Friday, July 1, 2011

Hurray for Fridays!

Today was a GOOD DAY.

A very good day indeed!

Why was it so good?” you ask. Because it was!

The morning started like any other, in the sense that I woke up later than I should have. Originally I had planned to join an R.A. trip with Beilul and Milani that departed at about 5:30 AM, but, well, I overslept. And I'm very glad of it, as that meant I had almost four hours of that lovely in-between state of not quite asleep and not quite awake before I had to wake up and snag breakfast and some very yummy coffee before heading off to class.

In class the topic was free speech. Our morning session looked at two free speech cases from the end of World War I, learning about the origins of a government's limit on how much it can interfere with the rights protected within the first amendment. Apparently they can do a great deal. I cannot for the life of me understand why. The first amendment begins with the words “Congress shall make no law” affecting the rights listed in the first amendment, free speech included. So how in the heck the Supreme Court, the righteous guardians of the U.S. Constitution, could rule that something so blatantly violating that right, like the Sedition and Espionage Acts that criminalized any criticism of the government as well as of the war effort in Europe, were constitutional is beyond me. The justices make some justification for the ruling, saying that free speech is “limited” and that war times constituted different rules about what is acceptable or not, but nowhere in the actual United States Constitution does it say anything about when a government can restrict free speech. Nowhere. Political arguments can be made in favor of limitation, sure; but this is utterly incredible, the idea that the justices agree (unanimously, in fact!) that any limits can be placed on the first amendment because it could harm someone. The right to due process, meaning a trial that follows a set and outlined procedure, is also a right protected under the first 10 amendments, and yet you never hear of due process being interfered with because it might “harm” someone. The whole interpretation is absurd. It does not say anywhere in the Constitution that Congress has the right to interfere with freedom of speech, but it is very specific as to the fact that Congress cannot limit free speech through law making. The justices who made that decision were bowing under political pressure of the time to prevent the danger of a communist revolution in America, and so were more willing to be swayed to the idea that if the free speech presents a danger to the “public good” then it should be regulated. Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. The afternoon class was more of the same. Oh, and apparently students have no right to free speech either because we are under the protection of the schools. Who knew?

After class we met with Mrs. L to discuss our Fourth of July Coney Island trip, and then my day really got started. At a quarter to 5, I walked over to the gazebo (there's a gazebo on campus right outside the three big dorms, a great central meeting place) and met Valerian, an RA who had organized a trip to a photography museum. It ended up being actually a really large group! I convinced a roommate of mine to go, Adi from Canada, and it ended up being about twenty people... and only three of them girls! The trip was incredible though. We took the subway over to the museum, and everyone chipped in a few bucks for the donation-based admission. The museum had two exhibits: the smaller of the two was called “Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945” and was incredibly sad. I couldn't stay in that exhibit for more than a few minutes at a time. I was more interested by the other exhibit that took up most of the rest of the small museum: the photographs of Elliot Erwitt. He is a photographer with a sense of humour! This was one of my favorites by him, and made me laugh out loud when I saw it and realized the comparison between the girls and the geese... hopefully you can too!

by Elliott Erwitt
Erwitt's photos are really spectacular, even his non-humorous ones. He was, besides an artistic photographer, a photojournalist, and his work on the Civil Rights movement is very well known. He was one of the only photojournalists to get into Russia at that time. His work is amazing, pure and simple.

After the museum, Valerian took our group to Times Square, which was a bustling hub of people as I expected; while everyone else was snapping touristy photos of the flashing lights (as they should!) I took some photos of the tourists themselves, though I certainly did take the classic Times-Square-photos as well.

Some tourists in Times Square

Times Square itself
After Times Square we went and ate at a delicious Korean restaurant; I was very impressed when the staff didn't even bat an eye at our huge numbers. Many of the guys there had never eaten Korean food, and it was quite an experience for all of them, I'm sure!

Dinner was finished soon (guys eat fast, apparently) and we all chipped in our share for what we'd paid before leaving the restaurant. In a little impromptu trip, a smaller group split off and ten of us went to the Rockefeller Center to see the city at night; it was gorgeous, and I made more than a few friends that night!
from atop the Rockefeller Center at night

Names Can Be Deceiving

This is true of the comedy group the Harvard Sailing Team. No members attended Harvard, and no members sail. Regardless of the name, they were hilarious.

After dinner and a few hours to relax, Beilul, Will, and I set off with an R.A. and several students to see the Harvard Sailing Team at the P.I.T. (People's Improv Theater).

Columbia's Law Memorial Library at sunset

Butler Library
Glad to have the ticket mishap behind me, I was looking forward to watching the same group that made a critic rave, "Saturday Night Live wishes it was as funny as the Harvard Sailing Team!" The critic wasn't far from the truth. What intrigued me about the performance was that when I read we would be going to the People's Improv Theater, I assumed the Harvard Sailing Team was a bunch of friends who just stood on stage and delivered jokes. I was far from the truth. There wasn't a moment where the cast just stood in place. As much as their jokes were good, it was the acting that sold the performance. For example, in a sketch about a girl who tricks her friend into believing a cat claims that everything the cat used from the litter box to toys were missing. Instead of just searching for her cat, the girl starts throwing a tantrum and 100% sure that her friend took her cat, and all of the cat's belongings. After screaming and crying, the girl just calmly sits down on the couch and says I don't have a cat. That skit would have been alright, had they just went through the motions, but the passionate screaming, accusations, and crying made the skit downright hilarious.

With a holiday weekend ahead of me, I'm looking forward to taking a break to explore the city which I hope is just as amazing as the Harvard Sailing Team.

The P.I.T.

New York: I like you a lot

I woke up at 5 AM this morning to attend an RA trip heading to Central Park to watch Beyonce perform on Good Morning America – for free. Unfortunately, there were so many people, it was impossible to get in and even though we stood outside the stands, I could barely hear any of the music.

We arrived back on campus by 9:30 AM, giving us plenty of time to get to our 10 AM class.

Today in class, we continued to discuss the President’s role as written in the Constitution and envisioned by the Founding Fathers. We then moved on to discuss Fred Greenstein’s book Inventing the Job of the President and the methodology Greenstein used to evaluate the first 7 Presidents of the United States. Much of our focus was on the debated value of such categories as Cognitive Ability and Emotional Intelligence when evaluating Presidents.

This is the first Friday of class and consequently our research paper outline was due today.

Tonight, Eric, Will and I decided to attend The People’s Improv Theater which was hosting a performance by the Harvard Sailing Team, a comedy sketch group. The show was phenomenal and I could not stop laughing. I enjoyed it very much.

Tomorrow is Summerfest, a gigantic street fair and Sunday, a tour of the United Nations.
New York: I like you a lot.

I think I'll have the #2, with a side of New York.


It's interesting how the end of something is the beginning of another. Case-in-point, my Presidential Powers extended outline.

Eight pages and an annotated bibliography ago I was contemplating the route I would take to finish such an expansive task. Now, completed such, I am relieved to have finished, yet simultaneously aware of the next draft of my research paper. By next Friday, I'll have completed a more fleshed-out paper, with my choice of footnotes or endnotes, and at least five additional resources. I am not too enthralled to pile on more rigor into my schedule, but the reward will be intense. I'm going to glorify this research paper by the time I finish.

I made a last minute call to join Eric and Beilul tonight for a sketch comedy showing. The group performing is known as the Harvard Sailing Team.

I'm a pretty inclusive, yet harsh critic when it comes to just about anything. But, it is New York. And, it is a Friday. And, it is a late-night performance. So, I am expecting a pretty spectacular comedy performance. I'll be quite disappointed if it turns out to be devoid of humor. In fact, I'll be depressed.

On that note, I seem to have mapped out a decently organized calender of trips that I plan to partake in. Tomorrow, after today's comedy trip, I plan to go to Summerfest, which I have immense expectations for. It's like the Solano Stroll, the equivalent of a block-party that goes on for about 15 blocks, and it's held on one of the largest avenues of New York--Avenue of the Americas.

I'm definitely excited for the food that they will offer, and the stands that will be posted, and the crafts, art, and other miscellaneous objects that I will find and probably purchase. Street performers, large crowds, souvenirs--the works. I hope it doesn't let me down.

After that, I'll be visiting the United Nations building, which I am more so excited due to potential college study, as I am bouncing between natural science and political science, rather than actual interest. Don't misinterpret me, however, of course I'm excited to go! I'll feel like I'm in 193 places at once upon entry. Good stuff.

After that, I plan to see the Blue Man Group. I plan to see Cirque de Soleil. I plan to see the New York Bodies Exhibit. I plan to see Jersey Boys. I plan to see the city at its best, or at least its better-than-good.

I've tasted Columbia University, but to really experience life as not only a college student, but a Columbia student, I'll have to taste the city.

Let's begin with appetizers.