Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Missing Cool

I caught a bit of an old movie on cable last weekend. It was a movie near and dear to my heart:

Saturday Night Fever

This movie came out when I was in junior high. I think it was one of the first R-rated movies I was allowed to see. Wicked Stepmother™, being the best step-mother ever, took me to see it, and we had a little girl’s night out with John and his hair. We had to drive to the next town over, because there wasn’t a real movie theater in the town where we lived, only a drive-in theater. I was excited for a solid week before our target showing and would quietly squeal to myself every time I remembered we were going.

And it was everything I had hoped it would be! The dancing, the hair, John in the white suit! OH MY GOD! It was the most exciting thing I’d ever experienced. Like EVER. It was the coolest thing on the planet in 1977.

And then I asked for (and got) the movie soundtrack for my 13th birthday, and OH MY GOD! I listened to that record over and over and over until the grooves in the album were almost worn out. I danced around in my room, imagining that the carpet was really a discotheque dance floor with the blinking lights actually embedded in the floor and John twirled me on the dance floor while my stunning polyester outfit swirled around me and the mirrored disco ball turned slowly over our heads. Could a thirteen year old girl imagine anything more perfect?? I don’t think so.

So. I caught a glimpse of the movie while I was channel surfing Saturday afternoon, and I knew exactly what it was after only a couple of seconds. I mean, after all, it was John with the swoopy hair. What else could it be? So, I just had to stop for a few minutes on that channel and have a look. I needed to see how the movie that spawned my childhood fantasies had held up over the last 30 years, maybe experience a little nostalgia for the “good ol’ days,” you know? My expectations weren’t high. I expected it to be a little dated. I mean, come on, it’s 30 years old. It’s not going to be up with all the latest cool hair and clothes and music.

But I didn’t quite expect the reaction that I had.

I giggled.

And it wasn’t the good kind of giggling. Not the Oh, I have such fond memories of those days kind of giggling. No, it was more like the AGH! Would you check out that outfit?! Is that not the most ridiculous thing you have ever seen?? kind of giggling. I was laughing AT the movie, not with it, if you know what I mean. Because it was freaking hilarious! It was a real, live cliché, playing itself out on the TV screen in front of me. It was completely absurd.

And then John danced in his white suit and did the whole finger-pointing thing and an enormous belly-laugh emerged from my person. And then I yelled for Slag to come and watch it and laugh with me. And then we both laughed our asses off for the rest of the movie.

So now I just have one question: Where did all the cool go?

Because that movie was so full of cool in 1977 that it couldn’t hold another drop. It was fully saturated. Trust me people, it was the definition of cool. It WAS cool. It WAS. Shut up.

And then suddenly it wasn’t. In the blink of an eye, a random bit of Saturday afternoon TV changed everything. The cool was gone. Vanished. Evaporated. Instead I sat there laughing at John. LAUGHING at him. And his luxurious, swoopy hair. And his white suit. Even the dancing was completely dorky.

Sweet Jesus, even the dancing? The dancing??

Nothing is ever going to be the same again. I think I need some alone time now. And a glass of wine. Maybe two glasses.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Short Post in Which I Bitch About Work and Use Too Many Sentence Fragments and LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS

By about 2:30pm this afternoon I had reached a point where if one more person called me and made me take off my headphones or walked into my office and made me take off my headphones or stopped me in the hallway while I was on my way to the bathroom to pee or interrupted what I was trying to accomplish in any other way, I was going to freaking lose it. LOSE. IT.

See, there is this project that we’re all working on. It’s one of those software death marches that all of us who work in software development have experienced. It usually starts when people with business degrees refuse to believe the engineers when said engineers opine that it is not physically possible to create the desired product in the amount of time between now and the magical marketing release date, whenever that should be. No, the management types clearly believe that the engineers are secretly spending their days eating Cheetos™ and playing video games and if said engineers would just TRY A LITTLE HARDER, they could do it.

I’ve been through this about a thousand times over the years, and nowadays it’s really hard to get me all worked up into a frenzy because of some ludicrous release date pulled out of the air by someone who wouldn’t know an internet if it bit him on the butt. Oh, I admit, in my youth, I was just as enthusiastic as the next person. I attended those pep-rally-ish all-hands meetings designed to motivate the “troops.” I joined hands in the huddle and vowed to work 80 hour weeks until the project was done.


I really was convinced that if we all killed ourselves, neglected our families and sacrificed our physical and mental health, we could get that product released on time. In short, I was an idiot.

Now I am just cynical. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do my part. I’ll work late or on a Saturday every now and then to get something out the door if it has a snowball’s chance. But don’t bug me with the pipe dreams. I’m not going to get worked into a lather over somebody’s pet pipe dream. I’ve come to learn that software products of a certain size and complexity just take a certain amount of time to create. Everybody working 14 hour days only causes people to start making silly mistakes and then everything just takes even longer. The one thing I’m confused about is why my management hasn’t come to learn that. They’re older than I am. And surely they’ve gone through this process more times than I have. And even dogs learn from experience after a while.

So anyway, back to today. Some test person submitted a bug against this pipe dream software (that was supposed to release LAST month), but the bug report had very little information in it, something along the lines of “It doesn’t work.” And so some other genius decided it must be a build problem. And then somebody else decided it would be a good idea to assign the bug to me. Me. The build coordinator. The one person on the team who has never even logged into the new bug tracking system. This would be like grabbing the guy who’s replacing your car’s transmission and handing him the electrical diagrams for the house you’re building and telling him that you need your house wired IMMEDIATELY. IF NOT SOONER. I think we can all agree that this would be a stupid thing to do. Not only would your house not end up wired IMMEDIATELY, your car wouldn’t end up running either. And that’s a lose/lose situation.

And then the people who sent the bug to me started calling about the bug. Over and over and over and over again. They wanted to know when I was going to fix their bug, but I didn't know how to fix their bug, so they told me all the reasons why they REALLY needed the bug fixed immediately, which didn't change the fact that I didn't know how to fix the bug because there was no evidence that there actually was a build problem which is the only kind of problem I could fix for them. I was sure that somebody just made up the part about it being a build problem because they didn’t know what else it could be. By this time, the red warning light in the middle of my forehead was signaling DEFCON 2, and I came THIS close to reaching through the phone and murdering someone and then spending the rest of my life in prison wearing an unattractive prison uniform with Paris.

After a half day of me being interrupted every ten minutes about this extremely urgent bug, two things were finally decided: 1) This bug wasn’t as serious as originally thought. It was not, in fact, blocking the test team from making any progress, and 2) It wasn’t a build problem. Which is EXACTLY what I had been saying every ten minutes for the last SIX HOURS. While I was trying to get some of my real work done. In between the interruptions TOO NUMEROUS TO COUNT.

Unfortunately, my attitude continued to decline even after all the phone calls stopped, so I decided to give myself a couple of hours off and went home early to drink wine and do nothing and recover from all the bullshit.

But on the way home, Slag called to tell me that the upstairs air-conditioner had stopped working and it was now a balmy 90 degrees in our bedroom and his office. Perfect. We’ve since applied for a second mortgage in the hopes of raising enough money to pay a repairman to come to the house after 5pm on a Friday. So it’s been a fabulous week, and I am ready for the weekend.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Dance

It’s that time of year again. The TiVo box is all aquiver with anticipation as I park myself in front of the TV with a glass of wine, ready to cheer on my favorites. That’s right! The new season of So You Think You Can Dance has begun and I can barely contain my excitement!

I should say that I’ve never been that into reality shows. Oh, I did watch one of the Survivor’s, the one in Australia I think. There was that brief interest in Big Brother that faded quickly. I’ve never watched a single episode of American Idol or Real Life or The Apprentice or god forbid, Fear Factor. But there’s just something about SYTYCD that pulls me in. Oh, I know I’m totally being manipulated with skillful editing and background music. I’m sure they could take footage of my grandmother and make her look like a raving bitch. And of course they decide the order in advance that they’re going to tell dancers if they made it or not, so it’s down to 2 guys that everybody likes and one of them has to go home and it’s so suspenseful and sad and exciting. I know all that and yet I don’t care. I’ve got to have that sweet sweet emotional rollercoaster every week, that thrilling euphoria when my favorite survives another week and the crushing disappointment when one of the really good ones is sent home in tears. Dare I admit it, yes, I even call in votes for my favorites on this show. Repeatedly. Sometimes I vote online too. At work. I am addicted.

As soon as Slag saw the ads last month for the new upcoming season he announced, in a very determined voice, that I was not going to get him “sucked in” to that show again this summer. He would not be scheduling his Wednesday nights around that show. He would not get pissed off when Nigel was mean and made one of the girls cry. He would not rant about the injustice of one of the better dancers being kicked off the show as if he were complaining about a bad call in a football game. He would not tell me who I should vote for. He would not “woohoo” and high five me when the best one was picked as the winner. No he would not.

I didn’t argue with him, but deep down inside I just chuckled knowingly to myself. Because I knew the power of the dance. He thought he could escape its insidious grasp, its captivating powers, its siren song of scantily–clad, astonishly flexible bodies. Silly man. So I just minded my own business, TiVo’ing the episodes for myself, planning to watch them by myself. I didn’t mention it to him again. But as soon as the first few notes of the theme music reverberated out of the TV he couldn’t help himself. He stood behind the sofa for a couple of minutes, trying to resist the show’s allure and make himself go upstairs and do something else. But pretty soon, just as I expected, he was right there next to me, getting comfortable and demanding the remote. And then we watched the season opener together. And it was good.

Naturally I had to rub it in afterwards, just a little. I did a tasteful and understated victory dance as the first episode credits ran and taunted him. “Ha! You thought you weren’t going to watch, but you are, you aaaare, you aaaare. You couldn’t escape!” Which he tolerated for a short time before subduing me in some sort of wrestling hold and demanding that I shut the hell up. Sorry baby! Too bad there’s no wrestling hold that restrains the mouth!

Now it’s two weeks into the season and we’re both completely enthralled and eagerly awaiting the next episode. It’s going to be a fabulous. I can tell already.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday Gripe

Being the bleeding-heart liberal that I am, I sometimes send money to random do-gooder type organizations that are watching out for the environment and animals and under-privileged children and our civil rights and other powerless things that aren’t usually a big concern for those with all the power.

There are a couple of groups that I support on a monthly basis. Then sometimes, when I’m feeling especially guilty for being a middle-class white person who unintentionally uses way more than her fair share of the world’s natural resources just by going about her day, I’ll send a one-time donation to one or more additional organizations. These are the “second tier” groups, if you will. I always make it clear that it’s a DONATION. I’m not joining anything. I don’t want a membership card. I don’t need a monthly newsletter. It’s more like: Here’s some money. Don’t bug me.

But it never works. As soon as I put that check in the mail, the floodgates open, and they spend the next two years (and probably every cent that I gave them) trying to extract more money from me. They send me “membership renewal notices” and newsletters with updates on the latest issues and free address labels. And then cool, hip-sounding people start calling and asking me how I’m doing today before trying to guilt me into sending extra money for some crisis. And then they tell all their friends’ organizations about me, so those organizations can start asking me for money too.

It drives me freaking nuts. For crying out loud, can’t they let me feel like a semi-virtuous person for five minutes after I drop a check in the mail? Just five minutes? Before raining more guilt down on my head? I’ve already got all the guilt I need. Really.

I don’t want any more mail with pictures of starving children and baby seals that are about to be clubbed to death. I don’t need any more vivid descriptions of all the horrible stuff that’s going on in the world. I can’t fix everything, and them constantly reminding me of it all is only going to make me loony.

And it won’t get them any more of my money either. I may be loony, but I’m still a tight-wad.

P.S. Want to really feel like a self-absorbed ingrate? Write a blog post about how much people who are trying to do some good in the world annoy you. It works every time, I swear.