WESTROSPECTIVE: Wesleying’s Founding, Five Years On

“For better or worse, if people remember me and Xue, they know two people they can talk to about Wesleyan.” —Holly

August 23. On this date in history: the Austro-Prussian War comes to a close (1866), Japan declares war on Germany (1914), River Phoenix is born (1970), and a magnitude 5.8 earthquake rolls up and down the East Coast (today!).

What you won’t find scrolling through Wikipedia for four and a half minutes, then, is this. On this date in Wesleyan historyfive years ago todaytwo bored rising juniors slash legendary WesVisionaries registered a blogspot domain, served up a meaty fifty-three words of text + an image of some straight-up foss-chillin’, and called it a blog. Half a decade, two presidents, one domain, one dining hall, a whole student turnover (and then some), about a bazillion hits, and one combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell later—

Well, you finish that thought. This project has always been sort of maybe kind of about you:

A-Batte and I caught up with Wesleying’s almost mythical founding duo, Xue Sun ’08 and Holly Wood ’08, to reflect on Wesleying’s genesis, its meaning today, the importance of Keeping Wes Weird, and whether or not you should get a hedgehog as a pet (short answer: fuck no). As H & X tell it, Wesleying was never really expected to go anywhere. It was more of a frivolous idea spawned during a mystical 3 am g-chat sesh on a full moon (Holly: “I was like, ‘You know what Wesleyan doesn’t have?’ And she was like, ‘What?’ ‘A blog.’ She was like, ‘Oh, okay. Let’s do it'”).  In tribute to the blog’s founding, this interview was completed under similar circumstances: a conversation conducted over the internet, about the internet, and strictly for the internet. Sorta like when the Argus talks to MRoth every year, but the 3 am Facebook chat version. And if Michael Roth were a 24-year-old neuroscience grad student at Yale.

As such: grammar has been left alone, conversation topics tend to stray, and it’s all a little rough around the edges. It’s how Giant Joint would’ve wanted it.

Oh, and whoever posted that anonymous comment at 1:44? You’re my hero. Identify yourself here; stand up and take a bow.

Without further adue: Holly & Xue.

So you guys founded Wesleying, huh?

Xue: Yes.
Holly: no
Xue: Fuck you

Tell us about the blog’s founding?

Xue: Holly was bored
Xue: It was late?
Holly: Yeah, I was bored.
Xue: This is going to be the worst interview

Ok…

Holly: Ironically, Xue and I weren’t really officially “joiners” of anything and were really detached from official student life
Holly: Xue, were you in any clubs in college?
Holly: I wasn’t
Xue: I guess I didn’t actually get involved in much until junior year.

I remember reading some Argus feature from way back about how you were inspired to unite different segments of Wes life, or some such . . .

Holly: Yeah, and so we had no idea what was going on at Wesleyan at any given time
Xue: I dunno, it seemed like everyone had their own friends
Xue: The summer before our freshman year was the first year Facebook became available at wesleyan
Xue: The address was still thefacebook.com
Holly: Well, imagine this: you spend a lot of time on the computer reading emails, AIMing (it was AIM back then, not gchat) and stalkingpeople on thefacebook. But ironically, you never know what’s going on downstairs in your own lounge
Xue: Livejournal! don’t forget livejournal. And weschat
Zach: What is weschat?
Xue: It was an AIM chatroom.
Xue: A kind of get-to-know-you thing for prefrosh
Holly: There was a lot of experimenting with social networking when we started college. People were still using other sites, like myspace, xanga, friendster…
Xue: Oh god, friendster
Xue: And wesmatch

Wesmatch?

Xue: Wesmatch was I think just a wesleyan friendster thing, slash wesleyan OK cupid?
Holly: yeah, a wesleyan specific okcupid thing
Xue: you took all these surveys and it ranked your compatibility with other wesleyan students who took the same survey
Holly: No, remember, these things stayed in fashion for about 3 weeks
Holly: and then faded from wesleyan memory for the new online fad

What was Wesleying’s role in all this early social networking mayhem?

Xue: I really don’t think any of that “uniting wesleyan” thing didn’t start until wesleying actually started getting readers
Xue: It really was like 3am.
Xue: At this point in time I was living in Pennsylvania doing a summer internship and playing second life all night
Holly: We started out posting things about Wesleyan’s lore and some tips for incoming freshmen
Holly: School hadn’t started yet, since it was August
Xue: Our friend Joe John [Sanchez ’07] had been starting blogs with every incoming class and recruiting people to write stuff in them for the use of the freshmen
Xue: that’s where all the guides to food/frats/getting sick stuff came from
Xue: I remember the dorm FAQs thing was a google doc and we just frenetically edited it together
Holly: Back when Google Docs just started…sigh
Xue: I feel old.
Xue: I was into the idea of Wesleying but I thought it was kind of a stupid idea.
Holly: Whatever, I’m a genius.
Xue: because who reads blogs?
Xue: about wesleyan?

Did you advertise the blog at all when you launched it?

Xue: livejournal.
Holly: Why are you reading Jonathan Franzen?
Xue: uhhhhh
Xue: I already told you it was free
Xue: livejournal.
Xue: and our friends.
Xue: we recruited all our friends, added them as contributors although they never wrote    anything, and posted like one thing on livejournal
Holly: I think we emailed everyone we knew
Xue: no we didn’t
Holly: and said, “read this.”
Xue: no, we said “write for this”
Xue: and most people didn’t.
Holly: Yeah, that’s probably right
Holly: That’s the Wesleyan way

When did it start picking up?

Xue: we knew it was actually getting readers when the anonymous heckling started
Xue: that was cool.
Zach: Readership got huge pretty quickly?
Xue: no, it was pretty slow I think
Holly: I think we started getting critical mass within 2 months, though
Xue: Define “critical mass”
Holly: Critical mass was the moment you’re sitting in class and you can see someone’s laptop open to the masthead.
Xue: I just remember getting in trouble the spring of junior year with psi u
Xue: because I advertised a party that I reaaaaally wasn’t supposed to
Xue: I was living in the basement at the time and the brothers were like heads up, gonna be noisy for xyz reason
Xue: and I stupidly posted it on wesleying
Xue: Got a really angry but polite phone call at like 3am from the president of psi u all “wtf”
Xue: and that’s when we had to start being more careful.
Xue: But for a looong time it was just manually going onto facebook, clicking on the events page and adding stuff one by one
Xue: and also periodically begging people to send in their events

Xue, you’ve also mentioned that there was some Argus beef back then?

Xue: We would overhear stuff from Argus people
Xue: The incident I always remember is that I was in Usdan when it first opened
Xue: and you know how wesleying is pretty much just like anyone writes whatever they want
Xue: just posted a thing that was like a compilation of favorite bathrooms on campus
Xue: I honestly can’t remember if I wrote it or not
Holly: the one that was in teh campus center
Holly: for sho’
Xue: No, third floor fisk man
Xue: And I was in Usdan and there was a group of Argus people there, and one of them
Xue: says really loudly “you know we’ve been planning to write that thing about the
Xue: for WEEKS and wesleying scooped us”
Xue: that was kind of a bummer
Xue: Because at least the way it was phrased made it sound like it was intentional
Xue: when really it was just like, hey guys, I like to poop
Xue: I bet other people like to poop too
Xue: And also when we were leaving I was interviewed about Wesleying by the Argus and flipped my shit a little

Any other major early feuds?

Xue: There was, though, one time that New Teen Force got really mad at me
Xue: Because of party on fountain
Xue: I don’t remember how it began but someone who was not me uploaded it onto a different site and was like, this is great
Xue: And I said, yes, this is great and posted it on Wesleying
Xue: Everyone loved it etc etc
Xue: New Teen Force got really mad because apparently it wasn’t supposed to be released yet
Xue: They wanted to wait until the video was done and release everything at once
Xue: So I took it down
Xue: Then stereogum linked to it
Xue: And other contributors kept reposting it
Xue: Until finally I got this really angry email
A-Batte: Stereogum?
A-Batte: Game changer.
Xue: That was like, I hate media and Wesleying has become the sort of media I hate
Xue: because you do shit that doesn’t care about the people anymore
Xue: There was some crying involved
Xue: Anyway I just told you every time Wesleying has made me cry
Xue: Enjoy!

What about the chalking ban? How did that play into all of this?

Holly: Chalking had been technically banned since we started college
A-Batte: And the Butts tunnels being washed over too, right?
Holly: Bach when Doug Bennett was president
Xue: That was a fun internet tantrum
Holly: Oh, the Butt tunnels get whitewashed on the reg.
Xue: “on the reg’ meaning every dozen or so years
Xue: I feel like there was stuff from the 90s before they painted.
A-Batte: Yeah, you guys wrote some really spirited (and decidedly not opinionated, as some current anonymous commentators would be unhappy to find out) posts about the reasons for doing that kind of stuff.
Xue: There was a lot of yelling and cursing
Holly: I mean, I still yell and curse a lot
A-Batte: I can link to them, if you give me a sec
Xue: nooooo
Xue: it burns
Holly: Paraphrase our opinions
Xue: “fuck the man”
Xue: i just knocked over a full jug of water.
Holly: I don’t think “fuck the man”‘s been my opinion on anything since high school
Xue: stick it to the man?
Xue: i think it was more like
Xue: the reason we went to wesleyan
Xue: or that I went to wesleyan
Xue: was because it was different
Holly: No, the reason we went to Wesleyan was because of the awesome financial aid they gave us
Xue: which I think there have been attempts by admissions to capitalize on
Xue: re: contemplating infinity for the hell of it
Xue: WHILE STONED
Xue: (subtext)
Holly: OH YEAH
Holly: OMG
Holly: I am WESLEYANNNNNN
Xue: okay wesleyan did give us awesome financial aid
Xue: i am wesleying
Xue: well
Xue: no
Xue: you’re wesleying.
Xue: we’re just old
A-Batte: http://wesleying.org/2011/05/10/breaking-chalking-appropriated-by-the-capitalist-machine/
A-Batte: I linked to a bunch here, but to inaccurately summarize at least one of the posts, chalking has (had?) always been an important part of making Wes a place for students, and the reasons the administration wanted to ban and remove it were fairly shitty.
A-Batte: Holly, I think you wrote the “chalker masturbation manifesteo” that rang particularly true whenever I found it
Holly: yeah that sounds like me

Was there ever any hesitance to include overtly opinionated content on the blog? Or was that just sort of there since the beginning always?

Xue: no one gave a shit for a long time
Xue: i feel like people currently give more of a shit than we ever experienced
Holly: I think I addressed this somewhere once
Xue: there was a lot of yelling
Xue: in general
Xue: I remember a couple of times we posted stuff gently reminding people that we didn’t claim to represent the opinions of the university
Holly: I posted a lot of my opinions
Xue: I posted a lot of yelling
Holly: Remember teh Vtech post?
Xue: No
Holly: After the Virginia Tech shooting, I was infuriated at the school for sending out a mass email to parents about our grief counseling and mental health services only weeks after cutting them.
Holly: Could I have sent that to the Argus? Sure.
Holly: But why bother?
Xue: http://wesleying.blogspot.com/2006/08/wesleyan-lexicon-lesson-1.html king of wespeaks
Holly: I mean, mostly I was scared about online retribution, with that post coming so soon after the shooting.
Holly: People from outside the Wesleyan bubble attacking me for my insensitivity.
Holly: But if anyone from within the bubble were to attack me, I was prepared to say, “Annnd?”
Holly: But it’s probably fair to say by junior year of college, I wasn’t known for being timid with my opinions, anyway.
Zach: I guess it’s still weird to me how readers sometimes present this perception of Wesleying as being totally impartial, straight reporting.
Xue: That is straight-up dumb
Holly: But posting something on Wesleying will get outside hits while little in the Argus gets outside readership. So there’s always a weird danger to posting on it.
Zach: But posting something on Wesleying means you’ll be held accountable in the comments, whereas not as many really care enough to write Wespeaks.
Xue: You know, I’ve never known how to feel about posting on wesleying in response to tragedies
A-Batte: The Johanna Justin-Jinich shooting was after your time, right?
Xue: Yeah
Zach: I think that wasn’t so much a matter of posting in response to a tragedy as actually disseminating urgent information.
Zach: which I guess also, inadvertently, demonstrates the blog’s influence and role in certain (awful) situations.
Xue: I remember that at least with JJJ, there was a danger of posting too much information
Zach: Did you guys ever anticipate the blog taking that sort of role in an emergency situation?
Xue: I didn’t, did you, holly?
Holly: There’s an weight to carry when your staff can publish immediately (versus set printing dates like the Argus).
Holly: Because people are going to look to Wesleying for updates as soon as the event happens.
Holly: They’re not going to wait 3 days for the Argus to come out.
Holly: That’s not how news works in the real world, so it’s easy to see why Wesleying can be tasked with the burdern of “news providers.”
Holly: But truthfully, we weren’t “journalists.”
Holly: Not in the professional sense
Holly: We were just students and we react to things in the same way other students do.
Holly: Now, of course, the facebook wall expresses a lot of things up to the minute
Zach: Are Argus writers “news providers”?
Holly: they damn well should be
Xue: it’s a newspaper, they damn well should be
Xue: we’re sisters
Holly: The Argus writers damn well have that responsibility, blessed with editors and staff meetings.
Holly: Wesleying writers are bloggers.
Xue: though i do feel like wesleying is taking on a more professional, journalistic feel
Xue: but there’s no one proofreading everything before they submit it to be published
Xue: (is there?)
Zach: No, not really.
Xue: it’s up to each person’s discretion to click send
Xue: and then poof!
Xue: in the cloud
Xue: for people to get mad about.

Did starting Wesleying confer onto you a sense of celebrity on campus?

Xue: hahahahahaha
Xue: ha
Xue: well okay you need to take into account the fact that holly’s name is holly wood
Xue: so she’s been famous since before we were on campus
Holly: Yeah, actually, I still get recognition as the co-founder of wesleying.
Xue: also she was sort of reclusive so seeing holly would be a mythical and perhaps spiritual experience
Xue: regardless of being involved with wesleying
Holly: I was reclusive
Xue: the other thing is that i didn’t blog under my name
Xue: so holly got a lot more name recognition than i did
Holly: Most people couldn’t pronounce Xue.

Another thing that comes up on Wesleying all the time is the supposed ongoing “normalization” of Wes and why it’s ruining everything. Was that always a part of the blog, and is it all just paranoia, and what’s up with that?

Xue: i did some schmoozing with alums when I was there [for Reunion ‘11] and asked them the same question
Xue: and everything has apparently been getting shittier all of the time forever
Xue: so, there’s that
Xue: it’s not so much paranoia as much as it was a deep, deep love, though
Xue: For me at least
Holly: Being a student on another campus, though, does give you an appreciation for the uniqueness of Wesleyan, though.
Xue: like, i love this place, stop hitting it
Holly: You’ll never find kids at Harvard fighting to keep it weird.
Xue: i’ve met kids fighting to keep their schools weird
Xue: but like
Xue: it’s different because these kids are the minority
Zach: At Wes it’s more like a very very vocal minority maybe?
Xue: the impression that I got
Xue: while i was there
Xue: but that wesleyan was 90% weird, 10% not-weird, and of that 90% of weirdos maybe 10% of them
Xue: were just REALLY, REALLY WEIRD
Xue: also neither me or holly were campus activists.
Xue: other than yelling on the internet.
Zach: which is still maybe its own form of activism.
Zach: assuming people are reading your rants, which they obviously were.
Xue: that’s the thing though
Xue: i think for me at least the knowledge that people were reading my rants made me want to rant less
Xue: Holly doesn’t give a shit what other people think
Xue: because, as she as mentioned, she is a genius
Xue: I am just a loudspeaker
Xue: that frequently short-circuits
Xue: and also that is very fond of weird similes.

Have Wes students always been fighting to Keep Wes Weird? Where did the struggle begin? Where does it end?

Xue: i had these thoughts while i was showering
Xue: rare occurrences, both of them
Xue: but listen
Xue: the characterization of wesleyan during the 80s and 90s was a happy accident of the political circumstances of the 70s
Xue: on the part of the students, anyway
Xue: artistic activist movements arose out of the school, attracting other activists and artists, creating the atmosphere thought of as classical wesleyan weird
Xue: of course there’s always going to be a push towards the mean
Xue: for instance
Xue: it’s not expected of any reasonable college administration to be like, hey everybody, go express yourselves by painting all over the tunnels
Xue: that was a tradition that was entirely student-driven
Xue: of course it makes sense for them to repaint because that’s what colleges do
Xue: but i think the dangerous and shitty thing re: the normalization of wesleyan is that to say “yeah wesleyan’s been getting less weird since forever” is really dismissive of what is an abnormally passionate and creative student community
Xue: and the more normal the process of normalization becomes, the more you lose that exuberance behind the student body that makes wesleyan special in the first place
Xue: does that make sense?
Holly: uhh
Holly: I’m trying to understand
Xue: the administrative push towards normalcy has always been there
Xue: but it’s the complacency of the students and not the administration per se that’s killing wesleyan
Xue: not killing
Xue: but normalizing i guess
Holly: Sure, that’s definitely the case
Holly: the students’ college life is normalized by facebook
Xue: i blame the hipsters, ’cause not caring is cool
Holly: and movies about college
Holly: and shows about college
Holly: they come to wesleyan with a very commodified idea of what college is like
Xue: yeah but did you go to wesleyan for a normal college experience?
Holly: I grew up in a family where I was the only one to go to college
Xue: i know i know we went to wesleyan for the scholarship
Holly: how the hell would i know what collge was like
Xue: tv
Xue: movies
Holly: I went to wesleyan because of visiting it
Holly: and I visited during zonker harris
Xue: exactly though
Xue: but like
Xue: if you visited wesleyan
Xue: and it was like harvard
Xue: would you have picked wesleyan over yale?
Holly: no way
Xue: and if wesleyan was like cornell when i visited you bet your stash that i’d have     went to cornell
Holly: but it’s easy to make 17-year-olds think that they need to go to ivies
Xue:i am conflicted about ivies
Xue: i am also conflicted because i feel like i hacked the ivy educational system
Xue: like i feel like high school kids applying to college should know that if they just    wait until grad school they can get paid to go to an ivy
Xue: but at the same time i don’t want more people going to grad school because those jobs are mine, dammit
Holly: well, now they get full rides at ivies
Holly: when we didn’t
Holly: they don’t give you more money if you’re poor for grad school
Holly: my point is just that i blame the hipsters
Holly: yeah, it’s a bad scene
Holly: I think you’re right
Holly: the institution has always wanted to homogenize with other colleges. They pay consultants big dollars to teach them how to do it.
Holly: But the point of Wesleyan has always been to be a churn for creative, intellectual weirdos.
Xue: maybe not the point of wesleyan
Xue: but the result anyway
Holly: Other colleges like Harvard don’t have that problem, since they just churn out investment bankers and consultants.
Xue: we’ve always been at war with eurasia and wesleyan has always been becoming more normal
Xue: but that doesn’t mean it should be okay
Holly: Part of the problem with colleges students is that they not only want to establish their identity, they want other people to celebrate their newfound identity, too
Holly: so everything they do is in the attempts of getting people to think you’re awesome and talk about you
Holly: this is a key reason why I became so disenchanted with college really fast
Holly: no one wanted to be friends so much as they wanted an entourage.
Holly: and if your protesting the system isn’t going to make you seem cool
Holly: then you don’t do it
Holly: i also think that was still the tail end of the activist wesleyan who cared about such things
Holly: that was a time when really caring about a cause made you seem cool
Holly: the hipsters are the exact opposite
Holly: caring about anything is uncool
Holly: i actually don’t know what hipsters think is cool
Holly: nor do I really understand them
Holly: but at least pre-hipster time, activism was cool, and “fuck the man” and protesting war expenditure and seeming like you were worldly
Holly: those things were seen as cool, or at least got you a lot of attention
Holly: that started fading
Xue: now it’s just seen as annoying
Holly: But it still seems like, given the trend, friendship is out, entourage is in

How do you want to be remembered at Wes?

Xue: i don’t know if i want to be
Xue: maybe i’ll be a donor some day
Xue: that’d be nice
Xue: i really didn’t like being associated with the blog that much
Xue: in that i never got that comfortable with it
Xue: i loved it and i loved wesleyan but i didn’t want to be known for just wesleying
Holly: It’d be nice someday for someone to remember me and think to themselves, “That’s the kind of snarky, assholish attitude I need for [this specific project].”
Holly: “Get me Holly Wood.”
Zach: Any final-ish words?
Holly: Wesleyan students should feel free to contact alums for things like this or for anything really.
Holly: The alumni of Wesleyan would love to be more involved on things on campus if we were asked
Holly: I mean, we’re all still friends with each other, for the most part. It’s actually fairly easy to mobilize us.
Xue: there’s an alumni listserv that’s pretty active.
Holly: THERE IS?
Xue: so active that i unsubscribed, actually
Holly: For better or worse, if people remember me and Xue, they know two people they can talk to about Wesleyan
Xue: Final words: don’t go to grad school
Holly: oh, yeah, dont’ go to grad school
Holly: PhDs are for dummies.
Xue: also
Xue: brush your teeth
Holly: Cavities are expensive
Xue: really expensive
Xue: also
Xue: floss
Xue: floss picks are really cheap
Xue: also also
Holly: Actually, you should buy those dental picks they sell now
Xue: steal toilet paper
Xue: 50k a year worth
Holly: steal splenda
Xue: oh yeah
Xue: splenda
Holly: that shit is worth its weight in gold.
Xue: also
Xue: HALL BOOTY IS BAD BOOTY
Holly: heh, I was about to say somethign about dorm booty
Holly: heeeh.
Xue: ewwwww
Xue: eeeewwwwwwwwww
Xue: look
Xue: zach
Xue: don’t do drugs
Xue: don’t go to grad school
Holly: do drugs, that’s how i got into grad school
Xue: do not under any circumstances get a hedgehog as a pet
Xue: they are terrible, terrible animals
Holly: THEY ARE
Xue: or if you want to do what i did, study the science of doing drugs
Xue: that’s how I got into grad school
Xue: i don’t think he’s listening to us
Holly: nah
Xue: he’s applying to grad school as we speak
Holly: but we have so much wisdom
Xue: we’re so wise
Xue: look upon our works, ye mighty, and despair
Xue: we’re not actually jerks
Xue: we are
Xue: enthusiastic
Xue: and handsome, and tasteful

FURTHER READINGS:

Argus:

Some of Wesleying’s earliest postings, now digitally remastered on WordPress©:

  • Pingback: Das Racist: “Emblems,” “Emissaries,” “The Friends I Never Made” – Wesleying()

  • Pingback: AUDITION FOR WESLEYING! – Wesleying()

  • Anonymous

    Heh.  Brings back memories of when I casually added a Wesleying link to my proto-workblog, and but a few days later, found to my amusement that the student blog I stumbled on had written a very detailed (with graphics, of course, cause you know, why not?) guide on masturbation, I believe.   On a potentiall related note, that was also the day that I explained what NSFW meant on my blog. 

    Good memories.  Always good to hear from The Founders.

  • fofang

    terrific post wesleying! (blogger pats own blog on back)

  • I like that none of my typos were edited. This reflects me well.

  • Anonymous

    This was highly entertaining, you guys! Props.

  • Anonymous

    Whoa, all these old banners are a trip.