• Twitter Taco Suggestions for your Taco Tuesday!

    In honor of our Taco Tuesday package, we have put together a Storify feed full of tweeted suggestions from our followers! To have your favorite taco added to our list, tweet us at @dtlifeandarts or @thedailytexan.

  • Interdisciplinary studies will be the saving grace of the humanities

    The University of Texas sits at a delicate crossroads. With fallout from UT Law School investigation, debate over raising tuition costs, and a 4-year graduation rate hovering around 53 percent, the school has got plenty of issues on its plate.

    Perhaps that is why the crisis in the humanities has been chronically overlooked.

    In times of economic downturn, justifying a degree in philosophy or political science becomes harder for students who have to pay back loans with high interest rates. The desire for a measurable return-on-investment often wins out over the desire for a deeper understanding of the human condition, especially when a degree in engineering has a starting salary 45 percent higher than a degree in the humanities. The National Endowment for the Humanities, which collects this information, found that in 2011 research expenditures in the humanities reached $1 billion, or about one-twelfth of engineering research expenditures.

    Whether it’s business, science, or math, students are flocking to STEM subjects that promise post-graduation visibility in the job market and a steady paycheck later on down the road. But does this mean that the discourses of Plato should get the boot in places of higher learning?

    Louis Menand, a writer for the The New Yorker magazine and a professor of English at Harvard University, doesn’t think so.

    Speaking in front of Plan II students and faculty last Thursday, Menand discussed how interdisciplinary studies are part of the solution for the troubled humanities. What university educators need to think about is not preparing students to become tools in a drawer, but to become the drawer itself. A student increases his or her net worth to employers by not only having medical research skills, but also persuasive writing experience and a historical knowledge of medical ethics.

    With the commitment of philanthropists Michael and Susan Dell to help fund UT’s spiffy new medical school, perhaps there is hope of revitalizing an interest in the humanities on the Forty Acres. The new medical center, which is expected to create 15,000 jobs in Austin when it is opened in 2016, presents an opportunity to bridge the gap between STEM subjects and liberal arts. At a number of university medical schools across the country, programs in the medical humanities allow students to simultaneously explore the pragmatic application of science and literature to solve the world’s biggest public health concerns.

    Paul Farmer, a medical anthropologist who also spoke on campus last week, exemplifies how the combined knowledge of medicine and cultures can bring about a greater change in society at large. As a co-founder of Partners In Health, Farmer has successfully implemented 12 health clinics around the globe without uprooting the cultures and religions on which the communities stand. 

  • Toy Joy is leaving the Drag, and we are sad.

    Toy Joy is making the move to downtown Austin. After more than a decade just north of campus on Guadalupe Street, the toy store is relocating on June 1to 2nd Street, right below Violet Crown Cinema.

    The press release says Toy Joy is moving to “better serve our customers,” but I find this hard to believe. What better customers for bobble head nuns, mustache books and tubs of tiny plastic babies than college students?

    Upon arriving to UT as a freshman, I was immediately bombarded with “you’ve gotta go to Toy Joy” suggestions . The brightly colored exterior tempts many a freshman in search of an activity that doesn’t require a car or bus to get to. It became a frequent stop for quick and last minute birthday gifts (sorry, friends who know they were on the receiving end of one of these gifts).

    While 2nd street is a great place to shop and eat in Austin, it doesn’t seem fitting for quirky Toy Joy. 2nd Street is home to an artsy movie theater, the new ACL Live studio, Moody Theater, and several clothing boutiques. Toy Joy just seems like it will be the awkward new kid on the block with pretentious older kids judging it for making poop jokes.

    The press release also stated there will be three parking garages available with free two hour parking. This is a valid benefit of the move considering it is nearly impossible to park at any of those shops near 28th Street and Guadalupe Street. 

    But, Buffalo Exchange, Antone’s Record Shop, Tom’s Tabooley and Toy Joy could give a freshman a fairly accurate depiction of the city in just one shopping trip. Where will we go now to get our safe version of  “weird” Austin? 

    Maybe the move will be great and their business will boom as there are probably more tourists traipsing around downtown blocks than the grungy looking Drag.  But I’ll miss Toy Joy and all those students giggling as they leave, 25 cent plastic baby in hand, to forever remind them of their first taste of what Austin was all about. 

  • Belated thoughts on the first season of “Homeland”

    One of the many joys of being a film student is the media studies classes included in our curriculum. One of these classes, RTF 335, has incorporated the first season of Showtime’s “Homeland,” and the hardest part about the semester has easily been not watching the cliffhanger-prone show ahead of the rest of the class.

    The entire season is built around Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), a POW returned to American soil after eight years in captivity, and CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), who suspects that Brody may have been converted to the terroristic cult of Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). As the mentally unstable Carrie gets closer to the truth, the audience is clued in to increasingly suspicious activities on Brody’s part, all of it coming together with an intense finale that left me furiously Googling when I would be able to watch Season 2.

    As the intimidating list of awards can attest, “Homeland” boasts two towering lead performances from Claire Danes and Damien Lewis. Danes’ unwavering belief in Brody’s diverted loyalties almost have the audience convinced even before “Homeland” clues us in, but she’s even more effective at the end of the season, as Carrie spirals into mania and jeopardizes her career. Meanwhile, Lewis plays the all-American hero to a tee, but his best moments are when his character is dealing with his reshaped values, particularly in the season finale. As Brody’s daughter begs him over the phone not to detonate a suicide bomb attached to his chest, Brody’s mental anguish, regret, and ultimate elation are beautifully portrayed by Lewis.

    With a conflict as clearly defined as “Homeland”’s, it’s hard to imagine the show’s premise lasting more than one season. Thanks to some deft, innovative storytelling from showrunners Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, “Homeland” managed to deliver a satisfying debut season that still sets up a compelling sophomore effort. Though the question of Brody’s potential terrorism is answered, Carrie is out of a job and still unaware of the truth. The question of our heroine’s future, along with Brody’s upcoming political race, set up a second season that can continue to play out the cat-and-mouse game at the center of the show, while expanding and deepening the show’s roundly compelling cast of characters.

  • How to dodge the West Mall fliers

    As an English major, most of my classes are in Parlin or the Flawn Academic Center. This means that I have the displeasure of being harassed every day as I walk to class. People diligently set up their folding tables, nesting for the day as they prepare their fliers, cupcakes, signup sheets and overly aggressive positions.

    They may say “Here take a flier!”, or “Would you like to do X for our club Z?” Or my personal favorite, the people that yell as you walk past. “YOU! TAKE A FLIER!” Every day I walk to class with my ear buds plugged in, or my eyes trained to the ground, but it doesn’t matter how distracted you look, or how fast you walk.

    They will talk to you. And you will take their flier.

    Are they all students? I don’t know. After nearly being scammed by a suspicious looking guy on the Drag, I came to the conclusion he wasn’t really hoping I’d help save kids in Africa. But that was after he asked for my credit card number. I drew the line before he asked for my social security number too.

    It starts innocent. They will say, “Can I ask you a question?” as you walk past.  It’s so easy to let your guard down. You’re curious, what do they want to know? But if you pause, even just for a second, they go in for the kill. They start asking you more questions. They take out their sketchy looking clip board. They say how important their cause is.

    It is the people with the clipboards you can’t trust. Watch out for them on the Drag. They hang out near Jamba Juice, and they are the craftiest. Maybe I’m a skeptic. They could be people truly just wanting support for their cause. Could be, but the insistent friendliness coupled with the sleazy attitude of a car salesperson makes me cynical.

    One time while walking to Jamba Juice, a man and a woman were holding those wicked clipboards. I dodged the woman, but the man was too quick.

    “Would you like to take thirty seconds to save a dying child?”

    Touché. How do you keep walking after someone says that? How can you say “No, I don’t want to save a dying child.” But as I looked wearily at his sneaky clipboard, his too happy face, and his jar for donations, I kept moving.

    In order to keep from being harassed near the Drag or by the FAC, or on Speedway, one must learn the protocol. Listen to music, stare at your phone, walk fast, appear angry or unapproachable, and walk in the middle of the crowd. This is crucial, because if you’re in the middle, the people on the edges will get harassed while you move forward and get to class on time.

    Still, I understand most of these irritating people are students who simply want to reach other students for a real reason. Either way, it will be nice when summer is here and I don’t have to be harassed anymore.

     

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