wipes, some cows bucking and charging at other cows, some too stubborn to move at all, the people in charge yelling out numbers and times and do’s and do nots; none of that bothered Shorty. She was a star. People have called her the “sass master” at the dairy, but that morning, she was cooler than a cucumber. She carried that attitude with her in the ring, too. There were many cows that morning, who’s names I will not mention (ahem.. Sahara) who seemed determined to take out either 1. The Judge, or 2. The arena itself. But Shorty was so calm and well behaved. We even won the blue ribbon in our first class, which was surprising considering that was my first ever cow show!

Q: What skills or character traits are beneficial to have in working with cows and which ones do you develop after doing so?

A: I am really no expert at what skills or traits are the most beneficial for working with cows. But based on my limited experience, patience is a big one. Cows are not very responsive animals, which takes some getting used to. With horses, you can make them walk forward, backwards, and side to side really easily. Cows will just headbutt you if you try to make them move when they don’t want to. They never signed up to be a part of any of the things we put them through, and parading around an arena surrounded by screaming children is one of those things. So having patience and not getting frustrated with them when they don’t behave how you want them to is important. As far as skills I have developed, I definitely never had to shave an udder before, but now I know how too. Good resume builder.

Q: Tell us why you love your cow.

A: I still remember the day I first met Shorty. I remember walking into the cow pen and there she was, just standing there, covered in layers of cow sh*t, nose dripping with snot and slobbering like a toddler, belching and farting, in all her glory. But she was easily the sweetest looking cow in the lot. She had big doe eyes and a golden brown coat with black socks up to her knees, and was massively pregnant at the time. I don’t think she was too thrilled about being haltered and walked around at first, but we reached an understanding after I started scratching her belly and udders, which she cant scratch on her own. She’s like a massive, itchy puppy dog, if puppy dogs had hooves and huge udders. I love Shorty because she’s a happy-go-lucky kinda gal. She’s always hungry and all she wants to do when I take her for walks around the property is graze, so I can totally relate to her. If I had the resources, I would adopt her in a heartbeat. But it’s for the best, because hopefully, someone else will have the honor of showing Shorty next year, and they too will fall in love.

But the thing I love most about Shorty is that every time that Iyaz song comes on shuffle, you know the one, it goes “Shawty’s like a melody in my head, na na nana every day,” I think of her. Even though I’m graduating this year, and this upcoming A-Day will be the last time I get to show her, Shorty will forever be my shawty.

Foal Watch Diary

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 5, 2017

As a student in the Horse Breeding Management course, one of our assignments is to attend a foaling at the Breeding Center. The mare I signed up to watch for was Marie, who was my care horse sophomore year in Stable Management. Marie’s due date was March 26th, and as the more days passed since that date, the more eager I was to get the notice for her foal watch.

This past Saturday, April 1st at around 5 p.m., myself and the classmates in my group got a text from the barn manager telling us that foal watch for Marie was on for that night! Since this could potentially be an all-night affair, I spent the next few hours completing what I had to get done for the night and gathering what I needed to bring with me. I packed a bag with a blanket, pillow, a phone charger, a notebook and pen to take notes, some trail mix, and a water bottle. By 8:20 p.m., I was on my way down to the Breeding Center.

8:20 p.m.: I am in my car and heading down to the Breeding Center. Although Nicole, the barn manager, said to come sometime between 8:30 and 9:00, I make sure to arrive a little bit early. There is a limited supply of cots in the lab of the Breeding Center and I want to make sure I get one before they’re picked over.

8:30 p.m.: I arrive at the Breeding Center and “set up camp” in the lab. More group members from my class and Breeding Center staff who will be helping with the foaling trickle in and we eventually have a small village set up in the lab, which becomes a maze of cots.

9:00 p.m.: From this point on, we simply wait. TVs are set up in the lab that are hooked up to cameras which are set up in the foaling stalls. While we came to watch Marie, another mare, Hannah, also occupied a foaling stall. Her due date was much earlier than Marie’s and she was expected to foal any night as well. While some previous foal watch groups from our class were unlucky and spent the night at the Breeding Center without the mare foaling, we were more optimistic given our doubled chance.

10:00 p.m.: It is clear that continually watching the TV screens won’t make the mares give birth any sooner, so instead we break out some snacks. The entire scenario becomes a slumber party in some sort of way. Myself and the friends in my group break into conversation and we can hear the Breeding Center staff chatting on the other side of the island in the middle of the lab.

11:00 p.m.: By this point, I’ve devoured half a bag of trail mix. Things are beginning to settle down around the lab. Some people start to drift off into sleep while most are scrolling through their phones. Unfortunately for me, I ran out of high speed data the day before and with the poor reception my phone receives at the barn, I am at most able to browse through Reddit for a while.

12:00 a.m.: The lights are turned out, but the room remains illuminated by the TV screens which at this point, are just showing two mares chilling in the corner of their stalls. Once in a while, a mare will walk around and we (the ones who are awake) watch intently, hoping for something to happen. While my Breeding Center accommodations are quite comfortable, I am still way too alert to even think about trying to catch a quick nap. Instead, I lay awake watching the mares on screen with Spotify playing in the background. Sufjan Stevens, Julien Baker, Car Seat Headrest, and Vampire Weekend become my best friends for the next hour in the “Foal Watch Survival Playlist” I have curated.

1:00 a.m.: The screen on the left showing Hannah in her stall is quite active. While Marie is resting and occasionally munching on hay, Hannah has been walking in circles around her stall for quite some time. I keep my eyes on her and keep my fingers crossed for something to happen soon. Her pacing becomes faster and more frequent.

1:12 a.m.: I see Hannah’s water break on screen. I quickly sit up and look around me. Everybody else has dozed off and has me wondering if anybody else actually saw that or if it was just me. On the other side of the island however, I hear the shuffling of blankets and boots being pulled on. Eventually the lights are flipped on, and everybody is aware of what’s happening. The foaling staff heads out to the stall to begin assisting with the birth. Because it is Hannah’s first time foaling at DelVal, the students in the Horse Breeding Management class are instructed to stay in the lab and watch from the TV. Often if a mare is nervous about her surroundings, she will have a more difficult time foaling and it was best to avoid this by not having additional people watching her through the stall bars.

1:15 a.m.: As we huddle around the TV, we see two little hooves starting to appear out of Hannah. The baby is on the way! We watch on the edge of our seats, as excited as people would be about a big sports game. Hannah began the foaling process lying down, but at this point, she stands up and walks around the stall before laying back down again. Typically, the mare stays down the entire time, but Hannah was a bit anxious. We later learn that while this has no negative affect on the birth itself, it does make it a little more uncomfortable for the mare. She settles down rather quickly though, and is soon laying down and ready to keep pushing out her baby.

1:23 a.m.: Hannah’s foal is finally born! She has a little filly named “Keene” following this year’s Breeding Center naming theme of classic authors. Now we wait for the foal to stand up and eventually begin nursing.

1:52 a.m.: With a little bit of assistance in stabilizing those long and lanky newborn legs, Keene is finally up and standing for a prolonged period of time. She is definitely a leggy one, so we are patient as we watch her find her footing.

2:11 a.m.: Keene makes her way over to mom and begins to nurse!

2:15 a.m.: A foaling staff member brings the placenta into the lab and lays it out on the floor. It is important to examine the placenta after the foal is born to check for any abnormalities that may affect the health of the mare and/or foal. The students take notes as details about the placenta are explained to us. Nothing quite like a mini-lecture about the placenta from Dr. Young at 2:30 in the morning, right?

2:50 a.m.: The students go out into the barn to get their first look at Keene in person. A chorus of giggling and “awww” erupts every time she whinnies or tries to maneuver her wobbly legs back over to mama Hannah. We take pictures and post Snapchat updates in delight.

3:00 a.m.: We are thrilled to finally say we have completed a successful foal watch. Although we could stay watching adorable little Keene for much longer, we are exhausted and ready to go back to our own beds. We head back into the lab to pack up our things and fold up our cots.

Mom Hannah and baby Keene shortly after her birth

Even though I may not have an interest in pursuing horse breeding as a career, I still found my foal watch experience to be impactful in terms of educational value. I learned so much about the details of the foaling process and more than I ever thought I would need to know about the placenta, which was surprisingly more interesting than gross. Hopefully my firsthand account can provide future Horse Breeding Management students with information on what to expect during a foal watch, as well as an appreciation for the effort that leads to those cute little foals laying around in the Breeding Center pastures this time of year.

A Dairy Tale

By: Alyssa Murphree, March 29, 2017

A-Day is fast approaching, and for some DelVal students, a significant part of the weekend is the dairy show. Each year, all students regardless of major are welcome to work with and show a dairy cow at the fair. Last year, I took advantage of that opportunity, and while I may not be showing this year, it surely was an experience for the books and one of my most memorable ventures I have taken on at DelVal.

Having been a fan of Jersey cows for as long as I could remember, I reached my hand into a cup to pull out the name of my cow last February. I drew a little Jersey named Sahara. Or as she would often be referred to as, her many aliases such as her registered name “DVC DeaconP Sahara”, “Dusty Dunes of Hell”, or “Snahara” (snail Sahara).

Many, many hours a week were dedicated to the care and training of Sahara throughout the spring semester leading up to A-Day. I would brush her, bathe her, and practice our “show ring” walk and setting up out in the dairy’s driveway with my friends and their cows. One um, special trait of Sahara’s is her desire to lick *everything*. She would lick walls, fences, tractors, and she was especially fond of licking the gravel driveway. She would leave a trail of slimy cow drool wherever she licked, hence “Snahara”. I also possess many videos that friends have taken of me almost being run over by Sahara as she would explode into bucking fits and flail through the air. Cherished moments indeed.

The morning of the dairy show, we arrived at the dairy barn at 5:30 AM to get our cows, give them a quick bath, and gather for our parade up to the quad where the show would take place. The walk up was challenging and overstimulating for Sahara, and an experienced cow person had to take over for the sake of my own safety and so that we’d actually make it up there. Once we got to the show tents, I tied up Sahara, went and got changed, and then it was time to wait until my class. But until then, it was a collective effort by all to watch the cows’ tails. If anybody was pooping, you’d have to hold their tails out of the way and clean it up as soon as possible to keep the cow, and every other cow around them as clean as possible.

Before each class, everybody had ten minutes to make finishing touches to groom their cows. All of the body and udder clipping was done a couple of days prior, so this was your chance to touch up any clipping as well as fluff the tail, blow off dirt with the blow dryer, whiten up any areas with baby powder, clean their hooves, and wipe off any excess dirt/snot/manure. This short grooming period was one of the most intense things I’ve ever experienced. I felt like a competitor on “Chopped” as we were given a ten second warning, and then dropped everything we were holding as “time’s up!” was called.

Because of Sahara’s behavior earlier in the morning, I was incredibly nervous going into the ring leading this ticking time bomb of a cow. In fact, somebody had to lead her in and out of the ring for me each class because she was so out of control until the moment she stepped foot into the actual show ring. The first class for us was beginner division fitting. Fitting is when the grooming and preparation of the cow is judged. Myself and the other competitors in my class walked around the ring and then stood in a line up for the judge to inspect closer. Once the judged finished pinning the class, the results were announced. I won! The judge made comments for each entrant and praised my close clipping on the ears and udder. I would like to thank my genes for this one, as my mom was a professionally trained dog groomer and most likely blessed me with swift clipper handling skills.

The next class was immediately after, which was Showmanship. Showmanship is judged based on how well the handler presents the cow by leading and setting up. In this class, I was pinned third out of five, which I was still pleased by, especially for having Sahara in control the entire time.

Since we had won one of the fitting classes in the beginner division, we had to wait for our championship class, where all of the class winners would face off for the best fitter in the division. The judge inspected us even closer this time, and for much longer. I was hoping to do well, but I never imagined that I would be named division champion at my first dairy show! This was such an exciting moment and it so incredibly rewarding considering all I’ve been through with this cow.

The moo, the myth, the legend

By the time we finished, it was around 5:00 in the evening. The cows were cranky from it being past their milking time and the remaining cows on the quad had to begin the pilgrimage back to the dairy. This is where things went from triumphant to terrifying. Sahara could not go more than ten feet without bursting forward and dragging me. That was if she decided to move at all. Backup was called in and we led her one person on each side. Once we got slightly past the tunnel leading back though, things became dangerous. Sahara started dragging both of us and would fall to her knees. More backup had to be called in as we stood stranded on the side of the road. Every other cow had long since made it back to the dairy. An experienced dairy guy and the girl who had been helping me each took a lead rope of Sahara’s and we all just RAN back to the dairy. Before this day, I did not know cows were capable of running a four-beat gallop. But that was before I was literally sprinting behind my cow, choking from laughing so hard and being out of breath running after them.

In the end, Sahara made it back to the dairy to be milked and I made it back up to campus where my day was not yet over, as I still had to help clean up. My friend I was on clean up duty with, who had also been showing a cow that day, and I were drunk with exhaustion as we fumbled our way through campus, stacking chairs and moving bleachers. Present day, I have my dairy show ribbons, including the big purple champion ribbon, hanging among my horse show ribbons above my bed. As for Sahara, she is now cannulated, which means she has a port-like device which allows students to look into her stomach, so she is no longer presentable for showing. While I may never show Sahara again, I do hope to show another cow next year once my schedule lightens up, but the memories of my crazy, slobbery, Jersey cow are fond ones.

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

By: Alyssa Murphree, March 29, 2017

I may not have picked this book up in a while, but the copy sitting atop my dresser looks back at me daily and is a constant reminder of how much I truly love this story. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is a young adult mystery novel about 15-year-old Christopher Boone, who upon being falsely accused of murdering his neighbor’s dog, sets out to solve the mystery surrounding his death. This book is a very short read, but it is so full of wonder, inspiration, and innocent humor despite its length, and aside from the fact that it is already a national bestseller, I highly recommend it.

Maybe it’s because we’re both INTPs, but I truly do have the greatest affinity for the character of Christopher. Although it is not directly mentioned in the book, it is implied through his behavior that he is somewhere on the autism spectrum. Christopher has such a unique perspective on life because of his quirks, but especially because of his love of math and numbers. He may not be able to understand social norms like the average person, but his intricate, logic-based way of thinking by means of schedules, maps, and math equations is what drives him to step far outside of his comfort zone in order to solve the mystery.

When Christopher accidentally uncovers a family secret in his search for answers surrounding the death of the dog, the story takes a sharp turn toward the unexpected. The entire time I’m reading this novel, I just want the best for this kid. Even though he may be a difficult person to manage, there really is nothing unlikable about him. You want him to succeed. As he encounters challenging scenarios such as navigating train stations and evading the police, you want so badly to tell him the right way to do it. But Christopher has his own way, which may be a little messy, but ultimately gets the job done.

The first-person narrative of the novel allows us to learn even more about Christopher and his life in the past and present. We find out about him losing his mother at a young age, his dislike of certain colors and human touch, and the bond he shares with his teacher at school. This narrative also has us further intrigued in his journey. Despite the things that Christopher is unable to do, the story never dwells on that aspect and instead focuses on the “cans” rather than the “cannots”.

It’s a triumphant story with a charming main character and it’s no surprise to me why it is so critically acclaimed. The novel has even been adapted to a play which ran on Broadway and is currently touring. To be fair, I must admit that I saw the play on Broadway before reading the book, but I do not believe doing one first will take away from the other. Overall, I believe that this novel teaches us to recognize our own strengths and at the end of the day, be our own hero. We should be inspired by Christopher, as he is by Sherlock Holmes.