Greenberg at Green Hills: “Get Out”

Anchors (Out of Four):

In a lot of ways, Get Out really took me by surprise, not only in the mystery it presents for the audience to solve alongside its protagonist, but also because of the way it took the country by storm seemingly out of nowhere.

Sure, the trailer was very well-done, but it was often tagged on to movies right before the extremely similar looking Cure for Wellness, and I found the two largely indistinguishable in terms of expectations. And yes, I expected Jordan Peele (of Key and Peele fame) to deliver a solid film for his directorial debut, but Get Out far surpasses his previous body of work.

In Get Out, our protagonist Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) goes with his steady girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to visit her family in a wealthy, Stepford Wives-esque northeastern town. The town is wealthy, aging, and almost entirely white. Rose’s white parents don’t know that her boyfriend is black, and the audience knows from the trailer and the beginning of this film that something strange is going on with any black residents or visitors. I would risk going into spoiler territory if I ventured any further.

The humor is sly and a bit subtler than either the television show or his recent cinematic team-up with Keegan-Michael Key on 2016’s Keanu (an overlooked film in its own right that any fan of comedy should take a look at if they have spare time on a summer Saturday afternoon). The tension that the film creates and the surreal, borderline absurdist tone of some of the horror sequences had me on edge for their entire duration. The mystery that Peele – who also wrote the script – presents us with surprised me with more than a couple of left turns that had the theater audibly gasping at what they were watching.

On that note, allow me a moment to digress and tell you to please, if you can, go see this movie in theaters. It has been years since I attended a film where the audience, as a group, went along for the ride. My theater was extremely vocal, not in an annoying way, but rather in a manner that only amplified both the comedic and horror elements of this film.

And, at the end of the day, that’s really what Get Out is, at least in the eyes of this reviewer. It’s a horror-comedy in the vein of Scream (1996), although much better. A lot of my friends said they felt that the dark humor in the movie, much of it including overtly racial humor, was a bit uncomfortable to watch. I never felt that way, and in fact I laughed out loud more than I felt scared throughout the film. In particular, Chris’ friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery), a New York TSA agent, stole the show in every scene he was in, and his frequent outbursts during phone calls with Chris made me question if this was even a horror movie in the first place.

Peele’s commentary about race relations is certainly legitimate, but I never felt like it was heavy-handed or bogged down the film. That being said, before Get Out I’ve never seen a movie create as many pseudo-intellectual think pieces as it did memes. And, while it’s interesting to see how different audiences have reacted to this film, I’d prefer not to talk about either. For that, I’d happily direct you to the Huffington Post, or Salon, or Breitbart, or National Review depending on your political affiliation.

What I’d rather talk about is this: Get Out’s incredible casting discoveries, its haunting musical score, its chilling lighting. I want to talk about incredible performances by the supporting cast, visually surreal horror sequences, and carefully crafted jokes that seemed to mirror the emotions of the audience. The fact is that Get Out is a great movie even without its social commentary, and that is what makes it such a great movie with its social commentary.

It’s also the first truly contemporary horror film I’ve seen in a while. In many ways, the horror genre can seem a bit anachronistic – small towns in the Midwest, teenagers played by 20-something actors, summer camps, and Halloween nights. This isn’t a bad thing. After all, Stranger Things showed just last year that an embrace of the retro can still lead to superb horror for millennials.

Get Out, on the other hand, feels like a stylish, contemporary horror movie, the first one that has really felt “modern” for me in years. From Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” telling us to “stay woke” as we meet Chris and Rose for the first time, to (as I’m told by my more fashion-forward friends) the Red Wing boots and cuffed jeans Chris sports throughout the movie, Get Out feels like it’s made for 2017.

It might also be what 2017 needs as its cinematic season gets into full swing, but I’ll leave that to the reader to decide. Regardless, Get Out is a fun movie that offers twists, turns, mysteries, and laughs that will keep the audience entertained and hooked for the entirety of its runtime.

The verdict on this one: Two anchors down. Get Out of your Towers suite and check it out as soon as possible.

Photo from Fandango

category: Arts & Culture

Hustler Reviews: Live-action “Beauty and the Beast”

Disney recently released the live-action retelling of the 1991 classic animation Beauty and the Beast, the tale of how an educated young woman from a provincial French town falls in love with a cursed beast. While this plot definitely had room for Disney to step on some toes as they navigated some major problematic or sensitive themes, for the most part director Bill Condon excelled at crafting a spectacular version of this classic tale with a fresh, contemporary flavor with minimal bumps in the road.  

Emma Watson’s performance as Belle was refreshing and empowering, a huge departure from the original portrayal of Belle. In the past, Belle has been seen as a smart bookworm, someone who is independent for her refusal to marry Gaston (the handsomest man in the village).  However, the kid-friendly, ninety-minute original animation refuses to really engage with feminist issues or even the implied Stockholm Syndrome once Belle is taken prisoner in the Beast’s castle. Disney’s new version refuses to turn a blind eye, at least attempting to promote a feminist agenda: the 2017 version of Belle is both a teacher and an inventor, and she tries to teach a child to learn how to read before being persecuted and shamed by the town for doing such an act. She unabashedly rejects Gaston’s affections, calling him “boorish” and “brainless” in a manner that leaves no room for equivocation. Watson infuses necessary independence and respect into Belle’s character to inform audiences that Belle is actively fighting for equality. Her independence and empowerment is something that is no longer a quirky personality trait but a necessary right.  

The producers also attempted to tackle the issue of Belle and the Beast’s human-animal relationship by adding special effects to make Dan Stevens’ human face more visible in the Beast’s face. There is an extended prologue which shows the Beast in his human youth, and the household members (Lumiere and Mrs. Pots) make reference to the prince’s past life in order to remind everyone that the Beast is truly human underneath his curse.  

On top of these contemporary refinements to the original, Disney used its massive budget to round out and enrich the original stylistically, and the results were truly impressive. The musical numbers are long, glorious sequences of larger-than-life cinematography, set design, and Broadway-worthy singing that on their own make the movie worth watching. The autotune on Emma Watson’s voice is a little too obvious in a few high notes, but she still delivers on most of the songs, and altogether the soundtrack is incredible.

In addition to technical refinements and added special effects to the original blueprint, Disney also added in multiple new scenes or details to the original to make the plot more complex, less confusing, and to answer the lingering questions that the original version never quite explained, such as the absence of Belle’s mother. There were also obvious strides to make the cast more diverse.  

That being said, there was one major problem that Disney royally butchered: LeFou. LeFou is Gaston’s sidekick, who is confirmed as gay by the end of the movie. Obviously, this should be a good thing, and Disney is fully asserting that LeFou is their first openly gay character, instead of making allusions to gayness and then trying to cover it up (basically Ryan Evans from High School Musical). However, most people right now are deeply unhappy, considering who LeFou’s character is and how his characterization will be perceived by younger audiences. LeFou is portrayed as a villain: Gaston tries to kill Belle’s father and LeFou doesn’t stop him. He is also portrayed as silly and over-the-top, as Gaston’s pathetic, goo-goo-eyed number one fan. Is this really the first image we want little kids to think of when they think of gayness? I’ll let you answer that one. I understand that Disney was trying to do a good thing, but they took two steps forward and one step backward; we will need to see better efforts on their part for promoting acceptance for all sexualities in the future.  

Even though this is true, Beauty and the Beast was still a thoroughly enjoyable movie, and it was really nice to see Disney at least try to address some contemporary issues. In terms of cinematography, production, costume design, and acting, the movie was masterful and is absolutely worth buying on DVD. I haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack all week.  Overall, Disney was able to put a modern twist on a classic tale we all know and love without sacrificing the original charm, and if the movie sales are anything to go by, they’ve been quite successful in this endeavor.       

category: Arts & Culture, Hustler

Chandler Day loses no-hitter with one out to go as Vanderbilt routs Lipscomb 10-0

When Chandler Day took the mound in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Lipscomb Bisons, the crowd was in stunned silence.  With each passing moment, everybody believed that Day was going to do it.  He was going to throw the first Vanderbilt no-hitter in 14 years.  And with one swing of the bat, it was gone.  He had retired 26 batters before Zeke Dodson lined a single up the middle to take away an otherwise perfect night for Day.

It would have been first no-hitter for the Commodores since May 6, 2003, which featured a combined perfect game split among four pitchers.   Never the less, Day dazzled, befuddling hitters with a combination of a perfectly-located fastball and nasty curveballs that caused one swing-and-miss after another on balls in the dirt.  It didn’t seem to be clear to the fans what exactly was happening until the sixth, but an anxious crowd hung on every pitch.  Coach Tim Corbin sent a couple relievers out to the bullpen after the fifth frame, but ultimately decided to ride it out a few more innings and let Day go to work.  Those relievers never saw the mound.  It was Day’s game.

The 6’4 right-hander looked sharp early, showing excellent command of his fastball and living on the outside corner, limiting the Bisons to weak groundouts.  He complimented his mid-90s fastball with an excellent curve that he went to often as his strikeout pitch.

“I got ahead with the fastball, and then I threw the slider down the middle and they would rollover or or a little out and they’d swing through it,” said Day.  “I just executed.  To execute how I did and perform that way is just really special.”

After two 1-2-3 innings, Day hit a batter and walked another in the next two innings, but Lipscomb remained hitless.

At the plate, the Commodores teed off Bisons’ starter John Pryor from the opening pitch, and while they couldn’t push through a run until the third inning, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.  First baseman Julian Infante launched a Pryor fastball to center field in the first, causing the Vanderbilt contingent to jump out of their seats just a little too soon.  Lipscomb center fielder Michael Gigliotti leaped over the wall and brought the ball back, hurling a relay to first to double off Stephen Scott in what is undoubtedly one of the best plays in college baseball this season.

After a few more lined shots that refused to drop for the Commodores, they finally struck first in the third, and it almost started with disaster.  Jeren Kendall squared to bunt on the first pitch of his at bat with two outs.  He pulled back, but not in time to avoid getting nailed.  The ball just missed his chin.  Kendall looked shaken up, spending the next few moments on one knee, but popped back up and hustled to first.  He then proceeded to steal second, and slide under the tag at home to score on a base hit from Scott that he had no business scoring on, removing all doubt that he had any lingering pain.

The Commodores’ offense came out strong again in the fourth, putting together four straight hits to start the inning.  Will Toffey led off with a double down the third base, line, and advanced to third on a single by Reed Hayes.  Jason Delay then poked one to right-center, driving Toffey and sending Hayes to third.  Hayes scored on the ensuing wild pitch, and heads-up base running by Delay allowed him to replace Hayes at third.  Ethan Paul kept the offense going, lacing a shot to right center to score Delay and give Vanderbilt a four-run lead.  A highlight double play on a grab at first by Cade Sorrells prevented an even bigger inning, but that would prove to be more than enough for Day.

The sophomore tossed another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, again painting the outside corner beautifully and freezing Lipscomb second baseman Hunter Hanks.  Even then, Day knew he had something special going.

“I stared at the mat most of the game,” said the right-hander.  “I was locked in.  I knew what was happening, but if you talk about it it gets broken up, so we never talked about it.”

Corbin started to sense it too watching his pitcher persevere on the mound.

“In the fifth or sixth I started looking up there,” said Corbin.  “I knew we were playing some great ground ball defense and that they’d only had a couple of baserunners.  He seemed tired but he always seemed to pitch his way out of it.

The rally continued for the Commodores in the bottom of the fifth as two walks from Kendall and Infante put the offense in business.  With just one out, Toffey laid down a perfectly placed bunt that he beat out easily at first to load the bases for Hayes.  Hayes, a transfer from Walters State Community College, has been brilliant for coach Tim Corbin this season, functioning as a mainstay in the middle of the lineup in addition to being the team’s closer.  His prowess at the plate was on display again, as he knocked a two-run single through the middle, putting the Commodores up six.

After a scoreless sixth, Day trotted back out for the seventh, looking a little tired to start off the inning.  He walked the leadoff man in Sorrells, who advanced to second on a wild pitch, but really settled in after that, striking out the side in order, the last pitch a high fastball that look as hard as any he’d thrown all night.

Vanderbilt tacked on a run in the seventh, after a single by Infante and the third hit of the night from Toffey allowed Toffey to score on a wild pitch.

Day looked masterful again in the eighth, retiring the first two hitters on pop-outs.  He let up a walk after that, but recovered to get a fly-out and head to the ninth.

Kendall added even more fireworks in the top of the ninth, blasting a three run homer that just dodged the right-field foul pole.  It was Kendall’s team-leading eighth long-ball of the year, and it ignited this crowd.  But Tuesday night was all about Chandler Day.

The nerves really seemed to get to him in the ninth.  Day bounced two of his first three pitches almost halfway to the dirt before walking the leadoff man.  Corbin showed faith in his starter, though, letting him try to work through it himself.

“You think, okay he might be at 100 but at this point we’re saying, let him finish it,” said Corbin.

Day induced a pop-up to shortstop Connor Kaiser, who fired to catch a sleeping Lee Solomon at first base for a double play.  Day was one out away.  The last batter was Dodson, and the crowd was on its feet.  Without hesitation, however, Dodson sent a fastball right past Day, ending the no-hitter, and leaving the Commodores feeling ever so close to history, even on the backs of a ten-run victory.

“That’s baseball,” said Day, who looked relatively calm following the outing.  “I tried to get ahead with the fastball with two outs, and that’s what happened.”

category: Baseball, Featured, Sports

VU Dance Marathon’s 15th annual Big Event

“But I feel better when I’m dancing, and we can do this together. I betcha feel better when you’re dancing…”

Meghan Trainor’s 2015 hit was the perfect song to set the mood for Vanderbilt University Dance Marathon (VUDM)’s 15th annual Big Event, supporting the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, one of the 22 founding members of the nationwide Children’s Miracle Network. The event attracted over 400 attendees, including the 19 VUDM executive board members, 130 committee members, 806 dancers and the beloved Miracle Children and their families.

While The Big Event was originally scheduled for February 18th and is usually 13.1 hours long in the Student Life Center (SLC), due to the recent mumps outbreak on campus, the event had to be postponed and shortened to less than half its original duration. Ultimately, The Big Event 2.0 was held in the Vanderbilt Recreation & Wellness Center (VRWC) from 6:00 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, March 25.

VUDM set their fundraising goal at $267,000 this year, in honor of the 267 outpatient beds at Monroe Carell – a goal they surpassed by raising a grand total of $282,332.17 “For The Kids!”

“Revealing the total on Saturday night in front of our Miracle Families was so powerful, and I’m very proud that our organization can continue to support the patients and families at Monroe Carell,” VUDM President Ashley Detherage said. “I hope that in the future we can continue to break records and support with even more fundraising and involvement through the Nashville community.”

According to Detherage, Dance Marathon is a national movement on college campuses. Each program raises funds for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

“We fundraise all year long for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital – right down the street,” Detherage said. “We hope to spread awareness and raise money for our favorite place on campus!”

Detherage has been involved with Dance Marathon since her freshman year, stating that the whole concept of a campus of 18-22 year olds coming together for such a powerful cause has always been very inspiring to her, and she feels lucky to be able to touch the lives of people in her community and to create lasting relationships with the Miracle Families.

“Hearing our VUDM Miracle Kids’ stories and watching them grow up over the past four years has been an incredibly rewarding part of being part of this organization,” she said.

Sophomore Nick Fowler, who serves as the Director of Community Relations, said that the main mission is to be able to provide children with care regardless of their ability to pay.

“I know that for our goal in particular, we’re trying to raise money to both fund fellowships for pediatric oncologists – so basically child cancer doctors – for which training will cost about $45,000, and any money that we raise after that is going to a program called ‘Growing to New Heights’ which is about adding four new floors to the outpatient center of the Children’s Hospital, creating space for 267 new beds in the hospital,” Fowler said.

Anne Walker, senior and co-director of partnerships, said that VUDM’s largest sponsorship this year was the $10,000 they received from Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores. She headed the committee that wrote the application for this sponsorship, and the money aided with the planning and execution of the Big Event, allowing them to focus more on raising money for the hospital instead of worrying about expenses.

Co-director of partnerships, sophomore Morgan Hurst, attributed this year’s success to an increased level of inter-community and better communication among committee members.

“It’s just been the most rewarding experience. The exec committee is such a strong family, and it’s made me love Dance Marathon even more, besides my love for the kids and the hospital, it’s like loving the people that are in this organization,” she said.

Hurst played an important role in the facilitation of the Silent Auction, reaching out to local organizations and asking for either monetary or product donations. While the monetary donations are prioritized, the product donations are placed into groups toward the end of the year, and the rest of the budget is used to fill up the baskets and make them cohesive packages to be sold through the Silent Auction. The auction is then usually made live two weeks before the big event so that people have an opportunity to circulate the online link around to their parents and their friends from home, with the final few hours of the auction being at the actual event.

Apart from the Silent Auction, the other activities at the Big Event involved jewelry vendors, a handcuff fundraiser, a March Madness bracket, a bouncy house slide, balloon animals, a handprint banner and yoga.

At the beginning of each hour, the morale committee took the stage and performed a ten-minute choreographed routine to a mash-up of classic and contemporary pop songs. Freshman morale committee member Sophia DeMarchi spoke positively of her experience.

“Our job is to hype everyone up, get everyone very excited, and it’s been so great – not only dancing on the stage every hour – but interacting with the miracle families and just feeling like a kid again,” she said. :I’ve made a lot of new friends from this in different grades, different ages. We all didn’t know each other at the beginning, and now we’re so close and best friends.”

DeMarchi said the morale committee started learning the dance in December, meeting once a week for an hour. Everyone received 45-second pieces of the song to choreograph, shared their moves with the group, and the final routine consisted of all the individual parts strung together.

“My favorite part is definitely this big event,” DeMarchi said. “I was so bummed when it was postponed due to mumps, but it’s come back, and it’s better than I could have ever imagined, and I can’t wait for next year.”

Photos provided by VUDM PR/Tech and Emma Winburne

category: Arts & Culture

Hustler Reviews: Mount Eerie’s “A Crow Looked at Me”

On July 9th, 2016, Geneviève Castrée passed away from pancreatic cancer, only a little more than a year after her diagnosis. She was the mother of a child just barely a year old, and she was the husband of musician Phil Elverum, who is most famous for the lo-fi indie folk band the Microphones. Since the Microphones’ seminal 2001 album The Glow Pt. 2, Elverum has mostly been making music under the moniker Mount Eerie. After the unfortunate passing of both his wife and his grief counselor, Mount Eerie has released A Crow Looked at Me, one of the most emotionally charged and sincere records ever recorded.

The music on A Crow Looked at Me is not particularly complex. Most of the songs follow a very basic structure of melancholy acoustic guitar supported by laid back percussions. While simplistic on first listen, this music gives Elverum the perfect backdrop for what the album is really about: the lyrics.

Rich with dark imagery and honesty, Elverum’s lyrics on A Crow Looked at Me bring to mind the recent work of Sun Kil Moon, only Elverum dares to take the listener into his most personal grief-ridden thoughts. The themes surely echo Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell, but Elverum opts for a more blunt route. There is little room for flowery metaphors; throughout the record, we simply hear descriptions of life after loss. In this sense, the album feels very anecdotal, like you’re listening to a close friend lamenting to you about their loss.

For example:

On “Real Death”: I go downstairs and outside and you still get mail / A week after you died a package with your name on it came / And inside was a gift for our daughter you had ordered in secret / And collapsed there on the front steps I wailed / A backpack for when she goes to school a couple years from now / You were thinking ahead to a future you must have known deep down would not include you.

On “Ravens”: But when we came home you were pregnant / And then our life together was not long / You had cancer and you were killed / And I’m left living like this.

On “Swims”: Today our daughter asked me if mama swims / I told her, “Yes, she does / And that’s probably all she does now.”

Elverum reminiscences about life “back before he knew his way around hospitals”, and we reminiscence along with him. A Crow Looked at Me is not just an “in memoriam” LP for a dead person. It’s a meditation on what loss is like in general, and it questions how we soldier on. This music recorded in the room where Geneviève died, on the instruments that she owned, will likely end up being the most haunting and heartbreaking record of the year. Anyone who has ever lost someone should listen.

Key Tracks: “Real Death”, “Seaweed”, “Ravens”, “Forest Fire”, “Swims”, “Soria Moria”, “Crow”

Photo from P.W. Elverum and Sun

IN PHOTOS: Scene & Heard Fashion Show

On Saturday, March 25th, the Vanderbilt Public Relations Society hosted the eighth annual Scene & Heard Fashion Show in the Student Life Center.

They featured outfits from several designers in a variety of styles.

Both male and female student models walked the runway.

A large crowd enjoyed free desserts and drinks while they watched the show.

category: Arts & Culture

QEP is DIVE: explained

As mandated by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the institution responsible for accrediting Vanderbilt, the university will be implementing its decennial Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) in the fall.

Accreditation by the SACSCOC is crucial for Vanderbilt to have access to Title IV financial aid. Title IV financial aid includes loans, Pell Grants and Federal Work Study. In order to be accredited by SACSCOC, Vanderbilt must implement a QEP every ten years with the goal of improving student learning.

“It’s important that Vanderbilt’s QEP be derived from the university’s mission and strategic planning processes,” said Elizabeth Boyd, Vice Provost for Learning and Residential Affairs. As a result DIVE is designed to work hand-in-hand with Immersion Vanderbilt, an essential aspect of the 2014 Academic Plan, which also includes the development and implementation of iSeminars.

You try to think of crazy ideas and that most outlandish thing, not because that’s what you’re going to use, but because it can trigger creativity in somebody else.

The previous QEP was the Vanderbilt Visions program, which welcomes first-year students to the Vanderbilt community. In the fall, Vanderbilt will be rolling out the new QEP, Design as an Immersive Vanderbilt Experience (DIVE), a program focused on teaching students to implement Human Centered Design, a process that begins with meeting people and ends with creating a solution to an issue encountered by those people, to interdisciplinary, real-world issues.  

“[DIVE] started with an idea from me to design things for the community in Nashville and from Will Berger, who’s a sophomore Engineering Science major, who wanted to teach Design Thinking to students,” said Dr. Lori Troxel, Associate Professor of the Practice in the School of Engineering and DIVE Initiative Director.

Berger was, and continues to be, one of the driving forces behind DIVE, primarily focusing on marketing DIVE to the student body, giving rise to the “QEP is DIVE” posters around campus, and earning him the nickname “DIVE Dude.” Will saw the initial email last year calling for proposals for the QEP. A self-described “design nut,” Will saw this as an opportunity to teach about Human Centered Design and share his passion with others.

“If I can do that for the rest of my life, I can be happy,” Berger said. “It gave me a calling.”

Human Centered Design is composed of five steps, which DIVE is hoping to teach to students from across the University. Characterized by the initial interviewing phase, Human Centered Design encourages building empathy with the anticipated beneficiary of the solution. The remaining four steps are defining the problem, brainstorming, creating a prototype and testing the proposed solution. Usually performed by interdisciplinary groups, the brainstorming process is often very creative and insightful.

“You try to think of crazy ideas and that most outlandish thing, not because that’s what you’re going to use, but because it can trigger creativity in somebody else,” Troxel said, while displaying a board covered in sticky-notes, which she said is an incredibly helpful way for a team to brainstorm.

Berger used a theoretical example of developing safer bus seats for public transportation in the city. After speaking with bus riders, drivers and other bus “experts” a team could convene and deduce that buses in the Nashville area are not safe enough. After hours of brainstorming, the team believed that a velcro seat would be the best solution. The team would then create a prototype and bring it back to the bus “experts” for testing. If the testing reveals issues with the prototype, then the team can easily cycle back to any point in the process and develop something else.

There is value in failure.

“There is value in failure,” Berger said. “We want students to develop the ability to identify problems and have the creative confidence to design solutions.”

Citing the lack of room for failure in college, Berger sees DIVE as a great opportunity to have students work to better the surrounding community without the pressure of failing weighing down their creative potential.

Unlike Visions, which has student meets for an hour a week in the groups, DIVE, which is completely voluntary, will have a large co-curricular component. Students will be able to get involved with DIVE via 4 main avenues: boot camps, co-curricular projects, projects in classes, and a unique University course.

“DIVE has a broad scope, because students, faculty, and staff from across the university can participate in DIVE through the Boot Camps,” Boyd said.

The Boot Camps will be half-day immersive experiences in which participants will work in multidisciplinary groups to complete two design challenges.  

In addition to the boot camps, DIVE will be teaming up, in the fall, with the Office of Active Citizenship and Service to allow students to participate in co-curricular projects, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office and local not-for-profits, to aid the Nashville community in the areas of food waste, glass recycling and assisting new Americans and affordable housing, among others.

Other projects will be added as DIVE grows. DIVE hopes to add up to ten projects through the Library Fellows and work with the Curb Center and other organizations to broaden the areas where Human Centered Design can benefit others.

Our hope is that it will spread informally as well, so that student organizations can start using this to improve their organizations.

A current class, History of Fashion, is integrating Design Thinking to come up with clothing to boost student happiness. Troxel hopes that some of the ideas, such as the use of specific colors and fabrics, generated by the students will be used by the Center of Student Wellbeing to aid with stress relief, among other possibilities.

The DIVE Finalization Committee has also crafted a new course titled “Design Thinking, Design Doing” that will be taught by Peabody professor Rogers Hall and Owen professor David Owens. The class will teach Human Centered Design, mainly through projects, and emphasize that there is always something to learn every time a student goes through the design process.

“Our hope is that it will spread informally as well, so that student organizations can start using this to improve their organizations,” Troxel said. She hopes the DIVE program curriculum will permeate its way into how organizations operate and go about realizing their goals.

category: Campus, Featured

Vanderbilt law professor speaks at Neil Gorsuch SCOTUS confirmation hearing

Vanderbilt law professor Timothy Meyer testified on behalf of Judge Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, on Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He participated in a panel of ten individuals, which included lawyers and advocates, on the last day of hearings and discussed it with the Hustler.

During the first week of March, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chairman of the committee, reached out to Meyer, who clerked for Judge Gorsuch from 2007-2008, and asked if he would be willing to testify. He immediately accepted the invitation and spoke in favor of the judge as an invitation from the majority, citing his clear and accessible writing as a strong point.

“Lawyers need to know how the Court thought the Constitution, statutes and regulations apply to the facts of the case,” Meyer said to the Committee. “But even non-lawyers, the Judge taught us, should be able to understand the stakes in a court case and the base reason a case came out the way it did. The litigants themselves deserve an explanation that does not require a lawyer to interpret.“

Professor Meyer spoke at length with the Hustler in February after Trump picked Gorsuch as his nominee, calling him the “epitome of a gentleman,” “an excellent mentor” and a strong writer. When preparing his written opening statement, which he submitted the Sunday prior to the hearing, he explained that he wanted to emphasize the Judge’s writing to the committee most of all.

“I was trying to convey both that he is a very excellent writer, but also that I think that the emphasis he puts on writing is related to a concern he has for the basic due process and fair notice requirements,” Meyer said. “He’s a great writer, but he’s a great writer in the service of perfecting these rule of law values.”

After talking about the judge’s commitment to writing and how he would carefully construct his introductions, often for hours, Meyer told the committee about how the Judge took the time to respond to pro se petitions from prisoners. While many courts chose not to respond to these claims, according to Meyer, he talked about how Judge Gorsuch believed that they all deserved a written decision.

“Each inmate, he told me, is entitled to an explanation he can understand, no matter how far off the mark his claim,” Meyer told the Committee. “And to be frank, many of the claims we received were prepared without the aid of counsel and were difficult to understand. No matter, the judge reminded us clerks that the Court had to liberally construe, that is, to give the benefit of the doubt, to those who appear on their own behalf seeking the protection of the courts.”

One point that Meyer hadn’t planned on during his initial written submission was the Supreme Court case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, which had been decided during the nomination hearings. That case unanimously overturned a 2008 decision, Thompson R2-J School District v. Luke P, in which the Tenth Circuit Court ruled that the district was not required to provide education above de minimis to a child with autism. Gorsuch, who wrote the opinion in that case, stated that the precedent from a previous Tenth Circuit case, Urban v Jefferson County School District, bounded them to rule in that way and thus did not violate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“The Judge’s concern for fair notice also underlies his deep respect for precedent,” Meyer said to the committee. “I can recall many times that Judge Gorsuch wrote that while he might have decided the case differently, a prior panel of the Tenth Circuit had already addressed the question. Indeed, I had the chance this morning to look back at the Tenth Circuit’s decision in Endrew F., which was the case the Supreme Court decided yesterday, reversing the Tenth Circuit. And in that case, the Court expressly noted that the more than de minimis standard Judge Gorsuch had applied in Thompson is actually from an earlier Tenth Circuit case in (Urban) and a line of cases that stretch from Urban until Thompson.”

After the opening statements were delivered by the ten panelists, the senators then proceeded to ask them questions. Meyer received questions from Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Grassley about the Judge’s fairness and responsiveness to oral arguments.

“You see him ever decide a case based purely on the personal, his personal policy preferences?” Kennedy asked.

“I didn’t ever see him bring his personal policy preferences into chambers at all,” Meyer responded.

“What does he look to get out of advocates during oral arguments? Have you ever witnessed him change his mind about a case during oral argument?” Grassley then asked.

“Oral argument is incredibly important to the judge,” Meyer responded. “It’s part of the basic notion that the litigant should have the fair opportunity to be heard. And yes I have seen the Judge change his mind based on oral arguments. The briefs are, of course, the fullest presentation of the parties’ arguments ….I’ve seen a number of cases that the Judge’s thinking has been shaped on certain questions by the exchanges he’s had with counsel.”

For Gorsuch to be confirmed to the Court, he’ll require 60 votes from a majority Republican Senate. However, with only 52 Republican votes, he’ll likely need eight Democrats to vote in his favor. While several senators, including Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT), have declared their opposition to Gorsuch, Meyer believes that it’s still up in the air if he’ll be confirmed without using the nuclear option.

“There’s a handful of these conservative Democrats that are in states that either lean towards or did vote for the president in the last election that I think are in play,” Meyer said. “So when you hear those people say they are going to support a filibuster, then that’s when you’ll know if the nuclear option is really (in play).”

This trip to Capitol Hill isn’t the first for Meyer. In 2013, he spoke as an expert witness in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about a treaty regarding the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, this testimony differed because he spoke on behalf of another person as opposed to providing further detail for a case on hand.

Professor Meyer actually wasn’t the only Vanderbilt connection during this hearing, as Leah Bressack, a Vanderbilt Law School graduate, spoke for the majority in a prior session. She clerked for Judge Gorsuch from 2009-2011, and Meyer had interviewed her for that position, which he served in two years prior.

Watch the videos below from the confirmation hearing:

Professor Meyer provides his opening statement:

Professor Meyer answers questions from Senator Kennedy:

Professor Meyer answers questions from Senator Grassley:

category: Campus, Featured

Three up, three down: Commodores take series over Texas A&M

Vanderbilt (16-9, 3-3 SEC) opened league play last week by losing a hard-fought road series to nationally-ranked Ole Miss. The Commodores put together a significantly better performance this weekend in taking its first conference series of the year over Texas A&M. After a non-conference season characterized by uneven play, Vanderbilt appears to be gaining steam heading into Tuesday’s game against Lipscomb and next weekend’s series at No. 19 Kentucky.

Three up:

1. Jeren Kendall

Kendall started the season relatively slowly, floating around in the high .200s in terms of batting average until this weekend. After the series win over the Aggies in which he hit seven for 14 across three games, he’s now hitting .324 on the year. Kendall also has strung together six straight multi-hit games, and his grand slam in Friday’s 4-3 victory clearly represented the top highlight of the series. The junior center fielder also stole three bases in three tries, which helped him score four runs as the Commodores’ leadoff man. Additionally, Kendall only struck out twice in the three weekend games, as he’s struggled somewhat in that department this season. If Kendall continues to play this way, Vanderbilt and his MLB draft stock are in good shape.

2. Starting pitching

While freshman Sunday starter Drake Fellows didn’t take the mound this weekend, fellow starters Kyle Wright and Patrick Raby excelled. Wright began Friday’s game by allowing three earned runs in two innings, but he came back and plowed through the third, fourth and fifth innings. Kendall showed no concern about Wright’s chances of rebounding from his disappointing start to the season after Friday’s game (he currently has a 4.50 ERA), and it doesn’t seem as if many others are worried, either.

Raby, on the other hand, has been consistent all year in running up a sterling 1.40 ERA as the Commodores’ No. 2 starter. Saturday’s game represented more of the same, as the sophomore right-hander needed only 94 pitches to get through seven innings of three-hit ball. If (or when) Wright returns to peak form, head coach Tim Corbin will have one of the most impressive three-man rotations in college baseball at his disposal.

3. SEC East race

As Vanderbilt climbed back to .500 in conference play, the Commodores started to make their move up the SEC standings. Preseason favorite Florida stands at just 2-4 so far, while South Carolina and Kentucky lead the division at 5-1. The Gamecocks, however, have faced a weak schedule so far; their first two series came against Tennessee and Alabama, teams that are a combined 1-11 in league play. Kentucky’s sweep at Texas A&M and home series victory over No. 14 Ole Miss were both impressive, but Vanderbilt can bring the Wildcats back toward the pack this coming weekend if they can win the series in Lexington. The Commodores may have fallen out of the national rankings, but they’ve got plenty of time to get in contention for the SEC East title.


1. Offensive consistency

Overall, Vanderbilt’s 25 runs against Texas A&M represent a major step forward for the Commodore offense. The problem, however, was that 17 of those runs came in Game 2 of the series; Vanderbilt scored four in both Games 1 and 3. Kendall’s grand slam gave Corbin’s club its only runs of the game Friday, and the Commodores didn’t have a hit after the fifth inning. On Sunday, Vanderbilt mustered only three hits in four innings against Aggie starter Corbin Martin, who has a respectable-but-not-great 4.07 ERA. The ‘Dores took a step in the right direction this weekend, but there’s still significant room to improve in terms of consistency at the plate.

2. Suspensions

Four Commodores were suspended for Sunday’s series finale, leaving Vanderbilt shorthanded. Vanderbilt disciplined sophomore Alonzo Jones and freshmen Harrison Ray, Zach King and Fellows for failing to meet team standards, according to the athletic department. All four played over the first two games of the series, and it’s unclear how long the suspensions will last. Without knowing how long the discipline will last, it’s impossible to say how the team’s outlook is affected. But playing without three starters in Ray, Jones and Fellows and one of the team’s top relievers in King would pose significant challenges. The Commodores’ depth will be tested if the four aren’t reinstated before Tuesday’s game.

3. Paxton Stover

Stover looked like one of Vanderbilt’s best left-handed options out of the bullpen coming into the season, but he’s struggled. On Sunday, the junior gave up four hits and two earned runs in only two-thirds of an inning, running his ERA to 7.56 on the year in 8.1 innings pitched. Aside from King, Vanderbilt’s top relievers are all right-handed. If King remains out of the picture for an extended amount of time and Stover can’t deliver, Corbin may have to turn to freshman Michael Sandborn, who’s pitched well in only three innings this season. It would be a huge boost if Stover can turn around his season and supplement Vanderbilt’s strong but relatively shallow and righty-dominant bullpen.

category: Baseball, Featured, Sports

SZCZESNIEWSKI: Getting wasted daily: Scrape Your Plate Day

You’re watching your waistline, you’re milking your meal plan, you’ve got butterflies before a test and can’t swallow another bite–whatever your reason, we’ve all stood at a dining hall tray return and sent leftover food to the landfill. As someone who spent the better half of a semester living off of the leftovers of her peers (and still scavenges occasionally), I have witnessed how much food the average Vanderbilt student tosses out.

Well what’s a few chunks of honeydew and a muffin bottom? Actually, lots of the scraps are more like entire entrees and often feel fresh, even lacking bite marks. But regardless  if it’s a melon rind or a slice of delectable cheesecake, Vanderbilt’s post-consumer food waste at one cafeteria amounts to something like 593.25 lbs a day–at least that’s exactly how much post consumer food waste was collected by Vanderbilt Food Justice and SPEAR volunteers on Thursday, March 23rd at the Commons Cafeteria tray return.

From 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. that day, there were always at least a pair of volunteers directing diners to scrape the food off their plate into big black trash bins before sending their trays to the dishwasher. Though collecting the leftovers became a mad rush to prevent traffic jams during peak lunch hour–the shift I worked–there was no vocal resentment about the data collection. Instead, most people asked questions and reacted positively when they heard that we are trying to raise awareness about post-consumer food waste and have some hard data that may support or inspire future projects, like Vandy composting. These numbers will both prove the need for composting as well as help administrators anticipate what kind of quantities the compost program would have to deal with.

This day-long event was called Scrape Your Plate Day. Though the idea was originally the brainchild of University of Colorado-Boulder students, members of SPEAR and VFJ were inspired to bring it to Vanderbilt and worked with Dining Administration to make it happen. The hope is to make Scrape Your Plate Day either annually recurring or once a semester so that we can learn more about food waste trends at Vanderbilt over time. UC-Boulder has been doing this for 10 years, now conducting the event three times a semester, and the school has seen a decrease in consumer food waste. According to their website, during dinner in 2010, students wasted 0.42lbs per person, but in 2016 this dropped to 0.16lbs per person. That’s a 62% decrease.

In many ways, it’s hard to compare UC-Boulder to Vanderbilt. They have over 27,000 undergraduates; we have about 7,000. They have an all-you-can-eat cafeteria; we have a fixed entree and sides system. Though we surely produce less waste cumulatively than they do, based on the one day of data collection in which 1888 people ate at the Commons, 0.3 pounds of food were wasted per Commodore card swipe. That’s double the pounds per person wasted at UC-Boulder as of 2016.

Scrape Your Plate was hosted at the Commons Center because the logistics at Rand would have been a nightmare. At Commons there is a single tray return and there isn’t a to-go option. Since Rand has multiple return locations and to-go is popular, gathering accurate post-consumer waste data would be unrealistic. Furthermore, there is a key difference in Rand’s and the Commons’ infrastructure which makes the Commons’ food waste management more sustainable: that infrastructure is a pulping system. Scrape Your Plate Day at the Commons meant pre-pulped weight could be compared to its dehydrated, shredded pulp form. Let me explain:

If you’re at Rand, your uneaten side will be swiped into a trash bag as is. At Commons, a slightly different journey lies ahead because there they have a pulping system. First the conveyor belt carries the trays behind the scenes. Any leftover food is scraped into a trough that runs alongside the belt. Every so often, a gush of water will surge through the trough, pushing all the food into a big cylindrical container at the end. There, a person will occasionally grab what looks like an oar for churning the soup of waste around and around. Once that receptacle is filled, it drains through a series of pipes and the contents gets dehydrated so that all that pops out of a chute in the basement is a dense pulp that’s more reminiscent of shredded magazines than extra pizza slices and salad greens.

The pulping process minimizes the volume taken up by waste in the landfill by ridding it of its liquid content. After the March 23 Scrape Your Plate event, students hoped to quantify how much volume the pulper actually diverts away from landfills by comparing the weight of food they’d collect to the weight of that same food after being pulped. They discovered that the kitchen scraps also go in the pulper, which is a good thing for the environment, but meant that we couldn’t isolate the consumer waste. Without only the weight of the consumer food waste in pulp form, there was no way of knowing just how much volume of student leftovers was prevented from entering a landfill.

In the end, it’s important to remember that regardless of the amount of space it takes up, every time you pay for food going in the trash instead of your mouth, you’re buying realty at the dump. It is my hope that these numbers will raise consumer consciousness about taking only what you need or picking sides that could be portable snacks for later. Most of all, acknowledging that this is waste from only one campus eatery should act as compelling evidence for the usefulness of a composting program here. Currently students are not only disposing of edible food, but they are also tossing organic resources out. Those banana peels, every sweet potato skin… It’s only waste once it’s wasted.

Ania Szczesniewski is a junior in the College of Arts and Science. She can be reached at

category: Opinion

Get to know Jami Cox and Ryan Connor, the new VSG president and vice president

Jami Cox and Ryan Connor became Vanderbilt Student Government president and vice president on Wednesday, March 22, beating out Will Braithwaite and Sam Jenson, whose campaign focused largely on using humor to call attention to their goals.

“Obviously Wednesday was amazing for me and Ryan, definitely,” Cox said. “What a lot of people don’t see is they see our posters and banners and all of that but they don’t see the hard work that goes into getting all of that ready.”

Cox spent the second half of her spring break on campus preparing for the campaign season, which began with a primary between four candidates on that took place March 16-17. Even before that, she and Connor spent hours crafting their platform, which focused on advocacy, empowerment, transparency and accountability.

“That shows the dedication that we have to this, it’s not something that we just woke up and decided to do one day, Cox said. “We took a lot of time putting into the ideas and crafting a platform that we felt would be really really successful, but also really speak to what we wanted to do if we were elected.”

Cox is majoring in public policy studies and minoring in chinese language studies, and served as an Arts and Science Senator for VSG during the 2015-16 school year, while she was also serving as the vice president of the Black Students Association. During 2016-17, she became the president of the BSA, the Attorney General of VSG and an RA on Branscomb quad. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., an NPHC organization. Upon graduation, Cox hopes to pursue a career in urban development by attending law school.

Photo by Jennifer Li

Connor is majoring in American Studies and serves as a tour guide, an RA in North House, a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity, and the former co-chair of Experience Vanderbilt. He, too, hopes to attend law school to pursue his goal of fighting for educational equity in the United States.

Cox and Connor met through a Commons seminar during their freshman year, and stayed in touch through their involvement in VSG, as Cox served as a senator and Attorney General and Connor served two years on the Cabinet of the first-year team. They began discussing their plans for running for VSG president and vice president at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.

One of the hardest parts with the campaign being the focal point for a lot of people is after that when Ryan and I start really putting in that work, people don’t get to see that part.

Cox’s campaign slogan was “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges,” and some of her specific platform points included creating an economic inclusivity task force, admitting failure, and advocating for the return of the Wall Street Journal and the Vanderbilt Readership Program.

One of Cox’s biggest goals for her administration is to get the full student body engaged with VSG and eliminate the sentiment that VSG does not create actionable change. She pointed out that while students often participate in elections, their attention dwindles after election season is over.

“One of the hardest parts with the campaign being the focal point for a lot of people is after that when Ryan and I start really putting in that work, people don’t get to see that part, because it’s a lot of the ‘behind the closed door’ thing,” Cox said. “So I think for us, what we really want to do is show them that the things we talked about during the campaign are the things we are actually working on.”

While Cox recognizes that changing the entire structure of VSG in her one-year term would be a stretch, she hopes to change the way that students understand the current structure. For example, Cox pointed out that many students don’t know the name of the senators that represent them in VSG senate, let alone communicate them about what they would like to see VSG do. She hopes to increase senators’ communication with their constituencies by having residential senators hold listening sessions in their residence halls, and she hopes to be intentional about advertising the work that senators get done so that students understand.

While Cox has many ideas of her own, she hopes to continue a lot of what outgoing president Ariana Fowler has accomplished as well.

“I thought Ariana did an excellent job,” Cox said. “I think that it is easier for me being in VSG and working with her and working with her cabinet to see a lot of the amazing things that she did. A lot of the work that she put in was definitely on campus but she also did a lot of work for Nashville and off campus and really got VSG engaged with the campuses that around–with Belmont, with TSU, with Fisk–and I think that was really groundbreaking.”

She also pointed out that Fowler’s administration made progress on making VSG more accountable and transparent by allocating 40 percent of the organization’s budget to cosponsorships.

“Cutting back internal spending in VSG was something that Ariana did really well,” Cox said. “And that really helped give money back to the students, which is what people wanted to hear. We increased the cosponsorship budget to 40 percent, so 40 percent of VSG’s money is going back to the people it was for.”

Cox hopes to both create change and continue the progress that VSG has made during the past year with Fowler as president.

“I think that was amazing and I think within Ryan and I’s administration we want to keep that going, we want to keep people engaged, we want to continue the work that she did.”

category: Campus, Featured

Women Handling Business panel inspires, redefines innovation

Last Tuesday, a group of professional women and students gathered in the Wondry for a conversation on black women and innovation. The panel, titled “Women Handling Business,” was organized by Queen Stevenson, the News and Communications intern for Dr. Ifeoma Nwankwo, Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships. One of the office’s goals is to redefine innovation.  

“She says that if you are a black woman who’s lived in the South for a number of years, and you’re still able to live, laugh, and love–that’s innovation,” Stevenson said. “We have something to learn from you; you flourished in an environment that was structured against your survival. So she wanted to bring black women together in various industries who had innovated in their fields and redefined what innovation is traditionally seen as: a bunch of guys creating an app in Silicon Valley.”

The overarching theme for the panel was how the individuals invited used innovation and creativity to accomplish their entrepreneurial goals. The six panelists came from a variety of different fields and experiences. They included Kia Jarmon, founder of MEPR Agency in Nashville; Kristina Ellis, author of How to Graduate Debt Free and Confessions of a Scholarship Winner; Krystal Clark, Director of Student Leadership Development at Vanderbilt; Daynise Joseph, Community Impact initiative leader for Google Fiber in Nashville; Alice Randall, award winning songwriter and novelist and writer in residence at Vanderbilt; and Sandra Long Weaver, editorial director at the Tennessee Tribune.

“We invited the women we invited because they were proven leaders who have made innovative strides in their careers and had made space for other black women and individuals from other minority communities to do the same,” Stevenson said. “They confronted countless challenges– personal, professional, psychological, and more–as both black and woman. That’s innovation in itself, and it should be celebrated.”

Each panelist explored topics of work ethic, frustration and reinvention within her own field. The women gave various pieces of advice to the audience, such as maximizing your day, learning to be your own advocate and balancing business and altruism. Stevenson said that for her, the topic of frustration left a lasting impact.

“They talked about how their frustration – which they regard as valid and valuable – moved them toward something greater, whether that was leaving a place of work, asking for the salary they deserved, or creating a new opportunity,” Stevenson said. “Personally, as I’m in a season of life as a senior, I’m constantly confronted with my own frustration and life’s uncertainties and it was so refreshing and relieving to hear women who look like me, who have been in my shoes before, say they got through it and used it for something good.”

Turnout for the event was relatively low due to the rain, but the panelists took advantage of the small environment to share more intimate stories about their lives as “women handling business.” After the event, attendees spent time speaking one on one with panelists and the event organizers.

“We keep seeing that representation is vital, especially for black women, who have been told that our challenges, our complaints, our emotions, our experiences don’t matter, don’t carry enough weight,” Stevenson said. “One student said she cried and that this panel was what she needed, and that is so encouraging to hear as an organizer, and as a black woman.”

category: Campus

With a group of familiar faces, Vanderbilt poised to shine offensively

Four months ago, Vanderbilt was still figuring out its offensive identity. With just two games left, the Commodores needed to ignite their offense if they were going to get to a six-win season.

83 points and a bowl appearance later, the chemistry started to reveal itself, and Vanderbilt had a lot to look forward to heading into the offseason. Saturday’s spring game was the first time the offense played in a game situation since its last action at December’s Independence Bowl, and that level of familiarity was on full display.

Quarterback Kyle Shurmur looked sharp, completing seven of 13 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown in his time running the offense. Just a year removed from competing for the starting quarterback job, Shurmur has settled into the role and looks comfortable with the bevy of weapons he has at his disposal.

“We all as a group have really taken command of this offense,” the junior quarterback said. “It starts to slow down, and we’ve started to play with a lot of confidence because a lot of this stuff is second nature.”

Saturday’s scrimmage was by no means an all-out grind, but the offense shined, echoing the fact that with the reps it has gotten as a group over the past year, “second nature” sounds like an appropriate assessment. And why wouldn’t it? The Commodores return nearly every skill position player on the roster, including 92 percent of last year’s carries and 96 percent of last year’s receptions, an incredibly high retention rate for a bowl team.

Shurmur’s increased rapport with his wide receivers opens up the playbook for offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. Last year’s offense showed signs of miscommunication throughout the season. In a late game drive to try to complete a comeback against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Shurmur threw a pass over the middle to Trent Sherfield that the Tigers picked off to seal the game. The quarterback and veteran wide receiver clearly weren’t on the same page, as Sherfield hadn’t even begun to come back to the ball when it landed in the arms of Auburn cornerback Joshua Holsey.

Since then, Shurmur and his receivers — Sherfield in particular — have worked to be on the same page, to the tune of 184 yards for Sherfield against Tennessee in Vanderbilt’s final home game. That connection was a mainstay in the short time Vandy’s offense was on the field Saturday, with Sherfield snagging three of Shurmur’s throws on great timing routes. Shurmur also hit senior wide receiver C.J. Duncan on another timing route for his lone touchdown of the day.

The growth of the Vanderbilt passing game is essential, but it exists to supplement what has grown into one of the best running games in the SEC. Ralph Webb sat out Saturday’s scrimmage because head coach Derek Mason “knows what he can do,” but the rest of the running back group was on display, and Khari Blasingame broke a big run for a touchdown. Blasingame had a breakout 2016 season sharing the backfield with Webb, and the linebacker turned running back looks exceedingly comfortable with his role in the offense.

“A year has made a big difference,” said Blasingame on the transition. “Earlier I was just trying to get used to the play book, getting the basics down. Now I’m just working on getting the intricacies of the playbook.”

Blasingame and Webb will undoubtedly spearhead Vanderbilt’s rushing attack, but it was a different running back that turned heads on Saturday.

Jamauri Wakefield sat out last season, with Mason not wanting to burn his freshman redshirt, but he excelled Saturday, hitting the hole hard and picking up two touchdowns. Mason couldn’t say enough the show Wakefield put on.

“People got a chance to see what this young man is going to be,” said Mason of his young running back. “Let me tell you, you talk about somebody putting it on tape, he did just that every day. If anybody goes down, you better make sure you get back early because you may have your job taken.”

Vanderbilt looks like a well-oiled machine with its rotating backs and receivers that have spent years with the program. Looking around the field, however, it’s hard to ignore the losses of Will Holden and Barrett Gouger on the offensive line. On a team with mostly familiar faces, new guys are going to have to step in to keep that team chemistry afloat.

“At first it’s kind of tough to fit into an offense that played together all last year,” said Sean Auwae-McMoore, a redshirt freshman center who stepped into Gouger’s starting role and has been taking the first-team reps. “The O-line is definitely getting closer as the days go by throughout camp though. We definitely have been clicking as an offense. We have a lot to work on but we’re in a really good spot.”

Auwae-McMoore was the No. 5 center recruit in the nation last year according to 247Sports, so the talent is definitely there. Gouger has made sure to pass on his wisdom to his replacement.

“Barrett has helped me out, showing me different ways to study the plays, using the VCR with 3-D virtual world, said Auwae-McMoore. “He says whenever I need anything to just let him know.”

With the flashes the offense has shown, both at the end of last season and into spring camp, this doesn’t look like the Vanderbilt narrative of the past few years. This offensive unit is experienced, balanced and, most importantly, on the same page.

On a team notorious for its defense, the Commodores possess a variety of veteran weapons on the offensive side of the ball. If Saturday’s scrimmage is any indication, they’ll be able to compete next season in the SEC.   

category: Football, Sports

Vanessa Carlton in concert in Nashville

Back in 2002, Vanessa Carlton left her lasting mark on pop music history. I’ve found that a mere mention of her typically evokes one of several reactions— a vague familiarity with the name, a humming of piano chords, or a reference to White Chicks. After all, it is “A Thousand Miles” that thrust her into the limelight fifteen years ago. Yet, contrary to popular belief, Vanessa Carlton is not a one-hit wonder, and after seeing her perform live, I’m convinced that she deserves to be known for more than a song she wrote when she was sixteen.

Prior to the concert, I admit I didn’t have many expectations. In fact, I probably would have been in one of the categories above. I was excited to hear the one song I was very familiar with, but for some reason couldn’t get into some of the newer Vanessa Carlton songs I sampled on Spotify. However, Sunday night’s concert at 3rd & Lindsley proved to me that Vanessa Carlton and her raw musical genius could do no wrong.

In fact, the throngs of people who packed the multi-storied venue were testament enough of that. By 8 p.m. or so, there were no tables left up for grabs— at least not one with some degree of a view of the stage.

Tristen, who describes herself as a genre-bending musician, opened for Vanessa Carlton. Tambourine in hand, she pumped up the crowd with her pop-indie-rock set. Her contagious energy successfully engaged listeners, even getting the audience to sing along in the chorus of “Psychic Vampire,” in which the dulcet melody was supplemented with biting lyrics.

Carlton began her set at 9 p.m., kicking it off with “A Thousand Miles.” A clear fan favorite, this particular performance elicited loud whoops and cheers as Carlton sang from the piano bench, where she remained for almost the entirety of her set to play accompaniments to her songs.

She then delivered a moving performance of “Carousel” from her 2011 album Rabbits on the Run. For someone who had just come out of a relationship, Vanessa’s soulful crooning felt therapeutic and I daresay even healing as she sang about the cyclic nature of finding love.

Another highlight from the album was “I Don’t Want To Be A Bride,” a song so genuine it brought me to tears. In it, Vanessa tells of a love so pure and true that merely being together was enough to make her life feel full: “Don’t need no golden ring/ It’d be no match for the love it brings.”

From Liberman, the album she released in 2015, Carlton sang “Take It Easy,” “Willows,” “Operator,” “Blue Pool,” “Nothing Where Something Used To Be,” and “River”— all of which have beautiful arrangements that sound all the more affecting performed live. My personal favorite of the newer tracks was “Nothing Where Something Used To Be,” which featured a stunning string instrumental.

Other standouts from the night included an oldie but goodie from 2004 called “White Houses,” a new, yet-to-be-published song called “Love Is An Art,” and a cute harmonized duet between Vanessa and Tristen called “Lord Won’t You Buy Me A Mercedes-Benz,” complete with a few synchronized quasi-dance moves.

Not only did Carlton’s music feel so authentic, but her candid remarks and dry humor—not to mention her fondness for drinking ‘a tall glass of water that tastes just like red wine’— made her very relatable and likable. Throughout the performance, she shared interesting tidbits about her musical inspirations.

Regarding Liberman, Carlton mentioned that it was inspired by her late grandfather’s painting. The painting features a naked woman drawn three different ways, and Carlton claims the reason her grandmother passed it down to her was likely that the woman in the painting was not her grandmother.

She also shared that “Operator” was her corruption story about a cougar who got involved with a younger man. Of course, she added in a little disclaimer that it had “nothing to do with [her] at all; [her] husband is 30 and [she is] 36.”

At the end of the night, I concluded that when performing live, especially with Skye Steele heading the violin and sound effects, Vanessa Carlton delivered every song in her set as a masterful performance. Wrapped up in the atmosphere, the only thing that made the experience even more enjoyable was the enthusiasm of the people around me. Whenever I caught superfans mouthing the words, enthusiastically playing the air piano, or subtly rocking out in their seats, I could do nothing but marvel at the unifying power of Carlton’s music.

Five takeaways: ‘Dores take series opener vs. Texas A&M

The first inning-and-a-half against Texas A&M didn’t look promising for the Commodore baseball team, but that changed in short order.

After falling behind 3-0 behind uneven play from starting pitcher Kyle Wright, Vanderbilt took a 4-3 lead on Jeren Kendall’s two-out grand slam in the bottom of the second inning. Those four runs turned out to be all the ‘Dores needed, as they held the Aggies scoreless for the remainder of the game to take the first game of the weekend series.

Here are five thoughts from Vanderbilt’s second SEC win of the season.

Kendall’s slam the difference

Not only did Kendall come to the plate with two outs in the second, but the junior center fielder took two quick strikes to start off his at-bat. After taking a ball, Kendall launched Aggie starter Brigham Hill’s fourth pitch into the right-center field stands, more than 375 feet away. Hill entered the game with a 2.61 ERA, but the Commodores took advantage of their big opportunity early on. In a game with essentially no offense after the second inning, Kendall’s slam ended up holding even more importance.

“[Hill]’s a heavy changeup guy; we knew that coming in,” Kendall said. “It’s hard to say I was sitting on anything. You know, two strikes, bases loaded, you just gotta try and make the defense play some defense.”

Wright starts slow, finishes strong

Wright, a candidate to be selected No. 1 overall in the 2017 MLB draft entering the season, has had a bumpy start to the campaign. He entered Friday’s series opener with a 4.33 ERA and gave up three runs in his first two innings against A&M, taking 65 pitches to do so. The Huntsville, Alabama, native finished strong, though, in plowing through the third, fourth and fifth innings to earn his first win of the year. Vanderbilt’s hitters haven’t given Wright much run support this season, but he got just enough Friday.

“The kid’s working hard, and we just haven’t come out on top for him,” Kendall said of Wright’s lack of run support this year. “It hasn’t even been him, it’s been offense. For tonight, for us to scratch out a few runs and get him the W for the first time this year, it’s nice.”

King stymies Aggies

At the beginning of the season, Vanderbilt had a lot of options in the bullpen but few proven commodities. Freshman lefty Zach King has asserted himself as one of the Commodores’ most reliable options, and he played a key role in Vanderbilt’s ability to hold its lead on Friday. King turned in 2.1 innings of no-hit ball and racked up five strikeouts. His 1-2-3 sixth inning in which he struck out the side was one of the most impressive frames from a Commodore reliever this year. All three Aggie batters went down swinging, as King overpowered each of them. King’s seventh and eighth innings weren’t as easy, but he did enough to hold off A&M.

“I just stood behind the mound, got myself together,” King said of finishing off innings with men on base. “Throwing strikes [is the] main point, not splitting my mind for the guy on second base. I just made pitches.”

Hayes double duty

Junior college transfer Reed Hayes has become a fan favorite for his double-duty heroics this season, contributing both as a pitcher and batter. At the plate Friday, Hayes failed to get on base in going 0-for-4 batting second in the order. But Hayes came up big when head coach Tim Corbin called upon him to relieve King in the eighth. King had shown signs of losing his control after walking a pair of batters and hitting another, and the Aggies had pinch hitter Walker Pennington on second with one out. Hayes entered the game and promptly shut down A&M’s offense, striking out Hunter Coleman and coaxing George Janca into a flyout. Corbin let Hayes close the game out with Matt Ruppenthal still in the bullpen, and Hayes responded with an easy 1-2-3 inning to finish off the Aggies.

Frontloaded scoring

For as offense-heavy as the first two innings were, the rest of the game offered little in the way of baserunners and featured no runs. In fact, neither team produced even a single hit after the fifth inning. King, Hayes and Texas A&M reliever Kaylor Chafin coasted through the latter stages of the game, with the exception of King’s seventh inning jam after a walk and a hit batter. Vanderbilt freshman right fielder Harrison Ray chipped in the major highlight of the game’s latter stages, picking up a single through the right side to throw out Nick Choruby, who was advancing from first to second. The play required the kind of awareness and reaction time not seen often from true freshmen.

“That was very professional,” Kendall said of Ray’s throw. “That’s harder than you think, to come up and be throwing like that.”

category: Baseball, Sports

Jeren Kendall powers Commodores to victory against Texas A&M

The Commodores (15-8, 2-2) won just their second weekend opening series game by defeating No. 23 Texas A&M (15-8, 0-4) in their first SEC home game. A solid start by Kyle Wright, a strong bullpen and a grand slam by Jeren Kendall powered Vanderbilt to a 4-3 victory on Friday night.

Wright, who entered the game winless, finally earned his first of the season while allowing three runs over five innings. The Aggies got six hits off of Vanderbilt’s ace and drew four walks, as they struck early with three runs over the first two innings. However, Wright would allow just two hits over the next three innings, tallying six strikeouts during the game.

“For tonight, for us to scratch a few runs and get him a W for the first time this year is nice,” Jeren Kendall said.

Just before Wright settled down, Kendall gave him the much needed run support he was missing in his previous starts. A leadoff single by Stephen Scott against Aggie starter Brigham Hill and two later walks loaded the bases for Kendall in the second inning. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Kendall saw two more pitches in the at-bat, including one that he launched for a grand slam over the right field wall.

“It’s hard to say I was really sitting on anything,” Kendall said. “With two strikes, bases loaded, you’ve just got to try to make some defense, play some defense, just to put it in play and make an aggressive run at it.”

The Commodores are no strangers to allowing their opponents to score first, as the Aggies’ first inning run marked the twelfth game an opponent scored before Vanderbilt. However, Vanderbilt improved to 9-3 in such games, compared to just 6-5 when scoring first.

As Wright maintained the lead through five innings and 110 pitches, the bullpen kept it intact for the remainder of the game. Zach King dominated the sixth inning, striking out the side, before nearly running into some problems in the seventh.

Aggie shortstop Austin Homan lined a ball into right field after a leadoff walk that ultimately ended in a fielder’s choice. Nick Choruby hesitated on the base path in between first and second, allowing for Harrison Ray to throw him out from right field. King hit the next batter and struck out the following one, as the Aggies proceeded to double steal on the next at bat. Jason Delay airmailed the throw at second but was caught in the outfield before it could get away and allow the runner on third to head home. He struck out Joel Davis for the final out to keep the lead intact.

“Harrison Ray made an outstanding play right there,” King said. “I mean a lot of courage…to come off that burst and throw a dart to second base, but he managed to do that.”

After another leadoff walk in the eighth and then a sacrifice bunt, Tim Corbin called on Reed Hayes to finish the inning. He quickly got out of the inning then came back out for a perfect ninth, protecting the bullpen for the remaining games of the series. Hayes earned his team-leading fourth save of the season by striking out one without giving up a hit or walk, while serving as the team’s designated hitter.

While Vanderbilt finally produced enough runs for a Wright win, the team only managed four hits from three batters, including two from Kendall. Jason Delay and Stephen Scott each added singles, but the Commodores left the bases empty after the fifth inning. Neither team managed to get a hit after the sixth inning, as Kendall’s second inning grand slam ended up being the final scoring play of the game.

“We won by one run tonight and if Harrison doesn’t throw that guy out at second…it’s a whole different game,” Kendall said. “So one run is a big deal.”

Vanderbilt will send Patrick Raby to the mound to face Stephen Kolek at 12:30 p.m. CT.

category: Baseball, Featured, Sports

Q&A with musician Dustin Kensrue

The Vanderbilt Hustler: Several of your most popular songs on Spotify have over 3.5 million streams. What do you think of Spotify as a platform in general?

Dustin Kensrue: It sounds like an impressive number, but it doesn’t translate to any sort of monetary compensation worth noting. I think Spotify could eventually be something really helpful for artists, and it already is in certain ways – I’m appreciative of people who are trying to find ways to stream music that isn’t piracy. However, it’s fairly absurd how the views translate to dollars and cents. A lot of the money goes directly to the few major companies that own record labels that the artists never sees.

The larger issue, in a post-Napster world, is that music has been de-valued. People are happy to buy a cup of coffee, buy an app, but they have an idea that music should be free. Changing a mass generational understanding of something is difficult. I think the convenience and mobility of streaming isn’t going to go away, but I’m hopeful that more and more people actually start paying for subscriptions.

VH: Your first album, Please Come Home, came out in 2007 to immediate success, including promotions at several late-night talks shows. What was that experience like? Do you intend to continue to donate album proceeds to charity?

DK: We stopped donating proceeds from records to charity because it was kind of a nightmare. We still try to work with charities through benefit concerts and B-sides that go to charity. We feel fortunate to do what we get to do. Music is a platform to raise awareness about things, and we do a lot of work with Invisible Children.

I had a lot of ideas kicking around for album for awhile that I finally decided to do the night that I finished recording during the day with my other band.

VH: Your tour begins on 3/22 in Kentucky. How are you feeling about that?

DK: I’m looking forward to it, always fun to hang out with Andy. We did a little together about a year and a half ago. We have the same tour manager out with us, and we’ll be in a van instead of a bus. I’m also looking forward to Atlanta.

VH: What was your favorite tour memory?

DK: The one that comes to mind is when we were all super hungry in our hotel one night. I was determined to go get us food. I tried calling this Chinese food place, and they were supposed to be open, but they were closed. I found a McDonald’s that was also supposed to be open, and drove eight miles to find out it was closed. I finally found a drugstore and bought frozen White Castle slides, which we microwaved in the hotel room and ate at 4 a.m.

VH: Where do you see your career and life heading in the next few years?

DK: No idea. We have tours coming up, and we’re planning something for the fall. We’ll be writing this year and recording next year. We’ll probably release another record next year. I’m also working on a project with my brother, which will probably come out before my next solo record.

VH: Where do you draw most of your musical inspiration from?

DK: Really from all over. There’s a fair amount of allusion to biblical themes. I was raised in a church, and a lot of these images and stories are familiar to me and a lot of people. When you write a song, there isn’t a lot of space. If you can draw on something people have awareness of, you can start quicker and do something unique.

Beginning is the hardest part. You can’t sit around just waiting around for some magical thought to pop in your head. You have to work at it. As you improve your craft, you get better at finding the things that’s interest to you and fleshing them out.

VH: How would you describe your musical style?

DK: The solo stuff is generally Americana, indie, folk, rock. My first record has a lot more of a folky bluesy vibe.

VH: What is your advice to young musicians?

DK: Practice your craft and perform your craft. Get out there and play live. If you’re trying to do it as a career these days it’s hard to make money selling music, but people will always want to come to a good live show. It’s the one constant thing, and musicians starting off undervalue it. The more you play, the better you get. It also makes it easier to help you find where you want to go musically. You’re competing in a bigger pool than ever – everyone has some kind of project. The more you can distinguish yourself by being really good live, the better.

Dustin Kensrue will be performing tonight (March 23rd, 2017) at Mercy Lounge.

category: Arts & Culture, Music

Jami Cox and Ryan Connor elected as VSG president, vice president

At around 12:30 p.m., Vanderbilt Student Government announced that Jami Cox and Ryan Connor won the majority vote and will become the school’s next student body president and vice president, respectively. They garnered 62 percent of the student vote against their competitors, Will Braithwaite and Samuel Jenson, according to the announcement.

This story will be updated as The Hustler gets more information.

category: Campus, Featured

A Trip Out Of Nashville

It’s safe to say that two female acrobats dangling from the ceiling, large screens flashing melting religious iconography and a moshing crowd of Thursday-night partygoers is not the usual Nashville party. Nevertheless, this was the scene at Exit/In this past Thursday, and it was a prime example of the much-venerated institution’s latest electronic show thanks to TroyBoi and his Mantra Tour.

Hailing from South London, the artist known only as TroyBoi has been rising to Internet stardom through his use of experimental sampling and electronic production. As the first North American tour, the Mantra Tour has made stops all over the United States and Canada. Compared to the other venues on his tour calendar, the Exit/In is a relatively modest one. Yet with the small but growing popularity of electronic music in the Nashville scene, TroyBoi’s show provided an intimate glimpse of an artist heading quickly up the ranks.

The show brought in a buzzing crowd long before TroyBoi even made his appearance. The two openers, Nebbra and Medium Troy, set the tone with an array of upbeat tracks and an interactive crowd attitude. Nebbra in particular shined with his glistening remixes of popular hits and contagious energy. By the last song of the set, the room was already nearing mosh-pit status in anticipation.

After nearly two and a half hours of opening acts, the cheers of the crowd exploded as two women sauntered to the stage from a cloud of white light. Accompanied by ominous droning, whistles and emphatic applause, TroyBoi emerged at the center of the stage. In the audience, arms stacked with beads and glowstick bracelets waved wildly. As TroyBoi dropped into his first song, the entire room pulsed with energy.

The show itself was a sensory wonderland. The Mantra Tour draws heavily upon spiritual undertones and juxtaposed images of trippy deities with sitar-laden samples. As TroyBoi expertly mixed his way through popular tracks like “And Wot?” and “Wallz,” the crowd bounced, cheered, clapped and moshed.

Driven by trappy beats and heavy bass lines, the set temporarily transformed the room into another world, one where the audience was engulfed by the sights and sounds of TroyBoi’s musical performance.

The highlight of the experience was without a doubt the dancers. With their rapid-fire costume changes and acrobatic displays upon a hoop hanging from the ceiling, the women mesmerized the entire audience. 

The novelty of dancers on a stage as small as Exit/In’s only added to the ethereal and mystical elements of the set. As they spun the sheer gold fabric of their dresses in the final moments of the show, TroyBoi hypnotized the crowd with his tour’s namesake song, “Mantra.”

The Exit/In is known for its ability to put on a wild night that you truly can’t find anywhere else in a hundred-mile radius, and TroyBoi’s show was no exception. After the show’s end, TroyBoi thanked the audience profusely and reached out to high-five the first five rows that had since condensed into two. In all, the evening was an unforgettable trip to another planet far from the nearby streets of Nashville.

Photos by Kathy Yuan

Investigating 139 years of arboretum status on Vanderbilt’s campus

On almost any Vanderbilt tour, one will hear about Vanderbilt’s arboretum status and the variety of trees that beautify campus. This arboretum plug has become a selling point for prospective students and their families. Robert Waits, Landscape Architect of Vanderbilt’s Campus Planning and Construction Department, and Steve Baskauf, senior biological sciences lecturer, are both invested in Vanderbilt’s arboretum status and understand what such a title actually entails.

“It’s not like there’s this universal definition of what an arboretum is, really anybody who has some trees can tell people they’re an arboretum,” Baskauf said. “Vanderbilt has been doing this literally since the 1870s.”

Vanderbilt first declared arboreta status in 1878 as part of an educational mission to beautify campus. Since that year, the school has maintained its arboreta status under that same certificate. Every tree on Vanderbilt’s campus makes up the arboretum. Officially, there are different kinds of arboreta statuses that organizations and campuses might obtain. In 1988, Vanderbilt became certified through the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta (AABGA), which is now known as the American Public Garden Association (APGA).

Beyond the American Public Gardens Association, other organizations certify arboreta and provide classification levels for status. Notably, the Morton Register for Arboreta categorizes arboreta into four levels, the fourth level being an official research arboretum. While Vanderbilt is not officially accredited through this register, Baskauf and Waits both estimate that Vanderbilt is a level II arboretum, meaning Vanderbilt has over 100 species of trees that are labeled and a part of different educational programs. Baskauf currently leads such programs on campus, conducting tree tours periodically throughout the year. Vanderbilt is currently applying for official level II arboretum certification through the Morton Register for Arboreta, or ArbNet. In order to progress to level IV, campus initiatives would have to include official research labs working on Vanderbilt’s trees and using the arboretum as an academic resource.

Today, Vanderbilt’s office of Campus Planning and Construction is involved in almost everything that impacts campus grounds, including the trees. Waits plans tree-planting initiatives that bring 150 to 200 new trees to campus every year. He is working closely with students and administration on the FutureVU Land Use Plan in order to expand Vanderbilt’s campus landscape. Waits says that the office plans on pursuing student initiatives to bring more native plants onto campus.

With regard to Vanderbilt’s arboreta status, Waits believes that the Vanderbilt campus has the capacity to grow. Harvard’s level four certified arboretum, for example, serves as a separate official research lab for students.

“We aren’t a research university when it comes to trees, so that’s kind of where the line gets split when it comes to other universities like Harvard… We do bring in a variety of trees and shrubs that work in our zone and display those to the students. We’d have to get some research backing in order to get to the next levels, and that’s kind of academically driven. That’s not something we drive, but I’d love to see it.”

Harvard’s level four certified arboretum serves as a separate official research lab for students.

Two endowments currently fund portions of Vanderbilt’s arboretum. The Mafis Smith Tree Endowment is used to bring new trees to campus, and the Tree Labeling Endowment contributes to the tree labels seen on many trees around campus. Aside from new plantings and labelings, a grounds crew maintains all of the landscaped areas on campus. Each individual within the crew covers fourteen acres of land.

“Vanderbilt has awesome trees on campus because, for 140 years, people have made the effort to plant and maintain them,” Baskauf said.

Waits has plans to further this maintenance and expand Vanderbilt’s tree landscape. Waits is hoping to extend the aesthetic of old campus’s landscape architecture to areas like West Side Row, the Medical Center and Highland Quad in order to create a more consistent outdoor appearance on campus.

category: Campus, Featured

Hustler Classic Reviews: “The Godfather”

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) depicts the bloody power struggles within the Italian mafia in 1940s New York. When the revered yet aging Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is gunned down, his youngest son Michael (Al Pacino) comes to reluctantly take his father’s place as the ‘godfather,’ that is, the head of the powerful gang. Like any good classic film, The Godfather has lodged itself in the backdrop of my memory, but not so much for its plot or its phenomenal acting, but for the shadowy lighting, the suits, the unexpected bursts of blood—all of which exude an air of dark glamor. However, there’s more to the film than a gloss of sophistication; otherwise, it wouldn’t have become the iconic work that it is today. Indeed, the film triumphs by virtue of its powerful subtleties; each scene contains minute details that, like the interweaved strands of a fabric, invisibly contribute to the pleasing whole.

Before teasing out the individual strands, one must get an idea of the fabric in its entirety. One of the main tropes of The Godfather is Michael Corleone’s development from a pure, low-key Dartmouth student just released from the Marines, to a ruthless Don. However, rather than being transformed by external factors, Michael appears to have had the brutality and cunning in him all along, albeit in a dormant side of himself. As the movie progresses, this latent side slowly amplifies and unfurls, until he becomes hardly recognizable.

                                        Source: Alfan Productions and Paramount Pictures

Now for the strands. The Godfather is brilliant in part because it manages to encapsulate Michael’s entire transformation in a two-minute scene. Early on the film, Clemenza (Richard Castellano), a member of Vito’s gang, gives Michael a gun for his first murder. The scene opens with a zoomed-in shot of the gun. “Cold as they come.” The seconds in which Michael adjusts his fingers on the gun, as if feeling out the stony weapon, feel slow and oddly tense. “What’s the matter, the trigger too tight?” Suddenly, an earsplitting gunshot cuts through the air. Any doubts during the tense, uncertain seconds before the shot are forgotten. Michael raises his eyebrows but is otherwise unfazed. In fact, he lifts the gun to shoot again, but Clemenza says quickly, “All right, you shot ‘em both. Now what do you do?” Michael glances at him before responding calmly, “Sit down, finish my dinner.”

The scene’s subtleties encapsulate one entire plotline of the film. Indeed, its small actions and implications are Michael’s transformation in a nutshell. But there is yet another intriguing detail. In the scenes background, there is a black-and-white print of a Catholic saint taped to the wall. During the first half of the scene, the saint is fully visible, and feels like a watchful, silent judge to the men’s actions. During the second half, however, after the camera angle shifts and Michael moves, the print becomes partially concealed by Michael’s head, almost as if Michael has merged with the saint.

                                                             Source: The Art of a Film 

This saint subtly foreshadows the baptism scene, one of the most famous and timeless scenes of the film. In it, Michael stands as godfather during the baptism of his sister’s baby son. Simultaneously, the gang members, who now work under Michael, kill six powerful men in other parts of the country. The scene is clearly ironic in that, under Michael’s orders, the men spill blood just as he vows to renounce Satan and his works. However, there is another, subtler irony. The priest’s hands, which handle the baby, frequently cut to the murderers’ hands, which handle pistols. This parallel underscores Michael’s double role as the godfather. He is the intimate second father to the children of his family, the revered mentor and benefactor of countless men. However, he is also the leader of a bloody gang, a dangerous figure who spills blood without remorse. And as the baptism (as well as the saint print) implies, Michael is a subverted reflection of God himself: a god-father. He himself never commits murder, simply commands it. He sees all, understands all, and coordinates his men accordingly. In fact, the murders during the baptism are an act of vengeance, so the deaths are, in a corrupt sense, justice served. At the same time, one can’t help but consider—as the hymns blast, the baby cries, Michael’s dissipated eyes pierce somewhere beyond the camera—how far he’s come; he has unknowingly embarked on a path which he can now never retrace.

                                                                Source: Meedosite

category: Arts & Culture, Hustler

Administration decides Warren and Moore swiping system will not change

In December, students approached Vanderbilt’s Project Safe with a complaint about the security swiping system in Warren and Moore College. Non-residential visitors could not exit the building without residential card access. Non-residents can ride the elevator down to the first floor, but they cannot exit through the main exit.

“The concern was that if someone had had an uncomfortable or non-consensual encounter and wanted to quickly exit the residence hall for safety that they may be deterred,” said Cara Tuttle Bell, the director of Project Safe.

Moore College’s entrance is on its first floor, which is a residential floor, and the elevators are inside that security perimeter. Non-residents, therefore, can only exit on the non-residential floor at the garage level, where an emergency exit is located. Project Safe presented this problem to Vanderbilt Residential Education, and after evaluating the complaint, the office has decided not to change the swiping system in Moore College.

“The leadership of the Office of Housing and Residential Education have discussed this situation and agree that there is no need to change access privileges for non-residents,” Jim Kramka, the director of housing operations, said. “Visitors who are frustrated at not being able to take the elevators or stairs to the first floor should have their host escort them to the first floor, in compliance with the policies of the Student Handbook.”

This case is a double-sided safety issue because providing residential floor access to non-residents poses a possible threat to the security of that floor.

“Safety and security in our residence halls if one of our foremost concerns,” Kamka said. “If students are not safe in their homes, we are not doing our jobs. To secure our residence halls from unauthorized entry from ill-intentioned strangers, faculty, staff, and students, Vanderbilt has committed itself to building access controls the restrict entry to buildings and to floors on which residents live. The card access system allows the housing office to permit access only to individuals authorized by the university have access privileges.”

category: Campus, Featured

Hustler Reviews: Spoon returns with “Hot Thoughts”

Since 1996, Austin rock band Spoon have experimented with their sound across eight unique LPs. While they don’t reinvent the wheel every time, they really aren’t trying to; listening to a new Spoon album is always a safe bet. There’ll be funky grooves, catchy basslines, and progressively more adventures into electronic instruments. On March 17th, Spoon released Hot Thoughts, their ninth LP.

Hot Thoughts expands on the electronic funk-flavored beats of They Want My Soul, their last record released in 2014. This time around, Spoon decided to play with their sound palette a little more, channelling classic New Wave bands like Depeche Mode.

The album kicks off with the title track, and it sets the tone for the entire record. Grimy guitar riffs glide over a fast, funky beat as vocalist Brett Daniel sporadically sings in the upper register. The band then shows their Depeche Mode influence most conspicuously on “WhisperI’lllistentohearit,” which sounds like it could have easily fit on Depeche Mode’s seminal 1990 album Violator.

“Do I Have to Talk You Into It” is a classic Spoon jam, with heavy crashing symbols that recall Kill the Moonlight, Spoon’s glorious 2002 breakout album. The next track, “First Caress,” is possibly the most forgettable song on the album, but thankfully it is followed up by the centerpiece of the record, “Pink Up.” This hypnotic song features wonderfully mesmerizing marimbas, making for a standout number in Spoon’s increasingly vast catalogue.

“Can I Sit Next to You” comes next, which served as the album’s biggest single. This track brings to mind “I Turn My Camera On,” the 2005 Gimme Fiction track and one of Spoon’s most popular songs. The infectiously catchy rhythm, which support the song’s seductive lyrics, makes “Can I Sit Next You” one of the more memorable tunes in the tracklist.

Hot Thoughts is not revolutionary, and it is certainly not perfect. The album sputters out towards the end with “Shotgun,” and particularly with the final track “Us,” which is a bizarre five minute venture into ambient noise. While somewhat interesting, these last few songs rupture the cohesive nature of the rest of the LP. Nevertheless, Spoon continues to showcase unparalleled consistency with the latest in a streak of at least solid albums. It won’t blow your mind, but Hot Thoughts can give you your indie rock fix in a world where hip-hop reigns supreme.

Key Tracks: “Hot Thoughts”, “Pink Up”, “Can I Sit Next to You”

category: Arts & Culture

AZZARITO: Eating disorder recovery: a working relationship with food

Unfortunately, not everyone sees food as something yummy that gives them energy. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women and 10 million men in America will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. For most, they begin during adolescence when the pressure to look thin, small and perfect starts to kick in. For women especially, those chosen to walk down runways, smile on magazine covers, star in popular movies and perform on stages around the world usually share one common body type. Girls are taught from a young age, whether it’s conscious or not, that being skinny is necessary to make it to one of those places and become successful. Many will find that restricting what they eat and depriving themselves of what their bodies need is a viable way to get there.

I got a little nervous the other day when one of my close friends who’s been recently diagnosed with an eating disorder asked me how long it took for me to recover from mine. I really wanted to tell her that I could remember the exact day, the time and place when food finally became something I could enjoy instead of something I used to torture myself with. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that without lying to her. I wanted to tell her how I was able to stop memorizing exactly what I ate in a day, and how I no longer need to list the foods that I put into my body over and over again in my head until the moment when I fall asleep. I wanted her to know how great it felt when I was finally able to stop hiding from every mirror I’d walk past and explain that I no longer want to curl up in a ball and cry on the mornings when I try on that one pair of jeans in my closet and realize that they’re still a little too small to fit my legs. I really wanted to give her this story of how I struggled with something, worked really hard and resolved it. But I couldn’t do that without lying to her.

I guess I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that I was having to give advice on how to solve a problem I hadn’t really solved yet myself. Only recently have I figured out that sitting down and enjoying your food doesn’t have to require obsession, guilt and self-hatred. A few weeks ago, I sat down on my bed one night with a package of Oreos and decided I would eat just as many as I wanted and then stop, imitating how I thought normal people probably ate foods they enjoy. So, I peeled back the lid and I ate one. I chewed through it and then waiting a few seconds, I peeled back the lid and I had another. And when I went in for a third, I started to hate the sound of me peeling back that lid. I started to get self-conscious that my roommate would hear me and think, “Man, she’s peeled that lid back quite a few times. She’s eating a lot of Oreos.” I hated that I was worried that my roommate would think that and think that it was such a bad thing to eat some Oreos. I pushed past that thought and I kept reaching in, taking another and chewing it and hating that I just kept reaching back in and eating another and another. Finally, I got to the end of the package and felt pretty disgusted with myself. Moreso disgusted with the fact that I was so concerned about what someone else would think of my eating habits than the fact that I was letting myself, or attempting to let myself, enjoy something that I liked.

Nonetheless, I felt so sick with myself and upset by what I’d just done, that I got out of bed, I put on my gym clothes, and when I started lacing up my sneakers, my roommate turned to me and asked where I was going so late at night, right around when I usually go to bed. I told her I was going to the gym. She thought that was strange, but she told me to go have fun. I got there feeling so sick, in my stomach and in my head, but I pulled myself onto the treadmill and I forced myself to work up a sweat only because I knew that working out was supposed to always make you feel great afterwards. You’re supposed to feel accomplished, healthy, and your endorphins are supposed to run all over and make you feel just great. That was the very first workout I ever did where I felt horrible afterwards. I remember looking in the mirror and hating the fact that I felt I needed to work out to try and cancel out the “bad” thing I’d just done. I hated that I couldn’t just be a normal person who could eat a ton of junk food, laugh it off, and go to bed.

What almost bothers me more is that I’m now twenty years old and only now learning how to enjoy food. More importantly, I’m only now learning that you’re supposed to be aware of how you feel, how to manage how you feel and take care of your brain. By now, I know how to play an instrument, I know how to drive a car, I know how to make an omelette and take a derivative, but learning how to take care of my brain and my body is something completely new to me. Maybe I just missed that day in kindergarten when they taught us how to do all that. How to love food, how to not hate yourself for enjoying something, how to not hate the way you look and blame yourself every day and how to appreciate all the good progress you have made, instead of being blinded by all the progress you’ve yet to make. But who knows.

I think the fact that I still haven’t really resolved my relationship with food isn’t a comment on my weakness or how lazy I’ve been by not putting the work into figuring out my problem, avoiding it, or just living with how shitty I know it is. I think it’s more telling of the fact that I’ve got a bigger lesson to learn here than just learning how to eat. I think the world wants me to learn why I’m supposed to take care of myself. Why appreciating the body I have and the food that’s available to me and the way that I look and the amazing things my body is capable of. There are some bigger lessons in there that I’ve yet to figure out. So I’m going to enjoy how long this process is going to be. This process of figuring out how strong I am. I’m going to take my concept of progress, this long-haul of hopelessly waiting for the day when I wake up, look in the mirror, love what I see, and can feed myself without freaking out or obsessing over what the food might do to my body, and I’m going to turn it into something a little smaller. Progress for me now is just going to be making moments every single day where I can do whatever I need to do to make myself feel good. And that’s it. If over time, finding more ways to make those moments becomes easier and I’m able to make more of them, then that’s great. But for right now, I’m going to figure out how to enjoy the fact that this lesson the world is trying to teach me isn’t as easy as I thought.

The next time someone asks me how long it’s taken to get over my eating disorder, I’m going to tell them that that’s the wrong question to be asking. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get over anything, it matters that you’re even trying. What matters is that you want to fix your situation, you want to learn how to love yourself, and you want to learn how to enjoy the time you have on Earth. Don’t worry about how long it might take you, and don’t worry how long it took someone else. We’re all going to get there, slowly but surely. And we might as well enjoy it along the way.

I wish eating disorders were easier to see. I wish restrictive eating could be solved by simply asking your skinny friend to eat more. With how prevalent eating disorders are, it’s very likely that one of your friends is dealing with anorexia, binge-eating, or bulimia right now. Luckily, you know your friends better than anyone, and if you notice them struggling around food, avoiding dinner plans, or talking negatively about their appearance, let them know exactly why they should take care of themselves. Tell them what you see in them that’s so incredible until they start to see it themselves. When they realize how incredible they are, they’ll want to care for their incredible mind and body. Go the extra mile and show them how much you appreciate and take care of yourself and they’ll imitate what they see. The next time you look in the mirror, talk about what you love to see, and you’ll inspire someone else to do the same.

Emily Azzarito is a sophomore is the Blair School of Music. She can be reached at

category: Opinion

ARCHIVES: How to paint a cooler like a pro

The first weekend of fraternity formals is approaching, and the rush to Target, Michaels and Walmart for cooler supplies is underway. Even if you are not the next Picasso, here are some tips and tricks to get your cooler started.

Getting started:

Sand your cooler for a smoother surface to paint on. Use heavy grit sandpaper to get the finish off. Follow with fine grit sandpaper to smooth the surface. Prime your cooler before applying paint. Krylon Fusion is recommended.  If you do not want a surface of the cooler primed, use blue painter’s tape or plastic wrap to section that part off. If the primer does not bond, wash your cooler with dish soap and warm water to get any dust off.

Time to paint:

Use acrylic paint. If you want to save money, purchase white and black paint to mix with other colors to create lighter and darker shades. Glitter paint can add a fun, unique touch. Paint pens will be your best friend. Use Sharpie oil-based pens for small details. Attach a liquid glue bottle cap on a bottle of acrylic paint to paint small details. Paint outside. Take some friends and head to Centennial Park one afternoon.

Right before you hit the beach:

Remember to seal your cooler before you finish. Mod Podge is recommended. You can use spray or paint-on sealer. Minwax is another alternative. Apply a few coats of sealer and give the cooler at least 24 hours to seal.

Tips and tricks:

Trace your designs on tissue paper first. Place the tissue paper on the cooler and outline with a Sharpie. If you accidentally mis-mark your cooler with Sharpie, nail polish remover will get the mark off the surface. Look at for fun fonts for your writing. Use blue painter’s tape to create exact lines. For unique borders, use ribbon and Mod Podge. Fill in the cooler’s grooves with spackle or clear nail polish. If you are lacking ideas, join the Cooler Connection, a nationwide Facebook group. The group posts thousands of pictures and sayings for ideas. Pinterest also has boards dedicated to painting.

Good luck and happy cooler season.

This article originally appeared on on March 28, 2013.

category: Arts & Culture

Five on five: Looking back on Vanderbilt’s season

The 2016-17 season was a strange one for Vanderbilt.

In his first year as head coach, Bryce Drew led the Commodores to their second straight NCAA tournament appearance. Vanderbilt even managed to earn a better seed than a year ago, despite its 8-10 start to the regular season.

What were the most significant aspects of the season? Where does Vanderbilt go from here? Our staff writers go five on five.

1. How will you remember this season? Was it a success?

Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor: I’ll remember this season for the Commodores’ shocking turnaround, the great basketball they played at the end and possible how the year turned into a springboard for continued success under Drew. Vanderbilt had some excellent wins in the second half of the year, even though the players could have mailed in the season back in January. Instead, they came together and produced one of the most remarkable runs in program history. That’s certainly something the more talented 2015-16 team can’t say.

Cutler Klein, Assistant Sports Editor: This season was most definitely a success. Nobody had any expectations for this team going into the season, and once it got its confidence and developed some chemistry, it looked strong. Going to the NCAA tournament was icing on the cake. At that point, they were playing with house money. An NIT bid would have been a success for this team. Drew deserves a lot of credit for getting these Kevin Stallings recruits to buy in.

Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief: I’m going to remember this season as a success, as should any Commodore basketball fan. This team was exciting, but undermanned; talented, but streaky. As a fan base, we were frustrated by the early season struggles, including losses to Bucknell and Alabama. But Luke Kornet inspired us, battling back from an injury to lead this team. Nolan Cressler emerged as a key component after disappointment last year. Drew pieced together a team that lost its two best players to the NBA draft in under a year. He led this team further than last year’s team and became a positive face to the players and fans.

Steve Sherk, sports reporter: This was a weird season, all things considered. I entered the season excited about the Drew era and had optimistic expectations for the team’s success. Early season struggles caused me to shed these optimistic expectations, as the team started a mediocre 11-12. At this point I had written off their chances of making the NCAA tournament and didn’t even expect them to reach the NIT either. Admittedly, I sort of stopped paying attention to the Commodores’ season.

Which is why when I learned that Vandy had crept its way back onto the bubble after reeling off a win streak, I was both surprised and confused. What had happened to the team that could barely stay above .500? I didn’t care, because Coach Drew’s squad was playing some of the better basketball in the country. Looking back, I’m happy with how this roller coaster of a year turned out and would definitely consider it a success.

Max Schneider, sports reporter: Drew pulled a rabbit out of a hat and turned a season that looked like a step down from last year into a success. With a head coach and the team’s top two players out the door, this team figured to struggle. Midway through this season, a tournament appearance felt impossible, but this season will be remembered as the year that the Commodores defeated Florida three times to make the tournament in a year that ultimately has to be categorized as a success. Drew looks to have resurrected the program, and he looks poised to carry this success into future years.

2. What moment from the season most stands out to you?

Weinstein: There are a lot of moments to choose from this year. I’ll pick Jeff Roberson’s tomahawk slam that served as the cherry on top of the Commodores’ dominating overtime performance against Florida in the SEC tournament quarterfinals. Sitting about 30 feet away on press row, I felt it was a highly impressive display of athleticism that functioned as a microcosm of Vanderbilt’s play during February and March. The ‘Dores didn’t just barely do enough to sneak into the tournament in controversial manner, they kicked down the door and barged their way in.

Klein: The moment that stands out to me was the first win at Florida. First, it was a big win on a big stage against a very tough, ranked opponent. Not only did they win this game against a ranked opponent, they also did it on the road after a long, sluggish stretch for them. That win really turned their season around, despite some bumps in the road. The biggest thing about that game is that Vanderbilt did not play perfect basketball. It did not have a stellar game, and yet it still won. When you can beat a ranked opponent like that and not be at your best, that’s the mark of a good team.

Hamburger: When Vanderbilt faced Tennessee at home early in SEC play, the Commodores needed a win. They knew the game would be tough and ultimately lost by double digits. I watched as this team couldn’t take a lead after midway through the first half, watching the Volunteers continue to pull away. I saw clear anger and disappointment from the team, as Matthew Fisher-Davis earned an unnecessary technical foul. The Commodores actually shot and rebounded well in that game, but so did Tennessee. It was one of those games that was a tough break, but it was a game that seemed like the team needed to win.

Vanderbilt didn’t come out and win the next game. Drew responded though, taking Fisher-Davis out of the lineup and redefining his role on the team soon after. He replaced him with Joe Toye, who at times flashed dominance. It was a difficult decision to take out the leading scorer from starting, but it sent a message about what he expects and his willingness to make a bold change. It ultimately seems to have worked out well, and it shows a lot about Drew’s ability to make adjustments.

Sherk: The third and final win over Florida stands out the most to me. Not only did this game feel like it had the most at stake, but this overtime battle was also one of the most entertaining games to watch. It was at this moment that it really felt like Vanderbilt was going to reach the tournament, despite having such a slow start to the year. Going into the game, there were some who thought that even if Florida won, Vandy probably did enough to make the tournament. I didn’t buy into this, however, and felt like the game was almost a play-in-game for the Big Dance.

It’s so hard to beat a conference foe three times in a single season, especially one with superior talent, but it’s exactly what the ‘Dores did. It’s somewhat of a mystery how the ‘Dores were so successful against the Gators this year. Maybe Drew has a magical spell over Florida head coach Mike White, who Drew also defeated in his playing days with his famous shot in the NCAA tournament. Or maybe Kornet simply has a strong distaste for alligators. Whatever it was, it got Vanderbilt’s named called on Selection Sunday, which is always a great feeling.

Schneider: Unfortunately, as much as this team amazed late in the year, the moment that stands out lied in the last 20 seconds of the opening round game against Northwestern.  Fisher-Davis’ bonehead foul will go down in Vanderbilt lore as a major gaffe. While he will get most of the heat, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Vandy had the ball left with 14 seconds and a chance to win the game. That possession resulted in a low-percentage deep three from Riley LaChance that caromed off the rim and cemented the loss for the ‘Dores.  This team showed great resiliency all year, but the execution in the last 20 seconds of that game won’t soon be forgotten.

3. Based on what we’ve seen so far, what do you make of Drew’s future and Vanderbilt’s decision to hire him?

Weinstein: Vanderbilt has upgraded at head coach, there’s no other way to put it. While I don’t know enough to say whether Drew is as good of a tactician as Stallings is (as Stallings occasionally reminded media members, I’m not a coach!), the players clearly like Drew more and connect with him better. Just because Drew refuses to throw his players under the bus during interviews doesn’t mean he has no other ways to motivate them. Vanderbilt’s game plans down the stretch seemed consistently good, and Drew showed great flexibility by changing the offense mid-season to accommodate his players. On top of all that, he’s got what looks like a strong recruiting class coming in for next year. Drew’s a keeper.

Klein: I think Vanderbilt made the best decision it’s ever made in hiring Drew. He is very straightforward, doesn’t try to tiptoe around anything and instills a winning culture in his players. In many ways, he is the opposite of Stallings. Stallings was fiery, dodgy and downright arrogant and mean, while Drew is very calm, collected and straightforward. Put it this way: Drew will never threaten a player or need anger management. As Drew brings in his own recruits, this program will reach new heights.

Hamburger: Simply put, Vanderbilt couldn’t have done better with this hire. I don’t think anybody better embodies what it means to be a coach and role model for his players and a positive image to the community. When we participated in our first edition of this article on January 9, none of us believed that getting to the NCAA tournament would be the goal of success. We hoped for a .500 record in the SEC and a trip to the NIT. Well, Drew brought us more than that. Considering the struggles of this team early on, it’s incredible how much he helped turned this season around. He’s humble and a great listener, and I believe he is destined for great success at Vanderbilt.

Sherk: I was really excited about the Drew hire when it was announced. His track strong track record at Valparaiso seemed to speak volumes about the head coaching talent he possessed. This year he seemed to live up to these expectations, as he became the first coach in Vanderbilt’s history to lead the team to an NCAA tournament appearance in his first season as head coach.

All the analysts on TV offer tremendous praise to Drew and seem to unanimously agree that Vandy is heading in the right direction.  While that’s all well and good, there are a couple of things that make me feel less optimistic than others seem to be. First, I didn’t like the brand of basketball that Vanderbilt played on offense. Defensively, they were sound, but the reliance of the three-point shot on offense made for inconsistent scoring at times. Vanderbilt shot the seventh-most three-pointers of all Division I teams (921) and did so while shooting the 61st-highest percentage (37.6). Secondly, recruiting has not gotten of to a fast start — Vanderbilt’s 2017 class ranked 8th best in the SEC. I would hope that Vanderbilt could bring in better players than the likes of Mississippi State and Auburn. Regardless, I think Drew has a good future ahead of him — but I am not completely sold just yet.

Schneider: Director of Athletics David Williams is probably sitting back in his office smiling at what a great hire he made. Coming into this season, Drew already looked like one of the hot young coaches in the college game. He showed why this season, as he was extremely patient with a team that was searching for its identity for most of the year. Drew didn’t shy away from the challenge, often making tough decisions, such as sitting Fisher-Davis and giving the team’s top scorer a new role. The future looks safe in his hands, as he figures to grow with this team and cement himself as a solid SEC coach for years to come.

4. With only 11 scholarship players for next year, Vanderbilt will be active in the transfer market. What need would you most like to see Drew address?

Weinstein: The ‘Dores need another big man. I feel confident in Clevon Brown’s ability to play big minutes next year as a sophomore, but who knows what Drew will get out of Djery Baptiste and incoming freshman Ejike Obinna. Vanderbilt should try its hardest to land a true center on the graduate transfer market so Drew will have immediate help for next year. Drew can sell immediate playing time, a starting spot and a strong chance to play in the NCAA tournament, so the ‘Dores should be in the running for the top immediately-eligible big men.

Klein: Drew needs to find himself a big man. While Vanderbilt’s bread and butter is the three-ball, it has had the luxury of having at least one seven-footer on its roster for the last few seasons. It will miss having a Jones, Henderson or Kornet on the roster. I’m not saying they need to go out and find another seven-footer, but they need to find a better big man than Baptiste. His play this season has not instilled much confidence. Brown showed flashes of what he can do, but he is very unpolished and not ready to be the No. 1 guy yet.

Hamburger: I don’t really foresee any needs through the transfer market, but point guard and center have to be on Drew’s mind. Larry Austin Jr., a transfer from Xavier, should see a solid amount of playing time next season, given how Vanderbilt lacked a true starting point guard. Payton Willis will also factor into this mix, along with 4-star recruit Saben Lee. I do have to say, though, that I really miss having Damian Jones, Kornet and Josh Henderson together on one team to have a height advantage. If Drew can bring in some more height to this team, it certainly would help. That way, there’s not this complete reliance on one player so often to cover inside the paint.

Sherk: The biggest player Vanderbilt will miss next year is also Vanderbilt’s biggest player — 7’1″ senior center Kornet. Backup Baptiste showed improvement throughout the season, but his lack of basketball experience makes him hard to rely on as the main guy down low. For that reason, it makes sense for Vanderbilt to try and find someone who can help fill that role. Its incoming recruiting class features the 6’9″ Obinna, who is a 3-star center from Virginia, and hopefully he can provide some meaningful minutes next year.

The starters at all the other positions return next year, so I think the Commodores are pretty well setup outside of center. The problem with transfer players is the requirement to sit out a full season before they can begin playing for their new team (unless they are a graduate transfer). If they can’t get any graduate transfers, it still makes sense to go out and look for other players, because they could use the added depth two years from now after LaChance, Roberson and Fisher-Davis leave.

Schneider: Size. Lots of it. Vanderbilt is a team that lives and dies by the three, and countless possessions end with one shot and everybody running back on defense. If this team could attack the offensive glass, it would create more second-chance points and open shots for this group of snipers. Aggressive bigs are often on the open market, and if the Commodores could get one or two guys that could pose a threat inside, it would work wonders on both sides of the floor.

5. What are your early expectations for next year?

Weinstein: Kornet may have been underrated this year for his floor spacing, defense and leadership, three important aspects of basketball that don’t show up as tangible stats. Similarly, the Commodores will miss Nolan Cressler’s shooting and locker room presence. It’ll be extremely difficult to replace Kornet, but Vanderbilt’s improved point guard play and depth should help mitigate his departure. Lee (and Maxwell Evans, probably to a lesser extent) will bring the type of dynamic ball handling and explosion off the dribble Vanderbilt didn’t have this year.

If the Commodores’ rising sophomores each take significant steps forward, Austin Jr. adds 20-ish minutes per game of consistent production and everyone else incrementally improves, Vanderbilt should be back in the tournament. If the ‘Dores can do all that and add an established center via transfer, they should be even better next year. If two or fewer of those developments come to fruition, Vanderbilt might be headed to the NIT as a one-year step backward.

Klein: I think this team could be an NCAA tournament team, but, overall, it needs to find a way to replace Kornet’s production on the blocks and to hit more medium-range jumpers. They cannot rely on the three-ball to carry them through. If they can find a new big man, or if Baptiste gets it together, they should improve on this season.

Hamburger: If Drew could lead this team to the NCAA Tournament, why should I expect any different from him next year? Replacing Kornet will be the most difficult task ahead and is the primary reason I’m hesitant to predict an improvement over this season’s success. We just didn’t see enough from Baptiste to feel comfortable with him contributing over 30 minutes per game like Luke did. Obinna will likely see significant playing time. The team will continue to shoot the three-ball well, but it is just so difficult to know what kind of inside presence we’ll see.

Sherk: Next year’s expectations aren’t far from the ones I had going into this year. I think we should expect to be competitive in conference play and hopefully do enough throughout the season to be on the right side of the bubble when Selection Sunday rolls around again. As mentioned before, the biggest question mark heading into next year is how will Kornet’s absence be filled. LaChance, Roberson and Fisher-Davis will all be experienced seniors. Toye and Willis should have enough experience under their belts by then to tap into some raw potential.

The most important player this summer might be Baptiste. If he can fine tune his fundamentals and become an impact player on both sides of the ball, then Vanderbilt is looking at a potential for decent success. Baptiste by no means has to become the versatile player that Kornet was, but if he can at least become a reliable rim protector and an occasional offensive weapon than that should be enough. Vanderbilt is not heading for an SEC title or a Final Four appearance, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect it to be dancing in March for a third year in a row.

Schneider: Cressler and Kornet are gone, but the rest of this team returns along with Drew’s first recruiting class, and it’s a solid one at that. Vanderbilt won’t likely struggle out of the gates like it did this season, and players like Toye and Willis figure to improve dramatically. This team possesses the veteran leadership that it needs from its seniors, and all signs point to another tournament appearance if the Commodores can sort out their big man problems. Things are looking up for Drew and the program.

A conversation with STRANDS, the group promoting “black girl magic”

Visibility, intersectionality and self-care are some of the terms that circulated around the table when the executive board of Students Transitioning, Relaxed, and Natural Developing Sisterhood (STRANDS) met with the Hustler.

STRANDS was founded in 2014 by Adrianna Swift, Jordan McNary and Sierra Davis, who initially wanted to promote healthy haircare for black women, but has since branched out to support other needs of black women on Vanderbilt’s campus, according to co-presidents Kyla Stevens and Jaila Johnson.

The club’s community service, mental health, health and beauty and physical health committees also contribute to larger scale conversations that STRANDS is looking to promote. Each committee’s members plan the events and programs that relate to their focus. Mentorship and service activities, for example, are handled by the community service committee.

Vanderbilt never had a place for intersectionality on this campus.

The health and beauty committee has taken on the initial role of the club and STRANDS still holds hair-specific events, such as “Hair care for a hectic week,” an event held during finals week to provide girls with a variety of quick hairstyles and healthy hair tips for different hair types. The club also receives questions about hair tips from students.

The club focuses on the experiences that black women have and issues that they face. Through their programming, mentorship and community-building efforts, they are working to diminish the prevalent monolithic view of black women while celebrating and affirming the unique women on Vanderbilt’s campus.


“Yes, Black people have a space on this campus, but black women never necessarily did,“ Stevens said. “Vanderbilt never had a place for intersectionality on this campus.”

Black women have always been asked to choose, particularly by our feminist allies.

According to the members of STRANDS, one of the biggest challenges of black womanhood is that black women are often expected to focus on their identities separately, effectively putting some aspect of their identity on hold to further other people’s causes.

“We shouldn’t be forced to hierarchize our identities,” said Johnson.

Nicole Malveaux, the club’s advisor, explained how intersectionality, the intersection of personal identities and thus forms of oppression, is not well understood or acknowledged, which is especially burdensome in instances where people have expectations of others due to only one of their social identities.

“Black women have always been asked to choose, particularly by our feminist allies,” Malveaux said. “They don’t understand the complexities of intersectionality–that as a black woman you can’t separate the two. You’re telling me to choose my gender identity over my racial identity to further your cause, but are you going to further my cause?”

The women on the executive board were then asked about the ways in which they internalize the burdens that they themselves take on and how they feel about the parts of their identity that they are asked to overlook.

Because people didn’t see me.

“What is the image when you think of mental wellness and mental health that pops up in your mind?” Malveaux asked. “What has been communicated to black women about this whole idea of self care? Is that communicated across color lines of gender? And who is complicit in all this? We constantly circle the wagon, but who does this for black women?”

Once Malveaux asked these questions, the room took on a somber tone as the women took a moment to reflect on the questions laid out before them.

Why is STRANDS necessary on this campus?

“Because people didn’t see me,” said sophomore Amber Payne.

Malveaux echoed Payne’s sentiment.

“Too many times, just in the context of everyday life on Vanderbilt’s campus, are black people walked past and not seen,” said Malveaux. “We’re interchangeable.”

The members explained that on a larger scale, leadership roles in black organizations are many times overlooked, in part because the community that they cater to is smaller, but also because they are generally seen as “less important,” according to Johnson.

STRANDS is working on a new program called “inVISIBLE” to showcase and affirm black women and also to draw more attention to their presence at Vanderbilt. During the event, STRANDS split up those present into small groups and invited them to develop ideas that promote black women on Vanderbilt’s campus.

A lot of times it’s easy to forget about Black joy.

A conversation about “unadulterated black girlhood” was one of the goals that senior Akaninyene Ruffin had in mind when she also spoke with the women of STRANDS during the meeting.

The women of STRANDS explained that they are working to give black girls the avenue to be carefree and really enjoy themselves without having the burden of trying to educate constantly, whether about their identity or the struggles they face.

“They expect you to teach them about your struggle but they don’t want to go out there and learn,” said Johnson.

Sophomore Elizabeth Fashakin expressed her feeling of relief of having black role models on campus when she first learned about STRANDS.

“I was so happy when I saw the STRANDS table at the org fair,” she said. “Mentorship goes beyond grades.”

The women of STRANDS agreed that they are most proud of their mentorship program, which pairs black freshmen and upperclass students every fall. They expressed the importance of providing mentors that are both black and female since many other mentoring programs cater to one’s major but not don’t focus one identity. STRANDS accepts as mentors anyone who identifies as female and is willing to devote time to the club’s freshmen.

“It gives you a chance to connect with someone who looks like you and has gone through some of the things on this campus that you’re going to have to go through,” Stevens said.

Co-presidents Stevens and Johnson also volunteer with EmbrACE, a club that mentors middle school girls in Nashville. They said that it is necessary to have black women as mentors in order to discuss topics including body positivity, hair type and colorism.

“All the mentors were white and all the girls are black, so they weren’t having these conversations because they didn’t know how to navigate those conversations,” said Johnson.

The shared identity that black women have not only provides them the opportunity to have deep conversations, but also makes way for many bonding experiences and ways to cultivate, as Malveaux stated, “Black joy.”

“A lot of times it’s easy to forget about Black joy,” Malveaux said. “Our blackness seems so, for some, intrusive, that we forget about it.”

Malveaux spoke of how the strong bonds among the members of STRANDS allow them to cultivate that sense of Black joy, whether through music, TV or food. She mentioned Beyoncé and Maya Angelou to make the point that black culture is another point of connection that every woman in STRANDS can identity with.

STRANDS started out with the intention of teaching Vanderbilt’s black women more about their hair, but has expanded with the intention of making its mark on campus by working to improve the  overall experience of black girls at Vanderbilt.

category: Campus, Featured

Greenberg at Green Hills: “Logan”

Anchors (Out of Four):anchor-threeI’ll start by saying this. “Logan” was a very good movie, both in the superhero/comic genre and in terms of cinema as a whole. Director James Mangold, who also directed its direct predecessor “The Wolverine” (2013) and the modern remake of the classic western “3:10 to Yuma” (2007), brings a unique style when, combined with some great work by the starring cast, make this movie worthy of the critical acclaim it has received.

But, on the other hand, I don’t foresee myself re-watching “Logan” again anytime soon. This is not for any fatal flaw in the film or any stylistic choice, but rather because, as someone who has grown up with the X-Men franchise, watching the titular character Logan (Hugh Jackman) and his mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) reprise their roles for the last time left me with a great feeling of melancholy, one which struck me far more profoundly as the end credits rolled than I thought it would.

So, before we dive into the gruesome details of the first R-rated “X-Men” movie, let’s cover a little history for those who aren’t in the know.

The first “X-Men” film came out 17 years ago, in July of 2000, and over the past decade and a half, that film and its 9 sequels have become a mainstay of the American cinematic experience. “X-Men” arrived on the scene 8 years before “Iron Man” kicked off the critically and commercially acclaimed Avengers series and the so-called “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” a feat DC is attempting to replicate to this day with hit-or-miss films like “Man of Steel,” “Suicide Squad,” “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” It was 5 years before Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy had critics talking of the first superhero movies worthy of Oscar contention.

For perspective, “X-Men” is the only superhero series around today that premiered before 9/11. It’s truly from a different world, and from a different mindset. But its earliest installments don’t seem antiquated, but rather simply take a different tone and perspective than some of its more contemporary peers.

It’s more clunky, for one thing. Wolverine – Logan – and the X-Men have had their cinematic highs and lows, from the critically acclaimed “X2” (2003) and “First Class” (2011), to the largely panned “The Last Stand” (2006) and “Apocalypse” (2016). Tying together a 10-part story consisting of alternate timelines, prequels, sequels, directorial changes, acting changes, deaths, and resurrections, can also make the whole series a bit unwieldy to watch.

Nevertheless, as someone who has had the full 17-year long lifespan of the X-Men to watch and re-watch their films, I can say that, overall, it has been a journey well worth taking.

The “X-Men” films are, at their core, an allegory, pitting the Malcolm X-esque Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants against the students of Professor Xavier. Magneto, the man who can control metal, who watched his family exterminated in the Holocaust and will do anything to ensure that those with mutant powers don’t suffer the same fate.  Professor X, the man who can read and manipulate others’ minds, knows more about everyone else than about himself.

And, caught in the middle of these two worlds is James “Logan” Howlett – Wolverine. We’ve seen Wolverine’s entire life story over the course of the series, from his birth in 1845 (his healing powers also grant him an extended lifespan) to “Logan,” where we see a grizzled, aging title character operating as a professional driver in the year 2029.

In “Logan,” almost all mutants have died of a genocide-like cause we only get hints of throughout the film. Logan and Professor X, now in his 90s and suffering from an Alzheimer’s-like disease, must be kept sequestered lest he hurt others with his psychic seizures. Wolverine likewise suffers from a debilitating illness. In his old age, his healing powers have finally waned and are fighting a losing battle against the adamantium that coats his bones and is poisoning his body.

With the first new mutant in 25 years having been born and revealed to Logan, he and Xavier must travel northward to Canada, where the mutant will be kept safe from the anti-mutant policies of the United States.

What stands out immediately in “Logan” are influences from western and Japanese cinema, something we saw these overtly in 2013’s “The Wolverine,” where Logan travels to Japan. In “Logan,” the title character plays the part of the Ronin, a wandering samurai (the likeness of Wolverine’s claws to katanas has been commented on ad nauseam), drifting through life without any allegiances.

In “Logan,” which begins on the Texas-Mexico border, we see these same themes play out in a western context. The film has strong elements of the neo-western classic “Unforgiven” (1992), which sees Clint Eastwood as an aging outlaw, who, like Logan, must come out of retirement for one more fight. In the film’s second act, we even see our characters watching and commenting on the classic western “Shane” (1953) in a Las Vegas hotel room.

It only makes sense, then, for a movie with such dark inspiration to be the first R-rated film in this franchise. In “Logan,” we finally see the brutality and vulgarity of this character come to life from on screen. “Logan” spares no time treating us to a barrage of flying body parts and vulgar language that always seems appropriate for the tone of the film.

Neither is the film bogged down by its near-future timeline. In fact, “Logan” probably does a better job than many recent sci-fi movies of portraying what a realistic near future might look like from the ground up – a highway full of self-driving trucks, a highly advanced smart phone that still succumbs to dead batteries, a tricked-out futuristic Lincoln Continental driving through post-industrial deserts on the Mexican border.

And, finally, what can I give except praise for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. Stewart, the veteran actor of stage, television, and film, gives a nuanced performance with the confidence that could only come from multiple reprisals over 17 years. Jackman, giving his final performance in the role that has defined the last half of his adult life, delivers his character with such practice and true enjoyment.

Hugh Jackman is Wolverine in the minds of so many moviegoers, and in “Logan,” he and Stewart end their time with the X-Men in the most appropriate fashion possible. Even if you’re not a fan of the series, you should go see this film. If you are, well, be prepared to shed a few tears.

Five thoughts: Commodores fall to Northwestern in instant classic

Vanderbilt’s NCAA tournament first-round game against Northwestern didn’t disappoint — at least for general fans of March Madness.

The Commodores fell 68-66 in an ending that will be one of the most memorable scenes of this year’s tournament. Leading 66-65, Matthew Fisher-Davis intentionally fouled Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh, an 86 percent free-throw shooter. McIntosh knocked down both foul shots, and Vanderbilt couldn’t answer.

The game will go down as one of the most infamous in Vanderbilt sports history. Here are five takeaways from it.

Fisher-Davis not to blame

Fisher-Davis’ non-intentional intentional foul grabbed headlines Thursday, and rightfully so. The play led after the day’s games had concluded, and it was all over social media. There’s no doubt that this was an all-timer in terms of crucial NCAA tournament brain farts, but it wasn’t the reason Vanderbilt lost the game.

Professional teams in Europe often employ a “foul with the lead” strategy at the end of games, and analytics show that even fouling a great free-throw shooter like McIntosh isn’t as big of a mistake as it seemed at the time. Vanderbilt still got a chance to answer, but Riley LaChance’s 25-foot bomb hit back rim.

However, Vanderbilt would have had a hard time stopping Northwestern on that possession anyways. Luke Kornet, by far the Commodores’ best rim protector, was on the bench after fouling out. Without his defense, the Wildcats would have been much more likely to get to the rim and convert with little time left.

“[Kornet]’s a huge part of what we do on both ends, our defensive scheme is built around him,” Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew said. “Anytime we sub him out of the game, it definitely can affect our team in not a good way. And in the end if we had him it may have changed something we would have run at the end of the game with his size and ability to shoot at the end.”

Bad offense hurt the cause

Vanderbilt’s uncharacteristically poor offense was a much bigger reason for the loss than Fisher-Davis’ foul. Northwestern’s defense deserves some credit, but the Commodores looked flustered for much of the game and resorted to more isolation ball than normal. This came despite the fact that Vanderbilt rates as a below average isolation team — it ranks in the 18th percentile nationally and shoots only 28.8 percent on isolation plays, according to Synergy Sports Technology.

Numerous possessions ended in either LaChance or Fisher-Davis pounding the ball and sizing up their defenders before launching long threes off the dribble. These were better shots than what Vanderbilt got in the post from Luke Kornet, but they were hardly optimal. The lack of ball movement manifested itself in a low assist total, as the ‘Dores dropped only nine dimes for the game. Northwestern’s frequent switching of ball screens on defense helped induce many of those isolation possessions, as the Commodore guards tried to attack mismatches on the perimeter.

“If you don’t switch, [Kornet]’s going to pick and pop,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said. “We didn’t want to switch everything. We wanted to try to get through, but our philosophy anytime that guard got screened at all we wanted to break it off and switch.”

Non-shooters shoot for Northwestern

Perhaps the biggest factor not under Vanderbilt’s control was the Wildcats’ outside shooting. McIntosh and wing Scottie Lindsey came into the game shooting 30 and 33 percent from three, respectively. The two combined to shoot 5-for-6 from downtown in the first half and finished 5-of-10 for the game. Northwestern as a whole ranked around 200th nationally in three-point percentage and made 6-of-14, despite leading three-point shooters Vic Law and Nathan Taphorn making only one three between them. Vanderbilt hoped to force the Wildcats’ non-shooters to score over the top of its defense, but the problem was that they actually converted. That’s something that Drew surely can live with. The game plan was sound; Northwestern simply made shots.

“I thought today [McIntosh] shot the three pretty well,” Drew said. “He hasn’t shot it that well through the year. When he started making threes his confidence was building and he took that to two-pointers in the second half.”

Season a success

Without a deep run, making the NCAA tournament once doesn’t move the needle much for a program. Stringing together consecutive appearances does, and the Commodores did so despite looking nothing like a tournament team for much of the season.

After three years of missing out, Vanderbilt got fans and recruits re-accustomed to seeing the Star V logo pop up on the bracket on Selection Sunday. That’s critically important to the future and momentum of Drew’s program, and it’s something that only Kentucky can boast among other SEC schools. That’s right, Vanderbilt and Kentucky are the only SEC teams to have made each of the last two NCAA tournaments. That matters.

“I think the whole team sees where we were to where we are now,” Drew said. “We don’t want the season to end. I think that’s a good sign it’s been a great experience for everybody.”

Dynamic point guard needed

Replacing Kornet will be an impossible task, but it’s clear from the way Vanderbilt’s offense broke down against Northwestern that the ‘Dores could use a quick, athletic ball handler who can consistently beat opponents off the dribble. The Commodores threw together an impressive offense without such a playmaker this year, as they now rank 52nd nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency. However, the addition of a couple of dynamic penetrator would help Vanderbilt weather shooting droughts that occasionally killed the team this season.

Luckily, Drew has at least one such player joining the team next year. Saben Lee, a 4-star point guard from Tempe, Arizona, projects as a possible NBA prospect and is known for his quickness, defense and finishing at the rim. Lee conceivably could start for Vanderbilt as a freshman, and he’ll provide an immediate impact on the Commodores’ late-shot-clock and transition offenses, as well as their defense against ball screens.

Vandy stole one with Corona Del Sol PG Saben Lee. Long, quick twitch, shifts gears with force, bouncy, has vision, crisp handle, competitive

— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) December 10, 2016

Q&A with Grammy-nominated Vanessa Carlton

Grammy-nominated Vanessa Carlton recently embarked on an approximately two-month tour to perform songs ranging from her original 2002 album, Be Not Nobody, to her newest 2015 studio album, Liberman. The Hustler was able to talk with her over the phone and get a glimpse into Vanessa’s views on her musical messages, styles, and what to expect from her tour. She will be coming to Nashville at 3rd and Lindsley on March 19th, 2017.

The Vanderbilt Hustler: What inspired you to make your two live albums, Liberman Live and Earlier Things Live?

Vanessa Carlton: This is my first live album ever in fifteen years. I personally don’t think I was ready to go live up until now. It felt like the right time. However, it still wasn’t even my idea. It was my manager’s idea to record the last show of my last tour, which was in Nashville. As my voice changed over the years, I felt like I could get away with doing a live record that could stand on its own. The live performances had become so much stronger over the years, so it made sense. Both albums are from the same night. So Liberman Live is all of the Liberman stuff, and Earlier Things [Live] is all the other songs we performed that night.

VH: Were there any challenges to producing the live albums that you did not encounter in your five studio albums? How was the process different?

VC: It was effortless. All I had to do on my end was just perform well, and that’s it. It’s all the other guys behind the scenes that have to get the audio right and come up with the artwork later on. It was the easiest album I’ve done in my life.

VH: So you’ll be coming to 3rd and Lindsley on Sunday. What do you like about that venue?

VC: I like venues that feel homey. I either like small sit-down theaters or venues that feel like you’re home. People are able to just chill. It’s a good venue for that style.

VH: How does it feel to perform in your new home of Nashville compared to other cities?

VC: I’m excited because I’m going to be home. I get to see my baby and my husband that day, and friends will come out to see the show. I feel like the Nashville crowds are a little jaded sometimes. You’ve got to get them out. People are so used to getting the best of the best. In Nashville, you’ve really got to earn your people, and I’m totally down to do that. I’m looking forward to it.

VH: What can fans expect from this tour in general?

VC: I think that the show that’s put on is really musical. I tell a lot of stories behind what the songs are about, where they come from. There’s a lot of faith to the set where we give ourselves room as musicians to play. I dug out some more straightforward songs from the older records. And then about halfway into the show, I ask people to come with me to the future, and we start going into Liberman stuff. It starts to feel dreamy and leading to where I’m at now. I’m not a very nostalgic person, so I literally start the set with older songs and then move into new.

VH: How has your style changed over the years, and where do you see it going in the future?

VC: Honestly, if you listened to me ten years ago versus now, it would sound like a different artist to a certain extent. I have similar sensibilities in terms of how I play the piano for sure. Everything else has changed. When I left the major label system in 2010, that was the beginning of a level of authenticity and inspiration in my life that I’d never been able to find before or never allowed myself to find before. There was a paradigm shift in me and my sound when I left. Obviously, that started with Rabbits on the Run, which is my first independent record that came out very much under the radar. For me, it was the beginning of the rest of my career. I’m just starting to write my next record. We’ll just see where the wind takes me. I’m following my gut instincts, so we’ll see what happens.

VH: If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self before your first album, what would you say?

VC: I would’ve probably said, “Just be more patient and wait.” I was given a record deal and a publishing deal really early in my life, and I think I probably would’ve been better off if I was an artist that was discovered later on. I probably would’ve been like, “Patience, girl.” And my response would’ve been like “Not in a million years. I’m going.”

VH: Can you tell me the story about a specific song that you’ll be performing on this tour?

VC: I can give you the synopsis of “Take It Easy.” It’s the first song on Liberman, probably not the only song with that title. My story is inspired by reading Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth. It’s about how people recover from chaos in their lives and what human beings especially seek. For that song in particular, I’d come out of a really turbulent time. I’d lost my health for a while, and I was in England at that point working on Liberman. I think that song speaks to that message which is that no matter how bad things get, it will end. Everything comes to an end, and it’s really about seeking balance and telling someone to take it easy. It’s something that should just wrap around your brain and make you feel good. It’s all gonna be okay. In the chorus of the song I sing, “As your castle crumbles down and it will, take it easy.” Everyone’s castle crumbles. That’s part of life, and it’s how you handle the aftermath and how we build up again. It’s not the end of the world.

VH: How do you feel your classical music and ballet background has influenced your musical style?

VC: It’s natural the way it influences my style. It’s all instincts, and you just follow them. I do know that the way that I play [piano], I use all of my fingers, which is much more of a classical style. When you’re learning classical pieces, you have to play with every finger. Rock and roll playing is a bit chunkier. And jazz is really intricate. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, but more specific melodies feel more natural to me rather than just chunky chords.

VH: Have you had any especially memorable experiences with fans?

VC: I’ve met many special people over the years. I met a girl in Manchester on a European tour last year. She had juvenile arthritis, and she was in a wheelchair. She was the most gorgeous girl, and she played piano beautifully. Her father brought her in early for the sound check so I could meet her. I couldn’t believe her strength and her elegance. And I saw the pain that her father clearly is in, seeing his beautiful daughter on that stage. It’s incredible how children can teach us. She played piano, and she wanted to meet me. It was a privilege to meet her. I feel very lucky to have had moments like that throughout my life.

To purchase Earlier Things Live on iTunes, PRESS HERE
To purchase Liberman Live on iTunes, PRESS HERE

Photo by Jesse DeFlorio

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