Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Orange Is The New Black

TigerBlog saw the title of the show and figured it had to be about Princeton Athletics, no?

"Orange Is The New Black?" What else could it possibly be about?

Naturally he wanted to watch it. He wouldn't have felt the same way if the show as called "Red Is The New Blue" or "Crimson Is The New Black" or even "Carnelian Red Is The New White."

So "Orange Is The New Black" it was.

Guess what. It's not about Princeton Athletics at all.

Just to be sure, TigerBlog watched all 13 episodes of Season 1 and then all 13 episodes of Season 2 - all in less than a two-week span. And there wasn't a single Princeton reference to be found.

"OITNB" is actually based on a true story, though it's apparently a far cry from the book. It's the story of Piper Kerman, who spent a year in a minimum security prison for having been a really small part of an international drug operation.

The show is an original series on Netflix. TigerBlog binge-watched, as they say, even checking out the last 10 minutes of the last show of Season 1 on his phone on a lacrosse field at the University of Delaware, prior to a game for TigerBlog Jr.

That's how addicting it is.

The show is really, really good. Yeah, the premise can be summed up as "come to prison; it's not really that bad; you can make some new friends and have some laughs." And for some reason, it's considered a comedy for the upcoming Emmy Awards, for which the show received nine nominations.

The main character is still named Piper, though her fictionalized last name is Chapman. Her sentence is 15 months, and the first two seasons span about half of that time.

It has its funny moments, but TigerBlog wouldn't consider it a comedy. No, it mostly shows that prison, while it might have its lighter moments, is about loss of freedom, fear, loss of identity, loss of self.

As Red said in "The Shawshank Redemption," it's "a whole life blown away in the blink of an eye, with nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it."

Some of the women in "OITNB" are lifers. Others are like Piper, in prison for much shorter periods. The question is what will be different when they get out to make sure they don't come right back.

Piper had all the advantages that many of the women she meets didn't - education, money, stable family. And yet she ended up in the same place.

What makes the show great is the character development. "Orange Is The New Black" employs a pretty good vehicle for going behind the scenes with its characters, using flashbacks to their lives on the outside to show how they ended up in prison.

And some of the characters are just outstanding, in terms of the way they're written and the way they're acted. This applies to the inmates and to the staff, and at certain points it becomes hard to remember who has the moral superiority and stronger character between the two.

The show is really well done. TB isn't sure how Netflix got into the business of producing original content, but his sense is it came out of the company's evolution from a DVD mail-order distributor to a cutting edge, modernized operation that figured out what the TV-watching public wants in 2014.

This was TB's first Netflix original series experience, and it was tremendous. Even without any references to Princeton. Nothing about Princeton's school colors, how they became Princeton's school colors. None of it.

TigerBlog was pretty sure he knew the story of how Princeton adopted orange and black as its colors.

It started when Princeton first started to field athletic teams, which goes back to baseball in 1864 and of course the first football game, against Rutgers in 1869.

Somewhere along the line, the color orange was introduced as a tribute to William of the House of Nassau, for whom Nassau Hall was named and who was also the Prince of Orange. Eventually, black was added to orange.

When stripes were brought into the picture, a newspaper account referred to how Princeton fought like Tigers. Simple, no?

Actually, there was more to it.

Somehow, in all the time that TigerBlog has been here, he'd never read the Princeton Companion page on the school colors and their origin. And so, having exhorted you to watch Orange is the New Black, he leaves you today with information on the old Orange and Black.

It's really good stuff, and if you close your eyes, you can sort of picture how it all unfolded and imagine the world of Princeton University and Princeton Athletics in the 1870s and 1880s:

Princeton's orange and black came into use soon after the Civil War. On April 5, 1866, a freshman named George K. Ward 1869 observed at a class meeting that many other colleges had their distinctive colors but Princeton had none, and he suggested that orange would be appropriate since William III of the House of Nassau, in whose honor the first building had been named, was also Prince of Orange. His suggestion met with instant favor with his classmates but failed to win general approval in the other classes. Ward persisted, however, and a little over a year later, on June 26, 1867, when his teammates in the Class of 1869 Base Ball Club assembled at Princeton Junction for their trip to New Haven to play the Yale Class of 1869, he provided them all with badges of orange ribbon with ``'69 B.B.C.'' printed on them in black ink. It proved an auspicious occasion for the first recorded use of Princeton's colors. Sporting their badges, the team had a pleasant trip by train to New York and overnight on the steamer ``Elm City'' up Long Island Sound to New Haven; heard a speech by President Andrew Johnson who was making a tour of New England and happened to be in New Haven; came from behind with two runs in the ninth inning to win, 19 to 18; and, still wearing their badges, had supper with their Yale opponents at a New Haven hotel where the Yale players magnanimously sang ``Oh, here's to Nassau Hall / For she's bully at baseball!'' 

More general and formal use of Princeton's colors came a year later. In response to a petition from all four undergraduate classes, the Faculty on October 12, 1868 resolved to permit students ``to adopt and wear as the College Badge an orange colored Ribbon bearing upon it the word `Princeton.''' Two weeks later at the inauguration of James McCosh as eleventh president of the College, such badges, arranged for by the Class of 1869, were much in evidence and the use of orange (with black printing) became official. 

The combination of orange and black was accidental and the two colors were not associated in the undergraduates' minds until the fall of 1873 when a freshman named William Libbey, Jr. 1877, on a dare from his classmate Melancthon W. Jacobus, sported a necktie made of yellow and black silk which he had seen advertised in Cambridge, England, the preceding summer, as ``The Duke of Nassau's colors.'' His wearing of the necktie was used as evidence to prove Princeton's prior right to the colors to a committee from Rutgers that had become interested in orange and black. The following spring, Libbey arranged through his father, a New York merchant, for the manufacture in a Paterson silk mill of a thousand yards of orange and black ribbon for use at an intercollegiate rowing regatta in Saratoga, N.Y., on July 15, 1874. He gave pieces of the ribbon to members of the freshman crew for hatbands and sent the remainder to a store in the Grand Union Hotel at Saratoga, three miles from the lake where the races were rowed, to be sold as ``Princeton's colors.'' When the Princeton freshmen won the first race, the Class of 1877 commissioned one of its members, who happened to have with him a very fast trotting horse, to hurry to the hotel to buy up all the ribbon, but by the time he arrived every inch had been sold. 

Thereafter orange and black appeared in the attire of athletic teams and in 1888 as the title of a song that soon won a place in Princeton lore. In 1896, the year of the Sesquicentennial the trustees adopted orange and black as the official colors for academic gowns despite a plea by Professor Allan Marquand 1874 that Princeton's colors be changed to orange and blue, which he had discovered were the true colors of the House of Nassau (and of the Netherlands whence New York City gets its orange and blue). Professor Marquand made a strong case for his proposal, on aesthetic as well as historical grounds, but by now too much sentiment had been attached to the colors that had been in use for several decades to permit giving them up. ``It matters not whether we got them by accident or design,'' the feeling was said to run, ``We have them, and will never change them, so long as eye and voice can unite in praise of `dear old Princeton and the Orange and the Black.'''

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