President Kim Kardashian. Elvis alive. What are the odds?

When not photographing illicit fuel refineries controlled by Nigerian warlords, or teaching for the Program of Narrative and Documentary Practice at Tufts, Samuel James (A’10) is apparently bringing an old and classic feel back to sports.

Last week, we heard from Gary Knight – a renowned photojournalist and instructor for the Advanced Narrative and Documentary Program – that Sam was spending time in England photographing professional soccer with a speed graphic (pictured below).

Large Format - This is Getting Serious!When the young photographer showed up to stadium grounds with the old clunky camera, he was initially welcomed with laughter from sports photographers using state-of-the-art DSLRs. In no time, however, Sam won their hearts and praise, and he produced some truly amazing photos for the May issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Now, while Sam’s story is fascinating, I was frankly more interested in what he had the opportunity to witness in England… And bear with me, because I’m about to attempt a sports comparison that may well be incomparable to anything in American Sports.

Across the pond, the Barclays Premier League hosts the top professional English football clubs in the country. It is composed of twenty teams and is the most-watched football league in the world.

©SamuelJames2015(2)For those of you that don’t know, soccer around the world functions on a promotion and relegation system that is vastly different from anything in American sports – even Major League Soccer. That’s because, the three lowest placed teams in the top league are relegated (demoted) to second-division soccer to make room for the three best teams in a lower division.

That’s sort-of like the Brooklyn Nets, the Lakers and the 76ers having to play in the D-League next year to make room for the three best development teams…

Here’s where it gets interesting and where – as Sam puts it – millions of fans across the world… have been left to marvel at one of the most baffling and unprecedented stories in the annals of sports. 

Leicester City, a no-name team that won promotion to the Premier League in 2014 – just to barely fight off relegation in 2015 – is now on the brink of winning the 2016 Premier League title.

I lost you? All I get was a shrug?

Well, picture the Cleveland Browns – who have NEVER competed in a Super Bowl and finished next-to-last in the 2015 NFL season. Now picture them winning the Super Bowl next February…

This still doesn’t do Leicester justice. The current odds that the Browns win the next Super Bowl: 200-1. The odds at the beginning of the Premier league season that Leicester City win the title: 5,000-1.

Bookies had better odds for:

  • The Loch Ness monster being discovered (500-1).
  • Kim Kardashian being the US president (2,000-1).
  • Elvis being alive (2,000-1)

I could continue to bore you with all the reasons why this is so remarkable, but instead I’ll direct the truly interested to this BBC article “explaining the full Leicester City story to Americans.” In the meantime, I just want to tell Sam how very jealous I am that he was potentially witnessing sports history!

Welcome to the ExCollege Board!

We are happy to announce two new students will be filling open seats on our Board next year!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the inner workings of the ExCollege, five undergraduates, five Tufts professors and one graduate student sit on our Board. Together, they select our courses, collaborate on events, and represent the larger Tufts community.

DSC_2275Kate Sienko is a rising senior currently studying abroad in Barcelona. In her junior fall, she taught a Perspectives course for first-year students, called The Medium is the Message: The Evolution of Advertising in America.

Kate is also on the Marketing and Publicity Team for TEDxTufts, in the Chi Omega Fraternity, a member of Special Friends, and a former student of the Program for Narrative and Documentary Practice through the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts.  Check out the blog she’s writing from Spain.

When asked why she wants to join the ExCollege Board, Kate explained that it is a “hidden gem.”

The ExCollege offers unparalleled opportunities to explore, discover, experience, and above all, try…

It allows me to explore my creative curiosity and pursue my real-world interests that are not offered in the traditional classroom setting, such as advertising, journalism, photojournalism, marketing, public relations, and publication. I believe that the ExCollege complements my traditional studies and thus, every semester, I pair one ExCollege class with my four traditional classes…

– Kate Sienko, Class of 2017

IMG_1625Hanzhi Zhang is a rising sophomore who, in her first two semesters, took two ExCollege courses – Communicating for the Government (Fall 2015) and The Crisis Game (Spring 2016). Hanzhi is originally from Beijing, China and was actually drawn to Tufts because of the Experimental College – even writing about it in her “Why Tufts?” application prompt.

She is a tutor through the Leonard Carmichael Society, a volunteer translator for Home of Hope (Xiwangzhijia), and she participates in phone banking for for Bernie Sanders. Hanzhi is also a fanatic for maps and cartography!


The ExCollege is an irreplaceable part of my Tufts experience and I want to be on the board to help make it even better for the Tufts community. As a high school student, especially an international one, I never thought such multidisciplinary and hands-on courses were possible at an undergraduate level…I don’t think enough Tufts students are taking advantage of what the ExCollege has to offer. I feel strongly about it because I know how rare such opportunities are for an undergraduate student, not only in the US, but also around the world.

 – Hanzhi Zhang, Class of 2019

It’s Going to be a Superhero Landing

As soon as test footage for Deadpool leaked in August 2014, one thought raced through my mind – it is about dang time! The witty, raunchy “merc-with-a-mouth” was always one of my favorite superheroes, and luckily, fans online backed the film enough to push it to the big screen.

I know I’m late to the Deadpool conversation. It’s now clear that Wade Wilson is our newest record-breaking box office hero, earning over $130 million in it’s opening weekend and grossing more than than $700 million worldwide to date. In fact, it is the seventh-biggest comic movie debut of all time, behind two Avengers films, two Dark Knight installments, Iron Man 3 and Spider Man 3.  Concerning non-sequels, it’s right between The Hunger Games and Man of Steel as the second-biggest non-sequel debut of all time (third if you want to count The Avengers). – Forbes

I was always a huge superhero fan – although most of my knowledge is secondhand from older cousins who were often “too cool” to let me look at their comics myself. And I know there are plenty of people agonizing about the thought of another superhero blockbuster, but I say keep ‘em coming!

Deadpool only reenergized my love for comic book movies and kick-started what should be an interesting spring and summer. Just take a look at the next four releases:

March 25 (MIDNIGHT TONIGHT!) – Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice

May 6 – Captain America: Civil War

May 27 – X-Men: Apocalypse

Aug 5 – Suicide Squad

Although comic-lovers are divided when it comes to… well, just about everything, I am completely gung ho for each of these films. You might be upset that Ben Affleck is playing Batman, or you might hate Spiderman’s new look in Civil War. But, we are really just getting started! Have you seen the potential four-year lineup?

Call me a naïve fan, or maybe blame my lack of “nit-picky-ness” on the fact that I never had own comics, but I’m really just looking for great action movies with the right amount wit and comic relief.

I will say, however, that I am particularly interested in seeing how Suicide Squad turns out – a film about supervillains-made-antiheroes recruited by the government for dangerous black-ops missions. Deadpool was an enormous success with an R-rating, yet most films moving forward (even those with darker plots) are still PG-13.

I just wonder how parents will feel walking down a toy isle with boxes labeled “Suicide Squad.” And the chilling effect from Jared Leto’s Joker at the end of the movie’s trailer makes him one of DC Comics most anticipated characters!

A Pocket for Joseph

Everyone knows the feeling at some point… Your sock and underwear supply is running dangerously low and you just can’t put it off any longer. So, off I went last night to the nearest Laundromat – a fantastic spot on Somerville Avenue that has Wi-Fi and free drying!

Eventually, after some mumbling and grumbling, I had all my clothes in washers and I began to stare at the soapy colors going round and round. My grouchiness quickly disappeared when I suddenly remembered a children’s book my mother read to us.

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 4.53.15 PMA Pocket for Corduroy recounts the misadventures of a curious teddy bear. After seeing how his owner, Lisa, wears pants with pockets, Corduroy is determined to find cloth at the Laundromat to make his pocket. He is left behind at closing time, gets into some mischief overnight, and is reunited with Lisa the next morning. And, of course, Corduroy gets a pocket to hold a name card, just in case he gets lost again!

After reminiscinghqdefault about my own teddy bear – which my mother obviously sewed a pocket on to – I wondered whether the author was inspired during her own trip to the Laundromat. It would make sense, I suppose, but who else found similar inspiration?

Don’t ask me why, but my first instinct was to Google, “TED Talks laundry.” Sure enough, a global health expert and data analyst, Hans Rosling, spoke in 2010 about the washing machine being the greatest invention of the industrial revolution.

Rosling’s quirky lecture was derived from his own experience, as well as a tremendous amount of research and data. He explained global energy consumption, the factions of the population who have access to washer machines, and how economic growth and electricity can ”turn a boring wash-day into an intellectual day of reading.” He specifically mentions how women were freed from the laborious task of hand washing clothes to pursue new goals – Rosling’s mother could now read to her children, educate them, and teach herself English.

Moral of the story: find somewhere to inspire your “Corduroy…”

Or, just appreciate your washing machine!53129_10150106209853312_4839683_o

The Fandom Awakens

Alright… after trying to avoid reviews and conversations about The Force Awakens, and after seeing it crush box-office records, I finally watched the newest installment of the Star Wars saga!SW-THE-FORCE-AWAKENS

Let me preface the rest of this post, however, by saying that I never really considered myself a Star Wars fan – in fact, I was always rather indifferent to it…

So much so, that before heading to the IMAX Theater at Assembly Row last night, I realized that I either didn’t watch parts of the franchise or couldn’t remember much of what I did.

Personally, The Lord of the Rings is the first film series I ever fell in love with. I was the ripe age of nine when The Fellowship of the Ring was released, and my best friend’s father brought us to every opening night. I proceeded to fall in love with the books and all the product tie-ins that followed the films.

I suppose that – unlike Tolkien’s Middle-Earth – I never had anyone expose me to Lucas’ galaxy far, far awastarwarspostery. And this was a stark contrast to the two people accompanying me last night. Howard Woolf, for example, can only be described as a huge sci-fi fan, as well as a Jedi Master at Tufts when it comes to anything film related.

Consequently, sitting next to a couple longtime fans cemented some high expectations! The pressure was on, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been more focused during a recent movie.

But since I’m really not “qualified” to evaluate this or any of the Star Wars franchise, I’ll spare you my long-winded feelings about The Force Awakens. I will say, however, that my expectations were happily met.

More importantly, it also met the expectations of the two fans I was with! Episode VII seemed to stay true to its predecessors and the Star Wars brand, while also being open enough to welcome in new fans and leave me wanting more. I left wanting to delve deeper into Lucas’ universe and watch/re-watch its prequels. I even started watching some of the saga’s best moments online.

So what are you waiting for? If you weren’t a fan already, this is your chance to jump on board.

P.S. Don’t tell your little brother you’re going because he might throw out a huge spoiler…

Lesson learned…

It’s All in the Food…

The amazing thing about Thanksgiving – and really all holidays – is that everyone celebrates them differently. The one easy way to understand that: FOOD. Sure, turkey and pie have become mainstays in households across the county, but we all have unique traditions and customs that transform this national celebration into our own special day.

Anne-Marie sits down with her family on Thanksgiving Day to a table full of traditional Vietnamese dishes. Rachel, who came to the US from Cuba, digs into congris, roasted pork and maduros. And Adam, whose family is Italian, sits down to a spread that includes – you guessed it – meatballs!

As a first-generation American, our Thanksgiving dinner is infused with some Portuguese flare. At my aunt’s house, that means almost solely Portuguese dishes – they’ve stayed away from turkey, cranberries and stuffing somehow.

At my father’s house, however, you will find an interesting mix between Thanksgiving staples and Portuguese classics.

  • Sure, we have a roasted turkey, but it’s stuffed with linguiça and chouriço.
  • Next to that, you’ll find some carn e assada (roast beef) and bacalhau (cod fish).
  • Next to the mashed potatoes there are Portuguese-style roasted potatoes.
  • Next to the corn are some couves (sprouts).
  • And of course, the prequel to all of this is some kale soup, or calde verde!

338492_10150563764893312_221959095_oAs a child, I was always fixated on our family’s traditions. In fact, I would actually get upset if something didn’t go according to plan – or my perceived plan: “Mom, what do you mean you didn’t make the bean cake!?”

I actually hated bean cake… but it just didn’t seem the same without certain foods or individuals to share them with. But with age, I understood that traditions inevitably change or evolve. Our once gigantic Thanksgiving dinner, where my parents hosted twenty or so relatives, shrank to a more modest dinner with my immediate family.

Time changed our family dynamics because “life happens”– as a close friend likes to say. But it does. Children become adults with their own families, people move away, an325614_10150563820848312_1131881396_od others may no longer be with us.

I like to think the ten-year-old me had it half right, though, because there is one tradition that remained relatively constant: our FOOD.

I will look at our spread tomorrow and think simultaneously about how alike and different we are from other families. Anne-Marie, Rachel, Adam, and I may all be celebrating Thanksgiving – but our dinner tables will tell much different stories.

And that is something to be thankful for.