Archive for May, 2014

Several very exceptional college admissions essays

May 13, 2014

One of the things American universities have and Finnish ones don’t are, apparently, admissions essays. Horrible self-congratulatory pieces you write to show the university that you are… uh, good in PR?

I’ve obviously never needed to write one (see: flippant attitude in the previous paragraph), and that is a good thing: I can’t even write “transition to manhood” or “positive impact” without biting at the inside of my face.

But — since the Internet is made for unsolicited advice — here are a couple of tries. Feel free to use them, and report on results.


Dear Admissions Board of the (name here) University,

Why am I writing an essay for a board? If it’s for cutting onions or something this essay won’t be good for it; it’ll get all cut up and everything. That’s why you use a board in the first place.




Dear Admissions Board of (universityname),

I have a lot of experience with boards. I have a skate board and a hover board and a board for playing chess on.

I look forward to either standing on you or playing with you, depending on what you want.

expectantly yours,

(firstname lastname)


Dear University Admissions Board,

You certainly are dear. In fact I don’t think I can afford you.

I don’t even know if I want to. I mean, will a Master’s degree get me a job, or is it just a paper?

Do I want to hang around with the sort of rich folks who can afford you? I don’t think they’re a good example for someone wanting to be a decent person.

What if being a douche is contagious? I don’t have the means to be such a douche as the rich kids.

I don’t know why I’m writing this.

Maybe because you’re the admissions board, and I needed to get this off my chest.

yours in confusion,

(names here)


Dear Board,

“Essay” is a strange word. I looked it up online, and it originally was a verb meaning something like “testing the quality of”. (I’m pretty sure a big printed dictionary would have the same origin.)

It’s funny that you use this piece of fiction for it. Do you realize I could make up all kinds of meaningful, touching encounters and honest life lessons and tough overcome circumstances, and you would never know? Not unless I was dumb enough to plagiarize 127 Hours or something. You have my CV I think, but you don’t get certificates for looking into the sunset with your father.

What are you testing for, then? My ability to lie smoothly, to choose the kind of lies that both appeal to you, dear Board, and are so glib no accident or checker can disprove them? Rest easy; I’m not going to claim myself a 9/11 orphan; I gather that would not be a good bluff.

In fact, how do you even know it’s me writing this? Maybe my dad hired an ex-Nixon speechwriter to polish his spawn’s lettery turds? Maybe I just sign my name to the bottom of this paper and that was my whole input into it; it’s not like you can check for that either, if I’m at least passably competent. If my essay’s implausibly good, hey, admit me, I’m a genius! (If it’s not good enough, I’ve probably brokered a money-back deal, or the next essay for free.)

Then there’s the chance that this essay might “work”, too, if you are as annoyed by the essay system as I am; if this catches you at the end of an irritating day, and you’re feeling like rewarding a young one for… chutzpah, I guess. I would say arrogance, but that doesn’t sound as good. Except that as I’ve made this too explicit, you’re not going to do that; I’ve been too clever. Unless I’ve been so clever that I know you’re cursing this essay-writer’s dickishness and unwillingness to play by the rules, and swearing this kind of meta-trickery will never work…

…or will it?

I wish to be yours,

N. N.


Dear Admissions Board of the Grand Poobah University of Misneforhiork

Admit it: You want me.



Dear Admissions,

I am a bear.

I literally am a bear.

I literally am the animal, bear. A grizzly bear.

As a result of a mix-up at our local Bureau of Birth Certificates and Pet Permits, I am an American citizen, nineteen years of age, and twelve hundred pounds of carnivorous grizzly bear. My extensive entertainment industry CV is attached.

You could be the first university in the nation to award a degree to a bear. You would be in every news outlet there is!

Or you could be the first instance of the headline, “Denied college applicant devours admissions board, sinks knife-sized incisors into head’s head [VIDEO+PICS]”.

The ball is in your court. Its resemblance to a bite-severed human head is entirely coincidental.

I have received some help from my caretaker, Mr. Wroth Tucker, for the writing of this letter.


“Mr. Clawmaster”


Dear Admissions Office,

The publicity materials of your university refer to it as a “place for life, not just for studies”.


Just not for studies.


Da Da Da


University Admissions Heads,

You are feeling very sleepy. Very sleepy.

You will not do anything contrary to your basic moral core, but you feel kindlily predisposed towards this application. You remain aware, and you can change your mind at any time. You are merely entertaining a fantasy of falling deeper and deeper into a suggestive state.

Admit this applicant.

Tick that box.

Admit this applicant.

Tick that box.

Admit this applicant.

You are slowly rising. You feel refreshed and happy. So very, very happy. As you read this paragraph, you come fully awake, put this letter aside, and remember nothing of it. You are satisfied with your work and feel no desire to check the list of those accepted, not today, not ever. You are happy, and content with your sex life.



Name Q. Surname


To: The admissions office

Title: Essay (applicant number 123 456)


My father was a great man. He was almost seven feet tall, and wide too. We went fishing together, hunting together, on truck joyrides through the town together, horn blaring, laughing, transmitting his manhood and my phase transformation from a mewling boy to a man with the angry squeals of the car’s audio equipment.

Maybe we were too loud; but we were alive, and isn’t that what life is all about? Maybe we were distracted, but I tell you she was to blame, walking in the middle of the street like that. And there was nothing to be done later, except to learn the harsh lessons of life and improve ourselves thereby.

The one lesson I was privileged to learn from my father was this: you can’t fix dead. You can fix an arm, you can fix a dog, you can fix a bathtube full of money to come; but you can’t fix dead.

Due to my father’s unjust incarceration, I come from impoverished circumstances. I urgently need to move town before the sheriff starts wondering where I get my paychecks from.


Name P. Namename

PS. I am great with chemistry, but unfortunately not the sort you get a certificate for. I’m attaching my dad’s rap sheet, pages 4–5, “Narcotics: Dealing and Manufacture”, but I am not admitting anything. That’s your job.


Deer Admissions Office,

Wait, shit, I meant to write “dear” but I have a problem with emotions.

Dear Admissions Office, you sweet little thing,

You see what I mean? I know the form of address that will result in a proper essay, but it is peculiar — that’s why I start with this sort of an introduction. Otherwise I look peculiar. Do not think I like this sort of business. No. I hate it.

It makes me angry.





i am sorry.

I’ll stop now.


Names Morenames


Dear Admissions,

You know how your university is run by a shadowy cabal of powerful donors and rich, influential former students? People you do not want to annoy, or you will face their terrible, disproportionate and indiscriminate vengeance?

It would be grossly unethical of me to mention any of my familial relations at this point, so I won’t.

(I took a different surname and have been living kind of incognito lately, because the stress of a solid-gold life and all that. Do not try to track my lineage, or the vengeance will be endless and harsh.)

(No, really, don’t look. I am of a rich and powerful ilk! Deny me at your own risk! I would say this if I was trying to influence you unethically, which I am not, and this essay is a privileged and private communication, plus the police? Also paid for, in perfectly legal aboveboard donations.)

(Do not deny me, if you value your continued non-crushing ‘neath the iron boot of the superrich! I heard that in a movie once.)

I am looking forward to your letter of acceptance.


N. N.


Dear Admissions Office,

What is life? What do we live for? Money or fame? Maybe the pleasures of flesh, or those of the mind? Maybe piety, the service of something greater than ourselves?


We live to live.

Life is its own purpose. Life defends itself to defend itself. Life lives to live. There is nothing else.

Is life, to use a metaphor, just a bowl of cherries? Maybe, but those cherries have their stems, which as a university profiled for its excellence in the STEM fields you surely know. Cherries are red, too, red like the lips of your mother, sleeping in the moonlight.

The Moon is lit by reflected sunlight. This too is a solid STEM fact, and one expressed by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan. Your mother in the moonlight is a marriage of biology and cosmology. Is your mother then a polygamist? Do I cast aspersions on your ancestry? What of it, if these be facts?

You cannot sue the Moon, but Neil Armstrong jaywalked on the Moon. He moonwalked on the Moon. Maybe Michael Jackson was a Neil Armstrong… walking on the Earth.


John Q. Philosophical


Dear Admissions Office,

Go Sun Bears!

I hear Sun Bears (GO BEARS!) are the best team in their sport. I am a great fan of sport! And I am a much bigger fan of Sun Bears (Go! Go! Go!) and it would not be exaggeration to say I am their biggest fan. I am 7 ft tall and weight 400 pounds.

I think college sports are important, because supporting them shows your dedication to slavishly adoring whatever symbols your college leadership offers you. Why if the Sun Bears (Go! Go!) were replaced by a fetid hole in the ground, I would still buy season tickets, scarves, hats, college shirts and other apparels in maximum amounts to show my support for the hole in the ground (Go Hole! Go Hole Go!) and, by this proxy, for the university administration and brand management.

Go Sun Bears!


N. N.


Dear Admissions Board,

I have attached an ancient tome of prophecies, passed down in my family for centuries. I refer you to p. 55, “Around 2012–5, a Descendant will come to the place of learning”. I trust you see the similarity between the demonic seal of Ba’al’solomon illustrated next to the text, and your university logo.

I have come, as prophesied.

I refer you next to the bottom of the page, viz., “And for those who bar the Descendant’s way, I foresee an endless fire among the minions of the Beast”.

For the sake of your immortal souls, admit me.


Bla Q. Bla

PS. Since the seal is (admittedly) a bit abstract, I’ve sent similar applications to Harvard, Yale, and New Mexico School of Dentistry. I am pretty sure eternal damnation will not fall on those who deny me where I was not meant to go, but I’m not quite sure yet, I’m considering my options.


Related: My personal statements, which I’ve also never needed to use for anything; and as an actually competent and not-only-humoristic example of this sort of a thing, Overqualified by Joey Comeau.

The non-amazing Spider-Man

May 2, 2014

Went and saw the Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Did not like it.

It was a stupid action movie; this alone isn’t enough to make me dislike it.

No, its problem was with the main character, Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man himself.

In my distant childhood, in the Eighties and Nineties, I read the comic books. I know who Peter Parker is, or who he ideally, in my imperfect and partial recall, should be.

He’s not this arrogant, mopey jock.

He’s an awkward nerd, a proto-scientist, a bespectacled, bullied loner. Just getting superpowers doesn’t change who he has been all his life so far.

This is the greatest insult this awful movie contained: it said that Peter Parker is this sleek jock-hipster, not awkward but stupid, and this awkward nerd scientist, this bespectacled, bullied loner — he’s Electro, the villain; why don’t you laugh at him? Why don’t you see what power does to a nerd?

It may be the script, it may be the actor, but every single instance of this Peter Parker felt like he was the bully, not the bullied. (Maybe it was me, but I kept thinking, “This is a future serial killer, manipulating the people around him. He’s finding emotions hard because he doesn’t have any. Don’t believe his bullshit, Gwen! Keep away!”) I don’t remember who the actor was; unless he’s as omnipresent as these (several pages of expletives deleted) Orci and Kurtzman, he’s a part of this wave of Generic Mopey Action Movie Young Male Protagonists. (Did he play Kirk in those awful new Star Trek movies? It’s so difficult when the guys look the same and play the same mopey emotion-is-hard violence-is-easy roles.)

This Peter Parker needs a screaming parody of a Youtube scientist to explain him the basics of electricity. This Peter Parker doesn’t do science; instead there’s a soundbite of nerds pontificating on the radio over his suit’s hypotheticals because hey, nerds, point and laugh.This Peter Parker thrashes his room not by accident but because hitting things seems to be his natural outlet of frustrations, instead of, like, science and problem-solving. This Peter Parker knows how to get money — take a few photos and if that doesn’t help hit up an old bro, talk shit about girls, emotions are hard amirite, hope for a handout. This Peter Parker knows you can’t give your blood to scientists, because scientists are evil and dumb. (see footnote) This Peter Parker claims he’s Gwen Stacy’s second in science — well, I suppose if you read “second” as “less than”. This Peter Parker is so arrogantly suave it’s clear he has never been bullied, never has stumbled and fallen, never has been the underdog. And all that was missing from his brief web-and-electricity-experimentation montage was a can of beer and a few classmates in jerseys and baseball caps. The classic sort of Peter Parker wouldn’t need Youtube, he would have been awake during class!

As for Electro — well, after showing us an extreme but vastly preferable Peter Parker he gets into an accident and spends the rest of the movie roaring and lashing out. (Remember, the police shot first.) He just decides to be evil because, hey, what else, much like Harry Osborn about an hour later. Probably because trauma makes you insane and evil, and everything that makes you different makes you evil, doubly so if it makes you more powerful. (Except if you’re a protagonist. Then everybody hates you except for all the people you meet.)

But. The scene where Electro “comes out” and meets the Spider-Man. He finds an electric cable and snacks on it. Nobody is getting hurt yet, though a lot of people are scared. A policeman approaches, gun out, yelling at Electro to put the cable down. (Because if you see some poor unfortunate casting off sparks and clinging to an electric cable, that’s what you do — if they’re black and in a hoodie.) Electro puts the cable down, is almost overrun by a car, and flips it over him, because if you have a power of not getting killed you tend to use it. In response the police shoot and shoot at him, and continue shooting until he loses his mind and starts killing everybody. Because that’s what happens, I feel the movie telling me, if you give a nerd power.

But ah, if you have a properly mopey guy who looks like he can kick a ball and score with them chicks, right, he’s going to turn out all right. He can kick down scrawny smart-guy nerds like Electro and Harry left and right.

The only threat to him is a stupid girl who tries to keep away from him the hero. (But what can the hero do? He’s so tragic! He made a promise to a man! You can’t break man-to-man promises! The girl who the promise was about has got no say in it! Dead males over live females!)

(Later in the movie: What? The girl broke up with me? Better stalk her daily; that’s like super romantic. And, what, the girl’s going to England? Oh no you aren’t… okay if you are, I’m gonna follow you. I’m gonna follow you no matter where you go, girl, I’m gonna stand in the rain outside your window in a spandex costume because that’s how super romantic I am!)

(Also: There’s one thing about Gwen Stacy that the movie got right. Though, since we didn’t see a coffin, I’m not putting it past the movie-makers to introduce a mysterious pen-pal in England in the next movie. I’m still mad at Orci and Kurtzman for Kirk and the fake-out at end of Star Trek Into Dorkness. It’s no fun watching movies when a suggestion of death is so ludicrous as to destroy your suspension of disbelief!)

I think that when Spider-Man shoots out his jokes, we were supposed to consider him an underdog, joking because he was scared, because what else would a scrawny nerd like him be, fighting these super-powered popular bros and jocks? With this new Spider-Man, ehh, not so much. I can better see him appreciating the comedic potential of “Hey, you dropped your stuff! Why don’t you pick ’em up?” and “Stop hitting yourself, nerd!”


Footnote: If I recall correctly, a recording of Peter’s father says, in that stupid train hideout, that the spider-serum won’t work on people unrelated to him because his blood went into it. Which is to say, take your stupid coincidence plotting and mmmph mphhh, and good job on keeping your work from foreign arms dealers, daddy, but did you use too big words for Peter to realize there was a possibility of using Harry’s blood instead, and thereby healing Peter’s old friend and not turning him into a cackling supervillain? If Norman Osborn was a representative case, Harry isn’t dying quite yet, despite getting some skin damage.

But of course in Hollywood skin damage equals corruption of the soul, and if you ask for something you’re evil and not gonna get it. Especially if it could have helped untold millions because stasis is good and science is impotent and evil — wait, did Peter’s father sabotage a cure for AIDS and cancer? I think a few Libyan super-soldiers would have been a fair price for that.


Also: “Sony Vaio notebooks — so tough not even two men tearing at it in a falling plane can’t damage it!”