Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sing...The 2011 Fall Semester Wrap-Up

We all know that I am a huge fan of movies.  From science fiction to wonderful warm stories that can only happen in real life and are portrayed beautifully albeit more perfect than real life really is.

I'm a big fan of Julia Roberts' movies.  She always seems to pick such great projects that inspire all of us to generate our own million dollar smiles at the same time she does on the silver screen.  From Eat Pray Love to Mona Lisa Smile, even Sleeping With The Enemy, she always finds some unique story to help tell.  But have you ever noticed that the stories she tells are always about women who overcome odds?  I realized that today as I was laying down overcoming a nasty bout with the flu that decided to turn itself into a nasty sinus infection, taking both ears along for the painful ride.

I guess I was just pondering the fact that the women I find so fascinating are the ones who just won't quite seem to lay down and submit to what the status quo seems to want.  It reminded me of the fact that I constantly question everything around me, asking "Why does it have to be this way?  Why do we have to conform exactly to what other people believe just for the sake of acceptance?"

I was engaged in a heated discussion last night over why I am not religious, why I don't want to listen to people when they try to tell me what to do or be tolerant when they give me their version as to why things are right or wrong.  When it comes to listening to people about things like that, I'm rather indifferent but I react very defensively if feeling attacked.  I think people will believe what they want and it's not for me to say what they should or shouldn't do, believe or pursue.  Yes, I get frustrated when things seem so plainly obvious but are overwhelmed and obscured by narrow viewpoints. At the end of the day though, I always go back to the fact that it is someone else's opinion, and whether I share it or not, I have to accept it.

I guess I just won't compromise on my belief system.  It's not that my point of view is any more valid than anyone else's, I guess I just want to have the freedom to believe as I do and not be judged for it.  I don't think that is too much to ask, is it?  My opinion doesn't often gel with other people's.  It is just part and parcel of being a human being because after all, we're all unique individuals, why shouldn't our opinions vary?  But I guess I've reached the point where, what's the old expression?  "I've become set in my ways?"

During the fall semester in my 332 class, Media Planning and Buying, it was a very interesting ride.  We had guest speakers a plenty and Scorsese really gave it his all, although planning and buying media is not his forte. The TA for the semester JJ, was a real doll, and in the middle of her teaching section, she brought up The Asch Experiment.  But here, take a look for yourself:

I hope you took time to watch that those two minutes because I sat painfully through it in class with my insides screaming out, "NO! Speak for yourself! Don't follow them!"  I don't quite know what it was, but there I sat absolutely upset and unhinged by the fact that the guy didn't put his foot down and cry out "You're wrong!"  Is it that our need for acceptance goes so deep that we are fearful of even beginning to express ourselves in our own way?  This of course was compounded by the fact that I was the one person who sat up in class and didn't take kindly to the powers that be telling Scorsese that the students in the class were to be used as data farmers for the university radio station to find leads for underwriting.  Unlike our friend in the video there, I actually spoke up and blatantly said I didn't care for being pimped out as free labor for the semester.  As you can guess, that little project stopped right there because I guess all Scorsese needed was for a student to speak up and express their dismay at something he already didn't like.  So, after receiving a round of applause and quite a few pats on the back after class, our assignments became hypotheticals, which made it easy on all of us.

The next part of 332 was really about the guest speaker who came in and spent time with us, Ron.  He was fantastic and Scorsese encouraged us to ask as many questions as our hearts desired on his topics.  We learned the strengths and weaknesses of all sorts of media and the three weeks we had Ron hanging around were fantastic.  So in all 332 was fun, it was a casual class that we just had to participate in to get the most out of it.

Then of course we go to 202, Electronic Media.  Ok, I won't lie, I took the class just for the professor, Doc L., not for the actual course content.  Doc L. is a fantastic guy and he makes learning fun, he also helped me understand what will go on behind a camera when my future television commercials will be shot.  I actually used more of my storyteller's background (thanks Grandma) to edit and put together video in a compelling way than I did anything else.   At the end of 202, I had to direct a live news show and well, it didn't go as well as I'd like but I will say I did go with my strong points, I just did some quick coding to put together a fast website for it as was mandated for my group's project.  For my group project, I edited the intro, I edited my story and then directed the show and created the website.  Let's just nickname me "Atlas" and leave it at that.   At your own risk, here is a link to my final project:  The Fifth Element.  And yes, that's me on the screen in some sections...as I repeated a half a dozen times, "I've got a face made for radio."  I neither want or need the attention that seems to be a narcotic for people who want to sit in front of the camera.  My favorite quote from the class was actually from another student named Carl as he was directing his show:  "Kill the talent."  The last thing I'll say about it is this:  Ever see the film Gone in Sixty Seconds?  Go to the part where Donny is in the car with the student driver girl who can't drive and nearly kills both of them..."I can't swim, I know I can't swim, so you know what I do?  I keep my ass out of the pool!"

Let's do my Afro-American Studies class before I get to the goods of my strat class.  AAS 101 sucked the honker.  Sorry to say it, but it did.  The content was really fascinating but when the professor doesn't have office hours you can go see him on campus and a list of shortcomings, well, I learned a lot, got to read a slave narrative and learned a lot about Afro-American history.  But you guys know me, I'm color blind, I don't care if someone is blue, green or aquamarine, if they're good people, I love them all the same.  However, I got to take a look at a tragic part of American history, and although we can't undo it, it's a lesson that human beings, no matter who they are, where they are from or what they believe, all deserve love just the same.

Let's wrap up with 463, IMC Strategy class.  Oh man, hard work!  Scorsese let me know right off the bat that I am no strategist, instead I'm a tactician which still has tons of nutritional value, it's adequately summed up in the fact that I don't think in the same way as hard-core strategists.  I'm not insulted in the least with that at all!  We all have to embrace our strengths and strategic thinking is just not one of mine.  I think it's a skill I'll acquire more over time, and something I can do instinctively, but if I overthink it (which I am very prone to doing) I blunder it.  Oh well.

However!  My group project was really good.  Oh how I love my teammates!  Yes,  I love my girls!  They were fantastic!  After playing Atlas in 202, it was so nice to have a group that just worked their fannies off!  We were called "Bernbach's Acid Trip"  and Doc S. got a really big kick out it.  Just FYI, Bill Bernbach was one of the greatest creative minds in the history of advertising.  If Bill was tripping on acid, what would he think of?  Strategy.  Hence "Bernbach's Acid Trip."  When we showed Doc S. our final project "leave behind" (which is a strategic plan that you leave behind with the company you just pitched) his face lit up.  I can tell he's counting on me to really sparkplug the team this spring.

When we did the pitch in class for Scorsese, which is actually getting up and presenting the work, I really knocked the audience dead because my team had me as the lead off hitter and oh boy did I grab them and really wow'd them with my public speaking skills.  When I asked Scorsese about my speech style he said, "You were very extemporaneous."  I had to look that word up.  Yes me of the big vocabulary had to find out that extemporaneous means "without rehearsal" or "without notes" in a persuasive, fluid style.  Yes, the storyteller rears her head again because I really grabbed them and took the audience with me on a journey.  It was beautiful!  I was so proud!  Great moment there!  The other girls in my group really went to the nines and by far my favorite was Nat, she absolutely just sang it to the world, so proud of her!  And yes, you guessed it, Scorsese gave us an A.

But in all of it, the five months of work, the wonderful people I got the opportunity to work with and be inspired by, I felt like it was one of my easier semesters.  I guess I found it easy because I was doing what I love to do, and when you do that, it's never hard.  I spent time with wonderful young women who had conviction in their work, who wouldn't just go with the flow, but instead sought knowledge in their own way.  To witness that, I was very lucky.

I think it is important to not compromise on what you believe or how you seek knowledge.  I don't think it's ok to be a lemming and follow the crowd off of the cliff.  The one gift we get as human beings is the ability to think and choose for ourselves and I think it's a gift we should never take for granted or waste.

Socrates said, "The wisest man in the world knows that they know nothing."  I love the saying, "The bravest person in the world is the one who can confidently say 'I don't know.'"  I always thought the most brave thing was to say "I don't know" then having the courage and tenacity find out for yourself.  It's not just going with the crowd, it's breaking free of the shackles of conformity and making up your own mind, believing what you want to believe.  Courage is standing up and being yourself.  I have seen first hand those who would subdue others just for the sake of forcing someone to conform to their twisted belief system.  Don't be a victim of the status quo, raise your voice, believe in yourself enough to summon up the courage to be different.  Different is good, and when we embrace the differences it allows us to see the universe in a whole new way.

The biggest thing I learned about myself this semester:  I am not a lemming.

Today's song of the day is for those who don't compromise, My Chemical Romance's "Sing."  Raise your voice every single time they try and shut your mouth...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The L33T G33K.

In the ever-tenuous genre of the computer savvy, there is a term for those of us who are keyboard cowboys, software samurai, keepers of the comics or just plain mouse jockeys.  We're geeks.   But, there is a breed of geek that goes beyond just playing the games, collecting the comics, praying for a natural 20 on a 20-sided die or playing with the carefully coded software.  They are the makers of the games, the artists behind the characters and the coders behind the software.  Inside the world of the computer savvy, the best of the best of hackers, geeks and technophiles are called "Elite."  Hence, it's why I refer to my best friend Barry as an elite geek or to use leet speak, "l33t g33k", who took this n00b and had a hand in making me into who I am today.

An homage to the Elite Geek circa 2006 that I created for a graphic design school project.
The inscription to the right reads, "Music to Code by."
My best friend Barry is an enigma.  He's the guy all geeks want to be.  He's handsome, dashing, debonaire, and he just so happens to have a kick-ass ponytail that is naturally the color of a raven's wing.  He has an immense sense of style, from snakeskin jackets to every last detail that if you didn't know better, you'd think he is a rock star.  But, he's a geek.  He's the guy who finds his way into the very elite parties at Comic-Con and he's a countless-computer-language knowing geek with a sense of web design that would make even the most elite artist cry.

Almost 9 years to the day ago, Barry was hugging me and telling me goodbye as followed my ex and began my journey to the great white north along with the very painful three years I would spend in Montreal.  Tonight, I hugged him and told him goodbye as he prepares to follow his girlfriend to Houston.

Two weeks ago, I got a note on Facebook asking me if I was going to go to his going away party.  In shock that he was actually moving away, I made plans to make sure I was there for him, just like he was for me.

I couldn't get over the irony of what was happening.  My best friend is one hell of a guy and it's killing me to see him go.  He was there when my thyroid exploded over a weekend in Santa Monica and he brought me a smoothie and ice cream to ease my very sore throat as we tried to figure out in vain what was happening to me.  He has been there for me during every up, down, sideways, backwards and forwards for close to 13 years. He's backstopped me for so long, always encouraging and always there with a quick quip to make me laugh even in the worst moments.  When he said goodbye to me as I was leaving nine years ago, he did try to talk sense to me as I was leaving by saying, "Why are you marrying that tool?"  That should tell you how well Barry knows me because he was right, I should have never left.  But, I couldn't bear to tell him the same thing because his girl is real sweet and I don't see anything wrong with her.  At the same time my gut was just screaming out from past experience that this whole thing is not a good idea, but it's his life, he's got to do with it what he sees fit.  I have no right to project my issues on to his (very similar) situation.

When he met his girlfriend, I figured that my presence wouldn't be a very good idea. As experience has taught me extremely well, no woman ever cares for another woman, doesn't matter the type of relationship, talking to their guy, it doesn't matter if it's texting, e-mail or a phone call, it's usually not very welcomed, so I politely kept silent.  Barry knows that if he ever needs me, I'm only a phone call away, and I know if something important goes down, I need to keep him in the loop.

Even though I don't talk to him very often, I make sure to keep track of my pal.  He's on the web all the time, sitting on the couch with the rest of the guys on the Ugly Couch Show.  I had to laugh at the latest episode because of course the show is about all things geek, but there's Barry sitting on the couch with a t-shirt sporting a "recognizer" from Tron.  Yep, that's my best friend, he knows the true value of Tron, just like I do.  LOL.  In turn, Barry keeps track of me by coming here the same as you do to check on me.

But still, here we are nine years later and my best friend is about to undertake a similar journey as my own and I can't help but hold my breath and hope everything will go well for him.  I keep trying to remind myself that he's not me and the future could hold a very different destiny for him.  But even with that, it still rips my heart out of my chest to see him go.  His girl is very sweet, she's geeky, fun and very beautiful, but she's fighting against an army of Barry's friends (and his mom) who just don't want to see him go.  It's rare to be in the presence of a true elite geek and well, between all of his hi-jinks, the endless number of stories that just cannot be repeated because of their sheer immaturity or just plain bad luck along with some things you don't even tell your kids you did, he is beloved by all of his friends.

Barry, just like I found out nine years ago, is in for one hell of a culture shock.  Vegas, for all of it's good and bad parts, is a 24 hour town.  You can get anything you want, need or desire any time of the day or night.  In my experience, it doesn't work like that in really any other city on the planet.  Cities like New York can say they are 24 hours a la "the city that never sleeps", but they're really not, at least not like Vegas.  On top of that, Barry is going to Houston, which by rural Texas standards is like taking a trip to the moon, but by Vegas standards it is going to be like going back to the Bronze Age.  No 24 hour grocery stores, and worst of all, last call at a bar in Texas (that is if you don't live in a dry county [Barry, you need to read about that]) is 2 a.m.  For those of us who live in Vegas, we have no idea what the words "last call" means because we can just pick up and move the party to another place that will keep the libations flowing.  It doesn't work that way in Texas.  Not by a long shot.  Last call for alcohol is a very set rule and well, they don't break it, not for anyone.  When last call hits, the party has to be taken home because that's the only place you can get an alcoholic beverage (if you can get your hands on it and are smart enough to store some before hand for just such an occasion) after 2 a.m.

Then, there is the whole fact that Houston (along with a good majority of the south) is right smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, where it's "amen, hallelujah and pass the collection plate" almost 24/7 and if you're not a God-Fearing Christian, you stick out like a sore thumb.  Lucky enough though, Houston is very progressive and it's the home town of people like Beyoncé and Brent Spiner (there's a Trek reference for you, the one and only Lt. Cmdr. Data is from Houston, but you do notice that he lives in New York now, right?  That is for a reason that I will not touch with a ten foot pole, but also notice that I'm from New Braunfels (just 175 miles away from Houston) and I live on the West Coast for pretty close to the same reasons.  LOL!!!!!  Bwahahahah.  Sorry.  LOL!)  But I take my hat off to Houston, they're doing good, as far as accepting new ideas and accepting the 21st century, considering where they're at. (I'm so afraid some shit-kicking hick is going to look at him and say "Get a haircut" and Barry giving them a one-finger salute for their trouble.)  Although Texas is in a SEVERE drought situation (some cities have already run out of water) they've got jobs a-plenty to be had, right, left and center, so I do see the logic of going there.

But whether I like it or not, Barry's moving away.  So let's get to the fun of the party, shall we?

Tonight, the night started out downtown at Casa Don Juan, a very hole-in-the-wall-ish "Authentic" Mexican restaurant and I sat thrilled seeing at least 50 people sitting, eating, laughing and talking together that have all known him for as long, if not longer than I have.  I could see the broken hearts from a mile off as I asked what was going to happen on the couch on the Ugly Couch Show now that Barry is moving.  The response, "Well, we'll soldier on" was all that could be replied.  It was apparent how his absence from all of his activities, from work to play, were affecting the people who love him so much.  I even got misty-eyed a few times along the way knowing that my pal is going to be so far away.

After dinner, the party moved on to a place called "Herbs and Rye" on Sahara Avenue.  Of course, no ordinary watering hole will do for Barry, because the elite geek in him always seeks out unique and savory libations.  A long time ago, I remember going to that same place for amazing Italian food with Barry when it was a restaurant known as "The Venetian."  Now, it's a very old-time kind of place, very much turn of the 20th century, with drinks made with Absinthe and other now little-known ingredients.  I sat amazed when I asked the waitress for my usual Malibu Madras and was told that they didn't stock Malibu and that if I wanted a cocktail, well, it was a trip via time machine to Progressive Era America, or it was nothing.  With Barry's help (after all, he was the one who figured out that my drink was a Malibu Madras), he helped me pick out a drink called "The Blackthorne" which was a combination of Sloe Gin, Vermouth, Bar Syrup, Lemon, Bitters and Orange Bitters.  Here's the catch.  The recipe they use is from Tom Bullocks' 1917 "173 Pre-Prohibition Cocktails."  Don't believe me?  Here's a look at just a part of the menu:

I had a Blackthorne, Barry went with an Aviation.

Ah yes, vintage Barry, if it doesn't require a cipher and extensive research & development to understand it, he's not happy.  As I looked at the menu, I texted Ace (who's at home in bed with the flu), "Where's George Clooney and the rest of the cast from 'O Brother Where Art Thou'?"

When my drink arrived, I took one taste and said, "It'll definitely kill bacteria."  Yeah, it was very unique.  It had some tasty moments and I did down the whole thing, but I promptly followed it up with a glass of wine.

The Blackthorne
But when it was all said and done, I decided to call it an early night, besides, I couldn't sit any longer knowing my pal is going to be on the road in just a few short days to a place I wouldn't live in again for all of the money in the world.  I'm a Vegas girl, I've lived here far too long to be able to adapt to life in a "normal" city again.  I really hope that Barry can handle the change and if I know anything about my best friend, he'll do fine wherever he is.

As I was leaving, I hugged him and told him the same piece of wisdom he gave me some nine years ago, "Planes will always keep flying" and that if he needed me, I was just a phone call away.  And all those years ago he was right, the planes did keep flying and life eventually brought me home.  I honestly hope everything goes well for him back in the "real world," but if worse comes to worse, I can't help but think that someday he'll find his way home too, a little worse for the wear, but filled with experiences that he wouldn't have had otherwise.  And just like when I came home, I'll be there for him, just like he was there for me.  After all, what's a best friend for?

Well, at least now when I write, I can clue Barry in to something important by saying, "Houston, we have a problem."  LOL.  Besides, if the UNLV NSAC team gets to go to Nationals in Austin, I know who I'll be calling to invite for a front row seat to the big show.

Good Luck Barry.  You're my best friend and I love you so very much.  We'll all miss you so much, from me to Rub to Tom and the rest of your motley Vegas crew.  We're a handful, but we all adore you.

They say "Don't mess with Texas", right?  Well, don't let them mess with your ponytail.

We'll be here waiting for you.

I think of you like Castor in Tron Legacy when he says, "Let's step away from these primitive functions," "Libations, for everybody!" and "I'm steppin' away for a moment boys... Change the scheme, alter the mood, electrify the boys and girls if you'd be so kind."

The song of the day is for you Barry.  From the Tron Legacy Original Soundtrack, for the fun times at Utopia to all of the electronica we love so much..."End of Line."  Time for you to change the scheme and alter the mood, electrifying all of those sheltered boys and girls, that is if you'll be so very kind.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What is wrong with universities these days?

I am in absolute awe of the BS that is happening on college campuses all around the country.  As I was reading the news on CNN.com I was absolutely shocked, here's the short list:

  • The Penn State Fiasco because of Jerry Sandusky.
  • The Florida A&M student death from hazing (which has brought forth even more students saying they were hazed).
  • Syracuse having issues with sexual abuse from the head coach of the basketball team.
  • A University of Oklahoma professor suspended for sexual abuse charges.
  • And at UNLV, students just got an 8% tuition hike but they're firing some of our best professors.
Now, you tell me, why on earth are we paying such ludicrous tuition costs for that kind of bull?

This is not in any way, shape or form localized to just one school.  It's a coast to coast issue.  What is going on on all of these college campuses?  What is truly sad is that I'm more than positive there are even more skunks that will be flushed out in the coming days, weeks, months and years.  In essence, buckle your seat belts kids, there is more coming down the pipe.

I have sat broken hearted for the last three weeks.  Why?  My favorite professor, Scorsese, has been fired.  Why?  No room in the school budget for him.  What?  Wait a second.  We just had an 8% tuition increase (with more hikes promised in the future) which were justified by the Nevada System Higher Education for the reason that our higher tuition will pay to bring back professors to the school, yet they're getting rid of Scorsese, who every single IMC student agrees that he is THE heart and soul of the IMC program at UNLV?  Really?

I am truly outraged, but I'm nothing compared to the hundreds of students I have personally spoken with that say that the dismissal of Scorsese takes the whole department and flushes it down the toilet.  

We were given a letter that said that there are three professors that are taking on the IMC school and that we shouldn't worry. To that I cry a resounding "BS!"  Of the three, the most popular and well-respected on the list is our school's new director, so he doesn't have time to teach.  The other two, well here, you tell me:  One of them, the students hate with a passion.  They don't respect the professor and they will do everything including cut off limbs to avoid being in that professor's classes because the teacher is bitter, mean and just needs all-around work on their people skills.   The other?  Well, hold onto yourself for this one...the other professor only teaches classes online and to boot, is very problematic to get a hold of, then makes you wait to continue assignments until you get the go-ahead after you've contacted them.  So, in total, both professors asked to take on the IMC load not only repulse the students, but make them inclined to change their majors instead of carrying on.  The students don't want the two professors they are being saddled with and the only reason that Scorsese is being let go is a combination of politics and poor funds management.  To all that I say, "He's getting the job done and he cares about us, leave the man alone and let him do what he does best, teach."

How sad is it that the students at UNLV are paying more for tuition and for our money we're getting piss-poor professors?  Don't get me wrong, I've had some outstanding professors at UNLV, but they've been extremely rare.  The really great ones like Doc T either moved on, been fired or are saddled with the same mountain of BS the students are.  What galls me to kingdom come are the people who have the audacity to wonder how the Jerry Sandusky's of the world got to keep their jobs for so long.

I personally think that the entire university system from head to toe needs to be gone over with a fine toothed comb, then had a nuclear bomb taken to it.  I know that Elementary and High School teachers are having to take competency tests, so why aren't university professors asked to do the same?  

What happened to actually READING the evaluations that the students are asked to turn in at the end of every semester?  I can promise you that if someone actually sat down and read the evaluations that came down from half of the students I go to school with every day that are having to endure this mountain of bullshit, a good portion of the pee-poor professors we have to deal with would be sent packing, saving the university hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and bringing in quality educators instead of pompous professors, who just because they are tenured, believe they are absolute monarchs.

This semester, I got to meet some great people thanks to Scorsese.  He knows everyone in town when it comes to Ad, PR and IMC.  I'm serious, he has the whole town on lock.  He brought in the most amazing man to our Media Planning and Buying class who WAS a professor at UNLV until the same thing that is happening to Scorsese happened to him.  Add on Prof H. from two semesters ago, and I've got a list of three highly qualified individuals, who are some of the most outstanding educators that I have been lucky enough to sit in their classrooms for even a day, and they are gone because some numb-nut sitting up high in his plush office on the fourth floor doesn't think they are worth keeping because they either a.) don't have their doctorates or b.) they aren't tenured.

Then they sit and wonder why admissions are down or that students would much rather go to the local community college, pay one-third the tuition and get a better education.

The whole system needs to be turned on its head and shaken until all of the garbage is cleaned out and even the lint has been emptied from its pockets.  Get rid of the ineffective professors, bring in the educators that KNOW how to educate and let's get this show back on the road in the right way.

I go to school every day with disheartened students who watch their favorite, highly effective professors get the boot.  The students know they are getting screwed right, left and center, being asked to pay more but getting less for their money.  

How truly sad.

The worst part of it all is that I'm a 40-year-old student and I'm watching these kids starve and work themselves to death because they know they need a quality education to succeed in the world.  I can do nothing to help them except to tell them to keep persevering because tomorrow just might be a better day.  I don't know how many times I've looked at all of them and said, "The one constant in the universe is change.  Let's hope some of that change lands in the university system."

Meanwhile, there are dirty athletics programs, more perverts than holes in a block of swiss cheese, hazing situations in organizations from the band on down, and students not getting 1/100th of the education they are paying for.  What is wrong with this picture?

*Sigh* We're paying to get screwed in more ways than one.

As NSHE Associate Vice Chancellor Crystal Abba told a group of students protesting our tuition hike said,“You don’t have to support it just because you think it’s a foregone conclusion.  You are the only opposition to that. [But] it has so much momentum it will roll right over you anyway.”

When I wrote my congressman about the crap going on at school, I got a form letter back that said, "Thanks for your letter and for voicing your concerns."  That was it.  No "we'll look into it" or anything.  Yeah, politicians really care what happens to us starving students that are only asking for one simple thing:  A good education.

The really great educators in the world do a thankless job.  They are the ones with enormous hearts that make room for every last student they come in contact with.  They rarely hear a thank you and they rarely are given a pat on the back by their bosses but they give their heart and soul so that students like me can get a decent education.  Scorsese is one of those educators and he got the boot for all of his sacrifice.

Sad.  Sad.  Sad.

But on to better news and a dose of hope for the future.  The semester wrap-up is coming up tomorrow, stay tuned for all of the semester's highlights starring Scorsese, Doc L., and special guest appearances by Doc S., Doc Cat and Prof. H.  Yep, it's a cavalcade of all-stars on the next installment combined with a preview of the semester break's fun holiday festivities.  Set your bookmarks for all this and more from your favorite Eternal Sophomore.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Getting where you want to go...

Today has to be one of my favorite days in a while.  I was sitting in my 463 class this morning when an e-mail came through on my Blackberry, it was my official invitation to join UNLV's National Student Advertising Competition Team along with the call number for invitation-only class that goes with it.

Sitting in my chair in class, even though I had been told verbally that I had made the team a couple of weeks ago, it really didn't sink in that I had made the team until I looked down at the e-mail.

I couldn't help it, I just broke down into tears thinking, "I did it, I can't believe I really made it."

Three years ago, sitting Doc L.'s Journalism 100 class, he had mentioned the invite only class that goes to compete.  I remember sitting in the lecture hall glued to my seat and drooling, wanting with all of my heart to get that invitation.

Today, I got it.

As we come to the end of the year, I always try to reflect on the year and its ups and downs.  But, this year, I really do have to look over the last three years with absolute astonishment.  For those of you who have been with me from the beginning of this journey, you'll remember what it was like.  I was scared, angry, confused and had absolutely no idea how I was going to dig myself out of the mess I was in.  Abandoned, alone, unemployed, and for the first time in my life independent, it was a whole new ballgame that I had no idea how to handle.

I remember the day of the phone conversation that changed the landscape for me.  Actually there were three.  The first was the call from UNLV to let me know that I had gotten back into school, albeit as a part-time student, that I hadn't been fully admitted yet.  The next year came the second one, that I had been admitted as a full-time student.  The third was actually the funniest, it was a conversation with my Ex that asked him about my major.  Initially I had gone back to school to become a teacher, you remember, right?  I had aspirations to be a high school English teacher.  Well, I remember driving home one day on the I-15 on a call with my Ex.  All of my life I had wanted to go into advertising and my Ex told me, "You should really go into teaching, it's a lot easier and you don't have to self-promote.  Advertising is a tough field, you'll constantly have to fight for what you have."  So I asked him, "What do you think I should do, go into Ad/PR or be a teacher?"  He said, "Be a teacher, you'll get a lot more rewards out of it."  After he said that, I remember thinking to myself, "He has got to be the world's worst person to tell me to do anything, every single decision he's ever made has ended in disaster."  So, I did what any smart girl would do, took my Ex's advice and flushed it down the toilet and set my sights on Advertising.

Three years later, I'm on the NSAC team and I got there all on my own.  No help, no enabler, just people around me that are cheering me on.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized how truly far I've come in 40 years.  I started out as a bullied kid.  I don't remember a day of childhood that doesn't have some sort of anxiety attached to it.  The kids I grew up with, for the most part, were a pack of malicious thugs that suffered from a severe amount of jealousy.  What do jealous kids do?  They hammer on the kids they are jealous of or feel threatened by.  So, unfortunately my childhood wasn't filled with protectors like we find for young people today.  I had to gut it out, day by day, scar by scar.  I remember laying in my bed wishing I would die because I couldn't go on another day.  Depression of course followed.

My 20's saw me flailing my arms trying to break out of all of the nightmares I had endured.  I was willing to do anything to make the pain, anxiety and depression stop.  So, into the body go the drugs, out of the window goes the common sense.  I saw my share of atrocities go on during that time and they are too many to recall and they are stories I don't want to tell, because in most cases, I think y'all would lose your lunch.  Being held up by my throat against a wall wasn't fun, but that was the least of the damages I endured during that time.

So with my Gen-X list of maladies in tow, I went into my 30's and lucky for me, someone decided to step up and try to save the day, that was my Ex who saw me through detox and got me put on a path to realize my potential.  I know that I don't have a lot of positive things to say about my ex, but I have to be grateful to the man, he saw what I believed no one else did, that there was someone of value underneath all that pain.

But like all great comeback stories, you have to endure the bad to get to the good.  Abuse, drug addiction, abandonment, and every other horror are there for a simple reason, it makes you into who you are and in some cases like mine, it gives you the will and fortitude to keep fighting.  They are the things that trigger our survival instincts and dictate whether or not we are going to sink or if we're going to swim.  Whether we embrace it or not, all of the hurdles we climb through life are there for a specific reason and purpose to teach us what we need to know to not only survive, but thrive.

Almost three years ago, I was laying on my living room floor crying in utter despair, wondering what was going to happen to me.  From my viewpoint at the time, I had nothing.  No close friends nearby, no support structure I trusted, not a single clue as to what I was going to do.  I was alone.

The moments where we bottom out and are left with nothing and no hope are the moments that define us.  They make us get up off the floor, they make us grab up our destiny in our own two hands and make us take that next step forward, whether we like it or not.  It's the moment you make the choice between laying there and wallowing in despair or getting up and making our lives our own.

I have been extremely fortunate in the last three years to have come across Doc Cat at school.  As my resident therapist, she took me through my Personal Growth class and taught me how to thaw all of the ice and obstacles that were holding me back.  She taught me how to let go of all the horrible things that have happened to me.  She taught me how to take off all of my armor and embrace the world honestly, unguarded and unafraid.   After years of looking for external solutions to my internal problems, I finally got the peace I had long sought when I was tossing and turning one night and a little voice inside me rose up and said, "Sheri, give yourself peace, you're the only one who can."

Yes, there are still things that trigger my PTSD, hey after everything I've been through it's no small wonder I have it, but I am armed, thanks to Doc Cat, on how to handle it all.  Some days aren't easy, but you know what, even my worst days are a hell of a lot better than my best days used to be.  She taught me how to identify and put down my destructive behaviors, which for most people is rare and it takes a class like my Personal Growth experience to actually let the process take hold to allow yourself to actually grow as a human being.

Thanks to Doc Cat, I no longer apologize for living.  For years I was ashamed of my existence on the planet.  Now, if someone doesn't like me or what I say, well, I tell them "There's the door, don't let it hit you in the backside on the way out."  I finally like myself, I'm cool with what I see in the mirror every day and I finally have gotten where I want to go.

Doc Cat asked us at the beginning of the Personal Growth class where we wanted to go and what we wanted to achieve.  I wanted to have a great job, pay my own bills, keep the roof over my head and do anything my heart desired, effectively being completely independent.

I'm now where I want to be.  And I have my NSAC Team invitation in my pocket to boot.  I've gotten everything I've ever wanted and I did it on my own without help.

I've come one hell of a long way.  Anyone who says I haven't can politely kiss my ass.  I am armed with the wisdom to know that life is a journey, not a destination and no one is ever finished growing as a human being. I have learned that my issues reside with me, and I am aware enough not to saddle others with my emotional baggage by projecting my issues onto them.  I have ownership of my life and all of the things that happen in it, what happens is my responsibility, no one else's.  Most of all the biggest gun in my arsenal is hope and the drive to stay positive no matter what comes my way.

The sad part of it all is that my greatest moments have always come when I'm alone.  But, instead of despairing over the fact that no one was around to share my joy today, it wasn't as bad this time because while it was disappointing, I had to remind myself that it is important to remember that what I did, I did on my own.  I can sit back extremely happy without seeking approval because every step I've climbed, it was my guts and fortitude that carried my foot to that next step.

The remarkable moment was the young woman at school a few weeks ago that laughed after I looked at her and jokingly said, "Can I be like you when I grow up?"  She laughed then replied seriously, "But Sheri, we really want to be like you."

I will tell you that climbing up out of the muck is not easy, but it is possible.  To come back strong, you have to want it bad and feel it deep down in your heart and be willing to scratch, claw and climb the whole way, because it's going to put up a fight for every inch.  Just when you think you're on top of things, you're going to get thrown another curve ball and it is going to take every ounce of heart you've got to stay positive and win the day.  Anyone can get on the comeback trail.  Being the underdog isn't easy, but when that moment comes and you realize you climbed through all of that hurt on your own and realize that you're finally in a position to enjoy the rest of the journey, it's a really great place to be.

UNLV is hosting this year's NSAC District 15 regional competition in April, you're all invited to come watch my team dominate the competition and reach for the goal of Nationals at the AAF's AdAmerica Conference in Austin, Texas this June.

If you'll excuse me, I've got to hit the sack, tomorrow is a big day, I'm interviewing Doc S. on a feature story about the NSAC for my 202 class and on top of that I've got a million fires to put out at work.  Things have to get built and gratefully, I'm just the gal for the job.

Today's song of the day is for me and everyone out there that refuse to go down without a fight.  "When you go hard, your nay's become yea's."  For all my fighters, Nicki Minaj's "Fly."

Monday, November 28, 2011


I was just having to describe user-created content in social-oriented virtual worlds to someone.  I tell you what, the money to be made there is just ludicrous.  However, it's not the players that are making money, it's the companies who are sponsoring user-created content that are making out like bandits.

For those non-virtual world lingo speaking folks, let's define user-created content really quick because it's pretty common sense: users create their own content for virtual worlds, be it clothing, vehicles, or houses.  Basically it's users who are able to re-texture (also known as paint or color) a three-dimensional model or create new three-dimensional assets (structures, vehicles, etc.).

There is a problem with user-created content, it's rarely ever quality work.  Someone who teaches themselves Photoshop is a commendable act, however, as my old raid leader Jason used to say, "You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit."  Meaning, that even if you know a graphic editor down to its last detail, it does not mean that you are an artist.  Hence, you find a lot of would-be texture artists saying that they can create a texture, but in actuality in most cases it's texture theft.  For the majority, online world user-created content is usually taken from somewhere else.  Underwear and lingerie is stolen from photos on the Victoria's Secret website, denim is stolen from Levi's, Lucky Jeans, and simple online catalogs for stores like Wal-Mart and JCPenny along with stealing textures for shirts, shoes and every clothing and furniture piece you can think of, and oh boy does it show.

The textures from these so-called "artists" usually turn out god-awful and not worth the money users spend on it.  Put bluntly, you couldn't get me to pay for what some of those people call "fashion."  It's little more than stolen textures stretched and made to fit a three-dimensional mesh, and it doesn't take a single bit of skill to "create" something like that.  You can tell it's pitiful quality from a mile off and it makes me shudder uncontrollably.  It offends the very nature of my education and knowledge of the genre.  Texture stealing user-created content "artists" are the bane of my existence.  Then there are the self-taught ones who believe with every fiber in their being that they are creating quality textures when the truth is that it is hideously ugly and no more than wastebasket fodder, refuse, birdcage liner or just plain trash.   Every single one of those so-called "artists" has taken an avatar that was, in a rare few cases, pretty good, and turned it into a train wreck faster than you can say "What the..."

Yeah, and it's sad going into online worlds and seeing that kind of thing happening.  Don't get me wrong, there are the very rare few that are absolutely wonderful and talented artists in the user-created content programs around the Internet, but I stress they are very few and far between.  Here's the problem though, online world users buy that stuff up like mad.  Even if it is of poor quality, stolen or just plain ugly, they buy it up because it's "new" to their world of choice.  Here's where it gets sick:

As an example, and it is not the exception, but the rule, let's talk about my experience with the There.com's User-Created Content Program.  Now try to wrap your mind around this one:

There.com made their assets available for texturing via two proprietary software programs, Stylemaker and Previewer.  In Stylemaker, you could create your own clothing textures based on their available templates, in Previewer you got to create your own home furnishings/treatments.  For those who taught themselves 3ds Max or the free software Gmax, they could even create their own three-dimensional models.

Ok, so what do you have?  Aspiring texture artists and modelers making things.  Hey, great!  I'm all up for a hobby!  Hooray, an artistic outlet!

Here's where it gets sinister.

We have amateur texture artists and modelers making things for There.com, BUT, here's the catch, to submit the item, for it to even begin to be considered by the company to be let into the world, you had to pay between $4 and $20 for each and every item you wish to submit, known as a "submission fee".  So, now those same amateur texture artists and modelers have not only put in their time to make something (essentially free labor), now they're paying the company to look at their work and approve it.  If you're like me, you're sitting there going, "Wait, wait, wait, the artists and modelers just worked for free, now they're PAYING the company to accept their work?"  If that doesn't make you slam on the brakes really hard, I don't know what will.

It gets worse.

Ok, so let's just say that the amateur modeler and texture artists have created something that There.com thinks is "ok" to go into their world.  The submissions process (that $4-$20 from before) supposedly pays for someone at There's offices to look over the model and/or texture to make sure it doesn't violate copyrights or trademarks, so basically the modelers and texture artists have paid the company to check their work for them, just to weed out the texture/trademark/copyright thieves.  So still, the amateur modeler or texture artist is paying someone else to look over the work they did for free, essentially paying the company for a service that should be free given the amount of money paid on the back end when There.com takes a fee for every single asset that the amateur modeler or texture artist wants for themselves (outside of the ONE free copy that the modeler or texture artist gets back when their submission is approved).  The amateur modeler or texture artist then has to pay once again for what they themselves have created with their blood, sweat, tears and countless hours behind modeling software or a graphic editor if they want another copy of the item they made with their own two hands by going into their user's developer page and paying a "wholesale cost" for the item.  So, they paid to submit it, then they pay again if they want another copy of it in-world.  So now they've paid twice and yeah, what they're paying for, they made themselves! So ok, where's the logic here?  And why did countless users (mea culpa) keep doing it, paying out thousands upon thousands of dollars a year for their own work?

Are you wrapping your head around this yet?  It is essentially this:  People are laboring for free then paying companies to allow them to see their own artwork/models in a virtual world.

Here's the rub, it's not just in There.com, it's in Twinity, IMVU, Onverse and Second Life too!  Whereas in Twinity and Second Life, you can just make something and upload it for free, there are tons of companies like Nike, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Adidas and others having their trademarks violated on a daily basis, but still, it's users working for free to expand the worlds that they pay monthly fees to just to play!

Ok, so now you've got people taking their hobby time and making the online world of their choice even more money by selling those items to other players in which the online world company providing the service gets a surcharge for every item (made for free) sold in the auctions, shops and other sales avenues in the world!  Sure, some users are making a small portion of their submission fees back, but rarely do you see them actually derive any sort of return on investment.  What returns on investment these users make usually goes directly back into the system in the form of new submissions.   Are you getting what a racket this is?

I get disgusted really fast when I think about all of the users out there who have not only spent their time to make something of quality, that they make the texture with their own two hands and imagination, eschewing the need to steal their textures from the Internet, and they are the ones who have had their hard work prostituted to line some CEO's pocketbook who could care less about the world, just the bottom line.

Those online worlds are taking the hard work of their user base and building their worlds on top of it.  Essentially the online world companies are having players build their worlds for them, and those same companies are having their world built for free and shamelessly making a profit off of free labor.  Think about it, if the world didn't have those users toiling behind their own software making things, what would new users see when they came into the world?  Answer:  Nothing.  Just base structures that the company started out with.

The sad part is this:  Rarely (and I do stress rarely) do we see social online worlds expand by the company who actually owns it.  If we do see any sort of expansion, it is because a user stepped up, slapped down their cold, hard cash for virtual real estate then paid even more to build something on top of it.  A good, solid majority of the time, those additional items that they build with come directly from other users, not the virtual world they pay their membership fees to in the first place.  Where is the world content made by the company?  Is it just the terraformed ground and the use of an avatar that the users are paying for?  Is that all they are doing?

This is why I play WoW.  I might pay out $140 a year in membership fees, but I will tell you without hesitation that every single piece of armor, every building, every piece of terrain is made by the company I pay bi-annually to provide me with a world.  I know that whatever fees I pay go directly to qualified animators, texture artists, modelers, developers and professionals who make the world I choose to play rich, diverse, challenging and fun.  I take my hat off on a daily basis to Chris Metzen, Alex Afrasiabi and the whole crew at Blizzard, yeah Cataclysm might be WoW's epic suck, but still, it's a quality product made by professional hands.

When I get content from Blizzard, I know it's good stuff, that's why I never play in worlds with user-created content anymore.  I can't abide by seeing users getting used by the people who are supposed to be providing them with a quality service, instead, they leave users to create their own content which, let's be honest, it usually sucks, stolen from the Internet or just lacks good quality.

So for those of you who yearn for a social world that is good quality stuff, I suggest you wait for one that will provide you with content pushes filled with quality things that are worth the money you spend on them.  If you feel the need to create, grab a copy of Photoshop Elements or GIMP and have a good time with it, but User-created content is not the answer, in that scenario the user always loses.  Put another way, user-created content programs in virtual worlds are just like coming to Vegas to gamble:  Casinos aren't built on winners.

So, for all of those user-created content junkies out there, you get the song of the day, Madonna's "Material Girl."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

It's time again for my annual Thanksgiving post.  I think it is only proper to take time out to say thank you to all of the people who have positively impacted my life over the last year.  With how my horizons have broadened over the last year, we've got quite a few new characters to cover, so let's get started.

I want to start this year with my crew of indomitable souls at work.  I am so thankful for all of their hard work and their ability to battle back from even the worst situations.  So to Brian, Michelle, Alex, Jim, Jon, Frank, Darla, Kathy, and Ben, you guys have been my rock in the hardest of moments, you've absolutely helped me keep my sanity when I thought that I'd really lose it, and you always remind me that in every situation you can always find hope.  To Alex and Brian, my brothers-in-arms, you have both shown me how to stay fair, balanced and honest with my feelings in how I handle even the worst moments.  To Bruce and Karl, you guys  are my sweet Feydakin, I don't know what I'd do without you guys making sure I'm in the loop on everything.  Finally to Michelle and Darla, my sweet soul-sisters, you are my touchstone that reminds me that it is perfectly fine to be a girl that is just as tough as the boys.

Next up, my set of sweet young women at school.  I'm truly thankful to all of these persevering young women who remind me to stay young at heart while putting shoulder to the wheel to "get it done."  Claire, you rock.  I'm so grateful that you always remind me that acceptance is not the end-all, be-all, but that you have to accept yourself first and be proud of who you are.  Alicia gets a jab in the ribs by my elbow and my thanks for reminding me that work and school put together sometimes wear you out, but sometimes it takes that watered down cup of coffee you suffer through to reach the goal.  I'm grateful to Nataline who's taught me that sometimes a dry wit is all it takes to make a point.  I'm also grateful to Jami, Honey and George who are the earth, water and firey elements that have worked so hard to bring Doc L. a quality show.

I'm so thankful for Doc L. and Scorsese.  Without those two men really backstopping me and making sure that I'm on course and following the second star to the left, straight on until morning, I don't know where I'd be.  I'm really grateful for all of the support they've shown me.  Speaking of support, I gotta give major props and hugs to Doc S.  He has put up with me popping my head into his office for my passioned dissertations on the NSAC.  Finally, three more of my professors who have really stepped up to the plate this year for me, Doc M. and Ron K., thank you so much for helping me see the light on so many topics for work, you guys have really helped loads and I'm so grateful for your patience and understanding.  Finally, to Prof. H., seeing you around campus and the encouragement you've given me is really fantastic.

I'm always grateful for Raj, KP, Michelle, Josh and my crew of WoW'ers who always seem to make me smile when I need it most.  KP, you are just incredible and I'm so grateful to see you back in school just like me.  Over, under, around and through, thanks for always bringing out the very best in me.  Raj, thanks for always taking my 2 a.m. eastern time texts, I always forget the time difference.

Now, let's take it home...

Mom, Dad and Nan...thank you.  This year, with turning 40, you guys have really shown me that it's all about getting to where you need to go and the humble pride you can have by getting out there and making your life your own.  Daddy, thank you for all of your encouragement, Mom, thanks for the votes of support and those little invaluable tidbits of wisdom you always seem to throw my way.  Nan, well, Nan's just Nan.  She is the fighting spirit that doesn't take no for an answer and through all of her fights she has always shown me that nothing in life worth fighting for should ever be taken for granted.

Finally, I'm going to wrap up with someone who's made the biggest difference for me this year, and that's Ace.  It's tough to show how grateful you are to someone who doesn't believe that they're really worth all of those thanks, but I'm going to give it a try anyway.

Ace sure did suffer for me this year as he took a reclused woman behind a computer, living solely for work and school, made her go outside and embrace the world again.  He's suffered through my very worst, he's seen me at my best and he's always been right there, helping me balance my stresses and being an adviser through it all.  He doesn't get that his big blue eyes, his diesel-driven steed (a.k.a. the nickname he loves the most "gas-guzzling smog monster"), and his scruffy chin are just the gravy that covers someone with the most nutritional value I've ever met in my life.  We battle our PTSD every day together, we've held on to each other even in moments we've wanted to kill each other, we've been through some tough moments and still back each other up.  Every year I'm grateful to every single person who's made a difference in my life, and I'm the most grateful to Ace because he showed me that even though life can be hard, unbearable at times, it's still worth getting up and facing the world because you never know what good things will happen to you when you do.  Ace reminded me this year that we are all worth the love people give us, even when we don't want to accept it.  He reminded me that we all have value beyond the value we place on ourselves and we don't know our true nutritional value until we look into a mirror that just happens to be a person who is just like ourselves.

However, I can't talk about Ace without following it up with my favorite mooch-pooch, Lucky.  Lucky, like me, is a great comeback story.  You'd never know, with all of the love that dog gives, that he was rescued from a dog-fighting ring, that that same dog was lying on the ground with his leg maliciously broken, starved to emaciation and weakness as a victim for a larger dog to learn how to kill on.  Now, that same abused animal, barring his hip-dysplasia and a bit of arthrits, has shown me that love, in all of it's forms, can cure every hurt, that it can lift you up to a place you never thought possible.  I guess what I should say here is that Ace rescued Lucky, then Ace rescued me.  If that's not someone with a ton of nutritional value, I don't know what is.

I think it's really hard to judge how much of an impact you make on a person's life.  But, just with all of the people who have stepped up, helped out, given love and just been all-around outstanding people, I guess I'm kind of like Lucky, extremely fortunate to have been given all the love that I have received.  

Enjoy every bit of your turkey, stuffing, and every single person who has given you nutritional value over the last year.  I know I am.

As my friend Henning always says, "Love is the only truth that is worth sharing every day."  After you pass the sweet potatoes, pass a plate of love to the person next to you as well.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Playing for the Castrati

Ok, it is time once again for a rant.

As you know, my rants are saved for those extra special moments where I just sit back and go W.T.F.?!?!?!?!  I've been saving my WTF's up for a while and now they're all going to sit front and center to reassure women everywhere that we ladies are not the problem, we're just the ones that are left behind to clean up the mess left behind when men go on a drama-fest.

Over the last several months, since May actually, I've been faced with an incredible amount of drama.  Enough so that I have practically worn my molars down to their roots with how I've clenched my teeth in the hopes that I could keep enough of a semblance of sanity to make my words kind, gentle and tasteful.

Here's the thing though, every single last bit of drama I've encountered over the last two years or more has ALL been man-induced.  Yes, I'm talking about men.  You know, those creatures who are otherwise known as rampant, psychotic Y chromosomes on an estrogen binge from hell?  With the grand exception of KP and my father (those sainted men), every single man I know is on some sort of drama-fest.  My personal life, work, school, playing WoW, it doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing, I'm constantly surrounded by man drama.

Here's where I get really ticked.

Men, for years, have pissed, bitched, moaned and whined to me that women are just the world's worst for having or being an unending source of drama.  Ok, well let me give the newsflash fellas, women only have drama when it's MAN INDUCED!  We only get swept up in it because we gals have to clean up the mess left behind by the Y chromosome hurricane that just passed through and it usually ticks us off to high heaven, enough to the point that the only way we can keep our sanity is by letting you know about it.

I don't get it.  I mean, I'm a stand up girl, I don't put up with much drama because I state clearly for all to hear that I am on a drama-free diet.  I have no want, need, desire or inclination to want to even come near drama, much less take part in it.  But, like demon spawn from hell, there it is, drama, and it's all man-induced, which wears my patience down to an extremely fragile thread.

I've watched with dismay recently as men in their 40's, 50's and 60's have absolutely volunteered to play for the castrati because they sure as heck have more estrogen issues than 90% of the women I know.

Women, when faced with an issue, are pretty basic.  We break out our claws, basically leave in shreds anything that has ticked us off and then we do what any sane person would do, we move on.  Yes, some women are vindictive, they'll come back and revisit bare backs with their claws as a reminder that says, "Don't do that again," or to quote Billy Crystal in  Analyze This, "You want a fresh one?"  Like I said, women are pretty simple:  we get ticked, we decimate the source of the issue, we move on.

But no.  Men are a totally different scenario altogether.  Hyperfocused rah-rah spills from every orifice, drunken tears go streaming down cheeks, impossible demands are made, vendettas are aired in public, immature screaming, paranoia, you name it, and all of this, mind you, is coming from men's mouths and I'm having to either hear it with my own ears (to the point I'd like to shove ice picks in them to make it all stop) or it's in e-mail form to which I just take the e-mail and hit "delete."  But then, oh, here it comes, then, men come and cry to me that women are worse than they are.  Really?  I mean seriously, someone has got to really explain this one to me.  I have never in my life witnessed such hypocrisy.

Oh sure, men just love to tell a woman that they're being overly dramatic or taking things far too seriously, but you tell me, what about those guys who get drunk and then involve everyone into their issues or pity parties?  How about the ones who can't quite seem to grow the pair they pride themselves on having or boast endlessly for hours about?

My favorite, bar none, has to be the tales of the men who have no interest in sex while their wives are laying next to them trying to get some, then the guys have the nerve to act hurt.  OY VEH.  It really does happen.  That right there, all man-induced drama, enough to make a woman's fists clench so tight that it could drive fingernails through palms in record time.

Then people wonder why I run from men at Mach 2 with my hair on fire and my relationship history is accurately summed up as a trail of emotional wreckage.  I've finally come to a point where I've finally realized the truth that has evaded me for so long...maybe my relationship problems weren't my fault to begin with.  When I think of it that way, it actually makes a whole lot of sense.

What gets me worst of all is how men can now sit so shocked at the fact that more women are climbing the corporate ladders with incredible speed AND gape in awe that there are more women CEO's than ever before, it's because the 21st century woman has Zero-Drama and Zero-BS tolerances, that's how.

So ladies, it's Sunday.  When your man brings drama to your doorstep today, politely look at them and say what you've been dying to say for years:

It's your drama.  Deal with it.

Then politely smile knowing that you've put yourself on a drama-free diet and grown the pair they seem to have lost so that they have all sorts of time to waste playing for the castrati.

Go ahead girls, you know you want to, shudder with me and shake off all that man-drama, we're long overdue.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Ghost of Fraulein Schweiger

Ok, it's time for another comedy piece.  This one is brought to you by the 1965 classic, The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews and a little steakhouse in my hometown called "Schwamkrug's".

Well, let's start with The Sound of Music.  As we know, my mom is German, as in born and raised there, so as you can imagine, my childhood home was a mix of German goods along with a healthy dose of Texan from my Dad.  Ok, besides all of the good German food and culture in our house, you have to know that growing up, my father was an encyclopedia of everything western.  My father can name every single horse ridden by the Spaghetti Western cowboys of the 40's and 50's.  Ask him the name of Tom Mix's horse and what does he answer without skipping a beat?  Tony.  Who's horse was named Scout?  Tonto on The Lone Ranger.  You get the picture...if there is ever a Jeopardy category called "Famous Horses" my father could sweep it hands down.  But with all of the country western goodness of my Dad, my mom always but always had us sit down every year when the networks would play The Sound of Music.

Now, what you don't know is that my mom is a dead ringer for Julie Andrews, as in she could easily be Julie Andrew's stunt double without a problem.  To boot, and even though my mom hides it like crazy, she's also got the voice to match.  So, as you can guess, she sang along with the musical when she thought we weren't listening.

Ok, I think everyone but everyone has seen The Sound of Music at one time or another in their lives.  Well, I dug around on YouTube like mad for the clip, but unfortunately, the singing competition at the end of the movie isn't anywhere to be found so I can show you, so you'll just have to take my word for it.  In the awards scene at the end of the film, the third place winner, a woman by the name of Fraulein Schweiger, goes out to accept her award and bows not once, not twice, but 16 times.  Oy veh.  It's a total bowfest with Fraulein Schweiger and it's very funny, all 16 bows.

Here's where we add in Schwamkrug's Steakhouse (or "Schwammies" as my parents liked to call it).  Schwammies, back in the day, always had great food and usually very good service.  Well, you know what's coming, you do!  Admit it...you know what I'm about to tell you.  Well, son of a gun, wouldn't you know it, but Schwammies had their own version of Fraulein Schweiger.  I couldn't tell you the real name of that server for all the tea in China some 30 years later, but I will tell you without hesitation that we've called her "Fraulein Schweiger" since the first day she served our table.  And you guessed it, she bowed just the same.

Well, some 30 years ago, we had gone up to Schwammies for some special occasion, I can't remember for the life of me what it was, but we got seated at Schwammies and sure enough coming around the corner to take our orders was who?  Fraulein Schweiger.

I remember the meal quite vividly.  Steaks cooked to perfection, enormous baked potatoes, good corn on the cob, salads done just so with really good dressing, you know, the normal works for a steakhouse.  Like me, my mom's palate when it comes to some things, is just as picky as mine.  My mother and I are the only two people in the room that when our family of over 50 people get together for a reunion, we're the only ones that don't drink iced tea.  "Foul concoction" is all I can say about iced tea.  Everyone I know loves the darn stuff, I can't stand it and neither can my mom.  Overwhelmingly you can say that if my mother and I agree universally on ANYTHING it is our revulsion towards tea.  Hot, iced, chai, you name it, if it's tea, we don't drink it.

So, back to Schwammies and  Fraulein Schweiger.  In all of the time we went to Schwammies, my mother was really at odds with her because well, Fraulein Schweiger always seemed to screw up some part of our meal every time we went in there.  The incident I am about to relay to you goes down in the all-time great Mom moments.

My mother is a coffee drinker.  She loves it.  Mocha ice cream, flavored coffees, Bailey's and Coffee, you name it...she loves to go up to the Lodge at Mount Charleston to get one of their good Mt. Charleston Coffee's every winter.   So, way back when, as Fraulein Schweiger came around to check if any of us wanted dessert after our meal, Mom ordered her standard cup of coffee.

I don't know about you, but when I order something with a very specific flavor, my taste buds are really looking forward to that specific taste.  When you're ready like that and what you put into your mouth tastes nowhere NEAR what you were expecting, it goes south really (and I mean REALLY) fast.

Well, sure enough Fraulein Schweiger came back with a cup and saucer full of hot liquid and placed it in front of my mother.  The dark liquid inside of the cup sure did look like coffee to me, but um, well, as my Mom took a sip of the liquid in the cup, her face immediately contorted.  Her mouth pulled together in a very pursed and unhappy sort of scowl.  With her mouth still full of the contents of the cup, her hand became a pointing device with her four fingers pressed into her thumb, reminding me very much of a very early version of Kermit the Frog.  Well, that hand of hers started to point, in a very stabbing like motion at the cup, pointing twice.  Then that hand went back up to her mouth, pointing twice.  Then that same hand went over the cup making a giant imaginary "X" above the cup.  Dad, Nan and I looked at Mom like she had seriously lost it.

When Mom saw that Dad, Nan and I couldn't figure out what the coffee cup induced charade was all about, she placed the cup back up to her lips and deposited the liquid contents of her mouth back into the cup that it came from.  With a very contorted face that looked like she had just tasted the world's most foul concoction, and mouth still pursed in disgust, she said, "That's not coffee, that's TEA!"   Dad, Nan and I burst into laughter because we had never seen my mother handle something like that before, and with her arm waving like that and the face she made, it was damn near hysterical.  My mother, who I am sure was ready to rip that "ditzy broad" in half,  in a very calm voice, traumatized tastebuds and all, called for our friendly Fraulein and had the tea whisked away and replaced by coffee, with Fraulein Schweiger bowing and apologizing the whole way to the kitchen and back to the table again.  My mother, on the coffee's arrival, was very tentative with the cup, she took a strong inhale of the fragrance of the coffee to confirm that it was indeed coffee and took a sip.  As she swallowed the coffee, her face relaxed and her tastebuds calmed themselves.

After 30 years, we're still talking about that damned cup of tea that Fraulein Schweiger brought to my mother and how funny the whole scenario was.

Well, you have to know what's coming.  I was at dinner with Ace tonight when the waitress came by and asked me what I wanted to drink.  As is the norm, I ordered a Coke with lemon.  (It's good, try it.  I learned about it in Europe in 1985.  They mix a little bit of orange soda with their Coca-Cola and it's called a "Spezi".  Sometimes they do it with lemonade, so ever since 1985, I've always had my Coke with a lemon slice in it.)  Well, apparently the Ghost of Fraulein Schweiger was sitting on the shoulder of that waitress because guess what, as my very dark cup was placed on the table and at seeing the two lemon slices that had been squeezed into the glass, I took a sip.  My face contorted, one of my hands went up to my mouth while the other pushed the glass away.  By sheer guessing what on earth do you think was in that glass?  ICED TEA!

Ace looked at me as I grimaced and told him what was in my cup.  He was very sweet to offer me his beer to kill the taste of the foul liquid that had invaded my mouth.  I turned it away at first, but as he flagged down the waitress and informed her of the mistake, my hand shot out and grabbed the longneck beer in front of Ace and downed half of it.  A few minutes later, my Coke with Lemon arrived and like my mother, some 30 years ago, I was very tentative as I took a sip.  As the taste of Coca-Cola and Lemon washed over my palate, I relayed the story of Mom vs. Fraulein Schweiger.  He looked at me like I was nuts and I did agree with him that I guess it was just one of those things you had to be there to see.

After telling Ace about all that, I looked at the clock, it was 9 p.m.  I usually don't call my parents very late as they usually go to bed early, but in this case, it was one for the ages that I had to tell them about immediately.  So, after texting Nan to see if Mom and Dad were still up, I just said to heck with it and called my mother.

Lucky for me, Mom and Dad hadn't gone to sleep yet, and as I said hello to my mother, she hollered at Dad to get on the line because I was on the phone.  It only took a few words...

"Mom, you'll never believe what just happened.  I was just visited by The Ghost of Fraulein Schweiger.  She brought me iced tea."

You should have heard them laughing.

Friday, October 14, 2011


I've made a new friend.  He's 77, blind in one eye and has a skin condition that makes him look rather speckled. His name is Lucky and he is Ace's 11-year-old Dalmatian.

Believe it or not, even with my allergy to animal dander, Lucky and I get along famously.  I never really understood why people have pets, but after being around Lucky, I now understand why.  He's my pal.  When I'm feeling down, he comes to cheer me up and otherwise he's a serious attention sponge who needs affection as much as I like to give it.  For how tactile I am, Lucky is a great fit for me because for how much I need to touch things to give affection, he just laps it up.

On Wednesday night, Ace remarked that I've seemed happier since I've started taking an active role in taking care of that speckled old man.  I've given him a bath, brushed him, walked him, ran with him, he's snuggled with me while I read for school and just been a really good companion while Ace is busy.  

The only downside to Lucky is that well, to quote Jeff Dunham, "Saddam's mustard gas is nothing next to a Lucky fart."  Lucky reminds me very much of a large dog by the name of Cedric in James Herriot's Dog Stories. The dog can clear a room with one very inhumane foghorn-like blast.  Many a time I've fanned my nose going, "Jeezus dog!", "Eat some roughage!", "Go outside and clean out!", "Good gods, what died?", "Jeezus Lucky, light a match.", and the usual, "Ace!  Lysol!  Now!"  Oh, the pure stank that can come out of that dog will even send the olfactory-challenged running for cover like they just got smoked out of a burning building.

But, tear-bringing farts aside, I've never had a pal like Lucky.  For all of the rumors I've heard about Dalmatians being very high strung, Lucky's not like that, he's extremely sedate because of his age, the fact that he has arthritis and a severe case of hip dysplasia.  However, when he's feeling spry, that mooch pooch will play, run and goof off unlike any dog I've ever seen, and to be honest, he's the first canine friend I've ever really had outside of my sister's dearly departed Bo.  Bo was my favorite dog of all time.  He was so incredibly smart and beautiful, but as my sister tells it, he got to be one heck of a codgery old man.  Lucky's no different.  At 11, he's an old codger, but he's also what I term as a "face dog."  He's got one of those great faces that begs you to love on him.  He's very much Pongo from Disney's animated 101 Dalmatians...

But he is a real sweetheart, just like his Doggie Daddy.  The one thing that makes Lucky stand out to me away from every other dog I've seen is that he has a woobie.  Yep, he's got a security blanket.  I've never seen anything like it.  I mean, Carl takes his Doberman "Reese" and turns that miniature horse into an ottoman, and both of Nan and Carl's doberman's have their own oversized ottoman as a bed, but not even Zoe the fox terrier has a security blanket.  But, like a young child, there's Lucky with his woobie.  It's great.  There is nothing more fun than covering him up and watching him toss the blanket around until he gets it just right then flops down with a satisfied sigh and a face that says, "You may love on me now..."

Gee, I think I will.

Ace adopted Lucky as a last-chance dog.  He was on his third strike when Ace picked him out at the pound and I have to take my hat off to Ace because he not only saved Lucky's life, but he's done a brilliant job with Lucky, he's snap trained, he listens and when the pit bull mentality that was bred into the Dalmatian line long ago rears it's head, he can be a real stubborn so and so...

But I will tell you without a shadow of a doubt, I'm the luckiest of them all, I can say I've got a canine pal who pours as much love into me as I do into him.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Ok, well, it's taken me long enough, it's only been three weeks since my birthday and I still haven't posted about it.  I know, shake your head with me, but think of it this way, I'm juggling a full-time job, 12 credit hours and a boyfriend...not easy to squeeze a blog post in between all that.

So, I've hit the big 4-0.  Ok, it's not much different from 39 or, for that matter, 38.  The big difference between 38, 39 and 40 is that I got Ace for my birthday this year.  It's the first birthday I've had with a man around in two years.  It's like the rest of the adjustments you make when you have a new influence in your life, you just have to be ready to tackle it head on.

Ok girls, help me out.  How many times in your dating life have you heard a man tell you, "I'm different than any guy you've ever met"?  If you are anything like me, you know they ALL say that.  Guys should really be told "don't ever say that" because it's one of the oldest lines in the book.  Well gals, stand up and cheer because I've found one of the few guys in the universe that is actually different from any man I've ever met, and guess what, he never said he was different, he was just himself, said nothing and let his actions do all the talking.  Ok, guys like Ace need to be cultivated so there are more like him out there.

After 39 years of frustration, disappointment, mess cleaning, distractions and whathaveyou, I finally found someone I can stand toe to toe with and enjoy every minute.  But, let's talk my birthday:

Ok, I won't lie, my birthday wasn't the most banner of days.  It just didn't want to go there for me.  However, thank goodness for my chrome plated knight and his diesel-driven steed, he really fought for me hard.  The night of the 24th going into the 25th, Ace decided he wanted to have oysters.  Ok, y'all know me.  Oysters?  Really?  Well, yeah.

You first have to remember that I'm not adventurous with my palate.  I'm pretty much a picky eater from hell.  However, since Ace has shown up, I've made the conscious decision to try something new every day.  Ace was a chef at one time, so he's fantastic in the kitchen.  Yep girls, he loves to cook.  I know, "shut up...", right?  Uh huh...and oh is he a good cook.  He is so masterful with a chef's knife...I can't wait for my nephew and niece to meet him.  I told y'all already that he grows his own tomatoes (that are so floral that they could seduce whole countries), his own bell peppers (which he made a special trip to deliver some to my dad) and his own jalapenos (ok, I got lost around the jalapenos, those are just a "no" for me, but who am I to judge?  If he likes them, more power to him.)

So now that you know all that, I realized that I couldn't just stick to my boring diet around him, I needed to try new things if I'm to keep with him, so I stepped up to the Oyster Bar at Palace Station and tried my very first raw oyster on the half-shell.

Here's me before the oyster...
Here's me after the oyster...
Before I swallowed it, Ace whispered in my ear..."Don't chew."  I had been told that before about oysters, and kind of knew the drill, but that was the first time I ever swallowed one of those slippery suckers.  For those of you who are chicken and just won't do it, I'll tell you a secret:  With the way Ace doctored the oyster, all I tasted was lemon, cocktail sauce and horseradish, I didn't even taste the oyster, so all in all, it wasn't bad at all.  After digesting the fact that I had eaten an oyster, I got daring and went for another...and this is where it all went south.  Oysters have beards.  Didn't really know that, but the experienced oyster eater will tell you that they do have them...and well, on my second attempt with an oyster, I ended up with the beard doing funny things in the roof of my mouth and it was disgusting.  So, my oyster adventure ended there.

After the oysters, Ace had ordered us a creole pan roast which was filled with Andoulle sausage, shrimp and a few other things.  What makes it funny is that when the waiter took our order, he asked Ace how spicy he wanted it, and since Ace knows me pretty good, he ordered it very mild, to which the waiter replied, "Whimpy."  Ok, that didn't help, but when it came out, it was spicy!  Oy!  Yeah, I'm the world's largest wuss when it comes to spices, so to Ace it was like dishwater, to me it was burning the roof out of my mouth.  But, I ate well, I embraced the burning sensations and just went with it.

Later on, as we were walking back out to Duke, Ace's diesel-driven steed (a beautiful blue Ford F-350 diesel that's lifted about four feet higher than stock), I got a case of the giggles, BAD.  What Ace failed to mention up to that point is that the reason people eat such spicy food is because of the endorphin rush that it gives.  Ok, didn't know that!  I sat cackling my butt off over nothing!  I didn't even have anything alcoholic to drink yet, and I sat there just a-gigglin'!

I had so much fun with the oysters and spicy food that I went to sleep thinking that 40 had been my best birthday I ever had...well, until the next morning.

The next day, I couldn't get comfortable in my own skin, even if I had paid to be able to do it.  It just wasn't a good day.  My sister, mom and dad put together a beautiful birthday dinner for me including brisket, green bean casserole, potato salad and all of my favorite foods, including a beautiful strawberry cheesecake...

My family was so awesome for my birthday and I can't thank them enough for everything they did for me and for the gifts they gave me.

But then, as is tradition, we left my sister's house to head to Spago for my ritual birthday dessert...and guess what...they didn't have it.  No Créme Bruleé.  Ok, while you may think it's no big deal, to me it's a major tragedy.  12 years of Cremé Bruleé brought to a halt.  While I did have my regular glass of champagne, my dessert was replaced by "Coconut," a Coconut Pot De Crème with chocolate ganache and shortbread cookies.  How very delicious, as coconut is my favorite flavor in the world, but still, it had no zip or classicism to it, not even a "Happy Birthday" written on it, so I was extremely disappointed.

Now, I'm not sure if I've mentioned it or not, but Ace likes to make believe he's blue collar when really he's a white collar guy who likes to dress up as a blue collar guy.  Backwards?  Maybe.  Different?  Heavens yes.  Ace is the original rich bum.  He just exudes it.  The guy can bend wrenches under the hood of a car and get filthy and two minutes later he's decked to the nines with his CEO attitude to carry with him.  Yikes, what a unique mix, right?  Well, I took him to Spago in the way he loves to dress, a gorgeous flowing silk shirt with denim cargo shorts and birkenstocks (that show off his gorgeous feet, what can I say, he's got great feet...how many men can you actually say that about???).  He sat sipping a Bushmills while I took in my dessert.

All day long and into the night I had emotional trouble, not being able to be comfortable in my own skin and Ace really went to the ends of the earth for me.  He really did make my birthday special, and what topped it off was what he got me.  Talk about a guy who knows his girl...he got me a 2 terabyte external hard drive for my computer.  AWWWW!  How sweet!  (He's so awesome.  I love it!)

So, while not the greatest day in the world emotionally, Ace and my family really came through, from oysters to champagne and coconut.

Many thanks to all that posted birthday wishes on my Facebook wall, I really do appreciate it.

So that's it for the big 4-0.  I'm over the hump, it's all fun from here.

For the song of the day, I'll send this one out to Ace with a fat wink...Newton Faulkner's "Gone in the Morning."