Monthly Archives: April 2004

when you’re cool, you study in the stacks

this edition of wasted keystrokes comes from the butler stacks, where i’ve been camped out (in) since 5pm today. it’s only been about 4 hours and i’ve actually gone back and forth to get food, coffee, fresh air, etc… i feel like it’s not so isolated in here at all, and i’ve seen several people walk by me looking for books in the PR or PQ sections, which is on the 10th floor and is where you can get english and film related books… there is a super long table here that i’ve been able to use for myself… i’ve written 2/10 pages for my history paper, nowhere near the pace of the progress chart i made for myself three hours ago… and i’ve also had one very weird dream while using my left arm as a pillow.

the dream.
i’m wearing a suit. don’t recall the colors. i ring the door bell of an apartment – a nice one. the door opens up. it’s paul tagliabue, the commissioner of the nfl. he’s only a few inches taller than me, prompting me to wonder – is he really 6-5 as they say he is? we shake hands and he says he’s pleased to meet me, but i am already feeling nervous because he makes $8.5 million a year and i want to be a lowly intern at his headquarter office. i don’t know why, but i ask him about his salary and he says something like – “nah, i actually make about $200,000 to $300,000 a year” which prompts me to make a football-wise remark, “oh, so i guess they just overload payment in your signing bonus, like the players do.” hehe, but he doesn’t really laugh. then he seems busy and tells me – “it was nice meeting you. we’ll do lunch sometime.” and i think to myself, “yeah right – i didn’t even get the internship yet.” and he waves goodbye, a way of telling me to get out of his place (it’s a spacious nyc apartment studio – lots of light coming in). i wake up.

it was too surreal of a dream that i had to rush to starbucks and hook myself up with a triple-shot cappuccino just for sanity’s sake. yeah. i’m feeling good. except i have 8 more pages to write. it sucks that the stacks close at 11pm. i had a thought walking outside – if i had a girlfriend that i really really liked, would we ever come to the stacks to study (each other*)? i recalled the near-love scene in atonement when robbie and cecilia get it on in the tallis family library before being walked-in on by briony… that was a hot scene and because i know the scent of books so well, it was easy for me to relate, at least smell-wise… yep.

i guess i should write this in my pulpit section, but i don’t really want to get into a full-blown monologue about it. i just wanted to make a statement on racism, and how it’s often more than some cowardly remarks about how a certain group or groups of people are inferior to another (and sometimes, people ought to realize when such remarks are satirical and when they are malicious). i think when it comes to racism, the element of power plays a key role as one group claims that it is entitled to something while denying another group because of their inferior race. wanna see racism? claude bowers, historian of the early 20th century, in quoting his Southern hero Benjamin Hill in Tragic Era (an old Dunning school Reconstruction era survey book) talks about the absurdity of “universal negro suffrage”: ‘Ignorance is more easily duped than intelligence, and … knaves have always been advocates of conferring power on fools; and so fools have generally thought knaves as their best friends.’ … and of such a remark, bowers writes “Hill reached the height of the controversial discussions of the ten-year period… there was art in the eloquence, erudition in the references, truth in the assertions, power in the logic.” in order to understand my poorly extracted lines, one must realize that Hill is equating blacks with fools and Radical Republicans with knaves. and Bowers gets on his knees and worships Hill. for someone who called Frederick Douglass “insolent” for urging President Andrew Johnson to support the 15th Amendment, bowers makes me really wonder – did he hate blacks or was his scholarly work merely reflecting the dominant attitudes of that time? maybe a bit of both… or a lot of both.

alrighty, back to carpetbaggin’… if my TA remains on strike, professor foner might actually read my paper himself! then again, that probably means a crappy grade. it’s like choosing between an inflated grade and a divine one…


* the above remark raised a self-awareness flag that came as a double-warning: i am being a cornball and a hornball – as in, thinking corny and horny thoughts at the same time? chornball? can some really be corny about being horny? ok, im not really horny, just lonely. come study with me.

they want to know you

tell me about a situation
in which you have had
to adjust to changes
over which you had
no control.
how did you handle it?

tell me about a time
when someone else
came up with an idea
that was better
than yours.
what did you do?
what happened?

give me a specific
example of a time
when you used
good judgment
and logic
to solve a

when did you
last work on
a team?
do you prefer
working in teams or

how do you deal
with rejection?


you’re not quite
the person
we were looking

the long lasting fruition of a summer initiative

when i think back on last summer, i’m always quick to remember it as a summer of great personal accomplishments, from making a great deal of money through website designs and the successful experience as commissioner of the hoching basketball association. one thing i realized today, however, was that i was the beneficiary of a summer accomplishment that did not belong to me, but instead, to my friend and mentor, jay mung.

i first met jay at butler when i was a freshman. novi introduced me to mung, who seemed like any other passive asian american engineer except his distinctive semi-grunge style of dress. as a sophomore, i saw the chinese students club thrive under his leadership. i still did not know him too well and only occasionally exchanged words during late nights at butler.

when summer rolled around, i happened to check his profile on AIM one day and saw that he had a link to something called ‘Weekenders.’ it was a text-based website, with no design whatsoever, that listed various low-cost or free activities around the city. this, of course, was entirely of mung’s creation. the Weekenders program offered people who happened to stay at Columbia over the summer or people who lived in the area to meet up and attend events which ranged from a new york philharmonics concert to lunch at nobu’s during restaurant week. i began talking to mung on AIM and asked him about his Weekenders while i shared stories about my basketball league. when shakespeare in the park made its run, i decided to give Weekenders a try and told jay that i would join him and whoever else would be coming that day.

the shakespeare in the park experience was thoroughly pleasant. waiting on line early in the morning for the tickets allowed me to meet min, who i would soon find out was also to be an RA at Wien Hall, and it also gave me an opportunity to hang out with a different crowd, sipping on cheap red wine in self-assembly clear plastic wine cups and throwing the frisbee around. henry v starring leiv schriber was more entertaining than expected, and i came away satisfied with the new york freebie.

the presence of my friend andy also helped me to have a memorable time, allowing me to dispense my new york / shakespeare knowledge to a willing listener throughout the day. what made the day complete was mung’s offer to drive us home after the play in his white stick-shift honda accord coupe. not only did it save us another uncomfortable sleeping night at brian’s room, it allowed me to see the sheer selflessness that it takes to really earn one’s respect and to be called a leader. mung, who lived an hour away from edison in cedar grove, dropped off his friend jenny, also from cedar grove, because of her parents’ request that she be home asap, and then proceeded to drive me and andy to edison before driving back home to cedar grove. i wondered if i would’ve been able to do the same thing.

i’ve heard and used the compound term “community-building” countless times this past year, especially in my involvement with KSA and in my failed bid for CCSC e-board. i’ve often gotten sick of the term because of the political nature of being in the position to “build” community or to “bring people together” where attendance figures and budget reports overshadow the human connections that are supposed to be made. but i guess i’ve tapped, somewhat unconsciously, into my experience of the summer and from the lessons i learned from mung – that beyond selfish motives, such as attaining power or recognition, a genuine love for just getting to know people and sharing with them should be the driving engine for community-building.

i’ll be staying in the city this summer, and while mung will be traveling around the world and getting set to work at his consulting job, perhaps i should continue the Weekenders program and give this ad hoc community building effort a try. thanks for the inspiration and the valuable lessons, mung.