March 24, 2011

Bachmann Exploring a Run

Michele Bachmann (R-MN) of Tea Party fame is toying with a run on the White House. This would make for an outstanding debate. Amongst her many memorable comments include encouraging Minnesotans to engage in an armed revolution and leading her own witch hunts against "anti-American" members of Congress.

She would, of course, lose the primaries. But it would be endlessly amusing to watch Republican presidential candidates balance the need to win over the Tea Partiers who support her with the desire to not torpedo their general election bid. Best of luck to them on that.

March 18, 2011

President Kim's Great Misstep

To date, President Kim has maintained an extended honeymooner's popularity at Dartmouth. Even as Mr. Kim has faced increasing scrutiny from students, he has appeared as strong as ever amongst alumni. That may be about to change.

Though it has received little attention in Dartmouth's mainstream press, Mr. Kim plans on opening a new office in the financial district of Boston, Mass. Mr. Kim claims that the new space -- which will likely cost more than $300,000 per annum -- is a necessary step toward better management of the endowment.

Critics are crying foul. Joe Asch, erstwhile petition candidate for trustee, writes over on Dartblog:

Setting up premises in Boston is hardly necessary for the good management of Dartmouth’s money. The College’s leading investment maven, billionaire Chairman of the Board of Trustees Steve Mandel, does an excellent job running Lone Pine Capital from Greenwich. [...] Technology has brought us a long way from open outcry trading in a crowded stock exchange pit.

March 15, 2011

Dartmouth's (latest) meaningless election

The Dartmouth Association of Alumni must really be trying to reach me. They sent me an email, they mailed me a letter, and they sent me another email all to get me to cast my ballot in the 2011 Trustee and AoA Executive Committee election! And the deadline is only a month away!! With all that effort, this election must be pretty important, so I signed in using the codes they sent to view this ballot:

That's right, one vote for every one candidate. No write ins. No democracy. They even made a handy little button you can press to automatically vote for all of the preselected, election-guaranteed 'candidates'.

March 11, 2011

#13: Seven Samurai (1954) conquers the West of the Far East

(Part of my series on watching every movie in the IMDB's top 250)

What do The Dirty Dozen, X-Men, The Sandlot, The Oceans 11(+ n) Series, and pretty much every heist movie have in common? They all owe their plot lineage to Seven Samurai.

Seven Samurai follows the plight of a farming village in Japan just after the Ashikaga shogunate of the 1500s, and their quest to enlist the support of Seven ronin samurai to help defend themselves against gangs of raiding marauders. What follows is a simple three-act set-up -- the conflict and recruiting, the development and cohesion, and the mission and farewell-- that has come to define such movies made subsequently. As in the modern movies mentioned above, each character is brought into the group because of the unique contributions that he can bring to the mission. The themes of honorable 'hired guns' coming to rescue innocents (especially helpless, undeveloped sexy female characters) from violent lawlessness are all common to American Westerns and therefore will be familiar to modern audiences. However, given the timeframe that the movie was made, it is clear that these themes are meant to send a political message against the samurai-inspired militarist ideals exhibited by Japan in WWII.

March 2, 2011

Social Space: The Long Goodbye

It's long been a cause célèbre for Parkhurst to wrest social spaces from the monopolizing Greek community. When the prime option for students to socialize is a fraternity basement, the argument goes, we would expect higher incidents of drinking and related transgressions.

Curious, then, that the College is announcing the renovation of Thayer Dining Hall into a pay-per-meal venue, where students will have to cough up eight dollars just to enter. Reflecting back on my time in Hanover -- not so long ago! -- I recall many nights spent regaling with friends at Food Court while sipping a coffee and nothing more. Food Court was a safe, comfortable social space for those who wanted to temporarily escape the stress of final exams and term papers. Food Court was, in short, a reliable social space for students to join, relax and engage.

No more. By placing a steep price on entry, few students will care to join a group of friends on a whim. Ate an early dinner? Too bad. You're not likely to pay eight dollars to join your friends' later dinner just to spend time with them.

And what message does this send students, anyway? The all-you-can-eat style surely incentivizes overindulgence and waste. Not to mention the additional cost -- on top of what were already exorbitant DDS prices.

What a curious move, indeed. Why write the rules so that your $30 million investment hinders your stated efforts in other areas of College life?

One has to wonder how students will react to this. Or perhaps if the administration cares at all.

March 1, 2011

Review: Snuff- Where the reader gets screwed.

Reading Chuck Palahniuk's novels have convinced me of one simple fact: that ever since Fight Club, ol' Chuck is coasting.

Snuff tells the story of a come-back-seeking porno actress trying to break the world group-sex record, as told by the 600 men waiting off-camera to screw her. Now Fight Club was and remains one of the most brilliant books I've ever read, but the disjointed narrative style, repetition, disaffected characters, and aggressive violence that served that book so well have frankly flopped in his other work. Instead we are left with a gross and simple little story. Gross in the childish way where the point is to shock the reader but too immature to be effective or engaging. Group sex is naughty. Peeing on a floor where people walk on bare feet is gross. Guzzling ranch dip, scooping it up with the same chip every time, is something mommy would never let us do.