Know him or not, you’ve probably come across Zach Schonfeld ’13 before. As the dear leader and most prolific blogger of the ubiquitous campus blog Wesleying, Schonfeld has covered nearly everything that’s happened at the University worth covering. He took a break from editing the Ampersand (conveniently located in the back of our humble office) to sit down with The Argus and discuss experimental music, Martin Benjamin, and some particularly glorious campus beards.
The Argus: So as the voice of Wesleying, you’re a pretty omnipresent campus presence. How did you get into the blogosphere in the first place? What’s it like being famous on the Internet?
Zach Schonfeld: I started reading Wesleying as a prefrosh, after I was accepted to Wesleyan. It got me really excited about campus culture, the whole “Keep Wesleyan Weird” campaign. As a [high school] senior, when the shooting at Broad Street Books happened, I realized how powerful a tool blogging can be in shaping campus discourse and letting people know what’s going on right as it’s happening. I started blogging pretty prolifically throughout my freshman year; I’d procrastinate by going through Argus archives in Olin and finding cool old articles to put on the blog (still my favorite way to procrastinate). And by the end of my freshman year, it became increasingly obvious that most of Wesleying’s staff, including Ashik Siddique ’10 (“Sheek”), was about to graduate, so I just casually inherited the blog, which was slightly terrifying. Sheek’s main piece of advice was “Remember to keep some semblance of balance between Wesleying and Everything Else in Your Life,” but I still spend way too much of my free time blogging. The highlight of my Wesleying career was when I posted a birthday message for Michael Roth and he reposted it as his Facebook status.
A: You’re also involved with The Argus as coeditor of the Ampersand– What makes the Ampersand funny? Any conflicts of interest?
ZS: The Ampersand is funny because it mocks everything that no one else on campus will mock. The Ampersand is funny because we bow to the influence of Dave Wolovsky ’10. The Ampersand is funny because we called Mytheos [Holt ‘10] a troll before he came out with it. Every school needs a satire page, an outlet to mock everything ridiculous that happens on campus. People still think there’s this really hardcore feud between The Argus and Wesleying, which only ever exists in people’s heads. When I became editor of the Ampersand, people would ask, “How can you do that? Isn’t Wesleying against The Argus?” As much as the Ampersand is part of The Argus, we also make fun of every other section. Our Wespeaks issue was the bomb. But really, Wesleying loves The Argus.
A: Speaking of The Argus, you’re one of the few students known to have reached out to Martin Benjamin [’57]. How’d that come about?
ZS: I’m really fascinated by Martin Benjamin and I get excited every time he publishes a Wespeak—his vitriol is oddly poetic to me in a strange way. We’ve published tributes to him in the Ampersand before—Alex Ray [’13] is absolutely brilliant at channeling the inner monologue of Martin Benjamin. Anyway, someone pointed out to me that he’s in Olin about five days a week, so one day I approached him and asked about his experiences at Wesleyan and why he continues writing these angry rants to The Argus. He talked to me for a really long time-—he gave me his business card, told me about the book he’s trying to write about classical literature, told me about how much he resents what Wesleyan has turned into. He refused to be interviewed for the blog. But I did find his yearbook photo in the 1957 Olla Podrida.
A: You’re also a member of the infamous Dopenhagen, which we’ve recently profiled in The Argus. What is the Dopenhagen all about and what does it take to be a dopenhomie?
ZS: The Dopenhagen is a place, but it’s also a state of mind and a state of being. It’s sort of a collective where personalities congregate at odd times. Not quite coincidentally, we were all rejected from various program houses. But we do some worthwhile stuff: last semester I compiled and self-published the Dopenhagen Chapbook, which—since we all met on the Writing Floor freshman year—is a collection of creative writing by people associated with the Dopenhagen. It’s called “Stick With Poppyseed.” It’s available online. I’m super proud of it. We’re also have a Dopen-Twitter.
A: As anyone who reads Wesleying can attest, you’re big into music. What’s your involvement in the campus music scene like?
ZS: I’m an obsessive music fan, which seeps into my Wesleying posts in a not-so-subtle way. I love covering shows and posting photos. Currently I play guitar in a band called Ovid American, which is fronted by Will Feinstein ’13, whom most people know as lead rapper of Static Stamina. Ovid American is his side project, loosely intended to be the exact opposite of Static Stamina—Will and Danny [Sullivan ’13] write these really sad, moody songs inspired by [indie rock band] the National while I mostly just make a lot of noise with a reverb pedal. We’re playing Awesomefest.
A: Any chance for solo career?
ZS: I took Experimental Music last year with Alvin Lucier and it was probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. My final project involved turning an electric guitar into a percussive instrument while bringing the feedback up to 11. My hallmates sometimes mistook my practicing for a bulldozer outside. That’s about as close as I’ve gotten.
A: I know last fall Wesleying made a big deal about “Novembeard”– you were able to grow a pretty gnarly one. In retrospect, what are your views on facial hair?
ZS: The first time I ever grew a beard was No Shave November 2009. It was a pretty huge deal. So I decided that Wesleying needed to do a better job of documenting Novembeards on campus—some of them were pretty epic—and put together the “Beards of Glory” feature.
A: Alright, last question– If you could be a work of postmodern literature, what you be?
ZS: Portnoy’s Complaint.