Friday, December 3, 2010

Bananas and Lemons

So I took the day off yesterday to celebrate my birth and hang out with Baby, Alia, and ... uh, the new baby, whose nom de blog has yet to be generated. His nicknames around the house are Ike (he bears -- as many babies do -- a passing resemblance to Dwight Eisenhower) and Benazir Bhutto, but I don't think either of those will do. Baby got me a new amp for my Rhodes piano so I can once again torment the household with my sub-mediocre renditions of popular songs and Christmas carols. We ate twice-baked potatoes with steak (mmm ... beef allowance) and afterwards drank beers and played Bananagrams with Arkay and our housemate Mollrats. (I hope she doesn't mind that nickname -- I can't imagine why she would have a problem with it.) It was good times.

Yesterday, I ran into the word "cisgendered" for the first time -- twice. First, in this overlauded but amusing video mocking "postmodern" Christians somewhat accurately. Second, in this thoughtful but amusing blog post ruminating on "Liz Lemonism." Turns out cisgendered is the opposite of transgendered. Who knew? That will be useful in future Bananagrams escapades.

The Liz Lemon post is smart enough, but reading it on the bus this morning -- the wrong bus, by the way, since the driver put the wrong text up on the sign and denied it, despite six of the eight riders having to get off at the first stop and walk back to the transit center -- clarified something about what bothers me about certain segments of feminism. Now, before I go and say something ill-advised about feminism, know that in certain crowds I could easily be called a feminist. My wife, whose RSS reader proves her bonafides, may or may not agree with that assessment depending on the day, but ultimately I am generally inclined to be sympathetic to feminism and highly suspicious of anyone who, like me, would make generalized claims about feminism on the whole.

However, reading the post and the comments I was reminded of my young adulthood as a sort of fundamentalist Christian. Specifically, I was reminded of reading Focus on the Family's BreakAway magazine for teenaged boys. One of the recurring themes of BreakAway was analysis of the content of media from a "Christian perspective," to determine whether the music or movie in question could be called Christian -- primarily to satisfy a legalistic requirement that one only consume Christian products. Readers would write in asking if their favorite bands were Christians. Is Metallica Christian? Is Beck Christian? Is Sonic Youth Christian? Spin Doctors are not Christian because "Two Princes" encourages rebellion against one's parents, by the way. (I don't remember them ever actually critiquing the generally vapid content of any of the "actual" Christian musicians popular at the time.)



Now, I was an English major, so I'm aware that critique of pop culture from an ideological perspective is essentially all the humanities have to offer at this point, but there is something really dumb about this "in or out" attitude. One of the commenters says, "someone once told me that 30 Rock was premised on Liz Lemon’s ugliness, and . . . that made me swear to never watch it. That doesn’t sound like feminism at all to me. Just more picking on women." So, she won't watch a show because it's "not feminist?" That's silly. Even as a young fundie I knew it was okay to listen to The Who, even if they say "fuck" now and again. Lighten up!

Having said that, I'm now going to be accused of supporting the myth of the humorless feminist, so I'll stop on this note: I like women. I like feminism. I'm glad my daughters will reap the benefits of the hard work of feminists past and present. But seriously, avoiding 30 Rock because Liz Lemon is too pretty and not feminist enough is dumber than Dan Quayle decrying Murphy Brown's proud single motherhood.

UPDATE: Baby says this is basically me just now:

Using an image from the very blog I was writing about is a nice touch!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Xmas Wars

It's officially Advent, and that means it's time for everybody's favorite holiday tradition: listening to blowhards complain that Christmas is becoming secularized. My favorite of these complaints -- which are best made from the campout line in front of Best Buy on Black Friday morning as the complainer laces up his Nikes and tightens his elbow pads in anticipation of cracking the skull of anybody who gets between him and his $250-off HDTV -- is that using the abbreviation "Xmas" in place of "Christmas" is part of an agenda to remove Christ himself from Christmas.

Most to least ethnic: Joseph, Mary, Jesus

I'm not really sure what those who would remove "Christ" from Christmas could possibly do to desecrate the holiday any more than we modern Christians have already done, but some people are insistent that this abbrevation is just plain evil. Who would do such a thing? My first thought would be people who are running out of space on whatever they're writing on, but beyond that I can't really come up with a profile of your typical Christmas abbreviator. Except, there is this one blatant instance that comes to mind ...

There! Right at the top of the page, it says "ARXH TOU EUAGGELION IU XU" -- "The beginning of the gospel of I.X.!" What is this I.X. blasphemy? Is this some XX knockoff with gospel influences? Oh wait, it's Mark 1:1 from Codex Sinaiticus, a fourth-century Bible manuscript, and I.X. is an abbreviation for Jesus Christ. Well, fourth century -- that's kind of late. Maybe the Church was already corrupted with secularism by then.

What about the earliest known gospel fragment that contains Jesus's name? What does it say, eh? Let's see, it refers to someone wearing a purple robe and a crown of thorns, going by the name of ... "I." Oh.

This really leaves only one question: why did the early Church insist on secularizing Christmas?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Performance Evaluations

Yesterday I had to lay off a young, hardworking employee so that I could keep Mustafa -- an old, incompetent, lazy, passive-agressive bastard who is taking Friday off so I can't -- on my payroll. Shit ain't right. My more-competent employee may be a grown man with a shrill laugh more girlish than my five-year-old daughter's, and he may have an underdeveloped sense of professionalism, but dammit, he actually works on shit when I ask him to. You may ask why I can't just fire Mustafa instead. Turns out when you're a member of four protected groups (elderly, foreign, minority religion, slightly disabled) and old family friends with my boss's boss's BOSS, and you have a spouse on the faculty in the same department -- HR won't let you "just get fired." So we're doing these performance evaluations where Mustafa and I sit down with my boss-of-sorts and we go through his job description and enumerate the ways in which he has failed at his modest tasks. This is a painful procedure that I dread every week. In fact, I made my wife have a baby just so I could get out of a month of these evaluations. But I've got one lined up for Friday -- OH SHIT HE'S TAKING FRIDAY OFF! YES! Hot damn, another evaluation postponed! Anyway, the idea is that these evaluations are supposed to (a) lead to the possibility of firing Mustafa or (b) make him realize it might be time to retire, but neither (a) nor (b) is happening as of yet.

I'm supposed to be working on his eval, so I've been thinking about million-dollar t-shirt ideas instead.

Here are a couple of my ideas:

1. Scrawled in fake handwriting: "I'd rather get laid oft than laid off!"

2. A drawing of William Shakespeare (a.k.a. the Bard of Avon, for the slow among you), and above him, in beautiful cheesy calligraphy: "I have a BARD-ON for reading!"

Just spitballing some ideas here. Returning to my terrible management skills -- Mustafa's strategy for keeping his job is primarily to send me a shitload of emails anytime I ask him to do something. So I'll ask him to do a simple task and he'll shoot back (four hours later) an email filled with inane questions that I don't have time to address, along with a list of impediments towards doing his work. Then, when it comes up in the performance evaluation that he's fucked everything up beyond hope of redemption, he can say "Lazlo didn't answer my email about this, so how could I possibly know what I'm supposed to do?" My counterstrategy has yet to be created.

Anyway, this was a blog post I wrote. I was at a Thanksgiving feast the other day (and it was a feast!) and I came up on two friends who said "we were just talking about your blog." I immediately felt the awakening of a long-dormant sense of shame I once knew well, pertaining to not writing enough on my blog. I'm going to turn 31 tomorrow, and I don't want to be that lame 31-year-old with a shitty dead blog just hanging out on the Internet, so I'm going to try to post a bit more. Blame Twitter for my lack of posting, btw.

Yeah, Twitter.