Point Conversion

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“The University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill has already been embroiled in a scandal for allowing its athletes to enroll in fake courses for easy credit. Now, the whole controversy has a rather potent visual symbol to go along with it: a 146-word, ungrammatical essay on Rosa Parks that earned an A- for a real intro class.” – Slate, 03/27/2014

“Even as their spending on instruction, research and public service declined or stayed flat, most colleges and universities rapidly increased their spending on sports, according to a report being released Monday” – New York Times, 04/07/2014

The Campus Guide led us down the promenade, the artificially-created pond at the North-most edge of the extended quad glistening a clear, pure shade of whitish blue in the soft sunlight of summer.

“I hear the equipment in your labs is a cut above,” I mentioned to make conversation. “Reg was really excited about being on the cutting edge.”

Reg, a step ahead, looked back at me with unbridled teenage hatred, and I couldn’t help but smile: whether by defense mechanism or natural perversion, my natural reaction over the past 17 years to his enraged bemusement regarding his father’s sense of humor. Of course, Reg was the only one who got it anyway, because no one else on the tour knew his ultimate goal was to become a surgeon.

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English Major RPG

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Welcome to English Major RPG!

Press Enter to begin Level 1

>> [ENTER]

You are in a long corridor. All around you is blackness and a foul-smelling odor. You feel dankness and something sticky on the ground. Ahead is a single white dot of light.

What would you like to do?

>> Walk to LIGHT

The world comes into focus. You are passed out on the quad of STATE SCHOOL, soaked in your own urine. The urge to vomit is coming upon you. URGE TO VOMIT attacks!

>> Use HAND

VOMIT wins, and leaves your hand disabled with its toxin attack! A student passing by is slightly sprayed.

>> Run like a coward

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Creative Writing 101: You Start Here

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post attacking the practical value of Creative Writing programs in colleges. Since then, I’ve been thinking about how to fulfill the desire many people look to those programs for: we all want a next step, a course of development, towards being a real writer. What is the development, if you don’t get it in a classroom?

Though not very glamorous, author is a “glamour profession” in that it does not depend on education, experience, and job hunting but on ineffable talent combined with pure-ass luck. This disorients most people, since other people’s dreams like “doctor” or “unscrupulous investment banker” do depend on education, experience, and job hunting and they follow a delineated path of milestones towards those dreams.

Furthermore, no one in a position of of advice-giving like teacher or career counselor or college counselor understands how authors become authors, so no one around you really seems to know how any of it works, and it takes about 30 years to figure it out on your own. Here’s some of it.

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The Best Creative Writing Colleges of 2013

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All college Creative Writing programs are terrible. The concept and systemic reality of college Creative Writing programs is terrible. In principle and practice: terrible. I got a degree in Creative Writing (an undergrad double-major, with English) and man it was a bad joke. No offense to myself and Jeff and other wonderful people involved, but I mean… damn. Everyone is terrible. I was terrible. I might have been the terriblest: I was unmotivated and childish, and but so are most college students. How good can a 17-21 year old be? If you’re in undergrad right now, I’m pretty sure you’re terrible too.

But how could you teach writing as a college class anyway, like it was Calc II or something, and grade it? Basically, it’s a bunch of college students sitting around being forced to talk about each other’s misspelled, ridiculously-plotted, gut-clenchingly embarrassing trash – like, phoned-in 10th grade trash. While the sweaty professor maintains an air of respectful suspended-disbelief, the way the Queen would if someone with a developmental disability threw a used condom on her face, and holds forth about “craft.”

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“Important Moments in History”

Inspired by Jeff’s series of old-school stories and poems in his “Blast From The Past” series, here (unedited and unchanged) is a story I wrote in 2007 when Jeff and I were Creative Writing classmates in college. There’s a lot of cussing, but also earnest introspection. And strippers.

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“Important Moments In History”

A: Wake up, jackass.

B: Ah! What the shit?

C: Wake up.

B: No.

A: No? Fuck you, no. “No.”

B: I’m skipping the day.

A: Skipping the day?

C: He does that sometimes. He either stayed up all night on the internet, or out drinking with his friends.

B: The first one. I’m not even cool enough to go out drinking. I was up all night on the internet. It’s sad, really. Look at me. I didn’t even shave this crazy moustache. Look at this crazy moustache I got. This is ridiculous.

A: Kick him.

C: ‘kay.

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New York Cares volunteering Pt. 3

My friends seem to like my accounts of volunteering through New York Cares, a fantastic volunteering organization that has allowed me to help out on a wide variety of projects all over the city. So here I am writing a third edition to catch everyone up on my experiences since I wrote last time. There’s a lot of ground to cover since it’s been about three weeks since my part 2, so I might sum things up more quickly this time.

Variety Night at Coler Hospital

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The Rubber-Tree League

Hogwarts_at_Wizarding_WorldOccasionally I’ll get a call from my Alumni Association. Some peppy volunteer is on the line, asking if I want to share some of my wealth in gratitude to my Alma Mater. Ironically, these calls always come when I have no job. When I explain, the girl expresses her understanding and, it seems, a little bit of guilt, as if she understands it’s her fault, and the University’s, for giving me a useless degree in something like English, and they all feel bad about it now, the big mistake.

I’ve gotten plenty of jobs, of course, as a teacher and an office drone, but never when the Alumni Association calls. I like to think it’s the same girl (Karen, I call her) and Karen has been calling me randomly for the past 5 years, rooting for me to finally land a gig somewhere, but I never do. Karen thinks I live under a bridge somewhere and marvels at my upbeat attitude, an inspiration to all of them at Alumni Call Center, constantly being denied, perhaps berated. “Stiff upper lip,” Karen tells her compatriots. “We may not get donations, but I just spoke to Jeshua again, and I’m sure he’s drinking ditchwater.” “That poor son of a bitch.” Continue reading