A Dozen Intertwining Years

Today Tomorrow I am celebrating a dozen years here at the University. That means we moved to New Orleans twelve years and a couple weeks ago. I can’t conceive of one without the other. A dozen years of work and life at this school in this city. As previously noted, I’ve now spent a quarter of my life here. I used to agonize about the prospect of a bifurcated life, but somewhere along the way I’ve come to blend my multiple personal and professional roles. My home life and work life and civic life are all sort of intertwined. My neighbors are my co-workers are my co-conspirators are my friends. Occasionally striking the right balance can be a challenge, but for the most part I like it. I feel like a whole person, and I’m glad to have found a place where that’s tolerated and occasionally even encouraged.

Here’s a photo I took when I started here, and another I took this weekend. I just noted they are remarkably similar, though I didn’t plan it.

bcu

Hair

Same as it ever was, the more things change, still crazy after all these years, et cetera.

Of all the moments I’ve enjoyed here at the University, one of the funniest was the Great Toilet Installation Fail of 2010 which I just posted to the FAIL Blog, per Maitri’s suggestion. Please vote it up.

Maundy Census Fool

Mimi

Today is Census Day — and also April Fool’s Day — and also Maundy (aka Holy) Thursday. How best to celebrate?

Here’s what some of my friends said:

Andrea J: Maybe by filling out your Census with false information and then going to church to repent for your silliness.

Anthony F: Take a pregnant woman to Bethlehem to sign up for the census. When the Roman’s ask about who’s kid it is, tell them yours. Won’t those Roman’s be surprised.

Cynthia B: Peeps!!!

Juan F: Get drunk!

Kurt D: Put your hand down your neighbor’s pants, take count of working bits and tell them thank God it was a joke. (That covered all 3 correct? Do I win a prize?)

Jeff Lamb: count yourself lucky and have a beer

But I think I found the perfect activity: I’m filing my taxes. Think about it. It’s reporting to the government, it involves plenty of fibbing, and a generally mournful attitude pervades.

As for the photo above, it’s from 25 years ago. Greenwood Community High School. February 6th, 1985, to be exact. Right in the middle of Spirit Week. The Student Council had planned a "Punk Day," but our fearless leader, Principal Crawford, forbade that idea. It was re-named "Future Day."

We the students chose to have "Punk Day" anyway. This set of four pictures bears testimony to how our suburban Midwestern imaginations conceived the notion of "punk."

No it doesn’t really have any connection to Maundy Census Fool’s Thursday, but the photos are so fun I had to stick ’em somewhere.

The Wizard vs. Cities on Flame: Comparative Lyrical Analysis



My friend Brad W. once made an offhand remark in an online discussion that has been preying on me for years now.

We were discussing early heavy metal, in particular Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult, in particular a certain riff that shows up on both bands’ debut albums. Who was copying who, I wondered? It now seems clear that Black Sabbath originated the riff, but that’s beside my point here. Brad mentioned that one reason he liked BÖC was their sense of humor, something he felt Black Sabbath lacked.

I’m a huge BÖC fan, but I’d never appreciated their humor before. I believe Brad’s right, in the main, and I thank him for giving me cause to revisit some old familiar music and hear it afresh.

And yet…. and yet… something has been nagging at the back of my mind, lo these many years — namely, the lyrics to those two songs we were discussing.

First let’s consider the lyrics of Blue Öyster Cult’s “Cities on Flame with Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

My heart is black, and my lips are cold
Cities on flame with rock and roll
Three thousand guitars they seem to cry
My ears will melt, and then my eyes

CHORUS
Oh, let the girl, let that girl, rock and roll
Cities on flame now, with rock and roll

Gardens of nocturne, forbidden delights
Reins of steel, and it’s alright
Cities on flame, with rock and roll
Marshal will buoy, but Fender control

I will be the first to admit that as a teenager I didn’t see the humor there. I just thought it was badass. The song has a murky, sinister sound, and that riff is heavy and baroque. But now I see, in the lyrics, a bit of ironic detachment, a faint tongue-in-cheek mockery, a send-up of rock-god hubris that lends the musical bombast an intellectual edge. That’s awesome, and I’m grateful to Brad for opening my eyes, which were previously only melted.

So far so good. BÖC’s humor checks out. It’s not exactly a laugh riot, but it’s there.

Now let us turn our attention to “The Wizard.” Here’s the same riff, apparently the original, blown through a harmonica. Consider the lyrics.

Misty morning, clouds in the sky
Without warning, the wizard walks by
Casting his shadow, weaving his spell
Funny clothes, tinkling bell

CHORUS
Never talking
Just keeps walking
Spreading his magic

Evil power disappears
Demons worry when the wizard is near
He turns tears into joy
Everyone’s happy when the wizard walks by

Sun is shining, clouds have gone by
All the people give a happy sigh
He has passed by, giving his sign
Left all the people feeling so fine

OK, did you get the joke? The wizard is clearly your friendly neighborhood dope peddler. And that’s my point. At a casual first listen, this song seems like some Tolkeinesque fantasy, but upon closer examination it’s about some hippie dude selling dime bags, a committed stoner with a Gandalf fetish. And that, my friends, is frickin’ hilarious. Anyone who has lived in Bloomington, Indiana, of all places, should have no trouble cuing in to this one. We’ve all bumped into this guy in front of the Eye, or maybe hanging out at Lothlorien.

Now perhaps this song is an exception. Perhaps it is a rare example of humor in the otherwise dour universe of Black Sabbath. Perhaps as a rule BÖC is funnier. But if you compare these two particular songs, BÖC gets the points for sinister rock stylings, while Sabbath comes out ahead in the funny department. Furthermore, since the riff was stolen, I think the only possible conclusion in comparing these two songs is: Advantage Sabbath.

Sorry Brad!

Teacher Survival Kit

Xy’s gearing up for the school year. Teachers are subjected to a seemingly endless number of “professional development” events. I pay some attention to this, because I work in faculty development myself. We’re always looking for new ideas.

I was particularly intrigued, not to mention inspired, when Xy brought home a Ziploc bag with a toothpick, a rubber band, a penny and a number of other items.

Teacher Survival Kit

It was accompanied by a “packing slip,” which I produce here verbatim:

TEACHER SURVIVAL KIT

TOOTHPICK — To remind you to pick out the good in everyone.
LIFESAVER — You may be the one to save the bright light in a child.
MOUNDS BAR — To remind you of mounds of stuff you teach.
PUZZIE PIECE — To remind you that without you things wouldn’t be complete.
RUBBERBAND — To remind you to be flexible.
BANDAID — To remind you that together we can make things better.
PENNY — To remind you that you are valuable

I think we can all rest easier knowing that the public schools in New Orleans are headed in the right direction now. Xy’s already put this to good use. She busted out that Mounds bar and ate it, pronto. I think she may have used the bandage on a cut on her finger. I don’t know what happened to the “puzzie piece.” To tell the truth I’m not even sure what a “puzzie” is.

I’m trying to convince my department to prepare a similar packet for the incoming crop of new faculty here at the University. As much as elementary school teachers appreciate the thought and effort that goes into this sort of thing, I feel certain that college professors would appreciate it even more.

Cleaning Day

My parents are coming down for a visit, so we are frantically preparing the household for their arrival. Time to put away the illegal drugs and semi-automatic weapons, the seditious literature and satanic rock music — at least for a while.

Moonspell

photo by gurke

We also have to conceal the extensive subterranean dungeon we installed during our renovation. Wouldn’t do for Mom & Dad to wander down there and get lost.

Fortunately most of this work falls on Xy since I have clever means of work avoidance, such as posting to this blog or playing with Persephone.

Latest Entry in the Annals of Idiocy

This morning, Xy was sitting in our car, waiting to give a ride to some co-workers. A short time later, I got a text message: “u have the car.” I looked out the window and saw, sure enough, Xy was gone but the car was still there. Must have been a mix-up about who was giving a ride to whom.

Then came the follow-up text: “oops, keys r n car.” So I went down and checked it out. Yup, the keys were in the ignition. Not only that, but the engine was running. And the doors were unlocked.

The first reaction most people have when I relate this story is, of course, that “it’s because she’s pregnant.” It’s a compulsion. Go ahead and say it; you know you want to, and it will make you feel better. But I can’t help recalling what Xy’s mother said when I first met her 15 years ago: “If she had half a brain she’d be dangerous.” And, for the record, she wasn’t pregnant then.

This is the silliest stunt she’s pulled since smashing out the kitchen window or flushing her keys down the toilet. In fact, it’s so stupid it seems like something I would do.

Scratchy Chin Season

Chin Hair

I’ve started a new tradition. I’m not shaving between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. This gives me an annual chance to appreciate just how gray my beard is getting. I’d say I’m about 50% gray at this point. Then, on New Year’s Day, I’ll shave it clean and get a fresh start.

Footnote: I do have to shave my throat to make it look like a beard and not just scraggly. Where’s Sweeney Todd when you need him?

Overballed

We’re having a holiday open house at the office today, and we all brought cookies and other sweets. I thought it would be fun and unique to bring brandy balls. So I made them last night and brought them in this morning, and placed them on the table with a sign.

Bart's Brandy Balls

But Boss Lady’s husband (Elliott, aka the inimitable HammHawk) had the same idea. He made bourbon balls.

And much to my chagrin, his balls are bigger than mine.

How very humiliating.

Update: By day’s end, the general conclusion seems to be that although Elliott’s balls are bigger, mine are more potent.

The Imus & Blakely Show

This past week people around the country have been all atwitter because of some remarks made by Don Imus on his radio show. Here in New Orleans people have been talking about it, just like everywhere else, I suppose. But here in New Orleans people are also talking about remarks made by Dr. Ed Blakely, the man hired by our mayor to manage the recovery.

The Imus controversy boils down to a single phrase. He called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”

(The principal at Xy’s school asked the students why they were upset about Imus. “You say it all the time.” But I digress.)

Blakely’s rhetorical sins more numerous and require a bit more unpacking. In three separate incidents:

  1. Blakely said the real pre-Katrina population of New Orleans was significantly lower than the numbers on the books, that those numbers had been inflated for political purposes. (There’s no evidence this is true.)
  2. He said he’ll be done here in less than a year because the rebuilding will be done by then. (Ludicrous.)
  3. And he was quoted in the New York Times saying a whole bunch of derogatory things about New Orleans. He called the leaders of our city buffoons, he said our economy is a shambles, and that everything here is extremely racialized. He dissed the “right to return” as being about politicians using people for their own gain. Many of his points are actually quite valid, and such criticisms might serve a good purpose if they were made here locally.

Both men have been castigated for their remarks. Both have publicly apologized.

Imus was fired. Blakely can’t be fired. Flawed as he is, he’s our last best hope in the leadership department. If the mayor fired him it would be the equivalent of admitting a complete failure of leadership, which would be honest, but don’t hold your breath.

While Imus’ comments were more patently offensive, I’d say that Blakely’s comments do more real damage. Imus is an entertainer, but Blakely is supposed to be running the recovery of New Orleans.

But all this is simply a long-winded preface to my simple idea:

Blakely should hire Imus as his spokesperson.

He couldn’t do much worse than Blakely’s doing on his own, and he’d probably be more entertaining. And he needs a job, after all.

Together, I bet the two of them could distract the populace to a level never before imagined.

Celebrity Smackdown

Jimmy Pardo just read my list of annoying people on his weekly podcast. Er, pardon me, it’s a “Pardcast.” Check out Episode 33 — the fun begins about 27 minutes into the program. They rake me over the coals pretty well, and I gotta admit I have it coming. “All the insight of bad stand-up comedy without any of the punch lines.” Ouch.

The kicker, of course, is the final person on my list, who is none other than Mr. Pardo himself. Ahem. The mystery of that weird e-mail I got from the “Jimmy Pardo Fan Club” is revealed at last. I may be the only person who finds this hilarious. I don’t know.

His co-hosts confirm what we’ve feared all along: that the guy on “Movies at Our House” is pretty close to the real Jimmy Pardo. I shudder to think of it, but I guess I should be grateful. After watching Jimmy Pardo, my wife thinks she didn’t marry so poorly after all. So thanks, Jimmy, for setting the bar lower.

And big props to Mr. Wesley for the heads-up.