Monday, May 31, 2004

A Mad Libs Horror Story


From here.

One fastidious night in McKinley Park a fallow ghost named Armand Ryden was walking home from a lurid day of spooking and eating. Suddenly, he felt as though a strange pair of eyes were flowing him. He said, "Dooood!" and started walking faster, but he heard footsteps behind him, and soon he heard a voice, calling him by name.

It sounded just like Tina Fay, the spookiest person alive.

She said that she wanted to learn to become a ghost, so that she could be more floral than ever. Armand Ryden thought it over, and decided that he would make Tina Fay a ghost if Tina Fay gave him three wishes in exchange.

And that is how Armand Ryden ended up being Duke of all Scanton, PA, having more dishes than Bill Gates, and why Casper, that milky bastard, isn't haunting anyone anymore.

The End.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Fan Fiction Question


If time permits, and I'm not sure it will, I will be writing some fan fiction this summer.
My two major projects are Harry Potter and a framework for Madeleine L'Engle's works. In the case of the latter, I've gotten caught up in trying to make it through the canon, plus find our her particular stance on fan fiction.

However, I'm thinking of branching out in a somewhat benign way, and I'm interested in opinions here.
I'm considering using some of those grand old original NES games for source material, and I've got it specifically narrowed down to:




The question is where to start (time permitting)?
So I am requesting opinions.
This isn't a vote as much as an open-ended question. Where should I put my time and energy, and why?
Please let me know if you've got any ideas...

~ Connor

Ghosts or Vampires?




Things have been disorienting lately, but a different style of disorienting than I'm used to.

For starters, the whole work thing. It bounces back and forth between me googling and blogging away whilst filing, trying to remain oblivious to this sort of stagnant hostility most of the nurses, doctors, and office staff have developed towards one another. It's felt that way for awhile, but recently the conflict has been a lot more visible. And I'm still frustrated that they haven't offered me (and aren't going to) a full time position, even though I not have reservations about whether I'd even accept it.

Chicago Project No. 2 has suffered another setback. Less than two weeks from opening, one of our two actors dropped out, and the only actor remaining had only signed onto the project last February. You know what that means... we're more fragmented than the original Marilyn Manson. Anyway, we're going through with the show. Our former lighting designer, Elisabeth, has signed onto the part. We pushed back the production back two weeks. It's nice to have the extra time. Although that means summer will be starting even later than expected.

I've been very adult and responsible lately. At least compared to normal. It's a little odd. I got a bank account. I signed up for internet service at my apartment. I went to the supermarket and bought a Toilet Brush.
Last night I threw a party, mainly to motivate myself to clean. I cleaned my whole apartment, and then only one person showed up.

Here is what the invitation said:


10 PM, Friday (today) May 28th
3613 S. Archer #3F

Please read #9, at the end of this email.



I am throwing a "party" tonight at 10 PM.

3613 S. Archer #3F
By car: LSD to Stevenson.  Stevenson to Damen.  Left.  Damen to Archer.  Right.
Park across the street from the CTA stop (right next to Los Comales taqueria).
By CTA: 55 W to Western.  Western N to Archer.  Walk 2 blocks east to Los
Comales.  *OR* #6 N to downtown.  Transfer to Orange Line.  To
35/Archer.  Cross street to Los Comales.
WHERE IS THE DOORBELL?  To the left of the door (3613), in a doorway alcove.
The one on top.

BYOB.  I'm poor.  See below.
BYSO.  Boyfriends, girlfriends, brothers, and sisters.  see below.
BYOM.  The beats, man, the beats.
No food.  No handouts.  Just hungry hip fun.

Please read #9, at the end of this email.



It's summer and I love my apartment situated in the barmy stockyards
neighborhood of McKinley Park.  It's getting balmy and nice with the fairer
months and its kind of sad that nobody ever sees the place but me.
That said, my lease explicitly forbids "Big Parties" so I am opting for a Mild
Get Down (MGD) instead.

Much of the relevant information is encased in the austere and concise versions

Please find all other relevant rules and regulations below:

1.  Regarding BYOB.  I cannot afford to get you all lushy.  Bring tools to this
end.  EXCEPTION!  The guy (or gal) who brings a) a television and SNES/NES with
Megaman, Castlevania, Mario, or whateverelsethefuckyoucanscareup games, or b) a
CD-Rom emulator that achieves the same.  Alternately, DDR was awesome at the
scavhunt party, and, in combination with a TV and accouterments with which to
place, would be an equally worthwhile venture.  That gal (or guy) will receive
a Guinness or a Rum Coke.

2.  Regarding BYOS.  Significant Others are Welcome.  So are Sibling Others.  So
are Siamese Others.  The Other in general, however, inflicts upon me a
disassociative postmodern angst, so keep it away!  All away!  Besides, we would
risk our MGD turning into a BP and drawing the attention of the CPD down at the

3. Regarding BYOM.  I have cool music.  If you don't like it, you suck, but you
can always bring your own.  That said, this is my MGD, and I choose to ignore,
and by doing so refuse to acknowledge and play, any music written or recorded
between the years 1980 and 1989 in which the artist's name is not contained
within the phrases "Sugar Hill Gang," "Run DMC," "Jackson," "Depeche Mode," or
"the Cure."  Worry not; we will compensate by playing extensive quality from
the 70s and 90s.

4. My poor neighbor.  We must let him sleep.  I'll let you know now, I'm going
to be a bastard about the noise level, and probably scream at you to shut up
too many times.

5. In the event that the Scavvies and Judges outnumber non-Scavvies/Judges at
this MGD by a 2:1 ratio some of us will have to talk about something other than
scavhunt some of the time so that the MGD doesn't suck for those who haven't
"joined us in the big hunt" in the words of one motor city mad man.

6. No Hipsters.  No Yuppies.  Hipster Yuppies, however, are fine, though they
may be employed in our game of Pin the Tail on the Ass.  South Side Hipsters
smell funny, and should pass on my MGD in favor of swilling coffee at Huck
Finns up the street.  Hipsters disguised as Yuppies are really cool, actually,
so long as done with heart and talent.  Yuppies disguised as Hipsters are an
abomination that will be tolerated.

7. On a related note, if I see *either* one fucking pirate *or* one fucking
ninja, then dammit, I better see at least one lumberjack.  I'll give the first
lumberjack a Guinness or Rum Coke, but only if it's done with heart and talent.

8. Dan, if you haven't got anything nice to say, than don't say anything at all.

9. This is a bit risky for me.  I am sending this out ad hoc and at the last
minute in an attempt to keep attendance at a reasonable number, being too soft
hearted not to invite any relevant chums.  If my sweete studio fills past
capacity (which will happen around the time the 20th person arrives), we may
have to take drastic action, like moving our space pod to the Union Stockyard
Gate ( and reading exerpts
from "The Annotated Jungle" while smelling the luxurient scent of lead mingled
with fermenting pork products that so permeates that neck of the woods.

All joking aside, I am a little worried about this spilling out of control if
more people show up than I expect.
We may have to be suddenly resourceful.
I ask that everyone is respectful of my neighbors, and pay attention to what's
going on.

Already concerned,


The sky is falling!

In the end, the only partier (see Roger and Me for details) was Austin "the Awesome Bossman from Boston," captain of the Pierce scav hunt team. He brought an NES emulator, but we discovered that my computer was too slow to run it. I gave him a Guinness. He did me the dignity of hanging out a little before leaving. Then I went to sleep.

Also, the landscape of Chicago is changing this summer.
My last student contacts are staring to fade. The students who were 1st years when I was a 4th year will graduate now. At the same time, Elisabeth just moved to Hyde Park with her sister, Jenny. Paul might be settling down in Milwaukee. Sam and Hallie will be coming back at the end of this summer.

I feel like the Occlusion Group may be ready to plunge off in a totally new direction. Several of our projects have been reexamined, and I think the makeup of the group may be changing somewhat.

Thursday was fun.
After work I helped Elisabeth and Jenny and their parents move in. Then rehearsal, and then a scavhunt meeting, where we discussed many options for next year, some of which will be retained, some discussed and discarded, and many probably simply forgotten. We drank good Scotch. Then Jessica, Dan, Elisabeth, and myself drove to the Golden Apple in Lakeview, and Dan bought me dinner. Because he owed me.

I know there's no rhyme or reason to the chronology of this post.
That's all right; I'm disoriented.

~ Connor

Friday, May 28, 2004

Yuppies or Hipsters?


Yes you have to choose one...

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Robots or Zombies?


Cowboys or Lumberjacks?


Ninjas or Pirates?


It's been done a million times already.
So humor me.

Riddle #3


Answer to Riddle #2: A bottle of gin. Easy if you said it with a British accent.

Riddle #3:

The poor have it.
The rich need it.
And if you drink it you'll die.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Old, Hungry Glory


The following is from an email exchange between Elisabeth and myself.
We've both revised slightly.
Gemma also commented at the end, and with her permission, I include this as an extension of the original conversation.

By the way, read Andrew Heller's take on Army Spc. Jeremy Sivits' hometown welcome.

Elisabeth writes:

Returning, I am shocked constantly by two things: the amount of space, which is understandable, and the amount of flags, which is not so easily understood.

There are flags everywhere. In parking lots. On street corners. In buildings' courtyards. At the beach there are flags every 20 yards on the walkway. Houses exhibit flags. Factories have flags. On the side of a shop building I just passed there was a huge sign with a painting of a flag, maybe 20 feet long:




Am I misinterpreting or is that majorly bloodthirsty?

I cannot remember the last time or place in which I saw a British flag and I've been living there for years. When I was in Italy the only places I saw Italian flags were on graphic logos for dopey touristy pizza places. I did not see any flags when I visited
Germany. I have spoken with Germans who recoil at the thought of exhibiting flags. They explain that the very thought of patriotism to most Germans is unheard of. One German friend told me he would never be caught dead saying "I'm proud to be German." This is more than likely a result of hereditary guilt of some sort or another...
But Britain has little to feel collectively guilty about. (Well, there is much one could feel guilty about, but it's not famously bad stuff like the Holocaust).

What is it that makes Americans so patriotic?

It isn't that Brits or Germans are not happy to be British or German, or don't like their countries.

There isn't a single answer on this really, and I'll have to read more about it, I think, to gain any clearer thinking about the phenomenon.

I have to admit that I feel vaguely like a secret enemy of the nation, infiltrating this vast array of locked arms, set jaws, etc. I'm scared to say anything. I made a remark on how many flags there were at the beach to my sister's boyfriend, and when we returned to the car I noticed the American flag sticker on the window of his car. The car trip back home - 10 minutes - was just one lonesome discovery after another. Glumly looking out the window from the backseat, oh look, the fire hydrants are painted red white and blue.

This makes me glum because I feel like this amount of patriotism has got to be unhealthy. It must affect everything. It must make everyone's heads big. Mustn't it? Do you have any musings on this flag phenomenon?

Connor responds:

I do, but they contradict each other.

On the one hand, I went to a White Sox game yesterday, I almost teared up a little during the singing of the anthem... 22,000 people, young, old, big, small, black, white, and brown, all singing one song... a song that, one would hope, stands for more than just a geographical space.

But then, that was the same sort of patriotism I felt when I was protesting the war in Iraq... thousands of us, young, old, big, small, black, white, and brown, all in one place for one purpose... with more in common than a geographical space.

Two defining moments of patriotism I identify with. And identify with unequivocally.

On the other hand, one thing that pisses me off consistently, day after day, morning after morning are the ginormous words printed on the side of Canal Street Storage.

DEC 7 1947 (Flag) America will NOT forget! (Flag) SEPT 11 2001.

Mind you this building is the size of a factory.

It pisses me off firstoff because regardless of the intent, after awhile, it begins to sound like an order: "We will remember because I have it written in twenty foot high letters that you have to see twice a day, five days a week.

It pisses me off secondly because there's no way to respond, unless of course you post an appropriately oppositional message across the tracks, get sancioned by the city of Chicago, barricaded in by the CPD and probably beaten by the 11th Ward Democrats. Agreement is assumed.

It pisses me off thirdly because the last people who need to be told this are the commuters on Chicago's Orange Line. We know. We remember. You don't have to remind us day after day after day. And besides, I think from individuals to nations, we're wonderful at remembering the wrongs done to us, and horrible at recognizing, much less remembering the wrongs we have doen to others.

Now I suspect this "mural" was probably painted by Canal Street Storage shortly after 9/11 with a patriotic spirit and good intentions. For all I know the designers and creators are reasonable and circumspect, and may despise our policies of late as much as I do.
Still, the mural has gradually apalled me with evething it implies and everything it suggests. As you observed, a "vast array of locked arms, set jaws."

I think patriotism, or hell, nationalism, is a big deal here right now.
Conservatives still level charges of being unpatriotic at dessenters, although their rhetoric has softened minutely since Iraq fell to shit.
Given the unpopularity of the U.S. abroad right now, Americans have had to either rally (to hide) behind the flag or take up a very compromising position on the other side.
And there's still 911 Residual.

But I do think American patriotism has long been a bigger deal than for many other nations, and I think a lot of that has to do with the locality of success and the distance of failure. We've been able to bask in our triumphs while not even acknowledging our huge and/or obvious failures. That's a luxury that equivalently powerful industrial nations with a long history (the U.K., France, Germany, Italy) do not have.
Eastern Europe or the developing world might be a different story, though I think patriotism is different there as well.

But I agree that excessive flag waving happens.

It is big headed...

and obnoxious...

and definitely unhealthy.

Gemma comments

It's interesting to think about . . . I heard something on NPR about a year ago about Orwell's distinction between patriotism and nationalism. D'apres lui, patriotism is a positive thing--what you felt at the march, at the national anthem, what it used to feel when communities/neighborhoods just got together at the Fourth of July. It exists in itself, and is not associated with anything but itself, with these almost-arbirtrary people you happen to be connected to. And I felt that in NYC for the week and a half after September 11 that I was there, particularly in Tribeca: we were connected to each other by the force of this event, and that had, while not its own beauty per se, its own significance. Nationalism, on the other hand, is a process of comparison, a dick thing, a cold war, a butter battle, and that's what I think most flag-waving in America is right now. Patriotism is patrio, the fatherland--it's about familial associations. Nationalism is a matter of proving yourself to be something in order to show up someone else.

And I think those distinctions apply on many smaller scales. Remind me to have this conversation with you about the social life of ScavHunt.

Blog Progress


I continue to revise and rework this blog.


If anyone's willing to help me expand my html in a meaningful way, there might be an Abe Lincoln in it for you. Oh, hell, there may even be a bucket of Harold's Chicken with sauce.


On a related note, most free web sites I am aware of (Geocities, Topcities, Angelfire, etc.) prohibit linking to images from outside sites (like blogger). Does anyone know of a free host service to which I can upload images and link to them?


I've been adding links in all categories on a rolling basis... be sure to check them out.

If you know of cool Art links (not specific artists, but resources or articles) let me know.
The Chicago links are more-or-less finished.
I like most of my Flint links, but a few are lame. If anyone can suggest replacements, I will consider them.
The Music links are more-or-less finished.
The Politics links have a ways to go. Make suggestions. Bear in mind I'm a socialist, which has a huge impact on what I choose in the end.
The Vicious Circle is for anything else too cool to miss out on, not listed above. I'm aiming for around 60-75 at least. I can use plenty of suggestions here.


Is it legible?
Is it navigable?
How are the comments working?
Are the posts interesting?
What would you like to see more of?
What would you like to see less of?
What else?

~ Connor

The Rangers and the Sox


Yesterday I needed a break.

Life has been more than a little stressful, and it boils down to drama in the last Nocturnal show, drama with my friends, and drama at work.

None of which I really want to go into on a public blog.
Little of which you would be all that interested in hearing.
But if you're curious, send me an email and I'll let you in on the nitty gritty.

Anyway, I bought half-price tix to the White Sox game against the Rangers at Comisky*.
I recently opened a bank account, so I was able to use my new, shiny charge card.
I haven't been approved for a credit card yet.
That's because I have lousy credit.

For around 20 dollars, I got a Polish and a coffee (I dispensed with two Old Styles around the -3rd inning, in the main room of my apartment) and plopped myself down on the upper deck just out from 1st base.

The game itself was a little frustrating. The Sox were never doing that bad, even though they eventually lost 7-3. Both teams managed to get in some good hitting (with the exception of Valentin, who sucked) and fielding in, and at least three dramatic steal attempts. In the end, though, Texas seemed to have an edge in their pitching. The innings kept starting at unfortunate places in Chicago's batting order. The final score wasn't all that indicative of the actual game play.

But I didn't care.

I was their to relax, to watch the sand smoothed out and hear the crowds cheering; to watch the sun set and lights flash on all over the south side.

At the end, I was going to hop a bus, but the streets were blocked off all around. So I ended up walking back. Not far; less than three miles. I walked under the rail lines as part of a huge throng which gradually melted away through Bridgeport and finally vanashed by the time I reached Lituanica. From there, occasionally a car full of kids would roar by, cheering "Sox!" and I walked through the factories north of the stockyards. I was passed by a bus for the first time at Ashland. Then I walked through McKinley Park, and got home, and went to bed.

A very nice; a very relaxing evening for once.

I am excited now, because Elisabeth, one of my best friends, is moving to Chicago tomorrow, and that's when I really expect the Occlusion Group activity to pick up. In addition she is going to help with the Nocturnal's production of Chicago Project No. 2 (which I will officially announce shortly). We're also having our last scavhunt meeting tomorrow, so I'll be running all day long.

Tonight... though... Tonight, I clean.

And maybe stop out at the Archview for a coffee.

~ Connor

* It will always be.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Objectivism Deferred


Not so much because I continue to be clueless about it, but because I really don't have time in the evenings to spend on this blog, and work is too hectic these days to squeeze in a post of a length sufficient to make a comprehensive report.

It will happen. It will.
I will rail on objectivism. I'll call it Me vs. Objectivism.
Then, my objectivist readers (I know of one or two, no kidding) will rail on me. I'll post it and call it Objectivism vs. Me.
Then my army of mutant Martian monkey zombie robots will arrive and will beat the dead horse. This will be known as Me vs. Objectivism, version 2.0.

And so on.

Some day!

~ Connor

Monday, May 24, 2004

Blue skies blue, version 1.0


Talking about objectivism has been postponed a day on account of this just being a really shitty day. For a number of reasons.

I hope to dig into it tomorrow.

~ Connor

My 5 Favorite Things This Weekend...


before I get onto Serious Stuff.

#5. Sharing guacamole and chicken and shrimp and sipping nuclear martinis in the stormy shadows of Cate's apartment, at her birthday party, with friends and acquaintences. We shared stories of the strangest people we'd ever known; the people they'd tried in vain to seduce, the dieties they'd allegedly personified, and the giant chickens they'd engaged in fisticuffs.

#4. Standing in the solarium at Blackstone during role-playing, with Meridith, Jessica, Dan, and Laura, and watching a massive storm with spectacular lighting crawl over the battlements and towers and steeples of the University and the Midway. Rolling many dice.

#3. Reading Martin Esslin's essay on Pinter's "the Dumb Waiter" with Colin and Maggy. We sat in small, dark room in a dirty basement reading about a play set in a small, dark room set in a dirty basement. Maggy saw a mouse. Together we filled in blanks about the dangers of routine, and the risk in setting up sanctuary in a space you have not prepared yourself.

#2. Walking from McKinley Park to Hyde Park, 6 miles and one on the bus, in 90 minutes... watching the children play in the street in my own neighborhood, by gas stations and tenements and brick bungalows... absorbing the strange smells of the stockyard district... watching the CPD stalk warily back and forth across 35th in the shadow of Comisky... finding myself misplaced in the Ida B. Wells projects and mentally tossing coins to decide which direction to walk... admiring the post-apocalypse at Ellis and 41st... longing for the crumbling manors of North Kenwood... contemplating the restored manors of South Manor... and the forced march through Hyde Park to arrive, to my surprise, on time... and moments before the storm broke.

#1. Later the same night, in the heat of the storm, and surrounded by lightning, climbing with Dan and Colin and Sonia and a Scavvy up some back ladder onto the roof of a Hyde Park tenement. We bellowed and yelled and danced. We were instantly soaked. We were surrounded by the skyline and sky.

~ Connor

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Scav Hunt in the News


Information provided by Ashley.

The following was featured on the main screen of AOL Instant Messenger:

Welcome to World's Largest Scavenger Hunt
This year's challenges include building a "Calvin Kleinometer," producing "a McDonald's Sad Meal" and even demonstrating "that there really is a wrong way to eat a Reese's." Welcome to what's billed as the world's largest scavenger hunt at the University of Chicago.

Friday, May 21, 2004

This post is deep... as a bathtub.


Well, what can I say?

It's the end of another long week of work and I'm exhausted.
Exhausted, and going into a weekend full of parties and drama.
My plan right now is incredibly romantic; I'm going to hop the El back to my cluttered and messy apartment, make a pot of coffee, make a plan to clean, and then start reading Chris Ware as the first chords of the Juno Reactor fill my room. Then boom. I'm out until five PM.

I have a Scavhunt party tonight.
They are known to get a little rowdy sometimes.
Especially when eggs or water balloons are involved.
I will be bringing by bottle of Early Time since I want to retire late and not spend too much money in the process.

Yes, I know this post is all fluff and no substance.
I was thinking about taking on objectivism today, but I'm too tired.
Frankly I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.
Objectivism can wait until Monday.


My bed awaits...

~ Connor "the child of the morning" Coyne

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Laughing Backwards.


I feel compelled to write today, but don't have much to write about.

Yesterday, when I was riding the El to work, I learned that I evidently trust my eyes more than my feet.

The window of the train (one of a kind) was clear and spotless, and a one-way window (to some sort of storage room?) stood perpendicular... also spotless.

I was standing because it was the morning rush hour.

Looking into the one-way window, I saw a perfect reflection of the approaching skyline behind the train tracks, factories, and bungalows. And by closing my right I, it seemed that my geographical orientation was completely different... That I approached downtown Chicago from the northeast instead of the southwest.

It got to the point where my brain even began to interpret the forward pull of the train (contradicting what I saw) as a sort of idiosyncratic jostling.

I almost fully convinced myself the train was moving backwards.

~ Connor

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A Taste of What's to Come


To understand this post, you will have to read this letter from the official site of the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

* * * * *

An Open Letter to Bishop Sheridan

Your Excellency,

I have read your pastoral letter dated May 1st, in which you deny communion to Catholics who vote "supporting legislation or candidates that defy God's law." I wish to respond.

Despite your claims that "the Church never directs citizens to vote for any specific candidate," I wonder, in this particular case, how many alternatives you would afford us. It seems to me that the pro-life and anti-gay marriage platforms you demand brook little room for discussion or compromise.

I will take you at your word, however, supported as it is by numerous references to catechism, and doing so I can only draw the conclusion that you must forthwith deny communion to all Catholics.

I believe you refer to pro-choice candidates such as John Kerry.
Yet how could I, as a well-informed Catholic confidently support President Bush, who is responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of lives through the invasion of Iraq, an action decried by Pope John Paul II, half the world, and now more than half of all Americans?
How could I, as a well-informed Catholic, confidently support conservative candidates who consistently cut programs that support poor single mothers, those most likely to seek abortion (and who will continue to seek dangerous abortions if abortion is made illegal) in favor of tax breaks benefitting the affluent?

I believe you refer to congressmen pushing for the right to die.
Yet how could I, as a well-informed Catholic, confidently support their opponents who cater to the pharmaceutical industry while gutting social security, and impose debt and indignity upon our ill and senior citizens?

Finally, you explicitly refer to advocates of gay marriage.
Yet how could I, as a well-informed Catholic, fail to consider Christ's dictum that "you love your neighbor as yourself," in favor of an obscure passage from Leviticus (of a set, the others of which have been ignored without controversy), and deny my brothers and sisters companionship and financial security.

As you can see, no choice is exempt from contradiction or ambiguity. As such, to honor your resolution, you must deny communion to all Catholics.

Unless, that is, your letter merely uses the eucharist as a political bargaining chip, in which case you endanger the credibility of both your ministry and the Church at large.


Connor Coyne

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"Try not to think"


Yesterday was a pretty mundane busy Monday.
Work from 8 to 5:30. An hour bus ride home.
Rehearse 7 to 10.

The end of rehearsal, however is worth comment.

Yesterday we finished up a series of Improvisation exercises by Viola Spolin aimed towards awareness and perception. The next series of exercises are character driven, and are inspired by Stanislavsky, Meisner, and Peter Brook, but I found a compelling segue between the two.

* * * * *

During Scavhunt I was judging an item at the Seminary Co-Op with several other judges, including Jessica. I noticed a book sitting on the counter entitled Astonish Yourself! 101 experiments in the philosophy of everyday life, by Roger-Pol Droit. I picked it up and started reading, and Jess mentioned that it looked like something I'd find interesting, so she had bought it several weeks earlier.

The book is very "French philosophy" if you catch my meaning. Very chameleon Camuslike. Indulgent and woozy and abstract, but frankly, often fun.

The thing is, they're perfect for transition, because they all explore a mode of perception, but in a much more ambiguous and open way than the Spolin exercises we've performed, which almost approached games.

To begin, we took a walk during which we randomly determined direction by coin toss at each intersection. Our walk began at 60th and Ellis, ran north to 59th, west to Maryland, north to 57th, east to Drexel, north to 56th, west to Cottage Grove, south to 58th, and finally east to Maryland, where we stopped and performed the experiment: #39. "Try not to think."

I'll only quote a little, in case you'd like to check out the book:

The most effective training consists in letting your thoughts flow by. Don't stop them (impossible) but don't hold on to them (possible). Observe them as you do passing clouds, far off and inevitable. Imitate the indifference of the sky. Persevere in remaining yourself unclouded, and pay no attention to what is passing by.

* * * * *

We attempted not thinking for about ten minutes.

I have to say I enjoyed this thoroughly.
It was impossible of course... the second I caught myself "not thinking," I thought about it, so it essentially became an exercise in glazing over, which I do often enough without effort.

The really interesting thing was what happened to my observations

First, I found the intersection we had arrived at to be amazingly beautiful. 58th and Maryland is in the very heart of the hospital complex. We sat with some new high-tech medical facility behind us, other hospital buildings to the left and kittycorner, and a parking garage straight ahead. The air was languid and warm but breezy and dozens of sulpher-looking streetlights, high and low, cast kaleidoscopic shadows through hundreds of different shapes. And ivy grew up the side of the parking lot, which I found both idiosyncratic and captivating. The ivy glimmered. There was a hiss of buses and cars over and above all, almost like an ocean.
These are the kinds of things I ordinarily take pains to notice.
Deliberately not noticing was borderline... painful.

Second, while I was able to phase-out my awareness of what was constant around me, whenever something unexpected happened, the sentation was acute, immediate, and confrontational.
Several times people walked by and noticed us. I came to with a sudden shock, almost like cold water contact, followed by a brief embarassment.
At one point, a man walking down the street, thirty or so feet away, kicked a plastic cup, but it sounded like a gun report.

* * * * *

After the exercise, rehearsal was over.
We walked to the Reynolds club, discussing the experience.
Maggy left for the Reg.
Colin and I went to Uncle Joe's.
Colin bought coffee. I bought a Vanilla Coke.
We discussed finding jobs... better jobs.
Then we walked back to the Blackstone, where he said goodbye.
Jessica made some of her tomato soup, which I love.


~ Connor

Monday, May 17, 2004

$5 Beer


Something a little lighter for a change...

This weekend seemed all spliced together, and I wound up doing a million different things in a million different places. Still, after the pressure cooker of Scavhunt last weekend, I felt totally cut free.

On Friday, I left work at around noon and went home to clean and look for positive ID (that is, my Passport and Birth Certificate, since I misplaced my Drivers License). I found them, took a nap, and traveled to Hyde Park. That night we went to a party at Joe's with a bunch of Scavhunt judges and Sam Smith from FIST. I have really gotten bad at video games, by the way. I kept biting it through Super Mario World, which is just an echo of my numerous Megaman failings late at night during the hunt (I fell off the blocks at the end of Wily 1 in MMII not once or twice, but three times). At about eleven, Jess and I went to Togo's for a snack, and when we got back, people were preparing to go to a toga party at the Shoreland (dorm). We went home, argued a bit, and that was that.

On Saturday, I got up early and got a Checking and Savings account at 5/3 Bank (they're convenient and user-friendly, and seem a lot less evil than Bank One or Citibank). I also applied for a credit card for which I will probably be denied. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but it sort of is, given my perpetual incompentance in all things financial. I've been using currency exchanges, money orders, and cash for all of my transactions for about three years now... basically since I got out of college. It's nice to have that behind me.

When I got back to Hyde Park, Jess and Matt and I went to Milwaukee to see the Brewers take on the Braves. Of all the games to see. The Braves won 11 to 6, and it took four hours. I don't think I've ever seen such lousy pitching or catches. Runners were walked home on more than one occasion, and there was at least a couple runs scored when the catcher missed the ball.

But it was fun to visit a new ballpark, and see a bit of Milwaukee (that vertical Cleveland). In the end, I only spent fifteen dollars between beer, fries, and a Polish dog.

On Sunday I missed church, but I didn't miss Thalia's first birthday party (Thalia is the daughter of Jen and Mike Kennedy).
Then rehearsal for Chicago Project No. 2.
Then roleplaying.

When I came into work this morning, I felt as if I'd been away for months.
Too bad, actually; I was unprepared for the waiting piles of filing and resentment this morning...

It has been too long...

~ Connor

Friday, May 14, 2004

Walk on the Wild Side


"Holly came from Miami F.L.A.
hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
shaved her leg and then he was a she
She says, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

Candy came from out on the island
in the backroom she was everybody's darling
But she never lost her head
even when she was given head
She says, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side

and the coloured girls go
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo

Little Joe never once gave it away
everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York city is the place where they said
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I Said hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side

Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
lookin' for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo
you should have seen him go go go
They said, hey Sugar, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side

Jackie is just speeding away
thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
valium would have helped that dash
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

and the coloured girls say
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo"

~ Lou Reed

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Torture and Tornadoes; It's a wild ride, kids!


Torture and humiliation is a landscape without boundaries, a terrible slope that even the most practiced interrogators can slide down once they allow themselves to apply the slightest physical or psychological pressure. -- James Glanz, New York Times

Her family brims with accounts about how strong willed Private England could be. In one, a thunderstorm and tornado blew into town just as her older sister was preparing to graduate from high school, forcing students and their parents to flee the ceremony. While her family huddled in the lowest spot that they could find in their trailer home, Private England wandered into the yard. Ignoring her family's pleas and with the wind howling as loud as a freight train, she tried to photograph the passing funnel.
-- James Dao, New York Times

* * * * *

One of my favorite plays is the Cenci, by Antonin Artaud. It is based on the real struggles and upheavals within a noble family of Rome in the 1600s, and there are multiple versions in verse and prose, all featuring to some extent treason, torture, incest, and murder. Typically, the herione, Beatrice, is set upon by her monstrous father, but also betrayed and abandoned by her lover, friends, and family.

Artaud maintains this interpretation. His version differs, however, in the inclinations and motivations of all characters. Count Cenci is not the only monster on his stage. Orsino, Lucretia, Bernardo, Giacomo, and even Beatrice are all subjected to the same hunger. It's a hunger for domination... a violent, crushing domination that exerts itself through the reduction of enemies into trivial objects to be toyed with.

Artaud's Beatrice trembles as her hired assassins pounds a nail into her father's eye.

Why is this play a favorite of mine?

It isn't particularly well written. The dialogue is cold and unnatural. The plot is contrived. Many of the characters are awkward, clichè, and superficial. Wait.
I take that back. Many of the characters are awkward and clichè.

There is, however, something truthful and simple and honest and even beautiful and even... accessible in that hunger.

It must feel positively godlike to reduce your enemies to something less.

* * * * *

I'm fascinated with the portrayal of 1930s Germany in film and literature. It's almost as if these people sprang from the womb with black boots on their feet and machine guns in their hands. What a coincidence that a whole nation was born inherently evil!

We want control.
We don't want responsibility.
And we need to know that we're "all right."

* * * * *

To my mind:

Is it our responsiblity to disobey authority when it prods us to do the unconscionable? Yes.
Should we be punished for transgressions we are pressed into? Yes.
Are we alone in our guilt? No.
Are we likely to stop ourselves?


Then why punish?

Because organized society exists to facilitate survival among its constituent members. Actions that explicitly and dangerously counter this function are an aberration to society. There is a time for vengeance and reciprocation and this is it.

Give a fair and speedy trial.
Then harshly punish all found guilty.

* * * * *

Do I think it was merely a matter of obedience, by the way?
I do not.

I read an article once in a photography magazine on how the face freezes by rote into a plastic camera smile. We do this automatically, and probably don't even notice most of the time, but if you look at family portraits there is something still and scripted about the smiles.

Spontaneous shots are different; much more lively and energetic. More honest.
The body and face generally tell the truth, I have found.
If you look at the soldiers at Abu Ghraib, there is a glee that doesn't jive with a reluctant "acting out of orders."

They enjoyed it.

* * * * *

A New York Times article recounts how Private England's mother explains how she couldn't have possibly have been acting independently. I don't think she was, actually, honestly, but the explanation strikes a chord with me:

"She's kind of stubborn," her mother, Terrie England, said. "But that doesn't mean she can't follow orders."

Her family brims with accounts about how strong willed Private England could be. In one, a thunderstorm and tornado blew into town just as her older sister was preparing to graduate from high school, forcing students and their parents to flee the ceremony. While her family huddled in the lowest spot that they could find in their trailer home, Private England wandered into the yard. Ignoring her family's pleas and with the wind howling as loud as a freight train, she tried to photograph the passing funnel.

"You talk about the unusual," Mrs. England said. "That child liked it."


At the climax of the Cenci, moments before the two assassins fall upon him, the Count, who has raped his daughter, murdered his sons, and declared war upon authority, turns to the skies and proclaims "I am part of the storm!"

He wasn't the only one...


As a nation, we must realize that there is no correlation between cowardice and atrocity. Flaunting cruelty in the face of a complicit but condemning society may require more courage than a genuine passion for justice.

Moreover, we are exempt from nothing.

As peers of the Columbine killers and soldiers at Abu Ghraib, my young generation already has much to account for.

Learn who is guilty, and punish them hard.

But reserve our vengeance for ourselves.

We could just as easily have been the monsters.

~ Connor


I consulted the following articles to write this post:

Riddle #2


As I went over London Bridge
I met my sister Jenny
I broke her neck and drank her blood
And left her standing empty.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

It had to happen.


I had to eventually post about something other than scavhunt.
I figure, better to get it over with. Our chronic withdrawal is not aided by our insistance on reliving the past, even though we're surrounded by fluorescence and floor essence.

A saltine assault team going asalting.

(Note to self: Stop it!)


I was going to title this post "the Hazel Revolution," but I decided that was too cool a title for what I'm actually writing about here.
Here are some other things I'm not going to write about here:

1. The US mistreatment of prisoners, and correlated events. I'd like to write about this, but I'm not ready yet. I'd be indiscriminately rehashing what others have said. Of course I have opinions. They're just still finding breath. Except this: Step back. Now listen. Listen. Okay then. Good. What do you not think that those who disagree with what you wouldn't say wouldn't say? Answer, but don't stop listening. We are a nation of horrible listeners.

2. Flint. Not much to say today, you know?

3. My career is going nowhere. It's beating a dead horse. You follow?

4. The X-Men. I never got it. Get it?

5. The Nocturnal Presents the Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter, the Hunter and the Bird by Jean Claude van Itallie, and the Cask of Amontillado by E.A. Poe. I simply haven't the energy. Nor the dates/times. See #8.

6. How tired I am right now. See #3.

7. Scavhunt. See all prior posts from 5/5/04 to present.




My goal is for this blog to be more than a personal blog but less than the e-Economist.
I hope it will subtly augment my career by creating a public outlet for my (numerous) projects, and providing a way of tying them all together.
I also hope I can use it to journal my daily life without restraint or reservation, and an aid in corresponding with many people I care about.

Most changes and improvements are made with that thought in mind.

Soon I will remove all links of friends who do 1) do not link to me and 2) I do not correspond with on a somewhat regular basis. Exception: Live Journals who cannot "link externally" from friends pages will stay.
That said, I hope to increase the number of links overall, so if you're a regular reader and would like me to link to you, and are willing to link to me, let me know.


1. Chittagong, Bangladesh
2. Triton, moon of Neptune
3. The mysterious Emma and the ineffable Miki


Sam has been in town a lot lately and I have seen him several times.
Also, Elisabeth and Hallie will soon be joining me here.
It will make Chicago more bearable.
This news makes me very happy.

~ Connor

Item #160


160. The biggest goddamn sombrero we’ve ever seen. Fully functional sombreros only. [12 points per square foot. No goddamn limit. 6 bonus points for a goddamn running rendition of the Mexican Hat dance]

* * * * *

If it isn't a deep, sworn secret, I'd be interested to know what item, in you folks' opinion, almost destroyed the Hunt.
posted by Milligan @ 12:21AM on 2004-05-12 | website | permalink

I don't think it is such a deep, sworn secret. Sunday night, Connor was telling me about the uproar that would have resulted had we really won the Hunt with a 4000 point giant fucking sombrero.
posted by colin @ 1:53AM on 2004-05-12 | website | permalink

* * * * *

I think there's something telling in the fact that despite all the traffic, these are about the only two comments posted in the last week.
Which is fine with me; this is a subject I very much would like to talk about.

Colin correctly identifies the item, but I should make a few qualifications first.
I admit to a little posturing here. When I say this is "the item that almost destroyed Scav Hunt," I say it in much the same way as Rolling Stone said "in order to save themselves, Radiohead had to destroy Rock N'Roll."
I'm not full of shit... there's a definite point I'm trying to communicate, but rhetorical punch isn't the whole story.

I also admit, I can't share all relevant details of this item without breaking the Histrionic Oath, which I am bound to uphold.


I wrote Item #160 this past spring and it made it onto the list with minor modifications. The pointing, however, happened very late in the game, apparently being calculated for hats of a smallish size... say a radius of no more than 4'. The problem was twofold.
First, pointing was by square feet and so grew exponentially (?) as the radius increased. A sombrero with a radius of 6' would be worth more than twice a sombrero of 4'.
Second, not only was no limit stated in the item, but the item explicitly said that there was no limit. This was my doing, but I maintain that it wouldn't have been a problem if the point value would have been decreased by a factor of 5 or 6. I don't think a Hyde Park-sized sombrero is particularly likely, and if it was actually made, would probably deserve to win the Hunt by thousands of points.

At 12 points per square foot, however, a Hyde Park-sized sombrero wasn't necessary. With the winning team amassing somewhere shy of 10,000 points (I believe), a much smaller sombrero could have won the Hunt for any team.

Of course, this could have been headed off early in the Hunt by simply contacting captains before teams had expended great effort on the thing, and changing the wording. As it was, we didn't address the matter until Saturday night when, having visited team HQs, we were startled by the number of ginormous sombreros.

As it turned out, there was no need for worry. The item (thankfully) stipulated sombreros must be full-functional. Snell-Hitchcock built an amazingly dangerous sombrero with a radius of 12', while FIST provided a sound and safe 10' giant condom, neither of which fits my definition of "full-functional." The Pierce team had built the largest and most stylish full-functional sombrero, so I felt comfortable giving them the full-stated award of 600 points, then pointed other teams down from there, based on effort and execution (the two examples above both netted 450 I believe*).

I'll maintain however, that this item could have been disastrous to the Hunt.

Two illustrations:

- There has been some speculation among Palevskians that Snitchcock had won through their sombrero alone. Had the item been pointed correctly, and a giant sombrero won the hunt, there would have been widespread disaffection among many teams (ie. all those who *didn't* have a giant sombrero) and the credibility of the judges would have been difficult to establish in later years.

- In 1999, points for the Breeder reactor were decreased by a margin of 5 so that that item wouldn't win the Hunt. Consider that in 1999 the point change had been announced by midday Friday, not Sunday morning. Consider also that many former Mathewsniks still grumble about this development after 5 years. Finally consider that the fucking-with-teams was especially severe this year. Had we devalued the item on Sunday morning, there would have been widespread disaffection among many teams (ie. all those who *did* have a giant sombrero) and the credibility of the judges would have been difficult to establish in later years.

It would have been a lose-lose situation, for teams, for judges, and for the Hunt... had a full-functional giant sombrero been built. As it is, I don't think they even affected the standings, with the possible exception of the Nonames, who tied with G-Sprout as a result.

~ Connor

* It is a common judge prerogative to keep pointing secret, and I typically do so.
I provide them here because they are necessary to this conversation.
I shall surely be flogged for my transgressions.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

An epic blog...


More Scavhunt here.
I linked to Mr. Kammerer's blog below, but read his Sunday, May 09, 2004 post on scavhunt. It's one of the most transcendent rants on scavhunt I've ever encountered.

Where? Here.


Continuing Migration toward Normal


Today felt more normal than yesterday. Tomorrow will probably feel more normal still.

Of course, I'm getting all sorts of hare-brained schemes to extend the eudaemonia further still, but most or all will be eventually discarded.

I will continue to add links to the resources post from 5/10/04. I added two judge blogs today.

Today, judge nominations. I've received several I've liked, my favorites being "most memorable item judge" (Sebastian), probably for conceiving the item that almost destroyed scavenger hunt.

More later...

Monday, May 10, 2004

Scavhunt 2004 Press / Resources


You will find in this post links to the Official Website of the University of Chicago 2004 Scavenger Hunt, Articles on the Hunt, blogs maintained by judges and participants, and a few other relevant links.
I have also included a few thoughts I've had at the end of the Hunt this year.



Chicago Maroon before, during, and after the Hunt.
Reuters (article also featured in,, and the Pakistan Daily Times)
WBBM News Radio 780
The University of Chicago Chronicle
Wikipedia's University of Chicago entry


Blue Skies Falling (you are here)
Donkey Hottie
Sanity through Experimentation
small shelly fauna


Blog or Not?
Deleuzean Potato
O fragious day, calou, calay!
alone with all my wrongs
Smallhouse Log


University of Virginia Scavenger Hunt
The University of Chicago
Encased Meats
Encased Meats


Today is Monday, the day after Mother's Day, and I'm back in this windowless clinic filing medical records. This is the third time this has happened to me. The office has even less sparkle than I'm used to.
I'm exhausted, burnt out, a little sad, and a little cranky.
One of the other judges is already sending emails counting down... 361... 360... 359...
But I'm still hung up on the last week. I'm still shivering from the things I've seen and have done.

The wind down from scav hunt lasts almost as long as the wind up. I'm sure there will be plenty of emails and a fair number of posts here pertaining to it, probably through the end of May and even into June.

This thing that started eighteen years ago has gotten bigger and bigger, and has remained uncorrupted. It still strives for and does what it was originally created for. I don't think it is even remotely close to reaching the horizon of its potential.

I don't think the university will be stripping or stopping the Scavenger Hunt any time soon. I think we've even cleared inertia for a little while.

P.S. Of all things scavhunt, if you read nothing else, read a list and read the bylaws.

Hunting 04: Through Sunday, 7PM


Well, it's over. As predicted, I didn't have enough time to blog the whole event as it happened. Others have been more successful at keeping up, but I've gone into somewhat more detail.

Again, I have to hurry it along (I'm at work, lunch break) but I'll pick up where I left off.


166. Bring your modestly-equipped 1st edition 8th-level self (one participant per team) and a set of many-sided dice to Uncle Joe’s Coffee Shop at 4:00 PM on Friday. Take note, briefly, of item 18 from Scav Hunt 211, and equip yourself with a scarf and some gloves. [EXP/10 points. Will there be treasures untold? Why, certainly, but only if you’ve come dressed appropriately]

This item was my baby and I'd nurtured it for two years, it having been cut from last year's list. The week leading up to the Hunt I'd been increasingly nervous, because I was afraid I wouldn't have enough time to prepare.

For the few who aren't at all famliar with this, the item references the 1978 edition of Dungeons and Dragons, a role-playing game, that is, a sort of interactive, sophisticated choose-your-own adventure type thing in a fantasy setting. Players create their own characters and participate in events for experience. The wording of the item gave clues as to the setting and nature of the adventure. It also indicated that players were to show up dressed as there characters.

I arrived at Uncle Joe's with three bags of Doritos and pretzels and sat in the back making final preparations. Soon, the players began to arrive, and their costumes were spectacular. Deep hoods and engraven swords, leather pouches, and hoopaks. It was beautiful. The item went startlingly well, also. There was a fair bit of improvisation on everyone's part, as we tried to maneuver between our knowledge of the different editions, and adapt whenever a player had to leave, to return to his or her team.

Yotam, a friend who I normally play with, showed up and threw a rock at the ground, a sign of his jealousy that I would game with anyone else. Whenever a player left, their character abruptly died, which (to my surprise) gave the other players a convenient means of disarming traps. And of course, we immediately encountered the difficulty of not following the "script," by which I mean, taking a course of action that neither the written material nor the DM has anticipated at all.

In the end, we had to split after about four hours, but we exchanged email addresses, and agreed to meet up and finish the adventure later.


I'm going to be more abbreviated, posting the wording of major items, and just a couple comments on their execution.
If you want to hear about these events and items in more detail email me at, or leave a note, and I'm happy to talk about it.


261. There Ain’t No Bash Like A Monster Mash(in’ of the Christ). It has been established that persons who have recently died have been returning to life and committing acts of murder. Well if you can’t cremate them, create them. As the sun sinks into the mists on Friday staring at sundown, your team emerges from its particular Crypt to do battle among the legions of the UnDead. Tonight, after all, will answer many questions. Will the zombies win or the vampires, and which side will Bela fight for? Do functional perimeters vary from manifestation to manifestation? Is PMS really your secret weapon? What are the merits of the all brain diet? Where did all this fog come from? Why does it seem to glow? True, vampires never drink. . . wine. . . but will they drink? Can the children of the night play “The Music of the Night” on a set of steel drums? Have you been to parties that make this look like a fucking summer camp? Why are those psychos exploding? Where did Jack go, anyway? And who stuck that sedative in my schvanstuker? Yes, we’ve always been fuzzy on that good/bad thing, but Hell, morality sucks, so skip Van Helsing and come to this horror show. [' points]

It was cold, but this seemed to be a good thing actually, as for awhile at least, people behaved with a bit more restraint, and kept us from being prematurely shut down.
We gave teams a lot more flexibility with the theme this year, and while the party was less focused, I think this was a strength overall. We got Thriller videos, Ecto-Pucker-Vodka-Coolers, and live Punk music.
There was some stanky-ass nastiness at the very end shutting down, and it was kind of a disgrace to the Hunt and what we represent. While I don't think we claim to be wholesome, I think the judges are definitely not down with stanky-ass nastiness.
Overall: A great success.


Scav Olympics: Dry Games took awhile, but they were a hit.
Highlights included:
- Calvinball (in which 50 pantsless people ripped apart a pineapple while collecting shoes off the ground).
- The race through flour to find a Swedish fish, which left half the participants looking as though they had been prematurely aged by an amateur acting troupe.
- Zorbing, in which team "gladiators" wheeled about in huge metal balls, sometimes crushing opponents' balls made of cardboard.

Another Seminary Co-Op bag wearing event.
We got the police called us, even though the bags weren't checked.
One team managed to get "SH" (for "Scav Hunt") in lights at the Gleacher Center downtown. It was a little difficult to see, and wouldn't have been apparent to those walking by not looking for it, but the lines were clear, of lights, and spanned four stories. It was definitely wortwhile.

Scav Olynpics: Wet Games
Highlights included:
- Marco Polo, beginning with several dozen people vs. one judge, in a space that gradually got smaller and smaller. They fled like a school of fish before a shark...
- The twelve foot water sucking contest. It was funny to watch.
I would like to note, regarding the photography... I was asked to take pictures of this event. It wasn't my idea to photograph the Furries Swimsuit competition. I did everything I could to keep the pictures tasteful, and gave Evan's camera back to him, telling him to delete any that didn't seem appropriate.
In short: I am not a lecerous perv.


Better than it's ever been.

The Observatory of the Aughra (props to Shoreland, FIST, and Snell), the TESLA coil (Palevsky and FIST), and the Mojo walker (pretty much everyone who showed us one) were all well-done. While we're often surprised, it's not unusual to have showcase items demonstrate a lot of time and effort with somewhat modest results. This year was exciting.
I won't soon forget Snell's giant Mojo with the stampable legs or the sound of electricity crackling between coke bottles in FISTs tesla coil. One of my favorite parts of the Hunt, for probably the first time.

The sombrero could've been a major catastrophe, something that became a bit of a contentious issues at the very end (don't ask me. I'll never talk!!!). But it worked out very well. We saw several magnificent and fully-functional sombreros that looked poised as well, and some ambitious and well-intentioned, but untimately hazardous engineering experiments.


Again, I have to be brief, or I will never get through this.
Every team showed me something incredible.
Max P. spliced together a mix of the Hunt and the Passion of the Christ that had me almost laughing with joy.
The Nonames put together a music video which, while it didn't correspond to an item on the list, perhaps should have.
Snell built their own tiny violin and played it in woeful tones for me.
A close friend from FIST pulled a nail embedded in a block of wood using only his ass.

My personal favorite, culled with great effort from the hundreds of remarkable things I saw yesterday, however, was a road trip item.
One of the objectives of the roadtrip was to respond to the "threat in the East." Yes: Princeton. The culmination of these efforts was to "Give Tannen Green a U of C tattoo." Tannen Green is the Princetons' central quads.
Only Pierce actually completed this item, but they did it with style and drama.
They poured almost 200 pounds of sand into a giant "U of C" emblem facing the main throughway, at 4 PM, in front of tour-groups and passerby. The emblem was clearly legible.
They had provided explanations, citing art work and social justice, but nobody asked.

Did anyone notice?

Did anyone figure it out?

Has Scavenger Hunt succeeded in extending its sphere of influence beyond the thin limits of the Windy City?

Will we soon have visitors from Princeton?

I rub my hands together, and I hope.

And this seems a fitting place to end my account of this years Scavenger Hunt.

~ Connor

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Hunting 04: Through Friday 4 PM


I'd hoped to blog yesterday.
But I became too busy running events (it happens) and didn't get a chance to.
Now the problem has compounded... I have thirty minutes approximately in which to tell you as much as I can.


First is that the website is up again. You can download a friendlier-formatted list here.


After the hot dogs had been distributed for the day, we prepared for the Thursday night item:

56. Schollywood Huares. Put on your game face and show up in BSLC 115 from 7:00 - 9:30 PM on Thursday. Survey says. . . bring marmalade, and plenty of talent—the more trivial, the better. Test the wisdom of our human matrix in
a battle for honor, glory, and fabulous prizes. Suck it, Trebek! [# points]

This was one of the most fun and certainly the best organized Thursday night items I can remember. Thursday night items traditionally have taken the form of a sort of quirky, nuanced talent show, but in the last three years the size and scope of this event has grown tremendously. Jessica, by girlfriend organized the event, and she did a sweet job.

Essentially, nine judges sat in a matrix three across and three deep (a la Hollywood Squares) while each team sent a member up to compete in each round. Each round was organized around a specific theme: Geography, Geeks, Arts and Entertainment, and Sports, and something I can't remember right now. The MCs asked the matricized judges various questions, and teams each decided whether or not the judges' answer was correct. Those who answered correctly advanced a square. The team to reach the final square first won that round and fifteen "points." Other teams won a number of points correspondant to the numbered square they had reached. The judge will later convert the game "points" into real scavhunt points.

The high points, however, were the Challenges.
For each challenge, teams were asked to supply one member with a particular quality, who then had to complete an unnanounced task. Some of these included:
A "ladies'" man: Unfastening a bra the head judge wore over her shirt, reaching behind her back, with one hand. The record was four seconds. The lowest time was over a minute.
A MacGuyver: The most interesting and useful pocket contents.
Someone with Emotional Fortitude: Cry within a minute.

That last was my favorite, and it was intense. One of the winners actually had real tears running down her cheeks by the end of the event. Other teams were alternating laughing and crying. One team member was clutching at his crotch to cause sufficient pain to make him cry. Sadly, it wasn't enough.

In the end, it didn't have the crescendo effect of previous years, but it was fun from beginning to end, and for once it was nice for a Thursday night to run smoothly.

That night, all of the judges went back to Kaury's and broke Kaury, Courtney, and Marina into Megaman II, one of the greatest games of all time.


4. The Last Annual ScavHunt All-Star Game. By 7:00 PM Thursday, submit three résumés from your team’s All-Star ScavHunters (résumé forms supplied at The Conclave of the Captains). These All-Stars will compete for items on
Saturday afternoon with All-Stars from opposing teams. [a1 + a2 + a3 points]

11. Fantasy ScavHunt. Bring a teammember to Ida Noyes before the party to draft an All-Star team. The All-Stars will
be from other teams, but they will represent your ScavHunt Team. ["0 points]

248. Matthew XXII:14 - For many are called, but few are chosen. Do you want to be a ScavHunt Judge? Send one non-captain first, second, or third year teammember to meet with the Donald at 10:30 AM on Thursday at Ex Libris.
This Apprentice may be busy from Thursday through Sunday. [& points]

I wish I had time to talk about these items more, but they are interrelated so intimately and intricately, it would take too long to explain.

In short, we have done "reality TV" items in prior years. These items represent that attempt this year. #248 is a recreation of the show "the Apprentice," where each team sends one "apprentice judge" who work on teams and individually to complete challenges. Given the spectre of the possibility of actually becoming a judge, this item has a special intensity. I had an opportunity to sit in one one of the "board meetings" and watch an apprentice fired, and it was a breathless somber moment.

The detailed mechanics of #4 and #11 are something I still haven't complete worked out, but in essence, each team had its most qualified hardcore members fill out resumes which were then evaluated by other teams, which then drafted people to play for them. You'd expect this sort of item to crumble because teams would refuse to earn points for each-other, especially the most hardcore participants who tend to believe (and have arguments to back up) that their team is genuinely superior to all others. It went off without a hitch.

But what really interested me most was the play between these three items. The Apprentice Judges wrote items for the All-Stars to perform downtown. It was the reception of these items by the All-Stars that determined which Apprentice was fired next. It was the success of the Apprentice's items that determined the winners among the All-Stars.

In a way, this probably accounts, in some measure, for the success of all three events. Teams collaborated so closely that, for awhile, their original rivalies and alliances disappeared. But I could go on about this for too long.


200. A teammember, duct-taped in some ridiculous orientation, to the exterior of some campus building. [33 points]

At 2 PM, we found a girl "crucified" between two gothic windows, suspended eight feet off the ground with her feet dangling. The location, ironically enough, was the garden walk between Swift Hall of the Divinity School and Bond Chapel.

14. Enter the Seminary Co-Op wearing only backpacks and shoulder bags. [28 points]

At 3:30, a girl entered the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore wearing three backpacks... one across her chest and two loincloth-style. The joke implicit in the wording of this item is that the SCOB is notoriously strict about checking bags (it's the largest academic bookstore in the world).

Evidently, the scene developed as intended. The girl checked her backpacks and browsed nonchelantly through the store for several minutes before leaving. We hadn't required this for points, of course. The humor was in the situation. There have been many discussions about the things people will do during scavhunt, and the extent to which scavhunt excuses, encourages, discourages, prompts, or provides of context for behavior a little atypical of the more staid and quiet students here.

But I'm not going to go into it further here. I actually have to leave and judge part I of Scav Olympics. Later tonight, hopefully, I can post again, and finish talking about my baby (item) this year, the annual debauchery of the Friday night party on the quads, and the beginnings of Hungover Saturday.

~ Connor

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Hunting 04: Through Thursday 2 PM


I've decided that I might as well blog this hunt, as well as I can. I think it would be fun to give the judge's perspective on the whole thing.
If you are interested in a team's perspective, check out Colin's account.
If you are from another team (which some of my visitors should be... consult Item #62), and are writing on the Hunt, let me know and I'll happily link to you.

All these warm-and-fuzzies aside, our blogging has taken a hit, albeit a flattering hit.
The Scav Hunt website has been linked to by Slashdot, which I am not personally familiar with, but which evidently links to various items of interest to nerd and generates millions of hits a day.
Well, our modest webhost was unable to handle the gazillions of resultant hits, and so the site went down and took everything with it, including our online version of the list.

I have managed to upload a .pdf of the list (the story is long and boring). If you like you can read it here, albeit with ghetto formatting..

But enough of this crap. On to the Hunt.


While the list is always released at midnight sharp going into the Thursday prior to Mother's Day, it has become a tradition in recent years to "test" teams with a series of obstacles to claiming a list. The competion, thus, begins immediately at midnight, hours before most items have been discussed, because the most resourceful teams will start out with an immediate advantage.

This advantage is more important that is immediately clear. Even small teams usually have twenty or so active members, and large dorms can have several times that at the beginning. Holding the attention of these players and reading through the list is important for morale, first and foremost, and a team's success at the list release can either double or halve the size of their team. Furthermore, events and meetings begin promptly at eight in the morning on Thursday, usually requiring some construction, research, preparation, and recruiting. The difference between acquiring a list at 1 AM and 4 AM is the difference between seven and four hours in which to do this.
The road trips have to rest. The teams have to get started. The captains have to develop a strategy.

Most years, the list release takes the form of a sort of "wile goose chase" around the University of Chicago and Hyde Park.
Last year's release, however, was considered particularly severe. Teams have to meet up with bitter rivals to assemble a "puzzle" which than led them to the beach, where the lists (shredded into 1/16 page strips) were buried a foot deep in manilla envelopes. We didn't count on the incliment weather, the size of the area dug, and the depth of the lists. After three full hours of digging, only three or four lists had been found. Some of the teams still bring this up in slightly resentful tones.

This year we thought it appropriate to shake it up a little. We wanted the list accessible right away, but we didn't want to give it a way. We decided the teams could determine their own limitations best if we made the test psychological rather than deductive in nature.

Here's how it happened:


The team captains enter the West Reading Room on the 1st floor of Ida Noyes Hall to find the judges standing Matrix-goth-zombie style in front of a screen. The screen is removed, and between blacklights and before a cauldron of bubbling fog sits the stack of lists. The top list is worth 0 pts. The second earns 1. The third... 5. And so on, until the 9th list is worth 100 points.

Max Palevsky, two time winner in the last two years, attempted to negotiate the game by stepping forward and requesting the bottom list. As per the rules we had posted, they had thus committed to take the first list available, the list on top. They walked out after a minute or two with a list worth zero points.
An unnamed independent team took the next big step, saying "fuck it" and claiming the list for 1 point.
They were soon followed by FIST (Federation of Independent Scavhunt Teams) who exited shortly after (though much more noisily) for 5 points.
Five more minutes or so passed,
The other teams had all committed to wait for more points and so the competition became more interesting.

Pierce, Shoreland, and Snell-Hitchcock, all large dorm-teams that have dominated the hunt until the recent rise of the Palevskians began jostling and joking one another. They talked like, and to some extent resembled, the three stooges, chattering with their home bases on cel phones, playing ro sham bo across each other, or setting their pants on fire (yes, pants were set on fire).

The Vegan team cut to the chase, their male captain demanding a mop bucket which he promptly urinated into, evidently intending to stay as long as it took. This did seem to slightly unnerve the captain of the small Vincent House team, standing feet away who, to her credit, reacted with an air of calculated disdain.

In the end, though, for most teams the fear of inertia was more power than the lure of points. Hitchcock-Snell and the Shoreland soon gave up, claiming lists worth 10, 25, and 40 points.

At 12:45 the judges began taunding captains with the dangers of wasting time and team members losing interest and, under duress, the Vincent house team claimed a list for 60 points.

Both Pierce (whose captain was wearing an old school Proletariat flag) and the Vegans had committed to a long wait. We allowed them to stand in place until 1:30, at which point the value of the last two lists was totaled and divided evently for 87.5 points each. We had to do this. Ida Noyes Hall had closed.


I'm running short on time, so I'll have to be more succinct for the rest.

On Thursday Morning, the road trips prepared for their I-80 College Tour. The item is worded as follows:

225. Thursday morning: The Conclave of the Captains. But outside a new day is dawning, suburbia’s sprawling everywhere,
and it’s time for senior pictures. That’s right, we have the Brain, so you bring the Athlete, Criminal, Princess, and
Basket-Case, with photocopies of their driver’s licenses. The Criminal should be falling through the ceiling, or at
least fooling around under the table. The Princess shows us how to feel sorry for her. The Athlete takes a hit or two,
while the Basket-Case giggles and pours out some unexpected confessions. A photograph of this group including us
as Neo-Maxi-Zoom-Dweebies is, of course, required. Now you’re ready for your East Coast College Tour! Have fun!
Be safe! And remember, when, er, visiting the Ivies, you may have to don more “appropriate” apparel. Oh, did we
forget to mention that the Neo-Maxi-Zoom-Dweebies want to inspect your car before you leave? Have it ready at
8:30 AM. [0 points will be awarded to all road trip items if this item is not fulfilled]

Can you figure it out?
Every year we make the road trips do this for two reasons.
First, we don't want teams starting a drive at one in the morning... it isn't safe, especially given how sleep-deprived these students tend to be in the first place.
Second, a lot of the items on the road trips are verified through photography. By taking pictures with the teams in costumes only specified in the list we guaranteed that road trip items are procured by the road trip teams during the hunt. It's a cheating deterrent.

The captains' meeting coincides and is basically a Q&A for team captains before the major events get under way.
For me, it's about the most tedious moment of the Hunt, but this year we had muffins and OJ, which sure beat last years Cookies N' Cream Ice Cream. At 8 AM after a severely sleep deprived night of sleep, some things just don't taste so great.


This is what we call euphemistically items that take place on the U of C campus during class hours. Euphemistically because it's an opportunity to "assault" the mundane world with the chaotic potancy of the Hunt. (For notes on "chaotic potancy" see the bylaws... once our website's back up.)

This year, there are two items, both of which have been realized with extraordinary success:

95. 37: He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred
pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? 38: He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And
when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. 39: And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon
the green grass. 40: And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. 41: And when he had taken the five
loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to
set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. 42: And they did all eat, and were filled. 43: And they
took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. 44: And they that did eat of the loaves were about five
thousand men.
And by “fish” we here mean the finest two words in the English language: “encased meats.” From 11:30
PM to 3:00 PM on Thursday and Friday, erect your hot dog stands in order to promote and distribute your tasty hot
dogs between Cobb and the Reynolds Club. Hot dogs, buns, ketchup and mustard will be provided. Space yourselves
out evenly, teams, as we’re not looking for Nash Equilibrium here. Advertising is a must, as is a Subservient Weiner.
The latter’ll do whatever it takes to hawk your dogs. There are three key rules for this item: 1.) teams may not eat
their own hot dogs, 2.) all allotted hot dogs must be evenly divided between Thursday and Friday, and 3.) no hot
dog shall remain at the end of either day. [201 points. 10 bonus points for showing us what a Chicago style hot dog
is. 11 bonus points for showing us what a University of Chicago style hot dog is]

Essentially teams had to set up hot dog stands and hawk there wares, which we provided and which must be given away for free (note: we gave the Vegan team vegan hot dogs).
The thing that's so much fun about items like this is that each team will come up with a wildly different interpretation, many of which are successful. For example, today, the Snell-Hitchcock team set up a grill right in front of the main undergraduate classroom building, grilling hot dogs in front of the open windows of classbound students. They offered a massive array of condiments, including the topping for a Chicago-style dog and a University of Chicago-style dog (ie. with shredded Marx). Needless to say, they gave away all of their hot dogs very soon after classes had opened.
The FIST, while they didn't have the condiment array, set up in the center of the quads, which meant they drew not only many students, but also administrators. FIST boasted a "homemade" grill of several scavenged electrical appliances soldered (spliced?) together, and distributed from an authentic "stand." Other teams had movable vendors, political slogans, and eager-to-please subservient wieners based on Burger King's promotional subservient chicken.

144. Corinthians 13:1 - If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong
or a clanging cymbal.
Cupid, in Greece, is called Eros, but since this is The Passion of The ScavHunt, we’ll call
him Little Agape, and, demonstrating our more progressive religious developments, we won’t require single gender
characterizations. Beginning Thursday morn all will rejoice as Little Agape descends onto our earthly campus to
induce periphesence at will, or at the holy command of the Judges. He is omnipresent, omniscient. Remember that
even in the most conservative depictions, our angel only wears a cloud or two. Little Agape should also be equipped
with a bow, arrow dipped in his or her heart-shaped flask of ambrosiac Agape Potion #9, and prepped Hallmark-esque
cards for composition and delivery. Teams are thereby encouraged to love thy neighbor, or fall victim to the pang of
Agape’s archery. [131 points]

Again, these varied tremendously, and each team had a different take. The large number of male and female hotties flitting about scantily clad mae things momentarily awkward for some judges. Still, the effect was cute, and we got to sample some fine "ambrosia" and deliver valentines to many people and institutions.

You can probably tell I'm slipping a little bit here.
I'm very tired, and the day has only begun.
I'll try to post later on, after the game show tonight!

~ Connor

Hunting 04: It Begins


The Hunt, 2004, that is.

First things first: if you can't be in Chicago to check this out, here's the link to the list. Click on "2004 list." It will open as a .pdf.

Right now I'm sitting here with former head judge MK while he uploads the list. Soon I will go to campus to get my free encased meats (hot dog) while watching each teams' "Subservient Weiner" please passerby. Then this afternoon, I'll mosey over to Kirsten to see an atomic Physics prof. get an "atomic wedgie."

The Scavenger Hunt was started in 1987 (18 years ago), and I forget a lot of the details. The first judge was Christopher Straus and he and other judges assembled an assortment of items which teams registered to compete for, over the course of several days.

Other traditions, such as the road trip, party on the quads, and talent show, have been added as time's gone by. Also the list has evolved, becoming more difficult, involved, obscure, and all-encompassing.

As the list has evolved, such has the teams. In early years, when only a few groups were involved in Scavhunt, student organizations (like Moden UN) or individual houses (Vincent house) would frequently win the Hunt. Over time, though, as the Hunt became more popular, someone caught onto the idea that dorm teams provided more manpower, connections, resources, and funding opportunities. The larger dorms quickly dominated the Hunt, though independent teams never really died out. Teams have gone so far as to get corporate sponsorship and alumni donations. Often the cost of winning the Hunt is several thousand (while prize money is in the hundreds). There has been a return, in recent years, to "scavenging" teams that mobilize out of a number of different dorms and focus on collecting materials rather than raising funds.

This year ten teams are competing.
They include: the Shoreland dorm, Max Palevsky dorm, Snell-Hitchcock dorm, Pierce dorm, the Federation of Independent Scav Hunt Teams (FIST), a Vegan team, Breckenridge/Hoover dorm/house, Vincent house, the Czechs, and an unafilliated team. At least several hundred people are involved.

More later. Got to run.

~ Connor

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Tonight, Tonight

1. I'm note inspired.

2. I have a site counter and I have a question: where on earth did the 40 of you come from today?! I can only assume the spike has something to do with scav hunt. After all, 40 people wouldn't trudge over here to answer my little riddles or make lists. Right?
It can't all be McFaul.
Can it?

3. For the judge, this is the very eye of the storm. Four, five days back we scramble to get the list in place, fix details, settle disputes, and placate administrators. Four, five days forward we judge events, items, trivia, and travel. But today the list is done, and there's nothing more we can do with it. Today we wait... weary and bleary... too worn to sleep... for tonight.

4. Unlike certain other judges, I don't give false clues. I don't give clues at all, actually. So clue vultures will find their efforts better spent enticing Dan "Tweedybird" Clinton. I understand why you all want to break up with him. I mean, first he makes you get all dressed up just so he can diss you in the parking lot of Bennigans. And then you're ditched so he can hang out with her. In spite of it all, though, I don't think he meant any harm.

5. Scavhunt is the closest I ever come to Hipsterspeak I realize. Someone. Save me.

6. To talk about something else for a moment, we're abusing Iraqi prisoners. Wtf?! More on this after Sunday.

7. To talk about something else for a moment, Don Williamson, Mayor of Flint, is filming himself as mayor in ads for his wife's car dealership. Wtf?! More on this after Sunday.

8. The Tigers have fallen to 13/14. Wtf?! Oh well; we're still better than the Yankees.

9. Speaking of "wtf" I've decided I like it. Not ironically, even. I was provoked into liking it as of 12 hours ago, by the "Butcher of Page 7". It's all love though.

10. I'm a paradox. I'm a Catholic. I believe in religious tolerance. Yet I regularly out-rap Christians.

11. Today. High Noon. Ida Noyes. Don't be there. Nobody else will. Except "that DOC guy."

12. No, that wasn't a clue. Clue vultures: go away.

13. I miss Flint.

14. Chicago Project No. 2 is going well.

15. Where is the Occlusion? And how are they doing?

16. I can tell you this item, because it got cut: "A saltine assault team going asalting." Isn't that cute?

17. Non curo. Si metrum non habet, non est poema.

18. Good coffee is good. But a whole lot of mediocre coffee is better.

19. Soapy coffee is the instrument of more evil than we ever realized.

20. Would you please hand me that straw; I can't seem to reach it on my own.

21. Connor's Celebrity Crushes:
~1988-89: "Stacy" from Kids Incorporated
1994-97: Claire Danes
1997-02: Kirsten Dunst
2002-03: Tina Fey (rebound!)
2003-Present: Mikki Berenyi and Emma Anderson. Both hotties!

22. I probably won't post much in the next couple days. So miss me, already! :)

23. The photo above depicts the 2003 list release. Here's to hoping this year goes a bit more smoothly.

24. Boom tish, boomtish, boom tish, boomtish, boom tish, boomtish boom. DON'T TOUCH ME!

25. Anything else I would like to say right now, I cannot, for fear of alerting concern among the intelligence committee. I don't want to wind up wired to a box somewhere, so I'll sign off for the moment.

More later.


~ Connor