Friday, November 19, 2010

My Web-based Sexual Harassment Tutorial Crib Notes

Fig 1. Potential lawsuit.
Look at Fig. 1 closely. Can you spot the potential lawsuit?

If you can't, then you're clearly in need of sexual harassment training. If you can, well, guess what? You're getting training anyway.

Clearly, sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace is a serious offense. That's why my employer gives us this halfassed webinar every year, with the exact same brick-stupid questions and scenarios outlining the facets of sexual harassment, the vagaries, the mise en scène, and all the other crap we have to deal with now that we live in a world where a man can't spank his secretary's ass without her yelling about respect as a woman, blah blah blah, go bake me a pie, will you?

So I'm glad I kept my notes and screenshots this time around. That way, I can halve the time I normally spend on this drivel, just clicking the appropriate answers to the quiz questions they give while reading Big'Uns instead of actually reading them. That makes it much easier.


Introductory Lesson: Sexual harassment is when one person makes a move upon another person in the workplace. This move is unwelcome if unwarranted, or unsolicited, or made by someone not good-looking enough. Hence this will never be an issue for me.

Fig 2: When to complain...

Fig 3: When to not complain...

Okay, training is over. Time for the exam.

Quiz Question #1
: Which of the following constitutes sexual harassment?

Answer: Scenario A. Here, the employer is being insensitive and chauvinistic. In Scenario B, he has a sailboat, so that's totally different.

Quiz Question #2: Which of the following constitutes sexual harassment?

Answer: Scenario C. In Scenario D, the man is showing the woman the Swingers Classified section of the daily paper, completely innocently. In Scenario C, it's Mr. Sandberg, so what else could it be but an invitation to something filthy and depraved? Friggin' pervert.

Quiz Question #3: The man has just propositioned the woman. What is the proper response if she wishes to refuse his advances and let him know they are no longer welcome?

a) "No thank you, I'm busy tonight. Perhaps another time?"
b) "I don't know. Maybe you could show it to me first?"
c) "It's nothing personal. I just don't date people of my own ethnicity."
d) "Up it another five dollars and we have a deal."
Answer: None of the above. Because, seriously, most people think the man was the one on the right. And it's not. She's actually the one on the right, and she's trying to accept the offer. Did I just totally rock your world or what? It just goes to show you: trying to train us about suppressing our primal urges is completely, utterly futile. Let's go hit the Admiral. I'm buying first round.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Local goes to Florida, Gets Married

A beach- and downtown-Key West wedding review

What I remember was totally awesome. But the stuff I wish I could remember, I'm sure, was even more awesome.

Congrats to Tso and his blushing bride. Now: you guys are doing the holiday cooking this year, right?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New rock band Bullets in Madison on fire with new single; lead singer on fire with fire

Originally published August, 2003, in Spun Magazine; reprinted here in light of rerelease of Panic in Amber Blue

Originally published August, 2003, in Spun Magazine; reprinted here in light of rerelease of Panic in Amber Blue

The singer steps up to the microphone, wind machine ruffling his clothes and carefully-disheveled hair artfully. The band behind him strikes chords and poses with thoughtful, somber moodiness.

"Crosswords..." keyboardist and vocalist John Morton intones soulfully.

I'm on the set of the Bullets in Madison video shoot for their hit single, "Crossroads," off their new album Panic in Amber Blue. Surrounding me are all the makings of a killer video: chained, caged strippers, a neon band insignia highlighting the stage, a prowling leopard in the rafters and a rotating drum set.

Director McG, whose Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle recently took in $52,000 at the box office, is at my side, coaching the merry montage of musicians along what will undoubtedly be their chart-busting hit single. The band is sluggish and slow-moving, which, for them, translates into ecstatic. McG is polysyllabic in his directions to the band, which, for him, translates into intellectual. I want a drink, which, for me, translates into business as usual.

"Crosswords..." Morton croons again, the band soulfully striking up the tune once more while McG makes frantic get-on-with-it gestures with his spindly arms. The music plods on, then stops as Morton trails off into silence.

"I forgot the rest of the song," he admits soulfully, hanging his head in shame.

"It's okay," McG assures him gently, shooting a quick glance at his budget director who is currently preparing to hang herself with a length of power cord. "We're going to overdub your singing in postproduction anyway."

"It's weird," Morton continues, gazing at his keyboard mournfully. "I have that first word down, but when it comes to the words that come after it, all I can think of are the words 'drive-by.'"

"That's the next song," guitarist Michael Stautmeister tells him thoughtfully. "The one we play after this one." Nearby, the trumpeteer is getting stalked by the leopard.

"Oh yeah." Morton adjusts his shirt collar artfully. "That's weird."

McG, clearly wishing he could get back to more cerebral projects like looking up Lucy Liu's skirt in her next film, hooks an elbow around Morton's neck. "We're going to get through this, guy. You and me. And the rest of the band. Sky's the limit. No holds barred. We'll show the rest of the clowns you play music with you're the glue that holds this miserable act together. You just wait."

"We can still hear you," guitarist Aaron Sandberg drones somberly. As he looks after Morton and his director, he runs a hand through his full head of hair soulfully...and winds up with a fistful of his remaining hair. His bald spot glares triumphantly. Upon seeing it, he screams mournfully.

McG is not unaware that the band is aging somberly, soulfully and mournfully ten years for every minute this farce drags its nuts. But clearly he's got ideas cooking on how to get the show more dynamic. More engaging. More today.

"Cue the flame thrower guy," he tells the head grip. "And get the kerosene ready. We're torching Morton first."


Bullets in Madison is an up-and-coming band whose debut album is just as new as they are to the Chicago indie rock scene. For some reason, I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of these guys are going to wind up teaching in the public school system. Some of them might even wind up where I work, sneaking into my room, swiping my lesson plans, stealing my medicinal whiskey (kept safely on the bookshelves, where students will never find it) and locking me inside the building when I'm not out the door at 3:05 like them. I have no idea why I suspect all this. But I'm rarely wrong.

That's the future, though. Years away. In the meantime, the band is putting together its first music video.

The "Crosswords" shoot has been going on for months, as Morton struggles to remember his lyrics and his partner in crime Sandberg watches the last remains of hair fall out. I've spent the majority of my time here exploring the band's origins and musical influences, only to discover that, much to my dismay, Morton and Sandberg are the most boring people on the face of the earth. Stautmeister was, for a time, a better bet at entertainment, but he stopped talking to me when he caught me going through his wallet looking for naked roadie pictures.

Sandberg, on the other hand, won't shut up about what inspires him as a musician and motivates him as a performer. Our most recent interview took place backstage, while McG layered Morton in petroleum for the big fire scene, which, according to McG, "really captures the song's anti-Iraq war message." Morton had tried to explain to him that the song actually came from a frenzied effort at free verse over the Sunday papers comics section, McG insisted that he had the better interpretation, and Morton's objections were effectively overruled. As the grip splashed Morton's mostly-hairless chest with a paintbrush dunked in Vaseline and Stautmeister, for some reason, rapidly took pictures, hooting and whistling all the while Sandberg droned on and on concerning the dangers of artistic influences.

"Many writers will stop reading any books by other authors while they are working on their own novel because they’re afraid that another style will seep into their own," he said. "Yet at the same time, they’re in a bind because they might happen to like that particular style, and wouldn’t mind if the influence rubbed off, so long as it didn’t suffocate the work."

Bored out of my mind, I tried desperately at this point to steer the conversation to oral sex. But no dice. Man. Musicians.

"The problem compounds when you’re in touch with many influences," Sandberg continued.

"Speaking of touching," I tried again, simultaneously gesturing towards the nearest cage-dancing stripper and my crotch. But he didn't take the bait. He only averted his eyes from my groin and went on with the interview. Fucking musicians...

"Again, two things can happen. There's a constant conflict between original vision and influence which the careful artist addresses."

"Hey, Professor, want to put it in language we can all understand?"

"Well, the resulting work, whether novel or album, can become an ugly pastiche of all styles, or, the result can be a beautiful and diverse, woven piece of work."

"That's the biggest load of bullshit I ever heard," I jeered.

Sandberg fixed me with a level gaze, and another clump of his hair fell to the floor. "You don't even know what pastiche means, do you?"

"No. No, I don't. Do you?"


"Okay then. So, getting back to getting your knob polished..."

Here, our interview was interrupted: the pyro guy had ignited the flamethrower, turning Morton into a flaming ball of smoke and heat.

"Crosswords! Crosswords!" Morton shrieked, running around the stage, slapping at the flames with his hands. "Agh!"

Sandberg took this opportunity to make some lame excuses to go and comfort his friend. However, Morton, engulfed in fire and screaming in blinding pain, decided that company with Sandberg was infinitely worse, and came back over by me for his interview.

"And yes, while some say it is impossible not to be influenced," Morton said, leaning in close to my tape recorder, "I say it is possible to use the influence to eventually transcend the influence. That is the ultimate goal."

"Did you used to have chest hair there?" I said, gesturing towards his smoldering torso. "Because you don't any more."

With one thing and another, Morton getting carted off to the emergency burn ward, Stautmeister running off to post the entire thing on the Internet and Sandberg finally taking a hint and hitting up the cage dancers for some back room action, I finally got some peace and quiet in which I could actually listen to the album. So here's my review:

It's good. Overpriced, but good. I recommend it.

Maybe in the future we won't have to buy music any more. Maybe some day we'll be able to get it for free off the Internet. Not Napster, obviously, but something else. Something...torrential. That would be sweet. In the meantime, if you want it, you'll have to buy the album off their website, or your local Tower Records outlet.

Hmph. Musicians. Always in it for the money. And a first aid kit.