If Life After College were Based on Grades…

…then I’d be a DEA (design and environmental analysis) and history major. Ideally the courses that are most applicable to the career you want to achieve after graduating are the ones in which you do best. Not for me, and that can be very disheartening. I like politics, government, policy, and non-profit. Problem is those are the courses that aren’t my strengths. So I wind up taking many courses from these departments and enjoy them, but almost always get sub standard grades. Then I take courses in DEA and history (4 courses total) and not once have a received a grade below an A-. If only that’s what I wanted to do in my life. Instead the government courses are what attracts me, problem is I can’t write a government paper for my life. I’ve been trying for the past 3+ years and I still haven’t gotten the hang of it. Meanwhile the people around me, my friend who’s taking a political theory/thought course with me this semester a great example, do a couple grades better than me, and alums like Jeremy Schapp and department heads like Isaac Kramnick announce how easy the government major is while I sit there thinking if my brain is missing something that they all have.

I can only be thankful that I’m a PAM (policy analysis and management) major and am not a part of the government department being relentlessly hounded by my inadequacy. Nonetheless, it still feels like a twilight zone episode where no matter how many times you get punched in the gut you keep going back because there’s something that attracts you even though you already know the outcome. It has become almost futile. Senior year and I’m still trying for my first A- in a government course. If I don’t get it this semester, I’ll have another chance next one since I signed up for my final government course of my college career (Politics of Violence in 20th Century Europe). I’m already tightening my gut.

Howie Mandel sans Deal or No Deal

This weekend is first year family weekend. The only special event non freshmen have to look forward to during this time is the guest entertainer Cornell invites. My freshman year it was Whoopi Goldberg. Sophomore year it was some impersonator. Junior year (which I missed and am still upset about) it was Stephen Colbert. This year, my final one at Cornell, saw Howie Mandel grace Ithaca with his presence.

Aside from hearing him say, “Open the case” in Deal or No Deal, I do not have any other accomplishment that I can link to him. As a result, I was somewhat unenthusiastic in my expectations. I received my ticket for free, but was still shocked to see that it cost $10 more than a ticket for the same quality of seating to see Bill Maher, who has significantly more clout than Mandel. No wonder Barton Hall was half empty. Nonetheless, I went in with an open mind. Mandel was very enthusiastic, performing in a stream of consciousness dialogue. It was as if he were William Faulkner minus the grasp of the English language. His interactions with the audience can be lauded as well, but overall it was nothing more than average. A nice night of entertainment, but nothing special.  Hedgehogs, cucumbers, parrots, et al made a verbal appearance at some point during his routine. Watching the sign language interpreters with their hilarious signs for “immature” words was thoroughly more enjoyable than half of Mandel’s routine. To his credit, however, he assimilated the interpreters and their signs into his stand-up. That part was a nice infusion of improvisation into an average routine that portrayed his wife as a mindless, shopping crazy woman.

Colin Powell’s Endorsement

It’s a true premise to say that endorsements don’t really have an effect on the election, but those who say that about Powell’s endorsement of Obama aren’t looking deeper into his remarks. It’s not Powell’s actual endorsement of Obama proclaimed on Meet the Press with Tom Brokaw that’s important, it’s what Powell said about American Muslims, the story he told of the family in Arlington cemetery. Finally, it was mentioned that it’s not the fact that people accuse Obama of being a Muslim when he’s not that’s scary, it’s the implied premise that even if Obama were a Muslim that would be a bad thing. As Powell goes on to say, “What kind of message does that send to young Muslim-Americans?” Finally!! It’s about damn time someone said something, that it’s coming from Powell makes it a pretty resounding statement. I hope this is what the news networks report, not the predictable “Powell endorses Obama, did he do it because he’s black?”

Rethinking Bill Maher

Previously I wrote about the enjoyment of listening to Bill Maher’s comedy routine when he came to Cornell. Today, a couple weeks after Maher’s presence at the University I now attend, I have slightly changed my mind. No doubt he was funny, but the elitism/culture war battle is now in full force as the election comes down the stretch and Maher’s chastisement of social conservatives (who deserve to be punched around sometimes) was exactly the type of rhetoric that the right vilifies as East Coast elitism.

As Jed Bartlett always said, for a country that cherishes the value of education, elitism should be a term that is praised, not scorned. It merely means well above average. The problem is, while this is true, there are those who do use their intelligence and speak down to those who have not gone to college or elite high schools…ie: Bill Maher at Cornell and usually in general. There’s a reason why he’s funny. There’s a reason why I was laughing hysterically during many parts of his routine. And there’s truth to what he talks about. But just recently I started thinking about why I was laughing and the feelings behind it and remembered the guy sitting behind me. I could feel the obvious, intense dislike that he was expressing through his laughter, the mocking of a group of people who merely believe in something different than he. It does this culture war no good when one simply fuels a stereotype that is hated by another group. Elitism is good, how it is sometimes portrayed is the problem.

Jed Bartlett and the West Wing portrayed elitism the way it needs to be presented if the culture war started by Nixon will ever end. Bill Maher’s just the Jerry Fallwell of the “elite” left.

Using $750 Big Red Bucks is Harder than I Thought

Friday, which brings along with it the start of fall break, marks the half way point of the fall semester. This also marks my senior year being a quarter over 🙁 (someone please stop time). Upon this half way mark I have come to realize that I can spend more generously with my meal plan. I am used to having about 14 meals per week and $500 big red bucks to use for the semester. Now that I’m in collegetown, however, I’ve compensated and purchased a much cheaper meal plan, 10 meals per semester and $750 big red bucks. I have about 5 meals left and $470 big red bucks. This means that starting on Wednesday (when classes re-convene) I will be leisurely spending my lunch money at the wonderful eateries like Synapsis as opposed to meticulously calculating how much I can spend per day without going bankrupt.

In the bigger picture, this translates to more Beef & Brie sandwiches at Martha’s, pasta bakes and flatbread pizzas at Synapsis, Asian noodle bowls at Trillium, chicken fingers at the Terrace, and hummus and pretzels at Trillium. Food without a budget, what a wonderful concept!

A Night in Mann

It’s midnight and I’m finishing up my take home pre-lim/essay for a government course called American Political Theory. This is only the second time I’ve been in a library this late. I know it’s Cornell and it’s billed as a common experience to pull all nighters (which I have not done) or stay up until 3am studying (which I have not done), but if you organize your time, even the busy student won’t have to spend a night that lasts much later than this one. Technically, if I didn’t watch Heroes at 9, I would’ve been done by now. So prospective high school students, don’t fear the late nights…unless you’re a procrastinator.

Now the end result of this hard work is another story. I feel like I wrote a paper that’s an A, A- at least. But if my experience with graded assignments provides me with any indication of how I will do, I’d go with a B. There’s a reason why it’s called Cornell: Where your best hasn’t been good enough since 1867. Well the actual saying is 1865, but this fine place didn’t open its doors until 1867 so mine is more historically accurate, and in Hollywood that’s what counts…politics is a different story (Sarah “my husband wants Alaska to secede from the union so I’ll just go on calling Obama unpatriotic” Palin).

PS: There’s this t-shirt being sold in Ithaca that says on the front “Palin is gorges” and on the back “and not much else”. Really funny. Hilarious in fact.

Past is Prologue

The biggest difference between the two parties’ candidates (Obama/Biden v. McCain/Palin) can be explained through the title of this blog, a comment made by Senator Biden in last night’s debate.

John McCain lays out the world in black and white. A decision was either a success or failure, something was right or wrong, somebody’s good or evil, a country is either with us or against us. There’s no in between. So it’s no surprise that last night Sarah Palin criticized Senator Biden for looking into the past, seeing the mistakes, criticizing those mistakes, and explaining how they must not happen again. Palin’s response can be roughly paraphrased as: For a campaign that talks about change, they focus so much on the past. For her the past is the past, there is no benefit in critiquing it or learning from it. One must only look at the present and future. Plain and simple. Black and white.

To Palin’s response, the usually superfluous Biden simply said, “Past is prologue.” How profound. You must know the past and learn from the past in order to create a better future. There are nuances that must be understood, there are events that were both a success and a failure. Not everything is purely good or purely bad that it can be ignored by some politician’s ignorance. Biden very simply represented the same ideals that result in the labeling of Obama as aloof or indecisive – the concept that any generic “thing” in the world is more complicated and deserves a better response than just yes or no. There are times where a “maybe” or “yes, but” or “No, except when” is needed to solve a question or problem.

We have a president who embodies the black and white thought process. It’s been an embarrassing 8 years. Black and white and running a country are oxymoronic terms; they don’t mix and one should never try…past is prologue.