If Michael Irvin can say it, you should be able to

July 12, 2011

Out Magazine’s cover story this month (August 2011) features Hall of Fame NFL wide reciever, ESPN radio and TV talking head, and general Man about town.

Why is Irvin important to Out Magazine? He has spent a healthy chunk of his adult life carefully crafting an image as perhaps the least gay man to ever wear spandex and a half shirt professionally. His history of womanizing and the air of ‘Pimp’ surrounding him was grand enough to encompass the entire Dallas Cowboys organization during their 90’s glory run. His image and personality were enough to smooth over several drug and ‘character’ missteps.

Since the end of his playing career, Irvin has wrapped himself tightly in his religious beliefs, frequently speaking on the place of his fairly fundamentalist view of God in his life, family and recovery from past missteps.

None of this leads to a very positive piece, and cover, in Out. And, before you get the idea, Irvin isn’t outing himself.

Irvin has chosen to go public with the story of his older brother Vaughn, who was gay. Vaughn’s preference was known, but not discussed within the Irvin family. Michael maintained this status throughout his increasingly public rise to the NFL and beyond.

Irvin has chosen to bring out this piece of information for I’m sure several reasons.

First, lets face it, Michael loves him some Michael. I’m sure there ARE other magazines clamoring to put him on their cover…I just haven’t seen them recently. There isn’t anything wrong with this. You don’t become ‘The Playmaker’ without a sense of self promotion. And few have managed their public image as skillfully as Irvin.

Second, Irvin has spent a lot of time and effort somewhat publically working on himself, his marriage and working to help people with the same issues as his recognize and accept the help available to them. He speaks regularly to groups, religious and otherwise, not as the leader to fix things, but as the public face saying ‘This isn’t right, and you don’t have to be this way.’

Third, Irvin has achieved something many never believed possible. A level of stability and stature not athletically connected. His ESPN show is consistent and well thought of. His private life is in a much better place simply by way of  actually being private. Things in the land of Irvin are looking up.

And Irvin has never been one to miss his position as a valued voice. The work he has done on himself, and the stability he has brought to his life give him a solid foundation to take on a cause desperate for a voice. His past gives him the personal connection to the issue that makes it real, and his past image makes speaking up risky enough that it is intriguing.

Out Magazine is interested in Irvin because Irvin is interested in backing one of Out’s biggest dreams. Irvin says its time to get past homophobia in sports. He is willing to lay his substantial voice, personna, and support behind any athlete who wants to come out of the closet in major sports.

Thats a big deal for Irvin, for Out, for Sports…for all of us.

I admit it, I’m an Irvin fan. I find him a consistently interesting guy. But, this is another level of interesting. This is a big leap, even for a leaper like him.

He says its time to get over it.

He’s right.

We should all pay attention.


It’s as bad as you think…Just not for the reason you believe

July 6, 2011

For the last several weeks I’ve been really disturbed at the media frenzy and resulting popular obsession with the Casey Anthony case. The problem is, I’m not bothered for the same reason everyone else seems to be.

Lets start with this. As much as possible, I didn’t watch any of the coverage. So any facts that may creep into this are most likely incorrect, and absolutely un-researched. Second, this little girl is without a doubt cute as hell and it is unforgivable that her life ended the way it has. It seems pretty obvious that she was pretty ritualistically abused by a mother who by all accounts seems worthy of a quite violent and abrupt end of her own.

That all being said and agreed to…So what? Why did this case justify the last 6 weeks of wall to wall coverage? Why has this case caused people such extremes of emotion? Why are people so fascinated? Why did seemingly serious news shows and commentators line up to interview seemingly insignificant ‘experts’ one after the other on every minute detail of the day’s proceedings?

The reality of the legal system, and the more realistic reality of life in general, is that these cases happen EVERY DAY. Take a quick stroll through the foster care or adoption systems some time. Chat with  any social worker or school councillor. Nothing here is all that original. Even the end game isn’t overly surprising.

Just look in the news today. Guy in Canada was found not responsible for stabbing his 2 kids…and he ADMITTED HE DID IT! He even admitted it was a conscious decision he made to ‘not leave them behind’ during a failed suicide attempt. You want a slam dunk, media friendly, Oprah-licious court case, this is it!

Why are we so fascinated? The only reason this was presented was it worked. If ratings didn’t LEAP when the case hit the news, like most abuse/murder cases, we would never of heard the verdict much less hung on every breath of testimony and the interminable analysis that followed. There was a lot going on while this case droned on. Most of southern europe is on the brink, or over the brink, of economic collapse. There is still a war on…and that other situation in Libya (quasi-war? Pseudo-war? whatever) I’m sure somewhere there is a count of the number of murders, assaults and other various crimes committed, and convictions attained/innocence proven in those cases. And any number of other deals made, deals broken, situations of all kinds ignored and left unreported because we were so focused on this.

As previously stated, I feel for this little girl. The whole situation sucks. from what little bit I have heard it seems obvious this lady thought she was far smarter than her brain could back up. She had NO business raising a kid. She did a piss poor job of it. And, far too soon, she took her irresponsibility too far and her daughter couldn’t rise above the parent’s level of incompetence. And don’t mistake my position as ‘Good, she got off’ THAT is absolutely untrue. I’d gladly fire up Ol’ Sparky myself for this.

People have compared this case to OJ. I don’t see it. Other than the disturbing level of media coverage and the seemingly insane verdicts, they don’t really compare. Think what you want of OJ, there was a level of fame and notoriety there that justified the initial coverage. There was the REALLY bizarre behavior of OJ, a guy people felt they had a grip on previously to maintain interest. There was the relatively quick processing of the case. And, there was the highly contentious racial, political and social undertones surrounding OJ and the California legal system. Toss in the race baiting, on both sides, and you create a perfect storm.

There was no previous fame or notoriety in the Anthony case. There was no racial undertones. There was admittedly some bizarre behavior and statements made, but nothing approaching tomorrows “Maury” show level bizarre. This case took FOREVER to process. So why the fascination?

The fascination is this case was so easy.

It was easy to produce. Court is court, it runs itself. Couple static cameras. Someone to jot down some notes and BOOM, reality TV with production cost of just about $0.

It was easy to get hooked into. Cute little girl. Evil young single mother. Somewhat eccentric family. BOOM, ratings bonanza!

So now we have what we have. An outpouring of Twitter angst. Facebook groups lighting candles for Caylee. The traditional parade of picketers and protesters that congregate whenever a TV camera appears. If you haven’t noticed many of the protesters camp out on the steps of the courthouses…just in case a stray camera wanders by…

At some level, this kind of reporting on a consistent basis cannot be good for us.

I’m not about to present to you that focusing on the macro stories, economic, political, military or whatever is good for your brain. It isn’t. But its reality. it is something people need to have a working knowledge of to function in society. We would be a LOT safer and a lot less easily led into the abyss of financial and social disaster we seem to be careening toward now, if the same level of interest was paid to these macro ideas that we pay to cases like the Anthony trial.

Possibly the more insidious angle of this type of misinformation is the ‘normalization’ it brings to these ‘bizarre’ events. Casey Anthony is an anomaly of motherhood. She is rare, not unheard of, but rare. But, she isn’t nearly as rare as she once was. Feel free to argue all the myriad reasons for that, but you can’t argue its true.

People have always done messed up stuff to each other. People have always done MESSED up stuff to their kids, to other people’s kids. Kids get killed. Kids get abused. Parents have no clue what they are supposed to do. Shit gets out of hand. But, it was always MESSED UP. Now its just programming.

The more we see it, the less messed up it seems. There is a sense of  ‘Well, we aren’t THAT bad! Look at these guys!’

Slowly, but surely, we trundle off down the road to hell.

Somewhere in this woman’s head, whatever she was doing to her kid didn’t seem that extreme. It got out of hand and her first thought was ‘I can cover this up.’ Know what, somewhere, someone watched this and is saying ‘Hey, I could brew up some of that. I just won’t let it go that far.’

And we go another mile down the road. We may or may not ever hear of the results of these parenting experiments. Not directly. But, the results will be out there walking among us. And their idea of MESSED UP is markedly different from yours.

I’ve taken a few things away from this debacle.

First, there really is a reason the things that are reported to us are reported to us. We aren’t likely to ever know what that reason is. It’s not likely designed to benefit us as its reported. We had best, as a group, be smarter about what we accept as TRUTH and how we process it.

Second, it’s extremely unlikely we, as a group, will ever do this to any real degree. Life is hard. It’s easy to accept things as they are presented. We can even rearrange them a bit to make ourselves believe we are brighter and more capable than those around us. But, at the end of the day, we will still do what is easy more often than what is hard.

Third, if you really feel something for Caylee, or any of the thousands of victims of abuse seen and unseen, don’t light candles on Facebook. Don’t weep to your friends how horrendously unfair the legal system is. Deal with what you can deal with.

If you are doing something messed up, and yes, you know if you are, STOP! I’m not excusing you, but things happen and people change! SO FUCKING DO IT!

If you have kids, hang out with them. Hang out with their friends. Remember, their parents aren’t as enlightened as you. You never know who could use someone to show them ‘normal.’

If you don’t have kids, realize that you gotta live with them too. They are gonna grow up at the same mall, same park, same street corner where you live. teach them to treat people well, and things will get better. Demonstrate to them that people are a threat and to be feared and treated badly and when you least expect it, and can least afford it, they will return the favor.

Kids just absorb what is around them. We all do, really. We are starting to see the results of the first wave of virtually unlimited bandwidth surrounding us. If we don’t figure out how to control the information flying at us, someone else will. We may not like where they lead us.

What to do, what to do…

June 27, 2011

This is undoubtedly destined to be the nerdiest post to appear on this blog. I’m not entirely sure I will even post it when its finished, except that I seriously doubt I’m the only one thinking these thoughts at this point in time.

The premise for all this is that I’m a Warcraft player. Not really just a player, I’m what you would call an addict. Probably an addict among addicts. I have 10 max level characters, one of each class. I say this not to brag, but as the set up for the real issue at hand…I’m bored.

It’s not that I’m running out of things to do, there is plenty to do. It’s not that I’m unhappy with the game, actually I think Blizzard has done a pretty good job in many ways of catering to the vast majority of players. It’s not that I’m super elite and there isn’t any challenges to the game. Truth is, I’m a TERRIBLE video game player. The whole ‘gamer’ thing fascinates me. I’ve spent a ton of time on it over the years. But, realistically, I’m a grinder. I’m generally willing to slam my head against it for longer than anyone else rather than be the guy who skillfully strolls through content.

This is part of my problem. I’m not clueless enough to ignore that the answer to ‘I’m bored’ is ‘Do something else!’ The blockage is my personality is pretty addictive, to a point. I’m sure there is a term for it. I get hooked on things and focus on them with, lets say, orangey hot intensity for a period of time. I’ve followed this pattern in many areas of life for as much of my life as I can remember. I’ve floated from books to music, politics to sports, movies to games. Even in friendships, I tend to focus on small groups for a time. But then something changes.

I still enjoy the game of Warcraft. I still log in and do my thing. They are even set to add more things for me to do. Possibly tomorrow. I really enjoy the people I play with. It took  some doing to minimize the drama in a group. Many guilds never do. For what we are and how we play, I’m pretty proud of what we have accomplished.

I am still, I guess, in a ‘gaming cycle.’ I read some, but it hasn’t kept me up late lately. I listen to music constantly, but as background to something else. None of the usual suspects have leapt up and taken over my focus. I don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Don’t gamble. Don’t play poker or bowl or any of that kind of thing.

I’ve tried to force feed things that would be good addictions. I’ve always been jealous of people who develop good addictions. Working out. Cleaning house. Writing(Like I said, I’M TRYING!). I don’t seem to get the good addictions. I need to focus on some of these things, and I plan to. but that’s not really the question here.

Lots of gamers just switch games. And that is all well and good. I’m all for it. The problem for me is the time involved. I just don’t know that I want to transfer the WOW time to another game. Learn the game, level the character, find the guild. All that good stuff.

I started playing WoW with some friends, who promptly went on to other things. I stuck around because WoW has by far the largest and most vibrant ‘community’ surrounding it of any game anywhere. Blogs, podcasts, guilds and any number of smaller informal groups surround the game. I joined it as a social exercise. And, as a social exercise, I have mismanaged it on a grand scale. While grinding away on characters in-game, I have done NOTHING outside of the game to service the reason I started to play in the first place. I don’t see a whole lot of evidence I would handle any other game or ‘community’ any differently.

So, there is the dilemma. I feel like I’ve played myself out in the world I chose. But, I have no idea where to go with the time and interest I have invested in it.

What to do, what to do…

Lets try this again…

June 15, 2011

In the first post of DoubleRod’s Digressions, I warned you. I said my interests waxed and waned. I TOLD you to expect contradictions and wild changes in position from post to post.

I didn’t warn you to expect me to take a year off between posts. But, it seems that is precisely what I’ve done. My last post here was in June of 2010. As it is now June of 2011, it makes PERFECT sense to me to restart this blog.

My initial intention was to blank everything out and start fresh. But, I decided to read what was already here. Its not really current, or timely anymore. But, there are three things in its favor.

First, I never publicized this blog, so other than me, no one ever read any of it.

Second, the point of this blog is for me to write. To teach myself to organize and present my thoughts on things. To act as a sort of diary, or recording of my scattered interests and wandering positions on things. Theoretically, over time, this will serve to line up my beliefs on things and sort out that which is of real value in my head. The few previous posts here can do nothing but add to that process.

Third, I read them again, and I kinda like them. They entertained me as much as they did when I wrote them. I found nothing in them that I believe to be untrue or inaccurate over time.

SO, the old posts stay! As always, If you don’t like them, don’t read them. I promise to not be offended. But, fair warning, if you like the new posts I intend to write, you will enjoy the old ones too…and if you don’t like the old ones, you should probably skip the new ones.

Like, I would guess, most bloggers, I intend to write here daily about something. I have no clue what. Gaming will be involved. Music. Movies. Politics. Religion. Comedy. Whatever intrigues me, pisses me off, or makes me laugh is fair game. As things progress along, I would like to be able to organize the posts somewhat. Different tabs for related interests and such. But initially it will be presented as I’m writing it. One big pile of stuff!

As always, your feedback is more than welcome. Suggested topics are welcome. My absolute right to ignore your suggestions remains intact! But, I can usually come up with an opinion on almost anything. If I quote someone, I will try to correctly cite the original source. If I use a statistic, I will effort to confirm its accuracy. But, honestly, I AM NOT a source of record on almost ANY subject.

The point here is not to get quoted elsewhere.

The idea is for me to essentially vent. To write out some piece of the pretty much constant stream of opinion and commentary that vascilates from one ear to the other in my head.

The only rules here are:

1. I will say it as I see it at that moment. It is entirely possible, in fact it is probable, that how I see it will change DRAMATICALLY. Probably by the time you comment on my first opinion, I will have another one.

2. I will offend you. I will use the word fuck in many forms and several variations and dialects. And then the real adult language will commence. This isn’t just for the sake of using shocking language. It’s because that’s how I think. In my head the language is quite salty. The previously stated goal here is to record the stream in my head. Therefore, It’s gonna get a little rocky. BE PREPARED.

3. Not that I really expect a whole lot of comments, but may as well state it up front. If you decide to comment, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your interest and your involvement. If you choose to come here and try to start drama with other commenters, I will happily and swiftly delete your comments and ban you.  I like snark. I like sarcasm and cynical comments. I even like disagreement. But, I don’t have to put up with personal attacks or plain trolling.

With all this in mind, I thank you for reading this far. I thank you for stopping by. It would make me really happy if something I write here makes you smile, or makes you think, or helps you understand something new.

I hope its worth what you paid for it…now…what was I thinking about…

Sometimes THE MAN is a good guy

July 6, 2010

Yesterday I read a comment from Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona. I happen to enjoy Maradona and his various antics and admittedly outrageous comments. That being said, I would never present him as a deep thinker, philosopher or even a particularly well balanced personality. In fact, Maradona is one of the most flamboyantly out of balance personalities in sports. Its what makes him ‘Maradona’.

It also serves as a wonderful example of why his comment is so profound. And I think it transcends soccer and sports.

If you haven’t been following along for the last 30  or so years, in 1986 Diego Maradona won the World Cup for Argentina. I say HE won it, because HE did. Just ask him. He said he would. He told everyone who would listen, and everyone within earshot that he would. He taunted. He boasted. He flat out challenged. And he went out and delivered the goods. In return, he became a ‘one name superstar’ worldwide and a deified living legend in Argentina. He also gained the unimaginable access to excess superstardom entails, and a seemingly endless fountain of forgiveness and second chances for enjoying them.

Maradona became the coach of the Argentine National Soccer Team for the 2010 World Cup by essentially proclaiming that he was the only choice to return them to their rightful place in the Football world. Honestly, based on the enduring memory of his playing career, Argentina had no choice but to believe him.

He strutted into the tournament with a team of stars, including the reigning world player of the year Leo Messi. The bluster and bravado was back. Maradona was the most recognizable and interesting figure in the worlds largest event. After flashes of brilliance, and stretches of bored mediocrity, Argentina was bounced from the world cup in the quarterfinal.

Asked afterward why his superstars had joined so many other big names under performing in the tournament, he responded:

“Today the players are more collective, more team players. They want to do everything with their teammates. It is a different type of game right now…Maybe before it was about being selfish players who [made the] rest of the team work for us.”

He doesn’t mean “You guys suck, I’m the man, service me!” He means, in every arena, or situation there is ‘The Man’ and there are players. Players are needed. Players are valuable. But, The Man is who pushes things. The Man breaks shit and reforms it into something no player ever saw coming. That’s why he’s The Man.

The soccer implications are easy to see. Its true in every sport. Offense or Defense. Conservative or explosive. Sooner or later, every team that does something has The Man step up and take command. Bret Favre, Ray Lewis, Maradona, Roger Clemens, Michael Jordan, OJ. No matter how disfunctional they may be in any, or every, other aspect of their lives, in their arena they demand precedence. They will not be denied by opponents or teammates. They change how their team plays, how others play them, and ultimately how games are played for years to come.

The same concept works outside of sports. Jobs at Apple. Gates at Microsoft. Walton at Walmart. Buffett. Madonna. Einstein. The List is literally endless, timeless, and inspirational.

They all stood on the work, research, ideas, performances, or whatever contributions of those who came before them and they all relied on the efforts of those surrounding them. But, what makes them special is, they took those parts and applied them differently. They took the same stuff everyone had access to, and they created genius where everyone else created average.

THATS THEIR JOB. To continue the soccer metaphor, some people are soccer players, some are meant to be professional soccer players, some are soccer superstars. Only one is Maradona. He isn’t being an asshat. He isn’t even a bad teammate. He may not be a good friend, I have no clue if he is or isn’t. But, his job on a soccer field is to be ‘Maradona’. And your job is to help Maradona be ‘Maradona’.

I deeply disagree with lots of things Steve Jobs does at Apple. But, know what? it doesn’t make a single shred of difference to him. Neither does the cacophony of other people who think he is wrong. He’s busy being The Man, changing industries, making billions for himself and his teammates. He’s doing his job. And, honestly, he’s right to do it.

Just because you are The Man in an arena doesn’t mean you can perform every phase of that arena. Maradona is physically a small man. Quick and fast, but he just isnt big. Odds are, he would be a terrible goaltender. Steve Jobs is an idea guy. As an accountant, I imagine he COULD figure it out. but thats not his job. Einstein is perhaps the ultimate idea man, big thinker. Personal Hygiene was apparently a challenge at times. OJ was a phenomenal football player, less so an actor, and a world class horrendous husband and human being.

It is possible that there are a select few whose place is to be THE MAN in general. Their JOB is to excel. I doubt this is the case for a couple reasons. First, being The Man generates such a lack of balance in one aspect of your life, the opportunities and forces available to you would be difficult to balance once, much less switching the direction of the balancing act. This is why so many fall so quickly when their time has past. Second, those who seem to be The Man in multiple arenas are actually just changing the face of The Man. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is a great example. Cubes is absolutely The Man. But its not really as a basketball guy. Or a network developer. Or an investor. Its as an idea man/hype machine. He does all the rest of that stuff, and does it well. But it is all based on his personal hype ability.

There is a lot to be learned from these guys. And a lot to be gained from their growth. Rather than question them and look down at them for the benefits of their successes, we would be better off to feed them and ride the wave of their reforming and reshaping things. If we stick with just the status quo, we will always just have what we have. Progress, no matter how uncomfortable, comes from the breaking and rebuilding of things.

The up side to this is, EVERYONE is The Man somewhere. No matter who you are, there is some arena that you will RULE. Admittedly, it may be a remarkably small and largely not lucrative arena. But, it is the place you will shine. It is the place you will find the most joy and fulfillment. It is the place you will do most for those around you.

Sheep is Sheep

June 30, 2010

Ok. So athiests in North Carolina bought a billboard on Billy Graham Parkway that says “one nation indivisible” not a single thing wrong with that. Their cash. Non offensive message. NO PROBLEM. Then someone spraypaints “under god” with an arrow inserting it in the original phrase. First off, vandilism is bad, mkay! Second…the arrow inserts the phrase in a grammatically awkward position if you ask me. Third, apparently it was an atheist group that rented the sign, but honestly, I wouldn’t have noticed that as an atheist message until these ass hats called attention to it. So my judgement is Athiests 1 Christians 0.

But that’s not the interesting question to me. If you are buying advertising space, you are pushing something. It doesn’t need to be appropriate or effective. By definition you are promoting a point of view/product/idea. In the case of the agnostics/atheists group(I know they are different. THEY named themselves using both terms. That’s a point of ignorance I’m preparred to ignore at this point…) you are promoting the concept of NOT believing. Proving a negative is tricky. Doing it in 3 words, even tougher. Using a billboard on the Billy Graham Parkway in North Carolina, while deliciously ironic, isn’t exactly the most effective medium or location or audience.

The obvious point was to poke the bear of christians in the area. Wrapping it in the flag on July 4th week was a brilliant move. Makes it kind of awkward to respond without tripping into saying something anti american.

But let’s say, the idea was to provoke thought on the topic. I’ve always had a problem with the idea of preaching the idea of nonbelief. By the same token that christians can’t PROVE god. No one else can DISPROVE some higher power. Which means, athiests profess a belief in NO god. Which at its base isn’t any different than christians professing a belief IN god. Its just a belief. No more no less. Which means one side is truly no different than the other. Much as the followers at the top enjoy vilifing the leaders opposing them, they are mirror images.

The VAST majority of people fall somewhere on the agnostic scale. Little science, little mojo, little god. And a whole lot of no clue, just trying to make it through the day.

Its like people who throw a fit over the muslim family who owns the jiffy mart. ‘They are so damn muslim, but they sell us porn and bongs? What the fuck!’ First of all, that guy isn’t “blow up a building guy.” That guy is “I gotta make my rent guy!” HE IS JUST LIKE YOU! And you know why he sells porn and beer and bongs? Because THAT IS WHAT SELLS! Because most people like to get off, and they like to get high. They aren’t good or bad. They just are people. They are just like you.

The problems start when you project the theatre preformed by their ‘leaders’ as how they truly are. Leaders are the extreme in any group. They present themselves as more stoic, or entertaining, or intelligent, or physically, sexually or mentally capable. Or whatever they deem as the quality that will best hold sway over their flock. And there is power in them there flocks. As they grow they throw off cash and influence and perks their leaders would never enjoy without them. There is a LOT of incentive in building and maintaining the flock. And the easiest way is to come up with a common enemy for the flock. Catholics have protestants. The ‘Niners have the Raiders. Democrats, republicans. Etc etc.

In the process of growing the flock and positioning it, the flockees are manipulated. Told they are not of the same stuff as their opposition. That they stand above them in whatever way will best hold their fascination. And eventually they see themselves as wholly different and superior to whoever has been placed in opposition to them. Most of the time no one really knows why or how or for what reason they are ‘better’. They just know how things are, or how they appear.

Build a big enough flock, and you will even isolate yourself, as the leader, from the constraints of reality. You see yourself as not only above your self created opposition. You see yourself as above all logic or reason. And you get leaders defaming themselves in any number of ways. Typically by demonstrating that they are, in the end, just like us. Just trying to get through the day. Work in a couple beers. Maybe an orgasm would be nice.

So at the end of the day, we are all sheep. You may be the lead sheep. But eventually it will come out. You are a sheep. And no matter what flock you are associated to, or why you are associated to it, or what your function is within that flock, you will act like sheep.

No matter how flowery your language. How sophisticated your reasoning. How powerful your sword arm. You are just like him. And her. And that guy over there. And all the rest of us.

Everyone believes in something. Even if its believing in nothing. We would be better off to recognize the similarities rather than get tunnel vision for the differences.

Might actually make us ‘one country, indivisible’.

Maybe more than that.

Just because the call is welcome doesnt mean its easy

January 12, 2010

There are some experiences common to all of us in a social society.

From our very origins, we all have family. None of us get to choose them, they are ours by ‘happy’ consequence. For better or worse, they are ours for life. No matter how toxic or blessed a force they are in our lives, we all have to deal with them.

We all have friends. Especially when we are young, our friends are much like family. They are ours by coincidence. Usually based on their proximity to our bicycle path. They are handy, we are bored, VOILA! A partnership forged on concrete! As we get older, the bike path gets bigger. we have a larger pool to pick from. If the kid on the block is a jack ass, he can do it without us. If our buddy from around the way moves, he gets replaced at school the next day. Into college, and with the internet, if our BFF decides they’ve been called to evangelize to pigmys in Burma, we can hop online and slaughter a village of wolvar, or dance to a literal garage band, or trade philosophical barbs with a Nigerian prince…or so I’ve been told.

Friends aren’t like family. They can be forgotten. Even if you disconnect physically from family. Cut all communication. Distance yourself emotionally. It’s still just that. Distance. Friends may be old friends. They may be close friends. They may be good friends. But if they drift away, it typically doesn’t have the same psychological drain on us as family.

I have no close friends from grade school or high school. Other than my wife, I have little contact with anyone from college. That is not to say there aren’t some special and worthy people who I consider friends in those groups. It may just mean I’m easily forgotten. Or easily distracted. Or hard to find. The point is, there is no drama or animosity surrounding the loss of contact. It just happens. Loss of contact with family is rarely such a drama or stress free situation.  That separation, even when it is undoubtedly for the better, eats at your soul. It is always there.

But, there are people who wander into our lives. Some come from the random geography of our young years. We share a base of memories and references that you truly had to be there for, and if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t understand. Some come from the random pool of interests and life paths shared. Wherever they come from, and for whatever reason it happens, they take on the standing of family in our lives. They truly feel like brothers/sisters.

It isn’t necessarily that they are that much closer as friends. It isn’t a matter of length of friendship. It isn’t a matter of circumstance of the relationship. I do think it is possible that people who don’t have those brother/sister relationships feel a need for them and may connect to friends in that way to satisfy that. But, it seems as likely, those who HAVE strong bonded circles around them know how those relationships work, enjoy the positives of them, and handle the negatives easily.

I think, in the end, there are some friendships, like some romantic relationships, that are just destiny. There is some preordained cycle that matches people. I don’t know what it’s called, and i don’t care from whence it comes. It just is. Don’t try to work it out or fit it into your philosophy of life. It just is. And you know it!

Now to the point of things.

I have such a friend. We met when I was maybe 10? We played hockey together in Texas…so we were in a pretty small pool! Through various gyrations and misadventures we ended up in the same school in 6-8th grade. He ultimately lived in my house for almost 18 months. As high school began, we both spun wildly out of control. John never controlled the spin.

Now, 25+ years later, I received a call from my old friend. It is a call I have received several times over the years. Sometimes lucid. Sometimes incarcerated. Sometimes wealthy. Sometimes desperate. Always charming, bright, hopeful, funny.

Always apologetic.

I’m never sure how to take these calls. It’s a little like a train wreck. You can’t turn away. It’s a little like my own private Oprah episode. It’s a little like a pretty compelling drama. For someone with such problems and issues, he really does live quite a life. But, how do you handle this call.

First off, he apologizes. He was an ass. He was selfish. Blah blah. Thank you, Captain Obvious! But, he’s a total addict. He tries to fight. I, for one, will never badmouth someone for falling off the wagon. I’m in awe they keep getting ON the wagon in the first place. Am I disappointed? Yes. I don’t think its helpful to him, or me, to pile on and detail how disappointed I am, how hurt I am, how much he has cost me… I can’t be as disappointed as he is. I don’t hurt like he does. And he has lost everything. Over and over and over. But, I also don’t want him to think it’s all good.

Then he wants to tell you why this time is different. He has a great support network. He is going into treatment. He has dried out enough to think through a plan. He sees where he fucked up before. Unfortunately, this is the same story every time, and not nearly as fun to listen to as the tale of how he ended up in the slammer this time.

The call always ends abruptly. ‘Hey, I’m leaving my sponsors house to move in with a sober friend so it’s all good. I’ll get in touch with you before I enter treatment.’

Do I want to take the call? Yes. I’m a pretty melodramatic dude. I listen to song lyrics, even the country ones. I imagine how things should have been. I hope when I hear the phone ring that there is something exciting on the other end.

Do I know what to do with it? Not really. I want to help, but that ship sailed years ago. I want to be involved, but we aren’t living in the same worlds anymore. I definitely don’t want to hurt his recovery. But, insubstantial as my input may be, I haven’t seemed to help much so far.

So, I offer platitudes. ‘This is a great opportunity.’ ‘You have a lot to offer people.’ ‘I believe in you.’

I feel like a complete failure because there is no way for me to convey to him how much he means to me. How often I still wish I could have him around. How much I genuinely hope he can pull himself together.

And I feel like a wuss for not telling him how selfish he is. How much talent and opportunity he is literally smoking away.

COULD he do it? Could he mount one of the truly epic comebacks in the history of comebacks? YEP. He could. After all this, he is the real deal. He has done literally everything wrong. You name it, he’s done it. Usually in spectacular fashion. If he turns his attention to building something and not destroying himself, you will know him. You probably won’t be able to miss him! You certainly will never forget him.

WILL he? I, of course, have no idea.

He wants to.

He has a plan.

And he has a Brother.

Different moms mean a different world?

December 23, 2009

Yesterday I waxed philosophic on the importance and value of podcasting in the greater arena of public discourse. The next show I heard proved my point. Dan Carlin’s shows, Common Sense and Hardcore History, never fail to make you think. The Suffer the Children Hardcore History show was no different.

The show starts out detailing the treatment and conditions children were raised under. Dan sprinkles commentary and speculation on the effect these parenting methods had on past societies and the effects we still feel from them today. Despite the sensational stories of child abuse and neglect we are fed nightly, as a group kids have it pretty good by comparison.

The final phase of the show focuses on the ideas that the children of the 60s would change the world and if you want a different world, give the world different mothers. Put together, the true contribution of the baby boomers may not be their direct contributions to politics, economics, art, literature, culture or really any other facet of society. The transformation will come from their focus on protection and development of the best generation of children in the history of societies.

At no time is this subject presented with the idea that the old way is better or that the new way is worse. In fact, it holds up the protective and supportive culture of parenting as a vast advance in society as a whole.

This subject in general would be difficult to even broach on a traditional radio show. Would be far too dangerous to see TV. And, required a length and degree of focus too lengthy to work in print. Carlin could take his time developing the background before starting to insert commentary. Could increase the levels of commentary as he progressed. And could let the facts take his conclusions wherever they led him rather than concerning himself with backlash from his corporate arm, while keeping the ability of his listeners to respond and contribute in whatever way they chose. This degree of freedom allows a confidence to express what could be misdirected into a controversial point of view. Its a freedom most media and public figures legally have, but in practice cant take full advantage of. Its a freedom that we as a society sorely need, and podcasting is tailor made to provide.

Agree or disagree with Carlin, or me, Its something to think about.

Podcasting is important

December 22, 2009

Christmas 2003, I recieved my first iPod. I was thrilled I wouldn’t have to carry CDs with me anymore. I proceeded to leave it on a shelf for a year. Christmas 2004, I recieved my second iPod. I almost returned it to the store. I was in a down cycle of music listening, so CDs weren’t a pressing issue. I was very into talk radio, and the iPod had nothing to offer me there. Still doesn’t for that matter. Perhaps mix in a tuner Steve?

Before wandering back to the store, I took a look at iTunes, just for grins. It was relatively what I expected. Kind of a cool music store, with a limited supply and none of the annoying packaging. But there was a tab called Podcasts. That tab was the end of any thought of returning the iPod.

After 5 minutes browsing the section, I couldn’t open the box fast enough! To my eye, this was a window to not just the world of talk radio. It was a direct line to the unfettered creativity and viewpoints of literally anyone anywhere with an interest in any given subject. Politicians and journalists were bitching about the power of talk radio to change opinions. Many were saying it needed to be regulated, censored or even eliminated. I was of the opinion that it was already held in check by the corporations owning the stations and the FCC handing out fines when hosts got out of line.

Podcasting truly was the wild west of broadcasting. Unless you CHOSE a clean tag, you could say or do anything. Did I want to hear ANYTHING? Not really. But, I damn sure wanted to decide which things I did hear. And I strongly support the idea that anything someone else wants to say or hear should be said and heard.

There were shows on sports. Shows on politics.  Shows on shows. Funny shows, serious shows, terrible shows, brilliant shows. Shows with precision productions and shows with no script or editing at all. There were huge variances in views and stances, interests and approaches. And GIANT voids in every topic and category.

I literally filled my iPod in one sitting. Honestly, the first batch were largely crap. But, the hosts knew they were learning. That became part of the show. It actually became the uniting force of the community that sprung up around podcasting, and podcasters.

A quality of most successful radio shows is the hosts ability to let his audience believe they are friends. That each listener has a connection with the show. The raw numbers of listeners required to generate revenues sufficient to operate a radio station mean that the reality is, no listener has a connection to the host or show. The reality is, no successful radio host could possibly have the time to answer and maintain relationships with each individual listener. Another reality is no individual listener could afford or maintain the equipment, licensing and staff required to run their own radio station.

Podcasting bypasses both of these obstacles. You can still start a podcast for damn near free. And you can broadcast as often as you like, as long as you like, about anything you like. There is no license. There are no fees. There is no one looking over your shoulder, at least no more than the usual looking over your shoulder. And, especially at first, hosts have plenty of time to respond to listeners. In fact, the communities that build around podcasting in general and individual podcasts are very tight knit and supportive.  Shows regularly spawn other shows, guest on other shows, and share contests and promotions. Things never considered by traditional radio.

As is the way of things, as podcasting matures there are groups that form, stars that rise, and empires that are built. ESPN, Fox News, and PBS are traditional media outlets who have made a substantial mark on podcasting. Leo Laporte, among others, have built networks of shows and content that are now throwing off substantial revenue.  They have all earned their place and deserve the audiences and the revenue they generate. But they all maintain a sense of community and willingness to help where they can.

I wish I had opened that first iPod and discovered the world of podcasting earlier. I have updated feeds and listened to podcasts daily since roughly December 26th 2004. Ive learned things I would never have learned. Met people, and made friends, I wouldn’t have. I’m proud of the community I have been a very small part of over the years, and I’m still excited every day at possibilities and opportunities still ahead for podcasting.

I’ll be listening. You should be too.

What people say, and what they don’t

December 21, 2009

A wise young friend once told me, ‘It’s very important to pay attention to what people say, and what they don’t. When they don’t say anything, it can mean more than when they do.’  It was advice I badly needed. Advice I have genuinely tried to take and apply. Ultimately, advice I have often followed when it didn’t apply, and ignored when it probably did.

I am typically happy to take the hit when it will make things more comfy, or easy, for someone else. At least, I take great pride in thinking of myself that way. If there is blame to be laid, I’ll take it. If things aren’t as they should be, I can believe I did, or didn’t, do something to cause it.

I don’t like my business broadcast or debated, and I find it much easier to back away from situations where I get the feeling I am making people uncomfortable.

Somehow I manage to be a loudmouthed opinionated introvert who despises confrontation. An insecure guy who connects with people too easily and quickly, finds it easier to walk away from relationships than face the music the relationships, or people in them, deserve. And never let go of the guilt of leaving or the feelings for the friends I’ll probably never speak to again.

Quite the study in contradictions. Probably safe to assume that opinions expressed in these posts are in NO WAY obligated to maintain any form of consistency or relation to one another. In fact, I’d count on substantial contradictions in the same post at times. But I digress…

Is there a point to all this? Let’s all hope it isn’t just to trick you into participating in my emo rant!

The point is, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the things said that I ignored. I’m sorry for the things not said that I didn’t hear. I’m sorry I haven’t lived up to my own image of myself. I’m sorry I haven’t been the friend you deserved.

The truth is, I’m not nearly as smart or insightful as you give me credit for, and I’m not as clever or selfless as I think myself.

But, I am still listening. I’m still learning. And, lets face it, I can only get better!

You may now return to your previously scheduled, emo free, winter.