University of Intoxication: An Inside Perspective on the #1 Party School

uofiRecently, the Princeton Review named the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign the top party school in the country.

As an alum, I thought I would provide an inside perspective on how exactly the university received this prestigious honor. Regardless of your major, you’ll be getting an automatic minor in drinking. Aside from the fact that the university has to clean up the booze-soaked bodies of the students who ‘couldn’t hang’ scattered across the grass of the quad every Monday, here’s some other things you may not have known.

There is a two drink minimum at the new student orientation.

As an initiation into the university, there is a mandatory two-drink minimum required for all new students on their first day. Moreover, the Dean of Students walks up and down the aisles of the Lincoln Hall lecture room screaming “ILL” and pointing at new students signaling them to finish the chant (INI). He overhand hurls a full can of PBR at them. Those who refuse to drink are banished to the Undergraduate Library where they serve out their remaining school years.

There is an interactive drinking play all students must watch

All incoming freshman students are required to sit through a play that highlights all of the unavoidable events you’re likely to face as a college student.  These include conversation topics after waking up next to someone you don’t know after a night full of drinking as well as how to ignore people who attend a party and hold an empty red solo cup. I’d know. I was in the play.

There are 15,000 bars on campus and they’re all owned by the same guy.

There are literally lines of bars and pubs on every block and street corner. Taking a tour of the campus town, you’ll see a line down the street for every drinking establishment with each bar having a different theme every night of the week. Students dressed like zombies, power rangers, and cowboys/cowgirls can be found at all times yelling “where’s Brian?” in the streets. In addition, you’ll quickly learn through whispers that there is one Van Wilder-like man, known as Cochrane, who created every single bar on campus. This real estate tycoon also invented the idea of day drinking and has been given the official title of King of the Campus by the student body.

There is an unofficial St. Patrick’s Day holiday.

There’s an institution-mandated weekend drinking festival called Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, which encourages all students to dress in green like leprechauns and begin drinking at 6am until the point of blacking out. The city sees the festival as a great source of revenue generation and has worked closely with the university to make it unofficial holiday. The Champaign Police department was able to dish out 271 drinking citations for public intoxication and pissing while walking in 2013.

There is a newspaper specifically dedicated to drunk coverage.

Buzz Magazine has a whole section focused on capturing the previous weeks hilarious blackout moments. These include pictures of people lying face down in the street, passed out half naked on the lawns, and being carried home by friends. Whoever “did it best” the week before gets the honor of being on the front page for all of the student body to see.

There is a Greek Life filled with polos, couches, and keg-stands.

The university has a well-established Greek life and is known for its plethora of fraternity and sorority options. At the start of each semester, the houses hold a ‘Rush Week’ in which new students interested in joining the chapter must shotgun an entire 24 pack of natty ice. Those who do not die are admitted into the house.  Those who do not make it are discarded on the sidewalk in front of the houses, which have fully landscaped lawns as well as an overabundance of couches.

There is a Beer Olympics.

The university is home to the annual Beer Olympics, which is sanctioned by NCAA. A daytime event full of drinking games with teams made up of athletes who you have never seen in class. Award winners are awarded a gold, silver, or bronze edition keg while standing atop a mountain of keystone light.

 

 

Los Angeles Throwing Shade at the California Water Crisis

Favim.com-aviators-beach-pretty-sand-sunglasses-136343On Monday, the city of Los Angeles released 150 million pairs of aviator sunglasses into the Los Angeles reservoir. The sunglasses, provided through a $500 million partnership with Ray Ban, will help to reduce upwards of 300 million gallons of water lost to evaporation every year.  Evaporation, alongside human consumption, is one of the leading causal factors for the California water crisis.

The reservoir, which holds up to 3.3 billion gallons of water, was assessed by the city methodically. At first, the city decided to implement an enormous pool cover over the entirety of the surface. However, the initial roll-out proved to be harder than expected as hundreds of city officials found themselves trapped underneath it when a gust of wind blew one of the edges over.

According to General Manager, Peter Bludenzo, from the LA Department of Water & Power, “It all came down to common sense really. People use sunglasses everyday so we already know they’re consumer approved, reliable, and effective in blocking out the harmful UV rays of the sun. In addition, their shape, size, and weight provide the perfect buoyancy to float along the surface level of the water.” When questioned about the potential negative effects they may have on the environment, the rep joked, “The only thing we may have to worry about is more stylish looking marine life.”

Connected together by small pocket watch chains, the aviators create an impenetrable sun-shield along the the surface of the 175-acre reservoir. To meet requirements issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city agreed to use 58mm pilot-shaped polycarbonate frames with polarized NXT polyurethane lenses rather than the originally preferred plastic and plastic. The material used will not only allow light to reflect off the service of the lenses more easily, but also provide scratch and impact resistance. The sunglasses are estimated to last anywhere between 9-10 years depending on the severity of UV levels.

Through an exhausting 2-year test period, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, assessed and tried on every type of frame, lens, and brand himself before making an official decision. “The water crisis is serious and we wanted to make sure this thing got done right. It’ll be 300 million gallons saved to help fight this drought. Sometimes a little ingenuity and creativity can go a long way” said the Mayor behind a pair of light blue gradient G-15’s.

 

10 life lessons I learned while wrestling

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I recently sent my old high school wrestling coach a letter to give to the team. When I was a wrestler in high school, I’d always look at the names on the mats, on the record boards, and in the trophy cases and wondered how they achieved the success they did. I had assumed hard work, but I’d always wanted to know what their path was like and if they had anything to pass down. Insights, tips, tricks, and pretty much anything else that would help me get my name up on the board next to theirs. So, 10 years later, after a successful wrestling career and retirement to become a comedian/actor (lol), I’ve decided to write a letter to them passing on what I had learned. Think of it like a time machine where I’m writing a letter to my former self.  Much in the same vein as a lot of articles and blog posts I write, I put together a list of 10 things I learned through wrestling. These would be life lessons that would make me into the person I am today. Below, is that letter. While some reading might not be wrestlers or even athletes for that matter, the message and a lot of the lessons are universal. Hope you enjoy.

Dear Wrestlers,

My name’s Ryan Nallen. I asked Coach Aug to share this with you. I used to wrestle at Notre Dame (class of ’06) and I wanted to share some words of wisdom with you regarding what I learned when I was in your shoes, and how to make the most out of your season/wrestling career. I’m writing this because I’d always wanted to hear what the names on the mat had to say. I wanted to know how they got their name there or in the record books or in the trophy case. I want to share with you what I wanted to hear when I was in your shoes.

First of all, wrestling has taught me everything I know. It taught me life lessons like: self-discipline, determination, confidence, focus, goal-setting, and perseverance. It taught me that the only person you can blame should things not go the way you intended is yourself. It changed who I was and made me into who I am today. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and there has been nothing yet that compares. Below are some life lessons wrestling taught me that I’d like to highlight with you:

  1. HARD WORK. Let me assure you. In life, no one is going to hand you anything. Ever. You’re not going to wake up tomorrow and be a state champion. You need to work and you need to work hard. You need to train harder than you’ve ever trained before. If you want to be a champion, you need to train like a champion. And I’m not talking about just going to practice every day, putting in your time, and then going home. I’m talking about going the extra mile, waking up to run bleachers before school starts, doing another set of pushups or sit-ups after practice, and arriving early and leaving late. I’m talking about being the first guy in and the last guy out. It’s what you do when no one’s looking that makes all the difference.
  2. TALKING vs. DOING. When it comes to goals, don’t just talk about it. Do it. In life, you’re going to meet a lot of TALKERs. People who say “I want this” and “I want that.” They’ll say, “one day I want to open up a business” or “one day I’ll start eating right.” These people will be talking for the rest of their lives. Be a doer. Get to work. You don’t need to tell the world what your dreams are nor do you need to talk about what you’ve accomplished. Go out and let the work speak for itself. Let your success make all the noise.
  3. COMFORTABLE. Don’t ever give up and don’t ever get comfortable. The match is not over until somebody gets pinned, teched or the buzzer rings at the end of the third period. Champions keep going when they don’t have anything left in their tank. Winning or losing, always be on the attack and never let your guard down. The second (literally) you get comfortable is when you lose.
  4. GOALS. Dream big. WRITE them down. Decide what you want, how you’re going to make it happen, and then GET IT. This doesn’t just apply to wrestling but everything in life. I wanted to go to college and I knew I had to have good grades to get there. I wrote down every day what I wanted and what needed to be done to accomplish it. It’s the physical act of writing them down that adds more importance to it for some reason. I remember on a bus ride to the sectional tournament I breathed on the window and wrote IHSA Sectional Champion. When the tournament was over, I got back on the bus, sat right where I was sitting before, and put a checkmark next to the faint window writing while holding my bracket board.
  5. CONFIDENCE vs. COCKINESS. This was a lesson I learned the hard way. I went from never wrestling before high school to being ranked #2 in the state and #13 in the country by my third year wrestling. I thought I was unstoppable and it effected my work ethic. I didn’t think I needed to push myself that hard anymore. I got cocky. I learned just how wrong I was once I got to the state tournament and lost in the first round. Once you’re on top, you need to work harder than before to stay on top. There will ALWAYS be someone coming to knock you off the podium.
  6. NEGATIVITY. When I started wrestling some people told me, “you’ll never make it down state”, “you’ll never wrestle at a Division I college”, and “you can’t compete we this guys because they’ve been wrestling their whole lives and you just started.” In life, people are going to tell you NO. It’ll happen all the time. They will throw their own personal insecurities in your face to bring you down. Rise above that. They aren’t the problem unless you believe what they say. I know firsthand that the greatest opponent you’re ever going to face is yourself. You are the one that allows their words to bother you and you are the one that lets doubt creep in. You can say I CAN and I WILL as quickly as you say I CANT.
  7. WINNING and LOSING. Win with humility. One of the greatest things I was ever told (Ed Luety) after I started to celebrate was, “Act like you’ve been there before.” You shouldn’t need to celebrate because winning shouldn’t be a surprise to you. If you do celebrate, wait until you’re in Champaign pointing at your family from mat 1 because you’d just secured a medal. Should you lose, don’t let it destroy you. In fact, let it motivate you. With every loss or setback, you have to say, “I’m not going to let this keep me down. I’m going to get back up and come back.” Learn from your mistakes or your failures and then make sure they never happen again. When I lost, it felt like the worst thing in the world and I had no one to blame but myself. It felt like someone had died. But it needed to happen because it got me back on course to making sure I worked harder than before. For some perspective, in my entire high school career, I won 117 matches. I lost 11 times. 5 of those losses were to guys who would later win state championships.
  8. Be a sponge. Ask questions. You need to learn everything that you can about the sport. I lived it and I breathed it. When I was in high school, I used to study technique tapes (yes video tapes) all the time and I knew who all the greats were. I tried to acquire the knowledge that my competitors already had from years and years of wrestling. I wrote down specific bullet points I wanted to try in practice. I’d come in with a notebook on how to double-leg like Brandon Slay, leg turn like Kendall Cross, low single like John Smith and Cael Sanderson, or crank arm bars like Tom and Terry Brands. Find role models and emulate them. These guys were successful for a reason. Try to be just like them or take what you like and add it to your arsenal/toolbox. Also, know your competition. I knew who the best guys in the state were in my weight class and what their wrestling track record was like. If you’re going up against a school that’s known for headlocks, there’s a good chance to be on the lookout for that with your competitor.
  9. MOTIVATION. Do something to stay motivated and focused on your goal every day. Literally go to YouTube and type in motivational video and watch what you find. It’ll spark a fire inside of you that maybe you didn’t know existed. I would constantly keep myself motivated when I was your age by reading articles and watching videos. I watched the Rocky movies, Rudy, and Vision Quest so much I could quote them. I had a poster of Rocky on my wall, and I watched The Season (ESPN documentary about Iowa Wrestling) probably 100 times. That would lead to the entire team yelling “Iowa Style” during the practices of our 2004 season. A season that would result in that team going all the way to the Elite Eight. It kept everyone pushing themselves because we emulated the toughness that the Hawkeye wrestling program was known for. Find that thing that keeps you going.
  10. MENTAL TOUGHNESS. The most important of all. The mind is a very powerful thing because imagination harnesses a plethora of possibilities. There are those who are tough and there are those who are not. And I’m not talking about physical strength, but instead mental strength through the power of belief. If you BELIEVE and I mean truly believe that you can accomplish something than you can. If you believe you’re unstoppable than you are. You need to be ready to shut off the self-doubt, pain, and distractions. If you believe that you are a force to be reckoned with than there is no way anyone can beat you. The only person who can tell you different is yourself. Every time I stepped on the mat I believed I could win and was going to do anything in my power to make that happen. It became part of who I am and stayed with me forever.

With that, I want you to all know that you capable of anything you dream of. This is a great time in your life and you should enjoy it. Make the most out of it and give it everything you got so one day you can look back with no regrets. Write down your goals and go after them with a relentless drive and passion like no other.

Some of you might want to be a state qualifier, a state placer, or a state champion. IT’S POSSIBLE. Some of you might want to wrestle in college, be an NCAA champion, or Olympic champion. IT’S POSSIBLE. All of you should want to be the best wrestling team in the state and country. IT’S POSSIBLE. I have been in your shoes and I know the power of belief and how far hard work can get you. The point is, you need to know what you want and believe you can achieve it. It’s going to take some hard work and it’s not going to be easy.

Are you up for the challenge?

100 and counting

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“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller

I feel like this quote really captured what I experienced last night. While I can’t explain the feeling I felt, I can tell you about how important the show was. Let me explain. Some time ago, these really nice guys decided to put up a free show in their garage and opened their doors (garage door) to anyone who wanted to play there. They called it the Shithole. There were no cliques and there were no restrictions. It was all about celebrating the arts. Nothing else. Standup, Improv, Sketch, Solo, and Musicians were all welcome. It went great and everyone loved it. It went so great they put up a second show at another location (an attic). 2 shows a week. Free. That went so well they had a FREE 4 day festival. They never slowed down and they haven’t taken a break.

Last night they had their 100th show. It was a freezing 15 degree night and we were all in a garage. We all sat and stood in a circle around the Shithole diagram drawn on the floor in chalk waiting for the show to begin. At the middle of the circle was the playing space aka theater in the round. Christmas lights were hung up on the ceiling, Shithole stickers were scattered around the floor, and music played while everyone chatted with one another. It was a dull roar. First of all, this isn’t like other shows. These shows feel like we all know each other. And if you don’t, people introduce themselves. “Hi my name’s _” is something that I regularly hear. It’s wonderful. There’s no ‘I don’t’ know you so I’m not going to talk to you’ feel to it. I sat next to someone I never met before, but I’ve seen around. We talked and found out we had a lot of things in common and he told me he was just there to watch. There were plenty of people just there to WATCH. There to watch a show in 15 degree weather in a garage. Another guy handed me extra hand warmers that he had picked up at the store. Why? Because he was just a damn nice guy. The whole garage was filled with nice guys and nice girls who were there to see people follow their dreams. The night went off without a hitch and every single performance shined. Throughout the show, the guys gave out handouts like t-shirts, mugs, beers, and tickets to a No-Doubt cover band concert.

There have been a handful of moments where I stop in my tracks as a performer to really take it all in. Last night was one of those moments. Sometimes we get caught up in the drama of auditions, teams, rental spaces, contracts, and business that we forget where we came from. At the Shithole, you never forget. It’s all about trust, love, and support in that room. I looked around at the (freezing) smiling faces and knew I was right where I needed to be. The show hit me emotionally and gave me all those feels because I felt like I was a part of something special. We were all in there, freezing our asses off because we enjoyed performing and we enjoyed supporting those doing what they love. I had the biggest smile on my face the entire night because it was a room filled with love.  The night closed out with an amazingly talented musician who sang 3 songs. One of those songs being ‘Lean on Me’ which got everyone in the garage singing along. An entire garage of people singing ‘Lean On Me.’ It was beautiful. It was wonderful. It reminded me how special the arts are. For the final song, he sang one of his own songs while we held up candles to celebrate the closing of the 100th ever Shithole show. Luckily, I got it on tape.

In the end, this is what it’s all about. People coming together to support one another as they pursue their dreams. Nothing else.

This show cannot end. It’s just too important. Thank you Shithole and congrats on 100 shows.

Here’s to 100 (or 900) more.