Lithium Debuts Clay Melton's "Body Map"

Clay Melton is a guitar-driven rock/pop artist known for his energetic live performances. For his latest video, "Body Map," he collaborated with his theater and artist peers, Houston-based creative partners Rob and Hannah of Raw Banana to create a world inspired by the song. The video was conceived, constructed, and directed by the duo. Filmed at a small warehouse in H-town by Brandon Bond, the space was transformed into a land of giant flower fields, bedrooms, concerts, and night skies using only paper, cardboard, string, and a few props. The viewer follows a young woman (played by Layne Schneider) as she fantasizes about meeting her crush, and gets lost in a dreamscape along the way.

Photo by Pat Laughrey and design by Raw Banana

The Illusion of Private Worlds

Bettman/Getty Images, Anna Buckley/HelloGiggles

In my childhood bedroom there are notebooks stacked on my desk, underneath my bed, and in my closet. There are pages filled with scribbled handwriting, ideas, thoughts, secrets, disasters I could not otherwise explain to other people. They gather dust.

I wonder if Sylvia Plath knew her dusty journals would be sold in bookstores on multiple continents someday. Perhaps she knew, had some premonition about her poetry. She was brilliant, after all. But the words she scrawled to herself, the time she took to capture her every fleeting emotion—did she know their permanence?

We live in a culture of personality, they say. We care about charisma, wit, and charm, and we crave to know how deeply these characteristics run. We hope, secretly, that they fade and falter in privacy. We are voyeuristic. We hunger to know the secret plagues of others, their tragedies, their sadness, their beliefs about themselves. We enjoy the prophetic; we revel in the ultimate celebrity of those who believed they would fade. We take work that was never meant for us, that was not curated for another soul in the world, and we analyze their words until the journals reflect new lives altogether. We build new beings to inhabit those private worlds, beings that we can better understand, that help us conceptualize ourselves. And still we hunger.

When I sit down and open my journal, I tend to think that the only audience I am writing for is my future self, perhaps. And even then, only if she has the time. For me, as journal writing is for so many, writing is cathartic. Yet, sometimes when I do have the time and I read over the pages, there are sentences among the silly and melodramatic that someone else might take comfort in. We all, I think, have moments of brilliance. They are tucked in mundanity and concealed by routine but sometimes we can capture them, and they are revelatory. And I think this is what we hunger for in the journals of people who never would have wanted their journals to be read.

Perhaps some day I'll crawl back home, beaten, defeated.” Wrote Sylvia in her journal, “But not as long as I can make stories out of my heartbreak, beauty out of sorrow.”

This is one of the most beautiful lines of prose I have ever read, and it was never meant for an audience. I was sitting on an airplane when I read it. I was flying home from London where I myself had kept a meticulous record of the sights I saw, the food I ate, the people I glimpsed. I was sitting in my tiny window seat, legs cramped, volume of her journals thick between my hands. And I cried. This was not Sylvia filtered through her own curation—it was to the best of our knowledge not ever meant to be found, and yet it is a line that could keep every contemporary writer awake with their poems and novels. Perhaps someday.

Sylvia Plath is not alone in having her letters and journals posthumously published. Virginia Woolf, Frida Kahlo, Susan Sontag… Their journals and unfiltered thoughts are accessible to us.

Anne Frank, too: the representative of a tragedy. She never lived to make a career or a portfolio for people to admire. Yet in her suffering, there is revelation.

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

The battle cry of forgiveness and the song of innocence. Again, these words never meant to be read are now imposed on the memory of so many.

Even when we write for ourselves, we know perhaps that we are writing for someone else too. Maybe it will be a person who we loved or knew; maybe it will be a stranger. But some audience, any audience, seems better to write for than the void where most human endeavor will inevitably go. Is it wrong to fight against that oppressive darkness in privacy? My hope, my only hope, is that I will write something, someday, perhaps intentionally or in my private ramblings, that will mean something to someone. I want to extend beyond my life and when I write, it is not only for myselfthat would be a lie. It is for some other person too. A person who I cannot see through the fog, the darkening of light, but who comes closer still. Hungry. Even in the weaving of my private world I am performing and waiting, hoping to be seen, hoping to be loved, to be missed, to be mourned.

By Megan Loreto


When you think of photographs, particularly those which are staged for magazines and weddings, you probably envision an entire team working to make a model look a certain way, to make them appealing. After hours and hours of planning, picking the right outfit, and making sure their face is “picture perfect” with makeup, it doesn’t really matter what life that person leads, good or bad, as long as they are ready to pose for the camera. Yet to everyone else, the person in the picture is simply an advertisement, a facade. 

On social media, we show our best smiles, our happiest moments, and our funniest memories; in the process, we sometimes become so absorbed in this idea of “perfection” that we forget that this isn’t our true self. The self who sits behind a desk, staring at a phone screen. That is exactly what I wanted to capture in these photographs: the true essence of posing for the camera. I never really experiment with flash photography, as I personally hate it when people take pictures of me with the flash on. I know that with flash, you are able to see every small detail of a person, every flaw of yours which you so desperately want to cover. Flash photography is almost like a temporary spotlight, and all eyes are on you. There’s a pressure to look perfect, to pose perfectly, to get it right the first time just to avoid the second round of flashes. I wanted to show the difference between a very obviously forced pose and the momentary pause when a person needs a break to think of another pose. The truth is, posing for a picture quickly grows exhausting and repetitive.

By Syahirah Harun

Take Off the Mask

I’ll never forget being welcomed home to the sight of his sniffling, crocodile-teared face plastered all over CNN, NBC, and every news channel possible. It was a scene all too familiar, and once again the cliché phrase of “history repeating itself” proved to be true. They did it to Anita Hill, and now they were doing it to Christine Blasey Ford. The hearing of Brett Kavanaugh evidenced once again the toxic masculinity our society justifies.

Anyone could easily have seen Christine Blasey Ford’s pain and fear as she gave her gut-wrenching testimony. Yet the Republican-majority Congress refused to accept her accusations against Kavanaugh, somewhat suggesting to the nation that you may speak, you may protest, you may even riot, but at the end of the day, we will do only what is best to move our party forward. 

How can we promote gender equality if the government under which we live continues to rule as a patriarchy? We are the free world and our government silenced not only Ford, but all victims of sexual assault. Whatever happened to rule of law?

Politics—though fascinating and something about which I’m passionate—have left a bitter taste in my mouth. I will never forget all the stains the current administration has  left on the U.S. or the political turmoil caused by the government we’re told to trust.

I understood that the 2018 midterms would be one of the most important elections in the history of Congress. For these reasons, I took to my own community and got a job campaigning for the Democrats in my town. 

At 6:30 in the morning, I prepared myself for a fifteen-hour shift. I was assigned to campaign in my town’s downtown district—notorious for being a Republican-swaying sector. I didn’t expect much of the job—surely it would turn out to be a day like any other.  

The pitter-patter of the rain was a symphony as I stood under a baby tree, drenched in rain, holding a sign that promised democracy and prosperity to New Jersey from the Democrats. Even with the raindrops covering it, the blue, white, and red of the sign only accentuated the names on the board. The Democrats were in need of a midterm election victory and every person, every vote, every town counted towards victory. 

As I stood on the corner of the block, waiting for people to pass by me, I realized they were purposefully avoiding me. I received many looks of dismay, and some of disgust. “How could you stand there, promoting corruption?” They asked. New Jersey is one of many liberal states, yet because much of the population supported Trump in 2016, my small town has experienced a great divide. I did what I could to promote unity, kindness, and peace even in this era of new politics. At that moment, I realized how severe the political rift was and just how important it is for all generations to use their vote. 

Scandal after scandal and yet somehow, it’s 2018 and we still fight for what we had to centuries ago. My generation, now on the verge of adulthood, though, has proven that we will not stand for this. I had never understood the power of the individual’s voice, never realized how important it was to pay attention, to fight for what’s ours, and speak for those who can’t. But the social and political circumstances have forced me, have forced us all, to grow up. And they’ve also made me braver; I am no longer afraid to speak my mind, to use my voice for the greater good, to help others in the face of hard times. The world is changing, but one thing will stay the same: my generation’s unwillingness to sit quietly.

By Melissa Ouhocine

I Just Met You, Yet I Already Know You: A Testament to Social Media

“Nice to meet you, I’m—”
“I know who you are, we follow each other on Instagram.”

This back-and-forth happens way too often for me. At social gatherings, I’ve had friends introduce me to people whom I was immediately able to match to an Instagram handle. 

Though most people would probably take that as an indication that I should spend less time on Instagram and start looking up from my screen, I prefer to think of it as representative of the fusion of our online personas and true identities.

I hadn’t even known them personally prior, but I’d seen or even went through their profiles out of sheer boredom. I’d probably stumbled across their profiles through my friends’ comments or tagged photos. A few years ago, this may all have sounded like stalker behavior, but it seems to have become the norm. When my friends bring up names with which I’m not familiar, I often ask for their usernames and try to find them on Instagram and Facebook, try to determine our mutual friends.

Nowadays, we don’t just do this with our mutual friends, but even with potential first dates. We look up their friends online, going through their Instagram posts from the past few months or even years, wondering why they still have so many photos of their ex-girlfriends, if their friends’ inappropriate comments should be concerning, or even if the cringeworthy Instagram caption they wrote back in 2014 is a dealbreaker.

Our online personas are carefully curated. We decide what we post on Instagram, what we tweet; even our Tinder bios are crafted to intrigue others. We post photos celebrating with friends at a post-midterm dinner, but we wouldn’t post about having a full-fledged breakdown the night before exams. We tweet jokes that fit new “meme formats,” and we’d delete them if they didn’t get any likes or retweets after a few hours. We spend hours rephrasing our Tinder bios, and we’d never lead up with our emotional baggage. We voluntarily publicize this information and allow others to look at our past, all while we are so afraid of being judged.

Even as a writer who shares really personal details about my life online, I have control over how much of my life people see and I am aware of the judgment they may cast upon reading what I have written. It is relatively easy to make people feel like they know you from what you disclose about yourself, but in reality, nobody can truly know who you are from just looking at their screens. 

I just met you, yet I already know you” used to mean something genuine: when you first met someone and instantly clicked. It was based purely on human interaction and chemistry. Now, the same phrase is built on preconceived notions and prejudices we’ve crafted based on their Instagram account. 

This is a reflection of how closely intertwined our physical lives and social media have become. We feel like we know someone just because we follow each other, even though we’ve simply been given a fraction of a life they have constructed for the outside world. 

But let me be clear: I want to still be able to say “I just met you, yet I already know you” to people genuinely, to still be able to build human connections of which the facade of social media has robbed us. 

By Wen Hsiao

Anti-Aunty ft. the Five Human Senses

The prominent overseers of the flourishing patriarchal norms in South Asia are the older women. These elders usually operate within a community. Be it a group of friends or relatives, their love and passion for trying to control their female children and other young girls (or should I call them victims?) can often get out of hand. One would expect that very community to be used as a means of female solidarity, but instead they use their policing gaze to bring other women down. From body shaming, to slut shaming, to asking really personal questions, to indulging in colorism, these elders know every way to make the lives of young females around them a living hell!

But why do they do this? Well, usually the older women are exercising the repression they faced growing up. They were told to succumb to the patriarchy in their youth, and it was instilled in the generations before them that this behavior is okay. So for them, a young woman claiming agency and defying the status quo becomes an act of defiance.

In order to battle this misogynistic atmosphere, young women have taken to the internet and connected with others who share their experiences. Courtesy of the desi side of the internet, toxic aunty behavior has managed to become a meme. My generation’s rebellion against patriarchal pressure has resulted in more awareness and fewer aunties trying to tell us how girls should be living their lives.

Following the examples set by my sisters all over the internet, I made my own contribution to this “anti-aunty movement." If the aunties around me are passionate about policing girls' actions then my passion lies in calling them out on it. And anything I’m passionate about goes into my art journal!

Anti-Aunty ft. the Five Human Senses is a series of art journal entries that show how aunties  violate the privacy of young girls in order to satisfy their nosiness and proceed to use information against girls, resulting in them becoming the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

By Arwa Halai