Tag Archives: 3-7-2016

Grand Staircase Refuses to Touch Third Rail

By Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19)

Grand Staircase - Photo by Winter Leng (ChE '18)

Photo by Winter Leng (ChE ’18)

One of the most iconic features of the New Academic Building is the Grand Staircase, which stretches from the first floor lobby to Frankie’s café on the fourth floor. It is also arguably the most hazardous. The staircase has notoriously been the site of few slips and falls, some of which have been caught on security camera. In one particular video from 2011, a student begins to fall down the stairs but is fortunately caught by another student, preventing serious injury.

In a 2009 architecture review published in the New York Times prior to the opening of 41 Cooper Square, the author Nicolai Ouroussoff, writes that a “subtle but important problem is the depth of the treads on the grand staircase.” Besides being “hard to sit on,” Mr. Ouroussoff, remarks that, “they gave me vertigo when I began my descent from the third floor.”

At its widest, the staircase measures around 20 feet.
According to Professor Wolf, the Campus Safety Coordinator, “if you were to look up ordinary code requirements for staircases, there’s only so much width you can have before you need [additional] handrails.” The Grand Staircase goes “far beyond” that limit. So how has it evaded having a third handrail down the center? Technically, it’s an ornamental staircase designed by the building’s architect Thom Mayne from architecture firm Morphosis.

Additionally, the side handrails already in place do not run orthogonally to the stairs. That is to say if you are using the handrail, you might find that the railing is angled inward or outward from the staircase, which forces you to ascend or
descend at an awkward angle. This poses a potential tripping hazard for those who depend on railings to negotiate stairs.

If you have ever used the hand rails, you might have noticed that the metal rods, which support it, stick out at odd angles and force you to pick up your hand to move past the support. If you have not noticed this nuisance, give it a try. It is a tricky game to play.

The stairs themselves are constructed from polished concrete, which is nearly too slippery for conventional use. For those who know a little physics, the polished concrete stairs have a measured coefficient of friction just above the minimum acceptable limit, “but that was on a dry day,” added Prof. Wolf.

Furthermore, since the grand staircase is ornamental, it cannot be used as a means of egress in the event of an emergency. In fact, gates will drop down to block access to the grand staircase and route people to the proper exit staircases.

Despite its ornamental status, there have been initiatives to install a third rail for quite some time now. Both a recent interview with Prof. Wolf and an interview with former Vice President T.C. Westcott in the February 2012 issue of The Pioneer suggest that there were concerns about safety seemingly since the staircase was constructed.

Plans for the third rail seemed to gain momentum in early 2012. According the interview with former Vice President T.C. Westcott, the “worst case” scenario was that the new handrail would go up “in the summer” of that year. In March 2012, the official grand staircase handrail design by Thom Mayne was published in The Pioneer alongside exceedingly creative student designs. (You can find the designs on pages 7 and 12)

It seemed that finally the Grand Staircase would have a functional waterslide, or a grinding rail for skateboarders, or at the very least a safe and easy-to-use railing down the center. However quite apparently, such was not the case. According to T.C. Westcott in The Pioneer’s follow-up
interview from October of 2012, Cooper at that time was still “on the eve of getting the final certificate of occupancy” for the New Academic Building. Because obtaining a final certificate of occupancy is a lengthy process, which requires there to be no open work permits (among several other things), the administration was hesitant to file such an extensive work permit. That final certificate of occupancy is still pending even today, according to Professor Wolf in an email.

The paperwork was not the only impediment to the third rail. According to an interview with Prof. Wolf, The Cooper Union reached out to several engineering firms to contract Thom Mayne’s handrail design. All of them turned down the job. The issue is that the potential rail would ideally have to be tied into the steel underlying the grand staircase, but that steel is difficult, expensive, and time consuming to access. A suboptimal alternative would be to drill holes in the preexisting concrete, install the railing, and backfill with more concrete. Extensive use would cause this alterative solution to wobble over time.

According to Prof. Wolf and confirmed by Jody Grapes, former Cooper Union Facilities Director, the third hand rail was ultimately turned down because the job itself was complicated and expensive and the Cooper Union administration at the time was “not eager to delay [the final certificate of occupancy] for the building by opening another job that would have to be filed.”

Since Cooper’s final certificate of occupancy for 41 Cooper Square is still pending, any new plans for a handrail may have to wait until later. Until then, let’s hope there will either be very few tumbles or very agile Cooper students.

Jolie Woodson - PC Toby Stein CE '18

Faces of Cooper: Jolie Woodson

By Toby Stein (CE ’18) 

The classic interview question, tell us a bit about yourself: 

So you know my name, my name is Jolie Woodson, and I’ve been working at Cooper Union for just over seven years assisting engineering students in their career development. I am originally from Long Island, but I’ve been living in New York City for the past 15 years. I’m married, and have two cats, Betsy and Eloise.

How did your educational and career path lead to you to Cooper?

I studied at New York University getting a degree in Psychology and Metropolitan Studies, and then immediately after graduating I did some traveling around Asia for a few months. My first job was working in admissions and recruitment at a CUNY system for a school in the Bronx called Lehman College. Then, I transitioned to another CUNY school, Baruch College, where I ran a professional mentoring program for students and then I came and started working here at Cooper.

What is your favourite thing to do at Cooper?

My favorite thing to do at Cooper is definitely talk to students. It’s my favorite thing to do because you the students are amazing; you’re an interesting hardworking and impressive group that is incredibly inspiring, and because of that my favorite thing is to talk to students. Luckily, there are quite a number of students, and just one of me, so I get to do it quite a bit.

Assuming that all students read the weekly emails, and attend all the prep events, what is the one thing that students should do, actually? 

“The one thing that every single student should do, actually” is ask themselves what they want. It all boils down to trying to figure out what you want, not what you think you should do, not what other people before you did, not what your parents tell you to do, but to think about what you actually want. Because once you have an idea of a direction that you want to go in, and I am not looking for something super specific, it’s just that once you have that idea, everything else gets much easier. I find that oftentimes people are challenged in seeking out opportunities because they are not sure what they are looking for. I understand that as college students you guys are trying to figure that out, but if you can do little things to figure out what you want, it goes a long way.

In five words, what is the best general life advice you have for us college students?

Forget about your GPA, please.

Outside of the Cooper community, what other passions or hobbies do you enjoy?

Other than replying to all of the emails, I spend a lot of time with my family. A lot of my family is local, and so I generally visit them. My grandmother is 95, and as she lives on Long Island, I get to visit her pretty much every weekend. But my grandmother isn’t a typical grandmother, she has a smartphone and a tablet, an Instagram account, and she sends me text messages, so she’s certainly hip, but also old. Beyond family, my husband and I enjoy traveling. We don’t travel every weekend, but we certainly like to take one big trip every summer. This summer we are planning to go to both Iceland and Scotland, as last summer was a trip to Peru.

When you went to NYU did you know about Cooper? 

I learned about Cooper, and I know that this is now kind of weird, when Bill Cosby spoke in the Great Hall. NYU students were invited or something like that, and I came to the Great Hall to hear Bill Cosby talk. I remember at the time thinking “this is so cool,” granted now I feel a bit weird about it, but as this was a long time ago it was still really cool. That was my first time at Cooper. In fact, despite being from Long Island it was the first I had heard of Cooper.

Who is your Cooper Idol?

See, there have been so many amazing people, and I can’t just pick Peter Cooper because that would be too obvious and boring. Have you ever gone to take a test and just not had the answer, and then you start to get stressed out by not knowing? That’s where I’m at right now; this has really stumped me. You know what? I’m going to go with the first person that honestly came to my mind: Frankie. He’s friendly all the time, always in a good mood and always talks to people. Obviously he keeps everyone well fed which is important and he’s one of the only people that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a bad mood. That’s kind of amazing, so I’m certainly going with him; he makes me smile even when I’m kind of grumpy, so I guess it’s Frankie.

The Bigger Picture on Ke$ha

By Kavya Udupa (BSE ’19)

Today is March 7, 2016.  Ninety-six years since the Nineteenth Amendment was passed and women were granted the right to vote.  Fifty-three years since the Equal Pay Act was passed and women were guaranteed the same salary as men who held the same position. Despite these monumental jumps in gender equality, women, like Kesha, are unable to comfortably pursue their careers because they live in constant fear of being sexually harassed or assaulted in their respective workplaces.

For those of you who don’t know, Kesha is in a legal battle with her producer, Dr. Luke, who she accused of drugging and raping her.  Kesha wants to stop working under Dr. Luke because of what he has done to both physically and mentally harm her but this is in violation of her contract. The court ruled that she cannot break the contract she has with Dr. Luke and his label, Kemosabe Records, which is owned by Sony.  The problem right now is that Kesha does not have any physical proof, like hospitalization records, that Luke sexually assaulted her and as a result, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich stated that Kesha is essentially trying to get out of a contract that is typical to the musical industry.  Sony has offered a compromise in that they are allowing her to work with other producers but Kesha is not comfortable with the idea, as she will be working in close proximity to the man who assaulted her.

It is understandable that the court wants hard evidence in support of Kesha’s claims to rule in her favor, but it is still unsettling that there is such a large emphasis on there being proof to support her claims.  I am not saying that numbers are not necessary – statistics and records are very important to the American legal system as it provides legitimate support for claims that may seem controversial.  Kesha claims that Dr. Luke threatened to ruin her career if she ever revealed that he was sexually assaulting her, yet she still had the courage to file a lawsuit against him. I realize it may be controversial for me to say this, but I feel that there is legitimacy to her claim and that this appeal to pathos cannot be ignored because of the lack of hard evidence.

Kesha’s story is not unique; yes, she is a celebrity and yes, she has the likes of Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga supporting her, but ultimately, what is happening to her is happening to millions of women across the nation.  So many women face sexual harassment and/or assault in their workplace and so many women are unable to be open about what they are going through on a daily basis.  Why?  Because these women either do not have the money and resources to explain what is happening to them and hire a decent lawyer to support them in court, or they simply do not have the courage to be open as they are afraid of the consequences.  Kesha had the money and resources to appear in the public eye but she is definitely facing negative consequences for doing so.

Ultimately, Kesha’s assault has made singing and producing music, something she loves, a living hell.  She has made it very clear that she will not continue producing music if she is unable to break from her contract with Sony.  How can we, as a society, tell women to be open about their experiences regarding sexual assault when Kesha’s life is literally falling apart because she had the courage to be open with what happened to her?  The court ruling against her has proved what so many women feel; there is no point in going to court or being open about sexual harassment when the judicial system and society in general are so hung up on hard evidence, like records or numbers, for proof.  In order for such an issue to be recognized as the epidemic it truly is, we as a society need to be able to discern when and where physical evidence is truly needed.  We need to prove to women, like Kesha, that their communities welcome, and ultimately believe, every word they say in regards to their assault.

Cooper Stands With JNU

By Kavya Udupa (BSE ’19)

American college students started to really exercise their First Amendment right to freedom of speech in the 1960s, in protest of the Vietnam War. Similarly, students from all over the world have used this right to free speech to express their views on
issues in their own campus or, on a larger scale, national and global issues as well.

Likewise, in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), students were arrested for exercising their right to free speech and taking the less popular stance by protesting certain controversial issues in India. On February 9, 2016, students from JNU’s Student Union protested the deaths of Maqbool Bhat and Afzil Guru and this protest was what caught both national and international attention.

Maqbool Bhat founded the terrorist group Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and was arrested in Pakistan for leading the 1971 hijacking of a passenger plane to Lahore, Pakistan. Bhat escaped to India where he was captured and sentenced to death for his crimes; he tried appealing his conviction, but the petition was rejected. Afzil Guru was convicted of being a key conspirator in the terrorist attacks on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. He was sentenced to death for his crimes and though he appealed this decision, the sentence was reinforced by the Indian Supreme Court and Guru was executed in 2013. Both men were supporters of Kashmir’s right to self-determination which the JNU students also supported, so as a result, the students protested their deaths.  On a larger level, the students were voicing their dissatisfaction in how the Indian government has handled and is currently handling the sovereignty of the Indian state Kashmir.

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JNU Student Union’s president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on the charge of sedition for what many officials claimed as “anti-nationalist” beliefs and this is what sparked protest literally all over the world. The student union is affiliated with the Indian Communist Party, which came out to support the students after Kumar’s arrest. Many JNU students also protested for the Delhi police to leave the campus and release Kumar. Many students believe that Kumar’s arrest is a direct infringement on a student’s freedom to dissent, whereas various politicians in India believe that the government has the right to punish anyone who advocates anti-nationalist slogans.

Colleges all over America are protesting what is happening in JNU as well. Cooper Union, along with NYU, joined the protest by holding a sit-in at Washington Square Park on Saturday, February 27.  The event brought awareness to what was going on in JNU and to show support to Kumar and his fellow protestors. Each person who attended the event was given a packet consisting of various passages that were presented in the rally. The students first presented a translation of the speech that Kumar was arrested for, followed by an Urdu poem Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hein Tere, which tells the readers to not be afraid to voice their opinions. They also presented an excerpt from a suicide letter of student Rohith Vermula, whose death sparked an outcry in colleges all over India for a better treatment of Dalit (lower caste) students. This is in protest of the caste system that, though it is officially eradicated by the government, still exists socially.

NYU and Cooper students continue to bring awareness to what is going on at JNU by hosting various events.  On March 4, 2016, Cooper student Anamika Singh (Art ’17), a key coordinator of the sit-in in Washington Square Park, organized a screening and discussion of Sanjay Kak’s film Jashn-e-Azaadi/ How We Celebrate Freedom.  The film describes the reality and consequences of the turmoil in Kashmir and sheds light to why the JNU students protested what was going on in the state.  

SLS_Kashmir_screening-2

Photos provided by Christine Huh (Arch ’19)

Singh recounts “my involvement with JNU comes from a rather simple place of rejecting fear.  When I began hearing about JNU, it really struck a chord because I’ve come to realize that to be an activist in India is life threatening, which is regressive to any society.”  Basically, the NYU and Cooper students wanted to show how college students are voicing their opinions in India and how it is not wrong for them to share what they believe in.

“It really struck a chord because I’ve come to realize that to be an activist in India is life threatening, which is regressive to any society.”

Anamika Singh (Art ’17)

Ultimately, JNU students, together with students from other colleges all over the world, are all voicing that it is not right for the government to arrest people for voicing what they believe in.  In democracies like India, the freedom of speech is given to each citizen and, as a result, each citizen should be able to exercise this right. 

Summer Experience: Chris Panebianco

By Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19)

Chris Panebianco Genentech Lab Party - Photo provided by Chris Panebianco (ChE '16)

Photo provided by Chris Panebianco (ChE ’16)

Last summer you interned at Genentech in San Francisco, would you like to elaborate more about what you did there?

Chris Panebianco: I worked with Genentech’s process development division. What that means for chemical engineers or engineers in general is working on how to develop lab-tested processes for large-scale manufacturing. I was working with their bioreactor division, which involved working with different materials for their cell-lines to make them grow more efficiently on a small scale and then they would scale that up for large scale manufacturing. The cell-lines were derived from Chinese hamster ovaries and were genetically modified to produce monoclonal antibodies, which would be used for therapeutic drugs mostly for cancer.

How did you hear about the internship position?

So I knew about the organization from a Cooper alum who was a senior when I was a freshman. I reached out to her because she did an internship there and then began working there full time. She sent me some more details about the specific internship position she applied to. I sent my resume to her and then applied online. It was really helpful to skip the preliminary steps. I waited about a month and got a call for a screening interview and then just kept going through the interview process.

Did working with bioreactors relate to things you have learned at Cooper?

The work I was doing at Genentech was with cell culture, which is not a traditional chemical engineering skill set. I had taken a class on tissue engineering at Cooper and learned the basics of cell culture. In addition to that I did a research project on the subject. So having those skills was really helpful just for the core skillset they wanted, but in the process development position, they were looking for more general engineering skills. For example, as opposed to simply setting up experiments, I’d be looking at things like “Oh, why is my bioreactor reading things incorrectly?” I’d have to go through what is called root cause analysis—basically asking why a problem is happening.

That and the general knowledge of just getting things done. At Cooper the biggest thing you’ll learn is how to work with harsh deadlines and how to get what you need done. Genentech was pretty lax; I was supposed to be there eight hours a day, but I was able to leave early sometimes if I had to as long as I got my things done. I was also fine being a little outside of my comfort zone. For example, I would go to team meetings, where they would talk about higher-level biology topics that I haven’t learned at Cooper, but I read papers and talked to my boss and other people and I’d get the information. So I think those general skills you have from Cooper are important, as opposed to the very technical cell culture topics, which are a lot easier to teach.

Do you have any tips or advice for students who want to get an internship this summer?

The biggest thing is starting early and being persistent. I started the hunt my freshman year with the Center for Career Development. I’d meet with Jolie Woodson, I got a resume together, I found organizations I was interested in, and I applied and got rejected. Overall the experience was good because I had a template to work with. I think that the Center for Career Development is honestly the best resource for Cooper students to start thinking about career paths.

Going into sophomore year I applied to a similar set organizations and they remembered me. Since they knew who I was, and they were more inclined to accept me. Same thing for junior year. So going through those steps and continually speaking with the same organizations allows them to keep seeing what you’re are doing and how you grow, which are good qualities for them.

I also mean persistence in the sense that Professor Davis told us at the beginning of senior year: once you apply to that one-hundredth job, you’ll start getting callbacks. And that was my winter break this year, I easily applied to a hundred positions. You don’t know what you’re going to get a callback for, so throw your hat in the ring for as many things as possible if you’re interested in them. Just try to keep a good pace at working through these things.

I heard that you recently accepted a position at the National Institute of Health in Washington DC. Congratulations! Can you tell me a little more about that?

Sure! The position I will be working with is called a post-baccalaureate program, which is meant only for people who have just finished their undergraduate degree, and it’s kind of a bridge to graduate school. I’ll be doing a one year research project in regards to tissue engineering and stem cell research for growing eye tissue. And again, the specific skill set they were looking for—working with cell culture—were things I had developed at Cooper and then further developed at Genentech. Now I’ll continue to grow in those areas, since that’s the path I am interested in. But overall, they were looking for engineering and problem solving skills on that team, since they already had a bio
expert. From there, I’ll either segue into graduate school, or I might bridge into a fulltime position similar to the work I did at Genentech with bioreactor research. Personally, I’m using this experience to test the waters in research, since I have knowledge from Genentech of what industry is like. Hopefully by the end of my year term in DC, I’ll be able to figure things out one way or another.

This Summer Has Been Great

By Emma Faith Hill (Art ’17)

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On February 23 the seventh floor of the Foundation building was taken over by Art school Juniors Lulu White and Jasper Marsalis’ thirty-some pieces. The work presented took on many, many forms; large to small scale oil on canvas paintings, plaster paintings, a drawing on computer paper, embroidery framing transfer photos, and sculptures in the window, on the floor, and resting on the architecture of the lobby.

In Lulu’s work the concept of symbols is presented through the use of common imagery such as pants, checkers, ducks, and dogs. These images and symbols are often isolated in the forefront of the composition, lending themselves the immediacy of visual learning tools such as icons or signage.

Lulu: “What I like about using these icons repeatedly is I think of using them as these enigmatic symbols that are indicative of some experience that is not necessarily shown. It’s like when you think of a memory—what does your brain exclude in the formation of the memory? I think of these objects as figureheads for something you remember as a way to collect back the information you took out of the experience”

History and memory are often formed from a singular perspective. When the past is presented as an object, like a memory, made of composed fragments it becomes negotiable and unclear. Symbols have often been used as tools to navigate and chart this kind of enigmatic past. From hieroglyphics to temporal memes, images have helped to record events, actions, and the everyday (which can prove to be the most confusing of all).

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Reflections on history and memory are tightly built into Lulu’s “marker pieces.” There were three markers presented in the show, each one a sandy colored mountain shape standing a few inches off the ground with the help of national park green legs. Appearing from each mountain shape, is a common image such as plants or a checker pattern. The images that appeared on the forms felt like they had been pressed into the material many, many ages before. Yet, the symbols used are common and contemporary.

Lulu: “I was thinking about places where there are signs set up that are suppose to inform you of where you are and make you think about a history while you’re there, to inform the space, but it’s only one history and it’s suppose to define your experience there. Like a trail, like a nature trail, and there’s some state funded sign that’s been put up and its always like these colors, like this national park green” 

The effect of these pieces is a mixture of past and present; as you walk by you may miss the image within the frame, but with a second look you may observe the information it presents. Parallel to Lulu’s works which prompts connection between visual language as a learning or remembering tool, Jasper’s work proves to use symbols as a tool for discovering his own world.

Jasper: “This piece Lookin is actually apart of a narrative, or a world, I guess that doesn’t really have a clear explanation. It’s not like my hopes are that someone will look at this and be like, ‘oh, yeah!’. It’s this huge story I can go back to and for me internally, it’s this thing to build paintings up. So this guy sitting in the car smoking a cigarette is Shithead’s cousin (points to work on another wall), because they both have the same head shape and the guy whose in the car is also that guy in the car (points another work above the elevator.”

The repeated forms in Jasper’s work, such as the palm tree or Shithead’s form, are a way to navigate the enigmatic world he is building. The world featured in this show exudes energy like that of a wasteland or if a middle-schooler’s sketchbook got poignant, poetic, and possessive. I say possessive in the grammatical sense that Jasper’s forms and shapes claim the object or image they work from. For instance, Jasper repeatedly uses the form of guns in his paintings and sculptures, but they are never crisply clear. In fact, on the opening night, Saskia Bos, Dean of the School of Art, referred to one of his “shooters” as a dolphin. To me, this interaction highlights the ever-shifting images you may observe in Jasper’s shapes and forms.

A common tie between both Lulu and Jasper’s use of symbol is how they pare down their images to the necessities of the form they are depicting. The pants on one of Lulu’s “markers” only requires the shape of a rectangle splitting in two for you to recognize them as pants. Both artists’ work does not accurately describe the object they are presenting, but rather depicts the essential elements necessary to “read” or understand the shape or form.

Jasper: “A suffix that’s very important to me is “ness”—like happiness or madness. Those things suggest, not like, I’m mad, but more like, it’s on the brink. Like madness is a value kind of, so when I’m making something I think about that. Like, “gunness.”

Lulu: “When you have a memory playing out in your head you really think about what it is. It’s not necessarily an accurate three-dimensional space—it’s like a table and a chair and the thing on top of the table and that’s just like a generic example and somebody’s voice and maybe a time of day but you’re brain isn’t going to be able to actually re-create that unless you have some crazy like genius photographic memory. But the memories that play out in your head usually involve a limited set of elements. Those are the things that orchestrate that memory playing out in your head”

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The idea of “ness” seems especially connected to Lulu’s interest in memory. Lulu’s works depict unrealistic spaces that call upon something real. In Middle School In a Dusty Place, Lulu lays down a pattern of reddish orange brick with a hovering circle overtop. Within the circle is a very basic landscape. Nowhere in the work is there text or a specific depiction of geographic place; but the work’s spirit seems attuned to that of the west coast or the dull visuals and colors one sees in a grade-school. The piece includes only four visual elements: the brick pattern, the circle, the drop shadow, and the generic mountain landscape. Each parts plays a specific role in creating the overall mood of the painting(/memory).

While talking to Lulu about the effects of repetition, she brought up many results such as finding variation, gaining stability by returning to something, as well as solidification.

Lulu: “When you are shown something over and over and over again it forms meaning and you just except it because it’s there all the time and it’s ever present”

Our digital life is often one of our primary ways of gaining knowledge about what is happening in real life. For instance, we are in the midst of a presidential election and our timelines, online news sources, blogs, and social media platforms are flooded with statuses, videos, pictures, and memes of the current candidates. When we are exposed to their images over and over again they become (for better or worse) icons. These icons take on a crucial role in how we view the world, and weigh a great deal on how we form our thoughts, opinions, and memories of histories.

Since the media is often the main way in which a figure or event becomes an icon, it has a major influence over what we deem “visible” or “real” in the physical world. In some ways, media like movies, online platforms, memes, and news sources are writing our history.

Lulu: “We both find this kind of hilarious, and you can also call it kind of lazy, idea of there being justification in repetition. Like an idea becoming real and becoming whole by being presented over and over again until it’s beaten into you”

It feels like it would be an injustice to their work to write all of this with such a serious tone and not mention the crucial role of humor; The strange and comical is quietly running the engine in many of their pieces. History, memory, and symbols like guns, cars, and landscapes are loaded with heavy content but their refined sense of humor keeps the work at a level that is approachable. For instance, one of Jasper’s paintings featured a Shithead-esque figure in the foreground with dark shadowy planes looming and a shape of jutting pink behind it. It seems like the figure is in the midst of an existential crisis, as the form is in a completely undefinable space. But then, the painting is titled Club, and a little bit of space appears for you to step back an smirk along with the piece.

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Miles of Movies

By Miles Barber (CE ’18) 

Zootopia is the latest Disney film and the first in two years. Disney Animation took last year off, theoretically to make this film a winner. That paid off. Zootopia is about Judy Hopps, a rabbit who wants to make a difference in the world. She’s also strongly against prejudice and stereotyping, trying her hardest to combat these two by becoming Zootopia’s (it’s a city) first rabbit police officer. Unfortunately, her dreams are slowly crushed by the ridicule she faces as a rabbit officer in a world full of huge animals. That begins to change, however, when seemingly normal animals begin to go missing, with reports of their sudden, vicious attacks. Judy gets a lead on the case when she tracks down Nick, a sarcastic fox, and their story gets going.

Zootopia isn’t amazing because it has great humor, a fantastic story, suspense, and real heart. It’s amazing because it delivers a very relevant message through all of those things. Moreover, Zootopia’s story highlights some of the inherent difficulties presented in confronting the unclear issues of prejudice and stereotyping. The movie does such an excellent job of showing how the characters of Judy and Nick have both suffered from these issues in two, scary and heartbreaking scenes. It also shows just how differently they handled their situations. It’s important to note the use of “scary” when I described the scenes, because stereotyping is incredibly scary for its victims. Zootopia amazed me with its lack of pulled punches, something so many family films do. There are so many times when this film could have been less impactful by cutting away from a scene or lessening it, but it never did.

There is really great suspense in this film, the likes of which I didn’t expect and haven’t seen in quite some time. The humor was really on point too. There is a scene featuring Nick, Judy, and a pen that had me absolutely in stitches. The humor was everywhere it needed to be in the film, and many of the jokes were recycled to great effect.

I also happened to really like the animation of this film. The city of Zootopia has several different zones, acting as different types of environments. They all look amazing, and the scene in which the city is first introduced looks spectacular. These are really just icing on the cake for me, because this film won me over with its maturity and subject material.

The only thing I can say that wasn’t up to par in this film was its musical score. There are a few scenes in this film that would have been much more effective without any music at all, such as the scene in a warehouse that is supposed to be tense, but is nearly ruined by the music. Still, this issue far from ruins the film for me. I left this film with a huge smile on my face and was very impressed in almost every way. It is definitely the best film Disney Animations has put out in some time, and is a film I look forward to seeing again.

Total: 9 ½ / 10