21 Questions With…Alejandro Zaera-Polo


Name: Alejandro Zaera-Polo   Portrait_of_alejandro_zaera-polo

Hometown: Madrid by birth, London by Adoption

1) Last book you managed to read for pleasure?

It may have been London Fields from Martin Amis, but I have a terrible memory and this is a long time ago.

2) What is your greatest guilty pleasure?

I never feel guilty about pleasure. I believe pleasure is functional.

3) In one sentence, what do you actually do all day?

Crisis management

4) What are your favorite ways to relax?

I work out to get physically tired, then I relax.

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New Locks Are Not So User-Friendly

Hey Princeton! So what’s the deal with these new keyless locks? I can function for days on four hours of sleep, and I can write a paper in a day, but what can’t I do? Get into my own room. Poor little homeless Princeton girl.

Apparently, I’m not alone:


What do you think of the new locks?
They’re so annoying. Because you can’t open them with more—er less—than two hands.

Do you need help opening your door?
Usually I’m fiddling with it, and then my roommate hears me after three tries and comes to open it.

Have you tried getting into your room while drunk?
Yes, actually. Two nights ago.

Was it difficult?
I got it.

Somehow it worked.


Have you tried getting into your room drunk and struggled with the new lock?
That hasn’t been an issue yet. Because the crew team’s dry. I’m sure that would be a problem though. I hadn’t thought about that!

New Lock Poses Challenges for Princeton Students


What do you think of the new locks?
I think they’re nice except you need two hands to open them, and one of my hands is in a sling right now. I’ve been working on the one-hand technique. Maybe I’ll get it. Maybe I won’t. I like the old locks better.

Have you been practicing with one hand?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve also been duct-taping the lock shut.

Duct tape?
Yeah, so I don’t need to unlock it sometimes. The hole that the locking device goes into, I cut a credit card in half and put it over the front and duct-taped it shut. If I can’t get the lock, the door’s not locked anyways.


So what do you think of the new locks?
I like how they look. But it’s kind of a hassle opening them up because sometimes it doesn’t open even when you put the key in and turn it. Sometimes I just prop the door open.

How many times does it take you to open your door?
On the first try because I’ve learned the trick by now … It really requires that both of your hands be empty. I have to put everything down.

How are the roommates/friends doing with the locks?
Both of my roommates always struggle. Always struggle.


So what do you think of the new locks?
To be honest, I don’t like them very much. Because it takes two hands to open.

Do you have roommates or friends who just cannot get into their room?
Yeah, for sure. I’ve had to open the door a number of times for my roommate.

How are you going to open your door now with the bagels and all?
I have no idea. I’ll probably tuck the bagels into my elbow.

Pi Phi X Baby Jesus Tank Top 2012

Pi Phi Tank 1Pi Phi Tank 2

[WARNING: THIS IS NOT A DOCTORED IMAGE] This is a picture of this year’s surprisingly dope Pi Phi tank, but with a sizeable, screen-printed emblem of baby Jesus on the back, perhaps an egregious printer error, perhaps a sign from the Big Man Upstairs…

Hold up, wait, what? Take another look. Nearly 200 Pi Phi sisters ordered upwards of 200 of these guys. The first size-small tank picked out of the box, the only christened one of the bunch – baby Jesus.

Delve into this right quick: it looks like there’s a real Jesus chilling at the bottom of the circle being pampered by a couple of biblical-looking people, which also might be statues, and a shining baby Jesus placed front and center occupying the attention of the rest of the people-statues. Additionally, you can see a tall unidentifiable object on the right hand side, which, by my educated guess, resembles a really tall parakeet, also some hovering angels and a gargoyle. I doubt that this printing mistake was deliberate. I also wonder who would ever order a tank top (or really any article of clothing) with something like this on it, i.e., why (a) this particular screen print even exists and (b) it would ever come near a black tank top, specifically one within a custom t-shirt facility capable of producing the design on the front side.

I’m not going to dig very deep in to this mystery since I think this is one of those things that is better left unexamined, especially considering the religious persuasion often associated with the group (Pi Phi realigning itself with phamily values?). But just to be clear, the rest of the gear had no extraneous religious artwork, no printing error, no baby Jesus scene – a description which I promise understates the peculiarity of the item. This tank, which is currently (and forever) in my possession, may be the most meaningful piece of sorority-related gear to grace this campus. I’m talking ‘Virgin Mary grilled cheese’ status.

Pi Phi Tank 3

Ricky Silberman, Matzo Ball King

Ricky Silberman ‘13 mobilized a significant proportion of the student body at Princeton to vote for him last month. He wasn’t in any of the contests that students typically spam listservs about: start-up ideas, USG elections, filmmaking competitions. Instead, Ricky needed votes to become the fifth and final contestant in the 6th Annual Man-o-Manischewitz Cook-Off. He got them, sending him to the competition in New York Wednesday, where he took away the $25,000 prize package.

To listen to University President–and Ricky’s thesis advisor–Shirley Tilghman respond to Ricky’s win, click here.


Photo by Sara Rich

Manischewitz is the icon of staple Jewish food, and sells Passover matzo, gefilte fish, and sweet Shabbat wine, among other traditional Jewish delicacies. Each year the company holds a cook-off, and this year Ricky entered. He was one of five finalists to compete in the final round at the JCC on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Ricky’s competition was stiff: a mother and educator, a dad and accountant, and two women who are “professional cooking competition-istas.” Ricky was by far the youngest competitor, with his “mod” matzo ball soup. 

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Childish Gambino at Lawnparties, Maybe

Edit: USG has confirmed that Gambino is in fact, a mastermind. (But do I hear a hint of uncertainty about the finalized details over bringing him here? “Anything can happen in show business?”)

Via The ‘Prince’: it seems Childish Gambino will be headlining Lawnparties this spring! I have to say, their announcement comes off as a bit shady, as it cites an unidentified source and comes without any parallel notification from the USG (beat them to the punch, perhaps?). But I suppose I’ll buy it for now.


Watch These People Dole Out the Fates of Thousands of High Schoolers

Maybe you’ve already heard about the record-low 7.86% admit rate out of 26,664 applications, but in this digital age you’ve probably forgotten that all 26,664 of those strivers still need to be notified by mail, by physical things made of out paper. Which makes for a lot of paper. Check out admissions folk loading all those fateful letters onto trucks outside West College today, circa 2 PM:

[caption id="attachment_12142" align="aligncenter" width="515" caption="(image courtesy of Abby Klionsky '14)"](image courtesy of Abby Klionsky '14)[/caption]

I wonder what kind of letters they are holding, and whether they have adjusted their facial expressions accordingly.

[caption id="attachment_12143" align="aligncenter" width="515" caption="(image courtesy of Abby Klionsky '14)"]admit letter queue[/caption]

Generally looking pretty stolid — hard to read into the emotions. But my tentative guess is, from left to right, admit, reject, waitlist, waitlist, reject, reject, reject. More importantly, none of them look as gleefully sadistic as these guys. Best of luck to all those on the receiving end of these letters;  you’ve still got a solid hour before you get to convulse in front of your computer screens (whether positively or negatively).

Oz Comes to Princeton

Princeton was transformed into the land of Oz Thursday evening—not the wizard, the doctor. A highly-anticipated event, Dr. Oz’ lecture on mental health was both informative and entertaining, including an interactive demonstration on proper breathing techniques and a comical display by Oz of the beer belly. Below are some gems of the night:

You’re worth it, so what are you going to do to prove it to people around yourself?

I’m as messed up as anybody. I think that’s why my wife is married to me.

A thousand years ago, there was only one primary chronic stress cause: It was famine. So our bodies react to chronic stress as though we are in a famine. We secrete hormones that are reflective of what happens in famines.

What’s the best way to cope with stress? I would argue that for most folks, it starts with exercise that doesn’t cost you anything and only you can do for yourself, and you control when you do it.

Ninety-five percent of the diabetes in America is caused by being overweight. We estimate 80 percent of those diabetics would get better dramatically if they were able to lose the weight.

On dieting: It doesn’t depend on willpower. Conventional diets try to go there; they fail 98.5 percent of the time because biology will always beat willpower. How many of you can hold your breath indefinitely under water? The question defies logic…. There was never a time in humanity’s history when we wanted to lose weight. So your body’s not going to all of a sudden recognize that you’re trying to do it on purpose.

Weight doesn’t matter as much as your waist size does. I’m going to give you one formula. This works for children, adolescents, young adults, old adults. Your waist size needs to be less than half of your height.

This belly fat literally comes alive. It starts secreting hormones like estrogen, which increases breast cancer rates. It converts testosterone into estrogen. It turns guys into chicks. This is why men develop man boobs.

Your endurance at age 17 is the same as at age 65. I’m not talking about your peak fitness—your ability to jump, run, lift. That all peaks at age 27, roughly. Our endurance actually is supposed to be stable for the rest of our lives. Our ancestors never outran the antelope; our ancestors outendured the antelope.

It is often true that people with heart disease are type A people. But people who are type A are more likely to survive their heart problems than type Bs. Whatever craziness got them there will get them out.

A lot of us store our tension in our hips and jaws. When I drive… [and] in the studio before I start or during a tense moment, I’ll take a cork and put it in my mouth. Like the Italians do. It stretches out the masseter muscle. The other thing is when you put the cork in your mouth when you drive, people won’t bother you.

I’m always amazed that if you give people a chance to surprise you, they always will.

Advice for Princeton students: One of the most important things is that it comes down to forgiveness. Not forgiveness of others, but of yourself. You are highly functional people who got here because you’re good at what you can do. But you’re tough on yourself, which is okay, but the ability to forgive yourself and move on is vital. At the end of the day, it’s like driving along: If you miss your turn, what does the GPS say? Does it berate you? No. Make a U-turn. Go back. It’s not a big deal.

Good luck with midterms, everyone! Remember, it will all be okay. And seriously, somebody has to try this cork trick.

Beautiful Day in the Bubble

Disclaimer: this post is intended for people who didn’t make it outside today (read: people who still have gastro, and seniors with looming thesis-draft deadlines). If you did go outside today–and enjoyed it–make sure you go outside tomorrow, too, because it’s supposed to be even nicer.

We didn’t have much of a winter to complain about this year–and hardly any snow to speak of. Still, the first really nice day of the year is always notable, and Princeton seems to carry a different air about it with spring on people’s minds. Bright green leaves will fill in bare branches soon, and shortly after the pink magnolias will bloom, filling campus with hordes of tourists and the sweet smell of spring.

For now, hanging out on the Frist South Lawn will suffice, but keep your eyes peeled for good outdoor work-spaces so you can snag them first.


Brooks Brothers Hits Nassau

[caption id="attachment_12092" align="alignleft" width="302" caption="Princeton circa 1965: poster child for "Ivy Style""]Princeton circa 1965: poster child for "Ivy Style"[/caption]

Apparently the U Store’s selection of Princeton-themed Brooks Brothers sweaters and ties wasn’t enough to fill our insatiable, stereotype-fulfilling demand for all things preppy. Coming soon to Palmer Square: an entire Brooks Brothers store, scheduled to open September 1st – just in time for Lawnparties. (Coincidence? I think not.)

Of course, given Princeton’s sartorial reputation, it’s probably more surprising it’s taken them this long to get here. Brooks Brothers will move into Banana Republic’s current location (don’t worry, Banana fans, though the Palmer Square shop closes March 24, they’re relocating just up US 1 in Marketfair), meaning the actual change in your in-town shopping choices will be…almost nonexistent.

John Nash Looking At Things

Much like the late Kim Jong-il who liked to stare at things (and not unrelated to his son Kim Jon Un clapping at things), our beloved and often incomprehensible mathematician John Nash also likes to look at things. Edit: We realize this is probably not good for any of his lingering paranoia that people are watching him at all times. Apologies to Dr. Nash.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Looking at a sandwich wrap in Frist."][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Looking at Peter Klein, producer of CBS News"]Looking at  Peter Klein, producer of CBS News[/caption] [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="359" caption="Looking at the Prince."]Looking at the Prince[/caption]

Kudos to the clever Princetonian who came up with this tumblr, as spotting a rare John Nash out in the open is a momentous occasion.

EDIT: They never accepted my submission, “John Nash NOT Looking At Paul Krugman”:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Look at Krug's adoring face."]Look at Krugs adoring face.[/caption]

Fettuccine from the Future

The highlight of tonight’s U-Store run was uncovering the following artifact from the future:

[caption id="attachment_12075" align="aligncenter" width="491" caption=""Fettuccine Summer 2088," confoundingly, expires in early 2012"]U-Store talisman[/caption]

For a mere $3.99, D’Angelo’s offers you a taste of the late 21st century. Their distinctive medley of pasta, roasted peppers, and grilled chicken is prophesied to dominate Summer 2088. Perhaps I’ll enjoy some at my 75th Reunion.

But given the average American lifespan, you might not live to taste it again; this might be your only chance. Go get it before someone sprints out of a white DeLorean to reclaim it, or before that drunk dude haphazardly snags it while staggering past the refrigerated section, oblivious to the 76-year sneak preview he’s been granted.