Two recent pieces. One was a draft for YDN Weekend, and the other was a shorter piece written to replace it when it diverged wildly from the word count, requested format, and all those other silly barriers to great writing. Both were reviews of classes: I enrolled in the first and fled the second after one visit. Here’s the link to the first piece, and others of its kind (though most of the others are just actual complaints). Text below:
PSYC 110: Introduction to Psychology
Wonderful course. Totally recommended. Just one caveat: After Paul Bloom opens your eyes to the light of psychology, you can’t close them again. As I learned many times over the semester, this can be hazardous. It started when my roommate told me about this crazy dream he’d had. “What do you think it means?” I told him the obvious: Deep down, he wanted to behead his father with a ceremonial scimitar and hold his mother’s hand as they relaxed in separate bathtubs on top of a large hill or small mountain, like in the Cialis commercial. “Also, your teeth are going to start falling out.” We haven’t spoken since.
Bloom also discusses babies’ innate skill at recognizing evil in the slightest human gesture. Since that lecture, I feel their eyes on me wherever I go. The memory champion’s guest appearance compounded my insecurity; with only a few dozen hours of practice, I, too, could memorize decks of cards at will. What’s stopping me? By the midterm, I was a quivering ball of nerves, leaving my room only for lecture, office hours and simple, vegetarian lunches (Animals have brains of their own! Who knew?).
But it was all worthwhile in the end. The last review session was just 75 minutes of arguing whether to push a fat man off a bridge (I forget why). Now, if I ever need to relax, I close my eyes and picture the scene: me, the fat man, the bridge, a beautiful sunset. My hands on his back. The scream as he plummets. The massive splash at the bottom. Om…
And the second:
INRL 724: Advanced International Relations
A: These kids look kind of old. But I read newspapers at least once a month! This will be a cinch.
Professor: Why don’t we all introduce ourselves?
First Man: I was there when Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire, and I wound up starting the Arab Spring with a couple of my roommates, but it hasn’t turned out like I’d hoped. In this class, I hope to learn how to finish the job, for the sake of democracy.
Second Man: I’m a colonel in the National Army of Singapore. Each day, my nation risks being conquered by the power-hungry dictators all around us. Once I complete your course, I’ll qualify as a three-star general, and they’ll give me a ticker-tape parade. It’s an honor to be here.
First Woman: Since the partition, India and Pakistan have been snarling at each other, threatening each minute to plunge the world into nuclear war. An old Hindi legend holds that a goddess, educated in the West, shall return to her people with power over land and sky. With at least an A-minus, I think that goddess could be me.
Professor: Grades! That reminds me; I’ve completed the syllabus. You shouldn’t have more than two hours of reading per night. And as part of the course, you’ll have to be on the scene for at least one minor border dispute each for the midterm and final. Each casualty is a point off your grade.
Third Man: I’m actually just a senior Ethics, Politics and Economics major.
Third Man: I interned at the UN the last three summers, and President Obama has promised me the position of U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia once I graduate. Thanks to my fluency in the classics of Chinese literature, I hope to charm the Politburo into ceasing their persecution of the Uighur people.
Second Woman: My feminist blog is read in secret by several thousand Saudi housewives each day. I’m plotting a revolt against King Abdullah, sparked by a massive sex boycott. The day after my final exam, once I’ve prepared myself, I’ll give the word and bring Riyadh to its knees.
First Man: Oh! You’re (name forgotten)! I love your work! We should grab a meal sometime and talk about expanding the strike to Bahrain.
Second Woman: Definitely! Mahmoun’s?
First Man: Mahmoun’s.
Professor: And how about you?
A: Well… I come from a region of North America with a lot of hidden tension, but it could blow any second. After the semester ends, I plan to return for the winter and lay in preparations for siege, because if the British conquer Pennsylvania, they’ll hit central Wilmington before you can say “tax-free shopping”. But we’ve still got the old DuPont factories, and if we keep our powder dry and I can arrange the cannons properly, we’ll drive the redcoats back to their putrid capital. We study cannon placement in this class, right?
Second Man: What?
A: Never mind.