The Parable of the Turd With Wheels

One day on the way to class a student saw what appeared to be a huge steaming human turd in the middle of the hall. When he got to class, he said to his teacher gushing with righteous disgust, “please tell me why I am paying all of this money to go to a college where there are huge steaming human turds just laying in the hall?”

The professor replied “I hadn’t heard that there was a huge steaming human turd laying in the hall, but you can believe me when I say I will get to the bottom of it!” (Two young women in the back row giggled at the unintended meaning of his words).

After class the professor called the Dean of his college, who called the office of the Provost, who called an emergency meeting of the faculty council, to be held one hour hence at the site of the huge steaming human turd.

An hour passed and a quorum of the faculty council convened. The provost said to the assembled, “it has been brought to our attention by a student that there is a huge steaming human turd sitting at this very spot.  I would like to request a motion to set aside the normal parliamentary rules and move directly to a discussion of how to respond to this huge steaming human turd’s existence.”

“So moved!” came a voice from the crowd.

“Call for question!” came another.

“Could you read the motion one more time before we vote?” offered someone meekly in the rear.

The motion passed by a vote on 22 Aye, 0 Nay, 2 abstain (They were in the back filling their plates from the provided lunch buffet and had not seen the huge steaming human turd first-hand).

“So, I open the floor for a discussion of what to do about the huge steaming turd,” said the Chair of the faculty committee.

A member of the Communications program spoke up. “I see this as less as a problem that there is a huge steaming turd on the floor than of how we first perceive and then respond to the huge steaming turd’s existence.  I suggest that from this point forward we refer to the object of discussion as a Defecatory Emission Engine—the only one of its kind in the Northeast.”

A Fine Arts professor retorted, “Machine? This is no machine. This is brilliant! Don’t you see? This huge steaming turd did not appear here by accident! It is an artistic statement. It is the product of modern corporatized education lying before us? It defines its space even as it defiles its space. We should find its creator and give her a grant!”

And on it went. The engineers (who by the way had christened it the HST 1000) wanted to build in some servomotors, photo sensors and wheels so that the huge steaming turd could move around on its own. A mathematician calculated its decay rate at the ambient temperature and assured the assembled that in 72 hours and 31 minutes the problem would solve itself. A social scientist went on for a good twenty minutes about the last time a huge steaming turd was found in the middle of the floor—a much huger, steamier turd than this.

“Maybe we don’t need to change the huge steaming turd at all,” said an historian. “We should just have our PR people do a better job of letting the public know that we have a huge steaming turd in our hallway. I mean, what are those people being paid for anyway?”​

Soon everyone was talking at once, and the volume was growing louder and louder.  About the only thing that the body as a whole could agree on was the addition of wheels–a huge steaming turd on wheels appealed to them–but even that was insufficient mass from which to develop consensus.

As the debate raged on, a custodian sidled through the angry crowd with his bucket, dustpan and mop. When he got to the turd he calmly scooped it up, deposited it in the trash receptacle, and mopped the spot on the floor where it had been.

The chair of the meeting challenged him.​ “What on earth were you thinking, sir! This august body has spent the past couple of hours deciding how to fix this huge steaming turd!”

The custodian responded, “I don’t have a fancy degree and all, but I didn’t come here to fix the turd. I came here to fix the floor.”​

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Don’t Tell Me to COM Down!

Over the decade that I was proud to be the Chair of Communication Studies, the drumbeat of administration–both from the President’s office and from Dyson College–was grow and be rewarded. Make a commitment to us by working hard, innovating and demonstrating success, and the university will make a commitment to you. When I took over the department in 2000, we had roughly sixty majors. When I handed the reins to Doctor Kolluri we had somewhere (depending on whose count you use) between 350 and 400 students. When I became chair, Communication Studies (not including CSD which at that time was part of Com) we had seven full time faculty members. As of the beginning of Fall 2012, we had four. Dr. Murphy is an administrator who only teaches 3 credits a semester, and the chair only teaches 1/2 time.

Despite those limitations, the faculty of the Com Studies Department worked unselfishly and tirelessly to accommodate our growing numbers. I turned 20 student sections into 40 student sections, 60 student sections into 120 student sections, and never got so much as a grumble from any of the faculty members. Even our adjuncts got into the spirit and took on larger sections. 

In other words, we did our part. We grew. We worked hard. We innovated. 

Which brings us to today. As you know, we have been interviewing candidates for new teaching positions. We were promised one and had a chance at two. As of this morning Dr. Kolluri was told that there was little chance of us being allowed to hire either, because other departments have greater need. It was also confirmed to me that we are being bumped from our two large lecture halls of 120 students to rooms that house 80 because another program has “outgrown” the smaller rooms. We have filled those lecture halls every semester for the past six or seven years on the second day of registration, so we “outgrew” them several years ago. The net result for you is that when you go to register in a couple of weeks, there will be 80 fewer seats just in two of your REQUIRED courses (111 and 114) than there were this semester. 

There is little that we as a faculty can do about this (although we are trying). I had hoped over the past couple of years that it was the administration’s personal dislike for me that motivated them to frustrate our intentions, but it turns out that they apparently don’t value YOU as assets of the Pace community.

It’s up to you!

You need to go directly to the Dean’s office and the Provost’s office, and tell them you are tired of not being able to get into the classes you need. You need to remind them that Communication Studies as a major needs to be taken as seriously as majors with 1/4 of our population. You need to remind them that our students are among the most (if not THE most) inexpensive to put in a seat for the tuition dollars you pay. You pay the same amount for your seat as the students who need, expensive labs, rehearsal space, machinery, etc. That you are a bargain, does not mean you are cheap!

I don’t like to cause trouble. For years my strategy was to do what I was asked to do and then some in the naive belief that results actually mattered. These two pieces of news clearly indicate that such is not the case. what matters is who makes noise. I am profoundly confident that Dr. Kolluri will be a more proactive and capable administrator than I was as time goes on. However, now it is up to you. Each of you who have crowded into classrooms, and spend hours signing substitution forms because you couldn’t get your classes, needs to make his and her presence known. 

This is the time. Speak up for what you deserve, and if they try to put you off, say:

Don’t tell me to COM Down!

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Sorry folks, but the Bigshot place is going into hibernation for a while, so that I can concentrate on some longer form pieces off line. Thanks for your support; see you whenever!

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Bowing Toward Mocha: Why Americans Suck at Taking to the Streets.

Let me get this straight right at the beginning. I am not complaining. I for one am happy as can be that for the most part my fellow countrymen and I comprise the lamest bunch of flame-throwing radicals in the world.  We put the z-z-z-z in zealot. We put the fool in apocryphal. And that in the words of master criminal Martha Stewart is “a good thing.”

Why has this come up? As the blush of democracy sweeps over the Mediterranean the question arises: Do you think that could ever happen here? We look at the polarized nature of our politics. We look at the Tea Party members all flush with Pabst and vinegar and say maybe the time is ripe for a sea change. The gang is angry. The gang is armed to their chaw-stained teeth. The gang has even mastered the technology of the transport cooler so necessary to a sustained suburban campaign. Give a band of hearty rednecks a few bags of blocked ice, a steady stream of Lone Star and some Toby Keith, and they will hold that cul de sac till the cows come home–which actually won’t be long, because cows don’t wander far.

But seriously, however varied and spirited our national pastimes might be, we should not list spontaneous violent overthrow among them. If you turn on the news and find Tunis in flames, you know that the sweet smell of freedom is in the air. If you turn on the news and find Detroit in flames, you know that the Red Wings have won the cup.

Why are Americans so prone to spontaneous compunction? There are several reasons, the first of which is that deep down we all know that the blather being spread about how the populist right wing constitute the re-emergence of the spirit 1776 is a load of vexation without representation. First off, the leaders of the modern Republican party being American patriots? Please.  Boehner would have been filibustering the call to boycott the East Indian Tea Company “because everybody knows that His Majesty’s gracious consent to grant selective charter to them creates jobs.”  Gingrich would have been hawking Franklin’s sloppy seconds, and Michelle Bachmann would have called for tar and feathering without due process for any citizen who even thought about dressing like an Indian and causing mischief.  Cheney would have been explaining to General Howe that he would love to serve but couldn’t and Sarah Palin would be massaging his  . . . uh . . . musket balls.

The biggest lie that we know we know is that our brave countrymen took their guns down from the mantle and went to war.  As Garry Wills has definitively shown, very few colonists who lived in the cities even owned guns.  Our early war was fought in large part with guns scavenged from English dead. That’s not The Patriot. That’s not even Day of the Living Dead.  That’s using guns when you absolutely have to then putting them away.

If the right wing is paralyzed by its liquid grasp of history, the left is even more a victim of its flight response.  The only significant rebellious act generating from the American left in the latter half of the twentieth century was grounded in its categorical desire not to fight. They were going to overthrown the corrupt machine . . . you know . . with love man. Most of the hardcore revolutionaries in the Sixties left were spoiled rich kids–which seemed all right early on but quickly became too French for us. Neil Young was so blown away by the shootings at Kent State that it took him days to shake off the anger and get Ohio into national release.

Modern Democrats, in Wisconsin and Indiana, facing the fight of their political lives in defense of the sacred idea of collective bargaining, respond the way Democrats always respond in times of dire need–road trip! Let’s hop across the state line and hole up at the Chili’s across the street from the Fairfield Inn until things blow over. “Happy Hour, baby! I regret that I have only one Kicked-up Queso to snarf for my country!”

Our biggest impediment though, when you get right down to it, is common to all of our political appetites. We are just not wired for that kind of drama. Our outrage is diluted by the fact that we at once consider ourselves the bravest, most hard working and righteous peoples to ever tread the earth and the most pitifully picked upon. We are two parts Daniel Boone and one part Screech.  We think we should get to decide who can be trusted with nuclear weapons and who is “ready for democracy” but wonder why they won’t leave us alone?  We are committed to rinds of our ideals not the pulp.  We hate both the teachers in our failing grade schools because our kids don’t learn and the professors in our finest universities because they do. We express our undying commitment to fight to the death for our Lord Jesus but lack the faith to let him handle the idolaters himself.  Tens of thousand of Egyptians gathered in the center of town and asked as one “Tell us what to do!” Ten of thousands of Americans gathered at the end of the National Mall and asked Glen Beck and John Stewart “Tell us when to laugh.”

Onward Christian Soldiers! Marching off to war.

Hold up just a second, I have to check the score.

Christ the royal master leads against the foe!

I’m not getting wi-fi here, I think I’ll just not go.

Like I said, I’m sort of glad that whatever else Americans might be in this year of our lord 2011, we are the hucksters of history, the pussies of providence. We are the retched refuse of your preening bore. We can’t be bothered to engage in holy war; we are too busy bowing toward mocha. Nothing says “I have arrived!” like spending $4.50 on a two dollar cup of coffee so that I can be that person who thumbs his nose at the loser mokes who just aren’t refined and unique like me and the 4 million people a day just like me.  My country tis of thee! My sweet 1080p! Of thee I sing!

I say embrace it. Sit back and wait for all of those people tossing off the yoke of oppression to take on the yoke of possession.  Because the one thing we are right about is that the rest of the world does want what we have. Not democracy. Not self-determination. Not freedom of speech. Not even wrestling. They want the CW–ten hours a week of eighteen year old girls swearing like fifty year old sailors and dressing like thirty year old whores.

Ain’t that America! Hell yeah!

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Red and Blue Rover: My Playground Solution to Cutting the Deficit.

Heck, they’re acting like children anyway. Let’s play in their wheel house.We have this massive deficit, but no one on either side can think of any way to cut it other than attacking a bogeyman on the other side. Republicans want to cut “entitlements”–which when they say they manage always to sneer sarcastically–like enough to eat and ways to get well, while Democrats want to stick it to “the rich” preferably while they are all hole-up at Davros and will be too busy eating caviar off of the bodies of thirteen year-old virgins to notice.

We can’t use experts, because those uncooperative assholes will always do just what you asked them to do–find actual ways to solve the problem and in so doing force people to make sacrifices that are actually sacrificial.  If Congress can agree on anything, it’s that nobody wants to go there!

The only solution left is to think outside the box. Since they haven’t even let me inside the box in over a decade, that makes me your guy.

The trick is to get each side to answer the question: If I had to cut my stuff, what stuff would I cut? Inner city midnight basketball? Corn subsidies? That nifty new bomber the Air Force doesn’t want? National Poet Laureate? You have every single member of the Senate write one idea on a piece of paper and attach it to his or her lapel with that handy flag pin. An independent commission overseen by Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger (who will discuss the project on the most boring episode of Charlie Rose in history) will certify that each senator’s choice actually reflects his or her interests. Sorry Inouye, keep your mitts off the subways!

Now the fun begins. Take them out to the national mall and line them up in face-to-face rows of fifty each.

It’s Red Rover, Bitch!

For those of you unfamiliar with the reference, Red Rover is a brutal playground game from back in the day when we were able to throw two-foot long “Jarts” with sharpened tips at each other for fun. In Red Rover, each person in line grabs the hand of the person next to him or her as tightly as possible, then the line is stretched out. The object is for someone on the other side to run across the field at full speed and break one of those links. If the runner succeeds, one of the players whose link was broken is out. If the runner fails, the runner is out.

I’m lookin’ at YOU Kucinich!

Anyway, we’ve got the Republicans lined up against the Democrats across the lawn. The Republican all look a little uncomfortable holding each others hands, except Larry Craig whose mood could almost be described as serene. The Democrats don’t really know how to act. One one hand, they are glad they don’t have to work around the awkward issues that would have arisen with Murtha. On the other, they could sure use Hillary right now.

For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet (Somebody get Palin a note pad), here is how it works.  After the coin flip and the subsequent recovery of the coin from Biden who is being surly because he really wants to play, the winning team goes first. Let’s say the Republicans–I have a sneaking suspicion that if they don’t get to go first, the House will vote to repeal the game. A big beefy Republican, say Kyl, charges across the field and breaks the link between Diane Feinstein and Al Franken (Their advisors told him to hit, Mikulski, but he remembers how hard she clotheslined him when he tried to cheat at Good Friday Limbo Bash). Since he succeeded, Kyl can tear the piece of paper away from the flag pin of either Feinstein or Franken. The program or entitlement on that piece of paper is irrevocably cut. He picks Franken thinking he can finally say goodbye to Public Radio, but Franken fools him. Knowing that his early days as a comedy writer had given him congenitally weak wrists, Franken went with Cap-and-Trade. “Hell,” he thought.  We live in Minnesota. If anyone can last out an Ice Age it’s us.”

Then Patty Murray heads right for John Thune, reasoning that as an evangelical Christian he might fear strange girl cooties. Sometimes strategy trumps strength. Suck it, B-1 Bomber! Your days are numbered.

And so it goes, until finally the last pair on one side of the field is broken. Other than the minor controversies created when Lieberman kept changing sides, and McCain wouldn’t take his turn, because he was afraid of what would happen of his constituents thought he might support sneaking under something, it went off without a hitch.  As a reward, the winning side gets to pick five of its lost programs out of a hat and put them back in the budget. Otherwise, the case is closed. Billions are saved, everyone suffers equally, and three years from now China owes us money.

Yes. It is brilliant. I know. Don’t thank me. I am motivated like we all are by my love of country. If this works, I would like to discuss the possibility of replacing both the draft and the volunteer army with an annual nationwide game of 7-up!

Posted in Democratic, democrats, Domestic, global warming, guns, HIllary, Hispanic, illegal, immigrants, Mortgage Crisis, obama, Opinion, republicans, satire, Senate, Wall Street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dispatch From the Olbermann Vigil: Blue America Weeps as One.

Sure, no one with reasonable perspective will recall this tragic day in the shadow of the assassination of JFK. No one years from now will ask “Do you remember where you were when you heard the news that Keith Olbermann had been booted from Countdown?” No, this occasion will become rooted in the collective American consciousness not with Kennedy’s death but with his election–far more people will claim proximity to the moment of its occurence than were actually involved. Nevertheless, it is clear that the brutal, senseless murder of Countdown in it’s prime has shaken America to its core, or at the very least its core demographic of 18-45 year old females with disposable income.

Those most affected by this shocking news did what some always feel the need to do when their social illusions are shattered. They congregate. After his shooting, John Lennon’s fans held a peace-in in Central Park. When Michael Jackson passed away, throngs gathered outside the Southwestern Rhinoplasty Institute and solemnly recreated the zombie dance from Thriller. After the tragic shootings in Tucson, a bunch of people decided to go ahead and attend a gun show. As soon as I heard of the passing of Countdown, I knew such a gathering would take outside the New York City studios of MSNBC–the block most Manhattanites now call “ground hero.”

Today, just five days after the news that rocked the world of prime-time basic cable 24 hour news, I came to see how people were coping. What I found was several different strategies for dealing with perhaps the most significant disruption of the middle class left’s daily social reinforcement since Martha Stewart traded her Bourgeat 11″ copper frypan for a tin plate in the big house, maybe going all the way back to the passing of Donahue.

Here are a few representative snapshots.

Especially touching was the story of Wanda Paretski, who traveled all the way to Manhattan from Mystic, Connecticut to place her cherished Edward R. Murrow bobble-head doll on the display of symbolic nick-nacks that formed a tear-stained diorama of grief–or as Hunter College Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies Weylou Stiles called it “a spontaneous public ironic deconstruction of the very Comcast/NBC  commentary-as-theater hegemony that cost Keith his livelihood.” It began to grow as early as 9:15 on the night of the fateful announcement.  “As soon as I heard the news, I told Donald and my kids, Cheyenne and Melon, that they would have to fend for themselves, because this was something mommy had to do.” She then related the story of her trip. “It’s only about 135 miles, but I took the Volt–we’re not even supposed to have one yet, but Donald got a dealer’s model from Pasadena. The Volt only goes about forty miles on a charge, and it’s almost impossible to find a place along the highway where you can sit for ten hours and draw power. It took me five days to get here. I guess I could have taken the Prius, but this was for Keith. It just didn’t seem right to involve any fossil fuels.”

As the day went on, the sea of dazed and disillusioned mourners did not let up. I was at first amused by what appeared to be a hand-lettered sign that said: “Keith! You’ll always be the  ‘Worst Person!’ in My World!” under a heart-shaped smiley face. But by the time I’d seen the fourth one of those, I realized that the viral marketers had made their presence felt. In retrospect, I guess it was no worse than the Velcro-kneed plushies that thousands of well-wishers reportedly sent Zsa Zsa. I just didn’t think this crowd would so quickly abandon the aura of authenticity that was so much a part of Olbermann’s tragic legacy.

For some people grief was beginning to turn to anger. “Most of these people are damn poseurs!” said Kwame Barotunda. “Where they all of other times Keith was booted from a job under a cloud of controversy? You can’t even hold a meaningful vigil anymore. I blame the 24 hour news cycle.”

Over on the corner, a guy wearing a Che sweatshirt and was also named Che–“but I spell it with an -ay”–had brushed off the remains of Manhattan’s latest monster snow, pulled out his guitar, and was singing a song he wrote when he heard the news. “I felt like Neil Young, man, when he heard about Kent State. You know? It just poured out of me:

Anybody here seen my old friend Cronkite?

Like to hear his truth once more.

I thought I saw him walk in’ up over that hill

With Woodward and Bernstein and Moore.

When I asked him why he included Michael Moore who is still an active filmmaker, Chay said “Are you kidding me, man? Watch Bowling for Columbine then watch Capitalism, a Love Story. Tell me they didn’t  get to him!

As we approached 8 PM, the hour at which Olbermann’s program would normally have come on, a strange thing happened. Almost perfectly in unison but with no apparent orchestration the crowd began to chant “Palin Puts Her Foot in It! Think all Wall Street Millionaires Oppose Regulation? Think Again!, Pastor Hagee is a Little Hazy About His Old Testament Facts. And Rob Reiner is here to talk about his new book If Paul Samuelson Had Tweeted.” These stories and more . . . .

Then just as spontaneously as they began, the crowd returned to its respectful funereal silence. “What are you going to do tomorrow night at eight?” I asked. The people in the group turned at looked at one another stupefied as though none of them had thought that far ahead. Then a small woman in a light green Patagonia pullover said “ABC has Wipeout at eight. You know? Where the people jump on those big balls and fall in the water?” I sensed that more than a few hangers-on received some small comfort from that–that like it has so many other times of late America would survive.

Posted in 2011, Opinion, politics, republicans, satire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Comprehensive Guide to the New Astrological Table!

A lot of confusion as followed the recent announcement that the centuries old astrological table has radically changed. So as a public service, here is the official list of old signs, their new counterparts, and a brief description of the people who fall under them (Use only for entertainment purposes):

Then:  Aries                  Now: Air Guitar

Your zest for life is matched only by your utter inability to properly employ even the most basic social graces. You spend hours honing skills that have no useful purpose and have long since disappeared from the radar of anyone who, say years ago when they were kids, might have found them mildly amusing.

Then: Taurus           Now: Fiesta

While attempting to stay true to your roots, you recognize that failure to attain most of your financial goals makes it necessary for you to scale back your expectations.

Then:  Gemini            Now:  Mercury

Where previously you experienced your love life as part of a dynamic team, now you pretty much just shoot straight up and splash for no other reason than to prove you can.

Then:  Cancer                  Now:  Cancer

This sign hasn’t changed. Only now your crab is from the Gulf Coast.

Then: Leo                        Now: Brad

Where once you were a vibrant self-starter, you have lately fallen into a pattern of following along, doing what you’re told and only really expressing yourself through your evolving experiments in reconfigured facial hair.

Then: Virgo                        Now: Vertigo

You are still just as lonely and unsatisfied as you ever were, but now just thinking about your sterile, miserable life makes you dizzy.

Then: Libra                        Now: Lucha Libre

Your behavior is unnecessarily showy and loud, and your act got old in the 1970s. Far more people claim to be fans of you than actually are.

Then:  Scorpio            Now: Scrappy Doo

You mean well. You try to do the right thing. You exhibit boundless enthusiasm. Still almost everyone who knows you wishes you would just go away.

Then: Sagittarius            Now: Stradivarius

You are tightly wound, and while people recognize your inherent value, you bore them silly after just a few minutes.

Then: Capricorn            Now: Cap’n Crunch

You suffer from delusions of grandeur and grossly overestimate how healthy your influence is on the people around you.

Then:  Aquarius            Now:  Bi-curious

Water is still your sign, but only bottled water, only from France, and poured only over Glace.

Then: Pisces                        Now: Pilates

You follow every trend, especially those promoted by people you consider glamorous. Your progress however is frustrated by the fact that you still spend more on food than you spend on exercise equipment—and you spend a LOT on exercise equipment.

There it is. And Don’t worry! Change can be rough to manage, but rest assured that this new astral configuration is every bit as much founded in solid science as it ever was. You should not be afraid for one moment to make profound decisions about your life based on what you have read here today assuming that you have been doing so with the old system previously.

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