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backdrop volume 2 issue 1 fall 2008



entertainment : hype : culture : sex : art : humor : health : music : life

Diversified Properties of Athens, LLC Alecia Moquin Administration & Operations

Equal Housing Opportunity

408 Richland Ave. Athens, Ohio 740.592.5262

Backdrop Letter from the Editor:

Editor-In-Chief Tara Melvin Publisher Gina Beach Photo Editor Krysten Bauman Design Director Alanna Geoghegan Advertising Director Susannah Sachdeva Assistant: Steve Zeisler Marketing Director Sarah Price Assistant: Will Cooper Copy Chiefs Rachel Godward Meredith Barnett

At times, I’m bewildered by the support our magazine receives. Just two years ago, four of us were sitting in a magazine production class, harping that there was no student-run, student-produced print magazine on campus. Today, we have more than a hundred members eager to get involved. I’ll avoid the Bob Dylan change references and say we are always looking to evolve and welcome this new membership with open arms. For ages, journalism has been seen as the mighty watchdog of the government, ferociously chewing apart and holding accountable those who impact our social and political system. Murrey Marder, former writer for the Washington Post, eloquently calls reporting “an instrument of democracy,” urging journalists to take on the role of a surrogate for the public. Our mission from the beginning has been to represent the iconic flavor of college life and, as we’ve grown, we have found it increasingly important to correspond with the entire Athens community. We hope this issue reflects that.

Associate Editors Entertainment: Shane Barnes Hype: Shamus Eaton A-Town: Andrew Eisenman Sex & Health: Elizabeth Sheffield Sh!ts & Giggles: Brittany Timmons

Whether you’re for Obama, McCain, Nader or completely apathetic, we believe that politics affects every person, and every facet of life as we live it. In true backdrop style, the stories in this issue not only explore national politics, but also the community and students’ roles in it. With mere days left until the votes are counted, we urge you to get involved on a local and countrywide level. This issue is our call to action.

Contributors Veronica Norton, Greg Gallant, Abby Clary, Allory Williams, Will Strome, Megan Moseley, Aadam Soorma, Laura McMullen, Lindsay Bailey, Lianne Vernell, Joshua Taylor, Justin Noga, Emilee Brightman, Annie Beecham, Megan Ruetsch, Lindsay Ferguson, Merete Kenworthy Designers Wendy Goldfarb, Adrienne Hapanowicz, Sarah Harris, Megan Hawranick, Alexander Helbach, Olga Kooi, Emma Looney, Lizzie Rosegrant, Marissa Schoonover

Photographers Andrea Kozakewich, Denise Pansing, Courtney Gross, Pete Larson, Dan Krauss, Mariana Quevedo, Conor Lamb, Pat McCue, Kaitlin Orr, Andrew Spear, Lydia Deakin, Kate Ramsey, Danielle Mouhlas, Laura Ornell, Madeline Hastings Adviser Jack Brady Copyright © Backdrop Magazine 2008

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With love,

Tara Melvin Editor-In-Chief

Illustration Brett Nuckles, Seth Miller, Jessi Finn


Mere hours before we went to print, I was informed of one of our member’s tragic passing. On October 3rd, Lianne Vernell experienced unexpected complications following a medical procedure and after putting up a valiant fight, went into cardiac arrest and never recovered. A personal column of hers was slated to run in this issue. Given the circumstances, we decided to hold our piece for a later date. We will remember Lianne as a gutsy woman empowered enough to defy societal standards and partake in her passions. Our deep condolences go out to all of her family and friends. This issue is dedicated to her memory.




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WANT TO BE A PART OF BACKDROP? Wanna Advertise? send inquiries to backdropmag@

Submit your   letters, story pitches, photographs, designs, ideas and commentary to:

The new president of the United States earns an annual salary of $400,000

backdrop 43


15 entertainment Indi-Go Getters Sounds Like... Art With Direction

a-town 6 7 9

features A Hot Commodity The Inferno Has Padded Floors Point Blank Education Juice

(A) Marks the Spot The Hills Have Lines Wok it Out A Different Point of View Bones, Mugs & Harmony

hype 11 13 15 17 18

sex & health 23 26 29 31

Killer Condiment Label Libel Not Your Average Girls Next Door

19 21 22

House of Representatives InternCHIC InternSH!T

sh!ts & giggles 33 36 37

Oh, The (Drunk) Places You’ll Go Hot for Teacher Exhibit A Exhibition-ist DIY Halloween/Ruthless Rant & Rage What We’re Reading Professors on Facebook/Websh!t Alternative Candidates

President Adams, Jefferson and Monroe all died on the 4th of July

39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46

backdrop | 2008 | fall





t’s 5 p.m. on Wednesday, October 8, and I can feel Ben Folds. The walls are literally bouncing as I look into the auditorium, illuminated by lush pink and purple and a pulsating strobe light. The house lights come up and graphics of America, dancing skulls and cheesy smiley faces bounce across the screen. Then Ben Folds’ rolling piano fills the auditorium—the sound check is a private preview of a show that packed the house. In khakis, a blue button-down and a newsboy cap, Folds looks like your campus everyman, not a middleaged musician on his fourth wife and the father of twins with eight albums under his belt and wicked piano skills. I can definitely feel Ben Folds after the set change, after which he appears wearing brown stripes, on stage with a four-piece band. He opens with “Way to Normal,” a track that shares the name of his new album, but mysteriously did not make the album’s final cut. During the show, he tells the full house at MemAud that he ate at Casa Nueva and loved it. He went on to share anecdotes from his childhood, highlighted by a memory of eating McDonald’s hot fudge sundaes with no nuts. “That’s good shit,” he said. The 41-year-old North Carolina native’s third solo album, “Way to Normal,” dropped September 30. In June, Folds himself leaked six of the album’s “tracks”—fakes he and his band recorded in Dublin. “Those are for you,” he tells his fans as he starts into a self-effacing impression of Dr.


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SET LIST Yang. Folds assumes his “power stance,” feet spread wide, hardly ever using the stool, and bangs the ivories with violent grace. For a pianist, Folds has the energy of a drummer—suiting, considering he briefly attended the University of Miami, Florida, on a percussion scholarship. Folds’ warm-up was Aussie singersongwriter Missy Higgins, who makes an encore accompanying Folds on “You Don’t Know Me,” singing Regina Spektor’s parts. Folds, who has been criticized in the past for being too outwardly political, tones it down considerably in his latest tour. An American flag, which waved for only a couple seconds during a video montage—the preface to “Bitch Went Nuts”—was the extent of Folds’ politics. “This song is about a young Republican lawyer. I’m imagining he wants to make partner and he invites this girl to the Christmas party. She turns out to be a flaming leftist liberal.” Cue the cheers from the crowd. “After the respectable members of the law community introduce her to the drug cocaine…he’s crying. It’s a sad song.” Pushing his thick-framed glasses up his nose as he walks off stage, I feel Ben Folds departing Athens to continue onward on the Way to Normal.

Way to Normal Brainwasched Effington You Don’t Know Me Annie Waits Dr. Yang Letting You Go Hiroshima Fashionable Frown You to Thank Kaley from Connecticut Free Coffee Faux Free Coffee Faux Dr. Yang Bitch Went Nutz Zak and Sara Bitch Went Nuts


All is Fair in Love Still Fighting It Landed Kate Underground Rockin’ the Suburbs Faux Fashionable Frown

e r t s t e G o G i d n I


The fem-political-folk rock duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers has spent the last 20 years raising eyebrows and tapping feet. Some may argue that the Indigo Girls’ activism, lesbianism and feminism overpower their music. While it is true that these ladies refuse to be quiet about their passions, their incredibly successful music career proves fans love what the Girls have to say. In the wake of their October 2 Mem Aud appearance, Amy talked to Backdrop about Barack Obama, youth voters and their new album. As a group built upon reinvention, innovation and crossing boundaries, it is easy to see the Girls’ connection with the upcoming election. “I think Obama’s a visionary,” Amy said, adding, “I don’t think it’s a shoe-in, I think it’s going to be hard and we’re going to have to work at it…we can’t get lazy.” Looking around OU’s campus, one could assume Amy would be pleasantly surprised by the passionate and informed students promoting politicians, issues and, most importantly, voting. But with so much attention focused on national elections, it is important to remember other political opportunities for change. “There’s often a very disparate sort of socio-economic thing going on [in university towns] which is important to look at and maybe help

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out with,” she said. This proactive approach to change is what governs much of her and Emily’s activism, channeling their ambitious, but determined, energy into their own foundation, Honor the Earth. The Girls started the foundation in the early 90s to help financially back causes they believed in. “We fund mostly through a grant-making process, which helps a lot of Native American-bred environmental groups and groups that work on issues like cultural sustainability, or youth-oriented issues like substance abuse and suicide,” she said. Amy said the foundation supports Native Americans that, because of poor financial and social status, live in areas targeted for coal and uranium mining, as well as waste disposal. “We’ve seen victories that create corporate accountability and seen precedent setting. [These programs] help push along energy programs that help everybody,” Amy said. Amy and Emily also feel very strongly about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) issues. “We do a lot of localized, community-based queer activism to help get their message out on a grassroots level,” Amy said. Amy is focused on changes to both the environment and the health care system in the upcoming election. “For me [health care is] pretty important and it covers a lot of territory with socio-economic issues and societal issues.” It is doubtful that the public is always in full agreement with the Girls. So how have they managed to keep their activism in the forefront and their fans listening? By balancing their strong opinions with their equally powerful music. “I don’t really worry about it,” Amy said. “We’re not so mainstreamly successful, so we don’t have that fear and we don’t have as much to lose.” They are more beloved than Amy may think. The Girls have found a niche where their activism and their music are appreciated, actualized by a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording back in 1990. The Girls took the road less traveled to the release of their most recent album, 2006’s “Despite Our Differences,” by joining Hollywood Records, a Disney subsidiary, home to both Hilary Duff and the “High School Musical” sweethearts. Unhappy in the midst of tween rockers, the ladies have come full circle with their first independent album in more than 20 years. The untitled album is set to drop in February. The Girls are Lilith Fair goddesses with friends such as Arlo Guthrie and Sinead O’Connor. To witness their sphere of influence, the Girls can simply sift through Stephen King’s “Rose Madder” to find an allusion, or look in a New York Times crossword puzzle to pencil in their 11-letter name. But what about those who think women shouldn’t be singing about tough issues like war and politics? “I don’t even take them seriously, it doesn’t even register with me…it’s the younger people who are so much more open to different kinds of music,” Amy said. “It’s just so funny to me when [people] say stuff like that; it’s just showing how obsolete they are.” With 20 years of experience, accolades and a permanent spot in the pop culture vernacular, it’s obvious someone is listening.


backdrop2008 | /2008 |2008 fall backdrop backdrop fall spring


rock your bonnets off

Photo: Pete Larson


In small music markets like southeastern Ohio, fans often have to choose between annoying, pop-punk, Blink 182 rip-offs and aging, unlistenable, hardcore bands still rocking against Reagan. Athens, however, recently became the home of a notable exception in Amish Electric Chair. Their riffs lend themselves to a little air guitar action, and the lyrics are recognizable. But thanks to spirited vocals and lightning-fast drumming, AEC rocks hard enough to solicit moshing at even the calmest venues (I never thought I would be hit by a flying beer can at Donkey Coffee). Besides having a bitchin’ name that is part snarky irony and part a characterization of American capital punishment as archaic, the band’s musicians have mastered their style of playing. Neil Tuuri handles guitar and vocals, while Scotty Tuuri plays drums. The brothers play with a seemingly effortless precision that makes for a truly sharp set. Newly added bassist John Sava, originally the guitarist of Endless Vomit, adds involved bass lines to the dynamic. The fast-paced guitar and bass lines, and Scotty’s driving snare fills make the band


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sound like Bouncing Souls. The band is working on new songs, even though they just released an album, “Keep the Lights On.” The record is full of depressing images: innocent men in prison, rapists on the street and young men in coffins. “The theme of the record is the dismal, dark side of politics and the state of the economy,” Neil said. “All these bad things are happening, and people don’t give a shit enough to do anything.” But many of the songs contain hope in the form of a call to action. Aside from the album title’s request, “Pollution Song” asks listeners to take their freedom back before it’s too late. “It’s a positive spin on a negative record,” Neil said. He claims it may be a last-ditch effort, but Americans need to stop being distracted by the media from what major corporations are doing. The band’s social and political views usually are not as direct. The song “Taxi” is a metaphor for the powerlessness of being a citizen in a country controlled by only a few people. “I hate that straight-up preachy shit,” Neil said. “I’m not 16 anymore. It’s more fun to disguise things than to come out and say them. I think the tongue-in-cheek stuff works better.” The lyrics, and his delivery of

Bill Clinton once told an MTV audience that he preferred briefs to boxers

them, are reminiscent of Dead Kennedys a la “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.” It might not be as sarcastic as “Kill the Poor,” but calling Bush “God’s only President” is close. Given the music’s message, their thoughts on the upcoming election are not surprising. “I think we’re all voting for Barack,” said Scotty. Neil said, “McCain doesn’t seem to have a plan for the economy. He just talks about it because he has to.” He also mentions how the onslaught of ads intended to encourage youth voting is put forth almost entirely by Obama backers. “McCain doesn’t really seem to want young people to vote,” he said. Amish Electric Chair will be touring five southeastern states during winter break, playing a show every day from December 5th until the tour ends at their house in Athens on the 21 st. “We’re all on the same page. We all want the same thing: to play music every day,” Sava said, adding that Amish Electric Chair has become his favorite project. The brothers Tuuri each have a tattoo of the band’s logo (Sava said he’ll get one if they sign to a major label), so they have to stick it out.

BACKSTAGE PASS Neil on the song writing process:

Neil has several notebooks full of lyrics and poems from which he creates songs. “I probably write 40 songs to come up with 10,” he said. “Then when we’re writing music, I’ll say, ‘hey, this reminds me of this lyric, or that poem.’”

Scotty on the origins of the band:

“My brother and I have had the band for about eight years. We just started to get serious about six months ago when I moved to Athens.”

Photo: Dan Krauss

Neil on his background:

Several years ago, Neil was personally affected by outsourcing. “I was working at a machine shop, basically building factories,” he said. All of the bigger jobs the factory performed were shipped to China. “Eventually, the only jobs we got were correcting their mistakes, because it was still cheaper than to have us do the whole thing.”

Neil on the GOP:

“It has gotten to the point where they’re so greedy they think they can own people too.”

The band on Athens:

The band also has some songs inspired by Athens culture. The song “Violent Drunks,” is about a young man who came to Pita Pit late one night and punched an employee (although Neil admits the title was a joke about VD). “I’m definitely not straight-edge,” Neil said, “but I’m not really cool with 18-year-olds getting that hammered, either.” Scotty added, “It’s disgusting how people want to fight when they’re drunk. I always get nicer.”

Fun Fun fact fact goes goes here here Fun Fun fact fact goes goes here here Fun Fun fact fact goes goes here here

backdrop | 2008 | fall







aking your way up the gentle slope of West State Street, you can’t help but feel as if you are entering “the real Athens.” To your right is a cemetery, as creepy and ominous as one would expect. To your left remains a slummy, boarded-up building and up the street stands a pre-Reconstruction fort-like structure that serves as an architectural studio. The only signs of college life are the lingering beer cans that litter the nearby alleyways. However, in the middle of this rather glum scene stands a surprisingly immaculate building façade, impeded upon


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by only a dingy pair of sneakers slung over a power line. It is, in fact, a former church. The function of the structure has changed dramatically since church bells rang. Parishioners have been replaced by diehard music and art fans from around Athens. Where a peaceful pastor once wove words of wisdom, rebellious rockers and friendly folksters now project their beliefs through song, lyric and dance. This is ARTS/West: Athens’ community gateway to the arts. In 2005, the Athens Municipal Arts Commission, along with the Arts Facility Task Force, purchased the prop-

erty (formerly a Nazarene church) for $350,000--which came from a Community Development Block Grant. The city has since poured thousands of dollars into the place, retrofitting it to serve as Athens’ community arts center. Changes that have been made include improved air conditioning, handicap accessibility and a sound system. In due time, the only thing reminiscent of the building’s holy past will be the velvety soft seating of the pious pews and the cross at the top, shrouded from sight by the community sign. These renovations have required a lot of money, a cause for concern for some taxpayers. Contrary to some reports, the money has come from the Arts, Parks and Recreation (AP&R) fund, which is made up of a percentage of taxpayers’ money. The point? No additional money is being taken out of taxpayers’ wallets to fund the center. This is a fact that has often been overlooked, said Emily Prince, the programs specialist and director of the center. What’s more, the amount that this fund pays for (about 40 percent of ARTS/West’s budget) is only equal to 1 percent of the AP&R fund, leaving 4 percent (about $120,000) to go to other facilities around Athens. The other portion of ARTS/West’s budget comes from ticket sales, admission fees and required rental charges to host an event. Home to workshops, concerts and plays, ARTS/West is intended to be the premiere one-stop-shop for anything and everything art. From the mainPhoto: Kaitlin Orr stream plays presented by the Lost

As a presidential candidate, Bob Dole once got sixty Dunkin’ Donuts a week as part of an endorsement deal

Flamingo Company to the sometimes grating but always interesting monthly “noise shows,” the center holds a wide range of events. Further, ARTS/West serves as a way to facilitate artists—a function it fulfills with its incubation program. Offering financial advice as well as office space and a place to call home to two groups of artists, the incubation program allows ARTS/West to form symbiotic relationships with creative minds around town. Currently being warmed under the nurturing hand of ARTS/West is the Aquabear Legion, a musical collective made up of some of the most promising underground bands in eastern Ohio. “One of the great things about working with the Aquabear Legion is how we both benefit from the relationship,” Emily said, adding that while regular ARTS/West visitors come and discover artists, regular fans of those artists come to discover ARTS/West, also. “All of the art organizations in Athens are extraordinary in the partnerships that they form with one another.” Togetherness is what ARTS/West is all about. The artists come to serve Athenians, while OU students become one with their surroundings, rather than temporary inhabitants of a college town.

Aquabear LEGION The Aquabear Legion, a Web site created in 2004 by OU grad Brian Koscho and pal Todd Jacops, began as a way to feature eastern Ohio’s underground music scene. Serving as a gateway for music and gig information, the site quickly grew in popularity, allowing the Legion to host its own showcase at the now-defunct Wire. The show was incredibly successful and the pair, realizing the potential of the project, decided to kick things up a notch. Cue the birth of the current Aquabear Legion. Acting as an all encompassing title for the best bands in Athens, such as Zephuros, Nostra Nova and Southeast Engine, as well as more from Columbus and Cleveland, the Aquabear Legion now has several recurring shows at ARTS/West and other areas around town. The Legion also produces the Aquabear Reader, a quarterly (and free) arts and news magazine that debuted at the Aquabear County Fair. The group has taken great strides, but is staying grounded. “We’re just trying to focus on what we’ve got,” Brian said, adding that he “would like to get Athens the national attention” we all know it deserves.




Hidden Treasures of Athens


Putt People First Mini Golf Monday-Friday 4 p.m. – Dark Saturdays and Sundays 12 p.m. – Dark Adults: $5, Students: $3 227 Columbus Rd.

Putting a golf ball around an oversized concrete ear and into a 3-foot wide coffee mug at the Ridges benefits the local economy and provides donations to support citizens with developmental disabilities. Putt People First, a miniature golf course off Dairy Lane, puts the fun back into fundraising. The course was founded by Debbie Schmieding, executive director of Havar Incorporated, and her husband, John, the director of Athens Area Mediation Service (AAMS). The two non-profit organizations began asking for donations to fix up the dilapidated course last fall after a friend, who constructed a similar course in Oregon, suggested the idea. The couple set up a competition for the local businesses of Athens. Twenty local businesses, including O’Betty’s, Third Sun Solar, The Athens News and Donkey Coffee and Espresso, designed and built their own holes. The course grew as donations accrued until May 2008, when Putt People First opened. Now proceeds from the course fees benefit Havar, Inc., which provides community support for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. “I love how the course has become a facility for both students and families alike,” John said.


Athens Farmers Market Saturday 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. 1000 East State St. (in front of the University Mall) Merchants gather to sell their wares and everywhere people are buying, tasting and talking the morning away. Few places can provide the camaraderie offered by the Athens Farmers Market. Referred to by Audubon magazine as one of the best in the nation, the market has been a gathering place for the past 35 years for farmers and merchants around Athens County to sell anything from produce and meats to flowers and crafts. In addition to fresh and original items, from bison meat to organic veggies, the Farmers Market also boasts a café with live music and refreshments to enjoy while taking a break from browsing the goods.

fall | 2008 | backdrop Nine presidents never attended college: Truman, Cleveland, A. Johnson, Lincoln, Fillmore, Taylor, Van Buren, Jackson and Washington

Indian Mounds

For directions or more information contact: Athens County Historical Society (740) 592-2280 Ohio University may have been founded in 1804, but before the first Bobcat trudged across College Green to class, Athens county was the second largest activity center for the Adena Indian Tribe that lived in Southeast Ohio from 1,000 B.C. to 200 A.D. Two of the 30 mounds remain, providing an out-of-theordinary daytrip. Both mounds are located in The Plains. The larger of the two, the Hartmann Mound, is located off the aptly named Mound Street. At 40 feet high and 140 feet wide, it’s certainly a sight to behold. The second mound, Connett Mound, is located off Adena Drive.

Della Zona Pizza & Gelato Tuesday – Saturday 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sunday Brunch 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. 268 East State St.

Photos: Courtney Gross, Denise Pansing

Beads & Things 8 North Shafer St. Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

At Della Zona Pizza and Gelato, the name is everything. “Della Zona means ‘from the region,’ so it’s a specific term we’ve used to take from where we are, what we do and why we exist,” said Bob O’Neil, co-owner of Della Zona. “We’re very special for what we do and why we do it.” The pizzeria makes its own mozzarella with ingredients from Snowville Creamery, a local dairy distributor that works with family farms. The majority of ingredients are from local farmers, helping to sustain the local economy. In addition to the flavorsome pizza and pasta, the restaurant also has a variety of creamy, traditional Italian gelato flavors and organic teas and beverages. All of these factors help to make Della Zona a delicious experience.

Those who enjoy crafts and jewelry will find a piece of heaven at Beads & Things. The shop allows customers to create their own treasures and was voted Ohio’s best bead store by Ohio magazine in 2006 and 2007. “It’s one of the few places (in Athens) you can come enjoy and make some thing without spending an arm and a leg,” said Audrey Yame, a Beads & Things employee. The store facilitates a unique connection between Athens and the outside because the store has beads and collectibles from around the world, which store owner, Jo Merkle, collects in her travels and brings back to sell. “We have purses and sculptures, rocks and specimens, mirrors and incense, Indonesian puppets and mobiles from Mexico,” Audrey said. “It’s a treasure hunt just making and finding the items themselves.”

backdrop | 2008 | fall President George W. Bush married his wife, Laura, three months after meeting her at a barbeque



I’m suspended multiple stories above the forest floor. I’m scared, but there’s no turning back. I have to jump. Whoosh! I’m dangling from a metal line and flying at speeds more than 35 mph through the lush Hocking Valley flora, screaming all the way. My journey begins on a perfect day (75 degrees and sunny with a cool breeze). My destination: Hocking Hills’ Canopy Tours, a three-hour zip line adventure. After a 40-minute drive from Athens, I pull into the parking lot of Windy Hills Golf Course, which shares a clubhouse with the canopy tour. At this point, all I feel is excitement that I finally get to try this thing out. Although the canopy tour has been open only since April, it took several phone calls over three weeks to solidify my reservation. I’m holding a hefty waiver that all participants must sign before the trip. Reading the front and back of the


Photos: Gina Beach

legal paper, I notice lines that read: “Serious injuries are uncommon in Canopy Tours, but the risk of injury or death certainly exists, by reason of falls, contact with other participants and fixed objects…” And, this gem:

“The emotional risks range from unwelcome or inadvertent touching; simple hurt feelings to panic and psychological trauma…” All right, now I’m starting to get nervous. The first half hour of the tour, I’m uniformed in a mess of harnesses, leather gloves and a helmet. I feel a bit like Lara Croft in all my gear, minus the fancy weaponry. However, as the guides start tugging me this way and that, making sure everything is on good and tight, I begin to feel more like a puppy than a video game vixen. Five minutes later, I am more appreciative of the puppy training as I entrust my body weight to nothing more than a harness attached to the practice zip line. Only a few feet off the ground, this practice line is our training site, a kindergarten classroom of sorts. We are instructed to repeat each others names “Hi, I’m Abby,” I say. “Hiiiii, Abby!” the group responds. I’m not particularly afraid of heights, but the first jump off the tree-top platform into the abyss of cliff and cave-strewn forest definitely induces fear. As I fly between tree trunks, I can’t even see my destination. As I look to my right, the sparkling waters of the Hocking River soothe my anxiety as

the adre­naline rush takes over. The guides encourage us to let out our inner Tarzan as we zip through the trees, which I do without hesitation. Yelling at the top of my lungs and surrounded by the beauty of nature, I feel a sense of liberation. Surprisingly, there are not many animals or birds to frighten off; they must get sick of hearing screeching humans all day. A quirky middle-aged woman and her life-of-the-party husband are celebrating their anniversary. A somewhat awkward fellow is dressed as if he came straight from his cubicle, and a quiet, dainty woman is with a stumpy male counterpart. A plain-looking lady whose essence shouts “nature lover” rounds out the older crowd. Pint-sized and blonde-to-the-bone, two of my adventure-seeking college chums and I make up the last of the group. We form a Spring Break-like bond with our fellow zipliners as we await our turns in the confines of the tree top platforms. “What is said on one platform doesn’t go to the other side!” the sarcastic husband says after making a sex joke about his wife. For a broke college student, the $75 admission seemed a bit much at first, but after having experienced the delightful three-hour high-flying tour, it was definitely worth it. Autumn is by far the most beautiful time to experience the canopy tour. The colors and smell of crisp leaves in the amazing Hocking Hills make it an opportune time to go flying.

LEARN THE ROPES No escape from the paparazzi:

Personal cameras are allowed with you on the tour as long as they can be securely strapped to you.

You do not have to be an avid outdoorsman or possess Herculean strength:

Not too physically exerting, even I was quite able-bodied enough for this challenge—and I am anything but a frequent visitor to Ping.

Hold off on the beer pong and do some bladder exercises:

There are no restroom breaks during the three-hour tour, so don’t drink a lot beforehand.

To spandex or not to spandex?

Yes, you will be flying through the sky like a superhero, but please abstain from dressing like one. Flying spandex is only attractive if you are Batman. Neither loose nor restricting clothing is recommended.

Hocking Hills Canopy Tours 10714 Jackson Street Rockbridge, OH 43149 (740) 385-9477









Wait Time (min)

Campus Garden 30 W. Union St.

WOK IT OUT RUNNING THE GASTROINTESTINAL GAUNTLET BY WILL STROME I’m far from a Chinese cuisine connoisseur, but I do know that Athens’ “Asian” grub hits the spot. For those who believe that General Tso’s chicken was named after a blood thirsty Mongol and was considered a delicacy in “The Forbidden Kingdom,” you’re about as misinformed as Dubya was regarding WMDs. Americanized Chinese food is typically panfried, stir-fried or deep-fried with plenty of salt and oil. In my mind, this is how I’d want everything to be cooked, so accepting the offer to test out eight Chinese restaurants was a nobrainer. All restaurants were pooled and ranked comparatively. After all was said and consumed, I’m pretty sure my digestive tract will never be the same. I’ll be taking a Chinese food sabbatical for a bit, but that doesn’t mean you should! Get out there and enjoy each of these oriental eateries. Fact: Not a single restaurant gave us chopsticks. What an outrage!


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Bringing saucy back...

My friends and I were the only patrons to dine in the restaurant, but plenty of people came to pick up takeout. The heavily advertised Szechuan lived up to the hype. Our dinners arrived piping hot and smothered in sauce. The restaurant had a sound system, but unfortunately it played no music during our meal. Campus Garden is without question the best Chinese spot uptown.

$ $$

15 or 20

China Fortune 20 W. Stimson Ave.

Closer to home than you’d think...

A calm and serene setting at the end of Palmer Street is a great spot to hide out and center your chi. Surprisingly, this was the only restaurant that played Chinese instrumental music. Come relax with your choice of 14 beers, plenty of bottles of wine for under $20 and even some Ozeki Sake. For some reason, only one waitress was working five tables during the dinner rush. If sparse sauce and spice is your thing, you’ll love this spot.

$ $$

15 or 20

It requires 570 gallons of paint to cover the entire outside of The White House

China King

Lam’s Garden

21 S. Court St.

More than a buffet...

This is not your everyday buffet. This restaurant has a lengthy and reasonably priced menu in addition to buffet items. They are also the only place that allows its patrons to fill up a carry out container with anything from the buffet for $3.50 a pound. The buffet itself was not very diverse; however, it didn’t look like it had been sitting out all afternoon.


Lui Lui ‘s 8 Station St.

965 E. State St.

Chinese or Japanese, you can’t go wrong here...

Gorgeous flat screen TVs on the front and back walls of the restaurant serenade patrons with daytime dramas, Sportscenter and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. If you’re debating between Chinese and Japanese, a very thorough menu for each is sure to satisfy either craving. The restaurant has a full sushi bar and the dish everyone likes, General Tso’s—named after Zuo Zongtang, a general from the Qing Dynasty. I recommend the Hunan general’s finest chicken and perfectly spiced Szechuan beef.

$ $$

A wall of awards greets customers as they enter the restaurant. After my meal, it was obvious that the accolades were well-deserved. The chicken was drenched in a savory and spicy sauce, with plenty of rice. Quick service, an extensive menu, lunch specials for less than $6 and 11 different brews for less than $3 are tough to beat. Also, I was a huge fan of the classic tunes such as The Beatles and Don McLean’s “American Pie,” to name a few.

$ $$

$$ China Panda

934 E. State St.

Simply the best in town...


Chinese, Japanese...and Italian?

While it’s not exclusively a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, Lui Lui’s has a small but delicious number of Thai, Chinese and sushi dishes available every night. However, a majority of the menu is focused on pizza, pasta and other “gourmet” Italian entrees. The elegant atmosphere is perfect for a first date and relaxing enough for a night out with friends. Tuesday is sushi night, offering some of the most authentic and fresh seafood in town. Despite meager options for ethnic cuisine, the General Tso’s was an easy pick and undeniably the best in Athens.

$$ $$

10 or 15

Grand China Buffet 1002 E. State St.

Peking Express

The typical, generic Chinese buffet: 20 percent composed of American foods like mac ‘n’ cheese and pizza. However, it has the best fish tank in town—home to huge snakeheads and Bala sharks. My fortune cookie read, “Lady luck is on your side. Play lottery today.” I bought five $1 scratch offs and won $4. So, I decided to get four more and lost it all. Fun fact: the fortune cookie was introduced right in the heart of Rice-A-Roni country in San Francisco.

When it comes to the best bang for your buck, $4.25 is second to none. Three entrees and a hefty side of rice or lo mein is enticing to anyone looking for a sizeable dinner pickup. However, this place gives the worst Chinese food hangover and the servers are the toughest to comprehend verbally. Over the course of my four years in Athens, I’ve seen the price increase from $3.50 to $3.75 to $3.95 to the going rate of $4.25. And who said inflation affected only oil and cigarettes? 3

They have some sweet fish...

$ $$

5 N. Court St.

Damn, they raised the price again...

No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying the state of Ohio

$ backdrop | 2008 | fall




att Burger has answered all these questions before. He knows what I am going to ask; he knows what I am looking for. I ask if he’s up for an interview. He is. I ask if he can meet me for dinner. He can. When I peer through the door at the Gamertsfelder archway on East Green, Matt is eyelash-close to the lounge television. The door is locked. I call his cell. “You’re early,” he says, wearing a tiedyed T-shirt, his graham cracker-brown hair long and cool, in an Australian kind of way. He lets me in and hurries back to the TV to wait for the five-day forecast. (He is majoring in meteorology.) The forecast graphic glints across the TV screen. Rain and scattered t-storms. Already the rest of the week looks dreary, but Matt is still on Wednesday, so I don’t say anything. He likes to do things himself, anyway. His eyes work across the screen like a barcode scanner. He goes over the week a second time, absorbing temperatures and whatever else he might have missed. At my knees, fussing for attention, is

Freddie, Matt’s 5-year-old yellow lab. When Freddie is harnessed, he’s all business: alert, straight-walking and so unfazed you almost forget he’s a dog—because that’s how he was raised. But off the job, when his harness is hung on a rack in Matt’s dorm room, Freddie is playful, almost frenzied, and he appreciates a hard-wrestled game of tug. Their business relationship functions on reciprocation and trust. Matt feeds Freddie, keeps him warm and lets him out at midnight and again at 7 a.m. In turn, Freddie chauffeurs Matt up Morton Hill, across busy intersections and through crowded classroom buildings. Their needs always equal out. When the day is over and the harness comes off, Matt doesn’t say “Freddie” in a here-doggy tone. In their room, a single with Shively dining hall in the window, Matt and Freddie are roommates. And when they go out, Freddie is Matt’s unwavering wingman. That Matt cannot see more than a few inches away does not mean he is blind. In-

stead of looking, he listens, he engages, he carries on conversation; because without sight—especially without sight—Matt knows looks are deceiving. Lost with his eyesight is discrimination. Matt talks to anyone who talks to him. On our way up Morton Hill to Court Street for dinner, Matt tells me about a female friend who enjoys cheap beer, but complains about her weight. The advice he gave her—do you know how many calories are in a Keystone Light? “You know what she said?” Matt says, with a smile like wet cement. “‘If it’s between not drinking and not eating, I’ll stop eating.’” We decide on Big Mamma’s. He’s never had it and I’ve promised to keep the meal cost-efficient. Freddie-the-chick-magnet humps up Court Street as if he knows where he is going. When he walks by, the girls have necks like corkscrews. Matt orders the first burrito on the menu: the Chili Mamma. We sit in the front window and eat and Freddie plops down on the cool tile. I unwrap my Mamma Grande and Freddie perks up. He’s looking at me with eyes like malt balls and using a kind of telepathy that only dogs have. “He’s manipulating you,” Matt says. “He knows you don’t know him. He thinks he can get something out of you.” We finish our burritos and squeeze the tinfoil into balls. It’s back to work for Freddie. Outside, the sun hides behind the courthouse. We’re on the topic of iPods, which Apple has not yet made userfriendly for the seeing-impaired. Matt says audio commands that indicate what song is playing and a plus sign-shaped dial would help. For now, Matt has a busy night ahead of him. He’s headed back to his dorm to freshen up and drop off Freddie with his R.A. (but, really, who wouldn’t mind dogsitting ?), and then he’s off to Baker Center for swing dancing, and later, the Smiling Skull for karaoke night. We turn our separate ways and only then is it so easy to see: Matt and Freddie. Man and Dog. Giver and Giver. The only way a relationship can work—with an invisible hand.


Smiling Skull Saloon owner Chris Wolf



hen the average Joe recalls his favorite workplace memory, he might recount the office Christmas party or the day he was promoted to middle management. Not Chris Wolf. The owner of Athens’ most misunderstood watering hole, The Smiling Skull, has something else in mind—like the time he fucked some girl on the stage of his bar. (Note: I’m pretty sure he was kidding…) The straw fedora-wearing, beard-down-to-his-belly-sporting owner of the Smiling Skull Saloon is just as extraordinary as the bar he opened 15 years ago. Chris Wolf, a 33-year resident of Athens and motorcycle extraordinaire, bought the property that is now the Skull in 1993. It was formerly a beer garden for Little Ritz (1985-1989), the Beach Club (1989-1991) and the Union Street Station (1991-August 1993). Chris named the bar The Smiling Skull Saloon, a name aptly inspired by a motorcycle ride. When Chris was an OU student, he and his buddy, Skunk, were riding their Harleys to Cleveland when they got caught in the rain. They stopped on the side of the road and Skunk just blurted out the name. NAME: CHRIS WOLF “I can’t remember the context,” Wolf said. “He just dreamed up the name HEIGHT: 5'7" in a make-believe scene.” Chris loved HAIR COLOR: “STILL BLOND” it immediately and kept it in the back of his mind until he could use it in AGE: “56 AND A HALF, GOING ON 21” the future. Twenty years later, when the Skull OFFICIAL TITLE: “OWNER AND first opened, no student dared enter OPERATOR OF THE SMILING the daunting bar. “There was a look SKULL, SORT OF of fear in their eyes,” Chris said. But LIKE A TRUCK DRIVER” now he says the patronage is about half locals and half students. “I have a core base of customers. It’s a great mix. Most people like the atmosphere and the ambience, and I’ll always get those seniors who come in for their final shuffle saying they’re bummed that they missed out on this place earlier,” Chris said. “I don’t give a fuck if they’re fraternity or sorority people. I just want everyone to come in here and see the place. Money is the same color from everybody.” The Skull is now a bona fide tourist attraction (especially among bikers) known throughout the Midwest and cherished by OU’s karaoke-loving Wednesday night prowlers. Back in the day, the floors saw motorcycle burnouts and panties and bras hung in scores above the bar, but now the Skull is seeing fewer bare breasts and more stilettos. “Kids have definitely changed their style. High heels and dresses were not quite around as much and everyone is wearing bras now too,” Chris said. “It’s a different era.” Chris, whose ideals match those of both billionaire mogul Richard Branson, and the Grateful Dead, wants everyone to come see his place, but when they do, they better be prepared. He likes to draw ­— on customers. “We stamp different skulls [on hands] when you come in,

Photo: Conor Lamb

I’ll always get those seniors who come in for their final shuffle saying they’re bummed they missed out on this place earlier.” - Chris Wolf, owner of The Smiling Skull

but then as I drink we get more involved. We’re drawing traffic lights above girls’ crotches with the green light colored go. We get extensive with the wing skull too, especially on the lower back. You won’t be getting stuff like that at the C.I.,” Chris said. While there’s the chance you may become a canvas on your next visit, others have made a more permanent homage to the Skull on their bodies. Wolf has a buddy with Smiling Skull tattoos on his arm and chest, another with one on his hand, and he knows a grad student with one on her foot. Patrons are very devoted to the place, and Wolf makes sure he never lets them down in a time of need. “We are open at 10 a.m. 365 days a year. We haven’t missed one single day in 15 years. There was a blizzard one day and I called the radio station to have them say that my employees should still come to work and the bar would still be open. I ended up hitchhiking to work that day,” Wolf said. “We were even open when there was a saw cutting up the concrete floor. We just don’t close. We’ve got beer and people on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day. We usually put on a big feed and I come in dressed in my pajamas.” As Chris said, the Skull consistently opens early every morning but many students consistently wonder why the hell they close at 1 a.m. every night. It’s all about liquor licenses. There can only be so many bars that are allowed to close at 2 a.m. and the Skull was only able to nab the 1 a.m. license. It’s just a matter of luck. As the bartenders (or “barmaids” as Wolf calls them) close down at one, it’s probable that Wolf is either at Tony’s or Jackie O’s, two of his favorite Athens bars. He may even be at Casa Nueva drinking a margarita or three. But you know that come 10 a.m., he’ll be back in the little piece of the Athens bar scene that he calls home.

backdrop | 2008 | fall



or many students, it is tough to envision Athens as anything more than the setting for a four-year blur of memories: a town forever associated with classes, bars and allnighters. A stop on the way to a career. But for permanent residents and local officials like Council Person At-Large Christine Knisely, Athens is a place where one can interact with the community, get involved politically and live peacefully. For her, Athens is home. Christine, the executive director of the Office of Research and Grants at OU, recently took on the role of politician, taking a seat on the Athens City Council. Her responsibilities include dealing with the transportation, environmental, and recreational committees. Christine is also involved with the Women League of Voters. During the few precious moments she isn’t tending to her duties, she escapes to her beautiful home on the south side of town, off Madison Road. The scenic drive to Christine’s humble abode is an appropriate warm-up to the beautiful neighborhood. Rolling down Richland Avenue past tucked-away houses provides a pristine glimpse of the university and the surrounding hills. In a matter of minutes, one is transported from a world of student parties to a world of nature and peace. If you aren’t carefully looking for the house, you just might miss it. The tan, threestory home sits just off the road, trimmed with green panels. Christine’s home features three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms and large upper and lower decks that each overlook a half-acre of woods. The interior is fitting for someone conscious of the rich culture and history of the area. The rooms are mostly adorned in classic furniture from Christine’s parents. From her eggplant-colored loveseats and antique chairs, to softpink curtains that soak up the light from her one-of-a-kind lamps, Christine’s house exudes a hominess that’s tough to fake. Christine has her mother to thank for this. “My mom did a great job keeping her things well-maintained,” she said. Christine noted that inspiration for her house did not come from magazines or “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” “I didn’t go out and say, ‘I’m going to buy that, that, that and that.’ The only real renovation I’ve made to my house is my kitchen,” she said. “We made it larger and added new counters. I needed a big kitchen.” Christine’s spacious kitchen paired with a large back deck come in handy when having company—a common occurrence in the Knisely household. Last spring she lent rooms to members of Doctors Without Borders, a medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists. “I have people who occasionally stop through, and when Doctors Without Borders came through town, the people of the College of Medicine decided that rather than putting them in hotels or in dorms, we could put them up in people’s houses,” she said. Who wouldn’t pass on a cozy, Victorian furnished home with enough antiques and old pictures to fill a museum? Although no one would blame her if she wanted to spend more time in her Appalachian hideaway, Christine seems content with her rigorous schedule. “I really enjoy being involved with Athens and the council,” she said. “Since 1998 I have been involved with my neighborhood association and since 1996, I’ve been a part of the Women League of Voters. The whole point is to get involved, get active and make a difference.” Each year as Christine watches the Athenian foliage change outside her floorto-ceiling windows, she notices more and more houses cropping up around her property. Christine’s surroundings are still a far cry from a metropolis, though. On the

political side, the new residents represent more voices for Christine to hear and more interests to represent. Ron Paul’s Facebook fan page has more supporters than Joe Biden’s



tudents, professors, community members and even politicians are taking a keen interest in one issue this year: “going green.” From Hollywood to hometowns, many people are recognizing the benefits of sustainable living. While students are striving to be environmentally conscious by sorting and recycling their biodegradable Baker Center silverware, local politician Nancy Bain is taking sustainable living above and beyond—literally. Nancy is looking to the sky for energy with her recently installed solar panels. On top of her four-bedroom house on Columbia Road, hidden on the large roof, sit panels that save Nancy and her husband George both energy and money. Nancy serves as Third Ward Representative on Athens City Council and is an early-retired professor of environmental geography at Ohio University. Nancy considers herself to be an environmentally conscious person, and, like her involvement in local politics, it is a characteristic she says she learned from her family, as her father is a forestry person. Nancy’s solar purchase, however, was not initiated by her family, but from a project she implemented in one of her environmental geography classes. “I love that class,” she said from the comfort of one of the many lawn chairs that make her back porch a cozy space. Of course, with a surrounding half-acre of lush vegetation, it doesn’t take much to put you at ease. “I taught them about the carbon footprint. If you don’t know what it is, just go look it up online. It’ll ask you what kind of car you drive, how you heat your house, how many miles you drive a day,” she said. A carbon footprint measures the impact human activities have on the environment. It is calculated in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, and is quantified in units of carbon dioxide. It helps influence people by raising awareness about the effects that individuals have on the environment, and their impact on global warming. Like the motto of many national parks, Nancy believes the only thing we should leave behind is our footprints. Buying the solar panels was one of the ways she tries to minimize her tracks. The pleasure she gets out of having solar panels is shared with her husband, who she says is constantly admiring the panels and its operating system. “Every time I can’t find my husband, he’s looking at [the panels],” she said. When the couple decided to install the panels, they had a few household renovations to finish first. The two invested in new roofing and made ew Spear Krauss, Andr Photos: Dan sure the electrical units were up to date. The costs of the renovations and installation were not cheap, at $2,800. B u t thanks, in part, to a grant given by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Bains now live in one of a few dozen homes in Athens that have solar panels. The grant paid for one-third of the purchase, and now Nancy and her husband have a decreased electricity bill and an eco-friendly home. Nancy’s interest in environmental issues doesn’t stop in her classroom or at her home: she also tries to be an environmental advocate on Athens City Council. Her newest idea is the possibility of installing solar panels on top of the Athens Recreation Community Center located on East State Street. It is up in the air as to whether or not the idea will fly with Athens’ top-level officials. As the rain began to drizzle over her back porch—and her solar panels— Nancy expressed her gratitude for those who have become more concerned with environmental issues. “I think people often have the image that pro-environmentalists are idiots or freaks,” she said. “ But when you start looking at people’s interests, they may not all have the same identical interests, but they do have interests that converge into this idea. It’s a large umbrella. We need an umbrella don’t we?” she said as the rain came down harder. “I think being environmentally conscious all comes from a larger idea. We’re like shareholders and stockholders in this world.” John McCain has a stuffed dancing hamster in his Senate office

backdrop | 2008 | fall


hype T


he summer internship has become an integral part of the college experience. For some, the partnership is a nightmare. For others, it’s a way to get a foot in the door at a dream job. My summer position at IMG fashion and their Fashion Week publication, The Daily, was neither. It was, in hindsight, a lesson in how to survive in a world I knew nothing about. I thought I’d seen it all in my quirky college town, but not even Athens could have prepared me for the fierce fashion world. I was, admittedly, a bit intimidated my first few days in IMG’s Park Avenue office. Picture Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, only as a college male. Somewhere between the mountains of free sample bronzer and pretending to have an inkling of what it meant for a handbag to be deconstructed, I realized that my passion for vintage Nikes was not enough of a credential to get by on. Enter one eccentric and demanding German editor-inchief, Brandusa, who spoke with an accent and intensity that would put the fear of God in any editorial assistant, and I had my hands full. I knew I would have to adapt — become a fashion sponge — and by God, I would have to start using the word “fabulous.” Slowly I learned the basics, which any fashion industry hopeful should pocket in the back of their designer jeans. I quickly learned that last names have no place in fashion. They are merely for “civilians” who are not in the scene enough to communicate on a first-name basis. Morning web meetings sounded more like the high school lunch table than industry talk, and it took a solid month before I could begin to pair the Jacobs with the Marcs being tossed around. I often turned to rap songs for guidance in designer name dropping. “What are you wearing tonight?” comes before “Hello, how are you?” or “Nice to meet you, my name is Shamus.” No excep-


tions. If you ever want to look important at an event, it only takes a two-dollar investment. We’re talking clipboards, people. Anywhere there is a red carpet, ‘power girls’ use the 8” x 12” slab of faux oak as a license to tell anyone where they can and cannot go. I actually had questions silenced without words ... just flashes of “the board.” “Excuse me do you know where I can” — board flash — “Thank

nessed my inner chic to find that I did indeed have the audacity to tell New Yorkers what was hip. I now know that an Oscar is more than a movie award (it’s also a dress worth more than your tuition) and, sweet Jesus, a pair of shoes is never just a pair of shoes. Brandusa turned out to be much less intimidating than Meryl Streep (although I still don’t think she ever learned my name). I now understand that working in this industry takes a different breed. Would I do it all again? Sans doute. At the very least, I gained “baller” status at

“I was, admittedly, a bit intimidated... picture Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, only as a college male.”


backdrop | 2008 | fall

you.” The PR girls became so intimidating at times that I would hold fake conversations on my cell phone to avoid direct eye contact. Never pass up a chance to abbreviate. Or abrev. That frock is fab! We’re getting fro-yo. (Frozen yogurt — the midday fashionista fuel of choice.) Even my advisors scrapped birth names Nola, Valentine and Bianca in favor of Noles, Val and Biancs. Being chic is tough enough I suppose; why make it any harder by fully pronouncing words? Obvi. After arriving with only a Midwestern innocence and by no means a master’s degree in high fashion (or even a high school diploma for that matter), I left the Big Apple having completed a crash course. Fabulocity 101 Accelerated, if you will. I had interviewed Marissa Miller, the No. 1 on Maxim’s Hot 100 list, who now I see only on posters on dorm walls. I had critiqued a $30 glass of champagne at Daniel, one of Manhattan’s most posh eateries (It passed my test). I dropped The Daily’s name to get past the velvet ropes to see my idol Pharrell perform, and harJohn and Cindy McCain both enjoy Seinfeld reruns

my mom’s “Project Runway” get-togethers where I would casually drop statements like, “Man, we really pissed Michael Kors’ people off that one day.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t accept an invitation to return to work Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Instead, I was running cross-country meets for OU in short green running shorts. I know—the opposite of chic right? But hey, I think I just heard on a blog somewhere that showing a little thigh might be coming in for 2010. Oh, that was for girls? Damn. I still have a lot to learn.


like to think of my life as being pretty fictional, so much so that I recently inked the word “fiction” down the left side of my torso. My experiences have been so outrageous that no one seems to believe them. This summer, though, I added meaning to that tat and another chapter to my fictitious life. This is one chapter that I wish were a figment of my imagination. It is a chapter about lies, deceit and broken promises. The only happy ending is that I made it back alive (barely) to my Appalachian paradise with more tales to tell and the hope that I might be able to save others from ever having to endure what I went through. Looking back, I should have known... My odyssey began last spring when I was recruited for a “summer internship” with Southwestern Company out of Nashville. Their business began in 1855, selling bibles door-to-door during the Civil War. After a series of buyouts, partnerships and acquisitions, Southwestern expanded until there was a total of 16 companies in the corporate family. There are unpleasant college internships, and then there is the Southwestern Company. The private company, which was apparently Christianbased, ironically seemed to ignore the Golden Rule when they chewed me up, spit me out, and shat all over me. Twelve thousand times. Actually that’s just how many miles they had me put on my car. In eight weeks. Today, Southwestern recruits unassuming college students - like me - to sell educational reference and children’s books door-to-door across the United States. In short, Southwestern hires people to do their dirty work. On a whim, I filled out an application for the company, but just to show how serious I was about the position, I signed the name space with my potty-humor alias: Poopman. I was shocked to get a call back the next day.



“Hello! Is this, um, the Poopman?” the voice on the phone said. “Yep, Who’s this?” I replied. “I’m calling from the Southwestern Company,” said the voice. “We looked over your résumé and you have outstanding credentials! We’d like to set up an interview with you this week for our summer internship. But before we can do that, we just need to know one thing: your real name.” I should have known. But I didn’t. And I went ahead and made my mark on the small dotted line that, in turn, would leave a much larger mark on me. My supervisor dropped in occasionally to wine and dine me and get me prepped. Things seemed all right. That is, before I arrived in Sioux City, Iowa, (or as the natives referred to it, “Sewer City”) and before I put two-years worth of mileage and wear-and-tear on my already aging car. This was before I completely ruined my driving record and was dropped

by my insurance company; before I was subject to blatant racial profiling in a town of 750 people. This is the same town where I was charged with solicitation and criminal trespassing - twice. I should have known. Highlights from the summer include waking up at 2 a.m. on a golf course in Iowa (covered in flies because I literally fell asleep while going for a run), eating and sleeping out of my car, living with a 90-year-old woman in her basement, which no one had been in since the 1970s, and seeing a man fall victim to a

routine drive-by “bricking.” I was actually deceived into thinking I’d come out with my credit card debt paid off. I bought into the testimonials on the brochure of a wholesome-looking girl saying, “I made $8,000! It was awesome!” Hell, they had me convinced that I might even have some extra money for the school year. In actuality, I lost $7,000 and buried myself in enough high-interest debt to successfully keep me from purchasing a house or new car for the next two decades. Instead of a clear mind, I get knots in my stomach wondering which late-night Big Mamma’s trip will drive me to the brink of bankruptcy. Before this summer, I always saw the natural good in everyone. I’m the kind of person who will give anyone a fair chance. The word “enemies” didn’t exist in my vocabulary. After seeing the things I saw, I’m skeptical. Now, I’m quick to judge and wary about people and their motives. I find myself asking a lot more questions like, why would a private, Christian-based company do this to college students? Why would someone bend the truth so far, as to enslave an unknowing person into doing a job with such repercussions? Why am I left debating which kidney I should sell, when my direct supervisor makes a cool $80,000 a year base salary? I should have known. Unfortunately for me though, only my hindsight is 20/20 — and my credit card interest compounds.

President Calvin Coolidge lived in the White House with his pet raccoon, Rebecca

backdrop | 2008 | fall






he campaign button was widely used for the first time during the 1896 race between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. But Sarah Palin thongs and Barack Obama boxer-briefs are totally 2008 debuts. While wearing your political preference is nothing new (citizens of Constantinople painted a fingernail the color of their political party), the advent of online print-on-demand shops allows anyone with an ounce of desktop publishing skills to see their witty catchphrases adorn anything from totes to tees, note cards to coffee mugs. Hell, you can even deck out your dachshund like a Dem or dress your German shepherd in a GOP getup. One of, if not the most popular of these customizable e-commerce sites is Launched in 1999, the site lists over 150 million unique items for sale, including 1,800 John Kerry results, 3,800 for Al Gore, and 5,800 George W-related items. While the Alaskan governor clocks in a measly 1,160, she deserves a break, as she confessed at the vice presidential debate: she hasn’t been at this very long. But the big winner in terms of sheer numbers is Barack Obama with 37,200 results created by supporters and opponents both backing and bucking his candidacy. Pundits and punks have been thinking outside the shirt box and creating political paraphernalia that ranges from Obama onesies for infants, McCain/ Palin beer steins, and Halloween masks in paper and latex. McCain/ Palin neckties and baseball caps go head to head with Obama nesting dolls and life-size cardboard

cutouts. Books have been written at breakneck speed to keep up with the insatiable desire to really “know” the candidates. Biographies of Joe Biden and Michelle Obama are already in bookstores. A book called Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader debuted this month and a biography called Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment on Its Ear highlights Sarah’s road to VPILF-dom and became available in trade paperback in September. But perhaps the hottest commodity when it comes to Palin books is a little collection of family photos compiled by the editors of the Wasilla Iron Dog Gazette, called Terminatrix: the Sarah Palin Chronicles. The cover of this gem features a pleatherclad Palin wielding an assault rifle with the determined countenance of a die-hard moose hunter. However, as the adage goes, the pen is mightier than the sword. In addition to

The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from my Father, Obama has

a book of speeches, and Change We Can Believe In, which outlines what his policies would be if elected. On the other hand, in addition to a slew of antiliberal media, anti-leftist books debunking Obama’s rise in politics and condemning his candidacy, there’s Fleeced: How

Barack Obama, Media Mockery of Terrorist Threats, Liberals Who Want to Kill Talk Radio, the Do-Nothing Congress, Companies That Help Iran, and Washington Lobbyists for Foreign Governments Are Scamming Us ... and What to Do About It. Really, the title says it all.

Most of these books are available on Court Street. Little Professor has a window display and a political section, but next door, Folletts takes the cake for the McCain and Obama action figures prominently displayed in their front window. Inside, a fairly balanced table features Democrat and Republican pins, bumper stickers, books and Rock the Vote tees. Campaign merchandise has become a fashion statement, but campaigns don’t make money from third party vendors’ wares. So although profits from official items purchased though the candidates’ Web sites count as campaign donations, millions of dollars are being spent on unofficial merchandise, the profits from which go into private business’ coffers. Wandering up Court Street, you’ll find a plethora of companies taking advantage of election fever. Cross Court has McCain and Obama greeting cards. No Sarah in sight, but the girl behind the counter said they might get Palin cards if the Republicans win the White House. Artifacts has the ever popular “Do you smell what Barack is cooking?” tees but it’s the Republican and Democratic field offices located at 28 S. Court St. and 5 N. Court St. respectively where you’ll find the bulk of the “chum” — that’s political campaign speak for yard signs, buttons, bumper stickers and the like. “We had bumber stickers, pins, signs, you name it,” said Larry Gibson, chairman of the Republican headquarters in Athens and a member of the Republican central committee. “Up until Palin, when she jumped in, wow. There was no way we could keep up,” he said . The Obama campaign has,

“The O Logo is pretty versatile. It’s a with revealing and heartwarming stories from well-done campaign from posters to inter- their personal lives. Obama’s graced the covers net Web sites. A lot of thought and time of OK (as a double cover with Palin), Rolling went into the design,” said Simon Hargus, Stone, Vibe, GQ, Wired, even the ‘tween ‘zine national team leader for the Obama Cam- Tiger Beat, just to name a few. Palin has been paign at OU. “By now it’s become a logo on the National Enquirer (more than once), Us to represent a brand. That’s the thing you Weekly, People and Alaska magazine (go figwant, to be branded. ure). She was also featured It’s a testament to the “The O Logo is pretty versitile. It’s a as the subject of a Fountains logo to be able to drop well-done campaign from postof Wayne parody, “Bristol’s the name.” Mom” and a Katy Perry Other candidates ers to internet Web sites. A lot of parody, “I Picked a Girl.” have had their share thought and time went into the Perhaps not as moving as of limelight and and company’s ics. Jimmy Carter design.” “Yes We Can,” but pretty used a peanut char- - Simon Hargus, damn funny nonetheless. acter on pins to proNational Team Leader for the Obama Campaign Obama also gets shoutmote himself as just outs in rap songs by Coman honest peanut mon and Lil Wayne. farmer. And in the 1820s when all white This election has received more media men received voting rights, political mer- attention from across the spectrum and ch was used to entice laymen to support garnered a higher number of participants a particular candidate. Clinton may have active in the political process than any played his sax on The Arsenio Hall Show, previous election. but no campaigns have had more media Echoing the unofficial motto from both sides, attention than the 2008 presidential elec- Larry says that no matter who wins, “change is tions. Miss a debate? coming.” Youtube it. Want the “We had bumber stickers, pins, Whether you’re a Barack latest scope, gossip signs, you name it, up until Palin. die-hard , a Hillary supand predictions? The porter who crossed parties blogosphere is buzz- When she jumped in, wow. There or just a fan of the maverick ing about everything was no way we could keep up.” himself, come election day from the potential after the votes are tallied the first ladies’ fashion - Larry Gibson sale of election merchansense and Sarah PaChairman of the Republican Headquarters dise will wane, the political lin’s beauty queen bloggosphere will quiet and days, to Obama’s you can go back to quietly weight-lifting routine playing with your candidate and McCain’s favorite midnight snacks. action figures, knowing you contributed to After the VP debate sketch on Saturday the commodification of what Biden is font of Night Live, ratings for the show jumped calling “the most important election if your 23 percent. lifetime.” Obama, McCain and Palin aren’t just showing up on Time Magazine and on the front page. They’re infiltrating gossip mags and tabloids


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Joe Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, home of TV show The Office’s Dunder Mifflin Paper Company

THE INFERNO HAS PADDED FLOORS One reporter spends a hellish week with Ohio University’s hardest working student-athletes—for your sake. BY ANDREW EISENMAN The Inferno is court-level at the Convocation Center, behind a kept-shut door you’d easily miss or mistake for a utility closet. Inside, it’s swampy. Body heat burns up the atmosphere. The room is lit like a film noir. A sign at the entrance says: No Street Shoes Allowed On The Mats. In a way it means leave the outside out. A digital clock is set against the back wall. The time, in blood red diodes, is way off. In here, time is futile. A mindfuck. Five minutes feels like half an hour when you’re on your back, legs pretzeled behind your ass, someone’s forearm crowbarred

across your face. You stand flat against the wall nearest the door. You push back with your legs to make the room a few inches wider because you’re suffocating. They shake hands, always, first thing. They circle, crouched, squared up. They paw and feign, try to deke the other out of position. It’s human chess—on meth. It’s chess until their heads smack like bighorns. Now it’s a duel. One ducks under and shoots, fast, driving his opponent to the mat. They grunt, twist, struggle. Muscles flex. Muscles you don’t even have. The kid on his back rolls over. Stands.

backdrop | 2008 | fall John McCain has seven children, one of which is adopted from Bangladesh


Spins the other guy off. They square up again. Circling. They are the uberbadass Ohio University varsity wrestlers: smushy-faced and cauliflower-eared. They’re the boys who came home covered in mud, knees bleeding, always hungry, tireless. In their eyes, something’s been turned off. Fear. Selfdoubt. Something. They’re warm now. Sweating. The walls are sweating. You tug the bottom of your shirt. Socks rolled up to your calves, legs like pencils. You stretch—bend over, touch your toes, that sort of thing. The photographer thinks you’re crazy. “You sure you want to do this?” he says. “No,” you say. “But I already rubbed on the Kenshield.” Kenshield is a foamy skin protectant none of the wrestlers use (only pussies). You wouldn’t leave the locker room until you lathered every pore. At least you know where you stand. The lanky kid, Garcia, pulls himself up. Now it’s your turn. Sweat

Without mental toughness and hard work there is no such thing as the wrestler. plunges off your face, as if it doesn’t want to stick around for what’s about to happen to you. He smirks at you the way a lion smirks at a three-legged water buffalo. You shake his hand. You do your best impression of the crouch, but it’s a parody. You circle. He flicks your forehead. You go cross-eyed. In that moment he shoots, spins you off balance, slaps you against the mat like sliced cheese on tile. Arms flail. Instinctively you roll to your stomach. He pins you there. He lets you up unapologetically. You scurry to your feet. He snags your foot mid-gallop. You turn into his trap and he pushes you onto your ass. Thump. The entire time he’s smirking. They go at it like this (nonstop) for two hours, four days a week. Though the Inferno is the practice room, what goes on inside is not practice. It’s called going “live.” When you’ve got a room


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full of state champions, practice itself is a competition. Everyone wants to show how tough he is. Everyone is the Big Dog. The Badmotherfucker. Three days a week they’re up before the gas stations open, in the gym sweating, maxing out. When they’re maxing out they’re lifting more than they ever have before. More than what was physically possible last time. Three days a week. That’s how they get stronger. You join them. Monday morning, alarm screaming middream, six forty-five. You pull your only pair of mesh shorts from the bottom of your laundry basket. You haven’t been up this early in months. You slog to Peden, suppressing your morning wood under the elastic waistband. There’s something charming about the day before 8 a.m. The weight room is Olympic: two wrestlers to a station— each a blue collar Bowflex. They’re an army of gray t-shirts and forest green shorts. They’re arranged by size down the line, partnered up, big with big, small with small. One has the unfortunate assignment of being your partner. You go first. Power cleans. He slides a yellow weight to each end of the barbell. He says if you can’t get this, you’re a bitch. You grip the bar and look up as if to say, “Is this right?” You squat, back straight, deep breath, explode one motion: pull up, spread legs, wristflip bar parallel with chest, intestines blow out your anus, unravel onto floor. At 8:45 the morning workout is over. They meet together, hand in the air, “team on three.” You join them, sort of. Because you’re not really one of them. Then they’re off to class like the rest of us. They get no preferential treatment. They have the same homework you have, the same tests and the same quizzes. Their schedules—their lives—revolve around wrestling. Wrestling requires two things of a man: mental toughness and hard work. Anything else, if you’ve got anything else, is bonus. But without mental toughness and hard work there is no such thing as the wrestler.

Sarah Palin’s eldest son, Track, was named after the course of the sockeye salmon the family fishes

Photos: Dan Krauss

To know you’re able to kick anyone’s ass is a state of mind-- the solution when you add together mental toughness, hard work and countless hours in the gym. Your goal here is to find out what the wrestler knows that the rest of us do not. What does mental toughness plus hard work equal? Standing there, in the Inferno, back against the wall, knees chattering, it hits you: The wrestler knows he’s able to kick anyone’s ass. It’s not arrogance. It’s not machismo. Arrogance is a character flaw, a defense mechanism. In here, machismo will get you your ass beat without the help up and the handshake afterward. No. To know you’re able kick anyone’s ass is a state of mind—the solution when you add together mental toughness, hard work and countless hours in the gym. In here, if you don’t know you’re able to kick anyone’s ass, you’re going to lose. Simple. The concept itself is transferable outside the gym. It’s a metaphor for the things we are capable of achieving. Garcia lets you up. He moves on, leaves the carcass for someone else. Already your legs are gone, waterlogged, shoes glued to the mat. You shake hands with this someone else. He is a cinder block wall. His calves are as big as your thighs. His thighs are as big as your torso. You assume the crouch. You circle, feet crossing, the lazy way. Circling. You decide he’s not taking you down this time—because even in a room full of Badmotherfuckers you still have some pride. You attempt a double-leg, tired and telegraphed. You drive powerlessly into his hips. What happens next is what would happen if a smart car slammed head-on into a parked bulldozer. He sprawls, stuffs your takedown. He barrels his chest heavy between your shoulder blades. You squirm. He lies down with all his

weight, you under him, and if it weren’t for the mat you’d be an archeologist’s excavation. He backs off. You crawl toward the wall. Your arteries carry molten lead to your legs where lactic acid has burned to ash. You somehow clamber, jelly-kneed, to your feet. You’re sucking air. He’s right behind you, on your back. He wraps you up, lifts you off the ground and slams you like a bag of sand. His shoulder plows into your face. Everything crunches. Cartilage cracks. With him still draped over you, bending your joints in the wrong directions, you reach with your free hand to your nose, which you think is broken, smashed, a sniffle away from pouring blood. “Wait,” you say. “What?” he says, elbow across your jaw. “Am I bleeding?” “No” “Okay.” “Do you want to stop?” “Yes.” He gets off. You stay down, panting, waiting for your body to regain its shape again like in the cartoons. He’s gone, engaged in battle with a more formidable opponent. Big with big. You get to your feet in stages: Flat backed to all fours, all fours to one knee, one knee to standing, hands on knees, sweat puddling on the mat. You’re done. That’s it. No more wrestling. No more lifting at 7:30 a.m. No more Kenshield. No more going live. You straighten up. Everything is blurry. You turn around and find the clock on the wall. You blink out the fuzz. When the numbers come into focus for some reason you’re not surprised. Your shirt is soaked, muscles ache. You stare at the clock, condemn it to hell. In the Inferno, time alone will make you want to quit.

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Opticians have seen an increase in the demand for Sarah Palin’s glasses—model 704, No. 34 gray of the Kazuo Kawasaki eyewear collection





t the end of WWII, the GI Bill was used as an economic tool to give money for education to veterans in the hopes that it would all kick back into the economy. Today, the GI Bill is an incentive for young people to join the military. As the face of higher education changes, the GI Bill has had to adjust. The newest adaptation, The Post 9/11 GI Bill, was signed into law June 30 of this year. Starting next August, all veterans who served after September 11 will receive tuition benefits equivalent to the fees at the most expensive public college in their state, a monthly housing allowance and $1,000 a year for books. This quarter, 323 veterans at Ohio University applied for funding from Veterans Affairs. The following are portraits of two students who have served in Iraq. These students provided support for their country in an unpopular war and faced physical and mental challenges abroad and upon return. Payment for their education is a small reward for their time and commitment.

“Before I left, all I cared about was getting hammered, hooking up with girls and seeing my friends. When I got back, I spent all my time with my family.” - David Chapman


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Photos: Pete Larson

It’s funny how quickly things can change—how individuals adapt and desensitize to the most daunting situations. The first time David Chapman heard the sound of a .50 caliber machine gun, he almost lost it. Less than six months later, he calmly went back to sleep after being awoken by a nearby rocket ambush. While attending high school in Athens, David was a self-proclaimed “meathead jock” who never thought his daily actions would amount to his future. After scoring low on the ACT and ranking 193 of 233 in his high school class, reality bit hard. Having been rejected by OU, David enrolled at Hocking College in 2002. He ended up doing worse in college than in

high school, and was left with limited options. He couldn’t see a future working an entry-level position, so he enlisted in the military. David began basic training March 2004 in Antonio, Texas. In October, he was stationed in Barksdale, Louisiana, where he stayed for six months. On June 17, 2005, he began a 220-day service at Camp Bucca in Iraq. The largest detainee facility in Iraq, Camp Bucca had imprisoned 10,000 insurgents at the time of David’s service. It was there that he met an array of individuals and learned first-hand the spectrum of Iraqi culture. “You have the farmer with 26 sheep who can’t even read or write and then there are Brown-educated prisoners with mansions all over the world who are there because they have been accused of giving funding (to terrorist organizations),” he said. “There was the face of welfare and their version of Bill Gates all in the same compound. “Ninety percent of the [Americans] I worked with saw [Iraqis] as terrorists, not as a guy just like us fighting for what he believed in. Were we even fighting for what we believed in or were we just tak-

David Chapman, US Air Force

ing orders because we joined the military? I didn’t mistreat prisoners, because I saw them as people, which was, in all honesty, completely freaking depressing to deal with.” When he left Iraq in January 2006, David felt a major transformation in his life. For the first time since his stint at Hocking College, David was thinking about education. Almost immediately upon his returning to Louisiana, he enrolled in classes online through Ohio University. He returned to Athens at the end of August. He finished his service in March, but spent a few months working a civilian job in a veterinarian’s office because his girlfriend of two and a half years, Sabrina Brown, is still an active duty officer. “I came back from the military so motivated. When you’re over there, there’s so much time to think outside the box, to gain new perspectives. I saw 18-year-old kids with people’s lives in their hands. We got attacked. I saw people die. The things you see, the responsibilities put on you, how could it not make you mature?” he said. “Before I left, all I cared about was getting hammered, hooking up with girls and seeing my friends. When I got back, I spent all my time with my family.” David is thankful for his experiences at war. He believes that there is no point in an Iraq veteran actively trying to turn people against the war, because it won’t help the troops that are still there. However, he finds it nearly impossible for someone the least bit educated not to admit there’s something wrong about the war. “There are things I’ve seen that I wanted to go to big media with,” he said. “I saw marines carrying M16 A1s, twentyyear-old models of weapons that were replaced ages ago; wearing 30-year-old flack vests; using wooden turrets. At the same time, we have brand new Xboxes, huge TVs, a Ping Center in the middle of the desert… In the chow hall, we had the option of eating lobster and crab legs every single day. You could write a whole article on why the funds are so unbalanced.”

Ronald Reagan was a broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs in the mid-1930s

When John Kerry made the comment that American males today either do well in high school or go to Iraq, David felt like punching him in the face—because it was true. As a result of the dynamics of the American military, many veterans end up worse off when they come home because they’re at the bottom of the barrel financially. Under the current system, David receives $1,104 a month with 36 months of entitlement. While the GI Bill allows him to take some of the weight off, many other students cannot take advantage of the opportunity because the numbers just don’t add up. Out of the hundreds of people David knows in the military, only dozens actually take advantage of the bill. “No one was using the current GI bill because it didn’t pay enough, but the new one is 100 percent tuition and a check for living expenses, all tax free. The new GI bill is a great incentive for those individuals who would have never been able to afford (college). It really levels the playing field,” he said. In spite of his strong feelings against the war, David recognizes the benefits of the military. He believes if he hadn’t joined, he’d still be in Athens, without an education, most likely in trouble. “Between the time I left for Barksdale and now, I’m night and day.”

“My uncle was a marine in Vietnam, so [caring for him] actually turned out to be a cathartic experience. He was an open mind and it was a good experience for both of us to be able to talk about things.” - Amber Wozniak Amber Wozniak does not resemble the typical OU student clad in a high school prom t-shirt and sweatpants. Her silver Birkenstocks are paired with a tight-fitting purple motorcycle jacket, a bulky bike helmet rests at her side. Beyond her style and hobbies, Amber differs from the typical OU student in experience. She spent a year saving lives in southeast Baghdad. Coming and going is a common theme for this senior human biology major from Willoughby. As a sergeant and medic for the Ohio Army National Guard, Amber

Amber Wozniak, Medic for Army National Guard has juggled her service with academe, taking a break from school in fall 2005 to help in Louisiana and Mississippi during Hurricane Rita, and again in fall 2006, when she was deployed to Iraq. Upon her return to the U.S. last fall, she had plans to get back in school, but her uncle broke his neck and she opted to take care of him before returning to Athens. Taking care of him instilled Amber with a sense of purpose, something she had felt was missing since returning home. “My uncle was a Marine in Vietnam, so [caring for him] actually turned out to be a cathartic experience,” she said. “He was an open mind, and it was a good experience for both of us to be able to talk about things.” The daughter of a firefighter and accountant-turned-lunch lady, Amber understood early on that it was up to her to find the funds for college. She enlisted in May 2003, on the day she turned 18. While stationed at Camp Victory and Camp Liberty, near Baghdad, Amber treated patients from all over—American soldiers, workers from Pakistan, contractors from Fiji and the like. “At times, it was like the United Nations,” she said, laughing. “We got really good at using sign language medicine. I’m sure we looked like absolute goofballs, but it worked.” It’s been a year since Amber returned from the war, and while life is looking up these days, the homecoming process wasn’t a cakewalk. In Iraq, Amber was forced to keep her emotions in check, to

focus on the mission at hand. When she returned, it felt like everything stopped moving. Finally, the emotions that had been shelved for months came flooding back. “Initially I was angry, but realized it was a hollow, useless emotion,”she said. After a summer coming to terms with her experiences, she was concerned about being ostracized when she returned to school. Though she claims she is the happiest she can remember and absolutely loves Athens, she does admit other students can be inappropriate at times. In one instance before her deployment, Amber had to deal with a fellow classmate’s rude behavior. While walking on campus in her uniform, someone spit on her. “I was shocked. I think I was called a baby killer or something. I took the high road and didn’t react, but it was definitely surprising, a real disappointment,” she said. She attributes this type of behavior to the ignorance and apathy of the American public and media’s attention, or lack thereof, to the war. “When I was over there, we’d turn on the news and it would be more focused on what Paris Hilton was doing. Frankly, it makes me want to vomit but it’s the reality we live in,” she said. “The war is old hat and it’s really sad because there are so many people in another country in a bad situation, not because they want to be, but because they are taking orders.” Amber is lucky in that her tuition and fees are paid for by the Ohio National Guard program, and she pays for housing with compensation from her drills. Though she does not need assistance from the GI Bill because her tuition is already covered, she is happy for everyone she was serving with who will now have a chance to get an education. “It will help a huge generation of kids who definitely needed it. This is a fluid and changing war and the GI bill is finally reflecting that,” she said. As for how her war experiences changed or shaped her, Amber uses a unique analogy of a food processor, “Take everything you knew, or thought you knew, trusted or believed in. Put it in a blender and liquify it. The end result is still you, but it’s different. That’s what going to war is like. There are still things I’m angry about. There are things I’ve come to terms with, and other things I’ll never come to terms with, and I think I’ve accepted that.”

Lyndon Baines Johnson rejected his official portrait painting, saying it was the ugliest thing he ever saw

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Juice: noun /jōōs/

1) The percent taken from winnings by a bookie. 2) Refers to the interest on a loan/debt, generally in relation to a loan shark. BY WILL COOPER MEET THE VIG. While you are in class twiddling your thumbs, he is out rapping on doors demanding his money. Or you might catch him at one of Court Street’s bars, egging on Bengals fans to put down a bet. You’ll never see him balancing his book, because that kind of activity causes too much attention. But you will certainly see him cruising campus in a sports car, or flossing another man-toy he has scored from the spoils of his larger-than-you-might-think gambling ring at Ohio University. “If you look at the statistics behind [bookmaking], the house is going to win in the long run,” The Vig said. “If you do that over the span of a thousand years, you are going to be a rich man.” Being a bookie has proved to be a lucrative risk for The Vig. As a bookie (someone who takes bets on competitive events—usually sports), he has made an average of $9,000 a quarter and has maintained a client base of more than 25 student gamblers since last school year. Illegal gambling at OU was made public early this year when an anonymous e-mail was sent to baseball head coach, Joe Carbone, the Athletic Department and editors of The Post, citing former OU baseball players Andrew Shisila and Brent DeCoster for gambling. Shisila was convicted of bookkeeping and DeCoster was convicted of a lesser charge of disorderly conduct. Both students got off relatively easy with misdemeanors, considering that bookmaking can sometimes lead to jail time.

“Everyone has their own preferred bet the way everyone has their own preferred beer, like Bud Light to Miller Light.” --The Vig It is hard to imagine that students would go out of their way to participate in an activity with such severe consequences. However, there are some involved in Athens’ law enforcement that feel that bookmaking and student gambling is on the rise. “There has been an increase in the amount of gambling on college campuses,” Special Agent Michael Brooks of the Cin-


cinnati Division of the FBI said. Ohio University falls within the Cincinnati Division of the FBI’s regional jurisdiction. “There has certainly been an increase through traditional bookie-type operations.” OUPD Lieutenant Chris Johnson, who helped lead the investigation of Shisila and DeCoster, does not feel safe in conceding that there has been an increase in gambling on campus. Statistics on gambling are often unreliable because most criminals do not willingly admit they have committed a crime. In contrast, Brooks sees a specific cause for the alleged increase in student gambling operations. “Just like any other criminal activity, individuals who are engaging in criminal activity are going to go after individuals who have the ability (whether you are talking narcotics or gambling,) to pay for it. And college students have the ability,” Brooks said. The Vig’s primary clients are those to whom Brooks is referring: university students with a substantial amount of disposable income. To get at the holes burnt in the pockets of OU students, The Vig created an elaborate operation that begins by seeking out clientele. “I don’t like taking bets from random kids because they don’t pay,” he said. “Generally the people that you take bets from are people you know, people you drink with, go to class with...” The Vig offers his clients a wide range of bets. The “money line” is a bet in which the bettor predicts who wins the competitive event. The Vig offers “straight bets,” or “side bets,” where a bettor doesn’t bet on the winner or loser, but on the point spread. In a spread, it doesn’t matter so much who wins or loses but by how much the contest is won or lost. The Vig offers “parlays” and “teasers,” bundles of straight bets taken on multiple games. The bettor must be right on every event in a parlay or teaser to actually win any money. Generally, football and basketball are the sports that get the most action from clients. The terms of bets on hockey and baseball can be complicated and are often shied away from by college students. “Everyone has their own preferred bet the way everyone

fall | 2008 | backdrop John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day; July 4, 1826, the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence




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has their own preferred beer, like Bud Light to Miller Light,” The Vig

said. The Vig glows when he speaks of his operation and the futility of bets like the teaser. “A teaser is getting fucked up your ass,” he said. “If you look at the math behind it, statistically it is one of the worst bets you can make.” The reason The Vig is making a killing off of risk-hungry, gullible students is simple: he gets the juice. The Vig charges a 10-percent fee to all losers. This fee is colloquially known as “the juice.” When a bettor puts $100 on a

“Sometimes you pound on a guy’s door and let him know you mean business and say, ‘Where’s the cash at?’” -- The Vig game with him, the bettor stands to win 100 percent of the bet. If he loses, though, the bettor owes The Vig $110. All he has to do is get action on both sides of the bet from different bettors, so no matter what happens in the actual event, The Vig always makes money. For every great profit made by a bookie, for every ounce of juice squeezed from their clients’ pockets, there is a loser left in debt. It seems hard to understand how someone can willingly throw away so much money, but it is a timeless story of greed, overconfidence and the thrill of taking risks. “The Maverick” is an ex-client of the now-retired bookie known as “The Spread.” He began in fall 2007 as one of The Spread’s most successful clients. The Maverick started gambling to make extra cash because his campus job wasn’t giving him enough hours. He won early but soon he fell into a losing streak he couldn’t bet his way out of. “It made the night so much more thrilling in terms of the game that we were watching and in terms of the entertainment valuwe, because we had such high stakes on the line,” he said. The Maverick took out over 20 bets with The Spread over


his short stint as a sports bettor. To this day, The Maverick is still in debt to The Spread, who retired last school year with nB au several of his clients in the hole. He exited with a substanma tial profit. n The Spread once made more than $1,800 a week from gamblers. Despite the success, he left the game largely because of the hassles of running an efficient book. It can become increasingly hard for bookies to collect from gamblers. Many people outside the world of OU gambling picture bookies breaking kneecaps for payment. However, the criminal underbelly here is far more docile than the movies. “I have had to chase motherfuckers down and threaten them,” The Vig said. “Anything is possible. But in general most of the people in this business are monitoring ethics. These are white suburban kids. Sometimes you pound on a guy’s door and let him know you mean business and say, ‘Where’s the cash at?’ Typically it does not require resorting to violence.” The Spread preferred a more gentle approach. A lot of his clients were his friends, so he would create payment plans or just cut them off like he did The Maverick. In reality, a violent OU bookie wouldn’t be in business for long, because when students start popping up with broken limbs the long arm of the law is soon to take notice. Peaceful means of negotiation cut down on the off-chance a client will squeal, and limits any unwanted exposure. It is widely assumed among collegiate underground gamblers that as long as they stay under the radar—without some public act of violence or anonymous tip—law enforcement is not likely to break up these gambling operations. “We are an agency of twentysome sworn police officers,” said Lieutenant Johnson. “When you have an agency this size we really don’t have a vice unit, we really don’t have a drug unit, we really don’t have a lot of specialty units so that police officers can focus on this particular scenario” Bookies at OU know they cannot get too cozy. Just because the OUPD is preoccupied regulating Court Street, that doesn’t mean Uncle Sam won’t come after them for all that tax-free money they are raking up. “The FBI would have investigative jurisdiction over federal gambling laws,” Brooks said. “And these areas where we have and will continue to open investigations, including gambling activities that might focus on a particular college or college campus.” Weighing the pros and cons of the fast life in face of the law, both The Spread and The Vig plan to get out and stay clean. The Spread has already given up his short stint of felonious activities. The Vig is not far behind. When asked whether he would continue his bookkeeping after he leaves OU, The Vig said, “Fuck no man. I got to stay kosher when I graduate.” But until that faithful day, you might catch The Vig lifting a new plasma TV out of the trunk of his hot sports car. More than likely, you will see him at a bar, ecstatic over a game no one gives a damn about. He’ll be sitting there on a barstool, with a shit-eating grin on his face, smiling because he always wins and The Mavericks of the world always lose in a game in which the house sets the rules. A game in which the house always gets the juice.


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At his inauguration, Washington had only one tooth. At various times he wore dentures made of human teeth, animal teeth, ivory and lead. Never wood



Killer Condiment

How a Simple Seasoning Does More Than Spice Up Your Meal BY ELIZABETH SHEFFIELD

“I consider myself to be a pretty healthy person -- I run about 4 miles a day -- so, I was a little confused when the doctor asked me if I did cocaine on a regular basis.”

My friend from Columbus, Frances Maass, a sophomore at Arizona State University, is neither a cocaine-junkie nor a senior citizen, but when she went into her school’s health center for a common cold, her blood pressure was so high that she could have been mistaken for either. “[The doctor] finally believed that I wasn’t a user after checking a urine sample, and told me it might be because of the high salt content of the cafeteria food. Sure enough, after I stopped eating from the cafeteria, my blood pressure significantly lowered,” Frances said. fall | 2008 | backdrop

In a recent campaign speech, Sen. Barack Obama used the word “change” 23 times

I always knew salt was bad for you, but when I learned that consuming it could render you a pseudo-cokehead, my interest in these comparably harmless, white crystals heightened. How could a seasoning possibly cause high blood pressure in a 19-year-old runner? Was I at risk, too? As it turns out, salt (40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride) gives its degenerate cousin hydrochloride—cocaine— a run for its money. In addition to high blood pressure, sodium has been associated with heartburn, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, hypertension, cardiac enlargement, ulcers and hypernatremia (a form of dehydration). Sodium is also known to cause water retention, which in turn, causes the heart to overwork itself. On a less scientific note, water retention also causes bloating, or the appearance of “weight gain.” In short, sodium makes you look fat. However, sodium is not a total villain. In healthy amounts (less than 6 grams per day), it is good— essential even. Sodium is the primary electrolyte that regulates fluid levels in the body. But, as the saying goes, “everything in moderation.” According to the American Heart Association, most people in the U.S. consume two times more salt than the recommended amount. Each teaspoon packs about 2,300 mgs of sodium, which is the maximum the AHA suggests for daily consumption. For physiological purposes, our body requires only 460 mg a day. Though 2,300 mg may sound like a generous number, it is roughly the amount in a ham sandwich, a 3.5 oz. bag of Chex Mix, a can of Coke and a pickle. Part of the problem is our inability to gauge quantity. Unless you have a keen eye for measurements, or a teaspoon dangling from your OU lanyard,

chances are you don’t have any perception of your sodium consumption. When it comes to trafficking salt and sodium, processed consumables are the Colombian drug lords of the food industry. Processed foods are packed with salt for both flavor and preservation. Even cakes and candies contain salt, a deceptive trick for your taste buds. Furthermore, it’s not

“[Processed food] is part of the fastpaced, convenience world. You’re stuck with what the manufacturers put in.” -Barbara Nakanishi, dietitian just potato chips and junk food that are over-salted; it’s “health conscious” foods, too. For instance, five Snackwell’s wheat crackers contain a third of a teaspoon of salt, or a third of the amount of sodium you should consume in a day. And who eats only five crackers? O’Bleness Memorial Hospital dietitian Barbara Nakanishi advises her patients to avoid processed foods. “I would choose fresh foods over processed foods whenever possible. Fresh vegetables are lower in sodium than canned or frozen ones. Most fruits are okay either way, fresh or canned,” Barbara said. Of course, eating fresh food as a college student is extremely difficult. “[Processed food] is part of the fastpaced, convenience world. You’re stuck with what the manufacturers put in,” Barbara said. According to OU dining hall services head chef Matt Rapposelli, chicken is one of those processed foods that manufacturers literally inject with sodium (more than 1000 mg each). Finding chicken that hasn’t been injected is a struggle. Between the

1 Belgia n Waf f l e = 58 2 Fried Eg 7.2 mg gs = 159 mg Vegetaria n Cream of Brocco 1 Grilled C li Soup = heese on W 288.1 mg heat = 919 1 Slice of Pe .4 mg pperoni Piz za = 429.1 m 3 1/2 oz. “Sho g estring” Fren ch Fries = 352 4 Battered Chic mg ken Wings = 58 06.1 mg 3oz of Bacon and Cheddar Redskin Potatos = 558.6 m g 3.5oz Low-Fat Cottage Cheese = 368.3 mg

Gerald Rudolph Ford was the only president whose two assassination attempts against him were made by women

highly processed dining hall food, and the questionable gray meat at Wendy’s, it becomes laborious to moderate your salt intake. Luckily, not everyone is at equal risk for the negative results. Barbara hasn’t seen a case like Frances’, whose experience could be attributed to a high sensitivity to sodium. She has encountered other young people with high blood pressure due to a large sodium intake, but in conjunction with other medical problems. People who already suffer from high blood pressure, obesity, congestive heart failure, hypertension, poor diet or other ailments can only exacerbate their problems through a high sodium diet, Barbara said. Another method to reducing sodium consumption is reading labels. For those of us who “swipe” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the school’s Web site provides an interactive, online nutrition page, where you can piece together your hypothetical meal, and find out everything from calories to vitamin content. If that doesn’t do the trick, Matt has personally counseled students with special food needs, and helps prepare an individually tailored menu for them. He said that he is very aware of the effects of sodium, and avoids adding it during the cooking process. Although not all of us are prone to the maladies of sodium in early adulthood, we may encounter problems later in life. As I’ve heard my mother lament, “your actions now turn into habits later.” Since last spring, Frances’ blood pressure has stabilized, and she maintains a

low sodium diet full of fruits and veg-

gies. It seems tedious to put our food under a microscope and to count calories and read nutrition facts when we’re supposedly in the prime of our youth. We shouldn’t have to, yet for our own sake we must. Though we may think our stomachs are made of iron, even a nail when soaked in saltwater is known to rust.

25 S. S. COURT COURT ST. ST. 25 25 S. COURT ST. ATHENS, OH 45701 ATHENS, OH 45701 ATHENS, OH 45701 740.592.5478 740.592.5478 740.592.5478


backdrop / fall 2008 mountainlaurelathens.comFun fact goes here Fun fact goes here Fun fact goes here

PRICE CHECK One thing to consider when “going green” is how much green you’re spending. So, Backdrop did a little shopping homework, and compared the prices of organic and non-organic products from Wal-Mart. Here’s what we found:


$0.56 $0.75


$0.33 $0.44


$1.50 $4.00

$13.36 $14.26 $14.26

BY Krysten Bauman


The word “organic” conjures images of the chips and salsa from Casa Nueva, and the average 19 cent price difference between two identical looking apples at Wal-Mart. The assumption is that organic food is supposedly better for you, and not chock-full of chemicals. What you might not know is the term technically means that the land the crops grew on has been free from synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and other potential toxins for at least three years. With “going green” initiatives springing up like dandelions and consumers closely monitoring what they put in their bodies, it is no surprise that the organic food section is a rapidly growing department in most superstores, according to Wal-Mart’s chiefexecutive manager, H. Lee Scott Jr. In fact, consumer reports say organic is one of the fastest growing categories in the entire food business. Accused by skeptics as a ploy created by the food industry, there is no conclusive evidence showing that organic food is more beneficial to one’s health. So why did consumers of organic foods rise from half of the US population in 2004 to two-thirds in 2005? OU sophomore Julia Huber says that she chooses to buy organic in order to avoid chemicals. Chemical fertilizers used to grow non-organic food have been associated with several types of cancer, nervous system damage and brain damage. Conventional farmers use these fertilizers and other chemical insecticides, such as toxic aerosols and emulsified concentrates, on their plants, and sometimes give livestock growth hormones, antibiotics and medications to prevent disease. Organic farmers swap these potentially harmful additives for natural fertilizers such as cottonseed meal and fish emulsion. Organic livestock eat only organic feed. In order for products to receive the coveted “USDA organic” approval sticker, farmers must meet government standards. However, many small farms, including some in Athens County, are exempt from the certification process if they sell less than $5,000 worth of organic produce a year.

These small farms are still responsible for following government standards, but are not inspected periodically like larger operations. Several food producers are lobbying to make organic laws weaker by allowing farmers to call for “emergency exemptions” that would allow non-organic ingredients in organically labeled products, if the organic alternative is commercially unavailable. These amendments are supported by corporate giants, like Kraft, who are benefiting by bending the rules and charging more for products with an organic label. Not all organic food producers are behind these acts. Michelle McGrath, a former vendor at the Athens Farmers Market, considers herself an organic farmer, although she does not sell enough to require the official certification. She does not use synthetic fertilizers or anything that could “harm herself or anyone else.” Michelle described large food companies’ attempts to lower standards as “terrible” and said “it is scary that such a thing could happen.” Many producers assume that consumers will take their claims at face value, and often find loopholes in the law. Claims on food labels such as “natural” or “all natural” mean absolutely nothing. There is no standard definition for these terms, and producers can make such claims with no certification. “Free range” does not necessarily mean your dinner was once frolicking in a field before it met its end. All it means is the animal was allowed access to the outdoors for an “undetermined amount of time.” Seafood claims are also an exception because there are no standards to follow. The label to look for is “organic,” which means none of the ingredients are synthetic. As the popularity and price of organic foods increase, knowing how to read labels and knowing what they mean will ensure that you are getting what you pay for. Buying locally at the Athens Farmers Market, OU students will be able to support local producers and cut down harmful pesticide consumption, without breaking the bank.

backdrop | 2008 | fall




October Fist Grade School Jesty Beatz The Red Army LOGO


DJ An-Log Nig Unit

IN LOVING MEMORY Lianne Vernell 1986-2008

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.”

- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

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Oh! The (Drunk) Places You’ll Go! BY BRITTANY TIMMONS

Salutations! Today you will play. You’re off to drunk places, The Court Street Crawl way!

But there may not be any You’ll want to chow down. So try out O’Bettys, For the best dogs in town.

You’ll have beer in your stomach. You’ll have plenty of booze. You have 21 bars From two blocks full to choose.

It’s greasier there, If the lines you can bear.

You’re with your crew. Here’s a lesson to know: The pic on your fake Helps decide where you’ll go. You’ll trip up and down brick streets, in heels if you dare. “I have never been that drunk!” You’re sure to declare. With a stomach full of beer Yes, plenty of booze. Drunk food is abundant, If burritos you choose.

At that end of Court Street, there’s much more to do for people as daring and “drunky” as you. And when things start to spin, Don’t worry. Don’t spew. After-hours soon. Off to Mill Street with you!

Hot for Michelle Frasher-Rae Political Science

Q&A with OU’s most smokin’ professors Obama or McCain? Presently, I’m considering Charles Foster Ofdensen. What kind of advice do you have for staying young? Eat healthy, drink a lot of water, exercise, take vitamins, and have many hobbies and interests. What country is going to be the most important in the world in the next few years? Either China or India. What hobby would you engage in more often if you did not teach? Painting and music, but teaching doesn’t keep me from doing these.

Who do you think has been the most stylish political figure of our time? The one that wears a golf shirt and golf pants is stylish enough for me. What is your favorite subject, event, or country to teach about? I love the challenge of trying to enlighten people where statistics might be important in their own world. What shampoo do you use? Aussie Mega for the last 20 years. Have you ever been hit on by a student? More than I would have expected.

What do you think students should get out of political science? I hope that students gain an understanding of different perspectives through critical thinking. Where is the one place you’ve always wanted to travel? Kyoto, Japan What is the one thing that no one would expect of you? That I’ve worked in a steel mill.

BY SARAH PRICE BY JOSHUA TAYLOR In addition to being sexy, this professor enjoys both the refined arts and the unrefined humor of “Adult Swim.” Who wouldn’t fantasize about her in class? What is your favorite topic to teach? Nuclear strategy/warfare, international monetary affairs, or terrorism. What shampoo do you use? An immortal blend of Orc and Basilisk blood. If that’s not available, Aveda. Have you ever been hit on by a student? Not in class, but I’ve had some encounters from those who didn’t know I was a professor.

This stud from the land of maple leaves and hockey games can’t even vote in this election. But that doesn’t mean he has no opinion. What do you think is the most important issue in the upcoming election? The economy. Are there any special routines you have or products you use to keep yourself looking attractive? I’m pretty much a no-frills type of person so, no routines. It’s just shower, teeth and go. Michelle Obama or Cindy McCain - who would you rather have as your first lady? At this point, whoever’s husband can come up with the best economic plan would be the best first lady.

Craig McCarthy Psychology

Photos: Amdrea Kozakewich, Krysten Bauman

backdrop | 2008 | fall

President William Henry Harrison delivered the longest inaugural address—one hour and forty-five minutes, and had the shortest presidency— one month


exhibit Showcasing the university’s most creative minds...

Amiss by Kait Duffy tastes invisible while running misery was put aside sex-obsessed extreme living takes place on a cold corner hardly breathing “Untitled” by Joshua Leather 11” x 13 “ Mixed Media Collage: Book Pages, Rope, Wax, Mirror

“Bullfaced Gintime” by William Barndt Anderson 22”x32” Mixed Media: Monoprint

Too much. Rutted in another drunken stupor Whitney can’t shake the taste. Ensuing phantasmagorical embarrassments, nursing weeps, and hacking tongues find the lushy bovine smeared. A quota not reached pensively, a heavy shovel filled and turned, another fucked up-ward for their blind custodian.

“Creatal” by William Barndt Anderson 4 ft. x 1 ft Mixed Media: Screenprint on 2 panels The piece is aimed toward becoming the builder. Once constructed of original design nothing deserves question. Full blown control, total orchestration. Be a God, grow a new apple.

Poetry by Kayce Amelia Berke Within the amber of my eye In the calm separating today and tomorrow where hope breathes I saw you, Your freckled eyes etched an amber instant of serendipity a s they fleetingly danced across mine Your calm cloud covered lips promised the taste of existence casting an intimate gaze that connected two misplaced souls


fall | 2008 | backdrop

My senses sang a song never heard as you a stranger destined to leave before arriving drifted away from my perception In the arc of my memory alongside yesterday’s daydreams sleeps the bittersweet moment we never met If love at first sight had a definition it would be your unknown name

Photography by Marissa Schoonover

Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to travel outside the country while in office when he went to Panama in 1906


Fifth-year senior Eric Gorscak is one of the few nude male models for the School of Art. Backdrop met with the 22-year-old biological science major at his home, where he spoke humbly about being used as a vehicle for serious art, but also as a man who is willing to expose himself to brighten life’s bleak moments (like when a friend does poorly at WiiSports and needs cheering up). Backdrop: How did you get into nude-modeling? Eric Gorscak: How it started was that—[sighs]—I like to be naked. And some of my art student friends caught wind of that—or caught a glimpse of it, I should say—and they saw a flyer at Seigfried asking for nude models. It was toward the end of fall 2006 that I began training. BD: How much do you get paid? EG: About $10 an hour. Usually classes are three hours, so about 30 bucks each time. BD: Are you completely stationary during the poses? EG: The only thing I really can move is my eyes. Sometimes I look around and focus on what the artists are doing, and sometimes our eyes cross and we have a moment when they realize they’re drawing a naked man. And after that I look away—bashfully—because I have to go back to being an object. I can’t be human during the pose. BD: Are there artists who, just to spite you, draw you with a penis the size of a baby’s thumb? EG: They don’t embellish, but they don’t degrade either. They usually have a good representation of Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipators, which is the name I bestowed upon my genitalia.

BD: How are your relationships with the artists outside of class? EG: I’ve hung out with some of them. Sometimes we’re friends on Facebook. I cuddled with one. Sometimes there’s the awkward passing on the street—which is their fault, not mine, because they usually turn away and ignore me. I’m a nice guy. I try to be approachable. Some people can’t stop thinking of me as an object. BD: I hear you got kicked off Facebook for posting close-ups of your ‘Emancipators’. EG: That’s—the media, they took that a little too far. The reason I got kicked off of Facebook was because of—what was the reasoning again?—“excessive misuse of the sites.” You couldn’t see my junk. I mean, it was a mesh thong. One or two pictures. Possibly four. BD: You have two sisters, and one attends OU. What do they think of your side job? EG: They’re just like, “Ughhhh, God.” They’re not surprised, but I don’t know. They’re accepting, but they don’t want to think about it. [Pause] They don’t want to be attracted to me, that’s the thing. Because, you know, incest laws.

When you’re modeling, do you ever get sucked in—out of fright? EG: Sucked in? BD: Like, there’s an attractive lady… EG: Oh! The erection question. BD: No, no, I’m avoiding erections. I made a list of things I would not ask, and that was the main one. I only wanted to know whether you would kind of recede. EG: So it’s the opposite of erection. I’ve never had an erection during any of my poses. Sometimes if I’m bored and it’s a long pose I think, Let’s see if I can give myself an erection. Just for the hell of it.” And I can’t. I get stage fright. I remember one time when I was posing, I was on my back, one knee up, kinda, you know, like this [leans back on couch]. It got warm. And it got big. And it just FLOPPED over. It was very blatant. And I heard laughter. So I giggled along with them. I was like, “It happens.” BD: You mentioned that you have cuddled with an artist before. Working in an environment that focuses on your genitals, do you think that you have desensitized the crowd around you and that there is no more mystery left? EG: I’m a nude model, not a floozy. There’s a fine line between the two.

BD: Have you ever considered continuing showing people your genitals after college? EG: Well, it’s never going to die, my random genital showings to people. Like, I’ll play Wii Golf with my roommates and, suddenly, they’ll get a bogey, and I’ll say, “That sucks!” and I whip out my dick and say, “Hey, look at this,” and they’re like “Aw. Dammit.” That never gets old. B D :

Drawing: Cathryn Sicker (July-August ‘07)

backdrop | 2008 | fall With the exception of 1964, Alaska has voted for the Republican presidential candidate in every presidential election from 1960 to 2004



In Athens on the 31st, most students will end up drinking, sleeping, and possibly puking in their store-bought costumes. So why waste money just to look like half a dozen other sexy cats and Heath Ledger Jokers? Here are three cheap, DIY costumes you can throw together without ever leaving Athens.

GUYS: Chippendales dancer Girls shouldn’t be the only ones baring skin on Halloween. First, find some tight black pants. Second, borrow your girlfriend’s dark jeans or pick up a pair that’s a size too small from ReUse. Now, take off your shirt. Don’t panic. Even if you’re more of a Chris Farley than a Patrick Swayze, just keep in mind that girls wear drunk goggles too. Slide a white sweatband on each wrist and slick your hair back. Finally, put on a bowtie (Banana Road, $5.99), soak yourself in Axe, and start gyrating.

Total Cost: $5.99

COUPLES: “Girls Gone Wild”

Ladies, write “censored” on a strip of red poster board (Follets, $.99) and tape it to an old bra. Sport an unbuttoned shirt to cover your straps, wear a g-string and Mardi gras beads (CVS, $2.49 for six necklaces), and carry a red Solo Cup. Guys, write “STAFF” on an old t-shirt, wear a trucker hat, and follow your girl around with a camcorder. Just don’t be surprised if you see her on a late night infomercial for the real thing—“Girls Gone Wild: Aroused in Appalachia.” Instead, you could hold on to the home movie for later so you can cherish the times when guys hit on your girl as you stood there recording.

GIRLS: Sixth Grade School Picture Grab a torso-sized cardboard box (check the dumpsters behind Wal-Mart) and cut a large square out of the front panel. Cut out armholes and use blue paint to color the back panel as that cheaplooking background in your sixth grade picture. Write your name and school year in cursive across the bottom. Sport your cheesiest Faded Glory shirt or turtleneck, brightest scrunchie, and most obnoxious eye shadow. Slip that box on and start pre-gaming with your favorite Backstreet Boys album and sparkling grape juice.

Total Cost: $3.48

ruthless rant & rage




he growing trend to latch on to hot-button issues with extreme and impassioned reverence is perhaps one of the most painful tendencies of today’s youth. Facebook groups have replaced picket lines, as pixels rather than rocks are slung toward the monks’ offenders and Darfur’s oppressors. Mockumen-

fall | 2008 | backdrop

taries have replaced hard-hitting journalism, as hearty laughs have become more favorable than the need to learn about the deep-seeded problems. The U.S. student is fashionably equipped with the most inconsequential bits of knowledge, replacing the issue-knowing youth of yesteryear, wherein even the most complacent of flower children had more political know-how than the average college attendee in modern America. Big

James Buchannan was the only president who never married

Total Cost: Maybe $1 for the Backstreet Boys cassette tape. Photos: Courtney Gross, Denise Pansing

ears, snarky grins, monstrous coifs and rubber skin are the hot issues of today. Gone are the days when a candidate’s policies were front and center; instead, their profiles are profiled, and excruciatingly so. Any political hopeful not picturesque enough to look good on a tri-chromatic pin— let alone on television—might as well give up. Heaven knows that if you can’t strike a pose on the runway, you can’t oppose our foes from the White House.

I Never in my life have I been called a “moron,” “lazy-ass,” or “fatty” this much.


n a world of fried Twinkies and greasy cheeseburgers, where fat lurks on every grocery shelf, we need a culinary hero; a demigod who can protect us from the sinister carcinogen aspartame. Meet Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, two fat-fighters who kick asses, take names and make women skinnier with their New York Times bestseller, Skinny Bitch. This compilation of tips, recipes and Web sites is sure to scare a few pounds off your love handles—even before you reach Chapter 2. Each chapter of this self-proclaimed “nononsense, tough-love guide” focuses on a specific aspect of a healthy lifestyle—carbs, proteins, exercise, even poop—bluntly breaking down what we shouldn’t eat. In short, the authors mandate that if you need a periodic table to understand the ingredients of your favorite pre-packaged treat, don’t eat it. For those who can appreciate a friend who willingly tells you that your jeans make you look like Star Jones pre-gastric bypass, this book will offer more than just nutritional advice.

Beyond lamenting that soda is “liquid Satan” and that some demented farmers shove salt up pigs’ anuses for fun (a true story on page 72), Skinny Bitch is an entertaining, non-fiction work, served with a side of BAMF attitude. Never in my life have I been called a “moron,” “lazy-ass,” or “fatty” this much. Of course, the abrasive style isn’t for everyone, but it is only an incidental quality of this guide to getting a “sweet ass.” And no, this isn’t just another fad diet that fails within weeks. I have tried some of their suggestions and have dropped a few of my “freshman fifteen.” So, if “you’re sick of being fat,” and can take the truth without a high-fructose sugar-coating, then Skinny Bitch might provide the perfect motivation for you to trim down.



here’s something to be said about a book that lets you say “waterfall of shit” in a literary context. That “something” is debatable: perhaps “sophomoric,” “vomit-inducing” or “pulp trash.” Or, perhaps that something is “satirical gold.” Chuck Palahniuk’s 2001 novel, Choke, is more or less all of these rolled into one ejaculate-crusted ball of perfectly-timed, factoid-heavy mindfuck comedy. The book is about Victor Mancini, a failed medical student and colonial America reenactor who intentionally chokes on food in restaurants to scam those who help him, who picks up women at sex addict meetings and who may or may not be the son of Christ. The “waterfall of shit” gives a good feel for the book’s tone. The scene—actually a third-act storyline, so consider it a minor spoiler—is about two rubber balls from a string of anal beads lost in Victor’s intestinal tract. When Victor is given the Heimlich in an interrogation room by a police officer, the food pops out along

with the balls, which inevitably causes days of build-up to pour upon the officer like an Indonesian mudslide. At a cultural level, Palahniuk’s books read like adult versions of Goosebumps; most readers will obsess over a few of them and will consider the rest repetitious trash. That’s not to say Palahniuk never tills new ground. He experiments with form all the time in his fiction, such as the oral biography Rant and the Canterbury Tales-inspired Haunted. It’s just that Palahniuk sticks to his tried-andtrue guns of deviancy, grotesquery and stark minimalism that’s heavily peppered with chorus lines. But before it became repetitious, we had Choke, a gem no film version could accurately depict without being considered a porno. Here’s hoping they aimed for that. (The film version of Choke was released Sept. 26, starring Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston. Directed by Clark Gregg).

The title “First Lady” was first used in 1877 in reference to Lucy Ware Webb Hayes

The “waterfall of shit” gives a good feel for the book’s tone.

backdrop | 2008 | fall


Professors on Have you been contacted by a professor through Facebook?



Is Facebook a great tool for professors/ teachers to utilize?




Inbox Backdrop conducted an unofficial survey of Ohio University students about their thoughts on professors venturing into the realm of walls posts, statuses, groups and pokes. The results are about as surprising as last night’s pics your roommate tagged of you.

Is it inappropriate for professors to have Facebook?




Has a professor ever privately messaged you through Facebook?

Are you “friends” with a professor on Facebook?



Key Yes No








ARABWOMANBLUES: a glimpse into the Middle East

“Who am Arab woman, into my 40s and old enough to know better.” As Americans continue to argue points for and against war in the Middle East, we tend to forget to pay attention to those who actually live there. Layla Anwar, a self-described soul-searching Middle Easterner, traveling from place to place with nowhere to call home, forces those who stumble upon her blog to pay attention in a big way. Filling this insightful weblog are the thoughts and opinions of someone who lives and has lived through horrors we can only imagine. She shares with readers news from her life, e-mails from Americans and unadulterated art. If there is anyone who needs to be heard at a moment in time when we, the land of the free, vote for our next leader, who ultimately will make decisions that affect Layla’s life as much as our own, it is her. While this blog at times seems shocking, it is so only because Layla confronts ideas by which others in the world are made to feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately for other Arabs, there isn’t a choice in the matter--this is the world they live in. This blog is a peephole into what your vote might influence this November.


fall | 2008 | backdrop

Painting : Iraqi artist, Kareem Farhan.

Kennedy and Taft are the only presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery

Become a fan of Backdrop Mag on today.

Outside the Ballot Box


Is Barack too controversial for your taste? Is McCain too temperamental? Do senators make you yawn? As the first Tuesday in November draws ever closer, some voters may feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Don’t fret. A dozen alternative candidates are flying under the radar. You may never have heard of the following presidential nominees, but they could use all the votes they can get.

The Ex-Republican The Tupac Fan Libertarian Party Green Party Considered at one time to be one of the most conservative members of congress, Robert “Bob” Barr is running on the Libertarian ticket. After leaving Congress in 2003, Barr vocally opposed the Bush administration, eventually denounced the Republican Party and became Libertarian. His claims to fame include being photographed licking whipped cream off a woman’s chest at a charity event and having a cameo in “Borat,” as himself. The candidate aims to reduce government spending and gun control laws. However, he may do nothing more than siphon votes from Republican nominee, John McCain.

Good news for the environmentalists: former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia Ann McKinney has more name recognition than any past Green Party presidential candidate. After picking up one-tenth of a percent of the popular vote in 2004, the Green Party could use all the publicity it can get. During her former days in Congress, McKinney presented a bill to make all records relating to rapper Tupac Shakur’s death public. Don’t expect Tupac awareness to be on her presidential platform, though. McKinney is more interested in federal investment in low-income families and Hurricane Katrina survivor recognition.

The Veteran Independent

The Reverend Constitution Party

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…and then again three more times. The name Ralph Nader should sound familiar, given that he has campaigned for the presidency in every election since 1992. Running on the Independent Party ticket, the 78-yearold attorney is credited with aiding George W.’s wins by pulling votes from constituents who would have otherwise supported the Democratic nominees. Issues important to this contender in his fifth election include ending the over-consumption of fossil fuels and shifting the power from the government back into the hands of consumers. Here’s to persistence.

Charles “Chuck” Baldwin, a Baptist pastor and radio talk-show host by trade, is running under the banner of the Constitution Party. Prolife, pro-traditional marriage, and anti-gun control, Baldwin is plotting to remove the United States from the U.N. if he wins the election. The U.S. of Chuck’s fantasy world would have no IRS, no Federal Reserve System, and certainly no income tax. The self-proclaimed “real deal” also plans on returning the U.S. to the gold standard and, with a little luck, might steal a few votes from McCain.

Although the intentions and sanity of these candidates may be debatable, they deserve credit for withstanding the heat of the proverbial presidential election kitchen. Advice for these vote-seekers: don’t start filling out change-of-address forms for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue just yet.

John Quincy Adams swam nude (weather permitting) in the Potomac River every day

backdrop | 2008 | fall


Fall 2008 (Vol. 2 Issue 1)  

Backdrop is an entirely student-produced lifestyle magazine in the college town of Athens, Ohio. Backdrop was founded in 2006 as an outlet f...

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