Saturday, January 31, 2009

My beef with Uggs...

I know that I should just give up already, but I still don't understand what is so great about Ugg boots, and I really wish people would stop wearing them. Why is this the one fad that refuses to die? Sure, I mean, they're cozy (I did, I am ashamed to say, own a pair at one point in my life), but doesn't anyone have any semblance of originality anymore? There are plenty of other comfortable shoes out there, like moovboots, the wellies lined with sheepskin that I am dying to get my hands on...they're so cute from the outside, that no one has an inkling that your feet are luxuriating in a soft heavenly wonderland. Warm and waterproof...what else can a girl want?

Many things, as it turns out, not least that females within my eyesight graduate to grown up boots, like Frye, and cease to inundate my poor helpless vision with those hideous brown suede "Ugly" Boots (their proper Australian name). They make you look like a fat tourist from Idaho, munching on a street vendor's pretzel while staring star-struck at Rockefeller Center. Please, take my advice, be a little different, and go downtown, buy some, "gasp", vintage boots, and ditch that Vera Bradley/Longchamp bag in favor of a nice leather tote (I particularly am in favor of those from Anthropologie, but understand that they are a little trop cher, vintage is always a more interesting alternative anyway). Only then can my sense of aesthetic rest in peace, happy with the knowledge that people are choosing to resist the devastating tendency to conform.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Diggin' in Mudd: Before the White House Bicker

This document was suggested by University Archivist Dan Linke and offers us a look at the past of one of Princeton's presidential sons.

Sometimes (especially around midterms and reading period) it’s a bit easy to forget just how many important and notable people have graced our fair campus. I mean, it’s pretty hard to forget some of the more celebrated legends, Woodrow, “Scotty,” and Albert, but then there are the unsung alumni, like Jack who was admitted to the Class of 1939 in 1935. And by Jack I mean John.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

That one.

We don’t hear as much about him as we do about Woodrow Wilson, largely because JFK never graduated. We don’t hear as much about him as we do about F. Scott Fitzgerald because, unlike Scotty, Jack actually did go on to graduate from another institution. Adding insult to injury, he actually removed his name from the Class of 1939 roll. I dunno. Apparently spending four years in that safety school up in Cambridge made him feel like a Harvard man and not a Princeton son.

So, don’t expect to see an “Ask not what [Princeton] can do for you” plush tiger in the U-Store any time soon. What you can expect to see however is JFK’s Princeton application, reproduced here in full.

Apparently, aspiring to become an Investment Banker is a long-cherished Princeton tradition. Maybe Harvard changed his mind?
These are scans of photocopies. He wrote in blue ink.
Radcliffe Heermance was the first official Director of Admissions.
He did not start his admissions letters with "YES!"
Maybe that's why he doesn't have a building named after him.
It's illegible here, but the Headmaster's Report reads "Superior mental ability without deep interest in studies, attractive." his school activities are listed as "severe illness."

George W. Bush took a lot slack for his C average, but Jack’s high school transcript shows that there was a long and proud tradition of presidential underachieving. You’ll note that he was in the third quartile in his class at Choate.

My favorite part of the whole thing was his essay: Twelve whole lines of beautiful, gargantuan longhand:


My desire to come to Princeton is prompted by a number of reasons. I feel that it can give me a better background and training than any other university, and can give me a true liberal education. Ever since I entered school, I have had the ambition to enter Princeton, and I sincerely hope I can reach my goal. Then too, I feel the environment of Princeton is second to none, and cannot but help having a good effect on me to be a Princeton man is indeed an enviable distinction.
Ninety-one beautiful words of completely empty prose; as my little brother paraphrased: “I want to go to Princeton, because I want to go to Princeton, except with a better vocabulary.” (I’m told his Harvard essay was much the same.) To be fair, if I was a Kennedy applying to school in 1935, I probably wouldn’t have spent nearly as many hours writing and rewriting my 500-word college essays.

But really, in all seriousness, I think once we look past the immediate instinct to revel in schadenfreude, this application reveals some things, both about the boy who would become one of our most esteemed presidents, and about the history of Princeton and the nature of college admissions.

It’s obvious Jack wasn’t living up to his full potential back in ’39… his headmaster noted as much, and to be completely fair, it’s hard to live up to one’s full potential when one is as ill as poor Jack Kennedy was in his last few years of high school. It was the very fact that he was so cripplingly ill that forced him to withdraw from Princeton after his first semester here.

What’s also made evident by the application is that there was a time when getting into Princeton was actually easy provided you went to prep school and were named Kennedy. My father adamantly refuses to believe me that there was a time when getting into Princeton didn’t require terrible smarts (though I think the last “Diggin’ in Muddcolumn might have made some headway), but before World War II, there wasn’t a terrible demand for university places. Kennedy’s class had fewer than 700 students, and not that many more applicants. (Remember how they were complaining about the GIs in 1958?)

But maybe the most disquieting thing about this application is that it shows just how bad an indicator of potential a high school transcript and college application really is.

Full application is behind the cut, as is a transcript of his essay.

All images are courtesy of the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Any other use of these images requires written permission from the University Archives.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nash Up

It's really incredible how much goes on around us to which most of us are absolutely and 100 percent oblivious. It's a sentiment played on repeat by the administration (and overzealous freshmen) during our four years here. From surprise guest speakers (Karl Rove in the Whitman Dining Hall, anyone?) to the hypothetical monkey lab (has anyone actually been there?), the strangest and most enchanting people are constantly whizzing around our campus while we go about our rather mundane lives, paying library fines and making sure we have passes to the club du jour.

So why all the fuss? Today, sitting in the gallery at Frist, was John Nash. The John Nash played by Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. (Which strangely comes to mind more quickly than his Nobel Prize or invention of Game Theory).

He just sat there, eating, minding his own business. (I can't even begin to imagine what that might be). A few people turned to look at the older man, sitting by himself at one of the largest tables by the window. A few girls made skeptical faces. I only saw three people look at him in delighted awe. At least some knew they were in the presence of academic genius.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural thoughts

Three years into college, going home still inspires a sense of comfort not quite like any other. Aside from the familiar settings and my favorite foods, this sense also arises from my family’s unfaltering encouragement to use my talents to the fullest extent possible. This time home, I was fortunate enough to see President Barack Obama deliver a message that was different in style but remarkably similar in substance.

In his inaugural address, Obama encouraged Americans to recall our nation’s past greatness and to fulfill its potential in the future, much to the delight of the hundreds of thousands who joined my friends and me in the unticketed section of the Mall. We could barely see the podium, but there were deafening cheers whenever any member of the Obama family appeared on the Jumbotrons, and boos whenever W., Dick Cheney or even Joe Lieberman appeared. I had originally hoped to get into the ticketed section nearer to the Capitol, but ultimately I was satisfied with my lot; any group of people too civilized to not boo Dick Cheney is not a group I want to be in.

I felt that there were two parts of Obama’s speech with especially notable consequences for our generation. The first was his unhesitating declaration that the US is “ready to lead once more.” In a time where many public intellectuals are calling for the US to accept a new role as one of many players on the global stage, this statement revealed Obama’s conviction that US leadership remains indispensable.

The second part was the call for Americans to “find meaning in something greater than themselves.” That’s not something that many Princetonians do willingly (I confess to having this fault). If Obama succeeds in instilling a “spirit of service,” he would significantly transform Ivy Leaguers’ career goals and prospects. But this task might end up being more difficult to accomplish than universal health care and the Iraq withdrawal combined.

It was nice to hear Obama say that “we will restore science to its rightful place,” and to hear that we’ll invest more in alternative energy (although I’m not sure about the engineering behind “[harnessing] the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars”). Conversely, the paragraph about defeating terrorism felt cheesy and would have induced eye-rolls if it had come from the lips of W. or McCain.

There were other low points of the day. Getting out of DC was a nightmare, and the inaugural poem didn’t seem like much of one to me (way to go Yale). But overall, it was an unforgettable event that I’m glad I could attend. Shout out to the registrar for scheduling my friends’ and my exams during last week.

The full text of Obama’s speech is available here.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sitting, waiting, wishing?

Finding a seat was easy. Military ushers moved you to your spot. My seat was in Orange 16.

Sitting with me were former interns, people who work on Capitol Hill, President Obama campaign workers, donors and also Princetonians, including Jonathan Johnson '06.

It was cold and everyone sat waiting with excitement.

It was quiet, although we could hear chanting from further down the mall. As the dignitaries filed in many were met with cheers. Sen. Ted Kennedy received chants of "Teddy." The reaction to President Bush was slightly different, however. While the front sections were quiet, we could hear the crowds further down the mall singing "Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye."

When Obama arrived, the cheers were deafening.

-- Kate Benner '10


Daytrip? Not quite.

Traveling from Alexandria to the National Mall along with 2 million other visitors was an experience. It started early. I arrived at the Metro station at 6:30 in the morning while the sky was still dark. It became quickly clear that it was going to be impossible fit in one of the blue trains headed to the mall. The trains would arrive and the doors would open, but there would be no room for anyone standing on the cold platform to fit in. I instead took the next train headed away from DC and rode it all the way to the end. We then waited to travel the half the length of the line into DC.

There was so little room on the train; our car had visitors from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Kentucky, Arizona and of course, Virginia. The train would stop and start as we traveled along the route and we were informed of the Metro closings.

When we arrived at Federal Center SW (my metro stop, Capitol South, was closed) we exited and inched along the platform in a line that was double the platform's length.

The whole trip took two hours.

Leaving the city after the inauguration was also an adventure. Instead of crowding the platform metro police controlled the number of people allowed into the station. The line was four blocks long and it took an hour and a half to leave.

-- Kate Benner '10


Oh wow.

Photo by Sarabeth Sanders '09


First brother

Spotted: Craig Robinson '83 sporting orange and black Princeton scarf ... or is that for the Oregon State Beavers?


Sunset, sunrise

Washington Monument at dusk

The Capitol at dawn

By Sarabeth Sanders '09


Sights and sounds

From senior writer Kate Benner '10: "After an epic journey that required that I take the metro to the furthest blue line stop and then take the metro all the way into the city, I've made it. It's amazingly well-organized. Security was very fast once I made it to the orange section. The boy's and girl's choir of San Francisco are singing and harmonizing very well."


Monday, January 19, 2009

Button up!

Staff writer Sarabeth Sanders '09 reports from Washington: people covered in Obama buttons from head to toe outside George Washington University!

Remember this story? Pinning down support for Obama


Change we can blog about

Starting ... um ... NOW!, the Prox will be featuring stories and pictures from our reporters on the ground in D.C. and here on campus about the inauguration of our 44th president. Check back throughout the day tomorrow for coverage, and check the 'Prince's main site for stories and Twitter updates from D.C.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Princeton's Pinkberry: A Twist on Traditional Parlors?


Princeton plays host to a disproportionate number of ice cream shops. We have Thomas Sweet, home of the blend-in, The Bent Spoon, the liberal hippie brightly colored artisan gelato of choice, Ricky's, which is gross and as friends have pointed out, does not actually count, and finally, Halo Pub, old standby of price ranges college students can actually afford.

Now enter, Twist: Nassau Street's newest addition to the town's ice cream parlor fetish. Just when you thought that ice cream parlor redundancy had reached its limit, along comes a shop that offers half-liter cups, a selection of 8 different frozen yoghurts, and at least 37 toppings ranging from traditional M&Ms and nutella, to Pinkberry-esque fruits like kiwi and strawberries. They also offer actual cookie dough. Twist is Do-it-Yourself fro-yo and toppings, weighed after you've finished your concoction: the only limit is your spare change.


Ice cream shops seem to do well in Princeton, but with at least 3 legitimate competitors, it's hard to say how long Twist will be around. It certainly doesn't have the hometown charm of either T-Sweets or The Bent Spoon. Its decor consists mainly of electric yellow and purple walls, (vaguely reminiscent of The House of Cupcakes' horrendous lime green and zebra decor- but I digress). Nor does it have the less than $3.00 price-tag so often associated with locally made Halo. Past establishments in the space Twist now inhabits include Burger King and Saladworks, both of which failed to make the awkwardly rectangular shop work well for them. But, Twist has managed to market one thing well. In addition to being to being an all you can eat ice cream buffet, Twist has a vast array of seating, free Wi-Fi, a Frist-like CNN TV, and the one object that eludes so many of us on this campus: a stapler.

I visited Twist for the first time this week, though it's been open for about a month. Somewhat overwhelmed by my choices, I went with vanilla with approximately 3 pounds of M&M's on top. Other students opted for fruit toppings, or the popular Euro-tart (only 70 calories per bowl, as advertised, I kid you not). There are so many toppings, it would require at least several trips to discover the best combination.

Virginia Byron '10 has been to Twist a few times during reading period and finals. "It's nice that there's so much space," she says, "In terms of studying, I didn't get much done because I kept running into friends." Upon my visit, several groups of girls were gathered in front of the TV or various tables, but it has been known to get more crowded.

To check it out for yourself, you can visit their web site or their store. Twist is located between Bank of America and J. Crew. It's open between 12 noon and 10 pm on most nights, 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. And like its competitors, it too is cash only.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Think Before You Flush: Investigating Toilet Handles

New toilet handles around campus claim to protect against germs. Do they? Find out after the jump.

Earlier this semester, my suitemate Christel Chehoud '11, mentioned that while she was at a precept, the boys commented that they were annoyed with the new UPPERCUT™ Dual-Flush toilets installed all across the University because they urinate standing up. The boys said they found it inconvenient because the new toilets instruct users to flush upward for liquid waste and downward for solid waste which is difficult because they use their feet to flush the toilet. This led her to wonder how clean the toilet handles really were, considering the sign from Sloan company says the handles have a "protective coating" which protects against germs.

We decided to investigate and we obtained 4 petri dishes from her lab and leaving one as the control, we swabbed 3 different toilet handles - two from a bathroom in 1981 Hall, Whitman College and one toilet which was not a dual-flush toilet in Rockefeller College for comparison. We left one petri dish untouched/the control so that you could see the difference.

We left the dishes in a cool, dark environment and after a few days found that protective coating doesn't make it "germ-free". One of the dishes showed signs of mold and of course it smelled horrible (but that's how bacteria is supposed to smell). The two with the protective coating fared better than the dish from Rocky, which was the worst offender, but still -- false advertising?

From Left: Handle from a stall in 1981 hall, Whitman College, Princeton University. (The clear dish on top was our control.), another stall in 1981 Hall, and lastly a non-dual-flush toilet handle in Rockefeller College.

When I contacted the Sloan Valve Company regarding the matter, a spokesman said "While the handle may be coated with a proprietary polymer layer that inhibits microbial growth, it does not prevent or eliminate such organisms." He suggested that cleaning products used on the handles could be impacting the surface of the handles.

He added that the "Princeton men angry about the 'Up' flush" should stop kicking because it could damage plumbing and cause leaks.

Yale, University of California, Santa Barbara and Purdue University have also installed dual-flush toilets, which according to the company's website
saves approximately a gallon of water per flush.

--Tasnim Shamma '11


Reluctantly enjoying bad movies over Winter Break

Normally breaks of any kind are my excuse to immerse myself in a lot of film. My patented daily regimen called “Fareed’s 7 Easy Steps to Cinematic Nirvana” typically goes as follows:

  1. Wake up
  2. Watch a movie
  3. Eat lunch
  4. Watch a movie
  5. Eat dinner
  6. Wrap up the day with one last movie.
  7. Repeat this process until arriving at Princeton.

Although I would have liked to follow my time tested routine during the winter break, it was not to be. Lingering academic work and grad school applications forced me to keep my nose in the books (*shudder*)

When I had a chance to watch any movies, it wasn't any Oscar bait. As a matter of fact, I think two of the films I've seen at the cinema would be more comfortable being a part of the upcoming Razzies.

1. Punisher War Zone

2. Brubaker (a Netflix selection of a pretty good Robert Redford flick from the 1980s. I spent most of the time thinking "he really hasn't aged that much during the period between this movie and 2007’s 'Lions for Lambs.').

3. Twilight (since everyone seems to be weighing in on the cultural phenomenon, what's the harm of one more review?)

4. L'Apprenti (a delightful little French film about a boy who dreams of becoming a simple 'paysan,' a farmer. Oddly enough, rather than transporting me to another world, it only reminded me how some aspects of my native Montanan culture remain entrenched in times past).

Punisher War Zone

Youtube Trailer:

I knew things weren't going to be ideal when the first movie I saw during break was the new "Punisher" movie. Everything you've heard about the movie is true. It's terrible, I mean awful. It's tonally inconsistent, and barring a few choice moments, relies too heavily on neon lights and shadowy corridors to create a "gritty" atmosphere. One of its rare choice moments stems directly from Frank Miller's renowned graphic novel "Batman: Year One."

During a scene the Punisher invades a mobster's dinner party, the lights go out and suddenly a red flare lights up revealing the menacing vigilante (00:46 in the above trailer). In the Miller comic book, Batman gives a foreboding speech telling the mob bosses that their days are numbered. In the movie, however, Punisher (AKA Frank Castle) kills everybody including a random old lady. The initial moment where the Punisher stands on the table illuminated by a harsh red light, seemingly ripped from the Batman tale, was one of the few moments where I thought "this is awesome," instead of “this is awesomely hilarious.".

All of its problems however, do not take away from the fact that the movie is Mystery Science Theater-style fun. I laughed more during this picture than the on-point comedy "Pineapple Express." See it if your tired of great films, and are seeking some visceral, trashy thrills.


Youtube trailer:

"Twilight" is another bad movie that can be enjoyed for somehow making $35 million look like 5 bucks on the screen. The effects are atrocious, and the acting equally so (except for the heartthrob star Robert Pattinson who understands exactly what he needs to do in order to strike a chord with audiences. In fact, he is the only person with any screen presence. It's almost as though the film is deliberately trying to amplify this quality of Pattinson by populating the screen with teenage performers who deliver their lines with all the enthusiasm of a freshly lobotomized R.P. McMurphy). Worse still, the film's pacing is meandering which guarantees that the picture falls into the trap that afflicts many mediocre works, it's occasionally boring (unlike the far worse but often more amusing Punisher).

Its one redeeming feature besides its unintended comedic ones is that the film stands as a meditation on teenage romance by generation trained with abstinence programs. Sex, even physical touch, has been replaced by longing looks and chaste caresses. The central message of "Twilight" appears to be that relationships can only be romantic and worthwhile when every aspect of explicit sexuality has been drained out.

And that's it. The numbers of films screened over vacation have been woefully low. That's one of the sacrifices of making a sojourn to Montana than industrial France during that delightful period when the studios seem driven to put all their best movies out in art-house theaters at the same time. Hopefully, you all have had a bit more luck than me with your choice of films over break, and if you are ever wondering how to spend those many empty days outside of Princeton feel free to try “Fareed’s 7
Easy Steps to Cinematic Nirvana.”


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Unadulterated hypocrisy in Princeton Twp.

College Board unveils Score Choice

After last month's Zimbabwe revelation, some might have thought that the University is the greediest non-profit in Princeton, N.J. Nice to know that the cross-town College Board is giving Nassau Hall a run for its money.

The College Board announced last month that college applicants will soon be permitted to pick and choose which SAT scores to send to colleges. The new policy, called "Score Choice," is scheduled to take effect in March. The College Board claims that Score Choice will "reduce student stress and improve the test-day experience.

Right. Because if students have no incentive against taking the SAT every month until they bank a 2400, their stress will be reduced. That's logic worthy of a 1400. On the new SAT. And we're supposed to believe that the purportedly non-profit College Board doesn't have profits in mind when making this sort of decision.

Let's do a little analysis of how much extra money the College Board will receive. Say there are 2 million students applying to colleges each year, and 1.5 million of them take the SAT. Assume that on average each of those students takes the SAT one more time, at a cost of $45. That would mean $67.5 million in extra revenue each year.

On the bright side, that's much more than the $1.5 million the College Board says it needs to restore the AP Italian exam. Maybe they'll be persuaded to restore it. Or maybe they'll follow the University's example and sit on their millions instead.

The College Board is allowing universities to choose whether or not they'll accept Score Choice. Hopefully, for the sanity of our country's high school students, the University will join Stanford, UPenn and others in refusing to accept it.


Friday, January 9, 2009

The Zimmerman Telegram

A round-up of the week's events with Zach Zimmerman '10

Endowment could fall 25 percent
Following Yale’s announcement that its endowment had fallen 25 percent, President Tilghman sent an e-mail to the University community regarding Princeton’s economic position. In the e-mail, she writes, “Yale has taken a bold step in letting its endowment drop 25 percent, and Princeton is proud to join them in this new and exciting initiative.” This comes in a long line of Princeton being the first to be second.

Wilson School Dean may go to State Department
Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 will likely become the head of policy planning at the Department of State under Hilary Clinton. To do so she will step down as dean, and newspaper headlines across America will be mistaken for a John Grisham novel: Slaughter in the State Department.

Bond ’60 will not seek re-election to Senate
Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond ’60 announced this week he will not seek re-election in 2010. His colleagues on the Hill expressed that they will certainly miss him, but that they won’t miss hearing him introduce himself at parties as “Bond. Senator Bond.” Now, he’ll have to settle for “Bond. Kit Bond,” which just makes him sound like an jackass.
Of course, while Bond ’60 will not seek office, there are rumors M may seek a place in the House of Representations, and Pussy Galore is in talks to head up the Ways and Means Committee.

P-Rides student workers displaced
The University’s new TigerTransit system has eliminated the need for a student-driven P-Rides Express shuttle. Bob Johnson ’10, a rider who is disappointed about the decision, said “Man, I’m really gonna miss all the great awkward conversations I had and the faint echoes of Motown music on the van radio.”

Many other riders are also disappointed by the loss. No longer will students be able to be picked up by a white van with an unknown driver.

Unless they want some candy...

Escaped inmate apprehended
“Marc Harris, an inmate who escaped from a Montgomery Township facility Tuesday morning was caught early Thursday in Vineland, roughly 80 miles south of Princeton.” Unfortunately, my give-a-shit radius is set at 75 miles.

Alumnae in Service
The Prince ran a series on three prominent “alumnae in service” this week with current newsmakers Elena Kagan ’81, Meg Whitman ’77, and Lisa Jackson GS ’86. This marks the first time in Prince history that the photo above the fold has been related to the surrounding articles.

In lesser known news, an early morning printing error at the Prince made the first batch of papers look like the women's community service was for a different reason:

(I went ahead and touched up Whitman's side poofs while I was in Paint. You're welcome, Meg!)

Worst Week Ever
...No, that's it. It actually is the worst week ever.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Um ... what?

You may not think of Princeton, N.J. as a tourist destination (outside of visiting prefrosh), but The New York Times sure does, as they included it in a list of 12 weekend getaways:

For a small town, the academic enclave 90 minutes south of New York City has plenty of big-city activities.
O RLY? Basically, they say you should go to the Art Museum, the Historical Society, Small World, Mediterra and McCarter.