Celebrity Lists

As the end of 2006 approaches, Harvard's head honchos dish on the top artistic contributions of the year. Do you agree or disagree? Read on to find out.

Best of 2006

Favorite Books

The War of the World: History’s Age of Hatred by Niall Ferguson—History can repeat itself.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins—There are no more profound questions than those involving reason and faith.

Uberpower: The Imperial Temptation of America by Joseph Joffe—The best of many books on America’s role in the world after the debacles of the last few years.

Favorite Movie

The Departed—There are meaner streets than those of 02138.

Favorite Trip

India—Every American should visit the country that may be our most important ally two decades from now.

Favorite Place

Lisa and my new home in Brookline.

—Lawrence H. Summers was president of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006 and will be the Charles Eliot University Professor in Fall 2007.

Stuff I Liked in 2006

1. Hall & Oates—“Greatest Hits.” Man, did the 80s rule.

2. Nelly Furtado—“Promiscuous” and “Maneater.” I admire her independence from the expectations of her fanbase.

3. Chamillionaire & Krayzie Bone—“Ridin.’” This song gets me pumped. I also love Weird Al’s version, “White and Nerdy.”

4. Danity Kane—“Show Stopper.” I am biologically incapable of not being attracted to this song.

5. Fish Leong—“Yong Qi.” The best ballad I’ve heard in years comes from China.

6. Gnarls Barkley—“Crazy.” What the heck? Where did this song come from?

7. Keane—“Somewhere Only We Know.” I think this song was on my list last year but it still makes my heart beat fast.

8. Panic At The Disco—“I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” This song seems so avant-garde and yet it’s structurally very simple and repetitive. Good job, kids.

9. Sam Harris—“Letter to A Christian Nation.” Interesting.

10. Bob Woodward—“State of Denial.” Seems like a pretty even-handed and well-informed account of the war. Then again, what do I know.

11. Ne-Yo. Besides the fact that his songs are catchy and soulful, I love the fact that they’re so anti-gangsta.

12. “Lost”—I’m just about finished with the first season but I think I’m going to have to give it up because it’s too violent.

13. Shakira—“Hips Don’t Lie.” I’ve love the music for this song. Does anyone know where it’s from? It sounds familiar.

14. The Fray—“Over My Head.” I finally realized why this song sounded so right to me the first time I heard it on the radio: My drummer reminded me that Weezer toured with The Fray in 2004 and I so must have heard this song every night through the walls of my dressing room.

15. Tim McGraw—“Live Like You Were Dying” and “My Little Girl.” Country music sounds good to me now that I’m a family man.

16. Cassie—“Me & U.” This was one of my favorite songs of the year before I knew it was produced by a Harvard alum!

17. Yung Joc and Young Dro. Supplying my thug fix.

18. Jojo—“Too Little, Too Late.” A rare example of a chorus that starts on the II chord rather than the I chord.

19. Sufjan Stevens—“Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” For when populist art cloys.

—Rivers Cuomo ’99-’06 is the former frontman of the band Weezer, but more recently a Cabot House celebrity. He was once interviewed by Abe J. Riesman ’08.

Favorite Reality Television Shows

Tin Chef —not quite Iron, but stilly pretty hardcore

Who wants to be a Millionfacebookgroupaire?—creator Nate Dern is the sole contestant

Turn Off Your Television and Go Outside...Just Kidding—Season 3

Monk’d—forcing big Hollywood stars into the monastic lifestyle, Kutch style!

Projectile Vomit Runway —whoever gets that upchuck the furthest down the runway wins

Beauty and the Sikh

—Nathan J. Dern ’07 will appear on the upcoming season of the reality show “Beauty and the Geek.” He has 909 Facebook.com friends and is in 335 groups as of 10:38 p.m. on Dec. 12.

Ten Essential Books on World War II

1. Sword of Honour (1965)

Evelyn Waugh

2. Life and Fate: A Novel (1985)

Vasily Grossman

Transl. Robert Chandler

3. War Diaries, 1939–1945 (2001)

Field-Marshal Lord Alanbrooke

Ed. Alex Danchev and

Daniel Todman

4. Eastern Approaches (1949)

Fitzroy Maclean

5. The Recollections of Rifleman Bowlby (1999)

Alex Bowlby

6. To the Bitter End: The Diaries

of Victor Klemperer, 1942–45 (1999)

Victor Klemperer

Transl. Martin Chalmers

7. Kaputt (2005)

Curzio Malaparte

Transl. Cesare Foligno

8. The Stalin Organ (1955)

Gerd Ledig

Transl. Michael Hofmann

9. Slaughterhouse-five: (1970)

Kurt Vonnegut

10. The Naked and the Dead (1949)

Norman Mailer

—Niall Ferguson is the Tisch Professor of History and author of such books as ““The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Decline of the West.”

Onwards Revolution!: Music to Kill the Establishment 

Unlike the folksy protest songs of yesteryear, our generation’s music of subversion is the pop song. So kick back, relax, and enjoy while we do it to you in your eardrum…

1. “Sk8terboi” by Avril Lavigne. Avril is really great. I hear that she’s modeling as a sandblasted, deliciously perfect, white-washed model for the Chanel company now. All that after making a killing off of selling pre-packaged Hot Topic lifestyles to millions of young teenagers? Now that’s subversive!
2. “Jealousy” by Paris Hilton. Paris Hilton is a total freedom fighter. All the rumors are true: you don’t need hard work, beauty, or even talent to make it big. And honestly, isn’t that the most democratic thing we’ve heard in years? Is that the American Promise? Is that Harvard’s Promise? You bet it is.
3. “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)” by Cobra Starship. Snakes on a Plane is probably the most revolutionary movie of our generation to date. I mean, it was basically an internet joke that went way out of control. And, to tell the truth, it was kind of a model for our UC campaign. A bunch of our initial drafts involved elaborate mock assassination attempts with chloroform and wild animals. (No, really.)
4. “The Lees of Old Virginia” from 1776. I’m still waiting for the day when musical theatre gets recognized for how subversive it really is. No matter how jaded, neurotic, or dysfunctional the country gets, 1776 or Beauty and the Beast or whatever will always chirp happily along, preaching a message of nice neat endings and nice harmony. They don’t care about anything. That’s really punk.
5. “Sister Ray” by Velvet Underground. Much as hipsters will hate to admit it: everyone’s kind of tired of irony. But what was great about the Velvets (and Andy Warhol) is that they were so fantastically good at being ironic about irony. Is it meta? Sure it is. Is it the only route left for cool? Probably.
6. “Louie Louie” by The Kingmen. A roommate of mine once related a story where the FBI spent years trying to determine if the lyrics to this song were obscene. It turns out that it’s just a love song, which is really sweet. I think that’s a really super model for activism in general.
7. “We Are Your Friends” by Justice vs. Simian. I listened to this song a lot during the campaign—I think it’s a great anthem for subversion of all stripes. Not for any reason—it’s just really danceable. And if there’s something we can all agree on it’s that epic ass-shaking boogie-down is pretty damn subversive.
8. “Party Train” by RuPaul. Need we even spend time talking about how subversive RuPaul is? You think at first she’s just a transvestite, but then you suddenly realize that it’s actually just an optical illusion: in her words, “I do not impersonate females. How many women do you know who wear seven-inch heels, four-foot wigs, and skintight dresses?” True that, RuPaul, true that.
—Tim R. Hwang ’08 may have finished fourth in the 2006 UC Presidential elections, but he’s still working towards its demise.

10 Harvard People We Love and Why

1. Interim president Derek Bok, for thinking he’s actually in charge.
2. Prof. of Second Life Charlie Nesson, for rolling up the windows.
3. The Z-list, for making Jared “Charles Foster” Kushner possible.
4. Kurtz-ian football coach Tim Murphy, for proving you don’t need players to win games.
5. Kaavya Viswanathan, for her contributions to literature.
6.Cine-ass Andrew Bujalski, for really, you know, capturing the zeitgeist or whatever.
7. Pretzel-in-Chief Will Marra, for being a good sport.
8. God, for being cool with everyone thinking they’re Him.
9. Filmmaker James Toback, for somehow not being dead yet.
10. Sex blogger Lena Chen, for last night.
— J. Chris Beam and Nick Summers are 2006 graduates from Columbia University and the founders and operators of www.ivygateblog.com.

Best Songs From the New Bob Dylan Album

“Modern Times”
...Is as good as any album Dylan has put out, and that includes “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Blonde on Blonde” and “Blood On The Tracks,” the acknowledged long-time Classics, along with 2001’s “Love and Theft,” the recent Classic. The songs (like those on “L&T”) are more artfully and cerebrally constructed now than they were back when song after song seemed to come cascading out of nowhere to take a place forever in the consciousness of those lucky to have been part of what Dylan has given us. But these ones come from equally interesting places, from all the musical, literary and other traditions to which the genius of Dylan has cosied up over the decades, from Civil War America, from the Delta and Atlanta blues of the 1930’s, from poems and melody “from many moons ago,” to use his words. The last line of its last song is even borrowed from the exile poetry of Ovid, 2000 years of moons ago, as that poet’s life winds down. This is just one of a number of such borrowings, and if you want to know the difference between plagiarism and creative reuse and legitimate theft, listen to Dylan with his intertexts (which of course he wants you to spot): in “Ain’t Talkin’’ his line “in the last outback at the world’s end” comes from Ovid’s Black Sea Letters, 2.7.66 (Penguin trans., Peter Green) “I’m in the last outback, at the world’s end (ultima me tellus, ulltimus orbis habet).
As for the album, here’s my choice of best songs.

Workingman’s Blues #2
Nods to Merle Haggard and to Brownie McGhee. Like the whole album, takes us back to the ’30’s in some place or other, maybe during the Depression; slightly menacing in a world gone wrong, and with the specter of modern globalization injustice hanging over everything. Favorite lines: “In you my friend I find no blame”/ “Wanna look in my eyes please do”/ “No one can ever claim that I took up arms against you.” That’s another Ovid intertext, addressed to the emperor Augustus back then: Tristia, 2.51-53: “no one can claim that I ever took up arms against you.”

Spirit On The Water
Beautiful swing jazz love song with great piano and harmonica. Optimistic ending from the singer, who’s been around, but is still in the game: “You think I`m over the hill, you think I`m past my prime/ Let me see what you got, we can have a whoppin’ good time”–language clues you in to the putative time of this song.

When The Deal Goes Down
A plaintive world-weary ballad, with the end close but the singer is ready for what comes. The beauty of the lyrics and of the song belie the inevitable, and evoke hope through the bond of a shared mortality and love shared : “In this earthly domain full of disappointment and pain/ You’ll never see me frown./ I give my heart to you, and that’s saying it true,/ And I’ll be with you when the deal goes down.”

Nettie Moore
The name comes from a slave song, a lament for the singer’s woman who has been sold and gone off to New Orleans with her new master. The song is reminiscent of “L&T’s” “Sugar Baby,” which was much darker and maybe my favorite from that album, with a great acoustic version Dylan did in his Harvard concert Nov. 21, 2004. He throws in a sly Dylan comment on Dylan scholarship: “Well, the world of research has gone berserk/ Too much paper work.”.

Thunder On The Mountain
Great Rock and Roll song, with his most immediate political lines (if you want) on Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. “All the ladies in Washington scrambling to get out of town/ Look like something bad gonna happen better roll your airplane down.”

Ain’t Talkin’
The last track on the album maybe belongs higher up in my list. Mysterious, with biblical, Ovidian and other intertexts, and the singer not talking, just walking, he’s not sure where, but again with something still left to find. The melody and and mood of alienation put it there with “Time Out Of Mind’s” “Highlands,” the better song for my money.

Beyond the Horizon
Nice love song, swing jazz again, simpler in lyrics than “Spirit On The Water,” and not as aesthetically perfect, but that’s fine.

Rollin’ and Tumblin’
Straight off blues song, pretty good, but he’s done better in this genre.

Someday Baby
The one on the iPod commercials. Good, driving song, just not my fave, though may get a Grammy.

The Levee’s Gonna Break
Good blues-rock song, maybe a little too close to Katrina though to capture the placelessness, timelessness and apocalyptic menace that made “High Water” the classic of this type.

Ever since Dylan put out his brilliant cover albums “Good as I Been to You” (1992) and especially “World Gone Wrong” (1993), he has been recreating lost or fading musical and poetic worlds which he now genuinely inhabits, at least in his creative mind, and from which he sends us dispatches such as “Modern Times.” All I can say is long may he run!

—Chair of the Classics Department and Professor of Greek and Latin Richard F. Thomas taught Freshman Seminar 37u: “Bob Dylan” in Fall 2004 and is the outgoing Arts Chair’s favorite person on campus.

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