Thursday, March 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Michael

When you get a chance, stop by my friend Michael's blog and wish him a Happy Birthday today.

Michael Francis - many happy returns, little buddy! And have a great weekend.

Hollywood? C'mon, Really?

To the right is a recent cover of US Magazine.

It's not that there is a drug problem in Hollywood that baffles me; it's that US Magazine believes that Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan collectively represent Hollywood. Let's see here:

Hollywood is a metonym for the American film and television industry. I don't really see how "One Night in Paris" classifies as part of America's rich film history. Nor, for that matter, does "Crossroads". Of the three, I guess Lohan has the most cred when it comes to being a movie star, but how in the world can US justify Paris and Britney as being part of Hollywood?

All three of these girls are spoiled and rich, thanks to an unforgiving paparazzi and a salacious tabloid society. We won't admit it, but we just LOVE to watch these girls fail at everything from marriage to motherhood to careers to relationships to friendships. We find them smug, whether they are or not. But are Paris, Britney and Lindsay the equivalent of yesterday's Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, and Rita Hayworth? That's who true Hollywood is . . . or was. Sure, those women were spoiled and rich too. But somehow they didn't seem as trashy.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wearwolves

So I am a little disgusted with The Red Eye, the daily morning throw-away edition put out by The Chicago Tribune. Here's my complaint:

There is a section in the paper cleverly (or so they think) titled, "Wearwolves". In this column, three "experts" (and I use this term exTREMEly loosely) critique outfits, worn by people ranging from local residents to international celebrities. These models sometimes don't realize they are being critiqued and certainly don't invite it. But the "experts" feel the need to offer what they consider sage advice in order to make the world a prettier place.


Above, the "pros" are judging members of the Chicago Wolves, ironically enough. This entire section is nothing if not downright mean-spirited. It would be different if they all would agree on something (read Joey Crabb's reviews). And what purpose does it serve when these "fashionistas" just offer snarky opinions that don't help at all (like Cory LaRose's review by "The guys")?

I can't really speak for Monique and Phnewfula's (I have no idea how to even pronounce that) stores, but I have been in Fasano and Worth's His Stuff in Andersonville. I've actually even written about it before, and not favorably. I'm not really sure what makes these people experts - is it just because they work in/own a store? If that's the case, The Gap should have me on retainer.

I wrote to The Trib and gave them my opinion on how negative this section is and how it offers no true assistance, it's jaundiced and pusillanimous (my new favourite word). The Trib's response was that it's a popular section and people seem to like it.

Right. And the members of NAMBLA don't think they are doing anything wrong either.
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Friday, March 23, 2007

Walk For Autism Research

While visiting home last weekend, I found out that my nephew, John, who as Asperger's Syndrome, has taken control of my family and has recruited everyone to participate in Cumberland's Walk for Autism Research on Saturday, April 14th.

There are a few things that are interesting about all this:

1) Asperger's Syndrome is a form of autism that renders patients socially inept. So the fact that John approached the family with this idea is amazing in and of itself.

2) John cannot plan things out. He is 23 years old and on disability. Yet he has been able to focus long enough to create a web page for his walk, to give a name to his walking group, and to plan out how it will all proceed.

John only wants to raise $500. He's never been able to succeed at very much. So if he could not only meet his goal, but far surpass it, it would be a victory for John that he would remember for the rest of his life.

So I ask all of you who read my blog to make a donation to John's walk. It doesn't have to be much, but every $20 helps. More is even better. You can donate to John by clicking here.

Thanks for helping out.
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

First Day

Yesterday was my first day of work at my new job. If you've been paying attention over the last few weeks, you should be able to figure out what company I have joined. Needless to say, my brain was dead tired last night.

It's quite a change to go from having nothing to do to being inundated with information. It really feels good to have a purpose and a mission. Everyone is very nice, and I can tell they all have kind hearts. But then, that is what non-profit work is all about: it's looking beyond yourself to how you can help improve the life of someone else.

It's gonna be great.

Last weekend I flew home and visited my family, not really knowing when I would get another vacation to visit them anytime soon. They are very much my grounding force. And I figured I needed to give The BF a little break, because it has to be a tiring job keeping me entertained and centered. I marvel at his patience with me. Sometimes, I think I don't deserve any of them, yet I am grateful beyond measure to love them all.

Life is good again, folks. Very, very good.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Customize Your Beer

It was only a matter of time that the whole selfish idea of mass-customization would leap from luggage tags and bank cards . . . to beer. Mmmmmmm . . . . sweet, sweet beer.

A Danish brewery, Tuborg, has joined the personalization-trend and launched a service called "Your Tuborg" (Din Tuborg), which invites people to customize the beer label when ordering a minimum of 30 bottles of Tuborg.

The beer and your own 'mate-impressing' label is delivered directly to your door within 4 weeks of placing an order.

Nice Christmas gift to send to your worst enemy. Or your Dad.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Headin' Home

Since I am unemployed for the next 5 days, I am traveling back to Maryland today to see the folks and chill (literally) in the mountains for a bit. No place can refresh me like home.

Saying goodbye to the staff at AAM yesterday was interesting - and such a dichotomy from the last time I departed a job. When I worked at Empower back in DC, I loved the company, loved the people, and actually dreaded my impending last day of work, knowing it would be difficult and emotional. But then I had a heart attack 2 weeks before my last day, and just never went back to work again. I felt, in effect, robbed of the farewell party, the hugs, the laughter and the fond memories of the place and people I loved.

Yesterday was quite the opposite. I didn't like AAM, but I did like some of the people. For the most part, everyone was very complimentary and sweet to me. And when I thought about it, I realized that I probably will be a missed presence around the office because I was different: I talked to people outside my department, I didn't dress as conservatively as the other men, I laughed a lot and actually had a sense of humour. But most of all, I was true to myself. I must have added some element of fresh air to a somewhat stale environment. So for those reasons, I believe they will feel some sense of loss, even if it's a slight one.

Of course I will miss Amy and Melissa, my co-workers. But I also know I will see them socially and meet for lunch now and then. And I will miss talking to my boss, too. But even as I walked away from AAM, I could feel this heavy burden being lifted from my shoulders; this thing that seemed to have been dragging me down was no longer doing so. I felt free somehow.

And what better way to express my freedom than by jumping on a plane and taking off for a few days (remember, I was an english major - symbolism is very important to me). So I return home to charge my batteries and pretend that last year or so at AAM never happened. I will place myself back at my parents' house following my surgery in September '05, ready to move to Chicago to start a different chapter of my life with much to look forward to. Only this time I am happier, healthier, and certainly wiser.
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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Last Day

Today is my last day at my job - the job I have loathed for oh these many months. What began as a promising career ended up becoming a year of wasted time. For the most part, I thought no one at my company even noticed I was there. So on the day I submitted my resignation (which was nothing like the last time I had done this), I began drafting an email (I called it my manifesto) about how, for the past year, AAM (my company) had left me to wither on a vine, giving me little or nothing to do, and practically demoting me while giving me constant praise and high reviews. The email would eventually be sent to my boss (the Marketing Manager), her boss (the Director of Marketing), and his boss (the president of the company). It went through some editing phases, but I was pretty sure the email was ready to be sent when my last day came.

And then last Friday happened. The president of my company invited me into his office and began our conversation with this:
"I have never had this conversation with anyone in my entire career, and I hope I never have to again."
With this, my mind raced. What could I have done, I thought. I don't do anything all day long so how could I have upset the president of the company? And then he continued:
"AAM really dropped the ball where you have been concerned for the past year", he said. "Promises were made when you were hired, and AAM did not fulfill those promises. Nor did we provide you with the tools to grow, prosper, or even nurture your abilities in any way. We failed you. And since my managers did not manage you well, and I clearly didn't manage my mangers well, I have failed you too. And for that, I am sorry."
Well, knock me over with a feather! This is a man who runs a $15.4 billion company. After a week he won't even see me again - ever. He didn't have to acknowledge me or even say good bye to me. But here he was delivering a mea culpa on behalf of his staff, his company, and himself -- and in a very humbling manner.

He asked for my suggestions as to how AAM could improve so that this type of thing does not happen again. And I used the opportunity to verbally share my email rather than send it later. I was glad I had everything fresh in my head - I must have looked so prepared for a meeting that was unscheduled. And since I had nothing to lose, I was very honest about my thoughts, my feelings, and my disappointments.

After a 20 minute conversation, John (the president) offered that he would provide a great reference for me, even if it's 10 years down the road. And he said that even though he was sure I was moving on to a better opportunity than what AAM had provided, I was welcome to come back to AAM and that they would "get it right the second time".

That felt really good. And I oddly felt vindicated even though I had done nothing wrong. But this isn't where I go soft and say that working here wasn't all that bad in retrospect - because it was bad. I've never felt so ignored in my life; it goes beyond not having things to do. And I am glad to be leaving today.

Next Wednesday I begin my new job and new life, and I phrase it that way because I think many changes will occur in my personal life as a result of this change in my professional life. And next Thursday, I will tell you all about it.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Don't Axe, Don't Tell

Those crazy fellas over at Axe have done it again. First they make a scent that apparently drives straight women crazy, and now they make it look like that scent really works. Behold, the new bath towels from Axe.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Back On iTrack

Last November, I was going for a run when I fumbled with my iPod, dropped it on the sidewalk and kicked it about 50 feet or so. Needless to say, it died. It was hard for me to keep up my cardio routine with no music, so The BF was kind enough to loan me his old mp3 player so that I could at least bear my 30 minutes on the elliptical.

But after a few times, I lost interest. It was music, but not my music. So since I never do anything half-assed, I just gave up the cardio altogether. Go me.

But this past week, I put myself back on track when I finally purchased a new iPod - this time the black 8g Nano. My old iPod was 20g and I only barely filled up half the space. So I condensed and edited, and realized that I didn't need one quite that large anymore ... the Nano would do just fine.

My only fear is how thin it is. I am likely ... make that very likely ... to snap it in two. Or break it in my pocket. Or sit on it. So I got the extended warranty. Let's hope I won't have to use it. But I must say, it makes all the difference while on the elliptical.

It's funny that this thing I swore I might never buy ended up being something I couldn't do without.
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Falsettos

My junior year in college, Ron, Kathy, Leigh, Ex#2 and I journeyed to NYC to see the Broadway production of Falsettos, a combination of the second and third installments in William Finn's "Marvin trilogy" (separately, In Trousers is the first, March of the Falsettos is second and Falsettoland is third). The stories surround the lead character, Marvin, a married man whose son is about to have his bar mitzvah in the early 1980's. And as Marvin's son is physically growing up, Marvin tells himself that it's time that he himself grows up emotionally and begins rediscovering his own sexuality.

Marvin:
  • leaves his wife, Trina
  • takes a male lover named Whizzer Brown,
  • gets a psychiatrist (who eventually starts dating Trina),
  • abandons Whizzer when Whizzer becomes sick with something that has yet to be given a name,
  • reconciles with his son, Jason
  • becomes friends with the lesbian couple from next door - one of whom is Whizzer's physician.
Whizzer eventually succumbs to the illness and Marvin is left wondering how he will continue with his own life. It's all very emotional and profound as it looks at the effect of one man's sexual identity on 6 other people.

In the theatre that night, I was sitting with my best friends and my boyfriend at the time. We were still kids ourselves, watching this man struggle to find his place in the world when the world didn't always seem to be a fair place. We knew all the songs, yet were still moved to tears watching the performance, holding hands. We got to meet the cast after the show, five college kids going ga-ga over a couple of Broadway stars. We were, as actress Barbara Walsh (Trina) dubbed us, "Falsettoheads" (she also took this picture - yeah, that's a younger me on the far left).

The show has stuck with me for many years. So about a week ago, I bought the CD again on Amazon and have been listening to it ever since. Even though the show is now a bit dated and anachronistic, some of the songs still resonate with me. This "mysterious gay disease" could now be anything that infects the body and mind of those we love, while we watch helplessly, unable to do anything but love them.

And most of the time, that has to be enough.
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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Heathly Choice

Now and then, there is a commercial on television that really hocks me off. Currently, it's a commercial for Healthy Choice dinners. You've seen it:

A couple of camera-friendly chefs are in a modern home-like kitchen, jauntily tossing this herb and that spice into a dish. And I am fine with all that: they're cute, they like their jobs, they're creative, and Marcel is nowhere to be found. And then the part irritates me comes up - a line at the end of the commercial where they say that because of their constant strive to achieve a culinary and health-conscious menu, they have "added flavour to taste".

Add flavour to taste. Hmmm....

Exactly how does one do that . . . exactly?

How do you add something to itself? Adding flavour to taste is like adding ocean to the sea or chicken to poultry - it's the same damn thing. What the hell is Healthy Choice trying to tell me with this? If they want to say they put a lot of work into their meals, then just say that. Don't blow smoke up my ass by telling me something as inane as "adding flavour to taste" - which makes absolutely no sense to me.

Just for this, I'm going back to Lean Cuisine.
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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Harder And Harder

When it's time for you to leave a job and move on to the next one, the in-between time can be agonizing. I feel like a lame-duck employee. No one is giving me any projects because they know I won't be around to finish them. And there are a few things I need to do, but I should probably wait until my replacement is hired so that I can show that person how to actually do these things, not just talk about them and say, "You'll know what I mean when you do it."

It's increasingly harder to get up at 5:30am everyday and trudge off to a job I am no longer interested in. If it wasn't for the few people that I actually like there, I would use the rest of my 6 allowable sick days (that's right, only 6 sick days. In Chicago. That's basically two winter colds. Cheap asses.) But my work ethic and sense of duty, no matter how tainted, keep me going. Plus I am being taken out to lunch practically every day by someone different. Yeah, my dance card is full.

A two-week notice is just too long. Another guy in my office quit the same day I did, but he's only working a one-week notice, not two. That's enough time for him to clean up his files and transfer his work to someone else. I doubt his replacement is hired while he is still employed here. Which calls to reason that my job will be taught to someone whether I am here or not. Two weeks is a generous amount of time to give to a company who didn't seem all that interested investing any time in me at all.

Right now, this job is just in the way of me getting on with my life. And it's getting harder and harder not to completely resent it.

(PS: the artwork is by artist Steve Huston. Click on the image to go to his site. I love his work.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Walter Reed Hospital

Washington, DC seems to be all up in arms because its just been discovered that Walter Reed Army Hospital, located in the nation's Capitol, is a sub-par medical facility.

Like this is some big newsflash??

This is, like, the worst kept secret in DC. I'm not now nor have I ever been in the military and even I know that Walter Reed is a pig sty. This has been a well-known fact in DC for as long as I can remember. It's not like this is a revelation or that someone just happened to look at some chipping paint and said, "Gee, this place could use a good scrubbing."

If these lawmakers had been doing the right thing, they would have noticed what a dump this place was years ago. Elected officials in Congress, who authorize wars and then don't visit the hospitals to thank the men and women they send off to those wars, are spineless. Walter Reed has been falling apart for years. And all it would have taken was for one senator to make a trip to that facility to visit an 18 year-old boy who lost both of his legs or had his face blown off.

But no. They all just sit back and clutch the pearls wondering how such a deplorable place could exist for our "people in uniform". Shame on them . . .

. . . again!