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Senior Wisdom: Maxwell Bertolero

Name, Hometown, School, Major: Maxwell Bertolero. Danville, CA. General Studies. Philosophy and Psychology.

Claim to Fame: That annoying GS kid who asks way too many questions. Former motocross racer and high school drop out. In the future, I hope to be known as the kid who talked about depression, dirtbikes, free will, and drinking whiskey in his valedictorian address.

Where are you going? Well, I bought a white Ford Cargo Van with no windows, and I am packing up my stuff and my dirtbike, and then I am driving across the country with my cosmic brother, Michael Tran, from New York City to Kentucky, through Tennessee, down to New Orleans, across Texas, into Mexico, up through New Mexico, into Nevada, and then, after about 50 pounds of BBQ, ten gallons of whiskey, and lots of questionable decisions, we will arrive at UC Berkeley, where I am starting my PhD in cognition, brain, and behavior through the Psychology department. I aspire to be Sam Harris, Eric Kandel, Conor Oberst, and Bertrand Russell, wrapped into one person, with lots of Nature and Science publications. Please ask me about my aspirations during my 4th year of graduate school, though, and then laugh at me and my crushed dreams.

Three things you learned at Columbia:

  1. Relationships between friends usually last longer than ones between lovers, and can be just as intense and rewarding, if not more so.
  2. A liberal arts education isn’t so much about learning how to think. It’s about learning to control the way in which one thinks…to be able to think rationally and logically even when it leads one to a result that seems grimmer than the result one’s intuitions and emotions deliver. As Achille Varzi explained to me, “learning to use logic frees one’s mind from being bound by one’s limited intuitions.” Fucking pure gold, man.
  3. Most of the things that I was automatically certain of, that I believed so strongly that I never even thought about it on an explicit level, turned out to be totally wrong and deluded. This process was insanely enjoyable, as my worldview is always changing. I hope this process is not over, and that it only ends when I die.

“Back in my day…” This is the ultimate lead-in question to a bullshit-hipster-I-liked-it-/-was-there-first answer. But seriously, back in my day, Bright Eyes’ Fevers and Mirrors record had a 5.4 rating on Pitchfork (it has recently been changed to a 9, which is one point lower than it deserves), and the V train still existed. There. The tone of my answer matches the tone of the question.

Justify your existence in 30 words or less: I have Darwin’s face (and beard!) tattooed on my upper arm.

Is the War on Fun over? Who won? Any war stories? I quickly retreated to the Lower East Side, which is the Sweden of Wars on Fun. The only time my fun was “fought” was when I was chugging a bottle of madeira wine with my buddy Ben Barczewski on the corner of Ludlow and Rivington, and we dropped it right in front of a cop on horseback. The cop asked if I was drunk, and I said “I am drunk as fuck, sir.” He asked where I lived, and I pointed up Ludlow street, and he nicely recommended we go home. We rubbed the horse’s nose and then went north to Max Fish.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? If one gives up cheese, one would only be depriving oneself of pleasure, but if one gives up oral sex, one is depriving oneself and others of pleasure. Try that logic on for size.

But really, call me when you replace cheese with foie gras in this question, so I at least have to think about it for more than 1.8 seconds.

Advice for the class of 2016:

  • Hang a “?” at the end of everything you believe about the world, others, and yourself.
  • Sometimes you just have to say “fuck it” and just go for it. It’s in those moments that you grow the most and learn the most about yourself. Plus, as Ernest Hemingway says, “You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.” Also, be offended by the use of the term “bitch.” But still use it.
  • Be wary of anyone who would rather correct your grammar than have a good time.
  • You have an opportunity (Ivy League education / being young in New York City) that 99.99% of people will never have. Don’t fucking waste it, take it for granted, or be afraid to make mistakes. Failing is always better than never trying. You can only learn from the former. Also, cliche statements are usually true.
  • Research is fun—there is nothing like discovering and creating new knowledge—and professors really will welcome you with open arms if you are passionate.
  • Laugh hysterically when people ask you what you are going to do with your major.
  • “If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough…Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you…Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.” David Foster Wallace said that. Read his books, and lots of other books that are not assigned. You can only study so much before it’s pointless and you should crack open a beer or two (or 5) and a book.
  • Find a way to love what you are learning. Find a way to really enjoy the material. Your GPA and your happiness will improve, and not because having a higher GPA makes you happy. Didn’t you listen to David?
  • The best professor I have ever had, who changed my life forever, has terrible reviews on CULPA.
  • There is no shame, only courage, in getting help for mental issues. The brain is an organ, so you should get help for it in the same way you would for any other organ. Also, when your friend is having mental issues, you will want to help them personally, but they need professional help, not a hard night out drinking. Be supportive and encourage the former.
  • You are surrounded by amazing and intelligent people. Ask them tough and honest questions, and really listen to what they say.
  • Get tattoos. Just make sure you go to someone good, like Amanda Wachob, and get them in places you can cover up when necessary (for example, your forehead probably isn’t a good location). Then, when people ask you if you will like your tattoo in 30 years, or if it will still look nice in 30 years, ask them the same questions about their husbands and wives.
  • Grow your hair out long and then get really drunk and shave it all off with your friends. This applies to everyone. Fuck gender norms.
  • Learn to like scotch (thanks James) and stinky cheese (thanks Kendall).
  • Just because the bars close at 4am doesn’t mean you have to drink until 4am. But there’s no hell when you die, so…

Any regrets? Fuck that.

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  • Anonymous says:


  • Wait, says:

    @Wait, wasn’t he a senior last year?? Confused

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous he did senior theses in philosophy and psychology last year, but he had to take a class in the summer and a class in the fall to finish everything while he worked in one of the cog neuro labs.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Clearly a very bright guy, but there’s something fundamentally offputting about his presentation (granted, it’s an internet blog post)..

  • fred new-how says:

    @fred new-how my favorite!


    @OBERST REFERENCE There’s no hell when you die, so don’t look so worried, y’all.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Yes! –> “Research is fun—there is nothing like discovering and creating new knowledge—and professors really will welcome you with open arms if you are passionate.”

  • 3rd thing says:

    @3rd thing you learned from Columbia you’re quoting from DFW’s This is Water, aren’tcha? too good.

  • Whaaa says:

    @Whaaa No more cheese/ blow job question? Would’ve liked to hear his response… Probly would’ve involved whiskey-fueled fellatios.

    1. Naaaah says:

      @Naaaah If I had to guess, I’d say his answer would have had something to do with how many people you deny pleasure to when giving up cheese versus how many people you deny pleasure to when giving up oral sex… or something clever like that.

      I bet he also would have said something about how the decision to give up cheese would not be as hard as the decision to give up other foods.. maybe like foie gras or something.

  • Yeah! says:

    @Yeah! Epic senior wisdom!

  • Huh says:

    @Huh Can’t tell if I want to kill him or bro out with him. Either way I would love to have sex with him.

  • isn't he the head says:

    @isn't he the head of the S&M club?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous …columbia has an S&M club?

    2. intrigued says:


      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous yes there is a club

        no he is not the head of it

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “Get tattoos. Just make sure you go to someone good, like Amanda Wachob, and get them in places you can cover up when necessary (for example, your forehead probably isn’t a good location). Then, when people ask you if you will like your tattoo in 30 years, or if it will still look nice in 30 years, ask them the same questions about their husbands and wives.”

    Total win.

  • CC '12 says:

    @CC '12 This guy seems really awesome. Sad that I’m leaving before meeting him.

  • Wow says:

    @Wow I think I just fell in love through a creepy internet medium.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous So, you mean Date My School?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous you had me at conor oberst

    1. seriously though says:

      @seriously though i have never met anyone who seems to like conor oberst/bright eyes as much as i do. wish i had met this guy.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous What is it about ugly cc/barnard girls who think they can get with an attractive guy just bc he goes to GS?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Wow, GS students know they’re annoying and ask too many questions but do it anyway. Own it, GS.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous no, I think you should own the fact that you actually have nothing interesting to say in class.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous If a GS student ever were to say anything interesting in a single one of my classes, I would drop dead from the shock. 99% of your questions aren’t as great and insightful as you think they are and a similar percentage of them would be better saved for office hours rather than wasting both my time and the professors time. Any questions?

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous calm down chick. I come from the same privileged Columbia College Class as you, but I actually give two fucks and respect my GS classmates who not only are smarter than me but who also have to work hard to pay for their education.

        2. CC'14 says:

          @CC'14 You seem really upset/mad/jelly. Tame that inferior complex, kid.

          Some GS students are geniuses and some are freaking retarded, just like those in CC. You’re judging an entire college on some old geezers who make unintelligent comments in class?

          By the way, half of GS students are in their early to mid 20s (including dual degree students, of course). How the hell do you tell who’s in GS? The “old people?”

          I can already think of one GSer who’s smarter than you. Read this senior wisdom.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous GS owns you.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Where are professor interviews BWOG?

    1. Alex says:

      @Alex Sorry, but we’re keeping those to first semester finals for now.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I met this guy in a philosophy class. He is brilliant, cocky, weird, brilliant, and he stills says hi to me when I run into him.

    This is an intense senior wisdom, but from what I know, Maxwell walks the walk.
    I’ve never met anyone as passionate as him ever.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous gonna pour one out for david foster wallace.

    RIP. literary genius. :(

  • Prescriptivist says:

    @Prescriptivist But to correct grammar IS to have a good time!

    1. Descriptivist says:

      @Descriptivist Never! Viva la revolucion!

  • CC'14 says:

    @CC'14 A little too hardcore for me, but I’m impressed. Congrats on the PhD program at UC Berkeley.

  • this man... says:


    1. this man... says:

      @this man... clearly gives enough fucks to tell us all about how much he doesn’t give them

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous i hear this maxwell kid is huge.

  • oh. oh my. says:

    @oh. oh my. i think i’m in love.

  • This... says:

    @This... …isn’t so hot, GS. But, at least you’re on the board, guys.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Disappear, troll.

  • Anna says:

    @Anna I’ll show this to our babies when you die <3

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous can’t tell if awesome or complete tool.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous From experience: both.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous god is fake.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Hey guys, I think this guy really likes to drink.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Hey guys, so do I.

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