Inauguration day and alumni notes
I have to admit I never thought I would see this day. You know, I was pretty much convinced that Bush and Cheney would declare martial law, have Obama arrested, shut down the nation’s only remaining opposition newspaper (the Santa Cruz Anarcho-Syndicalist Bugle) and impound every vehicle with a “1.20.09” bumper sticker. I admit it, I was wrong.
Actually, I meant the part about having a black president.
And you know what else? Obama is the only Columbia graduate ever to win the presidency. So my alumni magazine has been kinda bursting with pride and joy, especially in the 1983 column of the Class Notes section.
Well, no, things are a bit stranger than that. It seems that the guy in charge of the Class of 1983 notes isn’t all that thrilled with Obama, on balance. In the last issue, he made a point of saying that he didn’t agree with Obama politically, but had become friendly with the Class of 1983’s other “major”-party nominee, Libertarian vice-presidential candidate and sports-gambling impresario Wayne Allyn Root, to whom much of last issue’s column was devoted. And why not? Root is not only one of the most recognized sports celebrities in America; he is telegenic, dynamic, charismatic, enthusiastic, fiery, passionate, opinionated, and OUTSPOKEN in his Libertarian beliefs for limited government, lower taxes, dramatically reduced spending and more freedom for the American people. As you can see for yourself if you click that last link.
This time around, in the issue that arrived last week, the Class of 1983 column reproduces in full the September 11 Wall Street Journal editorial, “Obama’s Lost Years”. It’s kind of a gem, really, and you should (as they say on blogs) read the whole thing if you didn’t have a chance to savor it the first time around. But because I’ve got a great big party to prepare for tonight (I’m hoping to get the hors d’oeuvres finished before Obama starts bombing Pakistan at 5:30 this afternoon, or perhaps by 6, when he converts the U.S. to Islamic socialism), I’m just going to comment on my two favorite things:
The Columbia years are a hole in the sprawling Obama hagiography. In his two published memoirs, the 47-year-old Democratic nominee barely mentions his experience there. He refuses to answer questions about Columbia and New York—which, in this media age, serves only to raise more of them. Why not release his Columbia transcript? Why has his senior essay gone missing?
Now in our view, the college years shouldn’t normally be used to judge a politician’s fitness for office. We’re not sure the transcripts of Al Gore, John Kerry and George W. Bush—which showed them to be C students—illuminated much for voters. The McCain campaign won’t release his records, but we know he graduated at the bottom of his Naval Academy class.
But Mr. Obama is a case apart. His personal story, as told by him, made possible his rise from obscurity four years ago to possibly the White House. He doesn’t have a long track record in government. We mainly have him in his own words. As any autobiographer, Mr. Obama played up certain chapters in his life—perhaps even exaggerating his drug use in adolescence to drive home his theme of youthful alienation—and ignored others.
Leaving aside the possibility that Bush’s record in college might, in fact, have provided some illumination as to the kind of intelligence and hard work he would bring to the Presidency, let us marvel instead at the remarkable prescience and craftiness of B. Hussein. Exaggerating his drug use to drive home his theme of youthful alienation while saying nothing about his two years as an undergraduate at an Ivy League college: has any presidential candidate ever devised a sneakier form of political self-promotion? Inquiring minds need to know: President Obama, why did you admit to using drugs—while refusing to answer questions about Columbia and New York? Was it part of your lifelong plan to hoodwink the American people into electing you?
Well, the WSJ has an idea or two about why Obama has been so cagey in today’s media age in which we live in today:
Such caginess is grist for speculation. Some think his transcript, if released, would reveal Mr. Obama as a mediocre student who benefited from racial preference. Yet he later graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, so he knows how to get good grades. Others speculate about ties to the Black Students Organization, though students active then don’t seem to remember him. And on the far reaches of the Web can be found conspiracies about former Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who became the candidate’s “guru and controller” while at Columbia in the early 1980s. Mr. Brzezinski laughs, and tells us he doesn’t “remember meeting him.”
Uh, Wingnut Street Journal dudes? We know how you feel about racial preference, because it messes with the intellectual meritocracy that gave us George W. Bush and Jonah Goldberg, but if indeed Obama were an affirmative action admit, wouldn’t that, like, be a good argument for affirmative action? Or do you imagine that if white guys learned that Obama had been a mediocre student, thousands of them would be muttering darkly to themselves that Obama took their spot at Columbia University, and proceeded to waste the opportunity?
And as for those speculations about the Black Students Organization and the conspiracies to be found on the far reaches of the Web: c’mon, boys, don’t be shy. If you’re going to try to mainstream the serious hardcore wingnuttery out there, provide the links. Or at least mention the name of Webster Tarpley, the man who first uncovered Brzezinski’s recruitment of Obama in the early 1980s! I mean, credit where credit is due, guys.
Well, I have to say that my little alumni magazine isn’t always such fun reading. Here’s to President Obama. May he lead the country with wisdom and kindness, at least until he suspends the 2012 and 2016 elections.
After Erin so clearly spanked you just yesterday for using “wingnut”, you are right back doing it again. I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
captcha “art” as in the art of snarkiness to be surePosted by on 01/20 at 10:57 AM
Who are you calling “boy?”
Though I have to say that “Boy Michael” sounds a lot better than “Boy George.”Posted by on 01/20 at 11:21 AM
Oh no, when you’re mainstreaming, never mention the links. I vaguely remember from about a decade ago when denialists were trying to talk up a “scientific paper” that “proved” global warming was a hoax. They’d always quote just the first part of the paper’s title, because the second part of the title made it obvious that the paper had been written by LaRouchites who blamed the whole thing on a conspiracy by the British monarchical family.
It’s sad that these diligent workers must toil in obscurity. Still, getting in the WSJ must be its own reward. That and the payoff from Scaife or whoever.Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 01/20 at 11:22 AM
Have you noticed if there are still American flags in the stores? I’d check, but we’re snowed in down here.Posted by Robert Zimmerman on 01/20 at 11:32 AM
Robert—you mean one of these, right? Because I’m flying one from my house right now. The stores seem to be full of them, so no, no shortage that I can see.Posted by on 01/20 at 11:48 AM
I have to say Elizabeth Alexander’s reading was at best mediocre. And I think I am being quite generous in that assessment.
captcha “good” as in “I think not”Posted by on 01/20 at 02:00 PM
Hey, what’s so bad about Boy George!?Posted by George on 01/20 at 02:09 PM
Yeah, it looks like Elizabeth Alexander will turn out to have been the first of many, many disappointments to come. Oh well. And precisely how long do we have to wait until Obama overturns DADT?Posted by Michael on 01/20 at 02:13 PM
And what was with the “hard work” business in his speech. I thought this was just going to be one big Socialist paradise?Posted by on 01/20 at 02:17 PM
I know that we’re joking, but I hope that people won’t be too hard on Elizabeth Alexander. It’s really hard to write an inaugural poem, and let’s face it, she wasn’t exactly a household word before this—I have the natural sympathy of a mediocre person for anyone faced with a job that they’re outmatched by. At least when poets are outmatched by the situation you don’t get an unending quagmire of a war or New Orleans sinking beneath the waves.Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 01/20 at 02:24 PM
Michael: don’t you mean this flag?:
This may remind you of the Ohio state flag, but no --we’ve graciously surrendered it so that it can become the official flag of the United States of Obama! (I mean, we can’t have the wingnut pundits get all worked up over nothing, right?)
And Elliot (#6), I thought so too, especially since the language of the poem was so colloquial, even quotidian. Plus, it riffed on preacher rhythms, while she read it with absolutely none.
captcha: “thats” as in “that’s a wrap folks, now let’s get the new new deal going.”Posted by on 01/20 at 02:25 PM
whoops--just meant to post the link. sorry.Posted by on 01/20 at 02:26 PM
Next time we may need to limit it to an inaugural haiku.
was sworn in using hussein
you figure it outPosted by on 01/20 at 02:28 PM
I, for one, wouldn’t care to answer publicly questions about my sophomore year in college.
captca “course” as in, “Among other things, I didn’t do particularly well in my __work that year.”Posted by on 01/20 at 02:55 PM
Had Obama named me as his running mate, I would have advised him to commission an inaugural villanelle. And I would have suggested that Chris Clarke and Amanda French write it.Posted by Michael on 01/20 at 03:39 PM
On the other hand, it does lessen the feeling that I’d better do well when I read mine later today. I wonder whether firefighters across the country listened to the “Heckuva job, Brownie” line and decided that it wasn’t really such a big deal whether they charged the next smoke-filled staircase right away.Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 01/20 at 03:48 PM
The poem actually reads well. It’s a shame she did so poorly by it.Posted by The Ridger on 01/20 at 05:21 PM
Um, Columbia doesn’t require a “senior essay.” At least not when I graduated in ‘85. Though Barnard does.Posted by John on 01/20 at 05:33 PM
It reads well? Well… About to break my own suggestion here, but, really, when I heard her read it, I was at least impressed by how clearly she enunciated each word. When I read it without the hyperfocus on the clarity of each syllable, I run into phrases like “about to speak or speaking” and, just, no.
About to speak or speaking, mouse runs
About to squeak or squeaking floor boards
About to creak or creaking under a cat
About to streak or streaking after the mouse
About to seek or seeking a hole
About to leak or leaking mouse blood
But what did the mouse say?Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 01/20 at 05:40 PM
I have nothing to add, except:
captcha: unitedPosted by Crazy Little Thing on 01/20 at 06:03 PM
Pondering hagiography and the Wingnut Street Urinal, i was fully expecting the raft of editorials spewed up this morning; and they didn’t disappoint. Rupert must be so proud, especially tying in the DOW dropping in the same headline thread as stories on the inauguration.
In other news:
But what did the mouse say?
We killed the cats!Posted by on 01/20 at 06:25 PM
Um, Columbia doesn’t require a “senior essay.” At least not when I graduated in ‘85. Though Barnard does.
Are you suggesting, John, that Barack HUSSEIN Obama got his degree by living as a woman for two years and attending Barnard? Great catch! Someone had better get the WSJ on this so they can update their reporting!
I’m hoping to get the hors d’oeuvres finished before Obama starts bombing Pakistan at 5:30 this afternoon...
Still partying with the Cruise Missile Left®, Michael?Posted by on 01/20 at 06:27 PM
- Posted by on 01/20 at 06:47 PM
Still partying with the Cruise Missile Left®, Michael?
The CML is soooo 2002, Ben. I’m with the Bunker Buster Left now, m’fren’.Posted by Michael on 01/20 at 08:36 PM
Oh stop bleating on about Columbia. My daughter went to the same HS as Arizona Cardinal #56, Chike Okeafor. How ‘bout that?Posted by on 01/20 at 08:53 PM
First undergraduate, yes. But Columbia has long claimed both Roosevelts, because both attended (but didn’t finish) the Law School.
(tm pointless alum randomness)Posted by on 01/20 at 09:18 PM
I’m not Amanda French, but I took your comment @15 as a challenge.
On the Inauguration
It started with a call of “Yes, we can!”
While focusing on all we have to gain.
Now we await unfolding of the Plan.
Hope began to flourish as he ran,
Thinking of the things we could attain.
It started with a call of “Yes, we can!”
Throughout this land we hold and all we scan
From mountain, on to ocean, over plain,
Now we await unfolding of the Plan.
Encountering the words as partisan,
Overcoming hatred, lies and pain,
It started with a call of “Yes, we can!”
All in common all within the span
Of America and what we can obtain:
Now we await unfolding of the Plan
Now, with hope, we stand behind the man
We’ve chosen for his spirit and his brain.
It started with a call of “Yes, we can!”
Now we await unfolding of the Plan.Posted by jazzbumpa on 01/20 at 10:09 PM
Of course, the Wall Street Journal has also brought us this story. They’re becoming a tabloid in a desperate attempt to avoid bankruptcy.Posted by Izabella on 01/20 at 10:57 PM
Michael, you clearly have the best commentariat in the interwebs. Where else can one get an inaugural villanelle on command?
Anyone up for a sestina celebrating the overturning of Bush’s last minute regulations?Posted by on 01/20 at 11:34 PM
This is pretty freaking sweet!!!
I especially like the tricked out Capitol building. Change has come not only to America but to the First Web Site.
one twenty oh nine jQuery is now installed at whitehouse dot govPosted by on 01/21 at 12:54 AM
absolutely awesome job. (and saves me a bit of work as I too thought Michael had thrown down the gauntlet.)
O. K. Let me see here sestina....
captcha “turn” as “to every thing turn turn turn there is a season....”Posted by on 01/21 at 12:58 AM
sorry Ben still stuck in haikuville
bring the troops home now
stop listening to my phone
close GuantanamoPosted by on 01/21 at 01:04 AM
I was told at the MLA book exhibit that sales on books about Frank Marshall Davis had increased since, who was it, Glennn Beckkk, redbaited Obama for his association with that worthy. And my local bookstore started a Bill Ayers exhibit a few months back. Obviously, Obama had a Columbia schoolmate whose writing career he does not want to see promoted, so he’s covering his tracks there pretty thoroughly. And what about Occidental College, huh?Posted by on 01/21 at 06:35 AM
I’d like to believe this whole post is parody, Michael, but I’m sure it’s not so. Too bad (?) I recycled my CU alum mag, as is my habit, w/out reading it. Although now with an upcoming new NLRB and, I hope! I hope!, a card check law, CU’s grad students may finally get their union, and perhaps I’ll think back on it w/ something other than contempt.Posted by Karl Steel on 01/21 at 09:38 AM
There was a man from
About whom folks could not figure out why he
Did not talk about his schools
And now he’s played us for fools
Oh that exotic young man from Hawaii
I’m led to understand that the poetry tent is a big tent.Posted by on 01/21 at 10:36 AM
It will be interesting to see if the Wall Street Journal editorial page attempts to slither under the incredibly low bar it set during the Clinton administration under Robert Bartley (when it published (and then collected) over 5 volumes of 500-600 pages each of editorial commentary on Whitewater which ranged from hatefully inaccurate to mind-bogglingly delusional). I actually don’t think Murdoch’s quite up to it, although not for want of trying.Posted by on 01/21 at 10:50 AM
Gosh, my Barnard alumnae magazine is never that scintillating.
I think my favorite part of the WSJ piece is this:
“Yet he later graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, so he knows how to get good grades.”
Emphasis mine, to note the neat little buried implication there that there was something nefarious about the way he got good grades at Harvard. Because he couldn’t possibly have, y’know, earned them.Posted by on 01/21 at 01:13 PM
Michael, are you an issue behind or am I? Because the head letter in the Class Notes section for the class of 83 that I just recently read was *hilarious* and wonderful. A classmate wrote to say that no longer would he dread the Class Notes for inevitably making him feel inferior to his classmates who were CEOs, published novelists, etc., because now NO ONE could live up to classmate Obama. (And there was a nice piece on the back page by Obama’s junior year roommate. But the Class Notes letters was funnier.)Posted by Dr. Virago on 01/21 at 01:51 PM
We’re on the same issue, Dr. V. The Class Notes for 1983 open with the letter you mention (which is indeed hilarious and wonderful), then reproduce a second letter, then reproduce the WSJ op-ed in full. Which makes the decision to include the WSJ bit all the weirder, I think.
And the poetry tent isn’t that big a tent, JP.
Most important, though—isn’t anyone alarmed about the Brzezinski-Ayers connection Obama forged in 1981-83? I’ll bet it had something to do with having the Weathermen provide covert support for the Afghan mujahideen.Posted by on 01/21 at 01:58 PM
Root may be just another vegas pimplibertarian, but he raised a legitimate point regarding the lack of transparency regarding Obama’s college record, however non-PC --or non-marketable--that point may be to demo regulars.
Journalists were not allowed to examine BO’s college records; the records and transcripts of Bush, Kerry, McCain were fair game for analysis (and ridicule), so why not Kid Obama’s? A bit odd. Team BO has not exactly been forthright in terms of “transparency”, as y’all say.
For that matter, the Democratic party should not be mistaken for genuine progressive politics: seeing Dame Feinstein (a voting record about as liberal as that of, say, Trent Lott) supervising the inaugural ceremonies should remind us of that.Posted by Dirk McShanksky on 01/21 at 03:30 PM
The UNC alum magazine has been rather silent on politics this last year. Perhaps it has something to do with John Edwards...hmmmmmm?!?!
Also, the claim of lack of transparency sounds hauntingly familiar...oh right, Bush’s service in the National Guard! What a good thing that no one has made a truly wingnutastic remark about what exactly Obama was doing in college (starting a meth lab?). Otherwise the heads (at CBS or elsewhere) might start rolling…Posted by Derek T. on 01/21 at 03:51 PM
I value my Columbia College education intensely, as well as the opportunity to live in New York City, and I don’t know what the place was like in the 1970s (lots less flak for dating FIT students back then, though, I bet)—but the frequency with which a college alum might not find a lot to say about the experience by and large doesn’t strike me as excessively low. For example, Class Notes for the class of ‘88 (which I started with) are getting a little sparse.Posted by bianca steele on 01/21 at 04:40 PM
the Democratic party should not be mistaken for genuine progressive politics
Yes, Bunker Buster Leftists are always in danger of forgetting this, being Feinstein fans and all. But it wasn’t Root who raised the brave, important, and non-PC question about Obama’s college record. It was the Wall Street Journal.
As for the alleged “roommate” who, as Dr. V. points out, mysteriously “surfaced” just in time for this “issue” of the “alumni” magazine and wrote that Obama spent a lot of time in the library because his apartment didn’t have regular heat, well, I smell the work of the Trilateral Commission on this one. Zbig never sleeps.
And Bianca, back around 1978-82, dating FIT students was synonymous with going to the Pub, and such things were mocked and ridiculed on both sides of Broadway.Posted by on 01/21 at 04:49 PM
Now I am getting alarmed. Directly from Phil Boerner’s recollection of Obama during the Columbia years…
“While at the farm, Barack joined the routines there, which typically included a few morning hours doing chores, such as clearing brush and sawing firewood.”
captcha “force” as in “may the force be with US”Posted by on 01/21 at 04:58 PM
My place at Harvard Law taken by an inadequate black man, and now blackballed from the poetry tent. Where may I spend my tumid sense of white male grievance?Posted by on 01/21 at 05:09 PM
Michael, I’m sure you know what you’re talking about, but when you cite the “alumni magazine” of Columbia, what are you talking about? My issue of the winter 2008-2009 Columbia magazine arrived in the mail in the last couple of days, but I can’t find anything like what you describe in your post.Posted by on 01/21 at 05:45 PM
The Pub—oh, the Pub—the Pub closed after my first semester at Columbia, a victim of the new, higher drinking age. There are four disco songs and two music videos I’ll forever associate with the Pub. In its favor, you could wear jeans, unlike at its replacement.
I thought you were at Columbia a little earlier. I know a couple of people who were there when you were, so I’ll stick with my guess for now.Posted by bianca steele on 01/21 at 05:53 PM
Gary, there’s the Columbia magazine—for anyone who graduated from any of Columbia’s schools (law, med, journamalism, international studies, etc.)—and then Columbia College Today, for people who got undergraduate degrees from the college. So I get ‘em both, and can’t really keep them straight.
And Elliot, isn’t that “clearing brush” line a bit much? That’s how you know the thing was written by the Trilateral Commission. Besides, look at the photo credit for Boerner today—“Pern Beckman.” Please. As if that could possibly be a real name.*
Bianca, every time I walked by the Pub they were playing “Rock Lobster.” So that should date it precisely—I commuted (a truly horrible experience) for one semester, then lived off campus from December 1978 to 1982. Then kept living off campus for another year while working as a word processor and trying (not hard enough, in retrospect) to save money for graduate school.
* This is a joke. Ha ha ha! Pern was a well-known DJ and man-about-the-music-scene back in the day.Posted by on 01/21 at 06:25 PM
And so what if Obama’s entire history was created by the Trilateral Commission? That’s an emphatic display of the man’s political savvy. Do you know how hard it is to get created and installed by those who pull the levers behind the scenes? I finally gave up and went and earned my degrees. Much easier to do. The WSJ would do well to hire a few more pundits from the shadowy underworld and a few less from Oral Roberts U if you ask me.Posted by on 01/21 at 08:16 PM
Michael, thanks for clearing that up. If I may offer up a little scrap of memory, one day in October of 1983 I returned to Manhattan from my first academic job in Indiana, to defend my dissertation. Afterwards, since it was a beautiful clear day in Manhattan, I sat on the steps near Alma Mater basking in the glow of being the most freshly-minted Ph.D. on campus. Now I can burnish that scrap with the thought that Obama had recently arrived and was undoubtedly somewhere nearby.Posted by on 01/21 at 09:22 PM
was undoubtedly somewhere nearby, knitting.Posted by on 01/21 at 10:01 PM
Had Obama named me as his running mate, I would have advised him to commission an inaugural villanelle. And I would have suggested that Chris Clarke and Amanda French write it.
What, no love for Dorothy Gambrell?
Anyone up for a sestina celebrating the overturning of Bush?s last minute regulations?
Thanks, but I’ve already taken a nap today.
Wait a minute, we’re not talking about the University of Missouri at Columbia, are we? Because I, er, drove past it a few times.
And I’m still disappointed that President Obama didn’t attend Baruch College.Posted by on 01/22 at 03:44 PM
occidental’s alumni magazine has been all over obama, with praise. oxy is a small, culturally diverse, urban liberal arts college. obama began a few months after i graduated, but alums of my era hear echoes of our best experiences in his policies and his speeches.Posted by on 01/22 at 08:07 PM
Mr. Root is another long-form blogger. Something about a Columbia education? And he totally pwns you in graphics.Posted by on 01/23 at 01:38 AM
I’m hoping to get the hors d’oeuvres finished before Obama starts bombing Pakistan at 5:30 this afternoon
As it turns out, you needn’t have rushed; a whole 72 hours elapsed:
Pakistani intelligence officials say two suspected U.S. missile strikes killed at least 18 people Friday in the northwestern tribal regions near the Afghan borderPosted by Nell on 01/25 at 08:45 PM
Barack Obama was there. I remember him. He was a quiet guy who spoke very little (ironically in light of his later career) and studied a lot. He did show up at my friends’ secret dance parties and stood off to one side and smoked (tobacco only) and rarely if ever danced. I think he attended several of Michael’s gigs.
Obama is not the first Columbia man to serve as President of the USA. Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt both went to the law school.Posted by Timothy Horrigan on 01/29 at 02:32 AM
"Michael, you clearly have the best commentariat in the interwebs. Where else can one get an inaugural villanelle on command?”
Making LightPosted by on 01/31 at 01:16 AM
Yes, Making Light has a most impressive commentariat—they can produce a four-dimensional villanelle on command. Patrick and Teresa and I have talked about this, by way of zines and Jon Klancher’s book The Making of English Reading Audiences. . . .
But I do like mine, all the same.Posted by Michael on 01/31 at 01:42 AM
Tim Horrigan lives! (I was throwing my Spectator clippings out a few weeks ago and came across the piece where I mentioned him; only good sentence in the whole article.)
Michael (48) - Puh-lease. The photo credit should have been accurate: “Peregrine Beckman”
capthca: “Club” as in “Welcome to the...”Posted by Ken Houghton on 01/31 at 11:29 PM
Right, Peregrine. I had forgotten. But I don’t think I will ever forget Pern/ Peregrine saying “Mozart wrote all that musical wallpaper.” Because he was quite fond of saying it.Posted by Michael on 02/01 at 11:10 AM
Well, fuck it. I was young and foolish and now am very fond of Mozart’s non-wallpaper (although watch out if you ever go to Austria, which is almost literally wallpapered with Mozart.)
Phil is my cousin and he and Barack were occasional guests at my horrible little apartment above Coronet pizza. But Phil had to inform me 20 years later that “Barry” had turned into Barack Obama.Posted by on 02/19 at 03:20 PM
I guess we are full of speculations about what Barack Obama can do or will he ever make it as one of America’s best leaders. I don’t think it is good to judge him based on who he is in the past. That has nothing to do with what he can do for America now and before his term ends.Posted by Jordan on 01/12 at 12:39 PM
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