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The official site of sniveling writer Josh Muggins

I wrote me these suckers, too.

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What's new? Some of our old posts have been cobbled together into a nifty free ebook! (All right, it's not that "new" any more, but that's all we've got.)

The Tao of Durl (January 3, 2014)

A Brief Aside on the Rules of Courtship in a Japanese University (April 28, 2014)

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August 21, 2014

Crazy Old Muttering White Dude

Aw, geez, don't let me turn into this guy...

Some time ago, I wrote a lengthy paean to my cock, which, I’m pleased to confirm, is also lengthy. At least, above average by the standards of Caucasoids of my geological epoch—despite having lost a centimeter or two to the ravages of time. I intend to leave a hell of a fossil. But enough about my cock and its ravages.

In that epic post, I confessed that, when alone in my apartment or private office, I am apt to catch myself suddenly repeating the phrase “My cock” aloud, in a normal, conversational tone. Or, as more often rendered: “My coooooooooooooooock.”

I write this on a solo trip to Malaysia. Solo traveling puts an extra layer of varnish on run-of-the-mill aloneness, and I find that being in this situation makes me even more likely to spout out some of the increasingly disturbing things that I tend to spout out when alone. I can barely shut the door to my hotel room before letting loose. That would be disturbing enough in and of itself; what vaults this tendency into blog-post-worthiness is the increasing inanity of the utterances that come, unbidden and unfiltered, from some especially moldy corner of my psyche. Here are my recent Top Five involuntary verbalizations.

1. My coooooooooock is so haaaaaaaaard

At some point when I wasn’t paying attention, that old stand-by “My coooooooooooooooock” was retired to the Oldies station. Oh, it still gets trotted out often enough by the ol’ subconscious in its fits of nostalgia, but of late “My coooooooooooooooock” is apt to find itself shouldered aside by “My coooooooooock is so haaaaaaaaard.” At least, sometimes it comes out all elastic and gooey like that. Other times, it’s just an offhand “My cock is so hard,” with the all the passion of a Yankees radio broadcaster segueing into a drop-in ad for Aamco.

And in case you were wondering (Oh, I do hope you were wondering), an erection is no prerequisite for stalking around the kitchen informing the appliances that “My coooooooooock is so haaaaaaaaard.” This pronouncement is just as apt to emerge during moments of stupefying flaccidity.*

2. Cock, cock, cock.

In an effort to attain either greater shock value or maximum concision, my internal editor sometimes can’t be bothered with superfluous syllables like my and hard, and yearns to cut right to the chase. The enunciation of this mantra has a strangely soothing effect on me. I find my speech organs lingering lovingly over every hard k, so that it does not come out kakakak as you might suspect, but more along the lines of:


...And so forth and so on.

3. Fuck you, you fucker!

This one is most likely to occur in my office, soon after an unpleasant meeting with colleagues (unpleasant here being nearly redundant--see previous post) or a class that did not go well.

It is directed, I believe, not at any particular colleague or student, but rather at the intrusive memory itself. Some voice nags away at me along the lines of “the chairperson just humiliated you in front of all your colleagues, and you just sat there and took it, and not for the first—” until I cut it off with the above brusque epithet.

Sometimes, the nag refers not to any incident of that same day, but to some haunting failure or blunder that may have occurred decades earlier, which makes it all the more annoying. “That dental hygienist was giving you all the signs that she wanted to swap fluids with you, but did you pick up on it? No! No, you just sat there and—”

That nagging voice has it coming, no question. It is just asking for a stern rebuke. But I wonder if I would ever be able to make that fact understood to my immediate neighbors, who must suffer such outbursts through our notoriously porous office walls... Good thing I don't work in a cubicle.

4. You goddam N-word! (or) N-word, N-word, N-word!

“What th—” the reader croaks, and I totally understand. There you were, reading through a list of Uncle Josh’s humorously oddball quirks when WHAM!, just about the unfunniest and most forbidden expressions imaginable wallop you on the ears.

I feel the same way whenever I catch myself in mid-utterance of either of these. Where did that come from? For the record, there is no black person in the history of my personal acquaintance, nor any in the public eye, to whom I would want to direct such invective.

I just now googled “Tourette’s AND N-word,” and the results were instructive. When the diseased mind seeks out the English word most likely to induce shock and discomfort, the N-word is what it often lands upon. This revelation hardly makes me feel better about myself, though.

5. I want your nipples!

In contrast to Item 4 above, I feel only bemused and amused when I catch myself in this one, and will not even bother to interrupt myself, but let the expression play out till the end.

Left unstated by this puzzler are (1) just exactly whose nipples it is that I want, and (2) what on earth I would do with those nipples were they provided. The only nipples clearly excluded by the context are my own; otherwise, it’s a free-for-all, given that the utterance comes upon me with no accompanying mental image. It could be Florence Henderson’s nipples that I crave, or Yogi Berra’s.

The default assumption is that I require these nipples for fondling and sucking, but that’s by no means a given. Maybe I’m thinking that they might come in handy to plug holes in a dyke. As Woody Allen famously said, “The heart wants what it wants, and we must not let the lowlands flood again.”

So that’s my list. While these eruptions have thus far only emerged from my lips when I am alone, I find a disturbing tendency of late to catch myself embarking on one or the other when I am alone but for a companion with whom I feel comfortable, such as Mrs. Muggins or one of my seminar lackeys. I wonder if it is only a matter of time before I start barking these things out in Starbucks or just any old place.

And what if I that happens? What if, in my dotage, I’m being cared for by some kindly, minimum-wage-earning women of color, and start ranting my standard N-word tunes? Or the nipples business, for that matter?

What do you suppose is wrong with me, anyway? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

* I’m fifty-eight years old, for heaven’s sake. Who’s going to call my bluff?

August 1, 2014

Hell Is Other Teachers

Frankly, I'd find these colleagues easier to work wit

In the course of what passes for “research” for Other People’s Daughters, my upcoming memoir of my years on the faculty of N. University (aka “Nangaku”), I uncovered a reference to a forgotten meeting of the English Education Subgroup in the summer of 2005.

A secretary took me away from the colloquy at its tensest moment because I was urgently needed by a sophomore, who turned out to be beloved “intern” Kuni, bearing gifts. That night, we had this email exchange:

Thank you, ohhhhhhh thank you, for pulling me out of the incredibly boring meeting.

Well, “boring” is not really the right word. It was rather heated. When you pulled me out, a fight was about to start between two of my colleagues. When I came back, one of them was dead on the table, and his body had been cut open and his heart was cut out. His enemy had blood all over his face and shirt.

I was glad that I missed watching such a scene.

Anyway, we continued talking about the problem, but we couldn't find a consensus. The dead guy's open eyes were very distracting.

I don't know how long I can continue to teach in Nangaku from now on. As you know, I'm a lover, not a fighter...

After I came home, I ate your cream puff. It tasted full of love, and I forgot the day's terrible events. Thank you.


I haven't known you've had a such rough meeting in Nangaku...
It's so pity thing.

But it's strange because there isn't the department of medical science in Nangaku...

Why did the professor operate the enemy......?
It's so hot yesterday, so that scenery

(one of them was dead on the table, and his body had been cut open and his heart was cut out. His enemy had blood all over his face and shirt. )

must had made you cool...

Anyway,I think that professors should be calm in any situation.

I'm a lover, too, so I'm very sad and I'm anxious about you. I earnestly hope that you won't have any such troubles any more.

And of course, also I hope that you continue to teach us in NANGAKU...;_;


Though the Subgroup encompassed only eight members, the dustup cited might have involved any number of combinations. Japanese-on-Japanese violence was most common, but we did have one uncommonly obstreperous “native” (as native speakers of English are abbreviated) among us, who was expert at the art of pushing others’ buttons.

Naturally, the altercation did not involve me, nor my American colleague Vernon, who was sort of my role model re blending into the background when things heated up.

Vernon, a tenured linguistics scholar, once shared with me his belief that there should be no tenure, that all professors should be given five-year contracts, at the end of which they would have to hurl themselves back into the job market.*

His rationale was that faculty colleagues’ natural antipathy for one another usually doesn’t rise to homicidal levels until three years or so into their acquaintance, so the five-year limit would curtail the type of brutality described above.

I’m now in my eighth year of full-time service at RU, and tenured, and yet I look back on those days at NU—-occasional bloodbaths included—-with aching nostalgia. In those days, I was but an uncomfortable witness to all the hating; in recent years, I, along with the sole other "native" of our department, have become a target of it.

I will not bore the reader with the reasons for my colleagues’ hostility, other than to say that it is not what you suspect. I no longer exchange nightly declarations of love with sophomore “interns.” My history with RU females is at worst a bit on the gamey side but largely devoid of line-crossing.

Though less thrilling and inspiring than my NU friends, RU students do amuse me, and I would like to keep teaching them for six more years, which is to say until turning sixty-five. In the meantime, I face constantly ratcheting-up pressures. My colleagues seek to assign me courses that they know I cannot teach and duties that, owing to linguistic or cultural limitations, they know I cannot perform. Their purpose (I can surmise, having witnessed similar scenarios enacted upon others at NU) is surely to drive me toward a breakdown that will force my early retirement. Upon my lone native colleague, they achieved that threshold this year. He snapped in ways that were not pretty. I wonder how much longer I can hold out myself.**

It should not come as a surprise that intra-faculty fire-bombing has finally engulfed me, given how endemic it is to universities worldwide. In my younger years, when I had giddy, infantile notions of publishing my books through legitimate publishers, I purchased a listing of literary agents that included what types of writing each agent preferred to represent along with which genres that agent rejected out of hand.

On two occasions, I came across this odd proviso

Other: No accounts of conflicts with faculty colleagues, please.

Yes, memoirs of intra-faculty hating actually constitute a genre. Somewhere, a bookshelf groans under thick, leather-bound accounts of how Dr. So-and-so’s nefarious schemes drove me out of academia.

The question is, why? Consider that office-working drudges in both the west and Japan interact with the same coworkers day after day after day, from early morning to evening, with no barriers other than cubicle walls—if that. One assumes that a fair degree of hating goes on in such a context, but apart from the Scott Adams oeuvre, there is no genre there.

In universities, by contrast, faculty face a single day per week dedicated to meetings with our brethren and sistren. Apart from that, our interactions are limited to chance encounters in corridors, lounges, restrooms, and truck stops of ill repute. Some present themselves on campus as few as three days per week. It’s a miracle we can remember each other’s names, let alone develop the depth of mutual appreciation that is a prerequisite for hatred.

I suppose it has something to do with the autocratic status that professors (other than me) enjoy in the bulk of their human interactions. Professors (again, excluding the utterly powerless me) spend the bulk of their time in classrooms wielding something not far from absolute power. Be quiet. Listen. Put away that phone. Go buy the textbook. Perhaps no one achieves perfect obedience, but the professor/dictator does have various means of punishing miscreants ranging from public embarrassment to delayed graduation. On Meeting Day, however, these powers suddenly melt away.

Here is my best attempt to get non-academics to grasp the dynamics of any sorto of faculty meeting. Suppose you could assemble ten or so of the most ruthless dictators of recent memory at the peak of their authoritarian power. You have Gaddafi, you have Saddam, you have the Kim of your choice, and of course THAT LAWLESS TYRANT BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA! (Oops, sorry—some leakage from a neighboring blog.)

Suppose, now, that you strip these despots of their entourages and concealed weapons, and seal them in a small, poorly ventilated room from which they cannot emerge until they have assigned to one another various duties, ranging from the silly to the impossible.

“I think Mugabe should do the parent-teacher conferences this summer.”

“What? Fuck you, Kim, I did it last year. Let Assad do something, for once.”

“I’m already doing the departmental newsletter, dickwad. Anyway, I have to get back home in August. My people need gassing.”

And so it goes.

I am sorry to burden the reader with all of this. Faculty strife, I find, is the hardest aspect of university life to render funny—which is probably why savvy agents go out of their way to head it off.

I think you’ll agree that I have been pretty good about avoiding this topic till now. In my published memoirs, faculty colleagues are hardly more salient than the teachers in a Peanuts special, reduced to trumpetty off-stage sound effects. I make every effort to keep the focus on the Japanese students, who make far more compelling subjects. (And, of course, on myself.)

That said, I do include a whole chapter on faculty turmoil in the upcoming OPD, since leaving that stuff out altogether would create mysterious holes in the narrative. Or, as I put it in the text, “It would be like setting a rom-com in the zombie apocalypse without ever showing any zombies.”

Well, I’m off to Malaysia next week, using Malaysian Airlines for one leg of the trip. So perhaps my trials will soon enough be over.

* I was horrified; after decades cobbling together a livable income from adjunct work, I had finally squeezed myself into a full-time contract position, and was just starting to get tenure in my sites—and now Vernon wanted to blast that clay pigeon to bits before I could get a shot off.

Of course, being a foreigner, Vernon’s proposals had no chance of being considered. I was horrified simply because I am easily horrified—my cold-blooded reaction to the heartless corpse on the meeting table notwithstanding.

** This, by the way, is my excuse for the long absence from this blog. By the way, want to help ease me into early retirement? How about buying some books?