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!


“And then there’s the part where Jacob goes insane…” – editor

The last Slant published under the successful and puppy-filled reign of Meredith Gray came out today. I got the lead with this report about left-wing internal conflict, “Green Power Initiative Countered with Black Power Initiative.” This one has the most “WTF?” ending of anything I’ve ever written. It may be a little too out there.

Behind the scenes story: During this weekend’s Slant production we were interrupted by a guy coming into the office to talk about some business. I didn’t have any idea who the guy was. In fact, my first thought was that he was there to fix the phone (which wasn’t even broken, but never mind). As it turned out, he was sort of a VIP of the student body. It took me awhile to figure this out though, and by the time I did his obvious sense of self-importance and political way of talking had put him on my bad side.

Well, after the business was taken care of he decided to introduce himself to the entire office, that being the political thing to do. He began with “You all obviously know who I am. So, who are you?” That was too much. I responded in a friendly voice, “Actually, no. I have no idea who you are.” And hell, it was true for most of the time he was in there. When he finally realized I wasn’t joking, he introduced himself to me and I introduced myself to him as Jacob and it was a good moment.

Then our managing editor did a round of introductions. “This is Colin, our editor for next year. This is Tim, he writes for us and does a British column for The Hustler. This is Jacob, he was editor of The Torch last year…” At which point Mr. VIP interrupts with, “Oh, you’re Jacob Grier. I read The Torch all the time.”

And suddenly I felt like an ass.


Twelve dollars spent

When I was in D. C. last month I spent much of my down time back at Common Grounds, my frequent coffee shop hangout from the fall. One of those days they played a song that really caught my attention and I immediately began trying to track it down on Google. No luck. But compelled to find out what it was, I asked the barista for a list of the CDs in their rotation that morning.

That narrowed it down to six and the song turned out to be the opening track of local singer Leah Morgan’s “Zero Dollars Spent.” Twelve dollars later the CD was in the mail. I haven’t been able to stop listening to it this week; the songs are eclectic and hard to classify, but folk rock may be the best description. They’re all good. You can hear samples on her website or at the CD sales site. Or, for my D. C. friends, check the schedule for upcoming live performances. (There’s one in Common Grounds! Makes me wish I was back in town.)


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.


Murder: No longer 2 for the price of 1

That was the headline I suggested for an upcoming Torch column on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act that was recently signed by President Bush. We went with something a little less edgy, but the act raises another question in my mind (besides the obvious ones about how this threatens abortion rights): is “unborn” really the right word to use here? I would think an unborn baby would be one that was born and then shoved back into the womb, like an undead person is one that died and became reanimated.

Unless they really are going for a zombie analogy, I think the prolifers are trying to indicate that fetuses are people, too. They just lack the benefit of having been born. I think the “pre-born” would be a more accurate name for the class; editor Brent came up with the “non-born.” Perhaps we should be politically correct and call them the “natally challenged.”

Or maybe we should just call a fetus a fetus.


Easter experiments

Ah, Easter. The day we gather with family and friends to celebrate one very important historical event: the creation of the Cadbury Cream Egg. Mmmmm….

Then there’s that other famous Easter candy, the Peep. These are fun to eat, and even more fun to microwave. Microwaving Peeps was the highlight of a party I went to a few weeks ago (ok, so it wasn’t a great party). In an impressive display, they puff up to about three times their natural size.

There’s much more to be done with Peeps than eating and microwaving, however. Behold the wonders of science! Peeps exposed to liquid nitrogen, sulfuric acid, and the dangers of smoking and alcohol are just a few of the experiments performed on this tasty website.


I recycle

outsourced.jpegWhen The Agitator linked to my rejection letter last month, the entry title was “At least it wasn’t due to outsourcing.” The original wasn’t, but that title made a good idea for a story. So here is the rejection letter recycled to be a part of a full-length Slant article, “Family Outsources Son to India.” I hate to be repetitive, but it’s all new to the 99% of Slant readers who don’t also read my weblog. Big tip o’ the hat to Radley Balko for the idea.

Also in this issue: Slant alumni offer advice to senior staff, a Dance Dance Revolution topples the Venezuelan government, Avril Lavigne informs us that she’s still angry, and things get ugly as twelve die in Torch-Orbis violence. Ten points to the first person who correctly identifies the hands below!


The issue also features a guest appearance by everyone’s favorite genus Psychrolutes, Mr. Blobby. Read the whole thing here.


Oh yes, Wyoming!

There’s nothing more annoying than Internet advertising — unless it’s so creative you’ll want to seek it out and watch it just for fun. That’s what we get with this new series of American Express ads featuring Superman and his pal Jerry Seinfeld. Freed from television’s 30 second constraint, there’s more time to explore the possibilities of the premise and less urgency to pitch the product. Watch “A Uniform Used to Mean Something” (the only spot that’s completely finished) and then sing along to “Oh yes, Wyoming!” [Link via Jesse Walker at Hit & Run.]

Incidentally, the Superman comic series seem to be hitting a streak of solid writing lately. And if you’re into DC Comics movies, here’s a peek at the new Batmobile in the upcoming Batman Begins movie.


IHS seminars

I should have mentioned before that I highly recommend the summer seminars put on by The Institute for Humane Studies every year. I’ve attended one for each of the previous two summers and had a wonderful time at each (they were Liberty and Current Issues in 2002 and Globalization and Poverty in 2003). They’re a lot of fun, a great way to make friends from all over the world, and the lectures are thought provoking. Overviews of this year’s seminars are available here. These are great ways to spend a week if you’re a college student or recent graduate interested in policy issues.

If you’re a graduate student, consider the Social Change Workshop run by Will Wilkinson. He has an outstanding faculty lined up for it.

IHS pays for pretty much everything except travel to these seminars. Apply soon, as the deadline is just five days away.


New Torch

The second to last Torch of the year is now available online. My own column is a pretty standard take on the growing split between libertarians and conservatives, with a personal touch based on my experience at the Liberty Fund seminar in Richmond a few weeks ago. (Note: If you ever get invited to a Liberty Fund seminar, go! Smart people, interesting topics, and very nice accomodations.)

Vanderbilt Student Communications (VSC) also held elections for next year last week. Our new editor is Anne Malinee. She’s a great writer and has real experience in the newspaper world; I’m excited that she’ll be taking over next year and keeping the paper I started alive after I leave Vanderbilt. Read her latest column, “Green Power Effort Simply Blowing Smoke.”