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We shouldn’t put circumstance over assault

(02/02/16 5:23pm)

Last Thursday, I hurried to the RMC to grab my weekly Thresher, eager to read the administration’s response to the recent Jan. 23 sexual assault case. As a rape victim myself, campus sexual assault is an issue that hits close to home. When I saw the stack of newly printed papers, however, I was stunned. Instead of pertaining to sexual assault, the front page donned a giant picture of Sid Richardson College and a headline that read, “Seventh Under Scrutiny.” A pull quote from Dean Hutchinson read, “Someone was harmed violently as a result of the lack of the safety precautions that went into creating this event [the Sid Seventh party].”


Hot Review: The Revenant

(12/05/15 5:00pm)

Towards the end of The Revenant, the main character, Hugh Glass is told: “Revenge is in God’s hands.” Glass states the phrase to himself again, at the end of the film, at the moment at which his time for revenge seems to have finally arrived.Alejandro Inarritu’s The Revenant, set in a harsh pocket of 1820s American frontier, is certainly about revenge, but it focuses even more on duty, perhaps the real question raised by the advice given to Glass.



WHAT’S HIP RIGHT NOW

(12/01/15 5:34pm)

TECH:Tech TatsIn a phrase: The one tattoo that won’t break your father’s heart.Where to find it: Not available yet, but should be released in outlets in January. I’m a huge fan of tasteful tattoos, but I know they’re not for everyone — at least, not right now. That could begin to change, however, with the release of Chaotic Moon Inc.’`  newest crazy innovation. “Tech Tats” are badass looking temporary tattoos: The invisible base makes it look like you literally have a circuit board attached to your arm. The creators, however, claim that these tats have more going for them than just their aesthetic appeal. They say that eventually the tats might be able to replace large, hunky medical devices — or even your annual trip to the doctor. They also say that (somehow) the tats could hold all your personal info to improve your cybersecurity. I think the latter seems a bit far-fetched, but the former is pretty believable. It looks like the future could, in fact, be tatted-out.  LIFESTYLE:Undertaking LAIn a phrase: The “natural birth” for death.Where to find it:  Currently the only service like this is in LA, but it’s a craze that should spread. Hundreds of years ago, people wanted to contract out the disgusting or extremely complicated things in their lives. For instance, women started giving birth in hospitals, not at home. If people needed furniture, they bought it at a store instead of making it themselves. Yet, in a weird twist, we’re now going backwards. With birth, with life(styles) and now, with death. That’s right, new funeral homes, such as famed Undertaking LA, are offering you the chance to prepare your dead relative for burial. They’ll come over and give you some pro tips, but essentially you, yes you, scrub down Mimaw’s corpse and take out her rotting organs. I understand the hands-on movement, I understand the intimacy of such an experience, but … can we just please agree, too far? FOOD:PiecakenIn a phrase: It’s self-explanatory.Where to find it: Pinterest. It’s everywhere on Pinterest.The glorious trend of stuffing food into other food continues. We started with turducken: a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck stuffed into a deboned turkey. That was incredible, but it is time for it to step aside for the real star of the holiday feast: the piecaken.The piecaken is a gigantic cake stuffed with three — yes three — types of pie stuck together (It seems like it would fall apart otherwise) with butter and iced all over. It usually consists of the classic trifecta: apple, pumpkin and pecan. But creatives across the web have explored other mouth-watering combinations, such as chocolate, Oreo and butterscotch pie. It’s gigantic, it’s adaptable and it’s heavenly delicious. Must we ever eat anything else, for the rest of our lives? BOOKS:All American BoysIn a phrase: Young adult fiction gets real.Where to find it: Bookstores, amazon.com. Young adult fiction is known for addressing cultural issues such as race, class and gender. (Didn’t we all have to read Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”?) Still, it typically doesn’t take it on as directly as Jason Reynolds’ and Brendan Kiely’s “All American Boys.” The novel takes on the intersection of police brutality and race through the perspectives of two high schoolers, centering in on an incident involving one of the students, Rashad. After Rashad is wrongly suspected of shoplifting and assault and is unjustly beaten by police, his life begins to crumble around him. The authors, who have written many other books independently, said they came up with the idea after they shared a room during the George Zimmerman trial and had many conversations about the obvious issues presented by the case. Though the book is considered young adult fiction, I think this is one many plain old regular adults could probably benefit from reading.


‘Speak Up’ offers victims a voice

(11/10/15 3:46pm)

Wiess College senior Vicky Comesanas boldly entered the campus conversation on sexual assault last winter when she directed “The Speak Up Project,” a series of monologues delivered by actors and written by student victims of unwanted sexual experiences. The project was so well received that an encore performance was included in the Houston Fringe Festival in September. Now, Comesanas is looking for submissions for this year’s production, leading to questions about the project’s future and how it fits into the recent discussion on campus about sexual assault.Comesanas said the production’s format will stay the same: Rice University students who want to participate can submit their stories. Shortly after, Comesanas will assign the monologues to actors, who will perfect their delivery over a couple of months. Then, the cast will perform the monologues to an audience of Rice students, followed by a group discussion of sexual assault on campus.Comesanas said the main change is that the performance will run two nights instead of one, and will take place at the end of Sexual Assault Prevention Week, Jan. 29-30. Comesanas said one benefit of this change is that the integration encourages audience members to engage with the topic before the show.“It will get people thinking about the issue before they even come to the Speak Up Project,” Comesanas said. “I think that it will facilitate really good discussion after the show.”Comesanas said this year’s show is even more important now in light of discussion surrounding the recent release of the Survey of Unwanted Sexual Experiences.“I think as a campus we’re moving forward, and it’s really, really great to see that people care about this issue, especially when it wasn’t emphasized as much in previous years,” Comesanas said. “But it seems like the voices of the victims are still missing.”Comesanas said she thinks the stigma associated with victimhood discourages people from coming forward. One problem with this, she said, is that energy is completely focused on preventing future assaults when current victims exist and need support now.“Everyone is so horrified at the thought of sexual assault on campus,” Comesanas said. “But the fact is, even though we’re trying to prevent it from happening in the future, it’s already happened. We need to think about how we support the people who it’s already happened to.”Comesanas also pointed out that policies intended to combat sexual assault on campus can be very triggering for victims.“Policy can backfire for the victims,” Comesanas said. “[For instance,] Sexual Assault Prevention Week is like, the most stressful week for victims. How do you make policy in a way that’s safe for the people that have had these experiences?”Comesanas said infusing victims’ voices into the greater conversation is the only way to ensure policy both helps prevent future assaults and supports victims.“The more we have victims’ voices available, the less harmful [policies] are going to be,” Comesanas said. “Even with all of these steps, you still need to have the victims’ voices in the conversations and you need to remove that stigma that comes with being a victim.”Comesanas said the Speak Up Project addresses this problem by allowing sexual assault survivors to share their stories with the community without having to come forward publicly. “You don’t have to raise your hand and say, ‘This happened to me,’” Comesanas said. “But by putting the story out there and saying this happened to someone on campus; that’s incredibly powerful in helping to remove that stigma.”Comesanas said she experienced the impact of the show firsthand when she directed it last year.“People came up to me after the show and said, ‘Wow I didn’t know this happened on campus,’” Comesanas said. “And writers came up to me afterward telling me how cathartic it was for them.’”Finally, Comesanas urged current students with stories to submit this year.“You need to write [your story],” Comesanas said. “You need to write it because, in the end, you’re the only person who knows your story. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the community to know that these incidents are out there.”To submit or get more information, visit http://on.fb.me/1PyVEKn or email director Vicky Comesanas at vcomesanas@rice.edu.



‘Space Puppets’ land in Matchbox Gallery

(11/03/15 7:06pm)

Space puppets have invaded Rice University. That’s right, for the next month, Matchbox Gallery’s latest exhibition, “Space Puppet Relay Team: Project Terra,” will feature a couple of eccentric puppets and various space and earth paraphernalia, including brightly colored samples supposedly derived from extraterrestrial soil and a handmade space capsule. The project was first initiated by Emily Link, a 2008 University of Houston graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio painting. Though Link said she has always been interested in space, when she encountered a grant for a space-art project, she immediately passed it along to her friend Nick Bontrager, an artist in Fort Worth, TX, known for his interdisciplinary focus.“Nick and I are both big space fans,” Link said. “So at first I sent the grant application to him. I said, ‘Nick, you’re a space nerd, why don’t you do this?’”Link realized soon after, however, that the grant applied only to projects within 75 miles of Houston. In order for Bontrager to contribute from afar, Link would need to be on the project and the artists had to establish a “relay” system such that they could work together despite the distance.“We had to use FedEx as our ‘mission control,’” Bontrager said. “We mailed a lot of things to each other: Emily would send me fabric, I would send her a lot of 3-D printed stuff. So that’s our space program right now; it kind of exists off the highways of Texas.”Both Link and Bontrager said this creation process helped inform their work.“We decided to each make a traveler and his or her vessel, and they would be shared between us,” Link said.“Travelers” is left intentionally vague, as these puppets represent both space voyagers and conduits between Link and Bontrager. “More than anything, they’re terranauts,” Bontrager said. “They don’t really leave the planet, but they have all these fun sci-fi influence and interplanetary artifacts and objects.”The travelers are felt, abstract creatures. One is purple, and one is small and green. Link said she and Bontrager drew their inspiration from the classic television show “The Muppets.”  “We’re both Muppets fans, having grown up in the ’80s,” Link said. “So we both had an interest in making puppets together, not necessarily functioning puppets, just forms that resemble them in figure and movement.”Besides the puppets, at least a dozen core samples are scattered throughout the exhibition in various shapes, materials and colors. All demonstrate incredible intricacy. Some feature minute, detailed carvings, while others have clearly been made from tedious paper cutting and folding.“We imagined these travelers were collecting core samples or surface samples,” Link said. “So it is very imaginary in a way, but also involves a lot of space travel references, especially early space travel.”Though the samples look abstract, Bontrager said they were inspired by information pulled from the NASA public domain and other authentic sources. “Many of my core samples are carved from publicly available data from NASA,” Bontrager said. “And Emily designed a lot of her little gem objects by looking at images online and doing thorough research.”In terms of materials, Bontrager and Link both said they used everything and the kitchen sink: brass, aluminum, felt, acrylic paint, oil paint and more. “It’s really hard to think of a medium we didn’t use,” Bontrager said. The same was true of the artists’ methods. Bontrager said he and Link utilized every technique from woodworking to laser cutting to sewing. He said their collaboration and the idea of small-scale sculpture allowed for an interesting melding of traditional practices and emerging technologies. “[Link] was gluing pieces of felt together at the same time I was waiting for a high-definition 3-D laser printer to finish,” Bontrager said. “And that allowed us to again, reference this idea of a burgeoning space program where you’re seeing what’s on the cusp of technology in the arts, but you’re also utilizing what’s well practiced and has a history.”Link said she did not choose Matchbox as the location for the exhibition, per se, but that it has turned out to be perfect for the show.“Through the grant, [Matchbox] was the space [the show] was programmed into,” Link said. “But it is nice that it’s a small space, because [in SPRT] you’re trying to think up and imagine these huge things, like rockets, on a small scale.”As for the intriguing name for the exhibition?“We wanted to choose a name that could create an interesting acronym,” Link said. “‘SPRT’ brings to mind ‘spirit,’ and honestly, that really informed the work.” “Space Puppet Relay Team: Project Terra” will be on display at the Matchbox Gallery in the Sewall Courtyard through the end of the month.


The deafening noise of college entertainment

(09/09/15 3:24pm)

This year I made the decision to live in a one-bedroom apartment — a choice that was significant not only because it meant I would be living off campus for the first time, but also because it meant I would be living alone. Don’t feel bad for me — I made this choice willingly and happily. I have plenty of close friends, enough funds to afford Rice housing and no mental or emotional problems. I just wanted there to be a single place in my life that was quiet, private and a meaningful distance away from the neuroticism of the “Rice bubble.” The summer before my senior year, everything went as I expected. Busy days teaching middle schoolers and hanging out with coworkers were punctuated with peaceful, quiet nights curled up on the couch by the television. Yet, when the school year started, things shifted radically. I would run myself ragged during the day between classes and club planning, and then, at night, I would feel a gnawing pressure to socialize. On the second or third night of class, I forced myself to go home before midnight to rest, but as soon as I came in the door, the silence was deafening and I felt myself start to panic. I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t watch television. I desperately needed to be with others, to the point where I texted my sleeping boyfriend nine times to try to get him to talk to me — something that embarasses me even now as I write it down.What changed between the summer and the school year? The answer is both simple and complex. There are hidden “rules” for how we entertain ourselves in college, shaped through culture, discourse and the constraints and opportunities presented by campus life. The more restraining rules can be broken; “you must drink to be cool” is one that is often felt but vehemently denied and which many break with no social consequence. Another, “the only people you may do social activities with are other Rice students” exerts a harder pressure, but understandably so due to the proximity of Rice students to each other. The rule that has the most influence on our free time and our choices for entertainment, however, is the following: “You must interact with your peers whenever you possibly can.” Let’s break this down. What this cultural rule essentially means is that as a Rice student, if you are faced with free time to do something non-academic or engage in an activity that is purely for entertainment, you are more likely than not to feel like you should be doing this activity with other students. You text your friends, “What’s going on tonight?” You go to the private or public party. You go see a movie with friends even if you aren’t interested in the plotline. There’s a similar pressure on people who are not at comparable universities, but I would argue that it’s far milder. In the “real world,” this pressure comes when you are feeling lonely or have not seen your friends in a while. At Rice, you feel it whenever you are not already committed to do something else — and sometimes, even if you are.Some pressure to engage in social forms of entertainment is healthy — strong relationships make life more enjoyable, and being with others can help us get outside of our own heads. Furthermore, some forms of entertainment (social drinking, going out to dinner, etc.) are just way more fun to do with other people. This is obvious. The problem is when the pressure is so intense that you become like me, heading back to your apartment exhausted and overstimulated, yet unable to enjoy anything without other people by your side. When you get to this point, which many people I know have, you have lost your freedom to create your life experience. You are now barred from choosing the entertainment you consume and enjoy; you are restricted to that which your peers choose and influenced by their opinions about it (whether you realize it or not). At some point, a component of your identity is morphed and lost — the part that is developed through active and private selection of what you are exposed to and how you feel about it. It’s the part of your identity that enjoys French films and has novel opinions about them; that has favorite quotes in books no one you know has read; that likes Garth Brooks even though none of your college friends can stand country. Losing this piece — the piece of you that consumes entertainment alone and forms opinions about entertainment and art in isolation, is beautiful and unique and a tragedy to lose.So, what can be done? Recognize that enjoying things alone is not less valuable than enjoying them with friends. Each has its place, and neither should be dismissed de facto. Furthermore, let anxiety in the face of isolation be a warning signal that rather than finding people, you need to be alone more; you need to remind yourself how to be entertained by your own choices and intellect. When the noise of college life is deafening, close the door, turn on your bedside lamp and read or watch or listen, for you.


Senior studio cultivates innovation

(09/09/15 3:22pm)

There is no classroom on campus quite like Senior Studio. The room is divided into a maze of white walls, together forming each of the students’ studio spaces. The spaces are occupied with eclectic objects and media: photographs, couches, projections, a bicycle. Voices echo throughout the room as the senior art students and their professors discuss each project.In Senior Studio, a required class for all art majors, seniors work together, capping four years spent apart in specialized classes. Students get more freedom and more opportunities for collaboration, and their own spaces to curate as they please.Natasha Bowdoin, the professor for the course, said the course has two primary goals: first, to provide students with research practice that ultimately leads into their senior thesis exhibition, and second, to expose students to art through critical viewing and discussion.“Viewing exhibitions and listening to other artists speak about their work is a means to stimulate what happens inside the students’ own studios as well,” Bowdoin said. “[Senior Studio] is an important class because it gets closest to what it’s like to be an artist in the world making work.”Bowdoin said the class is also important because it encourages students to develop a more nuanced view of both art and life in general.“Another goal of mine ... is to help give these students, whatever their future careers, a lens through which to understand the world,” Bowdoin said. “An artistic perspective can sometimes be considered deliberately weird ... but in my opinion it can actually contribute to a clearer, deeper perception of the things and people around us.”Baker College senior Ashlyn Herd, a student currently taking the class, said Senior Studio requires students to take on a range of new responsibilities in showcasing their work.”“What is different is having so much control over our own spaces and ultimately having a show that we do all by ourselves,” Herd said. Another student in the class, Baker College senior Claire O’Malley, said her favorite part of the class is its emphasis on collaboration and the lack of highly specific requirements.“I’m going to learn a lot just by hearing people talking over their work,” O’Malley said. “It’s [also] new to have this amount of freedom.”Bowdoin said she tries to include projects throughout the course that allow students the freedom to experiment, but also provide enough guidance to generate growth.“Senior Studio in part is really about giving each student the time, space and encouragement to fully realize their own individual body of work,” Bowdoin said. “This requires time and space for a lot of student-driven activity, but I think also needs to be balanced with some prompts to help them along the way.”The class’s first assignment required the students to curate a studio space using found objects. Students interpreted the task in a variety of ways. Herd, for example, located pillows and cushions she felt a strong personal attachment toward and arranged them into a giant, three-dimensional quilt that she displayed on the wall. She said her focus is exploring new concepts, in terms of both medium and subject.“I want to develop myself in ways that I am less comfortable with,” Herd said. “The piece I did today plays with the idea of 2-D and 3-D and something that is familiar. The couch cushions are personal to me and unfamiliar to anyone else who looked at them.”O’Malley took a different route: She took pictures of spaces like the freezer and the medicine cabinet of the house she moved into this year, and blew them up into giant prints that she assembled on the walls of her space. The pictures show the spaces as they were when O’Malley first moved in, full of miscellaneous items the former tenants left behind, with the addition of small army men O’Malley arranged around them. She said she intended to explore the ways people live their lives within their constrained spaces.These senior students will continue to work throughout the year in preparation for their end of the year show in the spring, which will be open to all students and faculty.


Art and science connect at Brockman Hall

(09/01/15 11:07am)

As of this year, physics and chemistry are not the only fields of study dominating the Brockman Hall for Physics. While the walls were once blank, new and returning students are now greeted by a scattered array of eye-catching ink medallions. The colorful orbs, which feature primarily STEM-related images, reflect a novel and striking intersection of art and science. The catalyst for the piece, completed this year by Houston-based artist Debra Barrera and master screen printer Carlos Hernandez, was a policy enacted by Rice University President David Leebron in 2008. Caroline Walker of Rice Public Art explained that Leebron passed a mandate stating that all buildings constructed on campus had to reserve a section of their budget for art. While the mandate was praised by the Houston community, the university struggled to apply the policy to the first eligible building, Brockman Hall. Walker said Brockman’s large central staircase precluded any three-dimensional installations, and the building’s scientific theme demanded an artist with a very specific focus.“It took a long time to find an artist that would be appropriate thematically,” Walker said. “And due to the fire code of the stairwell, we weren’t allowed to have anything expansive. … It had to be part of the wall and have no materiality.”Walker said Rice Public Art encountered Barrera in 2014 when she was part of a show at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, and decided soon after that she would be a perfect fit for the project.“She’s really an up-and-coming artist,” Walker said. “Also, we knew that her work would thematically tie in because she had this interest in connecting the past and the present and the history of science.”Rice Public Art also learned that Barrera is acquainted with Hernandez, a master screen printer famous for his eclectic work found everywhere from Austin City Limits posters to Pink’s pizza boxes. Barrera contacted Hernandez, and he agreed to make prints of her designs that could be permanently inked onto Brockman’s walls.“We thought it was just great,” Walker said. “There would be no fire risk, but [the project] would also be archival and [thus] stable and safe.”Barrera began the project by asking Rice faculty and staff to send in images related to their research and the history of their field of study. Once she collected them, she manipulated the pictures to reflect the various fields of exploration in simplified forms. “It was essentially an open call,” Walker said. “And she took those images and refined them, crossed them and manipulated them to create the final medallions.” The resulting images each represent a specific discipline within physics and astronomy, and are color-coded by field of study. Walker said that their circular structure means they are self-contained and thus could be scattered across the wall.“They kind of have this free association thing going on on the wall,” Walker said. “This allows you to roam from one to the next with your eyes as they travel up the stairwell.” Walker said the final product represents the intrinsic connection between art and science, and demonstrates how that connection can be directly observed.“Artists are always looking to not only reflect the world, but redefine it or reinvestigate what it means to be in it,” Walker said. “And scientists are interested in the same thing, looking very closely and trying to name the mysteries of the world.”Walker said Rice University is an ideal space for celebrating the art-science connection through public art due to its research-oriented environment and emphasis on discovery. “It’s such a dynamic and exploratory environment,” Walker said. “It naturally begs for art on campus that’s not just a statement, but also a question.”Walker said that eventually, Rice Public Art hopes to create an interactive component to the piece, or didactic, that allows students to engage with the work on a variety of levels. She said this will probably take the form of a website that allows viewers to learn more about each individual medallion.“Our hope is that … students that don’t normally traffic through that building can investigate the collection online,” Walker said. “We want them to realize that art is not a refined subject that’s supposed to be separated from all other fields, but art is interested in other disciplines, too.”“Asymmetric Seekers” is on display on campus at the Brockman Hall for Physics. More information can be found at publicart.rice.edu.


The “why” of entertainment

(08/27/15 12:35pm)

If you’ve been to any leadership training seminar in the past two years, you’ve almost certainly been exposed to Simon Sinek’s minimalist TED Talk, “How good leaders inspire action.” The gist is this: Good leaders start their projects by thinking of their purpose for acting, or “why,” before they consider what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. For instance, Sinek claims Apple is successful because its purpose — challenging the status quo — precedes what it intends to make or how it intends to make them.I think Sinek intended his talk to empower his audience, but it primarily just freaked me out. It implies that if an entity holds a certain central aura we find appealing, we will go along with whatever it produces, even if that output is intrinsically bad. This is especially relevant to entertainment, which has the ability to color our entire perception of the world. Think about it this way: Let’s say that a television channel, like HBO, has a “why” that we trust and draws us in. Perhaps that “why” is to supply well-written dramatic television shows with artistic merit. If we accept this “why,” by Sinek’s logic, we will be inclined to think well of all of HBO’s dramas, at least for a while, even if one is a total piece of crap. If we didn’t buy into HBO’s “why,” we would evaluate each individual show critically, allowing us to avoid wasting hours of our lives watching two seasons of some shitty show just because it was on HBO. In fact, highly respected television critics may be touting inflated reviews of shows right now just because of the branding and “whys” of the people and networks attached to them. Now, I personally don’t like being manipulated in this way, but others might not care much.  Unfortunately, there’s more than time spent watching television on the line here. This became apparent to me when I began following the Donald Trump campaign saga. The numbers didn’t make sense — Trump began leading in the polls, and no matter how offensive he became, his support stayed steady. Though this dumbfounded me for weeks, it started to make sense after (another) screening of Sinek’s talk. Trump captivated his supporters through his “why”: “Politicians suck.” And once exhausted, cynical citizens bought into that fairly innocuous message, they were attached to Trump, regardless of how awful his policies and words seemed to sound to those who hadn’t jumped on board. I think this means Trump strategy is good, but it also means that if my theory’s correct, his supporters have abandoned their ability to stay open-minded and critically evaluate candidates based on their policies and potential to become strong leaders. In general, I think these examples speak to both the power of Sinek’s hypothesis and the dangers surrounding it in regards to entertainment. On the one hand, establishing and maintaining a strong “why” allows the producers of entertainment to gain consumer loyalty and maintain it even if they put out a few flops. On the other hand, if we as consumers buy into “whys” too quickly, we may risk abandoning our ability to tell shit from gold. Though Sinek is correct that “why” may be powerful, how and what matter too.


Hot Houston spots

(08/27/15 12:23pm)

Welcome to Houston, y’all! Whether you are from far-off places or around the block, there are plenty of new, exciting sites to see and experiences to have in America’s fourth-largest city. In fact, there are so many things to do that all of those websites and guidebooks may overwhelm you a bit. To make things a little easier for you, the Thresher has weeded through the good and the bad in order to find the real gems tucked into this awesome place. For the artsy and outdoorsy: Miller Outdoor TheatreLocation: Hermann Park, past the zoo.How to get there: You can walk from campusThe scoop: Nestled within walking distance from Rice is one of Houston’s hidden artsy treasures, Miller Outdoor Theatre. This architectural masterpiece hosts free or low-cost events year-round in all variety of genres, including fireworks on July 4, symphonies, plays, dance performances and much more. Delicious food is often sold on site, and the theater is frequently surrounded by food trucks. Miller’s a great way to explore culture in your own backyard — literally.For hipster concertgoers: House of BluesLocation: 1204 Caroline St.How to get there: METRORailThe scoop: Houston’s overrun with music venues, but this one’s a treat purely because it’s so accessible from Rice. Just hop on the Metro, ride along for four or five stops, and you’ll be there in no time. The other perk of House of Blues is how diverse its offerings are — they host events almost every night of the week and feature acts from every genre of music, from country, to indie-rock, to ’70s throwback. It’s a great place to check out if you want to get off campus and listen to some high-quality live music in a relaxed setting.For the budget-conscious sports fan: BBVA Compass StadiumLocation: 2200 Texas St.How to get there: METRORailThe scoop: Houston’s an amazing city if you like watching professional sports, but sometimes the tickets can get a little pricey. Houston’s professional soccer team, the Dynamos, allows you to get in on the action without breaking the bank. The team plays at BBVA Compass Stadium, easily accessed from campus by the new Purple METRORail line, and tickets go for cheap on resale websites like Groupon. Just because tickets are affordable, however, does not mean you’re not in for an excellent time. The team is playing well and the venue is top-notch, so the games can be just as exciting as an early season Texans or Astros game.For the quirky: Beer Can HouseLocation: 222 Malone St.How to get there: Uber, or get a friend to driveThe scoop: In 1968, a Texas man got very bored, and several years later, Beer Can House came into existence. A Houston institution, BCH is exactly what it says in the name: a giant architectural structure created from over 50,000 beer cans. Though the creator, upholsterer John Milkovisch, swears it is not a piece of art, many would beg to differ, and the site has gained international attention in recent years. BCH is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. for admission and tours. A visit to this attraction is a pretty safe bet if you are looking for a weird adventure during your stay in Houston. For the adventurer: Discovery GreenLocation: 1500 McKinney St.How to get there: METRORail heading northThe scoop: Nestled in the urban jungle that comprises downtown Houston is a little patch of peace and nature. Discovery Green hosts events year round, most of which are free and open to all members of the community. In the winter, the park hosts ice skating and free holiday movie showings. In other seasons, events run the gamut from free tango classes to yoga sessions to wine tastings. The park is also just a great place to lay down a blanket and have a picnic with a friend. Regardless of when you make a visit, you will find something interesting to check out.


Confessionals give outlet for campus

(04/15/15 9:53am)

A dear friend recently told me about a weekly New York Times column gaining widespread popularity. Bored and lonely last Tuesday night, I remembered the recommendation and decided to read through a few posts. Within minutes, I was immersed. “Modern Love” features reader-submitted essays about love, in all its forms and iterations. Though anyone can submit, the stories selected are well-written, moving and, most strikingly, deeply personal. For instance, “Finding Equilibrium in Seesawing Libidos” ties the familiar marriage quandary of unbalanced sexual needs into a couple’s struggles with Parkinson’s (A wife’s libido, once low, skyrockets as a result of her medication). The beauty of the piece lies in the author’s description of the pain he feels watching a loved one suffer. Similarly, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This” catches reader attention with a wacky premise (Can scientists make people fall in love?) but stayed with me due to its intimate personal story about the moment when two people begin to realize their feelings for one another.“Modern Love” corresponds with a campus trend of using the written and spoken word to express deep emotions. This past March, a group of students put together “The Speak Up Project,” a documentary-theater performance in which students submitted personal narratives about sexual harassment and assault that were read aloud by actors. Anonymous confessionals “Rice Confess” and Yik Yak similarly include various posts detailing the emotional lives and personal concerns of students. The fact that these forums exist and are utilized, seen and discussed demonstrates a dual need: the desire for catharsis and the yearning for authentic connection in an exceedingly inauthentic world.I would suspect that this trend speaks to a disturbing sense of isolation among the population — particularly those who have been through trauma or have certain emotional needs. Sharing pain and confusion with new acquaintances is taboo, yet emotional release and the need for understanding is critical. Anonymity allows release without judgment. Viewing others’ stories makes one feel connected by providing reassurance that feelings and struggles are universal and legitimate. In our celebration of these mediums, however, we must be careful not to use them as total replacements for sharing with other humans. As much as they can comfort us, there is nothing comparable to intimate sharing with real people, in the flesh. Thus, I encourage students: Use anonymous outlets and read confessionals, especially if they help. At the same time, however, be open to removing the veil over your identity and pursuing authentic connection with another human being. 


BRC welcomes student exhibition

(04/15/15 9:52am)

The Bioscience Research Collaborative is known as a facility strictly devoted to science. This spring, however, the building has experienced an infusion of art. Until May 2015, the BRC’s pop-up gallery will house “Not Born Yesterday,” an exhibition created and curated by Duncan College senior Lydia Smith. The show is especially notable because it is the first student exhibition ever displayed in the gallery.Smith’s work consists of three strange, textured ovals propped delicately off the wall. Smith said she has been experimenting with tyvek, a construction material used to wrap houses. She said she likes it because it is simultaneously delicate and strong. “I work with thin materials a lot; most of my work is portable and malleable,” Smith said. “I was drawn to tyvek because it’s thin, like paper, but it’s fabricated out of plastic, so it’s a very strong material and cannot rip. You can wash it; there are clothes made out of it. It lends itself to many uses.”Smith uses a process that involves burning the tyvek with a heat gun set to 500 degrees. The high temperature warps the material so it bubbles. Then, she paints and shapes it. The final product is strange and indistinct, in between a painting and a sculpture.“They’re a really big departure from anything I’ve done in the past,” Smith said. “They’re much more ambiguous, to be interpreted by the viewer in any different way. If you walk into the space, you could see them as planets or even cells under a microscope.”Smith was invited to showcase her work in the BRC by Rice Public Art. Smith said while she did not design her pieces specifically for the space, they fit together perfectly.“I’m always so excited when I see this kind of relationship between the architecture and the work,” Smith said. “The works and the space are interconnected. You could have pieces that don’t fit with a space, and it could completely ruin the exhibition even it’s great work.”Smith also curated her exhibition, drawing on experience she has gained as director of Rice’s Matchbox Gallery. She used a mock-up of the space to try out different arrangements of the pieces. She also decided to install the pieces with small rods so they hang slightly off the wall, casting shadows.“I think there’s some gravity relevant in the way they’re shown; they’re dynamic,” Smith said. “Also, there are holes in the pieces, allowing light to be involved in the work.”Smith has continued to experiment with tyvek, and will display new works along with 13 other visual and dramatic arts majors in the senior showcase on April 23 in Sewall Hall. She was also recently awarded the prestigious Watson Fellowship, which funds a year of personal exploration and study. She says she will use it to study cemeteries in six countries.“Not Born Yesterday” will be on display in the BRC pop-up gallery until May 2015.




English professor Tim Morton talks to Bjork

(03/25/15 5:33am)

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City (known to most as MoMA) is showcasing a retrospective of Bjork, a world-renowned Icelandic composer and musician, March 8-June 7. The three-story exhibit celebrates various elements of Bjork’s work over the past 20 years, using various auditory and visual mediums. Though perhaps not a complete critical success (The Atlantic’s Kriston Capps recently referred to the it as “slight on substance and nuance”), the exhibit is nonetheless impressive. In one section, visitors watch a strange, powerful music video in a dark room, which features the singer running around a volcanic cave, crying out in heartbreak. In another, attendees walk through a winding hall lined with artifacts from the artist’s career, accompanied by music and narration.Perhaps most notable to Rice University students and faculty, however, is the university’s own mark on the exhibit. Rice’s Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English, Dr. Timothy Morton, collaborated with Bjork on a visual book created to accompany the MoMA exhibition. The five-part work, Bjork: Archives, is an amalgam of art forms, including photographs of the artist’s fashion over the years, album artwork, illustrated text and poetry.Morton’s connection to the project can be traced back to July 2014, when he received an email from the singer praising his 2013 book, Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology and Causality. Morton responded by initiating a philosophical dialogue, and the two carried on a sprawling intellectual conversation for three months, despite never having met in person. During their correspondence, they decided to collaborate on a project and soon realized that their 150-page email chain was a piece of collaborative art in itself. The text was bound into one of the volumes of Archives and sold alongside four other booklets, which each strives to interpret and reflect upon Bjork’s career in distinct ways. Other contributors include MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach, critic Alex Ross, musicology professor Nicole Dibben and poet Sjon.Morton said in an interview with Houstonia magazine that he has been a fan of Bjork’s music for decades, even before she had started her solo career and was moving between various bands. He described her as “futuristic” and “a leader in how to inhabit the new era.” Fittingly, Bjork also said she’s long been a fan of Morton’s work, which focuses on object-oriented ontology, a branch of metaphysics that considers objects outside of their relation to human beings. Rice reported that the two met late last year when Morton flew to Iceland to wrap up Archives, and Morton has said that during his visit he met Bjork’s friends, watched her record music and ate the artist’s own home-cooked meals.MoMA’s Bjork exhibition will be on display until June 7. Bjork: Archives can be purchased for £40.00 at thamesandhudson.com.


Thresher Presents: Rodeo Preview

(03/11/15 5:28am)

There’s a musty hint of hay and grease in the air. An occasional whinny may be heard in the distance. The streets are packed with more hats and pairs of cowboy boots than usual. It can all mean only one thing — it’s Houston Rodeo time in the city. Especially for Houston newcomers, Rodeo can be a bit overwhelming. Dozens of performers, food vendors and other entertainment will all vie for your hard-earned pennies and attention. While you’re sure to have a good time no matter what you do and see, the Thresher has narrowed down your options a tad to let you know which are actually the best concerts and treats being offered. BEST MEALS:For the BBQ fan: Triple J’s SmokehouseLocation: NRG Park, KC501What to get? Big J Potato, $15 — A baked potato stuffed with butter, cheese, sour cream, chives and your choice of beef, sausage or rib meatMeat Combo, $9.99 — Two meats (ribs, beef or sausage) with barbecue sauce and breadFor the Vegetarian: Stump’s Wood-Fired PizzaLocation: NRG Arena, AR600What to get?The Jimmy Buffet, $10 — A nine-inch hyper-fresh margherita pizza; San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oilFor the Adventurous: Belgian WafflesLocation: KC306What to get?Fried sriracha balls — Shredded chicken, tomatoes, green chiles and sriracha encrusted in tortilla chips and then deep-friedStrawberry waffle balls — Like cake balls, but waffles that come with strawberry dipping sauceFor the Tex-Mex Fan: Tad’s Bodacious BurritosLocation: NRG Park, RP65What to get?Chipotle beef burrito, $8.50 — Enormous burrito filled with shredded beef rubbed with chipotle, black beans, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses; coated with chipotle cheese sauce and garnished with pico de galloBEST TREATS:For the Fried Food Lover: Aunt Edmoe’s Homemade CookiesLocation: NRG Park, CD205What to get?Fried cookie dough on a stick, $7 — Real, delicious cookie dough deep-fried and put on a stick, can also be dipped in chocolateCookie dough parfait, $7 — Ice cream, cookie dough, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and a cherry and two warm cookies on topFor the Cinnamon-aholic: Stubby’s Cinnamon RollsLocation: NRG Arena, AR903; NRG Center, L259What to get?Cinnamon roll with “the works,” $5 — A cinnamon roll as big your head topped with rich icing and pecansBacon-wrapped cinnamon roll, $5 — Huge cinnamon roll coated in juicy baconFor the Popcorn Fan: Kettle Corn of TexasLocation: NRG Park, KC506What to get?Small bag of kettle corn, $3 — Decent helping of fresh-popped kettle corn made in 100 percent corn oilFor the Intense Dessert Fan: Granny’s Cheesecake & MoreLocation: NRG Center, L255What to get?Chocolate-dipped cheesecake with Oreo, $7 — Means what it says; a delicious cheesecake dipped in chocolate and served with Oreos on top EVENTS:Mutton BustingMutton busting is everyone’s favorite rodeo event. Like bull riding for children, kids between ages five and six must grab hold of a sheep and attempt to stay on as long as possible. While everyone in mutton busting is declared a winner, the child who stays on the longest is awarded a champion belt buckle and serious bragging rights.Calf ScrambleThe calf scramble is arguably the most chaotic rodeo event. Officials release 15 calves into the arena that 30 4-H and Future Farmers of America youth must race after and try to catch with nothing but a rope halter. Each successful student is given a $1,500 voucher to purchase his or her own beef heifer or market steer to show in next year’s rodeo. This event is intended to encourage agricultural enterprise in the state of Texas by supporting students’ interest in ranching and farming.Tie-Down RopingThis rodeo sport, inspired by traditional ranch-hand practices, tests skills necessary for any good rancher. The event starts when a calf is released and crosses a trip lever that frees the mounted roper. The team must race after the calf and quickly lasso its neck. The horse must then maintain tension on the rope so the calf does not escape as the roper dismounts and ties the calf’s legs. The fastest roper to complete the task wins.  CONCERTS:If traditional country’s not your thing:Zac Brown BandTime: Thursday, March 12, 6:45 p.m.Hits: Chicken Fried, Colder Weather, KneeDeepSummary: Melodic, slower-tempo country with deep lyrics and some nice harmonies If you like to sing along:Luke BryanTime: Sunday, March 22, 3:45 p.m.Hits: Crash My Party, Play it Again, I Don’t Want this Night to EndSummary: Strong beat, authentic country — mostly feel-good tunes and love songs Brad PaisleyTime: Saturday, March 21, 3:45 p.m.Hits: Perfect Storm,Whiskey Lullaby, Beat this SummerSummary: Classic songs that tell stories — rich with nostalgia, humor and heart If you want a pop/country mix:Florida Georgia LineWednesday, March 18, 6:45 p.m.Hits: Cruise, This is How We Roll, DirtSummary: Fast-paced music that sounds best on a road trip, windows down, wind blowing The Band PerryFriday, March 20, 6:45 p.m.Hits: If I Die Young,Better Dig Two, DONE.Summary: Strong female vocals, soft melodies and powerful, belting choruses If you want something TOTALLY different:La Arrolladora Banda El LimonTime: Sunday, March 15, 3.45 p.m.Hits: ?Summary: Traditional Mexican regional music. You can’t help but dance along. If you want straight-up Top 40:Ariana GrandeTime: Tuesday, March 17, 6:45 p.m.Hits: Love Me Harder, Break Free,One Last TimeSummary: Belting pop ballads, choruses that always manage to get stuck in your head PitbullTime: Friday, March 13, 6:45 p.m.Hits: Timber, Fireball, Time of Our LivesSummary: High-bass tracks that make you wish you were in a downtown nightclub