Know your Lecture Board candidates: Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

A quick bio:

Toni Morrison is an American novelist best known for writing The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved. Her novels, centering around vivid characters, questions of identity, and the legacy of slavery, are considered among the best fiction ever written. In 1988, she won a Pulitzer prize and was nominated for the American Book Award for Beloved, and in 1993 she won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her latest work, God Help the Child, was released in early 2015.

What we want to know more about:

  1. Her life before she was an acclaimed author. Before Morrison published her first book at age 39, she worked as a senior trade-book editor at Random House publishing and played a critical role in bringing Black literature into the mainstream during the 60s and 70s. During this time, she met Henry Dumas, Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, Toni Cade Bambara and Gayl Jones and edited Mohammed Ali’s autobiography.
  2. Her relationships with feminism and intersectionality. Although her novels often surround Black female characters, Morrison doesn’t consider them to be feminist. When asked “Why distance oneself from feminism?” in 1998, she replied: “In order to be as free as I possibly can, in my own imagination, I can’t take positions that are closed. Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it, to open doors, sometimes, not even closing the book – leaving the endings open for reinterpretation, revisitation, a little ambiguity.”
  3. Her thoughts on recent nation-wide movements on college campuses. Morrison was a university professor during the Civil Rights era. She has met many leaders who fought and continue to fight for equality, and has devoted her whole life to speaking about the Black experience in America. In a 1976 New York Times essay, she expressed concerns over a waning Civil Rights struggle: “Having been eliminated from the lists of urgent national priorities, from TV documentaries and the platitudes of editorials, black people have chosen, or been forced to seek, safety from the white man’s promise.” Later in the same piece, she says: “In the shambles of closing admissions, falling quotas, widening salary gaps and merging black-studies departments, builders and healers are quietly working among us.” Given these thoughts and experiences, it would be valuable to hear what she has to say about campus movements today.

Why you should vote for Toni Morrison:
Even if you don’t know much about Morrison, there are many reasons to want to hear her speak. We have the benefit of being alive at the same time as one of the most influential novelists in recent history; she is, after all, the only living American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. It’s likely that Toni Morrison’s epics could be as fundamental to the American literary canon as Melville’s Moby Dick. To close, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah of the New York Times sums up what makes Morrison, Morrison:

“Often, in black literature, it seems as though the author is performing two roles: that of the explorer and the explainer. Morrison does not do this. Morrison writes stories that are more aesthetic than overtly political, better expressed in accurate Tolstoyan detail than in generalizing sentiments blunted with anger. Most important, she is an author who writes to tease and complicate her world, not to convince others it is valid.”

In short, Morrison is the one of the world’s most badass authors. She is wise, says what’s on her mind, and—considering events on our campus and across the country—is extremely relevant. Don’t forget to cast your vote here by November 29th!

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STEM vs. humanities: a conversational guide

Picture this: you’re sitting in the Blue Room munching on a French toast muffin alone and someone asks to join your booth. You of course say yes, and in an effort to make sharing a table a little less awkward with a complete stranger, you look to the notes they are pulling out to make small talk about their classes. But alas! It’s all chemistry and calculus, and all you know is humanities. Disillusioned, you are forced to return to the uncomfortable silence and weird looks when you accidentally play footsie with your STEM stranger.

We all know and love and stress about Brown’s open curriculum, which gives us the freedom to take (or not take) whatever classes we choose. But the ability to focus on either STEM or humanities creates a gap in understanding our friends on the dark side (the dark side being up to interpretation).  Those awkward pauses in conversation when you have no idea how to comment on some class a friend is complaining about, or straight up don’t know what they are talking, are avoidable. We want to help you navigate those conversations with confidence, so study up.

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STEM:

CS 15: First of all, I had no idea what CS stood for, and in the interest of saving others from the embarrassment of having to ask, it’s computer science. CS 15 in particular is essentially Intro to Computer Science, and the bane of existence for those students, so be sure to express extreme sympathy for people complaining about it.

Fishbowl: Where dreams go to die. It’s where are aforementioned CS students go to get help during TA hours, but are usually never heard from again. If your friend says they’re going there, send regular text updates assuring them they will some day see the real sun again.

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Labs: It’s not your high school lab where things changed color and that was it. Chemistry labs in particular take up entire afternoons, and the pre-lab and lab reports that go with it, so don’t expect to see friends in lab much.

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SPRING2016: Course Superlatives

Pre-registration is upon us once again. In case you haven’t even thought about pre-registering because it’s freaking November and who are you to think more than an hour in advance, here’s your warning: Seniors register at 8 a.m. Tuesday (tomorrow), juniors on Wednesday, sophomores on Thursday and first-years on Friday.

Whether you’re deciding between that upper-level CS class and an experimental literary arts class or an 8 a.m. Monday lecture and a Friday afternoon seminar, BlogDH is here to help. Just remember: the secret to a great schedule is selecting courses based on their name alone.

We present the Spring 2016 course superlatives:

Most…

…unsettling
AMST0912: Unsettled Things: Objects and Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century America

…likely to have the best field trips
ARCH2744: Egyptian Art in New England Museums

…likely to have the most dangerous field trips
LITR1230: Latin American Death Trip

…optimistic
CLPS1720: Human Resilience

…pessimistic
PHP1680: Tobacco, Smoking, and the Evil Empire

…realistic
BIOL2350: The Biology of Aging

…ambitious
MUSC0221: Electroacoustic Improv Ensemble

…likely to bring out your inner child
PHYS0113: Squishy Physics

…reflective
MCM1700: Theory for Practice/Practice as Theory

…reflective, literally
ENGN1480: Metallic Materials

…likely to blow up Barus & Holley
PHYS1170: Introduction to Nuclear and High Energy Physics

…useful on a Saturday night
PHP1520: Emergency Medical Systems: An Anatomy of Critical Performance

practical for crossing Thayer St.
ENGL2901C: Pedestrian Theory: Walking, Working, Waking

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A Last-Minute Guide to Costumes: Brown Edition

You need a costume that’s low-budget. You need a costume that’s last-minute. And you need a costume that’s Brown-specific. Fear not: you can have your cake candy and eat it too. When it’s an hour before Monster Ball/RISD Ball/that MoChamp pregame and there’s nothing in sight but your half-finished lab report and that sky photo t-shirt, BlogDH has got you covered.

The Main Green

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You will need:

  • Green clothes
  • A frisbee
  • A picnic basket/tapestry/MacBook Air

Dress up in green clothes, stick a frisbee on your head, and carry something Main Green-related around for the night. Note: the Frisbee is essential. Otherwise you may be mistaken for Wriston/Simmons/Pembroke Green, which is not what you’re going for here.

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U.’ve got mail: An interview with the head of Mail Services

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Since arriving in September, you may have noticed that many things on Brown’s campus had changed from last year. Francesca’s on Thayer replaced what was once chainlink fences and crumbling cement, “Imagine Brown 250+” is gone, and, most notably, the mailroom has undergone a dramatic makeover. Elizabeth Gentry, Assistant Vice President of Business and Financial Services, sat down with BlogDH to discuss what happened, why it happened, and where to finally find that mailroom playlist.

Gentry first explains that most first-years don’t realize what the mail system was like last year. “We’ve long outgrown our space, especially during peak times, at the start of semester, especially the start of the year. So, we had two locations: the mailroom in J. Walter Wilson, and what used to be ‘The Gate.’ The system turned out to be very confusing for many students. It just wasn’t as efficient as it could be.”

Packages were delivered to either location based on which carrier (USPS, UPS, FedEx, to name a few) delivered them, but as Gentry points out, this system was always so simple. “UPS began this program called ‘The Last Mile,’ where UPS would deliver your package to, say, the US Post Office, which would bring it the rest of the way to us. So, to the student, the carrier is UPS, but to us, the carrier is USPS. It was confusing.”

Not to mention, package deliveries skyrocketed. “We began getting direct deliveries from Amazon,” Gentry notes. “They didn’t notify us beforehand, but one day we got five pallets [pictured below] full of shipments directly from the Amazon fulfillment center, because so many deliveries were coming straight to us. I’m talking pallets as tall as me, five of them. And they just kept coming.”

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YURT: Virtual Reality at 180 George

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Behind all of the ugly construction surrounding Barus and Holley, the 180 George building houses an unparalleled virtual reality system. Named for its shape, furbished with 69 projectors, and a pixel resolution equivalent to retinal display (the human eye could not perceive anything more detailed), the Yurt Ultimate Reality Theater opened in the summer of 2015. The field of virtual reality isn’t new to Brown; before we had this machine, there was the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE). Technology like the CAVE allowed scientists and artists alike to explore their fields with three dimensional visualizations. MRI scans became interactive for medical students, while poets experimented with words that literally jumped off the projector. In 2009, Brown decided it was time for an upgrade, involving a 360 degree display with interactive floors and ceilings.

In the spirit of educating campus about this exciting new feature, we hung out with Computer Science Professor David Laidlaw to talk about his brainchild, and the functions of high quality virtual reality. Before diving into the interview, you should know that Professor Laidlaw is a busy man. It took over two weeks to set up a time to see YURT, and right before our rendezvous, this texting exchange occurred:

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It’s cool, I’ll wait.

Upon greeting me (after class, of course), his first question was, “what happened to your mustache?” Let it also be noted that I initially forgot to take my shoes off inside the machine and that every time Professor Laidlaw handed me a piece of equipment, static shocks reverberated in both our hands. Basically, the interview was electric. Jokes aside, it was time to get down to serious business. A.K.A. it was time to play 3D Minecraft, or as David affectionately called it, YURTCraft.

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