“And then there’s the part where Jacob goes insane…” – editor

The last Slant published under the successful and puppy-filled reign of Meredith Gray came out today. I got the lead with this report about left-wing internal conflict, “Green Power Initiative Countered with Black Power Initiative.” This one has the most “WTF?” ending of anything I’ve ever written. It may be a little too out there.

Behind the scenes story: During this weekend’s Slant production we were interrupted by a guy coming into the office to talk about some business. I didn’t have any idea who the guy was. In fact, my first thought was that he was there to fix the phone (which wasn’t even broken, but never mind). As it turned out, he was sort of a VIP of the student body. It took me awhile to figure this out though, and by the time I did his obvious sense of self-importance and political way of talking had put him on my bad side.

Well, after the business was taken care of he decided to introduce himself to the entire office, that being the political thing to do. He began with “You all obviously know who I am. So, who are you?” That was too much. I responded in a friendly voice, “Actually, no. I have no idea who you are.” And hell, it was true for most of the time he was in there. When he finally realized I wasn’t joking, he introduced himself to me and I introduced myself to him as Jacob and it was a good moment.

Then our managing editor did a round of introductions. “This is Colin, our editor for next year. This is Tim, he writes for us and does a British column for The Hustler. This is Jacob, he was editor of The Torch last year…” At which point Mr. VIP interrupts with, “Oh, you’re Jacob Grier. I read The Torch all the time.”

And suddenly I felt like an ass.


I recycle

outsourced.jpegWhen The Agitator linked to my rejection letter last month, the entry title was “At least it wasn’t due to outsourcing.” The original wasn’t, but that title made a good idea for a story. So here is the rejection letter recycled to be a part of a full-length Slant article, “Family Outsources Son to India.” I hate to be repetitive, but it’s all new to the 99% of Slant readers who don’t also read my weblog. Big tip o’ the hat to Radley Balko for the idea.

Also in this issue: Slant alumni offer advice to senior staff, a Dance Dance Revolution topples the Venezuelan government, Avril Lavigne informs us that she’s still angry, and things get ugly as twelve die in Torch-Orbis violence. Ten points to the first person who correctly identifies the hands below!


The issue also features a guest appearance by everyone’s favorite genus Psychrolutes, Mr. Blobby. Read the whole thing here.


Ugg, what a dilemma

I knew that my return from Washington, D. C. to Vanderbilt would carry with it some culture shock, but nothing could have prepared me that first week back for the newest trend in VandyGirl fashion: the ugg boot. I’m officially declaring ugg boots the nadir of VandyFemme fashions during my four years here. While I can see the appeal in, say, the Australian outback, they just look silly in Nashville. They look even sillier paired with an expensive short skirt and shaded into pastels, sometimes giving one the distinct impression that the footwear has been recently excavated from an abandoned ABBA show trunk.

In this photo, Kate Hudson does a pretty good VandyGirl impression. Just make the boots baby blue, change the plastic cup to a Nalgene bottle, and give her a Kate Spade bag with sorority letters embroidered onto the side and you’ve got the picture. Multiply that picture by several hundred women per acre and you’ve also figured out why I’ll be in therapy someday.

But that still leaves me much better off than the traditional Australian ugg cobblers, who are under attack by corporate America. The American Deckers Outdoor Corporation has trademarked the word “ugg” and is threatening to sue Australian manufacturers who continue to employ it. Thus my present dilemma: on the one hand, anything that stems the tide of uggs flooding over our borders can’t be a bad thing. On the other, I feel sympathy for these Down Under craftsmen, who know not what their bonzer work hath wrought on Vanderbilt fashion.

I ponder this important question and recall that as the Nashville spring arrives the race will be on among the VandyGirls to wear as little fabric as possible – hopefully including the swaths of sheep skin that currently prevent their treadmill-toned calves from catching the eyes of passing frat boys. So I must side with the makers of the original, genuine, dinky-di uggs, and fly this banner of solidarity:


Best of luck, mates.

[Thanks to Adam for the article link.]



My dorm has a “Wall of Shame” where students display the rejection letters they get from schools, jobs, and internships. It’s a way of sharing the stresses and sometimes miseries of being a graduating senior with no guarantees about what the next year will bring. Well, I haven’t applied for any jobs or grad schools, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a spot on the wall. I just wish my parents weren’t so harsh in the postscript.


I didn’t know Milkbone makes biscotti

Half of my posts since returning to Vanderbilt have been about coffee shops. This one is no exception.

My shop of choice tonight was Fido, which used to be a pet store but is now a part of the Bongo Java Roasting Co (home of the infamous NunBun, the cinnamon bun that looks likes Mother Teresa). The store kept the neon dog sign, has a dog in its logo, and names all of its specialty drinks with dog terms, like the Rollover or the Pink Dalmatian. This historical digression is relevant because it explains why Fido is the only coffee shop I know that also sells dog biscuits. Not just any dog biscuits, but really big dog biscuits, each half-covered with white icing and colorful sprinkles. I don’t know if this actually makes them more appealing to dogs, but they look pretty darn good to me.

As evidenced by tonight’s incident, I am not the only one who salivates at the sight of these tasty treats. While I was examining the menu, trying to decide what would go best with writing a paper on evolutionary theory, a young Asian man approached the counter to ask the barista a question. Gesturing toward the large glass jar of iced dog biscuits, he asked, “Are these for dogs or for people?”

“Those are for dogs,” answered the barista, a bit surprised by the question. “Ohhhh,” said the customer. It was at this point that the barista and I looked down to see in his other hand a fragment of dog biscuit. “Did you just… eat that?” I asked him. Indeed he had.

It turns out that he was not the sole biscuit eater that evening. Happening to sit down next to his table, I realized that he was with a date. They sat across from each other, each with a cup of coffee in front of them. In front of the coffees, two napkins. On each napkin, the remainder of a dog biscuit. Yes, he had not only eaten a dog biscuit, but he had fed one to his girlfriend as well. They made it through the iced portions, stopping several bites into the plain halves (for the record, the guy ate more of his than the girl did of hers).

All’s well that ends well, however. The girl got cheesecake, which the guy presumably recognized as fit for human consumption by its pie-like shape and the fact that it comes on a plate. The guy can now point to the brand new Post-It note on the biscuit jar that reads “Not for humans” and say, “You see that? That’s there for me!” And us? We learned that when you’re really hungry, frosted dog biscuits with sprinkles make a semi-delicious dessert.



Today my first non-pseudonymous article of the semester in The Slant comes out. See “Computer science student invents Friendster spin-off” for the satirical history of Sexter,* the latest social networking website. (My apologies to VCS and Tolman, and to non-Vandy people who miss some of the jokes.)

Also in this issue, Robert Saunders continues the tech/sex theme with “Camera phones revolutionize phone sex,” Ceaf Lewis reports on Howard Dean’s outdated foreign policy, Andrew Banecker covers the unsuccessful Middle West peace talks, and Mrs. Claus answers readers’ questions. See the full issue right here.

*Sexter.com does exist. Not surprisingly, it’s a porn site.


Conscription fiction

There was supposed to be a new Slant out today, but due to a server crash that issue has been delayed/canceled. Since my contribution would be overly dated by the time the next issue comes out, I’ve posted it here instead: Libertarians volunteer for draft boards. It pokes a little fun at my own political affiliation, which may not be a good idea right now in light of the response to my last Torch column.

The story is in response to the Guardian article referenced just a few posts ago. Thanks to Josh Keltner for some last minute formatting of the Hemingway pic.


The Slant vs. Kristen Hinson

If Kristen Hinson ever retires from The Hustler, she will do to The Slant what Bill Clinton did to stand-up comedians when his time in office came to an end. She provides such easy material for satire that sometimes the biggest challenge she presents is resisting the urge to devote an entire issue to her. [Note to non-Vandy readers: The Hustler is our campus newspaper and, despite recent articles about such topics as sodomy and nipple licking, it should not be confused with the Larry Flint magazine of similar name.]

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a look at her Hustler editorial from a couple weeks ago, “Sodomy is ‘wrong,’ ‘disgusting’ and ‘perverse.’” This is the only piece of writing I’ve seen at Vanderbilt to get people more riled up than Brett Austin’s infamous “Need-based aid cost us all,” published in the premiere issue of The Torch (I would link to the column, but sadly it has been taken off the Web and dropped into the memory hole). Do a search on the Hustler website for “Kristen Hinson” to see the numerous responses.

Meredith Gray did prevent us from doing an all-sodomy issue, but there’s plenty of Hinson-related content nonetheless. Richie Green disagrees with Hinson, arguing that in fact the GBLT is a damn good sandwich. I actually take Kristen’s side, but do I have any idea what I’m talking about?

Around the Loop asks what other students find wrong, disgusting and perverse, the Top Ten lists upcoming Hustler editorials, and the horoscope, poll, and Other News all make a few references to our favorite Hustler columnist.

Just for fun, here is Hinson’s defense of her anti-sodomy column, and here is her Hustler debut, “Evolution is not a trusted theory by all scientists” (ably satirized by Andy Coz’s unpublished “My shoes turned into a rocketship”).

Please, Kristen, don’t ever retire. It would strain our creativity too much.


First Slant of the year

The first issue of The Slant under new EiC Meredith Gray is online and in print. My contribution is Dining Director Frank Gladu’s welcome letter to incoming freshmen. I have to admit I hate picking on the guy so much (this is my third piece that satirizes him and Vandy Dining). He seems like a really nice guy. But, as the visible head of the dining monopoly that inflicts itself on all freshmen, all Pub-goers, and anyone on campus who just wants a fresh slice of pizza, he’s the guy to be targeted.


Second Slant summer issue

Our second summer issue is now online, and this time I did write for it. My contribution is a little bit, well, different from what we normally run. Unlike some of my other Slant articles, this one does not have elements of autobiography. So please, don’t infer any secret dreams or fears from this one!

It’s an edited and slightly expanded version of something I scrawled in 5 minutes at a creative writing group I visited while in Spring (the town where I live, not the season). It’s called Creative Stretchers and that’s an apt name: it challenges writers to be creative by giving unusual prompts and just a short time to respond to them. It may be a long time before I can go back, which is unfortunate because it’s good practice.

Also in this issue, Tim Boyd reveals my “unbridled hostility” to Harry Potter. Is it really due to me not getting the role, or is it just my envy of guys with British accents?