Category Archives: Columns

Music Review: 22, A Million

by Noah Fechter (CE ’20)

Photo by Cameron Wittig & Crystal Quinn.
Photo by Cameron Wittig & Crystal Quinn.

Justin Vernon, whose band Bon Iver achieved prominence with the 2007 release of For Emma, Forever Ago, has an uncanny ability for sneaking into the spotlight. The story has been told ad nauseum: in a cabin somewhere in Wisconsin, For Emma was forged in unmitigated introspection and authenticity. 2011’s self-titled album, Bon Iver, built on the sincerity of his songwriting and helped the album catch a broader audience. At some point Bon Iver had a following so large that it started caving in on itself. The band went on hiatus.

On July 22, 2016, Bon Iver’s Facebook page posted a video with audio from the single “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” and an abstract contemporary art style. It was clear from then that this album would be another example of an artist stepping away from their fanbase. It was unclear, however, just what meaning was to be found in the flickering pop-art patterns and (vaguely satanic) religious symbols. Bon Iver had emerged from the underworld.

But why did Bon Iver go to such lengths for a new artistic direction? Pitchfork Media’s Amanda Petrusich called 22, A Million “…an unexpected turn towards the strange and experimental,” inspired by Vernon’s “hunger for true, tectonic innovation,” even comparing the change in sound to Radiohead’s 2000 album Kid A. And indeed, Bon Iver succeeds in finding a sound that is sometimes absolutely arcane. The single and opening track “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” captures a gospel quality in verses interspersed with feedback noise and a vocoder sample Vernon captured during a panic attack in recording. “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” another single released simultaneously, is comprised of shuffling, breakbeat drums, grumbling waves of bass, triumphal vocal composition backed by horns, and a single, bleating, pitch augmented vocal sample echoing through the background. These tracks seem more closely inspired by West Coast alternative hip-hop than the four years Bon Iver spent as the purveyor of Northeastern Americana.

22, A Million still bears reminders that Bon Iver can convey immense beauty and enveloping emotions. The track “29 #Strafford APTS” is a page out of an earlier Bon Iver release, the folk rock instrumentation breathing heavily through a coating of dense chrome. The melodies, chord progressions, and timbre are so reminiscent that­­—minutes into the song—the switch to sharp vocoder vocals serrates the image as it is drawn. This track is the tour de force of the album, an imperative showing that this electronic, inhuman sound can also evoke feelings of nostalgia and warmth. “____45_____,” the second to final track, brings up the obvious Kanye West influence on Vernon’s writing. The song is comprised of another choir of vocal harmonies, a horn section put through auto-tune, and­—at the tail-end of the track—a plucked banjo with heavy reverb. It’s precariously similar to “Lost In The World,” Vernon’s collaboration with Kanye West on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The component parts of these tracks easily stand apart from one another, but the end product is in parts distant, powerful, and wavering.

There’s a lot of callback in 22, A Million, whether intentional or not. The vocoder asides that comprise the songs “715 – CR∑∑KS” and “____45_____” are nearly sparse enough to be hip-hop track interludes. The songs “29 #Strafford APTS,” “666 ʇ,” and “8 (circle)” feature more organic vocal compositions, evocative of prior Bon Iver releases. The gospel-esque vocal arrangements on many tracks reflect a popular trend in hip-hop that very prominent 2016 releases by Chance the Rapper, and again Kanye West, have spearheaded. The vocoder’s furious, breakbeat drums, ‘chipmunked’ vocal samples, and surging gospel harmonies have all been acclaimed by music reviewers everywhere. With the knowledge that Vernon is buying into these trends, then the question is surely “where is the novelty in 22, A Million?

The image that Vernon carved for 22, A Million is cryptic, goading the listener to investigate the deep and fulfilling meaning that the album has to offer. Yet, even the first listen yields an easy experience deep-seated in nostalgia and recollection. Every one of the ten tracks on the album now has a lyric video publicly available for every word to be mulled over, and the album is only fractionally longer than an episode of a sitcom. Though this album is wearing a style more beckoning, more ambitious, and more ambiguous than those before it, it’s still Bon Iver. This is still approachable, welcoming music, written in a sonic language that is well established, and naturally accepted by audiences with open ears. ◊

Miles of Movies: Deepwater Horizon

by Miles Barber (CE ’18)

Deepwater Horizon is about the events surrounding the explosion on Deepwater, a Texas oil rig owned by British Petroleum. The film follows the events leading up to the explosion and how the crew tried their best to evacuate.

The first half of this film features Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), who explains how his rig works to his daughter for a school project. He uses a soda can to explain how the rig works by capping the pressure from the oil. A lot of this introduction with Mike’s family serves both as exposition and character development. Mixed in with Mike’s screen time, you get little errors happening on the rig, giving you a sense of foreboding and worry.

Though other characters are introduced when we reach the rig, Mike continues to be the main character in this film. While this half of the film is a little slower than the second half, it is still tense, as each of the little problems is so well introduced. Once Mike gets on the rig, he meets Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), a no-nonsense supervisor who hates corporate interference which, in this film, is presented in the form of Vidrine (John Malkovich). Kurt Russell is such a force in this film and gives a really strong performance; he’s easy to get behind since he argues for safety when others don’t prioritize it. Something also worthy of praise is the sound design during the buildup, which lets you in on every creak in the rig, every little bubble of escaped pressure.

Then, the rig explodes. This half of the film is nonstop intensity, giving you no time to breathe. The camera shakes a little to make it feel real. The explosions are everywhere, as if there was nothing on the rig that couldn’t explode. The water is on fire. The makeup team makes each and every one of the characters look grimy and hurt. Everything feels like it could have happened as shown. The only thing that doesn’t quite work are the effects: some of the wide shots of the rig falling apart just don’t look realistic.

Overall, Deepwater Horizon is an effective disaster film. It’s well-acted, has good sound, and effectively presents the buildup and the aftermath of the explosion. Kurt Russell, in particular, is excellent. The effects weren’t quite as good as I might have hoped and I think the film could have been better explained at points (maybe it’s still unclear what happened) but I would recommend seeing this film if you’re a fan of disaster films. ◊

Grade: B-

Mile of Movies: The Magnificent Seven

By Miles Barber (CE ‘18)

The Magnificent Seven, remake of the 1960 film of the same name (which was itself a remake of the 1956 Japanese film Seven
Samurai
), tells the story of seven gunslingers and knife-throwers who band together to defend a small western town from a ruthless capitalist named Bartholomew Bogue. The first scene in the film sets up the stakes and throws the film into motion as Bogue visits this town, leaving many dead and the rest terrified to stand up to him without some help.

They find that help in the form of seven men including Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington), Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt), and Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) around whom the film centers. Most of them have unique personalities that help you distinguish each one on more than just a physical level, making them more memorable. The performances, however, vary in authenticity. Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke give the only performances that felt like they actually belonged in this old-style western. Coincidentally, their characters, Sam Chisholm and Goodnight Robicheaux, are the only ones with real backstories, as they have some history in the Civil War. Chris Pratt’s Joshua Faraday seemed like he was trying way too hard to mix his “wild west” cowboy character with his character from Guardians of the Galaxy. The result was a performance that was quite fun, but just felt a little out of place in the film.

Performances aside, the film did a great job on a narrative level. Each facet of this straightforward tale makes sense as events lead into each other. The two shootout scenes in the film are very intense, featuring some truly fantastic stunts, many great practical effects, and some hilarious moments.

On a technical level, the film was also quite good. The mountainous landscape is perfectly captured in some beautiful shots that really show off not just the natural beauty of the area but also how great it looks at night. There are a couple shots of distant clouds around dusk that just make you appreciate how amazing the Midwest looks. The final confrontation is also beautifully captured in a mix of wides and closeups to show off both the stunts and the scope. Add in a great score by James Horner (sadly passed) and Simon Franglen and you have a pretty well-made western.

Overall, The Magnificent Seven is a well-made film that proves a worthy remake of the 1956 film. It adds little new content, its characters are a little thin, and Chris Pratt’s humor may be a little out of place, but the music, cinematography, and intensity of this film make it worth your time. ◊

Grade: B

I’m Wild About Boring Things

By Vanessa Ritz (Art ’18)

I’d like to control the weather. If I were able to do so, I wouldn’t go crazy and you probably wouldn’t even know that I took over.

Right now the weather tries to control me but I refuse to succumb.

I became infatuated with this power while walking home from school after it had rained. I realized that I walked around the corner that I normally walk on because of a puddle. The power of this puddle to determine how I walked home bothered me. This happened over a year ago and I still think about it. After I found myself stepping around my normal path, I emailed this revelation to myself for a permanent documentation. This was the moment I decided the weather would not control me. I would always be one step ahead.

How to be ahead of the weather? Proper preparation. One must check the weather daily. When I have moments to kill on my phone, I check the weather. When I wake up, I check the weather. When I go to bed, I check the weather.

Stay informed. Defy its control. If it is going to rain, don’t let the weather stop daily routines or postpone plans. Rain dates are a bitch, so stick to the initial plan. Be as powerful as the weather. Invest in rain boots, snow boots, a tent for events, a rain jacket, an umbrella, and a headlight for blackouts.

There are two approaches to confront the weather.

1. Ignore it. Simple. Wear jackets when you want to, wear shorts in the snow, walk through puddles in sandals, drink hot coffee in august, eat Mexican food in the sun.

2. Mock it. Plan in advance. This is all about efficiency. You become so overtly prepared for the weather that it doesn’t matter what is happening outside because your gear leaves you virtually unaffected.

Personally, I like to ignore it. I like to have ice cream in the winter and hot tea in the summer. So, moral of the story: ignore the fucking puddle.

 VRitz - Wild About Boring Things

Wild About Boring Things

Vanessa Ritz (Art ’18)

I have realized that I am falling in love with microwaves. This is one of those unexpected things in life. I used to believe that microwaves were deadly inventions that I would never use. I was that person that would spend an hour convincing you that the radiation coming off of microwaves is basically killing humanity. There is always that person. Bitches.

I had this image of microwaves being house- hold death rays. Just an easy way out. I don’t trust things that are too easy. I feel like this has a lot to do with childhood. I never liked cartoons or kid shows but I really liked Emeril. For those of you who don’t know, I’m talking about Emeril Lagasse. For obvious reasons there was no plush toy, so I had the apron. Emeril had a cooking show that I became hooked on. It’s called Emeril Live and it came on Food Network.

Note: At the ripe age of eight, I got tickets to see the show live and I met Emeril. He held my hand and gave me a chipwich. You can bet I still have that wrapper.

This slight obsession led to many more cook- ing show addictions and I got a false idea of how food is made and microwaves really weren’t how they did things. This explains why I didn’t realize how useful they were sooner, but it only justi es some of my igno- rance. The rest is on me.

It’s kind of crazy that I deemed microwaves impractical because they are so practical. They embody practicality. I aspire to be as practical as a microwave is. It’s the little things like its speedy sweet-potato-cooking and ability to steam all vegetables, even the tough ones such as broccoli. Microwaves are so much more than a way to heat up food. You can use microwaves to completely cook raw food and make dinner in less than ten min- utes. Ef ciency at its nest. Microwaves.

Ask Ruchi

By Ruchi Patel (ChE ’18)

How do I survive Cooper and not gain the freshman 50?! Frankie’s and Two Bros are plotting against me because at this rate, if I fail out, I can be a plus size model right now. What should I do?

Nothing! You have to do nothing! It’s a matter of time before you start studying for Wolf’s Mechanics class and/or eat pizza so delish that 2 Bros. makes you gag. Prepare for the freshman -50.

Seeing as how I have to fight 8 other guys to even talk to a girl here, what do you suggest I do to get some action over here? I mean, boys have needs. 

HAHAHAHA. Every girl at Cooper Union is, deep deep down in her being, so far down that she doesn’t even notice, a guy. You could transfer to NYU, I guess. I hear they have more girls than boys. And as far as your needs go…well, we can discuss that one-on-one.

How come I never get matched on Tinder?

If you answer YES to any of the following questions, you’ll have your answer:
1.) Do you have other not-so-attractive people on your main Tinder photo?
2.) Are you wearing a football jersey?
3.) Is your main photo a Snapchat screenshot?
4.) Is it a selfie?
5.) Is it some type of anime or cartoon?
6.) Are you wearing plaid on plaid?
7.) Is your outfit different shades of the same color?
8.) Are you wearing a lab coat or lab goggles?
9.) Do you work in the computer center?
10.) Are you Zhengqi?
11.) Do you have braces?
12.) Is your bio more than 4 lines?
13.) Did you try to make a joke?
14.) Did you say something nerdy?
15.) Did you mention you go to Cooper Union?

I’m scared because I might kidnap Bailyn and keep him hostage as a pseudo-grandfather. I’ve never had violent tendencies before, but I don’t know what is happening to me! He’s just too precious!!

SO. TRUE. Take advantage of him. Don’t miss a single class. Just be there, and let him make you happy. Let him brighten up your day. Let him teach you somethin g. Always ask questions. Greet him enthusiastically. Just be really really respectful because he is truly the cutest.

On a scale of 1 to America, how free are you tonight?

As free as air and water… both of which are not free.

To have your questions answered by Ruchi, write to pioneer@cooper.edu. 

Volume 95 Issue 1

By Ruchi Patel (ChE ’18) 

This is an advice column and people are supposed to ask me questions to which I offer questionable advice. But I don’t have any questions because this is the first issue of the year! To ask questions, please reach out to me at pioneer@cooper.edu with the subject line “Asking Ruchi.”

Meanwhile, I’ll offer some thoughts without your asking.

If you are a freshman:

Please don’t follow me around. I’m just trying to have lunch in a public space. Really, I can’t help you with your EID 101 troubles. And I definitely can’t relate to them. Why do you need help with EID 101? Stop. Oh my god, stop!

By the way, what are those?

If you are a sophomore:

Why are you complaining about homework? You’re the first and maybe last class to pay tuition. You got betrayed by this school. Don’t do homework if you don’t want to. Don’t even go to class. No one has the right to demand anything from you. Honestly, you’re paying some good bucks, so spend your time here focusing on you. Be a better person. Volunteer in nursing homes. Read poetry for your soul. Don’t give into the scam of a discounted education!

If you are a junior:

I get it. You guys are doing grown-up things like “internships.” Whatever. I’m still never going to forget that time you hit someone with a chair for a pack of Sour Patch Kids. Or when you wrote fanfiction supplemented with anime drawings and posted them on a blog called “Engineering Is My Passion.” Yeah, alright. Grown-ups.

If you are a senior:

OH MY GOD. I’LL MISS YOU SO MUCH! The Cooper Union is nothing without you. Okay, great talking to you! Bye, now. BYE!