Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Very College Sequel: When You're Here, You're Family!

"Have some more sa-loppy joes! I know youse like 'em extra sa-loppy!"

by Brendan Cavanagh

Here's another reason why being a sophomore is superior to being a freshman:

The cafeteria staff at all three cafeterias are inexplicably kinder and more eagerly interactive. Last year, I either despised the employees- like the surly bitch who made sandwiches and wraps at C-Club- or developed the ever-unrequited desire to make friends with the more impressive workers- as is the case with Willy, whom I dubbed the "Wrap Star." He made a different kind of wrap or sandwich every day of the week, and did so with such nuance, such perfection, and with so little effort that I couldn't help but admire him. He was a quiet, middle aged African-American man who always carried a pack of Newports in his tightly fastened apron. I used to get the impression after I frequented his station every day that he and I sort of struck up a nonverbal bond. It seemed to me that I was getting extra chicken in my buffalo chicken wrap, or just the right amount of mustard on a sandwich- Willy knew exactly what a I wanted. I swear I heard him say in a barely audible whisper, "What's happenin', man?" a couple times. But alas, our relationship never went much further than that. Eventually Willy was assigned to work in the greasy depths of the kitchen, to which I witnessed Willy quietly respond, "Man, that's some bullshit" before he untied his apron and reluctantly shuffled off to the back of the cafeteria. I haven't seen the one cafeteria employee I hoped I could befriend since, but I'm sure whatever skill set he's dealing with now, he's mastering it without allowing the hanging ash from his Newport cigarette to fall.

This year, when I started frequenting the cafeterias again, I found it fun to see who still worked there and who was missing, but I never thought about befriending them until they started warming up to me almost immediately. My first new chum is a layover at Atherton Union from last year, now nightly manning the ever-evolving "Exhibition Station" where you can find mashed potato with chicken strips bowl one night and pio tofu broth bowl on the next. I can't recall exactly how it happened, but I was getting something to eat there one night and I think I cracked a joke to the two guys there, one scrappier looking with a tattoo on his neck (and I believe he wore grillz last year), the other with an afro as tall and wide as he was. They both began to joke back at me and we had a nice little conversation, where the scrawnier of the two asked me what my name was. So I told him, asked for his, and I couldn't quite hear what it was. I smiled and "repeated" back, "Ah Dustl-" ultimately leaving off a syllable and hoping he thought the whole thing was an awkwardly visible mouth spasm. I think his name is Dustin, or Dursely. The thing is, he doesn't wear a name tag! Ahh! It's like that time on Rescue Me, when Dennis Leary doesn't know what his blonde bootycall's name is. So he goes through her mail and aggravatingly finds letters for a Nancy and a Lauren. When he ultimately is asked to say her name after a full month of "oh yeah" or "baby," he is shocked to find out her name is in fact, something like Jessica or Lavender or something (similarly, I just don't remember).

He told me to come back anytime, that he'd hook me up. Hell yeah. I get only the best meals at the Exhibition Station. And those guys love me over there. They blast their hip hop on their boombox and we joke back and forth. Tonight at dinner, they had a DIY ice cream sundae bar, and I was having trouble getting the coagulated hot fudge into a sizable portion on the top of my ice cream. After a fruitless minute, I was finally getting some into my bowl when suddenly Dustin comes out of nowhere in a huff with a spoon he ran to another cart to get in order to help me out. You see. Those guys wait on me hand and foot. Such friendly devotion. I should make them a mix CD or something.

My other new friend, a deadpan, jolly middle aged African-American, works at a similar Exhibition Station at the cafeteria across the quad from "A-Town," on the bottom floor of my dormitory. At lunch he whips up homemade chili, or stir fry, or tacos or anything and makes lively conversation. The first time I said anything more to him than "Thank you very much" Rick told the people in front of me in line and me to tell him we wanted "Rick- the works!" He was making gyros or something. I said, "I'll have the works!" to which he responded, "No- you say, 'Rick- the works!'" So I did, and we exchanged names, and he told me to come back anytime. I eat something from that station probably every day because it's the only near-decent food in the whole joint, so I always see Rick laughing and engaging nervous freshmen in conversation. I say, "What's happenin', Rick?" And he'll probably say, "What's happenin', jack?" Isn't that awesome? He calls me jack with a lower case "j". I've always wanted someone to say that to me so casually. It's like talking to Richard Pryor. The other day asked me what the word of the day should be. We brainstormed and I came up with "spontaneous," and I had the pleasure of watching Rick assault my roommate and a taken-aback little freshman girl to use spontaneous in a sentence. What a guy.

On the whole, most cafeteria employees have been very friendly to my friends and me, and okay, you know what? Maybe there's not a big point to this blog post, but I will say that in some ways, the hospitality and companionship of the cafeteria staff make up for the crumby food they're forced to serve us. B Cav out!

Avatar: The Last Airbender (the show, not the movie) according to someone who's not watching Avatar: The Last Airbender (the show or the movie)

So Classic and roommate Jon have been binging on this Avatar shit for the past couple weeks.

I started out dreading the experience; that this show I already turned down when I was a kid and don't like now would be dominating my tv against my will. But I knew I had no right to intervene. I allowed it.

I actually kind of like it. Not that I'm watching the show anyway.

These two little kids find this arrow-headed dude in a berg of ice, and apparently that's a big deal. He can manipulate air, which frankly sounds like the worst of the four available elements (the other three: fire, water and earth).

So this Uub wannabe wakes up from his eternal slumber and starts "flying around" (he manipulates air currents, guys) on his stick that turns into a giant fan. The flying nimbus was cooler. And it turns out he owns a giant six-legged dog (they call it a bison, but, bullshit) that can also fly. This is cooler than the flying nimbus. So he flies around on it for a while to show off and then he lets them in on the shit in the world.

The four element-wielding peoples live in different parts of the world, all staying inconspicuously away from modern civilization I guess. Also, the firebenders are apparently assholes. They go to war with the other three tribes, which is understandable, because fire is bitchin.

So he gets his gang together, a dude (from the beginning), a chick who claims she's blind, this girl from the beginning (the two at the beginning waterbend) and this little pet named Momo who looks like a "monkey" from the world of Final Fantasy X and they fly around on this dog named Oppa, trying to teach the Avatar, with the arrow on his head, I think his name's Edd, like from Ed, Edd and Eddy, how to use all the different elements. Apparently once he learns everything he can stop the war or something.

Meanwhile, they take a page from The Wire's book, dropping in on the enemy, a kid with a rock for half his face and his zen, tea-loving uncle, who seem like somewhat reasonable guys. The kid has a deeper voice than all the other kid characters, showing that he could beat them all up. But these two are members of the fire tribe, so think them like D'Angelo and Avon Barksdale.

Now D'Angelo is trying to turn cheek but he sucks at it. Uh, I'm sure there's much more to this story. But this shit is kinda cool, some witty dialogue and cool fighting. Except they never kill anybody, which is totally lame.

In conclusion, Avatar: The Last Airbender (the show, not the movie) is a pretty decent show, but another in a long list of shows not as good as The Wire.

--Eliot Sill

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Room de Carrie and Mada- By Mada!

Oh hey, didn't see you there. Well don't just stand there, come on inside for a spell.

Welcome to my dorm room. Yes, the very room in which I sleep, eat, study, skype, read, write, get ready and just about every other activity necessary for living a life. And, not only do I get to do all of these things in one convenient, cozy location, so does my roommate, Carrie McMenamin.

Well, Mada, that sounds awfully cramped, how do you stay sane in such a situation?

I'm glad you asked.

First you'll notice the expert decoration of the room. BOOM. Posters everywhere. Poster of musicians, art, movies, you name it. Posters hanging on every open wall and even over our closet door (these are the posters that keep falling down, don't worry, I'll fix it). BOOM. Christmas lights line the ceiling above both of our beds. Want mood lighting? Just turn off the overhead light and plug these babies in. Instantly the as of yet unnamed equivalent of a man cave. BOOM. Rugs. Tile/marble/stone/(not really sure what to call that) floors may be nice but they can also be cold (figuratively and literally). Luckily we've got this problem covered with two throw rugs and a large area rug. Oh don't worry, they aren't dirty. Newman's cleaning service comes in once a week and vacuums them. Awww yeah. BOOM. Our desks are both covered in personal relics that show our personality and give interest to what would normally be boring, light colored wood college desks. Pictures from high school and college, flyers from shows, interesting and intelligent movies and books make both of our desks worth a second glance.

Next you might note the structure of the room. BOOM. Sink in the corner. Yup, there's a goddamn sink in our room. If you don't think this is the greatest improvement that could ever bee made to a dorm room then you're fucking retarded. We don;t have to leave the room to brush our teeth, wash out face, get a quick glass of water in the middle of the night and best of all we don't have to wash our dirty dishes in the public bathroom, a task so awkward that I just didn't use my silverware again after that first cup of easy mac. BOOM. Look at those old timey windows. I don't mean that they look colonial. I mean that they look like some awesome art school built in the 19th century. Don't you just feel like you're in The Dead Poet's Society. BOOM. What's that, a mirror hanging from you exposed pipe. I couldn't really decide whether this fit in the decoration or the structure category. But either way, what a creative and interesting place for a mirror. You gotta utilize whatcha got, that's what I always say. BOOM. Look at that shelf! That doesn't quite look like it came with the room. That's because we got it from GOODWILL. Yeah, which is awesome and good for the community and super creative. Who else puts their own wooden shelf in a dorm room. Name one person. The problem of where to store printers, hair products, food and dishes; instantly solved!

Other note worthy aspects of the room are our microwave and refrigerator, our shared closet (could be bigger), our clever idea to put our dressers under our half lofted beds, and our always neat, but lived in state of the room. Impressed? Well, thank you. It's just home to me. Nothing more, nothing less. We do what we can. Really, thank you.

Well anyway, I'm glad you stopped by. Perhaps sometime I can see your place.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Nick - How Hard Could It Be?

Freshman year I had to pick a language to study. Thinking I would get my language requirement out of the way in a way that would help me with medicine or law, I decided, hey, why not latin?

After all, latin phrases are used all the time in English. Plus it will be easy because latin words look like English words a lot of the time, right?

Oh how foolish I was.
This is a table of latin "declensions." Declining a noun is kind of like conjugating a verb in English. Except that there are five declensions, each of which contains ten endings, and that's only if we're not counting the vocative case because it's usually easy.

But the nouns aren't the difficult part. The difficult part is verbs. You know how we have those handy tenses? For example, past tense? Well, latin adds some fun extra tenses, like the pluperfect, in case you need to express something that happened way in the past. Or the imperfect tense, which expresses something that was happening in the past and may or may not still be happening in the present. Or, my personal favorite, the future perfect tense, which expresses something that has already been completed in the future.
Here's a chart for a first conjugation verb. There are four conjugations, each of which has 6 forms per tense, if we leave out infinitives and imperatives. Plus they also have a subjunctive form for each person, and a passive form on top of that. If we do a little bit of math, we can see that there are roughly 480* forms for verbs. Awesome!

*Do not question my math

Also, let's talk about the subjunctive mood real quick. You use the subjunctive mood when you want to express something that you want to happen. Or something that could happen. Or something that would happen. Or something that should happen. So basically, if you're reading along and you run into a subjunctive verb, you just guess what it means and hope that you're not wrong. (protip: you are wrong most of the time.)

One last fun aspect of latin is that the words don't really have to be in any order. So sentences are just collections of words, jumbled around in a completely unhelpful configuration. They also didn't have any qualms with run-on sentences, so sometimes you have to look really hard just to find the verb, and then guess what it's taking as its object.

If there's one thing that I've learned thoroughly from studying latin, it's why latin is a dead language.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Robert - Love Letters 1: Lauren Leonatti and Brandon Foster

Fuck. This is not what you think it is.

I decided that today I would write love letters to a male friend and a female friend (for gender parity [maybe next time I can equalize skin colors]). I'd already picked my male and female to write love letters to when I realized. It was just an accident, okay? I just felt inspired to write about Lauren and Brandon tonight. It just happened.

Anyway, with that hiccup out of the way:

Lauren is my musical soul mate. No one else appreciates the gray acoustic sameness of the great world of singer-songwriters like Lauren and I do. No one else has a hard on for Paste Magazine crap like Lauren and I do. No one else has touched Brandon's tongue with their tongue like Lauren and I have (I'm really sorry Hannah — I tried to not make this joke but I couldn't not do it, I hope Evanston is treating you great).

As mentioned briefly, Lauren has a tremendous appreciation for folksy bluegrass bluesy music that probably eclipses mine in purity. I think I like more poppy, marketable folk bands, whereas she enjoys Mumford & Sons and bands that folk purists wouldn't wag their dickbag fingers at. She gives and mails me music like this all the time, in various forms, such as mixes like Conundrum and Lauren's Stupid Untitled Mix, and great CDs by artists I've never heard of like Jackie Greene and The Belle Brigade. I haven't listened to that Belle Brigade CD yet, Lauren. I just got it this evening, you know? It's importing right now. I'm listening to Jackie Green right now, okay? Calm down. You're being a bitch. If Lauren played the ukulele, I would probably start a band with her. Her dad plays a bunch of instruments, right? Maybe I'll start a band with her dad. I'll write the words and the chords. He can do the hard things.

But that's not all! Lauren has more good traits than music. I don't think I've ever seen Lauren upset, for example. That's not true, actually, but on the rare occasions where she is feeling blue it's never for selfish reasons, and she carries a sense of positivity and optimism that scares me with its brilliance and sheer continuity. She's got a strong and definite sense of loyalty to her friends and of religious faith, which she wields tolerantly, which is super respectable to me (shout outs to Hillary Haaker, Eliot Sill). And she's tall.

Man, she's cool, right? And single, boys.*

*Right? Lauren, you're single, right?**

**To Lauren's possible boyfriend: I'm sorry.

Unfortunately, my love cannot be contained by Lauren alone, for she also has gaping negative qualities, such as not currently attending Bon Iver's show. Brandon is. He payed serious money for that. I didn't. I got a girlfriend to do that for me. That's right, ladies and Jimmy. Brandon's single, too, and as indicated earlier, I don't know that he's all that gender-discriminate. That's his first positive trait. He's not afraid to dance with a man, or kiss a man kind of, or shave a man's nipple-region. Or to throw up all over my apartment. That's unrelated, but it requires a remarkable amount of skill to hit every sink and towel in the four rooms. Had you missed a spot I would be mad.

Brandon is not my best friend at Mizzou, and nor am I his. But I sense a grave, deep mutual respect for each other that, if untrue, is really embarrassing that I just said that. Brandon last year was that friend who I wished I knew better and wished I hung out with more than just indirectly. Brandon this year is that friend who I know better but wish I knew even better and wish I hung out with without him throwing up. His humor is filled with creative puns (Eliot) and sharp witticisms that are far more complex than the amount of time he spends coming up with the joke. Often, fate scolds him for this talent by giving him weak jokes that fall on their faces, but Brandon responds undeterred by reacting to his own failure comedically. On paper, Brandon has time for reflection, and his weak jokes are filtered, leaving him with written gold that he publishes as Maneater articles. In the future, Brandon will be seen as a star music reviewer for Pitchfork and will singlehandedly convince the world that the part of company in charge of reviews isn't a gigantic piece of shit.

Their phone numbers are 217-720-1610 and 314-922-3744. I'm not telling you which is which.