Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ye Olde Snarke Commentse

Yyyyo! I've been informed concerns have arisen over the presumed demise of the old site.  Rest assured, Ye Olde Snarke will live on in happy inactivity.  There was no way to import the old comments, so I decided to keep it around.  Nothing like wasting your own personal wad of cyberspace.  It lends meaning to my life.  (Unfortunately, I will have to give the meaning back before Thursday, or else a fine will be imposed.)

That, and who could ditch the coffee design? So fear not.  Maybe I'll even dispense the odd neural nugget o' mystery there, for old times' sake.  I just prefer Blogspot.

Now scroll down and read about gender studies! Chop-chop! I did not become a cogitative academic for nothing*.

* Or at all.  

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Next Genderation

I have a bone to pick with the American system of higher education, and not just because the dormitory vending machine ate my money that one time. (There is no sight quite so heart-rending as a defenseless little bag of pretzels dangling by a corner. Except, of course, for a defenseless little bag of Good 'n' Plentys dangling by a corner. That sight would bring any ax murderer to his knees.)

No, my bone is with the Great Academic Obsession that spreads campus-wide, herpes-style, each semester. It's different every time. Back in the fall, it was the word "dialectic." No professor could broach any topic, from cognitive dissonance to Turkish history, from historical cognition to dissonant turkey, without declaring, pants dampening, that we simply had to explore how this concept "functioned in a dialectic." God forbid we should have ever addressed any relevant questions, any difficult questions, such as: What does this concept actually address? Who does it affect? Is it actually interesting?*

But no. Instead we had to explore, class after class, how things "functioned in a dialectic," a phrase so meaningless my memory of it can only be accurate. What does "dialectic" even mean? DOES it mean? I think it does, because I looked it up only a few minutes ago, shortly before it was sucked into a mental black hole, SCHFUPPP up the cerebral Hoover that works 24/7 to ensure my mind remains uncluttered by all but the most crucial memories, such as who played Doctor Who when, or the complete list of Pokémon.**

However, this Great Academic Obsession paled in comparison with this past semester's, namely: gender. This is an issue of great honking academic importance, because it turns out that not only are there - get ready now - two genders, but that these two genders are - you might want to sit down for this part - different from each other. This is all fine and dandy if you limit yourself to frivolous activities such as living your life, but for us thinker types, us members of the intellectual vanguard, this is a far more troubling issue, one that we must address, must change, must ideally ameliorate, by the all at once visionary and active method of reading academic papers other people have written about other academic papers still other people have written, so that eventually we may achieve the academic holy grail of total incomprehensibility:

It is proximally requisite, if we are to dialogue naratogically with the gendered paradigm through and also via a purposively abiding gendered schema, that we must regard gender in a performatively teleological effort to order extra gender with gender on the side (Snyder, 2001), in the reflectionally scatological sense of gendering your gender so fast your gender will gender, but we suggest you go slower for maximum pleasure (Dawkins, 1996).

Of course, I appreciate the sentiment behind this academic movement. The sentiment behind this academic movement is that no matter how advanced we think we have become in our view of gender, we still need to look with a critical eye*** at how far we really are from achieving complete gender integration. So naturally the best way to achieve this is to observe every .003 nanoseconds that there are two genders. Even you might have one! The best part is the Breaking News Manner in which this material is always presented, clearly communicating that this "gender" is the newest, hottest thing, actively being endorsed even as we speak by entertainment personalities such as The Rock.

Naturally the least safe among us are students of the humanities, those disciplines in which, per federal law, you may not make ANY remark, written or spoken, without preceding it with "Well, going off of Meg's point ... " (This law remains in effect even if Meg has not MADE a point, even if there IS no student named "Meg," etc. Also, there is a strict three-"dichotomy"-utterance minimum imposed per sentence.) I recall one session on the Decameron, a fine book by dead author Giovanni "Johnny the Skins" Boccaccio. Now this is actually a pretty funny read, which yet has been somehow magically sludgified, in the Giant Academic Sludg-o-Tron, into a Gender Issue Book. This is despite the fact that Boccaccio is so dead he was dead before gender was even invented. Nevertheless, this one day, right in the middle of what had seemed to be a reasonable and intelligent discussion,**** a female student was called upon, quite without warning, to define the "woman reaction" to the book. The implication was that, as gendered persons, we were required to have gender-based reactions to class material, as summarized in the following handy chart:

Example of a BAD reaction to class material: Consider it.
Example of a GOOD reaction to class material: Ovulate.

Clearly I, as a person of gender, was to further the discussion accordingly ("Well, going off of Meg's ovulation, I feel that the dichotomy..."), then go home and ovulate about this some more. Instead, as a bold rebel type, I went home and watched episodes of Night Court. This proved an infinitely more fulfilling activity, at least until I realized that - you bet your gendered ASS - it is a gendered activity, too. This is because the show features: GENDERS. There is no escape.

So this got pretty bad. Bad to the point that, when on the first day of classes, you entered a new classroom and encountered a new professor of the female gender, your brain would immediately go on MAYDAY MAYDAY PROFESSOR WITH A VAGINA alert, because you knew that, doggone it, you were going to HEAR ABOUT THAT SPECIFIC ORGAN before the END OF CLASS, for your INTELLECTUAL BETTERMENT. Let's be clear now: I am not saying this is not highly socially relevant, just that it can be something of a time-waster when you're studying, say, civil engineering. (Okay, so maybe this is an unfair remark, since I don't study civil engineering. Therefore, I don't know exactly what their female professors have. Maybe civil vaginas.) My point is, the topic was always introduced in a manner that was clearly supposed to make you go, LIKE, OHMYGAW THAR'S SUCH A THING AS WOMENNN?!! WHO KNEW?!! OHMYFREAKINGGAWWWW LET'S ALL GO OUT AND BUY FEMININE HYGIENE PRODUCTS TOGETHARRR!!!!, or some such.

This is all rather distressing to those of us who would rather undergo un-anesthetized bowel surgery than EVER ponder ANYONE'S feminine locale. But there is no use whining. We students are pawns in the giant chess game of higher education. We are powerless to counteract the Great Academic Obsession. There seems to be no solution in sight. Perhaps the vending machine would like to give me two bags of pretzels for the price of one. That'd be a start. However, as an academic of conscience, I must close by advising that anyone who takes pretzels from a vending machine must first consider the very real possibility that these pretzels are gendered. Also, I am pretty sure they could function in a dialectic. Somebody should check this out.*****

* Actually, this is an easy question. Answer: no.
** These are: Pikachu, Snorlax, Borax, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, the old dude in black and white, and the other ones.
*** Our left one. We are free to keep viewing adult entertainment with our right.
**** Not really.
***** Not me.

©2009, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Snarchives 3/19/2009: Does Not Compute

Catching up with the highly suspicious 'round the world

Occasionally, in between Intellectual Collegiate Activities such as organizing my books alphabetically by predominant stain, I find myself using a public computer. The Aarkvard campus features many public computers, the fruits of university President Ephram M. Cloaca’s much-lauded Public Computer Initiative (“Like Reaching Into Your Toilet, But With That Added Element of Mystery”).

Personally, I could be at peace with this, if not for the fact that every time I turn on one of these computers, I receive: the Threatening Message. The Threatening Message* informs me that, quote, “EXCEPTION HAS BEEN THROWN BY THE TARGET OF AN INVOCATION.” This has bothered me considerably, affording me countless seconds of reflection. The implications would seem to be as follows:

1. An exception has been thrown.
2. It has been thrown by the target of an invocation.
3. The computer clearly suspects ME of involvement.
4. Whereas, though I do not wish to name names, this is quite clearly your personal mother’s fault.

So I just always tell it, quote, “OK.” And with good reason: “OK” is the only button. Personally, my peace of mind would be much greater were there alternative buttons, such as the “Hwunhh?” button or the “I Spit On Your Exception, Punk; Now, Please Show Me The Naked People of My Choice At Once”** button. That would make me feel all better. But “OK” it is.

This would appear to be highly suspicious, but not nearly so highly suspicious as the militant toilet paper dispenser. You may know the one of which I speak.*** It wishes me to free Palestine. I can tell because it says, in bold Sharpie, FREE PALESTINE. Now I am as sympathetic as the next alleged exception-thrower with savage, yet strangely seductive eyes; but let us consider this more deeply for a moment. The person receiving the toilet-paper message may well be entirely inclined to free Palestine, but if he is in a position to be contemplating the toilet paper, chances are this is an inconvenient moment for him to do it.

I do not mean to pick bones**** here, but these are the sorts of things that make me feel I have no grip on the world. Am I supposed to FREE PALESTINE in the comfort of my restroom stall? Must I do it RIGHT this second? Should I wash my hands first? (These are the sorts of questions we must ask ourselves, as a nation and as humans, if we are ever to achieve our ultimate goal of avoiding our psychology homework.) And why, pray, do the public computers suspect me of throwing targets? Do I look like a target-thrower? ‘Cause I got news for them: there AREN’T EVEN ANY TARGETS HERE, except for the one across the river in Edgewater*****, and why would I throw it, unless I got, like, really bored and really strong and wanted to make a throwing-heavy-things noise like, “HUNH!!!”?******

Of course, I don’t mean to imply that the problem of making me feel grip-less is limited to just Palestine (or, as it is alternatively known, “Edgewater”). France is also involved. I have this French phrase calendar, daily helping me to strengthen my second language*******, which is pretty impressive when you consider I never totally got a handle on my first. This is all fine and dandy until you look at the pronunciation key underneath the phrase of the day. For example, March 12 (if that IS its name) avers that the phrase “On se voit au bar ce soir” is pronounced, quote, “on s-vwah oh bar se swahr,” whereas I guarantee you most French speakers will actually pronounce it “On se voit au bar ce soir.”********

This too would appear to be highly suspicious, but at least I’m not learning Chinese. That would do me in. The other day at the library, I watched with horror as the kid next to me, doing his Chinese homework online, looked up the word “sheng,” yielding a list something like the following:

SHENG (n.) – river
SHENG (n.) – stoat
SHENG (v.) – to need
SHENG (v.) – to follow
SHENG (v.) – to develop glaucoma
SHENG (v.) – to give a mouse a cookie
SHENG (p.) – buttercup seen on a Tuesday at 5:08 (Celsius)
SHENG (b.) – sodium benzoate (to preserve freshness)
SHENG (x.) – forgotten actor Jeff Conaway
SHENG (n.b.c.) – E-Z-Bake Oven
SHENG (b.y.o.b.) – junk mail, especially certain ads for carpet cleaners, but NOT other certain ads for carpet cleaners, and you should know which ones are which, ass-face
SHENG (a.a.r.p.) – A little to the left
SHENG (i.h.o.p.) – Ooh, that’s good

And that’s just a small sampling. I haven’t even gotten into urinary-tract connotations, sporting-event cheers, dog breeds, etc. So maybe I should count my blessings: my native language may implore me to free Palestine inside a restroom stall, but at least I have never had to stop and wonder if it is actually imploring me to develop glaucoma. At least … not until now.

With that, I retreat into the mists of Spring Break, until next we meet. For the record, I do not know Chinese, and I realize it’s entirely possible I’ve misrepresented particulars of the language here, despite devoting myself to upwards of 6 seconds of research before I switched to making things up and consuming multiple spice drops to replace upwards of 6 seconds’ worth of glucose. Some faux pas********* cannot be helped.

In the meantime, until we meet again: sheng. And I sincerely mean that.

*"Threaty" for short. We are on personal terms by now, you understand.
**Come to think of it, this should be a required button for every computer. Or, short of that, just mine. Just mine would be okay.
***That one. In that stall over there.
****Disclaimer: Ms. McEldowney is lying. She totally means to pick bones. She is a bone-picky, bone-picking bone-picker. Also, “bone” is funny. Hee! “Bone.”
*****I understand there is a kick-ass sale on sheets.
******Actually, this is kind of fun.
********Literally, “On se voit kick-ass sale on sheets.”
*********Pronunciation: “luh vwuh nuh bwuh OOH OOH baby gimme gimme.”

©2009, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

Who links to my website?

The Snarchives 2/24/2009: Musée Can You See

One of the greatest benefits of life in Manhattan, besides being able to walk into any eatery and pick myself a criminally insane dining companion of my choice, has been learning to enjoy museums. I frankly didn't know this was possible. As a youth, I knew museums only as the settings of extended-family outings. These are great festering protracted wads of forced fun that consist of your clustering en masse around a bemuseumed object, which must be, by extended-family outing law -- and I say this as a cultural enthusiast -- the single most boring-ass object in the history of existence. This is how I ended up spending an estimated 60,000,000,000,000,000 childhood hours in rapt contemplation of, say, the fossilized Dunkin' Donuts* latte lid of noted Egyptian pharaoh and caffeine enthusiast Nidh-ah-Venti, the idea being that this experience was supposed to make us all, I don't know, urinate with cultural fulfillment. Personally, I never delivered, but then I had no artistic sensibilities as a child. I am told that at age 12, during a breathtaking performance of Romeo and Juliet by American Ballet Theater, I fell asleep, totally missing the classic scene in which the Sylphides kill Tybalt.

Fortunately, my cultural palate did ultimately broaden, and I came to enjoy ballets, particularly the scene in Giselle wherein the heroine, wracked with grief over her faithless lover, kills Tybalt. But museums remained a sticking-point for me. So I resolved to turn this around a few months ago, by visiting the American Museum of Natural History, and I'm glad I did, because the museum experience is completely different in adulthood. Those highly edifying exhibits you might have whined and squirmed and picked your nose at as a kid**, you can now -- thanks to the cultural appreciation that comes only of maturity -- walk straight past without even stopping on your way to the gift shop.*** Take the exhibit on HOW MAN HARVESTS THE FOREST. This is a topic that clearly deserves to be blasted past at warp speed,**** which was precisely what I was about to do when I became transfixed by: the Educating Parent. These are everywhere at the natural history museum. Now, I am sure that in their day-to-day lives these are fine, rational, conversation-having, Chinese-food-ordering citizens; yet, put them in the natural history museum with their child, and they become Pod People From Hell. Curiously, this seems to happen in inverse proportion to the child's age, so that the more Cabbage Patch-like the tot, the more the parent becomes what leading behavioral psychologists call an "asshole":

"Look, little Emma," Daddy will boom at Space Shuttle volume, with flagrant disregard for the other patrons, the tour guides, the fact that his child is named Caleb, etc. "This is the story of HOW MAN HARVESTS THE FOREST." Whereupon Daddy, preying on the fact that little Caleb cannot read, proceeds to act out, interpretive dance-style, a highly inaccurate version of said story. Needless to say this allows Daddy himself to assume the lead role, which involves loudly battling various natural foes. This is always the best part, because Daddy never appears to have battled any foe more natural than a System Error.

But I'll tell you when my museum appreciation really took root: last Christmas, when my friend and I visited Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art, a museum featuring art in the form of: grocery store items. Including - wait for it - an entire wall of bendy straws. Seriously. You couldn't focus for all the bendy. To be sure, as an artistic work this was a little "out there," but no more so than, say, the opera Manon (literally, "Manon"), which is about Beverly Sills falling in love with a table. (Although, in context, it makes sense. She is deeply disturbed, because she has just killed Tybalt.)

Anyway, the bendy straw wall affected me so that I was compelled, then and there, to engage in the following cultural dialogue:

GUARD: Ma'am, please don't touch those.
ME: Sorry.

Only I wasn't, really, (NOTE TO GUARD: Yes I was) (NOTE TO EVERYONE ELSE: Not really), because this was an artistic experience of great personal resonance for me. I spent 694 years one summer working at a grocery store, which was a highly bendy-straw-intensive kind of place, only those were bendy straws in small quantities, whereas these were -- as confirmed by the tactile experience -- bendy straws in a very large quantity. This is the sort of distinction you learn to make when you become cultured.***** My experience touching the bendy straws was deeply profound in a sense reminiscent of the movie "Flipper,"****** in which annoying actor Elijah Wood, upon finally coming face to face with the friendly dolphin who will teach him life lessons, is deeply and profoundly compelled to touch bendy straws. Then he gets eaten by a shark.

But the moral of my artistic journey is this: if university education has taught me anything, besides...

SEGUE XING SEGUE XING SEGUE XING to answer psychology questions such as the following:

Byron has sensitive skin, so his mother stops using fabric softener when she does his laundry. Soon Byron’s skin clears up, so his mother immediately starts using fabric softener again, because she hates Byron for being a putrid little dork who makes her touch his underpants. Is this an example of (a) classical conditioning, (b) operant conditioning, (c) silky-smooth conditioning, or (d) HA HA HA IT'S A TRICK QUESTION THE ANSWER IS WOODROW WILSON (1856-1924)?

END OF SEGUE XING END OF SEGUE XING END OF SEGUE XING's to question everything. Had I never questioned my deeply held childhood belief that boring museum experiences are boring, I might never have come to the conclusion that they are, in fact, boring. No, wait, that didn't come out right. New moral! The moral of my artistic journey is this: I am extremely delightful, and you should definitely come visit me, and we should go to a museum together. For you, I'll even go beyond the gift shop. Just don't ever try to tell me HOW MAN HARVESTS THE FOREST.

*"Starbucks," you see, had not been invented yet.
**Not that I am implicating anyone's personal nose here.
***Which not only sells dinosaur poop, but, when they run out, they get new shipments of dinosaur poop. This would appear to be highly suspicious.
****I realize that many of you may disagree, on grounds not only ecological but blah blah blah get your own blog.
*****Don't feel bad if you don't "get" it.
******Literally, "Manon."

©2009, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

The Snarchives 1/19/2008: College Strikes Back

Well, folks, spring semester is wending its jolly way toward us, which can only mean one thing: spring semester is wending its jolly way toward us. And on that note, it's time for this exciting inaugural edition of our brand-spankin'-new college question-and-answer column: If You Must Matriculate, Do It Where I Can't See You!, where we undertake, all the while deftly referring to ourselves in the plural, to answer the questions that never even occurred to you:

Q. What is your recommended method for buying course books?
A. We are a big fan of not bothering. But if you must be an overachieving little perfectionist elitist snotball, we recommend buying course books marked "used." These books are discounted at most stores according to how many different varieties of bodily fluid have been administered to the text.

Q. What if the book just has ketchup on it?
A. Then you can expect to pay top dollar. You will incur an additional 10% fee if it is determined to be McDonald's "Fancy" ketchup.

Q. Sometimes, it seems just impossible to keep track of everything with all the demands coming at you at the start of a new semester. How should I stay afloat?
A. Leading physicians recommend heroin, now available in Flintstones chewable form.

Q. If I take five "three-credit" courses this semester while maintaining a "cumulative" "GPA" of no less than "3.141592653" in addition to a "cumulative" "shoe size" of "8," "7 central," will it be possible to study abroad next fall?
A. Yes, but not for you personally.

Q. May I ask why not?
A. We do not like your face.

Q. What if I do not, technically speaking, HAVE a face?
A. Sucks to be you.

Q. Are you composing this piece in the coffee corner of Ernest Klein & Co. Supermarket at 6th Avenue and 55th Street?
A. Why, yes.

Q. So then how about that cheese package over there? The one advertising "Low-Moisture Mozzarella?"
A. It is humorous.

Q. How about highly suspicious?
A. Naturally.

Q. Has it distracted you from your original topic to the point that you have begun mentally composing a steamy novel consisting of such lines as, “As Lenore locked eyes with Ricardo in the dairy section, she maintained her mask of calm, but was privately pleased to note his mozzarella was unusually high-moisture?”
A. We cannot say the idea has crossed our minds.

Q. I always feel so awkward getting to know new professors. In these casual times, how am I supposed to address them?
A. The Oxford English Dictionary of Oxford English, informally the "E-I-E-I-O," advises that "Raoul" or "Kirsten" is appropriate.

Q. What if my professors are not named Raoul or Kirsten?
A. The E-I-E-I-O then advises that you kill yourself.

Q. I also feel really awkward posing questions. Is it okay to ask provocative questions?
A. By all means.

Q. OK, what are you wearing?
A. Wouldn't you like to know.

Q. What if, when I ask my question, I don't get the answer I want?
A. We suggest you use the method we observed this evening, in an exchange between a newspaper customer and street vendor:
CUSTOMER: You got the Washington Post?
CUSTOMER: How 'bout the Washington Post?
Sooner or later, success is your destiny.

Q. But what if it's not? What if I still don't hear the answer I'm after?
A. We recommend you snivel and whine in an unattractive fashion.

Q. What if I still don't get my answer?
A. No matter: by this point you will exist only in the form of attack dog poop.

Q. How about those Knicks?
A. Beats us. Ask us about the European Figure Skating Championships.

Q. How about those European Figure Skating Championships?
A. As fans deeply concerned with the athleticism as well as the artistry of the sport, we ask only that the winners, as athletes and as artists, have comical names.

Q. And if your favorites don't win?
A. We cut you.

That's all we have time for in this exciting inaugural edition of If You Must Matriculate, Do It Where I Can't See You!, easily the finest college question-and-answer column ever composed in this particular corner of this particular grocery store on this particular afternoon. In the meantime, please accept our heartiest wishes for a happy, healthy, productive and pleasing semester. In other words, may your mozzarella be consistently moist.

©2009, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

The Snarchives 1/11/2009: A Noisy Noise

Not long ago in Manhattan, I was working near my open window, which is normally a nice docile entity that does not have large hostile jars of Cheez Whiz flying through it, when there came flying through it: a large hostile jar of Cheez Whiz. You hear about this sort of thing happening.* Indeed, this is just the sort of magical metropolitan wonder that lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green had in mind when they wrote the immortal words:

New York, New York,
Where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain;
There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza;
Also, a projectile jar of Cheez Whiz will come within .000000003 cm of slicing your face into Bacon Bits.**

So I tried very hard to revel in the urban beauty of the situation, but failed, because I suck at revelry. I’m not a reveler, I’m a thinker. The beauty of college, besides its vast array of majors with names like KETCHUP ANALYSIS AND POLICY or PUTATIVE SCATOLOGY (APPLIED), is that you get taught how to think. I can proudly say that nary a month goes by that you do not find me*** engaged in an act of thinking. “Huh,” I might think to myself, in cultured tones.**** “Shall I pre-order ‘Night Court: The Complete Second Season’ BEFORE I engage in critical analysis of photographs of male figure skaters? Or AFTER? Curses. I cannot choose. For to restore my depleted cerebral energy, I shall first take a trip to Tasti ‘D’ Lite.” Sometimes - not to "toot my own horn" - I even go to class.

If you remain at college long enough, the rate at which you commit acts of intellect will increase until, at last, you reach the ultimate cerebral goal: 24/7 paranoia. I adopted this some months back, just for a lark. I never did obtain the lark, because it turned out you also had to send in two proofs of purchase,***** but I kept the paranoia. It kicked in especially at eating establishments, which I often attend with my backpack alongside - but not physically attached to - my person. I therefore became convinced that menacing hoodlums would make off with it (the backpack). This is a logically unsound concern, however, inasmuch as my backpack weighs approximately 2,000,000,000,000,000 pounds (Fahrenheit). Any menacing hoodlum who tried "funny stuff" would fail at once. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the menacing hoodlum actually got as far as lifting the backpack, at which point – WHOAAA – he would pitch menacingly to the floor, where he would flop around menacingly under the backpack, shortly before expiring due to complications of shattered torso. But you have to be on your guard.

But the paranoia didn’t kick in, not at first, upon my encounter with the Jar of Doom. For one thing, at the time my entire cerebral apparatus was intensively engaged in a quiz (“Which Doctor Who Are YOU?”). I remained in Deep Thought Mode even after the jar came in, abandoning the quiz in favor of pondering how we are ever to get it together, as a nation, if we do not take a stand against acts of Cheez Whiz-related brutality. You, personally, should feel ashamed of yourself.****** Then there was clean-up, during which I had to ponder the very real likelihood that my life would never again be the same for perhaps as many as ten minutes.

But life does go on, and as I made my way toward Tasti “D” Lite, the paranoia finally set in: it must have been retaliation. I should explain: a few days before, in a brash moment of audacity, I undertook to play in my dorm room – without headphones – a recording of: classical music. I should further explain that this was highly docile English classical music, the sort of composition with a name like “By the River on a Summer Evening as a Cow Looks Over the Fence at the Trees Rustling Softly on Ye Banks of Ye Braes of Yo Mama.” Now, I live in a residence where loud sound is a common pastime, from amplified music to amplified shrieking at nothing, to amplified carnal activity, to amplified taco-chewing, and so on. My personal favorite is of course rap, which is for the most part unintelligible, though to the best of my understanding, one particular piece advocates sex with alpacas. Were you to stand outside my building at, say, 3 A.M., the night sky would be populated with dozens of skyrocketing, comic strip-style words such as BOOMchhhBOOMchhhBOOMchhhBOOM, SHRIEEEEEK, OHHHHhhhhhHHHH, I WANNA SEX YOUR ALPACA, etc. Amid which atmosphere a comrade saw fit to rouse me from slumber by banging on my door******* to communicate the following sentiment: TURN OFF THAT RACKET. Which I obligingly did. I don’t know what happened after; my antagonist went away, I guess to sex his alpaca.

But I have not been innocent of English music-listening since, so I figured that was probably the reason behind the Cheez Whiz. That said, it’s weeks later now and there has been no such incident since, so I guess it’s time to let go, and resume the paranoia over my backpack. It’s not an issue of valuables. It’s the fact that I have in there every molecule of every scrap I’ve amassed since, at a conservative estimate, the Pleistocene.******** You never know what such a collection, ending up in the wrong hands, might turn up about you, such as the Hudson News receipt confirming your MasterCard purchase of Rosamund Thrust’s acclaimed paperback Loins in Heat, not that I would know anything about this receipt, dated July 12, 2007.

Obviously, I could clean out the backpack, but this would be – and here is a great intellectual stumbling block that has foiled the objectives through the ages of countless great thinkers such as myself – boring. Which narrows down my options in life to either paranoia or academia. And god knows I know which of those is the lesser evil.********* Should you happen not to see eye-to-eye on this issue with me, feel free to drop by my dorm, the one with the sound-effects outside, and tell me all about it. I’ll welcome your views. Stay a while! Have some Cheez Whiz!

*Just now, for instance.
**I can say without fear of hyperbole that this would have been a calamity on a par with nuclear war. I have a very lovely face, you see.
***You just try and find me. C’mon, punk.
****Like this: “Huh.”
*****Which was too much woooooooork.
******I feel a little better now. Thank you.
********I base this estimate on the fact that somewhere in there is a “scrunchie.”
*********Paranoia, of course. You only think it’s academia because you hate me.

©2009, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

The Snarchives 1/4/2009: The Guide to College Admissions, Part 4

Because of the enormity* of the Aarkvard campus, transportation used to take place primarily by bus; however, due to budget cuts effected in the name of purchasing more Butter Rum foot balm for President Ephram M. Cloaca, the bus system was ultimately abolished. The standard means of campus transport nowadays is the U.S. Postal Service. The alternative means is stoat, though stoat transport is not recommended except for the extremely wealthy, seeing as a one-way stoat ride costs $12.95, going up to $15.95 if you qualify as "husky". However, if you are intent on this form of transportation, you can obtain a Frequent Stoat Ride Card, the result of the recent Stoat Ride Initiative for the Lower and Middle-Income by Provost Wayne L. "Butch" Edema, whereby, after paying full price for ten rides, you may take your eleventh ride, also for full price, on a slightly bigger stoat.

Aarkvard University is located in the town of Plantar, which is wretched and disgusting and features a Build-A-Bear. Federal law requires that you wash your hands after visiting Plantar, and highly recommends that, as a precautionary measure, you also burn them. The Plantar Repertory Theatre regularly features toe-tapping entertainment.

Aarkvard University is home to the world-renowned Phineas J. and Ernestine T. Sputum Museum of Art (affectionately known as “The Sputum”), famed for its exhibits of highly artistic works that appear, to the naked Philistine eye, to be a wadded-up used Taco Bell napkin, but which, upon close and sensitive examination, actually turn out to be: a wadded-up used Taco Bell napkin**. The Sputum's latest exhibit showcases art from the ancient Mayan ruins***, featuring ancient Mayan Taco Bell napkins.

Additionally, Aarkvard is home to a dynamic pair of summer arts festivals: the Celebration of the Banjo, where banjo-lovers the world over come together in celebration of their favorite instrument****, listen to some recordings, then realize it wasn’t the banjo they liked at all; and the Interpretive Knee Bend Festival, in which renowned knee-bend artists gather onstage to convey, via the art of the knee bend, such universal concepts as “hope,” “fear,” “I am bending my knees,” and “Why are we all named Maya?”

Other examples of the arts at Aarkvard include dry macaroni and glitter.

Aarkvard University proudly boasts a Department of Student Affairs, a Department of Current Affairs, a Department of County Fairs; a Department of Our State Fair is a Great State Fair, Don’t Miss It, Don’t Even Be Late; and a Department of Grievances Regarding Foreign Objects Found Deposited in Dormitory Bathtubs (formally known as “The Eww Department”). The newest addition to Aarkvard’s departmental roster is the Perfume Department, where pert middle-aged ladies named “Joanne” will douse you forcibly in substances with names like Elizabeth Arden’s Necrosis, and if you fail to buy a $175 bottle the size of your navel, you will never be allowed to graduate, plus you will take multiple squirts to the eyeball before you ever know what hit you. The Joannes are very experienced shots.

There is at present no Math Department, though Aarkvard administrators advise they are “working on it.”

Aarkvard University has a number of sports teams, all called the Aarkvard Gerunds, for the highly significant reason that "gerund" makes us giggle. Among the sports represented are mini-golf, shoelace-tying, knuckle-cracking (men's and women's), x-treme upholstering, and, of course, stoat-racing. Aarkvard's pride and joy, however, is its Division I scratching team, which in 1991 was featured on ESPN, though regrettably its moment in the limelight was cut short when the lone viewer, Mr. Myron L. Fwupp of Winnetka, Illinois, changed the channel to the Game Show Network.

The team mascot is a large furry gerund.

The Aarkvard University library system can perhaps best be summed up in the words of university president Ephram M. Cloaca, who in 2006 stated, "What? We have libraries?" President Cloaca took swift and decisive action by launching a Library Initiative, to the effect that, one day, some of these libraries will feature books. At present, of Aarkvard's six libraries, one is empty except for wads of gum dating back to the go-go era*****, one houses President Cloaca's extensive collection of hair ornaments, and the remaining four contain only back issues of Highlights magazine.******

In addition to its arts and athletics, Aarkvard offers a vast array of opportunities for social involvement, some of which do not even leave a funky aftertaste. Aspiring journalists will flock to the redoubtable campus newspaper, the Aarkvard Suppository; for the budding politician, there is the Aarkvard Student Society for the Governance of Aarkvard Students (ASSGAS), which offers Aarkvard's leaders-in-the-making, its fledgling effectors of global change, the opportunity to achieve their highest objective as society's Torchbearers of Tomorrow: to have meetings. Recent examples of change effected by ASSGAS include a unanimous vote to remove the longstanding headquarters houseplant. "It wasn't a team player," explained one government representative.

There are a whole bunch of other fascinating and diverse student groups that nobody gives a flying fuck about except for one guy named Marlow who is a member of all of them and always wears a dress.

Knock yourself out.

The incumbent Aarkvard president is Ephram Montahue Cloaca, who came to university attention when he was discovered on a nearby street corner, exposing his shin to schoolchildren, and was summarily brought in on suspicion of being a visionary. President Cloaca has fulfilled his promise ever since, never failing, in times of crisis, to make an affable face and sometimes chew on a chew toy.

In something of a twist on the "traditional" college administration hierarchy, President Cloaca is seconded by two "assistant presidents," Nick "Baddabing" Baddaboom and Sidney "Sid the Grinder" Portoletti, who assist in administrative matters and can frequently be seen around campus with friendly smiles and large plastic sacks of lumpy administrative documents.

There is also a team of admissions officers, who are technically members of the stoat family, but whom we understand do a bang-up job.


Comprehensive though the Aarkvard viewbook may appear, it has not escaped our notice that it ignores one of the more important aspects, nay, the paramount facet of university life. Thus we present it for you here, gratis********, as an Added Bonus:

Aarkvard University is located just miles from sparkling clean restrooms. These are located at the home of Earl and Louise Pilsner, of 164 Rubella Road in Plantar. The kitchen window is always slightly ajar.


*This is an academic word. Example of usage: "There is a bifurcation on your enormity." Example of continued usage: "AAAGGGHHHH! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!"

**Scoff if you must. Historians have authenticated this as a relic from Picasso's little-known Chalupa Period.

***This was an ancient civilization during which everyone was named Maya, even the men, so don't think for a moment that its ending in ruins was a coincidence. Fortunately, the Mayans were able to rebuild from the ashes and soar again to prosperity upon rebranding themselves as "The Aztecs," under which name they enjoyed 17 gold records.

****The banjo.

*****This occurred during the Mayan civilization.

******Including the controversial Feb. 1996 issue in which Goofus and Gallant finally kiss.

*******Latin, meaning "dweeb."

©2008-09, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Snarchives 11/26/2008: Thanky Panky

I don't know about you, but I love Thanksgiving. As a college student homeward-bound for the occasion, I long for the warm holiday glow that can come only from - forgive my sentimentality - using toilets used only by your personal family.

Not that I would claim for a moment that this is all there is to Thanksgiving. No, Thanksgiving also features history, mainly in the form of the Pilgrims, who, upon arriving at Plymouth Rock, instituted a tradition that would endure through the ages: Stove Top-brand stuffing. Some months later, they would go on to invent the bag of disgusting stuff inside the turkey, which they soon realized was so gross that they all died. It is no coincidence that this remains their current status.

My own personal history with Thanksgiving began somewhat later, courtesy of Highlights for Children magazine. You may have heard of it. You might, perhaps, recall the feature "Goofus and Gallant," which sought to impress upon its readership various complex principles of ethics, as follows:

Goofus microwaves the family cat.
Gallant does not microwave the family cat.

Needless to say, this proved to be excellent preparation for university academics:

Goofus microwaves the family cat.
Gallant does not microwave the family cat.
What might be the ethical implications (epistemological, tangential, putative, or Patagonian) of these respective acts? How does this dichotomy function, in the dual senses of being a dichotomy and of functioning, when viewed through the lens of 21st-century feminism? Explain.

So anyway, this one Highlights featured a story in which various adorable storybook characters - Pinocchio, Cinderella, the Angel of Death, etc. - got together for a festive Thanksgiving banquet, sharing merry stories and thoroughly enjoying one another's company. It turns out this is not how Thanksgiving works at all. Thanksgiving is in fact spent in the soul-devouring company of platitude-belching relatives with names like Uncle Bud, who will regale you with housing-market anecdotes until you, in the heat of the moment, violently place the meat thermometer where the moon don't shine, and eventhen Uncle Bud will gasp out the last bit about that foreclosure in Walla Walla like you wouldn't believe.

These days, as a transfer student to the enigmatic Bolumbia, I am about to experience my first New York Thanksgiving, which I will be spending in Maine. Maine is very much like New York but without culture or life forms. The state bird of Maine is the rhubarb (pronounced "Bangor") pie. So, with my impending departure in mind, I append here a list of five things unique to my New York experience thus far* for which I am truly thankful:

THING THE FIRST. The construction guys located on the immediate other side of my window**, who perform the inestimable function in my life of having violent discussions at 6 A.M. 

(UPDATE: Right at this very moment, I am dealing with this via the method of playing Benjamin Britten's "Simple Symphony" over them very loudly, which works great except in the case of the quiet and intensely moving "Sentimental Sarabande" movement, which is being regularly punctuated with indignant roars of "WHUTHEFUCKAYOUTHINKYERDOIN?!!") (This is NOT in the original score.)***

THING THE SECOND. My increasingly toned legs, which have gotten this way because every night I run down the hall like a bat out of hell between the shower and my room, as to avoid being seen in my size-875 (wide) fuzzy red footed polar bear jammies with the seat the size of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, not that these jammies are frankly any of your damn business.

THING THE THIRD. The orgasmic substance known as "bubble tea," which I have taken to ordering daily with increasing urgency, such that my order-spiel has now degenerated into something like "GIMMEGIMME AGLAGLAGLAAAHHH," and the Bolumbia bubble tea guys, bless their hearts, get it right every time. This is despite the fact that they speak only Chinese.

THING THE FOURTH. City buses featuring the mega-head of Clay "Clay Aiken fromAmerican Idol, now appearing in theatrical excrescence Spamalot" Aiken, without which I think we can all agree this city would be significantly poorer, nay, a barren pit. 

THING THE FIFTH. The devoted used-book street vendor on 110th and Broadway, who took time out the other day to let me know, after I decided against buying the biography of Dorothy Parker, that I was personally responsible for ruining his life; and whose roaring lament could be heard, complete with doppler effect, for blocks after the fact ("NOOOOOOoooooo...")

And with that, I depart this dynamic city for a few days, to enjoy the Deep North. Come and see me if you like. Turn right at the rhubarb pie, and you'll find me, in a solemn act of homage to our pioneering ancestors, consuming Stove-Top stuffing. Pinocchio and Cinderella will be there, too. You'll be able to pick me out by the jammies.

©2008, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

*An academic expression, meaning "the manner in which great gaping academic assholes say 'so far'."
**Sid, Marty, Joey, and Dennis, who I am reliably informed is not pulling his weight.
***Also, if we're to get picky, the construction guys have NO sense of rhythm.

The Snarchives 11/11/2008: The Guide to College Admissions, Part 3

Far be it from us to puff up with pride over the old alma mater, but if we do say so ourself, Aarkvard University offers its students that certain something that none of its fellow universities, despite their infinite complexity and richness, can ever hope to boast: Aarkvard merchandise.


But why take our word for it, or even President Ephram M. Cloaca's, when you can have it straight from the Aarkvard University viewbook, that rare specimen - reprinted here in full - where candor is king, information is plentiful, and carbohydrates are 30% less.* Take it away, boys!


Aarkvard University was founded in 1669 or possibly 1996 by Josiah T.W. Aarkvard, noted visionary and dyslexic. He was considered the foremost visionary of his time based primarily on his indeterminate aroma, as well as his vast collection of Hot Wheels and cereal pieces he had dropped on the floor and would not allow anyone to throw away. A virtuoso on the toilet-paper kazoo, Aarkvard received his musical training at the Juilliard School, afterwards meeting with only modest success in his performing endeavors. Ultimately, he would gain greater recognition when he began performing topless, though his moment in the sun would be curtailed upon his tragic death in a nipple accident. Sadly, Josiah's legacy perished with him, though the university was subsequently re-named after his nephew, teen idol Bobby Aarkvard.

Despite his death, Josiah remained frisky in later years, becoming a model forCosmopolitan magazine. Once again his dreams of super-stardom were dashed when he was beaten out for the August-September cover by songstress Mariah Carey, but Josiah was prominently featured in a major article, sharing his views on How to Make Him Moan. Josiah Aarkvard now tours the globe giving inspirational seminars on this same topic. His wife, Betty Aarkvard, was also instrumental in the shaping of the University, donating in its entirety her collection of her personal phlegm.


Aarkvard University features a great stinking deal of architecture, all of which is frankly as boring as your Uncle Bud but blessedly without the housing-market anecdotes. The only potentially non-boring examples of architecture are the erotic gargoyles, and even these are not worth your time, except maybe for the one the student body has nicknamed "Lefty," and this is purely a matter of personal taste.

Also of note is the 16-story Aarkvard Chapel, which, on account of Aarkvard administrators' perpetual hovering between heartily endorsing faith and violently condemning it, is made of Legos to facilitate periodic insta-destructions. The Chapel's apparent "stained-glass windows" are in fact made of colorful construction paper. If you look closely enough, you will see that the renderings of "major religious figures" on the windows are, in fact, jumbo-sized stickers of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Plans are afoot for completion in 2012 of four new dormitories built entirely fromcookie dough, to be constructed by fictional architect Howard Roark from Ayn Rand's book The Fountainhead, but without ever compromising his foremost philosophical principles, namely to strive, above all else, to talk for 2,694 pages straight about hisforemost philosophical principles. Students will be permitted to eat these dorms, but only if it is done for the clear, cold purpose of self-fulfillment.


*No, we don't have to tell you THAN WHAT. In fact, you will never know.

©2008, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

The Snarchives 10/19/2008: The Guide to College Admissions, Part 2

Institutions of higher learning fall into five categories. Some people say it is six, but these are people who, when counting, forget "four." Regardless, it is imperative to bear in mind, as you peruse the following study in contrasts and disparities, that all colleges, at the end of the day, are the same, in that they allow all manner of students to come together and - casting off their socioeconomic, religious, racial and political differences - throw up on each other.

Not that I am suggesting for a moment that this is all there is to college: no, there are also "shower caddies." A shower caddy is an item nonexistent outside the college sphere. It may not carry much, but by owning one you can be sure you will make a statement to your peers (namely, "Hi. I am a dork with a stupid bucket").

Which is to say, there exist myriad* types of colleges, breaking down as follows:


These are by far the most celebrated among institutions of higher learning, featuring student bodies consisting of hulking, spitting, wind-breaking hominids for whom a typical academic day consists of asserting that five and eight equals seven, and being told, "Close enough." Such institutions are so high-profile that sometimes they are even made into major motion pictures, starring actress Scarlett Johansson as a shower caddy.

Not to toot our own horn or anything**, but our own alma mater, Aarkvard University (motto: "Quantum forum in est dum-dum") (literally, "Whadda you lookin' at?"), in addition to being a shining beacon of intellectualishness, happens to be a Big-Ass Sports College. Our bendy-straw-bending team took the state title three years in a row, and our scratching team is as yet unparalleled. And we're not just saying this for purposes of self-aggrandizement.*** We're saying it so as to inform you, in a deft parenthetical manner, of our team name (the Aarkvard Gerunds).



These are the schools where the student bodies consist of people with names like E. Forsythe Browridge Whackington-Tuffett Lexus of Greenwich VII Jr. Morgan M.D., for whom a typical academic day consists of asserting that five and eight equals seven, and being told, "Close enough." Not that I am suggesting these guys are anything like the aforementioned student-athletes. On the contrary: these guys can't throw a ball to save their lives.

Application to a Prestige School should be approached with caution, inasmuch as yearly tuition totals approximately - in the words of the financial aid department at one such institution - "your eyeballs."**** The students at these institutions also spend most of their time throwing up on each other, but theirs is high-quality barf, the kind you can buy in little boxes at Williams-Sonoma for $14.99.

Just kidding, of course. Har! It is $34.99. Also, Williams-Sonoma is way too white-trash for them.



Alternatively known as the "unsung wonders" or the "bad" schools, these are the institutions no one knows about for a reason.***** Located in Montana, these dynamic institutions have names like Speculum College and are situated in towns with names like Rat Spit Falls ("The Rat Spit Production Capital of the World"), where bottled rat spit ("The Thinking Man's Perrier") is a supermarket fixture, located adjacent the Cherry Coke.


These are located in other countries.


These are the institutions that house the cream of the intellectual crop. Here, the most tortured, heartfelt, misunderstood vomit is produced, the most gravid academic sentences composed, the minutest analyses conducted:

It must be noted that the unnamed speaker commands the little star to twinkle not once but twice, [line I, see also VI, cf. ILIAD book 3,459], thereby suggesting an overarching sexual deviancy further compounded, in the sense of being compounded, by the fact that the speaker wonders, yet never proactively undertakes to discover, the star's identity (II.iv.viii). His subsequent and, concomitantly, consequent likening of the star to a "diamond in the sky" (IV.xi.iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii) therefore and thereby serves as blatant evidence of his tenuously tenuous grip on reality, inasmuch as diamonds are typically found on the Earth's surface (Limpknacker, 1905; Globgulper and Feeb, 1926; Jiffy Lube commercial, 1997).

We are told these are the institutions where the great thinkers of our age go, though we are wondering how this can be true if they do not drink bottled rat spit. Nevertheless, you can tell liberal arts students are deeply serious about their academic work, because they go to the library to throw up. Then, afterwards, they analyze their output:

Student A (darkly): That is a fine act of throw-up.
Student B (darkly): Yes. Capital. All at once tortured, heartfelt, and misunderstood.
Student A (darkly): Yes. Let us celebrate our socially fashionable angst by cutting ourselves.
Student B (darkly): Capital. Oh, but not too hard.
Student A (shocked) (but still darkly): Oh, no. That might hurt.
(They scratch themselves lightly with fork tines)

This would probably be a good time to note that we personally have never, technically speaking, attended a liberal arts college, and our knowledge of these institutions is therefore, technically speaking, squat. However, we have conducted extensive researchon the topic, thanks to which we now know liberal arts colleges to consist of the following:

1. A place called "Bowdoin," which is pronounced funny.
2. Other ones.

Seeing as after approximately .05 seconds of research, we returned to watching videos of guys figure skating on YouTube, that last bit of data above is a rough estimate. But we will have you know, on the authority of no less than the American Federation of Big-Ass Sports Colleges, that it is "close enough."

*This is a literary term, meaning "myriad."
**Disclaimer: no horns were tooted in the making of this platitude.
***Disclaimer: yes we are.
****Student Recreation Fee may also apply.
*****Also, student vomit sells for pennies.

©2008, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

The Snarchives 10/9/2008: How The First College Application Was Written, O Best Beloved

N.B. For those just joining us, the following material was written this [last] summer, originally intended as part of a book (the complete Snark Ascending guide to college admissions). Sadly, the idea had to be scrapped for artistic reasons, namely that there's really not that much to say about college admissions. Furthermore, I find it harder and harder to remember what it was like to be an applicant. (Though naturally I have vivid memories of meeting the Kool-Aid man at Food-4-Less as a two-year-old in Lincoln, Nebraska. Ah, Kool-Aid man.) But it took me 100 pages to figure that out, hence your snarks for the next few weeks. Oh, and my apologies for the increased number of asterisks. Just take my word the book was to be in a hugely altered format. And now.....


To best understand the intricacies of the college admissions process, we must first consider its prehistoric origins. The first college application dates* from the Upper** Paleolithic, when one day a fresh-faced young Cro-Magnon took stock of his life, and realized that while rich in certain elements, such as poop, it was sorely lacking in others, such as knowledge, leadership, and culture.*** Many moons he spent in silent yearning to fill the void. Then one day, in a burst of inspiration, he took a small sharp rock, knelt in the dirt, and - calling upon the courageous pioneer spirit that had earned him his name**** - threw the rock at a bird. Nine thousand years later, the first college was founded.*****

Times have changed since the Upper Paleolithic, of course. Nowadays, colleges and universities proliferate.****** They can be found in big cities, small towns, airports, Canada, California Pizza Kitchens, your local Department of Motor Vehicles, etc. And with this explosion of institutions has come a concomitant splat of literature advising you, the Hopeful Applicant, on how to be admitted to these institutions. Such volumes, assembled by teams of Experienced College-Admissions Professionals with credentials such as hair, aim to "demystify" the road ahead by acquainting you with the following Hot Points of the admissions process:

1. Getting into college is hard.
2. But with effort, dedication, and just a smidgen of luck, you too can get accepted into your top-choice school!
3. Well, okay, not you personally.

Some guidebooks take a more optimistic view, appending the following conditions:

4. Okay, okay, maybe, provided you mutate into a homogenized Frappuccino-brained community-servicing platitude-spewing little Rotary-bot who spends his summers in impoverished nations with names like "El Burdizzo," teaching American swear-words to disadvantaged schoolchildren.*******
5. You must have evidence of this in the form of multiple color photographs.
6. For best results, it is advised that you photograph yourself with only the attractive children.
7. Additionally, you should apply complete with the sponsorship of the National Honor Society, the DAR, NASCAR, the International Olympic Committee, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
8. ...and Viewers Like You.
9. But take heart, Hopeful Applicant! Studies have shown that even unendorsed gobs of ear wax such as yourself are just as likely to be admitted to college as sheep with brain damage!********
10. Remember, it's bad to feel good about yourself.

This guide serves an entirely different purpose. Only we are not entirely clear, technically speaking, on what that purpose is, seeing as our research process consisted largely of looking at Internet photographs of male figure skaters, in between which - let it never be said that we are anything less than an indefatigable go-getter - we consumed large quantities of Lucky Charms. This is the sort of bullet we are prepared to take in the name********* of higher education.

Which is not to suggest that our research team is without its own credentials. On the contrary, we boast many fine qualifications, such as:

- Discreetly referring to ourself in the plural;
- Having personally attended college, where we once saw a lizard;
- Also, we went bowling, personally achieving a score of "53."

You name me ONE TEAM of college-admissions professionals who can top that. And if you remain skeptical, consider this: in assembling this guide, we have enlisted the services of none other than the venerable Ephram M. Cloaca (1521 - ), president of our alma mater, prestigious Aarkvard University. President Cloaca has graciously agreed to make appearances throughout the guide, for to provide Helpful Hints such as the following:


We trust this allays any uncertainty you may have had apropos getting the desired "bang for your buck" out of this guide, and, if not, it is from the bottom of our heart that we say: tough shit.

So take our hand, Hopeful Applicant, and if, as we lead you through the wild and woolly world of college admissions, we may impart but one message to you, let it be this: your hand is sticky.

*It has been linked with Tom Cruise.
**Around 78th and Broadway.
***Not knowing the words for any of these, he called them all "poop" as well. But in his heart, he knew which poop was which.
*****Look me in the eye and tell me this was a coincidence.
*******They are too poor in El Burdizzo to have swear-words of their own. When a man in El Burdizzo drops an anvil on his toe, he just looks around thoughtfully. It is the saddest sight you will ever see.
********Source: Yale University Student Alliance of Sheep with Brain Damage.
*********Also "Gwunngghhh."

©2008, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

The Snarchives 7/8/2008: Gomper Room

My humor gland has been underperforming lately. I feel slow. I blame the news in - not that I wish to single out any particular United State, but - this one. We as a species are conditioned to expect our excitement from the news in the form of car crashes, beached sea cows, Pokémon card tournaments, sea cows crashing their cars because they were too busy playing Pokémon cards, etc. Yet nary* a day goes by that we don’t pick up our newspaper** and instead encounter pickin’s along the lines of this little number:

HUNKACHUNKABUNK (AP) – A small furry animal died Tuesday in an apparent vehicular homicide. Investigators are calling this an “in-state event,” seeing as it happened in the state, but also one with “international implications,” seeing as, in the words of Hunkachunkabunk Chief of Police F. Buzz “Biff” Fliddle, “there was a bag of ‘Mexican Fiesta’-variety chips in the vehicle.” 

No, scratch that. I’m lying. Obviously, I don’t even READ the news here, or else I would understand that the people of this state can hardly be expected to concern themselves with their wildlife when attempts are being made on the lives of: their desserts.

Eight Dead*
*in unrelated bus crash

Of course, I really have no business picking on any one state in this regard. This I have learned thanks to my current job at the ice cream store, where every summer travelers from around the globe gather to cast off their cultural disparities in order to devote themselves to the common goal of shoving each other out of the way so they can gomp down massive amounts of ice cream really fast:

ME (brightly): Hi, sir! What can I g–
ME: Sir, you just inhaled the entire vat of Butter Fudge Aneurysm and everything in its wake, including the wall clock. 
MY CO-WORKER (looking around suspiciously): Wasn’t Ashley just here?

Yes, we are a planet of dessert-lovers. Still I would venture to say that my current state of residence is a mite more fixated on this sphere than, say, my former state of residence, Florida, where citizens held a deep and abiding interest in cute dead things, and if there was a news article about cute dead things, then by God we were going tokeep hearing about cute dead things. Here I am recalling a particular day in the second grade, on which we did “Current Events.” This was a ritual that took place on a regular basis, in which each of us second-graders would bring an article from the local paper to read and discuss, thereby serving the sound educational purpose of allowing the teacher to retreat into the bathroom with her bag of confectioner’s sugar. In retrospect, Current Events was an unusual choice for a class pastime, seeing as most of us were essentially illiterate, though come to think of it, this would have made for great fun a few years later (“Intern Gives President a Bw… Bwo… B…”). But no, this was in 1995, when the selections for the week consisted of these two stories:

• Baby sea turtles run over on Beach Road
• Orville Redenbacher dead

At least, that was what you could tell from what 24 second-graders brought in, with 17 of the more sadistic kids choosing the turtles (complete with color photograph***) and the rest going for Orville Redenbacher. The rules for Current Events were that everybody had to read their articles aloud in full so the teacher could finish all her sugar, which meant that by the time she was done, pretty much the entire sea turtle species had been wiped out, plus Orville Redenbacher had died seven times.

This reminiscence has led me, numerous (1) times, to wonder what sort of Current Eventing youths get up to nowadays, especially in this state. What do they do? Do 24 kids get up and, one after another, present on the donut tax? Let me stress again that we do have other news stories here; it’s just that the layout of the local newspapers makes some items harder to find than others, as in:

Latest on donut tax – A1-A6
Revered popcorn figure dies – C4
Asteroid to obliterate Earth at 4:33 P.M. today – J7

But if we cannot take it upon ourselves to dig deep into the news pages, how can we ever expect to bring to light further gems like the one on my bulletin board, about the Portland man who called the L.L. Bean catalog to place an order, only to find that the catalog, having misprinted its phone number by one digit, had inadvertently printed the number for a phone sex line:

PHONE SEX PROFESSIONAL: What are you wearing?
PSP (getting hot): Is it a parka?
PSP (getting really hot): Does it feature a densely woven nylon shell and insulated zip-off hood, not to mention a liner of breathable waterproof Gore-Tex????!!!

So let this be a lesson to you, youth of today: NEVER RELENT in your search for worthy news. Persist, persist, persist to the end of time in your quest for news items that will climb every mountain, ford every stream, move every bowel until finally we have no idea what we are talking about. This is nothing less than our duty as functioning, contributing, trash-taking-outing, Butter Fudge Aneurysm-consuming members of society. HOW MANY REVERED POPCORN FIGURES MUST PERISH BEFORE WE LEARN??

Whoops. Sorry there. Guess I’m a little tense. Breathe in. Breathe out. Maybe all I need is to simmer down, to kick back with a good book and a nice vat of Hunkachunkabunk. Sounds like a plan. Ideally I should do it before 4:33 P.M. rolls around, consid...WHUMP

*Old English, meaning "nary."
**In my case, the This State Times.
***They looked kind of like Girl Scout cookies, only without the evil.

©2008, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Snarchives 6/13/2008: You Wanna Piece of Me?

Lest you think I lead a humdrum workaday life devoid of action sequences, I will have you know that this past week, in a dramatic act of mediocre parallel parking, I passed the test to receive my driver’s license. Not to brag or anything, but in the state of Maine this is a highly honorific honor, reserved only for the state’s best and brightest, bearing in mind that an estimated 96.5% of those in this category are technically squirrels.*

No doubt you assume this is cause for revelry, and are consumed by the burning need to send me large wads of cash. Thank you. But before I accept them, I should like to point out that I am currently het up** over the whole organ donation thing. I agreed to it because I felt the call that compels every individual, sooner or later, to act in the name of the highest moral obligation to which mankind can respond, namely, it was really easy. All you had to do was tick a box, next to which it said something like this:

X Yes, I am interested in donating my organs, and while you’re at it, please send me more information about Buns of Steel.***

So of course I ticked the box, in the heat of the moment, because it looked really good. Everything looks really good if all you have to do is tick a box. Same goes for anything accompanied by a smiley emoticon. God knows what would happen if we – mere mortals – encountered both in one place. Consider the possibilities:

X Yes, I agree to tongue-bathe the nearest DMV agent’s cat at his/her earliest convenience. :)

It was only as I headed over to get my picture taken that I started to feel like a total doofwad. Maybe it was just the DMV’s particular brand of Insta-Blemish photography (“Now With 75% More Pockmarks!”), but I think it ran deeper than that. I don’t know what it was, but something inside me suddenly huckled tight to the realization that these were MY organs, MINE, accompanied by the need to bellow, “NO! MY ORGANS! MINE!!!”****

This is not to suggest I am against donating your organs. On the contrary: I’m more than happy to donate YOUR organs. It’s mine I want to keep. I like them, and take them almost everywhere I go, such as restrooms, England, IHOP, etc. On the other hand, I can see how, in certain situations, it might be nice to have the option of instantaneously expelling one’s vital organs, especially if this could be effected by a cool trigger-word, such as “COWABUNGA!!!” This could come in handy, in a pinch:

CAPTAIN’S VOICE: Folks, from the flight deck, due to weather conditions, instead of La Guardia, we will be landing in Raleigh-Durham. We apologize for th…

I guess this wouldn’t weigh so heavily on my mind if not for my new place of higher learning, esteemed Bolumbia University, and the initiative recently implemented by its president Nick “Baddabing” Baddaboom, cracking down on us transfer students. Oh, sure, they still accept transfer students, but according to the stipulations of President Baddaboom’s initiative, each of us must contribute to the university, prior to matriculation, “a vital organ of youse choice” [sic*****]. Fortunately, the approved list thus far includes phlegm.

All this talk of Bolumbia brings me to the subject of my recent readers’ poll, and the following acknowledgement that the poll was, in fact, totally useless, seeing as I just now decided to place myself in a school that wasn’t even one of the choices:


On the bright side, those of you respondents anticipating the burden of a live-in supermarket manager will be pleased to know I now have an alternate use for the members of The Store’s management team. Yes, at first blush it may seem a senseless waste of life, I agree******, but it warms my heart to know that one of the people they help might be you, and if God forbid such dire straits should come to pass, you will be better off with managerial organs than without them, though you might at any time experience a sudden, raging thirst to page for clean-up in aisle six. Me, I will be out engaging in action sequences, so whatever you do, just don’t page me. Not if you know what’s good for youse.

*In some cases licenses may also be awarded to, in the words of the Maine driver’s manual, “certain varieties of moss.”
**This is a temporary fix. It is because I am currently facing toward Bangor. Later I will face toward Boston, at which point I will be het down.
***Of course they will expect you to donate these, too.
****This is a great conversation-starter at parties, once the shrimp cocktail is gone and there is nothing else to do. Try it! You’ll be amazed how fast a conversation will start!
*****Latin, meaning “sic.”
******Honestly? I can’t get too worked up. All those dweebs ever did was price Hamburger Helper.

©2008, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

The Snarchives 5/22/2008: Out of Aarkvard

Yes, the rumors are true. I say this for a couple of reasons:

1. The rumors are true.
2. Seeing as there are no rumors, I thought it meet to begin with a touch of mystique.

These rumors (which, I may freely admit without fear of their existence, are true) concern my having departed one university for another. This is a juncture to which none of us wishes to come, but we must nonetheless acknowledge the very real possibility that one day we will return from the store* only to find our university floating upside-down at the top of the bowl. We must all be prepared for this day. Luckily for those of us whom this tragic event impacts personally, it turns out that 76 per cent of universities are Certified Safe To Flush.**

Having utilized this method in my particular case,*** my next step was to select an alternative university. This part is relatively simple. A mere trip to your local Rite-Aid**** will yield a 5-Pak. These are typically located between the catsup selection and whatever Lifetime Channel Movie of the Week is currently on sale for $3.99, such as “Mommy, Why Does Daddy Mate With Animals?: The Mary Kate Porelicker Story.”*****

The hard part of the university transfer process, as you may have already guessed, is disentangling oneself from one’s current institution of higher learning. I do not wish to name names, but there is a strong possibility that they rhyme with “Maarkvard,” and that in order to discontinue association with them, one is required to follow a set of instructions that begins with some pleasant and non-threatening directive such as this (per

How to Withdraw from Aarkvard University

Step 1. Please submit your letter of intent to withdraw to the Dean’s Office.

Which turns out to be the prelude to this:


It so happens that locating this article is no picnic. (The nearest five Rite-Aids yielded zilch.) But it is at such trying times that we must turn to the old adage that goes, “When there’s a will, you can forge something from Play-Doh.” Never were truer words spoken. Suffice it to say that the heart of the desired stoat has been submitted to Aarkvard, and that so far, I have heard no complaints. University President Ephram M. Cloaca is even quoted, in the current issue of Aarkvard magazine, as saying, “The very presence of this heart has enhanced my visionary powers. For example, just now I looked out the window and visioned a squirrel.”

So it seems life at Aarkvard will go on without me, and while it was in many respects a bittersweet experience leaving my projected alma mater for another, I am fortified by the knowledge that some of my nearest and dearest Aarkvardians will have occasion to be in Boston, the closest U.S. point to Maine (distance: 15,000 miles), and that I have made the healthiest decision for me. On that note I close, till next week, by saying that I can only wish for the rest of you that you are able to do so well by yourselves. May you always follow your gut, because the only alternative is to let your gut follow you, and then you will be walking backwards and will probably crash into things. May you have courage. May you always be true to yourself, even in your darkest hour. May your university be flushable.

P.S. It may have occurred to you to wonder where I have committed to go instead. An excellent question. I plan to make it the subject of a readers’-choice poll, coming shortly.

*Speaking of which, I’m working there again, thereby stimulating my comedy gland to release unlimited endorphins. In other words, more on that soon.

**Source: Consumer Reports.

***And for those of you who happen to live in my house and be gifted in such spheres, the toilet needs to be plunged.

****Not your local Rite-Aid. Egomaniac.

*****In the end, she (SPOILER) learns to love.

©2008, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

The Snarchives 5/14/2008: Force Majeure

As I left Aarkvard University for the final time, proud passenger of the I Cut You Scum Taxicab Co.*, I was compelled to gaze with a combination of reverence, solemnity, and humility** at the Aarkvard chapel, and to meditate on those profound words carved above its doors, as spoken by university founder Josiah T.W. Aarkvard upon the chapel's erection: "Quondam est Universitas Aarkvardensis in pluribus volare, now with extra absorbency."*** It was later determined that Josiah was extremely ugly, at which time the people united to eliminate him in a vicious mass rubber-band shooting. He would have died forgotten if not for the university's subsequent re-naming after his nephew, Bobby Aarkvard, whose teen-idol good looks made the nation swoon.****

I got to thinking about our Aarkvard forefathers because I was hoping their legacies would inspire me. The time has come, you see, for me to pick a major. This is a requirement the university imposes on us students in the fervent hope - the sincerest an institution of higher learning can bear the Leaders of Tomorrow - that we will never graduate. This they ensure via the ingenious method of seeing to it that no major can be completed within your current lifetime. I do not wish to engage in groundless paranoia, but I believe I detected traces of this objective in their recent letter to all rising sophomores, which I reprint here verbatim:

Because Life is a Journey. A Long, Painful Journey.

Hey DORM Face!

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHH(cough)AHAHAHAHA(hack)(spit)HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA. Please find enclosed our catalogue of majors.

The Dept. of Academic Planning


The institution is deft in its concealment of its inner feelings. It takes a nose like mine to sniff them out.

Lest you take me for a sucker, allow me to assure you that I did not immediately flip open the catalogue of majors and begin reading. No, I first encountered some issues related to holding the catalogue upside-down. It was not my fault. They had a picture of Bobby Aarkvard on the cover and he looks the same upside-down as rightside-up. Only once this error had been righted did I dig in:

Requirements for Undergraduate Majors at Aarkvard

Requirements: Seven years of French at the college level or above.

Requirements: Seven years of French at the college level or above.

Requirements: Well-toned arms. Interaction with squid between the hours of 3 P.M. (Pacific) and half past 9:20 (Armenian). Advanced age a plus.

Major: MATH
Requirements: Seven years of French, three slain goats (lightly salted), one (1) partridge in a pear tree

Forced as I was to face my lack of life purpose, I took a long hard look at myself, and, taking the bull by the horns in a moment of truth, I went to the mall. I returned some time later having acquired a smoothie*****, only to find that Fate had intervened.

"SO!" roared Fate, who looked like the Brave Li'l Toaster, only less virile. "You think you can ESCAPE FATE, do you? Well, I'll have you know I GOT INTO YOUR ROOM and MESSED UP ALL YOUR STUFF."

I have an uncanny sixth sense about these things, remember. I could tell Fate was bluffing. At least until I got into my room and saw that Fate had messed up all my stuff.

"Ha!" I crowed. "Little did you wot, Fate, that you failed to locate my only true worldly possessions, namely my limited-edition 'Trix' spoon, my poster of Colin Mochrie in his incandescent portrayal of the Snack Fairy****** , and my Starbucks gift card, redeemable for $5.00 worth of Starbucks products, void in Wisconsin and the U.S. Virgin Islands!"

"I don't want your stinking gift card, putrescence," said Fate. "I want your immortal soul. Gimme."

"Well," I said, breathing a sigh of relief. "As long as you don't want my gift card."

So Fate marched me into my advisor's office, where, long story short, I ended up declaring my eternal major of choice: Road Atlas Theory. RAT is all the rage here at Aarkvard. We students have only one text, namely Rand McNally's USA-Canada-Mexico Travel Guide (1995 Edition), notable for its myriad (4) features:

1. The USA.
2. Canada.
3. Mexico.
4. A spiffy ad for Choice Hotels International, featuring popular country star Glen Campbell appearing to pop out of a suitcase.

Any given lesson comprises analysis of an individual "plate," such as 53-B (Uvula, Montana). Such scrutiny necessarily raises troubling questions, all of which we must ask ourselves if we are to do our part as Concerned and Incisive Scholars:

- Does this suggest that there is such a place as "Montana"?
- Can I have an A?
- Is Glen Campbell really popular? Explain.

For an everlasting curse, it's not so bad. True, it may not bring to mind conventional academia, but I'm earning credits, by gum!!! Without even having to think!!! No American college student can aspire to loftier heights, as dictated by the U.S. Constitution, Section VI, Article III, Section D, Lot B, next to Sears, which expressly states:


Which is to say, my affiliation with RAT has singlehandedly restored my faith in the American system of university education, which is there for you through thick and thin, striving to ensure that you never do anything which you might find remotely personally satisfying. This is how Aarkvard prepares its students for the Real World. I have every faith they are doing a bang-up job.

For my part, I got away with my Starbucks card. That is really all I care about, but let's don't let this get around. For an utmost concern, it's not awfully academic. So let the record state that I said the bottom line is that, a mere 6,073 credits from now, I will know every facet of the hemisociogynecological impact of the Tappan Zee Bridge (plate 6-H) on society, and that I am right on track to graduate from Aarkvard University. In the year 2023.

*"We Cut You Scum Since 1986."
**This combination, if purchased with a Large Fries, is known as a "No. 3."
***Literally, "Hee! Erection."
****Crushing several small furry animals and a Hot Wheel.
*****It turns out this is among the requirements for the Biology major.
******Really. I have one. It's an ad I ripped out of Cosmo. It's great.

©2008, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

The Snarchives 3/15/2008: Reverie in Terminal B flat

Written at Plantar International Airport

I like segues. If not for segues, there would be no legitimate way to begin this column by stating that its topic is the portcullis, as in, "STOP TOUCHING YOUR PORTCULLIS! WE HAVE GUESTS!" And there would certainly be no excuse for changing my mind, mid-sentence, and stating that the topic of this column is actually waiting in airports.

I'm waiting at the airport right now. You know the one. It features planes. It has not escaped my notice that this airport looks an awful lot like the last airport, and the one before that, and the one before that. Those featured planes, too. If you ask airport officials such as TSA personnel or the A&W guy*, they will claim those were technically "other" airports, but I was not born yesterday. I know highly suspicious when I see it.

My story actually begins yesterday morning, when, in the bloom of my youth, I attempted - in an act of brazen roguery - to leave Aarkvard University for a week of spring break. It turns out this sort of renegade behavior is strictly verboten**, inasmuch as it directly violates the Aarkvard Code of Conduct, Article XII, Aisle 6 (International Foods), stating "Try And Leave Ha Ha Ha," but in Latin.*** Discipline must be administered accordingly.

Fortunately, America's airports offer many fine diversions, such as single sticks of "Juicy Fruit"-variety chewing gum for $18.99 (plus tax), not to mention such comestible delicacies as Bourbon Chicken, available in two varieties, Labrador and Surprise. Also, airports offer extensive opportunities for observation. It is said that Georges Rémi, Belgian creator of the Tintin stories, once remarked that the entire world on a reduced scale could be found at an airport, though this was later disproved following the discovery that Rémi had actually been speaking in Belgian. At this point his remarks were translated accurately.****

Which is to say, lest you think for a moment that my weekend might have blunted my superior powers of observation, let me assure you that I have formulated the following set of laws applicable to the airport experience, the likes of which only the shrewdest of observers could devise:

1. None of the featured planes are carrying you.
2. Unless you wish to go to Columbus, Ohio.

I'm not kidding about this last part. I believe I may state without fear of having to do math that I have been waiting to go to Portland for 10,000,000,000,000,000 hours, without so much as reassurance from the loudspeaker folk that there is in fact a "Portland". Meanwhile, across the way is another of these "delayed flights" (defined as "flights whose infant pre-boarders are now Rite-Aid pamphlet poster boys for Prostate Concerns, probably named Earl") (the poster boys are probably named Earl, that is) (not the Prostate Concerns) (the Prostate Concerns are probably named Ralph), bound for Columbus, Ohio. This flight to Columbus, Ohio, is mentioned every two seconds, lest we should forget that a) there is a delayed flight to Columbus, Ohio and b) Columbus is in Ohio. The airline is dealing with this by giving the passengers lots of stuff. So far - at least, as I understood it up to my last bourbon chicken-induced seizure - each passenger had received a complimentary ticket anywhere in the United States of America; a complimentary airline blanket, pillow, toothbrush, and rectal thermometer (approved for in-flight use), a subscription to Marie Claire*****, a Jacuzzi, and a Large Fries. Whereas "Portland" may or may not exist, and until this issue is resolved one way or the other, I may not leave.

Something else which has not escaped my notice, in the meantime, is the fact that Plantar International Airport features precisely two (or, for you mathematician types, "approximately three") terminals. These terminals go by the respective names of Terminal "A" and Terminal "C". This would appear to be highly suspicious.

UPDATE: Each of the Columbus passengers has now received the Hope Diamond.

And I haven't even told you yet of my experience with the airport ATM. Now let me say right off the bat, on account of a deep respect combined with the wish not to receive any angry letters from ATMs, that I have a LOT of respect for ATMs in airports. Okay? I know how many people you must deal with each day. I know how many zonky-ass requests you must receive. But this is NO EXCUSE to eat my ATM card. Eating my ATM card is BAD. As a defenseless customer, I cannot go into our transactions but with the puppy-like faith that my card will actually emerge again. Also, there is no need to be hostile. Perhaps you (you know who you are) would care to review this actual transcript of our transaction:

ME: $30.00
(There is no sign of my card.)
ME: $30.00
ME: (becoming upset) $30.00
ME: (to the passing information desk woman) Ma'am, I told the ATM I wanted thirty dollars and it ate my card.
WOMAN: Oh yeah. You have to ask it for forty.
ME: Forty?
WOMAN: Right. Or twenty.
ME: But not thirty?
WOMAN: Right.
ME: Even though thirty is between twenty and forty?

Fortunately, all ends well. I am able to retrieve my card, and the information desk woman does not actually eat my face, although given airport fare, I wouldn't blame her if she tried.

UPDATE: Each of the Columbus passengers has now been anointed for sainthood, to be conferred "at their convenience". They are told to see the Customer Service desk for details.

I'd complain some more about how I'll never, ever, ever get out of Plantar International, but as fate would have it, it's a week later now and I need to be here anyway. Fate is, as ever, on my side.

**Literally, "portcullis".
***"In Flotsam Est Ha Ha Ha".
****"I could really go for some Bourbon Chicken."
*****This month's feature: "Is YOUR Vagina Checking Your E-mail BEHIND YOUR BACK???!!!"

©2008, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending

The Snarchives 2/2/2008: The Beat

Sometimes, here in the Aarkvard University residence halls (motto: "OH MY GOD WHO DID THIS IN THE BATHTUB???!!!), one is inclined to moments of repose. One doesn't have the luxury often. Usually, one is enmired in one's homework for classes with names like Comparative Analysis of Comparative Studies ("A Comparative Approach"), or in diligently searching one's Physical Anthropology textbook for pictures of sexually excited gorillas (page 217, bottom left*). But every so often, one must kick back and sigh at the sweet, sweet sweetness of life. I like life. I believe I can state without fear of having to look things up that life is this country's fourth-finest invention, finishing just out of medal contention behind waffles, England, and Moist Towlettes.

I mention all this because I recently had a Life Experience, the recounting of which will require quotation marks. There is an art, you see, to recounting Factual Things that Factually Happened in Factual Life. You cannot say, "Today I saw Tim doing the Moist Towlette with a not unattractive goat". You must say, "Today I saw 'Tim' doing the Moist Towlette** with a not unattractive goat (NOTE: TIM IS HIS REAL NAME) (ALSO, THE GOAT MAY POSSIBLY HAVE BEEN UNATTRACTIVE)."

Which is to say, often in such matters there are personal feelings involved, which is why I have attempted wherever possible to take all real names - persons, places, things, carbonated beverages - and place them in quotation marks.*** I thought this would be sufficient to tell my particular story, but in fact it stopped just short. It turned out to be a far more complex undertaking, for reasons that involve fiction and fact and complexity and are very complex both fictionally and factually in their fictional and factual complexity. So I ask that you try to follow along with me as best you can. Those who complete the journey satisfactorily will receive a can of "Diet Coke". Ready?

Let us posit**** that there exist, in The World (a.k.a. America, popular states of), universities other than Aarkvard. Yes. Nobody wants to say it or hear it (intravenous consumption tends to be the method of choice), but it is true. Last month I had occasion to interface with one of these non-Aarkvard institutions - let's call it, at random, "Jake" University. Let us further posit that the folks at "Jake" had recruited me to write a column for the Jake Gazette (motto: "[UNFUNNY INSIDE JOKE] Since 1921"). So naturally I was psyched. I wrote up a thingy - thingies being my medium of choice - and went in and had more or less the following exchange:

JAKE GAZETTE EDITOR (in a small voice): I don't understand.
ME (reassuringly): It's okay. How about if I pull my column?
JGE (tearfully): Thank you.

In reality there was a little more to the conversation. There was the part wherein she voiced her Concern over my mentioning, not unrepeatedly, something called "Aarkvard". There was the part where she made known her Distress over my lack of attention paid to the Jake Community. There was the part where she flung a nugget of bodily waste at me for my troubles. At the Gazette they really value the Jake Community.

ME (delicately): You've seen the sort of stuff I write online, though. What did you think it was going to be?
JGE: We were like hoping you wouldn't write something like what you write.
ME: What were you hoping I would write?
JGE: I dunno. Like something like what you don't write.
ME (slowly, feeling this out): As ... opposed to ... what I do write.
JGE: Exactly. I mean it's like ... what is this supposed to be? Like with a personal story, you're supposed to like pull in your readers. Like, this doesn't ... I mean like what is this? I mean it's, it's not very ... very Jake. It's like you kind of mention Jake, but then you like don't. I mean it's like you don't wanna alienate your readers, right? You wanna mention like ... Jake. Like a lot more.
ME (pleasantly, and with carefully placed pauses): Right. If I didn't mention Jake every other sentence, readers at Jake might not know they were at Jake.
JGE (relieved that someone understands what it's like to be her): Right. Right. Right.

The best part, though, was when she said that - and I want to stress that this is a direct quote - "we think you have some writing ability." On that note, one good turn deserves another, and I guess I owe it to Jake University to say a few words about the Jake community. So here goes: Jake University, which has no other name, especially not one that sounds somewhat like "Jake," has a community. The Jake community is made up of many things. This same community (the Jake community) also involves people, who are biologically different (or, if you prefer scientific terms, "dimorphic") from things. Inane reference to a) INTERNET VERNACULAR, b) SOMETHING LOCALIZED, or c) SOMETIHNG ELSE THAT WILL BE RENDERED TOTALLY MEANINGLESS IN SIX MONTHS' TIME. Go Jake. Thank you.

Update: It is currently three seconds later, before I have technically posted this, yet the Jake community has already begun voicing their Displeasure by way of vitriolic missives (actual excerpt: "EE-EE-EE-EE-HOO-HOO-HOO-HOO") and the flinging of further waste at my door (actual excerpt: "THUMP (pause) THUMP (longer pause) THUMP"). Fine. It's their prerogative. I could have done better by them, but I have other work to do. Besides, they can do what they like: I know what they did in the bathtub.

*Discussion Questions: What factors (epistemological, political, or Cartesian) might have prompted the gorilla to display herself in this way? Would our society label the gorilla a "slut"? Explain.
**And by "doing the Moist Towlette," I mean "doing the Moist Towlette".
***Like this: "Diet Coke". See how ambiguous???!!! TA DAAAAAAA! I do birthday parties.
****Academic hoo-ha term, meaning "something academic hoo-ha people made up to mean 'posit'".

©2008, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending