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Hi! I hope you enjoy this shortened week of classes! I know you are going to mostly use the time to study but don’t forget to enjoy Thanksgiving with your friends and family! Also, don’t forget to eat! Well, I have so many exciting opportunities to tell you about that I can’t contain them any longer.

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  • NYC Teaching Fellows are looking for high-achieving individuals who are committed to creating a better future for New York City’s students. If you have a desire to help people than I would suggest applying right away. What is great about NYC Teaching Fellows is that they place you where you are needed the most. You can learn more about the program here and by reading this factsheet. The application is currently open and the priority deadline is November 29th.
  • The New York Times is having a Modern Love College Essay Contest! If you have a story that you think captures what modern love looks like then email it to, along with your name, college, graduation year, email address and phone number. The winner will receive $1,000 and his or her essay will be published in a special Modern Love column in late April. You can read last year’s winner here.
  • This winter, Brooklyn College, and the CUNY School of Law will be launching the first-ever Brooklyn College/CUNY School of Law Pipeline to Justice Undergraduate Winter Program. It is a free, one-week program, designed to introduce prospective advocates to the legal academy and the world of public interest lawyering.  Did I mention that it is free?! The Program will run from January 22nd to January 26th from 9 am to 3 pm.  Complete and submit an application by December 8th, 2017 to 
  • The Junction is taking submissions! Please send your artwork, poetry, or prose to The deadline is March 1st  but it is never too early to start crafting your pieces.
  • If you need help with your submissions then I suggest stopping by the Writer’s Circle. The Writer’s Circle are a safe place for you to workshop your writing! It is held every Tuesday and Thursday in room 2307 Boylan Hall during common hours.

Remember to enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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-Brayan De Los Rios Guisao

The Future of Medicine

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a digital pill that contains magnesium, copper, and silicon and allows your doctor to monitor your medicine intake. By attaching a patch and syncing with Bluetooth, the doctor is notified with the time and date of ingestion.  The patient also has the ability to add notes about their health. While the pill’s ingredients are non-harmful, some are uneasy about digesting technology and its negative impact on privacy. bubblePatch_pills_HT

The digital pill would help address the overdose epidemic, by warning the doctor of any unusual intake. It would also help with individuals suffering from psychological disorders who are more likely to miss doses and relapse. Abilify is the first antipsychotic to be approved and some are doubtful about the helpfulness of this digital drug.  Many patients with schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder already suffer from paranoia and having a doctor ‘watch’ your behavior would only heighten this sensation and prevent the patient from taking their medication. While its practicality for psychological disorders is uncertain, it seems more promising for individuals in rehabilitation.  It may also become a requirement for parole, thereby securing a commitment to prescriptions.


One of the largest ethical concerns about merging technology with medicine is whether ‘Big Brother’ will be watching.  With technology like our phones, the Alexa speaker, and the Internet, we are constantly bombarded with suggestive ads based on our searches, which store data.  Some fear that with this kind of access, the government will also be able to monitor our activity and privacy will become obsolete.

There is also the danger with any technology, that  hackers can receive our personal information, including prescriptions taken. With prescriptions like pain relievers, having this access is especially harmful as the market and price of obtaining these pills rises with the overdose count. By having information transmitted through bluetooth, apps, and the Internet, does this break a sort of patient and doctor confidentiality?  If then, where does our trust in our doctors lie, between the numbers of codes? Also, will pharmaceutical companies be able to promote other drugs to us, in the same way cookies send us related ads?


Perhaps the most pressing issue is the way medicine and health care are tied to capitalism. With an increase in medicines but not enough cures, some wonder whether our health care’s primary interest is actually in the patient or in profit.  The price of this new drug is not listed yet but there may be an incentive for taking it, by offering lower copayments.  Is this really ethical?  How do we provide health care for those who cannot afford it?

While I am not surprised the FDA approved the digital pill, considering their lax supervision on the harmful ingredients in food like children’s cereals and snacks, I am worried about the power of technology.  Sometimes I want to unplug from our technological attachment, but this is becoming increasingly difficult. This drug also raises serious ethical concerns and distances the actual care for the patient.


-Stephanie Montalti

Don’t Cross Her: A Stranger Than Fiction Crime Story

In a bizarre story straight out of a bestselling domestic thriller by Gillian Flynn or Paula Hawkins, a local Staten Island chiropractor, Danielle Serini, will be exonerated of numerous false charges made against her this past year after being framed by Jennifer Becker, a local crossing guard.

According to reports, the two began a feud in June of last year outside of P.S. 29 and St. Theresa School, where Becker was previously a crossing guard. Allegedly, a series of altercations occurred between the women where Serini spat at Becker, called her an expletive and flipped her the bird, leading Becker to obtain an order of protection against Serini. These charges came to a head this past February when Serini was accused of more middle finger action, sticking her tongue out at Becker, and, perhaps most absurdly, tossing a lollipop at her.

A few weeks after these developments, over a dozen letters were sent to the 120th Precinct, the contents of which were racist, vulgar and violent. One made reference to the Ku Klux Klan and depicted a black child with razor blades shopped into their head; another showed a black child hanging from a noose. The letters contained bigoted language such as “I HATE BLACKS ALMOST AS MUCH AS THEY HATE ME,” one of which was addressed to a presumably Muslim crossing guard, “TRUMP BETTER DEPORT YOUR STUPID A– FOR TAKING OUR AMERICAN MONEY!”

Detectives originally assumed Serini was responsible for these letters because they included threats to her accuser Jennifer Becker’s mixed race child: “My next opportunity will be getting rid of you and that ugly a– n—– child of the crossing guard. Keep thinking he’s safe in school. But when the opportunity hits, it will be bang, bang.” However, when new letters included Serini’s full name, detectives started to suspect something was off. Why would a maligned woman who had to close her business due to allegations against her, sign her own name on further incriminating evidence?

“It just looked too fake,” one source from the force claimed. “We started looking at it in a different direction and it started moving away from [Danielle Serini]. In the verbiage of these letters, obviously it wasn’t coming from this doctor.”

To further complicate matters, the letters also came with a scavenger hunt of sorts, a la Gone Girl. The officer who received many of the letters had received a package a few days earlier with Dum Dum lollipops with a note stating, “Clue 2.” Mere hours earlier, a crossing guard received the same package but instead had a note that said “Clue 1.” Again, straight from the bestseller list.

As more letters came pouring in (nearly two dozen), detectives decided to track who was truly sending these missives. Eventually they found a location where supplies for the mailings could be accessed, and they connected Jennifer Becker to that very location.

Becker was ultimately charged with one count of endangering a child’s welfare (her own no less), 4 counts of falsely reporting an incident, 11 counts of aggravated harassment, 12 counts of stalking, and 29 counts of tampering with evidence.

The judge also issued four orders of protection, including a family order requiring her to stay away from three relatives.

In the meantime, Serini hopes to salvage her professional reputation, while Becker awaits her next court date on December 11, before which she is ordered to receive a mental health screening.

And you thought Amy Dunne was bad.

-Isaiah Rivera

Down the Rabbit Hole

The allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have opened the proverbial can of worms on the entertainment and media industries. We’ve been creeping up to this point, slowly becoming more aware, and now the curtain has been ripped aside to reveal a grabby man in fancy clothes. Others in the industry suddenly find themselves in an uncomfortable spotlight as more people are coming forward as being victims of sexual harassment and rape – Al Franken from PBS is being “removed” from his job, comedian Louis C.K. is following suit, and a quick google will bring up tens of others names being called out.

It isn’t a secret that the entertainment industry tends to be a breeding ground for sexual misconduct – the objectification of both women and men is one of the dirty pillars in Hollywood’s basement, and in an industry that’s swarmed with hopefuls and desperate dreamers, it’s simpler to keep your mouth shut. I remember actress Jennifer Lawrence talking in an interview about having to strip down to her undergarments with another group of women in front of a producer and being too young and naïve to know how to say no. A lot of people want to believe that this isn’t our Hollywood, not our new and modern Hollywood. But it is. And it seems that we’re finally ready to say, no.

And it’s not only here – in France, the public seems split. An article I recently read explains:

“France is a country of men who love women,” Guillaume Bigot, who has written about the Weinstein fallout in France, told The Associated Press. “Seduction is a profound part of our national identity … the culture of the ‘French lover’ and the ‘French kiss’ is in danger because of political correctness.”

In further resistance against calling out sexual misconduct, Roman Polanski, a film director who pleaded guilty to drugging and feeding alcohol to a 13-year old girl and then having sex with her, was defended by the French Minister of Culture and honored as president of the Cesar awards. Their excuse was that their role was not to “moralize.”

While I am disgusted by the honoring of a convicted rapist, I do understand the dilemma from a base point: at what point does the person and his work become one that we can no longer separate? Do we have to first look at the creator of every morsel we enjoy before we put it in our mouths? T.S. Eliot was a known anti-Semite, yet I have the first forty-five lines of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” memorized.

But I think we have to put this in perspective. We are at a point right now where we need to weed our garden before it kills everything surrounding it. You can say you are honoring Polanski’s work and not his person a million times but the message you’re putting across is that it’s okay. We are in a time right now where we could actually set some things right – people are coming forward and others are stepping down because it’s really, truly, not okay. This is not philosophizing about authors long dead and their legacy. This is about people who are here and now, sexual predators who will keep going if they don’t get caught. This is about calling out someone who might create another victim tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that.


Profile of a Revolutionary

Under house arrest and flanked by the very generals who had placed him there, the ninety-three year old president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe (seen left), gave an address to the nation on November 19, 2017, where he was expected to formally resign from office. In a slow and slightly slurred speech, occasionally adjusting his round glasses, preventing them from slipping off his nose, the shuffling of his papers adding texture to the mic’s natural static, Mugabe patiently acknowledged the military’s concerns and politely declined their invitation to resign from the office he’s held with an iron grip for the last thirty-seven years.

Born in 1924, Mugabe grew up in what was then called Rhodesia, a nation suffering under British colonial rule. Educated by Jesuit missionaries, Mugabe was inspired to be a teacher by Father Jerome O’Hea, an Irishman who preached racial equality and inspired his student with stories of the Irish War of Independence (1919 – 1921) which successfully resulted in the overthrow of British rule. Studying to be an educator, as a young man Mugabe explored the nations bordering Rhodesia where he met Jewish South African Marxists, learned about Gandhi’s independence movement in India, and took inspiration from Ghana, the first African state to be independent of European powers.

Alongside his Ghanaian wife, Sally Hayfron, Mugabe returned to Rhodesia as a committed African nationalist in the 1960s, as well a Marxist revolutionary. Respected in his community due to his travels and numerous degrees, Mugabe initially sought an independent state that was led by the majority black population. However, his rhetoric grew more and more extremist as he supported armed resistance against the ruling white minority, coming to see that as a necessary tactic to rid Rhodesia of British colonial rule.

As activists, both Mugabe and his wife (seen left) were in and out of prison during this turbulent period. After the birth of their son, Mugabe insisted his wife go to Ghana with their child while he remained fighting for independence in Rhodesia. Imprisoned there for inflammatory remarks against the government, Mugabe received word in 1966, that his three year old son had died. Though he asked to be able to attend his funeral in Ghana, the request was denied. A decision Mugabe never forgave the prison authority for.

Released from prison in 1974, Mugabe recommitted himself to overthrowing colonial power. As the head of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), he waged a successful guerilla war against the ruling white minority which ultimately led to the dismemberment of the Rhodesian government under Prime Minister Ian Smith (seen below). Elected Smith’s successor in the 1980 general election, Mugabe served as Prime Minister for seven years. He renamed the country Zimbabwe, tearing down statues of colonial figures such as Cecil Rhodes (whom his British South African Company named Rhodesia after – seen right) and replacing the names of roads and buildings with those of black revolutionaries.

These seven years did not see the promised transition into a socialist state which Mugabe had consistently infused into his rhetoric. It did see a lot of support from western nations (including the United States and United Kingdom) who offered aid in the form of funding and military advisement in the hopes that the effects of a stable and prosperous Zimbabwe would trickle out through the region (in particular, South Africa, which was transitioning from apartheid in the early 90s). Under Mugabe’s leadership, Rhodesia also saw a significant rise in literacy and immunizations, but was dogged by an expanding web of corruption which saw the new ruling class of elite blacks gaining more and more wealth while most of the nation was in poverty.

Adding to this, there was a mass exodus of white Rhodesians who were none too thrilled about a black Marxist running the country, especially since Mugabe had often preached massacring the lot of them as a tactic to overthrow colonial rule. Though Mugabe tried to walk back his previously inflammatory comments in order to maintain a lot of the nation’s wealth which was still tightly encased by the small white community, half of the white population fled to South Africa, creating an economic pitfall for the country. Mugabe later accused terrorist attacks against himself and his party as being enacted by South African-backed white militants, and again accused Zimbabwe’s neighbor of secretly backing Ndebele rebels in his country.

The guerrilla war which Mugabe’s political party ZANU had waged against Prime Minister Ian Smith’s government in the 70s had not been a two-sided war. Also a participant was the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU). Though both ZANU and ZAPU wanted to challenge white minority leadership, the former was made up of Shona people (who made up 70% of the population) and the latter was made up of Ndebele people (a tribal community who made up only 20% of the population). Accusing them of being dissidents, from 1983 to 1984, Prime Minister Mugabe oversaw the massacre of over 20,000 Ndebele people, solidifying himself in history as not just a righteous counter-colonial revolutionary, but also a warmonger, a murderer. Two disparate identities the world will have to reconcile long after he’s gone.

In 1987, Mugabe’s party amended the constitution, declaring him President of Zimbabwe. This position primarily gave him the power to dissolve parliament, declare martial law, and run for an unlimited number of terms. In 1988, ZANU merged with ZAPU to create Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) which remains the ruling party to this day.

What directly leads to the conflict Zimbabwe is facing now, goes by the name Grace Mugabe (née Marufu, seen left). In 1987, Mugabe initiated an affair with his married secretary, Grace Marufu, and had two children by her, whilst his wife, Sally, a much beloved first lady in Zimbabwe (though not without her controversies and rumors of corruption) and central figure of the ZANU-PF, struggled with cancer. After his wife’s death in 1992, Mugabe married his former secretary, forty-one years his junior.

Surprisingly, as time went by, the new first lady began to betray a political ambition far beyond that of being simply married to the president, and she eventually assumed a leadership role in ZANU-PF just like her predecessor. As a consequence, the party developed two distinct factions. One is called the Lacoste Faction, led by Mugabe’s vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa (seen right), which has the backing of Zimbabwe’s military and war veterans. Its rival faction, G-40, was led by Grace Mugabe, and is supported by the police (perhaps, in no small part due to the fact that President Mugabe’s nephew is a top commander in the force) and younger politicians who have no experience fighting in the war for liberation from colonial power. With time on their side, Lacoste Faction had been patiently waiting for the ninety-three year old president to die, automatically transferring power to Vice President Mnangagwa, while G-40 had been attempting to persuade Mugabe into naming his wife as his successor.

On November 6, 2017, Mugabe made his decision, and fired his vice president. Immediately this provoked an unprecedented military backlash, with generals (many of whom had fought alongside Mugabe for the overthrow of colonial rule) seizing the president and placing him under house arrest. With Grace Mugabe then banished from ZANU-PF, the party then elected Emmerson Mnangagwa as their new leader, forsaking Mugabe. Determined to avoid any mentions of a coup, the military set up a press conference on November 20, 2017 for the president so that he could address a nation largely crying out for his removal from office.

But, slow of speech and surrounded by at least half a dozen armed generals, Mugabe’s rebel spirit appears to have remained intact, and he has refused to step down despite the fact his own party no longer considers them his leader, the military has invaded his home, and thousands march in the street against him. His party has given him until midday November 20, to resign or face impeachment. The military has insisted they will not force him to resign by the barrel of a gun, and will entrust parliament to initiate impeachment proceedings (they will need a two-thirds majority to do so) when they meet on Tuesday, November 21.


Loving You


Actively places me in the shade of a new color;

Numbing the pigments of a canvas reminiscent of

Days dimmed by drizzling dread and despair – but now is love.

Resting on a cloud of thoughts, behind the summers

Edge, reminds me that any reticent thunder

Attempts not to be heard, but felt. Like a dove,

Escaping the wrathful bliss from above,

Landed an angel – my woes to plunder.

I know not which god can match your wit.

Zeal for love, like a koala

Alert for gum trees – moonlit.

Boarding my amygdala,

Emotions traced all – in your art.

Theaters for eyes, you live sunlit,

Happily longing candies of guava.

Painting your many-hued love on my heart,

Each day tastes – an impossibly sweet lemon.

Residual tangy specks drown the colorless parts-

Advertising past drenching days- for a second

Life. A rose garden I never planted is blooming.

The roots of my past, my present, and future are undoing,

Adventuring to the canvas rumored with new colors.


~Richard Gonzalez

Why I’ve Started Only Reading In Spanish

I am not fluent in Spanish. I know that will probably surprise some people who know me. It sure surprised my mother when I told her earlier this month in Spanish. Yes, I told my mother in Spanish that I don’t know Spanish. Confused? So am I.

I pass the American eye and ear test for someone who is fluent in Spanish. I can translate most things and I am usually called upon to read the rare Spanish word in my classes. My Spanish was good enough to score a high grade on my NYS Regents. However, I haven’t had any formal training in Spanish. My classroom has been my mother’s home and earlier this year I left it.

Now I live with two non-Spanish speaking Puerto Ricans and my Filipino girlfriend. I didn’t realize the shock to the system that not hearing Spanish at home would be. If I were to rank the languages heard in my apartment, the list would go: English, Japanese,  Korean, and then Spanish. I love my new apartment but it doesn’t feel like home. Something was missing. I had lost something and I wasn’t quite sure what.

Then I realized that there was a huge hole in my life where my Spanish used to be. It’s not just a case of not hearing Spanish at home anymore. I wasn’t using it. I didn’t have a place to use it in my daily life.  I used to think that my language was something that would never leave me. Now, I realize that languages can die. Like any relationship, it will end, if you don’t set time aside to dedicate to it.


 Una mano

más una mano
no son dos manos
Son manos unidas
Une tu mano
a nuestras manos
para que el mundo
no esté en pocas manos
sino en todas las manos
-Gonzalo Arango

-Brayan De Los Rios Guisao

Virtual Lab and the Underwater World

Because very few people, including myself, do not have the first-hand experience of diving into the underwater world or come into contact with coral reefs on a regular basis, these (colorful) coral reefs could disappear without our notice if we don’t pay attention to the carbon-dioxide emission. Ocean acidification, which is often mistaken for acid rain, refers to the process in which the ocean becomes more acidic by soaking up the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere – and coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to the acidification effects. Basically, the ocean absorbs (invisible) human-caused carbon-dioxide molecules and as a result, coral reefs degrade and many marine lifeforms disappear as the underwater ecosystem becomes acidified.

I have only recently found out about this through a Youtube video, which is best viewed on a smartphone for the 360-degree experience:

In the video, Stanford researchers have designed, through virtual reality technology, an educational and virtual stimulation that allows participants to experience first-hand account of what coral reefs would look like by the end of the century if we do not reduce our carbon-dioxide emissions, as well as factors that contribute to ocean acidification. This first-hand account may also help legislators see contributing factors they hadn’t previously witnessed, allowing them to make more informed decisions relating to policy issues.

It’s nice to see that virtual technology can make an impact in the real world by sending participants to critically endangers ecosystems to raise awareness of the threats surrounding these areas, because one of the common misconceptions about VR devices is that they are mostly for gaming. I enjoying watching these videos and learning about science from platforms you don’t normally expect to see scientifically related contents, because virtual reality technology was orginally developed for entertainment purposes and science contents are just not considered “trendy” on Youtube. In an article I have recently stumbled upon, one Dutch non-profit company has found a way to allow disabled people to “swim” with dolphins through virtual reality, which allows these people to drift around a pool and watch dolphins playing around them. I thought this idea was equally interesting – because I can imagine being around dolphins (even if it is virtual) to be both therapeautic and joyful – and this may even solve the controversial issue of using captive animals. And not long ago, researchers use virtual reality technology to create empathy and to confront issues such as racism and sexism by allowing participants to embody a person of color or of different sex.

While virtual reality technology encounters a number of challenges and conerns including health and safety, and privacy and technical issues, the lack of awareness and action on climate change, I believe, is way more harmful than these virtual diasasters – and according to an article from the Washington Post, half of the world’s coral reefs have died in the past 30 years. Sometimes, I am surprised by how little we know of the things happening under the ocean and how little attention we pay to the underwater world. With the holiday approaching, I do want to end on the note that I am thankful for these people who go out of their ways to create in rich details these virtual coral reefs to bring to our attention and find solutions to some of the pressing issues surrounding the world thousands of feets deep below us – the one that we often come to neglect and take for granted.

— Jason


The car ride is long and warm. Gear sits in the back — a long black net, folded and coiled together, jammed into a white plastic bucket, tension rods and poles, extra towels and hats and tubes of sunscreen. We’re driving down the LIE, turn up the Sagtikos Parkway as it becomes the Sunken Meadow State, and drive a bit longer before parking in the farthest lot. It’s free after a certain time.

We find a spot on the sand near the rocky pier and pitch our umbrella, lay out our oversized towels and lounge around for a bit. My dad begins to unfurl the net. We help him get the poles through the loops at the end, and then wade out into the water. Shells and seaweed graze our feet as we keep going.

It’s a struggle to get the net straightened out. One of us works with him to untwist it and pick out any offending debris. We then wade out even further into the sound, easily waist-deep or more, struggling to keep the net upright at the right angle with the right amount of slack, our hands dripping wet. We catch glimpses of the fish swimming frantically, swarming schools surrounding us while we wait. My dad calls the moment when we lift the net out of the water, careful to bring the ends together as we carry it back to shore. Sometimes there’s barely anything inside except a couple small translucent jellyfish and some seaweed.

Other times the net is jumping full of small smelt (gaune), with the occasional other fish — measuring a comparatively large five inches — thrown in. We try to keep the net from touching the sand as we gather the ends together, catapulting all of the fish to the center. They’re exceedingly wriggly as we put them in the bucket that has been filled with salt water in preparation. My sister and I pick out a couple from the catch and put them into the little hollows we’ve dug out in the sand, letting them swim around there for a bit longer. Some of the fish in the bucket begin to float on top. A few more times with the net and we begin to pack up.

We briefly wash the fish once we get home, then coat them with some flour and fry them up. No gutting or deboning required. They form a huge pile on a plate once all are cooked, and we eat them whole — leaving out the heads of the larger ones (still only a mere thin three inches) until I outgrow that, and eat those whole, too.

We go fishing again those summers.

image source.

— Lora

Harry Styles, an Unexpected Family Bond

Periodically, there is a musical artist that dominates my family’s living room stereo, which gets moved around the house to accommodate the space a majority of us are occupying. Musical artists that frequently fill the walls and are enjoyed by all include (but are certainly not limited to) Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Adele, Meatloaf, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Alanis Morissette, Stevie Wonder, and Elvis. Recently, there has been a new addition to my family’s communal musical appreciations, one that I never would have thought would be the topic of frequent family discussions: Harry Styles.


Yes, Harry Styles. From the X-Factor. From One Direction (the one with the “hair”). From the millions of fantasies conjured by the passionate minds of boy-band obsessing, shrill screaming, swooning teenage girls worldwide.

Harry Styles’s music has been playing around my house ever since his first solo album dropped in May. For a while, I was quite passive about it, still associating him with One Direction, recalling how I would draw attention to the backhanded compliments in “What Makes You Beautiful” or believed that the band was pure fluff. (Although, I did once say that “Steal My Girl” was not a bad song, which my friends have not let me live down.)

My sisters, who have fawned over the singer since his One Direction days, immediately enjoyed his new musical talents and image. It didn’t particularly bother me that his music was replacing a plethora of other possible options, but I paid no attention to the acoustic-heavy “introspective” sound, writing him off as a member of a former boy-band trying to be taken seriously.

But then, suddenly, my parents started listening to him. I’d come home from school and hear Harry Styles’s muffled music from the other side of my front door and enter a house full of his British-inflected belting while my father was cooking and my mother grading papers. “You guys are listening to Harry Styles?” I’d ask with raised eyebrows. “Yeah.” “Mhmm,” they’d respond, without giving my bemusement any thought. I’d shuffle into my bedroom with a small grin, finally admitting to myself that maybe I was missing something in regards to Harry Styles.

Turns out, I sure was.

His performance on SNL was repeating one Saturday over the summer and my family gathered around our television to watch him perform. I was spellbound. The song “Sign of the Times” is epic, a near masterpiece of a contemporary power ballad. “Just stop your crying/ It’s a sign of the times/ Welcome to the final show/ Hope you’re wearing your best clothes,” he solemnly sings. The song gives way to an abundance of vocally rigorous belts and falsetto verses, ultimately concluding with repeating the phrase “We gotta get away” amidst diminishing minor chords and fragmentary piano motifs. Above all, it’s his vocals coupled with the emotion he conveys with the performance; he begins somber then crescendos into a loud, melodic angst that’s interspersed with instrumental moments in which it seems like he’s suppressing laughter. While the performance I watched is not available online, his performance on the Graham Norton Show is just as effective.

Upon reading the comments to several of his music videos and live performances, many YouTube users profess their love for Styles and that their parents enjoy his music too. It’s interesting to note what it is Harry Styles offers my parents’ generation and generations who grew up enamored with musicians’ intentions of the 60s and 70s. Styles’s album as a whole is an artistic statements instead of a single, isolated radio-friendly song summing up everything his current image is attempting to convey. Each song is as complete as the one before it and well-deserving in its own right. What impresses my parents so much about Harry Styles is that he was able to strip away all the excess that One Direction represented; Styles goes against everything his former music stood for and he is creating music that implies he’s in it for the long run, as opposed to producing perfunctory tracks that fulfill the “Song of the Summer” slot.

And, on top of that, it’s really good music. Rolling Stone, in their review of Styles’s album (which they gave four out of five stars), praises him for never sounding “like he’s trying too hard or scrounging for cred, which is where boy-band alumni usually screw up their solo records.” The review goes on to liken his songs to soundscapes characteristic of David Bowie, John Lennon, and Queen.

harrystleskiwiWhile I certainly am not familiar enough with Harry Style’s self-titled album to present as detailed a breakdown as I can (and did) with Lana Del Rey, there is one element of his image that I expect will manifest itself in more nuanced ways as his career evolves. It is in those moments in which Styles presents himself in a slightly androgynous manner, be it in the clothing he dons or the songs he chooses to cover. It’s hardly an overt attempt to challenge gender norms of pop stars or masculinity, yet his ostentatious clothing pays subtle tribute to artists like Bowie and Annie Lennox, while his popular cover of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” completely transforms the way we view the public’s preconceptions regarding gender-specific love songs when sung by genders opposite the original performer’s.

Sometimes, when my family is having lunch or dinner together, the conversations surrounding personal matters or world events will take a backseat when my sister asks if we saw Harry Styles’s latest music video or performance on some late night talk show. We usually state that we didn’t and she’ll pull up the video and rest her phone on a water bottle so we can all watch Harry Styles sing or speak as we pass a bag of Lay’s around, quietly focused on his performance. I’ll sometimes break the silence by saying “I can’t believe we’re watching Harry Styles while we’re eating” before being abruptly silenced by “SHHH!”’s all around. I smile and keep my silence as we all momentarily escape and bond over the former One Direction band member’s nostalgic sounds and modern monumentality.

–Salvatore Casto