New Yorker writer Rachel Aviv ’04 speaks at Brown

rachel aviv

Last night, journalist Rachel Aviv ’04 returned to Brown to deliver a lecture about her approach to nonfiction writing and the challenges she faces throughout her work. Her talk, which took place at Brown/RISD Hillel, was sponsored by the English Department as part of this year’s Great Brown Nonfiction Writers’ Lecture Series. Aviv, who became a staff writer for The New Yorker in 2013 (you can check out some of her work here), focuses primarily on investigating marginalized and often-stigmatized people. Her work has received an immense amount of praise, evidenced by a long list of awards and accolades. And, according to the lecture’s host, her phenomenal work was equally present on College Hill; Aviv was described as “a star in the [nonfiction writing] program” and one of the first students within the program to write a thesis and earn departmental honors.

Aviv opened her speech by sharing that what she finds to be the most difficult aspect of her writing process is actually figuring out what to investigate. The hours of seemingly-wasted time that she spends aimlessly browsing the web can become incredibly frustrating for a journalist — especially, in Aviv’s case, in the face of a 33,000-word annual writing quota from The New Yorker.

From there, she continued describing the manner in which she writes, describing “two intersecting strands” she deemed essential to the success of her stories. According to Aviv, a successful story would combine an issue of particular relevance or significance with a character that would serve as a guide, allowing for readers to become emotionally invested in the chosen issue. Especially within the context of the highly marginalized and stigmatized topics that Aviv explores, a compelling character is integral to her ability to create protagonists within the antagonistic parameters of her subject matter. Continue Reading

A Cool Thing You Shouldn’t Miss: Coco Fusco ’82 to deliver talk


Coco Fusco’s Observations of Predation in Humans (2013), Norte Sur (1990), and A Room of One’s Own (2006-08)

Coco Fusco is a Cuban-American multimedia artist and writer, whose work incorporates digital media and performance ranging in format from large-scale projections to interactive live performances streamed online. Fusco’s work often comments on systems of gender, race, politics, war, and identity.

Fusco will visit campus this Thursday to give a talk at 4 p.m. in the List Art Center auditorium, room 120. The event is free, but tickets are required.

Fusco received her AB in Semiotics from Brown in 1982, going on to get her MA in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford (1985) and her PhD in Art and Visual Culture from Middlesex University (2007). Fusco, currently MIT’s 2014-15 MLK Visiting Scholar, has taught at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, Columbia, and Parsons The New School for Design. Her work has been exhibited at two Whitney Biennials (1993 and 2008), the Tate Liverpool, the MoMA, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona. She is the author of several books, including English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas (1995), which examines the tension between cultural identity and visual politics, and A Field Guide for Female Interrogators (2008), which addresses the exploitation of sex and sexuality in the military for interrogation techniques.

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Alums who do cool things: Orly Genger ’01 returns to Brown for installation, You

Orly Genger '01, with her 2013 piece Red, Yellow and Blue in Madison Square Park, NYC

Orly Genger ’01, with her 2013 piece Red, Yellow and Blue in Madison Square Park, NYC

Orly Genger ’01 has returned to campus for her newest site-specific installation, You. This 250-foot-long recycled lobster rope sculpture will transform the Quiet Green between University Hall and the Van Winkle Gates. The installation will be completed this Thursday, and the piece will remain on view through Summer 2015.

Orly, based in New York, is known for her large-scale hand-knotted rope installations. After receiving her BA from Brown in 2001, Orly went on to receive her post-baccalaureate degree from the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002. Orly’s large-scale work has been displayed in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, MASS MoCA, and The Contemporary Austin. Orly’s largest installation to date, Red, Yellow and Blue, was installed at NYC’s Madison Square Park in May 2013, made out of 1.4 million feet of hand-crocheted rope.

Blog chatted with Genger as she worked on the project’s installation earlier this week:

BlogDH: What was the creative process like for this project? How did the collaboration with Brown start?

Genger: Brown approached me to come and do a piece here, so I came back, which has been a pleasure. I walked around and picked a location, and then drew out some ideas. This rope was originally from Red, Yellow and Blue, which was then made into a piece on the Chicago lakefront, and is now in its third life here.

BlogDH: What drew you to this location, out of the ones you surveyed?

Genger: There were a few options. This one seemed the best because I liked the amount of foot traffic in this spot, as well as the significance of being by the Gates. The proximity to the art department was also nice, because I spent so much of my time there and walked through this green so often as a student.

BlogDH: What was your experience at Brown like?

Genger: Brown for me was completely crucial to where I am today. If I didn’t have the experiences that I had at Brown, I don’t know if I’d be doing what I’m doing now. It created a real comfort zone to experiment and to try things that maybe otherwise I wouldn’t have tried. It gave me the space I needed to become an artist.

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Check out this video of Chris Berman ’77 kinda sorta previewing Brown football

Chris Berman at SPG, circa 1974

You might know a sampling of Brown’s most famous alumni off the top of your head. Ted Turner. John D. Rockefeller. Meikle M. Meiklejohn. But you might not have known that ESPN yodel-a-tron Chris Berman graduated with the class of 1977… and you almost certainly did not know that he does impromptu Ivy League football analysis. That’s right, the 28-year veteran of Sunday NFL Countdown was generous enough to spare a few minutes to give thoughts on his alma mater’s upcoming football season. You can see the video here.

Wearing an unfortunate Hawaiian shirt, Berman delivered a series of gems, including:

  • “The Ivy League championship isn’t the be-all end-all… but I just like to see our school excel at whatever it is, whether it’s the best football team or the best history department.” Amen, brother.
  • “I know that [Coach Phil Estes] will have them playing with class…intelligence…and hustle, let alone good football.” Let alone? Actually, good football sounds like what I’d like them to be playing.
  • [Quote not understood due to the ridiculous random rap song that starts playing at 0:37.]
  • “Two night games, or twilight games.” THE TWILIGHT GAMES–a new series starring Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Pattinson, coming July 2015.
  • “The Brown defense played like the Pittsburgh Steelers against Harvard.” Uh. Um. Hmmmm.

Brown football kicks off Sept. 21 at home against Georgetown. I know one guy who’ll be watching.

Image via.

Cards Against Humanity: Brown Edition


Ah, Cards Against Humanity. The epic drunk-and-bored game of the early 21st century.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, here are the rules:

  • Most of the cards are white and are nouns.
  • The others are black and are questions or fill-in-the-blank types.
  • Each turn, one player pulls a random black card.
  • Then the other players put down a white card they think is funniest when paired with the aforementioned black card.
  • That original player (who pulled the black card) picks his or her favorite pairing.
  • The person who played that white card gets a point.

It’s Apples to Apples, but horribly and hilariously offensive. I called alum and co-creator of CAH Ben Hantoot ’09 to get his blessing for a Brown University expansion pack. He said it was chill. He was on his Bluetooth, driving what was probably a really nice car, what with all the big money to be made in board games these days. We had a funny conversation about smoking weed on Governor Street and the difference between Canadians’ and Americans’ card preferences, which you can read in Post- Magazine HERE. (I’m not going to pull a Jonah Lehrer and write the same article for two publications, even though I am not Jonah Lehrer and no one would care if I did.) All I can say is that I’m proud to attend the same school [wipes away single tear] as this modern genius once did. After Binder, let’s give Hantoot an honorary degree.

So here it is: the Brown University Expansion Pack. We hope you’ll mix them in with the original game, which you can download free on the Cards Against Humanity website. The card “Controversial Herald opinion articles” deserves to play in the big leagues. I, for one, will be at the GCB with these bad boys if you wanna hang out. Take a look after the jump.

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Alums who do cool things: Nick White ’10, Lauren Neal ’11, and ‘Spicy Wit’

Brown has made it to the big screen…well, kind of. Recent Brown graduates Nick White ’10 and Lauren Neal ’11 are the creators and producers of a new web series appropriately titled “Spicy Wit.” In addition to producing the show, Neal also writes and directs it, so she’s kind of a big deal.

“Spicy Wit” is a satire mockumentary that intends to raise questions pertaining to social justice and racial issues in an accessible yet absolutely absurd way. The creators wanted to cross as many moral lines as they could while making the series, and they succeeded: When you watch the pilot episode, “Hate,” you’ll find yourself laughing, and then you’ll find yourself cringing at the fact that you were laughing in the first place. Every possible offensive stereotype is included in this one episode alone. Continue Reading