February 2008 Archives

lunar punk'd

I'm an Apollo junkie. As in the moon landings, not mythology. I've read just about every book on the subject, to the point where books seldom contain anything new to me. Yes, yes, I know all about how Neil Armstrong almost bought it on his Gemini flight and about how Wally Schirra had a head cold on Apollo 8. Yet on I read.

Now I'm cracking books written by engineers. Tom Kelly's book about Grumman, the designers of the lunar module, is especially dry. Like I care about what some engineer looked like? Really, the only interesting tidbit thus far is how Grumman struggled to find a hotel in 1962 Houston that would admit its black engineers. "We'll allow it," said one grudgingly. "So long as they don't enter through the lobby." The matter-of-factness of it is jarring to someone who wasn't alive in those times but who knows plenty of people who were.

"Chariots for Apollo," meanwhile, had two more jaw-dropping tidbits. Speaking of the mad moon-race with the Soviets, the authors speak of how paranoia about Soviet espionage on Apollo was rampant, but how in the end, "only a few Soviet spies" were found in the engineering program. Only! The best part, though, was perhaps the best practical joke you've never heard of. When the Soviets were seen to be building a rocket capable of carrying men around the moon, the mission of Apollo 8 was changed: we would go to lunar orbit instead of Earth orbit. NASA madly rushed. Shortly before the December launch, the Soviets surprisingly launched their own rocket around the moon. All this, I already knew. In the capsule were no men—we would indeed be the first—but a tape recording of Cosmonauts chatting with mission control. Purely to fuck with NASA. And full-scale panic ensued in Houston. I mean, come on! This is brilliant! How have we never heard about this?

matt damon sequel

This video was viral a while back. You probably saw it.

Fewer have seen the inspired sequel, which aired Sunday night.

muse

Another lesson I've learned after it's too late:

You know a rejection from a woman is needlessly hurtful and nonsensical when, just for your own peace of mind, you're desperate to hear that it's about another guy.

showing their color, part ii

d'Andre, about Seattle: "Even the brothers are whiny white guys."

• • •

Ruthie Foster's opening act was billed as a local band, so my expectations were low. "Crap," I thought as I surveyed the stage. "A fiddle and a banjo. This doth not bode well." Much as I didn't much think about the audience's racial composition until I was forced to, neither did I consider that of Laura Love's band. Until, that is, Ms. Love herself, attired in a du-rag and African blouse, brought up the topic. Five times.

"How great it is to see people of color on a stage!" she squealed, braying backwards like an even blinder Stevie Wonder. The audience hooted its delight. My own first reaction: yeah, it's really gratifying to see some black folk finally break through the color barrier and perform some music! My second reaction: are the two black people in her band feeling uncomfortable right now?

But then she introduced a third band member as "the only black banjo player" she knows. First thought: what a weird thing to say. Second thought: really? I never would have guessed he was black. Okay.

Then Love managed to refer to another band member as black, then herself twice, and then the white guy next to her as some sort of soulful snowflake anomaly. The act was 50 minutes long. Even by Seattle standards, this is machine-gun pretense.

Every time she mentioned the word "black," the pasty audience hooted its approval. "WHOO! BLACK!" And Love would bray.

I've seen this rhetoric before, usually from mixed-race folks. They have their Malcolm X painting in their living room and their African music playing in their CD player and they loudly blame their white cousins for keeping their black cousins down. They spend their entire lives protesting too much, putting on airs, conspicuously being black enough for...I'm not really sure who. Certainly not me. Laura Love, meanwhile, looks like the mom from "About a Boy" might look if you added bleach to her bathwater. I can see where she'd have to work hard at being perceived as black. And work she does.

As she sang backup with Ruthie Foster's band for a song and preened and danced embarrassingly with the bass player during the latter's solo, making sure to grimace and point to the bass player so that we would understand the full depths of her generosity, I very nearly lost it. There was no other word for it: I hate Laura Love.

When I got home, I was still trembling with rage. How dare that preening, talentless, pointless meat-sack sully the act for which I paid to see? Who does she think she is? I looked her up on Wikipedia.

Laura Love (1960) is an American musician. Love was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. She describes herself as a "light skinned Black" woman.
Yep. She works hard at it.

showing their color, part i

d'Andre: "The coolest white man on the planet is Captain James Tiberius Kirk."

Me: "But he's a fictional character."

d'Andre: "Exactly."

• • •

I don't often think about being white, as I've written before. When I go home to Columbus, I certainly am aware of it. What differentiates Seattle, however, is that here it's usually white people who make me feel white. I'll look at Percy in his safari hat and and start thinking what a cracker-ass motherfu—and then abruptly stop when I recall that for the most part, he's one of me. It's mortifying.

Nowhere do I feel this horror more than at concerts in Seattle. Friday night, I saw phenomenal bluesist Ruthie Foster. I will never wash my ears again. Unfortunately, I also saw college-educated, turtlenecked, lip-biting, middle-aged white people attempting to dance. Their arms and feet moved to a rhythm all their own, as if they were swatting and stomping on a swarm of drunken bees. The dancers' eyes were closed, lest they dispel delusions of grace and ability. Meanwhile, these folks' paunches bobbed hypnotically from left to right.

Some shit cannot be unseen.

It made me feel really, really white. Humiliated by association. I wanted to hold a blanket in front of these people and interrupt Ruthie's line of sight, but I worried that it would look too much like a white guy's approximation of an Arabic dance.

a passage on india

I needed help with my new wireless bridge, and as I listened to the lovely American female voice guide me through the voice-menu maze, I got a little teary eyed. I would miss her. Soon, very soon, inevitably, I would miss her deeply. And then I did.

"Ξεζθλπξ, my name is Bob," said the voice. "ΔΐΏǼΘ ΠΞεζθλπξψη ЊЋ to-day?"

"Um. Hi...'Bob.' I have a Belkin Ethernet bridge and can't get it to work."

"ΔΐΏǼΘ ΠΞεζθλπξψ ηЊ Ћ?"

"Um, 'Bob,' I didn't understand that."

"ΔΐΏǼΘ ΠΞεζθλπξψ ηЊ Ћ?"

"Um. One more time?"

"ΔΐΏǼΘ ΠΞεζθλπξψ ηЊ Ћ?"

"Um. Yes?"

"Ξεζ θλπ ξψη ЊЋ, and ΔΐΏ ǼΘΠΞ εζ θλ πξψη ЊЋΔΐΏǼ ΘΠ Ξεζ θλπ ξψηЊЋ ΔΐΏǼΘ Π Ξεζθλπ ξψηЊЋΔΐΏ ǼΘΠΞε ζθλπξψηЊЋ ΔΐΏǼ ΘΠΞεζ θλπξψηЊЋ ΔΐΏǼΘΠΞε ζθλπξψ ηЊЋΔΐΏǼ Θ ΠΞ εζθ λπξ ψηЊЋ in the ΔΐΏǼ ΘΠΞ εζ."

"Um. No?"

"Then Δ ΐΏǼΘΠ ΞεζθλπξψηЊ ЋΔ ΐΏǼΘ ΠΞεζθ λπξψ ηЊЋΔ ΐΏǼΘΠΞ εζθλ πξψηЊ ЋΔΐΏǼΘ ΠΞεζθ λπξψ ηЊЋΔΐΏǼΘΠ Ξεζθλπξψ ηЊЋΔΐ ΏǼΘΠ Ξεζθ λπξψη ЊЋΔΐΏǼΘΠ Ξεζθλ πξψη ЊЋΔΐΏ ǼΘΠΞεζ θλπξψηЊЋ ΔΐΏǼΘΠΞε ζθλπ ξψηЊЋΔ ΐΏǼΘΠ Ξεζθλπ ξψηЊЋΔΐΏ ǼΘΠΞεζθλ πξψηЊЋΔΐ ΏǼΘΠ Ξεζθλπ ξψηЊ Ћ now?"

Feeling guilty about hanging up on this person, I lied. "Hello? Hello? Are you still there? I can't hear you anymore. Hel-" Click.

I wasn't angry at this person but at Belkin, for making me talk to the lowest bidder. Still. I wonder how many times a day some pissed off American calls Bob "Apu?"

new car smell

To avoid having to use an agent, last year I became self-employed. That's just how it works at Microsoft. You either work directly for them, or you shovel 30% of your gross income to some bloodsucker for whom you technically work. Now, I am that bloodsucker.

Three friends and a former student all work through my company, and I take a nominal percentage that covers my business expenses. They're new moms and a student saving for grad school, and this is a way for them to maximize their incomes. I'm happy to do this for them. I'm happy for as long as it takes them to tell me they just bought a car, anyway—which three of them did during their first month in my employ. I, meanwhile, am still driving the same thing I bought in 1995. But I'm not bitter.

weird compliments

I could swear I've written this, but there it is in my idea queue. Onward.


Women have seldom told me that I'm handsome or smart or charming or brave or kind. I refuse to conclude anything from this. The compliments I have received? Just plain weird. I suspect most of 'em stem not from my intrinsic magnificence but from their scars at another man's hands. "I really like the way you don't bring junk mail into the house," said one girlfriend. "I hate the clutter."

"Thank you for not using my knives for household tasks," said another, seemingly on the verge of grateful tears.

"I love the way you don't leer at other women when I'm around," said a third.

"Your good hygiene is really attractive," said yet another of my habit of brushing my teeth twice a day and bathing, well, most days. "It's exceptional."

Really?

If I were born a woman, I'd simply have to be gay.

smitten

First of all, whereas about 15% of my total hits normally respond to a survey post, some 90% of you responded to a survey about dog crap. What's wrong with you people?

Until I posted that no, it wasn't Percy, almost every single guess was a variation on "That bastard Percy put it there." Once I waived people off the P-train, the guesses stopped coming almost entirely. My favorite:

I'm not sure if I could come up with something feasible even if Ed was still alive - that's pretty high up. But I'll give it a go. Dorkass/Allie/Sarah/Beth/Somebody wanted to give you a Valentine. She knows the thing you loved most in the world was Ed, so when she stumbled across a fossilized pile in the far corner of your yard, she couldn't resist. Since you were about to do a February pruning of the bush we can see to the right of the frame, she knew you'd be getting in the tool shed soon. She shoveled it up there and stuck a little note with it, too, that said - just droppin' a note from pup heaven, love Ed.
That's fairy tale nonsense, of course. No one ever does anything for me for Valentine's Day.

No one guessed the real story. And really, who could? Who could imagine laziness like mine? For you see, a year ago, I scooped up Ed's droppings and placed them in a paper bag. Not wanting to dispose of them right away due to the aforementioned laziness, I placed said paper bag on top of that shed. Six months passed. Ed died. Six more months passed. And finally, the wind blew the bag down, leaving desiccated Ed crap atop the shed and, for the briefest moment, intrigue.

Yes, it's still there.

dook, dook, dook

Reader contest!

This pile of Ed droppings just appeared atop my tool shed, six months after Ed's death. Let's see if anyone can guess how this came to pass. Addendum: No, it wasn't Percy. He's in Arizona. You can stop guessing that.

poo.jpg

(This survey is over.)

distinguishment

My mom was wrong. I'm not special. And as time passes, the severity of her error becomes more and more pronounced. Witness this article, sent to me by a co-worker, about how the f-word is becoming socially acceptable. If true, it means that I'll have to work even harder at being a pariah, and frankly I don't know what more I can do that doesn't involve the use of douche kits, a boat battery, tube socks and livestock.

Thank god for the c-words. They're my bread and butter, now.

fuckity returns

Every office has that preening dimwit, oblivious to their own ineptitude, with whom everyone else is forced to cope. In my office, I'm pretty sure it's me. Sarah says that in her office, it's Rhiannon. Her family owns the business, and naturally she's in charge. She drips her fetid slime on everyone's work, which brings us to last week.

When Sarah needs to vent, she sends me the advertising copy Rhiannon writes. To say it's written at the eighth-grade level is invite a class-action defamation suit from 13 year olds. Cute characters, all caps, underlining, exclamation points—IT'$ ALL THERE! Once when Rhiannon wrote that there were "to many" of something, I changed it to "too." Rhiannon changed it back.

You get the idea.

So last week, I was reading some particularly vile copy and was inspired to bust out my favorite editorial expression of utter frustration. I wrote: "WHAT THE FUCK? I MEAN, WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?"

When Sarah replied, she said that she particularly enjoyed the "fuckity" comment.

I realize this is a pretty lengthy preamble for a link, but now read this chestnut from six years ago. What are the odds?

• • •

I called Katrina, long a fan of the Annette story, to share this latest chapter. She was delighted. She also shared that she, just the day before, had used the term "fuckity" and thought of me. I suppose I'd be flattered...if I'd ever in my life used this word. The words I like to think I made up, like "Yoko" and "McMansion?" No credit. "Fuckity?" It'll probably be on my tombstone.

election 2008

I'm not going to endorse a candidate for President. Such posts always seem like public masturbation to me. Which I'm certainly not above, but it won't be over the likes of politicians.

I am excited, though, by the prospect of a McCain vs. Obama election. For the first time in my life, I'll be able to vote the issues. Having been spared the need to vote against someone of demonstrably poor character, I can actually vote for someone. Wow. Would that it were always like this. But I'm sure Hillary will surge, and order will be restored.

reality chick

I was telling my boss, Flo, that a writer whom I've never met (he's in the Middle East) is among the best in our entire org.

"Hagar is super-clean," I observed.

Flo dismissively flicked her knuckles in my direction. "You're only saying that because she's hot," she snorted.

This just got interesting. "He's a she?"

"Yeah, like you didn't know."

"And she's hot?"

Flo glared at me. "Well, I don't think so, but all the guys over there slobber after her. Me, I don't get it. I guess she's hot if—"

Her face wrinkles with genuine disgust.

"—you're into skinny Jewish chicks who look like Natalie Portman."

I didn't dare make eye contact. "Yeah. Guys really hate that."

reader mail: the golden boy

Distinguished Stank troll Amit writes of a Super Bowl experience far worse than a "we-ing" girlfriend.

tx_brady.jpgI was watching the big game the other day at a friend's house when I realized something that may interest you--all the girls in the room were rooting for the Patriots because Tom Brady was "so cute" and "dreamy" and "a hunk" where all the guys were going for the Giants b/c the Patriots were cheaters and Tom Brady is a douchebag that (probably) cheats on his girlfriend and leaves her for a supermodel when said girlfriend gets pregnant. The girls looked right past these obvious flaws. It was quite an interesting dichotomy, one I wonder if was present at Super Bowl parties across the country.

Amen on the cheater douchebags, Amit. Meanwhile, did anyone else find this repugnance to be true? I'd call it ugly gender stereotyping except that I've seen it more often than not at Super Bowl parties.

Not to mention that the day a woman is actually attracted to the virtues that she says she's attracted to, I'll feel bolts of pain in my left arm and keel over. Sorry, ladies, it's the one gender bias to which I subscribe. Oh, there's two: I don't think most women should have jobs where they have to make announcements into a cheap P.A. system, either. Absolutely piercing. But that's it.

we

I am, like most, delighted that the Giants spoiled the smug Patriots' tainted bid for perfection. It's God's work they did.

I was explaining the nature of the Pats' evil to Sarah when, resigned, she uttered, "I don't think I'll ever be the fan of a team. I'm just not wired that way."

Then we talked about the nature of developing fandom. She suggested that people don't start following a team at her age. I disagreed. As a challenge, she asked how I'd feel if she suddenly became a Steelers fan. I chuckled. There is no such thing, I said. You can suddenly start watching games. You can suddenly wear a lot of team-themed crap. You can suddenly start using "we" to refer to the team, as in "We won big today." But none of that makes you a fan. Girlfriends, especially, have seem predisposed to that route; I've always looked away in utter disgust.

"When they break you heart and you come back for more, and then they break it again and you come back for thirds, and then they break it again and you come back for fourths, then maybe you can use 'we.' Until you suffer, until you put in your time, not so much." I said. On the other hand, when they're good and advance deep into the post-season, you don't much enjoy that either. It's just nauseating, really.

She didn't see the upside. Smart.

search hit o' the day

playing it forward

My boss, Annette, knocked once and entered my office. She found me slumped on my desk, staring into space forlornly. Even more than usual. I was listening to a recording of an angry man's voice. You're an irredeemable piece of shit, he said, or words to that effect. Everybody hates you. Except me. I don't hate you because I never even think about you, anymore, and I'm happy now. You're dead to me and I have no feelings at all about you. Moreover, Dad was right: you're probably on drugs. And mentally ill. You're an unemployable loser and—

Now Annette, too, looked forlorn. "What exactly am I listening to?"

"Oh. You're listening to my speakerphone, which is playing my voice-mail, which contains a message from my sister, who held her phone up to her answering machine and then played a message our brother left for her. Which is what you're hearing. She decided to share."

"And this seems normal to you?"

"Normal depends on your frame of reference."

Annette has since invited me to holidays with her family. They're amazing people. They adore one another. They actually root for, not against, one another's success.

The wonder.

the greater concern

A story about Annette is advancing toward the top of my "idea queue," so I asked her what I ask almost everyone. "I'm going to write about you on Stank. Is using your name okay, or would you like a pseudonym?"

She asked why I was offering. Well, I said, some people freak out at having even their first name mentioned, especially on a page frequented by their co-workers.

"I would think the greater concern would be being called 'Dorkass,'" she replied.

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