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‘Spin’ Cycle

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Some of you know him, some you don’t, but here is your chance to read the work of aspiring stand up comic and good friend of mine Scott Spinelli. Scott has performed at the world famous Laugh Factory in Times Square and also writes a weekly humor column for the Daily Orange, the student run newspaper at Syracuse University.

With his permission, I will post his articles when they come out, every Thursday, both as blog posts and here so you can go back and read them, share them and tell people you knew Scott Spinelli before he made it big. And if you have seen him perform, theres no reason to doubt that one day he will be.

Here is an excerpt from an article written following one of his on campus appearances:

‘Next came the comedic styling of Scott Spinelli, a foul-mouthed senior communications student. In a night filled with crassness, Spinelli stood out as the most obscene of the Woo Hoo comedians, which just happened to strike a chord with audience members.

“Scott’s particular brand of humor works with me,” said junior acting major Stephen Anthony.

Spinelli shared stories of his traumatic childhood, playing board games like Perfection and Operation under the duress of his sadistic mother. His most notable contribution to the night was his debate on the permissibility of one of the most taboo of insults: the c-word.’
-The Daily Orange, 2/26/07

If you read some of them closely, you can find some similarities in what Scott wrote and some of my blog posts, which is no coincidence. When i was getting started I used some of his material as inspiration for things to talk about.

In addition, a lot of the content in my blog comes directly from conversations I have had with Scott, who simply put, is one funny motherfucker.

Enjoy.

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Humor Columnist Thankful for Space to try and Make People Laugh

4/24/08

Absolutely nothing can compare to these last two semesters. Under some crazy set of rules that govern the universe, I was allowed to fill the space this column provides.

Want to read a funny story? Though I don’t think anyone ever responds in the negative to a question like that.

“Ehh…funny would be OK, I guess. Do you have a mildly depressing story? I’m in the mood.”

On top of that, those stories aren’t usually very funny if they need to be prefaced like that. Instead, are you up for a mildly entertaining, more revealing
than really funny story?

This column wasn’t supposed to be given to me. In fact, a friend of mine had spoken to me about her desire to do the column. We spoke over the summer about it, and, like the snake I am, I inquired about it with the folks over at The Daily Orange. Long story short, I got the column, she didn’t. Surprisingly, she still speaks to me.

Writing this column every week has been nothing short of a true joy. Then again, that may be just a bit of an overstatement.

Was I annoyed when I’d read the paper and find jokes of mine taken out? Yes. How about when I’d read the paper and an old column was reprinted instead of a new one? Definitely. Or, what about when new jokes were added in? Three for three.

In all seriousness, I’ve had a great time writing this. The one thing it’s done for me is it gave me a taste of what it might feel like to be “cool.” I’d imagine it’s how fraternity guys feel every second of the day. As you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking, “Who does this kid think he is? What a loser.”

Well, doubters, I’ll say this: I’ve run into people all over the place who had a ton of (likely phony) good things to say about my column. However, for whatever reason, people felt like as long as they were talking to me about the column and had read just one, they had the greatest new and funny idea for my next one.

“You should write a column about the two blonde girls you met at Chuck’s!

“You know what would be a good column, this (insert exceedingly normal, everyday social situation here)! This would be a good column, am I right, or am I right?”

Maybe it’s what some folks like to call “beer courage.” Maybe this campus is just teeming with great sitcom writers. Who knows?

Let me also take this space to say that being recognized in public, ever, by anyone, is one of the most amazing things that’s ever happened to me. I’ve been at family gatherings where not everyone recognizes me. I don’t want to make it like I get showered with praise, girls throwing panties at me, when I head through the Quad. No, not that at all. First of all, the girls are throwing bras. Second of all, it’s usually at a bar, not in the middle of the Quad. That would just be ridiculous.

Easily the craziest part of any day this or last semester would be when friends of mine would tell me their own friends (whom I didn’t know) loved the column. I’m specifically thinking about a few ladies from the women’s lacrosse team. I wasn’t even sure the athletes at this school could read, so just knowing they understood the column, regardless of how they felt about it, made me feel good.

In writing this column, I’ve thought for a while about how I wanted to end it. I didn’t want to try for one of those Seinfeld-type endings that tries to incorporate some running theme, to be “the best ever” ending of all time. Those episodes always stink and disappoint.

Instead, I decided to just say thank you. Thank you to Erinn, Matt and Andy at The D.O. for listening to me rant, for not really giving me a hard time during the first few weeks. Thank you to the girl who verbally assaulted me at Chuck’s and now stares me down every time she sees me because of this column. Thank you to anyone who’s ever read it. Thank you to anyone who’s had the courage to tell me they liked it, and even more thanks to anyone who had the real sac to say they didn’t like it.

This column isn’t something I really deserved, but it’s something I’ve really enjoyed.

Scott Spinelli’s humor column no longer will appear on any day in The Daily Orange, as long as his replacement doesn’t stink too bad. He wants, one last time, to ask people to come to his charity comedy show this Saturday. Any questions, comments, e-mail him at saspinel@syr.edu. It’s been real.

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Spare a Buck: If you Don’t Give to Another Charity, Give to Mine

4/17/08

Guilt is a part of my life. There’s really no way around it.

Italian guilt, from my dad’s side, tends to be angrier. Jewish guilt, from my mom’s side, tends to be more subtle, with the intent of solely making you feel bad about yourself.

“Listen, if you don’t want to call your aunt for her birthday, I guess it’s not really a huge deal, but it’s ultimately up to you.”

One of the worst forms of guilt comes from when people ask you for donations. I could be a billionaire, it still wouldn’t matter, I feel like I’m always inventing excuses to not give to these people.

Is that horrible? Does that make me a terrible person? Likely, but, in fairness, if you’re reading this and you’re human, there’s a more than strong chance you’ve been in the situation I’m describing.

“Sir, excuse me, sir, could you spare a dollar for Ronald McDonald House?”

I even could have just come from the strip club, pockets filled with singles.

“Mmmmm…wow…You really did catch me at a bad time, I’m sorry.”

How about the people who ask for change – the “do you have any spare change?” people. First of all, let’s give them credit. They’re not stupid, they know that every single person they’re asking has some form of change because they just came from some place where change is given.

So when you say: “I’m sorry man, I don’t have any change.” Is this person to actually believe I just bought something with exact change? My grocery bill, for the first time ever in the history of groceries or money came out to a whole number. Sorry, too bad.

The awful part about this is the people asking for the money and spare change generally do need it, and the people being asked for it generally do have it. Meeting the two in the middle – not so easy.

The worst kind of person is the person openly trying to fool you. The kind of person who asks for money outside of Chuck’s and is way too upfront about why they need the money.

“Can you spare a few bucks…Just whatever you could…I could use it…I have three kids on the way, two hospital bills to pay, two car payments…”

Something about that last one usually tips me off, and the old brain buzzer goes off.

This all being said, I’m about to pull the move I’ve been railing against the last 400-plus words.

“Excuse me, public of Syracuse, could you spare three dollars?”

Not bad, huh? My pitch is pretty similar to those other guys, but the difference is I’m offering something tangible in return for your money. Normally, all you get for your change donation is a good feeling that fades as soon as you remember you haven’t called your mom in a week.

Here’s what I’m offering in exchange for three dollar bills: A comedy show, with me, Alex Adelson, and Max Meisel. Yes, that Max Meisel.

The tickets are available at the Schine Box Office. You can also show up and any donations taken at the door (tickets aren’t mandatory), and all proceeds will go to Cystic Fibrosis, a condition that’s affected a cousin of mine.

Actually, correction, the donations will go to fighting Cystic Fibrosis, not just to Cystic Fibrosis.

Not to make a sob story of it – she’s doing all right, we’ve talked about putting her face all over the campus on fliers. Surprisingly she didn’t go for it.

Honestly, we didn’t talk about that, but I’ve had reservations about letting people know why I’m doing the show, as I’ve feared that it might make it seem like a charity case.

All of this said, I’d be lying if I said arrogance had nothing to do with it. I’m puffing my ego to an absolutely unmanageable size. Truth be told, I’m having trouble sleeping at night, my bed won’t support the new weight.

There are fliers all over campus with my ugly mug on it. In Schine, I actually convinced people to not only photograph me, but also to print out a larger-than-life poster with me on it. You want to talk about a freak out moment, I had one when I went to pick it up.

“Uhhh, I’m here to pick up the poster with…my own giant face on it.”

Arrogance mixed with a bit of desire to do something good for someone else. Now that’s not the worst combination in the world.

Scott Spinelli’s humor column appears every Thursday in the Daily Orange. He’s only got one more left, and he used his second to last one as a part promo. What an arrogant schmuck. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu.

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Just That East: 3 AM Infomercials a Trap

4/10/08

This just in: I am a sucker.

Late at night, I can be convinced to buy almost anything. Knives that cut through cement. Cement that cuts through knives. Whatever.

To date, I haven’t actually purchased anything. But I have come alarmingly close. In fact, I’d be less concerned if I had bought these items. The idea that I’ve convinced myself these are useful contraptions is what worries me most.

The crème-de-la-crème of infomercials has to be that Ron Popeil fella, commonly known as the “Set It and Forget It!” guy with the rotisserie grill. Though, even if you haven’t heard of Ronco, all of these late night pirates employ the same tactics.

Each one starts off with the biggest loser of all, the helper, Mr. or Mrs. “Please, Tell Me More.” It’s always some “random” guy, almost as if they found someone who happened to know about rotisseries and asked if he wouldn’t mind shooting a commercial.

Once Ron has gone through each and every example of what this grill can do, he finally gets to the price. But, at this point, it really doesn’t matter what the price is, does it?

He looks you right in the eye, as if you’re going to purchase his soul, and then astronomically high numbers start appearing in the upper right hand corner.

“You won’t pay one million dollars. You won’t pay 500 thousand dollars. You won’t even pay 100 thousand dollars…Not even…”

After this seemingly endless charade, the final price still isn’t on the screen.

“What you will pay (you’re thinking, ‘YES I WILL PAY THIS’) is four, eaaasy payments of just $39.95.”

The simple inclusion of that one descriptor does it for me. If this guy is saying it’s easy, how hard could it be? He could say four easy payments of $399.95, and I’d still find a way to make it seem easy.

“You know, if I just stop eating for a few months, I could probably squeeze this rotisserie grill into my budget…”

Once you’ve basically agreed to sign over the deed to your house, give away your first born and give a blood sample just to have a chance to buy the product, they always keep roping you in. Then comes the “free” stuff, the stuff that they’re just going to throw in, as if you’re the only one getting that deal.

“If you call right now, this exact millisecond…”

The best throw-in, in the history of all throw-ins, is the flavor injector – basically a flu shot for a rhinoceros. That demonstration Ron always does with it never makes any sense. Also, I’ve never thought of using some of the combinations he uses, but somehow they always come out good.

“First, you take the lamb shank. Then, you load up your flavor injector. Buckle up, folks, next stop, Flavorville, USA! All right, let’s try using…orange peels, rosemary, dog crap and some thyme.”

I’m sitting in my room, lights dimmed, wearing nothing but my boxers, potato chips all over my stomach, thinking, “Wait just a gosh darned second! Rosemary and orange peels?!”

Somehow, it seems more often than not, people are trying to sell knives really late at night, which doesn’t seem wise. People half conscious at 3 a.m. shouldn’t be purchasing 20 different ways to cut steak.

Could you imagine if someone went a little out of the box?

“For just six easy payments of $99.95, this entire cocaine cartel can be yours. But wait! Call now, and we’ll throw in two free flavor injectors, a set of steak knives and a brand new T-shirt folder!”

I can’t talk about infomercials without bringing up my old pal, Chef Tony. He’s that clown who dresses up in a ridiculous chef’s outfit, as if anyone thinks that A) he’s a real chef and B) his pencil-stache makes him more Italian.

Truth is, it could be the Ronco grill, the George Foreman grill, the Magic Bullet or something Chef Tony has whipped up, one thing that remains constant is these jokers are damn good. You’ve got to hand it to them. They’ve mastered the art of convincing people they need things they clearly don’t. If you’ve ever been a single guy down at the bar, you know for certain that’s a lot easier said than done.

Scott Spinelli is the humor columnist for The Daily Orange where his columns appear every Thursday. He knows you haven’t bought tickets to his charity comedy show. You know, that one on April 26. Don’t act like you didn’t know. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu.

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God Bless America: Home of the Hot Dog Eating Contest and Fast Food Overload
4/3/08

by Scott Spinelli

Here’s a typical scene: I’m eating dinner with family, we’re at one of those hibachi steak houses.

Our server, the first Japanese “Maurice,” has begun his dazzling display. After nearly setting himself on fire with the onion inferno stack, he’s attempted, between five and 10 times, to flip a shrimp tail into his shirt pocket. Then, it gets crazy.

One by one, he went around the table, trying to flip pieces of food from the table into the open and inviting mouths of my family and me. It took me four tries, and I still couldn’t get the technique down. To make matters worse, it turns out he was flipping uncooked zucchini, something I don’t think anyone even wanted.

Though I gladly participated, I had one of those mental “look at yourself, you slob” moments. I was embarrassed at myself. I looked to my left at a cousin, mouth wide open.

“Aaaaaaaggggghhhh!!!! Just throw it in here! I’ll take anything!”

I hate to sound condescending, that’s not at all what this is. There are plenty of examples of Americans being overzealous and wasteful when it comes to food and eating, and I, by no means, am excused of it.

A few examples: When I eat chips and salsa, I pit the two warring parties against each other. Whichever finishes first, the bag or the salsa jar, wins out. Another example: Once, at a Wendy’s, I ordered two of those spicy chicken sandwiches because after finishing the first, I realized the person I was eating with still hadn’t finished theirs. Jackpot!

My eyes were truly opened to these stereotypes when I spent a semester in London. I asked one of my friends from the city, a rail-thin guy like me, to tell me what he expected me to look like, being an American.

“I expected you to be a lot bigger, you know? Sitting in a car, not moving, McDonald’s burger in your hand.”

Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but, if you look around, the writing is on the proverbial walls.

How about the hotdog eating contest? Think about the idea that we are having eating contests. America has so much food we’re eating it for fun. Could you imagine trying to explain the idea of a hotdog eating contest or any eating contest for that matter, to someone living…anywhere else?

“Wait a minute, you’re saying, you have so much food, you’re just stuffing it down you’re throats like a game?”

“Well, first of all, it isn’t a game, it’s serious, and it’s on ESPN.”

If the hotdog eating contest every Fourth of July (as if it couldn’t be any more emblematic of America) doesn’t turn your stomach, how about some of the names of your favorite restaurants?

In Asia, they have Nike and Reebok Factories. Here, we have Cheesecake and Spaghetti Factories – America, land of the free, and the home of the Bavarian crème donut.

People always say, “Oh, he’s just got a slight eating problem”.

“No, he’s got a cheeseburger and two Doritos bags at a time, problem.”

Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not in peak physical condition, and neither is everyone in my family. People in my family are overweight, and I have no problem with being overweight. However, the term “overweight” carries with it the connotation that at one point, you could actually stand on a scale without snapping it in two.

Scott Spinelli is a humor columnist for The Daily Orange where his columns appear every Thursday. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu. Three dollar tickets for his charity comedy show are on sale at the box office. No joke.

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Playing Confusing Childhood Games Is Much Better Than Growing Up, Joining the Real World
3/28/08

Thankfully, it’s come to a merciful conclusion.

My athletic career at this dignified institution has come to a close. Tuesday night’s men’s basketball loss marked an undistinguished, unremarkable conclusion to a four-year span of expensive fandom.

Yet, I write to you to lay all of the gossip to rest. It is official, here and now, I will be forgoing graduate school and entering the professional draft come May. Move over Paul Harris, Jonny Flynn, Donte Greene – your time will soon come.

While I haven’t hired an agent just yet, I can’t imagine my services won’t be needed in some capacity at the next level. Of course, there are areas in which my game could serve to improve, but I’m sure that once I go pro, that’ll all work itself out.

I’ve already purchased some real estate to accommodate my more than likely lavish lifestyle – a one-room studio apartment in a small home in New Jersey, landlords – a certain Mr. and Mrs. Spinelli.

In all seriousness (something I know you come to expect from these words), the men’s loss was a saddening one for me, beyond the way in which it happened. It begins to make clear everything is fleeting and concluding quite soon.

Maybe I should’ve seen this coming. There’s been enough of those wonderfully informative Facebook albums, “This is it!!!!” or “Senior Year!”

Strange as it may seem, I’m starting to feel old, or at least older. It’s gotten me to think back, to hark, if you will allow me to hark, back to some of my younger days.

Take, for instance, how early we had to wake up during high school. Every single day for four years, 6:00, 6:30 a.m. Nowadays, if you have an 11 a.m. class, it’s an injustice to you, your family and your heritage that the school could even dream to have you get up before noon.

Alas, my reminiscence took me to some of my favorite games – computer, board or otherwise – that we played.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t get enough of Perfection, otherwise known as Brain Aneurism for Young Children. There was always that ridiculous, 15-pronged piece waiting for you at the end that never fit in anywhere.

Tick, tick, tick. The sort of board game ticking that eats your soul.

And before you knew it, the whole board exploded, ruining at least two and a half good minutes of work. All the pieces were all over the place, my heart was in my trachea and yet, I kept coming back.

On the computer, I was a crack fiend for “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” I don’t know about you, but when I played that game as a child, and even as I’ve played it recently, all it does is make me feel more and more like an absolute ninny.

The clues they’d give you where ever the criminal had just been were completely worthless.

“She said her favorite import of the country were guava beans.”

What 7-year-old is supposed to know the chief imports and exports of South American countries?

And, while we’re on the subject, what the hell is a gumshoe? Everyone started out as a gumshoe, but I’d imagine only a small fragment of the population (likely an ostracized fragment) knows what it means.

The thing I could never forgive the game for was that it let Carmen steal things that were just ridiculous.

Carmen has made off with the city of Seoul. Gumshoe, it’s your mission to track down this magenta jacket-wearing pilfer.

Maybe I’m just a cynic, but shouldn’t some blame be put on the people at the airport?

Excuse me, excuse me. Ma’am! You’re going to have to check that. No, a monument will not fit in the overhead compartment.

Of course, the best part of “Carmen Sandiego” was the TV show. There are two things I remember about the show. The first is that awesome ending scene, with the way out of proportion map that curiously was missing state denominations. The other, without question, has to be that amazing theme song by Rockapella.

They’d always appear out of nowhere, either under a street lamp at a commercial break or sitting down at the end of the show, as if each time the TV camera caught them by surprise.
Well, now that you’re here, we might as well start singing without music.

I do have some good news for you, though. While graduating seniors won’t be able to be here for any more basketball or (football, is it?) games, Rockapella still makes music. Some things are better left in the past.

Scott Spinelli’s humor column appears in the Daily Orange every Thursday. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu. He wants you to know that the best part of waking up, at least for him, is Folgers in his cup.

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Please Everyone Stop With The Crazy E-Mail Signatures
3/21/08

Honestly, my fingers are too fat to text.

Call me Scottward Sausagehands, if you like.

Nowadays, there isn’t much space for freaks like me. Most of my friends are wizards with texting. I’m sure you’re familiar with the telephone, that old thing that people used to speak to each other on. Why call, when you can text? I know people that text while the phone is in their pocket, while simultaneously keeping their eyes closed so as to attract style points from the Russian judge. Me, I’m barely up to a rate of four texts an hour.Though, as was the case with other new forms of technology upon their popularization, there are newly found etiquettes that come attached to each. Texting, e-mails, instant messaging. Even the ol’ Facebook has its rules.For instance, nobody leaves a signature after they’re done writing a text. Could you imagine that?What time is the game?-Jason’s cell

Why then, do people feel the need to sign off on Facebook messages? As if the bolded name on top of the message wasn’t enough, the large picture should do the trick. You could get a driver’s license with that many forms of ID.

More than that, what bothers me is e-mail signatures and the silliness that ensues when someone is done writing. Apparently, some people just aren’t satisfied with the creative latitude afforded by either Facebook or texting.

My absolute favorite are those people either too lazy or too important (or both) to put anything more than three lower case letters as their signature.

From: Me

To: You

Be there, or be square.

sas

At what point did these people (by people, I am almost exclusively referring to professors), become too big time to sign either their whole name, or at least give us the dignity of a capital rendition of their initials. Probably around the same time they purchased their Blackberry.

The worst are those lengthy signatures that include everything you could ever want, or dream to know about the person. Name, date of birth, place of birth, social security number, siblings in college, favorite quote, GPA and complete address.

From now on, I’m going to use my own signature, one I’ve devised in light of their frequent appearance of e-mail signatures.

Scott Spinelli

Italian-American, Eastern European

Favorite Pre-Internet President: James K. Polk

Favorite Tori Spelling Show: 90210

“Ain’t nothin’ but a gangsta party” – Tupac Amaru Shakur

Maybe I’m too much of a Negative Norman, but why do people think that anyone cares?

The first time I saw one of those, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Initially, I thought it was a checklist, as if was supposed to see if I knew those things about the person, and then report back to them.

I saw one that said “Americans for Informed Democracy” under the name. No italics, no underlines, no quotes. Just the phrase, as if that person is the only one that stands for democracy. Signatures should be what they are everywhere else – a cursive version of your name, not a biography.

Of course, when the Pony Express speed of e-mail won’t suffice, there’s only one alternative: instant messaging. I struggle with IMing because my deadliest tool, sarcasm, is shot right in the foot. Though, I must say, often times, when typing an instant message, I feel like the world’s fastest typists. I’ve often felt that if there was some sort of Olympic competition to see who could most quickly communicate their thoughts on the day via instant message, I’d have to at least represent our country, if not the hemisphere.

My major issue with IMing, which I’m 100 percent guilty of, is the ever incessant need to correct typos.

A little while back, I messaged someone, “I’ll be, bathroom.” Almost instantaneously, I felt the need to make sure that person knew I meant, “I’ll be back, bathroom.” As if, the person on the other screen is looking at that, thinking, “He’ll be bathroom?! He’ll be bathroom?! What the hell does that mean? He had better correct himself soon, or I’m going over to make sure he’s all right.”

My ultimate hope is that someday, in the near future, we’ll be able to just do away with talking face to face or even via phone. Maybe you could even donate your vocal boxes to people that can’t afford iPhones. Who knows what the futur holds?

*future holds, my bad.

Scott Spinelli’s humor column appears in the Daily Orange every Thursday. You can reach him at saspinel@syr.edu. He wants to know why people don’t celebrate Columbus Day like they do St. Patty’s Day.

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Bob Who? Speaker Doesn’t Represent Whole Campus
3/6/08

Phewww.

Finally, I can relax, get some sleep at night. As a matter of fact, we all can. Reported earlier this week in this paper, the graduation speaker has been announced.

Feel free to drop out of that Facebook group – Shawn Carter isn’t coming. No, no, the university went in the direction we all prayed they would – Bob Woodruff is coming to the ‘Cuse.

“Sick, the Watergate guy!”

No, not him. Right Bob, right Wood, wrong, uh, suffix.

For those people that thought the Newhouse School is considered the most important institution on campus, this just about seals it.

Now, let me make one thing clear. I’m in no way suggesting Bobby Woodruff can’t do a good job, an inspiring job. Yet, as was the case last year, the university has immediately snuffed out a little thing called “hype.”

“Oh my Lord! Frank McCourt first, now Bob Woodruff! I might have to go to graduate school just to find out who they’ll bring next year.”

Honestly, how many people know who this dude is? If you have to look your speaker up on Wikipedia, it’s not a good sign.

I’ve discovered Woodruff is a former journalist (I did know that part), former ABC anchor and was injured in Iraq. Sounds like the perfect qualifications to speak to Newhouse students, doesn’t it?

Here’s the thing, I am a Newhouse student, and I still don’t care about Bob Woodruff. What annoys me most is, in choosing him, the rest of the entire student body is ignored.

Though, in fairness, I feel like getting gypped out of a commencement speaker is something I could’ve seen coming. The signs are all around.

Take a look in front of DellPlain Hall. Good thing SU took away some more green space here, who wants to play catch, sit around on a nice day on anything other than rubble? I actually overheard a conversation between a few of the construction workers.

“So, for today, we’re just going to take this dirt over here and move it over there. When we’re done with that, we’ll just move that dirt…over here.”

How about those ridiculous thermometer signs in various buildings throughout the campus?

“Help us reach our goal! … Of one billion dollars!”

Come on already. First of all, just once, I’d love to put one of those thermometers in my house. “Help me reach my goal…of $25?”

Second, can we please have somebody break down where our tuition money goes? All I ask for, before I graduate, is to have someone just let me know how on Earth it’s possible that I pay more than $40,000, but I’m always being asked for more money.

Lab or course fees? What the hell is tuition other than a course fee? Honestly, if you’re going to charge a course fee, please stop insulting our intelligence and just make it something obscene like $1,000. After 40 grand, I still need to pay 75 extra bucks?

Still, even if you were blindsided by this Woodruff thing, fear not, I have some suggestions. The following people would easily make more buzz around campus. I can’t promise they’d be better choices, but they’d generate a little more excitement.

Sean Kingston. Sure, he’s not old enough to drink alcohol legally, and he’d be upset about the lack of beautiful girls at SU, but you can’t deny the fun that would come from hearing him shout “JR!” at the end.

The lead singer from Blues Traveler. I’m not sure of his name, but he has several useful pieces of advice to impart. First, the harmonica is a skill not worth investing in. Second, don’t blow your load in your first job – success is defined throughout multiple years or CDs, whatever.

Lieutenant Dan. No, not Gary Sinise, Lt. Dan. Logistically, it’d be easier if it was the Lt. Dan that had fake legs and showed up at the wedding with that Asian chick. But, it’d be a lot more meaningful if it was the angry, bitter, sea-faring Lt. Dan with long hair and a ragged wheelchair. Talk about a war hero, a guy who’s been through a lot. And, think of the whole crowd, at once, asking him if he wanted ice cream.

Scott Spinelli is the humor columnist for The Daily Orange where his columns appear every Thursday. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu. He isn’t going anywhere for Spring Break, due to a lack of funds and friends.

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Everyone Turns Into A Doctor When I’m Sick
2/28/08

For quite some time now, one of my secret wishes was to have a raspy, deep, sexy, sore-throat voice. The sort of voice that sounds like you’ve been smoking Lucky Strikes since you were eight.

Over the past few days, my wish came true. I have a sore throat. Or at least, that’s what I call it. I’m surprised they’ve had enough time to come up with a name for an illness they have no idea how to treat. At this point, I might as well have polio, as the timeline to have myself rid of it would be shorter.

I’ve tried those lozenges, the chloraseptic sprays. None of it works. Recently I purchased lozenges from a brand I’d never heard of before, Sucrets. Here’s a sucret: you can only take one every two hours, they numb your taste buds and, oh by the way, they don’t help at all.

I guess it’s my turn to be sick though. It’s that time of year. If you don’t believe me, stop what you are doing and listen to the sounds of your class for one minute. Sniffles, loogie snorts, coughs. Everyone’s got it.

Still, when whatever bug is popular that month does catch you, you act not only as if are you the first person to ever have a sore throat, but have the worst case to ever be documented.

“Can you believe this, I’m not only coughing, but my voice is sore too!”

I actually caught myself speculating that I might have a rare, uncharted form of bronchitis. What that even meant, at the time I didn’t know. But, I did know my throat was hurting, and thus, it has to be something from another planet. No one has ever suffered like me.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick, injured or ill at all, I immediately become a world-renowned physician. Somehow, everyone around you also sheds their normal personality – the hell with being a senior engineering student, junior magazine major. Their real calling has always been medicine.

It happens all over the place, for instance, immediately after an injury.

“No, no, you wouldn’t be able to walk at all if you had torn your ACL. They usually have to cart the players off, so, if only by that logic, you’re fine. Forget the fact that your knee feels like its slipping into the bottom half of your calf. Trust me, I watch the NFL.”

My favorite is the suggestive response. Even as I write this now, I’m embarrassed to admit that not only have I been given this suggestion, but I’ve made it to others as well.

“You know what you should do, go down to the health center.”

Wow, there’s a novel concept. Health center, you say? Don’t tell me there are doctors there too?

In the mean time, I’ve tried all sorts of methods to clear my throat up. Hot water with salt (that one makes very little practical sense, but my mom told me to, so I couldn’t tell let her down). Orange juice (for the vitamin C, though ironically at this school, the dining hall orange juice is disgusting). And tea. Lots and lots of tea.

I don’t particularly like tea, nor do I know how to make it. I get the general gist – hot water, bag of seeds. Still, there has to be some technique to it, because the cups I’ve brewed have been wretched. There’s nothing worse than tea that’s either warm or (gasp!) cold.

As if the lack of enjoyable taste sensation wasn’t enough, now the value of hot liquid has vanished. At this point, I’d like to drink lava. It’s thicker, and, from what I read, it’s incredibly hot.

Without getting on too much of a tangent, I will say, I have a theory with regard to hot drinks. Whether it’s coffee or tea or hot cocoa or that unidentifiable chai nonsense, people love carrying around boiling beverages. It makes them feel important, like adults. Sometimes, I’ll put orange juice in one of those coffee containers to make myself feel older, kind of like Tom Hanks in “Big”.

As painful as it may be, the key to whole “sore throat” routine is the raspy voice. Without it, no one believes you. If you “hurt” your leg, you better pray you have a limp. Otherwise, you’re just another college kid with a Harvard medical degree and a propensity to exaggerate your own illnesses. Join the club.

Scott Spinelli is the humor columnist for The Daily Orange where his columns appear on Thursdays. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu. If you’re looking for fun: battle mode on “Mario Kart” with Luigi.

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Crying Uncle: Having a Niece is Overrated; Little Kids Hide Behind Their Cuteness
2/21/08

Easily the strangest moment of my life was when I found out I was going to be an uncle. My sister, as it turns out, was going to have a kid.

“Wait a minute, Abbey has sex?”

Gross as it may be, that’s where my first thoughts went. Unless that stork nonsense turns out to be true…But really, the thought of it, to this day, induces a vomit reflex.

But that was almost two years ago. Now, my niece, Julia, is starting to do real human things. You see, my parents were always angry at me for not paying her enough attention. As far as I see it, until she starts doing things the rest of us do such as walk, talk, deal with disappointment, hide secrets from one another or enjoy fine Italian cuisine without spilling it all over yourself, she’s nothing more than a living blob.

Terrible? Maybe, but really, am I supposed to be impressed by something pointing in the general direction of a man, uttering “Pa! Pa!” That’s the true beauty of being that young. Anything you do is akin to reinventing the wheel.

Take, for instance, when you learned how to ride a bike. Before I could actually do it without those helper wheels, I thought I had a better chance of scaling the Himalayas. Could you imagine if your 20-year-old friend couldn’t ride a bike? What was the skill set there anyway? Balance?

I don’t know. I’m just never impressed with little kids. If my sister called me to tell me Julia learned how to write calligraphy, I’d come home to see it. Otherwise, what am I supposed to say?

“Oh my God, she said Pa! So what that she’s pointing at the chair. Pa sits in chairs, sometimes at least, so that’s probably what she was referring to.”

That’s another thing, you can’t make fun of infants, at least those related to you. And, it’s not just because they can’t defend themselves, though I guess it has something to do with it. The real reason comes from one group, the grandparents. My father, specifically, acts like a complete fool. There’s something about having a baby around, almost like a full moon to Michael J. Fox in “Teen Wolf.” Call it the crazy quotient, if you like.

I’ll be in a conversation with him, and he has no qualms about leaving it to get down, hands and knees and grin like an idiot at this infant who can’t even talk. Here I am, a walking, talking adult, and I can’t even hold his attention.

My parents say I’m jealous. Maybe so I do worry though, that I won’t be a good uncle. In the movies, the uncle is always the cool one, the one that takes the niece or nephew to the ball game. The one that buys the niece or nephew the first diseased prostitute. You know, that sort of family stuff.

I look at some of my own uncles. Geez. I’d imagine everyone can relate to this, but I know if there was a prison ran by and for bad uncles, I’d at least have a few jailors and the warden.

Thing is, I don’t even think she knows me. I’m never home, so my two nincompoop brothers are busy stealing prime “Don’t You Remember When” time. Already, her memory of me is fading. I spoke with my sister recently, and she told me Julia calls me “Uncle Cott”. Cute? Maybe to some. I look at it like I’ll be “Uncle Ott” in a few years. Ultimately, phased out.

The other thing I always think about is what she’ll be like when she’s older. Because I’m an infant in my own right, I group her future possibilities into the stereotypical categories I saw on display in high school. Will she be really hot, cheerleader type? How about one of those nerdy girls with no friends who wears make up to convince herself she’s not as big of a loser as she actually is? Or maybe one of those superstar athletes who could beat the snot out of me.

Whatever it is she does become, I can imagine softening my tough-guy stance. I look forward to actually talk to her. Though, I’d imagine I’ll only have a few years to get any good conversation in before I have to take the obligatory, “You’re a Teenage B*tch” break. If she takes after her mother, that’s almost a no-brainer as well. Still, if in the end they come out the same, I’ll be more than happy with that.

Scott Spinelli is a humor columnist for The Daily Orange where his columns appear Thursday. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu. He’d like to send out his best wishes to the girls from DanceWorks.

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Forget the Fun and Romance: Valentine’s Day a No-Win Situation for Guys
2/14/08

And so it comes, and hopefully, so it goes. Another Valentine’s Day spent alone. Sound the violins, cue up the world’s smallest tear. Though, if you don’t mind, I think I’d rather keep the extra money in my pocket this year.

I don’t know why it is, but for some reason, women think that they’re entitled to something on Valentine’s Day. Why is that? At what point did having a birthday or simply being the one that gets showered with “just-because” gifts in exchange for sexual favors not become enough?

Let’s be honest about those “just-because” gifts. Not that they all result in immediate bang for buck, but we can all agree they work at least like a point system. 50 points for flowers, 35 for a card, etc. If you get to 100, who knows what you could exchange it for.

Anyway, I never could quite wrap my mind around Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s because I’m a miserable cynic who was raised by a man that hated Halloween (his reason largely draws on how much fun other people were having). Maybe it’s because I eat candy every day of the year instead of just on holidays.

Thing is, there are two types of women when it comes to February 14. There’s the type that really do want a celebration thrown in their honor and the type that says they want nothing, but really would love anything more than nothing.

The former wants streamers, balloons, dinner, candy, cards, gifts and roses. A breakfast in bed, a singing telegram delivery and two solid “I Love You’s” from that special guy. Not the kind of “I Love You” that’s said to make her happy, but one that you really mean. Or at least have gotten adept enough at faking.

Cards are easily the biggest copout. What says “I Love You” better than generic writing from strangers on a folded piece of thick paper?

The latter girl is the biggest pain.

“No, no. I don’t want anything special. Just your company, and that’ll do it for me.”

Unquestionably, this is the worst of the two answers. At least with the first, there is a clear level of expectation. With this chick, there’s really no way you can win. If you’re a literalist, you don’t care enough about her special day. If you get her too much, you overdid it. Not all of us are acrobats.

The interesting thing, as far as I’m concerned, is how utterly simply V-Day is for men. On my end, there are only a few things I would like to make me happy. Sour Patch Kids, sports on television and maybe something else that can’t be said in these pages. For most men, I’d venture safely, that would largely be the case. Change Sour Patch Kids to Mike and Ike, and that’s the extent of the variation.

When I want to think of fond Valentine’s Days of yore, I go back to elementary school. The days when everyone had someone, and all you could think about all day was getting that Foghorn Leghorn Looney Tunes’ card from the cute, pig-tailed girl in the front of class.

“I say, I say, I say, won’t you be my Valentine, boy?”

Or, maybe a Tweety Bird, “I wuv you” sufficed, but nonetheless, there was nothing better than that.

Outside of class, I always had one Valentine, my mom. God that sounds corny, doesn’t it?

Every year, my dad would give me one of those talks, begging me not to forget my mother.

“Yeah, but aren’t you married to her? That’s why there’s Mother’s Day.”

As I saw it, my mom (actually, all of them for that matter) really hit the triple jackpot. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and birthday. So what if they have to deal with human birth, incompetent and lazy husbands and being right about everything, all the time.

If you’re curious, I did get one gift for Valentine’s Day this year. Sadly, it was from a male friend of mine, that, as salt on the proverbial wound, happens to have a girlfriend. Funny, yes. A painful reminder, also, yes.

Despite my cynicism, I recognize the aspect of Valentine’s Day that doesn’t have to do with Hallmark. Love for that special someone and, as it stands, significant amounts of gifts for that person, too.

I guess I can afford a few extra Sour Patch bags after all. Nothing says “I Love Me” and gluttony like a self-purchased, 5 lbs. bag of candy from the bookstore.

Scott Spinelli’s columns appear every Thursday in The Daily Orange. He would like to say Happy Valentine’s Day to his mom. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu

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Pick Up Lines: For the Not-so-Confident Guy
2/7/08

I want to put out a question to any woman reading this right now. Single, not single. Whatever. At this point, I’m not going to make distinctions.

How is that you’d like to be approached in public places?

Everyone knows those stupid pick up lines, that Fresh Prince style garbage.

Girl, you must be tired, cuz you been running through my mind all day.

Just this past weekend, my lack of confidence stymied me again. The lucky gal was left to her own devices. It turns out she was lucky in more ways than she could have even imagined.

You see, the truth, at least as far as I see it, is there really are no good pick-up lines. The men that have to use pick-up lines (uh, me), are the ones that aren’t necessarily good enough at anything else to get the woman in the first place.

Do you think any of the guys on the basketball team go up to women and say, “Excuse me young lady, but I would like to let you know that I play for the intra-collegiate basketball squad here on campus. May I buy you a beverage?”

No, they don’t have to do that. Simply being alive and enormous is enough. Yet, for the rest of us mere humans, we don’t have that luxury. So, we are left to scheme, plot and devise stupid things to get strange women to talk to even stranger men.

Contrary to what you might believe, I absolutely clam up. I have nothing to say to this person, nor can I think of any reason I’d ever have anything to say to her ever. I actually, and I swear this is true, almost went up to a girl and told her that I couldn’t think of anything to say to her, but would still like to buy her a drink. Talk about being a quitter.

The only thing I have is this suggestion a friend gave me. Basically, if you have one male friend, you can perform this stunt. Go up to the girl, with an extra drink in your other hand. Tap the girl on the back, pretend you thought she was your friend and then just wait for her reaction. As far as we thought it through, there’s only three ways it can go.

1. She takes the drink, and is fine with not being who you thought she was. Likely, this is the first in many lies that will define the relationship.

2. She takes the drink, but doesn’t want to talk to you. Think of it like this: you found out she’s a “witch,” and it only cost you $3. Normally, it takes a guy months and months (not to mention a near down payment on a house).

3. She refuses the drink, and now you have an extra drink. This is clearly the second best option, and maybe you can even try it on someone else.

That being said, I obviously don’t have enough confidence to try even that.

One of my best friends here at school pulled a true stunt that should be written down and shared with future generations.

He saw this girl he liked, and simply approached her in the dining hall. Why’s that so great? Well, he had never spoken to her, and just went up to a random, beautiful girl and asked her if he could sit at the table (where she was already with another friend).

People like this belong in the hall of fame.

Can you imagine that, a hall of fame for men? No athletes, no musicians. Just regular men. And there’s a special Spinelli wing (because I just thought of it, I get naming rights, deal with it) that honors men that have completed feats of strengths with women.

A gold plaque for John Q. Pimp: Career Highlights: More than 125 random women picked up in bars, saloons, socials, etc…Has been with women between 5’2″ and 6’7″. Favorite Line: “Girl you must be a ticket, because you’ve got fine written all over you.”

Essentially, consider pick-up lines a fairly harmless trap. We’re the Elmer Fudds of the world, desperately searching for you, the Bugs Bunnies of the world, if you follow the metaphor. Really, all of the effort we put into those lines are just to trick you into speaking with us for a few minutes more, and we’ll do anything to try and see that through to the end.

Scott Spinelli is a humor columnist at the Daily Orange, where his column appears every Thursday. If you have a good hook-up story, e-mail him at saspinel@syr.edu.—————————————————————————————————————————————————

Don’t Ask Me What I’m Doing After College

1/31/08

They say you’re not supposed to talk about two things at a bar: religion and politics. Since I haven’t really been to temple since my bar mitzvah (that’s more than eight years ago for you gentiles out there) and I’m about as politically informed as the eggplant parmigiana in my refrigerator, I’m going to add another no-no:

“So what are your job plans when you graduate?”

I hate that question for a number of reasons, but largely because my response pales in comparison to that of the person asking. People don’t generally ask questions like that, in my experience, because they’re genuinely curious. They ask as a front, so they can tell you how great their job is.

You can almost hear them counting down the seconds before they can finally give up the charade of listening to you, and blurt out their situation.

“Well, I’m not sure, I might go back and live with my – “

“Wow, really…That’s awesome. Yeah, I’m going to the city to work for JPMorgan. I mean, no big deal really. Entry level sort of thing, I’m starting out at 75 thousand a year, so whatever.”

“Oh, you see, that’s funny because I was offered that exact same position, but turned it down. I accepted something a lot lower-paying, based out of my parents’ house, so…”

I don’t really say that last part, it’s mainly in my head. The truth is most people don’t have any idea about what they’re doing after they graduate. In fact, most of us don’t even know what we’re doing at the moment.

Ask anyone around you, point blank, “What are you doing right now?” You see that glazed-over look in their eyes. Thought so.

Whatever it is I wind up doing in the future, I can almost certainly rest assure it tops some of the “jobs” I’ve had in recent past.

Most recently, I attempted to work at Barnes & Noble. Let me make one thing clear: it’s not as easy as it seems. There are several rounds of interviews, practical demonstrations, take-home exams, strength exercises, proof of family bloodline requirements, etc.

My attempt was foiled almost immediately. In line for the first interview, I heard a simple question asked of the woman being interviewed at the time.

“Who are some of your favorite authors?”

I completely freaked out. All of the sudden, I couldn’t think of any books I had ever read. I had to leave the line and go around the store to find an author I recognized. The only thing I could think of was R.L. Stine. He was the only author I could remember having read more than one book by.

At that moment, I realized the ultimate problem with trying to work at a bookstore, albeit in the café. Those who don’t read will have a problem selling people books.

My shining moment (or gaggle of moments, as it was), came the summer after my freshman year.

If I’m anything, I’m proud of my heritage, at least the Italian side. So, what better way, I figured, to represent my family than to work for a true, homemade Italian pizzeria – Domino’s.

Not looking to make a career out of peddling assorted types of breadsticks, I found myself often messing around to enjoy my time there.

Don’t worry, I didn’t do anything disgusting. I’m talking Disney-type fun.

For instance, at one point during the summer, my manager wanted me to have a name tag in case the regional inspector came to our store. The problem was the only one left was the one her son used. No big deal, right? I guess not, unless you think I look like a “Carlos.” In a week or so, I got fed up with being Spanish. I changed the name tag to Giuseppe. Real Italians selling real Italian cuisine.

One other particularly interesting point of silliness came from a simple jousting session. Another delivery person and I would fight with the instruments used to make the pizza. Call it passion, call it idiocy, but for whatever reason, we got so caught up in the duel, we forgot to cut the pizza. After the delivery was made, a phone call came in to the store.

“Umm, I’m sorry, but the pizza I just ordered wasn’t cut.”

My friend answered, stone-faced.

“Well, do you have a knife?”

That’s the mark of a good job. Does it matter that only a month after that phone call we were both “laid off?” Maybe. Maybe not. What’s truly important is: does the job yield enough stories to make a girl laugh at a bar? If the answer is yes, then stay away from talking about whatever job you have coming up next.

Scott Spinelli’s column appears every Thursday in The Daily Orange. If he could have one superpower, it would be to have that “sore throat” voice constantly.

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Growing Old Not a Bad Idea
1/24/08

Funny how?

If you’re looking for a movie to take a date, or even prospective date, to, look no further than “The Bucket List.”

I know I’m a bit late, but I got around to seeing this “hysterical” comedy this past weekend, and may I say, it was a joyride. Terminally ill patients, recycled jokes and a Morgan Freeman voiceover. The only thing it was missing was some zany Ben Stiller cameo.

Alright, fine, maybe it’s not the best choice for wooing a female. I don’t know why I even saw the movie to begin with. To be fair, the writing was on the wall, and people even warned me against it.

Initially I asked my dad to go with me.bucket-2.jpg

“You try turning 60, and see if you want to go see a movie about two terminally ill patients.”

Fair enough.

That Saturday night was easily the most depressing Saturday night of my life. There, I am, in a crowded movie theater, with two of my friends, and I’m almost in tears at the end of this movie.

I don’t know what it was that I expected. It wasn’t as if there was really any chance for anything different to happen. The word “terminal” really only means one thing when it comes to sickness.

Really, if you want to mess with an older relative, take them to see this movie. It’s a sort of “stay-away-from-the-light” film.

“Alright Grandpa, we’re going to go see ‘The Bucket List,’ I just figured you’d like to know what’s on-deck.”by
That being said, while I did expect to contract a disease on the ride home, I can’t wait to get old. For clarification purposes, when I say old, I’m really talking about people that are older than 75.

Once you’ve reached a certain age, you can really just do whatever you want, within reason.

For instance, a few years back I was at a family party where, to gain entry, you had to say which way you voted in the Dewey-Truman election. I’m eating something, talking to someone and out of the corner of my eye, I see a woman doing some sort of shimmying. Turns out, she was just taking her leg off so she could sit in comfort. That’s all, just removing a leg.

Younger than 75, you get a look for scratching your nose. Older than 75, limbs can be removed without a second glance.

My grandmother, while we were eating dessert at my house, once sneezed so hard her teeth came out. We all laughed, though we did our best to hide it. Actually, my brother fell off his seat so hard I thought he had broken his wrist trying to break his fall. But, as for my grandma, she simply got up, washed her teeth, came back, and continued on, as if nothing happened.

That’s the second great thing about being old. You’ve been through so much at that point; no one gives you any crap. As an example, my grandpa puts so much sugar in his cereal in the morning you’d think he was Buddy the Elf. But, while we all want to scream at him, no one really says anything. There’s something about having been through more World Wars than wives that gives him a pass.

Another thing I’m excited for with regard to getting old is gift-getting. At 21, when I get a gift certificate, I have as long as I want to use it, which often creates too much anxiety.

You know, I could use another pair of jeans, but why don’t I wait and get a pair of shorts. But, will I want shorts then? I really like these jeans, but shorts would be the smarter choice. Then again, it stays cold here for a while, but I don’t have too many pairs of shorts, or do I?

When I’m 75, that gift instantly begins to expire the second you get it. If you want “27 Dresses” on DVD, go out and get it. And when you’re that old, you don’t even have to lie about why you’re buying it. Everyone knows it’s because of Katherine Heigl and how incredibly large her, uh, sense of humor is.

Well, maybe some things won’t change.

Scott Spinelli’s column appears every Thursday, and he, like most seniors, can’t get enough of class-assigned readings.

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First Day of Class Introductions Always Stressful; Best to Just Make Things Up
1/17/08

Though this is my final go-around for “first days” in college, the procedure hasn’t gotten any easier. For some reason, the small ritual that is the introduction scares the bejeesus out of me. I can get in front of a crowd of 100 people and (try to) tell jokes, but saying my name in front of 15 strangers is simply terrifying.

First, the teacher has to go around the room and ask the class to talk about themselves in the most embarrassing of fashions:

“Alright, I’d like you all to say your name, where you’re from and what your major is,” then comes the pause, as if the teacher is just thinking of this for the very first time, “and actually, say something interesting about yourself”.

My first problem comes from the smart guy that says he’s from a city, when they’re actually not within two hours of that city. Note to all of those people: Everyone is from a small city; you’re not the only one.

For some reason, the chief city culprit in these classroom misdemeanors always happens to be Boston. It seems as if any human from the northeastern corner of the continental United States is from Boston. Why is that?

One girl last year told me she was from Chicago. Having family and friends from the area, I actually made the mistake of asking her where she lived.

I thought, “Illinois can’t be that big, I’m sure they know each other.”

Of course, there was no connection between my family and hers, but not for the reason you might expect. Turns out, this three-faced liar wasn’t from Chicago. She actually lived three hours away from Chicago, closer to Milwaukee. That’s like me saying I’m from Philly, Boston, New York City and Baltimore without much traffic.

I always preface where I’m from (Millington, New Jersey, by the way), with the caveat of, “Well, it’s a really small city, very small, so….” as if anyone actually cares how small it is.

Having two S’s in my names doesn’t help with the “state your name” section. For some reason, I develop a slight lisp for that second and a half.

My real heart attack moment comes when it’s finally time to say my major. Heart beat rapidly skyrocketing, I’ve often thought about lying and saying “math,” because it’s less syllables than “broadcast journalism.” I doubt that simply, “math,” is an actual major, but whenever this time of year comes around, I can’t think of anything other than that.

However, once my moment of despair has passed, I truly enjoy hearing some of the other majors this university has cooked up. I’ve actually heard a kid say his major was gym. What does it take to qualify for a gym major, I wonder? Classes like “Living in Your Office 132,” “Wearing Air Pants to Work Everyday for the Rest of Eternity 255” and “How to Hang Up Stupid Posters Such As ‘Your Altitude Reflects Your Attitude’ 482.”

The one I could never wrap my mind around was rhetorical studies. I’ve always wanted to ask them what it meant, but I’ve feared they wouldn’t answer.

Then, the kicker comes. Something interesting? Come on, I’m not interesting. That’s the thought that goes through basically everyone’s minds. I’ve actually said, as embarrassing as this is, that I play basketball a lot, as my interesting fact. Like I’m the only one who does that.

More humorously, when truly bored, I’ve even lied. In one class last year I was the son of a mechanic, so, naturally, I was very good at working with cars. In another I won a state championship in basketball while in high school. Not only did I never play a second of basketball in high school, I wouldn’t know a car if it ran me over. And my dad works in, uh, construction.

Once the introductory shenanigans have mercifully concluded, the only thing left for the heterosexual male to do is scope out the room for the smoking hot girls. God help you if you’re in a class with only 15 people in it. Your chances just went down about 25 percent. I know I’m not the only one who’s played the game of picking a lucky lady just in case your professor puts a gun to your head, locks the door and forces intercourse. Of course, that’s never happened, but I’m allowed to pretend.

One final note to the ladies out there: if you see a guy writing furiously on a sheet of paper during the introductions, he’s probably writing your name. Sorry, but that’s just the truth. Facebook is a scary mother.

Luckily, it all goes down hill from there. Assignments to ignore, books to buy to collect dust, chapters to “read,” etc. God I love school.

Scott Spinelli’s column appears on Thursdays. He enjoys playing word games during class, such as naming a cartoon character for every letter of the alphabet. L is for Iago, X is for X, Professor, etc.

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As One Gets Older, Birthdays Become an Ordeal When it Comes to Family
12/6/07

“They say it’s your birthday…well, happy birthday to you.”

And in this instance, they’d be correct.

It is my birthday today – thank you for remembering, Paul McCartney.

As this is the last important birthday I’ll have in quite some time, I figured I’d take a minute to reflect. Yes, I’m turning the big 2-1 today, and I must say, I’m quite excited about it. Usually, my birthday is a fun day, but nothing crazy.

I feel like I’m gaining access to some sort of secret club, which, I guess, on a literal level, is quite true. This is made worse by the fact that all of my friends and housemates are already 21. I relate it to video games, as I so often do other monumental events in life. Death being “Finish Him!” from “Mortal Kombat,” my Bar Mitzvah being… actually, I don’t know if I can think of a relevant video game scene or concept to equate to the rite of passage into manhood for a Jewish youth.

At any rate, just because this is a monumental birthday, it doesn’t mean the typical annoyances of the day won’t be there in full effect.

First, you always get a million cards, and, in some of them, no matter how hard you search the corners of the envelope, there’s nothing in them. Maybe it fell out? Come on, be real – it’s not like people oil up their cash before they send it.

I always struggle, at least internally, with what to do with the cards. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t throw them away, as if the people that sent them put tracking devices on the card so they can find out exactly when it hits garbage. Jewish and Italian guilt. It’s terrible.

The other part of me wants to throw them away the second I fail to see any dead presidents.

Worse than the card dilemma is the barrage of phone calls from cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents you haven’t heard from in ages. Fourth cousins twice removed, and all because they have that stupid birthday calendar on the wall.

The first question in the arsenal is always the same, and it’s never funny, nor is it ever clever.

“So, how does it feel to be 21?”

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that, I might be able to fill up those empty cards.

I never know how to answer that question, no matter how old I am.

“Well, to be honest, it’s a hell of a lot muskier than I imagined. But, other than that, just what I expected.”

If you have one of those caravan phone calls, your aunt is making every single cousin get on the phone. Pray to God you’re not that last one. Already, I’ve answered how it feels to be my age, what I’ve done today, what I’m doing tomorrow, that I’m going to be safe, what I’ve gotten as gifts. There really isn’t much left. One time, when I was this last cousin, I admitted I had nothing to say.

“Hey, happy birthday. I’d ask you something, but I know it’s been asked already.”

And, you can tell they really don’t care.

“Yeah, I got a gift card to Best Buy, two sweaters and tickets to a Knicks game, so that’s exciting.”

Yeah, exhilarating. Sometimes, I can sense their boredom (or hear it, through snores), so I just make stuff up.

“Nope, haven’t gotten a thing. Parents forgot, and my house burnt down. How’s that for some luck?”

“Yeah, great, I’m going to put your cousin on, be safe OK?”

Also, how many times does someone have to ask, “What do you want for your birthday”? This time of year, with Hanukkah and Christmas and my birthday, I’m asked this question approximately a thousand times. My answer, since I stopped wanting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines, has almost exclusively been, “I don’t know.”

My grandmother, for one, hates this response. She actually gets angry at me. Imagine that for a minute. Angry, at me, for not wanting anything.

Of course, I do want things – I just don’t want to tell anyone. There’s something about the surprise that I doubt I’ll ever get over. What fun is it to say to your parents, I want the new Lupe Fiasco album and then, a week later, in a thin, rectangular package, there it is. As if they were going to just look for that, on a hunch.

Despite my griping, birthdays are fun. People pretend like they care about you for a day. Your friends can’t be blatantly rude to you. It’s a great time, had by all. So, for the final time this calendar year, I leave you with Ray Charles’ jolly words: “Let’s have some fun, you only live but once, and when you’re dead, you’re done…so let the good times roll.”

Scott Spinelli will be in Schine Student Center from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Come and wish him happy birthday, he will have cake. Carvel cake.

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Hannukah Beats Christmas in Holiday Battle
11/25/07

According to Sunny 102.1 FM, the Christmas season began when Halloween ended.

According to most sane people, it’s getting under way right about now.

I will admit I’m in love with Sunny 102.1. I wake up to it in the morning. I rock out to it when I’m driving. I blast it when I’m cooking. I can’t get enough of The Boss singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

So, with the holidays around the corner, I figured I’d do The D.O. a favor and release the official Christmas Breakdown. Yes, the Italian-Jewish kid is making his list and checking it twice.

The ultimate irony, I find, is that here at Syracuse, we go on what is called winter break. Political correctness aside, we all know the real deal. This is a Christmas break. You wouldn’t ever hear anyone say, “Hey, when do you leave for Hanukkah break?”

As a kid, I was in the fortunate position of being able to celebrate both of the big ones. Christmas with my father’s side, Hanukkah with my mother’s side. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on either, but I certainly can’t say that other people at this school know much more.

Again, for the number of Jewish people that go to Syracuse, I’m amazed at how little gentiles know about their Torah-toting brethren.

So, to help you out, I’ve decided to issue my own little Hanukkah primer, if only in comparison to Christmas for clear understanding.

First of all, you Christmas folk win on the mascot – a fat man wearing an inordinate amount of red. Sure, he has a cholesterol problem, but at least his constituents are trying to help him out with offerings of celery. Most of us have a balding, bespectacled man specializing in either banking or doctoring.

As far as the tree/menorah debate goes, I can’t see the bonus to having a tree. It’s like having a hobo live in your house for three weeks. You have to give it water, make sure it looks nice, and you only really use it for two days a year. The menorah, on the other hand, requires nothing. Maybe a sheet of tinfoil so the wax doesn’t spill. Maybe some matches? That’s about it.

Another clear advantage we have is in length. Sure, that stupid song professes there to be 12 days of Christmas. But, that’s about as true as there being eight days of Hanukkah. Really, by around day five, all the presents have been given out; the whole “spending time with the family” reasoning has been exhausted. What the hell is a “lord a leaping” anyway? And 10 of them? Let’s not be ridiculous.With presents, Christmas takes the cake. And then bakes another one, brings it to a Jewish person’s house and eats it all without sharing. Every year growing up, my non-Jewish friends’ gifts were out of this world. Video game systems, portable DVD players, computers, farmland in Minnesota, stock in a favorite baseball team. What do we get? Well, generally, the first, I don’t know, four nights stink. Dress socks, a calendar, maybe some mechanical pencils.Yet the real crux of any holiday comes with the food it delivers. Christmas Eve and Day feature the garden variety honey baked ham or possibly roast beef. Some families have a variety of seafood dishes. Either way, nothing beats what Hanukkah has. We’re so zany, we invent foods. Taking a page out of what truly must be the Irish playbook, we have the latke (you pronounce it Laht-kah, FYI).A non-Jewish friend of mine, we’ll call her Michele Schwartz, had no idea what this was.”A potato pie thingy?”Close enough. In fairness to her, with blonde hair and light colored eyes, she looks more like an Aryan than a Hasidic Jew. The latke, or potato pancake, is truly innovative. It has to rank up there with radio and fire.I haven’t even mentioned the dreidel. If you want real rip-roaring fun, head over to your nearest Jewish friend’s house anywhere from Dec. 4 to Dec. 12 at around 6:45 p.m. Little known fact: that’s prime dreidel-spinning time. Something about the amount of sunlight, the position of the moon….I guess it’s clear: Hanukkah wins. Not really a shocker there, especially from an unbiased source. But what are holidays really about? No, not tinsel; family. So, in that vein, I leave you with the sweet croonings of Mariah Carey when she sings, “I just want you for my own/ more than you could ever know/ make my wish come true/ baby, all I want for Christmas is…you.”Scott Spinelli’s column appears every Thursday. He also wants to give a shout out to Pearl Harbor and Boxing Day. And, big ups to Kwanzaa.

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Thanksgiving Break Inevitably Leads to Awkwardness with Family, Friends
11/15/07

I realize that the Big Day isn’t upon us just yet. Actually, as you read this, it’s exactly a week away. But break schedules being as they are, this is the last time we’ll speak before we eat ourselves silly. And when I say silly, I literally mean zany. You should see my grandma’s house at Thanksgiving. It’s a scene from “Animaniacs.”

I’ve realized, after several years of practice, that going home for a break (as opposed to a weekend off) is quite the out-of-body experience.

I liken coming home from school to what it must have felt like for soldiers to come home from war.

First of all, the people at home speak a different language than you’re used to. People speak in complete, usually bitter, sentences. Words like “obvi” are obsolete. Profanity, with relation to the penis and other sex objects, are lost.

Second, you are always withered and tired by the time you get home. Besides the people who live in DeWitt, most of us make some sort of a hike to get to this abyss.

Finally, just like soldiers, there seems to be some division on whether your presence is actually welcomed back home. Your parents are happy to have you back. Maybe even your dog, possibly an extended relative. The more conservative members of the family, such as a brother who might not get the same attention paid to him, isn’t quite as thrilled.

I don’t know about anybody else, but for some reason, I always envision a king’s welcome upon my home arrival. Roll out the red carpet; get the guy with that abnormally long trumpet. But no, that’s never what happens.

Usually, no one is home. That is, of course, except for my ageless grandfather. We’ve been having the same conversation for, I believe, four years. At a volume that could bother the dogs in the neighborhood, we always talk about the weather, which he hasn’t experienced for more than the walk from the house to the car in two years.

At any rate, the highlight of the week is my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. Every year, there’s a small militia at her split-level place. The food is served (at least part of it) buffet-style. I bring this up because there’s one thing I absolutely hate about that. Why do people think it’s their right to make gratuitous comments about how much I’m piling on my plate? So what? I already know that I’m not going to feel like getting up again – is that a crime?

One of the lowlights from the week, for me at least, is that stupid Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. What the attraction to that is, I’ll never understand. Even as a kid, I never got it. Large balloons of various kinds that are never proportionate. Snoopy’s head is waaay too big, and Spiderman looks bloated. Who is impressed by this?

Before I get into what I believe to be the most embarrassing part of any extended break, I feel that it’s time for an honest admission. At home, I only have, tops, five friends. That being said, I always seem to run into my “friends” from high school where ever I go.

You know the sort of “friend” I’m talking about. The sort of friend that you haven’t talked to since you graduated. The sort of friend you have to be reminded of what their first name is as they approach you. The sort of friend you can’t remember what college (if any) they went to. That sort of friend.

The worst comes in that last situation. Because you’re such good friends with this person, you must have the requisite “how’s school going?” conversation, a la the weather conversation with a grandparent.

The problem arises when I realize I don’t know where the other person goes to school. After four years, if I haven’t gotten it down yet, I doubt it’s coming any time soon. Usually, I wind up guessing. Being from New Jersey, there’s one obvious guess.

“So, how’s Rutgers’ treating you?”

“Actually, I don’t go to Rutgers. I go to Drexel.”

“Oh, that’s right. You transferred, right?”

“No, I’ve been going there the whole time.”

At this point, I just pathetically admit that I couldn’t even locate Drexel on a map if I was in their library and hopelessly weasel my way out of the conversation, hoping my grandfather needs help figuring out the weather.

All said, this next week is about friends. As Dilated Peoples once said, “Fresh off a flight, without my people, life ain’t worth the fight. When worse comes to worse, my people come first.”

Scott Spinelli’s column appears every Thursday. He agrees with you: Chow and Lo Mein are the same thing. Or at least they should be.

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Dire College Food Situation Cases Food to be Overlooked
11/8/07

I’ve decided, just recently, that I don’t like eating anymore. Don’t worry, I do eat. But, I can’t say I enjoy it as much as I did when I lived at home.

Maybe I’m just not creative enough. I feel like I’m eating the same things for every meal. You know it’s bad when you wake up angry because you have to think about what it is you’re going to eat that day.

The concept of eating for enjoyment or pleasure has basically left me. I eat for two basic reasons: First, it’s socially unacceptable (or so I’ve been told) to go too long without eating. Second, my mom would get worried.

I live off campus, so I have to make my own meals, all the time. While this does have its downfalls, it’s definitively not as bad as eating at the dining halls.

The idea that anyone could actually fulfill the myth of the “Freshman 15” living on this campus is utterly ridiculous. When I came home for Winter break, my mom thought she had sent me to Ethiopia Community College.

I would swipe my card and just get vegetables. A plate of tomatoes. Maybe some apples or bananas if I felt extra, dare I say, fruity?

Over the past few semesters, I had taken a serious break from the dining halls. A semester abroad and a semester living off campus took me away from the Robert Shaw Halls of the world.

Bored with my own cooking skills, I’ve since trudged back into the dining halls. Robert Shaw 1, Scott Spinelli 0.

Some of the shenanigans they pull there, after having been away for some time, really are mind-blowing.

This whole no lunch thing on the weekends really pisses me off. I don’t even go on weekends anymore, but that’s beside the point. Does the Denny’s “Moons over my Hammy” breakfast sponsor the dining halls on this campus?

My other issue relates more to health than convenience. Those breadsticks. Holy hell. First, let me say, I’ve enjoyed them quite thoroughly in the past, as one should (they’re delicious). That being said, even Ray Charles can see the symbolism of those breadsticks and your arteries.

So, I’m forced to go and buy my own food. For the record, let me say that I’m a P&C guy. I like Wegmans, I do. But, I can’t go there. Whenever I go, I wind up buying stuff that I clearly don’t need. It’s got that Home Depot power over me, where I start convincing myself that I need things I definitely don’t.

“You know, I could use some Starfruit imported from the plains of Venezuela.”

Don’t even get me started on Whole Foods. I don’t think there’s a more pretentious organization on the planet. Organic fruit, organic cereal, organic tooth brushes. Enough is enough.

There are only two types of people in there: One’s that hippie type, and the other is that wealthy business man who thinks that buying this type of food (if only because they can afford it) will erase the years of gluttony that preceded that week’s purchase. Nice try.

Anyway, once I’ve purchased my supplies, I need some kind of guide. So, I watch Food Network for recipes.

My favorite cook to get recipes from, naturally, is Giada De Laurentiis. The reasons are simple. Her dishes are incredibly low cut, the ingredients don’t cost too much breast, and they taste like they’ve been pushed in my face for half an hour.

Here’s my problem: I treat eating like a challenge. When I go to eat chips and salsa, it’s a dual between the two containers. Barring an unforeseen illness, I don’t stop until one of the two is finished. It becomes a feat of strength, a battle to determine which will outlast the other. You’d think that the chips would always win, but sometimes I throw the fight, skimpily dipping on purpose, just so the salsa gets some moral support.

Though he’s talking about jail, Styles P. unknowingly and ungrammatically describes the entire scene here at Syracuse University when he says, “I don’t wanna live here, the walls is gray, the clothes is orange, the phones is broke and the food is garbage.”

Scott Spinelli’s column appears every Thursday. Holler at your boy boy @ scott.spinelli@gmail.com. Word to moms.

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Sports Radio Job Market a Sham, Other Majors are all Business
11/1/07

How is it possible that there is a potential job opening, somewhere, somehow, for people like me? That’s not to say I’m necessarily worried about getting a job. No. It’s more confusion.

You see, I want to work on the radio, which I guess is valuable enough. Though the deeper you go, the more you find out that I’m really just a kid with very few real-world skills.

What do I want to do? I’d like to talk about sports (or anything, for that matter) on the radio. Not play-by-play. No, that requires skill. I’d rather just talk about it. That’s it. Just talk. About sports. There actually are jobs, that is to say, positions and people that pay other people to simply get in front of a microphone and talk about sports. Is that shocking to anyone else but me?

Here’s a rule of thumb I tend to live my life by: You shouldn’t be able to call something a career if someone that is marginally inebriated can do it at least a similar level. You don’t see anyone working full time as a keg stander.

Go to any bar, restaurant or other establishment that men frequent. There are sports talk show hosts at every one of them.

At least I can take comfort in the fact that I’m investing nearly $160,000 into a career that anyone can do. Not to mention the bevy of sports talk radio courses offered for my tuition. I hope you do catch the sarcasm – I’m laying it on quite thick.

Obviously, it takes some skill. Not necessarily a down payment on the house and four years worth of skill, but some nonetheless.

You see, my main issue is that there are actually individuals enrolled at this school that plan to have an influence on people.

I must say, I’m incredibly fascinated by people who love math. At first, I didn’t believe they existed. I assumed that a math major was for someone who just didn’t want to talk about sports. Otherwise, why on earth would someone take more math classes?

Two of my roommates are like this. They’re engineering majors – their work is so incredibly beyond my comprehension, it boggles the mind how we are enrolled at the same university.

They once had a class called Statix. I was convinced for months they spelled it wrong on their notebooks.

Have you ever seen some of the word problems these math guys do? I had trouble with them back when we were introduced to the concept so many moons ago. Nowadays, I think I’d have an easier time learning to speak hieroglyphics.

Here’s an example of one of the problems I saw. No joke.

There are two cars leaving their respective houses today. One leaves from Lansing, Mich., at 8:45 a.m. going 77 mph, the other, a four-door sedan, from Tempe, Ariz., at 9:37 a.m. traveling at 67 kmph. Another car – actually an autobus – leaves from downtown Syracuse at 10:15 a.m., traversing at 65 knots per hour. Meanwhile, there are three women typing in an office building in Newark, Del., at a rate of 564 words per hour. If your father is boiling water for supper later that night, at what point do you blow your brains out?

Honest admission time. I had to look in the back for the answer because this happened to be, by the grace of who ever you pray to, an odd-numbered problem. The answer was 7:25 p.m. Don’t ask me how.

You see, there are people out there who can and want to do these sorts of things.

Education majors want to teach the youth of this great nation. Science majors working on – actually, I don’t know what it is that they do. Possibly something with making the chart of the elements easier to read? By the way, who the hell are they kidding with Californium? That’s like naming a state New Boron. Not cool.

Also, engineers out there, what is going on with flying cars? I was under the distinct impression, upon watching “Back to the Future” at least, that those were just around the corner. Forget fuel alternatives, and say goodbye to wind turbines. Let’s pick up the pace.

Don’t even get me started on doctors and lawyers. Not that I trust either of the two groups, but at least their intent (for now) is to do good for others.

At least at this point in my life, I maintain hope that at some point I can say, “I helped that person.” And I don’t mean, I taught them how to turn their tongue into three rings (ask me, I can do it). No, I’m talking about an impact, something serious. Like something on a football field.

So, I guess I am left to quizzically ponder, as Andre 3000 muses, “Man, have you ever really wondered, like, why we here, what the meaning of all this is?”

Scott Spinelli’s column appears every Thursday. If he doesn’t get into sports radio, he knows he has a stable career in breaking women’s hearts.

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Have A Birthday On Halloween Weekend? Too Bad.
10/25/07

I’ve decided this week is easily the worst week to have your birthday, other than being squarely on Christmas Eve or Day.

Birthdays on the week of Halloween only truly suck for college kids. My good friend turns 21 today, and his party is on Friday, one of the two school-sponsored Halloween nights at Syracuse University. Personally, I feel terrible he has to share his special day.

There comes a time in every man’s life (and woman’s, for that matter) when they are given the keys to the adult world, allowed, for all intents and purposes, to do whatever they want. By the way, I know I’m not the only one who thought that saying was “intensive purposes.”

That time is, of course, your 21st birthday. It’s both the beginning and the end.

You can go to bars – you’re an adult, technically, I guess.

On the other hand, it’s the start of the end. Birthdays begin to rapidly decrease in importance in the grand scheme of things. The only ones that matter end in a zero, and after that, you’re dead.

Have fun.

But, while we’re here, it is time to enjoy that 21st, right?

I will set the record straight: I am not 21. I never have been, and at the rate I’m going at, I probably never will be.

If we want to be honest about the whole issue, though, turning 21 at college simply means you no longer have to sneak into bars with fake IDs or go at 4 p.m. – before they start to card – and wait for an eternity.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will let you know, I’ve never tried to get into the bars.

I’m terrible at lying, just awful. I feel as though it’s apparent to anyone who looks at me hard enough that I’m clearly not 21, for no real reason at all.

Beyond that, I can never exude the confidence one needs to sneak into a bar or any other “of age” establishment. The only times I’ve tried (while in another state), I felt like Al Capone trying to sneak out of Alcatraz while wearing a name tag.

From what I gather, turning 21 is really a rite of passage. Friends you don’t have buy you drinks you don’t need and hope to get you as close to that point of “God, I hope he doesn’t have to go to the hospital, that would really ruin the night” as is humanly possible.

I can’t wait.

The real reason I want to turn 21 is so I can hang out with my friends. That’s pretty much it. It’s like I’m the kid that has all of the friends in honors classes and only gets to see them during lunch.

All of the girls I want to see – at the bar.

All of the guys I want to hang out with – at the bar.

And where do I find myself at these times? In my living room, playing Mortal Kombat II.

So, now that you’re 21, you’re a grownup, right? Well, not necessarily – not on Halloween at least.

All Hallows’ Eve. I’ve never been a huge fan. When I was a kid, I was the Riddler once, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and, my absolute favorite, Captain Planet. I dyed my hair green, had the whole getup. It was terrific.

There was a point, though, where it stopped being fun. Maybe it was once I realized I could have candy as much as I wanted every other day of the year. Or maybe it was after the third year in a row of dressing up as a Yankees fan, the most pathetic, give-up costume in the history of mankind. Can I please use this column to ask all men to give up that ridiculous charade? Don’t even bother, just go the party without a costume. The whole “I’m dressed as myself” routine is tired.

Women, on the other hand, have never seemed to have given up on Halloween. They’ve just graduated to a different level. The proverbial bunny, devil or winged-thing. That’s all you’ll ever really see. Again, the jig here is up. I’d like to see one girl just get it over with and go to one of these parties literally wearing nothing.

So, with Halloween in mind for this weekend, I warn the students of this campus with the famous line from Ludacris: “Watch out, my outfit’s ridiculous, in the club lookin’ so conspicuous.”

Scott Spinelli’s column appears every Thursday. He also wants you to know that he hates Valentine’s Day, too.

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Grandmas More Feared Than Loved
10/17/07

There’s just something about grandparents.

My grandmother is absolutely, without doubt, one of a kind. I know, I know, everyone says that.

They’re all wrong.

First of all, I don’t have any ridiculous names for my grandma. She’s simply Grandma. I’ve heard them all. Nana, Mom-mom, Mum-mum, Gran, Granny, Grammy. There seems to be an endless list of nonsensical names people give for their grandparents.

I’m straight up with my grandma. Even when I call her on the phone, it’s the same routine.

“Hey, it’s your grandson.”

“I know, I know who it is.”

“It’s me, Scott Spinelli! Your grandson!” I scream. She loves the joke, every time. It never fails.

That’s the thing about grandparents. They’re all pretty much the same. It’s almost as though there exists a senior citizens fraternity. I’d imagine the list of hazing activities include Boggle and Scrabble tournaments, and clinics on how to cook house-warming treats.

Here’s how it must work:

When you turn 65 (right before your daughter suddenly gets knocked up), the government gives you a call. You are taken to some sort of elderly think tank where they force you to play card games, learn new board games and work on some favorite recipes. That’s all you are allowed to do while serving your sentence in the Granitentiary.

During my childhood, my grandma was the most dominating and intimidating person I knew. Where most grandparents would take it easy on their grandchildren in various games, I almost felt as though my grandma took pleasure in my destruction. Go Fish? No chance. It didn’t matter if we played four-card or that two-card nonsense. War? More like a fist fight. She’d beat me in about 10 minutes.

No wonder my grandma had my mother bring me over to her house so often.

I’d imagine those scarring activities are a large contributor to why I’m such an awful game player to this day. Case in point: Over the summer, my younger cousin annihilated me in Boggle. It got the point where the only way I could win would be if she passed out, hit her head on the table and there was still enough time left for me to write down her answers.

Anyway, back to Grandma. As far as cooking goes, no one compares. And again, I know that everyone says that, but trust me – they’re wrong here, too.

It’s not necessarily what my grandma cooks, but the incredible amounts of food that she prepares. Any holiday she hosts (Jewish or otherwise) has a minimum of 35 people in attendance, a good five to 10 of whom I either don’t know or don’t like.

She’s a lot like Sonny from “Bronx Tale.” People don’t love her; they fear her. You don’t miss holidays, you don’t show up late and you don’t win in board, card or word games.

When I was younger, I used to think I could make up games to outsmart her, games that only I knew how to win. She’d still figure out a way to win.

I write this now as a semi-retired grandson. I don’t play her anymore, mainly to retain any shreds of dignity that I still have left.

Ultimately though, that’s what I love about her. She’s been takin’ names (really, only mine), since Dec. 6, 1986. There’s really no debating the following facts:

She has more friends than I do (granted, she’s been around for nearly three quarters of a century). She’s been with more men than I have (namely, my grandpa). And she could beat me (shocker) in a swearing contest, while simultaneously drinking me under the table. No questions asked, she’s way cooler than I am.

There’s really only one way to describe her, and I’ll borrow from Carl Carlton when I say “She’s a bad mama jama, just as fine as she can be.”

Scott Spinelli’s column appears on Thursdays, and he is boycotting Super Mario Bros. because not all Italians are plumbers.

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With So Many Alternatives, Going to Class a Burden
10/10/07

I’m going to just throw this out there: I don’t like going to class anymore.

That may be a slightly idiotic statement. Who does? I’ve never liked going to class, and in this, my final year as a student, there’s really no difference.

But I don’t think I ever dreaded it this much. Never have I wanted to do so many other things.

I find myself walking to classes just praying that something will take me far away from campus. Anything. Any excuse. Perhaps a strong gust of wind. Maybe an earthquake that ruins the facilities but hurts no one.

What kills me the most are these marathon classes that the university stages, those three-hour and full-day classes. There’s a serious reason the windows in Newhouse II aren’t adjustable. We’d need a clean-up crew on Waverly.

Here’s how bad it’s gotten. I’m to the point where I’ve run out of things to doodle during class. Granted, I can always do the time-consuming, fancy calligraphy of my name. But inevitably, that leads me to being upset that I can’t draw a flower as neatly as the girl next to me can.

My doodling career officially began during my senior year of high school. I actually put work in. Most of your average doodlers simply go into class and let the wide-open pen and page do the work. No, not me. I went home and printed out pictures of logos and cartoon characters that I wanted to draw. And for weeks, I just came to class and drew. Once, I even asked my teacher if I could borrow some markers to color them in.

At this point, I’ve got nothing left. I resort to those stupid arrow drawings, or the even more ridiculous shape configurations that never look anything other than hideous.

What I might hate even more than class are those extracurricular events professors “suggest” you attend. The sort of suggestion that might come from a girlfriend in reference to where to go to eat or what movie “we” should go and see (and put a down payment on a house to enjoy). That sort of “suggestion.”

I was at one of these events recently, just absolutely praying I’d Alex Mack into the floor in the back of the auditorium. During one moment of consciousness, I heard the speaker mention something about a near-death experience she had at one point. At the time, I was thinking, ‘I could use something like that right now.’

And, is there anything worse than those five to 10 minutes when you first wake up for your 8:30 a.m. class? Why classes even start before 10:00 a.m. is beyond my comprehension. I believe that science would show brains don’t begin to function until at least 10:15. Any time before that, I want to smash my alarm clock into a billion pieces every morning. I’m confident that I could be convinced to do anything during those few minutes if it meant I’d get out of going to class. Grand larceny? Yeah, sure, just let me sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of classes at this school that I’d love to take, if all I had to do was sit and listen. But I can’t be expected to actually do the reading. Or write papers. Or be informed or educated at all.

“Well, Scott, what would you rather be doing?”

It’s funny you ask that. I can’t think of anything decisively, oddly enough. I’d imagine I’d be comfortable playing more “Donkey Kong,” wagering on “Legends of the Hidden Temple” and drinking ginger ale as though my life depended on it.

A couple of other things I’d like to do: contemplate how long I can go without doing a laundry load of socks before someone comments on the disappearance of sneakers from my wardrobe, and study Marshall Square Mall with the intent of once and for all figuring out what the hell that store is opposite Syrajuice.

But when the day comes to a close, I’m all talk. It doesn’t really matter what I say. I still go to class. Part of me still likes it (though I do hate that part), and that’s all there is to say about it.

As Nas once said, “Life’s a b*tch, but God forbid the b*tch divorce me.”

Scott Spinelli’s column appears on Thursdays and is usually written to the sounds of Billy Joel and the warmth of a Glade scented candle.

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Men Forever Destined To Be Slaves To The Pull of Women
10/3/07

There are a few things that I think women should know about men. As a man myself, one who is well-versed in the way of the heterosexual male, I feel as though it’s my duty to perform this service. Sort of like being in the Army.

Women, you must know, men don’t exist without you. And I don’t mean that in the literal “you are the givers of life” way. No, I’m referring to the fact that basically everything we do revolves around the hope or promise that you’re involved.

Let’s start with general upkeep. I’d venture most men would most likely never shave if women weren’t around. Some men (read: me) have already stopped. I’d imagine the only time a man would shave would be when it becomes uncomfortable to do the only thing we truly care about besides women – sleep.

Brushing of teeth. Let’s be honest. If men knew there was no way they’d run into a woman all day, they might seriously consider leaving the house without brushing. I’m not calling them sinners. I’m calling them human.

The way a man puts himself together, even with women around, is in such stark contrast to the way a woman puts herself together that it really blows my mind.

Women, in a matter of hours, get up, get ready, put makeup on, fix their hair and choose an outfit with matching accessories. It’s enough to make you want to shoot yourself in the head.

If men had to go through that process for a week, we’d see an extreme dip in the male population of this fine society. I wore a Kansas City Royals baseball jersey a week ago. It took me nearly two-and-a-half hours to decide that I could, in fact, wear a royal blue shirt underneath it.

Still, I take a look around campus and I notice things that women put on, things they wear or add to their outfits that really are just either stupid or unnecessary.

First of all, those ridiculous Hubble Spacecraft sun glasses. I don’t know if the Charlotte Hornet look (Google Charlotte Hornet, if you need a mirror check) is what you’re going for, but you’re not doing anyone any favors.

Plus, there’s that extra second a girl might take to decide what shoes to wear. Let me tell you this. A guy isn’t going home after a night at Chuck’s or some random party and fantasizing about what sort of shoes you had on. (“Bro, did you see the way those Jimmy Choo shoes framed her thighs?”) Or the sort of eyeliner you wear. There’s really only a few areas we concentrate on. You know what I’m talking about.

Don’t get me wrong. Women are beautiful creatures. At least most of you are. Some of you are conniving, beautiful creatures.

That being said, it seems to me just about everything men do is geared toward getting women. We wouldn’t go out to go and drink if there wasn’t the possibility that women would be there. No, we’d stay home, with one hand in our pants and the other on the remote (or a drink). Sad, I know, but it’s that simple.

Men might even walk around naked if women weren’t around. You know what I mean if you’ve ever been in a men’s locker room, anywhere, and seen a flopping Johnson. Honestly, we really don’t care. Hell, penis envy wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a use for it outside of urination.

And, just so you know, women, most men I know do spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how to get women. It’s not all one-sided. We do have those ridiculous conversations analyzing what to do. Not every guy is Jean-Claude Van Damme, with an angelic voice, of course.

If women weren’t around, men would have so much more time on our hands, I don’t think we would know what to do with ourselves. I’d imagine I’d play a lot more Super Nintendo. Or, at the very least, I’d watch my friends play a lot more Super Nintendo.

So, what have we learned? Probably nothing. But, I don’t intend to educate. Merely to inform. If that makes any sense, I’ll end with something that might make less sense. In the words of the prophet Rhymefest, “Oh, you don’t think you need game? Homie, you’d better have it, because women cheat like you, only they’re better at it.”

Scott Spinelli’s column usually appears on Thursdays. He is using this space in lieu of updating his MySpace, Xanga and Facebook statuses.

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Marshall Street No Place for Those Lacking Street Smarts
9/27/07

Even as I write this, I can’t figure out why I keep going back. But despite my complaints, I return, week after week, month after month. On SU’s campus, there’s only one spot I could be referring to.

You guessed it, Bird Library.

No, I’m kidding. There’s absolutely nothing funny about a library. Really. Nothing at all.

At any rate, I was talking about Marshall Street. I’ve got some major issues with what was advertised as the most exciting street on this campus.

First of all, I hate the people that call it “M-Street.” How many syllables do you think that you’re saving? I’ve done that infamous syllable-to-clap ratio test that we all know, and you only save one: the ‘shall.’

I don’t know about you, but when I was a little kid, I used to try to trick that game and clap like a madman to prove that there was no telling how many syllables were in a given word. Maybe that was just me.

Still, there’s something to be said for the main street of a college where you can’t buy a CD or rent a movie, but you can buy a pita (or its ugly cousin, the wrap) at roughly six establishments.

My biggest issue with Marshall Street is the characters one meets when he or she goes down there. I’m not talking about that annoying dude from class you always seem to run into (as opposed to the smoking hot girl you never see wherever you go). I’m thinking more of street urchins – the people willing to prey on my naivete.

One guy actually roped me in with this dandy:

“If I can spell your last name, you have to give me $5. If not, I’ll give you $20.”

Like a moron, I assumed this guy’s plan was horribly flawed. How on Earth was he going to spell my last name? I figured I had just bought dinner for the next two nights.

“Y-O-U-R-L-A-S-T-N-A-M-E.”

I wasn’t happy about it. But I gave him his money. Don’t worry – I got him back. After I had dinner, I punched him in his face and took my money back. Just kidding. That’s not how you spell my last name anyway.

Yet the crook of all crooks is that Expo $ doe fraud, prancing around pretending to be a rapper. First of all, he’s been peddling CDs since I’ve been at Syracuse, and I can’t take it anymore. Anyone who has ever been accosted by this man knows his first line of questioning. Regardless of what you are doing, it goes something like this:

“Yo, my man, excuse me. What kind of music do you like?”

Like a complete fool, I always answer honestly. For some reason, I can’t lie to him, and I tell him that I listen to country or gospel. No, I say, “Rap.” Smart one. I just bought myself another CD.

You’re absolutely hooked, no matter what the situation is. You could be deaf, and I’m sure he’d try to convince you that his music has a place in your life. Maybe he could sell a Braille version. That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

Either way, he basically shoves the CD in your hands and demands you pay for it. I don’t know what goes on in the Whitman School of Management, but I doubt that those professors teach the business model in that fashion.

As an aside, I try not to go into schools in which I’m not enrolled, like the Management building. I have this paranoid fear that as soon as I step in, some uniformed marksmen will come in and shout, “Quick, get him! This guy clearly doesn’t belong!”

Anyway…

Guilt having set in, I can’t say no to this guy. So I add yet another Expo $ doe CD to my collection, and I hand him two bucks. He actually had the nerve to ask me for a dollar more.

Can you honestly believe the stones on this guy to ask me for more money? Then again, who’s the loser?

I gave it to him.

Poetically (read: nonsensically), I’ll end with a line from my favorite ’90’s boy band, soulDecision: “Just because they hated…How’s it go? Ha. Yo, Faded.”

Scott Spinelli’s column appears every Thursday and he wonders whether liking Alicia Keys questions his sexuality.

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Women Are Still A Mystery To Me
9/20/07

To say that I’m afraid of women might be the greatest understatement of all time. It ‘s got to be on the all-time list, somewhere between “Lincoln should’ve stayed home” and “Eh, I’d say that the Hindenburg experiment didn’t go too well.”

I was raised in a home with only one woman, my mother. Had an older sister, but she moved out before my balls dropped. Even two of my three dogs have been male.

And my father? Well, he’s not exactly Don the Magic Juan. More Tony Soprano than anything else.

Ernie Spinelli isn’t exactly the kind of man on people’s minds to replace Carson Kressley on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” any time soon. Sports nut, loud, humorous: That’s how I’d describe my father.

Simply put, my house wasn’t the environment I now wish it were. We watched Yankees games; that’s what we did. I can tell you what Mariano Duncan batted in 1997 (.236), but I couldn’t tell you how “Will and Grace” ended.

Maybe that’s a bit too stereotypical.

We did go to plays in New York City and my mom did her best to make sure her sons were cultured.

But there were limits.

First of all, no pictures, or at least a minimum on the amount of posed, embarrassing, “just-one-more!” shots. Second, no Broadway musicals.

In retrospect, I figure I must have been a miserable kid. What sort of eight year old puts the kibosh on singing and dancing…for the rest of his life? But something about musicals didn’t make sense to me.

In a bad mood? Sing and dance in the streets. Need to get the girl? Sing her a song. Mother just died? Take a guess.

No thank you, sir.

Regardless of my family structure, the fact remains that advice on how to deal with women isn’t that simple to disperse. Unless you are born with that innate ability to talk to members of the opposite sex, you have to hope (read: pray) that the environment in which you were raised trains you to handle yourself in those situations.

Of course, there are men that can actually do it. My travels high and low, throughout the world and to its farthest corners, have proved to me that these men do, in fact, exist.

How do I know this? Well, for starters, take a look around. There are plenty of no-talent, hideous looking schmucks that have women. It couldn’t have been entirely luck for each and every one of them.

Second, two of my closest friends, Rob and Jason, have never had any problems in this regard. Jason, my roommate, irks me the most. He’s a smart kid, in his own way, but by most standards, he isn’t the smoothest social butterfly.

Yet, you put him in the proverbial ring with a woman of any kind – good looking, not-so-good looking, ex-girlfriend, etc. – and he seems to come out unscathed. For four years I picked his brain, but I was never able to come up with much, which either speaks to the contents of his brain or my interviewing skills.

Maybe it’s just me, (and I tend to think that it is), but I feel as if I missed some sort of “good-looking, well-adjusted” female conference. It could’ve been early on a Sunday morning or scheduled in accordance with when I was in class.

I imagine it being an open house for prospective boyfriend/hook-up candidates, with women stating what they were looking for. My invitation seems to have been lost in the mail, for eternity.

There is no lesson to be learned here, nothing to aspire to, as far as women are concerned. And maybe that’s the point.

But I’ll leave with the wise words of Jay-Z: “The world is yours, some girls are nice, some girls are whores.”

Whatever that means.

Scott Spinelli is a weekly columnist, and he aspires to sound like the deep-voiced guy from Boyz II Men.

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Can anyone here play hearts?
9/13/07

If this is going to be the start of a prosperous and hopefully humorous, relationship, I think I should let you know a little bit about me…

I wouldn’t consider myself arrogant. Just overbearingly, uncomfortably confident…

I don’t recycle. Actually, that right there is another thing you should know about me. I lie, often, and frequently for no reason at all. I do recycle, but only when it’s convenient for me – whenever I’m near those big garbage cans all over campus. But, to tell the truth, if the holes were all the same size, I wouldn’t even bother. We’re all going to hell eventually, so what’s the difference? Actually, I’m Jewish, so I can’t even go to hell because it doesn’t exist for us. I knew Hebrew school would pay off eventually…

I hate when people either run or bike in the middle of the street when a perfectly good sidewalk can be found stage left (or right, as the case may be). Just once (and only once, because I’d go to jail), I’d love to take my car and ride up on the sidewalk, simply putting my hand out the window to signal which way I wanted to go. These bikers think that all they have to do is motion with their hands, and I’m supposed to yield to them. I use a hand motion all the time that they never seem to heed, so what’s the difference…

I actually paid money to see “Drumline” in the theater, mainly to watch Nick Cannon wild out as a drummer. Phew. I had to get that off my chest…

I like to eat Peeps – the marshmallow, multi-colored bunny treats. They’re delicious. But, I only eat them under two conditions. First, it has to be Easter. Second, they have to be slightly stale. Don’t ask why…

I can’t understand girls with guy’s names. Aren’t there enough names for women to not have to dip into our pool? You don’t see too many guys named Nancy running (or, prancing) around…

I don’t mind working out, but I really can’t stand that section of every gym that is designated for those guys that look like they’re permanently carrying luggage. You know what area I’m talking about. It’s the one overpopulated with mirrors and a seemingly endless supply of scrap metal for huge men to lift up and down together. I’ve never ventured into that section, only viewed it from afar, while using one of the Nautilus machines made for 75-year-old women recovering from a hip replacement. I almost feel as if you need a pull of beef jerky to gain access there…

I’m not impressed by people that are good at bowling. I’m not terrible, but I’m not particularly good either, so it’s not a matter of envy. I just can’t see what there is to be impressed by. Nothing ever changes. Same lane, same pins. What if those pins moved, or if one of them was 200 pounds? How about if the lane was in the shape of a question mark? Then – and only then – would I be impressed. Until then, stick that in your finger hole and smoke it…

I’m from New Jersey, and no, I don’t pump my own gas. I love when people crack on Jersey for that. If you went to a restaurant and there were no waiters, how would you feel? That’s what I thought…

I’m convinced that there only seven people on planet earth that know how to play Hearts, the card game that comes with every computer ever made. And even those people who know how don’t really know…

These are just a few of the many, many idiosyncrasies that define my nearly meaningless existence. In the poetic, slightly tacky words of Kanye West, “Everything I’m not made me everything I am…”

– Scott Spinelli is a senior broadcast journalism major. His columns will appear every Thursday.

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