Monday, December 27, 2010

Let's Study Online!

A few months ago, I posted some practical advice for what majors not to choose if you want to have any success and sanity in life. Today, we’re going to look at different dimension of college. No, I’m not talking about keg stands, dipshit professors straight out of grad school with no common sense or teaching talents, or how to pick up the slutty girls who only wear inside out sweat suits. We’re going to investigate the convenient, though highly controversial world of the online university!

After graduating from Fitchburg (which has now become Fitchburg State University, and I am incredibly disappointed that they left the word “state” in the name, thereby voiding use for tired jokes), I began establishing my own media business. Right now I specialize in photography, writing and audio production/composition. It’s a little rough here and there, so I figured I might try expanding into other new realms, mainly graphic design and interactive media fields. Now, since I’m busy running my own little corporation, taking the time to go back to school didn’t seem that practical, especially given other, more serious (in a very nice way!) personal things I’m working on.

So, to combat this little predicament, I looked into online programs that offered something along that line as a temporary solution at best. And that is how I found myself a group of lying, thieving, marauding assholes that put Famous Poets to shame! The “school” in question is American InterContinental University. Through use of intimidation, questionable policies, and keeping information about themselves behind closed doors until after you apply, this for-profit pile of elephant shit has made millions off of unsuspecting students who didn’t read (or who weren’t issued) the fine print.

I came across AIU while browsing graphic design classes and certification programs through Adobe and such. I had no real intentions of applying (since an online degree is the best way to slaughter your resume); I just wanted a little bit of information, mostly to see if I could take a few classes now, and transfer them to a real school. After the Famous Poets incident, I research any and all things before I advance. But a minimal issue did crop up while doing this: they have no adequate information on their website! You absolutely have to request information from the school! This was a bit of a warning right away, but since it doesn’t cost anything for information, I inquired. Then it began.

Less than 24 hours after requesting information, I started getting phone calls, multiple times a day, from the same admissions advisor. I’d get calls while I was sleeping, while I was having dinner, while I was decorating for Yule. It didn’t fucking stop! I finally had the chance to talk with my advisor, and this guy was one of the sleaziest sons of bitches ever spewed out of a rotting cunt. We’ll call him “Alabaster” to conceal this wretch’s identity. Simply by requesting information I had inadvertently begun the steps for admission.

Now, let’s take a step back and look at this. The fact that we must do so this early in the game is akin to raising a plague flag at a Renaissance theatre; this is some deep, sticky shit. I merely asked for information on the school and a particular program. Doing just that with any traditional institution will result in a few booklets, flyers and maybe an email or two from the university. I filled out that same sort of request form here and have already taken Step 1 for my application. Your application formally starts with an information request! Like I said, I like to research any venture I take, so I’ve gotten tons of brochures from many schools, from New England to Pennsylvania, over the course of one quarter in high school. None of them spammed me. I had time to choose what was right for me. If I didn’t reply, the emails and fliers eventually stopped. With AIU, something this simple is taken as a sign that you are 100% committed to them, and you are completely certain that you wish to enroll within just a few weeks!

When I was speaking with Alabaster, he said, “I see you’ve requested information for our graphic design program, you’ll be beginning January 3, is that correct?” Wait, what? Nowhere on their website did they tell you when these programs started and they only supply a very vague and incomplete list of required core classes in the field you’re studying. I was hoping to maybe get some, I don’t know, time to get ready for this! Jesus Christ, when this was going on, the start date was a little less than a month away. Nowhere did I ever say I was committed to pursuing this with AIU, yet like a used car salesmen, Alabaster wouldn’t take no for an answer. Also, since I had answered the phone and asked for information, I was now 50% complete with my application!

I figured at this point, it couldn’t hurt to simply apply, and later choose not to be bothered with it. I finished my application and submitted $50 for the application fee. Now, this is where some other issues arose. I had to sign release forms for my transcripts, and to show my agreement to the school’s policy (which again, doesn’t mention a whole lot, it’s very vague and has very little about the school itself in it). To do this, I had to print the entire application, which totaled eighteen pages, sign five of them, scan them, and then email them to Alabaster. He made me do this four fucking times because “the version dates are missing.” Here’s the problem: the file he’s sending me to print isn’t configured for standard paper size; even resizing it in the print menu didn’t work too well. He claimed this was the first time this ever happened; yet if anyone’s doing this from home on your average printer and using this format, it should be happening every goddamn time! Well, finally he was satisfied with how the scanned sheets looked and I was free of that bullshit. 48 hours later I was accepted.

When I answered this next call from Alabaster, I knew something wasn’t right. I had a sickening feeling in my stomach. AIU at this point hadn’t even received my transcripts from college or high school and I’m already accepted? What kind of school allows that? I was then directed to financial aid and am told by the woman in that office that the program will cost $26,100. The next day I get an email congratulating me on my acceptance and blah, blah, blah. They then tell me I need 180 credits. What? Alabaster said I needed 90, but this is apparently the core program, I need another 90 credits, which includes a complete business minor, basic writing (which I obviously don’t need!) and bullshit like philosophy and adolescent psychology. They get through this by making you get an associate’s degree first, then the bachelor’s, regardless of what you may already possess!

This makes the price $52,200, not $26,100! The financial aid office deliberately lied to me! They also lie about this on their website. They show total cost and $26,100 listed, but very cleverly conceal in the upper left corner of the chart that if you want to actually gradate, you’ll need 180 credits. Even in the email telling me about 90 additional credits, they do not include any change to cost. Yet the total is indeed $52,200. AIU courses are $290 a credit, and they require 180 in the end, not 90. Basic multiplication is all it takes to see through this level of poorly constructed bullshit.

This is, from the source, what is charged for tuition:

Hmm- something stinks. There it is in the words of AIU, what the cost of attending their institute totals. Yet this is a completely different story from what you find out after you get your acceptance letter and total in the additional charges. They have the 180 listed vaguely on this form, but are purposely not including the cost that those additional 90 credits create!

This is a great example of bait-and-switch, and is illegal under false advertising laws. They lure students in at a slightly reasonable fee of $26,100 (remember, this is what some schools charge a semester!), and then only after acceptance do they reveal that you need additional credits that double the cost they initially told you! By including that little 180 (and using a lot of ambiguity), they can shield themselves from legal flak, and create the perfect loophole for not including the real cost of tuition!

Now I know why I felt sick when I was told of my acceptance. Alabaster emailed me again, and this time he sent me a copy of my application documents and I saw something that infuriated me. This was an anger I had never felt before. This made a certain group of lying poets look like Christ. This was a rage so intense that if I were a god, I’d use it to destroy a few cities and flood the earth – a few million times! You see, what I saw on these documents was my social security number. I never gave AIU my social security number!!!

That was it for me. But now I was left with a pretty big problem. AIU now has my social security number, a copy of my handwritten signature and the number from the debit card I used to pay the application fee! FUCK!

After a very deep breath, I had to plot my next course of action. The next day I went to the bank and cancelled the card. I also made sure to have any recent spending tracked and put a block on AIU. The woman I was speaking with even called this “school” and got the run around. I could tell from the look on her face while she was talking to these assholes that she wasn’t impressed with them, and she told me to take action on the rest of my ID.

I contacted FSU and spoke with the registrar. She told me that AIU had called them twelve times asking for information on me, and not just academic information. Alabaster was interested in personal information and other records that FSU probably didn’t even have! This resulted in a little visit from the police to investigate privacy violations and harassment! Wow, what a nice school! On top of that, the registrar told me that although AIU is accredited, its type of accreditation is not one that most schools, including Fitchburg, would accept credit from. This immediately destroyed my original idea and revealed even more deceptions.

That night, Alabaster called again. I was supposed to have attended a virtual open house on the student website to get to know my “peers”. Yeah, going to a glorified facebook-styled chat session with a bunch of morons trying to earn their degree while in prison is a great open house. Now that my bank was notified and my card terminated and replaced, I was ready to let him have it. And boy did I ever! I wanted to know how the fuck he got my SS# and he avoided the question each time. After going to my high school, it appears that they got it off of my SATs, since it was required to include that number on the information sheet at the time. When confronted with the accreditation issue, he got pissed and simply stated that I was getting “some bad information” and left it at that.

Seeing that he was calling FSU to the point were the police had to get involved, I knew right away that Alabaster was about as trustworthy and accurate as the information presented in Triumph of the Will. The day after that, I called my lawyer.

My lawyer, upon hearing that AIU had gotten their hands on my SS# without my consent, told me to issue a notice in my writing to terminate all records they had on me and send me a form detailing that the request was met. As of this writing, this has not been done at all, and the bothersome emails and phone calls continue to come. The next step is to have my lawyer call the school and personally speak with the CEO. Yeah, they have a CEO, not a president. Shows you what their main interest is, huh? Once contacted, it will be demanded that the request is complied with again, or the issue will move to court.

Since this is a continuing saga, much like Famous Poets was, I will be posting plenty of updates. So if you’re interested in the convenience of online education, remember that all it takes to apply is an information request. I know it’s convenient. But it’s also insanely expensive due to ridiculous hidden fees and despicable business tactics. Most are accredited, but the accreditations are worthless in the real world. No other college and no business would want someone with credentials from such an organization. If you take a sheet of paper, then take a massive shit on top of it, that oozing shit covered paper will have more value than a degree from AIU or any other online college.

Unless you’re attending an online extension school from a real, established college, such as Boston University Online, avoid online education at all costs. It’s not worth it, it’s a scam, they can steal your identity and they’ll lie right to your face (if they could see you) just to squeeze out every last penny they can.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Festive Filth: The Worst Christmas Songs Ever!

Shortly before Halloween, taking a trip to the mall or any retail outlet will probably mean seeing plenty of Christmas trees, elves, Santa decorations and lights, lights, lights! It’s not until the first or second week of November (on average) that the monotonous, clichéd, mentally numbing drone of holiday music works its way through the speakers of broadcast device and forces the everyday clerk and shopper alike to go postal.

Now, keep in mind there are some great songs out there. I absolutely love Bing Crosby’s arrangement of “Do You Hear What I Hear” and Roger Whittaker’s “Christmas Is Here Again”, and anything Trans-Siberian Orchestra does is just awesome. But then, we all know the bad songs too. We all know what these abominations are capable of; I for one listen to Madonna’s version of “Santa Baby” whenever I need to quickly cure constipation. And really, how many version of “Jingle Bells” or “Rudolph” do we really need? We all know the songs; we all like the old, original versions better (or not at all)! You suck; get over it!

But out of all the songs you’re sure to hear any given Christmas season that blow more than the average New England blizzard, there are some so incredibly bad, they can make any Christmas carol sung by a chorus of barking dogs sound like Chopin. Chances are you’ve never heard of some of these, and if you have, you’re probably wondering what took so long for me to make fun of them! Others you probably know but have repressed the memories so deeply that reading this article will require years of therapy.

So, without further ado, I present the absolute WORST 5 Christmas songs ever made!

5: Gunther: Christmas Song (Ding Dong)

This is one of those very few songs that is just so bad that it comes back as good, and can be quite amusing to put on as you trim the tree. Constant sexual references done to predictable European techno beats and Gunther’s steamy, guttural voice can really get you in the mood! Or not. But no matter how comical this song is; nothing compares to the comedy of the video!

4. Cher: O Holy Night

If she could turn back time, she’d go back to this song and introduce her mouth to a roll of duct tape. This offers a very good idea of what it’s like for a woman to sing baritone. After this debuted on the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, it became a staple of many parodies to come, most notably the accurate impressions offered by Paul Shaffer. If one were to swallow 90lbs of sawdust and down it with a bottle of mercury, you’d still fall short of this performance.

3. Matt Fox & A.J. Rice: Illegals In My Yard

This racist abomination first emerged last year on the conservative website (gee, what a shock!) Parodying “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano, the lyrics are predominantly anti-Hispanic, but lines such as “They’re going to spread bubonic plague this Christmas” really harkens back to the Middle Ages when Jews were blamed for poisoning the wells with the same disease. Old racism with a new target. On a musical level, this is just as ghastly. The monotone “singing” is about as boring as watching a bunch of sports cars go around in a circle. Then again, this is aimed at that same demographic.

2. Milton DeLugg/Roy Alfred: Hooray For Santy Claus

One thing I hate about holiday music is how far too many record producers think that a bunch of children screaming carols into microphones produces something desirable. Used as the theme song from the 1964 holiday bomb, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the aforementioned production techniques shine through like a burst of atomic holocaust. What makes this worse is just how effective it is as a song. One listen and there is no doubt that it will be stuck in your head for days to come. I always thought “The 12 Days of Christmas” was the most annoying holiday song ever written, and then I heard this! This is one earworm that you’ll need a chainsaw to remove.

At last, we arrive at number one! Just what, you may ask, can possibly reside in this unholy realm? A Justin Bieber cover of Alvin and the Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late”? The Star Wars holiday album? Perhaps it’s not a song at all, and you’ve just come face to face with Satan himself. Or, maybe you’ve just met the worst musician to ever live. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the one, the only:

Jan Terri!

1. Jan Terri: Rock and Roll Santa

Just what can I say about this? Everything speaks for itself. Literally! Jan Terri’s horrific speech impediment makes this come out as “Wock and Woll Santaw” and the rest of the lyrics require repeated listens and knowledge of the Enigma code to properly understand. Adding to this is the unimaginative dancing, clichéd lyrics, music based off of no more than five notes and a video that relies on random scenes of Christmas displays and copyrighted segments of classic holiday specials with no legal authorization.

And it isn’t just this video. Oh no. Terri has a whole collection of similarly composed songs with videos that follow this very formula! Whether she’s singing about lost love, a trip to Mars in the distant future or dancing goblins, you can easily plot her next move just by watching this one video! If you listen to any song on this list in its entirely, it has to be this one.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Back For Christmas!

Whoa, it's been long time! My little Thanksgiving vacation took a lot longer than I had originally planned, but I needed it! I've been incredibly busy starting my own business and getting it off the ground while dealing with family emergencies, a charity event and a few other things! I hate to see how little I've written AGAIN this year, but oh do I have a lot.

Remember Famous Poets, that bullshit poetry scam I tore a new asshole a few years ago? Well, I've recently gotten involved in another scam by a different organization and boy am I pissed! And what happens when Vikings get pissed? Well, there used to be this place called Atlantis before some nose picking, vegetarian hippie pissed off Odin.

Still sorting this out now, and possibly taking a little trip to a place called court to help it along. Hopefully this will be a easier than appealing to a bunch of fundamentalist poets operating out of a shack in Oregon.

Oh well, up first this holiday season is an examination of horrible music. Stay tuned, chances are you've never heard of some of these!