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Chicago Protests Overturn of Roe v Wade

By Featured, News, Photo Essay

At 5 p.m., crowds began to gather, yelling “abortion is healthcare and healthcare is a right!” in unison. Photos by Natia Ser.

In the hours following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, hundreds gathered at Chicago’s Federal Plaza to protest the end of federally protected abortion rights in the United States.

Many held signs to protest the ruling.

At the rally, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker vowed to protect abortion access.

Janet, a pro-abortion advocate, said she “almost cried” and was “speechless” when her boyfriend told her the news Friday morning.

Leo holds up a sign that read “ABORTION JUSTICE NOW.”

Adora Alava, left, and Magoli Garcia, right, are members of the student government at DePaul University. They “burst into tears” when they learned about the ruling. “I was here [to protest] a few weeks ago and I can’t believe this is happening again,” Alava said. “But it’s reassuring to see so many people here.”

Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois distributed pro-choice stickers.

Grace Pollert dressed as a handmaid from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian television series about women who are treated as state properties in a totalitarian society.

Multiple generations of abortion rights supporters showed up to the protest.

Protests occurred in major cities across the U.S. following the historic overturn of Roe v. Wade.

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Moving Pictures: Lightyear, A ‘Toy Story’ Story

By Entertainment, Featured

Still from Disney’s “Lightyear,” courtesy of Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures.

I didn’t think I would watch “Lightyear.” I had no desire to understand the origin story behind Buzz Lightyear, which I already vaguely remember from the Disney cartoon. And beyond that, I have no interest in any origin story of late. I was not remotely interested in how Han Solo got his name. I was even less interested when the movie “Solo: A Star Wars Story” revealed that he got the name because he was flying on a passenger spaceship alone. a.k.a. Flying solo. Hence … Han Solo. Riveting stuff.

When Pixar announced “Lightyear,” I predicted more meaningless worldbuilding, filling in answers to questions that nobody had. I thought I would skip it.

Then fourteen countries banned it from airing in their territories because it promoted the LGBTQ lifestyle. 

For the last few years, Disney has tried to push the envelope slightly on gay representation in their films. And in most cases, it’s been a missable line of dialogue like in “Avengers: Endgame,” or in one shot of a montage that can easily be cut like in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” The operating principle, to my eye, has been to include gayness as lightly as they can, so that if there’s any pushback from any international censors, they can easily edit it out of the film

But on “Lightyear,” Disney put their foot down. They said they wouldn’t cut the scene. “Lightyear” is then banned in 14 countries, not including Singapore, my home country, which has labeled the film as NC-16 since “the depictions of the character’s alternative sexuality and relationship, while brief, are more appropriate for viewers 16 years and above.”

And so, I found myself with a friend from Malaysia, where “Lightyear” is completely banned, sitting in the cinema, during Pride Month no less, waiting for Pixar’s newest movie to start. Because somehow, under these bizarre conditions, global circumstances and an ongoing “culture war” have made the world’s biggest entertainment company the underdog. And that just barely outweighed my reluctance to watch yet another origin movie.

And to its credit, “Lightyear” is pretty serviceable as far as origin movies go. It doesn’t rely on its source material to lift its own story. The film is pretty keen on making an action-adventure movie for kids that doesn’t need any other content to be enjoyable. Unlike most other blockbusters, it doesn’t actually need you to have seen two other movies or a TV show to understand or enjoy it.

It’s telling that the bar is so low, that what I’ve just said can count as praise. 

“Lightyear” avoids the pitfalls of the other origin stories by not trying to explore lingering mysteries or resolve plot holes that aren’t of great interest. Instead, it fixates on the character of Buzz Lightyear, as we know him from this film: proud, stubborn, and self-reliant to a fault. This being a kid’s movie, you can expect all of these flaws to be addressed by its ending. 

Joining Buzz on his quest are four other adventurers/sidekicks. The best of the four is Sox, Buzz’s animatronic feline companion, voiced by Peter Sohn. Sox is surprisingly delightful, who despite my most curmudgeonly tendencies, was still amusing and likable. In fact, I can say that when Sox was in peril, I gasped against my own will. That is the ultimate testament to the quality of a fuzzy cutesy sidekick if the film can actually make me, with my Grinch-like perspective, care.

The worst of the four is the bumbling Mo, played by Taika Waititi. A central theme of the movie is that mistakes don’t define you. But Mo in almost every scene sets back the squad through his clumsiness, making that message harder to accept. We start to empathize a little bit too much with Buzz’s perfectionism, if the alternative is Mo. 

This may be Pixar’s most action-oriented movie yet, more in-line with “The Incredibles 2” than with “Inside Out.” There are some good action sequences in there, but, and I’m not only saying this because I love Tom Cruise, but all of them are middling compared to “Top Gun: Maverick.” You may say it’s like comparing live-action apples to animated oranges, but anyone who sees both of these films will find them alarmingly similar, in character, theme, and occasionally, outright full scenes. It’s sheer coincidence that their release windows are so close together and “Maverick” benefits more from the comparison than “Lightyear.”

That type of similarity brings me to my biggest criticism. “Lightyear” follows the Pixar house-style: sleekly animated, large heads, expressive character design. But it is entirely uninterested in its self-declared reason for existing. 

The movie’s opening text tells us:

“In 1995, Andy got a toy from his favorite movie. This is that movie.”

And that had me thinking the film would make some attempt to pay homage or parody the kids films of the ’90s. It makes no effort to do so. It belongs distinctly to the 2020s — the same color palette of space of every Star Wars show on Disney +, the same story beats of “Big Hero Six,” the same quips of the MCU. None of this is particularly offensive on its own. But they leave a sour taste in the mouth when combined with the film’s claim that it’s not of this era. It is as 2022 as every other kid movie out there, only slightly less so than “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank”, a movie I am convinced is a hate crime, a money-laundering scheme, Paramount’s revenge for no one watching “The Adventures of Tintin,” or all of the above.

You’ll notice that I haven’t talked about the gay elephant in the room. That’s because there’s not much to say. Buzz’s best friend is married to another woman and that’s about it. That’s not a criticism. That’s how it is. And frankly, it’s sad that this is contestable.

It’s finally starting to feel like Disney has moved beyond tokenism, starting with Brian Tyree Henry’s character in “The Eternals” and now with “Lightyear.” But it turns out there are still some things even corporations can’t achieve. So we’re stuck in a conundrum, trying to pick between the lesser of two evils. Do we support Disney’s attempts at representation, which will do about as much to ending homophobia as metal straws combat the climate crisis? Must we align with Disney and watch this movie to prevent conservatives from connecting its financial performance to its lesbian mothers? Are we so limited by this system that the only way to engage with the “culture war” is to pay money to see an origin story of a fictional toy from a different movie? 

All of these questions, I think, are more remarkable than “Lightyear.” It’s not a bad movie. It’s not particularly exciting either. It may be fun for kids and a passable treat for the “Toy Story” millennial. And really, it’s not worth its weight in controversy. It’s just another passable origin movie that happens to have a pretty cool cat. 

Myle Yan Tay (MFAW 2023) cares a lot about movies and comic books. One day, maybe they will care about him. Find more of his writing at www.myleyantay.com.

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Book Review: Normal People

By Featured, Literature

Normal People, Sally Rooney, Book Review

Illustration by Yajurvi Haritwal.

Book details: “Normal People” by Sally Rooney, Random House Publishing Group, 304 pages , paperback, $17

Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” follows me around like a shadow for two months before I put it on hold at my local library. The internet believes I would love it and I disagree. On the surface it seems like one of those pop culture fads that everyone loves because they’re supposed to love it. So I refuse to read it. It isn’t until M, my best friend from undergrad, and a mutual friend of ours recommend it to me — they listened to it as an audiobook, though — that I decide to give it a chance.

***

It’s a Friday night when I sit down to read “Normal People.” I start at 7:30 p.m.; four lights are on. The kitchen overhead, the living room lamp, and the two lights at the front of my L-shaped apartment. The lack of quotation marks in the book catches my eye immediately, mostly because it’s making me work harder to follow what’s happening. I had never realized until this moment how those little structural conventions become such an unthinking expectation. I try to categorize the book the way I think a smart person would — modern? Post-modern? Then I stop. Maybe its category is irrelevant. Maybe I should just read it and see what happens.

*

The book, set in Ireland, follows the relationship between Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron from secondary school all the way through to university. Their relationship is intense, complicated, difficult, and emotional; Rooney tracks its development in all its complexity from both of their perspectives from 2011 through 2015.

*

“Normal People,” is not the most “normal” book. Usually I think deeply about the material I engage with, but I find with this book, it forces me to feel more. It encourages a certain honesty of emotion and presence. It isn’t the kind of book that lends itself to a standard review. It demands something more from me. A conversation. A duality of perspective.

*

My bed is fitted with my maroon microfiber sheets rather than my blue ones. The blinds are shut like they always are, but the sharp Chicago winter light filters in through the slits anyway. M is sitting 983 miles away on an armchair, a Harry Potter blanket covering them. Okay I don’t know how — how do you start having this conversation, I laugh. It’s weird to plan things like this.

*

It’s clear M has spent a lot of time sitting with their feelings about this book when they speak. I feel like you really get into the heads of the two main characters and for me that was a good thing, but also a very difficult thing, because there were certain parts of the book that I felt like I related to very deeply, especially what Marianne went through. I had never really seen someone exploring that in the media, especially around consent and BDSM and how that affects self worth.

There was something very cathartic about seeing particularly Marianne and the photographer … when I say I’ve been through something similar I really mean an abusive partner who would manipulate me into BDSM type things, to do things that felt thoroughly demeaning then take photos and act like oh, this is a form of love, why aren’t you appreciating it, why don’t you feel good about this? Then Marianne has all of these doubts — well, surely this must mean that there is something in me that is so broken, so deeply unlovable — and my immediate instinct upon hearing that is no it says nothing about you. It’s been so hard for me to extend that same kind of thing to myself, and I think part of what made that especially powerful is the fact that I was listening to it, and so it was easier for me to think of her as a real person. Oftentimes it is easier to extend kindness to someone else, than it is to yourself.

I agree. The way it was written really reminds me a lot of how my brain can work because it’s this really weird way in which timeline shifts always happen and you’re kind of a little bit in the past but operating in the present and then your brain is kind of operating from habits it’s developed from past experiences. I mean, I know everyone — all of our brains — do this to a certain extent, but you know what I mean, there was something about the way in which trauma brains work that she really captured so well.

M nods. I know what you mean.

*

So why audiobooks, I ask? A small smile graces M’s face. It’s like you’re in these two worlds at once, but one of them is totally secret and personal, M considers looking away from the screen.

I wonder briefly if they’re re-living one of those moments.

It’s a very personal intimate experience and yet also one that a lot of strangers are part of. Sometimes I think about a book and I’m like oh yeah I remember, I was sitting across from someone who was wearing a yellow coat while I was listening to it, because it’s almost like the rest of life is happening at the same time, it seems like it kind of fits — it’s like a part of your life.

Something that occurs to me is that both M & I had intensely personal intimate experiences with this book, one of us in private, the other one in public (or semi-public). I read the book at home at night when no one else was around. They listened to it on the train, on the way to work, while washing dishes in the apartment they share with four other people. But I’m not certain if one experience was more intimate than the other.

*

It’s because of the format right? I try to recall my first experience of this book as best I can. For me, the format was so important to that experience, because the visual impact and the fact that it doesn’t follow normal conventions of dialogue made such a difference to the way in that world was created. It seems similar to the way the format of audio works for you and that’s what allowed us to actually consume the book in these particular ways and have the experiences that we did.

M chuckles. I didn’t even know that she (Rooney) didn’t use quotation marks until you said that when we were having this discussion. That’s really interesting and I think it just goes to show how much the different format you engage with a story in can make a big difference as to how you experience it. Generally, I mean, even though I always listen to audiobooks at 1.5x speed it’s still slower than if you were reading. With an audiobook you can’t skim listen, or at least, I don’t know how to and so because of that I did feel like there was maybe more space in that. I don’t ask them to clarify — how Marianne and Connell of me — but I think they mean there is more space in that experience of the book, and therefore more space to sit with their emotions.

*

I think that there was this lurching between time and feeling like any of the vignettes in the book weren’t complete. They were ending in the middle and almost abruptly moving forwards. And I feel like that is so often how things feel. There isn’t closure, things aren’t tied up neatly with a bow. It was all beginnings and middles, and it was all endings. All mixed up. M laughs softly.

I laugh too. Those vignettes, the way the book deals with time. It hits close to home for me. It’s how my brain processes time, and the constant shifting back and forth feels particularly characteristic of when I’m functioning from what I call trauma brain, which at this point in my life is no longer as constant as it once was, but is frequent still.

I wonder if that’s why it’s been three weeks and I still haven’t stopped thinking about the night I first read it.

 

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Book Review: The Golden Couple

By Literature

The Golden Couple, Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

Illustration by Yajurvi Haritwal

Book details: “The Golden Couple” by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, St. Martin’s Press, 336 pages , hardcover, $28.99

Appearances and perception are paramount to the majority of our social interactions — think dates, classes, meetings — today. Perceptions dictate whether we are viewed as good partners, friends, colleagues, employees, parents, what have you. Not only this, we demand authenticity from those around us, and ourselves in how we are perceived. Curated; photo-shopped; edited; but authentic. Consequently, to look past that surface, and to see the truth of a story that lurks below the veneer of perfection that we strive for has never been more necessary. Yet it is something that few people do well. 

Enter Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen, and their recent release, “The Golden Couple.” 

The story follows wealthy Washington suburbanites Marissa and Matthew Bishop — the quintessential white, perfect, American family complete with an eight-year-old son — whose perfection is threatened when Marissa is unfaithful. Marissa, desperate to repair the situation, approaches Avery Chambers, a therapist who lost her professional license, but continues to run a successful counseling practice. The only condition: her clients adhere to her unorthodox methods. What unravels is a complex web of secrets and half-truths that endanger more than the ostensible perfection that the Bishops have grown accustomed to. 

Hendricks and Pekkanen both have backgrounds in journalism. Hendricks received her masters in journalism from Columbia University, following which she worked in the publishing industry as an editor for two decades. Pekkanen is a former investigative journalist turned author, who has written and published novels both on her own and two with Hendricks as well. Their writing has appeared in some of the biggest names in the press today, including “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” “Publishers Weekly,” and “USA Today,” amongst others.

True to their journalistic backgrounds, the attention to detail in this book is well-done and notable. Every moment — big and small — counts. Not a single detail is insignificant and doesn’t tie into the wrap up at the end. Hendricks and Pekkanen pace every discovery and revelation well, consistently highlighting that what appears to be perfect and put together on the surface can have dark and murky fractals underneath. To complement that, Avery Chambers’s work with the couple to expose these hidden realities and get Marissa and Matthew through them to the other side, particularly in light of her own background, adds a depth to the narrative that will keep readers engaged. 

The book is told from a dual perspective — Avery Chambers’s in first person, Marissa Bishop’s in subjective third. The choice gives a reader insight into these characters in very different ways. Where the audience has more of a chance to sit within Avery’s body and mind when accessing her unconventional interactions with the world, with Marissa, the story appears to be happening to her. This difference in agency is particularly striking in the end. (No spoilers). 

The book is a psychological thriller; a good one. Rather than using gore and violence to further plot points, the authors constantly toe the line between truth and lies, secrecy and transparency, to create a compelling enough narrative out of seemingly milquetoast subjects — a wealthy, white suburban couple. Perhaps the only thing the book left wanting was why this thriller centering a wealthy white couple was more important or notable compared to others that do the same, like Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies,” and the like. Perhaps if the book had been amongst the first of its kind, it might have landed differently, but when the premise has so many similarities to ones that have come before, it falls short of differentiating itself enough from the crowd. 

Hendricks and Pekkanen did their job well, and their writing demonstrates a clear love for their craft. The characters are well developed and woven in with each other quite seamlessly. Ultimately, what the book did best was to highlight two authors who are skilled at parsing out complex social and psychological dynamics, and unraveling their tangled interactions with a certain finesse. Whether this particular premise was necessarily all that interesting as compared to some of their earlier books — that’s up to the reader to decide.    

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Building Bridges

By and Arts & Culture, News, Photo Essay

Hendricks fixing hands onto figure for final touches.

Consuela Hendricks fixing hands onto figure for final touches. Photographs by Natalie Olivia Plata.

People Matter headquarters is located on the ground floor of a three-story brick building beneath I-90. Walking to it from the Cermack-Chinatown redline stop, you pass by Chinatown Plaza (“new Chinatown”), continue down Wentworth Avenue (“old Chinatown”), cross the Stevenson Expressway, and arrive in a mixed commercial-residential area.

The first time I visit is on a spring Saturday and the rain has not let up for three days. Despite the conditions, both new and old Chinatown are crowded with people, and the smell of hot grease and sweet bean and root pastes overpowers the scent of wet pavement. I walk through all that and keep walking until I end up on the border of Bridgeport, in an area of Chinatown that lacks a bustle the neighborhood is known for.

Hendricks mixing ingredients to paper mache the grandfather figure sitting across from her.

When most think of Chicago’s Chinatown, they think of the Plaza and Wentworth, they think of hot pots and boba shops and red lanterns strung between rooftops. “In all actuality, people live here, people work here, people have families here,” Consuela Hendricks, co-founder and creative director of People Matter, tells me. “We felt like that’s something to bring attention to.”

After I lay my dripping raincoat and backpack in their front greeting room, Angela Lin, the other co-founder of People Matter, leads me into a workspace where Hendricks is clacking away on a laptop. Eian Hsu and two young volunteers, Diana and Erica, are cutting through PVC piping. It’s the first day of work on a public sculpture that they’ll plant beneath the painted overpass at Ping Tom Memorial Park. The vision is to create a dinner scene: A Chinatown family — grandfather, mother, and child — seated around a table. “It should be more realistic than the ‘super complete, super perfect’ nuclear family,” Lin says. “A lot of kids in Chinatown have parents that travel to work for like three, four months at a time in like New York’s Chinatown.” But that, she says, is all subtext.

Grandfather figure is being prepped by covering his structure made from recycled materials with paper mache.

Grandfather figure is being prepped by covering his structure made from recycled materials with paper mache.

The location, like the sculpture, also has strategic undertones. Ping Tom Park is a hub, complete with a playground, a pagoda, ample grassy lawns and one of the best views of Downtown’s skyline from the South Side. It’s a place where residents from nearby Pilsen, Bronzeville, Bridgeport, and South Loop mix with Chinatown residents. And building bridges between Chicago’s ethnically-enclaved neighborhoods is central to the purpose of People Matter.

“The race relations portion, I would say that that’s a pretty distinct part of what we do,” Lin says. “We always do things through an intersectional lens. Chicago is a pretty segregated city, and a lot of these low income communities of color share the same schools, hospitals, and institutions, but don’t necessarily talk to each other. They may have cultural barriers or language barriers or, you know, racial tension. So we do a lot of work that addresses each group by itself, and its own specific needs, but also everyone’s collective needs.”

Table covered with supplies to cover figures.

Lin and Hendricks met in 2017 during a volunteer project (coincidentally, also in Ping Tom Memorial Park). Hendricks, who was born in nearby Englewood, had been working in Chinatown since she was 16. Lin had recently moved to Chicago from Atlanta and was working as a community organizer with the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC) to create the murals at Ping Tom. “The first few days of work was very tense,” Lin recalls. At the time there was an ongoing, ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to close a nearby, mostly-Black elementary school, and turn it into a Chinatown high school. “There was a lot of racial tension,” Lin says. “I just remember being like, ‘oh my god, what is happening?’”

Lin and Hendricks became close friends, and continued volunteering and working together. They were aspirational but grounded. The non-profits they worked with focused on meeting basic needs, but fell short of empowering communities. A couple of years after meeting, they decided to form their own non-profit.

Mother figure layed down onto couch ready to be covered next to paper mache recipe.

Mother figure laid down onto couch ready to be covered next to paper mache recipe.

People Matter does focus on meeting basic needs in the Chinatown community. They hosted COVID-19 testing sites and worked on spreading awareness about the Census. But their work is pulled along by an undercurrent of improving race relations in their community, an issue that many organizations tip-toe around. Their first gathering, held in January 2020, was an event at the local library called “Highlighting Black Heroes in Chinatown.” They followed up with language classes to close communication gaps and started the Tackling Anti-Blackness in the Chinatown Community (TACC) subcommittee to continue hosting events and workshops. 

In the past two years, they expanded their leadership team and their neighborhood reach, hired staff members, and connected with over 3,000 members of the community to gather feedback. “We’re talking, door knocking, calling, asking people what they want to see in their community,” Hendricks says. Some of the group’s other initiatives include a Housing Committee to combat gentrification, and a pop-up community garden with local middle and high school students.

Team members working together to cover figures and ripping paper to finish creating the figures mold.

Team members working together to cover figures and ripping paper to finish creating the figures mold.

“People say, like, ‘wow, you work in a lot of different things,’” Lin says. “That’s because that’s what community members say that they want. Our work is very much based on feedback — well, taking the feedback and putting it through an ethical lens.”

The family sculpture was inspired by an exhibit opening at the Chinese American Museum of Chicago, which People Matter works closely with. “Era of Opulence: Chinese Fine Dining,” a mini-exhibition, opened in late-April. A larger exhibition, “Chinese Cuisine in America: Stories, Struggles and Successes,” is scheduled to open in the Fall.

Grandfather figures arms being covered with paper mache.

Grandfather figures arms being covered with paper mache.

At one point Lin tells me that they expect it to get vandalized and damaged, that’s just what happens to a lot of public art. Despite the risk, they want it in a public space for community members to interact with passively. The point isn’t to confront park-goers, it’s to subtly, almost subconsciously, familiarize residents with one another. It’s another way of building the bridge, and then beautifying what’s beneath it.

Team member covering pieces of paper to place onto mother figure.

Team member covering pieces of paper to place onto mother figure.

Lin using clay to cover styrofoam head for the child figure.

Lin using clay to cover styrofoam head for the child figure.

Hsu smoothing out finishing touches on the grandfather figure to get ready to finish painting.

Hsu smoothing out finishing touches on the grandfather figure to get ready to finish painting.

 Hand made of clay surrounded by various materials on the main work table.

Hand made of clay surrounded by various materials on the main work table.

Parker Yamasaki (MANAJ 2023) is the managing editor at F Newsmagazine. She is looking for a sunnier place to sit.

Natalie Olivia Plata is a staff photographer at F News. 

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The Cost of Carbon Neutrality

By Climate, News, SAIC

“I’d love to install a windmill in Grant Park,” says Tom Buechele, vice president of campus operations, but building renewable energy infrastructure near the School of the Art Institute’s downtown campus is not in the cards.

SAIC is among the handful of carbon neutral universities in the United States. The school achieves carbon neutral status primarily through the purchase of carbon credits. A carbon credit is a voucher that represents one ton of carbon dioxide emissions (CDE) removed from the atmosphere. Buying carbon credits allows companies to reduce their net CDE.

Purchasing carbon offsets amounts to buying into projects that sequester carbon or invest in renewable energy. A nonexhaustive list of the projects that turn into carbon credits includes reforestation, waste management, water renewal, and alternative cookstoves. Buying into these projects through a project management company lets institutions offset their CDE and claim carbon neutral status.

Companies do not pay the same amount per carbon credit. The cost of reducing one ton of CDE through a project translates into the price of a carbon credit. In the best case, project managers determine the price of a carbon credit by scientifically measuring the quantity of reduced CDE and considering the cost of implementing and supporting the project. In the worst case, bad actors in this young market exploit loopholes by double-counting carbon credits, fabricating carbon sequestration data, or exploiting the labor of people implementing the projects.

Agencies have sprung up in the past couple decades to monitor and certify carbon sequestration projects. Up-to-date certification by a reputable agency lends legitimacy to a project. Certified projects should be as effective at sequestering CDE regardless of the price of the credit.

SAIC purchases credits from Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), mostly in reforestation and regenerative agriculture projects. “Not letting cow waste into the environment,” as Buechele put it. BEF’s projects are all certified by bodies such as American Carbon Registry, Verified Carbon Standard, and Gold Standard.

SAIC tends to invest in domestic and Midwestern projects; however, many carbon sequestration projects are in the Global South. Sarah Leugers from Gold Stan dard, an international certification agency for carbon credit projects, says: “Gold Standard’s focus is equally on climate mitigation and sustainable development. The developing world contributed the least to causing the climate crisis yet are the ones suffering from it most acutely.”

Buechele oversees the retrofit of SAIC buildings to consume less energy. These interventions ensure that whether the human acts or not, the lights will turn off and the heat will decrease at night. The pipe dream is to electrify the heating. This is an impossibility, given limitations on the grid’s current capacity. In any case, electricity on the grid is produced from burning fossil fuels.

Carbon sequestration projects link environmental and social justice, often on a global scale. Critics of the carbon market argue that carbon credits allow the wealthy, who are the biggest carbon emitters, to buy cheap, guilt-soothing credits from overseas, instead of incentivizing behavior change. Meanwhile, citizens of the Global South are tasked with implementing change.

I asked Buechele how SAIC incentivizes behavior change among its community. “We have a lot of behavioral problems when it comes to how we treat the environment.” He continued, “The school has a terrible waste problem.” Students will make work without thinking about the material impact and think: ‘When I’m done with it, I’ll throw it away.’ The amount of waste at the end of the semester is incredible.”

Lora Lode teaches at the K lab, SAIC’s sustainability sandbox developed in the sculpture department. She says, “Many students come already with knowledge of the climate crisis and shortcomings of capitalist consumer culture that doesn’t lend itself to consciousness of our use of stuff.” Some dedicated students in her professional practice class developed a code-system to label materials from most-to-least sustainable.

“It’s important to note that buying carbon credits does not reduce a company’s greenhouse gas footprint,” says Elizabeth Pang from South Pole, a project management company. “But it is critical in addressing global emissions.”

Originally printed alongside infographic by Lela Johnson in the May 2022 Issue.

Michaela Chan (MFAW 2023) is cartwheeling. She’s the News/SAIC editor.

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“I am for an art” — A Reimagined Poem

By Arts & Culture, Featured

Illustration by Anna Cai.

In 1961 Claes Oldenburg wrote “I Am for an Art,” variously described as an ode to or manifesto of Pop Art. In 2022, first year SAIC students in the Art History, Theory and Criticism Modern Survey course taught by Rhoda Rosen, updated “I Am for an Art” to reflect the current array of practices in which they engage. Contributor names appear in-text, and at the end of the article.

I am for an art: SAIC 2022

I am for an art that punches up.

I am for an art that shuts up sometimes.

I am for an art that spends its adult money on a trip to Disneyland. (Ina Francesca Magelli)

I am for an art that is bubbly tiny, cute animals.

I am for an art that embodies the human form.

I am for an art that emulates squishy textures. (Rion Hsuanyi Whitwam)

I am for an art that tells a story.

I am for an art that makes people laugh.

I am for an art that makes people cry. (Ray Thomas)

I am for an art that connects with an audience.

I am for an art that explores new territory.

I am for an art that reflects the artist. (Vivian Wu)

I am for an art that empowers women.

I am for an art that allows me to self-reflect.

I am for an art made for my childhood self. (Rebecca Jean May)

I am for an art that represents the hardships of Mexican immigrants. 

I am for an art that sheds light on some of the issues in my culture.

I am for an art that showcases the struggle of being Mexican American. (Pricila Quinones)

I am for an art that requires my whole body to create it.

I am for an art that I can’t stand to look at.

I am for an art that knows what to say and when to say it. (Chloe Marie Harthan)

I am for an art that is fun.

I am for an art that is curious. 

I am for an art that is never ending. (Al Harris Wills)

I am for the art that glazes the ground when clouds roll over and liquid falls.

I am for an art allows me to create my own reality to escape to. 

I am for an art that springs from pure and honest collaboration and connection. (Alyvia Aivy Luong)

I am for an art that you can be in. 

I am for an art that wears pop culture on its sleeve. 

I am for an art that is okay with just being art. (Kristian Scott Kerschbaumer)

I am for an art that you go home and write about.

I am for an art made of smiling lies. 

I am for an art that dissolves cubes. (Calvin Mamis)

I am for an art that has a narrative or means nothing at all.

I am for an art that plays with surrealism.

I am for an art that is utterly disorganized. (Yaz Cassie Nickols)

I am for an art that is emotionally driven

I am for an art that speaks to the physical body and yearns for contact

I am for an art that uses biomorphism to show the beauty and usefulness of the natural world (August Jane Grube)

I am for an art that connects to oneself

I am for an art that remains vibrant and detailed

I am for an art that has variety (Kass Skye Locke)

I am for an art that touches the deepest parts of soul, of self, of what human and beyond human is. 

I am for an art that heals obsolete ancient wounds of existence.

I am for an art that is a romantic story about the question of all questions told by archetypes, collective unconscious and something language is incapable of transmitting. (Nika Kostyuk)

I am for an art that highlights the human form’s full capacity to contort its flesh

I am for an art that represents the intersex community 

I am for an art that makes penises into teapots (Ezra Liam Scriven)

Students in the Modern Survey course taught by Rhoda Rosen: 

Ina Francesca Magelli, Rion Hsuanyi Whitwam, Ray Thomas, Vivian Wu, Rebecca Jean May, Pricila Quinones, Chloe Marie Harthan, Al Harris Wills, Alyvia Aivy Luong, Kristian Scott Kerschbaumer, Calvin Mamis, Yaz Cassie Nickols, August Jane Grube, Kass Skye Locke, Nika Kostyuk, Ezra Liam Scriven. 

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Bad Parable – Heat Warning

By Comics

Transcript:

Panel One: Two demon-like creatures sit in the pits of hell. They lounge on some rocks while fire burns behind them. One demon asks the other, “So, how’s your new haunting going? It’s a beaver, right?”

Panel Two: The second demon looks tired at the mention of the beaver. It sighs.

Panel Three: Cut to a different time and place. The demon has returned to the realm of mortals, to Bev the beaver’s apartment. Bev says, “Bug Boy! Where were you?” Beverly is wearing a shirt that says ‘Worried Friend’ on it. The demon, irate, replies “Outside?”

Panel Four: Bev’s concern continues. He says, “There’s an excessive heat warning! You could’ve hurt yourself!”

Panel Five: The demon disagrees, saying, “Heat doesn’t affect me as I am a DEMON–” However, it is cut off by Bev who shouts, “Don’t ever scare me like that again!”

Panel Six: An up-close shot of the demon’s face. The demon says, “You’re ridiculous.”

Panel Seven: Bev replies by giving the demon the biggest puppy eyes any beaver could muster.

Panel Eight: Defeated, the demon puts it’s head in it’s hand. The demon says “Fine, I’ll be more careful.” Bev, clearly ecstatic, shouts, “YAY!”

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The Aftermath

By Comics, Featured Comics

An assortment of polaroid photos and two smartphones is strewn across the page, each portraying the events of what looks to be a night, or multiple nights, of partying. A friendship bracelet and loose change is also strewn amongst the images. The polaroid photos make up the "panels" of this comic.  The first polaroid shows several hands clinking their glasses together, as if they're making a toast. It is captioned with the title of the piece, THE AFTERMATH. The second polaroid features people drinking and playing card games on the floor with the caption "by hali kleinfeld." The third panel, an iPhone this time, shows a photo of three people in a kitchen, two of them hugging and the other flipping off the camera. The fourth panel, another polaroid, shows two people leaning on each other, one of them with a traffic cone on their head. The last polaroid on this page is on top of a pile of loose change and shows someone on the floor of a bathroom surrounded by empty beer bottles. 

The second page features two more polaroids, one with somebody smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer while the other is just a pile of empty bottles. There is a smartphone on the right side of the page showing what looks to be a photo of somebody crowd surfing at a concert. The second-to-last polaroid contains a hand holding a cigarette and a beer with the caption "sigh..." The final polaroid shows the character we've seen partying in the previous photos, this time saying "now I have to clean..."

The Aftermath by Hali Kleinfeld.

Transcript:

An assortment of polaroid photos and two smartphones is strewn across the page, each portraying the events of what looks to be a night, or multiple nights, of partying. A friendship bracelet and loose change is also strewn amongst the images. The polaroid photos make up the “panels” of this comic.
The first polaroid shows several hands clinking their glasses together, as if they’re making a toast. It is captioned with the title of the piece, THE AFTERMATH. The second polaroid features people drinking and playing card games on the floor with the caption “by hali kleinfeld.” The third panel, an iPhone this time, shows a photo of three people in a kitchen, two of them hugging and the other flipping off the camera. The fourth panel, another polaroid, shows two people leaning on each other, one of them with a traffic cone on their head. The last polaroid on this page is on top of a pile of loose change and shows someone on the floor of a bathroom surrounded by empty beer bottles.
The second page features two more polaroids, one with somebody smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer while the other is just a pile of empty bottles. There is a smartphone on the right side of the page showing what looks to be a photo of somebody crowd surfing at a concert. The second-to-last polaroid contains a hand holding a cigarette and a beer with the caption “sigh…” The final polaroid shows the character we’ve seen partying in the previous photos, this time saying “now I have to clean…”

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El Machete Illustrated – Mysterious Ways

By Comics

Front and center is a man kneeling in prayer. He's wearing a red shirt and a red hat that says "MAGA" on it. He says "The Lord works in mysterious ways." Behind him, Donald Trump takes a dollar bill out of his pocket. He's wearing a long red tie and a makeshift halo--the halo is attacked to his head using a dead rodent, the dead rodent's tail become Trump's hairpiece. Trump looks as though he is an angel coming down from a cloud out of the heavens. However, he is being pulled through the cloud by a rope-like pulley. Coming out from the ground at the bottom of the comic, the Devil is operating the pulley to make Trump appear falsely angelic. From a different cloud in the sky, Jesus looks on. Jesus is shocked by what he sees and shouts, "What the hell!"

El Machete Illustrated – Mysterious Ways by Eric J. Garcia.

TranscriptFront and center is a man kneeling in prayer. He’s wearing a red shirt and a red hat that says “MAGA” on it. He says “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Behind him, Donald Trump takes a dollar bill out of his pocket. He’s wearing a long red tie and a makeshift halo–the halo is attacked to his head using a dead rodent, the dead rodent’s tail become Trump’s hairpiece. Trump looks as though he is an angel coming down from a cloud out of the heavens. However, he is being pulled through the cloud by a rope-like pulley. Coming out from the ground at the bottom of the comic, the Devil is operating the pulley to make Trump appear falsely angelic. From a different cloud in the sky, Jesus looks on. Jesus is shocked by what he sees and shouts, “What the hell!”

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Art and Culture Calendar, June 12-June 19

By Arts & Culture

“Forothermore” at MCA Chicago. Photo by Nathan Keay, courtesy of MCA Chicago.

Hello, and welcome to F News’ art and culture calendar! We’ll be listing Chicago’s art and culture goings-ons, highlighting the events and exhibits big and small along with the occasional oddball. To kick off the summer, we’re playing a bit of catch up with several major exhibitions and openings, and with an eye towards Black creators and do-ers as we approach the Juneteenth holiday (June 19th). Enjoy!

 

“Forothermore” at MCA Chicago. Photo by Nathan Keay, courtesy of MCA Chicago.

“Nick Cave: Forothermore,” Museum of Contemporary Art, May 14 – Oct. 2, 2022

Longtime Chicagoan and occasional SAIC faculty member Nick Cave receives his first survey exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago this summer. Cave, not to be confused with the musician of the same name, and his vivid, maximalist works will fill the museum’s fourth-floor Griffin Galleries. On tap: sprawling installations of colorful suspended metal, elaborate costumes or “soundsuits,” immersive films and more. 

 

“Cezanne,” Art Institute of Chicago, May 15 – Sept. 5, 2022

Amidst the Art Institute’s perennial art offerings comes a rather once-in-a-while occasion with the arrival of “Cezanne,” the museum’s comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the titular Impressionist. Paul Cezanne’s sprawling oeuvre of painterly still lifes and landscapes takes over the Regenstein Hall, compiling more than one hundred works by the artist in his first stateside retrospective in 25 years (and the AIC’s first Cezanne-centric undertaking in 70). While a premium exhibition for the general public, SAIC community members can get in for free during regular museum hours.

 

“Neptune Frost,” Gene Siskel Film Center, ongoing

Artist Saul Williams and filmmaker Anisia Uzeyman teamed up for the Afrofuturist feature “Neptune Frost,” now showing at the Gene Siskel Film Center. “Frost” follows a group of escaped miners in Burundi who form an anti-colonialist hacker collective to combat an exploitative colonial regime. Among the group is the titular Neptune, an intersex protagonist played by two actors, one male and one female. Find showtimes at the Siskel throughout the week.

 

Photo of “(who’s afraid of red, yellow and green)” at Wrightwood 659. Courtesy of Wrightwood 659.

“Rirkrit Tiravanija: (who’s afraid of red, yellow, and green),” Wrightwood 659, May 6 – July 30, 2022

Wrightwood 659 brings to life one of artist Rirkrit Tiravanija’s interactive installations this summer, the titular “(who’s afraid of red, yellow, and green),” In line with the artist’s interactivity-minded works, this installation utilizes ones of Wrightwood’s gallery spaces as a communal dining hall with complementary red, yellow and green curries, all surrounded by images of civil protest. 

 

Editor’s Wildcard: “The Last Dance,” Netflix

While not a new exhibition or showcase, the timeless tale of Michael Jordan and the ’98 Chicago Bulls earns a spot for those who might not want to take chances with Biblical weather or an ongoing pandemic. This 10-part documentary breaks down the meteoric rise and reign of a man so ingrained in Chicago culture he can be ID’d on last name alone, charting his path from basketball, retirement, and finally a breathtaking return. Along for the ride are a transcendent Coach Phil Jackson; a smooth and steely Scottie Pippin; and a rambunctious Dennis Rodman, laying the roadwork for Pete Davidson-esque antics (leave the NBA finals for a wrestling cameo? Why not!). “Last Dance” makes for an engaging watch even for the sports-adverse, weaving a fine timeline of 90s culture powered by crisp archival footage and a finely-curated soundtrack.

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All That and a Bag of Chips: Gen Xer Response to ‘Heartstopper’

By Entertainment, Featured

Illustration of two characters from Netflix show "Heartstopper" kissing. There is an illustrated gust of wind blowing across the scene.

Illustration by Yajurvi Haritwal

I cried every g–d— episode.

Granted, I binged the Netflix series “Heartstopper” as I struggled through COVID-19, but my intense emotional reaction had me wondering: “Dude, why am I trippin’?” Feel-good ugly cries are not a known symptom of COVID-19, so surely something else had me in my feels. The plot in no way mirrored my coming out as a gay man from the Deep South, and, as far as I know, neither did it mirror that of a single one of my Gen X friends. 

And yet.

YET… The modern-day, teenage, coming-of-age story set in the U.K., based on the graphic novel series by Alice Oseman, still resonated deeply with this Gen Xer.

Every emotion I’d ever ignored crawled forth as I howled, gasped, laughed, and sobbed. I held tight to an old teddy bear as I oscillated with identification between the two main characters, high school students at Truham Grammar School. In one moment, I landed squarely with Charlie Spring (played by Joe Locke): the teased nerd, different from most everyone else, and experiencing that gut-wrenching crush. In the next, I related with Nick Nelson (played by Kit Connor) when he turns to Google on the internet and realizes how “am I gay?” can be incredibly complex and isn’t always the right question. 

Even decades after my own experience growing up in a small, Mississippi college town in the ‘80s, I’m learning more about who I am and how labels can be entirely arbitrary and misguided. Pre-“Will & Grace,” pre-Ellen’s coming out, queer characters (if they appeared) at that time often felt theatrical and camp (“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”) or covert and stereotyped (Jo from “Facts of Life”). Systematic homophobia was fueled by a lack of understanding (“homosexuality” had only recently been removed from the DSM as a diagnosis in 1973 and would not be removed from the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organization until 1990), spiteful religious dogma, reckless and intentional disregard for a plague that decimated the gay male population, and a baseline aversion to anything “different.” Conversational references to anyone openly gay were qualified with “well, you know, he’s different” as if the word “different” somehow excused not only the “behavior” but also any acquaintanceship. At the time, I didn’t know anyone who was out. Right as southern Christianity made me slowly hate myself, my own internal homophobia came to light for a time.

My own denial was so powerful that I didn’t know I lived in a Mississippi closet until I was thirty years old and had left the state. 

Although a number of comedians have apologized for derogatory jokes from that era, I still remember the bits about AIDS and gay sex. I especially remember the homophobic fraternity brother in college who engaged in his own personal, weird witch hunt for anyone he suspected as gay. He once admitted to fabricating lies to force guys out of the fraternity and even resorted to scouring yearbooks to see who had joined which clubs and might, therefore, be gay. Someone definitely spent way too much time obsessing about other folks’ closets.

My own coming-of-age/coming out story is a drunken, misshapen, misdirected detour. I drowned my inner voice with booze. I ran away by staying in place, giving up a fantastic scholarship at a first-rate university. I conformed to the status quo by attending a university where I could coast and where I would endeavor to “fit in” despite knowing better. I didn’t question anything critical, whether it was race, gender, orientation, classism … not anything lest it crack the wall I’d created. By the time I started to accept myself, my detour had become the long way around. Yet, perhaps, that dark calculus is exactly what I needed to experience before I could head to Chicago for an MFA program as a 48-year-old sober queer. 

There are parallels from ‘80s zealous homophobia to today’s pearl-clutching politicians who stoke fires of hate in the name of “family.” When mayors like Gene McGee attempt to withhold library funds over LGBTQ+ books in direct violation of basic First Amendment rights, when Florida legislators prohibit educators from talking with young students about LGBTQ+ lived experiences, and when politicians want to outlaw critical thinking in schools on issues like race, “Heartstopper” nonetheless overwhelmed me with gratitude. 

That is why “Heartstopper” wrecked me in the best possible way: it’s the coming out journey I never lived. It’s Mr. Ajayi (played by Fisayo Akinade): The high school teacher confidant I never had. It’s the annoying yet endearing sister Tori Spring (played by Jenny Walser) who goes to bat for her pesky brother. It’s the teenage crush-turned-romance. It’s the boyfriend I want to have and the boyfriend I want to be. It’s the beat drop to Chvrches’ “Clearest Blue” on the dance floor in the third episode when one thing is instantly clear to Nick: Everything. Will. Be. Alright. Those collective moments unfolded like an unexpected current that pushed me down the shoreline, toward a sunnier, friendlier beach I didn’t know existed and didn’t realize I’d always wanted.

The series showed that my coming out story doesn’t have to be — and isn’t — repeated. In its differences, it also reminded me of my own beautiful moments. As I watched *that* conversation between Nick and his mother Sarah (played by Olivia Colman, who reportedly couldn’t stop crying during rehearsal of the scene), I remembered when my mom eventually embraced me and tried–albeit awkwardly and endearingly–to set me up with a former student of hers. Like Charlie, I had friends who never wavered. Not once. Pastors and teachers and coworkers and neighbors are more interested in my character, and the question of who I love is no more a concern than whether I like vanilla or chocolate or strawberry ice cream. 

In a world of swiping left and right on apps, maybe we haven’t fully lost the magic of getting to know someone with the stunningly beautiful awkwardness of body language and code switching and internal debates and uncertainties: Do they like me? Do they want to know me? It’s the fundamental notion: am I worthy, as I am? 

The answer is YES. Always YES. A resounding YES.

Ultimately, “Heartstopper” reveals a hopeful present for Nick and Charlie (and the rest of us) that allows the unabashed exploration of inner innocence and each person’s desire to find their place in the universe. There’s radical freedom in believing that, no matter how a politician describes us, or we might view ourselves, we are loved. Someone will love us for who we are. WE can love someone for who THEY are. Someone will dash in panic through a downpour to stand at a doorway merely to utter: “Hi.” Or, that we can be that person, running through a storm without a coat, to stand on a doorstep, drenched in cold rain, and make everything alright for someone we adore without hesitation.

John W. Bateman has a secret addiction to glitter and, contrary to his southern roots, does NOT like sweet tea. He recently left his southern unicorn lumberjack shack and moved to Chicago to pursue an MFA in writing at SAIC.

 

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