Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On a personal note

Okay, so a big shout goes out to our own commenter Zen Bubba, who, having been issued his dorsal fin and rows of pointy teeth, is now licensed to practice law in the state of Tennessee. Congratulations, Z.B.; if any of your coworkers look like James Spader, be sure to give me a call.

Monday, October 29, 2007

On eliminating back-monkeys in three easy steps

Step one, cut a hole in the box.

Okay, so I'm buzzing, and I have been since about thirty seconds after kickoff Saturday, and I'm hoarse, and it's awesome. I'm not going to pretend to have Zen Bubba's powers of football prediction, but sometimes I get inexplicable feelings (see last year's Auburn game), and something just told me that Doug was going to be streaking Highland Avenue again this week. Even with that feeling, though, I was waiting for one of the classic give-it-up-early-and-then-just-manage-to-pull-it-out last-minute field-goal Forrest-Gump victories that have been irritating my ulcer for the past two seasons.

Luckily, I didn't have to wait for long.

Coach Mark Richt (the undisputed hottest coach in Division IA) knew what he was doing coaching this game. I attribute it to his being the father of four small children. Because we weren't up against a college football team this week; we were up against the boogeyman of 2-and-15, a boogeyman that had psyched us out numerous times in past games. And if anyone knows how to conquer a boogeyman, it's a daddy.

The first thing to do, of course, is to make that boogeyman funny instead of scary. For the Bulldogs, that meant taking this Most Sacred and Hallowed Football Tradition off its pedestal and playing honest-to-God rough-and-tumble football. They didn't need to go out there with the goal of not-losing, which had been their mindset for going on a decade and is always a spiffy tool for self-defeating; they needed to take the field with the singular goal of fucking some shit up, and they didn't know whose shit, and they didn't particularly care. CMR said that they "game-planned energy" as much as they game-planned any of their plays, and it obviously worked. What else worked? CMR's now-famous proclamation that if they didn't get a penalty for excessive celebration after their first score, they were going to run steps. Sure enough, they swarmed the end zone after that first touchdown, Trinton Sturdivant shook it like a Polaroid picture, and Georgia had not one but two penalties and twenty-two-and-a-half yards that put a floppy hat and a flowered mumu on that boogeyman and stuffed him back in the closet. A Florida player later referred to it as "fake juice," manufactured enthusiasm, but if it works, I don't care if it's OJ or Tang. I had a few moments of fear when Florida did appear to get appropriately riled in response and answered with a touchdown of their own, but it soon became apparent that no amount of encouragement from Urban Meyer could make them want this win as much as the Bulldogs did.

Step Two was to put the fear of God into the Gators, and I think Tim Tebow spent enough time on his back, staring up at a sea of red helmets, to attest that we did that quite well. I recognize that the man was playing with a bruised shoulder, and he kept his head in the game admirably well under the circumstances, but by around the fourth nut-sack, he was starting to get twitchier with every snap. Every time he rolled back to pass, he heard footsteps. And even with that kind of constant pressure, he managed to pass for 236 yards and hook up for a total of 343 offensive yards. Dude's a hoss, and I tip my hat to him (and to the Unstoppable Percy Harvin).

Step Three was to pitch a tent in Florida's end zone, set up a hibachi and a satellite dish, and call it claimed territory. Doug points out to all of the "Tebow's shoulder" apologists that Tebow wasn't playing defense, and Tebow's shoulder didn't allow 42 points. A team that has in the past seemed almost phobic of the goal line (that would be ours), that has a recent history of charging manfully down to the red zone and then kicking for three (still us), saw Florida's red zone four times and scored all four times. With touchdowns. (Those are the ones that stay on the ground.) I'm sure Brandon Coutu felt well put-upon every time they pulled him away from his DVD and animal crackers to kick a PAT, because he certainly wasn't kicking field goals and he had probably just gotten comfortable.

In other words, Knowshon "B-Button" Moreno (must credit Practically Harmless) -- redshirt freshman, captain for the game, and all-around badass -- is my babydaddy, and Mo Massaquoi is my backup babydaddy. And fullback -- fullback -- Brannan Southerland is welcome to join the party. My biggest fear as Knowshon crossed the goal line after a nine-play, five-minute, 67-yard drive was that we couldn't possibly keep that kind of energy going for three more quarters, and that I was going to be brokenhearted if we started to slip. Then Florida answered, and then we answered their answer, and then they answered our answer to their answer, and I was convinced that the game was going to end 77-70 and the winner was just going to be whoever got the last TD in. Then they pulled ahead. Then we pulled ahead. Then the game started to get exciting.

A few off-the-field game notes:

- My mom? Magical. Yells, "Sack him!" and they do. Six times.
- Game ball goes to my dad, who, as Doug reports, picked up a spur-of-the-moment impulse-buy monster plasma-screen TV in time for the game. Add this to his recent purchase of a ruby-red Acura TL, and one might have to conclude that, in addition to being a great man, he's also a cool guy.
- Sports-related superstitions are a necessary but onerous burden. Unsure whether to go with my black Georgia t-shirt (undefeated at home) or my red Georgia jersey (undefeated on the road, save for the Tennessee game, which had mitigating superstitious circumstances), I chose to go with both for the neutral site but ended up stripping back down to the t-shirt after Florida's field goal. It appears to have been the wise choice.

One last word on the excessive celebration penalties: One Gator blogger talked about "acting like you've been there before" when you score a TD and said that that joyful display, coupled with the unfortunate jumping-on-the-V incident at Vandy a few weeks back, added up to a "low-rent" team of "excessive celebrators" that was a poor representative of the SEC East. Well, honestly, I'd like to politely invite him and so many of Georgia's other critics to kiss my preternaturally toned pink ass. First off, let me remind the gentle reader that the Vandy-V incident was pretty much the first time Mark Richt had had a facial expression all season, and he used it to chew gaping new ones out of every player involved in said incident in an inspiring and, frankly, not a little bit arousing display of passion and devotion to clean, classy football. Let me also remind the gentle reader that Florida is a team that has never hesitated to run up the score, trash-talk on the field, or shit-talk opposing players and coaches to the press, so pardon me if those protestations of bruised sensibilities ring just a little bit hollow. "Discipline, poise, and class," Terence Moore? You can keep 'em. Saturday, the Bulldogs played like a bunch of high school kids throwing the football around the dirt lot for bragging rights and a Co-Cola after the game, and while it's not something I'd like to see every week, it was so unspeakably refreshing that this week -- and just this week -- I'm doing a Trinton Sturdivant butt-dance around the office myself, and I'll probably keep doing it until it stops being fun, or next Saturday, whichever comes first.

Friday, October 26, 2007

On the good, the bad, and the Friday Random Ten: Twice As Nice (Or, As Applicable, Not Nice) Edition

Okay, so in lieu of delivering a late Friday Random Ten last week, I opted to skip it entirely, which had the dual side effects of depriving you of its Friday Random Goodness and saddling you with a Friday Random Superten this week. Don't you just hate me? Don't you just?

So here it is:

What's good (for the two-week period ending 10/26):
- health insurance for children whose parents can't afford health insurance but don't qualify for Medicaid
- cold, rainy days and warm wool coats
- cocoa and Bailey's Irish Cream
- the Miracle Beer Diet:

Miracle Beer Diet - Click here for another funny movie.

- "out" fictional wizards
- wingnuts peeing themselves over "out" fictional wizards
- this puppy (I want!)
- this puppy (couldn't you just eat those ears? No? Just me? Moving on)
- punk covers of pop songs
- Now poop on them, Oliver!

What's bad:
- having to give the "it's not you, it's me" speech and actually meaning it
- continuing to blame natural disasters on teh gheys
- taking a nap when it's probably not the best time to take a nap:

(A spokesman for Cheney insists that he was merely "meditating.")

- mal-malapropoisms:

Mitt, to make that one fly, you're gonna want to start with the wrong name and then finish with the right one. 'Sides, it was a whole lot funnier when 30 Rock did it.

The Ten (x2, which makes Twenty):

1. Tina Turner, "The Best"
2. Cherry Poppin' Daddies, "Zoot Suit Riot"
3. 311, "Amber"
4. Sarah McLachlan, "Blackbird"
5. Nina Simone, "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair"
6. Steve Tyrell, "Smile"
7. Sarah Brightman, "Nella Fantasia"
8. The Thompson Twins, "Doctor! Doctor!"
9. Fuel, "Sunburn"
10. Ella Fitzgerald, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore"
11. John Coltrane, "Equinox"
12. Claude Debussy, "Fireworks"
13. Dave Matthews Band, "Satellite"
14. Coldplay, "Speed of Sound"
15. Berlin, "Take My Breath Away"
16. South Park, "I've Got Something in My Front Pocket for You"
17. Jump, Little Children, "Mother's Eyes"
18. Howie Day, "Sorry So Sorry"
19. Drowning Pool, "The Game"
20. Annie Sellick, "Everything Happens to Me"

Holy crap, that's the last time I'm doing that. What's good for you this week? What was good for you last week? Or did I lose you back at "Now poop on them"?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

On information straight from the horse's ass

Okay, so in a staggering display of self-nonawareness, former FEMA director Michael "Heckuvajob" Brown(ie) is offering himself for interviews on the California wildfires. In an even staggeringer display of self-nonawareness-squared, he invokes, in his press release, memories of Hurricane Katrina. On purpose.
Mr. Brown can speak to the turmoil being caused by the California wildfires as well as to some of the new processes in disaster relief efforts that will help to restore California communities. He can offer advice to residents and businesses on proper relief and recovery efforts and provide suggestions for future disaster preparedness.


Currently, the brush fires are affecting hundreds of local businesses and have forced more than 500,000 people out of their homes. Of these 500,000 people, an estimated 10,000 of them have taken shelter at the local NFL stadium, Qualcomm, vaguely reminiscent of circumstances of Hurricane Katrina evacuees two years ago.

I've got to tell you, though, that that part of the state is prime territory for wildfires, not to mention earthquakes and severe weather. I can't imagine that people weren't aware of that risk when they chose -- chose -- to buy property there. And those 10,000 people taking shelter at Qualcomm Stadium, did they not hear about the encroaching fires? How long has this been in the news? How much time has there been for them to evacuate to safe areas? Were they in denial, or were they just too lazy to get out of there when there was time to move to safer ground?

I've got to tell you, I'm not sure that Malibu really deserves any kind of federal relief funds. People had to have known the dangers of the area when they moved there. And considering the little that southern California contributes to society -- overpaid movie stars, disgusting liberal celebrities who don't know when to keep their mouths shut, the distinct lack of traditional American values that is Hollywood -- I really can't say that that area is worth rebuilding when this is all over.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On the secret life of wizard headmasters

"It's fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A... Everybody!"

Okay, so following the publication of her final novel in the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling has come out with it and announced that Professor Dumbledore was, in fact, gay.

Some readers may have suspected it. I remember reading through the whole Grindelwald subplot in the seventh book and detecting an undertone -- or not even that, just having the unbidden thought -- of teh ghey, but I figured that if Rowling wasn't going to come out and say anything specific, it must not be a major plot point, and I let it go. So when she came out and actually articulated that Dumbledore was gay, I thought, "Hey, that's kind of cool." Kind of cool because my hunch was correct, and kind of cool because the best way to show the normalcy and basic human-ness of gay people is to present it without comment, to avoid the common stereotype and deliver a character who, like so many actual gay people, is a person first and most of all and a gay person incidentally. And kind of cool because, as a writer, I know how much extensive backstory most writers establish for their characters that never makes it to print, and I love this little tidbit that J.K. Rowling has had in her head the entire time.

Over at Pandagon, Amanda feels differently. She poses the question, "If he is, why didn’t you say so in the first place?" She sees Rowling as kind of weak and wishy-washy for presenting a Potterverse full of straight people who married their high school sweethearts and unmarried adults who have no social life. In her mind, Rowling's reluctance to offer any diversity in terms of lifestyle and sexual orientation is the result of timidity, and that if she wanted Dumbledore to read gay, she should have come right out and written him gay.

I have a couple of arguments with that idea. One is that, as mentioned by several commenters on that post, the books are written from a severly limited third-person perspective; we're basically viewing the world through the eyes of a 13-year-old over the shoulder of Harry Potter. And in the world of your average 13-year-old, the headmaster's sex life tends to be a nonissue. I know that, as a student, I had teachers whose first names I didn't really know, much less their domestic arrangements. If my unmarried seventh-grade social studies teacher was dating on the weekends, I not only didn't know but didn't even think to wonder. I had my own stuff going on, my own social life to attend to. And the books seem to reflect that; the Weasleys are presented as married because that's germane to Ron's life, the Dursleys are married because that's germane to Harry's life, Snape was still pining for Lily because it was a significant plot motivator, and everything else was saving the world from Voldemort and maybe getting a kiss from Cho Chang. If Professor McGonagall was meeting some wizard (or witch, for that matter) in Hogsmeade for butter beer of a Friday evening, I'm fairly sure Harry had other, more pressing, concerns.

I also think that, because the books are so entertaining and interesting to many adults, it's easy to forget that they're actually written for children. Rowling's original intent was to age Harry along with her readers, so that they would be able to follow him through his development and immerse themselves in his experience. While preserving kids from automatic heteronormativity is a nice idea and a worthy goal, it's also a real tightrope walk to present an 11-year-old with an openly gay headmaster and avoid any kind of ideological pandering. If it's not really vital to the character of Dumbledore that he's gay (or doesn't really become so until the seventh book), why adopt the burden of explaining the concept to a fifth-grader and injecting a serious shot of reality into what is, otherwise, a seriously fantastic book? As Harry ages and his readers age, the characters can become more developed and more complex and the plotlines can become more involved and more controversial.

And J.K. Rowling does introduce some element of real-world controversy. Hermione -- the Muggle-born witch with a heartier grasp of Muggle-world social issues -- embraces the cause of the house-elves, fighting for their liberty and equal treatment while many natives to the wizarding world have no concept of them as anything but servants, and both sides of the controversy are examined and revealed as well-meaning, if occasionally mistaken. The idea of "mudbloods," implying supremacy of pureblooded wizards over their Muggle-bred counterparts, certainly has real-world implications. Tonks and Lupin's interspecial relationship raises the question of what people will think and how to hold their heads high in the face of societal judgment, and Tonks's pregnancy raises feminist issues of women-at-home vs. women-in-the-workplace (or even, one could argue, women in combat). And the entire Harry Potter universe is shot through with strong, accomplished women in all levels of education, government, public service, military-equivalent service, and, yes, homemaking.

But to me, the greatest value is, as I mentioned above, that Rowling didn't have to write Dumbledore gay. He didn't bring boyfriends back to Hogwarts. He didn't dress in flamboyant robes. He wasn't effete or swishy (any more than any wizard would be when "swishing and flicking" a wand for purposes of levitation). He wasn't extra-sensitive, he wasn't extra-horny, he didn't have unusually close relationships with any of the female professors at Hogwarts. He was a headmaster, a powerful wizard, a champion of good, a mentor, and a human being -- well, a wizard, anyway -- and that's all J.K. Rowling really had to write about any character.

To delve into Dumbledore's sexuality in an arena, like his job at Hogwarts or his role with the Order of the Phoenix, where sexuality doesn't usually come into play would mean relying on traditional "gay" signifiers to get the point across, and that means turning him into a stereotype. Just as most people, gay or straight, are complex and multifaceted individuals outside of their sexual orientation, Dumbledore was a great many things and a well-developed character, to which his sexual orientation was incidental. Would it have been a great nod to diversity and progressiveness if J.K. Rowling had managed to shoehorn all of that in at once? Sure, if she'd managed to make it seamless and unobtrusive and not distracted from the storyline. If that had been impossible -- or just too much of a challenge to be worth her while -- I'm satisfied with the way she addressed it, I still love the books, and this revelation only makes them richer and more interesting to me.

Besides, Laura Mallory has got to be flipping out right now.

On a very special holiday

Seriously, you don't look a year over 5,984.

Okay, so get out your candles and your party hats, 'cause today is a very important day. It's the earth's birthday, and today good Mother Gaia is turning a whopping 6,011 years old.

She looks great. A little thin around the ice caps, to be honest, and her complexion is a bit smoggier than it once was, but she wears her age well.

Big ups to James Ussher, the Anglican bishop who, in the 1650s, conclusively calculated the exact birth date of the earth and determined that all of those pesky fossils and the whole "carbon-14 dating" scam were just a prank God likes to pull on nonbelievers. Punk'd!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On the yin and yang of dating douchebaggery

Hold tight, Muffin, you may have just met your match.

Okay, so many of you may have read the plight of Craigslist Girl -- and the unflinchingly honest response by a still-anonymous investment banker -- and thought, "That poor, poor girl. All she wants is a man who'll basically exchange money and luxury goods for her sexual consent and fleeting good looks, and look how mean people have been to her! Is there no one out there who can understand her and relate to her as one superficial, self-satisfied asshat to another?"

Craigslist Girl, your prince has come, and he's driving a Beemer. Gloss your lips, hike up your Wonderbra, and head south to meet John Fitzgerald Page,
who in addition to working in corporate finance, being a part-time trainer, and being available for work as a "costumed character" or a "stand-in," also somehow finds the time in his day to be a colossal, mindbogglingly douchey douchebag to girls he meets on Match.com!

But could those two crazy kids really hit it off? Let's introduce them and see.

Craigslist Girl, meet John Fitzgerald Page. John Fitzgerald Page, Craigslist Girl.
Craigslist Girl:
I’m a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25-year-old girl. I’m articulate and classy. I’m not from New York.

John Fitzgerald Page:
I went to an Ivy League school - the University of Pennsylvania - for my undergraduate degree in economics and my graduate degree in management (Wharton School of Business). Where did you go to school?

Now, now, none of that, JFP. Degrees are for ugly girls who can't find rich husbands.
I’m looking to get married to a guy who makes at least [a] half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don’t think I’m overreaching at all... I dated a businessman who makes average around 200 - 250K. But that’s where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000K won’t get me to Central Park West.

I do mergers & acquisitions (corporate finance) for Limited Brands (Bath & Body Works, Victoria's Secret, etc). Enjoy any of our stores/divisions?

See, look at you kids already! He's got the income and the high-end connections, she's got the desire to spend his income and utilize his high-end connections. It's a love match already, right? CG? JFP? Gosh, y'all are just so cute together.
I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she’s not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

What activities do you currently participate in to stay in shape? I work out 4 times a week at LA Fitness. Do you exercise regularly? I am 6 feet tall, 185 pounds - what about yourself? I am truly sorry if that sounds rude, impolite or even downright crass, but I have been deceived before by inaccurate representations so I prefer someone be upfront and honest on initial contact...

Do you hear that, CG? This here guy's specific. He's been fooled before, so don't try and slide around his rules: No fatties.
Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms.

I live in a 31 story high rise condominium, right in the middle of the Buckhead nightlife district. Do you ever come to this area of town to shop/go out/visit/explore?

Hey, CG, a Buckhead high-rise. It's not Central Park West, sure, but a hottie down from New York By-God City is sure to put those bitchy Buckhead Betties to shame.

Y'all had better make me a bridesmaid, is all I'm saying.
What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won’t hurt my feelings... I’ve seen really “plain Jane” boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I’ve seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the East Village. What’s the story there?

Do you have any other recent pictures you care to share? I have many others if you care to see them.

I wouldn’t be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn’t able to match them — in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

I think you forgot how this works. You hit on me, and therefore have to impress ME and pass MY criteria and standards - not vice versa.

Come on, now, JFP...
6 pictures of just your head and your inability to answer a simple question lets me know one thing. You are not in shape. I am a trainer on the side, in fact, I am heading to the gym in 26 minutes!

John Fitzgerald Page!
Please hold your insults — I’m putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I’m being up front about it.

So next time you meet a guy of my caliber, instead of trying to turn it around, just get to the gym! I will even give you one free training session, so you don't blow it with the next 8.9 on Hot or Not, Ivy League grad, Mensa member, can bench/squat/leg press over 1200 lbs., has had lunch with the secretary of defense, has an MBA from the top school in the country, lives in a Buckhead high rise, drives a Beemer convertible, has been in 14 major motion pictures, was in Jezebel's Best dressed, etc. Oh, that is right, there aren't any more of those!

I'm -- Wow. I just... CG, I am so sorry. I had no idea. I just thought -- I mean, you're superficial, he's superficial; he's obsessed with his money and status, you're obsessed with his money and status... I apologize. You head back up to New York and get a pedicure until you feel better. I'm sure there's some hedge fund manager up there just begging to finance your fall wardrobe.

JFP, you should be ashamed of yourself. No wonder you're stuck looking for women on Match.com. Go to your room.
I am heading to the gym in 26 minutes!

No, you aren't, young man, you're going to your room.

See, this is why I'm still single.

On talents of dubious value

Howdy, neighbor.

Okay, so my brother and I were talking the other day about the brazen, broad-daylight stabbing that took place by the fountain near my apartment a couple of week ago. I'd been considering the risks of living in my particular neighborhood (robberies, muggings, drug use and distribution, getting really fat from repeated visits to great restaurants) relative to the benefits (quick walk to work, great neighbors, friends and family nearby, charming apartment, getting really fat from repeated visits to great restaurants).

While that particular issue remains unsolved, it did get me thinking about my talent for finding the best apartments in the worst neighborhoods. My first apartment out of college was a two-bedroom for less than $500 a month. I had wood floors, 15-foot ceilings, 8-foot windows, central heating and air, a gated parking lot, a nice view - it was sweet. It was also literally across the street from the housing projects, all of the neighborhood kids had the gate code so they could come in and use the pool, and the bar two doors down had weekend gunfights that you could set your watch by. But for that kind of charm, I was willing to hit the deck every Saturday night from 11:45 to 11:50.

So there's my questionable talent: finding the most charming apartments with the most lovely views, the most homeless locals, and the most dubious sidewalk pharmaceuticals sales. Question of the week: What unique talent do you have that may or may not prove beneficial to you or others?

Monday, October 15, 2007

On a hardware store - finally - for me

Okay, so, like, OMG, don't you hate it when you walk into Home Depot and all you want is, like, a new set of drill bits and some drywall screws and some 40-grit sandpaper and a few feet of half-inch molding and you can't find a damn thing because there's so much stuff and the aisles are soooo long and the shelves are sooooo high and it's, like, all dirty and manly and smells like sawdust and stuff? Don't you just totally hate it all the way? Wouldn't it be great if, like, they had a bunch of knowldgeable, well-trained associates who know where stuff is and are actually available and easy to track down when you need their help?

Or they could just paint it pink.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

On the good, the bad, and the Not-Even-Friday Random Ten: Hella Late edition

One of these is a great way to spend a weekend.

Okay, so I know it's been noticed by at least one reader (which, of course, assumes that I have more than just the one) that I haven't posted all damn week. Yeah, I picked up on that, too. On Monday, I was coming down from the most depressing football weekend in probably a couple of seasons at least - and, yeah, that includes Homecoming last year - and was pretty sure that anything I'd post would violate Blogger's terms of use. On Tuesday, I was fighting work battles, having semi-profane, angry-type, hiss-whispered discussions with coworkers over whether we were actually going to allow Dubya-esque non-grammar into our products. On Wednesday, I was bored and lazy; Thursday was taken up by the mandatory fun of an office luau; Friday was an impromptu day off that I didn't want to interrupt with anything resembling work.

So, to recap: I'm a really lazy person.

Regardless, there were good and bad things about the week. And the weekend, too, for that matter, but in the name of continuity, I'm going to stick with

What's good (for the week ending 10/12/07):
- the almost illicit thrill of running around doing fun errands and self-entertaining while everyone else is at work
- seasonally crisp, cool, sunny fall weather
- soft, fuzzy fleece jackets
- the hot food bar at Whole Foods
- Regina Spektor

What's bad:
- greedy people who take up all three washers at the same time - the laundry room is on the first floor because it's for use by the entire building; if it were your personal laundry room, it's be in your apartment
- just... blearghh

The Ten:

1. Wolfsheim, "Sparrow and Nightingales"
2. Franz Schubert, "Herbst" from Schwanengesang
3. Gioachino Rossini, "O salutaris hostia" from Petite messe solennelle
4. Original Broadway cast of Avenue Q, "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today"
5. Incubus, "Drive"
6. Cake, "Open Book"
7. The Isely Brothers, "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)"
8. Ella Fitgerald, "Slap That Bass"
9. Biter MC, "Outta My Mind"
10. Serge Gainsbourg, "Chez Les Yé-Yé"

What about you? What's good for you this week? What went on with you while I was being so very negligent?

Friday, October 05, 2007

On the good, the bad, and the Friday Random Ten

One of these guys has it all figured out.

Okay, so you know what's the worst thing about sick days? Being sick. The more I think about it, the more I wish I'd just gone ahead and gone to work yesterday and taken my sick day today, when I felt better.

So, that was kind of bad.

What's good (for the week ending 10/5/07):
- The brilliant things Martha Stewart can do with gingerbread and purple m&ms
- Thoughtful people who drop by with chicken soup, Car & Driver, coconut cake from Chez Fonfon, and Knocked Up on DVD to see you through your infirmity
- Knocked Up on DVD
- Laying 45 points on Ole Miss, even if we had to fight for it
- The installation of Bishop Robert Baker (but come on, al.com, no shots of the choir?)

What's bad:
- Security guard brutality
- Nice Guys™

The Ten:
1. Archie Shepp, "Blues for Brother George Jackson (Mondo Grosso Next Wave Mix)"
2. The Police, "King of Pain"
3. Travis, "Side"
4. Moby, "James Bond Theme (Moby Re-version)"
5. James Brown, "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine (Part 1 & Part 2)"
6. The Beatles, "Lady Madonna"
7. Jump, Little Children, "All Those Days Are Gone"
8. Jem, "They"
9. Sarah Brightman, "Eden"
10. Saliva, "Bleed for Me"

What about you? What's good for you this week?

On political indecision

Okay, so as we approach Election 2008, are you confused by the issues? Unsure about the stances of the various candidates? Just plain too lazy to make a decision on your own? Try the Select a Candidate Quiz.

Caveat: Results may be... odd.

Dennis Kucinich
Score: 51
Stem-Cell Research
Health Care
Line-Item Veto
Death Penalty
Social Security

-- Take the Quiz! --


On being Nice™

Okay, so it seems to be Nice Guy™ week; everybody's got something to say about it, and a lot of them have good things to say.

And for the record, a Nice Guy™ isn't the same thing as a nice guy. A nice guy is one who takes you to a movie you'll both like, pays (or goes Dutch) as you feel comfortable, dresses like he thinks your date is something more important than the average trip to the gym, holds up his end of the conversation with minimal profanity (unless you're into that), and probably goes in for the kiss at the end but definitely doesn't pressure you if you're not really feeling it.

If you've ever found yourself saying, "I'm a nice guy! Why can't I get a girl? Why can all the jerks and assholes get girlfriends and I can't? I'm just not going to bother anymore. Women, if I don't open any more doors for you, you've brought it on yourself!" you're not a nice guy. You're a Nice Guy™.

Josh is a Nice Guy™.

Josh is a Nice Guy™ because he is frustrated that his unceasing campaign to open every door, pull out every chair, and pay for every meal has not resulted, formulaicly, in women giving up the poontang every time. He warns the women of USC that if they don't start rewarding him for his efforts with sex, he's going to stop doing it. And if they don't get any more doors opened for them, they've brought it on themselves, etc., etc.

Who has analyzed this phenomenon in a way I find insanely accurate? Believe it or not, Doug over at Hey Jenny Slater, an admitted recovering Nice Guy™ and thus a pretty decent source of insight.
Josh, apparently, wants to hold doors for women. He wants to buy them dinner and pay for their movies. And I'm guessing he wants to have a committed, monogamous relationship with one of them. Which is fine; some women out there want that too. A male who wants those things is a traditionalist but not automatically an asshole.

Josh, however, thinks that every woman out there wants that, or should. His views on male-female relationships are like the gender-role remix of every shitty, derivative comic you've ever seen on "Def Comedy Jam": Men are like this, women are like this. Josh wants to hold doors and pay for dinner and treat his women like princesses, therefore that means all women should want to have doors held and dinner paid for and be treated like princesses. And anyone who doesn't is a Feminazi or a harlot. (Yes, he actually uses those words.)

Boy, howdy.

And that's the thing: The difference between a nice guy and a Nice Guy™ is that nice guys genuinely like women. They see them as human beings with personalities that are fun to explore and interests that are fun to share. They don't see them as computers that are fun to decode to gain access to the aforementioned poontang.

So many problems in life come down to an issue of pattern recognition. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again with different women and never getting the hoped-for reaction, look for the constant in that equation - hint, it's not the women - and figure out what needs to be changed. And that's really where the n/ice guy and the Nice Guy™ part ways. The nice guy wants to do what'll make his partner happy, so he's going to be looking to that. The Nice Guy™ want his partner to respond positively to what he's doing, and he's going to be pissed off and combative if she doesn't.

In his post, Doug recounts (with my permission) the story of my engagement to a Nice Guy™. I didn't know he was a Nice Guy™ then and didn't, actually, even recognize him as such until I read Doug's post. All I knew was that I really couldn't complain about the things he was doing, since they were, by definition, Nice™, but they weren't the things that I wanted. That's a lot of pressure on a woman for a lot of reasons, and there's not a lot of sympathy out there for a woman who complains when her fiance buys her a TV and a great big diamond ring and visits and rubs her feet and takes her out to fancy dinners.

I'll let Doug wrap it up for me.
If you don't have anything deeper than door-holding or check-picking-up to offer, it's time to go back into the locker room and draw up some new plays. Sack up, Josh Bass, and ask a girl out instead of waiting for her to notice and appreciate your chivalrous awesomeness and then writing whiny, bitter columns when she doesn't. If you do go out with her, listen to what she says and find something more than just blond hair and a pair of tits to appreciate about her; don't just go into it thinking HOLD DOORS BUY PRESENTS ROBBLE ROBBLE as if that's all any woman has ever wanted since the beginning of time. And, as Kenneth the page said on "30 Rock," work that vajayjay.

That last one, of course, is key.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On the unseen threats of tampons and cake

Okay, so I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not crazy about kids. It's nothing against them personally; we just don't have a lot in common, and given the choice, I'd rather hang around people my own age. But not being crazy about kids doesn't mean that I actively dislike them and enjoy seeing their rights curtailed and even taken away entirely, which is way all of this stuff really sets my teeth on edge:

If you're a woman and you've been to high school, you probably remember the contortions involved in sneaking up to the teacher's desk, whispering your urgent need, and making it all the way to the ladies' room without anyone seeing the tampon and/or pad in your hand, because God forbid anyone (read: boys) should find out that you're menstruating. Purses obviously make this process far easier. A high school in New York is finding that it's strict "no bags" policy is making that process far harder, and has handled it in a fairly idiotic way. Girls are allowed to carry purses - when they're getting their periods. It's bad enough that these bags turn into small, Louis-Vuitton-knockoff beacons of nascent fertility when girls are only allowed to carry them one particular week out of the month, but it also leaves the school vulnerable to exchanges like this one:
The girl was called out of class by a security guard during a school sweep last week to make sure no kids had backpacks or other banned bags.

Samantha Martin had a small purse with her that day.

That’s why the security guard, ex-Monticello cop Mike Bunce, asked her The Question.

She says he told her she couldn’t have a purse unless she had her period. Then he asked, “Do you have your period?”

Samantha was mortified.

She says she thought, “Oh, my God. Get away from me.” But instead of answering, she just walked back into class.

At home, she cried, and told her mother what happened.

I am not, let me assure you, going to tell some skeezy security guard whether or not I am bleeding from my ladyparts. That's none of his damn business. As an adult, I'd probably give him an uncensored, unequivocal, and well-deserved what-for just for asking; as a far less poised and self-assured teenager, I probably would have dissolved into tears on the spot, putting Samantha Martin one up on me.

In an unusual show of teenage solidarity, girls and boys at the school have been protesting by wearing tampons and maxi pads on their clothing and carrying purses made from tampon boxes.
After hearing that someone might have been suspended for the protest, freshman Hannah Lindquist, 14, went to talk to Worden. She wore her protest necklace, an OB tampon box on a piece of yarn. She said Worden confiscated it, talked to her about the code of conduct and the backpack rule — and told her she was now "part of the problem.

That's right. If your school officials are inquiring into the intimate details of your intimate bodily crevices, and you object to that, you're the problem.

But it gets worse.

A high-school student drops a piece of birthday cake on the cafeteria floor. The security guard orders her to clean it up and, when her cleanup efforts aren't to his satisfaction, he tackles her, breaking her wrist, handcuffs her, and calls her racist names. She's later charged with battery and littering. A kid who captured the incident on his cell phone was also arrested, as was the girl's mother when she went to the school to protest her daughter's treatment.

In the first example, the girls' privacy was violated; in the second, her physical integrity was violated. And for what? Backpacks and a dropped piece of cake? I remember, in high school, throwing the "Nazi" word around in reference to our fairly strict administrators, but that was before students were actually tackled and arrested for such sins as dropping cake.

Students in high school don't enjoy a lot of the rights that other people are assured. This is accepted because schools have an interest in maintaining order and discipline by regulating dress, speech, etc., and because minors are seen as needing guidance by adults in learning how to responsibly exercise the rights they'll freely enjoy when they reach majority. But having curtailed rights doesn't make a person any less human or give them any less right to basic human treatment.

This puts adults in a position of outrageous authority, and with authority comes the responsibility not to abuse it. Those adults, school administrators and particularly the security guards now so common in this post-Columbine era, are increasingly ignoring that responsibility and using "those disrespectful kids" and the threat of student violence to lock doors, ban bookbags, shorten lunch periods, regulate speech, interrogate students, and now resort to physical violence to maintain order and discipline. Wonder how that's working out.

Schools have the responsibility, above and beyond basic standards for test-taking and information absorption, to prepare students for the requirements of adulthood. High-school students are given more personal responsibilities and less guidance than, say, elementary-school students because, older and more experienced, high-school students are expected to have developed maturity to guide them through their studies and activities. High-school students don't have homework sheets to be signed by their parents, guided study time with teachers hovering over shoulders, dictated class and scheduling choices, or enforced naps, because high-school students are practically adults and it's expected that they should be able to remember their homework, study, pick their classes, and get sufficient sleep on their own.

So which is it, administrators? Are high-school students growing young men and women learning to live up to the requirements of adulthood? Or are they children who can't be trusted to carry a backpack without endangering their fellow students? Or are they prisoners in a camp where failing to follow instructions gets your arm broken for you? Try to get back to me by the time I have kids; I may just want to homeschool.