Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hamlet 1

My guidebook said that the best time to see Buckingham Palace is at 11:30 for the changing of the guard. I decided to go yesterday morning (December 23rd), and made that the first thing I did. I arrived at 10:45, which turned out to be a very good time to get there. A crowd of people that was spread around the gate was just then being organized behind barriers. I chose somewhere to stand arbitrarily, and as luck would have it, it was one of the best seats in the house (actually standing room outside the gates). Also, I found out that December 23rd was a good day to see the changing of the guard; in addition to being Festivus, it was the last changing of the guard before Christmas (and before I leave). I didn’t get bored during the 45 minute wait, because I was to intrigued by the police officer who had the unfortunate job of crowd control. He had to tell hundreds of people where they couldn’t walk, and where they couldn’t stop walking. Each one wanted to be the exception to the rule. He, thus, had to explain that if one person breaks the rule, then soon everyone will, and we’ll have a problem. I felt bad for him. I had done a similar job at the Film Festival, and always assumed that someone whose uniform says “police” instead of “volunteer” would get more respect. Apparently, the uniform was not enough. The best way to get a crowd’s respect is to be on horseback. They seemed to respect the horse’s authority. The changing of the guard was fun. It reminded me of the Palio of Siena. I started to think about the Buckingham Palace Guard and Swiss Guard. These are both jobs filled with tradition that tourists travel long distances to watch. I thought about whether anything like that exists in the US. As far as I know, no part of our military is a tourist attraction. I’ve never been to Fort Knox or the White House, but I don’t think that people go there to see the guards. The closest equivalent we have would be Disneyland.

After seeing the palace, I wandered around London for a few hours. I had already been to about 10 bookstores looking for a Peter Schiff book. I decided that it couldn’t hurt to try one more, and there I found The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets. I’m excited to read it. Peter Schiff will save our economy if we let him.

I walked by the Novello Theater, where The Royal Shakespeare Company was performing Hamlet 1: Prince of Denmark. On a whim, I walked inside, asked if they had any tickets left, and bought one. This was already my favorite Shakespeare play, and I had never seen it performed before. On top of that, it was an incredible production. It was by far the best Shakespeare performance I have ever seen. The queen was a bit of a Debby Downer, but other than that, everything about the show was amazing. Some of the lines didn’t sound like they were in the original script, but they worked very well:

“Polonius, make it so:
Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go.”

“He kills your father and you fall back.
Your sister dies for him and you fall back. Not again.
The line must be drawn here! This far and no further!
You must make him pay for what he’s done!”

Over all, I loved the play. All of the actors were perfect, especially Patrick Stewart as Claudius. I can’t wait to see the sequel.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Darkest Evening of the Year

In 2006, I played secret Santa with my hallmates at school. Before the exchanging of gifts, we all wrote notes to each other and tried to guess who our secret Santas were. I wrote this poem for my recipient, who happened to be my roommate.

Whose room this is I think I know.
He's playing squash in Kenyon, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To tape this note upon his do'.

His roommate, Mo, must think it queer
For me to stop and tape this here
Between the quad and Sunset Lake
The halcyon times of freshman year.

He looks at me with double-take
To ask if there is some mistake.
I tell him not to make a peep.
It's all for Secret Santa's sake.

This room is festive, clean and deep,
But I have GPA to keep,
And papers to write before I sleep.
And papers to write before I sleep.

A year ago, today, I went to a sculpture I like called Return of the Sun, and took a picture of it (above) that can only be taken once a year. My tripod about a kadan longer than I would have preferred, but I'm still happy with how the picture came out.

Today, I went to Stonehenge. Apparently, the public transportation in London was not designed to get people to Stonehenge before sunrise, so I saw it at noon. I was impressed with the engineering. It was a long journey full of changing trains, spending money and walking, but I'm glad I went. It was a fun place to celebrate the days getting longer.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I went out with some friends last night. They saw somebody they recognized, and immediately started walking away from her. They call this girl "Monodread." I didn't see her, but apparently, she has one dreadlock. Some of the girls insisted that she had hit on them and stared at them before and was very creepy about it. One girl complained, "She's never hit on me. It's probably because I'm not blonde. Blondes get so much more attention in this country." I was somewhat baffled by this sentiment. Perhaps I just don't understand girls, but it amazes me that they complain about creepy guys or lesbians hitting on them, and then go on to complain about creepy people not paying enough attention to them.

I told them about a similar conversation I had with Long Island. She has naturally brown hair, but had had highlights in it for about a year when we arrived in Italy. She told her hairdresser she was going to be spending the end of the summer hanging out on beaches in Italy, so her hairdresser gave her some toner to use in case her hair got too light. When autumn started and we stopped going to the beach, she put the toner in her hair. Much to her dismay, her hair turned darker than she had planned, and in fact is now her natural color. She cried about this for a while, but we explained that she looked much better with darker hair. She has somewhat gotten over it, but a few weeks later, we went to a club together, and as we were leaving she started to complain about how much more attention the blonde girls in the club were getting. I seemed to recall that when she was blonde, she complained about strange men groping her. I asked her if that still happened, and she informed me that it did not. I rarely get credit for how good a friend I am; as soon as she informed me of this, I grabbed her ass. It's nice to know that there are little things we can all do to make other people happy. How they express their gratitude is their problem.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kazoo lessons

I was at a friend's birthday party last night, and I saw that she had a kazoo she had just bought in England. I started talking about how I took kazoo lessons for four years when I was younger. Suddenly, everybody wanted to hear me play the kazoo. I told them I don't like to play it anymore. I explained that I hadn't really played one since 8th grade, and was going to be very rusty. They started trying to get me drunk in an effort to get me to play. Finally, the birthday girl told me that it would mean a lot to her if I would play the kazoo for her on her birthday. I gave in, and played The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. Everyone was very impressed with my ability. One of them said that she could hear the difference in quality when I played. A few more times during the evening, they managed to convince me to play songs. They asked me all sorts of questions about what my lessons were like. As I was explaining, the girl next to me whispered to me, "You're lying, right?" I replied "of course," and went on telling them that I was in a group class with many instruments, and only a few of us played kazoo. The birthday girl asked me to teach her how to play it. I told her that it would be impossible to condense four years of lessons into five minutes, but I would do my best. I taught her how to separate notes with the tongue by saying "ta ta ta" instead of "ah ah ah" or "ma ma ma" (a technique I learned in trumpet and flute). I also told her that one must sit up straight and kazoo from the diaphragm instead of the chest or throat. She was a theater major, and had evidently taken singing lessons and heard this before, so she assumed I must know what I was talking about.

There were about fifteen people at that party, and by the end, only two of them had any idea that I was bullshitting. Fortunately, they were able to keep quiet about it. This morning, I saw that the birthday girl's facebook status was "learned how to play kazoo. For real this time."

I'm usually very bad at lying, but every so often, I make up ridiculous stories, not expecting anyone to believe them, and somehow, everyone does.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I’d like to thank the docent

For looking around the room and then pushing aside the plastic curtain to hand me the statue.

I'd like to thank the girl in my film class who told me that the Fellini museum would be worth the 90-minute train ride to Rimini.

I'd like to thank everyone who supported me when I said I was going to Rimini (a beach town) despite the fact that it was pouring rain and 5 degrees Celsius.

I'd like to thank my brother for suggesting that I see if I could hold the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Otto e Mezzo.

I'd like to thank the founders of the Federico Fellini museum for making it consist of a single room with a single exhibit of little interest to most people, thus making my brother and me the only guests on the day we visited.

I'd like to thank the late Federico Fellini for making some incredible films. I've seen six and a half of them so far, and I plan to see many more.

It was the help of these and many other people that made this possible.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Reading Week Before Christmas, or Ode to the Double Red Bull

'Twas two weeks before Christmas, and the soon-to-be grads,
Spent long nights in Butler, all hopped-up on Adds,
With sour demeanors, their eyes bloodshot red,
As the finals and papers instilled in them dread.
The premeds made flash cards and memorized cancers,
While knocking back loads of performance enhancers.
And Scotty—the wanna-be music historian—
Who yearned once again to be valedictorian,
Had lain in his coffin-sized single in Wien,
When his heart went and failed him due to all the caffeine.
And those for whom studying seemed an awfully tall order
Got shrinks to sign off on their "learning disorder."
Amphetamines, stimulants, No-Doz and Coke®—
Stop reading! Start dosing! Your grades are no joke!
Two hours 'fore finals—you won't need study aids:
Drug use is the only guarantor of good grades.
And he who says "Learning's the thing" is a fool,
'Twas obsession with transcripts got us into this school!
And to think of the papers that I have been shirking,
(I was writing this poem when I should have been working),
Imparts to my soul such a terrible fright.
So, Good luck with your finals, and to all—sleepless nights!


Glossary for non-Columbians:

Butler: Humanities and history library; its reading rooms are open 24/7 and the place resembles a refugee camp during finals.
Wien Hall: Most maligned dorm at Columbia, home to roughly 300 juniors and sophomores, mainly consisting of singles that vaguely resemble prison cells (linoleum floors and sinks). An enduring campus myth states that the building housed inmates from the Bloomingdale Lunatic Asylum, which existed on the sight of present-day Columbia until the 1890s.
No-Doz: Name-brand caffeine pills available in most campus vending machines.

Friday, November 28, 2008


It's that time of year again, and I've been thinking how fortunate I am.

When I was a junior in high school, I heard a freshman complaining that his cell phone was not connecting to his computer. I told him I was having the same problem, and asked if he knew what I could do. He asked to see my phone, and when he saw that it was the one that came free with my wireless plan, he realized that I was making fun of him. And stopped paying attention to me.

A few weeks later, I went on a trip to Mexico to build a house. My group was lucky, and one of the parents who came with us was a contractor, so he took charge and helped us get the job done right. He was also very enthusiastic, and loved to go above beyond the original plan. Naturally that required the rest of us to work more, but we were usually okay with that. When the house was almost finished, he told the family living in it that we had enough wood and sheet rock to put an extra wall in the bedroom, so the kids could have a separate room from their parents, the kids were ecstatic. When he saw how much they liked the idea, he offered them another wall so they could each have their own room. This, on top of the fact that each member of the family had an electrical outlet was a miracle for them.

The whole experience really gave me some perspective. I made fun of the kid at school for complaining that his high tech cell phone didn't work well enough, but I know that I complain about trivial matters all the time. (See all previous posts). No matter how good my life gets, I will probably never stop complaining, but I do realize how fortunate I am for all that I have, and I am very grateful.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I went out drinking with a bunch of friends on Saturday night. As we left the bar, the one couple in the group said that we should go dancing. I was tired, and didn’t feel like going dancing. As it turned out, everybody else was also tired. We told them that, but they began to insist. They gave us the usual “it’ll be fun,” “stop being lame,” but we explained that none of us felt like dancing. Eventually, we split off from them, and discussed how strange that interaction was. They were probably going to end up making out, judging by the fact that that was how the previous few evenings had ended for them. That wasn’t scaring us away; if I had wanted to go dancing, I would have gone, and not cared about what they were doing. What seemed strange was that they would want company.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this. On more than one occasion, I’ve knocked on a door, evidently interrupted something, and then been invited into the room. I just want to get out of an awkward situation. Please don’t make it any more awkward. I don’t know if that’s some sort of revenge, but I really don’t think I deserve it.

I don’t really care about public displays of affection. Make out wherever you want, and I’ll just look straight ahead as I walk by. All I ask is that you don’t ask me to sit and watch. Why do people do this?

And now for something completely different:
Today's xkcd is one of the best I've ever seen. I'd recommend checking it out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mystery Film

Back when "Dirty Ears Gae" was my only flat mate, I had some friends over, and we were talking with him. He told us he had to leave to see a movie. I asked him which one. He said it was the one with Brad Pitt. I didn't know what movie Brad Pitt was in at the time. Gaetano was shocked that I had not heard of this famous film. He repeated several times "il film con Brad Pitt," as if this would help.
The next day, I asked him what the film was called. He informed me that it was Burn After Reading. I said "oh." He repeated "Oooooh!" in a mocking tone and laughed at me. I wanted to say "You condescending pezzo di merda, you're the one who was going to the movie without knowing the title. Where do you get off making fun of me?" but my Italian wasn't very good, so I decided to let it go.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Downside of that Job

I was walking with Long Island, and we passed two women of the night. Long Island looked at them and said to me "I could never do that." I understood. It's sad that some people can only make money by selling their bodies on the street, and I'm sure it's very difficult for them. She continued, "It can't be more than 60 degrees out, and look at how short their skirts are." I was about to explain that they probably had other things on their minds, but I decided that it wasn't worth the trouble. Instead, I told her about the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Indonesia.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Living Situation

I have four Italian flat mates. Three of them are awesome. I really enjoy living with them. When I arrived here, two of them were on vacation, and my roommate had yet to move in, so I only had one flat mate. I tried so hard to be friends with him that I didn't pay any attention to his flaws. It took me two weeks to realize how obnoxious he is. When I say something wrong in Italian, he repeats it for several days in an American accent, and asks me to repeat it to other people. He speaks fast to me in dialects I don't understand. He gives me shit for not getting enough action with Italian girls, and talks about it as if I have personally wronged him. I think this is some form of nationalism in which he always feels the need to prove that Italians are better than Americans. His name is Gaetano, but my American friends and I refer to him as "Dirty Ears Gae," which is a loose translation of his last name, Capobianco.

It was hard to get used to living with other people, because they insisted on conversing with me. I wanted to tell them "My Italian isn't that good. Perhaps it would be easier if you just gave me the death-stare for hours at a time, like Gaetano."

My roommate and I are both new here, but Gaetano has made absolutely no effort whatsoever to make us feel welcome. When I first met him, I told him I would be willing to introduce him to American girls if he would introduce me to Italian girls. He explained that he didn't need my help, and I wasn't going to get any help from him, and proceeded to never invite me out anywhere. Instead of trying to make us feel welcome, it seems like he has been doing everything in his power, short of showing us, to demonstrate that he is better endowed than the rest of us. I feel that that is the best definition I can come up with for a slew of words I don't feel like writing here.

I try to ignore him, and I'm usually fairly successful. The way I see it, he is a child, and I don't give any weight to what children say to me. This isn't arbitrary; he really acts like a baby. I was making matzo balls a few weeks ago, and he looked at them and said "Ma che schiffo!" (These are gross!). I learned when I was about four years old not to yuck somebody else's yum. Evidently, he has not learned that. Moreover, when he enters a room and sees me doing anything he'll yell "NO!" in an effort to make me flinch. He is literally the first person to try to make me flinch since I was in elementary school. I find it hard to care what he thinks about me.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I shaved my mustache today. My reflection doesn't look right. My philtrum is way too big. I look like I'm 12 years old. My Italian isn't as fluent as it used to be. I will grow a beard again, and once again, have a mustache. Ski season is fast approaching, and I've noticed that skiing is much more fun with a beard than it is with frostbite.

There was a saying in ancient Greece,
"There are two kinds of people in this world that go around beardless — boys and women — and I am neither one."

George Bernard Shaw once said,
"I shall never shave, for the same reason that I started a beard, and for the reason my father started his. I remember standing at his side, when I was five, while he was shaving for the last time. "Father," I asked, 'Why do you shave?' He stood there for a full minute and finally looked down at me. 'Why the hell do I?' he said."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An e-mail I received from an actor who was forty-five minutes late to rehearsal.

Jeremy [redacted]
to me

3:06 PM (3 hours ago)

No phone are u in the black box ?

Sent from my iPhone.

It’s not my fault that you care what happens in my country or that you speak my language.

I recently noticed an interesting facebook status.

"Mi chiedo: ma quando hanno votato gli italiani, quanti americani se ne sono fottuti se avesse vinto Berlusconi o Veltroni?"

"I wonder: when the Italians voted, how many Americans [cared] whether Berlusconi or Veltroni won?"

Presumably an American reading this was meant to feel guilty or something like that. When I read it, I thought about the day I met this person. The first thing he asked me was which candidate I preferred in the election. As I recall, he had a very strong opinion in the matter.

I generally don't follow the elections of other countries, and if somebody chooses not to follow the elections in my country, that's fine. The fact is, though, that they do choose to follow our elections, and somebody who told me to get out of his (my) house for not voting for McCain has no right to complain that people in his country care about the elections in mine.

I feel the same way about English. If you don't want to learn our language, don't. Just don't ask my why everyone else wants to learn it. Somebody asked me why the whole world "has to" speak English, and not Italian. I told him it wasn't my decision. Evidently, my decision was to learn Italian, so I'm not the person to whom he should be complaining.

I should have told him that if the Italians expect the whole world to speak their language, it would be helpful if, as a sign of good faith, the whole country learned it first. The nice thing about English is that somebody from any part of the United States can have a conversation with anybody from England, Australia, Jamaica, etc. This country has so many dialects that the Italians have trouble conversing with people from 10 miles away.

Note: The picture with this post is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a complete list of Italian dialects. These are just the more commonly spoken ones.

Friday, November 7, 2008


As long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a film major. Anybody who's known me for more than five minutes knows that I'm obsessed with film. I've nearly memorized a few movies. A few years ago, I got tired of people saying "Oh my god! How have you not seen [whichever movie happens to be the topic of conversation]?" so instead of explaining that I was way too young to have seen every movie ever made, I decided to make a list of every worthwhile movie I haven't seen, and then see them all. There are currently 119 movies on the list, but I seem to be adding them faster than I'm crossing them off.

Freshman year of college, I decided to major in economics. I was a little bit apprehensive, because I knew that it takes brass balls to major in economics, but I came to the conclusion that being an econ major would not keep me out of the film industry if I choose to take that route, whereas being a film major might be an obstacle if I want to go into the finance industry (which still existed when I was a freshman).

Recently, I restated my assumptions, and decided to start telling people that I'm a film major. People seem to have a much easier time understanding me, when I tell them that. More importantly, I believe that anyone who asks me what my major is wants to start a conversation, and I think film is a much more interesting topic of conversation than the economy (crisis or not) and one about which I am much more qualified to converse. As far as I can tell, this particular lie happens to be more honest than the truth itself.

One of my friends doesn't understand the concept of me lying about my major. Every time he hears me tell somebody that I'm a film major, he says "No you're not. You're an economics major." I've explained to him exactly why I decided to lie about this, but he's still baffled by it. This is why I can't lie; some idiot who knows the truth is always going to be there to call me out on it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I try not to write about politics on this blog. I have several reasons for this. If I had any readers, I have a hard time believing that they would have taken my opinions into account at all while voting. Also, I think that there is already more than enough political commentary on the blogosphere. Most importantly, Randall Munroe does not write about politics, and he is one of my heroes. That being said, I've decided that I can let politics slip into my posts when it involves my personal life, which is one of my main focuses (foci?) on this blog.

I am very bad at lying. I'm pretty good at keeping secrets, but when somebody asks me a question, the first thing that comes to mind is always the true answer, and I begin to fear that if I hesitate to think of a lie, it will be very obvious.

Thus, as much as I would like to tell people that I voted for Obama, I find myself unable to do so. My state was won by a margin of 2,431,940 votes. Knowing that something like this would happen, I decided that to vote for Obama or McCain would be throwing away my vote, and the most effective use of my vote would be for a third party candidate. Thus, as I predicted, my vote (or lack thereof, as you naysayers may call it) had absolutely no effect on the Electoral College but did have an effect on the number of votes my candidate received. If I lived in a swing state, I would have voted for Obama, but until we abolish the Electoral College, I want to take as much advantage of it as I can.

I feel confident explaining this thought process to Americans who are familiar with the Electoral College, but it becomes difficult with Europeans. People keep asking me if I voted for Obama, and I really do want to say yes, but most of the time, I can't.

A TV news crew came into one of my classes yesterday to ask the Americans about our views on the election. They asked if anybody in the class voted for McCain, and when nobody raised their hand, they assumed that we all voted for Obama. They then asked me why I voted for Obama, and I froze for a second before giving them an answer. Perhaps this would have been a good opportunity to explain the concept of third parties. I don't know if my Italian is good enough yet, but it could have made for good TV.

An hour later, some Dutch girls asked me if I watched the election, and asked me for whom I voted "let's hope you voted for Obama," They said. That would have been a very good cue for me to give the easy answer, but instead I found myself jumping into a boring conversation about why I voted for somebody they've never heard of despite the fact that my candidate had no chance of winning the election.

Maybe I should start telling people that I voted for Obama. It would save a lot of time. My fear is that when I hesitate, they'll assume I'm lying, and that I voted for McCain, and then they won't want to keep talking to me. Also, I don't want to have that conversation with my roommates who support Forza Italia and the Republican Party. More importantly, experience tells me that somebody who knows that I'm lying is going to be there and call me on it. In this case, is honesty the best policy?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What I saw last night.

I didn't have a camera, so you're going to have to take my word for it.

We paraded through Harlem last night. There were drum circles in front of the Apollo. Bus drivers stopped and opened their doors in the middle of the streets to let people hop on and celebrate. You heard police sirens and spontaneous screams and cheers, and saw hugs everywhere between everyone. You could still hear it outside for hours. We watched Obama accept the Presidency on a JumboTron in a plaza on 125th St; people cried, smiled, and posed for pictures. I saw a guy in a newsvan, shouting into a cell phone: "...too many of them!" Meanwhile, the cameraman just stood there looking amazed, his lens cap still on. People hanging out the windows of cars driving by banged pots and pans while others leaned out of third- and fourth-floor windows, shouting O-ba-ma, Yes-We-Can, or U-S-A where the crowd below cheerfully picked up the chant. Police starting herding traffic off the streets onto the sidewalks, and I saw one cop give a high-five to an enthusiastic passer-by. Everyone gave kisses so hard they hurt and hugs that were less hugs and more collapses from joy.

It was not the sort of thing I ever expected to see in my lifetime, in this country. A little more than 12 hours later, and it hardly feels real at all anymore.


I went to the public library last night to watch the election coverage on CNN. It was filled with Americans, Italians, and many people from all over the world, most of whom were drunk. The local media was there interviewing Americans about our views on the election. The volume was very low on the TVs, and people were talking, so it was impossible to tell whether we were watching the coverage in English or Italian. The library stayed open all night, but I left at around 1:00 am (7:00 pm EST). I'm sure some people stayed until 5:00 am (9:00 PST), but I was tired and content to read the results when I woke up 3 hours after the polls closed. When I left the library, it looked a lot like Thomas E. Dewey would be our next president, but apparently Barack Obama won. I'm looking forward to four or eight years with him as our president.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's a Small World

There is a political science professor at my school who banned a certain word in his classroom that starts with “g” and ends with “obalization.” I won’t hint as to what letters might be in the middle. His view is that too many people use the word without actually knowing what it means. Not knowing what it means, myself, I won’t use it.

Yesterday, I had a phone call with friends of mine in the United States, Argentina and Scotland. Meanwhile, I received an email from my advisor in the United States, regarding the classes I will take when I return there next semester. He also told me to send his regards to my professor in Italy.

Do we still have oceans?

P.S. If you’re a U.S. citizen of at least 18 years, who hasn’t been convicted of any felonies, I have an idea for a fun activity you can do today: vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Drinking Problem

While we were walking around the city last night, a man asked my friends and me for money. I was about to give him some change, when I noticed that he was carrying a bottle of limoncello. For those of you who don’t know, limoncello is liquor made from lemon peel, and is probably the sweetest type of alcohol I have ever tasted. On this basis, I refused to give the man any money. A real alcoholic at least drinks whiskey. In Italy, every supermarket sells 95% grain alcohol, which is cheaper than limoncello and probably tastes better. What kind of pathetic excuse for an alcoholic drinks limoncello? I tried to imagine what was going on in this man’s head: “I can’t remember the last time I went whole day without a Smirnoff Ice.” “Some days, I can’t get up in the morning without my Bacardi Breezer.” “I’m starting to think my only friend is Mike. I need some more hard lemonade.”

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I went to Torino, with my group of Americans, for Halloween. In regards to my earlier post, my friend did not end up rooming with the kid who hates him, and everything worked out fine.

I was the only person in my group who dressed up. I was Borat. I decided to wear comfortable sneakers instead of leather shoes, because I knew I would be walking around a strange city for many hours. One person complained that my shoes did not work with the costume. Another person complained that I was too tall to be Borat. They were already the only two people in the group whom I don't like, so I didn't care what they said. We went to a club that night, and I thought I heard some people saying "Borat". It was the first time anyone has ever gotten one of my Halloween costumes, (my past costumes include Alec from A Clockwork Orange, Crazy 88 from Kill Bill, Eurtrash, and Mark Whalberg from the end of The Departed) so I was very excited. I turned in their direction, but nobody was looking at me. I gave them a double thumbs-up anyway, and went back to dancing with my friends. Suddenly, I heard people cheering "Borat!" over and over again. I didn't know what they wanted from me. Somebody told me they wanted me to go dance with them, so I did. They formed a circle around me (all guys), and I danced for a minute, having no idea what was going on, and then went back to my group. Apparently, a minute was not enough for these people. They could not get enough of Borat, and continued cheering that name for most of the night. I still don't know what those people wanted. I would have been bummed out by the whole experience, but I just kept thinking about how awesome my mustache is, and that kept me happy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Can't Wait

Tomorrow is Halloween. For different people that means different things. For some people, it means free candy, for others, it means partying all night long, and for many it means an affront to Christianity everywhere. For me, Halloween this year means that I get to have a mustache. I have a van dyke right now, and I'm growing very tired of it. Tomorrow morning, I am shaving everything from my mouth to my neck, and dressing as Borat (despite the fact that I am offended by his inaccurate portrayal of mustachioed men).

This will be my second mustache. My first was in April, when I shaved a beard I had been growing since "No Shave November." This time, I only have two months of growth instead of six, so it will be slightly less glorious, but I'm still going to love it. It's very difficult to describe the feeling of having a mustache, but it's a very good, and slightly empowering feeling. This video describes it better than I can. I'd say everything in it is true.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Strong Island

One of my good American friends in Italy is from Long Island. She's very sweet, and I enjoy hanging out with her, and I don't like to be called culturally insensitive, but sometimes it's hard to withhold judgment. A few of us went to meet a cousin of mine who lives in Milan. I had never met him before, so I was very excited. He turned out to be very cool and a great host. At dinner, he pulled out his phone/PDA/camera/dealy and showed us a picture of himself from when he was in the military. Long Island looked at it and said "Ooh! Ray Bans!" We all stared at her, and I said "actually that's an M16." She insisted "No, he's wearing Ray Bans." I thought about explaining that she was missing the point, but eventually gave up. We come from two very different cultures, and I don't know if I'll ever understand hers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I am a horrible friend

I am spending a semester in Italy with a group of 30 Americans. I really like 28 of them. (Perhaps I should say 27, so as not to include myself). The guy and girl who I don't like, nobody else likes either. That isn't a cue to feel sorry for them. They aren't the nerds we've all decided to pick on. We all tried to be friends with them, and each individually decided that they are obnoxious, and not worth our time. Most of the group is going on an overnight trip to Turin this weekend. We have to decide with whom we want to share a room for a night. I haven't asked the powers that be, but I think they expect us to share rooms with people of the same gender. Of the seven guys in the group, one is going to Amsterdam. Three of us had class together on the day that the rooming signup sheet appeared. One of them asked me if I wanted to room with him, and I said "yes." The other one, a few minutes later, told me I was rooming with him. I wasn't sure if this was a question or not, so I apologized, and told him I already had a roommate. He explained that we were living in a triple. That leaves three guys unaccounted for. After a minute, I realized the implication of this: A good friend of ours was going to be left in a room with the obnoxious one. Moreover, the jerk hates this friend of ours a lot, complained about him ceaselessly in the beginning of the semester, and has talked about how much he would like to beat him up (he is physically capable, but as far as we know, he probably would not.) I couldn't help but laugh. I told everyone why I was laughing, and they started also. One of them said "You know what this means? Cage match!" Then, I remembered that there would be a sixth guy on the trip, and maybe they would also end up in a triple. He is pretty neutral regarding any conflicts within our group. He doesn't seem to hate anybody, and certainly nobody hates him. I'm not sure if he even knows about the animosity between his roommates (he joined the group somewhat late, and they've been able to avoid each other pretty well for a while). He speaks very loudly, very colorfully, and with a Brazilian accent. The story just became funnier when we realized that whatever does happen in that room will be recounted to us by him. In conclusion, I was going to phrase the title of this entry as a question, but upon reflection, there is very little doubt.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I am a stupid American

When I was about 14, I saw a Paul Frank T shirt that said in Japanese "I am a stupid American." I laughed out loud, and wanted to buy it, but alas, it only came in small. I told my Japanese teacher about it, and she also loved the idea. She offered to pay me back if I bought it for her, but I couldn't find it anywhere anymore. (Side note: I found a different shirt that says the same thing.)

Fortunately, I recently found such a shirt in Italian. Even better, I've been wearing it in Italy for 2 months. Little did I know that by advertising my love of Hunter S. Thompson and Flying Dog Beer, I was wearing a shirt that said "IDIOT" and nothing else, in large capital letters on the front. Nobody ever bothered to tell me that "gonzo" is also an Italian word. I'd like to give a friendly warning to any of you who are planning trips to Italy, Monaco or southern Switzerland (Have I left anything out?) in the near future: leave the Gonzo shirt at home.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Daylight Wasting Time

Today, we fall back one hour. If anyone can give me a convincing argument as to why we do this, I will give them five dollars. To clarify, I'm not against the falling back in October as much as I'm against the springing forward in April, as it causes me to lose an hour of sleep. I don't really see any possible benefit of daylight saving time that wouldn't apply to the whole year. In other words, if daylight saving time does help us, why not abolish it, and make everything start earlier, so we'll always have more sunlight in the afternoon and less in the morning? I know I'm not original in complaining about this, but if everyone complains, why do we still have it?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Binger

The Binger
(apologies to Edgar Allen Poe)

Last night, upon the Broadway dreary, I was stumbling, drunk and leery,
Seeking booze and easy women, but dorms and bars had closed their doors—
While I rested, idly crapping by some bum who had been napping,
I thought I heard a kegger happ’ning, happ’ning at the frat next door—
“Tis a sausage fest,” I muttered, gazing at the frat next door—
“Only dicks, and nothing more.”

Wand’ring on my lonely trek, I wiped my ass with nearby Spec,
And each separate party rumor brought my drunk ass to their door.
Sadly, all were out of mixers—and, with haste, so went the liquors—
So I did with a quick-fixer—fixed a NyQuil of shots four—
Ay, four shots of blue elixir—till I sputtered, “Please! No more!”
Then I woke up on the floor.

On the street, the night less younger, thereupon me came a hunger
For that yellowed, greasy slab of pizza, stuff of local lore.
So to Koronet, with haste, along the sidewalk there I raced,
Till the stinging bilious taste—waste from all those shots before—
Throat eruption, green and vile, belly drained and throat quite sore!
I then smelled Tom’s and puked some more.

Presently my head grew lighter, too weak, it seemed, for this all-nighter.
And as my liver plead in anguish that I not tax it anymore,
With my stomach, rotten, leaden, suff’ring gastric Armageddon,
And my horniness unsated, (unsated, still, for evermore),
I fell asleep and wondered whether there’d be dorm parties anymore?
Quoth the ResLife, “Nevermore.”

Physics Poem α

My school has a semiannual party for all the physics students. It's quite a rager. We all go to the observatory dome, chat with professors, and read poems that we wrote about physics. This was my first. Freshman fall, I registered for a modern physics course, having no idea what I was getting myself into. I'd like to think that this poem describes the madness that ensued.

Newton was the physicist
Who wrote down the entire list
Of laws that govern we.

If once at rest
You'll stay unless
A force applies to thee.

Such force dictates
Inverse to mass. You see?

The force on you
Is equal to
The backwards one on me.

But these three rules
Just govern fools
Said Einstein once, with glee.

He ruined all of our good fun
And set to write step number one
Far from the apple tree.

"Half m v squared is hardly E.
It's gamma m times square of c.
Don't get me started on P."

Said Albert, then.
And who knows when
We'll understand his lunacy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pan and Scan

I was recently at a bookstore looking at DVDs (Why do we go to bookstores to buy DVDs? I don’t care.) I overheard a woman ask a salesman about the difference between widescreen and standard. When he explained, she said “so, this one [standard] will give me a bigger image, right?” The salesman said “yes” and she bought the DVD. I wanted to scream “No! That one will cut off the left and right sides of the screen! Buy widescreen. Yes, you’ll see a slightly smaller image, but you’ll be able to watch the whole movie as the director intended. With standard, also known as ‘pan and scan,’ you’ll only see the 75% that some high school dropout thinks you deserve to see.” There should be warning labels on pan and scan movies, bigger than the ones on cigarettes, explaining that the DVD does not contain the actual film advertised on the case.

With the increasing popularity of widescreen TVs, maybe pan and scan DVDs will eventually cease to exist. Unfortunately, it’s a huge pain to get the aspect ratio right on those TVs. With 4:3 TVs, it was easy to put a movie in and immediately watch it in the proper aspect ratio. On my parents HDTV, every time I want to watch a movie, I have to go through every setting on the TV at least twice to make sure everything looks right. Too often, I’ll lose half of somebody’s face, Mary Kate Olsen will look fat, or John Goodman will look anorexic. We’re going through a period of transition right now, and I can’t wait until this all gets figured out and the TV will know how to show movies correctly again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Few things bother me more than people walking slowly in front of me. When a sidewalk is wide enough for four people, that doesn't mean that you and three of your idiot friends can take up the whole thing and act like you don't know the meaning of the word hurry. Some people have places to be, and don't enjoy having to dart around twenty of you every minute. If you plan on walking slowly, please try to stay to the right.

What's even worse is when these people at the beach take up the whole bike path. I propose that there should be a walking path next to the bike path. What's more, I propose that in order to prevent bikers and rollerbladers from riding on the walking path, it should be covered in some sort of material that slows down wheeled vehicles. Perhaps, the walking path should be made of sand. We should have top men working right now on a wheel resistant walking path next to the bike path at the beach.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Fire Safety" - An Oxymoron?

I was caught remaining in my dorm during a fire alarm, and my punishment was to write an essay on fire safety. Here it is.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-Robert Frost

It is important to know and obey fire safety rules. These rules are put in place for our protection. Those who fail to observe them endanger their lives and the lives of others. Much like the Terminator, "[fire] is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!"

Unfortunately, fighting fire is not always the best modus operandi. Depending on what fuels the fire, water can exacerbate the situation. Sometimes, even fire extinguishers fail to put out a flame. Sometimes extinguishing a fire can cause even worse problems. Bromochlorodifluoromethane is one of the most effective fire retardants known to man, but also causes untold damage to the ozone layer. So, in some cases we will be faced with the dilemma of saving a building or saving the planet. When Billy Joel claims "We didn't start the fire. No we didn't light it, but we tried to fight it," perhaps, instead of eschewing blame for starting said fire, he should elaborate on the measures he used to fight it. I certainly hope that he didn't try to fight it with bromochlorodifluoromethane. Forest fires can be a necessary event in nature. If forests are not allowed to burn occasionally, brush will accumulate, and entire forests can be lost to uncontrollable conflagrations. Following the advice of Smokey the bear, mankind almost brought about the extinction of Sequoias, a tree that can only reproduce in the presence of fire. Thus, sometimes, the best course of action is evacuating a fire, rather than extinguishing it.

Yet, we cannot let the fire win. As General Patton said, "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." So too is the case with fire. We cannot let the enviornmental dangers of fire fighting discourage us. We must not sacrifice ourselves to the flame, even if it might benefit the planet. We must continue to fight the good fight. Instead of extinguishing fires with synthetic chemicals, which can have consequences even more devastating than the fires themselves, we must prevent them. As the adage goes "A gram of prevention is worth an eighth of cure." We must fight the fires before they start. We can do this by not using extension chords and not smoking indoors. We must not stop until fire ceases to exist.

Fire is dangerous, and should never have been introduced to earth. It was not the will of the gods, and Prometheus deserved what came to him for bringing this evil upon us. In conclusion, there is no such thing as fire safety. The only safe fire is one that's already out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

World's Worst Intersection

This is the height of Italian engineering, from those wonderful folks who brought you the FIAT. If you can find a worse intersection, I'd like to see it.
While it may not be immediately obvious what is going on in this picture, there is an intersection that leads people into the middle of the street. In my town we call that rude, and it's a good way to get kicked out of the Boy Scouts.
Perhaps this is an elaborate prank, and I'm on a hidden camera show in Italy

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ballad of the Desperate Procrastinator

I wonder if the internet
Will offer something new.
I haven’t seen it in five minutes.
Ten since I’ve seen you.

We talk for hours, though we know
We’ve heard it all before.
And when I next should study math,
I’ll hear it all once more.

Priorities have never been
A forte of yours or mine.
I’ve always been eluded by
The management of time.

Ironically, we talk about
The work that must be done.
You ask me how much I have started.
I reply with “none.”

Vodka, vodka, every where,
That would taste good I think;
Vodka, vodka, every where,
Nor any time to drink.

We sat down here at nine p.m.
And now it’s half past two.
I’d love to stay and chat with you,
But I’ve so much to do.

My bastard teacher only gave
A week to do this work.
I now must stay up all night long
Because he’s such a jerk.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I’m in Italy with a bunch of American college students. One day, eight of us made plans to go to the beach together. Due to a communication breakdown, three of us got on one bus, while the rest got on another. We agreed that going to some strange beach by ourselves would be an adventure. I went so far as to make a joke about the movie Hostel. We laughed because we didn’t know. Within five minutes, a man walked onto the bus and sat behind us. He weighed in at about 250 pounds, was wearing about 50 cents worth of clothing, and had a few tattoos, some of which had been blacked out. He heard us speaking English and asked us “are you yanks?” We said yes. He then sat down across the aisle from us, next to a somewhat miffed Italian girl who got off at the next stop. As it turns out, this was a Scotsman. He was so happy to hear English, because he does not speak Italian. We heard the better part of this man’s life story. He has been in Italy since 1999. As far as we could tell, he had not shaved, showered, gotten a haircut, or brushed his teeth since he got here. In fact, it seemed as if it had been that long since he had found another English speaker. He talked for a while about film. One of my friends later said that he thought I was going to “film buff it up with him.” I explained to him that despite being a bit nuts myself, I have enough discretion to know when not to get too involved in a conversation with someone who is clearly out of his mind. The closest I got to actually conversing with him was to say that I too liked Se7en. Our tastes in movies did not overlap very much. By chance, there were a few good movies that he liked, but his preferences seemed to have less to do with quality than genre. He loves movies about serial killers and movies about jail. His favorite movie is Saw 3. I spent a while wondering if there were any chance he was not homeless. Eventually, he explained that he was a homeless hippy who sells watches. It was around then when I noticed that he was wearing two of them, one on each wrist, and would periodically look at both of them to check the time, but I don’t know where he was in such a hurry to be. In addition to movies, he talked about politics. He asked why so many people hate George W. Bush, and when we offered a reason, told us he had not heard of any war in Iraq. He said that he prefers McCain, another Scotsman, to Obama, a “half caste”. He also told us his views on Italians. He complained that the Italians don’t understand English well enough for him. He told us that a guy would have a better chance of having sex with Winona Horowitz (Ryder) (the hottest girl after Sandra Bullock and Halle Berry, another half caste) than with an Italian girl. He also used the word “wop” (not actually accurate in Italy) a lot more than one probably should when in Italy. Then, he told us about his views on blowjobs. Apparently, black and Jewish girls give the best ones, and could teach classes on the subject. Eventually, as all good things must, the bus ride came to an end. We said goodbye to him, were careful not to shake hands with him, and went on our way to the part of the beach that he told us he didn’t like.
We talked for a few minutes about how ridiculous that was, and then we saw him, walking along the beach in our general direction, trying to bum a cigarette. Like ostriches hiding from a predator, we all instantly lay face down, in hopes that he wouldn’t recognize us. Naturally, he did. He sat down in the sand near us, and started talking some more. We noticed that one of his watches was gone (probably sold), but he still looked at both wrists to check the time. He warned us about the gypsy sitting 100 meters away, and told us she would try to rob us like she had tried to rob him. He didn’t want something like that to happen to three good looking boys like ourselves. The time frame of this alleged attempted robbery was unclear, considering that he had certainly not walked past her since we got off the bus. He talked some more about politics, telling us that when Obama wins the election, (a certainty), the Jews will assassinate him because he is Muslim, just like the Jews assassinated Kennedy. We were quiet, and tried to let the conversation die, but this man hadn’t talked since 1999, and had quite a lot to say. He had a lot of stories about getting in arguments with Italian police and yelling at them in English. Apparently, the police were naïve enough to believe 20 witnesses over a creepy Scotsman when he was accused of starting fights. He believes Italy is too lenient on murderers because they only get ten years in jail, and Italian jails are like hotels with TVs. He thinks that the death penalty in the US is too harsh, but 30 years would be just right. We decided not to ask how he knows what happens to murderers in Italy and what Italian jails are like. Eventually, he put his bag down and asked us to watch his stuff while he went to ask for a fag. We told him that we were leaving soon, and would not be there to watch his stuff. He said that was okay, and he just wanted to be sure that nobody stole his stuff. We spent about ten minutes explaining to him that we would not be there to make sure of anything, and the gypsy would probably steal his stuff while we were gone. Finally, he took a hint, and took his stuff with him. We quickly got up and power walked to another part of the beach to wait for the bus. We agreed that we would use the safe word “cosa facciamo” (what are we doing) if one of us saw him coming our direction, and the contingency plan would be to stick together. Eventually, we saw a bus come to the stop 20 minutes earlier than we had expected. I went to ask the driver if he was going to our stop and when. He said “si” (yes) and “adesso” (now). I asked him if I had two minutes, and he told me to hurry. I ran back as fast as my sandals would carry me, apologized to some Italians for accidentally kicking sand in their faces, yelled “COSA FACCIAMO,” and told the guys we had to haul ass to get on the bus. If we missed it, we would have had to wait an hour for the next one, during which time our friend would probably have returned.
The whole time we’ve been in Italy, we (and, to a much greater extent, the girls) had been watching out for creepy Italian guys wearing banana hammocks. We never expected to have a run-in like this with a Scotsman. For me, one of the most intriguing things he said was that he has a sister who goes to UCLA. I tried to imagine any of the girls I know at UCLA having a brother who travels around Italy, not speaking the language, selling watches on the street and hitting on young boys. I tried to think of a way I could get his sister’s name without giving him mine, but eventually decided to give up on that.
Once we got on the bus and had time to calm down, we did the math and realized that he had been in Italy for ten years. That’s a long time to live in a country he doesn’t like with a language he doesn’t speak. Thus, there must have been something very important detaining him in Italy. If only we could think of something that would keep a man in one place for ten years against his will. I suppose we’ll never know. I don’t think anybody knows.

The following evening, two of us, still shocked, were walking to dinner with a couple girls we know. We were passing a food cart when my friend whispered to me “Look at the cart! Cosa Facciamo!” I turned and saw that the Scotsman was standing less than ten meters away from us. Without talking anymore, the two of us bolted. We hid behind the next building and waited for the girls to catch up with us. They were baffled by what we did, but we explained whom we saw. Having already heard the story, they didn’t need much explanation. Having my camera with me, I decided that we needed a picture of this man. Neither of us who had met the Scotsman were willing to encounter him again and risk him recognizing us. I asked the girls if they were willing to go back and take a picture. I explained that they were under no obligation and it might not be a good idea. They, however, were more than willing to do this. It was dark, and without my glasses I couldn’t see very far. My friend looked at the girls periodically and told me what was happening. They got the picture, then made friends with the guys working at the cart, and hung out with them behind the counter. After a while they came back with some great pictures.
See if you can guess which one of these men nearly gave me a heart attack.

The Launching of Blog 49

I don't really know how to start a blog. I've always been opposed to the idea of bloggers. I've been getting positive feedback on things that I've written recently, so I decided to put them online to see what the blogosphere thinks of my work. This blog doesn't really have a theme, so I'd be surprised if it gets popular. I'm majoring in economics, and was hoping to get a job in investment banking after college, but that might not be an option by the time I graduate, so I'll have to see if my writing is good enough to get me anywhere.