Thursday, August 28, 2008

And War was at the Heart of it all

If there is one thing that should have tugged on the heart strings of all convention goers on Wednesday, it was the words and stories of veterans.

It started when the DNC played video titled a “Tribute to Veterans” that was directed by Steven Spielberg. The soldiers shared the struggles they faced adjusting to wartime and back to the life of a normal civilian. They talked about being afraid for their lives, losing friends in combat, putting pressure on their families to take care of them.

And though CNN played commentary during Major Tammy Duckworth’s speech, her tale is worth retelling. She opened with a story about how when she was serving in Iraq she got wounded and her fellow soldiers helped her to safety. She credited her survival to the army’s policy of leaving no man behind. As she spoke, the camera would cut in and out to behind the podium where convention goers could see that she had lost both of her legs in combat. But the speech was not really about Major Tammy Duckworth, but rather a full endorsement of Barack Obama and his policies regarding the treatment of U.S. soldiers. She said that he would have a “zero tolerance” policy for homeless veterans. She emphasized that it was important to take care of the soldiers when they get back at home, including giving them adequate treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But she also stressed Barack Obama's judgment to know when to go into war in the first place.

But perhaps what brought it home the most was when the Vice Presidential Nominee’s son, Captain Beau Biden III took the stage. He talked about the sacrifices his father made when he took a train from Washington, DC, to Wilmington, Delaware, to be with his family every night. He described his father as a hero who had to face great obstacles to get to become a successful politician. Beau Biden is currently the attorney general of Delaware but he will be going to serve in Iraq in October. Though he didn’t mention his service explicitly, he pleaded with the audience to stand by his father because he won’t be there to stand by him. “Be there because Barack Obama and Joe Biden will deliver America the change they need,” said Biden.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dissidents in Denver

If there is ever a time to stage a protest, the Democratic National Convention is certainly one. It is one the largest assembly of political heavyweights and media giants in one place for an extended period of time. Or at least that's what some activists are thinking:

Yesterday, a pro-life and anti-gay marriage group sparked controversy when they gathered on 16th Street in front of the Sheraton hotel. As they shouted things like “homo-sex is sin", they also traded insults with a group of unconnected pro-choice Denver residents and convention goers. The taunting and bickering between the two groups certainly made those in the area take notice. And a few Denver residents told me they hadn’t see things get that intense before. But the police had things under control and every protest has to get a permit from the city so I’m sure the group wasn’t unexpected.

On Sunday fewer than 1,000 anti-war protesters marched between the state capital and the Pepsi Center. The number of protesters at the march was less than expected, but every day activists can be seen taking their message to the streets of Denver.

The activism spans the ideological spectrum from those who want to “Make Love not War” and “Impeach President Bush” to others who think we should elect "Jesus for President". A group from PETA was driving around in costumes of pigs to protest animal cruelty.

A reporter who covered the conventions in 2004, said the level of protests and activists activities is nothing compared to those sparked when the Republican National Convention came to New York. Go figure.

And where there is a protest there is bound to be people like me documenting the event. Take a look at a few pictures of protests throughout the week after the jump.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What CNN doesn't show you

Associate Editor for Street Naomi Nix '10 is in Denver as a Democratic National Convention volunteer. She and columnist Adam Bradlow '11, who is at the convention as a guest of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), will be blogging about what they see on the ground in Denver.

I first became a political junkie during the last presidential election, when I watched both parties' conventions from my living room couch. But this time around, as I saw the convention live, I noticed a few things that CNN didn’t show me four years ago.

1. It’s like a rock concert. The Democratic National Convention reminded me of the first time I watched a concert live (it was Mariah Carey with my friends’ parents). Like any major performance, the amount of people in one space makes everything slightly chaotic. And of course, the convention will overcharge you for buying a box of nachos, a hot dog or even a beer to take with you into the stadium. The amount of Obama merchandise on hand was unbelievable.

2. It’s one big reunion. There are almost as many people inside the stadium listening to the speeches as there are outside networking with colleges. And the Pepsi Center is certainly equipped to handle the schmooze fest. There are televisions everywhere airing the convention so that people can both have a drink with a friend and watch what’s going on in the arena. Some groups represented at the convention have their own special clubs with an open bar and lounge.

3. Tight message control. Now maybe I was naive, but when I watched the convention four years ago from home, I thought that the fact that everyone in the audience would hold up the same sign at the same time was a miracle of the crowd’s collective thought. But really there are staff members walking around in orange jackets handing out signs to match the order of the various speakers and themes presented throughout the night. They started with “Change we can believe in” and ended with “Michelle,” of course.

4. Security and lunchroom politics are one and the same. Everyone who gets into the Pepsi Center wears a badge stating where in the Pepsi Center they are allowed access. If you a lowly reporter from a not-so-important publication, you may get a badge that says "Arena." The prized badge is the one that reads "Floor," giving you access to anywhere in the stadium. People who have those are mostly delegates or VIPs. “Special Guest” and “Honored Guest” allow you access to the second and third levels of the arena.

5. The party doesn’t end at the Pepsi Center. There are after-parties and after-after parties for the various groups represented at the convention. (Delegates, Black Caucus, Finance Committee, press, etc). Some are exclusive, with catered food and live bands like N.E.R.D, the Goo Goo Dolls and Fallout Boy. Someone put it to me like this: “The Democratic National Convention is like the Super Bowl for nerds.” I tend to agree.


The Chaos at Denver

'Prince' columnist Adam Bradlow '11 is in Denver for the Democratic National Convention as a guest of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and will be blogging periodically about what he sees on the ground.

Thousands of people – students, big donors, delegates, politicians, activists – have all gathered in Denver for what they are convinced will be a historical event. No, I am not referring to my first forays into political blogging.

I am talking about the nomination of the first black candidate for a major political party in America and a man many are convinced will not only be the next president, but a great one of historical proportions. This, of course, means that everyone is trying to get as close to the stage as possible, which is located at one of the longer edges of the ellipse-shaped Pepsi Center. Since no one is happy to simply listen to the rules, sit in their seat, and watch the convention in peace there is almost total disarray as attendees try to hustle their way into lower level seating.

People crowd in the aisles and on the stairs just long enough for security to come around and kick them out. The convention floor itself is in constant motion as famous pols--- John Kerry and Tim Kaine to name two notables--- fight their way through adoring throngs. All this, of course, is taking place as known and unknown speakers are talking to what appears to be a crowd that is more interested in greeting each other. (For example, who decided to let the city clerk of Chicago give a speech? But I digress).

Somewhat similar to a baseball game, as the crowd continues chatting amongst itself, the show goes on. Amidst the chaos, the Obama media machine hums along. Sky boxes are constantly filled with news anchors and Obama surrogates. On the convention floor, there are three media islands where politicians spread the "Change" message. Some journalists even venture into the multitudinous crowd to hunt down politicians and hear the latest taking points. Of course, the stagecraft on the podium is seemingly flawless and tries to project the nights message. At the very least, it hides from the viewers at home the chaos that the convention speakers can see so clearly.

I also wanted to make one quick note on probably the emotional highlight of the evening: the tribute to Senator Edward Kennedy, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. It was an emotional event replete with a video tribute and a speech by the senator himself. Members of the crowd were obviously concerned about his health--- remarking that he looked a lot healthier than he had in the past. One interesting (and poignant) moment came after Senator Kennedy's speech when he turned to greet the dignitaries that were standing behind him. As he turned, he revealed a large bald spot on his head that was a symptom of his surgery. The crowd, which up until that point had been cheering enthusiastically, went momentarily quiet at the shock of seeing such an obvious sign of his bad health. While the Obama campaign may have hoped in part to use a tribute to Senator Kennedy as a way of linking Obama to the Kennedy legacy, the crowd displayed genuine affection for the man and were obviously moved by this part of the program.


'Prince' columnists hold court on Michelle '85's convention remarks

If her husband is elected, Michelle Obama '85 will be the first Princetonian to live in the White House since ... well, Woodrow Wilson.

Tonight was Michelle's big moment in the Democratic convention's spotlight. How'd she do? Six 'Prince' columnists weigh in after the jump.

A full text of Michelle's speech is here. Miraculously, it is also already on YouTube.

Quick, help, somebody's kidnapped Michelle Obama and replaced her with a bland, political automaton! And the culprit kinda looked like David Axelrod!

All kidding aside, Michelle Obama used to speak her mind. This was something of a problem, because just like Joe Biden she needed a mental editor to keep her from blurting out cringe-worthy anecdotes and quotes. For instance, phrases like "for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country" should never be uttered by a politician or political spouse no matter what the context.

This summer, however, somebody seems to have given her a memo that she'd have to change her image lest she cost Barack the election. Since then, we've seen a much different side of Michelle; mind numbing appearances on the The View and insipid profiles in supermarket tabloids now abound. So as we prepare for her speech tonight, I'd expect more of the new Michelle and less of the early firebrand. And if she does start to go off message, I can't wait for the camera to pan to Axelrod waiting in the wings, wincing as he prepares a taser.

-Barry Caro '09 (written before the speech)

Four hours before Michelle Obama's speech, CNN commentators were already briefing TV audiences about the planned contents of her talk. They told us it was going to focus more on Senator Barack Obama's family side, perhaps illuminate his dedication to his family in order to show that he's not just driven by political ambition. Indeed, personal anecdotes featured heavily in Michelle Obama's kick-off speech, but the effect was to give her - not her husband - a softer image.

Her references to being a sister, wife, mother, and daughter respectively, was certainly an attempt to highlight her femininity. Then there was the obligatory coming-home-with-firstborn-in-arms story. Obama is not only a good woman; she is also a good American. After all, she was able to achieve a "piece of the American Dream" and "love(s) this country" just like the rest of us.

As Barry said, Michelle Obama has certainly gotten coaching or learned to say more politically correct things. But the problem is, is America going to accept this new version of Mrs. Obama? Her speech clearly consisted of just the "right" things to say. Perhaps the American public isn't ready for a strong woman who doesn't mention family or her husband's ambitions in every public appearance. But for strength and inspiration, I prefer the uncensored Obama.

-Cindy Hong '09

Tonight was the first time I ever heard Michelle Obama speak. To be honest, I was a little nervous about what she'd have to say. After all, this is a woman who didn't like Princeton. And I had also heard she hates America. Hating America, by the way, is not cool.

You know what is cool? Michelle Obama. No, more than cool: baller. She doesn’t want you to know it, though. Michelle is comfortable enough with herself that she would rather you focus on her inner suburban mom / uninsured urban values-fighter / karate sensei / unemployed coal-mining everyman. Booooooring.

Don't be fooled. Not by how she dresses like the stylish mom down the block; not by the "Isn't She Lovely" stage entrance lifted straight from a Bat Mitzvah choreographer's book; and not by the way she pretends her family is just like your family, and like every other family in America for that matter.

They're not. The Obama family is inescapably cooler than your family. Did you know that Michelle Obama left a fancy-pants law firm to make the world a better place? Well pay closer attention; it was mentioned like three times. While she and Barack were busting their humps servicing the public, what were your parents doing? Working for the man? That's what I thought. Losers.

I was caught a bit off-guard by the utopian mumbo-jumbo towards the end, but definitely am ready to put confusion aside in exchange for hope. Because in case you were wondering, that's what America is built on -- No! Not fear. Why would you say fear. UGH. Hope, people. Hope.

So, basically, I hope you guys realize how cool Michelle is. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that she might be as qualified as her husband to lead the country. I know she's got my vote.

-Matt Kandel '09

I was surprised to hear that the Democrats would be opening their convention on Monday night with Barack Obama’s “bitter half.” But her speech at the convention was, to speak bluntly, “conventional.” No mention was made of her Princeton background, though the penury of her parents and grandparents was repeatedly touted. She tried to sell herself as that most mythical creature, “the ordinary American,” and insofar as anybody ever succeeds at that task, she did.

She showed a vivacity on stage which was only matched by Sen. Edward Kennedy’s earlier address, and although her remarks could have been written by a machine she delivered them with vigor and feeling. At the end her husband showed up by satellite and stole the show as usual; in a few sentences he produced more laughs than all the previous speakers combined. Michelle Obama did not impress me with her content, and her husband can beat her at style, but I think she accomplished what she set out to do: mitigate the image of her as an aloof, angry liberal with a grudge in her heart and a chip on her shoulder, and instead cast herself as a caring lady of compassion and strength.

She still wouldn’t get my vote if she ran for public office, and probably many Americans will want to see a little more love from the would-be First Lady, but tonight she set herself on a new course, and one which will be more likely to put her husband in the White House.

-Brendan Carroll '11


I love how Fox News opens their fair and balanced post-speech analysis with the two top editors from the neoconservative standard bearer, The Weekly Standard.

Michelle knocked this one out of the park. She was warm and yet concise. She blended in Reagan-esque vision of a hopeful, open America with a measured emphasis on the hard truth that many have very good reason to disregard such a vision. Like they do to many professionally-oriented black woman, conservative white Americans have unfairly branded Michelle as an unpatriotic, hard and angry woman who would improperly represent America. Her speech tonight should destroy any such notion and prevent future critics from nasty personal attacks. The focus should remain on purely policy-based critiques.

Michelle wisely emphasized her role as a mother versus her role as a professional or as Barack's wife. We shouldn't be surprised given the fact that she is a highly skilled lawyer, but she was well-spoken and emotionally connective in all of the key points of her speech. The most touching aspects of the speech for me was the story about her father, and I liked the story near the end about a nervous Barack Obama driving home Michelle and their newly born baby. The cynics will label such a story as an obligatory heart warmer, but I interpreted the story revealing how even the Great Barack can be quite vulnerable at moments. He does not float along in life, but has a firm grasp of the tasks ahead of him.

I loved Joe Biden's reaction to Michelle's shout out (that's why we love Joe), but the shout out to Hillary seemed forced, as if it was recently shoved into the speech in light of the past few days of Clinton-Obama tension. The only other awkward moment in my mind was the satellite hook up with Barack Obama afterwards. He didn't seem able to fully hear Michelle and daughters while he was speaking. The screen showed him as he spoke about his gracious hosts, but I don't think the camera actually gave them any face time. The little girl was shouting "Daddy what city are you in tonight?" which was kind of cute but I guess could also signal a certain disconnect between him and his kids. I'm over-reading this probably. ☺

Oh, and Michelle was looking GOOD.

-David Smart '09

Michelle Obama’s speech was well-written and -delivered, but, unsurprisingly, not very special. There were a few prominent themes to the speech, all of which could have been foreseen by even the least adept political prognosticator. The entire introduction and about the first half of the speech were dripping with the language of family and relationships: mother, daughter, sister, wife. There were the tales of the Robinson household and the humbling portrait of Barack Obama as infatuated wannabe boyfriend. It was sometimes charming, but often transparently cheesy.

She also continuously stressed the ideals and values of the working class. In describing the “values” around which she and her husband oriented their lives, she used cliché tropes. Her description of her husband’s accomplishments in the Illinois State Senate could have been delivered at the RNC: moving welfare recipients to work and lowering taxes on the working class, interestingly passing by his stance against legislation to protect babies who survive botched abortions. And, of course, there was the great moment at the end with Sen. Obama in Kansas City: the portrait of the American family.

But in the end, it was all an exercise in political theater designed to humanize the Obamas and targeted at average working class Americans. And herein lies the irony of the speech. The liberal elite in the media and beyond eagerly lapped it up, hailing how Michelle and Barack are just an average couple living the American Dream. They, along with the Obamas and the entire liberal wing of the Democratic Party, think that all it takes to string along these mainstream voters is a bit of well-orchestrated theater. But the blue-collar voters in my home state of Pennsylvania and all over the country are not going to vote for a candidate who only says he shares their values but who denigrates them in more candid moments. And so although it was a fine speech, it’s not going to reassure those Kennedy and Reagan Democrats who will decide this election.

-Brandon McGinley '10


Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Village People: A look inside China's Olympic housing wonderland

A final post from Colin Hanna '11, who is in Beijing for the Olympics:

It is my last day in Beijing, and this will likely be my last post. I'm writing this from the USA House, which is a hospitality house set up in Beijing for US Olympic athletes, sponsors, and other guests. There are free drinks, burgers and dogs, and US Olympic athletes frequently come in for different events and photo ops. This is also the spot to get official USOC gear, which is all very neat. And yet, I can't say this is the coolest place I've eaten free food in the last two days. Yesterday, Doug Lennox was able to get me into the Olympic village! The best way to describe the village is like a college campus.

There are blocks of 5-story apartments that house Beijing's 16,000 Olympians, but there is also a gargantuan dining hall, a fitness center, a store, and a myriad of other facilities. Running through the buildings there are streams and benches where athletes can relax and socialize. The coolest part about the Village is the sheer diversity of the place. I'd contest that even if it only exists a couple weeks every four years, the Olympic village is the most diverse place on earth. When else do you get a gathering of such excited, outgoing people from every corner of the world and pack them densely into an area the size of a few city blocks? The array of languages, facial expressions, outfits, and mannerisms that surround you there really make you realize how secluded we are in our respective walks of life.

I've continued seeing tons of Olympic events, even now that swimming is over. I've gone to see a few soccer games, including the women's semifinal match pitting USA against Japan and the men's semifinal where Argentina played Brazil. Both games were blowouts, with the USA and Argentina dominating their opponents. But the level of soccer and the players on the field (Ronadinho, Messi) were truly astounding. The Chinese fans are all very fond of the wave, which the announcers and scoreboard consistently prompt the crowd to perform.

Also, now that many athletes are done competing, the party has truly started. The night life here has been a lot of fun and it gets taken to another level when you realize that across the bar there's a world record holder or that out on the dance floor is a gold medalist. There are a few athletes I've been asked to get autographs from and as a spectator it's very hard to do so. Luckily, I've run into a few of them while they're out and was able to not only get an autograph and a picture but also talk to them about their sport, their training, their upbringing. What's best is that there are only a handful of athletes who really have to worry about getting swamped while they're out. The rest, however accomplished or famous they may be in their respective spheres, are approachable and friendly, happy to share a drink or maybe just a story.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Only gold counts: Nationalism and the medal count

More from Colin Hanna '11, who's in Beijing for the Olympics:

China has won 39 gold medals at this Olympics. With an entire week of competition left, China has already won 3 more golds than USA did four years ago, when the Red, White, and Blue topped the medal standings in Athens. Sure, the AP and other news sources may be ranking by total medals, in which the USA maintains a slim lead, but there's no doubt that here in China only gold pays the bills.

Amazing pic after the jump.

Every medal table shown publicly here in Beijing shows China solidly at the top. Chinese athletes are visibly disappointed when they fail to win gold, even if they've given the performance of their lives. There's an aura of pride here that is intoxicating. Last night as the USA played Japan in the women's semifinal soccer match the most flags in the stadium were the red ones with yellow stars. It does not matter who's playing, which event it is, whether it's a gold medal match or a qualifying round, Chinese fans show up to have a great time, share in their collective national glory, and show the rest of the world that in the 21st century, China is not settling for silver and bronze.

These beleaguered vehicles dot the Olympic green


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cheers and Logistics: Watching the games

More from Colin Hanna '11, who is in Beijing for the Olympics:

A week has passed since the Olympics started. I thought it was time I checked in and shared some general impressions as well as memorable moments.

Thus far, my experience at the Olympics has been spectacular. As of tonight I've seen five swimming events at the Water Cube, a couple of water polo games, the men's gymnastics all-around final, a USA soccer match, and a track and field session at the Bird's Nest. The events I've gone to have all been well attended, but are by no means sold-out. This is depressing. Especially when I personally know a few sets of parents in Beijing who have had trouble seeing their own children compete.

Beijing has done a spectacular job with their venues. Every one I've seen is clean, elegant, and mostly well designed. That said, there are significant problems with the Olympic Green itself and with how the Games are being administered. The Olympic Green is a 12 sq. km area in northern Beijing that is well developed but a bit sparse. Attending Olympic events one finds oneself doing more than a fair bit of walking. Only spectators with tickets to events held in venues on the green are allowed in, and even then only for the day that the spectator has a ticket for. This means that not a lot of people are found relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere of the Games. For sponsors, these rules have meant that the daily number of visitors to their booths and zones have fallen far short of anticipated figures. There is also no food court to be found on the Green. There are snack bars that sell the same limited array of food at every venue, as no food or drink can be taken inside. Last but not least, taxis are not let anywhere near the Green unless they are carrying a ticketed passenger. There are no organized taxi queues for people who are leaving events. I had to walk around for close to an hour tonight in order to find a cab, and I drove by hordes of people still searching for a cab.

Apart from these few complaints, the Olympics have seemingly run smoothly and successfully. China is a proud nation itching to show itself off to the rest of the world. At any event in any venue, you'll find that when a Chinese athlete is competing, underdog or favorite, win or lose, the atmosphere intensifies tenfold. It is not simply the planning and preparation that has helped see China to a strong lead in the gold medal count. Home field advantage is palpable here. Many visitors, myself included, find ourselves supporting the Chinese athletes as well. I watched a China vs. Italy water polo match the other day, and I can say that in general the feeling in the stands when a Chinese runs a best time or scores a goal or wins a heat borders on euphoric. Sometimes this atmosphere seems exclusionary, as when I heard a young boy remark to his father in Chinese, "Daddy, don't watch this race! There are no Chinese in it!" But more often that not the locals are simply cheering on their heroes, and with grins and cheers are inviting us to do the same. After all, there is something to be said for a crowd that continues to cheer their team on passionately even after they fall behind 8-2.

I've watched some amazing swimming while I'm here. During the morning that the men's and women's 100 back, women's 100 breast, men's 200 free and other events were swum I had front row seats. I also got to witness some great swims by Princeton's very own. As mentioned earlier, Bryan Tay '12 had a fabulous swim in the 200 free early in the week. Doug Lennox '09 also had great swims in both his events, the 100 and 200 fly. In the 200 Doug was out quick, leading the field at the 100, but ended a little slower than his best. In the 100 Fly that took place on the 14th, Doug swam an awesome swim in a lifetime best of 53.34! Don't let that get you too excited though. While watching Doug, I and some other Princeton supporters decided to take off our shirts and swing them around while cheering. We were immediately swamped by Olympic volunteers shouting for us to sit down and put our shirts back on. A swimming pool is not a suitable place to be topless.

I must say, the water cube is a jaw-dropping pool. From the deck the ceiling is translucent and one feels fast just walking into the place. Seeing track and field tonight, the Bird's Nest gave me the same jitters. Both structures are truly iconic.

Well, I best be off as it is getting late. I have many more stories to tell and will be back with them soon.

Yi hou zai shuo!


America's Best Colleges, as given by Forbes

As much as I hate to make fun of any ranking that puts Princeton at #1, I (along with readers of IvyGate) find myself very concerned about how Forbes compiled this list. Calling themselves the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, they take into account the following five criteria:

1. Listing of Alumni in the 2008 Who's Who in America (25%)

2. Student Evaluations of Professors from (25%)

3. Four- Year Graduation Rates (16 2/3%)

4. Enrollment-adjusted numbers of students and faculty receiving nationally competitive awards (16 2/3%)

5. Average four year accumulated student debt of those borrowing money (16 2/3%)

Hm. Analysis after the jump.

  1. One thing I notice from the comments is that a lot of people seem to be confusing the publication Who's Who in America with Who's Who Among American High School Students and related publishing scams.

    The latter comes in the mail to most high school and college students (I wish I could remember what the college version was called now, but I'm afraid my trashcan swallowed it up rather quickly), and doesn't actually mean anything. In fact I'd be rather ashamed of my school if we ranked #1 on the list of Most Likely To Fall For Scams Playing On Our Considerable Vanity.

    I believe that Forbes, on the other hand, consults the directories published by Marquis Who's Who. Rankings are always subjective, of course, but at least this one has some actual value.

  2. I get that they want to take a new approach to college rankings, look at it from a student's perspective, but I'm just not sure if does the trick.

    Actually, I'm really sure it doesn't do the trick. Next.

  3. Well, at least that's nice. If you enroll in a college, you probably want to graduate, and hopefully on time. It comprises a rather big percentage, but I accept that this is an important factor of a college's quality.

  4. Awards are good too, I like awards. On this page, the CCAP explains that they're talking about awards like Rhodes Scholarships and Nobel Prizes. I think that's great! But wouldn't you think that this was more important than Who's Who?

  5. Finally, the average accumulated student debt. I'm slightly worried about how this figure might be skewed in favor of wealthy students (who may not need to borrow at all), but Princeton does brag about its financial aid program, and who knows, that might be what's doing the trick for us.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Guess what, guys! We are the 0.0000001% of the world.

Apparently the P'12 facebook group makes for a good read. At least we know the freshmen aren't boring!

Allow me to paraphrase:

Dear Class of 2012,

I invite you to nurture a sense of entitlement now that you have proven yourself superior to the rest of the human race. You should try everything, regret nothing, and break a lot of laws while you're at it. Pain = gain. Also, please do conquer the planet.

Add some bizarre analogies, a couple hundred words, and a steadily declining coherency, and you've pretty much got Stephany Her RoyalHighness's much-acclaimed post in the Princeton 2012 facebook group.

A facebook search no longer turns up her name, but the Princeton directory still admits that she exists. Gawker also makes its sarcastic response, although appropriately enough, I found the post just as hard to wade through as Stephany's manifesto. (And if you really don't care where we went to college, what are you doing reading IvyGate? Actually, for that matter, what am I doing reading IvyGate?)

As for the speech itself, it was literate enough for facebook, a cross between pep talk, commencement speech, and fanatic anti-sermon. Numerous SAT-type grammatical errors, but who am I to nitpick.

And maybe I'm not in the best of mental states, but I do think I could find some motivation in her speech. I tend to find more amusement, though, especially since she seems to lose interest by the end and her rousing missive rapidly frays to inanity:
This is the death of dynasty. The authorities may make the rules, they may think they have control, but we cannot forget we are Princeton. We are her blood and her bile. And we are the generation they have never seen before.
We are the anti-Christs to save the world from the mercy of God, the self-pity that festers within the masses. Religion is the opiate of the masses, so drug them until they are nothing but slaves at your will. You have deserved this. You are Hitler the fourth, Alexander the Great the Second, Napoleon the Fifth, here to destroy the world we know.
We are history because we are the winners.
Anyway, I'm pretty glad I'm not '12, because I'd sure hate to be Princeton's bile. I'm fairly certain that '11 is at least marginally less disgusting, like marrow or adrenaline or something.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Well-contained Excitement: The Olympics begin

Another update from Colin Hanna '11, who's in Beijing for the Olympics:

And the Olympics are underway! Olympic fever has gripped the city. During the Opening Ceremonies, I was told 50 percent of the city's taxi force (the method of transportation most foreigners use to get around) was glued to their TV sets. Let's just say getting a cab that night was as easy as getting into TI on members' night. I watched the Opening Ceremonies at a pub in the north of the city. While the TV was small and the speakers wimpy, during the Chinese national anthem, our entire pub stood up, hushed anyone still chattering, and respectfully remained quiet throughout the entire song. The nationalism in the air here is pungent.

So far, I've had the good fortune of attending two of the swimming sessions. Traveling to the Olympic Green was relatively easy using the subway, and once I arrived, it didn't disappoint. The Bird's Nest is MUCH bigger than it appears in photos, it's positively massive. The Water Cube's bubble-inspired structure is also awe-inspiring, especially at night when neon lights and letters can be projected onto its transparent walls. The swimming has been quick. Much has been made of the fact that the swimming finals are being held in the morning. And while I'm sure NBC paid handsomely to "convince" the IOC that this was in the best interest of the Games, I'm not sure it was. While it doesn't seem like much has been sacrificed in terms of swimming performance (though this morning's women's 400 free final was considerably slower than last night's heats), the atmosphere of an evening final cannot be replicated in the morning.

More photos after the jump, including two pictures of Princetonians in Beijing with Olympian Doug Lennox '09.

I had tickets to Sunday's (Aug. 10) finals in the morning where Michael Phelps smashed his old world record, but even though me and my hosts arrived more than half an hour early we got into the Cube 5 minutes late thanks to the ridiculous security measures taken here by the Chinese. As you walk through security, they ask you to use every piece of electronic equipment on your person. If you have a camera, take a picture, a phone, make a call. Multiply this by thousands and you have lines extending out the wazoo! A significant portion of that first final's spectators weren't in the stadium by the time the heats started.

The Games have really seemed to gripped the city. Last night was the long-awaited USA vs. China basketball game, and again it seemed like many taxis had taken the night off. The entire staff of the restaurant I ate at last night had gotten together to watch the Games, postponing their work and eventual return home.

Yesterday, the Princeton community in Beijing got together to celebrate our Olympians (see picture below). Swimmer Doug Lennox '09 (representing Puerto Rico) made an appearance but we also celebrated the numerous other Princetonians competing here. Also of note, swimmer Bryan Tay '12 swam the swim of a lifetime last night dropping 2 seconds in the 200m Freestyle. He was roughly 4 short seconds slower than a man you may have heard of: Michael Phelps! Luckily, I've managed to get ahold of tickets to see Doug swim his 200m Butterfly tonight at the Water Cube. In fact, I've got to get going, I'd hate to be getting frisked while Doug is in the water doing the Orange and Black (as well as the Red, White and Blue) proud!

Yi hou zai shuo!


Prox blocked in China

Our man in China tells me the Prox is not accessible from China, which is why I'll be posting his next post for him in just a few minutes.

As an editor of this blog, I find this mildly flattering/funny.

To the right, please find Jingjing, who meant to remind internet users in China that "the Internet is not a place beyond of law."


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Intrepid Journalism files: The Kappa Obession

So, as the 'Prince' reported, authorities have said that an obsession with the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority links accused anthrax-mailing mad scientist Bruce Ivins to Princeton, where some anthrax-laced letters were mailed from back in 2001.

Say you're a clever New York Post reporter writing a story about this Kappa obsession, tenuous though it might be. Do you make some phone calls? Stake out the sorority house? (Oh wait, never mind.) So, it's down to this: write on their Greek life facebook application's wall, and see if you get any bites.

I am a reporter with the New York Post. We were hoping you would be available for comment or a phone interview regarding Bruce Irvin, [sic] the man suspected of carrying out the anthrax mail attacks. We received information that he was obsessed with your sorority and mailed the letters from a mailbox on your street. [Editor's note: ??] Story is on Page 7 of Tuesday's Post.

Please call us as soon as possible,

Kelly McGee
Oh yeah, I'm sure they'll get right on that.

I'm not sure how journos think that students use facebook, but, for future reference, writing on people's walls should be limited to:
1) Happy birthday wishes
2) Inside jokes that ostentatiously demonstrate the depth of a friendship
3) Negotiations about what time dinner should be

On a side note, award for the summer's worst pun is hereby unilaterally awarded to the Post for calling its story about the Ivins' suicide "Spore Loser".


Orchestrated Jubilation: Beijing on the Brink of the Games

During the next two and a half weeks, Colin Hanna '11 will be blogging from the Beijing Olympics, giving the Princeton community an insider's look at the excitement and controversies of the Games.

Pollution has been discussed at length. I grew up in Hong Kong, and even by those standards the pollution here right now is pretty abysmal. For years China has been making promises to curb factory and vehicle emissions to a level where pollution would become a non-factor for athletes-that has not happened. Today as I awoke I could barely see several hundred yards down the road, and the Opening Ceremonies are tomorrow night. High performance athletes in outdoor events are arriving in Beijing to give their best efforts. Unfortunately, the conditions here may mean that we may not see these athletes realize their full potential.

Many of the most intriguing conversation I've had thus far in Beijing have been with the city's many colorful taxi drivers, when I've been able to catch one.
Due to the rationing of vehicles on the road, it seems the demand for taxis have increased, and with higher gas prices, the number of taxis have decreased. Catching a taxi, especially during rush hour, can be quite the ordeal. Dancing goofily in the middle of the road is an effective tool though. The drivers have expressed a well-rehearsed excitement of the Games, which are actually quite distant from the typical Beijing resident. They mention that the police in military presence in the city have increased sharply in the weeks before the Games. One wonders whether or not at the conclusion of the Games we will see these numbers fall to pre-Olympic levels.

Security is tight all around the city. Athletes have been sequestered in the Olympic Village and the average person cannot get close to facilities without a ticket, credential, or corporate connection. Beijing has enlisted 400,000 volunteers, some sporting nostalgic red arm bands, to keep the city's streets peaceful and friendly to visitors. The number of Olympic volunteers at this Games shatters previous records, and by some accounts doubles the number of foreigners expected to arrive here for the Games.

Beijing has changed vastly since the last time I've been here (5 odd years). Most of the changes have come in the past few months. A new airport superhighway just opened on July 30th. Most big roads also have dedicated "Olympic Traffic Only" lanes, which only serve to worsen traffic in the others. Innovative architecture dots the skyline, the Bird's Nest, Water Cube, are all significant examples of structural art and the as yet incomplete CCTV tower reinvents the notion of the modern skyscraper. These buildings seem to be rare sources of innovative creative expression. Also, a new subway has been put in place for the Olympics which I took today. The subway is air-conditioned, clean, and cheap. It looks to be a positive lasting legacy of these Games.

Luckily, over the coming weeks I will have a chance to witness many Olympic events, and plan to talk to some athletes about their experiences. I did hear that Amanda Beard, an American Olympic veteran swimmer, commented that the Olympic Village here is the nicest she's seen. I'll also have a chance to catch a baseball game with the US ambassador to China, I'm curious what we'll be singing during the 7th inning stretch. Anyhow, please come back soon, I'll be doing my darndest to continue making it down to the free WiFi at Starbucks (yes, they are in Beijing too!) and to keep you abreast of events here as they unfold.

Yi hou zai shuo!


Saturday, August 2, 2008

What I want to know is who are #s 1 - 13...

So, the Princeton Review (no association with the famous university) has apparently come out with the new rankings for their oh-so-useful college guide. Following are what Princeton scored on the Review, extracted from IvyGate, along with commentary.

#14 Best Classroom Experience

What I want to know, is how does it get better than my Dante/Italian lit/French lit with Paul Fournel/Animation/Intellectual History/Junior Seminars?
#20 Students Study the Most
Meh. I buy it.
#2 Best College Library
Today, I went to the Escorial, where they told us that the castle has the second greatest christian library from the period. I was kind of disappointed, until the guide pointed out that the best is housed in the Vatican. Duh.
#1 Students Happy With Financial Aid
That's going to change, but I have to say, no complaints.
#2 School Runs Like Butter
How exactly does butter run?
#3 Happiest Students
Except during midterms and reading period, right?
#1 Most Beautiful Campus
How many Yale students does it take to screw in a light bulb? None. New Haven looks better in the dark.
#3 Best Quality of Life

#3 Most Politically Active Students
1968 it ain't.
(The guide says: “Princeton is a lifestyle, not a school,” and, “Your average Princeton students wants to run the world, not change it.”)
I totally agree--if this were 1950. The age of Princeton as the most comfortably country club in the nation is over, Princeton is a school. And it is an extremely good one.

Can't argue much with the second point, though, again, 2008 ≠ 1968.
The full IvyGate blog post can be found here.