Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pater Familias

Today is my dad's 64th birthday, and it's more important to us than usual. In May, he was diagnosed with something called severe auto-immune aplastic anemia. It's a rare condition that essentially means the body's own immune system attacks your tissue and suppresses blood cell production. He's had eight months of transfusions and bone-marrow biopsies, along with the requisite poking and prodding. For a guy who's never been sick a day in his life, getting news like that at a routine checkup came as quite a shock. When a diagnosis like that comes down, you assume the worst- is this his last Christmas? Will he see another birthday? All the while, trying to stay as optimistic as possible.

My dad is one tough cat. Army vet, self-made man, engineer/science guy- one of the smartest people I've ever met in my life. And he's been married to my mom for 39 years, a feat that both of them chalk up to being inordinately well-matched, and I have no reason to doubt their word. As someone who lasted a tepid six years on the matrimony train, I see my parents' marriage as proof that anything's possible with the right person.

To look at him, you'd never know my dad was sick. He doesn't have a self-pitying bone in his body, and my mom keeps him in good shape, with all due credit to his doctors. As a naturopath for 30 years, she knows from whence she speaks when calling bullshit on the aforementioned medical professionals. My dad is holding steady and we hope that he will remain the bright spot in what looks to be an otherwise daunting year. When a guy as solid as he is falls ill, while karmic defectives like myself still roam affliction-free, it makes one wonder what, if any, master plan rules this existence of ours. I hope I still have the time to become even a fraction of the man my father is.

Happy Birthday, Pop. I love you.

American Idle

It's the return of the best comedy on television (at least the audition episodes).

For the past week, I've spent the bulk of my days online- looking for jobs, posting resumes, mp3s, etc. Usually, I'll have CNN on as background noise. Even when the news is bad, I refuse to be one of those people who stay blissfully ignorant of what's going on in the world. Except that it's ALL bad news. All of it. Sure, they'll have some cringe-worthy, "better her than me" distraction about a woman whose fertility drugs "blessed" her with eight little cabbages, or the ubiquitous water-skiing squirrel, but otherwise- BAD news.

So, I'm tapping out for a bit. Thank God for the return of Simon, Randy, Paula, and Seacrest. It's mindless entertainment; empty calories for the brain. Watching these poor, deluded kids find out that their parents have been lying to them about their "talent"? It's like candy for the soul.

We've always watched the show to feel better about ourselves. Right now, we need it more than ever.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Got Any Spare Change?

Could we stop the lame complaining that Obama is recycling former Clinton-ites in his administration?

Today, he tapped Richard Holbrooke (former Ambassador to the U.N.) to be his Hefner overseeing the bitchy twins of Pakistan & Afghanistan and former Senate majority leader George Mitchell was named Middle East ambassador. Conservatives are already crying foul about recent appointments like Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, trying to foist the idea that populating the White House with some of the best minds from the Clinton era contradicts Obama's message of change. Hardly an iron-clad argument; it's not like Monica Lewinsky is being vetted for the Secretary of Interior gig. Scouring the public record for contradictions where there are none, talking heads on the right have equated Obama's promise of "change in leadership" with "people you've never heard of before". Hell, there's already some of that (I'm looking at you, Timothy Geithner!), but this is no time for rookies (now I'm looking at YOU, Alberto Gonzales!)

After the last eight years, it's time to install people who actually know what the hell they're doing around the world. Now, if we could just find something for Dee Dee Myers to do. If you're gonna keep digging into the Clinton bag, pull out the brainy hottie with a stripper's name. Change, indeed.

Burn Notice

Eleven weeks after starting work in the sales department of WNUA, I was one of the dozens of unfortunate souls blown out in the Clear Channel bloodbath on Tuesday. Having been off the air at Q101 since August of last year (when my contract became a casualty of the parent company's plummeting stock price) I figured I would try my hand at sales. It wasn't a dream job, but if I was gonna have to wear a tie, it might as well be in the industry that I know. I'm lucky to have made it 37 years without working an office job, but- in the immortal words of Chicago pop-meister Richard Marx- when you're trying to make a living, there ain't no such thing as pride. After a long interview process, WNUA took a chance on me and I appreciated it. I'm always down for learning a new skill set, but in my gut, I knew I wasn't charting a new career path.

It sucks being unemployed again so soon, but I feel worse for the veterans who were unceremoniously dismissed on Tuesday. People on-air and in sales for decades who were escorted to the elevators, carrying whatever they could fit into a box or a bag, per corporate policy. I was still the new guy; I knew I wouldn't survive the corporate scythe and I didn't care enough to be insulted by walking the green mile to the elevators. If economic upheaval dictates that these decisions must be made, then the companies desperate to maintain their rapidly disintegrating control should at least afford their overworked and underpaid minions a modicum of dignity on the way out. Are you really worried that we're gonna go back to our desks and pull a Jerry Maguire on the office? That would require emotional investment, which doesn't exist in corporate broadcasting today. Employees are forced to retreat into a bunker mentality, invested emotionally in each other, not the job itself.

Chicago gem and WNUA 20-year vet Rick O'Dell said it best: "The survivors are worse off than the people who were let go". In 21st century corporate media, the living truly envy the dead.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Because Language Is Fire

I've been called misanthropic. It's never bothered me, because I don't wear my antisocial tendencies as a badge. Those who do aren't truly antisocial, as much as lazy, immersed in packaged rebellion. Critique without intent is merely a defense mechanism. Cynicism is more often used as a mental blanket than as a means to an end. Misanthropy is the commitment to being a "naysayer". It's a commitment to understanding that you don't fit in with most people, and that you don't concern yourself with acquiescing to collective thought. That same commitment must be made to respecting that there is something valuable and fascinating in just about everyone. I've always liked individuals; groups bother me more. There's nothing more deadening to intellectual curiosity than a common purpose. When the mob rules, you don't get discourse. You get torches.