Monthly Archives: April 2011

Evan’s Royal Wedding Drinking Game

This is how we celebrate royal weddings in the US of A!

Are you watching the Royal Wedding tonight/early this morning? If so, why? What are you, some limey, tea sipping Brit who upholds a wasteful and undemocratic aristocracy of inbred halfwits? We fought a freaking war to not have to pay attention to this load.

To quote notable Brit Christopher Hitchens:

A hereditary monarch, observed Thomas Paine, is as absurd a proposition as a hereditary doctor or mathematician. But try pointing this out when everybody is seemingly moist with excitement about the cake plans and gown schemes of the constitutional absurdity’s designated mother-to-be.

So if you must watch this mockery of the ideals for which representative government stands, at least play the proper drinking game.

Rules to Evan’s Royal Wedding Drinking Game

1. Read the Declaration of Independence as loudly as you possibly can! Preferably near an open window or in a public square. Maybe out the side of your car while driving along a major thoroughfare.

2. Drink every time a word is capitalized for no reason. Example:

WHEN in the course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

By my count, that first sentence is 13 drinks.

3. Drink every time the phrasing sounds dirty. Example:

… for opposing with manly Firmness …

Or

He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

Each one of those would be a drink, in addition to the random capitalizations.

4. Chug your drink when you get to John Hancock.

5. Find something from Britain and then throw it in a body of water. We used to do it with tea, but that doesn’t come from the UK anymore. Maybe try some Dr. Who DVDs, a copy of Harry Potter, or a stuffed Paddington Bear.

See you in hell, you tyrannical Monarchist!

There, now don’t you feel Proud to be an American, where at least you know that if some uberwealthy aristocrat wanted to mock the poor with a display of sickening inherited opulence while also asking to be praised for it, you can watch E!/CNBC/C-SPAN.

Did you know that George Washington owned one of the largest Whiskey distilleries of his time?

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The First Day Without KTRU

Who did this?

“We fought Leebron, and Leebron won.”

These were the words sung over The Clash’s cover in the waning hours of KTRU’s broadcast existence. Perhaps given the sudden interest in listening to KTRU last night, a more appropriate song would have been “Big Yellow Taxi.” Or, better known by its lyrics: “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”

Of course, one can wonder just how much fighting KTRU supporters did. The opposition seemed to come in spurts, and largely failed to use the Thresher as a constant megaphone for the movement. KTRU never had a sit-in at the president’s office to force Leebron to personally address student concerns, as occurred at other schools that were eliminating their college radio stations. There was no major fundraising to try to buy the license.

On the other hand, KTRU did get well respected law firm Paul Hastings to file an actual Petition to Deny.

If anything, the opposition to the KTRU sale demonstrated that Rice isn’t prone to usual college protests. Rather, it is a place of goal-oriented pragmatism. Whether this helped or hurt the end goal is arguable. After all, if the current political atmosphere demonstrates anything, it is that demonizing and lies can often get one much further than actual arguments.

But either way, it is finished.

After a night of Twitter domination, 40 years of KTRU memories, and the most eclectic playlist anywhere, Station Manager Joey Yang signed off with a replay of Jesse Jackson’s speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention (I think they mean the 1988 convention), and an appropriate “Fuck School,” by The Replacements.  Luckily, Houston Press’ Rocks Off posted these final recordings.

Joey\’s KTRU signoff

Final KTRU transmission

Rice got $10 million for its troubles. What did we get? One final moment of glory at 91.7, KTRU-FM Rice Radio.

Flashback Friday: Rice Athletics Finally Takes My Advice

Over the past week, four Rice University football players have been arrested for various crimes ranging from theft, to felony possession of a firearm, to possession of marijuana.

Finally!

I’ve been saying for years that what Rice really needs to bring its athletics program up to national par is some grand controversy or scandal. As I wrote back in 2007, “Drugs, violence, sex: there are the signs of true champions. After all, a win is temporary, but a criminal record is forever… ish.” (pdf: Mintz Rice Athletics)

Sure, having a shotgun on campus isn’t raping a stripper, and you can probably find hundreds of students at Rice with a few ounces of pot in their rooms. But at least these football players are on the right path.

Then again, as the Houston Press points out, these crimes may soon be no crime at all:

In Rice’s defense, it should be noted that the crimes the players were arrested for may soon be obsolete, come the success of two political movements: a) the decriminalization of pot, and b) Allowing guns on campus.

These young men should be lauded as personally sacrificing to expose a government gone amuck. Shouldn’t the Second Amendment protect having a shotgun on a college campus? (Spoiler alert: No)

But the funniest part of the whole story is definitely the comments on the Houston Chronicle article. Notably, the comments implying that the football players were all thugs (black)!

Yup, these guys certainly were “thugs” from “the neighborhood.” For example, Cody Bauer, who was arrested for having a shotgun on campus, grew up in the tiny Pottsboro, TX, where he had perfect scores for five consecutive years on the standardized TAKS tests.

Or how about Cade Shaw, who attended Calallen High School, known for its strong Advanced Placement program and being the Alma Mater of former House Majority Leader Tom Delay. I mean, I won’t hesitate to call Tom Delay a thug, but I don’t think undermining Texas fundraising laws is what the Chron commenters had in mind.

And Phillip Gaines, who was arrested on a misdemeanor possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, is from Converse, TX, a San Antonio suburb that is 70 percent white. There he attended Judson High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society. Everyone knows that all the thugs join the National Honor Society.

Finally is Kevin Gaddis, who was charged with theft of property valued between $50 and $500 and possession of two ounces or less of marijuana. He is from Midwest City, Oklahoma. I’m pretty sure that by definition any place called Midwest City, Oklahoma cannot qualify as “the neighborhood.”

These four guys may have screwed up on campus. But a cursory search reveals anything but stereotypical “thugs.” These guys had academic qualifications and attended schools known not just for their football programs but educational credentials as well. These creme de la creme of the Chronicle commenters may tend to the Obama-blaming, race-baiting that makes Chron.com so great, but I still feel the need to assert that Rice is anything but a “bigger school” and has certainly not “lost sight of [its] principles.”

Admittedly, I have never been the biggest fan of the Rice athletics program, viewing it as an underutilized resource that is a financial drain on the university. (pdf: mckinsey report) But there is certainly a degree of pride that a school as small as Rice can make showings in Bowl Games or the College Baseball World Series.

Given a cursory look at the situation, these guys were not thugs. I don’t know them personally, so they may be jerks, asshats, clowns, or any other sort of Rice-centric insult. But that just means they are like every other idiot at Rice who does something stupid. These guys are obviously from “the neighborhood,” that neighborhood just happens to be West University.

Is actor James Franco going to the University of Houston for creative writing???

Ah, thats better.

Uh, going around right now on the Facebooks is a rumor that James Franco, aka Spider-Man’s best friend who then chopped off his arm after being friends with Lindsay Weir, is going to be attending the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston for his Ph.D.

Just check out the CWP newsletter.

Maybe it is another James Franco? After all, it does seem a bit odd that he would be getting his Ph.D far out of the way from his normal stomping grounds in the north east. And he is already attending Yale for a Ph.D in English.

However, James Franco did get his degrees from those schools listed, and does have a habit of attending multiple institutions:

Dissatisfied with his career’s direction, Franco reenrolled at UCLA in the fall of 2006 as an English major with a creative writing concentration. Having received permission to take as many as 62 course credits per quarter compared to the normal limit of 19 while continuing to act, he received his undergraduate degree in June 2008 with a GPA over 3.5. For his degree, Franco prepared his departmental honors thesis as a novel under the supervision of Mona Simpson. He moved to New York to simultaneously attend graduate school at Columbia University’s MFA writing program, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking, and Brooklyn College for fiction writing,while occasionally commuting to North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College for poetry. He received his MFA from Columbia in 2010. Franco is a Ph.D. student in English at Yale University[90] and will also attend the Rhode Island School of Design.

Upon reflection, this doesn’t seem too big of a stretch. If this modern Renaissance Man wanted to get an excellent education in creative writing, one would be hard pressed to find a better program than the University of Houston.

However, given his proclivity towards characters that, say, would celebrate today’s 4/20 date in appropriate fashion, not to mention his performance at the Academy Awards, perhaps one would assume that Franco may be more at place getting his Ph.D. in Weedsmokology.

Admittedly, one shouldn’t doubt Franco’s academic aspirations. While he may seem to be reaching a bit in this manic degree-getting process, I would rather see celebrities trying to better themselves and set out on a path of Eudaimonic aspiration, attempting to be the best at what they do, rather than descend into pits of unproductive rehashing desperate to maintain some semblance of celebrity on reality television. (assume that this sentence linked to, oh, I dunno, Britney Spears? Flava Flav? Whatever)

But if Franco is going to be himself, or at least the public perception of him, then I recommend he spend some time hanging around the Moody Towers, which I’m convinced is not named after Shearn Moody or William Moody, Jr., but rather the Moody Blues. Which one would joke they listen to a lot in the Moody Towers. Because you listen to them while getting high from smoking pot. And the Moody Towers is known for being a place where lots of people smoke pot. So James Franco should go hang out there while he’s getting his Ph.D.

In conclusion, I hope that James Franco hangs around Houston and we can become best friends.

Edit: People currently getting their Ph.Ds in the Creative Writing Program say that while he accepted, he also accepted to several other schools and probably won’t attend the University of Houston.

Or maybe they’re just saying this so they can hang out with Franco and keep him all to themselves and not share him. Jerks.

Vicktor Thesis

As she wraps-up her semester long thesis, my sister Ally shared with us a little bit of what she’s been doing. Behold, The Vicktor de la Panda ben Joseph h’Cohen Thesis: English Bull Dogs in Art.

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me Bluffs Again on Rice University

The hosts and panelists of "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!," from left: Carl Kasell, Roxanne Roberts, Peter Sagal, Adam Felber and P. J. O'Rourke.I want their job so much.

I love Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, the sometimes informative and often entertaining weekend morning news quiz. Sure, the show may have almost killed me as I chuckled while working out at the gym and then nearly dropped a weight on my head. But I’m sure the risk is worth it.

One of my favorite parts of the show is playing along, notably during the Bluff the Listener segment. I’m usually pretty good, given that my insane obsession with keeping up on current events often leads me to hear about the actual event before one of the panelists talks about it. However, sometimes it is easy to exclude options because the facts stated are sheerly wrong. This happens occasionally when they reference Rice University. And it happened again in last week’s show.

Ms. ROXANNE ROBERTS (Columnist, Reliable Source): Like so many basketball fans, Toby Stevens’ March Madness bracket was busted, badly, by the second round, and he lost his bet to best friend Jack Kane, which is why the Rice University business major was wearing boxer shorts on his head to Monday’s final game in Houston.

Was he embarrassed? Well sure. Did the CBS cameras love it? You bet. They showed Stevens at least four times during the broadcast. Is he now a budding internet entrepreneur? Well, yes. By the time he got home from the game, Stevens’ inbox had more than 1,000 fan emails, including an offer from a venture capitalist to launch a, quote, “head boxers” business.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ROBERTS: In the last three days, Stevens has created a website and sold more than 5,000 units at ten dollars each, available in 100 percent cotton or comfy poly blend. His motto? Think outside the boxer.

That actually sounds pretty believable. Rice student have done much stupider thing than wear boxers on one’s head on national television. However, Rice doesn’t have a Business major. Alas, only a Business minor. It passed the undergraduate curriculum committee in a 6-3 vote back in 2007. I would know, I was on the committee, and was one of the three votes against (as the Thresher editorial at the time would hint).

Sorry, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, but my habit of attempting (and usually failing) to turn small microcosms of institutional authority into private fiefdoms wins again.

On an additional note, I tried to find the transcript for a recent Prairie Home Companion, but I don’t think they exist for free. So instead, I wrote down the segment that I thought was really good. Here it is:

Sheep we are. We’re herd animals. We’re terrified of loneliness. Except for at this time of year. We feel blessed. It warms up. The sun shines. The lilacs are almost in bloom. And we feel the great antidote to loneliness, which is each other. Suddenly you wake up in the morning and you’ve moved from Outer Mongolia to the Caribbean and you have fruit and vegetables, and suddenly you forgive all the women whom you used to know. You have no grudge against them whatsoever, anymore. You’re grateful for their affection, you remember them in their very best moments, going back to when you were in high school. You forget all of the jagged things they might have said to you at bad times. You feel grateful for all the people you’ve ever loved. All who’ve loved, there is no mistake in it, they go on forever. You think about yourself when you were 17, the first time you ever lay next to a girl, you lay on the grass, it was in the evening on her parents lawn. Her parents could see you, from the porch, but you didn’t mind that because you lay your two bodies curved together, your face pressed against her hair, your left arm was under her head, your right arm was over her hip, you lay there and you just breathed together, looking up at the stars. And the suddenly she said, “Say something,” she said. It was for just that moment that you had memorized that poem, in English:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,

You said as your arm tightened around her waist on that spring night years ago in Lake Woebegone.

   I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 

That’s the news from Lake Woebegone, where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average. 

I’m Not the Only One Criticizing David Brooks as a Commencement Speaker

David Brooks is this year’s commencement speaker for Rice University. As I’ve written before, Brooks’ contradictions and constant rhetoric about how grades don’t matter may not be the perfect fit for a campus of awkward nerds. However, Brooks isn’t just speaking at Rice, but at Brandeis University as well.

In that context, other bloggers have taken issue with some of Brooks’ writings. Notably, Student Activism addressed a Brooks’ column titled “Virtues and Victims,” which Brooks wrote in the wake of the Duke lacrosse rape scandal and the publication of the no longer relevant Tom Wolfe’s exaggerated piece of FICTION, I am Charlotte Simmons. In that column, Brooks laments the decline of social order and character building in universities.

[E]ducators [from] several decades ago understood that when you concentrate young men, they have a tropism toward barbarism. That’s why these educators cared less about academics than about instilling a formula for character building. The formula, then called chivalry, consisted first of manners, habits and self-imposed restraints to prevent the downward slide.

As Student Activism points out, there is a good deal with which to disagree in Brooks’ yearning for this wonderful past.

There’s a lot to object to in this, starting with the suggestion that all men have the impulse to rape, and that the best of us are merely taught to restrain it.

Yes, college guys can be idiots. And alcohol-fueled, hormone-surging late-teenagers don’t always make the smartest decisions. (Perhaps this is a reason to not let people carry guns on campus). But to refer to rules as “self-restraints” as Brooks does is a sheer fallacy.

Student Activism points to the Berry College Handbook for Women, published by the college’s women’s student government in 1956, as evidence that these restrictions were anything but self-imposed:

DATES — Girls may have dates on Sunday afternoons from 2:45 to 5:00 PM, at parties, movies, and other social events and also at the college store between classes. When girls are coming from the college campus, boys do not escort them farther than the ‘parting of the ways’ which is on the road between the Recitation Hall and Mother’s Building. There must be no dating in out of the way places. Petting is not permitted.

This isn’t self-imposed manners, this is gender segregation. And this isn’t merely a relic of the past. Many current schools, usually ones with religious affiliations, impose strict regulations about men-women interactions. These sorts of rules don’t merely prevent students from learning and growing in an atmosphere of social freedom, but also create a campus potentially hazardous to women. As Student Activism argues:

On the typical American campus of the fifties, students were not taught self-restraint — they were restrained, and they were punished when they were caught circumventing those restraints. If they learned anything about how to behave behind closed doors, it was at great risk, and in defiance of the mechanisms employed to keep them apart. If a female student at Berry College in 1956 consented to be alone with a guy in circumstances that made sex possible, she was in violation of school rules. She was in danger of expulsion. Every man on campus knew this, and that knowledge gave the worst of them great power.

If a woman was treated badly in such circumstances — if  she was raped, if she was coerced, if she was abused, if she was humiliated — she was vanishingly unlikely to speak out. And there wasn’t even any way to have an open discussion about what it meant to be “treated badly” — the campus rules permitted no public dialogue about sexual ethics, no opportunity to arrive at communal understanding about how to behave and how to expect your partner to behave, no space in which to forthrightly compare expectations and experiences.

Indeed, without open discussion, there is no way to learn how to act when one finally does leave the imposed rules of a college campus.

One of the purposes of college is to provide a safe zone to learn how to act in the greater world. Imposing strict rules on students merely moves that learning time down the road until after graduation, perhaps until it is too late.

Rice University allows this sort of freedom not just in its student interactions, but in its drinking culture as well. As a wet campus, Rice allows open discussion of and engagement with alcohol related issues. A recent survey by the Rice Drinking Culture Task Force indicated that transfer students feel that the wet campus increases safety. These students, who have seen what other campuses are like, recognize that policies of openness create a campus of knowledge and safety, rather than ones where potentially dangerous activities have to be hidden.

To conclude, there is a reason that campuses don’t have strictly imposed rules anymore. And it is a reason that Brooks should consider.

This world that Brooks pines for is a world of stifling rules and unequal punishments. It’s a world of shame and exploitation. It’s a world of ignorance and silence.

It is a world that generations of students heroically fought to be freed from.