Author Archives: Chung Chan

CRC “Radiothon”

My friend lives in the Communications Residential College at Northwestern University.  This residential college houses communications freshmen and sophomores.  Every year the CRC would host a Radiothon and ask for pledges to donate to the American Heart Association.  The tradition was started in dedication to a student who lived in the dorm and died of arrhythmia in the 1980s.  Since its inception, the Radiothon has become a massive event for the members of the CRC, and it is carried out with a decent amount of publicity every year.

The radiothon lasts for 50 hours, and students are encouraged to stay up the entire time (my friend was unable to).  There are set programs that are carried out each year and passed down by each year of CRC residents, and there is room for customized programs that students submit.  The conditions for the custom programs is that they last for an hour, are entertaining, and can generate money for donations.

One of the most popular forms of the custom show encourages the residents of the dorm to donate money to see other residents do outrageous things.  For example, my friend’s friends donated to see her and another resident have a chocolate pudding fight.

An example of a hybridization between the fixed shows and the custom shows is the segment “That’s Stupid” during the Radiothon.  The tradition of “That’s Stupid” is passed down every year, and the framework is the same – pay money to have your friends do stupid things.  What exactly you can get your friends to do really depends.  My friend pitched in with other friends to donate $50 and have salsa poured on a fellow resident’s hair.

The tradition of the Radiothon acts as both a memorial and a celebration.  It’s a memorial to the student who died from arrhythmia and lived in the dorm.  Since both that student and the current residents major in communications, there is connection that the tradition plays on.  But it’s also a celebration of the present group of freshmen and sophomores who live in the CRC.  So on one hand it is mindful of the past – on the other hand, it is optimistic or celebratory of the present.  Sometimes, the Radiothon does extend to graduated classes of the CRC community – my friend said that alumni ocasionally call in to donate to the American Heart Foundation.  I feel that the use of technology allows for this potential expansion of the relevant community.

“It’s Greeley!” – Folk Saying

“It’s Greeley!”

The informant said that when he and his friends would smell horse manure in Boulder, they would say: “It’s Greeley!”  According to my friend, the city of Greeley would always be blamed in some form by Boulder residents when there is a scent of horse manure in the air.

The informant first heard a friend in middle school mention Greeley.  He started using the saying himself when the saying’s blaming of Greeley was confirmed – He visited Greeley and it smelled of the same scent as the wind that would occasionally sweep over Boulder.

Greeley is a city that is approximately 50 miles away from Boulder, and has a lot of stables and horses.  Sometimes the wind is strong enough to carry the scent of the horses and their manure to cities as far as Boulder.

When the informant started using the joke itself suggests that some knowledge of Greeley is essential to understanding the joke.  In fact, the informant did not know what his friend was talking about at first when he mentioned Greeley.

The saying relies on the audience’s knowledge of Colorado’s cities, particularly Greeley, in order to be humorous.  While not explicitly used to distinguish Colorado residents from outsiders, understanding of the joke would determine whether or not you live in/know of Colorado, or of the city of Greeley.

According to my friends, other cities in the area know of Greeley’s reputation as well.  He does not know if they talk about the city in the same way.

Panquake

My friend is currently a freshman at Northwestern University.  She is majoring in journalism, so she lives in the CRC (Communications Residential College) at the university.  The CRC primarily consists of freshman and sophomore communications majors.

Every year, the sophomores in CRC start hyping up an event called Panquake.  They usually do this a few weeks in advance of the event itself and keep the freshmen confused as to what Panquake actually is.  Often the references to the Panquake are nonsensical and mainly work to keep the freshmen curious.  This year, my friend said that the sophomores made a lot of posters with irrelevant film and TV quotes, ending with the  hashtag “#panquake.”  As the event drew near, the sophomores said to just be ready “with $10 and a sense of adventure.”

Panquake takes place late at night.  The sophomores of CRC bring the freshmen to Chicago’s “El” (Elevated rail) and ride it to an IHOP in Chicago.  It turns out that the Panquake itself is quite simple.  The sophomores take the freshmen to the IHOP and they sit down and eat pancakes.

My friend told me that after the meal, the sophomores walk the freshmen back instead of taking the “El.”  This walk goes through multiple parks and a graveyard and is supposed to be a bonding experience.  This year, however, my friend said that one of the students accidentally touched a stranger’s car, and the stranger became infuriated and threatened to harm the students.  For the sake of safety, the group took the “El” back to Northwestern instead.  However, since the walk is a very important part of the tradition, the sophomores promised the freshmen that they would take them through the route some other time, so they know where to take next year’s freshmen.

I think that this tradition acts as a rite of passage for new residents of the CRC dorm.  The trip to the IHOP and the walk back to campus is an expression of passing a liminal point – the freshmen are transitioning from freshmen initiated members of the residential college.  The entirety of the tradition and practice seems to be important – I found it telling that the sophomores insisted that they took the freshmen on the walking route at a later date, because this part of the tradition was essential.  I also find the practice of “over-hyping” it very interesting.  Perhaps it adds to the mystery and excitement of the event.  Perhaps the “sense of adventure”  espouses an attitude the sophomores want to instill in the freshmen – they want them to be unafraid to try new experiences.

MASH

My sister told me that when she was young she played a game called MASH.  The game involves two people and requires a sheet of paper.  One person (who acts as a fortune-teller) sets up the sheet with the letters MASH on top.  M stands for Mansion, A stands for Apartment, S stands for Shack, and H stands for House.  The fortune-teller asks the other person, who is the main player, for the name of three boys or girls.  These are written on the left edge of the paper.  The fortune-teller then asks the player for three dream occupations and writes them down below the names of the boys and girls.  After that, the fortune teller asks for three dream vehicles and puts them under the list of occupations.  The fortune-teller asks the player for a number from 1 through 10.  They then write down the number in the center of the paper.  The fortune-teller takes this number and starts counting along the letters MASH, reversing direction every time they hit M or H on the end.  When the fortune-teller reaches the number, they cross out the letter they land on.  The process is repeated until one letter remains.  This letter indicates what sort of housing the player will have in the future.  The same counting method is used on the list of boys and girls to determine who the player is going to be married to.  Counting off on the list of occupations determines the future job, and counting off on the vehicles determines what the player is going to drive in the future.  When this information is obtained, the fortune-teller announces the results as such:
“So you’re going to live in a (x), and you’ll be married to (x), you’ll be working as a (x), driving a (x), and you’ll have (x) children!”

My sister learned this in primary school from other girls, and recalls obsessively playing it.  She thinks part of the appeal of MASH is that it seems to greatly simplify the future and put in the players’ hands.  She says that there are other variants she remembers as well.  In addition to the above information, sometimes the fortune-teller will also divine the marital status of the  player to the boy/girl selected through the counting process, by counting off a list involving such relationship statuses as “married, divorced, widowed, dating.”

I agree with my sister’s thoughts on the fortune-telling aspect of this game.  It’s a really simplified approach to telling the future.  It reminds me of fortune-tellers that children would make in order to answer all sorts of Yes/No questions through simple factors (like a number or color, depending on the format of the fortune-teller).  I find it interesting that this condenses the idea of futures and really gives the player agency (for example, you could pick 3 very expensive cars and 3 high-paying occupations and guarantee yourself a pretty positive future in this game).

Lana sube, lana baja, el senor que la trabaja

“Lana sube, lana baja, el senor que la trabaja”

Translated: “Money rises, money falls, for the person who deals with money”

My friend heard this riddle from his grandmother on his mother’s side.  It is a riddle that is typically posed as a question, so the performer would add “Que es?”  at the end.

The riddle is usually said fairly quickly, as it functions primarily as a catch riddle.  The answer to the riddle is “lana baja.”  The riddle operates on the phrase “lana baja” because it sounds similar to “la navaja,” which is “the blade” in Spanish.  It is up to the listener to hear the riddle correctly and point out the misleading phrase.  If the listener can’t identify the catch in the riddle, the asker usually pokes fun at the listener.

My friend said that this riddle is part of a large group of riddles in Mexico that revolve around puns and catching the listener off guard.  He says that as far as he knows, this is one of the more popular riddles in that group.

The riddle can also act as a proverb, given as advice by the asker to the listener.

“Lana” in Spanish means “wool,” but it also can mean “money.”  My friend’s grandmother told him this riddle not only to try to catch him, but to pass down the lesson in the riddle as well.   The lesson is that whoever deals with money must also deal with its instability, its ability to go up and go down without much warning.  When the riddle refers to “el senor que la trabaja,” or the person who deals with money, it doesn’t refer to a specific profession that handles money.  Thus the lesson in the riddle carries pretty universally.

The informant said that this riddle has a shorter version that is purely a catch riddle.  He feels that this version is more popular with adults because it also offers advice to the listener.  The shorter version of the riddle does away with the proverb on money and uses the more literal meaning of “lana,” wool.

I heard this riddle shortly after the informant told me the shorter version.  I was very interested in how “lana” takes on a different meaning in this version and gives the riddle a second function.  It seems to me that in order for the catch riddles to be properly used and understood, the performer and listener have to be fluent in Spanish and understand intricacies of the language as well (such as informal meanings of words).

I’ve made an entry on the shorter version of this riddle, which can be found here:

Lana sube, lana baja