"News is the first rough draft of history."

The Voice of the College at Florham

"News is the first rough draft of history." - The Voice of the College at Florham

Student Voice: Sometimes the blues is just a passing bird – the end

JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor

Two years ago, former Editor-in-Chief Melissa Hartz made the bold decision to give me a column in The Pillar. The subject: my life, the people I’ve met, both weird and way too normal, I drank with the best of them, so that I could wake up in the morning and tell you all about it.

I’ve thrown myself into fountains full of freezing water, so that I could no longer feel my body. It’s wonderful to hit golf balls off balconies, your target held in place by empty wine bottles that shatter. The sound of destruction has kissed my ears. Once, and only once, I cried myself all the way to the fifty yard line just to stare up at the sky, hoping that my soul would float away from me because there’s a story in everything we lose.
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Essay: Grotesque Port Authority, New York City and Hoboken

JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor

Port Authority: A man with a black bag full of what smells like feces. White jacket, a sports team logo on the back. Young. Looks normal except for the horrible stench coming from his black bag. He cradles it against his chest as people pass by him on the escalator. I wonder what it could be. Maybe a head. Like a trophy. When Pompey was executed, his head was delivered to Julius Caesar, who cried for days on end and thought no republic is worth a man’s head.

Details: Researching the lives of the Caesars. Come to the conclusion that Suetonius was one of the first (if not the first) gossip writers in world history. Suetonius used the imperial archives and secondhand sources (word of mouth, stories, his imagination, his opinion) to create the comedy of their lives. He was Emperor Hadrian’s personal secretary, but was ousted when he began working on “De vita Caesarum” (“The Twelve Caesars”). He wrote completely subjective accounts about the first twelve Caesars.

Suetonius hated Tiberius, the second Emperor, so he described him as a half-mad, syphilis-ridden man who enjoyed watching performances that I can only describe as “sex circuses.” Gaius Caligula, Tiberius’ nephew and third Emperor, was also mad: he liked to sacrifice flamingos, tear down statues of Jupiter and make love to his sister. Caligula was the first Roman Emperor to be assassinated by the Praetorian Guard. Upon hearing of his nephew’s execution, Claudius, soon to be the fourth Emperor, hid behind a curtain for hours in the Palace. Claudius reigned for 13 years and was poisoned by his wife because he was an idiot.

Port Authority, again: A man watches people climb the escalator. He meets them at the very top. His face is shaped like a giant’s: protruding forehead and sharp jaw. Dumb eyes. Which is funny since he is a small man, very thin, wearing a white t-shirt and gym shorts in the middle of winter. His dirty mustache looks like a caterpillar that’s threatening to crawl off his upper lip and into his ear. The man must live in the terminal. His mouth ajar, he watches the people ascend onto his floor. The man with the bag full of shit passes by, but the little giant doesn’t seem to notice the smell. His face is stuck in a half-smile, half-glare as if someone had paused a television screen right in the middle of a transition.

All around him, the homeless sleep on every little open space in the terminal, sometimes barebacked, sometimes with a bag full of laundry, sometimes with little things to sell. Some men have bent their backs into a C-shape, their arms outstretched, eyes closed, mumbling a tune from the old days. These people were young once. This terminal was young once. But the little giant is wide awake. He’s not begging, mumbling, or cold. The little giant is watching. Women hold their handbags a little closer, squeeze their children’s hands tighter. Eyes become watery with frustration as they meet the little giant’s gaze. Tell me: who is the idiot?

Details, again: The Caesars were gluttons, sexually depraved, cruel, wise, and talented. Nero, the fifth Emperor, was a musician. He liked to perform in front of the upper class Romans for hours. He did not allow the audience to leave until he was done. Some women gave birth during the concerts and men faked their own deaths to escape. Nero fiddled as Rome burned. A great fire engulfed his city and he admired its beauty, the way it reminded him of the sacking of Troy. He fingered the lyre and it sounded like heaven.

Hoboken, Leprechaun Day: What can only be described as an extreme example of overabundant consumption and depravity. If anyone can remember their name after this day, it’s because their friends chase after them as they run drunkenly into the streets, which are covered in green flags and drunken bodies. Beer at 10 in the morning. Whiskey at 11. Bloody Marys, Irish coffee. Someone flaunts his bottle of Smirnoff. People serve shots, which contain vodka, a swirly drop of Grenadine and a gummy bear hooked to a paper clip. If someone offers you a chocolate-covered strawberry in Hoboken on Leprechaun Day, don’t accept it. They contain hollowed out strawberries filled with wads of mayonnaise covered in chocolate.

This is a day of madness… Do you ever live a day that when it’s over you feel like you dreamt it? Down and out by 3 p.m., giving off putrid smells as they lie on what they believe will be their deathbeds.

Details, finale: The most interesting stories about the Caesars are the ones in which they die. Several omens predicted the Emperor’s death: a bolt of lightning that struck The Capitol of Capua on the Ides of March, a comet flew over Rome, the statue of Jupiter at Olympia shrieked with laughter, a blackbird waited for him at his windowsill, blood splattered on his clothes as he sacrificed a flamingo. Suetonius says that Julius Caesar was handed a document describing the whole plot against him. He did not get a chance to read it before he was assassinated. The Praetorian Guard ran their swords through Caligula’s privates as he left the gladiatorial games. Nero, unable to escape the coup against him, took his own life.

Then the Year of the Four Emperors: Galba was murdered by Otho’s loyalists. Otho knew he would be murdered soon by Vitellius’ followers, so he contemplated suicide. He decided to sleep on it, a dagger under his pillow. The next morning he shoved the dagger through his chest. Vitellius was dragged through the streets of Rome by his people and tied to a post. The Romans took turns throwing animal feces at him before they killed him. Vespasian died of diarrhea.

Personal essay: Joseph Ratzinger is at the end of his rope

JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor

The Pope was at the end of his rope, but I was stuck talking to a gay faction of luchadores about the fabrics they used to make their long sparkly gowns. I was busy watching hundreds of videos and I liked the way the luchadores kissed each other, puckering sweetly, delicately displaying their manhood. The original men.

It will never be known why the Pope really decided he was no longer fit for the job, but I can tell you one thing: he might be the most self-aware man to ever come to power in the entire world. How many men have come to the end of their rope and pulled us along with them?

I heard two men talking on the way to work and one man said to the other, “Before he was Pope, they used to call him ‘God’s Rottweiler.’” The other man laughed. “I don’t know what he had to do to earn that title.”

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Indie artist Torres strikes a note with new self-titled album

JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor

Every so often I wake up in a panic, my brow soaked in sweat, and wonder whether I’m wasting my life. I mean, I could be. Writers are prone to making big mistakes, huge mistakes. How else would we ever gather the material we need to create?

This is how I feel as I listen to Torres’ (aka Mackenzie Scott) new self-titled album. She’s fresh out of college, almost 22 (younger than me) and was featured on Pitchfork upon self-releasing her first single “Honey.”

She croons the sad ballad about a wife who watches her husband drinking his morning coffee, unable to tell him how he’s wasted her life, ruined any chance she had to be happy.

The wife can only wonder: “What ghost crawled inside my guitar?” The song is a sad portrait of marriage, one where one person is obviously settling and the other is oblivious to his partner’s pain. The heartbreaking ending, one that drags you down to tears if you’ve ever been in a relationship you know will only bring you more and more disappointment, has the wife hanging on to false hope: “Honey/ Pretending like it never happened/Come over here and let me/Put you back together/Maybe some other time then/I’ll come back again.”

Have you ever loved someone who’s no good to you but you still feel like you can fix him/her?
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Excerpt from a thesis: What Lily said, why girls cry

JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor

Later – this must’ve been a couple years after because I was wondering how I’d survived and you think about that kind of stuff only after you’ve gotten yourself out of whatever mess you put yourself in – Lily was staring out of a snowy window, naked, when she said something that struck me: “You have no idea how often girls cry in the bathroom.”

I was sitting at my desk, also naked, trying to write a letter, although I can’t remember to whom.

“What do girls cry about?” I asked.

It hadn’t stopped snowing for two days, but we had enough bread, milk and cheese to last us for a while. These were the kind of days where you stopped worrying about the outside and tried to figure out how to put the cork back in the bottle. We were grateful for days like these.
“For example, we just made love and now you’re writing a letter to someone else. I’m going to cry about that,” she said.

I think the problem was that I didn’t understand her. I knew she had this short red hair that she liked to dye the color of fire. There were streaks of orange and blue criss-crossing one another. The flames on her head were hugging.

The way her fiery scalp stood in front of all the snow made the ice within my own body melt. And I guess that’s the point.

Lily made me melt all over the floor.

And now I had made her cry.
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First-person account: Sandy and the lonesome, crowded recreation center

JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor

1- We are setting up shop in the Ferguson Recreation Center after Hurricane Sandy knocked down most of the power grid in the Northeastern corner of New Jersey. She brought with her winds that tore down several trees on campus and blew several transformers.

The night of the hurricane, the dark sky flashed green as the transformers went, leaving every single residence hall in pitch black silence.
Hundreds of FDU students weathered the storm in their dark rooms, hallways or outside in their bathing suits.

Some students spent the night standing at their windows, sending each other messages in Morse code across Twombly Road.

Alcohol was prevalent in most residence halls as students indulged themselves in a little liquid courage. Residents ran from room to room after the lights went out, Solo cups in hand. The hallways were filled with laughter. As we would learn later in the week, there was enough alcohol in dorm rooms to keep bored residents drunk for days.

Others decided to have fun with a Ouija board styled out of a piece of cardboard and quarter for a planchette. One of the students couldn’t go to bed that night because he was afraid a malevolent spirit was following him around. Outside his window was the high-pitched singing of the wind and he thought maybe it was a ghost.
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Some reflections on writing a science-fiction novella

JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor

While writing my senior thesis, a science fiction novella about humanity’s place in the universe (I know), I have sometimes lost sight of how small we are compared to the rest of the universe.

If we ceased to exist tomorrow, gone in a puff of smoke, would it be felt in the void of space? If a day came when humans no longer walked the earth, would it be that we reached the end of our biological line or because we met our purpose?

And if we do have a purpose, who gave it to us? These are all questions that I have thought about since embarking on this project, my second novella.
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‘The Dark Knight’ returns for a new adventure

JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor

When I first heard that DC Universe Animated Original Movies, DC Comics’ direct-to-video animated film series, was adapting Frank Miller’s 1986 graphic novel, “The Dark Knight Returns,” the “batphile” in me quickly rose to his feet and answered the call. I put on my gray tights and my cape and … well, not really.

You don’t have to be the world’s greatest detective to understand why DC is releasing “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1” two months after the premier of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the culmination of Christopher Nolan’s live-action Batman trilogy.

For one thing, “The Dark Knight Returns” was one of the main influences for “The Dark Knight Rises.” The film borrows many plotlines from the graphic novel, particularly Bruce Wayne’s reclusiveness and return to crime fighting.

The graphic novel became a major hit upon its release in the ’80s, reviving the Caped Crusader’s darker side after years of camp-ridden adventures following the “Batman” television series, starring Adam West.

Miller, who is also known for graphic novels such as “300,” “Batman: Year One” and the “Sin City” series, is no stranger to the dark side of comic books.

In the novel, Bruce Wayne, Batman’s billionaire alter-ego, has given up his mantle and retired from crime fighting after the death of his sidekick, Robin, at the hands of the Joker, Batman’s archenemy.

Ten years after Robin’s untimely death in a warehouse triggered with the Joker’s explosives (Rachel Dawes in “The Dark Knight,” anyone?), Bruce is still haunted by his guilt. If only he had been a little faster, a little smarter, if only …

But as countless sequels have taught us, a hero can never truly rest in peace (or, in this case, sit in a puddle of his self-pity), especially one as conflicted as Batman, whose fight against injustice directly correlates with his thirst to avenge the murder of his parents at the hands of a criminal.

Bruce is forced to once again don the cowl of the bat to stop a group of terrorists, The Mutants, who are taking over the city.

Batman’s fight against The Mutants is only the beginning of the story arc, but it is the main focus of the animated film. Along the way, he also does battle with the villain Two-Face (the original and extremely more insane version of Harvey Dent from “The Dark Knight”), whose face has been reconstructed back to normal although he is still insane. Batman even begins mentoring a new Robin, a streetwise Gotham girl named Carrie Kelly.

The film is so faithful to Frank Miller’s novel that it manages to follow it chronologically all the way to its cliffhanger ending, in which an older, catatonic Joker wakes up from his spell in Arkham Asylum, Gotham’s prison for the criminally insane.

The film ends with the Joker uttering the words, “Batman. Darling,” as he watches reports of Batman’s return on a television. The screen quickly fades to black as we see the Joker’s iconic toothy smile.

What really impressed me about the film, and will undoubtedly impress every other Batman fan, is the way it captures all the emotions from the novel. We’re shown news reports throughout the film as Gotham City begins to realize that its main protector has once again begun his fight against crime. We feel the city reawaken as citizens such as Carrie and the Sons of Batman, a street gang of vigilantes, attempt to aid an older, weaker Batman.

We feel astonishment as we watch a 55-year-old Dark Knight jump off buildings and plunge head first into fights with extremely unfavorable odds. We watch the Dark Knight take a beating at the hands of the Mutant Leader, a giant man with filed teeth.

Depression hits us as we watch Bruce suffer due to his guilt. It affects us when we watch an ungrateful Gotham City declare Batman a public enemy because it doesn’t think it needs the vigilante’s brand of justice anymore.

It’s heart wrenching to watch Robin drag a severely injured Batman back to the Batmobile after a nearly fatal battle against the Mutant Leader.

Most importantly, we feel a sense of hope by the end of the film. No matter what physical and psychological pain Batman must to face, he continues to fight against injustice. Even if you’re not a huge Batman fan, it’s empowering to watch a man never truly give up, to watch a man seek his redemption from a place that no longer wants him.

The film is supported by an epic score and wonderful animation that is, for the most part, faithful to the art in the novel.

The Dark Knight’s story will continue in “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2,” which will be released sometime in 2013.

For now, pick up “Part 1” on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Seriously, if you love the comics or the movies or just love a really good tale of redemption, pick this one up.

Journals for people who don’t know where they’re going

JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor

At the end of Spring ‘12, things were looking up. I had a good semester. I had self-discovery. I was about to start a new internship. I was looking forward to the heat, to the constant whisper of New York City. Instead, I spent my summer in Colombia. These are some journal entries from the trip:

Random thought on mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are insatiable. Sometimes they drink so much blood that their little bodies pop. Sometimes I’m a mosquito.

*

There was a man with a tumor in his stomach. It looked like a head sagging from his torso. He asked us for money in the middle of the street. Uncle said, “It’s a scheme.”

*

Claudia is the new maid. I want to tell her that we’re equal, but then she asks me if I want more orange juice…

*

Orange juice – watery, not creamy like in America.

*

On a little rundown neighborhood in Palmira, Colombia: “Mister, if they haven’t mugged you yet, it’s best you just leave.”

*

Tiro Fijo (literally, “Surefire”), later the leader of the revolutionary faction FARC, used to be part of a criminal group called Los Bandoleros (“The Bandits”). He used to go into people’s homes and murder whole families with a machete. Why does it feel like a dead person weighs less here?

*

My grandmother is in a private clinic. She’s missing a tooth and she smells like blackberry juice. I’m trying to find a way to compare her to a tree, but I’ve been unsuccessful thus far.

*

A man on the street is selling the “original delicious pineapple.” I really do hate when they sell me something unoriginal.

*

I keep wondering if you’d be scared to walk in this city. The city is a dying organism.

*

I think it’s true: you start dying as soon as you’re born.

*

My Uncle talking about our driver: “His name is Wilson, but everyone calls him Nelson. That’s his story.”

*

There’s this beautiful park in the middle of the city. A man is walking through it, carrying the severed head of a bull on his shoulder. That’s the whole history of this country.

*

The farmers turn chicken feathers into powder to feed the pigs.

*

Half rubbing alcohol & half water mixed in a bottle if you have nothing else to drink. Pickled from the inside.

*

Uncle had three old men serenade us as we were sitting in a tiny taxi in the middle of the street.

*

Whenever you leave in an automobile here, it’s like you’re going on an arduous journey. Everyone sees you off.

*

Do you know what it’s like to wash your hands next to a man with a shotgun?

*

Someone died in the clinic today. The woman was shrieking in the lobby. Why does she pray?

*

A beggar offered to make us cocktails in the middle of the street.

*

It’s someone’s job to stamp the word “gold” on all the eggs. It makes me feel good to know that there’s someone like that out there.

*

The birds build nests on the electrical wires.

*

The last time I was here, one of my cousins nibbled on my earlobe. Trying to avoid her.

*

It’s another religious holiday today. No one ever remembers which saint it is.

*

On my Uncle: He’s like an old tree that has just sprouted legs, taking very small, frantic steps, as if the legs are just learning how to walk under a newfound weight. He is all decaying bark.

*

My account of all people accountable: the troop of twenty-somethings at the American Airlines check-in counter in Cali, Colombia is giving out sandwich vouchers instead of connecting flights. When a Colombian gets mad, he curses your mother or he cuts your throat. Out there, suddenly in a whisper of sunlight, twenty mothers slip in their showers or put too much salt on the chicken…

*

I never thought the first time I’d see a woman breastfeeding would be in line in an international airport.
*

On the return flight (terrible turbulence): I don’t know that I’m comforted by the idea of dying with my parents. I don’t think anyone is comforted by the idea of dying at all, as long as they have the false notion of a choice.

Excerpt from a creative thesis: The Grand Design

JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor

1
The next time you declare that you have something or someone to come home to, I want you to remember that that statement can have both good and bad connotations. It can mean the difference between something that gives you life and something that kills you.

You can be coming home to familiar lips or a bullet in the back.

After the bar, I called my wife.

She’s a tall woman with glasses and a nervous step. My wife always talks to you like she’s scared of something.

You can tell more about what she’s feeling by her forehead than any other human.

It depends how much of it is showing behind her bangs that are as thin as cobwebs. Her forehead is deeply lined with rows of wrinkles that resemble crop lines. It upsets me because she hasn’t aged well.

“Lily,” I said, as her face appeared on the screen. It was wide-eyed, her irises looked pale.

Her face somehow seemed out of focus in the camera, so that the whites of her eyes seemed like dim lights that held the rest of the face together.

Soon the face would melt and become part of the fabric of the universe. That’s what it seemed to be: an endless cycle of man (or woman, in this case) meeting universe.

How many people were stitched into its fabric?

I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be long until she was part of something bigger than our marriage or the groceries or the waiting, that perhaps her wide-eyed expressions were but a symbol of waiting.

Waiting for what?

Waiting to be taken in by the threads of purpose. A man (or woman, in this case) who knows the universe must undoubtedly know his (or her) purpose. I think that things come to those who don’t ask anything.

“James, how’s it going up there?” she asked. “Your calls don’t come in as often anymore. Is something wrong up there?”
She stopped, took a breath, closed her eyes, and then opened them again. Somehow, the lights in her head seemed brighter.

“You would tell me if something were wrong, right?”

“Everything is fine,” I said. “We’re just running some tests on some things.”

“It’s been nine months, James, and that seems to be the same answer every time. You sound like a politician.”

Lily has a sense of humor. Every time she tells a joke, I nod my head to let her know that I understood it was a joke.

I nodded.

“I called your friend Tom at mission control just the other day to see if I could get some information,” Lily said apologetically. “It’d been a month since I last heard from you.”

I sighed.

“I asked you not to do that, Lily.”

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay, that you weren’t floating around in space somewhere.”

“I’m okay.”

“I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to float around up there. It would be a strange feeling, wouldn’t it? Like when you’re trying to fight sleep and you get the sensation that you’re falling off the bed. I think it would start with a jolt like that, but then you’d get your grounding like anything else.”

“Lily–”

“You know that feeling I get sometimes? The one where I feel like I’m floating within myself? I think it would be something like that. Space, I mean. Only it would be bigger somehow.”

“Lily, I have a lot of work to do,” was all I said. “I should be able to call again in the following weeks.”

“Tom said he wasn’t allowed to talk about whatever you were doing up there, Jim, but he told me it would be a while yet before you came home.”

“There’s still a lot to be done, Lily.”

She thought about this for a moment, biting down on her lower lip, which was not as plump and inviting as it used to be.

“I hope you save the world, James,” she said finally.
“What?”

“I know that whatever you’re doing up there has to do with us. The world. When you breathe the air here, you breathe the time. My lungs tell me it’s almost time for something big to happen. I can almost grab on to its tail when I’m floating inside my own body again,” she said.

“Lily, please.”

She smiled.

“I’ve been seeing Dr. Richter again. For the meds.”

Ever since meeting Dr. Fuller, I’m not sure how to feel about psychiatrists.

“Oh.”

“I promise that I’m clear right now, James. This is me and I’m telling you to come home safe.”

“I will.”

I thought of Hercules slaughtering his wife and children. Maybe we’ll all go mad up here.

What is that common theme in Greek tragedy?

The hero that never returns?

2
Space smells like burnt steak or gunpowder or metal…or raspberries.

That’s what Lily says.