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19Jan/161

THE OTIOTICS OF THE ODORIFIC HONORIFIC

Man, what a strange weekend.

I went to a University of Iowa alumni meeting at a local bar, because the beer was free, and I know a few UI grads in town. I figured it'd be a pretty good time to just hang out, even if I only hung out with my friends the whole time and didn't really do any networking or anything.

When I got there, none of my friends were there yet, so I just sort of hung out at the bar and stared at the televisions, periodically looking around for people I knew. A whole bunch of strangers, but down at the other end of the bar, nursing a beer and looking lonely, was Ryan Gosling, just hanging out by himself. I was baffled. What was he doing there? Why wasn't he being mobbed by people?

Well, I was a couple free beers in, so I wandered down to the other end of the bar and sat down next to him. "Hey, man," I said. "University of Iowa? Class of '02."

"'14," he said. "Ph.D. in Otiotics."

"No shit," I said. "I only went there for undergrad."

None of my asshole friends were showing up, so we just kept chatting. I'd had no idea he was a UI Alum, but apparently he did his time in earnest, even wrote a whole dissertation. And because he's Ryan Gosling, some commercial publishers were asking him to rewrite it in non-academic language to publish as a mainstream book. Fascinating, right?

"Man, you're actually interested in my dry-ass academic writing? It's pretty niche."

"Hell yeah, I am. It sounds super weird."

"Well hold up, I've got a copy in my car." He left and then came back, handing me a weird book with vellum pages and leather binding-- like, actual leather. I guess Ryan Gosling can afford to have his books printed and bound in a pretty fancy way, and not just slapdash jobs at the local University bookstore. I flipped through it, and each page had something completely strange on it-- spot-varnish embossed Hebrew characters, or lacquered characters in Arabic, only visible at certain angles.

"What's with the weird spot-varnish foreign language stuff?" I asked.

"Oh man, no one's noticed that before," he said. "Don't worry about it." He seemed kind of upset, so I didn't follow up.

I kept reading, though. The first third of the dissertation was a collection of lab experiments, but they were all written in a variety of different styles. Some were a lot more literary than they were strictly academic / scientific. I was totally digging it.

The title of the dissertation was "Geographical Origination Identification Via Borborygmatic Emission Descriptors," which meant nothing to me. When I asked him to summarize, he kind of smirked. "It's all about how I can tell where someone's from based exclusively on the way they describe the sound of a fart."

"You're crazy, Ryan Gosling," I said.

Anyway, a few beers later, we headed down to the Salt Lick for some delicious barbecue. When we got there, the place was closed for a private event, but I guess being with Ryan Gosling has some benefits, because they let us in anyway. We stood out horrendously, because everyone else was wearing black dress clothes-- it turns out that the private event was a wake. In the middle of the courtyard, there was a huge temporary-construction aboveground pool, and floating in the pool was an open old-timey wooden casket with a dead woman inside.

The barbecue was incredible.

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  1. odiotically, one could probably assess the health of someone’s gut microbiome from the smell of a fart. Image all the dissertations; RG could operate an institute.

    You sure his leather bound volume wasn’t some sort of Talmudic riff on the “V+Book of Leaves?”


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