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John Vaaler

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Dancing to the music of a different time

Dancing to the music of a different time

May 20, 2021

The Center for Disease Control’s announcement that masks and social distancing aren’t required anymore in most instances for fully vaccinated Americans has led me, strangely enough, to revisit...

A pair of presidential podcasts

A pair of presidential podcasts

April 15, 2021

Much like everyone else in 2020, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama added “podcaster” to their already-lengthy resumes. Take a look at what two students have to say about these new presidential...

‘Renegades: Born in the USA’: A conversation between a rock and roll legend and Bruce Springsteen

April 15, 2021

Last week, Spotify released the final episode of “Renegades: Born in the USA,” a podcast hosted by former president Barack Obama and rock-and-roll legend Bruce Springsteen. Over eight episodes, the...

A film critic’s favorite films of 2020

A film critic’s favorite films of 2020

March 4, 2021

With one exception, almost all of my favorite films released last year were hauntingly prophetic in the ways they tackled our country’s contemporary struggles. It is hard to believe, for instance,...

“The Queen’s Gambit”: Walter Tevis’ fiery chess novel

“The Queen’s Gambit”: Walter Tevis’ fiery chess novel

February 4, 2021

The most entertaining thriller I’ve read in months is by the author Walter Tevis, an Ohio University professor who died in 1984. The novel’s title: “The Queen’s Gambit” (1983).  Perhaps...

Aaron Sorkin’s new Netflix film is set during the aftermath of the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. COURTESY OF HOUSTON PRESS.

Reel Critic: ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’

October 29, 2020
Around an hour and a half into “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” clean-cut antiwar activist Tom Hayden stares down rabble-rouser Abbie Hoffman.
“Years of Lyndon Johnson” — is not only one of the most stylishly written accounts of a modern U.S. election but is also an electrifying thriller. COURTESY OF AMAZON

‘Landslide Lyndon’: Robert Caro’s accounts of a president with a penchant for showmanship and voter fraud

October 29, 2020
“Years of Lyndon Johnson” is not only one of the most stylishly written accounts of a modern U.S. election but is also an electrifying thriller. 

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things”: Condescensions, pretensions and cutesiness in one

October 8, 2020
Writer-director Charlie Kauffman’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is about many things, some of which are best left a mystery.
A case for Evelyn Waugh: Humanity and absurdity

A case for Evelyn Waugh: Humanity and absurdity

September 24, 2020
“The correct procedure [when assigned a story], is to jump to your feet, seize your hat and umbrella and dart out of the office with every appearance of haste to the nearest cinema." 
Jay Parini’s “Borges and Me”: Beyond Just a Memoir

Jay Parini’s “Borges and Me”: Beyond Just a Memoir

September 10, 2020
I recently chatted with Parini about “Borges and Me," reconstructing memories, an upcoming film adaption-- and even Donald Trump.
Treatises on non-romantic matters of the heart

Treatises on non-romantic matters of the heart

April 22, 2020
These three book recommendations offer action, thrill, research, and of course, love and relationships in their various forms.
Reel Critic: 'The Exterminating Angel'

Reel Critic: ‘The Exterminating Angel’

April 16, 2020
Luis Buñuel's 1962 film is a story of a quarantine house from hell, blending political and class critique with psychological horror.
Book Review: 'The Raj Quartet'

Book Review: ‘The Raj Quartet’

April 2, 2020
Paul Scott's series about the last days British Crown rule in India tackles racism and colonialism with action, beautiful prose and dark humor.
An ode to Wodehouse

An ode to Wodehouse

March 5, 2020
Two generations after his death, P.G. Wodehouse's smart, funny, character-driven prose deserves a revisit.
Reel critic: 'Atlantics'

Reel critic: ‘Atlantics’

February 27, 2020
The latest installment in the Hirschfield International Film Series, Mati Diop's clever futuristic film delivers romance, social commentary and action.
Debussy: Antidote to a cold Vermont Valentine's

Debussy: Antidote to a cold Vermont Valentine’s

February 20, 2020
Last weekend's faculty recital featured expert flute, piano, viola and harp performances of several difficult compositions.

What went down at the Oscars

February 13, 2020
At the Oscars this weekend "Parasite" made history as a big winner, among other surprises and predictable awards.
'Airswimming': Survival through friendship

‘Airswimming’: Survival through friendship

November 21, 2019
This play highlights the unlikely friendship that helps Dorphea and Persephone survive the mental ward where they have been imprisoned for deviating from early 20th-century Britain's sexual norms.
Don't read these books alone

Don’t read these books alone

October 31, 2019
These spooky reads will get you in the mood for Halloween.
Heath Quartet members performed some of Beethoven’s classics during their performance at Robison Hall.

Heath Quartet stuns during class visits, performances

October 17, 2019
The Heath Quartet impressed audiences during their three performances and three classroom visits last week.
Reel Critic: 'Joker'

Reel Critic: ‘Joker’

October 10, 2019
"Joker" details the background of the popular comic book villain with great acting and dark cinematography.
Reel Critic: 'Downton Abbey'

Reel Critic: ‘Downton Abbey’

October 3, 2019
Following the hit TV series, the "Downton Abbey" film brings viewers back to Downton with vivid period-design and acting.
Sophie Shao brings together an ensemble of six talented friends.

Sophie Shao and Friends kick off Performing Arts Series

September 26, 2019
Cellist Sophie Shao's sextet amazed her audience last Saturday, as the first concert in this year's performing arts series at the Mahaney Arts Center.

‘Let There Be Dance’: Senior Dance Theses Dazzle

May 9, 2019
“Chosen Family,”  — the senior dance thesis that Caleb Green ’19, Lucy Grinnan ’19.5 and Maggie Phillips ’19 put on at the Dance Theater in the Mahaney Center for the Arts rocketed beyond the gray solar system of human predictability.
Junya Iwata ’19 (center) gathered with his friends on the stage of Robison Hall after his “Finale.”

A Piano Mastermind’s College ‘Finale’

April 18, 2019
Iwata’s senior piano recital, “The Finale,” exuded a Romantic whirlwind of grand scales, mountainous runs and daring chords.

Reel Critic: ‘Transit’

March 14, 2019
Transit's shadowy fights in alleyways and white yachts floating across the Mediterranean perfectly capture the sheer fun of going to the movies.
Affiliate Artist Natasha Koval Paden prompts reflection with her performance.

Poet and Painter: Connections Between Chopin and Debussy

February 21, 2019
Paden’s interpretation of Debussy and Chopin highlighted the two composers’ similarities in color and technique, but also their stark differences — Chopin’s restlessness, Debussy’s obliqueness.
Ida is gagged and strapped to the dinner table while her alter ego Tina responds to Will’s and Christine’s microaggressions over dinner.

Experimental Film-Theater Thesis Entrances Audiences

February 14, 2019

Leo Tolstoy lacked a firm definition for his seminal work, “War and Peace.” “It is not a novel, still less an epic poem, still less a historical chronicle,” wrote the Russian author. “‘War...

‘It Felt Like Freedom’: Celebrating Identity through Drag

February 14, 2019
The Middlebury Queers and Allies Organization hosted the college’s first drag show of 2019 at Crossroads Cafe in the McCullough Student Center.
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John Vaaler