Category Archives: Philosophical BS

The Unofficial College Freshman Survival Guide

Because our friends have a daughter who will be heading off to her first year of college soon, I wondered if I could come up with a list of tips that might make her freshman year easier. As I started thinking of things from my own college experience like “Being on a first name basis with the Dean of Discipline makes it harder to get away with things” and “When people start acting like nudity and needles are normal, it’s probably time to leave,” I started wondering if any advice I could dispense to a college freshman would be applicable in today’s college experience.

When I was in college, there were no laptops, there were no digital cameras, and we had to go to computer labs to use Gopher because there was no World Wide Web available to the general public. Know how much we worried about getting a less than flattering picture of us taken with a camera that wasn’t invented and put on an internet that didn’t exist? About as much as someone stealing our uninvented ipods or 90 pound, $300 dollar a minute cell phones. Shit man, the only phones in my dorm were hall pay phones that the served about 30 guys each, so you were lucky to find out if your girlfriend dumped you two weeks after the fact. Coming from a technological dinosaur age like that, I really started to wonder what the hell kind of advice I could offer the constantly-connected freshman of today.

The more I reminisced, the older I felt, so I put everything aside, had a cup of tea, and watched Matlock until I drifted off to sleep under my afghan. When I woke up after a couple of hours of dreaming about snorting coke off the small of Angela Lansbury’s naked back, I realized that an incoming freshman might get better advice if it came from a number of people in a range of ages, rather than from one guy who is twice the age of most college freshmen and quite possibly deranged.

I recruited help from students and alumni who are a little closer to their college years, and asked them to offer their advice on what can make a freshman year a bit easier. Below are sets of independently written advice that range from me, at the top of the age group, all the way down to a current college sophomore. Surprisingly, there were a few similarities that span across all age groups.

If you’re heading off to college for your freshman year (or know someone who is), I hope you find something in here that makes the year a little easier. If you’ve already completed your freshman year, why not lend a hand and add your year and ten pieces of advice in the comments? Matlock would want you to.
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How’s Work Going?

After a moment of reminiscing about the robotic anonymity of my old grey cube, I felt a little guilty that you had to be in that office while I sat out in my beach chair. Although I can’t join you in fluorescence, I thought I’d join you in spirit.

How's Work?

Shadow Boss!

Shadow Boss!

Shadow Boss!

Life is Slipping Away...

I wish I had tacked up a TPS report to the wall of my virtual cube, but I just don’t have the skills.

Musical Omnivore vs. Junk Bonds of Cool

A small sample of the shit I’ve been eating for admitting to buying a Kelly Clarkson CD:

“first, even jenny says you’re a girl for the kelly clarkson.”

“I don’t know man. I always looked at you like the guy in High Fidelity, tons of music knowledge with an uncanny ability to find music with cowbells. Now that is all tainted with the thought of you cruising in the EVO with Kelly Clarkson all cranked up to 11 dancing and tapping the steering wheel.”

“I was looking at your music reviews and said, ‘don’t know it… Don’t know it… KELLY CLARKSON?!?! I had to come right over. I don’t think I can look at you the same.’”

“You don’t like Kelly Clarkson. You like ‘KILL YOUR MAMA! KILL YOUR MAMA!’”

Of course, they were all kidding…

There’s no way that I’ll sit here and defend Kelly Clarkson as the pinnacle of musical perfection, and I expected a certain level of grief for admitting to making the purchase. I suppose that I should be grateful that these people once had a vision of me being cooler than I actually am, but I’m not going to lie just maintain that image. That’s not why you’re here. You’re not here to see me cool. You’re here because you know that “the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”*

Me and you are tight. We’re like this. And I can’t lie to you, now can I? Not a chance.

When it comes to music, though, the world is full of liars. You know all those people with the bad haircuts who only listen to the most ultra-exclusive, undiscovered bands out, and once the bands get more than 90 fans, they drop them cold? Yes, you do. They wear those little tiny glasses, carry messenger bags, and are always talking about how they liked the band’s early stuff before they got so commercial. If engaged in a conversation for more than five minutes without getting punched in the face, they’ll inevitably tell you what you should be listening to.

They may claim to be heavier than thou, or more obscure than thou, or more underground than thou, but you can always count on them claiming (even if silently) to be cooler than thou. For them, music isn’t about notes and chords. It’s not about kicking back and letting your brain blindly decide what moves it.

It’s a disaffected outlook, a bad haircut, wearing all the right clothes, dropping all the right band names, and living in hip, shitty little apartments in the city. It’s acting like they don’t give a shit what people think about their musical taste, when they actually care the most about what people think.

To them, music is a race to get there first, and a junk bond in which to store their credibility.

It’s a sad fact that most of the cool people I’ve met in my life have turned out to be pretty uncool. Or fake. Or assholes. Or all three. And most of the time, the cool is just a perfume to mask the stink of whatever is rotting inside them. But the deeper you have to dig through all the layers of cool, the more likely you are to find people that grew up in some hick town on the same uncool shit that we all grew up on. They my be listening to Boris now, but when no one’s looking they’re listening to stuff that is completely uncool. And if they’re not, they’re completely wasting their time:

Because when you’re alone, there shouldn’t be anyone left to impress. Music isn’t about cool. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about feeding your brain what it needs to get by.

So, I can’t understand the Musical Vegans, who consume a very limited subset of music while rejecting all others. For me to get what I need, I need to be a musically omnivorous. There is just too much music in the world to worry about what’s cool or to pigeonhole myself into some narrow slice of the musical spectrum.

In my collection, Richard Buckner sits with Bullet LaVolta, Burn the Priest and Junior Brown. Clutch is next to Clarkson, HateBreed next to Ben Harper, and Only Living Witness next to the Old 97′s. Pig Destroyer touches the Pixies, Shadows Fall touches the Shins, and Killswitch Engage touches Kraftwerk. Even Lords of Acid is allowed to get its unique brand of nasty all over Lamb of God.

So remember, I’ve never claimed to be cool. It rewards me far less than being musically omnivorous.

*Lester Bangs, Almost Famous