Oberlin Blogs

Oberlin Fool

April 1, 2011

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

All these definitions are derived from the Oxford English Dictionary, a website I am most grateful that the Oberlin College library has a subscription to, and not just for the purpose of this very long entry.

I. Fool (n./adj.) — one deficit in judgment or sense, a term of endearment or pity, one who professionally counterfeits, one who is silly, one who parts with money.

II. Fool (v.) — to act weak-minded, to dupe or trifle with, to delude or trick.

III. Fool (n.) — a dessert, resembling a trifle but also a pudding; usually a combination of stewed fruit, cream, milk, and custard.

I: A Decision

Letters! They are coming! You probably got them! Now is a hard part: decision-making. For me, final thinkings about college involved the locations (not necessarily how far away from home I’d be, but the weather and placement of the school in a rural versus more urban environment) and the money (my financial aid was almost identical from all the schools I had been accepted at, but the differing cost of each institution was a consideration).

∂ Make a good decision (don’t be a fool). Even if Oberlin isn’t the place for you (oh, I’ll be so sad that I won’t get to meet you), somewhere will be. I’d be tickled pink if you do end up here, though! Hurray!

∂ Part with your money (wisely). Oberlin’s worth it. Oberlin is expensive, but it is not unmanageable. I don’t want to go into lots of details about financial aid because Brandi did a pretty sweet job of explaining how Oberlin approaches financial aid (and of course, how it relates to Glee) last year. It can and will work out, but you will have a bunch of numbers to look at before Oberlin can become a reality, and some of them are large. In order to attend Oberlin, I received a yearly grant from the school, took out a few federal student loans, and I worked my butt off in a variety of student jobs (more on this later; I’m composing a long post about student employment right now!). I also had a gracious gift from my godfather, and my parents footed the rest of the bill. Bam. Money set.

Beyond the basics of whether or not you can afford Oberlin, there’s also the consideration of Oberlin being worth the price tag. To me (and to many people), an Oberlin education is absolutely priceless. I don’t even know how to go into details about the numerics of what I spent versus what I got out of my four years at Oberlin, both from it both being too soon to think about these things and the fact that I don’t think I can place a number on experiences. Here are the tangibles I can currently say: every single minute I spent in Oberlin made me feel like a million bucks and paying off student loans is not as scary or intimidating as it sounds.

In regards to location, I don’t really know what I was thinking about other than my desire for temperate climates, especially seasons. I recall not really knowing where Oberlin was in Ohio till about three or four days before I headed off to freshmen orientation. Fact: Oberlin is near a great lake, specifically, Erie, and it is near Cleveland, not, as I originally thought, near Cincinnati. What this means is that we get quite ridiculous lake-effect weather: intense and snowy winters (sometimes from late November until late April), humid summers, and absolutely pristine falls and springs.

∂ Oberlin likes fools (the kind that are silly, that dance or that dress up), among other kinds of people. Oberlin embraces the normal, the weird, the wonderful, the quiet, the boisterous, the nerdy, the creative, the bookworm, the curious, the contemplative, the… I could go on for quite a while, but you get the idea. If you have an adjective, it will probably work here. Clearly, we should just make an Oberlin version of The Breakfast Club or something. Except ours will obviously defy stereotypes because that’s just how we roll.

∂ Calling Oberlin your “fool” (like your sweetie) is most wonderful. Oberlin darling, I love you. And Oberlin loves me back! What a great relationship! I hope you’ll be calling Oberlin your fool sometime soon, too.

II: Oberlin Trickery

Welcome to the section of tricks and treats.

Maybe it’s just me and the people I choose to associate with, but I have witnessed, participated in, or orchestrated many a trick here at Oberlin. I will outline a few short versions here:

∂ One April Fool’s day, Daniel very stupidly left his email, Facebook, and Twitter logged in on a computer I had checked out from the media depot to work on a cinema project. Firstly: never leave anything logged in on a computer of mine. I will email ridiculous things to one’s email account as themselves, and that’s just a start. I spent the entirity of the day emailing him as a masked trickster, posting photos, videos, and quotes about pandas on Facebook and Twitter, and changing every profile photo on every account to that of a panda. It was sort of ridiculous.

Daniel counteracted by stealing all my bedding and stashing it in his locker in Mudd. Somehow, no one questioned him dragging sheets and pillows through Wilder Bowl and the library, on either end of his prank. I still deem that I won everything, but Daniel did gain a huge amount of points for his response to my deviousness.

∂ Brandi loves vintagey things, and after bursting into my office one day, all aflutter from finding a typewriter on the classifieds that she was determined to buy, I devised a plan. I contacted the owner and convinced him that I was the correct buyer because it was involved with a wonderful secret prank with an excellent story. After many running-abouts to get typewriter tape, composing and executing a typewritten letter of explanation, and sneaky coordination with many people, our action plan was revised several times until the fateful day, when Brandi was also sick. With some coordination, Ali, Patrick, and I managed to steal Brandi’s computer and reposition all the cords and connections onto the typewriter, for a wonderful visual joke, ready for when Brandi was called in for an “urgent emergency meeting” in the afternoon. It was a delightful setup.

∂ Jeff Hagan, editor of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine (and class of ‘86!), is located in the office across the hall from me. Jeff went on vacation for two weeks this summer and left his bike in the hallway across from my office, and after staring at it for 10 days, a plan was devised to reimagine his bike as… something else. A roll of twine, 10 zucchinis, and 20 minutes later, Jeff was the proud owner of the zucchini-mobile: a two-wheeled monstrosity that was covered in summer squash. Luckily, I had sent Jeff a recipe for squash casserole a few days earlier, and he brought us some some zucchini bread later in the week. He also composed a gory email of the squashy demise, highlighted here:

“So next time a squash — … whether it’s a summer squash or a winter squash, or even some sort of tuber or pulse or, really, any vegetable — tries to mess with my bike, that’s what they can expect from me. No mercy; just a nice casserole with onions, cheese, egg, butter and a wonderfully crispy breadcrumb and Parmesan topping.”

∂ My boss, Ben Jones, very much loves trickery in all forms. Apparently he and Jeff have some ongoing thing involving some food item (not zucchini…), but I’m a bit hazy on details. Ben’s most excellent prank thus far involves a very silly Brandi leaving her computer on and open on Facebook when she went to an hour-long meeting one afternoon. Ben spent about five minutes posting, many times, key words and phrases that one would associate with Brandi: love of pie, Virginia, transfer students, and anything that could be delightful. Later in the afternoon, Brandi returned, and applauded us for imitating her so flawlessly.

∂ I lived on a tricky street last year. The house two doors down from me housed a group of rugby-playing boys, with one especially who loved pranks. Over winter term, an entrepreneuring lad named Ben Sandberg pulled the following pranks in his housemates’ rooms, since none of them were in Oberlin at the time. With help from Adrienne and Elias, Ben managed to complete the following schemes (I wish I had seen them, I only saw pieces of the aftermath on Facebook):

  • In Will’s room, several things of yarn were unraveled and strung back and forth and through and around everything in the room until the entire room was a web of yarn. Apparently the tension was so great in the room that things were gradually being lifted off the floor.

  • In Santiago’s room, the entire room and every object was wrapped in aluminum foil. This is not only a wonderful homage to alumnus Charles Martin Hall, who we can thank for discovering the process to inexpensively extract aluminum, but also apparently this worked well to heat one’s room. Apparently it was well over 100 degrees in that room, with all the reflections and shiny things.

Photo by WIll Yon ‘10.

  • In Avery’s room, every horizontal surface (including the bed) was covered with glasses of colored water with contrasting colored straws. When asked to help remove the water from the room, the pranksters started rearranging things rather than helping reverse their trickery.

Photo by WIll Yon ‘10.

∂ And finally, a (failed) attempt at fooling other people: I wish I were excellent at deceiving my parents. Well, I actually am not, because I am practically incapable of lying to them (which is great, in the long run).

A few weeks ago, I was offered a position as the Social Media Coordinator at Oberlin College, which I very happily accepted. Very ironically, that same morning that I accepted, I had received an email from my father telling me to get my butt in gear and start applying to every job ever for the coming year (sound familiar, kids? Applying for a job is more similar to applying to college. Filling out college apps is practice for the rest of your life). With that email, I seriously considered pulling off my greatest charade: to not tell them I had a job until they came to visit a few weeks later, and deceive my parents into thinking that I was desolate and with no hope while I actually had a lovely job in a lovely place with lovely people with a lovely paycheck. It turns out I can’t keep things from them at all, and I told them later that evening (with some clever planning and help on behalf of my brother to coordinate phonecalls). Thank you, Ben.

I guess you can cheer now. I’ve cheered quite a bit, as have my brother and my parents. Yay!

Sooooooo all that said and done, we will now move onto part three.

III. A Tasty Treat

Congrats! You have reached section three! I will now reward you with something creative and delicious. This is another abstract recipe for myself (remember my college essay? Think of this as another course), this time reaching out of my comfort range of cooking and into the more exact science of baking.

Oberlin Fool:
A dessert to serve the masses. Sections of this dish can be made ahead of time, but final steps must culminate close to serving time.

Take several years of recreational interest and stew with a liberal arts education. The education must include art, science, sounds, visuals, work, and play. Gently mix, then sift four times.

Mix together snow, sleet, hail, mist, ice, and rain, and douse with a healthy dose of rock salt. Whip until fluffy then fold into the dry ingredients. Bake in a square and round cake pan (because once they are done, you can turn the square pan to create a diamond, and circumcect (cut in half on the circumference? what is the word?!) the round pastry and place on adjacent corners of the diamond to create a heart). This is more for the aesthetic happiness of the baker while the cake cools; once the baked goods have cooled, you will be cutting them into bite-sized chunks.

Create a light custard composed of spring breezes and nor’easterlies. Stir slowly over a double boiler over the scent of burning leaves and mulled cider until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Throw in some vanilla sugar for good measure, just because it is delicious. Chill completely.

Add a potpourri of friends, flavors, and fun to some spring water (not bottled, not well, not Lake Erie, but from Kentucky) and bring to a simmer on a hot July day. Mash together until a compote is made. Keep on heat for several months, stirring regularly.

Layer together the cake, custard, and compote. Create a salted caramel spun sugar web and nestle sugared bird-of-paradise flowers and daffodils within.

Keep well chilled, but remove several hours before serving. Hide from your diners, or else it will disappear (or at least convince them that it will disappear if they know of its existence). Alert the authorities that such a dish is appearing at the end of the meal. Perhaps they will send a photographer.

Reveal among family, close friends, and neighbors. Cheer. Enjoy. Repeat.


So, I’ll see you guys around. Soon.

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