Thursday, January 29, 2009


An article in today's NY Times describes how Obama is loosening the culture at the White House and it's becoming acceptable to attend meetins and functions without wearing a suit coat. I think this is a good idea. The more creative people I know are more casually dressed, and I have always felt constricted and restrained when wearing a suit. (Thankfully, I never had a job that required me to wear a suit. Possibly one reason why I'm not wealthy.) I know it's a cliche, but I also chafe at the ritualistic formality of it -- what the country needs now is great thinking, not great fashion or great conformity. Let Obama wear jeans in the White House, for God's sake. Just get down to work and start fixing the economy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Daze

Snow day today -- all my kids stayed home. All I wanted to do was skip work and go sledding with them, have a snowball fight, make hot chocolate, look out the window. Life sucks.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I rushed out of my apartment this morning to drop my car at the Honda dealer and then take a train into the city. In my haste I left behind my BlackBerry and my cell phone, a fact I did not discover until leaving the car dealer. While I waited on the train platform for my train, I felt a rish of two conflicting emotions--panic over the urgent work crisis or home emergency I was surely now AWOL on, and a sense of relaxation knowing I could read the NY Times in peace and quiet. But I did feel half-naked walking to the office, not having a heads-up on what might be greeting me. Of course, nothing urgent happened at all; but as anyone who has turned their phone to vibrate for a few minutes, only to miss a call about an emergency room visit or a missed appointment, knows, it's all random. This time fate was smiling on me. As much as I loathe being even vaguely connected with those BlackBerry addicted robots I see, heads bowed, thumbs aflame, on the train every day, I know the feeling. Where's my data?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Swimming Toward The Horizon

How are you supposed to get any work done when everytime you check the news the Dow Jones is dropping and another company is announcing layoffs? You can try and take the long view and think about what is was like to live in France or England during World War II, but that doesn't really make you feel any better. And you can stop watching the news and reading the newspapers, but that's not really possible when you work in a media job, as I do. So every day becomes a marathon of anxiety management. It's like the summer of 1975, when Jaws came out; and when we went in the ocean and started freaking ourselves out about what was out there, we just got out of the water and ate ice cream. But now we can't--we have to keep swimming. The only thing that makes me feel better is that I'm healthy. Maybe I shouldn't write that down. It's like leaving my hand in the water and dozing off....

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Short Happy Life of a Starbucks Wrap

I go to Starbucks everyday. I like dark coffee. This thought isn't about Starbucks, though. This morning I was waiting for my coffee and looking at the wraps, sandwiches and other hot food on display in the counter. Instead of pictures of food, as in a diner, Starbucks actually presents samples of its hot food. I assume that the hot sandwiches and wraps, on display all day, are tossed out at closing time--they couldn't survive a 15-18 hour shift in the semi-open air. (The muffins and prepackaged cold sandwiches--I wonder.) When you go to a diner, or one of those big New York style delis, the pre-made sandwiches are there for you to buy--I pray they don't survive another day, but who knows. The deserts in the rotating desert station are there to be consumed. But the Starbucks sandwiches are like live advertisements for themselves. They have sacrificed their lives so that others may be eaten and we may feel full. Like the common fly, they only live for day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Good Deeds Gone Bad

I drive around with a big bag of plastic bags in the back of my car. I collect them from my ex-wife (who would otherwise put them in the garbage), my kids and even friends. I feel a sense of accomplishment whenever I deposit them in the plastic-bag recycling bins that are now popping up everywhere. Of course I wish I could make the transition to reusable fabric shopping bags, but I'm just not organized to have the bags handy when I decide it's time to go shopping. I rationalize this behavior under the rubric of, "It's a guy thing," letting my dumb-ass heterosexuality get me off the hook, but this is really just a fancy denial of my essential laziness and becoming a fabric bag shopper is now a goal I hope to achieve in the next year. Recently I read that the recession has led to a collapse in the price of recycled plastic and that huge container loads of shredded plastic bags--not to mention plastic water and soda bottles--are sitting idle, without anywhere to go. The futility of that is just mind-boggling. How are we supposed to get involved on a micro level when the end result is that nothing changes? I've given up bottled water, but I won't stop drinking diet soda. Who's going to be the plastic-recyling guru that figures this out?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope And Cynicism

I was greatly moved by Obama's inaugural speech. I think most Americans feel hopeful that meaningful change will come. I was also very affected, as always, watching and listening to the "I Have a Dream" footage of Martin Luther King over the weekend and in seeing his sacrifices come to rest, in part, with this election. But a big part of me worries/suspects/frets that Obama is also just another politician, and that our culture and economy demand so much compromise and phoniness and deceit from anyone who wants to achieve high office that it is only a matter of time before we find out that Obama is, at heart, just a self-promoting dealmaker, albeit some noble and grandiose goals. I hope not, but reading about history suggests otherwise. The other interesting phenonemena is that my kids are very worried about Obama being assassinated, which is disturbing and saddening on so many levels.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Stupidity + Technology = Big Trouble

An executive from the PR firm that represents FedEx flew down to Memphis to meet with his clients a few days ago. The PR executive sent out a Twitter when he landed that he could never imagine living in a place like Memphis. Unfortunately someone from the FedEx team waiting for the executive was following the Twitter. Needless to say, the people from FedEx who pay the PR firm millions of dollars a year in fees were not amused. God only knows what possessed the PR man to let loose with such an idiotic comment--and who was he expecting to shake their heads in agreement--because sending out a Twitter, or an email, isn't the same thing as having a thought bubble pop harmlessly over your head. I'm not sure I quite see the benefit of Twitter myself--sending out headlines on a minute by minute basis seems a bit much, both from the sender and the receiver's standpoint, but maybe that's just the next logical step in the digtal arms race. Clearly, though, a little technology can be a dangerous thing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Revenge of the Birds

Flying is boredom, wasted time, inconvenience, indignity and discomfort interrupted by short bursts of terror. I hate flying. Whenever I fly into LaGuardia I always hold my breath, thinking we are going to ditch in the water. Takeoffs are worse, though -- how could this multi-ton bucket of bolts, packed to the gills with junk and cheap bags, possibly float through the air? Today's crash into the Hudson River, even with it's miraculous lack of casualties, reminds me why I like to hang out with my kids, play cards, and goof around, rather than schlep them across India for quasi-mystical treks. Even though it's safer to fly than to drive, and even though an air crash is the exception to the rule, I'm always happy I don't have to spend the day in the airport. And, when I think about it, the fact that birds were sucked into the engines and made the planes fail has a certain ironic charm--what the hell are we thinking, anyway?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Kicking The Economy When It's Down

I can think back, with great embarrassment, of the many times in my life I have kicked, punched, cursed or otherwise visited violence upon an inanimate object that refused to work as expected. Once in a while the result would be positive--a car would start or a vending machine would give me my diet soda. Usually, though, this tactic resulted in utter failure and a feeling of hopelessness. Last night I was headed back home on my commuter railroad train. I saw a train conductor gently kicking the stop light on the train pictured here (the light on the left, as you view the photo). The stoplight was dark. I was laughing to myself about the futility of the situation as he firmly tapped it with his foot. Then, suddenly, the light went on and he calmly returned to his work. When I boarded the train and skimmed the NY Times headlines on my Blackberry, I wondered if the conductor could perhaps be convinced to give the economy a couple of exploratory kicks. You never know.