Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Gay Day in San Diego


It was my first full day in my mom's breezy upstairs condo between Adams Ave and El Cajon Blvd in San Diego. For half the day I sat and read "Play Money", a book by Julian Dibbell, who once did business in the imaginary world of MMORPG. He farmed gold and hawked suits of armor from Britannia on Ebay. Dope!

Then Dad and I had some nice, cold, tall dark beers at the microbrew/sportsbar Gordon Biersch. The entertainment for the night were the few shriek-laughers in other groups.

We were crunched up against the table next to us because the waitress--who looked like she didn't give a shit about her job, but acted very diplomatically--had to force ours perpendicular and away from the stage. A band was going to play in an hour or so. Halfway through the meal a tall, roundish youg man with a long brown pony tail walked up to the stage to our left with some amps. He left the patio area, returned with more, left, returned again. Nearby a plump Samoan fellow with a long grey ponytail walked up and produced an electric guitar from a soft case. A man stepped in with a piece of an ivory colored drum set. I guessed they were a reggae band.

They were a reggae band! A pocket one at that, the drummer rapping away with all his midguts' might; the Samoan laying out some reverbing du-duh, du-duhs; the bass player cooing in a Brad Nowell drawl. And the whole time, the young man sat diligently beside the guitarist, swigging not even a droplet of Dunkles.

Then they started playing the type of nasty pop song normally reserved for Sea World commercials. "Somethin'...sweet daaarlin'" I can't even remember right now but it was something like that. Ew. Check, please!


Back at home, I was talking to Travis for a bit about Iraq. Here's a thought. I feel like people who don't have soldiers or families in Iraq can check out of Iraq, just as they would decide to not see a movie or not watch the news. Tell me, is it easy to get by with the war or are you affected by Iraq? How?

Later that night, the subject came up again when I met up in P.B. with my old friends Peter Ryan and Sam Goodman and a few of their interesting companions. I said I had just read "The Assassins' Gate" by George Packer. Actually, I didn't tell them the title. This time I was too drunk to keep on going. But more so, I actually felt embarrassed. Like I was going to ruin the party! I chuckled and we all chuckled a bit about how the idea is absurd. Of course we should discuss! But then a moment passed and we carried on to another conversation.

And here I sit, 3 in the morning, sorting this through my brain. Maybe it's idiotic and selfish to say, but maybe I need a break from Iraq.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

On The (New) New School

[[This was my last editorial for Inprint as Editor in Chief. I just remembered I never posted it. I'll put it up here now because it's still worth reading. Oh yes, and this is Provost Ben Lee right here, watching over the text. Or is that Bob Kerrey? Jeremy Schlangen, the artist, never made that clear. Always did a bang up job though.]]

There is no building at The New School more dismal than 65 5th Avenue, otherwise known as the “GF.” Once home to a department store, the GF hosts faulty elevators, noisy fans and a maze of hallways that lead to classrooms so small that you wonder if they should be used at all. It is not unusual to see students wandering the halls, looking for class.

The New School plans to tear this building down and put a new building in its place—one with a gym, classrooms, innovative Internet and Audio/Visual capabilities and student space. According to a recent paper by Provost Ben Lee, this is a $400 million venture. So far, the administration has raised about $60 million for the project and hopes to begin construction in Spring 2008. That is great, if it happens.

Yet, the administration has even more ambitious plans for the university. Two weeks ago, Lee introduced what has come to be known as the “strategic planning initiative” to a crowd of administrators and some students in the Orozco room in 66 West 12th Street. The administration, he said, intends to overhaul administration and budget rules, develop the Faculty Senate and introduce a new series of cross-divisional programs that will use projects and civic engagement as an innovative pedagogical method.

In Lee’s paper, a working document entitled “What is ‘New’ at The New School?,” he argued that the traditional university system is no longer equipped to address global issues like terrorism, economic crises and environmental decay. Traditional disciplines—a major in English, for instance, or History—pigeonhole these problems into outdated frameworks. Addressing them requires a collaboration that will address complex issues and lead to incremental improvements, not sweeping ideologies. Lee calls this a “micro-democratic” process.

The New School already has a number of programs that work in collaboration with institutions in India and China, or offer social services in New York City and across the United States. This university also has hundreds of courses in different divisions that address urban and environmental issues. The problem is that most of these do not fall under one program. “We call them orphaned courses,” Lee said.

The idea is to turn these disparate programs and courses into university-wide programs. The signature building will be a collaborative and technologically-advanced space for the programs to flourish. The New School recently hired IDEO, a design-consulting firm, to research student lifestyles and help design the most accessible student space possible.

It was only last summer when Lee kicked off meetings with the deans to discuss bureaucratic hurdles and tensions over the university’s budget, so this process is at its earliest stages. Even so, it will be an immense challenge to execute these revolutionary projects.

The university will likely depend on full-time faculty that are willing to work in these budding programs, or at multiple divisions. But last semester, one dean told me the complexities scheduling courses for professors who work at more than one division are sometimes “beyond human comprehension.”

Tuition drives this university, but The New School lacks space for offices for all of its professors and communal areas for students. Too often, there are complaints that there is scant free space for students and student organizations to meet. Securing this space can be a monumental hassle. These limitations aside, the university still needs to build an undergraduate class and a bigger reputation. This way, undergrad divisions will grow and graduate divisions, which administrators say typically run on a deficit but require prestigious lecturers, will not go bankrupt.

Fundraising for the building throws more demands into the mix. Recently, Lang Dean Jonathan Veitch said strategic planning would grind to a halt if the university cannot raise enough money in time.

Even more pressing is the fact that some of Lang’s curricula is still in flux—requirements and core courses mutate every year for departments like The Arts and Science, Technology and Society. Students from any concentration can sometimes fill up space in popular courses, shutting out the students who need to take them. As Lang administrators shift their attention to a university-wide curriculum, they must still keep working at these complex issues and developing our budding concentrations.

To be sure, the strategic planning is moving along: New School President Bob Kerrey told *Inprint* last week that securing real estate, working out schedules and recruiting full-time faculty are integral parts of this process. Professors recently voted to approve the new Faculty Handbook, the work-rules for faculty at the university, Kerrey said.

Veitch said that committees are currently developing structures for Environmental Studies, Media Studies and International Studies. Kerrey said administrators expect to finish structuring programs by the end of the '07-08 school year, so they can begin hiring faculty and recruiting students the following summer.

In the Orozco room, Lee was blunt: The planning should be in a much more developed state six months from now. Otherwise, he said, “this process has failed.”

After the event, as senior administrators and Kerrey gathered in the hallway, I boarded an elevator with three school officials. Just as we sunk below the fifth floor, the elevator ground to a halt. One of us pressed an emergency bell, and a metallic trill reverberated through the halls.

This was a familiar ring. From time to time, the elevator will stall and this emergency bell will sing its song.

When you’re playing with $400 million, it's little things like these that can become big setbacks. In our quest to create a bigger and better space to meet with students and attend class, the last thing we would want is another labyrinth-like network of hidden hallways and cramped rooms. But overcoming bureaucratic red tape, rethinking our curriculum and building this new space is no simple feat. So now that we know that the university has a comprehensive plan for the future, we need to make sure that these plans actually come to fruition.

Don't Know Nuthin' 'Bout His-to-ry

The horrors of Iraq's contemporary history--the rule of the fascist Baath regime, its overthrow and the chaos that followed--tends to overshadow its rich culture and ancient past. Here are some websites devoted to recovering and preserving Iraq's ancient and modern past:

Oriental Institute - Lost Treasures From Iraq

Iraqi Art . com - From modern pioneers to the new milennium

Iraq Memory Foundation - Plastic art & music

Finally, a reminder that in 1954, the Hague adopted a law dictating that states preserve and protect cultural property and artifacts during armed conflict. It is called the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.


Here's a page from the Guardian on Iraq's sites of, as they say, cultural heritage.