Education


 

starlingsI read Nina de Gramont’s Gossip of the Starlings on Sunday in a leisurely four or five hours, and strongly recommend it as a satisfying, lazy weekend read.  The comparisons to Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep are inevitable, since Prep shot to glory as such an eponymous pinnacle of prep school novels in 2005, but I enjoyed Starlings a great deal more.   I haven’t read Prep since it first came out and, indeed, recall reading it in almost one sitting, but have never revisited it due to my lingering frustration at central character Lee’s extreme passiveness and unwillingness to participate in her own life.  That said, it was a very well-written and clearly memorable novel, and Sittenfeld’s talent is not in question.

De Gramont’s Gossip of the Starlings takes place in 1980s northeastern prep school and aside from a few minor details (such as the school’s permissiveness with regard to students hitchhiking to town and the political structure of the Reagan years), could easily take place in any decade since.  The story concerns Catherine Morrow’s transfer to an elite girls’ school after her parents pull her out of her co-ed prep school when she is caught in bed with her boyfriend, John Paul.  Banished to Esther Percy School, Catherine is sought out for friendship by the luminous, famous Skye Butterfield, daughter of a popular Democratic senator.  Skye has been expelled from her own previous schools on account of her protest against a plutonium manufacturing site and because she was caught writing papers for a scholarship student.

But Skye’s seeming wholesomeness is begging for corruption, and she seeks out Catherine as a minister.  Starting from the first chapter, when Catherine and Skye snort cocaine in Catherine’s room and swear to tell each other about the afterlife when one of them dies first, the novel is imbued with a sense of dread countered by the timeless teenage conceit of immortality.  It reminded me, pleasantly, of Donn Tartt’s The Secret History, one of my favorite books, and captures a similar aura of freewheeling doom and contradictory, simultaneous adolescent certainty that this sparkling era will remain forever untouched.    (more…)

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Normally, if you offered to show me a video of a high school kid doing his best Slim Shady in aid of his Student Body President campaign (and a kid from one of my local high schools, no less), my reaction would be… unenthused.

If you then told me that an Abraham Lincoln costume and a clown were involved, you might spark some interest.  If you further elaborated and said that the dorkily awesome kid uses no misogyny, fake guns, or cusswords, but sticks with humor and a truly solid beat, I would mull it over.  If you finally promised that he keeps it perfectly timed at a tidy two-and-a-half minutes, you’d have my full attention.  Behold, Andrew Edison for Student Body President in “A Vote For Me”:

You win, kid.  I would definitely have voted for you, and wanted you to be my senior prom date.  Call me.  On the telephone.

The Best Week Ever Blog, general purveyor of All Things Awesome And/Or Disturbing, has really outdone itself today with this clip from The Doctors, some daytime television horrorfest with an equally bizarre gameshow jingle.  On today’s episode, the doctors and their professionally white-coated panelists discuss the dangers of soaking your tampon in vodka and inserting it for a quick, mind-blowing high.

Did you need me to repeat that?  Ladies, please don’t SOAK YOUR TAMPONS IN ALCOHOL AND PLACE THEM INTO YOUR VAGINAS (I assume this warning also applies to Bacardi Breezers!).  Seriously, kids, stick to crystal meth.

The Drs. Buzzkill are also anti-anal beerbongs.  Which is a total bummer (snort!), because what midwestern frat party is complete without a Coors Lite colonic? 

In other health news, heroin should be injected between your toes and not directly into the ear canal.  Consider this your Monday PSA.

Hi, Professor X!

Once again, it’s that time of the year… I need to consult with you sometime this week and get your signature on the LAST pre-registration form I EVER have to fill out because I’m a SENIOR now and I’m going to GRADUATE in May and move to a desert island where I will NEVER EVER have to deal with paperwork again because it makes me INSANE, and also, there will be no E-MAIL, so the Career Development Office can’t find me and send me TEN THOUSAND MESSAGES a DAY reminding me of all the important deadlines that I already missed and that while my classmates move to WALL STREET I won’t even be able to find a job as a MIGRANT WORKER because I have NO qualifications and NO résumé and NOT A CLUE what I’m going to do after college except move to the island and live off of COCONUTS.
Also, it’s 5:00 AM and my thesis, which was supposed to be an astonishing accomplishment that reveals my genius to the world and establishes me as one of the greatest contemporary young playwrights in America, is TERRIBLE and making me very CRANKY.

That aside, however, when can we meet this week? I’ll see Professor Y tomorrow at 3:00 to discuss this abomination that I’m creating, so I’ll be around. I can also do Wednesday before 1:30 and after 2:45, or Thursday between 12:30 and 1:30. Friday, I intend to be recovering from the previous night’s hangover and so I won’t be available until about 7:00 PM, following the post-alcohol guilt and preceding the time that my friends convince me I want to go to Xanadu and dance to misogynistic pop-rap with all the other white kids. So, Friday wouldn’t work (unless you’ll be at Xanadu?). Let me know if any of these times work for you.

Thanks Very Much – TailFeather the Formal

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Why is it that you can sometimes feel the reality of people more keenly through a letter than face to face?

Anne Morrow Linbergh, Bring Me a Unicorn (1971)

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Dear Mama –

Hi!  I’m writing from the tiki bar at a Caribbean resort, where a cool ocean breeze is blowing gently over the crystal-clear water and pure white sand to kiss my suntanned brow, as tropical island boys in tiny loincloths serve me fresh shellfish and coconut milk.  I can’t wait for tonight’s disco, followed by the bonfire, when I’ll stroll beneath the shining stars hand-in-hand with Pierre, my exotic new French lover of Swedish/Jamaican/Japanese/Brazilian descent.  Tomorrow we’ll take Pierre’s yacht out to scuba-dive by the coral reef and swim with the dolphins, after which the private helicopter will fly us over a dormant volcano.  I only hope I don’t miss my calypso and wine-tasting lessons back at the five-star hotel!

Just kidding.  I’m in my dorm room in New York, wearing boxers and a bra because it’s about 95 degrees in here with no air conditioning, and I’m mainlining soda so I can read a three-hundred page book and write an intelligent paper on it.  My glasses keep slipping down my nose from the sweat, my back is killing me from hunching over on the floor because I don’t have a desk, and I think there’s fur growing on my tongue.  Also, the overhead light blinks on and off in a weird way and I keep thinking I’m hallucinating from fatigue, but I’m pretty sure it’s really happening.  But it’s all worth it, because I’m getting the best liberal arts education that $120,000 can buy.

I miss you and daddy like crazy.  I hope everything’s okay there, and that the animals are behaving.  I can’t wait to get Home.

Love and Kisses – Tailfeather

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Always happy to serve you ladies and gents!

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I volunteered at my college town Needle Exchange on Monday nights my sophomore year of college.  I thought it would be useful to recount my very basic experience with this program, in the hopes of raising awareness about the existence of such efforts and to promote more widespread acceptance of the benefits of such a facility.  The clinic I worked at opened in the mid-’90s, with support from the mayor, city council, Chief of Police, and area health and human service providers. Needle Exchange sites are legal in the United States if the state in which it is located does not have a law requiring prescription to buy a hypodermic needle, or if a formal vote of approval is given by a local elected body. In many communities, the sale and possession of non-prescription sterile syringes is illegal, making it difficult for injection-drug users to obtain properly sanitized needles. 

The sharing of contaminated syringes and other injection equipment (“works”) is a dangerously significant factor in the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases, such as Hepatitis B and C. The lack of educational materials available to IV drug users and the strict laws limiting needle possession and clean needle distribution suggest that the government considers drug users unworthy of protection from HIV. Even after a syringe is washed out with water, traces of blood may remain undetected, placing the next user at risk for infection. The availability of sterile needles, in exchange for used syringes, can greatly reduce this risk factor. Needle Exchange Programs are finally becoming more accepted on a national level, but government funding is still short.

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