Leonard Bernstein at 100 at Ole Miss

Around the country this year, hundreds of shows are being held in remembrance of the brilliant composing of Leonard Bernstein who would have turned 100 years old this year.

This Tuesday, Ole Miss is hosting their celebration of the American composer who has inspired millions through his musical soundtracks, music education videos, and overall charisma and passion for music.

Selections from Chichester Psalms, Candide, and the recently unearthed Peter Pan will be performed by Dennis Shrock, Emannuel Tsao, Bradley Robinson, Stefanie Moore, the University of Mississippi Chorus with Don Trott, and the Bernstein Festival Orchestra.  

“When he died in 1990, they started to archive everything pretty quickly,” Trott said. “Lot’s of scores written and apparently Karen Bernstein, who is Alexander’s Cousin, became active as the archivist and then they quickly made a connection with the Library of Congress that this is where they should be housed.”

Ole Miss Choral Director Don Trott said that the discovery of the Peter Pan sheet music would be comparable to finding original letters written by Abraham Lincoln.

“Apparently he was asked to just write some incidental music and he got kind of carried away with it at the time so he just got into a mood and wrote several pieces and created basically this whole musical,” Trott said.

Once the play was discovered by an old protege, it was turned into a concertized version so that audiences could enjoy “new” music posthumously from Bernstein. The new concertized version will be the one that will be performed at the Ford Center.

Trott studied under Bernstein himself at Westminster Choir College, and published an article in Choral Journal based on interviews with Alexander Bernstein, Leonard’s son. Alexander Bernstein will be making an appearance at the concert this Tuesday at the Ford Center.

Dr. Selim Giray, Director of Orchestral Activities, shares the enthusiasm of the Peter Pan discovery with Trott.

“This is something for music historian’s, concert-goers, and performers,” said Dr. Giray.

The sheer volume of Bernstein’s catalogue of compositions is something to marvel at, and will presumably stand the test of time, as it already has for more than half a century.


Possible Increase In Cost of Living Through New Proposed Ordinance

The seemingly ever-increasing cost of living in Oxford may be rising yet again due to a proposed ordinance that will require townhouse residents to have “automatic fire sprinkling systems.”

Section R313 in the proposed ordinance reads, “Townhouse automatic fire sprinkler systems. An automatic fire sprinkler system shall be optional and not mandatory in townhouses.”

Jason Bailey, Alderman of Ward VI, immediately took issue with it, pointing out the burden it will put on the homeowners in Oxford who are already struggling with the rising cost of living.

“Y’all realize every time we do this, the ability to provide affordable housing in this town gets less and less,” said Alderman Bailey. “Every time we require sprinkler systems or things like that, it gets put back on the consumer.”

City Building Official, Randy Barber, who delivered the ordinance to the Aldermen didn’t show full support in Alderman Bailey’s discontent with the article on the ordinance, but agreed that they could try and work towards a compromise on the section of the article.

The previous draft of the ordinance had the automatic fire sprinkling systems as optional, but the update on it has flipped the position. 

“One- and two-family dwellings automatic residential fire sprinkler systems. An automatic residential fire sprinkler system shall be optional and not mandatory in one- and two family dwellings,” stated in section 313.2 of the ordinance.

“I have a lot of experience with sprinkler systems and if you require sprinkler systems, I think you ought to require them to be insulated properly,” said Alderman Bailey.

Also, according to the ordinance, the installation and design of the sprinkler systems must be in accordance with NFPA 13D.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill had a few concerns with how the insulation would be regulated, but said that “this is not my area of expertise.” Mayor Tannehill posed questions to Barber about the specifications of the insulation, but specifics were not resolved during the meeting.

Alderman John Morgan noted that this is only the first reading of the ordinance, needing a total of three readings with updates before the ordinance can be passed and possibly enacted. 

Final Project Pitch

The debate on guns in America has always been heated and controversial, but the past few years and school shootings have divided the country on the language of the second amendment. Although this is a two-sided debate, people are for and against the second amendment in several places. Even some gun owners want there to be increased gun control, and there is a multitude of people that want guns abolished all together. The issue with this debate, and every other topic of discussion in America right now, is that neither sides will listen to each other and their points of view. Most people only listen to what they want to hear, and degrade the opposing viewpoints by any means possible. It is not a healthy way to solve a problem, and this problem is not going away any time soon.

When Hillary Clinton was thought to be elected, many gun owners went out and bought ammo in mass proportions in fear of their rights being infringed upon. It is a fear on both sides of this debate that drives it, and the fears are completely understandable when explained rationally from either side.
A couple of weeks ago, three cops were shot and killed in one weekend in Mississippi, although it is unclear whether the guns were legally obtained or not. The answer to the debate is unclear, but until those debating listen to each other, a compromise will not be met with open hands.
Possible Sources:
Brookhaven Police Department
Mississippi Auto Arms

What Works: Week 11

The end of the article offered the most important part about his election chances, and that is that when he is in Washington D.C. he will have to be partisan towards his party. As moderate as he may be in Mississippi, he will still have to vote Democrat on policy issues. That is where the Mississippi voters will take issue with his election.

As his message says, it’s time to change the narrative and stop the defamation on the outlook of the state. He may be right that his election will not be held back by racist voters but by his party, that being said, acknowledging the other side in a new light will not win him the election on his own. His heart seems to be in the right place, and Nicholas Fandos did a good job as portraying him as a good career politician through his writing, but he still will have a tough time cutting through the tradition of voting in Mississippi. There are a myriad of issues those running for office can focus on about Mississippi, and his key points may be the ones that appeal to the moderate voters who would normally go right in this state.

Rock Music’s “Modern Saviors,” Greta Van Fleet, Release Debut Album

Greta Van Fleet, the band who has been branded as rock music’s modern saviors, released arguably the most highly anticipated debut rock album in decades — “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” — last friday. The album kicks off with a six-minute tune titled, “The Age of Man” that, in a way, reflects “The Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 space epic, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The sound is tranquil and ominous, but eventually leads into the band’s trademark bluesy riffs and blasting vocals that fans fell in love with the first time they heard “Highway Tune” from Greta’s incredible debut EP, “From the Fires.”

Although “From the Fires” produced more hits for the four boys from Frankenmuth, Michigan, than most artists can only dream of, it also set them up to be held to a higher standard than any band in recent memory. Hard-rocking hippies and die-hard rock fans may permanently place “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” on their favorite playlist, but the album doesn’t always live up to expectations throughout all 11 tracks.

“The Cold Wind” and “When the Curtain Falls” are the album’s hardest-hitting — straight rock tracks that take clear inspiration from an ever-so-familiar sounding group from the ‘70’s. This horse has been bludgeoned to death several times over, but similarities to Led Zeppelin are impossible to ignore when listening to the songwriting duo of Jake and Josh Kiszka. “The Cold Wind” and “When the Curtain Falls” rhythmically and vocally truly capture the essence of Led Zeppelin’s monumental sound. That being said, they are not as catchy as Zeppelin’s classic hits.

Of the softer tunes from the album, “You’re the One” clearly sits above “The New Day” and “Anthem.” “You’re the One” may be the catchiest song on the album, and has a great acoustic guitar on it that feels like a hippie soundtrack to a time of free love and loosened inhibitions.  “Anthem” is the one song on the album that drones on as background music and can be difficult to get through without being tempted to skip to the last epic track, “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)”.

This is an album with four tracks that should be remembered in the band’s overall discography. “The Cold Wind,” “When the Curtain Falls,” “You’re the One,” and “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)” are all great rock n’ roll tracks that match the quality of the “From the Fires” EP.

“The Cold Wind”, shoots straight at you with a staccato riff followed up by a classic Josh Kiszka high-pitched shout and into a free flowing melody highlighted by Josh’s Robert Plant-esq rasp. The chorus is not as catchy as the verse melody, but it provides a needed lapse in the energy until the riff cuts right back in.

The lead single of the album, “When the Curtain Falls,” includes Jake Kiszka’s best riff since the opening track off their EP, “Safari Song.” Josh Kiszka takes care of the rest of the song writing cheeky lyrics of a modern Hollywood lifestyle. The youngest brother, Sam Kiszka, has his most memorable bass line yet that is so catchy you can sing along to it alone.

“You’re the One,” is not Josh Kiszka’s best lyrical performance and does not follow the fairy-telling feeling that his lyric’s typically evoke, but it is definitely his best chorus melody on an acoustic track, with the one exception being the epic “Flower Power” on “From the Fires.” Drummer Danny Wagner does not get enough credit in the band of three brothers, but he does a great job lifting the feeling of “You’re the One” from a slow acoustic tune into a powerful outro jam. It can be easy for a drummer to get overzealous on an acoustic track, but Wagner does a great job of playing for the song and not himself.

The six-minute “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer),” is a constant rocker that comes alive on all fronts after the pounding intro is dropped out from under the listeners ears and is replaced by the open chorus, where Josh Kiszka simply screams the song title with intermittent musical accompaniment. It is a solid jam that might hold Jake Kiszka’s best solo’s yet in Greta Van Fleet’s limited discography.

The remaining six tracks, excluding the abridged version of “Lover, Leaver,” leave something more to be desired. Each song has bright spots, but “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” is just shy of the legendary album that it could be. However, it needs to be taken into account that Greta Van Fleet is comprised of four kids whose songwriting abilities will presumably grow with their fame. “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” is a good album, in fact, it is one of the better debut albums to be released. The band is on an undeniable trajectory for rock n’ roll glory, that is aided by the masses who are rooting for Greta Van Fleet to bring back the visceral feeling and authenticity that rock n’ roll once soaked in.

What Works: Week 9

Turkey’s President Vows to Detail Khashoggi Death ‘in Full Nakedness’

The New York Times article published this morning and written by David Kirkpatrick was a good in-depth look at the biggest news story of the past few weeks. Now that the truth is out, that Khashoggi was killed while under the jurisdiction of the Saudi’s, Turkey’s President, Erdogan, has claimed that he will be releasing details about the event if the Saudi’s do not quickly release the full truth themselves.

The political backdrop of Turkey and Saudi Arabia has several layers, as all political issues do, that is causing this to be a bigger murder than it would be in another country. Kirkpatrick stated in the article, Khashoggi is not a  Turkish citizen, so by nature it is not a Turkish problem, however, Erdogan was personal friends with Khashoggi.

Kirkpatrick did a good job of illustrating what has happened thus far, with the Saudi government contradicting each previous story they gave every time they come out with new information. As well as detailing the events that have occurred this far, Kirkpatrick laid out the reasons for the Saudi’s and the Turkish government’s issues with each other.

Apparently, Erdogan and his government believe that it was the United Arab Emirates that attempted to enact a coup against President Erdogan in 2016. The climate is fierce in the region right now, and Kirkpatrick brought up the point that it is the biggest single event in the area since the Arab Spring revolutions.

Khashoggi’s murder story could be potentially blown off the roof on Tuesday  where Erdogan plans to unveil all the details. However, Kirkpatrick noted that there could be numerous ways this could be worked out under the table and potentially aid both sides in the end.

7th Annual Harvest Supper at Rowan Oak Will Use New Online Auction

The 7th Annual Harvest Supper fundraiser at Rowan Oak will be held this Thursday with guests and performers alike supporting the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses.

Rowan Oak will be hosting around 550 guests that bought tickets before they became available for public purchase. 

“This time for the first year we actually sold out our tickets to sponsors so we don’t have have left to sell. So most of our money this year is coming from sponsors,” said Kate Wallace, Museum Membership, Events, & Communication Coordinator.

However, the money doesn’t stop coming in after the ticket purchases. Friends of the Museum is hoping for another $40-$50,000 to be raised during the online silent auction this year.

“This year instead of a live auction we are doing an online and silent auction, and it is the first year we’ve done that. It will be with all local and regional artists,” Wallace said.

Hosted by the volunteer organization, Friends of the Museum, the event has always been proud to keep the lineage of performers, artists, and chefs local during the annual event.

“We tell Friends (Friends of the Museum) what we need funding for and they’re able to use the money to support projects, activities, and our jobs in general,” Wallace said.

Rowan Oak and the Bailey’s Woods Trail have been one of the main attractions in Oxford for decades, and the Harvest Supper fundraiser is the main supporter of the Universities museum sites.

“The historic houses are all apart of the museum complex, so once we pay off the event and everything, the money will come back to the museum,” Wallace said.

The UM Museum has been named on several blogs and publications as one of the premier University museums throughout the entire country. Associated with the museum and the venue for the event is the famed home of William Faulkner, named Rowan Oak, which was acquired by the University from Faulkner’s daughter in 1972.

“Harvest Supper was started with the idea that we celebrate the artists,” Wallace said.

A few of the artists celebrating Oxford’s history and auctioning off their pieces include Jonathan Kent Adams, who graduated from Ole Miss in 2014 and currently works and lives in Oxford, Ashleigh Coleman, whose “work explores the complexities of family life, her relationship to the landscape, and what it means to be southern,” according to her website, and John Haltom, who was the youngest member to be admitted to the Mississippi Craftsman’s Guild.

The music performers during this years event will be The University of Mississippi Steel Drum Band and Young Valley, who describes themselves on their website as a band that “offers points of view from songwriters Zach Lovett, Dylan Lovett, and Spencer Thomas with a trading of styles from traditional country to southern-tinged rock ‘n roll.” The food will be provided by A&N Catering and Elizabeth Heiskell who also catered the 2017 Harvest Supper event.

The grounds to Rowan Oak will be open to the night’s guests at 6:30 and begin a night of celebration of the storied past artists in Oxford’s history, along with the current thriving art scene.

What Works: Week 8

M.I.T. Plans College for Articial Intelligence, Backed by $1 Billion

The article, for the New York Times, by Steve Lohr, is about the new college to be added at M.I.T. next year to embrace the ever growing world of artificial intelligence. By 2022, the school has plans  to move into it’s own buildings that will don the name of Stephen A. Schwarzman, the principal donator.

The new college will create dozens of new faculty positions that will be focusing on students that the president of M.I.T., L. Rafael Reif, refers to as “bilinguals”.

By bilinguals, Reif defines them “as people in fields like biology, chemistry, politics, history and linguistics who are also skilled in the techniques of modern computing that can be applied to them.” The two avenues of discipline that will be participating in the new college also means that the staff will come from separate schools within M.I.T. and will be changing ways of promotion throughout higher education.

The article did a good job of illustrating the creation of the college and the beginning of its inception, that began from conversations with Schwarzman and Reif.

Schwarzman recognized years ago that artificial intelligence was going to be one of the chief focuses of the technologies that would be further advancing the future. M.I.T. was fully focused on getting ahead of the curve and being proactive about harnessing A.I. technology and getting their students to be on the forefront of innovation.

Filmmaker Jing Niu Comes To Ole Miss 10/8

On Wednesday, October 17th, first generation Asian-American filmmaker Jing Niu will be coming to Oxford to talk with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture about growing up as an immigrant in the South.

Although Niu is now a freelance journalist with a residency at Crosstown Arts in Memphis, TN, her journey started long from here. Niu immigrated from China when she was a child and grew up in take out food industry in the south.

“I was born abroad in China and moved here and grew up in an African American neighborhood and was highly influenced by African American culture,” Niu said in the Indie Grits interview.

Her dream of becoming a filmmaker was not shared by her parents, but she went on to earn an MFA from Duke’s Documentary and Experimental Arts program

“I love working with people, and when I realized that making visual art is an isolated practice, I wanted to move into an industry where I was working with my friends on a regular basis,” Niu said.

Niu was contacted by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture through Instructional Assistant Professor, John Rash.

“We both lived in North Carolina and studied our MFA’s together at Duke University,” Rash said.

Niu was a great choice for the Brown Bag lecture series with of her expansive body of work and life story.

“I was a big fan of her work and continued to follow her work after we left there and she went on to L.A. and branched out into doing journalism and working for Wired Magazine,” Rash said.

Recently, Niu was inspired by Takamure Itsue, as she was one of the only Asian female explorers that Niu could find information about. An account of Itsue’s famed pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku emboldened Niu to try and retrace her steps while filming a documentary about her backpacking trip.

Niu’s documentaries, “The Traveler Takamure” and “Departing”, are autobiographical and detail successes and struggles of the female Asian experiences in the U.S. and abroad. “The Traveler Takamure” was awarded the Hellen Hill Memorial Grant for best film by a female filmmaker at the 2018 Indie Grits Film Festival.

Niu will be showing some clips of her work during the lecture and hopes that those in attendance will be able to understand what the career of a filmmaker is like post-graduation.

“I think that is the real value is creating an opportunity for students to interact with someone who is out there in the field  that graduated not that long ago and is actually making a living doing the things that some of our students want to do,” Rash said.

The lecture will take place at noon this coming Wednesday in Barnard.

What Works: Week 7

Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn”


The article posted by CNN that used info gathered by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) since the Paris Climate Accords were signed has come to a jarring conclusion.

The world needs to come together and make radical changes to our energy consumption and output in order to keep the Earth’s temperature 1.5% C above the pre-industrial revolution levels. Since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the climate change agreement, the country has been expending much more dirty energy into the climate.

The IPCC came to the conclusion that if the temperature is not kept under 1.5% by the year 2030, there will be irreversible changes that will cause pandemonium across the globe in the form of economic turmoil, rampant natural disasters, and possibly the destruction of several ecosystems.

The report, written by Brandon Miller and Jay Croft, is scary to read to say the least. However, I worry that since there has been so much talk of global warming the past few years, this will go down as another over reaction type of headline.

Even if this is an over reaction, the constant reiteration by top scientists of the need to change our energy use and environmental pollution will need to be heeded at some point or else the world will pay, especially third world countries.

The report says that the effects will be felt strongest by those in the southern hemisphere, however, they are not sure of all the changes it will cause because of the unfamiliarity with the territory our climate is about to occupy.

The report is a great start to get people to start thinking more about energy consumption, but I will be looking for more information and predictions to come out from the IPCC’s reports.