Friday, February 27, 2004

Good or bad?

This is the post in which I rate things as good or bad. Don't look for consistency here.

If Double-Stuf...Good!
If Single-Stuf...Bad!
Circus Peanuts...Bad!
Purple clothing...Good!
Sand in shoes...Bad!
Green Party...Good!
Harriet Tubman shaped by slavery...Good!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Disgruntlement Code

One of my fellow employees, who is nearly as disgruntled as I, suggested that celebrities could be used to measure just how disgruntled one is on a given day, as opposed to colors to indicate the level of terror alert. I instantly gelled to the idea, and thus I have created...

The Celebrity Disgruntlement Code

Level 1: Justin Timberlake
This person plays at disgruntlement to seem cool, but is in reality pretty satisfied. A Timberlake-alert applies to those who just like the idea of being disgruntled.

Level 2: Meryl Streep
This person will sound off occasionally, but is generally willing to put up with the way things are. A Streep-alert is often called when an employee is being a bit childish because of bad hair or because his favorite character was voted off the island last night.

Level 3: Susan Sarandon
This person is generally cantankerous, but isn't often heard from except perhaps on specific issues. A Sarandon-alert indicates an employee more annoying than truly disgruntled.

Level 4: Johnny Depp
This person makes trouble on a variety of issues, but is quick to slink away or backpedal if confronted. A Depp-alert indicates an employee who is angry but is not yet hardened by true bitterness.

Level 5: Mickey Rourke
This person is angry, bitter, and completely disillusioned, makes trouble, and doesn't care who knows it. A Rourke-alert indicates an employee who prints resumes on company printers, surfs openly and spends company functions commiserating with others of his level. He not only faces confrontations but relishes them, and will admit or even trumpet his disgruntlement to any and all.

This was more fun than it should have been.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Authority and my thoughts

First, I published a letter to the editor in the Philadelphia Inquirer today that has generated a good deal of feedback, both positive and negative. The positive: "Right on!" The negative: "Stupid!" You can link to the Inquirer thusly.

I've been thinking alot about authority, because several people have told me lately that I handle it well. At risk of sounding immodest I agree, and I'll share an experience that helped shape my views of the responsible use of authority. Some years back I was working at a law office, and in my duties I interacted with one of the senior partners named (for purposes of this blog) Mike. Mike was in charge of the lawyers in his field of specialization, and once, while sitting in his office, I got to hear him take a phone call from one of his subordinates. This guy was carping and complaining and being really quite insolent, and I remember thinking, "My gosh! This guy's talking to his boss this way? If I were Mike, I'd give him quite the smackdown." Mike, however, just nodded and smiled, and smoothly put the guy off, all the while remaining calm and composed. It was then I realized that composure and non-assuming attitude was the secret of Mike's success as a team leader. He didn't need to assert his authority; he never felt it was threatened. (BTW, Mike was a great guy with whom I feel lucky to have worked.)

A good leader wears his authority not like a crown, but like his ordinary clothing. Think about it: How often are you aware of that very fact that you're wearing clothing? How often are others? Answer: Very rarely, since you almost always wear clothes. Authority should be the clothes you put on in the morning and then don't consider much during the day. Only those who can't handle their authority feel the need to assert it frequently, or to wield it heavy-handedly. That's the difference between a petty tyrant who demands obedience, and a true leader who commands respect.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

A Mighty Post!

I have some delightful news to share, in case you haven't already heard: Dan and I are back together. Yes, I know you don't know why we didn't do this before, or why we ever broke up, blah blah. All I can say is that sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time, and sometimes the right time comes around when the right person is still there. So it has proven with us.

You may now begin the "I told you so" dance.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

A filler post

I don't have much to say, but I thought I'd better post something here, if only to avoid a blog-slacker rep. I had the worst Sunday night imaginable, one that made me look forward to coming to work Tuesday. If you've been reading about my disgruntlement, then you get the idea how bad Sunday night was. I've had a non-stop headache since then, and if I take any more Motrin or Alleve I'm like to die.

Reread my last post about the election. By tomorrow I hope to post more optimistically.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Benedict Tracker

I was reading the other day about the presidential primary of the Green Party, and I felt this pang of guilt and anger. Why? Because I can't vote Green in the presidential election this year, and it pisses me off. I agree with nearly all the tenets of the Green Party, but I must do everything I can to get His Fraudulency George Bush II out of office. I strongly believe that man is a menace to this nation, and that he's sown seeds that will yield a bitter harvest for years to come. Therefore, I intend to vote for whatever Democrat emerges from the primary, as many times as I can. And that makes me a traitor to the Greens. All I can do is make a big Green donation this year, grit my teeth, and vote Democrat. Ugh.

One of the worst things about our two-party, winner-take-all system is the way it forces us to vote our fears, not our hopes. It divides our country, devalues our votes, and reduces our national dialogue to this vs. that. It's not in the Constitution (despite what many would have you believe), it's not the best system of government, and it sucks.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

My dreams are fun!

Last night, anyway. I dreamt I was a telekinetic on the run from the government, who runs internment camps for psychics ala Bablylon 5's PsiCorps. Anyway, someone let me hide out in her attic, which proved to be enormous and many-layered, and I spent most of the dream skulking about it, eluding the agents who were searching the house. I went out on the roof and levitated myself over the side of the house, out of sight from anyone following me. The agents went away emptyhanded, but it was only then that I noticed that there was a nunnery across the way, and that all the nuns were crowded at the windows, watching the floating guy. They started yelling that I was a demon, which was fun. Then a priest came along and exhorted them to throw stuff at me, which was less fun.

You're probably wondering, "Why didn't you use your telekinetic powers to thwart the government agents?" I can think of several answers. Maybe my powers were not equal to the task, or I was afraid to alert the government to my presence in the house, fearing it would send even more agents. Seanbaby offers a good answer; like the Justice League of America, I may simply have forgotten I had powers.

Monday, February 09, 2004

It's good to be king

Emmett and I talked last night about being king, and my opinion was (and still is) that it would pretty well suck. Evil villains always want to rule the world, but IMO that's further sign of the insanity that will someday prove their undoing. Bill Clinton aged about twenty years after two terms in the White House, and he just had to govern (along with Congress) one nation. Can you imagine what he would have looked like after eight years as the absolute ruler of the entire world? I'm aging quickly enough, thanks.

Emmett (very kindly) remarked that he thought I'd be a good king, because I didn't want the job, and at the risk of sounding arrogant I'm going to agree. In any group I tend to step up to the plate in terms of taking charge of organizing whatever it is we're doing, and I rather enjoy it. It got me thinking about just what makes a good leader. I've boiled it down to three basic traits, which I present for your edification:

Humility: A good leader has to understand that a) he's not fundamentally better than anyone else; and b) that he doesn't know everything about everything. A humble leader doesn't put his own petty desires before the common good, nor does he dismiss a good idea simply because he didn't think of it first. He accepts that he can be wrong, and views mistakes as opportunities, not humiliations.

Decisiveness: Nothing destroys your followers' confidence faster than the appearance of weakness. A good leader has to know when to cajole and seek consensus, it's true, but he also has to know when to draw the line and stand alone. With leaders as with immortals, there can be only one, and he/she has to be willing to make the tough calls and then stick with 'em.

Vision: If humility is the road and decisiveness the car, vision is the map that tells you where you need to drive. Without vision, a leader is more a manager, which is useful but not the person you want in the big chair.

Of course, there are a multitude of other desirable qualities: honesty, intelligence, fairness, and a host of others. However, I think that the three I have named are absolutely indispensible.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Telepathy? No!

I was watching some Babylon 5 last night, and it occurred to me that being a telepath would suck. Yeah, yeah, I know telepathy gives you an advantage, but the things people do are pretty darn annoying without knowing the motivations behind them. You might be thinking, "Well, you could simply choose not to read minds except in special circumstances." Could you really? Given the power to know what people are thinking about you or anyone else, can you honestly say you wouldn't use it more often than you think? I sure can't. The temptation would just be too great to ignore.

Now, if we're talking about superpowers, here are a few I'd choose over telepathy.

Hair command. Think about it: Your hair does whatever you want. It can be long one day and short the next, red on alternate Wednesdays, and completely immune to the deleterious effects of wind, rain, and hats. You could also make it move around on its own ala Medusa, except without the snakey goodness.

Traffic light power. You could make every traffic light in your path turn green, thus expediting your journeys. Of course, you'd have to remember to make them red for the cross-traffic, or else you'd be the shortest-lived superhero ever.

X-ray vision. You're thinking, "Wow! You could learn government secrets and help the police find lost children!" Screw that. I'd just hang out at Penn near the athletic fields when the men's soccer team comes out to practice. Oh yeah.

Inaudibility: No, this isn't making yourself un-hearable so you can become a master cat-burglar. This is making other people completely silent, forever ending your worries about small children at restaurants and cell-phone boobs in movie theatres.

Telebrowsing: With this modem of the mind, you could Google your heart out all without lifting a finger or touching a keyboard, or alerting your boss that you're wasting time blogging when you should be working. (Ahem) You could even give yourself a neat name like Modemo.

Telepathy? Bah! And I don't even want to know what you think about that.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Happy Things I Think About

I think about these things alot more now that my job is going south fast. Here they are:

Getting my orange belt: I earned this when I was fourteen, skinny, with little self-esteem and even less confidence. At the test, I defeated my sparring partner easily, which was my first real taste of accomplishment. By the way, the martial arts form was Tang Soo Do.

Winning the Spirit Award: Back in 1998, the gay and lesbian Ultimate group I was with participated in a charity tournament one fine autumn day, and we bombed. We knew nothing, nothing, about the game, and I think we scored two points in three games. (That's a total.) Still, we had a fabulous time, and the other teams in the division voted us the Spirit Winners. Maybe they felt sorry for us, but I like to think it was because, despite our obvious ineptitude and crushing defeat, we never stopped smiling.

My Lambda nomination: Every year, the Philadelphia Gay News runs the Lambda Awards, to recognize outstanding service in the LGBT community, and in 2000 I was nominated for Outstanding Sportsman. I will never forget my surprise and delight when I received that phone call. There was an awards ceremony and everything, at which I lost by a landslide, but I discovered that what they say at the Oscars is true: The honor really is in the nomination.

New York on my birthday: Some years ago, my friend Jack and I went to New York City on my birthday, and we had a blast. It was one of those crisp, clear, warm autumn days you remember forever, and my memories of the trip are just as vivid. We hung out at Washington Square Park with the NYU students and the druggies, took the ferry around the harbor, and even went to the top of the World Trade Center. I will never forget the absolute stillness, and the way the city spread out around us. When I heard about the terrorist attack in September 2001, my mind leapt first to that visit, and Jack said his did, too. New York isn't the same without the WTC.

Writing this down has made me feel alot better, but I'll cut it off here. I should save some of these memories for tomorrow.