Thursday, February 7, 2019

Shame on the Yale Daily News

Sometimes I fear Yale has jumped the shark. As an alum who still wants to love the place (and will always love the experience he had), it makes me profoundly sad.

Today, the Yale Daily News printed a column of breathtaking excrescence. Vile and racist. You can read it yourself here. Written by a senior named Isis Davis-Marks, it starts off, "Everyone knows a white boy with shiny brown hair and a saccharine smile that conceals his great ambitions." It goes on to suppose that the "white boy" grows up and one day Isis will see him at something like a Senate confirmation hearing.

And then. "I'll remember a racist remark that he said, an unintentional utterance that he made when he had one drink too many at a frat party his sophomore year. I'll recall the message that accidentally left open on a computer when he forgot to log out, where he likened a woman's body to a particularly large animal. And, when I'm watching him smile that smile, I'll kick myself thinking I could have stopped it."

She (I'm assuming gender here - probably a microaggression) goes on to concede that not everyone at Yale is evil. At least not those from oppressed, non-privileged classes, anyway. She is still very upset ("indelibly") by the Kavanaugh hearings. She wants all accusations of sexual misconduct at Yale made public.

Then Isis decides the real problem lies with Yale's values:

To be honest, I’m not sure what the solution is. This expands beyond vocalizing problems about sexual assault: The core of this problem has to do with our values. The problem isn’t just the Yale administration; it’s Yale students. We allow things to skate by. We forget. We say, “No, he couldn’t have done that,” or, “But he’s so nice.” No questions are asked when our friends accept job offers from companies that manufacture weapons or contribute to gentrification in cities. We merely smile at them and wave as we walk across our residential college courtyards and do nothing. Thirty years later, we kick ourselves when it’s too late.

Is this where I point out that Yale is probably the most progressive place on the planet? And do many Yalies go into defense contracting? Never met one, myself.

She ends with this haymaker:

But I can’t do that anymore — I can’t let things slip by. I’m watching you, white boy. And this time, I’m taking the screenshot.

Wow. Could you imagine if someone said, "I'm watching you, black boy. I know you're going to (fill in crime here)?" Oh my God, what a shit storm. Without a doubt, people would by tossed out. But as long as racsim/sexism is aimed at non-oppressed classes (read: white males), no biggie. Nothing to see here.
But here's what really gets me going. The Yale Daily News has refused to publish any online comments on the article. Not one. I myself have submitted two, and both were apparently rejected. An article this incendiary, and we are expected to believe there are no comments? My guess is they are surprised, because Yale is an ideological echo chamber, and Isis's piece, within the bubble, is fairly conventional thinking.

That's the way it is in Campusland.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The House Might Be ThisClose - Chaos Will Ensue

With all the talk of a "blue wave," there's a much more likely scenario that no one's talking about, and God help us if it happens. That is, the House is won by one party or the other by one or two seats.

Why do I say this? I went through every House poll I could find for any district that is even remotely competitive, and I just added them up. If candidate A is up by even a point, I give the race to him or her. (Obviously, that is within the margin of error but it cuts both ways.)

Here's what I got:

Republican seats flipping to Dems:        26
Dem seats flipping to Republicans:          3

Net Dem pickup:                                    23

Dem pickups required to take control:   24

Yes, that's right. Democrats fall one short. I realize there's a lot of potential error in this, but the possibility is real. The signs point towards a rather average gain for the out-of-power party in a midterm election (which is 25, by the way). No blue wave, just average-ness.

I checked the history books, by the way. There's never been a one-vote margin in the House.

Think about the craziness we'll have to endure if this happens. Neither party will take losing by one or two seats well, but I think it's safe to say the Democrats will take it less well. They fully expect to win this and if they don't, they will take to the streets. They will also send thousands of lawyers out to every district that was within a couple of points. There will be endless recounts. Cries of fraud and voter suppression will be heard across the land (even if they never seem to find someone whose vote was actually suppressed). Next year's House will be called "invalid." (Sound familiar?)

Scorched earth, like the Kavanaugh hearings. I, for one, hope it doesn't happen, but the alternative would be even worse.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

(Don't) Speak Your Truth

Has anyone else noticed the rapidity with which this bit of rhetoric - speak your truth - has crept into the cultural firmament? I first took note of it a few months ago, and now, like the proverbial buzzing of a light fixture, I can't stop hearing it. 

Apparently, it was Oprah who first popularized it, saying it is the "most powerful tool we have." By we, I am quite certain she did not mean me, as I do not fit the demographic profile of those allowed to have their own proprietary version of the truth.

Let me explain. What is meant by the phrase, by those who wield it, is that if you have been abused in some way (presumably by a white male), or you have been generally oppressed (again, by white males and the patriarchy), "speaking your truth" is having the courage to give testimony to your experience.

Most recently, we heard the odious Cory Booker use the phrase to describe Christine Blasey Ford's Senate appearance. Her truth was most definitely that Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her.

I have two problems with all this. One somewhat minor, the other not. Using Blasey Ford as an example, let's say, for the sake of argument, she's telling the whole truth. That would mean it was the truth, would it not? Not her truth. Calling it her truth implies there could be other truths. Isn't there only one truth? That's what I was taught. I am bothered on a lexical level - it undermines our language. Words have meaning.

Aly Raisman, the gymnast (pictured at the top), was in fact abused by the abominable Larry Nassar. We know this to be the literal truth. Why undermine it by calling it "her" truth?

Back to Blasey Ford. Let's now say she's not telling the truth about what happened, or more to the point, is telling a story that, while not being exactly truthful, speaks to her broader life experiences. Not truth, but truthiness. This is where I have a big problem. Perhaps she was abused by someone at some point, someone who wasn't Kavanaugh. She certainly seems troubled by something. Projecting on to Kavanaugh could be an outlet for her anguish or maybe a bogus recovered memory - who knows? In that case what she is doing is making Kavanaugh guilty by association. The left has gleefully accepted this approach, basically because Kavanaugh's a man and they don't like his politics. (His being Catholic doesn't help, either.)

The concept of white privilege ties closely into this. It basically says that all white people harbor subtle forms of racism no matter how enlightened they think they are. It's weaponized political correctness, and it is a growing trend. It means anyone can be made guilty of anything if you run afoul of the left's agenda. 

What did Beria say? Show me the man and I will show you the crime.

So please, don't speak your truth.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Campusland to be Published

Pleased to share that someone besides me thinks Campusland is funny. St. Martins Press has bought the book, and will publish it in September of 2019. Bummer it takes so long (publishing is definitely not like the tech industry), but that's the way of it.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Campusland Snippet #7 - Trick or Treat

Halloween doesn't always go down so smoothly these days at Devon. The following is an excerpt from the Devon Daily...

Devon Daily - November 2nd

                            Costumes Spark Outrage

Thursday night’s Halloween revels were marred by several incidents surrounding the alleged insensitivity of some costumes, with one incident resulting in violence. Accusations ranged from racism and sexism to cultural appropriation.

One student, dressed as prominent transsexual Caitlyn Jenner, attended Wolcott House’s annual “Inferno” event, and was confronted by a number of other students from the Devon LGBT Coalition who were angry that the student in question was not, himself, LGBT, and was possibly making light of Jenner and transsexualism. The confrontation grew heated and drew the attention of some campus Democrats, also in attendance, who were offended over Jenner’s coming out as a Republican. This precipitated an angry exchange between the two groups, described by one observer as a “fight over who was more offended.” Sometime during the exchange, the student dressed as Jenner left the party without ever being identified.

Elsewhere, a party goer at the Beta Psi fraternity, dressed as the “Frito Bandito,” drew the ire of members of the Latino House. Seeing a post of the offending costume on the fraternity’s Instagram page, members of the Latino House demanded entry to the party to confront the offending cartoon bandit. When told they were not on the party’s list, a fight ensued, prompting an appearance by the Havenport police. No arrests were made.

“This is an outrage,” said Vincent Lopez, a member of the Latino House. “The Frito Bandito plays into the worst sort of Mexican stereotypes. And even if it didn’t, what right does this white person of privilege have to appropriate a Latino character?”

Beta Psi president Ted Hutchins stated, “It was a private party and besides, people should just lighten the f**k up.”

Asked to comment, Martika Malik-Adams, the Devon’s Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, stated she was “troubled,” and that her department was forming a committee to set costume guidelines going forward.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Campusland Snippet #6 - The Tarzan of Anderson House

A story from Devon back in the day when her father Sheldon was a freshman. Lulu will find inspiration from it when she hits a low point...

The Tarzan of Anderson House

Late one night, someone lowered a window on the fifth floor of Anderson House, a freshman dorm on the East Quad right across from Duffy. Yelling into the darkness, he executed a perfect Tarzan call, right out of the back lot jungles of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. It went largely unnoticed, but then he did it again the next night. And the next, and the next after that, all at precisely the same time: 11:09. 

After a week or so, a small crowd began to gather, eager for the nightly Tarzan call. That no one knew the would-be Tarzan’s identity added to the crowd’s general ironic self-amusement. (No one liked self-consciously ironic humor more than Devonites.) It was always dark and Tarzan never stuck his head out far enough to be identified. No one in Anderson was talking, either. When the Devon Daily wrote a piece about it, the crowds got larger, numbering in the hundreds each night, their excitement often fueled by alcohol. Tarzan developed a sense of drama, now delaying his nightly calls by a few minutes to build the anticipation. Other pseudo Tarzans would call out from Pope and Ketcham but these pretenders were always roundly booed by the crowd. Only the Anderson House Tarzan was worthy of their adoration. They chanted, Tar-zan, Tar-zan, building in volume until, at last, he would come. 

As the fame of the Anderson House Tarzan grew, someone at the Daily wrote, “I was reminded of those old film reels from Mussolini rallies in the 30s, where the crowd would screamIl Duce’ over and over until he appeared on the balcony.” Tarzan-themed parties sprang up around campus, serving “jungle juice” (naturally) and campus conversation was of little else. Things in East Quad eventually got so unruly that the administration felt the need to intervene. They narrowed the possible Tarzans down to five, and let it be known through the Anderson RAs that Tarzan could have one final call, and then no more. 

That night, over a thousand people gathered in East Quad, many dressed as Tarzan or Jane. There were one or two ape suits as well. The Devon Marching Band showed up, playing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” over and over (it was the only jungle-themed song they knew). Some reporters from the CBS Evening News even came, planning on doing one of those human interest pieces that come at the end of the broadcast, the ones that always start with, “And finally tonight…” All this had the effect of whipping the crowd into a frenzy. One observer later described them as a “mob, coiled as a spring.” Finally, the window opened, and a single hand emerged to silence the crowd. As a midnight calm fell over the scene, there came the most beautiful, perfectly executed Tarzan call that anyone had ever heard. When it stopped, there were a few moments of reverent silence, as if the crowd was moved by what they had just heard. 

And then everyone pretty much lost their minds.

The crowd became a mob in a matter of seconds, starting with throwing rocks at Anderson, smashing most of the windows. Were they angry that they could no longer have their Tarzan? Perhaps. Or were they just whipped up into a frenzy of self-amusement? Those asked later didn’t really have an answer. It just seemed like the thing to do. 

Having dispensed with Anderson, the mob moved out onto Dudley Street, trampling cars, tearing off their shirts, making jungle noises and beating their chests. By the time the Havenport police arrived over a dozen vehicles had been damaged. Two dozen students spent the night as guests of the city. CBS News got its story, but it was no longer of the human-interest variety. Their lead in was, “Violence Erupts on Devon Campus.” 

No one ever did figure out who Tarzan was. Sheldon said at his 25th reunion at least seven classmates claimed the Tarzan mantle for themselves, though Sheldon said the real Tarzan would never be one to take personal credit.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Campusland Snippet #5 - Meet Stillman Weathers, Devon Board Chair

When things at Devon go awry, the Chairman of the Board of Governors has to make an unscheduled visit. Good thing he's got his new toy...

Stillman Weathers

Stillman Weathers poked at his tuna tartare and looked out the cabin window. With a cruising altitude of 42,000 feet, his company’s brand new Gulfstream G650 didn't offer much to see. Even the clouds looked far below. 

Stillman rubbed the soft Spanish leather on his armrest. He loved his new toy, which seated eight, had a crew of four, and a top speed just shy of Mach 1. 

He liked saying that. Mach 1. The speed of sound. The G650 waiting list was long but Stillman’s company had always been a good Gulfstream customer, so they got the fourth one off the line. He noticed it was the only one parked at Davos last month. 

With its final configuration, the tab to his company came to $72 million. This had given Stillman some pause, but he worked hard, and it wouldn’t do to waste half his days in commercial airports, not with what his time was worth. And besides, his company, Loritel Industries, made $3.2 billion last quarter. The shareholders wouldn’t squawk, that’s for sure. Not with numbers like those. 

“Will that be all, Mr. Weathers?” asked Jenny, the plane’s stewardess. 

“Yes, thank you, Jenny. You can knock off for a bit.”

Today, Stillman was the only passenger. As the Chairman of Devon’s Board of Governors, he was heading to Havenport for an emergency meeting of the Steering Committee, which was basically the small subset of the board that actually got things done. The board itself had forty-five members, a size that maximized financial gifts but rendering productive meetings impossible. When you got right down to it, the broader board didn’t do much, not that anyone on the outside had to know. 

The unscheduled trip was an inconvenience, but Stillman was silently pleased to think he was riding to the rescue. Being Chair of Devon’s board pleased Stillman almost as much as being CEO of Loritel…no, it pleased him more. For better or worse, the corporate world was tainted. They were moneymen, strivers, never completely respected in the corridors of media and political power. He’d given over $100 million of his shareholders’ money away last year to various charities to wash himself of the stain, and naturally he signaled his disdain for the current administration in Washington at every opportunity, but still…the stain remained. He felt it. 

Academia, on the other hand, was still the province of an intellectual nobility, where inhabitants toiled in the pursuit of pure truth, not mammon. While Stillman projected an image of serene authority, he was secretly as thrilled as a little boy about his ascendancy to the Devon Chair. It conferred, in the circles he cared about, a legitimacy that couldn’t be bought. And heck, he still loved the place, having spent his undergraduate years as a history major and heavyweight rower. In many ways, those were the best four years of his life. 

The situation with the black students would have to be handled with tact. When he was a student, back in the early seventies, there were minority students on campus, but nothing like today, what with outreach being such a priority. At his last reunion, a classmate of his - whose son had recently been rejected - quipped that back in their day, if you saw a black student you might whisper they were likely a football or basketball player. Now, the joke went, if you saw a preppie white kid you might mutter, “probably a lacrosse player.” Like most successful jokes, it had the air of truth. Times had changed, and it was part of Stillman’s job to help the school navigate that change. He couldn’t allow anything to undermine Devon’s reputation and, not unimportantly, his own. In Stillman’s world, a well-maintained order was the most virtuous state of affairs. 

But he wondered about Milton. What kind of show was he running? Events were spinning beyond his control. Stillman would bottom line this thing and put it in the rear view mirror. That’s what he did. If some knuckles had to be rapped, so be it. 

Since this was his first trip to Devon in his new iron, his people had to call to make sure Havenport Airport’s lone runway had the necessary length. It could, if just barely. Iron. It’s what CEOs called their planes when they were in each other’s company. He loved that word.  

He felt the G650 start its long descent. Maybe he’d tell the pilot to come in low over the campus on approach so he could see how the two new houses were coming.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Campusland Snippet #4 - the Brothers of Beta House

No tale of college life is complete without a fraternity in the mix, right? Meet the Betas. The university hates them, but they're okay with that. In this scene, they're pretty much lying around doing nothing, but things will heat up later.

Excuse the language, but this is college we're talking about.

The Brothers of Beta House

Finn Belcher, a slovenly but tech-savvy brother from the mid-west, walked into the common room, waiving his phone. “I’ve been working on an app.”

Everyone, it seemed, was working on an app. Jimbo Peters had one that required you blow into a breathalyzer - attached to your phone - before calling or texting anyone you had previously tagged as an ex. The default blood-alcohol threshold was .08, same as drunk driving, but you could set it wherever you wanted. Someone else had an app where you could calculate your carbon offset based on how much you farted. You had to take the phone out and notify the app with every fart, which the brothers, who were all recruited as beta-testers, turned into something of a contest. In the end, The Mound didn’t have any real competition.

Unlike most of the brothers, though, Finn was a Comp Sci major and actually had some coding chops. This had the others listening in semi-interest. “You point your phone at someone,” Finn said, “push this red button, and the app randomly pairs a word with “douche.”

“A demonstration, if you will,” suggested Teddy, sitting up with growing interest.

Finn pointed his phone at Teddy and pressed down. The phone suddenly spoke in a high, nasally voice.


He pressed again.


“Again!” Teddy said.


“Or if you want, you can stick with the classic…” Finn pushed a second button repeatedly.

Douche! Douche! Douche!

“You can also change the voice.” He clicked again, this time producing a basso profundo.

Douche! Douche! Douche!

“That is fuckin’ awesome! squealed Digger. He and Teddy high-fived. “I so need that.”

“Of course, it’s not completely random, since you can only pair with nouns, and not every noun is funny when you pair it with douche. Something like douche “motherboard” would, you know, suck…”

“Would suck balls, sure,” Teddy said.

“But a surprising number of words actually work.”

“How many you up to?” inquired Digger.

“Seven hundred and forty-two.”

“Do you have douche “rocket?” asked Digger, intently.

“Nice one! Consider it added.”

“Does this app have a name?” Teddy asked.

“I was thinking of “Douche Buddy.”

“Belch, we are humbled,” said Teddy. “You are a credit to the fraternal order.”

Another brother wandered in, Bryce Hillson from New York. “Hey guys, I know this freshman chick from the city. Smoke show. Mind putting her on the list for tonight?”

“Our man Mound is manning the door. Hey Mound, wake up!”

Mound, a football player of prodigious girth, had been buried in a nearby couch, sleeping. He reluctantly rolled over. “The fuck,” he said. He meant, why did you bother me just now and what do you want? Mound was gifted with an economy of speech. Teddy liked to say he was post-articulate.

“Bryce’s got some chick he wants on the list.”


“Lulu Harris.”

“Done.” The Mound rolled back over.

“Hey Mound, any good hit-and-runs today?” asked Digger. Mound’s thing was to tour Devon’s newly designated transgender bathrooms where he’d lay down a tremendous bowel movement in each. It was about as political as Mound got. The brothers were tracking his progress with great interest.

From deep in the couch: “Fuckin’ a.” Why yes, I had some success in that matter.

“Good man, Mound.”

Mound was an anchor on the Devon football team. Last year, he led the team with forty-eight tackles. He was not, however, destined to be remembered for gridiron heroics, but rather for an academic misadventure of sorts. During last year’s football season, Mound took Art History 101 because he heard it was a blow-off. Students were assigned to pick any artist that was well represented in the Devon Gallery of Art and write a paper about that artist’s stylistic evolution. Venturing to the gallery for the first time, Mound examined the small labels next to each painting with care and picked an artist who seemed well represented, who painted in many different styles, and whose career was extraordinarily long.

That artist’s name was “Circa.”

Mound’s teaching assistant handed the resulting paper back with “Are you a moron? written in big red ink letters. That was it. Are you a moron. No grade. Apparently the “F” didn’t require extra ink to be understood.
Confused and seeking elucidation, Mound made the mistake of showing the paper to his roommate Jimbo, who was also in the class. Elucidation was not forthcoming. Jimbo promptly ran into the dining hall, laughing hysterically and wielding the paper for all to behold. One student wag pointed out that if Mound had turned the same paper in as an ironic statement on, say, the “cultural vapidity of traditional art,” he’d surely have scored an A.

The Mound was less amused.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Campusland Snippet #3 - Meet Red Wheeler

Red is the acknowledged progressive leader at Devon, the most woke guy on campus, but coming events will challenge his status as alpha dog.

Red Wheeler

Red plopped on the faded couch and lit his first joint of the day. It was 1 p.m. Others joined him. Despite the warm weather, Red wore a rainbow knit cap that bulged with the effort to contain his dreadlocks. When he pulled the cap off his Rasta-style braids spilled out like a tangle of cinnamon snakes.

Red wasn’t his given name but it had followed him from birth when he came out of the womb with his unmistakably vibrant scalp. Later, the name gelled nicely with his flavor of politics. He was a product of Buckley and Exeter, educational bona fides unsurpassed in the eyes of the eastern establishment. That Red was a product of that establishment, with a rich grandfather and a trust fund of considerable heft, was something he had dedicated himself to living down, at least outwardly. He loved walking into his grandfather’s Park Avenue offices, dreadlocks screaming defiance as he strolled by all the work-slaves.

But the truth was, having the money freed him from having to make any himself, from being a cog in someone else’s corporate machine. No one was going to exploit Red Wheeler. This rationalization gave him comfort.
Red was one of those people who just always seemed to be around. Every university had a few; inhabitants who found creative ways to extend their collegiate experience far beyond the usual boundaries. Red was in his seventh year, having found Devon much to his liking. He’d been a handful of philosophy credits shy of graduating for some time, a process he managed with care. Technically, he wasn’t enrolled at the moment at all and lived off campus.

Being at Devon relieved Red of any responsibility, from having to figure out what The Plan was. His family was big on planning. Red, not so much. He liked things one day at a time. The pursuit of progressive causes conferred a needed sense of purpose and also acted as a shield of sorts. When you’re saving the world, no one should be on your case about a goddamn plan. Better yet, progressivism came with its own pre-packaged lifestyle of clothes and rallies and pleasing pharmaceuticals. It was a lifestyle Red fully embraced.  
The others usually deferred to Red, as he was older and had seen his share of The Struggle, drifting seamlessly between causes - G7 Summits, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, Antifa…he was universally acknowledged to be “woke.” When Trump was elected, he rallied four hundred students into the middle of the East Quad for a primal scream at 3 a.m. It got over 200,000 views on YouTube. He really made his name as a sophomore, when he led a student movement to force the endowment to divest from fossil fuel companies. Borrowing from the eighties playbook when Devon anti-partied demonstrators constructed a shantytown, he rallied students to build a “zero net energy village” right in Bingham Plaza. Consisting mostly of unsightly yurts, slapdash lean-tos, and other tent-like structures, it prompted Milton Strauss to announce over a billion dollars of divestment. Red was quoted in The New York Times.

There were always rumors around Red after that, talk of some hacking, maybe even with Anonymous, the infamous hacker collective known for wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Red did little to dispel these rumors, keeping a Fawkes mask lying casually around his apartment. The truth was he never got any further than Comp Sci 101 way back in freshman year.