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ISSUE 118 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/22/2004

J.J. proves mysterious

By Lisa Gulya
Staff Writer

Friday, October 22, 2004

Wandering through the library toward the government documents, a collage of sorts catches the eye. It's not a student art project or a suggestion board. It is the domain of Jean Jacques.

Jean Jacques is the man, or rather, Transmigrational Spirit, who is the creator in this space. At an unspecified time, as he revealed in the story of his journey from creation to St. Olaf, J. J. settled into a host in the library.

What St. Olaf tour guides should really reveal, perhaps in lieu of comments about unlocked mailboxes and architectural wonders, is J. J.'s existence.

On the other hand, perhaps J. J.'s work is best discovered on one's own, along with other library wonders such as the three and a half floor. Part of the charm in a relationship with J.J. is the way one happens upon him. Some are lucky enough to be initiated while still prospective students. Others must wait until the advent of cold season, when the allure of J. J.'s tissue box and lotion bottle cannot be resisted.

Like sticky flypaper, J. J.'s witticisms hold the onlooker's attention fast. Or perhaps we all just need a break from textbooks and just want a chance to look at some pictures. Regardless, unlike the fate of the fly, the onlooker's reward is not death. Instead, the next stage in the relationship is the discovery of chocolate morsels waiting in J. J.'s box.

One need not remain a passive bystander -- there are opportunities for the average student to contribute. J. J. does the work, but where would he be without the correspondences of his adoring public and intimate friends? Indeed, he wrote on his board, "All I seek are the best companions."

One can only assume the other writers are St. Olaf students in disguise, discarding their everyday Lauren, Ashley and Ben, for the grand appellations of Zeth, Kiko and Amoretto (which means Cupid, not to be confused with Amaretto, the almond-flavored liqueur). They yearn for an opportunity to wax poetic outside the bounds the classroom. J. J. is their outlet.

Not that realists should be intimidated. Dreamers and pragmatists alike come to J. J. They bring an array of concerns -- philosophical and rhetorical questions, pleas for fashion advice. Even here, the topic of the search for a mate, or simply a date, often arises. There are also frequent musings on and thanks for the chocolate.

Replies vary. "I have no ready answers to offer," J. J. wrote on his board. Sometimes he is obscure. Sometimes he answers only through the speech bubbles of others. At times he is decidedly light-hearted, other times straightforward.

Lest one think J. J.'s relationships superficial and tenuous, a recent note from an alumna attests to J. J.'s staying power. He has survived the years, and so too will the students whom he counsels.

Students inquire about the supplies for J. J.'s creations. His sources include old National Geographic magazines and Half-Price Books.

J. J. is reminiscent of Santa Claus -- one is tempted to camp out near his board, in the hopes of catching a glimpse when the creator comes to replenish the chocolate supply or collect the latest questions and compositions. Everyone who walks near his board, eyes averted, is a suspect. However, like a child at Christmas, one would really rather that the chocolate and mystery keep on coming.

There is something reassuringly eccentric about J. J.'s boards. As long as he is out there, pecking away at his typewriter and snipping out speech bubbles to misuse, out of context, in outlandish pictures, he will counter-balance all the reliable and predictable forces working in the universe.

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