The Snark Strikes Back


I've returned, and so has the Snark, in a new incarnation at I suggest you update your bookmarks, but we both know you're not looking here, so a notice will be up at the Chickweed or Pibgorn blog (or maybe both) shortly.

My first entries will likely be the snarchives, so that everything is in one place -- but new material will follow, so stay tuned. I'll try and be around more these next months of leisure and legitimate nutrition.


News flush

True Life Anecdote: walking down the hall last night, I became aware of the sound of: something. Upon investigation, this something turned out to be one of the hall's foremost toilets, which, in an apparent fit of pique, has defaulted to violent nonstop flushing action. Since you cannot be here to experience the magic yourself, please accept this snippet:


Thank you. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.

In less dramatic news, I am afraid I will have to suspend activity here till the summer. The demands of other pursuits have become prohibitive, and I'd prefer not to compromise the blog's quality. I'd MUCH prefer to pretend it had some in the first place.

Anyway, in the meantime I thank you for your patience, and your faithful visits here even long after the flies began circling. I'll be back in the summer, at which time I promise my funny gland will be in fine form. Notices will go up on the Pibgorn and Chickweed blogs when I return. I will have much to chronicle.

Yours till the toilet stops.

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

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

More to come


Please accept my apologies for the wanton Snark-neglect of late. I've tried, I swear. I even went so far as to make the Snark my "home page," in hopes of getting further than just whining about how I never post anything. The result is, now I whine every single time I open my browser. Let it never be said I am not a woman of progress.

Truth is, I'm still playing catch up after the ComicCon, but more snarkery is in the works. Soon. Promise!

Stay tuned,

Spring Awakening, or, 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

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 Guide to College Admissions, part Whatever Part We're On Now: The Aarkvard Viewbook, continued

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

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 even then 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 from American 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.