Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oh, Brother!

Today, the printer I ordered over Black Friday arrived. It's a lovely Brother HL-2240 Monochrome Laserjet. And I had the wonderful experience of lugging it from the tippy top of upper campus (read: Mail Services) to the very bottom of lower campus (read: my dorm).

My new alternative to running to Tisch before classes.

Good thing it's a tiny box.

LOST IX: "Treading on Thin Ice"

EX-0009: LOST as Literature
Namaste. As you may well know, I am currently enrolled in a course titled "LOST as Literature." In class, we take a look at the storytelling of ABC's LOST and break down the plot-line and narrative techniques. Each week, students are responsible for watching 2 specific episodes from the series on their own time and writing a 1-2 page essay from a prompt related to the viewing. In our 2.5 hour class, which meets each Monday night, we discuss a theme or technique as it applies to our episodes, watch 1 additional episode, and discuss larger meanings and choices.

Introduction to Essay Collection
For your reading pleasure, I have selected, at this time, a single essay from my portfolio to share with you. If it is well received, I would be happy to continue sharing my work. In the future, time-permitting, I would consider narrating the essays (embedded Quicktime player), or, should I truly have the opportunity, cut together a video (embedded Youtube player) with useful visual illustrations. But for now, the transcripts.

This post's essay comes from the ninth week of class, for which we were asked to write about a "mystery" that was eventually "solved" (or not); we were to asses its significance. The class is pass/fail, and each essay is graded on a scale of "√-, √, or √+." For our purposes, I will transcribe these marks into grades "A, B, C". The following essay received an A.

Treading on Thin Ice: The Undue Significance of the Fluffy White Monsters
They’re present from the very beginning. They storm the jungle, attack the unwary, and aren’t very good at fitting through small cracks. That’s right, I’m talking about polar bears: the single most essential element to LOST. Or not. 
It seemed, when first introduced in “Pilot, Part 2,” that Sawyer’s cowboy bear-hunting was going to be the first of many close encounters with the creatures. And, in the beginning, there was some hope for this arctic subplot. In the first season, we’ve got Walt running from the beasts, hiding in trees while the bear rams it. But, just as Walt virtually vanished in importance to the storyline, so did the bears. The problem was, no one told the audience. 
From the moment viewers were first introduced to the polar bears as one of the first and most bizarre things (at the time) on the island, they fell in love. People began wondering where they came from and what role they would play. Why were bears appearing in Locke’s dreams (“Further Instructions”) or Hurley’s comic books (“Special”)? Was there a snowy part of the mystical island from which the bears wandered? Did killing a bear signify danger, either from its friends or the people who put a collar on it? 
Eventually, the mystery was resolved. As many had suspected, the bears were, it would appear, brought to the island by the Dharma initiative for testing purposes. The collars, cages, and fish-biscuits give enough information to explain that. But it wasn’t enough for the fans. The fact that so much emphasis was placed, or perceived to have been placed, on the ursus maritimus meant that the simple guinea-bear explanation was not satisfying enough. This was one mystery that LOST waited a bit too long to address.
The bears, therefore, continued to remain in the mind of the most loyal and even most casual viewers of the show. In class, we frequently comment that LOST isn’t just about “survivors of a plane crash, on a crazy island with polar bears.” Funny, isn’t it, that we pick out polar bears as a memorable motif, when, in actuality, the bears only appear in a handful of the series’ 6 seasons. We’re not the only ones: in How it Should Have Ended’s mockup LOST finale, the very final scene features the Coca-Cola polar bear, agreeing that he had expected something “different” from LOST’s progression.
Eventually, somebody got the message. Sure enough, LOST’s bonus-feature epilogue takes the time to put polar bears in the spotlight. In one of the most revealing, or, for some of us, most disappointing moments of the episode, the second of two questions Benjamin Linus has agreed to answer is asked: “So explain this. Polar bear biscuits. How is there a polar bear on a tropical island?” (“The New Man in Charge”). Was this the most necessary question to be answered for the LOST audience? Were we unable, seasons earlier, to infer the exact answer, as explained in the orientation video: that the bears were test subjects of the Dharma initiative?
Perhaps their inclusion throughout the series was simply a clever way of treating dedicated viewers to an old treat, a sort of fish-biscuit for fans. In that respect, the bears were welcomed with warm smiles at every appearance. Nonetheless, the attention the beasts demanded was unsettling. Having played virtually no role in the plot or symbolic value of the series, it seems unfair that the legacy of LOST is so tightly tied to them. The fault, I think, lies in the failure to quickly and properly resolve what, at first, seemed to be one of the most intriguing mysteries of the show. Putting the suspense into hibernation for so long wasn’t the greatest call.
Brian, 15 November 2010
Your comments, either on the class, the writing, or LOST itself, are welcome below. In particular, a discussion on polar bears would be enjoyable, and I would be happy to debate or explore their significance.

 Might I add that this fan art is adorable.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mock Trial (Delayed)

Howdy Y'all.

So someone finally posted a picture from Mock Trial; here's the team shot at MumboJumbo (the Tufts invitational competition from 3 weeks ago):

(Top:) Dustin, Me, Dan, Krista, Elley; (Bottom:) Jessica, Anisha, Hayeon

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pretzel Night

Monday night was Pretzel Night at the Balch Arena Theater - an all freshman play! Cast size: 6, including yours truly! The show was hilarious, tons of fun, and completely unique. The script was an original, written by Tufts students (who attended!), and the performance was one-time-only - if you missed it, your loss.

But wait! Here to save you from your loss - pictures!

The play opens with Dan and I doing some cool scenes together. In the beginning, Dan is "depression," and I'm a depressed person. Setting: my brain.

The show includes me drinking. A lot. Humor is enhanced by spit-takes, in which I (eventually) build up to spraying a large mouthful of my beverage all over Yessi.

This is an awesome action shot. I win the thumb wrestle.

It's a pretty funk play. We know.

An awesome pose. This doesn't happen during the performance.

The cast: (clockwise) Me (Pat), Yessi (Taylor), Tyler (Angel), Avery (Sydney), Dan (Sam), Emily (Morgan)
There were soft pretzels afterward.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

TMT Invitational: UMass Amherst

Hey y'all!

Just got back from an awesome weekend-long tournament at UMass.

For those who haven't read (or can't remember), Tufts Mock Trial is scored by 2 judges per case, and we take turns being Defense and Plaintiff.

My Tufts team (2 teams, 6-8 people each from Tufts competed) went 4:4. We went up against such schools as Boston University, Fordham University, Villanova, and Case Western.

Yours truly earned the nickname "The Barrister," coined by Tufts Mock Trial member Nicholas LoCastro. Although our team did not place in the tournament's top 5 trophy-wining slots, we did have a few winners of overall outstanding awards. Of the 16 Tufts members competing, 3 won awards (there were approximately 150 students at the tournament, about 24 won awards).

To place, students needed to attain 17 ranking points from the judges of their matches. If, in any given trial (of 6 attorneys and 6 witnesses), a student was ranked as the #1 attorney/witness, s/he received 5 points. #2 got 4 points; #3, 3; #4, 2, and there are no #5 or #6 rankings. That said, to win an award, one would need either three 1sts and a 4th, two 1sts, a 2nd, and a 3rd, or one 1st and three 2nds.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Supplies and Demands

It struck me today, as I attempted to staple together two pieces of paper on which I had scrawled my most recent calculus answers, that staplers are excellent metaphors.

You see, I went to staple the pages together, but was struck by the sudden realization brought about by the ringing of hollow metal against hollow metal: my stapler was out of staples. Now, here I was, having stapled many, many papers in weeks past, unable to recall the last time I actually refilled the stapler. It struck me, then, that I had imagined the supply of staples, on some level, to be infinite. Although, somehow, I was obviously aware of their finite quantity, I operated from day to day as though they would never run out. Each time I pressed the stapler, I expected a staple. It shocked me to find that my supply was depleted.

This, I think, serves as a metaphor for the environment, economy, and even emotions. We go through life tricking ourselves, acting as though we have a limitless supply of natural resources, of financial wealth, or of emotional reactions to induce. We expect that no matter how much oil we burn, money we spend, or insults we dish out, we can always find more oil in a deeper well, more money in a deeper pocket, or more sympathy from a deeper apology. Somewhere, though, there is a breaking point: we run out of fuel, out of cash, out of forgiveness. At some point, we go too far, take the last straw, break the camel's back.

Life, like a stapler, is comprised of things in sometimes limited supply. It is important not to forget this, lest we go one day to staple and find ourselves stunned by our inability to do so.

That being said, it is valuable to note that, as is the case with staplers, in life, we can work to replenish resources, renew wealth, and resolve problems. We cannot continue to use and use and use without giving and giving and giving, but if we are willing to give, then we can also be permitted to get.

And so, I advocate a surplus of spare staples. I recommend action taken to bring new life to the environment before we ever consider taking life away. I suggest securing income before considering expenditures. I support building trust and doing favors before asking for trust and requesting favors.

Because, after all, I believe that life is a collection of staplers.

Now don't get me started on pencil sharpeners...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spring 2011

And the courses are in. Ladies and gentlemen, a drum-roll please. Presenting:

From the Drama department...

"A basic course in acting, aimed at enhancing self-confidence, oral expression, and creativity."

From the Philosophy department...

"We will cover the basics formal frameworks of probability and game theory and their application to problems in decision making and strategic thinking."

"This class examines debates over "linguistic relativity,"...the critique of these views by Chomsky and his students, and on to the modest revival of linguistic relativity in recent years."

From the Political Science department...

"The major philosophical, theoretical, and methodological approaches to the study international relations from the perspective of political science."

From the Sociology department...

"Sociological analysis of selected areas of social life, such as the family, religion, large-scale organizations, minority relations, mass communications, and crime."

The beauty of it? No class before 10:30 AM, and nothing on Friday but recitations. These guys also knock out my 2 Humanities requirements and 1 of my 2 Arts. Damn I'm good.

Mumbo Jumbo

This past weekend: Mumbo Jumbo, Tufts' 3rd Annual Mock Trial Competition.

Tufts A (not my team) placed 1st (w00t!) - Tufts B (my team) didn't place. Ah well.

It was fun stuff, and I gave a pretty sick closing argument by 2nd trial. Made some mistakes by 4th trial, though. Like using the completely wrong piece of evidence during an examination - and no one noticed! Opposing council approved it, the witness played along with what it was supposed to say (props to Dustin!) - and I casually swapped it at our table before bringing it to the judge. Whew.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blog Stew

Sometimes, it's just too consuming to condense my conscious conceptualizations into a concise and creative copy of correspondence for my caring cult of cohorts to consume. Damnit I used consume twice. It's hard, I'm tellin' ya'. So here's what you get instead: disjointed stream of consciousness! Well, not quite that bad...more so "breadth without depth".

Snyder Lecture
Some wealthy alum (alumni? alumnus? aluminum?) donated a bunch of money to get good speakers to come and talk about controversial things.Well, lots of rich people do this, actually, but in particular, I attended one of these funded by Mr. Snyder. The speaker was a Harvard professor (stop booing) Michael Sandel. He spoke about Aristotle, flutes, golf, and gay marriage (in that order). It was interesting (don't yell at me, Moxey); the overall messages were (1) we should discuss/debate more, not feat it and debate less, in order to better society, and that (2) when discussing an issue, it's useful to get at the heart of the matter which, according to him, is the purpose of the matter being discussed (in a gay marriage conversation, one must discuss the purpose or function of marriage). Simple enough, cool comparisons, though. He called on a dozen or so of the few hundred of us to give opinions, I was among them. I said something about the purpose of marriage being legitimacy, seeing as two need not marry to procreate (nor need two procreate if married), but seeing as people like having their partnership recognized (usually prior to procreation; that's aside the point), and so, if the point is legitimate recognition, we can't abolish marriage recognitions (a proposed compromise to the debate) as that helps no one. My Politics professor was there for that. Yeah.

It's a play. I went to see it. Actors (2) were incredible. Drama was crazy scary. Premise? Erm, teacher/student, frustration, struggle to learn; all of the sudden: anger, retaliation, sexual harassment claims, legal action, emotional harm, heated argument, cursing, physical violence...! It was intense. And frustrating! Each character was so - human. They made mistakes; didn't listen to one another, mixed up priorities, exaggerated or misread the situation, angered one another - the escalation was incredibly well created, but overall, I came out of that thing angry, as though I had just been in the worst fight of my life with my parents and friends. It was so real it was scary, and so scary it was real. I encourage reading Wikipedia's summary; it's short enough. Anyway; best performance I've ever seen. Everything else (especially pesky musicals) seems like child's play after one realizes what theater can really be used for.

Incidentally, I also saw "The Alchemist". In particular, the set was amazing. They took apart the theater and built staircases and large windows and chandeliers. And they painted the floor. Kind of intense. Acting great of course. But compared (retrospectively) to Oleanna, it can't compare.

Bubs + Glee
Glee is a TV show. The Beelzebubs are an a capella group on campus. They recorded music to be lip synced the show, because apparently Glee can't find actors who can sing (as well as Tufts students). Apparently their song then proceeded to top the iTunes download charts. That might just be a rumor. I'm occupied and can't investigate further right now (comment below if you have a link). Another rumor: more of their stuff to appear in future episodes.

Pretzel Night
It's a show. By freshman. I'm in it. It's funny. And odd. Premise: Tufts student writers were given beginning and ending lines, had to create scenes between. When put together, each scene opens with the closing lines of the previous scene. Makes for a cool effect. Makes for crazy story-telling. Is fun. Rehearsals involve drama games. I miss those. We didn't do much of that in high school. But they're fun.

Mock Trial
Competition this weekend. Thus; gotta go.

Shout Out (in advance)
It's my brother's 14th birthday Friday. In case this is my last Blog post until then, HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I command all readers to wish him a happy birthday below:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Showered with Ideas

It occurred to me, today, that a significant quantity of my most intelligent thoughts occur to me in the shower. I should note that this thought was no exception.

And so, logically, my next thought was: What can I do to increase by ability to remember the thoughts I have in the shower? After all, by the time I finish showering, drying, and changing, such that I am in a position to write the thoughts down, it may be too late to properly recall them.

I have considered the following.
  • Bringing pen and paper into the shower. Paper will get wet
  • Laminating the paper. Then I can't write on it.
  • Writing on the laminated paper with dry-erase. It's called dry erase; it won't work in the shower.
  • Forget paper; bring a laptop. Because that does better in water?
  • Alright then, an Etch-A-Sketch. Holy cow I'm a genius.
 And now, to procure an Etch-A-Sketch...

(A what? Click here if your childhood was lacking.)

How to Use "Misunderestimate"

Peacelight Presents: A Grammar Lesson.

Some people go around saying "misunderestimate." Other people go around telling them that it's not a word. Well, what do you think?

According to the "internets," "misunderestimate" is a Bushism: a misstep in communication born from the mouth mouth of ex-President George W. Bush. (Other notable Bushisms include "Is our children learning?" and "The human being and the fish can coexist;" see amusing collection below:)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why Tufts is Perfect

Disclaimer: This is based off of Wikipedia information. This information includes statistics factoring in some graduate programs, which, although they may have an indirect influence on undergraduate education, should technically have no bearing on my experience.

Tufts Students are Smart
"In the 2011 U.S. News & World Report college rankings, Tufts ranked as one of the top 20 most selective schools among national universities in the United States. Tufts accepted 24.5% of 15,437 applicants to its undergraduate class of 2014, the lowest since 2001. For the matriculating class of 2014, ninety-one percent of incoming freshmen rank in the top 10% of their high school class (up one percent from the previous year)." So, not only are the kids here smart, but 2014 was the most selective class in over a decade. So, of all students on campus, we're the smartest?

It's Yummy Here
"Tufts in its "Best Campus Food" category since 2005, ranking it as high as second."

The Alumni are Everything I Want to Be
Lets face it, what interests me? Business? Government? Media? Politics? Publication? Sound about right? Of course, we can't forget technology, right?

Let's take a look at Tufts' notable alumni:
"eBay founder Pierre Omidyar
former Prime Minister of Greece Kostas Karamanlis
United States Senator Scott Brown
New Mexico governor Bill Richardson
journalist and TV personality Meredith Vieira
The New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon
Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler
DuPont CEO Ellen J. Kullman"

So, again, that's the founder of eBay (business/technology), prime ministers, senators, and governors (politics/government), journalists and publishers (media/publication), and various successful CEOs (business as it relates to economics and chemistry, respectively).

So...um. Yeah. That's that.

Ghosts of the Past

No, no, no. Not the Starcraft 2 trailer. Blog ghosts, in fact.

I would like to announce that I have been the author of not one, but three distinct Blogs over the past few years. The one which you currently read, Peacelight, is undoubtedly the most successful: a (current) public following of 10 members, over one hundred hits on select posts, and a healthy number of comments-per-article (though I would love to see more).

My previous two Blogs, which I have stopped writing, nonetheless sit out there in cyber-space, waiting for weary internet-travelers to stumble upon them (no reference to stumble-upon intended).

Therefore, presenting links to two other (smaller, no longer expanding) treasure troves of insight:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

No "Daily Show" for "The Daily"

As per one reader's (read: Abby's) request, supported by positive feedback for my last post (on the subject of the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" by Jon Stewart of the "Daily Show"), I submitted an edited version of my work as an Op-Ed to Tuft's newspaper, aptly named the Tufts Daily.

My submission was sent late Monday night; the reply came Tuesday afternoon: We will be aiming to publish your work in Thursday's paper. Fantastic! All I needed to do was write back, verifying my graduating year, major, and the originality (and unpublished-ity) of my work.

My exact reply:
Year: 2014
Major: Undecided

This has been adapted from my original Blog post on the subject. Otherwise, I have not submitted or published this work through any other publication.
That was it. I waited, and Thursday morning opened the paper to find...nothing. I checked each page; no Op-Ed. I check online; no Op-Ed. I searched their online database for all articles with "sanity" in the text. A few turned up, but not mine.

Did they change their mind? Or had I been mistaken; did I have the wrong date of publication in mind? I decided to go back to the emails and check.

Nothing was wrong; they said Thursday. What was it, then? That's when I noticed the small, faded message at the bottom of the conversation: "1 deleted message in this conversation. View message?"

You see, not long ago I was suffering from a plague of undesired emails from "Major: Undecided," a comedy group on campus. There was no way to unsubscribe and I had gotten sick of asking them to take me off their mailing list (no no avail). Therefore, I created a Gmail filter, that is to say, a rule for my email account: Any forwarded emails containing "Major: Undecided" should be automatically deleted.

Let us return to the story at hand. The Daily, in replying to me, had left the previous conversation material attached to the end of their email. In other words, there was a "forwarded" email in their reply containing my message to them, which contained, by odd coincidence, "Major: Undecided." Therefore, Gmail had deleted it.

The Daily's reply had been sent Tuesday. It read:
Posting it in a blog still counts as publishing. Can you please give me a link to the blog post? If it is significantly different than the blog post it might still be ok to run.
I don't know which is more depressing: that my filter prevented me from seeing this in time to do anything about it, or that sharing my purely original writing with friends and family disqualifies it from being shared with the Tufts student body.