A Map

A Map

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Adventures in Higher Education, Pt. 3

or, 'The Strange Things You Find in Elevators'.

Does she or doesn't she? The world may never know.

Adventures in Higher Education, Pt. 2

or, 'Stage fright. It's what's for dinner. Eat it, you pricks.'

Honk honk, motherfucker.

The professor called on me in class today and I locked up faster & tighter than the doors of a BMW in a bad neighborhood. Two seconds after he moved on I completely understood what he was asking me and I felt like a total idiot. I got tripped up on "Woher kommst du", a phrase I have heard and spoken many times. I know what it means, but in that moment, I was all durrrrr.

I'm older than my professor. He looks to be maybe early 30s. After class on the second day, I ran into him on the quad and he stopped to ask me how things were going, ie. if he was doing okay. He stood and vaped and listened while I told him he was doing fine. He's a bit nervous and it shows. I didn't tell him that part, though. Maybe I should have.

The truth is, I'm nervous as hell in class. I'm so much older than the other students and I feel entirely self-conscious. I just don't want to be seen as the weird old dude. This is difficult enough a sit is without adding social anxiety to it, too.

The more interesting thing is that I will occasionally see one of my classmates on campus and they wave and say hi. They're nice to me. As of yet, no one has been mean, or laughed at me, or been rude. On day 2, I passed by one girl who called to me, "Hey, German 101! You're in my class, what's your name?" We had a nice hallway conversation before she ran off to talk to a girl she knew. 

These are good kids for the most part. I know that not all of them will make it. It's just a statistical fact. I'm already placing invisible mental markers on the ones who probably won't. I feel bad for them. When I was 18, I was one of those kids. I didn't make it. I was forced to drop out for financial reasons. I finished one years of collage and my parents were like, "sorry, son, we can't afford this anymore". I tried it on my own for another year or so, but it was too hard and I wound up sliding into a career in printing because it was available and I enjoyed it.

I know some of these freshmen are struggling and some won't make it through the academic year. I don't want to repeat that trajectory at age 49. Somehow, that seems like it would be doubly painful and sad.

Adventures in Higher Education, Pt. 1

or, 'How I Stopped Worrying About the Bomb and Sat On It' ayyyy

I feel ancient, oh so ancient, so elderly, creaky, and grayyyy..

I work at a large state university in the southern U.S. One of the major benefits of being an employee at this university is that you can take one course, tuition-free, per semester. You can even work on a degree this way, though it's far more time consuming.

After watching my vocation (printing) dying a protracted, ugly death over the years and experience severe job scarcity, and also realizing that I'm careening willy-nilly toward 50, I decided to do something to change my life. I decided to use my benefit to try to finish my long-abandoned English degree. Why English? Certainly there are better and more profitable degrees out there. Well, for one thing, I want to try to finish up as quickly as I can, and given the restrictions of the tuition-free benefit, I decided to see how much of my ancient history would transfer and how much time I could cut off of the process.

The last time I went to school, Frankie Goes to Hollywood was still a thing, okay? It was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Ancient history. As of this writing, I still haven't received a transcript credit report. Apparently, there is only one person who evaluates transcripts for the entire university and I think maybe they're really swamped.

Also, I really didn't want to bust my ass working for a degree in something that I had zero interest in but would likely garner me greater salary choices. I'm too old to be fucking around with something that bores me just for a few extra dollars. I'm looking at this as long-term happiness, not long-term wealth.

So after going through all of the paperwork and planning and rigmarole, I started classes in the fall semester that began just this week. With no transfer credits and no clue what prior education credits will and won't count, my adviser told me to start with something I knew I'd never taken before. Since I need a foreign language credit, I chose German. I know, fuck me, right? But it's cool. My mom is German and I always wanted to learn.

Here are some thoughts on my first day of college in over 25 years. [SPOILER ALERT: I'm being mostly sarcastic].

1. Sweet candied Jesus, these kids are so young. It's just one enormous sea of zit-filled faces, and all of them have the thousand yard stare of OMGWTFBBQishappeningtome that college brings. I remember that feeling from when I was 18 and fresh out of the suburbs, in college and away from home for the first time.

2. Seriously. See the picture above. Aside from the odd aging body issues, my own perception of my own age is very warped. Inside, I still feel like I'm about 12. Once I stepped into a classroom full of 21 college freshmen, I instantly felt old as dirt.

I just feel so fucking old. I mean, I have shattered dreams older than these kids. Weeps softly into my laptop bag,

3. I'm so glad that I'd been studying German using the Duolingo app on my phone. Holy crap, the professor just jumped right the hell on in into das Schwimmenbecken and I was the only student who had the faintest clue what he was going on about. I cannot recommend Duolingo enough. Seriously. Go to their web site and sign up. Right now.

4. The greatest decision of all in this was to buy new shoes. Good shoes. I have great new shoes. They're walking shoes, trainers. The best. I don't care where they're made, they are the best shoes in America. It's a long haul from my office to my class and I have to make it twice a day, four days a week.

5. I'm also very grateful that I've been taking walking exercise every day for the last month in preparation for all this soul-destroying walking in the August heat. Did I mention it's a haul? It's a million miles from my office to my class--uphill, sideways--and I can't drive because there's no parking anywhere and all of the parking spaces that do exist are guarded by level 1000 Deathgoblins.

6. I bought a new laptop for this, mainly because my current laptop and desktop are both 8+ years old. The desktop decided to go tits up during my move, and the old laptop has one foot in the grave. I hauled this new laptop to class on day one, and was promptly told to leave it behind. The foreign language department expressly forbids laptops, tablets, and smart phones in class. Thank god. The damn textbook weighs about as much as my laptop and so my bag was as heavy as two anvils that first day.

7. Adulting = prepared. I looked around the room on that first day at 21 freshmen, only 8 of which had the textbook. One of the 8 is renting hers. The problem with that is the book isn't just a textbook, it's a workbook, and we are required to write in it. Yes, they will be checking. Ha-ha-ha-ha--oh, wait. I spent $185 adult American dollars on a book I won't be able to sell back to the bookstore because I have to write in it. Fuck!

8. Being a big ole chubby gay bear, I have to say damn, there are some cute chubby boys on this campus. Emphasis on the "boys". I'm old enough to be the father of pretty much any student on campus. I have books older than these damned kids. Weeps softly into my laptop bag, which is strategically placed over my groin as I run away.

9. I was so stoked to discover that so many college stereotypes haven't changed in so many years. Bro-dudes who have hot bods but who are otherwise ugly as fuck, and who run around with no shirt while leading a bike or holding a skateboard? Check! Murderous flocks of Heathers-style Mean Girls? Check! Bleach-blond sporto jock bros who all look identical and resemble the blond actor who played the asshole villain in Karate Kid? Check! Terrified teenagers who dart across campus hoping to not be noticed by older predator bullies higher up on the college food chain? Check! Creeps, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads? Check! Clusters of activists and people trying to get you to sign up for something? Check!

10. New to my college experience: 1) irregular clusters of pale vegans hiding under large, shady trees like vampires because OMG THE SUN IS SO HOT YOU GUYS I LITERALLY CAN'T EVEN (actual overheard conversation); 2) "Urbros", i.e. white dudes who art way, way too into rap culture. Even the black guys look at them like they're aliens; 3) Precious McPrincess touchy trigger kids trying to make it across campus without being triggered by... something, anything; 4) Confusing, gender-fluid kids. Now, I'm gay, and I'm pretty open minded, but as an old dude, I'm just like WTF is happening here? Did I miss a memo? God love ya, and more power to you, but I am really confused by this stuff.

So the tl;dr version is: I'm 49 and went back to college to finish a degree. It's a little overwhelming, and daunting, but I'll get through it. My feet hurt. I feel really old. Get off my lawn.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Get Rich or Cry Tryin'

I've decided to swallow my pride and shit out the most incredibly convoluted, god-awful, nonsensical thing imaginable in order to get noticed by a Big Publishing House.

Since everything is Young Adult oriented anymore and you can't get anyone to listen to you unless you've got one of these up your sleeves, here is my sci-fi/fantasy dystopian YA series idea.

The main character is Chastity Conestoga Jones, or CC to her friends. She's a tween vampire romantic classical music composer with HIV, because she's also a time traveler, and she went back in time and drank Mozart's blood, and he had HIV, right? They totally had that back then, but they just didn't know what to call it. When she drank his blood, she totally got all of his compositional genius, but also his HIV because consequences.

Then CC travels to 1920s jazz-age Berlin and becomes a demon hunter with Gustav Mahler and Jim Morrison, who are her lovers. They chase down Satan and Jeffrey Dahmer, so this part of the series is super-duper dark, right? Plus: also demon Nazis and Hitler is a zombie.

Then after preventing World War 2, CC gets sucked into the Matrix created by Alan Turing and Albert Einstein (because he's a time traveling Ancient God). She is ejected in the year 2029 in new York City, where she reinvents the rock opera with her asexual lesbo girlfriend Patricia Townshend-Moon, who was cloned from the DNA of Keith Moon and Pete Townshend of the Who. They also hunt werewolf vampire zombies and gay ISIS terrorists and ride around in a 1975 Ford Econoline shaggin' wagon with orange shag carpeting and a wicked cross-time-stream 8-track juke box tape deck.

The van is driven by a guy who is really just Doctor Who, but we can't call him that because lawsuits. So he's just called Doc Smith and he's a temporal time mechanic, but instead of a sonic screw driver, he has a magic wand in the shape of one of those tire pressure gauge things, because he's also a bitchin' gender fluid bisexual Harry Potter-like wizard on the run from a violent past. He's also really good at baking vegan, gluten- and sugar-free doughnuts that are always magically delicious.

The first book of the series is called CHASTITY JONES AND THE DEADLY DEMONS OF DEATH and in  it, Chastity is shot by Osama bin Laden, who is a vampire chess master. She also has to rescue Miley Cyrus from Jack the Ripper, who is a time-traveling  surgeon/composer, but he is really a demon and secretly, he is CC's real dad. CC is super bummed to find this out, but it's okay because her mom is a cross-dressing trans David Bowie from another reality who had a sex change and became Divinity Bowie.

I'm thinking nineteen, maybe 119 books in all. I'm gonna be rich!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Undo the Calamity of Your Mammaries

I really don't understand why everyone has their panties in a twist about Marvel allegedly making Captain America an agent of Hydra. Do you people not ever pay any attention? Undo the calamitythat is your mammaries and sit down.

Even if this is what Marvel is doing (and it could be any one of a million tricks or fakeouts, i.e., he's a Skrull; a clone; mind wiped; brainwashed; a mind-wiped, brainwashed Skrull clone), it will not lastNothing Marvel ever does lasts. No major change or character decision lasts very long.They killed Steve Rogers off and he magically came to life 3 years later.

They do these things as stunt gimmicks to make you talk about their products and buy their comics! Ta-da! it works!

DC just killed off Superman. Again! No, wait, they just killed of  a Superman, LOL ha-ha j/k, it's not the real Superman ha-ha-ha!. Did we tel you we rebooted our multiverse for the 5,000,000,000th time this year? Ha-ha, made you buy our comics.

Comic book publishers are the biggest trolls of their own audience. They do this crap all the time and all it does is serve to cheapen their stories. None of these changes ever stick. No one ever stays dead in comics (paging Jean Grey, please pick up the white courtesy phone) and no major character change like Steve Rogers being dead, or being a sleeper agent of Hydra, is ever permanent. I could list off probably a thousand such major, calamitous character changes since 1980 alone that were not permanent. Comic book characters are never allowed to change, or grow, or become anything different. Do to that would be to risk maiming the cash cow, and no super hero publisher will ever do that.

Again, People's Exhibit A: Marvel killed off Steve Rogers, the one and only "real" Captain America, and had his second banana, Falcon, become the "new" Captain America. Three years later, Steve Rogers was miraculously found alive! Sorry, Falcon, guess you get to go back to being the backup,bro.

It's more likely that Marvel will reveal the issues had a typo, and that Cap was actually saluting Hydrox Cookies.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sucking the Teat

To pay the bills (here, I laugh to keep myself from crying) I work in printing. I've done this for almost 30 years to one degree or another, and it's a dying industry. Perhaps rightly so. On top of that, I'm a state employee in a state where the state legislature looks at state employees not as a valuable resource, but as leeches sucking the teat. It's rather disheartening to wake up every day to go to work for people who don't care if you live or die and actively make attempts to destroy your life and livelihood.  "So, go find another job!" I've been trying to do just that for five years. Go figure.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯