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02.19.09 vol. xl, no. 16 The Indy examines the stimulus package closely.

independent THE HARVARD

President Diana Suen ‘11 Cover art by KRISTINA YEE

News 3

News in Brief

Arts 4 5

Choosing Heroes David Brent vs. Michael Scott Boston Arts Guide

Forum 6-7 Bailout or Cop Out? Superannuated Supermajorities 8

Editor-in-Chief Sam Jack ‘11

Production Manager Faith Zhang ‘11

Publisher Brian Shen ’11

Technology Director Sanjay Gandhi ’10

News Editor Forum Editor Arts Editor Sports Editor Design Editor Graphics Editor Associate Business Manager Associate Graphics Editor

Susan Zhu ‘11 Riva Riley ‘12 Pelin Kivrak ‘11 Hao Meng ‘11 Patricia Florescu ‘11 Candice Smith ‘11 Jenn Chang ‘11 Sonia Coman ‘11

Staff Writers Peter Bacon ‘11 Rachael Becker '11 Andrew Coffman ‘12 Caroline Corbitt ‘09 Truc Doan '10 Ray Duer ‘11 Pippa Eccles ‘09 Jessica Estep ‘09 Nicholas Krasney ‘09 Markus Kolic '09 Allegra Richards ‘09 Andrew Rist ‘09 Alice Speri ‘09 Graphics, Photography, and Design Staff Ben Huang ‘09 Edward Chen '09 Caitie Kakigi ‘09 Eva Liou ‘11 Sonia Coman '11 Caitlin Marquis ‘10 Lidiya Petrova ‘11 Sally Rinehart ‘09

Sports 9 10 11

Knight Falls Fast A-Roid Rage February Madness Ivy News Roundup The Meowel For our exclusive online content, visit


As Harvard College's weekly undergraduate newsmagazine, the Harvard Independent provides in-depth, critical coverage of issues and events of interest to the Harvard College community. The Independent has no political affiliation, instead offering diverse commentary on news, arts, sports, and student life. For publication information and general inquiries, contact President Diana Suen ( Letters to the Editor and comments regarding the content of the publication should be addressed to Editor-in-Chief Sam Jack ( Yearly mail subscriptions are available for $30, and semester-long subscriptions are available for $15. To purchase a subscription, email The Harvard Independent is published weekly during the academic year, except during vacations, by The Harvard Independent, Inc., P.O. Box 382204, Cambridge, MA 02238-2204. Copyright © 2008 by The Harvard Independent. All rights reserved.

11.09.06 11.02.06sThe Harvard Independent 02.26.09



Short & Sweet News that you could conceivably use. By SUSAN ZHU and SAM JACK

The government has a right to free speech too, ya know.

Pleasant Grove City v. Summum On Wednesday, February 25, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to deny the Summum faith’s contention that they should be allowed to erect their own monument next to a monument of the Ten Commandments in a Utah public park. Even though the case bears clear features of a religious battle over monuments (think Allegheny v. ACLU), the Summum lawyers chose instead to base their argument on the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. They claimed that the Pleasant Grove City government had to put their Seven Aphorisms monument in the park because the government could not encroach upon free speech by private individuals in a public setting, as the Summum people were donating money for the erection of their monument. Summum compared their monument donation to handing out leaflets in a park. The government disagreed, and the Supreme Court, led by Justice Samuel Alito Jr.’s majority opinion, sided with the government, reversing the decision made in the United States Courts of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. “The Free Speech Clause restricts government regulation of private speech. It does not regulate government speech,” wrote Alito, unless the government speech is unconstitutional, as would be speech promoting one particular religion. That gives the government the right to express itself by choosing which monuments to place in public parks. Summum is still allowed to hand out leaflets and assemble in the park. The Harvard Independent s 02.26.09

Cease-fire accepted in Swat, Pakistan; Taliban to rule with Islamic law.

Swat Valley, Pakistan used to be a place where girls went to school. But then the Taliban trickled in and started fighting a war of insurgency, targeting civilians and schools, taking over parts of the region. After a year of fighting between the Pakistan military and the Taliban, the Pakistani government has finally given up and settled for a cease-fire truce with the Taliban. The Taliban will be allowed to institute a system of Islamic law in Swat, where they now control 70 percent of the land, in exchange for peace. The Pakistani government claims that the peace agreement does not signal surrender, and that the Islamic courts that it agreed to institute will only be in operation when peace has become a stable reality.

without the death penalty. And most people who receive the death penalty end up serving life sentences anyway, as states execute fewer and fewer inmates each year. In the current economic situation, states just don’t have the money for the death penalty anymore, especially when the end result is the same as a trial that carries a life sentence instead of the death penalty. Opponents of capital punishment have long cited ineffective deterrence and the role of the government in handing out death as punishment as major arguments against the practice. Chalk one up for economics. States including Maryland, Montana and New Mexico have bills repealing the death penalty on the table, and others like New Hampshire and Colorado are pushing the effort in their legislatures.

Bobby Jindal = Kenneth the Page?

Sugar and acne? More like high-glycemic foods and acne.

Side-effects of the recession: the end of capital punishment?

The death penalty costs money. Trials in which the death penalty is sought typically take longer, require more lawyers, more witnesses, and more appeals than trials

which stimulate oil production and lead to acne breakouts. More research is needed, but there is some evidence that foods high in sugar can contribute to a worsening of acne conditions. The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2007.

Though scientists have for the most part dismissed any assertion that sugar can cause acne, a new round of research suggests that the link between diet and acne may not be quite so simple. Subjects who ate a high-glycemic diet, including white bread, sweetened cereals and pastas, were more likely to have skin lesions than subjects who ate low-glycemic foods with higher amounts of protein, like whole-grains, fruits, and fish. Sugar has a high glycemic index, and the new research shows that foods that contain high glycemic indices can cause glucose levels to rise rapidly, making the body release insulin and other hormones

Bobby Jindal’s response to Obama’s semi-State of the Union speech (it doesn’t count as an official State of the Union, but it amounts to the same thing) was nearly universally panned by the critics. A Facebook group called “Bobby Jindal is Kenneth the Page” has already attracted a couple thousand members who noticed similarities between Jindal’s speaking style and that of the naïve NBC intern of the series 30 Rock. “It came off as amateurish, and even the tempo in which he spoke was singsongy,” said Juan Williams, a Fox News commentator. In fact, some of the most stinging criticisms of the Jindal speech came from right wing commentators, who referred to Jindal’s speech as “disastrous” and “cheesy.” David Brooks, a conservative columnist with the New York Times told Jim Lehrer of the PBS News Hour, “I think it’s insane. I think it’s a disaster for the party. I just think it’s unfortunate right now.” Both Jindal and Kenneth the Page come from the South, and both are from lower-class backgrounds. Apparently they also have similar speaking styles, but the similarity has to end there. Jindal’s great obsession is tax cuts, but Kenneth goes gaga over old TV shows.


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What’s Wrong with Derrek Lee? A look at the Chicago Cubs star’s batting woes. By HAO MENG


CUBS FANS, I’VE LEARNED to embrace irrationality with all my heart. I embrace it regularly and relentlessly, never hesitating to use it as my inner sanctuary when things in Cubs world become unreasonably depressing, which, frankly, is an occurrence as common as a Mark Reynolds strikeout. It’s helped me to not only accept Steve Bartman as a truly fictional character, but also to believe that, one day, Albert Pujols will terrorize the Cardinals in a Cubs jersey. And for a while, it became the driving force behind my fading support for star Cubs first baseman, Derrek Lee. That’s unreasonable, you might cry. Groundless, foolish, and perhaps even downright stupid. After all, who could ever criticize a stellar defensive first baseman batting .291 with 20 home runs and 90 RBI? Well, namely desperate and irrational Cubs fans, like myself, who were spoiled by Lee’s MVP-caliber 2005 performance, where he batted .335 with 46 home runs and 107 RBI. Some of us even adamantly campaigned for a trade after the drop-off in Lee’s production. We want our lovable losers to be World Champions so very badly, that we’ll often find whatever scapegoat is most convenient. Yet, the more I thought about the situation, the more I realized that the complaints and trade suggestions do us no good — especially when we haven’t taken the time to analyze the problem and look for constructive solutions. In Lee’s case, the problems are there, but so are the answers — however subtle they may be. Let’s take a look. IKE MOST

Problems Perhaps the biggest knock against Lee right now is his inability to hit for power. As the main No. 3 hitter in the Cubs’ lineup last year, Lee hit only 20 home runs — 15 of which were only solo shots — and had an AB/HR ratio of 31.2, which is a substantial increase from his 12.9 ratio in 2005. In fact, his AB/HR ratio has steadily increased since 2005 from 12.9 to 21.9 (2006) to 25.8 (2007) to his last year’s ratio of 31.2.


In addition, Lee’s slugging percentage of .462 last year was not only 35 points below his career average, but it also was his lowest output since 1999. Lee, however, is still an RBI machine, as exemplified by his 6.9 AB/RBI ratio (surprisingly, higher than his 5.6 ratio in 2005), but even now, it still seems that he’s not maximizing his RBI potential. After all, if Lee simply substituted some of his doubles with homers, he would almost guarantee himself an increase in his number of RBI. The other main concern surrounding Lee’s game is the ridiculously high number of double plays he grounded into last season. Lee finished second in the league

with 27 GDPs, which was 15 more than the number he had in 2005. Frankly, watching the athletically gifted Lee consistently ground into inningending double plays is almost as painful as, say, seeing MJ miss a game-winning jumper. The only difference is that the former happens more frequently than the latter, and that, in and of itself, is a big problem for the Cubs. Solutions So how do the Cubs and Lee go about fixing this situation? The most obvious solution is to somehow get Lee to hit more fly balls. This certainly

makes sense, since the more fly balls a player hits, the better the chances that one of those fly balls will land in the stands. Based on FanGraphs’ analysis, Lee hit nearly 45 percent of the balls he put into play on the ground, while only 33.7 percent were fly balls (distinct from line drives). Compare that to his successful 2005 season when only 38.6 percent of the balls he put into play were grounders, and 39.4 percent were fly balls. With more grounders, Lee also increases his chances of grounding into double plays, so by lifting the ball into the air more, Lee would cut down on those killer double plays — thereby fixing both his nagging issues. Problem solved, right? Unfortunately, not quite. While hitting more fly balls and fewer ground balls might be appealing in theory, it doesn’t pan out quite so successfully in practice. Due to his open stance and tall figure (6’5”), Lee often has a hard time getting his bat under the ball. He still possesses terrific bat speed, and will hit the ball hard, but he’s somehow developed a swing that tends to hit the top half of the baseball, thereby driving it hard into the ground. Changing an established player’s batting mechanics is a dangerous thing to attempt, and more often than not, it fails miserably. So in that respect, waving a magic wand and expecting Lee to suddenly hit many more fly balls just isn’t realistic. Even if Lee somehow did hit more fly balls, the chances of it becoming a home run won’t be very high. Lee’s HR-per-flyball ratio has steadily dropped the past four seasons, starting at 23.7 percent in 2005 and ending at a measly 11.7 percent in 2008. This begs the question: is Lee bound to become another depressing story among the Cubs’ already overflowing potpourri of failed stories? Some seem to think so, as they claim Lee’s 2005 season to be nothing more than an anomaly. Even if it wasn’t, many critics believe that Lee’s severe wrist injury in 2006 has rendered him only a shadow of the star he once was. Fortunately for Cubs fans, they’re

CONTINUED ON PAGE 5 02.26.09 s The Harvard Independent


Races are Boring

CUBS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 4 wrong. Lee’s struggles are by no means irreversible, as long as he puts quality time and effort into becoming a more patient hitter. Since 2005 Lee’s percent of swings outside the strike zone has consistently increased — from 16.9 percent in 2005 to 20.8 percent in 2008. What’s more troubling is the fact that among those swings at bad pitches, Lee’s ability to put the ball into play has actually jumped tremendously. In 2005, Lee connected on 43.6 percent of his “bad” swings, while last year, he put into play a whopping 57.4 percent of those same “bad” swings. Why are these numbers important? Well, not only is Lee swinging at pitches outside the zone more frequently — which puts him in pitcherfriendly counts and gives the pitcher less incentive to actually throw a strike — but he’s actually hitting those balls into play. Based on what I just learned in little league baseball, hitting pitches near your head or at your ankles rarely results in a positive result. More often than not, the outcome of the swing will be a pop-up or an easily fielded grounder, which, if there are men on base, can then lead to a double play. Derrek Lee is no Vladimir Guerrero, so when Lee connects at a low and away fastball (which is Lee’s “sucker” pitch), it’ll usually result in a slow dribbler and possibly develop into a double play. Consequently, his power numbers go down, his average suffers, and his frustrating GDP tendencies naturally rise. Hitting the ball doesn’t seem to be Lee’s problem; it’s determining whether a ball should be hit that’s bothering him. If Lee develops more patience and waits for better pitches to hit, Cubs fans can expect fewer double plays, more hard hit balls that actually land

The Harvard Independent s 02.26.09

for hits, and even possibly more home runs from Lee. Fortunately for us, the circumstances of the upcoming season seem to provide just the right atmosphere for Lee to get back on track. With Micah Hoffpauir, who’s adept with the bat, as the backup first baseman, Lee will get more time off to rest physically and mentally — something that hitting coach Gerald Perry is really emphasizing for him — and it’ll give him the time and energy to rediscover some plate discipline. The arrival of Milton Bradley should also take some of the offensive pressure off of Lee, and if Lou wises up and bats Bradley third, Lee will finally have the opportunity to shine in the second or sixth spot of the lineup, where his solid doubles and singles production and his surprising base-running abilities will allow him to flourish. And with the bats of Ramirez, Soriana, and Soto also strolling the lineup, Lee will probably see more homer-friendly fastballs — fastballs that’ll go a long ways in curing the nostalgia I’m sure he has for his 2005 season. So Cubs fans, don’t fret; a change for the better for Derrek Lee is likely to come soon. And most importantly, don’t let that tempting irrationality take control of your life this season — that is, unless Mark Prior wins the Cy Young, Milton Bradley beats up Lou, and everyone gets back spasms from a contagious sneeze that starts with Rich Harden. In that case, it might just be best to add the Cubs to your list of things that don’t exist. Hao Meng ’11 (haomeng@fas) is a superfan. This article appeared on the 20th at


I’d rather watch basketball — unless it’s a baby race. By ANDREW RIST



competition known to man? The race. Racing dates back longer than human history, at least I assume it does, since prehistoric men would run down their prey, and as soon as you’ve got running you’re going to have some competitive S.O.B. challenging everyone he can find to race him. The funeral games of Patroclus in the Iliad included two different races, the footrace, won by Odysseus, since Athena tripped the lesser Ajax on the home stretch, and the chariot race, won by Diomedes, but only because Eumelus, whose horses were by far the best, had his chariot break apart. Obviously, what the nebulous entity known traditionally as Homer is trying to tell us is that glory comes to those who honor the gods and not to those who are the fastest or have the fastest horses. But enough about ancient history, let’s talk about today’s racing. People race with just about anything these days: running, swimming, horses, dogs, camels, skates, cars, and even babies — no really, I’ve seen it (not in person though [insert sad face emoticon]). There’s one thing that needs to be said about all these forms of racing: they’re boring. I’ll maintain until the day I die that the keys to making sports interesting are a good mix of athleticism and technical skill that makes for plays that are amazing to watch and the capacity for split second changes to the game (for example, when a quarterback launches a ball into the air, you can have any of three different results, two of which have monumental implications on the outcome of the game). On the other hand, gains in a race generally come piece-meal, as the best racers attempt to maintain a relatively constant speed throughout their race. Moreover, the shorter the race, the more constant their speed

remains, so there is not that much potential for instantaneous changes, except of course in baby races. At any minute the lead baby could get distracted by something shiny and go completely off course. Yet, despite the utter lack of interesting phenomena in racing, it is all over the television, and not just during the Olympics. At this very minute Fox has preempted the Simpsons and Family Guy for a NASCAR race. Don’t get me started on NASCAR, you really shouldn’t. It’s less of a sport and more of a mechanical contest, and from what I understand, people watch it more for the crashes than for the finishes. Why do we want to watch things like that? Give me a basketball game any day. In a basketball game you’ve got guys running up and down the court, but they are also dribbling the ball without giving the defender a shot at it, and shooting from various distances, sometimes negotiating a sea of bodies to do so. At any point, a defender could knock the ball out of someone’s hand and run down the court for an easy dunk, or a quick pass could move the ball from a congested lane to a wide-open man on the wing ready to launch a 3-pointer, turning a 2-point deficit into a 1-point lead. That’s a ton more interesting than one driver keeping himself in front of another driver for laps at a time, but I guess I’m not really a Southerner. Racing is a simple way to compete, and it’s great for our children and our Olympic teams, but it’s really not the optimal spectator sport. Sure, there are times when you want to know the result of a race, I know I always root for American racers at the Olympics…because I love America, but I’d much rather read the results of the races and catch a basketball game instead. Andrew Rist (arist@fas) ’09 nearly gained press access to a baby race.


indy arts

Trying to Front Rap music’s travails in the brave new “post-racial” America. By SAM JACK


“POST-RACIAL.” HAS America reached the point where its rap music can be included in the trend? Certainly it has become difficult to make any sort of statement of political sympathies or group identification by means of rap music. 20 years ago, rappers like Chuck D and B.I.G. were using their music to express actual, non-ironic radicalism and anger. “The followers of Farrakhan,” Chuck D rapped, “Don’t tell me that you understand, until you hear the man.” And he was serious. Biggie had less of an explicit political agenda, but also lacked any compunction about “keeping his shit real”: “Man, listen all this walking is hurting my feet/But money looks sweet in the Isuzu jeep. I throw him in the Beem, you grab the fucking C.R.E.A.M. and if he start to scream ‘Bam! Bam!’ have a nice dream.” It’s been 25 years, now, since Tipper Gore went before Congress and lobbied the RIAA, demanding that black and white stickers be put on records with “offensive” content. At the time, Gore said that she was scared, and that her family was scared. Certainly, there’s still plenty of music with sex and violence and bad judgment, but fewer and fewer people are claiming that it’s a threat to the social order. Party-goers at Harvard routinely bob their heads along with songs like “Bitches Ain’t Shit” and “Gimme the Loot;” songs that, if they were taking the lyrics seriously, they’d be obliged to abhor on grounds of misogyny and criminality. But no one seems to be taking the lyrics seriously anymore. Reciting the lyrics, “Watch me crank that Roosevelt and supersoak that ho” no longer seems to imply anything about what class, cultural, and racial groups you belong to. It only means that you like to have fun at parties, and are willing to enjoy yourself while assuming a playful, slightly ironic pose. The Wu-Tang Clan’s performance at YardFest last year provided a particularly ridiculous example of this fact. Here were a couple hundred Harvard students, some of them in polo shirts and khakis, bobbing their heads



and flashing the “W” sign of the Clan — a sign many of them probably learned on the spot. “I can’t stand rap, it isn’t music,” ceased to be the thing to say among in-the-know white people a while ago. Christian Lander wrote about the phenomenon on his popular blog “Stuff White People Like” in August of last year (“Self-Aware Hip-Hop References” was the title of the post): “Among the wrong kind of white people, there are few more hated than the wigger or whitethug. Though it is very acceptable and common for the right kind of white people to dress and act as though they were Japanese, Chinese, or European, it is completely unacceptable for them to act like rappers. “This distaste caused a dilemma for white people who had to show both that they loved hip hop but also that they were aware they were white. The brilliant solution they came up with was to appropriate hip hop words and mannerisms and filter them through a white appropriateness system.” An example of this sort of self-aware appropriation is Ben Folds’ acoustic cover of “Bitches Ain’t Shit.” Harvard's appreciation of rap and hip-hop is mostly either a studied façade or else a sort of dry, anthropological curiosity. The anthropological approach moves the culture towards relegating rap to the realm of "art"; isn't it about time someone started working on a hiphop documentary in the style of Ken Burns' Jazz? Surely it’s a somewhat ignominious fate to go so quickly from being “the devil’s music” to something that PBS prescribes to you before bedtime, like vitamins, because it’s going to be good for you. And the self-aware enjoyment of hip-hop that a lot of white middle and upper-class folk profess has problems as well, because even though it comes out of a desire to be cool and post-racial, it tends to privilege music and lyrics that are easily compartmentalized, easily isolated away from any larger significance. That’s why the success of “Crank That Soulja Boy,” which stayed atop the pop chart in the US for seven weeks in 2007, was disheartening to me.

“Crank That” surely had its merits as a piece of pop music. For one thing, it came with a dance. But the song has always made me uneasy. It feels to me as though it was ready-made for white hipsters who wanted to make a statement. “Look at me, enjoying this mindless piece of pablum,” I imagine them saying, “If I can enjoy even something so dull and idiotic as this, I must be really, really open-minded.” Enjoying “Welcome to the Terrordome” is not nearly as useful for the purpose of distinguishing yourself as a really open-minded guy, because it’s not as big a stretch to enjoy “Welcome to the Terrordome.” Another example: “Paper Planes,” by M.I.A. “Paper Planes” indubitably has more merit than “Crank That,” but it shares the virtue of allowing white people to participate in a cultural milieu that has been pretty thoroughly defanged. The sound effects — gun shots and cash registers — that form the hook of the song allude to violence without any hint of actual advocacy. And artists like M.I.A. and Kanye West are lacking in “street cred”; they have never actually been dealers gang bosses, and they’ve never actually been shot, a la 50 Cent. Or if they have, they don’t make it a central part of their personas. “Street cred” only gets in the way of ironic appreciation, because if a rapper is talking about the actual experience of shooting up drugs or doing time, listeners are compelled to actually think about the acts and experiences in themselves, and not just as markers of affinity in taste and cultural. Is there any way outside this dynamic? Is there any way for people raised outside the culture that gave rise to rap and hip-hop to really appreciate it without either trivializing or anthropologizing? Probably not, or if there is, I can’t think of it. We can’t do much good to popular rap by attempting to “appreciate” it. And that’s why artists black and white are moving on, as they’ve done at least a dozen times before (in jazz, rock and roll, rock, funk), to new, hybrid forms. Sam Jack ’11 (sjack@fas) is a regular “player,” tee hee hee. 02.26.09 s The Harvard Independent



Live from YouTube The rise of digital media and the fall of Saturday Night Live. By SAM CRIHFIELD



heard among dining-hall and dormitory critics across college campuses is that the powers of the Saturday Night Live writers and comics are waning. America’s magicians of comedy, who have been entertaining the nation for 35 years (and us college students personally for a good eight or so) are not pulling the same strings they used to, not hitting our funny bones with the same consistency or dexterity. Sunday brunchers seem more eager to pine for the old days of SNL (perhaps for Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, John Belushi!) than to praise the previous night’s skits and sketches. Viewership has been on the decline. When was the last time you made it through an entire SNL episode? Every skit, they’ll say, is either a hit or a miss. Certainly, SNL can’t go wrong when they bring back some of the late greats for political impersonations. Indeed, Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin (or is it more Sarah Palin’s Tina Fey?) and Will Ferrell’s George Bush recently garnered SNL’s highest ratings in a decade. But the new skits, for many of us, don’t seem to pack the same punch that the SNL shows of nostalgic years past did. A recent video that exploded into my inbox, however, has left me questioning whether SNL is really on the decline, or whether there are deeper forces at work here. I’m speaking of “I’m on a Boat,” starring Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and … T-Pain. The premise of the 3 minute, 8 second video is quite simple. Andy Samberg is pouring his cereal one morning, at breakfast with his friends Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, and out of the cereal box drops a ticket for a free boat ride for three. Looking over his friends, Samberg elects to bring Schaffer, and inexplicably, hip-hop artist T-Pain, whom the camera discovers at the other end of the breakfast table. The scene cuts to a white yacht on a deep blue ocean, and a synthesizer kicks into the hip-hop parody “I’m on a Boat.” The video, for anyone who has ever danced to T-Pain’s “Buy U a Drank,” (and for those who have, I highly recommend also watching the Youtube video “Chris recites T-Pain”) is undeniably hilarious. The Harvard Independent s 02.26.09

“I’m on a Boat” is at once an alluring little piece of the popular culture in which we all float, and an absurd satire of elements of that popular culture that are, err, absurd. Andy Samberg’s curse-filled affront to the camera and to the viewer smack of the ridiculous confrontational nature of today’s hip-hop, and his repetition of the catch-phrase “I’m on a boat” reminds the reader of the artless subjects of our popular songs. Yet in the same video, T-Pain’s dialogue with a portrait of Poseidon, and his claim that he has had sexual relations with a mermaid, are simply comic. The video deals with an absurd culture by embracing its absurdity. Certainly, the video is not high satire, and perhaps does not even have the artistic development of a live SNL comedy sketch, yet “I’m on a Boat” manages to entertain both on a sensory level, and for those who care to question popular culture, on a critical level. In this duality, it seems uniquely fit to the wide general public of the internet. “I’m on a Boat,” for me, is solid proof that the comic minds of SNL are still alive and fertile. But the video also seems to be a strong indication of a change that is taking place in the media fabric of America. By now, “I’m on a Boat” has probably swept through the e-mail inboxes and computer screens of a majority of college students in the nation. It’s a very small number of college students, proportionally, that first saw “I’m on a Boat” as it aired on Saturday Night Live, February 7. This trend must have something to do with the recent decline in SNL popularity and viewership. As the “Live from New York” Saturday Night Live show, aired on NBC, loses its popularity and immediacy, especially with college-aged audiences, the popularity of SNL Digital Shorts (of which “I’m on a Boat” is one) is exploding. There is a palpable disconnect between the fortunes of the live show, and those of its off-shoot Digital Shorts, which are tailor-made to the internet, and to an internet culture. A quick history of “SNL Digital Shorts” is in order. The first SNL Digital Short, “Lettuce,” aired on SNL December 3, 2005, and was produced by SNL cast member Andy Samberg, and friends Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. Since then,

46 Digital Shorts in total have aired on SNL, most of them written and produced by Samberg, Taccone, and Schaffer, using consumer grade digital cameras and personal computer editing. The Shorts often feature cast members of Saturday Night Live, as well as hosts or musical acts for the week. In contrast with the filmed shorts, all other SNL skits are performed live on the show. What should we make of the increasing popularity of SNL Digital Shorts? Do they herald a new culture of comedy? NBC’s own reaction to pirating of the Digital Shorts is perhaps particularly telling. After the second-ever digital short, “Lazy Sunday,” was viewed more than 5 million times on YouTube in early 2006, NBC had it taken off the website due to copyright infringement. However, in late 2006, NBC began to upload the digital shorts onto YouTube itself. Now, the digital shorts are available online at and at Hulu. com. NBC it seems, is cutting its losses, and at least generating some internet advertising revenue. How the television industry is going to adapt to the internet, however, is as yet very unclear. About 10 years ago, the music industry saw the first sign of change: the creation of Napster, the first online music file sharing service. Soon, the entire fabric of the music industry was ripped apart, to be rebuilt again on the foundation of the internet. Even now, iTunes, in all its monopolistic beauty, seems to only be a transition to a more integrated model for the music industry. NBC’s reaction to the pirating of Digital Shorts demonstrates a television industry that is only just facing the realities of vast change that the music industry came face to face with years ago. The internet is the new marketplace, and these industries seem remarkably resistant to adaptation. Saturday Night Live, while it has held a special place in television history and American comedy, is very much a part of the television industry. The show has operated more or less in the same manner every year since its conception in 1975 by Lorne Michaels, with a formula familiar to its viewers then, and now – a host, a musical act, and a cast of repertory actors who perform comedy skits. That

Saturday Night Live has lasted so long and has had such a shaping influence on American comedy culture, I believe, is a blessing. The smash popularity of “I’m on a Boat” and other SNL Digital Shorts, however, heralds an era of changes both for Saturday Night Live and for the television industry as a whole. As is abundantly clear by now, there is a new medium for entertainment, the internet, and it is a medium that already has built around it a very new and different consumer culture. Some writers posit that the new consumer’s (and by the new consumer, they mean college students) preference for short, quick, laugh-filled comedy and entertainment is a sign of a waning national attention-span. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that idea. As we have shown, we are more likely to go on YouTube and watch “I’m on a Boat” than to watch an entire production of Saturday Night Live. But I would suggest that there is a feedback system: as the mediums of comedy and of entertainment change, our expectations of comedy and entertainment change. Entertainment and comedy have always been uniquely attuned to their modes of transmittance, for as long as human beings have been seeking entertainment. The internet as the ultimate source of entertainment is a revolution the likes of which has not been seen, perhaps, since the invention of the television. Will Saturday Night Live fall by the wayside in a new quick-paced entertainment culture? Will we lose time and patience for a live sketch comedy show? Ultimately, I think the answer is yes. Like the television industry, Saturday Night Live will have to adapt in ways that will completely alter its genetic makeup. “I’m on a Boat,” and its companion Digital Shorts, seem more likely to be the face of SNL going forward, than the weekly live show we now recognize. We are evolving to fit our new technologies, and live television shows, even ones as beloved as Saturday Night Live, may soon be a thing of the past. Sam Crihfield (shcrihf@fas) is also, as it happens, on a boat.


indy arts

Game Over Marcus Stern directs the current run of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame at American Repertory Theatre. By PELIN KIVRAK


I WALK OUT OF A BECKETT play, I find myself searching for meaning everywhere, in every single word. “Where are we going?” my friend asks and I say “I don’t know,” but I’m not necessarily referring to that particular moment. Consciousness comes into perspective when I consider the insignificance of the act of ‘going somewhere’. I feel like calling every person I know in the world and asking what I mean to them; Beckett wants me to find a place for myself in the mystic cycle of the universe. Certainly, it’s a narcissistic impulse, but the art of Beckett encourages such ponderings. In the wake of its long-discussed, pivotal production on the same stage in 1984, Endgame is revived at the A.R.T. twenty-five years later, staged by Resident Director Marcus Stern. The play, which is arguably Beckett’s masterpiece, requires a lot of patience and



THEATRE REVIEW Endgame American Repertory Theatre

practice for the most accurate and careful execution of the playwright’s detailed stage directions, and Stern was very luck to have the cast he did. The play itself is one act in a neglected, closed room, filled with gray light that filters through two

windows covered by wood boards. The cast consists of four characters: Hamm (Will LeBow) is a blind, paralyzed and seated main character who is placed in the center of the room for the majority of the play. His servant Clov (Thomas Derrah), on the other hand, is unable to sit down, has a very bad short term memory and longs for some order and organization in the house as well in remaining part of his life. There are also Hamm’s grey-haired, almost-dead parents Neil and Nagg, (Karen McDonald and Remo Airaldi) who are ridiculously and symbolically kept in trash cans by Hamm because they are going to be thrown away from other’s lives sooner or later. Those four people we see on the stage are the last humans on earth, according to the text, but as Hamm says, “Life still goes on.” Before looking into the highly existentialist content of the script in this depressing little room whose walls echo the absence of meaning, it is necessary to note that Samuel Beckett wrote Endgame in 1955, after he’d lost his father, mother

and brother in a short time period for different health reasons. After this tragic period in his life, he started to question the meaning of ‘the end’ and the ironic notion of spending time as a form of waiting for one’s own end. When he was waiting for the death of his brother Frank he wrote in one of his letters “things drag on, a little more awful every day, and with so many days yet probably to run what awfulness to look forward to…” Yet, even under these tragic circumstances he managed to mingle the drama of existentialism with a hint of comedy and the absurdity of everyday events that make us forget that we are all killing time to reach a similar ending. The staging of the play at the ART was exactly as Beckett instructed. There is a grey, dim light that signifies the world outside that is about to die. The walls are bare. Three of the characters are nailed to their places like old, heavy, dusty furniture waiting to be thrown out or replaced while Clov constantly enters and leaves the stage to obey his master before “it’s finished, nearly finished…” It would be fair to say that Will LeBow’s performance as the main character confined to a chair and with his eyes covered by shades is absolutely the foremost reason for the success of the play. Endgame will run at A.R.T Loeb stage through March 15th and the tickets are only $15 for students. If you are going to watch a Beckett play for the first time,be prepared to be overwhelmed by the text but if you have already waited for Godot or just thought deep thoughts, sit back and enjoy the amazing staging of “living for which there is no cure.” Pelin Kivrak (pkivrak@fas) is waiting for the dough…to rise.

02.26.09 s The Harvard Independent



The Trouble with Facebook The debate over its terms of service punctures the illusion of “public privacy.” By ADAM HALLOWELL



raspy hiss. “Sorry to bother you, Congressman, but we have some urgent business to discuss.” The Congressman glanced nervously around his office, wondering why he was wasting five minutes on this crackpot during his busy 2032 Senate campaign. “Do we?” “I’m calling about some compromising photographs, Congressman,” the caller continued. “Pictures of your wild Harvard days, back in 2009. Crazy parties in the Currier Ten-Man… Winthrop Debauchery… Lots of photos it might be difficult to explain to the voters, Congressman.” “But those photos were taken down days later!” the Congressman protested. “I haven’t even had a profile for years!” “Maybe so, Congressman. But my point is, we have them. The New York Times could have them tomorrow. Now wouldn’t that be a shame?” The Congressman saw his political life flash before his eyes. “How much do you want?” “Ten million will buy our silence – for now, anyway,” said the voice. “We’ll be in touch with the details.” “One question,” said the Congressman, breaking into a cold sweat. “Just who is this?” The caller chuckled. “Take a guess, Congressman.” Click. The Congressman swore under his breath. “Curses,” he said. “Zuckerberg.” Political blackmail probably isn’t a major concern at most colleges, but I’m betting it lay in the back of at least a few ambitious Harvard students’ minds during the recent brouhaha about Facebook’s terms of service. Facebook users were up in arms over a provision in that extended piece of legalese which granted Facebook an irrevocable license to use, copy, and distribute information they uploaded to the site – and which, after revisions on The Harvard Independent s 02.26.09

Feb. 6, maintained that license even if the material is later taken down. “Make sure you never upload anything you don’t feel comfortable giving away forever,” warned Consumerist blog on Feb. 15, “because it’s Facebook’s now.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reversed the changes four days after the story broke. He insisted that Facebook wasn’t asserting a right to permanent ownership, offering instead the analogy of an email: even if the sender deletes her account, the message remains in the recipient’s inbox. But the issue won’t die quite so easily. The thousands of Facebookers who joined protest groups are now grappling with legal questions that actually aren’t easy to answer. Where exactly is the boundary between a user’s ownership of online postings and Facebook’s? It’s a high-stakes question. After all, extortion isn’t the only possible abuse of Facebook’s potential ownership claims. Copyright laws are even more problematic. Thomas Friedman noted in The World Is Flat that he sometimes saved drafts of the manuscript on his AOL account; if he had died while writing it, his family would have had to sue AOL for those copies. Facebook’s claims are similar. What if my emo About Me blurb has real literary merit, or what if one of my 25 Random Things piques Hollywood’s interest? Could Facebook sell the movie rights without my consent? Of course, neither blackmail nor copyright violation is new. Back in the old, pre-Internet days, it was still possible for others to hold onto old, incriminating photographs, or to publish a poem I wrote without my consent. The new nuances today stem from several basic but rather revolutionary aspects of (almost) everything you place on the Internet: someone has to host it, lots of virtual copies are made of it, everyone can see it, and it’s going to stick around forever. In the old days, college students

shared photographs by picking up the prints at the convenience store and passing them around to friends. Today, Facebook is quicker and easier than distributing photos in person, which allows students to pass a lot more photos around than they used to. But Facebook has to act as an intermediary: we give our photos to it and it gives them to our friends, in a two-part process. And because Facebook is almost a monopoly, it can set terms for our using that service without fear of losing customers to the competition. (Today, Facebook has a natural monopoly because if most of your friends are only on Facebook, the only worthwhile way to get your photos to all of them is to post them on Facebook.) Intermediaries aren’t always bad; after all, even the convenience store was an intermediary for shutterbugs of earlier generations. But unless that store was Robin Williams’s place in One Hour Photo, it couldn’t keep its own archives of our pictures lying around. With physical photo prints, I know how many copies I’ve made and who I’ve given them to. In contrast, Facebook can (and perhaps does) save its own copy of every single photo I post through its site, and I have no way of knowing what it does with it. Indeed, Facebook has to have some level of “ownership” in my photos in order to place them on my friends’ news feeds. Where does that right end? What’s more, everyone who views my photo can make a separate copy and save it. And the people who view it are mainly determined by the people I choose as my friends. You can friend people, reject them, or even keep them stewing in Facebook purgatory while you figure out what to do with their request. But once you add someone as your friend, it’s difficult to keep them – and all their friends – from seeing any individual photo. Facebook now lets you control this by setting different privacy levels for different friends, but that’s cumbersome enough to make posting things not worth it in the first place.

And it’s much harder to store physical photographs for essentially forever than it is for their digital equivalents. As blogger Maciej Ceglowski points out, this means that “online, it’s as if everyone is wired for sound, and every potted plant is hiding a camera” – a permanence at odds with the fluidity of real-life social environments. Ceglowski suggests that to harness the true potential of online social networks, “We’re going to have to force computers to do a little forgetting.” Undoubtedly many of these Facebook worries are pure paranoia. The fact that Facebook makes a whole lot of privacy violations possible doesn’t necessarily mean that any of them will happen. But the newfound prominence of Facebook’s terms of service ensures that people will consider more closely the specific social setting that they’re releasing their photos, notes, and other Facebook posts into. That’s why reiterating the fundamentals of how Facebook works is important. Realizing exactly who is reading your profile can cramp your style – as revealed on the brilliant new blog Only half facetiously, that site blames parents, those pesky interlopers, for “taking away your public privacy.” Yet the users who protested the terms of service change clearly saw Facebook itself as a potential interloper. Those users imagined “public privacy” as the ability to share their information with everyone, even outside of their “friends,” who they might want to see that information – but no one else. The trouble is, even with Facebook’s new privacy settings, the very nature of proprietary online communities may mean that such a nuanced ideal is just a mirage. Adam Hallowell ’09 (ahallow@fas) doesn’t have too many compromising photographs, but he’s still keeping his parents in Facebook purgatory.


indy forum

SoHo in the Rain A tribute to Hollis South.



SOUTH (SOHO) IS A FRESHMAN entryway located in the Ivy Yard. It is the fourth oldest building on campus, built in 1763. George Washington housed his troops in Hollis Hall during the American Revolution. When it rains, water streams from the roof of Hollis Hall and falls in front of the door. It does not stream or sputter; the water that falls in front of SoHo flows in a continuous sheet that shimmers like liquid crystal. It is the flowing gold that separates the interior of SoHo from the big outside, reality from wonder, physics from magic. Those who are lucky enough to enter are baptized with the essence of SoHo, the triumph and the splendor, the sounds of rich opera wafting from the third floor as young physicists gallop down the stairs to convene in the Common Room that is not a common room at all, but a shape-shifting wonder greater than anything created by mere fantasy — it transforms with just a knock on the door. When dark comes, and it is still raining, SoHo is not afraid. Instead the dark is afraid. It cannot get in, the poor dark, though it tries pressing on the inherent radiance that SoHo emanates like a beacon on a hill, a luminescence that does not come from manmade structures, chemical reactions, or dinoflagellates. This light comes from SoHo itself, from the layers of its occupants living floor-by-floor, calling to one another on an intercom of their own personal inventions. SoHo at night is perhaps most splendid of all, the time the ghosts enjoy most. They waft through the halls and up to the fourth floor, watching the string of Asian soap operas play out to applause on floor two or the impromptu musical forming in a room on floor four. Yes, the ghosts themselves love SoHo and they too are very much a part of its invincibility. Even the ages favor SoHo. As the night wears on, the rain beats harder and harder on the walls of SoHo. It froths along the rim of the roof, whipping around the building with



increasing agitation because it wants to be a part of the warm den inside, but cannot enter. It gathers in sad puddles in front of SoHo’s steps and slops along the outside edges, but it must be satisfied with a distant worship. It continues drumming along the brick and glass in a relentless tattoo to remind us where we are. Water flows faster for SoHo. The water speeds along for the chance to wet SoHo’s walls as flyaway leaves rush forward for the chance to plaster themselves in prostrate bows on SoHo’s brick pathway. The streetlamps strain for their light to be graced by SoHo’s radiance. Matter and energy, all are

powerless against the allure of SoHo and they charge madly on to be at one with the wonder. Every particle in the universe is attracted to SoHo, it is known, even though SoHo is modest about its secrets. SoHo has a catacombs and a flying school, some alternate universes and a dazzling jungle with millions of species of animals and plants and its own song. Tales spun in SoHo come to life, able to reside among the infinite delights that SoHo calls its own. So as the rain beats ever the harder and the wind shrieks in misery, the residents of SoHo are wandering around their own worlds, wherever they may want to be in the moment. Some are

lost in space and time on a train that travels at the speed of light. Others are murmuring to a three-toed sloth lolling on a low branch in a tropical rainforest. And these things are just a sample of the glory of SoHo, because SoHo can be whatever it wants. Awe-inspiring, mysterious, joyful or contemplative, SoHo will bring whatever is needed and its residents will see the light. And the sun is not even shining- this is just SoHo in the rain. Riva Riley ’12 (rjriley@fas) will write a paean to Lamont Library as her next project.

02.26.09 s The Harvard Independent

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