Monday, October 27, 2008

Six Things I Still Love About My School

Say what you will about UNT, the university is striving for new heights. Unfortunately, the heights we attain in athletics all turn out to be atrocious lows. We have achieved an expensive new coach--who has been a huge flop so far. We have achieved student support for rockin' new stadium--which would hold 6 times as many people as showed up for the Homecoming game this weekend. We have achieved national prominence--as ESPN's worst team in the nation five weeks running (and on their Bottom 10 list since Week 1). But unlike the young Eagle at left who we spotted in the stands on Saturday, I've still got love for the Mean Green and my alma mater. Here are a few reasons.

1. Culture. The Austin kids prattle on about how much culture their city has--the night life, the music scene, the movie stars. The UT folks surely contribute to this "bohemia-chic" vibe and help "Keep Austin Weird." But look around next time you're down there. So much of the Austin hipster vibe is perpetuated by concert promoters, multinationals, and whatever rich genius came up with those t-shirts everybody bought (except the army of homeless who crowd the streets). UT itself is only like 10% hippie leftists, 60% "top ten percenters"--the silent majority, and 20% rich kids who could ID 'dro but not hemp clothing.

At UNT, we've got the REAL culture (largest/best public visual arts school in the nation; top public music program in the nation; marching band prohibited from competing more than 3 years in a row, for fairness). Weirdness is not a catchphrase, but a way of life. We've got REAL burned out hippies, and they're still in school. The unique culture of Denton is almost entirely a product of the university environment, and has a much more organic feel. There's even a unique Denton style of architecture. We may not have ACL or the Alamo Drafthouse, but we're also not a city of posers.

2. Aspiration. For many years, UNT was content on the sidelines. We had our place in the metroplex, and we were happy there. But then came the age of massive public universities, and the "college bound" culture. Some astute administrators realized that we were going to be drug kicking and screaming into the 35-40k student range, and we'd better make the most of it. So the school set out to leave it's "commuter," "regional," and "value" adjectives behind, and seek out "top tier," "premier," and "research institution" labels. This transformation no easy task, but strides have been made and the goal is in sight.

3. Renaissance. Piggy-backing off of #2, the school has not only rebranded itself, it has reinvented itself. And it's doing it in such a way that the things that already make us great (music, visual arts) are preserved and enhanced.
4. Growth. We've eclipsed Texas Tech and are neck-and-neck with UH for student population. Size isn't everything, but it shows a trend in students' choices. The best part is, our DFW to non-DFW ratio is getting smaller and smaller, showing that kids from across the state are learning more about the school and finding their place there.

5. Atmosphere and Geography. This relates back to #1. Some folks need the rushed pace of a major metropolis. The frantic driving, the outrageous cost of living and property taxes, and the hastening of your eventual demise (it's true, city people die younger). I'd much rather have UNT's relaxed, suburban feel, with the convenience of Dallas and Fort Worth for all your city needs.

6. Big Fish, Small but Increasingly Important Pond. For me, one of the best things about UNT was the opportunities. Sure, I would have had a shot at SBP at UT or A&M, but the numerical competition alone would have been ridiculous. I could have gone to DC from UT or A&M, but would have been just another Longhorn or Aggie in the faceless horde. But at UNT, I shot straight to the same heights leaders at other schools enjoyed, but in half the time and with half the effort. We had a de facto student regent at UNT before the legislature installed them at all Texas schools. We had sometimes daily interaction with VP's and the president's office. We had almost unfettered control over student service fees. And how many alums to you know whose university presidents sent them two wedding gifts? UNT is a rising star, and my wagon is hitched to it.

I'm sure there are plenty of cool things I'm missing, so help me fill in the blanks. On a somewhat related note, one of our biggest projects in undergrad was the commissioning of a student memorial sculpture on the library plaza. It turned out somewhat differently than planned, but its the thought that counts. The finished sculpture was dedicated this weekend at Homecoming, and I gave some pretty rocking remarks. Photos below (and check out the link for my speech as prepared).





Monday, October 20, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Awesome

I haven't posted in a while, so I'm kind of backlogged on topics. I've got lots to say about the election, but so does everybody else. I saw the new Indiana Jones movie the other day, so I've got stuff to say about that. And I'd like to talk a bit about moot court. But since I have neither the time nor inclination to hit all three today, I'll give an executive summary of two, and then get to the fun stuff: Indiana Jones.

1) The Election: It looks bad. Really bad. I may be losing hope in our chances this year. The worst part is the one-party rule we'll once again have to tolerate after President That One appoints new justices. I hated it enough when my party was in power; I can't imagine how awful the next eight years will be. Throw in the very real possibility of a Dem supermajority in the Senate, and I think I just might puke. My only contingency plan is to not do anything successful or make more then $15/year until we throw the bums out.

2) Moot Court: Peter and I didn't make the break. We were really disappointed, and maybe even felt a little gypped. But then I made the school team, and will be arguing at the George Washington University National Security Law competition in February. So now things are cool and I'm feeling vindicated. But Peter is a skilled advocate, too, and I hope our brief gets high marks.

3) Indiana Jones: So we finally saw Indy IV, courtesy of Blockbuster. If you haven't been living in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, you've probably heard that the South Park guys opened the new season with a pretty awful critique of the movie. I'll spare you the details, but it involved George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg "Deliverancing" Indiana Jones repeatedly. You could almost hear Shortround shouting "Cover your bum, Indy, cover your bum!" a la Temple of Doom. For the record, I'm pretty sure even Kali was not into that stuff. I find South Park to a crude, but accurate reflection of popular opinion within my generation. So, my pop culture views normally line up up with the writers'. But this time they were way off.

Sure, there were aliens and trans-dimensional vortexes in the new movie. But don't forget the premises of the last three: Indiana Jones finds the Arc of the Covenant; Indiana Jones has misadventures in an underground slave mine/death temple and almost has his heart ripped out by a Thugee cult; Indiana Jones and his Dad find the Holy Grail, and now Indiana Jones might be immortal (he chose wisely). And pre-Colombian alien visitors are supposed to be more of a stretch?

Harrison Ford is getting up there in years, but the story covers that. The visuals were great, and minus a few totally weird moments (vengeful monkeys? surviving three waterfalls?), the writing was also very solid. I'm not sold on Shia LaBeouf as Indy's heir apparent, but the kid sells tickets like Harrison used to.
Maybe I'm biased--after all, I spent plenty of time as a kid swinging on ropes and jumping around the back yard whilst humming the Indy theme song. And (while slightly inebriated) I e-mailed the costume guy who made Indy's jacket for the movie and found out I can get one for $675 (cheap, no? Remember this at x-mas!). Plus I want a bitchin' prof-tweed suit like he's got. But at the end of the day, these are just supposed to be fun movies, and this was a worthy installment in an awesome franchise.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Map Time

It's that time again, kiddos, when we tabulate, obfuscate and discombobulate the numbers to predict just what might happen on Nov. 4th. The long and short of it? Not a good outlook for McCain. Whether you agree or disagree, use this widget to map your predictions, and send me a screen shot of your creation. Much conversation will be sparked!

Again, for historical perspective, here are previous map posts: A Map of the Future; WH 2008: Map Quest; Mapp v. Ohio. We'll do this once more before election night.
















The clear picture here is a dismal one for McCain. The economy ate a big one, and so, it appears, will the party in power. Across the board Republicans are down in the polls, and the "momentum" lies with the Dems for the foreseeable future. Three things could change this miserable state of affairs: an epically miraculous economic rebound, revelations that Obama is a paedophile (British spelling because it would have to be that bad--draw your own conclusions), or a terrorist attack. Let's hope it's not terrorists.

Bumslanger's map lays out McCain's only conceivable success strategy, which additionally relies on picking up one of Maine's proportional electoral votes. This optimism is to be expected, since "Bumslanger" is the ridiculous pseudonym I told my friend in the McCain campaign I would use on his map.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Free LAPP Dances

Ha! That title totally tricked you into reading my post! Well, at least if you're not a BLS student. For the uninitiated, LAPP is an acronym for a required course called, "Lord Almighty, Poison Please." This is mainly because somewhere in the middle of the syllabus you start to contemplate all the horrible ways of dieing that are preferable to doing statutory construction for one more second. Also, check out the Lapp dude at left with his reindeer! (Random reminder--send me updated maps!!)

In all fairness, it's a great and useful course (kind of like Islam is a great and true religion), taught by a no lie brilliant prof. Today was just rough because I got up at 4:30am today so that George and his reporter collection could be on time to San Antonio. Is it cool to drive in a WH motorcade? YES. Is it cool to watch Air Force One do its thing? YES. Is it worth almost falling asleep four times in LAPP today? Barely, but YES. Except that the one hoe from the NYT stole my umbrella. Actually a very nice and bright woman, but I'm going to keep trashing her until my umbrella comes home safe. Put that in your liberal media bias and smoke it, Sheryl.

So how did I stay awake during LAPP today? SAT style, math and verbal. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and some times that necessitated math. Here's a sampling:

"Board of the agency? More like BORED of the agency. I'm writing this to stay awake. This is getting ridiculous. The more Beal yells, the sleepier I get. You'd be surprised how much you can write when your eyes are half closed and you keep nodding off. ..."

"Even when I'm well rested, this class is like getting a bullet to the brain, over and over, for 1.0833 hours. That's like, if a bullet leaves the barrel of a gun travelling at least 1000 fps (and that's pretty slow), and my head is a bit wider than a foot, and the gunman waited for the bullet to exit my cranium before firing the next shot, I'd be getting at least 1000 bullets through my head per second. In the course of one class, I'd end up with 65000 slugs ripping through my gray matter."

"If the bullet used is a standard .9 mm, that's about 0.75 inches long. So why not just stay home and take a nap, and then have somebody come over and ram 4062.4 feet of jacketed lead rod through my skull? Also, I'm pretty pissed off about that lady who took my umbrella."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Can I call you Smoe?

A quick media note--as usual, I nicked the image at left from some other website. I don't know what Sarah Palin is holing in her right hand. I only know I hope they are not what I think they may be.

I've been busy crushing the competition lately--at school, in moot court, and in the summer job search--so my posting has been sporatic. But with the debate last night and map-time soon approaching, I figured I should get with it.

Impressions from last night? Expectations heavily favored Biden, especially after the CBS-Coric sabotage (that's right, sabotage), but as the headlines read this morning, Plain held her own. The is largely because Biden held back to avoid looking like more of an arrogant SOB than he is, but also because the McCain camp is getting closer to the magical mix of canned and candid that Palin needs. They let her off the leash just enough last night that she came across well prepared, yet not overly rehearsed. It was pretty awkward when she was hot-miked before and after the event, so that we heard her ask Biden "Can I call you Joe?" and then yell for her family to join her onstage.

For his part, Biden stuck to message while ranging over his full Senate record, including a great recollection of key votes by both Obama and McCain. This beltway institutional memory is exactly his utility to the campaign, and he brought it to bear full force last night. But the smug looks, tenuous inferences, and douchebag grins also brought some negative reactions.

The net result is that neither veep potential scored an overwhelming number of points, and likely few voters were swayed. Other than a somewhat renewed confidence in Palin as something other than a moose-hungry jackaninny, very little came of last night's showdown. As I've said before, the battle lines are almost all drawn, almost everyone has picked sides. All we have left is October suprise.

I have to say that (future of the nation aside) I'm really hoping the surprise happens to Biden. I wouldn't buy a new car from that guy, much less the used ones he seems to be peddling every time he opens his mouth. And honestly, I can't believe he hasn't f'ed things up yet. What's that Joe? Who runs all the 7-11's in Wilmington? And how would you describe Obama? Maybe clean and articulate?