Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nick - Additive and Multiplicative Forces

When I started playing Animal Crossing, I would fish vigorously until my inventory was full, run to the store, and repeat until I was able to pay off my first loan. Such is the way that Animal Crossing is played: make money, spend money, get things.

I got pretty good at catching fish. I figured out where I should go fish to make the most money in the least amount of time. I knew what fish were profitable, and sometimes even what time of day I should fish to earn the most money.

It got to the point where I knew a ballpark estimate of how long I would need to play in order to reach my next financial benchmark. And as you might guess, it gets pretty tiring to look and see that it will only take four more hours of catching fish until something happens.

So I started looking for other ways to make money, and I happened upon an old lady who sells turnips, which can be bought in bulk and then sold for a different price that fluctuates day-to-day. Pretty soon I was playing the game way less (because I didn't need to fish as much) and instead checking the prices every day on the turnips I had bought with my sizable fish-fortune. And I was making way more money than I made while fishing.

All this to say that I've been thinking about finances and investment recently, probably because I'm paying rent and using my bank account a lot more often nowadays. We see my Animal Crossing experience mirrored in the real world: people add to their money until they have enough to multiply it.

Retirement plans and whatnot work because money is put in over time, and then it accrues interest. With the magic of compound interest, money set aside for retirement grows pretty substantially.

We see the same principle happening with billionaire investors. They never start poor and make their fortune in investing; they start with money and then they multiply it, and their gains become more significant as they accrue more capital to invest.

I would love to see some research into how investment education and knowledge correlates with wealth.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Nick - It's Definitely Time For Conor To Shave

Listen, I know I'm probably wrong about a lot of things. And I'm okay with that! For example, I couldn't tell you much about the probability of a meteor hitting the earth within the next few hours. I'm sure there are experts who know all about that sort of thing, but I am not one of these experts.

In fact, there aren't a lot of things I consider myself an expert at. I read a lot of political science literature, but I wouldn't call myself a political scientist. There are plenty of people who know more than me. In fact, there are probably a lot of misconceptions I have that I don't even know I'm wrong about. There's just a whole lot of uncertainty.

There is one thing, however, that I am absolutely not uncertain about.

It's time for Conor O'Brien to shave.

But my stubble totally says 'party!'
I do consider myself an expert on Conor O'Brien's facial hair. I've seen it in various states of growth. I've seen it during the harrowing final weeks of no-shave november. I've seen it blossoming onto his face like a heinous insect shedding its larval skin. And if there's one thing I can tell you about Conor O'Brien's facial hair, it is this: avoid.

I'm not sure you're getting the full effect from that picture up there. Click on it and take a closer look. Go ahead, click.

Actually, don't worry, I've got you. Let's zoom in.

Don't you wonder what my whiskers would feel like against your soft lips?
Oh boy. Wow. I hope that isn't too much for you.

If I were to describe Conor O'Brien's facial hair, I would say it's kind of like a carpet made of pubic hair that is also balding. Sometimes you're talking to him and you catch a glimpse of it and you just lose your train of thought.

Conor O'Brien's head-hair is just looking better and better these days. He's playing a lot more Pokemon recently, which I think is cool. And, ladies and gentlemen, I want Conor O'Brien to be the best that he can be. If you're out there, Conor, I know this may seem harsh. But everything I do, I do out of love.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nick - Fuck You, I've Written 119 Classic Brians

And I went through and tagged all of them.

(Minus one about jellyfish that Blogger has, for some reason, decided shall never be updated, edited, deleted, or otherwise amended.)

Remember when Eliot posted this? Ohohohohoho! The foolishness! While Eliot was contemplating who had got to 100 first, I was sitting comfortably at 107.

"While it is unknown as to whether Nick or I have accumulated more blog posts over CB's existence (it's certainly turned into a two-man game of late), let's just pretend that I own the lion's share." - Eliot Sill

Ha! Man, I am so hard working.

You might think that just because I've missed a few posts, I'm out of the game. Don't count on it, bitches. Daddy's home.


Nick - And Look

I'm writing another one right here, JUST BECAUSE I CAN.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vanishing Dangling Sounds

robert langellier

The arc of Ron’s sentences would often loop up and hang there suspended and strangled, unsure of where to travel, his sense of locutional direction suddenly vaporized, the arc left to flitter in the air for a moment and fall lazily to the ground like dropped paper scraps. They would come out as half-thoughts, mere hesitations: There was a bridge next to the uh—the uh—. And then nothing. It was at this point of change, this stopping moment in the sentence arc, where his sanity would be momentarily hooked and slammed, a brief interruption to the listener but a monumental shakeup of Ron’s sense of clarity. Because it happened all the time. This getting lost in communication. It was in part the devastating notion of lingual possibilities, the incalculable multitudes of word combinations, thought combinations, where a sentence could be shifted and adjusted mid-course by a single word, and the whole thing would diverge: I was in the car—on the car—on her car—on her something—in her something… Ron did not trust such a feeble and fallible thing as himself with the great responsibility of assigning language in its proper order. And since Ron preferred the universe to be in perfect order, he was greatly depressed by the overwhelmed synapses between his tongue and his mind. And he soon became a picture of shining quietness.

Unbuckled under the legal limit

It's all typography. Something about these characteristics makes it apparent. The old fraud wouldn't be getting his view from that window back for many days. It was just something that couldn't be prevented. The giant sky rose like glitter over the rest of the world. Everyone turned out their lights to avoid being burned alive. Something in that kettle made her wish she had never been alive. As it turned out, only kind of was she proven incorrect.

Something in the dog's breathing reminded me that elsewhere, a child was being raped. I looked away from the dog, for a moment, then I looked back at it. I longed for music. Because when I was listening to music, nobody was getting raped necessarily.

They found her screaming at a tree just two miles south of here. Screaming curse words. Throwing sticks. She was dirty.

From somewhere came this horrid noise, and it sounded like a car engine stalling due to a dying rabbit stuck in the carburetor. I looked out into the forest, took a moment to sneeze, and then carried on with the conversation.
"So, tomorrow then. And don't be late with it this time."

The three of them sat facing inward at a central point, trying to combine their theories and ideologies into one central all-powerful idea. It didn't work. Only one of them would know the way.

Some say the reason she was so scary was because of her dark humor. Others, more observant others, would say it was how she was hung in effigy from the stoplight just outside the school, wearing a T-shirt that read: "...until now, that is."

The puppy, Gruber, threw his legs in front of themselves, bounding toward a destination he had never felt before: speed.

You know, I never won any young authors competitions. Not even close. I wrote once about Fastky the dog, I wrote about The Good Week. But apparently my work was bullshit. It still is. Nothing I've written can grow. It all dies of my own A.D.D. I feel that maybe I used to be a more focused writer. Though maybe my writing itself wasn't focused, I could sit down and go and go and go until I had wasted 2,000 words of thought on the simple subject of adjusting from high school to college.

Something about writing trips you up. It's a different something for everybody, but no one can feel perfectly fine with the way they write. Otherwise they're not writing at all. They're doing some other menial activity.

Where has all the time gone? Oh I don't know. Oh, oh, but I don't know. Wake me up. I'm a timeaholic. I'm having the time of my life. Of all of our lives. I'm having it as though to myself, I am keeping the fourth dimension.

If everyone in the world battled cancer untreated at the same time, they would all die.
"Don't mess up my hair," God said, "ever."

--Eliot Sill

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stick a fire in the shellhole: A corn on the cob story

Now old Maurice was really uptight about his wares. There's hardly anything in his shop you could talk him down for. But his wife Candice would work the shop on Saturdays and that's when you could strike it rich. Something about the smiles of innocent children made an affable sale seem more important than cold currency.

One Saturday morning, after a couple hours of catch down at the sandlot, my friend Pete and I went down to Plum Pickin's for a score off the old batty woman. She had graying brown hair, and it was tied up in a bun on this particular morning. She was wearing a blue dress with frayed hems around the wrists. Pete and I had dirt all over our clothes from the ballfield and so she insisted we go outside and brush ourselves off before we look around.

In the back of the store — where all the good stuff was — we found an old chess set with about half the pieces missing. The pieces themselves were fair quality, made of old oak, and there were more black pieces than white. Carrying that and a set of used boxing gloves up to the counter, we asked Candice Pinsleton how much.

"Altogether that should be 10 dollars boys."
"Oh, but Mrs. Pinsleton," I groaned, "we only got five dollars on us between us both."
"Well, those boxing gloves are right expensive for a boy your age." (I was eleven) "You should ask your mother if she could get them for you as a birthday present." (My birthday was in two and a half weeks, but there's no way she could have known this)
"Well this chess set here is missing about half the pieces, and as you can see, these gloves have been used."
"Well everything in this store's used, Quinton, you know that." (Pete nudged me to indicate he was ready to leave. I shot him a look and he looked at his shoes.)
"But Pete doesn't have any money, and I'm buying these gloves mostly for him." Pete looked at Mrs. Pinsleton and became obnoxiously sullen. Mrs. Pinsleton sighed, and turned back to me.
"Do you boys have any change on you? Or just the five?"
"I've got a quarter and two dimes," Pete piped in.
"Well there you go," Mrs. Pinsleton was sold, "I'll take $5.45 for the lot."

We gave her the money and turned to leave when Maurice Pinsleton walked in, back from an early lunch or so it seemed.

"Howdy, what's going on here?" He asked.

Thinking quickly, Pete punched me in the stomach with one of the boxing gloves and I chased him out of the store.

I was mad though, because he had hit me hard, so I actually did chase him down and punch him in the back. Pete was ten.

From inside the store, the sound of the Pinsletons arguing became audible through a couple of the store's open windows. Meanwhile, I tried to think of ways to make a chess-based game that involved boxing. I also scanned the ground as I walked for any spare change that may be lying on the ground.

--Eliot Sill

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunrise Over the Back Balcony

robert langellier

In a sunrise you can witness the planetary shift at once. Besides shooting stars and sunsets, it’s the only time you can look at the sky and see it change in real time. You can see the universe moving, groaning out of bed. (Yes, you can see clouds move at any hour, but on the scale of things those are no more in the sky than my tall friend Will’s head is.) One second the sun is buried in the sheets of trees and pillowy rolling hills, and suddenly an explosion of light, a zero moment where the spin of the earth bangs the door open to a morning. And you’re rattled awake by sunlight that’s violent and warm. Where you once and will soon feel small and powerless, a hairy mote plugged to the wall of the universe in a frozen split second of time, instantly to combust and disappear forever into the infinites, well, now you’re a planet. You see a sun get up and conform to your very most powerful animal senses, sight and touch, its heat launching over the skyline and into the skin above your arms, and the Universe is your servant, not the other way around. It moves; and I move, you realize, and so why aren’t you a sun? You share and identify with its personalities. A heated body of energy. A mortal object. A collection of matter. No thing can make two objects so alike than being. The stained wooden railings of the outdoor balcony with industrial stamps still on them. The dirty trickling water that rolls lazily over concrete and jutted rocks and logs in the cut out creek below, moving toward the urban woods. The shot-out silver beer cans tied together with string and hanging over the water from a tree branch, dismembered by whizzing airsoft pellets. The chee-chee of the wintering chickadee. All is covered in light.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In Which Nick Talks About Politics

Fair warning: what is about to follow is little more than an unsubstantiated and undirected discourse, fueled by unabashed partisanship and proliferous naivety.

We won.

But hold on, I'm not talking about the presidency. The victories I'm talking about are in the margins; behind the scenes, where they can easily be missed. The election is a giant box of circuitry, a complex interactions of millions of parts, which at the end of the first Tuesday in November every four years outputs a "0" or a "1". A "D" or an "R". But I'm more interested in what's going on inside.

The first game changer that this election brought about was Nate Silver. For those who don't know, Nate Silver is a statistician, New York Times columnist, and speculatively a witch who has been forecasting elections with frightening accuracy. But despite the jokes about sorcery, what Nate Silver is doing is actually removing the smoke and mirrors from politics. In predicting the election almost perfectly, he dispelled the myth that elections are governed by some indefinable "will of the people" or the mysterious power of "momentum." Elections all boil down to numbers that we can study and understand. I'm hoping that (and here's where the naivety comes in) we are going to see this sports-style punditry fall away, and replace it with a new kind of political commentary. One that focuses on facts.

The second thing is diversity. We are finally, finally, in the year 2012, starting to see the house and the senate get just a teensy bit more diverse. Wisconsin elected the nation's first openly gay senator. Hawaii brought in the nation's first Asian American woman. On top of that, this senate session will have a record number (20) of women serving.

And then the last thing, and this is really where the naivety comes in, is a demographic shift the nature of which has never been seen before. Mitt Romney won seniors. All of them, everywhere. And whites. And men. But we're finally getting to the point where the woman vote is just as important as the man vote; where the black vote is just as important as the white vote; and where the young vote will be the deciding factor of the future of our country.

In Colorado, they voted to legalize marijuana. Seniors opposed the measure by a 2-to-1 margin, but it still passed. The same happened in Washington. Maine and Maryland voted to legalize gay marriage. And many of these measures had been attempted before in these same states. The fact of the matter is that the median voter is not the same person that he or she was 10 or even 4 years ago. The millenium generation has arrived, and they are socially liberal. If I'm right about this, then this trend (despite fluctuations) will continue to develop for the rest of our lifetimes.

Maybe I'm still just high on the knowledge that my candidate won; but I'm excited about the future.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Cannon Delight

None of these took me more than five minutes to write. So I'm pretty proud, considering. -->

Country, country, oh far and wide.
Unceasing sight for sight to see,
see the light cease at night,
for forts we fight, fortnights lay siege.

Discomfort fester in a sea
seeking comfortability
wind still whirring, stirring tea
to all the fish, afloat, or flee.

Lifeless, lustless, headless, hauntless
harness lifelessness, be gone with
such and such, or so for whats,
As reason slips. And skips. And cuts.

A newfound friend, a foreign hand
Oh country, country, now our land
You bled and burned and dried and now
this blessed land, not for whom, but how?

Unrepenting southerner, I lay to thee a blow
For somewhere out among the stars,
your reason stands to grow.
Not here, nor there, nor everywhere,
may you tread, black tires forwarding.
Heed, rebellious confederator,
that old Civil forewarning.

I found a cut upon my lip,
Tender and wet across the tip.
My tongue massage, lather, and sense,
whether one slice, or increments.
I found a cut upon my brow,
I saw it yes, but don't know how.
To thee I muse, and feel thy soul,
No clear mirror could I cajole.
Now it is night, I lie awake,
As effects upon my face take.
To know that nicks and cuts abound
returns me to thy battleground.

Away the redbird flew to morn,
wormless, chirpless, now forelorn.
A song he sings to doves and gulls,
"Be mindful of the trigger pulls.
While all wiser, the early riser,
Curtailed hopes may spare a miser.
So dream your dreams and find your fun,
But know I speak for everyone,
there they are,
there may they stay,
lest they sing:
Men, bombs away.
Two-fold is it true for thee,
a stainless bird, a crooning she.
As ivory feathers adorn our nest,
My scarlet cometh from war out west.”

--Eliot Sill

Monday, October 29, 2012

There's these things and they're pissing me off.

Man, fuck coffee. Or fuck my body. Something's not right — I drink a beverage and now I can't control myself? Fucking Parkinson's juice.

Cigarettes are dumb too. I found one at a party last Saturday, brought it home and smoked it. Now it's sitting in my scented candle-turned-ashtray, all tan, white and black tainting the sky-blue wax, a perfect metaphor for itself. I look at it and feel cool for having a cigarette mashed into my candle. It looks cool. That's fucking ridiculous.

I have work in an hour, and it's the worst thing that could happen to me. Working at Jimmy John's, an expanding company that's glorifying a man's idea to rip off the masses for a solidly made sandwich, thus exploiting the fantastic American laziness and allowing Jimmy himself to live his life however he wants, which he deserves no more than the panhandlers that'd love to score a J.J. Gargantuan that day, sucks. It's a minimum wage job that doesn't compensate its employees with a free meal or sandwich (or cookie, or pickle, or day-old bread, or garbage) unless you work a double-shift. I've worked their four hours today already and have 5-and-a-half ahead of me. Let there be life.

Death is such a fag. Hanging over my shoulder every unhelpful second, checking my work and making silent judgments. If this is the last thing I ever write, and it had better not fucking be, I want death to know that I saw its game for what it was.

Sadness too. Sadness can shoot itself in the head with a dick-loaded rocket launcher. It's either there like a blanket, keeping you draped in it so you're impervious to outside emotions, or its worn like a hat, purposefully worn for certain situations for as long as necessary. You take it at your leisure through movies, books or stories about high school kids whose sports teams get better after they die.

Sadness should be like death, hanging over you but mostly avoided. Death should be like work, necessary for most people but totally fucking stupid to do and done for the sake of others. Work should be like cigarettes, trendy and eventually fatal but people do it for some reason anyway. And cigarettes should be like sadness, unfortunately permanent or sparsely but willfully consumed. Coffee should just calm down; whatever.

--Eliot Sill

Friday, October 26, 2012

Editor, give me a title

robert langellier

It's come to my attention lately that there are more important things than blogging on invisible Wordpress accounts about journalism articles you've already written. Like blogging on Classic Brian, for example. I'm going to talk here about why journalism sucks, and why journalists are some of the suckiest people you'll meet. Here are the reasons:

Journalistic publications suck. Classic Brian does not have editors that pare down my silly antics and acrobatic wordplay after just having told me to write with more voice. It does not tell me I need to transition from point to point. So I won't.

Editors have no idea that you're 21 years old. Someone told them all that everyone is 11 and just learning the language. They will treat your clearly thought-out and purposeful sentence constructions as your 5th grade teacher would. I'm aware that "A white button-down." is not a sentence. It's a sentence now, fucker.

Editors get really mad at you for not knowing AP Style in its entirety. Why would I ever spend five seconds learning some of the most meaningless memorization facts ever thought up? If I write "Austin, TX," the world isn't going to end when you change it to "Austin, Texas." That's an editor's job, anyway. They have to have to do something, right? In other news, I'm going to lose about a half a letter grade in my class for my unparalleled failure to know or look up AP Style in my articles.

The word "snark." The magazine work I do is a pathetic excuse for storytelling. I get 600 words to tell a story. Fuck that. I poop 600 words. What kind of story can I write in 600 words? All I can do is draft an advertisement. Vox Magazine is a well-designed Add Sheet. My editors compensate for this literary straightjacket by gleefully informing me that I can insert some "snark" into my writing. Thanks! I squeeze a droplet of voice into a story, and I unfailingly get this comment back from whichever editor is reading my story: "Great snark!" Good god. I want to throw up on my Word document. If you think a pinch of "snark" is going to save a story and make it worth someone's time, God help you, and may journalism destroy you.

Journalists take themselves real seriously. Especially with stuff like ethics. Accepting gifts. People treat free beer or a hot dog like it's a car. I did a story last week where my videographer and I were offered some barbeque from a source. She hadn't eaten all day, man. It was night time. She said no, and left. Jessie, you are literally starving. If you're so susceptible to brainwashing that you can't eat a sandwich and tell the same story you had before your sandwich, you shouldn't be in journalism. I'll take all your beer.

Journalism is for pussies and people with poles in their butts.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nick - We Had The Magic All Along -OR- The Future Of The Shadow Of My Footprints -OR- Make It A Priority To Learn: A Reprise

You know what's cool? Statistics. Statistics are so cool. This year I'm taking a class that involves writing a very light junior thesis (only has to be around 20 pages) on a topic of my choosing relating to the politics of international development. And before this year, I thought statistics were math on a piece of paper.

I know a guy working on his PhD, who once told me that I should "take more statistics. Statistics is like magic for grad students." Well, Robby does not lie.

When you want to do research and actually contribute to the field to which you have dedicated your life, you need the tools to evaluate the world. Evaluate the world in a way that can easily be translated to empirical numbers and facts. And to do that, even though sometimes it's boring, you need to know your math.

I feel like a lot of political science majors don't really get it. They don't learn anything and they spend their entire undergraduate career in courses about theory and political philosophy. But hold that thought for a second, I'll come back to it.

Today Monday night improv was cancelled, and I had some free time. I discovered Khan Academy, which is a great place to go if you want to learn things. And it helped me figure out all the statistics trouble I was having.

I think that with all the great free resources we have available to us now, we can move to a new generation of higher education. A generation that is more focused on research than theory, more focused on learning practical skills instead of leaving it up to you to put your skill set and the real world together. I feel like I stumbled into a tract of the political science department reserved for a few brave and lucky guinea pigs; here's hoping that the people of the future will get this opportunity earlier and more consistently.

I want to see higher education advance. I want to see people understand more, instead of just learning more. I want to see students learn how to do research instead of how to look at it.

I'm rambling, so I'm just going to cut myself off here and end on the same soap box that I ended my first ever Classic Brian post on: make it a priority to learn. Before this year, I didn't know that empirical research was a thing that one could study. There's a whole world of material out there you haven't even heard of yet.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Questions about nose zits

robert langellier

I don't even know how to react to this feeling. I have a zit in my nose, man. It doesn't really hurt, I don't think. It kinda feels like a rash or a skin inflammation, except a rash that also takes up the air inside your nose. It kinda feels like my nose is distended. Like somebody's blowing up a balloon in my nostril.

I'm just really out of my element here. What in my life can I compare this sensation to? Besides balloons. It really opens up the doors of perception for me. This is a thing that, as far as I knew, wasn't supposed to happen, wasn't able to happen. What am I supposed to believe now? Maybe I'll get a zit on the book I'm reading. Look out, "White Noise," you're about to get stuffed with pus. I hope the pages stick. Then I won't have to keep reading it. "White Noise" isn't good, guys. Don't read it. Maybe I'll get a zit on my imagination. Maybe I'll get a zit on my friend. That would be wild. She'd have to sympathize with me for the zit that she has.

More importantly, everywhere around my left nostril is pretty sensitive now. So how am I supposed to pick my nose? Get back to me on that, guys.

Is the tissue stuff on the inside of your nose still even skin? Can a zit develop on that stuff? I guess so. So that begs the question: if that's skin, then where does your skin end? Does it keep on wrapping, up inside your nose and folding under the inside of everything in your body? Can I get a zit under my scalp? On my retina? That would be insane. Imagine that popping; your entire visual world for a few moments would be a white explosion of upside-down pus. I can't say that I don't want that to happen to me someday.

Guys, do any of you have zits in your noses? I'm thinking about getting some people together to talk about it.

Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and tag this with my name. To 100!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nick - How Does Graphs

Apparently I can't use graphing software

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Go buy Tig Notaro's stand-up special on Louis CK's website

Nothing like this Tig Notaro stand-up comedy set exists. Laughter and tragedy are so far separated on the emotional spectrum, typically the only thing that can bring the two together is time.

Tig Notaro single-handedly takes that linear spectrum and forcibly molds it into a circle, bringing together those two emotional points we typically consider to be polar opposites. I don't want to talk about it much, or recap it at all, because I'm still digesting it, listening to it again, and appreciating it. My brother gave it to me free of charge this morning via Skype, and I bought it this evening for 5 dollars out of principle — it's Louis CK's awesome webstore, so 4 of the dollars go straight to Tig and charities.

It's breast cancer awareness month. Go buy this. If you really don't want to pay 5 bucks for it, I'd try to find a way to listen to it anyway. It's important and surreal.

--Eliot Sill

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

About the Packers game

Keep in mind, this started with a Russell Wilson throw. The guy had just ran back about 15 yards, like how I used to play Madden when I was 11, and threw it 55 yards because that was his only chance to win.

Now while the ball is in the air, Seattle's odds of winning are pretty low — in fact, let's not go there. Because odds mattered so little in this game all along. Odds the Packers offense would get shut out and allow eight sacks in the first half, odds Cedric Benson would be the key to a comeback, odds we'd be facing a classic Hail Mary to end it all, odds we'd end on the conclusion we did. If you were to look at them, you'd be wasting your time, this all has to be examined qualitatively.

My examinations? It'll never happen again. Thus, it is historic.

Since it's a new season, and the Seahawks have attractive Nike threads, a trendy quarterback whom Bill Simmons crowned as the most important player this season, and the Packers are coming off a gazillion-1 year, this game had mass appeal. Everyone was watching. This wasn't Seahawks-Cardinals, this was Monday Night Football.

People will look at this game and see the conclusion, mostly for the fallout it induced. But what's missing is the amazing "rising action" to borrow some literary words that are often paired together.

But eventually the ball does land, and it's a toss up. I'm on the phone with my brother, and I'm in my friends' apartment which is currently a please-don't-yell zone, and I don't yell, because I'm trying to process what the hell is happening, and the thought in my head is "tie goes to the runner."

Seattle is the runner for multiple reasons. They're the underdog, they're the offensive team, and they're the home team. I can't stress enough how much of me figured the refs would call it Seattle's way just because this was in Seattle. Have you ever stood before 70,000 people that consider themselves the most avid 70,000 people out of 32 groups of 70,000 people and thought "what your protagonists have accomplished is very impressive and remarkable, but it's not technically the way things should be." No, you haven't. These refs haven't either.

When the play is ruled a touchdown, I immediately am thinking back to a 2009 Packers-Steelers game in which the Steelers won on a last second touchdown throw by Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace. Both teams were out of playoff contention, competing for pride, and the game was of serious importance, but nobody cared because it was between two scrub squads. But, lo and behold, those teams met again in the Super Bowl at the end of the next season, and I viewed that game — a gutwrenching defeat — as the day the Super Bowl XLV Packers were born. Moments like those — where you're crushed and helpless but you gave it your all and have nothing to be ashamed of — they make you certain of who you are and ready for a bigger moment, say a Super Bowl saving defensive stand against a team who has trademarked late Super Bowl heroics.

And then I'm thinking, well, at least the Seahawks didn't beat us. Yeah, they got helped by the refs. These refs were in a dreadful situation, and I don't know what I would have done, let alone the real refs. It might have gone the same way, albeit a preceding pass interference penalty wouldn't have been called, and the Seahawks would have 32 more yards to chow through before seeing the goal line. It was a dreadful situation, but you have to make a call, and they made a really simple call. Touchdown, home team victory, comeback complete.

So Russell Wilson is parading around like a hero, Golden Tate just bullshitted the biggest moment of his life, Pete Carroll's talking about season-defining wins before his team's even kicked the extra point to make it official, and all the while the Packers are off in the locker room, probably thinking something along the lines of "fuck it." Fuck it — we played well enough to win this game, we intercepted the ball on the last play, we know our man had it, we played well enough to win. Fuck it — we deserved to lose based on the way they destroyed us in half one. Fuck it — this isn't the playoffs, it's Week 3, we've got time and that will never ever happen again ever. Fuck it — they called it, whatever, I guess we lost.

The game goes official and I'm really not all that bitter. It's like how eventually I realized in high school that rich kids just got things easier because their parents could pay for them. I wasn't a lesser person, I just didn't have things handed to me. This game was handed to the Seahawks by someone else. I mean, this mindset borders on denial, but I'm okay staring down a 1-2 record. I'm not scared. Now, I'm dying to hear Mike McCarthy's press conference, and sort of hoping we file a lawsuit or something absurd like that. By all means, practically any recourse is justified when a team is victimized to the extent we were tonight. I know that the fallout will be totally supportive of Green Bay, Skip Bayless will probably say that we're 2-1 all week on "This is Bullshit and I'm Skip Bayless" or whatever that show on ESPN is called.

The replay itself is stomach churning. The guy, M.D. Jennings, jumps up — so high — and gets his hands on the ball and rakes it in — great success! — but as they come down — watch out for poor Sam Shields down there — Golden Tate begins to force himself upon the ball. They fall to the ground — who's got it? — Jennings turns away, trying to yank possession all to himself — he fails at this and thus leads the referee to believe he has less of the ball than Tate — and Tate clings on as the ref signals touchdown. The words "simultaneous possession" have been murdered by overuse and may or may not apply. Let's not oversimplify it — the catch was confusing, and honestly a competent basketball ref would be running in with two thumbs up and we wouldn't have to decide who had the ball first, because we would just figure out who could have the ball now. It's a football play, and it's a fucking weird one that I've never seen before.

I watch the press conferences, read some of the reactions, read more of the reactions, and get increasingly upset. Some of these responses are funny, TJ Lang and Josh Sitton (Packers O-linemen) don't give a fuck how light their wallets become after their tweets tonight, Clay Matthews gives America Roger Goodell's phone number and I call in and offer a couple thoughts, including this suggestion: Why is it necessary to establish a call on the field in situations where the game (or half, or quarter) is over? In a situation like tonight, why can't the refs just be like "WE DON'T KNOW. DID YOU SEE THAT? WE'RE GOING TO GO LOOK AT THAT AND DOUBLE-CHECK BEFORE WE ESTABLISH A BURDEN OF PROOF HERE." While perhaps not conventional or loyal to the process, the idea of a "call on the field" is just saying you have to argue against something in your replay review, you can't decide something by replay. This isn't American court, we're not proving guilt or innocence, we're deciding something. Let there be a decision made upon review in situations where the officials are obviously flustered and uncertain.

Before this catch, there was the uncalled pass interference on Golden Tate — a blatant no-call that affected the game not only by not penalizing Tate, but by taking the defender in best position, Sam Shields, out of the play. Before the play, there had been a 32-yard pass interference call against  Shields in which he was actually tugged by wide receiver Sidney Rice, this was another call I think the refs knew something was wrong, threw a penalty flag to seem competent, then called it on the road team to appease the immediate audience. Before this there was a penalty for roughing the passer that negated an earlier Packers interception that really had serious dagger potential in itself. Obviously these refs tonight took a flyer on the whole "protect the quarterback" zeitgeist that plagued last year's officiating. They dropped laundry several times in the tackle box and here flagged Erik Walden on a play that players have been making all season without consideration from the refs, lament from the fans or protest from the players. If no pass interference is called, do you really think Seattle is whining about not getting that call? No. So there's three key missed calls by these referees which Roger Goodell backed several weeks ago and has not voiced much support for since the regular season began.

Blaming the refs is silly, to a degree. I mean, I may have been not far down the list of replacement officials, for all I know. These guys are coming from all different kinds of backgrounds and clearly are outclassed here. They still fuck these plays up and are influenced so much by trying to appear normal. Referees aren't an entity that should resemble Milford men — not seen and not heard — they should be controlling the game, setting a framework for the players to work within. These guys are afraid to intrude, because they are so unconfident in their abilities.

So we look around, we know it's commissioner Goodell's fault, it's also the fault of the Owners and I guess the players and I guess the fans for not taking serious action to combat this lockout. But I know it's not M.D. Jennings' fault, it's not Sam Shields' fault, and it's definitely not Golden Tate's fault we lost.

All I'm seeing is probably the most interesting football game of my lifetime and wondering how that affects the future for the Packers this season. We've got the Saints on Sunday, and we had better not make it close.

--Eliot Sill

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nick - Julie Brady

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Julie Brady. A little while ago I said, "guys, what should I write a Classic Brian about?" and Julie Brady said "ME!"

So here we are!

Above is a picture of Julie pretending to be a whale in an improv show. Julie is very good at improv! But I don't think she knows very much about whales.

This is me and Julie. Julie and I are in two improv troupes together! Also I live with her. Julie Brady plays guitar for DeBono and is also in PK Barnjam.

Julie is very good at improv and at guitar! Julie Brady is not very good at circulation or doing things. She is always cold. She is also a cynical bastard. Sometimes Julie Brady plays really mean characters. I'm a little afraid of her.

Sad Julie
I never call Julie Brady "Jules." That name is reserved for Giuli Bailey, who is sort of like the anti-Julie Brady in a lot of ways. (Including her name.)

Even though she likes taking busses and she always complains about the temperature of our house, Julie Brady is a good friend and a good teammate. Right now I'm sitting in her room and we're all talking about our parents. She has really good taste in music, and she is totally punk. Yesterday she taught me how to play the beginning of American Idiot on guitar!

One time I walked into my room and she was wearing my girlfriend's clothes. She spends a lot of time watching me play Animal Crossing. She is very pretty, but refuses to wear skirts or dresses. And these are only a few of the reasons that she is the best.

Julie Brady, will you marry me?


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Night Air

I am the night air.

I am different. I am cool, crisp, even cold sometimes. I can get muggy, I can get humid, but I keep my cool, I don't ever get hot. I am not abuzz with sun-rays, I do not tan you, I don't invite your kids out to play, and I don't need you here either, but you're welcome to hang out if you like. I am cool.

I see things clearly, maybe you don't understand. Maybe you don't get it because you think the day air can see better. Well the day air's just fine, but I don't need you to tell me what I am or what I can do. I could not care less for your approval. I could care less whether you see because I can see perfectly fine for you. Just trust me.

I am the night air and I've seen you be scared of me. You think I'm ugly, you think I'm lying, you don't feel safe and you don't trust me, because I'm too cool to trust. My winds do not whisper "red rum" as you seem to think they do. I have said nothing of importance, it's cool, trust me. Those shadows you dodge aren't even my fault — you made those, you damn fool.

I am the night air and you do not know how to please me. I blush when the moon winks at me, only you don't see it wink because you look away too fast, and you don't see me blush because you cannot see; I do not wear my emotions on my sleeve. My emotions are subtle, and you do not appreciate the subtleties. You only like the way the rain feeds you, you don't appreciate the way it feels or the way it sounds. But I do — I feel it all. And I listen.

I listen better than God, because unlike God, nobody wants to talk to me. Sometimes they talk to me and they think they're talking to God but they're just talking to me and I listen. I hear your movements, I hear your actions, your words, I hear your thoughts too, but I don't care for those. I am too cool, the night air, to care for those.

I hear insects, and they are loud as hell. They keep talking, and that's just fine because I can hear them but I can still listen to other things because I'm a good listener and I've listened to those bugs before and they don't have anything to say. I don't like bugs usually, unless you got me in a bad mood. If I'm in a bad mood I'm all right with bugs because I can lose my cool and nobody will notice because those damn bugs take all the attention. When I'm cool I leave the insects to the night ground because that's where insects belong, on the ground. When I'm cold, those insects know not to come around and I wish you'd know, too, because I like to be left alone when I'm cold.

I'm the night air and you know me, but you're not my friend. You never say hi to me like you do to the day air. You don't say hi to me because you're too busy saying bye to the day air. You say bye to the day air and you don't say hi to me then you go away and replicate the day air in your spaces and you say bye to the replica day air and don't think to say bye to me.

Sometimes you hang around, and I listen just in case you remember to say bye but you don't, you just wish I'd be gone. You're lucky I let you leave. You are not my friend.

My friends are cool. My friends only hang out with me because I'm cool and they like that I'm cool so they hang out with me because they're my friends. I don't care for your friends. I don't care for the day air, either, because the day air has so many friends and it doesn't need me and neither do its friends but they like me, they're just afraid to hang out with me because I'm so cool.

Crispy, they say. I am crispy, the opposite of soggy, the opposite of disgusting, the encapsulation of clean and the quintessential of cool. This is what I am because I am the night air.

I am the night air and I hear you crying. I see those tears glint in the winking moon who loves me so, and I hear your bed creak as you quiver on top of it, day air unwanted, night air unwanted, you don't want any air at all, do you? I hear you regret those things and blame yourself and others and God, but you don't blame me, because it's not my fault and you know I had nothing to do with it. I listen to you in that way only I do, through those walls that you think keep me out, and I may keep to myself but I am not kept out. I am the night air, and I go where I want, and right now I want to be with you, because you don't sound like you do most nights and that interests me. It interests me and I feel your sadness. But I can do nothing for you about it because I am cool.

I am the night air and I cannot provide. I am the excellence of absence, the brilliance of darkness, the independent opposite, unaware that I am based on something else, not a basis myself. If all you had was me you would have no one, because I'm too crispy to be motherly, and too cold to be Godly, and too cool to yearn to be either.

I am the night air and I am rigid. You cannot hug me or embrace me, bask in me, and you feel best when I am not around. I am unwanted.

But I am cool. So I don't need to be wanted. Without me, you wouldn't know to get warm, and you wouldn't know when to stop.

I am here for you in subtle ways, and I appreciate the subtleties. If you appreciate the subtleties you just may appreciate me, though I am more than subtle, I am profound. I am the profound absence, I am the profound darkness.

I am the night air and I will always be here for you, extending a hand but not offering help, drying your tears but not consoling you, hearing your prayers but not as your God. Here in the exact way you need me to be.

I am the night air, the balancing element of everything you know, and you don't even know it, because it's my cool, not yours, and I keep it because it's all I have.

--Eliot Sill

Monday, September 10, 2012

Nick - The PK Barn: A Virtual Tour

For those who are unaware, I am living with my improv team this semester.

Reviewers have stated that my room is "sexy," and that the curtains are "the color of wine."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nick - Skeletons In Our Closet (A PK Barn Story)

I found myself outside of our house, swallowed by a night so muggy and humid that I could swim to the back door faster than I could walk there. I stood near the back of the driveway and stared down my opponent: a pile of trash which could nearly match me in height and weight. It stared back, and didn't blink.

Kate, my usual partner in crime, and Julie, the laziest of my roommates, stood behind me in a mix of their night clothes and whichever shoes were closest to the door. Julie was the first to step forward and attack.

This monster was the product of our own laziness and inadequacy. We had, in our zeal to move in, set up internet, electricity, and water (in that order) and called it a day. Garbage collection never entered my mind until I finally read that letter from my landlord nearly four days after move-in. Of course, by then it was too late to have garbage pickup until next week.

Julie and I each grabbed two bags, holding them at arms' length, while Kate took up one particularly nasty-looking one and attempted to wrestle it into some configuration which would keep it as far from her as possible. We marched them somberly down the driveway to the curb.

This pile of garbage didn't accumulate over night. It started with the boxes. Robel and I moved in and unpacked our furniture. The remnants were several cardboard boxes. "I've just been setting them on the side of the house," said Robel. I was happy to comply. The side of the house seemed so far away. So out of mind.

"It's leaking! It's leaking!" Said Julie in her distressed voice. We could only keep marching as she was sprayed with liquid, the nature of which we hesitated to question. We reached the curb to find that there was, in fact, a garbage collection bin there. Good, this is good. Better than setting the bags on the curb in our lawn, as was the original plan.

A cardboard box is a harmless thing. It can be set in the grass on the side of the house, with all of its various contents inside, to be picked up at a later date and tossed into the garbage, or the recycling if you're really feeling wild. But after two weeks of garbage buildup and nonstop rain, a cardboard box becomes a very different sort of thing. No longer a contained entity, it splits into several smaller creatures which cannot all be picked up easily with one hand. It wore a crown of about 10 kitchen bags, filled with all the things we wanted to get out of out house as soon as possible.

We wheeled the garbage bin back to the cardboard-toothed monster, and began the daunting task of moving each bag roughly three feet into the bin.

"Maggots! Maggots!" screamed Kate, as she unveiled a second fermenting layer of garbage bags.

We peeled back maybe three layers, each more disgusting than the last, having had time to mature out here in the wild. Finally we reached the bottom few trash bags. They were slimy. They had not been tied shut, and their contents threatened to spill all over the grass were they moved in the wrong sort of way.

"Well," said Julie, gesturing toward the remaining bags, "You're a man, Nick."

They both looked at me. My mind wandered to the missing members of our family. I wish I had made Robel come out here, even though he was clearly trying to get some sleep before morning classes. Where is Anna? I haven't seen Anna since practice. If only Paul were conscious, I would drag him up from the basement and have him move these last few bags.

But I guess it's on me.

I carefully transplanted each bag, grabbing them by as little as I could in an attempt to minimize my exposure to their secretions. I took the flashlight from Kate to keep it steadily on the bags, making sure nothing could jump out and take me by surprise.

Finally we slammed the lid on those awful creatures (A lid that refused to fully close) and dragged the garbage bin back to the curb. As we headed inside, I took a remorseful glance at the cardboard base of our resident monster; the bin was too full to accommodate the last of the creature. Though we had taken the day, it was still there, waiting for us. It would grow back. It would be here next week.

An uneasy victory.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Nick - In The Arms Of God

All kind deities cast aside
In favor of some shadowy appendage
Reaching across the sky to bring me to this moment

To cradle me in darkness
And soothingly assure my restless heart
That heaven would hold no sway through its reign

And all the bright shimmering believers
Will be cast down by this cruel god

Safe in its reach I ascend the steps to hell
Finally rewarded for my oozing soul

Knowing what fate awaits
How many good citizens would defect
Casting aside all love and goodness for salvation

And aware of evil's triumph
Would there remain any paragons
Who sacrifice their soul to ignite some fleeting kindness


Friday, August 24, 2012

A Day of Purple Witch Tits, Part 3

robert langellier

You see, you know, right, once your head stars a-baking and your whole legs get aching and cranking, then everything gets weird. The, uh, the air’s getting pretty hazy, see those milky puddles of heat on the road up ahead, sweet desert mirages, they must be Champaign…or Decatur…almost there. Brain is boiling, roiling, churning, kind of disintegrated I think. And so now it’s no thoughts, just sounds and perceptions lighting off my now sensitive senses—VROOM—dynamite blue—and it’s not painful, just a trip. Out goes critical thinking, and it’s a wonderful thing when that happens, when you’ve lost the sheer ability to analyze and meditate, just to be an animal for a while, and no more playing god, and being a human is somewhere between the two—VROOM. A car pulls up by.

“You need a ride, friend?”
Sheeit no, no, I’m doing something here. “Nope!”
“You sure?”
No, no, no, no. “Yeah, I’m sure.”
“Alright.” A sweet bastard with a comfy buncha seats speeds away—VROO—

—and Illiopolis! The halfway point! right on schedule—

—Boy, oh, boy, ow boy. It’s a good time for some water, no, sunscreen, yeah. Round the corner, hey a turn! and two more hours before the next one. Take a rest. Little highway sign dinky little shade, gives enough shade for just my head, body’s cooking in the hard dead prickly weed grass. No, keep on! Pretty soon I’m singing to myself, singing some crazy ones, making stuff up, then “On the Road Again,” then some modern pop standards “I used to ruuule the world…” Down below the purple witch tits are glowering at me, like, “Have you replaced us?” “Yes, tits, I’m with I now.” And they reach out and touch me with longing knobs, so I just walk pow in the middle of the road, there’s no cars for days, whew. And here now I’m trying accents, talking to myself in Russian, British, Aussie, French, everything I can think of, mixing them up, too—“Vat do you vant, mate?”—and I’m the most ridiculous thing walking down the road sputtering nonsense to myself like a loon. If they saw me I know they’d lock me up, because oh goddamnit I’m crazy.

“Man, I’m going crazy out here!”
“It’s okay!”

I wonder like always what time it is. I’ve still got hours to go, I know that much, but I’m real beat. But it’s okay, I’m running on sensations now, burning along in some crazed frenzy. I take my sunglasses off and the world simply *explodes* with light like a Claritin commercial, yes, just like that. I need cleaner glasses. God, it’s a real wash of light, an electric jolt, and it’s the only way anything changes around here is to put a different color of light on it—the only way anything changes—whoo...

And VROOM—(here goes a movie scene)—goes my friend Eliot’s car past me. He’s on his way back from a trip to Oklahoma right now, interesting place to vacation. Weird he’s out here on Old 36 by Illiopolis, that’s strange. I call him.

“Heyyy, man, how’s it going?....Yeah, I was wondering if you could give me a riiide….Oh……….Oh, okay, yeah that’s fine…I was just thinking maybe there was a chance you’d be driving your car on Illinois Old 36 somewhere between Illiopolis and whatever the FUCK town comes after it, turn your car around and come pick me up!!”

Man that sure rolled off the tongue, ohhh it felt good to say! so I fake hang up the fake call and take my phone back out of my pocket and do it again. 

“Heyyy, man, how’s it going?....Yeah, I was wondering if you could give me a riiide….Oh……….Oh, okay, yeah that’s fine…I was just thinking maybe there was a chance you’d be driving you car on Illinois Old 36 somewhere between Illiopolis and whatever the FUCK town comes after it, turn your car around and come pick me up!!”

You see, I’m a movie star, and I have to get this line just right for my audition, and I just can’t get it perfect. It’s gotta be articulate, natural sounding, energetic, with a big crescendo up to the last line, the big cathartic climax, so powerful I thrust my body and swing my arms in a way that can be seen by cell phone satellites and transmitted into the other receiver and understood by the actor who plays Eliot. It’s such a long line, sucks out my breath, and for an absurd half hour here I am in the middle of the universe belting out these sentences over and over and miming my phone to my ear.

“Heyyy, man, how’s it going?....”

I liked to imagine that walking is like running…cyclical…where you wear yourself down to hurting and if you keep at it you’ll eventually circle back to 0 and hit your second wind, your runner’s high. In reality, walking is just a straight vertical line, a constantly depleting line, and when you hit 0 it’s not the start of something beautiful anew, you just stop walking or go into the negatives. It doesn’t ever get better as I’ve been telling myself repeatedly since noon.

(((There is one truly rejuvenating grace in the world, and he drives a pickup truck, stops next to me coming from the west, and blesses me:

“I saw you when I drove by earlier, I thought you needed some water. Got a couple ice cold ones right here for ya.”
“What! Wow, that’d be incredible. Thank you so much, man, you’re a lifesaver!”
“No problem, take care,” and oh for a moment I believe in god or at least his guardian angels. I take down a whole bottle of Aquafina right away—my own water has looong since run warm—till I think I’ll puke. For the next five minutes I must say “wow” fifty times out loud in wondrous gratitude.)))

And then the cold water is gone, it was only a moment in time. In another half hour the water man is a memory, a dream, a hallucination. Perhaps something that happened in a past life. ……

This is the longest I’ve ever gone without anything to send my undivided attention to. For once I wonder if that is not some modern industrial age trivial dependency, if that is really some inherent animal need. I don’t know. I don’t know I DON’T KNOW. But it hurts now, I’m starting to hurt a lot, and there is that to focus on…

So I’m not crazy anymore. You go crazy when you don’t have anything to focus on. Now there is unimaginable pain. Every part of me is on fire from the sun. My legs are a different color. My calves are burnt. My muscles and joints are screaming. My eyes don’t open all the way, my body is soaked. Every step is an entire day’s workout; I feel freshly horrible with each one. There isn’t a moment I don’t think that my body will collapse at any second. Crumple to the ground. Die. Blow away with the sand. I am obliterated. My pack is heavy, very heavy now, and it’s killing, cutting, drilling into my shoulders. The water, the food, the supplies, it’s too much, too heavy.

My friend Bridget once told me that torturing small-brained sentient creatures is worse than torturing a healthy human, because the mental capacities of those animals is such that their entire beings, everything they know and believe in and understand, is searing unending pain as long as it envelops them. There is no dream of escaping, no family to think of, no god, no happy memories—it is a universe of pain.

Around me is all this horrible, twisted land, world of mirrors where you never know where you are, because you’re never anywhere at all, just in the double reflection of the place you were before. I look back and see a water tower that was there an eternity ago, slightly larger. I see ahead a cell phone tower that has been there as long as I’ve been alive, always the same size. On this kind of trip you will learn to hate tall things. There is no way out of it, the mirror shoots forever. Decatur is no more than a knot in my throat. Champaign may as well be somewhere I go when I die, I will never reach it elsewhere. By now I’ve abandoned the notion of it entirely. I came out here for solitude, which apparently is no better than any other drug in excess. I sit down in the grass and let out a whimper. I am miserable. The ground is hard. 

I decide to hitch home. I try thumbing in both directions, because I don’t care which direction I’m going, as long as I’m somewhere where there are buildings and shade. Of course, now that cars see that I’m clearly in need of a ride—I’m limping, or sitting down, thumbing—they avoid me like I’m breathing an airborne HIV virus. Eventually I have to give up, and I straggle on in the sun looking for any kind of shade—a gutter, a culvert. I have to stop every 10 seconds or so to sit down, so the progress is brutally slow, but, dragging my feet through the purple chicory weeds, I eventually after some agonizing time reach the next little town, just a few houses as far as I can tell—Harristown, just 5 miles outside Decatur, where I would’ve rested the night and made it to Champaign tomorrow. The first one on the right has a lawn, a real lawn, and a mid-size oak in the front yard. From down in me comes a little choking sob. I’ve done it. I sit down by the oak, make some calls, “Come pick me up.” Looking east, I can see the shimmering mirage of light dancing and refracting on the highway, and I let my head fall back, and I wait for a black Nissan to appear through the haze…almost there.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Day of Purple Witch Tits, Part 2

robert langellier

Sometime around noon I sit down aside a grain silo to eat lunch. A banana, an apple, a cherry Kashi granola bar, a little bit of green Gatorade leftover from work yesterday. I’d say more around 11:45, actually, because it quickly becomes a race between my desire to eat slowly and my lust for fast dissipating shade. This is the town of Dawson. The silo is the first thing I reach in the town, but I think I can see the other side. It’s so quiet. There is the quietness of the road, undercut by the low rumbling of fast distant cars, which swells and wanes with such frequent consistency that its roar is swept back into the unconscious fabric of silence. Then there is the quietness of this town—a real lonely silence, one that feels either peaceful or dead. I don’t know that anyone even lives here, maybe it’s one of those towns where people come to work and leave at 5 to go back to their families somewhere else. I wonder how the town is at night, if it even exists, or if it is simply sucked away into some infinite spinning nothingness until the first 1998 rusting red pickup pulls up for work at 5 in the morning and it snaps back to slow-decaying reality. Across the road and down a ways I hear a man and a woman bickering, so I look up, but I don’t really hear them, I see them as forms moving and shifting in the heat of the high noon, but their sounds are lost to my true ears sitting there under the silo—I just watch them, and just like that they are gone again, spinning into infinite nothingness somewhere. Strange rural town bugs crawl around me, as foreign-looking as the people. They are desperate just like me for the shade, although I don’t think they know my pain, for I’ve just been five hours without it. 

Dawson is too lonely. I need to get out and keep moving. Not that the road is any less lonely. I think that is the silly thing about being a traveler—he's no more than a sad failure to settle. I believe any person wants to settle deep down, no matter what they say. People want to be in the best place for them and they want to be happy, simple as that. Why would a traveler go someplace if he didn’t think it was the best place for him, in some way? And then that changes, and he’s not happy anymore, and it’s off again. Maybe travelers set the bar too high, maybe they need to learn to compromise and sit still a while. Then again, maybe all people are travelers, and the great majority of people got unhappy a long time ago when they settled, and now they’re just convincing themselves over and over and over again I am happy I am happy I am happy. So maybe the travelers and the settlers are both unhappy, I don’t know. All I know is travelers are unhappy. So maybe I should stay in Dawson a while…but I’m losing time.

In a minute I’m out of Dawson and back on the road. (“Want a ride somewhere?” says a pickup. “It’s hot out today.” “No…” and it gets harder to say so each time…)

You’d think, maybe from seeing Castaway or reading “Far Side” comics, that it takes weeks of isolation before you go crazy and start talking to volleyballs. In reality, it’s about 5 hours. Maybe the blazing sun boring into my scalp through my Sox cap doesn’t help, maybe it doesn’t help that the general scenery has changed less than it does in a Cormac McCarthy novel, but I find myself chatting me up like I’m an old friend.

“Man, this walk is sure taking a long time.”
“No kidding,” I say. “I think my feet are starting to hurt.”
“Good thing we decided on shoes!”
“Yeah, that’d’ve sucked. WHOO IT’S HOT!”
“I can’t wait to get there,” I say. “Mmm gonna be good.”
“Champaign, AiiyyAH!!”

I like me. I’m kind of goofy, sort of a character. I get along with me well, and I kind of remind myself of my friend Conor. I only wish I had more to talk to me about, but this landscape has really worn my capacity for critical thinking down to a stub. I guess I can not think at all, it’s what I’ve been doing for most of the trip anyway. 

I decide not to talk about the landscape, just observe it. I and I remain silent for a while in sort of awestruck appreciation for the sheer beauty in emptiness. Just like white can be the most powerful color in a painting, so can Illinois’ utter flat blandness be translated into unabridged beauty. If each acre of view added a set amount of beauty to the final sum of a landscape, then Illinois would be the prettiest state in the country next to Kansas and Nebraska. Provided you are able to see over the corn, you can almost make out Indianapolis ahead of you and Kansas City behind you. There’s something undeniably evocative about Midwestern farmland. Maybe it was planted in our blood by 18th century expansion brochures, or the Homestead Act, but it’s there, the feeling of unwritten potential on a blank tilled slate, the infinite infancy of American cropland. Coming from above: the warm blue and white of placid skies, the dark green of distant trees (all classic oak and maple), the golden brown of crops, the bright verdancy of the grass at my feet, and the reflection of all colors, the black of the road pining away to other skylines. 

And the purple witch tits. 

A purple witch tit—the name I’ve assigned this shit plant—is a ubiquitous indigo flower that resides along the edges of Illinois highways. Why it grows solely within twenty inches of the roadside I have yet to come up with a reasonable answer. I doubt very much that paved asphalt provides many essential nutrients to purple witch tits. Perhaps, I think to myself, all the water runoff from the highway on rainy days catalyzes their growth. I don’t buy into that theory because a) a marginally higher intake of water doesn’t justify the sheer explosive dominance of healthy, strong little purple witch tits and b) if it did, then other plants would benefit too, and we’d have jungles thousands of miles long and twenty inches wide along every highway in America. But we don’t; we have only purple witch tits, and it is my personal dark conspiracy that some generous asshole planted them everywhere for our 70 mph visual pleasure, because yes, at 70 mph filtered through bug gut centimeter-thick glass, purple witch tits are absolutely splendorous additions to the landscape. Children learning colors and boring suburbanites can be entertained for minutes on end by highway bookend color streaks, pretending on their way to Podunk that they are flying in between landing strips on the violet runways of Aubergine Airlines. I can just see some well wisher Bible metaphor man sowing seeds from the window of his car as he drives, as if the whole damn highway is a garden for his knobby plants. 

They are somewhat pretty, the flowers—fish fin purple petals with ragged indigo edges clawing out from their centers. Pretty, very pretty, until their warty little appendages touch against your leg as you walk. When this happens, all virtue of the plant is lost to its up close ugliness. Any beauty, edibility, medicinal qualities, all lost to its up close ugliness. 

It takes some time to build up a hatred like this. As I first began my trip, purple witch tits were some small annoyance, nothing more; an easily ignorable irk. But a note to my someday fiancĂ©e: anyone who says that time eradicates the hatred of bad habits or little irritations, that person is full of shit. Anyone who’s ever had a college roommate can confirm that. There’s no hump to get over, no soft agreeable landing on the other side. Purple witch tits do not grow on you, unless you count reaching for my calves and ankles as growing on me. Within a number of hours, I’m prepared for the Sisyphean quest of ripping out each and every stalk of purple witch tit on Old Route 36, one by one, every single stem. Had I known at the time that purple witch tits fold up and lose their pretty color with the late evening, I would have counted the hours minutes and seconds with joy until their temporary demise, because with an ugliness so offensive, one can only wish even more ugliness upon it. 

Purple witch tits, then, are my primary companions on my trip. I later find out that this plant is known in real life by real botanists as chicory, and I resolve never to eat chicory again, if only to decrease demand for it.

Also among my companions are the only slightly less common pink candy noses (milkweed) and the little white-flower weed too boring for me to assign a fake name to (Queen Anne’s lace). I don’t know why these weeds are so wildly omnipresent on Illinois highways, but I hate them all in equal individual ways like a mother loves her children. 

My only respite from the gaudy pink white and blue flower parade on the roadside and the horrific dangers of the road itself is the train tracks running alongside the highway about 15 meters to the left. It is my secret bitter conspiracy that railway builders space out the sleepers just close enough to make them incredibly awkward to walk upon. It comes to mind that walking on rail tracks might be illegal, but this is America, and I’m innocent until I know I’m guilty, so to hell with it. Now where is my hobo pack? I should look good, in case someone takes a picture. Off in the distance ahead a horn bleats and wails and hollers, and whoop off the tracks for a minute, wave to the conductor, back on the tracks. A half an hour later a big giant one carrying a bunch of steel boxcars comes chugging and roaring and global warming from behind me, and I can only imagine it must’ve simply exploded through the one I saw going the other direction earlier and kept on going unhindered. 

I don’t like trains, no matter how much I like American tradition. They’re grotesque, hot, steamy slabs of iron riproaring across the serene farmland, big metal brutes, blunt instruments trying to slice open the land and doing a pretty good job of it, if you ask me. There’s nothing good about a train these days. 

One thing the tracks illuminate even more than the road is the endlessness. Maybe something about the narrower tunnel of vision unraveling away for days, straight as an arrow, don’t even think about wavering from this eternal line, here to the Atlantic, rigid and true American, austere, stolid, UNCHANGING. Simple and clean. Nothing to misunderstand about it—you’re alive and in the grass, and what else so you want?

I’m getting a little uncomfortable in the heat.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

College V: Ace or disgrace

Lately I've been writing like I'm going to live forever.

"That's an interesting thought. ... That'd be interesting to write about. ... I could probably write something really cool about it. ... If it was Wednesday, I think I'd post about that. ... But I won't. ... Because it's not Wednesday. ... Or something."

I've been using my computer less, on a related note.

Whatever it is inside me that gives me the need to write, totally gets off on being withholding. Too busy humping the legs of compliments and giving puppy-dog eyes over my readers' shoulders to realize that I've been reading a lot, and there's a lot of stuff to read, and none of it is mine anymore because I'm reading so much that I don't write.


I had a moment of weakness, where I enjoyed the thought of wanting to write about something. I thought about reflecting on my summer and comparing myself to where I was two years ago before I left for college my freshman year. I didn't even have to write it to get the pleasure out of it. Instead of masturbating, I have waking wet dreams on command. My arm's getting less work. Can't push a pen very well with a weak arm. 

Writing used to be an embodiment of the life. A sacred stakeholder in uncertainty. It was my muse and my ruse. What do you want to be? they'd ask. A writer, so that I can write, I say. And then I remembered that Mark Twain wrote poetry and I thought "nuts, I don't do that." I am a one-weaponed warrior. While others boast arsenals of broadswords and sniper rifles and shurikens, I call myself a fighter holding an unblemished flail.

I'm here for the biggest and most important semester of my life. It's like the fifth sequel to a movie series about the biggest and most important semester of my life. It keeps getting bigger, being more important.

I worked my first day at Jimmy John's on Monday. Which included the following exchange:

Sara: Do you have the sandwiches memorized?
Me: No (sound of me dropping a tier in her mind). ... (I pick up a menu.)
Sara: Yeah, you typically won't have time to read the menu during your shift.
Me: Right.
Sara: I mean we consider that pretty much something to do on your own time.
Me: Oh, okay. (I fold the menu to put it in my pocket for later.)
Sara: Did you not get a menu when they hired you?
Me: Oh, um, well do you mean, like the sandwich study guide thing?
Sara: Did you get a packet? I'll show you-
Me: Yeah, no yeah, I got one of those.
Sara: Okay.
Me: ...
Sara: So.
Me: ?
Sara: It's just, those menus are really expensive.
Me: Oh, right. My bad. ... (Puts menu in pocket)

Sara's a manager, obviously. Vote for Jimmy.

After work I turned in my first article on the Illinois volleyball team. Writing it felt like working out for the first time in months. Finishing it felt like finishing my final set on eight reps instead of 10, because it was as many as I could do. I'm weak. I'm tired.

I'm back.

--Eliot Sill

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nick - True Stories About Jellyfish, Part 4

So last week I went to Shedd Aquarium, where the current theme is Jellyfish. Interesting, they call them Sea Jellies instead of Jellyfish. (They aren't actually fish, after all.)

The real reason I'm writing this is to show you these guys.

These are Jelly Blubbers (neither of the videos get their name right), and they are fucking awesome. That video is a minute long, but you only have to watch a couple seconds to understand.

Their movements are... mesmerizing...

I'm going to throw you one more video. I want you to watch the back of the tank, because at about 6 seconds one of them goes careening into the bottom of the glass and just sort of bounces off.

I mean, what else can I say? Jelly Blubbers are awesome.

Nature, man. Fuck.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Day of Purple Witch Tits, Part 1

robert langellier

At 7 a.m., I switch off my car. “The Wild Hunt” is my pump-up jam. I fold up my headphones and drop my iPod in my pocket. I turn off my phone. There are no electrical outlets in Illinois cornfields, so I’ve left my charger at home. I strap on my cumbersome academic backpack full of water, food and sunscreen. I stare boldly at the rising eastern sun and move toward it out of the Walmart parking lot, a symbol of my exodus from industry and more importantly a place where my car will not be towed for the next two days. I’m going to Champaign, from Springfield, IL, on foot. It’s 80 miles between, not a terrible threat to one who trains in long distance moving. I wonder why I’m going into the sunrise and not west into the sunset, because I’m trying to be poetic here. But sunsets are for endings, I justify, and this is the beginning of a journey. Perhaps I will go east until I have reached the western sunset of where I came from, and I will have taken the long and proper way to the ending. And it is all about the journey anyway. Yeah. My reams and scrolls of Google Maps printouts flutter and billow in the wind as I awkwardly try to study them. Six miles on Sangamon Ave, continue onto Camp Butler Road.

My trip will take 2 days. On the night of Day 1 I will stay with Phil Romano, 52, a man I met on the internet a day before. On the night of Day 2 I will presumably stay with Eliot, 19, who lives in Champaign. That’s the plan. On the night of Day 3 I’ll call someone in Springfield and tell them surprise I’m in Champaign come pick me up. I don’t want to give them foreknowledge of my trip and allow them to tell me my plan is stupid and they won’t pick me up. This way they’re trapped. Anyway, I can’t very well walk back to Springfield. I have to be in Missouri for work by Day 4. There’s a limit to my wanderings. I will have to return like Emerson to the village if I want to be able to pay for my suits.

Exhilaration and freshness fall out of me as I cross the first bridge of the first highway. Maybe I should be taking this as a dark portent, as the first step of any bad thing is usually bold. But the weather is beautiful, sunny, intermittent white wisps of shade, and high 80s—no time to be thinking of portents. The top of the first bridge, the first view of the familiar skyline—familiar because all central Illinois skylines are the same—is not quite real. It’s because I haven’t been to that skyline yet, because it is only a picture still, because it is only false distant light that sprays into my eyes and romances me, that it isn’t real. It’s a beautiful landscape, and an endless expanse of sauntering solitude, full of enough fertile earth to care for me and to keep me and the rest of the American population nurtured in womblike quietness for the rest of our lives. Were I to know the fearsome reality of things like this before I started them, I would never to my ability start anything at all. That’s the beauty and benefit of romanticism. A romantic will never get what he wants, but he will get something, and enough to turn the next person in line into a romantic. He gets the landscape and the fields, but not the pathway into heaven and its Elysium fields that he thought he saw running through it. Which is just as well, because really there were only the landscape and the fields to begin with. I step off the bridge, put on my aviators, what a remarkable view. 

My main route to Decatur is along IL Old Route 36, a little B-side route of a highway that may have once connected real towns and carried real travelers. Now it has me, my detailed Google printouts, and residents of towns like Buffalo and Dawson, too small to even list their populations on their entering signs. It is the most direct route between Walmart and Philip Romano besides the interstate, on which I am not allowed, presumably because government workers with shovels do not want to clean up splatters of human paste on the roadside, slowly untangling cords of intestines that have wrapped themselves around the cornstalks and down into draining culverts. I know I would not like to be either the current or the former human in such a scenario. But as I walk, on the left side of the road to avoid being rear-ended into the afterlife, I wonder if it’s any less unnerving to be on roads where the speed limit is 55, cars go 65, and more importantly there are no rumble strips. I consider myself a relatively bad driver, but if normal drivers find themselves tearing into rumble strips even a third as often as I do, I have about a 50% chance of my vital organs remaining within 50 feet of each other at the end of the day. Rumble strips save more lives a year than drunk driving takes. I don’t know if that’s a real statistic, but I imagine it to be.

Exhilaration and freshness fade away a little bit once I realize that if I manage to miss a turn, I could end up walking an entire half hour before I’m really sure of it. If I’m walking at 3 mph, the distance I travel in about a half hour is the same as if I drove a car for a minute and a half, and this is coincidentally the strongest argument my friends use for thinking that this is a ridiculous thing I’m doing. Terror strikes each time I see a street that doesn’t appear to be on the map. Something similar to terror, but with a more steady, consistent pulse, begins festering when 19 minutes pass and I’m still not on Camp Butler Rd, 25 minutes, 30 minutes. I can’t lose a half hour; I’m already arriving at Decatur after nightfall. Why did I even attempt this. What a laughable embarrassment to be turned around on the first hour of the trip, to have lost too much time to continue. I’ll be home by 9 a.m. Good god. I will never tell my friends about this. I’ll tell them I slept in today. Failing is absolutely not an option, especially this early, but I have to find—oh, look, Camp Butler Rd. Hoorayyy. 

Ah yes, my exhilaration and freshness. It is back and I’m once again floating above the pavement in the great American trip of vast American beautiful waves of grain, yes, Kerouac. Of course, 12 hours is a long time to be alone, and pretty soon I find myself hungry for human interaction. Just as apple cores are to beggars, my simple brief hellos with the traffic taste like buffets of conversation. 

One thing I notice in particular about highway drivers, people in trucks are friendlier than the regular people in regular cars. My only communications for these 12 hours last about 2 seconds each, the time it takes for me to nod the brim of my blue and white Red Sox cap to oncoming cars and for them to lift a few fingers off their steering wheels back at me. It’s the ones in the trucks—the semis, the construction workers, the government trucks—that wave. Most other people in cars and minivans sort of look at me and move on, either registering too late that someone acknowledged their existence on earth, or afraid of or disgusted by the dirty vagabond and the dirty wild things that they imagine must go on behind those big blue aviators (I do look pretty trampy), although what on earth exactly they can’t pinpoint, because their imaginations are restricted to summoning up only gross ambiguous blobs of fear. Nevertheless, it is the truckers I can count on to wave—a meaningless gesture, but it’s all we have, and I think that is why truckers do it, because they are in the same boat. I see one truck in particular, one of those multilevel flatbeds of death, stacked up crushed cars on its back, and I imagine what it must be like to be the grim reaper’s janitor. The driver nods at me, and I continue on.

One other mode of communication: every once in a couple hours, someone takes pity on the boy walking in the blazing sun and pulls over to pick him up, take him as far as the interstate. “No,” I say politely to the first truck and “No” again with a smile when he persists. “I do this for fun. I like this.” The most effective form of hitchhiking, I think, is to be on the highway and pretend like you don’t need a ride. Only then do you have their compassion. Let the needy stay needy—there is something ambiguously fearful about them.