Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dear 2008, fuck you

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Sure, we had some good times -- November 4 comes to mind -- but I think it's time we part ways, forever.

Six emergency room visits in my family, four or so hospital stays (two without insurance), four cancer diagnoses, two deaths -- these are the reasons we're not going to be spending any more time together. Not to mention the economy, that hellish three-day trip I had to take to the Houston shipping channel with my boss, or the emergency dental surgery.

But you're over, 2008. Fuck you and go to hell.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


This post is highly inappropriate for this blog, but yesterday my mom died. She was diagnosed with cancer in August. Things didn't look good, but we had no idea how bad they really were; the cancer was in her lungs and brain. The first oncologist gave her six months to live. We switched to another doctor who said she could live indefinitely on a kind of chemotherapy. What he didn't know was that the cancer was also in her spinal column, which is an untreatable condition.

Mom and I had a complicated relationship. I loved her and she loved me, and we even shared many of our deepest-held values of family and faith, but the little things -- the history of frustrations and disappointment -- kept us from ever really being at ease with one another. Baby and my daughters were almost the perfect buffer between me and mom, to make our relationship real and even fun in the last few years, but I always felt like she either didn't know me or knew me and didn't approve. Or maybe she just thought I didn't like her, because of all the times I was a colossal asshole.

She was a fun-loving woman. She was spontaneous and free-sprited. She had a highly-developed sense of propriety which she almost always disregarded, either embarassing or entertaining me depending on the situation. She taught us to never talk about money but could be counted on to ask even complete strangers how much they made or how much their kid's school cost. She was, like me, stubbornly loyal. Unlike me, she never shied from a fight over values.

In the last few weeks, preparing for her to die, I have learned a lot about her. She secretly smoked for about 23 years after I was born. She took care of an Alzheimer's patient and began to set up a trust fund for neglected and abused children. Her natural hair color was dark brown.

Her last few days were probably not her best, since she was in enough pain to require morphine, but she did get to spend a lot of time with my brother, my father, me, Baby, and even our younger daughter. I suspect that holding my daughter was the highlight of her last week.

I miss her. My daughters love her as much as possible, but the older -- being three -- will be lucky to remember her at all, and the younger simply won't. What a fucking shame.

Rest in peace, Mom. I hope to see you again some day.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The truth about Elton John

For all Elton John has been talked up as having intelligent lyrics (written or edited by Bernie Taupin, alleged songwriter extraordinaire), his lyrics sure are inane. Not just because they're talked up -- his songs' lyrics are inane compared to even, say, Britney Spears'. But we all know now how I feel about inanity. To wit, "Your Song."

I have always loved/hated "Your Song" for its sheer, awesome inanity, but when Ewen MacGregor sang it to Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, its place in my irony-blooded hipster heart was forever secured. (Before you say anything about Moulin Rouge, I'm going to go ahead and just put this in there: fuck you. Don't talk bad about Moulin Rouge.)

Stanza one is a non sequitur: "It's a little bit funny, this feeling inside / I'm not one of those who can easily hide / I don't have much money, but boy if I did, / I'd buy a big house where we both could live." It gets some points for almost being a sentence (I love songs with grammatically correct sentences), but immediately loses them for making no fucking sense whatsoever.

Stanza two is a glorius shining temple to inanity: "If I was a sculptor -- but then again no --/ Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show ... / I know it's not much but it's the best I can do / My gift is my song and this one's for you." It is also an example of why you write lyrics down before you start recording the song. And here we really start to see the twofold problem with "Your Song." Problem one: Bernie obviously put some work into these lyrics -- they rhyme and they have an internal meter -- but they are just terrible. Problem two: the whole point of the song is that it's supposed to be a gift or a tribute to somebody ("you," presumably) but it's a terrible gift because it has no internal content whatsoever. It's like giving somebody an empty box for their birthday. But it's even worse than that, because the rest of the song is about how hard it was to come up with the lyrics -- so it's more like giving somebody an empty box and then prattling on for half an hour about what a great gift it was.

But it's still even worse than that, because the precious little rhetorical content the song actually has shows a complete lack of understanding about the person the song is supposed to be written for: the lines "I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue [... but] yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen" gives testimony to this, as well as his statement that the song is "for people like you that keep it turned on." I'm sure that had some meaning in 1970-something, but it just sounds like pandering to me.

After all this, Elton/Bernie has the chutzpah to say in the chorus "I hope you don't mind that I put down in words / How wonderful life is while you're in the world." It would have been great if you had actually done that. Don't forget, though, that "you can tell everybody this is your song," if you are willing to admit that Elton John wrote you such a pointless song.

In summary, "Your Song" is not really about you. It's about what an awful songwriter Elton John is.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Words I inexplicably love: clique

Specifically, I love it when used to denote a gang-like group, like in Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" ("What's up with this? / Tell the truth, who you with / How would you like it if I came over with my clique?") or in The Chemical Brothers'* "Not Another Drugstore" ("rollin' with my clique, the One-Inch Punch"). Partially I love it because of its root in the word claque -- from claquers, who were professional applauders hired for opera performances -- since I imagine Beyoncé rolling up to some dude's house with a raucous group of 18th-century Italian peasants who react with feigned rapture to everything she does. Which is probably not terribly unlike her real life.

Anyway, there are many satisfying words to describe a group of like-minded people: set, coterie, cadre, junta, posse comitatus, entourage.** These are all great. But just consider using clique every once in a while. It's worth it.

* In about 1999, the Chemical Brothers briefly tricked me into thinking electronic dance music could be cool. Deal with it.

** I sent my wife (Baby) a preview of this post, and she offered a couple suggestions for clique synonyms, leading to this exchange:

lazlo1979: why are there so many french words for this?
babyhouseman2: guess
lazlo1979: courtiers
lazlo1979: fucking courtisans again
babyhouseman2: france was run for like 1000 years as a big popularity contest
babyhouseman2: and then all the cool kids got their heads cut off
lazlo1979: that's brilliant
lazlo1979: you're better than kate beaton

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Whoomp! Christ is born!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The war on Christmas, won

Hooray for Christmas!

Hooray because Christmas is safe from those who would destroy it! I'll get to how I know this in a second, but first an explanation for the neophytes. The war on Christmas is a battle raging in strip malls, big box stores, and government offices over the use of the word "Christmas." Some people would like the word annihilated in an attempt to destroy the meaning of Christmas by removing it from our very thoughts and malls. They will stop at nothing; the word is being replaced with "holidays" in catalogs and greetings intoned by underpaid employees. Good Christians are boycotting stores that don't use the word "Christmas" and flocking in droves to those that do. And apparently it's working: the Christian message is being heard. Soon the word Christmas will become a permanent part of American culture!

Here's how I know: one week ago, on KOOP 91.7's wonderful "Elk Mating Ritual Show," I heard a song called "All I want for Christmas is to Get it Crunk" by the Dirty Boyz. Hallelujah! The Christian message is getting out there every time someone hears lyrics such as "Mister mister Santa Claus, can I get a ho-ho-ho / With a body like Serena Williams under my mistletoe" or "my Christmas list ain't long, so listen up Santa Claus / Can I be Jay-Z for a day so I can get in Beyoncé's drawers? / Or just have Halle Berry call and I swear I'll do it all / I'll do it like Billy Bob Thornton did 'cause I'm working with a monster ball."

Despite the jarring admission of testicular abnormalities, this is a song any Christian can get behind, as it uses the word Christmas not just in the title, but repeatedly in the song!

But I think my point is made. In all seriousness, here is my real Christmas wish, expressed through the lyrics of another song, written some time in the 12th century, and translated (with greatly expanded meaning) in the 19th century:

Oh come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself the King of Peace;
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, Oh Israel!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Quick inanity: "Boogie Oogie Oogie"

A Taste of Honey's "Boogie Oogie Oogie" (lyrics) is a brilliant exercise in inanity. Unlike "Whoomp! (There It Is)" (previously covered here), this song is not incoherent or self-referential, but it is no less inane for its message.

The song, as a whole, makes up not a mere argument for boogying, but rather a statement of fact addressed directly to the listener: you are going to boogie, regardless of what you may think, until you are physically incapable of further boogying.

Stanza one forms a coherent sentence: "If you're thinking you're too cool to boogie, boy oh boy have I got news for you: everybody here tonight must boogie; let me tell you, you are no exception to the rule." Here we are presented with a sort of regula boogi, and the remainder of the song is primarily dedicated to an entreaty to follow the rule. "There's no time to waste" summarizes the urgency of the message.

However, "Boogie Oogie Oogie" goes beyond mere creedal statements and entreaty to offer the listener -- a catechumen in the church of boogying -- some small degree of instruction, making it somewhat analogous to the Didache of first-century Christianity. The listener is instructed to "listen to the music" and "let [his or her] body move" and/or "flow" -- and that's what takes this song from a mere disco hit into a true masterpiece of inanity.

Whoomp! update:

Semprini wonders about the Scrabble value of "Shackalackashackalackashackawhoomp." Unfortunately, the Scrabble board is only 15 tiles wide,
so you would either have to be playing with three boards placed next to each other, or you would have to wrap the word onto three rows. If the rules allowed this and you had the necessary ten A's, five C's, five K's, etc., you would be certain to win the game; if you played the word starting at the upper-left corner of the board, you would have 3,564 points after the three triple-word scores, three double-word scores, two double-letter scores, and two triple-letter scores. The 2007 Scrabble World Championship (held in Mumbai) was won by a series of games under 500 points each.

Elcaballo argues for an interpretation of Whoomp! as a "masterpiece of erotic literature," but his thesis rests on a sexual reading of the phrase "getting busy" which is, frankly, not supported by the text.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Chanukah!

Today is the beginning of Chanukah. To celebrate, here are four contemporary holiday songs I like:

I believe this is supposed to be a Chanukah song, since it starts with a Hebrew prayer and ends with Beck screaming "Chanukah pimp!" over and over again. Don't put it on your holiday mix for your grandmother unless she's cool with lyrics like "my shit's so poignant I'm going to need some kind of ointment" and (inexplicably) "ejaculating on buffet tables." On the plus side, it's got a fresh beat and the only shout out to New Balance shoes I've ever heard on a record.

- Christmas Rapping by Curtis Blow.
Some will say this song is overplayed and way too long, but it's still pretty good for a novelty record. For me the highlight is when Curtis says "stereoo" to make a rhyme work. Now that's dedication to the craft.

I have to be honest. This song is shit. But as part of a pact one of my ancestors must have made with Satan, I have to like every song with a vocoder in it. I like the song's repeated references to "I Wanna Be Your Man" (which you should listen to instead, because it's awesome and I had it performed live at my wedding) as if people needed to be reminded that this song was by Zapp -- because otherwise everybody might assume it was by the other band that uses a vocoder on every single song.

-Santa Rap by the Treacherous Three (from Beat Street).
I'm not sure if this is on any albums or not, but I remember it solely from Beat Street. Also not one for your grandmother's Christmas mix, but it does contain Doug E. Fresh's epic beatboxing and the use of the word "facsimile."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bands I saw last night: Bob and Barbara

Last night I went to see Bob and Barbara at the Hole in the Wall.  I believe it was their first show ever.  B&B are fronted by my friend Winston, who sang in a jarringly beautiful, Janis Joplinesque falsetto for almost all of the songs,* and who apparently taught the other three members of the band (all female, Charlie's Angels style -- speaking of Beyoncé) how to play their instruments.  Other than a few charming missed starts and a bit of on-the-job coaching, the band played their pawn shop instruments well enough to fit Winston's inventive songs.

I bought a cassette that I have yet to listen to (my only deck is in my car and I didn't drive last night) for $2 and was pleased to find out one of my good friends from LA had designed the case.

Being at the Hole in the Wall was great.  The crowd reminded me that there are still a lot of really cool people in Austin I haven't met, and a lot of people I peripherally know already were there, like that guy from my church with the crazy brown glasses.

I also saw part of a Cari Palazzolo side project band that I can't remember the name of, but they were quite entertaining.  Listen to Cari's band Belaire's cover of Kanye West's Through the Wire.  It is so good.

* I suggest he adopt the stage name "Manis Joplin."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the spelling of Beyoncé

As I intend to write about Beyoncé Knowles frequently, I would like to get something out of the way. It appears the preferred spelling of her name includes an accent mark on the final e. That's fine with me, and it seems reasonable since people would invariably pronounce her name /BEE-yonss/. But wouldn't the accent as written put the stress on the last syllable of her name and make it /bee-yon-SAY/? But really it's /bee-YON-say/, so wouldn't the proper diacritical marks be like this: Beyóncè? I'm not going to start writing her name that way because it would be even douchier than writing about the spelling of her name already has been -- but also because it took me five minutes to find out how to type that grave accent just now.

Anyway, I didn't want you to think I hadn't considered this alternate spelling. Does anybody else think it's kind of funny that she shares a last name with Harry Knowles (of movie insider site Ain't It Cool News -- see photo above)? I wonder if they're related.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Songs I get stuck in my head a lot, v. 2

- Private Eyes by Hall and Oates
I've come to realize that I pretty much get the whole Hall and Oates catalog stuck in my head, which is funny because I didn't even realize I knew so many H&O songs. Might as well throw in Maneater and Kiss On My List. Damn, am I a Hall and Oates fan? This is a startling admission, even to myself.

- Somebody's Watching Me by Rockwell (?)
I don't have any paranoid tendencies, really. Also, I don't listen to much 80's music. I swear.

- Werewolf Bar Mitzvah by Tracy Jordan
Boys becoming men, men becoming wolves.

- American Boy by Estelle featuring Kanye West
The chorus. I'm curious to know if West made up the line "dress smart like a London bloke / before he speaks his suit's bespoke," because that's kind of clever. I like that the video attempts to pass off what appears to be a chinchilla peacoat as "cute" -- also that Estelle proves that just because you're black and a professional musician doesn't mean that you can dance any better than me.

- Another Night, Another Dream by The Real McCoy 
Please, if you do nothing else on the internet today, click on that link right there.  Well, don't click if you somehow don't want to see a Sailor Moon themed fan video for one of the best 90's dance songs.  I get the part that goes "I talk talk, I talk to you" stuck in my head.  Good Lord, this woman needs to call the cops if she's being visited at night by what sounds like the chain-smoking superintendent of a rundown New York apartment complex.  As if the night visitor's voice wasn't creepy enough, here's what he has to say: "I am your lover, your brother / Hey sister let me cover your body with my love."

Five websites I read

Here are five sites I enjoy. They all happen to be blog-type sites, but none of them are people I actually know.

Hark! A Vagrant.
Some lady named Kate Beaton. She has a talent for capturing expressions and tends to cover some really nerdy material. Also she's Canadian.

Sexy People.
Glamour shots, headshots, family portraits from the fringe and/or the past.

Comics Curmudgeon.
Josh Fruhlinger reads newpaper comics and makes fun of them. The site has a lot of in-jokes and a massive commentary section (which I generally don't read) filled with bizarre-looking but seemingly intelligent people.

Passive-Aggressive Notes.
Chronicling a neglected aspect of our lives. I have been trying to get them to publish one of the notes I've found for several months. I think it's golden but they're not biting. Assholes.

Photoshop Disasters.
This is one of those awesome sites were the commentary section seemingly despises everything posted on the site. It's become part of the charm.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Things I love: inanity

Most anyone who knows me is probably aware of my love for inanity. Not surprisingly, one of my favorite sources of inanity is song lyrics. Anything on any Jock Jams volume is probably a prime source, but I'm particularly into "Whoomp! (There It Is)" by Tag Team. If you read the lyrics to the song (note: these may be completely wrong), you'll note that the song is almost entirely self-referential. Yes, many rappers talk themselves up a lot, and maybe postive self-talk (as they called it in my high school health class) forms a majority of their repertoire of rhymes -- but they almost always make at least some point. This is not the case with "Whoomp!". I'm just going to break it down by stanza, if you will allow -- to save you, dear readers, from having to read the actual lyrics.

Stanza one is an introduction: our main players are introduced -- The Brain Supreme and Steve Rollin', together comprising Tag Team. We, the listeners, are appealed to as "party people" and it is requested that we "make some noise," and "jump, jump, rejoice," as well as to "shake [our] derriere[s]." The locations of two or more parties are disclosed -- "over here" and "over there." Then the crux of their thesis -- such as it is -- is presented: "these three words mean you're gettin' busy: 'Whoomp, there it is'." (I remind the reader at this point that these words were penned by a man calling himself "the Brain Supreme.")

Stanza two alerts us to the fact that the true meaning of the song is still upcoming, however: "I'm about to show you folks what it's all about," says the Brain Supreme. The anticipation is felt, but once again, B.S. continues to tell us what he's going to do, instead of just doing it; he informs us that it's "time to get on the mic[rophone]" (one wonders how we were able to hear his recorded voice prior to this point) and "make this party hype," and then offers some jusitifcation, but then merely requests that we join him in saying "Whoomp, there it is" (which, if you'll remember, is a signifier that we're "gettin' busy.")

The remainder of the song -- the bridge, plus stanzas three, four, and five -- do not enlighten the listener any further. They are either nonsensical ("Whoomp chak a laka chack a laka," etc.) or self-referential ("the underground sound that you have found [is] amazing, outstanding, demanding"). The "demanding" claim is backed up by the fact the that song does make several demands of the listener, as noted above (paragraph 2, e.g. jumping, rejoicing), but nothing that resembles a "point" can be discerned anywhere in the song, save that the phrase "whoomp there it is" indicates "gettin' busy."

And that, I believe, is the height of inanity. It probably made Brain Supreme several hundred thousand dollars, if not more. I love it like my own children.

UPDATE: Several interesting points are raised in the commentary section.

No less an authority than Japanologist Dave Rupert of offers us a survey course worth of knowledge about hip-hop:

... the lead rapper's acumen is put into question when he says "these three words mean you're gettin' busy: 'Whoomp, there it is'." That is clearly 4 words, as appearing on the album cover.
And no less an authority than esteemed municipal blogger Craig (not to be confused with Semprini, presumably the name of an evil Italian marionette) raises some interesting questions about quality control and epistemological coherence in pop songs:

... Was there, at some point, any internal discussion regarding how many words are actually in the phrase "Whoomp there it is?"

These four words are what it’s all about… I just don’t know.

Dear God, I really hope not.

Regarding the number of words in the song: perhaps the name of the song was originally "Whoomp! There 'Tis" before the record label made them drop the pirate theme. Or maybe it was translated from Spanish; my junior high Spanish teacher (author of The Kennedy Corridos: A Study of the Ballads of a Mexican American Hero and amateur pan-flute player) once treated my class to an a capella rendition of "¡Whoomp! ¡Hay Está!"

Please, dear readers, share your thoughts. We may be able to solve these mysteries together.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Etymologies I love: vixen

Vixen has a truly great etymology. First of all, everybody already knows that a vixen is a female fox, right? So, calling a girl a fox is not only hilariously weird, but it's grammatically inappropriate as well. Call her a vixen, please. She'll appreciate it as she's filling out the sexual harassment report with HR.

Anyway, the word "vixen" actually comes directly from the word "fox." Since the male of the species is called a fox, the female took the diminuative -en and was called a foxen (which sounds better than fox-bitch, another name used). That became fyxen, then vyxen (a great name for a hair band), and then vixen.

Why the spelling and pronunciation of foxen changed while fox didn't is one of those mysteries of etymology that somebody certainly has an educated theory about, but which I don't know. I'm going to blame French, though. Always blame French -- the word "kitten" underwent a very similar transformation, but that was was via French. Chat (As in French for "cat") took a diminuative to become chaton, which entered middle English as kitoun, which is really weird because middle English used the word catte. You'd think somebody would have come up with catten before resorting to French, but these are probably courtesans we're talking about here, so maybe they were just trying to be cool.

Anyway, I forgot what I was saying. Vixen. Good word.

UPDATE: No less an authority than theological ethicist elcaballo has weighed in on the question of phonemic shift in the word "vixen." He attributes the change to fungibility between the voiceless and voiced affricatives /f/ and /v/. Well, elcaballo, I agree that such changes are common in English, however -- like Pelagius' christology -- my question was a bit subtler than you think.

I was actually asking why foxen had changed and fox had not. More specifically, what I was getting at is how fox seems to have survived the Great Vowel Shift that affected almost every Middle English word. Usually, orthographic or phonemic analogy ensures that related words remain relatively close in spelling and pronunciation, but my guess is that fox was a common enough word that it escaped the shift through consistent usage. Foxen, however, remained a word limited to the argot of hunters and early naturalists. It would have been used more rarely, and thus subject to the vowel shift. Perhaps the voiceless /v/ simply worked better with the post-vowel-shift Early Modern /u/ (using the principle of least effort), just as the voiced /f/ worked with the Middle English /ō/.

In summary, Mr. elcaballo -- if, as Thomas Carlyle stated, language is the flesh-garment of thought, you are the Buffalo Bill of linguistics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

UGGs update / retraction

I see that no less an authority than fashion blogger Christie of has pointed out my error in assuming that T-Pain's "boots with the fur" refers to UGGs. I have no doubt she's right in saying that the afformentioned boots are more likely to be Mukluks. (And I suppose T-Pain would have said "the boots with the wool" if he were referring to UGGs.) It turns out these boots are outrageously expensive. I hate to sound cynical, but sometimes it seems like people in hip-hop culture are attracted to expensive things because they're expensive, and not necessarily because they are of high quality.

Above: A trendsetter listens to Young Jeezy's lastest single.

My "unacceptable" rating for UGGs applies to the Mukluks doubly. Not only are they hideous and undoubtedly seasonally inappropriate anywhere in the continental US, but they are made from foxes and seals and shit.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Reader questions

In response to my comment on UGGs* and tights, reader Semprini** asks: "So are you saying I shouldn't wear my tights anymore, or I just shouldn't wear them with UGGs?"

That's a good question. UGGs are generally not acceptable, unless you live in an extremely cold climate or work in a refrigerated environment. Tights are okay on females -- although I'm going to draw the line at stirrup pants -- but I happen to know Semprini is not a female. Judging the acceptability of tights on men is an exercise best left to the reader.

*For the uninitiated, UGGs are the "boots with the fur" formerly hawked by Rush Limbaugh and (more recently) worn by a nameless shorty whilst "getting low," in T-Pain's popular song. Speaking of which, I've had a question since the first time I heard that song -- how can the shorty be wearing both boots AND the "Reeboks with the straps?" Or for that matter, both "apple-bottom jeans" and "baggy sweat pants?"

**Furthermore, what's a "semprini" anyway? A cocktail preferred by Marines? One of Voldemort's other pets, rejected for use as a horcrux? A kind of pasta?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Songs I get stuck in my head a lot, v. 1

I hope this list doesn't reveal anything terribly embarrassing about my personality (not to mention my vulgar, pedestrian taste in music).  I should note right away that I don't endorse or even like all of these songs, there's just something about them that makes them get stuck in my head a lot.

- Beautiful Girls by Sean Kingston
They only want to do you dirt. I just watched this video for the first time -- I didn't realize the 50's were such a great time to be black!

- Rich Girl by Hall and Oates
It's a bitch, girl.

- Fantasy by Earth, Wind, and Fire
I'm tempted to quote this entire song because the lyrics are so awesome, but I'm just going to do the first verse:

Every man has a place, in his heart there's a space
And the world can't erase his fantasies
Take a ride in the sky, on the skip fantasy (pronounced "fanta-sigh!")
All your dreams will come true, right away!

How does it get any better than that?  All your dreams coming true, right away?!

Sorry.  I got excited.
The whole song.  It's just so good.

- Holla Back Girl by Gwen Stefani
This my shit.  Specifically the line "this shit is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s" gets stuck in my head at breakfast every day.

There's a special category for anything sampled by Girl Talk.  Girl Talk is really bad for people like me who get a lot of songs stuck in their heads.  It becomes possible to fixate on a single line from a song you've never heard the rest of, the line looping in your head as you try to go to sleep, rolling, twisting the sheets, pissing off your wife as the couplet "my bitch a choosy lover / never fucks without a rubber" repeats endlessly.  Two of the many GT-sampled songs I get stuck in my head on a weekly or daily basis are:

- that Journey song that goes "whoa-oh-oh-oh, whoa-oh-oh-oh" over a raging guitar solo.
- Lil Mama's Lip Gloss
It's poppin', as well as "cool."

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Liz Lemon has famously stated that grad students are the worst. However, she is wrong. Undergraduates are the worst. I work with them on a daily basis; my office is next to an undergrad computer lab. Maintaining that lab is one of many job duties. I have several undergraduate employees who do the day-to-day stuff like changing printer paper -- or at least they're supposed to. Frequently they don't do much of anything and the lab users (also undergrads) walk right past them to ask me their inane questions about printing out 50-page PowerPoint presentations.*

But it's really not the interactions in the lab that make me loathe college students. Mainly it's that they're a bunch of poseur douchebags. When I was in college, mainstream fashion was boring enough that you couldn't tell who was trying to look cool and who didn't care about their clothes. This is a typical college student in 2000:

Nowadays, fashion is actually interesting. However, this also makes it possible to completely overdo it and look like a dipshit. I took this picture outside my building yesterday:

Damned kids. Actually part of the problem is the fact that I moved from LA to Austin -- so I saw some really hideous trends come and go (e.g. UGGs with tights. Apologies to people that looks good on, but understand that you could probably wear anything if you can pull that off) and then moved in time to watch them come and (hopefully) go in another fashion market. The students who aren't trying too hard are usually wearing sweats 24 hours a day, which is only slightly less objectionable.

*Isn't printing out PowerPoint presentations kind of retarded? In MY day, we had course packets, and by God, we liked them. Stop wasting my paper. You're barely going to remember anything two years after you graduate, and taking proper notes is more likely to help you on a final anyway.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My incompetent coworker

Higher education jobs and state jobs both have a reputation as the kind of jobs you can't get fired from. I work at a state-run institution of higher education. There are people here whom the phrase "dead weight" doesn't even begin to describe. One of these people is my co-worker, whom we'll call Mustafa. Mustafa is over 60 and has a Ph.D. in anthropology but was apparently unable to find an academic job. He has been working in my department for about seven years and is well-liked but universally acknowledged as being utterly incompetent at his job. To clarify: I'm an IT guy. I manage computers for my school. I am the only person who does this, except for Mustafa. He, however, cannot be trusted to take down a phone number, let alone replace a broken computer. When I started my job, a trusted former co-worker filled me in via email. Quote: "He essentially knows nothing and is worse than useless."

Yet he cannot be fired. I generally have no interest in firing anybody. I would rather find something else for them to do, unless they did something unethical, but Mustafa has been reassigned repeatedly and shown himself to be worthless as an employee everywhere he goes. Since he and I currently share an office (just for now, thankfully), I'm aware of his daily activities. Here is a typical day for Mustafa:

- show up a bit late
- translate some documents into Nepali (I think he has a side job)
- noisily eat a persimmon or two (I have to put on headphones and listen to music at this point)
- talk to his wife on the phone
- talk to various laborers working on his house
- confuse the hell out of undergraduates asking him questions about the computer lab next door
- arrange the housing of Nepalese refugees via phone
- take down some incorrect phone messages for me
- leave early

He is a good person, but a terrible, terrible employee. Every day, I hope he'll announce that he's retiring. My administrator says she's seen too many people like Mustafa to harbor any illusions that he won't hold on until the bitter end. He's going to be here until he is physically incapable of work -- and that's what makes a lifelong state employee.

Here I go again on my own ...

... going down the only road I've ever known. Or in this case, one of the many "roads" I've "known." That is to say, I'm blogging again. My previous host -- who is awesome -- has understandly lost the interest to host a bunch of free blogs. But my anonymity was blown anyway by people linking to my blog with my real name, so I figured it was time to move on, since I would like to be able to say borderline-retarded things without jeopardizing current or future employment.

According to my records, I have not blogged in seven months. Since then my family (me, Baby, and the girls, whose psedonyms have yet to be determined) have moved into our first home (a condo), our younger daughter has turned one, we've gone camping and bike riding, and a whole bunch of bummer shit I'll get into another time has happened. Oh, and our dog started bleeding out the ass every once in a while. Watch this space for details.