Friday, June 26, 2009


Friday Fragments

- I don't often get excited about amending forms, but if President Obama is able to simply the FAFSA in a meaningful way, I say, Hooray! The FAFSA is the form that students and prospective students have to fill out to apply for Federally-backed financial aid, and it's worse than the 1040. It's just horrible. Kafka would have considered it over-the-top. I'm not a believer in the "it should fit on a postcard" theory, but surely there's middle ground between a postcard and a dissertation. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a much simpler FAFSA result in more completed applications from first-generation students and students whose first language isn't English. You pretty much need a graduate degree to navigate the flippin' thing. And even for those who survive the present form, surely reducing their time spent on paperwork by a few hours is a good thing.

- TW and the kids are out of town for a few days -- not in Argentina, happily -- so I'm doing the temporary bachelor thing. It's amazing how quickly old habits come back. (She would probably use a term like "regression.") Having the house to myself is a lot of fun for the first hour or so. Then it starts to get lonely. I also hadn't fully appreciated the appetite-suppressant role the kids play. When they're gone, I eat like I'm preparing to hibernate. It's a good thing they won't be gone long, or I'd have to start buying all new clothes.

- Doing employee evaluations sucks. I will offer no further details on that.

- Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson were both major figures with other people my age, but neither of them meant much to me. She seemed harmless enough, but I was never a fan. (When she hit big, I was all about Lynda Carter.) And MJ went from 'oddity' to 'criminal' in my mind some time ago, when the pedophilia became too obvious to ignore. The only celebrity death I recall really affecting me emotionally beyond the initial 'that's too bad' was Kurt Cobain. I remember my Dad's reaction when Elvis died, and I remember a whole bunch of people around me being sad when John Lennon was killed, but those were both more salient to previous generations. Cobain and I were nearly the same age, and I remember really admiring the way he embodied the contradictory impulses towards both cynicism and hope that were very real to me then. He also had a contrarian sense of humor that I found refreshing. When Courtney Love read his suicide note over loudspeakers to a crowd outside their Seattle house, doing a running commentary as she read, I was riveted. Shortly after his death, I remember Andy Rooney dismissing his depression as a sort of affectation; that was the last time I paid attention to Andy Rooney. Since then, I've cut Courtney Love more slack than she probably deserves, but hey.

- Along the lines of age and generation, I've hit the age at which I'll hear baseball players' names and immediately recognize them as "that's so-and-so's kid." Last week I saw part of a Brewers game, and during the few minutes that TW watched with me, Prince Fielder came to bat. I let slip something like "he looks just like his father," which elicited a pretty good eye-roll from TW. I haven't yet hit the "get off the lawn!" stage, but it's probably inevitable.

- TB's end-of-year report card was a smashing success. Among the piles of school detritus he brought home were several notebooks' worth of stories he had written while waiting for others to finish assignments, and a pair of mash notes from girls in his class. He's mostly excited that now he gets to stay up later reading his books. We've got some summer stuff lined up, but we're building in some "figure out for yourself what to do" time, too. I suspect he's up to it.

I am so completely with you on Michael Jackson AND Kurt Cobain/Courtney Love. I'm willing to look the other way on just about every cracked out thing she does/says/wears. With Michael Jackson, honestly, the taint of pedophilia is too strong for me to feel anything but relief that he is gone from the world. And I'm almost too young to have been that deeply affected by his music.

On the other hand, I remember how my friend Amber looked--down to what she was wearing--when she walked around the corner of the school building and told me Kurt Cobain had shot himself.

Such is life.
Jackson's legacy is indeed complicated. I'm roughly the same age as you, and I can't help but recognize that the man was a musical genius (and I don't use that term often). Musically and culturally, his influence was on par with that of Elvis, I'd say.

Yet as a human being and as a parent, I can't ignore all the evidence that points towards MJ being a pedophile or at least having pedophilic tendencies. (How else is a grown man able to rationalize bed-sharing with prepubescent children, unrelated to him, as a way of "sharing love"?) I'll confess, though, for all of that, I still blast some of the best songs from "Thriller" on my car stereo, and the talent that radiates from those songs is astounding. How am I able to do that, considering the acts the man likely engaged in five or ten years later? I guess I draw on the same rationale that allows me to appreciate a good Roman Polanski film, though he very likely had sex with an underage girl in the '70s, or enjoy reading the works of Lewis Carroll to my child, though Carroll too is now widely believed to have been a pedophile. The genius exists on the page (or on disc) apart from the twisted psyche that belonged to the individual who created the art. I may very well be rationalizing here, but I'm reluctant to part with genuine art despite the great flaws of some of the people who created it.
I agree with you, Anonymous 6:42. Michael Jackson is a true musical genius. Now I'd never let my kid near him, but still, I regularly rock out to his CDs. It's like I'd never want to hang out with Wagner, but I can't listen to any of the Ring cycle or Parsifal without tearing up at the sheer brilliance of the scores.

And oh my word, if they simplified the FAFSA, that would be wonderful!!!
re: you and MJ.

as Chuck D said, "elvis was a hero to most (3x), but he never meant shit to me.
I haven't yet hit the "get off the lawn!" stage, but it's probably inevitable.

Get it over with. You'll be glad you did. Come over to the Middle Aged Side.

I was in grad school when Cobain died, also part of the age cohort, but his stuff was so overplayed on college radio (the pre-iPod alternative was not just oldies and light rock, but Deep Midwestern oldies and light rock--the oldies station played the Ronstadt version of Heat Wave) that I had come to hate Nirvana.

But I'm so bloodless I quietly roll my eyes when people start carrying on about John Lennon, much less Elvis, Kurt or MJ.
I find it unbelievable that one feels relief at his death. I guess acquittal means nothing. Maybe it does mean nothing, but have compassion for a life lost so early.

I was not a huge Michael Jackson fan, but I know enough that we are not too young to have been affected by his music, as his music affected all who followed.

Deep thinkers here? I think not. Katie
I am on the tail end of gen-x and grew up appreciating Jackson and Cobain. Cobain's death really destroyed rock for me. This past year I finally read his journal and a really great biography and the guy had some serious issues. Jackson may have also had serious issues, but as a parent I am more inclined to question what the heck were the parents thinking allowing their kids to be unsupervised with the guy. I would no more let my child with him that I would a teen girl with Motley Crue. It is too bad that Jackson's death will overshadow Fawcett's death, especially since his seems to be about addiction and hers is about cancer.
Whatever flaws the FAFSA may have, it's an improvement over the FAF it replaced -- for which students who lived in poverty used to hand over $10 for the privilege of applying for financial aid.

(Oh, and the begging to get my dad to do his taxes before April so I could get the damn thing in before the deadline in February!)
The "Kurt & Courtney" documentary (1998) was really good. I was camping with some friends my senior year in high school when we heard the news on the radio.
To digress, I have no idea how you would do evaluations without setting and writing down performance goals the previous year (hopefully with objective items)
When I read if President Obama is able to simply the FAFSA in a meaningful way, I say, Hooray! All I could think was "guffaw!"

I look forward to seeing those photos with Obama, red pen in hand, slaving away over the FAFSA edits.

Wow. I guess people really DID think he was going to change everything exactly the way they wanted it to be.

Proof positive: Offer platitudes and leave the page blank, and people will fill the pages with their own dreams and desires.
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