Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review - "The Believers" by Zoe Heller

To describe a family as 'dysfunctional' is to arbitrarily assume some sense of normalcy exists to justly level the assertion. Fortunately there's no prototypical family devoid of all familial squabbles, addictions, infidelities, lunacy or disparaging. Find me a family without these idiosyncracies and I'll show you their hard drive. People are fallible and families develop deep wounds sometimes rendering them irreparable. But what's alluring regarding the family dynamic is the substantial affliction or euphoria we feel after interactions with - or news pertaining to members of our family. A bond is so intricately woven that even the black sheep longs grudgingly for acceptance. 

"The Believers" resonated close to home because it's a novel with characters I know very well. Many aspects of the secular, liberal Litvinoff family resemble the not-so-quaint family I grew up in. The story channels the intellectual and moral quandaries persistenlty faced by a family whose captain fell into a vegetative state. The wife and daughters (and adopted son) are faced with starkly different life choices and each handle their reaction to the stress of their father's demise differently. Close in proximity yet isolated in mindframe, the boisterous mother and the combative daughters reduce the reader to agony over the persistent fighting.

Shakespeare would quiver with the scathing quips delivered by these feisty lionesses.

The Litvinoff's are not without secrets and skeletons, some of which remain hidden for years. Audrey, the near-widow vehemently denies any veracity from an oddball of a woman who claims a son with her unresponsive husband. Her daughter Rosa, a perpetually anguished revolutionary, challenges her intellectual omniscience and flirts with (the much-frowned-upon) religion. Rosa's resentment toward her mother for her hostility and provincialism inflames throughout the novel. Karla, Audrey's other daughter and Rosa's sister, longs for unfeigned affection and respect from her husband, mother and sister. Delegated without objection as the least attractive, least intellectually curious of the bunch, her placid demeanor is often exploited by those who recognize it as a weakness. A social worker, she cloaks her inner loathing with the cheerfulness of Santa Clause. Finally, Lenny, an indolent drifter incites drama and walks away as it simmers. A 16 year-old in a 34 year-old's body, irreverantly dismisses all but partying and drug experimentation.

As you can see, the characters are difficult to love for their flaws are so unapologetically present. Few efforts are made to mollify these vices. In fact, they're viewed as virtues.

Many novels lure and hook readers in the first chapter, only to lull considerably in the 2nd act. Writers grow tired and their sentences deteriorate until the climax and resolution. The once poignant similes diminish. Heller does a phenomenal job avoiding this and I felt almost distracted by the beauty of her prose which remains strong throughout the book. The unforgettable exchanges between this consortium provide ample laughs and many times where you pause as you think, "Ouch...my lord that was harsh." I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of fiction and appreciates rich vocabulary, family drama, exploration of religion, indulgence of lust and ultimately secular wit. This book is a real treat.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Gayborhood

Gay men often find me irresistable. At minimum, moderately attractive. It's probably because I'm fit and tall and less because I dress like a bohemian/emo/toolbag. (It could also be a direct result of unabashed flirting and teasing because I revel having the power instead of being the chaser). In any case, fashion is largely unimportant to me, but paramount to them, so although I lose points in one area I compensate by indulging in primping i.e. I always request my hairdresser trim my eyebrows and other unnecessary personal grooming you probably shouldn't care about (performed by me, not my haridresser in case of confusion). While a collegiate in San Diego I used to hit up a gay frequented Mexican place in Hillcrest each Monday night. Monday's you could consume a delicious, inexpensive fiesta with excellent drink specials and if I were on top of my game, I would have a drink bought for me.

It happened a couple of times and I toasted to the pursuer with a sly wink as I downed the Patron. Gracias!

Only on rare occasions did I feel obligated to make out with the guy.

Kidding.

Anyway, after a hellish week that would make solitary confinement seem enviable, I was invited to a gay bar near Dupont Circle. For those unfamiliar with DC, Dupont Circle is the epicenter of the gay community where pride flags wave and one of the only places on the east coast where I justifiably feel ugly. These guys are hot. Most straight men refuse to acknowledge the innate hotness of other men, but this has never been a problem for me. Straight men believe their masculinity is undermined as soon as they say something like, "Damn, boy's got it goin' on." Okay, maybe saying that does imply a certain degree of gayness. My point is, straight dudes are afraid of sounding gay so they refrain from noting or even concurring with the obvious. Since I rarely care what others think of me, outside judgement is rarely an inhibitor from being 'real.'  

Saturday night I slinked (more like beamed) into a gay bar and had a blast bringing all the boys to the yard. For single dudes, gay bars are a great place to meet girls who often accompany their gay friends for sheer bemusement and to prevent male pressure/annoyance they face at straight bars. Most girls I know have a gay friend they rely on for fashion advice, boy problems, and compliments. Pretty much filling the missing gaps they have with their boyfriends.

Bobbing my head to the beat I felt comfortably objectified throughout the night. A few times my ass was grabbed, but it didn't deter me from swiveling my hips in a manner that would make Beyonce blush. After a couple hours I was all techno'd out and I noted the irony of flying earlier that day from Kentucky (home of anti-gay lesbian-looking Mitch McConnell) to liberalopolis DC. It's an interesting world to trek hundreds of miles in minutes and to alter politics from: Obama is a fascist, communist nazi to that Obama is really hot piece of a@#.

Ah, forgot to mention. An impetus for the outing was a celebration of my admission into American University's School of International Service. Saturday night I received notice and have until the 21st of April to reply. AU's SIS is the most-applied-to school of international relations in the United States and they received a record number of applications for this term. I'll be dwelling on my future much in the coming weeks, but didn't want to leave y'all in the dark.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Near Hell Experience

I should be out in Georgetown with a Michelob Ultra watching the sweater-over-dress-shirt crowd awkwardly scheme on girls. I should be plopped on my bed, relaxing after a long week in Kentucky yearning to shake off the accent I acquired listening to Colonel Sanders brethren. I should be dining at my favorite indian/mexican spot rehashing the stark differences between rural and urban life and thanking my lucky stars I wasn't flying back to Kentucky as my home.

Instead, I remain in hell. Let me tell you how I got there.

This morning I had to drive 2.5 hours to Lexington from Bowling Green, Kentucky (home of Rand Paul, Nappy Roots and other non-hip celebrities). I had to be mindful of the time change because Kentucky is retarded and hosts both Eastern and Central Time. So I had to depart an hour earlier to catch my flight. However, the main freeway between the cities was hosting an impromptu tailgate party that no one knew about. I sat in bumber to W'04 bumper traffic for 2 hours traveling precisely 4 miles until I was forced onto an alternate detour route. 

During this escapade, I retained spotty cellphone coverage and my calls were frequently dropped. I tried to get ahold of Mom and friends to inquire about ways to circumvent the madness. Billboards asking me to be saved by Jesus lined the freeway, so naturally, I asked Jesus for some traffic assistance. He's pulled bigger miracles in his day I thought, it's the least he could do. But Jesus' cellphone coverage sucked too apparently, and my disposition deteriorated considerably. 

Mom relayed a horrific accident occured in the early morning on the out-of-service freeway where a semi-truck traveling southbound crossed over into the northbound lanes and hit a van of Menonites head on. Menonites! These are some of the most peaceful people in the world! 11 people died. Authorities were unsure whether the driver suffered a heart attack or a stroke or was under the influence of drugs or the tea party. It's really a tragedy and my Mom reminded me to be thankful I wasn't involved in the wreck. 

Good Ol' Mom. Always supplying me with the glass half full ideology bulls@#$. Kinda makes me think about interactions my Mom must have with her patients (she's a nurse).

Patient: I'm dying, can't breathe. I feel atrocious.
Mom: Well, be thankful you didn't get in a car accident today.
Patient: I haven't been capable of driving for 20 years.
Mom: To just imagine, you could've even been a passenger.
Patient: Nurse, I ain't riding in no car with my condition lately. 
Mom: Sure. We're all just so lucky a meteor didn't obliterate us today.  
Patient: Sometimes death seems preferable.
Mom: Appreciate the fact that you lose only one life when you pass away instead of two.

Just kidding Mom, I love you :). Speaking of glasses, I could've really used a half gallon of scotch to get me through (wouldn't have been driving under the influence because we weren't moving) watching two rednecks make out in front of me in between drags of red Marlboro's. Any glass would've been useful as my bladder was irritated and demanded relief and being blessed with a Y chromosome I generally have more options than my female contemporaries. Refusing to relinquish my coveted spot in traffic for fear of not finding out if the two in front of me were related - not sure how I would've found that out, but you never know I suppose - I eventually surmised a plan to drive to Nashville and find a road going north.

Biting my tongue I negated all my waiting and made a U-turn and headed back south toward Bowling Green. Since my tank was on E, I pulled over to get gas and a friendly Tuckster (my nickname for Kentucky people) notified me of a little-known passage north. He had a twinkle in his eye that could've meant: Go This Way Boy, The KKK'l take care of ya, but I figured the KKK would be preferable to the traffic so off I went.

7 hours after I stepped foot in the car I made it to the airport. I now understand where the endurance for these southern NASCAR racers comes from. Gained a lot of empathy for those dudes. The ticket clerk was about as friendly as Larry David. Which brings me to another wrong perception about the Midwest. Not all people are pleasant. They are either A: endearing creatures with lollipops handy to brighten your day or B: despicable people who carry the lollipops they stole from handicapped autistic children. There's little grey area it seems.

Downtown Lexington is currently host to a Math Convention and most of the hotels are booked like a library. After debating whether to spend $200 for a bonafide bomb night at the Hyatt (I earned it, no?) I elected to drive to a couple cheaper places and here I am at something and another Inn and Suites. Inn and Suites go together these days, like scones and tea, coffee and cream, GOP and moron. Anyway, my brain is fried and not in the elective way via Dr. Greenthumb. So I'm off to find something other thank KFC or White Castle to satiate my gustatorial preferences. Oh, by the way, makes me feel even better that I'm surrounded by little Bobby Fishcer's everywhere for the convention...lucky me, the idiot in Kentucky.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Anecdote


St. Mary's Men's basketball team has made it to the Sweet 16 and it's ruffling feathers of bracketholders and receiving copious notoriety from the press. Since I have a tangential relationship with the team and because of the constant exposure I figured I'd share a quick anecdote: 

Some of you may know this (how could you not), but I was a Jewish All-American basketball player in high school. Being named a Jewish All-American is about as lucrative as being the best bobsledder out of Ghana, well actually probably less so. It doesn't posses a lot of street cred, and although you're semi-famous (well even that's a stretch), you may be riding the bench on your own team (not really).

I was recruited to play for Team Phoenix in the Maccabbi Games (Jewish Olympics for American youth) when I was 14 and could participate for 3 years. Team Phoenix was a perennial loser until I waltzed in and combined forces with fellow All-American Todd Golden. After our uniting, Team Phoenix won back-to-back national titles. And we scored frequently with JAP's across the board as word spread quickly that we were the Shaq-Kobe duo of the tournament.

Todd is currrently playing professionally in Israel for the Haifa Heat. After high school, Todd accepted a partial scholarship from St. Mary's and was a recipient of major minutes by his junior year. A Jew playing for a Catholic school, who says it can't be done, eh? By proxy, St. Mary's became a team I would go out of my way to see lose to Gonzaga on ESPN, so I could watch Todd and the many Australians they recruited - all that mission work really pays dividends.

Anyway, over the summer between my junior and senior years of college, I worked at the JCC in Phoenix with an autistic kid at a summer camp. Todd was back in town and he brought his friend who had an eery resemblance to Todd. Same haircut, same facial features, same expression, save for an extra 8 inches and 100 pounds, they could've surely been identical twins. Omar looked a bit like Frankenstein and carried the ebullient gaze of Ben Stein. On the weekends, Todd and Omar would play pick-up basketball with has-beens like myself at the rec center. At this point, Todd and I were about as cordial as Netanyahu and Abbas. Our relationship long severed perhaps because some of my leg shavings got on his bed when we shared a room once (don't judge). Each game was a grueling battle and a competing bravado for who would call the fewest fouls.

I'm a Ted Kennedy foul-caller. I don't wait to be egregiously mauled and knocked to the floor, a simple delicate tap on the wrist will suffice. Though I had to alter my mode when playing Todd for fear of being labeled 'soft' or 'weak'. Sure enough during one play where I penetrated the lane, I was slapped on my shooting elbow warranting a foul. Todd lambasted the call and I plead my case. It fell on deaf ears and Omar turned to me in a mechanical fashion and flatly said, 'pussy.' In the way the Terminator states, "Your parents are dead," to John O'Connor.  

I was pretty pissed at the time. But now, after Omar has graced the front page of espn.com as a dominant big man in college basketball (twice), I feel kind of like Iceland when President Bush criticized their wavering support in the War in Iraq. Sure, my interaction was insignificant, and ya, I was called a pussy. But being called a pussy by a guy on his way to the NBA ain't so bad. Plus if I remember right I almost dunked on his fat a@#. 

Except I don't remember right. Now a Jew dunking, that's something I gotta see.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pics from the Race

13.1 and done. Whew. Had a fun time racing through the city today. Below are some photos. I wasn't as fast as last time, but I also had to stop for a potty break for a couple minutes at the 3rd mile marker. For those curious my actual time hasn't been posted but I assume it's somewhere near 1:42. Enjoy! The pics are black and white because color just couldn't keep up I suppose (also to hide the wrinkled grimace and sweat). I am running in a white cut-off with hi-black socks, navy blue shorts and two towels above my crotch (typical outfit for me sadly). And if you're curious what place I am? Just peep the final photo. Medal, baby, that's right. As usual, you can click the photos to enlarge my smiling self and try to discern the pain hidden within.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

First Glance

She stood and announced her name and year,
My eyes narrowed to focus, straining to hear,
Her natural zest showed a grace unfettered,
My pulse was lively - wild against my sweater,

Patiently I waited with a nervous tick,
Pondering how to approach with a charming schtick,
The window opened and I pounced,
Quickly thereafter I was shot down,

Never one to dwell on initial rejection,
Perserverance was usually my predilection,
Perhaps she'd be willing to look again,
Unless she had a boyfriend, if so, what then?,

I surmised a plan to grab her attention,
A surefire way to win her affection,
Another attempt, another failure,
She was intransigent but I would prevail,

But I neglected to mention her appeal,
Her vibrant skin, her curves - surreal,
Each inch of her body smooth and flawless,
Intelligent eyes analyzing the lawless,

Which leads me to mention her demeanor,
A student of law, inquisitive and sweeter,
Than a ripened peach in the breezy summer,
Her smile lingers long after words that she utters,

Hazelnut hair thick and at ease,
A symettrical nose adorned with a ring,
A subtle rebellion to the system she faces,
Compassion her M.O. and never wavers,

But what sticks out most is something not to describe,
A connected attraction rendering us paralyzed,
Knowing you'd sacrifice all that you've earned,
For a day walking together alone undisturbed,

But we wouldn't have known if not for a proposition,
My eager acceptance for our first audition,
From that one night initiated a spark,
The fire blew fervently but never blew dark,

Something uncommon had cast us in,
A passel of memories commenced with a grin,
A wrenching endeavor quite complex,
Wait til' you hear what happens next...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Kneed To Finish Strong


The National Half Marathon in Washington DC looms so close I can practically taste the sweat and agony coming at mile 10. Good thing there's a GU (for those who don't know think edible gak...pretty much a fantasy during my pre-pubescent years) station at mile 11 to distract the taste buds and propel me through the last couple miles. You know you run obscenely long distances when you don't think about sweat affliction until 60 minutes in.

And there's the trouble with my left knee which refuses to understand that proper healing entails running on asphalt 13 miles. Stupid, brainless knee. Thursday I have an appointment with my knee's concubine; (besides the brace) the MRI machine. This will be my second MRI in as many years because I can hardly play basketball, hike, walk upstairs, bend or breakdance without quivering in pain. And many of my friends are nodding because they know that the pain quiver is contagious when watching me breakdance.

Anyway, 36 hours later is gun time for the race. It's the only marathon-ish race held completely within the District of Columbia which sounds cool, except when I tell people no one really gives a s@#$. But what is cool, is the race traverses through the prettier areas of DC without much of a nod to, say, the other beautiful parts of DC. You know, the parts with 2nd Amendment remembrance and preservation of historical housing. (Meaning memorials for last weekend's shootings and dwellers of the deteriorating projects). Oops, for those who elect to run the full 26, they experience both. Lucky them :).

I try not to dwell on my injury or provide it as an excuse because others have comparable injuries far less painful and inhibitive as mine. Kidding. Most every runner has his/her share of ligament issues, tendon problems or plantar fiscitis which is really just a good explanation for bypassing the line post-race to get a (free) foot massage. We all have challenges that motivate us into trekking the distance. And afterward, the pain is alleviated until times are posted and the collective groans reconvene.

 This time around, I'd be happy with stagnation for my time, though even that seems ambitious. So instead, I'm focusing on retaining my new iPod by the end of the race (no small task and will require much mental determination) and refraining from socializing with the aid station volunteers (unless one is super hot in which case feigning an injury is something not below me).  

I'm nervous. I want it to all be over with. I want a cold beer afterward and loads of carbs. I want to jam out after to the cool jazz and lie on the grass in exuberation. I really need to stop focusing on post-race already!! MRI results likely won't be in until the following week, and I'm likely to get a third opinion because mine and the doctors are often not one and the same. Sigh. Thankfully Lady Gaga will be rumba-ing in my head so it's like a Rock n' Roll Marathon. Come to think of it, I think I'll bring my headset in to the MRI as well.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Democratic Crapshoot


For basketball enthusiasts like myself, March Madness is a time of great exasperation. After spending hours watching teams compete noting the strengths and weaknesses during the regular season, we're all asked to fill out a bracket aggregating our knowldege and making educated guesses on who wins games. Needless to say, the aficionados are generally demolished by the wife of the janitor who is a frequent lottery participant and picks numbers randomly because they're 'people's birthday's' or they pick teams with mascots 'who can eat the other one.'

The latter is an actual example, demonstrated by my colleague last year (unsuccessfully). Instead of spending time to research the senior leadership, perennial outcomes, srength of schedule, injury reports, etc.. the time is spent picking teams where the chooser has been to before or dislikes because of a surly ex-boyfriend.

Janitor Wife: Ew, I'm definitely not picking West Virginia, I dated such an a@# hole from there.
Me: Ya ...but they're a number 2 seed. They have as much chance as losing as I have of dunking on Lebron James.
Janitor Wife: Leshawn who? Oooohhhhh Kentucky! I've been there!
Me: Would you mind filling out mine when you're done?

The charm of the tournament is that even though some of us have money at stake or root for our alma mater like we went there, each bracket is created equally. And the more you care or know, the more likely you are to be outwitted and fulminate at the kindergarten son of your boss who picked Kansas because of "The Wizard of Oz." Upsets are ineluctable, except for the ones the experts (or I) advise.

Kind of like democracy in a way. I'm grateful we don't have litmus tests for voting because it enables people to vote for politicians like the George Bush's and Sarah Palin and without their prominence I can't fathom Tina Fey would actually make people laugh. The bracket contest is similar: you pick one you like for whatever reason, no justification or understanding of anything other than checking a box necessary. Still, some people will find a way to snafu something as challenging as box-checking.

Ohhhh, it said check the empty box next to the name...I think I'm just gonna circle it.
(This is why Democrats won the House I assume - here's hoping for further confusing directions in 2010)


And like the mook (movie/book) "What's the Matter with Kansas" I select Kansas each year to win, assuming my odds are increased by my lack of deviance - not sure how that makes sense but it does to me. However, the year I didn't pick them, they won. Therefore, this next decade is dedicated to Kansas winning the NCAA title again. So buckle up, it's gonna be a wild ride, and leave your knowledge at the door because March Madness dispels the notion that hard work is rewarded. After all this great writing, who knew I'd be a FOX News contributor??

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ahhhh, the Work Commute


On the off chance I'm actually in the city where I reside (and senselessly pay rent), I commute to work via bus. One, because I don't have a car and if I did I wouldn't dare try to park in the city. Two, because I don't have a bicycle and frankly, the helmet would mess up my hair leaving me looking like...well an uglier version of me and we can't have that. Third, I'm repulsed by the metro system that seems to be competing with heart disease as the number one killer in the city. Oh, and there's no metro in Georgetown so that might also play a contributing factor.

Anyway, riding the bus is an inexpensive way to get your jolt in the morning, figuratively as well.

Today, as I've grown accustomed to, space was limited so the seats were occupied and I was forced to stand. Which isn't all that unpleasant unless you want to read, in which case your only options are hovering over the girl below you sneaking a peak of her Economist or the like. Which can look much more like your trying to get an aerial cleavage shot than a line from Jodi Picoult. So you stand impatiently, hoping someone will get off the bus early to allow you to sit and get a side view of the cleavage.

Or so you can get out your cell phone and read the New York Times columns, or for me, review the comments posted here. Either way, there's an underlying subtle jockeying on the bus to claim the title of; "I've read more op-ed's by 9AM than you". Which you lose time while jockeying to see who's ahead, so best to leave the jockey for your briefs (underpants).

Today, a vagrant shared the bus space with the suits and started sniffing my crotch like I was a fire hydrant and he was a dalmatian. Which can be flattering I suppose, but I was worried he was thinking hot dog and would chomp down at any moment so I promptly blockaded his view using my umbrella as a shield.

Accidentally smacking an innocent passenger in the mouth with the pointy side. Yep, I'm pretty good at making friends. At this point, the agitation level is high and I realize I have little hope of attaining the coveted title for the commute because now my focus will be gone with too many distractions like wondering what toppings the homeless guy likes on his hot dogs.

Although I remained in a steadier position than a few weeks ago when I walked onto a bus at the precise moment where an argument climatized (my form of reaching it's climax, hmmm, suppose climaxed would've sufficed but I've written enough innuendos for the day). That day, two men were arguing over the usage of a steam cigarette on the bus. It was some new technology that looks identical to a cigarette but that only emits innocuous steam.

But the real steam was coming from the other man berating the guy with the faux cigarette. An elderly black man, he understandably mistook the cigarette for a cigarette and demanded he put it out. As I sat down in between I thought how I really should've selected a different seat. But it was too late and I became a silent intermediary - partly because I wanted to see the old man kick this guy's a@#.

Eventually, the arguing ceased without the violence and I got off the bus. Unscathed, but always on the prowl for more adventures commuting in Washington D.C.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Office Politics


The President of my organization wrote a disturbing memo a couple weeks ago that elicited a chill throughout the halls as if the air conditioning was left on in winter. He alluded to some structural changes within our non-profit supplying a couple details exemplifying the new modifications. A few people were demoted, a few positions were consolidated, and few recipients of the email were insouciant about the news. Most were highly concerned, and eventually rumors got back to the President and he called for an open forum this morning for further explanation and any queries employees may have.

After his succinct introduction he opened the floor for questions and the room fell silent. I was perturbed by the shyness of the employees who speak unapologetically behind close doors and given the opportunity to vocalize their uneasiness in public they shut up like a nerd bumping into a guido.

Anonymity shielded them from confronting the big dogs.

Thankfully, some brave soul raised her hand and levied a concern. All it took was an initiator and the room erupted in collaboration for 45 minutes. The meeting was only supposed to last 20.

Like most companies, we're not immune to the unstable economy however our worries stem primarily outside the company, not within. Our numbers are where they need to be. Our donors, sticking with us. However a hiring freeze remains as well as stagnant wages and diluted benefits. Additionally, worker morale is lower than Death Valley's elevation.

And if you saw the frightened expressions on my coworkers you'd believe they spent a day there without water.

The President did his best to quell fears by ensuring to avoid layoffs at all costs and asked what could be done to eliminate the tension. Many offered suggestions. His expression was stoic as he absorbed the criticisms.

In a nutshell, he and the rest of the senior staff are sorely out of touch with the nuts and bolts of the machine they oversee and the result has been high voluntary turnover. When a company loses a bunch of employees in a recession like this, that reveals not just red flags but red parachutes.

Executives view things differently. In the CEO's and senior staff's heads, they're proud of the ability to stay afloat in this environment. They're so concerned with new acquisitions and program expansion and securing their own bonuses they neglect the short-term employees (like myself) and their contracts. The stress felt from bottom to middle of the road employees resembles Jack Nicholson in As Good As it Gets. They tip-toe around the building all but announcing their vulnerability.

Contracts in 3-month increments, isn't conducive to producing optimal results from your employees. Instead, people are agitated, irritable and whenever a new outside opportunity arises, out the door faster than you can say resignation.

What we needed was a pat on the back. What we needed was appreciation. What we needed was a thank you for all the hard work we've done to remain largely above the losses experienced elsewhere. What we needed was an assurance that the dedication to the mission statement will be reciprocated in the future. What we needed was an apology from Human Resources for letting us down and allowing it to come to this. Most attendees weren't asking for anything more than a sincere - thanks. Not a promotion, not a raise, not a bonus. They just want to be acknowledged for all the hard work they do.

I was quite dismayed by the unsympathetic reactions from the big guys. Like Obama and his base, our President needs to find a way to corral his employees. Or his inactivity will not only harm his employees, but the organization itself. I assume it's easy to become insulated when you're isolated from the workforce but they need to pop the bubble they work in before they lose talent and tarnish the organization's reputation.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Academy Award Disaster


Am I oblivious to another writer's strike in Hollywood? The Academy Awards Show was so poorly constructed last night I reckon my 8th grade reenactment of the paparazzi extravaganza was more entertaining. Each year I anticipate this marquee event less for the gross fake tans and extravagant wardrobe choices, more for the witty banter from the host(s), the heartfelt and inspirational acceptance speeches, and of course, the accolades bestowed on the writers, editors and other essential intangible folks who work behind the scenes. I'm also a sucker for an improvisational nihilistic diatribe and the ensuing awkwardness of the play-over soundtrack.

And here's what we got:

Two hosts with less collective energy than the coma sector at a hospital. They aren't entirely to blame as the dialogue they had to work with (as well as the presenters) would be like listening to President Obama address CPAC. Crickets. The laughs were sparse and the poignant lines were absent. Dare I say it it was rather...boring.

The recipients gave us no memorable moments save for one inspirational hyperbole that film isn't a waste of time and a Kanyeesque mic stealing moment from a female producer. Yippee.

The winning director for Best Picture, "The Hurt Locker" (was that Maria Shriver??) gave an incoherent speech lauding troops. Twice! It was nauseating. And also quite bizzare considering she is married to James Cameron who in my opinion directed an anti-war film in "Avatar." Maybe it's another James Carville-Mary Matalin dynamic?

The elder recipients omitted any sagacious quotes for aspiring actors, instead they largely fumbled their time to shine. It was pitiable.

Generally the Academy Awards produces some great material to critique and reminds me why I enjoy film. But yesterday reeked of mediocrity and showed a void of worthwhile material. Did you watch the show? What were your thoughts?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lost and Careless


Probably somewhere during your childhood one of your parents yelled: You'd lose your head if it wasn't attached to your body! This adage never resonated with me that much, mostly because my head is attached, and if it wasn't I wouldn't assume I'd be in much shape to care all that much. Nevertheless that saying fit me like a glove as I lost just about anything unattached during my pre-pubescent years.

Hats, shoes, CD players, backpacks, books for school (accidental I swear), you get the picture.

Usually, like watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and motion sickness, this is something adults grow out of during their maturation. Hmm, probably could've choosen less indicative examples I suppose.

Anyway, as I've aged I certainly have gotten better about misplacing my possessions. Better as in not as frequently, not better as in more clever at misplacing them. Though I lapse like a failed smoker and continue the trend occasionally.

What prompted this piece is my escapade with my iPod(s). Here's the backlog: Every 9-12 months my iPod stops functioning. Either it won't play, it won't stop playing, or it interjects large beeps into non hip-hop songs. One of these three things happens and I'm forced to find the cutest girl at the Apple Store and plead my case. Assuming I got a decent haircut I can usually charm her into allowing me to replace the iPod for free.

However Washington D.C. is largely absent an Apple Store, and moreover there's not a whole lot they can do when you don't obtain the iPod any longer (they really need tracking devices). The first time I lost my iPod somewhere I rummaged through my apartment to no avail and promptly ordered another online.

When that one arrived I used it two days before I couldn't find it. And then it hit me like the side view mirror of a bus - it was in my gym shorts pocket. Which was in the laundry. I frantically ran over to the washer and yanked it out. Tried to turn it on...nothing. So I decided to charge it (see these are the kinds of ideas that likely wouldn't occur to a Mensa) not thinking that it had just been through water minutes earlier.

Fried.

I wanted to punish myself for the latest mishap by refusing to purchase a replacement until I learned my lesson. But then I realized that I was not only punishing myself but also instilling a timeline under my terms. Which didn't strike me as that authoritarian so I relinquished those thoughts and vowed to be more careful with the next (and last one).

Without exaggeration the day after it arrived, I took it to the gym and left it behind the basket during pick up basketball. It was gone by the time the game winner swished through the net. I was furious. Mainly with myself, but also at the smug thief who was somewhere listening to my mix of Jay-Z and Buddy Holly. And the only person the next few days wearing the same color iPod was a pimply freshman girl who wouldn't even steal a glance, much less an iPod.

It was gone.

And so once again I've instituted a strict policy of marathon training without music (which hypothetically could be used effectively by the military for interrogation). It's not pleasant. I truly need to get a grip. If not for my life's sake, than at least for the iPod's.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An Update From Pops

Most of you are probably unaware but my Pops, in his never ending quest to outdo Christopher Columbus, is traveling again. This time, in New Zealand with a friend from Sacramento. They're doing some hardcore bike riding, not for the weak of mind or leg.

As a rule I'm generally hesitant to publish others' work without their consent; Same goes for sex. That was a joke. I'm erring liberally and giving you his (mostly) unedited email here. Perhaps if my presumption is wrong and he decides to sue me he could front my legal fees (or we could always call Uncle Robert for arbitration). What a spectaclethat would be, I knew I had a gateway to fame and a future speaking to Dr. Phil.

So here you go, enjoy:

Where to begin? This is a very spectacular country, the diversity of experiences is incredible. Yesterday I drove to the Mt. Tangario Volcano and hiked around and then drove further to the ski area which has craters the size of Lake Tahoe!!

Swam in the South Pacific, rode a two masted schooner in the bay of islands, biked in the mountains of pahia, took part in a hagi, a Maori dance festival where I discovered a new talent for making real mean faces and growling at enemies while threatening with a spear. This should help me in dealing with family problems.

But by far the most exciting part of the day is the driving which is how I spend 90% of my time until tomorrow when I hook-up with Detlef in Auckland.

No place in the universe has more right angle turns, followed by a hard left, another hard right, another hard right, another hard left, with maniacs trying to pass on blind turns at three times the speed limit. Dylan (my brother) might enjoy this. It's kinda like being inside an insane video game of which your chances of coming out alive are not particularly great.

I checked into my backpacker hotel in Whitianagi and said to the lady behind the counter that I'd never seen such reckless, insane speeding. She beamed at me and said, "Dem's Me Lad's". So proud.

So this is a nutty place where everyone wants to break their necks first, and the parents encourage it. The newspapers are full daily, even in small towns of auto slaughter. If I (don't)make it through this trip I bequeath the following to Shannon (my sister): the gold in my mouth if it can be found in the wreckage, she can melt it down and sell it. To Conor: my right middle finger on my shooting hand to be preserved like Galieleo's. To Dylan: Any brain matter should there be any or any found. To Mom (I'm assuming mine): The camera for her world impressive photo albums and to the Gooster (my dog): My watch so she will always know what time it is for our walks. My final will and testament.

Nascar Pops.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Scraping Those Scraping By


Strolling through ASU this morning in Tempe I snatched a copy of the school paper to digest a bit of the campus slant. And it veered so far right I thought I had took a wrong turn and ended up at BYU. One lead story illustrates the strength of the Republican club on campus while another details a crowded GOP primary debate to dethrone a vulnerable Democrat. Inside the opinion section the trend continued as columnists decried liberals and progressives.


This is surely an anomaly; most campuses I visit, private or public, lambaste conservative ideology.


But what was truly appalling, was not the red tinge but the justification for mitigating the minimum wage in the state for those below age 22. Hmmm. This is like voting for a tuition raise for larger class sizes.


The state legislature in Arizona has proposed a 25% cut in the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour down to a paltry $5.44. No, I'm not making this up. And what's more frightening is it's likely to pass.


Using a truly backwards logic that employers can't afford to employ people at the absolute minimum legally required is false and disgusting. One collegiate wrote that some lethargic workers are not even worth the current minimum. He rightly claimed that businesses hire people only if they produce more than they make. He thinks some are not worth a hair over 7 bucks an hour.


Really!?? That's a defunct business if that's the case and with fierce competition for jobs nationwide, I'm very skeptical that an adroit manager couldn't find a better suited replacement.


It's nothing short of morally repugnant to sincerely propose a cut for those barely getting by. While some of those affected by this decision don't even have political rights (those under 18) others are working to attain a degree and put themselves through school. These people are in desperate need of a raise and are ill-prepared to weather a paycut. It's predatory for politicians to concoct this shameless scheme.


North Tempe (where ASU sits) is contiguous to Scottsdale, where Bentley's, Mercedes, Land Rovers, and Hummers zoom through the streets with expensive radar detectors to slow for the occasional photo radar. Maybe I'm a quixotic sap, but couldn't the state find revenue in other venues than preying on the poor? Drive a few blocks and you can't miss the extravagance.


Would the wealthy be willing to give a few more bucks so the lower class could avoid this egregious proposition? I doubt it. And today I'm happy I no longer reside in this idiotic state.