This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster. This semester, I’ve been reading about genocide. In Comparative Genocide with David Gushee, we study how genocide occurs and how the international community responds to it. Perhaps most importantly, we study how political leaders become perpetrators of crimes against humanity. It is difficult to take a class like Comparative Genocide without drawing comparisons to our current reality as Americans. The same themes seem to arise in each genocide we study: authoritarianism, disinformation and profound social divisions. Since August, I have viewed everything I read in the news through the critical lens of someone thinking extensively about atrocity. When an ICE detention center nurse alleged that facilities in Georgia were performing unnecessary hysterectomies, I thought about the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The U.N. definition of genocide includes imposing measures intended to prevent births with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Performing alleged coerced hysterectomies on detained immigrants may not be enough to constitute a genocide conviction, but the definition is clear. Before Nazi Germany began murdering Jews, Roma “Gypsies” and disabled citizens in 1941, the exterminations were preceded by forced sterilizations. Nazi Germany aimed to create a “new” Germany by strategically sterilizing those they deemed “genetically unfit,” according to Peter Fritzsche, author of “Life and Death in the Third Reich.” Media propaganda played a critical role in multiple genocides. During the 1990s, Serbian President Slobodan Milošević used Serbia’s TV stations to run constant propaganda, turning the Serbs against their Bosnian Muslim neighbors with lies about the threat to Serbia. Former Washington Post correspondent Peter Maass documents Serb propaganda in his book “Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War.” During the same period in Rwanda, President Juvénal Habyarimana, his wife Agathe and their “akazu” network employed a Hutu extremist to create a newspaper spreading false stories about Tutsi people. The publication, called Kangura, deliberately worsened ethnic tensions between Rwanda’s Hutus and Tutsis before the genocide began. The Trump administration has altered perceptions of the media since the President’s campaign in 2016, popularizing the term “fake news” to discredit reporting that did not aid his campaign. At the same time, the administration employed Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a publication self-described as “the platform for the alt-right.” When I read about TV stations in Serbia and the Kangura newspaper in Rwanda, Steve Bannon’s role as White House chief strategist in 2017 was the first thing that came to mind. According to the Washington Post, it took President Trump 1,267 days to make 20,000 false or misleading claims, an average of 23 claims a day over 14 months. The deepening divisions between the American left and right are particularly alarming in the face of the Nov. 3 election. Relations between ideological groups in the U.S. are starting to resemble something like the passionate hatred between groups we study in class. Even if the U.S. never comes close to a genocide, is it alarming enough to have common traits with countries that have?
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I’ve been vocal about obsessive-compulsive disorder since the onset of my symptoms six years ago. Every year, during OCD Awareness Week the second week of October, I shared my experience while sitting on a secret I couldn’t even tell my closest friends: I was self-diagnosed. The International OCD Foundation estimates that one in 100 adults living in the United States has OCD, or two to three million — roughly the size of the population of Houston, Texas. I have Pure O, a colloquial term for OCD where compulsions manifest mentally. I don’t wash my hands, check light switches or step around cracks in the sidewalk. My OCD is invisible. The mechanisms of Pure O are no different from “typical” OCD, but my compulsions look more like reassurance-seeking or rumination. Therapists without a specialization in OCD may not know internal compulsions exist. My first year of college, one professional refused to diagnose me because I didn’t have physical compulsions. I thought no one would believe me if I admitted that I’d never been diagnosed. It was invalidating, and it made me obsess over whether I was a liar. I lived in constant fear that maybe I didn’t really have OCD, and maybe I’d be considered a fraud if anyone knew. When I met my therapist, she told me that the average time between onset and diagnosis for people with OCD is 24 years. Living with untreated OCD for six years is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Twenty-four years is incomprehensible — yet it’s the standard. Experts still don’t know the exact cause of OCD. It involves problems in communication between the parts of the brain through a neurotransmitter called serotonin. It can be genetic, provoked by daily stressors or even illness. Obsessions are better described as intrusive thoughts, images or impulses that trigger severe distress. Intrusive thoughts can be about anything, like illness, sexuality, relationships or death. The disorder tailors the obsession to the person, prioritizing whatever causes the most distress. The thoughts can’t be controlled, and the more you resist, the more frequent they become. To alleviate the anxiety, people with OCD develop compulsions. These are the stereotypical behaviors we often associate with OCD, like touching doorknobs or hand-washing three times per hour, every hour. But the problem with compulsions is that they provide temporary relief. The thought always returns, usually even more frightening than the last time. OCD is a perpetual cycle of re-traumatizing yourself. OCD is a chronic illness, meaning it’s lifelong. Treatment is crucial to keep the anxiety at a moderate level. As my therapist says, people with OCD function at a higher level of constant anxiety because it’s all we know. The key is long-term management, not a cure. It’s frustrating to hear my disorder used by people who like straight lines, organized closets or color-coded O-Chem notes. The phrase, “I’m so OCD,” used by people with normal neurotic quirks is invalidating to people whose entire lives have been changed by obsessions and compulsions. My disorder is not an adjective. It’s important to increase awareness so that people like me can catch their OCD sooner and begin treatment through therapy or medication. Even if you never experience OCD, you may know someone who will, and as evidence shows, they may need help recognizing it.
I went to stay at my parents’ house when campus closed in March at the onset of the pandemic. I packed up my room in a single day, threw away what didn’t fit in my car and began the drive to my hometown where I didn’t yet know I’d stay for the next two months. I didn’t just leave my room at Mercer — I left my boyfriend who wasn’t my boyfriend yet. In quarantine with my parents for two months was the worst time to enter a budding relationship. When I left Macon, we were still just in the “talking” phase. I didn’t even say “I like you” for the first time until a week before I moved out, driven to honesty by the prospect of never seeing each other again if campus remained closed until he graduated in May. We both had elaborate plans for the year — moving abroad and flashy internships left no room for serious relationships, but in a few short weeks, these opportunities would be delayed indefinitely. Suddenly our once-packed schedules were wide open, yet we had no way to see each other. Talking on the phone made me feel 13 again, sneaking calls to my boyfriends out of my parents’ earshot. Zoom felt too awkward — I couldn’t imagine going on a date the same way I went to class. I haven’t been one to do crosswords for most of my life. I found them tedious and frustrating, but I’d never tried completing one with another person. The Washington Post crosswords are available online for free, and their website allows two people to work on the same puzzle from separate computers. Suddenly, crosswords were the most romantic date I’d ever been on. We completed a puzzle once a week, taking our time on the Sunday crosswords to make the ‘date’ last longer. In the midst of worrying about school, cancelled internships and the global pandemic, crosswords became the thing I looked forward to most. Starting a relationship in the middle of a pandemic made quarantine more bearable. Sometimes, it felt like the news didn’t touch us, like we’d left the real world and made our own far away from it. Now that we’re back together in person, crosswords feel like a memento of the beginning of the pandemic. Once all this ends, when the world is back to normal, I’ll think of the puzzles as a way I felt connected to the person who brought a silver lining to the end of the world.
“I’d like to think that most people start with fan fiction,” Ranha Beak said. Beak, a junior creative writing and English double major, has been making art since childhood. She got her start the way she said most people do, with clammy child-hands on a box of crayons. In elementary school in Gunpo, South Korea, Beak was often caught making up stories in journal logs. “I got in trouble for writing a fancy lie about imaginary dolls when I was six years old, but now I’d call that a descriptive work of fiction,” Beak said. In the fifth grade, about three years after immigrating to Macon, Georgia, Beak learned to use writing to heal her homesickness in the form of fan fiction. “I wrote them in English, and crossing English with Korean lyrics helped me feel like I had an identity,” Beak said. “Also, my friends don’t even know this.” Now, Beak has branched into many different types of writing. She started writing short fiction when she got to Mercer, and now she writes long fiction and poetry. This semester, Beak is even learning to write screenplays. For Beak, the biggest struggle with writing is self-assurance. Even if confidence comes easily, the process of making something can be a test of bravery. Beak called the creative process “terrifying and embarrassingly humbling.” “It’s not so much the blank page that scares me, but the promise of finishing the story,” she said. “The amount of self-assurance, positive support and tough-love criticism needed to put just one sentence after another can be really frustrating.” Although the process is daunting, Beak said finishing a piece she’s proud of is the most rewarding breakthrough she knows. Even when the writing is bad, it can serve as inspiration to write something better. “I can name all the famous writers and esteemed poets I’ve studied so far, but to be honest, bad writers make me want to write desperately,” Beak said. Beak’s current reading list includes “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin. She read it for the first time in high school, but said the story stays with her now that she’s in college. “I think it’s because I’m deliciously afraid of recognizing myself changing at the moment,” Beak said. According to Beak, being a creative at Mercer can feel isolating at times. She jokes that she lives in the “Hardman-Ryals-Willingham” triangle of campus. “The engineering building? I don’t know where that is,” Beak said. In her classes, Beak said she notices that the professor-to-student ratio can be detrimental. Sometimes professors have to tackle more than one genre or discipline, which she said hurts students’ chances for specificity. “Students can have wildly different aspirations toward their craft, but we must make do and provide a merged compromise of sorts when it comes to critical feedback,” Beak said. “I can’t think of a creative-major equivalent to PA tutor sessions like the STEM majors have.” In Beak’s eyes, the Macon creative community is thriving, but the community at Mercer could see improvements. Beak said creative students at Mercer often have to learn to work with what they have. “I wish Mercer would celebrate creative expressions campus-wide and give students the recognition they should aspire to achieve as Mercer graduates further beyond the Tattnall side of campus,” Beak said.
At first glance, it is easy to brush “Little Women” off as something that’s been done before. Adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s 1968 novel have included notable actresses such as Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Winona Ryder over the years, but Greta Gerwig’s adaptation does something different. Told through an interweaving of multiple years, flashbacks of the sisters’ youth living in the same house provoke nostalgia before the audience even learns why they have parted. Gerwig’s use of color in these scenes gives the younger years a warm-toned memory, recreating the sisters’ own rosy retrospection in the eyes of the audience. Scenes with all four of the March sisters spark with energy through Gerwig’s subtle, complex blocking and the fast-paced dialogue of four sisters speaking over each other. The film features a notable cast including Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Florence Pugh as Amy, Emma Watson as Meg, Eliza Scanlen as Beth, Timothée Chalamet as Laurie, Laura Dern as Marmie and Meryl Streep as Aunt March. Pugh gives hilarious performances with quick delivery as young Amy, but showcases incredible depth in Amy’s present-day argument with Laurie about the realities of marriage for women of her time. Hearing Pugh tell Chalamet, “Don’t sit here and tell me that marriage isn’t an economic proposition, because it is. It may not be for you but it most certainly is for me,” is both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. Gerwig’s March sisters are refreshingly problematic. They can be cruel, imposing and embarrassing. Jo showcases her self-importance only a handful of scenes into the film, storming to her room like a child when Louis Garrel’s Friedrich Bhaer does not like her writing. The audience may even hate Jo when she allows Laurie to wallow in his unrequited love for her until she cannot ignore his pain any further. Jo’s refusal to fall in love on the basis of being a woman is an essential conflict throughout the movie, which makes the story even richer. Watching Jo fight to be independent and prioritize her dreams while breaking down from loneliness is one of the most poignant scenes in the film. It is a relief to see a strong female character crumble so honestly. Ronan and Gerwig turn the trope on its back to reveal the pain and effort Jo faces in pursuit of standing alone and prioritizing her passions. Like all of Gerwig’s little women, Jo is remarkably imperfect. In the same scenes where Jo is being selfish, Amy is burning novels and Meg is struggling to defend her dreams. Despite this, the sisters are cozy, warm and an exact depiction of what happens when women love and depend on one another.
College is a time when people experience a lot of “firsts” in their lives: the first college party, the first failing grade, maybe even the first time using a washing machine. For some people, college also includes their first time on a dating app. Maybe you’ve been feeling lonely, struggling through cuffing season and yearning for someone to send the pouting eyes emoji to. So, you download the app of your choosing, but before you can start searching for the love of your life, you hit the dreaded impasse of writing the perfect bio. Here’s what to keep in mind: Don’t get too caught up in playing it cool The first thing to remember is that writing a bio is awkward even for seasoned users (anyone who says otherwise is lying). It’s easy to be tempted into using one lone emoji or leaving the space blank to achieve those mysterious, aloof vibes. The problem with mystery is that this is a dating app, and even though you’re already breaking the “no strangers online” rule, it’s hard not to imagine that someone with no bio might have plans to lock their matches in a basement somewhere. We’ve all binged both seasons of “You.” We know better. It’s okay to be upfront about why you’re swiping Everyone has their own reasons for joining dating apps, and that’s fine. Some believe their one true love must be swiping in a 15-mile radius. Others believe their one night stands are swiping in a 15-mile radius. Both of these motives are valid, but it’s important to be clear about which one fits your intentions. Even if these are strangers who you’ll never see again, a little courtesy goes a long way. Stating what you’re looking for doesn’t have to be dramatic or corny. A simple, “Swiping for fun,” or well-placed emoji can probably get the point across, but the extra seconds of typing are worth it. Include a conversation starter When I was a young, naive first-time swiper, I remember telling my friends that, as a rule, I didn’t respond to anyone who only said “Hey” in their first message. This rule likely sounds a little over the top, but I justified it because I knew I had ample conversation starters in my profile. Everyone has something interesting to share about themselves, whether it’s a hobby, a unique interest or a favorite TV show (just please, not “The Office”). If you don’t give your matches something to strike a conversation on in your bio, your swiping days will be a monotonous series of people sending “Hey” and “WYD” until you delete the app or you die. Take advantage of any features the app has to make your profile more interesting Not all dating apps are created equal, and some are better for certain types of dating than others. Apps like Bumble and Hinge both include helpful profile features if you’re really trying to get to know your matches. Profile questions, for example, are a great way to add even more conversation starters, find people with the same interests as you or showcase your sense of humor. Bumble and Hinge also make it easy to get the awkward questions like political views or even your Zodiac sign out of the way right on your profile. Many dating apps also have options to link your Spotify and Instagram accounts without sharing your username or account info. Connecting Spotify is a great option for music lovers, and adding your top Instagram photos can help show off what you like to do. When in doubt, keep it simple Whether you plan to get to know your matches better or forget them in a month, your bio is not the place for your life story. If you try to throw out all of your interesting quirks and funniest anecdotes right away, your matches may have nothing left to ask you once you get to the dating part. Sometimes a really clever one-liner or listing out your coffee order can paint you as every Gen Z’ers dream match who is carefree, funny and not at all complicated.
Kate Lemon wasn’t a poet until her freshman year of college. She started writing at the request of late Mercer professor and Guggenheim Fellow Anya Silver after turning in an essay for her introductory poetry class. Lemon said she has since “fallen in love” with poetry, drawing inspiration from nature, her own life and the lives of those around her. “There’s a quote I saw on Pinterest and it was like, ‘if you think I’m writing about you, I am,’” Lemon said. “I liked that a lot.” Loving poetry came as a surprise to her. “A lot of it can be hard and complex and hard to understand, so sometimes it’s frustrating,” Lemon said. Silver’s encouragement inspired Lemon to start reading more poetry, and soon writing her own. “I always felt like I thought things and then I would never write them down, I would just be like, ‘oh, that’s an interesting thought,’” Lemon said. “At the time I was like, ‘okay, yeah, sure, I’ll do it,’ and then I ended up with an English minor.” At first, Lemon only shared her poems with her mom, whom she calls her “biggest fan.” She started sharing work on Instagram in April after a conversation with her roommate, who told her not to wait any longer. “Even now, every time before I post I’m like, ‘I don’t even think this is really that good,’” Lemon said. “Even if it’s not that great, this is how I felt at 20 years old, this is how I’m writing at 20 years old.” Lemon’s most recent post, titled, “A poem to congress from an advocate of the metastatic breast cancer community,” was inspired by her trip to Washington, D.C. with Mercer professor Andrew Silver for Silver’s “IV,” a play about metastatic breast cancer. “The poem was just kind of about my experience and kind of how I felt being there and going on Capitol Hill and talking to the senator aids and kind of getting angry and fired up about it,” she said. Lemon said she isn’t trying to turn poetry into a profession. For now, poetry is a side hobby. “It’s just kind of therapeutic and stuff and helps me process my emotions,” Lemon said. “If it becomes a profession that would be pretty cool, but I don’t know.”
Known for its quirky profile questions and “progressive” women-message-first philosophy, Bumble has become a favorite for users searching for a little more depth than apps like Tinder. What users may not know is that Bumble has features outside of the dating world. Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz are the app’s social features for making friends and networking career connections. The Bumble BFF profile set up is virtually the same as normal Bumble, but both parties have 24 hours to message after a match. When setting up my profile, I prioritized making it funny rather than appearing attractive like a typical dating app profile. To appear quirky and ironic, I chose an iPhone self timer photo of myself and my cat for my first picture. I followed with photos from nights out, more self timer pictures and a shot with my camera to demonstrate my creative interests. Bumble also includes a “basic info” section where users can add information like what they’re looking for, if they’re in a relationship, whether they have pets or their star sign. I filled out all nine information categories to be thorough. Profile prompts, meant to spark a conversation with new matches, are a fun aspect of Bumble profiles. I chose “Nightclub or Netflix” (both), “Greatest travel story” (almost arrested) and “The world would be a better place with more…” (cider). Out of my answers, the nightclub vs. Netflix question and my love for cider prompted the most conversations with my matches. Bumble also gives users the option to connect Instagram and Spotify accounts to their profile. I decided to keep my Instagram private, but I did link my Spotify account in case it attracted any musically like-minded matches. Once I finished agonizing over my profile, it was time to start swiping. The Bumble BFF swiping system is identical to “dating” Bumble, but I only swiped through other women on BFF. Although I understand Bumble’s intentions, there may be something to say here about the assumption that friendships must happen between the same genders, but I digress. Swiping was equally as nerve-wracking as on a dating app. I found myself swiping left because of an emoji placement or wondering if certain profiles were too “cool” to match with me. While I found an abundance of profiles while swiping near Atlanta, I did see fewer people around Middle Georgia using Bumble BFF. After about thirty minutes of diligent swiping, Bumble notified me that I had swiped through all of the BFF’ers in my area. Most of my matches near Atlanta fell through once I admitted that I live primarily in Macon, meaning that all of my new friendships would probably only exist over Instagram. I racked up about fifty “yes” swipes to my profile, but I only made matches with about twenty people. Of my twenty matches, I messaged five people first and around seven messaged me first. Once I received messages from my matches, I found myself forgetting to respond within the 24 hour period before they expired. I only kept up four conversations without expiring and as of writing this story, zero of them are still ongoing. As a perpetually busy college student, sending messages to random people on an app within 24 hours started to feel like just another deadline placed on me. I began forcing myself to spend time on Bumble, scheduling in socialization time like a subject in an experiment. Conversations remained pretty bland, with empty promises to meet up or exchange social media handles going unfulfilled. Since my matches and I are college age, most of my conversations ended up turning to majors and career plans. If I wanted painful networking instead of platonic matchmaking, I would have used Bumble Bizz. Bumble BFF is a good idea in theory, but it seems like it only works in application if you live in a big city and have an abundance of time for swiping.
Anyone who’s seen the “Evil Dead” movies probably knows that the films practically make fun of themselves. Tired horror movie tropes, borderline offensive female characters and H.P. Lovecraft’s “Necronomicon” make for a combination so bad it’s good. “Evil Dead: The Musical” finally delivers the meta, parody-esque rendition we never knew we needed. The production was put on by Mercer Theatre at the Tattnall Square Center for the Arts. It ran from Oct. 24-Nov. 3. The music, with lyrics by George Reinblatt, is catchy yet ironic enough for the most pretentious of hipsters. “Housewares Employee” mocks the epic love ballad trope, and J.T. Bloodworth’s performance of the meant-for-greatness white male lead, Ash, was clever without being over the top. Tripp Kennon and Bloodworth’s homoerotic performance of “What the F*** Was That” got more laughs with every F-bomb. Kennon’s character, Scott, was a perfect curse word-happy comic relief, albeit decidedly misogynistic. The use of props in this show was near-genius. Talking, possessed moose heads made it impossible to keep a straight face, and the stage blood “splash zone” in the first two aisles kept the audience anticipating every gory injury. Elizabeth Tammi and Laura Ashlyn Pridgen stole the spotlight in the second act with their performances of Annie and Jake. Pridgen’s solo “Good Ol’ Reliable Jake” garnered big laughs while mocking Jake’s desperation to prove himself. The penultimate musical number, “Do the Necronomicon,” was a creepy, cute and incredibly funny demon send-off followed by a final demon death in Ash’s beloved S-Mart to close out this absurd, unbelievably enjoyable production.
Dermot Kennedy has had a slow and steady climb into the music industry. With artists like Taylor Swift and Hozier among his list of fans, Kennedy’s soulful mix of folk roots and electronic beats attracts lovers of multiple genres. Kennedy’s debut album “Without Fear” culminates a decade between busking on the streets of Dublin and streaming to over 10 million monthly listeners on Spotify with heartbreaking honesty. The record begins with a revamped version of “An Evening I Will Not Forget,” a song that was originally released on Spotify in 2015. Despite the track’s multiple metamorphoses throughout the years, the song carries a certain finality in its album version. Kennedy’s crisp voice and stripped back piano give way to new electronic beats that make certain lines — such as “The angel of death is ruthless” — feel like a punch to the gut. “All My Friends,” another familiar song originally released in 2017, pays homage to its original version with pop-esque production. Kennedy adds a new depth to the song with heavy drums and updated vocals that feel a bit more mature. Big, chorus-heavy songs such as “Power Over Me,” “Outnumbered” and “Redemption” give Kennedy a chance to prove his radio-readiness, but still carry his trademark meaningful lyrics delivered by heart-wrenching vocals. Kennedy’s new love-struck ballads “What Have I Done” and “Rome” are sweet and sad in a way that feels refreshingly simple. The production of these songs leaves something to be desired, but Kennedy’s voice picks up any slack and demands that the listener stop to feel whatever he is conveying. “Lost,” a song released as a single earlier this year, stops any distractions in their tracks with vivid and compelling imagery. The lines, “Someday I’ll need your spine to hide behind” and, “The sky got red and swollen” are impossible to ignore coming from Kennedy’s earnest voice. “Moments Passed” remains unchanged from its nearly flawless 2017 version produced by Mike Dean, known for his work with artists such as Kanye West and Travis Scott. The strong hip hop production lures listeners into Kennedy’s impressive depth with lyrics like, “Maybe I’ve lost count of the rooms you’re tall in” detailing a past relationship. The melody of “The Corner” gets caught in your head just before the lyrics take hold of your emotions. Kennedy uses images of cold weather and a street corner as a metaphor for feeling lost to yourself. The line “Remember who you are, how you were never one for folding” reminds his listeners to stay true to themselves. Wrapping up the end of the album, “Dancing Under Red Skies” and “Without Fear” feature heavy lyricism emphasized by their production. The tracks have existed only in the depths of Youtube until this album and are long-awaited for many fans. The album’s title track “Without Fear” captures listeners in the universal story of approaching love fearlessly with lines about “first full laughter” and leading with the heart. Kennedy’s debut album encapsulates his history of lyrically mesmerizing songs delivered by an unforgettable voice. With epic production, howling choruses and stripped back acoustics, “Without Fear” appeals to anyone who has felt something, regardless of genre.
Macon's southern rock scene was forever changed when Capricorn Sound Studios opened for the first time 50 years ago. Once a recording spot for iconic groups such as the Allman Brothers Band and Wet Willie, the dilapidated Capricorn Records building saddened Macon’s rock fans for years. Now the studio will open for a second time this December as Mercer Music at Capricorn. “This place holds so many incredible memories, I don’t know where I could start,” said Chuck Leavell, a former member of the Allman Brothers Band and current musical director of the Rolling Stones. “You know, we’ve made a lot of music in this building.” The restoration was funded by donations from the Peyton Anderson Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Mercer University President Bill Underwood said. “Mercer owned this place when I first arrived in 2006,” Underwood said. “My heart sank with despair when I saw it.” Restoring Capricorn Studios is a way to honor part of Macon’s music history. Leavell said the studio has come back to life. “It does my heart so good to know that it’s not just gonna fall into dilapidation and just fade away, because it just can’t do that,” Leavell said. The restored Mercer Music at Capricorn will feature rehearsal rooms, offices space, sound stages, a museum and the iconic center sound studio. Mercer will kick off the opening of the studio with two days of festivities and music. A public ceremony will begin Dec. 3 with performances from students at Mercer’s Robert McDuffy Center for Strings, the Otis Redding Foundation’s Dream Choir and Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie. The studio will then open for tours with more live music followed by Capricorn Revival, a concert at the Macon City Auditorium. “Mr. Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie will be the headlining act that day, and I can’t wait to see President Underwood introduce them on stage. I think that’s gonna be really fantastic,” said Jamie Weatherford of Rock Candy Tours, a Macon music history tour company. Leavell said the opening will honor Macon’s rich music heritage. “This is a great day to celebrate music in Macon, Georgia and the history of music,” Leavell said.
I started taking birth control after my first ever trip to the gynecologist. I went in looking for answers to the typical questions: Why does penetration hurt? Why does my period feel like the scene in “Prometheus” when Noomi Rapace births an alien? It felt like I only received one question back: Why aren’t you on birth control? Although I came in feeling like a strong woman taking charge of her health, I immediately felt like a teenage girl being warned not to get pregnant. My doctor took me through a birth control tour unprompted, showing off an IUD like a brand new Mercedes. I said I would think about it. When an ultrasound technician found a cyst on my ovary, I received a phone call that amounted to: “You have a cyst, we’re putting you on birth control.” I was given no information on the type of ovarian cyst I had (there are many), no other treatment options, and no time to discuss which method was best for me. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office On Women’s Health, hormonal birth control can be broken down into two subtypes: long-acting reversible contraceptives and short-acting hormonal methods. Short-acting hormonal methods include the pill, shot, patch and vaginal ring. These methods work by releasing hormones into the body that thicken the cervical mucus to block sperm and can prevent ovulation altogether, according to Planned Parenthood. Long-acting reversible contraceptives such as hormonal intrauterine devices (IUD) or hormonal implants work the same way, but don’t need to be used on a schedule. I started on the combination pill, which contains estrogen and progestin. Three weeks later, during the week of my “placebo pills,” I got the flu. I ran a fever, had bouts of shivering so bad I couldn’t walk straight, and couldn’t even keep Gatorade down. To give a better sense of just how sick I was, I alerted my roommate to check on me every few hours in case I needed to be carried to the emergency room. I paid $60 for a last-minute Tamiflu prescription and totally recovered within a week. For the next three months, I got the flu on a consistent schedule of every four weeks. Recognizing that something was up, I made another doctor’s appointment (I would rack up about $350 in copayments by the end of this story). My doctor called my case “unusual,” but did little more than a basic blood test before sending me home with a new prescription for a slightly lowered dosage of the same pill. Between January and April, I tried two new pills that would surely fix my mystery illness, yet I continued to get sick every month like clockwork. I missed parties that my friends still reminisce on and full weeks of class. I showed up at one male professor’s office the day a paper was due, mumbling something about “hormone levels” and “blood tests” because I knew one mention of my period meant he’d stop taking my problem seriously. If you’ve ever suffered from a recurring health issue, you know that after a while people start to blame you for not getting better already. I felt like I was constantly over-explaining, trying to prove that I wasn’t just having bad periods; I was suffering every month. When the semester ended, I braced myself for a serious conversation with my doctor. I was leaving for a two-and-a-half-month internship in South Africa, and I couldn’t miss work or a travel opportunity because I was sick. She started me on the Nuvaring, which is a self-inserted vaginal ring containing hormones. She said that the localized hormone dispersal should make my symptoms less severe. I got on the plane with a box full of Nuvarings and awkwardly told my new roommates that yes, there were contraceptives in the fridge. I had such high hopes for this method that when I still got sick, I called home and cried. I stayed home instead of going to see the Southernmost tip of Africa because of my birth control. To make matters worse, I felt like my peers didn’t even believe I was sick because I couldn’t explain what I was sick with. Research has shown that women are more likely to have their pain dismissed by medical professionals and less likely to receive diagnosis or treatment, according to The New York Times. I couldn’t stop thinking about how maybe if birth control were a men’s health issue, there would be a name and an explanation for what was happening to me. I decided then that I would quit hormonal contraceptives cold turkey as soon as I got back to the U.S. When I told people I was done with birth control, a lot of them responded with, “What are you going to do now?” in a disapproving tone, as if I couldn’t be trusted to make decisions about my own body or keep myself from getting pregnant. Increasing awareness about sexual health is a good thing, but sometimes hormonal contraceptives are painted as the only responsible option. My story with birth control has shown me that the most responsible way to approach reproductive health is to know your body and trust yourself to decide what it needs. If you decide to use hormonal contraceptives, it should be because you want to, and it should be prescribed by a physician who will listen to, believe and treat you.
Whether you think of the day as a celebration of love or a corporate holiday designed to sell commercial romance in the form of chocolates and flowers, Valentine’s Day has arrived. Candlelit dinners are often out of the budget for broke college students, but a movie marathon on trusty Netflix or Hulu is always a great option. For the lovebirds and the perpetually-single-by-choice, thank you very much, here are some movie ideas for Valentine’s Day. “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” If you’re cuddling up with a hot date or just a BFF, Matthew McConaughey’s abs (or Kate Hudson’s) will never let you down. This classic early-2000s rom-com is funny, sweet and even a little emotional. What better love story than a girl who is actively trying to get dumped and a guy who falls for her anyway? Set in New York City, where all great romances occur because love in Manhattan is just different, this movie is an excellent Valentine’s watch. “Mamma Mia” For those looking to have fun this Valentine’s Day, dancing along to “Mamma Mia” in your living room is the best way to go. With bops like “Dancing Queen” and heartfelt ballads like “Slipping Through My Fingers”, “Mamma Mia” can guide you through a range of your Valentine’s Day emotions and always stay catchy. This movie is a great option for Galentine’s with the squad with some popcorn and a bottle of sparkling grape juice. “A Walk to Remember” Whether you’re feeling madly in love or very masochistic this Valentine’s Day, Nicholas Sparks may have made this sappy tearjerker just for you. This 2002 drama is like an extra cheesy cousin to “The Fault in Our Stars” made before John Green was even a thing. Grab some tissues and an emotional support person because Mandy Moore and Shane West’s performance as two star-crossed teens is guaranteed to break your heart this Valentine’s Day. Use the tears as an excuse to cuddle even closer to your Valentine or go crazy on a pint of rocky road. The Twilight Saga That’s right, the entire Twilight saga is on Hulu now. If you’re itching to let loose that inner pre-teen this Valentine’s Day, grab some snacks and prepare to binge the whole thing. Let yourself indulge in some so-bad-it’s-good cinema and laugh at the awkward acting or cry when they say “I do” in the fourth movie. Gather some friends who are ready for five movies worth of cringey, over-the-top vampire love, and if you have a significant other willing to do this marathon with you, never let them go. “RBG” If the corny nature of Valentine’s Day just isn’t your style, exercise your girl power and spend the night learning about one of the first female justices confirmed to the supreme court. “RBG” is a documentary about Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s lifelong advocacy for gender equality and women’s rights. Learn the story of how Ginsburg became an iconic member of the nation’s highest court and gain some inspiration this Valentine’s Day. “The Conjuring” Some of us have things we just do not want to think about this Valentine’s Day. Even if you need to sit at home and let yourself feel bitter this year, you can still throw yourself a movie marathon. Filled with jump scares and Satanic sacrifice, “The Conjuring” is a great movie to take your mind off of romance and focus on being terrified for two hours. This one can be enjoyed with your most bitter friends or alone, and the best part is that if you’re single this Valentine’s Day, there’s nothing stopping you from looking like the evil witch from this movie.
With the stubborn and blistering middle Georgia heat overstaying its welcome, many Maconites are itching for that cozy feeling when leaves begin to fall and, most importantly, temperatures drop. Here are some autumn activities in Middle Georgia guaranteed to deliver those crisp and cozy fall feelings as cold fronts finally move in. Spirits in October: Gain a festive insight into Macon’s history through a guided tour of the historic Riverside Cemetery. The tour will feature actors in costume at gravesites as the Riverside Conservancy presents “Til Death Do Us Part” and will end with refreshments in the Macon Public Mausoleum. The event occurs twice in the month of October, running at 6 p.m. on Oct. 18-20 and from 4-6 p.m. on Oct. 21, and again on Oct. 25-27 and Oct. 28. Admission is $15 and all proceeds go to the Riverside Conservancy. October Macon Open Air Market: The October Open Air Market in downtown Macon brings an autumnal twist to the quarterly market. The market will feature over 60 vendors selling everything from handcrafted items to homegrown goods, according to the event’s Facebook page. The event is friendly to all ages, with trick or treating and a face-painting booth for the kids. There will also be a “Paw Pal” area for pets and a food truck court to grab a bite to eat. The market will be held on Plum Street on Oct. 27. Pumpkin Carving Contest and Night Walk: For those who woke up saying, “Halloween is here,” on the first day of October, the Ocmulgee National Monument is hosting the perfect event to get in the spooky spirit. Starting at noon on Oct. 27, visitors can bring a pumpkin to carve and enter into a contest for a $15 gift certificate to the museum store or simply carve a Jack-o-Lantern to adorn the trail for the pumpkin night walk. Visitors will join park rangers on a walk to the Great Temple Mound lit by the carved pumpkins carved. The park will also provide paper bags for visitors to create luminaries. This free event is perfect for a budget-friendly autumn activity. Deep Roots Festival: Middle Georgia’s music and art aficionados can find live music and unique art vendors at the Deep Roots Festival on Oct. 20. The Deep Roots Festival is also host to a car show and barbeque cook-off, catering to many interests. Tickets start at $6 for pre-sale and move up to $8 for gate admission. Tickets rise to $15 after 5 p.m., so don’t be late to this autumn activity. This year’s festival is sure to be a good one as the event turns 15 this year. Whether looking for a festive event to get in the Halloween spirit or wanting to keep things low-key as the seasons change, there is something for everyone in middle Georgia this fall!
Blake Garcia, director of athletic bands at Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music, started playing the trumpet in the third grade. The son of a classical guitarist, Garcia said that his whole family has been involved with music at some point. Although originally an aspiring performer, Garcia said he realized he wanted to direct when he began giving lessons. Garcia was appointed the new Director of Athletic Bands in May. Although leadership transitions are often difficult for bands, he said the band has been taking it well. “The energy within the band has been wonderful,” Garcia said. “My goal is for them to have a good time while still being challenged and still having quality music in front of them.” Garcia said he knew Mercer was a good fit when he saw how much the Townsend School of Music values students’ opinions. “If they enjoy playing it, they’ll continue to play it,” Garcia said. Garcia, a former doctoral conducting associate at the University of Kentucky, said he has had success with recruitment and retention in new bands in the past. “We have some amazing high schools, I mean, all over the state of Georgia,” Garcia said. “Moving forward, if the students are having a great time, there is immense potential.” Garcia said the band will see a move to more entertainment-focused performances, giving students and audiences a chance to have fun with their programs. The band will also be doing multiple shows in one season. “(Performances) will be things that people will know, things they can grasp, things that they can sing, maybe grew up listening to,” he said. Garcia said focusing on entertainment will allow students to enjoy playing their instrument without the stress of competition. “At this point, they’ve played probably at least seven years on their instrument,” The band director said. “That’s my goal, just to have them keep playing their instrument and having fun with it.” Second year band members Claudia Newsom and Alex Donnelly said despite the difficult transition into being under new leadership, they feel good about the band looking ahead. “It’s been a rocky road,” Newsom said. “It’s definitely gonna take a few more years to really get comfortable, but I can already see a vast improvement and a lot of growth.” Newsom, who is the captain of the color guard, said Garcia’s attitude has helped her deal with the stress of being captain. “He definitely treats us like his kids but also his colleagues, and it's a really nice balance," she said. Donnelly, who is on the drumline, said he appreciates Garcia’s attention to the opinions of the students. “After every practice, he’s always asking, ‘What are some things that were bad during this practice? What are some things we can do to fix it?’” Donnelly said. Newsom said that Garcia is a director students can look up to and respect. “It makes all the difference in the world,” Newsom said. “To me, the foundation of a band starts with the director and builds itself up.” Garcia said that the Mercer athletic bands can look forward to more growth and exposure in the coming years. “One of my goals is to start doing performances outside of the state of Georgia,” Garcia said. “Sort of putting our band out there as a university, as an athletic bands program.” Garcia also said he will be implementing more recruiting techniques to expand the band, such as the high school band day on Sept. 22, where prospective members can “be a Mercer band member for the day.”
Although holiday volunteer opportunities are over, there are still many ways for Mercer students to donate their time to the Macon community this spring. MerServe Opportunities MerServe, Mercer University’s board for service-leadership, coordinates service opportunities for students along with the Center for Community Engagement. MerServe hosts a monthly event for students to volunteer called Service Saturdays. Service Saturdays are an opportunity for students to serve the community through programs such as Backpack Buddies. Backpack Buddies is a program where volunteers pack bags to feed local elementary school students that school faculty notice are underfed, according to the MerServe Instagram page. MerServe has also worked during Service Saturdays with the Fuller Center for Housing Macon. The Fuller Center is an organization started by the founders of Habitat for Humanity. The Macon partner of the Fuller Center works to provide low-income housing in Bibb, Twiggs, Jones, Monroe, Crawford and Houston counties, according to the Fuller Center Macon website. The Fuller Center Macon allows students to learn new skills to build homes while serving, according to the MerServe Instagram page. Students assist with tasks like construction, painting, and lawn maintenance on lower-income homes in the community. The next Service Saturday will be on Feb. 24. Students will be able to sign up through a link posted on the MerServe social media accounts. The link to sign up will be available closer to the event. Students can follow the MerServe Facebook and Instagram pages @mercermerserve to keep up with upcoming service events. MerServe is also hosting a week of events during spring break called Spring Break for Service, and it will be March 4-7. More information about Spring Break for Service will be released as the event gets closer, according to the MerServe social media accounts. Mercer Habitat for Humanity Opportunities The Mercer Habitat for Humanity chapter also has opportunities for students to volunteer this spring. Mercer Habitat’s biggest spring event is “Act, Speak, Build” Week, said Jasmine Tapper, president of the Mercer University Habitat for Humanity chapter. The purpose of “Act, Speak, Build” Week is to “raise awareness about housing disparities” on an individual, local and policy level, Tapper said. The event is for Habitat for Humanity’s international week of service. Activities during the week will include an annual faculty and staff luncheon, mural coloring and a panel discussion featuring state representatives, county commissioners and others working in housing, Tapper said. The annual faculty and staff luncheon is Habitat for Humanity’s largest fundraiser of the year, Tapper said. The “Act, Speak, Build” Week will take place from April 8-14. Information about how to sign up for the event will be released on the Mercer Habitat for Humanity chapter’s social media accounts. Students looking for a more hands-on opportunity with Habitat for Humanity can sign up for a Saturday build. Saturday builds allow students to help work on in-progress houses in the community, according to the Mercer Habitat for Humanity Instagram page. Builds are held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Students can sign up for a Saturday build through a link on the Mercer Habitat Instagram page. Students can watch for places to volunteer this spring by checking with the Center for Community Engagement and MerServe.