Monday, January 08, 2007

An Open Letter to the Harvard Corporation

To Members of the Selection Committee for the New Harvard President:

I am beginning to develop the suspicion that the Harvard Presidency is a lot like the job of Head Football Coach at the University of Notre Dame: it's one of those jobs that seems desirable to the general public, but no one well-qualified for it actually wants it. Who really wants to try to wrangle with such a notoriously arrogant and powerful faculty?

But if that isn't the case, allow me to throw my full support behind Amy Gutmann. Her qualifications are exceptional:

But the most important reason for my support of Dr. Gutmann is that she is smokingly hot. In the above picture, you can see her (bottom) in relation to another potential Harvard Presidential candidate, Ruth Simmons of Brown (top). This excellent comparison (thoughtfully provided by the NYTimes) demonstrates that, while Dr Simmons may be an excellent leader and administrator, she cannot compete with the sheer wattage of the delectable Dr. Gutmann. I mean, look at her. Damn.

With the pulchritudinous Dr. Gutmann at the helm, think of what Harvard could do! It would not be an exaggeration to say that Dr. Gutmann would be the most attractive Harvard President since the coy and dainty Increase Mather--and remember all of the amazing things that she did!

If it will assist in the decision-making process, allow me to commit to a donation in the amount of $10 million to Harvard University contingent on the appointment of Luscious Amy as President.

[Redacted], Harvard Class of [redacted]

P.S.: Can you give Amy my email address? I want to ask her how she gets her skin so radiant.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Weekend Update: A Little Bit of Outrage

Two news stories today that intrigued Fosco:

1. The NYTimes reports on the progress of the search for a new Harvard president. As an alumnus of the "Big H," Fosco is naturally interested in this topic (and wouldn't mind seeing the job offered to Al Gore). However, the Times took at different angle. Here's the lede:

Could Harvard be preparing to select a woman as its new president? A scientist? A female scientist?
Is it me, or are those increasingly incredulous question marks a bit offensive? I'm a little surprised the headline isn't something like "Harvard Seeks Scientifickal Lady: Feminine Charms Still Required."

One possible candidate for the position? Non-scientifickal political theorist Amy Guttman, president of Penn. That's her in the picture to the right during her 2006 Halloween party. She's posing with a Palestinian suicide bomber (costume). She's dressed as Glinda the Good Witch. As the Times article points out, this photograph may be enough to prevent her ascent to the Harvard presidency.

2. This story, from the Santa Cruz Sentinel made Fosco really mad at first. But then it started to make a little sense. Now Fosco is a bit ambivalent about the whole thing.

It seems that an anonymous donor has been paying for one-way bus tickets out-of-town for the Santa Cruz homeless. The program is being administered by the local Homeless Services Center. This sounds absolutely evil, right?

Well, except that, the idea sort of makes sense. According to the article:
the idea of helping homeless people move is gaining traction among people who think it makes little sense to provide meals and temporary shelter in a city where even the working poor have a hard time finding housing.
It is expensive to live here. And the program is totally voluntary, as the tickets are only offered to homeless people who want to leave Santa Cruz and start over someplace else.

Apparently, some other communities have been much less conscientious about the whole thing. According to the article, this is different from the "practice of dumping homeless people into other jurisdictions, as in 2004, when officials in San Benito County gave their homeless one-way bus tickets to Santa Cruz."

Now that's evil. Go to hell, San Benito County.

Alex Ross Reviews Fosco's Winter Plans

Although Santa/Satan failed to put hunky music critic Alex Ross in Fosco's stocking (despite Fosco's request), Fosco did have the pleasure (over the last month or so) of Ross's New Yorker reviews of both of the opera premieres that Fosco plans to attend this winter.

At the beginning of December, Ross reviewed the Vienna premiere of John Adams's new opera A Flowering Tree. (Fosco is going to see the US premiere in San Francisco in March.) This is exciting as, according to Ross's review,

the score is opulent, dreamlike, fiercely lyrical, at times shadowy and strange—unlike anything that the fifty-nine-year-old composer has written.
This sounds perfect, as Adams is Fosco's favorite contemporary composer and this opera seems to place him at the height of his powers. Look for Fosco's review in March.

Approaching sooner (i.e., in three weeks) is a Fosco trip to NYC to see the would-be blockbuster The First Emperor at the Met. How could Fosco (and his sister, Maggie Tulliver) resist taking a trip to New York to see this production? Music by superstar composer Tan Dun. Libretto by National Book Award-winner Ha Jin. Directed by Zhang Yimou, director of the films Hero and House of Flying Daggers. And singing the lead? Oh, just Placido Domingo (who is approaching retirement from the stage). How can this opera not be brilliant?

Well, it turns out that it isn't. According to Sexy Alex-y's review, some of the music is fascinating:
A Peking opera singer invokes the forces of yin and yang in a wailing chant. The chorus shouts, claps, slaps, and stomps. A zheng, or twenty-one-string zither, is savagely strummed; ceramic pots are struck with sticks. A variously blaring, trilling, rustling, and rumbling mass of sound rises up from the orchestra. Across the front of the stage, twelve drummers beat on drums with stones and knock the stones together. It adds up to a strictly organized thunder—and perhaps the most far-out music that has ever been heard at the Met.
But, alas, some of the music is not quite as thrilling:
long stretches of conversation are set to nondescript, tootling music of the kind that plays in movies when naughty pets or children are on the loose.

What else does my dear Alex have to say about the production? The libretto?: "inept." The production?: "misconceived." Placido Domingo?: "to have a Spanish tenor pretending to be Chinese while singing awkwardly in English stretched plausibility to the breaking point." Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Of course, Fosco is still excited about the trip. And still excited about seeing the opera--after all, maybe Alex is wrong... And even if the opera really is a disaster, it should still be fun to see. Watch for Fosco's review at the end of January.