June 29, 2010

What We're Reading: Hua Hsu On Nike & The World Cup

According to Professor Hua Hsu's latest article for The Atlantic, the real dominating force in this year's World Cup is Nike. "If there is a shared affection among the world's footballers," Hsu writes, "one that crosses the moats of faith and national temperament, it is their taste for flashy, oft-ridiculed, at times indescribably tinted boots. The one constant at this year's World Cup, besides the infobuzz of Vuvuzela and, more recently, shoddy refereeing, might be those engrossingly hideous new Nike Mercurials that weigh about as much as an empty soda can."

And below is the clip that Hsu calls "one of the most elaborate and re-watchable commercials in quite some time."

Click here to check out the full article.

More Behind The Photos

Last week we spoke with Ben Rutkowski '09 and Lauri Robertson '75 about their photos for the Alumnae/i Quarterly's "9 Views: A Day in the Life of Vassar." Here is what photographer and alumnus Ryan Muir '06 had to say about his photographs and the story behind them.

Mads Vassar: Did you plan ahead of time what you were going to shoot or was it spontaneous? What was your process?

Ryan Muir: Each photographer had been given some specific assignments, as well as the opportunity to propose our own ideas. In each case, we were each assisted by a liaison to help facilitate sitting in on classes, getting release forms signed, making appointments with faculty outside of class hours, and anything extraneous like that. On the actual date of shooting everyone had some amount of downtime to explore... but there were a few last minute assignments to fill on campus... I ended up starting in the late morning and working until late into the night... I saw most of the campus in-between breaths.

What was it like being back at Vassar as a photographer rather than only an alumnus or student?
I haven't been out of school that long, so in many ways it felt comfortable and homey, but enough about my life has changed since graduation that I really don't relate to a student mentality anymore either. It was an unusual sensation but it was much easier from a working perspective to treat students and members of the Vassar community as regular subjects rather than think of them as peers.

When taking pictures, were you drawn to places you had gone as a student or did you see the campus in a new perspective?

I was drawn to places that I knew the least, or may have had minimal access to. As a photographer I would welcome the opportunity to explore as much as possible and photograph something new or see something literally from a new perspective. Unusual and obscure locations like the Observatory, and subjects like the VRDT dance company were more compelling topics than things I had already photographed exhaustively.

Which was your favorite photograph that was published?

I'm pleased with the two experimental dance photos at the bottom of the second spread, as the results were hard to predict. But as tough as it is to have a favorite i think I enjoy the photo of the Library on the first spread the most because it is a more typical example of the graphically striking and environmentally rich photographs I think I am best at capturing.

Were you disappointed that any photographs weren't published?

Of course, every photographer has their darlings, but I think the editors did a good job curating the overall photo essays and recognized... what the most successful images were.
Photos via Alumnae/i Quarterly.

June 27, 2010

Fake Admin Accounts Suspended

It looks like Vassar's efforts to put a stop to the fake administration Twitter accounts worked. The pages for "cappyvassar," "roellkevassar," "inoavassar," "marsalavassar," and "annabellevassar" (the fake account for Anna Belle Jones, the ROC coordinator) now direct visitors to the following message:
 It's unclear exactly when the suspensions went into effect, but none of the accounts have posted messages in days.

As we posted last week, Jeff Kosmacher of College Relations told us that the school would be contacting Twitter about what he called "impersonation attempts." Twitter has an official "Parody Policy," but it seems that the fake Vassar accounts violated the terms.

June 25, 2010

First Images Of Krissa In Recovery

The first images of Krissa Wiechmann '12 since her horrible rugby accident two weeks ago have surfaced on the Facebook group Help Get Krissa Wiechmann To The Mayo Clinic.

According to a note posted yesterday, Wiechmann has seen a doctor in Rapid City, South Dakota and will begin rehab today. "She does have feeling and movement so the hope is that with rehabilitation she may regain strength," the note states. See the Facebook group for more images.

Images via Facebook.

Guest Blogger: Professor Laymon Reflects On Anniversary Of Jackson's Death

When Michael Jackson died one year ago, Professor Kiese Laymon wrote a moving piece about what the pop star meant to him. To commemorate the one year anniversary of Jackson's death, we asked professor Laymon to serve as a guest blogger for madsvassarblog.com and share his reflections on the past year and the genius and troubles of the King of Pop.


The night that Michael Jackson died, I wrote this (kieselaymon.com). The piece didn't focus on his legacy or the weirdness or his biography. A year removed from his passing and I'm wondering what we're supposed to do with the anniversary of the passing of genius. Do we light skinny candles and sit in the itchiest of grasses? Do we try to clumsily replicate the steps we took a year ago "after we found out"? Do we make lists of our favorite Michael Jackson songs, duets, underrated joints, dance moves and show them to our two friends who "like, really care?" Maybe.


The silly sophomoric part of me still thinks a new Michael Jackson video for "The Lady in My Life" is gonna debut today. I ain't lying. I’ve thought this everyday for the past year. The video will start with pitch black screen and sound of penny loafers walking onto a stage. When the lights come on, all we see are empty front row seats in the Apollo. Michael starts the song acappella, "There'll be no darkness tonight/Lady our love will shine." Strings comes in after the first four bars and we go all the way through the song with the camera just panning differently shaped empty seats until Michael ends the song pleading, "Let me feel you, baby/ All over, all over ..." At this point, the camera finally faces the stage and we watch a 51 year-old, completely alive, Michael Jackson working, giggling, knowing.


I spent more than a few days in March coming up with art created after 2001 that I think is better than Thriller and Off the Wall. One day, I convinced myself that Twitter and Facebook might be better than Thriller and Off the Wall, even though I don’t know how to use either effectively. Then I thought that maybe Sopranos Season 4 could at least take Thriller the distance. Sometimes, late on Sunday night, my list will include Boondocks and 30 Rock Season 1, Imani Perry’s Prophets of the Hood, Kanye's College Dropout or schools that upped their commitment to financial aid during the recession. Then I wake up. And I want to slap myself in the chest for being a fucking melodramatic moron.


At the beginning of this week, my newest thing is to make a list of all the things I wish Michael Jackson would have done differently. One of the wishes go something like, “Damn, why couldn’t you address your addiction to being high and purchasing a white body part and some white children in your lyrics? You know, like Eminem does on Recovery? Or Jean Grae does on This Week? Or Ani DiFranco and James Baldwin do on everything?"

It's 5:11 a.m. and I’m trying to wound myself into a space where I can say something profound about Michael Jackson and spectacle and acceptance and anniversaries and the peculiar anxiety produced when wickedly genius humans die trying to ease the pain of being human.


But all of it is bullshit. The video, the lists, the wishes, the pontifications about Michael and spectacle are bushes. I, like other folks I know, are hiding. We're trying to think ourselves out of feeling. Michael Jackson died. His work is still here. And here. And here. And there. And most of us who loved his work are all just struggling to be an iota as great at one thing as he was at meaningful stuff like hearing, singing, moving and, as Kimberle Crenshaw says "channeling." Sometimes, there is no wonderful intro, no substantial middle and no poignant end ... to life or art. Sometimes there are wandering consumers, unimaginable genius, untimely death and good ol' time. We choose the order in which we confront all four, but we never really choose whether the confrontation happens. I wish Michael Jackson was alive to confront, with vigor and honesty, the anniversary of his death. It's hard to say yes to life when you haven't accepted or earned death. I haven't done either. What about you?

Professor Laymon will be sharing more reflections on Michael Jackson next week in the Huffington Post.

Photos via kieselaymon.com and Life Archive.

June 24, 2010

Behind "A Day In The Life"

Mads was so impressed with the photographs in "Nine Views: A Day in the Life of Vassar" from the latest issue of the Alumnae/i Quarterly that we got in touch with some of the photographers to get the scoop behind the images.

Update: You can also check out our interview with photographer Ryan Muir '06 here.

Mads Vassar: How did you decide what to photograph? What was the process?

Ben Rutkowski '09: We were all assigned specific themes and events. For instance I was assigned various rehearsals at Skinner, the Christian Fellowship meeting, Cappy walking her dog, a rehearsal for a play, a professor playing with her babies, WVKR, the post office, the grounds crew working on the baseball field, etc. I was told to specifically focus on people, rather than architecture, landscapes or objects. We were then each sent around with a helper who would get people to sign releases if they appeared in the photos.

Lauri Robertson '75:  We had specific and general assignments. I asked to be assigned to Sunset Lake and the Vassar Farm. I'm a landscape photographer, so my eyes were wide open - we didn't have much time and the light is crucial.

What was it like being back as a photographer rather than just an alumnus/a or student?

Ben: I felt uncomfortable doing it. Yes, I am technically an alumni, but I don't feel like I have (now or then) the perspective to reflect on Vassar photographically in a role other than a student doing it for pleasure ... or as an employee, which I also did (I worked for College Relations as a photographer for four years). In other words, I think my photographs as  a student and an employee for College Relations are a lot better than these, and that's my own fault. I feel that the photos taken by people with a lot more life experience outside of Vassar are the most successful of the bunch, for instance Benjamin Busch '91 - I think those ones are amazing. It would have been a lot different and frankly a lot more interesting to get this assignment at my high school or middle school, where I didn't know half the people, was less familiar with the territory and could have done it from a much more objective prospective with several years of buffer space.

Were you drawn to photograph places you had spent time as a student?

Ben: I was definitely drawn to places I'd spent a lot of time (like Skinner), but also avoided places where I'd run into too many students (like the Library). Once again, running into people I knew during this assignment made me very uncomfortable for some reason.

Which were your favorite photographs?

Ben: I think my favorite photographs published are actually only on the website and not in the magazine: the woman that sells bread in the College Center, and a wide shot of Cappy with her dog outside of Main.

Lauri: I'm fond of the image of the red barn with the blue door, and my blurry dog. There are a series of hoar frost images of Sunset Lake I also like, one of which is on the web.

Were you happy with the photographs selected?

Ben: I was actually very disappointed with the ones published. We each essentially took 500-1,000 pictures and then handed them off to the publishers of the VQ. We could of course highlight selects and hope that those would be the ones they published, but it was pretty much out of our hands.

Images via Alumnae/i Quarterly.

June 23, 2010

The Deer Are Safe (For Now)

College Relations is finally responding to the continued community protest against last winter's deer culling, including the letter in the Poughkeepsie Journal last week and the "Save Our Deer" website. "The college has no immediate plans to conduct another deer culling," says Jeff Kosmacher, Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs. Mr. Kosmacher says the college is aware of the efforts of Marcy Schwartz - the author of the letter and one of the leaders of the protest - and they have "had a lot of communication" with her.

Reps for Save Our Deer did not respond to our request for comments.

Image via Save Our Deer.

Spotted: Vassar On YouTube Homepage

Last night at around 11:30pm, the video for Lisa Kudrow's Commencement speech at Vassar was featured on the YouTube homepage under the heading "Spotlight: Congrats Class of 2010!" Since featured on the homepage, the video went from 35,000 views to over 176,000.

But that's not all; the video of Meryl Streep's speech at Barnard was also featured.

Thanks to a reader for spotting this!

June 22, 2010

Vassar To Take On Twitter Impostors

Madsvassarblog.com just spoke with Jeff Kosmacher at College Relations about the recent Twitter hoax, which Dean Roellke confirmed to us yesterday wasn't real. "We never received any indication from Cappy that she was starting an account," said Mr. Kosmacher. Apparently Cappy is in Africa right now and not particularly connected to Twitter at the moment.

Mr. Kosmacher also told us that since yesterday he has been in touch with Vassar administration about the matter and they have contacted Twitter about what he calls "impersonation attempts." Mr. Kosmacher said the school is taking action to prevent the pranksters from continuing.

A similar incident played out in the New York Times last week. Three days after the newspaper published an article about the phony BPGlobalPR Twitter page (which has attracted almost 175,000 followers), the real BP asked the phony account to clarify that it's a joke.

Twitter states that "impersonation is a violation of the Twitter Rules and may result in permanent account suspension," but it does allow parody and has an official "Parody Policy." According to the policy, "an account's profile information should make it clear that the creator of the account is not actually the same person or entity as the subject of the parody/commentary."

Meanwhile, the Vassar impostors continue to tweet. "Confirmed to MadsVassar that our accounts are hoaxes," roellkevassar tweeted an hour ago. "Everything is going according to plan."

June 21, 2010

Real Roellke Confirms It's A Hoax

Dean Roellke has just confirmed exclusively to madsvassarblog.com that the admin Twitter accounts are "all hoaxes." He wasn't clear yet if the real administration will respond to the fake accounts or if they'll let the pranksters have their fun.

"The twitter account assigned to me is a hoax," Dean Roellke tells Mads. "I assume the same is true for the rest."

Update: Plus, we just realized the pranksters spelled "roelke" wrong.

Update 2: Looks like they corrected the spelling. Working link here. We also noticed that all of the accounts have disabled the "message" feature.

Admin On Twitter: Probably A Hoax

Either Don Marsala is even funnier than we knew before or the recent influx of Twitter accounts by Vassar administration is all a hoax. Here is Marsala's latest Tweet:

Cappy's latest Tweet is also a bit odd:
In response to an email asking for confirmation on the "cappyvassar" account, an insider tells Mads "it doesn't seem to me that this is the president's doing." We're still waiting on official confirmation.

Roellke On Twitter Too, Or Something Fishy?

Is it possible that Dean Roellke has also joined Twitter, or are some students up to no good? An account called "roelkevassar" tweeted the following post an hour ago:

As we previously posted, an account called "cappyvassar" posted its first tweet on on Sunday. We're not positive though that Vassar's administration is really behind the accounts. Here are some reasons why Cappy and Dean Roellke may not be ready to tweet just yet:

1. Cappy's first tweet was done at 3:31am on a Sunday morning, an odd time of day for a college president to begin a Twitter account.
2. Both Cappy and Roellke's account photos are from Vassar publications, not personal photographs.
3. The names "cappyvassar" and "roelkevassar" seem a bit informal.
4. A surprisingly low amount of college administrators operate Twitter accounts. Back in 2009, the Chronicle of Higher Education found only one college president on Twitter.
5. The first tweets by both accounts are almost identical, not to mention the account names.
5. Neither accounts is following the official Vassar Twitter page. They are only following each other.
6. Phony accounts are all the rage lately, especially with the fake BP account making headlines in the New York Times last week.

Update: Apparently Luis Inoa and Don Marsala are on Twitter too.

June 20, 2010

Cappy Is Ready To Tweet

Cappy has finally joined Twitter! Supposedly 60% of Twitter users stop tweeting after a month, but we hope she keeps it up!

June 19, 2010

Wiechmann Leaving Hospital Today

Krissa Wiechmann '12, who was seriously injured in a rugby game last week, will be leaving the hospital today. She has been in a Santa Barbara hospital for the past week. According to an update on the Facebook group, Wiechmann and her parents will be flying to South Dakota where she will continue her rehabilitation at the Black Hills Orthopedic and Spine Center before hopefully going to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota later this month.

"Krissa's condition continues to be delicate," the update states. "She has trouble at nights and is very weak in that she can't be very active."

Remember, the Wiechmann family is accepting donations to help with the medical and travel expenses.

Image via Facebook

What We're Watching

This three-minute clip for The Limit's spring show premiered over a month ago, but it's too good not to mention. It features sparklers, stuffed crotches, wheelchairs, a make out scene with a horse head, and much more, all in a roller rink to the music of "Xanadu."

June 18, 2010

Coach And Teammates Reflect On Incident

As we posted earlier, rugby player Krissa Wiechmann '12 was seriously injured during a game last week. Since her injury, Wiechmann's coach and teammates have taken to the internet to express their thoughts about the tragic incident.

In an open letter posted Wednesday to the Facebook page "Help Get Krissa Wiechmann To The Mayo Clinic," rugby coach Tony Brown writes about the moment he realized the severity of the injury. "Krissa is a Vassar sophomore whom I have coached for the past 2 years so you can imagine how personal this is for me," Brown writes. "I knew immediately even from the touchline that an ambulance would be needed and both myself and the Athletic Trainer ran on to the field." As for having to contact Wiechmann's parents, Brown writes, "I had to make the phone call to a player's mother that a coach never wants to have to make - ever... To see one of your players collared and strapped on a hospital bed in the ER, shivering and scared out of her mind, and both knowing she had a serious neck injury about to go in for surgery is mind numbing. Time just stands still and yet a million thoughts are racing through your head."

Morandi Hurst '10, a recent graduate and former rugby player also took to the internet to express her feelings on the subject. In an article for Inside Dakota Sports published today, Hurst writes about why women are attracted to rugby despite the obvious physical risks. "In a sport where people consistently encounter serious injuries, medical emergencies, and near-fatal accidents, what is the motivation for playing?" Hurst writes. "It seems counterintuitive, but this aggressive, painful game is one of the fastest growing sports among young women in the United States." She continues to write that she was attracted to the sport "for the support of a team, and the thrill of the game," among other reasons. Hurst stopped playing in April before graduating after what she calls her "second serious injury."

"She demonstrated her passion in every play, and it was clear from watching her, that a life-long athlete had fallen in love with a new sport," Hurst writes of Wiechmann, continuing, "there is no doubt in my mind that when Krissa recovers from her injury, she will want to play again."

Rugby Player Seriously Injured, Needs Your Help

Some very sad news: one week ago, rugby player Krissa Wiechmann '12 sustained serious neck injuries during Northeast Rugby Union Women's Under 23 ITTs in Santa Barbara. According to a letter posted yesterday on the Facebook page "Help Get Krissa Wiechmann To The Mayo Clinic," Wiechmann was accepted to a rehabilitation program at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, but they cannot help her until August. Wiechmann's family hopes they can find another clinic for her in the meantime.

As for Wiechmann's current condition, Coach Brown writes that "she may be discharged from Santa Barbara in the next few days."

The most recent post on the official webpage for Vassar Women's Rugby is a press release from May 24th about Wiechmann being selected for the tournament. 

Wiechmann's family is asking for donations to help for medical and travel expenses. Rugby retailer Rugby Imports and the equipment maker Gilbert, among others, have already made contributions. Donations can be made through PayPal here.

Image via Vassar Athletics.

June 16, 2010

Ninjasonik And Others Cause Chaos In NYC

According to Yahoo news, a show at New York's South Street Seaport yesterday featuring Ninjasonik, who performed at Vassar last fall, became chaotic when concert-goers started throwing bottles, flower pots, chairs, and other objects at each other. Police had to cancel the show, which also featured Drake and Hanson.

"Sorry y'all they wasn't ready 4 tha ninjaz!" Ninjasonik tweeted shortly after the concert was canceled.

Useful Network For Vassar Filmmakers

We just received an email from the creators of VC Splice who want us to get the word out about their network for student and alumni Vassar filmmakers. The Facebook group aims to be "a forum for post graduate collaboration/employment opportunities for alums of Vassar College films." Splice also organizes "monthly happy hours for networking." The creators are excited about getting more students from 2010 and 2011 involved.

With all of the successes of Vassar filmmakers lately, this sounds like a useful opportunity!

June 15, 2010

Protest Against Deer Culling Continues

Over seven months since Vassar announced that it would be taking steps to reduce its deer population and six months since the actual culling, Poughkeepsie residents are still speaking out. In a letter in today's Poughkeepsie Journal, a local lawyer named Marcy Schwartz called the event "a sad day for Vassar students" and urges Vassar not to take further measures against the deer. "It was a sad day for our community," Schwartz writes, "when our most vaunted institution of higher learning terrorized and shot the very deer that had intelligently and peacefully adapted to life among us."

In addition to writing the letter, Schwartz also started a group called "Save Our Deer" to protest Vassar's past and possibly future actions. Saveourdeer.webs.com features photos, a petition signed by 310 people (including at least one Vassar student), and an events calendar, among other things. Some of the photos appear to be of blood-stained dirt at the Vassar farm.

Photo via Save Our Deer.

June 7, 2010

Alumni Proposal Goes Viral

Alex Camelliri '10 isn't the only Vassar filmmaker to have a successful video lately. Since it was added to YouTube a week ago, the clip for Woodrow Travers '09's proposal to Claudine Sourour '08 has gotten over one million views. The clip features Sourour sitting in a chair while Travers lip-syncs to Metro Station's "Shake It" as a dozen or so guys dance, hold signs, and do circus tricks in choreographed precision. She says yes (of course), the crowd applauds, and Passion Pit's "Little Secrets" starts playing.

See it from another angle here.

YouTube commenters write: "
i teared up a bit there" and "why all men aren't like this one? so unfair." Unfortunately, there is at least one hater. Blogger Ned Hepburn for urlesque.com posted "Ten Signs the Adorable Wedding Proposal Dance Is a Fake Viral Video." He even mentions Vassar, sort of: "Their names are Woodrow and Claudine. I'm sorry. Where did they meet, at Whitey McWhiterson's School of Silly Upper-Middle-Class Names? Give me a break."

Another Vassar filmmaking alumnus did a public proposal two weeks ago. Mark Rosenberg '97, the founder of the popular festival Rooftop Films, proposed to his girlfriend in front of an audience of hundreds.

Update: Even The Guardian picked up on the clip, calling it
"the Glee of wedding proposals."
6.7.10 5:41pm

Vassar Filmmaker Wins At Cannes

As we tweeted last week, recently-graduated Alex Camilleri '10 won the award for Best Student Documentary at the American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival the other week. The film, Still Here, is about a man who has been HIV-positive for thirty years but survives because of a rare genetic mutation. Camilleri made the film for his documentary production class at Vassar after hearing the film's subject, Randy Baron, speak at Vassar. David Viste '10, Kyle Porter '10, and Amrita Kundu '10 also participated in the production of the film.

Still Here Teaser Trailer from Alex Camilleri on Vimeo.

Camilleri's previous documentary short, Whisker Chasers, was about facial hair culture at Vassar.

Check out the website and blog for the film to follow its progress. Congrats, Alex!

6.7.10 4:30pm