Web Exclusives: Tooke's Take
a PAW web exclusive column by Wes Tooke '98 (email: cwtooke@princeton.edu)

October 23, 2002:

Five More Thoughts

By Wes Tooke ’98

Our columnist tries the shotgun approach to writing The Internet has shrunk my attention span so severely that I am no longer capable of producing a complete column (regular readers might wonder why this qualifies as news). You may therefore either treat the following entries as five mini columns or... oooh, baseball scores on ESPN. Sweet.

1) It was nice to see another Ivy League school be embarrassed in the news this fall. During the Fordham-Columbia football game, the Columbia band made a reference to "Fordham tuition going down like an altar boy," and the local press acted as if they had burned the pope in effigy. For me, this story had two terrifying elements that went well beyond a bad joke. First, some people actually decided that a Fordham-Columbia football game would be an enjoyable way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the early fall. Second, apparently some spectators actually stuck around and listened to the band rather than retreating to a bathroom stall and drinking enough hard alcohol to forget that they had just witnessed two quarters of baby blue football. Sometimes I really wonder about the survival of the species.

The real highpoint of this story came a few days later when Father O'Hare of Fordham decided to speak to the New York Times about the incident. "It's typical of Ivy Leaguers to make fun of a Catholic school's strait-laced reputation," he said. "They're very self-important little creatures." Given that the man managed to define both himself and the Ivy League in a mere 19 words, perhaps he should be awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

2) I have no interest in getting anywhere near the 12-round Cornel West vs. Lawrence Summers brawl, but I have wondered if someone who holds the title Professor of Religion shouldn't occasionally consider taking the high road. And doesn't the President of Harvard have something better to do than pick fights with one of his highest profile departments? As a voyeur, of course, I'm just glad that the parties have been able to introduce anti-Semitism into a mixture that already included racism and elitism. As any publicist can tell you, the more isms the better. Nice work.

3) If you claim to love excellent writing, if you dream of being a professional writer, if you have ever enjoyed the pure joy of savoring an honest book, then I would like to know why you haven't bought 10 copies of John McPhee's "The Founding Fish." I don't care if you wouldn't know a shad from a moose; I don't care if just the word "fishing" makes you yawn. Ten copies. One for you, one for your father, one to give to your daughter on her 12th birthday, three for your illiterate college roommates, two for a local elementary school, one to send to the national magazine of your choice with a note (why can't you people write like this?) and one to save for your dotage. Otherwise — and I hate to be the one who has to tell you this — you are a literary fraud.

4) I still occasionally partake in the guilty pleasure of browsing the Tigernet e-mail forums, and over the last few days I've witnessed the glory that is a Princeton flame war. You get all the typical manifestations of pent-up rage you'd find in an average flame war, all the ridiculously overblown rhetoric of a sad person taking out his or her aggressions via the drive-by shooting of a stranger, yet you also get a healthy serving of the unique brand of huffy arrogance and condescension that made this college great. Isn't part of the reason you go to a place like Princeton to ensure that when you're 50 you'll have something better to do than rant on an e-mail list at two-thirty on a Wednesday afternoon? Just wondering.

5) Am I the only person who wants to know why the Robertson family is really suing Princeton? If the center of the issue really is who gets to invest the money, the National Review's claim that the Robertsons have outperformed Princo in 19 of the last 22 years is awfully damning.


You can reach Wes at cwtooke@princeton.edu