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October 12, 2009

Tess Yanisch ’13

Hello, dear readers! I apologize for the brevity of this entry, as I am usually prone to long-winded rambling more than short overviews. However, tonight I am feeling a little under the weather and I want to do some homework and maybe watch part of a movie before I go to bed. (And by "go to bed," I mean "read either Walden or American Gods for at least half an hour before I actually contemplate sleep.") Anyway, I'm trying to be brief to save time for actual sleep. At least I don't have any stress over midterms--for me, they're over, and I did well on them. :)

Typing is taking me longer than usual, too, as I'm teaching myself the Dvorak keyboard layout. It's better for your wrists than Qwerty, which is good because I strained mine writing up a Sociology essay over the weekend. I only mention it because it seems like a very Obie thing to do.

However, you probably couldn't care less about my bedtime or my wrists, so here's the meat of the entry.


ExCo, noun: an abbreviation for "Experimental College," a class designed and taught by Oberlin students. Classes must be approved by a panel, but subjects are very broad--right now they include fencing, improv, immigration, storytelling, pirates, Korean, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, various ethnic drumming groups, OCircus, and something called "SexCo: The ExCo." In the past there have apparently been ones on sitcoms and surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.

I love the idea of ExCos--it's part of the reason I came here. I signed up for a bunch of them but only one really worked out with my schedule. (One of my sophomore friends told me that it's funny how first-years try to do everything, but the truth is, there's so much interesting stuff going on, it's impossible not to at least try it.)

I am in an ExCo on superheroes. It is amazing.

To give you a taste, in the first class, we went over what makes superheroes compelling, why we find them interesting, and what makes specific ones endure. We were introduced to the Big Three: Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. Between them, they cover most of the aspects of superheroes: the three common origins (magical/extraterrestrial being, self-made man, science accident); they've all got secret identities (although it could be argued Superman is the "real" person, not Clark Kent, and Spider-Man and Batman are disguises for Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne); they have consistent, recurring villains who push them as far as they can possibly go; they have the drama of using a do-not-kill ethic while fighting killers; and people can identify with them, either via wish fulfillment or empathy (Peter Parker is popular because a lot of nerdy kids grew up reading Spider-Man and being able to point to him and say, "This is how I feel").

I have four pages of notes in a red Moleskine notebook just from that hour and a half. Since then, we've covered the history of comics, motivations of heroes, and, tonight, ethics and morality in Watchmen.

This is a fun class, but we're being serious in our analysis--casual references were dropped to 1984, McCarthyism, psychological issues (if you've read the book, you'll know where those come in *coughRorschachcough*), Machiavelli, and the Nietzschean theory of the ubermensch (spelling? Sorry German philosophy fans). This is nerds having fun. This is Oberlin. Fearless. (Except we're all terrified of Rorschach.) (And the Comedian.) (And, hey, Ozymandius is scary in a very chilling, analytical way.) (But otherwise we're fearless.) (No, really.)


Responses to this Entry

I read Watchman for Dan Chaon's Graphic Narrative course -- you're right, it's so serious.

And I love Rorschach.

Relatedly, both the Art Library, Mudd, and the public library have awesome comics collections. Both literary and fantastic (The Arrival!).

American Gods = best.

Posted by: Aries on October 13, 2009 1:37 PM

Typing in Dvorak does seem like such an Obie thing to do. Not because all Obies do this, but because the only people I know who type in Dvorak started while they were students at Oberlin. I was one of them--I just switched my keyboard layout one summer because I'd heard it was better for your wrists. I didn't even print out a keyboard chart or anything, and I would type all of the keys until I found the letter I was looking for. It worked out pretty well--by the time the school year started and I needed to be able to type things quickly, I was just as fast as I had been in qwerty. And my wrists didn't hurt. So you should definitely keep with it--it's worth it! Plus you get to feel extra-cool. : )

Posted by: Elizabeth on October 20, 2009 11:11 PM

Hey, cool! I'm really enjoying Dvorak. Right now I'm at the stage where I start making typos in QWERTY after I stop using Dvorak, which is a bit of a pain but also a badge of honor.

Posted by: Tess on October 20, 2009 11:59 PM

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