Open Letter to the University of Chicago Development Office

Dear University of Chicago Development Office:

I’m going to make this simple for you: For every single piece of spam e-mail I receive from you exhorting me to give money to the University of Chicago, I intend to cut 25% off the original amount of money I intended to donate to you for the year. So far — in the last couple of weeks — I’ve received two e-mails from you, so congratulations, you’ve already halved my intended contribution. Two more and you lose it all, and then I’ll have to decide whether to count any additional spam from you this year against my intended contribution for next year, and the year after and so on. If I do this, given your current rate of spammage, I may be in the clear for contributions through 2010 at the earliest.

Why do this? Two reasons. First, I get enough unwanted crap in my e-mail box without additional unwanted crap from you. Second, begging for money through unsolicited e-mail implicitly places you on the same level as the people who are trying to scam my credit card numbers, or trying to tempt me place a bet with their offshore casino, or trying to beguile me with pictures of barnyard fornication — just the sort of crowd I’m sure you want to be associated with. You’re better than that, and with an endowment of $3.62 billion, you can sure as hell afford a goddamn stamp.

Yes, I’m aware that you have provided me with a way to opt out of future money-begging e-mails, but you know what? I shouldn’t have to ask you not to clog my inbox with e-mail I don’t want. You’re the University of Chicago. You should already know that spamming alumni is a venal sin. And I have no assurance that once I opt out, some jackass in the future won’t just put me on the spam list again.

So instead, I place the burden on you, and put it to you in a way I’m sure will get your attention: Take me off your damn money-begging e-mail list and keep me off it, or you won’t see any money from me. Because you’re annoying me, and why would I give money to someone who is annoying me? I’ll just give it to my high school, or maybe to my wife’s college. They don’t spam me.

It’s up to you. You’ve already lost half of what I planned to send you this year because of your spammage. It’s all the same to me if you lose the other half. If there’s one thing I learned at the University of Chicago, it’s not to reward people who just won’t learn.

Update, 5pm 6/22: How very nice — an e-mailed apology from the U of C Development folks and assurance I’m removed from the fundraiser e-mail list. Griping works! And I’m pleased enough by the gracious response that I’m back to making a full contribution to the school for the year. Would that all e-mail issues were so quickly resolved.


Oh My God! They Look Just Like Us!

The New York Times, which recently tried to homo-fy two guys socializing by calling it a “man date,” continues on its vein of mild heterosexual panic with an article that frets that thanks to heterosexual men deciding it’d be okay not to be a slob every once in a while, and gay men occasionally not giving a crap if their stubble is exquisitely sculptured, it’s getting harder to tell the gays from the straights. The horror! The sheer, unadulterated, sexually-ambiguous horror! And if we can’t tell the gays from the straights, then the bisexuals are really up the creek, aren’t they? Simultaneously wearing a too-tight ribbed tank top and relaxed fit Wranglers won’t mean anything anymore.

These sort of articles make me want to smack the Times upside the head and yell at it to try its hand at actual news again, you know, for a refreshing change. I hear there’s a war on. Secondly: This is a bad thing? We live in an era in which an active quorum of religious bigots would quarantine gays into concentration camps if they could (“It’s just like Guantanamo — only fabulous!”), and the Times is snarkily concerned that we can’t simply visually identify the gay guys anymore? Hell. I’ll happily wear a leather armband if it’ll flummox a hateful Bible-wielder. And I’ll let a gay man borrow my Wal-Mart purchased t-shirt, just to really throw them off. He can’t be gay — that shirt is 40% polyester! Yes, the gay can blend. Just like polycotton.

You know, when I was younger, a lot of people, including members of my own family, vaguely suspected I was gay. Why? Well, all the cultural indicators were there. During high school, I had an overly-dramatic crush on a particular girl which kept me from dating other absolutely wonderful girls even when (on occasion) they were standing right in front of me, waving their hands about and saying “Hey, look over here.” Professing to have a long-standing crush on an unapproachable girl, is, of course, very teen gay. So is being verbally clever, slight of build, an active participant in singing and theater groups and enjoying Depeche Mode on a regular basis.

And I took dance. Modern and Jazz. Oh, yeah.

Add it all up and I was queer to the friggin’ core. The only thing that really pegged me as possibly being in the heterosexual camp was that I was a freakin’ slob and that in addition to enjoying Depeche Mode I was also a big fan of Journey. But as anyone can tell you, gay teens compensate for their queerness by doing things like, you know, picking a random corporate rock band to obsess over, hopefully one with a moderately cute lead singer. In my era it would be Journey. 10 years later: Creed (Today: Well, hell. All those new rock bands seem pretty sexually all over the map, don’t they? Have you gotten a gander at, say, Franz Ferdinand?).

So: On paper, as a teen, pretty darn gay. And yet, right through to the monogamous institution of marriage, heterosexual right down the line (it’s a short line, I’ll admit). Also, I’m not afraid to say it: As a general rule, I like me the women. In theory I accept the possibility that some guy out there could get me emotionally quivery and physically all winged-out, and I wouldn’t be all angsty about it if happened. But you know what? Hasn’t. Whereas women distract me all the damn time. I’m good with this; for one thing, simply as a practical matter, it’s caused me far fewer headaches than the alternative. I am appropriately thankful that I and my life partner have our relationship recognized by everyone as being a marriage, and that there are no exclusionary dickheads hiding their pissy fears behind a Bible and telling us we’re going to burn in eternal Hellfire for loving each other and defining ourselves, with our child, as a family. It’s one less thing for me to deal with personally. Would every couple were as fortunate as we.

(It doesn’t seem likely people would confuse me for being gay anymore, what with the wife and child and rural red-state lifestyle and the Wal-Mart clothes, but if they did, you know what I would think? Good. Here in the US, gay is the new British, which is to say that if people think you’re gay, they also think you are smarter, wittier, and more fun to be around than the average guy. Sure, you sodomize other men on occasion, but that’s your business, and we Americans always suspected British men had sodomy as a required subject at Eton. So it’s all the same, really. And in the meantime you always say the perfect thing at the perfect moment. You’re more entertaining than cable! And what could possibly be wrong with that? If people know you’re a straight guy, on the other hand, they automatically think you’re a beef-witted social dullard in a Linux shirt hoping to delude some poor woman into accepting a sperm packet or two. In a word: Eeeeeeew. I blame Queer Eye for the Straight Guy for propagating this “befuddled pathetic straight guy” meme, but since the New York Times tells us it’s getting harder to tell the queers and straights apart, at least it’s on its way way out.)

Point is: the gay/straight cultural checklist utterly failed to predict my overt and flagrant heterosexual proclivities. And I don’t doubt that even now, somewhere in my sleepy Midwestern burg, there’s a guy flying a NASCAR flag, wearing a John Deere cap and owning a pickup with a “W ’04” bumper sticker who is trying to decide if he should go see Mr. and Mrs. Smith yet again to enjoy his recommended daily allowance of Brad Pitt, or if he should just stick Troy into the DVD player, and catch Brad in his buff, half-naked, remote-control-pausable Achaean glory. In the real world the dividing line between gay and straight doesn’t exist anywhere but in the mind and in the bedroom. It’s vaguely appalling that the writers and editors of the New York Times don’t actually get this.

Actually, I’m sure they do. But they have newshole to fill. Well, like I said: Rumor is, there’s a war on.


How to Get Your Ass Kicked

Four sets of three songs on Dance Dance Revolution Extreme, standard setting, all at once. That should do it if you are a 36 year old somewhat infrequent exerciser, as I am. It’s a little under half an hour of seriously aerobic exercise, and it pretty much knocks me on my ass when I’m done.

Yes, this constitutes my exercise regimen; I’ve been doing it for a couple of weeks. The DDR people even make it easy for you: They have a special workout counter built into the game — if you enter your weight and a couple other criteria, the game will calculate for you how many calories you burn per session (for me, usually somewhere between 60 and 70 per three song set, in case you’re wondering). What this makes you realize is that after sweating like pig for 25 minutes, hopping up and down in a comical approximation of choreography, you’ve only burned off the equivalent of a Snickers Bar. Swell. That’s a motivator, all right: No more Snickers Bars for me.

I am beginning to see the benefit, however: The first time I did it, when I was done I thought I was gonna die. Now after I’m done I know I’m gonna live, I just won’t enjoy the half hour or so after I finish. Also, my foot-eye coordination is improving, which is critical if I am to regain the competitive advantage over my daughter in Dance Dance Revolution, because recently she’s been wiping the floor with me in the game and talking trash to me about it, and if you want humiliation, you can’t do much better than a six year old girl kicking you to the curb in DDR and then, after she’s beaten you, turning to you and saying “Yeah, who’s the daddy now?”

Yes, she really does say that. Yes, it’s awfully cute. Even so. Time for a comeback, I say.

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