Monday, February 28, 2005

Study Break Sarcasm

The following line in "The Next Einstein? Applicants Welcome"in the Science section of the Times caught my eye while procrastinating:

"With Whitehead as his publicist, Einstein was on the road to becoming the Elvis of science, the frizzy-headed sage of Princeton, the world's most famous Jew and humanity's atomic conscience."

"The world's most famous Jew?" What does that make Jesus, chopped liver?

Beer-soaked Pearls of Wisdom

I usually like the columns of Daily Dartmouth writer Dan Knecht '05. His op-ed earlier this month, "The Monolith on the Hill", about the overpowering nature of liberal thought at Dartmouth was one of the most widely-read and well-received columns in recent memory, and I agreed with a lot of what he said. So it is disappointing to see Knecht follow up that very intellectual piece with "Cleaning Up Our Act," an article about the disgusting nature of the average frat basement. While I agree with his overall thesis, that fraternity members should do a better job of keeping their social spaces clean, the way in which he made this point stepped over the bounds of sarcasm and into the murky area of over-reliance on stereotypes. One section in particular stands out:

"Most females actually dress up! Freshman girls are notorious for this asinine behavior. They cake on make-up, coif their hair, break out the Louis Vutton and shine their shoes.

A few weeks ago, one eager freshman girl strutted up to me in a frat basement and boasted to me about her authentic Tahitian pearl necklace that she currently was wearing. Having barely completed her sentence, some intoxicated brute bumped into the freshman, causing her to dump the remains of her beverage onto her Lacoste shirt, dousing the necklace. A distraught look appeared on her face, though it immediately vanished. She instinctively recalled, "Frat dudes don't dig glum chicks." And surely she consoled herself by the thought that daddy would obviously buy her a shinier pearl necklace for having braved such emotional trauma. This scene is not uncommon in the frats. Well-groomed girls enter fraternities as if entering a Milan fashion show. Hours later, they exit reeking of beer and smoke, stained with mud and muck. This sort of activity must be a boon for the dry-cleaning business at Dartmouth."

Now I'd never imagine myself defending a freshman, since as a "seasoned" upperclassman I view '08s with the same disdain that I'm sure the 06's felt towards me last year. Still, while I do occasionally fall back upon the stereotype of the over-dressed, over-eager freshman who has not yet learned that it is necessary to have designated frat attire, Knecht's ability to roll this many stereotypes into one paragraph is astonishing. Materialistic? Check. Overly-made up? Check. Label-conscious? Check. Daddy's girl? Check. Spoiled? Check. Willing to mold herself to their expectations to snag a frat boy? Check.

When members of fraternities see nothing wrong with openly relying on these stereotypes, it's no wonder that the Dartmouth social scene is so unfriendly to women. Maybe in addition to cleaning up their basements, fraternities should clean up their attitudes too.

Summers' time

Today the media is full of articles commenting on the on-going controversy over Larry Summers' unscripted comments to a room full of economists last month. On the op-ed page of the NY Times, Harvard grad Adam Cohen notes the role of the internet in making the debate transparent and eroding the privacy that used to contribute to a university president's power. (log-in required). Two economists look at the issue of how scientists are made, not born, and the strides women have made in increasing their representation in science. And over at the Weekly Standard, Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield argues that in its current incarnation the feminist movement is not helping the debate.

For anyone who has been under a rock or not attuned to the blogosphere, Summers made a number of comments calling into question the idea that men and women are biologically equal and suggesting biological differences as one of many reasons for the lower numbers of women in Science and Engineering. While these comments were the initial spark for controversy, the debate has now expanded to address issues such as Summers' overall behavior and role as President of Harvard, and the influence of the media on the resulting controversy. Summers had previously been criticized for his "bullying" style of leadership and his previous run-ins with the arbiters of political correctness during his publicized disagreement with former Afro-American studies chair Cornel West (now at Princeton). These issues have now become integral to the debate, putting Summers' job in jeopardy, with the faculty considering a vote of no confidence. From the perspective of a Dartmouth student, it is fascinating to watch how the debate about Summers' behavior, which really should be limited to Harvard students, faculty and alumni, is now a national one because of Harvard's unique status. If this is one of the results of a higher profile for a university, perhaps Dartmouth's relative (to Harvard) obscurity is not such a bad thing.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Numa Numa Hits the NY Times

As much as I love the Times, you have to admit that when it reports on an underground cultural phenomenon, the joke is officially dead. So say goodbye to the cool factor associated with watching the video of the kid dancing along to the Romanian pop hit "Dragostea Din Tei," or any of the videos spoofing it.

Also of note in Sunday's Times:

Dowd calls Bush on the hypocrisy of lecturing Putin about how to run an open democracy when our American system is so plagued by problems. Extra points for working in a reference to Condi's dominatrix boots.

Feel bad for Paris Hilton! How would you feel if your personal privacy were invaded and the contents of your mobile phone published on the internet? Although if your password is your dog's name, you are obviously not taking adequate precautions. While the whole sidekick scandal does raise interesting points about the threats to privacy in this digital age, that concern is outweighed by the humor of watching Paris shill for the sidekick in T-Mobile's latest ad campaign. It's hot!

Those unsure of the laws of Kashrut can now take to the internet and check out NY State's online registry of Kosher laws and products. Oy!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Yes Virginia, there ARE Liberals at Dartmouth

Everyone here in Hanover is too opinionated for their own good, myself included. This, however, is not reflected in the political and cultural weblogs of Dartmouth students, alumni and faculty. As Bradford Plumer pointed out on Economics professer Andrew Samwick's VoxBaby, Plumer's own blog is the only liberal Dartmouth-related one that he knows of. All delusions of grandeur aside, this is an attempt to even things out by bringing a slightly more moderate view to issues involving both Dartmouth and the world at large.