F. Scott Yourself.

October 9, 2012

Recently having embarked on a re-reading of The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, your editorial staff presents here, for your own authorial ease, a do-it-yourself Fitzgerald story maker. Simply make your selections from the options available, mix an old-fashioned, and watch while your very own gossamer beauty, her hair and skin and eyes aflame with the fire of youth and debutante society, takes shape in Fitzgerald-ian (-ish?) verse.

Thomas McClane Blackrock III was a young man from A) Minnesota, B) Manhattan or C) Andover, looking forward to A) summer in the Hamptons, B) an ocean voyage abroad or C) drinks with A) prep school classmates, B) a horsey uncle or C) a youthful fling at the Knickerbocker Club, when he set off down 42nd Street in the marvelous, blustery winter of 19 A) 21, B) 21 or C) 21.

At A) 15, B) 19 or C) 28 years of age, he had just recently been A) admitted to, B) rejected from or C) asked to leave Princeton, on account of A) a series of events in which a man of modest means but intellectual ability and morality is thrust into the world of the wealthy and shocked to find it cruel and hollow, B) a series of events in which a man of modest means but intellectual ability and morality is thrust into the world of the wealthy and shocked to find it cruel and hollow or C) a series of events in which a man of modest means but intellectual ability and morality is thrust into the world of the wealthy and shocked to find it cruel and hollow.

As young Blackrock turned a corner, he was struck by the sight of a girl, no – an angel! stepping from the door of a limousine onto the curb. Swirls of virginal snow played about her ankles, and she was followed out of the vehicle’s cabin by A) a strapping young banker, B) an elderly and proper matron or C) an air of invincible youth, made merry by the glittering delicacies of life and champagne, in front of which the banality of bookish notions of love wither for want of truth. He cocked his hat and lit his pipe.

After colloquial dialogue, Blackrock and the girl A) elope, only to return at her father’s threat to cut off her allowance, at which time she leaves Blackrock heartbroken, cynical and mystified by the very different world of the rich, B) strike up a casual affair that becomes steadily more serious, till it comes to the attention of her father, at which time she leaves Blackrock heartbroken, cynical and mystified by the very different world of the rich or C) ride horses along the beach together, bathed lazily in the starlit incandescence of the moon and waves and love and all things young and fruitful both.

When A) war broke out, B) Blackrock was called to Princeton for pre-season football or C) a more suitable society match was organized for the girl, they parted ways and slipped from one another’s hearts like ships loosed from their moorings in the night, slipping soundlessly away in the cold, black water. At least, thought Blackrock, upon the moment of their parting, we each have plenty of cigarettes.

Advertisements

WFB: Fads Be Damned.

July 29, 2011

Excerpted piratically, but gratefully, from National Review:

(From a question and answer booklet issued by The Alumni Council of Princeton University, June 1, 1958.)

QUESTION: Why don’t Princeton undergraduates look as glossy as they used to? Is it because the admissions people frown on well dressed, social-looking young men?

ANSWER: Certainly not. Since the war, Princeton undergraduates, like those in other colleges, have gone out of their way to wear beat-up clothes. It’s a fad the GI’s started.

If I had been permitted to butt in with the next question, I’d have asked, “What would you do if the next fad called on the students to go about naked?” The answer would presumably have been as evasive as the first, probably something like, “My dear sir, there are laws against indecent exposure.” To be sure, and there are none against wearing sweat shirts in a venerable university eating hall, or in a classroom where the lecture that morning may be on the age of elegance; none, even, governing dress in fraternity houses where, it is commonly supposed, it is the elite who meet to eat. The reason? Rules affecting a student’s dress are . . .

But let me relate an experience. At Yale, ten years ago, there gadded about a distinguished professor of philosophy with a mania for equalitarianism. Notwithstanding, he was himself a man of personal taste, of imposing countenance and erect bearing, and one day he decided it would be reasonable to expect members of his college (undergraduate Yale is quartered in ten colleges) to come to dinner at the college dining hall dressed in coat and tie. Accordingly, he laid down the edict. Hours later, a student had summoned fellow members of the college student council in extraordinary session to devise appropriate means of resisting the act of tyranny. In due course the president of the council appeared before the guileless master and announced that it was the consensus of the student council that the ordinance he had passed was undemocratic. The master did not reply (such a reply would not have occurred to him, even as a lascivious possibility) “Tell the student council to go—eat democratically some place else.” No, our professor of Philosophy simply rescinded his order, aghast at the revelation that, albeit subconsciously, he had entertained an Undemocratic Thought.

It is the knout of Democracy that is most generally used to flail those who believe the administrators of a college are entitled to specify, nay should specify, norms of undergraduate dress. The economic argument, implausible though it increasingly becomes, is still widely used. It holds that coats and ties are expensive, that therefore the uniform requirement that they be worn daily, and hence worn out prematurely, is a form of regressive taxation. The argument is unrealistic because in point of fact ties do not cost very much, and coats made out of a tough material will outlive even a pauper’s inclination to wear them.

It is something else, really, that prevents the deans and masters from acting. They fear, in an age of permissiveness, the howl of protest. The dean of the Graduate School at Yale said recently, “The attire of students is incredibly sloppy. It would be fine if we could get away with a rule requiring ties at all meals. A good thing to press for in my retiring years.”

Must we wait until the Dean retires? Let us hope not. Meanwhile, I make a few observations. The first: Does not insistence on a minimal standard of dress reflect a decent respect for the opinions of mankind? The same community that insists that one pay at least a procedural respect to the opinions of ideological aberrants can hardly be expected to shrink from deferring to society on the appropriate means of clothing one’s nakedness. Even in the world of getting and spending, for whose coarseness a considerable contempt is stimulated in many colleges and campuses, coat-and-tie is a prerequisite to participation. The Beats who indulge their sloppiness as a symbol of their individualism can take the measure of their hypocrisy by reflecting on their imminent surrender — effective on the day they graduate into the world of commerce in which, almost to a man, they fully intend to spend their lives. The young graduate who informs Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane that to require coat and tie is undemocratic, can expect a most un-Philosophic reply. I doubt, going further, that there is a Princeton undergraduate who would presume to call on Jack Kerouac without coat and tie. If disorderly attire is a genuine symbol of personal independence, then the college generation should stick by their symbol at least a few decorous weeks after the ink is dry on their baccalaureate degrees. If it is not that, then dishevelment is what it is: a blend of affectation and laziness.

The second point for the academic community to think over is the matter of authority. Is it theirs to stipulate a minimal standard of dress? Professor Joseph T. Curtiss of Yale said recently, “Respectful or respectable dressing is a characteristic of adult society. Some people are born gentlemen, other people acquire gentility during life, still others must have it forced on them.” The tendency is to depreciate the beneficence of externally imposed norms of civilized behavior. There are many who, like myself, would, if left alone, permit our standards of personal dress to deteriorate to the level of the downright offensive. Conscientious members of society — and I include here, intending no offense, administrators of our colleges and universities — should not permit us to indulge our disintegrative proclivities. Coat-and-tie is merely a symbol. It could be courtesy; deference; reverence; humility; moderation: and are these not, all, the proper concern of a college administration? Is there a relationship between a faculty’s weakmindedness, and a student body’s disorderliness?


Dartmouth Rugby Round-Up

October 4, 2010

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club downed the University of Pennsylvania last weekend, at Penn, by a final tally of 78-7. The match was the first of the Ivy season for the DRFC, which also notched a 38-7 victory in a B-side match played later that day.

The next day saw Dartmouth in Princeton, New Jersey, rolling over the Tigers 52-3 amidst strong play by back Will Lehmann ’12 and DRFC co-captain Tommy Brothers ’11.

This past Saturday, Dartmouth took the pitch in New Haven, set to play the Bulldogs at Yale. Match reports aren’t yet in but Yale came into the came with a 2-0 record, similar to Dartmouth’s, after downing Ivy rivals Columbia and Cornell. Details forthcoming.  


The Boston Cracked Shoe

September 16, 2010

Shelby Cullom Davis (Princeton ’30) was a Bostonian of the most patrician, and endangered, variety: an Ivy Leaguer and a very succesful banker, he served eventually as ambassador to Switzerland. In dress, he favored two-button blue blazers and repp ties, khakis with cuffs, and cap-toed lace-ups cracked deeply across the front.

Ivy-Style reports that the look wasn’t confined to Ambassador Davis, either: men across New England subscribed to the Boston cracked-shoe look, wearing shoes long past the point at which they’d gone from new- to used- to battered-looking. The message inherent was three-fold: first, the men who subscribed to the look were, despite success, generally frugal and prudent. Second, they were too well-heeled and removed to be bothered with such banalities as cobblers. And finally, that their primary care was for taste, things well-used to the point of smooth burnishing, and not for high fashion.

Newly-minted lawyers and bankers climbed their respective ladders in spit-shined brogues; the old partners at the top of the ladder had the luxury of comfortable shoes. Cracked shoes meant success.

“The first time this stubborn Yankee frugality came to the attention of the public was during the 1952 presidential campaign,” wrote Ivy-Style contributor Bill Stephenson. “LIFE Magazine ran a picture of Adlai Stevenson with his feet propped on a chair, and there was a large hole in one of Stevenson’s shoes. The press was dumfounded at what they considered to be a huge faux pas.”

What LIFE failed to note was that Adlai Ewing Stevenson II (he declined “Jr.”), scion of a wealthy family of New England politicians, was merely at ease in his own environment, cracked shoes and all. So at ease that novelist Tom Wolfe was inspired to coin, in Bonfire of The Vanities, the phrase “Boston Cracked-Shoe Look” …and it stuck.

Photo via Maxminimus.


Rugby: Dartmouth Hosts Granite Cup

September 15, 2010

Fall rugby season got underway at Dartmouth College this past weekend as teams from the University of New Hampshire, the University of Vermont, St. Michael’s College, Franklin Pierce, Keene State, and Plymouth State converged in Hanover. British cologne maker Royall Lyme sponsored the tournament, and also sponsors the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club.

Ted Kennedy at the Dartmouth-Harvard match, 1964.

Despite injuries and pre-season commitments, the DRFC fielded three full sides, each of which performed strongly. The Green side took the pitch at 10 am and quickly notched 12 unanswered tries against UNH, a fair number of which were carried in by co-captain Paul Jarvis ’12.  By the final whistle, Dartmouth was up 76-0 on the newly unveiled scoreboard. The scoreboard is dedicated to the 1959 DRFC’s tour of California and will be officially dedicated at the club’s 60th anniversary in October.

A less experienced DRFC side took the pitch next to put St. Michael’s away, 53-0.

After play, the club was generally optimistic about its performance. “There were definitely positives to take away from all of the games,” said Jarvis. “A lot of guys were able to get playing time, often working in new positions or new combinations, and the boys responded well …there is a lot of room to improve, but it was a very promising day for the team and built on the good foundation this team had established the week earlier [during tour] in Canada.”

Official season Ivy League play begins September 25th and 26th, against the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton, respectively.


Affirmative Distraction

July 29, 2010

Please excuse this article’s being here posted in place of overdue original content, but it makes some good points, and makes them well… especially for The New York Times. Though, it’s heartening that venerable rag hired Ross Douthat and let him write this. Mr. Douthat, in addition to NYT columnist, doubles as film critic for National Review and hails from New Haven, Connecticut. He joined the paper in 2009 and his career will bear watching.

In March of 2000, Pat Buchanan came to speak at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. Harvard being Harvard, the audience hissed and sneered and made wisecracks. Buchanan being Buchanan, he gave as good as he got. While the assembled Ivy Leaguers accused him of homophobia and racism and anti-Semitism, he accused Harvard — and by extension, the entire American elite — of discriminating against white Christians.

A decade later, the note of white grievance that Buchanan struck that night is part of the conservative melody. You can hear it when Glenn Beck accuses Barack Obama of racism, or when Rush Limbaugh casts liberal policies as an exercise in “reparations.” It was sounded last year during the backlash against Sonia Sotomayor’s suggestion that a “wise Latina” jurist might have advantages over a white male judge, and again last week when conservatives attacked the Justice Department for supposedly going easy on members of the New Black Panther Party accused of voter intimidation.

To liberals, these grievances seem at once noxious and ridiculous. (Is there any group with less to complain about, they often wonder, than white Christian Americans?) But to understand the country’s present polarization, it’s worth recognizing what Pat Buchanan got right.

Last year, two Princeton sociologists, Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, published a book-length study of admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges and universities. Unsurprisingly, they found that the admissions process seemed to favor black and Hispanic applicants, while whites and Asians needed higher grades and SAT scores to get in. But what was striking, as Russell K. Nieli pointed out last week on the conservative Web site Minding the Campus, was which whites were most disadvantaged by the process: the downscale, the rural and the working-class.

This was particularly pronounced among the private colleges in the study. For minority applicants, the lower a family’s socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted. For whites, though, it was the reverse. An upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications.

This may be a money-saving tactic. In a footnote, Espenshade and Radford suggest that these institutions, conscious of their mandate to be multiethnic, may reserve their financial aid dollars “for students who will help them look good on their numbers of minority students,” leaving little room to admit financially strapped whites.

But cultural biases seem to be at work as well. Nieli highlights one of the study’s more remarkable findings: while most extracurricular activities increase your odds of admission to an elite school, holding a leadership role or winning awards in organizations like high school R.O.T.C., 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America actually works against your chances. Consciously or unconsciously, the gatekeepers of elite education seem to incline against candidates who seem too stereotypically rural or right-wing or “Red America.”

This provides statistical confirmation for what alumni of highly selective universities already know. The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren’t racial minorities; they’re working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions. Inevitably, the same underrepresentation persists in the elite professional ranks these campuses feed into: in law and philanthropy, finance and academia, the media and the arts.

This breeds paranoia, among elite and non-elites alike. Among the white working class, increasingly the most reliable Republican constituency, alienation from the American meritocracy fuels the kind of racially tinged conspiracy theories that Beck and others have exploited — that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Marxist hand-picked by a shadowy liberal cabal, that a Wall Street-Washington axis wants to flood the country with third world immigrants, and so forth.

Among the highly educated and liberal, meanwhile, the lack of contact with rural, working-class America generates all sorts of wild anxieties about what’s being plotted in the heartland. In the Bush years, liberals fretted about a looming evangelical theocracy. In the age of the Tea Parties, they see crypto-Klansmen and budding Timothy McVeighs everywhere they look.

This cultural divide has been widening for years, and bridging it is beyond any institution’s power. But it’s a problem admissions officers at top-tier colleges might want to keep in mind when they’re assembling their freshman classes.

If such universities are trying to create an elite as diverse as the nation it inhabits, they should remember that there’s more to diversity than skin color — and that both their school and their country might be better off if they admitted a few more R.O.T.C. cadets, and a few more aspiring farmers


In Decline, Graciously

July 2, 2010

Via The New York Times:

Satisfaction with our national progress should not make us forget its authors: the very Protestant elite that founded and long dominated our nation’s institutions of higher education and government, including the Supreme Court.

Unlike almost every other dominant ethnic, racial or religious group in world history, white Protestants have ceded their socioeconomic power by hewing voluntarily to the values of merit and inclusion, values now shared broadly by Americans of different backgrounds. The decline of the Protestant elite is actually its greatest triumph.

Like any ethno-racial or religious group, the population of white Protestants is internally diverse. It would be foolish to conflate the descendants of New England smallholders with the offspring of Scandinavian sod farmers in the Middle West, just as it would be a mistake to confuse the Milanese with the Sicilians, or the children of Havana doctors with the grandchildren of dirt farmers from Chiapas, Mexico.

So, when discussing the white elite that exercised such disproportionate power in American history, we are talking about a subgroup, mostly of English or Scots-Irish origin, whose ancestors came to this land in the 17th and 18th centuries. Their forebears fought the American Revolution and wrote the Constitution, embedding in it a distinctive set of beliefs of Protestant origin, including inalienable rights and the separation of church and state.

It is not as though white Protestants relinquished power quickly or without reservation. Catholic immigrants, whether from Ireland or Southern Europe, faced a century of organized discrimination and were regularly denounced as slavish devotees of the pope unsuited to democratic participation.

And, although anti-Semitism in America never had anything like the purchase it had in Europe, it was a persistent barrier. Protestants like Abbott Lawrence Lowell, a great president of Harvard in the early 20th century, tried to impose formal quotas to limit Jewish admissions to the university. The Protestant governing elite must also bear its own share of responsibility for slavery and racial discrimination.

Yet, after the ideals of meritocratic inclusion gained a foothold, progress was remarkably steady and smooth. Take Princeton University, a longtime bastion of the Southern Protestant elite in particular. The Princeton of F. Scott Fitzgerald was segregated and exclusive. When Hemingway described Robert Cohn in the opening of “The Sun Also Rises” as a Jew who had been “the middleweight boxing champion of Princeton,” he was using shorthand for a character at once isolated, insecure and pugnacious. As late as 1958, the year of the “dirty bicker” in which Jews were conspicuously excluded from its eating clubs, Princeton could fairly have been seen as a redoubt of all-male Protestant privilege.

In the 1960s, however, Princeton made a conscious decision to change, eventually opening its admissions to urban ethnic minorities and women. That decision has now borne fruit. Astonishingly, the last three Supreme Court nominees — Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — are Princeton graduates, from the Classes of 1972, ’76, and ’81, respectively. The appointments of these three justices to replace Protestant predecessors turned the demographic balance of the court.

Why did the Protestant elite open its institutions to all comers? The answer can be traced in large part to the anti-aristocratic ideals of the Constitution, which banned titles of nobility and thus encouraged success based on merit. For many years, the Protestant elite was itself open to rising white Protestants not from old-family backgrounds.

Money certainly granted entrée into governing circles, but education was probably more important to the way the Protestant elite defined itself, which is why the opening of the great American universities has had such an epochal effect in changing the demographics of American elites. Another key source was the ideal of fair play, imported from the ideology of the English public schools, but practiced far more widely in the United States than in the class-ridden mother country.

Together, these social beliefs in equality undercut the impulse toward exclusive privilege that every successful group indulges on occasion. A handful of exceptions for admission to societies, clubs and colleges — trivial in and of themselves — helped break down barriers more broadly. This was not just a case of an elite looking outside itself for rejuvenation: the inclusiveness of the last 50 years has been the product of sincerely held ideals put into action.

Interestingly, this era of inclusion was accompanied by a corresponding diffusion of the distinctive fashion (or rather anti-fashion) of the Protestant elite class. The style now generically called “prep,” originally known as “Ivy League,” was long purveyed by Jewish and immigrant haberdashers (the “J.” in the New Haven store J. Press stands for Jacobi) and then taken global by Ralph Lauren, né Lifshitz. But until the Protestant-dominated Ivy League began to open up, the wearers of the style were restricted to that elite subculture.

The spread of Ivy League style is therefore not a frivolous matter. Today the wearing of the tweed is not anachronism or assimilation, but a mark of respect for the distinctive ethnic group that opened its doors to all — an accomplishment that must be remembered, acknowledged and emulated.