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MIT student blogger Jessie L. '07

Things you might have wanted to know by Jessie L. '07

There are a few questions that I’ve often wondered if people were curious about and just aren’t asking. One of them, I answered in one of my first entries, but I assume that I’ve picked up new readers since July ’05. I have only a few days left in Switzerland (I will post pictures at some point!), so I’ll kill a little time by answering them.

What’s the picture in your banner?

As the observant have no doubt noticed, it’s a picture of MIT at night, looking out over West Campus. You can see the West Campus dorms from MacGregor eastward, the domes, the Green Building, the tennis bubble, Kresge, the Student Center, and more. Not to mention, a large chunk of Cambridge, and part of the Charles River, with the Museum of Science off in the distance. When I first got this blog, and was told that I needed a banner image, this picture, which I acquired as a freshman, immediately came to mind. I think it’s a gorgeous shot. And people say that MIT’s campus isn’t beautiful!

Where did you get it?

Well, I didn’t take it. :) What, you’ve been reading this for months and you actually thought I was a good enough photographer to take that? It was taken by a friend.

How did you come up with the name for your blog?

This is the one I’ve answered before. It’s a quote from Neil Gaiman’s wonderful novel, American Gods (and last time, to my pleased astonishment, somebody actually recognized it). Here’s the passage:

“This is not a land for gods,” said the buffalo man. But it was not the buffalo man talking anymore, Shadow knew, in his dream: it was the fire speaking, the crackling and burning of the flame itself that spoke to Shadow in the dark place under the earth.

“This land was brought up from the depths of the ocean by a diver,” said the fire. “It was spun from its own substance by a spider. It was shat by a raven. It is the body of a fallen father, whose bones are mountains, whose eyes are lakes.”

“This is a land of dreams and fire,” said the flame.

One of the main ideas of American Gods is that America is not a good place for gods because it is too dynamic, too wild and untamed, moving too quickly. Gods struggle to survive in such conditions…but dreams burn bright. To me, this is a decent description of how I see MIT. It moves, it’s alive, strangely wild and fierce and raw, unstable…even the truly enduring traditions and values (like living group cultures) are not frozen in time, they’re a foundation upon which new members of the community build, ongoing dreams.

That’s why I chose the title “A Land of Dreams and Fire”. It’s kind of serious and intense, and painfully earnest, but then, so am I, so it’s fitting. *grin*

Did you consider any other titles?

Yes. The other title that I seriously considered was “City of Blinding Lights”, the title of a U2 song that I love. The opening lines of the song work pretty well for a student’s journey through MIT, or for that matter, for anyone’s coming-of-age. “The more you see, the less you know / Listen, find out as you go / I knew much more then, than I do now.” And it would have gone well with the banner image, which was what made me think of the song in the first place when I was brainstorming titles. But I decided that the title I picked was better and more meaningful, and that most of the blinding lights in the banner image were from the greater Cambridge area anyway.

How did you become a blogger?

Not the way JKim ’10 did, that’s for sure. I can’t believe that it’s progressed to the point where people send in applications, and dozens of students are competing for a single spot. Wow.

I was already friends with Matt McGann. I was introduced to him in January 2005 by a mutual friend, Lex ’00 (along with our friend Sondy (Wellesley) ’07). I’d been dropping into his office to say hello at least once every week or two, frequently to get advice on UA stuff (I still do this – Ben teases me and says that I like Matt better than him, because I’m usually looking for Matt when I pop into the office). That summer, I needed money, and I asked Matt if there were any jobs in Admissions. He sent my name to Ben. Ben read some of my livejournal, I think, and asked me if I’d like to be a blogger. I was a regular reader of Matt’s blog by this time, and the idea of having official space to ramble to prefrosh about my vision of the Institvte was very appealing, so I said yes.

That’s all for now. If there’s anything else you wanted to know, just ask.

6 responses to “Things you might have wanted to know”

  1. Aziz '10 says:

    Thanks a lot Jess…The name for the blog question was one I was tempted to ask ;p

  2. Colin says:

    I’d actually been wondering about the blog name for . . . what is it, a year? And here it’s from a book that I’ve read, and I didn’t even recognize it. wink American Gods is FANTASTIC, and I applaud you for quoting it. I wish I had remembered that section!

    (I think the part that’s sticking out the most in my mind now is with the prostitute in one of the early chapters. WEIRD. STUFF.)

  3. JKim says:


    (And yeah that totally freaked me out too, Colz.)

  4. Phil says:

    yay, American Gods rocks! “boob tube” haha. =P

  5. Minh says:

    That is an amazing banner.

  6. Sarab says:

    I’m impressed. The title was something that I wanted to ask about, it just wasn’t that high on my priority list. *Cheshire Cat Grin*

    I have to read American God’s sounds like it would be fun.

    One book I’d recommned is the Alexander series by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. An excellent read