Back form GA

I arrived back in Ithaca on Tuesday afternoon. Fortunately enough, I didn’t fall too far behind in class work since there was a lot of downtime during the tournament. Being in the south for a week was an experience I had never been a part of before. Every word had 3 more syllables than it should. People were so polite; I felt rude even when I said please and thank you. I saw one guy walk out of his house and up his driveway wearing a camouflage hunting suit to pick up the newspaper and look at his giant Confederate flag smack in the middle of his front yard. I went into a Wendy’s and spoke too fast. The cashier missed two parts of my four part order from the $.99 menu. When she read it back so as to make sure she hadn’t missed anything I couldn’t understand what she was saying and I just said yes. When the total popped up as a little over two dollars I knew something was wrong and pointed out the other items I wanted. She must’ve been thinking, “Damn Yankee.” I went to a Catholic mass and for the first time heard a sermon defending the Catholic doctrine and beliefs. I guess Catholics aren’t too welcomed in the south. Nonetheless, the week in Georgia was quite an interesting and enjoyable time. I didn’t make it to the quarterfinals, but did learn what the judges are looking for so that next year I expect to break to the out rounds (quarterfinals, semifinals, etc.).

Famousr? (sic)

I’m in Georgia now and I had such a huge chunk of time during the tournament today that I did a rough draft of my paper and afterwords my speech coach told me about this website www.famousr.com where you have to pick whose more famous from a choice of two people. I’ve come to the conclusion that Tom Cruise is the most famous on this website.

I challenge anyone to find someone more famous.

I Saw the Conservative Guy who Sat Next to the Other Conservative Guy who Always Wore the Bowtie on CNN’s Crossfire (aka Robert Novak)

Jon Stewart calls Robert Novak the D****bag of Liberty, Enemy of American democracy, a 115-year-old vampire demon, and my favorite, I sincerely believe you’re a terrible person. So who is he (besides what the title says)?

Robert Novak is a conservative journalist who, as I mentioned above, was on CNN’s Crossfire when the show was on the air and started a conservative newspaper that reports about the news on the Hill. He also makes appearances on the Capital Gang on CNN as well as represents the right side on Meet the Press and is a political analyst on Fox News (I feel so much pain when I write those two words).

Novak came to Cornell and talked about the well-being of the Republican Party as well as the outlook of the 2008 election, and, in my opinion, to plug his book that will be released in the near future. He mentioned his opinions on why the Democratic nominees are weak, why the Republicans need leaders like Ronald Reagan, and what the Republican party needs to do to regain the majority. None of what he said was out of the ordinary. I could’ve turned on NBC and heard Tim Russert say the same things.

What is interesting is the comparison between Helen Thomas and Robert Novak, two journalists, one conservative, one liberal, both of whom paid a visit to Cornell. Albeit, Helen Thomas is the George Washington of White House Press reporters and I do not actually believe Novak is part of the White House Press Corps. Nonetheless, they are both political journalists. Here’s the difference between the two:

Helen Thomas sees the glass half full=> the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech is what makes America’s democracy different from that of a monarchy. The press has a responsibility to ask tough questions to the President. The Government inherently wants to improve the nation. Entitlements like Medicare, social security, and welfare are necessary.

Robert Novak as he himself said tonight sees the glass half empty=> He’s a starve the beaster, which means little government as possible and you do that by tax cuts to decrease government funds and therefore services like education, healthcare, Medicaid, Medicare, and social security. His nickname is the Prince of Darkness for a reason. His two favorite presidents of the 20th century are Reagan and Coolidge (the same Coolidge who led the country into the Great Depression), his three least favorites, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter.

One thing they both agree on, the US should be a diplomatic force in world affairs not a militarily aggressive one.

To recap: Robert Novak came to Cornell. Was it a memorable experience? No. Will I forget what he said? Yes because I can hear it on any tv news station, with the exception of his two favorite presidents. The second one still baffles me.

Speech Competition- Nationals

On Wednesday I’ll be leaving to go down to Rome, Georgia to compete in the National Championships for the Cornell Speech Team. It should be quite an experience. It’s five days long so there will be quite a lot of downtime to work on class assignments and the like, which is good since I’ll be missing four days of classes.

Otherwise, tomorrow I plan to attend a guest speech by Robert Novak who is a Republican strategist and pundit. He was on CNN’s Crossfire back when the show was still on the air. This should be interesting since I’ve never really gotten to hear, in-person, someone talk as a representative of the Republican Party.

As for the Virginia Tech shootings, it is shocking and was certainly part of the campus dialogue today. I think it hits home a little closer to us, at least with me, being that we’re college students. These people were our peers, our age and when they were reporting that the first shootings occurred in a residential hall, I could only think of Becker House or Mews Hall, the places where I lived. And with the second set of shootings that took place in an engineering building, I could only think of Duffield Hall here at Cornell and my friends that are engineers.

Ode to Kurt Vonnegut Jr. ’44

The ‘44 should have an asterisk since he didn’t actually graduate from Cornell, but dropped out and joined the military during World War II. Nonetheless, THE Kurt Vonnegut, the Mark Twain of today, a Cornell and Cornell Daily Sun (our newspaper) alum, passed away on Wednesday night in Manhattan at an age of 84. His novel, Slaughterhouse V, which was one of a few books I enjoyed reading for my high school English classes was inspired by Vonnegut’s experiences during World War II when he was in a German prison camp near Dresden during the time of its fire bombing by the Allies. The Cornell Daily Sun handled Vonnegut’s death very well through its Thursday and Friday editions, both of which honored his achievements (later issues will continue to do so). In addition, the front page, which usually has a red pinstripe to separate the header from the front page, was black on Friday. It doesn’t seem like much, but it definitely created a feeling that words would not have been able to describe.

“I was happiest when I was all alone – and it was very late at night, and I was walking up the hill after having helped to put The Sun to bed. … I am an atheist, as some of you have gleaned from my writings. But I have to tell you that, as I trudged up the hill so late at night and all alone, I knew that God Almighty approved of me.” – Kurt Vonnegut ‘44

The First Lady of the White House Press Corps

On Monday the Queen of White House journalism came to Cornell to give a speech on her thoughts of the past and present of the White House press corps and the role of women in the press. She has worked as a White House correspondent for 55 years starting with JFK. It was by far the best speaking event I’ve went to in my life. Dry humor abounded in her speech as well as critiques of this President’s approach to the US public (the demonization of the word liberal is an example) and the press as compared to those of past presidents. Criticisms of the Iraq war were plenty and very well backed by historical evidence. The foreshadowing of Bush Sr.’s reasoning for not continuing the Gulf War into Iraq (door-to-door fighting against an unmarked enemy) was strategically placed in her analysis of current President Bush to elicit a loud/long applause. Yet despite the harsh criticisms about the current administration there were criticisms about the passivity of her colleagues, and one could tell that if this President was a Democrat there would still be harsh critiques. What was most impressive was her manner of respect. You could tell that this is the same reporter who ends each question with, “Thank you Mr. President.” There were no personal insults, just an explanation of what she thought was being done wrong and why. She is the grandmother you never mess around with not just because of what she achieved but because her past demands respect (one of 9 children raised by parents who didn’t go to college, but all of which earned a college degree; a woman entering a “man’s” job). She truly is a reporter that should be emulated.
Thank YOU Helen Thomas and if you’re alive when/if I am President or Press Secretary you can talk all you want.

And I’m Back

The trip was quite an experience and a pretty fun one at that. First off, so as to get it out of the way, the British Parliamentary debate did not go so well. My partner and I went 2-4 meaning we won two debates, placed third (out of 4) in three more and came in last once. I did not know what to do since this was my first time ever doing Parliamentary debate so I was out of it for the first couple of rounds and as a result my partner had to carry the weight.

Aside from the debate the trip was great. We saw albino deer on the way to the airport, which was an interesting starting point for the experiences I was about to come across on this trip. Our plane arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday night. The next morning I took my PAM 204 (Economics of the Public Sector) pre-lim, administered by the professor that accompanied us on the trip, in the hotel at which we stayed. The tournament didn’t start until Saturday so we had a whole day to tour LA. We drove to Hollywood and saw the walk of stars as well as the handprints and the actors/actresses’ signatures forever carved in the concrete outside of the Chinese Theater. I walked by the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are held. Surprisingly, the theater is not its own building but rather connected to neighboring attractions on both of its sides…how TV can fool you.

We then drove to the Disney/ABC studios to meet with a Cornell speech team alum who now works for ABC and was an executive producer for the movie Traffic. On the way to the studio we had a perfect view of the forest fire burning trees on the mountainsides outside of Hollywood. We got so close ash began to fall and the smoke blocked the sun making the setting around us like a scene out of Volcano. The meeting was nothing special, just a way to raise money via alumni. What was the highlight of that night though was eating at an Italian restaurant called Ago courtesy of the alumnus. It’s partially owned by Robert DeNiro and I just happened to be sitting at a table right behind Fred Savage. That’s right Mr. Wonder Years himslef. I honestly didn’t make a second glance because the food could not have been better. The mozzarella melted in your mouth and my crabmeat risotto DELICIOUS! I don’t think I’ll ever think of Italian restaurants the same. They will now be held to the standard of a restaurant that costs about $85 per person.

The tournament ended early on Sunday since we didn’t make the playoffs. So we had about six hours to kill before our flight departed. Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Peer were our tourist destinations before we headed back to New York.

Santa Monica Peer (the one in Forest Gump at the end of the movie) was our spot for viewing a nice sunset and watching a street performer, who was frankly disappointing (he balanced glasses of water on his chin). What I will remember for, no doubt, the rest of my life was my experience on Rodeo Drive. Before I get to the stores we decided to count the luxury cars we passed by. My job was tallying Mercs and BMW’s. I stopped once I reached 20. There had to be at least 20 more. My professor’s job was tallying Porsches and Land Rovers. He stopped when he got to 20 as well. My debate partner focused on exotics. Since I stopped very early on I decided to count exotic cars as well. I counted 11 before I got tired since people kept driving by in the likes of Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, and Rolls-Royce’s. It was no fun; they were all over the place.

As for the shopping, any upscale place one could imagine was there. For appetizer Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren did the job, stores that are upscale to the rest of us but pocket change for those in Beverly Hills. When the spare change is gone, places like Hugo Boss, Versaci, Prada (which had no signs, no windows, and you had to knock on the door to be let in), DeBeers, Cartier, Fendi, Max Mara, Cole Haan, Chanel,  Gucci, Dior, Bvalgari, Tiffany, Louis Vitton, and many more were there to occupy the rest of your income. It was very interesting to be scrutinized by security guards as well. One guard followed us for an entire block. I guess my camera made it obvious that I was a tourist about to commit grand larceny. I also walked into a store, saw a tie I liked, and looked at the price tag…$200, for a stupid tie that looked like and felt like one I bought at TJ Maxx for $13. What amused me was that an employee came up and asked if he could help me. I said no, just looking. He began to walk away, but his manager hurried up to him and promptly said, “Not him, go help the woman with the Louis Vitton bag.” I almost burst out laughing. What cracked me up was when I was walking past a Hugo Boss window and a guy and his girlfriend were looking at a mannequin. The man, very seriously said, “Brown shoes with striped, gray pants…that’s amazing.” I laughed out loud on the spot. I couldn’t help myself, but think I’m glad I don’t live here. It would be Stepford Wives, except in reality.

Seeing that my blog has turned into one Jenna might write, but with less humor and more of a 7th grade writing style, I will cease blabbering about my trip to a world that is separated from reality.