Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Entertainment Recap: The Best (So Far) of 2014

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Here’s a recap of everything you’ve been missing in the entertainment-sphere if you’ve been hiding under a rock-no judgment here.

Downton Abbey’s U.S. premiere of season 4 just wrapped.  The furtive, longing glances were just as good as ever.  I won’t reveal any spoilers but the important thing is that Mary has 50 suitors (just a bunch, no big deal) and poor Edith is still alone.  #feelinlikeedith

This awards season is truly exciting, with fantastic, dynamic performances from the ones in 12 Years a Slave to American HustleJennifer Lawrence is still supremely charming and my vote for girl crush-if only she actually ate as much as she professes to, then she would be perfect.  Lupita Nyong’o is the most beautiful being that has ever appeared on this earth, on point with all her fashion choices.  If they don’t make a Barbie or some sort of doll-replica of her soon I’ll be shocked.  Matthew McConaughey’s random speeches add to the fun although they are slightly grating (here’s to hoping Leo takes the Oscar).  “Alriiiiight, alriiiiight, alriiiiiiight.”

One award that Matthew McConaughey should win for his immense comeback?  An Emmy.  He is brilliant in HBO’s True Detective, a show with as intense and dark an ambiance as McConaughey’s character himself.  Seriously, though, that Quaaludes scene alone makes Leonardo DiCaprio deserve the Oscar.  His extreme difficulty going down the stairs reminded me a bit too much of myself after midterms.  Can’t. Make. It. To. Dorm. Too. Defeated.  If Pink does some of the acrobatic wonders she did at the Grammys I am going to cry tears of wonder and jealousy.  As long as it’s not like that year Beyonce sang every single nominated song.  I’m not sure Ellen DeGeneres (host this year of the Oscars) will push the envelope as much as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, though.  Must I remind you of the now-classic lines: “’Gravity’ is nominated for best film. It’s the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.” And, of course: “”Like a supermodel’s vagina, let’s all give a warm welcome to Leonardo DiCaprio.”

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After the sad excuse for an Olympics I’m looking forward to the return of new episodes.  Then I’ll finally be able to stop hating myself for watching The Bachelor’s Juan Pablo.  Don’t judge man, it was between that and curling.

Like air hockey, but sadder?

An exciting book-to-film is coming out this summer!  No, not Fifty Shades of Grey, I do have some dignity…it’s The Fault in Our Stars!  Shailene Woodley plays Hazel (or as Augustus lovingly calls her, Hazel Grace)-proving that one can star in an incredibly banal show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and still be a good actress.

Speaking of ABC Family shows, there is no shame here when I recap the latest on Pretty Little Liars.  It’s the most tweeted about show, I’ll have you know.  Basically, Ezra, the high school teacher, turns out to be just a regular creepster, not an evil genius creepster, which was incredibly disappointing and infuriating.  He did provide possibly the best excuse of all time though (which I will be using as I write my final papers): “I was writing a true crime novel.”  KThx.

Aria finds out what a bad writer Ezra really is.

If you’re actually looking for a smart show, may I recommend The Good Wife?  With its spitfire writing, power-house acting, and complex turns it may be the smartest show on right now.  That’s saying a lot, as TV is more like a stimulating lube tube right now for the mind, with provocative shows like Girls, Breaking Bad, and Homeland, than its previously condescending title.

If you’re looking for some cute/smart fun Parks and Recreation is still the most underrated quirk of a comedy gem The Mindy Project is also back with a vengeance this season, funnier than ever with absurd shenanigans-including a sexting fiasco gone wrong.

So true, so true.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention a couple of things that are guaranteed to brighten up any winter blues.  I mean guaranteed.  First off is The Lego Movie-one of the most clever and genuinely funny animated films in a long time.  Second, I have two words for you:  Broad City.  My sister turned me on to this new show, full of the most awkward hilarity, basically an unpolished Girls.  Perhaps the best episode so far is “Working Girls” when Abbi, one of the main characters, goes to retrieve a package for her apartment crush.  The lengths that must be traveled-man we feel you (fake cough Student Services, just saying).

Alas, we come to the end…of my procrastination.  Enjoy the Oscars tonight!

Current Films Not to be Missed!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Three films that are worth seeing all deal with survival in environments and times that are most trying.  It is in these instances, it seems, that we discover who we truly are and what we are willing to fight for.

Prisoners is the story of two young girls who are kidnapped and how their families crumble after the tragedy.  Hugh Jackman is brilliant as one of the grief-stricken, tortured fathers.  His physicality drives his performance to another level.  Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of his best performances ever as the detective who is trying his best to solve what seems like an unsolvable crime.  The film’s intensity leads to further discussion and reflection on what right and wrong means and how far are we willing to go in order to save those we love?

Gravity has been well-received by critics almost across the board.  And it does not disappoint.  Alfonso Cuaron, an incredibly talented director (Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban and Children of Men), directs a stunning, breath-taking piece of art that overtly illustrates how beautiful life is.  Sandra Bullock delivers the most nuanced, dynamic performance of her career, full of vulnerability and strength.  She plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a Mission Specialist, who finds herself in a life-or-death situation and must use all of her faculties in order to survive.  The religious overtones are not subtle but the themes of loneliness, damage, and loss are so sincere that it is easy to overlook this.  The score is haunting and the effects are nothing short of spectacular.

Captain Phillips seemed a little underwhelming if you were to judge it solely by its trailers.  However, the trailers are to its detriment as it is a solid film and should not be counted out.  Tom Hanks gives a strong performance, one that is finally fitting of his talent, unlike the ones he has been given in recent years (let’s all try to forget Larry Crowne and never speak of it again).  Tom Hanks drives the film the way he commanded Cast Away, making it into an intense, thrilling story.  He plays the title character whose ship is hijacked by Somali pirates (based on the 2009 true events).  Look out for Barkhad Abdi, who takes a great turn as Muse, the leader of the pirates. 

12 Years a Slave and Catching Fire reviews to come soon!

When Fools Rush In

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

You’ve spent an hour blowing your hair out. You’re tugging at your shirt, making sure it isn’t bunching in any weird ways. You’re trying to convince yourself that your cutest pair of flats aren’t pinching your toes, your throat isn’t sore from talking, and your cheeks don’t hurt from persistent smiling. You’re making PG-rated chitchat with the girls next you in line, notably those with last names of the same letter as your own. Suddenly you hear it. The clapping. The scream-singing. The doors burst open and you hear the incessantly catchy lyrics of yet another anthem as you’re quickly ushered in. This is rush, and you’re effing exhausted.

            I could write a pretty hefty article full of tips and advice that echo the sentiments of Stanford’s Inter-Sorority Council, many of the girls you’ll talk to during rush, and possibly your RA or friends that have gone through the process before. I’m going to try really hard not to do that. If you’re planning on going through girls’ rush, you’re going to hear a LOT about how “you should really pick the place that’s best for YOU”, and how you should just focus on “being yourself”. No offense to all of that, but it’s a little trite, and you’ve undoubtedly heard it all before. This is an article for those of you thinking about going through rush, maybe on the fence about sororities in general, maybe unsure of what exactly to expect from the whole process. I want to give you some concrete advice, hopefully some of which that you haven’t  already heard before, that might actually help you figure out if Stanford’s sorority scene is right for you.

A little background: I am a member of one of Stanford’s housed sororities. For the sake of this article, I don’t think it’s really important to say which, as the things I want to talk about will focus on Stanford’s sororities as a whole.

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Party With Fees: A Lighthearted Rant

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Would you like $250 $140? Right now? Free and clear? How about every quarter? Yeah, so would I. However, unlike most random hypothetical questions, I can actually deliver on this one. $250 $140 of your tuition per quarter automatically goes to special fees. However, saying as you don’t ever actively consent to this distribution of funds to various student groups, the ASSU would be in something of a legal snafu if they didn’t give you the option of taking the money back at some point. So they do. For the first two weeks of every quarter, you have the option of waiving the money you paid for special fees. It’s really that simple. You can get a refund for $250 $140 worth of special fees every quarter. The solitary attached string? The leadership of groups that get special fees are allowed to request a list of students who waived their fees and may bar those students from using their services. But that’s seriously it. Now some food for thought: what could I buy with the $750 $420 a year that I currently spend on special fees? Here’s my short list:

 – A boatload of Philz coffee

Seven Four trips skydiving

– One of those giant stuffed trees from the bookstore

– A romantic weekend in Tahoe

– My weight in marshmallows

– *Part of* The mens water polo team

– Parking for my entire Stanford career ~two years

– A flight to somewhere very far away

30 17 cases of Two Buck Chuck

– Half an Ochem textbook

– An iPhone 17

3 2+ Dance Marathon pledges

– The worlds most hipster bike

Someone to slap me when I procrastinate (could definitely use one of those right about now…)

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Let the students be heard: Dining Society protest and the ResEd machine

Monday, February 25th, 2013

ResEd Associate Dean Nate Boswell speaks to the demonstrators.

 

Bureaucracy is a tool that can empower the collective to accomplish what uncoordinated individuals cannot. In a functional system, the bureaucrats serve their constituents as their rightful duty. Mistakes are inevitable in the pursue of this ultimate goal, for those in office are humans as flawed as you and me. A healthy bureaucracy is one that can justify itself to others when challenged and avoid the messy self-destructive inefficiencies that comes with cover-ups, hypocrisy, and cognitive dissonance. If we think of the relationship between the bureaucracy and the people as symbiotic, then actions that prioritize the interest of the bureaucrats ahead of the people produce short-term gains at the cost of the long-term vibrancy, and perhaps even viability, of the entire community.

Stanford University is a bureaucracy and that is not necessarily a bad thing. By most measures, it is an extremely successful one that has done an excellent job of providing a conducive environment for talented individuals to share their ideas and do great things. However, like all bureaucracy, it is not perfect.

This afternoon, a crowd of Stanford students gathered at the White Plaza to protest the university’s decision not to renew the contract of the student-run Dining Societies that have served the residents of Governor’s Corner for the past 30 years, with a record that by all accounts is (at the very least) above average for an organization of its nature. The details of this on-going dispute are covered in great details in Miles Unterreiner’s multi-part Daily article. Students who live in the suites are overwhelming opposed to the loss of this unique part of their house identity and many are upset that the decision by Residential Education was only communicated after the fact, leaving no room for students to voice their clear opposition to the change.

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Less than Masterful: Paul Thomas Anderson Fails to Recruit Us Into His Vision

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

I should’ve known I wasn’t going to like The Master.  I cannot say I have loved all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, including There Will Be Blood.  Daniel Day-Lewis was excellent at yet another incredibly unlikable, unhinged character.

On the topic of unhinged and unlikable, enter The Master.  Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a troubled, destructive man dealing with the aftermath of returning after fighting in WWII.  Quell is also fighting against his own personal demons.  He is self-prescribing by drinking horrific alcoholic concoctions (paint-thinner in one).  All in all he’s in a bad place when he comes across Lancaster Dodd (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), aka the “Master” of, let’s call it what it is, a cult.

It becomes hard to know what is real and what is not as Freddie imagines things that have not happened.  As there is no character evolution it is painful to watch Freddie and Dodd’s destructive behavior.  There is no one to root for.

Sure, there are complex questions about man and sexuality, and man versus animal.  Quell and Dodd seem to be two halves of a whole as Dodd recognizes in Quell.  It’s easy to wonder, is man truly that base?  It is interesting that Dodd claims that humans are not part of the animal kingdom yet he insists on there being a leader of men (in this case himself as the Master).

The performances are excellent and may even be recognized come awards season.  There was a definite void when Joaquin Phoenix was pretending he would never act again.  His intensity is finely matched by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams (who plays in my opinion the real Master here, Dodd’s quietly domineering wife).  Hoffman has mastered, no pun intended, this type of slick character who is not what he seems (expertly done in Doubt and even The Ides of March).  Adams is a fierce force onscreen.  Her sweet, doe-eyed look is a stark contrast to the strength and steel she brings to her characters.

I couldn’t help but want The Master to end.  After it all was done I couldn’t believe that was what we were left with, no redemption just a bunch of questions, confusion, and a headache.

 

 

Starbucks by the Numbers

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

“Starbucks: It’s NOT Meyer”

I have a love-hate relationship with Starbucks. On the one hand, I downright refuse to use the term “Tall” to order the establishment’s smallest serving of coffee. Ditto “Grande” (meaning “large” in Italian, according to my friend Google Translate) to order a medium-ish size. Ditto “Venti” for an all-nighter-inducing sized cup. Ok, admittedly the last one does make a smidge more sense than the other two – apparently a “Venti” is, in fact, twenty ounces of fluid. But seriously, for a company that has 20,400 almost identical stores, you’d think they’d adopt a similar level of consistency (if not common sense) when it comes to their sizing practices.

On the other hand, however, they do brew a pretty decent cup of coffee. I also like their little cheese and fruit boxes. And, most importantly, I have learned to love the establishment for their work environment. And by that I mean the environment in which I do MY work. This year’s fall course guide spent about a week and a half gestating in a Starbucks across the street from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and ever since I have had a certain fondness for the institution’s mass-produced ambiance. I can’t tell if its the “handcrafted” wooden tables, good lighting, endless outlets, or simply the fact that it’s not Meyer, but I’ve found that I’m surprisingly productive working in a place with heavy foot-traffic and lots of people hyped-up on mocha frappucinos. As such, I’ve spent a great deal of time in Tressider’s latest installment, enjoying both the salted carmel lattes and the sublime people watching that comes with them. So, without further ado, I present to you Starbucks by the my numbers*: (more…)

The One, the Only, the 2013 Winter Course Guide

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

It’s that time of year again.

Let’s just say that this is NOT what Thanksgiving looks like at my house…

No, not Thanksgiving. I mean, yes – technically it is time for family drama, dried out Turkey, sleeping in a bed that hasn’t been tainted by years of college kids getting it on, and becoming unnecessarily excited that it’s now socially acceptable to eat truly stupid amounts of pumpkin pie. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Oh no. Not that. I’m talking about something far more important: the TUSB Winter Course Guide.

Yes, I know Axess opened a month ago. I’m sorry I’ve been a little late to the game. As you all know, the quarter system is effing exhausting and often prohibits us from doing those things we really want to do. However, because it’s “Break”, and because the lovely few of my saintly friends who actually follow this blog have been bugging me to get off my keister and actually write the darn thing, and because my brain is downright refusing to let me start the 25 page paper I’m supposed to write before the end of the holiday, and because it has recently been brought to my attention that I have atrocious time management skills, I’m excited to bring you the 2013 Winter  course guide.

Given that I didn’t have a spare week to sit around Starbucks and think up super-amazing themes like “the Muppets”, this time around I’m sticking with a classic: “When I Grow Up”. As always, you can rest assured that this course guide is poorly-informed, overly generalized, and rarely if ever politically correct. As always, I will accept no responsibility for any misery inflicted by taking any of these classes. So enjoy the post, enjoy the break, and – above all – enjoy the fact that we get to do this all over again after New Years. Cheers.

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The new Stanford font is awful.

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Before and after. Read ’em and weep. But actually. (Photo credit: Will Tucker ’09)

This week, Stanford changed its online logo.

Two word version of this post:  just no.

Longer version of this post:

The old Stanford font, Sabon, actually looks like something that merits being taken seriously.  Why?  Consider, if you will, the website fonts for Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Chicago.  Eerily similar to Sabon.  Why?  Because these schools are renowned academic institutions that take themselves seriously.

What does the new Stanford font look more like?  Foursquare.  Pinterest.  Twitter.  Words with Friends.

Stanford University is not an app, and should not look like one.

The new Stanford font is inaccurate.

The new Stanford font likewise fails to take Stanford tradition and basic knowledge into account.  Sabon was created by a German typographer, and its Teutonic roots dovetail nicely with Stanford’s distinctly German motto, “die Luft der Freiheit weht” (the wind of freedom blows).  The new font is called “Crimson.”  CRIMSON.  A brief note to Bright, the “design firm” that created our new font, which ostensibly “spent a lot of time” developing it:

OUR COLOR IS CARDINAL.  Crimson is Harvard.  Get.  It.  Together.

Mobile apps, schmobile apps.

The argument for this change is that the new font is viewed better on a mobile interface and that Stanford wanted a thicker font to stand up to the pixelated mobile screen environment.

We already have a very “thick” font that would have been perfect for this application: the block Stanford “S.”  It already exists.  It is beautiful, we love it, and it doesn’t make me cringe.

And while I’m at it, a basic design note.

If you go into the vector drawings for the new logo, the “f” is taller than the “S.”  I….  Whu-?  Why…?  No.

Okay, that’s it.  Rant over.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

The 2012 Election’s Biggest Loser: Planet Earth

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

“Hey, don’t I get a vote?”

This election may be the biggest rip-off of America’s democracy in recent memory.

Sure, we have choices between blue and red. Our candidates claim to offer stark ideological differences and visions for our country. Vast swaths of Americans will enthusiastically pick their man and hope for the best, and many others will swallow their disappointment and opt for the lesser evil.

But let’s be clear: when it comes to Planet Earth, our only home, we have a patently false choice.

While both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have advocated sustainable forms of energy, neither has mapped out a legitimate approach to living in a world with finite resources. In all three presidential debates, there was no mention of climate change. From a foreign policy standpoint, there was no appreciation that America’s shining example of consumption and wealth has motivated the rest of the world to try to live like us, and that our planet cannot support such habits indefinitely.

This omission points to a serious failure by our various communities of knowledge to convey to one another the gravity of our circumstances in language that each side can understand. I use the term “failure” because these presidential candidates are supposed to represent the grand sum of our country and culture to the rest of our world; that is the definition of leadership. Although both men are politicians and therefore have to evade the hard questions and sell empty promises as part of their campaigns, they are still faced with an enormously difficult job, and based on our democratic process, they are supposed to be the most qualified candidates we have.

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5 Suggestions for Successful Freshmen

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Don’t forget to pop it every once in a while.

As the curtain begins to fall on my time at Stanford (well, at least the undergraduate part), I’ve been finding less and less time to actually reflect on the time I’ve spent here, mostly because I thought taking 7 classes was an awesome idea and, oh hey, I’m a moron. But I guess that’s not the point. After some gentle prodding from one of my Blog-affiliated friends, I took up my keyboard and began typing what would ultimately evolve into my 5 Suggestions for Successful Freshmen. It has a strange sort of ABABA alliteration to it, so I think I’ll keep the name.

Basically, I’m going to tell you a senior’s perspective on some (hopefully simple) things to keep in mind at Stanford in order to not pull your hair out. I wish I had done these things more as a Freshman (though honestly, it’s pretty much cross-class advice. Don’t think that just because you’re a junior you should just suddenly stop interacting with people. Well, unless you live in Oak Creek.). I tried to keep the titles short and the descriptions … less so, in the hopes that you’d be able to take away some (hopefully valuable?) thoughts on ways to contribute to having a good “Stanford Experience,” whatever that may mean to you. Personally, I’m new at this whole blogging business, but I think it’s at least better than Twitter, especially since I’m bumping up against 2000 words at the moment and I shouldn’t ever be allowed to use hashtags again. Anyways, without further ado, let’s get this ball rolling:

1. Get Out More.

True facts.

Stanford’s a really awesome place. Don’t get me wrong; that’s why people come here to take pictures all the time, I guess. However, the term “the Stanford bubble” is well-known by most everyone here because it’s so damn difficult to actually get off of campus once you get here. Sure, there’s an awesome-sounding movie playing in Redwood City this weekend, but the CalTrain schedule sucks and then you have to bike to the Marguerite and then you won’t get back in time for Mausoleum and a whole ton of other reasons that people never actually leave. While Stanford is your home for the next four years, it can also feel a bit … oppressive at times, especially since you’re also so close to your schoolwork. This leads to conversations at the dining hall where you just try to talk to people about who has the most work or complain about how tired you are or how well you just did on your midterm, none of which are particularly entertaining topics. Yes, you got a perfect score on the Chem 31 midterm, we’re all super proud of you. Hence, get off campus! Break out of the bubble, even if just for a little bit. Bike or bus to Palo Alto and just take a walk to clear your head, or try some of the awesome restaurants in and around University Avenue if you can’t or don’t want to go farther. Your work can wait a couple of hours while you get some off-campus air, and I’ve found it to be extremely refreshing. Sophomore year, I made a pact with my friends to go out for dinner at least once a weekend, and when we do, we avoid talking about work. Leave campus issues on campus and see what happens. It’s also a nice walk, to be honest. (more…)

I before E, except after Cal: A response to The Daily Californian

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

This post is in response to a Daily Californian blog, which can be read here. The opinions expressed in this article are not the opinions expressed by The Unofficial Stanford Blog, The Stanford Daily, or its writers. Oh man, have I always wanted to write that. Buckle up.

Dear Daily Californian,

Recently, you published a blog article (blarticle) entitled “No competition” which, in my humble opinion, went too far. The Stanford Daily has already issued a response, which can be read here, but I thought I would take advantage of this blog’s Unofficial-ness to say some words that the good people at the Daily are too nice to say.

I… I can’t look away. So horrifying, and yet… so beautiful. (Credit: Jasmine M.)

Originally, my article just had the words “get over it” and a detailed sketch of the Tree mooning a bear, but my editor said the text had to at least fill a whole line.

So I wrote more words:

While I’m as pleased as anyone that you’ve learned to proofread, and have access to a platform to show other people this new skill, this is the saddest and most asinine drivel that’s ever been mistaken for a blog. And that’s after I learned “Birds with Arms” exists.

I realize that this post was written in good fun, something with which to placate the ire of students and alumni after Stanford’s beatdown of Cal, but I implore you to keep it classy, or at least relevant. When you fault a young woman for what might have been a keystroke error (Although a score of 10-1, while unlikely, is certainly possible), or insult the readers of the Daily (which include professors, Nobel Laureates, and freshmen in Stern Dining) in one sweeping generalization, you are sucking on the dregs of the stupidest Stanford-Cal rivalry there is, or ever will be: proofreading.

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Dear Freshmen

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Welcome, Class of 2016! As a Frosh enthusiast, I’m incredibly excited that I was on campus for NSO all 4 years of my Stanford career. You’ve all worked incredibly hard, seen amazing things and made it after 4 years of jockeying for place at this institution.

We know exactly how hard you worked, thanks to Confessions from Stanford. We got a play by play. That’s not a bad thing in itself. Despite some of the Stanford Community’s criticism of the blog, we still love frosh. But I’m not here to talk about that blog. I think Lilliana did a great job writing about the subject.

This is basically how I feel about the arrival of the Class of 2016.
(Image Source: Sports Illustrated)

As an old senior, I wanted to impart other wisdom on you. The first thing is, now that you’ve leaped over obstacles to get here, please just sit back and relax on the windy river that is a Stanford undergraduate experience. College here is both an intellectual and social wonderland that you have to explore to enjoy. Starting from day one, you will be meeting people that will change your whole outlook on life. Take things minute by minute, day by day, and really stop to pause and smile at how beautiful everything is around. As blasé as I am nowadays, I still pause in my tracks sometime and grin at how many colors there are in the mural in front of Memorial Church or how incredibly comfortable it is to lie down on the grass..anywhere really and take a nap. So, appreciate things around you. Appreciate the people around you. Applying to college may have been a marathon, but slow down and stroll. You deserve a break.
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Breaking the Fall: 2012 Autumn Course Guide

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

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.

(more…)

“The Dark Knight Rises” Tries too hard, fails

Monday, July 30th, 2012
Bane choking Batman

Like the Lebron of old, Christopher Nolan choked this summer. Here, Bane does some choking of his own.

With The Dark Knight having been as awesome as it was, I went into The Dark Knight Rises with very high expectations. The former had managed to find the fine line between drama and comic book movie (a line which I didn’t know existed, mind you) and one could only imagine that Christopher Nolan would create something even more magical, having found this cinematic sweet spot. Unfortunately, Nolan, being aware of how great The Dark Knight was, decided to make its successor essentially a clone of itself on steroids, weakly building on its strengths while exaggerating its weaknesses. TDKR tried to capture the subtle brilliance of TDK’s lengthy dialogues, the eerie believability of its action scenes, and the sensitivity of its more delicate moments, yet managed to be somewhat cheesy in its rendition of all three. It felt somewhat synthetic, as if the strengths of a great movie were being bulked up for a box office-smashing sequel. It’s sort of like the Mitt Romney of this summer’s movies; from afar, it seems to walk the walk but is much more staged and awkward at closer examination.

Don’t get me wrong – this was still close to as good as a comic book movie can get. The sheer awesomeness of the first two in this series makes us forget that we are still dealing a film in the same franchise as Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, and a few other disasters. Having not seen the first two Batman films, I would maybe even have clapped at the end of this movie as 200 people at the premier I went to felt compelled to do. However, knowing the ability Christopher Nolan possesses to create a film which is both visually and intellectually thrilling for the entirety of its runtime, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed overall and even slightly cheated at times. Please excuse a quick caps lock moment – ****SPOILER ALERT**** – alright, presuming I’ve scared away those who haven’t seen it yet, let me more specifically discuss what I mean:

Simply put, the movie was too long. Action movies need not (should not?) be 2 hours 45 minutes. I don’t think the adrenal gland – action movies’ best friend – is designed to keep grooving for that long. It felt as if Christopher Nolan had set a hard goal on this number, because I feel a lot of the movies’ problems could have been solved by cutting down some of the more mundane parts. There were dialogues and sequences in the middle of the movie that felt excessive and superfluous, and plot twists which featured the unfortunate double-whammy of being both difficult to follow and difficult to stay awake for.

I wanted to appreciate the heartfelt monologues doled out by Alfred numerous times in the movie, but found my more perverse Batman-fan side yearning to see stuff get blown up. I wanted to understand what the deal with the prison-well thing was, but couldn’t figure out for the life of me why every single person wasn’t escaping from the prison if you just needed to jump. (You’d think they’d be doing squats in their free time) I tried to calculate how long it would take the Federal government to do something about Bane in the absence of any law and order in Gotham, and decided it would have been much shorter than the months it seemed that a crew of rebels and deadbeats had the city on lockdown. I even wanted to believe that Bruce Wayne appearing at the very end after seemingly sacrificing himself, the ultimate okey-doke in feel-good action movies, wasn’t just Christopher Nolan securing future revenue streams with a disappointing and sickeningly predictable plot twist.

Instead of shooting each other with their assault rifles, the Good Guys and Bad Guys ran at each other all Lord-of-the-Rings-like. Bizarre.

Even the allusions to the struggle of the rich vs. poor felt half-hearted. While Catwoman’s various comments throughout the movie are clearly a parallel to the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’d prefer it was either discussed in more detail or not mentioned altogether rather than such a nuanced and controversial topic be glanced over as carelessly as it was.

Again, all of these are examples of things The Dark Knight did well. TDK managed to combine well-written and well-executed dialogues, a plodding narrative which took the perfect amount of time to develop, bits of social commentary that felt honest and genuine, and non-stop action which made the hair on your neck stand up, due to both how breathtaking it was and how real it seemed. The newest version tried to one-up itself on all of those measures, leaving much to be desired and a sense of Christopher Nolan having missed his chance to think outside the box.

In fairness Catwoman was cool, but ends up playing an awkward part-time role in the film, sort of like a summer intern at a big company. It’s a shame, because I would have really liked to see her and Bruce Wayne/Batman get weird. Just saying.