A Passion for Cafés

Sitting in one of the suave, new-age cafés of Chelsea, sipping the seventh coffee shared among them, three Princetonians came one step closer to visualizing their ideal café. Senior Lachie Kermode, junior Michelle Goldman, and sophomore Cecily Polonsky have a dream to start a coffee shop, a dream they fueled with the caffeine of a day-long inspirational tour of the cafés of New York City.

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The trio leaves Princeton at 5:40AM

Their idea began when they discovered that all three of them harbored a fantasy of owning a coffee shop. In an effort to bolster this vision, the trio set off for New York City, looking for inspiration. Leaving Princeton at 5:40 AM and sipping coffee well into the afternoon, they judged the cafés on the criteria of ambiance, clientele, homeliness, aesthetics, among a host of other more obscure factors—including how each tries to “mask its capitalistic function,” and “caters to an idea of what a coffee shop is.” At the end of the day, jittery from over a dozen coffees, they settled on their two favorites: Devocion and Atlas Café.

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Michelle said that their vision has shifted over time, but that they’re comfortable with how it has started to take shape. “A big part of this too is the deinstitutionalization of education,” said Michelle. “We’ve been thinking a lot about how to make this coffee shop into a productive, interactive, and intellectual space.”

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They even have a name for their future café: “PKG”, an acronym of their last names. Cecily said they also hope to take this venture abroad over the upcoming summer, looking for inspiration as they consider how their own coffee shop will look. “We decided to take that philosophy of the New York tour, but take it to a European city—Oxford—where we ultimately want our coffee shop to be,” said Cecily, noting that the trio intends to seek funding from the university for their summer plan.

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But their passion extends beyond these aspirations. While on their New York coffee tour, they thought of an idea for a podcast in which they “get coffee with frat bros.” “We thought, wouldn’t it be fun to bring people along,” recalls Michelle. Cecily explained that they considered many ideas, including “Ziti with Zete” and “Saké with SAE,” but settled on “Coffee with Chi Phi” in the end. Michelle added that “another mission was to humanize these frat boys.” Lachie said he expects that the podcast will be successful, noting that “there’s a lot of hype for the first episode.” Although the production remains in the early stages, they already have a demo of “the opening jingle” of the podcast, sung by Lachie himself.

*As to remain unbiased, the author did not consume any caffeine in the production of this article.

21 Questions with…William Grear ’20

William “Will” Grear is a freshman from Wakefield, RI who wowed the Jazz Department at Princeton University with his renowned trumpet and piano skills. Will chose to attend Princeton for its academic programs and music department.

Will performed with the Princeton University Creative Large Ensemble on Dec. 6, 2016, where he played solo pieces in front of a large crowd in Richardson Auditorium at Alexander Hall.

University Press Club sat down with Will to learn more about his music, his interests and his guilty pleasures.

  • When did you start playing music?

I started playing when I was 5. I saw my mom playing classical piano and I thought it was pretty cool so I asked her if I could take lessons. I’ve been playing since then. Music has taken me to Nashville and other places to do some pretty cool stuff.

  • How good are you actually?

I’m pretty good..I’m like not bad. There’s no sense in pretending you’re worse than you actually are or in flaunting your skills, but when people ask you, it’s worth telling them. So yeah..I’m pretty good. On a scale of 1 to 22, I’d say I’m a 15. Herbie Hancock is a 23.

  • Best band name of all time?

The World Is A Beautiful Place and I’m No Longer Afraid To Die. Real band, I promise.

  • Who are your musical inspirations?

Herbie Hancock, because he’s my favorite piano player and Ezra Koenig, because he has a lot of respect for artistry and has figured out a way to work within the music industry and also preserves the agency of his band. He’s also maintained his voice while being really successful in reaching a big audience. He’s someone who’s balanced a love for learning and academics with being intellectually and socially conscious while pursuing an artistic career.

  • Who’s the most musically talented person you personally know?

I don’t know if I can answer that really…they’re just random people who are friends of mine. I’ve just met so many young people my age throughout the years who blow my mind.

  • When/where do you usually practice?

I usually practice piano in my room during downtime and I don’t practice trumpet on my own because I rehearse 4 hours a week with the jazz ensemble. Because I play the trumpet in a big band setting, I don’t need to have my chops at a high level so it’s been easier to limit my practice time for that. Piano is something I’ve always been able to practice on my own.

  • Who are your favorite Princetonians?

Cornel West…I was in his seminar and it was sick. Also Norman Thomas,  Sonia Sotomayor and Michelle Obama. I don’t really know any other Princetonians.

  • What music-related item do you find most annoying?

The viola! It sounds horrible.

  • Advice for up and coming musicians?

Place an emphasis on musical theory. You can always learn the technical skills of an instrument but you should learn musical theory while you’re in an academic context. Comprehensive theory is the best way to approach songwriting or rock or jazz. It’s the best way to get out of pop chord progressions and get into creative music.

  • Why did you spend 9 months in Brazil before your freshman year?

For shits and giggles.

  • Favorite pre-concert snack?

Air. No sugar or salt with that.

  • If you could play music with one musician, dead or alive, who would it be?

I’d have to say Miles Davis. He set the standard multiple times for the style of improvisation that’s been prominent in jazz for the past 50 years. It would be pretty cool to play with a guy who invented that. Also, he played jazz like me and is cool.

  • What are the chances I can become a renowned jazz musician?

Quite low. Slim to none. Stick to finding a desk job at McKinsey.

  • In one sentence, what do you usually do all day?

I care about a couple of things and a few people but I lol at most things.

  • What songs make you laugh? Cry?

Cry: Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli

Laugh: Any song by The Lonely Island, The Flight of the Conchords, Coldplay’s entire discography and Sorry by Justin Bieber.

  • Guilty music pleasure?

You Found Me – The Fray

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I can only see 4 years into the future thanks to my 2020 vision.

  • When’s bedtime? When do you get up?

Now. I get up at 10:33 AM usually. Sometimes PM.

  • Princeton bucketlist?

Graduate and make Chris Eisgruber say something thought provoking.

  • Favorite musical note? Why?

A flat. Because it’s God’s key.

  • How did you like this interview?

It was fine. Quite loly. I’m going to go play the piano now.

 

Check out Will’s high school band, S. Walcott: 

https://soundcloud.com/swalcottmusic/a-nosotros

 

Chan: Changing Theater on Campus

If you don’t have anything to do next weekend–or even if you do–grab some friends and head over to see Charles Francis Chan, Jr.’s Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery for a hilariously surreal play-within-a-play that will shake your conceptions of racial identity in America.

The play is put on by East West Theater and the organization’s founder and president emeritus, Kathy Zhao ‘17, as her senior thesis in theater.

Chan, which follows a college-dropout during the turbulent sixties as he pens a play to combat racism against Asian Americans, debuted last week on Friday the 10th to a standing ovation, according to Zhao. The Saturday performance was preceded by an afternoon symposium featuring conversations on race and representation in theaters both on campus and beyond.

“I’ve only been in one other thesis production, Zoyka’s Apartment, Zhao said of her theater career here at Princeton. “That was the first time I was forced to confront playing race.”

Zhao’s role in Zoyka’s Apartment required her to play yellow face and speak with broken English.

“I found myself, an Asian American, playing a stereotyped caricature of a Chinese person,” Zhao said of her role. “I didn’t quite understand all the feelings and confusion until it finally coalesced into a feeling of shame of having my parents coming to see the show.”

Zhao embarked upon the quest of creating East West Theater last spring to carve out a space for Asian American visibility in the theater community. Having played with the idea of a company since her sophomore year, Zhao states that East West has three goals: “to increase the representation of Asian Americans in theater, to represent the diversity of all experiences on the stage, and to create an inclusive environment to welcome beginners to theater.”

Recently, East West Theater has hosted staged readings of Ching Chong Chinaman by Lauren Yee, held mock auditions to explain the auditioning process to those new to theater, and performed their first show, Untold Stories, in December of last year.

Zhao notes that East West will continue to organize events such as future symposiums. The symposium on Saturday afternoon included reflections on diversity in theater, featuring scholars, performers, and writers such as Erin Quill, Brian Herrera, Christine Mok, Robert Lee, and Lloyd Suh, the playwright himself.

“One thing that heartens me is the fact that we’re sitting here and having this conversation because Kathy created this thing,” Suh said during his panel, followed by a round of applause and cheers. “Power [is talking] about owning your agency, being bold, and taking action.”

And that is exactly what Zhao did.

“It’s not a popular thing for people of my generation to say,” Suh continued, “but millennials are pretty amazing.”

Chan will have another set of performances this week on February 16th, 17th, and 18th at 8:00 p.m. in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street. Tickets purchased in advance are $12 for general admission and $11 for senior citizens and students; tickets purchased at the door are $17 and $15.

So much head: tour of campus art

Princeton University’s campus art collection features over 60 works scattered around the residential colleges, academic buildings, and graduate college housing. As with most aspects of Princeton, this collection has a strange fixation on brainpower / symbolism of the head. Here are three pieces that reinterpret this central body part.

Head of a Woman

Executed by Carl Nesjar (1971), designed by Pablo Picasso (1962)

Across the street from McCarter Theater

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Pablo Picasso designed a miniature model of this cast concrete, granite, and quartzite sculpture in 1962. After meeting with Picasso in 1969 and receiving his approval, Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar began building the full-size sculpture on-site. The geometric, segmented Head of a Woman provides a foil to Picasso’s other pieces of the same name. For example, Picasso’s bronze Head of a Woman (on display at the Met) uses curvier, rounder features and looks a lot more like an anatomically correct human. The sculpture at Princeton, with its exposed rock colors and shallow texturing, stands in stark contrast to I.M. Pei’s minimalist Spelman apartments.

Horse-Head Conference Room

Frank Gehry, installed in 2002

Icahn Laboratory

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Renowned contemporary architect Frank Gehry designed the Horse-Head Conference Room as part of a project for Peter B. Lewis, whose $101 million gift helps fund the Lewis Center for the Arts. The room’s expressive shape marks a formative period in Gehry’s experimental architecture, and the fluidity of Horse-Head Conference Room has parallels to Gehry’s later designs for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao. The Horse-Head Conference Room currently stands in Icahn Laboratory.

Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads

Ai Weiwei, installed in 2012

In front of the Woodrow Wilson School

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The bronze version of Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads is making a stop in front of the Woodrow Wilson School until August 2017, as part of the series’ world tour. The piece represents the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac and taps into a tense history of repatriation, elitism, and cultural exchange. Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads draws inspiration from a fountain depicting zodiac animal heads in Yuanming Yuan, a center of imperial gardens and palaces in Beijing. The original zodiac heads were commissioned by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century, designed by European Jesuits, and then pillaged by French and British troops in 1860. Weiwei’s interpretation of the heads is seen as a statement on the democratization of art.

Princeton students start new music publication

The Princeton LP is basically the garage band of the Princeton writing world–it’s new, it’s growing, and it covers everything from A$AP Mob’s flowing rap to Tor Miller’s soul-infused rock.

Princeton University’s newest student publication, the LP, is also its first to be dedicated entirely to music. The online-only magazine has features and reviews about most genres of music, written entirely by University students.

The LP was born out of a perceived hole in Princeton’s array of newspapers and magazines. Will Rivitz ‘18 was excited to write about his passion for music when he arrived on campus three years ago, but none of the existing publications had a department specifically for music.

Last spring, Paul Schorin ‘19 suggested to Rivitz that they start an entirely new publication dedicated to music.

“He said ‘let’s do this,’ and I was like ‘absolutely,’” Rivitz said. “We’ve been planning it since the summer, and we finally got it launched in October. It’s been good so far.”

The LP publishes a couple articles per week, written by a growing staff of contributors. Its main feature, The 45, draws from the entire writing staff and reviews newly-released singles.

“We’ll send out a single that came out recently, and people will write a paragraph-long review,” Rivitz said. The collaborative column featured singles from the Weeknd, Brad Paisley, the xx, and others during the fall.

The individual reviews in each edition of The 45 range in tone from deliberate criticism to sophomoric humor. When discussing the Weeknd’s October single “Starboy,” one contributor wondered how the singer was trying to continuously shape his image, while another yearned for the Weeknd’s “early-career crotch pumps.”

In addition to the usual reviews and playlists, Rivitz likes joke around sometimes.

“I wrote a really fun, ridiculous piece about the great-great-granddaughter in the Jonas Brothers’ ‘Year 3000.’” he said. “She’s still doing fine in the year 3000, even though she probably should have lived from about 2250 to 2350.”

For the piece, Rivitz did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and found that, absent magical medical advances, Nick Jonas’ descendant in the song would not have lived anytime near the year 3000. He concluded that Jonas must have been deceived by the time-traveling friend he mentions in the song.

Rivitz wants to preserve the excited, playful feeling the LP currently has and expand it. He believes that a partnership with WPRB, Princeton’s on-campus radio station, would benefit both organizations.

“I would like to use their studios and would like to use their blog too,” he said. “I’d want to invite artists in and record live sessions in their studios.”

If you want to read some of the great articles that the Princeton LP is putting out, head over to lp.princeton.edu. If you would like to join Rivitz, Schorin, and crew at their Wednesday afternoon meetings, email wrivitz@princeton.edu or info@princetonlp.com.