Breaking the Fall: 2012 Autumn Course Guide

Posted by at 2:00PM

Ah, summer. One minute you’re shotgunning a beer celebrating with friends after your last final, the next, you’re waking up and rolling over to find that two months of beaching, traveling, summer-schooling, tanning, grilling, working, and/or your resume-building b****work meaningful internship experience have flown by and it’s already August. Which means it’s time to maybe, possibly, conceivably consider what you’ll be studying in the fall. Even at Stanford, summer doesn’t last forever, and eventually we’ve got to come to grips with  all of our first-world problems – namely, enrolling in classes at the happiest place university on earth. But, fear not – I have spent the last fortnight scouring every course in every department this school has to offer (upon reading this line, my proofreader claims that I “need to get laid a life”), with the hope of delivering the BEST list of classes to get you STOKED to come back to campus. It combines all the things I love most in life: cool classes that don’t physically drive me to tears (yes, I’m talking to YOU, “Inventing Classics“), excessive linkage, personality stereotypes, semi-snarky commentary, giant over-generalizations and massive assumptions, and most importantly: THE MUPPETS.  In any case, I hope the article piques your interest in something you might have otherwise overlooked, missed, or been to lazy to go look up.  And if not, all I can say is that I hope it makes you laugh (if only in pity). Other than that, here’s to the remaining MONTH of summer (suck it, Cal) and the boredom and restlessness that will inevitably accompany it. Cheers.


Autumn 2012 classes for…

the wise-guy

Old Guys Rule.

AMSTUD 140: Stand Up Comedy and the “Great American Joke” Since 1945

I took this class last fall. Actual (read: more or less deeply paraphrased) quote from the prof: “Hey, Hennessey – I’ve got an idea for a class. It will involve abundant sexism, racism, elitism, lewd and scatalogical references, innappropriate behvaior, excessive profanity, and – above all – some of the most brilliant and observative writers, performers, and anthropologists of our time.  What’s this class called, you ask? Well, it’s Stand Up Comedy and the Great American Joke”. Take this class. It’s awesome.

MUSIC 36N: Humor in Music

My visions of this class involve Steel Panther, Weird Al, and Parry Gripp.

Thank God I’m not teaching it.


the romantic

Living up to his name like an absolute champ

HISTORY 33A: Blood and Roses: The Age of the Tudors
Mystery, murder, sex, and scheming? And you thought your family was dramatic.

ATHLETIC 39: Fencing: Beginning
So you can do THIS.

ENGLISH 154: Mapping the Romantic Imagination
The map of MY romantic imagination involves horseback trips through the Florin countryside with Wesley, a sunset on the bow of the (intact) Titanic with Jack, the California coastline in Benjamin Bradford’s convertible, getting stuck on an island in the Caribbean with Cap’n Jack Sparrow, Patrick Verona’s paintball park, and wherever Ryan Gosling is currently located (though, preferably here). To my great disappointment, however, I believe this class refers a bit more to the English romantic poets and novelists and the sublime countrysides they envisioned. Then again, is anything quite as lovely and romanticized as curling up with a little Keats and Byron?


the hipster

This muppet is actually called Harry the Hipster. You've probably never heard of him.

ENGLISH 121A: Tattoos, Scars, Marks and American Cultures of Inscription

I feel bad for the poor sucker of a TA who has to read 60+ papers on “Why the dolphin/butterfly/Chinese symbol for “peace”/shooting star/infinity sign/angel wings/song lyrics/Bible verse on my ankle/lower back/shoulder blade/neck/wrist/sideboob/part of my hip that totally gets gets covered by a bikini is a unique artistic expression of my inner self”.

ARTSTUDI 131: Sound Art I 
Because taking just “music” was too mainstream.

FILMSTUD 301: Fundamentals of Cinematic Analysis 
Take this class so that the next time you’re giving your pretentious opinion about the latest film showing at INSERT NAME OF UNKNOWN THEATER HERE, you’ll be able to reference a little-known technique/genre/style/paradigm/buzzword that your professor mentioned once in class.

COMM 182: Virtual Communities and Social Media
This should prepare you well for your vague “job” in the vague cross section between “media” and “social networking” at that start-up no one has ever heard of.


the history buff

I want that blazer.

HISTORY 95C: Modern Japanese History: From Samurai to Pokemon
Samurai…. Pokemon. SAMURAI… POKEMON. I’m not quite  sure what’s between these two poles (the history of sushi?!?!) but it’s guaranteed to be awesome.

COMM 125: Perspectives on American Journalism
I don’t know enough about journalism or, frankly, television to confidently explain why “The Newsroom” sucks and “The Wire” is the bestest thing ever since Ike’s Menais a Trois. Admittedly, I should probably take this class and many others on this list. In any case, if you believe the slow death of the newspaper is a genuine travesty or that Cronkite and Murrow could give Colbert and Stewart a run for their money, then this might be the class for you.

HISTORY 103F: Introduction to Military History
It’s like the Military Channel… sans couch.

HISTORY 243G: Tobacco and Health in World History
Not to get all Nick Naylor on you guys, but I’m genuinely curious how one-sided this class is.

HISTORY 59S: The Digital Historian’s Toolkit: Studying the West in an Age of Big Data
From my quick read of the course-description,  it seems like this class involves old documents, scanners, and many a rubber glove. That said, if you like seeing history immortalized and like to wonder “what did they think back then?” and “how did that really happen?” then this is the class for you.

EDUC 116N: Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History’ and the Quest for Historical Truth
If you’re reading this section, theres a decent chance that you identify yourself as a history buff. Howard Zinn was the guru/godfather/mack-daddy of all American history buffs. Student, meet the ultimate teacher.

HISTORY 308D: Pre-Modern Warfare
I’m not exactly sure at what point/what contraptions fall under the heading of “Modern Warfare”, but if you’re telling me that I get to take a class on how to use the history of ninja stars, crossbows, catapults, and broadswords, then SIGN. ME. UP.

CLASSGEN 103: The Greek Invention of Mathematics
My sole incentive for taking this class would be figuring out exactly which Greek mathematician to fantasize about brutally torturing  whilst in the middle of my Math 52 midterm.


the patriot

Coming Soon: Muppets take 'Merica.

CSRE 51K: Election 2012

I should really, REALLY take this class. Seriously, because – besides Obama – I’m not really sure who’s actually still in the race.

COMM 162: Campaigns, Voting, Media, and Elections 
See above comment.

COMM 164: The Psychology of Communication About Politics in America 
I’d like to think that, to the individuals who plan to lead my country and allegedly have my best interest at heart, I am more than just a number and that my opinions and behaviors are more than just statistics.

ECON 18: The Washington Debate About American Competitiveness
If I take this class, will I get a job?

PUBLPOL 170: Political Corruption
It’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.

PUBLPOL 154: Politics and Policy in California
Let’s hope that by the time this class is over, Michael Tubbs will have a place in its curriculum.

ECON 25N: Public Policy and Personal Finance
Something about tax-brackets… maybe. I expect to see a lot of pitchforks and raised fists.

HUMBIO 120: Health Care in America: An Introduction to U.S. Health Policy
Obamacare. And other stuff. Probably.

the newbie

Robin the Frog is so gosh-darn excited to apply for all the IntroSems.

MUSIC 11N: A View from the Podium: The Art of Conducting

You mean to tell me that it’s NOT just about swishing the stick around until the music stops?!

ANES 76Q: The Psychology and Psychopharmacology of Abused Drugs
Finally, a conclusive answer for why you think you live here when you’re dropping acid.

AMSTUD 68N: Mark Twain and American Culture
The reports of his death might have been greatly exaggerated, but the awesome factor of this class is  not.

ITALIAN 41N: Imagining Italy
I am… the foamiest of cappuccinos with little rock-sugar sticks, designer shoes I would kill for, carbs on carbs on carbs, large naked men in pure white marble, and candy-colored Vespas. Yes, I’m game for that.


the masochist

According to Frank Oz, Animal is about five things: Sex, sleep, food, drums and pain

COMPMED 89Q: Ouch it Hurts! The Comparative Neurobiology of Pain
Insert lukewarm pun about how this class is so cool it won’t be painful.

ATHLETIC 89: Rowing Ergometer
Like pain? Like complaining about how much pain you’re in ALL the time? Like obsessing about how fast you can move a weird-looking boat backwards across a large body of water?! Don’t think, just do us all a favor and join the crew cult now.


the beatnik

Floyd Pepper

SOC 155: The Changing American Family 
Here’s what I want as the thumbnail for this class: a Norman Rockwell of the Pritchett/Dunphy/Delgado/Tucker family.

Aaaaaaannnnnnnnd……. Apparently one already exists. Typical.

AMSTUD 214: The American 1960s: Thought, Protest, and Culture
To any and all people still Occupying Meyer: do us all a favor by getting out of the lobby and taking this class.

Seriously though. Mostly just get out of the lobby.

ENGLISH 160: Poetry and Poetics
Get out your black turtlenecks and bongos and prepare to snap until your fingers fall off.


the expat

Pepe the Prawn: A Spanish Shrimp with a French accent who thinks he's Italian enough to make it on Jersey Shore.


ILAC 193Q: Spaces and Voices of Brazil through Film
Whether you’re in it for Gisele, FIFA, piranhas, Carnival,  the waxing technique, or are just an Olympic super-fan pumped for 2016, Brazil’s got a little something for everyone. Hopefully this class touches on some of those topics.

FRENCH 140: Paris: Capital of the Modern World
Maybe it’s the ‘Merica in me, but I feel an intense need to challenge that title…

CLASSGEN 8N: Saints, Warriors, Queens, and Cow
Hopefully this class will make up for the giant disappointment that was Brave. Admittedly, this class is about Ireland and not Scotland, but whatever. They’re all gingers anyway.

COMPLIT 112: Oscar Wilde and the French Decadents
If nothing else, get stoked for a LOT of awesome Oscar Wilde quotes.

HISTORY 289: The Indian Ocean World: Winds, Merchants & Empires (HISTORY 389)
This class sounds like a sexy, seaboard adventure. I it makes me want to sing the “Sailing for Adventure” song from Muppet Treasure Island.

HISTORY 47: History of South Africa
This is the consolation prize for those of you who didn’t get into the South Africa abroad program. Sorry.


the sexpot

Because who else.

JAPANGEN 187: Romance, Desire, and Sexuality in Modern Japanese Literature
I’m hoping that this class will finally explain what role a Geisha actually performs in Japanese society because – even after Memoirs – I’m still incredibly lost.

HUMBIO 79Q: Sexuality and Society
From Marilyn Monroe to Marilyn Manson, Dr. Frank-N-Furter to Barney Stinson, Kim Kardashian to Magic Mike, I think it’s safe to say that our society has been taken on a pretty wild and outspoken ride when it comes to its views on sexuality. I for one, plan to enjoy the twists and turns.

HISTORY 98S: Forbidden Desires in China From Daoist Devotees to Dr. Sex
Not to be indelicate, but the title of this class kind of sounds like porn. I find that extremely promising.

FRENCH 219: The Renaissance Body in French Literature and Medicine 
Ok… so perhaps this class isn’t as racy as the others, but for any of you that appreciate the cross section between history and science, this class should offer a pretty cool lens on Renaissance methods of studying medicine and anatomy. And if that still isn’t sexy enough for you, go check out some Titian.


the geek

Honeydew and Beaker, my all-time favorite dynamic duo

CS 309A: Cloud Computing
This post  would have taken considerably longer to put together if not for the cloud. I’m a fan. Admittedly, it all seems like computer internet fairy magic awesomesauce to me, but – for whoever of you are in charge of making it all work – THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. Keep the good stuff coming.

EE 231: Introduction to Lasers
I actually have no idea what this class actually entails but WHO CARES IT’S ABOUT LASERS!!!!!!! That said… you might need to be waist-deep in an EE degree to actually understand 97% of this class…

CS 231A: Introduction to Computer Vision
My expectation of this class includes lessons on how to basically be the next Steve Jobs – you know, navigating the ins and outs of envisioning and producing technology products so far ahead of the technological and design curves that you have an understood deal with Time such that you get exclusive dibs on the cover at least once a year – you know, being a real computer visionary. Apparently it has more to do with cameras and the technology behind the most recent MacBook Retina. What a letdown.


the foodie


EARTHSYS 105: Food and Community: New Visions for a Sustainable Future 
Whether you’d rather give up oxygen before your Big Macs, or refuse to enter any establishment that serves anything that isn’t organic/free-range/cruelty-free/deliciousness-free, we can all benefit from learning how to best enjoy our food in the most responsible way possible. Note – the final project involves some rendition of “Kumbaya”.

FRENLANG 60E: French Cooking
This class (if it can really be called a class – not totally sure of the protocol here) is run through French House. If you have the good fortune to have gotten off the waitlist I assume exists, don’t forget your Julia Child-esque accent and pearls.


the suit

Mr. J.P. Grosse

MS&E 242: Investment Science
Blah blah blah stocks blah blah blah bonds blah blah blah portfolios blah blah blah hedge funds blah blah blah trading…
No but seriously, if you want to make boatloads of money, wear suits that cost more than a mid-range family sedan, develop a serious cocaine addiction, and feel the floating sensation of a golden parachute, sign up for this one.

ECON 135: Finance for Non-MBAs 
I think that’s the politically correct way of naming a class “Finance for Dummies”.

MS&E 240: Accounting for Managers and Entrepreneurs 
Bring your own Adderall.


the opportunist

Rizzo: he sold bilge-rats tickets to their own ship. Hero.

CHEMENG 482: Creating a Startup I 
Here are my SparkNotes for this class:
Step One: Come up with a lukewarm idea for a company over a couple of cold Natties with your CS 107 partner.
Step Two: Spend six months coming up with a fun, bouncy-sounding, vowel-sacrificing, two-syllable name for your startup.
Step Three: Hire an overpriced, overrated graphic designer to create a modern, colorful, sleek, simple logo. Fall into debt.
Step Four: Emblazon  t-shirts, water bottles, carabiners, shot glasses, iPhone cases, frisbees, bottle-openers, and condoms with this logo. Distribute at career fairs to greedy students who have no interest in your company whatsoever. Rack up more debt.
Step Five: Identify a need in social networking, search, data storage, or mobile media that is currently being well met by a company that has gone public and is making absurd amounts of money. This will be the first blank in the “It’s_______ for ________” description that you will give people who ask what your startup is about.
Step Six: Go to WalMart. Throw a dart in any direction. Whatever item the dart hits, that will fill the second blank.
Step Seven: Mix and match phrases like “crowdsourcing”, “platform”, “cloud”, “open source”, and “API”. Use liberally in your description and proposed ‘direction’ for your startup.
Step Eight: Use magic/wish upon a star/spread fairy dust/sell your soul.
Step Nine: Make truly stupid amounts of money. Flee country to avoid paying taxes. Get major motion picture made about you and your startup. Continue wearing the smelly hoodie you’ve had since 11th grade. Build a campus that has lots of designer water and shiny toys.

On second thought, you don’t need to take this class. I’ve spelled it all out for you. This plan is absolutely foolproof.

MS&E 189: Social Networks – Theory, Methods, and Applications
FACT: 9 out of 10 people believe this class is about Facebook. I am one of them.

HISTORY 232E: Machiavelli
Had to throw this one in. Couldn’t help myself.

MS&E 273: Technology Venture Formation
Read: How to convince people to give you lots and lots of money without having to go to jail later.

MS&E 472: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders’ Seminar
Come to class. Go on Facebook for an hour Listen to an entrepreneurial maverick talk about their experiences and soak up their entrepreneurial  awesomeness. Count the buzzwords (seriously, its really fun – consider making a drinking game out of it…). Wonder how many of the people sitting in the room are entitled to Social Security checks are not undergrads. Write down a long code with a bunch of A’s in it. Plug it in online and get a unit.


the adventurer

He IS "Gonzo the Great", after all

AA 116N: Electric Automobiles and Aircraft
Changing the question of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” to “Who Was That Awesome Stanford Engineer Who Resurrected the Electric Car a la Pimp My Ride?”.

AA 236A: Spacecraft Design
It’s not like it’s rocket science.

ANTHRO 101A: Archaeology as a Profession
I fully plan on showing up for the first class, simply to see if they hand out whips and Indiana Jones hats.


the creator

Known in some kennels as "Rowlf-gang Amadeus Mozart" Wow. That was epicly corny.

CLASSART 113: Ten Things: An Archaeology of Design
You study Mini Coopers. Nuff said.

ARTSTUDI 13A: Fundamentals of Oil Painting
A friend recently asked me what I knew about this class. After aimlessly mumbling for about 30 seconds, she pointed out that I know exactly nothing about this class. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, that is also true of about 98% of the other classes on this list. So, for everyone’s convenience:
“This course is an introduction to oil painting. Students concentrate primarily on the technical aspects of the medium (i.e. how to paint as opposed to what to paint.) We examine color: how to mix it, how it establishes spatial relationships, light, and shadow. The class progresses through a series of problems designed to develop a sensitivity to paint application and surface quality; as well as to value, composition, volume, light, and space as the necessary elements of recreating perceptual experience. By the end of the course, students are able to apply some sophisticated techniques to visual problem solving. The aim of the course is to demonstrate the mechanical structure of oil painting.” – Explore Courses.

It meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 pm in room 207 of the Cummings Art Building and is taught by T. Powers.

Oh, and in case you hadn’t figured it out yet, you can access all of that information by clicking the name of the class. Ooooohhhh… Ahhhhhhhh. WordPress is so darn fancy.

ARTSTUDI 167: Introduction to Animation
Make awesome videos like this one!

No. Seriously. Go back and click that link. It’s effing hysterical.

CEE 32A: Psychology of Architecture
This sounds like a course on The Fountainhead. Doesn’t seem all that bad to me.

FEMST 153: Women and the Creative Imagination
As Jane Austen put it, “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” Hopefully, in a slightly more feminist age, we can see that rapid imagination put to good work.

ARTHIST 288B: The Enduring Passion for Ink: Contemporary Chinese Ink Painting
Perhaps the last frontier where handwriting actually counts for something.

ENGLISH 88N: Graphic Novels Asian American Style
As a friend of mine put it, “I think that’s just a culturally-sensitive way of saying – OH MY GOD THIS CLASS IS ABOUT MANGA!!!”


the activist

Not sure what you were ever doing on "The Muppets". Go back to the Occupy Movement.

INTNLREL 141A: Camera as Witness: International Human Rights Documentaries
It’s like Kony 2012. But a smidge longer.

FILMSTUD 116: International Documentary
When you watch the documentary nominees at the Oscars, you’ll actually be like, “Hey, I saw that one!!!”

HISTORY 258E: History of School Reform: Origins, Policies, Outcomes, and Explanations
Don’t get left behind. Take this class.


the (non)believer

A bear that looks like a dog who believes that a little man lives in his finger and tells him what to do. Clearly, he's confused.

AMSTUD 267: Religion in Twentieth Century American Life
From the Westboro Baptist Church to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, this class is sure to keep you both interested and entertained with this country’s recent history of both wacky and wacked-out faith.

ANTHRO 26N: God and the Supernatural
Chelsea Handler will tell you this class is about vodka. Morgan Freeman will tell you this class is about himself.  Tom Cruise will tell you this is about… I seriously don’t care enough about Tom Cruise and/or Scientology to actually go Google it and find out. Personally, I think it’s about overpriced designer cupcakes.

RELIGST 117: Christianity in 21st Century America
For fear of getting WAY too many emails about people commenting on this post with their respectively explosive views, I’m going to pass on the barely politically correct “description” here and let you guys figure this one out for yourselves.


the cardinal

Saving the Best for last.

SIS 60: Investigating Stanford’s Treasures

Literally the best of Stanford. Also known as “the best of the best”.



3 Responses to “Breaking the Fall: 2012 Autumn Course Guide”

  1. Prin says:

    Sweet roundup, Leigh. Especially dig the animation. I’d just add one class that I heard about from someone who just graduated. It’s “Your American Life” and apparently Ira Glass is going to visit and work with the students. I think it’s in creative writing.

  2. Jack says:

    Leigh, you’re awesome.

  3. Jesse says:

    SIS 60 looks aaaawwwwwesome!


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