Sunday, May 06, 2007


Give Her (Sur)reality Or Give Her Death!
In a quest to uncover magic in the mundane, Julie Buntin and Matt Rasmussen wax philosophical on Pinkberry, the Bonner family, and reality television

By Matt Rasmussen

You know who wants to kill George Bush? Julie Buntin (among many, many others). It’s just one of the things I found out in a recent conversation with the college sophomore.

She might be 19, but the fact of the matter is she knows what she wants, and there’s (almost) always a method to her madness. In a period of 20 minutes, we covered everything from novelty ice cream to her dream-murder, if given the opportunity to have a consequence-free chance to take a hit out on someone.

I didn’t go into this interview expecting anything interesting. It isn’t to say I dismissed Buntin as boring, but rather my rather cynical view of humanity as rather insipid in general. In fact, I had even come up with a plan to simply print her answers in mad-lib form (sample excerpt: “Ever since she was a little girl, Julie has always been committed to the art of ____”). What I didn’t see coming is finding a thoughtful, funny, and well-spoken subject who I happened to share quite a bit with. Example: we both agree smoking cigarettes will always be cool, except for the people who it is already uncool for. That makes sense to us, at least.

The truth is I’m lazy, and I like to save time whenever I can. And that I’m terrible with exposition. To combat this, I decided to ask, rather bluntly, how she would describe herself to, let’s say a professor. She answered by telling me she would ask the professor what he expects from her. She then confesses to me her ideal course involves her reading voraciously a plethora of materials, anything and everything on the topic. And then writing her take on it.

From this point, two things become clear: Julie is a people-pleaser, who sets high expectations for herself and tends to fulfill them, and, that she has an addiction -- she is dependent on literature. By the end of our initial interview, which couldn’t have run more than a half hour, she was nearly shaking, in need of a lit-fix.

But there was so much more that I had not yet learned. It turned out we had a multitude of things in common, and some things not-so-in-common. For starters: Tom Bonner. I know him, you know him, and he knows that talking to us mid-interview meant he’d probably make it into the story. Unfortunately, his distraction was one that ultimately took away from the insightful and thought-provoking conversation we were having. We happened to be talking about ice cream and about how butter pecan is unreasonably high up on America’s flavor priorities – number three, actually.

We took turns teaching each other about the world. Buntin explained to me the dessert phenomenon known simply as “Pinkberry” (though I still don’t think I get it), and I tried to unload the vast wealth of pop culture droppings (trivia?) in my head in exchange. After trying to explain American Gladiators and failing, I figured it was probably time to fall back on traditional interview techniques again. In which I get the subject to do the work for me:

“Well, I…uh…sort of have a habit of blacking out far too much, so I don’t think I’d be coherent at that point,” she confessed when asked how she might describe herself to someone at a bar.

Knowing the lowest common denominator is always a possibility, I switch gears again: how might she describe herself to a producer for a reality TV show? She wouldn’t. It just so happens, in addition to having radar for spotting sophomores and Communication Arts majors, and agreeing that a good basis for most impressions of stupid people involves Yogi Bear in some capacity, that she detests reality TV, and doesn’t own a television.

Having being raised by a wild pack of televisions, I wasn’t sure how this was possible. Surely, were it to be life or death, she would be able to pick a reality show to be on (and given the state of the entertainment industry, I don’t think we’re far from mortality-based competitions). She wasn’t sure if death or The Real World was a worst fate.

By the end of the interview, there might not have been any jaw-dropping revelations (besides that butter pecan business – seriously, what kind of crap is that?), but I did make a determination. If given the choice, I’d rather see Julie Buntin on Fear Factor than dead.

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