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Remember five years ago, when the most popular television comedy characters on Saturday Night Live were Bill Hader as Stefon and Kristen Wiig as Gilly? Seth Meyers would introduce Stefon, who would recommend absurd places to go during the weekend, leading the two to end the sketch holding back tears of laughter as Gilly obnoxiously wreaked havoc in her elementary school classroom. Today, lighthearted comedy has evolved into politically centered comedy.
This past Sunday, author and software engineer Susan Fowler published a blog post detailing a horror story of sexual harassment and corporate failure at Uber, the massive ridesharing company. Fowler, who now works at the payment processing company Stripe, had worked for a year as a site-reliability engineer at Uber. A cursory look at her personal website quickly reveals that she’s — to use the industry buzzword — a “rockstar.”
According to statistics from the Department of Defense, fewer than 0.5 percent of Americans serve in the armed forces while less than seven percent of the population have ever served in the military. Of the country’s veteran population, approximately half are over the age of 60. More elected officials in the United States have never served before than at any prior time in our history while the shrinking pool of families that shoulder the burden of armed service are disproportionately generational fighters hailing from middle- and working-class backgrounds.
We all know “The Most Frustrating Man Alive.” He’s the friend who’s social to a fault, can’t concentrate on a single goal without remembering thousands of other things that he has to do and — most dastardly of all — feels the need to talk to you about all of it. One night, my Most Frustrating Man Alive and I were having the same conversation that our interactions always devolve into: a lighthearted argument about whose approach to living at Dartmouth was better, mine or his.
To my friends on the right:
Vice President Mike Pence was apparently among the last people to learn that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had lied to him about his contacts with Russian operatives. Pence read about Flynn’s deceptions while reading the newspaper. “That’s comforting: at least our next president reads the newspaper,” Seth Meyers quipped.
In a 1963 interview with Life magazine, the newly widowed Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy reflected on her husband’s days in the White House. “At night before we’d go to sleep, Jack liked to play some records; and the song he loved the most came at the end of this record.” The record she referred to was the soundtrack of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s broadway musical, Camelot.
If lies, untruths, falsehoods, mischaracterizations and alternative facts were removed from a transcript of everything Kellyanne Conway has said since President Donald Trump assumed office, all that remained would be a picture book-length collection of her saying “good morning” to Sunday talk-show hosts. And even that might be rated less-than-true by the legions of fact-checkers this administration has put to work, because few mornings have been good to the young Trump White House. If the narrative driving the day’s news cycle isn’t the administration and erstwhile campaign’s connections to Russia, it’s Conway’s ethics conflicts stemming from her on-air commercial for Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. If the scandal du jour isn’t a botched executive order that is most likely unconstitutional, it’s a shutdown of national parks’ Twitter accounts over an obsessive insistence on the size of the crowd at the inauguration. Critics of the administration have labeled it evil, but even that gives Trump’s team too much credit. America is not being led by a savvy comic-book villain; the highest levels of our government are a clown car with nobody at the wheel.
Following Adele’s Grammy win for Album of the Year this past weekend, my Facebook feed has been filled with long rants and links to pop culture websites about why Beyoncé should have won instead of Adele. Whether I prefer Adele or Beyoncé is irrelevant; it neither influences who I think should be the Grammy winner, nor is my opinion influenced by the results of the Grammy Awards. By overvaluing the opinion of large-scale, corporate institutions that support the arts, we come to have a narrow understanding of what the arts are and lose the chance to form more complex ideas about the arts through our peers and ourselves.
My grandfather, known in our family as Pop-pop, left today after a two-week visit. Every year, he makes a pilgrimage to this part of the family in California, where he soaks in rays of sun that leave his pale skin riddled with basal cell carcinomas. Around twice a year he has these blemishes wiped off his body with blasts of liquid nitrogen. What is left are white scars the color of the moon.
In 1969, a famous sequoia tree’s extended life came to an end. The Wawona Tree in Yosemite National Park had been tunneled out so that cars and people could go through it. Even though sequoias are so massive and robust that boring a tunnel through their trunks is possible without killing them, the tunnels are damaging to the trees and only benefit park publicity. When the Wawona Tree was toppled by a storm, its lifespan was recorded to be “around 2,100 years.”
As anyone close to me knows, I love talking politics.
Cartoon of the day: Donald Trump's lunch of national security — featuring Vladimir Putin.
My mom vividly remembers the protests of 1989. She remembers the energy of the crowd as they chanted for the end of the communist government, young men and women like her yearning for a change, the glint of red, yellow and blue as protesters waved the Romanian flag with pride and the feeling of unity and belonging as she stood there in a crowd of thousands standing strong against a common enemy.
Boy Scouts didn’t teach me much. I remember one “fire safety” talk when my friends and I took turns using lighters to try to set each other on fire. Oh, and we condemned what we saw as the organization’s homophobia, transphobia and ingrained misogyny. But, from all the things that I was supposed to learn but made a joke of on my path to becoming an Eagle Scout, the organization’s slogan will always resonate with me: do a good turn daily.
Donald Trump is now the 45th president of the United States, inaugurated amidst considerable controversy and resistance. As the first 100 days of his presidency progress, I will personally continue to follow fervently and break down each of his decisions. To begin with, let’s discuss trade.
Like most Americans, I consider any question about seceding from the Union forever settled at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865. In my mind, the Civil War sanctified the United States as an indestructible union, one nation bound by the principles set by the Founding Fathers long ago. The fact that so many American lives were lost in the name of this ideal is a humbling one and is to this day a reminder of what we stand to lose should our Union ever be so questioned again.
This past weekend, students at the University of California, Berkeley protested “alt-right” journalist Milo Yiannopoulos’ planned talk. What began as peaceful demonstrations quickly became violent protests. A group of people — who may have been students — set fire to buildings, allegedly attacked Yiannopoulos’ supporters and advocated far-left ideas that contradict the tenets of our democracy.
The 2016 election was unprecedented. The fact that I can say “Donald Trump is the President of the United States” without being asked what I’ve been smoking is something that would have been nearly inconceivable four years ago — or one year ago. But the Democrats lost. They lost an election that very easily could have been theirs and are now faced with being the minority in the House, Senate, Executive Branch and soon the Supreme Court. Understandably, much Democratic soul-searching has occurred in recent months. Many feel a need to determine where the party failed during the 2016 cycle, and many different explanations have been floated. However, I believe it comes down to a relatively simple fact: the Democrats ran too many candidates who were old and, generally speaking, lacked charisma and a dynamic campaign presence.
Cartoon of the day: Sally Yates on her way out.