Blagging rights: a dummies’ guide to culture
Being in college means being in the know about all things music, art, film, food and politics, so here’s a cheatsheet to start you off
Know your art from your elbow: graffiti by Sums at this year’s Bridge Jam street-art festival in Drogheda, Co Louth
Swot up on math rock. Some of the best bands from Ireland are in this genre including The Cast of Cheers, above
You can coast through school on a diet of whatever you’re told and what your friends like, but college is different. Now you have to be a cultural aficionado. Too lazy to bother, or in need of a crash? Follow our dummies’ guide for all you need to know.
Nobody really cooks in college. You’re supposed to live on a healthy combination of pasta with “sauce”, tinned tuna, and takeaway pizza, all of which you pay for with coupons. Oh, and breakfast rolls. Somehow, disgusting eating habits such as a breakfast roll with brown sauce, mustard, ketchup and salt are considered acceptable in your college years: if it’s still acceptable a few years after leaving, it might be because you are all alone. Students are gross. You’re also supposed to watch an unhealthy number of cookery shows. You cannot miss Masterchef, ever.
Three things you must know
Places you should buy food in: ethnic food stores, euro value shops, fruit and veg stalls, Aldi, Lidl. It’s not just poor students who are doing it: even the rich people who stole all our money wouldn’t shop anywhere else (except M&S, of course). Anyone who tells you to shop around has too much time and money on their hands. Thank them for their generous offer of shopping around for you, seeing as it’s so easy.
If you’re eating out, go cheap. Cork and Dublin have particularly excellent options at student-friendly prices. Dublin’s student hotspots include Camden Street and Capel/ Parnell Street. You’ll find Galway isn’t half bad either.
There are plenty of useful websites with advice on cooking and eating out. Check out thefrugalcook.blogspot.com and the BBC Good Food website for recipes. Try to bring your own lunch to college: you’ll save a fortune.
Don’t say: “Let’s just slum it in the Trocadero. I mean, it’s hardly Guilbaud’s, but it will do.”
Your killer line: “Forget burritos. I know a great place on Parnell Street serving knish.”
School students have better things to do than read philosophy. As do grown-ups. Students, however, do not: irrespective of your course, college is a time when you should bone up on your existentialism, analytic theory and structuralism, using bits of various theories to create your own wildly fallible, half-baked, clumsy and ultimately inaccurate view of the world. Think of it as phase two of your adolescence, only you’re now wise enough to pursue your own interests, choose friends you actually like, and direct your tortured musings towards bigger questions.
Three things you must know
Hilary Putnam, widely regarded as the world’s greatest living philosopher, inspired the Matrix movies with his “Brain in a Vat” theory. Who knew Keanu Reeves is basically Buddha? So, The Matrix is possible... No boring undergraduate philosophy discussion would be complete without a lengthy dissection of this.
Brains in vats? Allegories in caves? Dead Gods? What the what? If the rather complex and detailed philosophical musings of Putnam, Plato, and Nietzsche are putting your tiny mind in a spin, try reading philosophy for dummies: Alain de Boton.
Good luck thinking you can learn everything you need to know about philosophy on Wikipedia and regurgitate it in your essay/spout it out in the bar. This is a subject you actually need to understand before you can try to explain it to someone else. Besides, everyone knows this Irish Times guide to philosophy is the definitive voice in metaphysical epistemological karma or something – and sure who can really know or understand anything?
Don’t say: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” (This is just wrong: the chocolates are clearly marked by their shapes or wrapping, and there’s a menu that comes with the box.)
Your killer line: “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” It’s a GWF Hegel quote that basically means philosophy is redundant, so that should bring an end to this tedious conversation – if the conversation is, in fact, real.
College English students expecting Jack Kerouac and other romantic heroes are quickly set straight with a heavy dose of Beowulf which, written in Old English, is basically in another language, much closer to the German from which our modern tongue evolved. Enjoy.
Three things you must know
Certain novelists are required reading for any college student who wants to at least appear smart. You need to be able to discuss certain classics, including 1984 (George Orwell), Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad), The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov), Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov), The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald). Skippy Dies (Paul Murray) is a modern masterpiece. Also, anything by Carol Joyce Oates, Robert Coover, John Steinbeck, Haruki Murakami, Virginia Woolf. Sci-fi and fantasty buffs have Tolkien down; impress them – if you really want to, for some reason – with your knowledge of Ursula Le Guin. There is no excuse for reading Ayn Rand: shun those who tell you she may have been on to something with her mean and tiny hopes for humanity.
Carrying around a dog-eared copy of Ulysses is so old hat. It’s all about Moby Dick which, by virtue of its narcoleptic properties, is much more challenging than Joyce. Or just read the Cliffsnotes.
David Foster Wallace, who died in 2008, is rightfully being added to the canon on many English literature courses. His book Infinite Jest is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of contemporary literature, and his already sterling reputation has grown since his death. Read him.
Don’t say: “I really love this month’s James Patterson novel – it’s so complex.”
Your killer line: “Heathcliff’s dark broodiness speaks to the restrained passions bubbling under our skin.”
There are two types of students who need to know about politics: those who plan on eventually running for public office, and those who plan on destroying those who run for public office. Fine Gael to the Labour Party to the socialists to despair and disillusionment is a well worn path, although students going from the socialists to Fianna Fáil tend to be rarer.