My girlfriend and I spent the second half of spring break in New York City, but Thursday was really all we needed. We took a walk through the Met, where I was fascinated by Monet’s “Ice Floes.” Next time you’re there, check it out. At first glance, it’s just a white blur, nondescript and non-engaging — but the longer I stared at it, the more colors I saw, the more detail I discovered. It’s the most beautiful painting I’ve ever seen.
It seems that Cornell has received its fair 15 minutes of television fame lately, what with Dwight’s Cornell-centric Office antics a few weeks ago. But Andy Bernard ’95 is only one fictional alumnus of our humble university. On Monday, Ithaca College TV debuted a new show, Ivy, which stars all of us—in a way.
The show, according to co-producer Rachel Hastings, an Ithaca sophomore, is “kind of a faux-reality show, like Laguna Beach, but written as a dry comedy and set at Cornell.” Aided by co-producer Ed Pietzak, a senior at I.C., Hastings wrote a script over the summer and set out to produce a truly unique project.
Ask anyone who considers himself a fan of Battlestar Galactica what it means to him and you might not receive a lucid response. He might say, “It’s cool,” perhaps, or ramble on about Admiral Adama’s parallels to contemporary politicians, or simply say, “Everything!” Whatever the response, it’s clear that Galactica has tunneled its way into a major niche of popular culture, gathering a veritable fleet of sci-fi fans and regular dudes alike — even earning a shout-out, like any other great American cultural institution (read: Cornell University), on NBC’s The Office.
Halfway through his set at Barton Hall on Sunday, Bill Maher said to the audience, which was mostly composed of older, politically-inclined townies: “You are easily the most lethargic audience I’ve ever played.” The crowd, it had seemed until then, was on his side: It welcomed Maher — a member of the Cornell class of 1978 — like an old friend, cheering and applauding as soon as he took the stage. When the notoriously liberal comedian asked, simply out of curiosity, if anyone was “for McCain,” the Republican candidate’s name met only scattered, hesitant applause, while mere mentions of Obama drew several cheers.
Ithaca circa 2008 is certainly not England under Queen Victoria’s rule. In today’s society there are rules, of course, but where are the Victorian manners? We wear polos — not play it — and the extravagant hats of the 19th century just don’t seem to be the style anymore. But more importantly, the language of our lives — short and sweet and slangy as it is — is nothing compared to the ornamented, scathing, elaborate wit of Oscar Wilde’s England. Written over 100 years ago, The Importance of Being Earnest is certainly a product of its times: Its characters talk about fashion and literature and romantic philosophies that we’ve only read about in history books, and they regularly say things like, “How perfectly delightful!”
Back in 11th grade, my high school drama club undertook what we thought would be a fun, engaging adventure in raw, spontaneous theater. Someone, somewhere, in some obscure literature, had read about the 24-hour play — a type of theater that’s conceived, written, rehearsed and produced, all within 24 hours. Not for the faint of heart, the concept combines all the already-exhausting facets of making theater — from creating characters and memorizing lines to fashioning costumes, sets and choreography — and condenses them into one thick, heavy porridge, distilled to the very essence of playmaking.
The counter-culture of the 1960s and ’70s is a myth to our generation. Our teachers, parents, role models — all must have felt the brunt of psychedelia and free-love and drum-circle anarchy — but to kids our age it’s all a chapter in the history book, part of the past we will never viscerally understand.
A friend of mine, a fellow confrere, if you will, of the Cornell comedy scene, comes from a proud tradition of Hollywood writers. His dad, in the best years of his career, came up with those crazy situations where Urkel — yes, that Urkel — would feel compelled to say words like “cheese” or “fallopian tubes.” As long as Urkel had crazy vowels to pronounce, and all within twenty-two minutes, Mr. My-Friend’s-Dad could cash in that paycheck and bring home the Family Matters bacon.
Now he writes books for a living, and his life could never be better.