Hootie and the Blowfish face death ray, headline Rites of Spring

I’m not a fan of Hootie and the Blowfish. Their music seems pretty well designed to not offend people, so I can’t really say anything
derogatory about it. It’s sort of like a noble gas, just filling space, not affecting the listener. But Hootie isn’t one of the fun noble gasses, like Neon or Helium. On the periodic table of music, I’d put Hootie as the equivalent of Argon, making up roughly 1% of the musical atmosphere.

However, mix Hootie and the Blowfish with the power of 112 suns, and you’ve got something much more interesting…

So say the creators of the Solar Death Ray as they blast a Hootie and the Blowfish audio tape into liquid oblivion. Hootie lives on, however, promoting the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch burger and headlining this year’s Rites of Spring.

I’ve been planning on attending Rites for a while now and, like most Vanderbilt students, surprise was my first reaction. Not so much because Hootie and the Blowfish were selected so much as that the band still exists. Surprise turned to perplexity as I tried in vain to recall a single Hootie song. Then, finally, I felt relief that Vanderbilt had not gone with its usual inexplicable choice of a rap group to top the concert billing… or had it?

Should be fun, with lots of good music and Aerobie time. The rest of the Rites lineup is available here.


How much does it cost to get Ann Coulter to talk to a liberal?*

I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess it’s somewhere in the five figure range. Whatever the amount, Vanderbilt’s IMPACT Symposium is paying it this year to stage a debate between Ann Coulter and Al Sharpton. Why don’t they just host a mud wrestling event instead? They would save a lot of money and the level of intellectual discourse would be just as high.

Now that I think about it, perhaps IMPACT should put a mud pit on stage between them and see what happens? With a bucket or two of falafel added in they could probably even get Bill O’Reilly to referee at no extra charge; Hire James Carville to announce the play-by-play and we’re talking about the political debate of the century.

On a more serious note, IMPACT selected well with its choice of Howard Dean for the primary speaking spot. As with Condoleeza Rice’s Senior Day speech last May, they pulled off the trick of arranging a speaker far in advance who would happen to be big in the news at the time of the event. As an innovative campaigner and newly elected DNC Chair, Dean is exactly the kind of speaker IMPACT should be looking for: someone who’s both provocative and relevant.

Coulter and Sharpton will speak and/or thrash about wildly on March 21st. Dean speaks the next evening. Tickets are $10 for the public.

*Correction: I noticed after writing this entry that Coulter and Sharpton won’t actually be debating. Disappointingly, they will just be giving separate monologues on the same evening. Perhaps even Vanderbilt’s considerable resources were not enough to get Ann to talk to a liberal.


“Do my columns make any sense?”

From the same man who asked, “Are libertarians and communists any different?” comes another compelling question: “Does free trade lead to totalitarianism?

[Update: Tim Boyd provides his own response.]

I submitted a rather lengthy response to his column. It may take a while for The Hustler to post it, so I’ve copied it here below the fold…
Continue reading ““Do my columns make any sense?””


I said what?

The Vanderbilt Hustler ran an op-ed today asking the all important question, “Are Libertarians and Communists any different?” By describing grossly impoverished versions of both philosophies the writer concludes that they’re not. For example:

Like communists, libertarians have an essentially economistic worldview that tends to dismiss cultural and moral issues as unimportant or irrelevant. I can recall, for example, reading an interview with a former editor of The Torch, in which he argued that all drugs should be legalized and sold in stores, because (I am quoting from memory) “its all just supply and demand.”

No, that wasn’t me. The quote is from a February 2003 interview in Versus Magazine with The Torch’s contorversial columnist Brett Austin. Here’s the full quote, which is a bit more nuanced than the author gives Brett credit for:

ED: What about legalization of pot or other drugs?

BA: I think all drugs should be legal. Drugs and prostitution. I think it is all supply and demand. People are going to demand these things. So, there is a market for it, obviously, and we might as well legalize it and regulate it. It is a lot better than to have a black market trade.

Cato also gets a mention in the Hustler op-ed:

Libertarian philosophy also is casually indifferent to what we might consider national issues. Libertarian think-tanks like the Cato Institute routinely publish papers extolling the virtues of massive, unrestricted immigration and global free trade, regardless of how such policies might impact a nation’s culture, sovereignty or security.

I may submit a response to this later but will let it pass without comment for now. Thanks for the tip go to Anne Malinee, current editor of that libertarian/communist rag, The Torch.

[Update 2/2/05: Kevin McNish writes a rebuttal.]


Credit where credit is due

I’m usually critical of the Vanderbilt administration on this weblog, but today I can report some good news: the Dining monopoly appears to be nearing an end. Dining has initiated a pilot program for 300 students to use their Vandy Cards at several off campus establishments. Assuming it goes well, Dining hopes to extend the option even further.

Vandy’s dining monopoly was always one of my pet issues as a student and I’m glad to see change finally in the works. For years, the university dining services have been insulated from competion by Vandy’s debit card. The card could only be used on campus and it took about two weeks to withdraw one’s funds. This gave Dining a huge advantage over the many local competitors with whom students had to use cash or credit. Predictably, this allowed Dining to get away with lower quality food than would be acceptable at restaurants located just a couple blocks away.

Praise to Frank Gladu for implementing this change. The competition will give students more options and spur improvements in Vanderbilt’s eateries. It’s a good decision all around.


The South will rise…

…and hear the verdict. My fellow Vanderblogger Joel [del 8/29/05] notes that Vanderbilt and the United Daughers of the Confederacy have met once again in court (see the City Paper for more). At issue is Confederate Memorial Hall, a dorm on the Peabody Campus that the UDC helped fund in the 1930s. The administration and Student Government Association have long wanted to change the name to omit the word “Confederate.” The UDC has countered with a legal challenge, arguing that to do so would be a breach of their contract. It’s unclear as of now which way the court will decide, but the judges do appear to be properly considering the case as a matter of contract enforcement rather than politics.

I have no opinion about the contracts and I’m no friend of the UDC or other Confederate groups; I’m even glad to see Vanderbilt distancing itself from its genteel Southern image that I think holds it back as a university. That said, I’m opposed to the name change as being painfully superficial. Joel writes:

The UDC maddeningly argues that Vanderbilt is trying to rewrite history by removing the name. I fail to understand this argument. Has Vanderbilt stopped offering 19th-century Southern history classes? Do we no longer teach anything about the Civil War? Better yet, have we adopted the technique of the Holocaust revisionists and started claiming that the War Between the States never actually happened? How in the hell are we rewriting history here?

It’s not the history of the United States that’s at issue, but the history of Vanderbilt. It’s institutional history is inextricably tied to the Old South. If its students are as smart as they think they are, then they should be able to acknowledge that fact and reflect upon how far the place has come (and still has to go). That’s the kind of liberal attitude a university should be instilling in its students. Instead, Vanderbilt’s counsel is to “seek out what offends ye and break out the sandblasters.” That’s a terrible lesson to teach.

Let’s suppose Vanderbilt wins its case and finally alters the name. Once the controversy is forgotten, what will future students learn of the university? I envision the following dialogue:

Prospective Student: “What building is that?”

Tour Guide: “That’s Memorial Hall.”

Prospective Student: “What’s it a memorial to?”

Tour Guide: “Well, it’s not really a memorial to anything. It’s just, you know, a memorial.”

Prospective Student: “That doesn’t make a lot sense…”

Tour Guide: “Hey, did you know that Vanderbilt has more than 200 squirrels per acre?”

That uncompelling vision is, to me, the essence of Vanderbilt’s shallow reform. As an alternative, I much prefer a vision conceived by Lucius Outlaw, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the African American Studies Program. I remember him speaking about this dispute a year or two ago and saying that a wonderful ending would be for the building to remain Confederate Memorial Hall and for it to become a de facto black dormitory. Then the students could relax on the porch, waving and smiling as the Daughters of the Confederacy walk by. They might even thank the UDC for building them such nice living accomodations, relishing the irony of the situation. Such reclaiming of the past would be far richer than its obliteration.

Of course, I’d be foolish to expect a thoughtfully critical approach from Vanderbilt’s current administration — not when it’s controversy and lawsuits that bring on the attention from the press.

[Update 1/7/05: Joel provides a cogent response.]


Real Men of Vanderbilt

I’m a little late on this — Joel [del 8/29/05] says the links have been spreading like the clap at Tri-Delt — but Vandy people might enjoy these ad parodies by the Dodecs. These are take offs of the Bud Light Real American Heroes commercials, dedicated to the real men of Vanderbilt: Mr. Flip-flop Wearin’, Popped Collar Frat Guy and Mr. Obsessive-Compulsive Facebook Checker. Perhaps the next one will be for Mr. Aerobie Tossin’ Latte Drinker, but I doubt it. Joel has the MP3s here.

While we’re on the subject of parodies, here’s a great send up of “Candid Camera” called “Kicked in the Nuts”. Extremely juvenile, but I enjoyed it. Credit goes to Justin Logan for pointing out this little gem.


Generalissimo X rises again

The editorial column in today’s Vanderbilt Hustler comes from none other than Frank X. Gladu, the Director of Vanderbilt Dining. The headline reads, “Dining director apologizes for score.” At first I thought that meant he’d been caught with a young co-ed, but the score alluded to actually refers to a city health inspection. It turns out Rand Dining Hall has failed inspection with a 48/100 — with 32 of the deducted points for “critical items.” Way to go, Dining!

In his apology letter, Gladu explains, “I really thought they were going to curve that test, so I didnít prepare enough. With all that grade inflation going on at the Ivy schools, we never get a break! Weíre really cramming for the retake though.”

No, wait, that’s the wrong article. That’s from the satire I wrote when Rand failed inspection two years ago with a 69. They’ve dropped 31 points since then. I’ve occasionally felt a touch of guilt for all the times I mocked Gladu in print over the years, but that is now alleviated. He has a tough job and seems like a really nice guy, but this kind of performance should not be rewarded (I suddenly feel like I’m talking about George W. Bush).

So, in honor of Vanderbilt Dining’s accomplishments, here is a retrospective of the past three years:

Dept. of Justice brings anti-trust suit against Vanderbilt Dining ServicesTorch satire written with Justin Holmes; the story that gave Gladu the nickname Generalissimo X.

The Lure of the Rand — Tim Boyd’s encomium to Rand’s mastery of British cooking

Rand fails health inspection — My Slant article from the last time this happened

White House demands ‘regime change’ at Rand — Tim reports on the inspections into Operation Botulism

Shock and awe bombing commences in war against Rand extremists — Mike Mott, Ben Stark, and Dan Ortiz report on the beginning of hostilities

A letter from Frank Gladu — “Frank’s” letter to incoming freshmen, in which he unveils the discovery of “carbonation”

Where will Generalissimo X and his Randian minions take us next? Only time — or the next issue of The Slant — will tell.


The Legend of Hand Pants Man

If you happened to read the comments on the porcupine entry a few days ago, then you know about the legend of Hand Pants Man (HPM for short). HPM was the Vice President of the Vanderbilt DKE chapter. After one of his pledges was arrested breaking into a federal courthouse with a bag of stolen mail, HPM was called upon to interview for a local news station.

Then hilarity ensued. You see, HPM was not cut out for being on camera. He got a little nervous. And then he shoved his hand down his pants. Front and center. Apparently he found this comforting, for there it rested for the remainder of the interview.

The video was an instant hit on AIM as Vanderbilt students sent the link around to all their friends. But then the video was lost and Hand Pants Man drifted into the realm of legend.

Until now. Thanks to the foresighted archiving of my friend Julian and the generous hosting of The Slant, that notorious interview is once again available for your viewing pleasure.

Ladies and gentlemen, we now present the Hand Pants Man.


Provence on Peabody

One thing Vanderbilt’s doing right: allowing the French bakery Provence to open up shop in the Peabody Library, bringing along with their famous Dancing Goats coffee. The coffee is one of the best I’ve had and is named after the mythological goatherder Kaldi, who is said to have discovered the drink’s awakening qualities upon seeing his goats dancing after eating coffee cherries. Not surpisingly, Provence reports problems with red tape blocking their access to VandyCard accounts.

My friend Sarah questions the choice of location, however: “But why would they open up in a place no one ever goes? I mean, Peabody students in the library? Hello…” She raises a good point!


That’s our chancellor

Chris Carroll, the director of student media at Vanderbilt, is quoted in a recent Reason article about censorship in campus media:

Deplorable in itself, a repressive atmosphere on campus can breed a pernicious self-censorship. Chris Carroll, director of student media at Vanderbilt University and a former president of College Media Advisers, an organization that monitors collegiate censorship, worries that young journalists are increasingly “submissive.” He cites a troubling case at his own university: “I had a freshman who was on something that I think could have been a story, [concerning] our current chancellor, with some of his affiliations with corporate boards outside the school. He kept digging and learning more and more and more, and he talked to the chancellor, who scared the living shit out of him….He said, ĎYou know Iím here on financial aid; these people can sue me, ruin me, ruin my family,í and he quit the paper. Heís gone.”

Chancellor Gee putting style over substance, friendly on the outside but agressively protective of his image behind closed doors? That sounds just about right. Students I know from a liberal advocacy group at Vanderbilt reported a similar attitude when they finally got a meeting with him. Kudos to Chris for getting Mr. Gladhand, as one of my profs called him, some negative press coverage in a national magazine (and we from Vandy all know how much Gee loves press coverage).

This is another fun Gee tidbit from an email he sent out to the Vanderbilt faculty and staff email list about buying tickets for school sporting events:

Almost a year ago, Vanderbilt helped chart a new course for intercollegiate athletics that generated a lot of attention, in Nashville and around the country. Many of you applauded Vanderbilt’s leadership, and today I am pleased and proud to say that our efforts are being rewarded. Last spring, Vanderbilt’s student-athletes competed for national championships in every sport, and we ranked among the best and most successful college programs across the board. Our students excelled, both in the classroom and on the field, and made us all proud to be Commodores.

That is so typical. Vanderbilt athletes have an amazing year, and Gee opens his letter with a comment on his restructuring of the athletic department. Of course, that restructuring had nothing to do with athletic performance in the same year it happened. No coaching changes were made and there was no time for recruitment to have been affected. I actually think Gee’s idea has potential, but I wouldn’t pretend that it had anything to do with last year’s fantastic results. No, wait, I take that back. It did have one great result: lots of media attention for our beloved chancellor.

To his credit, the school did manage to hold on to its coaches under the new system and realized some cost savings. The City Paper has a balanced article about the current state of the program here. I’ll be curious how the restructuring works out over the next few years.

Alas, even if all goes well I suspect the success will be overshadowed by his wasteful residential college transformation. Taking an “If you build it, they will come” attitude, this program’s leaders seem to think that the key to attracting better students is making nicer dormitories (and then not giving students the option to choose which one to live in). Unless this is all a covert operation to undermine the Greek system, spending even a fraction of these resources on better professors and stronger academic programs would seem to make a lot more sense.

On the other hand, undermining the Greek system may be the plan exactly. The Hustler reports that as early as 2008 all freshmen could be housed in dorms on the Peabody campus. That will put them much further away from Greek Row, even with the convenience of the $1.9 million bridge crossing 21st Avenue (the one that made such a good photo-op for you know who). Perhaps that will create a less Greek-centered community among the freshmen. Or perhaps it will just eliminate the convenient social sorting that having students choose between the Branscomb, Vandy-Barnard, and Kissam Quads currently provides. For now, color me skeptical.

Oh well, enough ranting. I’ll just have to settle for withholding donations to the university until they get someone at the helm who will care about more than image. Take that, Vanderbilt! This is one street performer who won’t be sharing his tips with you!

[Thanks to Renee for the Reason link.]


The secret life of VandyGirls

After spending some time in DuPont’s Kramerbooks tonight I couldnít resist picking up a copy of Alexandra Robbins’ new book, Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. (Is it creepy that the first two books on my currently reading list are Pledged and Lolita?) Robbins went undercover to report on what modern sorority life is really like, and found that reality is often worse than the stereotype. Having attended a southern university where fifty percent of the women are in the Greek system, I find that scary, believable, and sad.

Though complaining about the Vandy Greek system was, and is, a favorite hobby of mine, the fact is I kept my distance from that scene. For me Greek Row was simply a rowdy and obnoxious street I had to cross on my way to Borders, or a malicious force that transformed previously interesting women into vapid VandyGirls. How did this black magic work? Pledged promises to be an illuminating and disturbing read.


Last Rites

There’s nothing I look forward to more at Vanderbilt than Rites of Spring, the annual three day outdoor concert that comes at the end of April. It’s non-stop music, food, and drinks right on my beloved Alumni Lawn. Most importantly, it’s the ideal time for Aerobie: the throngs of people provide the added challenge of not bonking innocent by-standers in the head with the astonishing flying ring. My friends and I train all year for this event to keep the sorority girl and other soft target casualties to a minimum (of course, hitting a Tri-Delt still counts for 10 points).

This year it looked like this, my last Rites, was going to be washed out in thunderstorms. Luckily, the sky has cleared and the weather couldn’t be better for spring time ring tossage. Here’s my view of the Lawn, in a photograph from about this time last year:


Enough blogging. Time to play outside!


Bragging rights

A bit of personal news: today I was given the Charles Forrest Alexander Award for Journalism, which is awarded each year to a Vanderbilt student for achievement in student media. This came with a ceremony in Kirkland, a framed certificate, a sizeable check, and a permanent spot on a plaque in Sarratt Student Center. Much to my surprise, the award presentation included a mention of my semester spent sleeping on a slanted bed along with my more relevant activities. My thanks to Vanderbilt Student Communications; it was a very nice way to cap the three years I spent with the media here.


Ugg, what a dilemma

I knew that my return from Washington, D. C. to Vanderbilt would carry with it some culture shock, but nothing could have prepared me that first week back for the newest trend in VandyGirl fashion: the ugg boot. Iím officially declaring ugg boots the nadir of VandyFemme fashions during my four years here. While I can see the appeal in, say, the Australian outback, they just look silly in Nashville. They look even sillier paired with an expensive short skirt and shaded into pastels, sometimes giving one the distinct impression that the footwear has been recently excavated from an abandoned ABBA show trunk.

In this photo, Kate Hudson does a pretty good VandyGirl impression. Just make the boots baby blue, change the plastic cup to a Nalgene bottle, and give her a Kate Spade bag with sorority letters embroidered onto the side and youíve got the picture. Multiply that picture by several hundred women per acre and youíve also figured out why Iíll be in therapy someday.

But that still leaves me much better off than the traditional Australian ugg cobblers, who are under attack by corporate America. The American Deckers Outdoor Corporation has trademarked the word “ugg” and is threatening to sue Australian manufacturers who continue to employ it. Thus my present dilemma: on the one hand, anything that stems the tide of uggs flooding over our borders canít be a bad thing. On the other, I feel sympathy for these Down Under craftsmen, who know not what their bonzer work hath wrought on Vanderbilt fashion.

I ponder this important question and recall that as the Nashville spring arrives the race will be on among the VandyGirls to wear as little fabric as possible Ė hopefully including the swaths of sheep skin that currently prevent their treadmill-toned calves from catching the eyes of passing frat boys. So I must side with the makers of the original, genuine, dinky-di uggs, and fly this banner of solidarity:


Best of luck, mates.

[Thanks to Adam for the article link.]