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Old Man on Campus

   [From Sunday's Rough Draft column.]

   I miss college at this time of year -- something about the falling leaves makes me long for the parties at Ivy Club, the bull sessions with brilliant professors, the thrilling victories on the gridiron and the squash court, the sublime nocturnal encounters with brainy and lubricious beauties, and all the other things that happened only in my wildest and most pathetic fantasies.

   It's sad that society lets only college students go to college. That's so narrow-minded, like saying that only Air Force pilots can fly fighter jets, or only trained doctors can perform open-heart surgery. College, like youth, is wasted on the young.

   There is something intoxicating about wandering the halls of academe in the presence of so much genius and erudition. That something is, specifically, beer, but there's also the excitement of being around professional scholars, some of whom don't even have an ax to grind or a fringe theory with which to bludgeon their hapless students. College is a time for expanding one's horizons, for sampling the Great Ideas of civ-ilization, all the while hoping that an understanding of Plato and Dante and Montaigne will not hurt one's chances of someday managing a hedge fund.

   I feel bad that I have forgotten so much of what I learned in college, and I feel worse that so much of it was never true in the first place. We were led to believe that someday computers would be so advanced they'd be as big as, for example, the Pentagon. We learned that the people who talked about defeating the Soviet Union and rolling back communism were goggle-eyed lunatics, possibly even Republicans. We learned about all the -isms, such as feminism, cubism, postmodernism, pre-postmodernism, anarcho-syndicalism, and the synthesis of all the above -- what is known as ismism.

    Click here to read the entire column.   

By Joel Achenbach  |  October 24, 2005; 7:42 AM ET
 
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Comments

Funny you would post this, I was thinking of doing just this at an advanced age. I wonder if the work would be easier or harder thanks to the experience. Certainly, there would be no cramming. Not like the old days.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | October 24, 2005 8:26 AM | Report abuse

There is a society for smokers...it's called the huddle. You know the huddle of smokers outside the office buildings. My only concern is if that secondhand smoke is so bad for you, why do they all sit around inhaling each other's exhaled smoke?

Posted by: jlw | October 24, 2005 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Believe me Joel, you don't want to go back, not really. I went to college when I was in my forties, late forties. It was a new experience, and one I looked forward to, and had a great deal of excitement upon entering school, like a little kid. Then after getting there, I tensed up because everything around me was so young, with not a care in the world. After being there for awhile, the tension left, and I enjoyed the experience. I found that my young classmates were interested not so much in the college experience as it related to learning, but the good times they could have with their friends, beer, sex, etc. I'm not condemning them for these experiences, just stating facts. I felt like an antique around them and someone that shouldn't be there, but then realized, hey, they probably don't even know I'm there. Some would come to class with hangovers, some with their pajamas on, some not really there, just the body. It was definitely a learning experience for me in more ways than one.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 24, 2005 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes I wonder if I went back and retook some of my college classes would I do a better job of understanding molecular orbital theory, the Schrodinger equation, thermodynamics, or differential equations? Naw, I would probably stumble through it again and feel embarrassed when my kids asked me how my grades were.

Posted by: LB | October 24, 2005 8:55 AM | Report abuse

I think most middle aged folks look back at college and shake our heads at the amazing opportunities we had both intellectually and socially, and wonder how we squandered most of it trying to find cheap beer ("Olympia's only $2.99 a case at Tick Tock!"), cheap thrills ("We spent nearly 45 minutes riding the school shuttle bus continuously hitting the beer bong, before the driver threw us off. Ha!"), and the opposite sex ("If you come back to the room and see the 'carpe diem' sign on the door, find somewhere else to be for awhile.").

Joel, next time you teach a class, it will have the word "sex" in the title, won't it?

"Sex and American Literature before 1825", will draw better I think.
And if you can't use sex, use "Beer".

bc

Posted by: Anonymous | October 24, 2005 8:59 AM | Report abuse

SCC's starting early today: "Sex and American Literature before 1825" will draw better than w/o sex, I think."

Deep sigh.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 24, 2005 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Heh, heh. You said "lubricious."

Posted by: byoolin | October 24, 2005 9:14 AM | Report abuse

My mom had absolutely no plans to go to college when she graduated from high school. No girls in her immigrant family or community had done so. Then she rode the streetcar one September day that year to her job at Hahn Shoes on 14th Street and it went past a schoolyard full of kids.

She realized that she missed going to school, so she got off when it reached Wilson Teacher's College and went in to find out how to enroll. She took some test, was offered enrollment and went home and told her family, "I'm going to college."

Lucky for her she was the youngest in the family and no one had the will to argue with her. She then became the first woman in her family to graduate from college! She always told us that teaching school sure beat selling shoes.

Posted by: TBG | October 24, 2005 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I guess it all depends on the college you go to - I went to a very small private lab-arts college, and, altho I will admit to being very very pre-occupied with controled substances, the atmosphere was intensely academic - I got a great education and had some of the best professors out there. Later on I took some classes at a big university where I live now, and the attitude of the professors was obviously "don't expect too much from the students." Most professors at the big university were there more for their own research and benefit, and didn't care too much about actually teaching.

Posted by: LP | October 24, 2005 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I can relate to your college experience, having attended as an oldster too back in the 70s when we lived in Florida. The only way I could afford it was to take advantage of the 6 hours per quarter offered free of charge to full time employees at FSU, contingent upon supervisors' approval. I wasn't qualified to seek a degree, however, because my highschool education was cut short by a need to leave home and start my own new family. So I could only "audit" courses without credits. Still, I was extremely grateful for the opportunity and selected courses that piqued my personal interests. Elementary German and 20th Century Literature. Those were dynamite classes. The younger degree seeking students seemed unaware of the great advantage they were given and seemed to take it for granted. Yet, I took things for granted in my youth too.

Posted by: Nani | October 24, 2005 10:00 AM | Report abuse

In Honor Of Jeremy Weiss's New Pet

Thou sorrow, venom elf;
Is this thy play,
To spin a web out of thyself
To catch a fly?
For why?

I saw a pettish wasp
Fall foul therein:
Whom yet thy whorl pins did not hasp
Lest he should fling
His sting

But as afraid, remote
Didst stand hereat,
And with thy little fingers stroke
And gently tap
His back.

Thus gently him didst treat
Lest he should pet,
And in a froppish, aspish heat
Should greatly fret
Thy net.

Whereas the silly fly,
Caught by its leg,
Thou by the throat tookst hastily,
And 'hind the head
Bite dead.

This goes to pot, that not
Nature doth call.
Strive not above what strength hath got,
Lest in the brawl
Thou fall.

Is there a story behind this? You betcha. Today....later.

Posted by: Linda Loomis | October 24, 2005 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I thought seriously about going back and finishing what I started oh so many years ago. The downside for me is that I put in a lot of hours in a stressful atmosphere, and I have only so much free time. When it came right down to it, I chose having the time to watch the cranes fly overhead as they migrate. Sitting on my back deck under a warm afghan that I am working on, and watching and listening to the cranes ride the upddrafts is pretty much as good as it gets. There are a lot of things like that out there but you have to have the time to sit quietly to hear them. So I do. I'm learning to appreciate life at a slower pace and I can do classes later. Medival history will still be there waiting for me when I am done with work.

Posted by: dr | October 24, 2005 10:06 AM | Report abuse

bc writes:
SCC's starting early today: "Sex and American Literature before 1825" will draw better than w/o sex, I think."
Deep sigh.


bc, what knowest thou of the bundling board?

Posted by: Loomis | October 24, 2005 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Many years ago when my wife and I were undergraduates, she took a course in Middle Eastern Peoples and Cultures at the University of Texas. When she arrived on the first day of class there were over 100 students in a large classroom with stadium seating. The professor showed up in a suit and tie and lectured the entire hour reading from notes while pacing head down at the front of the room. The next class there were fewer students but all else was the same. One more class and the group was down to 25. At the end of the class the prof announced that the class would be moving to a different room next time in view of the reduced size of enrollment. When she arrived for the fourth class session, the teacher entered wearing jeans and a work shirt, sat on the desk and announced, "Now that we've eliminated those who are not really interested, let's talk about the peoples and cultures of the Middle East." It was one of her favorite courses.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 24, 2005 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Haha...bundling board. Better the board than the bag though.

Posted by: jw | October 24, 2005 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Hey kurosawaguy,

Too bad some of the Bushies from Texas didn't stick around for that class.

Posted by: TBG | October 24, 2005 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Loomis
This is for you.

The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood: they hunt every man his brother with a net. Micah 7:2

From the greatest book ever written, Holy Bible

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 24, 2005 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Linda, I know something of the bundling board.

I'm married.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 24, 2005 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I got a degree in English, graduating at the bottom of a recession and could only find clerical work. So I went back and got my masters and have worked ever since. My alma mater has announced plans for a doctorate in my field...whenever I get a hankering to go for that, I have to slap myself...it wouldn't help at all and would be lots of work for just 3 more letters after my name.

Posted by: slyness | October 24, 2005 10:37 AM | Report abuse

jw, I've been wracking my brain to come up with a "bag" comment that's reasonably family friendly, and I think it's going to have to wait until the next BPH.

"Wrap that rascal.", is about as far as I'm going to go on that in this forum.

Well, and I'd add that bundling bags are available at the Campus Health Clinic, three for free.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 24, 2005 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra S, you suggested that one really would not want to go back to college (although, I think JA actually was speaking satirically on the subjects of nostalgia and the smug self-assurance of oblivious youth,and all that sort of thing). However, everything you then described sounds like a reason one really would want to go back to college. You called it a learning experience. Not every collegiate learning experience happens in a classroom, maybe not even the most important ones. Learning experiences are something to be embraced, not shunned.

When I went to graduate school, I learned that it was easy to identify those students who wouldn't make it past their second year -- they were the students who thought that learning happened in classrooms and by solitary study. They all gave up and left, not because the work was beyond them, but because they failed to appreciate the value of unstructured learning in a community. Those younger students may have seemed like drips and lightweights, but they were us when we were younger. I daresay I learned some things while I was in college, atlhough, admittedly, I was a bit of a tool, as we termed it then.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 24, 2005 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps it's on fall days like this that I think back to my undergrad years at Michigan (the U, not the State) in what seems like millennia ago, kicking through leaves on walks to the stadium for football games, watching the East Engineering Building arch being packed with snow (a yearly prank), trying to disappear behind the guy in front of me in lecture to avoid being called on. Yep, those were the days.

Honestly, I think with the subsequent almost 40 years of experience and, um, wisdom, I would relive the entire academic and attendant experience in a much, much different way. Perhaps it's all the youth's being wasted on the young thing, after all.

I still have my old college books, or at least a fair number of them. Analytic geometry, differential equations, advanced calculus. . . .chemistry, physics . . . .essays on rhetoric, French, Asian studies. . . . I remember the slog, but not much else anymore about the math stuff, although I will admit that underneath the slog remains, I do remember the thought processes, which help me to this day. Yeah, I'd do things differently and even take some different courses.

When I went to law school, I was in my 30's, not 20's and had more than 10 years of working experience, as did a fair portion of my class. We discussed at length how law school is geared to young white males with empty heads and virtually no experience -- none of which were us.

Interesting times, indeed.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 24, 2005 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Umm, that is, those younger students that Cassandra S encountered when she went back to college.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 24, 2005 10:49 AM | Report abuse

all i can say is i'm soooo glad i went straight to college from high school. i'm going back for my masters and MAN is it hard! i did my undergrad in nyc and i worked full time so i didn't get the same college experience that other's did but i loved it. yes, that was a time of great idealism - i was gonna change the world! it's nice being that naive! now that i'm older i urge high school kids to go to college! it's much easier in this world with a degree - no matter what it's in!

Posted by: mo | October 24, 2005 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Back in my day (jeez, I hate when I say that), which is pre-Woodward and Bernstein, I majored in journalism, which we used to say was "easier than going to college."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 24, 2005 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I tell you, I miss those years of feral libertinism. All that scholarly falderall was mere camoflage for the constant quest for fun in all its myriad forms, be it sex, drugs, rock & roll, firing fireworks at the frat houses, starting bonfires. Yes, I attended classes, got decent grades, and graduated, but these were just the gestures intended to maintain the facade of scholarly purpose while engaging in acts of demented adolescence. When it all ended, as all good things must do, I had to grow up. Poo.

Posted by: CowTown | October 24, 2005 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to reply to an earlier comment on teachers at large schools. My brother teaches at a well known large university in Ithaca, N.Y. He has been teaching for about 30 years now and has many scholarly publications and lots of ongoing research, all of which involves student assistants and in some cases co-authors. Although he is a tenured full professor, he teaches an intro course for non-majors in his department. He gets 400-500 freshmen every year. He does this because this one course may be their only university exposure to critical thinking about evolution, ethology, and ecology and he wants to make it as good as he possibly can. Many of those students he never sees after that first course, some keep in touch. a few even change majors.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 24, 2005 11:17 AM | Report abuse

jw and bc,
Thou thinkest thou knowest bundling and the bundling board, despite the deepest experience of thine selves, but truly thou dost not.

Thine humor is in a form most divine on this fine morn!

Posted by: Loomis | October 24, 2005 11:25 AM | Report abuse

College should count for an inquisitive mind, but one hardly needs college to be inquisitive.

I majored in art and became a journalist and writer (I, my sis, and two Loomis-related cousins--the first of our narrow branch of the family tree to attend and graduate from college since the Loomises landed in 1638);

acquaintance Mike Blakely majored in journalism and became a musician here in Texas (and since he writes his own material--a fine and often funny poet);

acquaintance Robin Bissell was very serious about music in his youth and early college days, but became a movie producer;

CNN anchor Aaron Brown attended some college, but got an early start in radio, and is now a television journalist.

I bet there are a jillion stories out there like this.

Posted by: Loomis | October 24, 2005 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Today's Word of the Day is sponsored by the NCAA.

Main Entry: lu·bri·cious
Pronunciation: lü-'bri-sh&s
Variant(s): or lu·bri·cous /'lü-bri-k&s/
Function: adjective
Etymology: Medieval Latin lubricus, from Latin, slippery, easily led astray
1 : marked by wantonness : LECHEROUS; also : SALACIOUS
2 [Latin lubricus] : having a smooth or slippery quality
- lu·bri·cious·ly adverb

Ah yes, those slippery, slippery women of my youth.

Posted by: Bayou Self | October 24, 2005 11:38 AM | Report abuse

College memory #1. We'd get drunk while at an afternoon football game, crash for awhile and then recover and go out to the bars that evening.

Posted by: Bayou Self | October 24, 2005 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Oh the halcyon days of youth! Even though i've only been out of school for six years, it feels like a lifetime ago. I don't think you ever really can go back. Sometimes, I wish I had a paper to write or was rushing off to another protest. It didn't take too long for the cynicism to set in.

Posted by: LP | October 24, 2005 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Beer? Nah! Ripple, Pagan Pink! Now we're talking nectar of the gods!

Posted by: newkidontheblog | October 24, 2005 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Hmm, I remember college mainly as a lot of anxiety about whether I was good enough, studying hard, that sort of thing. Yes, there was beer and there were parties and romance and so forth, but I don't recall those as being the dominant feature of the time for me. I liked my classes, I liked learning, and I liked talking about it with my fellows. Perhaps I was more of a tool than I realized.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 24, 2005 11:54 AM | Report abuse

i went to a HUGE school - nyu - but i was lucky to have a specialized major that put me in smaller, intimate classes. i even managed to avoid the reqs of sociology and psychology that generally put you in a huge lecture hall by choosing psychology of art and a specialized soc class that was quite small (and very very interesting)... my major was experimental theatre so i had great classes like "anarchists and visionaries: theatre post-60's"...

Posted by: mo | October 24, 2005 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I am sorry I haven't posted a fresh kit, though if and when I do it will be on the topic of whether Mark Twain could have won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The list of winners so far: Richard Pryor, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin, Lorne Michaels and Steve Martin. At some point I will have something insightful and trenchant to say about that. (First, must look up "trenchant" in dictionary.)

Right now I have to go interview someone about some science thing I don't understand. Typical day at the office.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 24, 2005 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I think what Joel is saying is, "Here's another possible topic; talk among yourselves."

Posted by: TBG | October 24, 2005 12:14 PM | Report abuse

well try to ask some scientific questions

Posted by: LB | October 24, 2005 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I enjoyed Stephen Hunter's piece on Steve Martin in yesterday's Arts section. An excerpt:

"Instead of the Kennedy Center giving Steve Martin the eighth annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor tonight, the Marble Sepulcher folks should give Mark Twain the first annual Steve Martin Prize for American Humor.

Twain was great. Twain was fine. Twain was courageous. Twain was wonderful. Twain wrote a great novel. Twain had cool hair.

But he was no Steve Martin."

[Although I must say, I almost fell out of my chair when I saw that Hunter not only mentioned Paul Lynde in this article but also used the word "persnickety." There's definitely something fishy going on here.]

Posted by: Achenfan | October 24, 2005 12:33 PM | Report abuse

The thing I remember vividly about college is that it never would have happened as it did without scholarships.

***Generation Gap Warning***
(this feels so Cowtown)

I began my freshman year living off-campus. The first roommate situation was a disaster and involved no choice whatsoever on either of our parts.

In my frosh lit class, I struck up a friendship with a classmate--and her threesome needed one more person to round out a two-bedroom apartment.

One of my new roomies had a car. We'd drive into Eureka for grocery shopping on the weekend, after planning meals for the coming week. All four of us young women would contribute $7 per week--for a grand budget total of $28 per week for food--and that included one doughnut apiece after each week's shopping trip.

I imagine it now costs about $28 to feed one college student for about two or three days!

(California colleges were excellent then, with tuition relatively inexpensive.)

Posted by: Loomis | October 24, 2005 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a job for the FBII or whatever it is. Track Hunter down!

Posted by: jw | October 24, 2005 12:38 PM | Report abuse

You're right, jw. If nothing else, he's been shamelessly copying great chunks of text from both the Kit and the Kaboodle. He might even be responsible for all those angry uppercase insults we've been seeing here lately.

Oh yes -- Hunter is definitely on the FBBI's "persons of interest" list.

[I'm kind of winking when I say this.]

[I think I once heard that Hunter has a gun, so I'm *definitely* winking.]

Posted by: Tom fan | October 24, 2005 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I vote yes to Mark Twain being able to win the Mark Twain Prize today.

He's just as funny looking as the winners so far as listed by JA.

Lenny Bruce and Sam Kinison didn't write enough, so they're out.

Woody Allen's real life appears to be something even Richard Pryor would be uncomfortable discussing, so he's out.

It looks to me that the prize winners are getting safer and safer politically. Who's next, Jay Leno? Jim Belushi?

Sheesh.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 24, 2005 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm still in the college years and I have been enjoying them immensely. Well, freshman year sucked because living on campus was a drag, but once I moved off campus and got an apartment everything was just was I wanted it to be. This year though, condo. The apartment I was in was slightly under par. Flooded a lot. I think they're tearing them down right now to rebuild right now. They're from the 1960s and they don't even meet ADA standards.

Linda, if one is innovative, one can eat for a lot less than $28. I can eat for three days on about $8. 10 for $10 TV dinners, Slim-Fast for breakfast (it's like milkshake if you add ice and it's fast and easy), a bag of salad and homemade dressing will last me several lunches, apple dippers and a hamburger from McDonald's is less than $2.

mo, I enjoyed your new blog post. I'm ashamed to admit that I was once intimidated by Goths, but then I got to know some and realized they're some of the coolest people around.

New blog entry about music on my blog. http://discoveringsara.blogspot.com

Posted by: Sara | October 24, 2005 12:49 PM | Report abuse

"Cooper's gift in the way of invention was not a rich endowment; but such as it was he liked to work it, he was pleased with the effects, and indeed he did some quite sweet things with it. In his little box of stage-properties he kept six or eight cunning devices, tricks, artifices for his savages and woodsmen to deceive and circumvent each other with, and he was never so happy as when he was working these innocent things and seeing them go. A favorite one was to make a moccasined person tread in the tracks of a moccasined enemy, and thus hide his own trail. Cooper wore out barrels and barrels of moccasins in working that trick. Another stage-property that he pulled out of his box pretty frequently was the broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn't step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a Cooper person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step on a dry twig. There may be a hundred other handier things to step on, but that wouldn't satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can't do it, go and borrow one. In fact, the Leatherstocking Series ought to have been called the Broken Twig Series."

--from Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses, by Mark Twain

http://users.telerama.com/~joseph/cooper/cooper.html

Posted by: jw | October 24, 2005 12:55 PM | Report abuse

If they do give Jim Belushi a Twain award they could save time by calling it the Shania Twain Prize.

More on Potential Twain Prize nominees:
Hunter S Thompson: out (too crazy, especially over the last 5 years)
Tom Arnold: in (did anyone see 'The Stupids'?, That's GOLD, I tell ya!)
Triumph the Comic Insult Dog: out (too insulting, and what's the fascination with butt sniffing?)
Adam Sandler: in (No one baby talks like this guy. Can a man who's made as many big budget movies as this guy NOT have his finger on the pulse of the American Public?)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone: out (South Park, Team America, That's My Bush: 'nuff said).

bc

Posted by: bc | October 24, 2005 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Main Entry: tren·chant
Pronunciation: -ch&nt
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, present participle of trenchier
1 : KEEN, SHARP
2 : vigorously effective and articulate ; also : CAUSTIC
3 a : sharply perceptive : PENETRATING b : CLEAR-CUT, DISTINCT
- tren·chant·ly adverb

Posted by: Bayou Self | October 24, 2005 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I'd mentioned to mo in an earlier boodle that my son's wife, Godzilla, er I mean Priscilla, frets and fumes because their 15 yr. old son (honor student, captain of softball team, writer of poetry and short stories) has started dressing Goth. I wondered how a great-grandmother would look in Goth and imagined myself shopping for Goth attire. Ponder this scenario:
Me in my customary attire, LL Bean jeans, flannel men's shirt and cowboy boots, perusing the ready to wear in one of those upscale boo-teeks. Snooty saleslady in a tone designed to let me know I'm out of "place" icily asks if she may help me. "Why yes, please, what can you show me in Goth? What's that you say? I'm sorry, I'm sure I misheard you. It sounded like you said you don't carry Goth attire. Oh, you DID say that. Oh dear, how embarassing. I thought I was in one of the better shops. Where's the nearest exist? Oh if Oleg, Coco, Bill or Calvin saw me in here, I'd never live it down!

Posted by: Nani | October 24, 2005 1:18 PM | Report abuse

College Memory #2. The first week of a writing class. Everybody hands in a short, first assignment. The professor shuffles the stack and starts reading one of them. It's mine. What if I can't write as well as I think I can? I'll be exposed as a fraud or a fool, or worse! I'm dying. This first assignment is plainly so that the prof can gauge where we're at, and the first impression will likely be impossible to shake. As he reads my work, I'm thinking that I can't believe what a load of overwrought crap it is.

He finishes and takes a long pause. Here it comes. I'm to be outed as an idiot.

"Well, that's solid," he says.

The drinking goes long into the night.

Posted by: Bayou Self | October 24, 2005 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Achenfan, I read Hunter's article and "persnickety" jumped right out at me - as did the Paul Lynde reference.

Speaking of co-ink-idinks, Psycho was on the Canadian channel the other night - I found it just before the shower scene, which I felt compelled to watch (awful, awful, awful), and couldn't stay up to watch much more.

And I have to heartily recommend the Wallace and Gromit movie - wonderful! I may go see Good Night and Good Luck later today...

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 24, 2005 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Loomis: I, too, remember being desperately poor back then. Five or six of us who hung around together lived off-campus in Philly, and on a Friday afternoon/evening we'd pool ALL our money, which probably came to about eight or nine bucks, and buy some eggplant, parmesan cheese, and a bottle of Taylor's Lake Country Red, and make eggplant parmesan for our group dinner. That was senior year haute cuisine, back then.

About 1966 or 1967, Temple University went from semi-publ;ic to "state-related," and tuition dropped slightly, to about $400 per semester. Hard to believe, even with adjustments for 1967 dollars, etc.: $400 bucks for a semester (room and board were extra, of course, maybe another $900 if you lived in the dorms).

The other hard-to-believe thing back then was this: there was a war on, the administration lied to the public about what was going on there, it was a bloody quagmire, the administration tried to dress it all up as "patriotism" and defense of the homeland ("They'll be fighting us in the streets of NY," etc., and crap like that), torturing enemy combatants was an issue (done by supposedly "rogue" soldiers, but certainly not part of Defense Dept. policy), and it tore American society apart.

Sure glad we all learned valuable lessons from THAT experience. Oh...wait...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 24, 2005 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I have to nominate Mel Brooks.

...the gaping holes in my memories of college leads me to believe that I had a really, really good time!

Posted by: esskay | October 24, 2005 1:29 PM | Report abuse

College Memory #3. By working a job during school and over the summers, I paid most of my own way. You really can't do that anymore, can you?

Posted by: Bayou Self | October 24, 2005 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Well, esskay, Carl Reiner's already in there...

bc

Posted by: bc | October 24, 2005 1:49 PM | Report abuse

hah! nani! i can just picture it now! did you see my blog on being goth??

Posted by: mo | October 24, 2005 2:01 PM | Report abuse

His buddy Mel needs to be at his side.

Another Nomination: Jack Lemmon. If nothing else, for his role(s) in "The Great Race". This may be my all-time favorite movie (I've said before that I am easy).

And of course, the entire cast of "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World". Spencer Tracy as a comedic actor, who'd a thunk?!

Posted by: esskay | October 24, 2005 2:09 PM | Report abuse

My first year of college I attended a small (900) church related school in north Texas not far from the Oklahoma line. Saturdays we would scour the picnic sites along the shores of Lake Texoma-it's a 70 mile long Corpse of Engineers stump lake on the border- and pick up empty bottles for the deposit, and turn that into beer money. One of my buds had a VW and a gas card from his dad, travel was "free". Once we had partaken of sufficient "mood enhancement", we would go pump jacking. Pump jacks are the large greasy mechanical objects that look like giant see-saws that are found in oil fields. Under cover of darkness you jump the fence if any, climb the pump jack while it's running, and crawl out to the end of the crosspiece of the jackhead and pretend to be a bull rider. Big ones travel about 6-8 feet vertically in each cycle. Priorities (in order) are: don't get caught, don't loose a finger, don't fall off, don't throw up- on yourself. I believe in retrospect that this behavior qualifies for the term testosterone toxicity.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 24, 2005 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely esskay, Jack Lemmon! My favorite Lemmon movies are The Odd Couple (oh those funny Pigeon Sisters) and The Apartment ("Miss Kublick I absolutely adore you!"(

Posted by: Nani | October 24, 2005 2:22 PM | Report abuse

kurosawaguy, sounds like your college was nine miles from the nearest known sin, and you had to create your own...

Posted by: slyness | October 24, 2005 2:26 PM | Report abuse

i started reading about the paradise lost trial as background for a blog entry on my blog but the more i read about it the angrier i get! basically, 3 teenage boys were arrested and convicted for murdering 3 eight-year old boys without a shred of evidence... they are still in jail! the site is at www.wm3.org...

Posted by: mo | October 24, 2005 2:30 PM | Report abuse

esskay, I suggest you watch any of the movies that Tracy made with Kate Hepburn, or the "Father of the Bride" movies.

I'd say Tracy was quite the comic actor.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 24, 2005 2:30 PM | Report abuse

mo, what is your blog site?

Posted by: Nani | October 24, 2005 2:48 PM | Report abuse

esskay and Nani, I love Jack Lemmon! The first time I ever saw him was in Grumpy Old Men. After that I went back and watched some of his earlier stuff with Matthau.

The place where Grumpy Old Men was filmed is about 2 hours from my house. One of my exes came out to Minnesota to visit over the summer and he made me take him to Wabasha because he loved that movie. They have a sign on your way into town that says, "Welcome to Wabasha. The Home of Grumpy Old Men."

Posted by: Sara | October 24, 2005 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I guess the tipoff that JA went to Princeton was the reference to the Ivy Club. I once visited a friend there and brought by then-girlfriend along. Big mistake. The unruly, sex-obsessed club members were all over her.

Speaking of the old days, I was in Cambridge, MA over the weekend and walked through Harvard Yard. I must say, the kids looked really grungy, even surly and full or attitude, and the women looked either flea-ridden, or, beautiful and stuckup. I was intimidated then, and, apparently, still am by some of them.

As to what I learned in college, I forgot at least half of it, but strangely applied the rest to life and profession. College wasn't wasted on me. But the number of people from college I keep up with is: 0.

Posted by: melvin/a | October 24, 2005 3:12 PM | Report abuse

IMHO the best thing in Grumpy Old Men are the foul mouthed outtakes of Burgess Meredith at the end. Jack Lemmon's best comic work came in "Some Like It Hot", "The Apartment", and "Mr. Rogers". "The Great Race" has some fine moments (Ross Martin jumping out the castle window is my fave), but is uneven and overlong and Natalie Wood "singing" just brings it to a complete halt.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 24, 2005 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Just did a little Googling and determined that JA and I are contemporaries.

I trust he was not one of the gross guys swarming over my girlfriend.

In a regatta with Princeton in 81 (when JA was a junior I think), some clod in the Princeton 8-man boat actually threw his oar (it weighs almsot 20 pounds) at our boat after they lost.

It's obvious JA didn't need training in manners and sportsmanship, but the impression lingers that a lot of his schoolmates do.

Posted by: melvin/a | October 24, 2005 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I really liked "Some Like It Hot." I haven't seen that in awhile. I should watch it again. I also liked "The Odd Couple" like Nani mentioned.

Posted by: Sara | October 24, 2005 3:23 PM | Report abuse

nani - it's www.mortiifera.com

melvin/a - someone chucked at oar at your boat? man, those thing are heavy! i hope it sank...

Posted by: mo | October 24, 2005 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Sara, I think you'd enjoy The Apartment too. It's funny and sad, but mostly funny. Fred McMurray, usually the loveable fatherly type, is a cold hearted villian of sorts. Another good Lemmon film, but terribly hard to watch and emotionally exhausting is Days of Wine and Roses .

Isn't Jack Lemmon is one of the few "stars" with successful long term marriages. His wife was a lovely actress whose name escapes me at the time, a lovely lyrical name I think. Starts with a "V" perhaps?

Posted by: Nani | October 24, 2005 3:39 PM | Report abuse

College Memory #4. We were just hanging out at the Ivy Club, and hit on this guy's date.

Posted by: Bayou Self | October 24, 2005 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Nani,

I googled it. He was married to Felicia Farr. She was his second wife, but they were married almost 40 years (1962 to 2001 when he died).

Posted by: Sara | October 24, 2005 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Nani, you're thinking of Felicia Farr, who was married to JL for over 40 years.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 24, 2005 3:47 PM | Report abuse

mo:
You mean you hope the oar sank, not the boat -- right? :)

Posted by: Tom fan | October 24, 2005 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Felicia Farr, of course, thank you Kurosawaguy and Sara. Tom fan, have you created an upside-down Sara emoticon yet? It would go nicely with your Rene Zellwegger sucking a lemon emoticon.

Posted by: Nani | October 24, 2005 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Yes, "The Great Race" is way too long. But Professor Fate is one of my all-time favorite villians. I believe he was the artistic inspirations for the bad guy in the cartoon "Wacky Racers".
I often immitate the laugh of Lemmon's crown prince and it scares my kids every time. It also has a great pie-fight scene.

Posted by: esskay | October 24, 2005 3:56 PM | Report abuse

One of the things that struck me when I went back and read some Twain as an adult was that for the most part, he just didn't seem to like people. "Connectecuit Yankee", "Roughing It", etc. are very funny but they're downright mean page after page. The Finn and Sawyer books make up for it, though. (That bit about Tom deciding to hide Jim even though he knows he's doing wrong and going to go to Hell for it- and people ban this book because it's racist? Oh, they don't know what they're doing.)

Posted by: Les | October 24, 2005 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Ha - Ha Ha Ha - Ha!

Posted by: Professor Fate | October 24, 2005 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Bayou Self,

Ha Ha. To give you an idea of how depraved some of JA's schoolmates were, the game at a couple of the Princeton eating clubs was to get down on your knees behind someone's girlfriend and try to, excuse the expression, bite her ass.

I kid you not. Just your typical, gentlemanly behavior. Can you imagine Bill Frist doing that? (Actually, I can.)

Princeton was already co-ed, but I never heard of a Princeton woman attempting the same foul stunt.

Now, I must think lovely thoughts before leaking to the press. This will be a tough week.

Posted by: melvin/a | October 24, 2005 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Ha ha, Nani!
How about this:

.'.

Or this:

,",

Or this:

.".

(They're not very flattering, though -- the first one is a bit plain, and the other two look kind of like bats. Sorry Sara. I'd better keep working on it.)

Posted by: Tom fan | October 24, 2005 4:05 PM | Report abuse

mo

The story of the West Memphis Three is compelling. Of course, my memory is short so I don't remember reading about it in 1993. But then again, in 1994 we had the O.J. case, which overshadowed just about any other crime story of the day.

The difficulties of this case bring up the whole issue of capital punishment. Can we rely on the death penalty when our justice system can prove to be so unreliable? Scott Turow examines this issue with his book, Ultimate Punishment : A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty.

Posted by: CowTown | October 24, 2005 4:08 PM | Report abuse

K-guy
you should see some of the houses that have been built on that "stump lake" in the last few years

Posted by: LB | October 24, 2005 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Well, thanks for trying Tom fan. I don't think we'll beat the Rene one, though. It really is a good punctuation likeness of her.

Posted by: Sara | October 24, 2005 4:13 PM | Report abuse

melvin/a - "Princeton graduates, the cream of American, thick and rich." (Talented Mr. Ripley)

Posted by: Nani | October 24, 2005 4:16 PM | Report abuse

This is probably "left field", but does anyone besides me wonder if Barry Sheck's current work (pro bono I think) getting wrongly convicted prisoners released by DNA tests proving their innocence is to ease his conscience for getting OJ acquitted? Whatever his reasons, God bless him.

Posted by: Nani | October 24, 2005 4:24 PM | Report abuse

no one that is still living that was on O.J.'s defense team has a conscience.

Posted by: LB | October 24, 2005 4:29 PM | Report abuse

tom fan - of course i meant the oar silly!! i would never wish melvin/a's boat to sink - those shells are freakin EXPENSIVE! as are the oars so i can't imagine chucking one just cuz you lost!

Posted by: mo | October 24, 2005 4:42 PM | Report abuse

LB said: "no one that is still living that was on O.J.'s defense team has a conscience."

Are you saying that Johnny Cochran had one? He may have had a social conscience, but he must have put it in a blind trust on that case.

Posted by: Tim | October 24, 2005 4:44 PM | Report abuse

The entire OJ story is ripe for an analysis by a good legal storyteller like Turow. It's got lots of fascinating elements and allegories for our time. There's sex, murder, huge egos, Hollywood, racial politics. It's bigger than Bonfire of the Vanities.

Barry Sheck's contribution to the Simpson defense is particularly interesting. He above all players new more about DNA evidence (in 1994, still very much in its infancy as court evidence). He had to have known that DNA samples can't be corrupted by improper handling or even deliberate tampering. But he also new that most people DIDN'T know that, and he managed to create such confusion in the minds of the jury that they disregarded the DNA evidence entirely. It's a good thing his using his powers (now) for the forces of good.

But I really didn't want to talk about OJ. I wanted to affirm mo's concern regarding the The Memphis Three. So there.

Posted by: CowTown | October 24, 2005 4:57 PM | Report abuse

yes,

Sheck's role was to sow DNA confusion.

Cochran was the defense team's mastermind, of course, but also the one who energetically, but just slightly behind the scenes, injected massive doses of racial politics into the case.

sic transit gloria of the American justice system

Posted by: temecula | October 24, 2005 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info, melvin/a. That would not be one of my memories. But ...

College Memories #4 and #5.

Whatever possessed us to drink all of those Singapore Slings? And whatever possessed us to think that beer would possibly taste good when consumed directly from an aluminum bucket?

Posted by: Bayou Self | October 24, 2005 5:03 PM | Report abuse

temecula

I don't see the OJ case as emblematic of the entire American justice system. Rather, it was a fascinating anomoly, a perfect storm, in legal circles. It's worth studying for the variety of personalities that contributed to the national spectacle. But it's hardly a textbook case.

Posted by: CowTown | October 24, 2005 5:08 PM | Report abuse

cowtown - the memphis 3 really bring up concerns about the death penalty for me as well! while i'm not overtly opposed to it (if you kill someone than why should you live?) but the question of possible innocence (esp with the memphis 3 case) really bothers me - i don't believe we should put someone to death unless we are 100% sure of their guilt!

Posted by: mo | October 24, 2005 5:18 PM | Report abuse

When thousands of innocent people are imprisoned every year,ir's a*shme*. But when the legal system returns a verdict that is not in keeping with certain people's sensibilities,then the lawyers,who follwed the rules-no appellate charges filed-then it's a BFD.
Now I know how the G W Bush campain got started:let's tap this anger in our base,spread around by promising: that..we had to let'em free but we'll be damed if we make 'em equal.

And just look where it has the country now.

Posted by: Il'logical | October 24, 2005 5:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm with mo on this one. I do strongly believe that there are some people who deserve the death penalty, but if there's a question then it definitely should not be handed down. Has the boy who got the death penalty already been executed? Or is he still on death row? This was back when I was in elementary school so I don't remember hearing anything abou it, and I haven't heard much since then either.

Posted by: Sara | October 24, 2005 5:21 PM | Report abuse

no sara, he's still in jail - he's in a max security prison in solitary confinement. This site http://www.wm3.org has a lot of good information about the case and what their lives are like now... the documentary Paradise Lost is being re-leased on DVD on the 25th - anyone who hasn't seen it, i strongely urge it! it's a hard thing to watch though...

Posted by: mo | October 24, 2005 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, mo. I'll check out the website.

Right now though, I'm off. Work is over and I want nothing more than to kick my feet up. But only after stopping at a fabric store, the grocery store and going to the gym so I'll get around to kicking back at about 10, at which time I should be getting to bed anyway. Night! See ya'll tomorrow.

Posted by: Sara | October 24, 2005 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Let's not go there. The O J Simpson case. Cochrane didn't bring race to the issue, it was there when he got there. And pleassssssssse don't tell me that Cochrane was the first to bring race to the picture, Whites have done it for years, going back to slavery time, and guess what, they still do it. The Simpson case brings up hostilities that have nothing to do with the case itself, it brings out the issue of race, and that my dear friends is something that we don't want to talk about, we want to scream at each other, yet we want to do it in silence.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 24, 2005 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I have always felt that there are some who just plain old deserve it, but it pays to be 100% sure.

We had a case here in Canada, that stil haunts us, by the very continued life of the 2 parties. One is out already because of a deal she made with a prosecutor under very heinous circumstances.

These 2 people were less than pond scum and death was and is too good for them.

Posted by: dr | October 24, 2005 5:40 PM | Report abuse

dr, sara, cassandra, mo, et al

By all means, do read Turow's book, Ultimate Punishment. It's a thoughtful, hard-headed exposition of the death penalty that followed Turow's participation in a commission created by Illinois Governor Earl to review whether the death penalty should be continued in Illinois.

Posted by: CowTown | October 24, 2005 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Arguments against the death penalty:

(1) The poor sod may be innocent -- at least, innocent of the crime in question. How can you ever make up for executing an innocent person? If prosecutors and judges were themselves subject to the death penalty if an innocent person were exceuted, that might promote a more responsible system -- or it might just promote lynching to save the trouble of due process. People who are up for the death penalty rarely are wealthy nice people (OJ certainly was an exception), so it's easy to ignore them as generally unworthy of our sympathy. They get poor legal representation. Some conservatives want to limit their appeals because it is demonstrable that these guys delay their executions for ages by appealing their verdicts. However, the reason why these appeals are considered is because the initial trials are so often handled incompetently, so it's only on appeal that the defendant gets real legal representation. And look what's happening in Virginia -- a bigshot lawyer provides pro bono representation for some of these defendants, giving them an actual chance for a fair shake and a fair trial in the legal system, and the lawyer gets his political reputation trashed because he's opposed to summary execution of all persons accused of capital crimes. With consequences like that just for representing the accused, it's a wonder that any defendants ever manage to be acquitted of capital crimes.

(2) How can we claim to be better than that, if we are so hungry to kill? How can we actually BE better than that if we are so ready to kill? We can imprison a man for his whole life, so we can't claim self-defense by executing him. It isn't justice -- it will never restore the dead, and the perpetrator never will suffer as the victims did, so he never will empathize with his victims. It's just vengeance. If you want your murderers to die, the ancient Greek way makes more ethical sense -- provide the defendant the means and the opportunity for suicide, but be prepared if he chooses to ignore it and live. Let him make the choice and let it be on his hands. For society to kill, we must be a society of killers. If we want to stop our society (our populace) from being so ready to kill, we must make our own society an example of the ethical ideal. When talking about justice and judgment, idealism is warranted; how can it be a pragmatic necessity to kill our killers when they are already harmlessly incarcerated? We kill them because we want to persuade ourselves that they are less human than we, and so their extermination carries no more moral significance than putting down a rabid dog. That's just not so. By killing murderers, we make ourselves more brutal.

Posted by: Tim | October 24, 2005 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Arguments against the death penalty:

(1) The poor sod may be innocent -- at least, innocent of the crime in question. How can you ever make up for executing an innocent person? If prosecutors and judges were themselves subject to the death penalty if an innocent person were exceuted, that might promote a more responsible system -- or it might just promote lynching to save the trouble of due process. People who are up for the death penalty rarely are wealthy nice people (OJ certainly was an exception), so it's easy to ignore them as generally unworthy of our sympathy. They get poor legal representation. Some conservatives want to limit their appeals because it is demonstrable that these guys delay their executions for ages by appealing their verdicts. However, the reason why these appeals are considered is because the initial trials are so often handled incompetently, so it's only on appeal that the defendant gets real legal representation. And look what's happening in Virginia -- a bigshot lawyer provides pro bono representation for some of these defendants, giving them an actual chance for a fair shake and a fair trial in the legal system, and the lawyer gets his political reputation trashed because he's opposed to summary execution of all persons accused of capital crimes. With consequences like that just for representing the accused, it's a wonder that any defendants ever manage to be acquitted of capital crimes.

(2) How can we claim to be better than that, if we are so hungry to kill? How can we actually BE better than that if we are so ready to kill? We can imprison a man for his whole life, so we can't claim self-defense by executing him. It isn't justice -- it will never restore the dead, and the perpetrator never will suffer as the victims did, so he never will empathize with his victims. It's just vengeance. If you want your murderers to die, the ancient Greek way makes more ethical sense -- provide the defendant the means and the opportunity for suicide, but be prepared if he chooses to ignore it and live. Let him make the choice and let it be on his hands. For society to kill, we must be a society of killers. If we want to stop our society (our populace) from being so ready to kill, we must make our own society an example of the ethical ideal. When talking about justice and judgment, idealism is warranted; how can it be a pragmatic necessity to kill our killers when they are already harmlessly incarcerated? We kill them because we want to persuade ourselves that they are less human than we, and so their extermination carries no more moral significance than putting down a rabid dog. That's just not so. By killing murderers, we make ourselves more brutal.

Posted by: Tim | October 24, 2005 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Arguments against the death penalty:

(1) The poor sod may be innocent -- at least, innocent of the crime in question. How can you ever make up for executing an innocent person? If prosecutors and judges were themselves subject to the death penalty if an innocent person were exceuted, that might promote a more responsible system -- or it might just promote lynching to save the trouble of due process. People who are up for the death penalty rarely are wealthy nice people (OJ certainly was an exception), so it's easy to ignore them as generally unworthy of our sympathy. They get poor legal representation. Some conservatives want to limit their appeals because it is demonstrable that these guys delay their executions for ages by appealing their verdicts. However, the reason why these appeals are considered is because the initial trials are so often handled incompetently, so it's only on appeal that the defendant gets real legal representation. And look what's happening in Virginia -- a bigshot lawyer provides pro bono representation for some of these defendants, giving them an actual chance for a fair shake and a fair trial in the legal system, and the lawyer gets his political reputation trashed because he's opposed to summary execution of all persons accused of capital crimes. With consequences like that just for representing the accused, it's a wonder that any defendants ever manage to be acquitted of capital crimes.

(2) How can we claim to be better than that, if we are so hungry to kill? How can we actually BE better than that if we are so ready to kill? We can imprison a man for his whole life, so we can't claim self-defense by executing him. It isn't justice -- it will never restore the dead, and the perpetrator never will suffer as the victims did, so he never will empathize with his victims. It's just vengeance. If you want your murderers to die, the ancient Greek way makes more ethical sense -- provide the defendant the means and the opportunity for suicide, but be prepared if he chooses to ignore it and live. Let him make the choice and let it be on his hands. For society to kill, we must be a society of killers. If we want to stop our society (our populace) from being so ready to kill, we must make our own society an example of the ethical ideal. When talking about justice and judgment, idealism is warranted; how can it be a pragmatic necessity to kill our killers when they are already harmlessly incarcerated? We kill them because we want to persuade ourselves that they are less human than we, and so their extermination carries no more moral significance than putting down a rabid dog. That's just not so. By killing murderers, we make ourselves more brutal.

Posted by: Tim | October 24, 2005 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Agree with you Tim. Remarkable webpage, too.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 24, 2005 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, I'm having toruble with Typepad. It thinks I'm a spammer, but the triple posting was an acciednt, really.

Posted by: Tim (again) | October 24, 2005 6:22 PM | Report abuse

That would be "trouble."

My wife, by the way, disagrees with me on the death penalty. Proof that good and evil can coexist. Take your pick which is which.

Posted by: Tim (again (again)) | October 24, 2005 6:47 PM | Report abuse

(I'm so chatty now).

Just to state my position on the metaphoric Michael Dukakis/Willy Horton issue -- if someone did something horrible and heinous to my wife or children, I probably would hunt him down and do my best to exterminate him, ethics be damned. But if I succeeded, I'd turn myself in for murder immediately thereafter.

Posted by: Tim | October 24, 2005 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Tim, in ancient Greece, they did not just provide the opportunity for suicide, they actively acted against a person who did not choose suicide. They effectively shunned him, till he wished he were dead. Is not providing the method and the impetus for suicide just as immoral, as seeking to end the life of those who commit the most heinous crimes?

In this specific instance, the sods are most defintely guilty, and made the video to record what they did, not as a proof of their action, mind, but for their own enjoyment. I am sorry, but no matter how unjust and perhaps even how vengeful the act may be, there are and always will be some who simply deserve to die for their crimes against an absolutely innocent victims.

Posted by: dr | October 24, 2005 7:00 PM | Report abuse

dr: Actually, I had thought that the Greeks offered a choice between "honorable" suicide and dishonorable execution. I had in mind more that the choice would be between suicide and life in prison. I think it's more moral, because it gives the perpetrator the chance to evaluate himself -- after all, he/she already has decided someone else was unworthy to live, and he/she already has chosen a brutal path. I just meant it seems MORE ethical to allow that person to decide for himself, instead of making the choice for him. I didn't say it is what I would precisely call ethical. Just less unethical.

I don't doubt that the two persons in the Canadian case are guilty. Typepad earlier swallowed up an effort I abandoned to mention a particularly awful case from here in Maryland, in which guilt was not in doubt and the perpetrators were evil without doubt. But then there is the person who is less fully evil. Then even less evil, but still evil. Evil is hard to measure. Exactly what level of evil justifies death? We already have the ability to capture and incarcerate these people, and periodically re-evaluate how evil we think they are through parole hearings. We do not have that chance to check our own decisions after we have executed them. Life-without-parole always struck me as a bad idea -- it takes away any incentive for a prisoner to at least refrain from working evil against his fellow prisoners, many of whom are not so irredeemably evil as the lifer-without-parole.

If death is an acceptable penalty for taking a life, it should be pretty acceptable for attempted murder. After all, an attempted murderer is just a murderer with inadequate skills. Heck, what about negligent homicide? After all, you had the opportunity and the knowledge to allow you to be non-negligent and save that life. The wonderful thing about the death penalty is that the recidivism rate is real low. This form of jurisprudence has been tried by earlier cultures, many of them quite recent. We tend to think of them as barbaric. We accept the death penalty because it is a Western tradition. The death penalty used to be a Western tradition for petty theft, too, also not that long ago. Are we so fond of this tradition that we can't outgrow it?

Posted by: Tim | October 24, 2005 7:26 PM | Report abuse

wow, i don't think i've ever left a comment here before, though i do tend to read all of mr.achenbach's blogs, as well as many of the responses. that's probably because i never felt i had anything useful to contribute, or anything to say in general, really. but on the subject of college, i can say something.

as a student now, there are times that i wish i never have to leave. but i've met people and professors who have been at the university for quite a long time, doing their undergrad here, their graduate studies here, and now teach here. i love it, but i don't think i could stay forever. especially if that meant taking more organic chemistry exams where the average is a 50.

Posted by: wintergreen | October 24, 2005 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Tim, where were you on 9/11/01? Did you feel the impact as the plane hit the Pentagon? Did you smell the burning? Did you wonder if your friends who worked there were alive or dead? Where were you when Malvo and Muhammed were shooting innocents every day in the D.C. metro area? Did you wonder if your next trip to the gas station would be your last? Did you flip on the morning news each day waiting to hear who had been killed today? I did these things. Thousands of my neighbors did these things. Some crimes merit the most stringent penalty society allows. In Virginia, that means death. I'm not sorry. One of my biggest gripes about GW Bush is that he has completely forgotten who sent those men to steal those planes and crash them.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 24, 2005 8:47 PM | Report abuse

When I last returned to my college I was shocked at how young every one looked. They were just babies. Perhaps this is why older people become prudish. We don't object to adults fooling around. We just refuse to acknowledge that college students are really adults.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 24, 2005 9:09 PM | Report abuse

On the death penalty - I'm opposed to the state taking a life, for the most part. I think there are crimes for which it is deserved, though, provided the evidence is strong - Ted Bundy, Tim McVeigh, the DC sniper (not the younger guy, though).

On college - when I went back to school later in life, my study habits were much better - no all nighters, no cramming. Mainly because I didn't think I could do that anymore and live, but also because I wasn't concerned with the socializing (the fun part of college). I still haven't gotten a degree, though - I always have 3 years to go...

Just heard that Rosa Parks died. What an incredible chain of events she started. She was one year older than my mother. I remember how shocked I was when I realized as a child that my mother was born before women had the right to vote in this country.

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 24, 2005 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Linda Loomis: Thanks for the spider poem.

Cow Town:

You mentioned Governor Earl of Illinois. I live in Illinois and I don't think we ever had a Gov. with that last name. Gov. George Ryan who is currently on trial for wrongdoing in office, was the Illinois Gov. who commuted the sentences of the prisoners on death row to life, because he was not sure they were properly tried and convicted. He also pardoned others whom were wrongly convicted after evidence was presented of that fact. Law students at Northwestern University and their professor assisted in investigating some of these cases.

Scott Turow was involved somehow in some of this, and has continued to be active as his book would indicate. The present Governor of Illinois is Rod Blogoviavich (sic)(we call him Gov. Blog.) who does have a committee studying the death penalty issue.

I went back to college when in my forties and took courses which changed my career. I always called myself a "recycled housewife" since I had been a teacher, then raised a family then became a cpa. I still live in the same college (state univ.) town and one can't help but interact with the students. Most do not yet act like adults and they get younger every year. Many are serious students but others are just there to participate in the "college thing." They do graduate, grow up, and many become valuable members of society.

Going back to school was worthwhile and I would advise anyone to do it even if just to take a course at a local jr. college in something one is interested in. One gets much more out of it when more mature.

Blanket SCC for this post.

I'm leaving the boondocks for a trip and will report back when I return.

bdl

Posted by: boondocklurker | October 25, 2005 12:29 AM | Report abuse

At the risk of starting a Cindy-storm, take a gander at William M. Arkin's, Early Warning Blog: http://blogs.washingtonpost.com/earlywarning/2005/10/cindy_sheehan_a.html#more

"My problem with Mrs. Sheehan is that as a political voice, she is disempowering, and she has no solutions. In condemning the Bush administration, Sheehan seems utterly uninterested in either their thinking or the possibility that there were genuine and unpremeditated missteps that led us to where we are today. In short, she insists on characterizing the political battle over the Iraq war as merely a battle of good (her and her anti-war forces) versus evil (Bush).

It is the same shallow approach that George Bush uses when it comes to terrorism."

Posted by: jw | October 25, 2005 8:46 AM | Report abuse

ps--check out the comments on that blog...Ka-razy!

Posted by: jw | October 25, 2005 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Ka-razy except for L. Loomis's comments of course. I meant the people who are calling an opinion piece "propaganda" and call for Arkin's resignation, natch.

Posted by: jw | October 25, 2005 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I applaud Cindy Sheehan's efforts and wish I had the courage and wherewithal to join her protest. It took an older black woman who was tired and wanted to sit down in a bus to energize the civil rights movement. Perhaps this grieving mother, (among many to whom Bush owes a personal apology) will encourage more of us to join her in protesting this "war against terrorism", which I fear has made us more susceptible to terrorism.

Posted by: Nani | October 25, 2005 9:15 AM | Report abuse

kurosawaguy: my answers to your quiz:

• where were you on 9/11/01? Northern Alexandria, a couple miles away from the Pentagon. I've been to some of the schools that lost children on that plane, before 9/11.

• Did you feel the impact as the plane hit the Pentagon? No

• Did you smell the burning? No

• Did you wonder if your friends who worked there were alive or dead? No, my Dad worked at a military lab elsewhere. My other military pals were not stationed there. It was only later that I learned about the children.

• Where were you when Malvo and Muhammed were shooting innocents every day in the D.C. metro area? Birmingham, Alabama, at a conference, worrying about my family, but taking comfort in statistics. Then I came home and bought gas at a DC suburbs gas station, then I went home to Bowie, where a kid got shot at the middle school that my children would have gone to in another couple years, before they added more middle schools.

• Did you wonder if your next trip to the gas station would be your last? Yes

• Did you flip on the morning news each day waiting to hear who had been killed today? Yes.

• Some crimes merit the most stringent penalty society allows.I concur. I would even go so far as to agree on what that penalty should be. Where we part company is that I feel that I (and everyone I've ever met) lack the god-like perspective required to dispassionately and objectively administer death. I envy you your certainty. But surely you've noticed that monsters like John Muhammad and Mohamed Atta also have that god-like certainty? I'm not saying that you are a monster, nor that everyone else who supports capital punishment is a monster. I'm saying that it's dangerous even to share the same road with such monsters, even if we are not fellow travelers. Yes, there are some criminals with whom the decision is easy, and I could sleep well having personally shot them in the head myself. That coarsening and cheapening of life makes it that much easier, however, to make the same decision about someone who is much less loathsome. Right now, we have Supreme Court Justices and citizens who have more or less said that one or two innocent deaths due to failures in the legal system is NOT too high a price to pay for safety and 'justice.' That is exactly the systematized corruption that I fear. Yes, at one time, capital punishment was widespread in the U.S., but we grew out of it. This is a terrrifying nostalgia that we now seem more and more eager to embrace again the finality of a death sentence as a way to rid ourselves of our fears. Go read Pogo on the definition of "the enemy."

Are those sufficient bona fides to be permitted to have a dissenting opinion? I forget who mentioned it lately, but there's a good reason that victims do not set the penalty for crimes, because victims want vengenace, whereas the state wants justice. We need to set our standards for justice in calm reflection, so that we have a standard for peace and justice to which we can aspire when times are dark.

• One of my biggest gripes about GW Bush is that he has completely forgotten who sent those men to steal those planes and crash them.
I concur. War is not the same as jurisprudence. Self-defense really is an operable reason for causing death. It doesn't justify every tactic, however -- torture comes to mind.

And for the record, since I expect this will come up: No, I don't think we should abandon Iraq. We deposed their sovereign government (vile and corrupt as it was), leaving only ourselves in its place. I don't disagree with doing it, I disagree hugely with how it was done. In fact, I would not disagree with anything W has said about what we should do in Iraq. I just feel we should do it, and should have done it, competently, instead of letting armchair quarterbacks (neo-cons) decide how to run a war and an occupation. If I want someone to run a war, I'll ask a soldier, not a chicken-hawk.

Posted by: Tim | October 25, 2005 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm 45 and going to Millersville in PA as a sophomore. For my freshman year, I went to a community college where, much of the time, I felt like I was a St. Bernard in a herd of housecats. I also, during the spring semester, lost my father and was unable to attend the funeral due to a lack of funds.

But, at MU, a state-run school where there's actually dorms and a student-run newspaper, I feel like I've finally come home. I haven't felt that way in many, many years.

There's a few odd moments, here and there, and there's an occassional professor who is not just threatened by my presence but every time I open my mouth. But they're few and far between.

Besides, if I'm going to have a midlife crisis, it sure beats cheating on my wife or buying a Harley I can't afford.

Scot

Posted by: Millersville U. Scot | October 25, 2005 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"you can't buy a motorcycle, you'll die"

movie quote

Posted by: omnigoof | October 25, 2005 3:49 PM | Report abuse

omnigoof has been hitting the Blorph since about 2:30, so that's probably a paraphrase.

Any way, my college story goes like this:

prologue: Hated highschool.

Loved college. changed curriculum thrice. took five years to get AA, partly because last three semesters were part time cause I couldn't take fulltime load cause courses I needed weren't offered, due to having most credits already fulfilled (sp?).

SCC: fur shur bad grammar above (excuse:been sharing the Blorph with goof)

Posted by: omnigood | October 25, 2005 3:56 PM | Report abuse

SCC for post at 12:29:58 above

I apologize for misspelling the name of the Gov. of IL. It should be Rod Blagojevich. No one can pronounce it or spell it correctly. Sorry gov.

bdl

Posted by: boondocklurker | October 25, 2005 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Tim

You said a lot, and so much of it true. Yet sometimes in this country, as I can imagine in many places of the world, one does not get justice. I believe one is too many to die in a system that promotes the death penalty, and I'm not just saying that because I'm African-American, and so many of my brothers are the ones that eat that can of worms. I believe we as a country if we're going to practice the death penalty need to make sure the evidence is correct for those we put to death, and that the death penalty is enforced equally, that has not been the case so far. I personally do not care for the death penalty because I believe even when the state does kill, it is no better than the murderer it kills. And having said that, I believe that there are some crimes so horrendous that they beg for the death penalty.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 25, 2005 6:09 PM | Report abuse

For the best uncensored news site go to: http://takingaim.info/shows/audio.html

Posted by: Che | October 29, 2005 7:27 AM | Report abuse

For the best uncensored news site go to: http://takingaim.info/shows/audio.html

Posted by: Che | October 29, 2005 7:28 AM | Report abuse


For the best uncensored news site go to: http://takingaim.info/shows/audio.html
of www.onlinejournal.com

Posted by: Che | November 1, 2005 12:03 PM | Report abuse

nice nice
here mine

Posted by: Derek | November 19, 2005 8:51 PM | Report abuse

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