Let’s Talk Chess
Alekhine think of is chess.

Alekhine think of is chess.

If you’ve ever passed Oren’s on Broadway, you’ve likely noticed the chess master(s) who hang out over there. One of these guys is Adhemar Ahmad, and he’s written a book on the subject. Tonight is your chance to catch him and get a copy signed — head over to Book Culture tonight at 7pm. Go support Adhemar and learn what you can about New York’s trendiest game. Here’s rooking at you, kid.



King’s (College) match via Shutterstock

Take A Bow, 121st Annual Varsity Show Cast
A show rooted in tradition must also take its pictures in line with tradition

A place where many a-Varsity Show cast has been before

For the past three months, Bwog has been closely following the evolution of this year’s Varsity Show – from preliminary interviews to the long-awaited announcement of the C-Team, it’s yet another 20-something day of a fall semester month and V-Show has perhaps the biggest announcement for us yet.

Congratulations to the V121 Cast, in alphabetical order!

Gabrielle Bullard, BC ’18
Isaac Calvin, CC ’17
April Cho, CC ’17
Jahbril Cook, CC ’17
Skylar Gottlieb, BC ’16 (V119)
Cole Hickman, CC ’16 (V119)
Varun Kumar, SEAS ’16
Sophie Laruelle, CC ’17
Megan Litt, BC ’17
Michael MacKay, CC ’15
Alina Sodano, BC ’17
Asher Varon, JTS/GS ’18

With all of the anticipation alleviated, we are beyond excited to see how the many people involved with making V121 happen will pull it all together next semester. Break a leg – or else we will begin stocking up on tomatoes.

Photo courtesy of Nikita Ash and Emily Snedeker, Co-Producers


Use Meal Swipes To Bring In The Holiday Cheer
Make a homeless person feel like this

That mushy feeling after doing good things

Some really, really good people and fellow students are using the days leading up to Thanksgiving to maximize the amount of extra meal swipes we’ll all have as we venture home to our kitchen pantries and to Mom’s best Thanksgiving meal yet. For any day this week until you go home to the distant upstate New York Westchester,  swipe into JJ’s (bring some Barnard pals too if ya can), snag a Xpress Breakfast Pack and drop off the goods at a manned table in the John Jay Lounge during any of the following times:

Monday, 6-11 pm

Tuesday, 6-9 pm

Wednesday, 5-8 pm

If you still want to lend a helping hand but those times don’t work for you, there will also be a not-manned box to drop off the packs or any other nonperishable foods you want to donate to your fellow Morningside Heights dwellers.

For more information and to click “attending” to let everyone on your Facebook news feed know that you care this holiday season, visit the Facebook event page.

This and food are the world’s purest joys via Shutterstock

The Hidden Side To Teach For America
"I don't know what the hell I'm doing"

“I don’t know what the hell I’m doing”

Sunday afternoon Student-Worker Solidarity and Columbia Prison Reform and Education Project hosted a panel titled “The Truth About Teach For America.” The panel featured guests from both educational backgrounds as well as parents from the New York public school system who have had first hand experience with the school system TFA targets to fix with its program. Education Enthusiast Courtney Couillard went to check it out.

The presentation began with each of the panelists describing their individual experience with TFA and/or the public school system of New York. A former TFA member and graduate of Barnard College, Rachel Knight, described a inadequate experience with the program as a recent post-grad from Barnard. Knight admitted the program was an alluring way to spend her time while discovering her passion for being a teacher. What began as a promising and uplifting five-week training session, her time with TFA quickly turned into a traumatizing and stifling experience. Knight explained she did not feel prepared by TFA to enter into a New York public school to teach her first grade class with just two days to prepare and set up her classroom. Her biggest fear as a teacher in TFA was not being prepared to help students with serious disabilities and needs, and she wished that it was made more clear to her by TFA that teaching is a profession, not just a something you get into after college with little experience.

Another former educator from New York, Brian Jones, shared his own experience as a young teacher in New York in his own cousin program to TFA, NYC Teaching Fellows Program. Jones echoed the sentiments of Knight, recalling how painful his experience was in regards to not being able to meet the needs of his Harlem-resident students. Jones also dived into what he called the real question we should ask when creating proposals for education reform: “would this strengthen the hand of the employers or would this strengthen the hand of the labor?” Jones believed that the real issue with education is the fact that it is controlled by economic policy. Teachers are the most unionized group in America, meaning that many education decisions target teachers and will aim to weaken the hand of the unions. Jones tied this back to TFA by saying the program focuses on spending extra money on recruiting teachers through the program rather than investing in the public school system.

Now for the parents’ take on TFA after the jump.

Bwoglines: Uncertainty Edition
Who knew gender ambiguity could be so fun!

Who knew gender ambiguity could be so fun!

It’s socially confirmed that Hillary Clinton will announce that she’s in the running to get the Democratic nomination for president, but the Republicans aren’t so clear or united on who will go up against all that pantsuit power. (NY Times)

We’re unsure as to why Sea World wants to celebrate that they’ve just successfully created the first test-tube penguin, but here it is. With the death of Shamu, Sea World is slowly becoming more and more of a dark place in our hearts. (Yahoo! News)

Ferguson, MO residents and others elsewhere more than eagerly await the court decision that will determine the fate of Michael Brown’s shooter. (Reuters)

Life in rural Poland: small town Tuzyna this weekend banned the selling of Pooh Bears given Pooh’s unclear gender. Because when we were three and played with our Pooh Bears, we too were concerned if Pooh really had a space on the gender binary. (AOL)

The original jumping pic via Shutterstock

Who’s The Real Alpha On Campus?
A simple solution

A simple solution

If you don’t have the privilege of seeing/hearing/smelling hordes of frat guys doing whatever it is frat guys do every weekend, you must not live by the Beta house. After being pushed to his limit, one resident of Watt has proposed a challenge to the fraternity in the following letter:

Dear Beta,

During the course of the past few months, living across from you has been quite an experience. I’m not entirely certain what it was that first inspired my antipathies. Perhaps it was your barbecue that filled my room with acrid smoke on the first week back. Perhaps it was your mediocre, yet determined, guitar player plucking out bad 2000s rock. And maybe, just maybe, it was one of the multiple occasions on which you forgot to turn the lights off before fucking in front of the windows. While the aforementioned are comparatively trivial annoyances, it is safe to say we got off on the wrong foot.

As a resident of Watt, I have been involuntarily subjected to nearly all of your idiosyncrasies, or at least those that cannot be contained by your roof and four walls. I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m not admonishing you for the occasional slip-up. I get it. We’re human. We like to have fun and dance to loud music. Such things are cool, all good, whatever. However, you’ve made it abundantly clear that you aren’t satisfied to just have fun amongst yourselves.

Like the other resident [sic] of Watt, Hogan, Kappa, Q House, and the IRC; I had the delightful experience of being awoken at 4:23 AM by “The Circle of Life” being blasted from your sound system. Don’t get me wrong; I love the Lion King as much as the next guy, but you’ve thoroughly abused my love for Disney classics.

As I angrily lay in bed, I contemplated doing a number of things. I considered yelling, a fruitless act already undertaken by the brothers of Kappa. I considered calling public safety, a tactic that has been historically futile. And I considered turning my roommate’s bottle of 151 into a Molotov cocktail, as well as the ensuing prison sentence I would receive. But because I work on weekends (a working class experience your decadent asses clearly aren’t sensitive to), I opted to go back to sleep as quickly as possible. As much as I’d love to forgive a first-time offense, this is the fourth time you’ve done this in the past two months.

In my time spent attempting to understand you (perhaps in futility), I’ve noticed recurring commonality shared by your brothers: a need to present yourselves as ostentatiously masculine, a sort of peacocking if you will. Relative to Kappa, your comparatively less annoying neighbor, I believe this trait is what distinguishes you as a fraternity. You try SO HARD to act fratty and obnoxious that it leads me to question if you might not be collectively compensating for something. Your impossibly loud sound system is something of note in this regard. Maybe it was daddy’s way of making up for what he couldn’t give you in your genes (double entendre intended).

To settle this feud once and for all, I offer you a challenge: your president and I will compare dick sizes, measured erect and from the base. The bigger man wins. It’s as simple as that. If you win, I will yield to your sound system and questionable, early morning music choices. If I win, the volume stays at or below standard party level at all times. Contact me if you accept. If not, you can anticipate collective retaliation upon your next transgression.

No Homo,
John Bryan

A true test of mettle via Shutterstock

Campus Character: Ridge Montes
Illustration by Rachel Chin, CC '18

Illustration by Rachel Chin, CC ’18

Further honoring our loving relationship with our mother magazine, The Blue and White, we present one of the mag’s monthly campus characters, Ridge Montes, SEAS ’15, an RA who has managed to win the housing lottery by scoring digs in EC for the past three years, written by staff writer Jen Sluka, CC ’17. Be sure to check out this month’s ATSL, a feature on an EC security guard, and a personal essay on trans identities and visibility if you haven’t already.

“I literally don’t matter and that is the most validating thing. I feel more special for how unexceptional I am,” Ridge Montes, SEAS ’15, tells me as we wrap up our interview. We had been talking philosophy, as Ridge often does.

“On a deep, deep, deep fundamental level, we are all the same,” he’d said earlier, before clarifying. “Not all our attributes are the same, not even our habits are the same, but the praxis that we use for retaining or changing habits over the course of a lifetime has a very strong similarity one person to the next, so much so that we can talk about life, or talk about love.”

Our three hour conversation ended up in the EC townhouse where he has lived as an RA for three years. Ridge has been in dorms for a long time, from boarding school to the 3-2 combined plan at Columbia, with a pit stop at the University of Chicago in between.

In addition to his RA job, Ridge works in the Classics department and at Vino Fino, a wine shop close to Columbia. He has been financially independent throughout his time at Columbia. “All the clothes I wear, all the knick knacks in my room, I can think about them in terms of life I spent,” Ridge tells me. “So one hour at the office will buy me maybe three bottles of beer, maybe a T-shirt, and you populate your life, you make it the fingerprint of your activities.”

When we arrived at his townhouse, Ridge put on the overture to The Magic Flute, his favorite opera, and we continued our conversation over a meal of shakshuka, which Ridge prepared on the spot. He likes to cook for people—it’s how he met his best friend, Patrick Aloia, CC ‘15. Near the end of the first semester of their CC class, Ridge invited Patrick and a few other classmates over for dinner. “We went over to his home, he got us wine, he made us roast chicken, rice, everything tasted great, and we just talked about philosophy and our lives,” says Patrick. “It was totally natural and he made us feel welcome.”

Things get philosophical.

Bwog Meeting Tonight!
"Talk about some delicious breasts!"

“Wow hun, these breasts are great!” “Do you want me to toss your salad, sweetie?” “No thanks mom, I’m still stuffed from all that dark meat.” “My daughter’s breasts are always delicious.”

Whether you decide to celebrate Columbus’ slaughtering of the natives Turkey Day or not, Daily Editor Mason Amelotte recommends you take a moment to reflect on the true nature of Thanksgiving: sex puns.

Indeed, Thanksgiving is the only holiday (other than Presidents’ Day, but that’s a different story) where sex jokes can should run rampant in a family setting. Wondering who the real kinky ones in your house are? Try dropping a few of these holiday innuendos to find out:

  • I’m feeling adventurous. I think I’m going to try some dark meat this year!
  • Is it ready yet? When did you put it in?
  • If I don’t unbutton my pants, I think I’ll burst!
  • Just reach in and grab the insides, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, son.
  • Open up wide!
  • My parents always taught me that tying the legs together keeps the inside nice and moist.
  • I wasn’t expecting everyone to come all at once!

This list of innuendos is in no way comprehensive. In fact, we’re saving the best jokes for tonight at our weekly meeting. Come join us at 7PM in the SGO on the 5th floor of Lerner! Light refreshments and heavy puns will be served.

Bwog stops in for Thanksgiving dinner via Shutterstock

Bucket List: Short & Sweet

Bucket List represents the intellectual privilege we enjoy as Columbia students. This Thanksgiving, fill your head with scholarly thoughts before you fill your stomach with turkey. Our recommendations for this (very short) week are below. If you notice any events that have been left off the list, or a correction, please leave them in the comments.


  • “On the Core: Student Identities and Experiences in Lit Hum” Lerner 401, Mon 6:30-8:00 PM. Edward Mendelson, Darragh Martin, Melinda Aquino. Food served.
  • “Rethinking the “One-Sex” Body: Sex, Gender, and Medicine in Medieval and Early Modern Europe” Heyman Center 2nd Floor, Mon 6:15 PM. Katharine Park.
  • “Live at Lerner presents Upright Citizens Brigade” Roone Arledge Auditorium, Mon 7:30 PM. Upright Citizens Brigade.

Monday, November 24

  • “Rethinking the “One-Sex” Body: Sex, Gender, and Medicine in Medieval and Early Modern Europe” Heyman Center 2nd Floor, 6:15 PM. Katharine Park.
  • “Forests of Memory” IAB 1501, 6:00-8:00 PM. Eduardo Cadava.
  • “Coherence and Resonance: How to Read Film Openings” Faculty House 2nd Floor, 8:00-10:00 PM. Annette Insdorf.
  • “On the Core: Student Identities and Experiences in Lit Hum” Lerner 401, 6:30-8:00 PM. Edward Mendelson, Darragh Martin, Melinda Aquino. Food served.
  • “Preserving a Global Internet” IAB 1501, 12:00-1:00 PM. Fadi Chehade.
  • “Demystifying Bitcoin” Lerner Broadway Room, 8:00-10:00 PM. Michael Sonnenshein, Jaron Lukasiewicz, Greg Schvey.
  • “Live at Lerner presents Upright Citizens Brigade” Roone Arledge Auditorium, 7:30 PM. Upright Citizens Brigade.

Tuesday, November 25

  • “World Energy Outlook 2014″ IAB 1501, 12:30-1:45 PM. Fatih Birol. Register.
LectureHop: Gaza, The IDF Code Of Ethics, And The Morality Of War
The battleground

The battlezone

This week, JTS hosted a panel with Arnold Eisen and Dr. Moshe Halbertal on modern issues with the Israeli Defense Force, its Code of Ethics, and where they stand in Gaza. Max Rettig (GS/JTS ’17) shares the discussion. 

As a student in the Joint Program between GS and JTS, I am incredibly privileged to explore my intellectual interests at both institutions. JTS, perhaps the foremost school of Jewish scholarship in the United States, regularly brings in notable scholars and distinguished professional leaders with Jewish backgrounds to discuss important issues of our time. Such was the case Thursday night, when JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen and Dr. Moshe Halbertal talked about the problems surrounding this past summer’s conflict in Gaza in relation to the code of ethics that governs how the Israel Defense Forces operates.

Halbertal, of Israeli descent, is a professor of law at NYU, of Jewish thought and philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and has taught visiting stints at both Harvard and Yale law schools. In 2000, Halbertal was part of the team that created the IDF’s current code of ethics. Eisen, the Chancellor of JTS since 2007, is a leading scholar of American Jewry and a professor of Jewish thought at JTS. At around 7:32 pm on Thursday night, both sat down to talk about the very real issues the Israeli army faced during its operation in Gaza this past summer, and how those issues shaped how the IDF approached the operation from an ethical standpoint.

He delved into three main ethical principles that directly affect how the IDF approaches wars: Purpose of Arms (Matarah), Distinction (Havchanah) and Responsibility (Achriut).

Let’s talk ethics now

Bwoglines: Thankful Edition
Looking at the calendar and seeing Winter break fast approaching

Looking at the calendar and seeing how fast Winter break is approaching

Looks like Netflix wins again. Everyone’s favorite media streaming service just bought the rights to Tina Fey’s new show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, after originally being developed for NBC, which means you probably won’t have to wait 13 fucking weeks a long time to finish an entire season. (The Verge)

The world is working towards getting a little less racist, although it looks like we still have a little ways to go. (Huffington Post)

In other news related to Obama’s deportation relief plan, Saturday Night Live parodied your favorite politics-related show from elementary school: Schoolhouse Rock. The results are just as good as you would expect. (Mediaite)

Looking for your daily dose of cute animals? Look no further. This video of a Pygmy Marmoset—a fancy title meaning super cute hand-held monkey in Latin—will melt your heart. (Huffington Post)

Columbia gets thankful via Shutterstock

Lecturehop: Bill Drayton, CEO of Ashoka
Bill Drayton holds the world up to see

Bill Drayton holds the world up to see

Entrepreneurship enthusiast Karen Yuan brings word from the mouth of a THE self-styled social entrepreneur, Bill Drayton.

Social entrepreneurship—that’s a buzzword that nobody really understands, but Bill Drayton defines it as any “innovation initiative for the common good.” At 71, Drayton is the granddad of social entrepreneurship, having coined the phrase himself about 30 years ago.

Drayton came to speak at Columbia on Thursday night about Ashoka, the social entrepreneurship empire that he built in 1980, around the same time the very concept of social entrepreneurship began. Ashoka has a network of over 3000 Fellows in 70 countries, with over half of them changing national policy in their first 5 years. Fellow Kailash Satyarthi won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize alongside Malala.

In a fireside chat with Ashoka Fellow Greg Van Kirk, Drayton focused on three major points. His speech was part-lil pellets of wisdom, part-call to action.

1. We’re all living in a turning point right now.

So this got a bit doomsayerly, but Drayton spoke about how everyone was living in a turning point in history right now. “Society is shifting from a system of repetition to a system of change,” Drayton said. “Before, our focus was on efficiency and repetition – assembly lines, school systems, and the like. But this system is failing, and change is the new game.”

According to Drayton, Detroit missed a turning point about 50 years ago, which contributed to its decline from a prosperity to bankruptcy. “If we don’t do anything, we could all become Detroit. But it wouldn’t take 50 years—it’d take 15.”

Do what, though? Drayton said to spot areas for creating value, and, more generally, to start practicing empathy.

2. Give yourself permission.

“Give yourself permission to change things,” Drayton said. He spoke about a 12 year old girl who set up a bicycle system to bring fresh food into the food desert of Oakland. It grew from her practicing empathy: Having an autistic brother, she would intervene in the mistreatment of special needs kids at school.

“The new system of change is inherently equal,” Drayton continued. “Everyone is powerful and everyone can give.” You couldn’t be a good person just by diligently following the rules. The most important skill you needed in this new world of change was empathy, like the young girl from Oakland. “Young people are not children. They’re ready to be change makers, too.”

3. Social entrepreneurship is not business.

Drayton was quick to stress that “social entrepreneurship” wasn’t about making cash. Many people thought of TOMS Shoes as an example of it, but the truth was that social entrepreneurship was basically synonymous with change. “I hate the phrase ‘scaling up’ when talking about an idea,” Drayton said. “If your goal is to double the number of students in your program, for example, then you missed the point. It should be about changing mindsets, patterns, the way things are done.”

Social entrepreneurship was actually more political than financial, since it was often an invisible mechanism that majorly influenced politics, such as activism for equal pay impacting policy in D.C.

Despite his emphasis against business, Drayton still preached teamwork. “The most powerful thing in the world is a big idea…collaborate on them.”

 Social entrepreneurship via YouTube

Overheard: Preaching to the Choir
Accurate depiction of Dodge

Everyday sight in Dodge

A student tour guide was overheard singing the praises of Columbia’s fitness offerings near the entrance to Dodge:

“We have all kinds of sports and activities, including yoga and aerobics—like what middle-aged moms do.”

The tipster noted that the group was mostly middle aged moms and their kids. This might not be what they mean when they say “know your audience”.






Health-conscious human via Shutterstock

From The Issue: The Guide To Living

Rounding out our reproductions from our dear mother magazine, The Blue and White, check out Senior Editor Luca Marzorati’s, CC ’15, review of The Alphabets of Life: A Simple Guide to Living Simply by La-Verna J. Fountain, Columbia’s Vice President for Construction Business Services and Communications (in other words, the woman who fields all of the media questions about the Manhattanville expansion). 

The Alphabets of Life: A Simple
Guide to Living Simply
by La-Verna J. Fountain
Travers Pr, 241 pages

The late comedian George Carlin was no fan of self-help books. “There’s no such thing as self-help,” he said. “If you did it yourself, you didn’t need help. You did it yourself!”

Carlin would have undoubtedly dropped at least one of his seven dirty words when reading The Alphabets of Life: A Simple Guide to Living Simply by La-Verna J. Fountain. The book, published in 1999, is a collection of 26 alphabetized advice essays, from “Accept What You Cannot Change” to “Zealously Pursue Your Life.”

In her day job, Fountain is Vice President for Construction Business Services and Communications at Columbia, which has made her a de facto press secretary for the Manhattanville expansion. When not defending the university in the press, Fountain is a motivational speaker, part of a $10 billion industry dedicated to telling people how to better their lives.

The Alphabets of Life demonstrates Fountain’s ability to simplify complex problems into pithy statements, a skill conducive to success in both motivational speaking and defending a university accused of ripping off the neighborhood it is taking over. Hearing Fountain tell the Columbia Spectator that “Columbia, as a landlord, is doing exactly as tenants expect” sounds slightly less bizarre coming from someone who repeatedly insists that “Facts change” throughout her book. Fountain’s aphorisms range in quality from charming to cringe-worthy: in a single chapter, her prose ranges from “Emotions are like a spice” to “The mind. Wow.”

Like most in the motivation industry, Fountain does not operate in life’s grey areas. Her book begins, “What can you change? Then, change it! What can’t you change? Then, move on!” This Nieburhian adaptation is simple enough; the reader cannot be judged for wondering how Fountain will fill the other 25 alphabetized chapters. Yet fill them she does, with anecdotes from family and friends, religious proclamations, and a page of exercises and questions at the end of each section.

Such book, much review.

CMTS’s Rousing “The Drowsy Chaperone”
She really doesn't care about anything

Actors portray the two main emotions of the audience

Champion of the arts and drama devotee Ross Chapman bravely surrendered his Friday night to a viewing of CMTS’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”—all for you, dear reader.

After our talks with members of the Columbia Musical Theatre Society, The Drowsy Chaperone seemed like a great way to spend a Friday evening. A well-sized crowd in Roone Arledge agreed, picking up fancy playbills and filing into the same chairs you sat in for those mandatory NSOP events. At promptly 7:35 P.M., Man In Chair (portrayed by Talmage Wise, CC ’18) took his seat in the eponymous seat and set the musical into action.

Everything starts with a paradoxical monologue. “I hate theatre,” Man In Chair laments, but he goes on to elaborate that he really hates new theatre. He longs for a simpler time, one where a “gay wedding” was just a happy, heteronormative event and plot, that thing that links otherwise unrelated production numbers, was only as important in musicals as it was in porn (his words, not mine). So he puts on a record and transports the audience to the past.

The opening number, “Fancy Dress,” sets up the show in two ways. It introduces the concept of the play-within-the-play, the marriage of Robert Martin (Sam Balzac, CC ’17) and Janet Van De Graaff (Lacey Bookspan, BC ’17), and all of its ancillary characters. It also establishes the mood, one of a decidedly farcical and nonsensical piece of fun fiction. Throughout the musical, a tension emerges between the whimsical world of Man In Chair’s vinyl and the harsh realities of his failing life. “The characters are two-dimensional and the plot is well-worn” in the fictional 1928 musical, and the piece explores Man In Chair’s relationship with that sort of setting.

The play harps on and indulges in incongruity between plot and production. Its only truly reprised number, “As We Stumble Along,” inserts itself into the middle of a scene with very little pretext. Its catchy tune and huge production help The Chaperone send out her anthem to drinking. The character of The Chaperone is an older and alcoholic friend of Janet’s. According to Man In Chair, The Chaperone was portrayed in 1928 by an older and alcoholic actress who reminds Man In Chair of his mother. (The Chaperone is played in Roone by Molly Heller, GS/JTS ’15, who is older than Lacey but is decidedly not an alcoholic.)

Entertaining things occur without any reason within the musical. In “Fancy Dress,” every character introduces themselves, including Trix, an aviatrix. She flies in, sings her verse, and leaves, only to return as a deus ex machina in the final scene. And “Bride’s Lament,” Janet’s song of sorrow, has lyrics about monkeys that Man In Chair admits have little to do with the beauty of the music. The actors handled this ludicrous play well. In the best way possible, The Drowsy Chaperone was tastefully overdone. It was self-aware, and got serious when it wanted to. It referenced tropes of musical theatre and used them while maintaining an analytic lens and amusing the audience.

But we heard there was racism! How did that go?