Wednesday, May 27, 2009

One of Life's Big Secrets

Every now and then it's a good idea to stop to count your blessings. At least for me, it's easy to get caught up in the minor irritations that are part and parcel of daily living. Frustration builds and the next thing you know, I'm whining about how much life sucks.

My cholesterol level is up, my activity level is down, and on some level I really don't care. I am losing my hair--or worse, picking it up in unexpected and awkward places. I am gaining a midsection, seeing less, and peeing more often. It's rare that I get what you'd call a good night of sleep. But aside from these minor irritations, and maybe a few character flaws and such that are a bit more serious but still trivial in the overall scheme of things, it ain't bad being me.

I think perhaps a thread of serendipity runs through many life stories. Certainly in my case there were many moments when I was at the right place at the right time. When I look back at those pivotal moments now, they are not random, unrelated incidents. They go together to form the chain of events that brought me to where I am today. In retrospect, it looks so planned. I swear there was never a plan...ever. Who knew?

After more than 23 years, my work still excites me. The job description is the same, but the focus changes, new priorities emerge, and new issues appear. It's not hard to love your job when you create and direct your own work. There are institutional guidelines and parameters, of course. But beyond that I have a tremendous amount of latitude to do my job the way I want.

Because my dad was a workaholic (or so I believed--but that's another story), I swore from a very early age that I would never be all about work. I'm blessed that I am able to maintain a healthy balance between work and a life outside of work. Lots of people work overlong hours at jobs they hate. Been there, done that, and very glad that's not the case today.

The big secret is that most people never even try. For whatever reason, a lot of the people you will encounter are barely competent, if that. They go through all the motions. Sometimes it even looks like they're doing something, but at the end of the day they have nothing to show for their effort. Some can't help it. Others don't know any better. With some, it's a form of art. Do what you are supposed to do and you really stand out.

At a time when lots of people can't find work, having any kind of a job is a blessing. Having a rewarding and satisfying job you love, well...frankly to me it's downright miraculous. I never saw it coming. It's why I really have no excuse for remaining...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

American Idol 2009

I have to weigh in on the 2009 American Idol competition. It's time. Adam or Kris?

Let me say that I watched less of the competition this season than ever before. For the first few years I was there for every audition, performance, and results show. Idol was definitely the highlight of my television-viewing schedule.

I learned fast not to get too attached to a contestant early in the competition. Year after year my favorites failed to win. In fact, my favorites have often gone home fairly early (think Jennifer Hudson). It hurts a little, but I've learned to accept that 50ish gay men are not really the target demographic for American Idol, pop music or really anything.

Then Fox got greedy, and more than a tad arrogant. With AI dominating the ratings, network executives saw a gold mine and moved to cash in. The show moved from a one-hour to a two-hour format--and longer. The extra time was devoted to mind-numbing filler and advertising. I started to feel abused--like someone was taking advantage of me. I flatly refused to make a three-night commitment to American Idol. Somehow, doing so seemed dirty to me.

Last week I watched all the performances and was not surprised that Danny went home. He stood out early in the performances I saw, but didn't perform as well as Adam and Kris that night. Last night I watched all the performances and felt like Kris didn't perform as well as Adam. Really it was about that last song, which proved that Adam can sing anything and make it sound good.

They are both very talented and sure to have careers in music. But I'm predicting that Kris is going to win. The gay blogs are going to say Adam lost because he is gay and America is homophobic. While the latter part of that statement may be true, I really don't think it is a factor here.

The winner is determined by the voters, and the voters are overwhelmingly little girls with cell phones. Remember middle school? Girls this age have no problem spending several hours after the performance show calling and texting votes for their favorite contestant. I bet millions of girls and more than a few boys do this every week.

Think about it. The little girls that think Adam is hot are not home watching television. They have better things to do. Besides, voting for an American Idol contestant wouldn't be cool. American Idol's most devoted fans love his performances, but mostly Adam reminds them of the weird kids at school.

Kris, on the other hand, is the face they see behind the door when they play "Mystery Date." Girls from sea to shining sea will diligently dial his number as a testament to their love and devotion. He'll get all of Danny's fans, too which should make for a comfortable win.

That said, recall that my favorite contestant never wins. Ever. Just another reason I'm still...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, May 18, 2009

Keeping My Fingers Crossed

I love President Obama more and more all the time. His approach is so different from what we've seen in recent years. Sometimes I just have to stop and enjoy the breath of fresh air he is spreading across the land.

A big waft of that fresh air came with the speech Obama gave at Notre Dame. Instead of remarks to polarize and agitate, Obama asked for tolerance and an end to the demonization of our opponents (aka the Rove way). That's change we can all believe in.

The tone is changing. Increasingly, protestors on both sides come across as overly shrill. Those tactics don't work any more. Use tactics that don't make me dislike you the moment you open your mouth. More often than not, winning and being right are two very different things.

I hear the homos grumbling about how little President Obama has done for us. Get real. Other than that thing with the cigar, DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) was Clinton's biggest mistake. It's not fair, but the truth of the matter is that any kind of push for gay rights by the POTUS serves mostly as a stick jammed into the hornet's nest of far-right religious fanatics. Pissing them off and giving them a focal point (i.e., POTUS) helps them more than us.

The big thing we need to do right now is keep our fingers crossed that the economy turns around and the Republicans remain clueless so that Obama gets elected to a second term. Voting on a single issue is out. Voting for consensus-builders is in. Demonizing those with different opinions is out. Finding common ground to solve problems is in. If you're not part of the solution, well, you're the problem.

And that's why they call me...

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Christian Housecleaning

I've been reading with great interest about the activities of what I perceive to be a fairly large subset of religious conservatives. It's amazing to me how the love of God leads so many to hate. It's even more amazing how unaware these self-same religious zealots are of their hypocrisy.

Torture? Not a problem. Gay marriage is a problem, but not topless photos according to supporters of the notorious what's-her-name Prejean. I've especially enjoyed--and been stunned by--the weekly list of crimes committed by religious leaders posted on Joe My God each week. Name a crime--any crime--and some religious leader in this country has committed it. I guess once you're saved, it doesn't matter what you do.

In my day-to-day life, I don't deal with the fundamental element of any of the worlds' religions except for Christians. At times I've thought I was lucky that I don't have to deal with the kind of zealotry that we hear about in the Middle East and other foreign countries. I'm optimistic that things will never be that bad here in the good ole U.S. of A.

I'm fortunate in that most of the devout Christians that I encounter are on the progressive end of the continuum. I suspect this is because they are more educated than the average American, though education is in and of itself no guarantee. It helps that I work in the social sciences, but again, that's no guarantee. I've talked with some of my Christian coworkers about the hypocrisy and am pleased to hear that they are as appalled as I am, and concerned that the zealots give them and others like them a bad name.

To me that is very good news. I wonder how widespread that view is among Christians? Hard to say. I would guess that there is a fairly significant percentage, if not a majority, that hold more progressive views than the extreme examples I read about. Sure would be nice if they would hold accountable the lunatic fringe within their own congregations. Sounds like a bit of housecleaning is in order.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Thrill is Gone

Today marks my one-month anniversary on Facebook. Connecting with people from different periods of my life has been very cool. I'm glad to be part of the social networking phenomena, but I have to say that for me, the thrill is gone.

At first, Facebook is overwhelming. There is new lingo to learn, different ways of communicating with friends and rules about playing well with others. There are also countless ways to piss away tons and tons and tons of time. It can be all consuming.

I ignored the role-playing games from the start. I'm sure they are fun--I just don't need anything else that eats up that kind of time. Besides, I know how I can be...

After the first few days I started ignoring all the silly little quizzes, too. Having to "allow access" to my info and pics for unknown purposes increasingly made me uncomfortable. Most of the quizzes aren't very well done anyway. The questions don't make any sense, or only include choices that you'd never pick, ever. Too often the relationship between your answers and the Startrek/Sesame Street/Peanuts cartoon character you would be makes no sense.

And the results dominate Facebook "action". All you need are three or four Facebook friends that take every quiz they see and publish the results. Soon that's all you ever see. You can block the quizzes (or the friends) individually. But blocking friends isn't cool, and blocking quizzes becomes a never-ending task because there are so many of them.

That leaves you with your Facebook friends, and the search for old friends to become your new Facebook friends. I'm up to about 130 friends now. I've raised the bar a bit--I have to know who you are and have some kind of history with you in order to confirm you as a friend. I've stopped actively looking for friends because I've searched for every name I can think of, and have pretty thoroughly investigated the friends and friends of friends in my profile.

I've had at least a brief communication with most of my Facebook friends. In many instances this has been an e-mail exchange over several days. Some have just been comments on each others' walls or photos. The best involve a combination of comments, e-mail messages, and private chats that feel almost as real as face-to-face visits. But mostly it's one brief exchange and then back to the silence that defined the relationship before the connection on Facebook.

In the end, that's the way it works. You end up with the relationship you had before. I suppose there are cases where new links are established. No doubt there are also cases when the old connection no longer exists. But mostly, you just pick up where you left off before, no matter how long ago it may have been.
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