Monday, December 22, 2014


My car was in the shop, so I've been using Bill's Honda Pilot in the meantime.  Got a call that it was ready for pickup, but they were closing at 5:30, so I sped across town as soon as I got off work at 5 to at least pick up my key; anyway, I got home at like 5:35, pull in to the driveway, and Els runs up to the car, and she's frantic and borderline-crying - "There's blood everywhere on the deck, I think Holly got attacked," - so I run into the house, drop my backpack and coat, and head to the deck doors, where Bill's got Holly inside, a towel held to her face, and the fur on her front legs and jaw is just matted with blood.  There's blood spattered and pooled out on the deck, as well - rich and red, maybe made more so under the harsh outdoor floodlights.  It looks bad, but Bill's calm, stroking her side and scratching behind her ears, and even though the towel is a faded old red/fuchsia, it's polka-dotted with fresh blood spots, so it's hard to say what's going on.
They had come home from running errands, and left her outside before they left - why not, after all, she's a husky, it's cold out - and Els saw Holly waiting by the door, as she usually does.  She thought Holly was covered in mud, at first.

He tells me to get a couple of blankets that we don't mind getting dirty - we're taking her to a 24-hour vet, which, as it turns out, is right by where I work (they had no idea where it was, which I think was contributing to their panic - they couldn't get a hold of our regular vet) - and so we grab a couple blankets and lay them down in the cargo area of the Pilot.  Bill leads Holly out by her collar, still holding the towel to her face, and she's not resisting him or limping or whining, which is kind of a relief and puzzling at the same time - it seems like if she's bleeding that much, she's gotta be hurting - and we lift her into the back.  Bill gets in with her and pulls the rear hatch shut.  I'm driving.
We get to the clinic, ring the bell, and the first person we see is a woman coming from Exam Room 1, tear-streaked face and short, raggedy breathing.  Not a nurse or receptionist - another pet owner.  You know it's not good, and even with the volume of blood on the towel and Holly's fur, I felt kind of silly - it really could be worse, I can't imagine what she's going through right now.  Still, it feels like forever before someone comes to the front desk, and the first thing we do is... weigh Holly.  Priorities, I guess.  Then, to Exam Room 2, right next door to whatever awfulness we've tangentially witnessed.  Since Bill's still handling towel duty, I grab the door, because Els is sobbing.  I stay in the room long enough to see the nurse start to check some vitals, then I go back out into the waiting area to try and calm Els down.
Which is how we end up outside with Els face down on the cold concrete in a duck and cover pose.  I'm trying to get her to breathe slowly and regularly - she had asthma when she was younger, and with sufficient stress it can flare back up - so I have her sit on the bumper of the Pilot and put her head down by her knees.  It's a pretty lame gesture, but I feel like I have to get something under control.
"She was just waiting by the door, Matthew, just waiting patiently for us to come home and help her.  She wasn't even making any noise.  There was blood by both of the deck doors.  Why didn't I let her in before we left?  What if whatever got her is still out there?  God, I'm so stupid, she deserves better than this" and this is where she crumples to the sidewalk, alternately wailing and gasping for air.  It takes a couple minutes, but I console her the best I can and get her back on her feet.  "You've gotta be strong for her right now.  Let's go back inside."
"Will you go in and check on her?  I can't look at her right now, I'm going to lose it again."
So I do.  And despite the smearing of blood on the floor, everyone involved is really pretty calm - Bill's joking around with the nurse, Holly's relaxed and laying on her side like she would at home, and the nurse fills me in: "Her vitals are all really good, her ears are healthy pink, no difficulty breathing, strong pulse in the back leg, so I'm not too concerned.  There's no signs of trauma anywhere else on her, even with all this blood, so it's definitely something in her mouth or internal.  The vet should be in soon."
This seems promising.  I relay the information to Els, who is mostly calmed down now out in the waiting room.  "Hell, I'm sure there's just a lot of blood vessels in the face - think about how much head wounds bleed, right?" I say, trying to project some authority, even though I have no idea if that's true or not.  Maybe it is, I feel like I read it somewhere.  "I'm sure it just looks worse than it is."
"You'll tell me if it's bad, won't you?"
How bad could it be, I wonder, but I agree.  I go back in the exam room, seconds before the vet finally comes in.  She's tall, thin, looks too young to be in a lab coat, but she carries herself with such cheery assurance that it's kind of calming.  She does her preliminary checks, agrees that Holly's vitals are great, comments on her beauty (as so many people who meet her do), and then pries Holly's jaws apart.  Her teeth are stained red, and it's a much darker red, almost plum-colored, on the floor of her jaw - thickly pooled blood, maybe even coagulating, I think, so maybe that's good.
"She got into trouble before, chewing sticks," Bill notes, as he's stroking her back while the vet looks inside. "Did something to her salivary gland - it was pretty bad then, so I suspect that might be related."  He says this in the assured, knowing kind of voice that you expect to hear from someone talking about their kid being a rascal.

Which is what makes the next thing the vet says that much worse.
"Her tongue is gone."  The words land on us awkwardly, in part because of the literal meaning of that sentence - her tongue is gone - and in part because of the disbelieving tone with which she utters it, like she herself cannot actually fathom that she is putting that sequence of words together.  My jaw actually drops open; the slightest twinge of what is absolutely phantom pain hits the bottom of my tongue.  The darkness of the bottom of her mouth is suddenly and painfully obvious - the muscular reddish-pink of her tongue simply isn't there; there is only a jagged, pitiful chunk of dark flesh left at the back of her mouth, its horror made worse by the realization of what and how and why it is there.  It is freakishly quiet in that room for what can only be a few seconds, but that moment stretches on just long enough to be agonizing before Bill speaks.
"But... she... she can't survive withou-ohhhhh," and he's not even finishing the thought, his already-thin and boy-like voice of shock giving way to what I can only describe as an agonized, mournful whimper as he buries his face in her fur.  I actually see the teardrops fall and splash on the ground before he gets there.
The vet practically whispers "I'm so sorry," and I can tell she's mustering every hour of training and professionalism to maintain her composure as she leaves the room.  Bill is moaning in anguish, which is muffled, again, by her fur and body.  Throughout this whole time, from the house through this exam just now, she has not made a single whine or whimper or wookie growl - not even a sigh - and while I don't know enough about dog anatomy to say this with certainty, I become aware of why that might be.  She's quiet.  She is so very and dreadfully quiet.
I have to walk out there and tell Elsabeth.  I left her out there with some semblance of hope, even though I had nothing I could really back that up with, and I have to go out and break her heart.
She wails, too, goes limp in my arms, and I feel like a jerk as I try and calm her down, telling her again that Holly needs us now more than ever now; we walk into the room and Els drapes herself over the huddled forms of Bill and Holly.  The nurse is already in the room again; even her eyes are red and puffy, and she's sniffling and apologetic for being that way even as she's trying to explain what happens next.  She has a form on a clipboard; she tells us to take all the time we need and slips out into the staff area - I catch glimpses of the vet and other staff, all with similarly stunned or stricken faces.  These are people who see and deal with terrible things all the time - it's their job - and yet this, this, is something else.
I don't know how much time passes; I'm sure it feels longer than it actually is.  Bill and Elsabeth alternate consoling each other, weeping, and trying to comfort Holly, who is still surprisingly serene, considering.  This whole time, I've tried to keep my eyes glued to hers - to somehow reassure her and soak up every moment I've got with her - and even her eyes aren't wide with fear or pain, and her normally melodramatic eyebrows are relaxed.  She looks just like this when she lies under the table or by the fireplace or outside of our bedroom door in the morning.  I half-expect her to lick the floor (as she does) and know that is impossible and stupid to think about.
The form gets signed at some point; the original nurse and another one enter with a small plastic basket of supplies - gauze, tubing, wraps, medical tape, bottles, syringes, hair clippers.
Bill used to joke about shaving Holly (especially in the summer) - "Do you know how much less time we'd spend brushing and cleaning up after you, dog?" - and that's what I think about as they turn the clippers on and they shave off a small section of her front leg.  She stirs and tries to wriggle away, kicking with her back legs in a way that reminds me of a chicken, just as she would when we would try and hold her still so we could dry her off or clip her nails or trim the fur between her toes.  It's the most I've seen her move or struggle or resist since we first brought her into the room.  We do our best to calm her; somehow, she does better when they put in the IV catheter than she did with the clippers.  The blood beads up quickly inside of the catheter, because her pulse is still strong and healthy, because despite the matted and crusted blood all over the front of her, she really is almost okay in every way that she could possibly be and yet it is still not enough.
The catheter is held in place with your standard boring off-white medical tape initially, but it is soon followed by a pink wrap with bones and paw prints speckled in a pattern on it.  It is cheery and advertises comfort and healing; this is the kind of wrap you put on a sprained joint or a minor wound.  They administer two syringes full of some different liquids through the catheter.  The first nurse asks us if we want impressions made of her paw prints; we do.  They leave the room.  Holly sighs, in drama queen fashion, just like she randomly does around the house at times, because being a dog is a ruff life.
The vet comes in.  She's carrying two other syringes, and she quietly describes the process: "It's essentially an overdose of anesthetic, the same kind we would use for surgery.  It'll go to her brain first and make her unconscious; about a minute later, it will go to her heart and stop it.  Her eyes will remain open.  I'll listen for her heartbeat at that time, and she might release urine as the muscles in her body relax."
Bill and Els are blanketed over Holly as much as they can be; the vet slowly depresses the two syringes and steps back.  I get one last look directly in her eyes, which are slightly narrowed at this point, and I have no idea what I am trying to convey to her or receive from her.  You can see the movement of her chest and sides gradually diminish, and the vet gently taps the area immediately around Holly's eyes.  "She's unconscious," she announces, in her measured, official doctor voice.
I step to the other side of the room, behind Els now; there's nothing for me at the front now.
It is probably finished, but it's not quite over, though.  She makes a percussive, breathy sound like labored breathing or hacking up a hairball, once; seconds pass, and she does it again.  "That's the diaphragm relaxing and letting air out," the vet explains, probably for two purposes - the literal, encyclopedia-esque observe-and-explain ("This is what is happening and why") and to steer us away from any sense that Holly is struggling to stay with us.  We know it is better for her; we know she is happier now; she is no longer suffering.  "She's passed," the vet says, quietly.  I look at my watch: 7:02 PM, December 18th, 2014.  If I'm not mistaken, I met this beautiful, dopey puppy almost exactly 4 years ago, within a day or two, even.  I had four very eventful years with her
The ending of our time there is clipped and in stark contrast to the events occurring literally minutes before: a bill is printed off, a card is swiped, and the first nurse apologizes for her reaction - "Most of the time, I can keep it together, it's the nature of things around here, but she was so beautiful" - and Bill mumbles his thanks, and we walk out into the night and drive home.
On the road, I realize with a sinking heart that someone has to go find her tongue, and it can't be Bill or Els.  So when we pull into the driveway and Bill and Els get out and hug tightly, I speed-walk into the house, drop my backpack on the floor and dig through it to find my headlamp.  I search in vain for the box of latex gloves I had buried somewhere in the downstairs spare bedroom, until Els reminds me that they're up in the closet upstairs.  I haven't moved fast enough - Bill is already connecting the hose to the sink in the kitchen, in order to get hot water, to wash Holly's blood off the deck.  You hear choked sobs over the sound of the water spraying on the deck - and indeed, there is blood spattered and pooled at both sets of deck doors.  She was waiting for us, and she did what she knew to do - if we weren't by one door, go to the other.
I follow the trail of spatter across the deck, around the corner by the hot tub, and down the stairs.  Out into her small fenced-off area.  It leads me across the patchy grass and dirt, past the basement window, where it is slightly more concentrated - did she look in there, as she often did, looking for us, hoping we'd notice and come help her, because we always did, because she could rely on us? - along the side of the house and up to the chain-link fence, the bottom of which is bent alarmingly askew, and there, in muted brownish-reddish-purple, blood soaked and frozen into the hard ground around it, is her tongue, stiffly hanging from one of the lazily-triangular bent metal loops.
Siberian huskies are escape artists.  They are runners.  It is in their blood.  Every time Holly went outside, she would check the wooden gate on side of the house, where our trash and recycling bins were, because that was heavily-trafficked and had the potential to be forgotten to be latched.  She knew that, and that's why she would check every time.  And she would wander, somewhere in the neighborhood, never running far away, but nevertheless always very proud of herself when she deigned to return.
When Molly and her dog lived with us, her dog was small enough to escape under the fence pretty easily, or dig if necessary; eventually, Bill installed new landscaping timbers and secured the bottom of the fence to it, but there were gaps, as we later discovered after several baffling escape incidents on Holly's part in the past 8 months or so.  Holly didn't dig, but as a medium sized, stubborn dog, she had the willpower to bend the parts of the fence enough to give her wriggle room.  Until now, I had always assumed that she had done so with her snout and shoulders and sheer determination, but with the space of a day, it seems plausible that all these other times, she might have - or probably - used her teeth and jaws to manipulate the patterned wire making up the fence.  In warmer times, it was probably easier to do so; on a late December afternoon, the metal was tough and unyielding.

I yell: "Oh, you stupid, fucking dog!" into the naked branches of the massive maple in her fenced-in area - the same one from which a good-sized limb came crashing down onto the deck from a good height as she cowered, whimpering, in the basement, one afternoon this summer - and more generally, the night sky, not because she can hear me or because it will make any damn difference, but because there is nothing around for me to batter and deform with my hands, my fists, my feet, so I must deface the stillness of the evening.  I know Bill's still out on the deck, trying to blast the remnants of blood off and away from our sight, and that he might take offense, but what else can I do?

Well, I kick the tree.  That doesn't help.  I walk back to the fence, and the cold feels extra strange around my rubber-gloved hands, like chilled water flowing around nonetheless dry skin.  The tongue itself feels, frankly, like a chunk of partially-frozen meat, which really adds to the utter what-the-fuck-ness of the whole situation - it doesn't lay flat like it used to, hanging relaxed and lazy between her fangs when she'd pant, and I'm struck by the thought that the way it's posed now is maybe the last way it was ever attached to her, and that is a dark, dangerous path of speculation beyond that.  In any case, the damn thing's not budging, so I'm forced to consider exactly how it happened, regardless:

And probably what it was is this - when you see the bottom of a chain link fence, you've seen it so many times that you don't stop to consider the intricacies of how they're constructed, as such, but at their most basic, it's just patterns of bent, thick gauge wire braided together and joined on the edges by hook-like loops, like a macro-scale weave similar to any garment you're wearing.  It's the loops, emphasis on the "hook-like," that are the important thing here - for what I'd assume are both structurally-functional and safety reasons, the loops are usually closed back in on themselves, with any edges filed down or rounded to prevent snags, or crevices for rust to start to take hold, or to prevent little Johnny Dipshit of suburban America from getting tetanus from playing near the fence (which is now, of course, a near impossibility, as no one under the age of 25 has played outside and unhovered over in their lifetimes.)  But as with any mass-produced product, there will be imperfections as soon as it is finished, or as the years pass, and here, the loop/hook had worked itself open just enough to have a small gap that left it weighing much more heavily on the "hook" side of the aforementioned loop/hook continuum.  Enough to push through yielding flesh with sufficient pressure, and not enough of a gap to allow it to pull back out quickly or cleanly.  It was a barbed fishing hook without the barb.

So I can only speculate beyond that - the metal wasn't simply snagged in/out like a fresh trout, and it wasn't looped through the thinnest part of the surface like when you accidentally catch your finger with a fishing hook.  It's hard to distinguish the specific front/back of her tongue in any obvious fashion.  It seems as if it is far away from any edge and deep enough into the "meat" that her tongue, at its flattest, might have been able to slide into the gap at first as she was trying to get a good grip on the metal with her jaws.  Yielding enough for the metal to pinch on both sides, the tongue swells up, trapping it further.  Who knows how she handled it then - was she puzzled?  Was she worried?  How long was it stuck just like that, if that's how it happened?  When did she start to panic and try and disengage right away, only to realize she was trapped, possibly wedging and forcing the metal deeper into the tongue, enough to push it all the way through?

When did her fear become so great that her fight-or-flight, adrenaline-fueled neck and shoulder muscles - the same ones I had seen severely shake any number of toys she held clenched in her mouth, the ones that reminded you that deep inside her was an animal who could just absolutely ruin some other animal's shit in seconds - overcame all other pain and fear she was feeling at that instant and said, shouted, PULL, PULL NOW?

When she finally tore herself away from what was trapping her, did she even know what she had done right then and there?  Did she look at her tongue hanging on the fence and know what it was?  Did she know how very bad and terrible things were going to be?

Because she didn't run back.  I'm no forensic expert, but you can pretty easily tell the pace with which she returned to the deck to wait for us was, at best, a loping trot: the trail of blood spatter is concentrated and consistent enough that it had time to fall and collect as she went for help, first (maybe) to the basement window to see if anyone was down there, then back between the hot tub and the tree, around the corner to the stairs, around the corner again in a switchback, across the deck, to the first set of sliding doors.  She waited there, maybe for a few seconds, maybe for a minute or two.  Then she went to the other set of sliding doors.  She waited there, maybe not as long.  She went down the steps to the wooden gate that had been unlatched so many other times - if it had been, would they have found her waiting for them at the front door, laying quietly on the sidewalk, the blood and trauma even less obvious in the early-encroaching darkness of mid-December?  It wasn't unlatched.  She went back to the first set of sliding doors.  She waited.

The fluids - saliva, blood, whatever else lies inside of the muscular tissue of the tongue - were surprisingly still, well, fluid.  They stained my rubber gloves, and I knew I needed tools to pull the tongue off the fence, and those would be in the garage, so I stripped the gloves off to get to those.  I walked back up to the deck, past Bill with the hose, mumbling "I found it, don't come over there," into the kitchen, past Elsabeth at the sink, holding the hose adapter to the faucet, asked her for a couple of plastic grocery bags.  "I found it," I said, flatly.  I grabbed a fresh pair of rubber gloves, and went out to the garage.

Improvisation is key to any toolbox.  Inevitably, you're not going to have quite exactly the tool you need for a job - maybe it doesn't exist, maybe you just never purchased it or ever thought you'd need one - so you work with what you have.  Understandably, there was nothing guiding me as I rummaged through Bill's tool chest, nothing that specifically said In Case of Dog Tongue Removal From Backyard Fence, Select These - so eventually I settled on a pair of scissors and a pair of needle-nose pliers.  For whatever reason -  maybe some silly, stupid seed of sentiment - it was important that I was able to do this with a minimum of further damage to this until-very-recently-gainfully-employed mouth organ.  It seemed respectful.

The removal was much simpler than I'd anticipated, considering the difficulty I'd had with my gloved hands.  I gently gripped and twisted the tongue around until I had it at a point where the only way to finish the job was to make a small, quick snip, and it fell free into my hand.  It was heavier than I'd anticipated, and this had the weird effect of further diminishing any association between it and Holly, which made me feel better and yet still worse about the whole thing.  I dropped it into the plastic bags, tied them up the same way we would when we'd pick up after her unceremonious squat, waddle, and shit ritual on walks.  Walked over to the garbage can, hesitated: is this how I treat the last physical remains we had of her?  Should I, like, be burying this somewhere?  Or burning it, Viking funeral pyre-like, in which case, what if it kind of fucking smelled good, wouldn't that be the weirdest fucking thing?

I dropped it in the trash can.  Garbage day was tomorrow.  I went and collected the trash from the rest of house and piled it on top of it, glad for the distraction of an annoying chore while Bill finished furiously cleaning the deck and then salting it to prevent anyone slipping on it.  Out in the garage, I grabbed one of those really thick, super-absorbent auto-repair paper towels and did my best to clean the small bits of tongue off of the scissors and pliers.

Inside, Bill and Els continued to alternate bursting into tears and speaking somberly, wistfully, about this house's one constant occupant for the past decade.  I pulled out three tumblers, a shot glass, and a half-full bottle of bourbon, poured it in each, handed the glasses to Bill and Els, picked mine up, the shot glass in the other hand.  "To Holly," I say.  Glasses are clinked and we look for comfort in the tipped-up bottoms.  I slowly pour out the shot glass into the sink.  "Why'd you waste it?" Bill says.  "Gotta pour one out for her," I reply.  I turn the shot glass around, look at the screen printing on it.  It says Cancun in rainbow lettering, and above it, the Jimmy Buffet of turtles swims at you in a good-natured manner.

"Well, that's fitting.  Look, Els."

Holly was a weird dog, for a lot of reasons, but this was always one of my favorites: when she would lay flat on her stomach, she didn't lay there with her head in her paws in front or slightly off to the side.  She'd bend her paws back and out, her jaw flat against the floor, looking like a cross between a bearskin rug with the head still attached and, yes, a sea turtle with its fins guiding it through the water.

"Our little sea husky," she says, smiling and then choking up.

She was such a dopey, sweet puppy.

The next day is Elsabeth's commencement ceremonies for her master's degree - what should have been a pretty damn big celebration is still happy but slightly muted.  The night before, Els had gathered all of Holly's toys to be thrown away - probably for the best, to eliminate any painful reminders as quickly as possible.  Still, in the morning, as I groggily walk out into the hallway, I don't have to step carefully over a mass of fur and outstretched limbs; I walk up the split-level stairs, and I don't hear the plodding, muffled paws thumping against the wood; I don't shuffle to the deck doors as a wet and furry nose pokes the back of my legs impatiently; and so there's no reason to have a half-full bag of "mature" dog food around.  We used a red and speckled white cup to measure out and serve her food and always left it in the bag of dog food.  I pull it out, but not without it making a familiar clinking sound against the food inside, which is all the more reason to rush out into the cold in my shorts and make sure the bag is in the damn trash as soon as possible.  Bill's at the top of the stairs when I walk back inside, and I explain: "Had to get the dog food out in the trash before they come by."

I focus on the endless procession of forms and the accompanying data entry as much as I can throughout the day.  Before the ceremony, I leave work early to go home and quickly change into something a little bit more presentable, punch in the key code to the lock, open the door, and remember that there's no furball laying on the landing and partially blocking the door as I step in.  I think of all the times I've sighed or grunted in exasperation as I waited for her to streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch, shake her body and generate a cloud of Holly-hair, and sashay nonchalantly up or down the stairs, and how in spite of all that, I always said "Hello puppy," (sometimes in comically-bad accents - try saying it in an exaggerated French accent and you'll understand why) and "See you later, pup" before I closed the door and hit the lock button, knowing that she'd be right there when I came back.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Today In Fun Adventures With Marketing and Artist Relations Derptitude

[editor's note: I wrote this almost a year ago when I was playing with my old band.  I was recently reminded of it when I came across an earlier draft of this rant someplace else.  In any case, seeing as I'm no longer in that band and don't particularly care about any "backlash," I figured I might as well publish it.  Also worth noting: the DJ mentioned in this rant turned out to be a pretty cool guy, but the show was still fucking stupid as hell and there's no reason we should have wasted our time playing it.]

So my band is playing this show on Friday - one we've prepared for all summer and for which we've turned down other paying gigs.  Now, let me point out that this isn't our "career," by any means - but we still put time into it, into sounding good and putting on a show worth watching, so as far as I'm concerned, there is some expected value for our services rendered.

The following e-mail, however, demonstrates 1) how easily this value is lost on people and 2) misspelled passive-aggressive incompetent arrogance at its finest.
Hey guys, this is ---- -------. I work over here at ----- and i'm kind of taking care of the entertainment/marketing area of the show at --- --------- on Friday. Angela hit me up and informed me that you guys were inquiring about getting paid for your performance Friday night and that $300 would cover your costs. I just want to be upfront with where we're at with the event, our costs, and overall purpose of putting on such a large show for charity. 
Correct.  You just met us.  And this is crazy.  But we play music.  And people pay us.  Much as I imagine they pay you for your "entertainment/marketing" work.  Please, continue.
While I wasn't working for ----- at the time of last year's event, I'm decently involved with this year's production. Obviously the costs put into doing any kind of event at such a large venue like --- --------- nearly quadruple our costs from last years event at Green Square.  
Let me get this straight - the venue that you guys chose, knowing it would be more expensive, such that you could upgrade your presentation, the very one we were involved with last year, has somehow caught you by surprise by costing more than the one you used last year?  SHOCKER.

Also, this year we've brought in ------- --------- which is the charity we're trying to raise money for. With that being said, profits from ticket sales are the main income for raising said funds for the charity once our costs are covered and unfortunately this draws a very thin line between being able to cover our expenses and being able to make a donation.
Mein gott!  So you offered proceeds from an event to a charity before fully accounting for the costs of said event?  COOL!  "Hey, we'd like to have your organization be involved with us as a draw for our event and in return we'll give you the money we make from it!  You know, if we have anything left over.  But definitely let us put your name on our materials either way, okay?"
As Angela informed me, she said she would let our boss know that you guys had inquired about a payment for the show. With already being so over budget, this being so last minute, and the fact that our boss is out of town until Wednesday - I will not be able to give you an answer on if this compensation can be paid until he returns, also  with this being a last minute inquiry/expense that we did not budget for I can not promise that he will be as gracious as he was for last year's performance due to the immense expenses we already have. 
Last minute to whom?!  Did you seriously expect that our services - and let me be clear, that is what we are paid for, you know - were something we would just donate out of the kindness of our hearts?  I mean, sure, the charitable aspect of what you're putting on - IF, you know, you actually turn a profit (better cross your fingers, charity, lolz!1!!1!) - is certainly a noble thing, but we were not brought in to account for your poor budgeting, over-promising and potential under-delivering.  Then again, maybe that's why you're in "marketing."  And gracious?!  You mean it's gracious to pay people for their services?!  Man, I sure hope that your employers feel the same way about the people who "graciously" pay tuition and go into debt to afford your education.  Again - did your boss think that he had pre-paid for a subscription for us to deliver upon?

We were under the impression that ---------- was taking advantage of a great opportunity to play for a large crowd at a nice venue, with no previous mention of compensation.

Sorry.  I'm just... it's... so if you paid us last year to do the thing that we are doing AGAIN this year, it never ONCE crossed your collective financially-savvy feces-throwing budgetary planning operation that we might again expect payment for this year as well?  And let's go crazy here for a second and ride along with your assumption of no compensation: are you actually going to guarantee a "large crowd" at this "nice venue?"  Because if you have such a "large crowd," then how are you failing to make enough money from your ticket sales to this event?  [gasps] Unless... no... it couldn't be... did YOU NOT DO YOUR JOB, Mr. Marketing Guy?
This does factor into our boss' overall perception of having our end of the details hammered out in advance, and this may put a negative light on our personal efforts in budgeting our event over the last few months so I want to make it clear that while Angela will inquire about said payment, she may be forced to deal with the repercussions of bringing a last minute expense to the table when we're so far over budget as it is. 
AND THERE IT IS.  "This does factor into our boss' [sic] overall perception of having our end of the details hammered out in advance, and this may put a negative light on our personal efforts in budgeting our event over the last few months" - so your concern is about covering your own ass for your own failure to do your job with due diligence?  MAN, I CANNOT FATHOM WHY YOUR BOSS' [sic] (bosses? Is that what you were going for?) MIGHT BE CONCERNED ABOUT PAYING SOMEONE AND THEN NOT GETTING ANYTHING FOR THEIR MONEY.  (Which is why it totally makes sense to get something like us playing an extended show without creative control or input without paying for it.  You know, to balance things out.)
While I do not doubt that Chris our boss, would have compensated ---------- in some fashion regardless of your inquiry today I can not promise a specific amount at this time simply because he's not here to confirm anything. If this in any way hinders your involvement with the event, please let me know as soon as possible. 
Huh.  So you "do not doubt that Chris [...] would have compensated ---------- in some fashion regardless," but you felt the need to tell us that we should not expect payment?  Oh, right, the whole "GRACIOUS" thing.  Got it.

[wanking motion]
I'm extremely familiar with the music/entertainment biz for it was my past profession for nearly a decade before working for -----. I understand the costs involved in traveling, being a touring band, gear, etc.
 Without being a total tool about all of this, let me point out that the gentleman in question WAS in a band that successfully made it as an mtvU "Artist of the Week" and which was once reviewed as having, quote,

"fallen into the category of groups that cannot fully cross the “bump of originality” in the road to success.  Too often talented groups seem to fall apart, not because they don’t have quality songs but because they lack a uniquely original, overall sound." 

So there's that.  But you know what's a great way to undermine your credibility, besides that?  By claiming familiarity-based empathy and then acting in a completely opposite manner.  That's pretty neat.
 At the same time, performance fee's/riders need to be brought to the table much sooner than the week of in order to solidify a band's guarantee in advance. Like I said above, if this payment is the deciding factor on ----------'s participation on the event, I would suggest forwarding me your performance contract before Wednesday when Chris returns so that I can present it to him and it be signed before load in - for your sake and ours. 
We've invested in a lot of promotion for this event weather
 it be with - ---.-, --- -------, Hooplah, event T-Shirts, etc that all include your name.
Aww.  So no weather control, then?  I guess you can go ahead and junk any plans of being a successful super-villain.  (For the record: yes, misspellings are among the cheapest of jokes, I know.  I continue to give zero (0) fucks, because in this dude's case, it's a pretty wet well, if you know what I mean.  [See?!  Aquifer jokes!  Now that's something you can't buy any ol' day of the week!])
This is expensive marketing (free to you) for any artist trying to get their name out there and raise awareness on your music. 
Seriously?  You're going to pull out the "look at all the free marketing, now kneel before me and kiss my feet" card on all of this?  Everything you just described - all of the things! - are promotional techniques, channels and items that you would have, nay, should have been using in the course of doing your job as a "marketer" for the event.  Do not turn around and attempt to guilt-trip us into not being paid for our hard-to-substitute services (you did take basic economics at some point in your life, right?)  Get your Skrillex-wanna-be jockey of the discs to do our thing better than us, since he's apparently willing to work for free (read: has nothing to offer that an iTunes playlist couldn't do just as well.)

I mean, we're not, by any means, some super-good huge name or act that's going to just straight-up blow everyone's mind at any point or time.  (I am not a marketer, as you might guess.)  We're not pretending to be anything more than a working band.  But please, PLEASE, show me an example of when you could reasonably assume that you could only pay someone to deliver a service or product the one time, and then continue to receive that service or product from there on out?

We do this for fun.  Fine.  We do this because music is an important thing to us.  Fine.  We do this because it's an interesting, unconventional venue/event to perform our music at.  Sweet!

But do not come to us, attempting to swing your "I was in the music business too and this is how it's supposed to be done"/"we weren't anticipating your cost" dick around at us as if we're new to the game and easily cowed.  We don't need you like you seem to think we do - we're doing pretty well at being a little-known Iowa band without your "help," and let's be frank, your "help" is nothing more than having done your job correctly in the first place.  This isn't an opportunity for us.  This is a show.  You are basically one step removed from "pay-to-play" promoters and venue owners.  Your opportunity was to not suck at your job.  Your new opportunity is to get the hell out of our way.

With all of this being said, feel free to shoot me an email at your earliest inconvenience. I greatly appreciate your guy's time.
"Earliest inconvenience?" Oh, fuck me.  You can't even proofread your e-mails, why should I expect that you can handle this correctly?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I Wish I Knew How To Quit You - Wait, I Did. (On Leaving Facebook and Letting Go)

          Way back yonder in the year 2005, when I was just a jackass high school senior who had no idea that it was going to take eight years to earn that college degree, a good friend of mine (who had the good sense to have the school district pay for actual college classes rather than taking Advanced Placement classes that did nothing to prepare us for college) was talking about a new website for college students that he had just joined with a stupid name: "The Facebook."
          As a denizen of Myspace (shut up, it was 2005, it was still a thing) at the time, I was hard-pressed to see why I would leave "a place for friends" (shut up shut up shut up) for a site that had as its mascot what appeared to be the creepiest young photo of Al Pacino in existence in muted corporate tones.  Of course, when he (my friend, not the creepy young Al Pacino photo) pointed out that it was "what all the college kids are using," I shut up and kept checking for access to my college e-mail account so I could finally get into what I assumed would be this mythical college cyber-bacchanalia (I may have had some lofty expectations about many things college-related, in general.)  Instead, it was... pretty bland and basic.  No HTML customization, interactions were weird ("poking?" What? Man, I already don't get college), and in their FAQs they were actively soliciting employees (some joke-y question about network graphing algorithms that I think I finally just got last fall after a *sigh* social networks class.)  Regardless, because it was new and college-associated and kind of exclusive in that manner, I thought it was pretty neat, although I basically did nothing with it all summer until a couple of weeks before move-in and classes started.
          Because that was when I started getting friend requests from people I had not yet met – mostly women, but even a few guys (I'm guessing based on musical interests, but who knows) and I mean – was this not college?  Was this not the promises and life implied in every glossy-print brochure and magazine photo littered with attractive and diverse backpack-strapped students strolling across autumnal tree-strewn campus walkways in between majestic academic buildings, nay, halls?  I mean, or something?
          I want to remember what Facebook was like in those days – and I guess I do, a little bit, but it's really pretty hazy.  I remember walls being editable by anyone (if I remember correctly, the analogy was your dorm room door whiteboard, but with fewer erasable dongs, or perhaps not, depending upon who you were friends with, etc.), groups were a thing, which rapidly turned into pretty much any sort of thing one with the time to invest might turn them into (a lot of novelty groups, which, COLLEGE, amirite), and most importantly, it was limited to your institution.  Seriously.  And it was a thing people sorta complained about, but not really.  Or at least, that's my recollection.  I also remember typing in "" for a lot longer than when the company apparently owned the actual "" domain name.  And actually, now I'm even wondering if the school-to-school thing was even an issue at that point, since I'm seeing that friends of mine were posting on my wall in August and I know for a fact they were at different schools.  Maybe it was a "by permission" feature, or something.  Also: college-only.  (For about my first semester, anyway.)
          Point being: boy things sure were different back then! Gee willikers golly. [presses submit button, walks outside whistling a jaunty tune] [Editor's note: listen, jerkface, you can't just half-ass it (quarter-ass it?) and scoot off and cash that check, get back here.]
          Um.  For example.  I became friends with three different girls I had never met prior to Facebook.  One is still a very dear friend who I never see anymore; the other two were roommates, one of whom, in retrospect, I'm positive had a thing for me and yet I probably came off as soul-crushingly aloof or mildly asexual when, for example, she asked me to come check on her computer (which had nothing really wrong with it: it was September of 2005 and P2P malware was barely even a thing), and then proceeded to hang out, post-shower, in only a towel while I checked it (the computer) over.  I don't know, man.  Anyway, tell me: is that a thing that would happen now?  Like, a complete stranger who happens to be starting school at the same time in a nearby dorm surmises that you have a particular skill and invites you into her dorm room after some wall-to-wall banter?  (I submit that it does not, but what the hell do I know.)  Actually, what's interesting to me is that for the first three months of my first semester, the majority of my interactions or registered wall posts appear to be from women.  I lived in an all-guys hallway, so maybe we never felt the need to post on each other's walls because, you know, we were actually interacting with each other in person on a regular basis.  (Unlike these girls, because girls, teeheehee, also, see also: towel story from earlier.)
          Look: the whole point of this meandering first part is that, OF COURSE, when I started up on Facebook, it was something completely different – at least, for me, anyway, it was inextricably connected to college and young adulthood and it was a pretty huge part of that formative era of my life.  And to some extent, it's been amazing, thanks to Timeline, to be able to go back and actually see that part of my life documented in a way that I never expected or took on in my own right.  Hell, a great deal of this written piece wouldn't be possibly, strictly speaking, without the ability to look in on all of that.  And yes, I'm sure this beats dragging out old, heavy photo albums and who knows what else in the way of physical memorabilia, or by being able to basically, literally, rehash the text of an otherwise-pointless digital conversation you had with someone when you were 19 that ended up being kind of your go-to inside joke for the next ten years.  Fine.  These are all good points.
          But none of this explains why I should feel compelled to STAY.
          About a month ago, give or take, with crunch time rapidly approaching in my final undergraduate semester, I had to restrict my own access to a variety of sites and web portals – because I can't trust myself to have any modicum of self-control and actually accomplish things otherwise.  No big deal.  I think it was much harder almost two years ago when I first had to do it, but at this point the "withdrawal" symptoms maybe lasted three days at most and in any case I was too busy with "actual" work to really notice.  Facebook and Tweetcaster even got deleted from my phone (side note: immense savings on battery life commenced, even on a three year-old Android device, which tells you something right there), just to make sure I had no possible "outs."
          What was striking to me was that, about two weeks in, I actually had to THINK about Facebook.  (Like, brief exertion of mental effort, but still.)  There was no mindless/muscle-memory clicking and typing.  Of course, having thought about it, I decided to give myself a 5-minute reprieve to go see what all I was being deprived of while I was being a student of some sort of quasi-diligence.
          And it was basically this:

  • Shitty Buzzfeed repost
  • Shitty highly-biased political re-post
  • Whatever unfunny derivative of eCards that's going around these days
  • Baby pictures
  • Pregnancy announcement
  • Promo for a band I barely care about
  • Lame attempt at pithy frothing (which is not "pissy frosting" as spoken by someone with a lisp, in case you were wondering, which you were not, but I made the dumb joke anyway)
  • Grammatically-poorly-headlined articles about pet causes (sometimes about pets)
  • Pet photos
  • Your way cool lunch/weekend/vacation/outing/brofest/bachelorette party pictures
  • "My life is terrible, __________"-esque statuses
  • Re-posts of arguments I'm barely interested in with people I don't know or care about
  • Product placement/"__________ likes ___________"

          ...and so on, random sort, shuffle, mix, lather, repeat, never rinse, get off my lawn, etc.  Yes, I know, I've been just as guilty as anyone of a lot of this stuff, so as regards pot-kettle reciprocal nomenclature, roger, affirmative, I get it.     
          The thing is, whatever dorm/tribal/collegiate shenanigans Facebook used to kind of limit itself to, that's not what it is anymore.  I'm not sure what it is, frankly – intergalactic psy-ops, perhaps, wherein we overwhelm our interstellar enemies with weapons of mass drivel?  Is there, somewhere, a crack team of papyrus or amphora experts who are recording all this bullshit we have in digital form, to make it easier for the anthropologists of eons to come to analyze (incorrectly) and make wild assumptions about the religious practices of our culture ( WHIRRR WHIRRR BEGIN TRANSMISSION IT APPEARS THAT THEY WORSHIPED NUMERICAL DEMI-GODS OF A RAPIDLY-REPEATING/BLINKING NATURE KNOWN AS GIFS PRONOUNCED JYFES AND LIFE WAS EVIDENTLY TERRIBLE MOST OF THE TIME END TRANSMISSION)?
          I can't handle it, man.  The people I really, truly want to keep in contact with on a regular basis are not being kept in touch with through this clunky-ass hodgepodge of memes and self-gratifying wankery – and, perhaps not surprisingly, they're not necessarily the ones that are clogging teh tubez (although they're certainly far from blameless in that regard.)
          Having just written a research proposal along these lines, I know that social network theories suggest that important ties are usually retained no matter what, but "weak ties" tend to turn over in large amounts and in a relatively short amount of time.  I'm suggesting that this is beneficial to us – that there is something to not hanging on to the jackass dudes you pounded Keystone Lights with as 19 year-old, not the least because if they're still doing it they're doing it "ironically" and even then not really because of the common misunderstanding of what the word mea- sorry, I got sidetracked.  Point being: you are carrying so much dead weight, and I can promise you that if Facebook did not exist (as it managed to quite easily not do so for, literally, millennia), you'd not for a second volunteer to keep these ties instead of cutting them.  That is how life works.
          But Facebook doesn't make that possible.  It takes more effort to defriend people than it does to remove them from your News Feed, or for that matter, to let them blather on and waste space and your time/attention.  And even presuming that you can somehow successfully filter out the noise, is this really how you want to stay in touch with those who mean anything to you?
          It's so easy to stay trapped though.  We place way more value on our memories and the things and people attached to them than we frequently ought to, so of course you're going to jump at the chance to keep alive any knowledge that you can about that one girl you desperately wanted to fuck at age 17 or the people that you wasted time with in the best way possible when you were 22.  There's no real cognitive cost to doing so, so why not keep these ties?  And so you stick around and don't change things up and now all of your goddamn photos and hilarious conversations are all in one place and it would just take forever to readjust after leaving it all behind and blah blah blah, because god forbid we acknowledge that there might be more to life than our precious memories and their associated artifacts, right?
          The other thing, of course, is that we have all this access to information that we not only never really needed in the first place, but actually having access to that information seems to make relationships far more strained than they would have been previously.  I'd like to think I have some semblance of civility in "real life" (I've cut inadvertent crumb/dip/sauce-spilling by like 43% in the past two years alone), such that I'd never feel the need to go on the attack anytime I saw a view I disagreed with vehemently – and yet, I find myself actively detesting certain friends and family members for that very reason, despite the fact that these various ugly (to me) things pose no real threat to my relationship with them.  But even fairly rational adults seem to regress into dipshit "me-too" adolescent mode when something they find amusing or agree with passes in front of their eyes and of-fucking-course they're going to "like" it or "share" it when they'd at least have the courtesy to not be douchebags about it in the actual company of other people.  (As you can see, I feel slightly strongly about this whole thing.)
          In the course of normal, everyday (or in the case of extended family, less than everyday) conversation, these are things that manage not to come up with any sort of regularity and everybody seems to have done pretty well.  Oh, sure, we all know/work/drink with that one person no one can really stand because of their continued need to discuss topics of urgent interest (to them) that are otherwise pretty unnecessary to converse over in any sort of "polite" company (a term I can't believe I'm honestly using, but here we are), but the thing is, you get to walk away from the office at the end of the day or the bar at the end of the night or away from their particular hobo corner stand, etc.; Facebook has become so needlessly ubiquitous for so many of us that that choice, for all practical purposes, doesn't exist.  Somewhere along the line here, the community aspect of Facebook was lost in the interests of making sure that every aspect of an individual becomes paramount to that everyone else's... except that everyone is acting this way, which only serves to increase the noise even further.  Which: whatever, I guess – I'm not here to decry some general narcissism epidemic in society, or accuse Facebook of attempting to forcibly penetrate our mindbits unless you buy my special 2-ply tin-foil hat – but more generally, I don't see any reason that I have to be a part of it.  It's as simple as that.

          Still, it's weird to just disengage so abruptly and completely, I'll admit it.  As dumb as it sounds, after backing up my Facebook "archive" (and "expanded archive," which is more information about your relationship with Facebook than you probably ever needed to know), I was genuinely concerned that even though I had a lot of the originals of my photos up there, I was going to lose a lot of other photos that I had been tagged in, for example – so I spent a couple of hours finding a couple of different solutions to make sure that didn't happen (even though this does not even rate anywhere on the scale of "tragedy," by any means – it's not even within telescope distance of it, for that matter) and even that wasn't enough to keep me from finding another solution to back up all my interactions and messages and posts and the like.  In truth, what is the real value of all of it?  Because it's not as if I'm constantly referring back to a stupid status and the subsequent 15 comments that immediately followed it for some kind of affirmation; the photos, I mean, okay, it might be neat for my kids to see them at some point (although they will probably be bored with 11 seconds and will be back in whatever stupid virtual world that I'm too old understand as soon their neural implants will allow them to mentally slip away without me noticing) or for me to remember what I looked like with a hairline that had not receded like so much glacial ice, and there's no promise that any of the data backup methods I've taken are going to be any more safe or secure than all that out in the cloud.  But that’s how it goes.
          There's this interesting (extremely) short story from Jose Luis Borges, which goes as follows:

"In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guild drew a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, coinciding point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography saw the vast Map to be Useless and permitted it to decay and fray under the Sun and winters.
 In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of the Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; and in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography."

          Basically, the point is made about the map-territory relation: can the collection of all this information about our happenings and existences ever come close to describing or matching the real thing?  I mean, at some point, the meta-data about the actual data becomes the focus at the cost of the actual data – in other words, how much are we losing by insisting upon this ever-more-precise records-keeping?  How much of our lives become structured and staged with the knowledge that some audience now exists that we must constantly cater to?  (Why do I dress for going out with an eye on how many times I've been photographed/tagged on Facebook in it?  MAYBE THE SHIRT IS REALLY COMFORTABLE AND FREQUENTLY-LAUNDERED, SHEESH.)
          It's an underlying concern that I don't need to carry in my life.  I mean, when these things happened, I was THERE.  No, I didn't catch everything.  I probably missed a lot of things – probably some pretty great things, in fact.  And sure, if you want to share them with me, awesome!  Narrative is important – I don't deny that.  And it's imperfect and incomplete by nature – but holy shit, that is life.  It is okay to not have all the answers or even all of the information – it's absurdly arrogant to assume that you could possibly capture it, as far as I'm concerned.  I do not cease to exist because I do not exist in a particular place and time or widely-accessible computerized social network.  There is life after Facebook, much as there was before it.  I'm going to go live it.

          So that's it, then.  I'm not the first one to address these concerns or throw up these objections – I'm not special for talking about it or justifying it, and I present myself as no sort of hero by actually deleting my account.  Facebook doesn't care if I'm gone.  That collection of bits on their servers and elsewhere never completely captures who I am, and as soon as it's all overwritten, I will have no made mark on their existence.  That's okay – it really is.
          So, bye.  Yes, I’m really sure I want to delete.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Window 8 Install Failing? One Very Easy Fix...

Editor's note: I am also the author, so this is entirely a superfluous editor's note to begin with.  Sorry.  Nonetheless, the first part of this blog is really more of a rant about how stupid this whole thing was, so you might want to scroll down a bit to get the actual answer...
So more or less since Windows 8 came out, I've been trying (quite unsuccessfully) to get it installed after downloading it from (which is the University of Iowa's "partner" for Microsoft products, or more correctly speak, one more middleman to fuck things up, as per usual.  ANYWAY), and of course, that meant that I got to play the "frantically Google the shit out of every possible iteration of the phrase 'Windows 8 install fail'" game, as well as the fine past time of "get passed back and forth between OnTheHub (a division of an equally shitty company known as Kivuto Solutions, who were about as douchey as they sound), Microsoft and University of Iowa ITS (who were initially helpful, but in person were your typical front-desk shitheads who refused to let me talk to someone who could actually help me)" - all of which was totally fun, and had me losing faith in my vaunted ability to Google the shit out of something until I figured out (AKA, 94% of what Geek Squad actually does behind their curtain, or really basically what any good tech support fiend does first), and at one point I even resorted to torrenting the goddamn ISO just in case I somehow was never able to download the installation file (because OnTheHub's baby-retard-zebra service only gives you access for 30 days, ostensibly so enterprising students don't somehow keep using their free software illegally, although how you're supposed to do this without the Product Key is beyond me, so as usual, poor design to prevent unlikely piracy fucks everyone again) until I finally found the answer here, but here's the brief summary:
(HI! If you read the editor's note above, and decided not to read the above rant and skip down here, this is where the actual information starts)
-I'm guessing that at some point, you probably downloaded the Windows 8 preview, yes?  For whatever reason, when you go to do it "for real," the Windows 8 setup doesn't overwrite the old file, called the "WebSetup" folder.  If that folder is still there, you'll get the "Sorry, something happened and we couldn't finish creating the ISO.  Restart setup and try again" message.
The location of the folder is at: C:\%UserProfile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\WebSetup
where %UserProfile% is the user account you downloaded it under (probably your default account) - this is the folder you need to delete.
Once that folder is deleted, run the Windows 8 setup file (found here, if you haven't, like me, already downloaded it 8 different times thinking it was a corrupted file), and it should prompt you at that point for your product key - which is something it wasn't doing for me.  After that, you can choose to make it an ISO, run it normally, run it from USB, etc.
If you need screenshots, check the EightForum link below.
(h/t to EightForums, where I originally found and condensed this guide.)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Why I Should Probably Stop Being An Asshole To Complete Strangers (Una Saga De Los Dos Idiotas En Twitter)

(So this is a long and mostly-stupid story and I apologize in advance.  Also I'm lazy and don't feel like re-telling it when people ask, so I'm just going to refer them to this page for future reference, as I assume that my posts will be enshrined for the multitudes of future generations to read and think, "God, what a douche canoe.")

It all started with someone else's misfortune.

While my moderate insomnia drove me to my usual routine of checkTwittercheckFacebookcheckDeadspincheckTwittercheckTheAtlanticcheckDeadspin ad nauseum this past Tuesday (October 30th), two different unfortunate individuals were attacked and robbed at gunpoint in a different part of the city.  As a UIowa student, I receive "Hawk Alerts" when there's quote-unquote "dangers" on or near campus, but as the land line in my girlfriend's house rang 3 times, here's the actual message I received:

“ALERT: Hawk Alert: REPLACE THIS LINE: with activity/event, location, and (optional) recommended protective action. See (More information)”

This was not what we might call especially "helpful," and in a manner indicative of the time we live in, I took to Twitter, searching the keyphrase "hawk alert."  Most of what came back were tweets pertaining to the ridiculous message above (which, notably, the official UIowa Twitter scrubbed and replaced with an apology), and I ended up getting the actual story (as I assume most people did) from the Daily Iowan story on it that was up very quickly.  (If you want to see some other Hawk Alert fails, here's a compilation from the DI.)  So anyway, that's what was up.

But of course, I didn't stop there.  Twitter is fantastic for the fact that people will post stupid shit on there and forget that unless you protect your account, it's available publicly for ANYONE to see and be all "Holy shit, you're kind of a terrible human being" about (for example, the collected tweets of St. Louis Cardinals fans do a fantastic job of displaying this.)  So as I was scrolling through the tweets collected by that search, ostensibly to get more information but mostly to, lesbehonest, hate-read (because feeling smug and superior to complete strangers is always an excellent use of one's time, especially around 1 AM CT, I'd say), I came across this little gem:

(If the embedded tweet above has disappeared, this here's the screenshot of it)

Which, okay, all sorts of what I would kind of expect from your classic airhead/over-privileged sorority gal.  I think that, given the circumstances, most people would agree that saying something like that is a bit callous, if not exactly grounds for impugning their existence as a member of the human species, right?

So, given the ease with which one can spread a stupid thing someone else has said on Twitter, I immediately retweeted it:

However, because I am a moron, I decided it would be a good idea to to keep reading this girl's feed - you know, to reinforce the already-negative conceptions I had about her (again, no one would argue that I'm a peach of an individual for doing this), whereupon THIS was a thing that existed:

(If the embedded tweet above has disappeared, this here's the screenshot of it)


Naturally, as the certified internet vigilante of the universe™, I had the duty, nay, THE SACRED OBLIGATION to be kind of a total dick about the whole thing.

So I retweeted it as well... again, with some commentary.

Now I guess there was some anticipation that I might get some sort of response to it (for example, if you are so inclined, and have a serious amount of valueless free time on your hands [I guess?], look up Twitter activity between me and a certain @BailofRights - I waste a lot of time arguing with people who aren't going to change their minds, because I AM TERRIBLE AT TIME MANAGEMENT AMBITIOUS), but it's not exactly like I was also banking on that being the case.  I thought it'd be more along the usual shouting into the void that is the internet/Twitter/etc.  Anyway, I followed it up with my usual sage witticisms and thought I'd call it a night.

So I wake up the next morning (okay, actually THAT morning, but as far as I'm concerned, the previous day remains the same day until you sleep for an extended period of time, because I refuse to align myself with how time actually "works," I guess), and as I'm going through my morning routine, I see I've gotten a reply:

1.  4:47 AM?!  WHY ARE YOU UP SO EARLY?!

2.  Cyber-bullied?!  OBSCENE?!!  OUT OF LI- okay maybe a little I guess.

This, too, got a retweet (which I had to do a workaround for, because she was apparently blocking retweets.  WEIRD) and a reply:

And yes, that was perhaps a bit harsh, I admit.  But cyber-bullying is what people like Amanda Todd or Megan Meier endured and eventually lost their lives as a result of - so in my mind, that's more than just a little bit of histrionics on the part of Ms. Giammona, methinks.  What I actually did was, like I said, call her out on something offensive she said publicly, with her real name attached to it.  (And yes, I suppose there is a whole separate debate as to what the reasonable expectation of privacy ought to be on the internet when an individual takes no measures to protect their activities being connected to their name despite the ready availability of these measures... but anyway.)

In the course of my morning Facebook/Twitter routine, I also saw that someone had answered Ms. Giammona's cry for justice:

Emily Gaziano
Maybe you should stop being such a jackass on twitter and calling people out. What did you not get into the fraternity you wanted? Just because you are not a part of the Greek community does not mean you have to bash it. Yes there are stereotypes, I agree. But judging someone by what they tweet? It’s twitter, people write whatever they please. It’s called social media. Get over it.

As I noted on the Tumblr entry (ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: shameless plug for mediocre Tumblr), Ms. Gaziano is, among other things:

- a journalism major
- a marketing major (although prior to these, she was a "Health and Human Physiology/Sports Pyschology" major, so, you know: credibility)
- the "social media director" and a writer for this fine industry/trade publication, where she has written acclaimed articles such as:

- a member of Pi Beta Phi, whose mission statement is, quote:
"to promote friendship, develop women of integrity, cultivate leadership potential and enrich lives through community service"
...which, as we can see, would well-describe both of these ladies' remarkable and respectable interactions with yours truly.   (Note: before anyone gets all up in arms for me somehow being misogynist and expecting these women to "shut up and play nice" - uh, no, that's not at all what this was about.  Believe me, if it had been frat bros, same reactions from me.  Male or female, I don't care.  My point in bringing up the sorority mission statement is to show the distance between their alleged "good things they do that people always leave out when they bring up the stereotypes about the Greek community" and... uh... how members of this hallowed community actually act.)

So anyway, I replied to Emily.  Well, okay, I actually wrote out a more-or-less page-or-so-long rant (in Notepad, HOLLA!), and then I stepped on the power switch of the power strip that the computer I was working on was plugged into, so I lost that whole spiel - what some might say was a "sign" that I was probably taking this far too seriously - so this was the second, somewhat lazier draft:

11:10am Matthew Hepworth 

Dear Emily,

Thank you for your kind words and concern.

Originally I had this super-long rant written out that explained, point-by-point and in detail, why your message/attitude (and that of your compatriot/"sister"/colleague/friend-for-pay) was bad and wrong and what-not, but I feel like if you read your own words a couple more times there, as well as hers, you'll understand better than through any lengthy diatribe I could muster in your general direction.

Also, for someone who's a "social media director," I would consider being a little bit more internet-savvy: this message and my reply are being posted for the world to see and evaluate accordingly.

I wish you only the finest every single bit of what's coming to you.



11:15am Emily Gaziano

Thank you so much for the threat. Happy Halloween.
Cheers mate.


(Okay, fine, by "keep" I mean, "once," but IMAGES ARE FUN HARF HARF HARF)

Anyway, back to Ms. Giammona - here were some reactions from some followers of mine:

But without a doubt, this may have been the best reaction:

(h/t Drew Magary/Kissing Suzy Kolberg, a writer and an NFL blog you should probably read)

I guess here's what I was trying to do (as well as my thoughts on the results) - and then I'd like to reply to some objections that I believe may have been raised by others who saw this, but were kind enough to not do to me what I was doing to these hapless strangers.

  • First of all, despite the apparent philanthropic leanings of the Pan-Hellenic community of fraternal organizations at large (which is like ALWAYS the first thing that gets brought up any time one makes negative claims about Greeks), I would argue that the actual calculus of utility would show that their charitable works are far, far outweighed by the harms that fraternity and sorority life cause to both their members and the communities in which they reside.  I don't think anyone would dispute that the original impetus for collegiate female fraternal organizations (e.g., to provide a support network for the extreme minority of women who were attending colleges in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) was a noble and instrumentally good thing - but can anyone seriously claim that these organizations continue to fulfill that need, or that such a need even exists when women make up at least 57% of student populations in public universities?  (The answer here, if my gentle leading-you-by-the-hand has not been enough, is "no.")
Okay, so wither their continued existence?  Well, in short, go read Max Weber or Georg Simmel or C. Wright Mills - exclusive in-groups of any kind will do what they can to make power use predictable in a fashion that ensures their continued existence and maintains advantageous power and status hierarchies.  IN OTHER LESS SNOOTY WORDS, when your organization already exists, you're gonna keep it going even if your original purpose isn't the reason for it anymore, especially if you get to feel cool and special and like totally better than everyone else.  That's right: GREEKS ARE NOTHING MORE THAN INSTITUTIONALLY-ANCHORED HIPSTERS the Greek community continues to exist because it feels like it ought to, not because it actually serves any useful purpose.  And in areas/social classes of this country where the, ahem, "prestige" associated with being Greek was a source of power for otherwise-disadvantaged classes of individuals (teh wimmens), it's not surprising that fraternal affiliation gained the status it still currently "enjoys" - EXCEPT IT IS NOW 2012 AND WOMEN ARE NOT DELICATE LADY-FLOWERS NEEDING THE PROTECTIVE CHARMS OF "SISTERHOOD." 
Obviously, the persistence of these organizations seems to suggest (rather untruthfully) otherwise - and of course they do, because what are they doing to do, be honest?  I.e., "Yes, you, as women, are empowered as never before, so we're not really necessary but if you'd like to continue paying to be a member of our club and have 'friends' it'd be really great because we have this whole infrastructure in place that we need to continue supporting rather than finding ways to actually contribute to society?"
But, no.  Instead, we get women from already-privileged socioeconomic backgrounds, who continue to enforce this undeserved social hierarchy (if not "actively" causing problems, the fact they are still participating makes them, at a minimum, part of the problem and definitely not part of the solution), women who as a result of their participation are never challenged on their assumption that their paradigm is normal and good, and as a latent effect, who fail to see any problem with saying blatantly racist things in a public forum or trumpeting their economic privilege in a situation that clearly didn't call for that information.  The lack of self-awareness kills me, and moreover, lends no credibility to the claim that these stereotypes are merely stereotypes.
(That the second sentence of Ms. Gaziano's delightful message to me was literally "What did you not get into the fraternity you wanted?" speaks to how powerfully entrenched these affiliations are for some of these women - they can't possibly understand why someone would dislike/disapprove of the Greek system unless that individual had been weighed and found wanting by said system, and therefore, any complaint could only be motivated by their failure to be accepted and of course that means the system IS FUNCTIONING PROPERLY ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD.)
  • And I know that Greek-affiliated people who were aware of this whole silly spat probably were offended both by the viciousness of my remarks and the implied insinuation that they themselves were being targeted for their affiliation.  Nope.  I hate the system, I was annoyed with (but at least aware of the circumstances engendering) the responses of the two individuals, but I am definitely aware of the difference between an individual and an organization.  Yes, I realize that attacking something you hold so dear as a part of your identity feels like a personal attack in some sense, but be objective about it - you are not solely the letters of your pledge pin.
  • Of course, I realize that there is a sheer ludicrousness [side note: that the word is not actually "ludicrity," really bothers me far more than it should] to the assumption that arguing with/attacking a stranger, especially on the internet, will somehow bring their misguided views around to see the light.  All hopes for a sudden infusion of reason and clarity aside, we are not at that scary point of technological singularity where IRL me is ACTUALLY me to complete strangers, which means that people are going to act exactly as they would towards hostile complete strangers - i.e., be hostile right back to them.  This is the tendrils of our pre-human brain on the internet, and that's how it goes, folks (or else, trust me, trolls would be vastly less successful at what they do and Yahoo/YouTube comments sections would be sparkling bastions of enlightened discussion as opposed to their current nuclear disaster/sewer-like mutations.)  Basically, if I were to act this way in a classroom [confession: sometimes I do in a rather muted form], I'd be looked at as an immature and pedantic prick.  And I suppose it is fair to hold people to real-world standards of conversational civility in online interactions, BUT- 

...doesn't this also indicate that people who put their actual identity to things they write on the internet ought to be held to the same scrutiny as if they said it out loud?!?!

(Hey! Let's ask Ms. Gaziano, our aspiring marketing guru and resident social media "expert," what her reasoned opinion is on this matter:

"It’s twitter, people write whatever they please. It’s called social media. Get over it."

Companies of the world: DEFINITELY make sure Emily Gaziano's resume lands in your "interview" pile! You probably will not regret it!  MAYBE.  [All predictions of this blog are held to and neither express nor imply any warranty!1!1!!1])