Light reading: Novels for undergrad

The Rock

Perhaps the best building on campus

College (University, for our international friends) is a stretch of time that seems to exist apart from the rest of our lives. It’s a very particular environment, and one that we’re unlikely to return to. Really, the only ways back are grad school and tenure, two particularly treacherous paths. If you intend to travel them, I can only wish you good luck.

What I feel should get more attention than “the college experience” itself is the clear distinction between the years we spend at school. Each of them brings new challenges and experiences, and while the temptation is there to just call them hedonism “college” and be done with it, there’s something to be gained from approaching each year as its own entity. With that in mind, I recommend each of these novels for a bit of light reading (okay, one of them isn’t nearly so light as the others), one for each year, in hopes that they’ll prove illuminating for the days and nights you spend at Brown. Read them in order, out of order, the one for your current year, any of them, none of them (I don’t recommend his choice, but I’m not your mother), or however else you choose.

Freshman Year: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

As a first year student at Brown, the knowledge you clearly need is how to become romantically involved with someone who is filthy rich.

Continue Reading


Stay, thou art so beautiful: A review of, and rumination on, Whiplash

Whiplash

I was enrolled in a RISD drawing class last semester. The professor had told me that Brown students in his course usually dropped out by midway through the semester; he described it as a sort of drawing boot camp. I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember, and while I wouldn’t say I’m particularly talented, it’s peculiar how lost I can get in the work; hours might go by while I’m working on a few details, and I’d be none the wiser. I figured that I ought to take advantage of RISD being right down the hill, and signed up for this apparently brutal slog as a fifth class. I love drawing, after all.

I dropped the class in mid-October. I regret it. J.K. Simmons’ character in Whiplash, Terence Fletcher, would say that I just “don’t have it.”

The film follows 19 year-old Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) as he studies under Fletcher at Schaffer Music conservatory in New York City, the most prestigious music school in the country. Andrew wants to ascend to the heights of the all-time great jazz drummers, like Buddy Rich, and Fletcher’s ambition is to mold the next great jazz musician, a new Charlie Parker, by whatever means can forge such a talent. Fletcher takes Andrew under his tutelage, to the latter’s initial delight, but the consequences of Fletcher’s drive soon become apparent.

Continue Reading


A brief guide to Senior Scramble

The dead of winter immediately after holiday sweets may not seem like the ideal time for romantic intrigue, but for some of the student body, bulky coats and indoor dates are going to have to do.

Snow suits

An outfit that could never fail to stir the heart

For the uninitiated, “Senior Scramble” describes the phenomenon that occurs when a student (hereafter referred to as the Scrambler) beginning their last semester of college realizes that they live in a place full of interesting and attractive people who are close to the Scrambler’s age and part of their social circle (if only loosely), and that this utopia will cease to exist for the Scrambler within five months’ time. In response to this alarming realization, the Scrambler must throw caution to the wind and act on any attractions they have harbored but never had the courage to pursue. Senior Scramble is a social adrenaline rush; the knowledge that you’ll never have another chance to talk to that unfairly attractive person you had a class with sophomore year is galvanizing. We can’t all be the cure for Alex Turner’s January blues, but we can do something about our own. Here are a few tips and recommendations to help you get in the correct mindset for this semester.

(Note: I’m assuming your crush is single, or that you have no knowledge of their relationship status at all. If you’re attempting to get Jessie’s girl, that’s an entirely different game. I don’t feel I can wish you good luck, scoundrel, but I won’t wish you ill fortune either.)

Continue Reading


“Write Drunk, Edit Sober”: A guide to final papers and assignments

With finals upon us, I have no doubt that many of you, like me, have classes that require final papers. They tend to loom over your week, your every waking moment dogged by the thought that you could be making some progress on an essay. At least with in-class finals you can tell yourself you’ve done all the studying that will be beneficial. A paper is in the back of your mind right up to the moment you pass the minimum page threshold, and even then you have to worry about editing. Under this level of stress, you might find yourself with some stubborn writer’s block. Fortunately, you can get around this in much the same way you get around stalled conversations: alcohol. Let your mind run free to get a draft done, then return at a later date to look upon your work and marvel at your typos. Depending on the assignment and the subject, you can indulge yourself with varying levels of inebriation. Let’s get down to business.

Books

Hm, it seems I’ve stored my books beneath my booze. There’s only one way out of this.

Problem Set

Drink: Coke Zero

Drunkenness: You on your tenth birthday

This isn’t technically a final paper, but it is a take-home assignment that you have to write things on, so I’ll say it counts. Anyway, I hate to be the fun police here, but I can’t imagine successfully doing math whilst inebriated. If you can navigate the sea of numbers and party at the same time, then go for it, you beautiful lunatic.

Research Paper

Drink: Beer

Drunkenness: Out to dinner with close friends

Please note that I’m assuming you’ve already gathered the necessary information and references on which you’re basing the paper. If all you’ve got is a vague idea about what you want the subject to be, I’d suggest leaving the libations on hold.

A research paper is less about inspiration than precision. You don’t need to stir the reader’s heart with stunningly beautiful prose; you just have to make sure your arguments are concise and airtight. Drinking too much will work against this, so get a good beer and use it more to relax and enjoy the process of writing than to inspire the writing itself. If your only experience drinking beer before now is through funnels or Natty Light cans, you’ll want to slow down your pace. You can’t afford to black out burn out too early. Research papers are frequently 10 to 15 pages in length, if not more. Take your time.

Continue Reading


In defense of Grad Center

grad-center

“These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, really though/ There are no hedge-rows, just look”

 “Where are you living this year?”

“I’m in Grad Center.”

“That sucks.”

That was a conversation I had within seconds of meeting another Brown student over Thanksgiving break, who happens to be a friend of my cousin. It was not an unusual interaction in the slightest. The Graduate Center is not held in high esteem by the student population at large, and I admit that I take the occasional potshot at it. But today is going to be different – today, I shall avoid the quick and easy defamation of this cinder block citadel and explain why Grad Center is actually a nice place to live. This is my second year living in this dorm thanks to the potent combination of my apathy towards the housing lottery and my bizarre and fragmented sleep schedule. Am I exposing the truth, or is this a textbook case of Stockholm Syndrome? I leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide.

Grad Center Bar

The GCB is great, no question about it. But how often do we consider what the first two letters of that acronym stand for? Without Grad Center, there can be no GCB. Think about that the next time you want to talk trash, you ungrateful wretches.

The Bear’s Lair

No, don’t stop reading. The Bear’s Lair is terrible, and utterly inferior to Nelson Center in terms of equipment and space. However, it fills a particular workout niche that Nelson leaves woefully unaddressed: night workouts. The Bear’s Lair is listed on the Brown recreation website as closing at midnight. This is pure fiction. The Bear’s Lair is always open, which is a dream if you, like me, procrastinate your workouts so much that you end up starting at 3a.m. I’d go so far as to say that the middle of the night is the only good time to workout in Grad Center’s own carpeted gym (Who made that decision?). You won’t have to wait for a treadmill, or for some guy to get his millionth set of curls done with the 25’s. If you feel intensely awkward when working out, or have an intense fear of gym rats, get to the Bear’s Lair at the witching hour. If you live in Grad Center, you barely have to go outside, which is ideal in colder months.

Continue Reading


Your professor’s house: A brief guide to etiquette

thanksgiving-day-dinner-table-by-monmart

As the end of the semester appears on the horizon, there may be many of you who, whether through TA positions, a small seminar class, or general enthusiasm for a class’s subject (nerd), will find yourselves invited to a professor’s home for a bit of discussion and light refreshment. This is particularly true for professors who live on College Hill, as moving class to their abode adds only a few minutes to the commute. You may be chomping at the bit to witness the colonial beauty of your instructor’s residence, but, like all things Puritan, visiting a professor’s house isn’t fun and games. It’s fraught with the risk of eternal damnation for the image you’ve carefully crafted throughout a semester’s worth of class meetings. Here are a few conundrums you may encounter, and my recommendations for how to react.

Attire

What ought you wear to a professor’s home? Clearly it ought to be something fairly nice. This means that your “(Blood Alcohol) Concentration Advisor” tank from Spring Weekend is a non-starter. At the same time, you shouldn’t overdress. your get-together is probably taking the place of a normal day of class, so black tie is a bit much. You can get a clue as to what’s acceptable by comparing your clothing to what your professor usually wears to class, and see if you can approximately mimic their sartorial formality. Alternatively, you can damn the torpedoes, show up in pajama pants, and act like everything’s cool (it isn’t).

Food: How Much is Too Much?

Your professor will likely provide you with, at the very least, a plate of cookies or crackers to snack upon whilst you either have a relatively normal class or else relax and discuss whatever subject you and your classmates settle on for the day. Typically, cookies are the food of choice.

Cookies

No white chocolate macadamia nut? The knave!

Continue Reading