One Night at PhiloIT WAS OCTOBER 17, 1997. Four robed officials entered the candlelit meeting room: The moderator, who runs the meetings; the first and second censors, who deal with membership issues and dole out fines at the end of meetings; and the scriba, who takes the minutes. Two officials, wearing masks for Halloween, growled menacingly. The members pretended not to notice.
Scriba J.K. Barret, C'98, called the roll. Members responded with phrases including "Four score and seven years ago," "They're magically delicious," and "I can't believe it's not butter!"
Then, it was time for cabinet members' reports and committee reports. (There are 26 committees ranging from the Lecture Series Committee to the Poetry and Fiction Committee to the Very Very Very Very Very Funny Joke Committee.) Moderator Jen Marzullo, EAS'98, discussed upcoming events involving other schools' literary societies. Second Censor James Renfro, EAS'00, went to the podium to announce that there would be a "Poe vespertil" -- an evening memorial to Edgar Allen Poe -- the night before Halloween. Treasurer Dan Martineau, EAS'98, informed the group that he needed their $50 dues. "Sing it!" someone shouted. Martineau followed a suggestion to sing "Pay, pay, pay your dues" to the tune of "Row, row, row your boat."
Librarian Diane Toner, C'98, said that books needed to be shelved. Jason Miller, C'98, reported on an upcoming "Keats & Beats" poetry event. Scott Aronow, W'98, said his "play committee" would play around afterward.
For the "stump debate" committee, Miller pulled out an actual tree stump and announced that that night's one-minute debate would be, "If you had a bottle of Colt 45 to relax with someone, would Cookie Monster or Grover be a better monster to max and relax with?" Someone asked, "Is that just the bottle?" Miller ignored this and drafted two young women to speak for 30 seconds each atop the stump.
The first woman proclaimed, in a Valley Girl accent, that cookies go great with beer. But her opponent said Grover was "cooler" because he could become "Super Grover." The debate concluded with a mercy-wrestling match, and the audience declared Cookie Monster the winner.
Next, various members read communications, or letters to the society. Emannuel Morales, C'82, had sent a postcard saying he was glad the group had returned to the halls. "Class of '82?" asked senior member John Larson, C'97. "Jesus. He was still around when I was here."
During a recess, members talked, drank wine, and played chess.
The meeting resumed, and First Censor Caith Kushner, W'99, prepared to read the society's constitution. As is customary, members made silly amendments. One person said that Kushner should read it "in Mandarin, with a Southern accent." Someone else was ordered to recite The Canterbury Tales at the same time. Renfro said the members should have to "Play a children's game holding hands" during the reading, but no one understood this. "No, forget it," Barret said. "You suck," someone else said.
Someone made a motion that Renfro scream, "I can't believe it's not butter," during the reading. Someone else made an amendment that the prospective members spit spitballs at Kushner during it. "That is so accepted," Barret said.
Someone else said that when Renfro screamed, "I can't believe it's not butter," he should do it "in orgasmic tones." Barret rejected that amendment, saying, "I think that was implied."
As Kushner read the bylaws, Renfro screamed, "I can't believe, oh God, not, not butter!!!"
Afterward, a string of hopeful members or "prospectives" gave five-minute presentations. Topics included Gothic literature, the 1994 conflict in Rwanda, El Greco, and Veganism.
Next, Ami Joseph, C'98, gave a literary exercise on conceptions of God. After he finished, a member critiqued it.
Finally, it was time for the censors to mete out fines for various offenses. Scott Aronow was fined 19 cents for "talking." During the Committee of Appeals, Aronow yammered that he didn't understand his fine. "Shut up," Renfro mumbled, exasperated. Aronow then asked permission to appeal "non-verbally." He gesticulated frantically, but didn't appear to be making headway.
"We take cash," Barret said dryly.
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