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Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Second Most Interesting Man in the World Comes to Trinity

I once had to give away Trinity car flags to get people to read my blog. Imagine how flattered I was when Trinity President Dennis Ahlburg suggested I write a post about Salman Rushdie, who will be speaking on campus on November 7, 2011. I have to confess, all I really know about Salman Rushdie is that he angered Islamic extremists and had to hide in England, presumably among the Muggles.

The President suggested I look up the prominent author on Wikipedia, which I was actually writing down right before he said it. I believe he sized-up my academic research capabilities and wanted to extend me a starter kit. I am a little offended, although my search quickly led me to a site called Scribol and a post entitled Taylor Swift Looks Like a Blow-Up Doll. Which I guess means the President over-estimated me.

Dos Equis has decided to speak for all of us in identifying the most interesting man in the world. He played Jai-Alai and has a pet cougar, which means most of us are two steps behind right out of the gate. So if students aren't already planning on seeing Salman Rushdie, they should consider this:. Salman Rushdie may be the second most interesting man in the world.

Let's cut to the chase. First off, he was married to -- and then divorced -- someone one Web page describes as follows:

Padma Lakshmi and Salman Rushdie have announced their impending divorce. Padma is a hot Indian actress and model. Salman is the Nobel* Prize-winning author for a controversial book. The divorce was her idea, and you can understand why she wanted to split. She is 24 years younger and a Bollywood-style celebrity who enjoys the limelight. He is a reserved author with a death threat hanging over his head which pushed them into hiding. They seem like oil and water together so this divorce was inevitable.

*Turns out he has a Booker Award and not a Nobel Prize. If you can't believe "Right Celebrity" who can you trust anymore?

Wow. Where do we begin? Google him and you find entries for Salman Rushdie's Wife. That's what we call "a lead." She is hot and 24-years-younger, and he is a Booker Prize winning author who had a fatwa declared against him. A fatwa (in this case)  is like a hit - but anyone is welcome to execute it. No pun intended. Padma was his fourth wife and she married him while he was under the fatwa. Imagine: "We just don't ever do anything. All you want to do is stay at home and live. Like, how boring." She won't be a model forever. But he will always have his Booker. He's better off.

All of this presents reason number two to go see him. HE HAD A FATWA DECLARED AGAINST HIM! He wrote a book, called the Satan Diaries (or something like that), and long story short, it was maybe blasphemous, and a guy named Ayatollah Khomeini declared our lecturer must die. Talk about a tough critic. It's sorta like the anonymous posters on my blog.

My research, incidentally, also taught me that Salman Rushdie wrote a previous book that is described this way:

Midnight's Children (1981) is in part the story of a baby who was not only the result of an extramarital affair, but who was then switched at birth with a second illicit child. The hero of the novel is doubly removed from his true patrimony: His mother's husband is not his father, and the Englishman with whom his Indian mother slept—who his mother thinks is his father—is not his real father either. In addition, the hero is caught between the two great religions of Indian, Islam and Hinduism, neither of which he can claim as his own. Finally, he spends his life being shunted back and forth by circumstance between the Indian republic and its antithesis, Pakistan.

This begs the question: Why so long for the fatwa? Anyway, it is a big deal to have a fatwa plunked on you because only the fatwa-er can rescind it, and in this case, that person is deceased so the fatwa can never be rescinded. But, apparently the fatwa has been called off in spirit, though not before people who translated the book in several languages were killed for said translations. Meanwhile, Salman Rushdie is teaching at Emory.

Still not convinced to go to the lecture? How about this. Salman Rushdie is going to have his own TV show. He has done research by watching a show called Game of Thrones for homework. And here is how he describes it:

"It was garbage, yet very addictive garbage - because there's lots of violence, all the women take their clothes off all the time, and it's kind of fun. In the end, it's well produced trash, but there's room for that too."

What frat is HE in? I think it is VERY possible that late on November 7 our speaker will end up in some dorm room watching HBO with sophomores, sipping brandy, and talking trash about Emory students.

Have I mentioned that he is a Knight? More accurately he is a Knight Bachelor, which sounds even cooler.

All that aside, Salman Rushdie is a highly-regarded author and that should be reason enough to go see him. I will go see him because for one afternoon he led me down an exhilarating Internet search path that went like this: "Is Olivia Wilde still Pretty without Make-up?" (Who is Olivia Wilde?) "Mila Kunis Sexy in South Africa." (Yawn.) "Video of game-show Uranus blooper." Bingo!

Most can only dream about ever making "the most interesting man" list. More likely, November 7 will be as close as we will ever get. Come join me. And Salman.

Treading Water

Last week the Trinitonian reported on an initiative by the Association of Student Representatives and Students Organized for Sustainability to eliminate bottled water from campus. The University Sustainability Committee supports this as well. While the story reported that this would be a long, difficult process, in the end, it is really simple. We have been here before. In the end, students will determine the outcome in their roles as consumers and they the freedom to do so.

Unless one works for a plastics manufacturer, nearly everyone supports the reduction of plastic bottles in our environment. Our University President made a statement on the issue when he arrived on campus and told offices that the University wouldn't pay to stock offices with bottled water. It gets trickier when it comes to retail sales on campus.
As we have learned with dining changes this year, people generally want the University to offer a choice. In the dining hall it has been about healthy-only choices versus a broader variety.

A few years ago the vending company that Trinity contracts with added bottled water to the machines on campus. Bottled water sales now make up the bulk of vending revenue. Likewise, the dining locations on campus do a profitable business selling water. To remove these items may drive students to energy drinks and sodas, which have their own health-related baggage. Or, students would likely buy cases of water elsewhere. Ultimately, though, soda and Monster don't come out of drinking fountains -- water does.

In trying to improve or alter the campus culture, small groups of students have pushed for change. The honor code was initiated by a small, passionate group of students. The same was true of the golf cart escort program (which was supposed to be student-run). Students also started the plastics recycling program but it was taken over by the University because there weren't enough student volunteers to maintain the program. A small group also pushed to remove Styrofoam to-go containers from campus. After an intense campaign, students continued to use the containers when given other options. Even now, while some push for a bottled-water ban, others dump trash in recycled bins because they don't have time to sort. This contamination means that the whole bin is treated as trash. The first step the student leaders in this initiative need to take is to create student-wide buy-in.

In addition, the University would likely love to extend the stance of the President on bottled water throughout campus, but that isn't risk free. Students will see this as heavy-handed and some may say that with robust water sales the University fixed something that wasn't broken. This means that those students who want to make change must own change. ASR pushed for the Sophomore College and for dining changes but when the changes became reality either flipped or remained very quiet. If ASR and SOS make a compelling case to eliminate bottled water, they need to show that the majority want this change and then take the heat when there is push-back.

In the past, students have asked for a shuttle on campus to take students to and from parties. Such a program was panned by our insurance carrier but would have been extremely expensive and difficult to manage. Besides, identifying designated drivers is free, instant, and generally safe. While I don't suggest a water boycott, the students and employees on campus can make change starting today. Stop buying bottled water. True activism doesn't wait for bureaucracy.
The University will look at retrofitting some water fountains to make it easier to get water out of the drinking fountains on campus. But it isn't as though we are asking students to pump water from a well. Tilt the bottle, wait a few seconds, and be on your way. ASR has reserves that could help fund these retrofits today. Will they support this initiative with student fee money? Will students support that?

Trinity University values direct student empowerment. The Honor Council is student-run. The Student Conduct Board has authority to speak for the community with no staff voice included. Upper-class residents are housed where they can be autonomous and control their own environment. Residential Life decided to allow students in the residence halls to vote on whether or not each hall should be smoke-free or not. So again, students get to decide directly about their environment. For now, the University will continue to sell bottled water and look at the water fountain retrofits. Ultimately, then, as it should be, students will decide about this issue starting today. Or not.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dog Tales

The Acabellas
"The Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and the Machine. Yes, I actually have this song on my iPod Shuffle. I love this iteration of the Acabellas, but what's new. The Acabellas and Trinitones are bright spots in the Trinity landscape. Everyone loves them. Woof.

Rabid Runner

This week I sent out an email rant to faculty and staff about illegal violations of the posting policy. I was trying to make it funny and mentioned that perhaps a root of the rant was that I had been bitten by a dog. Come to find out that the joke circulating among staff is to ask, "so did the dog die?" Grrrowl. I'll take it  though, because I have no choice and it is kinda funny.

So I was off on Monday and running on the Riverwalk when a nice young couple stopped me and asked for my help because a stray dog was drowning in the river and "about to go under." The man was younger and stronger looking than me, so I was was flattered that they chose me as their co-hero. Of course it was a Monday morning and no one else was around. Well, as a vegetarian, the idea of a dog drowning just hit the right nerve. I believe in animal rights, except, of course, for cats. Anyways, the guy and I leaned over to try to get the dog before he went under and the best I could do was grab his tail. The dog's I mean. What happened next was anticipated and unexpected at the same time. I remember thinking "I think this will hurt," and when it's teeth sank into my arm I thought, "eh, not as bad as I thought." This did allow me to grab the nape of the dog's neck and between the two of us we were able to pull the dog out to safe ground. It was really my fault, so I bear no ill will toward the dog.

My arm bled a lot. But a San Antonio River Authority worker helped patch me up so I could finish my run. I went to the Texas Med Clinic for a tetanus shot and was told I needed rabies shots. "What happens if you get rabies anyways" I asked the doctor. "You die." Oh. I did not know that. So eight shots and $3,500 later I have started to second guess the rescue. Especially because the River Authority guy told me they usually let the animals get REALLY tired and then use a net to help them out. Good to know as well. They have apparently pulled out a pig and a coyote and numerous dogs. No word on cats. An interesting debate between two of the workers actually escalated. Apparently one thought the dog was male and the other insisted it was female because it had lactating "teets." Hmmmm. Okay... I thought they were both right. Blood loss I guess.

A Police Officer asked if I wanted Animal Control called at the time and I said "no." I mean, imagine rescuing a dog only to have it thrown in the pound and euthanized. I could have just kept running. Anyways, two shot regimens down and two to go. And maybe some lucky puppies have their stray momma around, thanks in part to me.

Student Affairs Dog
After a couple of years of having service dogs and TSA dogs on campus for students to pet for final exam study breaks the staff is making a pitch to be a foster campus for a puppy. Katharine Martin and the Trinitonian staff will do the lion's share of the work. But the dog would stay with us for a year and be available for students to play with and borrow. It will be trained to be a drug-sniffing dog and I guess a college campus is a good place to prep for that. Former Dean Coleen Grissom used to say, "residence halls are no places for living things." During the week the dog will be either in CCI, Campus Publications, the Dean of Students Office, or maybe the Witt Center.

Preliminarily we plan on getting the dog a Twitter account and will also have walk-in(g) hours. TSA still needs to approve us to be a foster family. But we're normal. Right?