Summer Time

If you’re reading this and in college, ha.

If you’re reading this and at work, haha.

If you’re reading this and doing anything other than enjoying your first day of summer, hahaha.

That’s right, ladies and germs, my summer break began this morning. I finished with classes Friday afternoon, but needed to write an essay due Sunday night, so I had not quite finished when classes stopped. I came home early Saturday morning with Michael and I rendezvoused with my whole family to do Stenberg stuff. My brother came home for a concert, so that explains why he too was in San Antonio. We went to the mall to buy me a suitcase for my upcoming travels to Europa. If you have not read my copious postings about Normandy Scholars, then I do not know who you are. I will boil the info down to what you need to know: hard semester studying World War II, now going to London, Normandy, Paris, and Berlin with my 20 classmates.

Boom.

I do not leave for one week exactly as the program begins in London on the 8th. Many of my classmates arrive early in London or are visiting Scotland before the program starts, but as I will be staying after the program finishes, I arrive to London only the day before it starts. I therefore find myself with a week unlike one I have experienced: my friends are still in college, pre-finals week to be exact, and are in no mood to cavort, I must plan and pack for my month away, and yet I want to do a bunch of things before I leave.

I plan on driving to College Station to see my brother and my friends there before I leave, and also to attend a sorority dance with Katlin. I hope I will be able to see her, Daniel, Jessica, Daphnee, and Michael, but I only have one day, so it might not work. From Cstat I will drive to Austin and try to accomplish the usual “last days of school” stuff. I will sell or return my books, pack up my junk, say goodbye to my friends, and drive home. Hopefully I have a day or two to relax there, because I really want to eat at some restaurants there that I have never had a chance to visit. I have not had a car in Austin, so seeing Austin in my truck changes everything because it broadens my possibilities. Currently, I want to eat at Swift’s Attic, Foreign and Domestic, and the Barley Swine.

The break feels short to me despite the fact I have an entire week, and now traveling to Europe really seems to be hitting me. While I am on the continent I will take picture and blog as often as I can, so you can look forward to that if you’d like, but I imagine you’ll have plenty to do other the summer. If not, you’re more than welcome to visit World War II sites vicariously through me. While still here I have a few things to accomplish though: register for summer classes, buy some shorts and fix my watch, read some books not about war and death, and catch up on sleep. Grueling, I know.

I plan on writing a wrap-up of my semester in Normany Scholars, but not right now. I do not have enough perspective on it yet; I need more time to stew on what I learned life-lesson wise, not intellectually. A premature report would state that the semester was great, but perhaps I cannot write a comprehensive analysis remains impossible until I have done the traveling part of the program. I will keep you up to date, and I look forward to blogging more. Good to be back!

Summer Time

A Daily Texan Story a Friend Wrote about the Normandy Scholar Program

Normandy Scholar Program students focus on World War II, prepare to travel to Europe

A trip to Majdanek, a Nazi concentration camp in Poland, made a lasting impact on Plan II sophomore Daley Epstein. Two years later, Epstein distinctly remembers standing at the camp during a trip she took for March of the Living, an educational program that brings students from around the world to Poland to see the remnants of the Holocaust.

Because of her experience listening to Holocaust survivors tell her about the loss of life they witnessed first-hand while in Poland, Epstein, a former Daily Texan columnist, decided to apply to the Department of History’s Normandy Scholar Program on World War II. The program focuses on World War II curriculum, and Epstein hoped to expand her knowledge beyond her Jewish lens.

“My reoccurring theme with both World War II and the Holocaust itself is the more I know the less I understand,” Epstein said. “To this day, after traveling to Poland, I’m still baffled that the human race can sink so low.”

The 20 participating students spend the semester in courses focused on World War II and will travel to London, Normandy, Paris and Berlin with their professors from May 8 to 29.

The Normandy Scholar Program began in the fall of 1989 to test out the level of interest students and faculty had in learning the causes, conduct and consequences of World War II. The program has since evolved into a spring semester program with the opportunity to witness firsthand the lessons taught in the classroom in Europe.

“Whatever background you come into the program with, we all very quickly got on the same page,” said Josh Fuller, history and philosophy sophomore. “I don’t know if we’re experts now, but we definitely all know a lot.”

The program consists of five lecture classes with heavy discussion and writing components. Additionally, students are required to attend a three-hour film screening Monday nights and guest lectures on Wednesdays ranging from speakers including Holocaust survivors and World War II experts.

Each professor structures the class from the buildup of World War I through the conclusion of World War II, with students seated in “Normandy formation,” a horseshoe arrangement of desks to facilitate discussion.

“Being Jewish doesn’t help you understand World War II. I don’t want to say it was a hindrance, but it gave me a very isolated perspective of something far bigger than the Holocaust,” Epstein said. “My knowledge was focused on my lineage, so I never really understood what was going on in Japan or Russia.”

The students said that traveling abroad to the sites they read about for the past 14 weeks will solidify their knowledge and give them an opportunity to see what they have both heard and read. The five professors of the Normandy classes will travel with the students to Europe, teaching them from their own specialized area of expertise from “Hitler, Nazism and the Second World War” to a “France in Modern Times” class.

“It’s being in the same place where history took place that we’re all excited for,” Fuller said. “We’re not going to be tourists; we’re going to be amateur academics.”

The students think of the trip as a reward of sorts after the labor-intensive semester they complete this Friday.

“The semester is very challenging. There’s no off; it’s like we’re in grad school,” Fuller said.

Throughout the semester, students in the program read long excerpts from over 24 books, read an average of 800 pages every week and in many cases slept minimally as they strove to keep up with their papers. They took no tests, focusing instead on essays with a few quizzes.

Government sophomore Caroline Corcoran said she appreciated the opportunity to enjoy what they were learning, rather than always being tested. She developed her passion for understanding World War II after she received an American Girl doll in the fourth grade that embodied an American girl living in the U.S. during the 1940s.

She said that before the program, her knowledge of the war was limited to what was published in the U.S., which left her with less understanding of events outside of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the liberation of concentration camps.

“Learning about the war makes it so much more real. We’re slowly losing the survivors. It makes it more meaningful to hear from them,” Corcoran said.

As the semester winds down, the students have realized that after a combined 20 hours of in-class instruction, they still have much more to learn about the history behind World War II and reasons to promote continued education of world history.

“It gives you something to talk about with the generation that lived it,” Corcoran said. “No matter where they were in the world at the time. Learning about the past shows you’re still interested in what they did.”

A Daily Texan Story a Friend Wrote about the Normandy Scholar Program

A Quick Breath of Air

One of the quicker weeks I have ever experienced, if I do say so myself.

Normandy decided to finish with an atomic-bomb sized explosion, preferring to obliterate all of its members instead of calmly coasting to a finish. The workload for my last two weeks is greater than any other amount of work I have had to do in school, ever. They professors certainly have suspect planning though, because the previous two weeks have been relatively easy. My last month of school looks like two light weeks, followed by the two heaviest weeks of school in my life. The good news is I am almost finished with the first of these two hard weeks, and one week from today, I shall finish school.

Starting on Monday my workload was: a one page paper, a ten minute power point, three books to read, a five page document essay, a two page visual essay, a four page essay, a five page essay, three movies to watch, my final fifteen page paper, a quiz, and much too much reading centered on rape.

Not going to lie: the rape reading has been most unpleasant.

Did you know that when the Russians began fighting in Europe, and specifically Germany, estimates of the number of women  they raped range from 100,000 to 2,000,000? Not something most people talk about. A Soviet memorial in Berlin was defaced in 2010 with the words “The Tomb of the Unknown Rapist.”

You see, that is the real mess about World War II. It does not taper off; it finishes in the most disgusting fashion. The atomic bombs in Japan, fire-bombing in Hamburg and Dresden, thenincreased murder of European Jews, epidemic rape in Europe, internment of American minorities, and more unprovoked murder than you  can shake a stick at.

Almost 50 million people died in World War II. That’s not cool  at all.

More than half those losses come from the Soviet Union. Hail Stalin!

I have quite a bit of work still  ahead of me still, and do not ask me how that is. I have barely scraped the surface of the essays I have to write, but I am not as worried as I thought I would be. The fact that I still have another week before most of these things are due consoles me. I will have to work through this weekend, which is a shame because many of my good friends are coming into Austin this weekend, and my parents will join me for a Normandy Scholars brunch on Sunday. I am afraid I will not have the time to relish spending a few moments with my friends, but I know that it will be worth it.

Notable things going on this weekend that I might have to miss: 4/20 (jk…or am I?!?!), Reggae fest, Fight the World!, chilling with my parents, sleeping, respecting my body’s right to homeostasis, leisure, decency, self-respect, hygiene, going to the bathroom (adult diapers!), and thinking about things other than rape, dead children, and the Holocaust.

The good news is that I will be finished in seven days, I register for classes on Tuesday, I have a break between when I finish school and go to Europe (Sleep!), I will have accomplished something I consider impressive, Young Life all-city club!, and the Spurs’ good play of late.

Also more fun facts: the Soviet Union strapped bombs to dogs and trained them to run under German tanks and explode, Stalin funded research to create a super-soldier by inseminating human women with ape semen, margarine use in America doubles butter consumption, Russians stole watches more than anything when looting cities, we dropped the atomic bombs unnecessarily, the Warsaw uprising killed 230,000 Polish Jews (the largest single war atrocity of WWII; did you know?), Babi Yar?, Dresden only killed between 25,000 and 40,000 civilians–more died in Hamburg (thanks for nothing, Vonnegut!), and the Japanese experiments on POWs were more savage than the Nazis’

Whhheeeeewwwww I am tired. Sleep tonight, though!

Go Spurs!

Looking forward to being home for a week and seeing my parents this Sunday!

Rape is terrible!

Check out Edith Piaf “I Regret Nothing!”

Might see George Tharp this weekend, whhaattt?

Cacopardo is sulphur and sulphur is Cacopardo

A Quick Breath of Air

Underground Chickens

I am torn between believing that everyone should be able to have chickens if they want, in the same way we now have dogs, cats, and fish. On the other hand, it is naive to think that the actions of the government are unjustified. There are things like sanitation, liability, property restrictions, and even animal rights that must be considered. If the government wills itself to be the “bad cop” in this situation, then one must respect them for it, to an extent.

No one asked, but my solution would be to legalize the possession of chickens if a few provisions are met. For one, potential owners must attend some sort of education class, so not every ditz who suffers from a pastoral impulse (see the Kardashians) can adopt and potentially abuse chickens. Second, one must regulate the sale of chickens, and also make caring for them mandatory (as is the case with shots and things for dogs).

I think I have solved the problem. Let Barack know.

Underground Chickens

A Favorite of Mine

"C'mon Pigs of Western Civilization Eat More Grease"
Eat Eat more marbled Sirloin more Pork’n
gravy!
Lard up the dressing, fry chicken in
boilig oil
Carry it dribbling to gray climes, snowed with
salt,
Little lambs covered with mint roast in racks
surrounded by roast potatoes wet with
buttersauce,
Buttered veal medallions in creamy saliva,
buttered beef, by glistening mountains
of french fries
Stroganoffs in white hot sour cream, chops
soaked in olive oil
surrounded by olives, salty feta cheese, followed
by Roquefort & Bleu & Stilton
thirsty
for wine, beer Cocacola Fanta Champagne
Pepsi retsina arak whiskey vodka
Agh! Watch out hear attack, pop more 
angina pills
order a plate of Bratwurst, fried frankfurters,
couple billion Wimpys’ McDonald’s burgers
to the moon & burp!
Salt on those fries! Hot dogs! Milkshakes!
Forget greenbeans, everyday a few carrots, 
a mini big spoonful of salty rice’ll 
do, make the plate pretty;
throw in some vinegar pickles, briny sauerkraut 
check yr. cholesterol, swallow a pill
and order a sugar Cream donut, pack 2 under
the size 44 belt
Pass out in the vomitorium come back cough
up strands of sandwich sill chewing 
pastrami at Katz’s delicatessen 
Back to central Europe & gobble Kielbasa
in Lódz 
swallow salami in Munich with beer, Liverwurst
on pumpernickel in Berlin, greasy cheese in 
a 3 star Hotel near Syntagma, on white
bread thick-buttered
Set an example for developing nations, salt,
sugar, animal fat, coffee tobacco Schnapps
Drop dead faster! Make room for
Chinese guestworkers with alien soybean
curds green cabbage & rice!
Africans Latins with rice beans & calabash can
stay thin & crowd in apartments for working
class foodfreaks—

Not like Western cuisine rich in protein
cancer heart attack hypertension sweat
bloated liver & spleen megaly
Diabetes & stroke-monuments to carnivorous
civilizations
presently murdering Belfast 
Bosnia Cypress Ngorno Karabach Georgia
mailing love letter bombs in 
Vienna or setting houses afire
in East Germany— have another coffee,
here’s a cigar.
And this is a plate of black forest chocolate cake,
you deserve it.
A Favorite of Mine

Life Life Life Life

I know I have not blogged in a long time, but I am not mad about that, and I hope you are not either. I have been busy lately with quite a few things, and it took the Easter weekend to give me time and perspective enough to conjure up a post.

I will wrap up quickly what is going on in my life.

First, school is almost over: I have three weeks left in the Normandy Program and then I ship off for London. This upcoming week will not be too hard, but I will need to start on some major essays and projects this week or I will be slaughtered in the final two weeks. The penultimate and ultimate weeks of Normandy are infamous among those in the program, and there really is not much I can do proactively to combat the onslaught, because professors do not give the essay prompts until the week the essay is due. Six essays in two weeks, but then I am finished. Or dead.

Secondly, I have been reactivating Young Life in my schedule by getting involved at a high school called Reagan. Reagan is an urban school much like Travis, except with several differences. For one, the team is much larger. My good friends Zach, Thersa, Sydney, and Jared are on the team, and so joining has been seamless. There is a lot of room for Young Life to grow there, and I hope I can bring some of the work ethic that I learned at Travis into play at Reagan.

I would be remiss if I did not mention my weekends, because they have been spectacular this entire school year. Last weekend my friend Aaron Schulze had scored a free hotel room at the Hyatt Resort in Bastrop, Texas, and so he invited me and Zach to spend the night there with him and take advantage of all the activities that the resort offered. We swam, campfired, met people, hottubbed, and talked and it was such a blessing for all of us.

This weekend I am back at home, blogging from my trusty family computer. My family is in the background, and I do not want to go back to school. I have spent the weekend eating mostly, and today the added bonus of sweets and soda has reentered my diet (#Easterproblems). I also hung out with a few of my good friends, but I have mostly spent my time with my family playing ping-pong or cooking. I also spent a substantial amount of time last night reading “The Hunger Games.”

Next weekend I have a team bonding event with my LLYC crew, so I will go with Sean and see Luke, Ashley, and others with whom I will be spending a large part of my summer. Following that weekend, I have only more weekend until school is finished for me. The weekend before that was Round-Up, before that was the Grand Canyon, and so on and so on. They have been great! Even my weeknights have been fun. On Thursday I went downtown as a date for a girl whom I had never met. What a night! I have even been to Normandy Scholar parties and let me tell you: what an experience.

The reason for the season is of the utmost importance though, and so I have to tell everyone Happy Easter. We went to church this morning and came home and have been eating, playing ping-pong, and watching tv, which is lazy in my mind, but also exactly what I wanted to do, so I have been a happy camper. Lent has been good to me: I have not touched soda or sweets, and for that I am proud. I totally failed at saying a daily Rosary; I think I stopped right before Spring Break. I have done quite well with the 40 day New Testament Plan, and I will probably finish it tomorrow. I also went to my first Reconciliation as a “card-carrying Catholic,” and I have been getting involved with my Catholic Bible Study more. I think I will be a FOCUS leader next year, which is a leadership position in the youth aspect of the University Catholic Church. I also applied to be the Director of the Gardening Committee at the CEC, so if I get both of those positions next year, in addition to being a Young Life leader again, I think the hole in my life that the Normandy Program will leave might just be filled.

Also, working on a new blog format. Holla.

Life Life Life Life

Round-Up Round-up

Ah come on, you knew I was going to do that play on words with Round-up. What did you expect? I am not better than that. That is all I have. All I am is a few puns and some hastily srcibbled paragraphs. Stop reading my blog. It is amateur. I hire a five year-old to write it.

But wait, did you even consider that Roud-Up Round-up was a triple entendre? No? I did not think so. Does this change how you think of me? Are you still reading?

Let me explain.

Round-Up is the annual debaucherous celebration that fraternities and sororities use to throw the biggest parties of the year. The hope is that high-school students will illegally attend Round-Up and be attracted to a particular frat or sorority. Then, in the fall, that student will rush whatever Greek group appealed to him/her. The rest of UT uses Round-Up as an excuse to wear neon sorority tees, go to the biggest parties of the year, and revel in the weekend-long absurdity.

Round-up means wrap-up or summary.

The Round Up was a particularly intense two-day period of rounding up Jews in Paris and sending them to concentration camps. July 16-18, 1943, Nazis and French gendarmes rounded-up 13,000 non-French Jews and sent them to the French equivalent of the Superdome. They were kept there for five days with inadequate food and sanitation necessities, and then transported to Drancy internment camp. From there they were periodically shipped off to Auschwitz.  Just about everyone died. Several thousand children were also killed, because the French collaborationists did not want to have to provide federal care for the orphans of deceased parents.

“Woah, Mark,” I bet you’re saying, “that was depressing. Why would you even think about The Round Up while you are giving a round-up of Round-Up?

The irony is that our professors decided to teach us about The Round Up (La Rafle) the week that preceded Round-Up weekend, about which I am now giving you the Round-up.

Boom.

I love Round-Up, but I cannot really explain why. Ask my friends and they’ll tell you that I love it, but they won’t know why either. It is inexplicable, but for the second year in a row, I had an amazing weekend. I worked really hard during the week in order to be worry-free for Friday and Saturday night, and that added to my pleasure. Mostly though, the fun comes from being with my friends on an adventure.

Friday night Mike and I went to Sammie, the Jewish frat in which Michael and I have a lot of friends. Also, a lot of other people were there for the performer. See at Round-Up, most frats hire a rapper or band to play on one night. On Friday at Sammie, T-Pain was hired. That’s right, T-Pain.

Funny story, though, T-Pain cancelled the day of the concert. We found out on the way to the party, and emotions were mixed. I was ecstatic. We each received a refund for the tickets we purchased, another rapper just played a full-length show instead of opening, and I got into a fun party. I am not a massive T-Pain fan, and so I was not distraught that he cancelled. Michael, on the other hoof, was inconsolable. He is a big fan of T-Pain and a lot of luster dissipated from the party when he cancelled.

We arrived and saw the performance by the opener, which was not great. We did, however, see almost all of friends in the frat, as well as a bunch of our other friends. We danced and talked most of the evening, but it was certainly not raucous. Michael had crew the next morning at six in the morning, so we headed back around ten-thirty. I was satisfied, but certainly not elated. If the following night was the same caliber, then I would have been disappointed in Round-Up.

The following morning most of my friends went to get free tacos, because many sororities sell food to give the proceeds to philanthropies; but as is the case with many Round-Up events, if you are wearing the t-shirt or tank of the sorority sponsoring the event, then you get free food. They get publicity for their Greek organization and you get food, so everyone is happy.

I did not go because I had homework to do, so I labored in the library (my second home this semester) until mid-afternoon. After that I found out that Michael did not want to go out to find another party that night. Miraculously, Sean, Zach, and Jerry all said they wanted to go out, and so I had a crew with which to roll.

First we hit up the Sammie Adams concert at Kappa Sig, but we arrived right as he was finishing. Unfortunate as it may seem, the timing was perfect. We did not have to pay to get into the party because the show was over, and we knew some guys in the frat. They gave me some wristbands that were instrumental to us getting into a party later that night. As it was early, around seven in the evening, we went back to Dobie to grab some food.

We left from Dobie intending to get into a party with our wristbands to see Young Joc. Like most Round-Up parties, this one was packed and they let almost no one into the frat house. We waited outside among an enormous crowd of drunk, neon-clad collegiate students. We decided to ditch and try and get into another party. We knew our chances for this second party were very slim, so we met up with some of our friends in the frat to see if we could get in with them.

We met them at a restaurant in West Campus called Quattro’s, where I met some very friendly women. They asked for my number and then group-texted me all night which was hilarious. We set off towards the second party, but stumbled upon a stumbling drunk girl. Sean’s raison d’etre in life is helping drunk girls. We used moral obligation to coerce us into walking her to safety. We went on an adventure to connect her to a friend she knew in the area, and on the way we ran into several more of our friends.

After we dropped her off, we arrived to wait outside the next party. Again–a massive crowd awaited us. The frat was hosting Baby Bash I think, and no one was let in. The cops showed up and moved everyone off the street, and I got to hear a tazer for the first time. Let me tell you, the whole “don’t taze me, bro” thing is funny until you have heard a tazer. The crackle noise they make scared the bejeezes out of me. We left that party and headed for another.

At that point, we were running out of options but still having a fantastic time on our adventure. I suggested we go to Sammie again, who this night was not having a rapper, but was having their “chill” party, with just a DJ and other stuff. I got in easily because I had my wristband from the previous night that I had paid for (and then been reimbursed!), so I got into two parties for free. I asked a friend inside to help get Sean in, and then another friend of mine let Zach into the party. Jerry had jumped ship a few parties back.

When we arrived in the party we ran into our good friend Aaron Schulze, and the fearsome foursome was born. We mingled with our friends outside for quite awhile, but then went inside to dance.

We tore it up.

We left around one-thirty completely drenched in sweat (I was, at least) to go to our traditional, late-night Kerbey Lane post-Round-Up. Michael met us there, as well as some girls that wanted to meet up with us. The eight of us arrived at Kerbey and got in around two-thirty, and left about an hour later. The fearsome now-fivesome got back and everyone just crashed. The party was so much fun and it was totally free for all of us. Kerbey Lane went off perfectly, and the entire night was the perfect mix of adventuring for a party and then getting into a really good one and tearing it up. So much fun.

The next day, everyone was sore and tired from the night before, but Round-Up was a complete success. I went back to the library to do more slave-labor and we all went about getting back to school-duties. For the freshmen in our group, Round-Up was phenomenal. For the veterans, it was even better the second time around.

Round-Up Round-up