Letters to the Editor : Shaggie Saga Readers
I read your “Shaggie Saga”
after being directed to your website from HornFans.com.
After suppressing my bodies autonomic laugh response, I was
able to regain my composure. I
then concluded the following:
I was very impressed by your
writing style and wit.
The majority of people, including
a fair number of Aggies will agree with your initial assessment of
this saga. Regardless of
legal justification, this is ludicrous.
If TAMU follows through with this
Draconian tirade, I suggest that you contact the Houston Texas Exes
and try to arrange a fund-raiser for your legal defense fund.
You might hold an “Animal House” style dance party where
attendees are encouraged to dress like “Niedermayer” and you teach
the “Forbidden Word” Jitterbug.
Although Niedermayer dressed like a Nazi, I don’t think the
Nazi Party will attempt to prosecute any trademark infringement
claims. Sorry, but I
can’t speak for any other “Brown-Shirt” pseudo-military
Good luck to you.
It’s not easy standing up to such oppression. BR
(Editors Note- the Shaggie Freedom
Fighters will do their best to continue the struggle
knowing that Texas Exes have promised to stage an "Animal
House" Fun Raiser if we end up in jail!
A party of that magnitude would surely justify risking going to jail
to save the Shaggie.)
I hope you don’t mind, but I did email a link to
your letter to the Michigan law firm to...plus,
well...pretty much every
Longhorn I know. If your click rate dramatically increases over the
next couple of days you’ll know why. That was hilarious --- from my
very biased perspective, anyhow. SK
(Editors Note- As we warned the
Michigan Lawyer, while this incident may be a major headache for the
owner of a certain Houston dance studio, the vast majority of the
human race thinks the "Shaggie Saga"
makes Texas A&M.
However, I think you wasted your time with the
Michigan Law Firm. Who
wants to bet the Michigan Lawyer doesn't see the humor?)
wanted to let you know I will vote for my favorite jokes a bit later
tonight, so hold off on the tabulation.
sure that's the last thing on your mind anyway. I just finished
reading the continuing Shaggie Saga Seven --
You have my support. SS
(Editors Note- Maybe I should start
soliciting contributions to my defense fund :-)
is this the same rick archer that ran into the
Forbidden Word wranglers in puerto vallarta many years ago? G92
(Editors Note- I have heard
that Congressman Bill Archer's son went to the University of Texas and
shares my name.
But no, that wasn't me. I would enjoy hearing the
story though. Sounds interesting.)
As an Aggie graduate I would
like to apologize to you for any headaches the legal counsel for my
alma mater may have caused you.
Unfortunately, as a professional
in the Intellectual property field, I have to agree with their
actions. Trademarks are only as valuable as your zeal in defending
them. This is why boxes
are labeled with Band-Aid “brand” adhesive strips, and Kleenex
“Brand” facial tissues. If
trademarks are not defended properly, they can be lost.
A&M’s actions should not
be construed as mean spirited or excessive.
Keep in mind the tremendous amount of scholarships that are
granted and facilities that are built out of the revenues that come
from their licensing programs. I
would imagine that if you wanted to license a trademark of theirs, you
could do it for just a nominal fee, perhaps less than the $500 you
If A&M had pursued their
complaint against you with any less enthusiasm, another party could
use it against them at a later date to invalidate their trademark.
Also please understand that as
large as the A&M system is, a tremendous bureaucracy is
inevitable. I sent in my
$$$ the former students association back in early January and only
yesterday got my “thank you” letter.
Like most institutions, they take a little longer than they
should for such formalities.
Furthermore, as a past customer
of yours, I would like to thank you for providing a great service to
the people of Houston. Keep
up the good work.
Also, Don’t let anybody from
UT or UH fool you into thinking that their alma maters wouldn’t take
EXACTLY the same action. To
do otherwise would be extremely foolish. LH
RICK ARCHER'S REPLY:
Thank you for
your letter. You know what? To some extent,
I happen to agree with you.
However in this case the argument that I
infringed on A&M intellectual property is stretching things. I
never once used the name of the University. I never claimed
any affiliation with the University. I never used logos or
pictures related to the University to promote my dance class.
The ShAGGIE Jitterbug just happens to be the name it is called by
around here. But who wants to waste time proving which Aggie I
am referring to? Utah State? New Mexico State?
North Carolina A&T State? Or for that matter the
University of California at Davis Aggies?
Here is an important question: Why doesn't Texas A&M sue
those Universities for name infringement? By TAMU's specious
reasoning, those four Universities are just as guilty as me.
For that matter, an "aggie" is also a marble. Why can't I
spread some marbles around my classroom and pretend that's where the
Really now, do you think Texas A&M has a lock on the name "Aggie"?
I just didn't have the energy to fight the zealots. As they
say, it wasn't worth the fight. Some moron would surely empty
the State Coffers throwing untold tax-payer dollars beating me into
submission while I lose my life savings defending myself?
Instead I have used the only real weapon at my disposal - poking my
finger in their eye.
I guess my only
real gripe was how awkwardly it was handled. I never needed to be
threatened. I would have acceded to their wishes willingly. I didn’t
need to hear about my “blatant act of greed”, my “serious
trademark intrusion, “ and my “illegal use of our valuable
trademark”. There were more than a few times when I was pretty hot
under the collar at what I was being accused of. I remember the last
letter where A&M said they had decided not to sue me at this time.
For crying out loud!
I think it is
the ham-handed way that so many different people handled such an
innocuous situation is what made the whole thing so totally
ridiculous. Not once did anyone bother to be nice to me. Hence I felt
called upon to fight back the only way I thought was appropriate -
tongue in cheek.
the other hand, you are right about everything you said. These people
are paid to be vigilant. That is their job. They might however try to
develop try a bit more finesse in the future before they bring in the
(LH: reader's reply
to Rick Archer's reply above)
Well if they had better social
skills, then they wouldn’t be good lawyers.... :)
I remember running into problems
when I took my senior design report to Kinkos to get it copied.
They refused to copy the cover (which had an official A&M
seal) unless I had permission or a paid license.
Apparently, kinkos has been hit real hard (not just by
universities) for copyright and trademark suits.
Since I was submitting the report to my department head (for
which I certainly had permission), I just went ahead and made the
cover copies myself, and had them bind it with the rest of the text.
“Blatant act of greed” is
pushing the envelope of good taste on that matter though.
Chalk it up to some arrogant a** in a Michigan Law firm. Probably the most junior guy in the firm (as your action
couldn’t be large enough to warrant a high price lawyer’s
attention) or even a “form” letter response.
You might try to license the
mark. I would imagine
that it would hardly cost you anything to do such.
I have bought more than my fair share of $8-10 “licensed”
just call it the College Station Jitterbug.... folks should get the
idea from that.
The Houston Press published an interesting story by Lauren Kern in its
May 4th edition. To read it, visit the
First, let me say THANK YOU for your Aggie
(oops) scholarship donation. As a past president of a large north
Texas A&M club, I know how difficult raising money can be and your
efforts should be commended. I am ashamed that there was no
local representation and no correspondence afterwards. After being
involved in years of A&M club activities and working closely with
the Association of Former Students putting on many fund raising
events, I know how much the people who help mean to all these efforts.
Second, let me say that Mr.(?) Huzar is
nuts. I have had to deal with some of the same things you have going
through in the past few months and the way this was approached from
the beginning was not the way to get things done. It also seems that
there has been selective enforcement of the trademark issue.
Not that I have any authority to
authorize anything, but if it were up to me you can continue to teach
the Aggie Jitterbug anytime you wish, to Aggies or non-Aggies, charge
Aggie Bucks, make Aggie Profits, and make Aggie Donations (now I guess
I'll get some threatening letters like you did for using the
"Forbidden" Aggie word).
Please do not think that Aggies in
general are anything like Huzar. Most of us are really likeable
people, even if we do have to take dance lessons. I also didn't
realize there was an Aggie Jitterbug. I thought any Aggie doing any
jitterbug was an Aggie Jitterbug. I guess there could be an Aggie Two
Step, Aggie Mamba, or Aggie Waltz (darn, there I go again).
Again, THANKS for you hard work, humor,
Mike Miller ' 85
a cheerful note! Thank
wish for you to know that it is very clear to me that this incident is
not at all representative of the vast majority of the A&M
community. This was the silly work of but a couple people. It was
irritating at times to put up with the nonsense, but for the most part
it made for good theater. At this point the whole affair brings a
chuckle which is hopefully where it will stay.
again for the nice note!
This article is reprinted from Summer 2000
issue of the Touchstone.
From their web site: THE
MAGAZINE IS PRINTED 5 TIMES A YEAR. PRINT COPIES ARE
DISTRIBUTED BY LOCAL BUSINESSES COMMITTED TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH
IN THE BRAZOS VALLEY, AND IN THE BLUE NEWS STANDS AROUND
BRYAN/COLLEGE STATION INCLUDING ON THE CAMPUS OF TEXAS A&M
OTHER CAMPUS LIFE
by Don Arnold
There's a tattoo shop on University drive that had a message
like this on its sign: "Tattoo: Permanent record of temporary
insanity." My feelings about tattoos and other body
modifications are like my feelings about abortion; you can do
what you like with your body but this one is not for me.
Sometimes people do things that make me reconsider.
Whenever someone who appears to represent A&M goes well above
and beyond the call of normal stupidity my butt begins to itch.
This itch reminds me of a long held desire to have a maroon
block ATM tattooed on my ass as a very personal statement about
stupidity at A&M. So far I've been able to resist this impulse
out of respect for those many reasonable good folks who have
deep regard for A&M's symbols. I don't know if I will be able to
remain unmarked in light of the current heights of aggie lunacy.
A little over a generation ago I changed from wandering around
campus as a "local boy" to a "student at A&M." That's what most
locals who went to A&M wanted to be called. We weren't "aggies"
because "aggies" were not held in high esteem. It was a
combination of contempt bred by years of intimate contact with
aggies and wanting to avoid the enforced homogeneity of the
white boy military cow college that was just beginning to
transform itself into a state university.
As the university has continued to mature and diversify I have
felt more and more like the term
aggie is not an insult. I know so many people who
have brought richness, quality, and depth to A&M who called
themselves aggies that they have redeemed the word
But now that I am finally ready to
stand up and be counted as an
official aggie, I
find that it's against the law.
At least in the state of Texas. Without A&M's official
Here's what's happened in a nutshell. A dance studio down in
Houston called SSQQ was teaching something called the "Aggie
Jitterbug" and some "former student" got his jock strap all
twisted about SSQQ using the term "aggie" without formal written
permission from A&M. Since early this year letters and threats
have been lobbed from A&M's Collegiate Licensing Office into
SSQQ's mailbox. Luckily for us Rick Archer, the owner of SSQQ,
has posted all the legal lunacy on the SSQQ website.
I've visited SSQQ over the past couple of months. It's a nice,
friendly, affordable, family oriented place. They've even been
able to teach this fat old white boy a few dance steps, although
I still don't have much rhythm. As best I can figure Mr. Archer
has bent over backwards in his responses to A&M's attack. It
looks like that's not the direction some folks in the A&M
trademark army want him to bend.
For way too many years now A&M has pursued a policy of
trademarking everything it can get its maroon and white fingers
on. Now the concept of a government body using trademark laws to
"own" ideas that were created at taxpayer expense may, in some
convoluted way, be legal but it sure ain't moral. Over the years
I've read too many of A&M's official pronouncements about the
need to "protect" the integrity of A&M's symbols from the
degradations inflicted by those evil folks who used to sell
three hole building bricks as "Aggie bowling balls" or "Sex at
A&M" bumper stickers (or apply tattoos) with a feeling of deep
sadness at the destruction of joyful play by pompous money
grubbing nitwits at A&M.
But this is going to damn far. Nobody working for A&M coined the
term "Aggie" or even "Texas Aggie" dammit! Anyone
with a double digit IQ can read old newspapers and figure this
one out. A&M has no more moral or legal right to the word aggie
inside or outside of the state of Texas than the Texas Criminal
Justice System (prisons) have to the word "con."
I try to be a reasonable person. I am thankful for all the kind,
patient, and compassionate people I know in Aggieland. But
sometimes my passions overcome me. I'm afraid that soon they
will compel me, against my "better judgment" to acquire a tattoo
including the word "aggie" where the sun don't shine. That way I
can express my respect for this insanity at least once a day.
Perhaps A&M's Collegiate Licensing Office would consider suing
me over it. I'd love the opportunity to display the
"unauthorized" application of their supposed trademark to them
I'm open to suggestions for artwork to enhance the ink stained
experience. Maybe there are some arty political folks out there
who'd like to make "Aggie" tattoos into a genre all its own. Let
me hear from you.
As always, Don Arnold
Reprint from the March 2003 SSQQ Newsletter
THE FORBIDDEN WORD
JITTERBUG DANCE REVISITED.
Most people have no idea that back in 2000 SSQQ was nearly sued
by Texas A&M University over a dance known as the “forbidden
word” Jitterbug. Hint: the Forbidden Word rhymes
with Shaggie. Now three years later it seems a
Still too frightened to say the word myself, a nice email from a
graduate of A&M prompted me to offer an upcoming Crash Course in
the Forbidden Dance on April 26.
Email letter to Rick Archer
I’m confused about what dance steps people are using
whenever ‘jitterbug’ music is played at Wild West, Midnight
Rodeo, Big Texas.
People are not doing jitterbug. And it does not look like
East Coast Swing either.
Gloria Sanchez told me that many people do what is called
the ‘Aggie jitterbug’ in the country bars. She mentioned
that there was a Crash Course in this.
East Coast Swing does not seem to work well for me in the
It’s probably me. Can you offer advice???
Thanks, Lester Byrd”
RICK ARCHER'S REPLY:
Lester, the Forbidden Word Jitterbug remains a sore topic at
my studio. A few years back I was nearly sued for teaching a
course in this dance. As a result we now refer to it as
It was then and still remains one of the most bizarre
stories in SSQQ history.
the description of the Forbidden Dance.
Also sometimes called "Street Swing" or "Hand Dancing",
here at SSQQ we have renamed this style of Swing Dancing
to "Shaggie Jitterbug". Swing dancing can be danced at
many different levels. Swing Dancing can vary from the
primitive forms of Swing used in high school to Swing
danced with precise footwork, timing, and leads in dance
Falling somewhere in the middle between "High School
Swing" and "Professional Swing" is "Shaggie Jitterbug".
This particular style of Swing Dancing is very popular
at College Station. It is fast and eye-catching, but
pretty rough on the arms and can tire you out quickly if
you aren't careful. "Shaggie Jitterbug" can also be seen
in many of Houston's Western Clubs as the dance is not
at all exclusive to Texas A&M. In fact it is danced in
many places throughout the state of Texas.
In the "Shaggie Jitterbug", basically the boy pulls the
girl in one direction and she keeps going till she gets
to the end of her arm (or "arms" if she still has both).
Both the boy and girl lean away from each other in a
classic tug-of-war position until the tension in her
arms causes the girl to snap back towards the boy
rubberband-style. At this point, the next move begins.
With famous moves like the Pretzel, the Rope, and the
Weave, "Shaggie Jitterbug" when done well can be pretty
flashy. In many ways it resembles the early Disco
dancing done in Houston shortly after the appearance of
"Saturday Night Fever". One of the advantages of
"Shaggie Jitterbug" is it is easy to learn because there
is a minimum of footwork. Another advantage is there
aren't very many patterns, so people can concentrate on
doing a few patterns well. Finally, if someone is
"rhythm-impaired", this is a great dance because there
is no set timing.
However the "Shaggie Jitterbug" also has its drawbacks.
Since the "Shaggie Jitterbug" has no "timing", it is
done pretty much at the same speed to every song. This
makes it tougher for the girl to follow and also keeps
the dance from having much style in relationship to the
Second, it is often danced quite fast. At its best the
speed can be very flashy, but the downside is people
Third, women can get hurt. Although using your arms to
stop is easy to learn, after awhile your arms get sore!!
Also moves like the Pretzel and the Rope can easily lead
to a woman getting bopped in the head by an inadvertent
elbow if the man doesn't know what he is doing. Ouch!
Fourth, there is no obvious way to get a breather. The
dance is pretty much perpetual motion. Swing Dancing
with systematic footwork and timing includes several
simple stop and rest points, but not "Shaggie
Fifth, some people consider "Shaggie Jitterbug" to be a
"lowest common denominator" dance. In other words, if
the lady doesn't know Swing timing and footwork, the man
can shift "down" to leading "Shaggie Jitterbug". Or if
the man can't lead Swing, the lady will be forced to
adapt to his particular style of "Shaggie Jitterbug".
Although the "Shaggie Jitterbug" has its loyalists, most
people who know both system-Swing and "Shaggie
Jitterbug" prefer system-Swing.
System Swing has more patterns, the footwork makes it
easier to stop without having to use arm tension, the
dancing fits the music, and the pace allows for fast
action as well as breathers in the middle.
In summary, "Shaggie Jitterbug" is popular because it is
easy to learn and can be used almost immediately by
Beginners. Consider it a sort of "training wheels" Swing
Dance. There is something to be said for a Swing Dance
that can learned quickly. For example, seventh graders
don't have the discipline to pick up System Swing, but
adapt to the "Shaggie Jitterbug" quickly.
However as a serious dance, the "Shaggie Jitterbug"
lacks style and grace because it has no relationship to
the music. There are just a minimum of patterns due to
the lack of footwork and timing. Finally, it is
incredibly tiring and very rough on the body. Women
report their arms are extremely sore after a night of
dancing this way.
My major reason for liking this dance is that it can be
used with a total stranger who has never had a lesson in
Swing footwork. However due to allegations of "serious
trademark infringements" and the threat of an A&M
lawsuit SSQQ no long offers "Shaggie Jitterbug" classes
under its "Real Name". You probably think this is a
"you-know-what" Joke, but believe it or not, it is the
However SSQQ is not prevented from teaching the
"Forbidden Dance" under its new name, the Shaggie
Jitterbug. Look for it as a Crash Course from time to
LESTER BYRD REPLY:
“Your descriptions are EXACT. Thanks!!!
I don’t feel so bad about not knowing what they were
doing...because it doesn’t sound like they really know what
they are doing....Thanks!!!
I danced with a lady who was doing this Aggie Jitterbug (a
graduate of A&M has the right to call it what it is) and got
lost very quickly but...I remembered everything I have been
told in my dance classes and was a complete gentleman...It
was awful...I stayed out there and ‘toughed it out’ until
the song was over (Charlie Daniel’s - Devil Goes Down To
Georgia) and then did not dance with her again.
By the way, I just now read your first link listing all the
I’m an ‘Forbidden Word’ Class of ’79 graduate. I apologize
for that nonsense.
For what it’s worth, I really enjoy SSQQ and have tried to
recruit people ever since I started coming. You and your
staff do a great job!”
RICK ARCHER REPLY:
"Thanks, Lester. I am very clear the entire fiasco was
orchestrated by two people with an overzealous attitude. No
harm was done and I like A&M graduates a lot.
Thanks to your email, Rachel Seff is scheduled to teach a
Shaggie Jitterbug Crash Course on Saturday, April 26. Hope
you can make it!"
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