Friday, May 31, 2002

The Daily Cal published my review of "Everything is Illuminated" today. Unfortunately, their website does not seem to be up. So go pick up a copy in the meantime. [update: here's the link].

Thursday, May 30, 2002

This evening I saw a warning to prospective students scrawled on a newspaper rack in black marker. It read something like, "Beware of Cal, it's really Bezerkeley". I can't be sure the grafitti was the work of a reactionary, but doesn't it sound like this or this? Why would you want to discount the value of the degree you just recieved by disparaging the place it came from? Or if you hated it so much, why didn't you leave?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is a huge audience of right wingers for any attacks on the academy. But while Rory and others may gain fame and Patriot readers, they're just a bunch of self-hating intellectuals.

Monday, May 27, 2002

I've been using blogtrack to check for updates, but it doesn't work all the time--sometimes it misses updates, sometimes says there have been updates when there apparently haven't been.
It's been a few days since I've posted. I've been busy. I started my internship on Friday, but mostly I've been playing with my new digital camera--a graduation present--and doing other extracurricular, er, postcurricular activities. I went to the Clarendon Hills concert, and a couple graduation parties on Saturday. Today my girlfriend Erin and I went for a hike and then watched the Lakers win another close one. They're going to give me a heart attack one of these days.
Anyways, I hope to post soon regarding Wonder Boys (which I finally just saw), relating it to Michael Chabon's other book and the television show Max Bickford. And I'm reading Jonathon Safran Foer's book Everything Is Iluminated; a review may be forthcoming.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Beetle Beat says "Page 1: Dead body found in park, confirming what everyone already knew." But the theory around my house was that Chandra Levy was kidnapped by some rich Saudi and forced to join his harem. (Okay, I never believed this either, but they say it happens). Anyway, this still doesn't confirm anything. Where has she been all this time? This is total conspiracy fodder. The current prediction at my house is that we (encouraged by the media) will spend all summer talking about Levy and shark attacks, and then around September.... Oh, nevermind.

By the way, is a potential war between India and Pakistan news anymore? (Asked about his statement a few days ago about "war clouds," he said, "The sky is clear; there are no clouds." He quickly added, "But in a clear sky there can be sudden lightning." Then, whether to keep Pakistan off guard, or because he is willing to give peace a chance, he said, "I hope there will not be any lightning.")What do they call this, saber rattling? It must be another Star Wars metaphor.
For Calstuff's Kevin and any other future Daily Cal columnists, I have a suggestion. Feel free to ignore it. I think it would be cool if a columnist used his column not only for a weekly rant, but to unfold a narrative. Make up a few fake friends, perhaps a alternate narrator persona, and a plot arc for the semester. It could be something simple like boy meets girl, boy loses girl, yadda yadda. I know some people say that there is too much narrative in our society, but I say there isn't enough in the Daily Cal. You could even slip the story into more timely pieces: "I was having dinner with my friend Tania, and she said..." The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Another thing via the Times: Harvard is tightening its grading standards. They're making a B+ more valuable so that professors won't be afraid to give them instead of A-.In addition, now only 60% of students will be able to graduate with honors (instead of the current 90%). The whole thing seems overblown to me. How many people graduate with honors at Berkeley? I'm guessing less than 10%.

Also, on the way home I noticed a flyer for the Clarendon Hills. They're playing this Saturday at 925 Gilman (8pm, $5). Back in the day, these guys played the Green Party Party (I couldn't link to the image so I stole it). Pepito Pea was also once a nominal Satellite editor.
There's some interesting stuff in the New York Times:
The A's traded (the other) Giambi; somebody found Chandra Levy's body; there's a good editorial about the terrorism warnings (at least the first few paragraphs); and a book review about the cosmopolitan muse of dada.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Thanks Bayblog, for noticing me (unlike some other awards), and putting political differences aside.

more on this later.

Until then, check out your moment of zen.
I put my first Satellite article up on the archives. It's about the third world Liberation Front. (I apologize for the lack of design on the page.)

I start a two-month internship tomorrow with Terrain, the magazine of Berkeley's Ecology Center.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Last night was the season finale and Will Ferrell's last night on SNL. They made a surprisingly big deal about it. I feel like they usually wait for someone to die before they make this big a deal over them. Ferrell was in every sketch, including his familiar Alex Trebek and Fidel Castro, but he didn’t do his George W. Bush impression. His departure leaves the question, who will do Bush next year?

This reminds me of an idea I had a little while ago. I hate the a cappella groups that seem to be ubiquitous on college campuses, Berkeley not excepted. They always do the same old songs. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if they did songs based on the news? A little political parody might go a long way. Possible topics include the Catholic Priest scandal or the Palestine-Israel conflict. There’s a whole genre of Mexican music that does this kind of current event reporting, and rap occasionally does it too.
As announced at half time of the Nets-Celtics game, Golden State will get the third pick in the NBA draft, after Chicago Bulls and Houston. Houston will probably pick Yao Ming, and Chicago will probably pick Duke's Jay Williams, or maybe trade the pick for a more experienced player. Meanwhile, the game is really good. Unlike most Eastern Conference games, this game is actually high scoring. The Nets are winning.
I saw a debate about marriage on Fox News today between someone who wants to pass a national "defense of marriage" act, and a woman who thinks homosexuals should be allowed to marry. The conservative said that he wasn't against equal rights for gays, including the right to adopt (he would leave that up to an electoral process); he primarily wanted to defend the heterosexual-only definition of the word. He also said that marriage was about protecting children (and thus, keeping "marriage" heterosexual would somehow send a "positive" message to children).

One of my guests pointed out a contradiction in the conservative’s argument. If marriage is truly about protection of children, you should want people adopting children to marry, and thus homosexuals, since they can adopt, should also be able to marry. I suspect he doesn’t really support the right of homosexuals to adopt. If I’m right he’s being very intellectually dishonest.

Later in the day, we watched as the Lakers demolished the Kings in Sacramento.
I'm sorry I'm missing the "blogger party". I was entertaining out of town guests who came for my graduation.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

I finished my paper. It's crap. But at this point, the day before graduation, I couldn't really care less. Anyway, I'd rather read the profile of Shaq in the current New Yorker (I don't think it's online).
Speaking of Shaq, those Lakers are sooo good. As predicted below, the conference finals are down to 1st vs. 3rd seed match-ups. The symmetry of how they got there is pretty amazing. Each series went 5 games after being split 1-1.

The new issue of the East Bay Express has an article about David Brock’s tenure at the Daily Cal, where he was known to embellish and generally cause trouble. The article details numerous discrepancies between his book and reality. In other words, he’s a liar. I think my response to the article was the opposite of what the author intended. I feel, actually, kind of inspired. Although one must, I feel, uphold journalistic ethics, David Brock comes off as someone who could always find the most interesting part of a news story. His hubris may have reached too far, but at least he isn’t boring.

Regarding the Daily Cal’s trouble with the ASUC, I have a couple questions which perhaps somebody can answer. As the recent earthquake reminded me, isn’t Eshleman going to be torn down pretty soon? In that case, the Daily Cal needs to find an alternate space regardless. And what about the seventh floor? Can’t that be made usable for ASUC groups? What has the executive vice president been doing all year anyway? I think if anything, the Daily Cal’s lease should be made less expensive. I’m sure the market value of that kind of space is a lot lower than it was a couple years ago. But regardless, I think the paper will pull through. We’re only going through a temporary slump in ad revenue that is affecting all kinds of publications, but the economy is bound to turn around soon.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

One of my classes has been cancelled at least four times this semester (I've lost count), sometimes with less than two hours notice, such as today. In addition, we haven't gotten our second paper back yet, even though we have another paper due Thursday, and the final hasn't been explained, even though there aren't any more official class meetings! The explanation for all of this is that our professor has been going to conferences all year. I can understand the pressure to go to conferences and get published, but there's got to be a limit. (It's a Tuesday-Thursday class, so he gets 4-day weekends to travel or grade or write).

I guess I should make more of it than a chance to update my blog. I guess I'll go study for a bit, before my next class.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

I'm trying to write my philosophy paper but other things keep getting in the way of phenomenology. Changing the template of my blog (let me know what you think), or calling my mom for instance, or watching the Lakers win in their usual come-from-behind, make-the-fans-suffer-first fashion. Last night it was the SUPERB Spring Concert, which was great by the way. At least I really liked the jazz inflected hip hop of the Black Eyed Peas and the hiphop inflected jazz of Spearhead. I don't like or listen to punk rock, so I won't comment on the other band. No matter how good your dj is, it makes a huge difference to have a live band behind a rap group.

Thursday night I went with Erin to Yoshi's for the first time to see the Brad Mehldau trio. We stayed for both sets, which was good because the second set was better than the first. I don't know enough about jazz to really talk about it, but I think their music is beautiful. Erin says its "moody jazz" It's very composed and kind of down tempo, especially the two ballads that they ended each set with. They played a cover of Radiohead's "Everything in its Right Place" that was fantastic.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Daily Cal Review editor Sen Onishi reviews the state of campus publishing in today's paper. His article seems intended to encourage people to join student publications, which is of course a noble goal. But did he forget what section of the paper he's writing for? I want value judgments! I want to hear: Berkeley Political Review is useless, or Satellite is "strangely boring" as some seem to believe, with perhaps an few explanations of these judgments. Instead he just lists which publications exist and divides them into categories. He explains the increase in publications with the tech boom, without mentioning the improved funding structure Satellite and others worked hard for, or the Daily Cal's own incompetence, which has led directly to some new publications.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

In today's Daily Cal, Paul Thornton writes somewhat sarcastically that BearMail is the best thing to happen this school year. If one wants to judge the school year, I think the "spiffy new pcs" with the flat screens that appeared in the computer labs over the break easily rival BearMail. After all, you can get your uclink mail from any internet connection in the world through hotmail. (Although it's starting to really bug me that Microsoft is suddenly getting tight with its "free" email service, constantly warning me that my meager 2megs of space is filling up, or that for $20 I can ensure that my account won't disappear if I don't access it for a month, even though I check it several times a day.) And he doesn't mention the real reason no one should visit any more. It hasn't been updated in at least a semester. (And doesn't the Daily Cal own

Besides the spiffy new PCs, this year also saw the reopening (finally) of the beautifully refurbished Berkeley Public Library (check it out if you haven't), as well as the Bear's Lair. Also a slowly but steadily improving Publications Center in Eshleman, campus speakers like Christopher Hitchens, Noam Chomsky, and Ralph Nader (who some of us had been trying to get here for 4 years). And Russian-American pop artists Komar and Melamid for a whole semester.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

I would love to see Yao Ming come play in Oakland. According to this article, the Warriors have the second best chance in the lottery to get him. But it appears they aren't too interested. There's a large Chinese community in Oakland and San Francisco, so it would be a nicer place for him to play than Dallas or Utah, although foreign players have prospered there. The Warriors would probably just drive him away, ala Chris Webber.
It shouldn't surprise anyone, but documents show that Enron manipulated the California energy market for its own profit. Enron used strategies with nicknames like "Death Star", "Fat Boy", and "Get Shorty". "Load Shift" involved the deliberate overstatement of energy to create the appearance of congestion which it would also be paid to relieve (without relieving anything).

UC is already suing over Enron's inflated profit reports, but it will be hard to recover anything. What I would like to see are criminal prosecutions.

Monday, May 06, 2002

A couple things this week on the cultural landscape: Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau and his trio play at Yoshi's this week. I was introduced to his music when I took the jazz decal a couple years ago. Here's a description from the website: The trio has a serious talent for combining sophisticated harmonies, juggling time signatures, bringing insight, emotion and imagination to original material and standards, with Mehldau's sensitive phrasing, and melodic ingenuity, providing the perfect balance of accessiblity and invention.

Also, the tickets for Superb's Spring Concert (Sat. May 11 at 5pm) featuring Black Eyed Peas and Spearhead are available now at Zellerbach. Last year with the aging Violent Femmes was horrible, but maybe this one will be more like the concert two years ago when
Ozomatli played.

Anyone interested in working on a student publication next year might want to check this out.

What's up with the ASUC website?.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

The New York Times has a couple of articles you probably don't need to read: an explanation of blogs in the Books section, and the first of a three part series on getting into college (which somehow seems so 1997).

I saw part of the White House Correspondents Dinner on CSPAN. Drew Carey hosted. I learned a couple new things about him: apparently he's a Republican, and he doesn't wear glasses anymore because of laser eye surgery. Somehow this new Drew Carey isn’t quite as funny. His best line came after he acknowledged Colin Powell and another top general. He then complimented the regular troops, who follow every command, “even the really stupid ones.”

Improvisational sample musicians Scattershot Theory (friends of a friend) played the Bowles luau tonight. I enjoyed the music but the residents seemed more interested in the fire.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

here's the long-promised review:

Theater Review: Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul
by Michael Rochmes and Erin Schmidt

Homebody/Kabul is the new play by Tony Kushner (Angels in America) that made headlines when it debuted on Broadway after 9/11. Although written before the terrorist attacks, it became only more topical afterwards. The play takes place in London and Kabul, August 1998, when America bombed Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in response to the bombing of US embassies in Africa. Kushner is a pessimist—on KQED’s Forum, he said we live in one of the most frightening times ever—but in Homebody a character points out that disdaining the time in which one lives is a constant throughout history. Perhaps it is this cynical nature that draws Kushner to Kabul.

In a rambling monologue that consumes much of the first act, we meet a bookish, apologetic homebody (played well by actress Michelle Morain) who discusses her marriage, anti-depressant pills, and the history of Kabul. She reads to us her discoveries in an out-dated guidebook to the city, and as the scene progresses you see her interest develop into obsession. Her world is almost entirely internal, and her description of a foray to a local Afghani shop warps into a fantasy of sexual connection in faraway Kabul.

Kushner leads the audience to follow this character as she journeys to Kabul, but then he goes Psycho on us, and kills off the main (up to now, only) character between scenes. When we catch our bearings after the sudden change in location, we find ourselves in Kabul where a grieving husband and his daughter (hidden behind a sheet so as not to betray Taliban sensibilities) listen to a doctor describe in gruesome detail how their homebody was murdered for appearing on the street without a burka. (Or is she really dead? This is a mystery that motivates much of the rest of the play.) The homebody created a tangible personality through her winding, exasperating and intermittently funny speech, and even if we didn’t particularly like her, when she disappears we are left without a hold to grasp onto, in the middle of mysterious and dangerous Kabul. While her husband, Milton (Charles Shaw Robinson) seeks escape just as his wife had, their daughter Priscilla (Heidi Dippold) ventures into the streets of Kabul in a search for the truth. In a somewhat manipulative move, Kushner has her constantly taking off her burka in the middle of downtown Kabul. One can’t help silently berating her: “Don’t be stupid; put the damn burka back on!”…and the Taliban have already won.

To fill the hole left by the homebody, another bookish woman appears. In what is in many ways the emotional center of the play, Priscilla meets Mahala (Jacqueline Anteramian), a polyglot librarian desperate to flee cruel, bookless Afghanistan for London. She raves in a mixture of Pashtun, French, and English, with a smattering of Russian and German. Although a Tajik man serves as translator to Priscilla, whose face and reactions we cannot see, Mahala is most powerful when her words come flooding out in an unstoppable torrent. Her speech recalls the meandering monologue of the homebody, whose thesaurus-riddled language was similarly incomprehensible, leaving only the impression of ineffable emotion.

Kabul is a city with a long, violent history, the proving ground for many bad ideas—Imperialism, Communism, the Taliban, but it also represents lost potential. In Homebody, the skeleton of a ruined building provides the ubiquitous background for the Kabul scenes and a supporting cast of Afghanis who have lost their entire families, as well as a British NGO worker turned junkie. The play’s failed utopias even include Esperanto, the wish for a universal language. Kabul, once a crossroads of the world, and as recently as the seventies a self-sustaining, vibrant city, has, by 1998, become a wasteland.

The play is smart, if overly long and heavy-handed, and very well acted. Homebody/Kabul is at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre through mid June.

The new issue of the East Bay Express has a good article about Teach for America, which one of my friends is about to join.
There's also a review of Homebody Kabul. I haven't read it yet...I'm working on my review, which I'll put up Thursday evening.