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04.16.09 vol. xl, no. 21 The Indy shares its expertise.

independent THE HARVARD

President Diana Suen ‘11 Cover art by PATRICIA FLORESCU

News 3


Sports 4 5

The End of an Era Survival of the Fittest

Arts 6 7

Growing Up in a Graveyard The Many Forms of Fantasy

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 Jim Shirey ‘11 Alice Speri ‘09 John Beatty '11 Levi Dudte '11 Steven Rizoli '11 Graphics, Photography, and Design Staff Ben Huang ‘09 Edward Chen '09 Sonia Coman '11 Caitie Kakigi ‘09 Eva Liou ‘11 Caitlin Marquis ‘10 Lidiya Petrova ‘11 Sally Rinehart ‘09 Kristina Yee ‘10

Forum 8 9 10 11

Presidential Retrospective Pandemic Pandemonium Ecological Urbanism Biodiverse Beauty A Powerful Statement For 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 04.16.09



Short & Sweet News that you could conceivably use. This week: tea parties, gay marriage, and YouTube losses

Tax Day Tea Parties

Yesterday, April 15, was 'tax day', and as part of the general revelry and jubilation over the prospect of supporting our government for another year. According to organizers of the events, symbolic "tax protests" took place in all 50 states. The events have been covered and promoted wall to wall on Fox News for the last several days, though they have evoked relatively little interest outside conservative opinion media. Fox News host John Gibson, at least, was tired of covering the event. He was caught on camera by a citizen journalist saying, "The second this is over, I'm on vacation." President Obama took today as an opportunity to talk up his tax cuts for the middle class.

terrorist, or worst mustache. Always wear your rubbers. has already used such a concept with their ads. In their recent pro-life ad, an ultrasound of a baby whose father will abandon him, who will grow up in a broken home with a single mother turns out to be (drumroll) … BARACK OBAMA! To combine the messages of the two commercials: wear your rubbers and don’t get abortions. This will lead to happiness and world peace. Or something.

the bill into law, triggering speculation that he did it to seek Shiite support in this year’s presidential elections. Some provisions of the law: it is illegal for a woman to resist her husband’s sexual advances; a woman needs her husband’s permission to work outside the home or go to school; it is illegal for a woman to refuse to “make herself up” or “dress up” if her husband wants her to do so. Around 300 Afghan women marched to Parliament on Wednesday April 15 to protest the new law, chanting slogans for rights and equality. They were surrounded by police protecting them from an angry mob of men almost three times as many in number. A spokesman for Karzai has said that the legislation is not technically law yet as it has not yet been published in the government’s official register. Karzai has reportedly asked his justice minister to look over the legislation and make sure that it is consistent with the structure of the Afghan Constitution, which protects the rights of women.

Governor to Introduce NY Gay Marriage Bill

Afghan women protest new law that makes marital rape okay (via

German condom ads feature Hitler, Osama bin Laden and Mao Zedong; Catholics retaliate with pro-life Barack ad (via Need an extra incentive to use protection during sex? This oughta do it. In true self-deprecating German humor, Doc Morris Pharmacies’ newest condom advertisement in Germany features Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Mao Zedong, just to remind you of what you could potentially bring into the world if you have unprotected sex. So prevent the world’s next fascist, The Harvard Independent s 04.16.09

The Afghanistan Parliament recently passed a severely restrictive, Taliban-like law that applies to Shiite women. The Shiites are a minority in Afghanistan, comprising about 20 percent of the population. President Hamid Karzai signed

David Paterson, who earlier signed an executive order instructing New York officials to recognize out-of-state gay marriages, plans to himself introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. The legislation Paterson will introduce is identical to legislation former governor Eliot Spitzer introduced in 2007; the bill failed in the Senate after passing by a comfortable margin in the House. "I think it is - as some other states are showing - the only ethical way to treat

the people who want to live together in peace under the civil law," Paterson said Tuesday.

If New York legalized gay marriage, it would become the most populous state with legal gay marriage, and one of only five states in the nation who have yet legalized it. (Sources:,

YouTube Loses Half a Billion Dollars No, it didn't fall between the couch cushions. According to Credit Suisse, YouTube, the popular video-sharing site owned by Google, pays about $360 million a year for the bandwidth needed to shovel Dramatic Chipmunk remixes and street brawls toward the greedy eyes of the dazed masses. Google spends another quarter billion a year to develop original content and license original content such as old feature films from other sources. The YouTube Symphony, wholly funded by Google, is one example of the funds Google has laid out for original YouTube content. YouTube's total operating cost is more than $700 million, but the site brings in only $240 million per year in ads. (Source:


indy sports

Outta Here Farewell, Harry Kalas. By ADAM HALLOWELL


R ED S OX NATION MAKES IT HARD out-of-town baseball fans to follow their teams from a distance, and it probably makes the roller coaster of sports more extreme. Philadelphia Phillies fans like me learned this last year when we won the World Series; we’ve been reminded of it this week, in mourning the passing of longtime sportscaster Harry Kalas. Kalas, 73, died of a heart attack on Monday afternoon, collapsing in the broadcasting booth at Nationals Park before the Phillies’ game against Washington. Growing up in the Lehigh Valley, an hour north of Philadelphia, I heard him call countless baseball games on television and radio. Though living in Cambridge kept me from hearing him as often in recent years, I can still easily conjure up his deep baritone, rising with the excitement on the field: “Swing and a long drive, deep center field, that ball’s outta here, home run Mick-ey Morandini…” Or Scott Rolen or Bobby Abreu or Jim Thome or Ryan Howard. The names changed but the voice did not. Athletes, actors, rock stars and other celebrities are a ubiquitous part of the society we live in, and losing one of them is always sobering, in part because it’s a reminder that they too are a part of the reality they help us escape from. With sports players, there’s also the shock of losing someone in the prime of their life – like Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, killed in a car accident last week. But the death of a sportscaster inspires a different kind of grief. We aren’t stunned that a career has been cut short, as we are when we lose an active player. In contrast, we reflect on a career so long and distinctive that we have come to associate the broadcaster with the team. I still remember when Cubs announcer Harry Caray (“Holy cow!”) passed away in 1998: he was so iconic and so synonymous with the long-suffering Cubs franchise that tributes for him came from around the league. Kalas didn’t have that sort of national name recognition, but he personified the Phillies in much the same way. That’s especially true because Kalas’s long tenure made him a staple of the Phillies’ broadcasts for decades: 2009 was his thirty-ninth year with the team. I’ve been following the Phillies for less than half of that span, and yet Kalas was an integral part of my childhood. From first grade on I grew attuned to the rituals of a major league season and



spent summer evenings following the Phils via his television and car radio commentary. (Covertly listening to games on the radio after bedtime seems both old-fashioned and clichéd, but I did that too

I can still easily conjure up his deep baritone, rising with the excitement on the field.

on occasion.) My major league exposure in those years mirrored by own modest Little League career. Baseball is a game of traditions, and parents play a large role in passing down those traditions. My father coached my youth league team every year, and my mother encouraged my nascent baseball card collection by showing me her own collection, amassed during her childhood days of rooting for the Cincinnati Reds. She was thrilled several years ago to find that Ross Grimsley, her favorite Reds pitcher from the early 1970s, was now the pitching coach for a local minor league team. (She startled him after the game by asking for his autograph.) In the same way, the personalities of the late 1990s Phillies, linked to my personal experiences will stick with me for the rest of my baseball life. Kalas is foremost among those personalities. He was the one constant while millions of Phillies fans suffered through the trades and tribulations of the late 1990s, when the team didn’t seem to know what a winning record was. Philadelphia fans are a notoriously tough crowd: they famously booed Santa Claus at a 1968 Eagles game. But Kalas was a gentleman throughout, making it that much sweeter when the Phillies rose to the top of the division in recent years, finally winning the 2008 World Series (it was Kalas’s second Phillies championship, but my first). It’s comforting to think that he saw that victory. This April, thousands of kids across eastern Pennsylvania are joining their first tee-ball leagues, opening their first packs of baseball cards, and watching their first Phillies games on TV. It’s not clear who will fill Harry Kalas’s role in the broadcasting booth, but in the coming years these kids will grow up with a different voice narrating their Phillies experiences, never hearing his trademark home run call. That’s not easy for me to imagine, but it’s something we all have to accept. Saying goodbye to Harry Kalas is difficult, but the echoes of his voice I’ll hear in every Phillies broadcast from now on means that a piece of him, and a piece of my childhood, will survive.

Adam Hallowell ’09 (ahallow@fas) has been a Phillies fan since 1988.

04.16.09 s The Harvard Independent



Sports Survivor Who would outwit, outlast, and, most of all, out play? By HAO MENG



reality television has plummeted recently—far from the glory days of the early 2000s. Now, you might scoff at my concern over things of such insignificance, but I’m not afraid to admit that I like my “trash TV” to be “quality trash TV.” The current nonsense of Dancing with the (Burnt-out C-List) Stars and Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader (a resounding NO in my case) just doesn’t cut it anymore. Even the brilliant Survivor has lost a bit of its flair, thanks to ineffective rule changes and some unbelievably boring contestants. Call me childish, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I needed an outlet, so I made one. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce the hypothetical, but strangely fascinating, Survivor: Sports World—a reality TV show starring Shaq, Dikembe Mutombo, Dennis Rodman, Charles Barkley, Jay Culter, Brett Favre, T.O., Manny, David Beckham, and Michael Phelps that combines all aspects of reality TV. Here’s an “unbiased” account of what would likely transpire in this wonderfully wacky competition. Best Introduction: “Hello, I’m Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo.” Most Appropriate Song Choice for American Idol-like Singing Contest: Big Girls Don’t Cry—a song by Fergie, interpreted by Terrell Owens. Best Dance Contest Moment: Shaq breaks it down with some top-notch popping, but is defeated by Brett Favre constantly jumping up and down with arms raised and index fingers pointed at the sky. Bravest Moment in Fear Factorlike Contest: Jay Cutler shows no fear in “receiving” and eating “wide” Bear “droppings.” Most Popular Wife Swap-like Contest Contestant: David Beckham. Dennis Rodman, and his wife—Dennis Rodman—come in a close second. Most Embarrassing Moment: During Are You Smarter than a Fifth The Harvard Independent s 04.16.09

Grader-like contest, Dikembe Mutombo, of all people, corrects Charles Barkley on the pronunciation and spelling of the word “terrible.” Charles proceeds to say “I am a dumb*ss” without reading off a teleprompter.

Manny—The wife version of Scott Boras Beckham—A 12-pack Michael Phelps—A Kellogg’s Box with his face on it again All succumb to temptation. Sad.

First to Leave the Island: With 14 Olympic Gold Medals, Michael Phelps wasn’t really motivated to do well. That, and there were no Mary Janes on the island.

Manny Being Manny Moment One: Manny refuses to participate in the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire-like contest. He claims, through his agent Scott Boras, that he would, however, participate in a Who Wants to Be a Billionaire-like contest.

Second to Leave the Island: David Beckham, obviously. If your wife looked like that, would you choose to stay on an island with smelly men for three months? Most Painful Moment: The producers, in an attempt to garner more attention for the show, host a Temptation Island-like contest where contestants who refuse their personalized “temptation item” earn extra money. The temptation items are as follows: Shaq—Kobe Voodoo Doll and endless supply of needles Mutombo—The Sorcerer’s Stone (See Harry Potter for clarification) Dennis Rodman—Karl Malone Charles Barkley—Frank Caliendo Jay Cutler—Mike Shanahan Brett Favre—Another “Get out of Retirement Free” Card T.O.— A third consecutive MVP Award for McDonald’s All-Star Celebrity Basketball Game

Manny Being Manny Moment Two: Manny refuses to participate in the Amazing Race-like contest because water bottles are neither free nor guaranteed during the contest. Manny then cites his experiences in Fenway Park’s Left Field as support for his request. Best On-Camera Diss: “Shaq, Kobe is better than you now—I hope you know that.” – Jay Cutler “Jay, Philip Rivers has always been better than you. You’re too dumb to know that.” —Shaq Most Sentimental Moment: Barkley reveals that Favre and T.O. are among his “Fav Five.” Favre and T.O. proceed to cry with joy, while Cutler—feeling left out—proceeds to cry in jealousy. Best Bachelorette-like Contest

Moment: The producers invite Anna Kournikova to be the bachelorette. She ends up choosing Charles Barkley as her ultimate suitor. When asked to explain her choice, Kournikova replied, “I want to love someone who’s a lot like me.” We can only assume she’s referring to the couple’s current athletic ability. Most Surprising Moment: After producers announce an opening for an Extreme Makeover, everyone is shocked to see David Beckham fervently fight for the spot. Apparently, if Beckham doesn’t keep up with Posh Spice in the number of plastic surgeries undergone, a divorce is imminent. Most Inspirational Moment: Dennis Rodman gracefully glides across a Project Runway-like runway in his beautiful wedding dress like someone who has finally found a longlost passion. Best America is Better than Britain Moment: David Beckham kicks his trademark bending kick, only to have the shot blocked by Shaq’s massive fist. Best “I Love These Guys” Moment: During an America’s Got Talent-like talent contest, the contestants show off some little-known talents: Shaq—Rapping without degrading Kobe Mutombo—Playing volleyball Dennis Rodman—Hair styling Charles Barkley—Pulling the slot machine Jay Cutler—Not getting mad at Peyton Manning for nearly killing him Brett Favre—Ignoring his backups T.O.—Writing a “How-To Guide” for TD celebrations Manny—Writing a “How-To Guide” for being Manny Beckham—Doing nothing and looking good Michael Phelps—Being the link between humans and fish Winner of the Show: Umm, Ryan Seacrest? Great, now I feel a lot better. Hao Meng ’11 (haomeng@fas) may have spent too much time thinking about this.


indy arts

A Whole New World (of Procrastination) Because you didn't already have enough ways to procrastinate. By SALLY RINEHART, SUSAN ZHU, and LIYUN JIN Senior Bar


suddenly you’re entangled in a multi-player Grand Prix surrounded by empty cans of Miller Lite, your nose is bleeding, and your roommate is crying. But there are ways in which Mario Kart is a productive form of procrastination as well. Mario Kart is communal, involving up to four players. It is a driving game that helps young children and stoned undergrads develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. And it provides a safe, nonviolent outlet for the nervous energy you’ve developed while untagging drunk pictures of yourself on Facebook in order to avoid working on your problem set. Mario Kart is an opportunity for growth. It is a procrastination tool that creates new goals from which one can procrastinate. It is the procrastination gift that keeps on giving.

that thin orange line was still ticking downward. SNL on Hulu

Making Calendars Once second semester rolls around, the Senior Class committee plans between 2 and 4 Senior Bar events per week. For those of you who haven’t already become second-semester seniors/alcoholics, Senior Bar is where the Senior Class committee cuts a deal with a local bar to have cheap drink specials and then tells the whole senior class to come. The result is repetitive, inebriated schmoozing, night after night, with the same people that you’ve awkwardly sort-of-known since freshman year. Aside from allowing you to reconnect with your long-lost freshman entryway friends, Senior Bar provides students with the opportunity to get drunk pretty much every night of the week (there are no Senior Bar events on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays, presumably so you can use those nights to sober up, or drink alone with your roommates). This is an ideal procrastination opportunity. Why update your Twitter or peruse when you can go get shitfaced with random members of your graduating class? So long as your liver (and awkward turtle) can handle it, Senior Bar is there for you. Mario Kart

Mario Kart is a simple game with powerfully addictive properties. Sit down to play one race, and


I rarely catch SNL on Saturday nights, especially since most of SNL isn’t all that funny. That’s where Hulu comes in. I’ve watched old SNL skits (some of my favorites are the “commercials” from way back when, like “The Love Toilet”) as well as newer ones – SNL Digital Shorts are the best (the likes of “Lazy Sunday,” “Dick in a Box,” and more). Apparently you either love or hate “I’m on a Boat” – I love it. Wordtwist application on Facebook

Don’t try to fool yourself the next time you reach for your planner and start noting every engagement for the upcoming month. Though you may meticulously record the time and location where you plan to be for each moment of your waking life, let’s face the facts. You’re not actually being productive by writing in your calendar — you’re procrastinating. Life looks so neat when you chart it in rainbow colors on iCal or gCal: ambitious wake times, bubble tea dates, office hours (gasp), and even errands like buying contact solution. Why, some on-top-of-theirshit students have even been known to budget in precise times for showering or grooming, leaving not a 15-minute gap absent of some activity. Even idleness — in the form of naps, sitting around, or relaxing — can be scheduled in advance. Harvard students are obsessed with being productive, and updating your calendar — which allows you to see your envisioned productivity — provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment. But given that maintaining your schedule is probably taking up more time than actually doing the things written on it, this sense of purpose is largely wishful. After all, during the past hour that you just spent avoiding your p-set by code-coding your life on gCal,

For people who like feeling wordy and sophisticated, wordtwist will quickly become an addiction. This is especially true now that it’s an application on facebook – which students are constantly on anyway. Challenge friends or yourself and see how many words you can unscramble from sets of letters within a certain time limit. It’s frustrating when you miss easy words like “elf” in search for the six-letter 25 point bonus. Writing Blurbs for the Indy It is 1:55 AM, I have a paper due at 10:00 AM, and I am currently writing this instead. ‘Nuff said.

04.16.09 s The Harvard Independent


Dead Man Walking The Graveyard Book is more than an ordinary children’s book. By FAITH ZHANG


JUNGLE BOOK, EXCEPT in a graveyard,” doesn’t sound like a terribly logical or obvious combination, but Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book pulls it off with grace and charm. When three members of a family — a mother, father, and daughter — are murdered by the man Jack, only the infant son survives; he crawls away to a graveyard, where he is taken in by ghosts who name him Nobody Owens (Bod for short) and give him the Freedom of the Graveyard, which allows him to do all those classic ghostly things like fading in and out, scaring people, appearing in dreams, and so forth. The book follows Bod as he grows up, explores the graveyard and ventures into the world outside, and finds out exactly why his family was murdered. Despite the bloody opening, at first glance, The Graveyard Book looks like a children’s book: the print is large, the first few pages feature more pictures than words and more pictures are scattered throughout, and the protagonist is under the age of majority for the entirety of the story. There are neither long words nor overt philosophy, and cynicism is almost entirely lacking. In fact, for a book that opens with the murder of our hero’s family in their beds and takes place mostly in a graveyard, The Graveyard Book is essentially optimistic. Being dead isn’t so bad after all, Death is personified by a lady who, like Gaiman’s other representation of death, is very kind, and the world out there may be dangerous but is also wonderful and fascinating. On the other hand, there is a distinctly adult darkness that runs through The Graveyard Book. Bod is not somehow neatly absolved of the villain’s death the way the heroes of children’s entertainment so often seem to be—there is no Aslan to come sweeping in to kill the White Witch, there is no convenient precipice to be accidentally (at least nominally) fallen over. While Bod does not quite kill anyone with his own two hands, he HE

The Harvard Independent s 04.16.09

knowingly and deliberately sends two people into a dimension something like hell and leads another to a place where he knows that—well, being pulled into a stone wall to be trapped forever may not be quite the same thing as death, but I think we can accept it as a moral equivalent. More to the point, he simultaneously acknowledges responsibility and shows no remorse, even when his friend Scarlett is absolutely horrified. Earlier in the story, he has already used the abilities granted to him by the Freedom of the Graveyard to thoroughly terrify two bullies, who were certainly not likeable characters but for whom I nevertheless found myself feeling a little sorry. There is a streak of pragmatic ruthlessness to Bod balanced by self-awareness that makes him more interesting than other heroes in children’s literature who will go unnamed but who seem to have their actions justified mainly by the fact that they are the main character. Neil Gaiman has written the same story more than once, and The Graveyard Book is another such iteration. I mean this in the best way possible, and I don’t mean it in the same sense in which one would say it about Dan Brown, whose books might as well be a matter of abusing the find/replace function in Word; rather, I mean that the story he tells over and over is about of learning one’s own past and origins, dealing with the fallout, and then moving forward into a future full of possibility. This is what happens in American Gods, in Sandman, and in Good Omens, among others; and yet, in Gaiman’s hands, it is always new and refreshing. In this, too, The Graveyard Book is no different, and while it most certainly does deserve the Newbery Medal it received, it is also a book well worth reading for adults as well as children. Faith Zhang ’11 (fhzhang@fas) finds getting off the Quad shuttle at the graveyard a bit creepy, especially in the dark.


Gods and Angels Thoughts on the current renaissance in speculative fiction. By SAM JACK


AMERICA, THE LONG PLAY by Tony Kushner that I saw for the first time in HRDC’s recent undergraduate production, apart from being a really fine effort and a great accomplishment for all involved, shook loose a couple inklings I’ve been having about American speculative fiction (which encompasses fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction and related genres), and its nexus with what’s considered “real” or “serious” literature. I’d been reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman at the same time, and the two works have some similarities. In Angels in America (stop reading here to avoid plot spoilers, by the way) the Angel tells Prior Walter (the man, sick with AIDS, who has been designated “prophet”) that God abandoned Heaven in 1906 on the day of the San Francisco earthquake, driven away by the human migratory impulse. Since then, the Angel says, the angels have been trying to keep things moving along based on God’s old edicts, with variable degrees of success. “Stop mingling,” the Angel says, and maybe God will return. American Gods also features unmooring from spiritual guidance, though it is the people who abandon the gods; in Gaiman’s mythology, gods are brought into literal existence by belief, and become vulnerable to death when belief is exhausted. The olds gods of Europe, Asia and South America came over to America with the immigrants who believed in them, and quickly became lost in the vast, various American landscape. An example of the tone of the book: the protagonist, named Shadow, goes to visit the three Zoryas and Czernobog— Slavic gods all—and finds them living in squalor, making a shabby living by telling fortunes and (in the case of Czernobog) slaughtering cattle. The feeble remnants of the old gods are at war with the new — the God of Television appears in the guise of Lucy Ricardo and tries to entice Shadow to join with the new gods, and a “fat kid in a stretch limo” known as “the technical boy” roughs Shadow up a bit, and kills the Queen of Sheba, among other transgressions. Both Angels and Gods are part of the fantasy tradition — though Kusher would probably balk at the label — but both are very free of the Tolkien juggernaut. And to be free of the shadow of J.R.R. Tolkien is an admirable thing for any fiction with fantastic features; The Lord of the Rings was a grand achievement, and fantasy literature would be unrecognizable NGELS IN

today if it were not for that epic, but the endless parade of derivative works caused fantasy to be dismissed and ignored by mainstream critics for decades. Lord of the Rings is far enough behind us now that that tendency seems to be receding. Too, critical practices have changed. The techniques and criteria of literary criticism are being applied more broadly. One result of the current limberness of American fantasy is loosening of the boundaries between science-fiction and fantasy as genres. Or I should say, this isn’t exactly a new development — writers of science-fiction have been dabbling in fantasy and vice versa for ages — but as the ghettoization of fantasy and sci-fi readers has lessened, the specific mechanisms of fantasy and sciencefiction writers have become less salient. More important is the literary approach these writers of speculative fiction have in common. Speculative fiction, unlike other varieties of literature, defines itself on the basis of innovation. At the point when speculative fiction runs out of ideas, it ceases to exist. So mastery of the craft of writing a good yarn isn’t enough; it’s only the beginning. If the “schtick,” as I’ve heard it described in online forums, is no good, the book doesn’t hold the attention of the extremely passionate “nerd-core.” In other words, it isn’t enough anymore to carry a sword or fly a spaceship. Readers of speculative fiction expect at minimum to learn something about the past or about the future, or about a possible past or a possible future. Clear writing is a requirement. Emotional authenticity and fleshed-out characters are almost requirements. Formal and stylistic innovation is welcomed — positively celebrated, really — but never at the expense of the narrative. In other words: Cryptonomicon will past muster, but Finnegan’s Wake? Not so much. How this all applies to American Gods should be fairly clear, but I realize I’ve left Angels in America hanging. I know there are objections, but I still would like to describe it as a fantasy—among other things. Its big ideas about heaven and earth and the afterlife are decidedly speculative. And its smooth blending of the real of unreal is characteristic of American Gods and much of the other great speculative fiction that is being published now. Sam Jack ‘11 (sjack@fas) prefers Bielebog to Czernobog, for reasons that are probably obvious.


indy forum

The Gospel of Lincoln Look at some of his finest statements, on the anniversary of his death. By STEVE RIZOLI and ABRAHAM LINCOLN


GOOD FRIDAY WAS IN AN APRIL almost two thousand years before the present day. On that day, in the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ was crucified. On April 14 th, 1865, another Good Friday, President Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head while attending a play with his wife. I am not trying to assert that Lincoln was divine (or that Jesus was, for that matter). It is simply interesting to note the similarities, some trivial and some profound, that the two men share. Both were killed on Good Friday in April. Both were misunderstood and reviled by many in their time. Both are usually depicted with beards. Both preached compassion, peace, and care for the powerless. Both were martyred for their beliefs. Lincoln was the greatest American president. As a history concentrator, I almost never make such uncompromising assertions. I believe, however, that this qualification is almost indisputable. No president has faced such daunting challenges and so effectively solved them. No president has effected such righteous moral change. As Lincoln took office in 1861, the nation was splitting into warring factions, diametrically opposed and full of hatred. Despite this, his guidance would make America stronger, more unified, freer, and more just than ever before. Lincoln tackled the Constitution’s main contradiction and hypocrisy, asserting that all men were created equal. This excerpt comes from one of Lincoln’s earliest speeches. The message is as prophetic as the language is beautiful. “At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic



military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined...could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge mountains in the trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” (Lyceum Address, 1838) “Without slavery the rebellion could never have existed; without slavery it could not continue.” (State of the Union, 1862) Too often, errors of causation convince people that the war was about states’ rights. Without slavery, there would have been no conflict between the states in the first place, and indeed, in the very words of the Confederacy’s vice president, “Our new government is founded upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.” One of his most famous one-liners: “A house divided…cannot stand.” (Acceptance of Senate Nomination, 1858) “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” (Letter, 1859) This should not be forgotten. It is as relevant today as it was in Lincoln’s day. “As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ Soon it will read ‘all men

are created equal, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.” (1855) It is indeed ironic that Russia, a country built on inequality, treated its serfs better than America, a country nominally built on equality, treated its slaves. A popular argument against Lincoln is that he did not act fast enough to free the slaves. It was the need to hold the nation together that at first compelled the president to put aside his moral views and delay immediate emancipation. In 1862, the great compromiser risked all and boldly refused to compromise his belief in justice any longer. The Emancipation Proclamation followed. “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” (2nd Inaugural Address, 1865) Lincoln never hated the South, nor did he wish for vengeance and destruction. He wanted nothing more than peace and unity. A nd fina lly , here i s h i s m o s t important speech. I cannot say much save that his closing words may be the finest ever spoken about America. “Four score and seven years

ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Gettysburg Address, 1863) Steve Rizoli ‘11 (srizoli@fas) is a Lincoln enthusiast. We couldn’t find an e-mail address for Abraham Lincoln. 04.16.09 s The Harvard Independent



Survival 101 : Pandemic Disease By JOHN BEATTY



things to the last second, or even ignore them completely and hope it’s not a problem. Sometimes, making a plan doesn’t even seem worth the time, but in the case of catastrophic events, a little planning can go a long way. Who among us hasn’t at least paused to wonder what they would do in a catastrophic situation or endof-the-world scenario: what to have ready, where to go, and how best to cope? All good questions, and if the Boy Scouts taught me anything, it is this: be prepared. In most of these cases, even a little planning can go a long way come crunch time. Take for example the threat of a pandemic disease. From the Plague of Justinian to the Black Death to the 1918 Influenza outbreak, pandemic diseases have played large roles in world history and caused untold suffering. The World Health Organization takes the threat of am influenza pandemic so seriously that it has a pandemic alert phase system updated regularly with values between 1 (low risk of human cases) to 6 (efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission). We are currently in phase three: no or very limited human-to-human transmission. This is the highest alert level since 1968, the year of the Hong Kong pandemic. While there are many other diseases that threaten humanity – ebola, malaria, dengue fever, and HIV/AIDS to name just a few – influenza is an easy one to imagine rapidly sweeping the globe. While we always must remember that the specifics may differ and we need to be open to modifying our plan on the go, as a case study, let’s consider what to do in the case of a sudden outbreak of a virulent, highly infectious, and lethal strain of influenza, such as a mutation of the already spreading bird flu. The most recent case of human death due to bird flu, H5N1, took place in Vietnam. Avian influenza is currently epizootic (localized in animals) throughout much of Asia and Europe, and most deaths result from direct infection from an animal. There is a considerable chance that a mutation may result in a humantransmitted strain of H5N1. So, for argument’s sake, we start by imagining the first outbreaks spreading from Vietnamese villages into Hanoi. In this case, a very important general rule of epidemiology to remember is that

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the spread of disease can be roughly described by the differential equation of the logistic curve, dY = Y(1-Y). This means that the rate of infection is the product of the fraction of the total population infected, Y, and the remaining population, (1-Y). As such, as we can see clearly from examining a logistic curve, the rate of infection tends to grow slowly and then suddenly explodes upward. This means that identifying the spreading disease in a timely manner is essential. Once it becomes broadly apparent, it may already be too late to take effective steps to protect yourself since the rapidly proliferating disease will no doubt create a panic. An outbreak of influenza in Hanoi may seem to be cause for caution but not alarm. This is false. Due to the rule above and the high speed nature of modern travel, by the time authorities take action to stop the flu, it may have already spread from a low to medium traffic locale, such as Hanoi, to a much higher traffic location, such as Singapore. Once the disease reaches a major travel hub, it could quickly radiate outward, spreading to Sydney, Tokyo, Los Angeles and London in a matter of days or weeks. From these centers, the infected individuals disperse and travel by car, train, and other methods, vastly increasing the infected range. Recent studies have shown that an influenza outbreak would most likely infect roughly fifty percent of the global population, using modeling based heavily on air traffic. If

we include other dispersion methods, the number could jump to seventy-five percent. Using just the mortality rate of seasonal influenza – ten percent – that means that between 300 million and 450 million deaths would occur. Given that the pandemic would cause societal stress and worsen medical care, the mortality rate would most likely be much higher. A mortality rate of twenty five percent would lead to between 750 million to 1.1 billion deaths. In other words, complete and total catastrophe. This worst-case scenario is based upon the assumption that national governments will take completely ineffective actions. This is mostly likely incorrect, but not nearly as incorrect one would like. At the time of the initial outbreak, the problem will still seem minor and governments will be loathe to move boldly to counteract only a potential problem, and by the time they do have the will, it may be too late. Since the disease tends to spread a little ahead of the symptoms, and governments tend to take reactionary stances, the disease will most likely have passed the tipping point by the time extensive travel restrictions are in place or public health campaigns underway. These steps will also no doubt be further hindered by the societal unrest sure to accompany an almost twenty percent population loss. The most important roles the government can play is running hospitals as well as developing a vaccine that will end the nightmare.

Given the speed with which the disease will spread as well as the likely generally ineffectual initial response of the government to the problem, the best way to increase your survival chances is to start preparing. The two main tactics are reducing exposure and boosting your immune system. By the time the alarm has been raised, critical supplies such as medication, water purifiers, breath masks, gloves and alcohol-based disinfectant may already have run out. Simply heading to CVS tomorrow and purchasing antiviral medication such as Relenza now means that you won’t be part of the mob hunting for it as the disease spreads. Water purifiers are more difficult to procure, but EMS or any other outdoors store will most likely have iodine tablets or the like that can be used to disinfect water supplies. To boost your immune system you will want to get yearly flu vaccines as well as a pneumonia vaccine. Flu shots will increase your total amount of flu antibodies, any one of which could prove important in staving off infection. As for pneumonia, many of the deaths from influenza arise from secondary infections from pneumonia, and so you need to begin preparing your body now for that possibility. Other than that, simply be ready to immediately leave the Boston metropolitan area and seek shelter at considerable distance from major human settlements. While these tips concern an influenza outbreak, most of them are solid general advice. The most important thing to surviving in the case of pandemic disease is to stay alert to large outbreaks, stay prepared to take those important to you and leave the Boston area for a more sparsely populated location, and stay calm. For those of you who are curious about more details on the subject, here is some extra reading: WHO Flu Pandemic Phase Page: influenza/phase/en/index.html Bird Flu Defense A Great General Site survival/bird_flu.html John Beatty ’11 (jbeatty@fas) will not be sharing his iodine tablets.


indy forum

The Big Green Future GSD Ecological Urbanism Conference and the future of architecture. By LEVI DUDTE


H ARVARD Graduate School of Design conducted its capstone conference of the year, “Ecological Urbanism: Alternative and Sustainable Cities of the Future.” Four days of exhibitions, presentations, lectures and panel discussions filled Piper Auditorium in the GSD’s Gund Hall. A motley group of figures that ranged from worldfamous architect Rem Koolhaas to environmentalists, engineers, designers and academics to the mayor of Boston and the President of Harvard herself, Drew Faust, examined the roles of architecture, design and planning in our immediate past and imminent future. The weekend offered just that, a review of recent speculative practices and an attempted (but often obscure or problematic) vision into societies and built environments of the future. The conference reflects an adoption in the design professions of a recent shift in the global discourse that now exists under the term, “sustainability.” We can trace such a discourse through theoretical and practical manifestations in the 20th century to religious, cultural and philosophical origins even deeper in humanity’s recorded presence on the planet. See “The Tragedy of the Commons,” an article by ecologist Garrett Hardin published in Science in 1968 that attempts to sublimate a model of collective human behavior into a sort of morality, and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth as notable examples in the development of the historical conversation on sustainability, environmentalism and a general concern for the degree to which human lives are tethered to the earth and its natural processes. This historical discourse, especially in combination with the recent, inauspicious collapse of the international economic system (a fact considered particularly fortuitous by GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi), sums to an individual and collective WO WEEKENDS AGO THE


imperative in humanity’s present and future. Tropes from this discourse were few and far between (functioning sporadically as inspiration) as much of the conference’s conversation was substantive and problematic with present professionals and academics concerned primarily with the implementation of such an imperative within design professions. But, despite their general thematic cohesion, these mixed speakers certainly spanned the gamut of conversational tone and perspective. The keynote conversation brought to center stage internationally renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, Harvard Professor of English and American Literature and Language and Director of the Humanities Center Homi Bhabha and architectural theorist and GSD Visiting Associate Professor Sanford Kwinter as moderator. Koolhaas gave the first presentation, offering the audience his own brief history of architectural time, beginning cutely in the Renaissance and culminating in a quiet condemnation of showy, consumptive skyscrapers and the architectural attitude they represent. His slim narrative traced architecture’s arc into its own arbitrary realm: complex, sheer forms outlining an urban skyline and representative of little more than capital. Koolhaas seemed intent on tiptoeing his celebrity cautiously away from this gigantic, judgmental crevasse he himself had opened, sneaking around its edges and with snide commentary and sly quips nudging his peers and their buildings into the pithy fires and damnation of Koolhaasian hell. He joked about Renzo Piano’s recently-completed California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, pointing at the simple arrows Piano had placed on a drawing of the building to illustrate sunlight and air

circulation. He smirked at a prominent New York Times critic’s article on the building, inviting the audience to join him some subtle sense of superiority. One sensed that sifting rhetoric might be the craft more responsible for Koolhaas’s status than his spatial creativity. His vertiginous, cunning lecture landed poorly on one particular audience member, an irritated, blackrimmed-glasses-wearing woman who issued an impromptu, unstructured polemic at Rem during the allotted audience question session without allowing Kwinter or GSD staff to accommodate her. (“I don’t think I need a microphone!”) Her attempt to expose irony and topple one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2008 was kooly dismissed. This irony was thick in Piper’s sterile, white atmosphere though, cleared slightly by the panel discussion that followed Koolhaas’s and Bhabha’s individual addresses. (Regarding Bhabha’s address, the intelligible portions were interesting and provocative on the humanistic plane he had been invited to represent.) As a panel, the three men played their stereotypical roles perfectly: the demure architect murmured softly and only with permission amidst Professor Bhabha’s grandiose spoken prose and gesticulation and Kwinter’s pointed attempts to agitate his guests. Bhabha extended in conversation a theme that he had outlined in his lecture: the significance of organic action and creativity in architecture’s interstices. Bhabha tethered this theme to his concrete experiences on a recent return trip to his hometown of Mumbai, India, whose populace he praised for its incessant ingenuity in crafting its own built environment, largely without the aid much capital or the counsel of ye almighty architectural gods (read: Koolhaas and the GSD). The

entire discussion converged on what Bhabha termed the “existential” state of ecological urbanism, viewing the future of architecture as a sort of a bottomup design and planning methodology, wherein architects and urban planners incorporate, even mimic the organic, interstitial growth currently putting cracks in their superfluous sidewalks and excessive superstructures. All of this highfalutin chatter became relatively self-evident over the remainder of the weekend, as the rest of the conference featured examples and proposals from actual practitioners. It is these men and women who carry the persistent torch and the moral imperative of the historical discourse and its culmination in our current existential listing. Perhaps the conference’s most poignant moment came during the audience question session after the translated lecture by Italian artist and architect Andrea Branzi, who engaged the historical discourse by criticizing environmentalism and environmentalists for their oversimplification of the problems and solutions inherent in the future of humanity. Matthias Schuler, an environmentalist wearing (you guessed it) black-rimmed glasses and a dirty green sweater, asked Branzi whether, in order to secure our future survival on this planet, the human race and its architects should surely prioritize economy over beauty. The whitebearded Italian peered dimly at the frozen, silent audience and uttered his assured response: “No.” Branzi’s message swept the room like a cool Mediterranean breeze, reminding those present that the future should not be a question of quantitative manipulation or efficiency, but of spirit. Levi Dudte ’11 (ldudte@fas) likes to hobnob with the kool kats. 04.16.09 s The Harvard Independent



Forms Most Beautiful On the virtues of biodiversity in everyday life.



I HAVE NOT officially declared any concentration, but I know what fascinates me most and I know that my concentration will be Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB). When asked I have been telling my friends and peers this with increasing certainty, happy and confident in my course of study. Last semester I was chatting with an upperclassman friend of mine who is also concentrating in OEB, who assured me of what a great concentration it was and how much she enjoyed it. Her main point of annoyance about the matter came in the form of anecdote: she was chatting with an acquaintance majoring in neurobiology who told her how “glad” he was that my friend was majoring in OEB because “nobody cares about it, and it’s good that somebody wants to study it.” This grated on me, but I am not writing

this article just to praise OEB (though I admit I am based in that respect) but rather to argue for the importance of the subject matter that it teaches. It was not the slight on my concentration that infuriated me the most, rather, it was the insinuation that the subject matter was not important. Biodiversity is a phenomenally important topic in modern times because it can explain how we came to exist. True, there are numerous tangible benefits to be gained from the study of biology. Unknown plant species may prove to be of medicinal value, and undiscovered species may hold the key to understanding complex processes we cannot figure out in other beings. There are many, many more applications that I have not thought of but these are not important right here because hardly anybody, including myself, will be able

to understand the complex science behind them. However, you do not have to be a trained scientist to appreciate the virtues of biodiverse beauty: whether you are concentrating in math, economics, literature, or basket weaving, biodiversity is something you should care about. In fact, the products of biological processes have an aesthetic value that can’t be touched by art made by humans. The diverse organisms on the planet are really the most complex and beautiful of art painted by the brushstrokes of evolution. Our planet supports tropical birds like the Quetzalcoatl and polychromatic, iridescent beetles that are truly stunning (if you can get over all of the wriggly legs), creatures that cannot be recreated by any person anywhere. They are complex biochemical systems (it will be many years before I am capable of understanding all of the processes

By RIVA RILEY and interactions that occur in a simple cell, and I will probably never get to that point) that humans cannot envision nor bring to life. Try to think of it like this: many resources are spent preserving and protecting ancient paintings of people nobody remembers. Why not treat real, living, wiggling creatures with the same respect? To quote from the master in his famous book, The Origin of Species, “…from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” Darwin had it exactly right. We live in a world that supports both a porcupine and a whale shark- what’s not to love? Riva Riley ( loves all animals, colorful, shiny, dull or gray, and is especially fond of the fishes.

“I am a Muslim”

The missing four words from Obama’s speech at Ankara.



YOUTUBE VIDEO OF OBAMA’S Ankara speech six times. Six times. Just to hear those four little words. “Turkey is a critical ally. Turkey is an important part of Europe. And Turkey and the United States must stand together – and work together – to overcome the challenges of our time.” So…? “Turkey chose a different future. You freed yourself from foreign control, and you founded a republic that commands the respect of the United States and the wider world.” And…? “The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.” Yes…? “In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people.” Uh huh…? “The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country – I know, because I am one of them.” There, right there…he’s going to say it… Nope. --At the height of the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy went to West Berlin and told the crowd “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Loose translation: I am a Berliner. I feel PAUSED THE

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your pain, but freedom and democracy are worth fighting for. Alternatively, for linguistic enthusiasts: I am a jelly donut. Those four words did not end the Cold War, tear down a wall, or reunite a city split into two, but they did reaffirm the struggle that Berliners, Americans, and people around the world were engaged in: between the free world and Communist world. Last week on his tour of Europe, Obama went to Turkey and similarly used pretty words to encapsulate this moment in history. It was his first visit to a Muslim country as the President of the United States. He used the occasion to smooth over any misunderstandings from the previous administration and reminded us that America is not at war with Muslims. He even went as far as to enlist Turkey as a leading American ally. But never did he articulate the struggle in which we might need Turkey’s help. For those of us waiting for a defining moment in America’s Middle East policy, the moment did not come. The words “al-Qaeda,” “terrorist”, and “Iran” did come up. But they were lumped together with the other nuisances facing the world: “An economic crisis that recognizes no borders; extremism that leads to the killing of innocent men and women and children; strains on our energy supply and a changing climate; the proliferation of the world’s deadliest weapons; and the persistence of tragic conflict.”

By failing to treat the War on Terror and Islamic fundamentalism as problems in their own right, Obama has purposefully relegated America’s role in the region for the last couple of decades. This might have been strategically smart, but for those countries under the heavy influence of US policy and aid, there is nothing to hang onto in terms of what to expect from the Obama administration. We broke the vase, but we still have yet to say how we are going to pay for it. Obama’s Ankara speech is no doubt a conscious effort to change the “either you are with us or against us” rhetoric of the Bush administration and bring the emphasis back to cooperation. He tells Turkey: “We share the common goal of denying al-Qaeda a safe haven in Pakistan or Afghanistan. The world has come too far to let this region backslide, and to let al-Qaeda terrorists plot further attacks. That’s why we are committed to a more focused effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda.” But to change the deeper “Jihad v. McWorld,” “Clash of Civilizations” perceptions that have prevailed since 9/11, Obama needs to utter the words, “I am a Muslim.” Yes, it would be a symbolic gesture. But it would give assurance to the 1.6 billion adherents of this faith and send a powerful message at home. A poll conducted on the eve of Obama’s visit to Turkey by ABC/Washington Post showed that 48 percent of Americans hold unfavorable opinions of Islam. This is the

highest it has been since 2001 and needs changing. It is tragic that the events of 9/11 have come to define our national opinion of Muslims, but the election of the first multi-racial President with an Islamic middle name should give us hope about the reconciliation. Perhaps the statement, “I am a Muslim,” would dent Obama’s political capital and popularity in the short run, but in the long term, it would come to define a new era of American engagement with the Muslim world. Those who object to a President of the United State making such a declaration are precisely those who currently hinder such an engagement. An “I am a Muslim” speech cannot be the substance of Obama’s Middle East policy nor can it instantaneously change the relationship between the US and Muslim countries. But just as Kennedy reminded us that the fight for freedom everywhere is shared, Obama needs to show the world that being Muslim is a source of pride and ignorance towards that religion breeds extremism and conflict. The closest Obama ever came to this idea was: “Turkey’s greatness lies in your ability to be at the center of things. This is not where East and West divide – this is where they come together.” I am still waiting, Mr. President, for those four little words. Marion Liu ’11 (mliu@fas) is proud to say that she’s a Turkish borek.



Captured and Shot

More Ways to Procrastinate (04.16.09)